Word by Word: Slowing Down With the Hail Mary

Word-by-Word-contributor_sqNOTRE DAME, Ind.— Most Catholics can recite the Hail Mary but haven’t actually reflected on the meaning of the prayer.

Catholic blogger and author Sarah A. Reinhard invited forty of the most popular Catholic voices, including Lisa M. Hendey, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, and Brandon Vogt, to write a brief reflection on one word of the Hail Mary. The result is an accessible, profound, and unique meditation on each word of one of the most important prayer traditions in Catholic life. Each of forty reflections encourages readers to “slow down” with the Hail Mary and experience it in a new way. This unique, formative, and informative exploration of the beloved prayer is a gift to anyone who wants to be continually changed through it.

“Such a simple concept written so beautifully well. Slow down, read a few pages, and find yourself pulled into a closer and more authentic relationship with Mary the Mother of God.”
Publisher of Catholic Digest
Coauthor of Small Steps for Catholic Moms

Word by Word: Slowing Down With the Hail Mary is now available in print or on Kindle.

I contributed an essay on the word “Now,” and which I posted to my blog three years ago.

#GraceofYesDay – Saying Yes to Motherhood


Today is “GraceofYesDay!”

Lisa Hendey, author of “Book of Saints for Catholic Moms” and “Handbook for Catholic Moms,” has written a wonderful new book, entitled “The Grace of Yes.” Today, for its launch, she has asked people to share how we say “Yes” to God in our everyday lives. I’m linking up with other bloggers over at Catholic Mom.

For me, saying “Yes” to motherhood has been the most joyful and grace-filled way to say “Yes” to God. In this updated article from a few years ago, I share what that all means:

image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

On June 26th, 1986, I was rushed into surgery to remove a tiny baby from my right fallopian tube. This, after already miscarrying his or her twin from my womb. I woke up in the hospital with the knowledge that I had conceived twins…and I would be leaving the hospital with neither in my arms.

Thankfully, a year later, after nearly nine months of morning sickness, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy and, two years after that, a strapping nine pound son. This was followed by two miscarriages and these losses had me questioning whether we should continue to be open to life. Despite the losses and difficulties, our third son was born in 1992. Even after my tumultuous history, my husband and I decided to be open and, not long after, became pregnant. A short while later, I found myself fighting for my life.

In the ambulance, as I drifted in and out of consciousness, I didn’t have much time for retrospective thoughts, except “Please God, I can’t die. I don’t want my little boys growing up without a mom.” I was bleeding internally, the complications of ectopic pregnancy surgery two weeks previous, and quickly becoming weaker and weaker. Waking up later in the recovery room, I was thankful to be alive.

“You should not be having any more children.” The words were harsh and at first, James and I took them as truth. I was capable of having more, but after two ectopic pregnancies and complications from one of the surgeries, we were told that we must limit our family to three boys. The doctors suggested that I be put on hormonal contraception (we refused and instead used NFP). They later urged me to have my remaining fallopian tube tied (we again refused). The physicians weren’t the only ones to give the ‘order’ to stop having children. Well-meaning relatives and friends felt it was their duty to tell us that we should not get pregnant again. “You don’t want to be irresponsible, do you?”

Initially, in those first few weeks after my surgery, we felt that we ought to listen to the “doctor’s orders.”

However, as the months went by, I began to regain my strength. We continued using NFP in the most conservative way, often adding one or two days to the rules for extra security. A year later, with heaviness in my heart, I thought of the future and the fact that we would not have anymore children. I wondered whether God was calling us to actively seek another pregnancy. My husband and I discussed it, then brought our concern to our spiritual director, explaining that the doctor had “ordered” us not to have more children. “James and Ellie,” he said, “that is a decision to be made between the two of you and God.” He encouraged us to pray about it and he further recommended that we talk to a faithful Catholic doctor. We knew of a Catholic physician through a neighboring homeschooling community. Her response after reviewing my file was that we could try for more children, but that I would need to be monitored carefully in the first several weeks to confirm that it wasn’t another ectopic pregnancy.

For the next several months, we prayed together. We deeply desired another child, but we did not want to be careless or irresponsible. After much prayer and discernment, and weighing all the risks, we decided to say “Yes” to God and actively seek another pregnancy.

Ten cycles later, we were still not pregnant. We felt at peace with our decision to seek another pregnancy and, although disappointed, we trusted that God knew what He was doing. Eventually, we stopped charting. Another eight cycles went by with no pregnancy and I began to sell off most of my baby furniture. A few weeks later, it dawned on me that I hadn’t had a period in six weeks. The next morning, I took my temperature and it was 98.9. After 18 months of saying no to us, God was saying “Yes” and blessing us with another eternal soul. I was thrilled that another new life, the fruit of our love, had begun, and would be sheltered lovingly in my womb.

With the blessing, however, soon came suffering. I’m four feet nine inches tall, so even my healthy pregnancies had been challenging, but this one even more so. I began having debilitating migraine headaches and some days I could not get out of bed. I developed a hernia and my stomach was so large that, by 30 weeks, I could not drive and even walking became painful. Worse than the physical pain, however, was the emotional suffering. Doctors, well-meaning friends and relatives scolded us for being “irresponsible” and “selfish,” and that if I was suffering, “I had asked for it.”

Our fourth son was born healthy, at nearly ten pounds. The pro-life Catholic doctor who delivered him by C-section told me that we could try for another baby someday, but that the pregnancy would again have to be monitored. After another miscarriage, three years later, our youngest son was born.

Saying “Yes” to motherhood meant enduring four miscarriages and three ectopic pregnancies and, with those, the physical and emotional suffering. But saying “Yes” to motherhood has also brought overwhelming joy with the births of our five sons, continued graces and the consoling knowledge that our seven unborn children will greet me one day in heaven.

When we were a young married couple, I naively thought having children would be “easy.” I had no idea of the sufferings I would endure, but equally, I could not imagine the kind of joy being a mother could bring. Although we could have used NFP to limit our family size to three sons, we chose to listen to our hearts, to answer God’s calling, and to say “Yes” to more children. When I consider that our two youngest sons might possibly not be here today, my heart becomes heavy. Both are unique young men who have already given so much to our family and to society.

Despite the difficulties, I am grateful that I said “Yes” to motherhood, continue to say “Yes,” and feel tremendously blessed to be the mother of five unique, talented and amazing human beings here on earth as well as those seven little souls waiting in heaven.

Copyright 2014 Ellen Gable Hrkach

copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

After Miscarriage: a Book Review

After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman’s Companion to Healing and Hope is a wonderful book by Karen Edmisten, that shares the experiences of mothers and how they dealt with miscarriage and baby loss. I contributed a story called “Eternal Gifts.”

Years ago, after suffering five miscarriages, I began writing in a journal to ease my grief. These journal entries eventually became my first published article, Five Little Souls in Heaven, and then also was the basis for my first novel, Emily’s Hope.

The author of this booklet, Karen Edmisten, also shares her own journal entries, as well as her story of losing five babies through miscarriage.

This is a deeply moving, beautiful collection of stories, poems and reflections.

Karen was also on the Among Women Podcast with Pat Gohn to speak about her book and her experience with miscarriage. She talked about miscarriage sometimes being a private pain because the couple often hasn’t yet told anyone of their news.

A few years ago, I also appeared on Among Women Podcast (Episode 89) and spoke about my experience with pregnancy loss.

For more Baby Loss Resources, please click on the link above my blog name “Baby Loss.

copyright 2014 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Saints and Scripture Sunday – Happy Mother’s Day

Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at The Kennedy Adventures for “Saints and Scripture Sunday.”

On this Mother’s Day, I remember my own mother (who died five years ago). I miss her so much. She often said that the happiest days of her life were the births of her children (she had five), one who was a “Surprise Gift.”

You did not choose Me but I chose you, and I appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. John 15:16

Today’s Gospel reading was the Gospel my husband and I chose for our wedding 30 years ago. Both of us were open to the fruit of many children and I commented to him just before we were married that a dozen kids seemed like a good number. I prayed frequently that God would bless us with many children.

Well, I didn’t give birth to 12 babies, but God indeed answered my prayer.

It hasn’t been an easy journey to motherhood: I’ve been pregnant eleven times with 12 babies. I’ve lost a set of twins as well as five babies through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. There were times we were accused of being irresponsible. My novel, Emily’s Hope, is based on my true story of love and loss.

The difficulties and challenges have made me more fully appreciate my five sons. I feel so blessed to have them in my life.

It was only recently that I realized that God had indeed answered my prayer. He blessed us with 12 eternal souls, the fruit of our love: five sons here on earth and seven precious babies waiting for us in heaven.

Text and photo copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Miscarriage is the Loss of a Real Child

The following is an excerpt of Fr. Frank Pavone’s moving article on miscarriage in a recent issue of LifeSite News:

While there are no magic formulas, there is one fundamental truth that needs to stay front and center: a miscarriage is the loss of a child who is just as real and has just as much value as any other child of any age. A woman who has a miscarriage is a parent who has lost a child, as is the father of the child as well.

In a society which continues to have a legal and cultural blind spot for the unborn, many suffer from the illusion that miscarriage doesn’t grieve a parent as much as the loss of, well, a “real child.” And that is precisely what hurts so much. We can never console someone in grief if we imply, even remotely, that the person they lost wasn’t real.

As someone who has lost seven babies through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy, I can tell you that the grief is real. I began writing in a journal to ease the grief I was feeling as the result of having several miscarriages in a row. This journal led to the writing of my first published article in 1995,
“Five Little Souls in Heaven.”

Thanks, Fr. Pavone, for the moving article.

To read the article in its entirety, please click on the link above.

Photo copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Whispers of My Heart

Yesterday, I wrote about the wonderful new friendship I’ve made with fellow Catholic writer, Elizabeth Schmeidler. Today, with her permission, I am sharing this beautifully moving poem she wrote after she experienced a miscarriage.

Whispers of My Heart

Oh, baby of mine,
born of my heart,
My little one, who has ceased to be…
I can hear your laughter on the playground at school.
Tell me, can you hear me?

Oh, dream left undone, oh, hope left unseen,
Whose angelic face
I long to see…
I feel your soft skin in the touch of a rose.
Tell me, can you feel me?

Oh life’s joy of mine, loved from the start,
Whose powder fresh scent I awaited…
I’ll draw a breath from the ocean to inhale your sweet fragrance,
Yet somehow still not be sated.

Oh, baby of wonder, whose life breath is gone,
Whose smile my heart longs to see…
I imagine its brightness is much like the sunshine.
Tell me, can you see me?

Oh, baby of love, sweet soul of the Lord,
Whose name is forever written,
In God’s ledger of love, life’s book of creation,
With whom my pierced heart is smitten.

Oh, baby of mine, I shall trust in the Lord,
I will seek Him for comfort and peace.
For your sweet soul He cradles in His arms of compassion.
Someday my longing will cease.

Oh, sweet child of mine, I humbly await,
The day when your eyes shall meet mine.
I will hold you and rock you, while I whisper, “I love you.”
Amid the love of the Power Divine.

Elizabeth J. Schmeidler ©2000

God himself will always be with them. He will wipe
every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no
more death or mourning or pain.

(Revelation 21:3,4)

Special thanks to Elizabeth Schmeidler for sharing her poem with us! And…if you leave a comment below before Monday, January 17th at noon, you will be entered in a draw to win Elizabeth’s CD entitled “Hope” http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/eschmeidler1

Here is the link to one of Elizabeth’s youtube videos:

and her website: www.willyoubemyvoice.com

“Whispers of My Heart” copyright Elizabeth Schmeidler