By Aileen Maroney
Over the phone, while bustling from a university class to a blood donor center appointment on the UCLA campus, author Lisa Hendey shared the vision for her newly-released compact book, “5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath.”
“I wrote this book for families like yours or mine,” she said. “My hope is that whoever picks it up will be able to in the space of five minutes in their very busy life — we’re all so busy, find a little space for quiet to anticipate what the season is all about.”
Hendey juggles and wears many hats as an author, auditor, blogger, co-host of Catholic MomCast, a production of the Holy Cross Family Ministries and CatholicMom.com. She serves as a lector and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion at her home parish St. Paul the Apostle in West Los Angeles.
She has authored more than 16 books including “The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion,” As Morning Breaks: daily gospel reflections,” “The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living” and a children’s board book “I’m a Saint in the Making” highlighting the stories of both well-known and newer saints.
Hendey hopes readers of her booklet can slow down and experience the simplicity and sacred longing that beckons during Advent season.
“We’re anticipating our celebration of Christmas in celebration the wonderful Nativity of Jesus but we are also anticipating the second coming and I think the opportunities are in Advent to focus on that in an intentional way,” she explained.
She designed the devotional as a month-long guide for year after year use. Each day contains a candle lighting, Scripture, a paragraph reflection authored by Hendey and two questions on Christ’s presence which can be pondered through silence, journaling or conversation followed by a closing prayer.
“I wanted it to be concise and easy for families to implement,” she said.
As the season progresses, the daily devotions do not deviate in format and are rooted in ritual.
“My children are adults now but I remember from praying with them back in the day that a little ritual is actually very special because even if they are young, if you do something enough, it imprints with them,” she noted.
Hendey’s thoughtful reflections expand on the daily Scripture.
“The reflection section for me is hopefully a jumping off point,” she said. “My hope is that when people read the reflections they will think ‘what is it that I hear, that really resonates with me?’”
In crafting Advent reflections and in writing spiritual pieces, Hendey often steals away pockets of time among mundane situations in her life and likes to begin her practice with prayer.
“The first thing I do when trying to write is invoke the Holy Spirit with a prayer and let God do His work,” she said. “I don’t overthink it too much. I’ve written in busy airports and backseats of cars while my husband is driving. We try to channel what God is giving us and it works out. I have to trust the sound of my own voice. When I am trying to sound reflective, I am not going to sound like another famous writer. I am going to sound like Lisa.”
Hendey wrote additional advent reflections tailored to families with children of all ages which can be downloaded at avemariapress.com, the publisher website.
“You can ask kids what they think about Advent, the Bible reading or what they want to say to Jesus,” she said. “You can share your own thoughts. Faith sharing is not about right or wrong answers. It is about telling one another what we believe, wonder or love about God.”
She encourages readers to customize the Advent ritual according to their preferences whether it is swapping a reflection for a verse of “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” soaking in a few more moments of silence or replacing the written queries with more personalized questions.
“You can have every part of the family take a role in the ritual you are creating,” Hendey said. “It is really wonderful for a kid to take part in leading a ceremony, using a wreath with LED lights.”
Advent prayers can be prayers devoted to the saints. Hendey created an accompanying guide on the Ave Maria Press site containing prayers and biographical information on the saints whose feast days fall within the four Sundays leading to Christmas. A few of the saints include St. Francis Xavier, St. Lucy, St, Nicholas and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“I have a deep devotion to several of the saints whose lives we celebrate during Advent,” Hendey shared. “A particular favorite for me is St. Thomas the Apostle whose feast day we celebrate on December 21. In 2017 on a trip to India, I had the opportunity to pray at the St. Thomas Mount National Shrine in Chennai, India. I am always praying for the grace to learn, as St. Thomas did, to overcome any doubts harbored in my soul and to give myself over fully to the sharing of God’s great love.”
In creating the Advent wreath, Hendey encouraged using creativity to keep the wreath as simple or as fancy as desired. She recommended pillar candles, votives, LED lights or inexpensive taper white candles adorned with purple and rose ribbons and suggested dried foliage as additions to the greens.
“I love handcrafted wreaths, but I’m not really a crafter,” she said. “My favorite wreath is one we made with my children when they were in pre-school. The wreath was made of their hand prints, traced on green construction paper and arranged around four paper candles. This little wreath still remains one of my favorite treasures. The main point is to create a sacred space in your home and something that can serve as a focal point for your prayer time.”
This year Hendey plans to celebrate the season with her husband praying over the dinner table Advent wreath with her devotional in hand. She also crafted a mobile wreath of wood and LED candles that can easily be pulled out of a suitcase for her travels this month. In addition, Hendey will pray every evening at 5 pm EST on Facebook.
“I look forward to lighting our wreath or my travel wreath and praying live with anyone who wants to join me on Facebook,” she said. “I’m especially hoping that this will bring solace, comfort and joy to anyone who finds themselves praying alone this Advent season.”
She and her husband plan to celebrate the final advent days and Christmas in Massachusetts visiting their son and his wife who live in Allston.
“It will be my first time to celebrate the season in Massachusetts,” she said.
While in Massachusetts, she plans to visit the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the Paulist Center in Boston, a sister church to her Los Angeles home parish and to attend the sung vespers of the Saint Paul’s Choir School in Cambridge.
“There are so many beautiful prayer opportunities!” she said.
For more information on “5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath,” visit: https://www.avemariapress.com/products/5-minute-prayers-around-the-advent-wreath
For daily Advent seasonal prayer with Hendey at 5 p.m. visit her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lisahendey