Edward Hays, a Catholic priest, artist, and storyteller, was for 20 years the director of a contemplative center. He has a special interest is how the home, whether a two-story house or a single bed in a retirement community, can be a "domestic church" where "father, mother and children, or single parent with children, or unmarried person with friends, or groups of religious come together to celebrate their unique relationships with each other and with God." His goal in this guidebook, a new edition of his widely used 1989 volume, is to "bring forth from the treasury of tradition the customs, rituals, blessings and prayers that find their real beauty when celebrated in the home and by the persons whose lives are directly and intimately touched by them."

Here is a wonderful collection of blessing prayers for everything from a new possession to automobiles, gardens, pets, and home shrines. There are thanksgiving prayers for a safe return home and upon hearing good news. Prayers of gratitude celebrate the rising sun, the gifts of our senses, work, change, holy foolishness, and more. Other prayers are for reconciliation within the home, for times of sickness, and for times when the shadow of death crosses the home. Hays' "Prayer at the Death of a Pet" has been a source of great comfort to us more than once.

Holidays and special days are observed in the domestic church. Hays includes blessings for many of them, including birthdays, engagement, advent candles, and even a St. Nicholas' Day Blessing of Candy Canes. Other sections offer table liturgies and daily personal prayers. For example, here is a simple ritual to use when making a telephone call to a loved one: "May my words be rich in love and may this call bring peace and joy." Upon completing the call: "Blessed are you who gives to us such gifts that enrich our hearts."