What Did the Pope Actually Say?

Pope Francis did not approve contraception to avoid the Zika virus. Here is an excellent response to today’s media frenzy:

Vatican City, Feb 18, 2016 / 02:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Despite a rush of headlines claiming Pope Francis is softening the Church’s stance on contraception, a closer look at his recent remarks could suggest otherwise.

During an in-flight press conference on his way back from Mexico, Pope Francis was asked by a reporter about the threat of Zika virus in many Latin American countries.

Noting that the virus may be linked to birth defects when transmitted from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby, the reporter asked the Holy Father about proposals involving “abortion, or else avoiding pregnancy” in areas where Zika virus is prevalent.

The Pope responded by emphatically stating that abortion is “a crime” and “absolute evil” that cannot be justified. He also spoke on the topic of avoiding pregnancy.

“Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape,” he said.

Seven sentences later, he added another comment. Not mentioning contraception specifically, he simply said that “avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, or in the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear.”

Numerous news outlets suggested that the Pope was introducing a change – or at least a softening – in previous teaching.

However, Dr. Melissa Moschella, a philosophy professor at The Catholic University of America, suggested that this may not be the case.

When talking about avoiding pregnancy in connection with the Zika virus, the Pope may not necessarily have been implying artificial contraceptive use, but may have been referencing Natural Family Planning, she said.

Normally, if a married couple faces a serious reason to avoid pregnancy, the Church teaches that they may do so through Natural Family Planning, a process that involves identifying a woman’s fertile periods and abstaining from sexual activity during those times.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

(Source: Catholic News Agency/EWTN)

The Story of How We Met: “Please, God, Send Me a Man”

Since this is Valentine’s Day, today’s post is an excerpt of James and my courtship story (which was the basis for my first novel, Emily’s Hope) and which is included in Come My Beloved.

Ellen: Because I was very young looking, I did not date in high school or for the year or so after. I longed to meet someone, that special person with whom I could spend the rest of my life. Every night I prayed, “Please God, send me a man.”

During my first visit to Canada in 1978, my pen-pal asked if I wanted to go with her to a jam session where her brother would be rehearsing with his rock band. When we arrived, the band was taking a break. One boy, however, was crouching, with his back toward me, a guitar in front of him, and he was playing the same three or four notes over and over again. I remember thinking that fellow must be dedicated. I also noticed that he had dark curly hair and bell bottoms (out of style at the time) which prompted me to think he must not be too concerned about fashion. A few moments later, the band members took up their instruments. The fellow with the dark curly hair turned around and began playing his guitar and singing. It sounds cliché, but when I first saw his face, he took my breath away. And he played with such intensity that I couldn’t stop staring at him.

James: I wasn’t much for pursuit, except pursuit of excellence in music and art. That seemed so much easier to understand than girls. Ellie, on the other hand, was definitely in pursuit and had a hard time hiding it, even if she tried. One thing is for sure, though, her young looks were less intimidating for someone as shy as myself.

Ellen: I returned to Canada the summer of ’79. Although I was 20 at the time, I looked more like 13 and was rather immature. I was told that James was shy and usually quiet, but when we later met at a dance in the local curling club, we spent the entire time outside (where it was less noisy) talking for three hours. I was nervous because I liked him so much. I actually began the conversation by asking him a “conversation starter” that my pen-pal had given me in case I became nervous. “Nice trees around here,” was all I could come up with. His answer surprised me. “Yes, they are nice. I like the way the light is reflecting off the oak leaves over there.” I never expected such a well-thought out and creative answer to a conversation starter. But as we began to talk, I realized that he was no ordinary young man.

James: It’s funny that although I would have gladly stood on a stage and produced a wall of loud noise to perform at any dance, I wasn’t much for attending them. I certainly saw the empty meanings of much popular music, and spending time outside of the noisy dance hall was a definite option, especially when this time was to be spent getting to know a person from a different part of the continent, a girl, in fact, who seemed to want to get to know me. When time flies by so fast you can’t keep track of it, you know you’re having fun and I certainly felt comfortable chatting with Ellie that night. So comfortable that I almost couldn’t face the discomfort of having to see her return home.

Ellen: Later that week, when we said good bye to one another, he promised that he would write to me. I arrived back in New Jersey and immediately wrote my first letter to James.

In those days, we didn’t have email or cheap long distance or texting, so he had to wait over a week before he received my letter. I had to wait two weeks before receiving a response. When I received his first letter, I knew he was the real thing. Over the next few months, he sent letters frequently and drew little pictures on the backs of envelopes or in the letters themselves, little pencil sketches of scenes, lions or the cartoon version of himself. On one particular envelope, he drew a man crawling over the desert, passing a glass labeled “H20” and saying “Ellen, Ellen.” On another, he drew a picture of me pulling on a phone wire with him saying “Keeping pulling. I’m just passing Syracuse.”H2O Ellen Swak

As we began to share thoughts and feelings over the next five months, I became more and more excited at the prospect that he was the man with whom I was meant to spend the rest of my life.

James: I must admit, I wasn’t much of a pen-pal and the only person I had ever or would ever write letters consistently to was Ellie. The delay between one writing and the other responding was frustrating, but it added a certain timeliness to my letters’ content. I tended to write things that would matter regardless of when Ellie read them. One thing is for sure: Ellie’s ceaseless and timely response to every letter I wrote definitely convinced me that there was someone who really cared about me, helping to cement my certainty that I was developing a relationship that was going to work. If she was putting aside the distractions of life just to make sure I got a response every few days, how much more would she truly be able to commit herself to being my lifelong partner when we were near each other?

Ellen: On returning to Canada just after Christmas 1979, James presented me with a beautiful painting (see photo above). When James and I were alone together, we pledged our love to one another and promised that we would be faithful. I was overjoyed because I had finally found the one I loved but unfortunately, he lived 500 miles away. I had no idea what it would mean to carry on a long distance relationship for an unknown number of years, but we were in love and it didn’t seem to matter when we were together.

Although I was Catholic — and had discovered that he was also Catholic — I figured that James was like most Catholics who didn’t follow everything that the Church taught. I wanted to give myself to him physically before I left during that visit so we would have something to hold us together. He was only 17 at the time, but he shared with me that he wanted to wait until marriage to have sex. I was shocked that a 17 year old would turn down an opportunity like that, but in hindsight, his high ideals for morality and “pursuit for excellence in art and music” are the exact traits which attracted me to him in the first place.

We spent the rest of the week trying to enjoy the few days we had left together. When it came time to say goodbye, we both sobbed. Neither of us knew when we would see each other again.

This is an excerpt of our courtship story. The full version is included in Full Quiver’s book: Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship. (It’s currently FREE on Kindle!!) Our story has also been fictionalized in my novel, Emily’s Hope.

This is our 37th Valentine’s Day together! Happy Valentine’s Day to my true love!

Copyright 2016 James and Ellen Hrkach and FQ Publishing

Come My Beloved: FREE on Kindle through February 15

“Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship” is a wonderful book with 12 stories that will inspire, captivate and entertain readers. Check out the book website here. To download a FREE KINDLE COPY over at Amazon, click here at this link.

The idea for this book came about on Valentine’s Day seven years ago, when several mothers were enjoying each other’s fellowship as our children played and exchanged cards. We began sharing how each of us met our husbands. One by one we recounted our stories. It became evident that God’s hand was truly and firmly present in bringing each couple together. Kathy Cassanto, one of the mothers present, said, “It’s too bad there isn’t a book available with Catholic courtship stories.” My initial response was, “Well, if there isn’t, there should be.”

I immediately went online and discovered that there wasn’t a book containing Catholic courtship/dating stories. So I asked Kathy to be my co-editor, and we set out to find inspiring Catholic courtship stories. We didn’t have to search far. Oftentimes, I simply listened to a small quiet voice prompting me to ask a particular couple, “Would you be willing to share how the two of you met?”

We agreed that the easiest and fastest way to gather the stories was to interview the couples, transcribe the interviews and edit the stories. Most of the stories in this book were from recorded conversations, then transcribed and edited, although some were written by the couples themselves.

As we interviewed each couple, a clear picture was emerging: that true love was far different from the infatuation which is so often portrayed in movies and books.

Each of these courtship/dating stories has its own theme, but all of them illustrate that God is the ideal matchmaker. The stories are uplifting, inspirational, funny, hopeful, romantic.

Here are a few excerpts:

David and Posie

Robert and Sarah

Mark and Kathy

Michel and Jeanette

Tom and Patty

Damon and Melanie

The Kindle edition of this book is FREE today through February 15th over at Amazon.com.

Ash Wednesday – 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

Stealing Jenny FREE on Kindle Until Saturday

Stealing JennyMy third novel, Stealing Jenny, will be FREE today (February 4) through Saturday (February 6) on Kindle.

Jenny Callahan is happily expecting her sixth child. But it’s not without complications. To make matters worse, a neighbor is secretly hatching a sinister plot that will find Jenny and her unborn baby fighting for their lives. Or…the one sentence synopsis: Mentally unstable woman kidnaps pregnant mom of five.

Reviews:
“Stealing Jenny is a gripping novel filled with engaging characters, a compelling mystery and a message which underscores the precious dignity of life. I literally couldn’t put it down and give Stealing Jenny my highest recommendation.” Lisa M. Hendey, author of “A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms”

“Ellen Gable is a masterful storyteller.Stealing Jenny is a smoothly written, chilling tale of gripping suspense. There are terrifying moments and heart-wrenching moments. Catholic faith and hope are tested. Above all, the sacredness and privilege of precious new life is made indisputably evident I never wanted it to end!” Therese Heckenkamp, author, Frozen Footprints and Past Suspicion

“Stealing Jenny will keep you on the edge of your seat and probably destroy your sleep pattern as you stay up to find out what happens. But beyond being a great suspense, it’s also an excellent example of morals in action and family life redeemed. As a fan of Ellen Gable’s work already, I’m now officially getting a t-shirt!” Sarah Reinhard, blogger, author

To download your Kindle copy for FREE, click here.

2016 Catholic Writers Conference Online

cwco logo 2CONTACT: Karina Fabian E-mail: karina.@fabianspace.com
Laura Lowder E-mail: laura.lowder.@gmail.com

For Immediate Release

The Catholic Writers’ Guild will hold its annual online conference for writers March 4-6. 2016. This faith-focused authors conference offers presentations covering all aspects of writing from finding your calling as a writer to publishing and marketing your books. There will also be online pitch sessions with noted Catholic publishers and secular publishers.

Attendees must register by Feb 27 at http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=EC51DE87844F3B.

The conference will be held using webinar software, making the experience more personal and immediate.

“We’ve had people asking for webinar formats in the past, but this is the first year we felt comfortable with the technology and the ability of our attendees to stream live presentations,” said organizer Karina Fabian. Fabian said the workshops offer terrific opportunities to ask in-depth questions and get feedback from knowledgeable instructors.

This year’s sessions include an emphasis on the faith aspects of writing no matter what the genre. Speakers like Gary Zimak, author of Faith, Hope and Clarity; Joe Wetterling, President of the Catholic Writer’s Guild, horror author Jonathan Ryan and others will speak on writing as a calling, a literary revolution, and evangelization through fiction (Ellen Gable Hrkach). In addition, there are practical workshops including legal issues, techniques for characterization and plotting, how to journal, and time management.

Pitch sessions give authors with finished books a chance to personally interest a publisher. Pitch sessions include well-known Catholic publishers like Servant Books, smaller presses like Liberty Island, and ebook publishers like eTreasures.

“Every year, we hear back from an author who finished a book, started a project, or got a publishing contract thanks to the Catholic Writers’ Conference Online. Plus people make contacts and good friends. It’s a terrific opportunity, especially for those who can’t afford to attend a live conference,” Fabian said.

This year’s conference is $40; $25 for members of the Catholic Writers’ Guild. To register or for more information, go to http://www.catholicwritersconference.com.