I received a copy of Sarah Reinhard’s book, Catholic Family Fun (published by Pauline Books & Media) and immediately began folding the pages in dog-ear fashion for future reference; I found my right-brained tendencies that are so often shelved during the day as I play the role of “task master” in our household come alive once again as I imagined clever ways to tweak some of the book’s suggestions. One such idea emerged when I read what Reinhard created from old canning jar lids; having a frugal and resourceful mind, I came up with the idea to not only make beautiful Christmas ornaments from old canning jar lids, but to also make personalized photo ornaments of our family each year as inexpensive (but endearing) gifts. What about Easter ornaments? Valentines? And the ideas continued to flow from just this one idea in my brainstorming mind.
What struck me most about Catholic Family Fun is that Reinhard brings to light a deeper comprehension and practical application of the Church’s notion that the family is, in fact, the domestic church. Every creative idea listed is accompanied by “faith angle” and “make it yours” segments that often incorporate the Liturgical calendar, getting to know the saints, and Catholic prayer. Consider her ideas “Create a Skit” or “Puppet Show,” both of which could be used during Advent or Lent to showcase the beautiful stories in Scripture (the Nativity or Passion) and lives of the saints; what’s more is that all of the ideas in this book can be used at all times throughout the year, not just for special occasions.
Reinhard reminds us that fun should not be limited to special occasions, in fact. Instead, she strives to offer simple ways to slip fun into an otherwise ordinary day; to those who, like me, tend to fall into a daily routine and become easily overwhelmed or harried by life’s obligations, this is both a Godsend and an opportunity to re-frame our life’s perspective. If we, as parents, are truly fulfilling our call to shape and fashion our children’s immortal souls, then it stands to reason that it’s not only entertaining but also crucial that we find innovative ways to make learning something to look forward to rather than to dread.
The truth is, children innately know that the world is our classroom and all of life is our teacher; sadly, as we become adults and fall into the responsibilities of working and paying bills and household chores, we quickly forget this. We lose that beautiful gift of wonder and awe from childhood, the ability to be freely inquisitive, carefree and to discover joy in the small and simple aspects of every day. Catholic Family Fun is a lighthearted invitation to return to a childlike faith, one in which every member of the family – young and old – can laugh, be imaginative and work as a team (all while deepening their faith and strengthening family ties).
Catholic Family Fun is both a resource and a guide. It’s what you can keep on your coffee table when you are stumped for ideas on your weekly family night. It’s a reference when you would like to incorporate play into your homeschooling days. There are ideas that range from free to fairly expensive, but with careful consideration, anyone can add their family’s personal twist to every suggestion listed so that fun can truly fit any budget. Reinhard makes it clear that she doesn’t intend for Catholic Family Fun to be a “one-size-fits-all” manual; rather, she wants the reader to immediately dive into a playful attitude by letting go of expectations, stress, anxiety and any sort of rigidity that often takes over our psyches as wives and mothers.
In her unassuming way, Reinhard humbly admits that she, too, struggles with perfectionist tendencies and the urge to have order in an otherwise chaotic life; that’s what makes her so relevant as both a mother and an author, and it’s also why Catholic Family Fun is a powerful and credible guide to increasing the quality time spent with our loved ones without the pressure of trying to make it a perfect event.
What makes Catholic Family Fun the book you will want to pick up over and over again, making notes in the margins and asterisking the family favorites is that all of her ideas are short, succinct and are suitable for any family size, age, or weather condition. There are no “right” or “wrong” ways to use this book; it’s really just a gift of Reinhard’s personal talent to the parents whose creative wells have simply run dry. But make no apologies if you’re lacking the time, energy or ingenuity, because Catholic Family Fun is certain to be a welcome and wholesome tool that will renew your family’s bond and teach children and adults alike about life – all through imagination, story-telling, and play. It’s like therapy, but for a much lower price!