Image and Likeness Now Available!

Image and Likeness: Short Reads Reflecting the Theology of the Body, with a foreword by Damon OwensImage and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body is now available on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon. This anthology is edited by Erin McCole Cupp and myself and both of us have stories included in the collection.

If St. John Paul II ever summarized his Theology of the Body, it may have been when he said, “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” But how does this sincere gift look when lived out by human beings with all their failings? What happens to our humanity when we withhold that sincere gift? What does life require of us when we give most deeply?

Full Quiver Publishing brings you this moving collection of poetry and prose, featuring some of today’s brightest Catholic literary voices, including award-winning authors Dena Hunt, Arthur Powers, Michelle Buckman, Leslie Lynch, Theresa Linden, and many more. By turns edgy and sweet, gritty and deft, but always courageous and honest, the works contained in Image and Likeness explore countless facets of human love—and human failure. Readers of Image and Likeness will experience in a variety of ways how humanity, in flesh as well as spirit, lives out the image and likeness of a God who created human intimacy to bring forth both our future and to illustrate our ultimate meaning as human persons.

With a Foreword by international Theology of the Body voice Damon Owens, Image and Likeness puts life and breath into St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in ways that readers won’t soon forget.

Warning: mature themes, content and language.

Reviews:

Barb writes: “What, exactly, are “literary reflections on the Theology of the Body?” They’re stories and poems about how we live, and how we live our lives in relationship with each other, with our bodies, with our souls, and with God. It’s not some complicated, esoteric subject. Because it’s an anthology, there’s something for everyone, from detective stories to poetry to tales of family life that range from the harrowing to the uplifting. These stories and poems are about life. Like life, they are not always neat and tidy and packaged in a pretty box with a crisply-tied ribbon. I’ve come to expect just this from other work from Full Quiver Publishing: this publisher does not shy away from difficult subjects and situations in its commitment to promoting the culture of life and the Church’s teaching on marriage and family.”

An Open Book Family says: “Recommended for reading, reflection, discussion, and even entertainment. A gritty but beautiful introduction not only to the Theology of the Body as it is lived (or rejected), but also to the breadth and promise of Catholic fiction being written by contemporary authors. These shorts are accessible to any careful reader, whether familiar with the Theology of the Body or not.”

Readers can buy the paperback book on Amazon at this link.

It’s available on Kindle at this link.

Melee in the Courtroom

Rosary“The Rosary is a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight and to keep oneself from sin…If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors.” Pope Pius XI

Since this is the month of the Holy Rosary, I’d like to share this article I wrote three years ago.

Nearly 30 years ago, before I had children, I worked as a court reporter. During one pre-trial hearing involving a dangerous offender, the defendant (who was being uncooperative) had already been restrained in a full body shackle as well as handcuffs. Because he was resisting, the officers sprayed mace in his eyes.

He wasn’t a big man, approximately five feet six or so, but he was muscular. With eyes tearing, he began to spit, first at the crown (prosecuting) attorney, hitting the man’s cheek, and then at the judge (landing on the floor near the clerk’s desk), and finally, his spittle ended up on my desk.

iStockPhoto SLC Minilypse-Judicial CourtI cringed, then continued taking down the testimony on my stenograph machine, making a mental note to disinfect my desk as soon as possible. After the hearing, the defendant, still restrained in a full body shackle, continue to spit. I watched him as the prisoner box was opened. His eyes stared straight ahead and he was frowning.

What frightened me was the glaring expression in his eyes. I had never seen anyone stare with such evil determination. A police officer reached in and pulled him out. As the defendant stepped forward, he immediately rammed his head into the accompanying police officer’s face.

I still remember the look in the defendant’s eyes as he used his head as a weapon against the officer, the officer’s shocked and bloodied face, and six police and correctional officers jumping on the defendant as the defendant hurled each officer off of him. It was all surreal to me, like in a dream or a movie. The defendant seemed to have superhuman strength.

As the melee of defendant and officers started to move in my direction, I immediately became concerned for my own safety. The clerk leaned over and whispered, “We need to get out of here.”

I grabbed my expensive stenograph machine and the two of us slipped into the jury room behind us. We stood close to the door, peeking through the crack to watch was what happening. We were shocked at how seemingly superhuman the defendant was. It took several minutes, but the defendant was finally subdued and taken away. We were all relieved, but in the days following, I began experiencing nightmares.

The real problem began when I was served with a subpoena to testify at the assault trial. Just thinking of this dangerous offender and the apparent evil in his expression frightened me. I couldn’t eat; I couldn’t sleep. I began to conjure up images that he would hunt me down and kill me if I testified.

Finally, I was determined that I was not going to let that man take away my peace of mind. I sat down and recited a rosary for Mary’s intercession that God would protect me and help me to be a good witness for the prosecution.

Weeks later, at the trial, it was nerve-wracking and frightening to testify in front of the defendant and all the others in the courtroom. It was a long half hour while I testified, but I told the truth, to the best of my ability. When I left the courtroom, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was especially happy that it was all over.

Two years later, however, I received a subpoena to testify at another trial involving the same incident. At that time, I was pregnant with my oldest son and all the original worry and fear took hold of me once more.

I brought my anxiety once again to Mary. If they needed me to be a witness, then I would again do my best. I began to make arrangements to travel to court (now three hours away). Thankfully, two weeks before the trial, I received a phone call that they would not need me after all.

I have no idea where this defendant is now all these years later, or if he is still alive. But Mary taught me that if we bring our worry and anxiety to her, she will take care of the rest.

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach (Handcuff photo from iStock. Rosary Photo from iStock).

Early Feedback

Image and Likeness

Image and Likeness: Short Reads Reflecting the Theology of the Body, with a foreword by Damon OwensWhile we remain a few days out from our official release day on October 22, the feast of St. John Paul II, two readers have mailed in some early thoughts on Image and Likeness.

I’m about 30% in.

WOW.
This is a powerful book. Makes me want to look for more by the contributing authors.
I’ll say the same when I do my review. But meanwhile, just wanted to give you two TWO THUMBS UP.
Barbara Szyszkiewicz, blogger at Franciscan Mom, editor at Catholic Mom
I’m still working my way through the TOB collection, but I want to tell you how impressed I’ve been with the stories. Honestly, as much as I enjoy the TOB-centered books I’ve read in the last few years, I’ve always felt that parts of them come across as slightly heavy-handed. I look past it easily, but I always have a feeling that…

View original post 144 more words

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach Please do not use without permission

October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day but the entire month of October is devoted to Infant Loss Remembrance.  James and I feel very blessed and grateful to be the parents of five young adult sons (ages 17-29). I also think about the seven precious babies we lost through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. This month, we remember in a special way these seven little souls (and intercessors) in heaven.

Here are a few of my reflections on pregnancy loss:

Among Women Podcast Episode 89 (Pat Gohn interviewed me about miscarriage and pregnancy loss)

Ecce Ancilla Domini, an article on openness to life.

Five Little Souls in Heaven    (This article was written 21 years ago and published in the Nazareth Journal)

Difficult Anniversaries/Responsible Parenthood

One of the themes of my first novel, Emily’s Hope, is pregnancy loss.

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 onto 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 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.

(End of excerpt.)

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.

In memory of our seven little souls in heaven:

Baby Hrkach Twins (June 1986)

Baby Hrkach  (February 1991)

Baby Hrkach  (June 1991)

Mary Elizabeth Hrkach (June 1993)

Seth Hrkach  (April 1998)

Lucy Hrkach (March 2006)

 

Amazing Results With the Rosary

Rosary“The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.”
St. Josemaria Escriva

Although I grew up in a Catholic family, I learned how to say the Rosary at Catholic school. My father often said the Rosary privately, but we never recited it as a family and I rarely said it on my own before the age of 11. One evening, however, my parents were involved in a violent argument. It was my first experience at being “amazed at the results” of the powerful weapon of the holy rosary. The following is another excerpt from my novel, Emily’s Hope. It’s based on actual events and is a true illustration of Our Lady’s powerful intercession.

I listen as my parents are fighting again, fighting over bills they can’t pay. Each time my mom yells, my dad yells louder. Dad starts to throw things, not at Mom, just throwing things. I’m scared. It makes me feel anxious to see the two people I love most in the world screaming at each other. Don’t they love each other, I ask myself. Why won’t they stop yelling?

Dad just said something about moving out. Oh, God, please, I don’t want my dad to move out. Mom says good. Oh, please, Mom, don’t say that. I look at both of them but they don’t seem to see me or the panic in my eyes. They only glare at each other.

Dad goes upstairs. I run after him and watch as he gets a suitcase out and starts putting clothes in it.

God, why won’t you stop him? I pass by my bedroom and notice my rosary sitting on the bedside table. I grab it, sit down on my bed, and begin saying the rosary. As I say each Hail Mary, I plead with Our Lady, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” Please, Our Lady, don’t let my Dad walk out.

As I’m saying another Hail Mary, Dad walks by my room and doesn’t notice that I’m even there. He stomps down the steps. I can’t hear if he says bye, but I hear the door slam shut.

“Oh, God, please, make him come back.” I continue saying the rosary, each Hail Mary becoming more fervent than the last. I pray until my heart is bursting. Please, God, listen to my prayer.

I begin saying the Hail Holy Queen prayer and suddenly, I hear the door open downstairs. Without finishing, I stand at the top of the stairs and I see that my dad is standing at the doorway. Mom walks over to him. At first, they’re silent.

Then, my dad starts to cry. “I can’t leave you. I can’t leave my family.” He and Mom embrace.

I begin to cry. Thank you, God, and thank you, Our Lady, for bringing my daddy back.

My parents remained married until my father’s death eight years later. He was buried with his rosary in his hands.

Emily’s Hope is available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle. The novel’s website includes reviews, an excerpt, a synopsis and a radio interview.

Copyright 2016 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Feast of the Holy Rosary – Prayers of Love

photo copyright Ellen Hrkach

photo copyright Ellen Hrkach

Since today is the Feast of the Holy Rosary, I’d like to share an article I wrote and that has also been published on Catholic 365. “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, 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 seventh grade. 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. This was only because my husband insisted that we refrain from using contraception during our marriage.

As we dialogued back and forth in those few months before our wedding day, I didn’t know or understand 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, however, 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 Natural Family Planning and we are now a CCL NFP Teaching Couple Specialist (and have been teaching NFP for 33 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 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 34 years of marriage, we continue to say “I love you,” just as we continue to say the rosary together, with love.

Copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

An Open Book – October #openbook

Open Book

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book.  Here’s what I’ve been reading this month:

most-highly-favored-daughter

Most Highly-Favored Daughter by Janice Palko

I really enjoyed this romantic suspense novel.  It was engaging and interesting and kept me turning the pages.  It especially touches on the topic of sexual trafficking and mentions St. Josephine Bakhito, who, like so many young women/girls in the Middle East and all over the world, was kidnapped and sold in sexual slavery.  It’s a difficult read at times because of the topic, but well done.

travel-guide-to-life

A Travel Guide to Life by Anthony DeStefano

This book has been on my “To Read” shelf since CMN of 2015.  But I’m finally glad I started reading it. This is a beautifully written, how-to manual on what’s important in our lives and to focus on our heavenly goal.  I was pretty surprised to see this celebrity’s review about this book, but I totally agree with her review: “Move over, Dr. Phil! Anthony DeStefano’s advice on how to turn your problem-filled life into something to celebrate is bare-bones, no-holds barred, no bull and spot-on brilliant.”  Kathie Lee Gifford, Co-Host, NBC’s Today show

pilgrimage-of-hope

A Pilgrimage of Hope: A Story of Faith and Medicine by Mary McArthy

Beautiful story of how cancer impacted one family’s life. From the author: “The memoirs capture the frightening details in a crash course with cancer and the possible treatments for this disease. Despite the cancer diagnosis, I found myself being called closer to God. I wanted to share my physical and spiritual journey with others so that when they are challenged, they will have some guidance in how to respond. With recovery in mind, my spiritual growth deepened as I aligned my will with the will of God.”

day-by-day-for-the-holy-souls

Day by Day for the Holy Souls in Purgatory: 365 Reflections by Susan Tassone

I met the enthusiastic and feisty author, Susan Tassone, at the CMN recently when I picked up her new book, the St. Faustina Prayer Book for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.  Susan has been called “The Purgatory Lady,” and for good reason. She asserts that when we pray for souls to get out of purgatory, they will return the favor and pray for us when we need it. The blurb for this books says: “Every day we have another opportunity to pray for the holy souls in purgatory – author, speaker, and purgatory expert Susan Tassone gives you a unique tool to do just that. God has given us the duty, power and privilege of praying for the release of the holy souls. Now Susan Tassone has given you a powerful way to accomplish that mission.”