7 Quick Takes Friday – Favorite Lent and Easter Movies

Join me and other Catholic bloggers at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

This week, I’d like to share seven of my all-time favorite Easter and Lent movies.

1. The Passion of the Christ   This is one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen.  Jim Caviezel is outstanding as Christ. Mel Gibson’s direction is superb. Our family watches this every year on Good Friday, although I still can’t stomach the scourging scene.
2. Ben Hur I’ve seen this movie about 100 times, but still enjoy watching it. Ben Hur won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1960 in addition to ten other Oscars.

3. The Robe I watched this movie every year with my father when I was growing up. It’s the story of the man who takes charge of Jesus’ cloak after the crucifixion. Great writing, acting and characters.

4. King of Kings  As a child, I loved watching Jeffrey Hunter’s portrayal of Jesus.   Outstanding movie.

5. Jesus Christ Superstar  There are some who don’t like this movie because of the way it portrays Mary Magdalene, not to mention the portrayal of Jesus. However, I look at this movie as pure entertainment and not so much as a religion lesson.  I have wonderful memories of watching this movie with my mother, who enjoyed the music and dancing.

6. Easter Parade I love an old-fashioned musical and this is a great one to watch around Easter. Judy Garland and Fred Astaire are at their best. Again, pure entertainment.

7.  The Ten Commandments  This was one of the first videos we ever bought many years ago.   The special effects of the parting of the Red Sea are still  incredible to watch.   Charlton Heston plays Moses to perfection (“Let my people go”) and Yul Brynner is the evil Pharaoh.

Do you have any favorite Easter/Lent movies?  Feel free to share in the comment section below.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

Copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach

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Remembering Mom on Her Birthday

In honor of my mother’s birthday today (she would have been 78), I’d like to re-post my tribute to her from last year. Also, recently, I posted a 7 Quick Takes about the contents of her special box here.

Like most of us, Mom wasn’t perfect, but in many respects, she was a great example. When she became pregnant at age 47, her doctor insisted that she have an abortion. She refused and several months later, gave birth to my youngest sister. I am grateful for the many years I had with Mom, but I miss her very much.

In her memory, I’d like to share the eulogy I gave at her funeral reception five years ago:

Eulogy for Betti Power – August 14, 2007

Wife, mother, sister, grandmother, mother-in-law, stepmother, sister-in-law, aunt, cousin, friend. She was Betti (with an i).

To us, she was simply “Mom.”

She was witty, loving, generous, giving, unselfish.

She enjoyed her grandchildren (at right, with my son, Adam, 15 years ago), transcribing (and was the fastest typist I know). She loved surprising people, visiting Canada, talking on the phone, doing crossword puzzles, reading. Her favorite music was West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar, Abba and Fleetwood Mac.

Upon meeting Mom, most people immediately felt comfortable with her and she would often strike up conversations with people she didn’t know.

She cherished having a new baby when she was 47 and all that came with it: being a lunch mother, taking Laurie to dance lessons and Catholic school.

Mom was a proud graduate of Hallahan High School (class of ’51).

She loved Christmas shopping and would begin in July and be finished before November.

She enjoyed watching television and her favorite shows were the Sopranos, Law and Order, Price is Right, ER, Magnum PI and All in the Family. One of her favorite movies was “Titanic” and she would watch the DVD every few months.

She used some unique sayings: “God willing and the Creek don’t rise.” When asked if she could speak French, she would reply, “Sure, I can. Chevrolet, bouquet, Bon Ami.” When one of her kids was misbehaving, she would say, “I’m gonna drop kick you across Center Avenue.” Whenever I stood next to her, she would always say, “El, are you standing in a hole?” If we referred to her as “she” and not “Mom,” she would say, “Who’s she, the cat’s mother?” Whenever anyone asked how she was doing, she would reply, “Well, I’m still on this side of the grass, so I guess I’m doing fine.”

Mom described herself as an “independent,” but hasn’t voted for a Republican candidate since Eisenhower.

Whenever someone in the hospital or at home would ask if they could get her anything, she would almost always reply, “Tom Selleck.”

When asked what the most memorable days of her life were, she replied, “My wedding days and the days I gave birth to my five children.”

Mom was a fighter, not necessarily aggressive, but she’s had to survive some pretty challenging experiences: her first husband’s (my father’s) emotional breakdown; kidney failure when she was 33 which led to the removal of one of her kidneys and caused her to drop to 80 lbs (at five foot six, made her a walking skeleton); becoming a widow at 44; and, most recently, having to deal with COPD and emphysema over the last ten or so years. When she first became critically ill in 2004 and lapsed into unconsciousness, the doctors told us there was no hope for her, to take her off of life support. Instead, she eventually woke up. She finally came home after eight months of hospitalization to the new normal: oxygen machine, nebulizer treatments, myriad pills and medications. Although it was an uphill battle, she has always had a strong will to live.

Finally, in April, the doctors told Mom that there wasn’t much more they could do for her and that she would be sent home on hospice care. Upon arriving home, she asked my brother, “I’m coming home to die, right?”

Whenever any of us helped to take care of her, she always thanked us profusely, whether it was for emptying her commode chair, making her breakfast or dinner or a snack of a soft pretzel or an ice cream cone. She often apologized for being a burden. I told her that it was a joy to help take care of her, to give back to her just a small portion of what she had given to me, and I know my stepfather and my siblings all feel the same.

Mom, we miss you. Requiescat in pace.

Photos and Text copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach

A High and Hidden Place Book Review


My latest review for Catholic Fiction.net is for “A High and Hidden Place.” This is the remarkable story of one woman’s quest to uncover her past. The novel begins in 1963 when 25-year-old journalist Christine Lenoir watches in horror as Lee Harvey Oswald is shot live on television. She begins to have flashbacks and vivid dreams about her life as a young child. Raised by religious sisters (Christine calls them “angel mothers”) in a convent in France, Christine is led to believe that her parents died of influenza. In actuality, she discovers that they and most of the residents of her hometown of Oradour were slaughtered by the Nazis one day in June of 1944.

This was not only a compelling read, but the author did an exceptional job with flashbacks and allowing the reader to know what happened long before Christine finds out herself.

The characters are well-developed, the dialogue believable, the setting real. While most of the characters are imperfect Catholics, there are also a few Jewish characters as well. I liked the way the author presents the religious sisters who, without hesitation, took in several of the young survivors of the massacre. In an effort to protect Christine and other girls, the nuns were less than honest in the information they gave the women when they became adults.

The flashbacks of that day are so well-described that I felt the confusion of the men and women as the SS Officers were rounding them up and taking them to the Catholic Church. I felt the dread as the women heard the gun shots of their husbands being brutally murdered. And, sadly, I felt the horror as the women and children tried to escape the fire and gunshots.

While the main characters are fictional, the story of 642 French civilians being massacred in Oradour in June of 1944 is tragically true. There has never been an explanation of why the Nazis murdered the town’s inhabitants of men, women and children.

Because of the subject matter, this is not an easy book to read, but it is a beautifully written novel and an extraordinary book. I highly recommend it.

Copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Stealing Jenny FREE Today and Tomorrow on Kindle

My third novel, Stealing Jenny, is FREE today and tomorrow on Amazon Kindle at the following link:
Stealing Jenny Kindle Edition

“After three heartbreaking miscarriages, Tom and Jenny Callahan are happily anticipating the birth of their sixth child. A neighbor, however, is hatching a sinister plot that will leave Jenny and her unborn baby fighting for their lives.”

Stealing Jenny has received some outstanding 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, Founder of CatholicMom.com and author of “A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms”

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, Traditional Catholic Novels.com

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. As a fan of Ellen Gable’s already, I’m now officially getting a tee-shirt!Sarah Reinhard, author, “Welcome Baby Jesus: Advent and Christmas Reflections for Families” and “Welcome Risen Jesus”

Another powerful novel from a favorite author that I highly recommend to all suspense readers, especially those who appreciate not only exceptional storytelling, but the depth and meaning in a novel whose creativity is so perfectly intertwined with its spirituality. Krisi Keley, author, “On the Soul of a Vampire,” and “Pro Luce Habere”

“Stealing Jenny is a uniquely Catholic story which contains themes of faith, love, hope, forgiveness, healing, and strongly emphasizes pro-life values. It is a book that provides high quality entertainment, while at the same time, reminds one of what is most important in life: faith and family. I highly recommend it.”
Jean Heimann, Catholic Fire

Stealing Jenny is a real page turner of a novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat till the end. I began reading it on a long train trip, and found myself wishing that trip would keep going so I could keep reading. Highly recommended reading.Christopher Blunt, author, Passport

“Stealing Jenny” has all the qualities of a keep-you-up-at-night thriller: high life-and-death stakes, three dimensional characters you care about, the clash of good vs. evil, and complications galore. I guarantee once you pick up this book it’s going to be a sleep-stealer.” Gerard Webster, author, “In Sight” and “The Soul Reader”

Stealing Jenny is FREE today and tomorrow on Amazon Kindle.

Sunday Snippets – March 25

Join me and other Catholic bloggers at RAnn’s Place for Sunday Snippets where we share posts from the previous week.

Here are my posts:

After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman’s Companion to Healing and Hope I contributed a story to this book on miscarriage by Karen Edmisten.

Lenten Pretzels My son and I made a batch of soft pretzels. They were delicious and were devoured by family members almost as soon as they came out of the oven.

7 Quick Takes Friday – The Contents of My Mother’s Special Box A poignant 7 Quick Takes about my late mother’s special box I found in the attic.

FREEBIE ALERT: My third novel, Stealing Jenny, will be available FREE on Amazon Kindle tomorrow and Tuesday.

Copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach

7 Quick Takes Friday – The Contents of My Mother’s Special Box

Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

FREEBIE ALERT! Before I get to my post today, I want to let readers know that my first novel, Emily’s Hope, is available FREE today and tomorrow on Kindle at the following link: Emily’s Hope Kindle Edition. My third novel, Stealing Jenny, will be available free this Monday and Tuesday, March 26th and 27th.

My 7 Quick Takes Friday post today is entitled “The Contents of My Mother’s Special Box.”

Last Friday, my two youngest sons and I spent the entire day driving from my hometown in New Jersey to our home here in Pakenham, Ontario. It usually takes anywhere from 9.5 to 12 hours, depending on traffic, how many stops we make and weather. We started the day with early Mass, a quick breakfast, then began our journey.

The previous six days had been a difficult, heart-wrenching time of sorting through my mom’s possessions. She passed away nearly five years ago, but since my stepdad and sister were still living in the house, there was no rush to go through her things.

Now that my stepdad is gone and my sister is a religious sister, my childhood home will likely be sold, so I made a special trip down to NJ to assist my siblings in going through her belongings.

When my siblings and I were children, my mother kept a flowered, maroon-colored box in her dresser drawer where she stored the special mementos of her life before and just after marriage. I couldn’t find it in the days after her death, so I asked my youngest sister and stepdad if they knew where it was. They both replied that they had no idea where it had gone.

Before I traveled down to NJ, I made a mental note to look for that box and, most importantly, to ask St. Anthony to help me find it. When I arrived at the house, I decided to search in the attic and through the many boxes of Christmas decorations my mom had bought and collected over the years. When I opened the second box, I gasped. Sitting at the top was my mom’s special box. “Wow,” I muttered. Then I said, “Thank you, St. Anthony.”

Here are seven of the items I found:

1. Wedding Night Receipt and Wedding Invitation. My mother was married to my father for 23 years before he died in 1978. I already had a copy of the wedding invitation, but I was thrilled to find the wedding night receipt.

2. Graduation Stole Mom was the first of her siblings to graduate high school. She was a proud graduate of Hallahan High School (Class of ’51).

3. A Booklet entitled “Senior Class Memories.” Inside this book were cards with classmates’ names and a page at the back for “Prom.”

4. Large Miraculous Medal Although I’m not certain, I think she received this either for her 8th Grade Graduation or her graduation from high school.

5. First Bank Book Before and just after she was married, my mom regularly deposited $10.00 per week (a lot of money in 1954).

6. Corsage and head piece from her graduation from St. Richard’s School in Philadelphia. (My mom is in the front row, center, with the corsage).

7. Finally, there was a small booklet entitled “To the Graduate,” that Hallahan HS gave to all graduates. At the front of the book, a message to the graduates. The very last page has a prayer called “Our Lady’s Blessing” that I’d like to share:

May the Light of the Countenance
of my Little Child
ever shine on you.

May the perfection of His actions
be seen in all your works,
that nothing may be found
at the last day
but that for which you may be
rewarded.

May His Sacred Heart
be your Refuge
when beset with temptation and
tried by affliction.

May you enter the Divine Heart of
Jesus through the pierced heart
of your Queen and your Mother.
May your last hour be
your best hour and

May the Names of Jesus and Mary
seal your lips till we meet in Eternity.
Amen.

I miss my mother every day and I’m so grateful to have found her special box.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

Copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Lenten Pretzels

I am originally from New Jersey, so Philadelphia soft pretzels were a common snack both at home and at school when I was growing up. Soft pretzels, however, are a rare commodity up here in Canada.

After reading about the history of pretzels in Kathleen Basi’s book, Bring Lent to Life, I decided to make this a Lenten project. Yesterday, my son and I spent the afternoon making soft pretzels. Twisting the dough just right was a bit of a challenge, but we were both pleased with how our first batch of pretzels turned out. They not only looked pretty good, they also tasted great!

According to some sources, the shape of pretzels was meant to illustrate arms crossed in prayer.

Years ago, during Lent, the faithful were called to abstain from meat, eggs, milk and butter. Pretzels were an ideal food to eat because it was free of these ingredients. We used a recipe similar to this recipe, except we did not use butter.

This link has more information about the history of the pretzel.

Text copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach
Photo copyright 2012 James Hrkach