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— 1 —

Add this to scenes I never expected to happen in my life:

Me saying to my HOMESCHOOLED son: “Hurry up and finish your work so we can go buy the MOUSE for your SNAKE to EAT.”

Just in case you’re around 30 years old and think that you know where life is going….

Speaking of learning and link-ups, Melanie Bettinelli is beginning one entitled “Guilt-Free Learning Notes” which I’ll be participating in – starting this Saturday. Should be fun.

— 2 —

So Sunday we went to Whole Foods after Mass.  We were just getting milk and my lime sparkling water so Joseph stayed in the car and Michael and I ran in.

At one point, an older man walked down our aisle with his cart. I looked at him, he glanced at me, I nodded because in that instant I recognized him, without knowing why or how and the nod just happened. He nodded back.  Courteous-like, the way we do down here.  We moved on.

But it bugged me.  I don’t latch on to random people, imagining that I know them.  If my subconscious is joggled, it’s for real.  I I just couldn’t identify him, though.  I definitely felt that I *knew* him in some sense.  I went through the checklist of my rather limited local circles. Church(es)? No. School(s)? No.  Neighborhood(s)?  I don’t think so…but maybe….

And then it hit me.

He looked exactly like the actor who plays the Senator in that fantastic show Rectify. 

I mean – didn’t look like him.  Looked to be him.

Could it be?  I mean, I knew that one of the Rectify actors lives in the area – Clayne Crawford, who plays Teddy, Jr, but..this guy? I didn’t even know his name. As the seconds past, the less sure I was.

So we checked out, we went to the car, and I sat behind the wheel. I got the Ipad from Joseph and looked up the Senator.

And this article came up: “Vegas, Gray’s Anatomy star Michael O’Neill moves back to Alabama.”

In fact, the man whose character went on a murderous rampage in a memorable “Grey’s Anatomy” season finale is a family man, an actor and an Alabama native who recently moved back to the area.

Originally from Montgomery, the Auburn grad moved back to Alabama in November of last year to be closer to his father, who has since died. He also wanted to give his three teenage children a taste of his home.

More recently, some of you might recognize him from this summer’s CBS show, Extant. 

Yup. That was him. Amazing. So..what to do now? Go be a fangirl, not only of him, but mostly of Rectify?

Damn straight!

The boys were, of course, mortified and declined to go back in.  I casually strolled up and down the aisles of Whole Foods, not at all in a stalkerish fashion, no not me,  and there he was – chatting with  couple of other women.  I waited until they were finished, and approached.  He was so very nice, asking my name, expressing both surprise and gratitude that I watched Rectify. We talked about the pleasures of a well-done program committed to be realistic about the contemporary South, I mentioned the appeal of the spiritual themes, and just thanked him for his work. Very gracious fellow!

(And no…I didn’t ask for a photo…)

— 3 —

My 9-year old is taking a boxing class with other homeschooled boys. He loves it.  I don’t know what it is about the coach/teacher who runs the class and the gym, but he has a gift for motivating.  The kid is wiped out by the end of the hour (a 9-year old? Taking shower in the middle of the day? Get out....) but also totally pumped and positive. It’s like magic.

— 4 —

I reread Waugh’s Handful of Dust this week, just because I was not in the mood for Collins’ intricacies. I’ll get back in that groove this weekend.  Boy I had forgotten how dark that book is.  You know, people always rag on Miss O’Connor for being “dark” and grotesque, but honestly – read Wise Blood next to the early Waugh, and you can see what real darkness – that is without even a glimmer of grace – is.  Precise, knowing and hilarious, yes…but ever so depressing.

— 5 —

Speaking of British things, do you know what I’ve never watched?  You guessed. Downton Abbey.  I don’t know why I’ve never been interested.  I think my deep loyalty to Upstairs, Downstairs has closed my mind to what I perceive as an uppity usurper.

And speaking of those old Masterpiece Theater series, what were your favorites? As a teen I gobbled them up, especially – in addition to U/D:

I, Claudius

The Pallisers 

Shoulder to Shoulder.

My parents were devotees, as I recall, of The Forsythe Saga and The First Churchills, but I was too young to care when they were into them and I only remember thinking that they looked beyond boring..  But I adored Derek Jacobi (Claudius), was captivated by the unwilling,but ultimately loving marriage of the Pallisers and probably a little in love with Donal McCann who played Phineas Finn.

Shoulder to Shoulder was a 6-part dramatization of the woman’s suffrage movement in Britain, and was a huge influence on me.  I think it helped situate my thinking about feminism in a historical context, giving my young self a sort of freedom from the secular feminist cant of the 70’s.  It’s a very powerful series and, oddly enough, is one of the few such series never released in recorded format.  Can’t find it anywhere.

— 6 —

My daughter, who lives and works in Bavaria, has taken a short trip to Verona and environs this week.  You can see some of her pics from Verona here, and catch what she saw yesterday – 9/11 - in Venice yesterday here.  

Us? Well, we went to Oak Mountain! Go, us!

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That was actually a nice day – after the first half of the week full of lessons and classes (Because no socialization!) , we could finally get out after the hated cursive and not-quite-hated math was done.  A good hike, then a turn around Aldridge Gardens and then the library.  All the time with the steady soundtrack of detailed descriptions of Lord of the Rings Lego sets….

— 7 —

I’ve continued my slow march through my books…..for adults (including RCIA)  here...for kids here…devotional and parish materials here.  Still to come, materials for teens and the four books Ann Engelhart and I have done together.

(And remember…today’s the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary...so how about that free Mary book?)

St. Francis’ feastday is coming soon!  Time to talk about Adventures in Assisi!

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For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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My daughter spent today in Venice.  This was one of the sights she saw:

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My daughter lives and works in Bavaria now, and she snagged a few days off.  Her initial plan was to visit a friend who’s living in Paris, but that friend was, it turns out, going to be out of town during that time.  So no free housing in an expensive city.  So what to do?

I suggested northern Italy – it was more or less a straight shot from where she is down to Verona.  And do a day trip or two.  Mantua? Venice?

So she went.  Verona first.

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And that’s just a fraction of one day’s experiences….

(And the weirdest thing?  I saw one of my friends here this evening and she said, “Guess where my brother was today? In Verona!”)

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Today is the feastday of Pope St. Gregory the Great.  Some links:

Fr. Steve Grunow on the saint:

As a culture we labor under the assumption that a vocation is best illuminated as a kind of decision, a choice by which we decide for ourselves who we are and what we should do. On the surface, the pretense of this might console us and make us feel that in a world that is so evidently outside of our control, at the very least we can forge for ourselves a personal destiny. However, authentic vocation is not so much about our decision, but God’s. It is only when our lives are in conformity with God’s will that we truly learn who we are and what we must do.

Pope Benedict XVI had two General Audiences on the saint back in 2008.

Part 1:

Notwithstanding the very difficult conditions in which he had to work, he gained the faithful’s trust, thanks to his holiness of life and rich humanity, achieving truly magnificent results for his time and for the future. He was a man immersed in God: his desire for God was always alive in the depths of his soul and precisely because of this he was always close to his neighbour, to the needy people of his time. Indeed, during a desperate period of havoc, he was able to create peace and give hope.

Part 2:

He was a passionate reader of the Bible, which he approached not simply with a speculative purpose: from Sacred Scripture, he thought, the Christian must draw not theoretical understanding so much as the daily nourishment for his soul, for his life as man in this world. For example, in theHomilies on Ezekiel, he emphasized this function of the sacred text: to approach the Scripture simply to satisfy one’s own desire for knowledge means to succumb to the "amy welborn"temptation of pride and thus to expose oneself to the risk of sliding into heresy. Intellectual humility is the primary rule for one who searches to penetrate the supernatural realities beginning from the sacred Book. Obviously, humility does not exclude serious study; but to ensure that the results are spiritually beneficial, facilitating true entry into the depth of the text, humility remains indispensable. Only with this interior attitude can one really listen to and eventually perceive the voice of God. On the other hand, when it is a question of the Word of God understanding it means nothing if it does not lead to action. In these Homilies on Ezekiel is also found that beautiful expression according which “the preacher must dip his pen into the blood of his heart; then he can also reach the ear of his neighbour”. Reading his homilies, one sees that Gregory truly wrote with his life-blood and, therefore, he still speaks to us today.

 

….

 

Above all he was profoundly convinced that humility should be the fundamental virtue for every Bishop, even more so for the Patriarch. Gregory remained a simple monk in his heart and therefore was decisively contrary to great titles. He wanted to be – and this is his expression -servus servorum Dei. Coined by him, this phrase was not just a pious formula on his lips but a true manifestation of his way of living and acting. He was intimately struck by the humility of God, who in Christ made himself our servant. He washed and washes our dirty feet. Therefore, he was convinced that a Bishop, above all, should imitate this humility of God and follow Christ in this way. His desire was to live truly as a monk, in permanent contact with the Word of God, but for love of God he knew how to make himself the servant of all in a time full of tribulation and suffering. He knew how to make himself the “servant of the servants”. Precisely because he was this, he is great and also shows us the measure of true greatness.

 

Link to Gregory’s Pastoral Rule at New Advent

 

 

 

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

 

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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…

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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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— 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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