This blog's mission is simple--to encourage moms who are married to non-Catholics and raising their children in the Faith. If you know a mom who needs a little encouragement in continuing her efforts, I would be delighted if you would share Kathleen's Catholic with her. Thank you!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Taking Time Off to Focus: Priorities, Priorities...

You might have noticed that it's been a while since I last posted to Kathleen's Catholic. While I love blogging, I've had to re-assess where to put my creative and physical energies these days, and tending to my children and home have been put back at the top of my priority list where it belongs. Mostly, some issues in our homeschooling need to be addressed. It's so important to me that my children's education--both academically and spiritually--goes well and that these years don't simply slip by.

I hope to return to regular blogging and writing sometime soon. Until then, please feel free to check out all the features on Kathleen's Catholic. You might be interested in the recipes from The Little Catholic Kitchen. Or a Catholic Mom Basics kinda article (which you will find in the right column of this blog). Or you might find something new and interesting from KC's page, Links for the Family. If you love to read, check out my book reviews (I tell you how in the right column) and Kathleen's Catholic Book Shop. There are so many great titles out there for Catholics, and, well, the winter months are just about upon us, so it's a great time to snuggle under an afghan and take in a good book or two...or a time to purchase a literary gift for someone special.

When I return, I'll be posting a bunch of new recipes in The Little Catholic Kitchen--my spiral notebook is packed--and I'll have a new book review for you, on a title that shows how the Holy Bible gives us sound guidance in raising our teens. I found the book fascinating...and much needed!

But before I sign off, I'd also like to tell you that my new pamphlet, Catholic Mom: Nurturing the Home, will be available in Spring through Liguori Publications. Many parishes provide Liguori's pamphlets in their vestibules or libraries, but if yours doesn't you can order a copy (or copies) directly from Liguori. I'll let you know when it finally comes off the press, and I'll provide a link. I'm really looking forward to seeing the finished product!

I hope to be back into blogging before too long, but until then please send out a little prayer for me...that my endeavors in educating my children are successful in the way Christ would want them to be. I would truly appreciate that. Your support and encouragement always mean a great deal to me.

God bless!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Terrific, Edifying Catholic Fiction: Classic and Contemporary

by Kathleen Blease

Visit Kathleen's Catholic Book Shop for almost 50 Catholic titles that are wonderful reads! Many of them are available on Kindle as well.

Is there a way to teach the Catholic way of life through fiction, without making it soft and shallow?

These last several weeks, eastern Pennsylvania has been suffering from an unusual amount of rain. Although the tomatoes in the garden aren't liking it one bit, and they have yet to ripen, I've found an easy and enjoyable way to get through the dreary days.

Catholic fiction has found its way onto my Kindle, but it's been a journey to begin the download.

Last year, when I attended the Catholic Writers' Conference, I met Catholic novelist Michelle Buckman. After a brief chat, she offered me a copy of her latest book. I didn't know what to say, so I just nodded and blurted out a quick, "Thanks!"

You see, up until then I had been sorely disappointed by contemporary fiction. After earning my degree in English Literature (not American) and well-steeped in classical fiction, I went off to work for a major publisher in New York City, where we published literature-quality non-fiction. I spent many years engulfed in how-to's, history, business and success stories...not romance and who-dunnits. And each time I picked a contemporary novel, it was either a harsh view of the world or just plain smut. I was turned off. And when I tried to read Christian novels, I found stories that had little depth and weren't very fulfilling. They didn't seem to present a real-life scenario to me.

And time? Who had time? I had two little rambunctious boys running about, hardly providing the setting for quiet reading. I will still engulfed in Bionicles and Rescue Heroes. I knew in the back of my mind that my time would come. And it did.

But I didn't know what to think of Catholic fiction. I heard Michelle speak and then decided to give her book a read, although I admit the paperback sat on my reading pile for a few months while I embarked on yet another and typical deep-read about a saint, this time St. Bernadette of Lourdes in Bernadette Speaks by Rene Laurentin.

But once I picked up Michelle's novel and began reading it, I couldn't put it down. Not only did I find a compelling story that drew me back to its pages time and time again, but I was also amazed by the edifying quality of the work.

Is there a way to teach the Catholic way of life through fiction, without making it soft and shallow? Obviously, the answer is Yes. These authors have found the way.

So, without further ado, I'm presenting here a very short list of the books I would consider must-reads. Some of them are modern and gritty, some are Victorian and almost like poetry, while others are easy-reads like romance novels. Some take more effort to read, while others are a breeze and perfect for the busy mom. All of them are worthwhile, in my opinion, and wonderful entertainment that help fill the reader's heart and soul. All of them are available in both book form and on Kindle, and I've noted which  ones are free on Kindle.

I'll top the list with Michelle Buckman's award-winning title. Happy reading!

Rachel's Contrition by Michelle Buckman, winner of the Catholic Arts and Letters Award (CALA): Michelle weaves a modern story of loss, renewal, and compassion. By the end of the book, I was crying like a baby. The story is well-woven and leads you through Rachel's agony from her unique and often tumbled (but very real) perspective. In the end, the cloud is lifted, and the reader is taken through Rachel's healing process. Throughout the story, she is guided through her days by a new friend, St. Therese of Lisieux. She is also guided by her husband, who Rachel viewed as "the enemy". The story is gripping, a little gritty, and feels very real. It does not suffer from soft, gentle Christian writing but instead illuminates how true healing can take place with God's grace.

Death Panels: A Novel  of Life, Liberty and Faith by Michelle Buckman: Here is a futuristic story that is timely and thought-provoking, set in 2042. This one is truly gritty and will make you think about where our nation is going in our beliefs and attitude about the value of human life. In Death Panels, David saves a newborn from certain death when it is not born perfect. The story quickly unfolds as faithful believers, who had been forced to go underground, are pulled into a holy scheme of saving this child and changing the world forever, if but only a bit.

The White Ladies of Worcester by Florence Barclay: (Free on Kindle) Written in 1917, this novel is as pertinent today as it was then. Both its language and story line feel remarkable contemporary; despite its age, it is still an easy and delightful read that has a great deal to offer. However, when I first read a description of the book, I wondered if it was worth reading. The main character, Mora, is a prioress of a cloister. When her love from long ago shows up, it's her bishop who helps her leave the convent and marry the knight. Doesn't sound very obedient, does it? I began reading it wanting to find it filled with flaws. To my surprise, I found that Mrs. Barclay had written a beautiful and holy story.

The main character, Mora, had been tricked into believing that her love had returned from the Crusades and married another, and so she felt that her only other option was to give her heart (and all her agony over her loss) to Christ in service to the Church. When the truth is revealed by her prior, the bishop, she is faced with a difficult decision, and she again takes her heart to Christ to find the answer. Her decision, alas, was not based on her feelings but on what was right in the eyes of the Church. And it was there in the laws of the Church that she found her heart. It's a moving story I couldn't put down. I was amazed by the depth of the characters--all the characters, even the little old nun who watched the convent's entrance and talked a the robin to pass the time. Mrs. Barclay had carefully written into the story a fabric of Catholic doctrine and way of life.

The Rosary by Florence Barclay: (Free on Kindle) Another story written by Mrs. Barclay, here is a Victorian love story that stands the test of time. Just like The White Ladies of Worcester, it is easy to read and compelling. Barclay relates falling in love with the Rosary, how each moment can be like praying the beads, holding the beads of joy in your hands and giving away your heart. The story also invokes patience and deep abiding love. It depicts two characters of opposite demeanor learning to carefully consider the needs of the other--something we rarely read in romance novels. Garth declares to Jane, "You have lifted the veil, and I am entering in!" However, Jane is overwhelmed by this surprise declaration from her lifelong friend, and she makes a decision she later struggles to undo, praying that she will not have to live with the regret for the rest of her life. Garth's condition, both physical and spiritual, will chip away at your heart, as Jane secretively brings him back to life with her selfless and thoughtful actions. This story reduced me to tears, and I couldn't stop thinking about it for days.

Daughter of Joy (Brides of Culdee Creek, Book 1) by Kathleen Morgan: (Free on Kindle) I'm not sure what possessed me to download this onto my Kindle, but I'm glad I did. Here is a contemporary novel that's a light read but very compelling and thought-provoking. It is the first of four titles in the Brides of Culdee Creek Series. I especially like how the main character brings to life the beauty of what John Paul II called "the feminine genius." The story also depicts clearly the Catholic belief that sorrow and pain is useful and edifying by how it brings us closer to Christ, at the foot of His cross, bringing us deeper into our faith.

The author is a well-published romance novelist, but her life changed suddenly in 1996 when her youngest son died unexpectedly of cancer. In A Word from the Author, she explains to her readers that her Christian faith had turned lukewarm over the years, and her son's death brought her back to God. There was something she wrote that led me to believe she is Catholic (although she writes nothing to confirm it). It was about her suffering; her words ring of Catholic beliefs. She wrote: "My son's death brought me back to God. There are still times, even now, when all I can do is hang on to Him with all my might and be grateful for that. At other times, I cannot help but marvel at how far I've come and how blessed I am. Grieving, I think, is a lot like that--a wild, agonizing, bewildering, yet sometimes glorious ride into the deeper, more essential aspects of self and humanity."

Her novel, Daughter of Joy, is set on the Culdee Creek ranch on the plains east of Colorado Springs in 1895. It's a story of how Abby, who lost both her husband and son, brought life back to Conor MacKay, who had lost himself to quiet anger. Throughout the story, the author depicts circumstances we can all relate to. But what I enjoyed most was Abby's determination to show the teachings of her faith through her everyday actions. And it wasn't easy! Conor made sure of that. Throughout the story, you will meet characters of all stripes, and you just might recognize more than one (that is, people in your life, too). Edifying, compelling, and satisfying, this easy-read is perfect entertainment for busy moms.

Woman of Grace (Brides of Culdee Creek, Book 2) by Kathleen Morgan: The Culdee Creek story continues with Hannah, whom Abby rescued from forced labor at the local brothel. She is brought home to the ranch, much to everyone's dismay. Hannah comes face-to-face with an old client, the husband of Abby's best friend, who is also Conor MacKay's cousin and ranch foreman. In this twist, hearts that are hurt turn to forgiveness with Abby's help, and Hannah begins a new life, grasping her second chance with thanksgiving. Her old client, the foreman, must face painful realizations of how he failed his wife, but not before losing her to influenza. His grief is deep and his sins he feels are unforgivable. He creates a private hell for himself, believing that he is not worthy of God's love. Abby and Hannah help him to find forgiveness, peace, and God's grace. Like Book 1, Woman of Grace shows the feminine genius at work. It's not an easy task, but Abby and Hannah cling to God's grace and find strength to do His will.

I hope you enjoyed this short list and consider how you can add a little Catholic fiction to your reading list, too.

Click on the links in each book description, or click here to visit Kathleen's Catholic Book Shop for almost 50 Catholic titles that are excellent reading.

Happy Catholic reading!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Love Letters From Heaven: Summer

by Kathleen Blease

The Lord's love is all around us, expressed through His Heavenly Father's grand Creation. It's all made for our enjoyment and contemplation. What a love letter! I hope you enjoy a few photos I collected over the summer. Some are of God-made items, others are of man-made. All of them are reminders that God provides in so many ways!

At nearly five feet tall, these cleomes are the largest I've ever seen.
They are the offspring of plants that naturalized themselves here last year.
I collected the seeds last August, but I never suspected they would produce plants this massive.
It seems to me that the swallowtails arrived late this year,
but then again the zinnias were extra late, too. And it's the zinnias the butterflies come to enjoy.
This is Honey Bun's favorite spot to watch her humans. When she embarks on a deep snooze,
she claims the wicker chair as her own. Here's where I like to sit and read,
pray, contemplate, plan, and enjoy a nice glass of wine...on the back porch.

A piece of plywood made into a boat to spend an afternoon on the pond.
That's his dad's really good kayak paddle, but no matter.
 Right now, Max has turned his attention to building a motor-driven bicycle,
and he's thinking about how to build a wooden motorcycle.

Crochet and knitting have taken up some of my time this summer.
Here are some towels I made from left over cotton.
I also completed my first lace piece (a scarf),
played around with curtain patterns, learned a bit about beaded crochet edgings,
and started a sweater that features a cabled shawl collar and cabled cuffs.
A piece of lacework I bought for mere pennie many years ago. It's 22 inches wide.
 Last month, Interweave magazines asked if they may include it in one of their columns.
I still have yet to find out how this was made.
 It is not knitted, crochetted, or tatted. I believe it is a needle tooled lace.
 I'll let you know when the magazine publishes it.

Here's a detail of the lace, pictured above. Imagine the patience required to craft this!
 If you have any knowledge of this lace technique, please let me know.
Our skilled hunter is snoozin'. He's sound asleep. Truly, he has brought home his fare share of rodents.
He knows how sharp his fangs are! When he wrestles with my hands,
he just gums my fingers so he won't hurt me. He's a real sweetheart, our Meemo is.

My mother-in-law sent us packets of seeds from Vermont.
This lovely cosmos, among the bachelor buttons, were just some of the vibrant flowers
that sprung from her thoughtful gift. This month, I'll collect their seeds,
 share them with others, and save some to plant in the Spring

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Frogs, and Mallards: From the Bird & Nature Journal

I love writing about the nature that's just outside our window--both its peacefulness and its fury. And we've had plenty of both in the month of August! Just a few minutes of quiet time every day really adds up to lots of writing fodder.

Visit The Bird & Nature Journal for an introduction to the nature in Eastern Pennsylvania, a bird watching guide, and tips on identifying birds, as well as lots of links about nature.

Here is my latest sampler from that page. God bless!

Oops. Pardon Me. Hop, hop.August 29, 2011

Photo source: PA Herp Identification.
Cleaning away the debris from the storm today. (Unlike our neighbors, we have lost no trees or even branches. If you take a look at the picture of the cresting pond, below, you will see a majestic maple that's about 100 feet tall. Praise God it lost nothing! A few years ago, we had several trees heavily pruned to lighten the canopies.) A small pile of leaves and twigs were gathered around our statue of the Queen of Peace. I scooped it away with the broom, and....boing! Hop, hop. A huge frog jumped out. He must have been forced into the dry spot by Irene's swirling winds. I wish I could record his memories of the storm! Poor guy didn't have his land legs and hopped about sharp to the left. He navigated the entire perimeter of the porch's stone wall before he finally regained his composer and headed for the pachysandra. I identified him by visiting PA Herp Identification: Online Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of PA. He was a green frog, about 5 inches long. It was a delight to watch him use those long legs!

She's Here!
August 28, 2011

Our serene pond has turned into a raging river.
Here she comes, just walkin' down the street, singing.... Irene's winds are hallowing up a storm outside our windows, and right now I'm glad I took the time to tape them up. The boys spent the night in the library, since a large and ancient maple trees resides just outside their room. I don't trust those branches to hold on.We are watching Fox 29 Philadelphia and Channel 69 Lehigh Valley (our local channel) for up to date coverage, and we're grateful for all the information. Our pond, as you can see from the picture, has become a raging river. Water from the hill behind us is pouring into our basement, even bubbling up through the base of the stone foundation. Believe it or not, our 100+ year-old foundation was built to do this--water in, water out. The sump pump was installed years ago to help the process. I'm sure not a few farmers have had to bail out the basement before the days of these mechanical helpers; we just might be the newest addition to the club, if the power fails.

The storm is eery. It comes in wails. Then there is silence for about half an hour. I can hear only the crickets. The birds are silent. Then the storm returns, and Mother Nature directs a new symphony of wind and rain.

By early morning, Irene is going full strength, without those half-hour breaks. High winds. The trees are bending, and I can't believe nothing is breaking. The rain is heavy, but not as heavy as I've expected. However, it's certainly enough to cause serious flooding.

Thankfully, we have not lost power, but we've learned that we are one of few who have been blessed! Our neighbors just to the North and just to the South have been left without. However, the damage caused by floods and the wind and rain are minimal. We are so very grateful!

Getting Ready for Irene's Visit
August 24, 2011

Some of the flowers I picked before Irene flattens them for good. I tried to leave some behind, so the birds will have seed pods to enjoy during the winter. Usually, they have plenty to gleen from during the frosty months, but this year I'll need to make special note to buy extra bird seed.

I picked all the ripe tomatoes, as many herbs as I could cram into jars, vases, and pitchers, and all the flowers. I'm sure they will be flattened by the wind and rain.

Preparing for Hurricane Irene, a huge storm. We usually don't worry about hurricanes in this neck of the woods, but we are hearing that Irene will reach over New Jersey's borders with ease. That would be us. We have brought in all the yard items, secured all the outbuildings, bought food, water, batteries, collected our flashlights, set up buckets in the basement (in case we need to bail manually), taped picture frame windows, and set to praying. In the meantime, we just heard that Albany, NY, has experienced another earthquake, at 3.0. The east coast is having a great week. What a time to be a meteorologist! This is their week to make observations and put their hard-earned degrees to work!

Shaking It Up!
August 23, 2011

An earthquake in Eastern Pennsylvania? With its epicenter in Virginia, the little quake registered a 5.3.

Did my cats sense it coming? Hardly. I was sitting on the bed reading, with two of our cats lying next to me. The bed began to shake back and forth. Our felines just looked at me as if to say, "Say, just what are you doing, anyway?"

Well, Hello There!
August 21, 2011

I went outside to check the mail and heard the steady peep of a chick calling out to mama. It was coming from the ground. I looked about and found among the cleomes and tick seed a little beak and eyes surrounded by downy feathers. He was precious. I reached it to pick him up and he zipped away in the air. Yet to grow tail feathers, he was flying without direction and trying to land...somewhere, anywhere but in the pond. I didn't like that he was left out in the open, so I tried to direct him back to the cleomes and tick seed. But he didn't want to go, so I decided to pick him up and transport him. To my surprise, he hopped onto my finger. And he had no plans of going anywhere. He was perfectly content. After admiring him, I took him over to shrub. He hopped onto a branch and hopped about like he as king! This was an afternoon I thoroughly enjoyed. (I will have pics soon.)
All Grown Up
August 2, 2011

These mallards were hatched here. The trap in the background
was set by our neighbor, who is trying to catch the family of
muskrats, to no avail
It's fun to observe the brood of mallards that were hatched on our pond this year. They are now fully grown, but for a long while they still exhibited the habits of chicks. They insisted on flocking together when they swam--shoulder to shoulder-- and scooped into the water to eat. They were just too big for all that togetherness.
Over time, I noticed that they gave each other more room little by little. It was a gradual transition. They also exhibited more courage and were less likely to run to the safety of the water when cars drove by and when a bicyclist came along. They were conditioned as to what was safe and what wasn't. Curious people who wanted to take pictures were still not on that list.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Catholic Mom is a Big Job: But to Some Just A Big Bag of Beans

Today I am working on writing a pamphlet for Ligouri Publications, about being a Catholic Mom. You know, it's funny. I really thought I was just about finished, but so many thoughts are now criss-crossing my mind. Being a mom is such a big job, a complete blessing, and a true challenge. How can I express it within my publisher's limit of just 2800 words? Good luck, right? Well, I've decided to focus on a few themes, and now I feel like I'm starting all over. But that's how writing goes!

At about word-count 6000 (which I have to whittle down!), I decided to take a break to peruse a few blogs and then my own. I came across an old post, called Even the Angels Have Not Been Blessed with This Grace, about having babies and one mother's challenge to give up her unborn child in exchange for a big bag of beans.

The family desperately needed that bag of beans. They were starving during the worst of times. Yet, the father's desire to protect his unborn son rose up in fury--a righteous, Godly fury!

I think you would enjoy reading it. Click on the link above. Find out who that baby became later in life.

And, yes, I will let you know when my pamphlet, Catholic Mom, will be available. I'm writin'! I'm writin'!

God bless!

Friday, August 12, 2011

KC on the Go! Kindle, iPhone, eReaders and Mobile Devices

The new school year is just around the corner. Whether you are a homeschool mom or devoted school volunteer mom, you probably will agree with me that September usually means a new schedule of driving, picking up children, and...well, waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting at soccer practice. Waiting at the doctor's and dentist's office. Waiting at the orthodontist. Waiting for Scouts to wrap up. I've gotten in the habit of taking along one of three things: knitting, Catholic literature, or my Kindle.

This is just a gentle reminder (and maybe shameless promotion?) that Kathleen's Catholic is formatted for your mobile devices and eReaders, including iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Kindle. Below are all the links you might like to have.

Mobile formats
Click here to learn about and view KC's mobile format.

eReader formats & free trial
Click here to learn about KC's Kindle format and how to subscribe. Try a free trial for 14 days. If you have the Kindle 3G, you can also access Kathleen's Catholic for free by simply launching the web browser and typing in the blog's address, However, the subscription makes it so much easier by formatting and archiving the blog for you.

Free Kindle Apps
There is are also free Kindle apps, so you do not need a Kindle to enjoy the subscription. Click here for the free iPhone, iPad, and iPod apps. (If you download the Kindle app, you can also download many, many free books, such as the novel The Rosary, which I recently reviewed.)

To Purchase a Kindle
If you would like to purchase a Kindle, click here or on the Kindle icon in this blog's right column. At the top of the Amazon page, click on "Buy a Kindle."

With these readers and mobile devices, you can take Kathleen's Catholic  columns, book reviews, and the recipes from The Little Catholic Kitchen with you wherever and whenever you find yourself with some "waiting" time to spare.

God bless!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Exciting News from Catholic Icing: A New Preschool Curriculum

I just wanted to send you a very quick note:

If you have preschoolers, you will want to check out Catholic Icing's new book, Catholic's ABC (The Book), a preschool curriculum. I'm a big fan of  Catholic Icing, and I'm sure you are, too, especially if you are a teacher, a CCD instructor, or a Catholic homeschooling mom (or dad) of little ones.

Catholic Icing's founder and producer, Lacy, has put down all her tricks and talents into book form and produced a curriculum that is both engaging and edifying. As soon as I saw it, I thought, "Oh, I wish the boys were little again." If anything, little children are tactile learners, so Catholic's ABC (The Book) might be a great way to ease your little students into home school, with its 26 lessons based on the alphabet.

For a peek inside the book and to pre-order, click on the link above. And please tell Lacy that Kathleen's Catholic sent you!

God bless!
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