Tommy and Karen Tighe are the authors of Catholic Funny Fill-Ins and the new Catholic Funny Fill-Ins: Saints Spectacular, both of which are published by Pauline Books & Media. We caught up with them to ask about how families can share laughter and fun while learning about the Church and the faith.
How did you ever come up with the idea for Catholic Funny Fill-ins?
We were on a road trip to Yosemite National Park. Karen had an app on her phone and we were playing it with the kids as we went down the road. The topic was "The Life of Albert Einstein" and the kids laughed like crazy when Karen read the story back to them. Then it just kind of hit us: why isn't there something like this, but with Catholic topics? The idea took off from there!
As your first book went out into the world, who were you imagining playing with it? Is there a different audience for the upcoming one?
We were so excited thinking about families coming together, either on a road trip or around the dinner table to put together funny stories of their own! We had a couple of different families we are close to try some of the fill-ins out during the writing phase, and hearing about the fun they had together as a family just encouraged us even more to get this idea out into the hands of families everywhere! While the "Saints Spectacular!" will have much of the same audience, we'd also hope that some non-Catholic families would find the topics interesting and maybe learn a little about our faith along the way as well!
Talk a little if you will about laughter and its place in Catholic life.
Life isn't always easy or perfect, but when you can laugh with your friends or family, it feels good. The joy that we experience here on earth can remind us of the joy that awaits for us in heaven. Our desire for happiness, laughter, and lightheartedness draw us closer to a desire for eternal happiness. This desire leads us to following Jesus closer and closer every day!
Do you have a story or anecdote from your own family or someone else that relates to playing Catholic Funny Fill-ins?
When writing a story, sometimes it's hard to know if you're on the right track. After working on a story about picking out a Christmas tree, we tested it with our kids and a group of their friends. They burst into laughter with the line, “if you bring your [gorilla] with you, be sure to keep it on a leash.” It still makes us chuckle.
How do your books engage kids and families in learning/thinking about their faith?
The books are great at sneaking some really deep and important truths about the faith in a manner that feels casual and relaxed. It seems like if kids realize you are trying to teach them something, they tend to be more closed off, but if you can show them you're just wanting to have some fun with a word game, they'll be more open to the moments of knowledge that the book sneaks in there. Also, at the end of each fill-in, there is a brief section titled "Did You Know?", and it's a great way to remember that there's meaning behind all the fun!
Can you talk about how you struck the balance between fun and reverent? (That’s tricky, and you nailed it!)
Thankfully, the editors and team at Pauline helped us immensely with this! It can be tricky to feel your way through what is okay to joke about in terms of our faith and what is off-limits. We made sure to keep serious things serious. It isn't okay to make jokes about the Sacraments or other deep truths of our faith, but instead we focus a lot on making light of what it's like to grow up in a Catholic family, what it's like to have a ton of siblings, what it's like for parents to try and get everything done that has to get done while still trying to ensure the Catholic faith permeates the day - it can all be so overwhelming, and let's face it, pretty hilarious!
How has your own family responded? Do they help you come up with new ones?
Our kids absolutely loved helping us come up with ideas and work on others throughout the writing process. Some of the stories are even based on stories that have happened to us in real life!
Why did you turn to the saints for this new book?
We decided to dedicate an entire book to saints precisely because the saints are such an important part of our life as a Catholic family. We have pictures of saints on our walls, we often pray a litany before bed, we ask for their help, and we see in their lives an example of how best to grow in our relationship with Christ and his Church. Also, they have some pretty incredible and fun stories attached to them, which made it seem like an idea we simply couldn't pass up!
We love it! Do you have other versions in the works, or that you’d like to do?
We have one more version on the way, a Catholic Funny Fill-ins all about feast days, both Catholic feast days that make up the liturgical year and non-religious holidays that are sprinkled in all of our lives as well. We're so excited to see both of these two new versions get into the hands of Catholic families everywhere and hope it brings as much joy to those playing as it did to us!