I meant to submit my review of this book to the Mary Moments carnival that celebrated the Feast of the Assumption last Friday; but I didn’t get the pictures taken in time. Bella is all too aware of the camera and it’s hard to get a good candid shot of her because she’s either mugging for the camera or running up asking to see the pictures (one drawback of a digital camera.) In any case, I finally got a good shot—or, rather Dom did.
One reason I wanted my review to wait for a picture of Bella is simply because the Amazon cover shot doesn’t adequately give you a sense of the size of this book. I know the description says it’s large enough for the whole family to see but I’m numerically challenged and the dimensions (21.5 x 14.3 x 0.3 inches) didn’t really register. When we received it in the mail I wondered why Amazon had shipped one book in such a large box.
This is a beautiful book, intended to be a worship aid for the whole family, suitable for those who are rosary novices as well as veteran bead-slingers.
The prologue excerpts from Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter “Rosarium Virginis Mariae” and includes very helpful guidelines for prayer and contemplation.
This is followed by an illustrated “How to Pray the Rosary” page with a picture of a rosary and pointing arrows to guide you through which prayers to say on which beads (as well as a sort of “suggested use” photo of a family kneeling in prayer with the book propped on a home altar—slightly idealized in comparison with all the family rosaries I’ve been a part of!) and also guidelines to help you use the book, which is pretty self-explanatory, however.
The full text of all the prayers is included on the next two pages: the sign of the cross, Apostles’ Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, the Fatima prayer, and Hail Holy Queen.
The announcement of each of the five Joyful mysteries is a full two-page spread with a lovely full page illustration. This is done in soft pastel. The traditional iconography draws on the artistic tradition of the Church with many rich details and yet the simple figures will also be attractive to small children as well. On the facing page is listed the fruit of the mystery (the power of humility, fraternal charity, the virtue of poverty, the virtue of obedience, the desire of God), a short scriptural meditation, and the Our Father.
This is followed by a page of antiphons that may be read with each Hail Mary. These are from the appropriate gospels as well as from the psalms, prophets, epistles, canticles and other Old Testament books. Each antiphon is illustrated with a medallion, the ten medallions forming a string of beads for the eyes to follow as you pray and meditate on the mystery. These are a little more cartoonish than the larger introductory illustrations with dark outlines and bold colors; but are also very lovely and have many beautiful details that will aid contemplation. You could spend quite some time just looking at the images in the various medallion apart from saying the rosary. Many of these have Latin labels in the various tags and banners.
So far Bella is too young to really sit through a whole rosary. We have done various things with this book. I’ll point to the various pictures and identify the figures and tell her the story. Or we’ll hold rosaries and say one or two of the prayers, either praying a few of the antiphons or saying a single Hail Mary, an Our Father and a Glory Be. I don’t want her to find it taxing or to get bored; but, rather, I want it to be an introduction to prayer and the joy of contemplation. So far it seems to be working, she loves the book and asks me to get it down and points to the pictures and tries to say some of the prayers. Sometimes she runs for her rosary and holds it while we look through the book. When she begins to get distracted, I close the book. I don’t try to force her to pray or pay attention any longer than her natural attention span.
I highly recommend this book for families—it would also be wonderful for classroom use too. The large size does make it unusual and quite attractive to young children; but the high quality of the illustrations and scriptural meditations make it suitable for the whole family, adults and teens as well as young children. I have found that in reading through the book with Bella I have often lost myself in contemplation both via the artwork and the well-chosen prayers. I look forward to the publication of books for the Sorrowful, Luminous, and Glorious Mysteries. Tantalizing illustrations for all of these adorn the front cover of this book.
One slight problem—though not enough to keep me from recommending the book or wanting to purchase the rest in the series—is the book’s construction. The very first time we read it one of the staples pulled out of the middle page. This is not a book which will readily withstand much rough treatment, which doesn’t bode well with toddlers. I think the book’s makers didn’t foresee it being handled as much as we do: that illustration of the book on a stand while the family kneels around in prayer seems to be intended use rather than lying on the floor while the toddler tugs and stands on the pages.