An Open Book – September 2017 #openbook

Open Book

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

God or Nothing: Robert Cardinal Sarah

Synopsis: In this fascinating autobiographical interview, one of the most prominent and outspoken Catholic Cardinals gives witness to his Christian faith and comments on many current controversial issues. The mission of the Church, the joy of the gospel, the heresy of activism , and the definition of marriage are among the topics he discusses with wisdom and eloquence.

Robert Cardinal Sarah grew up in Guinea, West Africa. Inspired by the missionary priests who made great sacrifices to bring the Faith to their remote village, his parents became Catholics. Robert discerned a call to the priesthood and entered the seminary at a young age, but due to the oppression of the Church by the government of Guinea, he continued his education outside of his homeland. He studied in France and nearby Senegal. Later he obtained a licentiate in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, followed by a licentiate in Sacred Scripture at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of Jerusalem.

At the age of thirty-four he became the youngest Bishop in the Catholic Church when John Paul II appointed him the Archbishop of Conakry, Guinea, in 1979. His predecessor had been imprisoned by the Communist government for several years, and when Archbishop Sarah was targeted for assassination John Paul II called him to Rome to be Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI named him Cardinal and appointed him Prefect of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. Pope Francis made him Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2014.

“I have read God or Nothing with great spiritual profit, joy, and gratitude. . . .[Its] courageous answers to the problems of gender theory clear up in a nebulous world a fundamental anthropological question.”  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

My review: I’m enjoying this book tremendously.  Cardinal Sarah expresses the faith with a firm but gentle tone.  Fascinating life story, but also an ideal book that explains our faith.  Highly recommend (and thanks to Ann for the gift copy!!)

 

Accident Prone by Jude Greggs

Synopsis: (Fiction) David Baker’s life is plagued with headaches. Relationship troubles, an aging mother, and chronic migraines are turning his existence into a nightmare. His misery is further compounded by his antagonistic, four-year-old neighbor who constantly demands his attention. When David accidentally stumbles upon a secret operation that promises to rid him of all of his problems, he wonders if he may have found a means of escape, but will the mistakes of his past continue to haunt his future…with terrifying results? This slightly futuristic, dystopian novel uses the far-fetched, surreal possibilities of tomorrow, to expose the hidden horrors of modern-day reality.

My review: Forthcoming

Prayers, Promises and Devotions for the Holy Souls in Purgatory by Susan Tassone

 

Synopsis: The holy souls are eager for the prayers of the faithful, which can gain indulgences for them. Their intercession is powerful. Pray unceasingly. We must empty purgatory!” St. Pio of Pietrelcina    Tireless advocate for the holy souls in purgatory, Susan Tassone, invites you to join her in the call to action from St. Pio to empty purgatory. Become a prayer warrior on behalf of the suffering souls and bring comfort to them and to yourself along the way.

Tassone provides an unprecedented treasure trove of spiritual tools including devotions, meditations, and wisdom from the holy souls and patron saints of souls in purgatory that you can use to take an active role in this vital and rewarding vocation. Sharing her deep understanding and personal connection with the centuries-old tradition of praying with supernatural charity for the holy souls, Tassone will inspire you with her passion and educate you with her meticulous research. In addition, she provides an avenue for the attainment of spiritual gifts for acts done for the souls that cry out for relief.

My review: Forthcoming

Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith by Robert Barron

Synopsis: “What I propose to do in this book is to take you on a guided exploration of the Catholic world, but not in the manner of a docent, for I am not interested in showing you the artifacts of Catholicism as though they were dusty objets d’art in a museum of culture.  I want to function rather as a mystagogue, conducting you ever deeper into the mystery of the incarnation in the hopes that you might be transformed by its power.” –Father Robert Barron
 
What is Catholicism? A 2,000-year-old living tradition? A worldview? A way of life? A relationship? A mystery? In Catholicism Father Robert Barron examines all these questions and more, seeking to capture the body, heart and mind of the Catholic faith.

Starting from the essential foundation of Jesus Christ’s incarnation, life, and teaching, Father Barron moves through the defining elements of Catholicism – from sacraments, worship, and prayer, to Mary, the Apostles, and Saints, to grace, salvation, heaven, and hell – using his distinct and dynamic grasp of art, literature, architecture, personal stories, Scripture, theology, philosophy, and history to present the Church to the world.

Paired with his documentary film series of the same title, Catholicism is an intimate journey, capturing “The Catholic Thing” in all its depth and beauty. Eclectic, unique, and inspiring, Father Barron brings the faith to life for a new generation, in a style that is both faithful to timeless truths, while simultaneously speaking in the language of contemporary life.

My review: I read this while down in New Jersey visiting my family.  I became sick halfway through the visit and couldn’t do much but read.  She had a copy of this on her side table and I became engrossed.  Excellent read and highly recommend!

Vanished Halls and Cathedrals of France by George Warton Edwards (1917)

Synopsis: (From Amazon) Surviving the ancient wars and revolutions in this, “the Cockpit of Europe,” the great examples of architecture of the early days of France remained for our delight. The corroding fingers of time, it is true, were much more merciful to them, but certainly the destroyers of old never ventured to commit the crimes upon them now charged against the legions of the present invader. These fair towns of Picardy and Champagne are sacked, pillaged and burned even as were the beautiful Flemish towns of Ypres, Malines, Termonde, Dixmude, and Dinant on the Meuse….
Never again shall we enjoy them: the chalices are broken and the perfume forever vanished….The catastrophe is so unbelievable that one cannot realize it. The Seven Churches of Soissons, Senlis, Noyon, Laon, Meaux, Rheims, St. Remi; these such as man probably never again can match, are either razed to the foundations, or so shattered that it will be impossible to restore them.
It is said that the Imperial Government has promised to rebuild these Gothic masterpieces….One cannot trust one’s self to comment upon this announcement. Imagine these sacred ruins…. Rheims!… Rheims can never be restored to what it was before the bombardment. Let it rest thus…. A sacred ruin—the scarred, pierced heart of France! Likewise “these fair sweet towns” of the middle ages; these wonderful little streets and byways, filled with the gray old timbered houses, “old in Shakespeare’s day.” Up to the outbreak of the war there were many of these throughout France, in spite of the wave of modernity which resulted in so much so called town improvement.

My review: I downloaded this on Kindle for 1.59 Canadian and what a treasure.  I needed to research cathedrals of France for my series in progress (Great War Great Love).  Excellent information and photos.

 

Julia’s Gifts (Great War Great Love #1)

Coming soon!  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my upcoming novel, Julia’s Gifts. I’ve been spending the last two weeks implementing suggested edits from my developmental editor.  It’s now in the hands of the copy-editor and will be available as an ARC within a few weeks.

Synopsis:  As a young girl, Julia began buying gifts for her future spouse, a man whose likeness and personality she has conjured up in her mind, a man she calls her “beloved.”

Soon after the United States enters the Great War in 1917, Julia impulsively volunteers as a medical aid worker, with no experience or training. Will the realities of war dishearten her from pursuing her beloved? Will Julia’s naïve ‘gift scheme’ distract her from recognizing her true “Great Love?”

From Philadelphia to war-torn France, follow Julia as she transitions from unworldly young woman to compassionate volunteer.

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Highlights of the Catholic Writers Conference Live and CMN #cmntradeshow #cwcl2017

Setting up the CWG Booth, the FQP section of the Booth, Tuesday luncheon and socializing

 

Clockwise from top left: CMN Author Event, speaking on 21st Century Indie Publishing, CMN breakfast at the Catholic Mom contributors table, CMN breakfast with Barbara Golder and Meggie Daly

 

Thursday: eating at Culvers (great burgers and coleslaw!) and with my dear friend, Lisa Mladinich (top) and FQP Author and dear friend, Amanda Lauer!

 

Last day at the Friday book signing, with my wonderful minion, Maria, and with FQP authors!

 

With my dear friend, Susan Tassone, AKA “The Purgatory Lady” and we’re color coordinated!

Celebrating #Christmas in the Aftermath of Suicide

Celebrating Christmas in the Aftermath of Suicide

 

In a recent interview between Fr. Looney and Susan Tassone (The Purgatory Lady!), Susan gives hopes to those who have lost loved ones through suicide.
In recent years suicide has been on the rise and has claimed many victims.  In the cities where I serve as a priest, I have been present for too many prayer vigils and funerals for teenagers who committed suicide this year.  I have stood next to their friends and family members, and provided an ear to listen to and a shoulder to cry on.  As we approach the Christmas holiday, the emotions of loss re-emerge because they realize it is their first Christmas without their loved one.

During the holiday season, certain questions might arise within one’s heart, or asked by others.  How should a person coping with the death of a loved one this holiday season respond?  When thinking about death and the afterlife, I thought I would turn to Susan Tassone, an authority on Purgatory, to help answer some of those tough questions, and hopefully provide comfort and consolation, not only to the bereaved, but to our beloved dead as well, this Christmas season.

Fr. Looney:  Those who lost a loved one, especially to suicide want to know if their loved one can go to Heaven.  Over the years the negative stigma of suicide has changed in the Church.  What can words can you offer for those coping with the tragic death of a loved one?

Susan Tassone:  A few words about suicide.  Often members of a family will have different feelings about the suicide of a loved one.  It is likely when someone you love commits suicide you will experience a wide range of feelings. It is normal to be angry, sad, down, scared, etc.

Feelings are fleeting and change rapidly.  One of the most common feelings is that of being ashamed.  We blame ourselves for the suicide.  You may feel embarrassed by what you feel.  There is no right feeling.  Remember feelings are temporary. They pass and change over time.  Sometimes we may blame ourselves, others, or the person who died.  Behind blame often are feelings of hurt or inadequacy. “If only I did this or noticed that.”  Many of us look to assign blame.  The more we can let go of blame the quicker we will heal.

People commit suicide for many different reasons.    We need to focus our empathy on what pain a person must have gone through to decide to take their life.  The less we judge and the more we can be empathetic, the more likely we will feel the mercy of God’s healing.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2282-2283) says: “Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.  We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance.  The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.”  This is a time to remember the ocean of mercy and kindness that is given to us by Our Lord.

Fr. Looney: During the holidays many people attend parties or family gatherings and might be asked about their loved one.  What do they say to others? 

Susan Tassone: You tell them that “So and So” was in great pain and ended their life.  We ask everyone to be compassionate and to offer Masses and prayers so that she/he may be received into the arms of our merciful God.  Our role is not to judge.  Our role is to pray for healing both for the deceased and their loved ones.

Fr. Looney:  How do you address the issue with a child?

Susan Tassone: It is important to shape your message to the level of understanding of the child.  If they are younger, it is best to say that he/she died.  They loved you very much and felt terrible in leaving you.  You can pray for them and that way ask Jesus to comfort them and you.  Nothing you or anyone did caused their death.  It is sad to lose someone you love.  But people feel many things when someone dies.  Ask the child what they feel.  Ask them to imagine that person is here.  What would they like to say?  No matter what the child says, do not correct what they feel but acknowledge the pain.  Give the child things they can do to help the deceased and themselves.  Light candles, prayers that they can say or drawings they can make.

Fr. Looney: What is the best way we can remember our loved ones who have died?

Susan Tassone:  The best way to move the soul to heaven is to have Masses offered, particularly Gregorian Masses.  Gregorian Masses are a series of thirty Holy Masses celebrated on thirty consecutive days for the repose of the soul of a departed person.  Gregorian Masses derive their name from Pope St. Gregory the Great, who was the first to popularize this practice.  The Dialogues of St. Gregory tell of the soul of a departed monk who appeared and declared that he had been delivered form purgatory upon the completion of 30 Masses.  The Sacred Congregation of Indulgences declared this hallowed tradition of more than 1,300 years “a pious and reasonable belief of the faithful on the authority of the Roman Curia.”  The Church does not guarantee that souls are released from Purgatory after 30 Masses, but this practice focuses on the efficacy of the Mass.  Contact the Pious Union of St. Joseph to arrange for these Masses.  www.pusj.org

Fr. Looney:  The stories of the saints are powerful witnesses that can bring us some comfort.  Are there any stories that pertain to souls who commit suicide? 

Susan Tassone: There is a story of St. John Vianney who told a grieving wife that her husband who committed suicide was saved.  This story is described by the Abbe Trochu in his biography of the Cure d’Ars. A certain Abbe Guillaumet met a lady on a train who was in deep mourning and when he said that he was going to Ars she asked, “Monsieur l’Abbe, will you allow me to accompany you to Ars? I may as well go there, as elsewhere…. I am travelling to distract my thoughts.”

When they reached the village, the priest led the lady to a place near the church and suddenly, St. John Vianney appeared. He stopped in front of the lady in black who, following the example of the crowd, had gone down on her knees. He bent over her and whispered into her ear: “He is saved!” The woman was startled and John Vianney repeated: “He is saved!” A gesture of incredulity was the only reply of the stranger. Whereupon the saint, stressing each word, repeated, “I tell you he is saved. He is in Purgatory, and you must pray for him. Between the parapet of the bridge and the water he had time to make an act of contrition. Our Blessed Lady obtained that grace for him. Remember the shrine that you put up in your room during the month of May? Though your husband professed to have no religion, he sometimes joined in your prayers; this merited for him the grace of repentance and pardon at the last moment.

The next day, the lady explained to Abbe Guillaumet that she had been in despair because of the tragic death of her husband: “He was an unbeliever, and my one object in life was to bring him back to God. I did not get the time. He committed suicide by drowning himself. I could only think of him as lost. Oh! Were we never again to meet? Now you hear that the Cure d’Ars told me more than once: ‘He is saved!’ I shall meet him again in heaven. Monsieur L’Abbe, I am cured!”

When all seems hopeless, we must remember there is always hope.  Always have faith and pray for your loved ones throughout life.  Have Masses offered for them while they are alive to give them the grace for conversion.  

Fr. Looney:  I’ve heard it said that Christmas is a very special day for the souls in Purgatory?  Is this true?

Susan Tassone:  According to St. Alphonsus Liguori and St. Teresa of Avila, more souls are released on Christmas than any other day of the year.

Fr. Looney: How would you suggest we remember those whom we loved but are no longer with us this Christmas season? 

Susan Tassone:  These are quotes from my book, Praying with the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Not only should we have Masses offered for our departed loved ones this time of year, but we should give the gift of Masses and enroll your family and friends, living and deceased, in spiritual membership, a spiritual solidarity of prayer. The Association of the Miraculous Medal in Perryville, Missouri, and the Marian Helpers in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, are two great organizations for these Enrollments.

Visit cemeteries with your children. Sprinkle holy water on the graves.  Teach youth to pray the Eternal Rest Prayer. Light blessed candles.  The burning candle is a sign of our prayer, a bright silent intercessor.  Offer your Mass and indulgence for your deceased loved ones at Christmas Mass.  Place a special ornament on your Christmas Tree or wreath in remembrance.  Share stories and pictures of deceased family members, remembering them in prayer.

Day by Day for the Holy Souls in Purgatory: 365 Reflectionsis another great book that helps to console those who are left behind.  EWTN Host of Women of Grace, Johnnette Benkovic, lost her son to a vehicular accident.  She highly recommends this book because it helped her through the grieving process.  She shared this with me and all her TV viewers on her show:  “This book got me through the death of my son.”  It would be a great Christmas gift for anyone to begin the New Year on this soul-saving mission.

Fr. Looney:  Susan Tassone has a great passion for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and reminds us we should never forget those who have gone before us.  This Christmas season as memories of our loved ones flood us, allow them to become an opportunity for prayer.  Although they are physically gone from us, they live on in our hearts and memories, and because of our prayers for them, they will never forget us.  St. John XXIII affirms this, ““Our dead are among the invisible, not among the absent.”  Jesus was born on Christmas day to set us free from all that enslaves us.  Allow Jesus to bring peace to your troubled heart and soul this Christmas, and by chance, your prayers might bring peace to a loved one in Purgatory, helping to bring them home to Heaven this Christmas.