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:

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. ( 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. (

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. 

Making the Most of <i>Menopause Moments</i>

  When I unexpectedly got in a review copy of Menopause Moments: A Journal for Nourishing Your Mind, Body and Spirit in Midlife , I must adm...