Marriage: A Noble Purpose

“Blessed are you,
O God of our fathers;
praised be your name
forever and ever.
Let the heavens and
all your creation
praise you forever.
“You made Adam and
you gave him his wife Eve
to be his help and support;
and from these two
the human race descended.
You said,
“It is not good for the man to be alone;
Let us make him a partner like himself”
Now, Lord, you know that I take this
wife of mine, not because of lust,
but for a noble purpose.
Call down your mercy on me and on her,
and allow us to live together to a happy old age.”
Tobit 8:7

This beautiful prayer was the second reading of our Nuptial Mass in 1982 when my husband and I were married. When I first read these words many years ago, they affected me deeply, especially when I learned the history of why Tobias said this prayer.

After losing seven husbands before she could consummate her union with them, Sarah entered into marriage with Tobias. Tobias knew the history and understood that he could die if he married her. But he trusted God, recited the above prayer fervently and went on to a happy marriage with Sarah.

Nowadays, many Catholic couples live together or are sexually active before marriage. As much as they may desire to love one another – and most, I’m certain, really do feel love and affection towards the other – they cannot love each other in the way they are called to: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully, truly loving as God loves. Sexual relations are meant to be the renewal of a couple’s marriage vows. If there is no marriage, there are no vows and there can be no renewal. Essentially, pre-marital sex is a lie.

I realize that this may not be an easy thing for engaged couples to hear, especially if they are already living together. But if a couple wants to be close to each other and to God, it is essential for them to live the truth of God’s laws on marriage: chastity before marriage and no contraception within marriage.

“God help us to love each other freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully. Help us to love and not to lust.”

Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach

“This is the Day” Catholic TV Interview

I am scheduled to appear via Skype on Catholic TV’s “This is the Day” program tomorrow, January 21st at 10:30 a.m. You can watch it via Live Streaming here: Click on the “Watch Catholic TV Live” link in the upper right-hand corner.

Or watch it in the archives:

Hope For Infertility

Excellent article from LifeSiteNews:

OTTAWA, Ontario, January 17, 2010 ( – Infertility has approached epidemic levels in Western countries. In 2002, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that 7.3 million women suffered from infertility in the country, about 12% of the reproductive-age population. Many of these millions are sped along to IVF doctors; robbed of the joys of natural procreation, they are often slated to endure years of heartache as they strive unsuccessfully for a child.

Pierre and Heidi Desrochers of Ottawa were one of those couples. Married in 2005, the young pair learned in October 2007 that Heidi suffered from advanced endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes, and possible polycystic ovarian disease. They were told their chances of conceiving and bearing a child were slim.

The couple was referred in December 2007 to the Ottawa Fertility Centre, which specializes in assisted reproductive technologies. The doctor told them IVF was their only option.

“It was really difficult for us to believe that a conclusion could be drawn just after one surgery, without conducting any other tests,” said Heidi. “We still didn’t understand the cause of my infertility.”

Convicted against IVF by their Catholic faith, they were unsure where to go. “We didn’t have any other option at that point,” she said. “We basically felt abandoned by our doctors, and we were really grieving not being able to have a child. It was a deep emotional pain.”

In the midst of their struggle, the Desrochers were introduced to the new reproductive science NaProTechnology. A natural, fertility-care approach to women’s health, the method was developed by Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers of the Creighton University School of Medicine based on thirty years of research into the woman’s fertility cycle.

The Desrochers began consulting with a NaPro doctor at the Marguerite Bourgeoys Family Centre in Toronto, and were sent down to Nebraska for surgery with Dr. Hilgers, who has pioneered specialized microsurgical techniques to heal women’s reproductive systems.

Only one month after the surgery, Pierre and Heidi conceived their “miracle baby” Daniel Raymond Joseph Desrochers, who was born August 11, 2009.

To read the entire article:


Three Cups by Mark St. Germain, Illustrated by April Willy

Three Cups is a delightful children’s book which “teaches children from an early age the rewards of practicing a timeless, unique and effective method of personal financial management and charity.”

On his fifth birthday, the main character receives a present which his parents promise will “take him
on adventures.” When he opens the package, he finds three cups from the cupboard. Disappointed, he says, “Is this my present?” His mother tells him to open the envelope. His father then shares with him that they are going to start giving him an allowance. Each week they will help him figure out how much will go into the first cup for savings, the second cup for spending and the third cup for charity.

Weeks later, he realizes that his cups are becoming full. His parents take him to the local bank where he learns about interest and deposits. Soon, he finds that he’s able to buy a baseball glove with the money in his spending cup. His father reminds him that he has more money in his charity cup. Remembering that his school is collecting food for needy families, he takes his charity cup money and buys eight cans of soup for the needy families.

Asked which cup is his favorite, the boy can’t decide. As the youngster grows older, he eventually gets a job, continues to put money in each of the three cups. By the time he’s in high school, he has spending money, is able to help people through his charity cup and with the money in his savings cup/account, he is able to attend college.

The book ends with the boy (now a married father) giving his three cups to his five-year-old son, asking him “Are you ready for an adventure?”

In this difficult economy, I highly recommend this beautifully illustrated, delightful and educational book which can give parents and children a unique, interesting and reliable way to handle their money. A Parents’ Guide is included at the back of the book.

To purchase the book, click on the link:

Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Vatican Announces Beatification of Servant of God John Paul II

Last week, the Vatican announced the beatification of John Paul II, which will take place on May 1st, 2011.

John Paul II’s pontificate was an eloquent and clear sign, not only for Catholics, but also for world public opinion, for people of all colour and creed. The world’s reaction to his lifestyle, to the development of his apostolic mission, to the way he bore his suffering, to the decision to continue his Petrine mission to the end as willed by divine Providence, and finally, the reaction to his death, the popularity of the acclamation “Saint right now!” which someone made on the day of his funerals, all this has its solid foundation in the experience of having met with the person who was the Pope. The faithful have felt, have experienced that he is “God’s man”, who really sees the concrete steps and the mechanisms of contemporary world “in God”, in God’s perspective, with the eyes of a mystic who looks up to God only. He was clearly a man of prayer: so much so that it is from the dynamism of his personal union with God, from the permanent listening to what God wants to say in a concrete situation, that the whole of “Pope John Paul II’s activity” flowed. Those who were closest to him have been able to see that, prior to his meetings with his guests, with Heads of State, with Church high officials or ordinary citizens, John Paul II would recollect himself in prayer according to the intentions of the guests and of the meeting that was to come.

To read the entire announcement:

John Paul II is well-known for his writings on the “Theology of the Body.”

Catholic Mom Column, NFP: No Holding Back

My latest column on Catholic Mom is an updated blog post from many months ago entitled “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.” John Paul 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, that was a totally different issue from the pre-marital sex issue. At the time, even though I was Catholic, I didn’t know anyone who believed that birth control was wrong (except perhaps the Pope).

Since we were living 500 miles apart (with me in New Jersey and James in Canada), 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 wrote 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 to preserve the romance and unity in our marriage. 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 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. (My first novel, Emily’s Hope, is the fictionalized true story of our courtship and my conversion story.)

James and I have now been certified NFP teachers for the Couple to Couple League for 26 years. If you’re interested in NFP, email me at for more information or leave a comment below.

Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Whispers of My Heart

Yesterday, I wrote about the wonderful new friendship I’ve made with fellow Catholic writer, Elizabeth Schmeidler. Today, with her permission, I am sharing this beautifully moving poem she wrote after she experienced a miscarriage.

Whispers of My Heart

Oh, baby of mine,
born of my heart,
My little one, who has ceased to be…
I can hear your laughter on the playground at school.
Tell me, can you hear me?

Oh, dream left undone, oh, hope left unseen,
Whose angelic face
I long to see…
I feel your soft skin in the touch of a rose.
Tell me, can you feel me?

Oh life’s joy of mine, loved from the start,
Whose powder fresh scent I awaited…
I’ll draw a breath from the ocean to inhale your sweet fragrance,
Yet somehow still not be sated.

Oh, baby of wonder, whose life breath is gone,
Whose smile my heart longs to see…
I imagine its brightness is much like the sunshine.
Tell me, can you see me?

Oh, baby of love, sweet soul of the Lord,
Whose name is forever written,
In God’s ledger of love, life’s book of creation,
With whom my pierced heart is smitten.

Oh, baby of mine, I shall trust in the Lord,
I will seek Him for comfort and peace.
For your sweet soul He cradles in His arms of compassion.
Someday my longing will cease.

Oh, sweet child of mine, I humbly await,
The day when your eyes shall meet mine.
I will hold you and rock you, while I whisper, “I love you.”
Amid the love of the Power Divine.

Elizabeth J. Schmeidler ©2000

God himself will always be with them. He will wipe
every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no
more death or mourning or pain.

(Revelation 21:3,4)

Special thanks to Elizabeth Schmeidler for sharing her poem with us! And…if you leave a comment below before Monday, January 17th at noon, you will be entered in a draw to win Elizabeth’s CD entitled “Hope”

Here is the link to one of Elizabeth’s youtube videos:

and her website:

“Whispers of My Heart” copyright Elizabeth Schmeidler

21st Century Friendships

Back in the late 1970’s, I had an unusual hobby, one which led to me being introduced to the man I would eventually marry (and that story served as the basis for my first novel, Emily’s Hope). The hobby? Writing to pen-pals from all over the world.

So it’s not surprising that one of the things I appreciate most about the 21st century is how simple it is to make new friendships with those far away. Communication by Skype, email, chatting, texting and free long distance makes it easier than ever to communicate with those geographically distant. I have had the pleasure of making many new and lasting friendships through different online writers’ groups, Catholic websites and other virtual venues.

This happened recently when I “met” fellow writer, Elizabeth Schmeidler, through an online Catholic writers’ group and we began emailing back and forth. It became evident that we had much in common, so it wasn’t long before we were chatting on the phone. She soon ordered both of my books on Kindle.

After she read my first book, Emily’s Hope (which deals with pregnancy loss), she sent me a beautifully moving poem/song she wrote after her own miscarriage entitled “Whispers of My Heart.”

Tomorrow, with her permission, I will be sharing this poem with my readers, along with a chance to win Elizabeth’s CD entitled “Hope.”

Text and photo copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia

During the recent Christmas holidays, I spent a few days in Nashville, Tennessee, visiting my sister, who is a postulant with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia.

I immediately felt at home in the spacious, 19th century Motherhouse. Beautifully decorated for the season, I had the opportunity to meet many postulants, novices and professed sisters, who all seemed to radiate joy and love. I was especially pleased to speak to a sister who is also a certified NFP instructor!

Each day began with Lauds and Mass at the Motherhouse Chapel (newly built in 2005…and open to visitors), then visiting time from 9:30 to noon, noon prayers, lunch, visiting till 4:30, then evening prayer at 7:30 (again open to visitors). I felt welcomed and when we left, I looked forward to returning again. It truly felt like home. And…during visiting hours, we were given our own private parlor to visit privately with my sister.

The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia are one of the fastest growing orders in North America. They are a habit wearing, traditional order. They have also been featured in a beautiful documentary produced by Salt and Light TV.

copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach