Friday, September 12, 2014

Taking A Stand

If I have any typos here, it's because my friendly cat is trying to snuggle with me as I sit in my recliner trying to balance a laptop—and a furry friend who wants a little lovin'. I'd like nothing more than to snuggle with him, but I'm on fire today. When you are on fire, you have to do something! You have to act!

My morning paper's front page was ugly, and it wasn't just because I hadn't had a cup of coffee yet. Personal opinion replaced fact on the front page. Silly me—when I was in journalism school, I was taught that feature and opinion writers had their place in another section of the paper, not the front page. I freelanced for one of the big dailies in Michigan and my feature articles were never on the front page. Why? Because, you see, the front page is supposed to be reserved for NEWS.  Unless, of course, you're an editor who wants to celebrate and create scandal, and has a bias...and wants to feed a massive ego. Then, of course, it's okay to pass off opinion as fact. 

A feature columnist, who calls herself a Catholic, is at it again this morning. I already fired off a private email to her last week; do I have to compose another one? No, it won't do any good, because she simply ignored it.  I expected this and wasn't surprised, but my hope was that I planted a seed. That's all you can do; let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

So I'll simply reprint the letter here, in hopes that it will inspire you, my fellow faithful Catholics, to do the same: to not just fume privately about someone who openly, publicly berates the Faith he or she openly professes to be a part of, but to actually speak up if you haven't already.

Do we have free speech? Do we have freedom of the press? Of course we do, and I wouldn't change that. However, this freedom comes with responsibilities, don't you agree? Like the responsibility of being balanced and fair. This columnist has NOT been balanced and fair. Every column of hers that mentions Catholicism is a slam on the Faith. That is where the problem lies, and I'm tired of my Church being trashed by this columnist. In Christian charity, I've left out her name and some other details, but you get the idea. After you finish reading this, I hope you are inspired to stand up for the Church as well in whatever way you can in your community. Be kind, be charitable, but be firm. And don't forget that these people need our prayers desperately.






Dear Ms.      :

I've been a reader of your column for many years now, and I feel compelled to write to you as a fellow Catholic, a fellow writer, and even a fellow parishioner (I grew up at your parish, although I have since moved to another area).

It always puzzles and saddens me when a fellow Catholic uses opportunities to make snide comments about his or her faith, and I have found many of these instances in your columns over the years. Today is no exception, with your comment about how several archdioceses were not to be "outdone." It was an unnecessary slam on a very significant claim that some of the monies that go to ALS are used for embryonic stem-cell research: stem cells taken from babies that have been denied a proper chance at life. I am not going to get into a debate with you right now about IVF or abortion, but you do need to know that priests and bishops do not sit around all day thinking of ways they can't be "outdone." I assure you that Catholics are not dreaming of ways to make sure charities don't get the money they need to help sick, innocent people. Prayerful consideration, I am sure, is the case with this moral decision and all others. 

True, the people of the Church are not perfect, but that is simply because we are talking about human beings. So yes, we do have problems, and yes, there are things we can work on. I understand that you have a platform to talk about all sorts of topics, and it is your right to do so. However, I feel that I have to stand up for the Church, my Church, which I love deeply. I am tired of seeing her ridiculed, made fun of, and torn down. I write Catholic fiction books for children that are used in the curricula of Catholic schools across the U.S. and Canada. I am PROUD of my faith and feel it is my mission to pass along this love to pre-teens. In my novels, I teach these children not only to live their Catholic faith, but to love and cherish it, too. I do this for the young souls that God loves so very much. You are not helping the Church you profess to be a part of—and these children—with your snide comments. 

We all get it: You are mad at the Church.  I won't ask why, but do you not see the harm you are doing in your remarks? The Church is wounded; we all know that, but positive, helpful comments to build it up will do so much good, instead of little hurtful remarks that tear it down. I know you must have stories of wonderful, faithful, and holy priests and sisters you have met over the years...of your encounters with a favorite saint, or how you felt at Mass one Sunday morning when the priest elevated the Sacred Host and you just KNEW it was Our Lord Himself, or how your rosary beads comforted you during a sorrowful time as you prayed. I know you have these types of stories, Ms.    . Please write more about them!

Think of all of the good you could do as a Catholic writer with such a wide readership. Please help all of us as we build up the Catholic Church, not tear her down.

In Christ,

+JMJ+
Nancy Carabio Belanger  www.harveyhousepublishing.com


Monday, September 1, 2014

Interior Mortification

Isn't it funny how, when God wants you to work on a certain virtue, He sends you the most perfect opportunities to do so? We all have things we need to work on, and patience and distraction are two of mine. I do tend to get irritated and impatient for the silliest reasons. I've gotten better over the years, but just when a person thinks he or she has started to master it (or at least gotten a bit better at it!), God says, "No, you need to work a little harder! Here's some practice for you!" Ah...time for interior mortification! Don't you just love being Catholic?

So there I was, arriving early at daily Mass just in time for the group rosary to start. I enjoy saying the rosary in a group setting from time to time, but I definitely prefer to say it solo most of the time. An older gentleman came and sat down behind me. When it was time to start, I knew trouble was brewing within me from the first "Our Father."  This man was one of those people who rush through the prayers before the rest of the group, so that the timing is way off. Instead of a steady cadence where we were all saying the lines at the same time, he would race through the sentence so that he would finish up several beats before the rest of us. When all of us were slowly saying "Holy Mary, mother of God," the man was already a couple of steps ahead of us on "Pray for us sinners..."

I inwardly cringed. This was going to be a loooong rosary. I have noticed that with responses at Mass as well, and it makes me wonder why people do this. It really messes up my concentration and I forget where I am supposed to be: with the rest of the congregation and the priest, or with the man or woman beside me who is in a hurry? Racing through the prayers is not going to have Mass end earlier. This has always puzzled me. Yet, here was a perfect opportunity for me to work on the virtue of patience!

I wondered how I was going to get through this rosary with the patience I knew I was going to need...for five decades. I sent up a silent prayer that I would not be distracted, that I would not be irritated by this gentleman behind me. After all, maybe there was a reason he was racing through it. Maybe he was hard of hearing and couldn't hear the cadence. Maybe he was so wrapped up in the prayer that he wasn't understanding the cadence. I turned to him and he smiled at me. He seemed sort of lonely, and I wondered if his wife had passed away since he was alone. Maybe his rosary intention was for something very dear to his heart, just as mine was.  Then I started to wonder what things I did that others found annoying. I smiled back, feeling bad, and decided that I could accept this minor annoyance. I could offer it up. I could let it sanctify me! We continued to pray the rosary slowly as the man behind me raced ahead, and I found that, surprisingly as the decades progressed, I was becoming calmer, not more irritated! By the end of the rosary, I realized that I had experienced something very profound, and it had come from the Holy Spirit.  Instead of feeling crabby and irritated about the whole thing, I had come to have compassion for the man. After all, he was praying: What was wrong with that?! 

The next time you are tempted by the evil one to be irritated and distracted, ask the Holy Spirit to help you. And be grateful for the opportunity to turn it into something good for your soul!



"Don't say: 'That person gets on my nerves.' Think: 'That person sanctifies me.' "

—St. Josemaria Escriva

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 guide@harveyhousepublishing.com.













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 Nancy@harveyhousepublishing.com).  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 Catholicfiction.net. 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!

http://catholicfiction.net/blog/i-write-for-the-young-souls-god-loves-an-interview-with-catholic-novelist-nancy-carabio-belanger.php

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