This Little Light of Mine: Living the Beatitudes to review, I had no idea that it would move me to tears. A resource for parents to help guide their families (and themselves) into deeper Christian living through examination of the beatitudes, I thought it would be a light "how-to" type read. While it does include practical ideas for daily application, I found the short chapter reflections delve much deeper than typical books in this category.
In many ways, This Little Light of Mine is exactly what I expected: It is a quick read, at just under 100 pages. Each chapter is short and to the point, containing a reflection on the beatitude, a shorter section for children, and practical ideas for "living" the specific beatitude. This sounds like many other books I've read, yet the genius of the book is not in its structure, but in the exemplary way each part is executed.
I am familiar with the beatitudes. I've read them, read about them, heard talks and homily centered on them; I have never read or heard or even thought of them explained in the way that Basi presents them. I've always learned about them in a self contained way: here are the beatitudes, this is what each one means. What This Little Light of Mine does differently is weave the beatitudes within a greater story of the Ten Commandments and the Catholic faith. For example, chapter three addresses "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land" through discussion of the seven gifts and twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit, as well as the 1 Corinthians definition of love ("Love is patient, love is kind..."). In another chapter, "Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God" is explained through the seven Sacraments. Basi does this so effortlessly, the associations are never forced. Having a greater context and association between various aspects of the faith makes it seem less of a complex and overwhelming religion and more of a simple, personal faith.
The children's sections are wonderful as well and I look forward to using this book with Lucia when she is old enough. As a teacher, I am often frustrated by materials that water down content for children to the point that it only vaguely resembles the original concepts. This Little Light of Mine doesn't do that. It refreshingly recognizes that even small children are able to grasp deep concepts of faith and love, it is their vocabularies and lack of experiences that limit them, not their intelligence. The children's reflections are shorter, more focused, written with more simple vocabulary, and include examples that young children can relate to, such as interactions with siblings and friends. They do, however, include the same concepts as the adult reflection and challenge children to move closer toward living the beatitudes.
The "Just Live It" sections include great ideas for incorporating the faith into everyday living. As a busy wife and mother, I appreciate that these ideas are "doable" for myself and my family. They often don't require large time commitments or preparation, but no matter how small, they do serve the purpose of bring me closer to living the beatitudes and therefore to the heart of God. This book was primarily written for Ordinary Time, the times when we have less obvious reminders of our faith. This book serves as a reminder that small actions done throughout the year can help move your family toward heaven.
As for the tears, chapter two, which addresses "Blessed are they who mourn" gave me a whole new perspective on suffering. As many of you know, my husband has been looking for a job in his field for over a year now and while there is certainly greater suffering in the world, we've been having a hard time with it. Basi's words about the good that comes from suffering was exactly what I needed to hear. I wasn't expecting my heart to be so deeply touched by a book that I thought I was reading to help my children learn about the beatitudes. This book is as much for parents, the heads of the family, as it is for children.
Can't wait to read it? You can get a copy on Amazon or enter to win one. Kathleen Basi and her publisher, Liguori, sent me a second copy of This Little Light of Mine to give away to a Messy Wife, Blessed Life reader.