Dearborn — When Chris Stepien made a promise to say a decade of the rosary every day, he did not think it would lead him to write a historical fiction novel about Jesus’s childhood.
Going through a period of many hardships, including illness and family troubles, the author of “Three Days: The Search for the Boy Messiah” turned to the Blessed Mother and promised to say one decade daily, if she would help him get closer to her son.
“Each day I would contemplate one decade, one Gospel story, such as the Annunciation or the Wedding at Cana,” Stepien said. “When I would get to that 5th joyful mystery – the Finding in the Temple – as a father of two sons, it would make me a little bit crazy to think about losing one of them.”
Following the method of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s spiritual exercises of reading Scripture by imagining himself as a character in the stories, Stepien frequently returned to the lost 12-year-old Jesus and his concerned parents.
He was deeply struck by why Jesus was separated from his parents, and what led the boy to remain in Jerusalem after Passover.
“I would think about that, and contemplate it,” Stepien said. “I started hearing this voice inside me saying, ‘Do something with this.’ I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do with this?’”
Eventually, Stepien, who has had extensive experience in film and broadcasting, thought he’d put his idea to paper, and maybe write a screenplay. The idea quickly morphed into his writing a creative work that attempted to answer his questions about the Finding in the Temple adventure.
“I didn’t know enough about the times, truly, except that everyone wore sandals,” he joked. He delved into historical research, learning about the lifestyles, food, clothes and more of first-century Jewish people.
From that point, Stepien started writing.
He wrote in portions, frequently showing his manuscript to his wife, Ellen, who urged him “keep writing.” He also showed the growing story to several priests and close friends, who also encouraged him.
“I didn’t want to presume to speak for Jesus,” said Stepien, who explained that when Jesus said anything in the story, he would have him speak in a quotation from the Scriptures.
Stepien wove many of his own life experiences into the story, including his service through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and ministry with children of alcoholic parents.
His story turned into a book that not only witnessed the three-day search, but explored Jesus’s childhood in Nazareth, encountered his friendship with his cousin St. John the Baptist, and gave a truly human look at Jesus’s life before his public ministry.
He originally released “Three Days” as an e-book last Easter at the request of a priest friend.
The paperback version made its debut last month, Sept. 17, and is currently available on Amazon.com, as well as at the Catholic Bookstore in Dearborn and Our Lady of Grace Bookstore in Ann Arbor.
Stepien encourages people of all ages to read the book.
“I’m hoping that for other people, it’ll be a way to contemplate the Scriptures,” he said. “For young people, a way to think of Jesus as a person like them.”
With more than 300 Bible verses woven throughout the text, Stepien said the book is an easy way to learn more about the Scriptures.
Writing this book helped him grow closer to God, and really see Jesus “as a three-dimensional character. I found myself being able to care for him the way that I’d care for my own sons; I began to really think about him as a person, and not an untouchable God.”
“This grand bargain I made with Mary about praying a decade a day … it succeeded beyond my imagination,” he said.