Today, I’m taking part in a Virtual Book Tour for fellow Catholic Writers Guild author Joseph Lewis featuring his new book, Miracle at the Mission.
I had the privilege to be able to read an advanced copy of this book. It’s the second book in a series, but it’s a stand-alone story (with enough references to the first book that you’ll want to read that one too). It never ceases to amaze me how intriguing and well-written teen books can be, particularly faith-based books like this one. No need to worry about inappropriate material — readers from teens on up will enjoy this. Fellow Catholic Teen Book author Leslea Wahl summed the book up succinctly: “Joe Lewis’ vivid descriptions of the California coast will sweep you away on an epic adventure with the perfect blend of relatable characters, fascinating history, intriguing mystery and strong faith.”
Scroll down for a book summary, a fun fact, purchase links and story excerpt!
MIRACLE AT THE MISSION
After recovering from their daring exploits in the exciting first book, The Ghosts of Westthorpe Academy, high school best friends Joe Pryce and Pete Figueroa return for another thrilling, action-adventure in Miracle at the Mission.
When one of them wins a St. Junipero Serra essay writing contest and is rewarded with a summer trip to California, they both embark on an adventure they will never forget. While visiting one of the historic Spanish missions founded by Father Serra, the boys meet a holy but mysterious old Franciscan monk who warns them of the dangers they would soon encounter.
It isn’t long before the boys are drawn into a series of events filled with suspense, intrigue, a high-speed car chase along the precipitous Pacific Coast Highway, and the schemes of foreign operatives seeking to bring harm to the President of the United States.
Caught up in the pursuit of the bad guys, the boys discover they have become suspects in the investigation by the FBI. Desperate to prove their innocence, they must rely on the guidance and wisdom of the old padre, who just happens to bear a strange resemblance to St. Junipero Serra himself.
With the world teetering on the brink of an international crisis, the story reaches its climax at another mission––Mission San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel––where the boys and a large gathering of people witness an incredible miracle that changes their lives forever.
Fun Facts About St. Junipero Serra & the California Missions
Part of the tradition of the Franciscan missionaries was to always walk whenever possible. After arriving in Mexico for his missionary work, Fray Junipero Serra’s left foot became severely infected (some suggest from a possible insect or spider bite). Though the injury tormented him for the rest of his life, he still insisted on walking whenever he could––including most of the way to California. (You will notice in the book how the old Franciscan padre favors his left leg).
The padre turned and looked at Joe. The hood of his habit had opened wider, revealing more of his face. In the dim light, his eyes looked dark, his complexion a somewhat lighter olive brown. His thinning gray hair was cut in the traditional tonsure style, something more common among religious orders in the past but not as much today. He wore a large crucifix that hung underneath his hood and rested over the top front of his habit.
As Joe prepared to leave, he suddenly stopped, though he wasn’t sure why. Something of what he had experienced earlier that day in the chapel seemed to compel him to want to listen to what the old padre had to say. Joe slid closer across the pew, stopping just a few feet from him in the pew.
“I am confident you will find your friend safe,” the priest said in a reassuring voice. “From what I gather, the three of you are here for an extraordinary week. So much of what is going on in the world today has found its way near to this very place. Important leaders will be meeting, and the eyes of the world will be watching. It is no coincidence that, at this time in history, they have come here, where so many peoples and cultures met not very long ago and welcomed the missionaries who brought the message of the Gospel. It was, and continues to be, a message of the love of neighbor, of joy and forgiveness, of thanksgiving for one another, and peace among all nations.”
Joe sat mesmerized. Though the padre referred to present-day events, his eloquent words and profound meaning made him seem like someone from another time, another world.
“But there are forces in the world that oppose these cherished things. Principalities who are enemies of God and of mankind, who choose the darkness; some who are visible and made of flesh and blood, others who are spirit and lurk in the shadows.” He paused as he looped the rosary beads he had been holding in his hand through the cincture around the waste of his habit. “My son, the world’s current dangers are real and require the courage and effort of a select few whose work can make the difference between conflict and resolution, division and harmony, hostility and goodwill for all peoples. The events of this week are crucial to determining the direction the world may be inclined to go. We must pray for God’s divine providence, that those who lead us may choose the path of peace. Look for the signs of God’s guiding hand in answer to those prayers. I also want to implore you and your friends to be vigilant this week, as you will be close to many of these things. The world can be a dangerous place, and sometimes people find themselves in circumstances they could hardly have anticipated.”
“I very much appreciate your concern, Father.” Joe politely accepted the padre’s advice, although he didn’t quite understand why he felt the need to offer it. But this wasn’t what Joe had come here searching for. He still didn’t know for certain if Pete was all right. Joe stood up. “I better get back and make sure my friend is okay.”
“Sí te entiendo.” The padre grabbed hold of the back of the pew and pulled himself up. As he did, he shifted as if to favor one leg. He had a thin frame and couldn’t have been more than an inch or two over five feet. His worn sandals looked as though they had traveled many miles.
“Please don’t get up on my account,” Joe said.
“I wish to extend to you my priestly blessing, my son.” With some effort, he shifted his legs again and moved a little closer to Joe. “I am extremely glad you and your friends can spend some time with us in this beautiful place. You know, the mission is in great need of support to help maintain it, not only to preserve the legacy of the missions but for the work they continue to do. This mission is an active parish and serves many people and families, some of whom are descendants of the native people who first lived here many years ago. Please keep the missions, and the people they serve, always in your prayers, won’t you?”
“I will, Father.” Joe turned to leave but turned back again. “I sure hope we have a chance to talk again. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation.”
“So have I, my friend, so have I. God willing, we will have a chance to meet again. In the meantime, go in peace.”
The padre raised his right hand and extended it toward Joe, who bowed his head. “Heavenly Father, I ask you to bless this fine young man and his companions in all their endeavors. May their work bear much fruit in the service of your kingdom. I ask that you protect them and keep them safe from harm in the name of Christ, Our Lord and Savior, Amen. May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost descend upon you and remain with you forever. Amen. Amar a Dios, mi hijo. Love God, my son … and may He make a saint of you!”
“Thank you, Father.” Joe slid back across the pew, then genuflected before the tabernacle. He pivoted and glanced back at the old padre, but he wasn’t there!
Joe looked around the church. “Father?” There was no sign of him. Where could he have gone—and so quickly? … He seemed to mysteriously vanish into thin air.