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Hard to believe..

As you may or may not know, watercolorist Ann Engelhart and I published two books centered around dialogues the Pope Emeritus had with children.

It’s called Friendship with Jesus. 

And it’s now #2 on Amazon in the “First Communion” category. 

Also take a look at Be Saints - based on the dialogue he had on his apostolic visit to Great Britain.

Also check out the free download of the little book I based on the thought of Pope Benedict XVI, Come Meet Jesus. 

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— 1 —

If you didn’t notice, the other day I mentioned that our new book will be coming out in August:

"amy welborn"

 

Adventures in Assisi is unlike any other St. Francis-book-for-children out there.   I’ll talk more about it as the release date approaches, but know for now that it was inspired by the trips both Ann Engelhart and I have made to Assisi and a desire to bring St. Francis to children in a way that goes a little deeper than peace-animals-creche – as wonderful as all that can be.

 

— 2 —

Homeschooling has slowly revived.   Math has happened, lots of religion, conversations about the trip, music, science museum class, art class, To Kill a Mockingbird, reviewing some of our Shakespeare, gearing up for next week…Holy Week..think we’ll start Hamlet, too….

"amy welborn"

Reteaching what he learned in science center class.

— 3 —

Good exercise podcasts, thanks to In Our Time, my favorite.  I’ve listened to:

  • 1848 revolutions - very good.
  • The Concordat of Worms - puts present Church/State conflicts in perspective
  • Robinson Crusoe - I have never read it, but had read something years ago about how contemporary editions generally edit down the religious content.  This program gave Dafoe and the book a thorough, honest treatment and attention to his religious motivations.
  • The history of radio.  I love learning about the history of technology/industry/products/science.  I find the cumulative, aggregate effect of human understanding mesmerizing.
  • Kama Sutra - in general, one of the reasons I love In Our Time is because I find it refreshingly free of any kind of cant – ideological or academic.  In most contemporary contexts, any historical discussion these days are almost always framed in terms of some overriding contemporary concern.   This discussion on the Kama Sutra (a work which is about more than sex, mind you) actually didn’t deviate from that excellent track record, but found myself unsatisfied (so to speak) in the listening because kept saying to myself…but…isn’t this an elitist kind of work about elitist concerns? What did this have to do with the lives of most people in India who weren’t  the aristocratic men who were its audience? 

— 4 —

I have started that little blog on our Mexican trip.  Here it is so far…not much, but hopefully I’ll have it all done by next week some time.  

— 5 —

Binge-rewatching season 6 of Mad Men.  It’s certainly enjoyable television, but that 70% that is really good is violently hauled down by the 30% that is either pointless or evidence that there is currently no one in Matthew Weiner’s circle whose job is it to read scripts or sit next to him in the edit bay and say, “Um…no.  I mean…no one cares about Betty Goes To The Village and everyone will fast forward through it on the rewatch. Promise. “

— 6 —

Currently reading Gringos by Charles Portis.  It’s set in Merida, where I just was, so I’m finding it really entertaining. 

— 7 —

Reminder:  First Communion/Confirmation/RCIA/Mother’s Day books?  I’ve got some choices….

"amy welborn"

 

The new zipline at the Birmingham Zoo has just opened and was free to members this week…it was a good value for free, but sorry to say, it wouldn’t be worth the normal 20-25 bucks….

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Epiphany

Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome

 Above the great city the star disappears, it is no longer seen. What does this mean? In this case too, we must interpret the sign in its depth. For those men it was logical to seek the new king in the royal palace, where the wise court advisors were to be found.

Yet, probably to their amazement, they were obliged to note that this newborn Child was not found in the places of power and culture, even though in those places they were offered precious information about him.

On the other hand they realized that power, even the power of knowledge, sometimes blocks the way to the encounter with this Child. The star then guided them to Bethlehem, a little town; it led them among the poor and the humble to find the King of the world.

God’s criteria differ from human criteria. God does not manifest himself in the power of this world but in the humility of his love, the love that asks our freedom to be welcomed in order to transform us and to enable us to reach the One who is Love.  Source


Let us return to the Wise Men from the East. These were also, and above all, men of courage, the courage and humility born of faith. Courage was needed to grasp the meaning of the star as a sign to set out, to go forth – towards the unknown, the uncertain, on paths filled with hidden dangers. We can imagine that their decision was met with derision: the scorn of those realists who could only mock the reveries of such men. Anyone who took off on the basis of such uncertain promises, risking everything, could only appear ridiculous. But for these men, inwardly seized by God, the way which he pointed out was more important than what other people thought. For them, seeking the truth meant more than the taunts of the world, so apparently clever.  Source



The wise men followed the star. Through the language of creation, they discovered the God of history. To be sure – the language of creation alone is not enough. Only God’s word, which we encounter in sacred Scripture, was able to mark out their path definitively. Creation and Scripture, reason and faith, must come together, so as to lead us forward to the living God. There has been much discussion over what kind of star it was that the wise men were following. Some suggest a planetary constellation, or a supernova, that is to say one of those stars that is initially quite weak, in which an inner explosion releases a brilliant light for a certain time, or a comet, etc. This debate we may leave to the experts. The great star, the true supernova that leads us on, is Christ himself. He is as it were the explosion of God’s love, which causes the great white light of his heart to shine upon the world. And we may add: the wise men from the East, who feature in today’s Gospel, like all the saints, have themselves gradually become constellations of God that mark out the path. In all these people, being touched by God’s word has, as it were, released an explosion of light, through which God’s radiance shines upon our world and shows us the path. The saints are stars of God, by whom we let ourselves be led to him for whom our whole being longs.  Source


They had brought gold, incense and myrrh. These are certainly not gifts that correspond to basic, daily needs. At that moment, the Holy Family was far more in need of something different from incense or myrrh, and not even the gold could have been of immediate use to them. But these gifts have a profound significance: they are an act of justice. In fact, according to the mentality prevailing then in the Orient, they represent the recognition of a person as God and King, that is, an act of submission. They were meant to say that from that moment, the donors belonged to the sovereign and they recognize his authority. The consequence is immediate. The Magi could no longer follow the road they came on, they could no longer return to Herod, they could no longer be allied with that powerful and cruel sovereign. They had always been led along the path of the Child, making them ignore the great and the powerful of the world, and taking them to him who awaits us among the poor, the road of love which alone can transform the world.

Therefore, not only did the Magi set out on their journey, but their deed started something new they traced a new road, and a new light has come down on earth which has never faded. The Prophet’s vision is fulfilled: that light could no longer be ignored by the world. People would go towards that Child and would be illumined by that joy that only he can give. The light of Bethlehem continues to shine throughout the world. To those who have welcomed this light, St Augustine said: “Even we, recognizing Christ our King and Priest who died for us, have honoured him as if we had offered him gold, incense and myrrh. But what remains is for us to bear witness to him by taking a different road from that on which we came” (Sermo 202. In Epiphania Domini, 3,4).

Thus if we read together the promise of the Prophet Isaiah and its fulfilment in the Gospel of Matthew in the great context of all history, it is evident that what we have been told which we seek to reproduce in our Nativity scenes is neither a dream nor a vain play on sensations and emotions, devoid of vigour and reality, but is the Truth that irradiates in the world, although Herod always seems stronger, and that Infant seems to be found among people of no importance or who are even downtrodden. But in that Baby is expressed the power of God, who brings together all people through the ages, because under his lordship, they may follow the course of love which transfigures the world. Nevertheless, even if the few in Bethlehem have become many, believers in Jesus Christ always seem to be few. Many have seen the star, but only a few have understood its message. Scripture scholars in the time of Jesus knew the word of God perfectly well. They were able to say without hesitation what could be found in Scripture about the place where the Messiah would be born, but as St Augustine said: “They were like milestones along the road though they could give information to travellers along the way, they remained inert and immobile” (Sermo 199. In Epiphania Domini, 1,2).

Therefore, we can ask ourselves: what is the reason why some men see and find, while others do not? What opens the eyes and the heart? What is lacking in those who remain indifferent, in those who point out the road but do not move? We can answer: too much self-assurance, the claim to knowing reality, the presumption of having formulated a definitive judgment on everything closes them and makes their hearts insensitive to the newness of God. They are certain of the idea that they have formed of the world and no longer let themselves be involved in the intimacy of an adventure with a God who wants to meet them. They place their confidence in themselves rather than in him, and they do not think it possible that God could be so great as to make himself small so as to come really close to us.

Lastly, what they lack is authentic humility, which is able to submit to what is greater, but also authentic courage, which leads to belief in what is truly great even if it is manifested in a helpless Baby. They lack the evangelical capacity to be children at heart, to feel wonder, and to emerge from themselves in order to follow the path indicated by the star, the path of God. God has the power to open our eyes and to save us. Let us therefore ask him to give us a heart that is wise and innocent, that allows us to see the Star of his mercy, to proceed along his way, in order to find him and be flooded with the great light and true joy that he brought to this world. Amen.  Source

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As a new year begins, many look for a devotional to jumpstart daily prayer.  As Catholics, our starting point is the prayer of the Church – the Liturgy of the Hours and the Mass.

Universalis.com is the best source for both, and of course Magnificat is a wonderful adaptation  of the Church’s prayer, solid, rich and beautiful. 

But if you want something informal to add to the mix for 2014 consider The Catholic Woman’s Book of Days.  It’s a 365-day devotional, tied to the liturgical year as closely as possible for a volume that’s not produced anew every year.

You can check it out here! 

"amy welborn"

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I’m pleased to let you know about the Catholicism Pilgrimage Journal  - written to help teens and young adults connect more deeply with the content of Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism series.

 

It evolved last year as Fr. Stephen Grunow and I brainstormed on ways to integrate the program more deeply into various aspects of parish life.  You can find more details about the program here.

Here’s an interview I did with Word on Fire.

Today (5/7), I’ll be on Sheila Liaugminas’ radio show, talking about the Pilgrimage Journal and other projects.

(In other work with WOF, I wrote a study guide for Fr. Barron’s excellent series on Conversion - think about it for next Lent!)

 

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St. Joseph

 

Quite a few people at noon Mass at the Cathedral.  There are always more during Lent, but this crowd seemed even larger than usual.  Maybe close to two hundred? All ages, including not a few children. (Homeschoolers, plus it’s spring break in these parts)

Every statue covered except for St. Joseph.  Altar overflowing with food, and many bags for those in need spread on the floor. St. Joseph’s altar (or table) blessed during Mass using the Litany of St. Joseph.

Papal bunting adorning the door.

A Mass with music that including chant – some Latin, some English – and some of the propers.

People scramble and search for some secret to “revitalize” Catholic parish life.  Books, articles, blog posts and conferences grapple with the question.  Some of the answers are good.  But the best begin with what’s already here.  In this case, as I’ve said before, the “original small group” – daily Mass – bound together by the presence of Christ, animated by the Spirit to deeper faith, hope and charity….

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"st. joseph"

This one interests me because it predates the large oratory’s construction.

stjoseph

"st. Joseph"

At the shrine featured in the vintage holy cards.  Summer 2011. 

And remember…it’s a Solemnity…which means that for day..it’s like it’s not Lent! Feast away!

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Put down that drink and read about the real guy!

1. I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.

2. And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, "st. Patrick"and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.

3. Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.

4. For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught; and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father, indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the Trinity of holy name.

5. He himself said through the prophet: ‘Call upon me in the day of’ trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.’ And again: ‘It is right to reveal and publish abroad the works of God.’

6. I am imperfect in many things, nevertheless I want my brethren and kinsfolk to know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my soul’s desire.

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This is a repost from almost a year ago.  I have pulled out this book again in preparation for a book I’m working on, and will post further reflections in coming days.  It’s a very important book, and of great interest, with our new Pope Francis. 

 

I’m going to go on a limb here and say that when this book is published (April 30), anyone and everyone who has the least bit of interest in the following topics should read it:

  • St. Francis of Assisi
  • Spirituality
  • Religious Life
  • Catholic history
  • Discipleship
  • Saints

"Amy Welborn"…so that includes almost everyone here, right?

This is an important book, and I’m so grateful to have a review copy.  Long - long - time readers might recall what a revelation Fr. Thompson’s previous work, Cities of God: The Religion of the Italian Communes 1125-1325 was to me back in 2006.   It was a fascinating example of  innovative, close and open-minded scholarship.

St. Francis of Assisi: A New Biography has been researched and written in the same spirit, and does not disappoint. It, too, is a revelation.

As you might guess, producing a biography of St. Francis has distinct challenges.  Three stand out:

  • The scarcity of sources from the subject’s own hand and perspective.
  • The amount of legendary material
  • The ways in which post-Francis  intra-Franciscan disputes (which were deep and virulent)  impacted the sources we do have.
Not to speak of the challenges on the reader’s end: we think we know St. Francis, and we certainly know who we want St. Francis to be.

Fr. Thompson (a Dominican, by the way!)  is forthright in his purpose.  He knows the limitations of historical scholarship, comparing the search for the “real St. Francis” to the search for the “historical Jesus” over the last two centuries.  He grapples directly with the research challenges.  And what he emerges with is a work that is illuminating, not only about the life and person of the saint, but also about the project of history – historiography.

The book, one of the few – if not only – truly scholarly biographies of Francis in English – is smartly arranged.  For ease of reading, the biography is presented in the first 141 pages of the book without any discursive sidenotes on alternate views of the incidents described.  Those discussions are all grouped together in what amounts to a second half of the book – end notes that are far more than a simple listing of sources, but fascinating discussions of those sources, their limitations and perspectives, and alternate views.  It’s a very helpful arrangement.

And who emerges from this work?

It is the St. Francis we know – a penitent committed to living the Gospel and conforming himself to the Crucified – but also one we may not be as familiar with.

This book gave me much to think about  - and when we get closer to its publication date, I will post on it again, but for now, I’ll share these three points:

  • What Fr. Thompson has done, I think, is to work hard to clear away the narrative of inevitability that so often (and understandably) affects biographies of Francis – or any figure. Since we know how the story ends, it is a real challenge not to tell  - or read – the story with that end in mind.  In this book, we walk with Francis and see things as he saw them at the moment – as much as possible.  As I read this book, I felt a bit as I did when I read the diaries of Dorothy Day – with the person, in the moment, responding to God’s grace in all of their limitations and hope.
  • He presents a clarifying and rather different definition of poverty in Francis’ spirituality – again, working to separate what Francis really said and did from later controversies.
  • This is very important, and perhaps will be the most revealing and one of the more controversial aspects of the book: He places the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours, and the proper and reverential celebration of both squarely at the center of Francis’ concern.

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So all I have for you is this.  To my mother from her older cousin.

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

Say a short prayer for me from time to time…”

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