Sunday, October 30, 2016

Why Do We Pray?

As part of our homeschool program this year, I have been using Decision Point by Matthew Kelly with my teen boys. I think it is an excellent book. It was given to me by a friend and I am so thankful for the resource. It is geared for right where teens are at in their lives, trying to figure out who they are and what they want their future to be. But as I read it, I learn (or relearn) things as well.

In doing my homework for the coming week today I came across this quote:

During [Thoreau's] time there in the woods, he wrote these words:

"I went to the woods because I wanted to live life deliberately . . . I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life . . .to put to rout all that was not life . . . and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

In some ways, I pray for the same reason Thoreau went to the woods. I pray because I want to live life deliberately. I pray because I want to live life deeply and suck all the marrow out of life! I pray because I want to work on what really matters in this life and spend my time on those things. I pray because I don't want to come to the end of my life and discover that I have not really lived.

I have tried life with and without prayer, and found that life without prayer is unbearable. Without prayer, life doesn't make sense. I don't know how people live without prayer. I don't know how you could remain sane in this crazy, noisy, busy world without prayer. Living without prayer is like choosing to be blind, lame, deaf, and dumb.

I have always loved that quote by Thoreau. It describes how I want to live, but I have never thought of it in connection with prayer before. I think Kelly nails it in this passage. Prayer is hard sometimes, but I can't imagine life without that connection to God. There are times when there is no consolation, and it feels like my prayers are falling on deaf ears. Prayer does not mean my life is problem free, but I always feel like life would be worse if I did not pray. It would certainly have less meaning. God gives me the grace I need to get through one day at a time. I hope if my children learn nothing else from me, they will learn that prayer is the most important thing in life.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Most Highly Favored Daughter shines light on Sex Trafficking


I recently had the pleasure of reading Most Highly Favored Daughter by Janice Lane Palko. It is a suspense-filled Catholic novel with many plot twists which draws attention to the issue of sex trafficking. Because of that theme, it can be a difficult and troubling story to read at times, but it is an important topic that we should not turn a blind eye to. 



Palko was inspired to write a novel pitting a pair of sisters against each other in rivalry for their father's affection while completing coursework studying the sister relationship. At the same time, her increasing awareness of the enormous problem of human sex trafficking spurred her desire to address this horrendous problem in a book. Initially, she intended to set the novel in a larger metropolitan area such as New York or Washington, but her readers spoke and urged her to set the novel in her hometown of Pittsburgh.


A freelance writer, Palko previously interviewed Dr. Mary Burke, a professor at Carlow University and the founder of the Project to End Human Trafficking, for an article, and from that interview, Palko was convinced that her book should be set in Pittsburgh because many people falsely assume that human trafficking is confined to larger cities not smaller ones like Pittsburgh.


The novel tells the tale of the Hawthorne sisters--Cara and Sophia. Cara Hawthorne, the elder sister, has it all, that is, until she inexplicably awakens naked in a strange hotel room the morning after being honored with the Mother Teresa medal by the Diocese of Pittsburgh for her charitable work. When an envelope arrives containing despicable photos framing her with a heinous crime, her charmed life begins to crumble, jeopardizing her reputation, her marriage, and ultimately her life. 

As she and private investigator Jake Gold battle to prove her innocence, they unearth shocking revelations about the city she serves, the people she loves, and her beautiful reckless sister, Sophia, the celebrity diva. Set during Pittsburgh's first time as host of the Super Bowl, Most Highly Favored Daughter scores big with those who like their suspense served Pittsburgh style.



 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Image and Likeness Theology of the Body Anthology

Image and Likeness


If St. John Paul II ever summarized his Theology of the Body, it may have been when he said, “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”  But how does this sincere gift look when lived out by human beings with all their failings?  What happens to our humanity when we withhold that sincere gift?  What does life require of us when we give most deeply?  

Full Quiver Publishing brings you this moving collection of poetry and prose, featuring some of today’s brightest Catholic literary voices, including award-winning authors Dena Hunt, Arthur Powers, Michelle Buckman, Leslie Lynch, Theresa Linden, and many more.  By turns edgy and sweet, gritty and deft, but always courageous and honest, the works contained in Image and Likeness explore countless facets of human love—and human failure. 

 Readers of Image and Likeness will experience in a variety of ways how humanity, in flesh as well as spirit, lives out the image and likeness of a God who created human intimacy to bring forth both our future and to illustrate our ultimate meaning as human persons.  

With a foreword by international Theology of the Body voice Damon Owens, Image and Likeness puts life and breath into St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in ways that readers won’t soon forget.  



Thursday, October 13, 2016

Book Review: Who Does He Say You Are?



What would you look like if you could see yourself as Jesus sees you? Who would you be if Jesus healed all your wounds, both physical and emotional? For most of us, the answers to those questions are a far cry from who we are today. We have been beaten down by the weight of life, the pain of untold sorrows, and the lies that Satan is all too eager to tell us. 

In 2009, Colleen C. Mitchell lost an infant son who stopped breathing. She then lost another to miscarriage. In the midst of her pain, she and her family moved to Costa Rica to be missionaries, an experience that served as “rehab for [her] soul.” Colleen shares that she found God “in his Word, in his Eucharistic presence, in the quiet stillness of my new life . . . In the stories of the women of the Gospels, he showed me myself and he reminded me of who he was. And then he said, ‘And this is who I say that you are.’”

Mitchell hopes that those women who read Who Does He Say You Are? (Servant Books, 2016) will find “a mirror that reflects back to you the image of God in which you were created . . . [and that] you will be reminded of the woman you are meant to be.”

Several noteworthy women of the Gospels are profiled including: Mary, the mother of Jesus; Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist; Anna the prophetess; the Samarian woman at the well; the hemorrhaging woman; the woman caught in adultery; Martha and Mary of Bethany; the sinful woman who anoints Jesus; the woman crippled by a demon; the Syrophoenician woman; Mary, the wife of Clopas; and Mary Magdalene. 

Each chapter begins with the scripture passage featuring the chosen woman. Mitchell then offers a reflection, shedding new light on the story while incorporating her own life experience, focusing on Jesus’ relationship with the woman.  She then examines what we can learn from these sisters in Christ and what Jesus wants to say to each one of us.

Questions for reflections are also included. While this book would be ideal for a Catholic book club or Bible Study, some of the questions are very intimate in nature and would perhaps be better suited for personal reflection or journaling rather than sharing in a group. 

Who Does He Say You Are is an honest portrayal of the wounds that women carry and the ways that Jesus wants to heal us and use us to further his kingdom. Mitchell invites us to imagine who we could be; who God made us to be before sin and pain in suffering got in the way. These biblical women serve as examples and friends. Their stories are worth meditating on and learning from. We can listen to Jesus speak to us words of comfort and healing by listening to them. 



Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Faces of Mercy Catholic Conference for Moms

From Lisa Hendey of CatholicMom.com:

Dear Fellow Moms,
 
The Year of Mercy is coming to a close.  It has been a year full of grace and wonder as we all have been a little more mindful of God’s great mercy and how we should show that mercy to others.  What? You haven’t taken advantage of this Year of Mercy as much as you should have?  My thoughts exactly.  
 
Here is a great opportunity to spend some more time thinking, praying, and meditating about mercy, especially as it pertains to mothers.  
 
The Faces of Mercy Catholic Conference 4 Moms will be available one last time online and for FREE!  

It will be 4 days of presentations from popular authors and speakers helping us to focus on God’s mercy and how we as mothers, can be the “face of mercy” to others.  The presentations are online and can be accessed at anytime during the conference.  They will also be available as MP3 downloads that you can listen to anytime, any place.  

This means that these can be watched while doing dishes, folding laundry, running errands, or running on the treadmill.  They can also certainly be used during those spare times of quiet.  Each presentation is only about 20 minutes long.
 
Consider joining with thousands of other moms online during the weekend of October 20-23 while we all consider the mercy of God during the ending of the Year of Mercy. Remember,  It’s free.  
 
For more information or to sign up for the conference go to www.CatholicConference4Moms.com.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Book Review: Nameless



Nameless, Book 2 The Memoirs of Jane E., Friendless Orphan
by Erin McCole Cupp

Erin McCole Cupp continues her futuristic retelling of Jane Eyre in Nameless. Before you read this one (and you will want to read it!), definitely pick up the first book of the series: Unclaimed. I enjoyed that initial installment a great deal and gave it five stars, but this second part is even better.

Jane is now in the employ of Mr. Thorne, working as a homeschooler to his ward, Kirki. While the futuristic element is still at play, this part of the tale focuses more on the relationship between Jane and Mr. Thorne. The electricity between them is so palpable, sparks should be coming off the pages. But, as with all classic fictional romances, there is much that is keeping them apart. 

Cupp has an amazing gift for prose. It takes a lot of guts to reimagine a classic that people love as much as Jane Eyre, but she has pulled it off with style and grace. I’m already looking forward to the third installment! 

Monday, October 03, 2016

Trusting God While Raising Children with Special Needs

For some leisure fiction reading, I picked up Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst. It's pretty vulgar in places and I'm not recommending it, but it was thought-provoking. It tells of the great lengths a family is willing to go to in order to help their teen daughter who has Aspergers.

I feel one quote in particular sums up the feelings of desperation many parents raising children with special needs experience, that desire to find the one thing that will unlock the key and make things better:

You are lucky to have this child. You wouldn't trade her for anything, and that's not just a platitude, an easy greeting-card sound bite; it's a position you question and revisit with some frequency. She's yours and you're hers and you don't have endless time. If you can't find a way to help your daughter . . .  If you can't do that, then you failed at the most important task you've ever been given.

Of course, for those of us with faith, that looming feeling of potential failure is accompanied by the belief that God knows what He is doing, that He created your child this way for a reason and that this child has a God-given role to play in the world. Our job as a parent is to help him or her discern and fulfill that role. We also believe that God gives us the grace to get through each day and helps us discover the road He wants us to trod one step at a time provided we ask Him to.

But, none of that makes it easy. Parenting any child is difficult. Parenting children with special needs has its own set of challenges, but the stakes can feel so high, especially as adulthood looms ever closer. What if despite all our best efforts, we have failed? Trusting God when it seems like we have come up so short is an exercise in great faith.

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