Category Archives: The Catholic Post

Q&A With Jeff Grabosky, Author of “Running With God Across America”

As I wrote in my January column for The Catholic Post, I truly enjoyed Jeff Grabosky’s memoir Running With God Across America. And since I became a LIFE Runner myself last year when I ran my second marathon in St. Louis (read about that experience here and here), we are sort of “teammates.”  So grateful to Jeff for being willing to do this Q&A.

Q. Jeff, tell me a little more about yourself, your writing and your running–what you are currently doing.

I have always been a runner and have always loved my faith. I ran my first marathon in college and also received a supplementary degree in Theology while studying at Notre Dame. After graduating and dealing with personal tragedy, I continued running marathons and 100-mile races. My run across America was a way in which God called me to use my passions to bring the message about the power of prayer to others. It was difficult to leave my family, friends, and job to undertake the journey, but I felt an unmistakable call to run for the prayers of others.

After the run was over, I worked with 3rd graders at a Catholic school in Phoenix for a year. While there, I also worked part time at a running specialty store and spent my free time writing the book. I then moved back to Northern Virginia to be near family, where I now working at my previous job as store manager of a specialty running store and also coach runners. Periodically, I give talks about the power of prayer and appear at book signings. I have been so blessed and recently got engaged to a beautiful and holy woman named Mary.

I’m also the race director for the Cross Country Relay for Life, which will correspond with the 40 Days for Life (February 13 to March 24).  We are currently filling 5K segments for the relay, and encourage pro-life groups to sign up.  Visit the LIFE Runners Relay for Life page for more information about that.

Q. I was really impressed with the quality of your writing and narrative in Running with God Across America .  Since you self-published, I am curious what kind of editing help you had.  Have you always considered yourself a good writer, or was this a unique experience to share?

Whenever I would give a talk about my run across America, the first question people always asked me was when the book was coming out. I have never been a big writer, but settled into the project and approached it with the same persistence I do with anything I go after. I must have read through it a dozen times to get it as accurate and readable as possible. I had it read over for spelling and grammar, but that was it. My goal was to tell a simple story and bring people with me on the journey. I wanted the reader to feel what I was feeling at the time and to realize the power of prayer and to hopefully develop a deeper relationship and belief in God in the process.

Q. As I wrote in my review, I found myself envious of two aspects of your run; one pretty serious and one kind of funny.

First, you had so much personal time and space for prayer, and for running, of course.  This time and space helped you have a lot of spiritual and emotional breakthroughs.  Do you miss that aspect of the run, and how have you tried to bring that spirit into your daily life now?

I found that on my journey, the further I stepped back from daily life, the more I was able to concentrate on prayer and on the Lord. Spending so much time each day lost in prayer was an incredible experience that solidified my relationship with Him, especially in the midst of great discomfort. Now that I am back in a much more normal daily routine, I find myself truly missing that time alone with God. In order to incorporate prayer more into my life, I have since started praying the rosary daily. I love searching out new prayers and devotions. I try to go to confession and adoration more often. Essentially, I came to realize just how much I need the Lord in my life and it is my desire to get as close to Him as possible.

Q. The other aspect I envied was the sheer amount of food you needed to eat to keep up your weight!  I know how good food tastes after a long run or lots of exertion, and so you descriptions of some of your more memorable meals stuck with me.  Did you enjoy that aspect either during the run or in your writing?  Do you miss that now that you are living a more normal day-to-day life?

The amount of food I ate during my journey always makes for good stories. People were always shocked at how much I consumed and how quickly I made the food disappear. For the first part of my run, I really looked forward to dinner because it seemed to be the one comfort of the day. Sitting down and eating a good meal always sounded so incredible when I was out on the road and I could not wait for that moment. What I learned was that it was just that – a moment. The moment of enjoyment from dinner was so fleeting and it only sustained me for a very short time. I learned a lesson through that experience of just how fleeting the pleasures of this world really are. It made me focus more on Christ, because He is the only one who will sustain us forever. He will never abandon us or let us down. The experience only helped to deepen my desire for Christ in my life.

Q. You are a Notre Dame grad, and you ran through campus on the run.  What kind of reaction have you had from the Notre Dame community about your run and its goals?

I’ll never forget how the weather was cold and the skies were overcast as I approached the campus of Notre Dame. Just before the Golden Dome came into view, the skies opened and the sun shone down. When I caught site of campus, the dome was glistening and my aches seemed to melt away. It was essentially a 500 mile detour to run through there, but it was well worth it. I loved seeing some of my old roommates still in the area and praying at the Grotto. It was a wonderful experience and the reaction from the Notre Dame community was fantastic. I’ve been told by the Notre Dame community that my journey embodied the Catholic identity Notre Dame was meant to have. The important messages of focusing on prayer, giving glory to the Lord, and encouraging a devotion to the Blessed Mother is something inherent to Notre Dame. I am honored that the run across America for prayer can be associated with my school and I hope it makes the community of Notre Dame proud.

Q.  You wrote at the end of Running with God that you don’t run long distances any longer.  Any plans for a long-distance run in future years? 

Since finishing my run across the country, I have very little motivation or desire to compete in long distance races. In the past year I have run a marathon for fun, paced a friend through 25 miles of an ultra marathon, put in a 100 mile week, and gone out for a 30 mile run on my own. Despite these runs, the amount I have been running has decreased significantly. However, I find my passion for the sport has not diminished, but has been redirected. Through multiple coaching programs at the store I work at, I have been able to help others train for distance races and become more fit. The satisfaction I have in hearing about others finishing races is much greater than any pride I would have from completing a race of my own. I am honored to have the opportunity to help others reach their goals and I hope it is something that I can continue to do in the future.

Q. You are a LIFE Runner, and I just joined the group in to run my second marathon as a LIFE Runner.  Tell me about how you got involved with the group and what you are doing with them now.

If the wheel on my stroller had not broken in St. Louis, then I may not have become involved with the LIFE Runners. It essentially opened up a window of time where I met Pat Castle for breakfast in Alton, IL. He got me involved with the LIFE Runners as our missions were very much aligned. I am so excited to use my passion for running to help the Pro Life cause. We have a very exciting relay planned that goes over 4,000 miles across the country. I am the race director of the relay and also of the 5K we are holding in conjunction with the March for Life in Washington, DC. The LIFE Runners do so much for the unborn and also to assist the mothers and children who choose life. I am truly honored to work with such great people and for the cause of protecting the right to life for the most innocent of us.

Q. Any plans for future books?

As of now, I do not have any specific plans for another book. However, I know God works in amazing ways and if I find myself called to something that warrants another book I will gladly oblige.

Q. Is there anything you would like to add or wish I would have asked?

I would just like to add that I am no superstar runner or extraordinary human. The only thing I did was say “yes” to the calling the Lord placed on my heart. He met me where I was at and took care of the rest. Things were not always easy, but I have realized just how beautiful a picture the Lord can paint with our lives if we allow him to use us. Ever since I placed myself in God’s will for His glory, my life has taken on a completely different direction. My life has certainly been difficult and even painful at times, but it has developed into something bigger than I could have ever dreamed of on my own. I will continue to put my trust in the Lord and follow wherever he calls me to go. I am just hoping it does not involve another run across America!

A Tale of Two Books About …. Pregnancy

When I review certain books, I have often shared them informally with others–such as medical experts or even kids–to help me discern if they are good for the intended audience, or what their gut reaction is to a certain book.

I’ve decided to formalize this by sharing conversations to provide a perspective that’s unique, and give readers a chance to understand a little more about a genre of books from the intended audience.

First in this series of conversations is with an expectant mom and her unique perspective about two different books intended for new moms: the newly-released from Sarah Reinhard, A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism and Donna-Marie Cooper-O’Boyle’s classic, Prayerfully Expecting: A Nine-Month Novena for Mothers to Be.

Both books are a worthwhile gift for moms-to-be, but because they are so different, a Q&A about them seemed in order. I had the chance to sit down one afternoon recently with Grete Veliz.  Grete is a mom I’ve known for a long time, and admired for a grounded spiritual life, a healthy sense of community, and some of the cutest children around.

If you’re an expectant mom or looking for a gift for one, my hope is that this conversation may help you choose which one (or both!) of these worthwhile books would be best in your situation.

Q:  Grete, tell me a little more about you and your family.

Grete: Mark and I have been married for eight years.  We have four children living at home:  ages 7, 5, 3, and 19 months.  We have lost two to miscarriage and I’m pregnant and expecting a baby next March.

I’m just past the morning sickness part of pregnancy, but still tired.   I’m growing a person inside and it’s hard work!

Q:  Tell me your impressions of A Catholic Mother’s Guide to Pregnancy.

Grete:  When I first got it, I skimmed through the whole book at once to get a feel for it.  Then I started to read the week that I am in (right now, pregnancy (14 weeks).

The author starts each week with an anecdote or story from herself or a guest author.  This week I really liked, because it is a little about how it’s hard to be pregnant for some people.  You are struggling with not feeling well, with being tired.  She invites readers to ask for grace in carrying that particular cross.

I have a lot of good impressions about the book: each week is a different mystery of the rosary; there’s also a faith focus and “one small step.”  This week for me, the “small step” was to go to adoration, even for 15 minutes.  I like those practical ideas.

My only concern was that for many weeks, the chapters began with what I saw as a negative story to tell about pregnancy, either from the author  or a guest writer.  They covered things like unexpected pregnancy, eating disorders, miscarriage, depression, stillbirth, and so on.  I don’t feel you should leave those things out necessarily, but in my situation it became too negative.

I felt especially vulnerable spiritually because I am pregnant this time pretty soon after a miscarriage.  I was approaching this pregnancy with fear; I had a lot of anxiety at the beginning about losing the baby again.  What I really wanted was a book to help me pray daily and connect with our little baby.

Q.  I think I know what you mean.  After my first look at the book, I felt that if I had read it when newly pregnant with our oldest (after a miscarriage), it might not have been the best “fit” for me.  I’m pretty sure it would have intensified rather than soothed the new-parent fears that my husband and I were experiencing.  At the same time, reading it when I was pregnant with my third child would have been a truly great “companion,” like a friend commiserating with you on the good, the bad and the ugly about pregnancy and labor.

Grete:  Exactly!  I feel like A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy is more like talking to your Catholic “mom friend” who tells it like it is, and doesn’t hold back about the aches and the pains.  You can really relate to that, but it has to be the right time for those kinds of conversations.

Q.  So you took a look at Prayerfully Expecting.  What’s good about that one?

Grete:   Before I read through either book, I was really trying to figure out just what kind of book I wanted.    I wanted to deepen my trust that God would provide for this pregnancy and for the baby.  I really needed something to help me be more positive, because I was finding it hard to be positive at the beginning.

I love Prayerfully Expecting; it’s exactly what I need right now.  If A Catholic Mother’s Companion is your Catholic “mom friend,” Prayerfully Expecting is like your spiritual director.  It gives you specific guidance, by telling you to say these prayers to help you manage pregnancy, and reflect on these quotes, or this saint’s writing, based on where you are in pregnancy.

Every morning I want to read this one, and so I keep it nearby.  For instance, today I prayed the St. Anne novena prayer for this month of my pregnancy.  The author also focuses on different mysteries of the rosary; this month it is the Luminous Mysteries.  There’s no personal stories from herself or other, just a brief, what’s happening to your baby, development-wise.

This book is structured by month, not week, and each contains quotes from encyclicals, Scripture verses, or saints writings.  The author has a spot for notes and a journal throughout each chapter.  I’m not much of a journal-writer, but it’s a nice mix–a page or a page and a half for each month.

Q.  If you were a first-time mom, which would you choose?

Grete:  Honestly, I wish I could merge both books. Both have strengths and weaknesses.  For instance, Prayerfully Expecting doesn’t have anything about labor or after birth and A Catholic Mother’s Companion’s sections on labor and baptism are terrific.  The labor section offers practical advice on spiritual practices for labor.  Labor can be a lot of suffering, and Reinhard offers advice like praying the stations of the cross, using holy cards.  I found that really helpful.

She also reminds parents in the time after birth to prepare well for baptism; sometimes that can be overlooked, especially for more experienced parents.

For this pregnancy, I’m definitely drawn much more to Prayerfully Expecting, but I gleaned a lot from A Catholic Mother’s Companion. I know it would serve well other moms or even myself during a different pregnancy.

"14 Minutes": Life, Death, and Faith

Here is my column that appears in this weekend’s print edition of  The Catholic Post.  I write in my review how I liked it because I’m a runner, but this isn’t just a book for runners–it’s a book for people who like good books! 
Pop quiz:  Who created the following prayer?
Please, Mother, when I die, don’t let me be afraid.  Bring me straight to heaven to your son Jesus.
When I first read it, I thought, is that St. Therese, the Little Flower?  I’m pretty sure it’s not St. Francis, but it does sound a bit like him.  Maybe one of the obscure early child martyrs?
Wrong on all counts. It was a spontaneous prayer–repeated throughout his life– by a child who had just witnessed something terrible-rescuers unsuccessfully try to revive a drowned boy.
That child grew up to be a regular person.  Okay, maybe not so regular—he’s Alberto Salazar, one of the finest distance runners ever, three-time winner of the New York Marathon and part of America’s glory days of running in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Salazar, with help from gifted sportswriter John Brant, writes about this prayer—and a whole lot more—in 14 Minutes: A Running Legend’s Life and Death and Life
The “14 minutes” refers to how long Salazar was without a heartbeat after experiencing a massive heart attack in 2007.  14 Minutes chronicles that (and another) near-death experience, as well as his youth growing up as a Cuban-American immigrant, his dramatic running career, and current life as coach of the Nike Oregon Project, a training program for top distance runners.

14 Minutes isn’t by any stretch a “Catholic” book, and it isn’t an “America’s running glory days” book either, thought it has a lot about both.   Salazar is especially wary of being held up as a Catholic role model, but wants to share honestly his life experience and how much faith has been a part of his journey.

Mid-book, he writes, “I am not trying to portray myself as a religious expert here, any more than I tried to make a political point when describing my father’s relationship with Castro; I’m simply relating my own experiences and interpretations.”

Instead, 14 Minutes is the memoir of someone who has lived through much, including: the excesses inherent in becoming a world-class athlete; the heartbreak of injuries and illness that cut his career short; family dysfunction and healing; depression and mental health issues; and a reflective Catholic faith.

Salazar sees the hand of God in every part of his life, but writes, “You have to look hard and long for it and accept that most of the time the touch will remain ineffable.”

14 Minutes reveals a spiritually and emotionally mature Salazar, who looks back on his achievements and his mistakes with equal measure of humility and compassion.

My disclaimer here is that I am a runner, but that isn’t why I liked 14 Minutes so much.    Even though I’ve finished a marathon, all I wanted to do was finish, unlike Salazar, who confides to a close friend in college that he plans to set a world record in the marathon (and then does just that).   It’s clear from the earliest chapters that Salazar is in a different category than the rest of us, when it comes to running.

So while there aren’t training tips to be gleaned from 14 Minutes, readers will learn much about persistence, maturity and faith, all wrapped up in a great sports story.

As I’ve said many times before, I’m decidedly not a fan of the current trend of irreverent semi-fictional memoirs, often written by people far too young to be reflecting on their life “so far.”

But as Sir Walter Scott wrote, “There is no life of a man, faithfully recorded, but is a heroic poem of its sort, rhymed or unrhymed.”  A well-told memoir like 14 Minutes is a testimony to the heroic in one man’s life, and offers each reader a chance to reflect on the heroic is every person.

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!

Q&A with Karen Edmisten, author of "after miscarriage"

Thanks, Karen Edmisten, for being so open and willing to answer all my rambling questions.  You can read my review of After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman’s Companion to Healing & Hope in this weekend’s print Catholic Post or here on the blog.
 
Q. First, can you tell us little more about yourself, your family and your writing?
I’m a former atheist (I was baptized at the age of 30 and came into the Catholic Church at age 35), a wife (my husband came into the Church five years after I did), and a  homeschooling mom of three girls. Our oldest daughter will graduate this year and my other daughters are 15 and 9. I’ve always written in one form or another, but I began writing for publication about five years after I became a Catholic. I started blogging (at Karen Edmisten) in late 2005, and my first book (The Rosary: Keeping Company With Jesus and Mary) was published in 2009. My second book (Through the Year With Mary) came out in 2010.
Q.  Why a book about miscarriage?
I’ve had five miscarriages myself, so it’s something I’ve lived, something I’ve thought a lot about. I wanted to share the things that were helpful and healing to me over the years, and I wanted to offer a specifically Catholic resource to address some of the questions and misunderstandings that I hear about the Church and miscarriage.
And, the grief I experienced through my miscarriages, while devastating at the time, ultimately helped me to grow closer to God, so I also wanted to share some of that hope and encouragement.
I also wanted to reassure others that they are not alone if they feel the grief of miscarriage deeply and for a long time. We’re often expected to “get over it” fairly quickly, and while it’s important to heal and keep moving forward, I think we are often surprised by how shaken we are by the loss.
Q.  You are very candid in the book about your own struggles through multiple miscarriages, and even share journal entries.  What gave you the courage to share this, and were you at all concerned about sharing “too much”?
I don’t really think of myself as courageous – maybe I should be concerned about sharing too much, but that doesn’t usually occur to me! It’s more a matter of thinking, “If this is helpful to someone else, then it’s worth saying.” Maybe because I was, at one time in my own life, such a questioner of all things religious, and I deeply appreciated people who were willing to share their spiritual journeys with me, that I want to do the same for others if I can.
Q.  Having lost a baby through miscarriage or stillbirth is kind of a “sisterhood” in a way.   Do you find women more willing in the age of the Internet/blogs, to share about membership in “the sisterhood” and talk about these kinds of details about their lives?  Is that a good thing or not?
I think we’ve always been willing to share and to support each other in that “sisterhood” – it just seems a natural reaction among women. But I think the age of the internet makes it much easier to find help, support, understanding – and I think that’s a great thing.
Q.  I’m not sure if this is a question or an invitation to discussion about this.  When I interviewed Amy Welborn about her book Wish You Were Here, I was thinking of, but never got to a post about, good books for kids who might be going through grieving.  So many of the books “specifically for or about grieving” left us cold when my own kids were going through the loss of both sets of grandparents in just a few short years.   
Amy had a great response that it isn’t necessarily a book about grieving that helps when you experience a loss, but everyone finds different types of books (perhaps something completely different-mysteries, for instance) /coping mechanisms that are helpful.    It may not be the right time or healing balm to read about death and dying.
And yet the experience of miscarriage/stillbirth is so intimate and unique, I think reading After Miscarriage is helpful for most women who have experienced it, whether recently or long ago.  The resources you provide to places like Elizabeth Ministry and the like are also very helpful and pertinent.  Your thoughts?
Thanks, and yes, I do hope that After Miscarriage ishelpful to women (and men) at any stage of that journey. But I agree with Amy that there are a lot of things that can be helpful that aren’t specifically about grief. Sometimes the tiniest thing was a healing gesture for me – bringing fresh-cut irises from the garden into the house.
One of my miscarriages occurred when my oldest daughter was six years old. She was devastated. I didn’t find that books about grief were all that helpful to her – what helped her the most was just my presence. She simply needed to know that I was there, that we could play Candyland, or go out for ice cream.
When I did read books about grief, they weren’t about the specific kind I was experiencing, but they were what I needed. For example, in After Miscarriage,  I quote A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, and Two-Part Invention, by Madeleine L’Engle. Both of those books deal with the loss of a spouse, and yet both were extremely helpful and meaningful to me after miscarriages, simply because they so accurately captured the state of grief itself.
Karen and I corresponded about some of the resources that are available to families undergoing a pregnancy loss.  
 
Karen Edmisten and the owner of one resource, Heaven’s Gain, will be on an “After Miscarriage” show on the Catholic Answers Live radio show on May 28th.
 
In addition, Elizabeth Ministry International has a very helpful FAQ page for families undergoing miscarriage or stillbirth.

A Healing New Book for Coping With Miscarriage

Are you a member of the sisterhood?  No one wants to be, but many women are among those who have miscarried or have a stillborn child.  Every woman handles it differently, and every woman grieves differently.  A well-designed new book by Karen Edmisten, After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman’s Companion to Healing & Hope, helps provide comfort and support to those who have gone through this.
I experienced a miscarriage when I was newly married, many years ago.  But even after nearly two decades, I found this book very healing to read and ponder.
Edmisten shares the stories of many different women who have gone through miscarriage or stillbirth, and the differences and similarities of each woman’s experience. She also candidly shares journal entries of times from her multiple pregnancy losses.   The book also includes additional resources for grieving, support and further reading.
I so appreciate how nicely designed the book is—the square shape is particularly appealing and had a good “feel” to it.  After Miscarriage would be a great resource for the many women who are part of “the sisterhood,” and for those who love them.

Meet a Reader: Liz Dahlen

I’m so grateful to Liz Dahlen for reaching out to me and offering to be the “reader” this month.  I’m always looking for suggestions and people in the diocese of Peoria willing to be “readers” on the Catholic Post Book Group.  If you know someone or are a reader yourself, please contact me here on the blog or through The Catholic Post.

How You Know Me:

After being a lifelong Lutheran, I joined the Roman Catholic Church on Easter 2007.  I am a member of St. Louis Parish, Princeton, where I am a lector.  I am a member of the Illinois Valley Cursillo Community, and I am a behind-the-scenes volunteer for the Rachel’s Vineyard post-abortion healing retreats.

Why I Love to Read:

I am absolutely certain I was born with a book in my hand!  Words and ideas have always fascinated me.  I love to read because I love to learn new things, and I also love to read because it “takes me away” from the daily grind to new places and new times, even if the times I’m reading about aren’t new in the chronological sense. 

What I’m Reading Now:

I just finished Catholicism by Father Robert Barron and The Litigators by John Grisham.  Both books were wonderful.  On my Kindle I am reading a biography of Michaelangelo.  I don’t anticipate starting a new hardcover until after the holiday rush.

My Favorite Book:

That is a very tough question!!  I would have to say Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.  I read it for the first time when i was in junior high school and fell in love with it.  That book has everything—plot, characters, style, great writing.  I take it out and re-read every few years and I still enjoy it.  My second favorite is any book written by Donald Cardinal Wuerl.  He is a wonderful writer and I have learned much about the Catholic faith from his books.

A Good Spiritual Library is a Hospital for the Soul

Here is my March column that appears in the print Catholic Post this weekend.
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Are you ready for Lent yet?  Not quite?
I’m not, either.
Lent and Easter are so late this year that it should be a cinch to have all our Lenten devotions and practices spelled out, but it never seems to happen that way.  So I have started to set aside some books.  That’s because I know that alongside prayer, fasting and almsgiving, spiritual reading can make Lent fruitful, even more so than giving up my beloved dark chocolate.
There’s a great book blog called “A Library is a Hospital for the Mind.”  With a nod to that fascinating title, I submit that good spiritual reading is a kind of “hospital for the soul.”  If you haven’t had spiritual reading as part of your Lenten practice, or are looking for something fresh, here are a few suggestions of newer books to consider:
*The Little Way of Lent: Meditations in the Spirit of St. Therese of Lisieux by Fr. Gary Caster, a priest of the diocese of Peoria.  [Full disclosure here:  Father Caster was my boss when I taught high school for two years, and I’ve known him for nearly two decades. ] Father Caster draws on a long devotion to the “Little Flower” to give meditations for each day of Lent.  “What struck me,” Father Caster writes St. Therese, “was her insistence on the way we do things for God and not the things we do for him.  It wasn’t about what I was offering; it was about why.”  There are great little “nuggets” of quotes from St. Therese at the end of each reflection.
*”God speaks to us in the great silence of our heart,” is a famous quote from St. Augustine, and the frontspiece for Finding Your Hidden Treasure:  The Way of Silent Prayer by Benignus O’Rourke, OFA.  This nicely–sized book is truly “treasure”-filled with short meditations and encouragement from St. Augustine and his spirituality.  Finding Your Hidden Treasure is a wonderful read, eliciting a spirit of silence and peace on every page.
*Lent & Easter Wisdom from St. Benedict, by Judith Sutera, OSB, is the newest in Liguori’s “Lent & Easter Wisdom” series (other authors include GK Chesterton, Fulton Sheen and many others).   There’s a short quote from St. Benedict, Scripture verse, prayer, and Lenten action for each day of Lent and Easter Week.  A great instructive guide to St. Benedict’s thoughts.
*If you’re ready this Lent to take on a classic like St. Francis de Sales Introduction to the Devout Life, consider an excellent new edition by TAN Classics.  For many years, TAN was a reliable publisher of classics and great new books, but the graphic design and book quality were… let’s just say they left a little something to desired.
Since TAN was acquired by Saint Benedict Press several years ago, all that has changed.  The books are still the great classics, like Story of a Soul, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, and others are here.  The difference is that the books have handsome, durable covers; beautiful typesetting and fonts, and just the right “feel.” Finally, these great classics have a production value that begins to match their greatness.
–What are your favorite Lenten reads?  What are you planning to read this Lent?

Meet a Reader: Sue Wozniak, R.N.

How you know me:  I retired this month as COO of OSF St. Francis Medical Center, after a long career in nursing and hospital administration.  My husband, Ken, and I are members of St. Vincent parish in Peoria, and we have five children and four grandchildren.
Why I love reading:  Reading reduces stress and can take you away to fantasy land.  For me, reading, especially biographies of famous leaders, helps me to understand how other people make decisions.  Reading history helps me learn about living in the past.  I just love to read.
What I’m reading now:  I just finished reading Decision Points by George H.W. Bush, and I’m currently working my way through The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.
My favorite book: My all-time favorite book is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  I also loved all the Cherry Ames mystery books (Cherry is a nurse) when I was a girl because I wanted to become a nurse, and I did!

UnPlanned a Must-Read About Life, Prayer, Friendship & Conversion {my February column @TheCatholic Post}

Following is my February column that appears in this issue of the print edition of  The Catholic Post.

Back in the day, I worked in public relations in the pro-life movement in Washington, DC. I wrote too many press releases to count (when we used the latest technology of faxing them to reporters), ate expense-account lunches with columnists, and did countless interviews.

When people would tell me that prayer was their primary way of serving the pro-life cause, part of me thought, “Amen.” But can I make a confession here?  Part of me didn’t really think so.  The 20something media hotshot me felt all my busy “inside the Beltway” activities were more effective.

Today, I laugh at my poor younger self.  Yes, press releases and legislation are important, but prayer and friendship are even more powerful in establishing a culture of life.

Prayer, friendship and conversion are at the heart of a new must-read: Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line.

UnPlanned is the story of Abby Johnson, an abortion clinic director who leaves her job after the first time assisting an ultrasound-guided abortion, and seeing with her own eyes a baby struggling away from the abortion instrument.   This is more than just pro-life apologetics; Johnson writes a well-paced and sensitive memoir of her spiritual journey.

In UnPlanned, Johnson shares the impulses that brought her into the abortion industry, and the many decent people motivated by compassion who worked alongside her inside the clinic.  But she shows how that compassion is misdirected and used by some (including leadership at Planned Parenthood) to make money by pushing abortion regardless of what’s best for women and their children.

Two issues Johnson raises make UnPlanned especially worth reading and discussing:

*How do we as Christians speak the truth about life while still remaining open to those with opposing views?  Johnson was asked to leave a Protestant church when her abortion work became known, understandable but a move that drove Johnson away from people who might have reached her.   It’s actually the confession from the Book of Common Prayer at the  self-described “pro-choice” Episcopal parish Johnson attended that becomes a factor moving her towards repentance. God does the work of conversion; how can we be channels of this grace?

*How do we attract young people to the culture of life?  Johnson writes how she was drafted as a college student to volunteer for Planned Parenthood by an appeal to her sense of idealism and desire to help women.  Young people are in a kind of “sensitive period” in their late teens to mid 20s when values and life course are being set.  How do we direct their natural idealism and energy to the culture of life, instead of the opposite?

Johnson’s conversion happened in a moment, but UnPlanned makes clear it was the sustained effort of many people praying, fasting and acts of friendship for and to her that made that moment possible.

This fine book speaks volumes about the power of love and prayer to overcome darkness and despair. Johnson writes that she was “loved from one side to the other.”  Reading Unplanned  will make readers want to be that kind of love and prayer in their own communities.  I can say now, with no division, “Amen” to that.