Arnprior Author’s New Novel Wins Award

The local newspaper published an article about my newest award.

Photo by James Hrkach

Local author Ellen Gable Hrkach is already an award-winning author whose books have received top prizes in various fiction awards. But, for Hrkach, the award for her newest book is particularly satisfying. Where Angels Pass, Hrkach’s twelfth book and based on a true story, won First Place in the Catholic Media Association Book Awards in the category of Catholic Novels (Educational). Her book also won Honorable Mention in an additional CMA category of Best Book by a Small Publisher. 

She says, “I’m grateful for any awards or recognition, but to win a CMA Book Award is a bucket list item that I can now check off.”  The CMA judges gave this comment about Hrkach’s book: “This is a timely and well-written story, showing the effects of child abuse by a priest, not only on the victim but also on the victim’s family. A worthwhile read!”

Hrkach explains, “Where Angels Pass tells the fictionalized story of my father’s abuse and the ensuing tragedies that befell our family because of that abuse. My siblings and I didn’t find out about the abuse until after my father died. When I discovered the reason he had such a troubled life, it all made sense to me.”

By writing this book, Hrkach wanted to share that despite the clerical abuse that had occurred for decades in the Catholic Church – and specifically with her father – her own Catholic faith, although tested, prevailed nonetheless. Similarly, her abused father remained a Catholic until his tragic death. She says, “I had a beautiful relationship with my dad and, despite all the difficulties, he was a wonderful and caring father.” Author Jim Sano says that the book is “a love story of a daughter for her father…that will surely touch people in a profound way.”

Former attorney and author Michael Seagriff says, “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. Masterful job mixing fact with fiction.”

Originally from the Philadelphia-South Jersey area, Hrkach is now a dual citizen. She began writing religious fiction as a hobby twenty years ago when her five sons were small children. “When I first started writing, I planned to eventually get around to working on a story about my father’s life, but for twenty years, I couldn’t actually sit down and write the story, partly because it was too difficult to relive our family’s most disturbing experiences.”  Then, Hrkach relates that, “Last summer, I just sat down and wrote for three weeks until I finished the first draft. Yes, it was excruciatingly painful to write about, but it was also very therapeutic.”

Six of Hrkach’s books have been translated into various languages, and the author’s books have been collectively downloaded 780,000 times on Kindle. To date, she has published twelve original works, has ghostwritten five others, and has contributed to numerous other books and websites.  Find out more about her at http://www.ellengable.com.

Where Angels Pass is available in ebook, paperback and hardcover on Amazon and through the author: fullquiverpublishing@gmail.com

Where Angels Pass #FREE on #KINDLE

My new book, Where Angels Pass, is FREE on Kindle today through Sunday.

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.

Reviews:

I have just completed reading your recent book Where Angels Pass and I wanted just to drop you a quick note to express my appreciation for it. As a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Pembroke, I have had the fortunate/unfortunate opportunity to confront the issue of clergy sexual abuse in my years of ministry. Fortunate, in that I have learned a great deal from the powerful witness and dignity of victims and have been privileged to have been allowed to share in their life’s journey of pain, suffering, and sometimes even the recovery of their faith. Unfortunate, in as much as those victims should never have had to deal with such a horrific event in their lives to begin with, or have encountered the unChristian manner in which they were dealt with by Church authorities. Your book captured both elements with grace, style, and dare I say, with the light of a Catholic faith that would shame many a professed cleric. Fr. Tim Moyle, Diocese of Pembroke

Stunning in its teaching of wisdom and compassion. Very powerful.  Fr. Arthur J.

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 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, award-winning 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

Pick up your FREE copy here.

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.

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 – 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!

An Open Book – July #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!

Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult

Amazon Synopsis: To the outside world, they seem to have it all. Cassie Barrett, a renowned anthropologist, and Alex Rivers, one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, met on the set of a motion picture in Africa. They shared childhood tales, toasted the future, and declared their love in a fairy-tale wedding. But when they return to California, something alters the picture of their perfect marriage. A frightening pattern is taking shape—a cycle of hurt, denial, and promises, thinly veiled by glamour. Torn between fear and something that resembles love, Cassie wrestles with questions she never dreamed she would face: How can she leave? Then again, how can she stay?

My review: Jodi Picoult tackles a tough topic with this book: spousal abuse. This is one of those books that I read every few years because Picoult expertly creates and develops her characters. When the abuser is pleading with his wife to allow them to reconcile, part of me was saying, “Tell him yes!” That’s a great author who can have the reader cheering for the abuser. That being said, since this is one of her early books, I noticed a few writing errors and typos that wouldn’t normally be in her later books. Regardless, I have enjoyed every Picoult book until about ten years ago when she became politically correct (the Christians in one of her more recent novels are seen as the villains). But this particular book is excellent. 5/5.

Victoria’s War by Catherine Hamilton

Amazon Synopsis: In Victoria’s War, Hamilton gives voice to the courageous Polish women who were kidnapped into the real-life Nazi slave labor operation during WWII. Inspired by true stories, this lost chapter of history won’t soon be forgotten.

POLAND, 1939: Nineteen-year-old Victoria Darski is eager to move away to college: her bags are packed and her train ticket is in hand. But instead of boarding a train to the University of Warsaw, she finds her world turned upside down when World War II breaks out. Victoria’s father is sent to a raging battlefront, and the Darski women face the cruelty of the invaders alone. After the unthinkable happens, Victoria is ordered to work in a Nazi sewing factory. When she decides to go to a resistance meeting with her best friend, Sylvia, they are captured by human traffickers targeting Polish teenagers. Sylvia is singled out and sent to work in brothels, and Victoria is transported in a cattle car to Berlin, where she is auctioned off as a slave.

GERMANY, 1941: Twenty-year-old Etta Tod is at Mercy Hospital, where she’s about to undergo involuntary sterilization because of the Fuhrer’s mandate to eliminate hereditary deafness. Etta, an artist, silently critiques the propaganda poster on the waiting room wall while her mother tries to convince her she should be glad to get rid of her monthlies. Etta is the daughter of the German shopkeepers who buy Victoria at auction in Berlin. The stories of Victoria and Etta intertwine in the bakery’s attic where Victoria is held the same place where Etta has hidden her anti-Nazi paintings. The two women form a quick and enduring bond. But when they’re caught stealing bread from the bakery and smuggling it to a nearby work camp, everything changes.

My review: On my “To Read” shelf.

The Lacemaker by Anne Faye

Amazon Synopsis: St. Zélie Martin (1831-1877) is best known as the mother of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, one of the most-loved saints of modern times, but she is also a saint in her own right. In this work of historical fiction based largely on St. Zélie’s letters, a compelling portrait of a working mother who always put God first comes to life.

St. Zélie is a saint many women can relate to. She suffered from anxiety, struggled with work-life balance, grieved the loss of children, cared for aging parents, had a child with special needs, and dealt with personal illness. Above all, she loved God and her family and had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother.

In this intimate portrayal, you will come to know a complex woman who achieved holiness while living in the world and dealing with the stress of modern life.

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful book based on St. Zelie Martin’s life. It’s written in a journal format and easy to follow along with the events, joys and challenges of a woman in the 19th century. Highly recommend.

A Song for the Road by Kathleen Basi

Amazon Synopsis: It’s one year after the death of her husband and twin teenagers, and Miriam Tedesco has lost faith in humanity and herself. When a bouquet of flowers that her husband always sends on their anniversary shows up at her workplace, she completely unravels. With the help of her best friend, she realizes that it’s time to pick up the pieces and begin to move on. Step one is not even cleaning out her family’s possessions, but just taking inventory starting with her daughter’s room. But when she opens her daughter’s computer, she stumbles across a program her daughter has created detailing an automated cross-country road trip, for her and her husband to take as soon-to-be empty nesters.

Seeing and hearing the video clips of her kids embedded in the program, Miriam is determined to take this trip for her children. Armed with her husband’s guitar, her daughter’s cello, and her son’s unfinished piano sonata, she embarks on a musical pilgrimage to grieve the family she fears she never loved enough. Along the way she meets a young, pregnant hitchhiker named Dicey, whose boisterous and spunky attitude reminds Miriam of her own daughter.

Tornadoes, impromptu concerts, and an unlikely friendship…whether she’s prepared for it or not, Miriam’s world is coming back to life. But as she struggles to keep her focus on the reason she set out on this journey, she has to confront the possibility that the best way to honor her family may be to accept the truths she never wanted to face.

Hopeful, honest, and tender, A Song for the Road is about courage, vulnerability, and forgiveness, even of yourself, when it really matters.

My review: I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book that on the surface seemed like it might be depressing. But I was pleasantly surprised. This is a beautifully written journey of grief but one that ultimately becomes a journey of joy and discovery. Rich, well-developed and believable characters make this a book that you won’t forget. Highly recommend. 5/5

The Handy Little Guide to Prayer by Barb Szyszkiewicz

Amazon Synopsis: God knows what’s on our minds and in our hearts, but we still need to verbalize our innermost thoughts, feelings, and intentions. That’s prayer.

In this easy-to-read, down-to-earth introduction to conversation with God, you’ll discover, or rediscover, what you need to be able to “pray without ceasing.”

In this brief booklet, author, mom, wife, and Secular Franciscan Barb Szyszkiewicz helps you strengthen your connection to God through prayer. You’ll learn:

  • How to pray alone and establish an intimate connection with God
  • How to pray with the whole Church
  • What the saints teach us about prayer
  • When to pray, including formal and informal times for prayer
  • Different styles and methods of prayer, including the prayers of the Church, adoration, meditation, music, art, and journaling

Your connection to God in prayer can happen anywhere, at any time. No special equipment is needed, and no dress code, no reservation, no admission fee. All you need is an open heart and a willingness to engage with our Creator.

My review: As a short person, I was always told “Good things come in small packages.” This wonderful little prayer book is also an example of that saying. It’s small enough to carry in your purse or to have on your nightstand. It’s also ideal for taking to Adoration. It’s short and to the point. Highly recommend. 5/5.

If Today You Hear His Voice by Irene Lynch

Amazon Synopsis: Throughout our rich and inspiring Catholic history, many saints have proclaimed to have had a conversation with Christ or the Blessed Mother. I believe that everyone can hear the voice of God! He is as alive and involved in our lives today as He was when He walked the earth over two thousand years ago! God wants a loving relationship with each one of us. I believe that through the Holy Spirit, God prompted me to write this book. My complete trust in His endless love and mercy has given me blessings beyond my greatest dreams. My prayer is for you to seek God in all things, walk with Him in your life journey, and listen to His voice. Come walk with me and let me show you how!!

My review: I enjoyed this lovely book. It’s self-published so the writing is not as polished as it can be, but I can definitely feel the author’s joy through her journey. Recommend. 4/5.

Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby by Bonnie Way and Anna Eastland

Amazon Synopsis: Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby is a friendly, conversational book about pregnancy, birth, and your first three months as a new mom. With respect and honesty, authors Bonnie Way (mom of 5) and Anna Eastland (mom of 9) share their experiences, walking expectant moms through some of the questions and concerns they may experience from conception to colic. This book includes tips on dealing with first trimester exhaustion, dressing your baby bump without breaking the bank, choosing the best care provider for your pregnancy, whether or not to write a birth plan, dealing with pain during labour, and taking care of yourself and baby after birth.

My review: On my “To Read” shelf.

Power in the Name of Jesus Conference

My husband and I participated in this international conference on the Power of Jesus’ name. Our talk begins around six minutes. (And a screenshot of us speaking is below the You Tube link/box. There are several other speakers from various parts of the world including Scotland, Wales and Poland. Enjoy!

St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

Today is the Feast of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr. I knew little of this saint until I read about her during my research for A Subtle Grace. This book was a finalist in Religious Fiction in the 2015 IAN Awards. I dedicated this book to her.

It’s no surprise that St. Agnes’ feast day is so close to the U.S. March for Life (which is, sadly, canceled this year). Agnes’ name in Greek means “chaste, pure or sacred,” and in Latin, it means “lamb.” She is the patron saint of young girls, chastity, engaged couples, rape victims (and others). In past centuries, young girls would recite this prayer/poem to St. Agnes on the Eve of the feast day with the hope they would dream of their future husband.

Now good St. Agnes, play thy part,
And send to me my own sweetheart,
And show me such a happy bliss,
This night of him to have a kiss.

St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us!

Pregnancy: An Advent Eternally Renewed

My latest at CatholicMom.com:

Image by Bartek Ambrozik FreeImages.com

“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

There are so many things to be thankful for during Advent this year.  Yes, it’s 2020, and many would prefer to rush to the end of this eventful, stressful year.

I don’t agree.  During this challenging time, we can use these beautiful weeks to prepare for and to be thankful for Our Savior’s birth and for Mother Mary’s “yes” to carrying Jesus. 

I was blessed to be pregnant during five Advents, and during each one, it was easier to understand this truth that “every pregnancy sings of the first Advent.”  However, the Advent before my January baby (number-four son) was probably the most impactful, given that I was exceptionally large, and I had suffered more during this pregnancy than in the previous three healthy ones combined. I had debilitating migraines every two days until four months along. I’m four feet nine inches tall and, before pregnancy, my weight was typically 95 pounds. I had already gained 65 pounds with that pregnancy, and the baby measured at seven pounds during December. (He would be born a month later at nearly ten pounds).  While I didn’t love the difficulties and challenges of childbearing, I was filled with joy when I was pregnant because it was a time when the fruit of our love was growing and kicking inside of me.

And growing and kicking this baby did. A lot of it! Because of the excess weight, I could barely walk, let alone move. I couldn’t imagine myself sitting on a stinky donkey and traveling in warm weather, far away from home, then giving birth in a damp, smelly stable. 

Needless to say, that was the first time I understood with greater clarity what Mother Mary endured that first Advent. I continue to be in awe of Our Lady’s yes to carrying Our Savior.   Mary was – and continues to be –a beautiful 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.

Mary also acted as my consoler when I lost seven babies through miscarriage.  There is no other woman who could so completely understand the heartbreak of losing a precious child better than Our Lady herself, who stood under the cross, her heart pierced by the sword of watching her own flesh and blood, the very Savior of the world, die in agony.

Let us embrace this Advent with Our Lady’s open welcoming of the Savior, the one she bore for mankind.  And let us pause, remember, and pray for all those who carry a precious child in their wombs, that they will understand with great clarity the unique and everlasting gift of carrying an eternal, human soul.

Nearing the end of a challenging pregnancy (1996)

Copyright 2020 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day 2020

pregnancy-infant-loss-remembrance-day

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day but the entire month of October is devoted to Infant Loss Remembrance. James and I feel very blessed and grateful to be the parents of five young adult sons (ages 21-33) and one beautiful grandson. We are also blessed to be the parents of seven precious babies we lost through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. This month, we remember in a special way these seven little souls (and intercessors) in heaven.

Here are a few of my reflections on pregnancy loss:

Among Women Podcast Episode 89 (Pat Gohn interviewed me about miscarriage and pregnancy loss)

Ecce Ancilla Domini, an article on openness to life.

Five Little Souls in Heaven (This article was written 25 years ago and published in the Nazareth Journal)

Difficult Anniversaries/Responsible Parenthood

One of the themes of my first novel, Emily’s Hope, is pregnancy loss.

This excerpt describes Emily’s loss of baby “Seth.”

“I need to push.” She wanted so desperately not to push, to allow her baby to stay inside of her, and for her to continue to nourish and nurture her child, but her body wouldn’t allow that. She pushed only twice and her small child was born. Emily heard a sound like a kitten crying, then realized that her baby had let out a small, soft, weak cry.

As soon as the umbilical cord was cut, the nurse immediately carried the baby across the room as the pediatric staff attempted to work on their child. Emily and Jason sat quietly, their hearts heavy with emotion. A few minutes later, she felt another contraction and her placenta was delivered. She could hear a nurse referring to “him,” and realized that their child was another boy. After a few minutes, the doctor brought him back, his small form still hidden in the blue hospital blanket. He spoke in a hushed, almost apologetic voice, “There is nothing we can do for him.”

He handed the tiny one-pound baby boy to his mother. Jason held onto Emily’s shoulder and watched as she cradled the smallest baby they had ever seen. He was so perfect and looked identical to their oldest son, Jake. His small body was covered with minute white hairs. He was perfect as he struggled to breathe. He was perfect as he opened his mouth to cry. Emily held her new son as gently as she could. Jason reached over and poured a few drops of water on him and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Emily could feel the vibration of his tiny heart beating fast.

The nurse came in with a Polaroid camera and asked if they wanted her to take a photo of their child. Emily nodded as the nurse took a photo of her and Jason and their tiny son. She gazed in awe at this miniature human being and marveled at the fact that even though he was tiny, he was so perfect. His little hands looked like a doll’s hands. She removed the baby blanket and laid his small, warm body on her chest. She could feel his heart beating rapidly. After several minutes, she wrapped him again in the small blue blanket.

Then, in an instant, he was still. She could feel that his heart had stopped and he wasn’t breathing, but he continued to feel warm and soft. He looked like a sleeping angel.

(End of excerpt.)

If you have lost a baby through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or infant death, please click on the link above “Baby Loss” for resources and helpful links.

Here is a list of other novels that include themes about infant/pregnancy loss:

In Name Only by Ellen Gable

A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable

Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable

A World Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer

Rose, Sola by Carmela Martino

The Rose and the Sword by Gina Marinello-Sweeney

Bane’s Eyes by Corinna Turner

Passport by Christopher Blunt

Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk

For Eden’s Sake by T.M. Gaouette

Life-Changing Love by Theresa Linden

Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body edited by Erin McCole Cupp and Ellen Gable

In memory of our seven little souls in heaven:

Baby Hrkach Twins (June 1986)

Baby Hrkach (February 1991)

Baby Hrkach (June 1991)

Mary Elizabeth Hrkach (June 1993)

Seth Hrkach (April 1998)

Lucy Hrkach (March 2006)