Catholic Review of: The School of the Family
Chantal R Howard
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By Noreen Johnson (IL) - See all my reviews
A thought provoking book on raising a holy family
It's always discouraging yet eye opening to read a book about the Catholic Faith, thinking you already have a fairly good grasp of it, then after a chapter or two of the book, realize, you don't. That was the ongoing realization for me as I read Chantal R. Howard's book, The School of the Family. In fact, I read through her book with a pencil in hand to highlight the many ideas that challenged my own thinking and encouraged me as a parent. This book was published by Leonine Publishers in 2010 and is 213 pages in length. The premise of the book seemed obvious, the home is where the tenets of the Catholic Faith are taught to the children. If you want to raise your children in their faith (Catholic Formation), it has to start in the home. We all know this as Catholic parents but her book illustrates a deeper level of commitment all Christian parents should adhere to in child raising.
Chantal R. Howard delves into her own personal journey through her upbringing by a free spirited mom who left the family "to discover the spirit that was leading her" and then returned a devoted Catholic wife and mother. Her father was an adventure seeking young man who wanted to party and live the good life. He too, was raised Catholic yet "his faith was just lessons learned, not a life that was lived." Both her parents yearned to find what they were missing and their conversion led them both back to the Catholic Church and they did so with zeal. They raised their six children in the faith and Chantal's life blossomed by being centered in Jesus Christ and living a sacramental life.
Chantal's life was "the school of the family" in practice with daily mass, Catholic Faith Formation, homeschooling, family business, athletics, world travel, discernment of vocation and the death of her father. Her mother's devotion to Jesus and her vocation of wife and mother; so inspired Chantal that she is currently homeschooling her own four children with her husband, Dr. Peter Howard a theologian who is the founder and President of the Fulton Sheen Society and Director of the Catholic Hour Movement.
Chantal's memoir includes her own struggles with marriage and having to learn to keep her eyes on Jesus to guide her through their marital and familial challenges. Her role model for mothering is Mary and she desires "to allow the grace of God to make up for her insufficiencies." She discusses the challenges all mothers face in this secular society and how we are called "to live this art of love by offering our bodies as sanctuaries to our unborn children, setting our careers aside, giving our hearts away in love, and laying down our lives for the sake of our children. This is the hidden life of sacrifice that holds the mighty power to help us and our children triumph over this world and live secure in grace. If we choose to be like Mary, embracing our vocation in the light of the Holy Spirit, then our way of salvation as mothers is secure."
Not only is this Chantal's story but she gives her reader "The Family Rule" to help others keep their lives focused on their spiritual goals. She reminds us that The Holy Family is our shining example of how to live virtuous and holy lives. She included a marital examination of conscience "to evaluate whether we are actually loving our spouse." Her "Family Rule" emphasizes the ideal method in raising a family rooted in the power of Christ. She admits it's not easy and her book should be considered a "survival manual." It is chock-full of insights from the great writings of the saints and Pope John Paul II on how "to protect our families against the attacks of the devil so they will bear much fruit for the Kingdom of God."
Whether we like it or not, the family is a school by which our children learn what values the parents truly believe, what level of priority is Jesus in their lives and whether they embrace the teachings of the Catholic Church. Chantal advises "it is our duty as parents to provide the family life that challenges our young people to live in virtue, preparing them to enter into good, holy friendships and ultimately into friendship with God." I would highly recommend her book,The School of the Family for it's many informational and thought provoking insights. You can purchase her book at Tiber River and learn more about Chantal Howard at her own website School of the Family.