The Vine and the Branches: Highway to Heaven Series Book 5
Produced by the Marquette University Institute of Catechetical Research under the editorship of Edward A. Fitzpatrick in the 1930’s, the Highway to Heaven series of Religion textbooks is a breath of fresh air. Unashamed love of the Catholic Faith is evident on every page.
Full of beautiful black and white woodcut-styled illustrations, The Vine and the Branches is the Fifth Grade text in the series. It covers the history of the people of God after Christ's birth.
The late 1920's and early 1930's would appear to have been an especially fertile time for the writing of Catechism books. The world had just finished a Great and terrible war, and was entering a new modern era. There was a great desire for new methods of teaching that were less formalized and exterior--forms that incorporated the new understanding of how children learn, such as those enumerated by educational pioneer Maria Montessori and others.
This reaction to the teaching methods of the past, especially in the field of catechism, which had for many years been largely rote teaching and memorization of the questions and answers of the Catechism, resulted in the Munich Method, also known as the Steiglitz or Psychological Method. This method sought to teach children the faith by first engaging the imagination of the child with stories or other visualizations, followed by a discussion of the application of the moral of the story to the child's life, and finally--only as a last step, after the lesson had been absorbed by the child--this process was followed up with the formula from the Catechism for memorization.
In assembling a new curriculum for the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Marquette University Institute for Catechetical Research sought to incorporate this method in its presentation of Catholic Doctrine to children. And thus, the Highway to Heaven series of textbooks, along with the Religion in Life Curriculum of which they are the centerpiece, was brought into being.
This goal of seizing the imagination of the child is what makes these books especially charming: they tell the Greatest Story Ever Told in a way that engages children and encourages them to visualize the scenes of the Life of Our Lord. To this end the series is most beautifully illustrated as well.
One item worth pointing out: Because this series was printed in the 1930's, before the Baltimore Catechism was revised in the early 1940's, it contains the unrevised Baltimore Catechism. This means that it will align numerically with the original BC as printed by TAN, but NOT with the later St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism, which uses the revised BC.
Fifth Grade: The Vine and the Branchesbegins at Pentecost and explores the History of God's people after the birth of His Church on earth. It focuses especially on biographies, in order to maintain the important task of teaching concepts by their application to real lives.
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