Lisa Hendey is well known in the world of Catholic media as the founder of CatholicMom.com, a site she started from her home in the year 2000. Hendey has recently joined the team of Ave Maria Press as editor-at-large.
Given the growth of CatholicMom.com, ZENIT wanted to speak with Hendey about the Church’s emphasis right now on the family.
Hendey was in Washington and Philadelphia for the Pope’s US visit. Here’s what she told ZENIT about family life and the Catholic Church.
ZENIT: You’ve recently come from the World Meeting of Families. As the founder of CatholicMom.com, what were some of the reflections you took from the event?
Hendey: Being a pilgrim at this event was a wonderful opportunity and a critical reminder of both the universality of our Church and the fundamental role of family as a cornerstone in society. To be able to learn, play, pray and worship with families from literally around the world was a tremendous gift.
It also reminded me of the critical role that our Web site plays in lifting up and supporting families of all kinds. It was also a great joy to share this journey with our readers via social media and our blog. So many could not be present in person at the event, but we did our very best to share the pilgrim experience with them.
Personally, I was able to pray with and learn from the Holy Father on three occasions. At the Congress address, at the Festival of Families and at holy Mass on Sunday, he repeatedly lifted us up with his messages, but also asked for our prayers for his pontificate. To be able to hear his remarks and prayerfully consider them in my own life was a great blessing.
I’m honestly still “unpacking” the experience but know that it will pay dividends in my apostolate and my own spiritual life for years to come.
ZENIT: There’s a lot of talk about trying to make Pope Francis a political tool. In that light, I found the article you wrote about “forgetting the expert analyses” and asking “what did Pope Francis say to you” to be a refreshing perspective. How do you think ordinary Catholics, ordinary Catholic moms, should approach Pope Francis, and now, the synod?
Hendey: I look to Pope Francis as a spiritual shepherd, as a pastor who has given his life to helping his flock grow closer to Jesus Christ and his bride, the Church. I find myself most closely drawn to Pope Francis’s homilies, to his teaching moments, and also to the way he interacts with the faithful, but also with those outside our Church. I feel quite blessed to have near daily access to the homilies he delivers. These, coupled with my own meditation on the daily Gospel, have brought a tremendous “joy of the Gospel” into my spiritual life. His ongoing catechesis on the family has edified me in serving my own Domestic Church.
Watching him interact with people has been particularly helpful in my own interpersonal relationships. We see Pope Francis pause, take time to be “in the moment” with people, and to see the face of Christ in them, particularly in his relations with those most vulnerable among us: the infirm, the financially disadvantaged, young ones or elderly. Pope Francis reminds me that in my own encounters, I should slow down, take time, and grasp the chance to better love God by being more loving to the person in front of me.
Much has been written and stated about his interactions with those who are not Catholic. I will simply say about this that I have witnessed his efforts as “pontifex”, as bridge builder, and have tried to respond in my own life by being more charitable, loving, and engaged with those who may not know or love our faith. Erring on the side of generosity in these encounters builds bridges that may ultimately be the invitation someone needs to discover the beauty of Christ’s love in their own life.
I would not want to give advice from my simple perspective about what others “should do” in their approach to Pope Francis. I will simply share for me, I aim to focus more on seeing him as one who is leading me closer to sacred Scripture, to our Church’s beautiful teachings and especially into deeper encounters with the people around me. I tend to leave analysis, or the need to be “up to date” on all the latest punditry, to those who are more qualified. It’s important for us to be knowledgeable about current developments within the Church. But we must turn to trusted media sources and not become so involved in analysis that we stray from our greatest goals: to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors. For families, as our Holy Father is reminding us, this begins in our own homes and parish families.
ZENIT: On the last day of his visit, the Holy Father spoke to bishops from around the world attending the World Meeting. He spoke of the need for the Church to form a stronger alliance with the family and for pastors to “waste” time with families. With the synod now underway, what do you think that closer alliance will (or should) look like?
Hendey: The issues facing families in today’s world are both diverse and complex. I love that Pope Francis encouraged our spiritual shepherds to be increasingly present to families and mindful of our challenges. Families need to be able to look to our Cardinals, bishops and priests for spiritual support, but also for wisdom in the many struggles we face in our domestic churches. Just as Pope Francis reminded us, the dignity of every human life, from womb to natural death, must be a core value of every family. We must give extra special compassion to both our children and our grandparents.
In dioceses, I would hope that this might mean a renewed commitment to lifelong catechesis, to teaching families the fundamental role of the Eucharist in our lives and even to policies, procedures and processes which recognize the diversity of today’s families and the need to constantly prioritize the home as sanctuary.
On our side as the laity, I would hope that a closer alliance would mean that we prioritize the faith in our homes, but also that we act as prayer warriors for our bishops and priests. They need and deserve our affection, our welcome and our prayerful support.
ZENIT: The Pope also mentioned the tendency in our society to be isolated, suggesting that social media sometimes gets in the way of true interpersonal relationships. How has Catholicmom.com taken up and responded to that reality?
Hendey: This is a constant danger and also an interesting side effect of tools that were designed to bring us closer together.
At CatholicMom.com, we are attempting to use every tool at our disposal to liven up and encourage families and especially mothers. From our daily Gospel reflections to our Sunday Gospel activities, we strive to provide resources that will lead our readers and their families closer to Jesus Christ and his bride, our Church.
We also recognize that sometimes technology, even when it is well intended, can drive wedges between our relationships with those we most love. We are always endeavoring to use the tools with our readers, but also to remind them of the primacy of their vocational calling.
Additionally, I pray daily that we at CatholicMom.com be responsible in helping to lead our readers into deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and our Church. If we’re able to do this, then hopefully we bless those who are in our community with the gift of better interpersonal relationships in real ways as well.