Handbook for Catholic Moms Question: What Marriage "Rule" Do You Follow?

In The Handbook for Catholic Moms, Lisa Hendey shares stories and ideas about keeping, from always praying for your spouse to trying to make “date night” possible for parents in different situations.

All the great advice reminded me of a discussion I had once with a group of other married women about “marriage rules.”  I’m thinking of things like advice from a parent or older married couple, “Never go to bed angry,” or “Always give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.”  Sometimes they can seem almost trite  although they are actually quite helpful when put into practice.  Kind of like a “mom-ism”.

I would have to say the number one unofficial “marriage rule” at our house is “keep a sense of humor.”  Gently laughing at ourselves and the chaos that can be family life can be very connecting!

What marriage rule do you follow, or have you been given, for which you have been grateful?

The Handbook for Catholic Moms Offers Kindness, Encouragement for Moms

When I was a new mom, I received much wise counsel from my own mother during many a late-night conversation.  For example, my mom very gently told me (and I’m sure laughed silently at the other end of the phone), that my child would be potty trained before college, and not to focus too much emotional energy in that direction.   
Even with my mom’s great advice, as I get older in my parenting journey, I often wish I could write a letter to myself and time travel it back to the younger-mom me. The letter would tell me things to worry about (and not), as well as things to do differently and things to not change at all.
The chief message of The Handbook for Catholic Moms stresses something I—and many older moms– would put in this “younger me” letter.  That message is: self-care,–emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually– is not an indulgence or a weakness, but one of the most important gifts you can give to yourself, and your family.
The Handbook for Catholic Moms is helpfully divided into four sections: heart, mind, body and soul, focusing on the different ways moms can take care of ourselves.  More than anything, though, what shines through the book is Hendey’s kindness and her passion for the Catholic faith.
Some of my favorite nuggets:
*Heart: In the chapter on marriage, Hendey suggests getting out the special wedding album/photos from time to time for kids to see.  This is great tradition to do around an anniversary date, something we do each year at our house.   It sparks great discussions and happy feelings about the event that started each family.
*Mind: Hendey challenges mom to try an activity that stretches you creatively, whether knitting, cooking or writing.   Making time for a creative endeavor can provide dividends in happiness and satisfaction.
*Body: Hendey candidly shares her own treatment for breast cancer, and challenges women to not neglect regular health screenings.
*Soul: I loved the simple but beautiful reflection penned by Hendey’s childhood pastor on praying the Rosary and devotion to Mary. Also not to be missed are the list of saints favorites, for moms, from moms.
Sprinkled throughout the book are quotes from scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, church documents, and quotes from the saints.  A great feature are the stories shared from a range of Catholic moms (and those who love them.  There’s everything from Mary Ellen Barrett’s account of facing her son’s autism to podcaster mom Pat Gohn’s three principles for lifelong learning, to Catholic financial guru Phil Lenehan’s call for moms to be good stewards for their families. Each chapter ends with Catholic Internet and other resources for helping moms navigate a particular area, as well as encouraging but not overwhelming, “Mom’s homework.”
I can’t begin to describe how glad I am that “The Handbook for Catholic Moms” is not a parenting book. Like most moms, I’ve read more than my share of parenting books, been in helpful book groups with other parents, had and witnessed heated discussions both online and in real life about “the best way to parent.”
While some of this can be transformative, every family is different and there are many “Catholic” ways to parent.   Fortunately, The Handbook for Catholic Moms steers clear of this by providing solid, both catholic (as in universal) and Catholic (as in centering on our faith) nurturing for moms.
The Handbook for Catholic Moms is a great read and gentle pick-me-up, especially for those women are newer at motherhood, but provides real encouragement and guidance for all us moms out there in the trenches.
You go, moms!

What is Your Favorite Mom-ism?

One of my favorite memories of my mother, who died in late 2008, is her voice pronouncing (sometimes ironically, sometimes not) one of her”mom-isms.”  My mom’s mom-isms were often malopropisms, though most of the time my mother meant them to be, unlike the character from Sheridan’s play, Mrs. Maloprop, who mangled maxims.

My mom’s most famous is, “We’ll jump off that bridge when we get there.”  That is the only form of that particular mom-ism I use, to the point where my younger daughter asked me some years ago, “Mom, why are we going to jump off a bridge?”

Well, I answered, that’s an interesting story.  You see, we’re not going to actually jump off a bridge, the expression is, “We’ll cross that bridge when we to it.”  But my mom always said it as “We’ll jump off that bridge when we get there,” as a kind of joke to help us not worry about a particular situation.

What is your favorite Mom-ism?

Questions and Answers with Lisa Hendey, Author of "The Handbook for Catholic Moms"

Lisa Hendey, author of the Catholic Post Book Group’s May selection, The Handbook for Catholic Moms, is the creator of CatholicMom.com (www.CatholicMom.com), a website focusing on the Catholic faith, Catholic parenting and family life, and Catholic cultural topics. 

She’s host of the popular podcast “Catholic Moments”  (www.CatholicMoments.com), and also a prolific online writer at Catholic Exchange, Catholic Online, Faith & Family Live!, and many other places.  She also runs a home-based web design business.  She lives in California with her husband and two teenage sons.

I had the privilege of getting to meet and interview Lisa last month while she was in Chicago.   Following are some highlights from our discussion:

Q.  Why did you decide to write The Handbook for Catholic Moms?

One of the big issues for me at CatholicMom.com and in preparing to write the book was reaching out to the women who were frustrated and burned out and in very emotional situations in fulfilling their vocation as a mom.  I wanted to write something that would be encouraging for my two sisters and my girlfriends, for the moms in my life and those I’ve encountered through my work on the website.

I look at my own family and see real moms, each living in unique family and employment circumstances, and I want to support them all. We are the Body of Christ in so many different ways, and what I wanted to do with the book was to provide support for any type of mom.  I wanted every mom who picks up the Handbook to feel they have something to take away from their experience of reading it.

The other thing I was definitely not trying to say, “I’m perfect, look what I’m doing”. I’m far from it! But I have a sense of optimism about the joy of a Catholic mom’s vocation, and I wanted to share that through The Handbook for Catholic Moms.

Q.  What is the main thing you hope women will take from the book?

I want moms to realize that every mom has her own unique journey.  There’s not a cookie cutter for how to be a mom.

There are things in the book that are not realistic for every mom in every point of her life.  I’m not saying, “Do all these things.”  I’m saying, “Moms, let’s take care of ourselves, let’s take care of each other.  If we don’t care for ourselves, we do a disservice to our families.  It’s acceptable to take the time and energy to nurture yourself emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually.  By truly caring for ourselves in these ways, we better serve our families, our communities and our Church.”

In a particular way, I want moms to come away from the book with the knowledge that our Church has created all these beautiful tools for us to nurturing ourselves spiritually.  I love sharing encouragement and tips from people who have given real world examples, like how to fit prayer into a mom’s busy schedule or how to create a “culture of faith” in our homes.

Q.  One of my favorites elements of the book were the stories of your life and the lives of other moms that can reach out to moms in different situations.  They were very “real” and healthy in helping moms know they are not alone in their struggles.  You share, for instance, about how you weren’t as always accepting of your husband’s faith journey before he converted to Catholicism.

My biggest regret is that I judged myself for that situation, and I judged my husband Greg.  What’s very odd is that the point of his conversion came when I had finally received a little peace about the situation and stepped back from worrying over it so much.  And now I can look back and realize good came from the very situation that had caused me so much stress and anxiety.

I specifically started CatholicMom.com because of the fact that I felt such a responsibility to pass on my Catholic faith to my sons, and my husband and I were not of the same faith.  I know I wouldn’t have started the website had that not been the hand that I was dealt.  You can look back at the situation and say, “I wish it had been different”, but good came from it.  I also have so much respect and admiration for my husband’s spiritual journey and the fruit that it has born in his life and in our family’s life.

Q. What was your favorite part of writing The Handbook for Catholic Moms?

Honestly, I was so happily surprised by how willing so many people were to share their stories for the book, and how big a community of people got behind the message of encouraging moms in their vocation.

That’s how I was able to write the book through the course of surgery and radiation (for breast cancer), and everything else that was happening in my life — So many people were praying me through the challenges and helping me to accomplish the project. 

Every day during the process of writing the book, I would announce on CatholicMom.com and Facebook and other places, “This is what I’m writing about today,” and by the time I got to the library to write I had 10 or 15 stories or quotes or other ideas to be included in the book.  I truly felt as though I had other people walking with me as I wrote.

Q.  Ten years ago when you entered the digital world, how much experience did you have?

Absolutely none!  Our Catholic School principal asked for a volunteer web designer, and I stepped up.  I had no experience whatsoever, but I was given a little training for this.  I realized I loved working on the computer!  That’s strange because I was a French major, and my master’s degree is in human resources.  I’m not a techy person by any means, but when I started it I realized I enjoyed it.  My inherent curiosity and motivation to learn new things  has served me well in ensuing years.

The digital age provides a wonderful means to an important end, which is our joy about sharing the Gospel message.  It makes sense to me that to be an effective apostle, you have to embrace communications where you are.  If that means going to YouTube, we go to YouTube.  My conviction about the message I’m sharing allows me to work through obstacles instead of just giving up.

Q.  What do you like most about the work you do?

I love getting out and interacting with moms.  I love getting to meet, either online or in person, different people who are working to share our faith.  I love going out to parishes.  I love the tech side of it.  That’s really surprising to me as I’ve said because it is not my background.

Q.  What is your vision for CatholicMom.com and your online work?

Every day I wake up and say, “Okay God, what do you want me to do today?”

I feel so blessed that God has gifted me with this apostolate and that I can serve and glorify Him in this way, through the website and all we are doing.  I am also grateful to realize that God has given me certain abilities and the means to follow His plan for my life.  My “vision” for the future of CatholicMom.com is to continue to follow His will, to reach out and support Catholic moms in any way that I can, and to be on the forefront of embracing new means of social communications to carry out this mission.

Q.  Where do you see technology taking your ministry in the future?

I love that we can employ the New Media in so many creative and uplifting ways to share our faith.  Podcasting is something that I really love.  At CatholicMom.com, we’re in the initial phases of an App for the Iphone and the Ipad that will incorporate the podcast, our videos and the blog.  Apps are the next thing for those of us in new media; people don’t necessarily always sit down in front of their computers.  The trend in technology and communications is toward great mobility.  Those of us working in Catholic New Media and evangelization need to learn to format our information in a way that is easily accessible for people in a variety of different ways.

Q.  Is it different to work in New Media than in traditional media?

It’s funny when you write for online audiences, it does change the way that you write.  It’s not so much that you “Twitterize” (or keep it super short) but you tend to write in a more concise way.  When I write for Faith& Family Live blog, I’m tend to write shorter pieces and build more interactivity into my writing.  Online trends and the development of social networking venues like Facebook and Twitter are definitely impacting the way we interact with our audience as writers.  But the importance of the messages, supporting the true teachings of our Catholic Church and expressing our zeal for our faith, remain timeless themes regardless of the technology involved.

Treasure in Clay Question: Bishop Sheen Spiritual/Media Heirs?

I think there are plenty of energetic and charismatic Catholic apologists, but I find myself considering Catholic networks when I consider media heirs of Archbishop Sheen.

Of course, Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network is a fixture in providing radio & television programming, and has quite a presence on the Internet.  It started with Mother Angelica but now has scores of personalities with a variety of Catholic programming.

The Canadian network Salt & Light TV produces some excellent programming, some of which airs in the US on EWTN.

One priest who harnesses New Media to spread the Gospel in a dramatic way is Father Robert Barron and his WordOnFire.org apostolate.  Just a few highlights: Fr. Barron is a fantastic teacher; has an excellent podcast, and his “Catholicism Project” is a “landmark, epic documentary series” to reveal the beauty & truth of the Catholic faith.

Whom do you consider to be the spiritual/media heirs of Archbishop Sheen today, in terms of using their gifts and zeal to spread the Gospel in unique ways?

Treasure in Clay Question: Bishop Sheen in the Internet Age?

The fragmentation in the media makes it unlike that even a priest of Bishop Sheen’s zeal and intensity would be invited to have a national radio or television show.  There’s so many diverse sources of media, and regular television shows are not watched as universally as during Sheen’s time.

In Treasure in Clay, Sheen demonstrates how he is a man of many ideas to help get out a Catholic message.  In the chapter, “The  Bishop in a Diocese,”  Sheen writes of his plan to what looks like, instead of printing a stand-alone Catholic newspaper, take out a monthly one-page ad in the local secular newspapers to print a “mini-paper” with different categories, thus reaching a wider audience.  The plan did not go through because the Catholic paper had a long-term printing contract, according to Sheen.

Today, he undoubtedly would have harnessed the New Media.  I’m sure he would have had a blog, since he was such a prolific writer, and almost certainly a podcast or video podcast.  He would still publish his many books, of course, but he’d have a varied media apostolate.

If he were alive today, what do you think would be Bishop Sheen’s primary method of spreading the Gospel?

Giveaway at Bonny Blue House for May’s Book Club Selection: The Handbook for Catholic Moms

I noticed that Mary Ellen at Tales of the Bonny Blue House has a
Giveaway for next month’s book here at the Catholic Post Book Group, The Handbook for Catholic Moms.  You can enter until tonight, so head on over there to leave a comment!

 There were also some other neat books and items she has been giving away all week, so if you like entering contests and winning fun things, enjoy the selection.  There would be some great Mother’s Day gift items among them.

Treasure in Clay Question: Favorite Sheen Book or Books?

Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote more than 60 books.

The first Sheen book I ever read was Life of Christ, but I have to say my favorite is This is the Holy Land, first published in 1961 and covers the trip he took to the Holy Land with several nephews.  It’s full of photos of Sheen in various Holy Land locations and his reflections.  He writes about that book a bit in Treasure in Clay.

What is your favorite Sheen book and why?

New Page on Sidebar: How Do I Join the Discussion?

This is the text of a page I’ve added to the sidebar of the blog, just below the Home page button:  I’m reprinting it here in case anyone has any other tips for those new to blogs.  Please comment away.

I’ve gotten quite a few messages (either in person on via FB or email) from people new or unfamiliar with blogs.  So I decided to write this page to make it easier for you to be part of the discussion.  All you long-time bloggers, feel free to comment if you have any other tips.  I will add to this page as I make changes or as I get those tips.

I want to stress here that while I have been blogging for nearly 5 years, I have not taken advantage of all the different features of blogs.  While I am not a novice, I am still learning the process, which itself is changing all the time.  So be patient with me as this is a work in progress, in some ways the definition of every blog.  Often changing and morphing and updating with newer technologies and new ideas.

First, you might want to consider subscribing to a feed of the blog, so that you get a message when there is an update.  My primary web browser, Safari, allows me to subscribe to a blog via email, so I get an email when my favorite blogs update.  I believe there is a way for me to allow people to even more easily subscribe via email, so I’ve got that on my list and will update this page when I do.  Your web browser/mail program may have a similar choice, so look around on it and see.

You can also bookmark the Catholic Post Book Group and then visit whenever you have a chance, and then jump in the discussion whenever you want.

When you are ready to comment, there is a button at the bottom of each post there is a link announcing the number of comments on a post.  If you click on that link, you can post your own comment.  You may have to register with Google, but you can do so anonymously.   

You can also, when you make a comment, click a box that allows you to receive follow-up comments via e-mail.  This is a great way to keep in the discussion.

I have comment moderation “on” which means that I have to approve the comments that you make, so your comment may not show up right away.  I have comment moderation “on” for several reasons, among them: 1. every so often on people’s blogs,  strange comment-bots leave Viagra or Chinese character comments, so those do not need to be part of the discussion.  I delete them right away. 2. if we do get into a heated discussion about a topic or a book, sometimes people can violate a comment code.

Here is the comment code for the Catholic Post Book Group:

 Anyone planning to join the discussion here is expected to follow these guidelines when commenting:

*I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect, especially toward those with whom I disagree—even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

*I will express my disagreements with the ideas of others without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

*I will not exaggerate others’ beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

*I understand that comments are moderated and will not be published if they are do not meet the guidelines. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)

In searching around for a comment code, I found lots of great ones, and adapted this from Sojourners, because it is short & to the point.

Treasure in Clay Question: Any favorite moments?

One of my favorite stories is a small one: “Everybody’s here!”   In the chapter, “In Journeying Often,” Archbishop Sheen discusses the missions:

“Serving the missions makes one sick at heart if anyone is left out of the ark of salvation.  A blind boy at Lourdes was cured during the Way of the Cross as his father asked God to restore his son’s sight.  The first words of the boy as he saw his father and others were:  ‘Everybody’s here!’  That will be the missionary’s cry at Judgment when he sees his flock and is overwhelmed by the goodness of God.  Everybody is here who wanted to be here.”

That story in turn reminded me of the apocryphal quote attributed, I thought (until I tried to look it up on the Internet, where all truth resides–kidding), to Flannery O’Connor that the Catholic Church means, “Here comes everybody.”  I couldn’t find if she actually said that phrase, but Catholic writer Amy Welborn started a good discussion (with no answers) here.

Treasure in Clay is full of numerous stories about Sheen’s life and times.  What are some of your favorites?

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