Katie Warner’s new book, Head and Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family, is a gem, ya’ll.
Katie’s publishing company, Emmaus Road, got in touch with me a couple of months ago about reviewing a copy of the book. At first, I was a little hesitant. Even though the topic of the book was right up my alley, I was worried about finding time to read it. But I said yes, and I’m so glad I did.
I actually read this book in one evening…while taking a bubble bath. Granted, I’m a really fast reader, but my bubble bath was neither bubbly nor even close to hot by the time I finished the book. I just didn’t want to put it down. There were so many good ideas, encouraging stories from a variety of strong Catholic married couples, and well-put ways to describe the spiritual life of marriage and family. I was really inspired by a lot of what I read. Besides, with my crazy schedule lately, I knew that if I put this treasure of a book down, I most likely wouldn’t pick it up again for a while.
I am in a long season of life where I desire to do spiritual reading, but I am very choosy about what I read. I want practical advice and how-to tips, not just lovely ideas. Katie Warner and the variety of married couples she interviewed for the book deliver on both solid theology of being a spiritual “head” or “heart” for your family, and practical advice for how they personally live that out.
Spiritual leadership of our family has always been a priority for Michael and me, and our involvement with the Domestic Church movement has deepened our formation and commitment to that over the past couple of years. I think that some couples will really enjoy reading this book together, but it’s not a book that Michael and I are going to read together anytime soon. Part of that is our personalities, and part of that is our season of life right now. Michael will definitely be hearing a few things from this book, though. There are some great ideas (like creating a family mission statement) that I’m planning to bring up in our next couple dialogue.
Head and Heart is broken up into fairly readable chunks and chapters, and the liberal use of bold type to further break up the text was helpful for me, too. There are some longer, dense quotes from the Catechism, interviews, or Scripture that some readers may naturally skim over. Other readers, however, will appreciate how Katie has a knack for pulling strong quotes from a variety of resources to introduce or reinforce each idea in the book.
I dog-eared and underlined things all over the place in my copy of Head and Heart, and I’m excited to share some of the things that struck me the most in the book. I hope that some of the passages that inspired me will be inspiring for you as well.
On creating and living out a “family mission statement”:
Even if you consider yourself advanced in every characteristic of strong spiritual leadership, if you do not have a mission you run the risk of drifting off course when friction presents itself in family life. The [spiritual leaders in this book] know where they are going, they know what they want out of family life, and they make sure their families are on board, too.”
Missions are extremely unique to each family. I have read ones that take the form of multiple paragraphs. I have seen families come up with a numbered or bulleted list of statements or phrases. Other families have single, concise sentence, preferring brevity for the sake of memorization.”
Make sure that everyone in your family, and everyone who knows your family, knows what you’re about. When you are faced with decisions to make, instead of looking around and asking, ‘What is everyone else doing?’ ask yourself, ‘What is our family about and how does it mesh with our plan?’ Don’t be reactive. Be intentional.” -Patrick Lencioni
Think about it for a moment from Satan’s perspective: if you wanted to weaken the faith and humanity of an entire culture, where would you focus your attack? The family. …if we want to succeed in our marriages, we have to focus energy and attention on it. Our efforts have to be intentional, consistent, and vigilant.” -Jim and Meg Beckman
If you don’t pray sometimes, you can’t pray always.” -St. Teresa of Avila
Rather than thinking about my prayer life as a straight line with a beginning and an ending, I have come to see it as a spiral going deeper and deeper into the mystery of God. The seasons come and go with time, and eventually I find myself again in a familiar place. The question I have to ask myself then is not how many spiritual books I have read, how many novenas I have prayed, or even how many hours I’ve been able to spend in adoration, but rather, ‘How much more am I able to love in this given situation than I was the last time I was here?’ and ‘Am I able to find God in this particular setting in a new and more meaningful way?” -Michelle Wright
I often have to remember, though, that different seasons of life require a new approach to prayer. A very wise and patient priest once told me, ‘You need to learn to pray as you can, not as you can’t.'” -Michelle Wright
As spiritual leaders, education in the virtues is critical to this faith and life formation in our families.
Our modern education system typically emphasizes values rather than virtues. Education in virtue…is becoming a lost art of leadership….There is a difference between value and virtue. A virtue is a disposition to do good, not just to know the good or to value it. Most people value fidelity in marriage, yet some, despite their values, are unfaithful to their spouse. Virtue helps you not to just know that fidelity is good, but to be faithful.
Three virtues we emphasize in particular [in our family] are chastity, since our world idolizes sex; charity, since our culture hails individualism; and temperance, since we’re encouraged to indulge without limit.” -Brandon Vogt
The biggest challenge is inertia…becoming virtuous is not something that happens naturally. You have to move, you have to actively pursue it.” -Brandon Vogt
On taking back Sundays:
“If you want to kill Christianity,you must abolish Sunday.” -Quote from eighteenth-century French philosopher and well-known attacker of Catholicism, Voltaire
…’keeping holy the Sabbath is foundational for cultivating peace of heart and home, as well as transforming one’s spiritual leadership….those who take their spiritual leadership in the family seriously know that Sunday is the key to personal and family peace, the lifeblood of Christian life in the home. Prioritizing Sunday worship and rest takes patience and intention.
As the spiritual head or heart of your home, you can customize your Lord’s Day activities and celebrations for your family, remembering that the goal is worship, rest, and leisure.
If we aren’t careful, we run the risk of leading our families into a habit of glorifying work and diminishing leisure…work is a means to an end, and that end is leisure, first here on earth, and ultimately in the great festivity of the heavenly banquet, where stillness and joy and rest and worship meet and converge into the peace that all of our hearts were made for.
On defending peace within the home:
All the reasons that cause us to lose our sense of peace are bad reasons.”
Spiritual leaders are intentional about practicing habits that build peace in their lives, while working to avoid habits that actively work against cultivating peace.