This is a dual review by both my wife Laura and I. The first part of this review focuses on Laura’s review of Bringing Lent Home with St. Therese of Lisieux: Prayers, Reflections, and Activities for Families released in 2014. The second part is my review of Bringing Lent Home with St. John Paul II: Prayers, Reflections, and Activities for Families released in 2015. Both are by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle.
God has many ways to help us grow closer to Him. Lent is one way. Children are another. They both help us to refocus and keep us on our path to heaven. Even though they both cause us pain at times, both show us the joys through that suffering. We as Catholic parents are called to be the primary educators of our children and Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle has helped parents with that task through her book Bringing Lent Home with St. Therese of Lisieux: Prayers, Reflections, and Activities for Families. This book takes families on a Lenten journey together with St. Therese and her famous Little Way. Just as St. Therese did little things for Jesus, families will learn little ways of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer to bring them closer to God.
This handy guide and companion provide everything to help steer parents through forty days of Lent with their families. It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday. Saturdays are not included; however, Sundays are added thus giving the reader forty days of reflection. Each day begins with the “Parent Reflection” which includes things to ponder for both adults and children providing an opportunity for a short discussion, if desired. Next is a short but thoughtful prayer followed by a simple quote from St. Therese that sets the tone and then leads into “A Story from St. Therese’s Life.” This becomes a running story of her life from infancy to her life in the convent. By the end of Lent, the entire family should be quite familiar with the life of St. Therese. Finally, the Fasting, Almsgiving, and Prayer sections are designed to offer suggestions to assist with these three pillars of Lent. These suggested activities are very doable and easy for children to understand. An example for fasting is “Today fast from wasting time. If you have free time, turn your thoughts to prayer as Saint Therese did.” An almsgiving example is “Offer comfort to others today. Be on the lookout for those who need encouragement…” The final prayer section consists of a daily intention followed by a prayer that most times asks Jesus to help us in some way. Such as “Dear Jesus, please help our family to draw closer to you today.” This section also includes “a simple yet poignant thought to think about throughout the day.”
Now I admit I wanted this book because both my girls and I have a special devotion to St. Therese and we love her Little Way. To my surprise this book is so much more than I was expecting. At only a couple of dollars, it is worth every penny. Every family no matter the size or ages of the children would benefit from this book. Those who already love St. Therese and her little way and for those who are new to her way would benefit from this book. It is for both the novice Catholic parents and the parents who are not so sure just how to begin family prayer in their home. Families are the domestic Church and this resource is a wonderful and inspiring way for families to be just that. Just as St. Therese’s simple way lead her closer to God; this simple book will lead families grow closer to God this Lent.
Bringing Lent Home with St. John Paul II: Prayers, Reflections, and Activities for Familiescontinues the pattern from the previous title Bringing Lent Home with St. Therese of Lisieux. It provides yet another resource for Lenten reflection that families can use together. This is the third title in this “series” the first being Bringing Lent Home with Mother Teresa. As Laura mentioned above all three are very inexpensive ($2.95) and worthwhile purchases.
In the introduction Donna-Marie suggests: “To use this book, simply gather your family and move page by page, day by day, forging your way through Lent. You will see that there are no entries for Saturdays of Lent. I suggest you use the Sunday prayers and activities throughout the weekend. You can come together morning or evening at your kitchen table, around a prayer table, or wherever you feel most comfortable when praying as a family in your domestic church. Make it special – for example, light a prayer candle if you wish.”
Bringing Lent Home with St. John Paul II is another worthy addition to this series by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle. She has carved herself a unique niche in the market of Lenten books. Many of these books focus on the improvement of the reader themselves. Donna-Marie instead focuses on the family as a core unit and provided resources for building what she has coined the domestic church. Take this Lent and enrich your own domestic church using the words and example of a modern day saint our beloved Pope, St. John Paul II. You will not be disappointed.