It takes just 20 minutes a day to learn a whole new outlook on life, says Stephanie Engelman, author of the 2016 young adult Catholic novel “A Single Bead.”
A convert from Methodism to Catholicism, Engelman spends about 20 minutes daily praying the Rosary, and says the practice has shaped her way of thinking.
“If you’re praying the Rosary every day, then every day you’re meditating on the life of Christ and the Blessed Mother,” she says. “Eventually you’re making their responses your own.”
Engelman so believes in the power of the Rosary that she wrote “A Single Bead” to tell the tale of a teenage girl who discovers its life-changing beauty through her grandmother’s death. Earlier this year, the book won Second Place in the Catholic Press Association Book Awards for Teens and Young Adults as well as Second Place in the Children’s Books Category of the Association of Catholic Publishers Excellence in Publishing Awards.
Published by Pauline Books & Media, “A Single Bead” is set in Indianapolis, Engelman’s current home, and relates how Katelyn “Kate” Marie Roberts discovers a rosary bead with her initials on it, in a field where her grandmother’s plane had crashed. Her grandmother’s tragic death in the crash devastates Kate’s family, most especially her mother, who sinks into clinical depression over time.
Kate’s grandmother had made rosaries for each of her family members, engraving the beads with the initials of each of her relatives’ names. “A Single Bead” details how Kate and her family members, including an uncle who is a priest, attempt to recover as many of the engraved beads as possible.
Through the course of the book, we learn that each of the strangers who have come to possess one of the lost beads experiences miraculous physical and spiritual events. Over time, Kate comes to realize the beads symbolize the connectedness between everyone on Earth and in Heaven.
“These beads do possess a special power,” she says near the book’s end. “But it’s not magic, and it’s not the stuff of some sci-fi story. The power of a single bead lies entirely in the power of a single prayer.”
A blogger as well as the communications director for a Catholic pilgrimage company, Engelman says she’s experienced such power in her own life. Shortly after her conversion to Catholicism more than a decade ago, she began praying the Rosary.
“I had a peace that seemed impossible before I began praying it,” she says.
Engelman wants to share that peace with others, and has already gotten positive feedback from Catholic schools that have employed it in their classrooms.
“I’ve never seen so many kids engaged in reading! Such a powerful and convincing story!” wrote one sixth grade teacher, after reading the book with his class.
Engelman has also decided writing Catholic young adult fiction is one of her callings, and is already becoming an in-demand speaker and interview subject. She spoke this year at the National Catholic Education Association’s conference in St. Louis, on “The Power of Fiction to Change Hearts While Teaching Minds,” and she’s also appeared on EWTN twice and has been interviewed for podcasts and radio shows.
Even her own family has been changed by the book, she says, noting she and her husband, Ray, also a Catholic convert, have five kids ages 2 to 13.
“My son read it in his sixth grade classroom, and I think he was surprised that he enjoyed it,” she says with a chuckle, adding: “A little girl who was a friend of my daughter said, ‘My sister started praying the Rosary every day because of your book.’”
The Rosary’s power lies in its ability to put those who pray in a kind of heavenly mindset, she adds, noting it reminds its practitioners that God’s grace is readily available to everyone.
“I think that we have a lot of opportunities for mystical experiences if we’re open to them,” she says.
For more information on Engelman and “A Single Bead,” visit stephanieengelman.com.
For more information on her publisher, visit pauline.org.
Rob Cullivan is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon. He has written for Catholic News Service and other religious and secular publications.