Tag Archives: books

New children’s books enliven evergreen lessons for life

Children are both a gift from God and our future, so writing for them is no small undertaking. It takes a special talent to translate the world into a simpler, more innocent place full of possibilities. For two Legates, Chuck Ormsby and Anthony DeStefano, writing children’s books is a labor of love in which they impart character-building, evergreen lessons.

Godly insights for everyone

Anthony DeStefano and his wife Jordon are members of the Jersey Shore Legatus Chapter. He has worked successfully in politics and business, and is a member of the board of directors of Priests for Life and Rachel’s Vineyard. He has also been an EWTN television host and appeared on many national television and radio programs.

And through it all, he writes.

Stefano is an award-winning, best-selling author of 20 books for adults and children. His first book, A Travel Guide to Heaven, (2003) has been published in 15 languages and in 20 countries. Another book for adults, Hell: A Guide, will be out in June.

DeStefano’s latest children’s book released in October, The Seed Who Was Afraid to be Planted, is the retelling of Jesus’ parable of the seed in verse, beautifully illustrated by Erwin Madrid, an animator on the Shrek franchise. The story is about a seed wanting to stay in a cozy drawer rather than get buried in the ground. Faced with his biggest fear, the seed undergoes a transformation into a beautiful tree that nurtures the creation around it. It imparts the lesson that no matter how small or scared we may be, God has plans for us more wonderful than we can imagine.

Speaking specially to Catholics

This new book is his first with a Catholic publisher. “Now is the time to start writing Catholic books with the Church,” he explained. “I’ve had the sense over the last three years—and I think all Catholics have had this sense—that the Church is going through troubled waters. I’ve had a conviction that instead of focusing on the general market where I’ve had a lot of success, I should write for a Catholic-specific audience.” It also helped that DeStefano had met the publisher of Sophia Institute Press, Charlie McKinney, and was very impressed. Sophia will also publish his next two children’s books: Our Lady’s Wardrobe in April and The Grumpy Old Ox next Christmas.

DeStefano’s stories, which reflect Godly values and insights, have attracted readers across denominational lines and even no denominations. The Seed Who Was Afraid to be Planted, he explained, is also a message that applies to everyone.

Facing the universal phobia – fear

“I believe the biggest problem that people face—not just children—is fear,” DeStefano said. “People are afraid about their money, and job, and families, and health, and most of all they are afraid they don’t have what it takes to overcome their problems.” Unless we help children deal with their fears, he said, it can manifest into much bigger problems that could last a lifetime.

The idea for the book came to DeStefano during adoration while reading the parable of the grain of wheat that fell to the ground and had to die in order to grow. “It hit me like a bolt of lightning; Why not retell the parable of the seed from the perspective of the seed?” he explained. “The message is about trusting God and allowing him to transform your fear into something wonderful.”

Taking the worst, pulling out the best

It is a message that relates to Christ himself, according to DeStefano. “Jesus is the best example of the seed who was planted,” he said. “He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, and He died and was buried in the earth. It was the worst evil that ever took place in the world: the murder of God by His own creatures. But three days later, the Resurrection represents the greatest good that could ever happen. The gates of heaven were thrown open and all of us can receive everlasting life. If God can take the worst thing and pull out the best thing, He can pull good out of our life.”

Imparting such a vision can transform a child’s whole life, DeStefano said. “It can help prepare children to understand other deeper truths— including the love God has for us, the beauty of creation, the temporary nature of bodily death, the meaning of resurrection, and the joy of heaven.”

Far-reaching love for kids

Attorney Chuck Ormsby, member of Pennsylvania’s Bucks County Chapter, also has deeper messages in his whimsical children’s books. They reflect his own commitment to God and children alongside his full-time work at his law firm, Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC. He has specialized in corporate law for over 30 years alongside raising three children with his wife, Linda, and building schools in Uganda.

“I went on my thirteenth trip there this past Halloween,” he said. “Previously we built a school in the jungle where a genocide took place,” Ormsby said. It all began in 2007 when Ormsby accepted an offer from visiting priest, Father Joseph Sserugo, to visit Uganda. He came to build a primary school on a one-square-mile piece of land that had been a place of genocide, thereby turning it into a blessing. Pope John Paul II high school was later built and is currently educating 600 students.

There is also a vocational school begun by Ormsby with another 150 students. Students can be sponsored at the Pope John Paul II High School, to defray yearly tuition. And there are also opportunities for covering their room and board at the local university (go to bridgetouganda.org to learn more).

Out of the mouths of babes

Ormsby’s foray into writing children’s books as a hobby has a humbler beginning. “We were driving in the car and one of the kids asked, ‘Why is Dad’s head ‘shaped like that’ —round and bald,” he explained. “My wife said, ‘So water runs off. If it had a dent in it, water would well up and he’d have a problem; puddles would form, birds would come drink and trees would grow.’” Thus was born Mr. Puddlehead, published in 2016 by Archway Publishing.

The brightly animated story in verse is reminiscent of Dr. Seuss. The moral behind the silly story is: accept the way God made you, and see the puddles in your life as a blessing.

Life lesson from grandma

On another day, Linda came home from pushing a grandchild in the stroller with a sticky mess on the wheel that had picked up a napkin and a cigarette. From that came the story of Mrs. Sticky Wheel. She is in too much of a hurry to clean off the mess so ends up coming home with a dog, a cat, a duck and a pig stuck to the stroller.

On the first page of the second book, Mrs. Sticky Wheel marries Mr. Puddlehead. On the last page is the moral:

“She learned a lot from this haul
Address your issues when they’re small
Or better yet so not to stall
Avoid your problem after all.”

A third book is in the works. When his oldest of five grandchildren, Tiernan, recently explained that his superhero power is never getting tired, Ormsby envisioned his next book – a story where the villains are such a pest, while the superhero needs no rest.

Stay tuned.

PATTI ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.

After Suicide: There’s Still Hope for Them and You

Fr.Chris Alar, MIC
Marian Press, 280 pages

 

Tragically, many have been touched in some way by the suicide of a loved one or acquaintance, and some believe killing oneself automatically condemns one to hell. Some believe that’s what the Catholic Church says. Not so, says Fr. Alar, whose own grandmother committed suicide. In fact, the teaching of the Church offers great hope for the salvation of suicide victims. This necessary book explains this hope, provides solace for those who grieve, and encourages us in interceding for the salvation of those lost to suicide through our prayers, sacrifices, and trust in God’s mercy.

 

Order: Amazon 

Apostles of the Culture of Life

Dr. Donald T. DeMarco
TAN Books/St. Benedict Press, 296 pages

Every battle for truth and justice has its heroes. This book presents portraits of some of our heroes in the defense of life – 56 of them, to be precise: eight in each of seven disciplines or realms including philosophy, medicine, even sports and entertainment. Here you’ll find familiar figures such as Mother Teresa, pro-life activist Joseph Scheidler, former National Right to Life president Dr. Jack Willke and Pope St. John Paul II, but also chapters on folks like concentration-camp survivor Wanda Poltawska, didactic painter William Kurelek, media theorist Marshall McLuhan, and NBA Hall of Famer Bob Cousy. It’s an inspiring collection.

 

Order: Amazon

Get Out Now: Why You Should Pull Your Child from Public School

Mary Rice Hasson and Teresa Farnan
Regnery Publishing/ Gateway Editions, 256 pages

Are our public schools toxic? Although there remain many good teachers and administrators within the system, they are not the ones calling the shots. Instead, it’s the progressive ideologues who exert the overriding influence on school boards, superintendents, curricula, policies, and hiring practices. The result is a public school system that advances a troubling political correctness that embraces the LGBTQ agenda, the “gender revolution,” moral relativism, and practical atheism. Is it a radical solution for Christian parents to completely abandon the public schools in favor of private education or homeschooling? Arguably, it is, but the stakes couldn’t be higher – our children’s minds, hearts, and souls are at risk.

Order: Amazon

How Christianity Saved Civilizations… and Must Do So Again

Mike Aquilina and Jim Papandrea
Sophia Institute Press, 270 pages

 

“The Church can learn from the Church of the past,” declares the title of the first chapter of this marvelous work. Using a keen lens to examine the Church’s role in shaping history, the authors identify seven “revolutions” that took place as Christianity, once targeted for elimination through persecution, transformed and civilized the brutal Roman Empire. It was the Church that introduced the pagan world to such concepts as respect for life, the dignity of women, the need to protect the weak and vulnerable, and the servant role of those who govern us. From this history lesson, Christians can draw inspiration for transforming our increasingly hostile culture today.

Order: Amazon

Made This Way: How to Prepare Kids to Face Today’s Tough Moral Issues

Leila Miller with Trent Horn
Catholic Answers Press, 249 pages

 

With all the moral confusion that today’s secularized culture throws at us, how do we help our children and teens recognize the truth? Here’s a book that shows how you can break down into simple-enough language the guiding principles that underlie Catholic moral teaching on issues such as contraception, abortion, divorce, pornography, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, reproductive technologies, and transgender identity. Drawing from their own experiences as parents and professionals, the authors provide answer many of the objections we often hear so as to enable us to equip our children with the deal with some of the “hard questions” they must face.

Order: Amazon

Catholic Republic: Why America Will Perish Without Rome

Timothy Gordon
Sophia Institute Press, 304 pages

 

Did America’s founding fathers, nearly all Protestants or Enlightenment Deists, draw inspiration from the likes of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Robert Bellarmine, and Catholic natural law? Although they wouldn’t admit as much, philosopher Timothy Gordon says it’s so, and America’s moral and social decline is attributable to our gradual drift from those founding principles. “America is wired Catholic, labeled Protestant, and currently functioning as secular,” he writes. The solution: Since Catholic natural law is essential to the success of any republic, we need to get back to it – before it’s too late.

Order: Amazon

To Raise the Fallen: A Selection of the War Letters, Prayers, and Spiritual Writings of Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J.

Patrick Kenny
Ignatius Press, 209 pages

Paralleling Legatus magazine’s March 2019 review of Bravery Under Fire – the documentary on Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J., a World War I chaplain who died on the battlefields – this is the book on Fr. Doyle by Patrick Kenny, who was interviewed prominently in that film. Fr. Doyle’s inspiring story of holiness and self-sacrifice comes through strongly in his writings collected here. “Heroism is a virtue which has an attraction for every heart,” Fr. Doyle writes in one meditation. “It seems to lift us out of our petty selves and make us for a moment forget our own selfish interests.” This book likely will have a similar effect on readers.

Order: Amazon

Still Amidst the Storm: A Family Man’s Search for Peace in an Anxious World

Conor Gallagher
St. Benedict Press/TAN Books, 172 pages

Living in today’s stressful world, where and how does one find time and space to decompress, to find peace? Recall that even Jesus withdrew from the crowds and took time away to spend time alone in prayer. But too often people are like the Apostles in the boat, asea in a storm, fearing the worst. In this little book, Conor Gallagher, a father of 12, suggests practical ways to find some peace even amid helter-skelter lives. It’s all about focusing on the present moment and listening to God’s voice – timeless pillars of common sense and of Christian spirituality.

Order: Amazon

Knowing and spreading your faith

As I have shared in past columns, I enjoy reading books. Every now and then, I come across a special one. Recently, I came across such a book. I was getting ready to go on vacation, so I stopped by the Catholic bookstore next to our chapel to find something for the trip. The title of a book on display caught my Attention: Forty Anti-Catholic Lies, A Myth-busting Apologist Sets the Record Straight, by Gerard Verschuuren, Ph.D.

Tom Monaghan

After a couple of chapters, I knew it was going to be a great book, and on finishing it I think it is a book every Catholic should read. It is very clear and well written, packed full of useful and interesting information, and it is understandable for a layman like myself.

As I read each chapter, I was impressed by the author’s knack for taking complex topics and explaining them in a clear and non-threatening fashion. When I travel, I try and strike up conversations with those I sit next to and after listening to how they are doing or letting them talk about their interests, I try and bring up something about faith. If they seem open, I will sometimes ask if I can mail them a book. Most of the time, they are open to the gesture. I think this book will work well for this type of evangelization, which I believe comes across as non-threatening because they get to read the book in the privacy of their own home. There are many former Catholics who have stopped practicing their faith and just need a little nudge to come back to the Church.

I am excited because I also believe this book will help Catholics who want to better understand their faith or to assist those who regularly experience anti-Catholic rhetoric being thrown their way. Another reason I think this book is well suited for ministry in the skies (the abovementioned practice of sharing one’s faith while flying) is because while Verschuuren presents the uncompromising truth about what the Church teaches, he does so in charity. I believe this will go a long way in not alienating non-Catholic readers because I do not think they will feel attacked.

To give you a flavor of some of the topics addressed, this book set the record straight regarding accusations about the Catholic Church ranging from the Church being oppressive to women to rejecting science… And accusations that Catholics worship statues and Mary to the Church inventing purgatory and many other commonly misunderstood subjects.

I will be giving copies to all the members of the board of governors at our meeting later this month, and I have already ordered plenty of copies to have on hand in my office to give away… all a part of studying, living, and spreading the Faith!

TOM MONAGHAN is Legatus’ founder, chairman, and CE