In Juliann DosSantos’s impressive debut young adult novel “Jesus on the Scene,” that’s a pivotal question asked by the main character, Amy Roberts, as she pursues a job she needs even though she isn’t really as Catholic as she makes herself out to be to her prospective boss and co-workers.
Juliann herself, on the other hand, doesn’t hate God. In fact, she’s an award-winning journalist who writes for Catholic New York, focusing on the young adult beat. With “Jesus on the Scene,” she reveals her fiction-writing talent as well, producing a story that is compelling and relatable because it’s grounded in the real-life questions, doubts, struggles, and joys experienced by many teens and 20- or 30-somethings.
During an interview on “Christopher Closeup,” Juliann explained, “A lot of the things that the character goes through are things that I’ve experienced, or things that young adults that I’ve interviewed have expressed to me. [Amy] experiences job loss, death in the family, and things like that.”
In fact, it was the death of Amy’s mother that sparked her crisis of faith many years ago. Though she grew up Catholic, she hasn’t had much use for God because she doesn’t see Him as having much use for her. But things start changing after Amy repeatedly runs into a hipster named Jesus on the streets of Manhattan, and after she starts covering stories for a Catholic newspaper. In doing so, she is exposed to genuine expressions of faith that wake up her spiritually numb soul and prompt her to reconsider her so-called hatred of God.
Part of Amy’s disillusionment with God stems from the idea that He’s supposed to be like Superman, who will swoop in to save us whenever there’s trouble. And the challenge of relating to God is one that Juliann comes across often when interacting with young adults for her CNY job.
She said, “[They wonder], ‘How do I relate to God?’ Or, ‘How does a person deepen their relationship with God?’ I think a lot of people, especially young people, don’t realize that God can be like your best friend, and you could really have a personal relationship with God. It doesn’t have to be a scary, big, complex thing. You could have a simple conversation with Him, like you would with any of your friends. Start simply with, ‘Hey God, I’m struggling right now.’ Or, ‘Thanks for giving me the blessings that You gave me today.’ Or recapping your day with God, just like you would with somebody on the phone. And out of that could grow a deep and meaningful prayer life and personal relationship with Jesus.”Juliann’s work has also taught her that “young people are hungry for faith. Once they get a taste of it, they are on fire!” She’s also found benefits to being vulnerable herself on her CNY blog “Footprints on the Journey” and the book of the same title.
She said, “There’s definitely blessings that come with that. I feel like it’s a way for me to help people, and I feel that everybody was put here to do different things. If God put me here and He wants me to write, then I should use that to help people and share [my faith] with as many people as possible…And I would have to say it’s kept my faith going because faith is sometimes like a roller coaster. There are times when it’s high and times when it’s low. But always knowing that I’m gonna come into work and have spiritual writings that I’m gonna be doing, it always brings me back to the center of focus, which is God and Church. That has been a tremendous gift to me.”
(To listen to my full interview with Juliann DosSantos, click on the podcast below):
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