I had a wonderful time in Lancaster, Pennsylvania this past week at the Catholic Writers Conference Live and the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show! Here are just a few of the highlights.
Another reprint in celebration of #NFP Week and the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae:
When I was eight years old, I had no idea that what my eyes were seeing was, in actuality, a huge blur. Even my parents didn’t realize that I needed glasses. Because my eyesight had gotten worse so gradually, no one knew that I could not see well until the religious sisters at school sent a note home to my parents indicating that I should have my eyes checked.
There were hints, of course, that neither my parents nor myself noticed. I used to watch TV basically within an inch or so of the TV. When I read, the book was on top of my face. However, according to my mom, she never noticed me squinting. Again, I thought what I was seeing was normal and didn’t realize I couldn’t see clearly.
My mother eventually took me to an optometrist in downtown Philly to have my eyes tested, then we ordered glasses. I could not suspect how much my life would change with that small pair of (ugly) glasses. When we returned to Philly to pick them up, the elderly optometrist put me on a booster seat in the chair, took out the glasses and put them on my face. My eyes widened and my mouth fell open. I gasped. I could see every detail and every letter of every word in that office. I could see across the street. I remember the wide smile the optometrist had on his face as I was pointing out everything I could see.
On our way home, I kept pointing to everything. “Look, Mommy, I can see the Horn and Hardart’s sign! I can see that store says “Lit Brothers! I can see that pretty dress in the window over there!” Colors were brighter; it even seemed like I could hear better now that I could see so clearly. I was still in awe that night when I could watch Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In from 20 feet away and still see everything clearly. To me, it was nothing short of a miracle.
In the years following, although I went to Catholic school, my family had begun to fall away from the regular practice of going to Mass and I began learning my morals from television.
Fast-forward to 1979. I had visited my pen-pal in Canada and met my husband through her brother at a rock band jam session. We fell in “like at first sight” and began a long-distance relationship with me in NJ and him in Canada. However, when we were together, things usually got pretty intense, given that we rarely saw each other. I wanted to enter into a sexual relationship, but thankfully James had a pretty strong Catholic grounding so he kept us from going farther than we should. Three years later, when we were engaged and about to be married, it was James (age 19) who insisted that we use Natural Family Planning (NFP) and not artificial birth control. I saw no moral reason why we shouldn’t use artificial birth control, but he remained adamant. “I would rather have sex once a month without birth control than use birth control and have sex every day.” I remember thinking, “What planet is he from?”
However, as we communicated through letters (back in the early ’80s there was no free long distance, no texts, no SnapChat, no Facebook, no Instant Messaging, no Skype, no Facetime, no Instagram or any other instant communication), I realized this was no ordinary young man. The advantage of writing with snail mail letters is that we were able to take time and reflect on what we wanted to say. It became obvious that contraception was something that James was not willing to budge on. When he said, “Ellie, trust me and trust God,” I said say yes and agreed to go to an NFP class with him. I learned that NFP works in this way: a couple charts the woman’s signs of fertility and infertility. If they are avoiding pregnancy, they abstain from relations when the woman is fertile.
One thing we both agreed on and that was that we should wait for a few years to have children since James was only in his first year of college. A few days before our wedding, we realized that I would be right in the middle of the fertile time, which meant that our consummation would have to wait until a week or so after the wedding. After waiting three years, I was resentful. I went along with NFP, but was not happy about it. NFP seemed like a burden, not a gift.
A few months into our marriage on an evening that would be the beginning of Phase III (the infertile time), we had a romantic dinner and a beautiful evening of intimacy after a period of abstinence. All of a sudden, as I was lying in bed later that night, I realized that James and I were truly one, physically and spiritually, with nothing separating us: no pills, devices, no chemicals, no surgeries. With each act of marital intimacy, I felt as if we were renewing our marriage vows with our bodies.
That evening (and many others to follow) truly felt like another honeymoon night. Until that moment, I went along with NFP to please James. I wasn’t enthusiastic about abstaining. But when that light bulb moment hit, I realized what a beautiful gift NFP is, despite its challenges. Not only that, but I realized what a great gift it was to us that we had not had intercourse until marriage. “I was blind, but now I see.” NFP became glasses for my soul, and the reasons for NFP became much clearer to me.
From then on, I became a big promoter of chastity before marriage and a loud and enthusiastic proponent of NFP. In the grocery store, dentist’s office, anywhere that someone would listen, I would tell people about NFP, just like the time I got my new glasses: “Look, NFP has no side effects!” “Look, NFP means a couple can be truly one when they are making love!” “Look, NFP doesn’t harm fertility!” “Wow, NFP is 99% effective when a couple has serious reasons to avoid pregnancy and can even be used to achieve a much-wanted pregnancy!”
Without NFP, our marital union would have existed in a blur. With NFP, our marital union is clearer and more meaningful. NFP truly is like a pair of glasses for the soul. NFP has been nothing short of a miracle for our marriage. Does it mean there have never been problems or that I’ve never resented the abstinence? Of course not. But NFP truly is a marriage builder, one that I can honestly say has been the main reason that the romance, intimacy and closeness has remained even after 36 years of marriage.
Copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach
National NFP Awareness Week – JULY 22 – JULY 28, 2018
Generations of Love
Humanae Vitae (1968-2018)
Celebrate God’s Gift of Married Love!
“Celebrate and reverence God’s vision of human sexuality.”
On July 25th, 1968, Blessed Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical, Humanae Vitae (On Human Life) which reaffirmed the 2000-year consistent teaching that artificial contraception is morally wrong. Read my stories about HV here and here.
Why Natural Family Planning Differs from Contraception
Pope John Paul II
(In 1998 Pope John Paul II wrote a letter to Dr. Anna Cappella, director of the Center for
Research and Study on the Natural Regulation of Fertility at Rome’s Catholic University of the Sacred Heart. The occasion was a convention commemorating Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical. Excerpts are reprinted below.)
I hope that everyone will benefit from a closer study of the Church’s teaching on the
truth of the act of love in which spouses become sharers in God’s creative action.
The truth of this act stems from its being an expression of the spouses’ reciprocal
personal giving, a giving that can only be total since the person is one and indivisible. In the act that expresses their love, spouses are called to make a reciprocal gift of themselves to each other in the totality of their person: nothing that is part of their being can be excluded from this gift.
This is the reason for the intrinsic unlawfulness of contraception: it introduces a substantial limitation into this reciprocal giving, breaking that “inseparable connection” between the two meanings of the conjugal act, the unitive and the procreative, which, as Pope Paul VI pointed out, are written by God himself into the nature of the human being (HV, no. 12).
Continuing in this vein, the great pontiff rightly emphasized the “essential difference”
between contraception and the use of natural methods in exercising “responsible procreation.” It is an anthropological difference because in the final analysis it involves two irreconcilable concepts of the person and of human sexuality (cf. Familiaris Consortio, no. 32). It is not uncommon in current thinking for the natural methods of fertility regulation to be separated from their proper ethical dimension and to be considered in their merely functional aspect. It is not surprising then that people no longer perceive the profound difference between these and the artificial methods. As a result, they go so far as to speak of them as if they were another form of contraception. But this is certainly not the way they should be viewed or applied.
On the contrary, it is only in the logic of the reciprocal gift between man and woman that
the natural regulation of fertility can be correctly understood and authentically lived as the proper expression of a real and mutual communion of love and life. It is worth repeating here that “the person can never be considered as a means to an end, above all never a means of ‘pleasure.’ The person is and must be nothing other than the end of every act. Only then does the action correspond to the true dignity of the person.” (cf. Letter to Families, no. 12).
The Church is aware of the various difficulties married couples can encounter,
especially in the present social context, not only in following but also in the very
understanding of the moral norm that concerns them. Like a mother, the Church draws
close to couples in difficulty to help them; but she does so by reminding them that the
way to finding a solution to their problems must come through full respect for the truth of their love. “It is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing
from the saving doctrine of Christ,” Paul VI admonished (HV, no. 29).
The Church makes available to spouses the means of grace which Christ offers in
redemption and invites them to have recourse to them with ever renewed confidence. She exhorts them in particular to pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is poured out in their hearts through the efficacy of their distinctive sacrament: this grace is the source of the interior energy they need to fulfill the many duties of their state, starting with that of being consistent with the truth of conjugal love. At the same time, the Church urgently
requests the commitment of scientists, doctors, health-care personnel and pastoral
workers to make available to married couples all those aids which prove an effective
support for helping them fully to live their vocation (cf. HV, no. 23-27).
I’m happy to be taking part in the Virtual Blog Tour of the new anthology, Secrets: Visible & Invisible, by Corinna Turner, Cynthia T. Toney, Theresa Linden, Susan Peek, T.M. Gaouette, Carolyn Astfalk, and Leslea Wahl
Secret (n.) – something kept hidden from knowledge or view; a mystery.
• In a dystopian future, an innocent picnic turns deadly!
• Elijah knows nothing of an elderly stranger’s secret past—until her disappearance changes everything.
• A mysterious, ever-changing painting alarms a group of teens.
• A cannonball took Dario’s legs . . . Will he lose his soul too?
• The arrival of a mysterious girl challenges everything about Jason’s life.
• An unlicensed driver. His dad’s truck. What could possibly go wrong?
• An old tale of murder and forbidden love leads to a modern-day treasure hunt.
My review: I totally enjoyed this short story anthology which includes a little bit of something for every teen reader! Highly recommend!
“For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light.” (Luke 8:17 RSV-CE)
Amazon: Link here.
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/02vh6Yr9198
Rafflecopter Tour-wide Giveaway (Enter to win a free copy!)
“There is a little something for everyone in Secrets, a short-story anthology for Catholic teens. Seven authors cover an array of genres, including dystopian, historical fiction, and romance, while masterfully developing interesting characters and meaningful storylines. Faith is thoughtfully woven into the plots that also creatively incorporate mystery, intrigue, and heart-felt emotion. Fans of these Catholic teen authors will appreciate reading new stories about familiar characters. And first-time readers will be eager to read more in the full-length novels by their new favorite authors.” Sarah Damm, mom of 6 and writer at sarahdamm.com
“This anthology of short stories for Catholic teenagers is a true literary treasure. It provides genres for every type of reader, each so well written that the reader is invited to fully escape into many different worlds and places. The short stories will take its readers to dystopian Europe, high school hallways, a city block in summer, and a soldier’s medical ward in16th-century Italy, just to name a few. The characters are diverse, exciting, relatable; their adventures are accessible, mysterious and enthralling. But within these different settings, there is one uniting comfort: God is always there, whether revealed in a desperate prayer to a guardian angel, through pure romantic love, the presence of Christian charity, men and women religious, or within the sacraments. The hope that comes through Catholicism and Jesus prevails in each vignette, and yet there is still heavy doses of drama, suspense and tactful violence. So if your teen seems totally spaced out and properly engrossed, take courage knowing their love of reading and their love of the faith is being fed through these beautiful stories.” Regina Lordan for Catholic News Service
“This anthology of Catholic fiction for teens will introduce readers to seven diverse authors. Many of these stories, in a variety of genres but linked by a common theme, offer a peek at characters from full-length novels. Readers already acquainted with these authors will enjoy new perspectives on favorite characters. Kudos to CatholicTeenBooks.com and these seven authors for dreaming up this excellent collection.” Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS, Editor, CatholicMom.com and Managing Editor, Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine
“Featuring seven fabulous stories from top authors in Catholic teen fiction, Secrets is as entertaining as it is relevant and thought-provoking. It’s sure to capture your imagination, move your emotions, and stir your soul. Teens and adults alike are sure to enjoy the variety of tales, which are cleverly united by themes of secrets and faith. Packed with powerful, meaningful, memorable stories, this anthology is so good, you won’t be able to keep Secrets to yourself!” Therese Heckenkamp, Christian suspense author of bestseller Frozen Footprints
“Seven Amazing Secrets . . . At a time when so much entertainment and fiction for teens is saturated with envy, lust, pride and other moral toxins, the book Secrets: Visible and Invisible is a powerful, and FUN-to-read, virtue-rich alternative. The talented team of authors behind CatholicTeenBooks.com have created the perfect way for readers to enjoy a taste of fresh new fiction that satisfies a deep hunger in the teen soul. Teens . . . you need to get your Catholic parents, grandparents, or teachers to get this book for you. Really. You’ll be glad you did.” Cathy Gilmore, Founder/Executive Director of VirtueWorksMedia.com
“I knew I was in for some great reading when I picked up this collection. What I was not prepared for was how exceptional this collection was. . . . Every story was a remarkable story. Some of the stories were so good, I immediately went back and reread just that story. And then when I finished the book, I reread the whole thing again a few days later. I have a great deal of respect for the seven authors who contributed to this series. And even more so after reading their pieces in this collection.” Steven R. McEvoy, blogger at Book Reviews & More
“Know a teen reader looking for a book filled with the unexpected? Look no further than Secrets: Visible & Invisible an anthology of 7 short stories from CatholicTeenBooks.com. From tales of bicycles to cars and even a saint standing on the threshold of the “dark side”, there’s plenty here for teen readers to sink their teeth into.” Pete Socks, The Catholic Book Blogger
Blog Tour Schedule:
July 4 Steve McEvoy Book Reviews and More
July 5 Leslea Wahl Leslea Wahl
July 6 Barb Szyszkiewicz Franciscan Mom
July 7 Shower of Roses Shower of Roses
July 8 Carolyn Astfalk My Scribbler’s Heart
July 9 Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur Spiritual Woman
July 9 Sarah Damm Sarah Damm
July 10 Corinna Turner Unseen Books
July 11 Christina Weigand Palace of Twelve Pillars
July 11 Virginia Lieto Virginia Lieto
July 12 Theresa Linden Things Visible & Invisible
July 13 T.M. Gaouette T.M. Gaouette
July 14 Karina Fabian Fabianspace
July 16 Therese Heckenkamp Therese Heckenkemp
July 17 Ellen Gable Hrkach Plot Line & Sinker
July 17 CatholicMom CatholicMom
July 18 Catholic Teen Books Catholic Teen Books
CORINNA TURNER is the author of the I Am Margaret series for young adults, as well as stand-alone works such as Drive! and Elfling (for teens) and Someday (for older teens and adults). 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 won 3rd place for ‘Teen and Young Adult Fiction’ in the Catholic Press Association 2016 Book Awards. I Am Margaret was one of two runners-up for the ‘Teenage and Children’s Fiction’ Catholic Arts and Letters Award 2016. 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 http://www.IAmMargaret.com.
CYNTHIA T. TONEY writes for preteens and teens because she wants them to know how wonderful, powerful, and valuable God made them. Her novels employ hope and humor to address some of the serious issues young people encounter.
Cynthia is the author of the Bird Face contemporary series, including 8 Notes to a Nobody, 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status, 6 Dates to Disaster, and soon, 3 Things to Forget. A coming-of-age historical, The Other Side of Freedom, is set in a 1920s farming community. Her novels have appeared on numerous Catholic bloggers’ Top 5, 10, or 20 book lists and favorites lists. They have also been featured in Catholic Teacher magazine.
She is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and whichever author association or writing guild is available in the state in which she might currently reside, which so far has stretched across the southern U.S. to Texas. She has a passion for rescuing dogs from animal shelters and lives with her husband and several canines. She loves hearing from readers, who can connect with her through her website, http://www.CynthiaTToney.com.
THERESA LINDEN is the author of the Chasing Liberty dystopian trilogy and the West Brothers series, including Catholic Press Association award-winners Roland West, Loner and Battle for His Soul. She resides in Ohio with her husband and their three teen sons. A Secular Franciscan and a member of the Catholic Writers Guild, her faith inspires the belief that there is no greater adventure than the realities we can’t see, the spiritual side of life. She hopes that her stories will spark her readers’ imaginations and awaken them to the power of faith and grace. Learn more about her and find her social media links at http://www.TheresaLinden.com.
SUSAN PEEK is the author of the young adult series, God’s Forgotten Friends: Lives of Little-known Saints. All of her novels received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval and are used in Catholic schools across the English-speaking world. The King’s Prey: Saint Dymphna of Ireland was voted one of the Top 10 Best Catholic Books of 2017 and Crusader King was listed with The 50 Best Catholic Homeschooling Books of 2013. Although Susan’s first love is writing for teens, she’s also authored several children’s books. Susan is a Third Order Franciscan and mother of eleven children, including two in the Religious life and a son in the U.S. Air Force. She lives in Kansas, where she usually has her nose in a book, finding obscure saints to write about.
You can visit her at http://www.SusanPeekAuthor.com.
T. M. GAOUETTE is the author of the Faith & Kung Fu series for young adults, as well as The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch. A member of the Catholic Writers Guild, her novels Freeing Tanner Rose and Saving Faith have received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval. (Others are in the process). Born in Africa, raised in London, England, Gaouette now lives on a small farm in New England with her husband where she home-schools her four children and raises goats.
A former contributor on Project Inspired, she now writes fiction for teens and young adults. Her desire is to instill the love of God into the hearts of her readers. You can find out more at http://www.TMGaouette.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 writes for CatholicMom.com and Today’s Catholic Teacher. When she’s not washing dishes, doing laundry, or reading, you can find her blogging about books, family life, and faith at http://www.CarolynAstfalk.com.
LESLEA WAHL 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’s writing career began when she was searching for faith-inspired books for her own children and the idea for her first novel popped into her head. That divine inspiration has led to a successful writing ministry that she hopes encourages teens to grow in their faith through fun adventures. For more information about her faith-filled young adult mysteries, visit http://www.LesleaWahl.com.
Coming in November! Charlotte’s Honor: Great War Great Love #2
Synopsis: After her brother is killed in action during the Great War, 21-year-old Charlotte Zielinski enlists as a medical volunteer. She eventually begins working in the death ward of the field hospital near Soissons, France, holding dying men’s hands and singing them into eternity.
Dr. Paul Kilgallen is a Canadian surgeon working at the field hospital. During a siege by the enemy, everyone evacuates except for Paul and Charlotte, who volunteer to remain in the basement of the chateau to care for the critically ill soldiers.
During those three days, Charlotte sees a side of Paul that very few have seen and finds herself falling in love with him. Just before Paul leaves for the front, he abruptly tells her that he cannot love her, and it would be best to “forget him.”
Just when Charlotte seems to be losing hope, the war is coming to a close, and two astonishing events will change her life forever.
I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book.
Here’s what I’ve been reading during the past month!
Amazon Synopsis: For centuries adoration has been a devotion saints, popes, and countless men, women, and children not only loved but came to rely on. In St. Faustina Prayer Book for Adoration, best-selling and award-winning author Susan Tassone shows you how to deeply encounter God during your own times of adoration. Here you’ll find prayers for adoring the Lord before the Blessed Sacrament and for spiritual adoration at home. With St. Faustina as your guide, you’ll learn more about the graces God offers you, ways to pray with and without words, and the unique and amazing relationship God shares with you alone.
My review: Susan Tassone has done it again! The “Purgatory Lady” has written and compiled a beautiful book we can take to Adoration. All the reflections are based on St. Faustina’s Diary. If you can only bring one book (other than the Bible, of course) to Adoration, I highly recommend this one. Your Adoration time will be fuller, deeper and more fruitful. Five out of five stars.
Amazon Synopsis: At the height of the AIDS crises, I remember constantly hearing that the disease was killing the best and the brightest. While this was somewhat of an over-inflated slogan perpetuated by the homosexual leaning media, there were so many guys that I knew with extraordinary aptitudes for art, literature, music, dance, and design. They were truly gifted by God. I believe that this is why the devil often singles-out gay men for an enormously severe form of temptation and torture. For as gay men, we have often endured a suffering not unlike the Saints. From our earliest memories, we frequently harbor secretive pains of self-doubt and rejection. Later, we continually direct ourselves towards the highest possible focal point of all – encompassing beauty and love. Early on, the Blessed Saints recognize this as the image of God. Those who are corrupted and lose their way, find themselves in front of a very different deity. Their gifts are unwittingly squandered in his service, their life-force extracted in payment for a decaying feast of traitorous emptiness, then they are left to die alone and scared.
My review: Compelling, but very disturbing, book. For adults only. I had to put it down many times when the author is describing his years in the gay community. He also describes the defining incident which started him on the road to conversion. I very much admire this author because it took tremendous courage to write and share his story. Although there are a lot of editorial mistakes (commas and typos), it’s a book I can recommend (but only to those with a strong stomach). Four out of five stars.
Fr. Donald Calloway
Amazon Synopsis: Read this book and learn all about the greatest heroes of the rosary in Church history, prepare yourself to join their ranks, and respond to the challenges of the present age by taking up the spiritual sword of Heaven: the rosary!
Internationally known speaker and author Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, loves Our Lady and her favorite devotion: the rosary. But he’s not the only one! Throughout the life of the Church, many men and women have become great saints and helped change the course of human history by the power of the rosary. In 26 Champions of the Rosary, Fr. Calloway presents the outstanding heroes whose trusting dependence on Our Lady and her rosary have brought peace and divine help to the world.
My review: I absolutely loved this book! I received a signed copy at the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show last year, but I only read it recently. It is excellent and easy to read one or two stories at a time. This should be on all Catholics’ bookshelves. Highly recommend. Five out of five stars.
John R. Monteith
Amazon Synopsis: Master your powers or become the next sacrifice. Dianne suspects she’s an empath, but when telepathic shocks, ghostly warnings, and secret books suggest an immortal is hunting her, she needs to embrace her full abilities–fast. A human wraith is seeking Dianne as a sacrifice, forcing her to partner with strange men who use modern technology and ancient magic to stop her potential murderer. Racing against time to learn her powers and defend herself, she must battle a relentless enemy, guide the efforts of her protectors, and prove her inner strength and empathic competency to survive. Clive Cussler Society Adventure Writer’s Competition Finalist and bestselling author of the Rogue Avenger series, John Monteith, brings you this supernatural thriller that blends metaphysical, occult, and paranormal elements in one page-turning adventure.
My review: This is on my “to read” bookshelf.
Amazon Synopsis: Jack and Rachel leave Culpepper for their long-awaited honeymoon trip, a driving tour through New England. On day three, they stop at a little bay-side town in Cape Cod to visit Jack’s grandmother. After he gets called away to handle an emergency, Rachel stays and listens as Jack’s grandmother shares a remarkable story about how she and Jack’s grandfather met in the early days of World War 2. It’s a story filled with danger, decades-old family secrets, daring rescues and romance. Jack is named after his grandfather, and this story set the course and direction for Jack’s life to the present day. After hearing it, Rachel is amazed that anyone survived.
My review: Also on my “to read” bookshelf.