Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lenten Resources for the Entire Family

Oftentimes the seasons of Lent and Advent are filled with our good intentions about what we will do, what we will read, and the changes we will make in our daily lives. The weeks stretch out ahead of us and we begin with great plans and an eagerness to experience the holy season in a new way.

Then reality sets in and our original plans for a “different” experience evaporate. I can’t tell you how many Lenten books sit on my shelf partially read and how many Advent wreaths are in the closet, half finished.

That all changed last year when I purchased The Sacred Heart for Lent by Fr. Thomas Williams and 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley.  I read The Sacred Heart for Lent on my own and cajoled my husband into the Marian Consecration by Gaitley. It was all such a blessing that this Lent I wanted to share those resources with others.

Last Lent it quickly became obvious to me that a priest brings something very unique to a book: a priest brings to his work the sacredness that arises out of his everyday life in persona Christi. There is a richness—a wisdom—that seems to radiate from the words on the page because of his lived experiences tending to the flock.

For instance, in Fr. Williams’ book, he asks very pointed questions and offers excellent understandings into the human condition. I was particularly affected by his words on “courage” and found myself seeing it in a new light. Along with the brief daily meditative insights in Father’s book,  the aspect I liked best was that each day had a unique plea to the Sacred Heart that completely resonated with me: Sacred Heart of Jesus, serene before the cross, make my heart more like yours! or Sacred Heart of Jesus, bursting with love, make my heart more like yours! and so on.

The second book I highly recommend this Lent is the Gaitley Marian Consecration book: 33 Days to Morning Glory. Even if you’ve done the lengthier St. Louis de Montfort consecration, you will still benefit from this shorter, easier-to-follow version. You can do this with a spouse, a friend, even older children. Lent is a beautiful time to consecrate your home to Christ through Mary.

Lent should be a special time for kids as well. The illustrations of Fr. Victor Kynam in The Way of the Cross for Children are simple and yet profound. Written by Kathryn Mulderink, OCDS, The Way ofthe Cross for Children is a coloring book for younger children while simply being an illustrated book for the older ones (although I admit that last year I did color one, too!). It is perfect for home or classroom. Fr. Kynam and Mulderink also teamed up for Walk New: AWay of the Cross for Teens. Father’s illustrations for this book are truly powerful and will make the authority of the Cross very real for your teen or young adult.

Be assured that these books are all excellent Lenten resources that will bless you and your family in a very special way. 

Cheryl Dickow

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Signs from God

True story.

Hand to God.

An acquaintance was having neighbor trouble. As often happens, things escalated rather quickly. What had begun as an issue where two sides were taking tough stands and no one was willing to budge swiftly careened into a legal battle.

The acquaintance—a woman of great faith who diligently tried to live out her life as a disciple of Christ—was deeply troubled by the chain of events which left her with an impending court date.

In the meantime, her young grandchild was in a school play and the play was scheduled for a date very close to the court date. The play was about different virtues or characteristics that are good to practice and to have: things like perseverance and kindness. The grandchild’s role in the play was to carry a placard for one of these virtues—marching around the stage with others holding similar placards with letters boldly proclaiming this characteristic or that trait.

With the play and court date fast approaching, all the grandmother really had on her mind was the court date and the events leading up to its sad reality. She wrestled with it to such a degree that her mind could absorb nothing else. Mostly she kept asking the Lord for a “sign.” Should she forgive her neighbor or should she carry through with the legal battle? Please Lord, she would beg night and day, give me a sign.

The night of her grandchild’s play arrived. As the acquaintance sat in the audience, enjoying the play was the furthest thing from her mind. She didn’t even notice her grandchild on the stage with the other kids as her mind swirled around beseeching God for a sign.

The play ended and grandmother and grandchild made their way through the parking lot to grandma’s car. The grandchild carried the placard at her side and chatted away with grandma hearing nary a word. Court date was just a couple of days away and the grandmother was still waiting for a sign from God.

As each got into the front seat of the car, the grandchild put the placard on the dashboard with the letters facing up. Grandma started the car and looking out the front window saw the reflection of the word on the placard. Sadly, in her state of mind, she hadn’t noticed it all night. Now seeing it for the first time, she seemed unable to move. The grandmother could barely believe her eyes.

There it was, the placard with which her grandchild had been strutting around the stage all evening; the placard that grandma had been too preoccupied to notice.

On the “sign” that the grandchild had placed on the front dashboard, decorated and glittering for all the audience to see—but mostly for grandma to see—was one single word: Forgiveness.

Cheryl Dickow
photo courtesy Matthew Andrews | Dreamstime

Friday, January 11, 2013

Chicken Little

I had an odd response to the 2012 presidential election: I stopped watching the news.

I also stopped reading the news on the Internet.

In fact, not a single television show appealed to me and the blackened screen simply became a piece of ubiquitous furniture in the center of the room. At that point I had already abandoned social media such as Facebook and Twitter so I was left with a decent amount of time on my hands.

My work as a Catholic publisher took on a new meaning. I was working on Jennifer Frank’s fiction title He Shall Be Peace and I found myself praying for it every moment of my work day. My desire to get solid, entertaining, faith-filled books into the hands of the lay faithful became an obsession.

As did my own desire to read.

My appetite for books was ravenous. In the month and a half following the election I read well over a dozen books. I read the entire Book of Revelation (Navarre Bible Study version) as well as the entire Gospel of Matthew (Navarre Bible Study version). Every day brought new titles in the mail (since all our local bookstores have closed). I visited many Catholic websites and paid high prices for shipping and full retail price in an effort to make some sort of pro-Catholic statement with my consumer dollars.

During that time, my own business required me to have conversations with a variety of people from across the country: mostly women, but a couple of men, too. Somehow the conversations always took a turn in which I would need to admit to my perplexing response to the election (which at first I couldn’t quite explain). I was quite taken aback as I was told by every person—without exception—“Me, too! I can’t quite figure out why but I feel drawn inward.”

Very quickly I was able to see that I wasn’t alone in my reaction. As those conversations became more numerous and consistent in what people were saying I began to more fully understand my own reaction: I was being called to strengthen myself in Christ. I needed to immerse my mind, heart and spirit in the things of Christ. My foundation needed to be built on the rock of salvation so as to be able to withstand whatever was to come against it.

Sound crazy?


Okay, probably.

But I recalled the phrase: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t after you.”

Just because every generation has had a Chicken Little doesn’t mean the sky isn’t about to fall.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Chicken Little. At least I didn’t think so…

Since I made a donation to the 2012 Republican Party, I’m now on a few contact lists. A few weeks ago Rick Santorum’s new Super Pac committee gave me a call.

The gal on the phone said, “If you could describe your response to the 2012 presidential election in one word what would it be?”

That’s easy, “Tragic.”

Clearly I gave the sort of response that led the young person at the other end to proceed according to her outlined script, “Then may I ask you to listen to a one-minute, pre-recorded message from Mr. Santorum?”

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Santorum who is a pro-life, like-minded fellow Catholic so was easily able to say, “Certainly!”

Now if you would have known me before the election, you would have rightfully expected my response to the pre-recorded message to be one of enthusiastic passion as I pulled out my checkbook and contemplated what I could give and yet still feed my family. However, my heart rate remained steady as I listened to Rick’s zealous message about “now more than ever….”

When it was over the gal came back on the line and continued with her script, “As you can see, it is very important that we stop the …”

I politely let her finish reading from her script which then ended with a request for my help. At that point I responded in the most natural way possible. I didn’t even think about what I was about to say. It just came out so matter-of-factly that it even caught me by surprise, “I’m sorry but I believe our time is better spent right now preparing for Christ’s return.”

There was dead silence at the other end.

I admit I felt like a right-wing lunatic—those stereotypical ones that are made fun of in the media and in Hollywood. I actually felt bad for this young woman as I’m sure she frantically tried to find that particular response in her script so that she would know how to proceed. I didn’t want to be rude and hang up so I waited.

After a full minute of silence (during which I imagined her keying in some sort of comment by my name on her list) she finally said, “Ok. Thank you.”

To which I could only reply, with a heart full of compassion for the predicament in which I had unintentionally put her, “You are welcome.”

I hung up having a whole new respect for Chicken Little. Poor guy.

Cheryl Dickow
(graphic © Muhammad Hatza Prabowo Aji |