Beloved and Blessed: Biblical Wisdom for Family Life is third in a series of Bible Studies based on Proverbs 31. While the earlier books addressed buliding a health faithful marriage and meeting the needs of the family through homemaking, this volume focuses on intimacy and parenting.
Beloved and Blessed is divided into six parts to discuss Marital Intimacy, Fertility/Gift of Children, Motherhood at Home, Parenting Styles, Establishing a Faithful Family, and Homeschooling. Hahn immediately jumps right in tackling the sensitive issue of marital intimacy, outlining the values and blessings developed from sensual love within the marriage. She identifies physical and personal challenges that may prevent couples from enjoying a healthy intimacy. But most of all, she helps the reader identify with the spiritual bonding and joyful pleasure arousing from sexual intimacy with one’s spouse. In the second part, Hahn reminds us that while experiencing this intense intimacy with our spouse we should embrace and be open to receiving God’s gift of children. Chapter 5 “Answering the Critics” about contraception and the misinformation we’ve heard all our lives really caught my attention. As I read, I found myself wishing that someone had taught me this way of thinking about sex, fertility, and childbearing during my marriage preparations. As the mother of two daughters, I must consider how they can best be instructed in these ideals, especially since I, personally, have never had sufficient faith or trust in God to follow these methods.
Though I enjoyed the first two parts, I struggled greatly with Parts 3 and 6 about Stay-at-Home Parenting and Homeschooling. These parts speak directly to the single-income family and, purposefully or not, degrades those who choose to work or must work. As a working-out-of-the-house mother, this is a sensitive topic for me. I know that I should be filled with desire to be solely a mother and teacher to my children while sacrificing my opportunity to have a career. I work because I financially must and I love the work I do – both in my career choice and as a Mom. Sadly, I must infer that this book addresses an audience restricted to Catholic moms who stay home with their children. Hahn details all the necessary reasons why mothers should not work outside the home, but the final jab came in these words, “Many wives work full-time outside the home and come home to a full-time job. They cope with internal pressure to be excellent at work and at parenting. One or both suffer. Supermom really does not exist.”
Unfortunately, this section put me in a defensive posture while reading the remainder of the book. Thankfully, the information provided in parts four and five on Parenting Styles (discipline and instruction) and establishing a strong faithful home resume speaking to all women. Hahn reminds us that parenting is a privilege and offers various techniques, scripture, and advice for directing your children’s behavior, and creating and strengthening a shared faith at home.
I carried this book with me to finish reading while on a flight to my 17 year old godson’s funeral, so chapter 16 “When Parenting Hurts” near the end felt particularly poignant. I looked for comfort in Hahn’s words, which address a parent facing miscarriage, depression, illness, and other afflictions that hurt the family. Her main point is that we must develop the ability to place our entire trust in God to lead us through the pain. Hahn writes, “Jesus promises His strength to comfort and fortify us so that we may endure.”
This book (and the Bible Study) would be especially valuable to young women engaged or newly married, as well as mothers of young children. Catholic women with small children who work outside the home should be aware of the tone found in part 3; however, the two sections on discipline and faith consolidate some of the better advice and techniques available in various secular parenting manuals, making these chapters particularly useful to parents. Overall, the most important lesson I feel comes with the perspective of Parts 1 and 2 on Intimacy and being open to the gift of Children.