From Granny with Love
BY NICOLE HALL
FROMGRANNYWITHLOVE.COM, £10 When one studies 20th-century Russian history it is often the babushkas, the grandmothers, who emerge as the real heroines, raising their grandchildren and, crucially, teaching them their Orthodox faith which had been outlawed by the Communists. The situation here is not (yet) so stark, but grandmothers often provide the vital link between their grandchildren and religious faith.
In this book about Confession and First Holy Communion Nicole Hall shares her own deep love and understanding of Catholicism with her grandchildren and “all children who might enjoy a Granny’s view of our Faith”.
If the word “Granny” suggests slippers and knitting, cast it aside. The author combines a deep sense of the beauty and drama of faith with a gift for describing it simply and clearly. There is no attempt to water it down by talking about “how you feel” or to fudge demanding words and concepts, such as “examination of conscience”, “Tradition”, “Original Sin” and so on.
This is the faith in all its integrity, yet explained in a way that seven-year-olds can understand.
Fr Aidan Nichols OP, who provides the preface, comments: “I am sure that any child who has got the message of these pages will never forget it... I am certain [it] will do much good for souls.” As well as passages and quotations from Scripture, Nicole Hall includes homely personal anecdotes to show the efficacy of prayer. At the end there are short biographies of selected well-loved saints and martyrs, such as St Cecilia, St Francis of Assisi and St Anthony of Padua.
A firm believer in learning hymns and simple prayers by heart, she has also included a selection of these, that children may come to draw upon a ready repertoire of devotional prayers, such as thanksgiving after Communion and the morning and night offering. The book is designed to show that “faith” is not something for an uncomprehending hour on Sundays, but that it should enrich and illuminate daily life.
On almost every page there are colour illustrations of biblical scenes, saints and the celebration of Mass; some of these are personal photographs and devotional holy pictures, others by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Masaccio. These are designed to reinforce the message that the faith is something beautiful, profound and mysterious, worthy of the inspiration of great artists.
Sadly, the author died of cancer in July 2008. Her husband, Peter, has lovingly fulfilled her last wishes in ensuring the publication of this book.
It will be followed later by two others that continue the James Bond motif: This World Is Not Enough – the life of Jesus – and Remember, You Only Live Twice, which concerns Confirmation. Ian Fleming might have raised an amused eyebrow at this misappropriation of titles from his thrillers; for Nicole Hall, nothing could be more thrilling than coming to love Christ and His Church.