Read the subtitle and you will know the four divisions of this book, and in the Preface you can find a description of each part:
1. Heart: “Developing nurturing relationships with our family, our friends and ourselves.”
2. Mind: “Becoming lifelong learners, seeking creative outlets, exploring career and work issues, and employing time management and personal productivity tactics.”
3. Body: “Examining nutrition, fitness, sleep, stress reduction and preventative care matters.”
4. Soul: “Coming to know and love the many resources, devotions and concepts in the fullness of the Catholic Church that can help us care for ourselves and for the most important people in our lives.”
All four parts and their chapters are informed by Hendey’s personal experience — as a wife and mother of two sons — and lessons passed along by other women with whom she connects through her CatholicMom.com Web site. Each chapter expands via “mom’s homework” (reflections and activities) and Web resources.
Part 1 is about building emotionally healthy relationships. The very first relationship addressed is marriage, the one “most central to our happiness and success at being mothers.” Here also are chapters on female friends, the church family and mothering special-needs children.
A final chapter addresses solo parenting and the experiences of women who have had to go it alone. While viewing motherhood as rooted in marriage, the author demonstrates respect for mothers without a spouse.
Various aspects of lifelong learning are addressed in the second part of the book, which suggests how to continue learning from the school of life, through formal education and by other avenues. It illustrates how a mom learns with her children and from her children, and also emphasizes a mother’s responsibility to hand on her faith.
The lens of vocation aids the balancing of career and motherhood. A healthy balance of responsibility to God, self, family and others is sought. Practical information is included here on managing finances, using the Internet and cultivating creativity.
Practicality also abounds in Part 3 on taking care of one’s body. Down-to-earth advice on physical fitness, nutrition, stress management and health routines, along with examples of wholesome living are integrated with spiritual and ethical considerations.
One has to make time for both prayer and exercise. There is a link between unhealthy eating habits and enslavement of the heart, just as there is a connection between fasting and mastery over instincts. And choosing a physician who respects one’s beliefs is important to all women, yet often challenging for those making health care choices congruent with Catholic teaching.
The final part of this packed book extols Catholic rituals and traditions, and guides a parent on how to incorporate them into personal life. Information about prayer, liturgy, the Blessed Virgin, saints and the Bible is accurate. Examples of how various moms integrate prayer and Catholic practices into their lives are sensible and provide attractive models.
Early on the book cites a Pew forum report that roughly 10 percent of Americans are former Catholics. A subsequent comment connecting that data with “the battle for our families’ souls” raised a small worry that the book would take a militant approach. My fear was groundless.
This book has a lot to offer moms who want to live faith-filled lives and raise strong families. Dads might also appreciate the reading if they overlook the female gender-specific material.