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Monday, April 11, 2011

Bless this Mouse by Lois Lowry

This is a cute story about a mice community living in St. Bartholomew's church. Mostly, it’s a good life: the mice enjoy the beauty of organ music, love church terms like "narthex" for the entry-way, and enjoy the liturgical ceremonies. The head mouse cares carefully for the beautiful cassocks and surplices in the priest’s room. No mouse is allowed to take these threads for their nests!

The Great X is one dreadful aspect of their existence. But head mouse Hildegard has engaged plan Exodus for such an event, It is put-in-place the day Father calls the exterminator. All mice flee for the outside graveyard.

Despite the charm of the story overall, reservations cropped up. Geared toward young tweens, there are details I would consider unnecessary: the mouse who gets drunk on spilled wine, the mention of the church secretary amongst all the other people at the AA meetings. An altar guild society lady who yells, "Oh my GAWD!" over the mice. (How about a nice "eeek" instead?)

More disconcerting was that the head mouse, Hildegarde, led her mice in confession. You’ve got the double-whammy of misunderstanding the vocation of priesthood and group absolution in non-emergency situation. Yeah, I know they’re mice: very clearly personified mice. Which is why I squirmed at the conversation between Hildegarde and the mouse-mama whom she scolded for irresponsibly breeding (a mouse?). She then helped carry the babies which clearly disgusted Hildegarde: the little creatures being small, squirmy, pink and appalling.

To their credit, the mice are respectful and careful about the communion wafers, consuming the crumbs "reverently," but again, it’s a bit disconcerting with mice consuming possibly (it’s not clear) consecrated wine/wafer. Besides, Catholic wafers don’t leave crumbs, so it’s an unnecessary detail. (Can't we just stick with cookie crumbs?)

While camping in the graveyard, head mouse heads to her bed with Roderick, who up until now has been a lingering admirer. Do we really need to know the sleeping arrangements of mice who act like people? (Can't they just stick to sleeping in family groups like... say... a pack of mice?)

In the end, all mice make it back alive. Impressively, Hildegarde acts like her saintly predecessor and treats each mouse like an individual, all of whom deserve life. She even chooses to save her personal enemy in the end although she could have let her die in a horrible mouse trap.

The last scene is a charming one as she receives a special blessing for all the mice from Father during the Blessing of the Animals ceremony.

Your children may read this and associate the speaking, thinking mice’s behavior with… just mice. At the very least, I would not miss this opportunity to discuss the confession issue from the Church's perspective.


See: Catechism of the Catholic Church: Confession: 1484; 1497 general confession: 1483


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