Whether there’s been a death in the family or your children have simply expressed curiosity about what happens to us after we die, Susan Tassone’s picture book New Friends Now and Forever: A Story about the Holy Souls will help families deal with children’s inevitable questions with sensitivity, care, theological accuracy, and an emphasis on prayer. This sweet story demonstrates the importance of praying for our deceased loved ones and souls we’ve never met, as well as prayer for our family, friends, and our own cares and concerns.
Church teaching about Purgatory is presented in a comforting way, emphasizing God’s love and our ability to help souls get to Heaven. The book starts out with a note for grown-ups detailing five important truths about Purgatory:
- Purgatory exists.
- Purgatory exists because God loves us.
- Purgatory isn’t a “punishment.”
- The souls in Purgatory suffer the loss of the sight of God.
- Purgatory isn’t a physical fire.
The note to grown-ups also underscores the importance of prayer for the souls in Purgatory and how parents can encourage their children to pray for the Holy Souls.
In New Friends Now and Forever, a family greets Mr. Ray, an elderly man from the parish, after Mass; he tells the children that he has been praying for the soul of his deceased wife. The children decide to be the gentleman’s prayer pal and to pray for his wife’s soul as well. The family prays together at meals, bedtime, at Adoration, and when passing by a cemetery. Over and over through the book, the prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory is repeated. As the family continues to pray together, they eventually experience the loss of their friend Mr. Ray, and the power of that prayer is reinforced.
“Did You Know?” and Seek-and-Find pages complete this beautifully illustrated book. Artist Yorris Handoko created colorful, detailed images for this book that include families and friends in church, the Mass, and family activities as well as images that represent what Heaven might look like.
Reading New Friends Now and Forever as a family would be an excellent way to help children learn about All Souls Day, which the Church celebrates on November 2. The prayer for souls in Purgatory is right on the back cover of the book; find a way to incorporate that prayer into your family’s daily prayers during the month of November—and beyond! As you’ll learn by reading this book, there can never be too many prayers for the Holy Souls.
Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz
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