Sunday, November 30, 2014

Book Review: Mr. Miracle

Mr. Miracle: A Christmas Novel

by Debbie Macomber
New York: Ballantine Books, 2014

“Mr. Miracle”, the latest Christmas story by best-selling author Debbie Macomber, tells of Harry Mills, an angel sent to earth to help Addie Folsom, a woman who needs a second chance at both education and love. Harry, posing as a college professor, is new to Earth and has only observed it from the bliss and safety of heaven. While well-intentioned, he is ill-prepared to deal with human emotions and will definitely face a learning curve while on assignment.

Meanwhile his charge, Addie, is trying to rebuild her life after returning home six years after she left in an act of teenage rebellion. Dyslexic, she has one more class to complete in order to earn her high school diploma. She is also coping with her father’s recent death and her next-door-neighbor, a young man she had a crush on, but who always treated her with disdain. 

This is a light Christmas romance, perfect for some easy reading to help one get into the Christmas spirit.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Christmas Novena - What Do You Want Most for Christmas?

The Christmas Novena starts on the Feast of St. Andrew (Sunday, November 30th) and goes through Christmas Eve. This year it happens to coincide completely with Advent. It is time to prayerfully consider what we want most for Christmas this year and bring those desires to God. I've seen different versions of how to say this novena - some say to say it 15 times a day while others have it as just once a day. However you do it, humbly request God for the blessings that you desire most this Christmas.

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 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Prayer

This prayer came in a card that was sent to me. No author was listed. I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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 us 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 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 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.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners

Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners

by Lori Pickert

Lori Pickert and her family began homeschooling when her sons were four and seven. Before homeschooling, she founded a small private school with a Reggio-inspired, art- and project-based curriculum and served as director for several years. "Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners" is focused on child-driven projects - how to inspire and gently coach them. This book will greatly appeal to unschoolers, but it is for other homeschoolers as well. Pickert is adamant that this approach can be used as part of one's approach to homeschooling.

"Project-based homeschooling isn't just about learning how to learn - it's about learning how to think and how to do." When children choose to work on an activity, they are invested in it. It is an authentic learning opportunity. It allows them to experience trial and error and to learn how to solve problems. It also teaches them how to finish a project, a skill that many adults have difficulty with.

Pickert gives wonderful examples of children working both alone and together and offers instruction on what types of spaces and materials are needed to have this type of learning happen. It would take a very organized and flexible homeschooler to manage this type of learning with several children spanning several years, but even if one can only incorporate some of this type of learning, it is a great benefit to the child.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review: Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2015

Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2015

by the Irish Jesuits
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2015

The Sacred Space website began in 1999, sharing prayers from the Irish Jesuits on a daily basis. In 2004, the prayers began to be available in print as well. Beginning with the start of the liturgical year (November 30th this year), there is a scripture reading and short reflection for each day. In addition, there is a reflection for the start of each week - an overriding topic to "think and pray about."

The Jesuits "invite you to make a sacred space in your day and spend ten minutes praying, wherever you are." They encourage us to "remember that God is everywhere, all around us, constantly reaching out to us, and interested in meeting us, even in the most unlikely situations. When we know this, and with a bit of practice, we can pray anywhere."

Sacred Space is an easy-to-use prayer companion, perfect for busy people searching for an opportunity for spiritual growth and reflection. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Grace of Yes Day - November 18th - #graceofyesday

Lisa Hendey's New Book is The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living and to encourage generosity she has started Grace of Yes Day on November 18th. The idea is to light up social media and the blogosphere with photos and stories of people saying "Yes" to God utilizing the #graceofyesday hashtag. You can download your very own "Grace of Yes Day" sign and find out more at: Grace of Yes Day

For me, saying "yes" to God is one of those things I'm growing into. I often say "yes" kicking and screaming with some crying thrown into for good measure. I think learning to trust God is a lifelong process, or perhaps I'm just a slow learner, or maybe it's a little of both. In any event, my adopted daughter Amy represents one of the biggest "yes" moments of my life, so I took her picture with the sign. It's been almost four years since I got an out-of-the-blue phone call asking me if I wanted to adopt a baby girl. I'm so glad that I said yes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book Review: The Angels of Abbey Creek

The Angels of Abbey Creek

by Sue Elvis
Illustrated by Ariana M. Krause

In Abbey Creek, Australia, live the Angel family. Led by Mum and Dad, the children include Edward (14), Kate (12), Joe (10), Celeste (7), Lizzie (5), and Annie (2). Written by Sue Elvis, a Catholic homeschooling mother of eight who lives in Australia, and illustrated by Ariana Krause, a homeschooled teen from Oregon, it's no surprise that the Angels are a Catholic homeschooling family! This is a charming tale featuring a year in the life of this family living in the Bush country. It begins on one New Year's and ends on the next, bookended by the Dad's resolution to "do more things as a family and to have fun."

This reads like an updated 1950s Catholic story book and it will greatly appeal to those searching for a wholesome read-aloud for the whole family. Children will enjoy learning a bit about life in Australia in the process and parents, especially mothers, will relate to the challenges of raising a family. Things sometimes go wrong and there are some truly laugh out loud funny moments, but things always work out for the good in the end. This is a fun book, set in the present day, but reminiscent of a bygone era.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review: The Light is On for You

The Light Is On For You: The Life-Changing Power of Confession

by Cardinal Donald Wuerl
Frederick, Maryland: The Word Among Us Press, 2014

Confession, also known as The Sacrament of Reconciliation, can be a hard sell, even among Catholics who actively practice their faith. In the Introduction to The Light is On for You: The Life-Changing Power of Confession, Cardinal Donald Wuerl acknowledges that only “slightly more than 60 percent of practicing Catholics go to Confession.” Clearly, this is a sacrament with a marketing problem. Yet, this sacrament is one of God’s greatest gifts.

In 2007 in the Archdiocese of Washington, Cardinal Wuerl helped establish an advertising campaign, “The Light is On for You,” which invited people to return to Confession. All the churches in the diocese would have a priest available for confession on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 – 8:00 pm. Therefore, everyone in the diocese would know that they could go to any Catholic church during that time and be able to confess their sins. The program was very successful.

Cardinal Wuerl explores the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the questions frequently asked about it. Why should we go to confession? By what authority can the priest forgive sins? Wuerl shares stories of God’s mercy as well as the importance of the grace of repentance and conversion. He also offers instruction on preparing for the sacrament and how it should be celebrated. He discusses the Seal of the Confessional which mandates that nothing in the confessional ever be revealed by the priest, even if it means that he dies for it. He also encourages those who do attend confession regularly to invite others to accompany them. 

Perhaps the most helpful chapter for those who have been away from the sacrament for a while is the chapter “Obstacles, Real and Imagined.” This chapter includes the various reasons people give for not going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and why they are not correct. The book also includes a thorough examination of conscience and a copy of the Rite of Reconciliation. 

One of the best features of the book is the “From the Pews” segments in which everyday, ordinary Catholics share their experiences with going to confession. These stories are both enlightening and inspiring.
This book is perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about the history and value of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Even priests should read this book in order to learn about what makes for a positive experience in the confessional. It should go without saying, but those who have a positive, welcoming experience are more likely to return. 

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an underutilized gift from God. Cardinal Wuerl is working to change that. The Light is On for You is an excellent opportunity to spread the good news about confession. 

Friday, November 07, 2014

Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from St. Therese of Lisieux

Looking for some spiritual reading for this coming Advent and Christmas season. You might want to check out Advent and Christmas Wisdom from St Therese

Even though she is a Doctor of the Church, St. Thérèse of Lisieux is more well-known for being the “little flower” of Jesus. Through her “little way,” she has inspired many Catholics to love God simply, devoutly, and with great love.  St. Thérèse believed that no act of faith is too small for God.  Loving God in this way wasn’t always easy for St. Thérèse, but even through her suffering and death at age twenty-four she tried to love God with all her heart. 

Author John Cleary uses passages from "Story of a Soul," the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux to inspire us to embrace our own smallness this Advent and Christmas.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

10th Anniversary of Angel in the Waters

Sophia Institute Press has just released a special 10th Anniversary Hardcover Edition of Angel in the Waters by Regina Doman, illustrated by Ben Hatke. As far as I am concerned, this is one of the most beautiful books you could read to a young child. It portrays a baby growing in the womb and in the early years of life being comforted by his guardian angel. It is an incredible introduction to the sacredness of life in the womb as well as to the concept that we each have a guardian angel assigned by God to watch over us from the moment of our conception.

Buy a copy of this book for your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, godchildren, and one for your parish library! You'll be glad that you did!

Monday, November 03, 2014

Book Review: The Grace of Yes

by Lisa Hendey
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2014

What does it mean to live generously? That is the question at the heart of Lisa Hendey’s new book, The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living. Hendey, founder of and well-known speaker, offers readers an intimate look at her own struggles as she attempts to follow God’s will and say “Yes” to all He asks. 

In her early fifties, Hendey is in the newly empty-nest stage of life. She is able to look back over the years of her life, marriage, parenting journey, and career to see how God has led her to where she is today. One of the beautiful gifts of aging is that of hindsight, to be able to see God at work in one’s life over the course of a matter of decades. While most of us will not end up nationally known speakers, many women can relate to Hendey’s struggles in her marriage, her efforts to redefine herself after becoming a stay-at-home mom, her challenges in choosing what good opportunities she needs to say “no” to, her vulnerability in facing illness and aging, and the ongoing effort to be humble. 

The eight virtues highlighted are belief, generativity, creativity, integrity, humility, vulnerability, saying no, and rebirth. The chapter that spoke the most to be was the one on creativity, the work we co-create with God. She reminds us that “our work has an inherent dignity” and that “our work is of God, by God, and undertaken for our God.” Instead of falling prey to comparing our outcomes (guilty as charged!), she encourages us to “perfect how we go about our work . . . In their own way, those ‘I’d rather not do this’ tasks – performed with respect and dignity- can become our most fruitful yeses.”

Hendey has much wisdom to offer on all of these virtues, and one can only appreciate her honesty and willingness to share the messiness of her own life in order to encourage others.  The Grace of Yes is an excellent book that will give you much to ponder. 

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Prayer for the Holy Souls (Our Departed Brothers and Sisters)

November is the month is the Church set aside to pray for the dead (although we should remember them in prayer all the time!) This prayer is from the Association of Marian Helpers. Visit them at or at

Prayer for the Holy Souls

(for all our departed brothers and sisters)

Merciful Father, hear our prayer and console us. As we renew our faith in Your Son, whom You raised from the dead, strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters will share in His resurrection, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Eternal rest grant unto them, O lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

May they rest in peace. 


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