Expectant Joy: A Prayer of the Domestic Church Celebrating the Gift of Life
When I was in the second half of my thirties and my two children were bracketing their tenth birthdays, I felt a growing desire for daily prayer with Scripture. Figuring my parents would know where to buy the Liturgy of the Hours, since my dad was a permanent deacon who prayed the Hours, or Divine Office, I put that prayer book on my Christmas wish list. The Liturgy of the Hours is a principle form of Church liturgical prayer through which clergy, consecrated religious, and many lay people sanctify their day. Ever since I unwrapped my parents’ gift on Christmas Eve, I have been praying Morning and Evening Prayer, the two most significant Hours, and sometimes Daytime and Night Prayer.
Expectant Joy: A Prayer of the Domestic Church Celebrating the Gift of Life by Mike and Evie Day imitates the Hours in a family-friendly way. The book provides a format similar to Morning or Evening Prayer, but slightly shortened. The authors expect the family to pray the set together only on the first day of each week of pregnancy unless they wish to do so more frequently. There are prayer sets for the fourth week of pregnancy, about the time a couple ascertains they have conceived a child, through the fortieth week, considered the average length of human gestation.
Every weekly prayer set includes an Invitatory, Psalm and antiphon, Scripture reading, Responsory, Canticle and antiphon, Closing Prayer, the traditional acclamation from the Hours, and, corresponding with the Hours’ Night Prayer, a short hymn honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary. Only the reading changes weekly. The psalm and the responsory to the reading change each trimester, while the canticle, closing prayer, and hymn honoring Mary remain constant throughout. Repetition can help children participate and learn the rhythm of the prayer even if they do not learn all the words by heart.
Mike and Evie Day designed the prayers to focus on one person of the Trinity for each trimester. During the first trimester, the family reflects on God the Father, the Creator. When the second trimester begins at week fourteen of pregnancy, the focus shifts to the work of the Holy Spirit in building up the People of God throughout salvation history. From week twenty-seven to delivery, the family reflects on God the Son, incarnate in Jesus Christ, whose suffering redeemed us and gained eternal life for us. A short meditative prayer on the designated Person of the Trinity begins the first week of each trimester.
The authors encourage the expectant family to create a wreath with three candles, and to bless the wreath with holy water and a prayer the first time they use it. Thereafter, the family lights one candle at the beginning of prayer during the first trimester, two candles during the second trimester, and three candles during the third trimester in anticipation of and preparation for the birth of their new child. The growing circle of light matches the family’s growing expectancy of new life to be revealed at their infant’s birth.
Acknowledging the reality that some families using Expectant Joy will not be able to complete it because of miscarriage, the authors provide a set of prayers “to conclude the celebration you began with healing together as a family” (p. 100). Citing their own experience of miscarriage, the Days say that praying Expectant Joy together as a family from the start of pregnancy helped with the mourning process, “as it felt as though we had still been able to share in something with our child before we lost her.”
Every set of prayers throughout the pregnancy has the same closing prayer, which expresses well the spirituality of the process: “Lord, send your blessings upon our family, most especially upon this new life we have received. May we always be faithful stewards of your many gifts, open to the great work you are accomplishing through us.” Yes, not only is the new child a gift, but also pregnancy itself is a gifted time for the family. As the weeks progress, the praying family can understand better that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are actively creating in the womb, giving us a glimpse of eternal life through this new life, and building up the domestic church within the universal Church.
Mike Day is the Director of the Family Life Office for the Diocese of St. Augustine. His wife Evie is a homeschooling mother with a theater background. Together they founded Stabat Mater Ministries through which they promote this and a previously published book and sell religious goods.
About the Reviewer
Mary Ann Paulukonis is a wife, mother, and grandmother whose life also includes artistic pursuits, writing, speaking, and ministry consulting.
Disclaimer: Book reviews do not imply and are not to be used as official endorsement by the USCCB of the work or those associated with the work. Book reviews are solely intended as a resource regarding publications that might be of interest to For Your Marriage visitors.