This interview is with Lisa Hendey. Lisa is the founder and of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of The Grace of Yes, The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion, The Handbook for Catholic Moms, I Am God's Storyteller, and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. Lisa has inspired me for many years as she continues to create quality content for a variety of audiences. As a fellow Ave Maria Press author, I credit Lisa with the motivation to keep pressing on with my own book. She’s the best.
What is your typical morning routine?
My first stop in the morning is typically my coffee pot, where I give praise to God for the magical powers of dark roast. On most days, I go next to my prayer time, which is one of the best parts of every day. I, unfortunately, don't make daily Mass most days, but a consistent part of my morning routine is praying the day's Liturgy of the Word. After opening my quiet prayer time with informal prayers of thanksgiving and intercessory prayer, I pull up the readings for the day at USCCB and read and reflect upon them. I pull a line from each scripture passage, note it in my journal, and meditate upon it in Lectio Divina-fashion for a few moments. It always amazes me how God sends me exactly what I need most days! I journal for approximately ten minutes, review my appointments for the day, make a list of priorities for the day (often based on the things I didn't get done the day prior) and intentionally invite the Holy Spirit to guide my day. I typically close my morning prayer with the Morning Offering and the Allegiance Prayer.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I've prayed this way for several years, but my routine has evolved. I used to also spend time studying a saint during this time and praying the Liturgy of the Hours, but I have moved those portions of my prayer journey to later parts of the day, when I am more awake.
How has your morning routine changed in recent years?
It's actually shortened. As I've aged and have more independent time during the day, I've shifted much of the spiritual reading and planning I used to do early in the morning to later parts of the day. I find that by not trying to do a "laundry list" of prayer, I focus more clearly on my quiet time with God. For me, a planner and one has a tendency to get very list-oriented, I've had the problem in past years with seeing morning prayer as too much of a "to do" list item. This more leisurely approach that I've taken in the last few years has helped my morning quiet time with God to feel like a more natural, sacred moment as opposed to a rigid time of study.
Do you do anything the night before that makes your morning easier?
I definitely look at my calendar shortly before bed just to remind myself of any important commitments and to plan ahead for reserving quiet time for my morning routine.
When you travel, do you have to make any adjustments to your morning routine?
As it is now, my morning routine is pretty mobile, which means that I don't have to take much with me and I can adjust to wherever I am. I prefer when at home to read scripture from an actual Bible (no notifications!) but I don't carry my big Bible with me on the road. Another recent development has happened on my frequent visits to my parents' house. My mom's health has unfortunately resulted in her move to a Memory Care facility. Daddy is living on his own for the first time in 57 years. When I am at their house, my routine shifts a little to accommodate his need for some company in the morning. One great blessing is praying with Daddy as we pull out of the driveway to visit Mom at her place. And a tiny little part of my routine, when there, is to pray the sign of the cross immediately upon entering the security code to Mom's unit. Even that quick prayer reminds me that I am entering sacred ground with a mission: to lovingly serve my mom and her fellow patients.
In which ways does prayer in the morning set a course for your entire day?
Morning prayer is my roadmap for the day. It's my opportunity to place the gifts and blessings and challenges of the day in God's hands, to remind myself to trust God's will and to align myself with it, and to remember that if I do my best to give God my "Yes", my to do list for the day will not always line up perfectly with what actually transpires each day... and that's ok!
It’s a concrete fear that many parents have: what if my kids lose their faith while in college?
Whether from peers who have had children leave the Church or from the abundant research on this very topic, the fear is real. It’s also justified. The fact is that many students do abandon their faith (intentionally or not) during the college years.
There are a number of reasons for this, including:
Access: with Catholic campus ministry on just over 800 campuses nationwide, this leaves thousands of campuses without Mass, a chaplain, a campus minister or any semblance of a faith community. Of the 1,000+ community colleges, it’s even worse.
A weak foundation: while we can bemoan the droves of young people who turn away from the faith while in college, it’s worth inquiring about the strength of their foundation while they were in high school. In other words, “did they really have a strong faith before college?” Often, the answer is no. This is very uncomfortable to talk about but I believe that most teens don’t really know the Lord- which leads to the next point.
A lack of personal relationship with the Lord: simply growing up in a faith-based home is no longer enough. Unless the students knows the Lord personally, she/he will likely leave their faith while in college. Unless they know how to “be Christian” in an atmosphere that isn’t, their “spiritual resiliency” will be fragile.
An initial confrontation with intellectual challenge: if it’s hard for you to understand and articulate your faith, imagine what happens when you encounter a professor or fellow student who challenges you- it can rock a student’s world. They then feel inadequate and want to turn away. Their “apologetics muscle” isn’t strong enough to endure the challenges of most campuses. It’s not that the student doesn’t have faith. Rather, their faith vocabulary lags behind their belief.
If you are a student or a parent of a student approaching college, I suggest searching for the following five “signs” of spiritual vitality on a campus:
What is the Catholic vocabulary of the campus? From the college’s website to the promotional material, pay attention to how comfortable the college is about its Catholic identity. I receive packets all of the time from Catholic colleges and often, thankfully not always, the mention of Catholicism is but a footnote. Every word in a promotional brochure is labored over. The fact that a college would go out of its way to avoid its Catholicism should tell you something.
What is important for the college based on the tour? While I wouldn’t judge a campus entirely based on a 19 year old tour guide, each guide is coached to mention certain things and avoid others. Pay attention to this. Does the tour mention the chapel? Does the tour mention faith-related routines and rituals? Is D-1 football the real “religion” on campus? Are the blue safety lights mentioned more than anything else?
How updated is the campus ministry web page? Not every department in a college has full capacity to change its own webpages. This is unfortunately one of the consequences of red tape in higher education. Nonetheless, a campus ministry suite of pages does tell you how active the program is. Pay attention to this. It’s a good sign if the contact information is up to date and inviting to the guest.
How many students attend Mass regularly? Don’t ask about this because most will likely have but a vague answer. Rather, go to a daily or weekend Mass and just look around. Note that summer is not usually a fair time to judge as colleges are typically quieter in June and July.
How has the campus responded to recent moral challenges? Every college has its challenges- a scandal here, a discrepancy there. The key is how the college leadership responded to the challenge. When it involves morality, this is often an important marker of a college’s commitment to its core faith-based values. Was there a cover up? Was the college quick to respond? Was there a sense of pastoral concern and dialogue?
In future posts, I’ll be talking more about the college reality. For now, look for these five things as you begin to assess, in charity, the strength of a college’s faith foundation.
In this recent video on YouTube, I shared a story of a Protestant friend of mine. We walked into a chapel and I blessed myself with Holy Water, making the sign of the cross. Unfamiliar with this tradition, he thought it was odd to dip one’s finger into the water. I showed him that there was nothing magic about it.
Rather, making the sign of the cross was an ancient practice. Anyone could do it.
The sign of the cross is also a wonderful way to begin or end your time of prayer. Think of it as a bookend. Without the bookend, the novels will fall over.
This week, try slowing down and making the sign of the cross. Enjoy it. Savor it. Recognize that God is present and that you are taking special note of that fact.
Starting lines matter- a lot. They give us an objective beginning to whatever we are doing. This applies to our prayer lives as well.
There are probably hundreds of different ways to begin your time of prayer. These might include:
Making the sign of the cross
Reading a particular Bible passage that is meaningful to you
Repeating a phrase or mantra
Gazing at a religious icon
One thing that I’ve been trying lately is to simply take note of how I’m feeling. Do I have a knot in my stomach? Am I feeling at ease? Is something worrying me?
This “self inventory” is particularly important when we are going through a difficult or stressful time. Our family has recently been dealing with the loss of a loved one. Very difficult stuff. You want to start the day with a spring in your step. Instead, you feel a brick on your chest when you wake up… the stress of it all.
St Teresa of Avila said this, “Before prayer, endeavor to realize whose Presence you are approaching, and to whom you are about to speak. We can never fully understand how we ought to behave towards God, before whom the angels tremble.” In other words, take note of how you are approaching God, feelings and all.
We had planned to move for two years. When our oldest graduated from high school, we would put our house on the market and head west. She graduated and the sign went up a week afterwards, out front of our home. We visited schools in the new town. We picked out our new church.
Then, something odd happened- silence.
Our house didn’t sell. Our new schools didn’t materialize. We had to think of Plan B and C. All the while, we prayed and asked for God’s providence over our lives. We doubted ourselves. We resolved to choose obedience rather than our own path, hoping that that would bring joy.
It didn’t. Instead, it produced confusion and a touch of resentment. Why God can’t you answer us? What are you saying in the midst of your silence?
Months later, I would learn that God’s silence, while frustrating, wasn’t rejection. It wasn’t a withholding of love. Rather, it was God waiting for the right time to reveal something, to teach something. Over time, it became less about clever planning and more about faithfulness. It became more about being present in the now and not obsessing over the future.
God’s silence wasn’t rejection. It was simply a way of communicating that I didn’t understand at the time it was happening.