When I saw that the eloquent Laura Fanucci, who blogs at Mothering Spirit, had written a book “Everyday Sacrament” published by Liturgical Press, I had to read it and interview her.
“Everyday” is a collection of essays on a mother’s life from infertility to expectancy to birth and beyond with theological reflections on the Sacraments. I read it at various times: while celebrating parenthood, in the throes of a virus, slogging through the end of the school year, and in the quiet light of early mornings. At each time, “Everyday” had something to say to me, whether it was “Yay, motherhood!”, “Hang in there.” Or a thought provoking appreciation for “This is my body given up for you.”
Don’t expect a heavy theological treatise or advice on parenting technique. Laura Fanucci’s dramatic style is a more like a heart-to-heart conversation with someone who happens to know a lot of theology and writes beautifully. “Everyday” is the perfect inspirational reading companion for busy moms who want to be able to just dive into a book for a few pages and shut it when the kids call out, “M-o-m-m-m-a-a-a…” It’s not too long that you forget what you read a few chapters ago nor too scholarly that you get annoyed when you’re brow-furrowing concentration is interrupted.
I can see myself rereading “Everyday” because there will be new a-ha moments in the seasons of parenthood. And I look forward to reading Laura’s next book, which she talks about in the following interview:
AH: How did you get the idea to use the sacraments as a point of reflection for Motherhood? What was your creative process and the book’s journey to publication?
LF: I have always loved the sacraments as being at the heart of what makes us Catholic. When I was expecting my first child, I was finishing my graduate degree in theology. So I learned much of what I know about sacramental theology while I was pregnant – which made for a beautiful collision of worlds when I was learning how to be a new mom! In the early years of motherhood, I spent a lot of time thinking about how “bodily” motherhood can be: pregnancy, nursing, caring for the physical needs of children. I began to see how the sacraments affirmed that what is earthly and ordinary – like bread and wine, oil and water – could become holy and powerful when transformed by God’s grace. So as I started seeing my everyday work as a mom through the lens of the sacraments, I realized there were so many more connections than I ever saw before. I wanted to write a book that would celebrate the goodness of ordinary life with children as sacramental: deepening the celebration of our sacraments at church by living them out at home.
The seven sacraments gave me a clear structure for the book (and I believe that good structure makes for the best creative work). So once I started outlining how different stories and experiences I had through motherhood – infertility, miscarriage, birth, caring for babies and toddlers, teaching children about faith, etc. – connected with each of the sacraments, the book came to life quickly in my mind. Then I was fortunate to connect with Liturgical Press who was looking to publish new resources on family life in advance of Pope Francis’ trip to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. So it was a perfect opportunity for the book to come to life. Of course, finding time to write with two small children underfoot (and while I was pregnant with our third son) was the biggest challenge. But my husband is a great partner, and together we carved out a writing schedule that let me finish the chapters on time, thanks to late nights in my home office and Saturday mornings at my favorite coffee shop.
AH: What is your next writing project?
LF: I’ve been working on a book of prayers for pregnancy, but since my husband and I lost our twin daughters shortly after their premature births in February 2016, I’ve set that project aside to start writing a new book. This is the story of how the experience of loving and losing our daughters has transformed what we know about God, and it feels like the most hopeful story I’ve been given to tell.
AH: How do you find time to reflect, pray and write as a busy mom?
LF: It’s the million dollar question! Every day looks different. I used to say that I wrote on the margins of my life, so I would just sit down and scribble out my thoughts whenever I could grab five minutes. But over the years I have come to see that writing is my calling, as well as an important prayer practice. So I’ve become more comfortable with sitting down in the middle of the messy kitchen or the unfolded laundry in the living room and letting myself do what is most important. Obviously my kids are my priority. I also work part-time from home. So I have learned to become better at time management and household survival skills (meal planning! chore charts for all!). But I’ve also learned that a messy house is worth having a peaceful heart – which is what I get when I prioritize prayer and writing. On my best days I get up early or stay up late to do both. Other days I simply pray or write in my head while washing dishes, driving kids to school, cooking dinner – and that is enough. My daily prayer is to do the work well that I have been given to do, and motherhood and writing are all part of those interwoven callings.
AH: Who is your favorite go to Saint? Care to share a story about that devotion?
LF: My new favorite saint is Mary Magdalene. I’ve been thinking about her in deeper ways over the past few years, especially at Easter time when we hear the story of how she was the first to witness the resurrection and how she was called to be the Apostle to the Apostles. She offers a beautiful example to women in the Church: to be unafraid to proclaim the Gospel with our whole lives. Ever since our daughters died, I have been turning to Mary Magdalene for inspiration and strength as I start to think about how to share their story of light in darkness with a world that is desperately hungry for hope. Serendipitously (or maybe not – aren’t those how the best stories about God begin?) after we lost the twins, my cousins sent me a beautiful necklace with our daughters’ initials – and a medal of Mary Magdalene. I feel a powerful draw to her witness in my life today.
AH: Which authors inspire you? Favorite books?
LF: Lately I’ve been reading many authors who fall under the category of “contemporary mystics” – Caryll Houselander, Evelyn Underhill, Thomas Merton, etc. I’m drawn to writers of deep faith who wanted to understand God’s place and presence in the middle of our messy modern life. I also rediscovered Madeleine L’Engle’s books in the past year, and I’ve been devouring all her journals and writings because she was deeply concerned with the questions of faith, motherhood, and the creative life that are constantly swimming through my mind. I love Marilynne Robinson for the same reasons. I have about a hundred theologians I couldn’t live without, but I still think “The Brothers Karamazov” is my favorite book of all time.