Interview with Carol Puschaver

Here is my interview with Carol Puschaver, author of Though War Be Waged Upon Me: A St. Michael Treasury of Prayer and Reflection, which can be purchased at this link.

Though War Be Waged

EG: Please tell us a bit about yourself.

CP: I need to say first of all that I tend to be playful and am intensely curious — about everything!

What does this mean?  How does that work? (And why?) Where will this road take me?

There.  That said, I am the youngest of five, raised in a traditional Catholic family.  I grew up in the Deep South of Alabama and attended a small Catholic grade school as the tumultuous late 60’s and early 70’s unfolded with a series of quite extraordinary events:  Vatican II, the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, Apollo moon landing, Watergate scandal; the shootings at Kent State University in Ohio.

Eight years after those shootings killed four students and wounded nine others, I enrolled as a freshman at Kent State and earned Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in English.  My studies made me hungry to go and explore the places where history was made, sometimes on a truly epic scale across a world stage over centuries.  For some thirty years, I have been blessed with travels throughout Europe, the Mediterranean and the Holy Land.  Each trip seemed naturally to take on a sense of pilgrimage, whether recalling the missionary journeys of St. Paul while sailing among the Greek Islands, contemplating Jesus calling His first disciples as I waded in the shallows of the Sea of Galilee, or feeling oh so close to heaven while sitting quietly in the cathedral nave of Notre-Dame de Paris*, with its unmistakable sense of the sacred and witness to centuries.

Eventually, I turned to the health care field, became a Registered Nurse and worked in casualty claims for the better part of twenty years.  My career came to an abrupt end when I was forced to retire due to Bipolar Disorder.  At age 51, I was told I would likely never work again.

*I last visited Paris in 2016, the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, well before fire consumed the cathedral’s ceiling and roof in 2019.  With hotel accommodations in the nearby Latin Quarter, I was easily able to walk the short distance to Notre-Dame and attend daily Mass throughout my stay.

EG: There is so much more to St. Michael than the Prayer to St. Michael composed by Pope Leo XIII. Please tell us about St. Michael and your book, Though War be Waged Upon Me …

CP: By the grace of God, St. Michael the Archangel has always been, and will be,  a towering figure throughout history, from the expulsion of rebel spirits out of heaven in early times to the final overthrow of Satan at the Last Judgment.  Scripture references to St. Michael in both the Old and New Testaments have led the Church to ascribe 4 principal offices to him, the foremost being to fight against Satan.

This background established early in the book leads naturally to a discussion of the vision and mystical experience of Pope Leo XIII.  While this took place in 1884, I am convinced it speaks to the events we are witnessing today both within the Catholic Church and the world at large.  The Holy Father’s vision showed St. Michael coming to the aid of the Church in extremis and his experience led him to write the Prayer to St. Michael.  The book launches into a collection of prayers, including the St. Michael Chaplet (see question four) and Litany, Novena and Consecration prayers.

There follows the section, “An Archangel’s Beauty:  Insights from the Treasury of Western Christian Art.”  Innumerable works of art portraying St. Michael over the centuries offer an inestimably rich and visual perspective of the Warrior Archangel.  Sacred art has much to teach and inspire us; its worthy contemplation often leads to greater devotion.

Living this devotion becomes the focus of the next section, with a discussion of “Ways to Love and Honor St. Michael.”  Pick and choose from among nearly thirty possibilities such as

– recite the prayer to St. Michael – often

– ask his protection for priests and the Holy Father

–  radiate the truth always

Before the Concluding Prayer to the Archangels, as a nod to my playful and questioning self, I have included a “Did You Know . . .?” section.  Here discerning readers can learn

–  how to tell St. Michael from St. George

– what St. Francis de Sales had to say about St. Michael

–  which are some of the 21 professions having St. Michael as their patron saint

EG: You have a deep devotion to St. Michael. How did that strong devotion develop?

CP: My sudden retirement, which I had not foreseen or planned for especially (see answer to question one) sent me reeling.  In one of the darkest chapters of my life, I seemed to feel myself falling down a rabbit hole – and who could say how dark and deep?

So I prayed – or more like “nagged” – Jesus to please lead me.  Since I no longer had to be at work at 7 in the morning, I started going to daily Mass.  All I can day is that gradually, inexplicably, I began to have an awareness of angels, particularly guardian angels, including my own.  I have never seen as angel as we tend to think of them, but I clearly sensed their presence.  It was an incredibly sweet consolation to realize all the angels in the grocery store check-out line, at singing rehearsal; during Mass – as many people, so were there as many dear angels.

After a time, this ongoing awareness led me to focus on St. Michael the Archangel.  I did not know much about him, other than the prayer we used to say at the end of Mass and his being the patron of military and law enforcement individuals.  I was curious to learn more.

It did not take long to discover the vision of Pope Leo XIII and his account of the “horrible picture [he had] been permitted to see . . . a vision of the activities of the evil spirits and their efforts against the Church.  But in the midst of the horror, the Archangel Michael appeared and cast Satan and his legions into the abyss of hell” (Though War Be Waged Upon Me, 17).  This took place just after His Holiness had celebrated Mass at the Vatican.  The date was October 13, 1884, that is, 33 years to the day before the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima.

The words quickly sank in, and as I was sitting reading, my head snapped up sharply as though I had just been hit by something.  I came straightway to the conviction that we are living – here and now — the vision.*  That was it.  I was so thoroughly impressed by our urgent need for St. Michael’s help that I resolved then and there to do all in my power to actively promote and encourage devotion to him.

*The clergy sex abuse scandal in the Church was again making headlines.

EG: Tell us a bit about the St. Michael Chaplet and why you believe it is so powerful.

CP: I first came across a St. Michael Chaplet unexpectedly while signing in for my usual Eucharistic Adoration hour.  Someone had left as a “takeaway” the odd multi-colored jumble of beads that somewhat resembled a Rosary, but lacked a crucifix, and had nine sections of three beads instead of the familiar five decades with ten Hail Mary beads. It did not help that it was broken and I remember thinking, “What the heck is that?!”  Luckily knowing about someone who made and repaired Rosaries, I took it with me to have it mended.  Several weeks later I received it back with word that it was a St. Michael Chaplet.  “A what?”  Clearly, I had more learning to do.

St. Michael himself revealed the Chaplet to a Carmelite religious in the 18th century.  The Prince of the Heavenly Host asked that it be prayed in his honor and that of the nine heavenly choirs of angels – all for the greater honor and glory of God.  He made three remarkable promises to those who recite the Chaplet, “particularly in such time as the Catholic Church should experience some special trial” (Though War Be Waged Upon Me, p. 20):

     Those who pray the Chaplet before receiving Holy Communion will have an escort

     of nine angels, one from each of the nine Choirs of angels, and

     Those who pray the Chaplet daily will enjoy the continual assistance of St. Michael

     and that of all the holy angels during this life, and

     He, St. Michael, will obtain deliverance from purgatory for all who pray the Chaplet

     And for their relations.                                           

Consider that is it none other than the Nine Choirs of Angels whose powerful intercession we are seeking as we pray the Chaplet.  These countless, ineffable angel hosts have always preserved their God-given innocence and intellect even when Lucifer rebelled together with so many of their fellows.    In everything they conform perfectly to the will of God, “for Whom nothing is impossible” (Lk 1.37).

As spiritual, incorporeal beings, the holy angels are not bound by the physical limitations of space and time.  Consequently, we implore the help of heavenly beings for whom, by the grace, granting, and will of God

– no whisper is too faint, or light too dim,

–  hunger, infirmity, fatigue, the cold of winter and heat of summer have no effect,

–  nothing is too heavy or overwhelming; there is no mountain too high, ocean too

deep, current too swift, or journey too far;

–  no language is foreign, human plan secret, treasure hidden or dilemma  insurmountable.

Consider just a small number of ways the angels are lively, marvelously at work in Scripture as they

–  guard us in all our ways  (Ps. 91.11)

minister by countless thousands to the Ancient of Days (Cf. Dan. 7.9-10)

–  prepare Isaiah for his prophetic mission (Cf. Isa. 6.6)

–  announce the wonder of the Incarnation: “you will conceive . . . and bear a Son” (Lk. 1.31)

–  make the heavens resound with exultant praise:  “Glory to God in the highest” (Lk. 2.14)

–  comfort Jesus in the Garden (Cf. Lk. 22.43)

–  witness to the Resurrection (Cf. Lk. 24.6);

 seal the foreheads of the servants of God (Cf. Rev. 8.3)

With the Chaplet we implore the intercession of these wondrous angel citizens of heaven and, as St. Michael taught us, petition them for a treasure trove of spiritual gifts:  perfect charity, true and sincere humility, a spirit of obedience, deliverance, perseverance . . .  The Chaplet ends with a plea to St. Michael to deliver us from evil “especially at the hour of our death” and bring us safely into the “august presence of [God’s] Divine Majesty.” (Though War Be Waged Upon Me, p. 24).

Finally, adding to the Chaplet’s power is the approval and indulgence granted by Blessed Pope Pius in 1851.

EG: Our world is in turmoil with an obvious battle raging between good and evil.  How can St. Michael give us hope and faith that good will triumph?

CP: Consider that St. Michael accomplishes everything by the power, design and permission of Almighty God.  Let that sink in for a minute. . . .  The divinely-appointed Warrior Archangel

– acts out of love for God and in perfect obedience and loyalty to God’s holy will,

– is animated with a most lively trust in God, even in the midst of the greatest danger,

– fights the archenemy and his legions without trace of fear, hesitation or reserve,

– cannot be taken by surprise, outwitted, outmaneuvered, overcome or defeated, and

– is perfectly invincible and one might say, necessarily victorious, for “the battle belongs to the Lord” (1 Sam. 17. 47).

I often think of St. Michael along the lines of a military general, albeit one having a singular God-given ability to fight and prevail against the forces of evil.  As Satan spends himself  “with the reckless abandon of one who has nothing more to lose” (Though War Be Waged Upon Me, back cover), St. Michael remains firmly in command of the situation.  In our own present time especially, when evil seems to be winning, he stands out as a magnificent example of St. Paul’s teaching:

         . . . where sin increased, grace abounded all the more (Rom. 5.20).

Our world is in trouble, and I earnestly believe things are going to get worse as the “birth pangs” (Matt. 24.8) intensify and become more frequent.  We do well to call on St. Michael sincerely and often.*

Even as generals sometimes deliver a rousing message to their soldiers about to go into harm’s way, so I think St. Michael might have some words for us.  Maybe something like:

      Have courage and fight with the ability God gives.  Above all, live always in the

      love of God, “Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 15.57)

*As previously mentioned in the question two above,  a brief and very powerful prayer (Only 59 words, including “Amen”!) is that written by Pope Leo XIII:

                   Saint Michael the Archangel defend us in battle.  Be our defense against the

                   wickedness and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him we humbly

                   pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God,

                   cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl around the world seeking

                   the ruin of souls.  Amen. 

 Please, make a habit of saying this prayer from your heart — often.

EG: You also have a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  How are these two devotions interconnected?  How are they similar and how are they different?

CP: Oh goodness.  Well . . .

One point I need make in no uncertain terms is a cornerstone of our faith:

God alone is almighty and sovereign, with an “everlasting dominion” (Dan. 7.14) over all things.  No matter how much we may love or revere the angels and saints, and even our Blessed Mother –

             IT IS GOD ALONE, FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT, WHOM WE ADORE.

Looking back, I think my devotion to the Sacred Heart began when I was 14 and living in Alabama, although I did not realize it at the time.  I got something in the mail (a miracle in itself!) – from the Sacred Heart Auto League.  “But I’m not even old enough to drive,” I remember thinking.  Inside was a small laminated Sacred Heart “badge.”  Somehow that dear badge stayed with me over many years, through high school, college, work and travel.  It even survived a run-in with the washing machine!  The Sacred Heart, it seems, was determined to stay with me.  The same is true of a beautiful vintage picture of the Sacred Heart that has been in my family since before I can remember.  Somehow, it has stayed with me too.

For me, Sacred Heart devotion and Eucharistic Adoration just go together naturally.  Even perfectly and seamlessly.  By the grace of God, I have gone to Adoration almost every week for 22 years, starting in 1998.  (Unfortunately, COVID-19 resulted in an unavoidable four-month suspension of this special devotion, from March to July, 2020).   In the course of our regular one-on-one visits over the years, I believe our Eucharistic King Jesus deepened my faith in the mystery of His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, and with accounts of Eucharistic Miracles such as Lanciano, brought me to understand that the consecrated Host is, in reality, the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  That was, and remains an unspeakably profound treasure of faith..

My devotion to St. Michael developed much later in life, about 3-4 years after I retired at 51.

A growing awareness of angels (see question three) led naturally to a focus on St. Michael, and with it, the study of the mystical vision of Pope Leo XIII.  The account of the revelation granted to the Holy Father catapulted a nascent devotion into compelling fervor and lively, irrepressible resolve to act.  I experienced, if you will, nothing short of an urgent call to heavenly arms, and I “signed up” at once.

Only in retrospect did it occur to me that devotion to the Sacred Heart and devotion to St. Michael have unfolded together as though in a sweet complementarity.  By turns, one seems to advance the other, always centering on and bringing me in closer union with the Eucharist – with Jesus Himself.

Love for an angel or saint leads ultimately to love for God Who creates them and raises them to be models of peerless sanctity for the Universal Church.  In union with them, following their example, we are called without ceasing to give “Glory to God in the highest . . .” (Lk 2.14).

St. Michael, defend us in battle!

 Author’s responses copyright Carol Puschaver 2020

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Reviews for Though War Be Waged Upon Me by Carol Puschaver

Though War Be Waged

Catholic reviewers have been enthusiastic about Though War Be Waged Upon Me:

Though War Be Waged Against Me by Carol Puschaver is a great collection of prayers and information about St. Michael the Archangel – an excellent resource for a much-needed devotion in these troubling times.

Linda Etchison, author of the Sister Aloysius books

This book is a powerful little gem that inspires deeper devotion to St. Michael and provides the prayers and practices to lives it out.

Laurie Power, Director of Evangelization and Discipleship at Christ the Redeemer Catholic Parish

Is there a more timely saint for the present age – or any age! – than St. Michael the Archangel? This short book is filled with information about the beloved angel who stands between us and evil. Some prayers were familiar and some were new to me, especially the St. Michael Chaplet. The significance of classic depictions of St. Michael was also interesting.  For those who are familiar with the popular prayer to St. Michael but would like to go deeper and cultivate a devotion to the Archangel, this is a great book! I have a couple of Michaels in my life who will benefit greatly from it.

Carolyn Astfalk, award-winning author

This prayer booklet came recommended from a friend. I am very thankful that they did and that I picked it up and I can highly recommend it. It is a small volume but packed full of information and prayers.

The chapters in this volume are:
Introduction
Mikha-el!
Defend Us in Battle
The Saint Michael Chaplet
A Small Prayer Treasury
An Archangel’s Beauty: Reflections on the Treasury of Western Christian Art
Ways to Love and Honor Saint Michael
Did you know …?

In the introduction we are told:

“As I reflect on the words of St. Paul in the context of current events around the world, I earnestly believe that we are living in a time of extraordinary, if not indeed unprecedented, grace.

The near-constant and ubiquitous barrage of evil can be mind-numbing and paralyzing: nuclear weapons’ brinksmanship, mass extinctions of untold species, resurgent nationalism coupled with seemingly irreconcilable ideological divides, the mounting, ominous frequency of “once-in-a-century” weather events, commonplace mass shootings, brazen terrorist attacks . . . and the list goes on.”

And that is exactly what this volume does. There are 15 prayers to Saint Michael in the chapter A Small Treasury of prayer. The book is a mix of prayers, instructions, and teachings.

Overall, I am very happy to have added this booklet to my library. It is a great little volume. And I highly recommend it.

Steven McEvoy, Book Reviews and More

 

After the second wave of Church scandals two summers ago, my pastor requested and received permission from our bishop to lead the assembly in praying the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel after each Mass.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl around the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

It struck me, those first weeks as we all prayed together, that there is power in this prayer.

I did not know that there is so much more to the story of St. Michael and devotion to him until I read Carol Puschaver’s Though War Be Waged Upon Me: A Saint Michael Treasure of Prayer and Reflection.

This booklet, only 68 pages long, details interesting saintly connections with St. Michael the Archangel as well as encouraging the faithful to make frequent recourse to him in prayer.

Ask his help!
How wonderful it is when someone turns to you with complete confidence and asks your help! They know you are capable, they entrust their need to you, and they give you a chance to shine with your God-given talents!
Recite the Prayer to St. Michael often, and seek his intercession, especially in time of danger, trial and temptation.
Ask him for the gifts of spiritual, moral and civic courage.
Ask his help to know and discern right from wrong and act accordingly. (57)

I love how this brings home the truth that we don’t need to wait for the big stuff to happen to call upon the saints for their intercession. Indeed, we shouldn’t wait. We should keep them close. We wouldn’t want our loved ones to wait for situations to get completely out of hand before asking for our help, after all.

Learn to pray the Litany to St. Michael, the St. Michael Chaplet, and other prayers listed in Though War Be Waged Upon Me, and find the best way to keep this powerful intercessor close to you.


(Review Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz)

Barb Szyszkiewicz, Franciscan Mom and Editor, Contributor Catholic Mom

An Open Book – July #openbook

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

Diary of Faustina

Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul by Sr. Maria Faustina Kowalska

Synopsis: This amazing narrative will stir your heart and soul while it chronicles the experience of a simple Polish nun.

My review: These past few weeks, I’ve been helping a fellow Catholic author edit a book about Divine Mercy and St. Faustina.  After editing this book, I felt compelled to read the Diary again. I’ve read this book before, but out of order.  I’m reading it again, this time, in order.  It’s beautiful and inspiring.

Picoult

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Synopsis: Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

My review: With everything that’s going on since George Floyd’s death, and the racism that some have to endure, this was a compelling story, but a frustrating one. You know how the story will end, but it’s still frustrating getting to that point.  There’s a surprise plot twist during the climax of the story, as there is in most of Picoult’s books.  All in all, a good read.  Four out of five.

LHP Daley

Love’s Healing Power by Margaret Daley

Synopsis: Tess Morgan loves being a pediatric nurse and helping the children under her care. She’d always wanted a large family, but that dream was shattered when her fiancé was murdered while volunteering in South America.

Peter “Mac” MacPherson, a former football superstar, had dealt with his own tragedies—the deaths of his father followed by his wife while she was giving birth to their daughter. His faith sustained him through his grief, but can he help Tess believe again in God and finally find a family—with him?

My review: On my “To Read” Shelf.

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Cherish by A.J. Avila

Synopsis: About to give the closing argument on the most important case of her career, District Attorney Candice Boulanger is struck down by a heart attack. When she comes to, however, she discovers she is not in a hospital but in an odd courtroom with no windows and no doors.

A judge explains she has been momentarily taken out of her life to prosecute a different case: the relationship she had with her former “best friend forever” Milly Winters. He promises Candice that, although she is allowed to return to her life at any time, if she sees the trial all the way through, she will receive supernatural aid to help her attain her greatest desire.

Candice and Milly had been best friends since kindergarten and had vowed their friendship would last “no matter what.” Even in their teens, when Candice started drifting from her Christian faith, they managed to set aside their differences—until one day an incident blew their friendship apart.

During the trial, the two women are allowed to call as witnesses scenes from their past. Milly, as defense counsel, presents reasons the two of them should once again become friends, while Candice, still angry at Milly, argues why they shouldn’t.

Can their friendship survive . . . even if one of them has already died?

My review: Interesting idea for a book.  A.J. Avila can write well and the story overall is a good one.  The only thing detracting from this book is the cover, which is too simplistic and screams “self-published.”

Throne of Grace

Throne of Grace by Cecily K. Wolfe

Synopsis: Arthur Davenport has it all: looks, money, and a successful future planned by his parents. He knows that something is missing, but when he and Josie, his mother’s maid, develop a friendship that can only be based on Christian values, he realizes that his love for her is the key to his happiness. Can he convince her that he would gladly give up his life of luxury for a life of service with her?

Newport, Rhode Island in the last decades of the nineteenth century was a stunningly beautiful and glamorous playground for the rich during the summer months, and a perfect setting for a romance between a rich young man from New York City and a local girl who works for his family. The two couldn’t possibly expect to have anything in common, as he is expected to follow his father in a financial career and she is merely a maid with a mother who takes care of local children while their parents work. Arthur Davenport, spoiled and bored, unsure of his place in his family and in the eyes of God, truly meets his match in Josie Warren, who is often just a bit hard on herself for not being the perfect Christian in thought as well as deed. The two meet on the famous Cliff Walk, and neither of them can imagine where or how their instant attraction will take them as he struggles to make his parents understand that his calling is the same as hers, to help those less fortunate. He has no money of his own, and if they disinherit him out of disapproval, how can he help Josie, who has spent her life working hard to help support herself and her mother? More importantly, how can he convince her that he would gladly give up his life of luxury just to be with her?

My review: On my “To Read” Shelf.

Our Lady of Kibeho

Our Lady of Kibeho by Immaculee

Synopsis: Thirteen years before the bloody 1994 genocide that swept across Rwanda and left more than a million people dead, the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ appeared to eight young people in the remote village of Kibeho. Through these visionaries, Mary and Jesus warned of the looming holocaust, which (they assured) could be averted if Rwandans opened their hearts to God and embraced His love. Mary also sent messages to government and church leaders to instruct them how to end the ethnic hatred simmering in their country. She warned them that Rwanda would become “a river of blood”—a land of unspeakable carnage—if the hatred of the people was not quickly quelled by love. Some leaders listened, but very few believed. The prophetic and apocalyptic warnings tragically came true during 100 horrifying days of savage bloodletting and mass murder. Much like what happened at similar sites such as Fátima and Lourdes, the messengers of Kibeho were at first mocked and disbelieved. But as miracle after miracle occurred in the tiny village, tens of thousands of Rwandans journeyed to Kibeho to behold the apparitions. After the genocide, and two decades of rigorous investigation, Our Lady of Kibeho became the first and only Vatican-approved Marian (related to the Virgin Mary) site in all of Africa. But the story still remained largely unknown. Now, however, Immaculée Ilibagiza has changed all that. She has made many pilgrimages to Kibeho, both before and after the holocaust, has personally witnessed true miracles, and has spoken with a number of the visionaries themselves. What she has discovered will deeply touch your heart!

My review:  Beautiful, compelling book about the Apparitions of Our Lady of Kibeho.  Highly recommend!

Motherhood Matters Study Guide

Motherhood Matters by Dorothy Pilarski is a beautiful book that contains reflections of a mother for mothers. 21st century mothering has become one where mothers are expected to work a double, sometimes triple shift: in the workplace,  still carrying most of the load of housework while often caring for their own parents or in laws.  In a culture that has run amuck, Motherhood Matters is a healthy reminder that motherhood is a vocation, a call from God.  It is a sacred gift – one that unfortunately many women have been forced into treating it like just a role or a series of tasks. For some unfortunately it’s treated like an afterthought.  Pilarski illustrates through these writings that truly ‘Motherhood Matters.’

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Hot off the presses is the new Motherhood Matters Study Guide. I helped to edit this book as well as writing some of the reflections. Each study includes a story from Motherhood Matters, questions for discussion, a saint, a recommended book and activities. It’s extremely well done, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to do a year-long study of motherhood.

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Virtual Book Tour: Moonchild Rising Interview with Mina Ambrose

Moonchild Front JPG Final

As part of the Moonchild Rising Virtual Book Tour, here is my interview with the author, Mina Ambrose:

EG: What was your inspiration for Moonchild Rising (and in fact, all the upcoming books of the series Shadows of the Sun)?

MA: I’d always loved writing, eventually collecting a whole file-box of notes and story beginnings—none of which, incidentally, had anything to do with vampires—that never went anywhere, due to other interests pushing them to the back burner. Even after I “discovered” vampires (read a few books, saw a few movies, though I wasn’t really a fan of the horror genre) I soon grew tired of the gore and ugliness and lack of real story or interesting characters, though there was the odd exception.

Then along came Buffy the Vampire Slayer, sticking more or less to traditional vampire lore, but with certain intriguing innovations: its young female heroine, small and delicate—the very image of innocence, vulnerability and weakness, as the “slayer”—unusual at the time (not a learned doctor like Van Helsing, or a tough-guy vigilante type, or a whole crew of them); a vampire that regains its soul (I was skeptical at first, then it occurred to me that nothing is impossible with God); the “reformed” vampire joins her in her work and the two of them fall in love (possible in this case, I decided, because the restoration of the vampire’s soul allows him to choose good over evil). They were a cute couple and the show was entertaining, except, as usual, Hollywood kept getting off track. For example, to them, falling in love means falling into bed. And the heroine was typical—supposedly “good,” but actually not. It seemed to me the slayer must actually be above reproach or demons would just laugh at her; and she wouldn’t be in the business of killing vampires for very long. Neither is the vampire’s soul likely to be restored by evil means (supposedly a gypsy’s curse).

“No, that’s not right, it ought to be this way!” I’d say to myself in frustration each time. And finally, “If I was writing it…” And that’s how it started. It was not intended to be a retelling of someone else’s story, but merely to put things in their “right order,” from the Catholic perspective. With God as present as He is in the real world; the use of holy water and crucifixes as blessed objects with power against evil—not just superstition like some sort of lucky charm.

From the beginning my actual hero was meant to be the child that resulted from this unlikely marriage (for marriage it had to be). This was to be his story, ultimately, though the first book only hints at his presence on the last page.

author photoEG: How long did it take you to write the entire series?

MA: About twenty years, more or less.

EG: What intrigues you about vampires?

MA: The “outsider” has always held a certain fascination, and a vampire is the quintessential outsider. Once human but now soulless, it is cut off from all it once had forever, not alive or dead, just undead, doomed to walk the night craving human blood. Though a horror, it is at the same time a pathetic creature. It is interesting to consider not only what must be done to protect the innocent (enter “the slayer”), but also to imagine the vampire’s point of view. At some point in its history the vampire seems to have taken on a romantic image, unlike most other monsters, and I suppose that’s part of the attraction (unlike zombies, which are ugly and disgusting and not romantic at all). Of course, that’s my opinion. Apparently they are pretty popular nowadays, for some unaccountable reason.

EG: Before the Prince became a vampire, he lived several centuries ago as a human. How did you go about creating a character who lived so long ago?

MA: Just as with any other character, but in addition, it is something like creating a historical novel, I suppose. I had to research the era and locale, by reading histories and looking at artwork depicting how people lived and worked and dressed in that time and place. Always keeping in mind that he must have a different worldview than someone born in our own time, but as a vampire the Prince would have been affected by his many experiences over the centuries, so there is a lot of leeway. For example, his “ambiguous accent” that Mara’s father couldn’t quite place.

EG: What sort of research, if any, did you do to write this book (series)?

MA: I’ve always been a bookworm, so my research mainly involved books on relevant topics: vampires, history, geography, astronomy, angels and art, for example. I resorted to the Internet when necessary, and asked for input from others, for instance the fight scenes; several of my children involved in martial arts provided helpful feedback.

EG: You have quite a few adult children. Did any of them read early copies of your manuscript?

MA: Yes, my three daughters and a daughter-in-law loved the manuscript—two of them read it several times during its various stages of development. I was pleased (and relieved) when they assured me that my characters are my own and not those of the TV series. Their input was greatly appreciated. Several of the boys (not big readers) read the first few chapters at one point. Their encouraging comments helped me to persevere during the dark times when I felt like chucking the whole thing.

EG: Who are some of your favorite authors and why?

MA: There are so many I don’t know where to start. Michael O’Brien has to be at the top of the list for novels, ranging from historical to apocalyptic (even prophetic) to science fiction with characters sympathetic and interesting, people you can relate to. J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and of course George MacDonald with their classics. Josephine Tey’s mysteries, and Canon Sheehan’s accounts of Catholic Irish life set in the nineteenth century are a few of the older authors I admire. Joseph Pearce is top-notch in non-fiction and literary criticism, as well as poetry; I admire his sharp mind and common sense, and in particular his poetic way with words even when writing prose. A lot like G. K. Chesterton, another favorite. A few of the more recent authors are Robert Ovies, Roger Thomas, Gail Caress with a satisfying mix of adventure, romance, mystery, suspense—sometimes even horror and tragedy—but always the “right order of things.” Recently I have enjoyed a number of authors from FQP as well.

EG: Thank you, Mina, for the wonderful interview!

To purchase Moonchild Rising, click here for the Kindle edition and here for the paperback edition.

Virtual Book Tour: Moonchild Rising by Mina Ambrose

Beginning on Monday and for a week, my blog and other blogs will be hosting author Mina Ambrose for a Virtual Book Tour:

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Synopsis:   Mara the Huntress resides in the sunny little town of Archangel, California, the location of the Gate of the Underworld—a fact unknown to the general populace. Most people don’t even know that vampires exist. As Huntress, Mara does know, and it is her job to kill those that dare venture forth to the Upperworld to prey on the humans living there. She is well-suited to this purpose, gifted with skills and talents far surpassing those of ordinary mortals. Though some vampires manage to evade her, she has so far managed to prevent the unleashing of a full-scale infestation. She has been at this job for a good portion of her not-quite twenty years, and it seems she has everything in hand. Then one day she gets a chill of foreboding, a feeling that things are about to change…

For she stands in the way of the master vampire’s plan for world domination, and, he fears, may be a key player in the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy foretelling his destruction. One dark night he sends the mighty Prince (his second in command) to put an end to this Huntress, this bane of vampires, once and for all. Mara confidently goes out to face him, but finds she has met her match at last. Just as all hope seems lost, this powerful vampire turns from the “dark side” to become Mara’s ally in the battle against his own kind.

Keywords:    Religious inspirational,  vampire fiction, clean historical, Catholic fiction fantasy, Vampire conversion

Info Link:   https://www.fullquiverpublishing.com/our-publications/shadows-of-the-sun-series-by-mina-ambrose/

Buy Link Kindle:    https://www.amazon.com/Moonchild-Rising-Shadows-Sun-Book-ebook/dp/B087JY8X4C/

Buy Link Print:   https://www.amazon.com/dp/1987970152/

Categories:   Fantasy Fiction, Vampire Romance, Religious Inspirational Fiction, Catholic Romance Vampires, Supernatural

Goodreads link:   https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53398004-moonchild-rising

 

Virtual Book Tour Stops

June 8   Patrice MacArthur

June 9  Steven McEvoy  Book Reviews and More

June 10  Ellen Gable  Plot Line and Sinker

June 11   Carolyn Astfalk My Scribbler’s Heart Blog

June 12  Karina Fabian

June 13   Theresa Linden

June 15  Sarah Reinhard, Snoring Scholar

 

Advanced Reviews:

A fast-paced, engaging book that draws clear lines between Good and Evil, leading the reader on a great adventure through the darkness we cannot see. I loved the story—and I’m not even a fan of vampires!”  Michelle Buckman, award-winning author, Rachel’s Contrition and Turning in Circles

“Can a vampire’s soul be saved? With beautiful imagery, Moonchild Rising pairs a redeemed vampire and a skilled huntress battling both the undead and the desires of their hearts.” Carolyn Astfalk, author, Come Back to Me and All in Good Time

An Open Book – June #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 four weeks:

 

Susan Tassone Book

 

Jesus Speaks to Faustina and You by Susan Tassone

Amazon Synopsis:  In her celebrated 700-page spiritual Diary, St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) tells of her many visions of Jesus and her conversations with Him. For years now, best-selling and award-winning author Susan Tassone has lived in the thrall of that spiritual classic, recently drawing forth from its rich mystical depths 365 meditations.

Each meditation features Jesus’ words to Faustina, to which Tassone has added a short original reflection and a prayer to help you hear and live by Jesus’ words as if they had been spoken directly to you. From these pages, you’ll discover the mercy, love, and compassion of the Lord that’s available for you – day by day, each day of the year.

My review: Another beautiful book by Susan Tassone that is ideal for someone who likes daily reflections.  Highly recommend!

 

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Remembering Mom 

My new book!

Amazon Synopsis: In Remembering Mom, author Ellen Gable shares memories of her beloved mother, an unconventional woman who was often thrust into situations by necessity. She endured having to watch her first husband spiral into psychosis and schizophrenia, then have him be committed to a psychiatric hospital on the same day she was in labor with their fourth child. She worked from home typing back in the day when women didn’t have jobs other than homemaking. Her humor was quirky, and she had some strange sayings. She could swear like a sailor, but loved her Catholic faith. She wasn’t a perfect Catholic, nor was she a perfect mother, but she was devoted to her five children. After the death of her first husband, she remained strong for her young adult children, then eventually found love again and another opportunity for motherhood.

Thunderstruck

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Amazon Synopsis: In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the interwoven stories of two men—Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication—whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.

Set in Edwardian London and on the stormy coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Thunderstruck evokes the dynamism of those years when great shipping companies competed to build the biggest, fastest ocean liners; scientific advances dazzled the public with visions of a world transformed; and the rich outdid one another with ostentatious displays of wealth. Against this background, Marconi races against incredible odds and relentless skepticism to perfect his invention: the wireless, a prime catalyst for the emergence of the world we know today. Meanwhile, Crippen, “the kindest of men,” nearly commits the perfect murder.

With his unparalleled narrative skills, Erik Larson guides us through a relentlessly suspenseful chase over the waters of the North Atlantic. Along the way, he tells of a sad and tragic love affair that was described on the front pages of newspapers around the world, a chief inspector who found himself strangely sympathetic to the killer and his lover, and a driven and compelling inventor who transformed the way we communicate.

My review: The two true stories here are compelling enough (Marconi’s development of the wireless and Dr. Hawley Crippen’s life leading up to him being accused, found guilty and hung for murder.)  I enjoyed how both stories converged at the end. However, the Marconi sections were quite technical and hard to follow so I scanned those.  Still a compelling story, but so far, my least favorite of Larson’s books.  Three stars out of five.

 

Violet

Violet (I Am Girl #2) by Renee Lichtenhan

Amazon Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Violet Windsor is obsessed with the rush and thrill of skateboarding through a dangerous, gang-ridden part of New York City. Certain that her high-society parents wouldn’t approve of the rough-and-tumble sport or the sketchy neighborhood, she and her best friend, Sloane, hide her secret adventures in a thick veil of lies.

When Violet’s neurodiverse brother, Oliver, begins drawing pictures that reveal a mysterious knowledge of her secrets, Violet is rattled to the core. Intrigued by clues in Oliver’s drawings, she follows them down a reckless path toward redemption and truth.

My review: New teen Violet Windsor secretly visits a dangerous part of New York City to pursue her passion for skateboarding. Her wealthy parents wouldn’t approve so she and her best friend, Sloane, keep her skateboarding adventures secret. Meanwhile, Violet’s autistic brother, Oliver, shows her drawings that indicate not only that he knows her secrets but that he has been gifted with artistic ability that might be supernatural in origin.

I thoroughly enjoyed this middle-grade novel that includes all kinds of relevant, present-day issues. The writing quality is excellent. The characters are well-developed and believable, and the setting made me feel I was in the midst of New York City. Highly recommend for anyone who enjoys a great story and characters!

Clint Hill

Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill

Amazon Synopsis: The #1 New York Times bestselling memoir by Clint Hill that Kirkus Reviews called “clear and honest prose free from salaciousness and gossip,” Jackie Kennedy’s personal Secret Service agent details his very close relationship with the First Lady during the four years leading up to and following President John F. Kennedy’s tragic assassination.

In those four years, Hill was by Mrs. Kennedy’s side for some of the happiest moments as well as the darkest. He was there for the birth of John, Jr. on November 25, 1960, as well as for the birth and sudden death of Patrick Bouvier Kennedy on August 8, 1963. Three and a half months later, the unthinkable happened.

Forty-seven years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the one vivid image that never leaves Clint Hill’s mind is that of President Kennedy’s head lying on Mrs. Kennedy’s lap in the back seat of the limousine, his eyes fixed, blood splattered all over the back of the car, Mrs. Kennedy, and Hill as well. Sprawled on the trunk of the car as it sped away from Dealey Plaza, Hill clung to the sides of the car, his feet wedged in so his body was as high as possible.

Clint Hill jumped on the car too late to save the president, but all he knew after that first shot was that if more shots were coming, the bullets had to hit him instead of the First Lady.

Mrs. Kennedy’s strength, class, and dignity over those tragic four days in November 1963 held the country together.

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It really laid a firm foundation for what happened on November 22, 1963.  It showed me a side of Jackie Kennedy that I had never seen before.  I learned that Patrick Kennedy (the baby she lost while in the White House and just a few months before the assassination) was born at the same gestation (five weeks early) that I had been born and weighed the same as me (four pounds 11 ounces).  It’s hard to understand why I survived and he didn’t.  Recommend.

Remembering Mom: A Life of Endurance

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Mom and Me, May 22, 1982 Photo by Sassano Photographers copyright 1982

“Nothing great is ever achieved without enduring much.” St. Catherine of Siena

If the struggles my mother endured are any indication of her achievements in life, then what she achieved here on earth can be considered great, indeed.

My mother (Betti) was born in 1934 and died in 2007, but her influence in my life and in the lives of my children, nieces, nephews, and siblings has continued.

On the one hand, she was generous to a fault, often going into debt when we were young so that my siblings and I could have plentiful presents under the Christmas tree. She loved coming up to Canada and especially enjoyed surprising my boys with unexpected trips (and she never missed a Baptism or a First Communion or musical performance until she became terminally ill).  She had a unique, wry sense of humor and was laugh-out-loud funny sometimes.  Even today, she still makes me laugh when I think of one of her funny sayings.

On the other hand, she chain-smoked most of her life (she quit when she was 61), could swear like a sailor, and wasn’t always faithful with church attendance.

But as a young mother with three small children and nine months pregnant with another, my mother watched her husband (my father) spiral into a full-blown psychotic breakdown and watch as he was committed to a psychiatric hospital. That same day, she went into labor with my youngest brother. With the help of extended family, she endured, and Dad finally came home.

Mom survived a critical illness when she was 33 years old and was not expected to live. I was only seven at the time, but I remember how thin she was. She weighed eighty pounds and at five feet, six inches tall, she was a walking skeleton.  She beat the odds, though, and lived a fairly healthy life until her sixties when chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) caught up with her.

She became a widow at age 44 when my father died suddenly.

Mom later married remarried, got pregnant at the age of 47 and was thrilled. When her doctor suggested she have an abortion (because it was too risky and the baby might be deformed), she refused. When he demanded she have an abortion, Mom swore at him. Then he then told her to find another doctor because he wouldn’t be delivering the baby. I’m thankful that she and my stepfather were open to life. Again, Mom beat the odds, had an uneventful pregnancy, and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl (my youngest sister, now 38).

A lifetime of smoking caught up with her in early 2004, when she contracted a particular virulent strain of pneumonia, was on a ventilator and in a coma (and supposedly “brain dead.”)  Once more, she beat the odds and eventually woke up and endured eight months in rehab and lived an additional three years (which she never took for granted).

I had never known Mom to be anything but determined and tenacious. And she always tried to find the humor in everything. Just before she died, she called me up to tell me that she had just watched a TV program on the Little People of America. “Did you know you could join them, if you wanted?”

“Um, okay.”

“Yes, the maximum height is four feet, ten inches.  You’re four-nine.”

“Why would I want to join them?”

“So you could go to conventions and feel like the tallest person in the room!” Then she burst out laughing.

People were always surprised when they met Mom because she was tall (five feet, six inches) and I’m so short (four feet, nine inches).  If we were doing dishes together, she would look down at me and say, “El, are you standing in a hole?”

In the months before she died, we had many wonderful conversations.  We talked about her life, her memories, her faith.  We talked about Jesus and heaven and how exciting it would be to meet Jesus.

When she was within hours of death, my youngest sister called me, and I made the trip to New Jersey from Canada.  After a two-hour wait at the border, we arrived in Cortland, New York, so I called to let her know I was halfway there.  My sister answered the phone and told Mom that I was in Cortland. I could hear her say, “She’s only in Cortland?  Tell her I love her and to be careful.”

Shortly after that, she went into a coma. I arrived that evening. She was still alive but unconscious.  She had asked my sister and I to recite the Litany of the Saints and the Divine Mercy Chaplet when her time was close, so we did that and then I went to bed. The next morning when I checked on her, her breathing had slowed and she was cool, but she still had a weak pulse.  I whispered in her ear, “It’s okay if you need to go, Mom.  We’ll be all right.  I love you.”

An hour or so later, my other siblings had assembled around her bedside.  I was sitting next to my brother and all of a sudden, I felt as if Mom were on the ceiling looking down at us.  I was about to nudge my brother on the shoulder and tell him when he said, “Hey, El, I feel like Mom is on the ceiling looking down at us.”

Mom entered into eternal life on the Feast of St. Dominic, August 8, 2007 and was buried on the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, August 14th.   It’s been thirteen years since she died, and her influence and humor is still being felt by our family.  If Mom’s endurance and tenacity are any indication, great things were definitely achieved with her life.

I just finished writing a book about Mom, entitled, Remembering Mom. It’s available on Kindle and in print.

Copyright 2020 Ellen Gable Hrkach