Monday, June 24, 2013

Immediately encouraged and hopeful

Catholic Mom's Cafe, Five Minute Retreats for Every Day of the Year
by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle
Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 269 pages
Nihil Obstat: Msgr. Michael Heintz, Ph.D. Rhoades
Review by Maria Rioux

When I read the title of this book, I was immediately encouraged and hopeful. Much has been written about developing one's prayer life, but so much of what has been written simply does not work for busy moms. We're forever feeling torn between the duties of our vocation, the needs of our husband and children, the demands of the day and our desire to grow closer to God. But we need not feel torn because there is no real problem here. If we seek to do whatever God wills for us in the present moment, that _is_ a prayer. Who would imagine that a Father who loves His children as much as God loves each of us would only make it possible to grow closer to Him by neglecting the very vocation He called us to?

Even so, God does give us time in the day to spend with Him directly as opposed to through serving others with love. This book will help you use that time well. It will help make whatever time God allows for prayer this day to be fruitful both spiritually and practically. When there is not much spare time in any given day, one has to make the best use of every minute and being prepared gives the greatest hope. This book is a terrific help.

How? First of all, it is simply organized: a mini-retreat every day of the year. By mini-retreat I mean something that can be considered profitably in a short time which will be referred to and reconsidered throughout the day. The focus of these retreats is the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. Each month is dedicated to one of the three, allowing us to revisit and refocus on each, four times, before the year is complete. These virtues are pivotal, foundational...everything else flows from them and the cardinal virtues.

Each mini-retreat has four parts: ponder, offer, pray and savor.

The ponder portion is brief, just a quote of a few lines. These quotes are taken from a variety of sources: Scripture, Documents of the Church, authors, and famous and exemplary persons. Each point to something somehow connected to the particular virtue we hope to further develop. For example, "To love is to will the good of another." St. Thomas Aquinas. There's a lot to think on there. What determines what the good of another is? Many people would say it is what makes you happy, but unless they have their eye on eternal happiness and are working towards that, they could be working on becoming eternally miserable. Real love sometimes requires tough love.

The offer section is generally rooted in Donna-Marie's personal experience, but often enough recount a happening in the life of a saint or holy person worthy of imitation. This section, as is characteristic of each mini-retreat as a whole, is powerful but pithy, just a short paragraph or two. It's connected to the opening quote, and offered as an idea, a way to apply the particular virtue of faith, hope or charity to our lives in a concrete way.

I like the prayer section because, while it includes formal prayers like the Act of Faith, Hope and Love, the Hail Mary and the Our Father, it begins with a simple, personal prayer which you could adjust however you like to fit your own circumstances and temperament. To be authentic, our relationship with God must be a personal one, and getting into the habit of bringing our needs, hopes, and gratitude to Him in a conversational manner is a good thing. Formal prayers are also good, especially because they are more carefully thought out and so rich in meaning and theological connections. In case one is not familiar with various formal prayers, ones that are especially suited to mothers and family life, there is a section at the very beginning of the book listing them. Included is: the Morning Offering, Acts of Faith, Act of Hope, and Act of Love, as well as a short version of these by St. Therese, Memorare, Prayer to St. Michael, St. Therese's Prayer, Angel of God, St. Therese of Avila's Meditation, Prayer for Spiritual Communion, and Prayer to the Holy Family.

Lastly is the savor section, which is just a thought expressed in a line or two and intended to be reflected upon in the mind and heart, and used as a reminder...something to help us maintain our focus throughout the day.

This book is beautifully designed to allow busy mothers to grow closer to God in and through their vocation, and to do so by focusing the day on growing in faith, hope and love. These mini-retreats can fit anywhere in the day, though morning would be ideal because then one can reflect, savor and act on the promptings of the Holy Spirit throughout the day. It will help mothers do what Frances of Rome reminded us to do: "It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife. And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping." (Butler's Lives of the Saints).
[review as seen on Amazon]

Thank you very much, Maria Rioux. Your thoughtful words are deeply appreciated.

God bless you and yours!

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