It is very hard, if not impossible, to find a children’s book that explains and explores the beauty of a religious vocation. Many children have never ever seen or spoken to a religious sister, brother or priest, and probably do not have the faintest idea what religious life is all about. How will vocations be sparked in young hearts if they are not introduced to this beautiful life of self-giving to God?
Therefore, a new book on religious life by M. Cristina Borges with illustrations by Michaela Harrison fills a big void. Entitled Of Bells and Cells, it explains that we are all called to a vocation in life but some are called in a special way. The book makes it clear that religious communities are families who pass on a way of living, praying and thinking about God from one generation to the next.
Terms like postulant and novice are explained, as well as what daily life in a monastery or convent is like. The ceremonies for new religious, the meaning of a habit and a new name show children that these individuals are entirely dedicated to God. There are wonderful pictures that show the typical habits of Franciscans, Benedictines, Carmelites, Dominicans, Poor Clares, Redemptorists, Carthusians, Missionaries of Charity and the Conceptionists (for trivia buffs the first congregation of women to come to the USA.).
One of the most effective areas of the book is the section on the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, explained in a very appealing way. Religious, she says, who profess the vow of chastity “work to be as pure as the Virgin Mary, giving birth to Jesus in people’s hearts.”
The call to a cloistered or active life is delineated but “all religious imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, doing simple things very well for love of Jesus.” The concept that men who are religious can also be priests is explained in detail along with what a priest as an alter Christus means. Finally, the appendix gives the history behind the aforementioned religious orders as well as the Little Sisters of the Poor and a few religious saints.
The book can be ordered from St. Bonosa Books (stbonosabooks.com). It is a beautiful way to ignite in the souls of young people a desire for this often hidden vocation in our secular world.