FQP Books Sweep the CALA Awards!

CALA winners

Congratulations to Dena Hunt, author of The Lion’s Heart and Amanda Lauer, author of A World Such as Heaven IntendedThe Lion’s Heart won first place at the 2016 Catholic Arts and Letters Award in Adult Fiction and A World Such as Heaven Intended won first place in the 2016 Catholic Arts and Letters Award in Young Adult Fiction.

To continue the celebrations, Full Quiver Publishing is offering a $4 off coupon for both books.

To purchase A World Such as Heaven Intended: go to this link and put in code: GYAKZBAR

To purchase The Lion’s Heart, go to this link and put in this code: ZWG5ZRME

A Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion

CMPC photo

My box of contributor copies for a Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion has finally arrived north of the border!   Release date is set for the end of this month.

Created by moms for moms, these hope-filled meditations touch on the issues and concerns you face as you try to get through the day with a sense of God’s presence in your life. Whether you are a new or seasoned mom working in or outside of your home, this inspiring collection of reflections for every day of the year will help you

  • stay in touch with the seasons of the Church year;
  • remember Mary’s loving presence on her feast days;
  • keep company with both new and familiar saints;
  • see the spiritual meaning of secular holidays; and
  • make you smile with occasions such as Houseplant Appreciation Day and National Popcorn Day.

Each day begins with a brief quotation from scripture, saints, recent popes, or important spiritual writers. A personal reflection—written by contributors including Danielle Bean, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, Lisa Mladinich, Elizabeth Scalia, Carolyn Woo, Mark Hart and Jeff Young—focuses on some dimension of your spiritual, emotional, intellectual, or physical life. Each day also includes a brief prayer and a question or thought to ponder throughout the day.

In just a few minutes of quiet you’ll find the boost you need from a friendly voice. Each month also has a special theme such as love, family fun, and slowing down. Start these reflections any time throughout the year and feel your days become more grace-filled and inspired.

Other contributors include: Erin McCole Cupp, Barb Szyszkiewicz, Ann Frailey, Celeste Behe, Jeannie Ewing, Patrice Fagnant MacArthur, Jennifer Fitz, Pat Gohn, Margaret Realy, Leticia Velasquez, Karee Santos and many others!

“Insightful and eminently relatable.”

“The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion is packed full of reflections that are both insightful and eminently relatable. Five minutes with this book will get your day off to a great start.”

Jennifer Fulwiler
Catholic radio host and author of Something Other Than God

To order the book from Ave Marie Press, go here to this link.

I Was Blind, But Now I See #TOBtalk

rocks and water hrkachMy latest post at Catholic Mom.com:

When I was eight years old, I had no idea that what my eyes were seeing was, in actuality, a huge blur. Even my parents didn’t realize that I needed glasses. Because my eyesight had gotten worse so gradually, no one knew that I could not see well until the religious sisters at school sent a note home to my parents indicating that I should have my eyes checked.

There were hints, of course, that neither my parents nor myself noticed. I used to watch TV basically within an inch or so of the TV. When I read, the book was on top of my face. However, according to my mom, she never noticed me squinting. Again, I thought what I was seeing was normal and didn’t realize I couldn’t see clearly.

My mother eventually took me to an optometrist in downtown Philly to have my eyes tested, then we ordered glasses. I could not suspect how much my life would change with that small pair of (ugly) glasses. When we returned to Philly to pick them up, the elderly optometrist put me on a booster seat in the chair, took out the glasses and put them on my face. My eyes widened and my mouth fell open. I gasped. I could see every detail and every letter of every word in that office. I could see across the street. I remember the wide smile the optometrist had on his face as I was pointing out everything I could see.

On our way home, I kept pointing to everything. “Look, Mommy, I can see the Horn and Hardart’s sign! I can see that store says “Lit Brothers! I can see that pretty dress in the window over there!” Colors were brighter; it even seemed like I could hear better now that I could see so clearly. I was still in awe that night when I could watch Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In from 20 feet away and still see everything clearly. To me, it was nothing short of a miracle.

In the years following, although I went to Catholic school, my family had begun to fall away from the regular practice of going to Mass and I began learning my morals from television.

Fast-forward to 1979. I had visited my pen-pal in Canada and met my husband through her brother at a rock band jam session. We fell in “like at first sight” and began a long-distance relationship with me in NJ and him in Canada. However, when we were together, things usually got pretty intense, given that we rarely saw each other. I wanted to enter into a sexual relationship, but thankfully James had a pretty strong Catholic grounding so he kept us from going farther than we should. Three years later, when we were engaged and about to be married, it was James (age 19) who insisted that we use Natural Family Planning (NFP) and not artificial birth control. I saw no moral reason why we shouldn’t use artificial birth control, but he remained adamant. “I would rather have sex once a month without birth control than use birth control and have sex every day.” I remember thinking, “What planet is he from?”

However, as we communicated through letters (back in the early ’80s there was no free long distance, no texts, no SnapChat, no Facebook, no Instant Messaging, no Skype, no Facetime, no Instagram or any other instant communication), I realized this was no ordinary young man. The advantage of writing with snail mail letters is that we were able to take time and reflect on what we wanted to say. It became obvious that contraception was something that James was not willing to budge on. When he said, “Ellie, trust me and trust God,” I said say yes and agreed to go to an NFP class with him. I learned that NFP works in this way: a couple charts the woman’s signs of fertility and infertility. If they are avoiding pregnancy, they abstain from relations when the woman is fertile.

One thing we both agreed on and that was that we should wait for a few years to have children since James was only in his first year of college. A few days before our wedding, we realized that I would be right in the middle of the fertile time, which meant that our consummation would have to wait until a week or so after the wedding. After waiting three years, I was resentful. I went along with NFP, but was not happy about it. NFP seemed like a burden, not a gift.

A few months into our marriage on an evening that would be the beginning of Phase III (the infertile time), we had a romantic dinner and a beautiful evening of intimacy after a period of abstinence. All of a sudden, as I was lying in bed later that night, I realized that James and I were truly one, physically and spiritually, with nothing separating us: no pills, devices, no chemicals, no surgeries. With each act of marital intimacy, I felt as if we were renewing our marriage vows with our bodies.

That evening (and many others to follow) truly felt like another honeymoon night. Until that moment, I went along with NFP to please James. I wasn’t enthusiastic about abstaining. But when that light bulb moment hit, I realized what a beautiful gift NFP is, despite its challenges. Not only that, but I realized what a great gift it was to us that we had not had intercourse until marriage. “I was blind, but now I see.” NFP became glasses for my soul, and the reasons for NFP became much clearer to me.

From then on, I became a big promoter of chastity before marriage and a loud and enthusiastic proponent of NFP. In the grocery store, dentist’s office, anywhere that someone would listen, I would tell people about NFP, just like the time I got my new glasses: “Look, NFP has no side effects!” “Look, NFP means a couple can be truly one when they are making love!” “Look, NFP doesn’t harm fertility!” “Wow, NFP is 99% effective when a couple has serious reasons to avoid pregnancy and can even be used to achieve a much-wanted pregnancy!”

For me, without NFP, our marital union would have existed in a blur. With NFP, our marital union is clearer and more meaningful. NFP truly is like a pair of glasses for the soul.  NFP has been nothing short of a miracle for our marriage. Does it mean there have never been problems or that I’ve never resented the abstinence? Of course not.  But NFP truly is a marriage builder, one that I can honestly say has been the main reason that the romance, intimacy and closeness has remained even after 34 years of marriage.

1968, with my new glasses

1968, with my new glasses

Copyright 2016 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Fasting: A Powerful Weapon in the Fight Against Evil

Fasting retreat bread and water“Not all can accept this word,
but only those to whom that is granted.
Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so;
some, because they were made so by others;
some, because they have renounced marriage
for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”
  (Matt 19)

In this passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus talks about the importance and indissolubility of marriage and summarizes it by saying, “Whoever can accept this, ought to accept it.”

A good marriage takes a lot of work. It’s a big responsibility. For the vast majority of Christians, marriage is meant to be forever so that the spouses can assist each other on the road to holiness and heaven.

There is a prophecy from Sr. Lucia of Fatima regarding “the final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan. The battlefield is the family. Life and the family.”

One need only to look around at our world to see marriage and the family are under attack: same sex marriage is now legal in most states and in Canada, living together before marriage is common and accepted as the norm, and contraception and abortion use are now considered “acceptable.”  Couples getting married today face a 50% divorce rate.  Transgender kids as young as five and nasty custody battles are becoming more commonplace.

We are living the culmination of Sr. Lucia’s prophecy.  And perhaps we feel helpless. Maybe we feel there is nothing we can do.

However, there is something very important we can do: fast.

St. John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae (1994) said, “Jesus himself has shown us by his own example that prayer and fasting are the first and most effective weapons against the forces of evil.” (P.101-102)

St. Theophan the Recluse said, “When there is no prayer and fasting, there are demons.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “In our own day, fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning, and has taken on, in a culture characterized by the search for material well-being, a therapeutic value for the care of one’s body. Fasting certainly brings benefits to physical well-being, but for believers, it is, in the first place, a “therapy” to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God.”

Many Catholics mistakenly believe that fasting only belongs in Lent. Up until the 1960’s, fasting was recommended and encouraged during the entire year. Fasting on bread and water two days a week (usually Wednesday and Friday) is a very powerful weapon in the fight against evil.  Fasting on less food and abstaining from meat, treats or coffee are also good ways to deny one’s self.

Benefits of fasting:

  • Fasting opens up our hearts to conversion
  • Fasting gives weight to our prayer intentions
  • Fasting strengthens us in resisting temptations
  • Fasting and prayer promote peace in our hearts and peace with one another
  • Fasting teaches us the difference between “wanting” and “needing”
  • Fasting reminds us of the plight of the poor and for many in the world who are perpetually hungry
  • Fasting and prayer can free us from addictive behavior
  • “Fasting will lead us to a new freedom of heart and mind.” — Fr. Slavko Barbaric O.F.M
  • Fasting invites the Holy Spirit in to heal our hearts, our relationship with God and our relationship with others

With all fasting, we strongly recommend consulting your physician— as everyone’s physical health is unique.
Fasting is not always easy.  Fasting takes a lot of work. Fasting takes self-control. But whoever can accept the challenge to fast, ought to accept it.

Our world needs fasting.  In Scripture, (Mark 9:27-29) Jesus tells the apostles that said that some demons can only be expelled through prayer and fasting.  This is the power of fasting and this is what our world needs.

Evil exists in our world.

Join the movement.  Try fasting.

For more information on how to get started with fasting, check out our website (http://livethefast.orgAlways check with your physician before beginning any fasting routine.

To sign up for our free biweekly fasting newsletter, click here.

Live the Fast is a Roman Catholic Apostolate that is focused on bringing more awareness to the discipline of fasting by offering educational resources on prayer and fasting, a prayer community that will inspire one to live the fast and providing nutritious fasting breads. (Priests and religious receive fasting breads and resources free of charge.)

Ellen Gable Hrkach 2016

Picture Perfect Motherhood

copyright J&E Hrkach

copyright J&E Hrkach (2002)

Below is an article I wrote back in 2002.  I was thrilled when Family Foundations published it!  It remains one of my favorites.  It’s hard to believe that all these boys are now much taller than me!

I tried to take a mental snapshot of the previous 10 minutes or so. Everyone had come to the table for dinner without being asked twice. The food was piping hot. All five children were sitting and quietly waiting for grace to begin. A soft snow had started falling outside, the woodstove was crackling, cookies were baking in the oven and the Christmas tree, which smelled fresh and green, sparkled with the twinkling lights. It all seemed so perfect, like a painting by Norman Rockwell or a scene from “Ozzie and Harriet.” For just a minute, I had wished that, like in the “Twilight Zone,” life would stop so I could savor the moment. I knew, however, that the scene wouldn’t last like that for long.

“Uh-oh,” exclaimed my six-year-old son, Adam. While I was visiting Ozzie and Harriet, he had tried to pour himself a glass of milk. Now it was all over the perfectly set table. “I didn’t want to bother anyone.”

I took a deep breath and headed to the counter to get a towel to clean up. In the meantime, Paul, the three-year-old, started jabbing his 13-year-old brother with his fork. “Ow, cut it out,” Ben replied. Paul turned and starting bothering the brother on the other side of him, Josh, 15. “Hey, stop it.” Just then, Tim, the 10-year-old who was sitting next to Adam, started complaining that he was getting wet from the spilled milk.

My husband, sensing my frustration, replied with his usual empathic, “Welcome to motherhood.”

Over the years, I have found it difficult to adjust to the fact that real life is just not like television. I had grown up in the 60’s and 70’s watching family sitcoms such as “Brady Bunch,” “Partridge Family” and the like. I spent hours watching reruns of the “Dick Van Dyke Show,” “I Love Lucy” and others. While still entertaining, most of these shows were two-dimensional: there was always a problem and it was (usually) solved in less than 30 minutes. Everyone always ended up happily ever after. And, as always, I was entertained.

It became quite evident that the TV land I experienced while growing up had very little to do with real life. I did grow up in a real family but since I spent so much time watching television, I grew up with the illusion that life, especially motherhood, is two dimensional and problems are usually solved in 30 minutes.

My illusion came crashing down with the birth of my first son, Josh. Newborns are supposed to come out and sleep all the time. Mine didn’t. In fact, he not only didn’t sleep, he cried most of his first six months. After one particularly difficult night of not getting any sleep at all, I sat on the edge of our bed, holding our screaming infant and started crying and bawling myself. My husband, ever patient and blunt, replied (for the first time) “Welcome to Motherhood.” Admittedly, I wanted to slap him, but later when we talked, much of what he said made perfect sense.

“Ellie, God has given you this particular baby for a reason. We don’t know what that is but we have to trust His wisdom.” I started thinking about that. Sleep had always been an important part of my life. Previous to this, I resented anyone who used to wake me up: people calling on phone, noisy neighbors, etc. Now, I had no choice but to wake up for this little baby. What better way for God to help me become less selfish about my sleep than to give me a baby that rarely slept.

With each child, I have seen how much more patient I can be. Seeing to the needs of two, three, four and then five children can be overwhelming. Sometimes I just want to sit back and watch an old rerun of “I Love Lucy” or “Partridge Family.” However, if I (try) to put God first, my family second and myself third, I can step back and see to the “Duty of the Moment,” as Catherine Doherty from Madonna House once said: “The duty of the moment is what you should be doing at any given time, in whatever place God has put you. If you have a child, your duty of the moment may be to change a dirty diaper. So you do it. But you don’t just change that diaper, you change it to the best of your ability, with great love for both God and the child.” This is not always easy, but always seeing to someone else’s needs (my children or husband) is a perfect way to grow in virtue, especially patience.

Several years ago, when I trudged into the vehicle registration office to renew our car’s license plates, I sat down next to an older woman, who commented, “Are these children all yours?” “You bet they are,” I replied, counting all five heads. “Five children, that’s a large family these days. You must be very patient,” she said.

I smiled and thought of a reply. “To tell you the truth, I have become more patient with each child I have. But, you know, I certainly ‘haven’t arrived.’ I definitely need more patience so I’ll probably have to have at least one more child.”

The look on her face was utter shock! And then she sighed and went back to reading her paper.

This is so true of motherhood, I believe. If everything was really perfect with no messes, no fights, no sicknesses, no crying babies, then we, as mothers, would never have an opportunity to grow in virtue and in character, not only as mothers but as human beings made in the image and likeness of God. Caring for children is a perfect way to quash selfishness because they are, by nature, very selfish. We, as parents, are totally responsible for these fellow human beings until they are old enough to be on their own and proceed on their own journey toward selflessness.

Motherhood is the ideal life for those of us who need to grow in virtue. Rarely does life seem perfect, and yet we picture it that way in our own mind’s eye. In reality, there are always messes to clean up, fights to help settle, a sick child to comfort or a crying baby to nurse, not to mention the stresses from outside of the family. And, while it is a tremendous and awesome responsibility, motherhood is ultimately, a “perfect” opportunity for us to grow in virtue.

Copyright 2002 Ellen Gable Hrkach

An Open Book – August 3

Open Book

 

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for “An Open Book.”

This is just a fraction of the books I received last week at the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show.

Champions

Champions of the Rosary by Fr. Don Calloway

In Champions of the Rosary, Fr. Calloway has written what is probably the most comprehensive book ever written on the rosary. The author deftly negotiates the complexities of the story of the rosary, weaving the historical, theological, and devotional strands into a veritable masterpiece of scholarship and piety. This book should turn every one of its readers into a champion of the rosary. My review: I loved this book. I received a signed copy at the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show last week.  It’s filled with just about everything you’d ever want to know about the Holy Rosary.  Highly recommend!

Tassone

St. Faustina Prayer Book for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

Susan Tassone (The Purgatory Lady) turns to a passionate and powerful guide (St. Faustina Kowalska) to help us pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Includes devotions, prayers, novenas, and the wisdom of St. Faustina.  My review: I’m reading this now and it’s very compelling.  The Holy Souls in Purgatory can pray for others, but not for themselves.  This is an ideal guide to those who have a special devotion to these Holy Souls. This book will definitely be stored on my bedside table so that I can add many of these prayers to my night-time prayer routine.

Waiting

Waiting for a Miracle by Cyndi Peterson, MD

One doctor’s journey of faith to save her two terminally ill baby girls.

Cyndi Peterson was a successful physician, wife and mother who had everything she ever dreamed of—yet true peace continued to elude her. Her quest leads her to Medjugorje, where Mary the Mother of God is reported to appear daily. After returning home newly committed to her faith, she faces every mother’s deepest fear. Her newborn baby Kelly is terminally ill.

Upon learning her next baby, Sarah, has the same diagnosis, Cyndi struggles to understand why God has asked this of her. How God moves in her life and answers her prayers will both surprise you and deepen your faith.

My review: I’m looking forward to reading this one!

Check out the other posts on Carolyn Astfalk’s website at this link.

 

Highlights of the Catholic Writers Conference and #CMN2016

Radio interview...

Radio interview…

Just a fraction of the contributors to the Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion.

Just a fraction of the contributors to the Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion.

CWG Booth

The CWG Booth!

Dinner out with Andy

Out to dinner with Andy LaVallee, Dr. Barbara Golder and Kathy!

Lisa and Ellen

Lisa Hendey and I giving a presentation on Facebook and Goodreads (thanks to Amy Cattapan for the photo!)

Misc CWCL

Accepting the CALA award, FQP contributors, taking questions from the audience and our lovely presenters’ aid, Terri!

More images from CWCL

More moments from the CMN and CWCL!

With Priests for Live and Teresa Tomeo

With Fr. Frank Pavone, Teresa Tomeo and Janet Morana! #CMN2016