Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Q&A with Lisa Hendey, author of A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms

I was so excited to be invited to participate in the blog tour for Lisa Hendey's new book, A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms (and can I say how cute is the cartoon Lisa for the blog tour icon?).  Longtime readers of The Catholic Post Book Group will remember that the second book I reviewed for the Catholic Post was Lisa's first book, The Handbook for Catholic Moms.  Lisa was also my first author interview, and author interviews have become among my favorite aspects of writing about books.

I will be reviewing A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms for my November column, but in the meantime here is a great short Q&A with Lisa Hendey, a friend to moms everywhere.

A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms is such a great companion and natural “sort-of sequel” to The Handbook for Catholic Moms.  Did you know you wanted to write it when The Handbook for Catholic Moms released?

Thank you for your kindness and welcome Nancy. Honestly, I must give a great deal of the credit for the concept of A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms to my amazing editor at Ave Maria Press, Eileen Ponder.  Only a few weeks after The Handbook for Catholic Moms was released in February 2010, Eileen proposed several ideas for future projects, including the concept of a book devoted to exploring the lives of the saints. Because the Handbook was so fresh on my mind, and because I so enjoyed exploring the themes of that project so much, A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms became a natural extension of the work that had begun with my first book.

I appreciate how handsomely the book is designed and “feels.”  I especially loved the illustrations/icons for “heart, mind, body and soul,” (such a great theme in The Handbook for Catholic Moms) and how you assign a different one to each saint.  Tell me more about how you connected those two themes.

I, too, love the design for the book and want to give a great deal of credit to designer Katherine Robinson Coleman of Ave Maria Press, who gave such a beautiful “face” to the ideas I wanted to convey in this book.  The “heart, mind, body and soul” themes were explored in my first book The Handbook for Catholic Moms.  In that book, I encouraged moms to care for themselves in these aspects of their lives so that they would be better equipped to serve their families, our Church and the world around us.

I’ve long had a devotion to the lives of the saints, turning to them as spiritual companions, role models and intercessors. Early in the planning for this project, I decided that I wanted to revisit the four themes, choosing saints in each of those areas and writing about their lives, but also about how the saints exemplified sanctity and excellence in these areas.

There are 52 great saints, some well-known, others not so much.  How did you select the range of saints?

Choosing the 52 saints was one of the most fun, but also the most challenging aspects of the project. I knew immediately that some saints would be included because their importance to mothers and their “fit” for the topics being explored made them immediately come to mind. But I also had a wonderful time pondering my “picks” and reveling in research at our local university library. The formula of 52 saints and four “themes” (heart, mind, body and soul) meant coming up with 13 saints in each of those categories. Honestly, many of the saints I selected could have been introduced in several ways, but conceiving of them in this way and watching the project grow and take flesh really brought them to life in this writer’s heart of mine.

Do you have a favorite saint among the less well-known saints?

I have several! I must admit a tremendously soft spot in my heart for Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux who is one of my personal patrons. It makes sense to me that they would have had a tremendous impact upon her and I’ve fallen in love with Blessed Zelie through reading her personal correspondence. I also have a strong devotion to St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a modern working mother, a physician and a valiant pro-life champion. Finally as an Indiana born daughter of two Hoosier parents educated by the Sisters of Providence, I absolutely love and frequently pray through the intercession of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin who has taught me a great deal about trusting in God’s providence in my life.

You’re such a busy writer and new media specialist.  What’s your next project?

Busy, but very blessed! I have several “next projects” in the work, including an Advent book for Catholic families, several new concepts for, an active speaking schedule for the Spring and some “secret projects” that will be unveiled soon.

Is there anything else you would like to add or wish I would have asked?

Nancy, I thank you for your amazing support and I truly encourage your readers to pick up A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and to share it with their friends and loved ones. The book is designed to be of support for moms, but also to be used with the entire family. It includes daily scriptures and prayers, activities for a mother to enjoy with her children, and a family prayer to be recited together. The saints – these holy men and women – lived their lives in the same challenging circumstances we often face today. It’s such a treasure of our faith that we can turn to them for support and encouragement, in intercessory prayer. I hope families will find a renewed relationship with the communion of saints through this book – both the formally canonized saints, and those we have each known and loved in our own lives. I pray the book will be a blessing to moms in their vocation.

Friday, October 14, 2011

There Oughta Be a Catholic Book on ... Catholic New Media

Oh wait, there already is a book!  It’s called The Church and New Media:  Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet.   I wrote up a mini-review for the print Catholic Post, and since I have more “room” here, I’ve expanded this a little more for the Catholic Post book group blog.

The Church and New Media is not just an insider’s guide to who’s who in Catholic Internet and new media use.  That might be fun to read for some, but the book is way more valuable and practical.

A CPGP book I reviewed earlier this year, Prayer in the Digital Age, by Matt Swaim, may seem similar, but it’s really not.  Prayer in the Digital Age is a terrific book for individuals to consider how to  have a healthy relationship with our online world. 

The Church and New Media, compiled by blogger and new media expert Brandon Vogt, is more like a how-to on Internet presence and connectivity for everyone from the tech-savvy to novices.

Each chapter of The Church and New Media is penned by a different online expert, on topics ranging from blogging; to connecting with young adults; to creating a new media policy in a parish or a diocese.  Sidebars highlight various projects or personalities breaking new ground in Catholic online evangelism.    My only, truly minor, quibble with the book is not in content at all but that the text and font seemed a little “squished” and made it a little less enjoyable to read than it could have been. 

This book would be an indispensible resource for so many, from pastors seeking ways to create or update a parish’s online presence, to ministry leaders and others who don’t know why they should connect with their members or students this way.  The Church and New Media begins this conversation in a reader-friendly and informative way.  I plan to give a copy to my parish priest, and I can think of many others who would benefit from it.

Have you read The Church and New Media yet?  What do you find best about it?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How Do You Use Twitter?

How do you use Twitter?

I have been active on Twitter now for many months, but I definitely consider myself to be in the "getting the hang of it," stage and enjoying myself at the same time.  I'm @ReadingCatholic, and there I post my blog posts here, re-tweet others' interesting posts, and links.  Hey, follow me--there's the Twitter button on the right column of this blog.

Only recently, I've begun having conversations something along the line of Facebook conversations, some with people I know in real life, and others not.  Sometimes I feel like a less-funny Amber Dusick as she describes why she is no good at Twitter.  Even though my kids are not as small as hers, I find that offline life is so demanding with family, friends and non-tech goals, that I find myself entering and leaving Twitter conversations at odd times.   That's true of Facebook, as well. (I find myself responding to Twitter people days later, "belated thank you for the RT!").  At the same time, I love how I have been able to connect with people around the world about Catholic topics, my love of books, and just general interest topics.

Recently, the diocesan newspaper I write for, The Catholic Post, has started using Twitter more regularly.  For now, I am the person most often posting "tweets" on the account, with my editor monitoring and checking in.   When I was discussing this with him we both wondered why I was not more connected with local Twitter users.  I have more than 300 followers, and follow almost 500 people (update: 500), but so far as I can see, only a handful of people I know live within the diocese of Peoria.  There must be many more people active locally on Twitter.

So I set about trying to change that by following local news media, like @pjstar, the Twitter account for the Peoria Journal-Star; and various reporters I recognize from reading the paper.  Then I moved onto the local television stations like WEEK-TV (free advice to the WEEK people:  make your Twitter buttons easier to find on your home page).  And I do know several friends who have joined Twitter in the last few weeks, but they aren't super active yet.

So here's my question:  if you are active on Twitter, is it mostly with people outside of your geographic area, or within your area?  Do you consider that a problem, especially if your primary audience (like for the Catholic Post) is local?  How do you utilize Twitter if what you do is mostly local?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Not Far From the Kingdom of God: UPDATED

best cartoon I've seen Remember Steve Jobs. #thankyouste... on Twitpic

Thomas Peters' cartoon of Steve Jobs at the Pearly Gates, going viral on Twitter today, really sums up my feelings today about Steve Jobs--that he in reality is not far from the Kingdom of God.  ( For some reason the "TwitPic" link is not working well, or at least it doesn't look like very good resolution as I write this in draft form--you can visit this link to see this simple but practically perfect cartoon in much better resolution.)

I am uber-geeky about the death of Steve Jobs, and basically warrant some of the criticism people are having of the outsize reactions to Jobs' death.  Last night, I subscribed to the Twitter hashtag #apple so I could show our family all the tweets streaming in for Jobs.  I laughed loudly when a Facebook friend, fond of putting up photos of the wrong celebrity when one dies (Liam Neeson instead of Leslie Nielson, for example), put a photo of Bill Gates up with the caption, "Steve Jobs, you will be missed."

And this morning, I actually, truly, tweeted and put on Facebook, "At Mass this am, saw 2 others wearing jeans & black, but I was too shy to ask if they were, like me, geeky & doing it for Steve Jobs."

From what I can discover, Steve Jobs professed no faith, but he is one of several famous people I consider "not far from the Kingdom of God" because of their desire for truth, beauty, and goodness.  Another example is Clint Eastwood--he says he does not believe in God, but how can a person make the movies "Gran Torino" or "Invictus" without some kind of yearning and desire for the Good?

Steve Jobs or Clint Eastwood remind me of the Calormen soldier Emeth in C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle, last book in the Chronicles of Narnia series.  For those who have not read it, Emeth arrives in Aslan's country to Aslan's welcome, but Emeth protests that he has always followed and sought Tash, the demonic "god" of the Calormens.  How could Aslan accept him as a son?  Aslan replies, "Beloved, .. unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly.  For all find what they truly seek."

There are tons of Web reflections and tributes to Steve Jobs today. I especially enjoyed Jeff Geerling's tribute: "Steve", in which Geerling reminds us of Jobs' opposition to porn on the App store, and many of his other terrific qualities.   His love of beauty and a clean design for Apple products, even the parts customers would not generally see, shows there was something in him that sought and delighted in goodness. The Anchoress also had a great reflection and roundup of various reactions around the Web.  And Marc Cardaronella, a local friend we know in real life (I featured his wife Shannon as a "Meet a Reader" early this year), shares Steve Jobs "life lessons for Catholic leaders."

A friend on Facebook responded to my "wearing jeans and black at Mass" status that today's Gospel, from Luke 11, was great, and in re-reading it, I thought about Jobs and his relentless searching and knocking, and how the Lord promises that the door is always opened.  May it be so, and may Jobs' soul, through the mercy of God, rest in peace:

‘So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

UPDATE:  I don't know how I missed several points in my original post.  One, that I (and our whole family) has multiple, multiple Apple products.  I am not going to even count them because I fear it would be embarrassing.  And I have never gotten rid of one.

For instance, when a nephew told me Apple offers a 10 percent discount at the Apple store if you bring in an old iPod or other device, I brought the first iPod (now nonworking even after my cardboard fixes) my husband got me years ago, to an Apple store in the plans of getting a discount, and I accidentally on purpose forgot to turn it in.

That reminds me that it is my husband who loves and points out to me all the new Apple products and how beautiful they are.  So I am in gratitude to him for getting us started on the Apple path, because  Apple products have saved me so much time and angst from my Windows days, I can't even begin to add them up.

Finally, how did I neglect, when I was retweeting the fact profusely, about the fact that Steve Jobs was adopted, and what his unplanned conception might have meant in the post-Roe world?  MacBeth has a tear-inducing reflection about that here.  Dare you to read it without tearing up.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Meet a Reader: Rebecca Sitte

Many thanks to the new campus minister at Peoria Notre Dame, Rebecca Sitte, for agreeing to be my Meet a Reader this month

How we know you:  Originally from North Dakota, I moved to the Peoria diocese six years ago while working with FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). Currently, I’m working at Peoria Notre Dame High School as a full-time campus minister, where I plan class retreats, start small group Bible studies, and offer mission trips. PND students receive a great religious education, and with campus ministry, we hope to provide more opportunities for students to truly encounter Jesus Christ and to see just how relevant He is to their daily lives.

Why I love reading:  Reading opens the mind and heart to new ideas and can help us grow. I’ve loved to read since I was a small child, and I still enjoy gaining new knowledge and new perspectives from different books. And it’s a great way to unwind! In the past couple of years, most of the books that I’ve read are about the faith in some way or another. I especially love to read the lives of the saints and to hear how God has worked in their lives—it helps me to see how He’s working in my life today.

What I’m reading now:  I usually have a stack of eight books on my nightstand! Right now I’m reading The World’s First Love by Fulton Sheen. I love the way Sheen writes—it’s engaging and insightful, and this book has helped me to see Mary in a new light. I’m also reading Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe. It’s a wonderful book with practical advice on how we can maintain peace in our hearts even in the midst of exterior trials.

My favorite book:  My favorite book is the Bible. Even though I’ve read some passages time and time again, I still learn something new every time I pick it up! A few of my other favorites include Story of a Soul (St. Therese of Lisieux), God is Love (Pope Benedict XVI), The Lamb’s Supper (Scott Hahn), and Letters to a Young Catholic (George Weigel).

Saturday, October 1, 2011

First, What Are You Reading? Volume 14, October 2011

Here are my answers to the four questions I ask on the first of each month:
first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what's next on your list to read?

As always, I hope you'll consider your current reads on your blog and/or sharing here in the comments or on Facebook.  Happy reading!

First, what are you reading?

The Wilder Life:  My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure.

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo.

What do you like best about them?

The Wilder Life is so wonderful—it’s writer Wendy McClure’s poignant, meandering and very funny months-long pilgrimage to Laura Ingalls Wilder sites and re-reading the books and related books.  McClure had grown up loving the books (not the television show, as she continually tells us), like I had, so I found her perspective so ... me.   And I know I'm not the only one--those of us who loved the Laura books as a girl are featured in this book, primarily McClure herself.  We're a varied bunch, but it's a fun sorority to be a part of.

Heaven is for Real is very poignant and sweetly written story from a Dad’s perspective about his son’s near death experience and visions of heaven.  Todd is an evangelical pastor, but nothing in the book contradicts the Catholic faith that I could tell.  In fact, he makes a point of mentioning Catholics several times in a respectful way, which I find refreshing.  I did enjoy reading this quick, inspiring read after a fellow school mom recommended it (See, I actually do ask people in person, what are you reading? Thanks, Jeanne!).

What I love most about this book is not the book itself.   When my 5th grade daughter saw it on my nightstand, she mentioned that her teacher was reading it, and was it okay for her to read?  I said sure.  Since she is a fast reader, she finished it by the next day and was ready to talk.  Wow, the conversations, especially late-night conversations, we have had about this book.  I also just found out in recent days that a junior high teacher is reading it with all the upper grades, and so my 8th grader has read it and discussed it as well, so we've been able to share a lot about it.

My husband is a theologian, and I’ve been known to joke on many occasions, well, I’m not the theologian in the family.  Turns out my husband has some more competition in the theologian department.  This is a fact we already knew with the Zen-like questions our son used to ask when he was 4 (such as, “Can you spell Jesus without any letters?”).

What do you like least about them?

Oh, I cried and cried at the end of The Wilder Life, not only because I finished the book on my late father’s birthday, as McClure reflected on her own mother’s death a year before.  I also cried because I expected a plot twist that didn't happen.  That may sound odd, but I don’t want to give anything away about the book.  If you have read it and were also waiting for a  certain "plot twist," let’s talk about it in the comments, and see if you agree with me that the ending is so poignant on many levels.  Crying at the end of a book is not really a bad thing, so it’s not really something I "didn’t like."

This isn’t really a think I disliked about Heaven is For Real, just an interesting point that came up in discussions with a young theologian in our house.  Todd Burpo keeps mentioning that his son couldn’t possibly know some of the details from Scripture that describe heaven.  What occurred to our 5th grader was that as a Catholic, even a 4-year-old would have heard some of those Scriptures at Mass, in particular around the certain feasts like we just had several days ago at Mass on the feast of the Archangels.

What’s next on your list to read?

Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire by Rafe Esquith.  Already partway through and enjoying this one.

I truly wish I could be reading Gone With the Wind along with my 13-year-old daughter, but I'm not.  I brought home a handsome new edition from the library thinking I might try to read it, but she absconded with it and I quickly realized I would not have time for this huge read right now.  So I did the next best thing and asked a dear longtime online friend, author and GWTW lover, Cay Gibson, for any "content issues" I should keep in mind.  And because she is dear, she gave lots of great ideas and also comfort, as 13 was the age she first read GWTW.  Much as I would love to keep up with everything my kids read, sometimes you have to outsource, and I'm glad to have friends to count on for this.

So, what are you reading these days?  Any books to share?