Harcourt religion series: “Call to Faith”

Commentary on Call To Faith
Published by Harcourt Religion Publishers, Orlando, FL
-A Division of Houghton-Mifflin Publishing-
Parish Elementary School Edition, Grade 2, 5 & 6
By Ann Hill, BS in Education

Parish Elementary School Edition, Grade 2
The workbook contains colored sketches and also photographs throughout the book and offers a pleasant presentation. Vocabulary words are emphasized in a special highlighted place on the same page that the lesson is being presented. Review of vocabulary and key concepts are at the end of each unit. Brief biographies of a number of the Saints are scattered throughout the book.

The introduction to the book includes the Church Year, Showing Mercy, Mary, Advent, Christmas with the Advent Wreath and Jesus the Savior was born, Saint Blase, Lent, the Triduum, Easter and Pentecost.

The publisher then divides the curriculum into seven units:
Unit I—God’s Greatest Gift; God’s Creation, God’s Promise and God’s Word: David, Jesus was Human, In the Garden with Adam and Eve, and Jesus the Savior. Vocabulary includes: Creation, David, Sin, Son of God, Original Sin, Savior, Bible, Old Testament, New Testament, and Saint.

Unit II—Faith In God; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit: Noah, Jesus Teaches, St. Don Bosco, Saint, Parable of the Flowers (do not work and spin) Birth of Jesus, Temple Teaching, St. John Baptizes Jesus, After Jesus Rises He Promises To Send the Holy Spirit. Vocabulary includes: Prayer, Trust, Temple, Holy Family, Holy Trinity and Disciples.

Unit III—Jesus Brings Reconciliation; Love God and Others, Making Good Choices and God’s Mercy: The Ten Commandments, Parable of the Good Samarian, Peter Denies Jesus, Conscience and Sin, Prodigal Son, and Mercy. Vocabulary includes: Ten Commandments, The Great Commandment, Conscience, Mortal & Venial Sin, and Mercy.

Unit IV—The Church Celebrates; Signs of Love, The Church and Forgiveness, and the Church Year: The Seven Sacraments, Baptism, Reconciliation, mentions Eucharist, The Woman Who Washed Jesus’ Feet With Her Tears, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Liturgy, Advent, Ordinary Time, and Lent. Vocabulary includes: Sacrament, Grace, Seven Sacraments, Three Sacraments of Initiation, Contrition, Penance, Absolution, Liturgy, Resurrection, and Faith.

Unit V—Following Jesus; Care for All People, Share the Good News, and Pray as Jesus did: Zacchaeus, “Let The Little Children Come Unto Me,” St. Brigid of Ireland, Vine and Branches Sermon, “Go Baptize All Nations,” Explanation of the “Our Father,” Ways to Pray, Sacramentals, The Lord’s Prayer. Vocabulary includes: Kingdom of God, Proclaim, and Sacramentals.

Unit VI-Celebrating The Eucharist; Gather to Worship, Listen to God’s Word, and Remember Jesus Sacrifice: Holy Communion, Fasting Prior to Receiving Communion, The Parts of the Mass, Parable of the Mustard Seed, Readings at Mass. Vocabulary includes: Mass, Assembly, Parables, Liturgy of the Word, Creed, General Intercessions, Liturgy of the Eucharist, and Eucharistic Prayer.

Unit VII—Living The Eucharist; Share a Holy Meal, Go Forth, and Forever in Heaven: Loaves & Fishes from Scripture, Receiving Holy Communion, Fasting One Hour Prior To Communion, The Church’s Mission to Preach and Spread the Word of Christ, Wedding Feast at Cana, Living God’s Message In Our Own Lives. Vocabulary is: Holy, Reverence, Holy Communion, Missionaries, and Heaven.

A special section at the end of the book called “The Source Book” reviews the topics of Scripture(Old and New Testaments, Parables, and parts of the Bible) Creed(Nicene and Apostle’s Creed, Mission of the Church) Liturgy(Sacraments, emphasizing Reconciliation, Examination of Conscience, Naming of Books & objects used for Mass, Sacrament of the Eucharist, Order of the Mass, Receiving Holy Communion, Sacramentals, Images of Mary, Seasons of the Church) Morality(the Ten Commandments, Beatitudes and Virtues) and Prayers of the Church.

Accurate Points

*P.44-45 Jesus did not sin. Jesus is the Son of God.
*P.51 Adam and Eve’s choice to disobey God is called, “Original Sin.”
*P.52 God promised to send a Savior.
*P.58-61 Tells children about the Bible and the Old & New Testaments.
*P.70 Trusting God because He loves you and wants what is best for you.
*P.76-79 Very brief descriptions of Jesus pre-ministry are covered beginning with the Angel Gabriel’s coming, Jesus’ birth, Jesus teaching in the temple and His Baptism.
*P.85 Explanation of the Holy Trinity was very good.
*P.94-5 Explanation of the 10 Commandments were accurately listed.
*P.102 Peter denies Jesus, and Jesus forgives him.
*P.105 Differentiation between mortal and venial sin was noted
*P.110 The Prodigal Son is used as an example of mercy; the Parable is also repeated in Grade 5 text.
*P.122 The Seven Sacraments are explained.
*P.128 The recounting of the woman who washed Jesus feet with her tears leads to the topic of Repentance and examination of conscience, and then continues into the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and includes contrition for having sinned.
*P.136-39 This touches on the Seasons of Advent/Christmas, Ordinary Time, and Lent/Easter.
*P.164 Tells of different kinds of prayer such as praise, contrition, thanksgiving, intercession.
*P.172-201Describes the Mass using the terms, “Mass, Assembly, Liturgy of the Word, Creed, General Intercessions, Liturgy of the Eucharist, Eucharistic Prayer and Holy Communion.
*P.182 Accurately states that the Priest or Deacon may read the Gospel, but not others
*P.200 Describes the importance of receiving Holy Communion reverently


*P.8 The Blessed Virgin Mary deserves that title, and every honor the Church gives her; She should be referred to as “The Blessed Virgin Mary, but Her title is used only on P.48
*P.28 On Good Friday we honor the Crucifix, not the Cross as stated, and there is a difference since the Church requires having a Crucifix on every altar.
*P.42 A number of times a subject is brought up that seems to be out of place with the lessons around it, such as young David, or St. Blasé (p.20) is brought up at the very beginning of the school year, and talks about blessing throats, which doesn’t occur until February; there are a number of these instances which seem out of chronological order or do not immediately apply to the materials being discussed.
*P.44-5 “Jesus was human” and the next page, “He is more;” the term, “Two Natures” should be added to clarify this.
*P.76 “Mary told the angel, “May it be done to me as you say;” however, Her “Yes” always should be included and emphasized as part of this explanation, as it is in Grade 5 curriculum- the term, “Annunciation” could easily be introduced here also.
*P.76-79 A very general description of Jesus pre-ministry years are covered with the Angel Gabriel’s coming, Jesus Birth, Jesus teaching in the temple, and the Baptism of Jesus, Then *P.84 jumps to where Jesus is promising to send the Holy Spirit, and then goes into an explanation of the Holy Trinity. Then P.86 describes Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came. This seems somewhat disjointed. Following this, the Ten Commandments are inserted on *P.96, which is the Old Testament, and then we’re back in the New Testament with the story of the Good Samaritan. The following lesson is when St. Peter denies Jesus (no last Supper included or arrest of Jesus)-again this keeps jumping around.
*P.163 & 166 The Catholic term is, “The Our Father,” rather than using the term, “The Lord’s Prayer.”
*P.231 It needs to add that the “Host” alone is both the precious Body and Blood-also it is preferable not to “chew” the Host as advocated, since this is Jesus Christ; the Host should be held on the tongue until moistened and then swallowed.
*P.240 In the Apostles’ Creed, it states, “He descended to the dead,” although the Catechism of Catholic Church states, “He descended into hell.” There is no authorization to have changed the wording. The same is true of a number of the prayers listed; just enough words have been changed, making it impossible to pray together in a group that has not learned this particular version of the prayer; this is the reason the Catholic Church has standardized prayers.

-It may be of interest to note that in 1999 Harcourt published A Clinician’s Guide to Medical and Surgical Abortion, a book that was hailed by the New England Journal of Medicine as “The first clinical reference on abortion practice to be published in the United States in over fifteen years.” Harcourt subsidiaries also published such titles as, Contraception: Your Questions Answered, Handbook of Contraception and Family Planning, Contraception and Office Gynecology, and The Lives of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals (marketed as a college textbook for use in homosexual-studies programs-

Commentary on Call To Faith
Published by Harcourt Religion Publishers, Orlando, FL
-A Division of Houghton-Mifflin Publishing-
Parish Elementary School Edition, Grade 5
By Ann Hill, BS in Education

The workbook contains very beautiful scene depictions, as well as photographs and is nicely done. Vocabulary words are emphasized in a special highlighted place on the same page that the lesson is being presented. The key lesson concepts are reviewed at the end of each unit. Brief biographies of Saints are scattered throughout the book.

The introduction to the school year begins with the children of Fatima and the Rosary, Mary’s “Yes,” brief overviews of Advent, Christmas, Katharine Drexel, Lent, Triduum, a Walk for Hunger, the Road to Emmaus, Pentecost, and Social Service Projects.

The publisher then divides the curriculum into seven units:
Unit I—God’s Call; Longing For God, Worshiping, and Signs of God’s Presence: The curriculum subjects include Helen Keller, the Woman at the Well, Chico Mendez and the Rainforest, Moses and the Burning Bush, and Sacraments and their Signs. Religious Vocabulary includes: Grace, Faith, Providence, Stewardship, Covenant, Sacraments. Non-religious vocabulary includes: pictures, recycling, trees, water, communicate.

Unit II—God’s People Respond; The Mystery of God, Prayer and Worship and Doing Good: The curriculum includes St. Patrick, the Baptism of Jesus, Virtues of Faith, Hope & Charity, the Apostles’ Creed, David brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, Liturgy, The Great Commandment, the Four Virtues. The Vocabulary includes: Mystery, Virtue, Holy Trinity, Image of God, Prayer, Worship, Cardinal Virtues, and Liturgy.

Unit III—The Incarnation, The Image of God, Proclaim the Kingdom and New Life, the Magi,(a play) the Incarnation, The Parable of the Sower, Signs of God’s Kingdom, Sacramental Living, Suffering, Archbishop Oscar Romero assassination, Resurrection of Jesus as the Pascal Mystery, The Seven Sacraments.Vocabulary includes: Incarnation, Divine, Kingdom of God, Parables, Miracles, Conversion, Pascal Mystery.

Unit IV—The Church as Sacrament: A Sign to the World, The Teaching Church, and Called to Holiness; Vatican II, God’s Kingdom and the Mission of the Church, Marks of the Church, Frederick Douglas, “Who Do You Say That I Am,” The Teaching Office, Seven Saints, The Handmaid of the Lord, Major Feast Days of Mary. Vocabulary: People of God, Body of Christ, Marks of the Church, Magisterium, Infallibility, Sanctifier, Holiness, Canonize, Liturgical Year.

Unit V—The Life of Grace: The Mystery of Evil, Reborn in Christ, Forgiveness and Healing; Hansel and Gretel, Sin Enters the World, Personal Sin, Mortal and Venial Sin, Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, With Sacraments of Initiation One Shares as a Priest, Prophet and King, Grace and Conversion, Parable of the “Two Sons,” Sacrament of Reconciliation (signs & effects) Father Damien and the Lepers, Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Vocabulary includes: Original Sin, Personal Sin, Mortal Sin, Venial Sin, Catechumen, Sponsor, Contrition, Absolution.

Unit VI—The Central Sacrament: Gathered for Mass, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist; The Assembly of Believers, The Real Presence, Lay Participation at the Mass, The Dead Sea Scrolls, The Liturgy of the Word, The Last Supper. Vocabulary: Liturgical Assembly, Real Presence, Scripture, Tradition, Consecration, Transubstantiation.

Unit VII—Signs of Hope: Answering God’s Call, The Last Things, and Come, Lord Jesus; Saints Isidore and Maria, Vocations, “The Laborers Are Few,” Holy Orders and Matrimony are Sacraments of Service, Dante’s “The Divine Comedy,” The Judgment of the Nations, The Last Rites, Charles de Foucauld, “He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the captives go free,” Social Justice. Vocabulary: Ordained Ministers, Laity, Religious Life, Eternal Life, Viaticum, Missionary, Evangelization, Corporal Works of Mercy, Social Justice.

Accurate Points

*P.41 A good point is made by asking about the pursuit of material goods. It says, “What is something that you are longing for, and what will change if you get it?” to make children really think about their needs.
*P.45 There is a good explanation of what Faith is.
*P.61 The Sacraments are accurately listed; the physical “signs” are explained here.
*P.68 The mystery of God’s Providence is portrayed well through the life of St. Patrick.
*P.71 The theological virtues are accurately explained.
*P.77 The explanation of Prayer in the Words of Faith highlighted area is good.
*P.78 It states the Eucharist is the Church’s central sacrament and expression of worship, and then also lists the other sacraments.
*P.84 The scripture quote from Mark 12:28-34 tells of the Great Commandment.
*P.85 The four Cardinal Virtues are listed and have good explanations. It would be good to see more examples of these Virtues used to help form a healthy conscience.
*P.100 Pray with an image of a picture, or an icon or a crucifix is good advice.
*P.103 Explains Parables adequately.
*P.109 The book touches on suffering; it would be good to take even more time with this subject.
*P.131 “Upon this Rock I will build My Church,” and the right of succession after St. Peter.
*P.138-9 Discusses Mary’s Immaculate Conception and Assumption, and Her major Feast Days
*P.148-9 Has a good explanation of Original Sin, mortal & venial sin
*P.154 Adequately explains RCIA and what it’s about
*P.163 Describes the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the need for contrition and to confess sins
*P.173 The Real Presence is discussed-although the textbook states that Holy Communion is the Body and Blood of Christ, it does not include that It is also His Soul and Divinity. Also P.191
*P.199 Vocations include ordained ministers, religious life and laity.
*P.209 Discusses the Mass of Christian Burial
*The Catholic Source Book in the back of the textbook has good resources that include the Beatitudes, Works of Mercy, the Ten Commandments, Holy Days, the Order of the Mass, Grace, Sin, etc. However, the wording in prayers such as the Prayer to the Holy Spirit, the Angelus, the Glory Be have had just enough wording changed that it would cause great confusion when attempting to pray with a group, since others know the traditional prayers.
*The Source Book lists the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit using the modernized terms of “right judgment (Counsel) wonder and awe (Fear of the Lord) courage (Fortitude) and reverence (Piety)” but the Gifts as listed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church are listed in parentheses—using unauthorized terms is confusing, and only the Vatican has the authority to change the names of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.


*P.45 The explanation of “grace” is not clear, but it can be a difficult concept to describe
*P.58 A beautiful pictorial presentation of Moses and the Burning Bush is given, although it contradicts itself by stating, “God is pure spirit and cannot be seen or heard directly” and then goes on to say, “Read to find out how God spoke to Moses” after the text stated God doesn’t do this.
*P.72 In the Apostles’ Creed it reads, “He descended to the dead,” but upon checking with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it states, “He descended into Hell.” The series should not be re-wording prayers.
*P.96 In describing that Jesus is both fully divine and fully human, “One man having Two Natures” should be used to identify the phenomenon.
*P.113 There is a confusing presentation of the Sacraments in attempting to tie each Sacrament to the dying and Resurrection of Christ.
*P.119 “We stand together against every expression of hate…” be careful with this concept because it is being used to silence people’s Right of Free Speech, whenever someone disagrees with another, the claim has been made that this is “hate speech,”
*P.120 The subject of Vatican II may be over the heads of children this age.
*P.148-9 It is extremely important to see that a healthy and active conscience is developed in conjunction with the presentation of types of Sin in the textbook, and a good deal of time should be spent on this lesson, giving many many examples to the children so they understand how to apply the information to real life.
*P.162 The term, “The Two Sons” is used; why not use, “The Prodigal Son” which is well-known
*P.201 The text states that Holy Orders and Matrimony are “Sacraments of Service,” but omits mentioning that living the life of a single lay person is also being called to “serve.”
*P.207 The attempt at the subject of the Last Judgment needs to be more in depth.
*P.210 This page shows a Risen Christ on a Cross, which is not Biblical, and is inaccurate.
*P.217 The Corporal Works of Mercy should have much more discussion than is presented.
*P.232 Inaccurate use of the term, “Presider’s Chair;” the Priest is a Celebrant, not a “presider.”
*There are no pictures of large families in the textbook.
*If children are pictured with adults at all, it is usually only one adult and not the traditional family .

The Teacher’s Manual for 5th Grade Curriculum (xx) states Harcourt uses a model education theory developed by Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University, who believes different children learn in different ways, such as verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, visual/spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, interpersonal, and naturalist. It is evident in the textbook that this was a goal in writing the activities. The problem is that it isn’t practical in the limited amount of time given for Religious Education lessons to cover all these multi-approaches through all the activities that are required to implement them. Here are some of the results:

*5th Graders are fairly sophisticated, and a number of activities do not seem age-appropriate; rather the activities seem more appropriate for earlier grades. For example, a least 28 lessons include singing short songs. It does not seem likely that 5th graders, especially the boys, are going to enthusiastically participate in this activity.

* It is also puzzling why a primary school child’s fable, Hansel and Gretel (146) would be used with 5th graders and then later on introduce Dante’s Divine Comedy (206) which is largely over their heads.

* Of concern is the imbalance of time dedicated to projects; at least 23 instances students are called to join a partner or small group for an activity such as making a banner (19) make a crest (63) act out a cardinal virtue (85) create a parable (107) etc. Some of these projects also did not seem to be age appropriate.

*In at least 32 other instances, students are assigned other projects such as: write your own Advent Antiphons (15) write a poem (23 &55) draw symbols to explain the Trinity(71) create a scene for a movie (73) Write your feelings about what certain Psalms make you feel (81) write your own story about virtues (87) draw a picture of a scene from a film you would make about God’s Image (97) make a calendar (99) etc. The problem is all the time taken away from academic studies.

* There is an imbalance in the presentation of social justice; it is overemphasized. Known names such as Chico Mendez, Frederick Douglas and Helen Keller (4th Grade has Rosa Parks and references to Mohandas Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Desmond Tutu), aren’t these figures already covered in secular/classroom education? Why not teach in-depth about the Saints who are inspirational in their heroic lives?

*There is unnecessary trivia in the lessons that take up time; an example from the teacher’s manual states Germans make Lenten soup from pretzels simmered in cider and in Nicaragua a favorite stew is made from the meat of the iguana lizard (24) and on Holy Thursday children in Germany and Austria exchange hard-boiled eggs that are dyed green.(28), in Tanzania parish churches are decorated with clothing arranged in the shapes of butterflies, flowers and banana trees (32) etc.—academics are more important.

*The teacher’s manual also (9) refers to the Blessed Virgin Mary as, “Hail Favored One,” from Luke 1:27 ALL women are favored because God created them and loves them. The accurate salutation to the Blessed Virgin is, “Hail, Full Of Grace,” which only She is–this denotes Her being conceived without sin.

Grade 6 Book

*Although the 6th Grade book is not being covered in depth, a general review noted several problems that should be mentioned. On P.166 there is a prayer exercise with the students sitting in the lotus position, breathing slowly in and out, in silent prayer. This is the practice of Eastern meditation. Catholicism does not “blend” with other religions, and this is inappropriate teaching of prayer in the Catholic Church. It would be far better to teach the prayer techniques of St. Teresa of Avila or St. Ignatius.

P.42 The Grade 6 textbook also encourages a Native American girl to learn stories from her grandmother about their people’s history and of the wonders of creation, which is fine; however in doing so, discernment should be used since some Native stories of creation may be pantheistic.

P.44 This page displays different “types” of writing found in the Bible, such as Psalms, Letters of Paul, and Parables. However, the Book of Ruth is called a “Folktale,” which is hardly the case. Ruth and Naomi were actual people, and when Ruth stayed with Naomi, she did adopt the Faith and customs of the Hebrew people. She is also an ancestor of King David, and an actual person; this is not a “made-up” story. Also, a category is termed, “short stories,” and cites Joseph and his brothers as an example of a “short story,” when in actuality, the events surrounding Joseph occurred over a period of many years, with his being sold into slavery, his rise to second-in-command in Egypt, the traveling of his brothers to and from Egypt several times, his reuniting with his family, and Joseph’s saving the Hebrew people by bringing them to Egypt, as well as his death.

It may be of interest to note that in 1999 Harcourt published A Clinician’s Guide to Medical and Surgical Abortion, a book that was hailed by the New England Journal of Medicine as “The first clinical reference on abortion practice to be published in the United States in over fifteen years.” Harcourt subsidiaries also published such titles as, Contraception: Your Questions Answered, Handbook of Contraception and Family Planning, Contraception and Office Gynecology, and The Lives of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals (marketed as a college textbook for use in homosexual-studies programs.