Looking Closer at the Hail Mary

This year, author and blogger Sarah Reinhard hosted a series called “Looking Closer at the Hail Mary.” She asked 40 Catholic writers (myself included) to participate, taking one word of the prayer and writing a reflection on that word. She posted these reflections over a six month period of time. My post focused on the word “Now” and is included below:

“now” adverb
1.at the present time or moment.
2.without delay; immediately; at once.

Now has always been one of my favorite words. Procrastinators don’t like this word. As a wife, mother, NFP teacher, Marriage Preparation instructor and writer with numerous deadlines, I live this word daily.

My mother also loved the word “now.” One of her commonly-used expressions was “Now means now…not five minutes from now.” Of course, if you ask my kids, I also use this expression more often than they’d like.

“Now” means “without further delay.” Now I must change my baby’s diaper or his bottom will get a painful rash. Now I must feed my children or they will go hungry and become ill. Now, I must finish this post so that I can move on to the next deadline. Well, you get the drift.

The Hail Mary is a beautiful and powerful prayer. In the first part, we recite the words of the angel Gabriel, then those of Elizabeth. In the second part, we are asking Mary to pray for us. And to pray for us Now.

Mary said yes to God immediately (without delay). She didn’t say “Maybe later.” She said, “Be it done to me according to thy word.” Mary nurtured and protected the unborn, then newborn, then child Jesus. She watched her son suffer in agony and die a brutal death and held his brutalized body in her arms after death. She knows intimately what it is like to watch a loved one suffer and die.

“Now and at the hour of our death.” Nineteen years ago next week, I had occasion to pray these words with desperation as I drifted in and out of consciousness in the back of an ambulance. I was weak, scared and in excruciating pain, the result of a tumor that was rapidly growing inside my abdomen and causing massive internal bleeding. At the time, I was the young mother of three small boys: 10 months, 3 and 5 years of age. I was afraid of dying but, more importantly, I didn’t want my little boys growing up without a mother.

“Now and at the hour of our death.” I prayed those words with such fervency because I realized that “Now” might very well be the same as “the hour of my death.”

In the back of that ambulance 19 years ago, the moment I prayed those words, I no longer felt afraid; I no longer felt concerned for my boys. It was as if all the worry and fear were stripped away and an all-encompassing peace permeated every cell, every artery, every muscle in my body. Most importantly, this peace filled and comforted my troubled soul. I sensed a presence around me, almost cradling me. It happened so quickly that it took me by surprise.

Obviously, I did not die that day. But I caught a glimpse of death and a glimmer of heaven….I asked for help Now because I needed it immediately. Jesus and His Blessed Mother were (and are) dependable and work quickly.

Now is a good time to take stock in our spiritual life. Now is a good time to take care of our bodies, our minds and, most importantly, our souls.

And I know, without a doubt, that when it is my time to return home to heaven, Mary will be there with me, at that exact moment, praying that her Son gives me that all-encompassing grace I need for the journey home.

Photos copyright 2012 Josh Hrkach
Text copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach

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7 Quick Takes Friday – July 27

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

1. 33 Years!
Today is the 33rd anniversary of my husband and my first date. I know my husband doesn’t keep track of this “anniversary,” but…well, I do. It’s hard to believe it’s been that many years.

2. Great Adventure
We’re down here in New Jersey visiting with relatives. Special thanks to my sister-in-law, who took three of my kids and her own kids to Great Adventure yesterday and, judging from the many texts I got from them, they had a great time.

3. Funny Homily Story
I wanted to share a funny homily story that the priest told at daily Mass the other day, one that illustrates how our actions often speak louder than our words. A man was driving a car and he came to a yellow stop. Instead of rushing through the intersection, he slowed then stopped. The woman in the car behind him slammed on the breaks and got out of the car and started screaming and yelling at the man because he had stopped and she had expected to make it through the yellow light. A police officer was nearby and arrested the woman, who was taken to jail, fingerprinted and detained for sometime. Finally, after an hour or so, the police officer returned and told the woman that there had been a misunderstanding and she was free to go. The woman was perplexed. Why was there a misunderstanding? The policeman explained: “Well, on the back of your car were a “Choose Life,” “Pray the Rosary,” and “Follow me to Mass” bumper stickers…I was sure that you had stolen the car.”

4. Avgolemono SoupThe other day I had the extreme pleasure of tasting a unique and flavorful soup called Avgolemono Soup, a traditional Greek Chicken and Lemon soup. Here’s a recipe for Avgolemeno Soup I found online. This is my new favorite soup.

5 NFP Awareness WeekNFP Awareness Week continues. Try to tell at least one other person about NFP! Click here to learn more about Natural Family Planning.

6. Chaplet of Divine Mercy
I love reciting the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Most days, I offer this chaplet for a person who will die that day. It’s a beautiful prayer. To learn more about it, check out EWTN’s website.

7. Jump Squirrel Jump
For those of you who didn’t read about my “squirrel adventure,” check out Monday’s post.

Copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach

In Name Only FREE on Kindle Today and Tomorrow

My second novel, In Name Only, is FREE today and tomorrow on Kindle. In Name Only won the Gold Medal in Religious Fiction in the 2010 IPPY Awards and has been a Top Five Amazon Kindle Bestseller in Religious and Liturgical Drama for seven months.

Reviews for In Name Only:

“If you love romance but hate smut, pick up this beautiful story and let it carry you away. The characters are believable, layered, human and humorous even in the midst of tragedy. The reader never loses hope and is rewarded on every page with little gems of character behavior, dialogue, plot twists and romantic intrigue. I was so very sorry when it ended!” Lisa Mladinich, author

“ …conveys the beautiful Catholic teachings on conjugal love, and shares both a pro-life story and a conversion story.” Jean Heimann, Catholic Fire

“There are so many things I love about this book. The book is a very enjoyable read, neither predictable nor formulaic.” Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller

“There aren’t too many historical romance novels that appeal equally to men and women, but Ellen Gable pulls it off admirably with IN NAME ONLY. My wife read the novel first — and kept telling me “You HAVE TO read this book!” — while at the same time not allowing me to pry it from her fingers until after she finished it. Once I started IN NAME ONLY, I could see why. Ms. Gable is a talented writer who weaves several subplots throughout the story without ever straying from the main theme. Highly Recommend!” Gerard Webster, author, In-Sight

To download this for FREE today or tomorrow, click the link below:
In Name Only Kindle Edition

Jump Squirrel Jump…or Why I Love My Husband

We live in the country, so it’s not unusual for us to have mice or other rodents sharing the house with us. Many years ago, we discovered a family of eight snakes living between the concrete wall and the Styrofoam insulation in our basement storage room. In the past few years, squirrels have eaten their way through our screens so they could help themselves to fruit on our table and counter. We’ve even had a few ‘runaway’ birds loose in our house.

But nothing prepared me for what I experienced last week. I got up in the morning and stepped down the two stairs into our master bathroom. Then I lifted up the toilet seat. To my surprise, out jumped a squirrel!

I did what any normal woman would do: I screamed and ran over to the bed. When my husband asked me what was wrong, I told him that a squirrel just jumped out of the toilet and was currently running around our bathroom. He immediately got up to check out the situation. The squirrel, just having jumped out of the toilet and knowing that the toilet was not freshly flushed, James realized there would be a huge mess to clean up. And …there’s no door on the bathroom since it leads to our bedroom. So with quick thinking, he had me and a few of our boys hold up a blanket at the doorway in order to keep the squirrel (and the mess) confined to the bathroom. He then hurried outside to the window and cut a hole in the screen. The squirrel freaked out as my husband was cutting the screen, but as soon as the screen was open, the little fellow jumped quickly out the hole. (As he was jumping through the hole, I realized we’d lost our chance at getting a photo of him…hence the iStock photo above of a generic jumping squirrel).

We were stumped as to how the squirrel got into our toilet. At first, we wondered if he could have come in through the septic system. Unlikely, we were told by friends. Upon further investigation, we concluded that he must’ve squeezed in through a hole near the tub (behind the small staircase) in search of water in our current drought.

Back in the messy bathroom, who would’ve thought such a small creature would create such a huge mess? I had a few writing deadlines to meet, so I assured my husband that I would clean up the mess later. His response, “Don’t worry. I’ll clean everything up.”

Wow. Forget the flowers; forget the wining and dining, forget the chocolates. In that moment, “cleaning up the bathroom” was one of the nicest, most thoughtful things he could’ve done for me. My hero.

And the squirrel? We’re hoping he’s happily chomping on nuts outside of our house.

In the days after the incident, well…I was a hesitant to use the toilet, especially if the lid was down. So, my husband nailed a board around the hole so the little fellow (or any other small animal) could not get into our bathroom (or toilet).

Of course, I’ll never lift the lid of that toilet in such a carefree manner again.

Copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach
Photo from iStock

7 Quick Takes Friday – NFP Awareness Edition

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

This Sunday, Natural Family Planning Awareness Week begins. To celebrate, I’ll be doing an “all NFP” Quick Takes.

1. NFP Facebook Cover Photos
If you want to help promote NFP Awareness Week, “Living the Sacrament” has some great FREE images to download for your Facebook cover photo at this link.

2. Emily’s Hope
My first novel, Emily’s Hope, includes themes on NFP and the Theology of the Body. It’s available in print or on Kindle.

3. How an NFP-Using Woman Responds to Her Doctor’s Question: When Was Your Last Period?

cartoon copyright James & Ellen Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing

4. NFP Intimate Sharing

Cartoon copyright James & Ellen Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing

5. Learning NFP Online Taking NFP classes online has become not only a convenient way to learn NFP, but also to teach it. We are now teaching more couples in one class than we have previously taught in an entire year! To learn more about online NFP classes, here is the link to a recent article for Amazing Catechists called “NFP Goes High Tech.”

6. NFP is Safe, Healthy and Effective Natural Family Planning uses no devices, has no harmful side effects and is highly effective in avoiding pregnancy when a couple have a serious need to do so…and it also works well to assist couples in achieving a much-wanted pregnancy. This recent article from LifeSiteNews gives details of the harmful side effects of birth control.

7. Want to Save Money? NFP is the Cheapest Method of Birth Regulation

Cartoon copyright James & Ellen Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing

Copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach