Monday’s Writing Tips – Your Office!

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Last week I went over all the many ways we sabotage ourselves by not taking our writing seriously. This week I would like to share some of the ways you can remedy that. First you have to get rid of all the doubts and fears that you’ve been carrying around in your head. There is something strange about artists. They seem to always need someone else’s adulation and approval. As a nurse, I had to get a degree. In order to be officially recognized as a nurse, I had to pass a test. When I passed that test, I got a license stating that I was a Registered Nurse in the state of New Jersey.

Do you think any of that made me a good nurse? Oh, it gave me the knowledge and skills I needed to care for my patients. It didn’t teach me to care. My license didn’t teach me the instinct to know when something wasn’t right and needed attention. My degree didn’t give me the heart to drag my tired self down the hall to check on a patient just one more time. You can’t teach someone to be a nurse. It is born in them.

Too bad writers can’t get a license to prove to publishers, bookstores, and mainly themselves that they are writers. However, talent is not easily defined. I know many people who have English or Literature degrees who couldn’t write an interesting paragraph if their life depended on it. I know high-school drop-outs and many people to whom English is a second language who floor me with their talent. So what makes one a writer? Like nursing, I believe it is a calling, a gift from God.

However, we doubt our gift. We deny the very spirit that moves us to conger stories and create characters. I only know one thing.   If you don’t think of yourself as a writer, no one else will. If you don’t take your writing seriously, why should anyone else?

So how do you think of yourself as a writer? I want you to take two simple steps this week. First, I want you to tell everyone who asks or anyone you meet that you are a writer. Aren’t you? Announce to that family member who wants to keep you in a well-defined box that you’ve broken out of the box. Let them know you have launched a new career. If you meet someone new and they ask you what you do for a living, tell them that you’re an author. You may be surprised at how interested and accepting people are. Those fears and doubts are in your own mind.

Why am I telling you to do this? Not to convince others, but to convince yourself. There’s something about hearing your own voice say something that makes it accepted truth. Go ahead, plunge forward with courage.

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Secondly, I want you to create an office. In 2012 I watched a documentary on the author Nora Roberts. What caught my attention was her office. She had dedicated a room in her home to her writing. She had a beautiful wrap-a-round wooden desk. She had shelves that contained all her novels and awards. She surrounded herself with reminders of her own success. It made her prolific. She spends six to nine hours a day in that office. Wow! Just like a real job!

It inspired me. I looked around and found a neglected loft space in my home. I had my husband pick up my childhood desk that was languishing in my mother’s attic. It was a dark wood Spanish style, with shelves that sat above it. I framed all the covers of my books and placed them on the shelves with inspiring plaques and any good reviews or awards I received beside them. I put up a bookcase with all my reference books, and  signed copies of my favorite novels and the novels that inspired me. I went to Wal-mart and purchased a comfortable swivel chair and wastebasket. I had my office!

That is your assignment. You are a real writer. If you don’t have an office – create one! Look around.  You deserve your own spot. Surround yourself with your success. Each day it will remind you who you are. If you already have an office, spruce it up. Renew your surroundings and you will renew your spirit.

Karen Kelly Boyce lives on a farm in NJ with her retired husband Michael. She has two grown children and two grandchildren. She is an award-winning novelist and writes a children’s series for Chesterton Press

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: October 19, 2014

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

Psalms 17: 1-6

Listen, Yahweh, to an upright cause, pay attention to my cry, lend an ear to my prayer, my lips free from deceit.From your presence will issue my vindication, your eyes fixed on what is right. You probe my heart, examine me at night, you test me by fire and find no evil. I have not sinned with my mouth as most people do. I have treasured the word from your lips, my steps never stray from the paths you lay down, from your tracks; so my feet never stumble. I call upon you, God, for you answer me; turn your ear to me, hear what I say.

The power of prayer and the power of people praying

OCTOBER INTENTION PRAYER 

Blessing of the Harvest
Our help is in the name of the Lord. Who has made heaven and earth. The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.
Almighty Lord God, You keep on giving abundance to men in the dew of heaven, and food out of the richness of the soil. We give thanks to Your most gracious majesty for the fruits of the field which we have gathered. We beg of You, in Your mercy, to bless our harvest, which we have received from Your generosity. Preserve it, and keep it from all harm. Grant, too, that all those whose desires You have filled with these good things may be happy in Your protection. May they praise Your mercies forever, and make use of the good things that do not last in such a way that they may not lose those goods that are everlasting, through Christ our Lord.

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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The Joyful Beggar by Louis de Wohl

The Joyful BeggarThe Joyful Beggar by Louis de Wohl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What is it with Louis de Wohl’s books? They’re like peanuts or popcorn. You just keep tossing back handfuls because they’re so good and go down so tastily.

I received The Joyful Beggar on a Saturday at noon in the mail. Sunday at noon I was 75% done. It really grabbed me, obviously. I should’ve expected that since I’ve had that reaction to de Wohl’s books before. They are consistently entertaining, historical fiction of saints and the times in which they lived.

I’m aware of the details of St. Francis’s life but have never felt much connection with this saint. I wondered if sinking deeper into his life could help my life as a Christian. That’s another of Louis de Wohl’s talents, by the way. Whether or not you feel a personal affinity for someone, he brings to light aspects of their lives that illuminate your own.

Sharp as a blade, the Pope’s mind put it all together. This beggar was a troubadour, a Minnesanger, as they called them in Germany, a “singer of love,” but for once here was one who was singing in praise of the Love of God.

“I am the poor woman in the desert,” Francis explained merrily. “And I trust my Lord, the King. he will look after my sons.”

A jester and a dancer; a beggar and a troubadour; a preacher, a monk, a teller of parables, and perhaps a saint: there was no end to the man. If Satan could distort the minds of many to preach against the Church in the name of purity, here was one who could preach for the Church in the same name; here was, perhaps, the antidote against the poison in the veins of Europe, the man to give fresh life to a world grown cold. And therefore this man could be, nay, was the one who held up the falling walls of the Church. And that was all Innocent wanted to know.

What I felt after reading this book was Francis’s joy in serving, his release from fear, his complete trust in God. I especially appreciated the way Francis connected Brother Sun and Sister Moon and all the other elements of his famous Canticle of the Sun with Jesus. It was that connection which made nature holy, the connection with our Lord in his Incarnation. Beautiful.

As always, de Wohl shows us the saint’s story through other imagined characters who have their own journeys to God. This is very useful for explaining the history and customs of the times. Quite often there is a contrast which layers meaning and context for the overall power of that particular saint. In this book there were both Clare of Assisi on her own journey to holiness and Roger of Vandria, continually striving to simply regain his ancestral lands. As they grow so do we.

“In that case, why not make a test?” Francis suggested. “Let a great fire be lighted before your tent, and these learned priests of yours and I will enter it. Then God may show which is the true faith.”

Roger gasped. If that was supposed to be a bluff, it was a very dangerous one. There were fanatics enough among Moslem priests, and at least some of them might accept the challenge.

The sultan glanced at his imams and mullahs. they looked a little vague, as if they had not understood the little dervish’s words, and one of them, standing at the back, began to move with great dignity toward the exit of the tent.

“I don’t think my priests are very likely to consent to this test of yours, little dervish,” Al Kamil said, smiling.

He’s got out of it, Roger thought, half relieved, half angry.

“Then I will enter the fire alone,” Francis said quietly, “If you promise for yourself and for your people that you will worship Christ if I come out of the fire unhurt.” After a little pause he added, “If I should be burned to death, it will be due only to my sins. But if God protects me, it is a clear sign of his holy will, and you must all accept Christ.

Now he has killed himself, Roger thought. This is too good a spectacle for the sultan to miss. The man is mad. He is a fanatic. He is magnificent. By all the angels and devils, he is the only crusader in the army. What a pity he is done for. Those priests will take him at his word, even if the sultan doesn’t.

Did I wind up best friends with Francis of Assisi? No. But we can’t be best friends with everyone. I did, however, wind up as more than a casual acquaintance with my own life enriched thanks to the story of the joyful beggar.

NOTE:
This is a review book from Ignatius Press. This opinion is my own, uninfluenced by anything as paltry as a free book. As anyone is well aware who reads this blog regularly.

For a good overview of the novels, take a look at Rose Trabbic’s piece Discovering the Novels of Louis de Wohl. Also well worth reading is Will Duquette’s review of The Citadel of God where he gives a concise commentary on de Wohl as an author, with which I completely agree.

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“Po Sunday” Welcome Katie O’Neil our NEW Assisant Po (etry) Editor

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Editor’s Note
As you can see, reinforcements have arrived.  We now have an assist for Poetry Sunday who has much better taste in poetry than I do as well as a great background.   She has lots of poetry suggestions swirling in her head already.  As you can observe in her screen shot, even the angels have blessed her with a smile from God in a recent trip to Niagra  Falls!

A Gospel of Autumn

 Across these leaves of gold,

Under the Autumn sun,

What solemn gospels are unrolled!

I read them one by one.

 

Behold how small a bud,

Tender, and frail, and brief,

But nourished by the trees sweet blood,

Is brought to perfect leaf!

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Behold, how frail a bough,

Its pliable, slim frame

Quite stiffened with the frost, is now

In leafage, all a-flame!

 

Lo! as the prophet heard

Of old, I clearly hear

From every burning bush God’s word

Outspoken to mine ear.

                      Charles Warren Stoddard

 

   THE ANGELS

They all have tired mouths
And luminous, illimitable souls;
And a longing (as if for sin)
Trembles at times through their dreams.

They all resemble one another,
In God’s garden they are silent
Like many, many intervals
In His mighty melody.

But when they spread their wings
They awaken the winds
That stir as though God
With His far-reaching master hands
Turned the pages of the dark book of Beginning.

                   Rainer Maria Rilke

 Katie attended McGill University in Montreal for a B.A. with honors in History.  She also focused on English literature and the Classics. Her main interests are music history and art history. Currently she assists on several technological and educational projects from private companies and universities. She prefers to be involved with several projects, many cultural. She is published in poetry and Art History.  We are lucky to have her at the CWG Poetry Space. Welcome Katie!

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No Place Like Home

Dorothy Smith surprised and blessed the heck out of my husband and me.  Homeless since her mother died in Hurricane Katrina, Dorothy is without a doubt one of the most “at home” people that Mark and I have ever encountered.

We met Dorothy two weeks ago in New Orleans, the night of our second anniversary.  After enjoying a celebratory meal of authentic Italian food in the French Quarter, we decided to take a stroll along the “Moon Walk,” the scenic walkway atop the levee that runs adjacent to the Mississippi River.  We had just sat down on a bench to watch the ships pass by on the moonlit river when a large rat ran by, perching itself in the grass about ten feet away from us.  When the rat peeked its head out from the green blades to look directly at us, I expressed my consternation that there were rats running around on the Moon Walk.   On that note, Dorothy Smith plopped herself down right beside us.

“He’s just one of God’s creatures, and he needs to eat, just like everyone else,” Dorothy said with a knowing smile on her face that indicated her personal familiarity with the river rodents.   Within minutes, we were engaged in a full-blown conversation with Dorothy, and I had a feeling that we weren’t in Kansas anymore.  Nope.  It was clear we were over the rainbow.

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Dorothy shared that had been a school bus driver for many years, and had lived with her mother until the waters of Katrina “swept Mama away.” Katrina left her Mama dead, and Dorothy, severely traumatized by the tragedy, began to have “delusions.”

“Mama was all I had, and I’ve been on the street ever since,” Dorothy shared openly.  “But I don’t want for nothing, because the blood of Jesus covers me and God takes care of me,” she said with deep conviction.

We asked Dorothy where she sleeps at night, and she told us she stays mostly at “Camp Katrina” on Congress Street, “where Ms. Rose gives us homeless people a bed, a shower and a hot meal.  I need thirty five dollars to stay there for three days,” she said without a hint of suggestion in her voice.

“And you know what? God always sends an angel to give me the money.”

Minutes later, Mark took his wallet out to offer help—only to learn that it had in it exactly the thirty-five dollars that Dorothy needed to secure a bed and food for the next three nights. Dorothy asked if we could give her a ride back to Camp Katrina, and we were happy to comply.  Though I wouldn’t normally allow a stranger into our car, especially in the French Quarter, there was something about Dorothy that spoke of real goodness.  I knew there was nothing to fear.

“Mama raised me in the Church and taught me to love God,” she disclosed as we rode through the dark streets at ten o’clock at night.  “Most days, I sit in St. Louis Cathedral for hours on end praying,” she continued.  “I know God will take care of me,” she said smiling as she exited the car.  “He always does.”

Dorothy thanked us graciously as she stepped onto the street in front of Camp Katrina, returning to the only place on earth she can remotely call home.  But it was obvious that Dorothy knows she has another home—a home that can be counted on to last, come what may.  

Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”  (John 14:23)

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Need More Space?

monks prayingAs I prayed the Divine Office, I realized I was missing something important. When I pray alone, I tend to forget the call-and-response rhythm of the psalms. A more conscious effort to place the pause within each couplet, instead of between couplets restores the sense that I am praying with others, with the Church. This effort to overcome my tendency to make each psalm a ‘run-on sentence’ led to an ‘Aha!’ moment.

This taking of a deep breath at each asterisk within couplets reminds me to take in the grace I need within the difficult moments, the demanding moments, the purposeful moments of my life. Instead of pausing when finished with a task, resting from an ordeal, or finally past an obstacle, I need to open up and wait upon the Lord ‘in the middle’ – in the midst.

Next time you pray the Office (and the sooner, the better!) try making this tiny change and you’ll find new spaces opening up within your full and busy life.

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Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious by Pat Gohn

Pat Gohn, cancer survivor, celebrates womanhood by exploring a woman’s dignity, gifts and mission with exciting, personal stories. Discovering the gift of her womanhood brought her into a deeper relationship with God, her husband, family, and, to her surprise, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Her formation in life and the faith revolved around music. Garage band guitar music.  When she gave her heart to Jesus Christ at a retreat, she realized God was inviting her to use her guitar playing and writing gifts for his purposes. In three words: Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious, she helps us discover who we are and what gifts we have that reflect our innate and eternal beauty.

Blessed is a sublime dignity we did not earn. “God configures us to be like Christ, the beloved Son. We are beloved daughters not only like Jesus inidentity, but also in action. We are called to behave like him, too. Like spiritual DNA, grace enables us to forgive, to reconcile, to heal, and ultimately love like Jesus. We. Were. Made. For. This.”

Beautiful means women are uniquely endowed with gifts of receptivity, generosity, sensitivity and maternity. When we trust these gifts, we become beautiful from the inside out. As we exercise our gifts, beauty always emerges.

  • Receptivity means our bodies and souls are designed to receive God and others. God cultivated a spirit of receptivity in Pat through her marriage, motherhood and her struggle to understand and emulate Mary as the handmaid of the Lord. “When I trusted God wholeheartedly, I found joy in my role. It’s almost as if I could pray alongside Mary that, ‘He who is mighty has done great things for me.’ Indeed, he had.”
  • Generosity empowers our receptivity. My favorite chapter was “Making a Gift of Yourself,” where Pat writes, If receptivity is one of our greatest feminine gifts found in the nature of our womanhood, then generosity is the gift that empowers it. Generosity’s actions and dispositions are the way we demonstrate the largesse and lavishness of God’s love in ours.
  • Sensitivity is seeing with our hearts, and not just our eyes, the hidden dignity of others with compassion, affection, care and mercy. “Like those superhero superpowers, some women have become very highly attuned, with a kind of x-ray vision of the hearts around them.”
  • Maternity involves both physical and spiritual motherhood. Mary and the nurturing women in her life spiritually mothered Pat through her pregnancies and years of motherhood. She would later learn that this spiritual motherhood is the deepest and most challenging calling of every woman. Spiritual motherhood “is about becoming a woman of holy influence, being a life-giver to others.”

“Bodaciousness is maternity magnified. Bodacious women are those whose lives have the most purpose and meaning when they give their love away and when their love takes shape in others.” They embody physical and spiritual motherhood, characterized by bodacious fullness, an all-in willingness to lay one’s life down for the sake of another in small and large ways. They do this in sync with the Church.

Pat writes that, with the sexual revolution, contraception and access to abortion desensitizes many women, closing our receptivity, limiting our generosity, blunting our sensitivity and sterilizing our maternity. God’s grace can restore our maternal gift spiritually, if not physically. She concludes. “Our bodacious calling —our maternal mission—is our role in the new evangelization that the Church must take on. The time is now for women to shine their light and love as guardians of life.”

(Review © 2014 Nancy H C Ward)

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Monday’s Writing Tips – Are You Burying Your Talent?

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Are you a professional writer? The definition of being a professional is being paid for your work. Technically if you have received as little as $5 or a free yearly subscription to a magazine for a short story, you are a professional writer. If you don’t believe me, just ask the I.R.S.!

However, that’s not the definition I think is important. I want to know if you think of yourself as a professional writer. Do you believe in your talent? When I first started writing and had some success with short stories and articles being published, I remained silent about my work.  If I did mention my work, family and friends made comments like, “Oh what a cute hobby,” or, “It’s good to keep yourself busy, no sense getting bored.”  I smiled and nodded. I couldn’t answer them correctly. Why? Because I thought exactly like them.

It was as if I were embarrassed to say I was a writer or an author. It seemed so presumptuous.  After all, I wasn’t supporting myself with the small amounts of money I made. I wasn’t Stephen King who made millions spinning scary tales. I didn’t see myself winning awards. To me the true authors walked the red carpet while their novel was being turned into a Hollywood blockbuster. The real writers had well-known names and books lingering on the Times best-seller lists.  I didn’t think of myself as a true writer.  I didn’t believe in the gift that God had given me.

What are the signs that you don’t believe in your talent:

  • When people asked what I did or what my job was, I told them that I was a retired nurse. Somehow being a nurse was an accepted occupation. Being a writer seemed to be a pie-in-the-sky idea (pardon the cliché). Are you doing something similar?
  • When friends or family called and needed my time and attention, or even just my company for a social outing, I dropped my writing schedule. After all, my writing was not as important as real life. Are you doing the same?
  • I had no schedule for my writing. It came last. First came the farm work, cleaning, cooking etc.  Even grocery shopping came before my writing time. I couldn’t give myself permission to write unless the house was spotless and the meals all prepared.  I couldn’t excuse myself to write unless I fulfilled everyone else’s expectations of me. Are you putting everything else first?
  • I couldn’t even tell my friends or family that I couldn’t linger on the phone. When they asked me if I was too busy to talk I always said no. Even when I got up the courage to tell them that I was writing, the usual response was “Oh! Okay then listen to this!” Are you answering the phone?
  • I allowed myself to be the volunteer for every good work being done in my parish or my children’s school. I helped everyone else with the ministry that God had placed on their heart. After all, I decided, aren’t we supposed to help everyone else? Isn’t that what Jesus said? I did their paper work, wrote their ads, and produced their brochures to promote their needs. After all, they had a mission and I didn’t. Are you writing for everyone else’s ministries?
  • I had no special place for my writing. I would travel around the house with my laptop, looking for a quiet place where the TV wasn’t blasting and I wasn’t in anyone’s way. Do you have your own space?
  • I didn’t have a schedule for my work. I would squeeze time in here and there. Even though I usually can’t write at night because my brain is too tired, I wouldn’t carve out morning time for myself unless no one wanted me for something else. Do you stick to a schedule?

The really sad part of this is that I was not appreciating the gift that God gave me. He knew me before I was born. He created me with a special talent that I was burying. In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus teaches :

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

22And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.

29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Some day we will stand before God and answer for how we used what he gave us. For the next few Mondays, let’s talk about becoming serious about our work. After all, it is His work.

Karen Kelly Boyce lives on a farm in NJ with her retired husband Michael. She has two grown children and two grandchildren. She is an award-winning novelist and writes a children’s series for Chesterton Press

Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing | 3 Comments

CWG Prayer Chain Post: October 12, 2014

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

Isaiah 25:6-10
On this mountain, for all peoples, Yahweh Sabaoth is preparing a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines, of succulent food, of well-strained wines. On this mountain, he has destroyed the veil which used to veil all peoples, the pall enveloping all nations; he has destroyed death for ever. Lord Yahweh has wiped away the tears from every cheek; he has taken his people’s shame away everywhere on earth, for Yahweh has spoken.  And on that day, it will be said, ‘Look, this is our God, in him we put our hope that he should save us, this is Yahweh, we put our hope in him. Let us exult and rejoice since he has saved us.’ For Yahweh’s hand will rest on this mountain, and Moab will be trodden under his feet as straw is trodden into the dung-heap.

The power of prayer and the power of people praying

OCTOBER INTENTION PRAYER 

Blessing of the Harvest
Our help is in the name of the Lord. Who has made heaven and earth. The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.
Almighty Lord God, You keep on giving abundance to men in the dew of heaven, and food out of the richness of the soil. We give thanks to Your most gracious majesty for the fruits of the field which we have gathered. We beg of You, in Your mercy, to bless our harvest, which we have received from Your generosity. Preserve it, and keep it from all harm. Grant, too, that all those whose desires You have filled with these good things may be happy in Your protection. May they praise Your mercies forever, and make use of the good things that do not last in such a way that they may not lose those goods that are everlasting, through Christ our Lord.

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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The American Catholic Almanac by Brian Burch and Emily Stimpson

The American Catholic Almanac: A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United StatesThe American Catholic Almanac: A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States by Brian Burch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a sucker for daily readers whether they are devotionals, writings of the saints, or historical almanacs. So if you combine American History with Catholicism naturally I’m going to be interested. I grew even more interested when a cursory glance revealed that General Longstreet, Buffalo Bill, and General Sherman were all Catholics. I did know that John Wayne became Catholic but not that famed director, and Wayne’s longtime friend, John Ford was Catholic. Some of these famous men were more devout than others, some were late comers to the faith, but Catholicism helped define who each of them were.

The American Catholic Almanac by Brian Burch and Emily Stimpson looks not only at famous Catholics but at famous people who flirted with the faith in one way or another (Ronald Reagan and Mark Twain among them) although they never went all the way. It also tells us about people and events who are much less known but should be remembered by all of us today.

I was really interested to see how many “modern” hot button topics were a struggle for Catholics much earlier in our history. Separation of church and state became a Catholic issue in 1828 when schismatic priests appealed to President Andrew Jackson complaining the pope was acting like a “sovereign ruler.” Nuns of today who shed their habits as a sign of “freedom” might be surprised to learn that in 1843 the Sisters of Mercy longed for the freedom to wear their habits but had to wear secular clothing because of the prevalent anti-Catholicism. The eugenics enthusiasts of 1927 would be openly approving of today’s ability to test for such things as Down’s Syndrome and would approve even more of the modern trend to abort any baby who the test shows might have it. We haven’t really progressed as far as we’d like to think in that area. And those who lambast today’s courts for not holding the high ideals of old times, might be surprised to learn that the Supreme Court supported Virginia’s eugenics law with only one justice, a Catholic, dissenting. The authors don’t make those comparisons for us, by the way. They leave us to draw our own conclusions and simply present the facts for our perusal.

It’s not all serious, of course. In addition to tales of the famous people I mentioned above, there are stories of explorers, tales of churches, celebrations of faithful Catholics, and reminders of those who were not a credit to the faith. There is no telling when something will pop up to remind you how you are connected to the faith throughout our history and across our country. I was surprised to learn there is a cathedral in Dodge City, Kansas, where I lived for a year and a minor basilica in Victoria, Kansas. My husband and I were interested to read about the founding of St. Mary’s in Galveston, Texas, because that is the church his grandmother fled to as a child during the devastating 1900 hurricane. It stood and she survived.

Speaking of my husband, I must praise the cover for this book which caught his attention and made him begin perusing it. He’s not given to reading about Catholicism but this grounding of it in American history is right down his alley. Chalk one up for the value of having a printed book around to pique interest and keep him asking, “Who is it about today?” when he sees me pick it up for breakfast reading.

The one flaw is that it needs an index. There are a few appendices but if you want to find Sherman or Longstreet or Edgar Allen Poe then you’ve got to page through the book hoping they aren’t too buried in the pages. Hopefully there will be a reprinting and this lack can be rectified.

Regardless of the lack of an index, this is a really great book and I highly recommend it.

NOTE
I received a review e-book and print copy of this work. My comments, as readers here know, are solely my own opinion.

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