Advent Hope: The Pathway Through the Heart


God cut a highway right through Bernie Klein’s heart, an artery that could give him life.   Not surprisingly, that’s where Love seeped in. “I died and I clearly remember it,” Bernie told me after waking up from a six-week coma … Continue reading

Posted in Advent, Faith, Hope, Near-Death Experience | 2 Comments

I’m With the Pope on Pets

Victoria Ryan is a writer who has done quite a bit when it comes to the critters of the world.  CWG presents her op ed here on what is purported to be the latest comments by the Pope.  It’s widely reported that the way his remarks on animals and heaven were quoted, were grossly inaccurate. What else is new for the media?  CWG neither supports or negates her thoughts.  None the less they are something to think about.  Her comments are below and could wind up being a conversation starter for you!




I understand that there are two sides to the controversy surrounding Pope Francis’ comments about pets in heaven, among them ‘Can animals choose right from wrong (do they have souls)’ and ‘If animals have souls, can we eat them?’ To me, the argument compares apples and oranges: one side seeing heaven as a theological structure and the other seeing heaven as a paradise structure  If I was called upon to settle the argument, I would look at both sides and say unequivocally, “Yes! Pets indeed go to heaven.” Here are some of my reasons:

1. Pets are part of creation, specifically named in Genesis as being created by God and found to be good by Him just as the sky, sea, and man were created and found to be good. Why would God throw away part of His good creation?

2.. Animals are part of the story of salvation. God saved the animals along with Noah. God used Jonah and the whale to make a point. In the end times the “lion will lie down with the lamb”and angels will ride horses to deliver the sequence of terrors. Sometimes, loving an animal puts a person on the road to loving humans. Oh, yes, it is easy to see that God has a salvation purpose, a ministry, for pets.

3. For pet owners, heaven wouldn’t be much of a paradise without their pets. Even though God’s love should be enough for us, do any of us think that we’ll be happy in heaven without our loved ones? Pets are part of our loved ones.

4.  If you have never had a pet  keep vigil at your bedside when you were sick, or dig up a bone and give it to you as you cried in grief, or run to get help if you  couldn’t move then you may not understand that pets can and do make decisions–and they make them based on love. They have souls; the nature of which God knows. Just because we don’t know it doesn’t make it untrue.

Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains unawakened. Anonymous

(For more information see On the Book Shelf at Fish Sticks/

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The Obvious Lie

          Here we are in the midst of Advent and doing our best to “hold it together”.  All we have to do is look around and be overwhelmed by the things that are aimed at getting us to notice them: that advertised sale that we’ll miss if we hesitate, that Christmas Concert we promised to attend to see the neighbor kids, the little kids pageant, the Choir concert, the awesome decorations/lights in the fancy neighborhood, the Christmas parade, the windows downtown.  Whoa!  It seems that there is a never ending list of things that compete for our scrutiny in these days of celebration. Needless to say, the clamor and running to and fro are simply exhausting.  It seems like the whole world is making a bid for our personal consideration. 

          The pull of things of the season is powerful beyond words.  It’s so strong, as a matter of course, that it literally leaves us no choice but to obey the impetus.  There is no time to think only time to “keep up” in order to get to the next event or check off one more thing on the holiday to do list.  Answer these questions; “Which shopping excursion or attendance at one more social obligation has given you the most peace?”, “How much time have you spent contemplating the birth of Jesus this Advent?”, “How much time have you spent with your family observing Advent together?”

If you’re like the rest of us, your answers are most likely in the negative.   Isn’t it interesting that in this season that hinges on the birth of Jesus we are all drawn to see everything that has nothing to do with our Savior?  We are completely convinced to move away from intimacy with God and His Son by virtue of our own eyes.  What we see completely hijacks our thinking, praying, praising, celebration of the living God while visions of candy canes, elves and toys to be purchased dance in our heads. It’s the lie of what is most obvious around us.

          Scripture teaches us this:  “We are not discouraged:  … our inner self is being renewed day by day. … as we look not to what is seen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinth 4:16, 18)

If you were a student of the “old” catechism you might be familiar with a term which was used in that teaching: “The custody of the eyes.”   Who’s in charge of what you take in with your eyes?   When we take in things with our vision they literally imprint our spirit in an unspeakable and permanent way.  That’s why we are warned to guard our vision.  What we see can literally out-compete the unseen things that our soul is craving for.  We need to be constantly aware of that.  As a Catholic writer you need to be especially aware of the balance between what you see and what gets created on the page in front of you.  As a person who has been given the gift of public declaration what are you doing during this season of light? Are you the voice calling people to pay attention to what they see around them or are you the one who teaches folks to stop and seek those things that can’t be seen?   Which is the greater gift?  You decide!

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: December 14, 2014

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

 Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54

And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; because he has looked upon the humiliation of his servant. Yes, from now onwards all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, and his faithful love extends age after age to those who fear him. He has filled the starving with good things, sent the rich away empty. He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his faithful love.

 The power of prayer and the power of people praying


O Come All Ye Faithful

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God’s holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

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

Chastity is for Lovers by Arleen Spenceley

Chastity Is for Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a VirginChastity Is for Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin by Arleen Spenceley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For some people, the chaste life can raise a daunting question — a question a friend and fellow blogger brought up once in an interview: “Do you ever worry that one day you’ll wake up and discover you are forty-five, still single, and past your sexual prime?”

I don’t. In order to worry about that, I would need to believe the purpose of sex is pleasure and that we all better get some while the gettin’ is good. I don’t believe either of those things. I believe that whether a person ever has sex isn’t that important. What’s more important is why a person has sex, and in what context. But because I don’t worry about passing my sexual prime doesn’t mean I don’t worry at all. I do worry sometimes, but what I worry about is whether I write about this stuff with enough clarity. If I don’t, and a couple of decades from now I’m still a virgin, I’d guess many people who’ve read what I’ve written will call my single life “proof” that the chaste lifestyle doesn’t work. But the goal of saving sex isn’t marriage. The goal of saving sex is saving sex (not putting it off, but redeeming it). Some people who save sex get married and some don’t.

I’m not the target market for this book but I know lots of young women who are. That’s what made me flip through the book. I kept coming across sections that caught my attention and made me want to know the rest of the story. I finally realized that I was going to have to read this book even if it wasn’t aimed at me. Which says a lot about how personable this author is. And, let’s face it, if I knew people in the target market then I needed to know what this author’s saying because it could come up in conversation. Such are the times in which we live.

This point was underlined just a week later when I was at a big party. A friend and I began talking about our daughters, which led naturally to discussing their dating and marriage prospects. A Catholic mother, she confided that one of her daughter’s biggest struggles was that she was a 29-year-old who continually was being embarrassed or annoyed by having to defend her decision to remain a virgin until marriage.

“Say no more,” I told her. “I will bring you a book that she’s going to love.”

That made me move from flipping through to reading with interest before I passed the book on. It was just as good as I’d thought. It was funny, interesting, sensible, and written with clarity and grace. I’d also say that you don’t have to be Catholic to like it. Most of it is going to be something that any Christian interested in chastity is going to relate to.

Definitely recommended.

Read Sarah Reinhard’s interview with Arleen Spenceley at the National Catholic Register.

This was a free review book. I read it in spite of that. Liked it (a lot) anyway.

Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing | 1 Comment

Breaking Into Joy: Meditations for Living in the Love of Christ – Book Review by Michael Seagriff

The refrains of “O Come Let Us Adore Him” reverberate through many of our churches and communities this Advent season. For many, this is the most joyful time of year, filled with hope and love and thoughts that go beyond oneself and that seek to touch the hearts of others. But is it an authentic joy?

Truth be told, a sense of joy is absent from so many of us during the rest of the year. We are called to be joyful people, every day, regardless of the individual circumstances and daily struggles of our lives. Not easy to do, admittedly. We can never be truly joyful if we rely solely on ourselves.

Our joyful, smiling faces have far greater power to draw others to the Lord we love than the scowl or frown so frequently found on many of our faces.

We must be a joyful people! God commands this of us and provides us with the graces to do so. But we have to desire and accept those graces. But how do we change our frowns into smiles amidst the toils and even injustices of this life? How do we live authentic joyful lives?

Let the noted and highly respected author Anne Costa provide you with a daily guide designed to encourage and equip you with the spiritual outlook, tools, and homework God will use to transform you into the joyful person He has always intended you to be.

As well-written and inspiring as all of her other writings, Breaking Into Joy: Meditations for Living in the Love of Christ is a must-have book, one you will want to purchase for those you love. It can become a lifetime companion.

Like many, I struggle with discouragement from time to time and have frowned my way through trying days. When I act that way, I do a disservice to the Lord I love and those He wishes me to draw toward Him. Anne has equipped me, and the many more like me, to forget the frown and radiate the joy we are so blessed to receive from God.

Don’t wait. Get your copy of Breaking Into Joy: Meditations for Living in the Love of Christ.

I highly recommend this book and cannot wait to see the army of smiling, joyful Christian warriors this book will muster!

CWG member Michael Seagriff is a Lay Dominican and author of “Forgotten Truths to Set Faith Afire!” His personal blog is Harvesting the Fruits of Contemplation.

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Thank you, Committee Chairs!

For my first post as the new Chairman of Committees here’s the latest progress and needs report from our hard working committee chairs. Keep these men and women in your prayers as you enjoy the benefits of CWG they help make possible. We can’t thank them enough!

Blog: Jennifer Fitz reports they are holding steady. Good job, Jen!

CALA (Catholic Arts and Letters Award): Michelle Buckman and Ellen Gable Hrkach report that CALA Awards will skip a year before the next award in 2016. MeanwhileMichelle plans to contact several universities before the semester is out to see if they can interestcampus writing club members in joining CWG and to let them know about the CALA. The goal for 2015 is to make announcements in Catholic publications about the CALA as well.

Catholic Book News: Ellen Gable Hrkach is looking for someone to facilitate this committee. Are you the bookworm to grab this great opportunity?

CWCO (Catholic Writers Conference Online): Laura Lowder and Karina Fabian searched for software for webinar software to replace the outdated chat room format and to add sound. Webinar technology has become much easier for presenters and attendees. Attendees can attend via phone or VoIP, and presenters can create more polished presentations and talk through their lectures instead of posting printed material. Their search has been narrowed down to two finalists for further testing. The results determine the timing of the Catholic Writers Conference Online.

Educational Committee: Dennis McGeehan needs someone to help him facilitate this important committee. Any takers?

Facebook: Karina Fabian reports, “Thanks to member feedback, we’ve expanded the daily topics and have put some stricter rules to cut down on people over-posting about their blogs, home businesses or book sales. It caused a lull in posts at first, but people are start other related conversations now.

Public Relations: This committee is looking for a chairperson.

Retreat: (Seasonal) Ann Margaret Lewis and Margaret Realy report that Ken Ogorek will be speaking at the retreat. He’s Director of Catechesis in Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The Catholic Writers Retreat will be held Oct. 25-29, 2015, at the St. Francis Retreat Center.

Seal of Approval:  Sarah Reinhard and her committee are gearing up for a new year. Interested in evaluating for the committee?  All you need to do is commit to reading at least oncebook per quarter. Training provided by Ellen Gable Hrkach.

Zenit: Dennis P. McGeehan has an opening to help select CWG posts to submit to Zenit. Could that be you?

Contact these Committee Chairs and give them a shout-out for their diligence during 2014. Let’s look for ways to support them as they labor behind the scenes to keep the wheels on the CWG bus rolling into 2015.

Keep the Chairs in your Prayers!

Posted in CWG Needs Volunteers | 4 Comments

Congratulations to our Newly-Elected Officers

It’s my pleasure to announce that elections have closed, and the Catholic Writers Guild has a new slate of officers for December 2014 – November 2015.  Several of the board members are staying on for another term, and two new volunteers have stepped up to serve:

President: Ellen Gable Hrkach
Vice President: Arthur Powers
Committee Coordinator: Nancy Ward
Treasurer: Ann Lewis
Secretary: Dave Law

For those who are unaware, the officers do a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes to keep the Catholic Writers Guild going.  If you are a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and are interested joining the leadership team, speak up.  Now is the time to begin working on a committee or as an assistant to one of the officers, so that you can learn the workings of the CWG and be ready to stand for office next fall.

Posted in Catholic Writers Guild | 3 Comments

Big-Hearted Families, Inspiring Stories from everyday families

 by Patti Armstrong and Theresa Thomas

“I joined with (cancer survivor) and mother of nine, Theresa Thomas to write Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families,” Patti told me. “This collection of 22 stories is a recipe for happiness and love for families of any size.  We’ve included some of our own stories including how my family came to include 2 AIDS orphans from Kenya.  Big Hearted is a glimpse inside the struggles and joys of ordinary families with generous hearts.”

Big hearts that welcome life are not just in large families. Sometimes big-heartedness comes as the family deals with a tragedy such as miscarriage, infertility, alcoholism or financial devastation regardless of family size. “When a family opens its collective heart to love one another fully, there is no end to the gifts that God will bestow,” Patti said.

Big-heartedness develops in us when pressed into service by a calling. The prayer of an orphan from Kenya to go to school in America. The decision to reverse a vasectomy.  The passion for adopting the autistic boy who always acts out. The care of a baby with both cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy for his short life.

The dynamism of impractically large families demonstrates how God cares for everyone in the family in how the college-age siblings provide security and protection to the toddlers and role models for every sibling in between. Or how the children taught the parents that Christmas is not about presents but family traditions, creating homemade gifts together, and the joy of giving of themselves.

Among the stories of grandparents, my favorite showed how children instinctively know how to respond to elderly parents, failing in mind and body. In doing so, the children learn a lesson in the value of the cross.

A father shares his relentless pursuit to learn to love a deformed daughter as God loves us and sees her emerge as the heart of the family. Another father begins to experience doubts about his faith when his 35-year-old wife became pregnant with their seventh child. He asked God for a sign of his will, and that changed everything, but not the way he wanted.

A mother explains how a 3,000-mile road trip with ten children changed from the myth that it was impossible to a feast of memories. The journey taught them all that it is no sacrifice to be surrounded by those that love us, for with God all things are possible, even if not entirely easy.

A family who had to move 13 times from one rent house to another questioned their ability to give their 6 children a sense of safety and security. A priest assured them that true security comes only from trusting God, and their children were totally secure within their family. After their seventh child, God provided an inheritance and they bought a home of their own. Another family dealt with the unplanned pregnancy of their daughter by giving her the experience of God the Father’s merciful love for us.

In one of several stories about former career women, one mother had to drop her perfectionism when she dropped her career, along with her idea of success and fear of rejection.

Many of the families accepted foster children, often adopting them even though they realized that they were powerless to heal the child of their heart. It was all up to God to resolve the misbehavior, the child’s fears and handicaps, the lack of resources or the outcome of surgery.

Patti and Theresa encourage their readers to “Choose God’s will. Love profusely. Be big-hearted. And then see how our almighty God, who is the same now as always, blesses you again and again.”

(Scepter Publishers, Inc. 2013)

Posted in Book Review, Inspirational | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Monday’s Writing Tips – “Let it Go!”


I bet you cringed when you saw those three words! My granddaughter has be singing the song from the movie Frozen non-stop. However, when it comes to your writing I want you to remember those words.

I think I need to explain something before I begin this article. I am a writer. I am not an editor. They are two separate gifts and skills. However, as a writer, I need to edit my work as best I can before I submit it to anyone. It is the sign of a professional and I learned this the hard way. Let me tell you my story.

Most of my working life, I worked as a registered nurse. I could give you the meaning of all the medical abbreviations, and muddle through the most illegible handwriting to figure out what the doctors wanted me to do. However, as my nursing career was coming to an end, I started fooling around with writing. I wrote some magazine articles, and to my surprise they were published. This encouraged me. After a detailed dream, I decided to write a novel based on the dream. The story was fascinating. The tale followed three woman and how God touched them.  As their stories intertwined, they each learned humility in different ways. I was so excited.

However, at that time, Catholic fiction was not very popular, so imagine my surprise when I found a secular publisher. The dilemma was that he was a small publisher and I had to edit it myself. The sad thing was that I believed I could do it! I couldn’t afford to pay a professional editor, nor do I think I even knew how to find one. I did the best I could. I had my friends look at it, and being friends, not editors, they assured me that it was great.  Bleary-eyed and unskilled at editing, I tried to make it perfect. The publisher went over it. When it was published, I was so proud! Almost as proud as when my babies were born.

That pride soon turned into shame. People started telling me that they loved the story, but had trouble with all the typos and errors. Looking over the now-published volume, I found error after error. It was too late to pull it back. It was out there and it is probably still floating around in online cyberspace. It is something I will always regret, and it so embarrassed me that I almost gave up writing. Luckily for me, not for him, the publisher went out of business. I was able to have the manuscript professionally edited, and I self-published the new version.

I never, ever want you to experience what I did, so I am going to devote the next few weeks to sharing what I have learned along the way.

The first thing I want to teach you is that once you finish your first draft, you need to put it away. File it on your computer and let it leave your mind. This is not an easy thing to do. You have lived with your manuscript for so long -  you want to rush to the second draft. Don’t do it. In fact, if you can wrap your writing mind around something else, it is best to forget about your manuscript for a few weeks. I take this time to read the books that have been piling up on my nightstand waiting for  reviews. Reading someone else’s work gets me absorbed in other tales and helps me forget the work that awaits me.

Why does this help? Because I have been so close to my work that I would never see an error if it smacked me right in the kisser. Once I have been away from the manuscript for a few weeks, I am always shocked by the mistakes I find. I have fresh eyes. I have learned that initially I read what I think I have written. After a few weeks, I read what I actually wrote.

So before you begin to edit your work, leave it alone. Yes, let it go!  Step One of successful editing is to let it be for a while! Don’t skip this step! Give your mind a rest and we will start the hard work next week!

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