Friday, October 21, 2011

Not Just for Moms: Reviewing "A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms" by Lisa Hendey

Lessons from John Paul II
Pope John Paul II is one of my favorite intercessors when I struggle with the body issues that crop up in my vocation as a mom. His prolife writings speak so eloquently about his belief in the sanctity of all human life, but for me it is the way in which he lived out his vocation that offers the most telling life lessons.

From his childhood, Karol Wojtyla loved to glorify God with his physical body. Friends from his youth describe his love for soccer and games played between rival Catholic and Jewish community teams, and his voluntary desire to "sub in" as goalkeeper for the opposing Jewish team when they found themselves short of players. This man, once described as the "Keep Fit Pope," loved kayaking, camping, hiking, and swimming. ...

Perhaps this is why my heart hurt all the more as we watched him quietly, and with tremendous dignity, accept the crosses of physical, pain, aging, and disability. For his entire papacy, John Paul II wrote and spoke about the dignity of all human life. The grace with which he accepted his physical decline in his final years gave us an eloquent lesson that encouraged me to look at the elderly and physically infirm in my own life with new, more loving eyes.

But as a wife and mom perhaps the greatest lessons I have learned from John Paul II have come from his teachings known as the "Theology of the Body." Honestly, after so many years of hearing the pontiff vilified by a society that bemoaned his commitment to thousands of years of Church teachings on the dignity of all human life, a light turned on in my heart when I read his writings and teachings for myself. ...
This wonderful collection guides readers through fifty-two saints. Some are famous, like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and some are virtually unknown, like Chiara Badano. Each entry discusses a saint's life, how their experiences give special insights for living a holy family life, a pertinent quote by that saint, devotional suggestions for individual and family use, and daily scripture meditations and prayers. I have been using this for weeks and it is a real treasure. I especially appreciate the section where Hendey shares how she applies a saint's lesson to her life.

The excerpt above shows a bit of how Lisa Hendey surprises me when I open A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. Choosing John Paul II for inclusion is not surprising, but noting the way he glorified God with his physical body definitely was. This great pope did so many wonderful things that it is difficult to say which I'd choose to discuss but Hendey, with this emphasis reminds us of how those wonderful things often keyed off of a big message in a way that we truly needed to hear in our day and age. God sends us the saints we need and Hendey's week spent with John Paul II reminds us of how women, spouses, parents, and families can learn so much from him, often in surprising ways.

This isn't the only saint which Hendey shows us from a new angle. Time and again I'd come upon a saint and think that I knew all about their main ministry only to have Hendey pick up a thread that I hadn't thought of in terms of my own life. A few examples:
  • St. Thomas More: loving, wise parenthood and blended families
  • St. Matthew: good money management and a proper perspective on money's place in the overall scheme of things
  • Elizabeth Ann Seton: the difference a housewife makes in daily routines and steadfast witness
Hendey also infuses the book with her gentle way of living her faith. This is something that I welcome more often than I care to admit when I open the book every day to see the daily scripture and prayer for the week's saint. Hendey's prayers avoid the too frequent modern tendency for long, explanatory prayers while simply and elegantly stating just what we ask for help with. So often, I would open this book and literally feel myself relaxing as I focused on the scripture and prayer which were just what I needed to refocus myself on God's will rather than the challenges or frustrations of the day.

I'm just going to say, you need a copy. Don't let the "Moms" on the cover fool you. This is for anyone in a family ... wives, husbands, grown children ... it is simply fantastic. Trust me on this.

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