Inspiration for Holy Week

This inspirational article by Catherine Doherty, entitled The Cross and Easter Morning is ideal for reflection as we approach the Paschal Triduum.

Tomorrow would have been my mother’s 79th birthday. I miss her very much. I dedicated a post to her a couple of years ago.

Finally, I’d like to share this beautiful video, Through Mary’s Eyes, created by my friend Elizabeth Schmeidler:

A Blessed Triduum and Easter!

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Sunday Snippets – March 24

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

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

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 64

Lent: A Sea of God’s Mercy by Catherine Doherty

Lent: A Sea of God’s Mercy by Catherine Doherty

Season of MercyThis excerpt is from Catherine Doherty’s book “Season of Mercy,” published by Madonna House Publications:

I was praying and it came to me that Lent is a sort of sea of God’s mercy. In my imagination Lent was warm and quiet and inviting for us to swim in. If we did swim in it, we would be not only refreshed but cleansed, for God’s mercy cleanses as nothing else does.

Then I thought of our reticence. I don’t know if it is reticence or fear to really plunge into God’s mercy. We really want to be washed clean; we want to be forgiven. But these desires meet with something else inside. I say to myself that if I do enter into the sea of mercy I will be healed, and then I will be bound to practice what Christ preaches, his law of love, which is painful, so terribly painful. There by that sea I stand and think: If I seek mercy I have to dish out mercy; I have to be merciful to others.

What does it mean to be merciful to others? It means to open my own heart, like a little sea, for people to swim in.

If we stand before God’s mercy and drink of it, it will mean that the Our Father is a reality, and not just a prayer that I say. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come…” We like that part and have no problem saying it.

But then we come to: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We shake our heads and say, “Yes, it’s Lent; it’s true we should be forgiving everybody.” But we don’t like trespassers. If strangers come to use our beaches we will say to ourselves: What are they doing here? Why do they come to our beach? It’s not easy to make of one’s heart a little sea of mercy for the other.

We should also be listening to God’s will. But we think: Wait a second! “Thy will.” What does that mean?

It means many things. For instance somebody is thinking of entering a convent and they say, “Well, I don’t know; I’m afraid. Maybe I won’t measure up.” Silly people! Of course they won’t measure up, but God will measure up for them. If he calls them, he’ll give them the grace. As we look at the will of God—to go to a convent or to marry or to just live in the world in the conditions of today, to submit oneself to somebody else—our hackles rise up against authority. To submit to the will of God would be to put our toe in the sea of God’s mercy.

Lent relentlessly moves on and shows us who we are—our true identity as Christians, what it means to be Christian.

The mercy that we must give to others includes that of standing up for the poor, the lonely, those who have no education and cannot stand up for themselves. It means to engage in what we call social justice on behalf of our sister and brother. That involves opening ourselves to being pushed around and crucified. This always happens to those who stand up for others. Do we want to go into the sea of God’s mercy, to be washed clean so that we begin to do the things of Christ?

What is this Lent all about? It is to go into some strange and incredible depths of ourself and there to meet the sea of God’s mercy and swim in it, having shed all garments, garments of selfishness and fear.

Take for instance the fear of ridicule. Christ said to St. Francis, “I want you to be the greatest fool that anyone ever saw.” Did you ever stop to think what an absolute foolishness Christ is? It borders on idiocy, not mental idiocy, but a sort of passionate foolishness. Just think of a human being letting himself be crucified for someone else—in this case for the world. How high can the foolishness of love go? How deep, how wide? That’s the foolishness he wants us to assume.

There was a little Franciscan brother, Juniper, who used to play see-saw with children; people thought it funny for a man to do that. He did it specifically so that people would ridicule him. Lots of saints went about being ridiculed. The Russian urodivoi—fools for Christ—loved to open themselves to ridicule. They wanted to play the fool to atone for those who call Christ a fool.

Those are extremes of people falling in love with God so totally that they desire ridicule. But what about us? Are we going to allow Lent to give us the Holy Spirit’s immense gift of fortitude? It is a gift that is little spoken of and is neglected. Fortitude is courage, the courage of our convictions. Christ said, “Who is not with me is against me.”

Lent is here to remind us that the mercy of God is ours, provided we embrace his law of love; provided we realize that it’s going to hurt, and hurt plenty, but that the very hurting will be a healing. That is the paradox of God, that while you hurt, you heal. That’s true healing.

The sea of his mercy is open before us. Lent definitely and inexorably leads us to it and makes us think about what it takes to swim in it. Lent also reminds us that each of our hearts can be a sea of mercy and forgiveness to others. This is a very great shortcut to God’s heart.

The Pass It On! articles are free to use under the terms of a Creative Commons License.

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 64

7_quick_takes_sm1Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at Jen’s Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

1. How Pope Francis Decided On His Name
This beautiful video clip of Pope Francis (telling the story of how he chose Francis) shows his humility, holiness and humor:

2. Five Little Souls in Heaven
My first published article (Nazareth Journal, 1995) was entitled “Five Little Souls in Heaven.” This article actually became the basis for my novel, Emily’s Hope.

image copyright 1995 Hrkach

image copyright 1995 Hrkach

3. Pope Francis Kisses, Blesses Disabled Man
Another beautiful video, this one of Pope Francis getting out of the Popemobile and kissing, then blessing a disabled man.

4. A Practical Physician’s Manual, 1888
There is no shortage of reading material from the 19th century. The Library of Congress has an extensive list of digitized antique books. I’ve been reading a physician’s manual from 1888 and I laughed out loud at the following: “A physician who needlessly hurts his patients is not likely to be very popular with them.”

5. A Subtle Grace – Update
Word count is now at 145,000 words and I’m rewriting three more scenes. In fact, I think I’ve rewritten about 80 percent of the entire book since Christmas.

6. Reading and Reviewing Shelf
My Confirmation Book by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle
Unseen by John Michael Hileman

7. “Kidding” Cartoon

image copyright 2011 James & Ellen Hrkach

image copyright 2011 James & Ellen Hrkach

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Stealing Jenny Free Today & Tomorrow on Kindle

Stealing JennyMy third novel, Stealing Jenny, will be FREE today and tomorrow on Kindle.

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

One line synopsis: Mentally unstable infertile woman kidnaps woman pregnant with sixth child.

“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

To download your Kindle copy for FREE, click here.

Sunday Snippets – March 17

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

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

It was an exciting week with the election of Pope Francis. The more I read about him, the more I love him. The Holy Spirit has given us a great gift with this Pope.

Here are my posts:

Want to Promote the Theology of the Body? Read and Recommend TOB Fiction!

Narrative Voice, Characterization and Reading to Improve Writing

Habemus Papam

7 Quick Takes Friday – March 15

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 63

7_quick_takes_sm1It’s Friday, which means it’s time to connect with Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes:

1. Habemus Papam
Lots in the news about Pope Francis so some of my QT will be about our new Pope. The more I read about him, the more I love him. Check out this article about how the new Pope is changing routines at the Vatican. Pope Francis is a man who is not only faithful to Church doctrine, he is particularly concerned about the poor. The Catholic Church is in good hands.Vatican_website-640x451

2. Pope Francis, in His Own Words
To read more about his thoughts on various topics, click here.

3. 10 Facts About the New Pope
10 Facts About the New Pope

4. The O’Donovan Family Saga Continues
Work continues on my novel, A Subtle Grace, the sequel to In Name Only. Kathleen O’Donovan, eldest daughter, is the main female protagonist in “A Subtle Grace.” As of 1896, when the novel begins, the O’Donovan children are listed in the O’Donovan Family Bible as follows: Kathleen Emma born 1877, William David born 1879, John Liam born 1879, Patrick Andrew born 1882, Kevin Michael born 1887, Timothy James born 1892. In the 19th century, the Family Bible served to be the information keeper for most families. It recorded marriages, births, deaths and, in some cases, baptisms. Here is the first page of an antique 1881 Douay Rheims Bible:$(KGrHqZHJBQFEf2EjsS7BRJyN57!f!~~60_12

5. This Week’s Research: Laudanum
Since one of the main characters in “A Subtle Grace” is a physician, I needed to research common drugs and pain medication of the 19th century. One of the most common was laudanum, which is a mixture of alcohol and opium. Strangely enough, laudanum/opium were both available for purchase in the 1897 Sears and Roebuck Catalog (see below). Here is Wikipedia’s information on laudanum.Laudanum

6. On My Reading Shelf
One Like Us by Jerome German
This Little Light of Mine: Living the Beatitudes by Kathleen Basi
Season of Joy by Virginia Carmichael

7. Dust Bunnies Cartoon

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Habemus Papam

Vatican_website-640x451We have a new Pope! Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina has become Pope Francis after being elected the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church.

To find out more about our new Pope, LifeSiteNews has an informative article entitled “9 Things You Should Know About Pope Francis.”

Like many people around the world, I watched the events unfold on television. I was surprised — and pleased — with his choice of the name “Francis” and I was deeply moved by his humility.

Join me in praying this prayer for the Pope Francis.

Narrative Voice, Characterization and Reading to Improve Writing

books for blogMy latest post at the CWG Blog:

Novelists should always be willing (and eager) to improve their craft. Writing fiction is difficult and complex because of the many complicated aspects (narrative voice, writing style, imagery, plot lines, characterization, setting etc).

Whether you’re a bestselling author or an aspiring novelist, one of the best ways to improve your writing is by reading well-written novels. Read books and dissect them. Ask yourself, What makes this particular novel great? What makes it not-so-great?

William Faulkner once said, “Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write.”

Currently, I read at least 100 books a year, mostly novels. I enjoy immersing myself in a compelling story with believable, relatable characters, rich imagery. These are the types of novels I aspire to write.

I read at night before bed and often first thing in the morning. I read manuscripts that are submitted to my publishing company. I enjoy a variety of contemporary novels and often read a classic or two here and there.

When I was a newbie, my editor recommended I read several books, then asked me to figure out what each book’s strength was. The first novel on the list was a book entitled “Picture Perfect,” by Jodi Picoult. (Spoiler alert) It’s a novel about spousal abuse. Picoult brilliantly creates an abusive – yet sympathetic – husband. So much so that when the abusive husband is begging his wife to return, I said out loud, “Oh, give the poor guy another chance.” I eventually came to my senses, but I realized that it was the author’s brilliant characterizations that made me want the abused wife to return to her abuser.

The following list is recommended for helping with character studies and narrative voice. It is, by no means, definitive. There are literally thousands of great novels with excellent characterizations.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (I own a hard copy but downloaded this on Kindle for .99). This has remained my favorite book of all time and I read it every few years. Mitchell only wrote one novel but it is the quintessential novel, especially if you’re writing romance. This book has the whole package: excellent, crisp writing, compelling story, intricate, believable and brilliant character studies. (More on the “Whole Package” novel in my next post.)

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult: The winner of numerous awards, this novel is filled with brilliant character studies and narrative voices. The movie version was okay, but the book is much better (although like most of Picoult’s books, the ending is unexpected).

The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Conner: Just pick any of the short stories in this thick book and you’ll learn from O’Connor, who was a master of crisp, edgy writing and excellent characterizations.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh: A classic. Brilliant characterizations.

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather: (read my review here) Also a classic.

The Lottery (short story) by Shirley Jackson (available free online) Excellent character studies.

Jewel by Bret Lott: This novel’s strength is the main female protagonist’s believable, moving, well-developed character.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway: This is my personal favorite of Hemingway’s novels. In this atypical war romance, I think the author’s strength is in the characterizations of the two main characters. I saw the movie with Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones first, but the book captures their characters better than the movie. (Currently .99 on Kindle)

Do you have any favorite books or short stories that are strong in narrative voice and characterization? If so, please feel free to comment below.

Next month: The Whole Package and Reading Books that encompass great characters, unpredictable compelling stories AND rich, crisp writing.

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Want to Promote Theology of the Body? Read and Recommend a TOB Novel!

Full Quiver logoOne of my favorite ways to promote the Theology of the Body is to recommend novels with a great TOB message. My publishing company publishes novels with Theology of the Body themes.

Speaking of novels we publish, our company has recently signed a contract with author Erin McCole Cupp to publish her suspense novel, “Don’t You Forget About Me!” We look forward to working with you, Erin!

Want to learn more about the Theology of the Body? Interested in promoting it? This list is not all-inclusive…and pardon the shameless self-promotion of my own TOB books… (Note: not all of these books have been published by Full Quiver Publishing.)

The Mystery of Things (Debra Murphy)

Emily’s Hope (Ellen Gable)

In Name Only (Ellen Gable)

Stealing Jenny (Ellen Gable)

Passport (Christopher Blunt)

Angela’s Song (AnnMarie Creedon)

Fatherless (Brian Gail)

Lessons in the Journey (Patrick Dawson)

Do you have any favorite TOB novels to add? Please feel free to comment below!

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach