7QT – Book on #Sale, Lent Movies & Other Cool Things!

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

1. Angela’s Song Only .99!!
Angela’s Song by AnnMarie Creedon is only .99 until tomorrow! Head on over to Amazon to pick up your Kindle copy for only .99!AS Front Cover Final9-19

2. Catholic Writers Guild
I’m over at the Catholic Writers Guild blog today speaking about the importance of being needed.

3. Ecce Ancilla Domini
My post in honor of the Feast of the Annunciation two days ago and on the importance of saying yes to God’s will sparked a lot of comments.

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach Please do not use without permission

4. Do You Believe
Have you seen the new faith-based movie, Do You Believe, yet? It’s from the same producers and writers of “God’s Not Dead.” I thoroughly enjoyed it. Do You Believe

5. The Passion of the Christ
Our family watches this movie every year, on Good Friday, when we return home from the Good Friday service. Powerful, hard-to-watch movie.Passion

6. Reading Shelf
A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac by Margaret Rose Realy.

7. Kidding Cartoon

image copyright 2011 James & Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

image copyright 2011 James & Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Copyright 2015 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Ecce Ancilla Domini

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach Please do not use without permission

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord…” Mary’s words in Luke 1:38 echoed loudly in my heart when I found out that I was pregnant for the first time. To say that I was thrilled would be an understatement.

“A sword shall pierce your own soul.” These prophetic words also echoed loudly in my heart when I lost twins early in that pregnancy. And, with the loss, came the realization that being open to life didn’t always mean having a baby in my arms.

‘Openness to life’ is a phrase often used to describe the attitude of those using Natural Family Planning, whether they are avoiding or planning a pregnancy. However, when it comes to actively seeking a pregnancy, another form of ‘openness to life’ comes into play. I like to call it ‘openness to God’s will.’ For, in this openness, a couple truly becomes vulnerable — naked, in essence — before God, exposing them to whatever God allows.

This type of ‘openness’ can mean dealing with a whole range of possibilities: infertility, miscarriage, a baby with abnormalities, a pre-term delivery, a stillborn baby, or a healthy, full-term infant. But, in a sense, this is the same ‘openness’ that Mary embraced when she was informed that she would be the mother of our Savior: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord…”

To illustrate this, here are some examples:

I know one particular couple who tried for many years, unsuccessfully, to have a baby. They went through denial, then acceptance, of their infertility. The wife questioned God. “Why did you give me a godly man if we can’t have children together?” Eventually, they adopted two beautiful girls from China.

In our own case, James and I have had to endure the loss of seven babies through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. Some of those pregnancy losses entailed major surgery and, in two instances, I nearly hemorrhaged to death. During one miscarriage, my spiritual director offered these consoling words, “Perhaps God is asking you to sacrifice the joy of holding this child in your arms so that He may quickly hold your child in heaven.”

Several years ago, a woman from our homeschooling community was expecting her sixth child. At 19 weeks gestation, she began exhibiting signs of early labor. Her son was born and only lived for a short time. However, she shared with me that, as difficult as it was to hold her dying son in her arms, she truly felt blessed. The moment her son died, filled with God’s grace, she more clearly understood in a small way what Our Lady endured by holding the crucified and dead Christ in her arms.

Six years ago, our close friends welcomed a new child into their family. At birth, their son appeared normal, but as she held onto him in those first few moments, she realized that he had Down Syndrome. When she called me, her voice was so full of love for her child that it was as if she was sharing with me that her baby had brown hair instead of blond. Her ‘openness’ to the wonderful gift that God had given to her was a testament to her trust in God and acceptance of grace in her life.

Finally, the idea of total ‘openness’ was illustrated more fully to me a few years ago while I was at the hospital waiting for my youngest son to come out of minor surgery. I watched a mother come into the nurses’ station with her toddler in a stroller (who, in my eavesdropping, I had learned spent a long time in the special care nursery). Unable to catch a glimpse of her son, I watched from a distant position as many nurses gathered around the stroller to see the baby, and I could hear his sweet laughter as he reacted to the different nurses and to his mother.

My curiosity could not stand it any longer. I moved closer to see what this baby looked like. As the child came into view, I’m sure I let out a quiet gasp. His skull was misshapen, his forehead gigantic compared to the rest of his head. Immediately, I felt tremendous pity not only for the child, but for his parents. Then one of the nurses tickled him under the chin and he let out a squeal of laughter, a high-pitched, sweet sound. In that moment, I no longer saw someone who was deformed. I saw a little person who was radiantly beautiful; a representation of innocence and goodness. I felt an overwhelming urge to embrace him.

‘Openness to life’ means accepting God’s will for us. If our baby has disabilities, it is important for us to pray for the grace to handle the challenges. If we must endure the loss of a child through miscarriage or pre-term birth, it is essential not to give in to hopelessness, but to realize that God has a plan for each unique human being he creates.

It’s not easy for a couple to surrender their life-giving capabilities to God’s design and to accept whatever comes from that. True ‘openness to life’ means becoming like Mary, a “handmaid of the Lord.” It means being open to whatever God chooses for us, whether it’s infertility or a child with disabilities, whether it’s a healthy baby for us to raise, or one for Him to hold in heaven.

(Updated) Copyright 2015 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Angela’s Song – Only .99 Limited Time!

AS Front Cover Final9-19Full Quiver Publishing’s book, Angela’s Song by AnnMarie Creedon (Kindle Edition) is on sale until Saturday, March 28th for only .99!


“Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I kissed Jack Bartolomucci, and then I slapped him.”

“You slapped him?” he asks, incredulous. Then alarm spreads across his face. Father lowers his voice. “He did something to you that warranted slapping?”

“No, he didn’t, really…well, sort of, at least I thought so last night but today I’m not so sure.”

Fr. Sean sighs and rubs his forehead. “I’m confused, Jel.”

“Okay. Everything he did and said led me to believe he was going to ask me out and I really got my hopes up. But then he told me that, although he wanted to ask me out, he couldn’t because I’m not ready.”

“And then you kissed him?”

I nod. “And then I slapped him.”


“Angela’s Song is a compelling story that’s sure to grab your heart, make you laugh, and cause you to consider your Catholic faith more deeply. Reading it is a delightful journey and a lesson in life.” Sarah Reinhard, author, “A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking With Mary From Conception to Baptism”

“I strongly endorse this book. It is uplifting, faithful, well written and, all in all, an extremely pleasant journey.”
Val Bianco, author, Sons of Cain

“…it takes a skilled writer to pull off a novel written in the first person, present tense, as this author has done. Her writing is smooth and effective, never distracting, and since the events seem to be happening right now, it makes the story more powerful. Angela’s Song is a beautiful Catholic romance that is wonderfully inspirational, and readers won’t be disappointed.”
Therese Heckenkamp, author, Past Suspicion

Download it now on Kindle for only .99!!

Review: A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac

Wonderful review for Margaret Realy’s new book!

Erin McCole Cupp

CGSA CoverEven I want to garden now!

I’m one of those people who gardens because I have to stretch the food budget, not because I enjoy spending time covered in dirt, dripping with sweat, and being bitten by bugs. I’m also a true member of Generation X, and as a rule, we don’t trust beauty. We do, however, crave meaning, and A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac shines light on the meaning that lies in the dirt, sweat, and bug-bite side of gardening as well as the beauty of human touches added to the ever-changing landscape of nature.

Full of low-pressure options, A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac takes all the heaviness out of the manual labor of gardening and infuses it with the lighthearted joy that can only be found in prayer. In my little world, I’d give this one six stars.

Look here tomorrow for an interview with Margaret Rose Realy, the…

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7QT – Free Book, Winners, New Movie and Photos

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

From the Hub to the Heart by Andy LaVallee and Leticia Velasquez is FREE on Kindle today and tomorrow. Download it here.

2. Dynamic Women of Faith Conference
I had a wonderful time in Toronto this past Saturday at the Dynamic Women of Faith Conference. I’ll be writing a more detailed reflection of the event in the coming weeks, but it was a beautiful day listening to the other speakers and getting to know some of the participants. I spoke on “Coping With Difficult Losses.”

Photo credit: Gustavo Kralj/DWF Conference/Gaudiumpress Images

Photo credit: Gustavo Kralj/DWF Conference/Gaudiumpress Images

Below is a cool photo of me speaking (I’m behind the podium) and gives you an idea of the size of the group. They were wonderfully receptive. It was a pleasure speaking!

Photo credit: Gustavo Kralj/DWF Conference/Gaudiumpress Images

Photo credit: Gustavo Kralj/DWF Conference/Gaudiumpress Images

4. Winners of Last Week’s Contest
Tamira Elkins
Katie Humanae Vitae
Mary Ovalle

4. “Do You Believe” – New Movie by the Producers of “God’s Not Dead”
I can’t wait to see this new movie by the producers of “God’s Not Dead.” It’s entitled, “Do You Believe.” And, yes, I believe!!

5. Disturbing Story
“Pregnant Women’s Baby Cut From Womb.” When I wrote Stealing Jenny six years ago, these occurrences weren’t as common. They are, unfortunately, becoming more frequent. Thankfully, the mother in this story survived. Sadly, her baby did not.

6. Reading Shelf
Specter – John Desjarlais (Pre-publication copy)

7. Ceasefire Cartoon

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach/FQ Publishing Please do not use without permission

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach/FQ Publishing Please do not use without permission

Dynamic Women of Faith Conference

Special thanks to Dorothy Pilarski for organizing the Dynamic Women of Faith Conference this past Saturday in Toronto. All three photos below are of me giving my presentation on “Coping With Difficult Losses,” the bottom one showing the size of the crowd. They were a wonderfully receptive group of women!

Photo credit: Gustavo Kralj/DWF Conference/Gaudiumpress Images

Photo credit: Gustavo Kralj/DWF Conference/Gaudiumpress Images

Photo credit: Gustavo Kralj/DWF Conference/Gaudiumpress Images

Photo credit: Gustavo Kralj/DWF Conference/Gaudiumpress Images

Photo credit: Gustavo Kralj/DWF Conference/Gaudiumpress Images

Photo credit: Gustavo Kralj/DWF Conference/Gaudiumpress Images

Season of Mercy Excerpt

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.