NFP Week: 7QT NFP Cartoons

7_quick_takes_sm1Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at Svellerella’s Place for 7 Quick Takes Friday. To celebrate NFP Awareness Week, this is an all cartoon quick takes:

Image copyright 2013 James and Ellen Hrkach (Please do not use without permission)

Image copyright 2013 James and Ellen Hrkach (Please do not use without permission)


copyright 2013 James and Ellen Hrkach (Please do not use without permission)

copyright 2013 James and Ellen Hrkach (Please do not use without permission)


Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach


Intimate Sharing
Cartoon copyright James & Ellen Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing

Cartoon copyright James & Ellen Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing


Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission


Copyright James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Copyright James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

All images are copyright by James and Ellen Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.

NFP Week: Theology of the Body Fiction

Full Quiver logoOne of my favorite ways to promote the Theology of the Body is to recommend novels with a great TOB message. My publishing company publishes novels with Theology of the Body themes.

Want to learn more about the Theology of the Body? Interested in promoting it? Read and recommend one of these books! This list is not all-inclusive:

Emily’s Hope (Ellen Gable)Emily's Hope

In Name Only (O’Donovan Family Book 1) (Ellen Gable)In name only much smaller

Stealing Jenny (Ellen Gable)Stealing Jenny

Passport (Christopher Blunt)passport

Angela’s Song (AnnMarie Creedon)AS Front Cover Final9-19

Don’t You Forget About Me (Erin McCole Cupp)Don't You Forget About Me FTcasefrontcover

A Subtle Grace (O’Donovan Family Book 2)(Ellen Gable) A Subtle Grace front cover Nov2013

The Lion’s Heart (Dena Hunt)Front Cover Final revisedsm

Do you have any favorite TOB novels to add? Please feel free to comment below!

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

NFP Week: The Spiritual Works of Mercy – TOB Style

Photo Copyright James Hrkach

Photo Copyright James Hrkach

To further celebrate NFP Awareness Week, I’m reposting this article from earlier this year on practicing the spiritual works of mercy with a theology of the body focus:

According to the Catholic encyclopedia, mercy is “a virtue influencing one’s will to have compassion for, and, if possible, to alleviate another’s misfortune.” The spiritual works of mercy are one way Catholics can show charity and compassion to others. Since my husband and I teach Natural Family Planning, we have always tried to practice the spiritual works of mercy through our NFP ministry. Many Catholics do not understand the Church’s teachings on sexuality. Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge someone, you have no time to love them,” Sharing the truth with charity and without judgment is extremely important.

Admonish the Sinner and Instruct the Ignorant
I often find myself in conversations about these intimate topics with acquaintances and relatives. For example, while I was attending a First Penance meeting with one of my sons, the instructor handed out a “Examination of Conscience” pamphlet. On page three, under “Thou Shall Not Kill,” sterilization was listed correctly as a mortal sin. The woman next to me gasped and whispered, “I thought the Church changed her teaching on this. I had my tubes tied and didn’t know it was wrong.” I then gently said, “The Church has never changed this teaching. Birth control and sterilization have always been considered mortal sins.” The woman glanced away, then turned back to me, tears in her eyes. I patted her shoulder, then said, “You know, if you didn’t realize it was wrong, then it’s not a mortal sin.” I pointed out the section in the “Examination of Conscience” pamphlet which stated that all three of these conditions need to be in place for mortal sin: it must be 1) serious matter, 2) the person must know it is serious and then 3) freely commit it. I strongly encouraged her to seek spiritual direction from a faithful priest. When she left the meeting, she thanked me.

Counsel the Doubtful and Comfort the Sorrowful
A few years ago, when we were speaking at the local marriage prep course on “Sexual Honesty Within Marriage,” we talked about the importance of keeping the marital embrace free, total, faithful and “fruitful.” During the last part of the talk, we explained that contraception removes the fruitful aspect from the marital act. All of a sudden, a young woman rushed out of the meeting room, in tears. James and I continued our talk while one of the other host couples followed her, but we were concerned. After the talk, I immediately went to speak to the woman. I learned that she was the mother of a 13-year-old daughter from a teenage relationship. The young woman shared that she was currently in remission from terminal cancer. Because of the aggressive treatment, her doctors told that she would not have any more children. She told me that it upset her to hear the suggestion that her marriage might not be “fruitful” since she and her fiancé would never have children. (Of course, we didn’t say that in our talk, but this is how she interpreted it). She admitted that she had mistakenly thought she had already dealt with the fact that she and her future husband would not be having children together. But our talk seemed to bring her sadness and regret to the surface. She then sobbed and I embraced her as she released emotions that had obviously been pent up for a while. When she stopped crying, I explained that fruitfulness was much more than giving birth to children. We discussed adoption. We talked about the fruitfulness of being a good example as well as other ways she and her husband could be ‘fruitful” in their marriage. After the course finished that evening, she came up to me, hugged me and thanked me for being so “kind.”

Bear Wrongs Patiently, Forgive all Injuries
Bearing wrongs patiently has never been something I have done well. And the following example shows that not everyone I “admonish” or “instruct” has been open to the information.

Ten years ago, a woman called for NFP counseling. She and her husband had taken an NFP class years earlier. Her husband, she said, had made an appointment for a vasectomy and he had indicated the decision was not up for debate. After using NFP for many years, he no longer had any patience for the abstinence it entailed. The wife sounded like she was crying. “What can I do to stop him?” she asked. I spoke with her, then sent her information on the moral, spiritual and physical implications of sterilization. I encouraged her to seek spiritual direction from a faithful priest I knew in the area. Four different times we spoke on the phone, her tone frantic and desperate. Finally, she stopped calling. I continued to pray for this couple. Some months later, she called to inform me that her husband had indeed gone through with the vasectomy and they were now ‘very happy.’ She wanted me to know that, although she knew I didn’t agree with ‘their’ decision, she had come to accept it and that it had been the ‘right’ thing for them.

Admittedly, I have no idea what happened in between her frantic calls and the vasectomy. I suspect she never called the faithful priest I recommended. However, I calmly responded, “But sterilization is against the fifth commandment as well as the sixth, it separates a couple…it causes an increase in prostate cancer, it – ” She cut me off by angrily telling me that she only called to inform me, not to hear what the Church teaches, that she already knew that. Her husband then got on the phone and yelled at me, his tone sharp, accusing me of trying to “sabotage” his marriage. I listened, heart pounding, as he screamed at me over the phone. It took a lot of self-control not to hang up nor respond to his verbal abuse. I prayed and waited until he stopped yelling, although by that point, I was nearly in tears and my hands were trembling. Then I said, my voice breaking, “I will pray for you and I wish you both well…goodbye.” My hands shaking, I hung up the phone and cried. I forgave them long ago for their verbal abuse, and I have prayed for them from time to time, but I’ve always wondered how they are doing.

Pray for the Living and the Dead
Prayer is so powerful, more powerful than any of us can ever imagine. Even if you’re not comfortable speaking up, you can always pray for anyone at anytime. Praying for others is an important part of the spiritual works of mercy. I pray daily that more couples can discover the joy of following the Church’s teachings on sexuality by learning NFP: to be chaste before marriage, to be generous and open to life within marriage. I pray for all the student couples to whom we have taught NFP over the years. I pray for the engaged couples who have listened to our testimony and talks at marriage prep courses. I offer up many prayers for relatives and friends who have chosen to lead alternate lifestyles, and those deceased ancestors and relatives who were not faithful to the Catholic Church’s beautiful teachings of sexuality.

Practicing the spiritual works of mercy through the Theology of the Body is an ideal way to show charity and compassion to others. It’s not always easy to do. However, I know that, for me, it is the right thing to do, even if the person or persons are not open to the message. The truth is, we never know when a seed of truth will be planted and someone will experience a change of heart.

Copyright 2014 Ellen Gable Hrkach

NFP Week! Theology of the Body in a Nutshell

NFP Awareness WeekI’ll be posting links, cartoons and articles all week to celebrate NFP Week!

So why NFP (or Natural Family Planning)? NFP is safe, healthy and effective. Most importantly, it is a morally acceptable way to avoid and achieve pregnancy. Here is a repost of an article I wrote in 2012:

If we look at the four components of God’s love for us (free, total, faithful, fruitful) and compare God’s love to marital love, we can discover how to live the Sacrament of marriage as the ultimate expression of spousal love.

Free: We need to be able love our spouse freely. If we ask for conditions, that’s not love. If we force our spouse to do something, that’s not love. If we cannot say no to our sexual urges, then we are not free.

Total: The love for our spouse must be total. We can’t say, “Well, I’ll give you everything, honey, except for my fertility.” Total means total. (Re: CCC 1643).

Faithful: Obviously, faithfulness means we must only have intercourse with our spouse and no other. But if we want to be truly faithful to our spouse, we must be faithful in word, action and thought.

Fruitful: Marital relations must be fruitful, open to children, each and every time. That doesn’t mean we will conceive (or want to conceive) a child with every marital embrace. It just means we need to be open.

Birth control, in fact, destroys all four of the essential components (free, total, faithful, fruitful). Birth control violates not only God’s plan in fruitfulness, but it also encourages an “I can’t say no” mentality to sex. When an action, device, medication or operation is purposefully used to remove fertility, a couple cannot give themselves totally, no matter how much they love each other. Contraception says, “I give all of myself to my spouse – except my fertility.”

Natural Family Planning allows a couple to love each other as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully. Couples using NFP chart the wife’s cycle and, if avoiding pregnancy, they abstain in the fertile time. If they are planning a pregnancy, they engage in relations during the fertile time. They are not using devices; they are fully giving of themselves and they are open to children with each and every act of marital relations.

NFP allows us to love our spouse as God loves us: freely, with no reservation, faithfully and open to children. Marriage can be a holy vocation when a couple loves as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.

Want to live the highest expression of your marital love? Use NFP and be open to life.

For more information about the Theology of the Body:
http://thetheologyofthebody.com

For more information on NFP:
www.ccli.org
www.woomb.org
www.creightonmodel.com

7 Quick Takes Friday – Contest, NFP Awareness Week, Photo Shoot Etc.

7_quick_takes_sm1Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at Conversion Diary where we share seven quick takes!

1. NFP Awareness Week
Next week is NFP Awareness Week! For more more information on Natural Family Planning (NFP), check out the Couple to Couple League’s site here. NFP Awareness Week

2. Sue Elvis’ New Book!
Please join me in congratulating my friend, Sue, from Australia, who has published a children’s book, The Angels of Abbey Creek! It’s not yet available here in the USA but it will be soon! Check out Sue’s blog for more information. Sue Elvis

3. Compelling Summer Read – Unholy Bonds
Unholy Bonds by Leslie Lynch follows newlyweds Lannis and Ben (From Lynch’s first novel, Hijacked) as they seek justice for Lannis. However, the story takes several interesting and surprising turns. The author creates a chilling villain, but this book is an excellent illustration that each person always has the choice to change. Unholy Bonds allows us to see into the mind of a unfeeling rapist, but Lynch also shows us that forgiveness can be a road to recovery, not only with the victim, but with the perpetrator as well. Highly recommend!UnholyBonds

4. Emily’s Hope – FREE BOOK – ENTER NOW
In honor of NFP Week, I’m giving away one free Kindle copy and one free print copy of my first book, Emily’s Hope, a Theology of the Body-themed novel based on parallel true stories. Leave a comment below before Thursday, July 24th, to be entered to win!!Emily's Hope

5. Photo Shoot at Madonna House
My husband and I recently visited one of my favorite places for a photo shoot. More about the reasons for the photo shoot in a future post!

copyright James Hrkach

copyright James Hrkach

6. Madonna House Sign
I’ve always thought this was a cool sign!

photo copyright James Hrkach

photo copyright James Hrkach

7. My Last Period (NFP Cartoon)

Copyright James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Copyright James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

copyright 2014 Ellen Gable Hrkach

7 Quick Takes Friday – Taking a Breather – Great Summer Reads!

7_quick_takes_sm1This has been a crazy week, so 7QT will be a reprint from last month!! I’m joining up with other bloggers at Conversion Diary.

I spent the bulk of yesterday afternoon at the Ottawa Train station as the “model” for a photo shoot. I’m not at liberty to say why, but I can say that the photographer was enthusiastic and proactive! (Thank you, Tim!) It was peculiar being the “subject” of the photo shoot, although I think the photographer got some unique shots! I haven’t had that many photos taken of me since I got married 32 years ago. The station manager was also very kind, accompanying us and keeping track of time (I gave her a copy of my newest book. Thank you, Karine!!)

Let’s talk summer! There’s nothing I like better than to sit under a tree on a warm summer’s day and read a story that will sweep me away. Full Quiver Publishing books make ideal summer reads!!

1. The Lion’s Heart Print Edition
The Lion’s Heart, FQP’s newest novel by Dena Hunt is currently available on Kindle and now available in softcover. Of The Lion’s Heart, Joseph Pearce, well-known Catholic author, says, “Dena Hunt is a consummate storyteller who does not shirk or shy away from the difficult questions about life and love that her story raises. The Lion’s Heart contains not only the loves of lovers, spouses, parents, and children but also the demons and dragons that selfishness unleashes. The Lion’s Heart is not for the faint-hearted, nor is it for the hard-hearted. It pulsates with a passion that will bring true hearts to their knees.”
Front Cover Final revisedsm

2. In Name Only (O’Donovan Family)
In Name Only is the first in the O’Donovan Family series (although both this and its sequel can be read independently of the other). It has been downloaded over 100,000 times on Kindle and won the Gold medal in Religious Fiction at the 2010 IPPY Awards. Check out the novel website and the profile page on Amazon.In name only much smaller

3. A Subtle Grace (O’Donovan Family)
A Subtle Grace is my newest book and is available both on Kindle and in paperback. In her review, Trisha Niermeyer Potter, blogger at Prints of Grace, says this:
“This is one of my favorite contemporary works of Catholic fiction. The storytelling is masterful, the characters fascinating, and the writing is of high literary quality. People are imperfect—past, present, and future—but each is given the opportunity to grow, change, learn, and be redeemed. In this story it’s shown how the greatest mistake of our lives can be turned into one of the most amazing blessings and even be a source of hope for others. Life’s messy. People are complex. We’ve all got some skeletons in our closets, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t also fit some trophies and triumphs in there as well. A Subtle Grace has all of the elements that good Catholic fiction should.”A Subtle Grace front cover Nov2013

4. Stealing Jenny
This is my biggest seller and most popular book as evidenced by the over 330 reviews on Amazon (and the six months it spent as a #1 bestseller on Kindle with over 200,000 downloads). It’s a quick and easy read. Check out the novel website here and the Amazon profile page here. Stealing Jenny

5. Don’t You Forget About Me by Erin McCole Cupp
Funny, quirky and great writing! Also referred to as a Theology of the Body mystery! Check out the novel website here and the Amazon page here. Don't You Forget About Me FTcasefrontcover

6. Angela’s Song by AnnMarie Creedon
A beautiful Theology of the Body romance with over 200 reviews on Amazon! AS Front Cover Final9-19

7. Emily’s Hope
My first book is based on the true stories of myself and my great-grandmother. Check out the novel website here to read an excerpt and reviews.Emily's Hope

There are two other FQP books: Growing Up in God’s Image: A New Approach to the Facts of Life Talk and Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship.

There Have Been Many!

Photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

This week, I’m joining up with other Catholic bloggers at RAnn’s place for Sunday Snippets where we share posts from the previous week and answer a weekly question. I’ve been swamped with so many different projects so I haven’t been able to participate recently. I’m happy to be back because I love the question of this week: Tell us about a priest (or more) who have been significant in your life. There have been many (but here are just a few).

Fr. Morley: The first priest who was significant in my life was Father Morley, who was also my first boss. While I was in 7th grade at St. Richard’s School in Philly, Father Morley approached me and asked whether I’d like to work at the rectory after school every day until 5:00 p.m. I loved the job, I loved the extra money ($3 a week) and Fr. Morley, as I recall, was a joy to work with. He told me I looked like a Kewpie Doll.

Fr. Bob: He not only helped me with my first novel, Emily’s Hope, he was a long-time supporter of and speaker at our annual Humanae Vitae BBQ. He attended for many years and spoke at length to the couples about the importance of faithfulness to the Church’s teachings on this subject of marital love and sexuality. (He eventually moved to another part of the country). He is an experienced writer who has also read most of my books and has given me honest and supportive feedback. Fr. Bob has remained our dear friend for many years.

Any Madonna House Priest: We love Madonna House priests! Whenever I go to confession with a Madonna House priest, it truly is like whispering into the ear of Jesus.

Now for the links to my few posts this past week:

Three Novels in Top Ten And all four were in the top twelve. I believe the surge in sales had something to do with a review in the National Catholic Register (thank you, Sarah!!) Print sales for A Subtle Grace were up 100 percent!

7 QT July 4 This past week, A Subtle Grace (new book) and In Name Only (O’Donovan Book 1) were #1 and #2 in BRITAIN! This was the first time they reached #1 and #2 there, so it was cool! Also included in the 7QT are a video, CALA finalists announced, Catholic Writers Conference Live and a press release about my new book.

Copyright 2014 Ellen Gable Hrkach