Monday, 31 March 2008

Toddler Prayers and Prayer Books

 My daughter, Isabella, is 22 months old. In the past year she's consistently surprised me by her love for saying prayers, going to church, of statues and holy cards and crucifixes. On my blog I've been chronicling her developing prayer life. This is my most recent update; not a complete picture of everything we do but a snapshot of the most recent developments.

Bella now says "Amen" at the end of prayers and regularly (though not always) folds her hands during the blessing before meals. Or at least during the first part, discipline often breaks down and she reaches for food before we get to the end of the prayer.

She has started to make some attempts to make the sign of the cross on her own. She either gets the horizontal movement or she manages to touch her forehead and belly. She frequently touches her chest and says "Son" (or is it "sign"?).

I see her moving her lips and listening intently during prayers. She's trying to get the words down. She refers to the Hail Mary as "Grace" and can fill in the blank when I drop a word in the first lines. If I say "Hail" she says "full of grace". I say "The Lord is" she replies "with you" and then says "Blessed". She repeats the words "fruit" and "womb" after I say them.

Dom has now taken over putting Bella to bed after bedtime prayers since (post c-section) I can't yet lift her into her crib. He says that most nights she wants prayers now rather than stories. She says "grace" to request a prayer. We have a prayer book that was given to us that neither Dom nor I like much. It's a Protestant prayer book, mostly treacly poems with "Amen" thrown on at the end. But Bella loves it. So Dom started flipping the pages while reciting Catholic prayers he wants Bella to learn. He says the Hail Mary in English, French and Latin, the Magnificat, the Memorare, Hail Holy Queen, Our Father, Glory Be, etc. He later found a book about Mary that he "reads" in the same way. It's become Bella's usual nightly request. At least for this week.

That's only a temporary solution, though. What we'd really like is a nice Catholic prayer book with beautiful Catholic art. I haven't seen anything in the stores or online that's exactly what I'm looking for. However, I think we have the answer: we're going to make our own prayer book, using pictures downloaded from the web and free book editing software, Book Smart from

We spent Saturday afternoon putting together the prayers and trawling the net looking for good art in a usable format. I'm quite proud of the result and wish I had a way to share it. Dom has done a great job with the layout and design. it isn't cheap; but it isn't really any more than I'd be willing to spend if I found this same book in the store. And this book is titled The Bettinelli Family Prayer Book , dedicated to our children, has hand-picked content, and even includes a photo of us from our honeymoon on the copyright page. What an age we live in when you can design and print your own book from the comfort of your own living room!

Prayers included: The Apostles' Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be (we did these three most common prayers in both English and Latin), Hail Holy Queen, Memorare, Act of Contrition, Anima Christi, Angelus, Magnificat, Psalm 23, St Michael Prayer, Alma Redemptoris Mater, Divine Praises, Act of Faith, Act of Hope, Act of Love.

Pictures included works by Raphael, Durer, Botticelli, Dali, Rublev, Rembrandt, Fra Angelico, Millet, George de la Tour, Giotto, as well as mosaic, icons, and manuscript illuminations by unknown artists.

I'll be sure to write about it's reception when we finally get it printed and start reading it with Bella. I am sure it will be a treasured family keepsake for years to come.


Love2Learn Mom said...

Sounds like a marvelous idea! I think there is a way of making a book public on blurb so that people can purchase their own copies. Perhaps you could make a more generic version for others who might be interested?

JennGM said...

It does sound so beautiful! And I know that internet searching and graphic work takes time. Wish I could see it. Thanks for the inspiration.

Melanie B said...


I think you're right.... there is a way to share the book on blurb. But what I'm not so sure about is the copyright issues on the pictures we used. We were trying to do this as cheaply as possible so were using free pictures from the web. Some of them were from sites like wikicommons and thus available for republishing. But many of them were from private sites. I think that putting them in our book falls under fair use; but sharing with others is probably pushing it.

But if there is enough interest out there, I might be inspired to do some further work and see if I can make something available.


All the credit for the tedious searching goes to my wonderfully patient husband. I found a bunch of images I liked, most of which were too small to use. He did the hard part of finding the pictures in a usable size and format and the tedious part of laying out the pages and formatting the text.

Love2Learn Mom said...

Ah, of course. That makes sense!

Meredith said...

Delightful Melanie, it's SO sweet when they "get it" at such a young age. Mine have all been the same way too. Yours is a great testimony to happy parents passing on their faith in such a loving home environment. So glad you shared here!

The Bookworm said...

What a wonderful idea! I have made little prayer books in the past, but just churned out on my cheap printer - nothing like yours.

Andrea said...

I love this idea! I agree you should make a public version on Blurb for others to purchase.

Diana said...

I did the same thing for my daughter: created a little prayer book using Blurb. I used photographs that I took, so no copyright issues. Things like rosary beads, statues, your church, a crucifix. It's a nice gift for parents to give their children - makes it special.

Thanks for all the wonderful ideas!