Faith-Building Books for Teens (The Book Whisperer)

Book WhispererThis week I started teaching a class to prepare a small group of teens to be confirmed at the Easter Vigil this year at St. Basil the Great Parish in Kimberton, PA. So for the next few months — through Lent — I’ve decided that “A Mother on the Road Less Traveled” will be taking a spiritual journey along with them. And what’s a journey without a few good books?

This post will include a few titles that I’m recommending for my students.

The YouCat is a resource for teenagers that will provide reliable answers to any questions about the Catholic faith that you might have. I gave my students a copy at our first meeting. If you want to learn more, you can always read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, on which the YouCat is based.

The New American Bible, which is the version read at Mass. On this website you will find daily Scripture readings, which you can follow to learn  more about what God has revealed to us, the “salvation story” that covers more than four thousand years of human history, and culminates in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the reason for our hope; he created the Church while he was here on earth, and instituted the sacraments that strengthen us for the journey to heaven. The story of Jesus is found in the first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). If you’ve never read the Bible on your own before, you may want to start there. It is also a good idea to follow the daily readings, which will help you to understand how to read the Old Testament in relationship to the New Testament — that’s important when you are studying the Catholic faith.

my-big-bookIf you would like to read more about the heroes of the faith in Scripture, pick up a copy of My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories. I compiled this book several years ago for Thomas Nelson Publishers. In addition to the beautiful pictures and stories, it also has Catechism references and other helpful information, and little prayers to help you apply the text to your life.

If you want to learn more about the saints, there are lots of books to help you! One I especially like is Mystics and Miracles: True Stories of Lives Touched by God, by Bert Ghezzi. You’ll find some of the better-known saints like Catherine of Siena, Francis of Assisi, and Teresa of Avila as well as some lesser-known like Francis of Paola (who “defied gravity to move huge boulders … passed through fire and handled glowing coals unharmed”) and Gertrude the Great (to whom Jesus appeared as a sixteen-year-old boy and captured her heart).

Next week, I’ll share some of the books that helped me when I was journeying toward the Church in the winter of 1993.

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True Confessions for the Year of Faith

Drumroll, please.

Tomorrow begins the “Year of Faith,” the 50th anniversary of the opening session of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Pope Benedict XVI has uttered a call to all Catholics to renew and rejuvenate their faith, reading and putting into practice the rich treasury of wisdom that the Church has safeguarded for two thousand years.

To be perfectly honest, I’m in a much better place now to begin the year — having completed four days of my TOB retreat. My faith, which has taken something of a beating these past few months, is feeling less tenuous. Tomorrow night Craig and Sarah will come and join me for the last-night marshmallow roast — Sarah’s reward for being a good girl for Craig while I was gone. And in no time at all, it will be back to the salt mines.

What are you doing, to celebrate the Year of Faith? Ascension Press is offering a free email service of weekly reflections from authors like Danielle Bean, Jeff Cavins, Teresa Tomeo, and Dr. Edward Sri. You can sign up here.

In the meantime, I thought I’d kick off the year with a little story.

My Aunt Rosemary was in her early thirties when she was diagnosed with ALS. She was a faithful Christian woman with three small children — the youngest only about four. Her weekly women’s Bible study prayed for her every week, that God would take the disease away from her so she could see her children grow up. Prayed earnestly, with tears and great conviction.

Long story short, their prayers weren’t answered the way they’d hoped. Gradually, as Aunt Rosemary lost the use of her ability to stand, then to talk, the prayers got a little more frantic. Some actually accused her of “secret sin,” certain that God would have healed her if only she had enough faith. One by one, people stopped coming to her house. My mom would go to visit, communicating her with a shorthand alphabet system whereby she’d divide the alphabet into four parts (“apple” – a through e; “girl” – g through l; “manner” – m through r; and “stay” – s through z) and Rosemary would blink as Mom guessed the right letter for each word she wanted to say. She stayed in that medical limbo for almost eight years before she finally succumbed to the disease.

It wasn’t until years later, I asked one of my seminary professors about the sacrament of anointing, how often he’d seen actual healing take place as a result of ministering the sacrament. “It does happen,” Father told me. “But more often, it’s about strengthening the soul for what’s ahead.”

And so it is with the Year of Faith. None of us have any way of knowing what is in store for us in the coming year, shadow or glory. Rocky roads or smooth pavement. Feast or famine.

What we can say for sure is that, either way, how we respond to these circumstances depends to a great extent how willing we are to offer it back to God and trust him to make something beautiful out of it.

So join me, won’t you, in offering this year — whatever it holds — to the loving benevolence of God?

Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen.