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Learning My Religion

When I was pregnant with Aashi, I began obsessing over the best ways to teach her religion. Robbie learned Catholicism through attending church and Sunday school, becoming an altar boy, and practicing ritualistically and regularly. My spirituality developed more organically, mostly through family discussions and prayers, and dance class, where learning a new dance was often the same as learning to convey a religious story through hand gestures and footwork.  I still get lost trying to wrap my head around some of the metaphysical concepts from the Bhagavad Gita (Hindu scripture), but if there was an artful and educational children’s version of it out there – like what I’ve recently seen from Pixar animator Sanjay Patel – I can guarantee that I, and in turn, Aashi, would never be lost

Sanjay Patel has contributed to several well-known works from A Bug’s Life, Ratatouille and The Incredibles, to Toy Story 2 and 3. But of particular interest to me is his contribution to religious education with his three books, The Little Book of Hindu Deities, Ramayana — Divine Loophole, and most recently, The Big Poster Book of Hindu Deities. The Hindu Deities books introduce children (and adults) to the polytheistic world of Hinduism through colorful, pop-art illustrations of some of the more well-known Gods and Goddesses, with accompanying descriptions of their best-known traits that are presented with a touch of humor and whimsy. The Ramayana – Divine Loophole, on the other hand, reads like a graphic novel and beautifully portrays one of Hinduism’s greatest epic tales, the Ramayana. I don’t mean for these books to supplant all other methods of teaching Aashi about Hinduism, but they will provide such a colorful and engaging way for me to refresh my memory on some of the important details I’ve forgotten over the years, and at the same time, allow me to read to my daughter about her religion.

I’m hoping to find something similarly engaging on the Catholic side that Aashi and I can learn from together.  For Aashi’s Baptism, one of my sisters-in-law gave her the “Candle Bible for Kids,” by Juliet David, with illustrations by Jo Parry and the passages that Robbie has read to Aashi have been comprehensive, yet easy to understand, and beautifully told for children. I’ve also seen excellent reviews for “A Child’s First Bible,” by Kenneth N. Taylor.

My next move is to find a few good reads for adults and children on raising, and being raised in, interfaith households.

Stay tuned.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Krista #

    I’m always on the hunt for “a few good reads” to share with my kids, and so a few years ago I started writing for them. I illustrate the books with photos, of their Dad and Mom, their family and friends, and with lots of pictures of themselves, children love looking at pictures of themselves while you’re telling a story 🙂 I was raised in a very strict, Bible-banging church where everything was black or white. And then I went to a Mennonite high school, a softer version of the strictness I knew, deeply pacifist, very community oriented. After graduation I transitioned smoothly into a leadership position within the Mennonite denomination. And in the pressures of the leadership role, frankly, I just burnt out. I realized the practice of religion isn’t always worshipful on a personal level. I was regular with my church attendance, but I was without faith. And so I stopped…stopped church, stopped prayer, stopped everything.

    And then slowly I started to find my way to a good place. I searched and journeyed and found a denomination that I identified with at the place I was currently at, and for me that ended up being Catholicism. I converted to the Catholic faith and felt at home with all the visual and tactile symbols around me, felt great comfort and community in Mass. As a mother of two and a woman who has done her own share of floundering to figure out what I believe, I would very much like to spare my daughters the feelings of guilt or shame, the sense of being lost, that accompanied me while I searched my heart to see what I believed. I would like for their faith to develop, as you stated, organically.

    So I tell them stories and read them homemade books. I tell them that I want them to believe that their lives are purposeful, intentional. I want them to have faith, to know that there is something greater than we can see or touch that surrounds us. I want them to know that they can find peace and strength and support and healing through their faith and belief. And I don’t care what it looks like…I don’t care what religion, if any, they chose to identify themselves with. I don’t care if they go to church or Mass. I do care that they have something within their lives that is edifying and gives them hope. I tell them that Mommy is Catholic, that this is the place I found best matches the faith in my heart and where I feel most comfortable worshiping. I tell them that you don’t have to go to Church in order to worship, that worship is something that takes place in your heart and not in a building. I show them pictures of my childhood baptism, of their different church experiences, I show them the symbols of my faith that are around the house, I explain why these symbols hold meaning for me. I tell them when they are grown they will discover what styles of worship, which symbols of worship, resonate best for them. And I tell them what I wish I had known as a young woman who felt so isolated from God, I tell them that God is along for the search. That he wanders with us as we learn and grow, he takes every form and is all around us all through the journey.

    June 13, 2012
    • Krista – I love the creativity involved in teaching your children spirituality through pictures and stories of themselves and your other family members – what a unique way to teach faith, especially unconventional faith. I will definitely draw from your experience in the future.

      June 14, 2012
  2. pankaj #

    veryw ell thougt and well written article i am proud of u i am sure your 2 good buddies kristy and vivek have read this article

    June 15, 2012

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