Category Archives: Seasons

Rogation Days–Will You Celebrate?

Did you hear–Rogation Days have returned to the Diocese of Peoria?

I was so intrigued to read several weeks back an article in The Catholic Post about Rogation Days, and how the diocese is implementing them again.  Fr. Luke Spannagel wrote this helpful and theological article describing the concept of Rogation Days and how they might be celebrated this year.  Fr. Spannagel is diocesan episcopal vicar for rural life.

From his article:

The word “rogation” comes from the Latin word rogare, which means “to ask.” As some of our seasoned Catholics may remember from their youth, Rogation Days were days set apart by the Church for prayer and penance, specifically asking God’s blessing on the fields and for a fruitful growing season.

There were various traditional rogation days, many related to agriculture and the harvest (thus why Fr. Spannagel is involved in this project), and currently U.S. bishops are allowed to decide and proclaim the celebration of Rogation days on a diocese-by-diocese basis.


Bishop Jenky has set aside five Rogation Days for 2014, inviting the faithful locally to have a special day of penance and prayer each of these days.  Here they are:

January 22: for Life (the anniversary of Roe v. Wade)

March 24: for Planting (the Eve of the Annunciation, March 25, and the beginning of the growing season)

 June 23: for Growing (highlighting pollination and the continued growing season)

September 13: for Harvest (highlighting victory, completion-the Eve of the Triumph of the Holy Cross)

December 7: for Family (for Eve of the Immaculate Conception, highlighting the goodness of family)

Please read Fr. Spannagel’s entire article about Rogation Days to get a sense of what these are all about, as well as some specific suggestions for parishes, families, and individuals to do on each of those days.

We are going to try to observe these days as much as possible in our family, so they are added to our calendar.

Since tomorrow is the first one, we will continue our tradition of watching the March for Life (live, on EWTN), trying to attend Mass that day, and giving up meat and special treats all day (no chocolate for me).  I’ll be updating my five ideas list that I did last year for tomorrow.

Did you know about Rogation Days before now? Do you plan to celebrate them, and if so, how? I’d love to hear some other creative ideas.

Worth a Listen: 10 Life Hacks You Need for Christmas

I guess I am getting a little far afield of the original intent of Worth a Listen, but I have to say this video was actually pretty useful, especially for the “festive pancake” idea and the paper as envelope, and the cookie-decorating idea.

I had not heard of  The King of Random before, but I subscribed to his YouTube channel.  I wish there was a website listing all the tips, because I can read those tips faster than I can watch a five-minute video.  But still worthwhile.

Do you have any interesting Christmas videos? Share away!

Ideas for Christmas Gift Books to Inspire and Entertain

Following is my December column that appears in this weekend’s print edition of  The Catholic PostI invite your feedback.

As I wrote in last month’s column, recommending books for gifts at Christmas—or any season—can be tricky. And yet books can be a great source of not just enjoyment and encouragement, but growth in discipleship and evangelization.

Well-designed and well-written books can foster or strengthen the “bridge of trust” that can lead to curiosity and beyond, planting seeds for future spiritual growth.

With that in mind, I’ve tried to select books that would appeal to a wide range of readers, especially those at a beginning level of trust or curiosity. .

Last month I shared books that would be good for younger readers, as well as some family books. This month, I share books for adults. Consider these a starting-off point if you are considering a gift book this Christmas.  You might also consider visiting my previous Christmas book lists (here and here and here and here  and here for other suggestions, or just search “Christmas” in the search box at the top of each page here); and be sure to visit your local Catholic bookstore for more ideas.


*The Miracle of Father Kapaun: Priest, Solider and Korean War Hero by Roy Wenzl and Travel Heying. The title and subtitle of this book says it all; highly, highly recommended. Reading about Father Kapaun’s very natural, masculine and heroic Christian faith will make wonder why he hasn’t been canonized already. There’s already a growing awareness of his heroism—earlier this year he was posthumously award the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest honor.

The Korean War is often called “The Forgotten War,” and I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about this war and the heroic men who served there. This book would be of interest to Korean War veterans and their loved ones to give perspective and perhaps foster discussion. But it’s a great read for anyone interested in how ordinary people rise to the challenge in wartime, and the need to honor and remember them.


*When Faith Feels Fragile: Help for the Wary, Weak and Wandering by Fr. R. Scott Hurd. I love the organization of this book, a series of short reflections/chapters in three areas: “All about Faith,” “Churchy Things to Do,” and “Practical Things to Do.”

But this book is not just for the “wary, the weak and wandering,” though that could describe all of us from time to time. It’s great for anyone who needs a boost of healthy, interesting meditations to renew faith and spiritual life.


*Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan. I claim this as a “Catholic memoir” despite the fact that it’s a comedy book. That’s because Gaffigan is an unapologetic Catholic and father of five, and writes about faith and family in a gentle and mostly family friendly way (though he writes of hating that term, it fits… in a good way). Gaffigan is a worthy successor to Bill Cosby—he just needs his own sitcom. Read this book for some great laughs for moms, dads, young adults and teens for a reminder that Catholics can laugh with the best of them.

“Daybooks”—simple books with daily quotes and action ideas—can make great gifts. Two newer ones stand out:


*Small Steps for Catholic Moms: Your Daily Call to Think, Pray and Act by Danielle Bean and Elizabeth Foss offers, from two well-known mother-authors, a way for moms to balance “action and contemplation in everyday life.” Each entry of this daybook offers a (often seasonal) Scripture verse or quote from a saint, a prayer for moms and a suggested action.


*Sisterhood of Saints: Daily Guidance and Inspiration by Melanie Rigney is a nicely designed daybook of female saints from the familiar to the obscure. It can be edifying to spend a few minutes each day learning about these holy women not just as holy women, but as real people with challenges.

Worth a Listen: The Advent Conspiracy

This is slightly off-center to the original intent of Worth a Listen, but a worthy digression, don’t you agree?

This is an oldie but goodie from 2008.  I remember it being “viral” among friends and family when it first came out.  Definitely worth watching and pondering as we continue our simple Advent of service.

How is your Advent going so far? I have to confess I’m glad Advent is full of feasts, because we are ready for one in just a few days–St. Nicholas is Friday!

A Simple Advent

In the Keeping it Real department, I’m posting this photo of my physical Advent preparations thus far:


On the dry-erase board just outside our kitchen, I posted this question earlier this week seeking ideas from my family about things we might do for Advent.

Sometimes, this dry-erase board works, but clearly sometimes it does not.

In case you are not a LOTR aficionado, and even if you are, what’s written below my question is the beginning of the alphabet written in Elvish.  Yes, someone has decided to teach herself Elvish.  Perhaps that’s what we could do for Advent?  I’m not sure.

However, I will say that while this constitutes the extent of my physical preparations so far, with just a few hours to go until Advent,  I have, in my defense, been pondering ways to keep this Advent simple.  Interior preparations have been percolating for some weeks.

When my children were small, the kids and I dearly loved The Donut Man.  We loved his television show that aired on EWTN, and I bought all the CDs, which we listened to over and over again; it’s one of the few CD series that I really didn’t mind having to listen to all.the.time.  I can’t recall all the songs we loved, but one song comes to mind.  (and why is it not on YouTube as a lyric video?)  It is: “No Room at the Inn,” and the lines that always got to me were, “No room at the inn, no room at the inn, but you will find room in my heart, dear Jesus.”  So along with “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “No Room at the Inn” is one of my Advent songs.

This year, what keeps coming up in prayer and in thought about Advent are two words: simple and service.  Rather than give things up, or work hard on getting the house ready for Christmas,  I believe I am called to be available to others, both in my family and outside it.

Here are some things from around the web I have found helpful in the past few days as my ideas for a simple Advent of service have taken shape:

“A Stress-Free Advent” from Like Mother, Like Daughter.  Take away:  “Nothing is more important right now than preparing our own heart and the hearts of those entrusted to us for the incredible gift of Christmas.”

Revisiting Bonnie Engstrom’s Advent Series at A Knotted Life.  I wrote the guest post called “Go with Your Strengths”  last year and it made me feel good again to see my own advice.  So the books will come out, and we will read them.  I also hope to get a chance to watch Bonnie’s new and charming video on Advent–she’s really telegenic, and I so enjoyed getting to watch her on All Saints traditions.

Advent by my friend Heather at the Behold website.  I love  the  ideas for making this season simple.  How could I have forgotten the St. Andrew Novena?  Normally a Facebook friend who is Scottish reminds us all about the novena, but I didn’t see this, so I was glad to have the reminder from Heather.  Here is that prayer, meant to be said 15 times per day starting today and going through Christmas eve:

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

Preparing at I Wonder Why.  The shrinky dink ornaments are a big hit at our house, and I need to plan to get these out.  Also, one of these years (but not this year) our family may be ready to do the St. Philip’s fast, especially considering my husband’s interest in Eastern Catholic traditions.

I just saw this post by Lisa Schmidt at The Practicing Catholic: Go Negative This Advent.  Yes.

In the spirit of going with my strengths, I submit a few recent releases that could be helpful to those looking for some Advent inspiration:

Unknown-2The Advent of Christ: Scripture Reflections to Prepare for Christmas by Edward Sri, the  popular author and professor.  In this volume, there is a simple yet substantial reflection for each day of Advent and the Christmas season.


Advent and Christmas Wisdom from St. Augustine by Agnes Cunningham, SSCM.  Liguori has many books in this series based on the writings of various saints for both Advent and Lent.  Well-produced and edifying work.


Advent with St. Francis: Daily Reflections by Diane M. Houdek. St. Francis is long associated with Advent and Christmas; lots of good stuff here.

What are you doing/not doing this Advent?


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?

Meet a Reader: Shannon Cardaronella

This month’s “Meet a Reader” is a wonderful woman I met several years back at the Peoria Diocese Summer Institute.    At a dinner for speakers & spouses (both our husbands were speakers that year), we talked the entire time about–I know you will be shocked to hear this—books!  This actually is quite surprising as we have kids of similar ages, and kids tends to be a default subject.  I knew she would be great to feature here, and I am so glad to be able to introduce another thoughtful “reader” to Catholic Post readers.  Thanks, Shannon.

How You Know Me:

You probably do not know me.  More people know my husband, Marc, the Director of Religious Education (DRE) at Holy Cross Parish in Champaign and the Regional DRE for Champaign/Danville.  I love Holy Cross!   Holy Cross is one of the loveliest churches I have every enjoyed, and it is our home parish.  If you are ever in Champaign, please come worship with us.  Consider yourself invited.  I also appreciate that our parish is a motley crew of folks from all walks of life.  Marc and I have two boys:  John Berchmans “JB”, 9 and David, 7.  I am a homeschool mom, and I love homeschooling also allows us to read, read, read!

Why I Love Reading:

I grew up surrounded by huge bookshelves filled to the brim and even cataloged.  My sister read to me all the time when I was very young.  My parents discussed their latest reads at the dinner table.  We read it all, from junky books to works that uplifted the mind.  We were curious about other people and places, other points of view, new ways of looking at the world.  Finally, my parents were not afraid of the world.  They both possessed an innate love of and trust in the world and people, always teaching me that most people are good and kind and want to help.  This trust allows me to go deeply into the world of the book I am reading.  There is something about losing oneself in a good book that can neither be adequately expressed nor replicated with other media.

My Favorite Book:

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.  While Scarlett is the main character, it is Melanie who fascinates me.  Melanie is a beautiful Christ figure.  As a reader, I wince at Scarlett’s flaws: her insensitivity, selfishness and heartless conniving.  Melanie sees Scarlett’s perfections: her fortitude, intelligence, good horse sense and strength. The kicker is Melanie is right.  Scarlett — exactly who she is, with all of her flaws, because of who she is, with all of her flaws — saved herself, Tara, Melanie and the baby, Mammy & Prissy… her whole “tribe” if you will, against seemingly insurmountable odds.  Melanie is no doe-eyed ignorant optimist.  She accepts and embraces Scarlett and the world as they are.  This acceptance brings out the best in all, including even Rhett Butler and Belle Watling.

What I’m Reading Now:

Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly.  Fr. Willard, our pastor at Holy Cross, gave a copy to every family at Christmas Mass.  Thank you, Fr. Willard!  There is a lot of “food for thought” in this one.  And since this is my very own copy, I can underline to my heart’s content.

Father Leo’s Fusion Fajitas: Why I Am a Book Blogger and Not a Food Blogger Will be Evident Here

All month long, I’ve been promising to myself make the fusion fajitas that Father Leo Patalinghug beat Food TV Chef Bobby Flay on the “Throwdown” show.  We have watched the episode plenty of times at our house, especially after Father Leo appeared at our parish in May.  What an exciting time we had meeting him in person.

The fusion fajitas appear in Father Leo’s new edition of Grace Before Meals, his cookbook that encourages families to eat and talk together.  Here’s my review from The Catholic Post of Father Leo’s book Grace Before Meals.
The fajitas are thinly sliced flank steak along with sautéed onions & peppers, and served with “Holy Guacamole” and “Screamin’ Sour Cream” dip, and tortillas.
But it’s been a busy month, and I kept making “the usuals.”  Finally, last week I bought the ingredients (many perishable) so I would be sure to make them.  Flank steak was the hardest to obtain; I finally had to settle for skirt steak from a local specialty grocery store, Lindy’s,  in a nearby town.  The helpful staff assured me it would substitute nicely.
So finally, last Wednesday I decided was “the day.”
I assembled the ingredients on the kitchen table.  I thought that would be easier than taking things out one by one, and also I am prone to sometimes famously forget a critical ingredient when I cook (oops!  That hummus doesn’t have any lemon juice! Not so great, trust me).
Next, I mixed up the marinade for the steak and poured it over the steak, reserving some of the marinade to cook the onions & peppers in.
My youngest helped “tenderize” the meat with a fork.  He is saying here, a direct and favorite quote from Father Leo from the “Throwdown” episode, “I don’t want to make it too holy–that’s God’s job.”
Now the steak gets to sit in the marinade while I make the rest of the items.  I was surprised at how much brown sugar (1 cup) was in the marinade, but I don’t often marinade so what would I know?

Next, onto the “Holy Guacamole.”  I started by juicing one lime:
Next, I chopped up two avocados (I’m not sure if I’m spelling the word right, but adding an “e” triggered spellcheck), and immediately poured the lime juice over them to prevent browning:
Next, finely chopped red onion:

Now, some parsley, cilantro and salt is added to the mix and it is all smashed together.
Now it’s time to make the Screaming Sour Cream:  basically sour cream mixed with hot sauce, garlic and a few other ingredients.  Here it is before mixing:
Now, the reason I am a book blogger and not a food blogger should be evident by the fact that I lost steam around here and needed to get “dinner on the table,” and so did not take photos of lighting the charcoal for the grill, grilling the steak and letting it rest, sautéing the vegetables (though the chopped ones are visible in the last photo), etc., etc.
But I did finish the fusion fajitas, and we did have them for dinner.  They were very yummy:

Not everyone tried all of the fajitas as prepared, as I might have predicted.  The skirt steak was a big hit, as were some of the other items.  I filled out the table with refried beans (popular at our house scooped up with tortilla chips), a couple of cheese quesadillas, and some tortilla chips.  Everyone ate well and we had a relatively placid dinner and fun talking about Father Leo.
What I have to confess here is that I ended up making the “fusion fajitas” was towards the end of a day I felt convinced I am a failure as a wife and mother.  Ever have a day like that?  Last Wednesday was one of those for me.  Everyone, just everyone, in our house, yelled and was in tears for goodly portions of that day.  The only reason my husband escaped this fate is he had the great good fortune to go to work, but since he still was available via phone and email he did learn about our exploits at various points.
It was one of those truly horrible days that instead of loving the lifestyle of educating our children at home and being with my children all.the.time, I start researching boarding schools in New Zealand.  That is my big, laughing joke when chatting about homeschooling, “Yes, I love it, except on days when I want to send my children to a boarding school in New Zealand!”   And yet, there are days when that is not a joke.
Anyway, I wish I could say that making the fusion fajitas and eating them together as a family made everything terrific for the ending of that day, but it didn’t exactly do that.
However, it did make it a little bit better.  I didn’t feel quite so much of a complete failure because I tried a new recipe, had fun taking photos of it (until I ran out of time and needed to get dinner finished), and had more of a fun story to tell my husband at the table than a re-hash of the horrible day.
Maybe that’s what family meals together are supposed to do:  make things a little better, make us connect just a little bit more so we don’t despair about the inevitable bad days and bickering that goes on in families.
I think I might try to try one new complete meal recipe, along the lines of Father Leo’s Fusion Fajitas, once a month or so.  But next time, I’m going to do it on a good day.
Do you have any full-meal recipes I should try?  Or, better yet, any good New Zealand boarding schools to recommend?

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?