An Open Book – September #openbook

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

All Quiet On the Western Front by Enrich Maria Remarque

Synopsis: Considered by many the greatest war novel of all time, All Quiet on the Western Front is Erich Maria Remarque’s masterpiece of the German experience during World War I.

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. . . .

This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army during World War I. They become soldiers with youthful enthusiasm. But the world of duty, culture, and progress they had been taught breaks in pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches.

Through years of vivid horror, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principle of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against one another . . .  if only he can come out of the war alive.

My review: I tend to avoid books written in the present tense, but this one does it well. I also found it fascinating that this book is written from the POV of a German soldier instead of an Allied soldier. It doesn’t shy away from the brutality of the war and humanizes every soldier, both German and Allied. It has beautifully written passages. Highly recommend.

Synopsis: Fear is at the heart of the sexual revolution, and its most fitting monument is the “hook-up.” Dr. Morse exposes the sexual revolution’s fraudulent promise of freedom and fearlessly explodes some of modern society’s most cherished—and destructive—myths. She argues that strong, lasting marriages are essential for the survival of a free society, not to mention basic human happiness. She fires the opening shots of a new sexual revolution and shows how everyone, married or single, can help.

My review: I picked up this book for five dollars at a local Catholic bookstore. I liked it, but the author didn’t go far enough in explaining why contraception is disordered and one of the underlying causes of a “hook-up” world. However, on the whole, it was an excellent book. Recommend.

Synopsis: If you met God today, what would He say to you? Words of Hope is a collection of powerful dialogues and sayings given by Jesus to four gifted saints from the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Genoa, Gertrude the Great and Margaret Mary Alacoque. These souls possessed the gift of “locution,” the ability to hear the actual voice of God. In this book, author Craig Turner collects into categories the locutions received by these saints, words from God that are meant not only for these four souls, but for all mankind.

My review: This is a beautiful book with powerful words given by Jesus to four gifted saints. These souls could hear the actual voice of God. Recommend.

Amazon Synopsis: Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby is a friendly, conversational book about pregnancy, birth, and your first three months as a new mom. With respect and honesty, authors Bonnie Way (mom of 5) and Anna Eastland (mom of 9) share their experiences, walking expectant moms through some of the questions and concerns they may experience from conception to colic. This book includes tips on dealing with first-trimester exhaustion, dressing your baby bump without breaking the bank, choosing the best care provider for your pregnancy, whether or not to write a birth plan, dealing with pain during labour, taking care of yourself and baby after birth, and more. If Bonnie and Anna could sit down with you to have coffee and chat about pregnancy and new babies, this is what they’d like to tell you – mom to mom.

My review: I enjoyed this step-by-step book for new mothers. It offers great information, especially for first-time moms. Recommend.

Arnprior Author’s New Novel Wins Award

The local newspaper published an article about my newest award.

Photo by James Hrkach

Local author Ellen Gable Hrkach is already an award-winning author whose books have received top prizes in various fiction awards. But, for Hrkach, the award for her newest book is particularly satisfying. Where Angels Pass, Hrkach’s twelfth book and based on a true story, won First Place in the Catholic Media Association Book Awards in the category of Catholic Novels (Educational). Her book also won Honorable Mention in an additional CMA category of Best Book by a Small Publisher. 

She says, “I’m grateful for any awards or recognition, but to win a CMA Book Award is a bucket list item that I can now check off.”  The CMA judges gave this comment about Hrkach’s book: “This is a timely and well-written story, showing the effects of child abuse by a priest, not only on the victim but also on the victim’s family. A worthwhile read!”

Hrkach explains, “Where Angels Pass tells the fictionalized story of my father’s abuse and the ensuing tragedies that befell our family because of that abuse. My siblings and I didn’t find out about the abuse until after my father died. When I discovered the reason he had such a troubled life, it all made sense to me.”

By writing this book, Hrkach wanted to share that despite the clerical abuse that had occurred for decades in the Catholic Church – and specifically with her father – her own Catholic faith, although tested, prevailed nonetheless. Similarly, her abused father remained a Catholic until his tragic death. She says, “I had a beautiful relationship with my dad and, despite all the difficulties, he was a wonderful and caring father.” Author Jim Sano says that the book is “a love story of a daughter for her father…that will surely touch people in a profound way.”

Former attorney and author Michael Seagriff says, “Ellen Gable has done a great service to our Church, the victims of this dreaded abuse, and particularly to their families whose suffering has gone virtually unnoticed. Masterful job mixing fact with fiction.”

Originally from the Philadelphia-South Jersey area, Hrkach is now a dual citizen. She began writing religious fiction as a hobby twenty years ago when her five sons were small children. “When I first started writing, I planned to eventually get around to working on a story about my father’s life, but for twenty years, I couldn’t actually sit down and write the story, partly because it was too difficult to relive our family’s most disturbing experiences.”  Then, Hrkach relates that, “Last summer, I just sat down and wrote for three weeks until I finished the first draft. Yes, it was excruciatingly painful to write about, but it was also very therapeutic.”

Six of Hrkach’s books have been translated into various languages, and the author’s books have been collectively downloaded 780,000 times on Kindle. To date, she has published twelve original works, has ghostwritten five others, and has contributed to numerous other books and websites.  Find out more about her at http://www.ellengable.com.

Where Angels Pass is available in ebook, paperback and hardcover on Amazon and through the author: fullquiverpublishing@gmail.com

The Apostolic Pardon by Susan Tassone

I’m pleased to welcome Susan today on my blog, writing about the Apostolic Pardon that very few Catholics know about. We’re blessed to know about it because the priest gave the Apostolic Pardon to my mother-in-law at the same time she received the Last Rites before she died five years ago.

THE APOSTOLIC PARDON

Don’t Leave Earth Without It

BY SUSAN TASSONE

During the Covid lockdown, my family experienced two Covid deaths and three unexpected deaths. All in a row. We had 6 Aunts and 2 uncles and as a result lots of cousins. Sadly, only one aunt remained, Aunt Babe. But within two months Aunt Babe contracted Covid. She was dying. My cousins contacted me uncertain how to reach a priest. I was hundreds of miles away.

Anxiously checking the internet, I contacted St. Patrick’s Church in the area to get a priest to administer the last sacraments. The pastor answered, but he needed to contact the Bishop’s office. It was his office that assigned trained “Covid priests” to give the last rites. He couldn’t guarantee a priest would be available. Thirty minutes later he contacted me. A priest was available. This priest drove three hours to get to my dying Aunt. He gave her the last rites with the Apostolic Pardon.

She died that night with the grace of all graces, the final blessing of God to die in the state of grace with the reception of the last sacraments, wearing her treasured scapular.

WHAT IS THE APOSTOLIC PARDON?

In my book, Prayers, Promises and Devotions for the Holy Souls, I have a special section specifically for the sick, suffering and dying. Msgr. Patrick J. Gaalaas wrote this important section on the Apostolic Pardon.

“The Church provides powerful helps to persons who are dying. Most importantly, she obliges her children to seek the grace of the Sacraments of Penance, Holy Communion (Viaticum), and the Anointing of the Sick. She obliges her priests to ensure that the faithful in their care are not deprived of an opportunity to receive them.

In addition to these, there is a little-known, but important, plenary indulgence that is granted to the dying. Administered by a priest, it is called the “Apostolic Pardon,” or “Apostolic Blessing.”

The Handbook of Indulgences puts it quite forcefully: “Priests who minister the sacraments to the Christian faithful who are in a life-and-death situation should not neglect to impart to them the apostolic blessing, with its attached indulgence.”

The Apostolic Blessing has two forms in the ritual for the Anointing of the Sick. Both are short and easy to memorize:

Form A: “Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May he open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy.”

Form B: “By the authority which the Apostolic See has given me, I grant you a full pardon and the remission of all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

WHAT IF THERE IS NO PRIEST PRESENT?

The question, of course, arises: “What if there is no priest present when a person is dying?” The Handbook of Indulgences reassuringly stipulates that “if a priest cannot be present, holy mother Church lovingly grants such persons, who are rightly disposed, a plenary indulgence to be obtained in an articulo mortis, at the approach of death, provided they regularly prayed in some way during their lifetime.” Note the two conditions: The dying person must be “rightly disposed” and have “regularly prayed.”

Being rightly disposed means to be in the state of grace and without attachment even to venial sin. This is required in the gaining of any plenary indulgence. Just what does it mean to have “prayed regularly in some way during their lifetime”?

The Apostolic Constitution on Indulgences, Indulgentiarum Doctrina, promulgated by Pope Paul VI, in 1967, notes: if one of the faithful in danger of death is unable to have a priest administer the sacraments and impart the Apostolic Blessing, “the Church, like a devoted mother, graciously grants such a person who is properly disposed a plenary indulgence to be gained at the hour of death.”

The one condition is the practice of praying for this all during life. Use of a crucifix or cross is recommended for the gaining of this indulgence.” The one condition necessary in such a situation, then, is that the dying person should have desired this indulgence — and prayed for it! No doubt, this can be accomplished in many ways, (i.e., Nine First Friday Devotions, Five First Saturday devotions).

It’s important to know about the Apostolic Pardon so you can request it for yourself and others, or a loved one.

Leaflet Missal Company in St. Paul, Minnesota, offers the Apostolic Pardon Prayer Card available to purchase. (1- 800-328-9582)

I carry a few with me. A friend who died passed these cards out at her wake!

GREGORIAN MASSES

I didn’t stop there for my dear Aunt. I arranged Gregorian Masses for her soul through the Pious Union of St. Joseph.

Gregorian Masses are a series of Holy Masses celebrated on thirty consecutive days for one deceased soul. A departed monk appeared to St. Gregory and declared that he had been delivered from purgatory upon the completion of thirty Masses.

(However, the church does not officially confirm this but points to the efficacy of the Masses!) Sacred Congregation of Indulgences has declared the tradition to be “a pious and reasonable belief of the faithful.” Put them in your Wills!

HOW DOES ONE PREPARE FOR ETERNAL LIFE?

Was my aunt prepared to die? Was she in the state of grace? I would hope so. Are you prepared? Over a million souls died of Covid. How many died unprepared?

We must be prepared at all times. We need to pray on a regular basis so we are prepared for eternal life. It begins with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We should not wait until the last hour to seek reconciliation with God and our neighbor.

The best way to prepare our soul for eternal life is a constant attitude of forgiveness in our heart and actions. We are called to exercise patience in adversity, assistance to those who are afflicted, love of neighbor and a sincere devotion to Our Lord and His mother — all in the spirit of unceasing prayer, and humility which draws down grace upon us.

PRAY FOR THE DYING

One reason prayers for the dying has faded is because society does not think about death. The saints and Christians prayed for special grace and strength at the hour of death. There are many different prayers that can invoke blessings for the sick and dying and to offer for our own souls now and at the hour of our death. Prayers, Promises and Devotions for the Holy Souls is a great resource for the sick suffering and dying. It’s also a source of catechetical teaching to young members of the Church who should become familiar with the prayers and devotions.

Pray for the sick, suffering and dying. Recite the Pious Union Prayer for the Dying.

They become the holy souls! Mercy on them will bring us also the crowning mercy of a holy death. Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen said, “As we enter heaven, we will see them, so many of them, coming towards us and thanking us. We will ask who they are and they will say: ‘A poor soul you prayed for in purgatory.’”

Susan Tassone is the author of 14 best-selling, award-winning books including Prayers, Promises and Devotions for the Holy Souls, Day by Day for the Holy Souls, Jesus Speaks to Faustina and You and Praying with the Saints for the Holy Souls. EWTN declared Susan is the all-time best-selling author in the history of the network.

An Open Book #open book August 2022

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

Tangled Violets by Denise-Marie Martin

Synopsis: Denise-Marie Martin’s debut novel exposes the greatest longings of the human heart: to belong and be loved. Tangled Violets is the riveting story of an adoptee’s search to find out who she is. Advanced degrees, professional success, and a string of failed marriages have done nothing to fill the void that has defined Lizzie Schmidt’s life. Armed with mostly false information, she embarks on an improbable journey of self-discovery, searching for her biological family before the days of the internet or consumer genetic testing made such reunions commonplace.

Tangled Violets is the shocking story of how far one woman is willing to go in search of love and acceptance—a journey that leads to joy, pain, lies, and absolute heartbreak. A tale of redemption and the healing power of forgiveness, this novel demonstrates that no matter what we have done or where we have been, no one is outside the mercy of God and the healing balm of his unconditional love.

My review: I was privileged to read an ARC of Tangled Violets (which is scheduled for publication on September 8, 2022.) Denise-Marie Martin’s debut novel is beautifully written, and I could not put the book down. It’s told from the point of view of an adopted child who grows up with many questions. As an adult, when she reaches out to find her birth parents, the story takes an unexpected but disturbing turn. The characters are so real that I felt I was in the story with them. The writing is beautiful and rich in imagery, and the story is compelling. I highly recommend this incredible book! 5/5.

Fantacy Daughter of Fate Part 1 by Vanessa Marie Caron

Synopsis: “Bravery is not the absence of fear, but the ability to move forward despite that fear.”

Sixteen-year-old Arianna is at a crisis with her identity. Frustrated, she searches for answers to her past, but instead, she finds herself teleported to a whole other fantasy world, a world suffering under the tyrannical rule of the Shadow Lord, Keshieena.

Unintentionally branded as the powerful Stone Bearer, the protector of peace, and also the Fated One prophesied to restore the lost heir to the throne, Arianna embarks on a dangerous journey against all manner of evil. At first homesick and hesitant, Arianna doubts herself and her newfound abilities, but she is not alone. Under the protection and tutelage of her elusive yet handsome male companion, Arianna tests the limits of her powers, uncovering potential she’d never dreamed of.

Together, they pursue a series of archived texts that lead them closer to finding the rightful heir to Fantacy’s throne. However, with the Stone of Power in her possession, Arianna becomes the Shadow Lord’s personal target. The stakes rise further as Arianna develops an attachment to the suffering peoples of Fantacy. Although Arianna might not have found the answers to her past, her future has become clear: find the heir, protect the Stone and bring back peace.

Friendship, love, action and adventure…

Part One in the Fantacy Duology, “Fantacy: Daughter of Fate,” is geared towards young adults and teenagers who have a nostalgic fondness for the brightness of, “Narnia,” fused with the romance and intrigue of more contemporary works such as, “Throne of Glass,” and, “Eragon.”

My review: I enjoyed this fantasy novel and the beautiful world the author created. There was some telling (to be expected in a debut novel) but the unique imagery and setting made up for that. The story kept me turning the pages. It does include some violence so I’d recommend it for teens and older. 4/5.

#NFP Awareness Week #nfpawareness

This week is NFP Awareness Week.

Natural Family Planning, Supporting God’s gifts of love and life in marriage.

Check out these articles I wrote about NFP!

Rebuilding a Culture of Life 

NFP and Resolutions for the New Year

Humanae Vitae and the Benefits of NFP

Responsible Parenthood and NFP

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach. Please do not use without permission
Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach.
Please do not use without permission
Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach.
Please do not use without permission
Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach.
Please do not use without permission

Congratulations to FQP authors @amandalauer @ellengable @CM_Association #bookawards

Three FQP Authors have won in several categories of the 2022 Catholic Media Book Awards:

Ellen Gable, Where Angels Pass, FIRST PLACE, Catholic Educational Novels.

Amanda Lauer, A Freedom Such as Heaven Intended, FIRST PLACE, Catholic Inspirational Novels.

Alan Van’t Land, Eternal Light of the Crypts, Third Place, Catholic Educational Novels.

Ellen Gable’s Where Angels Pass also won Honorable Mention, Best Book by a Small Publisher.

Congratulations to all the authors, publishing companies, and websites whose authors have won awards.

Check out the complete list of the winners at the 2022 Catholic Media Book Awards.

Open Book – July 2022 #openbook

I’m joining Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading and working on this past month.

Amazon Synopsis: What if in one possible future that the burial cloth of Jesus Christ is proven to be authentic? That the technology of the given time can identify the creation of something so extraordinary that it goes way beyond scientific understanding? And what if someone was to tell you that it could happen in this lifetime? Well, there is such a possibility. And based on scientific facts with biblical understanding is a story describing such an event as it unfolds.

In the near future, an Earthquake erupts out in the West Bank desert, creating an eerie blue glow that forms over a valley they call The Corridor. Looked upon as a scientific phenomenon, science and religion have a need to investigate. And during their research, experience anomalies that go way beyond human understanding and are soon recognized as spiritual occurrences. Further up north in Europe is the Particle Collider and its discovery of another dimensional plane. It’s there that they make the most significant find of them all when testing for the Shroud’s authenticity. In effect, its repercussions have a global impact that alters the course of humanity.

A degree-holder in Science and the author of this book, Scott Simpson, has spent much of his time researching the Shroud of Turin and the fantastic world of subatomic particles. He’s also well versed in history and the political fields that go with it. But what caught his eye the most was the Shroud’s carbon testing and the dating flaw behind it. It was recently discovered that the material used was a repair job back in the 14th century, which piqued Simpson’s curiosity. And while stumbling upon some interesting facts about the Messiah’s return, it gave him a renewed sense of connection with his maker.

My review: Coming soon!

Back From the Abyss by Robert Margetts

Amazon Synopsis: Three tragic events happened during my lifetime. First there was the treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1941, when I was eleven years old. This was followed by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki when I was fifteen. The third event was the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon when I was 71. These three events are part of my history, as they are for many of you, and are very much the motivation for writing this book and what led me to stand in conscience against the use of weapons of mass destruction while still a member of the USAF. God changed my heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Our hearts have been hardened and wounded by these tragic events and by the painful events of our own personal lives. We desperately need to face the nuclear age with the heart of God, not with our own thinking but with God’s. Only then can we experience an age of peace upon the earth.

My review: This is an eye-opening memoir from a retired serviceman who has information and experience regarding the atomic bombs and the spiritual morality/immorality of using them. Highly recommend.

The Cross and the Beatitudes by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

Amazon synopsis: This classic work from the pen of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen brings together Christ’s Sermon on the Mount with his Seven Last Words. From the Mount of the Beatitudes to the Hill of Calvary, Our Lord’s public ministry and statements centered on the themes of love and forgiveness, which are explored here with Archbishop Sheen’s characteristic insight and passion.

My review: This is an absolutely beautifully written book (like most of Sheen’s books) that brings together Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount with Christ’s last words on the cross. Highly recommend.

Treasures Visible & Invisible by Catholic Teen Books authors

Amazon Synopsis: Treasures: Visible and Invisible is a collection of short stories by eight CatholicTeenBooks.com authors.

  • A teen boy sets out to save a friend from pagan druids, but maybe he’s the one who needs saving.
  • Between an unearthed treasure and a visit from Heaven, a young monk is in for the surprise of his life!
  • A young girl seeks a mysterious treasure that holds the key to granting a nun’s dying wish.
  • Honora is desperate—then a peculiar clover and a mysterious young man change everything.
  • William’s weekend job is a little gift from heaven, but now his family needs a real miracle.
  • When threatened by mobsters, Grace receives help from a surprising source.
  • Alone and afraid, a young girl finds friendship in a stranger. But could this boy be trouble?
  • Kyle was determined to save the precious relic–but now his whole family is in danger.

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of short stories that center around St. Patrick’s life and legend. An ideal book to read around St. Patrick’s feast day or any time of the year. Recommend (and not just for teens).

In the Shadows of Freedom by C and C Spellman

Amazon Synopsis: It’s one person’s war for freedom in a world with no laws.
The United States is finally a meritocracy, where the best and most capable rise to the top. Existing laws and regulations continue to be repealed, and freedom is the mantra of the people.
Amanda Burrow, a talented painter, moves to New York City to attend an elite art academy. Once there, she falls for self-assured Ethan Ramsey, a staunch member of the National Citizens Party: the nation’s ruling faction. The NCP seeks to banish anything-or anyone-that might jeopardize an individual’s autonomy.
Amanda’s habitually dull and depressed world is turned upside down by her newfound relationship with Ethan. Yet as the NCP heightens its persecution of those who oppose its agenda, will Amanda find true freedom in a new and increasingly merciless society?

My review: Dystopian novels are generally not my preferred book to read, but this was well done with great characters. Recommend.

Rescued! True Stories for Catholic Kids by Kathryn Griffin Swegart

Amazon Synopsis: Ready to read exciting true stories? From first-century Jerusalem to 20th-century Maine, young readers are sure to be inspired by tales of courage and miraculous rescues. Ten stories packed with action. Stories include the angelic rescue of St. Peter from certain death, the escape of St. Patrick from slavery, and the amazing Nellie Cashman who rescued an entire village trapped by avalanches. Illustrated. From ages 7 and up.

My review: This is a beautiful book for kids that illustrates tales of courage and miraculous rescues. Highly recommend!

Miracle at the Mission VBT and Author Interview

Today I’m participating in Joseph Lewis’s Miracle of the Mission Virtual Blog Tour.

Amazon Synopsis:

Book 2 of the Westthorpe Academy Mysteries is here! After recovering from their daring exploits in the exciting first book of the series, The Ghosts of Westthorpe Academy, best friends Joe Pryce and Pete Figueroa return for another thrilling, action-adventure in Miracle at the Mission.

During a summer trip to California, Joe and Pete visit Mission San Antonio de Padua where they meet an old Franciscan monk who warns them of the dangers they will soon face. The boys are drawn into a series of events filled with suspense, mystery, espionage, a high-speed car chase, and an assassination attempt by Russian operatives on the President of the United States.

Caught up in the pursuit of the assassins, the boys discover they have become suspects in the investigation. They must prove their innocence while also counting on the guidance of the old padre, who happens to bear a strange resemblance to Saint Junipero Serra himself.

With the world teetering on the brink of an international crisis, the story reaches its climax at another mission—Mission San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel—where the boys and a large gathering of people witness an incredible miracle that changes their lives forever.

Author Joseph Lewis

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

  1. Miracle at the Mission is your second book in a series called the Westthorpe Academy Mysteries. How did the idea for the series originate?

Miracle at the Mission is a sequel to my first book, The Ghosts of Westthorpe Academy. The idea for the series began while I was teaching at an all-boys Catholic prep high school in the western suburbs of Philadelphia. On the campus is a charming old mansion that was the original building of the school. Over the years, rumors abounded of how a ghost haunted the mansion and that a stash of old money was hidden somewhere within it.

After hearing of such stories over the years, I finally convinced myself that a story needed to be written. One summer, I put pen to paper and completed my first book, The Ghosts of Westthorpe Academy, published in 2018. I borrowed the name Westthorpe from the original name of the property that surrounds the school––Westthorpe Farm­­­.

  • Miracle at the Mission provides a completely different setting from the first book and brings the series to the Spanish missions of California. What was the inspiration behind doing this?

Not long after the first book came out, several people began asking when the next one would be coming out. I was throwing some ideas together when my wife and I traveled to California to visit my son who is in the Marine Corps. During the trip, we toured some of the missions founded by St. Junipero Serra where I was immediately struck by the beauty, the holiness, and the history of these extraordinary places. It wasn’t long before I began piecing together a story of how the same two friends from the first story, Joe and Pete, take a summer trip of their own to California where they visit Pete’s older brother Luke who is a Marine and explore some of the missions themselves.

So, in borrowing from my own travel experience, I was able to formulate the basis of a story that would ultimately become Miracle at the Mission. The trip also gave me the opportunity to visualize many of the places I write about in the book which helps provide vivid descriptions and setting details that I hope will enhance the reader’s enjoyment of the story. 

  • Your interest in St. Junipero Serra goes beyond just a curious fascination. Explain how and why Father Serra plays such an important part in the story. 

Many may remember that Junipero Serra was canonized a saint of the Church here in the United States in September of 2015. The canonization took place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. and was overseen by Pope Francis himself who was visiting the United States at the time. Serra is the only saint to be canonized on American soil.

Unfortunately, not all the news surrounding this momentous event was positive. Many took the occasion to criticize Serra and to blame him for the abuses perpetrated upon Native Americans many years ago, particularly in California. Some people resorted to defacing or toppling his statues and doing damage to some of the missions.

As a history teacher, and having studied something about Father Serra’s life, I knew that much of the criticism directed towards him was inaccurate, misguided, and unfair. My book provides an opportunity to correct some of that and convey truths of who he really was––a man who worked tirelessly for social justice and truly loved the people he served. 

  • What do you anticipate the reader taking away from Miracle at the Mission?

Though the book is an exciting read, filled with mystery, adventure, intrigue and suspense, it is, above anything else, a story about faith, friendship, selflessness, and doing the right thing. It is a story that inspires hope that various peoples, cultures, and countries can join together in goodwill.

It is a reminder to us that although we live in a world filled with danger, uncertainty, and confusion, we can make a difference if we hold fast to those things that matter most: faith, hope, and love. And we needn’t look any further for help in this effort than the communion of saints who are there, interceding for us. And there is no finer example than the saintly Franciscan, Junipero Serra, who gave of himself totally in the service of his fellow man.

May his example inspire a more fervent faith and devotion, as well as a greater appreciation for the extraordinary work of the California missions and the Franciscan friars who founded them.

BUY LINKS

Amazon.com: Miracle at the Mission: 9781649495662: Lewis, Joseph: Books

Miracle at the Mission – Kindle edition by Lewis, Joseph. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Miracle at the Mission by Joseph Lewis, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

BLOG TOUR STOPS

EXCERPT

The padre turned and looked at Joe. The hood of his habit had opened wider, revealing more of his face. In the dim light, his eyes looked dark, his complexion a somewhat lighter olive-brown. His thinning gray hair was cut in the traditional tonsure style, something more common among religious orders in the past but not as much today. He wore a large crucifix that hung underneath his hood and rested over the top front of his habit.

As Joe prepared to leave, he suddenly stopped, though he wasn’t sure why. Something of what he had experienced earlier that day in the chapel seemed to compel him to want to listen to what the old padre had to say. Joe slid closer across the pew, stopping just a few feet from him in the pew.

“I am confident you will find your friend safe,” the priest said in a reassuring voice. “From what I gather, the three of you are here for an extraordinary week. So much of what is going on in the world today has found its way near to this very place. Important leaders will be meeting, and the eyes of the world will be watching. It is no coincidence that, at this time in history, they have come here, where so many peoples and cultures met not very long ago and welcomed the missionaries who brought the message of the Gospel. It was, and continues to be, a message of the love of neighbor, of joy and forgiveness, of thanksgiving for one another, and peace among all nations.”

Joe sat mesmerized. Though the padre referred to present-day events, his eloquent words and profound meaning made him seem like someone from another time, another world.

“But there are forces in the world that oppose these cherished things. Principalities who are enemies of God and of mankind, who choose the darkness; some who are visible and made of flesh and blood, others who are spirit and lurk in the shadows.” He paused as he looped the rosary beads he had been holding in his hand through the cincture around the waste of his habit. “My son, the world’s current dangers are real and require the courage and effort of a select few whose work can make the difference between conflict and resolution, division and harmony, hostility and goodwill for all peoples. The events of this week are crucial to determining the direction the world may be inclined to go. We must pray for God’s divine providence, that those who lead us may choose the path of peace. Look for the signs of God’s guiding hand in answer to those prayers. I also want to implore you and your friends to be vigilant this week, as you will be close to many of these things. The world can be a dangerous place, and sometimes people find themselves in circumstances they could hardly have anticipated.”

“I very much appreciate your concern, Father.” Joe politely accepted the padre’s advice, although he didn’t quite understand why he felt the need to offer it. But this wasn’t what Joe had come here searching for. He still didn’t know for certain if Pete was all right. Joe stood up. “I better get back and make sure my friend is okay.”

Sí te entiendo.” The padre grabbed hold of the back of the pew and pulled himself up. As he did, he shifted as if to favor one leg. He had a thin frame and couldn’t have been more than an inch or two over five feet. His worn sandals looked as though they had traveled many miles.

“Please don’t get up on my account,” Joe said.

“I wish to extend to you my priestly blessing, my son.” With some effort, he shifted his legs again and moved a little closer to Joe. “I am extremely glad you and your friends can spend some time with us in this beautiful place. You know, the mission is in great need of support to help maintain it, not only to preserve the legacy of the missions but for the work they continue to do. This mission is an active parish and serves many people and families, some of whom are descendants of the native people who first lived here many years ago. Please keep the missions, and the people they serve, always in your prayers, won’t you?”

“I will, Father.” Joe turned to leave but turned back again. “I sure hope we have a chance to talk again. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation.”

 “So have I, my friend, so have I. God willing, we will have a chance to meet again. In the meantime, go in peace.”

The padre raised his right hand and extended it toward Joe, who bowed his head. “Heavenly Father, I ask you to bless this fine young man and his companions in all their endeavors. May their work bear much fruit in the service of your kingdom. I ask that you protect them and keep them safe from harm in the name of Christ, Our Lord and Savior, Amen. May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost descend upon you and remain with you forever. Amen. Amar a Dios, mi hijo. Love God, my son … and may He make a saint of you!”

“Thank you, Father.” Joe slid back across the pew, then genuflected before the tabernacle. He pivoted and glanced back at the old padre, but he wasn’t there!

Joe looked around the church. “Father?” There was no sign of him. Where could he have gone—and so quickly? … He seemed to mysteriously vanish into thin air.

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Synopsis: Through grit and grace, Carolyn Fandel survives being raped by someone she knows and trusts. She will not accept defeat—even when confronted by her rapist a second time. Instead, she uses her tragedy to help hundreds of others, some of whom she will never meet. Set in the era of the Vietnam War and the new feminism, this book will have you crying and cheering for Carolyn as she navigates the challenges of life after sexual assault.

Reviews:

Mary Jo Thayer has written an uplifting tale, dealing sensitively at each step with the challenges and trials faced by women raising their children alone. Mary Jo’s deep faith is obvious, shining through her main character, Carolyn Fandel. Carolyn’s resignation to the situation she finds herself in, along with the decisions she makes in the wake of her trauma, would certainly provide encouragement to any Catholic woman in any state of life, and indeed to anyone who picks up the book to read it.  Veronica Smallhorn, author, A Channel of Your Peace

Close to the Soul is a beautifully written novel that weaves the story of redemption through every character on every page.  Edith Schafer once wrote that our lives are a tapestry, we are looking at the backside which is often messy and confusing, but God sees the beautiful work of art, each thread precisely woven together.  I have spent my life grappling with the questions this novel boldly addresses. Pam Stenzel, M.A. Enlighten Communications

This is a moving and powerful story set in the 1950’s. Life was different, and society was very different. But the story is of great value for readers today. I mentioned at the beginning that the book landed on my desk at a critical time. I had just found out I have a 25-year-old daughter I did not know about. Reading this, I could not help but think about this daughter and her mother. This is an amazing read. And an incredible debut novel. Christian fiction at its best. Excellent Catholic literatureSteven McEvoy, Book Reviews and More