If The Morning – March for Life #uniquefromdayone

Since the March for Life is being held today in Washington, I wanted to again share the words of the pro-life song my husband wrote as a teenager. It’s called “If the Morning,” and these lyrics are also included in my novel, Emily’s Hope:

If the Morning

Words and Music by James Hrkach

If in the morning the Savior didn’t rise
Would there be sunshine in your eyes
And in the springtime if the world wasn’t new
Would love still see its way through
And do we stand only to lose it all
By standing just a little too tall

Save the baby, save the baby
Because I know he’s got the right
I know he’s got that right
Save the baby, save the baby
Because I know He’s got it right
And I know that we have got it wrong

And if the dreamer never woke to tell his tale
Would hope be born still by our hands
And if the baby never sees the light of day
Will nightmares conquer all man
And do we stand only to lose it all
By standing just a little too tall.

Save the baby, save the baby
Because I know he’s got the right
I know he’s got that right
Save the baby, save the baby
Because I know He’s got it right
And I know that we have got it wrong.

And if the baby never saw the light of day, of day, of day…

Lyrics copyright 1978 James Hrkach
Photo copyright 2011 Josh Hrkach

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An Open Book – January 2019 #openbook

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I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. It was a busy month before Christmas and during the holidays we had many visitors so there wasn’t as much time for reading as I would’ve liked.  But here are a few:

Prodigal Daughters

Prodigal Daughters: Catholic Women Come Home to the Church

by Donna Steichen

Amazon Synopsis: In this memorable book, seventeen women of the Baby Boom generation tell their poignant personal stories of apostasy and repentance. Each left the Catholic Church to seek autonomy and fulfillment on the major cultural battlegrounds of this era. Each eventually turned homeward to find, like her prodigal brother in the best-loved of Christ’s parables, that her Heavenly Father had been calling her throughout her absence, watching and yearning for her return.

Feminists in the bureaucratic networks of Catholic dissent continually predict that women will abandon the Church en masse unless they are soon admitted to the hierarchy. The women who recount their experiences in this timely and important book prove the dissenters wrong. They are representative of a growing stream of “reverts” who have recognized and repented of their errors when they rediscovered the living heart of Christ at the center of the Church.

Today, when virtually all faithful Catholics wait and pray for the return of some family member or friend who has strayed from the Church, these accounts of faith reborn offer hope and direction to lift the heart of every reader.

My review: I found this a compelling read. I’ve read it once before, but it’s the perfect sort of book to read when you don’t have a lot of time to do so.  I read individual conversion stories over the period of about two weeks. Highly recommend!

Perilous

Perilous Days: Bravehearts # 1

Amazon Synopsis: Awarded the Catholic Writer’s Guild Seal of Approval Award!

As this unforgettable adventure story begins, the quiet life of this peaceful Catholic family is thrown into turmoil by the start of World War II. A Nazi soldier knocks on the door of the farmhouse where teenager Felix Culpa Schmidt lives with his family, including his younger brother, Willy, who is a child with Down Syndrome. The draft notice is tersely delivered. “Report on January 11th and bring your birth certificate.” Felix becomes an unwilling soldier in the German army, forced to serve Adolph Hitler, a man who enacts a plan to kill thousands of ‘useless eaters’- citizens who are elderly or disabled, citizens like his brother Willy. Felix and his loyal dog, Rolf, are assigned to rescue wounded soldiers on the battlefield, working closely with a mysterious soldier who reveals shocking secrets. Perilous Days is book one in the Brave Hearts series of books about Catholic heroes and heroines. Historical fiction for readers ages 9-14. Now more than ever-we need heroes! Learn more about the Brave Hearts series at kathrynswegart.com

My review: Perilous Days is a beautifully written story that will inspire, educate, and entertain all who read it.  Swegart uses rich imagery to transport the reader back to that perilous time of World War II, Germany. Well-developed characters, compelling story, and rich imagery make this the ideal read for young and old alike. Highly recommended!

 

Miracles

Christmas Miracles

Magical True Stories of Modern Day Miracles

Amazon Synopsis: At Christmas, our hearts are touched by reports of wondrous occurrences that make us stop, reflect, and hope. This luminous book shares true accounts of Christmas miracles — inspiring events that happened to real people at Christmas time, including:

A Christmas Mystery: A deaf boy’s generosity is miraculously rewarded

First Christmas: Newlyweds take part in the local Christmas pageant — and receive a surprising lesson in timeless love.

A Heart for Christmas: A series of coincidences brings new life to a little girl

The Stranger: A gentle, mysterious Christmas Eve visitor awes a family

Christmas Saved My Mother: A rabbi tells how his mother, fleeing the Holocaust, was spared on Christmas Eve.

Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.” If you believe in miracles — or want to — let Christmas Miracles light the candle of hope in your heart this year.

My review: I read this book every Christmas. Miracles do happen! My favorite stories are Chester and The Town that Gave Christmas.

Gift

The Christkindl’s Gift by Kathleen Morgan

Amazon Synopsis: When Anna Hannack’s father-in-law brings home a wounded stranger only days before Christmas, Anna’s not happy. Christian charity moves the Hannack family to help the injured man, but the young widow Anna keeps her distance. The tragedies of life have shattered her trust, and she’s determined not to let another stranger threaten her family. Could it be, though, that this rugged Scotsman is actually the gift Anna’s young children have asked of the Christ Child this Christmas?

My review: This is a beautiful Christmas romance.  I read it every year at Christmastime.

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe #prolife

Today is the beautiful Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1531, Our Lady appeared in Mexico to a poor Indian, Juan Diego, at a time when human sacrifice was commonplace.

The following is an excerpt from a website with interesting background information and many images to download: www.sancta.org

“After complying to the Bishop’s request for a sign, She also left for us an image of herself imprinted miraculously on the native’s tilma, a poor quality cactus-cloth, which should have deteriorated in 20 years but shows no sign of decay 478 years later and still defies all scientific explanations of its origin.”

Saint John Paul II named Our Lady of Guadalupe the patron saint of the unborn.

To read more about Our Lady of Guadalupe:

http://www.sancta.org/intro.html

There are many ways to celebrate this feast. We usually celebrate by having fajitas and/or tacos. Although our kids are now adults, we used to celebrate by allowing them (youngest to oldest) to break open a pinata.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

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!

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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