Sunday, May 31, 2015

Book Review: Counting on Faith

Counting on Faith

by Maurice Prater
Illustrated by Jason Koltuniak
Bismarck, ND: Divine Providence Press, 2014

It isn't every day that you pick up a book intended for small children and find a foreword by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, but Counting on Faith by Maurice Prater is no ordinary children's book.  It is a counting book, focusing on the numbers one through ten, but each page also teaches a tenet of the Catholic faith.

One is for God the Father is heaven. There were two of each animal on Noah's ark. Three is for the three members of the Holy Family. Four is for the four evangelists. Jesus had five wounds which he showed to St. Thomas after the Resurrection. God created the world in six days. Seven is for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In the Our Father, we ask God to help us eight times. There are nine different types of angels. Ten is for the Ten Commandments.

The illustrations by Jason Koltuniak are attractive and reverent and serve to enhance the text. "Counting on Faith" is a great book to share with your 3 - 6 year old child at home or to read aloud in an early childhood classroom or religious education class.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Year #7 of Homeschooling Done!

Today wrapped up this year of homeschooling for us. It's hard to believe that David just finished 8th grade and we are (gulp) getting ready to homeschool high school in the Fall. Honestly, I feel as ill about doing that as I did jumping off the road well-traveled and starting homeschooling all those years ago. I did give him the option of attending a traditional high school like his friends are doing next year (I'm going to miss those young, men as much as my boys will - they have been blessed with wonderful friends on this homeschooling journey), but he wasn't interested. It was probably a wise decision on his part. He knows his stress level and it probably would have been a disaster. I said a lot of prayers for him to make the right decision so I need to trust that God is part of this process as well and that somehow, it will all work out okay. The plan is to have him take three acting classes next year so that he has the opportunity to be with other teenagers often. I also hope to get him to volunteer at our local library.

As for Isaac, who just finished Grade 7, I've been praying for him as well. We are trying to get him into a new alternative high school that's opening in a neighboring community next year for a couple days a week, but we shall see what happens. Like his brother, he has no real interest in going to a "traditional" high school, but would like to have a school-type experience so I think this would be a good fit for him. He'd still be a homeschooler but he would get to take classes with other young people and expand his educational horizons (and maybe there would be someone to help him tackle Geometry. I've done Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 with him, but Geometry scares me). We've submitted the application but God is in charge and I just have to wait and see how this all plays out.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Help Support the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield have come on hard times. These Sisters were the founding congregation in 51 schools and taught in 12 others. They founded 14 non-school ministries and devoted more than 43,000 total years in service to God and those in need. For much of that time, the Sisters were not paid at all or paid very little.

I was educated by some of these Sisters at Holyoke Catholic High School and Elms College and am incredibly thankful for their influence and example.

Now, many are retired or infirm. They recently sold their Motherhouse to raise funds and many of their sisters moved in with sisters of other communities. Even given these measures, they still need to raise $5 million to support the Sisters who are remaining as they age. These women gave so much to others. Now it is our turn to help them.

Please give whatever you can: http://www.ssjspringfield.org/partnerwithus/makeagift/supportthesisters/

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Hidden Life for God - Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich

Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich was beatified on October 4, 2014 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NJ, the first beatification Mass held on American soil. The Knights of Columbus recently profiled this Slovakian immigrant who died unknown at the age of 26 (I had known nothing about her before reading this article.)

Born Teresa Demjanovich, the youngest of seven children, in Bayonne, N.J., March 26, 1901, Blessed Miriam Teresa could never have anticipated her own beatification. The family had originally settled in New York City after emigrating from northeastern Slovakia, and the children were baptized and confirmed in the Ruthenian-Byzantine Catholic Church.

Teresa excelled at her studies and enjoyed music, poetry, theater and dance, while also nurturing a life of prayer. After caring for her ill mother who died of influenza in 1919, Teresa followed the advice of her family and enrolled in the College of Saint Elizabeth at Convent Station, founded in the tradition of the first native-born U.S. citizen-saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton. Majoring in English literature, she graduated summa cum laude in 1923 and began teaching English and Latin at the Academy of St. Aloysius in Jersey City. Having already discerned a religious vocation, Teresa delayed her entrance to religious life due to her father’s brief illness and subsequent death. 

She entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth on Feb. 11, 1925 — the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. She soon received her novice’s habit and took the name Sister Miriam Teresa in honor of the Blessed Mother and St. Teresa of Ávila. She also had a deep devotion to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who was canonized that same day. As a postulant and novice, Sister Miriam Teresa taught at the Academy of Saint Elizabeth in Convent Station. Over the next two years, she wrote prolifically: short plays, poems, meditations, letters and even part of her autobiography.

Read the full article here: http://www.kofc.org/en/columbia/detail/hidden-life-god.html

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Catolica Springfield - New Spanish Catholic Radio Station in Springfield, MA Area

Catolica Springfield hit the airways on Easter Sunday, broadcasting at 102.5 FM. There is a 24 hour line-up of programming including a 1000 song playlist of Catholic music along with some teaching and talk programs. It is licensed through Our Lady of Sacred Heart Parish in Springfield and streams live at http://www.catolicaspringfield.com/


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Children's Rosary

The Rosary is such a beautiful prayer and one that the Blessed Mother herself has asked us to pray.

The Children's Rosary® is a prayer group movement that was begun out of love for Our Lady and Her Son. Jesus tells us "Truly, I say to you unless you turn and become like children you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:3). The Children's Rosary is an effort to begin in parishes rosary prayer groups composed of children and led by children. Through prayer of the Rosary Our Lady will guide our young people while at the same time sanctify families and Parishes. 



To find out more, to find a Children's Rosary group near you, or to learn how to start a Children's Rosary group, please visit: http://childrensrosary.blogspot.com

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Two Takes on Chastity



Ave Maria Press recently published two books on chastity. While the books come to the same conclusions, the authors do so from very different viewpoints. The first, Chastity is for Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin, by Arleen Spenceley, is by a twenty-nine year old woman who is still looking for Mr. Right. She has high standards, refuses to lower them, believes that God has a plan for her (which may or may not include marriage), understands that true love is hard and involves sacrifice, and says that she is not “saving herself for marriage,” because “only Christ can save us.” Rather, she believes that she is “saving sex” by “redeeming it. By God’s grace, I have chosen to resist the damaging cultural trends that trivialize the purpose of human sexuality. I refuse to use or regard the human body in any way that doesn’t revere its dignity or sanctity. In marriage, sex is a gift of the totality of oneself to another person.”

Spenceley is an idealist. She has a healthy dose of self-confidence and is happy with her life, while acknowledging that it is sometimes difficult to still be single. She is not judgmental and is very clear that those who have had premarital sex should not be condemned or considered less worthy than those who have waited, instead encouraging the use of the sacraments to provide individuals with the opportunity to be forgiven and start over. She should be given a great deal of credit for being willing to go public with such a counter-cultural lifestyle. That in itself takes a great deal of courage.  Her book would be great for reading and discussing in a teen youth group. It is probably best for those who are still virgins to encourage them to continue on that route.

For those who have a different background, have experienced abuse of any type, or have struggled with chastity, The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On by Dawn Eden is the book to read and recommend. This new edition is a rewrite of a book she originally penned in 2006. She was then in her mid-thirties, a Jewish convert to Protestant Christianity, taking RCIA classes to become Catholic. Today, she is Catholic, finishing up a pontifical doctorate in theology, and has made a personal consecration of celibacy to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 

Eden was sexually abused as a child. She was raised in a liberal household by divorced parents. She had no desire to wait until marriage for sex, but did want to wait to be “’in love’ – whatever that meant.” Yet, over time she learned to disassociate sex from love and bought into the casual sex mentality.

Once she made the decision to convert to Christianity, she determined to start living a chaste life. It definitely wasn’t easy. She shares her struggles, and goes on to explain why the struggles are worth it. Once she became Catholic and experienced the sacrament of Reconciliation, she began to discover that lust wasn’t necessarily her root sin. “The real problem might not be lust so much as envy (‘the woman who has him doesn’t deserve him’), pride (‘I deserve him’), or resentment (‘how dare he not notice me’). It could even be a sin against the Love Commandment: failing to love God enough to trust that he has a plan for me.”

Eden is a wise guide who can speak from experience on how the road of sin brings no fulfillment. She knows that most people who seek solace in sex are actually seeking love. She knows sex should not be separated from married love. “In a truly loving relationship, both the man and the woman love God, and so they become God’s love to each other.”  But even married love will never be perfect. “We are not meant to be fully satisfied on this earth.” She encourages readers to “make friends with that sense of longing.” 

“The Thrill of the Chaste” is ideal for those who are currently finding their sexual way of life unfulfilling, for those who want to be chaste, and for those who are chaste, but struggle with lust and temptation. Those who struggle with their self-worth and attempt to find love and a sense of value in sex may also find the road to healing in these pages. 




Friday, May 15, 2015

Book Review: Chasing Sunsets

Chasing Sunsets: A Novel (Angels Walking)

by Karen Kingsbury
New York: Howard Books, 2015

"Chasing Sunsets" is the second book in the "Angels Walking" series by best-selling author Karen Kingsbury. The Angels Walking team is once again on the job, this time trying to protect baseball player Marcus Dillinger from being killed by a gang hit and working to help a young girl named Lexy escape from a life that leads to nowhere. Meanwhile, Mary Catherine is a young woman who knows her days are limited and is trying to squeeze all the life out of them that she can. She does not want to fall in love, knowing that she has no future, yet Marcus has a pull on her she can't understand. Tyler and Sami are back from the first book, this time in a supporting role.

This is a sequel that is actually better than the original (which was pretty good in itself). If you are a fan of Kingsbury or Christian fiction, you will enjoy this book. It tackles some tough issues, offering a look inside gang life and the prison system, but Kingsbury handles them with great skill. I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

On Consecration and Mary Our Mother

I posted back in April about preparing to make a Total Consecration to Mary using Fr. Michael Gaitley's book, 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration. I enjoyed the preparation "retreat" featuring a couple of pages of reading each day.



Week One was on St. Louis de Montfort. Week Two featured St. Maximilian Kolbe. Week Three centered on Blessed Mother Teresa and Week Four focused on St. John Paul II. The final week was a review. Yesterday, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, was my consecration day. I wanted to post about it yesterday, but I ran out of time in my day! I wrote out the prayer of consecration, dated it, and placed it in my journal. No, I don't feel any different. I didn't really expect to. As I said, this wasn't some radical new direction I was taking in my life, but I am here if Mary wants to use me for good. In the meantime, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and hope I'm on the right track.

I did especially like one quote in the book by St. John Paul II. "Even when the same woman is the mother of many children, her personal relationship with each one of them is the very essence of motherhood." Fr. Gaitley goes on to say, "Mary is uniquely, particularly, personally your mother and my mother, and she doesn't lose us in the crowd."

I've been teaching my little girl about Mary and how she is her mother up in heaven, always watching over her and loving her. Four-year-old Amy gets so excited about that fact. She already has two mothers who love her and two families of siblings and struggles to wrap her mind around how that works, that her "other mother" gave birth to her, but she is growing up with us. I love her in the same way that I love my biological children. She is as much a part of me as they are, but we share no biological connection. But in Mary, both she and I have the same mother! We are sisters in the Lord - one considerably older than the other! I tell her that she can always ask Mary for help and that someday Mary will welcome her to heaven with open arms.

It's so good to have a heavenly Mother who will never fail us, will always love us, and always wants what is good for us. She will always lead us to her Son. That's what the Total Consecration to Mary is all about. I highly recommend it.


Monday, May 11, 2015

FrancisCorps Volunteer Experience

Do you know a young Catholic eager to be of service, but not quite sure what to do with his or her life? FrancisCorps is a volunteer organization designed to "share the dream, the passion, and the vision of St. Francis of Assisi with the next generation of Catholics."

According to their website,

FrancisCorps is a 50/50 experience. It’s 50% about the wonderful service you will do to serve the poor. But it’s also 50% about the experience of community that you will share with the other volunteers in your house.
Saint Francis and Saint Clare both believed that it is necessary to have a solid experience of community where you share your day, your prayer, your life with one another. It’s here that you will grow and stretch.  It’s this natural human “give-and-take” where you meet Christ. It’s this experience that gives you what it takes to serve others.
In order to do this FrancisCorps volunteers commit themselves to:
  1. Eat at least one meal together, daily,
  2. Pray together some form of prayer, daily,
  3. Love one another by sharing their day’s journey, daily,
  4. Celebrate community night with a co-minister, weekly,
  5. Share in a community meeting, weekly.
FrancisCorps provides our volunteers with both men and women Franciscans (there’s that 50/50 again!) who we call the “Co-Ministers”. These religious and lay Franciscans are volunteers who come for dinner once a week and offer their support to the volunteers. FrancisCorps are also available for one-on-one meetings with the volunteers in Syracuse and through Skype for the volunteers in Costa Rica or in person during the retreats.
FrancisCorps volunteers participate in 6 retreat experiences:
  1. August: Orientation – Introduction to FrancisCorps and the persons of Francis and Clare of Assisi
  2. October: Fall Retreat – theme: community dynamics
  3. January: Re-Orientation – Review of Goals and Objectives, further learning about St. Francis
  4. March/April: Lent Retreat – Personal Growth and Spirituality
  5. June: Summer Retreat – Franciscan Values for life
  6. July: Transition Retreat – Reviewing the year and saying Good-bye
The FrancisCorps experience is offered by Friars, Sisters and Lay Franciscans working together.  But the really exceptional difference is the prayerful support of the Poor Clare Nuns of Chesterfield, NJ. These contemplative women whose Order was founded by Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi  begin the journey with our volunteers from the time they are discerning to join, after being accepted and by meeting them during their orientation in August. The sisters hold our volunteers in prayer throughout the year of FrancisCorps.

To find out more, please visit: http://www.franciscorps.org

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Book Review: Talkers, Watchers, and Doers

Talkers, Watchers, and Doers: Unlocking Your Child's Unique Learning Style (School Savvy Kids)
by Cheri Fuller
Colorado: Pinon Press, 2004

As an educator, whether in a classroom or in your own home, it can be a challenge to understand children who learn differently from you. "Talkers, Watchers, and Doers: Unlocking Your Child's Unique Learning Style" by Cheri Fuller helps explain the different ways individuals learn and then how to help educate or advocate for these children.

Most people have one main area of strength - either auditory (talkers), visual (watchers), or kinesthetic (doers), with another area being a secondary way of learning. Fuller offers ways of identifying how someone learns as well as concrete ways of helping that person learn.

Fuller also discusses how to best develop your child's talents and gifts and how to handle weaknesses so that they don't block strengths. The last chapter on learning-different people who achieved great things is inspirational and worth having a child who is struggling read (or reading it to them).

This is a slim volume packed with quality information. I heartily recommend it to anyone having a hard time trying to figure out how a child learns or how best to educate a struggling child.




Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Book Review: A Boy Who Became Pope: The Story of St. John Paul II

The Story of Saint John Paul II: A Boy Who Became Pope

by Fabiola Garza
Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2014

The life of St. John Paul II isn't an easy one to share with children. His mother, brother, and then his father all died when he was young. He came of age during the horrors of World War II and then his country of Poland was held captive by communism. Yet, Fabiola Garza handles these topics with grace and a gentle hand in her children's biography, "A Boy Who Became Pope: The Story of St. John Paul II."

Sharing his life from birth through the time he became Pope, Garza's words and pictures combine to paint an informative and inspiring introduction to this saint who shaped so much of the 20th century. Aimed at children aged 5 - 10. older children and adults unfamiliar with the story of St. John Paul II's life before he became Pope will also learn much in these pages.


Sunday, May 03, 2015

Book Review: I Forgive You

I Forgive You
by Nicole Lataif
Illustrated by Katy Betz
Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2014

Forgiveness - both asking for it and giving it can be a hard concept for children, and even adults, to understand and follow through on. "I Forgive You: Love We Can Hear, Ask For, and Give" by Nicole Lataif is a children's story with an important message. She begins by telling children that they do a lot of things right, but when they make a mistake, God is always ready to forgive them. She also points out that forgiveness can still mean that there are consequences for our actions.

Lataif encourages children to forgive their friends and to put their friends before things. She acknowledges that forgiveness can often take time, but that not forgiving is the scariest choice. We all need to ask God to help us forgive when we have been hurt or are angry. "Not forgiving is like having an elephant in your heart. He grows and grows. He gets heavier and heavier until . . . CRACK! He breaks your heart."

The book ends with a children's prayer to both forgive and be forgiven. Both children and adults need to hear and be reminded of the message of this book. The illustrations by Katy Betz will definitely appeal to young children, and the words will be heard by children and adults at whatever level they are currently at. "I Forgive You" carries a big message in a little package.


Friday, May 01, 2015

Book Review: Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas

Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas. Advice & Projects from 50 Successful Artists

by Danielle Krysa
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2014

Danielle Krysa is an artist and author of the Jealous Curator blog which features art that she wishes she had thought of making. She "writes a daily post about an artist whose work 'makes me jealous,' but in a good way. . .I have learned that there is a place for everyone to make what they want to make. What matters is that you enjoy the process of making."

Yet artists sometimes get blocked and can't come up with something new to do. In "Creative Block," Krysa interviews fifty artists who work in a variety of mediums on their life, their work and their inspiration. Each one also offers a way of becoming "unstuck." Their ideas are wonderful and inventive and offer that creative spark all artists need once in a while.

"Creative Block" will introduce you to a group of modern artists and their respective processes as well as inspire you to be creative. It's a great book for artists or those who want to become artists to spend some time with.


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