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?

Trailer for the Archbishop Sheen Documentary

WTVP (the local Peoria PBS Station) will air the documentary on Sunday, April 18 at 9:30 p.m.

I DVRd it on WTVP when it first aired the other night and we finished watching it last night.  I found it beautifully produced and extremely moving.

Did anyone else see it and what did you think?  If you didn’t, it is well worth the time!  You can order a DVD from the Sheen Foundation as well.

Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen

This is my review that appears in the April 18 issue of the The Catholic Post:

Don’t be alarmed if you feel tired after reading “Treasure in Clay,” the autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen, celebrated son of the Peoria diocese, and now under consideration for sainthood. I did, but not because the book is nearly 400 pages—it’s a fast, enjoyable read. It’s because the bishop was so busy and prolific in his vocation.

Fortunately for us, he was also an engaging writer. In particular, he’s the master of telling a great story. “Treasure in Clay” is full of those stories;, edifying, funny and illuminating, making it an inspiration for us to do more as Catholics.

In keeping with Bishop Sheen’s lists of threes, here are three main themes of “Treasure in Clay.”

Zeal

Sheen was raised on “an ethic of work.” He writes, “(T)he habit of work was one I never got over, and I thank God I never did.” No, he certainly didn’t.

He wrote more than 60 books, recorded countless hours of radio and television programming, traveled and preached and converted people worldwide, and never seemed to tire. It was all in pursuit of the goal of bringing souls to Christ.

Holy Hour

Bishop Sheen promised at the beginning of his priesthood that he would pray a Holy Hour each day in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and considered spreading this devotion his greatest achievement for Christ. It reminds me of Mother Teresa’s answer to a question, “Why don’t you spend less time in prayer and more time in active work helping the poor?” Mother responded that without much prayer, their good work would not be possible.

Bishop Sheen himself believed that his Holy Hour helped him to do much good for Christ and avoid losing his zeal for souls.

Clay

Bishop Sheen titled the book, “Treasure in Clay” from 2 Cor 4, “But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, so the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.”

Sheen draws a parallel between the priesthood and the ancient oil lamps for worship.—Priests hold the light of Christ, yet are fragile; true not just of priests, but of all Christians.

Bishop Sheen, especially in later chapters, written toward the end of his life, freely admits his flaws. What’s beautiful to read through these pages is how God still used him as a powerful vessel for spreading the light of Christ.

Some, but by no means all, of memoirs written in recent years can be dreadful to read. The authors freely mix fact with fiction, and write in a kind of forced, sarcastic realism that requires unpleasant moments to be rehashed in vivid, if not necessarily accurate, detail. There’s none of that in “Treasure in Clay,” and so to modern readers Sheen’s enthusiasm and optimism can be almost disconcerting. Ultimately, it’s refreshing.

Welcome!

This is the intro that appears on the first book page of the April 18 issue of The Catholic Post:

I am delighted for the opportunity to share my love of books, book discussions and media with Catholic Post readers.

More than a little about me:

Academic: my undergraduate degree (Kenyon College) is in English, with a focus on British literature; I have a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. I’ve worked in newspaper & magazine journalism, and later in communications in the right-to-life movement.

Personal: While my husband Joseph has a doctorate in theology, I’ll be reading and writing about books as a layperson, along with most Post readers. We have three lively and also book-loving children.

New Media: As a middle-aged writer, I’m a digital immigrant, not a native. Still, I firmly believe the Internet provides great opportunities for evangelization and connection. I love blogging and visiting blogs as a way to learn, connect and share with others around the world. I listen to podcasts, but don’t have one—yet. I’m on Facebook but not Twitter –yet. And so on…

I’m passionate about books & media, and a newer concept called “media mindfulness,” or media literacy in the context of faith formation. It’s not just about reading books or seeing the latest television show or movie or explore the Internet, but being able to process them in the light of our Catholic faith.

That’s why the book group component of the book page is especially exciting.

Am I hopelessly devoted to books and book groups? If it is a crime, guilty as charged. My daughters and I host a girls book group that meets monthly at our house. I’ve organized occasional outings for my son and his friends to explore– in a very physical way–adventuresome books like the Chronicles of Narnia series. I started a local Jane Austen book group with a great group of ladies because I needed an outlet to talk about my favorite author. I moderate a cousin book group blog for my kids and their many cousins to meet online and talk about books. If those were not enough, I’m in the midst of planning a mother-daughter book group as my oldest draws near the teenage years.

I’d love to draw in from our diocesan family (and beyond) experts on the various books that the Catholic Post book club reads, enriching both the online and IRL (in real life) discussions. Our first book is “Treasure in Clay,” the autobiography of Fulton Sheen. I hope you’ll join the discussion online!

Book reviews, author interviews, and more.

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