Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Honor System

Dear readers:  What does the word "honor" mean?  In the Ten Commandments, we are told to honor our mother and father.  People talk about the honor system and feeling honored to receive an award.  When we address a judge, we call him or her "Your Honor."  Those who don't win a big prize receive an honorable mention.   Whether the term is used to mean a privilege, a title of respect,  or esteem, it is a term that we do not (or should not) take lightly.  

When my family and I were in northern Michigan last weekend, we took a scenic drive through the country roads, enjoying the fall colors.  We marveled at the beauty God brings us every autumn, and nowhere is it more apparent than "up north", as we Michiganders like to say.  We happened upon a farm which was quiet and peaceful.  The farmer had parked several trailers filled to the brim with pumpkins and gourds.  A large, hand-painted sign said "Pumpkins!"  We happily turned the minivan around to investigate. It would be fun to buy our Halloween pumpkins up north, a souvenir of sorts from our mini vacation.  When we pulled in, it soon became apparent that no one was there.  A quick scan of the area confirmed that we were the only people around. It was quite peaceful.   I got out my camera and took a picture of the colorful trees nearby, below:

"Well," I said helplessly to my family, "Looks like the farmer isn't here."

"How are we going to pay for the pumpkins?" asked my youngest son.

I glanced around, wondering the same thing and thinking we'd have to leave, when my eyes fell on a sign that read, "PLEASE PAY ON THE HONOR SYSTEM.  ALL PRICES ARE MARKED.  I TRUST YOU. THANK YOU."

Sure enough, each trailer had a sign clearly indicating how much the pumpkins were.  The gourds and smallest ones were 25 cents, the medium ones were $2, and the large ones were $3.   Below the farmer's sign was a red metal box with a slit for depositing bills and coins.  It was secured with a padlock.

"Well," my husband said, "There you go.  Let's choose some pumpkins."

We happily went from trailer to trailer, choosing our favorite pumpkins and gourds.

When we were finished, my older son did the mental math and added up our purchases. I rummaged through my wallet, finding the change we needed and deposited our total into the metal box.  As my money fell, I heard it hitting other change from prior customers who had used the honor system.

"I wonder where the farmer is?" my youngest son asked.

"He might live across the road," I said, motioning to the nearest little house I could see.  "Anyway, it's too chilly for him to sit outside all day and wait for people to come, so he set up here using the honor system."

As we drove away, we talked about the honor system and how important it is.  We talked about teachers in school who trust their students to use the honor system by not cheating on their homework and tests.

We talked about how great it is when people who don't even know each other can trust each other to do the right thing, and how, if we were in the farmer's shoes, how frustrating and disappointing it would be if someone cheated you.  The farmer's message stuck in my head:  "I TRUST YOU." The farmer trusts that people are not going to steal his pumpkins, driving off without paying.  And he trusts that they are going to pay the amount they owe, and not a couple dollars less, just because no one is around to see. 

But God sees. 

We noticed another family turning their minivan around to buy pumpkins, too.  We waved at each other and drove away, happy that the farmer was selling the pumpkins we needed, and happy to do the right thing, to honor him...and God.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

St. Padre Pio Said It All!

Dear readers:

When I first saw the poster, above, I was intrigued about its message and its history.  The message seems especially poignant in today's society,  a world filled with fear and anxiety about the recession, the H1N1 virus (Swine Flu), the attacks on life at all stages,  violence...the list could go on and on.

I decided to do a little research on it, and I found that over two million of these posters were made in 1939 in Great Britain, and were meant to be introduced as a calming influence if the Nazis ever invaded England in World War II. They were never posted because the English were able to hold them off, particularly during the Battle of Britain in 1940.  Of course, by 1942, America was involved and the Russians also kept Germany busy on the east, so the British Isles were preserved from an invasion.

Nobody knows who designed the poster, but it was discovered in 2000 in a secondhand bookshop.  It has become quite popular, bringing about a following of fans who wear the image on t-shirts,  carry it on bags, and drink with it on their coffee mugs.  It seems to stiffen resolve with people who are dealing with the many fears and anxieties of the modern world today.

The image really captured my attention.  Think of the important message it tried to convey in a very somber time in world history.

Of course, we should all keep calm during the trials of today, and carry on with our daily lives, putting one step in front of the other with resolve.  But I knew something was missing from the poster, something we should never forget to do during times of trouble:  pray.  So I designed the poster below, to remind us all that God will never leave us, and to always trust in Him.  The great St. Padre Pio said it all:

Friday, October 23, 2009

One Year Ago Today...Olivia arrived!

Dear readers:

It's my first anniversary as an author, and I couldn't be happier! I can't believe that it was one year ago today that Olivia and the Little Way was published.  So many blessings have come my way because of it.  I want to say a giant THANK YOU to everyone who has helped move this book along to three printings— from spreading the word to bookstores, family, and friends, and to those who interviewed me on TV and radio, wrote reviews, welcomed me into their schools, parishes and events, and especially the kids who stop me to tell me how much they've learned from Olivia's journey with St. Therese.

Thanks also to my wonderful family and friends for supporting me!

I would like to also thank the judges at the Catholic Press Association who took a chance on a new author and illustrator (AWESOME illustrator Sandra Casali LewAllen!) and awarded their book with a 2009 Catholic Press Association book award.  I feel so honored that Olivia and the Little Way is included among so many spiritual works.

I would also like to thank Ignatius Press, who helps me distribute my book to Catholic stores around the world.

Wow---to think that Olivia is circling the globe!  A year ago on this day, I wouldn't have been able to wrap my mind around that!  I think that Olivia should have a passport, don't you?  LOL!

And to think that Olivia's sequel is coming out next year.  God is amazing, isn't He?

And St. Therese, I couldn't have done all of this without you! Vous etes l'esprit de mon ame, une amie de mon coeur. Je vous remercie pour avoir cru en moi.  Je vous aime beaucoup!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Alma Mater—Music From The Vatican" And Pope Benedict XVI

Dear readers:
In November, you and your families will have something new to upload onto your MP3 players:  Alma Mater—Music from the Vatican, from Geffen UK.

Scheduled to be released on November 29, this new music album in honor of Our Lady from Pope Benedict XVI will feature His Holiness singing litanies and chants.  He will also recite passages and prayers in five languages:  Latin, Italian, Portuguese, French, and German.  The Pope's recordings were from his Masses, prayers, and speeches he made on trips abroad.   It's the first time Pope Benedict will be heard on an album, and this spiritually uplifting collection of music would make a wonderful Christmas present.

But did you know that he isn't the first Pope to release an album?  Pope John Paul II released two successful albums, one in 1982 and one in 1994.

Also on the album:  one song by the Pope and eight beautiful tracks of modern classical music (with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra).  He will be backed up vocally by The Choir of the Philharmonic Academy of Rome.

His Holiness has loved classical music all his life, especially Mozart. The album is a response to the Pope's concern that the Church needs to  recover the sacred place that music has in Mass.  We have such a need for music that inspires people and glorifies God.  He is said to have a beautiful singing voice, very soothing.

"The Pope has almost a lullaby tone to the way he sings," said Colin Barlow, president of Geffen UK, who said that the Pope is extremely pleased with the album so far.

Pope Benedict XVI brings together the talents of both Christians and non-Christian composers (Simon Bosewell from Britain, Stefano Mainetti of Italy, and Nour Eddine of Morocco), representing unity in mankind.

Alma Mater is Latin for "Nourishing Mother."  How fitting, since a portion of the sale proceeds will go to charity to help provide musical education to poor children around the world!

More information can be found at www.musicfromthevatican.com.

If you would like to hear some of the music, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtfqFMnd9GY

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In The Silence, You Can Hear Him

                 At Boyne Resort, Michigan, happy to do God's work 
                             by sharing the life of  St. Therese to kids at
                                       my latest book signing at the Marian Conference!

"Today, if  you hear His Voice, do not harden your hearts..."    Hebrews 3:15

Have you ever heard God talking to you? He does, you know, and He longs for you to listen.  Sometimes, we're so preoccupied with going here, doing that, that we don't hear it.  Others hear Him, but ignore what they hear.  But how can you listen, and really hear the Holy Spirit for yourself?  

You must be silent.  

This doesn't just mean taking the earbuds out of your ears or turning off the TV or computer.  Getting rid of all external noise is a start, of course, and very necessary.  But to really listen for God, you must also still your mind.  Think about God, and think about how much He loves you and wants to talk to you.  Be really, truly silent—with your ears and your heart.  

St. Therese was good at this.  She knew the importance of quieting the mind and listening for His Voice.  Sometimes we are so busy talking to ourselves or hearing unimportant chatter of the day from electronics or people around us that we aren't letting God get a word in edgewise.

Sometimes, though, God speaks to you when you least expect it, and aren't even prepared for it.  This happens a lot to me!

I love going to book signings and meeting readers.  They tell me their stories about St. Therese, their grandchildren, their parents, their teachers, their children.  I've been told I have a friendly face, and I like to think that I am approachable.  It must be true because people tell me, a person they have just met,  their personal stories all of the time!  I love to listen.  They love to tell.  There's something about St. Therese that brings out so much love in so many people.  Some of them have much emotion when they talk about her, and some start to cry. 

At one particular book signing this past spring at a church, I sat and chatted with parishioners about my book and St. Therese.  The day was very long, and, being human, I started to get hungry and tired.  Anyone who knows me knows that when I get hungry, I can get a little...crabby.  Usually all it takes is a handful of cookies or crackers and I'm back to my old self.  At this book signing, I was starting to feel the effects of a long day. I stood up and straightened up the books and St. Therese chaplets on the table, then  started to rummage through my purse for a quick snack.  While I was doing this, a very old woman came up to the table.  Elderly and frail, she stopped and looked at me.

"I do love St. Therese," she said, her eyes red and brimming with tears.

I sat down, smiled warmly and asked her to share her story.  

She began a halting explanation of  how St. Therese had touched her life in many ways.  As she spoke, I couldn't help but notice that the frail woman had not bathed in a long time.  While she was talking to me, a parishioner came up beside her and offered to treat her to a copy of Olivia and the Little Way.  She was delighted to accept, and was very grateful.

I signed a book for her and watched her hobble away. I felt very saddened because I knew she was poor, but I felt very happy too that she had a loving friend in the parish.  She lingered by the church and stared inside while I watched her quietly, feeling something in my heart I could not explain.

It was in that instant that I heard His Voice.

"Give her a chaplet."

 The Voice was as clear as day.  I glanced at the table, which held books and chaplets with pink rose beads.

"Give her a chaplet," the Voice said again, very insistent.

I reached over and collected a chaplet and the instruction card that I make to go with it.  I approached the lady and held both of them out to her.

"These are for you," I said and smiled.

The look on this lady's face was sheer joy as I placed the items in her wrinkled hands.  

"Oh, thank you! Thank you!" she cried.

"Thank you for coming to talk to me," I said.  Then I thought to myself, You've given me so much more than what I have given you.

When I started to write Olivia and the Little Way, I had many doubts. But God and St. Therese had other ideas!  One day I heard God tell me to write it, and because I listened to Him, He made so many wonderful things happen in one year.  This Friday will be the one-year anniversary of Olivia and the Little Way, the day God made all of my dreams come true.  In one short year, I've had three printings, a Catholic Press Association book award, met hundreds of wonderful, faithful people, and have thousands of readers and fans of my little book.  Amazing.  And to think it all started with a Voice.

Listen to His Voice.   Do what He wants you to do.  Be still and hear what He wants to say to you, and you will be amazed, as I was and still am.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Last day of St. Therese's Novena


Loving God, St. Therese never doubted that her life had meaning.  Help us to understand our possibilities for loving and blessing children, the elderly, our neighbors in need, and priests throughout the world. Amen.

To conclude this novena, recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Day Eight


Loving God, You shepherded St. Therese with a gracious love and made her a tower of strength to people who had lost faith in You.  Help us to be unafraid to pray with confidence for the many in our culture who do not believe they can be loved.  Amen.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Day Seven —You Don't Even Have To Say Anything

Dear readers:

When St. Therese was near death, one of the sisters came into her room and sat by her bed, watching Therese with concern.

"Therese," the sister said,  "Why are you awake?  You should be resting.  You will tire yourself out sitting up."  

"I'm praying," Therese said simply.

"What do you say to Jesus?" the sister asked.

"I don't say anything," Therese responded weakly.  "I love Him."


Loving God, St. Therese offered to You her frailty and powerlessness.  Help us to see in our weakness and our diminishments an opportunity for letting Your light and Your strength be all we need.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Day Six—Saying "Yes" To God

Dear readers:

In today's part of the novena, we are asked to trust God that His will is the best for us.  St. Therese, even when she was sick and sad, knew the plans God had for her, and looked at every day as an opportunity to say "yes" to Him and do what He wanted her  to do.


Loving God, St. Therese experienced each day as a gift from You, as a time for loving others.  May we, too, see each new day as a single moment of saying "yes" to Your will in our lives.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day Five—Forgiving

Dear readers:
Day Five of the post-feast day  novena talks about hurt feelings.  Therese, a very sensitive child, suffered from hurt feelings often.  She was teased by the other girls at school for being smart and a bit of a loner.  We have all suffered from hurt feelings.  The question is:  How do we deal with it?  Do we hold grudges?  It was hard for Therese, most definitely, but she knew God was asking her to forgive, and so she did.  We can all learn from this grace that God gave her, can't we?


Loving God, You graced St. Therese with the gift of forgiving others even when she felt hurt and betrayed. Help us to be able to forgive others who have wounded us, especially...(Can  you think of someone?  Place his or her name here).  Amen.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Day Four


Loving God, You taught St. Therese how to find a direct way to You through the "Little Way" of humility and simplicity.  Grant that we may never miss the grace there is in humble service to others in family and neighborhood.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

On the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

Dear readers:
Today, October 4, is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan order.  Even though they lived hundreds of years apart, St. Therese and St. Francis have some things in common, namely  spreading love and peace.  Let's compare some of their writings:

About showing love:

St. Francis wrote:

"Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love."

St. Therese wrote:

"At last I have found my vocation; my vocation is love!" 

About being peaceful and cheerful during your task:

St. Francis wrote:

"It is not fitting, when one is in God's service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look. "

St. Therese wrote:

"Even when alone, be cheerful, remembering always that you are in the sight of the angels."  

About poverty and serving God:

St. Francis wrote:

"Grant me the treasure of sublime poverty: permit the distinctive sign of our order to be that it does not possess anything of its own beneath the sun, for the glory of your name, and that it have no other patrimony than begging."

St. Therese wrote:

"The only happiness here below is to strive to be always content with what Jesus gives us."  

I am sure I could find other comparisons between the Franciscan saint and the Carmelite saint.  They are both wonderful saints for you to learn about and pray to.


Loving God, You graced St. Therese with a capacity to see Your hand in the ordinary routine of each day. Help us to be aware of Your presence in the everyday events of our lives.  Amen.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Talking about Olivia and St. Therese Live on EWTN Radio

Dear readers:

The feast of St. Therese sure was a busy day for me! But I loved every minute of it. One of the highlights was being a guest on Al Kresta's nationwide radio program, "Kresta in the Afternoon," on EWTN Radio. To listen in, visit http://www.littleflowerbook.com/uploads/Krestaquality.mp3

I got to talk to Mr. Kresta about St. Therese and Olivia and the Little Way. It was fun to watch how a radio program is produced. It all went by so quickly. I have noticed that in the other radio interviews I've done; just as I'm really getting rolling talking about my loves (being a mom, St. Therese, and Olivia and the Little Way), it's time to wrap up! Those who know me well know that I can talk forever. I do have the gift of gab. Perhaps kissing the Blarney Stone back in high school contributed to that! But hey, when you're passionate about something, you just can't stop! What an honor to speak about St. Therese on her special day. It was truly a dream of mine.

Some other dreams of mine:

• To receive a first-class relic of St. Therese
• To visit Lisieux, France
• To visit Italy, the land of my ancestors
• Of course, to write more pre-teen Catholic fiction
• To see a movie version of Olivia and the Little Way come to fruition

What are some of your dreams?


Loving God, you loved St. Therese's complete trust in Your care. Help us to rely on Your providential care for us in each circumstance in our lives. Amen.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Visiting the National Shrine of the Little Flower on St. Therese's Feast Day!

Dear readers: I hope the feast of St. Therese yesterday was very meaningful and special for you all. It certainly was for me. After Mass, we headed over to the National Shrine of the Little Flower to say some prayers. I was so happy to see the roses in the garden of St. Therese still looked lovely, even after the frost we had the night before. It was a gorgeous, sunny day!

And of course, I HAD to wear my rose-themed sweater yesterday! There were roses and giant pictures of the Little Flower all over the church, and it was quite beautiful to see them all.

Loving God, You loved St. Therese's complete trust in your care. Help us to rely on your providential care for us in each circumstance in our lives.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October 1, the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux

"Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love." —St. Therese of Lisieux

Dear readers:
Today we celebrate the feast of our beloved St. Therese, who found a direct way to God through her Little Way of being humble and simple. Her Little Way of serving God is a model for us all, young or old, rich or poor. She promised to let fall a shower of roses to all who seek her help, and she has sent so many lovely roses my way. I smile when I think of them all. I love you, St. Therese! Therese of the Child Jesus, most loving Saint, pray for us!

I mentioned yesterday that there is another nine-day novena that you can start today, her feast day.

Start with:

Saint Therese, flower of Carmel, you said you would spend your Heaven doing good upon the Earth. Your trust in God was complete. Listen to my prayer; bring before God my special intention...

Pray for me that I may have something of your confidence in the loving promises of our God. Pray that I may live my life in union with God's plan for me, and one day see the Face of God who you so ardently loved.

Saint Therese, you kept your word to love God and to trust the world to that loving providence. Pray for us that we may be faithful to our commitment to the love. May our lives, like yours, be able to touch the world and bring it to peace.


Loving God, you blessed St. Therese with a capacity for a great love. Help us to believe in your unconditional love for each of us.

"Believe that I shall be your true little sister for all eternity." —St. Therese

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