Thursday, May 16, 2019

Tortured Soul - New Catholic Fiction by Theresa Linden

Today I'm pleased to be the stop on the blog tour for fellow Catholic Writer's Guild member Theresa Linden and her great new book Tortured Soul.

What happens to us after we die? Is there a connection between those in this world and the next? Can we help the souls in purgatory? Those are the questions at the heart of Theresa Linden’s suspense-filled new novel Tortured Soul.

Fred Rake was a 45 year-old mechanic when he was murdered by his 17 year-old son. Jeannie Lyons lives in the home she grew up in with her brother Edwin and his family. Both of Jeannie’s parents are deceased but she still feels deeply connected to them and the home where they all lived. But Erwin’s family is growing and he and his wife want Jeannie to move out.

Erwin picks out a house for Jeannie and he and his friend Oliver, a photographer, help her move. Unexplained noises and occurrences in the house soon make Jeannie live in fear, but Oliver is the only one who believes her and makes an effort to help her. It turns out the house Jeannie now lives in belonged to the murdered Fred Rake; God has allowed his tortured soul to visit her in an effort to help both of them.

This thought-provoking and spine-tingling novel is loosely based on the experiences of German mystic Eugenie von der Leyen (1867-01929). While Tortured Soul is entertaining and powerful in its own right, its message of the need of prayer and sacrifice for the souls in purgatory is even more important. This aspect of our Catholic faith is often neglected in our modern world. As part of the Communion of Saints, we are called to help our brothers and sisters who have gone before us and are suffering in purgatory.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Discover Marian Shrines in the United States

My Queen, My Mother  - A Living Novena

May is a month in which we pay special honor to Mary. That makes it a perfect time to learn more about some of the Marian shrines in the United States. In My Queen, My Mother: A Living Novena, Marge Steinhage Fenelon shares her pilgrimage to nine Marian shrines, inviting readers to join her in praying a special novena to consecrate both ourselves and our country to Mary. Fenelon wants us to “uncover the spiritual treasures of our United States” and to “reconquer [our country] for our Lord and his Mother and help others to set out to reconquer it too.”

When we consecrate ourselves or someone else to Mary, we are “asking Mary to claim that person for herself now and for always. Of course, when Mary “claims” someone for herself, she also claims that person for her Son because the two are inseparable. The only reason for Mary’s existence is to lead us to Jesus.”

Fenelon offers a history of each shrine and recalls some of the spiritual blessings that have been given there. One of the shrines that I found most interesting to learn about was the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin. This is the only Church-approved Marian apparition site in the United States. Mary appeared to 24-year-old Adele Brice in 1859. Mary told Adele to pray for the conversion of sinners and to teach the catechism. Adele ultimately began the Sisters of Good Health and several miracles were recorded as a result of her prayers. As Fenelon points out, the overriding message of this shrine is that “if it is indeed God’s will, then you’ll be given the grace, courage, and know-how to carry out your mission. What’s more, if you invoke Our Lady of Good Help, she’ll see you through it. 

I found the stories of these shrines fascinating. The only thing that I wished the book contained were images of the shrines. To help remedy that, I’m including links to the websites for the featured shrines so that you can take a virtual pilgrimage. By no means is this exhaustive list of Marian shrines in the United States. As Fenelon points out, there are many waiting for us to visit, learn about, and pray at.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Ways to Practice Humility

Clearly, the message of the week is humility. I recently blogged about Chasing Humility and then I was reading my diocesan magazine, The Catholic Mirror, and came across an article by Sheri Wohlfert on practicing the virtue of humility.

She offered the following suggestions for growing in humility:

1) Talk about yourself as little as possible. If we believe God truly knows us and the desires of our heart and our focus is to please him, rather than those here on earth, this makes perfect sense.

2) Choose the most difficult or less appealing jobs. There is great humility in doing the task nobody else wants to do.

3) Don't worry about other people's business and don't even be curious about things that don't concern you. 

4) Recognize your talents, gifts and graces, then promptly thank God for them and move along. We should use them well, but the ambition to be the best or to be recognized is not going to build our humility.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

How to be Humble

Do you want to be humble? If we’re being honest, many of us would say “No” to that question. Others of us might pay it lip service, but deep down feel uncomfortable with the idea. Humility seems to be so in conflict with all the things that our modern society holds dear. How could anyone living in our modern world actually strive for humility? The answer is that if we are seeking holiness, humility is a big part of that equation. 

As someone who confesses to pride every single time I go to confession, humility is something I clearly need. This is why I eagerly starting reading Chasing Humility: 8 Ways to Shape a Christian Heart by Joel Stepanek as soon as it arrived in my mailbox. 

Stepanek uses the Litany of Humility as the basis of the book:
Lord Jesus. Meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Simply reading through, one realizes just how difficult it is to pray this prayer and mean it. Stepanek acknowledges that it took him quite a while to come to terms with understanding and desiring humility. He had a false view of humility, thinking that “you were either successful in the eyes of the world or you were humble and destitute but you got to be a disciple of Jesus.” In time, he came to realize that G.K. Chesterton’s definition is much more accurate: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” In fact, the only way to be truly successful is to embrace humility.

Stepanek divides the petitions in the Litany of Humility into eight main themes: being authentic, growing confidence, being grateful for today, loving others, giving praise, empowering those around me, becoming the mentor, and breaking boundaries. He explores each of these themes, offering concrete ways to work on each area. He also shares anecdotes from his own life to illustrate that he is right there with us, struggling to develop humility. Like most things on our spiritual journey, cultivating humility is a life-long process. 

As an interesting side note, the author of the Litany of Humility is unknown. His prayer for humility was answered. God will answer our prayers for humility as well, if only we are brave enough to trust in God and pray for it. 

Chasing Humility offers so much food for thought. This is a hard topic and one many will reject without a passing glance, but if you are serious about becoming closer to God, this is one book you will want to pick up.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Help for Introverted Teens and Those who Love Them

Carl Jung, a famous twentieth-century psychologist, was the first to introduce the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” to describe the ways various people interact with the outside world. “Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thoughts and feelings, while their opposites, extroverts, crave the external world of people and activities.” Most people are not extreme introverts or extroverts, but instead fall somewhere on a spectrum, leaning more to one side than another.

In recent years, Susan Cain, founder of The Quiet Revolution ( has done much to help introverts make the most of their personality traits in the world and to help extroverts understand where introverts are coming from. 

Cain’s book Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts is designed to help introverted teenagers understand the good things about being introverts as well as to help them function well in society. Cain offers solid practical advice on surviving and thriving in school, coping with group projects, making friends, and pursuing their passions.

Quiet Power is an excellent resource for introverted teens as well as their parents and teachers. Introverts and extroverts have much to offer each other and society at large. Communities, whether they be families, schools, or workplaces function better when both groups are understood, supported, and encouraged.

Monday, March 04, 2019

New "Watercolor" Quilt

I finished my latest quilt project last night. This is a "watercolor" lap quilt made up primarily of 2.5" squares of color with some applique thrown in (in the garden portion). It is supposed to be a sunset, trees, water, and garden as if you were looking out a window onto a scene. Of course, this looked very different in my mind when I started it, but I'm pleased with how it came out.

Now the challenge is to come up with a new idea. On the plus side, these projects take me 1 - 2 years (I only work on them a couple hours a week) so once I have one, it keeps me busy for quite a while.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Holy Hacks to Help You Get to Heaven

Are you looking for a practical guide to living your Catholic faith more fully? Holy Hacks: Everyday Ways to Live Your Faith and Get to Heaven by Patti Maguire Armstrong is packed with good ideas. Armstrong was inspired to write this book by her 92 year old father. As she states, his “witness of quiet perseverance . . . has earned my dad a reputation for holiness.” 

Don’t we all wish we had that reputation? The small steps we take each day can lead to a lifetime of holiness. “Just do the little things, and God will let you know if he has more for you to do and give you the grace to do it when the time comes. . . . Holy hacks are easy and creative ideas to do more for the love of God and neighbor in ways that fit into your life.”

Armstrong offers some general holy hacks for living a holy life, but she also offers them for particular situations or areas of our lives. Some of these include holy hacks for humility, relationships, spiritual protection, avoiding gossip, evangelizing, and for special seasons of the year such as lent and Christmas. Each section includes an introduction describing some of the challenges regarding that area and then includes several short ideas on how to work for holiness in that area. 

At my Catholic mom’s group recently, we read and discussed the “Hacks for Holy Relationship.” We found much to discuss about both the challenges inherent in some of the ideas as well as ways we try to implement some of these suggestions in our lives. It was a very fruitful conversation so while this book does not offer specific discussion questions, it can certainly be used for group reading and conversation.

Whether you use the book on your own or with others, Holy Hacks is full of suggestions of ways to live your Catholic faith and improve your relationship with God and others. While no one could possible implement all of the suggestions, there are sure to be some that speak to you and the particular areas you need to work on in your spiritual life. The way to holiness is paved with small steps and Holy Hacks can be a great aid on your spiritual journey.  

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