Meredith Gould's book is a delight from start to finish--stuffed full of lore and "tradition builders" this is perfect for families who are trying to give the Catholic Church a more solid presence in their homes. This is specifically a domestic compendium and it is about making the home Catholic through traditions--feasts, decorations, rites, rituals, and prayers.
What I liked about the book was the sheer breadth and length and width and height of the numerous suggestions. Not into reciting the entire Daily Office--that's okay, start with something less and work your way up. Don't have much time--recite the Angelus or the Regina Coeli. The book is truly Catholic in its embrace of traditions.
Let's face it, being Catholic there are going to be suggestions that you won't like. It's not your style, not your way, doesn't sound right for you, supports causes you don't care for. All of these are legitimate reasons to reject one or more ideas. But the advantage of such a book is that if you don't like the suggestion in paragraph one, there are usually five or six other suggestions that you could take up. And I don't think Gould's point is that we should stuff ourselves with externals. Rather, I think she celebrates the Catholic faith embracing all traditions and encouraging Catholics of whatever stripe to take up and celebrate tradition.
The book has several major sections--starting by celebrating the liturgical seasons, Gould moves on to daily devotions and honoring the sacraments. Her suggestions ring true and right for family celebrations. She suggests praying the Rosary at home with faithful friends. At one point she lists ideas for starting family devotions:
-Lighting a candle and praying for others (intercessions).
-Reading the Psalms, readings, and Gospel du jour.
-Learning more about the saint du jour.
-Praying the Lord's Prayer.
-Praying the Profession of Faith.
-Praying the Rosary (see Appendix B).
These are all simple and straightforward suggestions for families that have "lost" their traditions and don't know how to pick them up again, or for families, like my own, that never had any Catholic traditions and wonder how to go about making a more Catholic household.
What is so wonderful about the work is that Gould never seems partisan or heterodox. Everything she suggests increases reverence for the Church, the Sacraments, the rich traditions of Catholics the world over, and God himself.
And throughout there is a sense of warmth, humor, and sheer down-deep humanity that makes the book an engaging delight.
Whoever is still ambulatory after lighting candles, eating prodigious amounts of fish, and reading from Luke gets to put baby Jesus in his Nativity scene crib. If you have kids, you have a couple of options. You can foster their sense of mystery by doing this while they sleep, so they wake up to baby Jesus. Or you can foster their sense of belonging to the Body of Christ by allowing them to tuck baby Jesus into his manger. (Don't forget the crib atop your Jesse Tree!).
And then she mentions the Feast Day of Adam and Eve.
There's noting radical in the notions Gould articulates, nothing startling or noveau or earth-shaking. But there are a plethora of them, and they provide many opportunities to reflect upon the Catholic Church and how to make it concrete, most particularly for the little ones in the family. Little suggestions, like the one above help so much to encourage parents to think about ways that the Catholic Faith can be fostered in the domestic Church. And that, I think, is Gould's main point. Not that you should follow all of her suggestions or regard her work as a new Gospel, but rather that each family should forge for itself the traditions that both bind the family together and help to bind the family to the Church. After much else is forgotten, the cookies, the pretzels, and the small things done around Christmas time remain so that if children stray away, there are these small concrete reminders, these stores of memory that will serve to call them back Home to the Holy Mother of us all, the Guardian and constant Defender of the Faith, the Holy Catholic Church. And that is what Gould's book reminds us of constantly.
Highly recommended for all who are seeking ideas about how to celebrate their faith in their life at home.