Ash Wednesday – Strengthen Your Lenten Journey Through Fasting

When you hear the word “fasting,” do you automatically cringe? Do you dread Ash Wednesday or Good Friday? Or do you embrace the self-denial of fasting on those days? If you’re like most people, you might not look forward to Ash Wednesday or Good Friday, the Church’s compulsory days of fasting. However, when you become accustomed to the regular practice of fasting throughout the year, these “compulsory” days are opportunities for abundant graces and spiritual growth.

Many people mistakenly believe that fasting belongs only in the Penitential Season of Lent. However, the regular self-denial of fasting is a positive and generous act that we can do all year round. After all, Jesus fasted — and He fasted before every major event in His life — and His apostles fasted. In Scripture, fasting is mentioned numerous times in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” Matthew 6:16-18

“But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it (demon) out?’ He replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.’” Mark 9:27-29

Peter said to Jesus, “You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68

Eternal life…isn’t that our goal? How do we get there? A virtuous life, one that is sacrificial, one that is obedient to God’s laws, this is the way to eternal life. Lent is an ideal time to embrace the practice of fasting. And not just on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday! Fasting can happen on every Wednesday and Friday throughout the year. The regular self-denial of fasting is definitely one of the ways to get to heaven and eternal life. Why?

Fasting opens our hearts to conversion, gives weight to our prayer intentions. Fasting strengthens us in resisting temptations, promotes 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 those who are perpetually hungry. Fasting and prayer can free us from addictive behavior. Fasting invites the Holy Spirit in to heal our hearts, our relationship with God and our relationship with others. Fr. Slavko Barbaric said, “Fasting will lead us to a new freedom of heart and mind.”

St. Jean Vianney once said, “The devil is not greatly afraid of the discipline and other instruments of penance. That which beats him is the curtailment of one’s food, drink and sleep. There is nothing the devil fears more, consequently, nothing is more pleasing to God.”

There are so many great reasons to fast and Lent is an ideal time to begin this regular practice of self-denial. For the elderly and those who cannot fast from food, they can fast from TV, social networking, treats or coffee on Wednesday and Friday.

Lent is a time for change and sacrifice. If you can do penitential acts during Lent, you can do them all year round! To get started with fasting, please check out the graphic below. And always check with your physician before beginning any fasting routine.

For testimonies, prayers and more information about fasting, check out the Live the Fast website at www.livethefast.org or contact us at info@livethefast.org if you have any questions.

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.)

Fasting graphic by Darcie Nielsen

Fasting graphic by Darcie Nielsen

Stealing Jenny FREE on Kindle Until Saturday

Stealing JennyMy third novel, Stealing Jenny, will be FREE today (February 4) through Saturday (February 6) on Kindle.

Jenny Callahan is happily expecting her sixth child. But it’s not without complications. To make matters worse, a neighbor is secretly hatching a sinister plot that will find Jenny and her unborn baby fighting for their lives. Or…the one sentence synopsis: Mentally unstable woman kidnaps pregnant mom of five.

Reviews:
“Stealing Jenny is a gripping novel filled with engaging characters, a compelling mystery and a message which underscores the precious dignity of life. I literally couldn’t put it down and give Stealing Jenny my highest recommendation.” Lisa M. Hendey, author of “A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms”

“Ellen Gable is a masterful storyteller.Stealing Jenny is a smoothly written, chilling tale of gripping suspense. There are terrifying moments and heart-wrenching moments. Catholic faith and hope are tested. Above all, the sacredness and privilege of precious new life is made indisputably evident I never wanted it to end!” Therese Heckenkamp, author, Frozen Footprints and Past Suspicion

“Stealing Jenny will keep you on the edge of your seat and probably destroy your sleep pattern as you stay up to find out what happens. But beyond being a great suspense, it’s also an excellent example of morals in action and family life redeemed. As a fan of Ellen Gable’s work already, I’m now officially getting a t-shirt!” Sarah Reinhard, blogger, author

To download your Kindle copy for FREE, click here.

2016 Catholic Writers Conference Online

cwco logo 2CONTACT: Karina Fabian E-mail: karina.@fabianspace.com
Laura Lowder E-mail: laura.lowder.@gmail.com

For Immediate Release

The Catholic Writers’ Guild will hold its annual online conference for writers March 4-6. 2016. This faith-focused authors conference offers presentations covering all aspects of writing from finding your calling as a writer to publishing and marketing your books. There will also be online pitch sessions with noted Catholic publishers and secular publishers.

Attendees must register by Feb 27 at http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=EC51DE87844F3B.

The conference will be held using webinar software, making the experience more personal and immediate.

“We’ve had people asking for webinar formats in the past, but this is the first year we felt comfortable with the technology and the ability of our attendees to stream live presentations,” said organizer Karina Fabian. Fabian said the workshops offer terrific opportunities to ask in-depth questions and get feedback from knowledgeable instructors.

This year’s sessions include an emphasis on the faith aspects of writing no matter what the genre. Speakers like Gary Zimak, author of Faith, Hope and Clarity; Joe Wetterling, President of the Catholic Writer’s Guild, horror author Jonathan Ryan and others will speak on writing as a calling, a literary revolution, and evangelization through fiction (Ellen Gable Hrkach). In addition, there are practical workshops including legal issues, techniques for characterization and plotting, how to journal, and time management.

Pitch sessions give authors with finished books a chance to personally interest a publisher. Pitch sessions include well-known Catholic publishers like Servant Books, smaller presses like Liberty Island, and ebook publishers like eTreasures.

“Every year, we hear back from an author who finished a book, started a project, or got a publishing contract thanks to the Catholic Writers’ Conference Online. Plus people make contacts and good friends. It’s a terrific opportunity, especially for those who can’t afford to attend a live conference,” Fabian said.

This year’s conference is $40; $25 for members of the Catholic Writers’ Guild. To register or for more information, go to http://www.catholicwritersconference.com.

God’s Surprise Gift


Today is the day of the U.S. annual March for Life in Washington D.C. (and I hope it doesn’t get cancelled due to the winter storm coming to the East Coast!). I’d like to share the following article I wrote entitled “God’s Surprise Gift” which was published in God Moments III: True Love Leads to Life, released in 2012 by Joseph Karl Publishing.

For several days after my mom shared the news, I remained shocked and surprised but very, very happy. My 47-year-old mother was going to have a baby.

One thing was certain: I had never seen my mom so joy-filled. She became a widow at age 44. A short time later, she met and married my stepfather. Although my stepfather had four daughters from his first marriage and my mother had four children from her marriage to my father, neither imagined there would be any children from their union.

The challenges became apparent as soon as she began to tell people. My mom’s obstetrician/gynecologist (the same doctor who delivered me 22 years previous) scowled when my mom asked for an “official” pregnancy test, explaining that she had taken an “at home” test and it was positive.

“You’re not thinking of having it, are you?”

“Of course I am.”

“You can’t have it! You have a one in ten risk of having a child with Down Syndrome, not to mention all the abnormalities that come with increased maternal age.”

“I want to have this baby.”

According to my mom, the doctor continued pressuring her — urging her — to have an abortion. However, my mom had always had a strong and stubborn personality. She didn’t back down nor did she acquiesce to his wishes.

Finally, she said, “I’m having this baby.”

The doctor replied, “Then you’ll have to find another doctor. I won’t be delivering it.”

When she arrived home, my mom was angry. She spent the next ten minutes yelling and pacing the floor. She was frustrated with the irony of the words “pro choice.” She wasn’t given any choice but to abort. She eventually found a Catholic pro-life doctor to deliver her baby. Since it had been 20 years since her last pregnancy, there were some concerns and challenges. However, this doctor took very good care of her.

Of course, her previous doctor wasn’t the only one who reacted negatively. Some friends and relatives thought my mother and stepfather were crazy to be happy about an “unplanned pregnancy.”

“This is obviously an accident,” one person commented. My mother’s response: “This isn’t an accident. It’s a surprise. Those are two different things.” Another person said, “It was obviously unplanned.” My mom would shake her head and say, “Not unplanned, just a surprise.”

The day came for my mom to deliver. It was a rainy Tuesday evening. My siblings and I waited outside the delivery room. Finally, we heard a baby crying. We were soon given the news that my mother had given birth to a baby girl. We were thrilled! We had a new baby sister to love, and my mom continued to call her “God’s surprise gift.”

“God’s surprise gift,” my youngest sister, is now 34 years old. She volunteered, then worked for years at a crisis pregnancy center and spent many Saturday mornings praying in front of abortion clinics. She now works as a director of religious education at a parish in New Jersey.

My mother passed away in 2007. However, our entire family remains grateful that she and my stepfather chose life for my sister. I can’t imagine the world without her.

Photo and Text copyright 2016 Ellen Gable Hrkach

St. Agnes,Virgin and Martyr

stagnesTomorrow is the Feast of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr. I knew little of this saint until I read about her during research for my novel, A Subtle Grace. I have dedicated my book to her.

It’s no surprise that St. Agnes’ feast day is so close to the U.S. March for Life. Agnes’ name in Greek means “chaste, pure or sacred,” and in Latin, it means “lamb.” She is the patron saint of young girls, chastity, engaged couples, rape victims (and others). In past centuries, young girls would recite the prayer/poem to St. Agnes on the Eve of the feast day (today) in the hopes that they would dream of their future husband.

The following is a link to an excerpt of A Subtle Grace which includes the prayer/poem to St. Agnes:

Excerpt from A Subtle Grace

St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us!