Monday, October 05, 2015

Blog Tour: The Sweetest Rain

Today I'm pleased to be hosting the blog tour for The Sweetest Rain, a new historical Catholic romance novel by Myra Johnson and published by Franciscan Media.

Set in Arkansas in 1930, The Sweetest Rain features an interesting cast of characters. Bryony Linwood lives with her grandfather and sisters on a tenant farm in the tiny town of Eden. Due to a drought, the farm is suffering and Bryony is determined to do whatever it takes to make sure her family survives. As a result, she ends up taking a job as a maid at the plantation owner's home.

The plantation owner, Mr. Heath, is a hard man (think Ebeneezer Scrooge) who kicked out his own daughter many years before, but his son Michael is a gentle, wounded soul suffering from shell-shock (what we would now call PTSD) after serving in World War I. Meanwhile, Mrs. Heath is suffering from dementia and is in need of constant care. The story also explores issues of racial inequality and the plantation system in the post-Civil War South.

The characters are well-developed and the plot is compelling and will keep you turning pages. I was also very impressed by the historical accuracy of the story, which Johnson explains in the "Author's Note."

The Sweetest Rain is a great addition to the Franciscan Media line of fiction. It will be enjoyed by anyone who relishes historical romance.

National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness

October 5th is the National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness, Recovery, and Understanding.

St. Dymphna is the patron saint of those suffering from mental illness. This is a prayer asking for her intercession:

Good Saint Dymphna, great wonder-worker in every affliction of mind and body, I humbly implore your powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary, the Health of the Sick, in my present need. (Mention it.) Saint Dymphna, martyr of purity, patroness of those who suffer with nervous and mental afflictions, beloved child of Jesus and Mary, pray to Them for me and obtain my request.
(Pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be.)
Saint Dymphna, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Book Review: Pray with Me: Seven Simple Ways to Pray with Your Children

Pray with Me: Seven Simple Ways to Pray with Your Children

by Grace Mazza Urbanski
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2015

“Pray with Me: Seven Simple Ways to Pray with Your Children” is a great gift to Catholic parents everywhere. Grace Mazza Urbanski, the director of Children’s Ministry for the Apostleship of Prayer in the United States, has degrees in English and Theology, and is also the mother of five children. She offers both her personal and professional expertise in this guide to helping your children learn how to pray. 

Even if we ourselves have an active prayer life, it can be difficult to pray with our children and help them develop their own relationship with God. We can trust that God will help us in our endeavor. “When our children need help, we offer what we can. Ultimately, prayer is God’s gifts; he improves our imperfect attempts to help our children pray.”

The seven means of prayer discussed are praying spontaneously, praying from memory, praying with scripture, praying with song, praying with silence, praying with reflection, and praying with the Apostleship of Prayer. The Appendix offers a brief treasury of classic Catholic prayers. 

“Prayer is an active, personal relationship with God; it gives us access to God and permits God to reach into our lives and our hearts.” It is so important that we help our children cultivate the practice of prayer. While “parents are the first gift God gives children,” we must always remember that God created our children and is their heavenly Father. “God already has a personal relationship with [our children.]” It is our job to help them be aware of that relationship and help develop it.

Some of the forms of prayer that Urbanski describes will come easier to certain individuals and families than others. That’s okay. There is no wrong way to pray if we approach God with a humble heart and an honest effort to reach out to Him. The important thing is to pray ourselves, and to pray with our children. 

Parents are sure to find some much needed encouragement and practical suggestions within the pages of “Pray with Me.” It would also make a great addition to any parish library. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Feast Day of St. Therese and the Upcoming Canonization of Her Parents

October 1st is the Feast Day of St. Therese, one of the most popular Catholic saints. This October 18th, Pope Francis is scheduled to canonize her parents, Louis and Zelie Martin who had the honor of having 5 daughters enter religious life. They are the first spouses in the history of the Church to be canonized together.

The following biography is from The Society of the Little Flower which has a great deal of information about St. Therese. I encourage you to visit their site.

Louis and Zelie Martin

Louis Martin (1823 - 1894) was a watchmaker by trade, and quite a successful one. He also skillfully managed his wife's lace business. But, as with so many men, Louis' life had not turned out at all the way he had planned.

Born into a family of soldiers, Louis spent his early years at various French military posts. He absorbed the sense of order and discipline that army life engenders. His temperament, deeply influenced by the peculiar French connection between the mystical and the military, tended toward things of the spirit.

At twenty-two, young Louis sought to enter religious life at the monastery of the Augustinian Canons of the Great St. Bernard Hospice in the Alps. The blend of courage and charity the monks and their famous dogs manifested in rescuing travelers in Alpine snows appealed powerfully to Louis Martin. 

Unfortunately, the Abbot insisted the young candidate learn Latin. Louis, whose bravery would have carried him to the heights of the Alps in search of a lost pilgrim, got himself lost among the peaks and valleys of Latin syntax and grammar. His most determined efforts failed. He became ill and dispirited, and abandoned his hopes for the monastic life.

Eventually, Louis settled down in Alencon, a small city in France, and pursued his watchmaking trade. He loved Alencon. It was a quiet place and he was a quiet man. It even had a lovely trout stream nearby, offering him the opportunity to pursue his favorite recreation.

THE LACE MAKER -  Zelie Guerin
Most famous of Alencon's thirteen thousand inhabitants were its lace makers. French people greatly admired the skill and talent required to produce the exquisite lace known throughout the nation as Point d' Alencon.

Zelie Guerin (1831 - 1877) was one of Alencon's more talented lace makers. Born into a military family, Zelie described her childhood and youth as "dismal." Her mother and father showed her little affection. As a young lady, she sought unsuccessfully to enter the religious order of the sisters of the Hotel-Dieu. Zelie then learned the Alencon lace-making technique and soon mastered this painstaking craft. Richly talented, creative, eager, and endowed with common sense, she started her own business and became quite successful. Notable as these achievements were, Zelie was yet to reveal the depths of the strength, faith, and courage she possessed.

Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin eventually met in Alencon, and on July 13, 1858, Louis, 34, and Zelie, 26, married and began their remarkable voyage through life. Within the next fifteen years, Zelie bore nine children, seven girls and two boys. "We lived only for them," Zelie wrote; "they were all our happiness."

The Martins' delight in their children turned to shock and sorrow as tragedy relentlessly and mercilessly stalked their little ones. Within three years, Zelie's two baby boys, a five year old girl, and a six-and-a-half week old infant girl all died.

Zelie was left numb with sadness. "I haven't a penny's worth of courage," she lamented. But her faith sustained her through these terrible ordeals. In a letter to her sister-in-law who had lost an infant son, Zelie remembered: "When I closed the eyes of my dear little children and buried them, I felt sorrow through and through....People said to me, 'It would have been better never to have had them.' I couldn't stand such language. My children were not lost forever; life is short and full of miseries, and we shall find our little ones again up above."

The Martins' last child was born January 2, 1873. She was weak and frail, and doctors feared for the infant's life. The family, so used to death, was preparing for yet another blow. Zelie wrote of her three month old girl: "I have no hope of saving her. The poor little thing suffers horribly....It breaks your heart to see her." But the baby girl proved to be much tougher than anyone realized. She survived the illness. A year later she was a "big baby, browned by the sun." "The baby," Zelie noted, "is full of life, giggles a lot, and is sheer joy to everyone." Death seemed to grant a reprieve to the Martin household. Although suffering had left its mark on mother and father, it was not the scar of bitterness. Louis and Zelie had already found relief and support in their faith.

The series of tragedies had intensified the love of Louis and Zelie Martin for each other. They poured out their affection on their five surviving daughters; Marie, 12, Pauline, 11, Leonie 9, Celine, 3, and their new-born. Louis and Zelie named their new-born; Marie-Francoise-Therese Martin. A century later people would know her as St. Therese, and call her the "Little Flower."

 Sadly, Zelie died of breast cancer when Therese was only 4 years old.

Louis Martin would live to see all his children grow up and encouraged Therese greatly in her vocation, even taking her to Rome to ask the Pope if she might enter the convent at age 15. The following is from EWTN:  

Louis Martin, St. Thérèse's father, was regarded as a saint in his lifetime. The last seven years of his life were marked by a severe trial, for him and for his daughters who loved him dearly. In 1887 he suffered several strokes which led to mental paralysis. Confined at first to a mental hospital, he was then cared by his daughter Céline until his death on 29 July 1894. 

A Call to a Deeper Love: The Family Correspondence of the Parents of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, 1864-1885 is a book of letters shared by Louis and Zelie Martin.

Monday, September 28, 2015

10 Years of Blogging

I started this blog on September 28, 2005. A blog was something I had been thinking about for a while, but I was encouraged to do it by an older gentleman that I went to graduate school with who I encountered at an alumni gathering. I owe him a cosmic debt of gratitude for pushing me to begin.

My life has gone in directions I couldn't even have imagined 10 years ago. At age 30, my older two boys were 4 and almost 3. I was homeschooling preschool but had pretty much made the decision to send my oldest to traditional school for Kindergarten. I'm now in my 8th year of homeschooling and even that journey has turned out much different than I pictured it would. 10 years ago, I knew nothing about Aspergers or working with the Department of Children and Families, or being a foster parent, or adoption. There is a reason why God lets you only see one day at a time!

Yet, as my life has unfolded in ways both wonderful and challenging, I've been thankful for this outlet.  A quarter of my life has gone by while I've been sharing my thoughts and book reviews with those of you who have stopped by these pages.

Thank you to those of you who have shared the journey with me, whether you have read many posts or just one. I hope that you have found something of value in these posts and I hope you'll keep traveling the journey with me in the future.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Book Review: Sacred Reading: The 2016 Guide to Daily Prayer

Sacred Reading: The 2016 Guide to Daily Prayer
by the Apostleship of Prayer
Douglas Leonard, Executive Director
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2015

Liturgical Year 2016, which begins November 29th, is right around the corner. Why not make it a year filled with prayer and a greater devotion to the Word of God in Scripture. "Sacred Reading: The 2016 Guide to Daily Prayer" by the Apostleship of Prayer is designed to help you do just that.

The Introduction offers a brief guide to lectio divina, "an ancient form of prayer known as sacred reading." Such a deep, prayerful reading of Scripture invites the Lord to speak directly to us and our current situations. "As we open our hearts to Jesus, he opens his heart to us."

Each day offers a brief opening prayer, the Gospel reading for the day, and a guide for prayer. One might also wish to keep a spiritual journal of reflections.

This is a wonderful devotional guide, designed to be used daily. While one can certainly read the Gospel passage and accompanying questions and gain some benefit, this book is most-suited for those who have the opportunity to spend at least 10 - 15 minutes in quiet, reflective prayer a day.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Book Review: 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum

102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Each Child's Learning Style
by Cathy Duffy
Westminster, CA: Grove Publishing, 2015

Cathy Duffy began homeschooling in 1982. In addition to being a homeschooling mom, she is an author, curriculum consultant, and international conference speaker. In short, she knows a great deal about homeschooling and this book shows it. "102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum" devotes the first five chapters to helping homeschoolers figure out how their children learn, what their philosophy of education is, and providing a guideline for who should learn what and when. Duffy respects the individuality of homeschoolers and encourages each family to determine what works for them.

Duffy writes from a Christian perspective, but includes Christian, Catholic, and secular resources in her 102 top picks, which are presented by general subject area. She offers very thorough reviews of each of these products in order to help consumers make an informed decision.

"102 Top Picks" is a delight for anyone who loves to read about the various curricular options. The book is very text-heavy, however, and while certainly not Duffy's intent, might be rather intimidating to a new homeschooler venturing into unfamiliar waters for the first time. While Duffy has been selective in her choices, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of products and approaches available.

Overall, however, this is a high-quality resource for those eager to discover what many well-known homeschool materials actually provide in terms of approach and education.

To purchase this resource, please visit:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

40 Days for Life Starts 9/23/15

The Fall version of 40 Days for Life begins September 23rd and goes to November 1st. Please mark your calendar and plan to join in the effort however you can!

From the 40 Days for Life Website:

Want to end abortion? If you do, the first thing you must do is pray. Prayer is at the center of 40 Days for Life. During each campaign, we are calling on people of faith across the nation … and around the world … to fall on their knees before the Lord, asking Him to hear our plea and heal our land. Pray outside an abortion facility. Pray at church. Pray at work. Pray in the car. Pray at home with your family.

Christ told us some demons can only be driven out by prayer and fasting. The two go hand in hand. Prayer keeps us rooted in the fact that it is our desire to carry out God’s will. Fasting is a sacrifice that helps us reach beyond our own limitations with God’s help.

Each day during 40 Days for Life, individuals, churches, families and groups will be asked to join together in prayer for a specific request so the entire Body of Christ can unite around a common focus. These specific prayer requests will seek God’s help for:

Women who are at risk of having an abortion
Innocent children who are at risk of perishing
Men and women who carry the pain of a past abortion experience
Workers at Planned Parenthood facilities and abortion centers
Local, regional, and national leaders
Revival and renewal in our churches
Repentance and healing throughout our nation

People of faith are also invited to fast throughout 40 Days for Life. Christ said there are demons that can only be driven out by prayer and fasting. A fast is not a Christian diet; it is a powerful means of drawing closer to God by blocking out distractions. Fast from certain foods. Fast from television. Fast from apathy and indifference. Fast from whatever it is that separates you from God.

We believe that when God’s people fast with a broken, repentant and contrite spirit, our heavenly Father will hear from heaven and heal our lives, our churches, our communities, our nation, and our world.