Three to Get Married was one of several books that have provided indispensable advice, clarity, and encouragement to me as I navigate the most important callings of my life to serve and love my husband and children. Here are six other equally impactful books that I highly recommend to all spouses and parents. Most of these are not written specifically on the subject of vocations or directed toward spouses or parents, but their essence is.
By Love Refined: Letters to a Young Bride by Alice von Hildebrand
This was a wedding gift from one of my mother’s dearest friends. I put off reading it for several months, but once I picked it up, it became an instant favorite. The great theologian and writer, Alice von Hildebrand, published her beautiful and insightful responses to letters from her goddaughter that detailed the experiences, joys, and frustrations she was encountering—both expected and unexpected—during her first year of marriage. Most of the letters are only a few pages long, making them the perfect reflective reading first thing in the morning or right before bed.
Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Fr. Michael Gaitley
Fr. Gaitley wrote Consoling the Heart of Jesus as a retreat, so I used it as my Lenten reading the first year I was married. I read most of it during my weekly Adoration hour, which was really perfect as the book places you at the foot of the cross. The reflections and meditations served to help my hyperactive brain slow down and take a break from the mountain of chores and lists that occupy most of my thoughts, and focus on my relationship with the God who died to save me.
In reading this book, I practiced the difficult, but important art of just being present. As wives and mothers, the to-do list can so occupy us at times that we forget to just be present with our spouses and our children and to observe their needs, shower them with love, and enjoy their company. Fr. Gaitley helped teach me both the how and importance of presence by first teaching me to be present to our Savior in His moment of suffering.
By What Authority? by Mark Shea
Over a poker game in our living room one night, I asked our friends who are now a priest and seminarian for a book recommendation for generic entry-level apologetics. Almost simultaneously, they shouted By What Authority? Just recently re-released, By What Authority? is a short read by an evangelical convert that addresses the fundamental question at the heart of nearly every difficulty with church teachings—the authority of the Church.
While it has been great in its apologetics applications, the vocational lesson it taught me was equally important—obedience to authority. Shea outlines the Scriptural exhortation for us to be obedient to Christ’s Church. As children, we are to be obedient to our parents. As adults, we are to be obedient to His Church. Both seasons of obedience are not only for our own good, but because Christ commanded it. Shea’s exploration of the Scriptural basis for Sacred Tradition also reinforces the importance of families embracing the Traditions and traditions of Catholic life in our own homes as one way of bringing our children to love and practice their faith intimately.
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
|The book that launched a thousand tears.|
As parents, we know that we will love our children, even when we are scrubbing mashed blueberries off the carpet or getting our strand of pearls repaired for the third time, but do we remember that even when we forget about or turn our back on God, he loves us as completely and perfectly as He did the moment we were created? We should. And we should strive to love our children, our spouses, our friends, and strangers the way God loves them.
I learned from Robert Muncsch’s website that he actually wrote this as a song for him and his wife’s two children who were both born dead. He wanted his children to know that he would love them forever.
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
Similar to the lesson of unconditional love contained in Love You Forever, in this story, the mother bunny does not just love her baby bunny, she pursues him. The adult version of this spiritual lesson is eloquently encapsulated in Francis Thompson’s timeless poem, “The Hound of Heaven.” Note that I highly recommend a board book version of The Runaway Bunny as it is especially well-suited to toddlers with its emphasis on imagery.
The Temperament God Gave Your Kids: Motivate, Discipline and Love Your Children by Art Bennett
This is really the only explicit “parenting” book on this list, and that is because it is 1. Easy to read; and 2. Incredibly insightful. Before even starting the book, open to the back and do the questionnaire for you, your spouse, and each of your children. Bennett does a wonderful job of generally categorizing the temperaments of individuals, and then taking it to the useful next step of providing tangible insights into how best to interact with each different one most productively.
Despite hearing ad nauseam that “every child is different” and reading this book before our second daughter was born, it is only recently as we have started to see our youngest daughter’s personality start to develop that I am beginning to understand the expansive realm of what “different” means. Having some insight into the likely emotional and psychological preferences and responses of both my husband and children has helped me interact with them better as individuals.
I’d love to hear your favorite vocational reading choices!
Joining with Jen at Conversion Diary!
Brittany Makely currently works as a full-time wife and mother of two, as well as an elementary latin teacher for a local classical, inclusion, Catholic K-8 school. Since her graduation from North Carolina State University, where she earned degrees in Economics and Political Science with a Public Policy concentration, she has also served as assistant director of policy and editor of the quarterly magazine for a statewide public policy organization dedicated to the promotion of family values.