Archive for Formation

Special Invitation

I’ve been looking at postcards again.

Here’s one sent by Mrs. Gridley in 1912



and a lovely, delicate drawing of children listening to a Rally Day greeting over crystal radio headsets.



And then I found this invitation to a youth group outing with Peter Max-inspired fireworks.





A few traces of the Church’s imagination and practice that happened to catch my eye.


My Jesus and I

My Jesus and I cover


Sometimes I pick up a book and worlds open.

My Jesus and I is another educational work from the Salesian order, written in 1949 by the Most Rev. Louis LaRavoire Morrow to help elementary age children prepare for their First Communion. It was originally intended for use in a classroom with an instructional poster set, both of which are still in print.

The book is gentle and directly emotional. Each page has a line of a prayer with a question or commentary underneath it, and a picture from either a Bible story or from a child’s daily life as he or she is accompanied by good and bad angels, Mary, and Jesus.

A letter printed inside the back cover explains:

My Dear Child:

I have made this little book for you, because I want you to know Jesus better and better each day. He is a good Friend, who loves little children like you….

Jesus wants little boys and girls to know how He lived, and what He taught. He wants us all to be good, loving one another, and obeying our teachers and parents.


My Jesus and I is both sweet and strange. I find I’ve grown quite fond of the helpful little angels in these illustrations. They are so busy! Sometimes they are happy, sometimes dismayed, but always present, even if they are just tending the garden while you play.


Thy will be done sick


On another page, Mother Mary wakes a sleeping child while Jesus points the way to church. These are some of my favorite angels–one holding the ringing alarm clock (see the jagged sound lines!) and the other digging a shoe out from under the bed. Oh, that Sunday morning always brought such attendants!


Sunday morning


If you look at a lot of Christian children’s books you’ll find that many of them are written by women, but My Jesus and I was written by a Catholic Bishop. Who was he? I wondered.

Born in Weatherford, Texas in 1892, Louis LaRavoire Morrow grew up in Mexico (his double surname follows Hispanic custom) and, after becoming a priest, lived in the Philippines and India. He became bishop of Krishnagar in West Bengal, India and his ministry spanned World War II, the Bengal famine of 1943 and the Partition of India. He was also a Council Father to the Second Vatican Council. The Sisters of Mary Immaculate (an order which he founded) describe him as a “staunch believer and supporter of the Human Rights Programme of the United Nations; and also an ardent advocate of women’s rights.” He was a prolific writer of educational materials.

As I mentioned, My Jesus and I is still in print, and there is some discussion surrounding its depiction of evil. The current edition has apparently replaced several of the images of Satan with something more modern and less-affecting, but judging from the comments on Amazon, not everyone is in favor of the change. They are wild images, but no scarier than the Ghost of Christmas Future, and always presented within an atmosphere of calm.


Jesus temptation Hallowed be thy name



Sometimes temptation actually looks rather friendly. “Do you want candy?” The kindly devil has brought a chair to help the child reach that forbidden treat while the good angel gently pulls the child towards a picture book.




One final note: while she is not credited, many of the illustrations in My Jesus and I are signed by Anita Magsaysay (later Magsaysay-Ho), an important Philippine modernist painter. I imagine all the original images are her work.

Anita Magsaysay signature

In her biography (written by Alfredo Roces) Magsaysay-Ho said,

“In my works I always celebrate the women of the Philippines. I regard them with deep admiration and they continue to inspire me—their movements and gestures, their expressions of happiness and frustration; their diligence and shortcomings; their joy of living. I know very well the strength, hard work and quiet dignity of Philippine women, for I am one of them.” 



Every tongue confess

Five Joyful Mysteries

Five Joyful Mysteries
from Catechetical Scenes: Grace and Holy Baptism by Rev. M. Coerezza, S.D.B.
Salesian Catechetical Centre c/o Tang King Po School, Hong Kong, 1957.


Conversion of Saul

The Conversion of Saul
from Catechetical Scenes: Grace and Holy Baptism by Rev. M. Coerezza, S.D.B.
Salesian Catechetical Centre c/o Tang King Po School, Hong Kong, 1957.



These pictures come from a 17-volume series of catechetical pop-up books created in 1957 by the Salesians of Don Bosco, a Roman Catholic religious institute whose primary focus is on Christian education of young people. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes the Salesian Society’s work this way: “In carrying out its principal work, instead of the old punitive or repressive system, it adopts the preventive one, thus promoting confidence and love among the children, instead of fear and hatred.”


Catechetical Scenes dust jacket

Dust Jacket blurb Catechetical Scenes



And while we’re visiting Asia, here’s a Christmas anthem from the Cheung Lo Church, Church of Christ in China.


Title: In Bethlehem A Babe Was Born (有一嬰孩生在馬槽)
Words / Music: John Carter
Chinese: 劉永生
Arrangement: 陳供生
Date: Sunday Service, December 23, 2012
Choir: Cheung Lo Church, Church of Christ in China (中華基督教會長老堂)



Throw out the lifeline!

Bible Quiz Cards
Published by Tyndale House


When you think about denominational culture, the emphasis on “Knowing Your Bible” is one of the key points of separation. That’s why in some congregations, everyone brings their Bible to worship, and in others, almost no one does. Still, I think it’s fair to say we all agree that every Christian should know something, and more is better when it comes to being familiar with Scripture.  Here are some quiz cards that I picked up while teaching a Sunday morning class for people who were new to Bible stories. Thankfully, they give the scripture reference along with every answer so you can go back and read the stories in their entirety. I have to confess, many of the questions were too tough for me!  I’ll ask you a few and you can see how you do.

1. Who were the first couple in the Bible to give birth to twin sons?  (Genesis 25:20-24)

2. What was unusual about Balaam’s donkey? (Numbers 22:28-30)

3. What tiny seed did Jesus use to describe the kingdom of God? (Luke 13:18-19)

4. Which king of Israel was a reckless chariot driver?  (2 Kings 9:20)

5. Which disciple walked on water to reach Jesus?  (Matthew 14:29-30)



The Story of God’s Love

This is my favorite Sunday School book of all time.  I liked it so much, I took it home and read it over and over again. I’ve hung onto it for over 40 years. It begins like this:

Did you know that the Bible is one story–the story of God’s love for people like you and me?

The stories in this book are from the Bible and are a part of that wonderful story. They are about people of long ago who knew God’s love and answered his call to come into his family and belong to him.

I’m not sure why I loved this book so much. I had other Bible story books at home–and I read them too–but they did not occupy the same place in my affections as The Story of God’s Love.

When I read it again as an adult, I recognize Grace McSpadden Overholser’s talent for writing dramatic narrative and conversation which captured my imagination. I’m sure Polly Bolian’s illustrations were important too because they conveyed character and emotion. (Bolian is a well-known illustrator of Nancy Drew books which I was also reading about this time.) And I see from the brief author’s biography at book’s end that “Susan Hiett, a seven-year-old friend from Memphis, Tennessee, read all the stories in this book while they were being written.”  Perhaps her efforts were the secret ingredient.

But honestly, I’m not sure that I can explain it, and I can’t be sure that you would have the same experience if you picked up a copy. All I know is that this book is part of the story of God’s love in my life. A curious thing.