Work of the Holy Angels

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Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. AMEN

As a writer, I love to hear from my readers. I love to know what they think of my stories and what they hope comes next. My readers influence me. The themes and story line of my latest release, Standing Strong, were inspired by a reader. You can read all about it on author Cynthia Toney’s blog post about my book.

angel3Recently, a reader inspired me to look into a religious movement that I never knew existed. A professor of theology who read my book Battle for His Soul asked if I had any connection with Opus Angelorum or if the story was inspired by its spirituality.

I was not familiar with this spirituality, however, I wrote Battle for His Soul to draw attention to the spiritual battle that goes on all around us and to increase devotion to our guardian angels. And I researched the Church’s teaching on angels, using Scriptures and the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas.

But this reader got me curious. So of course I had to look it up! And I am so glad I did! The group is called Opus Sanctorum Angelorum.

From their “About Us” page:

Opus Sanctorum Angelorum, the Work of the Holy Angels, is an international movement within the Catholic Church faithful to the Magisterium. It is ordered to promoting devotion to the holy angels and a covenant bond with them through a Church-approved consecration, so that the holy angels may lead us more effectively to God.

Their website is packed with information!

  • You can learn about the holy angels on their “Catechesis on the Angels” page, which includes dozens of Scriptural and Catechism of the Catholic Church references.
  • They have a page of commonly asked questions on the Angels, which includes questions like “How do angels communicate with us?” and “Do angels have wings?”
  • As you learn about the spirituality of this association, you will also find beautiful quotes and prayers.
  • And you can read about real life experiences of the intervention of holy angels in people’s lives. Here is one of many testimonies on the website:

After reading your newsletter, I was reminded of this incident and wanted to tell you about it. When my daughter was 21 months old, we were walking on the upper level of a school building. I turned my back for a few seconds and when I looked again, she was running towards a two-story flight of concrete stairs. Before I could stop her, she began to run down them and tripped. She started to fall, but before her head hit the step something caught her and slowly pushed her back to an upright position. When I arrived next to her, she was standing still. There was no possible ordinary explanation for this. Although I could not see anything, I felt a strong presence and I know it was her Guardian Angel that saved her that day.                             ~Erica S.

cemetery-1670233_1920Want even more than you can find on their website, they have a link to their store where you can find books and audio on angels, prayers cards and crucifixes. And they offer something I’ve always wanted to try: Silent Retreats!

I love my guardian angel and feel so very close to him at times. Sometimes when I am too tired to pray, I ask him to say hello to God for me. I know he is ever by my side, praying for me and helping me to follow the right path, step by step.

Angels are God’s messengers and our constant companions. They want us to grow in holiness and to draw ever closer to God through Jesus Christ. I encourage you to visit their website so that you can learn more about angels and increase your devotion to your own guardian angel.

“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”          ~Hebrews 1:14
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Book Review: The Grace Crasher

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516arGS316L._SX331_BO1204203200_It’s been a long time since I’ve laughed so much while reading a book. This story has so many hysterical parts! I absolutely loved it!

The Grace Crasher opens with Julia and her best friend Robin in a Christian store, shopping for things that can help Julia look like she’s evangelical. She desperately wants to get an apartment but the landlady is a born-again Christian.

At one point, Julia tries on a shirt and turns her backside to Robin.

“Does this Jesus shirt make my butt look big?”

“Not big, just …trapezoidal.”

Then they move to the Bibles. Julia grabs the plain one that simply said Holy Bible because it seemed like the most Bible-ish one.

We soon learn more about Julia, her family, and her interests. She has a crush on Dylan Heath, the lead singer of a local indie band, but when she sees cute Mark, the store’s manager, she decides it’s a good idea to have a backup crush.

I must admit: it was Carolyn Astfalk’s review of The Grace Crasher that compelled me to get a copy for myself. Her book reviews are thorough and reliable, and I think we have similar tastes.

I cracked this book open (actually I read an ebook, so that phrase doesn’t really work) expecting to find a light, humorous, enjoyable story that I could read a little at a time before bed, and I was not disappointed. Author Mara Faro pokes fun at both Evangelical and Catholic Christians, but not in a mean way. It was all gut-busting fun! But as the story developed I also found surprising depth of character and story-line. The main character faces trials many can identify with and goes through a beautiful transformation.

Well-developed and realistic characters, along with the continuous humor, and the deeper spiritual insights made this a fantastic story that I highly recommend.

Other Reviews:

“A great take on infatuation vs. love, speaking the truth in love, and being true to yourself.” ~

“Julia’s path is a relatable one, and in her flaws and the flaws of the characters around her, we see ourselves and our own brokenness with delightful clarity.” ~

“Loved it! Fun, inspiring, quirky,…I had lots of laughs reading this!” ~Amazon review

Funny, insightful, and brilliant!” ~Vera A. Velk

A hilarious, poignant story that sets the broken love among families, friends, lovers, and fellow believers against the backdrop of God’s unfailing, patient, perfect love.” ~

You can learn more about the author Mara Faro at her website.

You can get the book on Amazon in both paperback or ebook format.

Church Suffering, Militant, and Triumphant!

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I love the month of November and not just because it’s my birthmonth! This month reminds us that we are called to be part of something that transcends space and time: we are called to be part of the Mystical Body of Christ.

What is the Mystical Body of Christ?

St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, “You are the Body of Christ, member for member” (1 Cor 12:27), and of Christ “the Head of His Body, the Church” (Colossians 1:18).

So St. Paul compares the Church to a body which has many parts with different functions but are still united. The members of the Church are bound together by supernatural life through Christ. This includes the members of the Church who are in Heaven, Purgatory, and still alive on earth, that is: the Church Triumphant, Church Suffering, and Church Militant.


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Faith or The Church Triumphant, oil on canvas painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1664 – 1665 (public domain)

This November begins with the Feast of All Saints, a celebration of those who have fought the good fight of the faith and have taken hold of the eternal life to which we are all called (1 Tim 6:12). They are our intercessors and our inspiration. “…since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

 


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Ludovico Carracci circa 1610. Public Domain.

November 2, we Commemorate all the Faithfully Departed, keeping the Church Suffering close to our hearts and offering prayers on their behalf, for they can no longer pray for themselves. Several Franciscan saints have been great helpers of the Holy Souls.

Padre Pio encourages us with these words: “The souls in Purgatory pray for us, and their prayers are even more effective than ours, because they are accompanied by their suffering. So, let’s pray for them, and let’s pray them to pray for us.

 

If you aren’t sure what Purgatory is or you’d like to learn more, here’s a nice article about what it isn’t.


 

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Knights of Christ in the Ghent Altarpiece. Public Domain

Next, on November 23rd in America, we celebrate Thanksgiving, a celebration of country, family, and our many blessings from Divine Providence. In a way, this is a celebration of the Church Militant, those who are in the world and actively involved in the great battle between good and evil. As we offer thanksgiving for our many blessings, including our faith, family, and Church, let us find ourselves renewed in zeal to continue fighting the good fight.

I am a Secular Franciscan and for us Franciscans, the themes of this month circle back to the Church Suffering and Church Triumphant, as we commemorate all the deceased members of the Franciscan orders on the 24th and celebrate all the Franciscan saints on the 29th.

No matter how dark the days or how heavy the cross we carry, let us never forget that we are part of something amazing—the Mystical Body of Christ. And we are called to be great saints!


Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.                      ~Prayer of St. Gertrude

Book Review of A Paralyzing Redemption

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Tomorrow I’ll be sharing the books that I’ve been reading for the past month, but today I am sharing a Guest Post by Susan Peek.

Book Review of A Paralyzing Redemption by Brian Ziegler

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“A Paralyzing Redemption” by Brian Ziegler is an incredibly inspiring Christian memoir that is difficult to put down and cannot leave its readers unmoved and unchanged. Brian tells with raw honesty and gripping emotion of his journey to God in an account which is nothing less than a true-life story of the Prodigal Son. At the beginning of the book, Brian was not much different from scores of young men in any college across the country: twenty-one years old, handsome, a promising future playing basketball–the sport he loved–plenty of buddies, girlfriends, and a loving family. He led a life of partying, goofing around, experimenting with alcohol and nightclubs, and having a rollicking good time with no interest whatsoever in God or saving his immortal soul. One horrific evening changed everything for Brian. Forever.

After waking up in a hospital following an harrowing accident, Brian learned he was paralyzed from the neck down. One instant was all it had taken to shatter his life. But God’s masterpieces are often sculptured from broken pieces. Christ had a plan for Brian.

Of course, Brian didn’t know this. Even if he had, he was nowhere ready to embrace God’s designs in those early agonizing days and weeks and months in the hospital. It would take a lot of suffering and blows to convince him of God’s love. Thus the reader follows him (or rather, holds his hand and joins him) on his incredible and pain-filled path to God.

As if being a quadriplegic at twenty-one years old isn’t bad enough, Brian’s life continues to plunge from one disaster to another. EVERYTHING seems to go wrong for him and I found myself cringing, and crying for much of the story. It was difficult to put the book down, and my own daily problems shrank to minuscule proportions while reading it.

To say the story had an impact on me is an understatement. But I did have a couple issues with it. Firstly, the book is riddled with typos, wrong words, formatting mistakes, misspellings, and other editing issues that kept jerking me out of the story and making me wish Crosslink Publishing had edited it properly. While Brian certainly has an amazing story to tell, his publisher should’ve caught the glaring errors and polished the content professionally. Some paragraphs were so unclear in meaning that I had to read them several times to figure out where the scene took place, what people were present, and what on earth was going on. Many times towards the end, I was unsure if I was meant to picture Brian in a wheelchair or on his feet with a walking aid. He would use terms like “I walked through the door”, and since he did regain some use of his legs eventually, I didn’t know if he meant it literally or not. It really broke the flow and totally threw me. Other times, characters would speak or do something in a scene when I had no idea they were even there. I had to reread whole chunks to get the new image in my mind. It was very frustrating and marred my reading experience. There’s nothing worse than being deeply connected with a heartbreaking scene, crying my eyes out, then suddenly being smacked in the face with a huge glaring editorial error. So if this kind of thing bothers you as a reader, be cautioned. Hopefully the publisher will someday fix these things and release a new edition.

My second problem with the book (and it’s a personal, one as a Catholic) is that while this is a beautiful, heroic and inspiring story, Brian embraced a Protestant belief system. So, again, be cautioned if you are a Catholic picking up this book. However there is no doubt that Brian deeply loves Our Lord, and I recommend this book to anyone who is suffering or searching for answers to the sorrows in their own lives.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program., which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Contemporary Catholic Teen Fiction

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The Goodreads GIVEAWAY for my contemporary Catholic teen fiction Standing 3DStandingStrongCoverStrong ends soon. If you haven’t had a chance to check out my books, here is an opportunity to get one for free. This is the fourth book in the West Brothers series. Many of the same characters are in each book, and they take place chronologically, but you can still enjoy them out of order.

“Another chapter in Theresa Linden’s masterfully-developed series for teens that will resonate with everyone who has struggled to find his place in the world, been tempted to take the easy way out, or doubted the work of God s hand in his life.”    ~Carolyn Astfalk, author of Rightfully Ours

“After reading STANDING STRONG your own spiritual life cannot but be strengthened, making you also want to stand strong for God.” ~Susan Peek, author of The King’s Prey

“This is an excellent book by an incredible author so check it out. Her handling of faith in her fiction is masterful. ~Steven McEvoy, reader extraordinaire

You’ll have another opportunity to win this book and much more on November 17th (which happens to be my birthday!). Along with 5 other authors from www.CatholicTeenBooks.com, I will be hosting a Pre-Christmas Virtual Facebook Party.

Check out the video invitation for a bit of inspiration! The party will be from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. It will be packed with games, prizes, and wonderful gift ideas.

We’ll have a winner every ten minutes and an amazing Grand Prize. Follow the FB page for details. Beginning November 1st we will post prize images and other fun details. Here are the prizes I’ll be contributing:

Standing Strong is available as a paperback and eBook. You can learn more about it and my other books on my website.

New YA book: Playing by Heart

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New Young Adult Historical Fiction

Emilia Salvini dreams of marrying a man who loves music as she does. But in 18th-century Milan, being the “second sister” means she’ll likely be sent to a convent instead. Emilia’s only hope is to prove her musical talents crucial to her father’s quest for nobility. First, though, she must win over her music tutor, who disdains her simply for being a girl. Too late, Emilia realizes that her success could threaten not only her dreams for her future but her sister’s very life.

Playing by Heart is inspired by two amazing sisters who were far ahead of their time—one a mathematician and the other a composer. At its core, the novel is the story of two teens struggling to follow their true calling, even when it conflicts with their father’s goals. It’s a clean historical romance suitable for ages 12 and up.


I am so happy that author, Carmela Martino was willing to share a bit about her new release. Please enjoy this author interview:

I love the amazing setting details in Playing by Heart. Did you go to Milan to do your research? If not, how did you create such realistic and lovely details?

I have been to Milan only once in my life, long before I decided to write Playing by Heart. As a result, the research for this story almost did me in! I’m a stickler for detail and if I couldn’t verify some aspect of the story, I wouldn’t include it. Even though it’s a work of fiction, I wanted the details to be true to the time and place.

For the events of the story, I relied heavily on the research materials I found about the two Milanese women who were my inspiration: Maria Gaetana Agnesi, a child language prodigy who later wrote an acclaimed math textbook, and her younger sister, Maria Teresa Agnesi, who was one of the first Italian women to compose a serious opera. But the biographical information I found gave me few setting details.

So, I looked for primary documents describing what life was like in Milan during the early 1700s. One of my greatest research finds was an account by someone who had witnessed Archduchess Maria Theresa’s visit to Milan in 1739. The document had been scanned into the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale. I was able to download and print the pertinent pages. The document gave me wonderful details that I incorporated into my novel, such as the description of the crowds that lined the streets waiting to greet the archduchess and how she participated in the Ritual of the Holy Nail.


Can you tell us more about the Ritual of the Holy Nail? Is it still performed in Milan?

While researching Milan’s history, I learned that the Cathedral of Milan houses a holy relic purported to be one of the nails used to crucify Christ. I’d had no idea the relic even existed. It’s housed inside a crystal case set in the center of an enormous gold cross that’s suspended high inside the cathedral’s dome. The cross can only be reached by means of a mechanical, cloud-shaped lift called the Nivola, which was supposedly designed by Leonardo da Vinci himself.

Yes, the ritual of removing the Holy Nail from its place high within the dome is still performed annually in Milan. The tradition began in 1576, when Saint Charles Borromeo, then archbishop of Milan, carried the relic in procession during an outbreak of the plague. Originally, the ritual was conducted on May third, the Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross in the old liturgical calendar. At some point, the date was changed to September 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. There are numerous videos on YouTube depicting the event—they were a huge help to my research. Click here to watch a brief one narrated in English. And click here for one that is a bit longer, but narrated in Italian.


You mention in the Author’s Note to Playing by Heart that you couldn’t find any book-length biographies of composer Maria Teresa Agnesi, only ones about her older sister. How then did you research her life?

Yes, that was a difficult challenge. Maria Teresa is mentioned briefly in the biographies of her sister, but that wasn’t much to go on. While investigating possible sources, I found an analysis of one of her compositions in a book of essays on Italian music of the 17th and 18th century. The article’s author, Professor Robert L. Kendrick, had also co-written an entry about Maria Teresa in an encyclopedia of music. With a little digging, I learned that he was a professor of music at the University of Chicago. He was kind enough to answer many of my questions about what Maria Theresa’s life had been like and to also point me in the direction of additional research resources.


Even though there are book-length biographies of the older sister, Maria Gaetana, you say in your Author’s Note that there are still many myths surrounding her and her family. Can you elaborate?

Gladly! First, some background. Playing by Heart grew out of my research for a nonfiction biography of mathematician Maria Gaetana Agnesi for young readers; The only published biographies about her are for adults. I first came across Agnesi’s name in an article about little-known women of note. Even though I have an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Computer Science, I’d never heard of her before. But when I started to research her, I kept finding conflicting information, both in books and online. For example, some references said that Agnesi wasn’t allowed to enter the convent as she wished because after her mother died she was left in charge of the household and the care of her twenty siblings. In actuality, Agnesi was 13 when her mother died and she had only six siblings at the time. Maria Gaetana may have helped out with those siblings for a while, until her father remarried less than two years later. The reasons for her not entering a convent had nothing to do with her mother’s death. Interestingly, it is true that she was the eldest of 21 children—her father married a third time after his second wife died. But many of her siblings died young.

I encountered so many myths about the Agnesi family that I created a website to dispel some of them. You can read more at www.mgagnesi.com .


How did writing Playing by Heart compare to working on your first novel, Rosa, Sola?

The process for the two novels couldn’t have been more different. My middle-grade novel, Rosa, Sola, began as a short story I wrote as an exercise while I was working on my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College. The exercise was to write a story based on an event from my own childhood that still evoked strong emotion in me. The emotion I wrote about was the fear I felt at age ten when I thought my mother might die. I called the short story “Rosa’s Prayer.” The feedback I received from classmates and instructors encouraged me to expand that short story into a novel that was eventually published by Candlewick Press.

I have to say, it was much easier to write a novel set during my own lifetime than one set two centuries earlier. For Rosa, Sola, I still had to research some of the setting details, such as the popular songs of the time, to make sure I got them right. That was easy compared to the extensive research I had to do for Playing by Heart. Still, it was an amazing experience. I’m thrilled to see all my work finally come to fruition.


As you can read in my review, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. And I am glad that you shared this fascinating background information with us. Thank you!

Thanks so much for hosting this interview, Theresa. I hope your readers will visit the other stops on the Playing by Heart Blog Tour. I invite them to go to my website for the complete list of tour links and enter for a chance to win a copy of the novel:

http://www.carmelamartino.com/blog/posts/2406

I’ll also be hosting a Facebook Launch Party on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 7-9 p.m. Central Time, where readers can win not only copies of Playing by Heart but other great books and prizes.

www.facebook.com/events/1926037200756000


My review:

Filled with beautiful scenes and heart-wrenching moments, PLAYING BY HEART by Carmela Martino is an absorbing story of perseverance, the pursuit of excellence, and of sacrificial love.

This story shows the dreams and trials of two talented sisters. Emilia excels in music. But her father’s and the maestro’s attitudes lead her to feel inadequate. So she finds herself envious of the praise and attention given to her older sister. Maria, the older sister, is humble and faith-filled. And while she loves studying languages and philosophy, she longs to enter religious life and serve the poor. But this is an age where the father chooses the vocation of his children. Emilia and Maria’s father, driven to gain the title and status of a nobleman, makes choices that move him closer to his goals but farther from theirs.

The characters were inspired by two historical sisters who lived in the eighteenth century, so I appreciate the author’s faithfulness to research and time-period details. The engaging prose brings the scenes to life in full color! I especially loved how the descriptions took me into the heart and mind of Emilia, a talented young musician who “heard music everywhere—in the whispering of the wind and the rustling of the trees.” I also appreciated the way faith is weaved into the story.

For more early response to Playing by Heart, click here.

Click here for the Amazon buy link!

Author biography:

Carmela_martino-smallCarmela Martino is an author, speaker, and writing teacher. She wrote the middle-grade novel, Rosa, Sola (Candlewick Press), while working on her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College. The novel was a Booklist “Top Ten First Novel for Youth” and received a Catholic Press Association Book Award in the “Children’s Books” category. Her second novel, the young adult historical romance Playing by Heart, will be released by Vinspire Publishing September 30, 2017. The novel took first place in the Young Adult category of the 2013 Windy City RWA Four Seasons Romance Writing Contest. Carmela’s credits for teens and tweens also include short stories and poems in magazines and anthologies. Her articles for adults have appeared in such publications as the Chicago Tribune, Catholic Parent, and multiple editions of the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market. Carmela has taught writing workshops for children and adults since 1998, and she blogs about teaching and writing at TeachingAuthors.com.

Top Ten Reasons: Standing Strong

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Okay, so I’m excited about the next book in the West Brothers series. And I want you to be excited about it too! So I brainstormed a list of reason why you might be interested in this book. Here they are:

Top Ten Reasons Why You Need a Copy of New Release, Standing Strong

Reason #10: It’s fun to jump into someone else’s life for a while, especially when it’s the West castle-1290637_1920brothers, who live in a castle-like house, own horses, have a genuine suit of armor in the house…

Reason #9: The West twins are not too good to be true. They’ve got flaws like we all do. Jarret finds temptation around every corner and Keefe is afraid to take the next step.

Reason #8: The West twins are not too bad to be true either… not anymore. Yes, Jarret, I’m referring to you.

Reason #7: You get to find out Jarret’s reaction to Peter’s prank (remember the limburger cheese?)limburger-cheese-3516

Reason #6: It will remind you that you’re not the only one who faces temptation.mary-33541

Reason #5: It will also remind you that the Blessed Mother has got your back.

Reason #4: It shows the power of several unique aspects of your faith, like the sacraments and sacramentals.

Reason #3: It’ll get you thinking about things that really matter, like how God has a plan for you.

Reason #2: You can share the book with family, friends, a youth group, your teens, your friends’ teens, your teens’ friends . . .

And last but not least, the #1 reason you need a copy of Standing Strong: Saint Francis makes a guest appearance!saint-francis-of-assisi-300x300

The Blog Tour has begun! Check out the following sites for two chances to win a free copy of the book, to read my guest post, and to check out early reviews! There will be a few more stops with different reviews, articles, and contests, too. I’ll keep you posted!

  • CatholicMom.com posted the Press Release: “Catholic teen fiction can turn the tide of young adults leaving the faith.” You can also read an excerpt from STANDING STRONG and enter a GIVEAWAY!
  • T.M. Gauoette – writer, blogger, and author of Catholic fiction and non-fiction. Author T.M.G. has been kind enough to announce a GIVEAWAY of STANDING STRONG and to host my guest post “Why We Need Catholic Teen Fiction”
  • Leslea Wahl, author of award-winning Catholic teen fiction has read an advanced copy and posted her review, along with several other early reviews of the book.

Pre-order is available now for the  paperback and soon for the eBook. October 4th is the official release date.

If you know of anyone who might enjoy Standing Strong, please send the link to this post! Thank you for your support!

Theresa Linden