Introducing Teens to Good Friends

c-swaim-ablaze-angleSometimes it seems as though teenagers are not from this planet. No offense.  I was once a teen myself. And at one point, five of our ten children were teens all at once. Fun times.

As any parent knows, teens’ friends influence them.  That is why it’s good to acquaint them with friends who really aren’t on this planet. Author Colleen Swain understands this.  Her two books, Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints (also in Spanish) and Radiate: More Stories of Daring Teen Saints, introduce teens to heavenly friends; former earth dwellers.  Colleen is a high school religion and English teacher. She masterfully meshes her knowledge of religion, English in a way that attests to her understanding of teens.

I would never recommend a product I had not tested out myself, and Colleen’s two books have held up the test of teens at my house. We’ve used them to read a saint a day story after our morning prayers.

In her books, Colleen selected saints who lived lives of selfless love and died while still young. She compiled a book of heavenly peers that young people can relate to as friends in heaven. For instance in Ablaze, there are eight young saints such as Chiara Luce, an Italian high school student, who faced her two-year battle against cancer with strength and joy. Kizito, was a newly baptized Christian in Uganda who was martyred for his for standing firm in his faith against the king.  Radiate continues with ten more stories.  In it are daring teens such as Peter Yu Tae-chol, a Korean teen imprisoned for his beliefs, who had to deal with a family split by faith, and Bernadette Soubirous, the teen that Our Lady of Lourdes appeared to.

Colleen’s books are as interactive as possible without being plugged into an electrical outlet. Factoids, maps, pictures, prayers, space for journaling thoughts, questions, and quotes, create enough activity to keep kids engaged.  There are even recipes at the back of the book associated with some of the saints’ countries of origin. My kids have recently reminded me that I said we were going to make the “Cheese Empanadas with Onions” (only without the onions).

Getting Teens to Read

Aside from Colleen’s books, how, you may ask, can you get your teen to read saint books or any religious books at all when competing with  Facebook, video games, TV, friends, and music?  There are ways. You are the parent. You can encourage or pressure—whatever it takes.  Here are a few ideas.

Start out with a friendly suggestion. “This book looks really good, so I bought it for you.”  For the teen that is broke, suggest that instead of getting you a birthday or Christmas present, what you want most is for him to read a book for you.

If your teen is resistant, try getting a Godparent or beloved relative to give it as a present then ask later how they like it. For the teen in trouble with you, consider that once the consequence is under way, offer reading a good book to earn time off for good behavior. Reading a book beats being grounded. You can also offer your child a bonus, if you read this book, then….  After all, we make such deals for much less lofty rewards.  My favorite suggestion is to read the book together, before bedtime, in the morning or whenever it’s a good time to gather with the kids.

Don’t forget to ask the saints to intercede for you and introduce your children to them. Whatever it takes, help your teens to get to know some of the saints. They will become good friends to last a lifetime.


Patti Maguire Armstrong and her husband have ten children. She is a writer with Teresa Tomeo Communications, an award-winning author, and was managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’s Amazing Grace Series. She has appeared on TV and radio stations across the country. Her latest books, Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families, and children’s book, Dear God, I Don’t Get It (available for pre-order now!) will both be released in April.

To read more, visit Patti’s blog and website. Visit her author page on facebook and also GPS Guide to Heaven and Earth, Homeschool Heart and Big Hearted Families.

Looking for a Catholic Speaker?  Check out Patti’s speaker page and the rest of the ICL Speaker’s Bureau.


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4 Comments

  1. People who have an interest in anything spiritual go where they find something genuine. That’s why so many of them flock to gurus, philosophers, and ascetics. The Dalai Lama is arguably taken more seriously by most teenagers than any Christian… except for the incredible example of St. Francis of Assisi (and a few others, mostly monks). This is why probably why so many musicians, artists, political activists, and spiritual seekers have been converting to Catholicism and Orthodoxy (May they soon reunite, Lord…). Groups like Death to the World (an Orthodox zine), MonkRock.com (Catholic and Orthodox site), etc are at the forefront of this. Even in Evangelical circles, there’s an intense attraction to monasticism. Colleen saw firsthand how my deep interest in monks and how their works influenced my relationship with Christ as an Evangelical… which eventually led me to the Church. And it all started at age 14 with a very small book that has been long popular in Protestant circles, called “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence. Who was a monk in France during the Middle Ages.

  2. How about for a teen I would like to introduce to the Catholic faith? Any suggestions?? Would this work? The teen has no religious upbringing at all. Thanks!

  3. IF you go to this website, they list a number of excellent books especially suited to inspire young people. God bless you for working to bring young people into the faith.

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