We are Catholic…and we are unashamed!
We are Catholic…and we are unashamed!
Hey friends, check out my guest post featured on CarolynAstfalk.com
As the author of Catholic fiction for teens and young adults, I find myself in a constant battle of the wills. There’s this desire to delight the reader with an entertaining and relatable story, while still remaining focused on pleasing God and sharing His Word. Some may not think this much of a challenge, but when you reflect on the world we live in, as well as what passes for entertainment these days, hardly a fraction of it would be considered godly. In fact, entertainment is so focused on stories that do everything but promote God’s word, or worse, indulge in ideas that are contrary to God’s word.
When it comes to teen fiction, it’s all about rebelling against everything that used to be considered good, promoting dark and destructive themes, and introducing attractive characters with sinister desires. I could throw out a list of examples, but that wouldn’t be fair, or even necessary, quite frankly. I’m confident you know what novels, past and present, I’m referring to.
That’s life, some people will rationalize. That’s the world we live in. Well, yes, it is. But is it the world we should be living in? Is it the world that God wants us to live in? Is it a world we should be promoting? Is it one we should be celebrating?
Scripture tells us that we should be careful about what we put before our eyes. In 2 Corinthians 7, St. Paul reminds us, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.” To cleanse ourselves means to ensure that nothing unholy fill our minds or our lives. That’s not easy for us to do when we’re constantly bombarded with unclean and unholy images all day long. There’s only so much we can control, but we can certainly limit the unholy and instill within us God’s glory in so many other ways, including the books that we choose to read.
So, does that mean that Catholics should only read novels about good people doing good things in a world where real life messy doesn’t occur? Well, of course not. That wouldn’t be realistic. And besides, Catholic authors are real people living in the real world. Regardless of how much some of us wish to isolate ourselves from this current post-Christian society, we feel deeply about our role in this world. We are aware of the real world issues that teens are dealing with, whether they’re emotional or physical. We understand temptation, loss, insecurity, loneliness, lust, heartbreak, crushes, drugs, premarital sex, depression, suicide and so many other dark aspects of the world that are confusing and consuming for teens and young adults. But we take the dark and we add light.
Writing is a vocation for us. It’s a ministry. Personally, I believe that the Lord sprinkled the gift of writing upon my head and now I must use it to glorify His name. I am to take the world as it is and place God into the center of it where He belongs. I’m to create real lives the way they should be lived in the hopes that teens are inspired and instill the virtues and values into their own lives. Continue reading…
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The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch is featured on the Catholic Writers Guild blog. If you’ve read the book or like my work, please leave a comment and share it with others.
At age ten, Benedict carries massive chips on both shoulders. Having passed from bad foster homes to worse, he dreads the uncertainty of new surroundings and new rules. When he arrives at The Sunshine Ranch, he doubts the sincerity of his new foster parents, David and Martha Credence and withholds his affections lest he be ripped again from friends and security. Benedict sees the other foster children as rivals and doubts that his good fortune will last. Over the next four years, he remains aloof, not daring to trust that he has found a home and family.
When foreclosure threatens The Sunshine Ranch, Benedict’s doubts seem to be confirmed. Although David and Martha ask Benedict and their other foster kids to have faith that God will provide, Benedict refuses to believe. But Micah, Benedict’s roommate, and chief rival, keeps the faith. Eventually, Benedict realizes that The Sunshine Ranch gives him the only happiness that he has ever known, and that his constant worry and fear prevent him from enjoying it.
David and Martha Credence, and their many foster children embody generosity and unquestioning faith. Theirs is an impossible task — they welcome hard-case kids like Benedict and scrape together the resources to meet their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Benedict, on the other hand, provides a counterpoint to everything the Credence family attempts to share. Too wounded by his early life experiences to accept the healing they offer, he’s likely to reject them and run away into the night. Micah, the optimist, has suffered as much as Benedict, but he always sees the bright side and attempts to wear down Benedict’s rough edges. Read more of this review and others at the Catholic Writers Guild blog…
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Forgiveness is the virtue of mercy. When we have the ability to forgive others for the hurts that they inflict upon us, we have the strength of assurance, not just in ourselves but also in God. We’re basically saying, “Yes, you hurt me, but I’m not going to let your hurt bring me down and I’m not going to hold it against you. I understand that you’re human like me, and that you’re prone to sin, like me. And so I will forgive you, because my God forgives me, and who am I not to do for you what my God has already done for me.”
Wow! Imagine being so confident in ourselves and who we are in our own eyes and in God’s, that we aren’t easily hurt, and when we are, we recognize that the flaw is in the one that hurts and not in ourselves.
“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25)
Forgiveness is unconditional. We do it because it’s the right thing to do. We do it because God asks us to do it. So regardless of what someone does to us, we forgive them, even if they’re not sorry for the pain that they caused us.
In my debut novel, The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch, a lot of forgiveness is necessary for the foster children at the Ranch. They have all been hurt by at least one parent. They’ve been abandoned, and that causes so much hurt and bitterness. This is especially true for the protagonist in this novel, Benedict. In the following snippet, he’s speaking with his foster father, David about their biological parents.
“Don’t do what? Be mad at them?” Benedict asked. He could feel his face reddening.
“No…no, you can be mad at them,” David said. “You can be mad all you want, but at some point, you need to let it go. You need to tell yourself that it doesn’t matter anymore. You need to forgive them for what they did and did not do, and you need to move on.” (DSR p.84)
The children in this story have to forgive their parents for their own sanity, but even beyond that, forgiveness is a huge sacrifice. In essence, forgiveness is a gift.
In addition to forgiving his own mother for deserting him, Benedict has to forgive himself for squandering his younger years. Even as an adult he holds in so much bitterness and anxiety, and he realizes that he simple can’t move on with such angst in his heart. He can’t go on allowing it all to “eat him alive,” as David had described it to them as children.
Forgiveness doesn’t negate the action that caused the pain. And often this is the reason why the majority of people have trouble forgiving others who have hurt them. They feel that in forgiving them, the person who receives forgiveness will be vindicated; their past transgressions will be null and void.
Later in the same book, Sebastian is faced with his estranged father who asks for his forgiveness (DSR p.92). His father can’t take back what he did and both he and Sebastian understand that.
Forgiveness is not meant to be easy, and that’s why it’s a virtue.
It’s easy to forgive someone we love. In Saving Faith, The second book in my Faith & Kung Fu series, Nina has to forgive her best friend, Faith. “In a heartbeat,” Nina said softly (p.108). Faith then has to forgive Christian for what he did to her, and she’s quick to give it because she has feelings for him (p.176). But forgiveness is often not that easy. Adam, Faith’s brother struggles with it, even when the pain comes from his sister being hurt. But he gives it anyway. Christian also struggles to forgive his father (p.161), but that’s only because his understanding of his parents’ divorce was conjured up by his own imagination and not the truth that finally comes to light as the story progresses.
We’re not always going to get forgiveness right. But it can always be fixed. The reality is that if we don’t forgive, how can we ever expect to be forgiven.
Forgiveness doesn’t place us above the person who hurt us. Because ultimately, we are all guilty of hurting someone at some point in time. So, who are we not to offer forgiveness when we expect it from others, and most importantly, when we were given it by Christ Himself for all our transgressions.
For more Catholic fiction reflecting this theme, check out the comments below!
Join the discussion!
Call out to Catholic authors of fiction for teens and young adults. Have you written a Catholic novel that encompasses the subject of forgiveness and mercy? Please share in the comments below, listing the titles and including a brief description of how it’s presented in your fiction.
For more on the titles listed in this post and others, as well as their educational themes, visit Catholic Teen Books For Teachers