#OpenBook: May 2023 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:

nullDusk Shall Weep by Kelsey Gietl (Larksong Legacy, book 2). This novel centers on Coraline Shea, a recent widow who faces an even more difficult life than she already has, due to the degenerative eye disease that’s robbing her of her vision. Coraline hatches a plan to trap Jamison Lark into marriage, but doesn’t count on the discovery of a special ability she seems to possess: one that could put the entire settlement of Larksong in danger. You definitely should read the first in the series before this one. It’s not a standalone (which is not a slam on the novel in any way, more of a PSA for readers).


In Pieces by Rhonda OrtizIn Pieces by Rhonda Ortiz (reread). Read my full review of this novel, and then go get yourself a copy—Rhonda has a sequel coming out in mid-August, and you need to read this novel before you read the next book. Readers will cheer for the strong female characters and the smitten, determined hero who battle rigid social expectations and a villain you’ll love to hate. An “oh, no, he didn’t!” King David-style conflict, a Custom-House mystery, some PTSD, and even a little espionage make In Pieces a novel you won’t be able to put down. I think I’ve read it four times already.


Adrift by Rhonda Ortiz (cover coming soon!). Picking up right where In Pieces leaves off, Adrift chronicles Molly and Josiah’s complicated search for a church for their wedding, Josiah’s venture into work on land, and some fascinating surprises in the lives of their friends. Some of the secondary characters in this book deserve their own novels! The espionage that figured into the plot of In Pieces is a major plot point, with two characters traveling to Philadelphia—as the yellow fever pandemic begins. A good deal of the novel’s action takes place in Philadelphia and centers on the lives, work, and social standing of biracial characters. (Advance review copy provided by the publisher; book releases August 15. But I will definitely order a copy for myself.)


nullThe Best Summer of Our Lives by Rachel Hauck is an enjoyable clean romance centering on four friends, all strong personalities, and the summer after they graduated from high school in 1977. There’s a split-time component that looks at their lives 20 years later, and how the events of that fateful summer shaped the women they became. As the summer progresses, secrets are revealed that change the relationship between these lifelong best friends, and readers get a good sense of the emotions each young woman experiences as she keeps and then reveals her own secrets while dealing with the revelations of the secrets her friends have kept. Terrific friendship story! A fun touch: each chapter title is the title or central lyric of a song from the era, which made for a great playlist. (Advance review copy provided by the publisher. This book releases June 27 and is available for preorder.)


nullNow That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins. Nora’s boyfriend, an ER doctor, seems to only be interested in her when she’s in need of help. But she discovers he’s been cheating right after she was hit by a delivery truck … so she returns to recuperate at her childhood home on a remote Maine island, a place she left right after high school without looking back. Going home is complicated, and so is facing the small-town drama she ran away from years ago. I couldn’t put this book down—the characters were fascinating.


nullThe Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks by Shauna Robinson. Maggie arrives in a town that’s built on the reputation of its most famous former resident, ready to fill in at the bookstore for her friend during a maternity leave. But she discovers that the restrictions on what the store can sell are endangering its future, so she finds a creative way to stock books the local readers want—and to host events that bring customers into the store. Her eventual success leads to the possible closure of many businesses in town and the loss of her friend’s livelihood. Maggie is a wonderful character, and this was a charming read.


nullThe Sweet Life by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Cape Cod Creamery Book 1). Dawn’s fiancé dumps her shortly before the wedding but insists she go to Cape Cod with a friend for the (nonrefundable) honeymoon trip. She brings along her recently widowed mom, who’s creative but flighty, and who buys a fire-damaged ice-cream shop in the historical district on a whim, then depends on Dawn to handle all the logistics. There’s a romance for one character—one I didn’t see coming—and a hint at something for another character in the next book. I enjoyed the small-town setting and the interesting side characters.


nullMercy’s Power: Inspiration to Serve the Gospel of Life by Maria V. Gallagher. Discover your path to living the Gospel of Life. In Mercy’s Power, Maria Gallagher offers a prayer-fueled new perspective on advocacy for life from conception until natural death. A must-read for pro-life advocates, from the mother sharing ultrasound pictures with her older children to the Rosary-praying witness outside abortion clinics and the neighbor who runs errands and shares tea with the senior citizen down the block. Learn how everyone’s advocacy is essential to the culture of life. I had the honor of being asked to endorse this book, and I plan to recommend it widely.


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

Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz


My Tuesday Church

In September, my parish moved the daily Mass time to noon on weekdays.

I love this, because it allows me to work from 7:30 to 11:30 and then head to Mass before having lunch—if I get it together enough to start that early, and if I have no afternoon meetings.

On Tuesdays, though, I do have a meeting—at noon—so I can’t attend Mass at my own parish. So on Tuesdays, I take a field trip. I’ve tried one church that offers an 8 AM Mass, which works well with my schedule, but there were some other factors that made this not a good fit. (If going to daily Mass is a near occasion of sin, and it was, then some things need to be reconsidered.) So I visited another parish that’s not too far away and has a 9 AM Mass.




I struggle, some weeks, with the idea that I’d rather be at my home parish, my parish home. A part of me feels disloyal for going somewhere else once a week, and for liking it there. But I think it’s OK to want to be at your own parish, because that means it’s important to you—I love my parish home. And it’s also OK to take field trips when you’re unable to attend Mass at your home parish. Better that than to skip! After all, Jesus is present in any Catholic church.

But my Tuesday church has been a real gift. It’s a diverse parish, with weekend Masses in three languages. At daily Mass, the pastor effortlessly switches among those languages as he distributes Communion, so each person receiving hears “The Body of Christ” in his or her own language. This is a beautiful sign of respect for each person’s culture. Father Jorge knows who speaks English, Spanish, or Portuguese, and greets them accordingly.

And on some days, like today, the homily is a real treat, because it’s like it was written just for me. I will remember, going forward, to focus on this:

It’s interesting that every day during Mass, right before we receive Communion, we all hear these words of Jesus Christ: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.”

Father went on to discuss the many times peace is mentioned in the Gospels, and how the Blessed Mother has urged us to pray for peace. He encouraged everyone to read Pacem in Terris, the encyclical by St. John XXIII. And he asked us all to consider how we can be peacemakers and peacekeepers.

I got home from Mass this morning to learn that my noon meeting was canceled. But that’s OK. God gave me a beautiful gift at Mass at 9, at my Tuesday church.



(If you want to skip to the homily, it’s 20 minutes in. Highly recommended.)

Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Photos copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz, all rights reserved.


An Open Book: May 2023

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:


Windswept Way by Irene Hannon (Hope Harbor #9). Ashley decides to start over by purchasing a possibly haunted house with the intent of opening a special-event venue. The mysterious former owner, who lives on the property, and the equally mysterious and battle-scarred neighbor and landscape designer bring unexpected friendship and possible romance into her life. Eventually Irene Hannon will get tired of writing the Hope Harbor stories, and when that happens, I will miss them. I enjoy the recurring characters, which include main characters from previous novels in the series, the minister and priest who enjoy a friendly rivalry involving Bibles and donuts, Charley the artist/taco truck driver with more than his share of insight, and the seagulls Floyd and Gladys. (And it’s fun to speculate about who will figure in the next book, since there’s usually a hint or two.) One thing that has disappointed me, and maybe it’s a requirement of her publisher or something, but there are never any Catholic characters in the series except the priest. Jonathan, in this book, is estranged from religion until he has an eye-opening conversation with the Catholic priest—yet when he returns to church, it’s at the Christian church, not the Catholic one.


Save What’s Left by Elizabeth Castellano. A funny novel about a midlife divorcée who buys a beach house—which is being overshadowed by over-the-top new construction next door. Part of the story is told in emails to community leaders. It’s over-the-top and overly long; it felt like it was much longer than 304 pages and could have done with a good edit. But it would make a great beach read for the summer, especially if your beach umbrella is in the shadow of an enormous, ugly new AirBnB that ruins everyone’s view. This was a “Kindle First Reads” that I got for free as an Amazon Prime member. (Available June 27.)


Love Songs Suck by Becky Monson. I loved that each chapter of this book had a song title—I knew almost every song, and they all went well with the action of that chapter. Louella met Finn, a boy-band singer at a Nashville concert and felt an immediate connection, but she had a boyfriend. The singer recorded a hit single based on their meeting, and when it accidentally came out that she was the inspiration of the song, she’s swarmed by papparazzi, to the dismay of her extremely secretive now-fiancé. Kurt does not support her as she deals with instant seclusion, but instead she’s rescued by Finn. You can probably tell where this is going, but despite that predictable plot, this clean romance is an excellent, fun read.


Who Am I to Judge? by Emily Hanlon. This new cozy mystery from Chrism Press features a couple of Church Ladies in a hilarious personality clash, trying to clear the names of two of their favorite parish priests in the murder of a fellow parishioner. This story is populated by a cast of very quirky characters, almost over the top, and that’s all part of the fun. The mystery kept me guessing, and the characters’ foibles and fumbles kept me reading. And let me give you a little hint about Chrism Press: when you preorder the ebook directly from the publisher, you get it earlier than you would if you buy it on Amazon, but the price is the same! I love supporting a small publisher in this way.


A Girl Called Samson by Amy Harmon. Deborah, who had been bound out as an indentured servant since the age of 10, comes of age during the American Revolution and decides to pursue her dream of serving her country as a soldier. The only way to do this is to disguise herself as a man. I almost didn’t read this because I was afraid it would be an agenda-driven gender-bending kind of novel and I don’t have time for that, but I’m glad I put those preconceived notions aside: the book was not at all what I expected. Deborah was clearly playing a role, putting on a costume so she could do something that society wouldn’t permit otherwise. More than anything, I was impressed by her character’s emotional journey throughout the course of the story.


Cara by Maddie Evans (Always a Bridesmaid, book 4). Maddie Evans is particularly talented at writing dialogue that feels real, reveals the characters, and explores what makes a healthy relationship. In Cara, you’ll find a young woman relishing her hard-won independence, the man who tried to mold her in his image, a few side characters who deserve stories of their own, and a villain—a type of character who doesn’t always get as much space on the page in Evans’ stories, but who provides plenty of entertainment in this one.


The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery by Amanda Cox. A split-time story centered on a tiny local grocery store that’s been in a family for generations. 60 years ago, pregnant and unmarried Glory Ann was forced into a marriage of convenience with the store owner (not the baby’s father). In the present day, her newly widowed granddaughter Sarah decides to rebuild her life by returning to her hometown and joining the family business, only to find that her mother was in the process of closing and selling the store. All three generations of women in the family have kept secrets, and all three have wounds that only the truth can heal.


A Novel Proposal by Denise Hunter. Writer Sadie leaves New York for the summer, headed for the Carolina coast where she’s tasked with writing a book in a new-to-her genre to cover an advance on a previous book contract that didn’t sell. But she has no inspiration to write romance, so she decides to feature her handsome neighbor in the novel’s plot, as the two of them seek to find the rightful owner of a beautiful engagement ring Sadie found inside a book. Yes, this clean romance is packed with so many clichés, but it’s definitely a fun summer read.


Give Me a Sign by Anna Sortino. Terrific story, well told. I didn’t want to stop reading! I appreciate that it was a clean romance (kissing only) and that there was minimal swearing. The author did a good job showing where dialogue was signed rather than spoken—this is a challenging thing to do in written work and I thought her solution was clever. The story was a good exploration of both the challenges that people who are Deaf or have hearing loss face in the world in general and with each other, and the various ways they can choose to communicate, without being heavy-handed. I was inspired to think more about how I respond to people with hearing loss, and how I can do better. I’ll look for more by this author. (Netgalley review; book will be available in July 2023)


nullJersey Girls Don’t Rule by Lisa Hess. I’m a big fan of Lisa’s fiction for adults, and I was sure she’d do just as well with a middle-grade/YA story. This one, featuring a 12-year-old main character, didn’t disappoint. Keesha’s dad is remarrying a woman with two younger daughters, and Keesha feels caught in the middle: she’s living with her dad and resents that his new wife and children are getting what she and her mother never did. Lisa excels at portraying characters with big feelings as they learn to express them. What I’m not a fan of is the Kindle Vello platform, where this story is available. It’s designed so you’ll read on your phone (which I don’t prefer) and you buy the story chapter by chapter.


Tilly in Technicolor by Mazey Eddings. A young adult with ADHD embarrasses herself in front of a cute guy on a transatlantic flight, only to learn she’ll be working closely with him all summer long and that he’s autistic. I’ve seen books with one neurodiverse main character before, but this is the first one I’ve come across with two, who fall in love with each other. Bundled beautifully into the story line is good advice about being aware of others’ needs and open to discussing your own. Heads up: also features homosexual relationships, premarital sexual relationships, and some crude language.(Coming in August 2023; Netgalley review.)


Caring for a Loved One with Mary: A Seven Sorrows Prayer Companion by Theresa Kiser. A beautiful book that I’m still praying my way through (it’s meant to be savored slowly). It’s rare that I’ll recommend a book I haven’t yet finished yet, never mind purchase a copy to give to someone else, but that’s exactly what I did with this prayer book by Theresa Kiser (new from Our Sunday Visitor). Read my full review. 


Holy Habits from the Sacred Heart: Ten Ways to Build Stronger, More Loving Relationships by Emily Jaminet. This is a down-to-earth, concrete book that shows you 10 habits you can develop that will bring you closer to Jesus. Emily Jaminet once again has found a way to share her love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with today’s reader. This book from Ave Maria Press is packed with do-able advice for building spiritual muscle while you build up your relationships. I like the reflection questions at the end of each chapter, which you can use for journaling or for group discussion. (Netgalley review)


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

Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz


The Seven Sorrows: A Rosary for Caregivers

Theresa Kiser’s new book, Caring for a Loved One with Mary: A Seven Sorrows Prayer Companion, was written by a mother whose child faced a complex medical diagnosis. But we all face times when we’re cast into the role of caregiver, and who better than Mary to run to with our concerns?

More than a decade ago, I first ran to the Rosary when someone in my immediate family faced a health crisis. At that time, I didn’t know all the Mysteries, but keeping that knotted-twine rosary in my pocket was a comfort, a reminder that Mary is a mother to us all, a caring mother who understands what it’s like when our loved ones suffer.

In the fall, when we once again faced news of a difficult diagnosis, I decided I wanted to specifically pray the Seven Sorrows devotion. I ordered a Seven Sorrows chaplet from the Mary Devotions shop on Etsy; Barbara made one specifically for me. It’s a little too large to keep in my pocket, but when I hold these beads, they’re solid in my hands, and have a lot of facets for my fiddling, anxious fingers.

I found that this book, Caring for a Loved One with Mary, has helped me to go deeper with the Seven Sorrows devotion. I’ve been going through it slowly, a chapter at a time, really concentrating on each particular Sorrow. The meditations on the Sorrows, and each prayer, are truly written for the caregiver:

Her sorrows remind me that my own sufferings are part of God’s loving plan. When I try (unsuccessfully, I might add) to avoid the difficulties of my circumstances, I may be closing myself off to the grace he generously offers within them. When I struggle to find the strength, I am comforted to know—at the very least—that Mary walked this road before me. There is no reason why she would abandon me when she knows so deeply how my heart aches. (32)


So many prayer books about suffering focus on the person who is enduring a particular trial. This book is for the ones who love them; they are suffering too, in their own way, just as Mary suffered along with her Son. It is a comfort to read and pray along with Caring for a Loved One with MaryI’ve already purchased an extra copy to give to a friend who is in the thick of an intensive caregiving season.

At the end of this book, you will find tips for starting a support group; questions for reflection, discussion, or journaling; and a way to quickly pray the Seven Sorrows Devotion, as well as St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Little Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Mary.”

Ask for Caring for a Loved One with Mary at your local Catholic bookseller, or order online from or the publisher, Our Sunday Visitor.




Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Photos copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz

This article contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links supports the work of this website at no additional cost to you. Thank you!


An Open Book: April 2023

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


nullYesterday’s Tides by Roseanna M. White. A World War II novel set in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, with a little touch of espionage—plus a split-time plot that takes place in England during the Great War. There’s an offshore U-boat, a mysterious intruder, an injured English guest at a family inn who’s supposed to be tracking a German spy, and a beautiful young innkeeper who clearly has secrets of her own to hide. So good! I loved that characters from some of White’s other novels make brief appearances here; that was a fun little touch.


nullThe Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz. I think I saw this reviewed in a newspaper; it’s definitely not my usual genre, but the premise grabbed me: a writing professor learns that a promising but annoying student has died, and after no posthumous publications are made, uses a writing sample from that student’s college days as the basis for his own bestselling novel. Then he begins receiving anonymous messages: “You are a thief.” The suspense was incredible, and I kept changing my mind about who the mysterious note-sender could be. Warning: language, and some rather nasty (unnecessary) digs at Christianity, the pro-life movement, and crisis pregnancy centers.


Code Name Edelweiss by Stephanie Landsem. In this suspense-packed novel based on a true story, a group of amateur spies works to take down the Nazis who are infiltrating Hollywood during the 1930s. Leisl Weiss, a single mother supporting two children, her ne’er-do-well brother and stubborn mother, was fired without cause by the Jewish studio owners. She is recruited to work as a spy to help undermine the Nazis by infiltrating one of their organizations, at the cost of her longtime friendship with a Jewish neighbor. Interestingly, some of the spies who worked together were unknown even to each other. Highly recommended!


nullFinding Home by Irene Hannon. A sweet story of a romance between a construction supervisor and a single mom whose middle-school son has ventured onto the construction site too often for the supervisor’s liking. Both Scott and Cindy face professional challenges, and Scott has an elderly, ailing grandmother on his mind as well. Lovely setting and interesting characters. This book is the second in a series, but I haven’t yet read the first one (I will, though) and there was no problem jumping right in.


nullMemory Lane by Becky Wade. One trauma survivor helps another when reclusive artist Remy spots an apparent shipwreck victim in the sea outside her home on a remote Maine island. After she rescues him, she discovers that her mysterious guest (who acts like an aristocrat) can’t remember anything, including his name. Finding out his true identity, and how he came to be on a life raft in the Atlantic, puts the two on a dangerous path.


nullMy Phony Valentine by Courtney Walsh. This book was worth it just for the opening scene, in which Poppy sees an old nemesis in a coffee shop and pretends to be in a romantic relationship with the handsome, athletic man behind her in line—and he goes along with it. Poppy is trying to save her ego and her failing restaurant, and Dallas is a hockey pro whose public reputation does not at all reflect the real man. The banter between these two characters was terrific.


(From the “judging a book by its cover” department: what do you think of these illustrated covers on sweet romances? Normally I read them on Kindle anyway, so I don’t really see them as I go, but I’m not sure I like the whole faceless-character vibe that seems to be in cover-art fashion right now. The comments are open, so go ahead and weigh in!)



nullThe Mitchells: Five for Victory by Hilda van Stockum. After The Plot, I needed a literary palate cleanser, and Catholic Mom writer Katie Fitzgerald recommended this one in an article I was editing. I’m not above picking up a children’s book when I need a reading break after something very intense. This is a really sweet story—just right for independent readers who are on the younger side of middle grade, or perfect for a family or classroom read-aloud. Like Katie, I loved that the mom in the story isn’t shown as the perfect stay-at-home wartime mom with dresses and pearls and everything going right without a hitch; she’s overwhelmed by her circumstances but digs deep to be resilient and resourceful. And Joan, the older daughter, is both responsible and vulnerable—very much like her mother.



nullFrom Prodigal to Priest: A Journey Home to Family, Faith, and the Father’s Embrace by Fr. Goyo Hidalgo (Ave Maria Press). A touching story of a man’s path away from the Church, and then back into it after a moment of awakening while watching the funeral of Pope John Paul II on TV. Throughout the book, you’ll see how Fr. Goyo’s mother’s love and prayers were the key to his journey. This memoir is both a quick read and a book I wanted to linger over. I read the whole thing on a cross-country flight, but have found myself going back to it, mostly to savor the “Prayers of a Prodigal” that end each chapter. Many of those would make beautiful songs, which makes sense, since Fr. Goyo is a singer-songwriter in addition to serving as a priest in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and a social media evangelist (follow @frgoyo). Review copy received from publisher.


nullGlorifying Christ: The Life of Cardinal Francis E. George, O.M.I. by Michael Heinlein (OSV). I’m not done reading this biography yet, but it’s a fascinating story of a cardinal who lived and served during my lifetime (Cardinal George passed away in 2015). Stricken with polio during eighth grade, Francis George almost saw his dream of becoming a priest melt away when the Archdiocese of Chicago rejected his application to the seminary because of his physical disabilities. Yet George’s resilience and his academic abilities helped him to successfully pursue ordination with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate just as Vatican II began. This biography recounts the challenges George faced as a cleric in the post-Vatican II era and his eventual return to Chicago as its archbishop. This book is both a biography of an interesting priest of our era and a portrait of the Church during this time. Review copy received from publisher.



Links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchases made through these links support 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.

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!

Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Image copyright Barb Szyszkiewicz, all rights reserved.


Holy Week in the Liturgy of the Hours

Don’t miss the beauty of Holy Week liturgy—including the Liturgy of the Hours!

While Holy Thursday and Good Friday rightly get lots of attention, the earlier days of Holy Week shouldn’t be overlooked.

A few observations and tips to get you through this week of praying:

Morning Prayer includes readings from the prophets who foretold Christ’s suffering.

Evening Prayer’s readings focus on Christ’s sacrifice and its implications for us.

If you attend the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, you do not also pray Evening Prayer.

If you attend the liturgical celebration of the Passion on Good Friday, you do not also pray Evening Prayer.

Highly recommended: the Second Reading in the Office of Readings for Holy Saturday.

Holy Saturday pro tip: pray Evening Prayer before you head to the Easter Vigil.


Get ready for the Easter Octave with a FREE downloadable bookmark!

Download and print my Easter Antiphons bookmark and save yourself a whole lot of page-flipping during Morning Prayer for the Octave of Easter.


This week on Instagram, I’m highlighting one beautiful element from each day’s Liturgy of the Hours.

Ask for The Handy Little Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours at your local Catholic bookstore, or order online from or the publisher, Our Sunday Visitor.




Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Images copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz (created in Canva), all rights reserved.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Your purchase through these links supports the work of this website at no additional cost to you. Thank you!


Night Prayer: On Solemnities, Pray Like It’s Sunday

Your Liturgy of the Hours Tip of the Day: on Solemnities, pray Night Prayer for Sundays.

Today the Roman Catholic Church in the USA celebrates the Solemnity of St. Joseph. That means you’ll pray the Hours for the Solemnity all day today, right up until Night Prayer.

Night Prayer is very straightforward, with prayers for every day of the week. But Sunday Night Prayer is also labeled “for Solemnities.” This makes sense, because Solemnities are celebrated just like a Sunday would be, with two readings before the Gospel and a Gloria at Mass (yes, even during Lent!), and usually with Evening Prayer I the day before.

So when you pray Night Prayer tonight, pray like it’s Sunday.

Are you interested in praying the Liturgy of the Hours, or learning to use the breviary for these prayers instead of relying on an app? Get my new booklet, The Handy Little Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours.



Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photo copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz, all rights reserved.

Amazon links are included; your purchase through these links supports the work of this website at no additional cost to you.


You Won’t Need This Page This Year

Your Liturgy of the Hours Tip of the Day: what to do when St. Joseph’s Day falls on a Monday

March 19 is the Solemnity of St. Joseph, unless March 19 is a Sunday or falls on certain days within Holy Week or Easter Week. This year, since March 19 is a Sunday, the Catholic Church in the USA will celebrate St. Joseph on Monday, March 20.

That means there’s a page you’re not going to need this year.




Sundays in Lent are of a (slightly) higher liturgical rank than Solemnities. So tonight, pray Evening Prayer II for the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Tomorrow, celebrate St. Joseph all day!

If you have a St. Joseph Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, which is an excellent resource for putting you on the right page for each day’s prayers, you’ll be all set. Find this at your local Catholic bookseller or online at

If you’re praying through the Divine Office app, you may have noticed that they have the prayers for St. Joseph’s feast today (Sunday, March 19), which is not applicable to Catholics in the USA. So you’ll need a book today, not an app, to be praying the prayers for this liturgical day.

Are you interested in praying the Liturgy of the Hours, or learning to use the breviary for these prayers instead of relying on an app? Get my new booklet, The Handy Little Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours.




Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Photos copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Amazon links are included; your purchase through these links supports the work of this website at no additional cost to you.


Catholic Picture Books for the Easter Basket

Chocolate bunnies, marshmallow Peeps, and jelly beans are all great things to put into your child’s Easter basket. But you can fit a new picture book or two behind the candy—and it’s a treat your child will enjoy long after the sweets are gone.

We’ll look at them alphabetically by title, just to keep things fair and square. I certainly can’t choose a favorite!

nullArthur the Clumsy Altar Server

Theresa Kiser’s storybook about an aspiring altar server who’s eager—but quite the klutz—is a sweet tale of perseverance and a little boy’s desire to do something for God. Mike Schwalm nailed it with the illustrations: my favorite one depicts Arthur sneezing incense into the face of another server.  Arthur’s hard work and enthusiastic spirit are noticed by a kind priest who emphasizes what’s most important about being an altar server.

Bonus content at the end of the book shows the vestments worn by priests and altar servers. Available from Amazon or OSV Kids.


nullFaustina: A Saint’s Story for Children

There’s no better season than the Easter season to introduce children to the saint who brought the Divine Mercy devotion to the world. Kaitlyn C. Mason’s rhyming book about St. Faustina Kowalska tells the story of the little girl who grew up to be a saint. Braelyn Snow’s detailed illustrations complement every page.

After the story, you’ll find instructions on praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet as well as family discussion questions and a pledge to trust in God. This book is designed as a read-aloud for children in primary school; it’s probably too complex for preschoolers. Available from Amazon or TAN Books.


nullI Am Earth’s Keeper

Lisa Hendey’s first rhyming book opens with a small child’s early-morning kayak ride that leads him to marvel at the natural world around him and want to protect it. It’s inspired by St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures, and the cadence of the story will draw readers (and listeners) young and old into the beautiful natural world where it takes place.

The tones and vibe of the illustrations by Guiliano Ferri remind me very much of a favorite picture book from my own childhood. Get a copy to enjoy with your favorite young readers, and teach them that we care for Creation because it was created by God! This book is appropriate for toddlers on up. Available from Amazon or Paraclete Press.



nullIn This Catholic Church

This book by Maura Roan McKeegan reminded me of one of my favorite nursery rhymes, “This Is the House that Jack Built.” Each page builds upon the one before, as the reader is invited into the church and looks around at the people and objects inside. The story culminates as the congregation gathers and the priest offers Mass.

The simple, engaging illustrations by Ted Schluenderfritz shine light on each element in turn, until we see the whole church focused on the Mass being offered beneath the crucifix that hangs above the altar. Toddlers and preschoolers will love this picture book. Available from Amazon or OSV Kids.


nullJesus and the Miracle of the Mass

Gracie Jagla’s rhyming book about the Mass emphasizes the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The story is narrated by Jesus, who wants the children at Mass to know that in the Eucharist, He truly comes to us, and invites the children to pray to Him just as they would talk with their best friend.

The story follows along through the different parts of Mass and reminds children that the whole Communion of Saints prays along with them at every Mass. The illustrations (paintings, really!) by Randy Friemel add to the story, with a modern style that’s energetic but not off-putting. An excellent book for children making their First Communion this spring. Available from Amazon or OSV Kids.


Jesus in Space: A True Story That’s Out of This World

Cecilia Cicone’s new picture book tells a story I never knew: some faith-filled astronauts carried the Eucharist along on a space-shuttle mission in 1994. The story centers on Dr. Tom Jones and all the preparation he went through in order to be ready to go into space. He spent two years getting ready for this mission, but always made sure to attend Mass with his family and to find time for Eucharistic Adoration.

The Endeavor crew carried a pyx containing the Eucharist into space with them, and spent time in prayer, thanking God for making the mission possible before receiving the Eucharist. The end of the book includes a note from astronaut Tom Jones, encouraging readers to keep Jesus with them wherever they go. In addition to Gabhor Utomo’s colorful illustrations, the book includes three full pages of photos of the astronauts and their mission. This book would be a perfect gift for a First Communicant. Available from Amazon or Pauline Books & Media.


women doctors of the churchThe Women Doctors of the Church

More than a children’s biography of four fascinating women of the Church, this picture book by Colleen Pressprich is an encouragement. “God is not looking for saints who are exactly alike. He doesn’t need another Hildegarde, Catherine, Teresa, or Thérèse. He needs you.” Readers will learn what it means to be a Doctor of the Church, and how these four holy women each served God in her own special way.

The illustrations by Adalee Hude are beautiful and not childish; they are lavish in color and eye-catching. This book is for independent readers and makes a great read-aloud. Available from Amazon or OSV Kids.


Ask for these books at your local Catholic bookseller, or order online from or the publishers.



Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Images: Stencil
This article contains Amazon affiliate links, which provide a small compensation to the website owner when purchases are made through the links, at no cost to you.


Ease In to the Liturgy of the Hours this Lent

Have you ever tried praying the Liturgy of the Hours?

Have you ever given up praying the Liturgy of the Hours because it seems too complicated? Too many pages, too many ribbons, too many ways to go wrong?

What if I told you that you can pray one part of the Liturgy of the Hours without needing to flip around in the book—all you need to know is what day of the week it is?

For real.

This Lent, try praying Night Prayer.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a saint’s feast day or the season of Lent or anything like that: there’s only one week a year that Night Prayer is different, and the instructions for that are right there in the book.

In my new book The Handy Little Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours (available now on Kindle; the print version releases March 27), I emphasize that for Liturgy of the Hours beginners, Night Prayer is a simple introduction to the cadence of the prayers.

Is it worth the effort? Yes. Is it doable? Yes! Start small, both in building the habit of prayer and your skills in navigating the breviary. Night Prayer is a wonderful way to begin, because it’s shorter and less complex than Morning and Evening Prayer. Take all the time you need to build up your prayer muscles. (21-22)


If you’re using Christian Prayer, you’ll find Night Prayer beginning on p. 1034.



Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photos created in Stencil, all rights reserved.

This article contains Amazon links; your purchase through these links supports the work of this website at no cost to you. Thank you!