Donkey Bells by Catherine Doherty

Donkey Bells
One of my favorite Advent books and one that I read every year at this time is a book by Catherine Doherty called “Donkey Bells,” published by Madonna House Publications. I love to read this inspiring book curled up in a comfortable chair by the wood stove, a hot chocolate or apple cider beside me, Advent and Christmas music playing quietly in the background. This lovely book is filled with heartwarming stories, customs and traditions (such as the Advent wreath, baking, the blessing of the Christmas tree) and moving reflections for the season. It is a beautiful way for children, teens and adults to prepare their hearts for Christmas.

I love this story from Donkey Bells: Advent and Christmas by Catherine Doherty
(Available as a paperback and e-book)

Donkey Bells (by Catherine Doherty)

It came to me, during these days of Advent, that I should share with you a custom which is not necessarily liturgical but which adds to the enjoyment of this lovely season. It has deep spiritual connotations; at least it did for our family, and for many others I knew when I was a young child.

When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me that if I was good during this holy season of Advent, and offered my little acts of charity and obedience throughout Advent to the little Christ Child for a gift on his birthday, then sometime during Advent, at first very faintly and then quite clearly, I would hear bells. As she put it, the first church bells.

These were the bells around the neck of the little donkey that carried Our Lady. For mother explained that Our Lady carried Our Lord. She was the temple of the Holy Spirit, the first ‘church’ as it were, since Christ reposed in her. And the donkey, carrying Our Lady and sounding his bells as he walked, wore the first church bells.

Around the second week of Advent, mother wore a little bracelet that had tinkling bells. As she moved her hand I could hear them tinkle, and I got excited because I associated them with the donkey’s bells.

As young as I was, my imagination would build up a lot of little stories about the trip of Our Lady from Nazareth to Bethlehem — stories which I would share with my mother, and which would spur me on to further good deeds and little sacrifices.

During the third week of Advent, mother’s bracelet miraculously got many more bells on it. The sound grew louder and louder as Christmas approached. It was wonderful.

My brother and I used to listen. Mother’s bells were first around her wrist and then around her knee too. Then more bells, as it got closer to Christmas. We were really excited about them.

I introduced this little custom in Madonna House. During Advent, I wear a kind of bracelet that can be heard as I walk or move, in whatever room of the house I may be. The members of our family tell me that it spurs them on, even as it did me when I was a child, to meditate more profoundly on the mystery of Advent.

Here at Madonna House, we have begun in these last few years to make a collection of miniature donkeys — of wood, glass, ceramics, rope — you name it. And we have an album of Christmas cards (which we save from the many we receive) that depict the donkey in the manger scene.

The presence of the donkey and the ox in Scripture is symbolic of the prophets who foretold the Incarnation. And also of the fact that “the ox and ass know their Master’s voice, but Israel doesn’t know the voice of God” (Isaiah 1:3). So, you see, there is some spiritual foundation for my love for the donkey which brings such great joy to my heart.

I’m sure that, as a child, Christ rode on a donkey many times. And also as a man, of course. In Scripture we know of only two times: one was when the donkey carried Our Lady, who in turn carried God, from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The other was when the donkey carried Christ into Jerusalem as the people laid palm branches before Him, proclaiming him king.

Let us think for a moment: What kind of animal is a donkey? It is a beast of burden, the animal of the poor. Once again, the immense theme of poverty is illustrated in an animal. God chose the humblest, the smallest in status, because among the animals the donkey is considered very low. So God is teaching us a lesson here — a lesson of humility, of poverty, and of simplicity.

Have you ever seen a newborn donkey? Well, every donkey has a black cross on its gray fur, a marking which is especially noticeable just after it is born from its mother’s womb. It gets less clear as the donkey matures, but still is visible. I share this fact with you to teach you to open your heart to the bells of the donkey that carried Our Lady and also God.

The breath of the donkey and the ox made the stable warm. So we meditate on several things at once: the poverty and humility of the donkey God chose, and which should be our poverty and humility; and the breath of our love, which should warm God in our neighbor constantly.

Let us remember that the donkey also had no room at the inn. Neither woman, nor man, nor donkey had a place at the inn. So they went to live in a poor stable that wasn’t too well prepared for animals, let alone as a decent habitation for human beings.

Now, another meditation comes to us. Think of the millions of people who are left homeless on our streets. Tragic is this situation. We, as apostles, must be very careful that we do not exclude anyone from the inn of our heart.

I pray that our heart, our soul, our ears will hear very clearly ‘the bells of the donkey,’ not only in Advent but throughout the year. For whoever who is pure of heart and childlike shall hear the bells of the donkey ring in their life.

(Creative Commons Licence Pass It On by Madonna House Publications is free to re-publish under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.)

If you have a favorite Christmas or Advent story, please feel free to share!

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Advent, Faith, Trust and NFP

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

My latest at Catholic Mom.

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

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

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

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

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

So what does this all have to do with Advent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Couple to Couple League

Billings Ovulation Method

Creighton Method

Copyright 2018 Ellen Gable Hrkach

New Reviews for Charlotte’s Honor

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Many thanks to all the bloggers that posted about my new book during the past three weeks! For the complete list of the VBT, click here.

Here are three new reviews:

“I am unabashedly an Ellen Gable fan! I love that her stories are authentically Catholic without any preachiness at all. Since the books in the Great War Great Love series are what the author calls “Clean Romances” I can pass her books down to my daughters  and know that they will identify with her characters, while being inspired by the selfless nature and true hearts of her heroines. In a current culture of questionable values, Ellen reminds her readers that goodness, mercy and true love are timeless and attainable virtues.”  Mary Lou Rosien, author, blogger, Dynamic Women of Faith

“Her latest book specifically conjures up for our jaded minds the concept of honor. Honor stands as a contradiction to the utilitarian society which we inhabit, a society in which everything must have a tangible and immediate purpose, without causing the least inconvenience. When human life itself causes inconvenience, it is eliminated. Charlotte’s Honor, on the contrary, depicts a heroine who is willing to risk her life to bring comfort to those who no longer have a visible purpose, namely the dying. Ellen’s “Great War~Great Love” series illustrates on several levels how God is present  even in the darkest times of human history. Amid enormous pain and suffering there is always a chance for mercy and redemption and often human love acts as the channel for God’s plan. Charlotte finds deep and lasting love where she had not thought to find it; it is through her imperfections that she finds that love. God can bring good out of the worst disasters as well as out of our failings. Not only did the novel remind me of those truths but it also brought home once again the price paid by our veterans. War is hell, yes. It brings out the worst in people and in societies. Yet even war can be turned to serve God’s purpose, as a testing ground for honor which many heroes and heroines uphold even in the “bleakest of times.”  E.M. Vidal, Tea at Trianon

“Ellen Gable has delivered another impressive YA novel in “Charlotte’s Honor.” I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read in just a few sittings. “Julia’s Gifts” together with this newest novel in the Great War Great Love Series would make a super gift for any pre-teen or teen girl. I love the gentle but powerful lessons about true love (that it involves sacrifice—always) and found the characters realistic and engaging. I look forward to her next release in the series.” Meggie Daly, author

 

Roland West, Outcast VBT

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

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

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

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

Connect with Theresa Linden:

​website: www.theresalinden.com

​blog: Things Visible & Invisible

Facebook author page

​Twitter: @LindenTheresa

Buy links

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

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

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Charlotte’s Honor VBT – Remembrance Day – Veterans Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remembrance Day/Veterans Day

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

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

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

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

Lest We Forget…

An Open Book – November 2018 #openbook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foreven Thirteen

Forever Thirteen: A Family Tragedy and a

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Praying

Praying With Mother Teresa by Susan Conroy

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

My review: On my To Read Shelf!

Gosnell

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

by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Saint Colette de Corbie by the Master of Lourinha, 1520

Today is the Feast of All Saints!

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

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

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

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

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