Category Archives: Seasons

February: Pursue Happiness

Tonight is the night I’m giving the talk to the First Saturday group at St. Philomena.  This was rescheduled from January because last month was cancelled due to snow.   We currently have snow coming down (and earlier today, a Winter Weather Advisory), but we are Midwesterners, not Atlantans (sorry, Georgians), and so the talk is going on as planned.

Last month, I posted the January book, quote and “concept” (Be Yourself) and you can read that here.  For the sake of continuity, I’m going to  post the February books, concept and quote here.  Then as a separate post (I’ll give out the link tonight) list the books for the rest of the year.  Each month, I’ll have a dedicated post on that theme.

I’d love your feedback here as well, especially those who told me they couldn’t attend.  Thanks to Marie and the rest of the First Saturday team for inviting me!

February: Pursue Happiness

Just a few of the happiness books I like:

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Here’s the five-year sentence-a-day journal.
Sonja Lyubomirsky’s The How of Happiness

Quirky side note about Lyubomirsky’s book: I own the hardback of this, and on the front is a cherry pie.  The paperback version appears to show a lemon meringue pie. Meaning? I know not what, but I find it interesting.

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Rilla of Ingleside

Quote (from Rilla of Ingleside)

“Now we won’t be sober any more. We’ll look beyond the years—to the time when the war will be over and Jem and Jerry and I will come marching home and we’ll all be happy again.”

“We won’t be—happy—in the same way,” said Rilla.

“No, not in the same way. Nobody whom this war has touched will ever be happy again in quite the same way. But it will be a better happiness, I think, little sister—a happiness we’ve earned. We were very happy before the war, weren’t we? With a home like Ingleside, and a father and mother like ours we couldn’t help being happy. But that happiness was a gift from life and love; it wasn’t really ours—life could take it back at any time. It can never take away the happiness we win for ourselves in the way of duty.”

How do you intend to pursue happiness (and therefore holiness) this month? 

Scripture take-away:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” –Matthew 5:3

Pride & Prejudice, Books & Balance

Late year, I was invited to speak to the First Saturday group in Peoria, a gathering of mostly younger women who meet monthly for talks and fun fellowship. To get a feel for this group, you might want to read my article for The Catholic Post covering a bigger gathering they had last year to gather women for talks by Lisa Schmidt and Sister Helena Burns. That was a terrific evening!

My talk to First Saturday was slated for January 4, but since a snowstorm was on its way, the meeting was rescheduled until February 1. Back in January, I had a bare-bones post, mostly to include each of the books I quoted, slated to go, so women wouldn’t have to take notes.  When the talk was canceled I put it back into draft.

My talk was entitled,The Anti-List for the New Year: Books, Balance and Self-Care”. Here’s the blurb about it from First Saturday Facebook page:

Have you made new year’s resolutions? Any for just you?  Join Nancy Piccione at the “first” First Saturday of 2014 as she shares some ideas (through books, naturally) about finding balance in the new year for busy women and moms.  Nancy is the book page editor of The Catholic Post, mom of three, and inveterate reader of Jane Austen.

Clearly, it was meant to be a new year’s talk, but I didn’t want it to be a “to-do” type of talk. I can find those 10 ways to be a better mom in 2014” kind of talks interesting and sometimes helpful.  At the same time,  knowing how busy my own life is, I don’t want to load women up with any more “to-dos.”

What I did was pick a book and a theme for each month, and offer a quote from the book and some ideas about it. I’m not challenging women to read all the books, but to encourage them (and myself)! to do things that bring them joy and energy.

Here at Reading Catholic, I plan to share the idea, quote and book for each month, during that month this year. When I give the talk in February, I’ll have a post with the entire list of books. At the same time, I thought a monthly post about the month’s topic, book and quote was in order.

My goal for the talk is to keep it light, fun and encouraging, and these posts, too, will definitely be impressions rather than fully formed essays. I hope they are enjoyable to you and give you a few new book ideas, or inspire you to re-read an old favorite.

Thanks to Marie, and the rest of the First Saturday team for inviting me. I’d love your feedback here, and I welcome you to the talk, at 7 p.m. on Saturday, February 1, at the Sacred Heart Room of St. Philomena Parish in Peoria.

January:  “Be Yourself”

A much earlier Norton edition was the first P&P I read ( in college).

Pride & Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennet is surely a heroine who is “herself,” and that is what leads Fitzwilliam Darcy to grow in love and pursue her. Because she is not trying to “catch” Darcy, he is able to see her in a natural way, and grow to love her effervescent, smart personality.
That’s also true of our happiness and wholeness. If we pursue the things we love, especially related to our faith, happiness and wholeness is often the result.

Setting up the quote from P&P: This exchange takes place at Netherfield Park, the home of Charles Bingley, a young wealthy man who is pursuing Elizabeth Bennet’s sister Jane. Elizabeth is a guest while her sister Jane is recovering from illness. She prefers to read, and is teased about it by Caroline Bingley, Charles’ sister and certainly a woman who is molding herself to what she thinks Darcy wants in a wife. Caroline teases Elizabeth for reading instead of playing cards with the rest of the party:

“Miss Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, “despises cards. She is a great reader, and has no pleasure in anything else.”

“I deserve neither such praise nor such censure,” cried Elizabeth; “I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things.”

Soon after there is a discussion about what makes “an accomplished woman,” and Caroline again strives in vain to insinuate herself into Darcy’s good graces by over-agreeing with him.

“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved.”

“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

I would argue that it is important to “improve your mind by reading,” since that’s what I love. There’s a quote by Susan Wise Bauer (I can’t find , even after some searching) that younger moms should definitely let the kitchen floor get sticky so you can read the classics, slowly over time. As one who loves reading, and doesn’t have the cleanest kitchen floor on the block, I’m all for this.

For me, reading seems as natural, and as necessary as breathing. I always have multiple books around, and I always have a Jane Austen book going (it’s currently Persuasion, one of my favorites).

But maybe it’s different for you, and reading isn’t a passion, and you learn better other ways. Still, you have talents and health passions that are yours. You don’t have to be an accomplished woman via the Caroline Bingley “checklist” (or mine)—you get to make your own list.

How can you resolve this month to spend more time on what gives you joy and pleasure, so you can be happier and more effective in all the areas of your life?

Scripture take-away:

“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” —Romans 12:2.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Can you think of another fictional character, or person you know, who exemplifies a strong sense of self?

Five Ideas for the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

What are you doing to mark today’s 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade?

Last year, I wrote about five ideas for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  I’m updating that this year with some new ideas.

1.  Celebrate the first Rogation Day for Life

Yesterday I shared how Rogation Days are back in the diocese of Peoria, and how I hope to commemorate the first one, today.  Its theme is Life, naturally, and suggestions include attending a pro-life event, visiting an elderly neighbor or family member, and praying the rosary and other devotions.

I am so intrigued with the idea of Rogation Days and setting aside a day for prayer and penance at different points in the year.

2. Speak Life

I wrote last year during 40 Days for Life about how we are all loved and forgiven.  I also wrote about how I haven’t always spoken life when it was necessary.

So this year, I’m going again with promoting the idea that the theme song of the March for Life should be the song “Speak Life” by TobyMac.

How will you “speak life” today?

3. Be part of the March for Life.

This is one of the times I’m really grateful we still have a (locally provided) cable television.  Since EWTN is one of the stations, we can watch the March and tons of interviews live. Here’s a link to the pro-life programming on EWTN this week.    (Local side note: part of that programming includes a show to air Friday night at 9:30 CST called “Voices in the Desert,” about the Pope Paul VI Institute and its work.  One of the young doctors featured on the show is Dr. Jillian Stalling, an ob/gyn in the Peoria area.

Our older teenager is actually at the March for Life with a group from our diocese and local Catholic high school.  It’s terrific to have a member of our family on the ground so to speak, and also we hope to catch a glimpse of her and the group somewhere along the way.  This is a meme just for her:


4. Be pro-life in your own way.

Encountering a group of fellow LIFE Runners who ran the Naples Half -Marathon last weekend was an unexpected blessing, and I’ll be writing more about that in the future.

I was in Naples last weekend for two reasons: visiting family, and running the half-marathon. It’s my third time doing this particular race (the second along with my much-faster niece) and I really enjoy it. This visit allows our family to visit brother and sister-in-law, both law professors, and their family, and get a little sun and warmth mid-winter.

As I’ve written about in the past, LIFE Runners combines for me two loves: long-distance running, and devotion to the pro-life cause. I wrote before about how I did the St. Louis Marathon with LIFE Runners (visit part 1 here and visit part 2 here ), and the great experience I had there.

In the meantime, here’s a very quick interview with three of the 12 LIFE Runners (all from Ave Maria University). I am proud of myself for posting this even though I am not the least bit thrilled with way I look or sound here, and I don’t have the time to edit the video properly.  I’m just so proud of these young women:

5. Read (or re-read) some great pro-life books.

I’ve shared many, many pro-life books over the years.  Let me just share one now, that you can read with your children:

This book–about an unborn child who sees an angel while “in the waters”–is universally appealing among all age groups.  It’s a classic that people will be giving their children and grandchildren for years to come.  I can never read it without tearing up, and I dare you to, too.

(linking up for the first time with Moxie Wife, because I realized this fits into Five Favorites).

What are you doing to remember Roe v. Wade this year? 

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?