Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Summer Evening Book Chat

I had such a fun time a couple of weeks ago speaking to a wonderful group of young ladies and their mothers at Christ the King Catholic Church in Ann Arbor, MI. I spoke about the communion of saints, Catholic fiction for children, St. Therese, the Little Way, and how blessed we are to have our saint friends in heaven to intercede for us. I had suggested young readers bring any questions they might have, and I was pleased to answer not only readers' questions, but their mothers' questions as well! It was a lovely summer evening chatting about our beautiful Catholic faith.

Afterward, I signed copies of Olivia and the Little Way, Olivia's Gift, and The Gate.  One reader handed me her copy of Olivia and the Little Way and I was pleased to see it appeared to be so well read! Dog-eared pages, underlined passages, and such are the signs of a well-loved book, and that makes an author especially happy!  I really enjoyed having the opportunity to chat one on one with everyone. I left feeling very uplifted and I hope everyone else did as well. Thank you, Christ the King Church, for making me feel so welcome!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

What a Crazy World We Live In

There's a lot of talk lately in the media about respect...or the lack thereof. People lack respect for their elders, teachers, law enforcement, priests, and just...everyone. Proper respect seems to be taking a nosedive everywhere. At my parish, I've heard people address our pastor by his first name. Can you imagine walking up to a priest and saying, "Hey, Bill"? So strange. So disrespectful. So WEIRD.

The other day I was listening to a Catholic satellite radio show in the car. The host is supposed to be a funny, hip Catholic guy, "just one of the guys," and invites guests onto his show to shoot the breeze. I don't normally tune in but my son and I were in the car and we turned the radio on. It was our first time listening to him. He had a guest on the show, a speaker on the Catholic circuit. They were chatting amiably about an idea the host seemed to think was extraordinarily clever: a "new" set of mysteries to add to the Holy Rosary. He called it the "mundane mysteries" and he had put a shout-out earlier for listener suggestions. Who could come up with the funniest "mystery?" He was interested in knowing what parts of Jesus' daily life would be mundane or boring, that we could all relate to, and if they were funny enough, he would (tongue in cheek, of course) include them as a new decade of mysteries! I raised an eyebrow but said nothing, not sure how the conversation would go.  I like to think I have a good sense of humor and can laugh at lots of things. I figured I shouldn't rush to judgement, it was a Catholic radio show on a well-known Catholic satellite station; how bad could it be? 

The host proceeded to read the suggestions put forth from these callers to which his guest would give a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down response. They ranged from "Jesus makes a sandwich," to "Jesus stands in line at the DMV," to "Jesus sweeps the sawdust from the floor." My son and I glanced at each other, admittedly a bit uncomfortable, but figuring it probably wouldn't get worse than that. Nothing prepared us for the one the host and his guest began to guffaw about: "Jesus clips his toenails." They laughed and talked about it on an on, just enjoying the thought. Oh, they thought it was soooo amusing. In my gut, I knew it was wrong, but I could not get over the shock of what I was hearing. My son and I looked at each other and talked about how disrespectful it was. I turned off the show before it had the opportunity to get even worse and become an occasion of sin. Nice programming for Catholics, I thought. Could it have been worse? Sure, it could have. But it was bad enough. I felt like calling in and asking him to reach for a higher standard. The secular media continuously scrapes the bottom of the barrel, must the Catholic media stoop to that as well? Shouldn't they be striving for a higher plane instead of disrespecting Our Lord with junk like this? And encouraging others to do the same? Shameful. I so long for humility in the Catholic media, don't you?

There are those who may say it's all in fun, but to insult Our Lord like this? NOT funny in the least. I have a good time being silly. I like to joke about Catholic things, like how funny it is when you almost accidentally genuflect in a movie theater (apparently lots of Catholics have this problem!), awkward things that happen in the pew at Mass now and then, the jokes about toddlers who innocently try to drink the holy water, how Catholics always seem to sit in the same seat every week, stuff like that. Cute, harmless, poking fun at ourselves. Think of most of Catholic comedian Jim Gaffigan's material (not all, but most). There are funny memes out there that capture these funny instances of Catholic life in a gentle but respectful way that make us all laugh at our foibles on the way to holiness. But here's the thing: It's always about the awkward things WE do, as people. We are making fun of ourselves. Nothing is funny about poking fun at the Savior of the world. Who even goes there, who even tries to take Our Lord's human side and make a joke out of it? I think they were trying WAY too hard to fill airtime. I'm sure they did not mean to be disrespectful and would argue that it was all in fun, but that does not change the fact that it WAS disrespectful and bordering on the blasphemous. 

I wonder how our young people ever learn about the reverence we are expected to show toward Our Lord and the Mass when self-professed Catholics-- who are supposed to be representing the Faith in the media-- do not even understand what that means.

Humor is good in its proper time and place. We all need a good belly laugh; our world is so fallen and finding the funny aspects of life is healthy and good; Our Lord surely wants that for us. Let's just keep it respectful and remember about Whom we are speaking.

Let's say the Golden Arrow prayer that Jesus gave to Sister Mary of St. Peter, a French Carmelite nun in 1843. Sister Mary called it "an act of Praise that Our Lord Himself dictated to me, notwithstanding my unworthiness, for the reparation of Blasphemy (insulting or disrespectful thoughts or behavior) against His Holy Name." 

May the most holy, most sacred, most adorable, most incomprehensible and unutterable Name of God be always praised, blessed, loved, adored and glorified in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth, by all the creatures of God, and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.

What a crazy, crazy world we live in, friends. Keep praying.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer Reading Discussion Questions

 Jessica over at the Shower of Roses blog snapped this photo of her daughter reading Olivia's Gift while cleaning up outside. She gave me permission a couple of years ago to post it here and I couldn't resist posting it again since it is so cute!

Talking about The Gate with a young reader at Celtic Cove Catholic bookstore. 
I've been hearing that Olivia and the Little Way, Olivia's Gift, and The Gate have made it onto many Catholic school summer reading lists, and it makes me happy that young readers will be getting to know St. Therese and St. John Bosco over their summer vacations!

Did you know there are discussion guides for each book? Teachers, parents, and book club leaders email me at Nancy(at)harveyhousepublishing(dot)com often to request the free PDFs, and I would be happy to email them to you as well! They include valuable questions for readers to talk about as they read the books.

Are you reading Olivia and the Little Way, Olivia's Gift, or The Gate (or all three!) on your summer vacation? Send me a photo like the ones above and I will be happy to include it on my blog! Happy reading!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

History Lessons at an Antique Store

My family and I like to visit antique stores when we take road trips. They're a welcome rest stop along the road. Sometimes they're small little shops, and other times they are large emporiums filled with a gazillion booths. Large or small, they are always filled with unique treasures from the past. Yes, sometimes I do feel a little antique myself when toys from my childhood are among the shelves (Fisher Price A-Frame house, Donny and Marie dolls...), but most of the time I enjoy walking around. The owners are always friendly people, and it's a relaxing break from the highway to stretch your legs.  Once in awhile I pick up an item and say out loud to whoever is in earshot, "My mom still has this!" or "I totally forgot about this until right now, but I had this!" or "I remember that!" I am always fascinated by vintage clothes (ladies sure were petite back then!).

On our way back from Chicago a couple of weekends ago, we stopped at a nice antique store in Michigan City, IN.  My husband took off toward one end of the store (he collects old books), while my son and I poked around together looking at things from time gone by: old toys, Beatles posters, vinyl record albums, knick-knacks, books, and housewares. Religious items always catch my eye, and I've come home with several Catholic items from shops like these.

The things I am drawn to the most, however, are old photographs: people all dressed up at weddings, baby photos, and family photos. I always wonder who these people are, how they felt when their photos were taken, what kind of people they were, and of course, where they are now. The photos are usually so old that the people in them have likely gone into eternal life, and that always gives me pause. How did these family photos end up in an antique shop and in my hands? Didn't the family want them anymore, or are they long gone as well? Sometimes people purchase these photos because they like the frames, but when the photos don't come in frames, I wonder who buys these photos of other families, someone else's grandma or grandpa, or great uncle or cousin.

One photo I looked at was a photo of someone's parents, in front of their home on a summer's day, probably taken in the 1940s. The mother had a corsage pinned to her dress, and they both looked happy, grinning at the camera. Mother's Day, perhaps, or an anniversary? Easter Sunday?

I usually reflect for a bit on these photos of someone else's family and then move on, since there is so much to see and merchandise crammed everywhere. But the other week, buried in the back of a shelf of the antique shop in Michigan City, IN, a particular framed photo caught my eye. I don't know when the black-and-white photo was taken, but I am guessing sometime in the 1930s or 40s. I was drawn to it because it is a photograph of a Catholic priest. I dug it out of the shelf and stared at the 8x10 photo of a man in glasses looking back at me. Who was this priest, and where was he from? How did this photo come to be here in this antique shop? Most of these stores have booths they rent out to vendors, and this store was so large and had so many vendors that I knew the man at the front desk would most likely not know the back story of this particular photograph. Now I wish I would have at least tried to ask him.

I called my son over and showed him the photo of the priest. "I wonder who he is," I mused aloud. I wondered about his vocation and the parishes he served at.  I turned the frame over but there was no information on the back. Then it occurred to me that we should pray for this holy priest, for the repose of his soul, for he was most likely deceased. So right there in the middle of the antique store, a short prayer was said for this man of the cloth who we had never known. But I figured somebody, perhaps many, many people, loved this priest and he had most likely served hundreds and hundreds of God's people over the years of his priesthood, so he deserved a special prayer here in 2016.  After snapping a quick photo of it, I gently set the framed picture back where I had found it and wondered if anyone would buy it.

We walked back toward the front of the store and saw a large display case of jewelry. So many colors and styles of necklaces, earrings, and rings that ladies of days gone by wore and enjoyed.  I wondered who gave these ladies their treasures, and if they were birthday, anniversary, or Christmas gifts. Each piece, I realized, was treasured by someone, was loved and kept in a special place on their dressers or in jewelry boxes.

Meandering through the rest of the store, I came upon many other photos of people enjoying special times in their lives, and I was a bit in awe of all of these people and their photos. I happened upon a photo of a little girl's First Holy Communion, seated with her mother for a formal portrait, and I wondered who she was as well.

Walking through these antique stores is a real, living history lesson. I love history, so perhaps that's why I enjoy it so much. Sometimes it makes me a little sad, but mostly it makes me appreciate that I am still here, still alive and able to enjoy living in the here and now, and am able to learn from looking at and appreciating belongings that others cherished so much in the past. Somehow I think the owners of these treasures would like knowing that someone still appreciates them now in 2016.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Impatient Perennials and a Book Review of The Gate

Time flies, and here it is, already April. Lent has passed and was hopefully fruitful for you, and now we share our Easter joy. In my neck of the woods, we have rain, which is nourishing the grass, trees, wildlife, and tiny green plants I see peeking out of the ground. They need to wait a bit, because here in Michigan we are still looking at flurries in our forecast! But I am as impatient as they are! I almost want to tell them to be patient. It's almost like the waiting of Lent and Advent. In my own life, I am patiently waiting for certain things to happen, but all in God's good time. He knows what is best and His timing is perfect.

I am happy to share this book review of The Gate from blogger and Catholic author Anabelle Hazard, who writes at and her personal blog, Written by the Finger of God, at  Following the book review on Catholic Stand is an interview she conducted with me. You can find the entire article, including interview, here at the Catholic Stand website:

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good book in the slightest” C.S. Lewis
Nancy Carabio Belanger’s latest novel “The Gate” passes the Lewis test. It is a Catholic novel about Joshua Lasko, a smart-alecky middle school boy, whose faith disappears at his father’s death. He meets Pie, a nursing home resident, and his life turns around into a whopping surprise.
I’ve long trusted Ms. Belanger’s writing since she penned “Olivia and the Little Way” and its sequel “Olivia’s Gift.“ Both books are eternal favorites of my ten-year daughter since she first read it; curl-tipped edges from over reading, and often quoted back to me. When “The Gate” came out, I was not sure it would resonate with the female readers (including myself) in our house, but I’m glad I was wrong.
“The Gate” was delightful for several reasons. The character of Joshua is as real as a middle school student in America can be; witty and smart as a whip. Pie is endearing, and somewhat stubborn if not grumpy. Their unexpected friendship is something I envy as I wish I had known and gotten to know all my grandparents the same way.
The Gate’s biggest gift is the unabashed Catholicism and truth of Holy Mother, which is stapled in the dialogue and the story, just as much as it is ingrained in any Catholic’s life (or should be). All without being sappy. More power to Ms. Belanger who dares to write for Catholic readers who long to be able to connect with a literary figure and are so unfortunately neglected in a secular publishing world. For those of you who enjoy a good, clean, warm read, pick up “The Gate” and get to know unforgettable characters about a story of two souls.
The only improvement I can suggest to “The Gate” is for a better designed cover. The muted illustration is impeccable, but the title and the author’s name, could be more than a simple black font. Since Ms. Belanger is now synonymous with good, quality Catholic YA fiction, I think her name deserves to be highlighted in bolder billing and can stand on its own as a brand.

Friday, January 22, 2016

On the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Roe v. Wade

43 years

On this sad day commemorating the slaughter of 58 million innocent lives, let's pray this Prayer For Life. I'm not sure who wrote it, but it is the prayer we say at our parish thanking God for the precious gift of life and to ask God to help our country have a pro-life mission.

Dear Heavenly Father,

We thank You and praise You for the precious gift of life that You have given to each of Your children. We are deeply troubled that i many ways our culture has lost a reverence for human life and for this we ask for Your mercy. Help us to be aware each day of ways that we can foster and promote a culture of life—for You are the Author of all Life!

Strengthen in our hearts a pro-life attitude and a commitment to support activities in our homes, schools, workplaces, government and society which promote and protect human life in all its beauty; in all of its marvelous stages.

We pray with deep concern for a renewed respect for the unborn—those who will enrich our lives and world with life! Help us to see the beauty of the aged, those born with special needs, and Your people whom society considers "burdens." Help us to rid our cities of the violence that claims the lives of both young and old alike. We ask You to bless our efforts a hundredfold.

Mary Most Holy, Our Lady of Life, pray for us. Through your Holy and Immaculate Conception, we ask you to intercede for us, and assist us to cherish life as you bore the Lord of Life in your womb. May our efforts bring to our nation, our hearts and our homes a renewed love for the breath of Life that fills each of us. We pray this in faith, through Jesus your Son who lives forever.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

WOW -Wonders on Wheels 2016

If you need something warm on this cold January day, look no further than this dance routine. Simply beautiful, and warmed my heart. I hope it makes you happy today.  :-)

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