When fifteen-year-old Emilia uses her musical talents to help her father win noble status in 18th-century Milan, the repercussions threaten not only her dreams for her future but her sister’s very life.
Emilia Salvini dreams of marrying a man who loves music as much as she does. But in 18th-century Milan, being the “second sister” means she’ll likely be sent to a convent instead. Emilia’s only hope is to prove her musical talents crucial to her father’s quest for nobility. First, though, she must win over her music tutor, who disdains her simply for being a girl. Before she can carry out her plan, a tragedy sends the family into mourning. In her sorrow, Emilia composes a heartrending sonata that causes the maestro to finally recognize her talent. He begins teaching her music theory alongside Antonio Bellini, the arrogant great-nephew of a wealthy marquis. Emilia’s feelings toward her rival gradually change as she strives to outdo him. But just when her dreams seem within reach, Emilia learns that her success could destroy not only her future but her sister’s very life.
At its core, this is the story of two teens struggling to follow their true calling, even when it conflicts with their father’s selfish goals. Playing by Heart was inspired by two amazing sisters who were far ahead of their time—composer Maria Teresa Agnesi and mathematician Maria Gaetana Agnesi.
My fingers slipped, striking an ugly chord that set my teeth on edge. I dropped my hands to my lap.
I didn’t understand—why couldn’t Father let Maria take the veil? She would truly welcome a life of devotion to God. Yet Father’d been angered by the mere suggestion. I will not have her extraordinary talents hidden away in a convent. The chiming of the Basilica bells pulled me into the present. Maestro Tomassini would be here any moment. I raised my hands to the keys and began my first practice piece—a piece the maestro used to have me play blindfolded.
Suddenly, I knew what I must do. I had to make Father feel the same way about my talents as he did Maria’s.
My fingers stumbled again as a voice in my head said, But you’re not good enough.
To which my heart replied, then I must become good enough.
Carmela Martino is an author, speaker, and writing teacher who holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her articles, poetry, and short stories have appeared in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. She is also the author of two novels: Playing by Heart, winner of the 2018 Catholic Arts and Letters Award (CALA) for Children’s/Young Adult Fiction, and Rosa, Sola, a Catholic Press Association Book Award recipient. Carmela has taught writing for over twenty years, including both webinars and in-person classes. For more, see www.carmelamartino.com.
I thoroughly enjoyed this young adult story, so I’m happy that my blog is the first stop on the Virtual Book Tour of Miracle at the Mission! Find my review further down in the blog and a Fun Fact about Saint Junipero Serra and the California Missions and a link to a GIVEAWAY! You’ll find more Fun Facts in the other blog tour stops, but first, here’s what it’s about…
After recovering from their daring exploits in the exciting first book, The Ghosts of Westthorpe Academy, high school best friends Joe Pryce and Pete Figueroa return for another thrilling, action-adventure in Miracle at the Mission.
When one of them wins a St. Junipero Serra essay writing contest and is rewarded with a summer trip to California, they both embark on an adventure they will never forget. While visiting one of the historic Spanish missions founded by Father Serra, the boys meet a holy but mysterious old Franciscan monk who warns them of the dangers they would soon encounter.
It isn’t long before the boys are drawn into a series of events filled with suspense, intrigue, a high-speed car chase along the precipitous Pacific Coast Highway, and the schemes of foreign operatives seeking to bring harm to the President of the United States.
Caught up in the pursuit of the bad guys, the boys discover they have become suspects in the investigation by the FBI. Desperate to prove their innocence, they must rely on the guidance and wisdom of the old padre, who just happens to bear a strange resemblance to St. Junipero Serra himself.
With the world teetering on the brink of an international crisis, the story reaches its climax at another mission––Mission San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel––where the boys and a large gathering of people witness an incredible miracle that changes their lives forever.
BOOK REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
“Looking for the perfect blend of relatable characters, fascinating history, intriguing mystery, and strong faith. Look no further than Miracle at the Mission. Lewis’ vivid descriptions of the California coast will sweep you away on this epic adventure.”
— Leslea Wahl, author of The Perfect Blindside and other faith-based novels for teens.
“Lewis is a talented author who has succeeded hugely with Miracle at the Mission. … When you turn the final page, you think: if this doesn’t bring our youth back to the faith, what will?”
–Brian J. Gail, best-selling author of the American Tragedy in Trilogy series (Fatherless, Motherless, and Childless)
“With mystery, adventure, intrigue, and elements of faith, this is a fantastic story. … The amazing setting details of various places in California work so well, helping me to visualize each scene. But I especially loved the bits of history concerning various things, including this humble and selfless saint—who is unfortunately often misunderstood today. Having fallen in love with the Native American people, St. Serra did so much to support and protect them.”
–Theresa Linden, author of Tortured Soul and other award-winning Catholic fiction
“Very Timely … Lewis has a true knack for taking a timeless, traditional world and pulling it forward into the present culture. … Truly a MUST read for anyone who attended an all-boys prep school. … and I enjoyed the suspense!”
–Pete DiMaio, husband & father of seven, President of Pennsylvanians for Human Life, Speaker, and Business Owner
“This book surprised me. … I admit I really enjoyed it. … The friendship between Joe and Pete, and Pete’s brother Luke [and] their dynamic interactions are masterfully written. … I absolutely loved the history of California, the Missions, and St. Junipero Serra. It made a good story a great one. … This is an excellent read.”
–Steven R. McEvoy, Book Reviews and More
Joseph lives in Exton, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Marian. They are blessed with six grown children and two granddaughters. Aside from writing, Joseph teaches high school history at Regina Luminis Academy in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Villanova University, holds a masters in theology from the Graduate School of Theology at Christendom College, and has done doctoral work in theology at Catholic University. His first book, The Ghosts of Westthorpe Academy,was published in 2018. Miracle at the Mission is the second book in the series entitled, The Westthorpe Academy Mysteries. Joseph is also an active member of the Catholic Writer’s Guild.
1. Miracle at the Mission is your second book in a series called the Westthorpe Academy Mysteries. How did the idea for the series originate?
Miracle at the Mission is a sequel to my first book, The Ghosts of Westthorpe Academy. The idea for the series began while I was teaching at an all-boys Catholic prep high school in the western suburbs of Philadelphia. On the campus is a charming old mansion that was the original building of the school. Over the years, rumors abounded of how a ghost haunted the mansion and that a stash of old money was hidden somewhere within it.
After hearing of such stories over the years, I finally convinced myself that a story needed to be written. One summer, I put pen to paper and completed my first book, The Ghosts of Westthorpe Academy, published in 2018. I borrowed the name Westthorpe from the original name of the property that surrounds the school––Westthorpe Farm.
2. Miracle at the Mission provides a completely different setting from the first book and brings the series to the Spanish missions of California. What was the inspiration behind doing this?
Not long after the first book came out, several people began asking when the next one would be coming out. I was throwing some ideas together when my wife and I traveled to California to visit my son who is in the Marine Corps. During the trip, we toured some of the missions founded by St. Junipero Serra where I was immediately struck by the beauty, the holiness, and the history of these extraordinary places. It wasn’t long before I began piecing together a story of how the same two friends from the first story, Joe and Pete, take a summer trip of their own to California where they visit Pete’s older brother Luke who is a Marine, and explore some of the missions themselves.
So, in borrowing from my own travel experience, I was able to formulate the basis of a story that would ultimately become Miracle at the Mission. The trip also gave me the opportunity to visualize many of the places I write about in the book which helps provide vivid descriptions and setting details that I hope will enhance the reader’s enjoyment of the story.
3. Your interest in St. Junipero Serra goes beyond just a curious fascination. Explain how and why Father Serra plays such an important part in the story.
Many may remember that Junipero Serra was canonized a saint of the Church here in the United States in September of 2015. The canonization took place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. and was overseen by Pope Francis himself who was visiting the United States at the time. Serra is the only saint to be canonized on American soil.
Unfortunately, not all the news surrounding this momentous event was positive. Many took the occasion to criticize Serra and to blame him for the abuses perpetrated upon Native Americans many years ago, particularly in California. Some people resorted to defacing or toppling his statues and doing damage to some of the missions.
As a history teacher, and having studied something about Father Serra’s life, I knew that much of the criticism directed towards him was inaccurate, misguided, and unfair. My book provides an opportunity to correct some of that and convey truths of who he really was––a man who worked tirelessly for social justice and truly loved the people he served.
4. What do you anticipate the reader taking away from Miracle at the Mission?
Though the book is an exciting read, filled with mystery, adventure, intrigue and suspense, it is, above anything else, a story about faith, friendship, selflessness, and doing the right thing. It is a story that inspires hope that various peoples, cultures, and countries can join together in good will.
It is a reminder to us that although we live in a world filled with danger, uncertainty, and confusion, we can make a difference if we hold fast to those things that matter most: faith, hope, and love. And we needn’t look any further for help in this effort than the communion of saints who are there, interceding for us. And there is no finer example than the saintly Franciscan, Junipero Serra, who gave of himself totally in the service of his fellow man.
May his example inspire a more fervent faith and devotion, as well as a greater appreciation for the extraordinary work of the California missions and the Franciscan friars who founded them!
The padre turned and looked at Joe. The hood of his habit had opened wider, revealing more of his face. In the dim light, his eyes looked dark, his complexion a somewhat lighter olive brown. His thinning gray hair was cut in the traditional tonsure style, something more common among religious orders in the past but not as much today. He wore a large crucifix that hung underneath his hood and rested over the top front of his habit.
As Joe prepared to leave, he suddenly stopped, though he wasn’t sure why. Something of what he had experienced earlier that day in the chapel seemed to compel him to want to listen to what the old padre had to say. Joe slid closer across the pew, stopping just a few feet from him in the pew.
“I am confident you will find your friend safe,” the priest said in a reassuring voice. “From what I gather, the three of you are here for an extraordinary week. So much of what is going on in the world today has found its way near to this very place. Important leaders will be meeting, and the eyes of the world will be watching. It is no coincidence that, at this time in history, they have come here, where so many peoples and cultures met not very long ago and welcomed the missionaries who brought the message of the Gospel. It was, and continues to be, a message of the love of neighbor, of joy and forgiveness, of thanksgiving for one another, and peace among all nations.”
Joe sat mesmerized. Though the padre referred to present-day events, his eloquent words and profound meaning made him seem like someone from another time, another world.
“But there are forces in the world that oppose these cherished things. Principalities who are enemies of God and of mankind, who choose the darkness; some who are visible and made of flesh and blood, others who are spirit and lurk in the shadows.” He paused as he looped the rosary beads he had been holding in his hand through the cincture around the waste of his habit. “My son, the world’s current dangers are real and require the courage and effort of a select few whose work can make the difference between conflict and resolution, division and harmony, hostility and goodwill for all peoples. The events of this week are crucial to determining the direction the world may be inclined to go. We must pray for God’s divine providence, that those who lead us may choose the path of peace. Look for the signs of God’s guiding hand in answer to those prayers. I also want to implore you and your friends to be vigilant this week, as you will be close to many of these things. The world can be a dangerous place, and sometimes people find themselves in circumstances they could hardly have anticipated.”
“I very much appreciate your concern, Father.” Joe politely accepted the padre’s advice, although he didn’t quite understand why he felt the need to offer it. But this wasn’t what Joe had come here searching for. He still didn’t know for certain if Pete was all right. Joe stood up. “I better get back and make sure my friend is okay.”
“Sí te entiendo.” The padre grabbed hold of the back of the pew and pulled himself up. As he did, he shifted as if to favor one leg. He had a thin frame and couldn’t have been more than an inch or two over five feet. His worn sandals looked as though they had traveled many miles.
“Please don’t get up on my account,” Joe said.
“I wish to extend to you my priestly blessing, my son.” With some effort, he shifted his legs again and moved a little closer to Joe. “I am extremely glad you and your friends can spend some time with us in this beautiful place. You know, the mission is in great need of support to help maintain it, not only to preserve the legacy of the missions but for the work they continue to do. This mission is an active parish and serves many people and families, some of whom are descendants of the native people who first lived here many years ago. Please keep the missions, and the people they serve, always in your prayers, won’t you?”
“I will, Father.” Joe turned to leave but turned back again. “I sure hope we have a chance to talk again. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation.”
“So have I, my friend, so have I. God willing, we will have a chance to meet again. In the meantime, go in peace.”
The padre raised his right hand and extended it toward Joe, who bowed his head. “Heavenly Father, I ask you to bless this fine young man and his companions in all their endeavors. May their work bear much fruit in the service of your kingdom. I ask that you protect them and keep them safe from harm in the name of Christ, Our Lord and Savior, Amen. May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost descend upon you and remain with you forever. Amen. Amar a Dios, mi hijo. Love God, my son … and may He make a saint of you!”
“Thank you, Father.” Joe slid back across the pew, then genuflected before the tabernacle. He pivoted and glanced back at the old padre, but he wasn’t there!
Joe looked around the church. “Father?” There was no sign of him. Where could he have gone—and so quickly? … He seemed to mysteriously vanish into thin air.
Fun Fact About St. Junipero Serra and the California Missions
Though his given name was Miguel Jose Serra, when he became a member of the Franciscan order, he took the name Junipero to encourage himself to emulate one of the original companions of St. Francis of Assisi, Brother Juniper, who was known for his humility and simplicity. He has been given the title Servant of God.
Do you enjoy Catholic fiction? Have you read Catholic novels that inspired you, deepened your faith, helped you deal with a cross, shed light on a moral issue, or lifted your gaze to heaven in some other way?
I have. And all those reasons above are why I became a Catholic fiction writer. I want to see good books reach more people!
“Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book.”
— St. John Bosco
That is why I am co-sponsoring the Stock the Shelves campaign, a new joint effort to promote the inclusion of Catholic fiction in public libraries.
Did you know you can suggest titles for your public library’s permanent collection? I, along with several Catholic fiction organizations and dozens of authors, want to flood our local libraries with fiction by Catholic and Orthodox Christian writers, bringing our unique sacramental perspective to a wider audience.
How can you help? Simple! If you are a fan of my books, share them with others by filling out a request form at the library or via your library’s website. It costs nothing except a few minutes of your time. Find all the information you need HERE.
This month, the Catholic Writers’ Guild is touring the Catholic Teen Books authors’ anthology, “Treasures: Visible and Invisible.” It is a CWG Seal of Approval recipient! With a shamrock as a touchstone, Treasures takes you on a journey through time and across continents.
Summary of Stories:
A teen boy sets out to save a friend from pagan druids, but maybe he’s the one who needs saving.
Between an unearthed treasure 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.
He gazed at the stone, appreciating the play of sunlight on the variegated shades of green and brown. A three-leaf clover. Three separate leaves . . . Three separate and distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. One clover. One divine nature! Why hadn’t he thought of it sooner? Along with the prayer drawn in the dirt, he should’ve left the stone with his friends. Magonus climbed to his feet just as a seagull called out and soared overhead. A few more steps took him to where he could see the Irish Sea below the rocky plateau on which he stood. Oh so aware of the treasure he’d received in his enslavement, he gazed in awe at the deep blue waves and the ship still some distance out. The ship that would take him home.
Catholic Teen Books is a lay organization of authors committed to the writing and promotion of exciting novels for Catholic teens. CatholicTeenBooks.com
Treasures includes historical stories by West Brothers series author Theresa Linden, Harwood Mysteries author Antony Kolenc, Heaven Intended series author Amanda Lauer, Rightfully Ours author Carolyn Astfalk, and Susan Peek, recognized for her stories of lesser-known saints. Author Leslea Wahl (The Perfect Blindside) contributes a split-time story. Finally, author T.M. Gaouette (Faith and Kung Fu series) shares a contemporary story and author Corinna Turner contributes a dystopian story set in her popular I Am Margaret series.
How A Catholic Millennial Learned the Value of Redemptive Suffering
Guest post by Caitie Crowley, a Catholic millennial
Have you ever asked how a good God could let bad things happen? Where is God in the midst of suffering? Is there any hope left for me?
On May 22, 2019, Caitie Crowley was an ordinary 24-year-old driving home from work, and then next moment her life would be changed forever. Caitie was in a traumatic car accident on her way home from work and almost lost her life. She couldn’t walk for 10 months. She took that time to write about her experiences and how her faith in God carried her through her pain. Her book, Stepping Up: How Christ Turned My Pain & Suffering Into Hope & Joy, takes the reader through Caitie’s physical struggle of learning to walk again and her interior struggle of learning to walk with God through the cross.
Prior to her traumatic car accident, Caitie was an ordinary 24-year-old girl. She was working at a marketing agency while attending graduate school at Northwestern University. Additionally, dance had always been a huge part of her life. She danced competitively in high school and a year in college, and she continued to place a high importance on fitness, usually working out six days a week. Caitie was dating, enjoying hobbies, and her Catholic faith was also very important to her. She went to weekly mass, adoration, and bible study. In just one moment, except for her faith, all of these aspects of her life were taken.
In her book, Stepping Up, Caitie recounts a vivid description of the accident, including asking Jesus for forgiveness as her car was rolling. She felt excruciating pain and expected to die. By God’s grace, she didn’t; however, she was left with multiple injuries. Caitie was hospitalized for 11 days, was in a wheelchair for 10 weeks, and couldn’t walk without braces and assisted devices for nearly a year. With surgery and therapy, pain and suffering lasted for two years, and she continues to improve each and every day.
“There were many long, difficult days. Days where nothing seemed to change, nothing seemed to get better,” relayed Crowley. “I didn’t know if I was ever going to get better. Despite all circumstances that seemed rather bleak, I knew I had to put my trust in God.”
GUIDE TO SUFFERING WELL
Her book focuses not only on her medical and rehabilitation journey but also on redemptive suffering. That is that even through difficulty there is hope and that even through difficulty God can bring good out of it.
“This book isn’t just for people that have gone through a traumatic car accident. Whether it’s cancer, divorce, a sick child — you can take themes out of my book to help you during your crosses and to say, ‘Even when it seems hopeless, there’s hope,’” described Crowley.
SUFFERING PRODUCES FRUIT
“It’s amazing to think about how I felt then and what was still yet to come. I wouldn’t have believed it if you told me at the beginning,” remarked Crowley. “I realized that God permitted my suffering, but He didn’t cause it. However, He used every drop of it for greater good. I’m confident that He used it for the salvation of souls, the salvation of my own soul, and many tangible fruits that I’m seeing unfold in my life.”
A year and a half after the traumatic car accident, Crowley went on to graduate summa cum laude in information design and strategy from Northwestern University and landed her dream job doing human resource communications at a Fortune 100 company.
HANG ONTO HOPE
Even if you can’t see what is ahead and you don’t see how things could ever get better, through Him, you can find hope when it appears hopeless.
Caitie Crowley is a Catholic millennial. By God’s grace, she graduated Summa Cum Laude with her Master of Science in Information Design and Strategy with a Content Strategy concentration from Northwestern University. She is an HR communications representative at a Fortune 100 company and has also done writing for The Catholic Post, FOCUS-SEEK21, Live Action, Human Life Action, and Human Defense Initiative. You can get in touch with Caitie on Twitter (@CaitieCrowley) or via email (email@example.com).
I am a member of the Catholic Writers’ Guild. Every month the guild chooses one book that has received the CWG Seal of Approval and that book goes on a virtual tour! This way more people can come to find good fiction and non-fiction titles.
So allow me to introduce:
Will was looking forward to eighth grade. Will he even make it past September?
Summary: Will Abbott expects his eighth-grade year at Fern Valley Middle School to be the same as the last seven—school, soccer, and lazy Saturdays. But when a rash of crime strikes his little town, it doesn’t take long to realize something peculiar is going on. Will is certain the class bully, Beefy Boris, is involved and suspects he’s getting help—from his own classmates! As Will and his friends investigate, they stumble upon clues leading them to suspect someone even more sinister is responsible. Can Will and his friends—including a new girl with a mysterious past—trap the criminal mastermind and reveal a secret that has haunted Fern Valley for twelve years?
While I can appreciate a tidy house, I love a house where books cover the coffee table and end tables . . . where books have to be cleared from the dining room table before dinner . . . where books sometimes get lost in blankets and under pillows and by the cat’s bed.
My boys are grown now, but I treasure the memories of coming home from the library with more books than we could easily carry. As the boys got older, the books got thicker and the stacks higher. Favorites got read over and over–maybe because good books aren’t always that easy to find.
I was one of those moms who was always looking for good book lists. I’d find them on Catholic homeschooling blogs and websites. I’d find them in books on homeschooling. I’d learn about books from friends or on review blogs.
While we visited the library often, we also bought a lot of books. From my experience, libraries don’t carry a lot of faith-filled fiction. But those are the books we need and enjoy most of all. So I’d search for them in bookstores and online. Our home library grew and grew, filling shelves–with books even stacked horizontally on other books.
Faith-filled fiction for every age is a “must have.” It can provide all the humor, mystery, and adventure of other stories, but these stories also go deeper. They speak to that deep part in every one of us–including children–that hungers for God.
Today, cell phones, games, and electronics seem to fill every spare moment in a child’s life. That type of entertainment sucks up the time that children of previous generations used to develop their imaginations. Children need those quiet moments, those boring moments, those moments on their own with nothing but time and a good book.
In addition to providing a healthy source of entertainment, reading a lot can:
broaden one’s vocabulary
boost problem solving and critical thinking skills
increase creativity and imagination
provide relaxation and inspiration
sharpen one’s brain in other ways
Reading faith-filled fiction adds even more benefit as one finds solid examples for how to live as a Christian
Faith-filled fiction directs us to God and a life of faith!
Faith-filled stories had such an impact on me in my formative years. This is one reason that I became a Catholic fiction writer. My first books were written for teens. I also wrote a dystopian trilogy for older teens/new adults, and a supernatural thriller for adults. But I’ve recently directed my talents to writing a Catholic children’s book series based on the scriptural armor of God. The final books in this six-book fantasy adventure series will come out in the winter of 2022.
To celebrate the completion of this series, I am holding a GIVEAWAYthat includes not only my Armor of God series but several other fantastic Catholic children’s book series as well. Check out the GIVEAWAY HERE.
And now, let me introduce a few other good Catholic children’s book series.
Catholic Stories for Kids by Kathryn Swegart
“The kids and I love this book! Beautiful illustrations with inspiring stories. A little treasure for every Catholic home. I sent one as a gift to my godchildren. Great for bedtime reading. My boys, ages 12, 10, 7, and 4, all enjoyed the stories and begged me to read them every night. Will read them again and again!”
God’s Forgotten Friends for Children by Susan Peek
“The children at our school were overjoyed, and considered it a great privilege to be able to take turns looking at the book themselves after having it read to the class. This author really knows how to reach the minds and hearts of the young (and of all ages!)”
—teaching nun, review on Amazon
Molly McBride Series by Jean Schoonover-Egolf
“It’s a fun, sweet series filled with virtue and simple lessons about the Catholic faith to inspire young readers. Jean Egolf is equally talented at writing and illustration. Good books for parents/ grandparents to share with their children to spark conversations about vocations, sacraments, attending school, bullies, and more.”
Sisters of the Last Stray by Karen Kelly Boyce
“My 9-year old daughter laughed out loud several times while reading this book! … Most books, even of similar length, are abandoned by her as she flits to some other activity or even another book. She was begging me for the next in the series before she even finished this one!”
Chime Travelers by Lisa Hendey
“Imagine if you could travel back in time and meet the saints in person. Through the eyes of the Chime Travelers, Lisa Hendey helps us do just that! She brings them to life in a way that is fun and informative, while encouraging us to live their examples.”
—Fr. Cory Sticha, Pastor, St. Mary’s Parish, Malta, Montana
Armor of God Series by Theresa Linden
“Boys and girls alike will be enthralled by Belt of Truth. My children are entertained by the story, and I love the lessons they are absorbing. Our family is already lookingforward to reading the other five books in the Armor of God series!“
—Charisse Tierney, Amazon review
So those books are for children, but let me also share a fantastic place to find Catholic fiction for teens: CatholicTeenBooks.com There you will find books in a variety of genres, by over a dozen authors, and with so many themes.
Feel free to shares your favorite faith-filled fiction in the comments. Also if you know of a good book list for children of various ages, please share those!
“Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
The Scriptural armor of God has always inspired me. It makes me think about the spiritual battle that goes on every minute of every day. It also reminds me that God gives us everything we need to triumph. He washes us clean (Confession), feeds us (Holy Communion), clothes us (grace), and gives us armor (see Ephesians) and weapons (Bible, Rosary, sacramentals)!
It is really such an honor–such a blessing–that God allows us to take part in this battle as His soldiers. I mean, He really doesn’t need us in the triumph over evil. God could have put an end to Satan and his rebellion with simply a thought or a single word. Instead, He lets us fight this battle in His name. He gives us the chance to merit as soldiers of Christ–and if we fight well, we will receive our reward for all eternity.
What an honor! What a blessing!
We must convey the great honor of this gift to our children so that they can learn to recognize the opportunities they have every day. Once they reach the age of reason, our children are morally responsible. So the Church helps them to armor up!
The books in my Armor of God chapter book series focus on the virtues associated with each piece of armor mentioned in Ephesians 6:13-17.
In Belt of Truth, George Pennington accidentally burns his mother’s cherished tapestry and fears that his chance at Knight School is over. A lie seems like the best solution, but as lying becomes easier, George and friends discover what they must do to earn the Belt of Truth.
In Breastplate of Righteousness, George wants to help his friend Henry, who accidentally made a hole in the thatched roof of his house, but his father won’t let him go because a storm is coming. George is desperate to make the right choices because he really wants to earn the Breastplate of Righteousness.
In Boots of Peace, while George and his friend Robyn work hard at being peacemakers, George can’t stop thinking about the strange rock he once discovered in the knights’ woods. He will stop at nothing to find out more about it, but he just might be missing a very important point about peace.
In Shield of Faith, George is invited on a secret mission–which holds answers to questions he’s been wondering since becoming a page! But when he finds himself in a tight situation, he’d rather have a lantern than faith. He is not the only one facing a challenge; each pages’ faith is tested before the day is out.
In Helmet of Salvation, dragons have been spotted! George wants to help at the outposts and Henry wants to collect dragon scales–even at the risk of being tossed out of Knight School. But the knights have other work for them to do. The pages will learn the importance of putting on the mind of Christ. Our thoughts and choices are important.
In Sword of the Spirit, George and friends investigate strange noises in the underground shelter and discover that the dragon threat is even greater than they had expected! The knights have one plan to solve the problem and the townsfolk another. The pages learn to keep courageous and peaceful spirits amidst chaos by working to earn the Sword of the Spirit–which is the Word of God!
Story themes concern the importance of virtues such as truthfulness, patience, inner peace, obedience, prayer, and trusting God.
Brother Coll’s Catechism lessons between chapters help readers see how prayer, the Bible, and the sacraments help us to put on the armor of God!
Four of the six books are out now. The fifth and sixth books will come out soon–before the end of winter 2022! You can get copies of the books on Amazon or anywhere you buy books. Ask your local Catholic bookstore to carry the series. Find the entire series as it comes out HERE! Feel free to sign up for my author newsletter for updates!
While October is Respect Life Month, I always think about pro-life work and themes in January, too, because of the annual March for Life. I imagine a day when the March for Life will no longer be needed because everyone will realize that abortion is a tragedy, the way we all realize slavery is a tragedy.
In order for us to reach that day, we need to change a lot of minds and hearts. How can we possibly change the hearts and minds of others? Hearts and minds change when people open themselves to truth.
This is the work of God, but we are all called to play a role.
Just as the Virgin Mary was and is the instrument of God for bringing Christ–Truth Himself–into the world, so you and I are called to be the instruments that bring truth to others. There are countless ways we can share truth with others, including prayer, discussion, living by example, and works of charity.
One powerful way to reach others with pro-life ideas is through fiction.
A fictional story can be instrumental in changing hearts and minds because through a powerful story, readers come to identify with and understand characters. In pro-life fiction, characters wrestle with ideas that touch on the sanctity of human life. They go beyond the slogans of “my body, my choice” and “choose life” to the detrimental or salvific results of those choices.
Through the thoughts, actions, and challenges characters face, readers get to think deeply about the consequences of choices and even consider things from a new point of view. They can reason through ideas and be free to change their opinions without pressure.
Because of my desire to share the truth that alone can transform the world for Christ, I’ve written pro-life fiction and I’ve read and shared pro-life fiction. I’ll list some of those books here.
This story is part of the West Brothers contemporary teen fiction series. The characters face the challenges teens face today concerning relationships with the opposite sex. What’s the best way to get to know someone that you like? Caitlyn’s family wants her to practice something like old-fashioned courtship with high parental involvement and zero time alone with boys. Meanwhile, her best friend, Zoe, has little parental involvement in her relationships. When Zoe ends up pregnant, her boyfriend pressures her to get an abortion, but she’s not sure she wants to do that.
In the next book in the West Brothers series, Jarret West struggles to recover from a broken relationship, in which he tried pressuring his girlfriend to have an abortion. This story is shown in part from Jarret’s guardian angel’s perspective. Using the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas on angels, readers get to see the spiritual battle play out, including the dirty tactics the devil uses to remind us of our sinful past and to encourage us to make more sinful choices. Sexual promiscuity and abortion have real consequences that one cannot hide from, but our God is all-merciful and ever calling us back to a loving relationship with Him.
This contemporary pro-life story, written for teens, follows sixteen-year-old Paul Porter, who stays with family friends during his dad’s deployment. When devastating news lands on their doorstep, Paul finds comfort in his new friend Rachel Mueller. Their abiding friendship deepens as they work side by side to uncover what could be lost treasure, but now they also face new temptations. 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? Themes include premarital chastity and overcoming temptation.
Award-winning contemporary teen fiction author Leslea Wahl has several inspirational faith-filled stories, but this one contains a great message about premarital chastity–along with the action and mystery. Teen snowboarder Jake Taylor and his girlfriend, Sophie, navigate through the challenges that come with fame and with their developing relationship. Learning to respect oneself and others is really at the root of the life issue.
In this story, Brian is done with dating until he meets Melanie, who’s been struggling to hold life together with her three rambunctious children, ever since her husband’s sudden death. They develop their relationship cautiously, but then an old temptation is reignited and an unknown stalker shows up. This clean adult romance approaches the respect life theme in a different way. It deals with the issue of pornography and the damage it does to oneself and to future relationships.
This ‘biography through fiction’ introduces a beloved pro-life saint through the fictional life of a present-day teen. Canonized in 2021 but long a beloved intercessor for the pro-life movement, Saint Margaret of Castello was born in medieval Italy, blind, lame and hunch-backed, to noble parents who later abandoned her because of her disabilities. In Child, Unwanted, thirteen-year-old Miri (Miracle) Taylor, already scarred from a failed abortion attempt, struggles to believe he could ever be loved and wanted. In hospital after a terrible accident, he makes friends with a mysterious Italian lady called Margaret. Can she teach him that his life is worth living?
This contemporary fiction by T.M. Gaouette was endorsed by Alveda C. King, author of Civil Rights for the Unborn. Readers follow a young man of faith and conviction and a young woman he barely knows, who must now figure out what to do after they’ve made a mistake. She wants money for an abortion, but he knows that’s not the answer. This story does not make light of the effects of our choices, whether physical or spiritual, and it also shows the importance of a faith-filled upbringing.
Set in an alternative future where dinosaurs roam freely and humans live behind electric fences, this is an exciting pro-life adventure with eighteen-year-old Isaiah and his older brother Zechariah, professional hunters who earn their living culling and capturing some of the most dangerous predators ever to walk the planet. Readers will enjoy seeing how pro-life and unexpected pregnancy themes play out in this story.
I confess that this book has a special place in my heart. Readers have reached out to me about this one too, asking for the beginning story of Caitlyn and Jarret. This story starts after they’ve been married for almost a year. Caitlyn wakes up with amnesia and can’t understand how this bad apple can possibly be her husband. She sets out to uncover the mystery of her amnesia and her marriage, all the while taking readers on a journey to discover the mercy of God, the sanctity of marriage, and the possibility of life after mistakes. It’s strong pro-life and pro-marriage themes will inspire.
The last three books on my list are available at a discounted price at CatholicTeenBooks.com. Check it out HERE. Then grab the pro-life set, or the other titles here, and share them with the young adults in your life. Give them a unique and non-confrontational means of approaching the pro-life issue. Through these stories they will gain empathy and insight.
For additional pro-life evangelization, donate these or other pro-life titles to your parish youth group or director of religious education.
Please share your pro-life fiction suggestions in the comments! Let’s make use of every method we can for transforming the culture into a pro-life one, protecting the unborn, and making abortion unthinkable.
Most of the books above can be found on CatholicTeenBooks.com and all are available on Amazon or wherever you buy books.
Teenager Evie Gallagher is stunned when her 45-year-old father dies tragically and suddenly. Too many unanswered questions accompany Evie’s challenging journey to adulthood. When she finally discovers the reason her father led such a troubled life, shock turns to anger. She is determined to find justice for her father.
Nervous about the first day of his freshman year, 14-year-old Hank Gallagher steps inside Holy Archangels High School for the first time in September of 1954. Although the majestic Holy Archangels statues inside the school’s grand lobby present an air of protection, it is not long before Hank passes right under them and into the hands of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Confused and cornered by threats, Hank attempts to abandon his secret to the past, but a horrible wound on his heart eventually leads to a catastrophic breakdown.
Based loosely on actual events, chapters alternate between Evie and Hank to reveal a life haunted by betrayal and a revelation of true justice and hope.
Ellen Gable Hrkach addresses the darkness of sexual abuse and the resulting lifelong wounds with delicate finesse.Michelle Buckman, award-winning author of Turning Circles and Rachel’s Contrition
I couldn’t put this book down, so don’t let the topic deter you. The story, told simply and honestly—and without sensationalism—will draw you in and have you rooting for these characters long after you close the book.Victoria Ryan, author
The greatest tragedy that could befall the Roman Catholic Church is for a child’s innocence to be stolen by a priest. And yet it has happened thousands of times and continues to happen. Told by Ellen Gable, as only she can tell it, with candor and faith, this story sheds light on the darkness of a case of clerical abuse. As the results of the abuse envelop an entire family, one sees how that the original victim truly had his life destroyed by one evil man. A moving and heart-breaking read that will change your life and strengthen your faith! Elena-Maria Vidal, author
And in the unfolding of the story — with the inevitable fury and sorrow that surfaces along the way — we are finally brought face to face with Jesus’ call to forgive those who harm us. A feat that Ellen shows us is not impossible, for nothing is impossible for those with God on their side. This book will change, teach, and inspire. Every Catholic should read it. Veronica Smallhorn, author, A Channel of Your Peace
Interview Questions for Ellen Gable
Where Angels Pass is quite different from your most recent books. Why?
Where Angels Pass has actually been on my “To Write” shelf for at least 15 years. Any time I tried to sit down and write it, I couldn’t. This was a very difficult topic to write about because of what happened to my father.
When my father was a freshman in a Catholic high school in Philly, he was sexually assaulted by one of his teachers. He kept the secret his whole life and the only person he ever told was my mother. My father had a very troubled life after that and eventually wound up having a nervous breakdown the same day my youngest brother was born. Then he had to cope with the stigma of mental illness, eventually becoming an alcoholic and dying tragically when he was only in his 40s.
This summer, when I sat down to write, I started writing and didn’t stop until the book was complete (three weeks). I have never written a book in only three weeks, but every day, I just wrote and couldn’t stop. I’d stay up late to write another thousand words. I’d get up early to write. The only time I stopped writing was when I cried (which was frequent throughout the writing process) and I had to step away.
How much of this book is based on true events?
Most of the book is based loosely on true events. I changed names, of course, amalgamated characters and situations. The time period is different as well. Evie (based on me) is seven years younger than me. The story is told from the perspectives of both Evie (my character) and Hank (my father’s character).
One thing that is not true about the book is that I never met my father’s abuser. He was already dead when I found out about him. The book takes place between seven and ten years after the events in real life because I wanted the abuser to still be alive. In many respects, that chapter was very healing for me to write.
What do you hope the reader will take away from your story?
It’s my hope that the reader will be able to learn that just because a person has suffered clerical abuse (in this case, my father) does not mean his life had any less value than any other person. Did he make mistakes because of his woundedness? Of course, he did, because we’re all born with original sin and with free will.
And despite all these things that happened to him, he was really an incredible father and, I believe, made the world a better place (again, despite his nervous breakdown and alcoholism).
Most importantly, I hope the reader can understand that the Catholic Church is not an evil institution, and we should not leave the Church because of the sins of some of her members. One thing I didn’t realize until recently was how widespread the clerical abuse problem has been for many years. And while it saddened me that my father was abused, it breaks my heart that so many others suffered like my father.
Why did it take 15 years for you to be able to write this book?
I didn’t want to imagine what my father went through during his abuse and afterward. And while I wrote this book, I had to step away because I’d be crying, especially during the abuse chapters, the aftermath, his nervous breakdown, and his battle with alcoholism.
My father wasn’t the sum total of his faults. Instead, he was a unique image of God, who tried his darnedest to be a good husband, son, and father. However, his woundedness was like a snake that slithered all throughout everything he did, good or bad.
Why do you feel your extended family are also victims of clerical abuse?
Having a father who was abused by a priest directly contributed to my father having a mental breakdown and suffering from alcoholism. I believe that had my father never been abused, he probably would not have had a nervous breakdown and he may never have become an alcoholic. As the daughter of an alcoholic, I remember times when as a young teen, I was the parent figure and had to take him to bed or help him put clothes on. In some respects, having an alcoholic father makes a child grow up too quickly.
Ellen Gable is acoach, speaker, publisher, NFP teacher, book reviewer, transcriptionist, and instructor in the Theology of the Body for Teens. Her books have been collectively downloaded 750,000 times on Kindle. Some of her books have been translated into Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, and French. The mother of five adult sons and grandmother to one cherished grandson, Ellen (originally from New Jersey) now lives with her husband of nearly 40 years, James Hrkach, in Pakenham, Ontario, Canada.