This is a tale of saints in the making. Consider the exchange that takes place between the author and his then-3-year-old daughter.
"Why did God make you?" he asks her.
"To be a great saint!" she replies.
And, as Mike Aquilina reminds us, the Church calls all of us to be great saints. Thus, as much as we are all in this together, Love in the Little Things is every Catholic family’s story.
With humor and humility, Aquilina shares from his family’s journey down the often-bumpy road to heaven. Although Aquilina has certainly exercised his prerogative (and responsibility) as a writer to be selective in which stories and details he includes, Love in the Little Things is no hagiography. He amply reminds readers that even life’s most embarrassing episodes—up to and including kidney stones—can point us to God’s grace, goodness, and love.
Some of Aquilina’s stories serve as mirrors, reflecting the many foibles and weaknesses of human nature. I could relate all too well to the type of mortification Aquilina felt when his son wore sneakers to a Mass in Pope John Paul II’s private chapel.
Others of Aquilina’s stories are like newly washed windows. A turn-of-phrase or a well-placed anecdote illuminates what might otherwise remain shadowed. In one chapter ("Felines, Phobias and Faults"), for example, he illustrates the horror Christians should feel for sin—and also shows how healthy that horror is.
Aquilina has a light touch. He is first a storyteller and second a catechist. The stories he tells are not merely vehicles for promoting the Church’s teaching; rather, insights into the Church’s teachings flow from his stories. In this way, Aquilina delights, instructs, and shows how everyday moments can be the building blocks of faith.
Love in the Little Things is not bereft of practical guidance, either. Ideas and inspirations are scattered throughout the book, and the final chapter even contains a list of suggestions for making our families holy families.
The quality of Aquilina’s writing sets Love in the Little Things apart. The clarity and artfulness of his style make his book a pleasure to read.
Each chapter has a rhythm and generally follows a pattern. Often, Aquilina starts with a story or quotation, illustrates his theme with further anecdotes or quotations, and then returns to the place he started with fresh insights. From time to time, that rhythm tires readers instead of energizing them. But those lulls quickly pass as Love in the Little Things regains its momentum.
Aquilina also demonstrates the benefits of brevity. Forty chapters, most not more than three pages each, make Love in the Little Things a nostress read for busy parents and easy enough to engage in for those who usually don’t read. Further, by brevity and wit, Aquilina is able to speak to a sound-bite culture without devolving into sound bites himself.
With its joy and humor, Love in the Little Things refreshes those of us who’ve grown a bit weary on our journey. By sharing from his family’s experiences, Aquilina encourages us to look at our own lives and see the many ways in which God draws us close to Him.
Finally, Love in the Little Things reminds us that the home we’re striving to reach—heaven—should be reflected in our earthly homes as well. As Aquilina says, "If we do family life right, our families will become heaven’s outposts on earth." What family wouldn’t want that?
- Sarah M. Rozman (from Lay Witness magazine. www.cuf.org)
You can purchase this title here.