Does life feel out of control, overwhelming and anything but spiritual for you these days? Then you need to treat yourself to a little bit of the writing of Catholic mom and author Mary Lou Rosien, and then enlist your family in a Catholic Family Boot Camp!
I spent time recently learning about Mary Lou’s strong family life, what her faith means to her, and especially her two great books Catholic Family Boot Camp and Managing Stress with the Help of Your Catholic Faith. I’m pleased to share our conversation and strongly urge you to sign your family up immediately for your own Catholic Family Boot Camp – Mary Lou has put together a resource for families that is inspirational, fun, practical and faith-filled!
Q: Mary Lou, thanks for joining us for this interview and for the tremendous writing you’ve done in support of Catholic families. Would you please begin by introducing our readers to yourself and your family?
Thanks, Lisa. Well, I am a Catholic mom! I have been married to a wonderful man for over 20 years. We have seven children and a foster son. Our family lives in Western Upstate New York and I am an RCIA Coordinator for St. Leo’s Parish in Hilton, NY. I have taught faith formation off and on for about 30 years and write four catechist columns a month, one for www.AmazingCatechists.com and three for www.OSV.com.
Q: How did you get involved with writing and specifically writing on faith topics?
I remember reading Little Women as a young girl and wanting to be Jo Marsh. I have kept journals and written down my thoughts since I was about fourteen, but I started pursuing writing seriously in my early twenties. It took over eleven years to get my first article published! As I grew in faith and as my family grew I couldn’t separate out the Catholic from the writing, so I embraced it.
Q: Your first book Managing Stress with the Help of Your Catholic Faith covers several timeless strategies. In a world that feels more stressful than ever, how can your “COPE” model help Catholics to meet the demands life places on us each day?
“COPE” is an acronym for Catholic, Opportunity, Physical and Emotional. I struggle like everyone does with trying to manage the stress in my life. Sometimes the stress has been enormous, for example when our daughter needed brain surgery at thirteen years-old, or when our foster son was deployed to Afghanistan for a year. Other times I seem to be overwhelmed just by the loads of laundry! When each aspect of your personality and coping mechanisms are addressed, I have found that we can all manage stress more effectively. For me, currently, I like to follow author, Peggy Bowes, advice and do a Rosary Workout. I hop on my excersise equipment and sweat and pray like crazy. It really helps.
Q: Your most recent project is the wonderful Catholic Family Boot Camp. What motivated you to write this book and what is the blueprint for this terrific thirty day family devotional?
I was motivated to write Catholic Family Boot Camp when I realized that there was nothing like this out there for Catholic families. My family and I were very inspired by the movie Fireproof and decided to take on the challenge of the book, The Love Dare, by Alex and Stephen Kendrick. It was wonderful, but it lacked the Tradition and fullness of the Catholic faith. It was also designed (as most devotionals are) for one person to do privately. My husband and I have always operated our family as a team, and we wanted an active devotional we could do as a family. I combined our years of experience in marriage, life, as marriage/parenting coaches and as pre-Cana instructors and came up with the idea for this book. The idea for Catholic Family Boot Camp, had been conceived!
Q: Has your own family done the boot camp and what did you learn personally and as a family from the experience?
We did do the Catholic Family Boot Camp, I would never put out a recipe that I had not tried and tasted, so to speak. I believe it made us stronger and I am more aware now of opportunities to team-build in our every day life. I want everyone to know that we have a far from perfect family. I think when I started my family, I believed that if you do A,B, then C… your kids would turn out D. Not so, we have children that have strayed from some of our family beliefs and ideals and others that have embraced them so fully that they often lead us.
Thankfully, our children were open to the CFBC challenge. The key is to keep moving forward even when you feel discouraged by where you are currently. As our priest pointed out in his Homily on Joseph and his brothers, Joseph probably felt abandoned, hurt and maybe hopeless when his brothers left him… who could have predicted that God would put him in a position of power under Pharoh to save many lives (including his own family). God’s plan is always better than ours.
We learned a lot about our own expectations, and how to adjust them to reality and remain open to God’s plan by following the Boot Camp. It also helped us renew our focus on forgiveness as a family.
Q: I know that you have a great website set up to support and encourage families who take on the Catholic Family Boot Camp. What have you heard from families who have accepted the challenge? What are some of the greatest difficulties a mom may face if she decides to try this experience with her family? What rewards will she find at the end of the process?
Yes, the website address is www.catholicfamilybootcamp.com and families can post their stories, read new tasks to keep Boot Camp going and even send me pictures to post. We have started a page called, “Victory Rocks.” My friend, Kathryn, and I had this idea when we were both going through significant struggles in our families. We decided to build our domestic churches like St. Francis building up the church by stacking up rocks. We started sharing with each other our tiniest victories while we struggled. These were often as small as completing a pile of laundry or having one of our teenagers smile at us. For me, with two adult children out of the house, two young adults still at home, two more teens and two younger children, just knowing that everyone had made contact with me and that they were all safe for the night became a victory rock. We celebrate each of these as a blessing from God and we encourage others to do the same.
We have had some positive feedback on the website, but we are open to even more! I’m really hoping that readers will embrace the interactive style of the book and use the website to share and enhance their experiences.
When I first proposed this book to publishers, I was told that it was, “to difficult for families to do.” I strongly disagreed! These are the families who drive their kids to sports practice before dawn, cheer their children on in the rain and sacrifice everything for them. I believe families want to increase in unity and virtue and Catholic Family Boot Camp can help them do that. Thankfully, Bezalel Books agreed!
Parenting and family life is not for wimps. It is hard, but joyfully work. Individuals will find different tasks difficult, and some incredibly easy. If your family attends daily Mass, the task on Mass will be easy, however, if your family has fallen into going to different Masses or skipping due to sports, etc. it will be more of a challenge. I think that families will be rewarded by seeing their members with new eyes. I am praying that they will experience a greater family unity and an increase in virtues as they complete the tasks.
Q: As an experienced mom, if you could give some words of advice to Catholic moms who are new to parenting, what wisdom would you share?
Hmmm… first, remember what I said about A,B,C..then D, earlier. I think it really helps to look at the reality of your family, not just how you thought they would be. Each person functions differently, so become an observer of your family members and an expert on each one. Cultivate the strengths of the people in your family.
Have family goals, plans, a roadmap to where you would like to be. It’s hard to stay focused, but without an idea of where you want to be, you may never get there.
Most of all, pray! Pray, pray, pray. Don’t pray just with words, but with tears, joy, emotions, and visualizations. What do I mean by that? Well, sometimes when I am struggling with a certain child, I will pray the Sorrowful Mysteries and see my child watching Christ on His walk to Calvary. I see the change in their hearts as they watch Him suffer and I see Him looking back at them with love. It is a powerful meditation.
Q: Who are some of the saints and what are some of the faith traditions that nurture you and help you to combat stress in your own daily life?
I’ve mentioned St. Francis. I just love him. God tells him to build His church and Francis picks up rocks to build. That’s me alright picking up socks (um, rocks) and taking God at His word without any idea what He really means. What I love about that, is the Lord works with us right where we are. Eventually He showed Francis what He really wanted him to do, but it all starts with obedience. We don’t have to understand, we just have to be obedient. God will reveal the way.
Q: With these projects behind you, what’s next?
My husband keeps hinting that we should start an actual Catholic Family Boot Camp. Ha ha. Who knows? God has not revealed it yet. I will continue on with my columns, my RCIA work and raising my family. I have been playing with some ideas, but I’m not sure exactly where I want to go with them yet. One, that keeps coming back, is how a group of non-Catholic women that I pray with helped me to become a much better Catholic…but, that’s another story.
Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?
Know that I am praying for you. I love to hear from my readers so feel free to contact me on the website, by FaceBook, Twitter, or any other means you can think of. I hope that Catholic Family Boot Camp will help your families increase in unity and virtue. I also want to thank you, Lisa, for this opportunity to share. God bless.