Two Statues: Book Review

Review by Fr. Juan R. Vélez, author of “Passion for Truth, the Life of John Henry Newman.”Cover_Two_Statues

Two Statues, by Brian Kennelly is a beautiful novel about the lives of men who find meaning in their suffering through a strange series of religious experiences. The story involves various elaborate suspense-filled plots of two sets of characters: two priests teaching at a college in Worcester, Massachusetts, and two men retired on an island off the coast of South Carolina.

The charming descriptions of the coastal town settings and a peaceful South Carolina beach, as well as the intricate resolution of the main plot point, reveals the beauty and power of God, whose Providence guides the lives of men and gives meaning to their suffering.

The story conveys a rich religious content through many simple and real life conversations between the protagonists, as well as the music of a violin played at sunrise on the beach. The well-developed characters and their actions evoke the compassion of the reader, who thus enters into the tension between suffering and Providence.

Fr. Peter, a young priest, battles with unresolved pain from early childhood abuse by an adopted father who was an alcoholic. Yet, he recalls the love of nuns who had previously raised him until the age of ten at an orphanage. In his youth, he falls into a life of addiction to drugs before discovering his purpose in life and returning to God.

Walt, a Catholic and retired widower, prays every day to God for a son he abandoned when his wife died shortly after delivery. At sunrise, he speaks to his deceased wife Olivia, while playing the violin on the beach.

These two lives, riddled with deep sorrow and frustration, need to find healing and reconciliation. Fr. Paul, another young priest, and Buck, a Protestant and single retired man, each help their respective friends to come to grips with God’s forgiveness for their past sins and discover a deeper sense of meaning for their lives.

But all this is only possible through grace. In words of the famous novel, Diary of a Country Priest, “all is grace.” God’s Providence at work through a strange event involving two statues of the Virgin Mary leads Fr. Peter and Walt to meet and experience God’s mercy.

The reader would have benefited from some additional narrative on the lives of the priests, offering insights into their thought processes, and showing them at prayer. Even more, the author might have presented the message of the Mother of God in a slightly more maternal and spiritual manner.

The reader wishes the denouement to have been prolonged a little further, yet the novel still gives him or her a powerful sense of God’s grace restoring a priest to his calling. In all this, a little orphan girl from Guatemala shows us how charity unveils God’s mercy and how God always responds to prayer, here in the form of the sounds of a violin.

Two Statues is an inspiring tale of love and hope.

Brian is now writing a novel on the life of Bl. Giorgio Frassati, which will attempt to capture the same Providence at work in the lives of imperfect men and women.

A Beautiful Advent Story

Donkey BellsOne of my favorite Advent books and one that I read every year at this time is a book by Catherine Doherty called “Donkey Bells,” published by Madonna House Publications. I love to read this inspiring book curled up in a comfortable chair by the wood stove, a hot chocolate or apple cider beside me, Advent and Christmas music playing quietly in the background. This lovely book is filled with heartwarming stories, customs and traditions (such as the Advent wreath, baking, the blessing of the Christmas tree) and moving reflections for the season. It is a beautiful way for children, teens and adults to prepare their hearts for Christmas.

The following is a story from Donkey Bells: Advent and Christmas by Catherine Doherty
(Available as a paperback and e-book)

Donkey Bells (by Catherine Doherty)

It came to me, during these days of Advent, that I should share with you a custom which is not necessarily liturgical but which adds to the enjoyment of this lovely season. It has deep spiritual connotations; at least it did for our family, and for many others I knew when I was a young child.

When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me that if I was good during this holy season of Advent, and offered my little acts of charity and obedience throughout Advent to the little Christ Child for a gift on his birthday, then sometime during Advent, at first very faintly and then quite clearly, I would hear bells. As she put it, the first church bells.

These were the bells around the neck of the little donkey that carried Our Lady. For mother explained that Our Lady carried Our Lord. She was the temple of the Holy Spirit, the first ‘church’ as it were, since Christ reposed in her. And the donkey, carrying Our Lady and sounding his bells as he walked, wore the first church bells.

Around the second week of Advent, mother wore a little bracelet that had tinkling bells. As she moved her hand I could hear them tinkle, and I got excited because I associated them with the donkey’s bells.

As young as I was, my imagination would build up a lot of little stories about the trip of Our Lady from Nazareth to Bethlehem — stories which I would share with my mother, and which would spur me on to further good deeds and little sacrifices.

During the third week of Advent, mother’s bracelet miraculously got many more bells on it. The sound grew louder and louder as Christmas approached. It was wonderful.

My brother and I used to listen. Mother’s bells were first around her wrist and then around her knee too. Then more bells, as it got closer to Christmas. We were really excited about them.

I introduced this little custom in Madonna House. During Advent, I wear a kind of bracelet that can be heard as I walk or move, in whatever room of the house I may be. The members of our family tell me that it spurs them on, even as it did me when I was a child, to meditate more profoundly on the mystery of Advent.

Here at Madonna House, we have begun in these last few years to make a collection of miniature donkeys — of wood, glass, ceramics, rope — you name it. And we have an album of Christmas cards (which we save from the many we receive) that depict the donkey in the manger scene.

The presence of the donkey and the ox in Scripture is symbolic of the prophets who foretold the Incarnation. And also of the fact that “the ox and ass know their Master’s voice, but Israel doesn’t know the voice of God” (Isaiah 1:3). So, you see, there is some spiritual foundation for my love for the donkey which brings such great joy to my heart.

I’m sure that, as a child, Christ rode on a donkey many times. And also as a man, of course. In Scripture we know of only two times: one was when the donkey carried Our Lady, who in turn carried God, from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The other was when the donkey carried Christ into Jerusalem as the people laid palm branches before Him, proclaiming him king.

Let us think for a moment: What kind of animal is a donkey? It is a beast of burden, the animal of the poor. Once again, the immense theme of poverty is illustrated in an animal. God chose the humblest, the smallest in status, because among the animals the donkey is considered very low. So God is teaching us a lesson here — a lesson of humility, of poverty, and of simplicity.

Have you ever seen a newborn donkey? Well, every donkey has a black cross on its gray fur, a marking which is especially noticeable just after it is born from its mother’s womb. It gets less clear as the donkey matures, but still is visible. I share this fact with you to teach you to open your heart to the bells of the donkey that carried Our Lady and also God.

The breath of the donkey and the ox made the stable warm. So we meditate on several things at once: the poverty and humility of the donkey God chose, and which should be our poverty and humility; and the breath of our love, which should warm God in our neighbor constantly.

Let us remember that the donkey also had no room at the inn. Neither woman, nor man, nor donkey had a place at the inn. So they went to live in a poor stable that wasn’t too well prepared for animals, let alone as a decent habitation for human beings.

Now, another meditation comes to us. Think of the millions of people who are left homeless on our streets. Tragic is this situation. We, as apostles, must be very careful that we do not exclude anyone from the inn of our heart.

I pray that our heart, our soul, our ears will hear very clearly ‘the bells of the donkey,’ not only in Advent but throughout the year. For whoever who is pure of heart and childlike shall hear the bells of the donkey ring in their life.

(Creative Commons Licence Pass It On by Madonna House Publications is free to re-publish under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.)

Do you have a favorite Advent or Christmas story? Please feel free to share.

Hungry Souls Cry Out, “Love Should Not Die at Death!”

Did you know that the Holy Souls in Purgatory are desperate for our prayers? Did you know that they will pray for you until YOU enter heaven if you pray for them? Have you always wanted some terrific books to share with your students and your family? I’ve got some recommendations for you, and I hope you’ll pick one and start your own personal inquiry into one of the Catholic Church’s most fascinating and hope-filled devotions.
The devotion to the Holy Souls is a long-standing practice of the Catholic Church, based on scripture and the consistent teaching of the Magisterium, as well as many confirming messages from the Blessed Mother and the saints, through apparitions, visions, and private writings. If you’re unsure if you should believe such things, stop in to this lovely Catholic website and do a little reading!
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The Catholic Company sent out an intriguing e-newsletter today (Oct. 31) advertizing a book I am definitely ordering, called, “Hungry Souls: Supernatural Visits, Messages, and Warnings from Purgatory.” It’s packed with eyewitness accounts of visits to living persons from the Holy Souls — just in time for All Hallows Eve celebrations and our November devotions to the Holy Souls!
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I also wanted to personally recommend two more terrific books on the subject – each unique and a gem to share with adults and children:
Tassone_holy soulsThe first is a tiny daily devotional for November with brief prayers, saint quotes, and teachings of the Church, by Susan Tassone, “Thirty-Day Devotions for the Holy Souls.” I really love this book and have used it for 4 or 5 years. It has brought me so much comfort and increased my devotion to the Holy Souls. (Susan Tassone has several more books on the Holy Souls, which you can find at her website.)
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The second is a book I borrowed from a dear friend a few years ago (you know who you are!), about Maria Simma, an Austrian mystic acting under obedience to her bishop, who receives visits from the Holy Souls and has Masses said (or whatever they request) to release their souls from purgatory. Her stories are amazing and humble. These personal accounts, told so lovingly, convinced my then eleven-year-old daughter of God’s mercy in a new way. Such a blessing! It’s called, “The Amazing Secret of the Souls in Purgatory: An Interview with Maria Simma by Sister Emmanuel of Medjugorje,” and can be found here.
A friend of mine with a longstanding devotion to the Holy Souls once told me that if we pray for them, they will pray for us. They can do nothing for themselves, so they need our prayers, but their prayers for us are powerful. Nice to have friends!
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A blessed All Hallows Eve to everyone!

What are we doing here? Sam Rocha: A Primer for Philosophy & Education

I accepted a review copy of Sam Rocha’s A Primer for Philosophy and Education with trepidation: Academics tend to write horribly, and philosophers are the worst of the lot.  Well, I found a jewel. Not only can the man write clearly and well, he can think straight, too.  Sam Rocha’s Primer is a treasure trove of measured, thoughtful reflection on what makes education, and how to become educated.

I recommend his book wholeheartedly to anyone who is serious about education – teachers, catechists, parents, principals and directors of religious education, pastors, students.  The reading level isn’t babyish — you have to put on your grown-up and think about what you’re reading — but it’s geared toward the intelligent layman who truly cares about the topic.  Pour a cup a tea, put up your feet, and get your pencil ready to highlight your favorite lines.

Today I’d like to share a few quotes from the book that I think speak to the state of catechesis today, and share my own reflections on what we educators need to consider.

“Students like these are motivated by a sense of entrapment, a feeling that they must go to school and get good grades in order to get a respectable job, good reviews and promotions, a pay raise for having an advanced degree, so on and so forth – to avoid disappointing family and friends.”

This doesn’t just happen in academia, it happens in the parish.  How many teens are cycled through confirmation because it will please Mom & Dad?  How many parents baptize their children in order to silence Grandma’s nagging?

When someone walks through the door seeking sacraments the way they seek a diploma or their 1st Aid certification, we should welcome them wholeheartedly.  And then show them a better way.

“The problem with grades, credentials, and formal schooling is that it generates a culture and mentality of fear, distrust, and paranoia.”

Our diocese, like most, sets out a few minimum educational requirements for persons requesting the sacraments.  These standards are, at their heart, ordered toward a very serious matter: We must ensure that the individual is indeed prepared to receive Our Lord in a worthy manner.  But it is important that we communicate – in our words and in our policies – that what matters is not the sitting in a room or checking off of to-do items, but that the soul be prepared.  Classes are a tool that can help prepare students for the sacraments, and I am grateful for the excellent volunteers who’ve helped my own children grow in their faith.  But education is different than attendance.

“Of course students who attend a school that assigns grades should want to get good grades.  They should obviously not want to get bad ones.  However, you should not confuse this institutionalized process of grade-getting, school-going, degree-worshipping, and job-seeking with what philosophy and education have to offer you. . . . Formal schooling does not have the monopoly on philosophy or education.”

Our courses should be such that students and parents want to attend them.  And in guiding parents and students, we need to direct them not towards the checklist as the measure of spiritual growth, but to the serious questions of heart, soul, and mind.

“Google is full of information, but it has no wisdom of its own. A person who is full of information is not necessarily full of wisdom. . . . To win at games like Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit does not require wisdom, it only requires information.”

In catechesis, information nutures wisdom, and wisdom thirsts for information.  If I love God, I’ll want to know more about Him.  The more I know about God, the more reasons I’ll have to love Him.

We tend to slip into a false dichotomy, setting up hard facts against feelings, or precision against grace.  Not so.  The human mind and soul languish when the scales are loaded on one side only.  Demanding love without knowledge is an arranged marriage; demanding knowledge without love is a business relationship.  In our catechesis, we need to help our students love God in all four ways that He Himself has directed – heart, mind, soul, and strength.

“Read for the truth.  Write and speak to show what seems true.  Ask questions to get at what might be true.  Attend classes to seek the truth.  Do not settle for shallow, impoverished grades, and cheap, degrading awards. . . . Philosophy and education require courage.”

Recently a catechist (not from my parish) approached me privately with a difficult situation: Several fellow catechists in her program had shared with her various ways in which they are freely, and with full knowledge, choosing to act, in serious matters, in ways contrary to the Catholic faith.  They are committing no crimes, and they are not actively teaching dissent in the classroom.  But they clearly do not believe that the Church in her wisdom possesses the fullness of the truth.  The catechist wanted to know what she should do? She didn’t want to be a tattle-tale, and she did want to address the problem in a way that would help her colleagues grow in their own faith and embrace the fullness of the Church’s teachings.

She also knew instinctively about the essential relationship between education and truth: You can’t teach something you don’t believe is true.


Read the whole book. Beautifully written, and the whimsical line drawings create delightful moments to pause and reflect.  Well worth your time.

31 Proven Strategies for Better Religious Education (A Review)


Looking for ways to become a better religious educator? You can find 31 days of easy tips and strategies to improve your teaching approach, your classroom management skills, and even your spiritual life in Jared Dees’ new book, 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator. Jared Dees is the creator of the popular website His book’s valuable advice stems from years of experience teaching religion both in parishes and in Catholic schools.

31 Days’ first challenge encourages us to remember why we became catechists in the first place. According to a recent informal poll of faith formation professionals, most people became catechists because of a spiritual awakening, or feeling of being called. This feeling can become lost in the day-to-day struggle to make a difference in students’ lives. Jared urges us to renew our commitment, and to let it inspire us going forward.

The book’s excellent advice is organized into four separate sections on becoming a better disciple, a better servant, a better leader, and a better teacher. “Only as disciples and servants can you become a great leader,” and ultimately a great teacher, the book states. The section on discipleship guides readers though a deeply spiritual and personal journey to reconnect with the workings of grace in our lives. The section on becoming a better servant counsels us to develop one-on-one relationships with our students so we can discover how best to help each one as an individual uniquely loved by God. The last two sections provide nitty-gritty classroom and teaching strategies to aid us in communicating the faith more effectively.

Each short chapter is designed to take only ten to fifteen minutes. First, a Scriptural quote sets the scene. Then, Jared explains the topic and why it’s important, and assigns a task to accomplish that day. Each chapter ends with an invitation to go deeper in prayer or spiritual reading. Jared’s website — — provides additional resources, like an online reminder to stay on schedule during the entire 31 days.

As a pre-Cana instructor, I benefited most from the first two sections of the book. The section on becoming a better servant, for example, stresses that identifying our students’ top needs is the key to helping them in ways that matter. Much to my dismay, I have seen that many engaged people don’t understand why God and the Church are relevant to their married life at all. Their deepest need is to realize how God and the Church can help them to fulfill the desire for soul-satisfying, long-lasting love that burns in every human heart. If I forget that, my students’ attention will vanish in an instant.

CCD teachers or Catholic schoolteachers might gain the most from the last two sections of the book. In these sections, Jared covers techniques like streamlining classroom procedures, using textbooks effectively, and assigning long-term projects that require parental participation.

At the end of reading 31 Days, religious educators should feel spiritually renewed and refreshed and better equipped to take on the awesome task of bringing Christ to souls through educating them in the faith.  Teachers and students alike can benefit from that!

To purchase this book from Amazon, click here.

For Marc Cardaronella’s interview with the author, click here.

Many thanks to Ave Maria Press for providing a free review copy.

“How Far Can We Go? A Catholic Guide to Sex and Dating,” by Brett Salkeld and Leah Perrault


I tend to be rules-based thinker.  I am an accountant by training, the kind of person who can read an IRS form and say, “Oh, this makes perfect sense!”  So when I think about chastity, simple, practical rules appeal to me.  Don’t hold hands unless ___­­____. No kiss until _________. Follow the method and it’ll all work out.

Which would be a great system, if only chastity were an accounting method.

How Far Can We Go? A Catholic Guide to Sex and Dating by Leah Perrault and Brett Salkeld is the answer to a thorny question: How do I teach my children to discern the right way to live chastely?  I need my kids to develop a mature faith, not just follow a set of simplistic dictates about whether it’s okay to to hold hands 2.3 years into the courtship.  But that doesn’t mean we devolve into saying, “Whatever you decide is fine.”  Some choices about displays of affection most definitely are not fine.

To ground those decisions, the book includes a primer on the basics of chastity: What is it, and why does the Church teach it?  Typical questions, such as, “Can I use birth control pills to treat a medical condition?” are answered with a mind for both theological accuracy and common sense.  A whole chapter is devoted to, “What do I do if I’ve already gone too far?”  The answer: It’s never too late to start living chastely, and the Church offers us the sacrament of reconciliation to get us started on our renewed life of grace.

For all these basics, I found the friendly, readable, and compact format to be very handy.  It’s Theology of the Body, sex-topics version, in a palatable package you can realistically give to a busy parent, parents can give to teens, and harried catechists can use to catch up on the essentials without having to wade through piles of academic literature.

But what’s most radically different about the book is the answer to the “How Far Can We Go?” question.  The reader learns how to draw hard lines at essential points: Anything that’s going to lead us into sin is a no-go, and that may mean backing off of what we thought was an acceptable practice.  But the reader also learns how to choose an appropriate display of affection that accurately reflects the reality of the couple’s relationship.  Couples learn to talk through differences in expectations – perhaps one comes from a very outwardly-affectionate family, and the other tends to be very reserved – and how to use good communication to clarify the meaning of our actions.

What age for this book?

Mature teens and up.  This is a resource catechists can recommend to parents of teens, for both the parent and teen to read and discuss together.  Young adult groups (18 and up) would find it a good book study choice.  The style is readable, and the content suitable for someone with no background in Church teaching on sexuality, but the authors never speak down to the reader.  The assumption is that you’re an intelligent person who wants to do the right thing, and you’re interested in learning some approaches for making the right thing happen.

Theology of the Body for Everybody

Body + Soul = A Theology of DiscipleshipAlso worth a look: A second book by Leah Perrault, Theology of the Body for Everbody, is not a book about Catholic Sex Ed.  It’s a great book though — in fact it’s my #2 go-to book as a primer on evangelization and discipleship.  My review of that title is at  (#1 is Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples, of course.)

–> For a second opinion on How Far Can We Go?, here is the book review at Darwin Catholic that originally called my attention to this work.


This Little Light of Mine: Living the Beatitudes Review

This Little LightThe forward of Kathleen Basi’s new book, This Little Light of Mine says, “No one can teach well what he or she doesn’t know well. The best way to ensure that religious formation “takes” is for parents to live their faith, to be seekers alongside their children. Then, children see that religion is not something you learn about in childhood and consider finished. Rather, it must grow and change throughout life.”

This sums up the mission of this relevant “little” book, which is a terrific resource, not only for parents but also for children. Each chapter begins with quotes from Scripture, followed by a section aimed at Parents (with occasional references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church), a second section for the children and then “Just Live It” suggestions for how to live the virtue (often including an activity or craft.) Interspersed throughout each chapter, the author shares her own relevant life experiences.

There are many pertinent and inspiring quotes in this book…these are just a few:

On humility: “…means accepting what we don’t want to accept…trusting that God has a plan, even if it makes no sense to us,” and the author stresses that regular confession is important in this regard. Mention is made of St. Therese, the Little Flower, who lived the ordinary and did small things to the best of her ability.

On suffering: “As unpleasant as it is, suffering is good for us. It stretches the soul, offers opportunities to grow in ways we couldn’t without it.”

Under Matrimony, Physical Symbols (from the chapter: Sacraments and Private Devotion): “Though we most often think of rings and a white dress as symbols of marriage, neither of those is essential to the sacrament. What is essential is the physical union of the two becoming one (the vows). The marriage act is where the vows, which promise a complete self-gift, become real. This is why the Church teaches that all sexual acts must be open to the possibility of life, for how can couples claim to give and receive each other fully when such a major part of who they are is off-limits to each other and to God? The Church’s least popular teaching simply acknowledges what human beings were created to be. We are most ourselves when we use our bodies in harmony with the way God created them. (My emphasis). Through marriage, we become one; and as one, we look to the future of the possibility of life (openly and honestly.)“ In simple, easy-to-understand language, Basi explains why contraception and same-sex marriage cannot be “in harmony with the way God created” us.

On persecution (chapter 8): “When discipleship leads us to life practices that others find threatening or strange, like using natural family planning or living simply and less luxuriously than the norm, people may roll their eyes and call us out of touch with the real world, or make any number of other belittling, contemptuous remarks.” This is an excellent point: persecution does not necessarily involve martyrdom. If we are living our Catholicity, it will not be popular. I’ve seen my share of eye rolling and criticisms within our own extended circle of family and friends because of our openness to life (and our refusal to get sterilized), our outspoken pro-life beliefs and our stance against same sex marriage.

On faith (chapter 9): “Each of us is called to serve in unique ways; each of us has gifts and contributions to make that no one else can make, purposes for which God put us on the earth.”

It is up to each one of us to discern how we are called to serve. One of the most important ways is to promote and bring the Catholic faith to others. As mentioned in the beginning, we cannot promote or teach a faith we don’t know. This Little Light of Mine is an excellent basic guide to Catholicism and is easy to read for both parent and child. It is a terrific resource that can help each member of the family learn their faith better.

Highly recommend!

You can purchase this wonderful little book from Liguori or Amazon.

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Catholic Mom’s Café is open for business!

Catholic moms, you are in for a treat!

EWTN host and best-selling author, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, has a new TV series and a book to match, and I am very proud to announce them both!

CafeBOOKcoverDMCOBCatholic Mom’s Café is the title of her terrific new book  (available now) and her new television series of the same name, which will premiere on EWTN some time in the near future! (Watch local listings for your area.)

As a busy mother of five, Donna-Marie understands that our hectic lives make it difficult to find time for prayer and reflection; so her new book provides 365 five-minute mini-retreats that highlight faith, hope, and love, in an engaging and flexible format that any woman can adapt to meet her own needs.

Like everything Donna-Marie sets her heart and hands to do, Catholic Mom’s Café is geared toward real women, coping with real-world problems. Her work is clear, Catholic, and always encouraging. Here is some of what you’ll find in her book:

Motherhood is a miraculous vocation – sometimes the miracle is just making it through the day!

Let’s face it: being a mom is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes we just hit the ground running without giving our faith a second thought. This collection of quick “mini-retreats for moms” can change all that.

Consider these your spiritual “daily vitamins” that will energize you and help you find the faith, hope, and love you’ll need to be the mom God wants you to be – today and every day.

• Ponder quotes from the Bible and other spiritual readings

• Offer yourself to the Lord through an easy activity or idea

• Pray suggested prayers that match the daily theme

• Savor a little “sound bite” to carry throughout the day

The first five episodes of the EWTN series were filmed last week in Irondale, Alabama, and I was honored to be one of Donna-Marie’s first guests, talking about modesty and how we can adapt today’s fashions in a way that supports our dignity as children of God.Lisa_and_DonnaMarie_EWTN

I was very humbled to be included with her four other, wonderful guests: Lisa Hendey, Karen Edmisten, Marge Fenelon, and Woodene Koenig-Bricker, discussing a wide variety of topics, all near and dear to any mother’s heart. (For more information on the guests and their topics, head over to the blog!)

So join the conversation at Donna-Marie’s Catholic Mom’s Café blog, where you’ll find all the updates and featured links to reviews and news on both the book and the TV series; and stop by and “like” the Catholic Mom’s Café on Facebook, where Donna-Marie will share ideas, book excerpts, reviews, inspiration, news, and recipes!

Here’s a link to Donna-Marie’s recent interview on EWTN Live, with Father Mitch Pacwa, where she shares lots more about the book and the TV series!

Personally autographed copies of the book are available at Donna-Marie’s website, but you can also order (non autographed) copies at Our Sunday Visitor, Barnes &, and





Amazing Catechists welcomes the Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious Blog Tour

photo-662x1024Hi! Pat Gohn here, and I’m thankful to Amazing Catechists for giving me a little space to share my new book’s blog tour: Ten Bodacious Basics… Ten Minutes at Time:

Here is today’s installment with a short audio clip from the book, read by me on the theme “This is My Body:”Jesus’ Prayer and Ours:

Leave a comment below to be entered in the free drawing for the book. Or, double and triple your chances to win by leaving comments at previous blog tour stops here, or here, too.

Tomorrow’s stop on the blog tour: In The Heart of My Home

A schedule for the full blog tour is here.

“A Garden of Visible Prayer: Creating a Personal Sacred Space One Step at a Time”



The approach of spring is an excellent time to think of gardening. One of the projects on my bucket list is to create a beautiful flower garden in my “sacred space” near the statue of Our Lady in the forest adjoining our home. As my children were growing, then as I began writing fiction, this project has been pushed down on my priority list time and again. A very special book has given me a renewed enthusiasm to set aside time this spring to begin to work on my sacred space.

“A Garden of Visible Prayer”, by Margaret Realy, begins with a beautiful St. Teresa of Avila quote, “A beginner must think of herself as one setting out to make a garden in which her Beloved Lord is to take His delight.” Wow.

The author describes this book as a “step-by-step approach to help guide you in creating a meaningful sacred space – a place you can step into, close at hand, matched to what brings you, personally to inner quietness.”

Each chapter begins with an inspiring, relevant quote and instructions and information the beginning gardener would need. Black and white photographs help to illustrate each chapter. Some of the most relevant chapters include: Defining the Garden, Memorial Gardens, Collecting Ideas, Prayer Garden Location, Site Assessment, Our Senses, Basic Building Blocks of Design, Plant Selection, Preparation and Installation. I particularly enjoyed the section on “Seating,” and the story of the older man who kept a chair next to his bed.

I highly recommend this book to anyone wishing to create a beautiful sacred space in which our Beloved Lord can “take His delight.”

This book is currently on sale and is the ideal gift for any gardener in your life!

Here are a few other reviewer comments:
“Long time gardener and author, Margaret Rose Realy believes that solace and the gentle voice of God can be heard in a garden. Take a walk with her within the pages of her beautifully crafted unique book, A Garden of Visible Prayer as she descriptively guides you every step of the way to create your own personal retreat space, incorporating a variety of elements, which will lead you to prayer. Even with meager means or a small space, by following the steps in this book, your end result will be a distinctive and beautiful setting in which you can bask in God’s creation and where you may very well hear His voice telling you to, “Be still and know that I am God.” Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle is a Catholic speaker and author of numerous books and EWTN TV host.

“Many books can show you how to design a garden that pleases the eye and ensures good plant growth, but few books help you create a garden that promotes your spiritual growth. Margaret begins by giving you tools to determine the spiritual aspects that you want in your garden as well as the sensual and physical characteristics that influence site, plant and accessory selection. She then provides practical design techniques, pointers on plant selection, soils and media, containers and tips on planting trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. This book is useful for anyone designing a new garden but invaluable for those of us looking to create a space for meditation, contemplation and prayer.” Dean M. Krauskopf, Ph.D., Extension Education Emeritus, Michigan State University Cooperative Extension Service