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The Sacraments in Action: Graphic Novel Review

Graphic Novels for Catholic Catechesis

Popularity of Graphic Novels

One of the most notable shifts in American publishing over the last several years has been the rise of the graphic novel. A graphic novel is defined as a long-form work of sequential art, utilizing a combination of words and images to tell a story in comic-like panels. Artistically, a graphic novel appears very similar to a comic book, with the notable difference that a graphic novel is usually a self-contained story wrapped up in one or two books (as opposed to comics, which are serialized stories taking the form of a periodical).

If you’ve been paying attention to the literary world, you’ve probably noticed the proliferation of graphic novels as of late—and not just of original works, but new editions of classic works are also being put into graphic novel form. You can find graphic novels of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, about the history of the Dust Bowl, and even mathematics, like the Manga Guide to Calculus.

Graphic novels are so popular because they combine visual and written mediums to communicate, enhancing reading comprehension. They are especially popular as alternatives for people who struggle with reading comprehension issues, dyslexia, etc., as the illustrations provide visual clues to reinforce the meaning of the text. But aside from this, many people enjoy graphic novels just because they are colorful and fun to read!

Catholic Graphic Novels

Graphic novels have also begun to make a splash in the Catholic world. In the coming months, I will review several series of graphic novels that may interest our audience. Some are explicitly Catholic, others are not Catholic but may interest Catholic readers (e.g., graphic novel adaptations of classic literature.

Today, I am beginning this series with a review of The Sacraments in Action by Sophia Institute Press. The Sacraments in Action is a book aimed at educating young Catholics about the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. The book does this by following the lives of two young Catholics, Hannah and Andy, as they grow up and mature in the faith.

The book begins with a hospital scene of Hannah’s mom giving birth to Hannah’s baby sister, Beth, which will become the occasion for the discussion on baptism. The book’s second part takes place a few years later and depicts Hannah and Andy preparing for Confirmation, while the third section depicts the kids helping a friend prepare for his First Communion. Theological and devotional aspects of the sacraments are explored and explained through the interactions of the kids and their attempts to navigate the circumstances of their lives.

The Sacraments in Action

I obviously don’t want to go into too much detail about the actual plot of the book, but essentially the way it works is that different milestones or challenges faced by the kids are used as narrative backdrops against which to explain the theology of the sacraments. The Sacraments in Action does a great job of really unpacking the Church’s teaching in rich detail and with lots of quotes from the Catechism. One thing I appreciated was how it doesn’t just explain the theology but also many traditional customs surrounding sacraments, the sort of questions like “Why are baptismal gowns white?” that kids tend to wonder about. Here’s a summary of some of the major points covered in The Sacraments in Action:

• How Baptism frees us from sin.
• Why babies wear white baptismal gowns.
• The vital role of godparents.
• Why water, chrism, and candles are used during a Baptism.
• How Confirmation prepares us to share our faith with others.
• What the Holy Spirit has to do with Confirmation.
• How Confirmation helps us to serve God with our actions.
• Why we have Confirmation sponsors.
• Why we receive the Eucharist at Mass.
• How we are empowered by Christ in the Eucharist.
• How the bread and wine are transformed into Christ’s Body and Blood at Mass.
• What it means to be a part of the Body of Christ.
• How good friendships help us grow in love of God.
• How to speak to non-Catholics about the faith

The Sacraments in Action is more than just a story, however. Each of the three chapters closes with a brief activity section that features a chapter summary, some quotes from the saints, and a few student activities and reflections.

Implementing into Your Homeschool

One thing I found myself pondering when reading this book, however, was how it would be best utilized. It is not very long; only 70 pages divided across three sections. A chapter could be read in ten minutes or less. The activities at the end of each section are very short as well. Thus, only from a pedagogical standpoint, The Sacraments in Action would not used as an anchor text for sacramental prep. It functions much better as a supplement.

One way to utilize this book would be to accompany a theology course on the sacraments in general. It could also be read as a family and discussed together in an enjoyable setting.

The book does an admirable job explaining the specifics of each sacrament and the principles of sacramentality, with solid examples of how Catholics appropriate the grace of the sacraments and live them in the world. So, I think this book would serve very well as an addendum to explaining the theology of sacramentality in the context of a larger middle school theology course.

Conclusion

Overall, The Sacraments in Action is a colorful, orthodox introduction to the sacraments of initiation that uses vivid illustration and creative storytelling to expound the Church’s teaching on the sacraments. It demonstrates how their graces are lived and serves well as an introduction to sacramental theology. You can purchase directly from Sophia Institute Press.

We’ll have more about homeschooling and Catholic graphic novels in future installments. But what about you? Have you added graphic novels to your home library? How do you teach the Sacraments to your younger children? Join me and other homeschooling parents at our Homeschool Connections Community or our Facebook group to continue the discussion!

Resources to help you in your Catholic homeschool…

Catholic Homeschool Classes Online

Homeschooling Saints Podcast

Good Counsel Careers

The Catholic Homeschool Conference

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