Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Everyday Grace: Summer reading tip for teens
by Mary Cronk Farrell
(From the June 12, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)
At a book group last week the topic turned to teenagers.
“My son is now in that stage he doesn’t want to go to Mass,” said one mother. “I insist
that he go. He doesn’t have to believe it. He doesn’t have to love it. He just has to sit there
and let it go by his ears.”
I heard something in this mother’s voice I envied – a mixture of calm, detachment and
yet, assurance. Maybe this was wisdom born of experience for she has two older children already
off to college.
With my oldest just turning 17, I so often find myself lacking assurance, lacking
detachment, and yes, lacking calm. There is no easy or magic way of achieving these qualities,
but an unexpected gift came my way this week that holds a heap of promise.
It’s a book called Way to Live: Christian Practices for Teens. Okay, so the
title doesn’t sound like much competition for The Matrix
Reloaded, but it just might be the ticket your teenager is looking for when the hype
over the latest summer movie wears thin.
Written by teens themselves in combination with adults, this book tackles tough issues
our kids face today with honesty and faith. Chapters cover 18 practices that include the real
stuff of life like our bodies, food, play, friendship, justice, truth, grief, music and
“We call these practices because they need to be practiced,” writes one of the authors.
“Practices don’t live on the pages of a book but in the bodies, hands, feet, eyes and
compassion of real people...”
This book contains no chapters on what not to do. The authors say teens hear plenty of
don’ts – don’t drink, don’t cheat, don’t do drugs, and don’t have sex. They want to offer a
more positive way of looking at the choices set before our children.
“Way to Live is not a set of rules. Practicing life in the Holy Spirit certainly
requires tough choices at times. It calls for the discipline of an athlete and the
attentiveness of an artist. But it is not something you have to do to please someone else, not
even to please God. Instead, this life is a gift you receive as you join hands with other
people and walk with Jesus and his community toward the future God has promised, one step at a
Teenage authors write of their own personal experiences with a truthfulness that evokes
smiles and tears by turns. They quote spiritual leaders of the past, like St. Teresa of Avila
and Thomas Merton, but their stories plainly show how the people in their everyday lives also
influence and support them.
This book doesn’t talk down to teens, doesn’t preach at them. It recognizes their deep
longing for real life, for abundant life, and invites them into a community of people who don’t
just “go with the flow,” a community getting involved in the loving, challenging life of God.
Here’s a quote from the chapter on forgiveness. “You know that feeling of hurt: a
numbing ache that makes your heart sore or the pain that feels like boiling molten lava inside
your chest, just waiting to erupt at any minute…. You may have felt betrayed by a close friend,
a parent, or even God. The gospel says that forgiveness is the way to heal the hurt. This
chapter explores how hard it is to forgive, but also why forgiveness is important and how it
can happen.” (Judy Kuo, age 17, Marietta, Georgia)
Way to Live: Christian Practices for Teens, published by Upper Room Books, is
endorsed by Robert J. McCarty, Executive Director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth
Ministry, as well as leaders from varied Protestant denominations. Of course, that’s not what
I’ll tell my teenager when I suggest he might like to read this book.
I’ll just ask him if he’d like me to be calm for a change.
You can order Way to Live at your local bookstore, or online.
© 2003, Mary Cronk Farrell
(Mary Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and
children’s writer. She is a contributing author to the new book Daughters of the Desert,
from Skylight Paths Publishing, ranked eighth on the June list of best-selling hardcover
Catholic books from the Catholic Book Publishers Association.
Read about the book.)
Inland Register archives
© The Catholic Diocese of Spokane. All Rights Reserved