"I think we can all agree that mothers in our day could use some encouragement and recognition," Donna writes in the introduction. This book offers both, as well as some practical advice, mom to mom.
Donna begins by pointing out that the "ordinary" vocation of motherhood is actually quite extraordinary in both its requirements and rewards, and moves on to remind us that Mary is our model for motherhood. Lest that sound too lofty, I can say that Donna remains firmly rooted on earth as seen in this passage on the Rosary:
"When teaching our children to pray, we should try not to inadvertently turn our children away from prayer by being unrealistic in what we expect from them or by becoming overly regimented with them ... Setting a prayerful example for them is much more articulate than harping at them to pray could ever be."
In a chapter entitled, "Splinters from the Cross and the Kiss of Jesus," Donna takes an unflinching look at the fact that wholehearted mothering demands sacrifices. She quotes Pope John Paul II:
"Humanity's future depends on people who rely on the truth and whose lives are enlightened by lofty moral principles that enable their hearts to love to the point of sacrifice."
Clearly, mothers live in this category. The point is reinforced with a quote from Donna's friend and spiritual director, Fr. Bill Smith, who says, "Good, faithful mothers skip purgatory and go straight to Heaven!"
As she did in her Catholic Prayer Book for Mothers, Donna also draws on her friendship and correspondence with Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. One of my favorite quotations in the book is from Blessed Teresa. It's not new, it's not earth-shaking, but it's true, and how often we all need these true and vital reminders:
"The best and surest way to learn the love of Jesus is through the family. Whatever you do in your family for your children, for your husband, for your wife -- you do for Jesus."
What I really like about this book is that it takes timeless concepts, solid teachings of the Church, and the words of giants such as John Paul the Great and Blessed Teresa and weaves them into an eminently readable book with a vital message: motherhood is a necessary and powerful vocation that can and will turn our lives into prayers.
The next time I head out the door to teach baptism classes at our parish, I'll be bringing Donna's book along with me. It's perfect for young and new moms who are just beginning to realize the implications of their role in the family. But it's for all moms, too -- we all need to hear the message that what we do is important and holy.
What we do is our path to heaven. That is the heart of motherhood.
[Updated on 11/11/06: This review is also posted on Catholic Exchange's new version of their website, which will offer a variety of blog posts as well as all of their usual news and features. See the new Catholic Exchange here, the main blog page here and my entry here.]