by Tom and Mary Hartmann
“What Americans need are experiences of living the economy according to the Gospel,” a wise friend said to us after Mass one morning. When we got home we started talking about all the economic challenges we experienced in our large family. We remembered what we learned over the years as the directors of the New Families Movement in North America. When we met with other couples, we all shared personal experiences of how we tried to live a spirituality of communion together and in our families. We learned from each other how to manage our finances – our budgets and student loans, mortgage payments and taxes, even music lessons and family vacations – according to the spirit of the Gospel. We realized, however, that although many people have similar experiences and even more dramatic ones than we have, they often take them for granted and fail to see their deeper meaning, especially what God is doing in their lives. We discovered that most of our experiences were centered on how God has helped us, sometimes in extraordinary ways. So we thought of collecting them in a book on Providence in the family. Before long we were able to put together over a hundred pages of experiences, some presented at conferences and others shared with other couples. Remembering what our friend said about what Americans need today, we got the courage to send those pages to the publisher at New City Press. His response was quick and positive: “It would be perfect for people interested in the story of how a family with ten children survived financially.” His editors, however, suggested that with a few changes, like adding short reflections and questions after each of the nine chapters; more readers would find the book useful for meditation and discussion. Thus we had to move beyond simply sharing our life to offering spiritual direction and helping readers see how they might appreciate their own experiences of God’s providence and share them with others. We finally came up with a book that can be read • as stories of a family trying to put the Gospel into their daily lives, • as meditations on Divine Providence, and • as a resource for group discussions. “Gifts from Heaven: Providence in Our Family” has just been released by New City Press (www.newcitypress.com; 1-800-462-5980).