An Open Book – February 2023

I’m joining Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading and/or working on for the past month.

Summer at West Castle by Theresa Linden

Amazon Synopsis: College student Caitlyn Summer arrives at the Wests’ castle-like house to fill in for their live-in maid. After a recent decision blows her vision of the future, this ideal job and the peaceful surroundings are just what she needs to seek God’s will for her life. That is, until Jarret West, not wanting a repeat of past mistakes, backs out of a summer-long field study overseas and returns home. The two have never gotten along, and unforgettable baggage from the past makes it hard even to be cordial. While Jarret’s faults convince Caitlyn he hasn’t changed, she forces herself to offer kindness. Her act of mercy puts them on an unexpected path where Caitlyn is challenged to look beneath the surface and Jarret struggles to trust that God wills good for him.

Note: to avoid spoilers, read this story only after reading Anyone but Him.

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful prequel of Anyone But Him and was so very sorry to see the story end. When I read Anyone But Him a few years ago, I had hoped the author would write the prequel of how this unlikely couple fell in love. Summer at West Castle does not disappoint, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a clean but compelling romance! 

Ashes Visible & Invisible by Catholic Teen Authors

Now available from Catholic Teen Books (My short story is highlighted below):

Finishing the Journey: When Liz’s faith journey hits a roadblock, will an unexpected detour and chance encounter set her back on track?

Follow Me: A teen’s future was all set-before his tragic loss. But his best friend’s secret past just might save it.

Take Up Your Cross: Justin’s religion is outlawed. When an unbeliever asks him about the meaning of life, what can he say?

A Big Ask: Could God be asking Paul to sacrifice a piece of himself for Lent–literally?

Lent Royal & Ancient: A modern American teen discovers what faith, life and love are like in seventeenth-century Scotland.

No Greater Love: Teenager Lexie Dugan struggles to understand the sacrifice of Lent when she’s asked to help take care of her siblings while her pregnant mother is on bed rest.

A Very Jurassic Lent: When a risky Ash Wednesday mission to sterilize T. rex eggs goes wrong, fasting is the least of Joshua, Darryl, and Harry’s worries.

Lucy and the Forsaken Path: A medieval girl stranded on a forsaken path confronts threats from without and turmoil from within.

Bread Alone: Struggling with loss, hunger, and temptation, Ethan finds himself walking in the steps of Jesus.

Prepare the Way: Asher’s desire to prepare for the Messiah intensifies after he’s robbed by bandits, but would fighting alongside the Zealots be the best way?

The Saint Michael Chaplet – A Divine Catechesis on the Angels and Gifts of Heaven

By Carol Puschaver

Amazon Synopsis: What if an angel … were to teach you a prayer to honor the Angels? Not just any angel, mind you, and no ordinary prayer, either. Too impossible to believe?

Well, consider … St. Michael the Archangel, Prince of the Heavenly Host, revealed the Chaplet that bears his name to a Carmelite religious in 1751. As this book makes clear, he did much, much more than teach a formula of pious words, presenting instead a wonderment of divine catechesis on the nine celestial angel choirs. The author’s deeply insightful meditations on the Archangel’s teaching are bound to encourage a fresh and finely nuanced perspective on the angels, and also inspire a far deeper, richer appreciation of these marvelous beings who, among many, many wondrous deeds, guard [us] in all [our] ways. (Psalm 91. 10)

You do believe in angels, …don’t you?

My review: This is a beautiful book written by my friend Carol Puschaver. If you want to read more about St. Michael, the St. Michael Chaplet, and the Angels, this is the book for you. God’s people have been given a great gift in Saint Michael, protector and intercessor. The demons would like you to believe that they don’t exist. Not only do they exist, but they are constantly trying to turn God’s people away from Him. Highly recommend!

Into the Mind of Infinity by Joe Livingston

Amazon Synopsis: The author received a powerful spiritual experience, and this book is the result of that experience. It brings science and religion together to prove the existence of God.

My review: This is a beautiful little book that seeks to prove the existence of God. Many great points are made from a scientific standpoint, and it is definitely worthwhile reading.

Coming on Valentine’s Day from FQP:

Stitch in the Ditch (Mibs Monahan Mysteries #3) by Joan L. Kelly

Synopsis: When the curator of the Gregory Tuppence Museum is stabbed to death with an antique Toledo steel dagger, Lieutenant Jace Trueblood and his team of detectives work diligently to track down the killer.   They soon discover evidence that the murder was connected to the forgery and theft of valuable items from the museum.

Along with investigating the curator’s death, Jace, with the help of his intuitive fiancée, Mibs Monahan, search for the person providing fake identifications to high school students.  Fake licenses directly contributed to DUI accidents, resulting in injuries and death.

Despite the challenges and activities of their busy lives, the couple finds joy in preparing for their upcoming wedding.  However, that joy is disrupted when a DNA test shatters Mibs’ life.  This new information has her wondering who she really is and what she has to do with a twenty-year-old kidnapping.

Ashes: Visible & Invisible Virtual Blog Tour

By Theresa Linden, Marie Keiser, Cynthia Toney, Ellen Gable, Antony Kolenc, Amanda Lauer, Carolyn Astfalk, Leslea Wahl, T.M. Gaouette, and Corinna Turner.

  • When Liz’s faith journey hits a roadblock, will an unexpected detour and chance encounter set her back on track?
  • A teen’s future was all set—before his tragic loss. But his friend’s secret past just might save it.
  • Justin’s religion is outlawed. When an unbeliever asks him about the meaning of life, what can he say?
  • Could God be asking Paul to sacrifice a piece of himself for Lent—literally?
  • A modern American teen discovers what faith, life, and love are like in seventeenth-century Scotland.
  • Teenager Lexie Dugan struggles to understand the sacrifice of Lent when she’s asked to help take care of her siblings while her pregnant mother is on bed rest.
  • Asher’s desire to prepare for the Messiah intensifies after he’s robbed by bandits but would fighting alongside the Zealots be the best way?
  • When a risky Ash Wednesday mission to sterilize T. rex eggs goes wrong, fasting is the least of Joshua, Darryl, and Harry’s worries.
  • A medieval girl stranded on a forsaken path confronts threats from without and turmoil from within.
  • Struggling with loss, hunger, and temptation, Ethan finds himself walking in the steps of Jesus.

Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Ashes-Visible-Invisible-Leslea-Wahl/dp/B0BQ9ZXB4G/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/63043118-ashes

Ashes Book Trailer on YouTube

Website: www.catholicteenbooks.com

Click here to enter the giveaway!

Advanced Reviews:

The Catholic Teen Book authors have done it again! We loved this book from page one; it’s a great way to dig deeper into Lent with your teens. The book has a story for everyone, and they all share the faith in different but wonderful ways. Highly recommend! Jennifer & Kate Waldyke, Co-hosts of Catholic Mom and Daughter

‘Ashes’, the latest compilation of stories from CatholicTeenBooks.com provides teen readers with plenty to think about. This compilation focuses on the theme of Lent, Easter, and our own mortality. In each of these stories, there is an encounter with death. Sometimes a death is pending or has just occurred or is threatening nearby. But the experienced and very talented authors at CatholicTeenBooks.com have not presented a depressing, frightening or dark anthology here. Instead, I was surprised to find that each story is uplifting, hopeful and very inspiring. What binds these stories is that each young person must make a leap of Faith, take a step into a fuller, more mature understanding of their Catholic Faith. Characters are called to forgive, to resist temptation, to be courageous, to be steadfast and responsible. All of them come to understand on a deeper level the sacrificial nature of Love.
I highly recommend this collection of stories from the authors at CatholicTeenBooks.com. Your teens will love how characters struggle when confronted with the stark reality of death but ultimately learn that with Faith, they can be heroes! Melinda Harrington Catholic Children’s Stories

This is the fourth anthology from the authors at the Catholic Teen Books collective. Each has been a great read. This Lenten volume is also, to be honest, my favourite of the four now. Each story was remarkable. Many of the contributors to this collection, in their own way, imitate Christ and are master storytellers in our own generation. I have a great deal of respect for the ten authors who contributed to this series. And a couple of them are among my all-time favourite authors. And I read a couple hundred books a year. This is a collection of 10 faith-filled stories by 10 great authors. In this collection, we have one short story from each of the contributors. Some contain characters you can encounter in novels by the authors. Some are from books and series that have been around for a few years and others to recent releases or forthcoming works. I really could not pick a favorite or least favorite. Each story is very well written. And I thoroughly enjoyed them all.
For fans of any of the authors in this collection, you need to pick this book up to read their contributions. For readers who love remarkable stories, this collection is for you also. And if you want some great reads that are clean Catholic fiction, this is the book for you. This anthology is Amazing! Steven R. McEvoy, BookReviewsAndMore.ca

Blog Tour Schedule and Reviews/Articles:

Jan 25  Ellen Gable                            Plot Line and Sinker                                                    

Jan 26  Barb S.                                   Franciscan Mom

Jan 27  Patrice Fagnant-McArthur    Spiritual Woman Thoughts Blog

Jan 28  Carolyn Astfalk                     My Scribbler’s Heart Blog

Jan 29  Amanda Lauer                       Blog

Jan 30   Marie Keiser                         Enjoying Womanhood

Jan 31  Barb S                                    CatholicMom.com

Feb 1   Corinna Turner                      Unseen Books

Feb 2   Catholic 365                          Catholic 365

Feb 3   Victoria Ryan                         Victoria Ryan Books

Feb 4   Mary Jo Thayer                     Blog

Feb 5   Theresa Linden                      Theresa Linden

Feb 6   Catholic Teen Books             Catholic Teen Books

Author Bios:

THERESA LINDEN is the author of award-winning Catholic fiction, including the West Brothers contemporary series and the Chasing Liberty dystopian trilogy. One of her great joys is to bring elements of faith to life through a story. She has more than a dozen published books, three of which won awards from the Catholic Press Association. Her short stories appear in several anthologies, including Secrets: Visible & Invisible, and Gifts: Visible & Invisible. Her articles and interviews can be found on various radio shows and in magazines, including EWTN’s The Good Fight, The National Catholic Register, Catholic Digest, Today’s Catholic Teacher, and Catholic Mom. Her books are featured online on Catholic Teen Books, Catholic Reads, FORMED, and Virtue Works Media. A wife, homeschooling mom, and Secular Franciscan, she resides in northeast Ohio with her husband and children. You can learn more about her at www.TheresaLinden.com.

ANTONY BARONE KOLENC is the author of The Harwood Mysteries, an exciting historical-fiction series for youth published by Loyola Press. He is a long-time member of the Catholic Writers Guild, and his novels all have the Catholic Writers Guild’s Seal of Approval. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps after 21 years of military service. A law professor who’s had his works published in numerous journals and magazines, Kolenc now speaks at legal, writing, and home-education events. He and his wife, Alisa, are the parents of five children and have been blessed with three wonderful grandchildren. To learn more about The Harwood Mysteries and its author, visit www.antonykolenc.com.

AMANDA LAUER loves writing books—particularly Young Adult Historic Fiction—that portray the Church in a positive light and depict God’s children endeavoring to become the best version of themselves every day. A journalist and proofreader by trade, Amanda embarked on her novelist career with the award-winning and best-selling Heaven Intended Civil War series. A World Such as Heaven Intended earned the 2016 YA CALA award. Currently, Amanda has several more books in the process of being published.  In addition to writing novels, Amanda works in the film industry writing and copy-editing screenplays. She was awarded Best Writer 2020 (Red Letter Awards) for her work as a co-writer on the movie The Islands. To learn more about Amanda, who’s blessed to be living in a world such as heaven intended, visit her website: www.AmandaLauer.com.

ELLEN GABLE HRKACH is an author of twelve books, ghostwriter, editor, self-publishing book coach, publisher, and contributor to multiple websites and books. She is the former president of the Catholic Writers Guild, and her books have won multiple awards: the IPPY Gold Medal (2010), and First Place in the Catholic Media Association Awards (2022). Married to her husband of 40 years, James, she is also the mother of five adult sons, three daughters-in-law, and Grammy to two precious grandchildren. When she’s not writing, Ellen can be found watching classic movies, researching her family tree, and playing with her grandchildren. Originally from New Jersey, Ellen lives with her husband in rural Ontario, Canada. Visit her website: www.EllenGable.com.

CAROLYN ASTFALK writes from the sweetest place on Earth, Hershey, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and four children. In addition to her contemporary Catholic romances (sometimes referred to as Theology of the Body fiction), including the young adult coming-of-age story Rightfully Ours, she is a Catholicmom.com contributor. She is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and Pennwriters. When she is not washing dishes, doing laundry, or reading, you can find her blogging about books, faith, and family life at www.CarolynAstfalk.com.

LESLEA WAHL is the author of the award-winning Catholic teen mysteries The Perfect Blindside, An Unexpected Role, Where You Lead, and eXtreme Blindside. The characters in this short story, Luke, Celia, Austin, and Grandma Grace, appear in her newest adventurous novel, A Summer to Treasure. Leslea’s journey to become an author came through a search for value-based fiction for her own children. She now not only writes for teens but also has become a reviewer of Catholic teen fiction to help other families discover faith-based books. Leslea lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and children. The furry, four-legged members of her family often make cameo appearances in her novels. Leslea has always loved mysteries and hopes to encourage teens to grow in their faith through these fun adventures. For more information about her faith-filled Young Adult mysteries, please visit www.LesleaWahl.com.

T. M. GAOUETTE is the author of the Faith & Kung Fu series for young adults, as well as The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch and For Eden’s Sake. She also contributed to the last two Catholic Teen Books anthologies, Secrets: Visible & Invisible with her short story “Sister Francesca” and Gifts: Visible & Invisible with “Just Jesus.” Her novels have received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval (except new releases for which the seal may be in process). Born in Africa, raised in London, England, Gaouette now lives on a small farm in New England with her husband, where she homeschools their four children, raises goats, and writes fiction for teens and young adults. A former contributor for Project Inspired, Gaouette’s desire is to instill the love of God into the hearts of her readers. You can find out more at www.TMGaouette.com.

CYNTHIA T. TONEY writes characters that show tweens and teens how wonderful, powerful, and valuable God made them. Her current novel will accompany The Other Side of Freedom that will give readers more of Robert Brown (a.k.a. Sal) and Antonina, the girl he left behind. Cynthia is also the author of the Bird Face series; 8 Notes to a Nobody, 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status, 6 Dates to Disaster, and 3 Things to Forget, as well as short stories in the Catholic Teen Books anthologies Secrets: Visible and Invisible and Gifts: Visible and Invisible. She is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and a volunteer with the Independence Italian Cultural Museum in Louisiana. She has a passion for rescuing dogs from abuse, neglect, and euthanasia and lives with her husband and several canines. The public can also connect with her through her website http://www.CynthiaTToney.com and her blog http://www.BirdFaceWendy.wordpress.com. Look for her books and other writing at CatholicTeenBooks.com and her publisher’s website, WriteIntegrity.com.

MARIE KEISER is the author of Heaven’s Hunter. A former teacher, she now lives in Minnesota with her husband and young children. She is passionate about writing inspiring stories about people who struggle with Faith. When she’s not doing dishes, chasing toddlers, or changing diapers, she occasionally blogs about books, life, or ideas at EnjoyingWomanhood.com.

CORINNA TURNER is the author of the I Am Margaret and unSPARKed series for young adults, as well as stand-alone works such as Elfling and Mandy Lamb and the Full Moon (for teens) and Someday (for older teens and adults). She has just released The Boy Who Knew (Carlo Acutis) the first book in her new Friends in High Places series about friendship with the saints. All of her novels have received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval (except new releases for which the seal may be in process). Liberation (‘I Am Margaret’ Book 3) was nominated for the Carnegie Medal Award 2016 and Elfling won first prize for “Teen and Young Adult Fiction” in the Catholic Press Association 2019 Book Awards. Several of her other books have been placed in the CPA Awards and the Catholic Arts and Letters Award.  Corinna Turner is a Lay Dominican with an MA in English from Oxford University, and lives in the UK. She has been writing since she was fourteen and likes strong protagonists with plenty of integrity. She used to have a Giant African Land Snail called Peter with a 6½” long shell—which is legal in the UK!—but now makes do with a cactus and a campervan. You can find out more at www.IAmMargaret.com.

Infant Loss Awareness Month #neverbestill

My latest post at Amazing Catchecists: The entire month of October is devoted to Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness.

James and I are blessed, honored, and grateful to be the parents of five adult sons and three beautiful daughters-in-law (as well as two grandchildren!)

But not a day goes by that I don’t think about those 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 some of my reflections on pregnancy loss:

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

Five Little Souls in Heaven    (This article was written 27 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 less-than-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.

Excerpt copyright 2005 Ellen Gable (End of excerpt.)

Here is a list of Catholic novels with miscarriage/baby loss as a theme.

In Name Only by Ellen Gable

A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable

Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable

A World Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer

Rose, Sola by Carmela Martino

The Rose and the Sword by Gina Marinello-Sweeney

Bane’s Eyes by Corinna Turner

Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk

If you have lost a baby through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, or infant death, please click 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)

An Open Book – September #openbook

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

All Quiet On the Western Front by Enrich Maria Remarque

Synopsis: Considered by many the greatest war novel of all time, All Quiet on the Western Front is Erich Maria Remarque’s masterpiece of the German experience during World War I.

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. . . .

This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army during World War I. They become soldiers with youthful enthusiasm. But the world of duty, culture, and progress they had been taught breaks in pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches.

Through years of vivid horror, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principle of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against one another . . .  if only he can come out of the war alive.

My review: I tend to avoid books written in the present tense, but this one does it well. I also found it fascinating that this book is written from the POV of a German soldier instead of an Allied soldier. It doesn’t shy away from the brutality of the war and humanizes every soldier, both German and Allied. It has beautifully written passages. Highly recommend.

Synopsis: Fear is at the heart of the sexual revolution, and its most fitting monument is the “hook-up.” Dr. Morse exposes the sexual revolution’s fraudulent promise of freedom and fearlessly explodes some of modern society’s most cherished—and destructive—myths. She argues that strong, lasting marriages are essential for the survival of a free society, not to mention basic human happiness. She fires the opening shots of a new sexual revolution and shows how everyone, married or single, can help.

My review: I picked up this book for five dollars at a local Catholic bookstore. I liked it, but the author didn’t go far enough in explaining why contraception is disordered and one of the underlying causes of a “hook-up” world. However, on the whole, it was an excellent book. Recommend.

Synopsis: If you met God today, what would He say to you? Words of Hope is a collection of powerful dialogues and sayings given by Jesus to four gifted saints from the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Genoa, Gertrude the Great and Margaret Mary Alacoque. These souls possessed the gift of “locution,” the ability to hear the actual voice of God. In this book, author Craig Turner collects into categories the locutions received by these saints, words from God that are meant not only for these four souls, but for all mankind.

My review: This is a beautiful book with powerful words given by Jesus to four gifted saints. These souls could hear the actual voice of God. Recommend.

Amazon Synopsis: Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby is a friendly, conversational book about pregnancy, birth, and your first three months as a new mom. With respect and honesty, authors Bonnie Way (mom of 5) and Anna Eastland (mom of 9) share their experiences, walking expectant moms through some of the questions and concerns they may experience from conception to colic. This book includes tips on dealing with first-trimester exhaustion, dressing your baby bump without breaking the bank, choosing the best care provider for your pregnancy, whether or not to write a birth plan, dealing with pain during labour, taking care of yourself and baby after birth, and more. If Bonnie and Anna could sit down with you to have coffee and chat about pregnancy and new babies, this is what they’d like to tell you – mom to mom.

My review: I enjoyed this step-by-step book for new mothers. It offers great information, especially for first-time moms. Recommend.

Arnprior Author’s New Novel Wins Award

The local newspaper published an article about my newest award.

Photo by James Hrkach

Local author Ellen Gable Hrkach is already an award-winning author whose books have received top prizes in various fiction awards. But, for Hrkach, the award for her newest book is particularly satisfying. Where Angels Pass, Hrkach’s twelfth book and based on a true story, won First Place in the Catholic Media Association Book Awards in the category of Catholic Novels (Educational). Her book also won Honorable Mention in an additional CMA category of Best Book by a Small Publisher. 

She says, “I’m grateful for any awards or recognition, but to win a CMA Book Award is a bucket list item that I can now check off.”  The CMA judges gave this comment about Hrkach’s book: “This is a timely and well-written story, showing the effects of child abuse by a priest, not only on the victim but also on the victim’s family. A worthwhile read!”

Hrkach explains, “Where Angels Pass tells the fictionalized story of my father’s abuse and the ensuing tragedies that befell our family because of that abuse. My siblings and I didn’t find out about the abuse until after my father died. When I discovered the reason he had such a troubled life, it all made sense to me.”

By writing this book, Hrkach wanted to share that despite the clerical abuse that had occurred for decades in the Catholic Church – and specifically with her father – her own Catholic faith, although tested, prevailed nonetheless. Similarly, her abused father remained a Catholic until his tragic death. She says, “I had a beautiful relationship with my dad and, despite all the difficulties, he was a wonderful and caring father.” Author Jim Sano says that the book is “a love story of a daughter for her father…that will surely touch people in a profound way.”

Former attorney and author Michael Seagriff says, “Ellen Gable has done a great service to our Church, the victims of this dreaded abuse, and particularly to their families whose suffering has gone virtually unnoticed. Masterful job mixing fact with fiction.”

Originally from the Philadelphia-South Jersey area, Hrkach is now a dual citizen. She began writing religious fiction as a hobby twenty years ago when her five sons were small children. “When I first started writing, I planned to eventually get around to working on a story about my father’s life, but for twenty years, I couldn’t actually sit down and write the story, partly because it was too difficult to relive our family’s most disturbing experiences.”  Then, Hrkach relates that, “Last summer, I just sat down and wrote for three weeks until I finished the first draft. Yes, it was excruciatingly painful to write about, but it was also very therapeutic.”

Six of Hrkach’s books have been translated into various languages, and the author’s books have been collectively downloaded 780,000 times on Kindle. To date, she has published twelve original works, has ghostwritten five others, and has contributed to numerous other books and websites.  Find out more about her at http://www.ellengable.com.

Where Angels Pass is available in ebook, paperback and hardcover on Amazon and through the author: fullquiverpublishing@gmail.com

The Apostolic Pardon by Susan Tassone

I’m pleased to welcome Susan today on my blog, writing about the Apostolic Pardon that very few Catholics know about. We’re blessed to know about it because the priest gave the Apostolic Pardon to my mother-in-law at the same time she received the Last Rites before she died five years ago.

THE APOSTOLIC PARDON

Don’t Leave Earth Without It

BY SUSAN TASSONE

During the Covid lockdown, my family experienced two Covid deaths and three unexpected deaths. All in a row. We had 6 Aunts and 2 uncles and as a result lots of cousins. Sadly, only one aunt remained, Aunt Babe. But within two months Aunt Babe contracted Covid. She was dying. My cousins contacted me uncertain how to reach a priest. I was hundreds of miles away.

Anxiously checking the internet, I contacted St. Patrick’s Church in the area to get a priest to administer the last sacraments. The pastor answered, but he needed to contact the Bishop’s office. It was his office that assigned trained “Covid priests” to give the last rites. He couldn’t guarantee a priest would be available. Thirty minutes later he contacted me. A priest was available. This priest drove three hours to get to my dying Aunt. He gave her the last rites with the Apostolic Pardon.

She died that night with the grace of all graces, the final blessing of God to die in the state of grace with the reception of the last sacraments, wearing her treasured scapular.

WHAT IS THE APOSTOLIC PARDON?

In my book, Prayers, Promises and Devotions for the Holy Souls, I have a special section specifically for the sick, suffering and dying. Msgr. Patrick J. Gaalaas wrote this important section on the Apostolic Pardon.

“The Church provides powerful helps to persons who are dying. Most importantly, she obliges her children to seek the grace of the Sacraments of Penance, Holy Communion (Viaticum), and the Anointing of the Sick. She obliges her priests to ensure that the faithful in their care are not deprived of an opportunity to receive them.

In addition to these, there is a little-known, but important, plenary indulgence that is granted to the dying. Administered by a priest, it is called the “Apostolic Pardon,” or “Apostolic Blessing.”

The Handbook of Indulgences puts it quite forcefully: “Priests who minister the sacraments to the Christian faithful who are in a life-and-death situation should not neglect to impart to them the apostolic blessing, with its attached indulgence.”

The Apostolic Blessing has two forms in the ritual for the Anointing of the Sick. Both are short and easy to memorize:

Form A: “Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May he open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy.”

Form B: “By the authority which the Apostolic See has given me, I grant you a full pardon and the remission of all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

WHAT IF THERE IS NO PRIEST PRESENT?

The question, of course, arises: “What if there is no priest present when a person is dying?” The Handbook of Indulgences reassuringly stipulates that “if a priest cannot be present, holy mother Church lovingly grants such persons, who are rightly disposed, a plenary indulgence to be obtained in an articulo mortis, at the approach of death, provided they regularly prayed in some way during their lifetime.” Note the two conditions: The dying person must be “rightly disposed” and have “regularly prayed.”

Being rightly disposed means to be in the state of grace and without attachment even to venial sin. This is required in the gaining of any plenary indulgence. Just what does it mean to have “prayed regularly in some way during their lifetime”?

The Apostolic Constitution on Indulgences, Indulgentiarum Doctrina, promulgated by Pope Paul VI, in 1967, notes: if one of the faithful in danger of death is unable to have a priest administer the sacraments and impart the Apostolic Blessing, “the Church, like a devoted mother, graciously grants such a person who is properly disposed a plenary indulgence to be gained at the hour of death.”

The one condition is the practice of praying for this all during life. Use of a crucifix or cross is recommended for the gaining of this indulgence.” The one condition necessary in such a situation, then, is that the dying person should have desired this indulgence — and prayed for it! No doubt, this can be accomplished in many ways, (i.e., Nine First Friday Devotions, Five First Saturday devotions).

It’s important to know about the Apostolic Pardon so you can request it for yourself and others, or a loved one.

Leaflet Missal Company in St. Paul, Minnesota, offers the Apostolic Pardon Prayer Card available to purchase. (1- 800-328-9582)

I carry a few with me. A friend who died passed these cards out at her wake!

GREGORIAN MASSES

I didn’t stop there for my dear Aunt. I arranged Gregorian Masses for her soul through the Pious Union of St. Joseph.

Gregorian Masses are a series of Holy Masses celebrated on thirty consecutive days for one deceased soul. A departed monk appeared to St. Gregory and declared that he had been delivered from purgatory upon the completion of thirty Masses.

(However, the church does not officially confirm this but points to the efficacy of the Masses!) Sacred Congregation of Indulgences has declared the tradition to be “a pious and reasonable belief of the faithful.” Put them in your Wills!

HOW DOES ONE PREPARE FOR ETERNAL LIFE?

Was my aunt prepared to die? Was she in the state of grace? I would hope so. Are you prepared? Over a million souls died of Covid. How many died unprepared?

We must be prepared at all times. We need to pray on a regular basis so we are prepared for eternal life. It begins with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We should not wait until the last hour to seek reconciliation with God and our neighbor.

The best way to prepare our soul for eternal life is a constant attitude of forgiveness in our heart and actions. We are called to exercise patience in adversity, assistance to those who are afflicted, love of neighbor and a sincere devotion to Our Lord and His mother — all in the spirit of unceasing prayer, and humility which draws down grace upon us.

PRAY FOR THE DYING

One reason prayers for the dying has faded is because society does not think about death. The saints and Christians prayed for special grace and strength at the hour of death. There are many different prayers that can invoke blessings for the sick and dying and to offer for our own souls now and at the hour of our death. Prayers, Promises and Devotions for the Holy Souls is a great resource for the sick suffering and dying. It’s also a source of catechetical teaching to young members of the Church who should become familiar with the prayers and devotions.

Pray for the sick, suffering and dying. Recite the Pious Union Prayer for the Dying.

They become the holy souls! Mercy on them will bring us also the crowning mercy of a holy death. Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen said, “As we enter heaven, we will see them, so many of them, coming towards us and thanking us. We will ask who they are and they will say: ‘A poor soul you prayed for in purgatory.’”

Susan Tassone is the author of 14 best-selling, award-winning books including Prayers, Promises and Devotions for the Holy Souls, Day by Day for the Holy Souls, Jesus Speaks to Faustina and You and Praying with the Saints for the Holy Souls. EWTN declared Susan is the all-time best-selling author in the history of the network.

An Open Book #open book August 2022

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

Tangled Violets by Denise-Marie Martin

Synopsis: Denise-Marie Martin’s debut novel exposes the greatest longings of the human heart: to belong and be loved. Tangled Violets is the riveting story of an adoptee’s search to find out who she is. Advanced degrees, professional success, and a string of failed marriages have done nothing to fill the void that has defined Lizzie Schmidt’s life. Armed with mostly false information, she embarks on an improbable journey of self-discovery, searching for her biological family before the days of the internet or consumer genetic testing made such reunions commonplace.

Tangled Violets is the shocking story of how far one woman is willing to go in search of love and acceptance—a journey that leads to joy, pain, lies, and absolute heartbreak. A tale of redemption and the healing power of forgiveness, this novel demonstrates that no matter what we have done or where we have been, no one is outside the mercy of God and the healing balm of his unconditional love.

My review: I was privileged to read an ARC of Tangled Violets (which is scheduled for publication on September 8, 2022.) Denise-Marie Martin’s debut novel is beautifully written, and I could not put the book down. It’s told from the point of view of an adopted child who grows up with many questions. As an adult, when she reaches out to find her birth parents, the story takes an unexpected but disturbing turn. The characters are so real that I felt I was in the story with them. The writing is beautiful and rich in imagery, and the story is compelling. I highly recommend this incredible book! 5/5.

Fantacy Daughter of Fate Part 1 by Vanessa Marie Caron

Synopsis: “Bravery is not the absence of fear, but the ability to move forward despite that fear.”

Sixteen-year-old Arianna is at a crisis with her identity. Frustrated, she searches for answers to her past, but instead, she finds herself teleported to a whole other fantasy world, a world suffering under the tyrannical rule of the Shadow Lord, Keshieena.

Unintentionally branded as the powerful Stone Bearer, the protector of peace, and also the Fated One prophesied to restore the lost heir to the throne, Arianna embarks on a dangerous journey against all manner of evil. At first homesick and hesitant, Arianna doubts herself and her newfound abilities, but she is not alone. Under the protection and tutelage of her elusive yet handsome male companion, Arianna tests the limits of her powers, uncovering potential she’d never dreamed of.

Together, they pursue a series of archived texts that lead them closer to finding the rightful heir to Fantacy’s throne. However, with the Stone of Power in her possession, Arianna becomes the Shadow Lord’s personal target. The stakes rise further as Arianna develops an attachment to the suffering peoples of Fantacy. Although Arianna might not have found the answers to her past, her future has become clear: find the heir, protect the Stone and bring back peace.

Friendship, love, action and adventure…

Part One in the Fantacy Duology, “Fantacy: Daughter of Fate,” is geared towards young adults and teenagers who have a nostalgic fondness for the brightness of, “Narnia,” fused with the romance and intrigue of more contemporary works such as, “Throne of Glass,” and, “Eragon.”

My review: I enjoyed this fantasy novel and the beautiful world the author created. There was some telling (to be expected in a debut novel) but the unique imagery and setting made up for that. The story kept me turning the pages. It does include some violence so I’d recommend it for teens and older. 4/5.

#NFP Awareness Week #nfpawareness

This week is NFP Awareness Week.

Natural Family Planning, Supporting God’s gifts of love and life in marriage.

Check out these articles I wrote about NFP!

Rebuilding a Culture of Life 

NFP and Resolutions for the New Year

Humanae Vitae and the Benefits of NFP

Responsible Parenthood and NFP

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