Archive for April, 2023

Given the recent heartbreaking violence in America, produced by intense hatred and the lack of consequences attitude of the current administration, I offer a book I worked on intermittently for nearly twenty-five years, a book with a theme of vengeance that leads up to the First American Revolution after which Americans began to build a country above all others. 

THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE CORN: Memoirs of a Scots Irish Woman

A Brief Background

Throughout the ages, human history has been dominated by the selfish desire to control and subjugate. Whatever the reason for the conflict–territorial, economic, political, or religious—nations, races, and individuals, have resorted to violence and warfare to resolve disputes, rather than compromise. Whether the reasons are just or unjust, the conflict drastically diminishes, and even snuffs out, the lives of both guilty and innocent human beings. We certainly see this today in high-crime cities where there are no consequences for even the most heinous acts.

Most nations and individuals espouse convictions that call for charity toward neighbor, but avarice and malice can overwhelm those convictions and lead to violence. When violence is perpetrated, it regularly breeds vengeance. Vengeance leads to more conflict and the whole circumstance becomes an endlessly spinning wheel. Numerous powerful nations have activated such a wheel. Is twenty-first century America on its way to doing so as well?

In the eighteenth century, England was one of its greatest executors, and the people of Ireland, its casualty.

England feared the old faith, Catholicism, which the nation as a whole had cherished for over a thousand years, and sought to annihilate it. The Crown enacted the Penal Code, the price an Irish Catholic had to pay for refusal to conform to the new religion of the Church of England. From 1558 until 1769, the English Protestant government imposed the Penal Code on a country that was 97 percent Catholic. Naturally, feelings of  vengeance abounded in those Catholics. And later, when the Penal Code was extended to Presbyterians, vengeance and hatred for the Crown intensified.

The Wind That Shakes the Corn is a story of those long-held hatreds. It is also a love story, about one woman’s difficult journey toward letting go of past grievances–the only way to allow for genuine love.

The Wind That Shakes the Corn, a memoir of fact and fiction, is based on the life of Eleanor Dugan Parke, my eighth great-grandmother who for ninety-nine years lived through it all. Nell Dugan has a history that has given her a fanatic heart–capable of great love, but also great hatred.  Her story has been passed down in my Scots Irish family. Of course, much of this novel is imagined, though England’s cruel control of Ireland’s people, the American Revolution, and some of the real players are factually told.

The Story

In 1723 Ireland, Nell, an unruly Catholic girl, falls in love with the grandson of a Protestant Scottish lord. On their wedding night she is snatched from his arms. As he lies bloodied on the ground, she is thrown on a British ship headed for a sugar plantation in the West Indies, where she is sold into slavery. But Nell is a person of learned strategies, never to be underestimated. Beautiful and cunning, she seduces the plantation owner’s infatuated son who sneaks her away to pre-revolutionary Philadelphia. There she agrees to marry him, eventually falling in love with him, but keeping her first marriage secret as she becomes a loyal wife and mother–and a tireless rebel against the English rule.

Tensions rise between the Patriots and Loyalists. Nell sees opportunities to pay back the English–blood for blood with no remorse–not only for her own kidnapping but also for her Irish mother’s hanging two decades earlier. When her first husband shows up in Philadelphia, very much alive and married, too, emotions between them run high, but Nell’s Scot remains stoic and the two families actually bond in their desire to leave the turmoil around them and take advantage of land offers in the Carolinas. Except the American Revolution follows in full flow to Carolinas. Nell experiences a tragic crescendo for her family after the Battle of Kings Mountain that only increases her desire for vengeance.

And then, a child is born. The dangerous circumstances of his birth cause a final migration into the wilderness of the Mississippi Territory to a cave of miracles, where Nell’s eyes are opened at last to what it will take to truly love.

 The Wind That Shakes the Corn  is not only Nell’s story, it is the saga of the feisty Scots Irish immigrants in a burgeoning America, and their heart-held faith and courage that led the struggle toward freedom. The novel spotlights both Catholic and Protestants immigrants to America who brought with them age-old grudges against the English Crown.

Love and hate, life and death, trust, betrayal, and the ‘always hovering’ choice to forgive, are prominent themes in this novel. In fact, they are themes that every person on earth struggles with, aren’t they?

And yet, in the end Nell confesses: “I am struck by the craving common in every man–white, red, or black–for more than he has, for more than his share; that prideful warring to complete himself, and only himself, despite consequences to another. I have come to this conclusion: genuine completion is not meant to be found on this earth, at all.”   — Eleanor Dugan Parke, c.1799

The Wind That Shakes The Corn won the Religion Fiction category in the 2018 Independent Press Awards. It was also Runner-up for the Josiah Bancroft Award for Novel sponsored by Florida First Coast Writers, and a Finalist in the New Orleans Pirate’s Alley Society William Faulkner/William Wisdom Writing Competition.

If you are interested in reviewing The Wind That Shakes The Corn, please let me know by replying here, and I will get in touch with you.

Several years back, I held a Stories of Faith workshop in my parish. The purpose was to consider a particular time that God had been present in the participant’s life, and for him or her to write about it.

At the beginning of the workshop, each person was to write down a single word that might express his or her own faith experience. There were 18 participants, and there were 17 different words expressed. Only two people picked the same word!

I was amazed at how varied the responses were. But aren’t we all so different? God touches us very uniquely in our particular situations. How vast, how great, how infinite He must be!

Some of the words were: relief, patience, love, thankful, surrender, acceptance, frustration, tears, lost, joy, and many others that escape me at the moment. But there was one word expressed that really touched me because I have felt it personally. That word was Fear.

I happen to know that the lady at workshop who chose the word, Fear, had transported herself and her family to Dothan after surviving the terror of Hurricane Katrina that practically wiped out her small town. I cannot imagine what she lost. I can, however, imagine her fear. For most of my life, I’ve had to work to overcome this emotion–in small things, as well as in larger ones.

At the workshop, this lady didn’t read aloud what she’d written as some others did. So I can’t speak for her, only myself.

As I’ve said before on this blog: God loves us madly, even though we are sinners. If we don’t accept that God loves us, we will be fearful. If we don’t accept that His mercy has redeemed us, we will be fearful. If we don’t trust Him to always be with us, we will be fearful.

But when we accept that God loves us, that love of His often calls us to do what is uncomfortable. It calls us to actions that may well strike fear in us. It may be something as seemingly simple as reaching out to a person we don’t like very much. Or it may be as complicated as giving up something, or someone, we’ve become excessively attached to.

So is this the cat biting its tail? We look to God to keep us from fear and what does He do? He allows fearful people and situations in our lives? He gives us a task, a calling, that frightens us to death?

The difference is that He is beside us in this task, whatever it might be.

I am certain that God is in every person’s life whether the person acknowledges Him or not, believes in Him or not. From the moment of conception, God is in everyone’s life, almost like a divine flashlight we carry with us that brings darkness into light. Even if our life is a disaster. Even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is the life of every person. Even in a life full of thorns and weeds, God can shine out a space in which a good seed can grow, prosper, and ultimately change us.  

This is exactly why we don’t have to fear. We only have to accept that God is present and with us in everything. We are never alone.

This is, of course, key in Catholic fiction—it’s what we authors strive to infuse into our novels and short stories– God’s divine presence like a flashlight within us.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8 :12

Good Friday…

Posted: April 7, 2023 in World On The Edge

mary-at-the-cross (2)“From the earliest days of Christianity, no Mass has been celebrated on Good Friday; instead, the Church celebrates a special liturgy in which the account of the Passion according to the Gospel of John is read, a series of intercessory prayers (prayers for special intentions) are offered, and the faithful venerate the Cross by coming forward and kissing it. The Good Friday liturgy concludes with the distribution of Holy Communion. Since there is no Mass, Hosts that were reserved from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday are distributed instead.

The service is particularly solemn; the organ is not played, and all vestments are red or (in the Traditional Latin Mass) black.

Since the date of Good Friday is dependent on the date of Easter, it changes from year to year.

Fasting and Abstinence:

Good Friday is a day of strict fasting and abstinence. Catholics over the age of 18 and under the age of 60 are required to fast, which means that they can eat only one complete meal and two smaller ones during the day, with no food in between. Catholics who are over the age of 14 are required to refrain from eating any meat, or any food made with meat, on Good Friday.” –Catholicism,

When we think about what God allowed to happen to his son, we have to think about Mary, Jesus’s mother.

Her entire life was a journey of faith in her son from birth to death. A life of surrender and total unwavering commitment. But this did not mean her sorrows were slight. On the contrary, they were profound. As mothers, we know the agony we feel when our children are hurt or in danger. Mary was a mother. Her agony was real. And yet, in faith, she never turned from it. She was there.