Are you like many people who dread Ash Wednesday or Good Friday, the Church’s compulsory days of fasting? Or do you embrace the self-denial of fasting on those days? When you become accustomed to the regular practice of fasting throughout the year, these “compulsory” days become opportunities for abundant graces and spiritual growth.
Many people mistakenly believe that fasting belongs only in the penitential season of Lent. However, the regular self-denial of fasting is a positive and generous act that we can do all year ’round. And let’s face it, with Covid, riots, widespread abortion and sexual immorality, our world is in turmoil. Our world needs more people to fast.
Remember that Jesus fasted before every major event in His life. As well, His apostles fasted. In Scripture, fasting is mentioned numerous times in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, but the following Scriptural passage indicates how powerful fasting is.
But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it (demon) out?”
He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:27-29)
What exactly IS fasting? According to the Church, fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday entails eating two small meals and one larger meal that is not more than the two smaller meals together. It also means abstaining from meat. Others fast on nutritious whole-grain, high-protein bread and water. The important thing is to eat less and abstain from meat and treats.
Peter said to Jesus, “You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
Eternal life … isn’t that our goal? How do we get there? A virtuous life, one that is sacrificial, one that is obedient to God’s laws, this is the way to eternal life. Lent is an ideal time to embrace the practice of fasting. And not just on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday! Fasting can happen on EVERY Wednesday and Friday throughout the year. The regular self-denial of fasting is definitely one of the most direct ways to get to heaven. Why? Fasting opens our hearts to conversion, gives weight to our prayer intentions. Fasting strengthens us in resisting temptations, promotes peace in our hearts and peace with one another. Fasting teaches us the difference between wanting and needing. Fasting reminds us of the plight of the poor and those who are perpetually hungry. Fasting and prayer can free us from addictive behavior. Fasting invites the Holy Spirit in to heal our hearts, our relationship with God and our relationship with others. Fr. Slavko Barbaric said, “Fasting will lead us to a new freedom of heart and mind.”
The devil is not greatly afraid of the discipline and other instruments of penance. That which beats him is the curtailment of one’s food, drink and sleep. There is nothing the devil fears more, consequently, nothing is more pleasing to God. (St. John Vianney)
There are so many great reasons to fast and Lent is an ideal time to begin this regular practice of self-denial. The elderly and those who cannot fast from food can fast from TV, social networking, eating out, treats, or coffee.
Lent is a time for change and sacrifice. If you can do penitential acts during Lent, then you can do them all year ’round! Always check with your physician before beginning any fasting routine.
Copyright 2021 Ellen Gable Hrkach Image: Pixabay (2020)
The idea for this book came about on Valentine’s Day 12 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.
The complete versions of each story are included in the book, along with family photos of all the couples. Here are excerpts of some of the stories.
Synopsis:Come My Beloved is a celebration of faith and enduring love. This compilation contains 12 courtship/dating stories that will inspire, captivate and entertain readers. Included are the following stories: A widow with eight children meets a widower with six children; a woman prays to God for a husband and years later, finds herself falling in love with a seminarian; a man asks his live-in girlfriend “What if we stopped having sex?” and is greeted with tears of joy; an atheist falls in love with her Catholic Prince Charming; a couple meet through a Christian introduction service; a sailor prays a novena to marry the right girl. What these and all the stories illustrate is that God is the ideal matchmaker.
“This truly beautiful collection of Catholic courtship stories is a must-read for anyone discerning a vocation, especially the call to marriage; and for those courting, engaged, already married, or widowed. What a great gift to Holy Mother Church, and a powerful witness that God does make marriages in heaven.” Lisa Mladinich, author, True Radiance, Finding Grace in the Second Half of Live
Whether you’re courting, engaged to be married, newlyweds, or celebrating your jubilee years together, this terrific resource offers something for anyone looking to grow closer to God and to one another in a loving relationship. Lisa Hendey, author, The Handbook for Catholic Moms
The Dynamic Women of Faith Conference is a wonderful online conference coming up on Saturday, March 6, 2021 with Dr. Carrie Gress, Dorothy Pilarski, Gary Zimak, and Dr. Josephine Lombardi. The conference is only $35 CA and is an ideal Lenten retreat.
The Sisters of Life will be joining the conference by leading in the recitation of the Holy Rosary.
There will be all sorts of special guests and fun surprises throughout the day!
When her fiancé’s private plane crashes in the Colorado Rockies, everyone assumes Allison Carpenter is dead.
But Maggie, Allison’s mother back home in Owl Creek, Maine, refuses to believe them. Maggie knows her daughter – or she used to, anyway. For the past two years, the two women have been estranged, and while Maggie doesn’t know anything about Ally’s life now – not even why she was on a private plane to begin with – she still believes in her girl’s strength, and in their love for each other.
As Allison struggles across the treacherous mountain wilderness, Maggie embarks on a desperate search for answers about the world Allison has been involved in. What was she running from? And can Maggie uncover the truth in time to save her?
Told from the perspectives of a mother and daughter separated by distance but united by an unbreakable bond, Freefall is a heart-stopping, propulsive thriller about two tenacious women overcoming unimaginable obstacles to protect themselves and the ones they love.
My review: This was certainly NOT what I expected it to be. It started off slow so it took 50 or so pages to get into this, but once I did, I definitely didn’t want to put it down. It’s a complex story with well-developed characters and some twists and turns. Well written, highly recommend! 4/5.
Synopsis: (from Amazon) The most popular Catholic novel in America. Immerse yourself in a sweeping story set against the backdrop of historical and present-day Marian Apparitions. Join unforgettable characters as their lives intertwine during the Great Tribulations. Discover why America’s best-loved Catholic novelist has thrilled, inspired, and surprised over one million readers who simply could not put this unforgettable epic down. Must-reading for every Catholic.
My review: With our world in the state it’s in, I picked this book up again after about 25 years. It’s not as badly written as I remembered (especially this edition where Michael O’Brien helped with the edits). It’s a great story but you can definitely tell the author had never written fiction before. I’ve never liked that the priest and several of the faithful Catholic characters smoke and drink as much as they do in this book. The author’s favorite phrase is: he/she took another drag of his cigarette. The POVs are constantly switching between characters even within the same paragraph. I’ve always thought that the gushing reviews at the front of the book by unknown people to be somewhat embarrassing and the synopsis that indicates it’s the “most popular Catholic novel in America” to be over the top. All that being said, this is and will always be a great story, if you can overlook the mediocre writing and character development in the women (all the women’s dialogue sounds the same.)
And…without this book, I don’t think there would be the hundreds of great Catholic novels now available. This author gave me inspiration when I started out writing fiction. 3/5 for the great story.
Synopsis: With House of Gold, America’s favorite Catholic novelist returns to the riveting, apocalyptic storytelling which captured the hearts of countless readers in his explosive classic, Pierced by a Sword, while retaining the intimate, realistic characters who charmed, surprised, and ultimately swept readers away in his second novel, Conceived Without Sin. Join Bud Macfarlane as he takes you on a gripping spiritual odyssey that will reverberate through your soul long after you turn the final page.
My review:House of Gold has always been my favorite of the three in Bud’s series, probably because the writing is much better and one of the character’s names is Ellie (which is my nickname). It’s a fictionalized account of what might have happened had Y2K been real and all the computers shut down. Another great story, but this time, better written. Recommend! 4/5.
Amazon Synopsis: Now available! By the year 2030, medical science had become so advanced that death could be postponed indefinitely. A small group of ultra-wealthy people saw in this new technology an opportunity to create a more stable and peaceful world, but only if they had full control over the treatments. Keeping their life-extending procedures to themselves, they took on a near god-like identity under the name the Avogo, thinking that they could rule with consistent peace and wisdom that would come from their great age.
In 2045, fire reigned down from heaven. About two-thirds of the world’s population perished as the environment became harsh and desolate. Most people who survived took to living in earth-sheltered dwellings, including caves and tunnels. The Avogo — having been worried about climate change — had already prepared their own elaborate doomsday bunkers in mountainsides and stocked them well with the equipment and supplies they would need to continue their immortal lives. They welcomed survivors into their bunkers, offering a life of bliss to anyone who wanted to join their growing cities.
But that life of bliss was not free. People who joined the new cities had to agree to have a brain portal implanted into their heads. The portals enabled downloadable education… and reprogramming when their thoughts got out of line. And to monitor those thoughts, citizens had to live with a personal affective simulator bot (PASbot) at all times.
Now, in the year 2091, a seventeen-year-old boy named Jutta — born and raised in Volmar, the greatest of the new utopian cities — is plagued by a depression that he can’t shake and that no amount of reprogramming has remedied. Finding little enjoyment in the pleasures that the others in Volmar seem to love so much, he asks for the only solution that can possibly give him a new lease on life… the Refreshing.
Amazon Synopsis: Coming February 11, 2021 from FQP! Charon, master vampire, has known of an ancient prophecy foretelling the coming of a “nemesis” to destroy him and his kind on some future date. One of royal blood and—perhaps—half-human and half-vampire. His attempts throughout the ages to thwart the prophecy have failed. His senses tell him that the birth of his destroyer is imminent! He must act now, while it is a mere child, and vulnerable. He commands his horde to kidnap the baby and bring it back to him.
With great difficulty his plan is carried out. A great battle ensues; the child is snatched. Those that survive the perilous mission straggle back to the master’s lair. Only then is it discovered that the baby has been mysteriously lost.
The child falls into the hands of a humble couple living in the woods, who raise him as their own, in obscurity, preserved from danger until the time comes for him to fulfil his destiny. They name him Jude, unaware of his unusual heritage, though as he grows, he displays certain “oddities.” They are protective of the child and teach him to hide these oddities from a world unforgiving of anything different. He himself does not know what it all means, nor does he understand the recurring nightmares and “episodes” that seem so real. More frightening is the “phantom” that haunts the surrounding forest and seems fixated on him.
As Jude enters his teen years, he tries to piece together the puzzle of his life. Will a mysterious monk—who unexpectedly and fortuitously appears on the scene—help him sort it out?
Amazon Synopsis: Coming February 26 from FQ Publishing! Morgan is looking forward to junior high school and all the adventures it holds in store for her. But after a collision on the volleyball court, she wakes up on the first day of school trapped inside her mom’s teenage body circa1974. It doesn’t take long for Morgan to discover that living life as a seventh-grader in the ‘70s and dealing with everything going on in her mom’s life back then — from uncool parents, to annoying older brothers, to balancing friendships, and to ultimately doing what she can to survive bullying at the hands of the school’s biggest jock — is anything but groovy.
Amazon Synopsis: In My Queen, My Mother: A Living Novena, award-winning author Marge Steinhage Fenelon brings you along on a pilgrimage to nine Marian shrines across the United States. Each day of this spiritual journey helps you encounter God and a deeper relationship with the Blessed Mother.
“My Queen, My Mother, I give myself entirely to you.”
The opening line to the Little Consecration sets the framework of this unique, nine-day pilgrimage, which culminates in a consecration to Mary.
This living novena is similar in style and structure to the pilgrimage Fenelon developed in the bestselling and award-winning Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. The key difference, however, is that the first living novena was framed by Pope Francis’s visit to the Holy Land. For My Queen, My Mother, Fenelon chose sacred destinations that reflect the Catholic heritage of the United States.
The nine Marian sites Fenelon visits are:
Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche, St. Augustine, Florida;
National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, New Orleans, Louisiana;
St. Mary’s Mission and Museum, Stevensville, Montana;
Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows, Starkenburg, Missouri;
Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, Carey, Ohio;
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, Champion, Wisconsin;
Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs, Auriesville, New York;
House of Mary Shrine, Yankton, South Dakota; and
Our Lady of Peace Shrine, Santa Clara, California.
Even if you can’t make a physical pilgrimage as Fenelon did, you can still make a spiritual one through her extended guided meditation. Each day you’ll learn about a different shrine to Mary: its history, charism, and graces. Fenelon will also guide you to visit a new “place” in your heart, to understand more about yourself and how to open your heart more fully to Mary.
My review: This is a beautiful little book that takes you on a spiritual pilgrimage to different Marian shrines with reflection questions at the end of each chapter. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I highly recommend it!