#WorthRevisit: A Recommended Lenten Practice

Lent is only one week away! Here’s a suggestion for a virtue to cultivate in the upcoming season. From February 2009, some wisdom from the dearly-missed Father H:

This morning at Mass, Father observed that in today’s first reading from the book of Sirach, the phrase “fear of the Lord” was repeated four times. And he explained that God is not someone we are to be terrified of, like something in a horror movie. That’s not what fear of the Lord is all about.

He recommended that this Lent, we all practice growing in the virtue of fear of the Lord: wondering at the mystery of God and all that He created. He said that the more you grow in this virtue, the more awesome you understand God to be.

Read here what one of the early Church Fathers, Saint Hilary, wrote about fear of the Lord.

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

The Evangelizing We Need

"The Evangelizing We Need" by Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS @franciscanmom

In a conversation a few weeks ago, a friend observed that people have been leaving parishes (and, by extension, the Church) because they’re not being evangelized.

I was all in with that sentiment until it became clear that by “evangelized” she meant “told what they want to hear” and “affirmed in what they’re doing, even if it’s not what the Church asks of us.”

Actually, I think that if that’s the definition of “evangelization” we’re seeing too much of it, not too little.

If all evangelization does is affirm what we are doing, it’s a failure.

Evangelization is meant to call us to be better. It’s going to involve telling us things we don’t want to hear and calling us on our bad behavior.

As Elizabeth Scalia observes in Little Sins Mean a Lot,

If we were naturally good, we would not have needed God to go to the trouble of spelling out to Moses that, no, we cant just abandon our parents when they get old and feeble; we can’t just take what we want; we can’t kill whom we please and have indiscriminate sex all day long. As obvious as those prohibitions sound to us now, we need to be told not to do those things–because otherwise we would.
. . . if we are going to try to become really good persons, we need to identify and then detach from the faults and sins that we so readily give into, and thus keep us always playing defense. (18-19)

little sins mean a lot

About a decade ago, we had a pastor at our parish who worked hard to evangelize us. I wish I’d kept the church bulletins from that era, because he wrote a weekly column that was a real spiritual challenge.

He didn’t last long at our parish. People were vocal in their opposition to him. I suspect that what they really didn’t like was the spiritual challenge. Nobody likes hearing that they’re not on the right track. But everybody needs to hear that–or they won’t grow at all.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. (James 1:5)

It won’t necessarily be what we want to hear, but surely it will be what we need to hear.

"The Evangelizing We Need" by Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS @franciscanmom
Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom All rights reserved

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

On Barb’s Bookshelf: This Dread Road

An intriguing tale of two young women, a generation apart, who must learn to live with the consequences of romantic choices they make–and one man who figures prominently in both their lives. This Dread Road, Olivia Folmar Ard’s latest novel, is the third in the Bennett Series, but it works as a standalone novel (that said, I highly encourage you to read the other books in the series as well! You can get the whole Bennett Series for less than $7 on Kindle.)

Annemarie, a college freshman far from home and the reach of her overbearing mother’s attempts to set her up with every eligible bachelor in the region, falls hard for a man her parents certainly wouldn’t approve of. Her immaturity leads her to handle all of this the wrong way, with results that prove disastrous for her family relationship, her mental health and her love life.

50 years later, that same man mentors Claire, an heiress trying to escape her own mother and her own past.

In this parallel tale, you see young people making bad decisions–often due to immaturity and a lack of communication. Ard’s focus on the two young women, years apart, proves the old adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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Release Date: February 14, 2017
Published by: Three Amigas Press
Genre: Historical Romance, Women’s Fiction

Available from: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Createspace

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– Summary –

It’s September 1968, and Howard Knox freshman Annemarie Vanderhorst is happy to be free of her controlling mother’s societal expectations. She vows to spend her time at college wisely in pursuit of her own dreams. But before she can figure out what she wants from life, Henry Eden, the dark and handsome stranger in her philosophy class, takes over every waking thought.

Nearly half a century later, Claire James returns to Bennett after leaving her fiancé, determined to be independent for once in her life. After convincing her father to let her work for the family business, she soon realizes being a responsible adult isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Loathed by her coworkers, neglected by her best friend, and held captive by a terrifying secret, she doesn’t know how much more she can take.

The lives of these two women, decades apart but uncannily similar, finally intersect one fateful night. With broken hearts and hope for the future, will they find the answers they’re looking for?

This Dread Road (The Bennett Series #3)

– About the Author –

Olivia started writing creatively at eight years old. During middle and high school, she attended several writing conferences. Her short story “By Its Cover” placed first in its divisi15800522_10209756472760857_6955444529121609696_oon in the 2008 District III Alabama Penman Creative Writing Contest. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Montevallo in 2012, married in 2013, and published her first novel in 2014. She received a Readers Favorite five-star review for her holiday novella, ‘Tis the Season, in 2016.

Olivia lives in central Alabama with her husband JD and their cats, Buddy and Lafayette. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys watching quality television, teaching herself how to cook, and playing Pokémon GO.

– Connect with the Author –

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Pinterest

– Advance Praise for This Dread Road

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

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

#WorthRevisit: True Valentines

#WorthRevisit: True Valentines by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom

Originally written February 15, 2006:

A couple I know from church popped into my mind quite a bit yesterday. And appropriately so, because it was Valentine’s Day, after all.

When they attended Mass together, they always sat in the very front pew. She has Alzheimer’s. No one told me this, but from the few conversations I have had with her over the four years I’d been at that parish, and from observing how her husband and others behaved around her, that was my conclusion. A friend of theirs did confirm this to me right before Christmas.

They often attended the Mass with the children’s choir. The “Gloria” that we used at that Mass has hand-clapping during the refrain, and they would stand there, and he would sing, and she would clap.

He is a Secular Franciscan and an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist. When he would leave the front pew to assist with the Sacrament, someone from a neighboring pew would quietly sit down with his wife, guide her through the Communion line and back to the pew, and wait with her until he returned after the purification of the vessels.

When he sat down again with her, her eyes would light up and she would smile the most beautiful, happy smile I have ever seen. And he had a smile just as big to return to her.

That’s love.

In the kindness of your prayers today, please remember those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and those who love them.

And pray for the people of that parish, whose church is slated to be closed before July 1. I’m sure this is beyond difficult for them.

worth revisit

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

No Matter How Small…#MondayBlogs

For the past two weekends, TheKid has been earning service hours by volunteering as a stagehand/cast babysitter at a local Catholic grade school musical: “Seussical Jr.”

Other than driving him back and forth to that school 3 zip codes away, and financing Candygrams for his friends in the cast and fast-food dinner on a double-show Saturday, I had considered myself done. I didn’t have to sell the ‘grams or the soft pretzels; I didn’t have to hang up costumes or fold programs. And honestly, I wasn’t going to go to the show. For all I knew, TheKid was backstage the whole time, “threatening the little kids with a squirt gun” when they got antsy. I wouldn’t see him (or his handiwork) at all.

And then he tells me he’s “in” the show (translation: he runs onstage in one scene and shoots a water gun at Horton the Elephant) so I have to come and watch.

I admit, I was a reluctant audience member. But this show was captivating, and I’m glad I went. The kids did a great job, their Seussian hairstyles were hilarious and fun, and the music was catchy.

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Via Flickr (2009), all rights reserved.

Based on everyone’s favorite Dr. Seuss books, “Seussical the Musical” is a mashup of stories featuring the Cat in the Hat as the narrator who gets in on the action sometimes, Horton the Elephant, Yertle the Turtle, Daisy-Head Mayzie, and many others. It’s been a while since I’ve been immersed in Dr. Seuss, but the whole show is in his trademark anapestic tetrameter, and I was thrilled to hear an entire song based on my favorite Dr. Seuss book of all time: McElligot’s Pool!

mcelligots-pool

There were nods to so many Seuss favorites in this show. But the storyline is what really got me.

“Seussical” is the most pro-life musical I’ve ever seen–two pro-life subplots, no waiting!

Based on Horton Hears a Who and Horton Hatches the Egg, both these subplots involve the kindhearted elephant who’s “faithful, 100 percent” to the commitments he makes. Horton responds to a call for help from what appears to be nothing but a speck of dust, but he recognizes that there is a whole tiny world on that speck, filled with tiny people and tiny families and they deserve to be protected. He’s ridiculed for this, and some hooligans steal the clover on which he’s settled the speck of dust for safekeeping, but Horton will stop at nothing to save that tiny world.

In the middle of all this, Mayzie, the vain, flighty mean-girl bird, takes advantage of Horton’s helpfulness and takes off for the tropics while Horton babysits the egg on her nest–for almost a year, in all kinds of weather, the whole time worrying about the Whos on that clover somewhere.

Throughout the show, the refrain “A person’s a person, no matter how small” was constant.

If you get the chance to see this show performed, go see it. “Seussical the Musical” features life-affirming messages in a brightly-colored, rhyming package.

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Images via Google Images, licensed for noncommercial reuse, and Flickr, all rights reserved.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

 

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Papal Encyclicals Plus, from Ave Maria Press

Who’s supposed to read what the Pope writes? Priests and bishops? Catholic journalists? Secular journalists? Historians?

Yes, but that’s not all. The Pope’s encyclicals and other writings are meant for all the faithful. They are addressed to all of us–and if we really want to understand the Pope’s message, there’s nothing like going straight to the primary source. (That’s true of any message. Here’s the English major in me talking: the more intermediaries you have, the better the chance of misinterpretation.)

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I read a lot of things online (on websites or on my Kindle) but for me, nonfiction demands a hard copy I can mark up, underline, highlight, and hang Post-it tabs all over. I’m all about the idea of a “collected writings” of the Pope–and Ave Maria has put that together with a new book covering the first 3 years of Pope Francis’ papacy (the papal exhortation Amoris Laetitia was published just after the third anniversary of the Pope’s election.) The title tells it all: The Complete Encyclicals, Bulls and Apostolic Exhortations of Pope Francis.

According to Ave Maria Press, the publisher of Volume 1, the book includes:

  • Lumen Fidei, June 29, 2013: The Light of Faith is an encyclical on the centrality of faith, the relationship between reason and faith, the Church’s role in the transmission of faith, and how faith results in redeeming the world.
  • Evangelii Gaudium, Nov. 24, 2013: The apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel has been called Pope Francis’s manifesto. It challenges all Christians to approach evangelization anew and overcome complacency in order to fulfill Christ’s great mission.
  • Misericordiae Vultus, April 11, 2015: In The Face of Mercy, the papal bull for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in 2015, the pope urges Catholics, “We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy.”
  • Laudato Si’, May 24, 2015: Praise Be to You: On Care for Our Common Home is the landmark encyclical in which Pope Francis issued a call to the entire Church—and the world—on climate change, human responsibility, the role of faith in how we live among God’s entire creation, and the future of the planet.
  • Amoris Laetitia, March 19, 2016: Love in the Family is an exhortation published after the Synods on the Family. In it, Pope Francis ranges in his quotations and examples from St. Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther King Jr. to the film Babette’s Feast.

I admit to having skimmed Laudato Si’ and Amoris Laetitia online when they came out, but I haven’t really put in the time to really read and learn from Pope Francis’ writings. My plan is to dive into Evangelii Gaudium, because I work in the field of Catholic media and evangelization. But you don’t need a job in such a field to read that apostolic exhortation: Pope Francis makes it clear right up front that he is inviting “all Christians, everywhere . . . to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ” (p. 57) which is “the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization” (p. 60). Yes, there are specific sections if that exhortation that are directed toward priests, rather than the lay faithful, but there is much to be learned.

If you’re taking part in the 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge, this book provides all of Pope Francis’ major writings in one place and will help you check off that “papal encyclical” box. (Yes, I’m stretching it a bit by reading an exhortation instead of an encyclical, but to be fair, it’s 3 times the length.)

So who should read the Pope’s encyclicals and other writings? If you’re Catholic, YOU should!

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

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

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On Barb’s Bookshelf: Meeting God in the Upper Room

Monsignor Peter J. Vaghi describes the Upper Room as “the most important room in Christendom” in his new book, Meeting God in the Upper Room (Servant, 2017). In one whirlwind 8-week period, the Upper Room was the location for three significant events in the birth of the Church:

  • the Last Supper
  • Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances to his disciples
  • Pentecost

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By Assaf Yekuel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Msgr. Vaghi notes in the Prologue that the Upper Room, or Cenacle, was renovated in the 14th century, which explains the architectural style of the room as seen above.

What must the disciples have felt during their time in that room? Did they celebrate the Passover with trepidation, having heard Jesus tell them again and again that this trip to Jerusalem would end in his death? Were they astounded and elated when the risen Christ appeared to them in that room, continuing to teach them to take on the work of building the Church? Were they simultaneously energized and terrified at the descent of the Holy Spirit and their commissioning to make disciples of all nations?

“Once we catch a glimpse of the events that transpired in this room, we will be forever captivated by the mystery of the God who loves us so much that, even as he prepared to return to the Father, promised that ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.’ (John 14:18, NRSV)” (1)

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Msgr. Varghi’s discussion of the history of the Upper Room based on Gospel accounts complements the meditations that are the meat of this book. I found the history fascinating; in various chapters, you’ll read about personalities, prophecy, sacraments, and Catholic social teaching. Each chapter ends with a section titled “Preparing Your Upper Room” in which the reader is invited to consider the personal implications of Jesus’ message.

I recommend Meeting God in the Upper Room for spiritual reading during Lent or, even more appropriately, beginning in Holy Week and continuing through the Easter season, when you can read the book as you liturgically relive the events depicted in it.

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

Monday Recap: January 2017

It’s the first Monday of the month, so I’ve gathered up links to the work I’ve done in other spaces.

At CatholicMom.com

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Tech Talk: Listen to Our Writers: Several CatholicMom.com authors have their own podcasts! Subscribe to their shows for encouragement, entertainment and education.

At Cook and Count

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Walnut Spice Cakea dressed-up quick bread perfect for dessert.

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Mushroom-Rosemary Marinara: a hearty meatless pasta sauce.

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Orecchiette with Ricotta and Peas: comfort food!

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Cod with Mustard and Panko: a jazzed-up baked fish dinner.

 

Monday recap 2016 edition

#OpenBook: January 2017 Reads

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

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

Fiction

this-dread-roadThis Dread Road by Olivia Folmar Ard. An intriguing tale of two young women, a generation apart, who must learn to live with the consequences of romantic choices they make–and one man who figures prominently in both their lives. Annemarie, a college freshman far from home and the reach of her overbearing mother’s attempts to set her up with every eligible bachelor in the region, falls hard for a man her parents certainly wouldn’t approve of. Her immaturity leads her to handle all of this the wrong way, with results that prove disastrous for her family relationship, her mental health and her love life. 50 years later, that same man mentors Claire, an heiress trying to escape her own mother and her own past. This book is third in a series, but you don’t have to have read the others to enjoy it–I recommend you do read them all, though!(Review based on ebook ARC provided by author)

abbys-journeyAbby’s Journey by Steena Holmes. I eagerly anticipated this sequel to Saving Abby, but did not enjoy this book as much as the first. Set 18 years after Abby’s birth and her mother’s death, the book finds a father mired in his grief and beset by (understandable) worry over the fragile health of his only child. Every aspect of the family’s life is controlled by the various lists and journals that were left behind by her mother, Claire. Josh must face his demons when, against his better judgment, extended family members take Abby on the trip of a lifetime–a trip that could cost her life. (Netgalley review; releases 2/14)

blessingsThe Blessings by Elise Juska. A family saga told in vignettes, this novel is set in northeast Philadelphia. As it is a saga, I wanted more–more of the day-to-day life of this family that was depicted in a true-to-life manner. In some cases, years would elapse between events in the various chapters. The story is told from multiple points of view. Recommended for the local color, but there needs to be more to the story.

merry-maryMerry Mary by Ashley Farley. Short novella describing a photojournalist who gets a little too involved in the homeless community she’s studying–right down to taking a baby from a crime scene, then trying to figure out ways to keep the child as she struggles with her own failing marriage and frequent miscarriages. As the story went on I had less and less sympathy for Scottie.

rejected-writers-book-clubThe Rejected Writers Book Club by Suzanne Kelman. The town librarian is invited to a mysterious club meeting for a quirky group of authors whose books are never accepted. When she needs to leave town to care for her high-maintenance pregnant daughter, Janet finds herself accompanied by several writers trying to avert publication of a book containing family secrets. So far-fetched, but definitely a fun read.

Nonfiction

a-sea-without-a-shore-coverA Sea Without a Shore by Jeannie Ewing. Ewing’s words will resonate with readers who feel alone in their pain. While this book is centered on suffering, it is infused with hope. The meditations in chapter 8 (“Faith, Hope and Charity”) are some of the most powerful ones in the book. This, I’m sure, is no accident: these are powerful virtues, as they must be to conquer the despair that can so easily come to those beaten down by life’s difficulties. These meditations are not casual or flip: they are heartfelt, reverent outpourings of the soul. The language is formal, even poetic, with a unique cadence. Written in the first person, each meditation invites the soul to cling to God in prayer. (ARC ebook provided by author)

three-little-wordsThree Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter. I picked up this book on the recommendation of a friend’s daughter who is studying social work. Three Little Words is an honest and harrowing account of life in the foster-care system. The author spent most of her childhood in 14 different foster homes. In some, she received loving care; in others, she was severely abused and saw other children receiving similar treatment. Rhodes-Courter owns her bad behavior and shows true concern for the other children experiencing abuse and neglect in foster care.

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

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

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

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On Barb’s Bookshelf: A Sea Without a Shore

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The weary, lonely and brokenhearted are the audience for Jeannie Ewing’s new devotional, A Sea without a Shore.
Jeannie Ewing often writes on the meaning of suffering. Her words will resonate with readers who feel alone in their pain. While this book is centered on suffering, it is infused with hope. The meditations in chapter 8 (“Faith, Hope and Charity”) are some of the most powerful ones in the book. This, I’m sure, is no accident: these are powerful virtues, as they must be to conquer the despair that can so easily come to those beaten down by life’s difficulties.
These meditations are not casual or flip: they are heartfelt, reverent outpourings of the soul. The language is formal, even poetic, with a unique cadence. Written in the first person, each meditation invites the soul to cling to God in prayer.

This devotional is the kind of book you can flip through, scanning the headings to find just the meditation you need for that day.

a-sea-without-a-shore-cover

 About the Book

Everyone experiences suffering and trials throughout life, whether in the form of death or significant loss of a relationship, finances, a home or job, and even a pet. Loss affects us all, and we are often left feeling empty, lonely, and lost in the midst of such excruciating darkness. Others may attempt to ameliorate our fears, concerns, and struggle, but to no avail. Even our faith may seem to fail us. Jeannie Ewing understands that holy darkness may veil us in a cloud of unknowing for a time, but we don’t have to capitulate to despair. Instead, we can journey through the mysteries and misunderstandings through the eyes of faith. In A Sea Without A Shore: Spiritual Reflections for the Brokenhearted, Weary, and Lonely, you will find a familiar friend journeying with you throughout the often murky and tumultuous waters of grief. No matter the cause of your pain and strife, this devotional will offer short but poignant insights that open your heart to God’s love and mercy.
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 About the Author

Jeannie Ewing believes the world focuses too much on superficial happiness and then crumbles when sorrow strikes. Because life is about more than what makes us feel fuzzy inside, she writes about the hidden value of suffering and even discovering joy in the midst of grief. Jeannie shares her heart as a mom of two girls with special needs in Navigating Deep Waters: Meditations for Caregivers and is the author of From Grief to Grace: The Journey from Tragedy to Triumph. Jeannie was featured on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition and dozens of other radio shows and podcasts.

Facebook – Love Alone Creates: https://www.facebook.com/lovealonecreates
Click to enter for a chance to win one of two paperback copies of Navigating Deep Waters: Meditations for Caregivers or one of two paperback copies of A Sea Without A Shore!
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This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

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