Young people and others will appreciate another book that matters, in both content and design: Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints, by Colleen Swaim. This book is a gem, plain and simple. Here are just three of the best elements: *the book include several well-known saints, like St. Dominic Savio and St. Maria Goretti, but these bios aren’t the “same-old” facts. Swaim infuses the stories with a fresh, invigorating voice that shows these remarkable people as more 3-dimensional than the usual narratives. *the bulk of the book is new-to-most saints, or saints most will only have a passing knowledge of, from St. Kitizio of Africa to Blessed Chiara of Italy, and many others. Their stories are told in a way that makes Ablaze a must-read. It truly inspires a sense of longing for holiness. *each saint/chapter ends with “saintly challenges,” offering readers a chance to apply the lessons of the saint’s life to his or her own, through media, prayers and recipes. Think trying a homemade chai tea recipe to give as a gift after reading about St. Alphonsa from India, or being challenged to put into practice a daily schedule to emulate St. Stantislaus. There are movie suggestions, simple virtue development ideas, and tons of other great ideas and challenges. (Nancy Piccione Catholic Post, the Diocese of Peoria, IL
Let’s hear it for teens — Thanks to a five-year strategic pastoral plan, this year will be devoted to teens and young adults in the arch. The aim is a spiritual awakening for youth, so they’ll become wholehearted Catholics. How about role models who have already made the journey? Here’s a collection of stories about young heroes for inspiration: ""Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints," by Colleen Swaim“Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints” by high school teacher Colleen Swaim, is about eight teenagedsaints or “blesseds” recognized officially by the church. (Of course there are many more whose names we’ll never know.) Three of Swaim’s subjects were from Italy, and the other five from Chile, Uganda, Poland, India and Spain. The youngest is 11-year-old St. Maria Goretti. Swaim writes about some who were obvious saints from the get-go, like Dominic Savio who served Mass daily at age five. Or Stanislaus Kostka, a home-schooled kid in 1564 who levitated during Mass at age 14. Or young Kizito. He lived in Uganda and was a page in the court of an evil king who also happened to be a pedophile. Kizito, newly baptized at age 14, went singing to his martyrdom, along with 15 other boys and young men, St. Charles Lwanga and some adult Christians. But when Juanita Solar was a youngster, she was rich, spoiled and had temper tantrums. (Nothing too saintly there.) A typical student, she called her boarding school “a dungeon,” and hated to go back after summer break. People can change. Juanita entered a Carmelite convent at age 18 and while her life was brief, today she’s known as the “St. Teresa of the Andes.” The most recent addition to this select company is Chiara “Luce” Badano. Called “a saint of our times,” she’s been chosen by Pope Benedict as one of the patrons for World Youth Day 2011. Before she died of bone cancer at age 18, she “lived the Gospel” doing acts of love for others. She appeared average — hanging out in coffee shops with friends, playing tennis and swimming. She might even be called “the saint who flunked high school math.” She offered all her suffering to God, and 20 years after her death, in 2010, she was named Blessed Chiara. Swaim has arranged her appealing book with lots of extra tidbits from helpful definitions and photos to brief discussion-starters, saintly challenges and prayers. As the author says, “Be who you should be, and you will set the whole world ablaze!” It’s available for $12.99 + shipping from Liguori Publications, (800) 325-9521, or at amazon. com. (Delores Madlener Catholic New World, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago
About the Author
Colleen Swaim is a teacher of religion and English in the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky, who encourages in young adults an understanding of the intense radicalism of sanctity and the dreary dullness of sin.