7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 69

7_quick_takes_sm1It’s Friday again so time to join up with other Catholic bloggers at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

1. Google Translate
There are so many reasons to love living in the 21st century. Google Translate is one. I have used this on many occasions and although it’s not perfect, it is pretty close.

2. 35 Years
Hard to believe that it’s been 35 years since my father died suddenly on April 22nd, 1978. This photo was taken in 1977. Earlier this week, I was thinking of the time he took me to the new Vets Stadium to see the Phillies game, just the two of us. The curious kid I was, I asked so many questions, the poor man probably couldn’t enjoy the game. Requiescat in pace, Dad…

photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

3. Blessed John Paul II’s Journey to Sainthood
According to the Vatican Insider, John Paul II’s journey to sainthood might sooner than later.

4. Spring Kayaking in Canada
My husband greatly anticipated getting out in his kayak again and has been waiting patiently for the ice to clear away. But…although most of the ice was gone, he discovered this large patch which prevented him from paddling any further in that direction.Ice Paddling

5. A Subtle Grace Progress
I’ve been working hard implementing suggested edits for this draft. I would say the novel is 80% finished, so hopefully we’re still on track for an end-of-year release. ASG sm

6. Reading Shelf
Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood by Pat Gohn

7. Cease Fire (Classic Cartoon)

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

I Believe: The Creed and You by James Forsyth

I Believe The Creed and YouMy recent review for The Catholic Register:

In this Year of Faith, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has encouraged Catholics to learn more about what they believe. What better way to do this than start with the basic prayer of our beliefs, the Creed.

Have you ever said a prayer without feeling or conviction, perhaps because it’s an ancient prayer? James Forsyth has written a book that will help Catholics recite the Apostles’ Creed meaningfully.

“Faith is man’s response to God, who reveals Himself and gives Himself to man, at the same time bringing man a superabundant light as he searches for the ultimate meaning of his life,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Forsyth challenges us to take the Creed and make it ours personally. To do so we must first understand it better. This, I believe (pun intended), is the purpose of this useful and timely new book.

Like the Creed itself, this book should be read carefully and reflectively. In this way, the reader can more fully understand the faith as “he searches for the ultimate meaning of his life,” and how to personally live faith as a response to God. Forsyth uses two guiding principles in explaining the Creed. First, the idea of “the reciprocal relationship between human nature and divine grace,” from Thomas Aquinas.

Simply put, “the more fully human we become, the better equipped we are to respond to the grace of God.” The next step is “the more we respond to the grace of God, the more fully human we become.”

Secondly, Forsyth asserts,“the principle of the analogy of being between the human and the divine…” that “we can understand something about God by examining our human life and experience.” The more we understand these principles, the better our response — and faith — can be.

For Forsyth, belief has consequences. “I believe, therefore I am a somebody,” he writes.

“For all of us, the Creed is a voice that is well worth listening to. Of all the voices vying for our attention, the Creed tells us, at the most fundamental level, who we are and how we should live, what we should do and what is important. The Creed gives us as believers an identity,” argues Forsyth. Now, more than ever, with secularism, its subjective truth and a lack of the sense of sin, Catholics need this sense of identity.

Connecting our beliefs to our experience can improve our understanding of the Apostles’ Creed, as well as our Catholic faith.

“We must take personal responsibility for our belief in God and our personal belief in God implies that we are making God the most important thing in our lives,” he writes.

The new evangelization challenges us not only to learn more about our faith, but to share our faith. While we can try to understand in an academic way, it is only when we apply our faith to our personal lives (as a response to God) that we begin to live it. Lived faith is always shared with others.

Readers of I Believe: The Creed and You will never recite the words of the Apostles’ Creed without thinking of the importance of the Catholic faith in their lives. It is an ideal and timely book for this Year of Faith.

The Lion’s Heart by Dena Hunt – Review

lions-heartMy latest review at CatholicFiction.net:

When I was first asked to review this book, I immediately went to Amazon to read the (very) short summary. Needless to say, I was tentative and doubtful that this would be the type of novel I would want to read…until I perused the reviews from faithful Catholics such as author Joseph Pearce, Bernardo Aparicio, publisher, and Rev. Paul Check, Executive Director of Courage International.

Admittedly, my curiosity was piqued. Before reading this novel, I had never thought much about the struggles of Catholics with same sex attraction.

Paul Gonzalo Meyer is a cradle, non-practicing Catholic. He shies away in disgust at anything Catholic. He has spent most of his life in and out of casual homosexual relationships, especially staying away from long-term serious relationships with men because “sustained intimacy was not to his liking…he liked belonging to everyone, not just one person which is to say that he liked everyone belonging to him while he himself belonged to no one.” Paul is a charming man who gets along well with both men and women. Despite his selfish lifestyle, Paul is a likeable character.

Max (Allen Martin Maxwell Jr.) is a junior partner in a law firm in Atlanta which he describes as an “exceptionally dull but lucrative business.” He and his wife, Michelle, a beautiful blonde, were high school sweethearts who have been happily married for many years. They have two children, Jake, 15 (who lives away at prep school) and Roxie, 11. Michelle works at a local art gallery, Hunter’s. Max and Michelle are living the wealthy American dream.

Paul is hired as the new executive director of Hunter’s Art Gallery. Michelle invites the new director to dinner where he has the opportunity to meet her husband (Max) and daughter as well as Michelle’s parents.

Paul’s initial attraction is to Max and Michelle’s sense of family. Max offers to help Paul in setting up legal and financial arrangements for Paul’s Spanish grandmother, who is very elderly and is suffering from intermittent dementia. As the two men begin to work together, there is a growing mutual attraction. Max has “never had a response like this to anyone before, man, woman – or child. The near touch of Paul’s hand had left him feeling breathless.”

Paul realizes that Max has never experienced same sex attraction and being “in love” with another man. Thinking that Max might be confused, Paul delays the beginning of the affair. But Paul has his own growing attraction to Max and the two eventually enter into an adulterous affair. “Paul was happy – so happy that he believed he’d never really been happy before in his whole life.”

Their feelings are intense, passionate and the two are convinced it is not based only on physicality. Eventually, they declare their love for one another. This begs the question: “Can love ever be wrong?” Throughout the story, the characters (and reader) eventually discover an answer to this question.
During this illicit affair, Max and Paul undergo major transformations. At first, Michelle doesn’t notice the subtle changes in her husband’s behavior, but the differences soon become too obvious to miss.

Paul also grows to love Max’s family as his own. Eventually, through a series of life-changing events, Paul comes to understand the truth about love. The ending is unexpected.

About same sex attraction, the Catechism says (2358): They do not “choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.” (Emphasis mine).

Dena Hunt paints a realistic and multi-dimensional portrait of the challenges of same sex attraction, which is a controversial topic. This is an outstanding book, well-written, well-researched and deeply moving. Although I’m a faithful Catholic woman married to the same man for 31 years, I found myself identifying and empathizing with all the characters. The message of this book shines through beautifully without being preachy. I literally did not want to stop reading from the moment I began this book. The characters were so real that I felt like I knew them; descriptions were not over the top, but just right. I truly felt like I was experiencing the journey along with the characters.

This novel has what every great novel should have: beautiful writing with a compelling, moving story, well-defined characters, crisp setting descriptions, brilliant narrative voice and a strong moral message. Because of the mature themes, this book is appropriate reading for adults 18 and over. I highly recommend “The Lion’s Heart” and I look forward to reading future books by this gifted novelist.

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 68

7_quick_takes_sm1Friday means it’s time to connect with other Catholic bloggers for 7 Quick Takes Friday. This week, it’s at Camp Patton.

1. Amphibian Choir – Spring Has Arrived!
We know when spring has truly arrived: frogs start to croak in the swamp across the street. Each day, more frogs add to the amphibian choir. In fact, some days it’s so loud that the “choir” can be heard even with the windows closed. I remember when we first moved here 18 years ago, our oldest boys (then 8 and 5) could not sleep because the frogs were so noisy. Over the years, though, it’s become the official start of spring in our little corner of the woods. And, for me, the high-pitched sounds are music to my ears.

photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

2. Fossil, Fossils, Fossils
One of the great advantages of living on bedrock is that there are numerous fossils. This is one of the fossils embedded in our bedrock driveway.

photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

3. A Subtle Grace Update
This week, I researched Victoria guns and revolvers that would have been available in the late 1890’s. I don’t like guns, never have, but I found this research interesting. I watched a few videos on youtube and was amazed that many of the Victorian guns in existence today are still working.

4.Intersex Fish
Great article by Simcha Fisher called “So Long and Thanks for all the Intersex Fish,” about the impact that chemical contraception has on fish and an organic company who does not want to pay for their employees’ contraceptives.

5. Recipe – Banana Oat Cookies
I recently found this recipe on Pinterest. It is a no wheat, no sugar, no milk products, no eggs recipe. I made these the other night and they were right delicious out of the oven. They became rubbery as they cooled. But still very tasty. And…I do admit I added about two tsp of sugar to the mix because it needed a wee bit. Also, I baked them slightly longer than the recipe calls for.
Banana Oat Cookies:
Three mashed bananas (ripe)
1/3 cup applesauce (no added sugar)
2 cups oats (I used quick cooking)
1/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
(I added two teaspoons of sugar)
Drop on ungreased cookie sheet and flatten. Bake in pre-heated oven 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.cookies

6. Reading Shelf (Children’s Books)
The Locket’s Secret by K. Kelley Hayne
St. Francis and Brother Duck by Jay Stoeckl, SFO
Stout Hearts and Whizzing Biscuits (A Patria Story) by Daniel McInerny

7. Laundry Cartoon (Classic Cartoon)

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Growing Up in God’s Image Free Today Through Thursday

Cover for FBGrowing Up in God’s Image by Carolyn Smith is FREE today through Thursday on Kindle.

GROWING UP IN GOD’S IMAGE (A New Approach to the Facts of Life Talk) makes it easy for families to approach the topic of sexuality — mom to daughter, father to son, parent to child — especially for that first big talk on the facts of life. This book is about the beauty of growing up as a young woman or a young man. For teens, it provides positive answers through an understanding of sexuality as God intended from the moment He created it and when He later gave it to us as a sacrament through Jesus. For young and old couples alike, it gives a new appreciation of their own sacramental marriages. It is about family and the restoration of family life and love. It is about God’s plan for us. GROWING UP IN GOD’S IMAGE provides parents with gender specific sections, “How to Talk with Your Daughter” and “How to Talk with Your Son.” Both Carolyn and Jim (Carolyn’s husband who contributed the section for boys) provide actual words parents can use in this very important conversation. GROWING UP IN GOD’S IMAGE is an invaluable resource for parents wanting to give their children more than just a biology lesson.


“This book guides parents to gradually expand a child’s understanding of life beginning with how the love of family reflects the love of God. Teaching the facts of life fully demands including the spiritual. Caroline does a beautiful job explaining the physical changes that occur during puberty while including the responsibility to be true to God’s plan and purpose for our bodies. The life lessons are presented in clear language and will enrich not just the children, but the parents also reading this book as an aid.” Patti Maguire Armstrong, author

“Courageous, timely and beautifully sensitive. In a time when our children are bombarded by all the wrong messages about their bodies, here is a wonderful guide for parents to talk to their children about Godliness, their bodies and sex.” – Donna Piscitelli, children’s author.

“A useful guidebook for parents and a resource that’s sure to strengthen your family. Discard the dread of “the talk” and embrace the beauty of a faith-based approach. My copy’s sure to be dog-eared and passed along!” – Sarah Reinhard, author of Catholic Family Fun and SnoringScholar.com

“Smith has created a terrific resource….as I read this book, my overriding thought was how well it illustrates the deep roots and far-flung implications of Church teaching on marital sexuality.”
Kathleen Basi, author

“I thank Carolyn J. Smith for thoughtfully and prayerfully compiling a resource that will help parents in explaining the facts of life to their children by placing it within the context of our Faith and the Theology of the Body. Growing Up in God’s Image is a wonderful tool for any parent and I look forward to recommending it to the readers who visit our site.” Lisa M. Hendey, Founder and Editor of CatholicMom.com and author of A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms

“Growing Up in God’s Image should be in the parenting toolbox of every Catholic parent of tweens and teens to help guide those important and nerve- wracking conversations on human sexuality.” Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, writer

To read an excerpt, click here.

To download the Kindle book for FREE, click here.

A Garden of Visible Prayer (Margaret’s Day!)

Some of Margaret’s author friends have gotten together to promote “Margaret’s Day” at Amazon. Would you consider purchasing this book at Amazon? The link is here and below.

Have you ever wandered outside and wished you could find a place to just sit and pray, a garden space to find solace in the demands of today’s world? Do you desire to create a garden space that will help meet your spiritual needs? Have you wanted to create a memorial garden and not known how to begin?

A Garden of Visible Prayer shows you how to develop a contemplative outdoor space in a creative and systematic manner. Whether you are a new gardener or an old hand, wanting to create a public or a private retreat area, this book will guide you in a step-by-step approach to discern what leads you, personally, to a deeper sense of spirituality and then how to take that information to create your own outdoor space for prayer.

This book is unlike the beautiful glossy garden books that leave you hungry for a lovely landscape or the inspirational books on developing your faith that do not meet your need to experience prayer in nature. A Garden of Visible Prayer helps you feed both hungers for natural beauty and spiritual insight.

Set up in a systematic approach, this book breaks into three easily understandable units to create an outdoor retreat: discern, design, and development. In the discerning process you will establish what elements in a garden lead you to become quiet and introspective, fostering spiritual growth. The next section guides you in designing your prayer space; where to locate it, where to place the features you have chosen and how to select plants. There is also a section on Catholic traditions in the garden at the end of the book. The final chapters on development tell you how to install your garden based on your design.

Gardens are places of growth, not only for plants but for our souls as well. Creating an outdoor spiritual sanctuary, no matter how small, is now within every gardener’s reach.

(With thanks to the author for providing this summary!)

This is an ideal book for Mother’s Day or for the gardener in your life! It is currently reduced in price! Please consider purchasing a copy from Amazon!

The Book of Jotham – Review

book-of-jothamMy latest review for CatholicFiction.net:

The Book of Jotham is a unique and beautifully moving account of a mentally challenged man (Jotham) who becomes one of Jesus’s followers. What makes this book so unusual is that it’s written in the second person and is a fictional story of this man’s relationship with Jesus and the apostles. The narrative from Jotham’s point of view is filled with sentence fragments and (what appear to be) simple thoughts. I initially wondered whether it might be difficult to read, but I was pleasantly surprised. The writing style actually had a poetic feel to it.

The author takes us into what most people perceive as the “simple” mind of a handicapped person. Jotham is described as “big as a house, stupid as a donkey.” His mind, and the minds of other mentally handicapped persons, are not simple at all. At first glance, his thoughts seem to be simple, but they can also be complex, honest and insightful. The reader can bond easily with Jotham because Jotham sees truth more clearly than any supposedly normal intelligent man. It takes a tremendous amount of skill for an author to create a character like Jotham.

At the beginning of the story, Jotham tries to understand his mother’s death. The reader sees her death as “light fading away.” He leaves home and, because of his disability, is ridiculed. He eventually meets Jesus (the new light). I enjoyed experiencing the miracle of the loaves and fishes through Jotham’s eyes. Through this imperfect young man, we can see the light in Jesus’ disciples. But we can see darkness (in Judas and others) as well. The relationship between Jotham and Judas is extremely well done; the scene between these two characters after the crucifixion is particularly compelling.

I was easily drawn into the story. The characters are mostly ones with whom we are already acquainted: Jesus, the Blessed Mother, Mary Magdalene, Peter, Thomas, Judas. I especially enjoyed the moving interactions between Jesus and Jotham.

As a teenager, I volunteered at a local school for mentally disabled children, most of whom had Down Syndrome. Because of my short stature, I was assigned to the small children and babies. The toddlers were easy to love, often difficult to discipline, but I enjoyed caring for them because each had a gentle disposition. In this same way, Arthur Powers creates a thoroughly believable character in Jotham that readers will easily come to love.

It is ironic that in our wounded world, beautiful souls like Jotham are often aborted before birth. And yet these imperfect human beings have great potential for love, perhaps more than most “normal” human beings.

Brilliant character studies, interesting setting descriptions and beautiful writing all make The Book of Jotham an excellent and worthwhile read. It may be short (can be read in a couple of hours), but it is filled with well-developed characters and poetic prose. Although the story of Jesus and his apostles has been told and retold numerous times through Scripture, tradition, movies, books, plays and documentaries, this is a beautifully refreshing and unique version. I highly recommend this novella, which is only $2.99 on Kindle.