Wednesday, October 31, 2012

LIFE Runners Marathon, Part 2: Race So As to ... Finish

You can read Part 1 of my marathon story, "High Five!" here.

St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians (9:24) that all runners in a race run, but only one receives the prize, and we should run for the prize.

In running a marathon or a half-marathon, all finishers receive a medal, so perhaps the prize becomes “to finish.”  In fact, each person running a race will have a unique goal or "prize."

For instance, a few of the LIFE Runners racing in St. Louis had ambitious goals, such as qualifying for the Boston Marathon. This is very difficult: you can see the time cut-offs for this year

When I had the chance to visit with some of my fellow runners at the pre-race banquet, I found a multitude of goals: having fun, going for a specific time; running "not just for myself" (a LIFE Runner from Massachusetts told me this goal); finishing my first half-marathon; finishing my first marathon; being a witness to life.

I think all the LIFE Runners were excited to be there as part of the largest charity group running the St. Louis marathon and half.  I know I was; this was my first time being part of a charity group for a run (I'm normally in the category of "run for myself"!), and it was terrific.

My personal overall goal (in addition to my LIFE Runners participation) for the marathon was not a time goal, but rather a positive experience.

The marathon I ran last year was difficult.  I loved the course; it was a trail marathon, not at all technical and very beautiful; and the race series was well-organized and small.  On purpose, I chose my first marathon with a super-long time limit, to ensure that I would finish (there was also a 50-mile race at the same time, so I had 12 hours to finish!)   But I struggled mightily the last nine miles, and that’s a long time to be struggling.

I was determined to have a more positive experience this time, and improve my time if I could.  I could write many paragraphs about this, but suffice to say that I trained much more this year, and tried to be careful about everything from nutrition to strength training.  As in the past, I’ve used a book called Marathoning for Mortals by John Bingham and Jenny Hatfield, but I was much more “by the book” this time, especially for my taper--the last several weeks of reduced mileage and training before the actual race.

But I also tried to do “more. “  For instance, last year I did only one 20-mile long run in training, and this year I ran that distance twice (the second time was actually 21 miles, as I had misjudged mileage that day).

Even with all my training, my times this year were a lot slower for pretty much every run, whether long or short, from the same time last year.  So before the marathon I was pretty sure a better time might not be achievable.  So the "better experience" was top of the list.

Race day was beautiful--nice and cool to start.  I walked over from our hotel, about a mile away from the start, with several runners who had run many Rock'n'Roll events, so I got a lot of good stories from them and encouragement for doing the full marathon.

After a bit of looking around, I found the LIFE Runners group for the pre-race prayer service.  LIFE Runner leader Rob Rysavy gave a reflection concluding with “No one runs alone today... You are all LIFE Runners.”   He encouraged us to pray for life and those affected by abortion while we ran.  I wish I had taken better notes, but the pre-race jitters were beginning to build.

Then we all prayed the LIFE Runners Creed.  It was very powerful to pray it out loud with such a large group.  If it's hard to read it in this photo, read it on the LIFE Runners website.  It's a powerful prayer, one I'm convinced was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Then I got a photo with a new friend, fellow LIFE Runner, Amy G, (who incidentally went on to run a very strong half-marathon).  At the banquet the night before, I kept thinking, "I know her!"  So after the program, I went up to introduce myself.  It turns out she and her (now) husband went to Bradley University in central IL  She had also babysat for some local families that I know a little, so we may have encountered each other during her Peoria days.

At the race start, there was a nice sunrise behind the Arch.

Both half and full marathon runners started at the same time, but in “waves,” (several hundred runners starting a minute apart) so I had plenty of time to wait and visit with many other runners.  I loved this couple (who were actually married 2 weeks before, and were running the half together that day):

The race officially started at 7 a.m., but they delayed the start to 7:05, and since I was in a later corral for my "wave" I didn’t start running until about 7:30.

True confession:  in the days before the race,  I had a moment or two of nervousness about wearing the LIFE Runners t-shirt; what if there might be abortion supporters who would say or do mean things as I ran?  I didn't seriously think something violent would happen, but also didn’t relish the idea of having to argue with people.  In reality, and on race day, I had nothing but positive feedback from fellow runners, especially the many LIFE Runners that I encountered along the run, but so many others.

Once I started running, however, I had a growing concern about any post-abortion women who somehow felt judged by the t-shirt saying “Remember the Unborn” on the back.  Part of me thought as I ran, that I should have tacked on a note with “Healing After Abortion” and a web address to Project Rachel.

There were several women LIFE Runners I met Saturday night who have had abortions (and who wore their t-shirts in the race Sunday morning), and I wish I would have thought ahead to talk to them about it, and find out their thoughts.   As it was, I made a special effort to pray for any women (or men) running who had been involved with abortion in any way, and for healing for them.

The half-marathon portion of the race was great--there were more than 11,000 runners in that part, so I was always surrounded by people, and here and there a few LIFE Runners, and some other people who wanted to chat.  A Rock’n’Roll race has bands about every mile or two, and most were really great and helped you pick up the pace.  There were plenty of water, gatorade, and porta-potty stops.  All fantastic.  The course had more hills than I realized ahead of time, and I hate hills.  But the beauty of the course helped to make up for it.  Here we ran past the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Then I got the part where the half-marathoners went to their finish, and a smaller group continued on with the marathon.

I don't know if you can see in this "fork in the road" photo, but the black sign says, "half stay straight" and the green sign says, "marathon turn left."  You might be able to see that there are a lot more people on the right than the left.

This is where things got to feel a little lonesome.  There were about 11,000 runners who did the half, and only about 1,700 who did the full marathon.  There were still bands every mile or so, and even a “mile of music” with speakers blaring along the route towards Forest Park, but there were very few people around me.  As I passed a few of the bands, especially a really great one at about mile 23, I felt guilty being one of only two or three people passing by!  It was like a little private concert, and that felt strange.

Because I was in the back of the marathon pack, and the course overlapped, I had a chance to pass by (going the opposite direction) some of the faster marathoners in while they were around miles 20-24, and I was around mile 14-17.  That was fun, and I got a photo and high-fives (really) from fellow LIFE Runners.

Here is Bishop Paprocki (in the middle of this photo).  He finished in 4:22.  Amazing!

Before this, I had passed Pat Castle and Jeff Pauls (one of the LIFE Runners who qualified for Boston at this race), but didn't get a photo.  It was great to see fellow LIFE Runners, but also a little daunting realizing how far I would have to go yet, and how much faster they were than me.  But I needed to keep in mind my goal.  I'm not going for a BQ (Boston qualifying finish); I'm going for a good experience.

Another LIFE Runner, probably an hour or more ahead of me, and looking great!

As I described above, during my first marathon, the final nine miles or so were difficult, both mentally and physically.  I kept saying to myself, “I still have nine more miles to go!” and then eight, and so on.  It was brutal.

This year, I was determined to think more positively.  With advice in advance from fellow runners, I repeated the following phrases to myself:  “trust your training,” “you only have single digits to go”  and “this is like a short training run” (which 9 miles, or anything shorter, is for a marathon).  Strangely, I did not tell myself “high five!” but I’m sure that would have worked as well.

The result?  It helped so much.  Even though this course was harder than last year’s marathon, and I was probably just as physically drained, the mental focus helped me feel better.

Now, here, as promised, is the part of the marathon story that relates directly to books, to prove definitively that books and authors are super important to me.

As I approached the finish, there was a man I had seen the day before at the expo.  At the expo, there was  a small stage at the end of the vendor section where Olympians and others would share encouraging words and talk about racing to pump up runners.

Our family got to hear the end of a talk by Olympian Frank Shorter, and I thought the person holding the microphone for him and kind of "emceeing" looked like John Bingham, co-author of Marathoning for Mortals, the training book I used.  I asked the man seated next to me if it were him, and he said,“No, Bingham spoke earlier.”  Now at this point all the members of our family (including me!) were super hungry, so I didn’t stick around to verify that, in fact, it wasn't Bingham.  (Note to self for future big-city races: enjoy the expo and check out the speakers in advance).

But here was this man again about 100 yards before the finish. Keep in mind, there are only a few people running around the same time as me, so it's not like I was holding up the race, I asked, “Are you John Bingham?” and of course he was!

So I had to stop then and there and get a photo.  Fortunately, my family was nearby, and my nine-year-old snapped some photos of us.  I was so excited to get to meet Bingham, and so I visited with him for a couple of minutes.  (Clearly, I was not interested in my time).  I was delighted to tell him how much his book helped me train for numerous half-marathons and for both marathons.  I told him how encouraging the book is to new and slower runners, and how inspiring and practical his book is.

Then I happily ran across the finish line.  Here I am with the family just after the race.

They had been keeping busy having breakfast,  going to the Arch and walking around downtown during my six-plus hours (!) of running.

I feel the need to report here that my husband Joseph is much cuter and far more photogenic than this photo attests, but perhaps it was his morning corralling kids in a big city. ;-)  Again, high five! to Joseph and our kids for all their support and love this weekend.

My husband said later that it looks like I strolled a mile rather than ran 26.2, since I looked so fresh and happy.  That was sweet!  But I have to say that my smiles were all about relief, because I did work very hard. I was so happy to have finished and not to be running any more.

There is also something very cathartic about long-distance running that shows in the faces of those who finish, and I’ll write more about that next.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

LIFE Runners Marathon, Part 1: High Five!

This post is unofficially subtitled, if you don’t like photos in a post, you might just want to come back in a few days, after I share over the next few days some of the many experiences running my second marathon earlier this month, and my first time as part of the LIFE Runners team.   This has taken me much longer to post than I expected, but I think readers and friends will enjoy hearing about my experience.

You may be thinking this is a little far afield from books, my primary focus here.   And I do promise that some of this relates to books--promise!  And I will do a round-up of great pro-life and running books that I’ve reviewed in past years, as well as have a Q&A with a fellow LIFE Runner who authored a book recently about his cross-country run.

But for now, it’s all about the marathon and LIFE Runners; definitely on-topic as far as I’m concerned.

I have been training for since early in the summer, and only several weeks ago discovered the group LIFE Runners and that the group was doing their annual race weekend in St. Louis, just a few hours away.  I wrote about changing my plans here, and so I signed up for the LIFE Runners team as well as the St. Louis Rock’n’Roll Marathon.

LIFE Runners was founded in 2008 by two Air Force Lieutenant Colonels--Rich Reich and Pat Castle, to “pray, raise funds, and run...All In Christ for Pro-Life!”  The group has a goal for a major race or race series each year, and have been running them since 13 LIFE Runners ran the 2008 Chicago Marathon.  The group has grown to the 252 who ran in the St. Louis Race series, the largest charity group (by far) there.   Runners agree to raise funds for one of several local charities, and run wearing a LIFE Runners t-shirt while running the race. Impressive!

I confess I was a wee bit intimidated by all the military active duty or veterans, since I’m  not ... military... but the LIFE Runners is very diverse, and everyone was very welcoming, and I was glad for high level of organization and great experience of pro-life solidarity that they created.

The expression “High Five!”  comes from Pat Castle (one of those Lt Cols) , the president of the group, and he is super-motivating, to say the least.  High-fives abound, whether on the LIFE Runners website, the Facebook page, or in person from Pat.

Now, I’m going to use the expression “high five” in this post a lot, and I want to make perfectly clear that I am in no way making fun of “high five.”  I think I did first smile when I heard and saw all the “high fives,” but I quickly realized the genius of it; how it brings us together and encourages in a genuine way.  I feel confident that the other LIFE Runners are smiling along with me and nodding.  It’s just a great expression in so many ways, and captures Pat’s personality and LIFE Runners in general.

We made this a family trip, and I have to high five! my husband and kids for being good sports about various issues with the weekend.

We arrived very late Friday night, so Saturday morning was dedicated to a little sleeping in as well as going to the health and fitness expo to pick up my race bib as well as check things out.  Now, one of the things about big race expos, as many articles  and books will tell you, is that you tend to overspend and buy weird things you would never normally buy, like crazy running tights or hats with strange messages on them.

I kept saying to Joseph and the kid, but it didn’t seem to have much effect on them or me, because we ended up buying a few things, but fortunately none of them were particularly crazy.

The free samples were a big hit.  Unfortunately, we kept finding our 9-year-old at this free sample booth, looking with puppy dog eyes at the young women handing out samples. He was not successful (high five! sample ladies), I’m happy to report, but I couldn’t resist a photo and a laugh, as well as endure our teenager saying, “Don’t encourage him!”

There was just a little time to grab a quick late lunch and head over to the Cathedral Basilica for the LIFE Runners gathering before the 5 p.m. Sunday Vigil Mass.

While I’d been in Facebook contact with the LIFE Runners team, I had never met anyone in person or knew any of them, so I’ll confess to being nervous.  But the group was welcoming, and I had no trouble making friends.

We started with a group photo.  According to the LIFE Runners website, there were 252 LIFE Runners in St. Louis, making it by far the largest charity group running the races.  A large contingent was there for the pre-Mass photo:

Then Pat Castle gathered us for some high fives (really!) and talks.  First was a blessing by Bishop Paprocki of Springfield.  Pat Castle is here introducing Bishop Paprocki:


Next we had a talk by a priest from Steubenville, who it turns out was a fellow marathoner.

Finally, Karla shared her experience of having an abortion at age 15 and healing after many decades, and shared how important it is to be a witness to life.  This is at close range becuase the cathedral’s bells started to go off during her talk, so Pat Castle brought us all in close to Karla, which made it that much more intimate an experience, and beautiful and healing for all of us.

Mass was next in the beautiful Basilica, and another large group there for Mass was a Society of St. Francis de Sales, who happens to be the patron saint of journalists.  I thought that was neat coincidence for me.
Here's one of the many beautiful mosaics inside the Cathedral Basilica.

After Mass, we went over to a gathering space next to the cathedral for a pasta dinner served by the Knights of Columbus.  As we waited in line for buffet, diners could pass by booth set up by various groups, in particular the three charity beneficiaries of this year’s LIFE Runners races.  Our kids enjoyed getting to chat with the staffers at the Thrive booth.  Thrive is one of the beneficiary charities for the LIFE Runners this year.

What I loved was getting to meet the brewers from Two Lawyers and a Priest Brewing, who brewed a special beef for LIFE Runners. High five, Catholics who brew beer for pro-life!  They were giving away bottles in a kind of silent-auction method, and I’m happy to say that I did get a bottle, though I’ve not yet had the chance to enjoy it.  I’m going to split it with my husband.

So much was memorable about the dinner and program.  Jennifer Brinker writes about the LIFE Runners and the weekend more at the St. Louis Review.

Bishop Paprocki, one of the LIFE Runners (and a seasoned marathoner) received the first LIFE Runner of the Year award.  His remarks were amazing--he spoke about the Communion of Saints and how he feels more connected to them during distance running.  In particular, he told a moving story of how he lost his father between the time Bishop Paprocki qualified for the Boston Marathon and ran the Boston Marathon, and how he felt the presence of his father during Boston.

I think it is difficult for me to convey how good his short remarks were; I’m not sure if it sounds trite; he is an excellent preacher and captured this beautifully. I have definitely felt that "communion of saints" feeling, when I ran a half-marathon less than a year after my father passed away.  There really is something unique about distance running, not just in a physical way, but in a spiritual way.  I’ll write more about that tomorrow and the next day.

That’s it for Part 1 of my LIFE Runners marathon experience--high five to me for finishing it before the end of 2012!  More tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Worth a Listen: Demand Your Dignity

Normally, I share here great songs that are inspiring, uplifting and/or are otherwise "worth a listen."  Today, it's this video.  Awesome! 

Take two minutes to watch this, and then share it with a young person you know. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Worth a Listen: "He Said" by Group 1 Crew (featuring Chris August)

(Sharing great songs that are inspiring, uplifting and/or are otherwise "worth a listen").  Explanation (of a kind) here.

My favorite part of this music video, apart from Blanca's hair (love!) are the Scripture verses on various objects (mirrors, lampshades etc.) throughout.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Tale of Two Books About .... Pregnancy

When I review certain books, I have often shared them informally with others--such as medical experts or even kids--to help me discern if they are good for the intended audience, or what their gut reaction is to a certain book.

I’ve decided to formalize this by sharing conversations to provide a perspective that’s unique, and give readers a chance to understand a little more about a genre of books from the intended audience.

First in this series of conversations is with an expectant mom and her unique perspective about two different books intended for new moms: the newly-released from Sarah Reinhard, A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism and Donna-Marie Cooper-O’Boyle’s classic, Prayerfully Expecting: A Nine-Month Novena for Mothers to Be.


Read the rest of this conversation at my new website, Reading Catholic.  Click here to visit the link to the interview on, and I invite your feedback and following me there.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Meet a Reader: Lindsey Weishar

Since my October column for The Catholic Post featured books for younger readers, it seems appropriate to feature a younger member of our diocese.  I met Lindsey this summer when she was on the Totus Tuus team.  Our kids have attended this program for two years now and it is fantastic.  Thanks, Lindsey, for being willing to be featured here!

How you know me:  My parents, Julie, Joe, my sister, Rachel, and I attend St. Matthew Parish in Champaign. I am a senior in English at the University of Illinois. The most attractive part of attending the University of Illinois is St. John’s Catholic Newman Center.  I’m in my second year of living here at the Newman Center and I love it.

This past summer, I was a team member of the Totus Tuus program, a wonderful experience that involved sharing the beauty of the Catholic faith with children and teens in six parishes in the Peoria Diocese.

Why I love reading:  I love reading because it calls me to think, to pay attention to the little details of life. This is why poetry is especially attractive to me. There is just so much to notice in the life we live, and books help me notice, to place myself outside of myself, to see how other people may live and feel.

What I’m reading now:  It sometimes happens that I begin to read too many things at once. So I am in the midst of quite a few books. I recently finished Matthew Lickona’s spiritual memoir entitled Swimming With Scapulars. The honesty of the joys and struggles of Lickona’s spiritual life made the book a great read. Another book recently finished is a preparation for Marian consecration entitled 33 Days to Morning Glory. This book taught me so much about Mary. My dad and I have been in the midst of St. Augustine’s Confessions, and though the book is dense, Augustine’s emotion and profound sense of God are amazing.

My favorite books:  One of my favorites is St. Therese of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul. I really feel able to connect with Therese and her book gives me a view into the interior landscape of saint, a soul so alive with love for Jesus. Other books I greatly enjoy include C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, for its deep look into human sin and the devil’s role as the  tempter, and Charles Dickens’  A Tale of Two Cities, for its beautiful exploration of self-sacrifice for the good of another.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Youth Is Wasted on the Young?

Here is my October column that appears in this weekend's edition of The Catholic Post.  I invite your feedback here.

Like many moms, mine loved great maxims born of wisdom and long experience.  Because she had a great sense of humor, these sayings would sometimes morph, Mrs. Maloprop-style, to something like my personal favorite, “We’ll jump off that bridge when we get to it.”

One she never changed, but still intoned in her best mock-serious mother-knows-best voice: “Youth is wasted on the young.”

Now that I close in on the half-century mark, I begin to understand what that really means.

Yes, youth is wasted on the young.  All that free time!  All that energy!

I recall saying--more than once--to ungrateful, nap-resistant toddlers:  “I promise you, someday, someone will say to you, ‘why don’t you go take a nap,’ and you will say, ‘Thank you!’ instead of fighting it.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love my maturity and experience, even as I might covet what the younger me took for granted, like naps or a faster metabolism.

“Youth is wasted on the young” occurred to me as the fall books from Catholic publishers began to arrive, and with more than the usual number for teens and young adults.   I wish I could have had read these when I was 15, 25 or 35 for inspiration, for spiritual growth, or just plain fun.  So youth, don’t waste it, but take advantage of these great books, vetted not just by me but younger readers, to enjoy this fall:

*He Speaks to You by Sister Helena Burns, FSP.  Sister Helena is an expert on media literacy and Theology of the Body, a Catholic new media maven, and a great friend to the Peoria diocese, speaking here often and living in nearby Chicago.  Turns out she’s also a gifted author.

This book is a deceptively simple prayer/reflection book for young women.  Each page corresponds to a day of the year, with Scripture, reflection and action and journaling ideas.  It may sound basic, but He Speaks to You offers substantial, meaty topics in the context of consistent themes that run through an entire month.  For example, “His Will” in April, covers topics like discernment and vocation, and “In His Image” in August, focuses on body image and sexuality.

Sister Helena writes in the introduction, “The sisters and I have long talked about wanting to find a way to share ...basic principles of the interior life and how to live them in daily life.”    With the wisdom of the Daughters of St. Paul, mission accomplished.

*Be Beautiful, Be You by Lizzie Velasquez.

This is a sweet volume--all from a Catholic perspective--about loving yourself, overcoming setbacks, and recognizing what makes a person unique.  23-year-old Lizzie Velasquez was born with a rare medical syndrome, and she writes candidly about her struggles and how she has used them to grow emotionally and spiritually.

Lizzie’s stories, journal and ideas offer a much-needed antidote to our culture’s obsession with perfection and ways to overcome that.

*Fearing the Stigmata: Humorously Holy Stories of a Young Catholic’s Search for a Culturally Relevant Faith by Matt Weber.

Matt Weber is a Harvard grad and practicing Catholic--not at all a contradiction.  Fearing the Stigmata is his charmingly earnest and witty take on living as a Catholic young adult in the modern world.

I didn’t include this book simply so young men wouldn’t feel left out, but because it is a genuinely funny and spiritually edifying book.  I found myself laughing out loud at many, many vignettes in the book, from his love of the restaurant Olive Garden, to “nun volleyball,” to “the Dominic Code.”  You have to read Fearing the Stigmata to find out what those mean in the context of our Catholic faith, but you’ll thank me.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Celebrating the Year of Faith

Today starts The Year of Faith, a year Benedict XVI set aside for learning about, sharing and living out our Catholic faith.  The Holy Father celebrated a Mass this morning to open this year; here is his homily.  Many quotes jumped out at me from the homily, but let me share just one:  "Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism."

One of the reasons the Year of Faith begins October 11 is that today, is the 50th anniversary of the first session of Vatican II.  Here, BXVI shares some of his memories from that time.  Today is also the 20th anniversary of the release of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).

Much has been written all over the Internet and in publications about living out The Year of Faith. I'm sure you parish, like ours, has many activities and events to help people grow in faith. I write here to encourage people (myself included) to consider the ways we can be intention in this Year of Faith about learning about our faith, praying together, and sharing it with others.

What are just a few of the ways to celebrate the Year of Faith?

Last Saturday, I attended a great gathering of women (called "First Saturday) to hear a presentation on the Year of Faith.  The couple giving the presentation were a "dynamic duo," sharing with us and challenging us to live out the Year of Faith.  There was a lot of food for thought there; most helpful was an annotated version of the papal letter Porta Fidei ("the door of faith") announcing the Year of Faith and what it means for us.

*Read Porta Fidei would be a great start to the year.

*Read the Catechism in a Year.

 I just received early this morning my first e-mail from Flocknote for Read the Catechism in a Year (reading this link will explain what it's all about).  "Read the Catechism in a Year" is joint project of Matthew Warner's Flocknote (a terrific service for parishes and other groups to communicate with people via texting, e-mail and other media ways) and Jeffrey Pinyan of  Catholic Cross Reference.  Sign up for this free service is quick and easy, and it's just one e-mail a day.  There are more than 27,000 people signed up for this, so you'll be reading along with a big group.

What a great idea!  When I got the first e-mail this morning, I confess my concern at how much text there would be to read, but it's really bite-sized.

Back in the early 1990s, I actually read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) start to finish in preparation for teaching religion to high schoolers, and I consider it a tremendous resource.

But I don't "read" it much these days, using it like a reference, either online or in one of the copies floating around our house.  I do love the YouCat (youth version of the CCC,  as I've written about previously to page through, but one of the annoying things for me is that the paragraph numbers do no correspond to the Catechism.  So having the CCC come to my in-box provides a little push and reminder to re-connect with this Church treasure.

*Participate in a Scripture Study for the Year of Faith.

Here is a women's Facebook group dedicated to reading Father Mitch Pacwa's "The Year of Faith: A Bible Study Guide for Catholics."  In addition to online discussion, open to women from all over, we will also meet locally in the Peoria, IL area once a month.  I'm sure there are many others, especially parish-based, to

*Get a plenary indulgence (or two, or many).  

Did you know there is a plenary indulgence associated with the Year of Faith?  You can read the details here, but just from a cursory read of the various ways to obtain the plenary indulgence, getting one or multiple ones is not difficult.

How do you plan to celebrate The Year of Faith?  Any great links or ideas to share?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Worth Watching: Navis Pictures, and a Local Screening of "The War of the Vendee"

"Children's Cinema."  Quick, what comes to mind?

It may sound less than thrilling, but I assure you, one movie company has not just invented by perfected this genre of film.

Navis Pictures, based in Connecticut, has produced two (so far) fascinating movies with Catholic themes, featuring the acting of scores of children from the very young to teenage years.  It may sound like a strange way to portray complicated events, but with great production, music and casting, it really works.  Here is founder Jim Morlino explaining what "children's cinema" is all about.

"The War of the Vendee" tells the story of France's civil war and religious persecution in the years following the French Revolution.  is the recent winner of the “Best Film for Young Audiences” award at the 2012 Mirabile Dictu International Catholic Film Festival.  Featuring a cast of over 250 young Catholics, and a great orchestral score, the story is dramatic and violent, but still safe for the whole family to watch.

This wasn't the first time I had encountered Navis Pictures.  Several years back, we happened upon EWTN one day during the last 15 minutes of St. Bernadette of Lourdes, and all of us, kids, mom and even dad, who rarely watches television, were completely entranced by it and dropped everything to watch it.  Wow!

So when I read about "The War of the Vendee," several weeks back, I thought it was time to get our own copy, not only to see it, but to support this great filmmaker and their ministry.  I am so glad that I did--"The War of the Vendee" is just as good as "St. Bernadette of Lourdes."  Our whole family cannot wait until Navis Pictures releases Robin Hood--The Good Spirit of Sherwood.

Imagine my surprise when the filmmaker, Jim Morlino (read his bio here), e-mailed me after my order was placed, to say that he was coming to the Peoria diocese for a screening of "The War of the Vendee" this weekend.

"The War of the Vendee" will be screened Saturday, October 13, at Holy Trinity Parish in Cherry, Illinois.   There may be other screenings as well in that area over the weekend, and I will update as I learn about them.

Here's the trailer, so you can see the great cinematography, the score, and just in general why you want to watch it:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"You Know, You Could Name Your Son After Fulton Sheen": Guest Post

Even though it is no longer September, I still have a number of stories to share from those who love Arcbishop Sheen, so this will continue as a regular feature here at Reading Catholic. 

Today's guest post is from Michelle Rebello, who lives with her husband Cliff and five children (teenagers down to 4 years old) in Peoria.  I've known Michelle for years, and readers here may know her as the person who had the inspiration for the Rosary Victory Project (and if you haven't signed up yet, please take a moment to go on over there and sign up, and don't forget the rosary is this Sunday, October 7).

Thanks, Michelle, for being willing to share your Fulton Sheen story here!

It was such a glorious celebration, that truly I thought all of heaven was looking down and rejoicing! That was what I thought of the Mass in 2008 celebrating the closing phase of Peoria's involvement in the cause for the canonization of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

I was 9 months pregnant when I attended that Mass. at the Mass and also 9 months pregnant, with my son's Confirmation class. I had always enjoyed Archbishop Sheen's "Life is Worth Living" reruns on EWTN, but, like many my age, I was too young to fully appreciate him when he was alive. I sat amazed as I listened to Father recount Sheen's life, including many funny prophetic episodes, and was quite impressed.

"You know, you could name your child after him," I heard inside my head.  It was curious, but very clear.

 "You're right," I found myself replying, "I could. Let me see what Cliff thinks." (My husband, Cliff, watched the Mass later on EWTN and concurred that we should name our son after him.)

Three days later, Matthew John Fulton Rebello was born in Peoria, two weeks early. He could be the first person named after the Archbishop in his home diocese.  Matthew was born just three days after Sheen became a Servant of God.

Matthew was the fruit of much prayer since he was born a few days shy of my 44th birthday, after we had already had four living children and four miscarriages.  I had prayed that God would send us another child---a son--- and that perhaps this child could become a priest.

A woman known to the Archbishop had told us how Sheen used to be a support to her while she raised her five children. She remarked that we need more holy priests to help another generation of families. Sheen could be continuing his legacy! Now, under the watchful care of the Servant of God (now Venerable) Archbishop Sheen, I can't think of a better person to intercede for our child!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Worth a Listen, Marathon Edition: Nick Cannon's "Can I Live?"

(Sharing great songs that are inspiring, uplifting and/or are otherwise "worth a listen")

For those who only know Nick Cannon as the host of America's Got Talent, did you know he had a career as a music artist and actor?  He probably still does for all I know, but I am not in the know about those things.  The first time I ever heard of Nick Cannon was when people were sharing several years back this video for  this song.

Now, for someone who has been active for several decades in the pro-life movement in one form or another, I was truly and utterly thrilled to see someone do this kind of song well.

That's because (and maybe true for you, too) over the years I have been at many a pro-life banquet or other gathering with a heartfelt song that didn't quite move hearts the way we all desire a song to do.  This song does, in my estimation, or at least it tells a compelling story.  And always tears me up a little bit, and seems appropriate to share during October, Respect Life month.

This helps me to segue into my big announcement that I am running my second marathon later this month.   How exactly does that segue?  Well, I will be running the marathon as part of the group LIFE Runners.

For those who know me, to actually announce I'm doing a big race in advance is not my style, but I wanted to get out the word about this great group. In fact, when I ran the marathon last year, I didn't tell anyone about it (except my hubby) until afterwards.

To be honest, I really didn't like running a marathon, so some may be asking (including my dear husband) why I want to do it again.  There are various reasons, but mostly just so that I can have a somewhat more positive experience, physically.  I finished, but it felt really, really hard, (unlike a half-marathon, which I consider a fun and do-able distance).  I was signed up to do the very same trail marathon I did last year.

But then I happened to hear a LIFE Runner (I think Dr. Pat Castle) on EWTN radio several weeks back talk about their weekend to run the St. Louis Rock 'n Roll Marathon--there are already more than 300 LIFE Runners signed up to do this event (either the full or half-marathon).  When I realized it was so close, and the same weekend as my marathon, I had a long talk with my husband and we both thought it made good sense to switch over.

I am very excited to get to meet the other LIFE Runners, though a little intimidated because checking out the board, many are military people who are probably super-speedy runners, unlike myself.  I was wondering if I shouldn't ask the LIFE Runners to change one of the Scripture verse mottos from "Race so as to win" to "Race so as to finish" which happens to be my motto when it comes to running long races.

Dr. Pat Castle, a board member of LIFE Runners, who heartily welcomed me when I joined the group, asked me to promote here that people can still join Life Runners and do one of the races on the weekend of October 20-21.  Visit for more information or to sign up.  It couldn't be easier, and took me just a few minutes.  If you're already planning to run a fall long race,

I'll also be raising money for the pro-life charities pegged by the group, something I don't normally do, since I consider running enjoyable and don't like to ask people for money.

My LIFE Runners t-shirt arrived in the mail the other day, increasing my excitement level.  Now I need to ensure I can finish in the 7-hour time frame.  That shouldn't be an issue, since I finished my first, not-pleasant marathon last year in just over 6 hours.  I've also done a lot more training this year than last for the marathon distance, so I hope for a better experience, even if my time does not improve greatly.

Just to bring it back to the music, I do have a marathon playlist for my iPod app, and "Can I Live?" is on it.

UPDATE: I have set up my fundraising page for one of the LIFE Runners beneficiaries, Good Shepherd Children and Family Services in St. Louis.

Are you doing anything special this month for Respect Life Month?  Anyone else doing the marathon or half-marathon as a LIFE Runner?  I'd love to connect!

Monday, October 1, 2012

First, What Are You Reading? Volume 26, The Little Flower Edition

Here are my "Little Flower" answers to the four questions I ask on the first of each month:
first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what's next on your list to read?

As always, I hope you'll consider your current reads on your blog and/or sharing here in the comments or on Facebook.  Happy reading!

First, what are you reading?

Well, if you haven't figured out why this is called the "Little Flower" edition, it is because today is the feast of the Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux.  We love to celebrate this feast at our house, and soon I'll be making rose-shaped scones in this pan for the scones lovers in our house, as I do every year on this feast.

I've actually been reading a ton, but unfortunately cannot seem to get my thoughts out about these many, many books.  So for now, to get my writing juices flowing, I am going to write about previously read books about or by St. Therese that would be really worthwhile to consider on this feast.

What do you like best about them?

There are two books for younger readers that feature St. Therese not so much as a character but as inspiration.  Olivia and the Little Way by Nancy Carabio Belanger chronicles Olivia’s fifth grade year and her ups & downs, as she discovers the spirituality of the Little Flower.  Just a wonderful book.  Nancy wrote a sequel to it called Olivia's Gift, which has a subtle pro-life and modesty theme that is excellent for older girls, and that we also loved at our house.

When Olivia's Gift was first published, I got the chance to interview Nancy Carabio Belanger, and you can read that Q&A here.  Here is the link to the publisher of these great books.

As far as books about St. Therese and her family, there are many. A lovely, small picture book biography for younger readers is St. Therese of Lisieux and the Little Way of Love by Marie Baudouin-Croix, translated from the French and published by the Daughters of St. Paul.   It should be readily available at most Daughters of St. Paul stores.  When I was searching for a link to this, I see that this author has a biography of Therese's sister Leonie called Leonie Martin: A Difficult Life.  Leonie was the most troubled of all the sisters, and this book explores her psychological issues and how she overcame them.   That looks fascinating and I plan to try to track that one down to read it.

We have a volume on our shelf, The Little Flower: The Story of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus by popular mid-20th century Catholic author Mary Fabyan Windeatt, but I confess none of us have read that one.  I'd love to know if it is worthwhile.

What do you like least?

When I first read Story of a Soul, I did find it somewhat cloying.  As the Universalis  reflection for St. Therese today says, "The late 19th century was a highly sentimental period, and much of the literature about Thérèse has taken that quality and made it sweeter and sicklier still, to the point where you feel like brushing your teeth after reading every page."

But the older I get, the more I find her words much more inspiring.  It's hard to explain, but those who love The Little Flower will understand.  Just a little bit from today's Office of Readings, which is a selection of Story of a Soul: "Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love."

I have a friend who loves and gave to me as a gift, I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Thérèse of Lisieux by Charles Arminjon.  I understand it is great, but must confess I have never finished it, though I have started it several times.  Maybe this month would be a good time to finish it.

What's next on your list to read?

Really, the question here becomes, what are some recently read books to write about or neglect to write about?  Just for a very few, I've read the much-hyped novel The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (meh); Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement by Kay Wills Wyma (really good ideas and reflection from this book); The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling by Quinn Cummings (so hilarious and wonderful); Wealth Watchers by Alice Wood (interesting concept about applying Weight Watchers concepts to financial health) and so many more.  Maybe I will write about them soon, maybe not, but there is always reading going on here.

What are you reading this month? Do you have a favorite St. Therese book?  Share away!