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Contemplation aboard the Dawn Treader


After a long break, I am writing another post for my series “Finding God in Children’s Literature.” The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis has been one of my favorite children’s books since I first read it in fourth grade. Recently I found myself pondering its profundity during Mass. Not the worst way to be distracted from the liturgy. Let me share what your kids can learn about the spiritual life by sailing along with King Caspian and his companions.

To understand Dawn Treader you must understand where it gets its name. C. S. Lewis loved to make references to the Psalms in his works. Here is the first part of Psalm 139 from the New American Bible:

LORD, you have probed me, you know me:

you know when I sit and stand;

you understand my thoughts from afar.

You sift through my travels and my rest;

with all my ways you are familiar.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

LORD, you know it all.

Behind and before you encircle me

and rest your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

far too lofty for me to reach

Where can I go from your spirit?

From your presence, where can I flee?

If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;

if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.

If I take the wings of dawn

and dwell beyond the sea,

Even there your hand guides me,

your right hand holds me fast.

If I say, ‘Surely darkness shall hide me,

and night shall be my light’

Darkness is not dark for you,

and night shines as the day.

Darkness and light are but one.”

For a lengthy discussion about symbolism and analogy, challenge your kids to find as many themes from this psalm as they can in the novel.

Where is God?

Aslan does not appear as much in this novel as he does in some of the other Narnia books. However, he is always in the background. His reach is everywhere–even into a non-believing household in England. He appears on the Island of Voices after Lucy recites the spell. He speaks to her through the albatross. He is the Lamb that meets the children at the end of their trip.

The journey–obstensibly to find the lost lords–becomes a journey towards Aslan’s country, continuing even after the last lords have been found. We could say it shows a longing for the Beatific Vision. Can the soul reach union with God without dying? Reepicheep’s poem holds the answer:

Where sky and water meet,

Where the waves grow sweet,

Doubt not, Reepicheep,

To find all you seek,

There is the utter East.”

From meditation to contemplation

But if the journey ends in divine union, it begins with much more mundane things. In fact, it begins with an ugly painting in an extra bedroom. Here again we see God’s omnipotence. He is everywhere and can use anything to accomplish his purpose.

I like to see a more specific meaning in the painting too. Spiritual writers have long suggested using images (paintings, holy cards, icons, or statues) to help them to pray. Even Solomon’s temple was covered with pictures of the cherubim.

In Christian prayer, the soul must act. She [the soul] must do all within her power to think about and love God. She uses what is available. She meditates on creation or gazes at a holy picture. Or perhaps, like Lucy and Edmund at the beginning of the novel, she reminds herself of all the wonders God has done in the past. She repeats God’s promises of future joy. She talks about him whenever she can.

In the end, only God can draw a soul to himself. He must step in to do the work the soul cannot do. He reaches out, takes hold of the soul, and immerses her in his own life. Three children get a dunking, and only two of them like it.

At first, everything seems magical and beautiful (to Lucy and Edmund, anyway). But soon the ship meets with danger. There are dragons, storms, and temptations. The children are nearly sold into slavery. They encounter terrible darkness. And they eat a feast from the heavens.

Doesn’t this remind you of the spiritual life?

They persevere. The water becomes sweet. The sun now acts as another symbol of God. It grows bigger and brighter. The travelers no longer need much food or drink as they are bathed in its light. They drink only the sweet water which is like liquid sunlight. They are becoming detached from everything they left behind. Caspian almost abdicates because he does not want to go back to the life he lived before.

Now they can look at the sun without hurting their eyes. They are beginning to experience union with God. Reepicheep enters his coracle and sails to Aslan’s country.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader is an excellent resource for teaching your children about the spiritual life.

Connie Rossini

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Recollection in prayer

Figure Kneeling in Prayer by Marius Abel (Wikimedia Commons).

Today I want to address several things in this post, including answering a reader’s question about the meaning of recollection. I also have a housekeeping issue, want to share a few past posts about Advent for those of you with children at home, and tell you about the first ever sale on the paperback version of my book.

But first things first.

St. Teresa of Avila speaks of two different kinds of recollection, neither of which means “remembrance,” as we commonly use the word. And “being recollected” is an even more basic element of prayer.

We generally call it being recollected when we focus our attention on God.

As we read earlier in Interior Castle:

… if it is prayer at all, it must be accompanied by meditation. If a person does not think Whom he is addressing, and what he is asking for, and who it is that is asking and of Whom he is asking it, I do not consider that he is praying at all even though he be constantly moving his lips.” (1:1, 7)

How do become recollected? When we first go to pray, we make an effort to set aside interior distractions. We might picture ourselves laying our cares and trials at the feet of Jesus. In this way, we acknowledge that we are going to focus on him, not our affairs and preoccupations. Then we try to keep our mind on the Lord for the duration of our prayer time. When we get distracted, we gently bring our mind back to Him.

Another way to begin prayer in a recollected manner is reminding ourselves that God is present everywhere. We can think about His presence surrounding us. We recognize His power and majesty and make ourselves ready to address Him.

We could also remember that the Holy Trinity dwells in our souls. As we study Interior Castle, we can begin prayer by picturing a castle in our hearts, and moving towards the King who dwells in its center, getting rid of everything that holds us back from Him.

Practicing saying one Hail Mary with attention, as we talked about before, is practicing being recollected.


Teresa speaks about two kinds of recollection that are more than “placing ourselves in the presence of God,” as many writers put it.

Prayer becomes simpler as we become practiced in it and in virtue. As time goes on, we should find it easier to be aware of God’s presence. We slowly focus less on “thinking much,” and more on “loving much.” This is called acquired recollection. We will discuss that prayer development more when we discuss third mansions.

Additionally, there is infused recollection, the first type of contemplation. We will look at infused recollection as we discuss the fourth mansions.


More subscribers, less frequent posts

Now, a quick note on the frequency of my posts. I now have over 1400 subscribers, which means that I can only write up to 8 posts per month in order to deliver them to your email box without my having to pay. So I am reducing my posts to once per week, unless I have a post up at or elsewhere to share with you. I’ve been wanting to reduce the number of posts for months, but I feel guilty when I only post once a week! Now circumstances are forcing me to follow through. Doing fewer blog posts means I can spend more time writing books. And I have many, many ideas for books I hope to write!

I will try to post on Tuesdays. This week I got mixed up, because of the Holy Day on Monday.


Past posts on Advent

Speaking of past posts, here are a couple to help you with the rest of Advent.

In one of my first posts two years ago, I wrote how we use an alternative school calendar to help make our Advent more peaceful and prayerful.

This post from last year gives some ideas for Advent activities with your family.


My book and several others on sale for one day only!

And speaking of books, on Thursday, December 11, Indie Catholic Authors is sponsoring a one-day digital Christmas Party and sale. Join us on our facebook event page.

Eight authors, including me, best-selling fiction writer Ellen Gable, and noted suspense author R. B. O’Gorman, are discounting our books from 6 AM Central December 11 to 6 AM Central December 12. The paperback version of Trusting God with St. Therese will be 20% off at CreateSpace for the first time ever. You must use a coupon code, which I will post on Thursday on the facebook page and also on the homepage of Indie Catholic Authors (a writers’ group I created). Join the facebook event now, so you don’t miss out.

My ebook price will be slashed to $.99 on Amazon for 24 hours also.

This is a great opportunity to pick up some additional Christmas presents for your friends and family.

I will be available to answer your questions about my life, my writing, trusting God, St. Therese, and anything else appropriate from 10-11 AM Central on the facebook event page. I will also be giving away a free signed paperback to one attendee. At least two other authors will be appearing to answer questions and giving away books. Please see the facebook event or Indie Catholic Authors site more. for details.

Connie Rossini

Note: The Amazon link is an affiliate link. I get a little more money when you buy my book through such a link.

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10 digital copies of my book available for reviewers

It’s time for our next giveaway! I am going to give a PDF version of Trusting God with St. Therese to ten subscribers who agree to review it online.

Here are a few other details:

  • 7 copies will go to readers in the continental U.S.
  • 3 copies are reserved for readers living elsewhere.
  • I will be awarding them on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Email me at crossini at comcast dot net if you’d like to try for a copy.
  • Tell me where you plan to review the book: blog, Amazon, Goodreads, etc.
  • Readers who have won a contest in the last 6 months will have to skip this one. (Sorry, Bice.)
  • My immediate family members are disqualified. (If you’re really nice, I might give you a print copy later.)

If you are not currently a subscriber, what are you waiting for? Sign up now to make sure you are included in all future contests and giveaways.

The pre-sale date is only 15 days away! I’m making plans for more giveaways–for non-subscribers as well. There will be bonuses for people who purchase early, contests to test your creativity, and random drawings on my blog and elsewhere.

Here’s an early endorsement of my book:

“In the Bible, God urges us to trust Him will all of our heart. Unfortunately, many of us fail to do this on a regular basis. In Trusting God with St. Therese, Connie Rossini not only helps us to understand the importance of trusting in God’s providence, but gives us simple steps (based on the teaching of St. Therese) to help us achieve that goal. As someone who has struggled with this issue for most of my life, I highly encourage you to read this book. It will change your life!”

–Gary Zimak,
Catholic Evangelist and author of From Fear To Faith, A Worrier’s Guide To The Bible, and Listen To Your Blessed Mother

Are you excited yet?

Connie Rossini

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My original posts on trust

I am crazy busy right now making the final edits and proofs of my book. Thanks for your continued prayers. Here is one answer to a prayer I never had the audacity to ask: last week Dan Burke invited me to write for his website This is a great honor, and I credit your prayers for it. I will link to my posts there as soon as one appears.

For those of you who missed them, or who would like a refresher, here are the original posts on trusting God that led to Trusting God with St. Therese.

St. Therese’s astonishing trust in God

Fine-tune your spiritual focus for Lent (How I began trusting God in the present moment)

You can’t lose, unless you give up

God, Mr. Darcy, and St. Therese  (Could be called Finding God in Classic Literature)

Trusting God with your future

Three conversions of the purgative way

Three ways to increase your trust in God (This was a guest post at a blog called Being Catholic.)

That ought to give you enough to read to keep you busy while I finish my book. And when you’re done, I’ve got a pile of laundry you can do. Oh, wait–


Connie Rossini


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What – Why – How I Write #MyWritingProcess


Nancy Ward at JOY Alive in our hearts tagged me in her post yesterday on her writing process. Apparently, there is an ongoing blog tour of the subject among writers. Since it’s a good time to update my readers on my projects, I will answer Nancy’s questions in this post and hand the baton to another Catholic writer to follow me.

1. What are you working on?

Unless you are new to Contemplative Homeschool, you know I am finishing writing Trusting God with St. Therese. I received some great feedback from my beta readers (first reviewers). Now my husband Dan is helping me with final edits. He is Director of Communications for the Diocese of New Ulm and a former editor. And he is tough, but loving–just the combination I need.

As soon as Dan is finished, I will offer review copies to some other Catholic writers and a small number of my subscribers.  Then beginning in June I have many events planned leading up to my book launch. Stay tuned!

I have also just begun to make templates for parents to use in directing their children’s spiritual growth. I may make substantial booklets for each of the four temperaments and offer them for sale in the future. In the meantime, I’ll share some of the templates with my blog readers for free.

2. What makes your work different from others’ work in the same genre?

Most books of Catholic spirituality written today–and many blogs–aim at beginners in the spiritual life. I write for people already striving to live a life of holiness, who have gotten stuck or don’t know what to do next.

I  provide concrete and practical steps readers can take to grow. I can’t help sometimes using big words. After all, they say you should write like you speak, and I’m a word-lover. On the other hand, I am not a theologian, and I don’t write like one. If you want to learn intricate philosophy or theology, take a college course. If you want a teaching the average person can understand, you’re in the right place.

The other significant way my writing is different is that I help you guide your entire family towards holiness. For example, I teach readers how to practice mental prayer. Then I teach them to introduce their children to mental prayer. Even if your children are in traditional school, you are their first teachers in the faith.

3. Why do you write what you do?

I am a natural-born teacher. When I learn something new, I’m excited about it. I immediately want to share it. Education and spiritual growth are the perennial [big word alert] topics I read about. My blog readers are often my first “students” as I muse on what I read.

I test my theories here, reflect on the comments I receive, then consider whether a future book is in order.

4. How does your writing process work?

I do a lot of thinking before a word goes on the page. For a blog post, I often have most of it written in my head before I sit down at the computer. Then the actual writing comes quickly with little revision needed.

For a book, I break it down by chapter and make a few notes on each one. Then I write a few chapters, read it, re-write, and take some time to think about how the direction of the book has changed in the writing of it. I keep repeating that until the final chapter is done. So I do a lot of rewriting and even editing as I go along, rather than waiting until the end.

I also do a lot of self-editing as I write. Conventional writing wisdom says you shouldn’t think about grammar and structure on the first draft–just get the words down. But I usually have no problem doing both and saving myself a re-write or two.

And now, for one of my favorite writers to pass these questions to: Terry McDermott of 8 Kids and a Business. Enjoy reading Terry’s answers and her great blog.

Connie Rossini