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Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

Ann Engelhart and I have a new book coming out in August, and it’s making its first appearances online…

 

"amy welborn"

 

 

We’re excited!

And a reminder – I have many books that are quite suitable for gift-giving for First Communion, Confirmation, Graduation, and Mother’s Day…and we’re entering into the season, aren’t we?

Saints and such for First Communion…

"amy welborn"

Confirmation?  Maybe the Prove It books…

Mother’s Day? 

If you know someone coming into the Church at Easter….maybe the How to Book of the Mass or The Words We Pray. 

 

 

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— 1 —

We finally got out of the Birmingham area this week – one day - one day  – without basketball, scouts or music…so I grabbed it, and we traveled….to ANNISTON. ALABAMA.

It’s about an hour from here, a little less than halfway to Atlanta, so we pass it regularly, but had never stopped.  In reading all of my “Alabama Day Trips” blogs and such, I had often run across mentions of the Anniston Natural History Museum, and all of those mentions had been positive – and without reservation.  As in, no well, at least they’re trying. Two points for that  None of that.

And “they” were right!

I mean, it’s not worth flying down from Bismark for, but really, for an off-the-beaten-path museum, it’s rather impressive.

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As the name indicates, it’s all about the nature.  So yes, dinosaurs, minerals and volcanoes, as well as a condensed journey through Alabama’s various ecoystems (biomes? habitats? I get so confused. So much lingo.). But what impressed me were two particular exhibits.  One was on predators and prey – a big draw for young people, naturally. But it stood out because of the pedagogy behind it, which results in a substantive and clear exhibit.  Attacker and defender behavior was identified by one of three colored stripes, each representing a particular tactic: behavioral, physical or chemical. The subject matter was interesting to the boys anyway, but the whole stripe thing gave it a puzzle aspect that cemented the learning.

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What was really lovely was the Birds of America exhibit.  I’m quite interested in the history of museums and collecting, being so appreciative of the efforts of  single-minded and sometimes eccentric collectors and “amateur” scientists whose passions form the nuclei of so many museums worldwide.  The Anniston bird exhibit is one of those. There is unfortunately, not much about the history of the collection on the museum’s website, but the Atlas Obscura tells us:

The Anninston Natural History Museum holds one of the oldest taxidermy collections in the United States, created by H. Severn Regan in 1930 with a donation of over 1000 birds, nests and eggs arranged in dioramas.

Today, the museum has over 400 species of birds on display. Of special interest is the museum’s collection of passenger pigeons (Ectopistes migratorius). Formerly one of the most common birds in North America, passenger pigeons could once be seen in migratory flocks a mile wide and 300 miles long, containing upwards of a billion birds. There are tales of pigeon swarms darkening the skies for days at a time. Due to wide-scale commercial hunting and deforestation, the passenger pigeon is today extinct, but it and several other extinct species are still preserved in this small natural history museum.

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The exhibit is very well done, with attractive retro signage and an easy educational aspect, highlighting the various aspects of avian physiology.  As the entry above indicates, the dioramas were painted by Regan himself, and they are beautifully and faithfully preserved.   A really pleasant surprise.

— 2 —

Right next door is the Berman Museum, which features the collection of a local couple (not originally from the area – she was French).  It held a large collection of weaponry, and some interesting pieces – the boys were most interested in a number of weapons hidden in smaller objects like belt buckles.  But there was oddness like a toiletry set and camp plate of Napoleon’s, a crown from Czech royalty, some Mussolini gear and such. If you are interested in military history, it would be a good stop.  We ended up not having to pay because of our McWane membership, so go us.

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"amy welborn"

— 3 —

Started the Taming of the Shrew.  We started fairly lowbrow, with a read through of this kids’ version, and then, this evening, watching the “Atomic Shakespeare” episode of Moonlighting.  I mean…it’s not faithful or anything (especially the ending), but it’s fun.   We’ll watch the BBC animated version tomorrow and then start our more serious read-through, probably along with the Taylor-Burton version.  And then at some point watch Kiss Me, Kate.  And I will get out the photos of Padua and sigh.

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The street where our apartment was located.

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Right around the corner from the apartment…

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(My goal? To enjoy Shakespeare. We talk about some themes  - but I don’t go hard core.  I basically want them to not be intimidated by Shakespeare, to offer them this really profound and rich window through which to view the human experience, and just….enjoy. I could do more “analytical” stuff, but you know what? I don’t want to. Our conversations and bit of memorization here and there are good enough.)

Both the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival are performing this play over the next few months, and I’m not sure if we’ll go to one or both. I love the Tavern, but we’ve never been to the ASF, so I’m leaning that way.

— 4 —

Tomorrow (Friday): a school performance of the Koresh Dance Company from Philadelphia. 

They are thrilled. 

/sarcasm.

— 5 —

A quick word in favor of formal prayer.

I wrote a whole book about this, I know, but our experiences with Morning and Night prayer have just deepened my appreciation and convictions on this score.

It can be done, you know.  Even with children, we can frame our prayer in terms of our own intentions and needs. We can offer up our relatives, friends and enemies, we can pray for the suffering throughout the world, we can offer God our own personal gratitude, hopes and sorrows, and then, stepping into the liturgy, join them to the prayers of the whole Body of Christ.  When we do this, we who “do not know how to pray as we ought” learn how to pray and are shaped by the Spirit in that prayer.

When we reflect on how the Holy Spirit acts in our lives, I think we should be wary of an overly individualistic take.  The way I have come to understand it is that the Spirit was poured out on the Church – the Church as a whole  – and that the primary way that I, as an individual, encounter the Holy Spirit is through the prayer, works of mercy and big T Tradition of that Church.

So in that light, it just seems to me that praying the amazing and rich liturgical prayers of the Church – from the Mass to the Liturgy of the Hours and other forms – is an encounter with the Holy Spirit that shapes me, if I am open, at my deepest level.

So, for example, Compline or Night Prayer.  We don’t have the patience to pray all of it, focusing on one Psalm, the short reading, and the prayers at the end.  Believe me, praying those prayers every night, puts everything in context much more than our own meanderings would:

Reading
1 Thessalonians 5:23 ©
May the God of peace make you perfect and holy; and may you all be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Short Responsory
Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
You have redeemed us, Lord God of truth.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.

Canticle Nunc Dimittis
Save us, Lord, while we are awake; protect us while we sleep; that we may keep watch with Christ and rest with him in peace.
Now, Master, you let your servant go in peace.
  You have fulfilled your promise.
My own eyes have seen your salvation,
  which you have prepared in the sight of all peoples.
A light to bring the Gentiles from darkness;
  the glory of your people Israel.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
  as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
  world without end.
Amen.
Save us, Lord, while we are awake; protect us while we sleep; that we may keep watch with Christ and rest with him in peace.

Let us pray.
Lord our God,
  restore us again by the repose of sleep
  after the fatigue of our daily work,
so that, continually renewed by your help,
  we may serve you in body and soul.
Through Christ our Lord,
Amen.

The Lord grant us a quiet night and a perfect end.

AMEN

Lex orandi, Lex credendi. That’s what it means.

— 6 —

I think our next major day trip will be down to Montgomery, even aside from the ASF.  Joseph did the state capitol on a school field trip,I’ve been to Hank Williams’ grave,  but I’d like to go to the art museum, the zoo, and some of the other civil rights sites down there – the King parsonage and the Rosa Parks Museum.  Maybe the Fitzgerald house.


Leave it to the Brits….isn’t it good?

— 7 —

Lent is late this year, but it’s still coming….if you’re looking for resources for your parish, I have a few:

Reconciled to God daily devotional (reviewed here)

This Bible study on the Passion narrative in Matthew from Loyola Press. (For some reason I’m not listed as the author on the Loyola website but…I am.)

Contributions in the Living Faith Lenten devotional.

John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross , with paintings by Michael O’Brien (there’s also an app for that – linked on that page)

And then The Power of the Cross, which is available for a free download.  There are a few used copies available on Amazon.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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..if only….!

 

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— 1 —

We are slowly moving.  I closed on the new house a couple of weeks ago and will put this one up for sale in…a couple of weeks.   I’m sad about leaving my front porch, my bungalow style and this street with its close neighbors and sidewalks, but….it was time to get some more room, a bit more storage space, a more exciting yard and a basketball goal.

— 2 —

I’m going from the cozy 30′s to the swanky 50′s with this move.  The “new” house was built in 1958 and has a sweet built-in feature that makes me want to start amassing atomic-style glassware.   Soon I’ll remember to take a photo of it when it’s actually daylight.

— 3 —

For some reason, I am reading Zola’s Three Cities.  Downloaded it from Gutenburg.  I know Zola’s point of view, but I’m also just interested in his reporting.   It gives me a better view of the history of the period, particularly how Catholicism was practiced – from his perspective, anyway.

— 4 —

It’s Christmas in July, people!  Bambinelli Sunday will be published in August, so here, in July, I’m starting to get ready.  I’ve got a Pinterest board going and everything. 

— 5 —

Ann and I will be attending the Catholic Marketing Show in early August on behalf of the book. We’ll be signing Thursday at noon, so if you’re around – come see us!

— 6 —

We went to San Francisco a couple of weeks ago – I wrote a bit about it here. 

— 7 —

Speaking of San Francisco, my current project is St. Francis-related.  In sorting through things tonight, I found a little booklet I’d purchased in Santa Maria degli Angeli (the town at the base of the hill on which Assisi rests – it’s where the train station is and where the Porziuncola is).  The Pardon of Assisi is really just the text of a talk that then-Cardinal Ratzinger gave there in 1996.  The “Pardon of Assisi” or the Portiuncula Indulgence is described here.   Cardinal Ratzinger describes his childhood memories of it and ends his talk with a gentle exposition of its spiritual fruit.  I love the image of  letting ourselves ” fall into the communion of saints.”

I remember that in my youth the day of the Pardon of Assisi was a day of great interiority, a day on which we received the sacraments in a climate of personal recollection.  It was a day of prayer.  In the square in front of my parish church, a particularly solemn silence reigned.  There was a continuous flow of people into and out of the church.  One felt that Christianity is a grace and that this grace is revealed through prayer…..

Basically the Indulgence is a little like the church of the Portiuncula.  Just as you have to pass through the rather cold, extraneous space of the huge basilica to find the humble church at the center that touches our heart, so too, one must pass through the complex plot of history and of the theological ideas to arrive at that which is truly simple: the prayer with which we let ourselves fall into the communion of saints, to cooperate with them, for the victor of good over the apparently all-powerful evil, knowing that in the end, everything is grace.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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"nate in venice" russo

Richard Russo has long been one of my favorite writers.  Nobody’s Fool is one of the great 20th century American novels: truthful, funny and redemptive.  Straight Man leaves me helpless with laughter.  He’s very recently released a digital novella called Nate in Venice  - available for Kindle here and Nook here.  Read it the other night.

It was pleasant to be back in Venice (the setting of his Bridge of Sighs) with Richard Russo for an hour or so, even though the descriptions were less detailed than those you’d find in any travel guide  - narrow streets, campos, bridges, squid-ink pasta, getting lost…disappointing in that respect, then.

Nate is a retired college professor on a Biennale-related tour of the city with a group that includes his estranged brother.  The often mysterious Venice is the setting, then, for some other mysteries:  what was the incident back at the college that resulted in great trouble for Nate?  What’s the problem with his brother?

The mysteries are mostly solved and the novella is, as I said, enjoyable but ultimately unsatisfying – but unsatisfying in a way that would probably please any author – it was unsatisfying because, as a novella, it just wasn’t enough.  Once introduced to Nate and the others in the group and in Nate’s family, I wanted to spend more time with them, watch and listen as they plunged more deeply into Venice and then travel to Rome.  That’s the case with any good book.  But Nate in Venice, gave me just enough time to get to know these characters more than I would in a short story. A short story is also often focused so sharply that the reader is satisfied enough when the specific questions raised by the author are answered = when he shuts the light off and shuts the door, we’re content to leave with him.  But here, there was just enough richness and breadth to plant the desire for more.

Which is, depending on how you look at it, either a good thing, or a bad thing, or both.

Two notes:

There’s a vulgar term used pretty prominently in this novella  - since it’s a term invented by Nate’s brother, it’s intended to show us something about him. certainly, but it did seem forced to me and might offend some readers. So be warned.

Nate in Venice (I keep wanting to type Nate the Great…) is a digital book, which is kind of ironic, considering Russo’s battles against Amazon last year.  

It’s part of a series of shorter fiction and non-fiction available through a site called Byliner. Looks interesting.

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Work of Mercy

"amy welborn"

A doorway in Assisi.

 By loving your neighbour, by having care for your neighbour, you are travelling on a journey. Where are you journeying, except to the Lord God, whom we must love with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind? We have not yet reached the Lord, but our neighbour is with us already. So support your neighbour, who is travelling with you, so that you may reach him with whom you long to dwell.

-St. Augustine.  From today’s Office of Readings. 

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….guess I should have read the schedule more closely.

Since we’re a five minute walk away, and since it’s Sunday, we thought we’d go to Mass at St. Peter’s Sunday morning, and then stay for the Angelus.  The regular schedule indicates a 10:30 Mass.  So we got there about 10:15, in order to get through the security line, which was quite long….on the screens outside, the Pope was…talking…inside St. Peter’s.  I was thinking that perhaps it was a replay of yesterday’s Consistory, but then we hit the door, and the sounds inside matched the sounds outside (the Credo by that point)…so, um, there we were inside St. Peter’s, halfway through Mass being celebrated by the Pope.

There were no seats of course, so we tried to find various vantage points from which we could see something besides the ceiling – no such luck.  No one was moving from their hard-won SRO positions against the barriers, not even for angelic-looking children.  We wandered to the back, eventually, and stayed there since it occurred to me that from there, we could see the Holy Father as he processed out – well, we could, sort of, although he turned away to go through the curtains before he got to us – the boys saw his face, though.  Following are some photos – next post will be a couple of videos from the Angelus.

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Waiting to get into the Basilica

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Took this holding the camera over my head I never actually saw the altar with my own eyes.

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Waiting at the end of Mass

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And…there he goes.

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Cardinal Rigali

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Many men and women were wearing these, in honor of the new Cardinal from Nigeria

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At the end of every church event, someone has to stack the chairs.

 

Texts:

Pope Benedict’s talk at the Consistory

His homily for Sunday’s Mass.

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I’ve been writing about our New Mexico trip over at Booked.

"amy welborn"

Opera House in Cerrillos, New Mexico

and…here’s an interview I did for the “Waiting to Board” feature at the Cheap Flights website!

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St. Anthony

I’m reading H.V. Morton’s A Traveller in Italy.   “Reading” is not quite the word, though.  “Relishing” is more like it.  Just like a trip there, I really don’t want it to end.

Oddly, I hit the small section on Padua, and St. Anthony, today – on his feast.

No fish to preach to.

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But perhaps they might as well be?

The man who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in different languages. These different languages are different ways of witnessing to Christ, such as humility, poverty, patience and obedience; we speak in those languages when we reveal in ourselves these virtues to others.  (Sermon of St. Anthony. Office of Readings, 6/13)

Place: Oak Mountain State Park.

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