At a vendor fair last Friday, I had the privilege of meeting a woman who served as a nurse for the British in World War II. Needless to say, it was the highlight of the evening. I didn’t get her name, but she is in her 90’s and lost her brother during the war in 1941.Photo copyright Ellen Hrkach
Pope Paul VI, author of Humanae Vitae, On Human Life, was criticized when he released his controversial encyclical back in July of 1968. He stated that artificial birth control was “intrinsically evil.” He also foresaw the events that are happening in our world today. The video below from Bishop Robert Barron shares some of most interesting prophecies from Pope Paul VI.
Every year, on Epiphany Sunday, we bless our home with the saying “Christus Mansionem Benedicat: May Christ Bless this House,” and write with chalk on each of the lintels to outside doors. The letters CMB are an abbreviation of the Latin saying above, and they’re also the first letter of each of the names of the three wise men: Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. To find out more about this beautiful tradition, click here.
Happy New Year! Today, I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for “An Open Book.” Here’s what I’ve been reading this past month and will be reading in the weeks to come!
Amazon synopsis: We’ve chosen our favorite holiday miracle stories from our past books. You’ll love these heartwarming and awe-inspiring tales of answered prayers, divine intervention, holiday angels, joyous giving, family forgiveness, and the wonders of gratitude.
These true, personal stories will deepen your faith and show you the blessings in your life. They’ll leave you smiling and inspired, ready to share your renewed Christmas spirit.
And we didn’t forget that miracles happen during the rest of the season, too, with stories about Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and New Year’s. There’s something for everyone in these joy-filled pages, and you’ll be supporting Toys for Tots as well, creating miracles for children all over the U.S.
My review: I enjoyed this book, although it contains stories from other Chicken Soup books so it’s mostly a rehash from other books. But it was entertaining and exactly what I needed to read during the holidays.
Amazon Synopsis: Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death. When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious death fell on deaf ears. In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather’s Wisconsin hometown. But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision. And when the house’s dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide.
A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe. When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity. Ivy’s search leads her into dangerous waters and, even as she works together with a man from her past, can she unravel the mystery before any other lives–including her own–are lost?
My review: Coming – the Kindle book was on sale a few weeks ago. I’m about 1/4 of the way through this book and so far, it’s compelling and I’m especially enjoying the historical sections.
Amazon Synopsis: Lieutenant Robert Fitzgerald has managed to retain his sanity, his humanity, and his honor during the hell of WWI’s trench warfare. Charlotte Braninov fled the shifting storm of the impending Russian Revolution for the less-threatening world of field camp medicine, serving as a nurse in the most hopeless of fronts. Their friendship creates a sanctuary both could cling to in the most desperate of times. Historical fiction about life, loss, and love, By the Hands of Men explores the power that lies within each of us to harm – or to heal – all those we touch.
My review: Coming! I downloaded this for free or .99 recently. I’m still reading it, but I finding the writing a bit dry at times. However, the story is compelling enough to make me keep going.
Amazon Synopsis: Penelope Wain believes that her lover, Neil Macrae, has been killed while serving overseas under her father. That he died apparently in disgrace does not alter her love for him, even though her father is insistent on his guilt. What neither Penelope or her father knows is that Neil is not dead, but has returned to Halifax to clear his name.
Hugh MacLennan’s first novel is a compelling romance set against the horrors of wartime and the catastrophic Halifax Explosion of December 6, 1917.
My review: I could not put this book down. Beautifully written with believable and well-developed characters. I wouldn’t classify it as a romance, however. It’s more historical fiction than romance, although there is a romance in it. I enjoyed the fact that it takes place in the days leading up to the Halifax Explosion and days after. Highly recommend! Five stars out of five.
Amazon Synopsis: In this gripping #1 New York Times bestseller from Queen of Suspense Mary Higgins Clark, a Manhattan ER doctor is brazenly murdered in front of his young son in a city playground. Five years later, his killer is still at large.
When Laurie Moran’s husband was brutally murdered, only three-year-old Timmy saw the face of his father’s killer. Five years later his piercing blue eyes still haunt Timmy’s dreams. Laurie is haunted by more—the killer’s threat to her son as he fled the scene: “Tell your mother she’s next, then it’s your turn…”
Now Laurie is dealing with murder again, this time as the producer of a true-crime, cold-case television show. The series will launch with the twenty-year-old unsolved murder of Betsy Powell. Betsy, a socialite, was found suffocated in her bed after a gala celebrating the graduation of her daughter and three friends. The sensational murder was news nationwide. Reopening the case in its lavish setting and with the cooperation of the surviving guests that night, Laurie is sure to have a hit on her hands. But when the estranged friends begin filming, it becomes clear each is hiding secrets…small and large.
And a pair of blue eyes is watching events unfold, too…
My review: Coming! I’ve always enjoyed Mary Higgins Clark, although I have found that the books she’s written in the past ten years or so not as good as her earlier books. However, this one was on sale for $3 at a local bookstore, so I scooped it up. The fact that it’s only $3 for a hardcover book makes me suspicious that it probably will be much like the last five or so MHC books I’ve read. But for $3, I’m willing to take that chance.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:8-11
“Fear not little flock, fear not. Come with me to Bethlehem. Let us celebrate a joyous Christmas. Let us be merry and happy no matter what because Christ is born.” Catherine Doherty
I’ll be taking the next week off from blogging.
A Blessed and Joyous Christmas to all!
The following are three Christmas videos from past years of my husband and some of our sons! Enjoy!
One of my favorite Advent books and one that I read every year at this time is a book by Catherine Doherty called “Donkey Bells,” published by Madonna House Publications. I love to read this inspiring book curled up in a comfortable chair by the wood stove, a hot chocolate or apple cider beside me, Advent and Christmas music playing quietly in the background. This lovely book is filled with heartwarming stories, customs and traditions (such as the Advent wreath, baking, the blessing of the Christmas tree) and moving reflections for the season. It is a beautiful way for children, teens and adults to prepare their hearts for Christmas.
I love this story from Donkey Bells: Advent and Christmas by Catherine Doherty
(Available as a paperback and e-book)
Donkey Bells (by Catherine Doherty)
It came to me, during these days of Advent, that I should share with you a custom which is not necessarily liturgical but which adds to the enjoyment of this lovely season. It has deep spiritual connotations; at least it did for our family, and for many others I knew when I was a young child.
When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me that if I was good during this holy season of Advent, and offered my little acts of charity and obedience throughout Advent to the little Christ Child for a gift on his birthday, then sometime during Advent, at first very faintly and then quite clearly, I would hear bells. As she put it, the first church bells.
These were the bells around the neck of the little donkey that carried Our Lady. For mother explained that Our Lady carried Our Lord. She was the temple of the Holy Spirit, the first ‘church’ as it were, since Christ reposed in her. And the donkey, carrying Our Lady and sounding his bells as he walked, wore the first church bells.
Around the second week of Advent, mother wore a little bracelet that had tinkling bells. As she moved her hand I could hear them tinkle, and I got excited because I associated them with the donkey’s bells.
As young as I was, my imagination would build up a lot of little stories about the trip of Our Lady from Nazareth to Bethlehem — stories which I would share with my mother, and which would spur me on to further good deeds and little sacrifices.
During the third week of Advent, mother’s bracelet miraculously got many more bells on it. The sound grew louder and louder as Christmas approached. It was wonderful.
My brother and I used to listen. Mother’s bells were first around her wrist and then around her knee too. Then more bells, as it got closer to Christmas. We were really excited about them.
I introduced this little custom in Madonna House. During Advent, I wear a kind of bracelet that can be heard as I walk or move, in whatever room of the house I may be. The members of our family tell me that it spurs them on, even as it did me when I was a child, to meditate more profoundly on the mystery of Advent.
Here at Madonna House, we have begun in these last few years to make a collection of miniature donkeys — of wood, glass, ceramics, rope — you name it. And we have an album of Christmas cards (which we save from the many we receive) that depict the donkey in the manger scene.
The presence of the donkey and the ox in Scripture is symbolic of the prophets who foretold the Incarnation. And also of the fact that “the ox and ass know their Master’s voice, but Israel doesn’t know the voice of God” (Isaiah 1:3). So, you see, there is some spiritual foundation for my love for the donkey which brings such great joy to my heart.
I’m sure that, as a child, Christ rode on a donkey many times. And also as a man, of course. In Scripture we know of only two times: one was when the donkey carried Our Lady, who in turn carried God, from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The other was when the donkey carried Christ into Jerusalem as the people laid palm branches before Him, proclaiming him king.
Let us think for a moment: What kind of animal is a donkey? It is a beast of burden, the animal of the poor. Once again, the immense theme of poverty is illustrated in an animal. God chose the humblest, the smallest in status, because among the animals the donkey is considered very low. So God is teaching us a lesson here — a lesson of humility, of poverty, and of simplicity.
Have you ever seen a newborn donkey? Well, every donkey has a black cross on its gray fur, a marking which is especially noticeable just after it is born from its mother’s womb. It gets less clear as the donkey matures, but still is visible. I share this fact with you to teach you to open your heart to the bells of the donkey that carried Our Lady and also God.
The breath of the donkey and the ox made the stable warm. So we meditate on several things at once: the poverty and humility of the donkey God chose, and which should be our poverty and humility; and the breath of our love, which should warm God in our neighbor constantly.
Let us remember that the donkey also had no room at the inn. Neither woman, nor man, nor donkey had a place at the inn. So they went to live in a poor stable that wasn’t too well prepared for animals, let alone as a decent habitation for human beings.
Now, another meditation comes to us. Think of the millions of people who are left homeless on our streets. Tragic is this situation. We, as apostles, must be very careful that we do not exclude anyone from the inn of our heart.
I pray that our heart, our soul, our ears will hear very clearly ‘the bells of the donkey,’ not only in Advent but throughout the year. For whoever who is pure of heart and childlike shall hear the bells of the donkey ring in their life.
(Creative Commons Licence Pass It On by Madonna House Publications is free to re-publish under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.)
If you have a favorite Christmas or Advent story, please feel free to share!