Peggy’s Car

This is me with my Aunt Peggy circa 1960, copyright Ellen Hrkach all rights reserved

This is me with my Aunt Peggy circa 1960, copyright Ellen Hrkach all rights reserved

The following story was written by Michelle Kreidler, a good friend of my Aunt Peggy’s.  Aunt Peggy (my father’s sister) has been gone since 2003, but her memories and her sharp sense of humor remain.

Peggy’s Car by Michelle Kreidler

The first time Peggy ever bought a car was 11 years ago. She had owned cars before, but she never had to actually buy one. Peggy was an independent woman with a job and her own money and she wanted to make a statement with her first car.  Red!  It was going to be red!  Make? Model? Engine? Who cares? As long as it was red.  So with her son, Chris, in tow, she made her way to the car dealerships.

She started at a Honda dealership.  She had only one question, “Does this car come in red?”

“I’m sorry, ma’am, it does not,” said the salesman.

Peggy moved on.

At the next dealership, she asked the same question.  She got the same answer and quickly moved on.

Peggy went from far lot to car lot looking for a red car. Each time she moved on, disappointed, yet determined.

Peggy finally arrived at a Nissan dealership. Sure enough, they had a car in red. In fact, she could have the car right there on the lot. Peggy signed the paperwork, took the car keys and moved on down the road.

Peggy drove that car with pride for years.

The last time she was able to drive the car was about four months ago. Peggy drove to get her hair and nails done. Then she moved on. She went to a restaurant and had a small meal. And then she moved on.  She got back in that shiny red car and drove it to St. Hilary Church.

It had been about thirty years since Peggy last went to church, and she was very nervous about coming back. She lit a candle and sat in the back. This time she did not move on. She sat there quietly and prayed. She went to confession with Father Yahner. She reconnected with the church that she had grown up in, that had shaped her life and that she had drifted away from.

Then Peggy moved on.

copyright 2003 Michelle Kreidler

Strengthen Your Lenten Journey Through Fasting

When you hear the word “fasting,” do you automatically cringe? Do you dread Ash Wednesday or Good Friday? Or do you embrace the self-denial of fasting on those days? If you’re like most people, you might not look forward to Ash Wednesday or Good Friday, the Church’s compulsory days of fasting. However, when you become accustomed to the regular practice of fasting throughout the year, these “compulsory” days are opportunities for abundant graces and spiritual growth.

Many people mistakenly believe that fasting belongs only in the Penitential Season of Lent. However, the regular self-denial of fasting is a positive and generous act that we can do all year round. After all, Jesus fasted — and He fasted before every major event in His life — and His apostles fasted. In Scripture, fasting is mentioned numerous times in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” Matthew 6:16-18

“But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it (demon) out?’ He replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.’” Mark 9:27-29

Peter said to Jesus, “You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68

Eternal life…isn’t that our goal? How do we get there? A virtuous life, one that is sacrificial, one that is obedient to God’s laws, this is the way to eternal life. Lent is an ideal time to embrace the practice of fasting. And not just on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday! Fasting can happen on every Wednesday and Friday throughout the year. The regular self-denial of fasting is definitely one of the ways to get to heaven and eternal life. Why?

Fasting opens our hearts to conversion, gives weight to our prayer intentions. Fasting strengthens us in resisting temptations, promotes peace in our hearts and peace with one another. Fasting teaches us the difference between wanting and needing. Fasting reminds us of the plight of the poor and those who are perpetually hungry. Fasting and prayer can free us from addictive behavior. Fasting invites the Holy Spirit in to heal our hearts, our relationship with God and our relationship with others. Fr. Slavko Barbaric said, “Fasting will lead us to a new freedom of heart and mind.”

St. Jean Vianney once said, “The devil is not greatly afraid of the discipline and other instruments of penance. That which beats him is the curtailment of one’s food, drink and sleep. There is nothing the devil fears more, consequently, nothing is more pleasing to God.”

There are so many great reasons to fast and Lent is an ideal time to begin this regular practice of self-denial. For the elderly and those who cannot fast from food, they can fast from TV, social networking, treats or coffee on Wednesday and Friday.

Lent is a time for change and sacrifice. If you can do penitential acts during Lent, you can do them all year round! To get started with fasting, please check out the graphic below. And always check with your physician before beginning any fasting routine.

For testimonies, prayers and more information about fasting, check out the Live the Fast website at www.livethefast.org or contact us at info@livethefast.org if you have any questions.

Live the Fast is a Roman Catholic Apostolate that is focused on bringing more awareness to the discipline of fasting by offering educational resources on prayer and fasting, a prayer community that will inspire one to live the fast and providing nutritious fasting breads. (Priests and religious receive fasting breads and resources free of charge.)

Fasting graphic by Darcie Nielsen

Fasting graphic by Darcie Nielsen

An Open Book – March 2017 #openbook

Open Book

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

 

midwife

A Midwife’s Tale by Delia Parr

From Amazon: Martha Cade comes from a long line of midwives who have served the families of Trinity, Pennsylvania, for generations. A widow with two grown children, she’s hopeful that her daughter will follow in her footsteps, but when Victoria runs off, Martha’s world is shattered.  Worse, a new doctor has arrived in town, threatening her job, and she can’t remember a time when her faith has been tested more. Still determined to do the work she knows God intended for her, Martha is unprepared for all that waits ahead. Whether it’s trying to stop a town scandal, mending broken relationships, or feeling the first whispers of an unexpected romance, she faces every trial and every opportunity with hope and faith.

My review: Forthcoming

canadian-soldier

The Lost Memoirs of a Canadian Soldier

From Amazon: This book is a compilation of letters and diary entries from Len Willans regarding his time in World War 1.

My review: I initially bought this for research for my WW1 novels.  It’s heart-wrenching and at the same time, fascinating to read this soldier’s diary from 100 years ago.

making-faces

Making Faces by Amy Harmon

From Amazon: Ambrose Young was beautiful. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have…until he wasn’t beautiful anymore. Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast, where we discover that there is a little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

My review: This was an entertaining read, although it had more sexual tension than I’m used to in a Christian novel.  Also, there were a fair number of typos. Overall a good read, though.

 

wedding-dress

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

From Amazon: Four brides. One Dress. A tale of faith, redemption, and timeless love.

Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique. Dressing brides for their big day is her gift . . . and her passion. But with her own wedding day approaching, why can’t she find the perfect dress…or feel certain she should marry Tim? Then Charlotte discovers a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale. It looks brand-new—shimmering with pearls and satin, hand-stitched and  timeless in its design. But where did it come from? Who wore it? Who welded the lock shut and tucked the dog tags in that little sachet? Who left it in the basement for a ten-year-old girl? And what about the mysterious man in the purple vest who insists the dress had been “redeemed.” Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history—and its new bride—begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with her own story of promise, pain, and destiny. And each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the timeless beauty of finding true love.

My review: I enjoyed this book very much. It was pure entertainment, not too deep, somewhat predictable.

marriage

Marriage: A Fountain of Grace by Rosalie McPhee and Catherine Doherty

From Amazon: Love, love, love: never counting the cost. The timeless wisdom of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, and Catherine Doherty, foundress of Madonna House, is featured prominently in this new series of books. The theme of Catherine’s Little Mandate–a beautiful distillation of the Gospel of Jesus–weaves throughout and serves as an important foundation. Each book also gives an abundance of brief and profound quotations from Holy Scripture, and quotations from some of the great Catholic saints. These books are small enough to carry anywhere–and their wisdom is arranged in bite-size segments that you can read on the run, whenever you can spare time.

My review:  This is one of my favorite little books and I even have a personally autographed copy by Rosie McPhee Douthwright!  This is a perfect gift for a wedding shower, but it’s also an excellent book to give to engaged couples.  Highly recommend.

Ash Wednesday #ashtag

ash wednesdayToday begins the Holy Season of Lent! This is a joyful season, a positive time for new life to appear, bad habits to disappear, a time of preparing with our minds and hearts renewed.

Pope Francis in this year’s Lenten message, “The Word is a Gift, Other Persons Are Gifts,” writes, “Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God “with all their hearts” (Joel 2:12), to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord. Jesus is the faithful friend who never abandons us. Even when we sin, he patiently awaits our return; by that patient expectation, he shows us his readiness to forgive (cf. Homily, 8 January 2016).”  He also references the parable of Lazarus and the rich man and that, “Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift.”

In Pope Benedict XVI’s papal Lenten message (2009), he wrote: “The Sacred Scriptures and the entire Christian tradition teach that fasting is a great help to avoid sin and all that leads to it. For this reason, the history of salvation is replete with occasions that invite fasting.”

The self-denial of fasting helps us to appreciate and embrace what Lent is all about: a time to return to the Lord with our whole hearts, a time of penance to prepare our hearts for the Risen Lord.  Since we have already been fasting throughout the year on Wednesdays and Fridays, what can we do to make Lent even more penitential? What can we do to “step it up a notch?” What other practices can we take part in over the next six weeks to prepare our hearts and souls for the Risen Lord?

Daily Mass, Adoration, reading/reflecting on Scripture, reciting the Rosary, the Seven Sorrows Chaplet, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Stations of the Cross, and almsgiving are all excellent ways to journey with Christ through Lent.  In keeping with the Holy Father’s Lenten message that “other persons are a gift,” we could also visit the elderly, sick and imprisoned.  The gift of our time during this penitential season is something that can be priceless to those who are lonely and shut-in.

As we begin Lent in earnest, let us pray that the self-denial of fasting will help to prepare our hearts for the Risen Lord. Let us joyfully attend Mass as often as we can, read Scripture, recite the Rosary and other chaplets as well as visit the elderly and sick.

As Pope Francis says, “…refuse to settle for mediocrity.”

Building a Long-Term, Successful Joy-Filled Marriage

Photo courtesy B & K Hrkach, Photography by Tim Baklinski

Photo courtesy B & K Hrkach, Photography by Tim Baklinski

My recent article at Catholic Mom:

Recently, when we were at a restaurant celebrating Valentine’s Day, we asked our waitress to guess how long we’ve been married. She guessed 20 years. I responded, “35 years.”

“Wow! How is that possible in this day and age? And you guys look so happy. Well, good for you.”

 She didn’t wait to hear our answer for how it was possible, but as I reflected on the reasons, it became clear that the most of the long-term successful and happy marriages we know about have the following practices in common:
  1. Pray Together and Attend Mass Together

Marital prayer is an ideal way to keep a couple emotionally, spiritually and physically close. We also try to say a daily Rosary together for our children (one decade for each son.)

The conjugal embrace is itself a prayer. With their bodies, husband and wife renew their wedding vows. Becoming one with our beloved spouse is the ultimate spiritual, physical and emotional experience. We become one flesh…so much so that sometimes, nine months later, we must give the representation of that oneness a name.

  1. Use NFP (and throw away the contraception)

No, I’m not saying that couples should have as many children as possible. But what I am saying is that for the marital embrace to be honest and life-giving and joy-filled, it must be free, total, faithful and fruitful. Natural Family Planning allows a couple to love each other as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully. NFP couples chart the wife’s fertility signs and, if avoiding pregnancy, abstain in the fertile time. They are not using devices; they are giving themselves fully and they are open to children with each and every act of marital relations.

See my previous post on the Theology of the Body in a Nutshell.

For more information on NFP, check out my previous post on NFP.

  1. Treat Each Other With Respect and Kindness, Communication

I know a few couples who fight constantly. These same couples brag that they have a great sex life. Well, they may have a lot of “good feelings” but when a couple is not getting along in their day-to-day life, sex, even ‘good’ sex, is not going to fix that. What about the husband who treats his wife in a condescending, critical manner, then expects her to be ready and willing to engage in the marital embrace . . . or a wife who constantly nags her husband, then wants him to be affectionate to her? Communicate deeply with one another; treat each other with kindness, respect and love.

  1. No Pornography

Some secular marriage counselors recommend that a couple use porn to “spice up their sex life.” Instead of “enhancing” a marital sex life, viewing sexually explicit videos has the potential of destroying a marriage. St. John Paul II said: “. . . the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.” Porn trains people to be selfish about their sexuality, not selfless. It teaches them to think about sex as something they take, not something they give. Any behavior that causes a person to be self-centered or selfish is never good for marriage. And . . . pornography can be highly addictive. Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of PA’s Center for Cognitive Therapy, called porn the “most concerning thing to psychological health that I know of existing today. . . . pornography addicts have a more difficult time recovering from their addiction than cocaine addicts, since coke users can get the drug out of their system, but pornographic images stay in the brain forever.”

  1. Date Night and Romantic Dinners (And Have Fun Together!)

I enjoy romantic, candlelit dinners with my husband. Getting out and enjoying each other’s presence is a wonderful way to relax and enjoy time together. We’ve always tried to have a date night even (and especially) when the kids were small. When we were younger and had limited finances, sometimes our date night would occur in our own kitchen or at a park for a picnic. We often played board games together. And I have always enjoyed my husband’s strange sense of humor (he still makes me laugh!)

Why candlelit dinners? Candlelight represents sacrificial love (a light burns brightly while destroying the candle). Some Renaissance painters used to put a single candlelight into paintings to symbolize Christ’s presence.

  1. Focus on Your Spouse/Sacrificial Love

“Intense love does not measure; it just gives.” This quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta is an ideal quote for marriage. Marriage isn’t all about “me.” It’s about “us.” Marriage is all about sacrificial love. What are your spouse’s needs? Think of his/her needs in all facets of your relationship. One thought I try to have when I wake up every morning is “What can I do to make my husband’s life easier today?” If he’s thinking the same thing, one can only imagine how much easier life will be for both spouses. Also, notes in your husband’s lunch, special messages left on his workbench or on her desk, daily texts are all ways to intimately connect during the day and let your spouse know you are thinking of him/her. The important thing is to focus on the other in all things.

  1.  The Importance of Marital Intimacy

Marital intimacy can seem impossible when a couple’s children are small. A couple must be willing to “think outside the box.” Attachment parenting and the family bed can usually be challenging. Consider another location for marital intimacy. Mom too tired? Perhaps Dad can take the kids out to the park while Mom gets a well-deserved rest after dinner. Dad too stressed? Mom can have a hot relaxing bath waiting for Dad when he arrives home. Even when the couple gets older and children are teens are adults, it can still be a challenge to find time for marital intimacy. The spontaneity of early marriage eventually gives way to planning for intimacy.

  1. Always Try to Give 100%

A joy-filled marriage is not 50-50. As Christian spouses, both should try to be reaching for 100%. When we were dating, my husband asked me, “Ellie, how hard do you try to be perfect? In other words, what percentage are you aiming for?”

I thought about it for a moment and said, “Oh, I guess I’m shooting for 80%. After all, no one’s perfect.”

His response surprised me: “Ellie, if you’re only trying for 80%, do you think you’ll ever get there? You may only reach 60%. But if you try for 100%, you may get to 80%.” After a while, it made sense to me. Neither of us are perfect, but we are trying our best.

Do you want to have a long-term, successful and joy-filled marriage? While there are no guarantees, couples who pray and attend Mass together, use NFP, treat each other with respect and kindness, avoid pornography, have frequent romantic dinners/date nights, have fun together, are self-sacrificial and try their best will have the greatest chance of having a joy-filled marriage.

Copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach

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