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Walk With Me

“Walk with me,” she beckons, one hand outstretched as if to take mine, and one hand over her heart. That heart, ringed with a garland of beautiful flowers, has been deeply and thoroughly pierced with a sword.

Her smile trembles as her eyes brim with tears about to spill over—but her eyes do not leave mine. She does not shy away from meeting my gaze, even in her own pain.

Young—so young—and newly postpartum, she reaches out to me, inviting me to hold her hand as I shoulder the cross of my troubles, that ever-heavier burden of cares and worries that knocks me down at times under its weight.

“I’ll help you up,” she assures me, reaching out her hand again to lift me off my knees, to catch me as I stumble forward, my vision blurred by my own tears.

“I’ll walk with you,” she promises. Sorrow and joy are no strangers to her. As I cast down my cares with each bead that slides between my fingers, she listens.

She knows all my pain—the pain I’ll talk about, and the pain I feel I have to keep inside. She knows. And she cares. And in my pain, I know I’m not walking alone. I know she is beside me, holding out her hand to guide me, to lift me up, to hold me up.

“I’m here,” she assures me, as every mother assures her little child in fear or pain. “I’m here.”

And as I stumble along, bolstered by contemplating the joy, the light, the sorrow, and the glory she has witnessed, I look into her eyes, answering her trembling smile with my own.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.

 

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Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photos: unattributed painting of Our Lady of Sorrows, found in Resurrection Parish Adoration Chapel, Delran, NJ; photographed by Barb Szyszkiewicz

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The Only Bag I Need Today

I dug my trusty tote bag out of the closet yesterday.

I have other totes. Several of them, in all shapes and sizes. Most of them are fancy and professional-looking, and some even have a special place for my water bottle. Most of them aren’t stained in places, and their handles aren’t frayed.

But this is the tote I dug out of the closet yesterday, because today I’m going to need it.

 

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I’m going to need my Caregiver Bag.

This bag has gone with me to medical visits for at least a decade. It has room for my water bottle. And tissues. And waiting-room snacks. And the book I’ll bring, but definitely won’t read, in the waiting room. And whatever papers we’re handed, with instructions and arrangements and marching orders.

(And a rosary, though there are already 3 of those in my handbag.)

It’s been a decade, and this bag and I are in it for the long haul. Maybe that’s why, every time I get a shiny new bag, I hang onto this one despite the stains and the frayed handle.

I’ve hung onto that handle on some very dark days. And I’ve held it on the days when we heard good news, when we walked out of hospitals breathing a sigh of relief, because this time we were sure we were done with this.

So today, I’ll pack up that bag again with the snacks and the water bottle and the tissues and the extra rosary and the book I won’t read. I’ll grab onto those fraying straps and walk confidently through that familiar parking garage and into those halls I’ve walked so many times before, and I’ll remember that this is not a burden I have to carry alone.


Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photos copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz, all rights reserved.

On My Bookshelf: Perfectly Human by Joseph Dutkowsky, MD

Is there anything better than a warm chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven? I believe we’re handed them by God all the time and too often don’t notice or can’t figure out what to do with them. I’m a firm believer that when God hands you a chocolate chip cookie take a big bite out of it! (173)

Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky, or “Dr. D” as he signed off when he emailed to tell me he’d sent me a copy of his memoir, Perfectly Human, spent his life taking big bites of the chocolate-chip cookies God handed him, and the world is better for it.

 

In this fascinating book, Dr. D describes his journey from engineering student to pre-med and on to a series of academic and professional opportunities that led him to dedicate his medical career to caring and advocating for persons (mostly children) with disabilities. It’s evident from the very first page that Dr. D loves his work, and that his patients have been as much a gift to him as he has been to them. Dr. D looks into the eyes of his patients and sees the eyes of Jesus looking back at him.

Dr. D has not only worked hard as an orthopedic surgeon to help his patients enjoy their lives by assisting them in overcoming mobility challenges, he has led by example in looking and listening and helping to meet the needs of his patients and their families.

Through the patients, families, and community providers whom I serve, I learned the fundamental truth that you cannot take care of a child with a disability without taking care of their family and community. (82)

Throughout the book, Dr. D shares stories of encounters with patients and acknowledges that he was changed as much as the children and adults he has treated over the years. The thread that holds all these stories together is Dr. D’s deep reverence for the gift of life, no matter how imperfect that life might be in the eyes of an unfriendly world.

Particularly timely in these days of post-Roe vitriol against those who protect the vulnerable unborn is Chapter 16, “The New Eugenics.” Many of Dr. D’s patients have been individuals with Down syndrome. He observes,

Worst of all, this new eugenics is even threatening their lives. Through medical science, new tests exist and are being developed to genetically and morphologically examine a fetus in the womb. In the greatest tradition of medicine this information would be used to make early diagnoses that could lead to prenatal treatments to enhance the life of the child in the womb and after birth. In the worst tradition of medicine this technology is being used to terminate the pregnancy of an “undesirable” child. (168)

In this powerful chapter, Dr. D decries a culture that penalizes women “economically, socially, and professionally” for having children; a culture in which easy access to abortion enables men to use women; a culture which views easy access to abortion as a “solution to poverty” (169).

Dr. D told me, when he sent me this book, that it’s not a book: it’s a movement. He’s right. This book, which I called a memoir but might better describe as a call to action disguised as a memoir, is a spiritual push to see the intrinsic value of each person: born and unborn, healthy or ill, strong or weak, ambulatory or wheelchair-bound.

It’s also a love story, dedicated to his late wife, Karen, who supported him in the adventures that took him from New England to Tennessee, from New York to Peru and back again.

And it’s a testament to the faith of a man who has come to see all of life as a gift from God, packaged as a series of chocolate-chip cookies and ready to be enjoyed in a way that, in turn, glorifies the God who created it in the first place.

Perfectly Human is a book that will make you smile and cry—sometimes within the same page. I’d particularly recommend this book to young people entering the medical field, whether as doctors, nurses, or allied professionals, and to educators as well.


Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Image: Stencil

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

On my bookshelf with shelf of Catholic fiction

An Open Book: July 2022

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

Shadowed Loyalty by Roseanna M. White. Sabina, daughter of a Chicago mob boss in the days just before Al Capone’s rise to power, discovers she’d been played: the handsome young man who’d been secretly courting her is actually a government agent seeking to take down her father. But Sabina’s secret love life is unwelcome news to the young man who’d loved her since childhood—her fiancé, who puts aside his own code of ethics to get Sabina’s father out of legal trouble. A fascinating story. 5 stars.

 

For a Noble Purpose by Kelsey Gietl. Built on a premise from an episode in the Book of Tobit, the novel follows a young woman whose seven husband all died mysteriously shortly following the wedding, before the marriage could be consummated. Immediately after the death of the seventh, Sarah and the slave woman she grew up with run away to join a wagon train led by Tobias Lark and his brothers, a family of men with extraordinary gifts who seek to start a new community in the Washington Territory. An interesting look at wagon-train life from a privileged woman’s perspective. 4 stars.

 

So THAT Happened: An Accidental Romantic Comedy by Katie Bailey. Instagram posts from this author finally got me to buy this book, and it was a fun story. After a flight cancellation, Annie winds up having to share a hotel room—and a bed—with her handsome but grumpy seatmate from the plane, and she even pretends he’s her new boyfriend when she encounters her old boyfriend and his pregnant girlfriend in the airport. But she figures they’ll never see each other again … until she arrives at her new job Monday morning and discovers he’s the CEO. This clean romance would make a hilarious movie. 4 stars.

 

Meet Me in the Margins by Melissa Ferguson. Assistant-editor Savannah works at a publisher whose CEO considers romance novels too pedestrian for their lineup, but she’s secretly working on one to pitch to a competitor. After hiding her manuscript in a secret room, she returns later to discover someone’s been editing it—and making it infinitely better. This begins a back-and-forth, complete with scheduled secret-room runs so author and editor will be guaranteed never to meet. All the while, Savannah wonders who else knows about the room, and who’s working on her book. Thorougly enjoyable. 5 stars.

 

Beach Wedding on the Rocks by Maddie Evans. Noah and Elsie, known for their pranks during their high-school days and former high-school sweethearts, team up against the guy who was the cause of their breakup 8 years ago. During the week before the wedding, they stage elaborate schemes to dish out some cold revenge, and find themselves battling old feelings while they’re thrown together in hilarious situations. As always, this author’s greatest strength is her characters’ banter. 4 stars.

 

Not Until Someday by Valerie M. Bodden. Grace has a plan to renovate the house she just inherited from her grandfather into a bed-and-breakfast. She also has a life plan, right down to all the qualifications and characteristics of her future husband. When former NFL great Levi shows up as the contractor for her project, she resists her attraction to him because he doesn’t check the boxes on her list. This Christian romance was heavy on the Christian, sometimes to the point of getting in the way of the story. 3 stars.

 

Last Summer Boys by Bill Rivers. I’m not even sure how I found out about this one, but what a gem! In this novel set in 1968 rural/Appalachian Pennsylvania, a young teen seeks an opportunity to save his oldest brother from being drafted. He and a cousin, sent to spend the summer outside riot-plagued Chicago, plan an expedition to find a fighter jet that crashed in the area several years ago. Plenty of local color and flavor of the time, when developers sought to take over formerly rural areas and kids could roam for hours in the woods and hills. 5 stars.

 

Blackberry Beach and Sea Glass Cottage by Irene Hannon. While I love the mainstay characters of the Hope Harbor series, I’m starting to feel as if it’s jumped the shark. Nevertheless, these are easy, sweet reads—just right for relaxing during the summer, and solid 4-star tales. I heard there’s another one releasing this fall, and yes—I’ll be looking for it. Because sometimes, this kind of book is exactly what you need.

YA/Children’s

Love and Other Great Expectations by Becky Dean. A medical condition after an injury ends Britt’s soccer career and dreams of going to college. Offered an opportunity to spend a week in England for a contest that could net her the money she needs to replace her lost athletic scholarship, she travels around the country on a competitive scavenger hunt culminating in a Canterbury-Tale themed final project—and meets a young British man on a life quest of his own. This clean YA romance was a terrific read. 5 stars. (Netgalley)

 

Nonfiction

Encountering Signs of Faith: My Unexpected Journey with Sacramentals, the Saints, and the Abundant Grace of God by Allison Gingras. Interspersed with stories of Allison’s own spiritual journey as she and her husband adopted a profoundly deaf young child from China is “sneaky evangelism” about grace and the ways it’s shown to us—and the ways we hold our faith in our hearts. Allison had to make the faith visible and tangible to her daughter, but the Church made that easy for her through its traditions of sacred art and sacramentals. This book contains not only a fascinating testimony but also an invitation to make your faith personal, by incorporating meaningful devotions, developing relationships with saints, and learning to see God’s grace and providence in every aspect of your life. I want to read it again—this time with my journal near at hand. 5 stars. (Netgalley; available September 30 but you can preorder it now.)

 

Beginning Well: 7 Spiritual Practices for the First Year of Almost Anything by Joel Stepanek. I can never resist a “do something for a year” book and this one is a refreshing take on that theme—and a way better idea than making recipes from the same cookbook every day for a year (yeah, I read that one, AND saw the movie; bet you did too). In this new book from Ave Maria Press, Joel Stepanek offers seven spiritual practices to get you through times of transition. It’s a small book, and the author writes in a very down-to-earth, uncomplicated, conversational style. I recommend this easy, encouraging read, no matter what kind of transition you find yourself in. 5 stars. (Netgalley)

 


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

Where noted, books are review copies. If that is not indicated, I either purchased the book myself or borrowed it from the library.

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!

Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Recommended Reading for the Eucharistic Revival

To renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. (EucharisticRevival.org)

 

The United States Congress of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will initiate a three-year Eucharistic Revival beginning Sunday, June 19, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. During this revival, Catholics will be called upon to deepen and strengthen our belief in and devotion to the Eucharist: the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Here are some of the books I’ll be reading during this time, and others I’ve recently read. Join me!

Merridith Frediani’s Draw Close to Jesus: A Woman’s Guide to Eucharistic Adoration is much more than a guidebook about a particular type of devotion, this book, published by Our Sunday Visitor, begins with an explanation about Adoration that is definitely not for beginners only. Not every parish or Adoration Chapel offers advice or instruction on customary prayer practices associated with this devotion, so you’ll find that this book fills in those gaps in a helpful way.

nullIvonne J. Hernandez is the author of The Rosary: Eucharistic Meditations with St. Peter Julian Eymard, Apostle of the Eucharist. This is a beautiful book of meditations on the Mysteries of the Rosary. I prayed my way through this book over the course of four holy hours in the Adoration Chapel, but there’s enough material in the entry for every mystery that you could focus on a single mystery each day for three weeks, if you prefer.

Just published by Aleteia+OSV, My Daily Visitor: Eucharist by Patrick Mary Briscoe, O.P. is a devotional booklet with 40 days of meditations inspired by Gospel stories and the writings of the saints. Entries are short (one page per day) and the book’s small format makes it easy to take with you or keep inside your Bible or breviary for daily reading and prayer. This devotional also contains a collection of prayers before the Eucharist, written by saints including St. Catherine of Siena, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.

7 Secrets of the Eucharist  by Vinny Flynn, published by MercySong/Ignatius, is a favorite of three authors whose opinions I deeply respect: Maria V. Gallagher, Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, and Allison Gingras, who commented, “This book literally changed my life.” Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur noted in her Amazon review, “[this book] helps readers to once again be amazed by the mystery of the Eucharist. While no one can fully understand the Eucharist, Flynn uses Scripture, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, certain Church documents, and the Diary of St. Faustina to help explain it as much as possible. … This book provides complex information about this sacrament in a highly readable format.”

Ave Maria Press has recently published two books by Timothy P. O’Malley, in its Engaging Catholicism series, which I’m reading now. Real Presence: What Does It Mean and Why Does It Matter?, the first book, explains the biblical origins and long tradition of the Church’s doctrines of real presence and transubstantiation, and encourages spiritual practices that will help us recognizing Christ in the Eucharist and in others.

The second book, Becoming Eucharistic People: The Hope and Promise of Parish Life, discusses ways to cultivate a culture in our parishes that treats Real Presence not only as an important Catholic doctrine, but also as the most important part of parish identity. This book is not just for priests and parish ministers—there’s valuable information and food for thought for every reader.

 

What will you be reading during the Eucharistic Revival? Share your recommendations in the comments!

 


Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photo copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of some of these books, but no other compensation. Others were purchased on my own. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

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Prolife? Give, don’t gloat.

This morning, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which effectively overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

There’s a lot of vitriol on social media right now—on both sides. I’m trying to stay out of the way of that, but I think it’s important to consider constructive responses to the situation, rather than destructive reactions.

If you’re prolife, don’t take the opportunity to gloat today.

Instead, take the opportunity to give.

Crisis pregnancy centers and organizations such as Good Counsel Homes that offer housing, educational, and work opportunities to women can use your funds, your time, your donations of goods, and your prayers.

What kinds of things can you give?

  • diapers (especially the larger sizes)
  • wipes
  • baby formula
  • bedding
  • clothing
  • supermarket gift cards

To find a crisis pregnancy center near you, google “abortion alternatives” followed by your zip code or “pregnancy center near me.” It’s that easy! Then reach out and find out how to make your donation.

For people who say that helping babies is all well and good, but what happens when the kids outgrow the cribs but still need food, clothing, shelter, and daycare? The St. Vincent de Paul Society has them covered. This organization helps individuals and families by providing funds for food, rent or mortgage payments, utilities, and more. You can donate funds or gift cards forlocal supermarkets.

You can also budget for extra groceries each week and make donations to your local food pantry. Summer, in particular, is a time of greater demand at food pantries, because children are out of school and missing the breakfast and lunch they often received there. Be sure to include some kid-friendly, easy-to-prepare options.

If you think about it, the most prolife thing anyone can do is to carry out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Maybe you can’t do all of them. But you can do some of them. You can do at least one: pray for the living and the dead. But I’m sure you can find a way to do others, no matter your current situation.

Be creative! A group of musicians from my parish tonight will be taking advantage of today’s beautiful weather and visiting a homebound parishioner—and we’ll bring the music with us. Usually we call her during our weekly rehearsal and sing to her, but we wanted to do something more. She’ll get a mini-concert, featuring the music we’ll sing at Sunday Mass. That work of mercy costs us nothing but our time. And she was thrilled, when I called her at lunchtime, to tell her I’d be stopping by later with a surprise.

Now is the time to begin the work of building a post-Roe America,” the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) stated.

Be a giver, not a gloater—today and every day. That’s how we build a post-Roe America.

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Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Images: Stencil

books on a bookshelf

An Open Book: June 2022

The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. This has been a spring for reading books outside my normal fare! Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading:

Fiction

I’ve been bingeing my way through Irene Hannon’s Hope Harbor series. Set in a small town in coastal Oregon, this clean romance series features a terrific supporting cast, including Charley, an artist/taco truck owner whose powerful insights often set other characters on the right track; the priest and minister, good friends who engage in good-natured battles over who knows Scripture better; and Floyd and Gladys (I won’t spoil this one for you). They’re quick, enjoyable reads—perfect for summer. So far I’ve read the first 6 of 8 books and definitely recommend that you read the series in order:

Hope Harbor
Sea Rose Lane
Sandpiper Cove
Pelican Point
Driftwood Bay
Starfish Pier
and the last two, which I’ll be reading soon: Blackberry Beach and Sea Glass Cottage.

The Love We Vow and The Vows We Keep by Victoria Everleigh feature a man in his early thirties who struggles with his priestly vocation and guilt from his past relationships. The books include prolife themes as well as a focus on forgiveness (including forgiving oneself for past mistakes) and reconciliation with God and others. I wasn’t much of a fan of Tristan, the main character—he didn’t seem to know what he wanted out of life, but the female characters in both books were more relatable.

In the Shadows of Freedom by C & C Spellman is the first in a dystopian trilogy by a husband-and-wife author team. A young woman, off to attend art school in New York City, is tracked by government agents seeking to remove all religious influence from the country. The self-focused Amanda is oblivious to all of this. She trades obsession for her art to obsession with a drug her supposed “friends” introduce her to, and neglects contacting her own family until the crisis she finds herself in, a literal battle between good and evil, threatens her life and she decides to go home and seek refuge there. This novel was beautifully written and is a compelling story. I’m not a big reader of this genre, but I’m invested enough in the story that I want to continue reading the series. Book 2, A Nation of Tyrants, is available now.

 

YA/Children’s

Pudge & Prejudice by A.K. Pittman. A slightly overweight high-school sophomore in a large family of beautiful girls starts the year in a new school in a new state, and can’t figure out how to fit in, or what to do about her feelings for the football star whose best friend is her sister’s boyfriend. The ’80s references in this book were terrific—it takes place during the time of my own teenage years. I missed most of the Jane Austen references in this novel, because I’m not a fan, but even without that, it was an excellent story.

Nonfiction

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City by Jonathan Mahler was a fascinating look at the city very near where I grew up during my growing-up years. I recognized the names of most of the politicians and baseball players just from what I absorbed as the child of an avid Yankees fan. I remember many of the events that took place that year (the blackout, Son of Sam) and this book put things into more context than I had, given that they happened while I was in middle school. I’m recommending this to my mom (the Yankees fan mentioned above).

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

Where noted, books are review copies. If that is not indicated, I either purchased the book myself or borrowed it from the library.

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!


Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz

stock the shelves: the easy and free way to share Catholic and Orthodox fiction with our local communities

Stock the Shelves: How You Can Help Your Favorite Authors Reach Readers

I’m proud to support Stock the Shelves, a new joint effort to promote the inclusion of Catholic fiction in public libraries.

Did you know you can suggest titles for your public library’s permanent collection? The Catholic Mom community and the Catholic Writers Guild, along with several Catholic fiction organizations and dozens of authors, want to flood our local libraries with fiction by Catholic and Orthodox Christian writers, bringing our unique sacramental perspective to a wider audience.

How can you help?

Simple! If you are a fan of Catholic and Orthodox fiction, share your favorite titles with others by filling out a request form at the library or via your library’s website. It costs nothing except a few minutes of your time.
My local library automatically puts my name at the top of the hold list when they acquire a book I’ve requested. Even if I already own the book, I make sure to borrow it (I return it quickly). This way, the library’s circulation records show activity on that book.
To learn more, visit the Stock the Shelves campaign homepage and check out a wide variety of great contemporary Catholic and Orthodox authors.
Thank you for your support of this campaign—it’s an encouragement to all Catholic and Orthodox writers.
stock-the-shelves-banner-CP

 


Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Images copyright 2022 Rhonda Ortiz, all rights reserved, used with permission

On my Bookshelf: How They Love Mary

There are as many ways to show your love for the Blessed Mother as there are depictions of Mary in art. In his new book, How They Love Mary: 28 Life-Changing Stories of Devotion to Our Lady (Sophia Institute Press), Fr. Edward Looney explains how 28 saints and saints-in-progress express their love for the Mother of God.

Fr. Looney, host of the How They Love Mary podcast, begins by sharing the story of his own devotion to Mary, which was fostered by his grandmother and later grew into a passion for visiting Marian shrines, reading about Our Lady, and writing devotional books. In the Introduction, he observes, “I always ask Mary to help me love Jesus.”

If you would like to learn to love Jesus more, start by reaching out to Mary—after all, no one on earth loved Jesus more than she did! In How They Love Mary, Fr. Looney details concrete ways you (and your family) can do this, and all of these ways are inspired by the 28 holy men and women whose stories he highlights. Well-known saints such as St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and St. Kateri Tekakwitha are featured, along with Venerable Patrick Peyton, Blessed Solanus Casey, Servant of God Chiara Lubich, and Sr. Clare Crockett.

Each chapter concludes with two or more things you can do to deepen your relationship with Our Lady. Here are a few, along with the saint or holy person whose devotion inspires them:

  • Learn more about Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. Pray a novena asking Mary to untie whatever knots you face in your life. You may even ask her to untie the knots of which you are unaware! (Pope Francis, p. 115)
  • Whatever request or petition you have, don’t be afraid simply to say, “Mary, please pray for this need of mine.” (Mother Mary Francis, p. 66)
  • Make a daily visit to a statue of Our Lady and pray the Memorare. Is there an outdoor statue nearby your home or do you have one in your yard or home? (St. Francis de Sales, p. 152)
  • When you next attend Mass, ask for her help in remaining attentive throughout. (Bl. Columna Marmion, p. 97)

Chapters in How They Love Mary are brief—only a few pages each—which makes this book an excellent choice for daily spiritual reading. Consider reading a chapter each day during May (Mary’s month), and try some of the many saint-inspired suggestions for growing closer to the Blessed Mother—and through her, to Jesus.


Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Image: Stencil

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book by the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

On my bookshelf with shelf of Catholic fiction

An Open Book: April 2022

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

The Roommate Situation (Only in Atlanta, Book 1) by Katie Bailey. An enjoyable clean romance, but I liked the second in the series more. This one featured a young woman who just broke up with her cheating boyfriend, showed up unannounced at her older brother’s house, and found that only his roommate would be there for a few weeks. They try to hide their developing relationship from everyone, to no avail and to hilarious effect. (4 stars)

 

Neighbor WarThe Neighbor War: A Romantic Comedy (Only in Atlanta Book 2) by Katie Bailey. A fun, light read about neighbors who have longtime crushes on each other but don’t know the other one likes them—and one of them thinks she hates the other, based on an erroneous first impression. Witty banter (so much witty banter!), fun characters. (5 stars)

 

Bluebird by Genevieve Graham. Historical fiction set in Canada during/just after World War I. In this second-chance love story, a military nurse falls for a patient who, along with his brother, had been seriously injured doing dangerous work. After the war, the former soldier and his family make their living as bootleggers and smugglers across the Canada-US border, and the nurse unwittingly begins dating the brothers’ biggest competition, a gangster who is out to ruin his enemies. I’ll definitely look for more by this author. (5 stars; Netgalley review.)

 

YA/Children’s

Finding Junie KimFinding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh. Dual timeline fiction, set during Korean War and present-day, with both story lines from the view of adolescents. The story itself is a lovely family saga, even as it recounts the brutalities of war. The book takes on racism and bigotry but openly supports the BLM movement, and there was definitely an undercurrent of anti-white-privilege going on, which is its own form of racism. Because of this and because of some disturbing content (war violence), I would recommend a critical read before giving it to a child because the book definitely does endorse a party line. (4 stars)

Nonfiction

No Such Thing as OrdinaryNo Such Thing as Ordinary by Rachel Balducci. Rachel’s upbringing in the faith is different from most, because she was raised in an intentional Christian community, where she still lives. Don’t let her unique experience stop you from reading this encouraging look at being your best for God, structured around the story of the woman at the well. (4 stars; Netgalley review. Releases May 6.)
Synopsis: Are you looking for freedom and fulfillment in the life you are already living, or do you feel trapped because your everyday reality doesn’t match your dreams? No Such Thing as Ordinary will help you discover the passion and adventure in your life while empowering you to see how God uses daily, here-and-now moments to draw you to him in an extraordinary way. Drawing from Jesus’s conversation with the woman at the well in the Gospel of John, Rachel Balducci—Catholic writer and cohost of CatholicTV’s The Gist—shares how a deep unrest in her life launched her on a journey to discover the secret that true joy is found in a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Dust Bowl Girls coverThe Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team that Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory by Lydia Reeder. The true story of a Depression-era women’s basketball team in Oklahoma. A fascinating premise: women recuited to attend a junior college in Oklahoma face challenges ranging from poverty to sexism as they work to qualify for a championship tournament against some of the region’s best female basketball players. The book got bogged down in some unnecessary detail that didn’t keep the story moving and maybe could have been included as a supplement rather than incorporated into the story line. (4 stars.)

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Where noted, books are review copies. If that is not indicated, I either purchased the book myself or borrowed it from the library.

Visit this month’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!