Sunday, May 31, 2009

Deo Gratias!

Dear readers:
Wow! What a honor for Olivia and the Little Way to have been chosen as a winner in the Catholic Press Association's 2009 Book Awards. Olivia and the Little Way took second place in the Best Children's Book category. The awards were announced on Friday, May 29 in Anaheim, CA. This is a dream come true for me.

The judges said:

"This book offers a unique and fresh way to celebrate the life of St. Therese of Lisieux. It is a wonderful and engaging novel suitable for all but especially for 'tweens. They can share Olivia's life lessons as she deals with different relationships and real challenges. This touching and heartfelt story will inspire children to follow her example and discover their own 'Little Way' miracles."

I am so humbled and honored to receive this award. I would like to thank my illustrator, Sandra Casali LewAllen, for her beautiful drawings, my wonderful family for their love and support, and God for giving me the idea to provide wholesome Catholic fiction for 'tweens.

Saint Therese, thank you for standing by me. You are a wonderful sister and friend to me. Petite Therese, vous etes vraiment une fleur et une amie. Je vous aime plus que les mots peuvent dire. Vous aurez toujours une place dans mon coeur.

Friday, May 29, 2009

May 29, 1887

Dear readers:
It's another anniversary of St. Therese's to celebrate! On this day in 1887, when Therese was just 15 years old, she begged her father to enter Carmel, where she said Jesus was waiting for her. The above is a rendering of her asking her father for his permission. He said yes, but it was a while before all of the officials gave Therese their permission. The rule was that you had to be at least sixteen before you could enter the convent. Therese did not want to wait! She was very determined and very upset when the bishop said no. She even went to ask the Pope himself, who told her, "You will enter if God wills it."

Eventually she received permission and entered the Carmelite convent in Lisieux at the young age of fifteen, the youngest to ever enter there.

Today in Lisieux, there is a statue of Therese and her father on a bench to remember that special day.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hail Holy Queen

Hail Holy Queen enthron'd above, O Maria
Hail Mother of Mercy and of love O Maria

Triumph all ye Cherubim
Sing with us ye Seraphim
Heav'n and earth resound the hymn
Salve Salve Salve Regina

Our life our sweetness here below O Maria
Our hope in sorrow and in woe O Maria

Triumph all ye Cherubim
Sing with us ye Seraphim
Heav'n and earth resound the hymn
Salve Salve Salve Regina

We honour you for Christ, your Son, O Maria!
Who has for us redemption won, O Maria!

Triumph all ye Cherubim
Sing with us ye Seraphim
Heav'n and earth resound the hymn
Salve Salve Salve Regina

Friday, May 22, 2009

Reader Inspiration

Dear readers: So many of you have told me how much you love Olivia and the Little Way and of course, that makes me very happy! Nine times out of ten, you ask me if I'm writing another book, and if so, could it PLEEEASE be about Olivia again? It seems like most of you would like me to continue her story. I am pleased to say that Saint Therese has given me another heavenly nudge to write a book about Olivia.

I love when you share your comments about future stories when we meet. You all have such wonderful tips and story plot ideas, and you are always so excited when you do so. Sometimes I don't have my trusty little notebook on me at the time, unfortunately! Well, now's a great time to make your ideas heard, dear readers! Send me a quick e-mail with your ideas and thoughts and I will take them all into consideration! The e-mail address is Can't wait to hear from you!

By the way, don't you love the old-fashioned typewriter pictured above? My work is done on a machine that is a bit more modern...a Mac! My favorite features of "new" technology? Cut and paste, and DELETE, of course! Olivia and the Little Way didn't have much deleting, thankfully, but a whole lot of cutting and pasting occurred in the beginning stages. Imagine doing THAT on the Underwood. Something tells me it would be a bit messy!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Canonization of St. Therese, May 17, 1925

Dear readers:
Eighty-four years ago on this very day, Pope Pius XI canonized Saint Therese at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Twenty-three cardinals and 250 bishops were there as well, along with 500,000 people! Only 50,000 of them could enter the Basilica. The pope solemnly declared that from now on, the little Carmelite of Lisieux could be called "Saint Therese of the Child Jesus." I so wish I could have been there!

" I have never given to the good God anything but love; He will return that love. After my death I will let fall a shower of roses."—St. Therese of the Child Jesus

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ave Maria!

Immaculate Mary

Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing;
You reign now in splendor with Jesus our King.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria! Ave, ave, Maria!

In heaven, the blessed your glory proclaim;
On earth we, your children, invoke your sweet name.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria! Ave, ave, Maria!

We pray for the Church, our true Mother on earth,
And beg you to watch o'er the land of our birth.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria! Ave, ave, Maria!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Our Lady of the Smile, May 13, 1883

Our Lady of the Smile, pray for us!
St. Therese, pray for us!

A beautiful rendering of Our Lady's cure of St. Therese

Before I begin this post, I wanted to share a "hello" moment I had from St. Therese. I woke up much earlier than I usually do this morning. I tossed and turned and could not get back to sleep. I started to think about the blog entry I would post today. Suddenly, an idea came into my head: write about St. Therese's cure from Our Lady of the Smile. This seemed like a perfect idea, considering it is May and I wanted to make an effort to write about the Blessed Mother this month. As I did some further research about this miraculous healing, I was astonished to find out that it happened on May 13, this very day! This is the hand of God and a nudge from Therese.

Dear readers:

When St. Therese was ten years old, she became very sick and bedridden with an emotional sickness. Her father and sisters were very worried, and spent weeks by her bedside, praying for her to recover. They brought the family's Blessed Mother statue to her bedroom so she could look at it and be comforted as she prayed. On this very day 126 years ago, as Therese prayed desperately, she was cured by a smile from the statue. Therese wrote, "Suddenly...Mary's face radiated kindness and love." Her sickness was over and she was healed. Now the statue is known as "Our Lady of the Smile" because of Therese's wonderful experience.

As we honor Our Lady during the month of May, it only seems fitting to talk about this beautiful smile that healed Therese. Therese had a very great love for her, even if she had trouble concentrating while she prayed the rosary, and even fell asleep while praying it! She remarked that it didn't matter, for the Heavenly Father loved her anyway, just as an earthly father loved a child falling asleep in his arms. I imagine she felt that the Blessed Mother did not mind, either. That smile was just what Therese needed, a motherly showing of immaculate love, especially since Therese's mother died when she was only four. Therese felt the depth of Our Lady's love for her and for all of us. Her smile is with us still, and is there whenever we feel lonely, lost, afraid, unloved, weak, or sad.

Therese's bed and the statue of Our Lady of the Smile, where she was healed.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

St. Therese's First Holy Communion---- May 8, 1884

The beautiful dress, above on the wall, that Therese wore on her special day.

Dear readers: On May 8, 1884, little Therese made her First Holy Communion. She was so happy on that day! I know many of you are making your First Holy Communion this month. This blog post is a tribute to the Little Flower's most special day 125 years ago! These were the exact words Therese wrote in her autobiography. I wish all of you who are making your First Holy Communion this year a blessed day. Keep Jesus in your hearts always!

Source: Story of a Soul [St. Thérèse's autobiography], Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, Inc.

At last the most wonderful day of my life arrived, and I can remember every tiny detail of those heavenly hours: my joyous waking up at dawn, the tender, reverent kisses of the mistresses and older girls, the room where we dressed -- filled with the white "snowflakes" in which one after another we were clothed -- and above all, our entry into chapel and the singing of the morning hymn: "O Altar of God, Where the Angels are Hovering."

I would not tell you everything, even if I could, for there are certain things which lose their fragrance in the open air, certain thoughts so intimate that they cannot be translated into earthly language without losing at once their deep and heavenly meaning. How lovely it was, that first kiss of Jesus in my heart -- it was truly a kiss of love. I knew that I was loved and said, "I love You, and I give myself to You forever."

Jesus asked for nothing, He claimed no sacrifice. Long before that, He and little Thérèse had seen and understood one another well, but on that day it was more than a meeting -- it was a complete fusion. We were no longer two, for Thérèse had disappeared like a drop of water lost in the mighty ocean. Jesus alone remained -- the Master and the King. Had she not asked Him to take away her liberty, the liberty she feared? She felt so weak and frail that she wanted to unite herself forever to His Divine Strength. And her joy became so vast, so deep, that now it overflowed.

Soon she was weeping, to the astonishment of her companions, who said to one another later on: "Why did she cry? Was there something on her conscience? Perhaps it was because her mother was not there, or the Carmelite sister she loves so much." It was beyond them that all the joy of Heaven had entered one small, exiled heart, and that it was too frail and weak to bear it without tears. As if the absence of my mother could make me unhappy on the day of my First Communion! As all Heaven entered my soul when I received Jesus, my mother came to me as well. Nor could I cry because you were not there, we were closer than ever before. It was joy alone, deep ineffable joy that filled my heart.

That afternoon I was chosen to read the "Act of Consecration to Our Lady." I suppose they chose me because I had lost my earthly mother so young. Anyway, I put my whole heart into it and begged Our Lady to guard me always. I felt sure she was looking at me with that lovely smile which had cured me and delivered me, and I knew all I owed her; for it was she herself, that morning of the 8th of May, who placed Jesus in my soul, "the flower of the field and the lily of the valley."

When evening came that lovely day, Father led his little queen by the hand to Carmel, and there I saw you made the bride of Christ. I saw your veil, all white like mine, and your crown of roses. There was no bitterness in all my joy, for I hoped to join you and wait for Heaven at your side.

I was very moved by the family feast prepared at Les Buissonets and delighted with the little watch which Father gave me. Yet my happiness was very tranquil, with an inward peace no earthly thing could touch. Night came at last to end my lovely evening, for darkness falls even on the brightest day. Only the first day of Communion in Eternity will never end.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Love For All Of God's Creatures

Dear readers:
This past week, I spoke to a local Catholic middle school about Olivia and the Little Way and how St. Therese inspired me to write the book. In the beginning of my presentation, I always talk about the life of St. Therese, including her childhood. Therese was a bit of a loner in school, and didn't really fit in with the rest of the girls. They teased her and called her names because they thought she was too smart for her own good, and they were tired of her always knowing the answers when the nuns (their teachers) would call on her. So she spent her recess time by herself when the other girls would be playing sports. Therese would wander off by herself and spend time alone with nature. In my speech, I mentioned that Therese was a sensitive child, that she had a big heart for all of God's creatures, and so when she'd find little birds that had died, she'd give them a Christian burial. Have you ever done this with creatures you find? In our house, we've buried goldfish out in the back yard with a little prayer. This is what Therese would do when she'd find dead birds.

After talking about St. Therese and Olivia and the Little Way for about 45 minutes, I opened the presentation up to questions from the audience. I had covered a lot of material by this time: her young adulthood and entrance into Carmel, her Little Way of serving God, and her influence on me and Mrs. LewAllen when working on the book. All of the questions were well thought out and interesting, but one question stood out for me. A shy little girl raised her hand tentatively. I called on her.

"Um...when Therese buried the birds...did any other dead animals too?"

I had to stifle a giggle. It was just so cute! After all of the information I had given the students during that presentation, the one thing that stood out in this little girl's mind was the fact that sweet Therese used to care for dead creatures she had found at recess. It must have really struck a chord with her. Not knowing whether or not Therese had truly done this for other animals, I answered her this way:

"Well, I am not sure, but judging by what we know about Therese, and how sweet and kind she was, I would venture to say that she probably would have, had she found them. She loved animals and nature and I think she would have had compassion for them, too."

All evening long, I couldn't get that little girl's question out of my head; she had recognized an act of kindness and love. And, of course, we know that Therese was all about love, wasn't she? After all, she once wrote excitedly, "I understood that love comprised all vocations, that love was everything, that it embraced all times and a word, that it was eternal! My vocation, at last I have found it...My vocation is LOVE!"

If that is what this little girl takes away from my presentation, the vision of an act of love from the saint who personifies love, then I am one happy author!

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