I was provided a free copy of the book, The St. Monica Club: How to Wait, Hope, and Pray for Your Fallen-Away Loved Ones, in exchange for an honest review. Any links to Amazon contained within this post are affiliate links, meaning I may be compensated a finder’s fee if purchases are made through the links. Any purchases made would not add any cost to the products for you as a consumer.
I have not always been a practicing Catholic. While “cradle Catholic,” meant I was born and baptized a Catholic Christian, there was a very lengthy period of time in which I was not Catholic. Looking back, even as a teenager attending Mass with my family, and actively participating in the celebration of the Mass, I would no longer classify myself as Catholic. I didn’t attend Confession annually, I didn’t receive the Eucharist having thoroughly examined my conscience and determining whether or not I was in a state of grace, and I certainly didn’t make room in my life for daily prayer. I didn’t even hear the adults around me tell me that Confirmation is not a graduation. Granted, my Confirmation prep was a twenty-minute crash course, after everyone forgot that I had not completed my Rites of Initiation into the Catholic Christian Faith.
After I left my parent’s house and went to college, I left the Church altogether. I bounced around non-denominational churches. I wound up engaged to a man whose family was “non-denominational” but had extremely Baptist leanings, and after that relationship ended, I informed God that I would not even look at another man unless he were Catholic.
I am not married to a Catholic.
Rather, I am happily married to a supportive Methodist man, who lovingly, graciously, and patiently supports my efforts to raise our children in the Catholic Faith. And, I am the first person today to say that, if it weren’t for my husband, I would not be as strong in my Catholic Faith as I am.
My husband, in his support of my expression of faith, has challenged me to learn about my Faith. In asking questions I initially could not answer, I began to dig deep, and to figure out why I am “Catholic,” rather than leaving the Catholic Faith for another Christian denomination.
It is also by God’s Grace that I have been given a passionate desire to pass along this beautiful Faith to my children.
I am fully aware that our children may, someday, experience more uncertainty about the Catholic Faith over other denominations than, perhaps, children of other Catholic families. I also recognize that many Catholics have a similar path as mine, but don’t entirely return to the bosom of the Catholic Church. And, I have witnessed many women cry tears of sorrow when their children make the decision to turn and walk away from the Church.
Therefore, always one to want to add more to my toolbox of parenting skills and resources, I agreed to review the book, The Saint Monica Club: How to Wait, Hope, and Pray for Your Fallen-Away Loved Ones.
The author, Maggie Green, writes under a pen name for this book, and has created a book that has short, yet powerful chapters. She has learned, as a faithful and faith-filled Catholic wife and mother, praying to see some of her own children return to the Catholic Faith, some strategies to wait for, and pray for, those who have turned their back on the Catholic Church.
As I read her wise words, I began wondering about the ways in which my own paternal grandmother offered prayers and hope to God as she watched most of my generation of grandchildren walk away, and many not return to the fold. I wondered about the aunts and uncles who still practice the Faith, and how they reconcile within themselves the pain they feel, with the love they have for their children.
The love Ms. Green has for her own children is evident in how she refers to those who have left the Church. Recounting the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), Ms. Green refers to those who have left the flock of Catholicism as “prodigals.” And, if you are familiar with the parable, the love that Ms. Green has for her own children, even though they may not fully understand their eternal inheritance at this time, is palpable, precisely as is the love of the Father of the prodigal son.
As Ms. Green asserts in The Saint Monica Club, there are no support groups for those whose children, or grandchildren, have left the Catholic Church. Secular society has support groups for so many other areas of life, but when it comes to another’s eternal life, it can be uncomfortable to even discuss the complexities regarding a child’s decision to leave a faith that was integral in their childhood. It is for those women who mourn their “fallen-away loved ones,” that this book is written. Ms. Green’s book attempts to, and is successful in, providing the support that these women lack in secular society.
Yet, this book isn’t just for mothers whose children are “prodigal” children. Rather, this book can be for any woman whose child, spouse, grandchild/ren, or close friend have decided to not live in full communion with the Church. While the tone is written for a parent-child relationship, simply substitute the “prodigal” for the person in the reader’s life who has turned their back on the Catholic Church.
Throughout the chapters of The Saint Monica Club, Ms. Green gives gentle, loving, and powerful reminders to her readers:
God gives us free will. He gave us the opportunity to choose to know Him, embrace Him, and love Him through the Catholic Church. And, He gives us equal opportunity to reject a relationship with Him as found in the Catholic Church. Free will is a glorious gift, but for a member of the St. Monica Club, free will can also be a source of tears. While she stops short of quoting documents produced by the Church, her sentiments echo the words found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), paragraphs 2230-2231, which include:
When they become adults, children have the right and duty to choose their profession and state of life… Parents should be careful not to exert pressure on their children either in the choice of a profession or in that off a spouse. This necessary restraint does not prevent them – quite the contrary – from giving their children judicious advice, particularly when they are planning to start a family.
CCC, paragraph 2230
Love plays a greater role than we think. In today’s day and age, we are bombarded with the secular messages that we must be all, do all, have all. And, as faithful Catholics, we often find ourselves embroiled in debates over “why” we are Catholic or “why” we believe certain Church teachings. However, the in The Saint Monica Club, Ms. Green repeatedly reminds readers that we won’t win hearts and souls by merely talking and winning arguments. Rather, more souls are won through action. They are most touched by someone faithful living as witnesses to our Faith. Acts of charity, living the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, and even being loving toward the “fallen-away” Catholic by finding common ground, and listening, will do more for the other person. The saying, “One catches more flies with honey than vinegar,” kept coming to mind as I read the chapters in The Saint Monica Club.
“Showing a concern for your prodigal’s happiness and well-being and acknowledging the good values he or she already holds is a quiet form of evangelization.” – Maggie Green
Knowledge is power. While love will ultimately have the greatest impact on the “prodigal,” Ms. Green encourages readers to dig deep and learn more about the Catholic Church’s teachings. Like my husband asking me in a non-confrontational ‘why’ manner, she emphasizes the importance of learning our Faith so that a parent is able to combat the secular messages. She cautions against trying to “win” an argument. Instead, when the child makes a comment about the Catholic Church, and secular issues (i.e. abortion, cohabitation, birth control, etc.), be prepared to know how to defend the Church. I recently heard a priest at a Confirmation retreat say, “To know the Catholic Church is to love the Catholic Church.” And, Ms. Green’s assertion to be prepared to explain Church teachings opens the door to falling deeply and passionately in love with the Church.
Those who long for a loved one to return are joined by a host of saintly companions. The most obvious saintly companion is St. Monica, herself. St. Monica’s story is not as fully delved into during this book, but she was a pious Christian woman whose non-Christian husband and mother-in-law routinely berated and belittled her. Through her example and witness to them, they both found a relationship with Christ before they died. As a mother, St. Monica watched one of her sons squander away many years of his life engaging in activities which kept him from God. Yet, with the assistance of many priests and bishops, including St. Ambrose, in the end St. Monica was also rewarded by seeing the conversion of her son to Christianity. St. Augustine, today, is a renowned saint and Doctor of the Church. However, Ms. Green also gives other saintly companions to pray with, including St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Anthony, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas.
To be loving also requires an element of bravery. Ms. Green tackles the difficult choice of how to approach a child who has strayed from the Church. She rightly advocates that parents must not be discouraged or dissuaded from being honest or being real about the Faith. It takes courage to look at a loved one and express concern that their activities are taking them further from God. But, instead of constantly criticizing or critiquing, she reminds readers that it is still okay to be unapologetically Catholic. Without knowing it, Ms. Green adds to my Bold, Brave, Catholic series!
“Kindness is truth delivered with mercy; service freely given. We cannot be witnesses to our Faith if we fear rejection, nor are we to go about using our Faith like a battering ram.” – Maggie Green
Prayer will be your strength. As Ms. Green states on page fifteen, “Sit at the feet of Jesus.” She reminds us of the faith exhibited by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who took her worries and cares to the feet of the Lord. Christ will be the strength, the fortress, the rock which will hold a wearied mother. During this time of difficulty, the Lord can be a source of constant comfort. And, the comfort being sought is through the avenue of deep prayer. She soundly cautions against airing grievances to others, but rather advocates taking the hurting heart to the foot of the Cross.
The Saint Monica Club offers a clearly-written, concise way to pray for a loved one who has fallen away from the Church. Throughout the 122 pages, each chapter feels extremely brief, perhaps no more than two and a half pages at the most, which makes the reading go quickly. It also makes the information easy to digest, and leaves the reader feeling upbeat.
While some of the “ways” to wait, hope, and pray can seem rather simplistic, this book is designed to be a supportive book. Therefore, the simple ways to love the “prodigal” in your life need to be simplistic – we must do small things, with great love, and this includes within our relationship with our “prodigal.”
At times, some of the themes of the forty-three chapters (not including the preface) seem to repeat themselves. However, knowing human nature, we need to digest sensitive topics by reading or hearing messages repeatedly, in many various ways.
This book is a reassurance that, while the journey in the St. Monica Club may be isolating at times, it is not without reward in the long run. At the end of the day, each of us strive to hear that we have done well as good and faithful servants. And, emulating St. Monica is a great path toward hearing those words.
Emulating St. Monica is a great path toward hearing the words that we have done well, as good and faithful servants, to our Lord.
The Saint Monica Club reminds us that, through good works, through prayer, and through love, we can make connections with the “prodigal,” who is not in communion with the Church. And, while she doesn’t promise that we will see them all join into full communion, Ms. Green’s underlying message rings clear – we may just plant a seed that will eventually flourish and grow.
Ultimately, God will see the good works and hear the prayers of a faithful mother, and be welcomed into His loving embrace for having been faithful to Him throughout the period of sorrow.
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