Feeding Your Family’s Soul

Back in September we published a new book by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, Feeding Your Family’s Soul. This book has prompted an overwhelming response, and some fascinating conversations with religious ed directors, and Catholic school educators who have been looking for this kind of resource.  Br. Joel Sweet, who serves all of our Catholic churches in Hawaii, shared with us this great feedback from Chrislyn and her parish!

When speaking with Br. Joel and hearing about this book, Feeding Your Family’s Soul, I thought that this would be a wonderful way to increase family-style catechesis with the parents and grandparents of my RE ministries. I was hesitant at first to take it on, as I had just finished a book sale of the Mother Mary Coloring books and still had half my inventory! But after reading a preview of the book online, I thought I would give it a try for my Advent Parent Gathering. I gifted a family in the RE program a copy of Feeding Your Family’s Soul and asked for her feedback. She loved it so much, as she is a mother of three children: 1 in middle school, 1 in high school, and 1 in ctacosoupollege. Their schedules are so busy nowadays she has difficulty gathering them for meals. I asked her if she would select a recipe to cook for the Advent Parent Gathering and she chose Taco Soup. We cooked a huge pot of it and served it with bread. We used this simple meal to bring the parents together and practice from the book as if we were one family. We had five tables and each member of the table pretended to be a member of the family (mother, father, child, teen, grandparent, etc). They selected a chapter and practiced sharing the topic with one another while eating their soup and bread. At the end of the gathering, we had our little sales table, with the remaining coloring books, the Feeding Your Family’s Soul book and some other gift items. We sold a lot, especially as it was a perfect time for Christmas gifts! Many parents bought the book for themselves. We also placed a few copies of this book in our parish library so that others who do not want to purchase it may borrow it instead.


Chrislyn Villena,
Religious Education Ministries,
St. Joseph Church, Hilo, HI



Watch the trailer with Br. Joel Sweet:


Prayers of the Reformers

On Friday, February 18th we celebrate the 461st anniversary of the death of Martin Luther, that great theologian and reformer of the Church. We know so much about the bold deeds and writings of this man and his many contemporaries who changed the world, that they have become almost legendary for us. But thankfully, we also know them just as men – people, sinners saved by grace like you and I – who clung to a relationship with God the Father and Christ their Savior, wrestling with their faith, and fervent in their prayer. On this anniversary of Luther’s death, and indeed throughout this important anniversary year of the Reformation, let us join Luther – not as Reformers, or theologians, but simply as men and women seeking to know more about God, and more about ourselves, through prayer. Paraclete offers this new book, Prayers of the Reformers, as a help and guide. And as Luther himself is credited with saying, “Grant that I may not pray alone with the mouth; help me that I may pray from the depths of my heart.”

From the Introduction

Prayers of the ReformersSome historical events have such a profound impact and such a multitude of consequences that the world is changed forever in their wake. The Protestant Reformation must certainly be counted among such events. Given the loud repercussions—social, theological, cultural, liturgical (among so many others)—that have continued to echo through the centuries, even to our own day, it might be easy to forget that behind the forces that brought about such change were devout people of faith, whose everyday lives were marked by times of prayer. The Protestant “reformers,” as they have come to be known, were also, and perhaps most importantly, “pray-ers.”

Certainly we learn much from the writings they have left, as well as the many records of their lives. But they have also left us their prayers, like windows into their own souls, and in their prayers we can meet them and learn from them. The prayers of the Protestant Reformers are filled with some of the central themes of their faith, perhaps first among them being an unshakable confidence in God’s supreme authority over all time and space. History is God’s workplace.

He does not stand afar off, but actively and intimately participates in the lives of people in order to show his love and bring about his will. Many of the Reformers’ prayers reflect this conviction as, again and again, they seek for God’s will to be done on earth, and in themselves. Asking for the grace to be obedient to God is not so much an expression of servility as it is an expression of hope—the hope that my ordinary life can play a part in God’s extraordinary plan. The Reformers were convinced that we are all God’s instruments for the working of his purposes, and so we pray for what we need in order to serve him faithfully.

A second recurring theme follows directly: utter dependence on God for everything needed to live for God. Here are prayers for wisdom, guidance, perseverance, protection, and for daily bread in all its forms, offered in the certainty that God alone is the source of such gifts. Turning to God with confidence starts by acknowledging one’s own weakness and helplessness, beginning with the confession of one’s own sin. Our dependence on God is never more profoundly apparent than when we stand (or fall) in need of his grace, mercy, and forgiveness, all of which are generously given through the shed blood of his only Son. For the Reformers, every prayer we offer is built upon the foundation of Christ’s saving Cross and Resurrection.

Third, implicitly and sometimes explicitly, these prayers express our need for illumination by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. In the writings of the Reformers there often appears an almost seamless movement between quotations from the Bible and phrases of prayer. As students of God’s word, they conversed with God using his own “language.” They believed that one must pray in order to understand the Scriptures, and that one must read the Scriptures in order to know how to pray. And, in both cases—when reading the Bible and when praying—they taught that we depend upon the Holy Spirit to shed God’s light upon minds and hearts that would otherwise be left blind to God’s handiwork. Praying for light is as important as praying for bread, for the Christian cannot live without either.

Fourth, trust in God stands as the chief motivator for prayer. Just as he is all-powerful, God is also all-loving. We express our needs and desires, sometimes cheerfully and sometimes despairingly, but always believing that God’s answers will spring from an eternal love that is as unchangeable as it is mysterious. We ask of God because we trust in God, that he is faithful to his promises, that he is always ready to hear and to answer, and that he never will turn away when we call out to him. All of the Reformers expressed this kind of trust through their prayers, and some of them showed it even in the moment of their violent deaths.

Finally, for the Reformers, the ultimate goal of praying was the same as it was for living—that God may be glorified.

Thanksgiving for God’s goodness is directed to the same end as asking for God’s forgiveness. In both cases, and in every case between, God’s answer will elicit praise from our hearts as well as from our lips. If our aim is to live “to the praise of his glory,” then woven through all of our prayers is the ultimate hope that, in Christ, God will unite all things in heaven and on earth, including us, into his everlasting kingdom. So we pray in order that his kingdom may come now, in whatever way it can, and that we will always be part of that coming.

Psalm 142

I cried unto the Lord with my voice. . . Here the cry of the poet is directed to his only hope in a time of loneliness and desperation. “Even unto the Lord” he makes his supplication. The superscription suggests that it was written by “when he was in the cave.” The exact circumstances are unclear, but the two incidences we have recorded in Scripture—1 Samuel 22:1 and 1 Samuel 24:3-4—refer to the time when David was fleeing for his life from a jealous and vengeful King Saul. Not all who pray this psalm do so out of such dire conditions, though even today, in many parts of the world, faith in God is still lived at the risk of losing one’s life. Such desperate words as these can be prayed in the name of those who suffer such persecution.

On a more personal level, however, there are two significant elements to this psalm that anyone can understand. The first is the utter sense of loneliness, even of abandonment. Not only is the psalmist in trouble, but no one cares. He looks for someone to offer compassion, but “there was no man that would know me,” he laments (v.4), “and no man cared for my soul.” However self-sufficient we may consider ourselves to be, the human heart in such bitter times yearns for a companion.

In fact, the psalmist does have company in his condition. Despite his fear, he knows that there is one who “knows his path.” For the psalmist, this is no theological platitude. Placing his hope in the Lord is the conviction of his heart. Notwithstanding his vacillation between despair and trust, he expects God to “bring his soul out of prison.” The psalmist uses an interesting word when he describes the Lord as his “portion” in the land of the living (v.6). This is the same Hebrew word used to refer to the “inheritance” of land apportioned to the twelve tribes of Israel. As one lives off the land the psalmist “lives off” God. The psalmist’s very life depends upon the provision given him by the Lord.