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Pizza, Prayer, and Peter Kreeft

What would you think if you were seated in a room with six eighth-grade boys and they spent an hour and a half talking about God? That was my experience last night and all I could do was say, “Wow!” A group of us with eighth-grade boys who were confirmed this past fall decided to have the boys read Because God is Real by Peter Kreeft and get them together every couple of weeks to discuss it. Last night was our first group session. We began with a prayer and some pizza and then it was time to get the discussion rolling. The book is a series of questions and answers. The boys talked about the questions that most impressed them, the questions that surprised them, and the questions and answers they just didn’t quite understand. The discussion also took tangential trips into their experiences explaining their faith to those who do not believe and standing firm in their faith when others dispute it. We touched on the papal visit and Pope Benedict’s thoughts on faith and reason. These are normal middle-school boys. They can go from unbelievably goofy to profoundly intellectual and insightful in a matter of seconds. It was an incredible sine wave to ride for ninety minutes.

I taught most of these boys in my seventh grade CCD class. I have to tell you it made my little catechist’s heart go pitter patter to hear them identify the three kinds of sacraments (initiation, healing, service) or to hear them speak of the Magisterium as the teaching authority of the Church. They learned something! (insert contented sigh here )

The boys were extremely enthusiastic about this book. Reading it seemed more like a conversation than a lecture. My son said he looked forward to every opportunity to pick up this book and read a few more pages. The writing is easily understood without being simplistic. Profound philosophical thoughts are presented with humor. As Peter Kreeft himself describes it, this is an adult book that kids can understand.

Of course, I am not one to become complacent. These boys are open to spiritual reading. What should we put in their hands next? I think the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is a good choice. Hollywood is making this classic into a movie so I want them to read the original before their image of this story becomes formed by the silver screen edition. If you have any other ideas, please post them in the comments.


jawats said…
It seems to me that Screwtape is an entirely different proposition than anything by Peter Kreeft.

I do not doubt that Screwtape (the book) would be attractive to 8th graders. However, what was the reasoning beyond your consideration of that particular book?

Catholic Mom said…
Screwtape Letters is definitely a completely different angle than Peter Kreeft. Instead of concise, straightforward discourse, The Screwtape Letters is an exercise in allegory and metaphors. However, there are some very important lessons: The Devil is real; He doesn't show up in a red suit with horns and pitchfork; He twists evil to make it look good and dupes us into sin if we are not on guard. I guess both my husband and I have found this book very influential in our spiritual development so I thought it could also be beneficial to adolescents. And I definitely think these boys should read the book before the movie comes out.
jawats said…
If I remember, Tolkien thought that the Screwtape Letters was a dangerous book to write or read. He may have been off-base in this, but as I recall, Tolkien thought it was dangerous to go thinking or considering the devil to the extent that Lewis does in Screwtape.

I suppose the question is whether these 8th graders are advanced enough in their Faith to deal with allegory at this level. Allegory is the extra step involved that Kreeft does not have. With Kreeft, as you noted, it's "read" and then "apply to questions of life as a Catholic." With Lewis, it's "read," "interpret what is being said and by whom," then "apply to life."

I think I should say that I don't think Screwtape is completely out of bounds, but the question is dependent on the 8th graders involved...
Rosemary Bogdan said…
I think the Screwtape Letters is a great idea. Or Mere Christianity. Love the idea of a discussion group. We all need to know how to defend our faith.
Lynne said…
jawats, I'm sure it was difficult/dangerous to write but it is truly a wonderful book to read. Many think it is a satire or humorous but I found it scary in a spiritual sense. It's been a year or so since I've read it. I need to read it again...
Brian Sullivan said…
If you want to go the audiobook route, may I suggest the one with John Cleese reading Screwtape. It's malefactorily magnificent!


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