Grace Café is an aptly titled book. How does one discover grace - that sublime reality so distant from most people's vocabulary today and, sadly, so often absent from their lives?
Within these pages, seasoned author Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle makes that elusive encounter with grace seem as casual and natural as a mid-morning rendezvous with an old friend to share a cup of coffee at the local corner café.
Grace Café is addressed specifically to moms, "serving up recipes for faithful mothering," as the sub-title indicates. Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said, "Beauty will save the world." If that is true, then this simple book could bring many moms one step closer to salvation. Even and especially in the midst of the daily trials of raising a family, such as being confronted with a steadily growing mountain of unfolded clothes, the beauty of motherhood alights from the page to capture hearts.
In response to the culture's utilitarian exalting of careerism for women, O'Boyle ponders the value of being a mother, the transcendent mission it entails: "Women have been put through the mill, so to speak. However, as Christian mothers, we can consider the fact that nothing can be more meaningful than to be part of the creation of a human being, to be able to nurture it within our bodies, and then raise our child within a loving home - preparing him or her for eternal life. In my opinion, nothing compares - nothing!"
The simple prose reveals a warm mother's heart, as O'Boyle conveys hints on how to carve out time for prayer and savor the grace of the present moment in a family where the young ones always seem to grow up just a bit too quickly. Interspersed with personal anecdotes are succinct quotes from the wisdom of the saints - especially Pope John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, with whom the author was a personal friend for ten years.
All mothers know that their vocation entails its share of difficult moments, and O'Boyle tackles this aspect of motherhood head on in the chapter "Discovering Grace within Suffering." She reflects, "This whole concept of giving and hurting may seem absurd, especially in today's culture. Why should we feel uncomfortable - God forbid - or selfless, when we can avoid it? It's because the love in our motherly heart calls us to it; it beckons us to give of ourselves unreservedly. Real love demands blood, sweat, and tears." She sums things up with these encouraging words from St. Ignatius of Loyola: "If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that he has great designs for you, and that he certainly intends to make you a saint."
The book concludes with poems and prayers that any mother will surely identify with. Particularly touching is one entitled "Seen by God Alone."
Her hands are red, wrinkled, and chapped from the bitter wind
As she pins the clothespins, one after another,
To the line of clothes, already stiffening in the freezing temperature.
The bitter wind mercilessly lifts at the hem of her coat,
Attempting to blow through her clothes and whip at her back.
She briskly continues her loving tasks,
Unnoticed by the speeding motorists passing by.
Only Our Lord sees her putting out her family's laundry to dry,
Stretching out her arms,
Hanging out one wet article of clothing after another,
As only a mother's love can.
Our Lord will never fail to notice all mothers'
Seemingly hidden loving acts of service to their families
All around the world.
Father Walter Schu, LC, is the author of Splendor of Love, also available through Circle Press. He grew up on a small farm in Minnesota, the second of seven children. He studied for the priesthood in Rome and has an STL in moral theology summa cum laude, specializing in marriage and family. He was ordained a priest in 1994 and currently teaches at the Legion of Christ Seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut.