New children’s book spins Christmas tale about spiders

Catholic News Agency

There is an ancient legend about Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and a spider.

After Jesus was born, the Holy Family fled into Egypt, while baby boys were being slaughtered by order of King Herod. The legend says that one night the family stopped to sleep in a cave. There was a spider in that cave, the story goes, who knew the infant Jesus was a special child.

According to the legend, the spider felt called to do something unexpected— something that would save Mary, Joseph, and Jesus from soldiers sent by King Herod on a terrible mission.

The legend of that spider — “The Spider Who Saved Christmas” — became well-known in some parts of the world. In fact, some people say that tinsel is placed on Christmas trees to remember the web of that spider. The legend is now told in a new children’s book, released this month by children’s author and television host Raymond Arroyo.

“The Spider Who Saved Christmas,” Arroyo told CNA “fills an important gap in the Christmas story, one we don’t often consider.”

“I discovered this Legend in a footnote of a Bible commentary,” Arroyo said, and “was intrigued.”

“My telling of the legend is really all about motherhood, sacrifice, family, and overcoming fear to recognize the hope that is often all around us. I expanded the spare tale, created some characters and got to spend some time with the Holy Family. It actually made me appreciate them and their struggle in a new way,” the author said.

Arroyo is well-known as a television host on the EWTN network and on Fox News. He told CNA that “in my heart, I have always been a story teller. I’ve told stories on television, through music, and with the written word. A well told story is often more true than assembled facts, and they often stay with audiences longer.”

“The Spider Who Saved Christmas” is not Arroyo’s first book for children. The author has also written three installments in a series of adventure stories, and is working on a fourth.

“I started writing for younger audiences because of my own children,” Arroyo said, adding that he intends to write more illustrated books based upon legends of times past.

“I think these old stories have survived largely because they contain a bit of wisdom that we need for living. I’ve always thought that every good story is a guide for life. The series will likely contain forgotten, or discarded stories that I think need a bit of attention. They won’t all be origin stories. But they will give a wide audience an opportunity to look at figures they thought they knew, or consider stories they thought they understood in a different light,” he said.

“I’ve always loved the first books I read. I don’t really consider them children’s literature, but great literature. ‘Treasure Island,’ ‘Peter Pan,’ ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ can be enjoyed by children, but the deeper themes and the truth contained in them are quite adult.”

“When I wrote my Will Wilder series, I decided to write for both young audiences as well as their parents and guardians. I love books that you can return to later in life and find a different story. I also love sharing these stories with young audiences. They hold a book closer than adults. So though I will likely write for adults again, I’ll never stop writing what the world condescendingly calls ‘children’s literature.’ It’s actually better termed ‘human formation literature.’”

Arroyo told CNA he appreciates the “challenge of writing for young audiences. They won’t tolerate the artifice, deceptions, humorlessness that adults will. Kids are actually quite clear-eyed. They expect truth, understanding, and fun. I try to bring all that to them, even when writing about a spider named Nephila.”

COMING UP: ‘I have seen the Lord’: St. Vincent de Paul’s new adoration chapel honors St. Mary Magdelene’s witness

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“I have seen the Lord.” (John 20:18). 

One couple from St. Vincent de Paul parish took these words to heart with urgency last year during the pandemic and decided to build a Eucharistic Adoration chapel for their fellow faithful to be in the Lord’s presence themselves. 

Mike and Shari Sullivan donated design and construction of the new Eucharistic Adoration Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene adjacent to their parish church to make a space for prayer and adoration that they felt needed to be reinstated, especially during the difficult days of COVID-19. 

The chapel was completed this spring and dedicated during Divine Mercy weekend with a special blessing from Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila. 

“It was invigorating to have the archbishop bless the chapel,” Mike said. “The church has been buzzing.” 

Mike has been a Catholic and a member of St. Vincent de Paul since his baptism, which he jokes was around the time the cornerstone was placed in 1951. The Sullivans’ five children all attended the attached school and had their sacraments completed at St. Vincent de Paul too. 

Archbishop Samuel Aquila dedicated the St. Mary Magdalene adoration chapel with a prayer and blessing at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church on April 9, 2021, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

The 26-by 40-foot chapel is a gift to fellow parishioners of a church that has meant so much to their family for decades, and to all who want to participate in prayer and adoration. 

The architect and contractor are both Catholic, which helped in the design of Catholic structure and the construction crew broke ground in mid-December. The Sullivans wanted to reclaim any Catholic artifacts or structural pieces they could for the new chapel. Some of the most striking features of the chapel are the six stained glass windows Mike was able to secure from a demolished church in New York. 

The windows were created by Franz Xaver Zettler who was among a handful of artists known for the Munich style of stained glass from the 19th century.  The Munich style is accomplished by painting detailed pictures on large pieces of glass unlike other stained-glass methods, which use smaller pieces of colored glass to make an image. 

The two primary stained-glass windows depict St. Augustine and St. Mary Magdalene, the chapel’s namesake, and they frame either side of the altar which holds the tabernacle and monstrance — both reused from St.  Vincent De Paul church.  

The Sullivans wanted to design a cloistered feel for the space and included the traditional grill and archway that opens into the pews and kneelers with woodwork from St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. 

The chapel was generously donated by Mike and Shari Sullivan. The stained glass windows, which depict St. Augustine and St. Mary Magdalene, were created by Franz Xaver Zettler, who was among a handful of artists known for the Munich style of stained glass from the 19th century. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

Shari is a convert to Catholicism and didn’t grow up with the practice of Eucharistic adoration, but St. Vincent de Paul pastor Father John Hilton told her to watch how adoration will transform the parish. She said she knows it will, because of what regular Eucharistic adoration has done for her personally. 

The Sullivans are excited that the teachers at St. Vincent de Paul school plan to bring their classes to the warm and inviting chapel to learn about the practice of adoration and reflect on the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. 

The words of St. Mary Magdalene “I have seen the Lord,” have become the motto of the chapel, Mike said, and they are emblazoned on a brass plaque to remind those who enter the holy space of Christ’s presence and the personal transformation offered to those inside.

The St. Vincent de Paul  Church and The Eucharistic Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene is located at 2375 E. Arizona Ave. Denver 80210 on the corner of Arizona and Josephine Street. The chapel is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Visit https://saintvincents.org/adorationchapel1 for more information about the chapel and to look for updates on expanded hours as they occur.