Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day 2020

pregnancy-infant-loss-remembrance-day

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

Here are a few of my reflections on pregnancy loss:

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

Ecce Ancilla Domini, an article on openness to life.

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

Difficult Anniversaries/Responsible Parenthood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(End of excerpt.)

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

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

In Name Only by Ellen Gable

A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable

Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable

A World Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer

Rose, Sola by Carmela Martino

The Rose and the Sword by Gina Marinello-Sweeney

Bane’s Eyes by Corinna Turner

Passport by Christopher Blunt

Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk

For Eden’s Sake by T.M. Gaouette

Life-Changing Love by Theresa Linden

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

In memory of our seven little souls in heaven:

Baby Hrkach Twins (June 1986)

Baby Hrkach (February 1991)

Baby Hrkach (June 1991)

Mary Elizabeth Hrkach (June 1993)

Seth Hrkach (April 1998)

Lucy Hrkach (March 2006)

An Open Book – October #openbook

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

Home At Last (edited by Rosalind Moss)

Amazon Synopsis: The impressive Bernini columns that stretch from St. Peter’s Basilica out towards Rome, enclosing St. Peter’s Square, have been described as the arms of the Church reaching out and welcoming all people, all language groups, all cultures, and all individuals looking for truth, happiness in this life, and eternal salvation in the next. Our beloved converts have come to love the Church as their mother and home. They have prayed, argued, studied, and finally embraced the Catholic faith. But it wasn’t by their works alone that they have found a home in the Church. Ultimately they–like all Catholics–are members of the Church because of God’s generous gift of faith, which we neither earn nor deserve. May these converts, and all like them, persevere in their newfound faith and bear fruit a hundredfold. -Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan Archbishop, Archdiocese of Santa Fe

My review: I’ve been watching the former Rosalind Moss (now Mother Miriam) on YouTube for quite sometime, so I decided to purchase this book to read more about her conversion story and the conversion story of others. Mother Miriam’s is probably the most interesting to me. A Jewish girl brought up in New York City became an Evangelical, then a Catholic, then became a sister and founded a new religious order. Fascinating read, but the other stories are also quite compelling. It’s always interesting to see how the Holy Spirit works in the conversion of others. Every conversion story is as unique as each individual person. Highly recommend! 5/5.

Our House by Louise Candlish

Amazon Synopsis: On a bright morning in the suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought on Trinity Avenue. Nothing strange about that. Except it’s your house. And you didn’t sell it.

When Fiona Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house, she is plunged into terror and confusion. She and her husband, Bram, have owned their home on Trinity Avenue for years; how can another family possibly think the house is theirs? And why has Bram disappeared–along with their two young children–when she needs him most?

As the nightmare takes hold, Fiona begins to untangle the lies that led to a devastating crime–and a betrayal so shocking it will teach her to keep her own secrets behind locked doors….

My review: I happened to pick this book up at Costco. The blurb definitely hooked me in. It was a great read (although the middle section where the author dragged out the antagonists’ cat-and-mouse games, I just skimmed because it was too much of the same). However, the last 70 or so pages were compelling and I read that in one sitting. Highly recommend. 4/5.

Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA and the Secret History of the Sixties

by Tom O’Neill

Amazon Synopsis: Over two grim nights in Los Angeles, the young followers of Charles Manson murdered seven people, including the actress Sharon Tate, then eight months pregnant. With no mercy and seemingly no motive, the Manson Family followed their leader’s every order — their crimes lit a flame of paranoia across the nation, spelling the end of the sixties. Manson became one of history’s most infamous criminals, his name forever attached to an era when charlatans mixed with prodigies, free love was as possible as brainwashing, and utopia — or dystopia — was just an acid trip away.

Twenty years ago, when journalist Tom O’Neill was reporting a magazine piece about the murders, he worried there was nothing new to say. Then he unearthed shocking evidence of a cover-up behind the “official” story, including police carelessness, legal misconduct, and potential surveillance by intelligence agents. When a tense interview with Vincent Bugliosi — prosecutor of the Manson Family and author of Helter Skelter — turned a friendly source into a nemesis, O’Neill knew he was onto something. But every discovery brought more questions.

O’Neill’s quest for the truth led him from reclusive celebrities to seasoned spies, from San Francisco’s summer of love to the shadowy sites of the CIA’s mind-control experiments, on a trail rife with shady cover-ups and suspicious coincidences. The product of two decades of reporting, hundreds of new interviews, and dozens of never-before-seen documents from the LAPD, the FBI, and the CIA, Chaos mounts an argument that could be, according to Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Steven Kay, strong enough to overturn the verdicts on the Manson murders. This is a book that overturns our understanding of a pivotal time in American history.

My review: I bought this book after seeing the author’s gripping interview on Joe Rogan’s YouTube channel. I wanted to hear more about his research. Chaos is a very interesting book. although tedious at times. The author had legitimate questions and sometimes the answers were not what he (or his readers) expected. My one biggest disappointment in this book is that there is never any definitive answer to many of the questions he asked. He did, however, illustrate with evidence how Vincent Bugliosi, prosecutor in the original Manson trials, lied by omission during the trial and in his book, Helter Skelter (which I’ve read at least five times: it’s probably THE most compelling book I’ve ever read!) Recommend to true crime readers: 3.5/5.

Woman in the Trees by Theoni Bell

Amazon Synopsis: Set within the expanses of the American frontier, The Woman in the Trees follows Slainie, an inquisitive pioneer girl, whose life is forever transformed when a mysterious seer shows up at her door. Amidst the backdrop of the Civil War, family tragedy, and the nation’s most destructive wildfire, Slainie must navigate her rugged pioneer life as she encounters love and loss, and comes face to face with the story of America’s first approved Marian apparition.

My review: I really enjoyed this young adult book about America’s first approved Marian apparition. I also enjoyed the descriptions of what it was like in the pioneer days, especially with immigrants. Recommend! 4/5

Hand Hand Fingers Thumb by Al Perkins

Amazon Synopsis: A madcap band of dancing, prancing monkeys explain hands, fingers, and thumbs to beginning readers.

My review: I just recently purchased this book for my grandson. Since I’ve been babysitting him part-time, one of the things we do together is read. This was one of my boys’ favorite books growing up and it has become one of my grandson’s favorite books. It’s simple, funny and entertaining. Highly recommend. 5/5.

Go Dog Go by P. D. Eastman

Amazon Synopsis: Reading goes to the dogs in this timeless Beginner Book edited by Dr. Seuss. From big dogs and little dogs to red, green, and blue dogs, dogs going up and dogs going fast . . . who knew dogs were so busy? And laughter will ensue at the repeated question “Do you like my hat?” Like P. D. Eastman’s classic Are You My Mother? Go, Dog. Go! has been a go-to favorite for over fifty years, leaving audiences of all breeds wagging their tails with delight.

My review: Believe it or not, this is one of the books that taught me to read (it was published in 1961.) I remember absolutely loving the part at the end with the tree (no spoilers here!) and my boys shared the same excitement. So this is another book I bought for my grandson in the hopes he can also enjoy it! Highly recommend. 5/5.

Authenticity Now Available!

Authenticity by Allison Wajert Venini is now available in Paperback and will be available on Kindle on October 7, the Feast of the Holy Rosary.

Synopsis: Mackenzie, a young actress in Philadelphia, suddenly falls ill on a film set.  After she garners the attention and aid of a former tabloid darling with a sordid past, her parents pressure her to seduce him for personal gain.  As she balances fostering a very real friendship with the actor while propping falsehoods to her parents, she also draws close to his inner circle of contacts.  Jealousy, kindness, and instability are the forces she encounters through a man who has not fully achieved temperance.

To purchase the print edition, click here.

To purchase the Kindle edition, click here.

The Book of Jotham Second Edition Now Available

The second edition of The Book of Jotham is now available on Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.

Synopsis: Winner of the 2012 Tuscany Prize for Novella. Jotham is a mentally challenged man-child who, like the other apostles, follows Jesus as Christ carries out his ministry and experiences death by crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Yet the other apostles the dedicated Mary, Peter, Thomas, and the rest while they care for Jotham and look out for him, don t understand why Jesus loves him so. Thomas even says, after Jesus offers a parable, I don t see why all the pots can t be strong and beautiful. Jotham may be different, but through him, we come to see Jesus and Jotham not just with our eyes, but also with our hearts.

Reviews:

“The Book of Jotham chronicles the spiritual journey of the fictional protagonist, from his initial fears due to his personal limitations to his discovery of his self­ worth in Christ. Written from the perspective of the title character, the author gives the reader a unique insight into the mind and the heart of one who is mentally challenged. And by placing the narrative in the familiar  setting of  Jesus’ public ministry and using Biblical characters like Mary, Peter and the Apostles, the reader is able to experience the Gospel story anew, through the eyes and gradual progression of faith of Jotham. The universal theme of the grace of adoption helps us to discover that, as children of Light, our conversion and progression of faith may not be so different from those who experience life like Jotham.”  + Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston

This… is called “The Book of Jotham” because it’s a sort of Gospel according to the eponymous character. The ways in which St. Mary Magdalene and Judas Iscariot relate with their disabled brother are particularly powerful. The Book of Jotham is a work that never preaches but which will evoke a powerful pro-life response from the reader.” Joseph Pearce, author

 “The book is a gem for anyone serious about a genuine, loving relationship with God.” Kaye Park Hinckley, award-winning author

Reading The Book of Jotham is a powerful and life changing event. I really felt drawn into the story and actually believed that I could see out of Jotham’s eyes. This is a masterpiece of writing and deserves to become a classic. ”  A.K. Frailey, author

“This novella won first place in the Tuscany Press competition for Best Novella for a reason. Try to imagine experiencing discipleship with Christ unencumbered by the burden of rationalism. Powers’ depiction of a mentally challenged young man who follows Christ is more than moving–it’s revealing. Then, because language itself is a product of rationalism, try to imagine how that discipleship might be expressed non-verbally, internally. Powers accomplishes something amazing here.Dena Hunt, award-winning author

“Wonderful book. It’s hard to write a compelling narrative when the reader knows the historical events, but Powers does a masterful job. He bravely uses a second person point of view to pull the reader into the story, to become the mentally challenged young protagonist sitting on the side of the road when a charismatic rabbi comes along. You’ll fly through the pages, but then read a second time to enjoy the poetry of the words.” Ronald B. O’Gorman, MD, author

Open Book – September #openbook

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book.

Here’s what I’ve been reading for the past month:

The Last Closet by Moira Greyland

Amazon Synopsis: Marion Zimmer Bradley was a bestselling science fiction author, a feminist icon, and was awarded the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement. She was best known for the Arthurian fiction novel THE MISTS OF AVALON and for her very popular Darkover series.

She was also a monster.

THE LAST CLOSET: The Dark Side of Avalon is a brutal tale of a harrowing childhood. It is the true story of predatory adults preying on the innocence of children without shame, guilt, or remorse. It is an eyewitness account of how high-minded utopian intellectuals, unchecked by law, tradition, religion, or morality, can create a literal Hell on Earth.

THE LAST CLOSET is also an inspiring story of survival. It is a powerful testimony to courage, to hope, and to faith. It is the story of Moira Greyland, the only daughter of Marion Zimmer Bradley and convicted child molester Walter Breen, told in her own words.

My review: I’ve got a pretty strong stomach for disturbing books, but I could only read one chapter or part of a chapter at a time. The author talks about all this happening in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s when sexual permissiveness was not as widespread as it is now. It is a testament to the author that she was able to pull herself out of her home life and have the courage to report her father to the police. My only criticism is that the book could’ve been edited better. It’s far too long and the author includes letters and comments from others. However, I do recommend it, but only for those with a strong stomach for disturbing stories.

The Butterfly Miracle by Michelle Halliwell

Amazon Synopsis: A devout Catholic, graduating at the top of her class with a scholarship to Harvard, is drugged and assaulted by a stranger. Unfairly pregnant, she must choose between her dreams and her faith.

My review: On my ‘To Read’shelf.

Tippi: a Memoir by Tippi Hedren

Amazon Synopsis: In this absorbing and surprising memoir, one of the biggest names of classic Hollywood—the star of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and Marnie—tells her story, including never-before-revealed experiences on the set of some of the biggest cult films of all time . . . now with a foreword by Melanie Griffith

For decades, Tippi Hedren’s luminous beauty radiated from the silver screen, enchanting moviegoers and cementing her position among Hollywood’s elite—beauty and star power that continue to endure. For too long Hedren’s story has been told by others through whispered gossip and tabloid headlines. Now, Hedren sets the record straight, recalling how a young and virtuous Lutheran girl from small-town Minnesota became a worldwide legend—as one of the most famous Hitchcock girls, as an unwavering animal activist, and as the matriarch of a powerful Hollywood dynasty that includes her movie star daughter Melanie Griffith, and rising star Dakota Johnson, her granddaughter.

For the first time, Hedren digs deep into her complicated relationship with the man who discovered her talent, director Alfred Hitchcock, the benefactor who would become a repulsive and controlling director who contractually controlled her every move. She speaks openly about the dark pain she endured working with him on their most famous collaborations, The Birds and Marnie, and finding the courage she needed to break away.

My review: To come.

Shadow Stalker by T.M. Gaouette

Amazon Synopsis: It all happened one morning. It was as if the world had gone mad. Well, maybe not the whole world, but enough of it to get noticed. People were waking up as if possessed; suffering souls resorting to tearing at their skin, crying out loud to no one in particular, haunted by a sudden internal torment that no one around them could decipher. For investigative reporter Elijah, this news story was way bigger than a scoop. Unless he could unmask the truth behind the madness, how could he stop it, once and for all? And more urgent – how could he keep it from happening to him?

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this novella. In an age where sexual trafficking and molestation happens to the youngest of children, I found myself wishing this internal torment would happen to all those who destroy the innocence of a child. Compelling page-turner. Highly recommend.

Love’s Labour Started by

Martina Parnelli and M. Roberto Angelorum

Amazon Synopsis: A poetic peek into Renaissance era romance beckons us in this tale of lords and ladies at odds in their pursuits – pursuits that quickly change as camaraderie creates bonds from both unexpected turns and surprising discoveries. Medieval gentility makes for an authentic taste of yore in this tale of love and life’s lessons therein.

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this play involving lords and ladies meeting and interacting. Romantic attractions occur but what follows is a beautiful illustration of chaste love and following one’s vocation. Exquisitely written in fine poetry. Highly recommend.

Fatima (2020) #Review #FATIMAthemovie

I was blessed to be able to watch the new movie about the Miracle of Fatima entitled, Fatima, a few months ago. I’ve heard a lot about it from one of the screenwriters on social media. It is available on demand as of August 28. You can watch the trailer here:

First, the synopsis: Based on historical events, three young shepherds in Fátima, Portugal, report visions of the Virgin Mary, inspiring believers and angering officials of the Church and the government, who try to force them to recant their story.

I would consider myself a quasi-expert on the miraculous events at Fatima. I’ve read many books on the subject and I’ve watched documentaries, as well as the original Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima from 1952.

What I loved about this movie: The cinematography was breathtaking. The music was beautifully done and added greatly to the story. The script was well done as were the costumes. I was especially pleased to see Lúcia Moniz, who played Lucia’s mother in the film. She looked familiar, but I had to look her up on IMDB to find out where I had seen her: she was the Portuguese girl and love interest of Colin Firth’s in Love, Actually. She plays a very different part in this movie as the unbelieving mother of Lucia. The acting of most of the cast was above average (although there were a few minor actors who weren’t quite on par with the rest of the cast).

The Miracle of the Sun was effective and well done, and for this, the music, and the cinematography, the movie is definitely worth seeing.

Photo Credit: Claudio Iannone ©2020 PICTUREHOUSE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The two youngest children were delightful and believable. (The girl playing Jacinta was adorable.) I enjoyed both of their performances very much.

Photo Courtesy of Picturehouse ©2020 PICTUREHOUSE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

What I didn’t like about this movie: I personally didn’t like how Our Blessed Mother was portrayed and how distracted the children seemed when they were receiving visions from Our Lady. To me, there was nothing heavenly about the woman in the vision. In fact, there seemed to be no attempt to make the Blessed Mother look ethereal. She was a beautiful lady dressed in white, barefoot and, at one point, bled from her heart. It almost felt like she walked up to the children when she appeared to them.

The young actress who played Lucia did an adequate job, but at times, there was something missing from her performance.

Photo Credit: Claudio Iannone ©2020 PICTUREHOUSE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

There were several events that the writers choose to either change or leave out. For example, the writers also chose not to include that the Communist mayor threatened to boil the children in oil if they did not tell the truth. That’s a pretty big part to leave out. In the actual events, the children refused to say they were lying, regardless of the threats to be boiled alive.

Bottom line: Although the original 1952 Fatima, in my opinion, is a more faithful representation of the events of the Miracle of Fatima, this is a movie absolutely worth seeing. It’s powerful and uplifting. Recommend! 7/10.

This movie will be available On Demand starting August 28. If you’d like a code to see this movie for free in the comfort of your home, please comment below (before August 31) to be entered to win a free code. I have two free codes to give away!

This post is sponsored by Graf-Martin Communications on behalf of Elevation Pictures. Opinions expressed are my own.

Copyright 2020 Ellen Gable Hrkach

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