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Foster Good Taste in Your Child/Visit the Flint Hills Shakespeare Festival!

Painting by Maurice Marlier

From How to Raise Good Catholic Children by Mary Reed Newland

Follow-up from the post Help Your Child to Discover and Develop His Gifts

This does not mean that children shouldn’t be exposed to good art, but the motive should be to stimulate and inspire them and to spark their own ideas, push back a bit farther their own horizons.

Unless parents know good art, however, they cannot know to what to expose their children.

So far, in the struggle between the “knows” and the “know-nots” (the one side deploring, the other defending), I don’t think that there’s yet a bridge over which the know-nots may cross.

It isn’t enough to realize that there’s such a thing as good art. It has also to be comprehended somehow, or it can’t be loved.

Byzantine mosaics I love dearly, yet it’s entirely understandable to me that someone who has never seen them before may protest, “But they’re childish, and unreal, and like dolls — cold and stiff.”

I believe that the know-nots secretly want to know, and I wish someone would start writing books for them: books with good illustration and texts that would do for good Christian art what good biographies have done for the saints.

Until then, the best they can do is visit museums, comb through bookstores in the hope of finding something that will explain rather than merely illustrate, search out magazines, and ask for help.

This “best” is, of course, excellent enough. Unless, however, they’re helped to see what’s great about, for instance, a Giotto, they are quite apt to end up standing in front of all the tonnage in a Rubens and deciding that this must be good, because it’s in a museum and painted by a famous painter and shows the descent from the Cross.

Children don’t come equipped with instinctively good taste. The things they draw themselves are usually good because they’re free of sophistication, but usually the things they admire are atrocious (unless they’ve been surrounded by good art from infancy) because they love all that is gaudy and sentimental and they’ve been exposed to so much sentimental rubbish that their taste has already been corrupted.

We should also encourage children to draw from models and landscapes and nature.

They won’t draw what we see, but they will enjoy drawing what they see, looking at a brother or sister or street or field and putting it down on paper, and it’s important that we save examples of the works they create, for reference and encouragement.

If we let them alone to create in their own way, they will reveal many things that we’re too old and sour to see ever again with our own eyes, and will recapture only now and then, when we see them through the eyes of children.

After living in the country for a long time and seeing many hayfields cut, I saw an entirely new pattern of a hayfield at a local exhibit of children’s art.

One little girl did a lovely thing with the pattern a baler makes as it goes round and round, dropping bales like the checkpoints in a labyrinth. It was exactly as a hayfield looks, but I was no longer simple enough to see it that way.

I’ve seen many pictures of shepherds receiving with joy the news of the angels at Bethlehem, but never one that explored the glory of the Gloria so gloriously as a four-year-old’s shepherds staggering down the hills with staves giddily swinging over their heads under rays of starlight that fell from the top of the sky to pierce the very stones, and at their heels laughing lambs.

It is this ability to make concrete their own vision that is the divine part of the gift of creating.

We help our children become articulate early in life when we encourage them to create. If we help them discover their abilities, we’re helping them to know what to do with their lives in maturity. If we teach them further that these things come from God and have a purpose, their early years’ creating will discover for them not only what works and skills and arts are theirs, but especially how they best speak and serve and praise God.

One child started with drawing, and discovered she had talent not for drawing but for drawing pictures, and drawing designs. She felt her way through modeling and decorating what she modeled, then to making doll clothes with lots of ribbons and beads for ornamentation, then to decorating cookies, and this led to cooking. When asked why she liked cooking best of all the creative arts, she answered, “Because it makes me feel like a woman.”

There could be no better end for creative activity for a girl than that it discover for her what womanliness is, and the arts and works that are womanly.

She may become a lawyer, a nurse, a teacher, a religious, or a mother, but whatever God wants her to be, if she is to serve well in it, she must be womanly.

Our society is by no means lacking in women who are unwomanly, to whom woman is synonymous with sexiness, not with womanliness.

It’s the quality of womanliness in a girl, manliness in a boy, governing the talents and expressed through their talents with tenderness, strength, humor, compassion, purity, and so many other ways, that will help these children discover whom God made when He made them.

The more they discover the things they can do with their heads and hands, with their eyes and ears and minds and bodies, and know that it is by grace they do them — grace freely given with the gift — the less they will be driven to imitate others, go where the crowd goes, do what the crowd does.

This is the only alternative for people who never discover the gifts God put in them or how to use them. Alone, they have no feeling of wholeness; they’re not someone, but anyone; and in a frantic effort to identify themselves as someone, they imitate what seems to be integrity in others, in tastes, attitudes, likes, dislikes, opinions, behavior — with nowhere a clue as to what they were meant to be themselves.

“The thought of the importance of your position as a Catholic mother should be a source of joy to you, but your battle will often be hard and your spiritual consolations few. It is good sometimes to know that although you have sacrificed many of the things modern ’emancipated’ women value so highly, your humble position is still the proudest in society. You are the possessor of the hand that rocks the cradle and rules the world. You are to be the comforter, the unchanging inspiration, and the educator of souls.” – Fr. Lovasik, Catholic Family Handbook (afflink)

Come and visit us at the Flint Hills Shakespeare Festival this weekend and the following weekend. See more info here.

My post on the festival is here.

Penal Rosaries! Penal rosaries and crucifixes have a wonderful story behind them. They were used during the times when religious objects were forbidden and it was illegal to be Catholic. Being caught with a rosary could mean imprisonment or worse. A penal rosary is a single decade with the crucifix on one end and, oftentimes, a ring on the other. When praying the penal rosary you would start with the ring on your thumb and the beads and crucifix of the rosary in your sleeve, as you moved on to the next decade you moved the ring to your next finger and so on and so forth. This allowed people to pray the rosary without the fear of being detected. Available here.

To the modern mind, the concept of poverty is often confused with destitution. But destitution emphatically is not the Gospel ideal. A love-filled sharing frugality is the message, and Happy Are You Poor explains the meaning of this beatitude lived and taught by Jesus himself. But isn’t simplicity in lifestyle meant only for nuns and priests? Are not all of us to enjoy the goodness and beauties of our magnificent creation? Are parents to be frugal with the children they love so much?

The renowned spiritual writer Dubay gives surprising replies to these questions. He explains how material things are like extensions of our persons and thus of our love. If everyone lived this love there would be no destitution.

After presenting the richness of the Gospel message, more beautiful than any other world view, he explains how Gospel frugality is lived in each state of life.

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