Beatitudes-Based Healing for Parents

In All Things New: Breaking the Cycle and Raising a Joyful Family, Erin McCole Cupp reaches out to parents who don’t feel equipped for the task because they didn’t have good parenting models as they grew up. If your childhood was marked by dysfunction, difficulty, and a lack of nurturing, you’re not doomed to repeat that scenario with your own family — you need a new parenting toolkit than the one you were provided.

We know what not to do. But God is a good father, and he knows that we need more than directions on the negative. He knows we need directions on what to do instead. That is why, in preparing to give us the new covenant of his blood on the cross, Jesus first climbed a mountain, sat his people down, and gave them directions on how to live within the boundaries of freedom. In other words, in the Sermon on the Mount, he gave us the Beatitudes. He gave us a new script. (76)

Drawing on the Beatitudes as means to help parents fill in the gap between their wounded pasts and their hopeful futures, Erin offers strategies for setting boundaries, moving forward, and personal growth. Each chapter includes a prayer and an inspiring story of a saint who persevered despite being wounded by those who were supposed to love them.

This book is not designed only for parents just starting out. Of course, parents of newborns or expectant parents will benefit from the information and encouragement in All Things New, but parents of children of any age (even young adults) can learn strategies for forgiving, trusting (where appropriate), making emotional connections, practicing gratitude, and more parenting skills of the kind those regular parenting books don’t teach you — because they assume you learned them during your formative years.

All Things New is an invitation to begin again; this book is an invitation to hope.

For more information

Visit ErinMcColeCupp.com to sign up for Erin’s free newsletter, read weekly blog posts, and find links to Erin’s speaking apostolate — plus more.

Follow Erin on Instagram (especially the Stories) for helpful reinforcement on your journey toward being a break-the-cycle parent. 


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Image: Stencil Pro
This article contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchases through these links benefit the author. I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

On My Bookshelf: Close to the Soul

Could a summer read set in the late 1950s through early 1960s shed light on a topic of current national debate? Surprisingly, yes. Mary Jo Thayer’s debut novel, Close to the Soul, released in May by Full Quiver Publishing, is the story of a young woman from a devout Catholic family whose own dreams (as well as her parents’ dreams for her) are shattered after a sexual assault at a high-school event.

This novel’s publication couldn’t be better timed. As a high-school valedictorian basks in her 15 minutes of fame for her support of unlimited abortion rights in her home state, noting, “I am terrified that if I am raped, then my hopes and aspirations and dreams and efforts for my future will no longer matter,” we need to affirm to our teens and young adults that abortion is not the solution it’s made out to be.

This is exactly the aim of Close to the Soul. Carolyn Fandel’s story is proof that while unplanned pregnancies — even pregnancies that are the result of sexual assault — do change the course and direction of women’s lives, they need not ruin women’s lives. With support and sacrifice, women can still achieve their dreams — or they can channel their abilities and energies into realizing new and different dreams, beyond their own expectations.

In Close to the Soul, Carolyn is blessed with the support of her parents, siblings, and extended family. She discovers that not every woman in her situation has that family support as a resource, but she also discovers that support is out there and that she can help make it available. A friend’s confession shocks Carolyn with the revelation that some parents not only don’t support their unexpectedly pregnant daughters, but force them to abort their unborn children. This spurs Carolyn to want to help women in crisis pregnancies. Their futures do matter, and while their futures might not look like what they’d originally planned, that doesn’t mean their futures are any less worthwhile.

Close to the Soul can lead to much-needed conversations between mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters, aunts and nieces, and among friends as women ponder ways they can support each other rather than rushing toward expedient solutions with devastating consequences.


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz
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: May 2021 Reads

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

In a Far-Off Land by Stephanie Landsem. Such an excellent novel! Stephanie Landsem places themes from the Parable of the Prodigal Son in 1930s-era Hollywood in this compelling tale of ambition, glamor that’s all on the surface, family loyalty, and forgiveness. While aspiring starlet Minerva Sinclaire is meant to be the star of the show, I was much more fascinated by the two young men, Oscar and Max, who opened themselves to considerable risk in order to protect and help her. 5 stars.

Songs for Clara by Larry Denninger. Family secrets, longtime grudges, musical mysteries, and pretty girls in the 1980s equivalent of the friend zone … this debut novel puts it all together. A young music teacher discovers a packet of sheet music in his childhood home, but his estranged father (the composer) has dementia and can’t share the details of the mystery woman, Clara, to whom the work is dedicated. Frank endangers his relationship with his sister, his bandmates, and the two women who compete for his affection as he endeavors to solve the mystery. 5 stars.

When I Last Saw You by Bette Less Crosby. In this split-timeline story, a recent widow hires a private detective to track down the family members she’d lost touch with decades before when her mother had to split up the children in order to survive. Her mother’s story of betrayal by her husband and being left to a hardscrabble life with eight children is a tragic counterpoint to the story of a slowly reunited family and a chance at new love. Don’t miss this one! 5 stars.

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish by Bethany Turner. If you like Food Network shows, this romance is for you. Southern chef Hadley competes against the bad-boy New Yorker for a coveted spot: her own season of a special show highlighting the best chefs. Her grace under pressure while Max throws a tantrum during the final round seems to seal the deal – but then the producers decide it will make better TV to pit the two against each other. 4 stars.

The Oysterville Sewing Circle by Susan Wiggs. After a career-imploding situation in New York City, up-and-coming fashion designer Caroline’s world changes when her close friend and favorite model dies suddenly and Caroline is entrusted with the care of her two small children. She returns to coastal Washington state to stay with family and, as a way of making up for her lack of awareness of her friend’s situation as a victim of domestic violence, starts a small business and support group for local domestic violence victims. 5 stars.

YA/Children’s

Lucia of Fatima (Brave Hearts #3) by Kathryn Griffin Swegart. Excellent introduction to the story of the apparitions at Fatima for kids ages 10 and up. Told from the point of view of Lucia, who was 10 years old when the Blessed Mother first appeared to her and her younger cousins at Fatima, this historical novel gives readers a look into what it was like for the young visionary and how her life was changed afterward. The author, a gifted storyteller, skillfully portrayed each scene. The story brings home the message that you are never too young to follow God’s call. Written for ages 10 and up, but would be a good read-aloud for age 7 and up. 

Nonfiction

Behold This Heart by Fr. Thomas Dailey, OSFS. Fr. Dailey begins the book with chapters on the Salesian Backstory (the history and traditions of the Order) and Salesian Prayer. This chapter contained fascinating information on the iconography of the Sacred Heart and its depictions in art prior to the time of St. Margaret Mary — and how her own drawings and letters have affected depictions of the Sacred Heart since her lifetime. Throughout the book there are many beautiful images of the Sacred Heart to contemplate as you read and pray. Review copy received from the publisher. Read my full review at CatholicMom.com.

Simple Mercies: How the Works of Mercy bring Peace and Fulfillment by Lara Patangan, provides practical, do-able ways to live the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in your family and community. In each chapter, Lara begins with a quote that sets the tone for the chapter, then discusses the kinds of opportunities for experiencing a particular Work of Mercy in our own lives, families, work, church and communities. God is never left out of the equation, as Lara frequently references the graces God gives us to carry out works of mercy in His name, with love. Later in each chapter, you’ll find a section titled “Mercy Works: Try It” which lists ideas for applying each Work of Mercy in your family, community, and personal relationship with God. Chapters conclude with reflection questions (perfect for journaling on your own, or for discussion at your book club or parish faith-sharing group), and a concluding prayer. Review copy received from the publisher. Read my full review.


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 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!


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Living the Works of Mercy

Lara Patangan’s new book, Simple Mercies: How the Works of Mercy Bring Peace and Fulfillment, provides practical, do-able ways to live the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in your family and community.

We have the tendency to think too small when we think about the Works of Mercy – or maybe we’re thinking too big? We look at some of them and think we can’t possibly do things like Visiting the Imprisoned, and that the 42,578th sippy cup of water we’ve just handed to our toddler doesn’t count as Giving Drink to the Thirsty.

The thing is: we don’t have to make a big splash when we do a Work of Mercy. Filling yet another sippy cup, sharing your child’s outgrown but gently-used clothes with a family for their younger children, bringing a plate of cookies to a new neighbor, and praying for the repose of the soul of a friend’s parent might seem like small things to us (the doer) but they have big meaning for the receiver.

A couple of years ago, two close family members had medical crises, one on top of the other. I was spending part of the week helping my parents handle the situation there, more than 100 miles from my own family, where another situation was unfolding. My husband let me know that friends had started just showing up with hot dinners in their hands. That pan of lasagna fed us for a couple of meals so we didn’t have to think about shopping and cooking — and I know that our friends were happy to do this and would say, “Oh, it was nothing.” Truly, it was not nothing. It was a big thing. 

Corporal Works of Mercy

Corporal Works of Mercy are very concrete ways of being a living sign of God’s love in the world, but concrete doesn’t have to be complicated. Consider these ideas to try with your family:

  • If your children are old enough, designate someone to be the server each night, and give them the special task of waiting on others. (Feed the Hungry)
  • Raise money for an organization that provides clean drinking water. (Give Drink to the Thirsty)
  • Encourage your children to get involved by adopting a family at Christmas or donating backpacks at the beginning of a school year. (Clothe the Naked)
  • Collect socks, underwear, and toiletries to help with [the] basic needs [of the homeless]. (Shelter the Homeless)
  • Have [children] make a homemade card, take over the chores of those who don’t feel well, and ask sick family members how they can best comfort them. (Visit the Sick)
  • Visit the homebound, those in nursing homes, and the lonely. (Visit the Imprisoned)
  • Teach your children to attend funerals, send sympathy cards, and make meals for the bereaved. (Bury the Dead)

Spiritual Works of Mercy

Similarly, Lara’s breakdowns of the Spiritual Works of Mercy demonstrate how we can involve our families in living these Works of Mercy in creative ways:

  • Encourage your children to speak up for those who can’t advocate for themselves. (Admonish the Sinner)
  • Do a family Bible study, saint of the week, or watch a religious movie together and discuss it. (Instruct the Ignorant)
  • Demonstrate how you turn to God during difficult times and seek friends who listen with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. (Counsel the Doubtful)
  • Help (family members) facilitate a random act of kindness for someone else that will spread joy to their own heart. (Comfort the Sorrowful)
  • Point out times when (your children) are being patient or someone is being patient with them. (Bear Wrongs Patiently)
  • Teach your children how to make a good apology. (Forgive Injuries)
  • Keep a prayer list for family members’ special intentions. (Pray for the Living and the Dead)

In each chapter of Simple Mercies, Lara begins with a quote that sets the tone for the chapter, then discusses the kinds of opportunities for experiencing a particular Work of Mercy in our own lives, families, work, church and communities. God is never left out of the equation, as Lara frequently references the graces God gives us to carry out works of mercy in His name, with love. Later in each chapter, you’ll find a section titled “Mercy Works: Try It” which lists ideas for applying each Work of Mercy in your family, community, and personal relationship with God. Chapters conclude with reflection questions (perfect for journaling on your own, or for discussion at your book club or parish faith-sharing group), and a concluding prayer.

Lara observes, 

The works of mercy aren’t just another gimmick. They are game-changers. When I tried these works of mercy as an alternative to the creed of the secular world, I found less striving, less busying, less dissatisfaction, less emptiness, and more time for my relationship with God, my family, and the people I love. I found more meaning, more compassion, and more clarity than I’d ever found in anything the world offered. (196-97)

If you want to know how to make small changes in your life that have a big impact on others, read this book.

Simple Mercies is available from Our Sunday Visitor. Download the free study guide with discussion questions you can use on your own or with friends to explore the Works of Mercy in more depth.


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Image: Stencil

This article contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links benefits my work. Thanks!

3 Handy Little Tips for Praying the Liturgy of the Hours

Welcome to this series celebrating the launch of my booklet from Our Sunday Visitor, The Handy Little Guide to Prayer! I’ve asked some friends and colleagues to share prayers and tips to supplement the information in this booklet.

The Liturgy of the Hours follows a daily rhythm of prayer throughout the liturgical year. If Scripture is inspiring to you and structure is helpful when you pray, this type of prayer is a perfect fit. I’ve prayed the Liturgy of the Hours since my college days, and it’s not a practice you pick up overnight. It takes time to get used to following the format of this prayer, and it’s easier when you learn it in a group rather than on your own.

Are you interested in praying the Liturgy of the Hours? Try this advice from Daria Sockey, author of The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours. I asked Daria what beginners to this form of prayer need to know.

What 3 tips would you share with someone who’s just beginning to pray the Liturgy of the Hours?

  1. Start small. Choose one or at the most two liturgical hours and stick with that until you are comfortable. My choice for a beginner would be Night Prayer, a.k.a. compline. It’s the easiest to follow, since it’s a seven-day repeating cycle with no fancy variations for the liturgical seasons. No ribbon flipping required.
  2. Use a breviary app before investing in a four-volume breviary. Everything is all laid out for you, no guessing or worrying that you are on the wrong page. Also, you can experiment with adding the other hours until you’ve figured out what works best for you.
  3. Join a Facebook group of Liturgy of the Hours fans. There are several good ones with lots of members who were once rank beginners and are now eager to help other newcomers. (Or buy my book to learn the how-tos and the why-tos.)

How would you encourage someone who finds the Liturgy of the Hours too complicated?

If you try the fairly uncomplicated Night prayer for two weeks running and still don’t like it, then maybe this is not for you. That’s okay — there are many other ways to pray! But if those lovely night time psalms grab your heart like they did mine so many years ago, then find someone to help you get over the complicated parts. It’s like learning to ride a bike. Awkward at first, but once you’ve got it down you’ll never forget.

What do you love about praying the Liturgy of the Hours?

For me it’s the best way to do those two things that we all say we want to do and know we need to do: to pray often, and to immerse ourselves in the Word of God. I don’t have to separate my spiritual schedule into separate chunks of “now I’m going to pray” and “now I’m going to read Scripture.” Instead, I pray Scripture!

Daria Sockey writes at Coffee and Canticles, a blog about all things Breviary, and is the author of The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours.


Share The Handy Little Guide to Prayer with someone you know. It’s now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion.com, and OSVCatholicBooks.com!


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Support Franciscanmom.com by purchasing books mentioned here through my Amazon affiliate links.

#MorningCommutePrayer: A Handy Little Prayer Tip from Bonnie Rodgers

Welcome to this series celebrating the launch of my booklet from Our Sunday Visitor, The Handy Little Guide to Prayer! I’ve asked some friends and colleagues to share prayers and tips to supplement the information in this booklet.

When it comes to intercessory prayer, I like to think that God’s motto is “No job too small.” We teach our children to go to God with big things and little things, but as we grow up, we sometimes pray as if only the big things are worthy of God’s attention.

I began paying extra attention to the way people talk about prayer when I started writing The Handy Little Guide to Prayer for Our Sunday Visitor. As I wrote this booklet during the pandemic, when I wasn’t seeing too many people who didn’t live with me, I turned my focus to the ways prayer was mentioned on social media. I’d already been following Catholic TV producer Bonnie Rodgers on Twitter, and her daily custom of a #morningcommuteprayer was a fascinating call to prayer for big and small intentions alike.

Intercessory prayer is a type of prayer in which we ask God to bless others in specific ways. In my booklet, I mention using moments or transitions in your day as prayer cues. Bonnie’s Morning Commute Prayers are the perfect example of this practice.

I interviewed Bonnie, the producer of CatholicTV’s signature talk show, This Is the Day (Bonnie also works in Business Development and Expansion for the station) about this prayer practice and why she shares it on social media.

When did you start posting your Morning Commute Prayer intentions on Twitter? 

My Catholic experiences included making the sign of the cross at cemeteries, ambulances and all emergency vehicles, accident scenes, passing a church (obvi!) so being aware of everyday situations that required Divine Intervention was almost rote for me. But almost two years ago now when I was driving into work with the car windows open on an amazingly beautiful New England spring day I saw an early-teen boy being taunted at a bus stop. He was carrying something and kids seemed to be teasing him about it. I am a super busybody and really wanted to jump out of the car to intervene but realized that it could potentially cause more problems for the teen (can you imagine the kids’ reactions?) but I felt compelled to do something without exacerbating the situation and then it came to me that I could pray for him and even for the kiddos taunting him.  

Why do you share these on social media? 

I made the decision to put my commute prayer on Twitter because teasing and taunting take place everywhere and quite frankly amplifying my prayer for that teen seemed necessary. I kept thinking of how it was such a beautiful day and his day was off to a horrendous start. 

Do you choose these intentions ahead of time or do you pray as you go? 

Normally I pray as I go, but there have been times when someone has DM’d asking for a prayer intention or when an anniversary of some kind comes up. During COVID I did a lot of neighborhood walking and was seeing Marian statues, so for the month of May I started #ISpyMary. I really love how these public displays of devotion break into our lives when we least expect it. 

Is there a particular intention that has ever gone viral or attracted a great deal of attention?

This winter, a very pragmatic prayer for cleared accessible walkways (frozen snow piles and melted slush in the Northeast are a hazard) for those in wheelchairs, garnered the attention of an accessibility rights organization and some replies included personal experiences with slush. 

How does the Morning Commute Prayer connect you to others who pray? 

Oddly enough, I am a fairly private person but sharing my observations and requests for prayer has bolstered my awareness that our intercessory prayers – whether during the workday or the Liturgy – are our way of expanding our community. The “who is your neighbor?” question is played out daily in the digital landscape in so many wonderful ways.


Share The Handy Little Guide to Prayer with someone you know. It’s available on Amazon and OSVCatholicBooks.com.


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Support Franciscanmom.com by purchasing books mentioned here through my Amazon affiliate links.

A Handy Little Prayer Tip from Kate Taliaferro

Welcome to this series celebrating the launch of my booklet from Our Sunday Visitor, The Handy Little Guide to Prayer! I’ve asked some friends and colleagues to share prayers and tips to supplement the information in this booklet.

Would you like to try lectio divina prayer? Try this!

Kate Taliaferro blogs at DailyGraces.net. Find her on Instagram @dailygraces3.


Share The Handy Little Guide to Prayer with someone you know. It’s now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion.com, and OSVCatholicBooks.com!


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Support Franciscanmom.com by purchasing books mentioned here through my Amazon affiliate links.

The Simple Mercy of Intercessory Prayer

I was privileged this week to help my friend, Catholic Mom contributing author Lara Patangan, introduce her beautiful new book, Simple Mercies: How the Works of Mercy Bring Peace and Fulfillment, coming next week from Our Sunday Visitor!

I’ll be sharing more about this book soon. It’s not a long book, and it’s not at all a difficult read, but there’s just so much in there to ponder! Lara makes it easy to live the works of mercy – and shows us how we already do live those works of mercy in our everyday lives.

Simple Mercies book cover

When Lara asked me to write about intercessory prayer as a work of mercy, I immediately agreed and asked about my deadline for the piece, which turned out to be two weeks. She had it back in two hours, because it turned out that I couldn’t get anything else done until I’d written down my thoughts about this.

During a crisis, many people find that they have a hard time praying. They know they need the prayers, but they feel like God is far away or not listening – or maybe they haven’t connected with God in a while. When someone comes to you and asks for prayer, that is an act of great trust both in you and in God. This is a work of mercy that costs you very little but means so very much to others. By praying for someone in need, you are shouldering their burden right along with them.

Read the rest over at Mercy Me!


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz

A Handy Little Prayer Tip from Pat Gohn

Welcome to this series celebrating the launch of my booklet from Our Sunday Visitor, The Handy Little Guide to Prayer! I’ve asked some friends and colleagues to share prayers and tips to supplement the information in this booklet.

Are you unable to attend Mass or Adoration in person due to the pandemic or other circumstances? Try this!

Pat adds: My two favorite online chapels are found at Savior.org in Philadelphia, and the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Lithuania that houses the original Divine Mercy portrait.

Pat Gohn hosts the Among Women podcast. Learn more at PatGohn.net.


Share The Handy Little Guide to Prayer with someone you know. It’s now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion.com, and OSVCatholicBooks.com!


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Support Franciscanmom.com by purchasing books mentioned here through my Amazon affiliate links.

A Handy Little Way for Couples to Pray from Deanna Bartalini

Welcome to this series celebrating the launch of my booklet from Our Sunday Visitor, The Handy Little Guide to Prayer! I’ve asked some friends and colleagues to share prayers and tips to supplement the information in this booklet.

Are you looking for a simple way to pray with your spouse? Try this!

Deanna Bartalini is the author of Invite the Holy Spirit into your Life and hosts the Not Lukewarm Podcast. Learn more at DeannaBartalini.com.


Share The Handy Little Guide to Prayer with someone you know. It’s now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion.com, and OSVCatholicBooks.com!


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Support Franciscanmom.com by purchasing books mentioned here through my Amazon affiliate links.