Category Archives: Saints

First, What Are You Reading? Volume 26, The Little Flower Edition

Here are my “Little Flower” answers to the four questions I ask on the first of each month:
first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what’s next on your list to read?

As always, I hope you’ll consider your current reads on your blog and/or sharing here in the comments or on Facebook.  Happy reading!

First, what are you reading?

Well, if you haven’t figured out why this is called the “Little Flower” edition, it is because today is the feast of the Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux.  We love to celebrate this feast at our house, and soon I’ll be making rose-shaped scones in this pan for the scones lovers in our house, as I do every year on this feast.

I’ve actually been reading a ton, but unfortunately cannot seem to get my thoughts out about these many, many books.  So for now, to get my writing juices flowing, I am going to write about previously read books about or by St. Therese that would be really worthwhile to consider on this feast.

What do you like best about them?

There are two books for younger readers that feature St. Therese not so much as a character but as inspiration.  Olivia and the Little Way by Nancy Carabio  chronicles Olivia’s fifth grade year and her ups & downs, as she discovers the spirituality of the Little Flower.  Just a wonderful book.  Nancy wrote a sequel to it called Olivia’s Gift, which has a subtle pro-life and modesty theme that is excellent for older girls, and that we also loved at our house.

When Olivia’s Gift was first published, I got the chance to interview Nancy Carabio Belanger, and you can read that Q&A here.  Here is the link to the publisher of these great books.

As far as books about St. Therese and her family, there are many. A lovely, small picture book biography for younger readers is St. Therese of Lisieux and the Little Way of Love by Marie Baudouin-Croix, translated from the French and published by the Daughters of St. Paul.   It should be readily available at most Daughters of St. Paul stores.  When I was searching for a link to this, I see that this author has a biography of Therese’s sister Leonie called Leonie Martin: A Difficult Life.  Leonie was the most troubled of all the sisters, and this book explores her psychological issues and how she overcame them.   That looks fascinating and I plan to try to track that one down to read it.

We have a volume on our shelf, The Little Flower: The Story of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus by popular mid-20th century Catholic author Mary Fabyan Windeatt, but I confess none of us have read that one.  I’d love to know if it is worthwhile.

What do you like least?

When I first read Story of a Soul, I did find it somewhat cloying.  As the Universalis  reflection for St. Therese today says, “The late 19th century was a highly sentimental period, and much of the literature about Thérèse has taken that quality and made it sweeter and sicklier still, to the point where you feel like brushing your teeth after reading every page.”

But the older I get, the more I find her words much more inspiring.  It’s hard to explain, but those who love The Little Flower will understand.  Just a little bit from today’s Office of Readings, which is a selection of Story of a Soul: “Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love.”

I have a friend who loves and gave to me as a gift, I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Thérèse of Lisieux by Charles Arminjon.  I understand it is great, but must confess I have never finished it, though I have started it several times.  Maybe this month would be a good time to finish it.

What’s next on your list to read?

Really, the question here becomes, what are some recently read books to write about or neglect to write about?  Just for a very few, I’ve read the much-hyped novel The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (meh); Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement by Kay Wills Wyma (really good ideas and reflection from this book); The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling by Quinn Cummings (so hilarious and wonderful); Wealth Watchers by Alice Wood (interesting concept about applying Weight Watchers concepts to financial health) and so many more.  Maybe I will write about them soon, maybe not, but there is always reading going on here.

What are you reading this month? Do you have a favorite St. Therese book?  Share away!

Guest Post: “A Beautiful Life Surrounded by and Knowing Nothing but Love”

I’m humbled today to present a guest post from Teresa Lutz, a local mom, on a book I reviewed this month, Karen Edmisten’s After MiscarriageHere’s my review of that book.

I don’t know whether to say it was coincidental or something else that when I first received my review copy of After Miscarriage, within a few days I learned of three women in my circle of friends and acquaintances suffered stillbirths or miscarriages.  I sent each of the women copies of the book, hoping it would provide comfort and support at some point, either now or in the future. 

Teresa felt ready to share some thoughts about the book with me, and when I asked her if she would guest post about it, she readily agreed.

Teresa is wife to Mike and mom to two beautiful boys.   She is a stay at home mom and works part time as an oncology nurse.

My husband and I were very excited to learn that we would be welcoming our third child into our family.  We were shocked and heartbroken to find out at our 20-week ultrasound that our baby had a fatal neural tube defect called anencephaly.  This meant that very early in my pregnancy her skull had not formed completely and as a result, she would be born with little brain tissue.
Her life expectancy was minutes or hours, if she made it through delivery.  We decided to celebrate the gift of her life while she was still with us and spent the remainder of my pregnancy cherishing every moment.  We were blessed with 36 weeks to love and care for our daughter before she went to Heaven.  Gianna Therese was stillborn on February 19th 2012.
I found Karen Edmisten’s After Miscarriage to be comforting and practical at the same time. It gave both an insight into what other women have experienced after the loss of their babies, but also offered suggestions and information for women who may have recently gone through a miscarriage or stillbirth. The quotes, prayers and Bible passages help to provide perspective and hope to the struggles one might be facing.
I was actually surprised to find that most of the chapters made a lot of sense – I almost felt like I could have written some of them!
For instance, Edmisten even includes a passage from her journal stating that she was dreading going to the dentist and having to explain that her baby had died. I have also been dreading my upcoming dentist appointment.
It didn’t occur to me that other people had experienced those feelings of anxiety when faced with explaining to practical strangers why we are no longer pregnant, yet don’t have a baby, either.
The book was easy to read through, but isn’t one that necessarily needs to be read cover to cover. I was given a different book by my doctor which was in a similar format, but almost too lengthy. I will definitely suggest After Miscarriage to him.
Although the author does touch on both the topics of stillbirth and miscarriage, I could see how some people having gone through a late miscarriage or stillbirth might feel like it doesn’t completely apply to them, especially if they didn’t make it through the first few chapters.
Overall, I found it was a very helpful book – especially as a Catholic mother. At a time like this, it is good to read a book that provides both practical and spiritual comfort.
Nancy again here: I recalled, though I was not able to attend Gianna’s funeral, that several friends shared that the reflection shared by Teresa and her husband at the funeral was beautiful.  Teresa also agreed to share this with Catholic Post readers:
——
Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Gianna Therese had a beautiful life surrounded by and knowing nothing but love.  She was surrounded by love in the womb and we believe was carried directly to the waiting arms of God.  We as Catholic parents, are called by our vocation of marriage, to strive above all else to work toward helping our children arrive in Heaven someday.  The Church and our faith tell us to have confidence in God’s unending love and mercy for even the littlest souls.  How can we not be filled with joy?
“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly” – Sam Keen
Gianna was not “perfect” in the worldly sense.  She was not meant to be with us long on this earth and we knew that from early on. Some people have thought that we carried Gianna to term because we don’t believe in abortion, because we are Catholic, or perhaps we weren’t given the option to do otherwise.  While some of these factors might have played a part in our immediate refusal to “terminate”, this is not what it is about.  It is about love!  It was about our child that was given to us as a gift to love and protect! Gianna’s life had value from the moment of conception, just as every life does.
 We do not possess more strength than other people.  It is not because we can cope where others wouldn’t. There was no way to avoid the sad fact that Gianna could not live long after birth, but causing her death earlier would not stop this from happening.  Causing her death would have only taken from us the beautiful experience of knowing and loving her and allowing others to do the same.  We wouldn’t wish away the time we had with Gianna to save us the tremendous pain of losing her.  Was it worth it?  YES!  We had the chance to hold Gianna, to see her and to love her before letting go.  Love your children, and remember that they each have their own unique mission.  Children are always and only a blessing from God – even if they don’t stay very long.
Our daughter’s short life and certain death has prompted some wonderful things.  This is our prayer as a family.  “We gladly offer our baby back to You God, and endure the sorrowful pain of missing the soul we have come to love.  If our offering prompts just one soul to grow closer to You, we offer Gianna with greater joy than the sorrow we are feeling.”
We appreciate the love, support and prayers we have received more than we can ever express with words.  We have felt peace throughout this entire journey and although we are so sad and hurting, we know we are not alone.  May God Bless you all for sharing this journey with us!

Poetry Friday, Beatification Edition: A Poem by John Paul II

I feel honored to be able to share one of my favorite poems from Karol Wojtyla, who became John Paul II, who will be beatified the day after tomorrow.

I had a nice time searching through the several books of JP II poetry I own, for just the right “one.”  I think I might have to post another one later today, there are so many that I like.  This post may end up being Poetry Friday, Part 1, so stay tuned.

This poem is from “The Church,” written at the Basilica of Saint Peter, Autumn 1962, when Wojtyla would have been in Rome for the beginning of Vatican II.

Marble floor


Our feet meet the earth in this place;
there are so many walls, so many colonnades,
yet we are not lost.  If we find
meaning and oneness,
it is the floor that guides us.  It joins the spaces
of this great edifice, and joins
the spaces within us,
who walk aware of our weakness and defeat.
Peter, you are the floor, that others
may walk over you (not knowing
where they go).  You guide their steps
so that spaces can be one in their eyes,
and from them thought is born.
You want to serve their feet that pass
as rock serves the hooves of sheep.
The rock is a gigantic temple floor,
the cross a pasture.

Do Sundays "Count" During Lent?

Do Sundays “count” during Lent?

This issue comes up every year.  Do you do your Lenten penances on Sunday?

I’ve heard varying opinions on this.  Sundays are not counted among the 40 days of Lent, so some people say our Lenten penances should not count on Sundays.  Others think the whole season is penitential, and so therefore we should continue our disciplines.  I read once a commentator say that Jesus didn’t take a break during his 40 days of fasting in the desert.

Here’s a link to a Q&A on Lent from EWTN, and it includes an answer about Sundays.  Basically, there’s no official rule, so you are free to choose.  Here’s also another interesting article from a blogger with the Archdiocese of Washington who offers insight on both celebrating Sunday, and why fish doesn’t count as meat.

Count me in the “celebrate Sunday” camp.  At our house, we tend to mark Sundays as a day of Resurrection, though in a more muted way during Lent.  I might have a piece of chocolate (or not) on Sundays, but usually my husband, who goes meatless for Lent, usually doesn’t eat meat on Sundays in general.

We (actually, me) also tend to celebrate the feast days during Lent.  Just off the top of my head:  St. Patrick’s Day, St. Joseph’s Day (we have two in our immediate family, so we definitely celebrate this one, with savoiardi and usually a special dinner), the Feast of the Annunciation, and I’m sure I could find more.  To me they are not just a little “break” during Lent, but a way to really celebrate those important holidays in the liturgical year.

I’m putting up this question on Sunday, because I know some people take a break from the Internet during Lent, but do check in on Sundays.

So what about you?  Do you “count” the Sundays in Lent?  How is your Lent going after just this first few days?

I Alone Have Escaped to Tell You

Today’s first reading is from Job 1, about all the misfortunes that happened to Job.  Servant after servant came to tell Job of losing everything, and their “line” is, “I alone have escaped to tell you.”  And Job responds with,

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,

naked I shall return.
The Lord gave, the Lord has taken back.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I am reminded of several random thoughts here that I hope will be somewhat cohesive.

*the lector for daily Mass, coincidentally, happened to be the October featured “Meet a Reader” that will appear in this weekend’s edition of The Catholic Post.  You’ll just have to check back later this week to see who it is, but suffice to say she is an excellent lector.  I always think when she is the lector, “Word on Fire,” because she reads in a very deep way (for lack of a better word, not “drahmatic” but moving and heartfelt–it’s hard to let your mind wander during her reading).  You know you are hearing the Word of the Lord.    I had arrived a bit late for Mass (not that that ever happens to me! hmm), so the reading has just started, but I was instantly drawn into the narrative.

*Job, scripture tells us, “committed no sin nor offered any insult to God.”  I think that is more difficult than anything when bad things happen.  Who can say they never complain to God?  I know I am extremely prone to this, for small things and big things.

*A suggestion for your Ipod: (and it happens to be on my running playlist), Blessed Be Your Name is a great song by the CCM band Tree 63, a meditation of sorts on this passage from Job.


*I Alone Have Escaped to Tell You: My Life and Pastimes
is the title of the excellent memoir by Ralph McInerny, who died last year.  He was a personal hero of mine and I wrote about him several times in my blogging life, so I’ve mined one of those old posts to share:

I met him once many years ago, when my husband and I were first married.  McInerny gave a speech at Bradley University, and one of the hosting professors invited us to the after-speech gathering at his house.  I brought along a super chocolate cake.  It was good, with a chocolate-sour cream ganache frosting–now where is that recipe?

McInerny praised it by saying it was the “most chocolatey chocolate cake” he had ever tasted.  My husband, the philosopher in the family (by trade, degree, and temperament), said this was the highest compliment given by a philosopher.  McInerny agreed, and we all had a good laugh.

Several years ago my husband presented a paper at a conference at Notre Dame. I tagged along with the two children we had at the time.   McInerny was one of the organizers, and even though I saw him walking around the conference, I was always too shy to re-introduce myself and tell him how much I admired him.  Usually I am pretty bold about introducing myself to people.  Now I wish I had.

How he discusses writing in I Alone Have Escaped to Tell You is brilliant.    He takes the craft of writing seriously but not too seriously.  He speaks of it being a discipline and work, and the luck/serendipity involved in his success.

He has referred to Anthony Trollope, one of my favorite authors, at least three times in the few chapters I have read.  He and/or his family regularly spent several years, and weeks of others, in Europe.  He is a faithful Catholic family man with a large family.  What’s not to love?

What is Your Favorite Mom-ism?

One of my favorite memories of my mother, who died in late 2008, is her voice pronouncing (sometimes ironically, sometimes not) one of her”mom-isms.”  My mom’s mom-isms were often malopropisms, though most of the time my mother meant them to be, unlike the character from Sheridan’s play, Mrs. Maloprop, who mangled maxims.

My mom’s most famous is, “We’ll jump off that bridge when we get there.”  That is the only form of that particular mom-ism I use, to the point where my younger daughter asked me some years ago, “Mom, why are we going to jump off a bridge?”

Well, I answered, that’s an interesting story.  You see, we’re not going to actually jump off a bridge, the expression is, “We’ll cross that bridge when we to it.”  But my mom always said it as “We’ll jump off that bridge when we get there,” as a kind of joke to help us not worry about a particular situation.

What is your favorite Mom-ism?