Alexis Dallara-Marsh reviews Jessica Ptomey's moving memoir detailing her experiences converting to Catholicism.
Jessica Ptomey , co-host with her husband of The Catholic Reading Challenge podcast, recently published Home in the Church, a moving memoir detailing her experiences converting to Catholicism. There are frequent comparisons between her previous experiences with the Protestant Church, as well as her and family's experiences with fellow Catholics. She notes while "Protestant worship experiences can look vastly different across America," the Catholic church is typically a constant, and the book goes into further detail into explaining just how.
The book is split into seven chapters (the Mass, the sacraments, the domestic church, the liturgical year, the saints, private prayer, and the cross). I found particularly helpful that there are recommendations for further reading at the end of each chapter. The beginning part of the book centers on the Mass and the sacraments, where she references Scott Hahn's research on the Mass being Heaven on Earth, particularly detailing the importance of the Eucharist and how she continues the celebration of the sacraments at home such as with doing something special following Sunday Mass, celebrating Baptism days, or a special trip chosen by her child receiving first Confirmation. I liked her mention of how "there is a difference in growing up 'Catholic' and growing up in a domestic church." The Domestic Church is the expression of Christ in the family, and she offers various tips for cultivating this.
The importance of praying at home and serving one another is emphasized, and it is our responsibility as parents to prepare our children for life in Christ. She gives specific guidelines also for how to incorporate the liturgical year into our daily lives, particularly with Advent, Lent, and following Saint feast days in Ordinary Time.
I think the chapter I probably derived the most benefit from is that of how to pray, as this has been at times a struggle for me as a "cradle Catholic." A close second which I could relate to is her chapter on the Cross, which notes some of her personal struggles with crosses she has had in her life and how she's united them to that of Christ. I appreciated her mentioning in the conclusion that not everyone has experienced Catholicism as their home. This is a sad but real truth. Pages 83-93 of the book, in particular, were a trigger for me, as I have suffered both a stillbirth and a miscarriage of a twin, and so I would caution those who have lost children regarding this section of the book.
In conclusion, I could relate very much to this read and its relevance to us as Catholic moms trying to mother in a not-so-easy world. As noted in the introduction, the Church "disrupts my tendencies to be contented with the ends of this world" and the author provides practical ways to cultivate what values should be first and foremost to us as true Catholics. I would recommend Home in the Church as a valuable resource to add to your bookshelves, particularly for anyone who wants to further both their and their family's relationships with Christ. Happy reading to all!
Copyright 2020 Alexis Dallara-Marsh
About the Author
Dr. Alexis Dallara-Marsh is a board-certified neurologist who practices in Bergen County, NJ. She is a wife to her best friend, Akeem, and a mother of two little ones on Earth, plus two others in Heaven above.