Podcaster Katie Prejean McGrady speaks on fostering love for the Eucharist within the family
(Part four of a five part series on the New York State Eucharistic Congress)
Wife, mother and award-winning author Katie Prejean McGrady brought her life experiences to the New York State Eucharistic Congress the weekend of Oct. 20-22. Delivering a talk on “Fostering Eucharistic Love Within the Family,” the host of “The Katie McGrady Show” used her daughters as an example of how parents can teach their children about the Eucharist.
A resident of Lake Charles, Louisiana, McGrady and her husband are raising two daughters, ages 6 and 3.
McGrady explained how Catholic traditions have been passed down through her family. Her father would make the sign of the cross when passing, Our Lady Queen of Heaven Church, the family parish. McGrady’s daughters have seen her doing the same.
“I guess Rose was like 3 or so, and we drove past the church one day and I did the sign of the cross. And she went, ‘Mom, what are you doing?’ I said, ‘Well, Jesus is inside.’ There’s also a giant crucifix on the outside. So, I thought she’d make the connection. And she went, ‘Hi, Jesus.’ And we kept going.”
This became a regular action whenever the family passed their church. Then it grew into conversations.
“Rose would communicate with Jesus out the window. ‘Jesus we’re going to school.’ And she would give him a morning update. ‘Jesus, Mom’s being mean to me.’ Fill Him in that I’m a bad parent. ‘Jesus I’m scared.’ And I realized this familiarity was growing with Jesus kind of unbeknownst to me. It wasn’t like I was telling her, ‘Say hi to Jesus.’ And then documenting it for Instagram because it’s not real if it’s not on social media, right? It was just this understanding that had slowly developed in her little head. That He was in there. And we can say hi.”
Things grew more when McGrady’s sister, Laura, began a postulancy with the Sisters of Life in New York City.
“We’re driving to school. I was feeling a little down. I miss my little sister. And my girls were in the back seat of the car. And right as we’re coming up on the church. I hear my girls say, ‘Hi Jesus’ from Rose. She was a little sad when she said it to me though. And little Clair screamed at the top of their lungs, ‘Don’t be sad Jesus!’ And I’m driving and I’m like, ‘Why would Jesus be sad, Claire bear?’ And she went, ‘Because Wa Wa’s gone.’ I said, ‘But Wa Wa’s going to see Jesus.’ Rose, ‘But Jesus is right there. Can we go see Wa Wa?’” Wa Wa is Laura’s nickname.
“And then I hear Claire say, ‘Be happy Jesus. Wa Wa’s coming to see you.’ My face kind of lights up. And there’s this really quiet voice that pipes up from Rose. And she goes, ‘Tell her we say hi, Jesus.’”
It struck McGrady that what is needed to grow Catholic families is to create a familiarity with Jesus within the family.
“That word familiar, it means intimate, it means relationship, it means close. And it sounds an awful lot like the word family,” she explained. “A family is familiar. You know everything about a child. You can pick up a conversation halfway through. It’s why I’m not all that worried about being apart from my one sister when she’s discerning her vocation because I’m pretty sure I can pick up the phone and we can pick back up where we left off the last time we chatted.”
“The Eucharist,” she explained, “is sometimes this thing that we make quite complicated and we make quite heady and it is. Praise God for the intelligent people that can talk about it. But the Eucharist is also meant to be this very almost gritty personal familiar understanding of the Lord who comes close to us that we can wave hi to on the way to school. This Jesus that wants to literally be consumed within us, closer to us than anything else imaginable. And growing a Eucharistic love within our family is about bringing especially our children, our young children who have a religious sensibility far more deep than I think we sometimes realize, bringing them close to that Eucharistic love.”
McGrady looked at another aspect of her life, that of a busy wife, mother, public speaker, who doesn’t have time to build a familiarity with Jesus. She tithes. She attends Bible study. She sends her kids to Catholic school. “And yet I can’t tell you the last time my family prayed spontaneously together. We become so consumed with all this external doing that we forget the thing we’re meant to be is this familiar relationship with Jesus who thirsts for us, who hungers for us, who longs to be close to us.”
Sensing a bit of stress and burdens in her life, McGrady’s spiritual director suggested she read Luke 10:38-42, about the priorities of sisters, Martha and Mary.
“Luke is a physician and he’s writing to a Gentile audience and he’s very, very specific with his words, so when he tells us that she feels a burden he wants us to feel it. And every person in this room immediately thought of the burden that they are carrying right now, of the burden they left behind to come to a mountain in Auriesville for the day, of the burden they’re struggling with their children who have disappointed Him from the faith, of the burden they have on their marriage, their job, their finances, and the burden that maybe they’re terrified to show Jesus. But I think sometimes the burden isn’t all that dramatic. It could be taken to the Lord, but I think sometimes the burden is just the simple plague of our minds that constantly work of the weight of just knowing so many things and carrying so many responsibilities and tasks that we know we can’t just put them to the side they have to get done, but that mental load burdens us to where we don’t have time for Jesus.”
McGrady closed her talk by suggesting we not let ourselves be too burdened to seek out Jesus in the Eucharist.
“Perhaps the way we grow Eucharistic love in our family is by going to Him even if the kids are squirming, even when they have lots of questions, even when they might feel distant and alone from the Lord and saying Lord we are here and we want to know that you care. And hear Him call us by our name. Grow in that intimacy of love in a way that transforms the world.”