The School of the Family by Chantal K. Howard

Wow … hard to imagine that a young mom would have so very much to teach this now-50 year old mom. But in Chantal Howard’s book, The School of the Family, she teaches me so much, so much that I need today … and will use tomorrow.

Howard’s book, a truthful account of her family’s life, doesn’t sugar-coat family life but in fact writes about life as it was, is, and should be. Howard was raised in a revert-family — her parents were products of the hippy generation in California until they reverted, came back to the faith of their birth, and renewed their family vows in a Byantine monastery in California. The parents, at the time with only one daughter, came back strong and sure to their Catholicity, moving back to Colorado and bearing and raising five more children, children who would grow in their faith right along with their parents.

But all was not perfect in the Dussault house, which is one of the things I most admire about this book: Howard doesn’t gloss over the imperfections of her family trying to live their faith in a world where liberal and “whimsical” interpretations of Vatican 2 teachings were occuring. She doesn’t gloss over the fact of her father’s addictions or the troubles within the family.

And yet, her message isn’t one of “poor me” or “look how much better I am” but rather of leading the reader through her life story to this point, giving tips and suggestions for living a fully faith-filled life as:

  1. a daughter from her youngest years to her years of discernment and the precipice of adulthood
  2. a wife, courted and wooed by her future husband, but still questioning God’s call to … what?
  3. a mother of active girls, homeschooling them and trying to engender in these gifts from God a deep and abiding love of the Church
  4. The school of the family as defined by Howard in the introduction is:
    not a school of perfection or a school of guilt, but a school of constant conversion, that has the power to transform the world though its witness of love. It is a school of great hope for society. It is the front line in the renaissance of character that is necessary to turn around our culture.

    Howard’s book is divided into stages of life — first her parents’ upbringing, courtship and marriage, then her birth and childhood, and finishing with her marriage and motherhood. Throughout the reading of this young woman’s journey (she’s probably 20 years younger than I), the reader is moved to action, reflection and prayer.

    I want my family to be a school of the family; I want to build a culture within my home that is as grace-filled and faith-filled as Howard’s. This is the type of book that is so enriching for me as a wife, mother, home educator and human person in the world today. As I read this book, I found truths stated here that I hadn’t been able to articulate myself, truths that I wanted to ignore, and truths that I never even imagined. I read this book once … in about a week. I then re-read this book as I planned my children’s school-year, wanting to incorporate all the good, the true and the beautiful as Howard describes in her life.

    I highly recommend this book for young adults, young adults discerning God’s call, young marrieds, young mothers and fathers, and even all the old adults, old marrieds, old mothers and fathers. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in building a culture of life, of faith, in their own homes and communities.

    I wrote this review of The School of the Family for the free Catholic book review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, your source for Baptism Gifts, Oplatki Christmas Wafers, and much, much more. Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

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