Sunday, April 23, 2017

Turning in Circles - A Tragic Cautionary Tale

Michelle Buckman is known for her finely crafted works of Catholic fiction. This latest offering continues that tradition. Two of the characters in “Turning in Circles” were inspired by other creative works. “Beard” was inspired by Dolly Parton’s song “Joshua” while Ellerbe DePaul finds his roots in Earl Hammer’s John-Boy Walton. As a result, I couldn’t help but picture him as Richard Thomas from “The Waltons” television program while I was reading.

That being said, this tragic story is primarily about two sisters, Savannah and Charleston, who live in a small Southern town and are only ten months apart in age. When Charleston begins to court the attention of Dillon Smith, a known bully and troublemaker, it sets in motion a string of bad choices that build one onto another, leading down a treacherous road. 

This is a thought-provoking cautionary tale of the way sin and self-inflicted pain can subtly enter our lives and then become a trap we can’t escape. 

Savannah, the narrator, is mainly a bystander, watching her sister’s spiral, feeling powerless to do anything about it. Yet, she too feels complicit, wondering if she could have made different choices and created a different ending. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Divine Mercy Novena Starts on Good Friday

Jesus asked that the Feast of the Divine Mercy be preceded by a Novena to the Divine Mercy which would begin on Good Friday.  He gave St. Faustina an intention to pray for on each day of the Novena, saving for the last day the most difficult intention of all, the lukewarm and indifferent of whom He said: 
"These souls cause Me more suffering than any others; it was from such souls that My soul felt the most revulsion in the Garden of Olives. It was on their account that I said: 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass Me by.' The last hope of salvation for them is to flee to My Mercy."
In her diary, St. Faustina wrote that Jesus told her: 
"On each day of the novena you will bring to My heart a different group of souls and you will immerse them in this ocean of My mercy ... On each day you will beg My Father, on the strength of My passion, for the graces for these souls." 
The different souls prayed for on each day of the novena are:
DAY 1 (Good Friday)  - All mankind, especially sinners
DAY  2 (Holy Saturday) - The souls of priests and religious
DAY 3 (Easter Sunday)  - All devout and faithful souls
DAY 4 (Easter Monday) - Those who do not believe in Jesus and those who do not yet know Him
DAY  5 (Easter Tuesday) - The souls of separated brethren
DAY  6 (Easter Wednesday) - The meek and humble souls and the souls of children
DAY  7 (Easter Thursday) - The souls who especially venerate and glorify Jesus' mercy
DAY  8 (Easter Friday) - The souls who are detained in purgatory; 
DAY  9 (Easter Saturday) - The souls who have become lukewarm. 

During the Solemn Novena leading to Divine Mercy Sunday,
the Chaplet of Divine Mercy should be offered each day for the
day's intentions.

Read the full text of the petitions at:

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Where Did You Find God Today?

Several years ago, I had a spiritual director who encouraged me to reflect on the following question: “Where did you find God today?” That is the question at the heart of Andy Otto’s new book, God Moments (Ave Maria Press, 2017).

Otto, who has a master’s degree in theology and ministry, is a Catholic writer, speaker, blogger, spiritual director, and podcaster who teaches theology and is the campus minister at Mercy High School in Red Bluff, California. He spent almost three years as a Jesuit seminarian before discerning he was called to marriage. In this book, he seeks to share Ignatian spirituality based on awareness of God’s presence, the importance of prayer, and discernment of our vocation and important life decisions.

God has given each one of us good things and can and does use our encounters with the everyday to speak to us. God can speak to us through other people, things we read, and the beauty of creation. He can even speak to us in the messiness of life, in those difficult moments we would rather not endure.
In order to be aware of these encounters and fully appreciate them, we must engage in prayer and rest in God’s love. “Making self-reflection and prayer a daily pattern can move us toward the human beings God wants us to be.”

Only once we have prayed and tuned into God’s movement in our lives can we truly discern what God wants us to do. “Discernment is a form of decision-making that involves God’s desires and my desires.” Otto emphasizes that discernment is for choosing between two morally good choices. He also acknowledges that “sometimes we have to decide to give up on our desires because there are more important things happening.” In those instances, God can help us discover a new dream. 

Sometimes, discernment requires a great act of courage. “Courage allows us to dive in and take a risk trusting that God has a hand stretched out and is saying, ‘Don’t worry – I’ve got your back.’”

God Moments is particularly relevant for younger adults who are still trying to figure out where God might be calling them in terms of vocation, but Otto’s work also serves as a reminder for the rest of us to look for God in our everyday lives. God Moments is recommended for anyone seeking to be more aware of God’s movement in his or her life. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Are You "All In" When It Comes to Your Catholic Faith?

What’s your relationship to the Catholic Church? Are you devoted? Dedicated but doing the minimum required? Dabbling? Discouraged or done with the Church? Unsure? In All In, Pat Gohn invites readers to reconsider their relationship with the Church, whatever that relationship might currently be.

Gohn is a cradle Catholic, but truly fell in love with the faith in her teen years after being around joyful Catholics. As she states, her “one thing” is the Catholic faith. “I’m all in. When God came first in my life, the rest eventually fell into place and made more sense.”

What convinces her to make her faith such an integral part of her life? Why does she put her faith in the Catholic Church, an institution which she admits has had its scandals and imperfections? She begins with a relationship with Jesus, rooted in love, encountered in both personal experience and in Scripture. She then explores the image of the Church as the bride of Christ. “Christ will never be separated from his Bride . . . Jesus will never divorce the Church. Jesus is permanently wedded to the Church. What is Christ’s is the Church’s, and all that the Church has comes from his merits, glory, power, and magnificent love.” 

We are all connected to God and the Church through our Baptism. “What God has joined together, we must not divide. . . Being a beloved child of God is our single greatest identity, which sheds light on everything we are and all that we do.” God is our Father.  He “will never disown or divorce us. We may choose to leave him, but he will never leave us.”

Gohn also explores the image of the Church as mother. “Jesus’ great love for his Bride, the Church, makes the Church a fruitful mother of many spiritual children, born through Baptism. . . The family of God is born of the fatherhood of God and the motherhood of the Church.”

The concept of Church as the Mystical Body of Christ, the importance of love of neighbor, and respect for the dignity of the human person are also discussed.

Gohn invites us to “view each day with an eternal perspective.” Being part of the Church matters, not only in this world, but also the next.  Gohn, who has a master’s degree in theology and certificates in adult faith leadership, theology of the body, and spiritual direction, offers solid theological reasons for making our faith and the Catholic Church the main priorities in our lives. In addition, each chapter concludes with an invitation to deeper prayer, suggestions for further reading, and activities to deepen one’s faith.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Catholic Baby Name Book is now available on Kindle!

Expecting a baby and aren't sure what to name the new blessing? Searching for a Confirmation name? Writing a story and looking to find the perfect name for your character? If so, you'll be happy to know The Catholic Baby Name Book is now available for Kindle. The print edition is also still available and makes a great gift!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Charting Cycles Empowers Young Women

This article has been making the rounds on Catholic social media the past couple days, but I'm sharing the link in case you haven't seen it: What Happens When You Teach Fertility Awareness to Teen Girls

Every young woman should learn to chart their cycles. I didn't take a Natural Family Planning Class until I was 21. It was such an eye-opener for me. I had suffered from depression all of my teen years (still do), but had never associated it with PMS. I had short cycles which meant I had my period for a week, a couple days of fertility, and then two weeks of PMS with its corresponding mood swings. I remember thinking, "How could it be PMS when I just finished my period?" but that is exactly what it was.

Having that information was empowering. At least I understood why I was feeling so horrible. Just knowing that made a world of difference. It doesn't change the horrible feeling or take away the cruel recording in my head that tells me I'm worthless over and over, but I know that isn't the real me, that it's just the hormones talking.

This article explains how teaching girls to recognize their hormonal shifts can help them stay out of trouble due to anger and depression as well as avoid sexually irresponsible behavior.

While this article doesn't discuss it, it can also be useful when they do get married to help them know how to achieve or avoid pregnancy. It can also help when talking to health care professionals if something is going wrong with your cycles. You'll know there is an issue right away.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Triangle Quilt

This quilt took me a bit longer than usual. I've been working on it for over a year and a half, but I finished it today. My daughter claimed this one for herself as a cozy quilt to use while she watches TV on the couch in the morning. It is primarily a scrap quilt. I needed something to use up leftover fabrics from other projects. I have some scrapbooking to do the next few weeks, but then I get to start planning my next quilt project. It's hard to believe I've been doing this for the past 18 years!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

New Must-Read Book for Catholic Moms

In nine years, I’ve never gone into my Catholic Mom’s Bible Study / Book Club and said, “We need to read this book today,” but I did that with the latest book by Kate Wicker. 

If you are always perfectly fulfilled in your role as a mother and you have a group of well-behaved children who never try your patience, feel free to stop reading this review right now.  If, on the other hand, you struggle with your God-given vocation of motherhood and sometimes feel like a total failure, then you will want to put “Getting Past Perfect: How to Find Joy and Grace in theMessiness of Motherhood” at the top of your reading list.

In the Foreword, Rachel Swenson Balducci tells us that “Motherhood is not for wimps. . . .Being a mom is the hardest thing you will ever do and one of the most important. And that’s why, if we start thinking about things too much, we can get a little carried away.” We all want to be the best moms we can be, but at the end of the day, we need to accept that we are not perfect. Only God can make that claim. We need to find our center in “the loving arms of Jesus.”

Wicker describes motherhood as “the ultimate extreme sport.” It is, after all, a race with no finish line. Even when our children have crossed the threshold into adulthood, we are still their mothers. With the stakes so high, it’s easy to wrap our identity up in being a mom. Wicker wants to remind us that “motherhood is actually not [our] highest calling. Being a daughter of God is. . . The highest calling placed upon our lives is to know and love God with all that we have and all that we are.”
Each chapter begins with two contrasting quotes. One is an “Evil Earworm” that the world (or the voice inside our head) tells us. The second is an “Unvarnished Truth” giving us a much-needed dose of reality rooted in God. 

Wicker, a mom of five, offers refreshingly honest anecdotes from her own life to illustrate her points. She freely shares where she has gone wrong and how she could do better. She doesn’t have all the answers and describes herself as a “perfectionist in recovery.” She is in the trenches with the rest of us. Reading “Getting Past Perfect” is like sitting down with one of you best faith-filled girlfriends to have an honest heart-to-heart about life and motherhood. A Reading Guide is also included for use by individuals or groups. will be running a Book Club featuring this book. Find out more at:

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Good Advice on Evangelization and Catholic Apologetics

The following words of wisdom come from Fr. Joe Black and are from an article in the March/April 2017 issue of  The Catholic Mirror:

Right now, if a person were to develop an interest in the Catholic faith and got onto Facebook or Twitter to see what Catholics are saying, they'd see a whole lot of complaining and anger, but not much love. In my opinion, we are our own worst enemy.

A good Catholic apologist knows that love must be the only reason we engage in a discussion/argument about our faith. Share with those who ask out of genuine curiosity. Share with those who ask because they want to know. Walk away from the need to win and make sure you engage only out of love and/or because of love. . . .

Always, always, always remember that truth is a person: Jesus Christ. We do not want to abuse truth or use it as a weapon to bludgeon people who irritate us. If someone asks questions and sincerely wants to know, meet them in that holy curiosity and bring truth with you. Share what you have learned with joy and good humor.

Let God do the rest - it will blow you away.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Spend Lent with Pope Francis, St. Teresa of Calcutta, or St. Faustina

Lent starts next week! It is definitely time to choose a Lenten Resource to help guide you on your spiritual journey over the next six weeks. Here are three new ones that have recently crossed my desk:

The first is The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane Houdek. In the Introduction, Houdek writes, "Lent is a time to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary, to be surprised by God's mercy when we least expect it. As the season begins, think about the hopes you have for Lent this year. Think about what changes you want to see in your life, in the world. Let the words of Pope Francis guide you on a journey of bringing those hopes to fulfillment,"

This book is able to be used any liturgical year. Each day features a listing of the Scripture readings for that day. This is followed by a quote from Pope Francis and a reflection from Houdek that considers both the Scripture reading and the Pope's teaching. Reflection questions and a prayer from Pope Francis end the day's entry.

Pope Francis' very practical life-based theology resonates on every page of this book. Combined with Houdek's reflections, it offers much food for thought.

The second is Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations by Heidi Hess Saxton. St. Teresa of Calcutta and her Missionaries of Charity offer such an example of selfless love, of seeing Jesus in everyone we meet. Saxton writes, "As we contemplate Scripture and the life and teachings of St. Teresa of Calcutta during this Lent, we have a daily inspiration and opportunity in spreading Christ's fragrance to others. And whatever the future holds - pain or healing, uncertainty or assurance, dismay or delight - we can anticipate with great joy the glory of the Risen Christ at our journey's end."

This book is able to be used any liturgical year and includes a listing of the Scripture readings for each day. A short Scripture quote is included which Saxton then offers a reflection on, including stories about St. Teresa and her sisters as well as from her own life and experience. This is followed by reflection questions and a prayer.

St. Teresa and Saxton invite us to minister directly to those around us, to serve others, and to love until it hurts. Putting the teachings of this book into practice will help you cultivate a generous heart.

Third is Moments of Mercy by the Marian Fathers. This is a booklet perfect for carrying in your purse. Each day features a Scripture quote, a reflection, a prayer, and suggestions for further reading from Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Diary of St. Faustina. An appendix includes St. Faustina's Way of the Cross, an Examination of Conscience, The Novena to Divine Mercy, and The Chaplet of Divine Mercy. This book is intended for use only during 2017. Available for purchase at the Marian website:

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