Month: March 2015

Lent 2013 Challenge Day 34: Inaugural Feast

PaPastaFagioliPinsta Fagioli: It’s what’s for dinner!

Mrs. Mackerelsnapper, OP

Yesterday was the inauguration of Pope Francis, on the Feast of St. Joseph, which is my husband’s feast day as well. We usually have some sort of meat on St. Joseph’s Day, because traditionally in our diocese, the bishops lift the Lenten restrictions so we, especially our area’s large Italian community, can feast instead of fast. I had a moment of thinking we’d be justified in breaking the rules on this very special day and getting some actual steak. I mean, Pope Francis is from Argentina, the Land of Beef. What better way to celebrate, right? However, given that the man asked his countrypeople to stay home and give the money they would’ve spent on plane tickets to the poor, buying a steak didn’t really fit the spirit of the day.

So, vegetarian recipes from a country of cattle farmers? We made baked cheese empanadas to go with a slow…

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It Is All About the Fiat

In honor of the Feast of the Annunciation, I’m reblogging this guest post over at Melanie Jean Juneau’s Joy of 9. What do the infertile/subfertile need from moms of many? Read to find out.

joy of nine9

This warm, poignant post is written by Erin McCole Cupp, as part of a blog book tour for her new novel. Erin writes just enough of an introduction to engage your heart and your perk curiosity about her story.  Don’t You Forget About Me. This novel is a MUST read!

It Is All About the Fiat

I have a friend with ten kids. Okay, I’m a homeschooling Catholic mom, so I now have several friends with ten kids (give or take), but this one has been my friend since before we started homeschooling. She’s a friend who knows how I take my coffee, for whom I don’t need to clean before she comes over, and who gets my Simpsons references.

 Actually, that friend has eleven kids. One of them is now in heaven. I was one of the only people she told when she found herself expecting her eleventh…

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Evangelizing people who don’t trust beauty.

Gen X and the New EvangelizationI received a bit of a baffling email after I posted, of all seemingly innocuous things, my review of a Catholic gardening book.  In the review, I mentioned:

I’m also a true member of Generation X, and as a rule, we don’t trust beauty.

In a roundabout way, someone sort of, well, not challenged that statement, but expressed bafflement.  The gist was that evangelizers seem to be told nowadays that beauty will solve everything and evangelize the hardest of hearts, etc.  Then I came along and casually mentioned that, well, no.  Some of us don’t trust beauty.  Sorry, we just don’t.

Here’s what I wrote in response.  What do you think?

Painting with a broad brush, we’re a generation of cynics.  We are the first generation to only know a world of airbrushed photos and special effects.  “The beauty of traditional marriage” rings false to ears that grew up in broken homes, listening to our parents marry again and again and again.  “The beauty of Christianity” runs in black rivulets down the face of the Tammy Faye Baker of our early memories.  “The beauty of the Church” rings false to ears that can’t remember a time when priests weren’t considered pedophiles by the culture around us.
“The beauty of liturgical art” sounds like a waste of money that should be spent on the poor.  Arguments that the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world fall flat on ears who’ve only ever heard the liberal media’s point of view, pouring ceaslessly out of the TVs our parents kept on in the living room, morning to night.
We’ve only ever known a world with birth control, abortion, and 24/7 news radio that turned into 24/7 cable news.  We were told that birth control and abortion would set us free.  Now, in our aging bones we know that’s not true, but saying so is taboo and would jeopardize the sexyfuntimez we’ve been taught to worship, sex being the closest thing we’ve had to intimacy.
“Life–what a beautiful choice,” sounds laughable to us.  Life isn’t beautiful when comfort and ease are the best things we’ve been taught to expect.
And don’t get me started on, “The beauty of feminine genius.”  To people who grew up being told that women and men are the same and no different, and you’re a sexist brute for thinking otherwise, “feminine genius” sounds patronizing at best.
So how on earth to do you go about evangelizing a generation of Fox Mulders, who Trust No One?
By having integrity, again and again and again, until integrity becomes beautiful. 
Truth is what we crave. Truth is the only beauty we can trust.
On the nose? Too on the nose?  Brushstrokes are too broad?  I’m curious.

Interview with Margaret Rose Realy, Oblate

CGSA CoverWe have a lovely book to enjoy today, dear readers!

Not only that, but all you writerly types get to learn a little bit about the flexibility, patience, and Providence that are part of the successful writer’s life.  Read on to learn more about Margaret Rose Realy and her latest book, A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac.

Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB is a writer and visual artist who lives an ermetic life. She grew up just outside Detroit, sharing a home with her maternal grandmother where the love of gardening flourished. Margaret reveals her love of nature, learning about the Creator through his creation, with a Benedictine spirituality, in her books, columns, and presentations. 

Head shot books
Because my blog is about the writing life, I asked Margaret to share a little bit about what went into the making of this book.  She kindly obliges.  Read on!

leaf logo

EMC: How did you get the initial idea for this book?  

MRR: The first publisher I worked with, Circle Press, had started production on my first book, A Garden of Visible Prayer; Creating a Personal Sacred Space One Step at a Time,(now a  2nd Edition). In a meeting Fr. John Bartunek and Claudia Volkman discussed the need for a book that looked at the traditions of the Church as revealed in nature. Father wanted a book that was grounded in our faith, and took away all the new-agey-bunk that detracted from knowing the Creator through his creation. It was at his suggestion six years ago that gave direction to my writing. Circle Press eventually closed down that division.

leaf logoEMC: As so often happens in the publishing world, alas.  But that wasn’t the end, was it?  Tell us what happened when you pitched the idea for this book.  

MRR: It seems that the concept for this book (A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac) was out of my hands. The second publisher for A Garden of Visible Prayer, FAITH Catholic, had discussed with me a book of the same nature that Father had suggested. FAITH was a very small book publisher and after much prayer, I felt they weren’t the right ones for the title. So rather than say no out-right, I waited. Good thing I did. They, too, closed down their book division.

Claudia, then with Franciscan Media/Servant Books, still had an interest in my manuscript and asked that I pitch it to her at Catholic Writers Guild Live conference. Having worked with her before, it felt more like tea with a friend—who just happened to be an acquisition editor. Franciscan Media decided the manuscript wasn’t a good fit for their house and I moved on.

The manuscript was pitched a year later to Ave Maria Press. Thanks to Lisa Hendey, who had reviewed the manuscript for CWG’s SoA several years back, and recommended it to AMP.

leaf logoEMC:  Can you tell us a little bit about the process for getting the contract to write your latest book?  

MRR: Bob Hamma of Ave Maria Press wanted me to rework the book and gear it towards Catholic moms…you know, because, Lisa Hendey. Since I do not have family and never had children, I knew I couldn’t produce the book he wanted—readers would know I wasn’t all that—and turned him down, twice. We finally agreed to meet at CMN in Texas (2012) to discuss what I could produce that would meet Ave Maria Press’ market needs. It was there that we agreed on the layout for an expanded manuscript that combined sections from other manuscripts into one book.

leaf logoEMC: How long did you wait from time of pitch to when you signed your contract?  What happened with this project in that time?

MRR: After the meeting in August 2012, we discussed the outline and the contract and advance, which were settled upon by April 2013. I was given one year to produce the new manuscript.

leaf logoEMC: How long was it from the time you signed your contract to actual publication?  What were some of the highlights and challenges you encountered during that time?

MRR: I began researching and compiling materials immediately after our August 2012 meeting, assembling chapter folders through the winter. Every year I offer several spring presentations, gardening and Lenten, and the spring of 2013 was no different. The rewriting began later that summer. My manuscript was to be submitted the end of April 2014, and much to my editor’s delight—and AMP’s graphics department—it was sent the first week in January 2014. That gave the publisher a good year to work it through production for edits and design. It was here that the work changed in perspective. It was no longer MY book but OUR book—a sentiment important to all authors.

 My greatest challenge was—and still is—that I am just a gardener. I failed and had to repeat English courses in college. When I realized being called to write I was dumbfounded. I had to set aside my fear—and being totally clueless—and remain attentive to the task placed before me. Our Lord has provided beautiful people along my journey, skilled at critiquing and editing my writing—like you, Erin—to help me keep moving forward.

 What delighted me most in the writing of this book was sharing my love of gardening and God. Each section of each chapter brought some level of joy. I often felt that I was doing an odd sort of evangelization by offering some of what our church teaches in a way that brings to light the Bible parables that were related to nature. It was fun researching and then correlating spiritual themes and then to actualize them in a garden setting. I pray that those who read my book might apply some of the gardening themes to their own outdoor prayer space and in doing so draw closer to Our Lord.

leaf logoEMC: If you could sum up your mission for this book in three sentences, what would you say?

MRR: I need just one: It’s the first book to offer gardeners spiritual resources and creative projects that connect a love of gardening with their Catholic faith.

leaf logoEMC: Count me as one of your readers who is getting connected to a love of gardening through the Catholic faith, thanks to your warmly detailed book!  Any parting advice for aspiring writers?  

MRR: This is the hardest question of all. I never aspired to be a writer or author. I had to discern in the call to write, what it was that made me come alive, what—besides prayer and my love of God—brought me joy, and then translate that into words. I was happiest gardening and sharing my love of it with others. I drew great peace, with the help of many volunteers, creating gardens of prayer and memorial. This is what I knew, this is what I loved, so that is what I wrote.

We’re told to write what we know, and you write about what you love.  The fruit of that is clear to the many of us who love your work!  Thank you for stopping by, Margaret.  Readers, it’s spring, and it’s Passiontide.  I can’t think of a better time or better reasons to get yourself a copy of A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac.  This will be a book you keep as a reference.  I already plan on getting clear Contac Paper for the cover to keep it from getting all raggedy.

Homeschoolers, also, take note:  my oldest read this through before I could finish it, and she loved it.  If you use gardening in your curriculum so you don’t have to spend so much time weeding, your older children (5th grade and up) might enjoy this book as well!

Review: A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac

CGSA CoverEven I want to garden now!

I’m one of those people who gardens because I have to stretch the food budget, not because I enjoy spending time covered in dirt, dripping with sweat, and being bitten by bugs. I’m also a true member of Generation X, and as a rule, we don’t trust beauty. We do, however, crave meaning, and A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac shines light on the meaning that lies in the dirt, sweat, and bug-bite side of gardening as well as the beauty of human touches added to the ever-changing landscape of nature.

Full of low-pressure options, A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac takes all the heaviness out of the manual labor of gardening and infuses it with the lighthearted joy that can only be found in prayer. In my little world, I’d give this one six stars.

Look here tomorrow for an interview with Margaret Rose Realy, the author of this gem.  It’s spring and it’s Passiontide, so go get your copy.  Go on, now!  Get with the clicky and buy it!

7 Reasons to call 855-949-1380 at 10am EDT Today

7QTlogo7QTF at TATL.  You know you want to.  

Call 855-949-1380 today, Friday, March 20, 2015 any time between 10am-11am Eastern Daylight Time.  I’ll be on Real Life Radio with Allison Gingras of A Seeking Heart.  Don’t know what to ask or talk about when you’re on a radio show about books?  Allow me to provide some suggestions.


Are you a member of The Perm Generation?  Call in with a story of your worst perm gone bad.


Are you unsure of how to pronounce the names of the main characters in Don’t You Forget About Me?  

Don't You Forget About Me FTcasefrontcover

Are names like “Whelihan,” “Marcasian,” and “Staz” throwing you off your linguistic game?  Call and ask how to pronounce them.


Did you have an experience of being bullied as a child… or were you the bully?  How did those experience impact the person you are today?  Call 855-949-1380, and let’s talk about it.


Talk to us about your experiences on The Pill.  Did your medical practicioner give you full disclosure about all the risks?  How did you feel when you got the actual scoop?  Did you ever get the actual scoop?


Are you sick of feeling like the genre fiction you read is not good enough for a good Catholic like yourself?  Allison is one of the VERY FEW Catholic podcasters I know who spends time speaking more than superficially or in passing about Catholic fiction.  Let’s talk about books that Catholics can read for real live actual fun.


Do you, like Allison, remember having dreams of becoming a famous author and then coming back to your hometown in a blaze of glory?  How have your dreams changed over the years?


Do you want to know more about being a lay Dominican?  About writing and getting published?  About the mysteries of Philadelphia area cuisine?

Do you see that?  The sauce is so thick that it just stands there like it's waiting for a bus.

Do you see that? The sauce is so thick that it just stands there like it’s waiting for a bus.

Do you have experiences to share about having brutal crimes happen too close to home?  What about your conversion, reversion, or your version of your faith story?  Do you miss anything about being a “fallen away Catholic”? Why or why not?  Call in and tell us your stories.  Do you have another question?  Call it in today at 855-949-1380!  I look forward to hearing from you!

Small Success Thursday: The Lent’s Not So Bad Edition



Celebrate the good things in life with!


Oldest Dumpling and I decluttered and reorganized the junk drawer.



We’re going camping!  With the brutal weather we’ve been having, and with how far along we are in schooling as a result, we skipped formal lessons yesterday and started planning our spring camping trip. This will be our third year doing a girls-only road trip, and each year we get a little more ambitious.  The first year, we did a little study of the Appalachian Trail and stayed one night at the Harper’s Ferry Youth Hostel.  Last year we did two nights at a rustic cabin with our rat terrier, whom we discovered is so territory-attached that he makes a very poor camp dog indeed.


This year we are working up an itinerary to do a tour of the first Catholic settlement areas in our state.  We are using The Catholic Community of Pennsylvania: Past and Present as our guide.  Having this trip to look forward to seems to have brightened our spirits around here.   I aim to include at least one girls-only roughing-it (as much as we can) trip each year to help our daughters build the kind of resilience and resourcefulness Mary and Elizabeth, the First Disciples, had.


I’ve not been an utter failure at Lent, because temptation is stupid.  


Apple image courtesy of WikiCommons/Abhijit Tembhekar.

The first good choice I made was to set tough but not ridiculous goals that gradually increase in difficulty throughout the weeks.  But the biggest help I’ve gotten from the Holy Spirit was the realization that I actually do have willpower and the desire to do God’s will.  See, I’d convinced myself that I never resist temptation, so no wonder I’m such a failure at growing in virtue–especially in outgrowing certain vices.  Then, one day in the checkout lane at the grocery store, I had the temptation to slip a candy bar into my purse.

Are you kidding me? I thought.  That’s a stupid idea.  A grown woman with kids, shoplifting?  That’s ridiculous.

I turned my back on the candy display, paid my bill, and went home, not giving that temptation a second thought.  On the way home, however, I gave my post-temptation thoughts some of my time.  I realized it was no trouble at all to resist the temptation to shoplift, because, come on, That’s a stupid idea.  The temptation fled because my next thought was an exact reason why that particular temptation was so stupid.

What if I told all my temptations that they’re stupid ideas?  The more I thought about it, the more I noticed that agreeing with temptation is the very path away from virtue and towards sin.  After all, take a look at Eve in Eden.  In Genesis 3: 6, we see, “The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom.”  Sounds great, right?  By golly, that temptation sure has some good ideas!

Once I think a sin is a really good idea, I’m likely to do it.  This might be why I have no trouble, say, resisting the urge to scream at strangers who annoy me, but keeping my temper with my kids who do need my correction (“Yelling like this is a good idea, because correcting them is my job, and yelling will make me feel better, and feeling better makes me a better parent, right? Right? Right?“) is so much harder than leaving the Hershey bar behind at the checkout.

So this Lent I’ve been aiming to tell my temptations that they’re stupid.  It’s a little bit of Method Acting, really, using emotional memory to recall times when my character did the right thing and applying that memory to the present challenge.  It’s helping, I think.  Don’t get me wrong:  I still fail a great deal, especially at my favorite sins.  The biggest hurdle is the first one: to realize that my brain is saying stupid things.  However, since I’ve started this Method Resisting, let’s call it, instead of seeing my path to virtue as this long, grueling, Ignatian marathon that I could never possibly finish, each battle just looks like just that–a battle, and one with the grace of God I might actually win.

I hesitated there.  I didn’t want to type anything about me winning anything.  On the one hand, yeah, I really want to be humble.  When you wear your addiction on your body like I do, it’s a bit easier to keep the pride down.  But on the other hand, whenever one of us chooses Christ over ourselves, we become more integrated into His Body.  That’s win-win. There’s gotta be something good about claiming that.


I almost forgot!  I’ll be giving a talk this Saturday to the he Central Jersey Chapter of The Catholic Writer’s Guild.  This talk will be held on Saturday, March 7th at 10 am at the parish center of St. Aloysius parish, on Bennett’s Mill Rd. in Jackson NJ. I’ll be speaking about -“A Fiction Ministry:  Using Stories in the New Evangelization”


No registration is required and all are welcome. For information contact Karen Kelly Boyce at 732-928-7981.  Thanks for hosting me, Karen!