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Gleanings From a Book: Catherine’s Pascha by Charlotte Riggle

by Kristina Wenger

This book made me cry. Loud, soggy gasps accompanied my declaration, "I didn't see THAT coming!" My husband came running, thinking something was horribly wrong. "I... love... this book!" I assured him between sobs, and then I showed him the cause of my tears. We'll get to that in just a little bit..

From the moment I cracked it open, this book appealed to me on so many levels. The story is genuine. The illustrations are eye‐catching and detailed. The unity of the Holy Orthodox Church is clearly emphasized. The joy of Pascha is palpable. This book is a delightful celebration of Pascha! 

Catherine's Pascha is written in a realistic, believable way. As I read, it was like I could hear my own children being Catherine's age again, from the "Why do I have to go to bed at regular time, tonight, when I'm getting up again in a few hours to go to church? You KNOW I won't sleep!;" through the delight of shouting "Indeed He is risen!" in multiple languages throughout the Divine Liturgy in the wee hours of the morning; all the way to the gleeful "I'm not a bit sleepy!" while trying to win at the egg‐cracking game and then eating all those things we haven't eaten in weeks. The story itself is a gentle walk through what happens at the Paschal Divine Liturgy, accentuated with the pure delight that children regularly experience and share. The way the story is written fills me with anticipation for the Pascha celebration that lies ahead! Reading the book gave me excited goosebumps.

The brightly colored illustrations of this book are filled with details. There are so many things to look at and look for on each page! The main illustration in the center of the page depicts what is happening in the story: it shows Catherine and her family and/or what is going on in their church at that part of the Paschal service. (An aside: I noticed that the icons are the most realistic parts of each illustration, subtly reminding us that the saints are the most 'real' people celebrating Pascha because of their surrender to/reflection of/proximity to Christ.) Surrounding each picture is a border with words that allow the reader to "hear" what is going on in Catherine's world at that moment: from snatches of the service to Paschal exclamations in a variety of languages to people's conversations at the Paschal feast after the Divine Liturgy. All around that border which represents Catherine's immediate world are illustrations of churches around the world, shown as they appear at that same hour of Pascha night. Each church is portrayed in its location, some of them have people arriving, or processing, or leaving, along with Catherine's family, just as they do at that hour of the Paschal night. Even the sky changes to reflect the location and/or time of night. The attention to detail in these illustrations is impeccable, and leaves me wanting to re‐read the book just so that I can look for more details.

The reality of the Holy Orthodox Church being One Church all over the world throughout history is clearly represented in the illustrations. Catherine's own parish is a multicultural one. Even her best friend is a different race than she is. So, the main story's illustrations depict a unified Church. And then there are the borders: the outer border of each page while Catherine's in church features an illustration of a church somewhere in the world. It tells the name of the church and the year that that church building was established. This is where the tears happened for me. I turned one page and unexpectedly found the Church at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Lake Amatitlán, Guatemala, founded in 2007. My parents were Protestant missionaries in Guatemala, so I spent my entire childhood there and consider it my home. The recent conversions of many Guatemalans to Orthodoxy has been a great delight to my own convert soul. Seeing an Orthodox church from my home country represented in a book alongside Hagia Sophia, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Saint Catherine's Monastery, to name a few, brought tears of immense joy. Truly God is at work through His Church, around the world. And what joy, to celebrate Pascha alongside our brothers and sisters, whatever our cultural background!

The joy of Pascha is evident throughout this book. As well it should be: we are, after all, celebrating both the greatest sacrifice and the most resounding victory ever! We are celebrating our Lord's defeat of death and His glorious resurrection! The joy that Catherine and her family and friends feel is the joy that we all feel at Pascha. The story and illustrations work well to portray that joy, and leave the reader longing for Pascha, as well.

Ah, yes: this book made me cry. And I cried hard. But the last page made me laugh. Read it yourself to find out why!

You can purchase Catherine's Pascha at

Here are some links that can enhance your reading of this book: