Interview with Kendra Tierney, Liturgical Living Rock Star

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Kendra Tierney’s new book, The Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living in Real Life, has been flying off the Internet shelves. Seriously. It sold out before it was even released, and for very good reason! This is a book every Catholic household needs to have on its shelf.

There is such beauty in the liturgical year, and learning to live our rich tradition is essential to passing the Faith on to our families and helping it to breathe in our parishes. Grab your copy and check out what Kendra had to say when I asked her about writing, her faith, and parenting the more resistant among us.

 

LS: You have been on the journey of sharing liturgical living through your blog for some time. How was creating this book a different kind of challenge?

KT: Blogging and book writing are definitely different experiences for me. My blog writing is all done completely on whim. I don’t plan out posts. I sit down and write whatever pops into my head, proofread it, hit post. Usually in the wee hours of the morning. It’s pretty much textbook what NOT to do. But it works for me. I find blogging to be very cathartic. It helps me examine and process issues. And then, I wake up in the morning to feedback on the post. So there’s that almost instant gratification.

This book took two years to write and one year to edit. Some of that was the craziness of moving and home remodeling, and morning sickness and having babies (twice). But it was also that I didn’t want the book to be just repackaged material from the blog. I wanted it to be a book. So even though I’ve talked on the blog about almost everything that’s in the book, it’s all rewritten and re-examined. That’s a lot of typing into a vacuum, with no feedback but my own head. When I sent the first draft to my editor, it was 600 pages long. The husband and I went out to dinner that night, thinking I was done writing my book. How little I knew.

The editing process was long. I’m really grateful to the people at Ignatius Press. They care about getting it right. My manuscript went through at least four different editors, maybe more; I lost track. All my wild bloggy claims were exhaustively fact-checked. The fat was trimmed. And it now weighs in at a svelte 360 pages.

LS: The book explores some lesser-known traditions and how to bring them into modern living. What was the most surprising thing you learned about our Church in the process?

KT: Hmm … so many things. It’s just going to ruin your day, but I learned that Philomena is not actually a saint, as her remains were discovered after the institution of an official canonization process, but she was never officially canonized.

On a more positive note, the story of the Japanese martyrs is, to me, the most fascinating in the book. The Catholic faith was introduced into Japan with success, then there was this crazy showdown between the Portuguese Jesuits and the Spanish Franciscans, and a mouthy Spanish ship captain got hundreds of churches burned to the ground, dozens of Christians martyred, and all foreigners expelled from the country. Without bishops, the priests died and there was no one to replace them. But Japanese lay Catholics continued to practice and pass on the Faith in secret. Two hundred and fifty years later, when Japan was again open to foreigners, and religious freedom was reestablished, over thirty thousand underground Catholics came out of hiding. Amazing.

And Japanese Castella Cake, or Kasutera, was introduced to the country by those sixteenth-century Portuguese missionaries and is still popular in Japan today.

LS: Writing a book always has its ups and downs, but this one was a particularly large undertaking. How did your faith life change in the course of writing this book and getting it into readers’ hands?

KT: So much changed in my life between pitching this book and holding it. We moved. I had two babies. I had a child almost die in a freak backyard accident. (He made a complete recovery.) My husband was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma after ten years in remission and entered treatment (which seems to be going well!). I feel like my faith is the one thing that didn’t change during the writing of this book. To paraphrase Peter, I’ve come to believe and know that Jesus is God, so what else was I going to do?!

LS: You share your experience of liturgical living in the context of your family, which for me as a wife and mother is relatable and encouraging. What is your advice to singles and young people who are looking to build traditions of liturgical living?

KT: I’ve gotten the question a lot: Is this book just for moms? And my answer is always: I really, honestly hope not. That wasn’t my intention. The book is definitely written through the lens of my family life. But my brand of liturgical living is dinner-table-focused, rather than craft- or lesson-based. Our celebrations are largely food, prayer, and conversation, and that’s appropriate for all ages, vocations, and stages of life.

If, as a single person, you were to read the book and that’s it, you’d still learn a lot about Church history and tradition and the lives of the saints. I think that would be great. But maybe, as it simmers for a while, you might be inspired to find out when your baptism day is, and when the feast of your name saint or patron saint is. You might grow in devotion to that saint. Maybe you’d start observing Fridays and Sundays as special days in each week. Eventually, you might decide to throw a little dinner party here and there. Maybe host a wine tasting for the feast of St. Vincent of Saragossa? Or a barbeque for the feast of St. Lawrence? Or a bonfire for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist? I will be so happy if this book is able to inspire some young people to have some old-fashioned IRL get togethers. That’s really such an important part of what the liturgical year IS. It’s not just little names on a calendar page. These were days of celebration in community. I’d love it if the next generation of Catholics reclaimed some of that cultural heritage.

LS: What would you say to a parent whose child or children resists observing a tradition of the Church the parent has tried to incorporate into the home life?

KT: This is a really understandable question, and one that I’m sure many people are wondering about. The answer is hard to make in writing without coming across as insensitive. So, please humor me for a sec and imagine that we are sitting across from one another, face to face, and we’ve got a cup of tea or a glass of wine in hand, and I smile supportively and say to you …

This is not a liturgical living issue. This isn’t a religion issue. This is a parenting issue. If I take the time to cook a special meal for my children, and plan a conversation, and that effort is met by rudeness and derision, that needs to be addressed from a basic human decency/respect for parents angle. Perhaps it’s also impious, but it’s definitely impolite and I think that’s the way to address it. We have standards of behavior around here and scoffing at family/Church tradition violates them. We handle it the same way we’d handle other instances of breaking family rules. Our general parenting method is:

  1. High (yet age-appropriate) expectations.
  2. Clear explanations of what is expected and why.
  3. Defined consequences for not living up to expectations.
  4. Reminders when appropriate.
  5. Following through with consequences.

All of this: liturgical living, family culture, and high-expectation parenting is all easier to implement if you start early. So, if your kids are little, you’re in luck. Just start it all right now. But even if your kids are older, and even if they’re already scoffers, there’s no time like the present for implementing new standards and new traditions. It makes liturgical living and regular living both much more pleasant.

LS: Having immersed yourself so completely in the Church’s year, is there a feast or season that has come to be your favorite, perhaps a different one than before you wrote this book?

KT: Advent 4evah. Figuring out Advent was really critical to the process of my faith journey, and now my favorite traditions of the year are in there: the Advent wreath, straw for baby Jesus, the Christmas Anticipation Prayer, St. Andrew, St. Nicholas, St. Lucy, St. John of the Cross, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Immaculate Conception, the Christmas Novena. I love it all. So much to do and think about. There’s all this pressure to relax during Christmas and Easter. I find that challenging.

Thanks so much to Kendra for taking the time for this interview. I hope it’s inspired you to get out there and have your best liturgical year yet! Find the book on Amazon.com!

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Copyright 2018 Lindsay Schlegel
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About Author

Lindsay Schlegel is a writer and editor with an extensive background in book publishing. She contributes regularly to Verily, and blogs about writing at What I Learned While Writing a Novel. She is married to her high school sweetheart. They have three children on earth and one saint awaiting them, God willing, in Heaven. She enjoys knitting, kickboxing, and reading to her children. Visit her online at LindsaySchlegel.com.

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