Living my vocation is hard. So, so hard. However, when I truly invest myself completely in loving and serving these humans that God has given me, the graces flow and joy abounds. Its true, what they say: If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
To that end, over the last few years I’ve been seeking out and collecting books which I hope will help me to grow in living my vocation with more true joy in my heart. This, for me, is a lifelong struggle. To embrace the present moment, not will away my happiness to some nebulous future time.
The following books have helped me tremendously, in both the spiritual journey and logistical aspects of being a wife and mother. My sincere hope is that one or more of these books may inspire you in your journey of living your vocation with fullness and joy.
Eucharistic Adoration: Holy Hour Meditations on the Last Seven Words of Christ by Charles M. Murphy
Prayer is the foundation of the house on which our vocations are built. My patron, St. Bernadette was fond of saying, “Courage my soul; through prayer we can do all that is asked of us.” There is a noticeable difference in the atmosphere and happiness level in our home when I consistently make time for prayer.
I am blessed to be able to have a holy hour nearly every week, through a combination of the perpetual adoration chapel at our parish and a mom’s group which meets for a holy hour (with babysitting) and social time each week. I feel God’s presence most keenly when in Eucharistic Adoration, and having the opportunity for adoration has richly enhanced my prayer life.
This book, filled with holy hour meditations based on the last words of Christ, is a wonderful resource for meditation before the Blessed Sacrament. Each chapter contains an exegesis on that particular last word of Christ, followed by suggested points for dialogue with Jesus.
Each chapter also contains the story of one “witness” (usually a saint or blessed) who exemplified the focus of the chapter. The book also contains a section with prayers to aid in adoration. It is a slim volume, but contains a lot of food for thought while making a holy hour with Christ.
The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul by Lisa Hendey
Lisa Hendey’s Handbook for Catholic Moms is the type of book that you can read all at once in order, or you can pick and choose from chapters based on your interest or need at any given time.
The book is split into four parts: heart, mind, body, and soul. Each part has several chapters. Each chapter covers subjects relevant to the life of a wife and mother such as nurturing your marriage, time management, the importance of creativity, friendships, staying healthy, and prioritizing prayer.
I love this book. I have gone back to different chapters several times over the years to reread the advice and encouragement therein. Each chapter contains Lisa’s story relating to the subject, lessons she has learned through her years mothering her two sons, “mom’s homework” and web resources for further reading or help.
The format is readable, encouraging and also challenging, and I’d recommend it to any mom who is looking for something which is both spiritual and practical. Truly a handbook for the Catholic mom.
Weightless: Making Peace with Your Body by Kate Wicker
I don’t know any mothers who are always at peace with their bodies. Motherhood is such an intimate bodily experience, different from any other thing a human being can do with their body. Growing and nurturing life inside of you changes you forever, both inside and out. Often the outside changes are the most noticeable and the ones we tend to fret over the most.
This is especially the case for women who have always struggled with body image and self-worth. I know I have. Add two pregnancies in 4 years, one of them a twin pregnancy where I gained more than 50 pounds and saw what was left of my core muscles shrink into oblivion, and you have a recipe for constant anxiety over the state of my appearance.
All women want to be beautiful. We all want to feel that we are valuable for something other than our bodies, and yet, we also want to believe that our bodies have beauty of their own. The beautiful thing about Kate Wicker’s book is that she gives voice to the fears and anxieties that most women experience related to their bodies and appearance, and she releases us from these fears using the gifts of the Church’s teaching and also sharing the truth of God’s love for each of us, a love that can free us from the obsession with waistlines and wrinkles that keep so many of us from living fully.
Imitating Mary: Ten Marian Virtues for the Modern Mom by Marge Fenelon
The format of this book is one of my favorite things about it. Each chapter focuses on a virtue of Mary and how we as mothers living today, and, so far from the level of holiness on which she existed, can imitate that virtue in our everyday lives. It shows the very human side of Mary, and how she too faced struggles inherent in living the life of a married mother.
For me, becoming a mother and not having my own mother living to help guide me through the mind-boggling process of raising tiny humans to be virtuous persons, I have clung desperately to Mary. I have cried out to her in moments of frustration, sorrow, and even just thrown a Memorare skyward in the hopes of wiping one more snotty nose with something other than resentment in my heart.
I also think this book could be a great introduction for those women who have, for various reasons, kept Mary at arms length thus far. The author’s style makes Mary approachable and interesting. My favorite chapter, one I have read a few times, is when Fenelon talks about Mary’s fiat and what it means for us as both Christians and mothers.
The points for reflection at the end of each chapter have also provided much food for thought, and been the cause of much spilled ink in my prayer journal.
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp
Ann Voskamp is not Catholic. However, her book One Thousand Gifts is one of the most spiritually enriching books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. As I said earlier, I have struggled with cultivating and living joy for nearly my whole life. Perhaps it’s the fact that within the first 18 years of my life my mother died, my father abandoned me, both of my paternal grandparents died as well as a close friend who lost her battle with leukemia.
There wasn’t a whole lot of be joyful about, and this attitude, partly driven by my melancholic temperament, has been so difficult to shed. When I first read this book about 4 years ago, I was blown away. Not only do I absolutely adore Voskamp’s hauntingly poetic writing style, I found myself identifying with her suffering in early life, and her struggle to live fully in the present moment.
She is a Christian mom of six, and though she is not Catholic, her thoughts on eucharist as thanksgiving, as gratitude, as invitation to joy, shed beautiful new light on my understanding of Christ’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
As mothers, particularly to young and incredibly demanding children, it can be hard to find a day in which you do not shower, speak to another adult, or have a moment without someone needing something from you, as an experience of joy. However, Voskamp writes, that is exactly what God invites us to do, and what will give us the ability to embrace life with gratitude.
If you are a wife and mother seeking resources to grow in your vocation, I cannot recommend these five books enough. Several titles included, especially the book on eucharistic adoration and One Thousand Gifts, are worthwhile additions for anyone looking to grow in virtue and gratitude for the life they’ve been given.