Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Catholics of the Year"

Now that 2014 is coming quickly to a close, we start to see "____ of the Year" awards everywhere. Every publication, it seems, has its own award for people who made a difference in the past calendar year. TIME magazine has its Person of the Year, as well as its Most Influential People awards. There's a Year in Photos, Novel of the Year, Games of the Year, and in an example of how low our society has sunk: a "Booty of the Year" award. I always thought these inane awards were a perfect fit for tabloids and newsstand magazines at the airport, but imagine my disappointment when a Catholic newspaper came out with their own version. Not to be outdone by the mainstream media, it too has an award at year's end: the "Catholics of the Year" award.

My heart sank when I saw the headline. Not us, too? Ugh.

I quickly flipped to the pages to see who the Catholics of the Year are, according to the newspaper's editorial staff. They are wonderful people, to be sure.

Inspirational? You bet.

Tireless workers for the Faith? Most certainly.

But I think we get into trouble with awards like this. I mean, who decides who should have such an "honor" bestowed on them? Should there even be such an honor? And why? And how on Earth can someone decide who is the "best" Catholic of 2014?  It's distasteful.

And what does "Catholic of the Year" even mean?

Because truly? I can think of several people who are, in my mind, Christlike, generous, humble people...and they'll never get a half-page spread in a newspaper, even though they are Catholics doing awesome things:

The sole priest in a small, financially strapped parish who selflessly serves his flock, even though he isn't feeling well. And he does it quietly and humbly and tries to stifle any yawn. I've met him on one of those days and he simply smiled without complaint.

The senior citizen  prayer warrior who prays every day in front of the Tabernacle for friends who ask her to, even though she has aches and pains and family troubles of her own. She signs her emails, "In His service." She asks "What can I do for you?' when you call her on the phone...and she means it. She saw a homeless family in our town while driving in her car one day and found the mother a job at a hair salon and a motel to sleep in.  Last time I checked: no award for her.

The publisher (a friend of mine: you know who you are!) who tirelessly works to evangelize Catholics on a small publisher's budget, just to get good Catholic books in the hands of the faithful. She gives books away and prays for everyone. Award for this? Nope.

The friend I've known since high school who writes encouraging letters to her pastor who suddenly lost his mother a couple of weeks before Christmas. Her family makes him food and is a listening ear and a huge support for him.

The mom and daughter who spent Christmas Day serving the homeless at a soup kitchen instead of at home in front of a warm fire with extended family.

The man who helped an elderly neighbor by spreading salt on her driveway so she wouldn't fall.

The busy seminarian who offered to pray rosaries for someone he's never met, simply because she said she is going through a hard time.

The newly ordained priest who wrote to a friend half a world away to wish her and her family a Merry Christmas, even though he was swamped with his new pastor duties in an impoverished parish, because he didn't want her to think he forgot them at Christmas.

The divorced father who did without for himself so he could give his children presents under the tree and dress-up clothes to wear to Christmas Eve Mass.

I could go on and on with stories. So could you. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that you know people like this...or you are people like this. And you'd probably think that an award for that would be the strangest thing ever.

The people I named above are quietly doing what they do because they love Christ. Humbly, quietly, without splash, without medals, without space in a newspaper telling the world.  Are the winners of these awards doing this as well? I'm sure they are.  After all, they didn't nominate themselves for these awards; someone else did. In fact, some of them might even be downright embarrassed at the attention. It most likely goes against the very things they stand for!

Yet, they are the "Catholics of the Year." Why are we ranking Catholics, anyway?  And out of the gazillion Catholics worldwide, why and how would we even try? Because that's essentially what an award like this is: by saying they are "of the year" they are saying that they outshine, outdo, out-Catholic all other Catholics.

This is weird.

For  the secular media, it makes sense. You'd expect that from People magazine or your local daily. But Christians are called to a higher standard than this. And Catholic Christians, since we alone posses the Eucharist, are especially called.

Those in the Catholic media MUST be above what the secular media does. They HAVE to, because as Catholics they represent the Church. Anything less, anything secular like TIME magazine, is wrong.

God doesn't pass out awards to those who make the biggest splash. The Catholic media shouldn't, either.

Because we're all equal in God's eyes, I'm begging the Catholic media to stop "ranking" Catholics.

Have a blessed New Year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

A very merry Christmas to you and your families. I am thankful for all of my readers and wish you many blessings in the new year!

"How to find Christmas peace in a world of unrest? You cannot find peace on the outside but you can find peace on the inside, by letting God do to your soul what Mary let Him do to her body, namely, let Christ be formed in you. As she cooked meals in her Nazarene home, as she nursed her aged cousin, as she drew water at the well, as she prepared the meals of the village carpenter, as she knitted the seamless garment, as she kneaded the dough and swept the floor, she was conscious that Christ was in her; that she was a living Ciborium, a monstrance of the Divine Eucharist, a Gate of Heaven through which a Creator would peer upon creation, a Tower of Ivory up whose chaste body He was to climb "to kiss upon her lips a mystical rose."

As He was physically formed in her, so He wills to be spiritually formed in you. If you knew He was seeing through your eyes, you would see in every fellow man a child of God. If you knew that He worked through your hands, they would bless all the day through. If you knew He spoke through your lips, then your speech, like Peter's, would betray that you had been with the Galilean. If you knew that He wants to use your mind, your will, your fingers, and your heart, how different you would be..."

—How to Find Christmas Peace
   Ven. Fulton J. Sheen

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent

Dear God, help us to remain hopeful and to trust in you no matter the trials and troubles life brings.  This first week of Advent, help us to remember that we are Your people and that You are our God.  Help us get our priorities straight and put the most important things first—loving God and loving our neighbor.

Holy Spirit, guide the choices we make throughout this week so that we choose to do what honors our Creator and what shows our love of others.

Father in Heaven, we offer thanks to You for the many gifts and talents You have given to all the people on the earth, to our family and friends, to the neighbors we know and the neighbors we have yet to befriend.

Come, Lord Jesus.  Come into our hearts, so that when the time comes, we will be prepared to join You in everlasting joy.


From The Michigan Catholic

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Christmas Mother-Daughter Special from Bezalel Books!

You know how much respect and admiration I have for Cheryl Dickow, author and publisher over at Bezalel Books. I've blogged about her passion for providing Catholic books for adults and children (see this link). I'm excited to announce that Bezalel Books has published a new YA novel, Erin's Ring, just in time for Christmas! Talented Catholic author Laura Pearl (who wrote Finding Grace), has a winner in this lovely story that weaves the past and the present:

What story might this ring tell, if only it could talk?

When thirteen-year-old Molly McCormick, who has recently moved from the Midwest to Dover, New Hampshire, finds an old Irish Claddagh ring poking up out of the dirt in a garden outside her local parish church, she is immediately intrigued. The ring’s inscription, “To Erin—Love, Michael,” fills her head with romantic possibilities. She teams up with her new friend, Theresa Grant, to uncover the story behind the lost ring. With the help of the head librarian at the public library, the two girls become immersed in the rich history of the Irish immigrants who came to Dover in droves during the 19th century, to escape famine and poverty in their homeland and make better lives for their children and grandchildren.

Molly and Theresa learn about the courage, tenacity, and deep faith that were the hallmarks of these Irish immigrants—people with names like Ann and Seamus, Cara and Finn, and of course, Erin and Michael. The young girls eagerly delve into old records tucked away in the dark corners of the library and learn how instrumental Dover’s Irish-Catholics were in getting the first Catholic church built in their small New England town.

Molly and Theresa set out to discover the origins of the mysterious ring, but they unearth a story that is far stranger and infinitely more touching than anything they could have ever imagined.

Bezalel Books is offering a Christmas Mother-Daughter special for a limited time only: Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage for Mom, and Erin's Ring for your daughter, both for only $17.99, and this includes FREE shipping!  To order, click here.  It would make a wonderful gift set!

Friday, November 14, 2014


I was pleased as punch to see this darling photo of Catholic blogger Jessica's 11-year-old daughter with Olivia's Gift in her hands. Her daddy asked her to gather up her siblings' bikes one afternoon and she didn't want to stop reading. According to Jessica, it only took "Twinkle Toes" two days to read Olivia's Gift. Jessica blogs about being a Catholic homeschooling mom on her wonderful blog, and her review of Olivia's Gift can be found here at http://showerofroses.blogspot.com/2011/04/book-review-olivias-gift.html.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Martyrs Of Douai

Today I went on one of my phone apps that talks about the saint of the day, etc. I found out that today is the feast day of the Douai College Martyrs. Have you ever heard of them? When I read their story, I was completely blown away! 

These 160 holy priests, laypeople, and college members suffered the cruelest forms of torture before dying for the Faith in England in the 1500s (hanging, horrific torture, and beheading).  As I read about them, a movie was playing in my head. I could see these English priests, who were formed and ordained in France, sneaking over to Protestant England in the middle of the night to celebrate the sacraments for ostracized Catholics, celebrating Mass in secret, providing the sacraments, all knowing that if they were caught, they'd be tortured and hung for treason. This movie would be simply incredible being played out on the big screen, and would serve as a beautiful evangelization tool for so many. Why haven't so many of us ever heard of these martyrs? I know in England they are remembered on today, their feast day, but it boggles my mind and saddens me that so many (including myself!) know nothing of their sacrifices over here; nationality does not matter when it comes to Catholics dying in the most selfless way for the Faith, and I am so inspired by their bravery and love for Christ and His people. I have all of these images in my head of Mass being said in secret in homes of the faithful, Confession scenes, the brave families that sheltered the priests, and dying for the Eucharist. It would be absolutely incredible to see this bravery and love in action on the screen, wouldn't it? There may be documentaries available, but I'm thinking blockbuster movie here, a drama.

Here are some links to some info about the Douai Martyrs:

Screenwriters, see what you can do with this!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"True Faith, True Fame"

Enjoy this touching video created by the Archdiocese of Detroit about our seminarians. They talk about what their plans were before they were called to the priesthood. It's beautiful, it's inspiring, and it's a must-share, so please spread it far and wide! Let's all pray for vocations and for these fine men who are saying "Yes" to God's call. But no matter what our vocation is, we are all called to be saints!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

"Retreat" Soup

I just returned from a wonderful trip to the east coast (my husband had to be near there on business and I got to tag along!) and was so pleased to be able to visit the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy. I'll have a blog post about that very soon, but the fall colors and the gorgeous backdrop of the Berkshires was picture-perfect on cool, crisp autumn days in Stockbridge, MA. While my husband worked during the day (poor guy), I was able to rest and relax at the historic Red Lion Inn, peruse the quaint shops, take long autumn walks, and treat myself to solo lunches. It was a perfect little retreat for myself! The days were so beautiful that I could even eat al fresco in a cute little courtyard with my Catholic book of the moment. Walking up the very steep hill to the shrine was exercise in and of itself, helping me on my weight loss plan (as well as daily bike rides and time on the treadmill). I spent a few blessed hours each day at the shrine, beginning with Eucharistic Adoration, the Rosary, Holy Mass, and the Divine Mercy chaplet at 3:00.  So it was a religious retreat of sorts for me, and I enjoyed every moment of it. It was some much-needed R & R, filled with lots of prayer and discernment.

But even on religious retreats, one has to eat, right? It was at one of these lunches that I was able to have my first butternut squash soup of the season, and I came home craving it! So on this sunny, cool autumn day in Michigan,  I got to work and made a batch of this soup from Cooking Light magazine, trying to recreate the soup I had at a little cafe on the village's main street. I wasn't disappointed! If you are so inclined, make a batch yourself! I included the recipe here, with a few changes of my own to make it even better! It's rich and creamy, and I even decided against the half-and-half, opting to use lowfat milk instead. It will fill you up on a cold day!

Butternut Squash Soup

1 tablespoon butter
3 1/2 cups cubed, peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds...to save time, I bought it already prepared in the refrigerated section of the grocery store)
3/4 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup 2% milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
dashes of nutmeg and cinnamon

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add squash, carrot, and onion. Saute for about 12 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and let simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in milk and salt. With an immersion blender, blend until smooth. 

Sprinkle nutmeg and cinnamon into soup and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Prayer on the Feast of St. Therese

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!

Dear Little Flower, make all things lead me to heaven and God. Whether I look at the sun, the moon, the stars and the vast expanse in which they float, or whether I look at the flowers of the field, the trees of the forest, the beauties of the earth so full of color and so glorious, may they speak to me of the love and power of God; may they all sing His praises in my ear.
Like you, may I daily love Him more and more in return for His gifts. Teach me often to deny myself in my dealings with others, that I may offer to Jesus many little sacrifices of love.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Prayer for the Feast Day of St. Pio

Today is the feast day of the great St. Pio of of Pietrelcina, a special friend of mine and hopefully of yours too! This holy priest was the only priest in the history of the Catholic Church to bear the Stigmata. A powerful intercessor for us in Heaven, he bore this special suffering for 50 years. Ask him to pray to God for what you need and to accept God's Holy Will in your sufferings.  St. Pio, devoted son of Mary and loving bearer of the Passion of Our Lord, pray for us!

God our Father, by Your Spirit You raised up St. Pio of Pietrelcina to show Your people the way to perfection. You made him a pastor of the Church to feed Your sheep with his words, and to teach them by example.

Help us by his prayers to keep the faith he taught, and to follow the way of life he showed us. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

"Walk cheerfully and with a sincere and open heart as much as you can, and when you cannot always maintain this holy joy, at least do not lose heart or your trust in God."
—Padre Pio

For more information about this holy man of God, please visit The Padre Pio Foundation of America. www.padrepio.com

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,

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!


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!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Just A Thought For Today...

Catholicism and CCD in the 1970s and 1980s: It was a lot of ugly, green felt banners with cutouts of wheat and fish, feel-good songs centered around ourselves instead of God, and "Jesus loves you." Sin was never mentioned. So no one ever knew if they were sinning or not. Eucharistic Adoration? A novena? Sacramentals? Genuflecting? Going to Confession? Nope. So for years I've been catechizing myself and wondering how I lived for so long not knowing anything. So many of my friends have the same complaint. I would have been saved a lot of grief dealing with everyday stuff if I had really learned about the Faith and had a friend in Heaven like St. Therese to love and to help me through. So I guess that's my motivation for writing these books, so these young kids can learn the TRUTH about our faith and how BEAUTIFUL and BLESSED it is. I'm thankful my parents were able to teach me what the CCD instructors would not. So I don't apologize for writing authentic Catholic books. I say: Bring on the holy water, the Adoration, the sacramentals, the Sacraments! Bring on the saints, bring on the Eucharist! Bring it all on!

May crownings? Eucharistic processions? Beautiful statues of Blessed Mother? A Monstrance? Anyone?? 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Feast Day of St. John Bosco!

Happy Feast Day of St. John Bosco, patron saint of youth who plays such a big role in The Gate and is a friend in Heaven to me and so many. 

On December 24, 1887, in Don Bosco's final days, he said, "There is only one thing I ask of the Lord: that I may save my poor soul. I urge you to encourage the Salesians to work with zeal and dedication. Work, work! Always and unceasingly strive to save souls." St. John Bosco, ora pro nobis.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Little Catholic Sunshine

Brrr....it's so cold out here in Michigan that venturing outside is a feat. Boots, my longest, warmest parka, hat, gloves, scarf. Just to go get the mail at the end of our driveway! Imagine my irritation when I finally get there and find out the mail hasn't come yet! Trudge back up the icy driveway (very carefully) to take it all off, one by one, in the laundry room, which is quickly becoming a mud room! Now I know where the name originated.

It can be pretty difficult to stay focused on the positives and count our blessings in these extreme, dangerous temperatures when we're all cooped up inside and dreaming of Florida (which I hear is pretty cold right about now) and spring. But thankful we must be. For warm clothes, central heat, and an oven with a piping-hot lasagna in it. A fat and soft kitty I can shove my cold feet under and he doesn't mind or hop off the couch. Cozy family movie nights while wrapped in warm blankets with popcorn. A coffee pot that delivers my morning java. And I am thankful to God for all of these blessings, believe me. One story in the local newspaper about a family who has no heat and is using a space heater to keep her and her children warm makes you shut your complaining mouth pretty quickly.

But then there are moments...You forget that you are one of millions going through the same thing. You slip and slide all over the road and you scowl at your filthy car, covered in dirty snow and salt. (Yes, I'm thankful for road salt)! My boots seem to be leaking. School is constantly cancelled, pipes are freezing. Our windows are drafty, and you can't even have your eyeballs exposed in these dangerous negative wind chills. This winter seems so looooooooong. IS IT OVER YET?

A whitening snow squall happened to pass through the Target parking lot yesterday morning as I was inside looking at hand lotion for my very dry skin and looking for someplace to escape the winter doldrums.

"Mom, look outside!" I heard a young lady say to her mother in awe. My head jerked up to see Old Man Winter blast its fury. I shook my head, sighed, and put a small bottle into my red cart. Just another day in Michigan.

A cashier named Barb scanned my lotion, shampoo and oatmeal.

"I heard it's pretty bad out there," she said.  I nodded.

"I think people are going to go crazy with this weather," she joked. "They're going to go running around in the streets saying, 'I can't take this anymore!'"

I laughed at the absurdity, then remembered the latest local newspaper headline that read Enough Already! Michiganders' sentiments exactly. Maybe Barb wasn't joking after all! We've all had ENOUGH!

It was then that I noticed she was wearing a beautiful gold medal. I leaned in for a closer look.

"Blessed Mother?" I asked her.

Her face lit up in surprise. "Yes!"

I pulled out my own chain I wear around my neck and showed her my Miraculous Medal and St. Therese medal. We smiled at each other, a little Catholic connection at the Target checkout. You don't get too many of those. It's not that there aren't enough Catholics out there beyond our parish doors. There's something like a billion Catholics worldwide. It's just that not too many people like to visibly wear it on their sleeves (or around their necks), I guess.  Barb told me she has a special devotion to St. Therese, another thing we have in common.

"Blessed Mother will never fail you," she said with a look of love on her face.

"That's for certain," I said as I put my wallet back into my purse. We chatted a bit more and I felt my mood lift.

"God bless you," Barb said, as she handed me my receipt.

I smiled back at her and said, "God bless you."

I perked up as I walked outside to the parking lot. The squall had passed as quickly as it had come. The Holy Spirit had sent me a warm moment with a complete stranger.  Barb had filled my soul with a little Catholic sunshine.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Blessed Zelie Martin: An Inspiration To All Of Us

A friend told me a true story:
Her mother was in her car, stopped at an intersection near the freeway in Detroit. Standing on the corner was a man holding a sign. It said, “I’m hungry.”
In the next lane over, a well-dressed woman in a nice car waited for the light to turn green. She noticed the man holding the sign, rolled down her car window, and yelled nastily to him, “WHY DON’T YOU GET A JOB?”
The man said nothing in response. My friend’s mother was horrified.
When I heard this story, my first response was revulsion at such an act. If this woman could only see herself from the outside: a well-to-do woman with beautiful jewelry and a fancy car, YELLING at this homeless man.
Sheesh, isn’t he down on his luck enough, without having to hear the nasty wrath of this woman, who doesn’t even know him? Who yells at anyone without truly knowing his or her story, the circumstances of a stranger on the street? Can we really think we know someone just by looking at him or her? And is it necessary to hatefully yell your opinion to someone you’ve never met, risking hurting their feelings?
My second reaction was this: How have I been uncharitable, perhaps not in the same way as the lady above, but in my own selfish way?
It’s something to think about. We may pat ourselves on the backs, saying we’d never yell at a stranger like the rude lady in the car, but that doesn’t make some of our own selfish actions any more noble.
I’ve been reading a book about simplifying our lives and doing good for others by donating items we don’t need. Sounds simple enough, but what really got me thinking was when the author challenged me to think about how much is enough, and giving until it hurts.
Really, how much of our possessions IS enough? Sure, most of us donate clothes and food to the needy throughout the year. We put items in the bag that we’ve outgrown, that have gone out of style, that no longer fit us. That’s not really all that painless, though, is it?
For my part, I’ve been holding onto too many winter coats than I would ever need. Some women like shoes, some like purses. My downfall happens to be coats. But there are women out there who are cold, a cold I have never known, who could use some of the coats in my closet. Giving when it hurts is a true sacrifice, is true charity. After reading this book, it seems uncharitable now to hang onto them when others are in need.
Whatever we have, whatever we think we own, is not really even ours anyway. It all belongs to God. In His mercy, He has given us what we have and we should be grateful, never taking it for granted, never being so cocky as to think it will always be there, will always be ours. Every day is a gift, and everything we own is a gift, not to be taken lightly. And when we prepare to meet Him after we leave this earth, we can’t carry a tote bag or a leather trunk with our material goods along with us. We are all human, we are all God’s children; yes, even if we haven’t bathed and don’t have homes.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the mother of my special friend in Heaven, the Little Flower. Her mother was Zelie Martin. Beatified along with her husband Louis in 2008, she was a loving example on earth of Christ’s love for humanity: an unselfish woman who practiced charity toward her neighbor, love for the Church, a life of hard work, and lived her short life with a spirit of faith and sacrifice.
She wasn’t tremendously wealthy, but the money she did earn from her successful lace-making business in Alencon was never taken for granted, and never shamefully wasted. Instead, Zelie helped out her poor neighbors all of the time, sending them money and homemade stew.
She also taught her daughters (our dear St. Therese among them) charity for the suffering poor and also to show them respect.
The following paragraphs are taken from the book The Mother of the Little Flower, which is written by Therese’s older sister Celine, and is now published by TAN books:
One day while traveling, she reproved another lady in the railway carriage who showed displeasure at the arrival of a poor woman with her two babies. When they reached Alencon, Mother helped the woman with her children and parcels to get her home. Father, who had been waiting at the station, also helped; and it was midnight before they reached their own home.
For Leonie’s First Communion, Mother selected a poor girl in her class, had her dressed in white also for her First Communion, and invited her to the place of honour at the festive dinner for the occasion.
I marvel at the difference between the woman in the car and Zelie Martin. One chose to spew hatred; the other chose to treat people with dignity and respect.
It was never an inconvenience for Zelie to think of others’ needs before her own, even when it was late and she was tired from traveling. Zelie never asked questions of the people, asking if they had jobs, were lazy, etc. She never yelled at them or put them down, trying to decide for herself if they were truly worthy of a hot meal.
She put everything in God’s hands, and did her part without complaint. She was Christlike, sacrificing and giving even when it was not convenient or especially enjoyable. I know there must have been a few times when she was tired or ill and did not feel like giving. She did it anyway.
Blessed Zelie Martin is an inspiration to us all. She is integrity, character, goodness, and love. Ask for her intercession in your life during this new year, as well as in the life of the woman in the car, so that our hearts may soften and we all may learn what it is to be truly charitable in 2014.
For my part, I think I’ll go through my hall closet and look for some coats to give away. Is there anything in your closet that you could give away, even when it hurts?

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