Finding Intentionality in Faith and Family Life
An Interview with Augustine Institute Alumna Katie Warner
Katie Warner, a 2013 graduate of the Augustine Institute, is a full-time wife and mother, and the part-time Manager of Communication and Evangelization for Catholics Come Home. Katie is also a writer and a speaker on intentional faith and family life, and a correspondent for the National Catholic Register. Her first book, Head & Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family, provides practical ways that men and women can be intentional spiritual leaders for their families. Her most recent book, A Parent Who Prays: A Journal to Guide You in Praying for Your Children, is a resource to help parents prioritize praying for their children. You can get to know her and follow her work at KatieWarner.com.
FAITH & CULTURE:
How did you come to embrace the service of Catholic families?
My ministry to individual Catholics and families over the past several years came about from my own plunge into family life, and working to maintain the same fire for God and intentional pursuit of spiritual growth amidst the demands involved in raising a family. As I prioritize my own growing family with my husband Raymond, and our three children – RJ (4), Hannah (2), and Lily (newborn) – ministry looks different now than it did five or six years ago, when I could easily hop on a plane to a speaking engagement or filming, and I could work and write anytime! Now, ministry primarily involves loving and discipling my kids, introducing them to Jesus, and all of the less glamorous, but crucially important activities involved in serving my spouse, stay-at-home mothering, and taking care of a home. Perhaps not surprisingly, this is where I’ve found the greatest spiritual growth (and personal fulfillment and joy). I think so many people resonate with St. Therese of Lisieux’s philosophy of doing small things with great love because most of us are living lives that involve doing a lot of seemingly small things, but it’s the love that we put into these very things that elevates them to our greatest ministry work.
FAITH & CULTURE:
What inspired you to create a prayer journal for parents?
I wrote A Parent Who Prays first and foremost because I needed the resource myself! My children are still very young, but as they grow, my heart continues to increase in my desire for God’s will and work to be realized in their lives; I want them to be full of virtue, fall in love with Christ, stay close to the Church, grow in holiness, have deep-rooted joy, and be lights in our culture. During my petitionary prayer, I found myself either praying a long litany of intentions for them or simply just praying for them by name because praying everything I wanted for them was so lengthy! I wrote this prayer journal to help me focus on one particular intention each week for my kids.
After writing A Parent Who Prays, I received immediate feedback from readers who wanted to see other versions. Now there are prayer journals available for grandparents, godparents, and confirmation sponsors, too. There is really no greater gift we can give our young people today, fighting a culture of relativism and anti-virtue in many ways, than our prayers. My hope is that these little books help many, many young people of all ages in ways they may never be able to see, in large part because they had a parent, grandparent, godparent, or sponsor praying for them.
FAITH & CULTURE:
In discussing your book, Head & Heart, you speak candidly about the moment you and your husband made the choice to be intentional spiritual leaders in your family. What advice do you have for new parents who may be considering this role for the first time, or for any parent desiring to take this role more seriously?
My book, Head & Heart, came about from an emotional discussion and moment in the car with my husband, when my firstborn was only a few months old. He very humbly and candidly admitted to me that, although he was born and raised Catholic, and even had been very involved in living and studying his faith throughout his teen and young adult years, he still didn’t feel confident and equipped to be the spiritual head of our family in a practical, day-to-day, rubber-meets-the-road kind of way. I, too, wanted to be a strong spiritual “heart” for our family, but studying theology and working in ministry over the years doesn’t automatically translate into living this role with ease or faithfulness. Years later, I still deeply admire his candor, because it helped open my eyes to a concern that many other parents (not just new parents!) share – they want to raise a faith-filled family and have a strong Catholic culture in the home that stands the test of time over their children’s lives, but they don’t know quite what that looks like or how to prioritize it in regular, daily life.
Spiritual leadership in the home is nothing new, and it’s not rocket science. It involves cultivating simple, profoundly influential habits or characteristics that can guide a family – no matter the crazy culture they live in – toward unity, holiness, and a contagious vibrancy of faith. Families with strong spiritual leaders have a number of things in common, like having strong marriages, prioritizing prayer, making their homes schools of virtue, handing on Catholic culture, embracing their crosses, and living by a mission. When I wrote Head & Heart, which unpacks these common characteristics through examination of Church teaching and stories lived out in real families, I encouraged readers (myself included) to focus on one of these habits at a time in a very intentional way. Over time, these little changes can lead to tremendous growth in spiritual leadership and family faith, and the process of growing in this way is in itself pleasing to God. St. Francis de Sales says, “God takes pleasure to see you take your little steps.”
FAITH & CULTURE:
You earned your degree from the Augustine Institute in 2013. What was your motivation to pursue a Master’s in Theology? Is there a class, professor, or moment from your time at the Augustine Institute that stands out for you?
I had been involved in teaching my faith for years already, but I was hungry for solid, well-rounded, orthodox formation so I could really have substance to and vibrancy in my evangelization work. I also desired to connect with a great Catholic community—to have a network of friends and mentors who had a passion for building up the Kingdom of God and bearing good fruit in our culture. I didn’t realize what a perfect fit the Augustine Institute would be until I started as an on-campus student there, and the education and culture exceeded every hope and expectation.
I could list a number of classes, professors, and moments from my time at the Augustine Institute that were formative and memorable for me. Dr. Gray’s mentorship and a number of his lessons (like those on Lectio Divina and the Sabbath) still bear fruit in my life today. But if I had to choose one moment and experience with a professor, I can clearly picture myself standing in full graduation attire on the day I walked to receive my diploma, talking privately with Dr. Sri before the ceremony. He told me that lots of ministry opportunities could come my way in the forthcoming years, but to never hesitate in prioritizing my most important ministry – family life—and that God’s reward would be great for faithfulness to this primary calling. No other gifts, knowledge, or potential would ever go to waste by knowing when it’s time to turn one’s attention, especially as a woman, to the home. At the time, I wasn’t married yet, but I recognized deep value in his advice, and it rang regularly in my head. Now it has become a guiding principle in my ministry work.
FAITH & CULTURE:
How did your formation through the Augustine Institute prepare you for the work you do?
I see my formation at the Augustine Institute reaching most areas of my life and ministry work. The understanding of the Catholic worldview and authentic Catholic culture informs my life at home with my family. My fuller knowledge of salvation history, moral and spiritual theology, and practical catechesis enhances the ministry work I do through writing and speaking. The Augustine Institute’s tone and approach of evangelizing with logic and love impacts my work as the Communication and Evangelization Manager for Catholics Come Home, responding and ministering to fallen-away Catholics, non-Catholics and others who share all sorts of thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about the Catholic Church.
Perhaps most notably, the Augustine Institute imparted a strong desire to work tirelessly and excitedly to evangelize others – whether that’s my own children or people I may never meet, since so much of my ministry these days is online.
Finally, though I’ve generally ministered to adults over the years, catechizing very little people has become an invigorating new part of ministry work, too, probably as a result of growing my family and recognizing the importance of instructing the littlest and greatest disciples in our faith! My dear friend, fellow Augustine Institute graduate, and insanely talented illustrator Meg Whalen and I will be releasing a line of Catholic picture books soon. If you have little ones in your life, we’d love for you to stay connected with us online. I’m always grateful to see how the Augustine Institute’s formation can extend to all ages and stages of evangelization!