What is a granny for?

The family had a large and boisterous Christmas lunch this year. Afterwards siblings, cousins and forebears sat around and chatted. A little group of fine young people found themselves discussing abortion. They did not approve but there were suggestions of circumstances which they thought could justify it.

At the edge of the conversation sat an elderly grandmother. And she began to speak. She told them how she was at home by herself one afternoon fifty years ago, when she realised that – at three months pregnant – she was miscarrying. By now she was talking through her tears. She showed them with gestures how she caught the baby. “What did you do then?” someone asked. “I baptised it”, she said.

Afterwards she wondered whether she should have introduced such a tragic note in a Christmas party. I told her that what she had said was the most powerful witness to life the young ones would have heard this Christmas – none of them would forget. That is what grannies are for.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Moral judgment, Quentin queries. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to What is a granny for?

  1. Lincluden says:

    Dear quentin,i have hopes for your catholicism yet after reading about this holy woman who believed in the things her granny believed in.our faith should not try to complicate what our grannies believed in

  2. St.Joseph says:

    Quentin.
    Grannies are for many reasons, for me too many to mention.I only knew the one granny closely, my mothers.I have said this before how much time I spent with her .She was a very proud women and being a war widow would not give her war widow pension up for her Irish pension even though it was less,she used to say ‘your grandad died for that’. then bring her brass box out to remind me.
    I remember she took me to the Cinema not far from where she lived and the film was Waterloo Bridge, Robert Taylor and they kissed, and she said come out we are not watching this, I was so embaressed. although she was a very affectionate lady.
    She lived by the sea and when visitors would come over from England and would be walking half dressed in the town she would say out loud ‘hmn’ disgusting.
    She would never go on the beach and used to tell us when we stayed with her ‘dont bring any fleas back’. She would sit on the Promenade seat.
    Around 1959 we did pesuade her to sit on the beach on a blanket, and she insisted on keeping her black overcoat,black shoes in the middle of August- I still have the photo.
    When a friend would knock on the door, she would tell me to ‘hush’ and say that is only Mrs so and so, she only wants to gossip.and pretend we were not in!
    She was a wonderful opera singer and knew all the tunes and used to hum them to me, she sang in the Choir in the Bray Cathlic Church, where she took me to be Baptised at 3 days old!
    When she died in 1962 there were so many people trying to touch her coffin when going to the graveyard.
    When she died after I married, she could not come to my wedding being so ill, My husband wanted to go to Jersey on honeymoon,but I said I would like to visit my Nan and take her my wedding Bouquet of red Roses while she was in a Nursing Home in Glendalough,they came all the way on the boat with us, and I have a photo of her in bed smiling.She died 4 monthes later
    A wonderful Gran RIP 1887-1962.

  3. Brendan says:

    That’s where ‘ grannies ‘ were – firmly anchored in the ‘ family ‘ derived from their Faith. The link since the 1960’s has become more tenuous ; less faith therefore less religion – because peoples lives are less anchored , for whatever reason, throughout the year in the ‘ traditional family ‘. The Pope has said as much about the European Union [ oblique reference to The West ].

  4. St.Joseph says:

    Brendan.
    I agree with you .Since the sixties the gap between the elderly and the young have become so wide and different.
    Lifestyle to entertainment, music and technology,lack of respect and number ‘one’.So many parents seem to want to keep up with the young, to close the gap and then lose their own dignity as parents and grandparents.
    Traditional religion has become something of the past.
    The homes are not any more houses of God, holy water founts, religious pictures rosary beads,(for first Holy Communion) never to be seen again, etc etc.;
    I understand that teenagers will perhaps drop off a little when they enter into the ‘material world, however if they have not had a firm basis of their faith nor in the schools they have nothing to return to-or when they do they also have no longer in the Church any form of tradition.
    Thank God we do have young people on youth days,however does that have any long lasting effect of the real faith which is a deep relationship with God and His Blessed Mother and the Saints.

  5. Brendan says:

    Thank you for picking up on the theme of ‘ the family ‘ as bedrock of religious experience and Catholic Faith in our lives. In the coming year I believe , under the watchful eye of The Holy Father, the Church and I hope western society in general will begin to realise the fundamental reason for the decline in religious practise worldwide and the increase in secularisation of life is the breakdown in the traditional family life, as say you and I understand it, as a sociological sine qua non of human existence. From its well- being then, flows religiosity and hopefully practical ‘ faith ‘.
    In the year leading up to the Synod next October I recommend that we read amongst other works – ” How the west REALLY lost God ” by Mary Eberstadt , 2013 ( Templeton Press ) available in our local libraries. Mary is Catholic and a social scientist.
    Happy New Year to you and to all.
    Y blwddyn newydd dda y chi !

    • overload says:

      “under the watchful eye of The Holy Father, the Church and I hope western society in general will begin to realise the fundamental reason for the decline in religious practise worldwide and the increase in secularisation of life is the breakdown in the traditional family life, as say you and I understand it, as a sociological sine qua non of human existence.”
      [Not to undermine what you say (I think in some respects valid) however suggest it is put in its right place and context, which the Catholic Church apparently does not want to do…]
      What you say here is not gospel-centered.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Overload.
        Family life is particularly related to the family.
        We take the Holy Family as an example-which is Gospel centered-the beginning of the New Testament, starting us off on the right foot.
        When Jesus ‘was lost’ to His parents and was found in the Temple at 12 years old, He was as He said ‘Going about my Fathers business’.
        That tells me that His family here were important and to be obedient to them.
        What does that tell you?

      • overload says:

        In the temple He was formally obeying his Father and also His Mother (the Church) was there with him as well, which obviously includes brothers and sisters, because it was not an empty building.

      • St.Joseph says:

        overload.
        You missed the point, perhaps I did not explain it very well.
        Jesus was under His parents protection, and His duty to obey them, which He did when He went home with them and supposedly worried them no more.
        My children, I have always considered them to be Gods first on loan to me , my duty to teach them the faith. Jesus was still a child and even though He was God the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, would be vulnerable-and tempted just as He was in 40 days in the desert and in the Garden of Eden He did not give in to temptation, however the strength of His Blessed Mother must have a big influence on His fully human nature.
        The Bible is there to give us Light-we need to use our faith to fill the spaces- along with Holy Mother Church.

      • Quentin says:

        St J, I think you make an important theological point with “the strength of His Blessed Mother must have a big influence on His fully human nature.” It is only too easy to think of Jesus as some sort of Godly spirit only clothed in a human appearance. But he had to grow up and learn like everyone else. He will have been influenced by his everyday environment, and particularly by his parents’ care. He had of course an intact human nature – not ‘fallen’ like us – so he followed the good in every way. The realisation of his mission (his “father’s business” as he described it to the elders in the Temple) would have been gradual – through parents, Scripture and what his father revealed to his human understanding.

      • overload says:

        I think the focus of what he was doing in the Temple was reading and discussing scripture.

      • overload says:

        I appreciate the point, and I am sure that both Mary and Joseph had a vital part (along with the Mosaic Law, and the Church, of which they were members) in nurturing their son. “Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” isaiah 7:15 (KJV)
        So I can appreciate that the holy domestic family is a model for our domestic families; for obedience, loving relationships, communication, instruction, prayer, etc.; However, family (inc. the Holy family) foremost is it not merely representative of the Church, our true family?
        And to reinforce this point, remember that some children don’t have parents, or more often the case, their parents are unstable in some way or another. Yet for anyone who has Christ — whether or not they also have a domestic family (or stable/loving domestic family) — “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.”

  6. overload says:

    A year or so ago I flicked through one of my late grandfather’s diaries/note-books and came across a little note about how strange/crazy/upside-down it was that now it was the young who give oracles to the old. I think he was speaking generally about the changes which began in the 60’s; yet in reading this, it felt to me as if he was speaking specifically about his relationship with his son in law, my father.

    My grandfather died of cancer when I was 10. I never really new him because he was quite reserved around children. My father has spoken to me about his father in law with much respect (as a ‘thinker’, and a kind and gentle man), yet with regards to my grandfather’s religion (as I have mentioned before, he was an Anglican priest), my father gave me the clear impression that my grandfather was an agnostic. This is what my father believed / wanted to believe. And I feel now that maybe my grandfather somewhat allowed himself to to yield to this mould in his latter days. As for my grandmother, no, she was apparently protected by her iron-sealed Britishness. But since then in more recent years, especially with death before her, she has been averting from — and struggling much with — her faith.

    My other grandmother (whom I mentioned recently) was brought up in a fairly devout family. I get the impression she got ‘itching ears’ in the 70’s after her mother died (and she got remarried to an atheist sometime in the 70’s — she was already divorced to my grandfather who also died sometime in the 70’s), although her faith may already have been much compromised long before that. Since my own conversion, it has taken me a few years to be able to talk to and with her freely about God as Jesus (she preferred to imagine God to be according to her own interpretation) — until very recently she has resisting with deep fear (even though before that she was occasionally going to holy communion in her care home).

    • Singalong says:

      Overload, I think you are reminding us of an important a aspect of Christ’s teaching, that we must always put Him first. When He was told that His mother was outside waiting, He replied to the effect that His mother and brethren were those who listened to Him. On other occasions He spoke very graphically of coming to put children against their parents, and parents against their children.

  7. Iona says:

    Brendan – blwyddyn newydd da i ti hefyd!

    Having just returned from spending Christmas with my (married) daughter, and seeing all my other “children” as well, plus their “other halves”, I must say it seems to be becoming more and more difficult to reconcile a basically religious outlook on life with the way most people are living – and are encouraged to live by the way the world has become organised around us. Three-year-old grand-daughter goes to Nursery, where Christmas is Santa, reindeer, and snowmen – oh yes, and angels, when it comes to dressing-up, but the birth of Jesus is a no-no. “The world” actually makes terrific demands on people, though they probably don’t realise it; the food’s got to be right, the presents have got to be right, everyone’s got to be kept happy in a variety of ingenious ways. Three of my “children” are living with, though not married to, their “other halves”, and I was having a conversation with the married daughter and my son-in-law about which (if any) might get married next. The opinion was that it was the expense of weddings that puts people off. But getting married doesn’t have to be very expensive, I suggested, – but apparently it does, there is no possibility of two people who love each other just quietly getting married. This outlook is every bit as restrictive as religion ever was, and furthermore means that if you’re really hard up you almost can’t be a member of society any more. Who is imposing this outlook on society, I should like to know, and why are people allowing themselves to be imposed on?
    I did actually have a lovely Christmas; I love my children and grandchildren to bits, and it’s wonderful when we all get together, everyone seems to get on well, there was lots of laughing and talking. But I feel we’re on divergent roads.

    • Singalong says:

      Iona, I can relate to a lot of what you say. We are with one of our sons and his family, with another son, now. We love seeing them all, and also hope we may have some good influence, as they do on us with their kindness and generosity.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Singalong.
        I believe that Satan attacks holy families who have with faith ,he already has those who have none.
        Your witness will not go unnoticed,their faith will have been ingrained in their soul, so like many who as they get older will have it to return to.- Holy Mass.
        Like Iona I see that you both have a very blessed and loving family to be proud of.

  8. Brendan says:

    Overload – Saint Luke puts…” going about his Father’s business in the right context “.. arising from Jesus coming forth from the exemplar family – The Holy Family – for the Chosen People, future Christians, the World. From Mary’s .. ” she treasured all these things , and pondered them in her heart. ” – 2: 19 NJB, , to … ” and as the child grew to maturity, he was filled with wisdom ; and God’s favour was with him.” This was done after Mary and Joseph …” had done everything the Law of the Lord required ..” 2: 39-40 NJB.
    What was Our Saviour doing up to the age of 12 years ? Probably learning the trade of a carpenter from Joseph and living ‘ through ‘ family life of devout parents and the extended community of believers. It was only then that he felt prepared to … ” go about his Father’s business.”
    This is the template which comes directly from God and which we are called to do likewise. This is the path , however narrow and difficult – there simply is no other way !

  9. Brendan says:

    As Quentin relates in his Christmas story – around countless homes in countless different ways as echoed by Iona and St. Joseph – our mission is to witness to the Christ- child and where he emerged from and what ‘ made ‘ Him – for all time , fully human and fully God. In a ” world crisis of cultural anthropology ” we have lost/underplayed this crucial link with ‘ family ‘.and allowed the Evil One the space to do immense damage among nations. All the time weakening the bonds between the family of the Church and its members. His cause is hopeless of course – The Christ has seen to that – but oh, the damage !
    As something of a family history researcher I like to remind myself from time to time ………. I don’t know where I’m going unless I know where I come from.

  10. St.Joseph says:

    Quentin.
    Thank you.
    I often think about Jesus and the Wedding at Cana.
    His Mother said ‘They have no wine!’, Jesus answered ‘My time has not yet come’!
    He was 30th years old. He listened to His Mothers request- then changed the water into wine.
    Then began His Ministry. That also at the foot of the Cross He gave St John His Mother-She is also everyones Mother.

    The old saying of ‘The hand that rocks the Cradle rules the World,if we all listen to Her.

  11. overload says:

    Brendan,
    “As Quentin relates in his Christmas story – around countless homes in countless different ways as echoed by Iona and St. Joseph”
    Christmas = Christ Mass = coming together as One Body in the communion of Christ’s body and blood.
    Christ Mass != the nativity of Jesus, even though that is what we remember at ‘Christmas’ time, which is fine with me — if done modestly and in solemnity. (Such is my belief, at least.)

    “I don’t know where I’m going unless I know where I come from.”
    I would say that we — baptised — come from the cross, and, carrying the cross, we are going to the cross.
    And yes, of course the model of the domestic holy family is important. Why do you think I have been trying to talk about my family (and Christening), and “where I come from” in that respect?

    We have “allowed the Evil One the space to do immense damage among nations. All the time weakening the bonds between the family of the Church and its members. His cause is hopeless of course – The Christ has seen to that – but oh, the damage !”
    Indeed, “many antichrists have already come” (1 John 2:18 — from today’s reading), which has caused and does cause many many who are “just escaping from those who live in error” (2 Peter 2:18) to stumble, and many even to “fall away”.
    Add to this, that the time of great damage — the “great delusion”; the antichrist — is yet to begin:
    “the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.” (2 Thessalonians 2)

    Holy domestic family? Yes please (if in accord with God’s will), but perhaps more importantly, are we also ready, or at least getting ready? —
    “But your judgment day is coming swiftly now.
    Your time of punishment is here, a time of confusion.
    Don’t trust anyone—
    …Your enemies are right in your own household!”

    Micah 7
    (I’ve just noticed singalong’s comment at 11:12 am, which refers to this prophesy)

    “despise not prophesy.”
    Where is our faith? God is good, and all he gives us is for our good in Him.

    “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.'” (Revelation 20:22) Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

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