Making Lent a fruitful season for teens
Katie Prejean McGrady's and Tommy McGrady’s new Lenten resource strives to keep youth engaged
Seeking to fill a void they had identified, Katie Prejean McGrady and her husband Tommy McGrady collaborated to write Lent: One Day at a Time for Catholic Teens (Ave Maria Press, 2019), a resource designed to help young people have the most positive experience possible during the Lenten season.
Katie is a Catholic speaker and author of Follow: Your Lifelong Adventure with Jesus (Ave Maria Press, 2018)and Room 24: Adventures of a New Evangelist (Ave Maria Press, 2016). Tommy is an environmental science teacher as well as a youth minister and author of Life Teen’s Unleashed: Men of Scripture.
“This is really written for those teens that we’ve taught and spent lots of time with — they were on our minds the whole time,” Katie said.
Katie shared with Catholic Digest the reasoning behind their new book and their hope for it to help today’s youth navigate Lent successfully.
Q: What makes Lent: One Day at a Time for Catholic Teens a good resource for Lent?
A: The book is very simple, making it unique in that it doesn’t overload a young person with too much to do or think about, but instead gives them one single idea to focus in on each day of the Lenten season. We wanted it to be something both accessible and not overwhelming, because we didn’t want teens to overextend themselves during the season and then get discouraged halfway through.
Q: Why is it important for teenagers to have a Lenten resource tailored to them?
A: It takes 30 days to establish a habit. So Lent is the perfect time to build good spiritual practices, and then there are 10 extra days for it to take root! By creating a Lenten resource for teens that’s specific to their age, focuses on common situations and challenges they face, and is written in an easy and accessible way, we’re hopefully making this a less intimidating liturgical season and a more inviting, manageable one.
Q: How is the book designed?
A: Each day, teens are given a short reflection based on a passage from Scripture, and then asked to ponder a very simple question. We hope that this simple question can lead to fruitful journaling or good conversations with their peers, classmates, friends, even their parents. There’s a very straightforward challenge for each day and a prayer, and then for those teens looking to go deeper and do more, there’s an extra challenge to read further in the Scriptures or spend a little more time in prayer. Each week there’s sort of a recap day on Saturday, where we ask them to think about their entire week, and then each Sunday, the week is kicked off with a theme and focus for the coming days. Each day takes less than five minutes to read, but is just enough to get the wheels turning and their minds brewing with ideas of faith.
Q: How did writing Lent: One Day at a Time for Catholic Teens differ from writing your other books, Follow and Room 24 ?
A: Follow and Room 24 are based on a lot of stories and experiences, and are much more a deep dive into specific topics concerning evangelization and living a life of faith. Lent is very bite-sized, which was actually even harder to write! It’s harder to keep it short than to have lots of space to expand and explain. Keeping the content tight and crisp was a definite challenge, and made it a different writing experience. But, it was also great to get to write this one with my husband, Tommy, who brought great insights and creativity into the project.
Q: Can you tell us about your experience being a Catholic speaker?
A: It’s the best job I’ve ever had, second only to being a wife and mom! I get the awesome chance to travel around the world, literally, and talk about Jesus, and for some reason, people listen. But the best part isn’t just the talking to people, but the talking with people. Half the job of speaking professionally is the chances I get to meet people — both the folks that hire me to come to their parishes and dioceses and events, and the folks in the crowds — and have honest conversations, swapping stories, sharing ideas, often over a meal, and really getting to know one another. That’s the real best part of the job.
I’ve been to some really cool places, some really remote towns and big cities, events large and small, with crowds of thousands and parish conference rooms with just a handful of folks. No event is the same, no talk is ever a repeat, and each moment on the road or at a gig is a chance to share the faith. I’m so grateful I get to do it.
Q: What inspired you and your husband to write a book about Lent?
A: When we were working as teachers and campus ministers and serving at a parish, we were always looking for stuff to give our students and teens during the liturgical seasons, and we kept coming up dry. We couldn’t find a devotional or resource that we absolutely loved, so we’d usually just create a hodgepodge of stuff, and over time, decided to just write one ourselves.
Q: Did you draw on your work as a Catholic speaker to help create this book?
A: Somewhat. I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of young people in my travels, and in a lot of conversations, it became obvious that many of them really needed something simple and straightforward to help them on their journey of faith. So Lent is really written for them. Most importantly, though, my time as a freshman theology teacher and parish youth director really prompted my desire to write this book. We were always looking for stuff to give our students and teens during Lent, and couldn’t find one we loved, so we just decided to write this one.
Q: What is it like to collaborate with your husband on writing a book?
A: It was a lot of fun, actually. Our writing styles are very different. I like to buckle down and churn out a ton of pages, one full day for the book at a time. Tommy tended to work in short spurts, doing a bunch of reflections, and then a bunch of challenges, and then a bunch of prayers. Our brains just work differently, so we had to just respect the other’s creative process. The best part was getting to edit each other, though. We’d swap the pages we’d each written and go through and tweak and hone in and improve, which meant that we were both writing each page, in our own way. It did a lot of good for us — gave us stuff to talk about, a project to work on, and it was almost like we were back in the trenches of raising a newborn baby, but without the sleep deprivation!
Q: Do you have any other collaborations with your husband?
A: We’re hoping to do a whole liturgical series similar to the Lent book – we’d like to write an Easter devotional, an Advent and Christmas devotional, and maybe even something for Ordinary Time. But we in the immediate time work together on our podcast, The Electric Waffle, which is a show that explores the intersection of pop culture, faith, and family life.
Q: Do you have any tips for our readers as to how they can make the most of the Lenten season this year?
A: I think the best way to have a meaningful and fruitful Lent is to approach the season honestly. This is not just supposed to be “spiritual boot camp” where we do all this stuff to “get holy,” but is instead a time to reflect, to rest, to restore our focus, and to renew our commitment to Christ by doing all these good things – fasting, and praying more intentionally, and giving alms. So, approach it with that honest understanding, and evaluate how you’re going to do all those things with the right frame of mind, and eyes fixed on Christ, and stay focused on that.
TO LEARN MORE:
Katie Prejean McGrady’s website is KatiePrejean.com.
The Electric Waffle can be found at TheElectricWaffle.com.