"One of the hardest tasks in the world is to stay home alone all day with small children, doing all the minuscule yet vital tasks which keep a family physically and spiritually healthy, but which the world no longer values. Work is measured in terms of how much money it makes. It is forgotten that children have only one childhood and the love they don't get from their parents they will never get at any other time. What greater success in life is there than the raising of happy, faith-filled children? To do that properly requires one's entire being.
There is a wisdom about life and people which can only be learned by being a mother. The Domestic Church: Room by Room by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle is redolent with such wisdom. We have forgotten the secret to sanctity that past generations possessed. Holiness is to be found in the present moment, in the humblest tasks which, when performed with love, are of greater merit in the eyes of God than works that are magnificent but loveless. Donna-Marie discusses the nature of a mother's sacrificial love, as follows:
The list of sacrifices and sufferings is endless, as is a mother's love. If we really love our children properly, there must be sacrifice; otherwise, there is no real love. A mother's connectedness to her child, which continues even after the umbilical cord has been severed, allows her to truly experience a sacrificial love- a love that puts her own interests and needs on hold, a love that continues to give even when it hurts. (pp. 156-157)
Donna-Marie explores many issues which at times beset mothers of families, saying:
Mothers, as we know, have a difficult job in the home coupled with the fact with the fact that society oftentimes demeans the role of a mother by 'measuring' her worth by the size of her paycheck. There are areas that a mother may try to 'escape' to in order to feel more accomplished while inadvertently neglecting her family....
Diapers, demands, laundry, and dishes are not the only activities filling a mother's time. However, a mother may begin to feel frustrated and dwell on what she feels is her lack of accomplishments. She may also fail to see Our Lord's hand in her housekeeping because of the mixed messages from our society aimed at mothers and also because she may be exhausted and in need of encouragement. Mothers should strive to help one another with Christian camaraderie and encouragement for the journey. (pp. 113-114)
The book integrates the basics of Christian spirituality with the practical side of running a home. Although the means of giving apostolic witness may seem limited for housewives, we are reminded about the power of the little things which are at our disposal. To quote:
While remembering that our example speaks louder than our words, we can feel confident that even out at the grocery store, the post office, the bank, and other places where we do our errands, God is sure to put people in our path. A simple smile, a door held open, a listening ear to someone we meet who has an immediate need, giving a hand to a mother with many children in tow- all kinds of situations arise in which we can lend a hand....Through little acts of kindness, miracles do happen. A simple smile and a kind word may have been just the little act of love that a lonely person absolutely needed so as not to fall into despair that particular day.... (p.213)
Donna-Marie is an excellent teacher; after reading The Domestic Church it came as no surprise to discover that the author is a lay Missionary of Charity, following the path of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. I am especially impressed by the order and clarity with which this book is written, complete with study guide that would make it perfect for a parish discussion group or a wonderful companion on a retreat. Quotes from Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI about the condition of marriage and family life in the modern world make the book particularly relevant to the present time. I am looking forward to next reading Donna-Marie's newest book, Grace Café."
Thank you very much for your beautiful review, Mary-Eileen!
(To visit Mary-Eileen's blog, click here)