Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

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 prayer.

“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 time.”

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.)


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