On Barb’s Bookshelf: What Pope Francis Really Said

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Every time Pope Francis writes an encyclical or makes an off-the-cuff remark on an airplane, the media (both Catholic and secular) jump all over it with various interpretations.

That’s a problem, states Tom Hoopes, author of What Pope Francis Really Said (Servant, 2016). Depending on your news source (or who you follow on Twitter and Facebook) you’ll get wildly different versions of the same wrong story. Add in our lack of critical-reading skills and our willingness to accept “fake news” at face value and you wind up with a great deal of confusion about the Pope’s teachings and motivations.

He is celebrated by some for saying things he never said and rejected by others for doing things they don’t really understand (ix).

That airplane photo on the cover isn’t just a convenient file photo. It’s a symbol of the world’s eagerness to take one sentence out of an entire speech and make a huge (and often hugely inaccurate) news story out of it. The problem is not that Pope Francis holds news conferences on airplanes. The problem lies in what people do with the statements he makes.

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I can’t remember so much attention being paid to things previous popes said and wrote. It’s good, because the world (including the Catholic world) is watching and learning, but it’s challenging, because it’s so easy to take things out of context. I eagerly read Hoopes’ book because I find myself having to say, “That’s not what he said” way too many times when the subject of Pope Francis comes up!

Tom Hoopes traces Pope Francis’ papacy chronologically, from a speech then-Cardinal Bergoglio made in the conclave to the World Meeting of Families in the fall of 2015. Beginning with the retelling of the Gospel story in which Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath and is vilified by the leaders of the synagogue for doing so, Hoopes mentions that Jesus refuses to be “stage-managed by what officialdom is asking him to do and instead [turns] his attention to those who are looking to have a real encounter with him.” (2) Pope Francis operates in much the same way.

Hoopes assures readers who have painted the Pope as “too liberal” of Pope Francis’ unswerving commitment to the dignity of marriage and the right to life, while reminding those who believe he’s “too conservative” that Pope Francis decries the violence that begets more violence and often leads to war. Hoopes also mentions that Pope Francis is not saying anything new. He paraphrases the Catechism of the Catholic Church, echoes Popes John Paul II and Benedict, and frequently references Scripture.

In a fast-paced world with a second-by-second news cycle that reduces entire speeches to 140-character tidbits, Catholics need to read What Pope Francis Really Said to catch up on the truth behind what Pope Francis has said in the past so that they can be prepared to defend, and live out, what the Pope says in the future.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book from the publisher, Servant Books, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Words Matter

Copyright 2007 Temple-Samsung. All rights reserved. Via Flickr.

I work with words all day. Whether writing my own or editing someone else’s, I’m aware of the importance of choosing just the right word.

I think my parish may have missed the boat on this one.

The parish was formed in 2007 and formally instituted in 2008, a merger of two churches in the same zip code but on opposite sides of a busy highway.

I don’t know how the nomenclature works in other merged parishes in our diocese and beyond, but in our parish, they’ve been referenced as “the St. Casimir site” and “the Holy Name site.”

Sites.

They’re churches, not archaeological digs.

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Copyright 2007 Temple-Samsung. All rights reserved. Via Flickr.

The term started out when the churches were listed as “worship sites.”

No. Just no.

“Worship” doesn’t even begin to describe what happens at a Catholic Mass.

Lately, I haven’t seen that word pop up in the bulletin or on the parish website, and I’m thankful that the churches are now referred to as churches (or simply as St. Casimir and Holy Name.)

But reference to the two churches as “sites” has become an unfortunate part of the parish lexicon, as evidenced by the early-morning text message I got from a friend today, checking where the vigil Mass for tomorrow’s feast day will be celebrated.

“SC site tonight, right?”

When I mentioned that I knew she didn’t create the term, but saying “site” bugged me, she agreed, and suggested that we use her fourth-grader’s words: “the daytime church” and “the nighttime church” (referring to the Saturday 5 PM Mass.)

I responded, “He says ‘church.’ I like how he thinks.”

#OpenBook: November 2016 Reads

"An Open Book" linkup hosted at CarolynAstfalk.com and CatholicMom.com

The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading:

Fiction

different-heroismA Different Heroism (Father Jay book 3) by Jane Lebak. Third in a series, this novel covers further ground in Father Jay and his brother Kevin’s contentious relationship, Jay’s impromptu shelter for homeless/neglected boys, and Jay’s ongoing health issues. A shaky truce with his brother and an order from his bishop force Jay into a week’s vacation–and everything starts to fall apart with the gang of “Archangels” he shelters. A fast-paced and enjoyable read. I’m a fan of these characters and eagerly await more Father Jay stories.
tis-the-season‘Tis the Season by Olivia Folmar Ard. In an age of oversharing, a young couple trying to conceive and battling Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) struggles to keep their health issues private. Ironic much? Even more so, considering Lauren spends a lot of time creating and maintaining the perfect social-media persona. And there’s nothing like a holiday trip to see her in-laws to threaten to dismantle all that online perfection. Despite my distaste for “rushing the season” in so many other ways, I’m always up to read a good Christmas story, and this novella did not disappoint.
most-highly-favored-daughterMost Highly Favored Daughter: A Sanctified Suspense by Janice Lane Palko. Set in Pittsburgh against the backdrop of the Super Bowl, this novel tells a harrowing story of human trafficking with an unexpected twist. Heiress Cara Wells is framed with the horrible crime of abusing a young child–but she remembers nothing of what happened that night after falling violently ill. Resolved to untangle the mystery and rescue the young victim of the crime, Cara puts even her marriage and her life on the line. Great local color. (Review copy received from author)
what-lightWhat Light by Jay Asher. Sierra spends 11 months of the year on a Christmas tree farm. The rest of the year she lives in a trailer at a tree lot, hours away from home. This might be her family’s last year at the tree lot, and she’s determined to make the most of it. She’s also determined to give the cute guy who buys trees for poor families a change, even though plenty of locals warn her that he’s trouble. Great premise, well-told story. Appropriate for high-school students (and it’s not even R-rated!) Reads like a Hallmark Christmas movie, which is not at all a bad thing.
christmas-clubThe Christmas Club by Barbara Hinske. Cute Christmas romance novella; a woman loses an envelope of money–all she has for Christmas gifts. Two kindhearted people replace the money, then separately learn how the people who found the lost cash were impacted by the windfall. A series of near misses for the two who replaced the money keeps the story going. This is a sweet, feel-good Christmas story and a quick read.
grace-crasherThe Grace Crasher by Mara Faro. In love with being in love, Julia obsesses over finding an affordable apartment right near her latest crush, a musician who makes her feel like the only person in his audience. Problem is, the only place her budget can handle comes with strings attached: she has to pretend she’s a born-again Christian. What’s an erstwhile Catholic girl to do? And how will she handle it when her landlady’s son discovers that she’s not the person she pretends to be? I enjoyed the local setting of this novel, and I think I’ve been to the Christian bookstore that figures so prominently in the plot (or one suspiciously like it). A great take on infatuation vs. love, speaking the truth in love, and being true to yourself.
someday-someday-maybeSomeday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham. Cute story of a struggling aspiring actress in NYC whose self-sabotaging behavior makes for a fun read, with a little bit of audience frustration thrown in for good measure. WHY does she have to go for the wrong guy? WHY does she go with THAT agent? My favorite part: the pages ripped straight from Franny’s Filofax, between each chapter. Franny’s roommates are terrific characters and merit stories of their own!
destiny-of-sunshine-ranchThe Destiny of Sunshine Ranch by T.M. Gaouette. This novel peeks into the world of children in foster care, kids who have experienced things no child ever should. Sunshine Ranch is the home of a vulnerable child’s dreams, with loving, faithful couple Martha and David caring for and educating 10 children who are in the foster-care system. Life at the ranch is not without its challenges, especially for 10-year-old Benedict who has had things particularly rough. This heartwarming tale has an unexpected ending.
more-than-a-promiseMore than a Promise by Ruth Logan Herne. Grieving the very public breakup of her marriage, artist Elle returns to her hometown to set up her studio and start over. She’s equally captivated and irritated by the 3 young motherless boys next door, left to run wild while their father runs the family business. When the boys’ grandmother threatens the only home they’d ever known, Elle comes up with a crazy scheme to keep the family together and announces her engagement to their dad. The premise is pretty far-fetched, but this novel is worth reading just for the great portrayals of the children.
when-you-reach-meWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This novel for middle-school students follows a city kid who’s on her own after school and must navigate a world that includes the usual middle-school friendship dramas, plus gang violence, homelessness and a series of mysterious notes. There’s a time-travel element as well. Great suspense!
beyond-carouselBeyond the Carousel. Bette Lee Crosby continues her Wyattsville saga with yet another story that reinforces my wish to live in a town just like it. This novel spans three generations of a family whose happy life is shattered by a senseless, unsolved murder. Detective Jack Mahoney, out of love for the granddaughter of the murder victim, stakes his career on solving the crime. Don’t think this is just a mystery, though–it’s a three-generation love story.
(Review based on advance reader copy via Socialbook.) This novel will be released in January 2017.

Nonfiction

fearless-lg-coverFearless by Sonja Corbitt puts fear and anxiety into a different perspective, framing them as spiritual attacks and providing tools with which to vanquish them. In short, Fearless is all about spiritual warfare. A mix of personal testimony, quotes from Scripture and the saints and plenty of wise counsel round out this book, which begs to be read (and reread) slowly and with pen and journal close by. Read my full review. (Review copy received from publisher)

Teresa-21Advent with St. Teresa of Calcutta by Heidi Hess Saxton. Heidi Hess Saxton has collected some of Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s most inspiring words and paired them with prayers, daily Mass readings and calls to action in a newly-published seasonal daily devotional. Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations offers food for thought and prayer for any reader who is devoted to this fascinating saint. Read my full review. (Review copy received from publisher)

who-does-he-say-you-areWho Does He Say You Are? by Colleen C. Mitchell. Expect to be surprised, challenged and changed. Colleen brings out the qualities in several Gospel women that are in every woman, and directs our spiritual journey as we discover how we can be healed as they were. Throughout the book, she shares her own journey of brokenness, faith, healing and trust. The Questions for Reflection at the end of each chapter aren’t merely journal prompts: they are calls to action. (Review copy received from publisher)

missing-kennedyThe Missing Kennedy by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff. Examining the lives of Rosemary Kennedy and the Franciscan nun who cared for her during most of her adult life, Pentacoff’s book connects a privileged handicapped woman who lived a sequestered life with the very ordinary women who ministered to and visited her. The author grew up around Rosemary Kennedy, who was cared for by Sister Paulus, the author’s aunt. Koehler-Pentacoff, along with her parents, was present for holidays, birthdays and ordinary days with Rosemary Kennedy. This is a chronicle of an era when mental illness was misunderstood, and treatments for mental illness were dramatically different than the treatment available today. The book is not a comprehensive biography of Rosemary Kennedy, but the story of how Ms. Kennedy’s life intersected with that of the author. (I received an advance copy from the publisher for the purposes of this review.)

Links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchases made through these links support Franciscanmom.com. Thank you!

Follow my Goodreads reviews for the full list of what I’ve read recently (even the duds!)

Visit today’s #OpenBook post to join the linkup or just get some great ideas about what to read! You’ll find it at Carolyn Astfalk’s A Scribbler’s Heart and at CatholicMom.com!

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St. Nicholas: Better Late than Never

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We came late to the St. Nicholas “treats in the shoes” party. St. Nick didn’t start visiting our house to leave a sweet treat for the kids on his feast day until after 1996. That’s the year my oldest started school.

At that Catholic school, all the children would leave one shoe outside the classroom door at some point in the day. While everyone was in the classrooms studying, St. Nicholas would come along and put a candy cane in each shoe.

My son came home to tell us how he’d gotten a surprise in his shoe. Then he asked, “How come St. Nicholas doesn’t visit our house?”

To be honest, I hadn’t known that this was a thing. It’s not something we did when I was growing up. I distracted my curious 4-year-old somehow and resolved to start up the custom the next year.

Over the years, it became something everyone looked forward to; the night before, they’d all go searching for their boots (to have the biggest shoe possible in order to hold the treats or small gifts St. Nick would leave behind) and put them near the door.

The first year my older son was away at college, TheKid wondered how St. Nicholas would fill his brother’s shoe if he was in the dorm. That’s where Priority Mail came to the rescue! I started picking up the small boxes and stuffing them with packets of microwave popcorn, small candy bars, a new toothbrush, and a few candy canes. (It’s amazing what I can jam into one of those small boxes; remember, if it fits, it ships!)

St. Nick mails away 2 boxes now (this year my daughter took her box after Thanksgiving and promised not to open it before today.)

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This morning I mentioned on Facebook that I’d cued up every version of “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” that Spotify has to offer in my neverending attempt to get my teenager out of bed. A friend of mine replied that she’d forgotten to set out treats in her children’s shoes today.

“Leave them for an after-school surprise,” I replied.

So if you missed the boat this morning or have never begun at St. Nicholas custom in your home before, there’s no reason you can’t start now.

Better late than never!

Monday Recap: October and November 2016

Monday recap 2016 edition

The beginning of November got away from me, so I’m including 2 months’ worth of articles in this edition of Monday Recap. It’s the first Monday of the month, so I’ve gathered up links to the work I’ve done in other spaces.

At CatholicMom.com

coloring-book-notes-logoColor and Pray: At Play in God’s Creation Coloring Book

A review of a different kind of coloring book: At Play in God’s Creation is an invitation to prayer and creativity.

Review of "The Perfect Blindside" at Franciscanmom.com

Book Notes: The Perfect Blindside

My review of Leslea Wahl’s novel for teens, “The Perfect Blindside,” featuring an unlikely couple who team up to solve a mystery and find something more.

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Meatless Friday: Burrito Bowls

Faster and cheaper than takeout: I break down the veggie burrito bowl for your Meatless Friday dinner.

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Courtesy of Holy Spirit Radio.

Tech Talk: Spirit in the Morning Radio with Gary Zimak

Catholic evangelist Gary Zimak launched a new morning radio program this week! Here are the details on how you can listen, no matter where you live.

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Book Notes: Rosa, Sola by Carmela Martino

Rosa, Sola by Carmela Martino deals with the sensitive topic of infant loss and brings up questions about living out the Works of Mercy. I discuss the book with the author and interview key characters.

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Book Notes: YOU, a Theology of the Body study program for teens

YOU, a new Theology of the Body study program for teens from Ascension Press, that challenges and engages teens in the discussion of a difficult subject.

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Book Notes: Journey to the Cross by Shane Cloonan

My interview with teenage author Shane Cloonan about Journey to the Cross, a picture book for children that’s perfect for Advent and Christmas reading.

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Book Notes: Who Does He Say You Are?

My review of Who Does He Say You Are? by Colleen C. Mitchell, a book inviting women to put themselves in the places of women in the Gospels.

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Meatless Friday: Cod with Caper-Mustard Sauce

Here’s an easy way to dress up plain baked fish fillets with a 4-ingredient sauce. This dinner takes just minutes to make but looks and tastes fancy enough for company.

Book Notes: Two Guidebooks for Young Adults

My review of two guidebooks that will make great gifts for the young adults in your life, with tips on keeping the faith in college and finding a faithful spouse.

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Earthquake Topples Benedictine Basilica

The Benedictine Monks of Norcia, who released a chant album honoring the Blessed Mother last year, have suffered the destruction of their monastery and basilica in this year’s earthquakes in central Italy.

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Book Notes: Ornamental Graces

My review of Carolyn Astfalk’s newest novel, Ornamental Graces, and interview with four of the novel’s supporting characters.

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Book Notes: Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta

I had a hard time putting down a new Advent devotional by Heidi Hess Saxton. Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta offers food for thought and prayer for any reader who is devoted to this fascinating saint.

Biographical Book Notes

Capsule reviews of 6 biographies: no tell-alls here, but books that will inspire you in the spiritual life.

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Courtesy of PraytheYear.com

Pray the Year: Liturgical Resources for Families

My interview with Jonathan Sullivan, the creator of “Pray the Year,” a free email service providing liturgical prayer resources for families. Sign up today to receive the Advent email from “Pray the Year!”

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Book Notes: Prayer in the Catholic Tradition

How many ways can a Catholic pray? “Prayer in the Catholic Tradition” covers the history and how-tos of Catholic prayer.

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Advent Wreath Linkup 2016: A Celebration of Advent Wreaths

Join our Advent wreath linkup! Share a photo of your family’s Advent wreath on your blog, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Don’t forget the hashtag: #adventwreathcm

At Catholic Underground

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At Cook and Count

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Romanian Chicken Paprika

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Cookie Time: Giant Orange Ginger Oatmeal Cookies

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Chicken with Red Wine and Onions

At Dynamic Women of Faith

Book Review: Catholic Coloring Books for Prayer, Reflection and Relaxation

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Book Review: Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta

At Midwest Review of Books

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At The Ruth Institute

At Today’s Catholic Teacher

Advent calendar 2014

 

Monday recap 2016 edition

A Tale of Greed, Roulette and Rhinestone Boots

Via Pixabay (2012), CC0 Public Domain.

Last night Hubs and I attended a charity event our neighbor was hosting. It was a Casino Night party, with dinner and tables for blackjack, roulette and poker. Each guest brought a new, unwrapped toy, to be given to one of two local organizations that distribute toys to children in need.

Upon arrival, we were given our admission ticket with our names on the back, to be handed in for a chance at the door prizes. That ticket entitled us to a certain dollar amount in poker chips. More chips could be had for additional donations of real money (which would also be given to those charities.)

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Via Pixabay (2012), CC0 Public Domain.

I’m not familiar with casino games, and I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my foot, so I didn’t spend too much time playing roulette–the only game I dared to try to play. I doled out my small pile of chips one or two at a time as long as I dared to stand up at the table. Our group wasn’t a high-betting bunch and the dealer was nice, so it was a good time, even as my pile of chips got smaller and smaller.

I returned to my table to sit and rest my sore foot and do some people-watching. I’d been told that the dress code for the event was “casual” but all the shoes I have that aren’t sneakers don’t support my foot enough right now, so I went shopping in the morning for a pair of boots to wear with leggings and a long sweater. I was feeling uncharacteristically stylish.

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That feeling evaporated when I noticed the boots one of the other guests was wearing. They had rhinestone-studded spike heels and ribbons of rhinestone swirling up the leg of the boots. The pointed toe was not flat to the ground, and it made my feet hurt just to look at them. I tried to find a photo of those boots, but my knowledge of upscale shoe designers is limited to what’s in one scene from Legally Blonde:

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After the tables closed for the night, guests cashed in their chips for prize tickets, which we could place in buckets labeled with the names of the prizes, which ranged from luggage sets to a designer handbag to giant TVs to vacuum cleaners.

I did not put any of my tickets in the buckets for either of the vacuum cleaners, for the record. (Priorities.)

Hubs had pooled his chips and mine and split the tickets in half between us, so I dumped tickets in buckets corresponding to prizes I wanted for myself (the Kate Spade tote, Williams-Sonoma gift basket, small kitchen appliances) or family members (a smaller TV, laptop, luggage).

While the event coordinators called out the winning numbers for the prizes, I allowed myself to imagine winning each of those items.

I let myself dream greedy daydreams.

I didn’t win any of the prizes, and wound up with a sour taste in my mouth. I don’t like that feeling. I didn’t need any of the prizes on the table. Sure, some of them would have been nice to have, but I have food and clothes and heat and electricity and a roof over my head. I don’t need a Cuisinart, Kate Spade bag, Tiffany bracelet or a big TV.

My greedy daydreams tried to steal the enjoyment of an evening out with my husband and friends. They sought to cancel out the nice dinner, the pie, the music and the laughter. They tempted me to forget the good stuff and focus on wanting things I don’t need, and feeling sad when I didn’t get them.

I don’t like what happens to me when I dream greedy daydreams. I worked to cancel them out by remembering the fun I had choosing two toys for Hubs and me to bring to the party, toys that helped fill two vans to overflowing with gifts for children who otherwise might do without. I remembered hearing the testimony of a college student who’s been running a community charity since the 7th grade, and her overwhelmed gratitude at seeing the toys her organization would get to give to the children of her city. I remembered the laughter of friends, the music, the dinner and, yes, the pie.

I kicked the greedy daydreams to the curb with my stylish-enough-for-me new boots.

Take that, greedy daydreams.

The Lyric Police, Fair vs. Sweet and Politically-Correct Christmas Carols

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It’s that time of the year when Catholic parish musicians all over this land break out the Wite-Out and, once again, adjust the lyrics on the Christmas carols so their old copies of the music have the new words.

Many thanks to Oregon Catholic Press (OCP) for making this annoyance possible.

Every year when the new missalette/hymnal comes out, musicians have to check their pages and make sure what they’re singing matches what’s in the books in the pews.

Last night at practice, we rehearsed Immaculate Mary in preparation for next week’s feast day. Many people have the lyrics to that song memorized–but those lyrics aren’t the same as the ones in the book. Mary reigns in heaven now, not in splendor; her name is fair, not sweet. So this discussion happened:

Singer: “Oh wow, these words are really different. And look at verse 3! It’s not the same at all as the one I learned when I was a kid. I’m going to have to concentrate on this while I’m singing.”

Musician 1: “Who lets them change the words?”

Musician 2: “The publisher decides that.”

Musician 1: “How do they get away with that? They can’t just change the words like that.”

Musician 2: “Well, they did…”

Musician 1: “So how do we stop them?”

I don’t know if we can stop them, but there’s just no good reason to go around changing the lyrics to songs that have been the same for over 100 years. That’s going to discourage people from singing. They’ll go along from memory until they reach the part that’s different, and they’ll either sing it the old way, loud and proud, or they’ll get embarrassed and stop right there.

Musician 1: “Can’t we just announce to the people that we’re going to say splendor instead?”

We’re not looking forward to lyric-checking all the Christmas carols, either. That’s a job that needs to be done every year, because OCP likes to make the lyrics more politically-correct by removing words like “man” (never mind how much it messes with the poetry of the carol) but they tweak the lyrics year after year, so it’s never the same way twice.

Hence the Wite-Out, because we’re happy with the musical arrangement we’ve got and don’t want to rewrite chord transpositions just because the words were changed.

Now hear this, OCP and any other hymnal publishers who like to mess with hundred-year-old lyrics to satisfy the politically-correct fad du jour: you’re making the music ministers’ job harder. We’re there to help people pray through music. Especially at Christmas, when churches see many visitors and people who only show up occasionally, musicians should want to make the hymns as accessible as they can be.

People in the congregation at Christmas expect those familiar favorites: O Come All Ye Faithful, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night, Joy to the World. Singing these familiar carols is a way of welcoming everyone to the celebration. Forcing new lyrics on people who might already feel unfamiliar enough with what’s going on at Mass is not welcoming. Forcing new lyrics on people who are in the pews, week after week, striving to participate as best they can, is not welcoming to them either; it doesn’t encourage anyone to sing (or to open the hymnal and look for the words.)

I’m sure you’re already hard at work on the hymnals beginning in Advent 2017. Please dig out your 25-year-old hymnal archives and return the lyrics to their proper poetry and glory. No one wants political correctness forced upon them in the middle of Joy to the World.

And while you’re at it, give the Blessed Mother her splendor back.

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Advent Wreath 2016

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Our Advent wreath is the same one that Hubs had when he was growing up. My mother-in-law gave it to us several years ago. I add a white pillar candle in the center for Christmas, and place it on a red charger. This year, I decided it needed a little something, so my daughter wrapped the wreath in string of golden berries. Basically, it’s pretty simple.

We only have one child at home most of the time now, and he’s 14, so our issues with Advent fire are different now than they were when the kids were preschoolers. (Now it’s all about re-lighting the candle and seeing how far away one can stand and still manage to blow the candle out…)

If you’re worried about combining lit candles and small children, those LED candles are a terrific substitute. I wish they’d been around when my kids were small. Back in 2005 I offered some advice to parents who worried about combining toddlers and flaming objects on the dining-room table:

Don’t skip the Advent wreath just because you have young children. The Advent wreath has been great for our children during this season. Three times now, we have been through the Tremendously Terrifying Twos at Advent wreath time and I’m pleased to announce that no one has been hurt yet. However, now that we have a Teenager in the house, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher at hand.

Maybe you have one of those cake plates that sits high off the table. Set your wreath on top of that, if you need to keep it away from the little one.

I wish you and your family many blessings this Advent!

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I’m linking up today at CatholicMom.com for the Advent Wreath Linkup!

I’m also linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

On Barb’s Bookshelf: “Fearless” by Sonja Corbitt

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Sonja Corbitt’s Fearless puts fear and anxiety into a different perspective, framing them as spiritual attacks and providing tools with which to vanquish them. In short, Fearless is all about spiritual warfare.

Before reading Sonja’s book, I thought of spiritual warfare as something that was undertaken by the clergy or exorcists or very holy people. Fearless brings home the point that we are all subject to attack. “At its deepest root,” Sonja explains, “fear is a spiritual battle with a spiritual enemy.” (6)

Fear comes from the enemy: my enemy, your enemy, and God’s enemy. In affirming the spiritual basis of my fear I am not blaming myself for struggling with it; I am simply acknowledging that I am somehow being manipulated. As St. Anthony [of Padua] said, ‘Fear not. ‘Tis but an artifice of the Evil One to distract you.'” (7; emphasis mine)

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A mix of personal testimony, quotes from Scripture and the saints and plenty of wise counsel round out this book, which begs to be read (and reread) slowly and with pen and journal close by. Each chapter of the book is divided into sections that are a good length for personal meditation or group discussion. At the end of each chapter, you’ll find a review, an invitation to further action, and a God Prompt, followed by group-discussion questions.

Sonja Corbitt challenges readers to use love as a weapon against destructive fear. Advent is the perfect time to read a book like Fearless: to take up the challenge of fighting the enemy behind the fear and embracing life with confidence.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book by the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Ornamental Graces: Book Tour and Character Interview

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Carolyn Astfalk’s newest novel, Ornamental Graces, is a Catholic romance with Theology of the Body underpinning the story.

This novel chronicles the on-again, off-again romance between Emily, a young teacher obsessed with all things French, and Dan, whose wounds from a past relationship make him wary of starting over. There are some terrific peripheral characters as well; you’ll want to adopt Grandma. Will Dan be able to finally put his past behind him and open up to new love?

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As part of her blog book tour, Carolyn generously agreed to allow me to interview the supporting characters in the novel.

GRANDMA

What was it about Emily that made you encourage Dan to pursue a relationship with her? 

Oh, I’d like to think after all these years I’m a pretty good judge of character. But I’ll tell you what tipped me off. When we were at the grocery store, there was a young woman with two little ones. While the mother was tending to the toddler having a tantrum in the cart, the older child had helped by getting the eggs – and dropping them on the floor. Emily alerted someone from the store and tried to soothe the mother, who was at the brink of tears. Emily was kind, considerate and helpful. Told me a lot about the kind of young lady she is. I knew that kind of woman would love my Daniel the way he deserved to be loved. And Daniel needed to see what a blessing Emily would be in his life. That she would bring all his better instincts to the surface and help him be the kind of man anyone would be proud to call a friend, a grandson, or a husband.

Tell us about how the power of a grandmother’s prayer was at work in changing Dan’s life.

I pray for each of my grandchildren by name every day, but it’s no secret that Daniel has been special to me. As he grew older, he took care of me more than I took care of him. If I told you all the ways, the list would be long and boring. When he broke up with what’s-her-name, I know he was broken-hearted. I thought given a little time, he’d perk up, but instead he seemed to drift further and further from, well, just about everything good in his life. That’s when I started saying novenas for him, having Masses said, and I particularly called on the Blessed Mother, because she knows what it’s like to watch a son – and that’s what Daniel was to me in many ways – suffer. I know God hears all our prayers, but he doesn’t always answer how and when we’d like. But in this case, he gave me my heart’s desire. I’ve never been prouder of anyone than I was of Daniel when he turned back to God and turned his life around. I’d been praying for the right woman to come along too, and I believe Emily is the answer to that prayer.

ROBERT 

You’re the one who really set up Emily and Dan (or was it Elizabeth?) What was it about the two of them that led you to want them to get together?

He’s a man, she’s a woman, and, frankly, with soon-to-be eight people in this little house, we can’t spare a square foot for Emily. But, seriously, the possibility of getting them together came up while Emily was in her own place anyway. Elizabeth’s been telling me for years I’ve been too overprotective of my sister, so, I’d been making a conscious effort to treat her like a grown-up. Most of the time. And when I looked at her that way, I realized that she’s really something special. You should see her with my kids. I’ve always known she’d make someone a great wife and be a great mom too. But I didn’t want her to settle for just any guy. When I met Dan, I could see them together. They’re both pretty easy-going but hard-working. They take their faith seriously and they like kids. Seemed like a good fit to me.

How did you handle the issue of your good friend dating your little sister?

If I had realized how complicated those two would make it, I might’ve thought twice about the whole thing. On again, off again, on again, off again. I couldn’t keep up. And Dan certainly put me in an awkward position a time or two. I just tried to be straight with both of them and honor whatever they asked of me. Y’know, just be the brother she needed and the friend he needed.

ELIZABETH 

Did you think it was a good idea for Robert to set Dan up with Emily? 

Gosh, yes. Robert was just going to offer to introduce them when he got around to it. Who knows when that would’ve been! So, I took things into my own hands and made plans to get them both around our table at the same time. Listen, we’ve been married awhile, but I know how hard it is to meet people, and Emily – not that she was super picky or anything – but she was looking for a guy with certain values. And, she’s not the most outgoing girl around. After I met Dan and had a pretty good sense of what kind of man he was, I couldn’t wait to give them a chance to get to know one another.

How did the dynamics of their relationship affect your relationship with your sister-in-law?

Well, like Robert said, the whole on again, off again thing was tough to navigate. Maybe it’s because the biggest drama around here is created by people who can’t even use the potty consistently, but I’ll admit to a few eye rolls behind her back. [laughs] But Emily is so dear to me. I’ve watched her grow up. And to watch her fall in love . . . [sigh]. Their whole relationship, with all the starts and stops, meant she needed a friend, and at the same time, so did I. It was the first time we related solely woman to woman. I don’t think of her so much as Robert’s little sister anymore as I do my friend.

KRISTEN

If you’d had the chance to speak with Emily about Dan before they met each other, what would you tell her?

If you’d have asked me a year ago, my answer would be pretty different. But today, uh, I’d tell her to treat him right. That’s he’s a good guy at heart. Maybe I should’ve been a bit more careful with that heart. I don’t know. It’s kind of a time I’d really like to put behind me. We both made mistakes. Mostly me, maybe. I’d tell her to just let him love her.

Visit the other stops on Carolyn’s book tour, and sign up for her author newsletter for news of her next projects, recipes, playlists and more!

About the author: Carolyn Astfalk lives with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where the wind carries either the scent of chocolate or cow manure. She is a CatholicMom.com contributor and author of the contemporary inspirational romances Stay With Me (Full Quiver Publishing) and Ornamental Graces. (Barb’s note: this bio was provided by Carolyn. I’d like to add that she’s funny, creative, and a really good sport. Follow her on Twitter @CMAstfalk.)

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