Genre

Science Fiction, Thriller

Audience

13 & Up

Author’s Worldview

Catholic

Year Published

2023

Themes

Vocation, Duty, Fear, Sacraments, Survival, Dinosaurs

 

Reviewed by

Tiffany Buck

This book is a part of Catholic Teen Books.

Click to find out more.

Bishop Dennis has called a meeting. Rural priest, Father Gerry, is on sabbatical and needs a replacement before Christmas. When Bishop Dennis asks for a volunteer, all eyes turn to the young priest with raptor claws hanging from his rearview mirror, Father Benedict.

Corinna Turner has given fans a delightful Christmas treat to sink their teeth into. Father Ben is the well-loved rural priest in the UnSparked series who seems right at home with the farmers and hunters. That hasn’t always been the case. He was once a city priest with a parish, stressing over a Christmas Bazaar. In this short story, we are given the history of Father Ben as a young priest. 

Father Benedict’s rally driving experience as well as his pastoral outreach among the hunters at the Vi-park makes him the ideal candidate to replace Father Gerry. The only problem is Father Benedict isn’t so sure. His only contact with a raptor gave him an adrenaline rush that left him wobbly. Rural priests don’t have the safest job. They live out of a van, risking life and limb driving outside the electric fences protecting civilization (unSPARKed) seeing to the spiritual needs of the hunters and farmers. How can he handle the challenges and dangers of raptor or T-rex attacks on a daily bases? 

Someone has to do it.” This phrase keeps popping up in Father Benedict’s head. It is a call to duty as well as an invitation to trust in God. Trust sounds so easy, but it can be incredibly hard when we are outside of our comfort zone. Father Benedict loves his parishioners and his nice sports car that he will have to give up.

Clearly, God is not calling him to a safe vocation. Father Benedict understands this and reluctantly accepts his new assignment as a rural priest. Just before Christmas, he heads out of the city in his black SOS van, complete with a small St. Desmond statue on the dashboard. Asking for the intercession of St. Desmond the hermit who lived in the country and managed to escape raptor attack makes Father Benedict feel like an official rural priest. I won’t spoil it for the reader, but needless to say, Father Benedict does NOT have a smooth trip. Despite all the bad luck on his first day, he learns that he is exactly where God wants him to be.

A Truly Clawful Christmas is another great addition to the UnSparked series. Father Ben’s story is told from his point of view. Most parishioners only encounter priests at Mass or in the confessional. Rarely do we consider their troubles and fears. In this brilliantly written short story, readers encounter a relatable young priest who has to deal with the incredible task given to him. Adults and teens may consider saying an extra prayer for their pastor after reading this one. As a fan, I am hoping there will be a Saint Desmond back story in the future. Honestly, I am hooked on this series and would recommend it to anyone, but in this particular short story, non-Catholics might feel a little left out.

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