Saturday, December 22, 2007

Great News for Lisa Hendey of "Catholic Moments"!

Lisa Hendey, a "Canticle" regular contributer and webmaster at, just sent me this news about the exciting new development for her "Catholic Moments" podcast ...

"Hey everyone, I just had to share this great news! Christmas came early for me this year!!You can check out the details at and comment there if you are as excited as I am! This happened just in time for me to ask you to join me in supporting SQPN with any size donation you might be able to share this year. I truly believe that podcasting and new media are tremendous tools for lifting up our Catholic families and sharing our faith. If you can share a donation of any size, please visit - your donation will go to help SQPN continue to grow and will support the talented individuals who lead this organization and have committed their lives to this project.Thanks to all who have supported and encouraged me in this new project, and here's to many more "Catholic Moments" in 2008. Happy Fourth Sunday of Advent, Lisa"

Merry Christmas ... from Canticle!

For those of you in need of a little additional inspiration, who are recent subscribers to "Canticle," I wanted to alert you to the fact that our web guy, Tom Sullivan, recently posted back issues of the magazine on our website. Here's the link.

You'll especially want to check out the Oct-Dec 06 issue, which features Teresa Tomeo's Advent reflection on her trip to the Holy Land. Enjoy!

We are now putting together (believe it or not) the May/June 08 issue of the magazine. (If you're thinking of submitting something for this issue... I'll probably start selecting articles the first week of January.)

If you have time, you might also want to check out Mommy Monsters and Streams of Mercy, where I've recently put some special posts.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Congratulations, Donna-Marie O'Boyle!

This week Donna (a regular contributer at "Canticle") got some great news that I wanted to share with you!

I want to share my excitement with you about being invited by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Company to attend the RBTE as one of the three authors that they will sponsor for the event! I will do a book signing of my new book coming out in March, Catholic Saints Prayer Book. Catholic Saints Prayer Book: Books: Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle

I know you join me in congratulating Donna in this great opportunity, the sweet fruit of all her hard work! (Now I'm REALLY sorry the writer's conference won't be at RBTE this year. Oh, well. Let's pray next year works out!)

Advent Blessings...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Heavenly Hugs

Today was a day of special graces. I received a note from Christine Trollinger (a regular contributer at Canticle and the winner of our last writer's contest), who said that she received a special gift from God on the anniversary of her husband's death, December 13. Despite the snow storm in her area, the mini rosebush he gave her for Mother's Day 2005 bloomed (see picture).

The second blessing came a little later in the day, when I received an unexpected e-mail from a long-lost friend (we played together in 1984 in a church music group while I was on the short-term teaching assignment in Senegal, West Africa). Gondar is now married with four children (he married another teacher from Dakar Academy), and living in British Columbia. When I knew him, Gondar was a medical student at the University of Dakar; he had struggled between continuing his medical studies, which would have required him to return to his home country of Tchad and work for the government for a prolonged period of time, and becoming a pastor. It seems God took him along a third path ... and now he is using his musical talents for the Lord. Ironically, we communicate much more readily now (while my deplorable French has actually decreased in fluency, his English has improved considerably). The subject line of his first e-mail was "I can't believe you're Catholic now!"
Ah yes, how time does change things. In this case, infinitely for the better.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas gift ... from the Vatican!

To all writers (and aspiring writers) out there ... I just received word about an exciting new website released by the Congregation for the Clergy. It offers online access to Scripture commentaries, Canon Law, and other documents that Catholic writers frequently need at our fingertips.

Feel free to "regift" this present to as many as you can!

Last-Minute Christmas Idea for Mom!

Did you know someone who struggles to cultivate a relationship with the Blessed Mother? Consider buying a copy "Mary, the Feminine Ideal" (program #14395), the LHLA program in which Patti Mansfield and I talk with Johnnette about Mary (and Canticle magazine). You can order a copy of the program here.

My book Raising Up Mommy: Virtues for Difficult Mothering Moments is now at press, and should be available in a few weeks. I'll post a message when it is actually in the warehouse, or you can get a message in your e-mail box directly if you send your request to me at hsaxton(at)christianword(dot)com. Thanks to all you kind souls who have offered to review it on your blogs and other venues. We'll need all the help we can get to spread the word!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lent issue update

Congratulations to Gretchen Garrity, whose entry "Giving Lent a Try" was selected as the finalist in the "write about Lent" call for submissions. Her article will appear in the March/April issue. Thanks to all of you who participated. Selecting the final entry was difficult because there were several particularly well-written pieces. I wish I could have taken them all.

There are a couple of omissions and errors in the January issue that I'd like to bring to your attention.
  • Donna-Marie O'Boyle alerted me to the fact that there were a couple of errors in the review of her book Unlikely Saints. The most important is that her book is not yet out -- it will come out sometime in 2008.
  • Concerning the "Grace in Action" column on military chaplains, Renee Gardiner writes: "I'm sure you've already realized the Jan/Feb issue went out with a mistake in the article about the AMS. On July 12, 2007 Archbishop O'Brien was appointed Archbishop of Baltimore by Pope Benedict XVI and he was formally installed on October 1. 2007. Our new Archbishop 'to be" is Archbishop Broglio - this was announced on 19 Nov 2007." (Judy McCloskey informs me that Abp. Broglio's appointment may be temporary.)

  • Speaking of the military, I received this in the e-mail today, and thought I'd pass it along to those who have loved ones in military service. (Warning: be sure to have the tissues handy.)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

In Memoriam...

I wanted to share this moving tribute with you, penned by "Canticle" contributer Judy McCloskey, as a reminder of what women "embued with the Spirit of the Gospel" can do to "aid humanity in not falling." (MD 1) Please say a prayer for Jane and her family ... and while you're on your knees, please also remember my grandmother, Naomi Hess, whom we buried this week. Thank you!

In Thanksgiving for Jane Denton
by Judy McCloskey

On Thanksgiving Day (22Nov2007), after suffering a heart attack, surgery, and postop complications, Mrs. Jane Denton, wife of Senator Jeremiah Denton, passed away.

Jane married Jeremiah the day he graduated from the US Naval Academy on June 6, 1946. Together they had seven children. Nineteen years and one month into their marriage, her husband’s plane was shot down over enemy lines during the Vietnam War. Then Captain Jeremiah Denton spent the next eight years in a communist POW camp, four of those years spent in solitary confinement. A year after his capture, during a recorded propaganda campaign forcing POWs to confess to humane treatment under threat of brutal torture – Capt Denton blinked, using Morse code to communicate: TORTURE.

His taped interrogation having reached America, intelligence recognized and understood: US prisoners in Vietnam were in fact being tortured. A 1½ minute excerpt can be viewed at the National Archives website.

While Jerry was captive and tortured, Jane remained strong in her Catholic faith, prayerfully and steadfastly devoted to the souls on her spiritual radar. Jane worked tirelessly raising their children and became an activist for POW and MIA families. She helped found the National League of Families of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action, credited with contributing to the ultimate release of her husband and numerous other POWs. Jerry was finally released, authored “When Hell Was in Session”, retired as Admiral, elected Senator of Alabama, and founded the ADM Jeremiah Denton Foundation, dedicated to keeping America “one nation under God.”

In 1985, then Secretary of the Navy invited Mrs. Jane Denton to sponsor the USS Mobile Bay. The ship was commissioned in Mobile, AL, hometown to both Jerry and Jane Denton. The Naval Historical Society explains “When a woman accepts the invitation to sponsor a new ship, she has agreed to stand as the central figure in an event with a heritage reaching backward into the dim recesses of recorded history…. The tradition, meaning, and spiritual overtones remain constant. The vast size, power, and unpredictability of the sea must certainly have awed the first sailors to venture far from shore. Instinctively, they would seek divine protection for themselves and their craft….”

Understanding well her sponsorship role, in September 2002, one year after 9/11 when “her ship” prepared to deploy to Afghanistan, Jane Maury Denton, urged Mobile residents and others "to remember the ship and the crew in their prayers." "My pleasure at receiving the honor is multiplied by my love for the Navy, my concern for our national defense, and my pride in having a fine ship named for Mobile Bay," Jane once said.

Jane’s children are living testimony to her vocation as an iconic military wife, mother and patriot. “She was the most faithful, selfless and dedicated wife and mother," says Michael Denton. "She never stopped giving," says William.

Jane will be sorely missed, but long remembered as an exemplary Catholic Navy wife. Perhaps God called her on Thanksgiving Day as a reminder of the gift Jane is. For military wives looking for an example to emulate, there is Mrs. Jane Denton. Ask her now to intercede for you. Nothing will stop this woman of grace from giving completely of herself, in this life or the next.

Judy McCloskey writes from her home in the Arlington Diocese. She is the founder of Catholics in the Military.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Heidi on "Relevant Radio" Monday...

Today I got a call from the "Drew Mariani Show" ... I'm going to be a guest at 4:45 on Relevant Radio this coming Monday, November 19. The call-in number is 1-877-766-3777.

Join us if you can ... and spread the word!

Blessings... Heidi

Canticle update

Yesterday was a busy day ... morning flight to Tampa, afternoon meeting with Johnnette and her staff, and back to the airport to catch a plane back to Detroit. Whew!! Here are a couple of developments I wanted to alert my faithful writers to ...

1. Starting in 2008, we are going to add a special eight-page spread to both our March/April (Easter) and November/December (Christmas) issues. These special bonus pages will be dedicated to the liturgical season, how to enter into the spiritual aspects of these seasons more intentionally. The Easter issue will feature articles from Easter-Pentecost, and the Christmas issue will feature Christmas - Epiphany. These sections will target readers who are either new to the faith, or who just want a fresh reminder of why these seasons are so important. (The goal is to include these sections as a pull-out centerfold that you can give to someone in your life as an evangelization tool.)

NOTE: In the next two weeks, I will be putting together the March/April issue ... my partner in design, Tom Sullivan, has asked for a little extra time because of the holidays. So if you want to submit an article for this issue, please get it to me soon!

2. Did you catch the EWTN program with Heidi on Mary ... and Canticle? For those of you who missed it and would like to see it, you can order a copy of the program here. The primary focus of the program was Mary, so it might make a nice Christmas gift for a mother or favorite auntie ... or yourself!

3. I'm going to be offline during Thanksgiving week, attending my paternal grandmother's funeral and spending time with family. Please remember in your attentions the souls of John and Naomi Hess. They were not Catholic, so I particularly covet your prayers for them.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!



Thursday, November 08, 2007

'Tis the season ... already!

In the "better late than never" category ... Guess who's going to be on EWTN over the next few weeks? Yep ... yours truly!

Living His Life Abundantly/EWTN has scheduled the airings of my two shows with Johnnette! The show will air four times each week on the following time schedule: Mondays at 10 p.m., Tuesdays at 4 a.m. (great for those early-morning feedings!), Wednesdays at 2 p.m., and Fridays at 4 p.m.

* Mary, the Feminine Ideal. Do you -- or does someone you know -- ever have difficulty coming to terms with Mary as our mother in heaven? In this show, Johnnette, Patti Mansfield, and I talk about Mary -- and do a none-too-subtle plug for Canticle magazine. The show will air the week of November 4.

* Raising Up Mommy.
In this show Johnnette and I talk about my new book with Simon Peter Press, Raising Up Mommy: Virtues for Difficult Mothering Moments. Originally titled Taming the Mommy Monster (I still like this one better, but Johnnette worried that it might scare off some readers), this book takes a look at each of the seven deadly sins as expressed in motherhood. It contains quizzes to help you spot your trouble spots, and offers exercises to help you improve in strength and endurance. (This is the first in the "Women of Grace LifeGuide Series." Later this fall, we will also be publishing a facilitator kit, which will allow the book to be used in group studies.) The show will air the week of November 25. Closer to this time, I'll post a reminder on "Mommy Monsters," which you can feel free to link to as the Spirit leads.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Fa-la-la... hello!!!

Today I looked in my mailbox, and what to my wondering eyes should appear ... the November/December issue of Canticle, three weeks early! (Wow.)

So, in case there are any hyper-efficient souls who will read my column and go looking for the gingerbread house recipe right away, here it is!

Now ... do any of you have clever ideas for "Hero" costumes for parties at the end of THIS month? Blessings...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pray for Christine Trollinger's Family

This morning I opened up my e-mail and found the following note from Christine:

Saturday September 29th, 2007

At 11:30 pm, last night, my Lord entreated me to pray. As I pondered this command to pray, my soul was drawn in sorrow, to pray especially for Christopher, my step grand son, our beloved child. I certainly did not know the tragedy which was unfolding, yet God in His mercy made sure that Christopher was surrounded in prayer in his final moments. I prayed the Divine Mercy for Chris, and asked the angels to surround us all.

At 12:50 am, Feast of the Holy Angels, I drifted off to sleep, secure in the knowledge that God had heard the prayers he asked me to pray. And as I did so, Christopher slipped the bonds of earth, and flew into Eternal Life, surrounded in Gods love and Mercy. Now, in the early morning hours, I am reflecting upon our violent and sudden loss of our Christopher. Yet in my heart, I know that God knew Christopher would be dying as I prayed the Divine Mercy for him.

My heart is heavy with the loss of Christopher, but I know he is safe and God has him firmly in his arms.

“Jesus, I trust in You!”

Please hold Christine and her family in your prayers.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My Story, Too...

... A review The Soul Tells a Story, by Vinita Hampton Wright.

It happened thirty years ago, but it seems like only yesterday. My seventh-grade English teacher asked me -- in front of the whole class -- what I wanted to do when I grew up. I don't remember why I was singled out, but I do remember the immediacy of my response.

"I want to write," I said confidently.

"What do you want to write?" he asked.

I didn't know ... but that wasn't going to stop me. We had just finished The Red Pony and Of Mice and Men, and so I ignored Mr. Burke for the rest of the class and plunged into creating a short story about a horse named Lenny. I wasn't particularly fond of horses, and I hadn't a clue about plot or character development or anything else that it takes to write well. I was woefully lacking in knowledge and experience. But desire, that I had in spades.

In her powerful treatise on the inner life of a writer, Vinita Hampton Wright explores this creative spark.

I believe that the universe waits for us to follow desires that are too tall an order. When we desire big things, God is ready to step in with the grace and the growth. It's better that I long for peace in my marriage than cover that desire with the "need" to suddenly look twenty-five again. I'll go further in my soul development if I desire the best use of my creative gifts rather than concoct a desire to climb some social or financial ladder. ...

I believe that my deepest, truest desires are actually the Creator's desires for me. ... Your deep desires are located in that well that is your very soul, and God created our souls to move us constantly toward health and wisdom and peace (p.102).

The writing process is often -- though not always, as Vinita points out -- a solitary endeavor. The world of publishing is, first and foremost, about relationships between people: Those who read, and those who write, and those who mentor, and those who critique. Perhaps most important, those whose lives spin out before us, as we take it all in and try to make sense of it all. It is the desire to create, to write, to express that anchors us. It is also this desire that gives us wings to experience more.

Drawing largely from her own experience, the author also writes about the "dark side" of writing, the smouldering of thought that can have a depressive effect on the spirit. To write well is to step into the void ... and to make no attempt to stifle the screams of terror or the shrieks of delight. This is perhaps the most painful part of the creative process, since many writers tend to be a bit introverted by nature. But to write well is, above all, to tell the terrifying truth, and to let the world listen in.

Any child can write a story of a pony. But it is an accomplishment of an altogether different kind to lasso the galloping, sweaty-flanked stallions of the human experience. The first is easily forgotten; the second resonates, and keeps them coming back for more.

In The Soul Tells a Story, Vinita pens her search for the sweaty-flanked stallion... And in my opinion, her novels tell the story of a fearless soul who, each time she catches that wild horse, continues the quest for another to add to her stable.

Vinita Hampton Wright will be a keynote speaker at the RBTE Catholic Writer's Conference. If you'd like more information about the conference, click here. For more about Vinita, click here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

If God Loves Me, Why Do I Hurt So Much?

This week I've posted something at "Streams of Mercy" that may give you some insight into this all-too-common question.

The November/December issue of Canticle is now put to bed! Check the theme list for January/February ... we still need a few more articles. Thanks!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Feeling Invisible? Part Two

It's been a wild week at the Saxton house. Lying here in my hospital bed, God has been giving me fresh insights into the "invisibility of motherhood" that was the subject of my "Mommy Monsters" post last week.

For those who care to read about it, click here.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Remembering Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

It hardly seems possible that it has been ten years since this saintly woman died. In honor of her memory, I'd like to encourage you to visit Donna-Marie O'Boyle's special tribute to her friend.

Blessed Teresa, mother of all the poor, pray for us!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Do you ever feel invisible?

If you do, come on over to "Mommy Monsters." I posted something there just for you today. I hope it blesses you as much as it did me. (Thanks to my sister Kathy for sending it to me.)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

God Across Cultures

Today at Catholic Exchange there was a great deal of heated rhetoric about a Dutch bishop who suggested that (within the context of Muslim/Christian dialogue) Christians use the word "Allah" when referring to God.

I majored in International Studies and Communications, and so this kind of thing fascinates me. Words are powerful, and one of the more challenging aspects of cross-cultural communications is the process of defining terms. We do this all the time when we "translate" Catholic truths in terms that are more accessible to Protestant ears.

In my latest post in "Streams of Mercy," I take a closer look at what the Church teaches about the commonalities of the monotheistic religions, and attempt to explain why (assuming his reasoning was anything like mine) the bishop's suggestion could have merit. I'd really like to hear your thoughts on this -- one way or the other.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Prayer for Minneapolis

Please join with me in praying for the families devastated by the bridge collapse in Minneapolis this afternoon. I've posted a prayer here.

"Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal." Thomas Merton

Wish List Alert: Best Catholic Politicians (and their wives)

For the next year, we are going to be hearing a great deal about the relative merits and flaws of various political candidates. But what about the "keepers" -- those who are out there truly doing the best they can to promote the common good?

Please contact me if you have one you'd like to nominate ... possibly for an upcoming article. Tell me who, and why you think this person is an exceptional public servant.

Thanks to Judy McClosky at for the patriotic image.



Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wish list...

Item that was posted here has been claimed ... thanks, Dianne!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Review of "The Girls Who Went Away"

I recently read this book, which is making its rounds on the adoption and foster care circuit. The subtitle alone makes a none-too-subtle record of the author's perspective. However, I wanted to share this with you thoughtful women of faith, in hopes that it will cause you to ponder what it means to be a voice of hope and faith in the world.

These women's stories are powerful. There is no denying that they have suffered a great deal, as have their children. What I most appreciated about the Catholic perspective on womanhood in general and motherhood in particular, is where that suffering comes from ... and how that suffering can be used for good. I write about the book here. Let me know what you think!

Blessings-- Heidi

Monday, July 23, 2007

Donna's Prayer Request

Donna O'Boyle has an urgent prayer request for two boys, one of whom is in critical condition after a hiking accident. She writes about it on her blog here.

Please remember Briant in your prayers today. Thanks!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Ten Commandments of Managing Money

In the September/October issue of Canticle, financial advisor Francine Huff (author of The 25 Day Financial Makeover) has a great article on good stewardship. She included in the original article this sidebar of "Ten Commandments" that did not fit in the final layout ... I offer it here to whet your appetite for the next issue. They are ...

1. Set clear financial goals
2. Quit overspending
3. Create and use a budget
4. Save for a rainy day
5. Share your wealth with others
6. Eliminate debt
7. Plan for retirement
8. Teach the next generation about good stewardship
9. Avoid having a hoarding mentality
10. Live within your means

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Are Catholic magazines going the way of the dodo?

This morning Pat Gohn passed along this article to me that I thought was very insightful, regarding trends in magazine publishing. My favorite quote: If you want a certain magazine to survive, you must SUBSCRIBE to it! (What a concept.)

Thanks, Pat, for sending this to us!

Friday, July 13, 2007

The ABC's to Abuse-Proofing Your Child

In case you have not already seen it, my article on teens and dating appeared on Catholic Exchange yesterday. Already several people have written to me about how helpful the "dating checklist" is. It is my prayer that at least one teenager will read it, and end a questionable relationship before it's too late.

(And let me introduce you to my two nieces, Kendra and Kaitlyn. Aren't they beautiful? Their mother is "Karen.")

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Reflection on the "Motu Proprio"...

... For those of you who would care to read it, I've placed a reflection here that I hope will appear in a future Catholic Exchange column. Honestly, this is not the work of just one person ... I'm so grateful that a number of you willingly took time to read multiple versions and offer feedback. (Any errors that remain are 100% my own.) If you have written something about the rescript that you would like others to read, please send me the link. God bless!

"Women of Grace" logo

Would you like to include a "Women of Grace" logo on your blog or website?

If so, please let me know and I'll send you the formula ... I've tried pasting the formula in here and the logo appears ... but not the formula!.

Blessings -- Heidi

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Heidi's Back from EWTN!

It has been a busy 24 hours ... flew to Birmingham to tape two television shows, one on Canticle and one on my upcoming book through Simon Peter Press called Raising Up Mommy: Virtues for Difficult Mothering Moments. (Personally, I preferred my original title: Taming the Mommy Monster, but you can't get too attached to a working title, since most publishers reserve the right to market books as they see fit.)

Both programs will probably run in the fall. I'll keep you posted on the date (maybe we can all have a virtual tea party or something).

SPOILER ALERT! But you heard it here first ... when the program airs, LHLA is going to offer free trial subscriptions to anyone who calls in to request one. (You get one free copy to decide whether you want to continue the subscription, either by paying the enclosed invoice or signing it and returning it.) Of course, since it's such a fine magazine, no one in her right mind would ever decide not to subscribe ... right? :-)

On my way to the studio, I struck up a conversation with my driver, and learned that his daughter's husband was a Marine. Immediately I pulled out a copy of the latest issue (the one with Elena Vidal's darling daughter) and offered it to him. He looked a bit confused. "Are you Catholic?" I asked him.

"No, I like James Dobson ... you ever heard of him?"

"Oh, OK.," I replied, assuming that a Dobson fan might not want a magazine emblazoned with the Blessed Virgin. "I just thought that since your daughter was a military wife, she might find this interesting."

With that he pulled the magazine out of my hands. "Well, I guess it doesn't matter what kind of Christian you are ... mothers can always use some good advice, right?" I couldn't have said it better myself. Please pray for the driver, Steve, and his family.

While I was in Alabama, I had a chance to chat with Virginia Fisher, who wrote a wonderful article for the Sept/Oct issue based on her interview with John "Wild at Heart" Eldredge (Genevieve reviews Stasi Eldredge's book for women: Your Captivating Heart). There are many men -- both Protestant and Catholic -- who have been drawn to Eldredge's work, which focuses on authentic Christian manhood. If you don't already subscribe to Canticle (or if you know someone who is reading these books who is interested in a Catholic perspective on the Eldredge books), order your subscription today! (800-558-5452).

And if you're in the market for an apron, check out Virginia's site.

In other news, Donna O'Boyle has posted her first "Catholic Mother's Carnival." Check it out!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Special Message from Johnnette

Greetings!Every once in a while a very special need occurs here at the ministry that compels me to reach out to our supporters with a request for prayerful and financial help.

That special need now is for Gabriel Sullivan, the youngest son of Tom Sullivan, our Information Technology Director here at the ministry. Gabriel was diagnosed with leukemia on May 1, 2007. We at the ministry, along with Tom, his wife Carol and their six children, have been devastated by the sudden and unexpected news.

Gabriel is 3 years old and his diagnosis is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), cancer of the blood. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL. Gabriel has been hospitalized many times since May 1 with various complications that have added to the already soaring medical costs.

Gabriel's medical team is very hopeful he will survive leukemia and experience a full recovery over a 3.4 year period of medical treatments. Those treatments include bone marrow biopsies, spinal taps, blood transfusions and testing, more chemotherapy, and creating a germ-free home environment for Gabriel so that the extremely dangerous chance of infection can be reduced.
Perhaps you know of a child with cancer and can relate to the heartbreaking situation Gabriel and his family are experiencing right now. Nothing hurts more than to see a little one suffering. It is, indeed, one of the greatest devastations a parent can experience.

Adding to the hardship of the Sullivan family, is the cost of care associated with Gabriel’s cancer. The mounting balance is staggering. I am asking you today to prayerfully consider helping to defer some of those medical costs for Gabriel. We have established a special fund for this purpose and 100% of your charitable, tax-deductible donation will go to the cost of Gabriel’s treatment and medical bills.

You can follow Gabriel’s progress at his website. There you can read regular updates, reflections by Tom, view pictures and videos, download a prayer card to join us in praying for Gabriel and make a tax-deductible donation through Living His Life Abundantly.

For the sake of Christian charity, please ask the Holy Spirit to guide your decision. I pray that you’ll consider a sacrificial offering to help Gabriel recover from his leukemia. I am confident God will reward you greatly for your generosity. Simply click here to make your contribution.

If you prefer to mail your donation, you can do so by sending it to:

Gabriel Sullivan Fundc/o Living His Life Abundantly325 Scarlet Blvd.Oldsmar, FL 34677

Make your check payable to LHLA and mark “Gabriel Fund” in your memo. Or if you would like to make a donation over the phone, you can give us a call at 800-558-5452.

From all of us here at Living His Life Abundantly and Women of Grace, thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely in Christ,

Johnnette Benkovic

PS: I’m including below the prayer we at the ministry say for Gabriel at daily Mass. Would you join us by praying this prayer for Gabriel as well?

Prayer for Gabriel
Heavenly Father, I call on you right now in a special way. It is through Your power that Gabriel was created. Every breath he takes, every morning he wakes, and every moment of every hour, he lives under Your power.
Father, I ask you now to touch Gabriel with that same power. For if You created him from nothing, You can certainly recreate him. Fill him with the healing power of Your Spirit. Cast out anything that should not be in him. Mend what is broken. Root out any unproductive cells. Open any blocked arteries or veins and rebuild any damaged area. Remove all inflammation and cleanse any infection.
Let the warmth of Your healing love pass through Gabriel’s body to make new any unhealthy areas so that his body will function the way you created it to function. And Father, restore Gabriel to full health in mind and body so that he may serve You the rest of his life. I ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July

It has been a busy week. We just got back from Philadelphia (we took in the King Tut exhibit, which fascinated Christopher -- he had studied about King Tut in school this year). My favorite part of the trip was getting a chance to meet Elena Maria Vidal (Mary-Eileen Russell), who invited us to her home for a truly delightful afternoon of barbecue and conversation. It was fun watching Sarah and Ellie play together.

On Sunday I leave for Alabama, where I will be at EWTN taping two shows with Johnnette, one on my upcoming book "Raising Up Mommy," and one to promote Canticle. I'm not sure yet when the show is going to run ... I'll keep you posted.

Finally, I'd like to alert you to a special post I wrote today in honor of our country's birthday, and especially to honor my nephew Ryan, who left this week to start basic training in artillary. He graduated from high school just last week, and it is hard to imagine him holding a gun. Please pray with me, that he will come through this experience physically and spiritually unscathed.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Foreign subscriptions ...

... can now be ordered online by clicking here.

Thanks to Coffee Wife and others who recommended this change to the website!



Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Finding a "Momful" Balance

Is your "Mommy Monster" prowling? I just finished one of my RBTE treasures, Momfulness by Denise Roy (Jossey Bass Publishers, author of My Monastery Is a Minivan). The cover put me off a bit (which is a shame because it might deter some moms from reading it unnecessarily). However, if your week is anything like mine, this may be just what you need to attain serenity (not to mention save your voice). For the full review, click here.

Do you ever wonder if as Catholics we take ourselves a tad too seriously at times? Check out the June 20 post at "Streams of Mercy" and let me know what you think!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Remembering Ruth

Earlier today when I received word of her death, I took down an autographed copy of her Collected Poems, which lies on a special "fire shelf" in my living room (in the event of fire, the contents of this shelf will get snatched up as I exit the house, once my children and husband are safely outside), and touched a blue cut-glass bowl prominently displayed on a kitchen shelf. Both of these are treasures simply because they remind me of a singular experience, an afternoon spent in an unassuming cabin at the top of a winding, gated road in Montreat, North Carolina.

Mrs. Graham was considered by many the "first lady of Evangelical Protestantism." Almost sixty-four years ago she exchanged one holy passion -- to be a missionary in China, as her parents had before her -- for another: to be Billy's wife, and the mother of his children. This turned out to be a monumental undertaking, and in many ways her life might have been much easier if she had stuck with the original plan and wound up an "old maid missionary" serving in some backwater Chinese hospital.

However, "easy" was not something to which Ruth aspired. Neither was "glittering" or "world-famous" or "celebrated." Hers was an unmistakable presence of gracious warmth and sincerity. Sitting on the overstuffed sofas with Mrs. Graham and her daughter Gigi, it was easy to forget that I was sitting where the Grahams had entertained countless notables and celebrities from every walk of life. The carving on the fireplace mantle summed it up perfectly: "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." It was Ruth who had made that fortress home.

Today I imagine them all gathered together in that place, and my heart aches for them. As Ruth herself observed in her Collected Poems (p.179),
A house
is not the same
when she
who made it home
is gone;
it looks
as it has always
and yet
There is an emptiness
a silence
where her chuckle was.
From now on
it is me alone
who once was "us."

I was still a "single career woman" when I met Mrs. Graham -- I married Craig almost exactly a year later, in 1999. Knowing what I know now about the challenges inherent to the vocation of motherhood, I can appreciate even more what a remarkable a woman she was, and how it took the steadfastness of a "missionary heart" to accomplish what she did. Her secret? She stayed as close as possible to the heart of God, drinking deeply of the Scriptures until her soul was fairly steeped in its revealed truth. And yet, somehow she didn't seem overly "religious." She was lively, she was adventurous, she was funny, she was warm ... she knew God intimately, and that is what kept her centered in a world spinning dizzily off-course.

And so, today I want to remember this dear sister in Christ. May her judgment be merciful, and her reward great ... and may the effects of the rivers of prayer that streamed from her while she was still on earth continue to touch those she left behind. How much more do they need those prayers now!

Grant eternal rest to her, O Lord,
may her soul fly to you unencumbered by sorrow, or regret, or fear.
May she see with uncompromised clarity
the fullness of your glory and the wideness of your mercy.
May she and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Prayer Request for Donna O'Boyle's Daughter

I received this request today from Donna. Please join me in prayer for the ongoing safety of this young sister in Christ.

Please pray for my daughter Jessica in Bangladesh doing a research project where a monsoon just killed 130. I am praying to hear from her. Please pray. Thank you so very much,

Love, Donna

UPDATE: Received from Donna today (Thursday):

Hi Heidi,

I just heard from Jessica (email) and she is fine. Thank you dear Jesus!! Thank you so very much Heidi for your prayers and putting out the word for prayer. I am so appreciative. Let us continue to pray for the victims and their families.
Daily Donna-Marie: A Dose of Inspiration: My daughter, Jessica

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
God bless you!
Love, Donna

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Congratulations, Kate!

The long wait is (finally) over. Kate Wicker delivered a beautiful little girl, Rachel Marie. Kate writes:

...we welcomed our second daughter on Wednesday at 11:41 p.m. It was a beautiful birth-day. We are so blessed. She was considered full-term on Wed. and weighed 6 pounds 3 ounces and was 19 inches long. We came home yesterday afternoon and she is nursing beautifully. God is good!

Yes, He is, all the time. For pictures, click here. The one with big sisters Madeline is especially precious.

Wish List Alert

Can men and women just be friends? What about married men and women? Does the Church offer any guidance on where to draw the line between a spiritual friendship and a dangerous one?

Contact me with a "nut graph" if you'd like to tackle this subject.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

New RBTE Catholic Writer's Conference Blog

Karina, Lisa and I are putting on the finishing touches for our new dedicated blog for the RBTE Catholic Writer's Conference. You will find all future posts about the conference here.

We are still looking for someone who can set up an actual website for us ... but for now, this should do the trick!

Finally, a couple of people have been in touch with us about other conferences that are going on in May 2008. We understand that some may have to decide which conference to attend, but because our conference is a track in the RBTE Conference, we cannot move the date. Thanks for understanding ... and we hope to see you there!

RBTE Conference: Would You Like to Speak?

It has been a little overwhelming to see the quantity and quality of publishing professionals (both writers and editors) who are interested in participating at this first conference of ours. To make it as fair as possible for everyone, here is how I propose we do it.

1. First, the bad news: Everyone -- speakers included -- will need to arrange and pay for their own accommodations and travel expenses to and from the conference. I wish we could afford to fly you all out first-class, but the truth is we're working (almost literally) on a shoestring. My goal is to make this conference as useful and as cost-effective as possible. That means that each person will need to contribute financially at least this much. Yes, even me.

2. Those who would like to give a talk (or would like to recommend someone else for a particular talk) are invited to submit a one-page list of "talking points" (one for each talk you have in mind). Be sure to include:
  • Title of talk
  • Experience level of target participant: beginners who need to know how to write a query, intermediates who have been published in some format, or advanced writers who are already supporting themselves with their writing but who want to learn more). (NOTE: Talks may appeal to more than one level of writer - if so, just say "all levels.")
  • Type of writer: authors of books, magazine articles, blogs, e-books, POD writers, etc.
  • Genre: inspirational/devotional, non-fiction, science fiction, chick lit, biography, etc.
  • What are three things participants will take away from your talk?
  • Brief bio (who you are and what your qualifications for this talk are -- professional background, publishing credits, etc.)

3. As soon as we get our website up and running, I will post all speaker submissions that I have received by September 1, and invite participants to vote for their top choices for different categories (fiction/non-fiction book publishing, magazine, marketing, etc.). Based on this feedback, Lisa, Karina, and I will make the final selection of speakers for the general sessions as well as breakout sessions for "niche" topics. We will then confirm the availability of each speaker, and post the results on the conference website.

4. In addition to these talks, we also plan to . . .

  • Give writers opportunities to talk with real, live editors (details to follow)
  • Arrange a pre-, post-, or extra-conference "road trip" so we can all enjoy a slice of real Chicago deep-dish
  • Hold a book signing and possibly a reading session for our published authors
  • Have a special parting gift for participants (details to follow)
  • Offer alternate (e.g. "less expensive") accommodation sites on the website

Questions or concerns? Contact me at

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Moi Meme... Tag, You're It!

I was tagged by Donna to participate in this "let's-get-to-know-y'all" blogging exercise. It's called a "Meme."

"What's a Meme," you ask? Well, you'll see... Here are the rules:

"For this meme, each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog."

And so ... TAG to:


So ... here are my eight facts/habits.

1. I spent a year in Senegal, West Africa as a short-term missionary, teaching English and playing keyboards for a band of African college students. During that year I developed a weakness for freshly baked baguettes and yoghurt with peanuts.

2. A few years later, I directed a group of college students on a bus tour across Poland. Half the team was Polish/charismatic (NOT Catholic), and half the team was American (NOT charismatic, mostly Quakers). Our bus driver was Hungarian, and the only language we had in common was German. (I had two years of it in high school.) At the end of the summer, I decided (a) I was not cut out to be a missionary and (b) Hungarians make the best ice cream in the world. (Our tour originated in Budapest.)

3. After graduating from Bible school (1987), I decided to take a trip by myself to spend time thinking and praying about what direction God wanted me to go. I hopped a cheap flight (from Mpls) to Aculpulco, and spent several weeks traveling by Mexican bus to the northern region of Matehuala, where I stayed with missionary friends. I knew exactly five phrases of Spanish, and packed my backpack with apples (to bribe the little old ladies to let me sit next to them) and toilet paper (need I say more?). To this day, it remains of the greatest adventures of my life.

4. My husband and I met at the University of Michigan Ballroom Dance Club. He asked me out because he liked my lemon tarts. I knew he was the one when he went out of his way to impress my dog. (see photo).

5. I'm the oldest of four girls, and was the last to marry (at age 35). If Craig hadn't shown up when he did, I was thinking about joining the Daughters of St. Paul.

6. My vocational aptitude test in eighth grade indicated that I should become a minister, a missionary, or ... a nun. (My Baptist parents were SO proud!) I studied Korean for two years to become a short-term missionary at a blind orphanage ... wound up in Africa instead when my student visa to Seoul was denied.

7. When I was eighteen I was seriously injured in a car accident. I still get nervous riding in snow storms.

8. White roses or gardenias, dark chocolate, and high tea with girlfriends: three indulgences I'm most likely to turn to when I need a little TLC.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

WISH LIST: Atlanta Eucharistic Conference assignment

Is anyone planning to attend this conference? If you are, please get in touch with me ( I'd like to talk with you about an assignment.



Friday, June 01, 2007

Calling All Catholic Writers: Mark Your Calendars!

Would you like to learn how to translate your "free"lance writing on blogs, online sites, and other non-paying endeavors into cash (if only occasionally)? Would you like to learn more about Catholic publishing, or learn how to put together a winning proposal for a book, or winning query for a magazine? Would you like five minutes with a real, live editor to pitch a book or article idea you just know would sell?

You would? Great! Mark your calendars, and plan to join us in Chicago May 29-30, 2008 for what I hope will be the First Annual RBTE Catholic Writers Conference, to be held in conjunction with the Religious Book Trade Exhibition (RBTE) the week following Memorial Day at the Pheasant Run Resort in Chicago, Illinois!

This conference is going to be hosted by myself (representing Canticle magazine), the Catholic Writer's Guild (Karina Fabian and others), and (Lisa Hendey). We also want to acknowledge Bob Byrns, who met with me a few days ago and is going out of his way to help us make this conference a pleasurable experience for everyone!

We are hoping to keep the costs extremely low (around $100, plus one night's accommodation), so even those with limited means can attend. Bring your whole family -- the resort has everything from golf to an indoor/outdoor pool your family can enjoy while you're at each session. Most rooms have a refrigerator and microwave, and the room rate is the same whether one or three adults stay in the room (kids are free). It is a Pepsi place (:-(), but cans of Diet Coke are for sale in the little gift shop. So grab a couple of writer friends and make a road trip!

Please e-mail me ( if ...

* You are planning to attend (and would like to help)
* You have a particular topic you'd like us to cover, or a particular editor to recommend
* You have any general feedback about our first conference (and would like to help)

Based on my experiences at the 2007 RBTE conference this week, I think a Thursday afternoon through Friday (May 29-30) would give us the biggest benefit in terms of the numbers of editors we could draw, and floor time we'd have available to us. However, the conference floor opens on Wednesday, and you can stay through the weekend, exploring Chicago with your family if you like!

Stay tuned for more information, which we will develop into a website (any volunteers?) as we have more information available. Thanks in advance to everyone who is going to help (please?), so that we can make this first conference a success!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Francis Beckwith, Cont'd

For those who have not yet read it, here is Tim Drake's excellent interview with the former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, whose conversion I recently talked about in a recent CatholicExchange article. Enjoy!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Prayers needed

Today I received this from Pat Hershwitzky (who contributed the article about parenting children with emotional problems in the May issue). Please lift the family up in your prayers.

I'd deeply appreciate prayers for the repose of my mother's soul--Josephine Sobel. She passed away today on the anniversary of St. Padre Pio's birthday and the anniversary of my father's death 20 years ago. God bless and thanks in advance. Patti H

Thank you for remembering our sister in your prayers.

In other news ... I was told today that the records in the LHLA office indicate that only 3 new subscribers have taken advantage of the $1 off discount coupon (SC07). Please let me know if you have placed an order since May 10, so we can be sure everyone is receiving the proper discount! (Drop me a line at Thanks!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Protect Our Children: A Special Appeal

Today I received a note from Pat Gohn (a regular Canticle contributer) about a special effort that has been initiated in the Diocese of Baker (OR) under the direction of Bishop Robert Vasa. They are developing a six-part film series designed to help parents teach their children to avoid becoming victims of sexual abuse.

For more information, click here. And if you possibly can, consider making a contribution to this worthwhile effort.

God bless you!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Sneak Preview!

In our next (July/August) issue of Canticle, we are planning to grace the pages of one article with this image of St. Edith Stein, painted by Sr. Marie Celeste Fadden, O.C.D. (1927-2005). She belonged to the Carmel of Our Lady of the Mountains in Reno, Nevada.
These sisters support themselves with their artwork, which they turn into inexpensive but lovely greeting cards and other products. Most of the cards are available with either a printed message inside, or blank (for those of us who like to actually write to our correspondents). To find out more, click here. Be sure to tell them I sent you.
Blessings -- Heidi

Friday, May 18, 2007

Chasing Rabbits?

In my spare time (hah!) I sometimes edit books for other Christian publishers. Right now I'm working on a book by John Trent called Chasing Skinny Rabbits, by John Trent (Thomas Nelson, 2007). In the book, he tells the story of a ___ of hunters (what do you call a group of them? A quiver? A brace? A herd?) who are urgently pursuing a Great Stag, the object of their great desire. They grow hungrier and hungrier in the chase, until one of them spots a rabbit shooting off into the bush.

Thinking of a fortifying pot of rabbit stew, one of the hunters decides to break off from the group for just a minute and bag the rabbit -- then return and join the others, strengthened and doubly resolved. Unfortunately, one thing leads to another, and when the hunter finally catches up with the varmint, he realizes the creature doesn't have enough meat on his bones to flavor a soup pot. To make matters worse, he is unable to find his way back to the main trail, and gets stuck in a mudpit where he meets his inglorious end.

The point, of course, is that we often get sidetracked "chasing rabbits" instead of staying on the course and capturing the real prize -- the Great Stag. The author offers many examples of "rabbit trails" -- and I was interested to find that even those caught up in "ministry" or other Church-related endeavors must be on guard against this. (To find out more, you'll need to buy the book. Since I'm doing the line edit now, I'm guessing it will be in your local bookstore in a month or so.)

As writers, we must also watch out for those "wascally wabbits." They may not be bad choices, in and of themselves. The question is: Are they part of God's plan for you? Is this the way God is asking you to use your gifts right now?

For reflection: Are you heading down the trail that leads to the Stag ... or down the rabbit hole?

Monday, May 14, 2007

On Dr. Francis Beckwith and a new Thomas Howard Book

Click here to read a reflection about the conversion of the former president of the Evangelical Theology Society ... and my breakfast with the sister of Thomas Howard, another convert to the faith whose new collection of essays about his journey to Rome has been published by Ignatius Press.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Special Offer until June 10!!!

Order one or more subscriptions to Canticle before June 10 and receive one dollar ($1) off each subscription ordered! When you place your order, mention code SC07 to receive the discount.

Canticle: Spend Your Mother's Day with Us!

Yesterday I was talking with Rita, the VP of Operations at LHLA. Long story short, it seems that our subscriber rate is not growing as we had hoped. Although there are no plans to discontinue Canticle, it is heavily subsidized by other parts of the apostolate. This means there isn't money for extras like beautiful artwork, or paying authors at rates comparable to what other magazines pay. (Yes, we will continue to pay our authors.)

Although I was initially discouraged to get this report, I've decided to regard it as a "faith challenge." You see, I believe that Canticle is an important evangelism tool, by its mission to draw readers to a deeper understanding of both the Catholic faith and their calling as women. And so, believing that God wants the magazine in as many hands as possible ... I've asked Him to bring in 100 new subscribers in the next month. That is my prayer ... and I ask that you make it yours, too.

Will you help me with this intention? You can do this three ways:

1. Pray with me. Ask God to move people's hearts and open wide their purses.

2. Promote with me. If you've been blessed by Canticle, either as a reader or as a contributer, please join me in spreading the good news about this one-of-a-kind Catholic women's magazine. Need ideas? Check this out! Thank you, Donna!
3. Pledge with me. If you have thought about getting a subscription for yourself ... or know another woman who would benefit, please see this as your opportunity to ACT. A subscription makes a great Mother's Day gift! All you have to do is click here. Please mention code SC07 to let them know you are subscribing as a result of this post.

Thanks for standing with me in this endeavor.



Monday, May 07, 2007

A Suffering Family

PLEASE NOTE: Future updates about Gabriel and his family may be found here.
A few bright spots in the lives of the Sullivan family since I last wrote. Gabriel had the spinal tap, and by God's grace no cancer cells were found in his spinal fluid. They have started chemo. And two of Gabriel's big brothers, Michael and Joshua, received Confirmation and First Communion. Gabriel received the Anointing of the Sick. "Three of my sons received sacraments this week. What blessings amongst the turmoil."

Not all the news is good, of course. As is often the case, the disease is every bit as hard on his parent as it is on little Gabriel. Tom writes:

"...when things are quiet, Gabriel just wants mommy to lay with him and comfort him, and Carol wraps her arms around him and whispers those motherly words of love that only a mother can. But, as soon as the doctors and nurses come in, he yells and cries for daddy and won't stop until I grab and hold him. This quiets him some but not completely. He is expecting me to protect him from the fear and pain he thinks is coming, but I am helpless to meet his expectations and my heart feels like it is being ripped out of my chest.

"My intellect tells me that stopping the pain is not in his best interest if he is to survive, but the heart of a warrior I have as his father and protector cries out in rage to stop his pain and fend off those behind
administering that pain. However, deep into the night as I sit here in this chair meditating on the silhouette of my wife and child lying on the hospital bed and I cry out in the depths of my soul, 'God stop the pain that has come upon me and my family ... and take it away.'

"I hear Him in my spirit say to me, 'Tom, you are acting with me as your Father, the same way Gabriel is acting with you as his father, so trust in me with the same trust you want Gabriel to have in you.'

With that, I surrender the passions of a warrior, and embrace the calming whispers of my Father who art in Heaven, knowing that when the sun rises in the morning, I must once again don the armor of a fatherly warrior..."

Thank you for your continued prayers for the Sullivans.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Canticle Deadlines Are ... Moving On Up!

Hello, writers!

I was just told that we are moving up production on the magazine, so that I need to have completed articles for each issue at least three months in advance (this means queries need to reach me at least four months ahead).

If I have recently given you a deadline that has more leadtime than this, please get in touch with me right away. Thanks!

Update on Gabriel Sullivan

For those of you who are praying for Gabriel Sullivan and his family, Tom wrote me this morning:

Gabriel has been conclusively diagnosed with Leukemia Tuesday afternoon. A bone marrow biopsy confirmed this. Today he started his first Chemo treatment and in the morning will have a spinal tap to check for Leukemia in his spinal fluid.

His Chemo will continue everyday for the next 8 days and then twice a week for the next 8-12 months. After day 29, the typing of the Leukemia from the bone marrow will be complete and they will know which risk factor he will fall into. Low, Medium, High. This will determine the kind and combination of drugs to use during the next 30 months.

Treatment is scheduled for 2.5 years with the first 12-18 months aggressive, and the remaining 12 months preventative maintenance. This will be a marathon, not a sprint.

God bless, Tom

Would you like to send the Sullivans a card? (Kids always love to get mail ... even from a hospital bed!) Write to them at: 13031 Canton Ave, Hudson FL 34669. If you can, please also remember Michael's confirmation and Joshua's First Communion, both being celebrated this weekend. Tom and Carol had to cancel the party ... but I'm sure the kids would appreciate knowing their special day was remembered!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Urgent Prayer Request

Tom Sullivan, the resident technology administrator and Canticle layout and cover design artist, was just told that his youngest son, Gabriel (3-1/2 years), has bone marrow cancer. Please pray with us, that God would heal this little boy. Please also pray for comfort and wisdom for Tom and Carol, and for their other children Jeffrey, Tommy, Maria, Michael, and Joshua.

Heavenly Father, be with little Gabriel.
We don't understand why this is happening,
but we know that nothing takes You by surprise.
And that, no matter what, Your plan is best.

So we entrust Gabriel and his family to You now,
and ask You to heal that little boy,
and make his family stronger than ever before.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Mary, Queen of Sorrows, pray for us.
St. Don Bosco, friend of children, pray for us.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

"Seedling Prayer" Contest Results

Congratulations, Christine Trollinger!

Christine's entry, entitled "The Park Bench," will be featured in the July/August issue of Canticle. In this story, Christine shares about her devotion to Venerable Father Solanus Casey.

On behalf of all of us at the magazine, I would like to thank those of you who participated in our first writer's contest. We had about a dozen entries to choose from ... and after last week, it was such a pleasure to sit and read about the "prayer seeds" in your lives that are producing such a ripe harvest of faith, hope and love!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Zora je, Tony

A small gallery of photographs greeted us as we entered the church, a sea of faces and celebrations and other intimate moments that those who love him can continue to hold. This shot was my favorite: he was a handsome college graduate, she a high-school senior in loopy braids. "They were very fashionable at the time," Johnnette smiled.

It was the moment of young love, frozen and preserved for the decades to follow. At that time, they were blissfully unaware of the rough road that lay ahead of them. And yet, the looks on their faces say it all: We are in this together. Together through the happy times. Together in the dark.

Together they built the kind of life that Father Ed spoke of in his homily: "In our darkest hour, we believe there is a purpose even in our suffering, and that purpose is love. Even the unbearable becomes bearable ... from that darkness, comes light."

His children recalled a man who lived the way he spoke: direct and honest. "He had a way of taking things down to basics," said Thea. "When Simon died, Dad said to me, 'He belonged to God -- your Mom and I were his parents, and guided him while he was here. But he belonged to God, and so we must be willing to give him back when God comes for him.'"

Jessica observed, "We always knew it would end like this, because of that wicked disease. Dad showed us so many things, and he even showed us how to say good-bye. There have been baby steps all along the way, which he grieved along with us."

When it was time for her to speak, Johnnette did so with her unfailing eloquence ... and yet, the magnitude of her grief was palpable. "He was always my champion, always my advocate. I know he will remain so. I told him in those last moments, 'Anthony, I am weeping, but my heart is full of such joy for you. And now I must go to confession, for I feel such envy!' And with that he went into the arms of Our Lady, with her Son standing by."

Later, we gathered at the cemetery to lay Tony to rest next to his son. As the family gathered one last time to say good-bye, Ljubica (Libby) Fill, an elderly Croatian woman and a close family friend -- celebrated Tony's heritage with "Zora je" (When the Sun Comes Up), a folk song that summed up all too well what the rest of us were feeling:

Zora je svanula, suza je iz oka kanula
Zora je, nema te, čuješ li, ne mogu bez tebe

Sanjam te, sanjam te
Sve me još, sve me još
Sve me sjeća na tebe
Samo pjesma moja čuje se
Al' nema te

Each time the sun comes up,
And we know you’re with God,
We’ll keep listening for you,
It’s going to be hard to do without you.

We’ll keep dreaming about you.
You’re our everything, our everything.
Our whole life was wrapped around you.
When we sing these songs,
We know you’re with God.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Calling Home

Today as I was reading through the entries for our "Seedling Prayer" writer's contest, there was one that fell out of the pile and clamored for my attention. Since it was five pages long -- far more than the 500 word limit in the contest -- I almost set it aside. But something made me stop and take a closer look.

In her contest entry, Elizabeth Schmeidler -- mother, singer, songwriter -- shared a story about a time she (with great reluctance) allowed her teenage son to go to Mexico on a missions trip. Elizabeth remembers receiving a phone call from the young man and hearing the exhilaration in his voice. "Then I knew I had to be happy for him, even though it was hard for me to let him go." Later, when she had to comfort a grieving mother who had lost her autistic son, who used to call her cell phone dozens of times each day, she remembered what it was like to get that phone call from her son, and penned the lyrics to a song for her friend, written as if her son were speaking to her from heaven.

Elizabeth has generously agreed to share her song, "If I Could Just Phone Home," which is a cut from her CD Walk On. Please do not copy this song without permission -- to order copies of her CD, go to her website
P.S. To those of you who entered the contest, I hope to announce the results early next week. Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Eternal Light Shine Upon Him...

Tony Benkovic entered eternal life last night at approximately 7 p.m.

I have no additional details yet. However, I will post them here as I have them.

Please continue to pray for the whole family. I leave you with this prayer of John Cardinal Newman:

O GOD of the spirits of all flesh, O Jesus, Lover of souls, we recommend unto You the soul of this Your servant Tony, who has departed with the sign of faith and sleeps the sleep of peace.

We beseech You, O Lord and Saviour, that, as in Your mercy to him You becamest man, so now You wouldest hasten the time, and admit him to Your presence above.

Remember, O Lord, that he is Your creature, not made by strange gods, but by You, the only Living and True God; for there is no other God but You, and none that can equal Your works.

Let his soul rejoice in Your light, and impute not to him his former iniquities, which he committed through the violence of passion, or the corrupt habits of his fallen nature.

For, although he has sinned, yet he always firmly believed in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and before he died, he reconciled himself to You by true contrition and the Sacraments of Your Church.

O Gracious Lord, we beseech You, remember not against him the sins of his youth and his ignorance; but according to Your great mercy, be mindful of him in Your heavenly glory.

May the heavens be opened to him, and the Angels rejoice with him.

May the Archangel St. Michael conduct him to You. May Your holy angels come forth to meet him, and carry him to the city of the heavenly Jerusalem.

May St. Peter, to whom You gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven, receive him.

May St. Paul, the vessel of election, stand by him.

May St. John, the beloved disciple, who had the revelation of the secrets of heaven, intercede for him.

May all the Holy Apostles, who received from You the power of binding and loosing, pray for him.

May all the Saints and elect of God, who in this world suffered torments for Your Name, befriend him; that, being freed from the prison beneath, he may be admitted into the glories of that kingdom, where with the Father and the Holy Ghost, You livest and reignest one God, world without end.

Come to his assistance, all you Saints of God; gain for him deliverance from [the] place of punishment; meet him, all you Angels; receive his holy soul, and present him before the Lord. Eternal rest give to him, O Lord. And may perpetual light shine on him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Editor Appreciation Day

The last several posts have fallen in the "inspirational" category. However, I also want to make this blog something of practical use to you as well, and so for the rest of the week I've culled a few nuggets that I hope you will find helpful as you polish your own prose.

When I left Servant, my boss and mentor-friend Bert Ghezzi gave me a copy of William Zinsser's On Writing Well (Harper Perennial, 1998). This classic guide on writing nonfiction, as it turned out, would have been of tremendous help to me on my first day of work at Servant ... but better late than never.

Today I'd like to share a passage in Zinsser's book about the value of a good editor that may be helpful for you to keep in mind the next time you are trying to negotiate what can be one of the most delicate ... yet, when it's done right, most satisfying, types of non-familial human associations: the relationship between an author and her editor. It's more of an art than a science, intricately tied to all kinds of intangibles such as personalities, expectations, past experiences, and future hopes. But when it turns out well, the results can be breathtaking. And so, I leave you reading from page 290.

Editors ... are they friends or enemies -- gods who save us from our sins or bums who trample on our poetic souls? Like the rest of creation, they come in all varieties. I think with gratitude of a half-dozen editors who sharpened my writing by changing its focus or emphasis, or questioning its tone, or detecting weaknesses of logic or structure, or suggesting a different lead, or letting me talk a problem through with them when I couldn't decide between several routes, or cutting various forms of excess. Twice I threw out an entire chapter of a book because editors told me it was unnecessary. But above all I remember those good editors for their generosity. They had an enthusiasm for whatever project we were trying to bring off together as writer and editor. Their confidence that I could make it work kept me going. ... There is no end of ways in which an editor can improve a manuscript: pruning, shaping, clarifying, tidying a hundred inconsistencies of tense and pronoun and location and tone, noticing all the sentences that could be read in two different ways, dividing awkward long sentences into short ones, putting the writer back on the main stage if he has strayed down a side path, building bridges where the writer has lost the reader by not paying attention to his transitions, questioning matters of judgment and taste. An editor's hand must also be invisible. ... For all these acts of salvation, editors can't be thanked fervently enough.
The author goes on to describe how a bad editor does considerable harm by insinuating himself or herself into the author's content or style ... something for another time. (Or perhaps something to get you to pick up a copy of the book and read for yourself!)
In the meantime ... Is there an editor in your life who has been especially helpful to you? Why not forward today's column on to that person, and thank him or her for the work done on your behalf? (Thanks, Bert!)
UPDATE on April 20: I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank Kate Wicker for the lovely tribute that I found today on her new blog. Thanks, Kate!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Turning Easter Clods...

Happy Easter! When I entered the Church in 1994, I took “Amy” as my confirmation name, after Amy Carmichael (d.1951), a Irish Presbyterian missionary who was both a warrior and a poet. Amy’s biography, A Chance to Die, has been one of the most influential books of my life … It inspired me to consider carefully not only how I wanted to invest my life, but by what terms I was going to define “success.” It convinced me to think deeply, observe carefully, and to write fearlessly. All these things, Amy did without exception.

As my Easter gift to you, I would like to share with you two selections from Mountain Breezes: The Collected Poems of Amy Carmichael. The first is one of my favorite hymns, which I clung to as a candidate on my final hesitant steps toward the Vigil. There came a point when I realized that there were some questions to which I was going to receive answers only after I had been received into the fold. God was calling me to trust … and, in the end, I’m glad I did. I'm happy to say all those niggling questions are gone, gone, gone ... and oh, the riches I've discovered instead!

The second selection is a poem Amy wrote in memory of one of her "treasures"; little "Pearl" had been sold by her own parents as a child prostitute to a Hindu temple in India. Pearl was rescued by Amy, who determined to raise the little girl at Donavur Fellowship -- and then the girl died suddenly. Though Pearl was one of dozens of children who lived at the orphanage, Amy's expression of love and loss in the poem is heartfelt. Reading it again, as the mother of two adopted children, I find my love for this woman as fierce and devoted as ever it was.
This week Amy's poem about loss seems especially appropriate, though I have nothing concrete to report about Tony. I share it with you anyway as a reminder for you to continue to pray for the Benkovics.

Under the Mercy.


From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.

From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went Thy Crucified)
From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O Lamb of God, deliver me.

Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay,
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire;
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make me Thy fuel, O Flame of God!

AC p.223


Dear Master, all the flowers are Thine,
And false the whisper, "ours" and "mine."
We lift our hearts to Thee and say:
"Lord, it was Thine to take away."

And yet, though we would have it so,
Lord, it is very good to know
That Thou art feeling for our pain;
And we shall have our flower again.

So help us now to be content
To take the sorrow Thou hast sent.
Dear Lord, how fair Thy house must be
With all the flowers we've lent to Thee!
AC, 157

UPDATE: Kind thanks to our dear Irish sister Ann Murray, who lives just miles from Amy's birthplace. She sent this link to alert me to the honorary memorial recently installed at Amy's family's estate (November 2006). Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Sudden Hush

Between now and Easter I will be taking a "blog break" (barring any sudden developments in Tony Benkovic's situation). I leave you with this beautiful reflection, courtesy of Ann Murray, a new friend from Belfast, Ireland, who has agreed to share her beautiful poetry and artwork with us (photography by Bronaugh M.). Be sure to check out her blog.

Good Friday

An impassioned mist enveloped those
Who stood beneath the Cross,
While Jesus’ suffering endured
Until His last breath was exhaled.
No ordinary man was this -
A veil of mourning covered the sun,
The temple curtain was torn from top to base,
The cold earth quaked as
All were plunged into an ecliptic night
When even the wood of Calvary stood
Bereft of heaven’s light

Ann Murray

Monday, April 02, 2007

We Miss You Still, John Paul the Great

It was on the eve of Mercy Sunday, just two years ago today, that he breathed his last. As he drew near the Gates of Heaven, Saint Faustina was there to welcome him, along with his good friend Blessed Mother Teresa. Father and mother, brother and sister -- all are present to greet their Karol, who broke the bonds of earth having accomplished everything his Master had asked him to do...
“Holy Father.” Never had the appellation been quite so apt. One glance into those startling blue eyes, and you could see heaven itself. He spoke eight languages, penned fourteen encyclicals and countless letters, and visited almost 130 countries over the course of his twenty-six year pontificate. And yet he always had time to hug a child, write a letter, or extend a dinner invitation.
When my husband and I honeymooned in Rome, we were first in line to be presented to Pope John Paul II and receive his apostolic blessing on our marriage. There were eleven other couples behind us, and yet he fixed his full attention on us, his hand extended not in cold ritual, but in fatherly welcome.
He was a man of great passion and intelligence. No other pope was so prolific, or so generous in extending himself for the good of his children. He canonized and beatified more saints than all his predecessors put together, and was a tireless proponent for human dignity. This is evident even in the way the Holy Father defined the mission of the Church, in which every person – without respect to age, gender, vocation, or nationality – was invited to share in the great work of the New Evangelization. Without compromising Truth, he extended himself in love to bridge the chasm between Catholics and the rest of the world – Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, and especially other Christians. Time and again, they reciprocated that love and respect.
As a convert to the Catholic faith, I am particularly indebted to Papa John for leading the Church in renewal, so that when I finally got close enough to look inside, I found a faith so vital and relevant, I knew I could never be happy anywhere else. Like the Prodigal Son, I was welcomed with open arms; unlike him, it was not until I finally wandered home that I realized just how lost I had been.
Time and again, reporters spoke of the “legacy” of Pope John Paul II, asking one person after the other to articulate the Holy Father’s greatest contribution to the Church over the course of his pontificate. In reality, I think this is not the correct question to ask. A shepherd’s work is not about personal ambition. It is about keeping the sheep safe. Through his writings, his appearances, and especially by his own example, Papa John led the sheep entrusted to him around the pits and brambles of the world in which we live. Though his intellectual capacity and diplomatic prowess were beyond reproach, his true greatness was in his capacity to love.

And so, dear Papa John, we now entrust you to the angels
with all the rest, like you, poured out in living sacrifice.
May Our Lady take you by the hand, and lead you to our Brother,
And may the Son rejoice to hear her speak your name.
May you adore, in beloved company long anticipated,
and receive your just reward, and dance in jubilation
with the host from every nation, at the love-fest of the Lamb.
Holy Father, our Papa John, please pray for us.

Your loving daughter, Heidi