NFP Awareness Week: NFP Cartoons #NFPAwarenessWeek

Natural Family Planning Awareness Week begins next week. A great way to start the celebration is with humor!

Image copyright 2013 James and Ellen Hrkach (Please do not use without permission)

Image copyright 2013 James and Ellen Hrkach (Please do not use without permission)

copyright 2013 James and Ellen Hrkach (Please do not use without permission)

copyright 2013 James and Ellen Hrkach (Please do not use without permission)

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

Intimate Sharing

Cartoon copyright James & Ellen Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing

Cartoon copyright James & Ellen Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing

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

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

Copyright James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Copyright James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

All images are copyright by James and Ellen Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.

Rightfully Ours Kindle Edition Free

Rightfully Ours, by Carolyn Astfalk, Kindle edition, is free through July 3, 2017.

Sixteen-year-old Paul Porter’s relocation to Pennsylvania is a temporary move during his dad’s deployment. Or so he and his brother think, until devastating news lands on their doorstep.

Paul’s new home with the Muellers provides solace, especially in the form of Rachel, his friend and confidante. Their abiding friendship deepens as they work side by side to uncover what could be lost treasure.

Will they acquire the strength of character and virtue to take only what rightfully belongs to them or are they in way over their heads, with more than a few lost artifacts at stake?

(NB: That’s my youngest son on the cover!)

To download the Kindle edition for free, click here.

Reviews:

“Rightfully Ours, by Carolyn Astfalk, rightfully belongs on your “Want to Read” list! In Astfalk’s third Christian fiction novel, she introduces us to two teenagers: Rachel Mueller and Paul Porter. At the beginning of the book, when Rachel and Paul meet, they are only 14 and 16, respectively. Throughout the story, we see a deep friendship blossom between the two characters. As they get to know each other, we see that friendship grow into love, young love. Rightfully Ours deals with the virtue of chastity head on; yet in a manner that would make any teen want to be like Rachel and Paul. These two characters serve as excellent role models for teenagers coming to grips with burgeoning love and sexual desire, contrasted against all that they have been taught concerning morals and virtue.I found Rightfully Ours enchanting, with a little bit of mystery. As the story unfolds, Rachel and Paul discover more than each other. They enjoy digging around in Rachel’s garden, only to discover something very interesting. Can’t give too much away, but let me say that what they found is very interesting, for it had the capacity to change their lives. As I continued to read, I wondered how they might handle such responsibility. As I turned each page, I kept wondering if Paul and Rachel would remain true to their morals, or give in to societal pressures. They were only teenagers. What endeared me to this story is that as I continued to read the book, I learned that Rachel and Paul would come to discover that their love for each other is worth more than any earthly treasure, and that their chastity was priceless.”  Virginia Lieto, author

“Rightfully Ours is a novel for older teens about the importance and beauty of chastity. This is the first book I’ve read by Carolyn Astfalk and thoroughly enjoyed her writing style. She is an accomplished Catholic romance writer and has brought her skills to the YA market. This book is full of relatable characters, touching family traumas, teenage passions, and an intriguing mystery. While an enjoyable story, this book deals with an important subject matter that teens face in our society- purity. I look forward to reading more from this author.”  Leslea Wahl, author

To download the Kindle edition for free, click here.

Rest in Peace, Mumsy

It’s been a few weeks since I posted here on my blog.  My mother-in-law (who already had advancing dementia) started declining rapidly with the diagnosis that she had cancer. Despite her dementia, she had made it clear to my husband that she did not want to go to a home, that she just wanted God to take her.  Shortly after that, a CT scan showed advancing cancer.

She entered the palliative care unit at the Arnprior Hospital on June 8th and was given pain medication to keep her comfortable. She passed away on June 13, 2017, with family by her side.  The medical personnel were kind, caring and compassionate to her and to our family. Her obituary is below:

Shirley Hrkach

Passed into eternal life on Tuesday morning, June 13, 2017 with family by her side. Shirley was the devoted mother of James (Ellie) of Pakenham; Jan of Hobe Sound, Florida; Jocelyn of Maui, Hawaii; and Jody (Karen) of Longwood, Florida. Loving “Mumsy” of Josh, Ben (Kayla), Tim, Adam, Paul, Ashley, Katelyn and Sean Hrkach. Also survived by many nieces and nephews. The last surviving of 11 children born to the late Charles and Katherine (née Legree) Laderoute. A long-time parishioner of St. John Chrysostom Parish in Arnprior, Shirley was an active member of the Catholic Women’s League for many years. She will be missed. The family will receive friends during visitation at the Pilon Family Funeral Home and Chapel Ltd., 50 John Street North, Arnprior on Monday evening, June 19th from 7 to 9 p.m. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated in St. John Chrysostom Church, Arnprior on Tuesday afternoon, June 20th at 1 o’clock. In memory of Shirley, please consider a donation to the St. John Chrysostom Church Memorial Fund.

Although it was sad to lose Mumsy, she leaves behind a beautiful legacy in her descendants.

 

May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.

Requiescat in pace, Mumsy.

 

The Path to Forgiveness

 

Photo by Kayla Hrkach, used with permission

My latest article at Catholic Mom:

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Many of us say this prayer multiple times every day if we are saying the Rosary. It’s important to take these words to heart every time we say them.

I’ve heard many people say “I’ll never forgive him,” or “I’ll never forgive her.” However, Christ didn’t qualify it. It doesn’t matter what the person has done to us or the heartache they caused. We must do our very best to forgive the person. This is NOT an easy thing to do, especially if the person you’re trying to forgive isn’t sorry for the pain they’ve caused you.

For most of my life, I had a difficult time forgiving an older female relative who verbally abused me throughout my married life. I spent years avoiding this relative, but sometimes it wasn’t possible. And while I thought I had forgiven her, a few years ago when someone asked me what had happened, I let it all come out and began reliving all the difficult moments. That’s when I realized I needed counseling and/or spiritual help. Later we discovered that she suffered from a mental illness and I just happened to be the convenient target for her verbal abuse.

As a grade school student, I was bullied by one particular girl who made my life extremely difficult. The religious sisters at the school loved me and I was a good student. But I was also the shortest in the class and probably weighed 45 pounds soaking wet. The girl was not that much taller than me and I was an easy target. I spent years holding onto a grudge against this girl and found myself thinking, “I hope she’s had a hard life.” But that isn’t forgiveness. I suspect now that she was probably enduring her own abuse and projecting that onto an easy target.

After my father’s death at the young age of 49, I found out that he had been molested by a priest when he was a boy. Because of the shame, he never told anyone except for my mother. He suffered from addictions and mental disorders and these all seemed to make sense in light of this information. I spent years thinking, “I hope that priest burned in hell.” I have always wished that there had been some justice for my father and for our family, who suffered along with him in his struggles. However, the thought that this priest’s soul was burning in hell was not forgiving at all. But truthfully, I didn’t want to forgive him for all the heartache he caused my father and our family.

So how can you forgive? First, ask the Blessed Mother to help you. She stood by, quietly, with great sorrow as her Son was beaten, scourged and hung on a Cross to die a painful death. She cradled Him in her arms afterward. She heard Him say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Mary forgave them because that is what her Son asked.

Second, when I was in confession with a priest a few years ago, he told me to pray for every person who has ever hurt me. So that’s what I did. I prayed for them, offered up sacrifices and prayed a blessing on them. I also prayed that the Holy Spirit would bring to mind all those that I needed to forgive. As well, I prayed that the Holy Spirit would bring to mind all those who needed to forgive me for any wrongs I’ve done, and I prayed for those people as well, that they would find it in their hearts to forgive me.

Then I began fasting, especially for those people I have had a hard time forgiving: the bully, the relative, the abusive priest. It wasn’t easy in the beginning. I didn’t like sacrificing for those who had hurt me. However, because fasting invites the Holy Spirit into our hearts and souls, He gave me the grace to forgive. Forgiveness didn’t happen overnight, but I was finally able to forgive the abusive relative, the priest and the bully and to love them unconditionally. I was finally able to think of these people in love, rather than anger. A burden had been lifted. I was also able to sympathize with what these two women and the priest must have gone through in their lives to treat others so badly.

Forgiveness doesn’t excuse the behavior. And it doesn’t mean that we don’t want justice if the person has committed a crime. It also doesn’t mean we should stay around and continue to be a target. However, embracing anger and holding onto a grudge hurts us and our souls. It doesn’t matter whether the person is repentant and/or wants to be forgiven. It’s important for us to be as merciful to others as we expect God will be with us.

If you find yourself in a position where someone is hurting you, offending you or being unkind, stop and say a quiet prayer of blessing on the person and the silent words, “Father, forgive him/her, for they know not what they do.” This is extremely helpful whether the offense is big or small.

To read an inspiring and compelling story of forgiveness, I highly recommend Immaculeé Ilibagiza’s book, Left to Tell. She was able to forgive the people responsible for murdering her family.

Forgiving others is one of the very foundations of Christian life. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If we find forgiving someone too difficult, ask Our Lady to help, then pray and fast for those who have offended us. If we can’t forgive those who have hurt us, how will God forgive us for our sins?

Copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Happy Easter!

A Blessed Easter!  Alleluia!  He is Risen!We have had a very busy Triduum with my husband as Cantor as all the Masses and me as Lector.

We have had a very busy Triduum with my husband as Cantor as all the Masses and me as Lector.

Easter is somewhat different from the way it used to be when our boys were very small. But we still fill a huge Easter basket to be shared by everyone!

Favorite Easter Hymn:

Jesus Christ is Risen Today

Favorite Chocolate:

President’s Choice Dark Chocolate Peppermint Melts

Favorite Easter Memory:

In 1967, when I was nearly eight years old, my mother was in the hospital in critical condition. Back in those days, children were rarely allowed to visit patients in critical care. I wrote her many letters (like the one below), but rarely could she answer any of our letters because of her illness. A few days before Easter, my father had arranged it with the nurses to allow my three siblings and myself to visit her on Easter Sunday because it was the end of March and also was very close to her birthday. We hadn’t seen her in over a month so I was thrilled to be able to be with her and talk to her again. My first view of her was sitting in a wheelchair, her complexion very pale and I remember being surprised at how thin she was. In fact, my oldest brother could put his fingers around my mother’s wrists they were so small. Mom, at five feet six inches tall, was normally about 110 pounds. When we saw her that Easter day, she weighed about 85 pounds. I didn’t care how she looked, though. I was so excited to see her again after so long. Later, whenever my mother would recall that day, she said that while she was happy to see us, just a few minutes with us tired her out so much that she wound up sleeping most of the rest of the day! Thankfully, Mom made a complete recovery from that illness (and, in fact, gave birth to another child!). She eventually passed away nine years ago. In fact, tomorrow is her birthday. Here is an article I wrote about her several years ago.

copyright Ellen Hrkach

copyright Ellen Hrkach

Favorite Easter Photos Collage:

Top Left: James and I, our first Easter together, 1980

Right: Easter 2003, with my boys dressed (as they used to like to say)

like the brothers in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Bottom Left: My sibs and I, Easter 1962

Easter collage

 

 

 

Rightfully Ours by Carolyn Astfalk Now Available for Pre-Order

Rightfully Ours, by Carolyn Astfalk, Kindle edition is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com before its release date of April 1, 2017.

Sixteen-year-old Paul Porter’s relocation to Pennsylvania is a temporary move during his dad’s deployment. Or so he and his brother think, until devastating news lands on their doorstep.

Paul’s new home with the Muellers provides solace, especially in the form of Rachel, his friend and confidante. Their abiding friendship deepens as they work side by side to uncover what could be lost treasure.

Will they acquire the strength of character and virtue to take only what rightfully belongs to them or are they in way over their heads, with more than a few lost artifacts at stake?

(NB: That’s my youngest son on the cover!)

To pre-order the Kindle edition, click here.