Review: “The Grace of Yes” by Lisa Hendey is about Answering God’s Action in Our Lives

Review: “The Grace of Yes” by Lisa Hendey is about Answering God’s Action in Our Lives

9781594714726v2.jpg.232xLisa Hendey has a lot to say about the Good Stuff — the sunny side of life — about God, graces, and generous living. Yet it does not come from Thinking Positive or a Pollyanna’s World View. No, this goodness flows from a life of gratitude lived in touch with her core Catholic belief in blessings — the graces that God gives her. And that’s the implicit challenge of the The Grace of Yes… Are you ready to honestly examine God’s divine action in your life — his graces — and respond in a way that he can use you for his glory — his will?

Longtime readers might know Lisa Hendey as the friendly Californian CatholicMom.com founder, an A-list conference speaker, a best-selling author, and a gracious media maven. She always writes with warmth and kindness, and a girl-next-door thoughtfulness. The truth is, when you read The Grace of Yes, you still come away away with that impression. She really is nice and friendly and thoughtful and generous, and yet, in this new book, she is vulnerable enough to let us see what really makes her tick. Long before Hendey became a recognizable face and name in Catholic new evangelization circles, she was a woman who simply chose to take small steps, sometimes haltingly and sometimes boldly, toward God and his goodness.

Lisa Hendey has encountered God’s blessings and gifts, and opened them for herself. They have, in turn, opened her to become a more generous and self-emptying person. She allows her life story to be Exhibit A in showing us what it looks like to be slowly re-created by God’s grace… to give God permission to write the script for our lives.

Everybody has a story about God’s movement in their lives. Yet few of us have the sensitivity to see it and the courage to test and examine it and, then, choose to live it. We’re really good at offering God partial yeses, or maybes, or could-I-get-back-to-you-on-that-God? We may have head knowledge about God, but we fear moving beyond to heart knowledge. One part memoir, and one part a come-and-try-this-for-yourself book of virtues, Hendey shows us where she has found the heart knowledge. She describes the ups and downs and zigzags of her own growth in virtue as an adult, from yuppiedom to motherhood, from web mistress to media missionary, from comfortable suburban dwelling to walking the blood-soaked hills of post-genocide Rwanda.

Hendey’s book offers this keen metaphor from St Augustine: the higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation. This rootedness in God — this needed depth — is an on-going thread in Hendey’s writing. Each chapter unpacks how she choose to go deeper with God during the rough and the smooth. The Grace of Yes chronicles where Hendey’s yeses to God have brought her thus far, and it reveals her findings: it is a net gain when we err on the side of generosity. That means giving God priority. This is especially true when it comes to the challenge of doing new things, rather than shrinking back in fear.

The Grace of Yes examines “Eight Virtues for Generous Living”: Belief, Generativity, Creativity, Integrity, Humility, Vulnerabililty, “No”, and Rebirth. Each chapter offers personal reflections in Hendey’s on-going conversion, as well as real life examples from people she knows and people in the news. Thoughtful study questions and prayers at the close of each chapter deepen the book’s message.

Hendey’s thesis for a generous life asks us to be generous with God first, by responding to God’s actions with “Your will, my yes.”

Ultimately, this is the reply that every believer is invited to make — to choose to live a life in God and with God and through God… whether you are a celebrity author on the speaking circuit, or the gal or guy next door. Fortunately, there’s grace in abundance for any heart willing to make that leap of faith.

 

 

 

Saint-Making Starter Kit: Parents Who Love God and Live It In The Home

Saint-Making Starter Kit: Parents Who Love God and Live It In The Home

Happy All Saints Day!

One of the key teachings of Vatican II — is the universal call to holiness — or more simply, everyone is called to be a saint. As I read and share many saint bios and hagiographies  in my writing and on Among Women, I often discover that would-be saints often start out in devoted Catholic families. Not all mind you, but I’d say most.

Vatican II called married couples to live the graces of Matrimony in a daily way… walking the talk — to make of their homes, a domestic church… specifically that parents are to be the first preachers of the faith.

Today in the Huffington Post, there’s a quote that echoes what Vatican II taught us, from University of Notre Dame Sociologist Christian Smith, lead researcher for the National Studies on Youth and Religion. 

“Parents, for better or worse, are actually the most influential pastors … of their children,” Smith said.

Just for history’s sake, let’s dial back 50 years to Lumen Gentium – the key document from the Second Vatican Council.

From the wedlock of Christians there comes the family, in which new citizens of human society are born, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in baptism are made children of God, thus perpetuating the people of God through the centuries. The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state. [LG, par. 10][Emphasis mine].

We’re a society that loves research and its findings. Today we have more data on faith and the family from the National Studies on Youth and Religion.

The HuffPo piece “No. 1 Reason Teens Keep The Faith as Young Adults” reiterates what the Church’s wisdom has been all along…

The holy grail for helping youth remain religiously active as young adults has been at home all along: parents.

Mothers and fathers who practice what they preach and preach what they practice are far and away the major influence related to adolescents keeping the faith into their 20s, according to new findings from a landmark study of youth and religion.

Just 1 percent of teens ages 15 to 17 raised by parents who attached little importance to religion were highly religious in their mid-to-late 20s.

In contrast, 82 percent of children raised by parents who talked about faith at home, attached great importance to their beliefs and were active in their congregations were themselves religiously active as young adults, according to data from the latest wave of the National Study of Youth and Religion.

The connection is “nearly deterministic,” said University of Notre Dame Sociologist Christian Smith, lead researcher for the study.

Other factors such as youth ministry or clergy or service projects or religious schools pale in comparison.

“No other conceivable causal influence … comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth,” Smith said in a recent talk sharing the findings at Yale Divinity School. “Parents just dominate.

Parents, if you need a place to start, to recapture this calling to praying and living the faith in your home, here is an easy way to start: In the last 48 hours I posted the latest Among Women interview with Leila Marie Lawler, co-author with David Clayton of The Little Oratory: A Beginners Guide to Praying in the Home. Listen and start with what works for you. I highly recommend this book!

Here’s a few more resources:

Written by me:

Raising Them for Jesus, at CatholicMom.com

Raising Saints for Heaven (from my book Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious)

The Powerful Light of the Family Table, at CatholicMom.com

Among Women Podcasts:

Raising Saints

The Mom Podcasts

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H/T to Deacon Greg Kandra for sharing the HuffPo story that got me to the keyboard.

image credit

 

Among Women: On Faith, Grace, and Prayer in Marriage and Family Life

Among Women: On Faith, Grace, and Prayer in Marriage and Family Life

UnknownThis week’s episode of Among Women talks about many things that are close to my heart — marriage and family — and the calling to make Christ the center of those relationship and in our home. I hope you’ll join me as I reflect back on 30+ years of marriage and family life, plus have an inspiring conversation with the woman who is part of the team behind the Like Mother Like Daughter blog, author Leila Marie Lawler. Together we discuss one of my favorite new books of the year, The Little Oratory: A beginner’s guide to praying in the home. 

There’s even a chance to win a signed copy of the book from the authors — hear the details on the podcast! 

Finally, I hope you’ll enjoy a look at the little-known mystic, St Umilta, as I read some of her passionate writings about our faith.

Don’t miss this episode of Among Women!

Good for the Soul: On Writerly friends, Pray-ers,  and Sisters-in-Christ

Good for the Soul: On Writerly friends, Pray-ers, and Sisters-in-Christ

I am a blessed woman and I know it. For much of my life I have not only enjoyed the love and friendship of my husband, Bob, but I have known the wealth of women friends who are devoted to Christ and each other. And let me tell you, Bob himself is grateful that I enjoy such a rich sisterhood, as he benefits from a happy and renewed wife when she comes back from visiting with her friends. Smart man.

We women need good girlfriends in every phase of life. Catholic Christian women need to find other women with whom to share their spiritual journey. This is a subject that is dear to my heart.

“Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter;
whoever finds one finds a treasure.

Faithful friends are beyond price,
no amount can balance their worth.

Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
those who fear God will find them.”

-Sirach 6:14-16-

Spiritual friendships are borne not only of kindred spirits, but of the Holy Spirit. My friend, Lisa Hendey, calls them soul sisters. I call them sisters in Christ. My pal Maureen calls her possé the “rosary chicks”. Whatever you name them, all women need to be about reclaiming the gift of female friendship as a priority in our culture today. We need to affirm and uplift the dignity of Christian womanhood, and bring each other before the altar of God. (I can’t speak for the menfolk. Yet, Lord knows, they need their guy-friends too.)

Besides the busyness of my work this month, October afforded me not one but two opportunities to spend some extended time with two of my writerly friends, true sisters in Christ.

Listeners have heard me speak of Maria Johnson before, and many of you may know her from her blog and work with SQPN. Her day job as a college professor brought her north to Boston this month and I greedily invited Bego to extend her stay for a few days so we could make a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Divine Mercy. 

I do that a lot: Make pilgrimages out of friend visits. It usually comes about because, to be honest, we need it. Modern women are so busy!

Taking mini-retreat days during our friendly visits or taking in a local church or shrine pays rich dividends in our souls and in the life of our friendship. I love the opportunity to pray daily prayers and rosaries, sure. But I also love all the catching up that goes along with the journey — the walks and the car rides. Going to Mass together and making a pilgrimage to a shrine enshrines the friendship as well… offering it a dignity more sublime than a casual visit might.

Of course, as my favorite Long Island pastor used to say, first comes the holy hour… then the happy hour. Joy in Christ has a spillover effect.

[Click on any photo to enlarge.]

A toast with Maria Johnson at the Red Lion Tavern in Stockbridge MA, Oct 2014.

After Divine Mercy: A toast with Maria Johnson at the Red Lion Tavern in Stockbridge MA, Oct 2014.

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That night outside the Red Lion I took Bego’s picture next to the Great Pumpkin. That ball of light is the pumpkin! (you can kind of see the orange edge of it.) (#camerafail)

Here's one with me in it! This just might be my fav photo of Bego and I-- drinking wine of course and dining al fresco in Boston's North End a couple summer's back.

Here’s one with me in it! This just might be my favorite photo of Bego and I– drinking wine of course (!) — dining al fresco in Boston’s North End a couple summer’s back.

A few years ago on Patheos, author and screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi offered this wisdom in a profound article on how creative types like writers and artists need friendship with those who ‘get them’…

Scripture says he who finds a welcome in a storm “finds a treasure.”

Friendship’s shelter for an artist is a place to retreat amidst the chaos of your creative process to find peace. Friendship’s shelter offers the shade of acceptance when the artist is laboring under the burning heat of criticism or rejection. It is a place where there is the warm light of counsel and perspective when the artist’s soul shivers in the cold darkness of doubt. Friendship is a wall of security against the tearing wind of instability that is the life of the creative person.

The spark of friendship is initially kindled when two people experience what St. Aelred of Rivaulx called the miracle of mutual attraction. In his wonderful twelfth-century work Spiritual Friendship, the Cistercian monk remembered as “the Bernard of the North” wrote that it is already amazing when we meet a person whose personality causes delight in us. When two people experience holy delight in each other—without any motivation of greed or ambition or other unholy need—it borders on the miraculous.

Holy delight means seeing the other person with Divine wisdom, to know her name the way God does. It’s a gift that Adam had and then lost: to know the essential gift and place of each creature. In friendship, we recover it and we are able to see the miracle that is the core in another soul. It is the friend’s gift to still delight when the other really needs a shelter, when her beauty is most obscured by tragedy, or sorrow, or suffering, or, in the artist’s case, by the demands of creativity. A real friend feels tenderness at a condition in which a non-friend would probably feel revulsion. Aelred goes so far as to say that friendship is “the kiss of Christ,” which He mediates through the physical presence of the human friend.

I could not agree more. I’m grateful for the friends who have kept me sane in the writing life in recent years… by offering refuge and camaraderie and counsel. Oh yeah, and they pray intentionally for me. And I for them.

“The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”
-James 5:16-

I just got back from three speaking events in California that were planned months in advance. When I realized the close proximity of the dates, and the central California locations, I just had to dial up my dearest friend in the Pacific Time Zone, Lisa Hendey. Fortunately for me, by the grace of God — our calendars aligned for a get-together. This, you will see, really was an act of God.

Besides being the founder of CatholicMom.com, Lisa Hendey is an A-list Catholic author and speaker in hot demand, and she’s about to launch her newest book, The Grace of Yes! But the biggest grace for me was her warm hospitality and the opportunity to enjoy her friendship and have her be a guest at one of my Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious retreats. (She was the paparazzi over here, too.)

It was Lisa’s idea that we escape the cities where I was speaking and head to the coast and to the wine country. She got no resistance from me. But before we departed, I loved praying in the Fresno cathedral of St John the Baptist.  In it, I found the coolest stained glass window of my patron, Patrick… I’m super-sizing it so you can appreciate the details of the wind in his hair and the blowing of the waves…

St Patrick, snake chasin'. Circa late 5th century.

St Patrick, snake chasin’. Circa late 5th century.

But I digress… But the real point here is that not only do we need patron saints, we need patrons in life — little local saints who support the work that we do, but more importantly, the life of faith in us — companions on the journey. I have that in Lisa. She has been such a supportive, generous friend in all the ten years I’ve known her.

And for what’s its worth: I’m so glad we also share a road warrior’s spirit! We put some serious mileage on her car this week.

Lisa and I first headed for Monterey and Carmel where we spent a wonderful afternoon praying in the San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission, where St Junipero Serra – founder of the California Missions — died.

Entry into the chapel off the courtyard.

Entry into the chapel off the courtyard.

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Lisa and I at the mission.

Momma Mary was there too. (Our Lady of Bethlehem.)

Momma Mary was there too. (Our Lady of Bethlehem.)

Mission's altar

Mission’s altar

St Junipero Serra lies beneath the marble in front of his icon.

St Junipero Serra lies beneath the marble in front of his icon.

Then it was off to the Napa Valley . (Where I long to go back already.) I won’t list all the places we visited. A few may show up on Lisa’s Catholic Tourist blog.  Rest assured, we enjoyed the scenery, the wines, the restaurants, and the local church with Mass and adoration!

We interrupt this blog post for this commercial message…

Napa area Catholics: I’m primed to give a retreat in your area! My contact form is below!

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Napa area vineyards.

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I told you: From holy hour to happy hour — God is good!

Once again, capturing images of my friends with giant gourds. Lisa with Great Pumpkin II.

Once again, capturing images of my friends with giant gourds. Lisa with Great Pumpkin II.

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Wishing I could bring a cask home!

After a week of shared prayer and daily life, it was time to part. This New England woman is sad to put the geographical distance of a whole country between Lisa and myself. Our online friendship dates back to CatholicMom.com 1.0. years. Our in-person visits are treasured. Yet, I’m grateful for all the graces of the sacraments and prayer times we shared this week, the good times we had, the digital detox, and the restorative value of retreating with a trusted friend who loves Jesus and Mary.

I’m home now. I still have the messy desk that I left. But I’m full of gratitude.

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I’m over at CatholicMom.com today… with 3 Reasons to Offer Things Up

I’m over at CatholicMom.com today… with 3 Reasons to Offer Things Up

Here’s an excerpt from “3 Reasons to Intentionally Pray: Jesus, I Offer This to You”… from CatholicMom.com

When I was growing up and going through some trial, well-meaning Catholics would tell me to “offer it up.” For a very long time, I didn’t understand what benefit that might bring until I learned that my offering something to God was not about what I was doing with it, but what God did.

In recent months I’ve been using this simple prayer throughout my day: “Jesus, I offer this to you.” I pray it when facing some kind of trial or frustration or problem. Nobody likes to go through unpleasant stuff. Yet offering these moments is lot like praying that beloved and familiar short prayer from the Divine Mercy devotion: “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Many Christians pray the Morning Offering – giving the whole day to Christ. That’s a very holy prayer. Yet Jesus also desires our hearts to come to him throughout the day, as St Paul says, “to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17).” Giving over both large and small difficult moments to Christ is one way to fulfill that prayer.

Here are three good reasons to pray with intention: “Jesus, I offer this to you.”

1. What is difficult for me can become a blessing for others. 

“Jesus, I offer this to you.” This is much more than Jesus making lemonade from our lemons. Offering up our concerns in much greater than some kind of pious wishful thinking. This is trust that that graces from Christ’s Cross flow even now. Our trial of the moment may remain, but we ask God to use it for good. Through it, graces are unleashed and we participate in Christ’s saving work on earth.

When I suffer something in my own body, I’m painfully away of my own body and blood—the value of my own life and mortality. In some small way I take in the purview of what Jesus suffered for me.

Recently, I prayed as I sat in the oral surgeon’s chair to receive a dental implant — the process that inserts a metal screw inserted into my skull to hold a future porcelain crown. The procedure is a bit jarring. I experienced the disconcerting physical pressure of the drill without the unpleasantness of pain, spared as I was by painkillers. As the dentist drilled into my bone, my little prayer, “Jesus I offer this you” brought about that very image of Jesus’ suffering the nails being driven into his flesh and bones, His being impaled without any anesthesia.

Jesus trusted in His Father to forgive his executioners (Cf. Luke 23:34) and to bring forth something good and holy from his excruciating suffering. Trust and offerings go together.

The key to offering something up to God builds upon the trusting foundation we have in Jesus.

Read the rest at CatholicMom.com.

Among Women 185: The Life of Ryan, with Mary Ellen Barrett

Among Women 185: The Life of Ryan, with Mary Ellen Barrett

This latest episode of Among Women may require a box of Kleenex handy. My most wonderful and gracious guest is  Mary Ellen Barrett.

This week we look at the difficult subject of losing a child to death. Blogger and Long Island Catholic columnist Mary Ellen Barrett reflects on the fifth anniversary since the death of Ryan, her 14 year old son, who died during a camping trip. The search for Ryan, who at first was thought to be lost, went on for some time, and many, including myself, were glued to the internet for news of him during that search as prayers stormed heaven.

Listeners or blog readers familiar with this event will be encouraged by the musings and memories of Ryan’s mother, Mary Ellen. Those uninitiated will be blessed by the faith of this Long Island family who suffered the keenest of losses.

Since this is Respect Life Month, my goal with Mary Ellen is to talk about the beauty and dignity of Ryan’s life — his Christian devotion even as a young boy with special needs — as well as the ups and downs that he faced in family life and elsewhere. Finally, we discuss the outpouring of support from near and far for this grieving family, plus offer tips for helping others facing a similar grief.

In our saint segment, I once again look at the life of St Anna Schaffer, whose life of prayer and acute physical suffering offers a witness to us for how to make our heartaches and pains a path of redemptive suffering.

If you’d like to read a little bit about Mary Ellen’s life with Ryan, you might enjoy this recent article in Seton Magazine, or this one from Catholic Digest. I’ve left a few more, plus blog posts from Mary Ellen’s blog, over with the episode notes for Among Women 185.

Listen to Among Women 185 right now!

If you enjoy Among Women, kindly leave a rating and a review over on iTunes!

 

The Catholic Apologetics Academy came to the Boston area

The Catholic Apologetics Academy came to the Boston area

I had some unexpected space free up in my weekend, courtesy of a change in a church calendar, and my husband being away on a business trip. So I asked the Lord — what should I do with my time?

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 3.33.35 PMI think I was one of the last ones to sign up for the Catholic Apologetics Academy  being held in Massachusetts. I was fortunate that there was a seat available, because the meeting room at St William Church in Tewksbury was full of 100+ eager students from around MA, New England, and some folks coming even farther distances!

Patrick Madrid’s Envoy Institute brought together not only the man himself, but also the always amazing Peter Kreeft, and Kenneth Hensley. 

From Thursday night, to two full days on Friday and Saturday, and Mass and a morning program on Sunday, all three gentlemen offered talks to help us learn to defend the faith better, and to do it all with love and gentleness and reverence for Christ and the other. (See 1 Peter 3: 15.) And they did it all — from offering lectures, to taking questions and tackling thorny problems — without an ounce of ego between them. What very calm, yet strong teachers. I’m grateful for their service and commitment to passing on their knowledge and conversational tips and etiquette to the rest of us.

I think Patrick said it best when he offered: “This is not about winning arguments, it is about winning souls… authenticity must accompany our apologetics.” That could be a billboard for New Evangelization 101.

"Pat and Pat" (Gohn and Madrid)

“Pat and Pat”
(Gohn and Madrid)

Finally, adding a touch of class and aural beauty to our experience, was the unexpected gift of Anna Maria Mendeita, a world-class harpist, who sat in on the weekend talks — and sat behind a harp she borrowed from a generous local person. Anna Maria played at Masses, and accompanied our meals and wine and cheese gatherings. Magnificent!

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Some photos courtesies of Catholic Apologetics Academy website.

 

This makes me think… about living from the inside out…

God, in giving us life, gives each of us a mission to accomplish and a role to fulfill in his eternal plan. The most important thing, then, is to recognize this particular mission, to discern the divine will in our life, and then to work to make of our entire life and death a means of salvation for ourselves and our brothers and sisters.

We are the good God’s humble workers, the laborers of the Father, and when night falls, we must be able to say confidently that the harvest is ready and that the living Sun may now cause the seeds we have sown to grow.

“Thus you will know them by their fruits.” (Mt 7: 16, 20)

God knows us in all our depths; he is aware of our least desire, the least impulse of our hearts, and the least movement of our will. But others see only what we show on the outside. That is why our actions and words and even our bearing must be the harmonious and truth expression of our interior depths. Others will judge our depths, or what is more important, God will judge them on the basis of the fruits he produces in us and the works he inspires us to do.

-Elizabeth Leseur-
Selected Writings

The F.U.N. Quotient… pee wee football edition

This isn’t just something fun. This is something that will warm your heart. Way to go, boys! Proud that your from MA.

Read more here.