An Open Book – December 2018 #openbook

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

 

Heavenly Hosts

Heavenly Hosts: Eucharistic Miracles for Kids by Kathryn Swegart

Amazon Synopsis: Your children likely know all about the Eucharist, that central ritual beloved by Catholics worldwide. But do they know that God’s presence in the Eucharist is miraculous?

Heavenly Hosts presents documented Eucharistic miracles in story form to bring middle-grade readers to a better understanding of the Real Presence. One story details a fourth-century priest in the Sahara Desert who loses his faith until the Christ Child appears in the Host; this miraculous sighting causes the priest to return to God. In another tale, Antonio, a ninth-century altar boy, stands firm in a test of faith and is rewarded for his fidelity. And in one memorable story in Italy, a thirteenth-century debate over the true nature of the Eucharist is settled when a donkey falls to its knees before a monstrance containing the consecrated Host.

My review: I have been working with the author on the second edition of this lovely book.  Compelling stories about Eucharistic miracles, along with beautiful illustrations makes this a perfect Communion or Confirmation gift. Highly recommend.

RWOutcast front cover

Roland West Outcast (A West Brothers Story) by Theresa Linden

Amazon Synopsis: He’s searching for the truth but is he ready to proclaim it?

For shy Roland West, speech class is synonymous with humiliation. The last thing he wants is more attention from the gossips and troublemakers of River Run High School. But when an outcast’s house is viciously vandalized, Roland needs to find the perpetrators–before they strike again. Yet nothing is as straightforward as it seems. Suspected by the police and ridiculed for his beliefs, Roland draws closer to the sinister truth. When the perpetrators threaten a good friend, can Roland overcome his fear of speaking out and expose them?

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this installment of the West Brothers Series. Linden creates characters that are real, believable and three-dimensional.  And the story is so compelling, I just wanted to keep reading and was disappointed when it ended.  Highly recommend (and not just for young adults!)

love and responsibility

Love and Responsibility by St. John Paul II

Amazon Synopsis: Drawing from his own pastoral experience as a priest and bishop before he became Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla has produced a remarkably eloquent and resourceful defense of Catholic tradition in the sphere of family life and sexual morality. He writes in the conviction that science–biology, psychology, sociology–can provide valuable information on particular aspects of relations between the sexes, but that a full understanding can be obtained only by study of the human person as a whole. Central to his argument is the contrast between the personalistic and the utilitarian views of marriage and of sexual relations. The former views marriage as an interpersonal relationship, in which the well-being and self-realization of each partner are of overriding importance to the other. It is only within this framework that the full purpose of marriage can be realized. The alternative, utilitarian view, according to which a sexual partner is an object for use, holds no possibility of fulfillment and happiness. Wojtyla argues that divorce, artificial methods of birth control, adultery (pre-marital sex), and sexual perversions are all in various ways incompatible with the personalistic view of the sexual self-realization of the human person. Perhaps the most striking feature of the book is that Wojtyla appeals throughout to ordinary, human experience, logically examined. He draws support for his views on the proper gratification of sexual needs, on birth control, and on other matters, from the findings of physiologists and psychologists. His conclusions coincide with the traditional teachings of the Church, which invoke scriptural authority. His approach ensures that non-Christians also can consider his arguments on their own merits.

My review: I’ve read this book so many times, it’s starting to look ragged!  This is one of my favorite JP II books. It’s hard for me to believe that when I was a young mother, I delayed reading this book for many years because A) I had small children and B) I thought it would be too academic for me.  However, once I did read it, I couldn’t stop.  JP II was a brilliant man and explain clearly why marriage is the proper place for sexual relations and why birth control is contrary to basic vows of a marriage. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

Donkey Bells

Donkey Bells: Advent and Christmas by Catherine Doherty

Synopsis: Catherine Doherty is well known for reviving many holy Christian traditions. In Donkey Bells: Advent and Christmas, Catherine’s three-in-one book on this most ‘expectant’ of holiday seasons, you’ll receive wonderful gifts:

Meaningful and heartwarming stories, the telling of which will surely become a family Christmas tradition. Including: The Little Christmas Angel O’Ryan, How Pride Became Humble, The Christmas Gift, Christmas in Harlem, The Bruised Reed, and others.

Customs which you can adopt into your own Christmas celebration, such as: The Advent Wreath, The ‘O’ Antiphons, Baking Christmas Foods and Decorating, and The Blessing of The Christmas Tree. Traditions surrounding important Advent and Christmas feast days are presented, including: St. Nicholas, The Immaculate Conception, Feast of the Holy Family, New Year’s Eve, Epiphany, and more.

Earthy and inspiring meditations to prepare the entire family for Christ’s coming, including:A Candle in Our Hearts, Little Things, The Gurgle of a Baby, Where Love Is God Is, Looking into the Child’s Eyes, Advent: A Modern Bethlehem, A Short Season—A Long Journey, and many more.

My review: This is my favorite Advent and Christmas book. This is another book I’ve read numerous times. I enjoy reading this on a comfy chair by a warm fire with a cup of hot chocolate or tea.  So many beautiful stories and traditions. Highly recommend!

Boston Marathon

A Catholic’s Road to the Boston Marathon by Teresa Hurst

Amazon Synopsis: This book is not about running. While it’s set around training and marathons, ultimately it’s not about that. Instead, this book is about crosses. It’s about overcoming the ordinary fear and suffering that plagues each human soul in this race through life. It focuses on the tremendous value of the cross – with reflections on the Passion of Christ and how we can each relate in our own way. This book reiterates the fact that running is hugely spiritual. As in life, it is setting a goal and pushing yourself to reach it despite pain, fear, or the normal setbacks involved with the spiritual battles we are all called to fight.

My review: This is on my to-read list!  It’s written by a dear friend of mine!

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Advent, Faith, Trust and NFP

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The Annunciation by Murillo, 1655–1660, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg (Wikimedia Commons)

My latest at Catholic Mom.

Advent will soon be upon us. It is a beautiful time of preparing and waiting.

It dawned on me a few years ago when I was flying back home from New Jersey that it takes tremendous amount of trust to get on a plane. We rely on the pilots to fly the plane with precision, expect that the builders created a solid, well-performing plane, and trust that the mechanics have serviced the plane properly.  After all, which one of us wants to be 20,000 feet in the air when a mechanical problem happens or when a pilot encounters a situation he’s not trained to handle?

Of course, the same can be said for any situation.  We depend on and have faith in our doctors, food companies, school bus drivers and others.  On a daily basis, we are called to rely on humans who have the potential of making mistakes.

Consider how most couples “trust” with regard to their fertility.  They take pills, get injections, apply chemical patches, insert devices, consent to operations.  Instead of working with their fertility, they try to eliminate it. Instead of embracing their fertility, they fight it. They “trust” that by using contraceptives, they will be able to “control” their fertility.

Newsflash: none of these chemicals, devices or operations are 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.  Only complete abstinence is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.  And yet millions of couples put their “faith” in the contraceptive methods on a daily basis.  If the methods “fail,” and a child is conceived, many will resort to abortion.

So what does this all have to do with Advent?

When told that she would be the mother of our Savior, Mary replied, “Be it done to me according to your word.”  That took tremendous trust and faith in God’s plan for her.  She didn’t say, “Hmmm, let me think about that for a few weeks and I’ll get back to you.”  Without her yes, we would not be preparing to celebrate the beautiful feast of Christmas. It must’ve been difficult for her to give birth in a stable, surrounded by the smells and sounds of animals.  And yet Mary believed and trusted that this was God’s plan for her and accepted it without question.

So what is God’s plan for us especially regarding our fertility?  I can tell you what it is not: God’s plan is not for us to destroy the gift of our fertility with devices, behaviors, chemicals or operations.  This reliance that many couples place in contraceptives can sometimes result in an unwanted, permanent loss of fertility and can lead to numerous other consequences as well.  St. Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical Humanae Vitae (On Human Life) talks about one of the most common consequences of contraceptive use: “A man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”(HV 17)

God’s plan is for couples to embrace their fertility and to be generously open to life.  Does that mean that God wants us to have as many children as possible?  No, it doesn’t.  God gave us the gift of reason and he also gave us a built-in natural method of avoiding pregnancy that works with fertility and not against it. God, the Author of life, wants to be part of our decisions regarding our fertility.

Couples who want to trust God with their decisions will trust Him with all of their decisions, including the beautiful gift of fertility.  When couples have serious need to avoid pregnancy, Natural Family Planning is a moral way to do so.  NFP uses no devices and works with God instead of against Him. Wives who use NFP seldom feel used by their husbands. NFP also works well to achieve pregnancy. It’s healthy, effective and safe.  NFP encourages good communication and strengthens marital relationships. And it’s environmentally safe.

Advent is an ideal time to ask ourselves:  do we depend on a chemical company or condom manufacturer…or do we trust God, the Author of Life?

Learning Natural Family Planning nowadays is as simple as turning on your computer. For more information on NFP, check out the following websites:

Couple to Couple League

Billings Ovulation Method

Creighton Method

Copyright 2018 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Roland West, Outcast VBT

RWOutcast front coverI’m happy to be participating in the Virtual Book Tour of Theresa Linden’s newest book, Roland West Outcast, Book 5 in the West Brothers Series.

He’s searching for the truth but is he ready to proclaim it?

For shy Roland West, speech class is synonymous with humiliation. The last thing he wants is more attention from the gossips and troublemakers of River Run High School. But when an outcast’s house is viciously vandalized, Roland needs to find the perpetrators—before they strike again. Yet nothing is as straightforward as it seems. Suspected by the police and ridiculed for his beliefs, Roland draws closer to the sinister truth. When the perpetrators threaten a good friend, can Roland overcome his fear of speaking out and expose them?

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this installment of the West Brothers Series. Linden creates characters real, believable and three-dimensional.  And the story is so compelling, I just wanted to keep reading and was disappointed when it ended.  Highly recommend (and not just for young adults!)

Connect with Theresa Linden:

​website: www.theresalinden.com

​blog: Things Visible & Invisible

Facebook author page

​Twitter: @LindenTheresa

Buy links

PAPERBACK http://ow.ly/Do2c30mhyr5  (Tumblar House)

EBOOK http://ow.ly/F2oY30mhyA6  (Kindle on Amazon)

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Charlotte’s Honor VBT – Remembrance Day – Veterans Day

CH Book Tour Promo 100 (1)

Today is the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War!

Charlotte’s Honor, my new book, takes place during the Great War (1914-1918).

Synopsis: After receiving  a telegram that her brother — and only surviving relative — has been killed in action during the Great War, 21-year-old Charlotte Zielinski enlists as a medical volunteer. She eventually begins working in the death ward of the field hospital near Soissons, France, holding dying men’s hands and singing them into eternity.

Dr. Paul Kilgallen is a Canadian surgeon working at the field hospital. During a siege by the enemy, everyone evacuates except for Paul and Charlotte, who volunteer to remain in the basement of the chateau to care for the critically ill soldiers.

During those three days, Charlotte sees a side of Paul that very few have seen and finds herself falling in love with him. Before Paul leaves for the front, he abruptly tells her that he cannot love her, and it would be best to “forget him.”

Just when the war is coming to a close, Charlotte is surprised by two events that are destined to change her life forever.

Remembrance Day/Veterans Day

Today is also a day to remember those who served in wars. I’d like to remember in a special way my father, father-in-law and stepfather (all now deceased). Each served their country in war: my father-in-law was in the United States Air Force during World War II and was ‘Missing in Action’ for months, my father and stepfather (my father’s first cousin) both served in Korea. Today is also my father’s birthday. He died in 1978 at the age of 49.

Remembering Tony An article about my father-in-law, who was a gunner for the USAF in WW II. He was shot down over Yugoslavia, near his father’s birthplace.Tony in army

Remembering Dad A tribute to my own father, who served in both the USMC and the United States Army, and who died when I was 18.Dad in Army

This last post is a special way to remember, with fondness, the three father figures in my life: Remembrance Day/Veterans Day 2009

Lest We Forget…

An Open Book – November 2018 #openbook

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I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book!  Here’s what I’ve been reading  these past few weeks:

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Charlotte’s Honor (Great War Great Love #2)

I’ve spent the last month or so getting my new book ready for publication! We’re currently in the middle of a Virtual Book Tour!

Amazon synopsis: After receiving notification that her brother –and only relative — is killed in action during the Great War, 21-year-old Charlotte Zielinski enlists as a medical volunteer. She eventually begins working in the death ward of the field hospital near Soissons, France, holding dying men’s hands and singing them into eternity.

Dr. Paul Kilgallen is a Canadian surgeon working at the field hospital. During a siege by the enemy, everyone evacuates except for Paul and Charlotte, who volunteer to remain in the basement of the chateau to care for the critically ill soldiers.

During those three days, Charlotte sees a side of Paul that very few have seen and finds herself falling in love with him. Before Paul leaves for the front, he abruptly tells her that he cannot love her, and it would be best to “forget him.”

Just when the war is coming to a close, Charlotte is surprised by two events that are destined to change her life forever.

Foreven Thirteen

Forever Thirteen: A Family Tragedy and a

Young Man’s Struggle to Recover (Faith Hope & Love) by Douglas Shumard

Amazon Synopsis:  Have you ever wondered who you are? Or how you became who you are? Or what is it that defines you as a person and, more specifically, what were some of those defining moments in your life?

Forever Thirteen documents a Sunday morning newspaper headline that read, “Boy Scout Camper, 13, Drowns as Raft Sinks.” This is the true story of a family tragedy as recounted by the nearly twelve-year-old brother who writes this story some years later. It is a story of a mother’s nervous breakdown and a father’s inability to provide comfort to his children at this critical period. It is a firsthand account of unintentional abandonment, suffering, sadness, detachment, guilt, and recovery.

As a youth, the author struggled through this experience, maintaining his faith in God and continuing to hope and pray for the rebuilding of his family, while maintaining love for those who were letting him down.

This is a story that can help others in their personal journeys through those tragedies that we all eventually face.

My review: I edited and formatted this book, and it’s a heart-wrenching read.  The author takes us through those difficult days of his older brother’s accidental death in 1954 when his brother was 13 and the author was almost 12.  Highly recommend.

 

Praying

Praying With Mother Teresa by Susan Conroy

Amazon Synopsis: Praying with Mother Teresa brings us into the heart of Mother Teresa’s prayer life! Author Susan Conroy, a personal friend of Mother Teresa, gives us a meditative look at Mother Teresa’s insights on suffering, joy, peace, humility, and poverty, and brings us right into the prayer life of one of the most beloved women of our time, Saint Teresa of Calcutta. Each prayer has been carefully, and prayerfully, selected for use in daily prayer. Mother Teresa gave Susan her blessing and approval to share these words and prayers with others “to bring them peace and joy too.”

My review: On my To Read Shelf!

Gosnell

Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer

by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer

Amazon Synopsis: He is America’s most prolific serial killer. And yet Kermit Gosnell was no obvious criminal.

Through desperate attempts to cover up the truth, the mainstream media revealed exactly how important Kermit Gosnell’s story is. National best seller Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer is a book that rocked America – and now it is a major motion picture!

Masquerading as a doctor and an advocate for women’s reproductive health, Kermit Gosnell was purposefully ignored for years.  Gosnell reveals that inside his filthy clinic, Gosnell murdered born-alive infants, butchered women, and made a chilling collection of baby feet. Meanwhile, pro-choice politicians kept health inspectors far away. Only when tenacious undercover detective Jim Wood followed a narcotics investigation straight into the clinic did Gosnell’s reign of horror finally come to an end…and the fight for justice begin.

Written by investigative journalists Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, this gripping story premiers October 12 as a major motion picture, starring Dean Cain as Detective Wood. Fans of the movie – and every pro-life American – should dive into this nationally bestselling book for a closer look into the shocking and gruesome crime of the century.

My review: Reading this now.  Difficult book to read. I decided to order this book when the movie was released a few weeks ago (I always like to read the book before the movie!)  It hasn’t been available yet up here in Canada, but it looks like a compelling story.  Review to come.

 

St. Colette of Corbie (Charlotte’s Honor VBT)

Saint Colette de Corbie by the Master of Lourinha, 1520

Today is the Feast of All Saints!

My new book, Charlotte’s Honor, features St. Colette of Corbie.

Short bio: She was born Nicole Boellet (or Boylet) in the village of Corbie, in the Picardy region of France, on 13 January 1381, to Robert Boellet, a poor carpenter at the noted Benedictine Abbey of Corbie, and to his wife, Marguerite Moyon. Her contemporary biographers say that her parents had grown old without having children, before praying to Saint Nicholas for help in having a child. Their prayers were answered when, at the age of 60, Marguerite gave birth to a daughter. Out of gratitude, they named the baby after the saint to whom they credited the miracle of her birth. She was affectionately called Nicolette by her parents, which soon came to be shorted to Colette, by which name she is known.  She was also short of stature.

St. Colette is credited with many such miracles of raising the dead, four of which were involved in her beatification. Great devotion grew up about St. Colette because of her intercessory powers for childless couples, expectant mothers, and mortally ill infants. After the miracle of baby Colette, many came to her to be cured of sicknesses and other troubles. When Colette herself died in 1447, the marks of her own sickness and suffering disappeared. Her body became incomparably and marvelously beautiful, with skin white as snow, supple limbs, and giving off a lovely fragrance.

Colette was beatified 23 January 1740, by Pope Clement XII and was canonized 24 May 1807 by Pope Pius VII. She is invoked by childless couples desiring to become parents, and is also the patroness of expectant mothers, and sick infants.

To see all the links to the Charlotte’s Honor Virtual Book Tour, please click here.

 

Charlotte’s Honor Publication Day!

Charlotte's Honour Front Cover smI’m thrilled to finally share my new novel, Charlotte’s Honor (Great War Great Love #2). Today is the release day and the beginning of the Virtual Book Tour!

Below is an excerpt from the beginning of the novel.

May 1918, Vauxbuin Field Hospital, Near Soissons, France

The air was thick with the mineral stench of blood. Inside the canvas tent that served as Barrack Number 48, Charlotte searched for a place in the unconscious soldier’s body to insert the hypodermic.  The poor gentleman had burns and wounds everywhere, but she managed to find a one-inch diameter spot on his thigh in which to plunge the needle.  The man didn’t flinch, and Charlotte suspected that his injuries were too grave for him to survive.  She recited a silent prayer for this man’s soul, then moved onto the next soldier.

The large canvas tents that were part of the field hospital covered the lawn in front of the chateau. Most volunteers referred to it as a chateau because it looked the part with its high ceilings, plentiful rooms and marble floors. However, it wasn’t a castle. It was a 19th century country manor.

A tendril of dark brown hair slipped from her headscarf, and she tucked it back in. Charlotte Patricia Zielinski didn’t care much whether her unruly hair was tame, but she did care about keeping healthy. She wasn’t a large girl, nor was she small.  However, roughhousing with her brother Ian for so many years made her strong.

After preparing another soldier for the operating theater, she took a short break and sat on a bench near the tent.

She glanced up at the dark sky, enjoying the quiet. After the sunrise, she’d hear the distant booming that came with being ten miles from the front.

After her bout with influenza last month, she’d felt fatigued for weeks.  In the past few days, she had enough energy to move a mountain.

Sister Betty, the medical volunteers’ middle-aged supervisor, called to her from the barrack beside her, Number 49.  She was a big-boned woman who seemed taller because she always stood so straight.  Charlotte wasn’t sure whether it was because she was British or because she was a big woman, but she also had a booming personality and a loud voice.

Charlotte stood up to speak with Sister.

“How many more men have to be prepared for the O.R., Miss Zielinski?”

“Four, Sister.”

“Maybe you’d be of more use in this barrack.” She pointed toward Number 49.

“Certainly.”  She turned to alert her co-worker in 48, when Sister yelled, “Wait.”

Charlotte stopped. “Yes?”

“Perhaps you’d better stay where you are. If there are only four left to prepare, finish that duty, then report to this barrack.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

It took a bit of getting used to, but here in Europe, nurses were referred to as sisters.  And all sisters – and most medical volunteers – wore headscarves that looked like habits.

She approached a soldier on a cot, noticing the maple leaf on his collar. Canadians tended to be an agreeable bunch.  He pursed his lips as she stripped his clothes, wincing as bits of skin came off with his pants.  The poor fellow tensed, but Charlotte could only offer, “I’m so sorry.  I am doing my best not to hurt you.”

The dark-haired man attempted a smile.

An ear-piercing explosion caused the world around Charlotte to vanish, and she reflexively collapsed on the cot, falling across the soldier lying in front of her. Ears ringing, she remained still for what seemed like an hour but was likely a few minutes. Blinking, she opened her eyes and stared at the metal side of the cot in front of her and felt the soldier moving underneath her.

To purchase Charlotte’s Honor, click here.