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The Heart of Motherhood: Finding Holiness in the Catholic Home
New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 2006
Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur
Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle, author of the "Catholic Prayer Book for Mothers" (Our Sunday Visitor, 2005) and mother of five children, tackles what it means to be a Catholic mother in "The Heart of Motherhood: Finding Holiness in the Catholic Home." This book is aimed primarily at stay-at-home mothers. Cooper O'Boyle uses the words of John Paul II to emphasize the importance of that vocation and the need to improve its status in the eyes of the world. "It is . . . necessary to counter the misconception that the role of motherhood is oppressive to women and that a commitment to her family, particularly to her children, prevents a woman from reaching personal fulfillment and from having an influence in society."
Motherhood is largely a hidden vocation. One will receive few accolades as a result and even one's family may not appreciate all that a mother does. While a life of joy, it is also a life of sacrifice. With five children, Cooper O'Boyle certainly knows what she is speaking about. In "The Heart of Motherhood" she encourages women to find time for prayer while acknowledging just how difficult that can be. "Throughout the difficulties in trying to find the time for prayer, we can persevere even if it is in bits and pieces. Our Lord knows our hearts. He will reward a mother's efforts and will watch over our families." She also emphasizes just how important it is for a mother to provide a prayerful example, to encourage her family to pray together. Prayer becomes a habit for children if begun when they are very young. She also understands the difficulty of attending mass with small children but underscores how important it is. "We should also remember that even our small children receive graces during holy mass. Even when it is difficult for us to participate, or at times to actually hear what is happening at Mass, our Lord is pleased that we have brought our 'little ones' to him."
Cooper O'Boyle also discusses what it is to suffer as a mother, especially if a child is going down the wrong path. She uses St. Monica, mother of the wayward St. Augustine, as an example of the power of a mother's prayer. "We must never give up hope, no matter how far away from the flock our 'little' ones will roam. We must be consistent in our prayer for their salvation, remaining faithful and loving and continuing to set a good example."
"The Heart of Motherhood" offers much hope, encouragement, and good advice for those who dedicate their lives to raising their children. It emphasizes that being a mother can indeed be a path to holiness.
Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur is editor of www.spiritualwoman.net. Visit her blog at spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com