Friday, April 26, 2019

Hoppy Easter!

Some of you probably know that I sign my book with a Hoppy Easter! If only I could draw cute bunnies, I would. I had a wonderful time at my reading and book-signing at Barnes & Nobles in Mt. Pleasant, Holy Sat. The police officers drew in the big crowd and I piggybacked after them. They're the BEST!

This beautiful weather (and my neighbor's pretty flowers) makes me hop and skip and the lingering sadness goes away for a while. It has been an unusually somber Easter for us with Notre Dame in flames on Monday of Holy Week and just a month prior, another fire at St. Sulpice. I subscribe to Catholic news agencies and GetReligion published an excellent piece on the increase in vandalism and desecrations of Catholic churches. Alas, he points out that it's not reported. Newsweek reports that officials do not know the reason why. Oh please! France is a secular state; they have turned their back on their Catholic heritage. And just as God used Israel's enemies to punish them for turning their backs to Him, unless we repent and return to our dear Lord Jesus, we too shall perish at the hands of our enemies. Arise, O sleeping Catholics! And come home to Holy Mother Church! When the French president spoke about rebuilding ND, I wondered, for what purpose if it isn't to worship in? As a convert, I feel the loss of faith very, very deeply. Where is the France of the Little Flower? Of Bernadette? Of Catherine Laboure? Of Rene Goupil? Of Joan of Arc? Wikipedia mentions 147 of them and these are just the ones who are known! Oh pray for us, all ye angels and saints! My own response is to pray, pray, pray unceasingly for conversions. And look at these beautiful gifts from the Holy Land from my sister to keep me focused!

After all the beautiful liturgies of the Sacred Triduum and Easter Masses, it was a shock to come home Sunday afternoon to the news of the bombings of Catholic churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. They were killed solely for their faith. I consider them martyrs and their blood will be the seed of the church's growth. Already the West has a declining population of religious--priests from Africa and Asia come here to evangelize. Fr. Dwight Longenecker has a good article about it. 

My mother always said we are an Easter people. Even at Christmas, she kept in mind why He was born. To suffer and die for us--the perfect Lamb; to save us all from our sins. And He will be with us until the end of time. He assured us of this on Holy Thursday when he gave us His own Body and Blood and instituted the priesthood. And so I share this beautiful motet with you: Ave Verum Corpus by Josquin, which we had the delight to sing! We only recently learned to sing the chant and although I love both the Byrd and Mozart versions, you can almost hear the chant in the Josquin. I hope we get to sing this again. 

We're having a wonderful Easter break, sleeping in daily, cooking, harvesting the first of our lettuce, reading, writing, watching movies. I pray you all have a very happy Eastertide!

Ah vanity, vanity! It makes me post these extra pictures :) It *is* a hoppy Easter!


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Conversation with Michael Seagriff and Giveaway

Dear Michael, I received a copy of STIRRING SLUMBERING SOULS for my birthday last year. And here I am, more than a year later, and far richer. It’s the BEST companion for Adoration. I love it. So, thank you for writing this book and for taking the time to have this conversation.

Please share something of your background. Did you always have a love for our Eucharistic Lord from your childhood or is it something that grew as you grew older? Did you ever have doubts? 
I grew up in the public projects in Brooklyn, New York in an Irish Catholic Family. My parents had seven children; two of my brothers died shortly after my twin sister and I were born. My father, who did not have a high school diploma, worked multiple jobs to support the family and to send us to Catholic school.

My earliest recollection of my childhood all centered around Church. I was an altar boy as soon as I met the minimum age and mastered the Latin Mass responses. While I was too young to fully appreciate the magnificence of the Eucharist, I treasured it as a child and fondly remember many a Holy Hour spent on my knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I particularly recall the magnificence of the Holy Thursday liturgy.

YES!!! It never ceases to amaze me: the bells at the Gloria, the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood—they go hand in hand.

I entered a minor seminary and left two years later. After graduating from high school and spending half a year in college, I dropped out and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, serving a tour in Vietnam. Foolishly I walked away from my Eucharistic Lord and His Church. God in His infinite mercy spared my life.

Deo gratias! I know exactly how you feel—tremendous gratitude—I’m always thanking my guardian angel for keeping me alive; now I have the hope of heaven! 

I “returned” to the Church just long enough to get married, to have our first two children baptized and then again when it was time for First Communion preparation. But it was not until my Mom died that I gave God any meaningful thought. I remember being angry with Him over her suffering and death and recall a visit to the local Catholic Church. There, for the first time in my life, in front of the tabernacle, I actually spoke to God. I poured out my heart to Him. And in an instant, I saw very clearly how He had chosen to spare my life during those years when I had foolishly turned my back on Him. It was time to return permanently and take my Faith seriously.

Your mother must be smiling from heaven. Mine too!

God placed my family in the hands of a wonderful priest and fellow parishioners who  encouraged us to grow in our Faith. We progressed from Sunday Mass attendees to participants in RENEW, Cursillo, the Charismatic Renewal, and a Prison Ministry.
But it is was not until an elderly Italian matriarch and friend from our parish approached my wife and I before Mass one Sunday that an overwhelming sense of love for the Eucharist manifested itself in our lives. She simply said: “I have the perfect time for you.” 
“What do you mean?” we asked. 
“Adoration at 2 AM on Friday mornings.”

I love this! Her confidence that you will do this! 

For 10 years my wife and I shared a holy hour on the First Friday of every month. We came to treasure that time with God, and never during the 10 years of First Fridays were we ever tired or unable to complete our normal routines the following day.

My interest in and attraction toward the Eucharist only increased. After a year of persistent promptings, I got the courage to ask our Pastor if we could start Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. “We can’t even fill 12 hours on the First Friday of each month,” he said. “How do you expect to cover 168 hours a week?” 

“I have no idea Father, but am convinced God wants us to try.” It has been more than 17 years since our Chapel of Perpetual Adoration opened. We are struggling now to cover all the hours but know God will provide. If there was ever any doubt about our Lord wanting this Chapel in our little town of 8,500, it was removed when a total stranger approached us and offered us a monstrance blessed by Pope St. John Paul II on the Sunday before he died if we would place it in our Chapel.

That is beautiful! We are building a new church—St. Clare of Assisi on Daniel Island—and are so excited at the possibility of having Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration! See for details.

You are a lay Dominican. Please tell us how this came to be. 

I had never heard of the Lay Dominicans. I had lived in the Syracuse, New York area for more than 25 years and did not even know there was a Monastery of cloistered Dominican nuns there. That is not until I met a unique soul at a preparatory meeting for a Prison Retreat we were planning. At the time, this gentlemen was living out of his car. He told me that he had always wanted to visit and perhaps join the Lay Dominican community in Syracuse but lacked transportation. He asked me if I would take him to their next meeting. I did. He never joined the community but I stayed. Astonishing how God works. How thankful I am that God placed this man in my life. He was the vehicle through which it has been forever changed.

My Dominican vocation has nourished an insatiable hunger to know, live, share and defend the Truths of our Catholic Faith; to love and treasure the Eucharist;  to make it the source, center and  summit of our daily lives; to promote greater belief in and reverence for this magnificent Gift; and to have zeal for the salvation of souls, not only our own, but the souls of every one whom we encounter on this earthly journey. It provides a framework through which we can effectively live out our vocation as lay Catholics. I never would have had the courage to pursue Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration had it not been for the graces I have receved as a Lay Dominican. Your readers can find out more about the Lay Dominican vocation here.

How long did it take you to compile the 250 Reflections? How did you go about sorting and sifting through what I imagine an immense treasure trove?

It took me nearly a year to complete this book. I have been collecting quotes on the Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration since at least since May of 2011 and have hundreds. I printed all the quotations I had saved and prayerfully reviewed them, deciding at one point to select 250 of them. I prayed and tried to assemble those quotes that would really challenge our hard hearts and which were hopefully words that were not overly familiar to the book’s readers. I truly believe, as did St. Vincent Ferrer, O.P., that we cannot be timid when addressing problems in our Church and the lukewarm manner in which many of us live out our faith. St. Vincent was direct and confronted people with the Truth since it is only the Truth that will set hearts and souls free. 

While the response to this book has been overwhelmingly positive, I have received two conflicting types of criticism:  there are not enough quotations or 250 quotations are a bit much. 

Ha! Everybody has an opinion! Please share a couple of your favorite quotations and the reason why.

Wow, every time I reread the book, I find another favorite. 
Grin! This is why SSS will remain in my Adoration bag at all times. 
Let me share four.

The following words reminded  me that it is only by and through God’s grace, not by our devices, that we will be able to do anything of value:

“All you have loved in me comes from the time I spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament. All that has disappointed you in me comes from the time I should have spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament.”  (From Could You Not Watch with Me One Hour?)

The next three quotations address the problem of man’s ingratitude for the Gift of God’s Presence. This is a Truth we have been afraid to share for fear of offending the listener. But these are exactly the words that we must share if we are to reawaken so many lost souls:

“Ah, how it hurts to see in what manner our Savior is treated! There He is in the tabernacle, the Prisoner of Love, waiting for souls to come and visit Him. But whoever gives Him even a thought, one only thought? …It would cause so very little trouble to go to Him...for just a sweet moment. It would be so very easy to cast a tender glance upon that tiny send a loving thought a-speeding towards that breathe a few whispered words of affection...but, alas! When it comes to doing something for Jesus that something, no matter how small, becomes at once irksome and grievous-so weak are we!”” (Eucharistic Whisperings - Father Winfrid Herbst, S.D.S.) 

“How many among the best Catholics never pay a visit of devotion to the most Blessed Sacrament to speak with Him from the heart, to tell Him their love? They do not love our Lord in the Eucharist because they do not know Him well enough. But in spite of knowing Him and His love and the sacrifices and desires of His heart, they still do not love Him.

 What an insult!   Yes, an insult.

 For it amounts to telling Jesus Christ that He is not beautiful enough, not good enough, not lovable enough to be preferred to what they love.
What ingratitude!" (St. Peter Julian Eymard) 
“Why art Thou left alone in this Most Holy Sacrament? Where are Thy adorers and Thy friends? Has Thy Church failed to announce Thy Gospel to the world, and to make Thy presence known? Why art Thou so ignored, forsaken, and left alone in Thy tabernacles, without honor and with no one to thank Thee for the gift of Thy Real Presence? Why is the world kept in the dark concerning Thee in this Most Holy Sacrament, when Thou art all that this world needs, and all that souls desire?” (Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, OSB the author of Vultus Christi)
Ouch! You are right! These are hard to read; they convict me. You will see from my favorites that I am still a newbie when it comes to loving our blessed Lord. 

The first by St. Peter Julian Eymard (p. 109-110): Go to our Lord just as you are. Make a simple meditation. Exhaust your own fund of piety and love before you make use of books…Remember that our good Master prefers the poverty of our heart to the most sublime thoughts and affections borrowed from others… This reminds me how much God loves me just as I am and He will bring me to perfection. 

The second by Rev. Mateo Crawley-Boevey (p. 125-126) shed so much light on our Lord’s Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. See, I always thought my sins made Him weep. But there’s even a greater reason.  For centuries, I have carried in My Heart a sorrowful cross. How many souls are there redeemed by My Blood, yet, definitely lost! …My Heart was breaking in the Garden of Gethsemane, for they were all My children! It makes me pray more fervently for conversions knowing how close I was to choosing hell in my youth. I can’t thank you enough for writing this book. Not only has my prayer life deepened, but you’ve introduced me to new saint-friends and I look forward to getting to know them better. 

Your choices are excellent. Your words of support are most humbling.

I think my next book will be In Sinu Jesu—I finally realized (because of SSS) that the beautiful blog Vultus Christi is maintained by the same priest. What a treasure! How did you get to know him? Have you made a retreat with him?

Vijaya, you must read In Sinu Jesu. Every priest and every Catholic must read that book. It is an absolute treasure trove of Truth. I would love to make a retreat at the Silverstream Priory in County Meath Ireland but don’t see that becoming a reality. In lieu of meeting Dom Mark Daniel Kirby. O.S.B and his community personally, I will reread his book and visit his blog, Vultus Christi, regularly. I highly recommend Father’s blog to your readers. It was there that I first discovered excerpts from In Sinu Jesu before it became a published book.  
Over the years I have contacted Father via e-mail seeking his permission to use some of his work. He has always been most generous in giving me permission to do so. I cannot more highly recommend a priest or a religious community than Father Kirby and the Benedictine Monks of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. It has also been my privilege to share a portion of the proceeds realized from the sale of I Thirst For Your Love with them.

I've just begun! Is there anything else you would like to share, Michael?

Please let us love God as we ought and as He deserves. Let us come to Church to worship and adore Him and to reverently, with great humility and gratitude, receive His most precious Body and Blood. Let us do everything within our power individually and as a Church to reinstate reverence, sacredness and silence in our Churches. Let us visit and spend time before and with our loving Lord in the Blessed Sacrament every week. And let us quench His thirst to be loved and adored.

There are so many devotionals to bring to Adoration but SSS will remain my favorite. 

Vijaya, you have been so kind and helpful in promoting Stirring Slumbering Souls. I pray that you will also find I Thirst For Your Love, a fitting addition to your devotional collection. If either of these books have any value, it is because of the wise souls whose words and entreaties I have shared. To God forever be the Glory!

AMEN! I sing Non nobis Domine!!!
God bless you and your readers!

Thank you, Michael, for sharing your life and work so generously. God bless you for all you do! My friends, you will find a wealth of devotional aids on Michael Seagriff’s blog:  To have a chance at winning your own copy of STIRRING SLUMBERING SOULS, leave a comment before the end of this month. I also urge you to make a Holy Hour Maundy Thursday. Many Catholic churches will have an Altar of Repose until midnight.

My dear readers, I conducted this interview before the terrible fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and couldn't have known how timely it would be. Just like the Jewish people were chastised, so are we, for turning away from God. "Yet even now," declares the LORD, Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning;" ~ Joel 2:12 
Abelmontf [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

Monday, April 15, 2019

Art, Music, Mass

These are two of the luckiest girls--they're both taking AP Art, the only two students this school year--and what a joy to see some of their work. Their teacher is so dedicated and devoted and my hope is that they never stop making art, that no matter how busy, they make the time for it. We need it for our soul. Thank you, Mrs. Johnson, for all you do for the kids. The pieces below are Dagny's. I remember a story about an art contest. The first painting of a flower was so realistic, a bee alighted on it. The second was of grass so realistic, a cow tried to eat it. But the third, a curtain in a window was so realistic, the judge tried to draw it aside. Guess who won?   
After the Art Show we were able to go for our baptism anniversary Mass. It is the best gift in the world as I remember God's promises. Friday night we had the wonderful opportunity to listen to Bach's Mass in B-Minor performed by the Taylor Music Group. Words cannot express how beautiful it was to listen to it live. I wondered whether it's ever been played in the context of a Mass, but I don't think it ever has. Bach compiled bits and pieces composed earlier to have a complete Mass that his son would perform. Of course, if you added in the propers of the day, Mass would go for 3 hours or more and I think most people would have a fit. But it's glorious! My favorite movements were the Christe eleison (11 min), the Sanctus (1:38) and Benedictus (1:48), and the Agnus Dei (1:57). Such a wonderful way to end this Lent. Blessings to you this holiest of all weeks.  


Thursday, April 11, 2019

A Hole in My Heart

Shalom tidings Mar/Apr issue has published my conversion story: A Hole in My Heart. It's our tenth anniversary and I couldn't be happier to be in the bosom of Holy Mother Church. I feel as if my real life began 10 years ago, it's as if I were reawakened from a deep and deadly slumber all those many decades.

This beautiful Catholic magazine is a labor of love and they are looking for original pieces regarding all aspects of Catholicism. Take a look online to get a feel for it. I met a few of their people at the Catholic Writing Conference and it was such a joy. Until then, I'd not even known about them. This is what I love about writing conferences, the opportunity to get to know other writers and editors. I'm pitching some talks for this year so wish me luck!  

And speaking of conversions, I can't believe I've not shared Why I Am Catholic (and you should be too) by Brandon Vogt in more detail. I received an ARC a couple of years ago and this is one of the BEST books I've read because the author lays out not only the case for Christ, but also for Catholicism. He organizes his arguments around the three transcendentals: Truth, Goodness, Beauty. It's probably the one resource I recommend to most people who are looking for an explanation for my faith. I know lots and lots of Protestants in the South and they rightly wonder why we would do such a thing because from childhood they've been taught to only believe in the Bible, and here we are with our traditions. People forget that it's the Catholic Church that compiled the books of the Bible and our faith and traditions can be traced all the way back through the Church Fathers to the Apostles and Jesus Himself. But as the Venerable Ap. Fulton Sheen said, "There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

Brandon Vogt does a good job of dispelling some of the misconceptions in a clear manner as well as elucidating some of the basic truths of Catholicism. He writes, "Most self-aware people know they fall way short of the Church's moral demands and could never close come to meeting them." He reminds us that "the Church exists for sinners...It isn't for the perfect but for the struggling...Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future." In the end, there are many reasons to love the Church, but the principal reason is that it's true. Tonight we celebrate!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019


Drumroll. I won One Week of You by Lisa Williams Kline over on Carol's blog where she reviewed it--I'll wait while you read :) I fell in love with the cover when it was first announced and was so delighted to find out I won!!! I'm already in the thick of it--it's a fast read. More MG in nature than YA even though the narrator is a freshman in high school. In essence, perfect for your innocent girls from age 11-15. I often think this is the kind of book that is the hardest to place because kids like to read up (protagonist is older than them) but most kids are not ready for the grit and angst and sex and violence that can be present in a typical young adult book. I loved how the focus of this book is on friendship and discernment of how we choose and keep our friends. I also enjoyed the family relationships. It was just so normal! The characters are like real kids I know--sweet, funny, confused, exasperating, quirky. I know my 17-yr-old will enjoy reading this during Easter break (ummm, she hasn't seen it yet because I got the mail first and she has much work to catch up on...see what a good mom I am?) Thank you, Lisa, for writing this delightful book. It serves as an excellent mentor text for me for a friendship/immigration book I've been mulling for years. 

I don't often talk about picture books even though I read many of them. Typically, I'll check out a bunch at a time and soak them up, hoping some of their magic will rub off on me. I'm the only one in this household who's still poring over picture books. The best are for all ages. Here are a couple of outstanding picture books recently published: Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal. I loved the soft illustrations and the beautiful double-page spreads as Alma's daddy tells her about each family member who's contributed to her name. It's such a cozy book and one that invites the child to get to know his or her family history. Beautiful. 

The other picture book is Grandma's Tiny House by JaNay Brown-Wood and Priscilla Burris. It's a joyous celebration of getting together at Thanksgiving (or any other time) with family, friends, and neighbors. It reminded me so much of our own family get-togethers in WA. The rhymes are pitch perfect and the illustrations full of movement and energy!

Now that Passiontide has begun as well, we're practicing a lot of the Sacred Triduum music. The statues are veiled, the Gloria Patri and Alleluia are suppressed (but we in choir get a foretaste of it all) and we sink more deeply into the Passion narrative. But I almost forgot, the adorable Tammi Sauer has an equally adorable new PB that I am dying to check out. She does chicks and chickens so well. I get a chance when I do my reading and book-signing of Ten Easter Eggs at Barnes and Noble on Holy Sat. 10:45 am, Mt. Pleasant Towne Center. Local friends, I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019


I read the book UNPLANNED many years ago and was struck by Abby Johnson's courageous journey as a Planned Parenthood director to the pro-life cause. So many of us, myself included, have believed in a lie, based our lives upon it, but Abby shows that you can turn away from a life you do not want and into a new one. I wanted everybody to read it and did a mini-review here. Now that it's a movie, I hope everybody who is 13 years old and up can see the truth about abortion. It does have a couple of very graphic scenes, but they are not gratuitous. They are absolutely necessary to show the violence of the act, not just against the baby but also against the mother. The ultrasound is computer generated--and not a real abortion.

I didn't know what abortion was until I came to this country and took a mandatory class on Health as a freshman in the public high school. Never mind that I didn't actually know how the baby got to be there in the first place. But my first reaction was horror. Yet, fast forward four years, and by age 18, I had breathed enough feminist and me-myself-I air and was blithely proclaiming that abortion is a woman's right, the baby being a parasite since it takes all its sustenance from the mother. But by my mid-20s I reversed my position because now I had family and friends who'd gone through abortions and I saw their suffering, and my own part in the destruction of their babies. See, I did not want any responsibility for the babies, so I'd say, "I'll support whatever choice you make." Like Abby Johnson, I looked at myself and wondered how I ever became so hard-hearted.

The movie is well-made, true to its characters, and situations. Although it's Abby's story, we get a good glimpse of how a girl raised in a Christian home can make choices that are unchristian. Away from home, she's subject to all the temptations young people face. Her parents are amazing, and a great example to all how to show love even when you disagree with your child. The women working at PP were also well-defined. All of them cared about the women. Except maybe Cheryl, the boss, who made it very clear that what mattered was the bottom line. I also liked seeing the friendship that developed between Marilisa and Abby across the fence. It's what allowed Abby to leave PP. I don't cry much at movies, but by the end I was bawling, thinking of the babies who'd be grown up by now. It definitely packs an emotional wallop. But remember God's mercy.

I could write so much more, but many others have reviewed UNPLANNED and one of the best reviews with extra interviews is by Donald McClarey. The story of the actress who plays Abby is amazing! So read the review, watch the embedded videos. And go see the movie. Bring your friends. This is so timely with so many states trying to pass laws to protect the right to have an abortion for any reason. I think this movie can change hearts and minds. Nobody will be able to say, "I didn't know." Now I have to figure out how to get BOUND made into a movie. I suppose I need to learn how to write a screenplay :) I think writers must have a certain audacity to even begin writing a book that they believe will make a difference. So, go be audacious! Write!!! Because it matters.