Thursday, September 27, 2012

WONDERful day

I was very honored today to meet a real life author, R. J. Palacio. Palacio is the first time author of the New York Times bestselling book Wonder. Palacio, who lives in New York City, was invited to speak to students at the Shorecrest Preparatory School, here in St. Petersburg.

My fifth grade daughter and her class at St. Raphael Catholic School were able to attend the Shorecrest assembly. Their teacher had read the book aloud to the entire class. Additionally, following the school assembly a lucky few of us moms got to have lunch with Palacio and hear more about the writing of Wonder.

So how did this all come about?

R. J. Palacio on the right in glasses with bookclub
Last spring a group of women in a St. Petersburg book club read the book Wonder. The book club found the book to be very special. Lori, one of the book club members, really wanted to meet the author and have her speak to the book club, but Palacio declined as she only will travel to speak to schools.

Over the summer, Lori told me about the book and how powerful it is. I read it aloud to our four youngest children ages, 14, 12, 10 and 7. Even my husband listened in on a lot of it. We were all captivated by the story of Auggie Pullman. It is one of the those books you just cruise through because you can't wait to read what happens next.

Lori and RJ Palacio
Although Lori was resigned that she wouldn't meet Palacio, her friends were a little more courageous. The book club friends collaborated to arrange for Palacio to speak to the students at Shorecrest and then meet with the book club women for lunch. It was a dream come true, not only for Lori, but for all of us.

Meeting Palacio was a delight. She is such a "real" person, a forty-something wife and mom of two sons. She works full time as a graphic artist at a book publisher. She shared that as a young girl she always wanted to read, write and draw and hoped someday to actually make a living doing these three things she loved. To write Wonder, she would wake up at midnight and write until 3 am because it was the only time that it was quiet and she could write uninterrupted. She did this over a year and a half!

One of the main themes in the book is  to choose to be kind. That motto is catching fire and kids (and adults) can now take the "pledge to choose kind." (see below)

I can't recommend this book enough. It is a powerful read whether you are the intended reader (in middle school) or a teen on up to adults. Here is the description from the book's cover:
"I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse."

August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a New York Times bestseller, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. 

In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

I am so grateful to the kindness of Palacio for coming to speak. I am so grateful for Lori's dream to meet her and the kindness of her courageous friends who made it all happen. I left the luncheon with the most WONDERful feeling. Kindness really does make all the difference.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Scented Soap and the Saints

Fresh Picked Apple Moisturizing Hand Soap - Anti-Bacterial - Bath & Body WorksSweet Cinnamon Pumpkin Moisturizing Hand Soap - Anti-Bacterial - Bath & Body WorksWe've had a dramatic cool front come through here in Florida this week. We have gotten out of the 90s and are down to the mid 80s temperature-wise. But all last week, before the cool morning breeze blew in, I was asking myself,  "how do we tell it's fall in the Sunshine State?"

Two ways: Scented Soap and the Saints

The girls and I picked up some new soap this week at Bath and Body Works. All the fall scents were out. So now each day, several times a day, instead of washing my hands in my summer favorites of  "Dancing Waters" and "Sweet Pea," I now smell  "Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin" and "Fresh Picked Apples," sure signs of Fall.

But it is really the daily calendar of fall saints that remind me the time of year. September 26, Saints Cosmos and Damian, 27th, St. Vincent de Paul, 29th, Saints Raphael, Michael and Gabriel, October 1, St. Therese of Lisiuex, 2nd, the Guardian Angels and the 4th, complete with Pet Blessing, St. Francis of Assisi.

To all of my northern friends who are starting to turn on the heat in their homes and unpack the sweaters and long pants, please drink some apple cider or hot chocolate for me and send pictures of the beautiful fall trees changing colors.
As they say in the south, Happy fall  y'all.    

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A striking meeting on an exit ramp of I-275

Guest post by Louise Barrett

Our bereavement ministry at St. Raphael Catholic Church sometimes extends to people who are not parishioners for one reason or another.
Louise Stock
Louise Stock
September 8th, our associate pastor, Fr. Dominic Corona, officiated at a prayer service for an 86 year old woman named Louise Stock. Louise had been a member of Holy Cross Catholic Church in St. Petersburg, and worked at St. Mary Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in downtown St. Petersburg, with of the late Monsignor John McNulty who was diocesan director of Pro-Life Activity for years.  I was privileged to be at the funeral, representing all of the pro-life community who are grateful for Louise Stock's life and dedicated to the unborn.
During her lifetime, we do not know how many children, (both those aborted, and those who were able to survive a crisis pregnancy when their families opted for life), benefited from her loving heart, prayers and tireless service.
Mrs. Stock's funeral cortege, heading northbound on I-275, exited the Bryan Dairy/ 118th Av. Road about 10:30 AM, and stopped at a traffic blockade while President Obama, heading Southbound on I-275, exited the Bryan Dairy/ 118th Av.  at approximately 10:40 AM.
Mrs. Stock's hearse, containing the coffin of our valiant pro life woman, waited on a ramp road overlooking the presidential route.
I prayed for our President, as he drove by, that he, too, one day would protect innocent life from the moment of conception; that he would one day be a pro-life hero for his beautiful daughters and future grandchildren.
At this moment, surely planned by God,  two people passed one another at a busy highway intersection. One is internationally famous and one lived a mostly hidden life, known only by God, her family and friends. At this moment, Louise Stock stood witness to the unborn for her final time here on earth.
 As if there was any question, Louise is buried feet away from the monument at Calvary Cemetery dedicated to the Holy Innocents- the ones who have died through abortion.

Louise Barrett
Allen & Louise Barrett
Louise Barrett is a committed Catholic who always shows the love of Jesus to people she meets. She is a wife and mother of 4, a pro-life activist, a bereavement ministry member, a catechist, a nursing home ministry head and a  parishioner at St. Raphael Catholic Church, St. Petersburg, FL.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

World Celebrates Blessed Teresa of CalcuttaWe are at Jesus' disposal.

If he wants you to be sick in bed, if he wants you to proclaim His work in the street, if he wants you to clean the toilets all day, that's all right, everything is all right.
We must say, "I belong to you. You can do whatever you like." And this is our strength, and this is the joy of the Lord.

– Bl. Teresa of Calcutta
This year I have been getting to know Mother Teresa in a special way. It started when I read the book 33 Days to Morning Glory in April/May. That book, which is directed to Marian Consecration, shares the lives and teachings of four great Saints and Blessed: St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Blessed Pope John Paul II. (see more info blog at: )
Next I read a great book specifically about Mother Teresa by Fr. Leo Maasburg: Mother Teresa of Caluctta: A Personal Portrait. In this book, Fr. Maasburg relays 50 stores about Mother from the years he worked with her.

Several people at my parish St. Raphaels will be reading this great book beginning next week and into October. Read along with us. You will love this book. If you'd like to read along, please email me at and I will let you know what day(s) we will be gathering to discuss it. Just click on the link below to get your own copy of the book.

I feel like she has so much to teach me and the quote I began with says a lot. We need to open to anything Jesus asks of us. May the Lord give us that grace.