Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Discussion Guide For The Gate Is Here!

Now that I've given up Facebook (see last post), I have had much more time to create the discussion guide for The Gate that I've been promising so many people! Actually, it has been a busy summer with or without the distractions of Facebook, but it's a good excuse!

Teachers, parents, librarians, and book club leaders will hopefully find these questions helpful as they read and discuss The Gate with their groups. They can be used on their own or as a springboard to other questions. There are two versions: one with suggested answers, and one without.  The questions are available free of charge in PDF format by emailing

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Buh-bye, Facebook!

Ahhh...the freedom; the sweet, silent freedom of being gone. So many voices, so many updates, so much stuff I don't need to know! I'm talking about Facebook.  After being on there since 2009, I deleted my account a few days ago. I haven't even missed it.

A year ago, a good friend wanted to sign up and get an account. She asked me what Facebook was like, what to expect. How to explain it? The best answer I could give her was to imagine she was in a room full of people from all facets of her life, past and present. Now take a microphone and talk to the entire room. What would you say to all of these people? That's how it is on Facebook; hundreds of people (some even have over 1,000!) all staring at you, and you have to say something that fits, well, everyone. It was overwhelming, and rightly so. She deleted her account not too long afterward.

Looking back, I can't believe I lasted so long on there. I have to say it was surreal. No status update would be appropriate for every single person on your friends list. There was always something you could write that would offend someone, somewhere. Saw a movie you liked over the weekend? Someone HATED it. Write a slight complaint about summer construction traffic? "How would you like to live in MY town?"

It was quite strange, actually. I'm not sure God meant for our brains to hold so much unimportant information, especially about perfect strangers. The news feed would contain bits of everything: a video of an abused, crying elephant that I couldn't watch because I knew it would make me sad for the next hour. Immoral celebrity gossip about stars I didn't even know or care about. A photo of someone's loved one lying sickly in a hospital bed (that always struck me as odd and very personal for several hundred eyes to see). Families on vacation documenting every gift shop, palm tree, and tourist trap. A plate of eggs, pancakes and sausage—someone's Sunday-morning breakfast. Up-to-the-minute updates of someone's feverish, vomiting child, complete with description. A photo of a takeout cup of coffee and a muffin. A quiz to see what part of the country you should be living in. An announcement that someone was craving bacon. "News" that, it turned out, was actually rumor. No wonder I was forgetting items at the grocery store, misplacing important papers, or forgetting what friends in real life had told me: My brain was, unbeknownst to me, holding bits of information from the Facebook news feed that I was never meant to know in the first place, like the fact that someone had grilled chicken for dinner and it was sooo yummy! Too many bits of inane information cluttering up my brain! The reality is that you can't just scroll down and digest this stuff for a minute; it ends up sticking in your head whether you like it or not! What a brain drain! And even though I tried not to, certainly I was guilty of contributing to it all with my posts as well!

Messages to Facebook "friends" would somehow surprise me by going unanswered, and then these same people would request that I vote for them in a contest. I was too Catholic, or not Catholic enough, in my posts, so I'd get unfriended.  I ended up signing off feeling sad and out of sorts for reasons I couldn't explain. I found that these superficial friendships were stealing my joy, my peace. Sure, there were absolutely lovely people I had connected with. I will miss them and their nice comments and uplifting posts. I made sure to keep their contact information so that we can remain friends and keep in touch. I have met some amazing people, like the young seminarian in Uganda who will be ordained to the priesthood next month. Deacon Larry is an inspiration to me and I am so blessed to have met him through Facebook. Now we correspond through e-mail and I can still celebrate his joy with him. There were Catholic authors who are doing great things for evangelization and were so supportive of each other and of my work. I will miss these people, of course, but if our friendships were meant to be, I believe they will continue even though I am off Facebook. I wish I could see them in person, and perhaps one day God will arrange it.

For a while, Facebook was a blessing. And it can be helpful for keeping in touch with those who live several states, or an ocean, away. But it's nice to be back in real life, with real-life friends. Now I don't know what 684 people I don't even know are having for dinner, or if they've finished ironing shirts, unpacking suitcases, hailed a cab, bought a jar of local jam on vacation, or burned their toast. And that's okay, because maybe some stuff you just really don't need to know on an hour-by-hour basis. Maybe, just maybe, there is such a thing as too much information.

It's much quieter in my world now, and it feels good to have turned off the microphone and left the big auditorium that is Facebook. Now I think I'll pick up the phone and see if a good friend wants to meet with me in real life, for a real cup of coffee, and a real chat. And I'll ask her what she's cooking for dinner, because I really do want to know.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Gate Wins First Place in Novels from the Catholic Press Association!

I have some exciting news to share: Last week, The Gate won an award from the Catholic Press Association Book Awards: Best Catholic Novel—first place!  When I heard the news, I was filled with delight. I feel very blessed and honored to have won this award, especially being in the company of such fine books by others. My prayer is that the young souls that God loves so very much will be inspired by this story of God's unending love and grace. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Here's what the judges at the Catholic Press Association had to say about The Gate:

"A warm, joyful story of a boy’s journey from self-focused wise guy teetering on the edge of a bad life with no direction,  to a responsible faith-filled life, as the result of his meeting and maturing contacts with an older citizen in a rehabilitation center. It is relaxed reading, smoothly done, funny and friendly, with an attractive message of faith, some mystery, and some surprises.  It has characters that come to life for the reader, gives insight into the teenage mind and milieu, and has powerful lessons about the importance of family, friendship, and faith in our modern world."

—Catholic Press Association

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What Pope Francis Says About Confession: Be Courageous and Go!

“Do not be afraid of Confession! When one is in line to go to Confession, one feels all these things, even shame, but then when one finishes Confession one leaves free, grand, beautiful, forgiven, candid, happy. This is the beauty of Confession! I would like to ask you —  when was the last time you made your confession?  Two days, two weeks, two years, twenty years, forty years?  And if much time has passed, do not lose another day. Go, the priest will be good. Jesus is there, and Jesus is more benevolent than priests, Jesus receives you, he receives you with so much love. Be courageous and go to Confession!"
(Pope Francis, General Audience, Feb 19, 2014)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Wise Words From St. John Bosco

The longer you stay away from Communion, the more your soul will become weak, and in the end you will become dangerously indifferent. 
— St. John Bosco 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Happy Feast of Mary, Help of Christians!

Today is the feast of Mary, Help of Christians. Here is a prayer of St. John Bosco to pray today:

Most Holy Virgin Mary, Help of Christians,
how sweet it is to come to your feet imploring your perpetual help. If earthly mothers cease not to remember their children, how can you, the most loving of all mothers forget me? Grant then to me, I implore you, your perpetual help in all my necessities, in every sorrow, and especially in all my temptations. I ask for your unceasing help for all who are now suffering. Help the weak, cure the sick, convert sinners. Grant through your intercessions many vocations to the religious life. Obtain for us, O Mary, Help of Christians, that having invoked you on earth we may love and eternally thank you in heaven. Amen.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Best Part Of Being A Writer? This!

I love hearing from you, dear readers!

A while back, I received an email from a girls' book club in North Carolina requesting study guides for Olivia and the Little Way and Olivia's Gift. A group of Catholic girls were going to read both books and discuss them. I happily sent Joanne, the leader of the group, the study guides.  (They are available in PDF format, so if you'd like to use them with your class or group, feel free to email me at  Afterward, a big envelope came in the mail that included the above thank-you cards, carefully and creatively designed by the girls in the book club. It brought a smile to my face as I read through the notes from Riley, Graceann, Caroline, Sarah, Kylie, and Magdalen.  "Thank you for writing your books," one girl wrote in a card stamped with blue butterflies. "I always enjoy them and talking to my friends about them. I always have a lot to say."

Thank YOU, young ladies, for your thoughtful gesture. God bless you!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Is It Spring Yet?

Well, I seem to have been gone a very long time from this blog. Is winter over? Is it spring yet? I guess I've been hibernating under a pile of snow, waking up from a looooooong Michigan winter! Lent's over, it is the Easter season, and we have two new saints to approach for their heavenly intercession. Things have been busy for me and my family over these last months, but my dear readers are never far from my thoughts and prayers. Thank you all for your kind words about my newest novel for pre-teens, The Gate.

One of the things I was blessed to be able to do this winter was to have an interview with the folks at I had to laugh when I saw the interview the other day online for the first time. It appears as if I haven't seen a movie since the 1984 version of "The Karate Kid." I don't get out to the movies much, but I can promise you that I've seen many movies over the years since then! I had to laugh at that. In reality, at the time of the interview, it was the most recent movie I had seen, popping it into the DVD player with the family. Sandra Casali LewAllen, who illustrates my books with her lovely drawings, texted me and said, "Girlfriend, we need to get you to the movies!" I expect to be teased about this for a long time to come! Ha ha!

The link to the interview is here, and I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review: The Gate

"I found The Gate by Nancy Carabio Belanger to exhibit an authentic portrayal of what Jesus Christ intended His Church to be: a hospital for sinners, a sure refuge of reconciliation, a beacon of hope, life and love. It will touch the heart of anyone who is seeking to find meaning in life, at any age, amidst all of the noise we all contend with every day. It challenges readers to examine themselves in light of the virtues which we were all created to embrace, which give us happiness, fulfillment and satisfaction. Read  how the loving hand of God moves and works quietly in our hearts and lives through others to gain our attention in hopes that we acknowledge His tender mercy and perfect plan for our lives. Certainly a book which all Christians, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, should read."

— Paul A. Ray, Catholic speaker and author of A New Voice For A Broken Soul

Sunday, February 23, 2014

We Have Nothing To Fear

Wow! I can't believe the amount of positive responses I received about my last post. It really made me realize how frustrated so many people my age are about the lack of proper catechesis we received back in the day when we were busy listening to Duran Duran and wearing leg warmers. In fact, just the other day in public I overheard a complete stranger about my age who was lamenting the very same thing and I had to smile. Coincidence? I don't think so! Not that it's something to smile at, really, but because it was further validation that what I was saying and feeling was true. I guess misery loves company...?!

No, not really, but it does cement the fact that this is a widespread problem, wider than I even realized, and we are all feeling its effects.

But there is hope! I spent the past couple of weekends at Catholic men's conferences and my spirits were uplifted to see how many men are so charged up about the Faith, and are hungry for the true teachings of Catholicism. In Lansing, MI I was privileged to meet young priests and seminarians who exuded such joy about their vocations, as well as men in various stages of life who came out of that conference on fire for Catholicism, ready to bring what they had learned into their day-to-day lives.

This past weekend, in Fort Wayne, IN, I talked with fathers, young and old, who were so excited to see modern-day Catholic fiction available for their children, and I can't blame them, because I am a parent, too. They thanked me for being there, and told me to "keep it up." There are some days that it just ain't easy keeping it up, but my faith keeps me going, and my desire from the Holy Spirit to evangelize gives me strength, especially as I recall those "interesting" days of craft-project, silly-song catechesis of the 1970s and 1980s.

As I stared out at almost 1,300 men yesterday gathered for the Sunday vigil Holy Mass, I felt happy that these guys had taken many hours out of their precious weekend free time to come to this conference to learn how to be better Catholic men. They were young and old, married and single, priests, and students. Some wore hearing aids and some wore hoodies. Some, like the Franciscan priests in their brown habits, went barefoot, a living example of their life of penance and service to Christ, sitting cross-legged as they prayed in the curtained-off Adoration chapel. Some priests wore long black cassocks, clutching purple stoles as they headed to the large confessional area.

"Thank you for being here all day, Father," one man said to a priest who was leaving toward the end of the day so he could be back for his parish 5:00 Mass.

"I had a funeral this morning, but I was glad to be here," the tired priest responded. He knew how important it was for him to be available for these men, some who may have not had the Sacrament of Reconciliation in decades, some who were in tears of joy as they received Our Lord's forgiveness, compassion, and mercy.

Some of the attendees wore shirts with Our Lady of Guadalupe printed on them, other young men had on their high-school letter jackets, while other men wore cashmere sweaters and Dockers. One of the conference speakers donned a black sport coat, another wore camouflage pants and a military t-shirt. All walks of life, all ages, all there for one reason: to learn and teach how to live out their Catholic Faith proudly and generously. Similar things are happening at Catholic women's conferences across the country as well, and it always amazes me to witness the the joy and hope these people receive there.

In his homily, the bishop mentioned that we should not be discouraged by our secular society and all of the evil things within it.  It's easy to want to wring our hands in despair. But after having witnessed over the last two weeks these couple thousand men just on fire for God and Catholicism, like Blessed John Paul 2 told us, we have nothing to fear!

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