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

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

Infant Loss Excerpt

Emily's HopeToday is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day.

I have had four miscarriages and three ectopic pregnancies. My novel, Emily’s Hope, is the fictionalized true stories of myself and my great-grandmother, and the story of loss and triumph. This excerpt describes Emily’s loss of baby “Seth.”

“I need to push.” She wanted so desperately not to push, to allow her baby to stay inside of her, and for her to continue to nourish and nurture her child, but her body wouldn’t allow that. She pushed only twice and her small child was born. Emily heard a sound like a kitten crying, then realized that her baby had let out a small, soft, weak cry.

As soon as the umbilical cord was cut, the nurse immediately carried the baby across the room as the pediatric staff attempted to work on their child. Emily and Jason sat quietly, their hearts heavy with emotion. A few minutes later, she felt another contraction and her placenta was delivered. She could hear a nurse referring to “him,” and realized that their child was another boy. After a few minutes, the doctor brought him back, his small form still hidden in the blue hospital blanket. He spoke in a hushed, almost apologetic voice, “There is nothing we can do for him.”

He handed the tiny one-pound baby boy to his mother. Jason held on to Emily’s shoulder and watched as she cradled the smallest baby they had ever seen. He was so perfect and looked identical to their oldest son, Jake. His small body was covered with minute white hairs. He was perfect as he struggled to breathe. He was perfect as he opened his mouth to cry. Emily held her new son as gently as she could. Jason reached over and poured a few drops of water on him and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Emily could feel the vibration of his tiny heart
beating so fast.

The nurse came in with a Polaroid camera and asked if they wanted her to take a photo of their child. Emily nodded as the nurse took a photo of her and Jason and their tiny son. She gazed in awe at this miniature human being and marveled at the fact that even though he was tiny, he was so perfect. His little hands looked like a doll’s hands. She removed the baby blanket and laid his small, warm body on her chest. She could feel his heart beating rapidly. After several minutes, she wrapped him again in the small blue blanket.

Then, in an instant, he was still. She could feel that his heart had stopped and he wasn’t breathing, but he continued to feel warm and soft. He looked like a sleeping angel.

If you have lost a baby through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or infant death, please click on the link above “Baby Loss” for resources and helpful links.

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Amazing Results With the Holy Rosary

rosary-mary“The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.”
St. Josemaria Escriva

Although I grew up in a Catholic family, I learned how to say the rosary at Catholic school. My father often said the rosary privately, but we never recited it as a family and I rarely said the rosary on my own before the age of 11. One evening, however, my parents were involved in a violent argument. It was my first experience at being “amazed at the results” of the powerful weapon of the holy rosary. The following is another excerpt from my novel, Emily’s Hope. It’s based on actual events and is a true illustration of Our Lady’s powerful intercession.

I listen as my parents are fighting again, fighting over bills they can’t pay. Each time my mom yells, my dad yells louder. Dad starts to throw things, not at Mom, just throwing things. I’m scared. It makes me feel anxious to see the two people I love most in the world screaming at each other. Don’t they love each other, I ask myself. Why won’t they stop yelling?

Dad just said something about moving out. Oh, God, please, I don’t want my dad to move out. Mom says good. Oh, please, Mom, don’t say that. I look at both of them but they don’t seem to see me or the panic in my eyes. They only glare at each other.

Dad goes upstairs. I run after him and watch as he gets a suitcase out and starts putting clothes in it.

God, why won’t you stop him? I pass by my bedroom and notice my rosary sitting on the bedside table. I grab it, sit down on my bed, and begin saying the rosary. As I say each Hail Mary, I plead with Our Lady, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” Please, Our Lady, don’t let my Dad walk out.

As I’m saying another Hail Mary, Dad walks by my room and doesn’t notice that I’m even there. He stomps down the steps. I can’t hear if he says bye, but I hear the door slam shut.

“Oh, God, please, make him come back.” I continue saying the rosary, each Hail Mary becoming more fervent than the last. I pray until my heart is bursting. Please, God, listen to my prayer.

I begin saying the Hail Holy Queen prayer and suddenly, I hear the door open downstairs. Without finishing, I stand at the top of the stairs and I see that my dad is standing at the doorway. Mom walks over to him. At first, they’re silent.

Then, my dad starts to cry. “I can’t leave you. I can’t leave my family.” He and Mom embrace.

I begin to cry. Thank you, God, and thank you, Our Lady, for bringing my daddy back.

My parents remained married until my father’s death eight years later. He was buried with his rosary in his hands.

Emily’s Hope is available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle. The novel’s website includes reviews, an excerpt, a synopsis and a radio interview.

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Now and at the Hour of Our Death….

October is the month of the Holy Rosary, and I will be sharing rosary-themed articles, true life experiences and excerpts from my books in the coming weeks. This post (which was originally published on my blog in 2010) shows the grace and peace that comes with Mary’s intercession, especially when one is facing death.

“If you say the Rosary faithfully unto death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins, ‘you will receive a never-fading crown of glory’ (1 St. Peter 5:4).”Saint Louis de Montfort

I am blessed to be the mother of five sons ages 14-26. However, my journey to motherhood has not been an easy one. I have lost seven babies through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. When my third son was 10 months old, I became pregnant. We were overjoyed until it became apparent that the baby was in my fallopian tube once again. I nearly died from complications of this ectopic pregnancy.

Below is an excerpt from my first novel, Emily’s Hope, and is based on the true story of my near-death experience, written in the third person. Fortunately, I survived and later gave birth to two more sons.

This excerpt illustrates the powerful intercession of Our Lady, especially when death is whispering in one’s ear:

The pain in her abdomen became more excruciating with every passing moment. She sat on the sofa and dialed the number of the high school. It seemed like an eternity for the line to connect. One, two rings. Please, someone pick up, she silently begged. Hearing the secretary’s voice, Emily could barely speak, but she uttered enough to make it clear that she needed her husband. She dropped the phone and tried to take a deep breath. Feeling an overwhelming need to vomit, she rushed to the bathroom just in time to spill the contents of her stomach. She gripped the cold, hard toilet, as if in some way, it would make her pain bearable. Disoriented, she thought of her baby and quickly glanced at his smiling, inquisitive face, oblivious to his mother’s pain.

I’ve got to stay conscious for my baby, she repeated over and over again in her mind. She moved back to the floor next to the sofa, trying to sit upright with her young child next to her, while drifting in and out of consciousness. Keeping a death grip on him, she woke up as the paramedics were prying her hands off her son and placing her on a stretcher. It all seemed like a dream. She overheard the paramedics talking about what a “little thing” she was.

Too weak to make a sound, she wondered where her young son was. She caught a glimpse of her husband holding him at the back doors of the ambulance.

His right arm cradled their son’s little body, while his left hand clasped his small head to his chest as if to shield and protect him from the turmoil that surrounded them both. But her husband’s face. . .his face was so broken and distraught that Emily felt the anguish of a wife and mother abandoning her family. Tears welled up in her eyes and for a moment, Emily forgot her pain.

Then his eyes caught hers and he realized that she was watching him. Everything changed. His chin lifted as if for courage and penetrated her being with a look of tenderness, of confidence and reassurance. Whatever happens, I will be strong for you and for the sons we both love and for God, who has asked so much of you. He seemed to say all of this with his eyes, all of this and more. As his love reached out to her through the shouts of the paramedics and their frantic procedures, the beeping of machines and the overwhelming wail of the siren, its light already flashing, her terror began to fade and her heart surged within her. Now reassured, she allowed herself to fall back to sleep.

Emily’s eyes opened again this time as the paramedics were inserting an intravenous needle in her arm. Although it felt like they were stabbing her with an ice pick, all she could manage was a wince and a quiet moan. It seemed as if every ounce of energy had been sucked from her being. This is what it feels like to die.

Then she imagined her little boys’ faces, and suddenly the possibility of dying weighed heavy on her heart. Please, God, I can’t die, she silently prayed. I don’t want my little boys growing up without a mother. All at once, a feeling of warmth surrounded her, then she felt at peace. There was no bitterness, only acceptance, a calm that was huge enough to quiet an ocean. She silently recited a Hail Mary. . . .now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Those last words took on powerful meaning with the possibility that this could be her hour. She knew that whatever happened would be God’s will, and she would submit to that, whatever it was.

Drifting into unconsciousness, the last thing she heard was “We’re losing her….”

PS: The “baby” in this excerpt is now 21…

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 74

7_quick_takes_sm1It’s Friday and time to connect with Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes.

1. Sacramental Pilgrimage
I recently shared the highlights of my Sacramental Pilgrimage here on my blog and at the Amazing Catechists website. The pilgrimage was a day of fond memories, prayers and gratitude for the beautiful gift of my Catholic faith.

In front of Sacred Heart Church, where I was baptized. photo copyright James Hrkach

In front of Sacred Heart Church, where I was baptized. photo copyright James Hrkach

2. Sacred Heart School
I was baptized, made my First Penance and First Communion at Sacred Heart Church. However, it was in the school that I spent most of my time while in this parish. I have many fond memories of my time at Sacred Heart School, which I attended from 1965-1969, first through fourth grades. The school hasn’t really changed much, at least from the outside. The only difference I could see were the red shades in the windows.

Photo copyright James Hrkach

Photo copyright James Hrkach

3. 4. and 5. St. Richard School, Ice Cream Parlor and My Grandparents’ House
I don’t have as many fond memories of this school (it recently amalgamated with Holy Spirit School and is now called St. Pio School). The sisters who taught me were very kind, for the most part. I had a few friends, but there were several “bullies” who made my life difficult. I liked living in Philly, though, so not all the memories are bad ones.

One particular story stands out that my family has laughed about for years. A block or so away from our house in Philly, there was a corner deli and ice cream parlor where my mother (who had lost a great deal of weight as the result of an operation and health issues) used to send me for ice cream sundaes to help her gain weight. One particular time, I went there to buy her an ice cream sundae. The woman behind the counter, a chain-smoking, heavyset woman who always wore her hair in a tight ponytail, was making the sundae. Unbeknownst to her, a long ash from her cigarette dropped into the sundae and she turned and kept squirting whipped cream on it, then snapped the top on the plastic cup and handed it to me. I didn’t say anything to her (I wasn’t nearly as assertive a child as I am an adult), paid the money and brought the ash-laden sundae to my mom. I did, however, tell my mom not to eat it and she promptly sent one of my other siblings back to the ice cream fountain to replace it.

photo copyright James Hrkach

photo copyright James Hrkach

Below is the house in which we lived for two and a half years in Philly (1969-72). This was also my grandparents’ home (I described this house and street in my novel, Emily’s Hope). The house looks very different from the house we lived in and even more different from the house in which my grandparents lived for so many years.

Photo copyright James Hrkach

Photo copyright James Hrkach

6. Reading Shelf
Check out my friend, JoAnn’s, newly-released children’s book: Where Did I Come From? JoAnn wrote this beautiful book as well as designing, drawing and coloring the pictures. For the past few days, it has been in the top five of its category. Way to go, JoAnn!

7. Virtual Attendance Cartoon

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

7 Quick Takes Friday – Favorite Gifts

Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at Jen’s Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

We’re technically in June now (and no longer in our anniversary month) but I figure we’re close enough, so I’d like to share seven of my favorite wedding and anniversary gifts over the years (in no particular order).

1. Embroidered “Life is Fragile: Handle with Prayer” Picture
We received this beautiful framed embroidered picture as a wedding gift. James’ cousin spent hours working on this awesome gift for us. It has remained in our living room in a prominent place for the past 30 years.

2. Roomba
For our 25th anniversary, my mother and mother-in-law bought a robotic vacuum cleaner for us (knowing that I didn’t often vacuum). In the beginning, it was more valuable to us as entertainment for the kids and somehow or other, I lost track of it. Last year, I saw a commercial on TV for it and wondered where it had ended up. I found it a short while later when I was cleaning out the storage area. I began using it and have come to really appreciate it. I mainly use it for the kitchen floor and I must admit that it does an amazing job. It only takes a few minutes of preparing to make sure the chairs, cat bowls etc are brought up off the floor. It takes about an hour to vacuum our large kitchen, but I can accomplish other tasks while it’s vacuuming.

3. Prayer Card
In a previous post, I mentioned the prayer card that my sister and the other Dominican sisters sent for our anniversary. It continues to hold a special place in our home and in our hearts.

4. Papal Blessing
Also for our 25th wedding anniversary, our friends, Chris and Brenda, enlisted the help of a mutual friend (a priest we both know) to get us a papal blessing. This also has a prominent place in our living room.

5. 25th Anniversary Homily
When we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, a close priest friend of ours con-celebrated the Mass with our parish priest. In his homily, he said, “I note especially five wonderful persons who were not present on May 22, 1982: Josh, Ben, Tim, Adam and Paul. I don’t need to tell you too much about that evening when your mom and dad publicly vowed their love. You are the first witnesses of that love. It bought you to life and it continues to nurture you to maturity. Through the years, you have seen your parents day by day striving (and I like to add “struggling”) to be true to each other and to love and honor each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health...”

6. Wedding Song
For our wedding, James wrote a song called “Forever Amen.” The lyrics are included in my novel, Emily’s Hope. Below is a photo of James and our friend, Pat, singing: first at our wedding, then at our 25th anniversary celebration.

7. The Last Supper (Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy)
Five years ago, when we were in Europe chaperoning 40 students, our fellow chaperones, Chris and Belinda, took us on a surprise trip to Milan to see Leonardo’s The Last Supper. This was not on the agenda for our trip, so we took a cab to Santa Maria delle Grazie. Upon arriving, we discovered that the tickets needed to be purchased three weeks in advance. Chris tried (and even begged) but the man behind the counter would not acquiesce. “Sorry,” he said (in Italian), “No tickets for today.” We stood outside the church trying to decide what to do. Our friend made one more attempt, with no luck. Disappointed, we asked the cab to wait for us while we took a few photos outside of the church. As we were getting into the cab, a man came running up to us and said, “Professori?”

“Yes, yes!” Chris said, now looking hopeful, “We’re teachers!”

“Come with me,” the man said in a thick Italian accent.

The man proceeded to take us to the ticket counter. We gave him our money and he purchased our tickets, then he accompanied us to wait with a group of Japanese tourists. As he walked with us, we kept thanking him for getting us into the chapel.

When we arrived in the room with the Last Supper, I could hardly catch my breath, it was so breathtaking. The chapel was darkened and quiet, the beautiful painting by Leonardo illuminated by soft lighting.

Seeing The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci was a moment I’ll treasure and I’m happy that James and I were able to experience it together during the year of our 25th anniversary.

For more Quick Takes, head over to Conversion Diary.

Photos and text copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach

7 Quick Takes Friday – The Contents of My Mother’s Special Box

Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

FREEBIE ALERT! Before I get to my post today, I want to let readers know that my first novel, Emily’s Hope, is available FREE today and tomorrow on Kindle at the following link: Emily’s Hope Kindle Edition. My third novel, Stealing Jenny, will be available free this Monday and Tuesday, March 26th and 27th.

My 7 Quick Takes Friday post today is entitled “The Contents of My Mother’s Special Box.”

Last Friday, my two youngest sons and I spent the entire day driving from my hometown in New Jersey to our home here in Pakenham, Ontario. It usually takes anywhere from 9.5 to 12 hours, depending on traffic, how many stops we make and weather. We started the day with early Mass, a quick breakfast, then began our journey.

The previous six days had been a difficult, heart-wrenching time of sorting through my mom’s possessions. She passed away nearly five years ago, but since my stepdad and sister were still living in the house, there was no rush to go through her things.

Now that my stepdad is gone and my sister is a religious sister, my childhood home will likely be sold, so I made a special trip down to NJ to assist my siblings in going through her belongings.

When my siblings and I were children, my mother kept a flowered, maroon-colored box in her dresser drawer where she stored the special mementos of her life before and just after marriage. I couldn’t find it in the days after her death, so I asked my youngest sister and stepdad if they knew where it was. They both replied that they had no idea where it had gone.

Before I traveled down to NJ, I made a mental note to look for that box and, most importantly, to ask St. Anthony to help me find it. When I arrived at the house, I decided to search in the attic and through the many boxes of Christmas decorations my mom had bought and collected over the years. When I opened the second box, I gasped. Sitting at the top was my mom’s special box. “Wow,” I muttered. Then I said, “Thank you, St. Anthony.”

Here are seven of the items I found:

1. Wedding Night Receipt and Wedding Invitation. My mother was married to my father for 23 years before he died in 1978. I already had a copy of the wedding invitation, but I was thrilled to find the wedding night receipt.

2. Graduation Stole Mom was the first of her siblings to graduate high school. She was a proud graduate of Hallahan High School (Class of ’51).

3. A Booklet entitled “Senior Class Memories.” Inside this book were cards with classmates’ names and a page at the back for “Prom.”

4. Large Miraculous Medal Although I’m not certain, I think she received this either for her 8th Grade Graduation or her graduation from high school.

5. First Bank Book Before and just after she was married, my mom regularly deposited $10.00 per week (a lot of money in 1954).

6. Corsage and head piece from her graduation from St. Richard’s School in Philadelphia. (My mom is in the front row, center, with the corsage).

7. Finally, there was a small booklet entitled “To the Graduate,” that Hallahan HS gave to all graduates. At the front of the book, a message to the graduates. The very last page has a prayer called “Our Lady’s Blessing” that I’d like to share:

May the Light of the Countenance
of my Little Child
ever shine on you.

May the perfection of His actions
be seen in all your works,
that nothing may be found
at the last day
but that for which you may be
rewarded.

May His Sacred Heart
be your Refuge
when beset with temptation and
tried by affliction.

May you enter the Divine Heart of
Jesus through the pierced heart
of your Queen and your Mother.
May your last hour be
your best hour and

May the Names of Jesus and Mary
seal your lips till we meet in Eternity.
Amen.

I miss my mother every day and I’m so grateful to have found her special box.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

Copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Emily’s Hope FREE this Friday and Saturday

The Kindle edition of my first book, Emily’s Hope, will be FREE this Friday, March 23rd and Saturday, March 24th.

Some people have coined my book “NFP Fiction.” It’s based on the true stories of myself and my great-grandmother. Here are a few of the reviews I’ve received since my first book was published seven years ago:

“Compelling…a real page turner.”
Damon Owens, Host of EWTN’s “NFP: Embracing the Marital Gift”

“Your book is a vehicle for the whole truth behind the Theology of the Body, presented so that people can see how the teachings of the Church are to be followed.”
Joan Hon, author, “A Trip to Medjugorje”

“There is so much to love about Emily’s Hope — the innocence of young love, the beautiful, miraculous, healing power of love and the beauty of sacrificial married love and its life-giving splendor. This story is not a fantasy, but is a tender and sensitive portrayal of what makes love real and lasting.”
Jean Heimann, Catholic Fire

“This book is a must read for anyone who has ever questioned whether living the NFP lifestyle is worth it or ever been resentful of the deprivations of NFP. I loved this book!”
Christopher Blunt, author, “Passport”

“I would encourage everyone to read this book, certainly young women. It is a book I can wholeheartedly recommend.
David Beresford, Catholic Insight Magazine

“While this book is definitely about NFP, it is also about the love of husbands and wives, the love of parents for their children and the agonizing moral choices we sometimes face. It is also about real people…and about being witnesses to a culture of life in a world overshadowed by a culture of death.”
Kristie Wellman, One More Soul

To read more reviews, click here: Emily’s Hope Kindle Edition.

Emily’s Hope will be available for FREE this Friday, March 23rd and Saturday, March 24th!