reviewed by Jessica Rinaudo
As Lent approached this year, I struggled not with what I would give up, but with what I could do to bring my faith more fully into my daily life. It’s easy to mutter a prayer at bedtime, half asleep, after surviving another day of work and taking care of four children. It’s much harder to carve out a time in my busy life to actively learn more about my faith and share it with my family.
As I prayed about it, a review copy of Feeding Your Family’s Soul by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle found its way onto my desk. After a quick flip-through, I knew this book was my answer.
Feeding Your Family’s Soul is meant to be a tool for re-claiming your dinnertime and your spiritual life with your family. Broken into 52 chapters, one for each week of the year, O’Boyle asks that you bring this book to the dinner table. Each chapter contains a prayer to be read aloud by a family member; a “Dinner Table Teaching;” reflection questions that invite response from the whole family; a closing prayer to pray together and a prayer to pray throughout the week during dinner. There is also a Theme Extension option, which includes a tangible way for family members to live their faith during the week. And as a fun bonus, this book is chock full of delicious recipes!
Armed with Feeding Your Family’s Soul, I went home and prepared to engage my four young children and husband in faith discussion. Although the book says you can mix up the chapters as you see fit, we started at the beginning with the discussion on “Loving Your Neighbor.” After saying the prayer, I let everyone start eating while I read the teaching and asked reflection questions. My six-year-old immediately and enthusiastically jumped into the discussion, bringing to the table some surprising and thoughtful wisdom. Even my three-year-old had suggestions for ways to be kind to others. And while my two-year-old twins didn’t have much to bring to the conversation, I was pleased that they could witness our prayers and listen to all of us joyfully talk about God, Jesus, the saints and being kind to others.
My six-year-old was only disappointed that there weren’t more questions to discuss, so we decided to take on the extra credit assignment of learning more about St. Teresa of Calcutta and discuss her life over the course of the week, and even make the soda bread listed in the chapter.
Topics covered in the book range from saintly wisdom to Gospel lessons and practical ways to live your faith everyday to explanations of sometimes confusing aspects of the Catholic Church like the Communion of Saints, for example. Recipes too range from pizza and cookies, to salmon and side dishes – most with an eye to picky eaters.
And lest you think this book is just meant for young children, be assured that the prayers and discussions are applicable for toddlers to teenagers and yes, even we parents who sometimes think we already know it all.
In her introduction to the book, O’Boyle says that she and Mother Teresa formed a 10-year long friendship and their discussions gave her fresh insight into some things many of us take for granted.
“Mother Teresa told me that my children were very fortunate to live in a family. She was accustomed to picking up abandoned children out of dustbins and taking care of them,” said O’Boyle. “She often spoke about the importance of being present to one’s family and of being sure that all of the needs are met there in the heart of the home before going off to serve God someplace else – whether it be on a committee, in a mission, or wherever.”
Feeding Your Family’s Soul is a fantastic tool for helping to meet the spiritual needs of all the hearts in your home.