#FREE on Kindle: Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship

FREE On Kindle Until Thursday!!

“Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship” contains 12 stories that will inspire, captivate and entertain readers.

The idea for this book came about on Valentine’s Day eight years ago, when several mothers were enjoying each other’s fellowship as our children played and exchanged cards. We began sharing how each of us met our husbands. One by one we recounted our stories. It became evident that God’s hand was truly and firmly present in bringing each couple together. Kathy Cassanto, one of the mothers present, said, “It’s too bad there isn’t a book available with Catholic courtship stories.” My initial response was, “Well, if there isn’t, there should be.”  I immediately went online and discovered that there wasn’t a book containing Catholic courtship stories. So I asked Kathy to be my co-editor, and we set out to find inspiring Catholic courtship stories. We didn’t have to search far. Oftentimes, I simply listened to a small quiet voice prompting me to ask a particular couple, “Would you be willing to share how the two of you met?”

We agreed that the easiest and fastest way to gather the stories was to interview the couples, transcribe the interviews and edit the stories. Most of the stories in this book were from recorded conversations, then transcribed and edited, although some were written by the couples themselves.

As we interviewed each couple, a clear picture was emerging: that true love was far different from the infatuation which is so often portrayed in movies and books.

Each of these courtship/dating stories has its own theme, but all of them illustrate that God is the ideal matchmaker. The stories are uplifting, inspirational, funny, hopeful, romantic.

The complete versions of each story are included in the book, along with family photos of all the couples. Here are excerpts of some of the stories.

David and Posie

Leon and Mary Lou

Robert and Sarah

Chris and Micki

James and Ellen

Mark and Kathy

Andrew and Regina

Michel and Jeanette

Tom and Patty

James and Pati

Damon and Melanie

Mark and Yvette

To download your FREE Kindle copy, click here.

Synopsis: Come My Beloved is a celebration of faith and enduring love. This compilation contains 12 courtship/dating storiesthat will inspire, captivate and entertain readers. Included are the following stories: A widow with eight children meets a widower with six children; a woman prays to God for a husband and years later, finds herself falling in love with a seminarian; a man asks his live-in girlfriend “What if we stopped having sex?” and is greeted with tears of joy; an atheist falls in love with her Catholic Prince Charming; a couple meet through a Christian introduction service; a sailor prays a novena to marry the right girl. What these and all the stories illustrate is that God is the ideal matchmaker.

To read reviews, more excerpts and watch the book trailer and interview on Son Rise Morning Show, click here.

Text and photo copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing

An Open Book – January 2017 #openbook

Open Book

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

joy-to-the-world

Joy to the World: How Christ’s Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does) by Scott Hahn

From the Amazon summary: The cast of characters is strange and exotic: shepherds and magicians, an emperor and a despot, angels, and a baby who is Almighty God. The strangeness calls for an explanation, and this book provides it by examining the characters and the story in light of the biblical and historical context.

Bestselling author Scott Hahn who has written extensively on Scripture and the early Church, brings evidence to light, dispelling some of the mystery of the story. Yet Christmas is made familiar all over again by showing it to be a family story. Christmas, as it appears in the New Testament, is the story of a father, a mother, and a child–their relationships, their interactions, their principles, their individual lives, and their common life. To see the life of this “earthly trinity” is to gaze into heaven.

My review:  Excellent book, a kind of “behind-the-scenes” narrative. I was able to buy the Kindle edition for 1.99 when it was on sale a few weeks ago.

unsinkable

Unsinkable: a Memoir by Debbie Reynolds

From the Amazon summary: Unsinkable is the definitive memoir by film legend and Hollywood icon Debbie Reynolds. Actress, comedienne, singer, and dancer Debbie Reynolds shares the highs and lows of her life as an actress during Hollywood’s Golden Age, anecdotes about her lifelong friendship with Elizabeth Taylor and her experiences as the foremost collector of Hollywood memorabilia, and intimate details of her marriages and family life with her children, Carrie and Todd Fisher.

My review: Like most people, I was shocked at Carrie Fisher’s death last week and then just one day later, equally saddened by her mother’s death.  I’ve always liked both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, but this book gives the reader a better idea of all the heartbreak and financial challenges Debbie has had to face in her life. The Kindle edition was reduced in price a few days after Debbie’s death so I took advantage and downloaded it. For mature audiences only.

heart-div

A Heart Divided: A Novel by Kathleen Morgan

From the Amazon summary: It is 1878 and the Caldwells and Wainwrights have been feuding for decades. Still, Sarah Caldwell has misgivings when her father pressures her into distracting a ranch hand while he and her brothers rob the Wainwright place. When it becomes clear that hand is actually Cord Wainwright, Sarah realizes she needs to lay low. But Cord spots her in town and, with the sheriff away, makes a citizen’s arrest, dragging her off to the Wainwright ranch until the sheriff’s return. As the feud boils over, Cord and Sarah make a most inconvenient discovery they are falling in love. Can they betray their families for love? Or will their families betray them? Against the beautiful and wild backdrop of the Rocky Mountains comes this sweeping saga of romance, betrayal, and forgiveness from beloved author Kathleen Morgan.

My review:  Just started reading this one, but if it’s like other Kathleen Morgan books, it will be a clean, Christian romance that I will thoroughly enjoy.

 

2016 Highlights

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Happy New Year!  Tomorrow is the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.  Happy Feast Day!

Here are a few of the most popular posts during 2016!

Like Arrows in the Hand of a Warrior

FQP Books Sweep CALA Awards

The Wisdom of Humanae Vitae and the Joy of Being Open to Life

The Importance of Theology of the Body in the Year of Mercy

Merry Christmas 2016!

photo credit: Josh Hrkach 2011 (copyright)

photo credit: Josh Hrkach 2011 (copyright)

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:8-11

“Fear not little flock, fear not. Come with me to Bethlehem. Let us celebrate a joyous Christmas. Let us be merry and happy no matter what because Christ is born.” Catherine Doherty

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

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

Celebrating #Christmas in the Aftermath of Suicide

Celebrating Christmas in the Aftermath of Suicide

 

In a recent interview between Fr. Looney and Susan Tassone (The Purgatory Lady!), Susan gives hopes to those who have lost loved ones through suicide.
In recent years suicide has been on the rise and has claimed many victims.  In the cities where I serve as a priest, I have been present for too many prayer vigils and funerals for teenagers who committed suicide this year.  I have stood next to their friends and family members, and provided an ear to listen to and a shoulder to cry on.  As we approach the Christmas holiday, the emotions of loss re-emerge because they realize it is their first Christmas without their loved one.

During the holiday season, certain questions might arise within one’s heart, or asked by others.  How should a person coping with the death of a loved one this holiday season respond?  When thinking about death and the afterlife, I thought I would turn to Susan Tassone, an authority on Purgatory, to help answer some of those tough questions, and hopefully provide comfort and consolation, not only to the bereaved, but to our beloved dead as well, this Christmas season.

Fr. Looney:  Those who lost a loved one, especially to suicide want to know if their loved one can go to Heaven.  Over the years the negative stigma of suicide has changed in the Church.  What can words can you offer for those coping with the tragic death of a loved one?

Susan Tassone:  A few words about suicide.  Often members of a family will have different feelings about the suicide of a loved one.  It is likely when someone you love commits suicide you will experience a wide range of feelings. It is normal to be angry, sad, down, scared, etc.

Feelings are fleeting and change rapidly.  One of the most common feelings is that of being ashamed.  We blame ourselves for the suicide.  You may feel embarrassed by what you feel.  There is no right feeling.  Remember feelings are temporary. They pass and change over time.  Sometimes we may blame ourselves, others, or the person who died.  Behind blame often are feelings of hurt or inadequacy. “If only I did this or noticed that.”  Many of us look to assign blame.  The more we can let go of blame the quicker we will heal.

People commit suicide for many different reasons.    We need to focus our empathy on what pain a person must have gone through to decide to take their life.  The less we judge and the more we can be empathetic, the more likely we will feel the mercy of God’s healing.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2282-2283) says: “Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.  We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance.  The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.”  This is a time to remember the ocean of mercy and kindness that is given to us by Our Lord.

Fr. Looney: During the holidays many people attend parties or family gatherings and might be asked about their loved one.  What do they say to others? 

Susan Tassone: You tell them that “So and So” was in great pain and ended their life.  We ask everyone to be compassionate and to offer Masses and prayers so that she/he may be received into the arms of our merciful God.  Our role is not to judge.  Our role is to pray for healing both for the deceased and their loved ones.

Fr. Looney:  How do you address the issue with a child?

Susan Tassone: It is important to shape your message to the level of understanding of the child.  If they are younger, it is best to say that he/she died.  They loved you very much and felt terrible in leaving you.  You can pray for them and that way ask Jesus to comfort them and you.  Nothing you or anyone did caused their death.  It is sad to lose someone you love.  But people feel many things when someone dies.  Ask the child what they feel.  Ask them to imagine that person is here.  What would they like to say?  No matter what the child says, do not correct what they feel but acknowledge the pain.  Give the child things they can do to help the deceased and themselves.  Light candles, prayers that they can say or drawings they can make.

Fr. Looney: What is the best way we can remember our loved ones who have died?

Susan Tassone:  The best way to move the soul to heaven is to have Masses offered, particularly Gregorian Masses.  Gregorian Masses are a series of thirty Holy Masses celebrated on thirty consecutive days for the repose of the soul of a departed person.  Gregorian Masses derive their name from Pope St. Gregory the Great, who was the first to popularize this practice.  The Dialogues of St. Gregory tell of the soul of a departed monk who appeared and declared that he had been delivered form purgatory upon the completion of 30 Masses.  The Sacred Congregation of Indulgences declared this hallowed tradition of more than 1,300 years “a pious and reasonable belief of the faithful on the authority of the Roman Curia.”  The Church does not guarantee that souls are released from Purgatory after 30 Masses, but this practice focuses on the efficacy of the Mass.  Contact the Pious Union of St. Joseph to arrange for these Masses.  www.pusj.org

Fr. Looney:  The stories of the saints are powerful witnesses that can bring us some comfort.  Are there any stories that pertain to souls who commit suicide? 

Susan Tassone: There is a story of St. John Vianney who told a grieving wife that her husband who committed suicide was saved.  This story is described by the Abbe Trochu in his biography of the Cure d’Ars. A certain Abbe Guillaumet met a lady on a train who was in deep mourning and when he said that he was going to Ars she asked, “Monsieur l’Abbe, will you allow me to accompany you to Ars? I may as well go there, as elsewhere…. I am travelling to distract my thoughts.”

When they reached the village, the priest led the lady to a place near the church and suddenly, St. John Vianney appeared. He stopped in front of the lady in black who, following the example of the crowd, had gone down on her knees. He bent over her and whispered into her ear: “He is saved!” The woman was startled and John Vianney repeated: “He is saved!” A gesture of incredulity was the only reply of the stranger. Whereupon the saint, stressing each word, repeated, “I tell you he is saved. He is in Purgatory, and you must pray for him. Between the parapet of the bridge and the water he had time to make an act of contrition. Our Blessed Lady obtained that grace for him. Remember the shrine that you put up in your room during the month of May? Though your husband professed to have no religion, he sometimes joined in your prayers; this merited for him the grace of repentance and pardon at the last moment.

The next day, the lady explained to Abbe Guillaumet that she had been in despair because of the tragic death of her husband: “He was an unbeliever, and my one object in life was to bring him back to God. I did not get the time. He committed suicide by drowning himself. I could only think of him as lost. Oh! Were we never again to meet? Now you hear that the Cure d’Ars told me more than once: ‘He is saved!’ I shall meet him again in heaven. Monsieur L’Abbe, I am cured!”

When all seems hopeless, we must remember there is always hope.  Always have faith and pray for your loved ones throughout life.  Have Masses offered for them while they are alive to give them the grace for conversion.  

Fr. Looney:  I’ve heard it said that Christmas is a very special day for the souls in Purgatory?  Is this true?

Susan Tassone:  According to St. Alphonsus Liguori and St. Teresa of Avila, more souls are released on Christmas than any other day of the year.

Fr. Looney: How would you suggest we remember those whom we loved but are no longer with us this Christmas season? 

Susan Tassone:  These are quotes from my book, Praying with the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Not only should we have Masses offered for our departed loved ones this time of year, but we should give the gift of Masses and enroll your family and friends, living and deceased, in spiritual membership, a spiritual solidarity of prayer. The Association of the Miraculous Medal in Perryville, Missouri, and the Marian Helpers in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, are two great organizations for these Enrollments.

Visit cemeteries with your children. Sprinkle holy water on the graves.  Teach youth to pray the Eternal Rest Prayer. Light blessed candles.  The burning candle is a sign of our prayer, a bright silent intercessor.  Offer your Mass and indulgence for your deceased loved ones at Christmas Mass.  Place a special ornament on your Christmas Tree or wreath in remembrance.  Share stories and pictures of deceased family members, remembering them in prayer.

Day by Day for the Holy Souls in Purgatory: 365 Reflectionsis another great book that helps to console those who are left behind.  EWTN Host of Women of Grace, Johnnette Benkovic, lost her son to a vehicular accident.  She highly recommends this book because it helped her through the grieving process.  She shared this with me and all her TV viewers on her show:  “This book got me through the death of my son.”  It would be a great Christmas gift for anyone to begin the New Year on this soul-saving mission.

Fr. Looney:  Susan Tassone has a great passion for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and reminds us we should never forget those who have gone before us.  This Christmas season as memories of our loved ones flood us, allow them to become an opportunity for prayer.  Although they are physically gone from us, they live on in our hearts and memories, and because of our prayers for them, they will never forget us.  St. John XXIII affirms this, ““Our dead are among the invisible, not among the absent.”  Jesus was born on Christmas day to set us free from all that enslaves us.  Allow Jesus to bring peace to your troubled heart and soul this Christmas, and by chance, your prayers might bring peace to a loved one in Purgatory, helping to bring them home to Heaven this Christmas.

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