This is the Homily Catholics Need to Hear

This has been a difficult month for Catholics. First, allegations about Cardinal (now Archbishop) McCarrick, then the PA Grand Jury report and now credible allegations about the Holy Father.  Priests, bishops, cardinals and the Holy Father need to speak up.  This is a decisive time for the Church and the Holy Father’s vague response is not what we need from the spiritual leader of the Church.

This is the sort of homily Catholics need to hear right now.

Please pray for the Holy Father.

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)

Love is Our Mission – World Meeting of Families and the Papal Visit #WMF2015

world-meeting-of-families-philadelphia-2015-logoThe World Meeting of Families was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I am grateful to have been a part of it. I was there as an exhibitor, but I also attended some of the keynote presentations as well as the daily Masses. Over 20,000 attended the huge event in Philadelphia, which ended with the Festival of Families on Saturday and the Papal Mass on Sunday. Worshipping, interacting and networking with fellow Catholics was edifying and inspiring. I made many new friends and connected with old ones!

High points:

Papal Mass
We got up early and were fortunate to be in the first section behind the seats. Security was tight on both the train and at the security checkpoints in Philly (they even carefully checked the religious sisters behind us). It was the first time I ever saw the Ben Franklin Bridge with no cars on it! IMG_1288

This wasn’t my first Papal Mass. My family and I attended the World Youth Day Mass with John Paul II in 2002 in Toronto. Attending an outside Mass with nearly a million others is wonderfully exhilarating!

This year, we had a pretty good view of the altar (until they put a tent up! Evidently, the organizers thought it might rain so they put a tent over the instruments…they also didn’t realize it would obstruct the crowd’s view of the altar. Thankfully, after the crowd chanted “Move that tent” loudly several times, they eventually took the tent down!)

photo copyright James Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.

photo copyright James Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.

My husband got this wonderful photo of Pope Francis in his Popemobile.

copyright James Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.

copyright James Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.

Meeting (or seeing again):

Christopher West

Christopher West, author and speaker (Theology of the Body Explained, Good News About Sex and Marriage)

Jason Evert, popular chastity speaker (who also recorded a message for my 26 year old son!)

Jason Evert, popular author and chastity speaker,  (who also recorded a message for my 26 year old son!)

With Dr. Janet Smith! Years ago, I gave her copies of Emily's Hope and In Name Only. This year, I gave her a copy of Stealing Jenny, as well as four other FQP books!

With Dr. Janet Smith, author and speaker. Years ago, I gave her copies of my first two novels, Emily’s Hope and In Name Only. This year, I gave her a copy of Stealing Jenny, as well as four other FQP books!

Our diocese’s former bishop, Archbishop Richard Smith (third from left, back row), was sitting behind our group at Mass on Friday!

So many priests and religious on fire for their faith!

With Sisters of Jesus Our Hope!

With Sisters of Jesus Our Hope!

Imagine my surprise when I found out that one of them was Sr. Ellen (from Ottawa!)

I gave Sr. Ellen a copy of Emily's Hope for her and all the sisters!

I gave Sr. Ellen a copy of Emily’s Hope for her and all the sisters!

Catholics from all over the world!
We met this wonderful priest and another man from Nigeria!IMG_1158

A fellow CCL teaching couple from India!

Valy and Anna Coelho from India

Valy and Anna Coelho from India

Courage International Team
(I’ve talked to the wonderful team of Courage International over the phone several times but have never met any of them!)

With the wonderful team at Courage International

With the wonderful team at Courage International

I loved when attendees came up to my husband to tell him they recognize him from his cartoon!

Cartoon copyright James & Ellen Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing. Please do NOT use without permission

Cartoon copyright James & Ellen Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing. Please do NOT use without permission

I met four adult women shorter than me and one adult man!
(Sorry, no photos. You’ll have to take my word for it!)

I loved seeing so many people I already know!

With our friend, Michel McDonald (whose courtship story was included in Come My Beloved!)

With our friend, Michel McDonald (whose courtship story was included in Come My Beloved!)

With Brother Joshua, an author and fellow member of the Catholic Writers Guild

With Brother Joshua, an author and fellow member of the Catholic Writers Guild

Each Daily Mass was trilingual:
English, Spanish and Vietnamese. With the Mass booklet, I could actually follow along in other languages.Mass booklet

I enjoyed attending Mass with 17,000 fellow CatholicsIMG_1183

Catholic Writers Guild Booth
I was at the World Meeting of Families representing the Catholic Writers Guild. I spoke to many people who were either interested in writing or knew other Catholic writers who might want to join. I gave away many brochures, booklets and business cards and I think CWG gained nearly 20 members!IMG_1152

Cool architecture and artwork! IMG_1199

copyright 2015 James Hrkach, please do not use without permission

copyright 2015 James Hrkach, please do not use without permission

Low Points

Early Shutdown of the Exhibitor Hall
Although the exhibitor hall was scheduled to be opened until one p.m. on Friday, we were informed at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday afternoon that we would need to shut our booth down by 6:00 p.m. and that the exhibitor hall would be closed on Friday because of “security concerns.” We wound up spending the last hour trying to give away books and taking down our booth. Since we had taken the Speedline in the morning, we had no car available. My husband and I are especially thankful to friends from our diocese for helping carry all the stands and books ten blocks to the Speedline! (Thank you, Dan, Kelsey, Grace, Chris, Yvette and Irene!) Also thanks to my sister, Laurie, and her friend, George, for helping carry items. We would never have been able to take down the booth and get the materials back to my sister’s place without everyone’s assistance!

Unfortunately, because of this early shut down, many of the attendees didn’t have an opportunity to browse the exhibitor hall. (I myself was waiting until Friday to purchase tee shirts and other items for Christmas gifts.) Many exhibitors lost money because of the early closure.

Narrow hallways
One of the main exits from the large conference room used for Mass and keynote presentations exited into a very narrow hallway. 15,000 people trying to squeeze into this narrow hallway was challenging at best. After Mass and keynotes, it often took half an hour just to exit. Anyone with claustrophobia must’ve had a difficult time.

I was told that a few FEMEN demonstrators tried to draw attention to themselves in front of the Pennsylvania Convention Center on one of the days (but I didn’t see them). As well, another attendee told me that several same sex couples attended one of the breakout sessions on Marriage and confronted the speakers.

There was too much packed into three and a half days. It began with Mass at 8:30 a.m., one or two keynote presentations and many, many breakout sessions, and ended at 6:00 p.m. We were commuting back and forth from New Jersey via the PATCO Speedline so that made the schedule a bit more challenging. (Although I must commend the PATCO people during the weekend of the Papal visit. Trains were frequent and PATCO employees were very courteous and helpful!

Disneyland Atmosphere
There was a bit of a Disneyland Atmosphere even at Mass, although this is understandable given the once-in-a-lifetime event for most of the people attending.

Communion at Papal Mass
While there seemed to be enough priests giving out the Eucharist at the Papal Mass, there was no organized way to receive. The priest came to the fence and immediately hundreds of people descended to that area without forming any lines. It was haphazard at best. A few times, I thought I was going to be crushed. I realize that perhaps they didn’t have enough volunteers to organize the lines for communicants, but this was the only aspect of the Papal Mass that seemed disorganized.

All in all, however, I’m thankful I had the opportunity to attend! Both my husband and I had a wonderful — if not exhausting — time! Check out more photos on my Instagram page.

Copyright 2015 Ellen Gable Hrkach #WMF2015 #popeinphilly #worldmeeting2015

7 Quick Takes Friday – New Book Updates Etc.

7_quick_takes_sm1Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

1. First Proofs Have Arrived
The first proofs of my new book, A Subtle Grace, have arrived! I’ve already given them to the proofreaders so I missed a photo opportunity. But I’ve ordered more to arrive next week and will have photos then.

2. A Subtle Grace on Track for March Kindle Release
Right now, my proofreaders are poring through the proofs looking for typos and format issues. I have a second medical person reading through for accuracy of medical situations. I hope to hear from the gun experts soon. A Subtle Grace front cover Nov2013

3. Long Books Have Less Readers…but Series Books Often Have More
I knew this book was as long as its prequel, so I had a short panic attack when I received it, feeling its heavy 420 pages in my hands. Holding the two books side by side, there’s no denying that they are very similar. Total pages, if one wants to read them one after the other, will be 840 pages. That’s as long as Gone With the Wind. The publishing world’s recommendation for book size has always been under 400 pages and, no matter what I did, I could not get this book down to only 400 pages. I recognize this could limit the number of readers and, frankly, I don’t care, especially since “series” books do tend to sell more because readers are invested in the characters. However, one need not read the first book (In Name Only) to be able to read this one. The books are stand alone books that can be read independent of the other.

4. The Spiritual Works of Mercy: TOB Style
In my latest post at Catholic Mom, I talk about practicing the Spiritual Works of Mercy through the Theology of the Body.

According to the Catholic encyclopedia, mercy is “a virtue influencing one’s will to have compassion for, and, if possible, to alleviate another’s misfortune.” The spiritual works of mercy are one way Catholics can show charity and compassion to others. Since my husband and I are trained in the Theology of the Body (TOB) and teach Natural Family Planning, we have always tried to practice the spiritual works of mercy through our NFP ministry.

Many Catholics do not understand the Church’s teachings on sexuality. Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge someone, you have no time to love them.” Sharing the truth with charity and without judgment is extremely important. To read the rest, click here.

5. Pope Francis on Confession
During his Wednesday audience, Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to go to Confession. He said, “The sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament of healing.”

6. Reading Shelf
A Pius Legacy by Declan Finn

7. Burgers Cartoon

copyright 2012 Full Quiver Publishing/James & Ellen Hrkach  Please do not use without permission

copyright 2012 Full Quiver Publishing/James & Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Copyright 2014 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Sunday Snippets – March 17

Notre Dame Ottawa Join me and other Catholic bloggers over at RAnn’s Place for Sunday Snippets where we share posts from the previous week.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

It was an exciting week with the election of Pope Francis. The more I read about him, the more I love him. The Holy Spirit has given us a great gift with this Pope.

Here are my posts:

Want to Promote the Theology of the Body? Read and Recommend TOB Fiction!

Narrative Voice, Characterization and Reading to Improve Writing

Habemus Papam

7 Quick Takes Friday – March 15

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

7 Quick Takes Friday – Volume 63

7_quick_takes_sm1It’s Friday, which means it’s time to connect with Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes:

1. Habemus Papam
Lots in the news about Pope Francis so some of my QT will be about our new Pope. The more I read about him, the more I love him. Check out this article about how the new Pope is changing routines at the Vatican. Pope Francis is a man who is not only faithful to Church doctrine, he is particularly concerned about the poor. The Catholic Church is in good hands.Vatican_website-640x451

2. Pope Francis, in His Own Words
To read more about his thoughts on various topics, click here.

3. 10 Facts About the New Pope
10 Facts About the New Pope

4. The O’Donovan Family Saga Continues
Work continues on my novel, A Subtle Grace, the sequel to In Name Only. Kathleen O’Donovan, eldest daughter, is the main female protagonist in “A Subtle Grace.” As of 1896, when the novel begins, the O’Donovan children are listed in the O’Donovan Family Bible as follows: Kathleen Emma born 1877, William David born 1879, John Liam born 1879, Patrick Andrew born 1882, Kevin Michael born 1887, Timothy James born 1892. In the 19th century, the Family Bible served to be the information keeper for most families. It recorded marriages, births, deaths and, in some cases, baptisms. Here is the first page of an antique 1881 Douay Rheims Bible:$(KGrHqZHJBQFEf2EjsS7BRJyN57!f!~~60_12

5. This Week’s Research: Laudanum
Since one of the main characters in “A Subtle Grace” is a physician, I needed to research common drugs and pain medication of the 19th century. One of the most common was laudanum, which is a mixture of alcohol and opium. Strangely enough, laudanum/opium were both available for purchase in the 1897 Sears and Roebuck Catalog (see below). Here is Wikipedia’s information on laudanum.Laudanum

6. On My Reading Shelf
One Like Us by Jerome German
This Little Light of Mine: Living the Beatitudes by Kathleen Basi
Season of Joy by Virginia Carmichael

7. Dust Bunnies Cartoon

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach