7QT – 7 Lenten Practices

seven-quick-takes-friday-2-1024x727Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at This Ain’t the Lyceum for 7QT Friday.

1. Fasting
This seems like a no-brainer, but too many of us don’t realize the importance of this ancient practice. Fasting doesn’t have to be just bread and water (since I’m gluten free, on fasting days, I don’t eat meat and eat less food). To find out more about fasting, check out Andy LaVallee’s book, From the Hub to the Heart and his website: http://livethefast.orgKindle small

2. Daily Mass
Although we live in a small community, we are fortunate that Daily Mass is available every day (not just during Lent).

3. Stations of the Cross
Most churches offer Stations at some point during Lent, usually on Fridays. If you’re doing the Stations on your own, this series of prayers and reflections was written by Mother Angelica.

4. Spiritual Reading
Daily Reflection booklets and websites like The Word Among Us and others are ideal for Lent. Also check out As Morning Breaks, a daily reflection e-book compiled by Lisa Hendey, with contributions from my fellow Catholic Mom contributors. Another wonderful reading for Lent is Working Mother, short fiction from Erin McCole Cupp.

5. Lenten Movies
Some of my favorites are The Passion of the Christ, Ben Hur, King of Kings, The Robe. passion of the christ

6. Confession
Attend the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently, not just during Lent! You can find a good examination of conscience here.

7. Daily Rosary
Again, this seems obvious, but reciting the Daily Rosary has many spiritual benefits.

photo copyright Ellen Hrkach

photo copyright Ellen Hrkach

8. DeCluttering
(I know this makes eight, but I can’t stop at seven!)
This might seem an odd thing to do during Lent, but it’s actually something I’ve done for many years. North Americans hold onto too many material possessions. If you haven’t used something in over a year and it doesn’t have sentimental value, consider giving it away.

Catholic Moms Online Conference Gains Popularity Over the Web

Catholic Conference 4 Moms BannerFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Tami Kiser, (864) 270-3410 CC4Moms@Yahoo.com

Greenville, SC (Feb. 10, 2015)—Catholic Mothers are excited about a free, online conference that will be held the March 6- March 9 at http://www.CatholicConference4Moms.com. Unlike other conferences, where mothers may have to drive long distances, give up some cash, and worse, arrange the logistics of a busy family with the matriarch missing—this one promises the ultimate in convenience. Not only is it free, but it is available on her own computer, tablet, or mobile device. Just a week after registration, over 1000 Moms have already joined.

Unlike other online seminars where the presentation is running live and you have to tune in at a certain time, these video presentations have been prepared far in advance. Organizer, Tami Kiser, gives the reason for this: “For most of us busy moms, it’s very hard to predict when we are going to have a chunk of time during the day to listen to a presentation. This online conference is different—for any given day of the conference, moms can pull up any of the presentations available that day at any time. She can even listen to part of the talk now and finish it later. With all of the presentations about 20 minutes, this makes it very convenient and actually doable.”

Michelle Shorter, parishioner of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville, SC, regularly listens to Catholic programs on her Iphone and computer during her housework and while running errands. She is excited about the wide selection of popular Catholic speakers. “I am always looking for ideas to help my family—when you start looking for materials, it can be overwhelming. I appreciate this incredible selection of speakers and topics combined in one location, so conveniently available.”

The presenters and topics are first-rate. Over 25 speakers are taking part of the conference, and the presentations range from “Managing Stress” to “Talking to Your Children about Sex” to “Family Meals.” Each presentation feels like a TED talk meets a Fireside Chat in that the speakers are experts in their field and passionate about their topics, but they come across as though they are speaking to each mom individually from her living room or kitchen table.

Uniting so many moms together from across the country was an exciting prospect that helped presenter, Stephanie Wood Weinert, decide to be a part of this project. “I love anything that can unite Catholic moms—especially moms from such diverse backgrounds and ages. We can all see that we have the same struggles, same hopes, and the same desires.” There are over 60 affiliates who have agreed to help support this conference. Most of these affiliates are Catholic mom bloggers—the lifeblood of Catholic moms who use the internet for support, inspiration, and education.

The Catholic mom bloggers make a conference like this possible. Because of their powerful role in ministering to Catholic moms, Tami Kiser, organizer of the CC4Moms, is hoping to help them. “After the conference is over, it will be available for sale. Not only will the affiliates be able to offer the conference at a discount price, but they will also make a profit on each conference that they sell. This money can go back into their ministries.”

But why would the conference be for sale? And why would anyone buy it? That’s easy. The conference can be used in a Mom’s group setting to help mom’s develop meaningful friendships and to support one another. Many of the speakers themselves during their presentations refer to the importance of developing these kinds of relationships with other moms. In fact, Susie Lloyd, award-winning author and speaker, does an entire presentation about Catholic friendship called, “Café Confidante-Why Women Need Girlfriends.” Blogging and Facebook may be helpful ways that moms connect, but nothing can replace a real, live meaningful relationship.

The conference will be bundled into a convenient package, including some bonuses like ebooks, podcasts, downloads, coupons, and discussions questions so that it can be used in a mom’s support group. This can be a parish support group with over 50 moms or for just 2 moms discussing it over a cup of tea.

The conference is free and will be online for those who have registered through the website, http://www.CatholicConference4Moms.com. The conference begins on Friday, March 6, the eve of the Feast of the Catholic mother martyrs Sts. Felicity and Perpetua and ends on Monday, March 9, the Feast of St. Francis of Rome. St Francis of Rome has this advice for mothers, “It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife. And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping” (Butler’s Lives of the Saints). The conference will be available to purchase afterwards at the website or at an affiliate Catholic mom’s blog or website.

End of Press Release

(Note: I’m one of the presenters at this online conference. I sent in a video presentation on “Responsible Parenthood or How I Came to Have Five Kids When the Doctors Told Us to Stop at Three.” As an affiliate blogger for this conference, I’ll also be giving out a coupon code to my blog readers to purchase the videos when they are available for sale.)

Register for the conference at this link: http://www.catholicconference4moms.com/register.html

7QT – 7 More Recommended Alternatives

seven-quick-takes-friday-2-1024x727On Tuesday, several bloggers and myself took part in a #ShowUsYourList campaign to offer reading that is good, true and beautiful. My post here at my blog focused on Theology of the Body Fiction. I also posted a similar article at Amazing Catechists, entitled “The Antidote of 30 Shades of Degradation: TOB Fiction” and at Catholic Mom under the title, “Trash or TOB: 50 Shades Versus Soul-Satisfying Fiction.”

Today I’d like to recommend seven more novels that are good, true and beautiful entertainment! Please check these books out!

1. Treason by Dena Hunt

2. Fatal Rhythm by R. B. O’Gorman

3. Hijacked by Leslie Lynch

4. Jane E. Friendless Orphan by Erin McCole Cupp

5. Frozen Footprints by Therese Heckenkamp

6. The Soul Reader by Gerard Webster

7. Georgios by A.K. Frailey


A List of Inspiring Theology of the Body Fiction: #ShowUsYourList

showusyourlistlogoErin over at “Will Write For Tomato Pie” has a wonderful idea of having bloggers create alternate lists of entertaining books that are true, beautiful and good. Here is her challenge and mine as well!

“I challenge anyone who complained about 50 shades of anything to now spend some time and energy promoting entertainment that is true, beautiful and good.”

I posted about the “Antidote to #50Shades of Degradation: TOB Fiction: over at Amazing Catechists last week. Below is the list of Theology of the Body Fiction that I recommended and continue to recommend as “true, beautiful and good!” (Pardon the self-promotion of my own books and those of my publishing company!)

St. John Paul II said we can “overcome evil with good.” Here is a list of contemporary Catholic novels (in order of publication date) with Theology of the Body themes that can uplift, inspire and serve as an antidote to ALL the secular, trashy novels that promote illicit lifestyles. These novels encourage virtue rather than vice, respect rather than domination, and love rather than lust.

Emily’s Hope (Ellen Gable, 2005, FQ Publishing)

Passport (Christopher Blunt, 2008, Pelican Crossing Press)

Midnight Dancers (Regina Doman, 2008, Chesterton Press)

In Name Only (Ellen Gable, 2009, FQ Publishing)

Stealing Jenny (Ellen Gable, 2011, FQ Publishing)

Finding Grace (Laura Pearl, 2012, Bezalel Books)

Angela’s Song (AnnMarie Creedon, 2012, FQ Publishing)

Rapunzel Let Down (Regina Doman, 2013, Chesterton Press)

Vingede (Friar Tobe #2) (Krisi Keley, 2013, S & H Publishing)

Don’t You Forget About Me (Erin McCole Cupp, 2013, FQ Publishing)

A Subtle Grace (Ellen Gable, 2014, FQ Publishing)

The Lion’s Heart (Dena Hunt, 2014, FQ Publishing)

A World Such as Heaven Intended (Amanda Lauer, 2014, FQ Publishing)

Working Mother (Erin McCole Cupp, 2014, FQ Publishing)

Please God, Send Me a Man! The Story of How We Met

Since this is Valentine’s Day, today’s post is an excerpt of James and my courtship story (which was the basis for my first novel, Emily’s Hope.)

Ellen: Because I was very young looking, I did not date in high school or for the year or so after. I longed to meet someone, that special person with whom I could spend the rest of my life. Every night I prayed, “Please God, send me a man.”

During my first visit to Canada in 1978, my pen-pal asked if I wanted to go with her to a jam session where her brother would be rehearsing with his rock band. When we arrived, the band was taking a break. One boy, however, was crouching, with his back toward me, a guitar in front of him, and he was playing the same three or four notes over and over again. I remember thinking that fellow must be dedicated. I also noticed that he had dark curly hair and bell bottoms (out of style at the time) which prompted me to think he must not be too concerned about fashion. A few moments later, the band members took up their instruments. The fellow with the dark curly hair turned around and began playing his guitar and singing. It sounds cliché, but when I first saw his face, he took my breath away. And he played with such intensity that I couldn’t stop staring at him.

James: I wasn’t much for pursuit, except pursuit of excellence in music and art. That seemed so much easier to understand than girls. Ellie, on the other hand, was definitely in pursuit and had a hard time hiding it, even if she tried. One thing is for sure, though, her young looks were less intimidating for someone as shy as myself.

Ellen: I returned to Canada the summer of ’79. Although I was 20 at the time, I looked more like 13 and was rather immature. I was told that James was shy and usually quiet, but when we later met at a dance in the local curling club, we spent the entire time outside (where it was less noisy) talking for three hours. I was nervous because I liked him so much. I actually began the conversation by asking him a “conversation starter” that my pen-pal had given me in case I became nervous. “Nice trees around here,” was all I could come up with. His answer surprised me. “Yes, they are nice. I like the way the light is reflecting off the oak leaves over there.” I never expected such a well-thought out and creative answer to a conversation starter. But as we began to talk, I realized that he was no ordinary young man.

James: It’s funny that although I would have gladly stood on a stage and produced a wall of loud noise to perform at any dance, I wasn’t much for attending them. I certainly saw the empty meanings of much popular music, and spending time outside of the noisy dance hall was a definite option, especially when this time was to be spent getting to know a person from a different part of the continent, a girl, in fact, who seemed to want to get to know me. When time flies by so fast you can’t keep track of it, you know you’re having fun and I certainly felt comfortable chatting with Ellie that night. So comfortable that I almost couldn’t face the discomfort of having to see her return home.

Ellen: Later that week, when we said good bye to one another, he promised that he would write to me. I arrived back in New Jersey and immediately wrote my first letter to James.

In those days, we didn’t have email or cheap long distance or texting, so he had to wait over a week before he received my letter. I had to wait two weeks before receiving a response. When I received his first letter, I knew he was the real thing. Over the next few months, he sent letters frequently and drew little pictures on the backs of envelopes or in the letters themselves, little pencil sketches of scenes, lions or the cartoon version of himself. On one particular envelope, he drew a man crawling over the desert, passing a glass labeled “H20” and saying “Ellen, Ellen.” On another, he drew a picture of me pulling on a phone wire with him saying “Keeping pulling. I’m just passing Syracuse.”H2O Ellen Swak

As we began to share thoughts and feelings over the next five months, I became more and more excited at the prospect that he was the man with whom I was meant to spend the rest of my life.

James: I must admit, I wasn’t much of a pen-pal and the only person I had ever or would ever write letters consistently to was Ellie. The delay between one writing and the other responding was frustrating, but it added a certain timeliness to my letters’ content. I tended to write things that would matter regardless of when Ellie read them. One thing is for sure: Ellie’s ceaseless and timely response to every letter I wrote definitely convinced me that there was someone who really cared about me, helping to cement my certainty that I was developing a relationship that was going to work. If she was putting aside the distractions of life just to make sure I got a response every few days, how much more would she truly be able to commit herself to being my lifelong partner when we were near each other?

Ellen: On returning to Canada just after Christmas 1979, James presented me with a beautiful painting (see photo above). When James and I were alone together, we pledged our love to one another and promised that we would be faithful. I was overjoyed because I had finally found the one I loved but unfortunately, he lived 500 miles away. I had no idea what it would mean to carry on a long distance relationship for an unknown number of years, but we were in love and it didn’t seem to matter when we were together.

Although I was Catholic — and had discovered that he was also Catholic — I figured that James was like most Catholics who didn’t follow everything that the Church taught. I wanted to give myself to him physically before I left during that visit so we would have something to hold us together. He was only 17 at the time, but he shared with me that he wanted to wait until marriage to have sex. I was shocked that a 17 year old would turn down an opportunity like that, but in hindsight, his high ideals for morality and “pursuit for excellence in art and music” are the exact traits which attracted me to him in the first place.

We spent the rest of the week trying to enjoy the few days we had left together. When it came time to say goodbye, we both sobbed. Neither of us knew when we would see each other again.

This is an excerpt of our courtship story. The full version will be included in Full Quiver’s book: “Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship.” Our story has also been fictionalized in my novel, Emily’s Hope.

This is our 36th Valentine’s Day together! Happy Valentine’s Day to my true love!

Copyright 2015 James and Ellen Hrkach and FQ Publishing

7QT – Books to Celebrate Valentine’s Day Etc.

seven-quick-takes-friday-2-1024x727Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at This Ain’t the Lyseum for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

1. Come My Beloved FREE on Kindle
My book, Come My Beloved, is FREE on Kindle until February 16th.Come-My-Beloved-jpg

2. The Antidote to #50Shades of Degradation: TOB Fiction
My latest post over at Amazing Catechists suggests there’s an antidote to the #50Shades books: Theology of the Body Fiction. Links to recommended books are included.

3. Catholic Conference 4 Moms
I recorded a talk on “Responsible Parenthood or How I Came to Have Five Kids When the Doctors Told Us to Stop at Three.” Registration is FREE and lots of prizes to be won, so head on over and register!Catholic Conference 4 Moms Banner

4. From the Hub to the Heart
Beautiful Conversion Story now available on Amazon Kindle!
Kindle small

5. Old Fashioned (Movie)
I haven’t seen this movie (it’s not available in our area yet) but it looks like a Christian alternative to the #50Shades movie that’s coming out this weekend.

6. Reading Shelf:
Doors to the Sacred: Everyday Events as Hints of the Holy – Bridget Haase, OSU

7. Hotel Cartoon

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach.  Please do not use without permission

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach. Please do not use without permission

FREE Until February 16 – Come My Beloved

“Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship” is a wonderful book with 12 stories that will inspire, captivate and entertain readers. Check out the book website here. To download a FREE KINDLE COPY over at Amazon, click here at this link.

The idea for this book came about on Valentine’s Day six years ago, when several mothers were enjoying each other’s fellowship as our children played and exchanged cards. We began sharing how each of us met our husbands. One by one we recounted our stories. It became evident that God’s hand was truly and firmly present in bringing each couple together. Kathy Cassanto, one of the mothers present, said, “It’s too bad there isn’t a book available with Catholic courtship stories.” My initial response was, “Well, if there isn’t, there should be.”

I immediately went online and discovered that there wasn’t a book containing Catholic courtship stories. So I asked Kathy to be my co-editor, and we set out to find inspiring Catholic courtship stories. We didn’t have to search far. Oftentimes, I simply listened to a small quiet voice prompting me to ask a particular couple, “Would you be willing to share how the two of you met?”

We agreed that the easiest and fastest way to gather the stories was to interview the couples, transcribe the interviews and edit the stories. Most of the stories in this book were from recorded conversations, then transcribed and edited, although some were written by the couples themselves.

As we interviewed each couple, a clear picture was emerging: that true love was far different from the infatuation which is so often portrayed in movies and books.

Each of these courtship/dating stories has its own theme, but all of them illustrate that God is the ideal matchmaker. The stories are uplifting, inspirational, funny, hopeful, romantic.

Here are a few excerpts:

David and Posie

Robert and Sarah

Mark and Kathy

Michel and Jeanette

Tom and Patty

Damon and Melanie

The Kindle edition of this book is FREE today through February 16th over at Amazon.com.

“From the Hub to the Heart” Tells of Journey From Fast Living to Living the Fast

Kindle smallToday is the first day of new author, Andy LaVallee’s, Virtual Blog Tour. I’m pleased to be able to share Andy’s new book, From the Hub to the Heart, with you!

Contact: Andrew LaVallee, Live the Fast (phone number: 781-647-4644 x12)
Boston, Massachusetts February 11, 2015: Andrew LaVallee lived the fast life. A man of extremes, LaVallee grew up in a tough neighborhood and he drank, swore and gambled his way through most of his adult life. He achieved financial and worldly success in his bakery distribution business. After his conversion, LaVallee embraced the Catholic faith of his youth and felt God calling him to promote fasting. When he decided to write his story, he joined forces with writer Leticia Velasquez who writes, “This book tells the story of what happened when a movie star known for his portrayal of Jesus Christ in The Passion of the Christ, Jim Caviezel, looked into this successful man’s eyes one day and challenged him just as Christ challenged the rich young man. He dared Andy to visit Medjugorje, an obscure, poor village in Croatia, where for over thirty years it has been alleged that the Virgin Mary has been visiting earth and calling her children to live lives of prayer, penance and fasting. Andy’s reaction was predictable; ‘No way am I flying fifteen hours to pray a Rosary!’ But little by little, Our Lady’s call to Andy opened his heart and he boarded that plane, prayed that Rosary and his life has never been the same.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston has high praise for Andy: “The past decade of Andy LaVallee’s life shows the power of Men’s Conferences, the impact of good Catholic friendships, the help of the Blessed Mother to draw near to Christ Jesus, the power of fasting, and the positive impact of Catholic social teaching in the workplace. We are fortunate in the Archdiocese of Boston to have leaders such as Andy LaVallee who actively reach out to invite others to experience the joy of living as a disciple within the Catholic community.”

Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart, Foundress of Daughters of Mary of Nazareth says, “In (Andrew’s) pilgrimage we each can experience the fullness of our conversion when the new life of faith from within intersects with the old world from without…writing and publishing this journey is yet a testimony of his desire to reach the fullness of his conversion not only for himself but to share its grace with others. May God’s Name be glorified and many people be inspired by this conversion pilgrimage and journey deeper into their own conversion through this book.”

This inspiring book is available on Kindle via Amazon.com and is also available via the author’s website: livethefast.org

Here are the other participating bloggers:
February 12 A. K. Frailey, author
February 13 Barb at Franciscan Mom
February 15 Patrice MacArthur
February 17 Jean Heimann, Catholic Fire
February 18 Nancy Ward, Joy Alive
February 19 Melanie Jean Juneau, The Joy of Nine
February 20 Dana Doyle, Catholic Working Mom
February 21 Sue Elvis, Sue Elvis Writes

Marriage: A Noble Purpose

Copyright James and Ellen Hrkach, please do not use without permission

Copyright James and Ellen Hrkach, please do not use without permission

“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 one another – 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 2015 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Sunday Snippets – February 8

Photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Photo 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.

Here are my posts:

7QT – Books and More Books!

Beginning Again

Interview With Working Mother Amanda Lauer

And here’s a promotional video for the online Catholic Conference 4 Moms (I’m helping to promote it and I’m also one of the speakers).