Material History of American Religion Project

Child's prayer book and rosary

A child's prayer book and rosary set

There is no accident that several of the items on display here are part of the religious life of children. Less literate and abstract than adults, children live in a world of objects as much as ideas. Church people have dealt with this basic psychological fact by surrounding children with material representations of belief. A history of children's devotional life must be a material history.

This prayer book and rosary were designed to be used by little boys. (Sets for girls were white.) The prayer book probably belonged to a boy in Brooklyn, New York, and contains a flower from his first communion. The prayers are designed to help a child understand the Mass, the creed, the catechism, and the Stations of the Cross. Daniel Lord, S.J., wrote the book in 1942. Project scholar Robert Orsi of Indiana University is researching the material aspects of Catholic childhood, using materials such as this.

Project scholar Judith Weisenfeld of Barnard College found the prayer book and rosary at the P.S. 321 flea market in Park Slope, Brookly, New York. (Weisenfeld, who is researching religion and film, came across Father Lord in her work; he was a drama teacher at St. Louis University and involved in the Church's censorship of film in the 1930s and 1940s.)

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