Highlights From the Catholic Writers Retreat

For the past several days, I’ve had a wonderful time at the St. Francis Retreat Center in Dewitt, Michigan. It’s been restful and inspiring. For the first time in over six months, I’ve been able to write for long stretches of time. I’ve also had many opportunities to worship with and socialize with 14 other members of the Catholic Writers Guild.

Above:  Some of the retreatants during social hour and  a beautiful path on the property of the Retreat Center.

Above: Some of the retreatants during social hour and a beautiful path on the property of the Retreat Center.

Above: More highlights from our Tour of the grounds and socializing in the media room.

Above: More highlights from our Tour of the grounds and socializing in the media room.

All of the attendees of the Catholic Writers Retreat 2015.

All of the attendees of the Catholic Writers Retreat 2015.

DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME Gets a New Cover!

Erin McCole Cupp

We interrupt this blogging hiatus to bring you the snazzy new outfit for DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT MEDon't You Forget About Me by Erin McCole Cupp, TOB romantic suspenseLovely work by James Hrkach of Full Quiver Publishing.

What’s that? You want to see the whole thing, including the back? Oh, okay.

Don't You Forget About Me by Erin McCole Cupp, TOB romantic suspense

Love it! Rookie mistake: suggesting a cover that just gets attention.  Honey, spitting in someone’s eye will get that person’s attention.  A book cover has to do a LOT more than just draw eyes… and I’ll write a blog post on that once I finish this book’s sequel.  Thanks to James & Ellen for working with me on this new, more descriptive cover.

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The Blessed Mother’s Powerful Intercession

Rosary

“There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.”
Sister Lucia of Fatima

Continuing with stories about the Holy Rosary, I share this particular one to show the speed in which Mary sometimes answers our prayers.

Years ago, a friend of ours visited us with a desperate plea for help. His girlfriend had been enticed into a cult and within days, all communication had been cut off. He couldn’t talk to her or contact her in any way. He said that he loved her and knew that he wanted to marry her, but felt helpless and didn’t know what to do.

With tear-filled eyes, he finally asked, “Would you pray that she is released?”

Our response was, “Of course.”

When he left, James and I immediately got out our rosaries, knelt down and began reciting a fervent, heartfelt rosary for Our Lady’s intercession, that the cult would allow this girl to leave.

At the time, we recited the rosary, oftentimes, more out of habit than a desperate plea for anything. This time, however, it was exactly that, a desperate plea on behalf of our friend to somehow get the cult to allow his girlfriend to leave.

The next day, he called us to let us know that the cult had decided to let her leave. The couple eventually married and they continue to be happily married to this day.

Copyright 2015 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Emily's HopeToday is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

I have had four miscarriages and three ectopic pregnancies. My novel, Emily’s Hope, is the fictionalized true stories of myself and my great-grandmother, and the story of loss and triumph. This excerpt describes Emily’s loss of baby “Seth.”

“I need to push.” She wanted so desperately not to push, to allow her baby to stay inside of her, and for her to continue to nourish and nurture her child, but her body wouldn’t allow that. She pushed only twice and her small child was born. Emily heard a sound like a kitten crying, then realized that her baby had let out a small, soft, weak cry.

As soon as the umbilical cord was cut, the nurse immediately carried the baby across the room as the pediatric staff attempted to work on their child. Emily and Jason sat quietly, their hearts heavy with emotion. A few minutes later, she felt another contraction and her placenta was delivered. She could hear a nurse referring to “him,” and realized that their child was another boy. After a few minutes, the doctor brought him back, his small form still hidden in the blue hospital blanket. He spoke in a hushed, almost apologetic voice, “There is nothing we can do for him.”

He handed the tiny one-pound baby boy to his mother. Jason held on to Emily’s shoulder and watched as she cradled the smallest baby they had ever seen. He was so perfect and looked identical to their oldest son, Jake. His small body was covered with minute white hairs. He was perfect as he struggled to breathe. He was perfect as he opened his mouth to cry. Emily held her new son as gently as she could. Jason reached over and poured a few drops of water on him and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Emily could feel the vibration of his tiny heart
beating so fast.

The nurse came in with a Polaroid camera and asked if they wanted her to take a photo of their child. Emily nodded as the nurse took a photo of her and Jason and their tiny son. She gazed in awe at this miniature human being and marveled at the fact that even though he was tiny, he was so perfect. His little hands looked like a doll’s hands. She removed the baby blanket and laid his small, warm body on her chest. She could feel his heart beating rapidly. After several minutes, she wrapped him again in the small blue blanket.

Then, in an instant, he was still. She could feel that his heart had stopped and he wasn’t breathing, but he continued to feel warm and soft. He looked like a sleeping angel.

If you have lost a baby through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or infant death, please click on the link above “Baby Loss” for resources and helpful links.

Copyright 2015 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Word by Word: Slowing Down With the Hail Mary

Word-by-Word-contributor_sqNOTRE DAME, Ind.— Most Catholics can recite the Hail Mary but haven’t actually reflected on the meaning of the prayer.

Catholic blogger and author Sarah A. Reinhard invited forty of the most popular Catholic voices, including Lisa M. Hendey, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, and Brandon Vogt, to write a brief reflection on one word of the Hail Mary. The result is an accessible, profound, and unique meditation on each word of one of the most important prayer traditions in Catholic life. Each of forty reflections encourages readers to “slow down” with the Hail Mary and experience it in a new way. This unique, formative, and informative exploration of the beloved prayer is a gift to anyone who wants to be continually changed through it.

“Such a simple concept written so beautifully well. Slow down, read a few pages, and find yourself pulled into a closer and more authentic relationship with Mary the Mother of God.”
DANIELLE BEAN
Publisher of Catholic Digest
Coauthor of Small Steps for Catholic Moms

Word by Word: Slowing Down With the Hail Mary is now available in print or on Kindle.

I contributed an essay on the word “Now,” and which I posted to my blog three years ago.

Prayers of Love: The Holy Rosary

photo copyright Ellen Hrkach

photo copyright Ellen Hrkach

October is the month of the Holy Rosary. I’d like to repost an updated article I wrote as a guest post for another blog years ago:

“When lovers are together, they spend hours and hours repeating the same thing: I love you! What is missing in the people who think the Rosary monotonous, is Love.” Sister Lucia of Fatima

I have been a Catholic for my entire life (56 years), but it is only in the last 30 or so years that I have had a devotion to the Holy Rosary. I attended Catholic schools until high school. As a teenager, I would have identified myself as Catholic, but between television and secular influences, I didn’t totally embrace my faith until after I was married, and this was because my husband insisted that we not use contraception during our marriage.

As we dialogued back and forth in those few months before our wedding day, I still didn’t know why the Church taught that married couples shouldn’t use contraception to avoid pregnancy. In fact, I remember thinking that the Church just ought to come out of the Dark Ages and get more in line with the modern world.

In the end, I decided to trust my husband (and the Church). In the next year, we read Humanae Vitae, as well as other church documents, and I became fully convinced that the Church was indeed speaking the truth when she declared that contraception was a grave sin. Before we were married, we learned NFP and we are now a CCL NFP Teaching Couple Specialist (and have been teaching NFP for 30 years).

During that first year of our marriage, a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses came to our door. My husband and I welcomed them and dialogued with them. Most of their questions centered on Mary: “Why do Catholics worship Mary?” “Why do you say such a monotonous repetitive prayer?” “Why is Mary so important to Catholics?” First, we gently explained to them that Catholics don’t worship Mary, we honor her. As for the other questions, I realized that I didn’t really know the answers, so I did some research.

To the question “Why is Mary so important to Catholics,” what I found out could probably fill an entire book. However, my own thumbnail answer is this: Jesus honored his mother. We, as Catholics, are called imitate Christ. He honored his mother and so we should do the same. Also, as Jesus hung on the cross, He gave his mother to the whole world when He said to John, “Behold your mother.”

Mary is indeed our mother and, as our mother, she desires us to be closer to her Son. The rosary is the ideal way for us to become closer to Him, because as we say the repetitive prayers (with love), we are meditating on His life.

I have found that saying the rosary has brought me closer to my husband and to Christ. Even after 33 years of marriage, we continue to say “I love you,” just as we continue to say the rosary together, with love.

Emily’s Hope, my first novel, is based on my true conversion story and the parallel story of my great-grandmother.

Copyright 2015 Ellen Gable Hrkach