Christmas Cards Through the Years 2021

I’d like to share just a few of the original Christmas cards we’ve created over the past 35 years. 

We no longer send snail mail cards, but for many years, we did and we always created something original and unique to our family.  Now, we send these cards via email.  Which one is your favorite?

1. Let the Spirit In – 1989

1989 Christmas Card

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1989

2. She Brought Forth Her First Born Son – 1992

1992 Christmas Card

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1992

3. Glorious Strains – 1996

 

4. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – 2007

5. Hrkach Boys Assembly Line – 2008

 

6. Sleeping In – 2014

Copyright 2014 James and Ellen Hrkach, Please do not use without permission

Copyright 2014 James and Ellen Hrkach, Please do not use without permission

7. A Many Splendored Christmas (2015)

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

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

8. Empty Next 2017

2017 Christmas card

copyright 2017 James and Ellen Hrkach, please do not use without permission

9. Last year: 2020

2020 copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

All images copyright 2021 by James and Ellen Hrkach

Where Angels Pass Now Available

My new book is now available on Kindle and in print.

Based on true events. Teenager Evie Gallagher is stunned when her 45-year-old father dies tragically and suddenly. Too many unanswered questions accompany Evie’s challenging journey to adulthood. When she finally discovers the reason her father led such a troubled life, shock turns to anger. She is determined to find justice for her father.

Nervous about the first day of his freshman year, 14-year-old Hank Gallagher steps inside Holy Archangels High School for the first time in September of 1954. Although the majestic Holy Archangels statues inside the school’s grand lobby present an air of protection, it is not long before Hank passes right under them and into the hands of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Confused and cornered by threats, Hank attempts to abandon his secret to the past, but a horrible wound on his heart eventually leads to a catastrophic breakdown.

Based loosely on actual events, chapters alternate between Evie and Hank to reveal a life haunted by betrayal and a revelation of true justice and hope.

Reviews:

Ellen Gable’s newest novel, Where Angels Pass, will take readers to the depths of their emotions. It is a beautifully written, yet heart-rending tale of sexual abuse and the long-term effects such a crime has on its victims. From the beginning of the story, Ellen draws in the reader bringing them close to loveable characters, each with their own story to tell. Curiosity and empathy compel the reader to keep moving through a story that might be difficult for some to read, as it zooms in on sexual abuse by clergy. Anger and compassion go hand-in-hand throughout this tale, and Ellen Gable does a remarkable job balancing the two. I believe this novel will bring to light the utter tragedy of clerical abuse and the ripple effect it has for generations to come. Yet through the darkness of that abomination, dawn rises, and we are assured that justice can prevail and healing can be achieved. I highly recommend this book for anyone who seeks to understand, for this just might be one of the most important novels of our time.  Mary Jo Thayer, award-winning author of Close to the Soul

Ellen Gable tells a very personal and difficult story, Where Angels Pass, with such gentleness, love, and heartfelt honesty. What I expected to be an uncomfortable story ended up being a love story of a daughter for her father, a father who suffered the lifelong effects of something no young person should ever experience. Thank you, Ellen, for sharing this deeply moving story that will surely touch readers in a very profound way.    Jim Sano, author, The Father’s Son

Incredible book. A story with uncompromising honesty. Children reflect our worst and best selves. What they inherit from us speaks to our final judgment. Here is a story that offers humanity hope despite one of the worst sins of all—the corruption of innocence.   A.K. Frailey, author

The greatest tragedy that could befall the Roman Catholic Church is for a child’s innocence to be stolen by a priest. And yet it has happened thousands of times and continues to happen. Told by Ellen Gable, as only she can tell it, with candor and faith, this story sheds light on the darkness of a case of clerical abuse. As the results of the abuse envelop an entire family, one sees how that the original victim truly had his life destroyed by one evil man. A moving and heart-breaking read that will change your life and strengthen your faith!  Elena-Maria Vidal, author

Where Angels Pass may be hard to read at times, but you will not regret the insights it provides into one of the darkest issues of our time. With skill and sensitivity, Ellen Gable presents the story of one boy and his family, showing the devastating effects of clerical sexual abuse on him and eventually his wife and children. ~Theresa Linden, author of award-winning Catholic fiction

Ellen Gable addresses the darkness of sexual abuse and the resulting lifelong wounds with delicate finesse.  Michelle Buckman, award-winning author

Gable’s style of storytelling equips the reader with courage enough to journey with the characters throughout their torment. And in the unfolding of the story — with the inevitable fury and sorrow that surfaces along the way — we are finally brought face to face with Jesus’ call to forgive those who harm us. A feat that Ellen shows us is not impossible, for nothing is impossible for those with God on their side. This book will change, teach, and inspire. Every Catholic should read itVeronica Smallhorn, author, A Channel of Your Peace

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. While sharing this story was no doubt painful for her, Ellen’s courage in doing so will help other families living through this nightmare. She has done a masterful job mixing fact with fiction.  Michael Seagriff, author

I couldn’t put this book down, so don’t let the topic deter you. The story, told simply and honestly—and without sensationalism—will draw you in and have you rooting for these characters long after you close the book. Victoria Ryan, author

A powerful story that helps Catholics better understand the long-lasting damage that this type of abuse creates.  Carolyn Astfalk, award-winning author of Stay With Me and Ornamental Graces

Excerpt of Where Angels Pass

Fr. Tim unlocked his classroom door, and the two stepped inside. Fr. Tim closed the door behind him as he said, “Would you please erase and clean the chalkboards?”

Hank nodded and proceeded to the front of the classroom. Red usually cleaned the boards.

Once he started erasing, he realized he was too short to reach the top of the board. So he did what he could first, then he turned to scan the room for the stepstool. He couldn’t see it anywhere.

“Need the stepstool, Hank?” the priest asked.

For a minute, Hank wondered whether Fr. Tim was teasing him, but the priest would never do that. “Yes, sir.”

The priest picked up the stool from the closet and carried it to the front of the classroom. He placed it on the floor beside Hank. “There you go. All set.”

Hank got onto the stool and finished erasing the blackboard. He was about to step down when he felt a grip on his pant leg. Was that Fr. Tim’s hand? Every part of his body went still.

After what seemed like moments, the priest finally said, “Come on, I’ll help you down.”

Hank breathed a sigh of relief. “Thanks, F-Father.”

Hank moved the stool and climbed up to finish erasing the middle section of the blackboard when Fr. Tim’s hand again gripped Hank’s pant leg.  This time, the priest held onto Hank’s legs with one hand on each leg. “Don’t want you to fall, Hank.”

Once Hank finished erasing that section, Fr. Tim assisted him down. Hank moved the stool to the far end of the board and stood up to erase the rest of the chalk writing. He felt weird about the priest holding onto his legs, so he quickly cleaned off the board.

When he was almost done, Hank felt Fr. Tim’s hand go from around his pants, up underneath his trousers and stroked his bare leg above his socks. Instinctively, he shook his leg free of the priest’s hand.

Fr. Tim cleared his throat. “Here you go, Hank. I’ll help you down.”

“Uh…what job can I do now, Father?” He tried to shake off the odd feeling, ready to move on.

“Let’s get you settled over here at this front desk, and you can put these files in alphabetical order.” The priest pointed. “Oh, and I’ve got Christmas chocolates on my desk. You’re welcome to take some if you’d like.”

“Sure.” Before Hank sat down, he took a healthy handful of Whitman’s sampler chocolates. He unwrapped one and wolfed it down.

While Hank worked on the alphabetizing, Fr. Tim acted normal, as if nothing had happened. Well, nothing had happened. The priest had simply put his hand on Hank’s leg. Sister Rose Bernadine had done worse when she slapped his leg with a ruler when he’d ignored the recess bell and remained in the schoolyard. It had stung like the dickens.

“You okay there, Hank?”

“Yes. I’m fine.”

That night, Hank pulled the covers up and shivered.  His bedclothes were cold.

He reflected on the day, his thoughts turning to Fr. Tim standing beside him while he was on the stool. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. But of course, the priest was just trying to keep Hank steady.  What other reason could he have?

Fr. Tim was always putting his hand on Hank’s shoulder or back. Heck, he touched Hank more than his mother or father did most days.

Hank put his headphones on and turned the radio to the sports channel airing the Philadelphia Warriors against the Syracuse Nationals basketball game.

He drifted off to sleep, dreaming of spring, hotdogs, and Phillies games.

An Open Book #openbook

I’m joining Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. My new book is now available!

#Sale! Only 2.99 USD on Kindle and 12.99 USD in paperback until Christmas.

Synopsis: Based on true events. Teenager Evie Gallagher is stunned when her 45-year-old father dies tragically and suddenly. Too many unanswered questions accompany Evie’s challenging journey to adulthood. When she finally discovers the reason her father led such a troubled life, shock turns to anger. She is determined to find justice for her father.

Nervous about the first day of his freshman year, 14-year-old Hank Gallagher steps inside Holy Archangels High School for the first time in September of 1954. Although the majestic Holy Archangels statues inside the school’s grand lobby present an air of protection, it is not long before Hank passes right under them and into the hands of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Confused and cornered by threats, Hank attempts to abandon his secret to the past, but a horrible wound on his heart eventually leads to a catastrophic breakdown.

Chapters alternate between Evie and Hank to reveal a life haunted by betrayal and a revelation of true justice and hope.

And now for a few of my favorite Advent books!

Synopsis: Discover how Christians celebrated Christmas before the days of television, shopping malls, and the Internet. In Donkey Bells: Advent and Christmas, Catherine’s three-in-one book on this most expectant of holiday seasons is an ideal Advent book to be used every year.

My review: My favorite Advent book and one that I read every year at this time is a book called Donkey Bells. I enjoy reading this inspiring book curled up in a comfortable chair by the woodstove, a hot chocolate or apple cider beside me, Advent and Christmas music playing quietly in the background.

I especially appreciate the heartwarming stories (such as Donkey Bells) as Catherine Doherty was a captivating storyteller. Also included in this book are customs and traditions like celebrating St. Nicholas Day, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, The O’Antiphons, the blessing of the Christmas tree and Advent wreath, the Feast of the Holy Family, and the Feast of the Epiphany. Meditations including The Gurgle of a Baby and Looking into the Child’s Eyes are extraordinary and beautifully written.

This book provides an inspirational way for children, teens, and adults to prepare their hearts for Christmas.  Available on Kindle and in paperback.

Synopsis: Beginning with the first day of Advent and continuing through the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, these selections from the immortal pen of Fulton J. Sheen encourage readers to explore the essence and promise of the season.

My review: This is a beautiful Advent devotional that focuses on quotes from Archbishop Fulton Sheen that are taken from his many published books. Editor Judy Bauer includes many quotes that will inspire the reader to grow in his/her prayer life, to embrace Advent, and to become more prepared to celebrate the arrival of the Savior. Each day contains a Scripture passage relating to the daily readings, a short paragraph from one of Sheen’s books, and a prayer written by Bauer. It only takes a few moments each day. This is an ideal book to use when lighting the Advent wreath each night. It’s available in paperback.

Synopsis: This is a treasure trove of exciting ideas that will enable your family to focus anew on preparing for the holy time of Advent and Christmas! With a fresh, lively set of suggestions that will attract young and old alike, Joy to the World will help lay the foundation for long-lasting family memories.

My review: Joy to the World takes a three-point approach to the season: The Advent Calendar with daily activities, The Evening Ritual that incorporates the Advent Wreath and the Jesse tree, and The Good Deeds Manger. I especially love the Good Deeds Manger. Basi suggests that a family obtains a box and some straw, chopped paper, or Easter grass. When a good deed or something kind is done by the children, straw is added. When something mean is done, it is taken away. The idea is to have lots of straw for the baby Jesus.

The author writes, “The motto for Advent should be: ‘Be ready; be present; be waiting.’” This book helps children – and adults – to understand the meaning of Advent: to be ready, be present and be waiting.

This book has been around for over ten years, and it’s written by Kathleen Basi. If you have children between the ages of four and eighteen, this is the book for you. This is a great bargain at only 6.49 for the Kindle edition and 6.99 USD for the paperback.

Synopsis: Advent is a season almost forgotten by the secular world. With new toys and electronics available, why should we focus on this time of anticipation? Most everyone cannot wait for Christmas morning to arrive, but is it for the right reason?

My review: Each section of this book encompasses three different activities: Think, Pray and Act. Each Sunday has its own theme. The First Sunday of Advent and the week following is “Get Ready.” The Second Sunday and the following week is “Repent.” The Third Sunday’s theme is “Love,” and the fourth Sunday, “Anticipate.” The Christmas season has its own theme:” Rejoice.” There are also stories and activities for the Feast of the Epiphany.

What sets this apart from other Advent preparation books is that it has reflections and activities for the entire family (parents included) so that both parent and child can prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth.

My kids loved this book when they were younger. A great bargain at .99 on Kindle and 3.50 (or less) in print.  

Synopsis: Perhaps the Christmas story has become almost too familiar. A virgin giving birth. A child laid in a manger. Shepherds greeted by angels. The Christmas story has become so familiar that the profound, even shocking, nature of the incarnation might be overlooked. But what if we had never heard the story before?

My review: This is a day-by-day reflection that goes right to the Feast of the Epiphany with reflection questions for each day. What makes this one so unique is that Sri asks us to imagine ourselves in the world of Judaism in the first century. His reflections inspire us to put ourselves in the shoes of the people who first experienced the exceptional – yet seemingly normal – birth of the Christ child.  How would we react to a young girl giving birth in a stable, surrounded by animals, feeding troughs, and manure?  Would we be surprised to learn that this was the birth of the Redeemer who would save all mankind?  Excellent book.

Advanced Praise for Where Angels Pass by @ellengable

My twelfth book will be available on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2021!

Teenager Evie Gallagher is stunned when her 45-year-old father dies tragically and suddenly. Too many unanswered questions accompany Evie’s challenging journey to adulthood. When she finally discovers the reason her father led such a troubled life, shock turns to anger. She is determined to find justice for her father.

Nervous about the first day of his freshman year, 14-year-old Hank Gallagher steps inside Holy Archangels High School for the first time in September of 1954. Although the majestic Holy Archangels statues inside the school’s grand lobby present an air of protection, it is not long before Hank passes right under them and into the hands of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Confused and cornered by threats, Hank attempts to abandon his secret to the past, but a horrible wound on his heart eventually leads to a catastrophic breakdown.

Based loosely on actual events, chapters alternate between Evie and Hank to reveal a life haunted by betrayal and a revelation of true justice and hope.

Special thanks to the following authors who read a pre-publication copy of Where Angels Pass!

Advanced Praise for Where Angels Pass:

Ellen Gable’s newest novel, Where Angels Pass, will take readers to the depths of their emotions. It is a beautifully written, yet heart-rending tale of sexual abuse and the long-term effects such a crime has on its victims. From the beginning of the story, Ellen draws in the reader bringing them close to loveable characters, each with their own story to tell. Curiosity and empathy compel the reader to keep moving through a story that might be difficult for some to read, as it zooms in on sexual abuse by clergy. Anger and compassion go hand-in-hand throughout this tale, and Ellen Gable does a remarkable job balancing the two. I believe this novel will bring to light the utter tragedy of clerical abuse and the ripple effect it has for generations to come. Yet through the darkness of that abomination, dawn rises, and we are assured that justice can prevail and healing can be achieved. I highly recommend this book for anyone who seeks to understand, for this just might be one of the most important novels of our time.  Mary Jo Thayer, award-winning author of Close to the Soul

Ellen Gable tells a very personal and difficult story,Where Angels Pass, with such gentleness, love, and heartfelt honesty. What I expected to be an uncomfortable story ended up being a love story of a daughter for her father, a father who suffered the lifelong effects of something no young person should ever experience. Thank you, Ellen, for sharing this deeply moving story that will surely touch readers in a very profound way.    Jim Sano, author, The Father’s Son

Incredible book. Magnificently done. A story with uncompromising honesty. Children reflect our worst and best selves. What they inherit from us speaks to our final judgment. Here is a story that offers humanity hope despite one of the worst sins of all—the corruption of innocence.   A.K. Frailey, author

The greatest tragedy that could befall the Roman Catholic Church is for a child’s innocence to be stolen by a priest. And yet it has happened thousands of times and continues to happen. Told by Ellen Gable, as only she can tell it, with candor and faith, this story sheds light on the darkness of a case of clerical abuse. As the results of the abuse envelop an entire family, one sees how that the original victim truly had his life destroyed by one evil man. A moving and heart-breaking read that will change your life and strengthen your faith!  Elena-Maria Vidal, author

Where Angels Pass may be hard to read at times, but you will not regret the insights it provides into one of the darkest issues of our time. With skill and sensitivity, Ellen Gable presents the story of one boy and his family, showing the devastating effects of clerical sexual abuse on him and eventually his wife and children. ~Theresa Linden, author of award-winning Catholic fiction

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. While sharing this story was no doubt painful for her, Ellen’s courage in doing so will help other families living through this nightmare. She has done a masterful job mixing fact with fiction.  Michael Seagriff, author

It is impossible to pick up a novel written by Ellen Gable without being utterly drawn in by her storytelling, and Where Angels Pass is no exception. Once again, Ellen expertly juxtaposes two separate timelines, those of father and daughter, weaving in touching details that connect them across the generational gap. But perhaps most striking is the way Ellen has told such a heartbreaking story of clerical abuse (and the appalling consequences that follow) with such subtlety and feeling. Her style of storytelling equips the reader with courage enough to journey with the characters throughout their torment. And in the unfolding of the story — with the inevitable fury and sorrow that surfaces along the way — we are finally brought face to face with Jesus’ call to forgive those who harm us. A feat that Ellen shows us is not impossible, for nothing is impossible for those with God on their side. This book will change, teach, and inspire. Every Catholic should read itVeronica Smallhorn, author, A Channel of Your Peace

An Open Book – November #openbook

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

Hold My Beer: An Apocalypse by Fr. Mark Goring

Amazon Synopsis: Six people escape the apocalyptic Media Reset. A great adventure!

My review: I follow Fr. Mark on YouTube and also sometimes attend his parish here in the Ottawa Valley. I love his unique humor and his unabashed courage to speak the truth. While this is an entertaining read, characters are not very well-developed and the story is so short that it’s hard to follow through on some plot points. Also, too many typos. Overall, 2.5/5.

Impossible Marriages Redeemed by Leila Miller

Amazon Synopsis: The message of the culture is clear: When things get REALLY bad in a marriage, the best, and even only, thing to do is to divorce and “move on.” The message of the contemporary Church is not much different, although Catholics (both ordained and lay) might advise annulment after the civil divorce and before the “moving on.” The 65 stories in this book tell of a different way: A way of Christlike faithfulness and solemn commitment to one’s sacred promises–something that was common (or at least considered honorable and right) in eras past, but which seems forgotten today. If the world is telling you (or if you are telling friends and family) to walk away from a marriage, read this book first.

My review: Interesting book, with compelling stories of couples on the brink of divorce who saved their marriages. Highly recommend. 5/5.

Person of Interest: Why Jesus Still Matters in a World That Rejects the Bible

by J. Warner Wallace

Amazon Synopsis: Detective J. Warner Wallace listened to a pastor talk about Jesus and wondered why anyone would think Jesus was a person of interest.

Wallace was skeptical of the Bible, but he’d investigated several no-body homicide cases in which there was no crime scene, no physical evidence, and no victim’s body. Could the historical life and actions of Jesus be investigated in the same way?

In Person of Interest, Wallace describes his own personal investigative journey from atheism to Christianity as he carefully considers the evidence. Creative, compelling, and fully illustrated, Person of Interest will strengthen the faith of believers while engaging those who are skeptical and distrusting of the New Testament.

My review: This is an absolutely outstanding book for any Christian of any denomination. Wallace mixes facts with his own story of conversion and fascinating cases from his police career where he was able to prove murder without a body. J. Warner Wallace is a frequent commentator on Dateline NBC. The illustrations were all done by Wallace himself and they’re pretty impressive on their own. Highly recommend. 5/5.

Your Life is Worth Living by Fulton Sheen

Amazon Synopsis: For over four decades, Fulton Sheen was the face of Catholicism in America and literally received hundreds of thousands of letters from people around the world in search of truth, faith, salvation, and spiritual guidance. In this newly repackaged reissue of one of Sheen’s classic works, the Emmy Award-winning priest takes an intimate look at our sacred journey to God and answers some of life’s most profound questions. With his clever wit and straightforward language, he explains how we can find contentment in the modern world by applying the Christian philosophy of life in our day-to-day exchanges.

Drawing authority from scripture, and created for people of all ages and backgrounds, Sheen explores our journey home to God in an insightful conversation designed to strengthen the reader’s personal relationship with Jesus. Sheen also shares humorous stories that made him one of the most celebrated personalities of his time. This book is a lasting testament that your life is worth living.

My review: I’m still in the process of reading this book, but it’s as excellent as Sheen’s many other books.

Where Angels Pass

Synopsis: Coming December 8th!

Teenager Evie Gallagher is stunned when her 45-year-old father dies tragically and suddenly. Too many unanswered questions accompany Evie’s challenging journey to adulthood. When she finally discovers the reason her father led such a troubled life, shock turns to anger. She is determined to find justice for her father.

Nervous about the first day of his freshman year, 14-year-old Hank Gallagher steps inside Holy Archangels High School for the first time in September of 1954. Although the majestic Holy Archangels statues inside the school’s grand lobby present an air of protection, it is not long before Hank passes right under them and into the hands of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Confused and cornered by threats, Hank attempts to abandon his secret to the past, but a horrible wound on his heart eventually leads to a catastrophic breakdown.

Based loosely on actual events, chapters alternate between Evie and Hank to reveal a life haunted by betrayal and a revelation of true justice and hope.

Comments: This is the second book I’ve written that is based on the true stories of myself and a relative. In this case, this is the story of my father’s troubled life and my journey of forgiveness and justice. It’s a book I’ve been trying to write for years and only recently was able to finish the first draft. I wouldn’t have been able to write this many years ago as the death of my father was still too raw.

#Cover Reveal – Where Angels Pass by @ellengable

My newest book, Where Angels Pass, will be published later this fall.

Synopsis: Teenager Evie Gallagher is stunned when her 45-year-old father dies tragically and suddenly. Too many unanswered questions accompany Evie’s challenging journey to adulthood. When she finally discovers the reason her father led such a troubled life, shock turns to anger. She is determined to find justice for her father.

Nervous about the first day of his freshman year, 14-year-old Hank Gallagher steps inside Holy Archangels High School for the first time in September of 1954. Although the majestic Holy Archangels statues inside the school’s grand lobby present an air of protection, it is not long before Hank passes right under them and into the hands of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Confused and cornered by threats, Hank attempts to abandon his secret to the past, but a horrible wound on his heart eventually leads to a catastrophic breakdown.

Based loosely on actual events, chapters alternate between Evie and Hank to reveal a life haunted by betrayal and a revelation of true justice and hope.

Eyes of Fire Now Available #Catholicvampire

Eyes of Fire by Mina Ambrose

Synopsis: Now available on Kindle and in paperback! The third in the Shadows of the Sun series. Ancient legend comes to life: the prophecy that Charon, master vampire, has long dreaded, continues to unfold.

Jude has finally accepted his destiny as the hero who must foil Charon’s plans for world domination, though he has only just begun to understand the powers he possesses. Nevertheless, he sets out on his quest.   Halloween is just around the corner when Jude arrives in the small town of Sylvan and lands a renovation job at a nearby mansion—the very one that sits atop Charon’s underground lair, as it turns out. He also encounters Phaedra, whom he recognizes as the “damsel in distress” from his recurring dreams. As he interprets it, he has been sent here to protect her, but she will have none of that. Meanwhile, Tim the VK (Vampire Killer) breezes into town, armed to the teeth, his vampire-tracking wolf-dog Sarge at his heels. His announcement that he is here to clean out a nest of vampires shocks Phaedra and her friends—vampires aren’t real! Or… are they? It’s all fantastic fun—until Phaedra has a terrifying encounter one night, and Jude comes to the rescue. She reluctantly admits she may need his protection, after all.   Tim is not so sure—Sarge takes Jude for a vampire, and Sarge has never been wrong about vampires! Now, while Tim must single-handedly confront the whole crew of the undead, must he also guard Phaedra from her own heart?

An Open Book – August #openbook

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

Eternal Light of the Crypts by Alan Van’t Land

Synopsis: 890 AD France.

The last imperial heir of Charlemagne is dead, and every duke is proclaiming himself king. Egilolf, a former soldier, could care less. He needs to steal bones. A saint’s bones.

With the prospect of a large payout, he recruits the scribe Aristeus, a refugee fleeing Viking invasions. Perhaps he should have told his new companion the true reason he’s pilfering saints. Together the thief and scribe must dodge bandits, Vikings, and warring lords—not to mention their own lies—only to find unearthing bones the easiest step.

Yet Egilolf’s fiercest battle is the one within. How can defending the weak be just, when God abandons him when he has to kill? And when Vikings become more than a faceless enemy to Aristeus, will he, like the ancient martyrs he’s always extolling, risk death to convert them?

Reviews:

I really enjoyed the sneak peek. A wonderful story well-told.”  A.K. Frailey, author

“Eternal Light of the Crypts is one of the best-written debut novels I’ve ever read. Painstakingly researched, beautifully written, and engaging from start to finish. This tale of two relic hunters is both comic and substantive.” Carolyn Astfalk, author

A Church in Crisis by Ralph Martin

Amazon Synopsis:

Nearly forty years ago, Ralph Martin’s bestselling A Crisis of Truth exposed the damaging trends in Catholic teaching and preaching that, combined with attacks from secular society, threatened the mission and life of the Catholic Church. While much has been done to counter false teaching over the last four decades, today the Church faces even more insidious threats from outside and within.

In A Church in Crisis: Pathways Forward, Martin offers a detailed look at the growing hostility to the Catholic Church and its teaching. With copious evidence, Martin uncovers the forces working to undermine the Body of Christ and offers hope to those looking for clarity.

A Church in Crisis covers:

  • polarization in the Church caused by ambiguous teachings
  • initiatives that accommodate the culture without calling for conversion
  • Vatican-sponsored partnerships with organizations that actively contradict the teaching of the Catholic Church
  • and the recycling of theological errors long settled by Vatican II, Pope St. John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI.

Powerfully written, A Church in Crisis reminds all readers to heed Jesus’ express command not to lead His children astray. With ample resources to encourage readers, Ralph Martin provides the solid foundation of Catholic teaching both Scripture and Tradition to fortify Catholics against the errors that threaten us from all directions.

My review: Ralph Martin has written an excellent book on the state of the Catholic Church at the present time. And he does not mince words. He lists the reasons why the Church is in its current crisis and the ways to improve this awful situation. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. 5/5.

All Things New: Breaking the Cycle and Raising a Joyful Family by Erin McCole Cupp

Amazon Synopsis:

It’s time to break the cycle.

Not every family is the perfect model of Catholic family life. Some of us approach parenting still wounded by childhood experiences that were less than ideal. When we start our own families, at best we feel a bit unprepared, and at worst we feel paralyzed with fear that we will repeat our parents dysfunctional, abusive behaviors.

In All Things New, Erin McCole Cupp draws on her own and others experiences to discuss how to develop a joyful family life when our own experience of being parented was damaging. Erin wrote this book for moms and dads who want to parent better than they themselves were parented.

Drawing on the Holy Family as the model of family life, and distilling practical lessons from the Two Greatest Commandments and the Beatitudes, All Things New shows readers that, while change isn’t easy, God has given us all the ingredients we need to create a holy, joyful family.

My review: I just finished this book and I can’t say enough good things about it! A longer review coming, but I highly recommend this book for anyone who had had to endure abuse in any relationship.

The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner

Amazon Synopsis: A young mother, blond and pretty, vanishes from her South Boston home, leaving behind only one witness—her four-year-old daughter—and one suspect—her handsome, secretive husband.
 
From the moment Detective Sergeant D. D. Warren arrives at the Joneses’ snug little bungalow, instinct tells her that something is seriously off with the wholesome image the couple has worked so hard to create. 
 
With the clock ticking on the life of a missing woman and a media firestorm building, D.D. must decide whether Jason Jones is hiding his guilt—or just trying to hide. But first she must stand between a potential killer and his next victim—an innocent child who may have seen too much.

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this thriller that had me guessing constantly who was a good guy and who was a bad guy. Excellent story and characters. Warning: language. Highly recommend! 5/5.

Falling by T.J. Newman

Amazon Synopsis: You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.

My review: This novel has everything I could ask for in a thriller. A plane that’s about to crash, a pilot who’s been blackmailed to crash the plane in order to keep his family alive and great characters. And the short synopsis alone reeled me in. If you’re looking for a non-stop ride, this is it. Highly recommend. 5/5.

My #MeToo Moment in the House of God: Lifting the Curtain on the Other Side of the Clergy Sex Scandal, Young Adult Victims of Predator Priests and Bishops

by S.B. Zak

Amazon Synopsis: When I came forward to report the abuse, it should have stopped. But it did not. When the perpetrator was about to be promoted and once more I made a report to competent authorities, he should not have been advanced. Nonetheless he was. Proper and effective measures should have been taken so that others would have been spared his assaults. However they were not. Similar incidents should not still be a problem today. Yet they are. Current leaders should be dealing with this situation in an open, transparent manner. Regrettably they are not. This is the story of my #MeToo moment in the Church, both the actual events that took place more than thirty years ago when I was in the seminary, and what is happening today as I seek to have church leaders address this often overlooked aspect of the clergy sex scandal, adults — whether younger or older — who are targeted by predator priests and bishops.

My review: I’ve been downloading and reading about clerical sexual abuse for the past six months as research for my work in progress (which is loosely based on the effects of the abuse my father suffered at the hands of a priest when he was a freshman at a Catholic high school.) I wasn’t surprised that there was a plethora of books on that topic, but I was surprised that there aren’t more books like this one, from the point of view of a seminarian thirty years ago. It’s not a story for the faint of heart, but it is well written. It could’ve gone through a few more edits as there were typos and grammar errors, but overall, it’s a great book. 4/5.

Sexual Violence and the Violence of Silence

by Jewel Lee Herder, Ph.D.

Amazon Synopsis: Sexual Violence and the Violence of Silence takes a candid look at the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia from a historical and cultural perspective. The author reveals the five veils of silence—the actions or inactions of the church hierarchy, congregation, law enforcement, media, and general public—that shrouded these cases of clergy sexual violence and exposed the internal maneuverings by administrative officials to silence all those involved or who knew about the abuses. This violence of silence had a profound effect on the victims by adding to their pain and suffering and interfering with their ability to heal and obtain justice. The author begins with the history of the founding of the Roman Catholic Church in America and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and leads the reader through the confession and testimony of Father William Hogan, a nineteenth-century priest who acknowledged his role in grooming parishioners in the confessional, attested to the sexually abusive behavior of many of his colleagues, and argued for the pervasiveness of clergy sexual violence in the church.

The reader will also be exposed to graphic grand jury testimony of the victims of a small representative sample of accused sexually violent priests from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia—Father Gerard W. Chambers, Father Joseph Gausch, and Father Nicholas V. Cudemo—who targeted their victims based on race, class, and gender. The author includes the historical context in which each priest lived and served by presenting these priests to the reader in chronological order based on their date of ordination. To assist the readers in their understanding of the scope of the cover-up by the leadership of the church, the author examines the administration of the bishops or cardinals supervising the archdiocese during the tenure of each of these predator priests.

My review: This was a difficult book to get through, not just because of the topic and the testimony of witnesses (now adults), but because the author was clearly anti-Catholic. And while in many respects, the author is correct when she speaks of moving abusive priests from parish to parish was clearly wrong, her own anti-Catholic bias shone through too strongly for me and I had to skim over sections. Only recommend this book for those with a strong stomach. 3/5.

The Cross and the Godless by Joseph Mauck

Amazon Synopsis: 1979 -Terror reigns in Nicaragua. The Sandinistas have seized power. Julian Mendero, leader of the Christian opposition, is arrested for stealing a national treasure-the Valdivieso Cross. But not before his son, Pedro, flees to the Sanctuary underground and begins an arduous journey to the US border.

Months later, FBI Agent Steve Rodriguez enters the murky world of the border killings, a series of inexplicable murders. When evidence points to a foreign death squad he enlists the help of Carol Shannon, a Sanctuary activist searching for Pedro. But Carol is reluctant to help. Trauma of a recent sexual assault has left her fearful and suffering nightmares. Yet Steve’s compassion-and Carol’s commitment to end the killing and find Pedro-gradually builds trust, while mutual attraction soon gives way to passionate desire.

Mysteries unfold when Steve consults notorious ex-patriot Hector Rone. He learns Rone’s lover, Claudia Haas-antiquities expert, thief, and femme du monde-has joined two militant priests in their search for Pedro and the Valdivieso Cross. Tensions rise when Steve learns the death squad leader may be the father of Carol’s unborn child. Time is short. Steve must find a way to stop the death squad, find Pedro and the precious Valdivieso Cross, and save the woman he loves from making a terrible mistake.

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this work of fiction from Joseph Mauck. The story is compelling and the characters are well-developed and believable. It’s a difficult read because there’s a sexual assault, many murders and the nature of the antagonists in this story, but it’s well worth it. It’s for mature readers so it’s not for the fainthearted, nor for children. Highly recommend!