Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Book Review: Another Way Home

Another Way Home: A Chicory Inn Novel - Book 3

by Deborah Raney
Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015


It is the mark of a good writer that you can pick up the 3rd book in a series and still follow along and enjoy the book. This was the case with "Another Way Home" by Deborah Rainey. Danae and her husband Dallas are suffering from infertility. Knee-deep in costly infertility treatments that have not had the desired effect, their marriage is struggling. Danae is also suffering from extreme resent and jealousy of her sister who is expecting child number four, a completely unplanned pregnancy. Danae would like to consider adoption, but Dallas, adopted as a baby, refuses to consider it.

Dallas suggests that Danae take on some volunteer activity to fill her days and take her mind off her infertility. A battered woman's shelter wasn't what he had in mind, but that is where she ends up. There she encounters a young woman named Misty and her son Austin, who will change their lives in more ways than she could ever imagine.

"Another Way Home" is a well-written, engaging story about family, faith, adoption, and finding God's will in unexpected places. 


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Book Review: Asperkids

I recently reviewed The Asperkid's (Secret) Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-So-Obvious Social Guidelines for Tweens and Teens with Asperger Syndrome by Jennifer Cook O'Toole which my Aspie teen highly recommended.

I therefore was eager to read the original book in the series: Asperkids: An Insider's Guide to Loving, Understanding and Teaching Children with Asperger Syndrome. I was not disappointed.

Cook O'Toole has Asperger syndrome, is married to an Aspie, and has three Aspie children. She knows what she is writing about and offers the unique perspective of being an Aspie as well as being the mother of others. She refers to this book as "your Rosetta Stone. Let me teach you how to speak Asperger's, think Aspergers, play Aspergers."

As an Aspie, she emphasizes the importance of connecting with Aspies through whatever their special interest is at the time. "An Aspie's special interest is not a perseveration to be endured - it is the most powerful way into our hearts and minds . . .  the child's passion is the way to get him passionate about learning." As a mother, she acknowledges this can be hard. At her dinner table, there may well be "concurrent monologues about Athena, dinosaurs, and Spiderman." Nevertheless, that passion is your ticket into their minds and hearts. "As much as you hear, it is only the tip of the iceberg of the wealth of thought, the seduction of belonging, the sacred-yes, sacred-dimension where we cannot mess up or be excluded. . . .sometimes it is the best friend we have."

She also acknowledges that Aspies often face some unique learning challenges and don't always get the help they need in the traditional school system. Her children have both attended traditional schools and been homeschooled. "Many Aspies, who may already battle anxiety, confidence issues, and some OCD tendencies, must also manage real roadblocks like working memory problems, dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, visual or auditory processing issues, hypotonia (low muscle tone), motor planning problems, or sensory integration issues." Yet, "they are often 'too bright' to receive educational or therapeutic support, even if they have legitimate deficits in learning."

The second half of the book is dedicated to describing practical ways to work around learning challenges and teach both academics and practical life skills. Honestly, even as a homeschooling mom of an Aspie, I found the sheer mass of ideas exhausting. But, this is definitely one of those cases where you can take a couple ideas and try to implement them. Baby steps of progress are much better than no progress at all. Those new to the world of Aspies will especially find this information helpful. As Cook O'Toole states, "understanding has changed everything." Trying to see and understand the world the way your Aspie child does can only help both your relationship and their educational journey.



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Book Review: The Mistletoe Inn

The Mistletoe Inn: A Novel (The Mistletoe Collection)

by Richard Paul Evans
New York: Simon and Schuster, 2015

I always look forward to Richard Paul Evans' Christmas stories. His latest offering is The Mistletoe Inn, the second installment of his "Mistletoe Collection." The three stories are only very loosely related and you need not have read the first in order to enjoy this one.

Kimberly Rossi has a very good reason to hate Christmas. In addition, she is going through a divorce, her father has cancer, and her first novel has been rejected by everyone. When her father insists she attend a Romance Writer's Conference at The Mistletoe Inn in Vermont in order to meet her favorite reclusive writer, she reluctantly agrees. After the first day, it seems like a complete waste of her time and her father's money, money that could be used for his cancer treatment. But, then she meets a fellow writer named Zeke who takes a real interest in her work and her. When he offers his honest take on her story, will she be able to take it?

While the book is a little on the predictable side, that doesn't take away from its charm. This is a great Christmas read, especially for aspiring writers.






Monday, December 21, 2015

3D Catholic - A New App for the Year of Mercy

3D Catholic invites you to join others in your immediate area in practicing 3 Catholic devotions for 30 days.

Each of the devotions is focused on the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and provides the grace to live according to it.
By joining the 3D Catholic movement, you are committing to:
  • Praying the Angelus everyday at noon
  • Abstaining from meat on Fridays
  • Performing at least one corporal work of mercy each week

  • Commit for 30 days
    The problem many people have with devotions is that they get too busy or simply forget to practice them. 3D Catholic provides helpful reminders and connects you to other Catholics who are practicing the 3 Devotions along with you.
    30 days of practice means you will be well on your way to forming a habit - and a life giving one at that!
Find out more at 3dcatholic.nd.edu 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Book Review The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree
by Gloria Houston; Pictures by Barbara Cooney
New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1988

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree is an older book, written in 1988, but it is one I never read before and it touched me so much I simply had to review and recommend it. It takes place during World War I in Appalachia. Ruthie's family was in charge of providing the Christmas tree for their local Church that year so Ruthie and her father went to pick one out in the early spring. They find a perfect balsam on a high cliff. But then, Ruthie's father is drafted into the war. The year wears on and Ruthie and her mom struggle to make ends meet without him. Every night, Ruthie prays the same prayer, "Please send my papa home for Christmas and please have old St. Nicholas bring me a doll with a beautiful dress, the color of cream, all trimmed with ribbons and lace."

Finally, a letter comes that her father will be home for Christmas. But, the days until the holiday grow shorter and he still doesn't come. Is there any way for Ruthie's family to deliver the promised Christmas tree and for Ruthie to get to be the Christmas angel? Will her daily prayer be answered?

When I was reading this story out loud to my daughter, I was sobbing so hard I could barely read. It is recommended for grades K - 3, but it is definitely one of those picture books that all ages can read and be touched by.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Catholic Meaning in the Song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas?"

The Song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" may or may not been composed to help transmit the Catholic faith during a time in which it was dangerous to do so, but this article is very interesting and if we can use the familiar song as a catechetical tool - why not? Read more here:

Origin of the 12 Days of Christmas

Friday, December 11, 2015

Book Review: The Photograph

The Photograph
by Beverly Lewis
Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2015

Beverly Lewis is one of those authors I know I can count on to provide an enjoyable leisure read. The Photograph, a new work of Amish fiction, lived up that reputation.

Frona, Eva, and Lily Esch are three young Amish women trying to make their way after their parents' death. When Lily leaves the community one night, providing no information about where she is going, Frona and Eva are left feeling even more lost and follow every lead in an attempt to find their wayward sister and bring her home. Making matters worse, their older brother Menno decides he is going to move into the family homestead with his own family, leaving at least one of them with no place to live.

Eva is being courted by Abner, but she can't imagine becoming a farmer's wife. Meanwhile, Jed, a stranger who has come to town to work in a buggy shop, takes an immediate interest in her. But Jed has a secret of his own and an untold reason why he was so attracted to Eva on first sight.

The only odd part about this story is that it takes place in 1980 without any compelling reason. The only sign that this is the case is that one of the characters was talking about Ronald Reagan. This is in no way takes away or adds to the story.  

This is a light, enjoyable story, perfect for relaxing with. Beverly Lewis has once again delivered a pleasant read that fans of Amish fiction will enjoy.




Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Intro to The Year of Mercy in Lego

A brief explanation of the Holy Year of Mercy inaugurated on December 8, 2015 by Pope Francis. Made with LEGO by Fr. Roderick.

Pope Francis' Prayer for the Jubilee Year of Mercy


Pope Francis has composed a special prayer for the Jubilee Year of Mercy which begins today, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception 

Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him.
Show us your face and we will be saved.
Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money;
the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things;
made Peter weep after his betrayal,

and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.
Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman:
“If you knew the gift of God!”
You are the visible face of the invisible Father,
of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy:
let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified.
You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness
in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error:
let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.
Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing,
so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord,
and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor,
proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed,
and restore sight to the blind.
We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy,
you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.
Amen.


Sunday, December 06, 2015

Book Review: Our Lady: Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena



Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena

by Marge Fenelon
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2015

On October 12, 2013, “Pope Francis revealed to the world his special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. . . He spoke of Mary as the ‘new Eve’ who unties the knot of Eve’s disobedience.” In May 2014, Marge Fenelon traveled to the Holy Land with the Catholic Press Association as part of Pope Francis’ pilgrimage. At that time, Pope Francis made an “urgent request that we pray for peace” in the Holy Land. In light of recent events, that need is even more acute. 

In Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena, Fenelon combines her experiences and insights while exploring the Holy Land with a novena to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. The knots that Fenelon discusses include injustice, separation, confusion, hopelessness, grief and loss, discord, betrayal, envy and pride, and affliction. Each chapter begins with a quote from Pope Francis, includes Fenelon’s thoughts, then moves on to a prayer, rosary, and reflection questions. The book is intended to be used for nine days with one chapter being read and prayed each day.

The intent is not only to pray for peace in the Middle East, but also to undo the knots in our own lives. “Conflict doesn’t only occur in the Middle East; it occurs in our own personal lives as well, and even at our dinner tables.” We all need to pray for peace in matters both big and small.
While the novena is designed to tackle a wide range of knots and reading the entire book is highly recommended, one might also choose to pray a novena focusing on the one knot that is causing the most problems in one’s life at that time. 

Fenelon also encourages readers to meditate on the image of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots which portrays Mary undoing a ribbon full of knots. The ribbon “represents your life – the life God wants you to live in freedom, holiness, and peace. The ribbon is knotted, and each knot stops you from proceeding on your journey to fulfill God’s will and grow in his grace and mercy. . . Allow yourself to come so close to Our Lady that you could imagine yourself sitting at her feet, watching her untie your knots.” An appendix explains the history of the image and is well-worth reading.

However one uses this book, it is sure to enrich one’s spiritual life. As Fenelon states, “I hope that Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena leads you on a spiritual journey that will deepen your faith, increase your love for our Blessed Mother, and commence the undoing of the knots in your life. Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, pray for us!”

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Blog Tour: Roland West - Loner

Today I am pleased to be hosting the blog tour for Roland West, Loner
 - a new work of Catholic Young Adult Fiction. 


Roland West, Loner is a contemporary Christian story of a fourteen-year-old boy who finds himself friendless at a new school and the subject of cruel rumors. Despised by older twin brothers, he feels utterly alone but not without hope. If he can avoid his brothers while his father is away, he might have a solution to his problem. When his brothers lock him away, having a plan of their own, he gets rescued by an unlikely pair: a neighboring autistic boy and his brother. Struggling to trust his new friends, secrets, rumors, lies, and an unusual inheritance put him on a journey that just might have the power to change the life of this loner.

Roland West, Loner addresses loneliness, sibling relationships, facing fears, autism, and the Communion of the Saints. This is the first in a series of Catholic teen fiction.

"A heartwarming tale of friendship, faith, and forgiveness. Linden had me laughing on one page and crying on the next. The story stayed with me long after I closed the last page. Simply put, Roland West, Loner, is the best Catholic fiction I've read in ages."

Author bio: Theresa Linden, a homeschooling mom of three adopted boys, grew up in a military family. Moving every few years left her with the impression that life is an adventure. Her Catholic faith inspires the belief that there is no greater adventure than the reality we can’t see, the spiritual side of life. She hopes that the richness, depth, and mystery of the Catholic faith arouse her readers’ imaginations to the invisible realities and the power of faith and grace. A member of the Catholic Writers’ Guild and the International Writers Association, Theresa lives in northeast Ohio with her husband, three boys, and one dog. Her other published books include Chasing Liberty and Testing Liberty, books one and two in a dystopian trilogy.

Enter to win a free copy: 
a Rafflecopter giveaway



Monday, November 30, 2015

Prayer for Enemies

This prayer came in on prayer card from the Association of Marian Helpers today:

God our Father, your Son commanded us, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Mt. 5:44) By dying for all humanity and asking you to forgive those who crucified him, Jesus saved us and made us sons and daughters of God. 

Following his example, we pray for our enemies, known and unknown. We ask that the loving will of God be done in their lives. May the Holy Spirit come into their lives and transform their hearts and ours, leading to peace and reconciliation amongst all your children. 

In Jesus' name, we pray.
Amen.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Christmas Novena Begins November 30th

It is time once again for the Christmas Novena which begins on the Feast of St. Andrew (November 30th) and goes through Christmas Eve. Some say to pray the following prayer 15 times a day each day; others have it once a day. However you decide to pray, humbly ask God for whatever your heart desires most this Christmas.

It seems like this year what we all need most for Christmas is peace in the world. If you don't have something pressing to pray for, I invite you to pray for that.


The Christmas Novena

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
At which the Son of God was born
Of a most pure Virgin
At a stable in Bethlehem
In the piercing cold.
At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech thee,
To hear my prayers and grant my desires.
(Mention your request here.)
Through Jesus Christ and his most Blessed Mother. Amen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Prayer

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. This prayer came in the mail to me on behalf of the Bishop of Springfield, MA.

Thanksgiving Prayer 

Lord of ages past and to come, bless our home. 

Help us to see You in one another and in all who enter through our door. 
Help is to forgive one another, to affirm and nurture one another, to celebrate our lives together.

We come to our table to celebrate this Thanksgiving day with joy and gratitude for the good food with which we are blessed today, for the people who helped prepare it and for all of God's gifts to us.

Jesus is our light and our salvation. We give thanks for all the many gifts that we have received. Let us also remember those who today are lonely, hungry or homeless.

We gratefully remember too, our family members and loved ones who are not here with us physically and celebrate the gift which they have been and continue to be for us.

We make our prayer as we do all things through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Spend Advent with Dorothy Day

Reflections during Advent: Dorothy Day on Prayer, Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience
 

In his September 2015 speech to Congress, Pope Francis credited American journalist Dorothy Day (1897−1980), cofounder of the Catholic Worker movement, for her deep faith and social activism.

During Advent of 1966, Day wrote a series of four reflections in The Ave Maria magazine that emphasized her devotion to her Catholic faith and its deep traditions. These reflections, available for the first time as an eBook collection with a new reader’s guide and an excerpt from On Pilgrimage, are as important today as they were fifty years ago. Written a year after the close of the Second Vatican Council, the collection address a Catholic Church in a time of tremendous upheaval. Catholic devotions fell out of practice and American affluence and materialism seemed to know no bounds. It was a time in the Church not unlike the world today. Each of the four reflections on prayer, poverty, chasity, and obedience are presented in Day’s unique voice and way of storytelling and includes personal stories about her childhood, conversion to Catholicism, work with Peter Maurin, Catholic Worker Communities, and much more.


Servant of God Dorothy Day (1897–1980) was a pacifist, social commentator, journalist, convert to
Catholicism, and cofounder of the Catholic Worker movement.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, she was baptized in the Episcopal Church. Day lived her young adult
life as a political radical and socialist, sympathizing with anarchists and communists. She was increasingly drawn to Catholicism because she saw it as the Church of immigrants and the poor. After giving birth to her daughter,Tamar, in 1926, Day converted to Catholicism. Day cofounded the Catholic Worker movement in 1933 with Peter Maurin to live and spread the vision of Catholic
social teaching.

Day was honored by the University of Notre Dame with the Laetare Medal in 1972. She died in 1980 in New York and her cause for canonization was launched by Cardinal John J. O’Connor, Archbishop of New York, in 1997 on what would have been her one-hundredth birthday

Monday, November 16, 2015

Cheryl Harness History - George Washington Carver

As part of their botany curriculum this year, my teen boys had to read The Groundbreaking, Chance-Taking Life of George Washington Carver and Science and Invention in America . This is one of a series of books by written and illustrated by Cheryl Harness and published by the National Geographic Society. While I haven't read the others, I can tell you I was extremely impressed by this installment.

The book, as one might expect, tells the story of George Washington Carver's life, but it goes beyond that, placing Carver in historical context with the world around him. At the bottom of the text throughout the entire book is an illustrated timeline of other events / inventions / people which were significant at that time. It made for fascinating reading all by itself, providing an interesting snapshot of the world in which Carver lived and worked.

Harness is a talented writer and illustrator. The text is easy to read and understand while offering a great deal of information and will keep both young people and adults engaged. The illustrations are rendered in black and white and are a cross between a cartoon and a realistic style. They both break up and add to the text, helping to make the book appealing to a wide spectrum of readers.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Free Resources for Those Discerning the Priesthood

Interested in the Priesthood? Wondering if God is calling you? GoPriest.com would like to send you the most comprehensive and inspiring books ever written for men considering the priesthood.  Choose either English or Spanish editions, completely free of charge:
  • To Save a Thousand Souls: A Guide for Discerning a Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood
    by Fr. Brett Brannen
  • Is Jesus Calling You to Be a Catholic Priest?
    by Msgr. Thomas Richter
Please note: You do need to live in a participating diocese - please check the list on the website - there are many listed. Please visit: www.GoPriest.com

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Sacred Reading for Advent and Christmas 2015-2016

It's hard to believe, but Advent is right around the corner. Are you searching for a way to focus on the all-important religious aspect of this season in the midst of all the busyness? Sacred Reading for Advent and Christmas from the Apostleship of Prayer may be just what you are looking for.

As the introduction states, "Advent is all about waiting for Jesus Christ. The Gospel readings of Advent make us mindful of three ways we await Jesus - past, present, and future." This book invites you to "prayerfully encounter Jesus in the daily Gospel."

Excerpted from Sacred Reading: The 2016 Guide to Daily Prayer, this book offers a brief intro to lectio divina, the act of sacred reading. For each day of Advent through the Feast of Epiphany, there is a Gospel passage as well as questions to inspire deeper interaction with the text and with Jesus.

This book would be ideal for an at-home personal Advent retreat. It is guaranteed to help keep the focus of Advent and Christmas where it belongs - on the birth of our Savior.  


Wednesday, November 04, 2015

A Shot for Postpartum Depression?

I was perusing Facebook the other day and came across a post in one of the Catholic homeschool groups I belong to. A woman had given birth over the summer and was having a hard time with postpartum depression. She mentioned having made an appointment with her NaPro doctor to get a progesterone shot. Several other women commented that they, too, had taken this route and had their symptoms alleviated.

This was the first I had ever heard of such a thing - a shot for postpartum depression. That is truly awesome. As someone who has faced that darkness, I wish I had been aware of this. Of course, I don't have a NaPro doctor near me, which is a whole other issue, but still the wider medical community should be made aware of it. Maybe someone suffering from postpartum could bring in the following article to show her doctor: NaPro Technology and Postpartum Depression and be able to get the help she desperately needs.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

All Souls Day - Chaplet for the Faithfully Departed

November 2nd is All Soul's Day - a day which is especially set aside in the Church to remember all those in purgatory.


Chaplet for the Faithful Departed
O Lord, my Creator and Redeemer, I believe that in Your justice You have willed purgatory for those who pass into eternity before having completely atoned for their sins. And I believe that in Your mercy You accept suffrages, especially in the sacrifice of the Mass, for their comfort and liberation.
Enliven my faith and grant me sentiments of compassion towards these suffering brethren.
Eternal rest, grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, through the intercession of Mary and all the saints, please free from purgatory the faithful departed. 
I pray you, O St. Michael, prince of the heavenly army, take them into the eternal light which was promised by God to Abraham and his descendants.
I offer You, Lord, sacrifices and prayers of praise. Accept them on behalf of those whom we commemorate this day. Admit them into the eternal light and joy.
Eternal rest, grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.
O good Master Jesus, I entreat You for the sake of all to whom I am bound by motives of gratitude, justice, charity, and relationship: my parents, brothers and sisters, spiritual and material benefactors, the members of our Congregation and my relatives.
I recommend to You the forgotten persons, those who were more devoted to You, to the Blessed Virgin, persons who on earth had great responsibility: priests, the authorities, superiors, religious. Call them soon to eternal salvation.
Eternal rest, grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.
I thank You, O Jesus divine Master, for having come down from heaven and redeemed the human race from so much evil with Your doctrine, sanctity and death. I pray You for the dead who are in purgatory because of the propagation of evil through the press, radio, television, and the motion picture industry.
I believe that they, once freed from their sufferings and admitted into eternal happiness, will pray for the modern world so that all the means given for the elevation of this present life may be used for the attainment of everlasting life.
Eternal rest, grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.
O merciful Jesus, for the merits of Your sorrowful passion and for the love You have for me, I beseech You to forgive me the punishments I have merited for the present or future life by my many sins. 
Grant me the spirit of penance, delicacy of conscience, hatred for any deliberate venial sin, and the necessary dispositions to gain indulgences.
I bind myself to help the poor dead as much as I can, and You, O infinite Goodness, give me an ever-increasing fervor so that when it is time for me to leave this world, I shall be admitted at once to contemplate You forever in heaven.
Eternal rest, grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Asperkid's Secret Book of Social Rules

One of the best things about Asperger Syndrome becoming more widely understood and diagnosed is that adults who are Aspie themselves have stepped forward to help others navigate the waters. Those of us who are neuro-typical can read all we can about this syndrome, love and work with these individuals all day, and still not fully understand what it is like to be them. Jennifer Cook O'Toole is Aspie herself, married to an Aspie, and is the mom of three Aspies. The CEO of Asperkids, LLC, a social education company, she knows what she is talking about!

I picked up "The Asperkid's Secret Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-So-Obvious Social Guidelines for Tweens and Teens with Asperger Syndrome," skimmed it, and decided it was worth sharing with my Aspie teen. I love that O'Toole writes, "Do not try to be something or someone you are not. Ever. Remember what I said about my always feeling like a 'poser,' a fraud? That's a horrible way to live. These rules aren't going to turn you 'poof!' into an NT. Which is a good thing. Being an Asperkid isn't something to hide - actually, it's something to laugh about and even be proud of." That being said, being able to navigate the social world is important, and an area that most Aspies struggle with. O'Toole offers them some very helpful guidelines, what she calls the secret rules.

She talks about saying "Thank you," and "I'm sorry," how to offer a compliment and act interested in others, handling criticism (both the getting and offering), how to deal with white lies,  the importance of positive self-talk, navigating social media, and a bit on communicating with the opposite sex.

I brought this book home, showed it to my Aspie, and said, "I thought this might be something you would be interested in," and then hoped he would read it. It proceeded to sit on the shelf for the next month, but then, one day, he picked it up, and devoured it in two days. He laughed and nodded along as he was reading. In short, he loved this book, and found it very helpful. That, I think, is the best recommendation I can offer. This is a book for Aspie tweens and teens to read themselves and get what they can out of it.







 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Consecrate Yourself to Jesus through Mary for the Jubilee Year of Mercy

The Marian Helpers are inviting everyone to consecrate themselves to Jesus through Mary for the Jubilee Year of Mercy. In their words, "If you have never consecrated yourself to Jesus through Mary, now is the best time ever! This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make the consecration in preparation for an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. And if you have already consecrated yourself, now is the perfect time to renew it. To do so, use the most popular consecration book available today: 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC."

Fr. Joseph, MIC, writes:

Mary can best bring us into God's mercy when we consecrate ourselves totally to Jesus through her. That's the secret weapon that will help us tap into the great graces of the upcoming year of mercy.

Why, well according to Pope John Paul II, the whole purpose of consecrating or entrusting ourselves to Mary is so that she can bring us to the pierced side of Jesus, which is the Fountain of Mercy. In other words, Mary's whole role is to help us experience the mercy of God. And she does it best when we consecrate ourselves to her. This is why St. Louis de Montfort said that a total consecration to Jesus through Mary is the "quickest, easiest, surest, and most perfect" path to becoming a saint.


 To consecrate on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is the start date for the Year of Mercy, begin on November 5th. I made my consecration on May 13th of the this year and reconsecrate myself daily. I highly recommend this consecration and the use of the 33 Days to Morning Glory book. It is a simple process, but can mean so much for your spiritual life.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Book Review: Silver Linings by Debbie Macomber

Silver Linings: A Rose Harbor Novel

by Debbie Macomber
New York: Ballantine Books, 2015

I have enjoyed all the books in the Rose Harbor series by Debbie Macomber, but "Silver Linings" is my favorite so far. While it helps if you have read other books in this series about the Inn at Rose Harbor run by war-widow Jo Marie, you can still enjoy this story even if you haven't.

Coco and Katie are two young women returning to Cedar Cove for their ten year high school reunion. They both have their reasons for wanting to be there: Coco wants to settle a score with a young man who did her wrong, while Katie hopes to reconnect with her high school sweetheart. The reunion will bring surprises for both of them, as they are forced to face their pasts with the wisdom of a few years under their belts.

Meanwhile, Jo Marie's handyman Mark recently declared that he had romantic feelings for her, and that, as a result, he needed to leave town. Now, Jo Marie is grieving again, much as she did after her husband died, but she is determined to move on and embrace life.

I eagerly read and enjoyed every sentence of this well-crafted romance. If you want to lose yourself in a relaxing, romantic read, this is the book for you. I invite you to read "Silver Linings" and all the books in the Rose Harbor series. I'm already looking forward to the next one!


Friday, October 16, 2015

Feast Day of Saint Gerard, Patron Saint of Pregnant Women and Those Trying to Conceive

 October 16th is the Feast Day of St. Gerard

Prayer for Motherhood

O good Saint Gerard, powerful intercessor before God and Wonderworker of our day, I call upon thee and seek thy aid. Thou who on earth didst always fulfill God’s designs, help me to do the holy Will of God. Beseech the Master of Life, from Whom all paternity proceedeth, to render me fruitful in offspring, that I may raise up children to God in this life and heirs to the Kingdom of His Glory in the world to come. Amen.

More prayers to St. Gerard may be found here: http://www.saintgerard.com/stgerard.html

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Book Review: Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary

Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary
Edited by Sarah Reinhard
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2015

The Hail Mary is such a beautiful prayer in honor of our Blessed Mother, one every Catholic knows. Sarah Reinhard, a convert to the faith, describes the Hail Mary as her "blankie prayer . . . Just as my children cling to their worn-soft, faded blankies, so I cling to my Blessed Mother's skirt through this prayer. When my heart aches, I cry out a Hail Mary. When I need to be held in my sorrow, it's a Hail Mary that comes out. When I'm worried or troubled, the words I can't find on my own shape up as a Hail Mary."

The Hail Mary is so familiar that we can often end up saying it without thinking deeply about it. It is still a prayer, still comforting, but sometimes it is good to slow down and really pay attention to the words. In Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary, Reinhard invited a who's who of modern Catholic writers to each reflect on one word of the prayer, including the words "the" and "of." No word is unimportant in this classic prayer. Each reflection also includes a prayer of its own.

Each reflection is well-done and worth spending time with, but it is only natural that certain reflections will touch individual readers at a given moment of his or her life more than others. So, I offer you a few quotes that spoke to me.

Kate Wicker on "Grace": "God called me to be a wife and mom. Every day he asks me to relinquish control, to bend to his will, to trust as Mary did even when I don't understand what's going on. . . .Will I answer his call? Will I accept he wants nothing more than to bless me, to lavish me with grace, and to lead me in living a life of trust and surrender to him?"

Julie Davis on "Thou": "Thou is the intimate, familiar form of the word you from Early Modern English. . . "When I think of 'Blessed art thou among women' it is as if I hear God tenderly speaking with great love through his messenger, the archangel Gabriel."

Michelle Buckman on "Mother": "Christians often ask, 'What would Jesus do? But I also like to ponder, 'What would Mary do?' because she understands the demands of motherhood."

Susie Lloyd's humorous take on "Death" is also not to be missed.

Word by Word would be perfect to use in an at-home or small-group retreat, reading and reflecting on one word a day for the 42 days. Reinhard and all the writers who offered their reflections have given Catholics a wonderful gift in this book.



Sunday, October 11, 2015

Blog Tour: Refuge of the Heart

Today I have the honor of kicking off the blog tour for Refuge of the Heart by Ruth Logan Herne, published by Franciscan Media as part of their line of Catholic fiction. 

Refuge of the Heart deals with an issue that has been making headlines recently - the plight of refugees. Magdalena Serida escaped from a living nightmare in Chechnya. Sponsored by a Catholic Church, she was able to come to America where she now lives in poverty and struggles to make a new life for herself and her five-year old sister Anna. A medical school graduate in her native land, here she must start again from the beginning while working as an aide at a nursing home.

Mitchell Sanderson is the local district attorney, currently facing reelection. He encounters Magdalena as she is stuck with a flat tire and offers to help. Refuge of the Heart follows their developing relationship as Magdalena struggles to trust and Mitchell gets his eyes opened to a world he new little about. Unfortunately, some secrets from Magdalena's past threaten to destroy their new-found love from both within and without.

There is also a very interesting and touching subplot involving Magdalena and Francine, a resident at the nursing home.

In Refuge of the Heart, Herne tackles difficult subjects with grace. A 2011 winner of an award from the American Christian Fiction Writers, her skill in crafting a well-woven story shines through. Refuge of the Heart will leave you with much to think about as well as with the pleasure of having read a beautiful love story.

To purchase, please visit: Refuge of the Heart


Friday, October 09, 2015

The Gift of the Real Presence

I recently had the pleasure of visiting a local private college campus. While there, I stopped in the campus chapel. It was a stately, beautiful New England style church, and I found it peaceful and quiet, a lovely place to rest a minute. No doubt through the many years of the building’s existence, many prayers and worship services had been offered there, but at that moment I was all alone in the building. There was not another living soul present.

In contrast, when one is in a Catholic Church, one is never alone. Jesus Christ, in the Eucharist, is always present in the tabernacle. There is a palpable difference as soon as one walks in the door. It is the reason why, as Catholics, we always genuflect to the tabernacle as soon as we enter. We acknowledge the presence of God in our midst.

To be sure, it is not always easy to believe that Jesus is truly in the bread and wine. After all, with our physical senses, bread and wine is all we can see and feel. As a result, many Protestant faiths view the Eucharist as a mere symbol of Jesus. While that may be easier for the human intellect to accept, our Christian brothers and sisters are missing such an amazing gift, one that can only be experienced with the eyes of faith.

Yet, our faith should be based on reason. How can we Catholics proclaim with confidence that the bread and wine consecrated on the altar during Mass is indeed the real presence of Jesus? As with all matters of faith, we should begin with the revealed Word of God in Scripture.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus states, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6:53-56 NAB)

Then, at the Last Supper, Jesus gave us the precious gift of the Eucharist itself. “Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you for this is the blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28 NAB)

These are the same words that the priest says at every Mass every day throughout the world. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide his Church and two thousand years of tradition teach us that the bread and wine turns into the true body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs that “the Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’” (CCC 1324) We cannot believe in Jesus and Scripture and the Church, yet negate this most important gift from Him. Jesus left us the very gift of Himself, as both physical food for our bodies and spiritual food for our souls. The old adage states that we are what we eat. In the gift of the Eucharist, Jesus enters into an intimate communion with us. He becomes part of us.

In The Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, Fr. Robert DeGrandis, S.S.J. compares the host to the single cell that begins the life of a human person. “The entire person to be born is contained in that tiny cell, but you cannot see that person, just as the consecrated host contains Jesus in His entirety: body, blood, soul and divinity. The first cell of the baby contains the complete DNA chain and the entire genetic map of that baby. So, too, all of Jesus is contained in that small piece of consecrated, unleavened bread. In this case, don’t believe in your eyes alone, or you will be deceived. . . only faith can help you to believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.” (14) In order to help those eyes of faith, Fr. DeGrandis suggests that when we receive communion, we “form an image of Jesus giving you Himself.” (9)

If one still has difficulty believing and desires more physical proof, throughout history there have been many examples of Eucharistic miracles. The Vatican even has an exhibition highlighting 153 of them. (http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/mir/engl_mir.htm) Perhaps one of the most impressive took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1996 when our current Pope Francis was Archbishop of that region. Some pieces of consecrated host were placed in water to dissolve and then placed in the tabernacle. When the tabernacle was opened over a week later, the host had turned into blood and flesh. Several years later, the sample, which under any normal circumstances would have disintegrated long before, was determined to contain myocardial tissue from a heart. (http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/mir/english_pdf/BuenosAires3.pdf)

The gifts of Jesus in the Eucharist are many. It increases our union with Christ in a way nothing else can. It “preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at Baptism.” It helps cleanse us from past sin and increases our resistance to future sin. It also increases the charity within us. “By giving himself to us Christ revives our love and enables us to break our disordered attachments to creatures and root ourselves in him.” (CCC 1391-1394)

We are so blessed to have this gift of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. May we always approach this sacrament with the eyes of faith and a spirit of thanksgiving, reverence, and praise.

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. 

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