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‘Heroes of Grace’ book can help parents and teachers impart the faith

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A new book by Carol Anne Jones, a longtime religious educator and a parishioner at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Great Falls, is particularly timely as parents struggle to impart the faith to their school-age children learning from home due to the coronavirus. But it will continue to be a priceless resource when schools and churches fully reopen. 

 

Titled “Heroes of Grace from the Holy Bible,” (Coronae Rosarum Publications, Vienna, Va., $30) the book comprises 50 stories from the Catholic Bible and 12 lessons on the Ten Commandments and God’s graces.

 

Drawing on her experience as a director of religious education for more than nine years in the Arlington diocese, Jones ingeniously places two versions of each story side by side. Each page has an illustration or two. The left-hand page offers an account of each biblical story aimed at the understanding of an elementary school-aged child. The facing page offers a more sophisticated understanding of the same subject, geared to readers in middle school or older.  (There is plenty of information here that will profit adults, as well.)

 

The full-color illustrations, culled from a wide range of sources, provide an opportunity to give youngsters access to the treasury of Catholic art, which is the wellspring of all Western European art.  Many of the pictures are based on stained-glass windows of more recent vintage. For others, Jones recruited the classics: Michelangelo’s fresco of “God Creating the Sun and Moon” on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (1508), a panel by the northern Renaissance master Dirk Bouts of “Moses and the Burning Bush” (1475), “The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple” by the Italian Renaissance master (and Catholic patron saint of art) Fra Angelico (1450), Raphael’s “The Transfiguration” (1519) and “Moses and the Tablets of the Law,” by the Spanish master de Ribera (c. 1630), to name but a few. 

 

For variety, the book includes slightly cartoonish illustrations of the story of Joseph that look like Egyptian tomb paintings, and the occasional photo or diagram of a site such as Solomon’s Temple, the Nativity shrine in Bethlehem, the River Jordan, Mount Tabor and the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem.

 

While the left-hand pages tell each Bible story and its moral in simple words, the right-hand pages serve up nuggets of knowledge about Catholic practices. For example, for the raising of Lazarus, the right-hand page explains that the miracle is recounted in the Third Scrutiny on the fifth Sunday of Lent, a liturgical note that possibly even Catholic adults don’t recall. The right-hand page for Christmas contains the “O Antiphons,” the evening prayers from the prophecies of the Messiah by Isaiah, which are recited for seven days leading up to Dec. 25. In the lesson devoted to Isaiah, both pages are entitled, “The Prophet of Christmas.”

 

Besides being beautiful and easy to handle, thanks to its spiral binding, “Heroes of Grace” provides a roadmap to Catholic teaching about the Bible as distinct from Protestant interpretations. (Catholic Bibles have 46 books in the Old Testament, while Protestant Bibles have 39. The seven additional books in Catholic Bibles are Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach and Baruch. Catholic Bibles also include sections in the Books of Esther and Daniel that are not in Protestant Bibles. These are called the deuterocanonical books, which the Catholic Church believes are inspired by the Holy Spirit.)

 

In the introduction, Jones emphasizes that the Bible’s truths are free from error in the original languages, making translations important. She also notes that the Bible is not always meant to be taken literally. “The authors often used stories, metaphors and poetry to convey the great mysteries of God,” she writes.

 

Nearly 30 years ago, Jones began creating Catholic religious education materials to meet the needs of parishes that wanted to hold vacation Bible schools but found the only programs available had a Protestant slant. The result was the “Week of Graces,” a five-day program that entertained young children while giving them an introduction to prayers, songs and rites of the Catholic Church that they would remember for a lifetime.

 

“Heroes of Grace from the Holy Bible” carries on in the same spirit.

 

Hamerman writes from Reston.

 

Find out more

 

To learn more about “Heroes of Grace from the Holy Bible,” go to:

 

https://coronae-rosarum.square.site/

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020