The Way of the Cross for Children is a beautifully illustrated coloring book of the stations of the Cross that can be used for Lenten catechesis of children. It was written by Kathryn Mulderink, illustrated by Fr. Victor KyNam, with cover design by Clare Mulderink. The cover is an illustration, framed in purple, of Jesus falling under the weight of the Cross. The book opens with a space to write your own prayer and draw a picture followed by an introductory prayer that reminds us that Mary was with her son along the road to Calvary and at the foot of the cross.
Each station begins with the traditional “We adore You, O Christ and we bless You because by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world” and is then broken down into “I think of Jesus” which describes the action of the station and “I talk to Jesus” which is a conversation with the Lord that should help a child to gain understanding of the significance of each station. This is an important introduction to personal prayer which teaches children how to speak intimately with God as if he were right there with them. Each “I talk to Jesus” section ends with a reminder of the penitential theme “Teach me to love You as I should and help me never to sin again” prior to closing with a simple two line rhyming prayer.
For example, the “I think of Jesus “section of the third station demonstrates the completeness of Christ’s humanity and His acceptance of the frailty of His human body: “Jesus is God but He does not use His powers to make His cross easier. He falls because the cross is so heavy and He is so weak from the scourging and rough treatment of the soldiers. Our sins have made Him very, very sad. But He wants us to be very, very happy so He gets up and continues to carry His cross all the way to the end.”
The sixth station, Veronica wipes the face of Jesus, calls to mind the words of Isaiah:
And he shall grow up as a tender plant before him, and as a root out of a thirsty ground: there is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him: Despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity: and his look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all – Isaiah 53:2-6 (Douay-Rheims 1899American Edition).
Then under the “I think of Jesus” section:
Jesus does not look like Himself; His face is all covered with blood and bruised and swollen. He cannot see well because of the blood in His eyes. Veronica feels sorry for Him and risks making the soldiers angry by stepping out of the crowd and wiping His face with her veil. Jesus is grateful and leaves a picture of His face on her veil.
“I talk to Jesus” for the tenth station leads children to the understanding of their own part in Christ’s crucifixion:
Jesus the soldiers hurt you over and over again. When I am mean to others, I hurt You too, because You live in their souls just as You do in mine. I hurt You also when I am selfish, because You gave everything for us, even Your clothes and every drop of Your blood. Help me to be kind and generous to others. Teach me to give to others and not take form them. Teach me to love You as I should and help me never to sin again.
This reaches out to us even beyond Lent to remind us of the need to be giving. Another reminder that can reach our hearts even beyond the Lenten season arrives in the closing rhyme of the thirteenth station, “Jesus I will never go astray or make a mistake if I obey.” This is a reminder of Christ’s obedience to His father even unto death.
The book ends with a closing prayer which continues to instruct, “Jesus, on Easter morning, Your body will rise from the tomb and You will continue to give and teach for forty more days.” The prayer continues and asks our Lord for help to remember His sacrifice and love as well as the joy that follows sorrow. There is a space at the end of the book that children can use to copy a scripture verse and illustrate it and another page on which children are encouraged to write a prayer or poem of their own for Jesus.
Over all, I found this book to be well written at a level that will be easily understood by children. The black and white illustrations are very well done and the purple cover sets the tone of penance for the Lenten journey.
I found the description in the fourth station’s “I talk to Jesus” section problematic. It refers to Mary, Mother of God and reads, “…she knew that You had to die so that I could live forever with You, but it hurt her heart to see you suffering so much.” While Mary certainly was hurt by watching her son suffer, it is presumptuous to assume she knew or understood the reasons for Christ’s death until after His resurrection.
This book does not have a nihil obstat or imprimatur, although it has been submitted for such approval. Canon 827 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law says that writings dealing with catechetical formation cannot be used without an imprimatur. So this book can be freely used in a home setting, but might have to wait until it will be a good fit for a CCD class or school. It could be used as a supplemental in a parish with permission of the priest.
The author, Kathryn Mulderink is a homeschooling mother of seven, President of the local Community of Secular Discalced Carmelites, and the Director of Faith Formation for St Isidore Parish in Grand Rapids, MI. She is also a Marian Catechist. She was the only English-speaking writer to be a finalist for the Rielo Mystical Poetry Prize in 1998. She is a sometime poet, oft-time blogger, and author of several books for adults and children.
Clare Mulderink is a graphic design student who published several book covers before graduating high school. She has designed promotional materials for the local Harbor Fest and other large events. She continues to offer her services in formatting graphics for publishing, particularly book covers and business cards. She is also Kathryn’s daughter.
Fr. Victor KyNam was a seminarian and artist from Vietnam when he first found Kathryn’s poems and was moved to illustrate them. He worked with her again on her Way of the Cross coloring book for children. He is an accomplished artist and has completed several large statues in the Grand Rapids diocese, where he is currently pastor of St. Anthony and St. Edward parishes.