Genre

Christian fiction, Inspirational Suspense, Historical Fiction

Audience

Christian Adults

Author’s Worldview

Catholic

Year Published

2019

Themes

grief, faith, suffering, family, interconnectedness, forgiveness, healing, relics

 

Reviewed by

Lisa Theus

“We all die.”

This simple, unavoidable reality anchors the action of Celtic Crossing. How do we react in the face of grief? Do we turn to God or away from God? How do our actions—seemingly so personal—affect those around us?

When Fr. Kevin Schaeffer receives a plea for help from Aideen Callaghan in finding a miraculous healing cross for her dying grandson, he confronts generations of family illness, grief for his own mother, and the intrigue of a missing relic. He is joined by a friend at the Vatican, an Irish ex-seminarian discerning his vocation, a vivacious Italian researcher, and a host of family and friends. They share personal histories and scholarly research to try to find the relic before it’s too late. Alongside the present day action are scenes from the past that show the relic’s path to the reader. Will the paths of the relic and the researchers cross in time?

On this literary pilgrimage, the reader reflects on the human struggle with pain. Using his personal knowledge of oncology, author Len Mattano takes his readers not through a soap opera or an unbelievable historical mystery full of conspiracies and espionage, but through a reflection of human drama brought to life by meticulous research of the past both in the novel and by the author himself. How did the apostles react to Jesus’ death and resurrection? How do disciples live out the faith when facing the challenges of the world? Some people make choices that lead them further from God, others lean more into their faith. As the characters make good or bad choices, God remains present and unchanged. The relic of the true cross is a tangible sign of salvation in the novel, but faith in the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection is shown to surpass the need for tangible items: “Christ is not confined to the wood of the cross.” I found this novel truly inspirational, and it’s one of the rare books I look forward to talking about with others.

There are some readers who won’t find Celtic Crossing appealing. First of all, the prose is dense, and the dialogue can feel too formal. Particularly in the first third of the novel, I found myself distracted by an overemphasis on details and research: for example, Fr. Kevin’s iPhone and his beverage preferences. Thankfully, once the novel finds its stride, the full cast of characters comes to life. But this is not a high-octave Hollywood page-turner thriller; the reader is meant to proceed slowly with the emphasis on inspiration rather than suspense, although the reader will become invested in uncovering the secrets of the relic’s journey and seeing how the scenes fit together. Plan to reread it!

Catholics who are scrupulous may also have difficulty with some situations in the book. Early on, we learn of a fallen-away Catholic who had her ashes scattered. Although there is no clerical approval of this action, the lack of corrective or comment may trouble readers. At another point, someone guilty of a grave sin makes amends with his family, but it is unclear if he also makes amends with God. Even the family reconciliation feels too easy because the most difficult conversations happen between scenes. For some readers, there is sufficient narrative for a fruitful discussion, but other readers may be uncomfortable with the presentation. This is a book best for meditation, not a catechism on details of the faith.

Because specifically Catholic doctrine does not overshadow the novel’s message, it may appeal to non-Catholic Christians who are able to appreciate the idea of relics and priests. The simple truth of the faith as presented seems acceptable to most Christians, but non-believers are likely to be dismissive. Thanks to discussion questions in the book and an image gallery online, Celtic Crossing would serve as a good book for discussion groups. Celtic Crossing appeals most, however, to well-catechized Catholics who want to experience a book and use it as a starting point to consider issues of grief, death, family, interconnectedness, and faith.

 

 

 

Get Catholic Books & eBooks for as little as $1 to FREE

Outlaws of Ravenhurst, by Sr. M. Imelda Wallace, S.L.

The 10-year-old heir of a noble Scottish family must choose between his inheritance and his Catholic faith.

Relic of His Heart by Jane Lebak

An atheist midwife has no idea what she’s in for when she makes a deal with an angel.

The Table by Dennis Lambert

A table built by the grandfather of Jesus Christ survives the darkest moment in history to bring peace to a widowed musician

August & September New Book Releases

Step into Fall with a Good Book

Rachel’s Contrition by Michelle Buckman

After the loss of her child, Rachel goes insane but she must pull her mind back together to solve a murder and save her own life.

The Poppy and The Rose by Ashlee Cowles

While abroad in England, Taylor discovers a mystery linking her to an heiress and passenger aboard The Titanic.

Big in Heaven by Fr. Stephen Siniari

In this inner-city Orthodox parish, there are no easy answers—only the transformative power of God’s love.

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

This two part graphic novel tells its story from 2 sides China’s bloody civil war: A Boxer Rebel & a “traitor” Christian-Convert.

Champion of the Poor: Father Joe Walijewski by Voyage Comics

Meet the priest who spread the love of God in Peru.

Best of 2020

Yes some good things DID happen this year- Catholic creators have not let turmoil stop their mission.

Anno Domini 2064 by Jacob Clearfield

Mark is happy serving the Party of the Golden Republic, but when he discovers God, he risks losing everything.

The Reluctant Queen: The Story of Esther by Lin Wilder

Chosen by Xerxes to be queen, chosen by God to be savior of His people: the story of Esther.

Beneath Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles

A young girl goes pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago on behalf of her brother and finds her place in the world.

Shooting At Heaven’s Gate, by Kaye Park Hinckley

How does an ordinary boy become a mass murderer?

Crusader St. Tommy NYPD Book 5 By: Declan Finn

Detective Nolan embarks on a Crusade against demonic sex traffickers trying to raise a demon.

Shadow in the Dark by Antony Barone Kolenc

An immersive mystery and an amateur sleuth set in the walls of a 12th century English monastery

Unlikely Witnesses by Leslea Wahl

When four boys glimpse a crime in their Colorado town they end up in an interrogation cell of the FBI.

The Tale of Patrick Peyton

How a humble, Irish immigrant brought Mary to Hollywood and then the World.

The Light of Tara by John Desjarlais

As the power of Rome crumbles, a teenage St. Patrick must decide between his home and sacrificing himself for those who had enslaved him.