Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Talking Catholic Fiction with Marcus Grodi

How many books have you read in the past year or so? (This doesn’t count the ones that you started but did not finish and now languish on a shelf gathering dust.)

I’m talking about books that you have read cover to cover.

That may reduce the number by as much as half if you are anything like most people—so don’t feel bad!

And of those books, how many are Catholic fiction?

So now the question is: How many Catholic fiction books have you read in the past year or so from cover to cover?

Sadly, the odds of an adult Catholic reading a Catholic fiction book are pretty miniscule—especially on a consistent basis. I know this from the countless people I have talked with over the years as well as from my professional experience as a publisher working with Catholic bookstores and so on. Ever since I taught parochial middle school English and religion, I’ve been on a bit of a mission in this regard. Add to that the years (decades, really) that I’ve watched my good friend devour her Protestant fiction books (not just one or two a year but many—all the while being a working mother of four) and I continue to feel a passion for getting great Catholic fiction books into homes, schools, and parishes.

It is a tough market to crack—to say the least.

So when I recently taped an episode of Journey Home with Marcus Grodi, you can only imagine how my heart sang when he began talking about the great value of Catholic fiction! We spent the first part of the show (to air August 26th) talking about my experiences in the Jewish culture as a young teen and how those experiences profoundly affected me as an adult Catholic—and how those experiences have made their way into my own writing.

While we talked about how Catholic fiction can feed us in a different way—and even sometimes in a deeper way—I forgot all about the cameras on us. It was a private conversation between two passionate Catholic fiction writers sharing an excitement for the ways Catholic fiction can bless the reader.

On the desk, in front of Marcus, were my two fiction books. Right there on the desk! No matter how you look at it, it was a blessing to me in my own endeavors as a Catholic writer and publisher; but mostly it was a wonderful, timely confirmation from Heaven above that great Catholic fiction books are important for Catholic adults.

My prayer is that the Journey Home episode will encourage Catholic adults to find, read, and relish Catholic fiction—and not just once in a while but to really get immersed in how Catholic fiction books can continuously feed your soul when they are part of your own journey home!

I hope you will get a chance to peek in on that conversation when the episode airs on August 26th and that your reading will always include great Catholic fiction.

In the meantime, I’d love to recommend a few titles to get you started in the world of Catholic fiction…

· The Story of Peace by Miriam Ezeh

· He Shall be Peace by Jennifer Franks

· After The Fall by Clara Fleischmann

· The Great Hospice Mystery by William Serdahely

· The two books I’ve written that we talk about on the Journey Home episode are:

o Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage

o Miriam: Repentance and Redemption in Rome

Cheryl Dickow

Saturday, July 20, 2013


I love Marie Barone in the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond.

Sure she’s a bit meddlesome.

Admittedly she’s even a tad overbearing.

Maybe she’s even off-putting to some.

But her motivation is pure.

She’s committed to her family. She really never puts herself first—even if we are led to believe that she does. If we are really paying attention, her scheming is done to ensure that her family is safe and sound and well-fed.

No matter what, it is always important that they eat. As a mother of three sons, I get how my own feeling of peace is tied to the care and feeding of my boys—and so I instinctively understand why Marie is forever handing food to whomever walks through the door. “Are you hungry, dear?” she asks while handing over a plate—without any regard to the answer.

Now, as my own sons grow older and the prospects of one day becoming a mother-in-law myself become a real possibility, I take note of mothers-in-law in a new way. And Marie Barone is at the top of my list.

I’ve got to admit, I think she’s great.

But she does give me pause. It is a daunting thought to recognize that my own quirks and traits and defects will be borne by future daughters-in-law who enter the family. These young women won’t be required to love or honor me through sheer genetic material.

And that worries me a bit. After all, I see how often Marie is misunderstood.

She makes me wonder if my future daughters-in-law may expect me to be a more perfect version of their own mother. My head starts swirling when I think of mother-in-law-hood.

If being a mother is a difficult task, how much more so being a mother-in-law?

My own mother-in-law has been a real blessing to me. She has loved and welcomed me but has also respected my own boundaries and decisions as a mother. I’m sure she was very worried in the first decade or so. She didn’t always hide her concern if I was taking good care of her precious son—which may well have boiled down to if I was feeding him; but all in all, I think she’s pleased with the job I’ve done almost three decades later.

Throughout the years, she has often told me how fortunate I am to have married her son. I’m not sure I always agreed (hey, he was lucky, too!) but now that my own sons are young men, I totally get that sentiment. I see my sons growing into wonderful young men who take their work seriously, have goals and ambition, are kind and respectful to everyone—and I know that their future wives will be blessed, indeed.

I realize that I may even have to voice that fact now and again. I’m entitled, right?

Regardless of what the future holds in my life as a mother-in-law, I am grateful to Marie Barone. No excuses, just commitment. Take it or leave it.

Whatever you do, though, please make sure to eat.

Cheryl Dickow

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Becoming a Saint One Day at a Time

God calls us each to holiness, to sainthood.

Every day, each experience we have helps us grow in our faith and in our purpose: To achieve holiness; to become saints; to fully become the person God intends us to be.

Each experience, then, has the potential to be “purgative.” Purgation is a process that gets us ready for God. Just as God’s grace was given to the martyrs, so it is given to us to grow in holiness and towards sainthood.

In this process, it is imperative to see God as the Potter and know that we are the clay. Each experience, then, is given over to God for His guidance and our growth. Sainthood means allowing God to mold us just as a Potter molds clay. (Isaiah 64:7)

Everything we experience is an opportunity to grow in our holiness. God can “make us worthy and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose” by giving us circumstances that cause us to depend on Him, to trust in Him, and to respond according to His will

In other words, through our circumstances we allow God to mold us into a loving, forgiving, humble person versus a bitter, frustrated, angry person. (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12)

During this process, our passions can take us places that we may not have ever dreamed of and thus do things that are completely unique to each of us. In these places we cannot be lukewarm Catholics—we are expected to be on fire for our faith so that God can use us to build up the kingdom! In this the Year of Faith, it is important to ask God to ignite our passions so that you can serve Him. It is time to pray that God saves us from a lukewarm existence where we neither serve Him nor grow in our holiness. (Revelation 3:15-16)

We each have received different blessings from God. Maybe we have good health or we have a rewarding career. Is intelligence or a great marriage our blessing? God’s blessings are another way that we can grow in holiness towards our sainthood. For God to mold us into sainthood with our blessings, we have to actively offer them back to God. We have to honor God with them. They aren’t meant to stockpile but to serve. (Proverbs 3:5-10)

For many of us, the most profound way that God is able to mold us is through our sufferings and our struggles. In our weakest, most vulnerable moments, when there seems to be no hope nor any other solution, we crawl to the foot of the cross and lay our cares upon Christ who died for us. Oftentimes, before we make that journey to the cross, we mistakenly think we are able to take care of ourselves and thus miss the opportunities to grow in holiness and towards sainthood. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

When we are pleading for God to reach down from heaven and touch us—and give us “signs”—it is probably time to take a step back and look at the people with whom our paths have crossed. God uses all the people—family and friends and critics and adversaries alike—to mold us. Each person has been placed in our life for a reason: to grow in holiness and become a saint. Whether the person has put a stone in our path making it more difficult, or has removed one, each person can help us each reach our goal of sainthood! (Mark 16:2-6)

In all things, through all circumstances, and throughout each day, God desires each of us to grow in holiness towards sainthood. This can only happen when we allow Him to be the Potter and recognize that we are the clay.
Cheryl Dickow