The Path to Forgiveness

 

Photo by Kayla Hrkach, used with permission

My latest article at Catholic Mom:

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Many of us say this prayer multiple times every day if we are saying the Rosary. It’s important to take these words to heart every time we say them.

I’ve heard many people say “I’ll never forgive him,” or “I’ll never forgive her.” However, Christ didn’t qualify it. It doesn’t matter what the person has done to us or the heartache they caused. We must do our very best to forgive the person. This is NOT an easy thing to do, especially if the person you’re trying to forgive isn’t sorry for the pain they’ve caused you.

For most of my life, I had a difficult time forgiving an older female relative who verbally abused me throughout my married life. I spent years avoiding this relative, but sometimes it wasn’t possible. And while I thought I had forgiven her, a few years ago when someone asked me what had happened, I let it all come out and began reliving all the difficult moments. That’s when I realized I needed counseling and/or spiritual help. Later we discovered that she suffered from a mental illness and I just happened to be the convenient target for her verbal abuse.

As a grade school student, I was bullied by one particular girl who made my life extremely difficult. The religious sisters at the school loved me and I was a good student. But I was also the shortest in the class and probably weighed 45 pounds soaking wet. The girl was not that much taller than me and I was an easy target. I spent years holding onto a grudge against this girl and found myself thinking, “I hope she’s had a hard life.” But that isn’t forgiveness. I suspect now that she was probably enduring her own abuse and projecting that onto an easy target.

After my father’s death at the young age of 49, I found out that he had been molested by a priest when he was a boy. Because of the shame, he never told anyone except for my mother. He suffered from addictions and mental disorders and these all seemed to make sense in light of this information. I spent years thinking, “I hope that priest burned in hell.” I have always wished that there had been some justice for my father and for our family, who suffered along with him in his struggles. However, the thought that this priest’s soul was burning in hell was not forgiving at all. But truthfully, I didn’t want to forgive him for all the heartache he caused my father and our family.

So how can you forgive? First, ask the Blessed Mother to help you. She stood by, quietly, with great sorrow as her Son was beaten, scourged and hung on a Cross to die a painful death. She cradled Him in her arms afterward. She heard Him say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Mary forgave them because that is what her Son asked.

Second, when I was in confession with a priest a few years ago, he told me to pray for every person who has ever hurt me. So that’s what I did. I prayed for them, offered up sacrifices and prayed a blessing on them. I also prayed that the Holy Spirit would bring to mind all those that I needed to forgive. As well, I prayed that the Holy Spirit would bring to mind all those who needed to forgive me for any wrongs I’ve done, and I prayed for those people as well, that they would find it in their hearts to forgive me.

Then I began fasting, especially for those people I have had a hard time forgiving: the bully, the relative, the abusive priest. It wasn’t easy in the beginning. I didn’t like sacrificing for those who had hurt me. However, because fasting invites the Holy Spirit into our hearts and souls, He gave me the grace to forgive. Forgiveness didn’t happen overnight, but I was finally able to forgive the abusive relative, the priest and the bully and to love them unconditionally. I was finally able to think of these people in love, rather than anger. A burden had been lifted. I was also able to sympathize with what these two women and the priest must have gone through in their lives to treat others so badly.

Forgiveness doesn’t excuse the behavior. And it doesn’t mean that we don’t want justice if the person has committed a crime. It also doesn’t mean we should stay around and continue to be a target. However, embracing anger and holding onto a grudge hurts us and our souls. It doesn’t matter whether the person is repentant and/or wants to be forgiven. It’s important for us to be as merciful to others as we expect God will be with us.

If you find yourself in a position where someone is hurting you, offending you or being unkind, stop and say a quiet prayer of blessing on the person and the silent words, “Father, forgive him/her, for they know not what they do.” This is extremely helpful whether the offense is big or small.

To read an inspiring and compelling story of forgiveness, I highly recommend Immaculeé Ilibagiza’s book, Left to Tell. She was able to forgive the people responsible for murdering her family.

Forgiving others is one of the very foundations of Christian life. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If we find forgiving someone too difficult, ask Our Lady to help, then pray and fast for those who have offended us. If we can’t forgive those who have hurt us, how will God forgive us for our sins?

Copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Dying for Compassion Cover Reveal

FQ Publishing (my company) has a new book coming out!  It’s Book #2 in the Lady Doc Murders called Dying for Compassion by Dr. Barbara Golder!

“It is rare indeed to find an author who not only tells a good story but writes with real literary flair. Barbara Golder is such an author. In this latest offering, we find the plot twists and twisted characters that one would expect in a good murder mystery but also the fine character development and deep insight into the human condition which separates the truly great mysteries from the run of the mill.” Joseph Pearce, Author, Tolkien: Man & Myth
Synopsis: What happens to a new love when an old one appears to claim first rights to a man and a marriage?Just as Telluride Medical Examiner Jane Wallace and Irish writer Eoin Conner take their first steps toward romance, Eoin’s beautiful wife Fiona arrives to resume her long-abandoned life with Eoin. When Eoin discovers that Fiona was responsible for the denial of their annulment, he returns to Ireland to find the proof to free him to marry Jane. After Fiona is found dead in her hotel room, Eoin is indicted for her murder. Unwilling to leave the matter solely in the hands of Irish authorities, Jane goes to Ireland to follow the evidence wherever it leads. She leaves behind a tangle of problems in Telluride, where it is left to her trusted friend Father Matt to unravel the mysteries at home, unaware that they hold the key to Jane’s mystery abroad.

Coming soon via Kindle and in paperback!

Special thanks to my youngest son for posing as St. Michael the Archangel!

An Open Book – May 2017 #openbook

Open Book

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

St. Faustina Prayer Book for the Conversion of Sinners by Susan Tassone

Amazon Synopsis: “Today bring to Me all mankind, especially all sinners, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy.” — Jesus to St. Faustina.    Throughout her Diary, St. Faustina speaks of Jesus’ call for the conversion of souls. Through prayer and sacrifice, the Lord calls us all to strive for our own conversion, and for the conversion of the whole world. Perhaps you’ve tried everything to draw your friend or family member back to faith in God. In St. Faustina Prayer Book for the Conversion of Sinners, best-selling author Susan Tassone shows you how to place the lives of all you love into God’s merciful hands. Known worldwide as leading the “purgatory movement,” Susan invites you to learn how to live the message of conversion daily, to avoid purgatory, and to become more faithful in praying for others.

My review: Excellent book, as are all of Susan Tassone’s books.  “The Purgatory Lady,” as Susan is known, has written many books about the Holy Souls in Purgatory and the conversion of sinners. This book gives us ways not only to pray for our loved ones who are away from the faith, but it also helps us to grow in faith and to glimpse the mercy of God in action.  Highly recommend!

Heads Bowed by Lisa Mladinich

Amazon Synopsis: Catechetical thought leader Lisa Mladinich offers nearly 300 original prayers that will resonate with every Catholic teacher, principal, DRE, or catechist who has ever uttered the words, ‘Class, let’s bow our heads…’ Every teacher, catechist, or homeschooling parent appreciates a new collection of prayers to start the year. This book enables faith formation and prayer in a way that is easy to integrate into a busy class day. Mladinich provides prayers for the needs of both teachers and students, as well as Scripture verses and suggestions for use. Read these prayers in your classroom, by yourself before the start of the school day, in your religious education class, or in department and faculty meetings.

My review:  Beautifully written and powerful book of prayers.  This is ideal for teachers, homeschooling parents or religious education teachers.  Highly recommend!

 

Fatima: The Apparition that Changed the World by Jean Heimann

Amazon Synopsis: Fatima. Few place-names in the Christian world conjure up such powerful images and associations as that of this humble town in Portugal. For it was there that Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children beginning in 1917 apparitions that are intimately linked to pious Catholic practices such as devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the five first Saturdays, daily recitation of the Rosary with the Fatima prayer, as well as miracles attested to even by non-believers, such as the day the sun danced. The Virgin s message, as it always is, was penance. But she also predicted world historical events such as the rise and fall of communism, the second world war, and the attempted assassination of Pope St. John Paul II. She promised refuge in her Immaculate Heart to all who approach her a promise extended, and urgently needed, today.

My review: This is a wonderful book about the Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, just in time for the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s first appearance to the three shepherd children at Cova da Iria.  It is well-researched, well-written and filled with beautiful color photos and images.  In 1917, Our Lady of Fatima predicted many world events. After appearing monthly to the three children, devotion to her Immaculate Heart, the recitation of the Holy Rosary along with the new Fatima prayer, and the first five Saturdays were spread throughout the Church and continues to spread throughout the Church even in the 21st century.  Although it’s been 100 years, Our Lady’s message continues to be urgently needed today.  Highly recommend!

 

Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World

Today I’m hosting Jean Heimann’s Virtual Book Tour for her new book, Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World.

My review:  This is a wonderful book about the Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, just in time for the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s first appearance to the three shepherd children at Cova da Iria.  It is well-researched, well-written and filled with beautiful color photos and images.  In 1917, Our Lady of Fatima predicted many world events. After appearing monthly to the three children, devotion to her Immaculate Heart, the recitation of the Holy Rosary along with the new Fatima prayer, and the first five Saturdays were spread throughout the Church and continues to spread throughout the Church even in the 21st century.  Although it’s been 100 years, Our Lady’s message continues to be urgently needed today.  Highly recommend!

Tell us about your new book, Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World.

Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World (Tan Books, 2017) is the true story of three shepherd children who, in 1917, had visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the mountain village of Fatima, Portugal and met with her on six different occasions. Our Lady asked them to pray the Rosary daily and to offer penances and sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and for world peace.

In my book, I present a comprehensive look at the Fatima apparitions; offering a chronological timeline, describing each of the apparitions in detail, tracing the lives of the three visionaries as well as the death and beatification of Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and revealing the ongoing message of Fatima for the past one hundred years. I also share a history of the various popes from 1917 to the present and describe their relationship with Fatima as well as some of the modern day miracles that have happened since then. In addition, I explain why the Fatima message is relevant to us today and how we can put it into practice.

What prompted the writing of Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World?

I made my consecration to Jesus through Mary about twenty years ago. I was just beginning to grow in Marian devotion at that time, although when I was a child, we prayed the Rosary daily and my mother was always turning to her heavenly Mother in time of trial. The Brothers of St. John attracted me to their community through the Marian consecration via the St. Louis de Montfort method which they taught in a group setting, providing spiritual guidance. I was then drawn to become an oblate with the Community of St. John in Princeville, Illinois and to entrust my life even deeper to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As a child, I grew up in a small French-Canadian town in northeastern IL and was well-acquainted with Our Lady of Lourdes. Every day after school I visited the Lourdes grotto behind our parish church and prayed there, sharing my concerns with the Blessed Mother. I learned about the Fatima apparitions, but they did not stick with me the way the apparitions at Lourdes did. I do, however, remember watching the 1952 movie The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, which left an impression on me. As an adult, I became re-acquainted with Fatima by watching EWTN. I decided to join the Blue Army and through this organization began practicing the First Saturday devotions and praying the Rosary daily. About a year ago, I realized that 2017 would be the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions and thought that this would be an interesting topic to write about. Last fall, I founded the Our Lady of Fatima Rosary and Study Group in my parish and we began meeting in my home, where we studied the Fatima apparitions and prayed the Rosary.

What did you learn from writing this book?

I learned what a powerful apparition Fatima is! The conversion of the world and world peace are dependent on our fidelity to its prayers and devotions. It is through devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Immaculate Heart as well as through the recitation of the Rosary that we will experience an end to the culture of death and obtain world peace. Pope St. John Paul II has stated that the message of Fatima is even more relevant today than when it was first given to the visionaries in 1917. I also learned about the details of the wonderful miracles that have taken place in connection with Fatima since the initial apparitions in 1917.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I enjoyed using my imagination and my five senses in depicting the apparitions. I enjoyed viewing things from the vantage point of the children, the Angel of Peace, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the other characters in the book. For example, I loved writing about the spectacular miracle of the sun, describing the wide array of colors of the sun and the earth, how the sun was seen as a silver disc and began spinning around. I imagined how beautiful and frightening it must have been at the same. In my mind’s eye, I put myself in that crowd of spectators, watching the sun fall from the sky, fearing that this was the end of the world, hearing those around me confessing their sins aloud and begging for mercy.

Who is the target audience for your book?

I wrote this book for adolescents and adults, both Catholic and non-Catholics who want to learn more about the Fatima apparitions, put its message into practice, and have a beautiful family keepsake to treasure for years to come in honor of the Centenary of the Fatima apparitions.

Why would readers want to purchase this book? What does it have to offer them? How can it help them?

This book helps the reader learn to live the message of Fatima: prayer, penance, and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It draws everyone who peruses it into a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Mother of God and helps them perform a crucial role in changing the world from a culture of death into a culture of life.

Other stops on the Blog Tour:

May 1 – Carolyn Astfalk, My Scribbler’s Heart http://www.carolynastfalk.com/category/my-scribblers-heart-blog/

May 2 – Ellen Gable, Plot, Line, and Sinker https://ellengable.wordpress.com/

May 3 – Virginia Lieto, Virginia Lieto, http://virginialieto.com

May 4 – AnneMarie Miller, Sacrifice of Love, http://marianninja.blogspot.com/

May 5 – Barb Szyszkiewicz, Franciscan Mom, https://franciscanmom.com/

May 6 – Steven R. McEvoy, Book Reviews and More, http://www.bookreviewsandmore.ca/

May 7 – Lisa Hendey, Catholic Mom, http://catholicmom.com/

May 8 – Jeannie Ewing, Love Alone Creates, http://lovealonecreates.com/fatima-apparition-changed-world/

May 9 – Lisa Mladinich, Amazing Catechists,  http://amazingcatechists.com/

May 10 – AnneMarie Miller, Sacrifice of Love, http://marianninja.blogspot.com/

May 11 — Barb Szyszkiewicz, Catholic Mom,  http://catholicmom.com/

May 12 – Allison Gingas, Reconciled to You,  http://www.reconciledtoyou.com/blog.html  and Marge Fenelon, Marge Fenelon, http://margefenelon.com/

May 13 – Esther Gefroh, A Catholic Mom in Hawaii, http://hicatholicmom.blogspot.com/

Author’s Bio:

JEAN M. HEIMANN is a Catholic author and a freelance writer with an M.A. in Theology, a parish minister and speaker, a psychologist and educator, and an Oblate with the Community of St. John. She is a member of the Blue Army and founder of Our Lady of Fatima Rosary and Study group. Jean is the author of Seven Saints for Seven Virtues (Servant, 2014) and Learning to Love with the Saints, A Spiritual Memoir (Mercy, 2016). Visit Jean at her website http://www.jeanmheimann.com/  through which you can access her award-wining blog, Catholic Fire. Her new book Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World is available for pre-order at Amazon.com or at TAN Books online.

 

 

Happy Easter!

A Blessed Easter!  Alleluia!  He is Risen!We have had a very busy Triduum with my husband as Cantor as all the Masses and me as Lector.

We have had a very busy Triduum with my husband as Cantor as all the Masses and me as Lector.

Easter is somewhat different from the way it used to be when our boys were very small. But we still fill a huge Easter basket to be shared by everyone!

Favorite Easter Hymn:

Jesus Christ is Risen Today

Favorite Chocolate:

President’s Choice Dark Chocolate Peppermint Melts

Favorite Easter Memory:

In 1967, when I was nearly eight years old, my mother was in the hospital in critical condition. Back in those days, children were rarely allowed to visit patients in critical care. I wrote her many letters (like the one below), but rarely could she answer any of our letters because of her illness. A few days before Easter, my father had arranged it with the nurses to allow my three siblings and myself to visit her on Easter Sunday because it was the end of March and also was very close to her birthday. We hadn’t seen her in over a month so I was thrilled to be able to be with her and talk to her again. My first view of her was sitting in a wheelchair, her complexion very pale and I remember being surprised at how thin she was. In fact, my oldest brother could put his fingers around my mother’s wrists they were so small. Mom, at five feet six inches tall, was normally about 110 pounds. When we saw her that Easter day, she weighed about 85 pounds. I didn’t care how she looked, though. I was so excited to see her again after so long. Later, whenever my mother would recall that day, she said that while she was happy to see us, just a few minutes with us tired her out so much that she wound up sleeping most of the rest of the day! Thankfully, Mom made a complete recovery from that illness (and, in fact, gave birth to another child!). She eventually passed away nine years ago. In fact, tomorrow is her birthday. Here is an article I wrote about her several years ago.

copyright Ellen Hrkach

copyright Ellen Hrkach

Favorite Easter Photos Collage:

Top Left: James and I, our first Easter together, 1980

Right: Easter 2003, with my boys dressed (as they used to like to say)

like the brothers in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Bottom Left: My sibs and I, Easter 1962

Easter collage

 

 

 

Rightfully Ours by Carolyn Astfalk Now Available for Pre-Order

Rightfully Ours, by Carolyn Astfalk, Kindle edition is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com before its release date of April 1, 2017.

Sixteen-year-old Paul Porter’s relocation to Pennsylvania is a temporary move during his dad’s deployment. Or so he and his brother think, until devastating news lands on their doorstep.

Paul’s new home with the Muellers provides solace, especially in the form of Rachel, his friend and confidante. Their abiding friendship deepens as they work side by side to uncover what could be lost treasure.

Will they acquire the strength of character and virtue to take only what rightfully belongs to them or are they in way over their heads, with more than a few lost artifacts at stake?

(NB: That’s my youngest son on the cover!)

To pre-order the Kindle edition, click here.

An Open Book – March 2017 #openbook

Open Book

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

 

midwife

A Midwife’s Tale by Delia Parr

From Amazon: Martha Cade comes from a long line of midwives who have served the families of Trinity, Pennsylvania, for generations. A widow with two grown children, she’s hopeful that her daughter will follow in her footsteps, but when Victoria runs off, Martha’s world is shattered.  Worse, a new doctor has arrived in town, threatening her job, and she can’t remember a time when her faith has been tested more. Still determined to do the work she knows God intended for her, Martha is unprepared for all that waits ahead. Whether it’s trying to stop a town scandal, mending broken relationships, or feeling the first whispers of an unexpected romance, she faces every trial and every opportunity with hope and faith.

My review: Forthcoming

canadian-soldier

The Lost Memoirs of a Canadian Soldier

From Amazon: This book is a compilation of letters and diary entries from Len Willans regarding his time in World War 1.

My review: I initially bought this for research for my WW1 novels.  It’s heart-wrenching and at the same time, fascinating to read this soldier’s diary from 100 years ago.

making-faces

Making Faces by Amy Harmon

From Amazon: Ambrose Young was beautiful. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have…until he wasn’t beautiful anymore. Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast, where we discover that there is a little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

My review: This was an entertaining read, although it had more sexual tension than I’m used to in a Christian novel.  Also, there were a fair number of typos. Overall a good read, though.

 

wedding-dress

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

From Amazon: Four brides. One Dress. A tale of faith, redemption, and timeless love.

Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique. Dressing brides for their big day is her gift . . . and her passion. But with her own wedding day approaching, why can’t she find the perfect dress…or feel certain she should marry Tim? Then Charlotte discovers a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale. It looks brand-new—shimmering with pearls and satin, hand-stitched and  timeless in its design. But where did it come from? Who wore it? Who welded the lock shut and tucked the dog tags in that little sachet? Who left it in the basement for a ten-year-old girl? And what about the mysterious man in the purple vest who insists the dress had been “redeemed.” Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history—and its new bride—begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with her own story of promise, pain, and destiny. And each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the timeless beauty of finding true love.

My review: I enjoyed this book very much. It was pure entertainment, not too deep, somewhat predictable.

marriage

Marriage: A Fountain of Grace by Rosalie McPhee and Catherine Doherty

From Amazon: Love, love, love: never counting the cost. The timeless wisdom of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, and Catherine Doherty, foundress of Madonna House, is featured prominently in this new series of books. The theme of Catherine’s Little Mandate–a beautiful distillation of the Gospel of Jesus–weaves throughout and serves as an important foundation. Each book also gives an abundance of brief and profound quotations from Holy Scripture, and quotations from some of the great Catholic saints. These books are small enough to carry anywhere–and their wisdom is arranged in bite-size segments that you can read on the run, whenever you can spare time.

My review:  This is one of my favorite little books and I even have a personally autographed copy by Rosie McPhee Douthwright!  This is a perfect gift for a wedding shower, but it’s also an excellent book to give to engaged couples.  Highly recommend.