By Daniele Foti-Cuzzola
It was only fitting that Melbourne based photographer and journalist Fiona Basile named her debut children’s book Shhh…God Is in the Silence, as it was in the silence that she found her inspiration.
After working for several years at the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne’s Kairos Catholic Journal, Basile took a period of extended leave and enrolled in a 30-day silent retreat in Malta in late 2015.
“I wrote the book late one night toward the end of the retreat, so it had been cultivated in an attitude of silence and deep listening,” Fiona recalled.
“The retreat provided an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work through me creatively, providing me with the words, and giving me the inspiration to transform them into a beautiful children’s book.
“It took a few drafts that evening, but I eventually got there. I wanted to get to the heart of it – that God loves us and lives in our heart.”
Fiona wrote God Is in the Silence with her two nephews in mind, who at the time were three and five years old.
“The book is written primarily for three to six year olds in mind with the aim of helping children to connect with God in a gentle and affirming way.
“I want children to know that we are all unique and precious and loved by God.
“The book emphasises the importance of silence, and reaffirms that God lives in our heart – I hope it encourages in children, a closer relationship with God.”
After completing her draft in Malta in September 2015, Fiona decided that publishing her book would be her personal ‘heart project’ for 2016.
“It would be something I’d do ‘for the joy of it’ and to honour the prompting I received during the silent retreat.”
Fiona decided there and then in Malta that she would enlist religious education and visual communication teacher, Alice Mount, to do the illustrations.
“I had previously purchased Christmas cards that Alice had created and sold, which featured her illustrations…Her illustrations are simple, yet profound.”
It was a 15 month long process between drafting the book and receiving her first printed copy which Fiona describes as a “steep, but joyful learning curve.”
And it seems the hard work has paid off. Earlier this year, on the feast day of the Assumption, Fiona received a letter from the Vatican informing her that Pope Francis had received a copy of the book.
“It was a lovely surprise to receive the letter from the Vatican and to receive Pope Francis’ blessing,” she said.
“But I can honestly say, it’s a highlight every time I do a book reading.
“My heart sings every time I read the book to a Kinder, Prep, Grade One or Two class.
“Once I have read a few pages, the children understand the rhythm and usually join in – it’s beautiful. I love making eye contact with as many as possible when I say the words, I love you, you are precious; there is no one else like you; I created you; you are safe.”
Since releasing Shhh God Is in the Silence, Fiona has signed a contract with a publishing house in the USA, indicating that more books are on the horizon.
“I’m always writing in my journal, and certainly try to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, so we’ll see if there’s another book or more in the pipeline. I certainly hope so”.
Shhh…God is in the Silence is available via www.godisinthesilence.com . For your chance to WIN a signed copy by Fiona Basile, simply tell us in 25 words or less where do you experience God? Email your answer with your full name and postal address to firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, January 10.
From page 27 of Issue 11: ‘Adult Faith: Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Book of Numbers’ of The Record Magazine