An Old-Fashioned Love Story: My Grandparents

My maternal grandparents, John and Bessie May, met as teenagers. In this photo from 1916 — they were married in November of that year — they look very happy and very much in love. They went on to build a wonderful life together, welcoming and raising five children. My grandfather was half American Indian and half German. Like most couples, they also had their share of heartbreaks and challenges. My mother was their fourth living child, and the first to proudly graduate high school.  Their descendants include 22 grandchildren (14 still living) and more than 30 great-grandchildren.

According to my mother, and from what I observed as a young child, they continued to grow in love and remained happily married. Over the years, my grandmother had gained a lot of weight, but my grandfather told her that it didn’t matter to him, because there was “a lot more of her to love.”

We have an old home 8 mm home movie of their 50th wedding anniversary celebration from 1966, and there is one scene where they are hugging.  It’s endearing, but also a bit humorous because my grandmother had had a bit too much to drink.

In July of 1967, my grandmother died of a stroke.  My grandfather was never quite the same.

Mom Mom and Pop Pop

Bessie and John May, January 1955

The last time I saw him was on Christmas Day, 1968.  My mother and I went to visit him in his house on Carlisle Street in South Philly.  When we came in, he was sitting in his chair by the front door, his head low, a cigarette between two fingers.  He looked up at us and I think his mouth almost lifted in a smile when he saw us, but his eyes seemed so sad. Before my grandmother died, he was very animated and he used to pull me into a big hug and kiss me.  That day we gave him a few gifts — I remember thinking that it might make him happy.  But he opened them and again, tried to smile, then nodded and said, “Merry Christmas.”  Mom tried to talk with him, but he didn’t appear to be in a talkative mood.

My grandfather passed away six weeks later (on February 7th, 1969, 48 years ago today). When I asked Mom how he died, she said, “He died of a broken heart.”

Their story is also included in my first novel, Emily’s Hope.

Remembering both of my grandparents today in a special way.

“May all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”

Text and photos copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Marriage: One Man, One Woman: A Noble Purpose

Copyright James and Ellen Hrkach, please do not use without permission

Copyright James and Ellen Hrkach, please do not use without permission

“Blessed are you,
O God of our fathers;
praised be your name
forever and ever.
Let the heavens and
all your creation
praise you forever.
“You made Adam and
you gave him his wife Eve
to be his help and support;
and from these two
the human race descended.
You said,
“It is not good for the man to be alone;
Let us make him a partner like himself”
Now, Lord, you know that I take this
wife of mine, not because of lust,
but for a noble purpose.
Call down your mercy on me and on her,
and allow us to live together to a happy old age.”
Tobit 8:7

This beautiful prayer was the second reading of our Nuptial Mass in 1982 when my husband and I were married. When I first read these words many years ago, they affected me deeply, especially when I learned the history of why Tobias said this prayer. After losing seven husbands before she could consummate her union with them, Sarah entered into marriage with Tobias. Tobias knew the history and understood that he could die if he married her. But he trusted God, recited the above prayer fervently and went on to a happy marriage with Sarah.

Nowadays, many Catholic couples live together or are sexually active before marriage. Same sex marriage is now legal in the United States (as it has been for ten years here in Canada). As much as cohabiting and same sex couples may desire to love one another – and most, I’m certain, really do feel love and affection towards the other – they cannot love each other in the way they are called to: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully, truly loving as God loves. Sexual relations are meant to be the renewal of a couple’s marriage vows. If there is no marriage, there are no vows and there can be no renewal.

Essentially, pre-marital sex, contracepted sex and sex between two people of the same gender are all lies.

“God help us to love each other freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully. Help us to love and not to lust.”

For more information about the Theology of the Body:
http://thetheologyofthebody.com

For more information on NFP:
www.ccli.org
www.woomb.org
www.creightonmodel.com

 

Copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Christmas Cards Through the Years

I’d like to share just a few of the 28 original Christmas cards we’ve created over the past 30 years. As I’ve mentioned before, our “Family Life” cartoons began as Christmas cards 27 years ago. To learn more about this, you can read my previous guest post entitled “Life in a Cartoon World.”

Those on our Christmas card list really enjoy and appreciate our cards; the caricatures of the members of our family are drawn by my husband. With some of these, I scanned only one part of the card, since I just wanted to share the caricatures of the family.   Merry Christmas!!

1. Let the Spirit In – 1989

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1989

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1989

2. She Brought Forth Her First Born Son – 1992

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1992

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1992

3. Glorious Strains – 1996

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1996

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1996

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1996

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1996

4. Cookies are Like Baby Jesus – 2002

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2002

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2002

5. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – 2007

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2007

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2007

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2007

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2007

6. Hrkach Boys Assembly Line – 2008

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2008

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2008

Image and text copyright 2008 James and Ellen Hrkach

Image and text copyright 2008 James and Ellen Hrkach

7. Vertical Enhancements – 2009

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2009

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2009

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2009

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2009

 

8. 2013

Image copyright James Hrkach

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

 

9. 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

 

10. 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

 

11. This year’s Christmas Card!! “Low Key” 2016

copyright 2016 James and Ellen Hrkach

image copyright 2016 James and Ellen Hrkach

card-2-cropped

All text and images copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2016

Pregnancy and the First #Advent

One of my favorite Advent quotes is from Catherine Doherty, foundress of Madonna House:

“Pregnancy, an advent eternally renewed in every woman expecting a child, is a book written by the hand of God, with each page, each day, each hour, reminding us of the first Advent. Think of the first Advent now, when worlds were hushed and angels still…waiting, waiting for the answer of a young girl! Her fiat, spoken so softly as to be almost a whisper, shook heaven and earth, and began the ineffable, incomprehensible, most beautiful mystery of the Incarnation! Each pregnancy sings of the first Advent. Each time is a time of waiting, of joy so immense that it can only be encompassed by the eyes and soul of a woman in love and filled with the fruit of that love.” Catherine Doherty, Dear Parents

Every new life encompassed within his or her mother’s womb “sings of the first Advent,” as Catherine so eloquently said in her book, “Dear Parents.” Not all of these lives will actually be born. Sadly, some will be miscarried and others will be aborted.

However, for those women who nurture their babies lovingly in their wombs, pregnancy can also be a great time for character growth. Mary was a wonderful example of patience and virtue during pregnancy, having to sit on a donkey for miles and miles, then having to give birth in a stable, with the accompanying sounds, odors and discomforts.

But Mary also acted as my consoler during seven miscarriages. For who else could understand the heartbreak of losing a precious child better than Our Lady herself, who stood under the cross and watched her Son die in agony, then embraced him lovingly after His death?

Let us embrace the last week of Advent with Our Lady’s open welcoming of the Savior, the one she bore for mankind.

Copyright 2016 Ellen Gable Hrkach

A Subtle Grace Only .99 on Kindle!

A Subtle Grace front cover Nov2013For the next five days, the stand alone sequel to my second book, In Name Only, A Subtle Grace  is on sale for only .99!!

Of A Subtle Grace, Trisha Niermeyer Potter of Prints of Grace Blog said, “This is one of my favorite contemporary works of Catholic fiction. The storytelling is masterful, the characters fascinating, and the writing is of high literary quality. People are imperfect—past, present, and future—but each is given the opportunity to grow, change, learn, and be redeemed. In this story it’s shown how the greatest mistake of our lives can be turned into one of the most amazing blessings and even be a source of hope for others. Life’s messy. People are complex. We’ve all got some skeletons in our closets, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t also fit some trophies and triumphs in there as well. A Subtle Grace has all of the elements that good Catholic fiction should.”

In her review, Jean Heimann, Catholic author and blogger, wrote that “In A Subtle Grace, Gable shows us through her characters, what happens when an individual lives his/her life based on principles rather than on passions. She clearly conveys the differences between love as a feeling vs. love as a choice, illustrating the consequences of each. Themes of redemption, forgiveness, discerning one’s vocation, healing, hope, and joy, all contribute to make this a story that tugs at the heart. A sequel to In Name Only, A Subtle Grace works well as an independent, stand-alone novel. You will definitely want to read both. A Subtle Grace is excellent read for historical romance fans. Those who enjoy Christian romance and suspense novels will find this story particularly enjoyable. This is a winner!”

Therese Heckenkamp, award-winning author of Frozen Footprints says, “A Subtle Grace is the sequel to the lovely book In Name Only, yet A Subtle Grace can be enjoyed independently. Of course, readers of the first book won’t want to miss this one! The story kept me so interested that I hardly realized this was, in fact, a lengthy book. A Subtle Grace is a novel to stir your heart, your emotions, and your soul. I highly recommend it!”

Click here to read an excerpt and more reviews.

To download the book for only .99, click here.

New Anthology, Image and Likeness, Puts Life Into the Theology of the Body

Image and Likeness: Short Reads Reflecting the Theology of the Body, with a foreword by Damon OwensMy latest from Catholic Mom:

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

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

When asked where the idea for the book came from, editor and publisher Ellen Gable said, “I got the idea a few years back after I read a short story from another member of the Catholic Writers Guild.  When I sent out an initial request to other members of the Guild, I only received five stories but one of the authors, Erin McCole Cupp, said she had some ideas for a few Theology of the Body-themed short stories.”

Editor and contributor Erin McCole Cupp, says: “I had two separate ideas I’d been batting around for a while, and I knew they were short story ideas and not novels, but I couldn’t imagine what to do with them. Ellen’s request gave me the kick in the pants to write both “Good for Her” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Sunday Brunch.”  Once I had them written, I offered — okay, I begged — Ellen to let me do some of the legwork on this.  I loved the idea of an anthology, a space where authors and readers could come together to see both the dark and the light side of living TOB in a fallen world.

Ellen Gable continues, “When Erin asked me last year if we could release the book on St. John Paul II’s feast day of October 22, I thought that was a perfect date.  However, I had no idea that that would also be the day my son and his fiancée would choose for their wedding day.  So while we were in the midst of last-minute wedding preparations, I was also trying to get this book ready for publication.”

To find additional contributors, Erin and Ellen took two approaches.  Erin clarifies, “We put a call for submissions on the Image and Likeness Anthology page, but we also asked some authors in our networks if they would be interested in contributing either something already written or something written specifically for this project.”

Damon Owens, International Theology of the Body expert, wrote the foreword.  “I am indebted to the authors and poets of Image and Likeness for their gifted storytelling of real life “ugly.” This book isn’t afraid to hold our gaze into the darkness of sin, doubt, and brokenness before the resolution of redemption. Some of these stories are heartbreaking to read precisely because I know this is true. Some of them I will never forget because of their unexpected turn to redemption. Through and through, this is an artistic instruction in TOB that shows us the wounds needing the balm, the balm applied, and the health and wholeness of men and women healed. And, like every well-told story, its penetrating TOB truths will influence even the most reluctant reader.”

When asked who should be reading Theology of the Body fiction, Erin answered, “Since TOB is just the truth, and all fiction is supposed to be aimed at truth, I think all readers should be reading TOB fiction.  On the flip side of that coin, when it comes down to it, I believe pretty strongly that all fiction should be TOB fiction.  Art, if it is to be any good, must serve truth.  If it’s just a wad of lies in a tasty package, then it’s not art; it’s propaganda.  What drives me most to write and share TOB fiction is that it ought to be nothing more than a candle in the darkness, a light down the dark hall of living in this culture that is so bound up with lies we can’t even tell the difference between love and hate anymore.  TOB draws a clear line between the two, and that line is truth.  As I always tell my kids, ‘You can believe what you want, but that doesn’t make it reality.’  TOB fiction is a window into reality. As the contributors show so successfully, I think, in Image and Likeness, reality is harsh.  Reality is full of tough choices.  Reality is full of consequences.  But reality is true, so we do ourselves no favors if we believe something other than reality.  The fiction we read is a school for reality.  If we school our hearts and souls in lies, then we are not preparing ourselves to live in truth.”

Readers should be aware that the anthology includes mature themes, content and language.

For more information and for interviews and bios of the contributors, check out the Image and Likeness page on WordPress.

It’s available on Kindle at this link and in paperback at this link.

Special thanks to Erin McCole Cupp for writing the synopsis for the anthology!

Image and Likeness Now Available!

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

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

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

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

Warning: mature themes, content and language.

Reviews:

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

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

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

It’s available on Kindle at this link.