Catholic Activity: Elementary Parent Pedagogy: Teaching Religion by Pictures
The use of pictures, moving pictures included, is all part of teaching your children. The following are excellent guidelines for parents to use in their home.
To keep the children interested in home affairs is a sure way of preserving the unity of the family. We should aim to discover interests in which parents and children can share. One of these interests is pictures. A whole family may educate itself in art and learn the stories of the Old and New Testament by the simple and fascinating way of pictures. A family interest of this kind which can be shared by adults and children is invaluable in maintaining the close contact of earlier years.
Pedagogy — Teaching Religion by Pictures
Why then should we not make use of pictures to teach religion and to help us create in our homes a Catholic atmosphere?
From the early days of Christianity artists have tried to paint pictures showing some religious truth or telling some story of our faith. The very greatest artists, men like Giotto and Duccio, Raphael, Michael Angelo, Fra Angelico, Perugino, Piero della Francesca, have left hundreds of magnificent pictures, copies of which can be obtained for a few cents.
Besides buying pictures, children can watch papers (Catholic and secular) for religious pictures. Often the Sunday editions print copies of great masterpieces.
If you are not trained to appreciate masterpieces of art, surround your children with them while they are young and they will gradually learn to love them. The great pictures have been admired for hundreds of years because, having been made by great artists, they have in them a quality which after a while conveys to people the real meaning of the picture.
The Sistine Madonna, of Raphael, is a splendid one for the home. Take a look at the Blessed Mother and you will see why she was chosen to be the Mother of God. She looks noble but meek, gentle but strong, beautiful but commanding, motherly, unselfish and courageous in suffering. The Tribute Money, by Masaccio, on the wall of an old church in Florence, shows our Lord with His disciples. There is a figure of the Saviour to give a child an inkling of His Spirit, dignity, power, and gentleness combined.
There is a world of knowledge to be gained from religious pictures. Get the children started on collecting them. Have one child search for 15 masterpieces, one for each of the 15 mysteries of the Rosary.
One child might begin collecting all the "Annunciations"; another all the pictures of the Presentation of Our Blessed Lady in the Temple. Any little girl would love to imitate the tiny Mary mounting the high steps in Titian's picture of the subject. That little Mary sees what she has to do and marches straight up with courage and also joy. She was joyful in going where she saw God wanted her to go.
Each picture tells a story. Mothers whose children are less than ten can still make story-telling a regular practice. Points to remember in story telling:
- Know the subject. Read it up in the Bible or in a Life of Christ.
- Make a list on a paper of the main points (characters, events, places).
- Use your imagination and when you are telling the story of the Visitation, for instance, say such things as: "Our Blessed Lady had walked miles. Think how tired she must have been. Even if she traveled part way on a donkey's back, she must have been worn out, for riding on a donkey is not like driving in a car. But, even though tired, she runs over to her cousin, puts out her arms to greet her. See the love showing in her movements."
- Learn the important words in stories. Children appreciate the wonderful poetic speech of the Bible, and nobody could improve on our Lady's speech in the Visitation story when she says: "My soul doth magnify the Lord."
- Bring the story home to the children if possible. In the case of the Visitation you can say: "We must do as Blessed Lady did." Then suggest a visit to see Mrs. _____, who needs help or comfort or sympathy or congratulations.
Collecting pictures leads to many busy hours spent in arranging them in scrapbooks, or, better, mounting them on cardboard, framing a few favorites, and filing the others in some convenient form.
Religious Pictures Versus Hollywood Pictures
Children love to make collections and certainly the parents should see to it that they spend their time and energy in collecting worthwhile things. The current custom of making albums of movie actors and actresses is hardly to be termed educational. Indeed it is tragic to see girls and boys gazing at their cut-out pictures of movie people — many of them several times divorced.
Moving Pictures — How to Choose Them
Moving pictures, their use and abuse, will be our next topic. Parents should make rules with regard to movie going. Allow no member of the family to go to a movie which the parents know nothing about. This rule should apply to the parents themselves as well as to the children. The habit of starting off "to go to the movies," and to stumble into any movie in town, is exceedingly dangerous.
How shall we find out what a movie is like? In three principal ways:
- By consulting the list of the Legion of Decency published in the diocesan Catholic paper. [Editor's Note:: The Legion of Decency is now the U.S. Catholic Conference Office for Film and Broadcasting.]
- By reading and studying the advertisements of movies. The "ads" usually reveal whether a movie is vulgar or indecent or salacious.
- By reading reviews in the better newspapers. If parents made it a custom to read the reviews and gradually to learn the character of the reviewer, they would be able to make a fairly good judgment of the quality of the movie by the remarks of the reviewer.
- By talking to friends and neighbors.
We parents must bear in mind that the education and training given a child at home and in school can be counteracted by the influence of bad movies. We do not want our children to carry in their minds images of vulgar or indecent scenes.
Encourage Good Movies
There are many excellent movies which can be a joy and delight to the majority of people. There are also educational films especially made for the young. We ought to encourage the producers of such entertainment. Parents can easily band together to determine the character of movies in their neighborhood. The pastor, the school, the parents, make an unbeatable combination when they express approval or disapproval of a picture.
Activity Source: Religion in the Home: Monthly Aids for the Parents of Elementary School Children by Katherine Delmonico Byles, Paulist Press, 1938