The scene: Café Catholica Houston 2019. The man of the hour: Fr. Josh Johnson The topic: “The Struggle is Real–Continuous Conversion.” I was lucky enough to be part of the audience that night. On stage, Fr. Johnson had the demeanor of an old college friend. He told a lot of funny stories, but tied those stories towards aspects of the Catholic Faith, especially the call to sainthood and how to maintain a personal relationship with Jesus.
Some of the things he talked about in his lecture that night are included in his book, Broken and Blessed: An Invitation to My Generation. In this book that is part memoir, part spiritual guide for young adults, Fr. Johnson acts as a friend and mentor, offering up anecdotes of his life and sharing ways that young adults can strengthen their relationship with God.
Fr. Johnson starts his book by breaking down a lot of misconceptions people have about the Catholic Church. Yes, the Church is corrupt and broken, but it is also holy and wonderful. He writes about the universal call to holiness and sainthood and debunks the fear of not being good enough. He also debunks a lot of fears young adults have towards God, such as the “angry scorekeeper” or the eternal “vending machine.”
In one particularly funny anecdote, Fr. Johnson recounts that when he was growing up, he had the hugest crush on Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez. He joked that when he heard about a “beef” the two celebrities were having, he was scared that they were fighting over him. As hilarious as the joke was, though, this anecdote was used as a way to show how gossip can make a big deal out of nothing. It was also his way of showing the difference between knowing about God versus actually knowing God as a friend, as a Father. “To truly know someone, we have to encounter him or her and have conversations with the person.”
Each chapter has an invitation to prayer, opportunities for the reader to reflect on the topic of the chapter through the wisdom of the saints and various types of prayers, such as litanies. There are also short lists of questions for readers to discuss and reflect on.
I recommend this book to Catholics who are in high school or in college, as this book speaks to the young adult heart in a way that’s easy to understand and relate to.