Teen Reading: Catholic, Reluctantly

Since I have a 15-year old, I was delighted to have the opportunity to review Catholic, Reluctantly, the first book in a new Catholic teen fiction series, written by Christian Frank.

The book introduces seven students in a new Catholic School. The seven, in fact, are the only students in the school, which occupies a run down building in constant danger of being declared unsuitable for occupation. Each is there for his or her own reason, including one whose mother sent her there after a shooting event in the nearby public school that she had previously attended and another whose mother sends him there as an expression of support for the new principal. Several of the students have very mixed reaction to being at this new school, with no faciliities for sports and lights that only sometimes work.

Despite some unevenness in character development (which might be expected from the first story in a series), Frank does a good job of presenting believable teens who experience the kinds of challenges many teens experience. The difference is that in addition to the normal “secular” challenges explored in many works of fiction, these characters face questions that have to do with their faith. How does a high school sophmore who believes pornography is immoral and hurtful to women respond when his teammates pass around pornographic magazines? How does a young girl react when told her mother is “living in sin” with her new husband becuase she married after a divorce? How should students deal with each other over faith differences? It is good to see such questions raised in a book for teens.

Apart from raising such issues, the book does a good job of presenting Catholic truths without being preachy. There is enough theology to give teens some food for thought, but it is not heavy on doctrine in a way that might scare them away.

Overall I thought it was an engaging story and one I’d be happy to see my daughter read.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Catholic, Reluctantly.

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Blessing for the Day

I’ve mentioned before that one of the best gifts I received when I moved here from New York last year was a “blessing cup” from my friend Mary – a large ceramic bowl filled with folded and sealed cards, each containing a carefully selected blessing. (I still, a year later, shake my head in wonder and gratitude at the amount of time she put into preparing this gift for me.) Now and then I open one – sometimes when I feel particularly good, other times when I feel the need for a lift.

Here is the blessing I opened this morning: “May you wake each morning with thank you on your lips and in your heart, recognizing how very much your God loves you and knowing that all is gift and that all is blessing.”

What this brought to mind is a song by Kathy Sherman called All is Gift that I sometimes use for morning prayer services, the message of which is “all is gift, my friend, all is gift form a loving God.” All of it:

The colors of a sunrise, a morning surprise…
The hand that helps you when you’ve fallen down…
laughter and smiles…
The hope that we cling to when the darkness comes…
A God who will let us know we’re not alone
All is gift, my friend
All is gift from a loving God.

The other thing that just popped into my head as I was hearing in my mind the lyrics of the Sherman song is a line of Kahal Gibran’s that my deceased father used to love: “Awake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.”

So if you haven’t yet stopped in awe and wonder at God’s love today…haven’t yet stopped to express gratitude for all the gifts God lavishes on us, now might be a good time to do it.