The Catholic Home

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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.

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Thanks so much for your kind and generous words about my book, Steven.

I'm thrilled beyond words (of which I have many) that you totally get what I'm trying to do. Not for nothing is one of my favorite quotes about the Catholic church from James Joyce: "Here comes everybody."

Thanks for blessing me and my work,


Once again, we agree ... I loved it too.

If the book had ended before the section on the sacraments, I would have really liked it for the most part, except for the disparagement of the Divine Office. Unfortunately there were some major errors in the section on the sacraments.

"Currently the vocation of priest and deacon is open only to Catholic men." and "God only knows what the future holds for those who feel called to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders." Seeing dissent from the magisterium on Women's ordination is really sad in a book to help out people live the liturgy in their lives.

The section on anointing of the sick said the sacrament could be used for "unhealthy relationships." This is totally untrue and Canon law and the rite itself says that it is for people in danger of death. The examples listed in the rite are only for cases of life threatening physical sickness. Many parishes violate this by offering communal anointing, but it is still a severe abuse.

The section on marriage said if you had an outdoor wedding, you would have to use a Deacon instead. You would require a dispensation from canonical form from the local ordinary, otherwise the marriage would be invalid. Outdoor weddings are not being approved by bishops.

I mostly liked this book when it concentrated on customs and had plenty of good advice when it came to living the liturgy at home. The prayers and the various lists of information were quite helpful and at first I though this would be a great resource to give to people in RCIA.

There unfortunately were severe errors that go beyond not getting the date for the luminous mysteries right. Hopefully if there is a third printing that some of these mistakes will be corected.
My full review is at:

I just ordered my copy today. Thanks for the recommendation. :-)

Dear Jeff,

I must as courteously as possible disagree with some of your conclusions. Some of what you say is undoubtedly correct, but I think you have made some ellipses in your reading that allowed you to infer something that may not be intended.

For example, your point about ordination is drawn from two separate quotes which are separated by a long section discussing the discipline of the Catholic Church with respect to celibacy, which is NOT a doctrinal point, but a point of discipline. When she says, "God only knows," it is just as easy to interpret that to ask the question of whether or not the discipline will open up to allow the marriage of priests (and more plausible given its close connection with the section on discipline) than it is to see this as a disagreement with Church doctrine. I did not read this passage in that way at all.

In addition, I think Gould is very clear on what she says about marriage

Today if you want a church wedding that includes a Nuptial Mass, you'll need a priest and two witnesses. Actually, if you want a Nuptial Mass, it has to take place in a church--forget about that outdoor wedding. If you insist on making everyone crazy by holding something outdoors,you cannot have a Mass but a deacon may preside over the ceremony.

You may be right about the invalidity of the marriage, as to that I cannot say. But it is very clear that Gould is not encouraging this practice--her language makes it obvious how she feels about it.

I'm not saying the book is perfect, but I think we must be careful not to read too much into what is said, and accept this for what it is--a book about traditions not about doctrine. If she is inaccurate in some points of doctrine (I'm certain I would be were I to try a similar book) obviously those must be corrected.

The long and the short of it is that there are undoubtedly some rough spots in the book. Most prominent among those you have mentioned, the sacrament of the sick--however, go and ask any three theologians about the matter and you'll have six opinions.

And finally, several people have accused Gould of disparaging the divine office, but I just don't see that.

The daily Bible readings the constitute the Liturgy of the Word provide a logical foundation for home-based devotions. The Church provides a structure for this and prayer in the Divine Office (aka Liturgy of the Hours).

She then very deliberately quotes CCC 1175 which notes that the LoH is intended to become the prayer of the whole people of God.

Her point in the passage that follows is not that the Breviary is bad, but that it is imposing, and perhaps even frightening, and is broken down for people unfamiliar with it on several places on the Web (although I don't know if that part is accurate any more.)

Specific daily readings are catalonged int he Divine Office, a compendium also known as the "Breviary" althoughyou'll discover it has nothing to do with brevity. You could haul around four hefty volumes with more ribbons that a maypole, but why? Daily readings are available on any number of Church websites.

Here the largest crime is the conflation of the Liturgy of the Word and the Divine Office. I think those of us whose lives are centered around this are perhaps more sensitive to perceived slights than is really merited.

Truth is, most people I know can't navigate their Christian Prayer books, much less the full LoH with Carmelite LoH.

In sum, I just want to say that I don't think these points are telling nor do they damage the integrity of the work. On that we may just have to disagree, but I do want to make certain that you understand that I say this with all due respect to your concerns and I don't want to denigrate them or make them seem unimportant. Where there is error, it should be corrected. But sometimes where we see error, there may only be the error of being too light in tone. I don't think Dr. Gould would look down upon anyone actually using the full LoH if they would work that into a family environment.

Personally, I'd be inclined to buy several copies of the shorter, much less complex Shorter Christian Prayer and give them to all family members of reading age and encourage them to use them.

Once again, I want to make the point that sometime disagreements sound sharper in print than they are in reality, and I truly mean no disresepect for the concerns you express here.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 11, 2006 8:42 AM.

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