A beautiful introduction to the greatest story ever told

The cover of 'God the Father's Loving Plan'

'God the Father’s Loving Plan' achieves quite a feat by laying out the whole of salvation history in so brief a compass

Having grown up in a Catholic milieu in the 1950s, I am always slightly envious of friends who are converts from Protestant or evangelical churches and who speak with loving familiarity of the Bible (particularly the Old Testament.) As a child I knew about the saints and the sacraments but the Mass readings, as with the liturgy as a whole, were in Latin and the Bible was simply a collection of extraordinary stories: Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark, David and Goliath and so on. My former evangelical friends had a different perspective; Scripture meant salvation history, a drama that intimately involved human beings from the beginning, and which was the bedrock of their faith.

These thoughts have occurred to me again when reading God the Father’s Loving Plan by Jean Ann Sharpe (Bethlehem Books/Ignatius Press). Designed for children able to read for themselves, but including “read-aloud ages 3-up”, it is only 35 pages with words on one side of a double page spread and illustrations on the other. Designed as a three-part series on the Blessed Trinity, the author’s intention is to introduce children at a young age to the “loving plan” described in the Bible, so that they can understand the continuity of divine Revelation, which had eluded me as a child.

The writing is kept to a minimum but it is not simplified. Key words like “Covenant”, “Salvation”, “Redeemer” are given so that they become part of the internalised spiritual vocabulary that children grow up with, so will never seem strange and unfamiliar. It is quite a feat to lay out the whole of salvation history in so brief a compass but Sharp does so by focusing on the essential scriptural timeline: Adam and Eve, the Fall, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, then moving to the critical events of the New Testament: the Annunciation, Visitation, Baptism of Our Lord, the choosing of St Peter, Calvary, the Resurrection and Pentecost.

A word must be said about the very attractive illustrations, by Roseanne Sharp, with the support of iconographer Brother Claude Lane OSB. Following the style of icons, they are non-naturalistic, deliberately so, so that children (again intuitively) will come to see the distinction between an art form wholly concerned with holiness and the special reverence due to it, and other forms.

In my blog last week about the conversion story of Sohrab Ahmani, I quoted him as reading the Bible for the first time as an adult and realising how different and superior it was to mere works of literature. The illustrations are designed to emphasise this revelatory and supernatural aspect of Scripture. Thus Adam and Eve are dressed in robes of nobility before their Fall, as would befit the stewards of creation, haloes always designate those marked out for their particular sanctity, God the Father, invisible and mysterious, is shown as a hand from the heavens pointing to his Son and so on.

It makes a beautiful introduction to the greatest story ever told.