For centuries people learned about the Christian faith through paintings, sculptures, objects, and gestures. Simple images still convey deep messages if we learn how to see and understand them. Award-winning children’s author Amy Welborn has created a friendly and fascinating sourcebook on the signs and symbols of the Catholic faith.I can't praise this book highly enough.
I originally was interested in this book so I could recommend it to young mothers I know. However, looking through it, I realized I have someone much closer who is going to be interested. My daughter, Rose, is helping teach religious education to fifth graders this year (that's Sunday School for any Protestants reading).
She's well catechized but it's been a long time, if ever, since she's had to make complex concepts simple without being dumbed down, interesting without being obvious. This book is the perfect resource for those needs. It doesn't only explain the basics, but gives broader context for other encounters the reader might have.
For example, after covering John the Baptist's symbols, we get a little art appreciation also:
John appears in some portraits of the baby Jesus and his mother. You know the other child is John because, even in these pictures, the little child is dressed in camel's hair and holds a staff or a lamb! The artist does not mean that the baby John was present at Jesus' birth. The image of the two babies reminds us that John's holy purpose was to share the Good News of Jesus, the Lamb of God.Which is a nice reminder that knowing about the symbols is fine, but finding them in your church, art, and around the house are how they provide a lived experience of faith
While Rose and I randomly flipped pages we were impressed time and again by the beautiful simplicity with which Amy Welborn explained not only the symbols but the deeper messages to be taken away.
Reading about the Burning Bush in the Old Testament section, we learn:
As a sign, so the people would trust Moses and know it was God who had called him, God revealed his name from the bush: I am who I am. This means that God has not been created—God is existence.Beautifully put. The children have an explanation to ponder. It is followed by a bit of insight to fall like a seed into young hearts:
When we see the symbol of the burning bush, we remember God's love, always ready to save. We remember that he called Moses and gave him the strength and grace to help others. And we remember how great God is, and we thank him for the gift of life—all that was, all that is, and all that is to come.These things aren't bad for us to be reminded of either, so the benefits go to both the teacher/parent and child.
This is a book which I will give to my goddaughter (and grandchildren when they come along) when she is old enough to understand it. Which won't be that long from now!
For adults wanting more, I recommend Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols by Mike Aquilina. Really wonderful.