April 2004

Discipline That Lasts a Lifetime.  By Ray Guarendi. Catholic Answers. 306 pages. $10.95.

Every once in a while, when a friend’s child is behaving outrageously, my husband will whisper, “We’ve found that nothing works.” He is, of course, jesting. Somewhere there are answers to unruly, unmotivated children, and Dr. Guarendi has compiled many of them in this book. Those familiar with his regular columns will recognize his commonsense approach, his humor, and his most welcome recognition that there do exist children who are just plain difficult.

There may be no such thing as a bad child, but there certainly is such a thing as a truly stubborn one. These children take years of consistent, firm parenting; and it’s easy to get discouraged, especially if one is paralyzed by psychobabble. Discipline That Lasts a Lifetime, with dozens of anecdotes and amusing suggestions, can lighten some of the dark days when seemingly “nothing works.” After all, Guarendi, a father of 10, and a psychologist to boot, has heard and seen most of what children can offer. Yet he never loses sight of the fact that parenthood is designed by God to be enjoyed.

- Elizabeth C. Hanink



The Privilege of Being a Woman.  By Alice von Hildebrand. Veritas Press (300 W. Forest Ave., Ypsilanti MI 48198). 108 pages. $No price given..

I have started writing this book review many times. After reading Alice von Hildebrand’s book, I imagined that writing the review would be a cinch. I had read the book twice, and skimmed it a few times as well. After all, I figured, I am a woman, this will be a piece of cake. But it wasn’t that easy.

Von Hildebrand dwells on the beauty and splendor of womanhood through all 108 pages of her book. And she truly does show the privilege of womanhood. Von Hildebrand’s approach to the issue is clever. She begins with some of the most biased and offensive quotes from Simone de Beauvoir and Nietzsche to St. John Chrysostom. These shocking quotes pull the reader in and make him wonder how von Hildebrand will respond to such attacks on femininity.

Von Hildebrand responds fast, well, and intelligently. She turns to philosophy, theology, and anatomy to back up her thesis that femininity is a far cry from the spineless, sin-inducing mask it has been given. Woman, von Hildebrand points out, is not the weaker, second sex. She is not a mere afterthought, unable to match the brilliance of man. Both man and woman are created by God with equal dignity — in His image and likeness.

Von Hildebrand spends much time calling the attention to the beauty of woman — from her tears and her love to her anatomy and the most wonderful gift of all — life.

While a woman’s tears, her emotional frailty in general, are seen as a weakness, a detriment to her character, von Hildebrand points out that through the immense amount of love that woman carries in her heart, she is bestowed with the gift of empathy. For woman, her body and mind are much more connected. This connectedness is both good and bad in that it orders woman to what is metaphysically higher, yet at the same time lessens woman’s control over her emotions. Lacking the proper control necessary to harness her emotions, woman is in need of a man who can aid her in doing so. “Man is made for communion and the most perfect form of communion calls for persons who complement each other. This is why God said: ‘it is not good for man to be alone.’”

Von Hildebrand does not shy away from the beauty of the feminine body. It is interesting to note that the beauty of woman contradicts the norm of the animal world where it is the male who is flashier and more attractive.

Von Hildebrand also comments on the holy nature of woman’s body — the veiling of her sexual organs even implies this. Just as the Tabernacle is veiled, so, too, is woman’s sexuality and virginity. They must be cherished and respected.

Similarly, the “sublime mission of giving life” is sacred. Especially when one recalls the Incarnation — how Christ drew His humanity from Mary. Christ did not pass through Mary as water through a channel as some heretics claim; rather, Mary played an instrumental role in the salvation of mankind.

Every time a woman conceives a child, it is noteworthy that “at that very moment God creates the child’s soul — a totally new soul which, being immaterial, cannot be produced by human beings. God therefore ‘touches’ the female body in placing this new soul into the temple of her womb.” It is woman who is granted the privilege of carrying two souls within herself. This harkens to woman’s gift of receptivity — similar to that which Mary manifested at the Annunciation, calling herself “the handmaid of the Lord.”

The ways in which each and every woman has been blessed with her femininity are attentively covered in von Hildebrand’s exquisite book. Von Hildebrand conveys the beauty of womanhood, yet at the same time the necessity for union between man and woman. Von Hildebrand steers clear of feminism, and even bemoans its popularity as it is harmful to women everywhere. Similarly, von Hildebrand is able to show the hurt abortion causes to the feminine nature.

Every base is covered in this book. Every line, every word is perfectly chosen and perfectly communicates the privilege of being a woman.

- Magdalena Vree



Journey of Faith: Catholic Marriage Preparation.  By Deacon Roy Barkley. Queenship Publishing Co. 111 pages. $7.95.

This rich guide designed for couples preparing to enter the Sacrament of Matrimony is a truly pastoral effort in a time of “pastoral” compromise. Barkley has designed a much-needed preparation book that is easily understandable and doesn’t pull punches. This book speaks especially to those who might see the Catholic marriage preparation process as being just a bothersome hurdle to be jumped. Barkley not only presents the Catholic “rules” regarding marriage, but the reasoning behind those rules.

Barkley does a good job of combating some of the modern errors about love and the moral life in general and about sexuality and the vocation to marriage in particular. He contrasts the modern view of love as primarily an emotion with that of love as a deliberately chosen commitment to the welfare of the beloved. Whereas the former is a recipe for disaster, the latter provides the ground for a lasting Christian marriage. This contrast is a theme throughout the book.

Another theme present throughout is an admonition for Catholic couples and families to be “signs of contradiction” to the world by living the chaste, spiritual, and fruitful marriages (i.e., with many and welcomed children) rejected by the Spirit of the Age. Considerable attention is paid to issues regarding the regulation of births and contraception. Barkley reasonably defends the Church’s condemnation of contraception, and, although he praises Natural Family Planning, he doesn’t do so without first discussing the often forgotten moral context regarding its use. Simply “wanting to be at ease, not wanting to be bothered, wanting only to live in a bigger house than you need or drive a better car is not a sufficient reason to postpone a pregnancy,” writes Barkley. Contrarily, we are reminded of the Holy Father’s wisdom that “the only human act that has real merit is a ‘sincere gift of self.’” One would hope that this would lead couples to consider spiritual direction regarding their motives before delaying pregnancies.

Barkley disputes some models of marriage (e.g., the “civil-contract” model and the “master-servant” model) which are incompatible with the Catholic model — which he describes as the “sacramental-community model.” Based upon the “sacramental-community” model of marriage, Barkley leads us to the subject of “family dynamics.” Here he explores specific roles proper to husbands/fathers and wives/mothers, as well as the often-neglected role proper to the married couple as themselves children of their respective parents. He discusses, too, the role of the family itself as a “domestic church.” This section is especially important for couples, for it speaks to how they are to sanctify themselves and their children. As a domestic church, the family realizes the modes of Christian worship, education, and service proper to it.

Barkley concludes with two practical sections, one on money and possessions, and the other on planning the marriage ceremony itself. Couples are warned of the dangers of an overemphasis on money and possessions. Married couples are called to be responsible stewards of their possessions and generous in almsgiving. Barkley conveniently provides the texts for the possible Readings and the Rite of Marriage, but still the section on the planning of the ceremony is the shortest, and rightly so. For although recognizing that the “sky’s the limit” regarding planning and expenses in this regard, Barkley advises that couples concentrate rather on what is truly important — “your public commitment to each other and to Christ to enter a permanent sacramental union.”

- Joseph Arias





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