Sisters of the Last Straw: The Case of the Missing Novice, by Karen Kelly Boyce

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A caricature can reveal more truth than a photograph. The Sisters of the Last Straw, reminiscent of the antics of Don Camillo in the stories by Giovannino Guareschi (1908-68), were in fact human. Thank God. Each had her own “fault,” be it a temper, an obsession or an addiction. Each nun had received her walking papers from at least one other congregation. Once they banded together, they formed an abrasive but loving community, a spiritual sandpaper rubbing their souls smooth and perfect.

The fragile tranquility of the community shattered over the presence of a dog, its puddles and plies, and its need for a home, anyplace but in the convent. The difficulties expand beyond the sacred enclosure to the neighborhood and the downtown area leading to the subsequent loss of Novice Kathy. The bumbling sorority’s attempts at untying the knots in the story-line, only tangled them further as the dog-sitting sisters prayed for the safety of their youngest member.

Although Sisters of the Last Straw fits into the category of juvenile fiction, 6-12 year old readers, the chapters could serve as case histories used in community development workshops and retreats for religious congregations. Spiritual growth often depends on the establishment and growth of a peaceful living environment. Even saints sometimes wanted to brain a confrere. These good sisters, with all their faults were easy to love. They served as examples of humility. One of their greatest virtues was their ability to laugh at themselves, forgive and move on to the next disaster.

I treasure this gift to all of us from Karen Kelly Boyce and look forward to the next misadventure of the Sisters of the Last Straw.

Boyce, Karen Kelly. Sisters of the Last Straw: The Case of the Missing Novice. New Egypt, NJ: KFR Communications, LLC. 2013. www.chestertonpress.com

Posted in Adventure, Book Review, Catholic Fiction, Catholic Theme, Humour, Juvenile fiction, mystery, Novel, Young Adult Novel | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Late, Great Member Round-Up

roundup

Nancy Ward, this one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever read…my heart just broke in the moment of holy connection you describe. This post needs to be widely shared. Thank you!

Mary Woods Thanks for the discovery of an obscure but much-needed poem, Mary! I’ll be quoting this one.

Michael Seagriff An encounter with a homeless man left Michael with some questions….

Larry Peterson explains why ‘Catholic’ Belgium desperately needs our prayers.

Debbie Gaudino offers new lessons from the moral theology of St. Maria Goretti.

And, as for me, Charlotte Ostermann, here are reflections on the missing link in human formation…you may be surprised at the implications for your spiritual life!

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: April 14, 2014

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

Isaiah 50:4-7
Lord Yahweh has given me a disciple’s tongue, for me to know how to give a word of comfort to the weary. Morning by morning he makes my ear alert to listen like a disciple. Lord Yahweh has opened my ear and I have not resisted, I have not turned away. I have offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; I have not turned my face away from insult and spitting. Lord Yahweh comes to my help, this is why insult has not touched me, this is why I have set my face like flint and know that I shall not be put to shame.

The power of prayer and the power of people praying.

APRIL INTENTION PRAYER

The Gloria
Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace to men of good will. We praise You. We bless You. We adore you. We glorify You. We give You thanks for Your great glory. O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father almighty. O Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son. O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father: you Who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. You Who take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. You Who sit at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For you alone are holy. You alone are the Lord. You alone, O Jesus Christ, are most high. Together with the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

 

Please leave a comment with your intention. If you have problems adding an intention, email it to Mike Hays at coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add it.  God bless.

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Code Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Code Zero (Joe Ledger, #6)Code Zero by Jonathan Maberry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

SHORT VERSION:
WOAH.

This is the worthy sequel to Patient Zero.

At one point, Rudy Sanchez says that “this has done something fundamental to the American people.”

I’ll tell you this. It did something fundamental to me.

It was exciting, suspenseful, terrifying, and haunted me in my dreams and at random moments in my day.

And it was satisfying. Very satisfying.

I’m not sure Maberry can top this. Though I’m already looking forward to his next attempt to try.

LONG VERSION:
It’s been six years since Joe Ledger was secretly recruited by the government to lead a combat team for the DMS,  a taskforce created to deal with problems that Homeland Security can’t handle. That story was told in Patient Zero. This was where we met a group of terrorists who had developed a bio-weapon that turned people into zombies.

Every year since then, like clockwork, Joe and Echo Team have returned to battle a variety of seemingly supernatural foes, all developed by villains who are somehow going to make boatloads of cash off of the terror.

The action-packed stories are full of evil super-villains, noble heroes, smart mouthed quips, a smattering of philosophy about “good guys and bad guys” and heart. Lots of heart. All this is told at a roller coaster pace that barely allows you to breathe until you get to the end.

I love them.

In many ways, this book is similar to the rest of the series. Mother Night, a villain you love to hate, is a super-genius anarchist who’s strewing chaos throughout the country over Labor Day weekend. She’s got the DMS’s computer tied up in knots and old evils that were defeated in previous books are now popping their heads up all over the country. Losses are high and the odds are very much against Ledger and his team. We know Joe will win. It’s watching it happen that makes it fun.

It is superior to the other books, I think, because the pacing is more measured and there is more character development. I also enjoyed the flashbacks into the DMS’s years before Joe joined them.

But in one very important way Code Zero was very different for me.

I felt a level of anxiety that was all out of proportion. Maberry is an expert at ratcheting up the stakes until you just can’t see how anyone decent is going to survive the maelstrom. I was used to that. But somehow this felt different. I got a bit jumpy. I couldn’t quit thinking about the horrific chaos during the day when I had to put the book down. It stuck with me in a way the other books didn’t.

In fact, after I finished Code Zero I had to go find a nice, gentle book to read. I just couldn’t face anything hard-edged. (Hello, No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.)

Then I woke up this morning to news on my clock radio about multiple stabbings at a high school. And I figured it out.

Maberry has his finger on the pulse of the evil that Americans today know all too well … that lurks below the conscious level of our lives … violent chaos that can strike without a moment’s notice. Shootings at Fort Hood, restaurants, schools, and more have changed the mood of our country and made Mother Night’s chaos resonate more deeply than usual.

Along the way, he looks at why people choose good or evil. This has been mentioned in other books, but never with so many examples as in this one. Maberry doesn’t spell it out much but this conversation between a DMS scientist and Joe Ledger gave the larger context, as well as defining everyone’s actions in the book.

“I’ve watched the tapes of Rudy interviewing some of the people you and Col. Riggs and the others have arrested. Some of them seem so ordinary. How can they commit those atrocities if they have a conscience? Is it their nature? Or is it a nurture thing? Are they from an environment that makes it ok for them?”

Joe grunted. “I asked Rudy that same exact question once.”

“What did he say?”

“He said that the nature versus nurture question is fundamentally flawed because it assumes that there are only two possible forces at work on a person. Sure, a person’s nature is a factor and that could be a produce of their brain chemistry or whatever makes a person a sociopath or a psychotic or a hero. Just as the forces in a person’s life have to be taken into some account. Some abused children grow up to abuse. There’s math for that. But neither viewpoint covers all the possible bases.”

“So what’s missing?”

“Choice,” said Ledger. “Rudy thinks that choice is often more important than either nature or nurture. Some people grow up in hell and choose to let others share in that hell. Some people grow up in hell and they make damn sure they don’t let those in their care ever glimpse those fires. It’s a choice.”

“Not everyone can make that choice.”

“No, of course not. But a lot more people can than you might think.” …

“Choice,” she said.

“Choice,” he agreed. “It’s what defines us. And it’s probably the most underrated power in the world.”

Code Zero is full of people choosing to save the world or burn it down. In most of the cases, the motivation comes down to something that Maberry does not name, but which I will make bold to label: love. We want to know we matter, that we make a difference, that someone “knows” us. Not for our accomplishments but simply because our “selves” matter.

Mother Night gives it a different name, and she may not tidily fall into this definition but, let’s face it, she’s super-villain crazy. I believe that her ultimate fate bears me out. It shows most in Maberry’s final scenario at the end of the book as the answer to Rudy’s statement that the chaos ”has done something fundamental to the American people.

Truly this is a great book, especially for the shoot-em-up genre. It is also probably one that can be read as a stand alone without reading the others that came before.

AUDIO NOTES
I listened to the audiobook read by Ray Porter who was superb, as usual, at portraying Joe and every other character along the way. In this book Porter dialed his urgent, driving, delivery down some and thank goodness for that. The action was intense enough without being shoved over the edge of the cliff by a continually urgent tone. Porter also was more nuanced and thoughtful in his reading than I recall in previous Joe Ledger books. If this sounds odd when considering our heroes are fighting off zombies, it actually worked to make me consider the full horror being faced. Once again, kudos to Ray Porter. He’s the reason I always choose audio for the Joe Ledger books.

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When Charity is Counter Culture, We Need to Lead the Way

Last year, I took my first job in the corporate world. I’m loving it, but there’s a lot I have to learn…and some things I never want to learn.

Last week, while most of us were in a meeting, three of our employees got laid off. (We were told in the meeting right after it happened.) These were hard-working and much admired men in the office, but the work they did, through no fault of their own, wasn’t paying for itself. It was out-of-the blue, and a pure budget decision.

We’re a close-knit group, so everyone was upset, and not because they were worried about their own jobs. The rest of the day was spent in group walks, a long lunch, and much discussion and commiseration. I suggested we get a card and take up a collection. The suggestion surprised folks. Apparently, when someone leaves a company, they’re just gone, and life moves on. I was told that that’s usual for any company, not just ours. To acknowledge their contribution and their loss, esp as a group, is  “counter-culture.”

Nonetheless, people loved the idea. Those who had been laid off before said how much they’d have appreciated knowing folks still cared. So I got cards and some envelopes and spent part of the day walking around the office. The cards filled to overflowing. Everyone pitched in some money. Our Human Resources guy sent the cards and gift cards for us (since he can’t divulge the addresses.) It may have been counter the corporate culture, but when asked, everyone was willing to help, even people who didn’t know the guys in question. It just took a nudge.

At our hearts, most of us are considerate and generous. But we’re also timid, sometimes lazy, and unwilling to take a risk that goes against the standard culture. As an outsider coming into the culture, I acted out of ignorance. If I’d spent 20 years in the corporate world, I don’t know if I’d been so quick to act.

We wait for someone else to spur us to action. I wonder if that’s why so many people believe so strongly in government welfare – with the government taking charge, we can rest easy, feeling we’re helping the poor without our having to take steps ourselves. When Mormons tithe, the money comes straight out of their paychecks. I must admit, I think that’s brilliant. I wish the Catholic Church had a direct-deposit tithing program. We’re already the biggest charitable organization in the world. Can you imagine how much more we could do if people could just assign a portion of their paycheck automatically instead of waiting until Sunday to think about it? Like the Jews demanding a king, we demand that someone else take charge and lead us in things we know we should do.

Regardless of whether you agree with welfare or mandatory tithing, the fact remains that there is so much more we can do – so much more that people are willing to do – if only we had a nudge. Be the one who does the nudging. Forget what “the culture” says and do what your heart says, and invite others to join you. You might be surprised at how people will rally behind you to help.

Posted in Catholic Theme | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Report on CWG Committee Activity

Membership Committee: Michael R. Shelton cwg@holylance.net

New Members: Patti Dohn, Jeanette Block, Neil Combs, David O’Keefe, Incarnate Institute, Robert Farris, Nadra Fischer, Nancy H. Murray, Gregory Walker, Julian Bauer, Roger Dubin, John James Gillespie, Patricia Lea Olson, Elizabeth Brunner, Nancy Smith, Judith Meneses-Emami, Christine M. Hanus, Denise A. Spicer, John Horvat II, Jean E. Ewing, Ellen Marie Edmonds, Sister Patricia McCarthy, Catherine Galloway, J Vick, James Banister, Cynthia Toney, and Brian Conley.

We welcome these outstanding additions to the Catholic Writers Guild. I ask that all current members extend a welcome, especially when Mike Shelton introduces them on Facebook. Thanks Mike.

CWCO:  (Catholic Writers Conference Online)—Lowder (laura.lowder@gmail.com), Karina Fabian (http://fabianspace.com), Ann Margaret Lewis

Like magic, the Catholic Writers Conference Online came together under the guidance of Laura Lowder with assists from a host of presenters, moderators and participants. Chats averaged 15-20 people. Some audiences numbered as high as 30. The forums did not fare as well. The Orientation e-mail proved helpful to chat-room novices thanks to Ann Margaret Lewis.  Karina Fabian untangled technical difficulties, thereby facilitating participation.

A New Website: Work continues on the CWG website. The next CWCO would benefit from its support as would just about every other form of communication within the Guild.

The Seal of Approval Committee: Sarah Reinhard, Ellen Gable Hrkach (ellengablehrkach@gmail.com) Now that the SoA committee has completed work on the first round of books for 2014, submissions for the second quarter of SoA reviews opened on April 1, 2014.

Volunteers: Please step forward. Every committee needs help. Those interested in supplying that assistance, please contact Ellen Gable Hrkach (ellengablehrkach@gmail.com).

Directory of additional CWG Committees and Contact Persons:

CBN: (Catholic Book News)—Ellen Gable Hrkach (ellengablehrkach@gmail.com)

CALA: (Catholic Arts and Letters Award)—Michelle Buckman (michellepbuckman@gmail.com), Ellen Gable Hrkach (ellengablehrkach@gmail.com)

Blog: Jen Fitz

Catholic Writers Conference Live: Which is about to spring into action… Ann Margaret Lewis

Facebook: Karina Fabian (http://fabianspace.com),

Newsletter: Inside the CWG: Maria Rivera

 

Public Relations: Ellen Gable Hrkach (ellengablehrkach@gmail.com)

Retreat: (Seasonal) Ann Margaret Lewis

Zenit: Connie Clark  

Call for Committee reports: I ask each committee chairperson to submit a report of activities in anticipation of the April officer’s meeting. Many thanks!

 

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: April 7, 2014

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

Ezekiel 37:12-14

So, prophesy. Say to them, “The Lord Yahweh says this: I am now going to open your graves; I shall raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the soil of Israel. And you will know that I am Yahweh, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people, and put my spirit in you, and you revive, and I resettle you on your own soil. Then you will know that I, Yahweh, have spoken and done this — declares the Lord Yahweh.”‘

The power of prayer and the power of people praying.

APRIL INTENTION PRAYER

The Gloria
Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace to men of good will. We praise You. We bless You. We adore you. We glorify You. We give You thanks for Your great glory. O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father almighty. O Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son. O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father: you Who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. You Who take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. You Who sit at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For you alone are holy. You alone are the Lord. You alone, O Jesus Christ, are most high. Together with the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

 

Please leave a comment with your intention. If you have problems adding an intention, email it to Mike Hays at coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add it.  God bless.

Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing | 1 Comment

A Writer’s Nemesis–an Unapologetic Computer

When I got my hands on my first Smith-Corona H Series Correctable Typewriter, I was in my glory. I was also in control.   Then…along came computers and the word-processing phenomenon.  Writers were thrilled at the technology: Spell-check, formatting, multiple fonts, save options and mailing options,  all at the click of a mouse.   But there was a dark side to all of this, and I have found it; or rather, it found me.   When  something went awry most of the time I was  lost.  The worst part was I did not know what to do.  I was at the mercy of forces beyond my tech challenged brain.  Yes…I had lost control of my writer’s world.

As writers we have all experienced the ‘glitches’ that come along in dealing with computers and the cyber universe they dwell in.  It is as if they do not want us to come into their world.  It is okay to stand in the foyer but that’s close enough.  If you get too close you suddenly have dropped text, lost messages, frozen screens and so on.  Why, one time  Google even blocked the Internet by mistake.  (Maybe there was a mob at the door.)   I think we all have our individual dark sides in the invisible universe. They are  like small black-holes ready to suck you in and devour you before you even know  what happened.

I discovered that my dark side exists in the tech end of cyber world. I have also found that I am just one of many computer users who know very little about computer repair,  especially if it involves  software.   I do try very hard not to open up unknown or suspicious items.  I also do a disk cleanup often and defrag and all of that stuff.   I do that because I know what can happen if I “click wrongly” and, when I do, the result  ain’t pretty.  Finally, I have Norton anti-virus.  Oh well, the fact is, if I do “click” wrong none of that matters anyway.  It is the proverbial ‘two edged sword’.

My two published books have been returned to me because my publisher is going out of business effective June 1.  (Obviously, my  books did not hit the best  seller list).   I have also been given my blogsite to tend to.  I do not know how.  With the assistance of the publisher I have managed to republish the book on Amazon and Smashwords. But I have no idea how to update the blog site with the new editions.  This is what I mean about losing control.  In addition, I had my email account with Verizon for 13 years. I cancelled it 15 months ago saving $50.00 a month by using Bright House.  Verizon told me that was ‘just fine” to keep the Verizon address.  Like an idiot, I believed them.

So (the day after I found out about the books) my email stopped working. I was sure I had “clicked” something wrong and it took six hours to find out Verizon had disconnected it. It took six hours because they did not know they had done it,  and there was nothing anyone could do about it because their computer had done it and that was that, end of story.  Many people apologized but the computer did NOT apologize.

Bottom line: we are at the mercy of cyber forces that can get us at any time.  We need to learn more about that other world before it gets us like it did everyone in “Terminator III: Rise of the Machines”.  In that movie  ”Skynet”, the computer system,  takes over control from mankind unleashing worldwide, thermonuclear war. No one can stop it, not even Arnold.  I guess that old Smith-Corona had a very positive side after all.  We were smarter.

Posted in Catholic Writers Guild, Catholic Writing and Publishing, Humour | 1 Comment

On Another Note

musicnotes(What happened to the Blog Round-Up???*)

I’m looking for help with a research/writing project I hope you’ll find interesting. Please help me discover and share ideas for Catholic Cultural Initiatives.

What is a Catholic cultural initiative??

It’s an event, membership organization, publication, gesture, website,  or campaign that involves real Catholic people in building Catholic culture, addressing issues, pursuing shared interests, and contributing to the new evangelization. It can be ‘for Catholics,’ ‘shared with non-Catholics,’ or ‘for the public,’ but it is initiated, designed, managed by Catholics. The goal of such initiatives is sometimes, but not always, to spread the Faith itself. More often, the goal is to build a context for sharing the Faith relationally.

I’m especially interested in those that have a potential to grow, or to be models others can copy. I’m less interested in projects that involve a lot of money – looking for those whose creators leverage small financial capital by investing labor, passion, time. Though I am delighted when a parish church does such things, I’m focusing on the work of laypeople, families, and groups of friends. I’m interested in your ideas and in initiatives that are/have been realized already.

Here are a few that have come to my attention: The movie “The Human Experience”; Sursum Corda renaissance polyphony ensemble; children’s choirs; Catholic community garden; catholicculture.org; lots of great Catholic magazines; Contemporary Religious Artists Association; Catholic Creatives Salon; wellreadmom.com; thewayofbeauty.org; Second Spring Associates; Catholic Voices; John Paul II Film Festival; Catholic New Media Conference; catholicartistsociety.org; G.K. Chesterton reading groups… what else should I know about???

Please help me discover and share ideas for Catholic Cultural Initiatives. Send contributions to charoster@yahoo.com. THANKS!

roundup* Now, what about the Round-Up?? April Fool’s Day caught us all by surprise, judging from the lack of blog links in my mailbox. Since I’m also Facebook-fasting for Lent, I wasn’t able to goose you there. Here’s your heads-up: Send me the link to your favorite blog post (your own) from the period March 1 – April 14 and I’ll place the Round-Up in my March 16 post. Please let others know they’ve still got time to share a post in this next CWG Member Blog collection.

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: March 31, 2014

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

Ephesians 5:8-14
You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; behave as children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and uprightness and truth. Try to discover what the Lord wants of you, take no part in the futile works of darkness but, on the contrary, show them up for what they are. The things which are done in secret are shameful even to speak of; but anything shown up by the light will be illuminated and anything illuminated is itself a light. That is why it is said: Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

The power of prayer and the power of people praying.

MARCH INTENTION PRAYER 

EZEKIAL 34:11-13

For the Lord Yahweh says this: “Look, I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it. As a shepherd looks after his flock when he is with his scattered sheep, so shall I look after my sheep. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered on the day of clouds and darkness. I shall bring them back from the peoples where they are; I shall gather them back from the countries and bring them back to their own land.” I shall pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the inhabited parts of the country.”

Please leave a comment with your intention. If you have problems adding an intention, email it to Mike Hays at coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add it.  God bless.

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