Monday, November 21, 2022

Enhance Your Spiritual Journey this Advent

 Here are three new resources to help you have an Advent focused on the coming of Christ.

5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath by Lisa Hendey offers a prayer, Bible reading, and reflection for each day of Advent. It is designed to help "properly prepare hearts for Christ's coming." I love the short readings and reflections which are great for praying as a family while lighting the Advent wreath each day. This is a book that can be used year after year! Lisa is also having a series on that will help you enhance your spiritual journey this Advent season. Learn more here:

 Welcoming the Christ Child with Padre Pio by Susan De Bartoli is designed for Advent but can really be used any time of year (so if you get this book and don't finish it during Advent, you can still read it!). It provides 28 days of reflections. It includes quotes by Padre Pio, reflections, and prayers. So, if you are a fan of Padre Pio or if you want to learn more about this modern saint's life and miracle, this is a great book. 

Messages of Light for Advent and Christmas 2022 by Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran offers reflections from the First Sunday of Advent through Epiphany. Unlike the other books, this one is only good for this year, but it also offers the shortest reflections. So, if you are really pressed for time, but want to add a spiritual booster to your Advent, this is a great book for you! It offers a short Scripture passage, a reflection, and a question to ponder.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Learn about America's Only Approved Marian Apparition


In America’s Mary: The Story of Our Lady of Good Hope, Marge Steinhage Fenelon provides a thorough exploration of the only approved Marian apparition to take place in the United States.

Our Lady appeared to Adele Brise, a Belgian immigrant living in Wisconsin, in October 1859. Her message was a simple but important one: “Do penance, sacrifice, receive the sacraments frequently, and teach the children their catechism.” Adele would spend the rest of her life carrying out the Blessed Mother’s wishes. The apparition was formally approved by Bishop David Ricken on December 8, 2010.

Fenelon’s work does more than simply describe the apparition. She begins by providing a thorough history of the world in which Adele Brise lived. She presents the circumstances that surrounded Belgian immigration to the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin and describes the tight community these immigrants formed. They were people with an active, deep faith, but there were many challenges to practicing the Catholic faith in this rural area. There were few priests or places to worship. Adele herself had to travel 11 miles to go to church.

Adele was twenty-eight years old when Our Lady appeared to her. She had minimal education and was blind in one eye. Yet, Mary trusted this simple woman to carry out her instructions and spread the faith. Adele felt ill-equipped for the challenge, but she went from village to village, offering to do housework in exchange for permission to educate children in the faith. She eventually led a group of Third Order Secular Franciscans known as The Sisters of Good Help (or the Sisters of Good Health) and opened a school. Despite setbacks and people questioning the authenticity of her vision, she trusted in God and seemed to be in constant contact with Our Lady.

Fenelon also traces the development of devotion to Our Lady of Good Help, the miracles that have taken place in the holy location of the apparition, and what led to the official Church approval.

America’s Mary: The Story of Our Lady of Good Hope makes for interesting reading. It contains many photographs to enhance the information. Most importantly, it helps spread Our Lady’s message, a message that echoes those of her other approved apparitions: Do penance, sacrifice, receive the sacraments frequently, and pass on the faith. This message is as vital today as it was in 1859. 


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Monday, November 07, 2022

Encounter New Devotions and Saintly Friends


In Encountering Signs of Faith: An Unexpected Journey with Sacramentals, the Saints, and the Abundant Grace of God, Allison Gingras shares her personal story of learning about various Catholic devotions, sacramentals, and saints as she reverted to her Catholic faith, discerned adopting a deaf young girl from China, and then travelled the road of bonding with her daughter and attempting to teach her about Catholicism when there was a challenging language barrier.

As an adoptive mother myself, I can testify to the fact that adoption is not always rainbows and sunshine. Adoption trauma is real. I can’t even imagine having the added challenges of an international adoption and adopting a child who is deaf. Yet, Gingras was truly called to this road by God. Her story of the signs that led her to her daughter, appropriately named Faith, is powerful. She is honest about her need to overcome her own fears, which could only be accomplished with God’s help.

Some of the sacramentals, devotions, and saints Gingras introduces readers to include St. Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal, St. Faustina Kowalska and Divine Mercy, St. Padre Pio and relics, St. Therese and novenas, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Venerable Patrick Peyton and the Rosary, St. Juan Diego and sacred images, St. Bernadette Soubirous and holy water, and St. Gemma Galgani and religious medals. While readers may be familiar with some of these, it is always good to learn something new about them! For me, I was happy to learn more about St. Gemma Galgani who I knew little about.

Reading this book is like sitting down with a friend who is chatting about her faith journey. Gingras is humble about her own faith, parenting challenges, and human shortcomings. She is someone readers can relate to. One need not be an adoptive parent to appreciate Encountering Signs of Faith. As Gingras points out in the introduction, we all have an adoption story because we all have been adopted by God.

Gingras includes Scripture, reflection questions, and activities to allow for further faith development. While it is wonderful for individuals, it would also be a great selection for a Catholic women’s book club. 


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Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Open Book for November 2022 #OpenBook


I'm joining up with Carolyn Astfalk who hosts an #OpenBook Linkup on Here's what I've been reading this past month. The dates indicate when I finished the books. Thanks for stopping by!

 10/4/22 The Courtship Plan - Kathleen Fuller - This was an enjoyable Amish romance about a young woman desperate to be married. Charity Raber comes up with a foolproof Courtship Plan, but she just might make a fool of herself carrying it out. There's no love lost between her and Jesse Bontrager, a young man who once insulted Charity in public, but as life keeps throwing them together, they may discover God's plan is better than theirs. (Read for a book review publication)


 10/5/22 5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath - Lisa Hendey - This is a wonderful aid to having a fruitful Advent season (which is just around the corner). For each day of Advent, there is prayer, Bible reading, and reflection. It can also be adapted for use with young children.

10/9/22 The Joy of the Snow - Elizabeth Goudge - A few people have recommended Elizabeth Goudge's novels to me, and I have tried a couple. They were fine, but perhaps I just wasn't in the right frame of mind and didn't really get into them. But when I looked her up online, I saw that she had written an autobiography and that looked interesting. She lived from 1900 - 1984. This book was written in 1974. It is a truly lovely book tracing her life in England, her relationship with God (She was Anglican and her father was a priest), and her life as a writer which she describes with great humility. She seems like a kindred spirit to me (I'd be willing to bet she was a fellow INFJ on the Myers-Briggs personality test), and I enjoyed this book a great deal. 

10/16/22 A Memory Book: Mount Holyoke College 1837-1887 - Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA is such a beautiful campus and is one of my favorite places to walk. Th's is book traced its history (I also enjoy reading about colleges and academic history in general) and was full of interesting tidbits, historical documents, and photos. It was written for the college 150th anniversary and was an absolute delight to read. 

10/21/22 The Women Doctors of the Church - Colleen Pressprich - This is a lovely picture book designed for children ages 5-10. It introduces young readers to the remarkable four female Doctors of the Church: Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux. The illustrations by Adalee Hude are absolutely lovely.


10/18/22 Everything is Just Beginning - Erin Bartels - This Christian romance is set in 1989 / 1990. A wanna-be rock star falls in love with a talented, blind musician whose family teaches him powerful lessons in forgiveness. The cultural and musical references bring the era to life. Instead of "chapters" it has "tracks" like on a CD. I thought that was an interesting touch. (Read for a book review publication.)


10/27/22 Welcoming the Christ Child with Padre Pio - Susan De Bartoli - This is billed as an Advent book and it does have Advent-themed reflections. However, it could be read and appreciated any time of year. It shares many stories of Padre Pio's life and miracles and is interesting for any one who wants to learn more about this modern saint. 

10/27/22 Rescuing Rose - Susan Pope Sloan - This was a pleasing inspirational Civil War romance in which a Northern soldier falls in love with an independent-minded Southern woman. This type of book is good when you are looking for a relaxing read with a happy ending. 

 10/30/22 The Year of the Puppy: How Dogs Become Themselves - Alexandra Horowitz - Horowitz is a dog researcher and runs a dog cognition lab. This book traces the life of a new dog from birth through her first year. I'm a dog person and this was an interesting look at dog development and all that goes into turning a puppy into a dog. 

10/31/22 Encountering Signs of Faith: My Unexpected Journey with Sacramentals, the Saints, and the Abundant Grace of God - Allison Gingras - This is a lovely memoir / testimony about the adoption of a young deaf girl from China (appropriately named "Faith") and discovering various sacramentals and saints along the way. Gingras shares her faith story with humor and humility. In reading this book, you just might pick up a new devotion to try or a new saint to become part of your holy friends.

Since spring of 2019, I have been making my way through the Great Books Curriculum of Thomas Aquinas College (I'm currently working on the readings for sophomore year). 

10/10/22 Sylla - Plutarch - I'm continuing to make my way through the readings of Plutarch's lives assigned for sophomore year. Sylla, also known as Sulla, lived from 138-78 BC. Plutarch describes him as "vainglorious" with an appetite for distinction. He was known as a great commander. He declared himself dictator. What I will remember most from this biography is the vivid way Plutarch described Sylla's painful last illness.  

10/14/22 Tiberius Gracchus - Plutarch - Tiberius Gracchus lived from 169 (?) - 133 BC. He married Appius Claudius' daughter Claudia and served under Scipio the Younger in Africa. He made a truce with the Numantines that saved 20,000 Roman lives. He also defended the poor. He served as a tribune but was ultimately beaten to death in an attack led by the senate in the 1st sedition at Rome. 

10/21/22 Caius Gracchus - Plutarch - Caius Gracchus was Tiberius' younger brother. He lived from 154-121 BC. Originally, he rebelled against his brother's policies but then he became more public-minded. He became tribune and supported a number of reforms of Roman laws. Like his brother, he was eventually killed. The Roman people eventually put up statues in honor of both the Gracchi brothers.

My eleven-year-old daughter and I read the following books this month:


The Battle of the Labyrinth and The Last Olympian - Rick Riordan - My daughter and I continued our trek through the Percy Jackson books with books 4 and 5 of the series. 


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Enhance Your Spiritual Journey this Advent

 Here are three new resources to help you have an Advent focused on the coming of Christ. 5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath by Lisa...