Saints and motherhood: An interview with Lisa Hendey

As you know, I’m a huge fan of the saints, and I’m always eager for new ways to connect with them.  That’s why  A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms by Lisa Hendey (founder of CatholicMom.com)  is pretty much a dream come true.

In the book, Lisa looks at fifty-two saints through the lens of motherhood, showing how each one can enrich the lives and spirituality of today’s moms.   This is what makes this book so wonderfully different from the other saint stories I’ve read: it’s totally geared towards the spirituality of motherhood.   I would never have thought that single guys like St. Patrick or St. Jerome could have direct relevance to my life of microwaving chicken dinos and tripping over toys, but Lisa’s marvelous book shows me that they do.   (Her book has also introduced me to some pretty fabulous mom-saints I’d never heard of before.) At first,  I’d  intended to treat the book as a devotional (it can be used that way, meditating on one saint for every week of the year). Once  I started, though, I was so captivated that I couldn’t stop; I kept reading and learning and getting inspired, which is what I’ve learned to expect from Lisa’s writing.  (Over the last year and a half, I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with her several times, and she’s just as engaging and wise in person as she is on paper).

As if the book itself weren’t treat enough, I got to ask Lisa some questions about the saints, and I’m thrilled to share her answers here.    Thanks for being my interviewee, Lisa — and enjoy the launch of your book!

 I can imagine a mom saying, “The saints were nothing like me … they lived hundreds of years ago, many of them in convents and monasteries, and didn’t have to juggle the demands of raising kids, running a household, and working outside the home at the same time.  How can they possibly relate to my life?”  What’s your response to this?

I’d invite them to read the stories of amazing women like St. Elizabeth of Portugal and St. Margaret of Scotland, both royalty but also mothers concerned with the souls of their spouses and children and with living faith-filled lives themselves. I’d introduce them to St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a physician, and St. Margaret Clitherow, a businesswoman, both working mothers who faced many of the same challenges we face in our daily lives. And finally I’d point them to the Blessed Virgin Mary — the ultimate mom — who knew so many of the joys and sorrows we mothers face every day in raising our children. The saints were every bit “real” people who often stumbled along their paths to heaven, which is what makes their stories and their examples of faith even more compelling.

Who is one saint whom you wish were more widely known?  Why?

There are so many “hidden” saints! One of my absolute favorites is St. Josephine Bakhita who was born in Darfur in 1869. Bakhita was kidnapped away from her wealthy family, enslaved, and ultimately taken to Venice, where she eventually found her freedom and a religious vocation. One of the reasons I so greatly love St. Josephine Bakhita was her ability to forgive her tormentors. So great was her love for the poor and the elderly that she served, that she actually gave thanks for the circumstances of her enslavement that led her to find her vocation. We all have things in our lives which “enslave” us — some face bigger challenges and addictions than others. St. Josephine Bakhita teaches me that in trying to live out the Beatitudes in my own life, I can find the path to grace and strength.

 If you had to explain the saints to someone who is not Catholic, what would you say?

The saints are not “magic” or a superstition for Catholics. They are everyday people just like you and I who lived their lives in extraordinary ways, often against the most challenging of circumstances. Their choice to pursue lives of virtue, to seek Christ and to share him with others, often hold great relevance for the obstacles you and I face in our daily lives. Catholics look to saints as role models, and also as prayer intercessors — we don’t pray to them in the same way as we would pray to God. Rather, we ask for their “intercession” on our behalf, knowing that they are a part of the Communion of Saints.

What was challenging about writing this book? 

The same thing that made this book challenging also made it a great joy — the research! Learning intimately about the lives of fifty four people (two chapters feature husband and wife saints) is a daunting task. Historical documents on the lives of the saints are often in conflict, and there is a great deal of “tradition” and mythology that surrounds the accounts of many of the saints. In the end, I did my best to find the most consistent details about their lives. But more importantly, I chose to dwell on my own relationship with each of them, to share the personal aspects of my own friendships with them that make them a special part of my life.

What’s one surprising thing you discovered in the course of writing this book?

I mentioned it above, but I found it surprising how many “wives tales” there are about the saints. I also found it very surprising that so many of the more recent saints had such similar life circumstances to my own. I think it will be fascinating to watch in the next several years as saints who have lived in our times and even have been active in social media are canonized!

Is there a particular saint with whom you’re developing a new relationship?  What is it about him/her that speaks to you at this point in your life?

I have discovered a beautiful new relationship with  Saint “Mother” Theodore Guerin. I discovered Mother Guerin in my research and learned that she is a patroness in my birth state of Indiana. Mother Guerin desired a vocation to the religious life, but the murder of her father in France left her caring for her family and she was a relatively late vocation. Her life as a missionary sister took her all the way to Indiana, where she founded health facilities, orphanages and schools. She was — like I am — likely the last person anyone would have predicted to accomplish the amazing things she did in life. But she fervently believed in God’s providence. She said something which gives me great purpose and hope in my own life: “What must we do to become saints? Nothing extraordinary — only that which we do every day — only do it for the love of God.”

I’m the mom of two boys, just as you are.  Are there any saints that you feel are particularly relevant to mothers of boys?

I am perpetually in conversation with St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine! St. Monica spent years praying for a son who was venturing down a very unholy path in his life. She never gave up hope that her son could find true faith and conversion, and in the end her trust in God was confirmed. St. Monica is a companion for me when I worry about my sons (which I do every day of my life) and her trusting perseverance reminds me that praying with and for my boys is probably the most important thing I do each day.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the saints, or motherhood, or faith in general?

Ginny, I thank you for your hospitality in this wonderful place and for allowing me to share a few stories with your readers. I hope your family of readers will enjoy learning a bit more about the saints and that they will also consider A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms not only as a tool for their own spiritual renewal, but also as a way to pray with and for their families. I also invite everyone to visit me over at www.CatholicMom.com, which is not just for Catholics or for moms! We have fun discussing topics related to faith and family and all are welcome!

A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms is published by Ave Maria Press, who kindly sent me a copy of my own.  They also published Lisa’s terrific first book, The Handbook for Catholic Moms.

3 responses to “Saints and motherhood: An interview with Lisa Hendey

  1. What a beautiful post. This is a fantastic book and Lisa is a gift to the Church and the world.

    I love Mother Guerin myself, so I loved that chapter in the book.

    There is so much wisdom in the saints, even when I was so far from the Church, as I was for 18 years, I loved them still. All the while, when I tried to find other spiritual homes and places of worship, nothing satisfied me. This was , of course because I missed the Eucharist, but I missed so much more, Mary our Mother and also our saints.

    Thank you Ginny and Lisa! (And I am so thrilled to welcome Lisa tomorrow!)

  2. Ginny, thank you so very much for your kind support of the book and for your warm welcome here at one of my favorite blogs!

  3. What a wonderful review – can’t wait to check it out! And as another mom of two boys, I especially loved that question, Ginny. A great reminder to think of and pray to St. Monica (dear Augustine sounds like a handful of a son, if there ever was one!).