My column this month at Catholic Mom is called “NFP Q & A.”

What are some of the benefits of NFP?

NFP is medically safe. There are no harmful chemicals, devices or health risks. NFP also gives a woman more awareness of what’s going on in her body and can assist her in recognizing health problems sooner. It is 99% effective in avoiding pregnancy and can also work well in planning pregnancies, even if the woman does not have ‘regular’ cycles. NFP costs less than other forms of birth control and once you learn it, there are no continuing costs. It’s immediately reversible at any time. Periodic abstinence improves communication and gives husband and wife a deeper respect for each other. Most importantly, NFP is morally acceptable. All major religions, including Catholicism, accept the use of NFP by married couples when there is serious reason to postpone pregnancy.

To read more, click on the link:

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Old Movies, New Books

One of my favorite television channels is Turner Classic Movies (

When watching this channel, seldom do I have to be concerned about graphic violence, sex or profanities. Often, the themes are mature but because of fade outs and ambiguous language, only adults can understand what’s really going on. Although pre-marital sex, abortion and adultery were occasional themes of old movies, they were rarely dealt with in an overt manner.

In this day and age when many, if not most, movies contain graphic violence, explicit sexual scenes and/or profanities, it is a delight to be able to watch old movies which do not include these.

My own novels (Emily’s Hope; In Name Only) deal with mature themes (sex, abortion, contraception, adultery) but do not contain graphic or explicit descriptions. The two novels I’m working on at present also contain mature themes. Ambiguity, I believe, is the most appropriate way to handle these sorts of topics. Also, the classic fade out works well in fiction. Many of my favorite contemporary authors also use this technique in their books. Here’s a scene/short excerpt from my second novel, In Name Only:

“Caroline?” he said, as he tipped her chin up to look at him.
Crackling from the fireplace distracted her and, for a moment, she stared silently into the bright flames. He placed his hands on her shoulders and waited for her to look at him. When she did, he took hold of her trembling hand and kissed it.
“What we do here, now, with our bodies, this very act is ordained by God.”
“But ‘tis also my duty.”
“Yes, it is, but I will never insist on this if you are in any way uncomfortable or not feeling well. Caroline, I want you to desire this as much as I do. Come. ” He walked her to his desk and picked up his Bible, already opened to the book of Tobias. He made the Sign of the Cross, then faced the crucifix and prayed the words of Scripture:
“And now, Lord, thou knowest that not for fleshly lust do I take my sister for my wife, but only for the love of posterity in which Thy name may be blessed forever and ever. . .have mercy on us, Lord, and let us grow old both together in health.”
Caroline responded, “Amen.” She avoided eye contact, her face now flushed. She began to shiver, so he gently guided her to the bed.

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship

For a year and a half I have been working on a book entitled “Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship.” It is scheduled to be published next spring. I have had the privilege of interviewing, transcribing and editing most of these stories and I have to say that it has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve ever worked on.

It began nearly two years ago on Valentine’s Day when a group of homeschooling mothers was enjoying one another’s fellowship as our children played together and exchanged cards. Since it was Valentine’s Day, I asked one particular woman (Jeanette) if she would share how she and her husband (Michel) met. One of the reasons I knew their story intimately is because they worked together in my husband’s recording studio many years ago.

One of the women (Kathy Cassanto) said, “It’s too bad there isn’t a book out there with Catholic courtship stories.” My initial response was: “If there isn’t, there should be.”

So we set out to find inspiring courtship stories. Fortunately, we didn’t have to search very far. Oftentimes, I merely listened to a small voice prompting me to ask certain couples, “Would you like to share the story of how you met?”

Here are just a few of the confirmed stories which will be included in the book:

A sailor, stationed on a naval ship in 1951, prays a novena that he is marrying the right girl. Soon thereafter, his fiancee breaks off the engagement and he finds the “right girl” to whom he’s been married to for 59 years.

A man studying to become a priest is introduced to a fellow seminarian’s sister and discovers his true vocation to marriage.

A widow and a widower discover a renewed friendship and love.

In the coming months, I will be posting excerpts of the stories on this blog.

copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

It Doesn’t End Here by Dawn Marie Roeder

It Doesn’t End Here
by Dawn Marie Roeder
Book Review

Parenthood makes us vulnerable because when our child is born, we know that we will never be the same and we will do anything to keep him safe. When something happens to him, no matter what the circumstances, it is our worst nightmare. “It Doesn’t End Here” is such an account. It is the story of the author’s tragic loss of a precious child and the courageous decision to sue those responsible for her son’s death. Beautifully written, it is a heart-wrenching story of trust, hope and forgiveness. It is also the story of profound spiritual growth.

The book describes the events surrounding the death of her beloved two-year-old son, Nathaniel, and the ensuing trial. It includes many relevant quotes from Scripture, saints and others. There are poignant photos of the author and her son at varying stages of his short life.

Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Dawn Marie Roeder has found strength from Our Lady’s journey, so she uses one of the Seven Sorrows of Mary to introduce each chapter, then she tells part of her story, and finishes each chapter with a fond memory of her late son, Nathaniel. Although Catholic teaching is included, this book is for everyone who has lost a child and has struggled to come to terms with it.

This may be a challenging story to read, but a necessary one. It shows that there is always light amidst the darkness. I highly recommend this book to everyone!

To order Dawn Marie’s book, please click on the link below:

copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes by Ann Margaret Lewis

My review on Catholic of Ann Margaret Lewis’s delightful new book, Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes:

I just finished reading Ann Margaret Lewis’s book Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes. A collection of three stories, it is a delightful, enjoyable read from start to finish, beautifully written with characters who are familiar yet unique in the setting of this book. Lewis captures well the essence of the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books.

To read the rest of the review, click on the link below:

copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Interview on My Catholic Blog

I recently answered some questions for a great, informative blog called “My Catholic Blog.” Here is the interview, in part:

Ellen, you cover a LOT of pertinent, relevant topics for 2010 in these books. In your book, “In Name Only” you seem to have a terrific grasp of historical settings. Tell us, were you a history student? Why did you choose 1870 Philadelphia as the setting for this story?

I was not a history student but I have always loved history. In particular, I find Victorian history fascinating because it was during this period that history was able to be captured photographically. I have a book on the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 (which took place in Philadelphia) with many photos. Several years ago, I was daydreaming about attending the exhibition and what it must have been like in 1870′s Philly. I thought it would make an interesting setting for a fictional story so I quickly jotted down an outline and within a year or so completed my first draft.

To read the rest of the interview click here:

NFP: No Holding Back

The total physical self-giving would be a lie if it were not the sign and fruit of a total personal self-giving, in which the whole person, including the temporal dimension, is present: if the person were to withhold something or reserve the possibility of deciding otherwise in the future, by this very fact he or she would not be giving totally.
JP II, Familiaris Consortio, On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World

After waiting for three years to be married (and to have sex), I greatly anticipated our marital consummation. In my mind, we would, of course, use birth control. I never really considered that James would be against that. The way I saw it, it was a totally different issue. At that time in my life, even though I was Catholic, I didn’t know anyone who believed that birth control was wrong (except perhaps the Pope).

Since we were carrying on a long distance relationship at the time, I brought the topic up for discussion about six weeks before our wedding, during one of our biweekly phone calls. I shared with my then fiancé that I wanted to be fitted for a diaphragm. He was silent for a moment, so I asked, “Is there anything wrong?”

“Well, yes,” he answered. “I had always hoped that we wouldn’t use birth control.”

He gently tried to explain his reasons, but I wouldn’t listen. I felt like he was making a big deal out of nothing. After all, I thought, doesn’t everybody use some form of birth control?

This actually started our first fight in over three years of dating. We were teenagers when we first met and James was only 18 when we were engaged. “Well, if we aren’t going to use birth control,” I said, “and we’ve already decided that we need to wait a few years before having kids, what are we going to use?”

He answered, “I know someone who uses Natural Family Planning.”

“Natural Family Planning? Isn’t that rhythm?” I knew a lot of people who had used the rhythm method, with little success. “I don’t think so,” I replied.

At the time, it seemed like James was splitting hairs. After we ended the phone call, we continued writing back and forth. What worried me was when James wrote, “I’d rather have sex once a month with no birth control than every day with birth control.” I remember thinking, What planet is he from?

Later, I received a letter in which he said the following: “When I think of me using a condom, it means that I’m actually holding back a part of myself. And if you were using a diaphragm or the pill or something, you would be keeping a part of yourself from me. When we give ourselves to each other, it should be a total gift, not a partial one.” As we exchanged letters, I began to see that this whole issue was connected to the pre-marital sex issue. In the end, I decided to trust my future husband.

We took an NFP class, but I still wasn’t convinced. In fact, it took me (a rather stubborn person) six months to see that NFP had an extremely positive impact on our relationship. I saw that it helped us to keep the romance in our marriage and it truly preserved our unity. I became more aware of my body. I didn’t feel used (on the contrary: I felt loved.) I found that NFP was as effective in avoiding pregnancy as most other methods of birth control, and with no physical side effects. And…that it works effectively to plan a pregnancy as well. After 28 years (and five children), passion and romance are still very much a part of our marriage.

We have now been certified NFP teachers for the Couple to Couple League for 26 years and currently have a virtual online NFP class scheduled for Monday evening, September 27. Email me at for more information or leave a comment below.

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

The Admiral’s Daughter by Tom Milton

My recent review of The Admiral’s Daughter by Tom Milton at Catholic

“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” is certainly true with this novel by Tom Milton. If I were in a book store trying to figure out which book to buy, this certainly would not have caught my attention because it is very plain. As an author myself, presentation is everything. For a book of this caliber, I believe it deserves a better, more professional looking cover.

Once I started reading, however, I was quickly caught up in the story, which takes place in 1962 at the height of the civil rights movement. The protagonists, Kristy (the admiral’s daughter) and Nathan, a writer, meet each other in the first pages of the novel when Kristy is being accosted by ruffians. Predictably, Nathan comes to her rescue as a sort of knight in shining armor and they immediately begin a romance.

To read the rest of the review:

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Divorce, Deterrents and Deception

“Married love is also faithful and exclusive of all others, and this until death,” Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical “On Human Life.”

Faithful and exclusive until death. These are the hallmarks of married life. Unfortunately, divorce rates have skyrocketed since the early 1900’s. (In 1910, the divorce rate was one in ten…it is now one in two.)

It is no surprise that the number one cause of divorce is adultery. Adultery is not new to the 21st century. However, the original proponents marketed birth control as a “happy marriage builder.” Unfortunately, 100 years later, the opposite appears to be true.

Click on the link to read the rest of my new column at Amazing

copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach