We are all called to live holy lives. We are called be saints.
“as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:15-16
How do we teach this to our children? We want them to learn this at a very young age so that they can grow in faith and grace, joy and peace. But our children won’t get this message from the world. The world and its business often provides the opposite example, one that leads to unhappiness.
We teach our children the faith, pray together as a family, and do our best to be good examples. We also look for role models whose lives demonstrate the faith-messages we are trying to teach.
Saints can provide the role models we are looking for!
Saint Clare’s story touches people of every age…
her faithfulness to God’s call
her joy that attracted others to a life of faith
her trust in God no matter the challenge
her simple way of making the littlest daily activities a gift to God
her kindness that extends even to a little kitten
The author of Saint Clare and Her Cat, Dessi Jackson, really did her research for this sweet little book. It is even true that Saint Clare liked cats.
A little online research will pull up a few images of the saint with cats. I love this icon by Terrance Nelson. Saint Clare holds the Blessed Sacrament in her hands and cats sit at her feet. Learn more about the icon and the artist, or even get your own copy, HERE.
On the road to San Damiano, Grandma Nonna shares with her grandson Antonio a once-upon-a-time story about Saint Clare. Full-color illustrations and a delightful tale capture the beauty and faith of Saint Clare as she pursues her vocation and embraces the joyful and simple Franciscan spirituality. Ever-appreciative of the little things, Clare’s happiness blossoms even more with her wonderful discovery of a tiny kitten.
“Beautifully illustrated and written. You have my approval! By all means the St. Joseph’s table would love to have one.” ~ Fr. Gillilan
“This charming story of Saint Clare of Assisi and her blossoming friendship with a mischievous little cat is absolutely delightful.” ~ Amazon review, Nose in a Book
“The story is written in an engaging and entertaining manner. . . . And can be read again and again, at the writing of this review I have read it almost a dozen times, by myself or with one or more of my children. . . . It is a great Catholic picture book, fun for the whole family..” ~Steven R. McEvoy, Book Reviews & More
“Wonderful and delightful story with incredible illustrations!! Children will love the full colored pages as they listen to the story. A must add to any children’s collection.” ~ Amazon review, Didi
“Saint Clare and Her Cat is a great introduction to the Franciscan saint. Told as a story within a story, it’s appealing to children with friendly illustrations and pretty kitty too. The book would make a great gift for a child any time of the year.” ~ An Open Book Family
More from the author and illustrator:
Dessi Jackson is also the author of other Catholic picture book saint stories, including Saint Felix and the Spider, The Saint and His Bees, Nicola and the Monk, and Roses in the Snow. Look for them at your local Catholic bookstore, or ask them to carry these books. They are also found on Amazon.
The illustrator Martina Parnelli has also illustrated numerous saint stories by author Susan Peek, including the Animals of God series and God’s Forgotten Friends for Children Series. They can be found on Susan’s website HERE. Martina Parnelli has written and illustrated the Little Runty trilogy and other faith-filled stories too. You can learn more about her HERE. Ask your local Catholic bookstore to carry all her books or look for them on Amazon.
Saint stories are a great way to inspire faith in little ones. Add Saint Clare and Her Cat to your children’s book collection now!
This month, the Catholic Writers’ Guild is touring Carolyn Astfalk’s book, “Rightfully Ours.” It is a CWG Seal of Approval recipient! A coming-of-age story of first love, buried treasure, and discovering that some things are worth the wait.
Sixteen-year-old Paul Porter’s relocation to Pennsylvania is a temporary move during his dad’s deployment. Or so he and his brother think, until devastating news lands on their doorstep.
Paul’s new home with the Muellers provides solace, especially in the form of Rachel, his friend and confidante. Their abiding friendship deepens as they work side by side to uncover what could be lost treasure.
Will they acquire the strength of character and virtue to take only what rightfully belongs to them or are they in way over their heads, with more than a few lost artifacts at stake?
Everything outside the window remained still. The crescent moon did nothing to dispel the darkness in the yard. No lights lit Rachel’s house. The only light in his room came from the blue glow of the digital alarm clock and its reflection in the mirror above the dresser. A set of rosary beads hung from the upper corner of the mirror.
The brown, well-used beads dangled lazily in the darkness. Dad’s rosary beads. Paul hadn’t touched them in the year and a half they’d hung there. Besides a few pictures of his mom, him, and Sean, they were the only items found on Dad.
What do I have to lose?
Learn about the author, Carolyn Astfalk:
Carolyn Astfalk is a wife, mother, and author of contemporary Catholic romances Stay With Me, Come Back to Me, Ornamental Graces, Rightfully Ours, and All in Good Time. She formerly worked as a communications director and now works just to keep her head above water. Find her books on Amazon and her other words scattered around the blogosphere and social media.
St. Zélie Martin (1831-1877) is best known as the mother of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, one of the most-loved saints of modern times, but she is also a saint in her own right. In this work of historical fiction based largely on St. Zélie’s letters, a compelling portrait of a working mother who always put God first comes to life.
St. Zélie is a saint many women can relate to. She suffered from anxiety, struggled with work-life balance, grieved the loss of children, cared for aging parents, had a child with special needs, and dealt with personal illness. Above all, she loved God and her family and had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother.
In this intimate portrayal, you will come to know a complex woman who achieved holiness while living in the world and dealing with the stress of modern life.
Interview with Author Anne Faye
Why tell St. Zélie’s story?
Like many others, I first heard of St. Zélie in the story of her most famous child, St. Thérèse of Lisieux. I first read St. Thérèse’s autobiography, Story of a Soul, when I was young. My mother had a great devotion to St. Thérèse and passed that on to me. I would revisit that famous book many more times in my life. Yet, for a long time, the most I could have told you about St. Thérèse’s mother was that she died when the great saint was only a small child.
My first true introduction to St. Zélie was when she and her husband, Louis, were being beatified in 2008. By this point, I had been married for several years and had children of my own. It was exciting to see a married couple being beatified. They were canonized in 2015.
In October of 2019, I read The Extraordinary Parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux by Hélène Mongin and became intrigued by this story of a modern woman who lived a life of holiness out in the world while dealing with the challenges of marriage, motherhood, and work. Here was a saint I could relate to.
I then attended a retreat in November 2019 in which the facilitator, Megan Baillargeon, spoke about St. Zélie. She had a book of St. Zélie’s letters. I had not known such a resource existed. I left the retreat determined to get a copy of that book and to write this saint’s story.
St. Zélie has much to offer as a role model for women today. Although she lived nearly 150 years ago, she struggled with many of the same issues that women do today. She had to balance family and work. She often was sleep-deprived. She suffered from anxiety, constantly worrying about her children. She experienced great grief, losing four of her children in early childhood. She had health problems, experiencing painful headaches and then ultimately dying of breast cancer. Through it all, she put her trust in God.
Those who believe she deserved sainthood only because of her children (all five of her children who lived to adulthood became religious sisters) sell her short. Yes, she raised her children to be holy, but she and her husband are saints in their own right because of their own faith lived out in the daily challenge of life in the world. St. Zélie was not perfect, but she always put God first. She is a heavenly friend whom women can turn to in their times of need. St. Zélie, pray for us.
What is truth and fiction in this retelling?
Whenever I read a work of historical fiction, I always wonder what is based in fact and what is a product of the author’s imagination.
Part One of this book is largely fictional. With the exception of a few major life events, little is known of St. Zélie’s early life. She did have a difficult relationship with her mother. She was rejected when she attempted to enter the convent. She did have inner locutions that told her to make lace and that Louis Martin was the man for her. The two did have a celibate marriage for nine months before a spiritual director encouraged them to consummate their relationship. They did care for a small child during those early days. The vast majority of details are my best guess of what might have happened.
Parts Two and Three are based largely on St. Zélie’s letters. While, to my knowledge, she never kept a journal, she was a prolific letter writer, corresponding often with her brother and sister. Later on, she would write to her daughters while they were away at school. Not all of her letters survived. Some were destroyed. Others were edited by her family in order to remove sensitive material. However, those letters that do remain paint a vibrant portrait of the saint’s daily life. I have paraphrased parts of those letters, adding some additional color.
I prayed fervently to both the Holy Spirit and to St. Zélie for inspiration and guidance as I wrote this book. I can only hope that if I am ever blessed enough to encounter St. Zélie in heaven, she will be pleased with how I portrayed her. Any errors are mine.
You haven’t written about a real-life historical person before. How was that different?
It was definitely a different experience to write about a real-life person. With my previous books, I was able to let creativity take over. I could let the story go wherever I wanted. With this book, I wanted to make it as historically accurate as possible. That took a lot of research. It also meant that there were limitations on where the story could go. While I had some leeway in how I presented her story and what details I chose to include, the basic framework that I had to work within was already there.
I enjoyed the process, but it was also a bit nerve-wracking. I wanted this book to be an accurate portrayal of St. Zélie. In the early part of her story, I didn’t have as much research material to rely on so that was more based on my imagination. I hope I have portrayed her well.
Anne Faye’s fictionalized biography of St. Zelie Martin, largely based on the saint’s personal correspondence, is a compelling read. The book is well researched and gives the reader a clear portrait of life in that time and place. It is written in the form of diary entries, and truly is an intimate look at the dreams, disappointments, joys, and difficulties this saint experienced. 5 out of 5 stars!
While the Roman Empire crumbles into chaos, the flickering light of civilization is in the hands of a teenage pig-keeper and shepherd at the edge of the known world. His name is Succat. We know him as Patrick.
As an indolent teen, Patrick is abducted by pirates from his British villa and sold to a druid chieftain in remote Hibernia. In misery, he embraces the faith he once loathed. He learns Irish language and lore, befriends the chieftain’s son and falls for the feisty daughter, making a jealous enemy of the druid’s apprentice. Fearing for his life and obeying a strange vision, Patrick escapes, leaving the girl he loves and returning home after a hazardous journey. But he is shaken by an insistent dream: the plea of the Irish to come back.
He resolves to do so. But first he must overcome a suspicious church, a backstabbing mentor, and his old rival who is now the Archdruid of Ireland, sworn to kill him and eager to enslave the beautiful woman Patrick left behind. Can he save Ireland from darkness—and free the girl he once loved?
“Full of action and intrigue yet true to historical detail.”
—Lisa M. Hendey, author of The Secret of the Shamrock
“An utterly delightful journey to ancient Ireland. Remarkable.”
—Sarah Reinhard, SnoringScholar.com
A Question for the Author
What inspired you to write historical fiction (especially about a time we know little about)?
Writers can be inspired by a time, a setting or a character. For me, it was all three.
I had written The Throne of Tara: A Novel of Saint Columba in 1990, after scripting and producing a documentary about Church history. I became fascinated by Irish monasticism and Celtic spirituality, by the monks’ love of scholarship, prayer, and poetry, and by their ardent evangelization. Soon after that book was published, I wondered if a “prequel” of sorts, a book about Patrick, might be a natural follow-up. After all, I’d already done a lot of research into the general period and the culture. I turned to contemporary mysteries instead. But I saved my notes.
So, nearly 25 years later, I picked it up again. I wanted people to know “St. Patrick’s Day” was more than beer, corned beef’n’cabbage, a green river in Chicago and a parade in New York to celebrate Irish identity. The historical Patrick was a revolutionary figure. Against tremendous odds, he persevered in faith to bring God’s message of forgiveness to his former captors (he’d been kidnapped by Irish pirates as a teenager in Britain but escaped after 6 years). This was a time in Church history when such evangelization across cultural lines—certainly outside the Roman Empire—was not really known. The Church was preoccupied with combating heresies and with managing a chaotic, crumbling Empire, as many bishops became the defacto governors of their districts while “barbarians” ravaged the land. There was little interest in ‘evangelizing’ the so-called barbarians when bishops were more busy ransoming Christian captives from them.
Patrick’s daring and determination were inspiring, and more so, his long obedience to an insistent call—against his better judgment—to return to the people who brutally enslaved him in order to bring them the gospel of true freedom. Another person might have hated them for that bitter bondage. But he loved them. He knew their language and their lore, which he realized pointed to Christ. One of their great heroes, Cuchulainn, was bound to a post with a hawthorn crown and was lanced in his side while being mocked by pagan priests. Who does that sound like?
Historical fiction can be escapist by transporting readers to a distant time and place in an entertaining way (and even provide some knowledge). But it can also engage readers to think about the present time, and to see how people in the past met similar challenges. Patrick’s bold willpower—and submission to God’s will—advanced the light of the Faith and preserved the lamp of learning at a time when barbarians burned the libraries of Europe and plunged the Continent into a Dark Age.
The Light of Tara is a historical fiction about one of my favorite saints, Saint Patrick. The talented author has fleshed the story together creatively over the solid frame of historical facts and characters.
The story opens with the teenage “Patricius”, a selfish prankster seeking to amuse himself. He’s soon faced with a choice that would require great bravery, but he’s not spiritually or emotionally mature enough to choose wisely, and the severe consequences of his choice will haunt him later in life. Before he has time to realize what he’s done, a raid by Irish pirates and a kidnapping change the direction of his life forever.
The Light of Tara is so beautifully written with creative prose that carries the imagination and develops the scenes. Told in omniscient form, the story makes clear the political climate of the day, the pagan mindset, the many trials and heresies the Church faced, along with the challenges Christians and others suffered through. As God moves Patric further down the path of holiness, spiritual themes are developed creatively, especially concerning the Trinity. It even shows how the pagan gods and Irish heroes pointed to Christ, “in Whom all the stories find their fulfillment.” And I loved how the prayers attributed to Saint Patrick came into the story.
Packed with adventure—based on the real saint’s life—this story is entertaining and thought provoking.
John Desjarlais, a former producer for Wisconsin Public Radio, taught literature and creative writing at Kishwaukee College in Illinois for nearly 25 years. His novels include The Throne of Tara: A Novel of Saint Columba (Crossway 1990, a Christianity Today Readers Choice Award nominee), Relics (Thomas Nelson 1993, a Doubleday Book Club Selection), Bleeder, Viper (A Catholic Arts and Letters Award nominee), and Specter (Chesterton Press, 2008, 2011, 2015). Blood of the Martyrs, released through Amazon Kindle Select in 2012, contains short fiction that previously appeared in literary periodicals such as Critic, The Karitos Review, The Rockford Review, Conclave, and Dappled Things. A member of The Catholic Writers Guild, Mystery Writers of America, and the North Carolina Writers Network, he has been listed in Who’s Who in Entertainment, Contemporary Authors, and Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. His website is www.johndesjarlais.com
TREASURES: VISIBLE & INVISIBLE by 8 Catholic Teen Books authors
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field,which someone found and hid;then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Do you enjoy themed short story anthologies? I do! I love writing a faith-filled story that fits a theme, and I love reading short story collections that center around themes.
I wrote the first short story in the Treasures: Visible & Invisible anthology: “Treasure in the Bogs.” Then as I read the other 7 stories, I was simply amazed at how skillfully each author developed the Saint Patrick theme.
It’s also fun to note that the stories in this teen fiction anthology are in a variety of genres: saint stories, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, mystery, and even dystopian! And the authors who wrote these stories are all CatholicTeenBooks.com authors, many award-winning and bestselling authors.
In this blog post you can watch the book trailer, read early reviews, enter a giveaway, learn about the authors, and find out how to get a copy of this book today!
8 Short Stories by 8 Catholic Teen Books Authors
A teen boy sets out to save a friend from pagan druids, but maybe he’s the one who needs saving.
Between a baffling scripture verse and a visit from Heaven, a young monk is in for the surprise of his life.
A young girl seeks a mysterious treasure that holds the key to granting a nun’s dying wish.
Honora is desperate—then a peculiar clover and a mysterious young man change everything.
William’s weekend job is a little gift from heaven, but now his family needs a real miracle.
When threatened by mobsters, Grace receives help from a surprising source.
Alone and afraid, a young girl finds friendship in a stranger. But could this boy be trouble?
Kyle was determined to save the precious relic – but now his whole family is in danger.
“I invite teens, and readers of all ages, to stand on the craggy wind-swept cliff of your imagination, and experience the collection of stories called, Treasures: Visible and Invisible, created by the talented team of authors from Catholic Teen Books. With a shamrock as our touchstone, this book takes us on a journey through an expanse of time from ancient to modern. Be inspired by the holy greatness of heroism rooted in the spiritual treasures of the Emerald Isle.”
“We thoroughly enjoyed this cleverly written book about the intercession of St. Patrick throughout the ages. The combination of dynamic characters and intriguing stories kept us hooked from start to finish. A valuable addition to your St. Patrick’s Day bookshelf!”
Can’t get it in time for Saint Patrick’s Day? This anthology would make a perfect Easter gift for your teen!
Mark Treasures: Visible & Invisible “want to read” in Goodreads HERE.
The images below represent each of the short stories in this anthology!
MORE ADVANCED REVIEWS
In a world where today’s young adults are constantly surrounded by media that is trying desperately to tear them down, it is a blessing to have books like this that reaffirms our Catholic faith. Not only does each author give us a great story to read, they also challenge us to think about things like: the hardships of people in our ancient church, putting Grandma first on our social calendars, praying to God when in the midst of fear and suffering, staying strong in our faith while looking death in the face, listening to unlikely friends who lead us on the path to Christ, and ultimately realizing there is sacredness in the relics of our church. You only find stories that build our faith like this in very special books. The “building-up”of today’s youth is at the very heart and soul of what the authors are trying to do here, and they have done an amazing job. ~Beth Ruggiero, Lit by the Tree, Literature reviews from the Catholic side. Litbythetree.com
This is the third collection from the authors of Catholic Teen Books. It was an inspiring read. Some stories are of miracles and others about change. Two contributors from the previous collection did not contribute and two new ones have joined the fray. In this collection are 8 stories from the 14 authors who currently compose the collective. My first thought was wow! What an amazing collection of stories around Saint Patrick! I am aware that not everyone likes short stories, but I love them, and this collection is amazing! Short stories are a different art form than novels, and not all novelists have mastered the craft. For a short story to be good, the writing needs to be tighter, cleaner, and crisper. And each of the 8 in this collection is extremely well written… ~Steven R. McEvoy, BookReviewsAndMore.ca(Full review on BookReviewsAndMore.ca)
What a gift to Catholic teens and their families! Each piece in this collection of stories revolving around St Patrick is a beautiful portrayal of the faith. These are wholesome, engaging, and inspiring tales from a variety of genres that will both entertain and spiritually nourish every reader who picks up this book. ~Katie Fitzgerald, ReadAtHomeMom.com
THERESA LINDEN is the author of award-winning Catholic fiction, including the West Brothers contemporary series and the Chasing Liberty dystopian trilogy. One of her great joys is to bring elements of faith to life through a story. She has more than a dozen published books, three of which won awards from the Catholic Press Association. Her short stories appear in several anthologies, including Secrets: Visible & Invisible, and Gifts: Visible & Invisible. Her articles and interviews can be found on various radio shows and in magazines, including EWTN’s The Good Fight, The National Catholic Register, Catholic Digest, Today’s Catholic Teacher, and Catholic Mom. Her books are featured online on Catholic Teen Books, Catholic Reads, FORMED, and Virtue Works Media. A wife, homeschooling mom, and Secular Franciscan, she resides in northeast Ohio with her husband and children. You can learn more about her at www.TheresaLinden.com.
SUSAN PEEK is a wife, mother, grandmother, Third Order Franciscan, and bestselling Catholic novelist. Her passion is writing stories of little-known saints and heroes. All her young adult novels have been awarded the coveted Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval and are implemented into Catholic school curricula not only across the nation, but in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as well. Saint Magnus the Last Viking and The King’s Prey: Saint Dymphna of Ireland were both Amazon #1 Sellers among Catholic books. The King’s Prey was also voted one of Catholic Reads TOP 10 BEST CATHOLIC BOOKS OF 2017 and was a Finalist for the 2018 Catholic Arts and Letters Award. Crusader King was featured as one of the 50 Most Popular Catholic Homeschooling Books in 2013. Susan lives in northeastern Kansas, where she can usually be found with her nose in a book, researching obscure saints to write about. Visit her at www.SusanPeekAuthor.com.
ANTONY BARONE KOLENC is the author of The Harwood Mysteries, an exciting historical-fiction series for youth published by Loyola Press. He is a long-time member of the Catholic Writers Guild, and his novels all have the Catholic Writers Guild’s Seal of Approval. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps after 21 years of military service. A law professor who’s had his works published in numerous journals and magazines, Kolenc now speaks at legal, writing, and home-education events. He and his wife, Alisa, are the parents of five children, and have been blessed with three wonderful grandchildren. To learn more about The Harwood Mysteries and its author, visit www.antonykolenc.com.
AMANDA LAUER loves writing books—particularly Young Adult Historic Fiction—that portray the Church in a positive light and depict God’s children endeavoring to become the best version of themselves every day. A journalist and proofreader by trade, Amanda embarked on her novelist career with the award-winning and best-selling Heaven Intended Civil War series. A World Such as Heaven Intended earned the 2016 YA CALA award. Currently Amanda has several more books in the process of being published.
In addition to writing novels, Amanda works in the film industry writing and copy-editing screenplays. She was awarded Best Writer 2020 (Red Letter Awards) for her work as a co-writer on the movie The Islands. To learn more about Amanda, who’s lucky and blessed to be living in a world such as heaven intended, visit her web site: www.AmandaLauer.com.
CAROLYN ASTFALK writes from the sweetest place on Earth, Hershey, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and four children. In addition to her contemporary Catholic romances (sometimes referred to as Theology of the Body fiction), including the young adult coming-of-age story Rightfully Ours, she is a Catholicmom.com contributor. She is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and Pennwriters. When she is not washing dishes, doing laundry, or reading, you can find her blogging about books, faith, and family life at www.CarolynAstfalk.com.
LESLEA WAHL is the author of the award-winning Catholic teen mysteries The Perfect Blindside, An Unexpected Role, Where You Lead, and eXtreme Blindside. The characters in this short story, Luke, Celia, Austin, and Grandma Grace, appear in her newest adventurous novel, A Summer to Treasure. Leslea’s journey to become an author came through a search for value-based fiction for her own children. She now not only writes for teens but also has become a reviewer of Catholic teen fiction to help other families discover faith-based books. Leslea lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and children. The furry, four-legged members of her family often make cameo appearances in her novels. Leslea has always loved mysteries and hopes to encourage teens to grow in their faith through these fun adventures. For more information about her faith-filled Young Adult mysteries, please visit www.LesleaWahl.com.
T. M. GAOUETTE is the author of the Faith & Kung Fu series for young adults, as well as The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch and For Eden’s Sake. She also contributed to the last two Catholic Teen Books anthologies, Secrets: Visible & Invisible with her short story “Sister Francesca” and Gifts: Visible & Invisible with “Just Jesus.” Her novels have received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval (except new releases for which the seal may be in process). Born in Africa, raised in London, England, Gaouette now lives on a small farm in New England with her husband, where she homeschools their four children, raises goats, and writes fiction for teens and young adults. A former contributor for Project Inspired, Gaouette’s desire is to instill the love of God into the hearts of her readers. You can find out more at www.TMGaouette.com.
CORINNA TURNER is the author of the I Am Margaret and unSPARKed series for young adults, as well as stand-alone works such as Elfling and Mandy Lamb and the Full Moon (for teens) and Someday (for older teens and adults). She has just released The Boy Who Knew (Carlo Acutis) the first book in her new Friends in High Places series about friendship with the saints. All of her novels have received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval (except new releases for which the seal may be in process). Liberation (‘I Am Margaret’ Book 3) was nominated for the Carnegie Medal Award 2016 and Elfling won first prize for “Teen and Young Adult Fiction” in the Catholic Press Association 2019 Book Awards. Several of her other books have been placed in the CPA Awards and the Catholic Arts and Letters Award.
Corinna Turner is a Lay Dominican with an MA in English from Oxford University, and lives in the UK. She has been writing since she was fourteen and likes strong protagonists with plenty of integrity. She used to have a Giant African Land Snail called Peter with a 6½” long shell—which is legal in the UK!—but now makes do with a cactus and a campervan. You can find out more at www.IAmMargaret.com.
Visit the Catholic Teen Books website and learn more about the book and the authors HERE.
An ill-fated journey, a long-lost uncle, and a mysterious cathedral mark the next chapter in the life of Xan, an orphan in search of his destiny. For a year, he has lived in the care of Benedictive monks at Harwood Abbey. Now he learns that he has an uncle, said to live in the far-off city of Lincoln. Will Xan survive the trip alongside the prisoner Carlo and his cruel guards? Will he find Uncle William? And why is Xan drawn to the spirit that haunts Lincoln Cathedral–could a ghost reconnect Xan with his dead parents?
With solid historical details, elements of faith and mystery, and a fast-moving plot, The Haunted Cathedral by Antony Barone Kolenc is a fantastic young adult historical fiction. I may have found it even more enjoyable than the first book in the series! Or maybe I’ve just come to know the characters and loved seeing what mysteries and challenges they are tackling now.
This story opens with twelve-year-old Xan recounting to a friend how he’d lost his parents the day bandits came and destroyed their village. Xan also lost his memory on that tragic day and has been living in the care of the black monks of Harwood Abbey ever since. Xan and the other orphans are well cared for by the monks, especially by Brother Andrew, who has been trying to help him to deal with the loss of his parents and to provide the guidance he now misses.
Like many who’ve faced one loss after another, Xan more easily counts his crosses than his blessings. He doesn’t understand why God allows all these bad things to happen to him. Brother Andrew provides solid guidance to Xan throughout the story, trying to help him recognize the good in life and to find the ability to forgive those responsible for his parents’ death. The theme of forgiveness is well developed and resolved in an unpredictable way. Other faith issues run through the story, too, as Xan questions such things as ghosts and saints and praying to the dead verses communicating with the dead. Brother Andrew explains things well, even though Xan understands gradually.
The challenges and mystery mount in this story, each chapter ending with a page-turner. Through the pages of this story, readers will get to experience the historical Lincoln Castle and Lincoln Cathedral, along with its strange history. The author’s historical notes at the back of the book are worth reading too. This book would make an excellent addition to your family library.
Antony Barone Kolenc (“Tony”) is an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction books and articles, and a columnist for Practical Homeschooling Magazine. He’s been a guest on CatholicTV, NPR, and other radio and television programs. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps after 21 years of military service. He currently teaches law at the University of North Texas Dallas College of Law, and he speaks at writing, legal, school, and homeschool events. Tony and his family live in Jacksonville, Florida, and are the proud parents of five children and three grandchildren. His youth historical fiction novel, Shadow in the Dark, Book One in The Harwood Mysteries, won a gold medal in the 2020 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, and it was awarded the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval.
As I am re-reading Divine Mercy in My Soul: The Diary of Saint Faustina, I am deeply moved by the message of mercy and the absolute trust to which Jesus calls us. Jesus longs for a deeper relationship with me and with you. Our Lord thirsts for every person in the whole world. There is no sin too great for Him to forgive. There is no wound too big for Him to heal. There is no problem too complex for Him to solve.
When I am reading the pages of The Diary, my heart overflows with love and I want to have that close connection with Jesus every moment of my life. Unfortunately, as I go about my day, I get sucked up in the distractions of life and in the fulfillment of my duties. Disappointments, conflict, and suffering throw me off balance. And I forget the mercy that I am called to give and the trust that Jesus longs for as I face the trials of life.
Because I need daily reminders and meditations that help me hold onto the messages, I am so happy to have found Praying with Jesus and Faustina during Lent and in Times of Suffering. This beautiful devotional compiled by Susan Tassone includes excerpts from The Diary, prayers, and meditations for every day of Lent, beginning with Shrove Tuesday and ending with Divine Mercy Sunday.
It also includes meditations on the Passion, a deeply moving Way of the Cross, litanies appropriate for Lent, reflections on Our Lady’s sorrow, and a Confession preparation guide using Jesus’ own words.
From the preface, Susan Tassone writes that she hopes this book will help readers:
Meditate with Jesus and St. Faustina daily during Lent and in times of suffering
Participate in St. Faustina’s vision of Christ’s Passion
Find comfort and strength from the crucified Christ
Pray the Stations of the Cross using the words of Jesus and St. Faustina
Join your sufferings to Christ’s sorrowful Passion
Find refuge, consolation, and mercy in Christ’s wounds
Unite your sorrows with the sufferings that afflicted Our Lady’s heart
Get a “firsthand look” at purgatory
Pray a variety of litanies for the troubled times of your life
Come to appreciate the beauty and value of Confession, from the words of Jesus and Faustina
I highly recommend this powerful devotional as an aid to help you make the most of your Lent. You can get the book HERE or wherever you buy books.
About the author: Susan Tassone has long been a passionate champion for the holy souls in purgatory and is recognized as leading a worldwide “purgatory movement.” The award-winning author of thirteen best-sellers, including Jesus Speaks to Faustina and You. Day by Day with St. Faustina, St. Faustina Prayer Book for Adoration, and Day by Day for the Holy Souls in Purgatory,Susan makes speaking appearances throughout the country. Over a dozen cardinals and bishops worldwide have endorsed her works. She’s a frequent and popular guest on national radio and television programs as well as social media. EWTN said: “Susan Tassone is the all time best selling author in the history of the network.”
In 2013, she was featured in the groundbreaking documentary Purgatory: The Forgotten Church and was on the cover of Catholic Digest magazine in 2017. She also continues to work tirelessly to raise donations for Masses for the holy souls. Susan holds a master’s degree in religious education from Loyola University Chicago and had the honor and privilege of being granted two private audiences with St. John Paul II, who bestowed a special blessing on her and her ministry for the holy souls.
I pray that you have a grace-filled Lent and that you grow closer to Jesus through the messages of trust and mercy!
Thank you, Carolyn Astfalk, for hosting An Open Book!
Most of us are likely thankful to be leaving 2020 and are looking forward to a fresh start with the new year. I love fresh starts—do-overs, new beginnings, and clean slates—and I often write about them in my novels (especially in Standing Strong and Anyone but Him).
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
~ Isaiah 43:18-19
So I’m looking forward to the fresh start, but sometimes it’s hard to know how to begin again. Does 2021 promise to be a better year? Evil forces in the world seem so big, resourceful, powerful . . . and I so little.
Can I still make it a better year by setting little goals and resolutions? If the world falls apart around me, can I still hold onto hope and give it my best? As a Christian, I know that God allows bad things to happen only so that some greater good can be accomplished.
“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”
~ Romans 8:28
I also know that God made you and me for these times. As His followers, He has work for us to do, so we need to give it our all! While I’m often tempted to lose hope, I still look forward to whatever tasks God calls me to.
“And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”
~ Galatians 6:9
This year I need goals that remind me to trust when darkness surrounds me, that help me to grow and remain faithful amidst temptations to give up, and that open my eyes to the spiritual battle that is being played out in these turbulent times. It’s also important that I maintain my health, develop my gifts, and fulfill my vocations of wife, mother, and writer.
No matter what 2021 holds, I want to make God happy.
“…his pleasure is in those who fear him, in those who hope in his faithful love.”
~ Psalm 147:11
But I still don’t know what resolutions to make, so I’ve consulted a few faith-filled friends, the CatholicTeenBooks.com authors, and I’ve complied their answers here:
“I’m resolving to make a good night’s sleep a higher priority. For a dozen years or so, I was accustomed to skimping on sleep with children who seldom slept through the night. I’ve found lately that I need to stop skimping in order to feel more energized and be more productive. Forcing myself into bed earlier is difficult because it means some things simply won’t happen, but it’s a discipline I need to acquire.”
“My goal is to have 1,000 YouTube subscribers by the end of the year. I chose this because my show Cath-Lit Live!features interviews with Catholic authors who have new books releasing, and I want to get news of these new books out to as many people as possible.”
“I would like to read a short reflection each day. My friend, a Catholic sister, posts a meditation online daily. My New Year’s resolution is to read and reflect on them. Her Facebook page is HERE.”
Andrea Jo Rodgers, author of award-winning Saving Mount Rushmore and numerous other books such as At Heaven’s Edge and newly-released Help from Heaven
“My New Year’s Resolution (which I’m super excited about!) is to read the entire Bible in 365 days, using Fr. Mike Schmitz’s “Bible In A Year” Plan and Podcast. I love Holy Scripture and I love challenges, so when I found out about Father Mike’s upcoming podcast, in which he’ll be reading and guiding Catholics through the Bible every day of 2021, I knew I had to sign up. With church closures and the threat of losing Mass becoming a real possibility, it seems to me that immersing myself in Holy Scripture will be a consoling and powerful way to stay close to Our Lord. (Maybe some of you will want to join me in this adventure. Signing up is free!)”
Susan Peek, Author of the bestselling “God’s Forgotten Friends: Lives of Little-known Saints” Series for Teens. Because the saints weren’t boring . . . and neither should their stories be!
“Return to the simple pleasures for physical, mental, and spiritual health. I have always enjoyed walking for better fitness, and I like breathing in the fresh air where I now live. I started reading the Bible more often and resolve to read several chapters each night (instead of spending the time on social media). I invited my neighbor to walk with me, and no matter how that goes, we will meet once a week to share our experiences with the Bible and to discuss the positive things going on in our small parish and town.”
Cynthia T. Toney, author of award-winning MG and YA fiction, including The Other Side of Freedom and the Bird Face series. “I write tween and teen novels with twisty plots—because life is complicated.”
“One of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to be more intentional, whether that’s interacting with my husband — giving him my full attention when we’re conversing — or setting aside an assigned time each day to devote to writing, with no excuses for leaving the keyboard until I’ve put in the allotted time. I chose this as a resolution because I realized that I’m giving the people in my life and my writing projects less than full attention. Regardless what people say, there is no such thing as multi-tasking — it’s just switching your train of thought quickly between one thing or another. It’s time to learn to relax, be in the moment and stop always searching for that shiny object that’s trying to distract me.”
Amanda Lauer, award-winning author, journalist and screenwriter.
“One New Year’s Resolution for me is to continue daily Bible reading in the Old and New Testaments. Years ago, I had spent much more time studying the Scriptures. In recent years I’d let some of that fall by the wayside, and I’d like to continue daily reflections on Scripture to help improve my relationship with God.”
Antony Barone Kolenc, author of “The Harwood Mysteries” series, winner of the 2020 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award.
“To be more disciplined about my prayer time. Because I’m really bad at stopping on time for prayer, and too often my prayer time gets squeezed between other things that ‘have’ to be done that day or are ‘more important’. But that’s an illusion, so I really want to get more disciplined.”
Corinna Turner, Carnegie Medal nominated author of the I Am Margaret series
“I would like to reach out to friends and relatives more often throughout the year. Last year I had the idea that each month I would say a prayer and then send a little note and card to whoever’s name popped into my head – letting the Holy Spirit guide me. I never followed through on the idea but would like to try again this year.”
Leslea Wahl, author of the award-winning teen novel, eXtreme Blindside.
“As part of my spiritual reflection each morning, I will ask, “Lord, how would you have me serve you today?” and spend several minutes in silence, open to His answer. In the past, I’ve asked the Lord, “What would you have me do today?” before a period of silence, and I’ve found it to be a very powerful practice. For 2021, I wanted to develop a goal that would help me focus on my “one word” for the year, which is serviam. (Yes, I’m cheating. Serviam isn’t really one word, but a Latin sentence. St. Michael’s battle cry, it means “I will serve!”) The small change to the question I pose to the Lord allows me to mindfully focus on my life as a service to the Lord, and, I hope, will help me to be more open to embracing opportunities for service throughout my day-to-day.”
Stephanie Engelman, Catholic speaker & author of the award-winning YA novel, A Single Bead, published by Pauline Books and Media
“I’m planning to spend regular time each week decluttering our house. We’ve lived in our home over thirty years and have accumulated lots of things, many of which we no longer need. Decluttering is a slow process for me because it includes making time to find new homes for any items that are still useful. But I not only gain a more orderly home, I also help others.”
Carmela Martino, author of Playing by Heart, winner of the 2018 Catholic Arts and Letters Award for Children’s/Young Adult Fiction.
“I decided to pray the following every morning and night:O my Jesus, all my sufferings and sacrifices I give for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.This prayer was given to the children at Fatima from Our Lady. For my resolution, I want to focus on sinners, myself also, and all those who don’t think about their salvation. I wrote Shadow Stalker because I struggled with humanity’s indifference with sin. It’s so consuming and the world drowns in it. Our Lady said the following to the children at Fatima:
‘The sins of the world are very great … If men only knew what eternity is, they would do everything in their power to change their lives.‘
‘More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.’
‘Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much.‘
‘Woe to women lacking in modesty.‘
‘The Mother of God wants more virgin souls bound by the vow of chastity.‘
‘Many marriages are not of God and do not please Our Lord.’
‘Our Lady can no longer uphold the arm of Her Divine Son which will strike the world. If people amend their lives, Our Lord will even now save the world, but if they do not, punishment will come.‘
‘People must renounce sin and not persist in it, as has been done until now. It is essential to repent greatly.‘
After witnessing Our Lady’s vision of hell, Jacinta would say, ‘Oh, Hell! Oh, Hell!…Mother of God have pity on those who do not amend their lives…If men only know what awaits them in eternity, they would do everything in their power to change their lives.‘
My resolution is to pray as the children did, and help pray for sinners, so their eyes will be open to sin, so they will change, and so they will be saved.”
T. M. Gaouette, author of Shadow Stalker and award-winning For Eden’s Sake.
I am inspired by the CatholicTeenBooks.com authors and will take some of their resolutions as my own. It is my great hope to live this year in a way that gives glory to God. To do that I must take care of myself, body and soul. Above all else, I hope to deepen my prayer life, so that I can listen better to Our Lord and grow in trust and surrender. In 2021, I’m going to pray over and over the “Surrender Novena” by Servant of God Don Dolindo Ruotolo (one of Padre Pio’s spiritual directors). You can find this novena easily online. HERE is a PDF of it.
Susan Peek introduced me to this novena while I was writing Fire Starters, so now one of the characters prays it, and you can also find it in the back of the book. It’s very life-changing.
I hope this blog post and list of resolutions inspires you to make 2021 a wonderful year by giving it your very best. St Francis of Assisi once said to his Brothers, when very near his death, “Let us begin again, for until now we have done nothing.” So, let us begin again, dear friends!
With all the lock-downs, mask-ups, fake news, and the United States presidential elections up in the air, it’s hard to carry on as usual. But we are one month away from Christmas and we need to prepare!
So let’s back off from the news and social media for a bit, break out our Advent Wreaths, and replace our half-spent purple and pink candles. And let’s focus on preparing for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. That’s what Advent is about!
Let’s plan our Advent Scripture reading and prayers. Note: you can find inexpensive Catholic notebooks and prayer journals perfect for prayers and planning HERE.
Consider the traditions you have and those you’d like to add. Don’t let the craziness of the world stop you from enjoying Advent and Christmas traditions this year.
Do you want to try a Jesse Tree with your children? Check out the Peg Doll Jesse Tree on Catholic Mom HERE.
What about celebrating St Nicholas Day? Check out this Catholic Mom article of ideas HERE.
Prepare Christmas cards, either homemade or store bought, and send hope-filled notes to friends and family.
Learn and teach your children about the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Plan your favorite Christmas cookies and get a few new recipes. See Carolyn Astfalk’s Virtual Christmas Cookie Swap for fun recipes HERE.
Make your gift list!
I recommend keeping the gift list simple and meaningful to avoid over-commercializing Christmas. I also recommend books! And not just because I’m an author who’s about to recommend her Catholic fiction for kids, teens, and adults!
So why does faith-filled fiction make the perfect gift? Even though it’s not electronic, books entertain and they do it in a long-lasting way. A faith-filled story can move hearts and inspire readers. A powerful story can change someone’s understanding of a moral issue or deepen their empathy for others. It can even motivate one to overcome fear and step out in faith.
I became a Catholic writer because I believe in the power of faith-filled fiction in a person’s life. And I’ve received feedback from readers that has further convinced me that God continues to use stories to touch hearts, just as Jesus did 2000 years ago.
Teen and adult readers have told me how Battle for His Soul has made them more aware of the spiritual battle and of their own guardian angel. One teen regained her faith after reading Roland West, Loner, and she deepened her understanding of God’s love for her after reading Life-Changing Love.
A man told me how purgatory soul story Tortured Soul helped him find forgiveness and offer prayers for someone that he’d had a hard time forgiving. This award-winning book, written for adults, is endorsed by Susan Tassone, the Purgatory Lady, and many have told me how it’s inspired them to pray more for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.
You can learn more about my books on MY WEBSITE and go HERE to get the books at a 10% discount from November 20 to December 20. Use promo code: THANKSGIVING 2020 for 10% off your purchase.
In addition to recommending my books, I have discovered several Catholic fiction authors over the years: TM Gaouette, Susan Peek, Cynthia Toney, Leslea Wahl, Carolyn Astfalk, Corinna Turner . . . . The list of incredible Catholic authors goes on. I encourage you to visit CatholicTeenBooks.com where you will discover Catholic teen fiction in a variety of genres by those authors and more. CatholicTeenBooks offers themed book packs that would make for great gifts for the teen readers in your life.
And they now have book-club-in-a-box selections that include books and swag! Even if you don’t belong to a book club, you can get a “gift set”–a single copy of the book and swag.
In addition to recommending teen fiction, I have a few children’s books to suggest. I love how children appreciate books, reading their favorites over and over. It makes my heart happy to see young ones fall in love with books.
The first two in my Armor of God series are out now: Belt of Truth and Breastplate of Righteousness. These fantasy adventure chapter books are geared toward children preparing for or who’ve recently received the sacrament of Confession and have made/are preparing to make their First Holy Communion. Check the books out HERE.
For younger children, I recommend Saint Clare and Her Cat by Catholic author Dessi Jackson. Dessi writes the sweetest saint stories so be sure to hunt down more of her books where ever you buy books.
For Christmas themed books, please also watch Catholic Mom and Daughter on Youtube. They review books, so you can “see” the books and hear what these two love about each one. I just love to watch these two review books and they’ve even reviewed some of mine in the past!
So while the culture seems to get darker and darker, don’t get down. Don’t get depressed. No, bah, humbug. We are called to be light!
I pray that you are filled with joy this Advent season and that you let your light shine in the darkness. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and never forget: you were made for these days!
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that time has been speeding along at a breakneck pace. I can’t believe it’s the middle of October now–and that Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner!
I love this time of the year. Here in northeast Ohio the leaves turn different shades of yellow, red, and orange. Winds pick up, sometimes chilly but often warm. We set ourselves to working hard at homeschooling, knowing that we have several months ahead. An introspective feeling seems to carry on the breeze and whisper through the windows and in my soul.
It is a time to offer thanksgiving for the lazy days and fun we had all summer long, the gifts from our little garden, and the other abundant blessings–even amidst the strangeness of this particular year.
No matter the setbacks and losses, who can doubt that God has showered each of us with blessings. He loves us each so very much and will stop at nothing to call us to even greater happiness. Let us thank God more fervently for the many gifts He gives us, for those interior and exterior, those visible and invisible, things of nature and supernatural gifts too.
Let’s also pause to consider how we can share our blessings with others. We do that in many ways and many times throughout the year, but also as we prepare for Christmas. I love thinking of every person on my list and trying to come up with the perfect gift, one that fits his or her personality and that he or she might enjoy. It’s a bonus when I can find gifts that might also point a person to the giver of all good gifts: Our Lord.
Catholic fiction does just that. And it makes the perfect gift for children, who like to read stories again and again or even just enjoy the pictures.
I’ll share a few suggestions with you now.
On the road to San Damiano, Grandma Nonna shares with her grandson Antonio a once-upon-a-time story about Saint Clare. Full-color illustrations and a delightful tale capture the beauty and faith of Saint Clare as she pursues her vocation and embraces the joyful and simple Franciscan spirituality. Ever-appreciative of the little things, Clare’s happiness blossoms even more with her wonderful discovery of a tiny kitten.
Saint Clare and Her Cat by Dessi Jackson, illustrated by Martina Parnelli
For more Catholic saint stories for children by Catholic author Dessi Jackson, visit the author’s Amazon page HERE. For more Catholic children’s stories written and illustrated by Martina Parnelli, visit the author’s website HERE.
A baby reindeer who has yet to even receive his name is captured and taken to a new land. Meanwhile, as Christmas Eve draws near, a saintly bishop and a holy monk plan a surprise for the poor of their village. When their path crosses that of the baby reindeer, a legend is born. Delightful, full-color illustrations help tell the story.
Saint Rudolph and the Reindeer by Susan Peek, illustrated by Ann Peek
For more children’s saint stories by Susan Peek–and also saint stories for teens–visit the author’s website HERE.
This lovely read-aloud for ages newborn to 5 takes children on a journey steeped in the magical wonder of the moon and its Creator. A young girl travels from the city to the country, describing phases and aspects of the moonlight with a heartfelt understanding of beauty. “God put it there for all to see, but especially because He loves me.” Jean Schoonover- Egolf’s watercolor illustrations delight on this journey of simple faith and family life.
God Made the Moonlight by Erin Broestl, illustrated by Jean Schoonover-Egolf
For more books written and illustrated by Jean Schoonover-Egolf, be sure to check out her Molly McBride and the Purple Habit series on her website HERE.
George Pennington wants to be a knight! This is the first in the Armor of God six-book series of children’s fantasy-adventure chapter books. Illustrated with pen and ink drawings, this story tells the importance of telling the truth. It also includes mini-catechisms from “Brother Coll,” making it perfect for children preparing for their first Confession and First Holy Communion.
Belt of Truth by Theresa Linden, illustrated by Theresa Linden
For book two in the Armor of God series by Theresa Linden–and also for Catholic teen fiction, visit the author’s website HERE.
This one is for the teens, from junior high and up! This Christmas-themed anthology contains 8 short stories by the CatholicTeenBooks.com authors. Stories are in a variety of genres including contemporary, dystopian, historical, and a saint story.
Gifts Visible & Invisible by 8 CatholicTeenBooks.com authors
For more Catholic fiction for teens, visit CatholicTeenBooks.com. There you’ll find over a dozen authors and many genres. Also short stories, novels, audiobooks, themed book packs, and gift packs–complete with swag!
Feel free to share other book suggestions in the comments. Books really do make the best gifts!