Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Book reviews: Grace Cafe and The Domestic Church

Donna Marie Cooper O'Boyle is a prolific writer. Her latest books -- yes, plural! Two of them! -- are as lovely and inspirational as her other work, most of which is built on the conviction that mothers are living out an indispensable vocation.

Grace Cafe offers "recipes" that will nourish any mother, perhaps especially anyone struggling with her vocation as a stay-at-home mom. I readily identified with this passage:
"Others would say, 'Oh, it's nice that you have the luxury to stay home.'

Yet I believe that it is not a luxury. It is a choice and a decision to do without some material things and comforts ...."
This has certainly been true in our case. At times, it doesn't feel like a luxury at all to be at home, but rather like the sacrifice that it is. Don't get me wrong -- I love being an at-home mom, and it is a privilege. But a privilege is not the same as a luxury. Serving God is always a privilege, even when it's hard. Financially, emotionally, and in other ways, being a stay-at-home mom can be hard. But mothering has eternal value, and Donna-Marie knows this truth.

The truth is reinforced with quotes from Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II, and various saints. And, don't all moms need such authoritative and powerful reinforcement? Particularly the kind that helps us to find holiness within our homes, rather than encouraging us to seek it elsewhere. Grace Cafe includes one of my favorite quotes on holiness for moms:
"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."


The Domestic Church: Room by Room covers much of the same territory, but Donna-Marie never seems to exhaust it. Though an individual would benefit from reading, this book is arranged as a study guide for a group, with discussion questions at the end of each section. (And, pssst ... don't worry, busy moms -- the answers are there, too! So don't worry about passing class.)

The Domestic Church, like all of Donna-Marie's books, backs up its exhortation with solid sources such as quotes from Scripture, encyclicals and saints.

I love Donna-Marie's realism, too. In this book, she includes a beautiful quote from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta:
"A living love hurts. Jesus, to prove His love for us, died on the Cross. The mother, to give birth to her child, has to suffer. If you really love one another properly, there must be sacrifice."
And she honestly addresses "temptations to abandon the heart of the home," noting that mothers can get discouraged, or feel unrecognized and unappreciated. She writes: "A mother who is fighting this interior battle may feel, or even state that she is 'just' a mother. I have heard this so often, and I will tell the mom that she is 'not just a mother!'"

This is the heart of Donna's message, and this is her mission: to help other moms realize that their work is a vital, vibrant, holy vocation.

I highly recommend Donna-Marie's books to newly married women and new mothers, and to moms of any age who seek encouragement and affirmation in their vocation.

And so, dear moms, if you have any doubts about the worth of your daily struggles, sacrifices and joys, dig into these books. When you've finished, you'll close them with a contented sigh, knowing that someone out there understands your worth and knows what you're going through ... that you are storing up treasures in heaven.


Exspectantes said...

I went ahead and put these on my wish list. As a new mom and a day like today, I definitely need to get these books. Thanks!

Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle said...

Dear "Exspectantes,"

Feel free to visit my website: to learn more about these books!

Your blog looks great, by the way. :)

God bless you!