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Who Was That Masked Man?

Imagine sitting by yourself in your family room on a spring night, watching television or playing video games. You’re enjoying your “alone” activity and having a great time. Suddenly, across the room, a strange man appears wearing a cape and a black mask over his eyes—much like some old-time bandit or the fictional vigilante, Zorro. The man is simply sitting on your dining room table watching you… observing you… waiting for you to acknowledge him.


What would you do in this situation? Consider the possibilities. You could jump up, scream, and run for the front door. You could dial 9-1-1 and beg the police to come. You could confront the man angrily, holding your remote control like a weapon: “Who are you and what are you doing in my house?”


Or you can sit there and ignore the masked man, continuing to play your video games like he doesn’t exist or isn’t in your presence. Not likely.


Now imagine that you are sitting in your classroom at school, talking with your friends, when the world’s most successful rock star steps into your classroom—your favorite musician ever. What do you do? Run up to get her autograph? Ask her to sing a song? Take a selfie with her?


Or maybe you keep talking to your friends and ignore the fact that the most popular person in the world has just interrupted your class. You don’t even bother looking at her. Again, not likely.


Now imagine yourself at Mass on Sunday. You’re staring out the window as the priest talks. Suddenly, Jesus Christ appears in front of the altar in a flash of light—God himself in your presence. Now what do you do? Perhaps you just ignore the Lord and keep staring out the window. More likely, you jump to your feet in awe or bow down in worship.


In my middle-grade novel, Penny and the Stolen Chalice, my main character is a sixth-grade girl who attends Catholic school but isn’t actually Catholic. When she learns that Catholics believe the Eucharist is actually the Real Presence of Jesus Christ under the guise of bread and wine, she wonders about the behavior of her classmates during Mass. Listen to what she has to say about it:


When Father Bala held the Communion host and said the prayer of consecration to turn it into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus, I looked around. Lots of kids were bored and fidgeting, but Jayden, Principal Moore, and a handful of others had bowed their heads in real belief.


Did I believe it, too — that Jesus was right there wanting me to eat his body so I could be more like him? I imagined Jesus sitting on the altar, gazing at us, even though lots of us ignored him. It sure would take a lot of love for him to come to us every day when we kept acting like that.


Penny may be on to something.  So, the next time you’re at Mass and the priest consecrates the host and chalice at the altar, holding them up and later declaring, “This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,” take a moment and realize what is happening and how much God loves us.


Or will you be the person who ignores his presence before you and then looks around clueless afterwards—just like those onlookers in those old Zorro movies who always seemed confused when the bandit escaped, wondering, “Who was that masked man?”


Novels and short stories from Catholic Teen Books often demonstrate how God enters our lives in surprising ways, and how we can acknowledge His presence, especially through the Sacraments:


  • In Heaven's Hunter by Marie Keiser, Alvarez's reverent behavior in church shows another character that he really does believe that God is there. 

  • In The Boy Who Knew by Corinna Turner, Daniel finds unexpected comfort after a cancer diagnosis in his growing "friendship" with Blessed Carlo Acutis, a teen who had a deep devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and even created a touring exhibition about Eucharistic miracles.


  • In the short story "A Very Jurassic Lent" by Corinna Turner (available in the Ashes: Visible & Invisible CTB anthology or separately), it will take a miracle--a Eucharistic miracle, in fact--to save Josh from a hungry mother T. rex.

  • In Charting the Course by Leslea Wahl Liz is so moved by the stories of Eucharistic miracles and the power of Novenas that she makes the decision to join the Catholic church. Not sure if this is quite what you were looking for. If it doesn't work, no problem.

  • Discover the power of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament by a Catholic youth group, and the effect it has in the life of a troubled teen in the contemporary West Brothers novel Battle for His Soul by Theresa Linden.


About the author: Antony Barone Kolenc

"I am currently a law professor, podcaster, and author of the medieval historical fiction series, The Harwood Mysteries, published by Loyola Press. I’m excited for the release of Book Six in that teen series, due out in October 2024. The other five books have won 14 book awards. It’s an adventuresome, suspenseful series for readers who are at least ten years old. I’m also thrilled about the release of my latest stand-alone middle-grade novel, Penny and the Stolen Chalice.


What else is there to know about me? My wife, Alisa, and I homeschooled our five children, and we now live in Florida. Before I became a law professor, I served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps, spending 21 years in active-duty military service.


In addition to novels, I write short stories, legal articles, and a regular column in Practical Homeschooling Magazine. I also host a weekly radio show and podcast, The Shepherd’s Pie—an uplifting, ecumenical show about how faith can help us in our messy lives."


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It's so tough to remind ourselves of the spiritual realities when we can't see them - even if we know them to be true.

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