It’s one of world’s top Catholic websites, but when Lisa Hendey set up Catholicmom.com she was a young mother who could barely use email to send a greeting card.
But she had a desire to find and provide support online for fellow Catholic mothers.
The Catholic blogger, author, speaker, and TV producer will leave her Los Angeles home to visit schools in Sydney and Canberra in August at the invitation of Marist College, Canberra.
She will speak to students, parents, and teachers on topics relating to technology and how to nurture faith and spirituality amid a busy family life.
She shared some thoughts with The Catholic Weekly on the sacred balancing act of family life and faith in the digital age.
Q: You encourage families to put their faith journey first. What do you say to people who wonder what that would even look like?
A: I have two adult sons and I am not the perfect mum nor the perfect Catholic. But one of the things about being a mum of older kids is it gives you a vantage point to say here are some things we did really well and here are some things that maybe you could do a little differently.
I think how it looks in today’s world is to see that it’s not just one more thing to put on the activity list with academics or sporting endeavours or whatever, but when living a life of faith is a priority that then helps everything to go better and recreates a more loving environment. It helps our kids to flourish and helps us too.
Q: What message will you be sharing with Australian students?
A: I always tell students two things: the first is that we’re all saints in the making with our own unique call to sanctity, and that our world needs them right now, not just in the future, as a force for good. The second thing is that we’re all God’s storytellers; that God created and instilled within each of us unique gifts to be sharing his world with those around us.
So whether it’s writing or painting, or creating video games or blogging on YouTube, or whatever it is that we have a way, it doesn’t always to be an explicitly religious way, of shaping the world around us and making it a better place.
Q: You’ve written and edited about the spirituality of motherhood, can you sum up what it is?
A: The call to emulate Mary’s ‘yes’ to God in our own lives is that call to spirituality which for mothers comes within the gift of being a mum. If we are mothers we aren’t obviously Mary but we have our own unique mission field and can bless the world by our work and our prayer.
It’s good for us to recognise that our mission territory is sometimes the front seat of the mini-van, or making peanut sandwiches, or doing laundry, or at the boardroom of our offices.
When we do small things with great love that plants the seeds because our kids see that. We teach them as much about our faith without words as we do with words.
One of the big problems, especially for women, is we tend to look around at what everyone else is doing and think, “Oh their family is so perfect and ours is a failure, because here are all the ways that I’m falling short”. I think that is universal.
And I think one of the first things to do then is to look at your home, your domestic church, as unique and special and enough. And to stop comparing.
Q: How and what do you pray?
A: I pray the morning offering and meditate on the daily Gospel each day, the Angelus, and close out my day with the examen at night. I also pray the rosary, in the traditional way or just holding the beads and having a conversion with our Blessed Mother about whoever is asking for prayers that day.
A lot of my time I’m praying what I call ‘laundry room prayers’. So when I’m matching the socks I’m praying for the person who will wear the socks, when I’m doing the dishes I’m praying for those who go without food in our world. It’s a portable regime and a mainstay in the midst of so much busyness that roots me and makes me feel at home.
Q: Do you agree that you’re one of the world’s first digital media missionary?
A: We started our first wave of podcasting way back in 2007. I’m completely self-taught at the university of Youtube and Google. When I created Catholicmom.com I knew how to send an email and make a greeting card on my computer. That was it. But I was and continue to be unafraid because I’m convinced that if we’re going to inspire people we have to meet them right where they are.
Q: What are you doing these days?
A: I’m now trying to find ways to provide younger people with a platform for them to take the lead. The Church needs to listen to their wisdom; they have a lot to teach us.
I also spend a lot of time in schools, typically in elementary schools with younger students, encouraging and listening to them. Their creativity blows me away.
Q: What’s your advice for people using the media to evangelise?
Dive in, give it a try. Definitely not everything that we try will succeed but be not afraid, as St John Paul II told us, because your voice and perspective is needed.
Certainly I hope that nobody ever looks at my media and says, “Oh she thinks that she’s perfect” because I’m not.
I’m on a journey towards Christ and I’m looking to walk with other people on that journey.
Where to find Lisa
6 technology tips for parents
Family life in the age of selfies and Snapchat is challenging as technology outpaces our ability to keep up with what our kids are seeing and doing online. Lisa’s advice for parents is to make nurturing your own faith life and those of your children your top priorities.
Technology will change over time, but a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church will ensure every aspect of our lives says on track, she says.
Technology usage should be a privilege, not a ‘right’
Technology is a valuable learning tool, but children should demonstrate a maturity level that demonstrates their spiritual, emotional and intellectual readiness to employ these tools before they have access to technology.
Model appropriate technology use
For example, a parent should never text while driving, should avoid using technology during family meals, and should act responsibly on social media.
Consider limiting technology use in private areas at home
Our children had a ‘no screens in the bedroom’ rule and devices were used in common areas of the home with screens facing outward. Develop your own standards, strategies and rules for device and platform usage.
Act with respect for your children’s privacy and safety when using social media
We are establishing a digital footprint for our children, in many cases even prior to their birth. We must supervise their use of technology, but we should also respect their privacy in our own usage.
Teach them what to do and why
Just in the same way that we would not send a child out to drive a car without proper instruction, we should not provide them to access to technology without education and spiritual formation.
Conduct regular, random checks on their technology tools
Parents need to use the many available resources to be aware of questionable apps, platforms and media providers.