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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

So…yes, I’ve written some of those, too.

(Previous entries in this series:  books for adult formation and RCIA here; books for children here, devotionals and other parish materials here.)

First up, the Prove it series.

This series had its beginning ages ago – 1999 or so – when I hadn’t written any books, but had been column-writing (for the Florida Catholic , then CNS, then OSV) for many years.  So I was known to OSV.  They had commissioned an apologetics book for teens from another author who had, indeed, delivered, but it wasn’t what they wanted at all. (I never saw that original manuscript, so I can’t comment on that).  So yes, they knew me, they knew I was a Catholic high school teacher and knew that my CNS columns were for youth.  So they asked me to take a shot at it, and I gladly agreed – finally able to put down into print the material I had been teaching anyway.

(For you see, at the time, apologetics simply was not a part of any Catholic high school theology curriculum.  Things have changed since then, but in 1999, we were still at the tail end of Pretty Bad. So you had to supplement – substantially.)

And there you have it:

You can find links to all the books at the OSV site here. 

Prove It: God

I Don’t Believe in God Because….

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  • …No One Can Prove He Exists
  • …Science Shows That the Universe Exists Without a God
  • …People Could Have Just Made the Stuff in the Bible up
  • …It’s So Difficult to Find Him
  • …People Have So Many Different Ideas About Him
  • …There are So Many Hypocrites in Churches
  • …People Do Such Horrible Things in the Name of Religion
  • …It’s What I Believe and I Don’t Need Anyone Else to Tell Me What to Believe!
  • …I Want to Be Free to Be Myself
  • …I Don’t Need Him
  • …Innocent People Suffer

Prove It: Churchamy welborn

  1. What Church Do You Go To?
  2. Why Isn’t Your Church a ‘Bible Only’ Church?
  3. Why Don’t You Read the Bible Literally?
  4. Why Aren’t Some of Your Beliefs in the Bible?
  5. Why Doesn’t Your Church Let You Interpret Scripture?
  6. Why Has Your Church Added Books to the Bible?
  7. Why Were You Baptized as a Baby?
  8. Why Aren’t You Saved?
  9. Why Does Your Church Say You’re Saved by Works, Not by Faith?
  10. Why Do You Pray to Saints?
  11. Why Do You Honor Mary So Much?
  12. Why Does Your Church Have Statues?
  13. Why Do you Believe That the Pope is Infallible?
  14. Why Do You Confess to a Priest?
  15. Why Do You Call Priests, “Father?”
  16. Why Do You Believe In Purgatory?

Prove It: Jesus

amy welbornI’ve Always Wondered….

  1. …Is What the Gospels Say About Jesus True?
  2. …What Are the Basic Facts About Jesus?
  3. …What Did Jesus Really Teach?
  4. …Did Jesus Really Perform Miracles?
  5. …Why Was Jesus Executed?
  6. …Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?
  7. …When Is Jesus Going to Come Again?
  8. …Was Jesus Really God?
  9. …How Could Jesus Be Both God and Human?
  10. …Why Did Jesus Come at All, and What Does It Mean for Me Today?

Excerpt from Prove It: Jesus

Prove It; Prayer

amy welbornSection 1 I Don’t Pray Because….
  1. …God’s In My Heart All the Time
  2. …God Already Knows Everything I Feel: I Don’t Have to Tell Him
  3. …God’s In Control: My Prayer Doesn’t Influence Him

Section II I Want to Pray, But It’s Difficult Because…

  1. …I’m Too Busy
  2. …I Don’t Know Where to Start
  3. …Meditation is Weird
  4. …I Can’t Concentrate
  5. …The Bible is Too Hard to Read
  6. …Memorized Prayers Are Meaningless
  7. …I don’t Know Whether It’s God I’m Hearing, or Just Me
Epilogue: Prayer and the Rest of Your Life

Excerpt from Prove It: Prayer.

Prove It: You

The final book in the series isn’t apologetics, but a guide to discipleship. How can a teen live joyfully and amy welbornfaithfully? What does it mean to do that? What’s right and what’s wrong? What’s my life for?

  • Who Am I
  • Sure, I Want to Be a Good Person, But…How?
  • What’s Jesus Got To Do With It?
  • It Was Only a Little Lie. So?
  • I’ve Got All The Time In The World…Don’t I?
  • Love Who? Everyone? Really?
  • It’s My Body. All Mine.
  • How Far Can I Go?
  • Whose Life Is Worth Living?
  • It’s A Big World With Too Many Problems.  Can’t I Just Live My Life?
  • “Be Not Afraid”

I know that you as young people have great aspirations, that you want to pledge yourselves to build a better world . Let others see this, let the world see it, since this is exactly the witness that the world expects from the disciples of Jesus Christ; in this way, and through your love above all, the world will be able to discover the star that we follow as believers. – Pope Benedict XVI, homily, World Youth Day, Cologne, Germany, 8/21/2005


Here. Now. A Catholic Guide to the Good Life was written for young adults. In it, I’m trying to help young adults see how the needs and desires and yearnings they experience are answered in Christ, and that Christ amy welbornis found in His Church. I wrote it after, in the space of a week, visiting my two young adult sons and then spending time at the enormous Christian Booksellers’ Association trade show, then pondering the myriad of resources and energies that evangelical Christians dedicate to young adults and comparing that to what Catholic resources and support are out there.

***crickets***

So I wrote this book. “Good” has a double meaning. It means a life that’s experienced as good – as joyful and peace-filled. It also means a life that is, well, good , as in virtuous. The latter leading to the former, of course. It’s also a shout-out to Augustine, of De Beata Vita fame. And a few other things.

You can read the introduction here.

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Continuing to feature my books, broken down into categories for you.  Earlier this week, adult education resources. Today, books for children.

Suggested uses?  In your home, for your grandchildren, purchased for your parish catechists and Catholic school teachers. And, if you know any, Catholic book store owners – freestanding, in parishes or in shrines.

The Loyola KIds Book of Saints:

This was one of the first books I wrote, back in 2000 – along with Prove It God about the same time.  Neither were my idea – most of my books are not.  Loyola wanted a book of saints for children and they were familiar with my column-writing, so they invited me to do this.  I struggled a while with the organization.  I really wanted to make it different from other saints books, which are either organized chronologically through history, chronologically through the liturgical year, or alphabetically.  I wanted a more compelling, interesting organizational principle.  So was born the “Saints are people who….” sections, as you can see below.

Good for read-alouds from about age 5 on, independent reading (depending on child) from about 8 on. The emphasis is on helping children see the connection between their own journey to holiness and the saints’.  Sample sections and chapters, with a complete list here:

Saints Are People Who Create
St. Hildegard of Bingen,Blessed Fra Angelico,St. John of the Cross,Blessed Miguel Pro

Saints Are People Who Teach Us New Ways to Pray
St. Benedict,St. Do"amy welborn"minic de Guzman,St. Teresa of Avila,St. Louis de Monfort

Saints Are People Who See Beyond the Everyday
St. Juan Diego, St. Frances of Rome, St. Bernadette Soubirous, Blessed Padre Pio

Saints Are People Who Travel From Home
St. Boniface, St. Peter Claver, St. Francis Xavier, St. Francis Solano, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini

Saints Are People Who Are Strong Leaders
St. Helena, St. Leo the Great, St. Wenceslaus, St. John Neumann

Saints Are People Who Tell The Truth
St. Polycarp, St. Thomas Becket, St. Thomas More, Blessed Titus Brandsma

 Published by Loyola Press. 

And then..the exciting sequel!

This book evolved.  Loyola originally wanted this – a book of “heroes” , but I adjusted the concept a bit.  I really need a strong concept in order to write – once I come up with the concept it flows pretty well.  So for this book I decided to organize it according to the virtues, and include in each section a originating narrative from Scripture, a historical event or movement and then a collection of saints who personify that virtue.  For some reason, this book sold particularly well this past spring (Or “First Communion” season. )  I’m not sure why.

Also published by Loyola.

  1. Introduction: Jesus Teaches
  2. Pentecost: Heroes on Fire with Hope
  3. Paul: A Hero"amy welborn" Changes and Finds Hope
  4. St. Patrick and St. Columba: Heroes Bring Hope into Darkness
  5. St. Jane de Chantal: Heroes Hope through Loss
  6. St. Mary Faustina Kowalska: A Hero Finds Hope in Mercy

Charity

  1. Introduction: Jesus Works Miracles
  2. Peter and John: Heroes are Known by their Love
  3. St. Genevieve: A City is Saved by a Hero’s Charity
  4. St. Meinrad and St. Edmund Campion: Heroes love their Enemies
  5. Venerable Pierre Toussaint: A Hero Lives a Life of Charity
  6. Rose Hawthorne Lathrop: A Hero Cares for Those Who Need it Most
  7. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: A Hero Lives Charity with the Dying

Temperance

  1. Introduction: Jesus Strikes a Balance
  2. Peter and Cornelius: Heroes Love Their Neighbors
  3. Charlemagne and Alcuin: Heroes Use their Talents for Good
  4. St. Francis: A Hero Appreciates Creation
  5. Venerable Matt Talbot: Heroes Can Let Go
  6. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: A Hero Enjoys the Gift of Life

Now, a couple of books I had an editorial hand in – also good resources for your home or classroom.

I didn’t write the Psalms, of course, but I did write the introduction and organizing material for this Child’s Book of Psalms. 

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Then I did some editing work on this New Catholic Illustrated Bible, published by St. Benedict/Tan.  

It was originally published in Europe and for a non-Catholic audience.  So my job was to do general editing of the text and bring in a Catholic emphasis. It was an interesting job.

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Well!  I was going to include my four books with Ann Engelhart here, but I think that’s enough for one blog post….

Previously: 

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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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….that is, my books.

(And of course, my intention was to publish this on Tuesday.  Now it’s Wednesday.  So it will be a short week.  Perhaps it will be “Book Weeks.”  Probably.)

Since Adventures in Assisi is now available, I’m going to seize the moment and take the week to offer a bunch of posts on the books I’ve written over the past fifteen years or so.  I’m going to begin today by suggesting some resources for those of you with adult education formation to plan…

(And remember, you don’t have to be An Official Staff Member of a Parish in order to get a small group going.  You can, you know, call up some people, invite them to invite friends, pick a book…and go to someone’s house or a coffeeshop or bar and..talk about it!)

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First, some formal studies:

Loyola Press has a series of Scripture studies, and I wrote two of them:

Parables: Stories of the Kingdom

and

Matthew 26-28: Jesus’ Life-Giving Death.

Both are designed to be used over 6 weeks.  You can tell because the series is called 6 Weeks with the Bible. 

If you’d like something just as substantive but a little less structured, you could try The Words We Pray, also published by Loyola.

It’s a series of essays connecting the content, historical background and spiritual resonance of traditional Catholic prayers.

I have a page about the book here.

Here’s an excerpt at the Loyola site. An excerpt of the excerpt:

The words of our traditional prayers are also gifts from the past, connecting us to something very important: the entirety of the Body of Christ, as it was then, as it is now, and as it will be to come.

How many billions of times have Christians recited the Lord’s Prayer? How many lips, both Jewish and Christian, have murmured the ancient words of the Psalms?

There is a sense in which each of us is alone in the universe. At the end, there is no one but us and God. We are beholden to no one but him, and he is the one we face with an accounting of how we have used this gift called life.

But we are not alone. We have billions of brothers and sisters, all of whom breathe the same air and whose souls look to the same heights for meaning and purpose.

We whisper the words of the Hail Mary at our child’s bedside, in concert, in God’s time, with every other mother who has looked to the Virgin for help and prayers when the burdens of parenthood seemed unbearably heavy.

Every child stumbling through the words of the Lord’s Prayer, offering up simple prayers for simple needs out of the simplest, deepest love—every one of those children has countless companions lisping through the same pleas, and we are among those companions.

Together we beg God for mercy, we rage at God in confusion, we praise God in full throat. And when we do so using the Psalms, we are one with the Jews and Christians who have begged, raged, and praised for three thousand years.

We’re not alone. And when we pray these ancient prayers, in the company of the living and the dead, we know this.

I know of several small groups through the years that have used The Words We Pray as a source book.  It might be nice for RCIA as well.

Do you want something FREE?

If your group members have access to computers or tablets – which most of us do – you could use Come Meet Jesus or Mary and the Christian Lifeboth out of print now, but both available at no cost to you or anyone else.

More about Come Meet Jesusincluding the download.

More about Mary and the Christian Life, including the download.

Of course I can’t claim the real content for this, but I did write the study guide for Fr. Robert Barron’s series on Conversion.  Both it and the 6 Weeks with the Bible study on Matthew would be good for Lent, for those of you planning ahead. (It will be here sooner than you know!)

Finally, you might also find Michael’s How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist and The How to Book of the Mass good – the former for study/discussion groups, and the latter for RCIA.

Oh, one more thing.  Fiction-reading groups are very popular and a great way to bring up interesting issues of faith in a non-threatening and not-overly personal kind of way (although the good group facilitator will have developed the skill of tactfully handling the oversharers anyway, right?).  There are loads of good books out there for that purpose, but you might take a look at the titles in the Loyola Classics series.  I was the General Editor of this series for a long time – that means I cleared rights to books, acquired authors to write the forwards and then wrote the author bios and discussion questions for each book.

The titles are here.

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This was this past weekend’s estate sale find.  The sale was in a big old frame house near the Vulcan that seemed to have been part antique store, part attorney’s office.  I usually don’t look at books at these things considering I’ve spent much of the past ten years purging them.  But this was just sitting on a table. It was fifty cents.  I’m posting a couple of images up here, then the rest below the fold. This isn’t the entire book – I might post the rest later, a few pages that are specific to various liturgical seasons and feasts.

It’s pre-Vatican II, obviously, mid-1950’s, of Belgian origin. I’m struck by the simplicity of the vestments – perhaps an expression of where the Liturgical Movement was in Europe by this point?

I offer it because I know I have readers who, like me, are interested in historical catechetical and devotional materials, and also to remind us that the most important stated purpose of the pre-Vatican II Liturgical Movement was to deepen the individual’s understanding of the Mass, and this effort was, outside of academic circles, commonly expressed in terms of encouraging frequent Confession and Communion and catechesis to help develop personal liturgical piety. Not that changes to various aspects of the liturgy weren’t discussed, and in some contexts even practiced, but it wasn’t the pastoral emphasis.  And there were lots of materials with that purpose produced during this time, materials that were lovely, simple and solid, and not at all sentimental.

(You can click on all images for a larger version)

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(more…)

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The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is, of course, tomorrow, August 15.  

I have a few Mary-related resources – one free – that you might be interested in. 

First, is my book Mary and the Christian Life, published by Word Among Us Press, but now out of print.  I have a pdf copy of the book available for free download at this page.

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It’s a .pdf file.  You can also read it at Scribd, here. 

(Also available at Scribd are my book Come Meet Jesus, about Pope Benedict XVI, and Michael’s The Power of the Cross.) 

There’s also a rosary book – a small, hardbound volume on Praying the Rosary, published by OSV.  

You can read an excerpt here:

As we pray the Rosary, then, we join with Mary in contemplating Christ. With her, we remember Christ, we proclaim Him, we learn from Him, and, most importantly, as we raise our voices in prayer and our hearts in contemplation of the holy mysteries, this “compendium of the Gospel” itself, we are conformed to Him.

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I kept wanting to write about the television series Rectify last year, but I never did, did I? I meant to because I found the program fascinating, beautiful, and spiritually suggestive in a way that is absolutely unique to television – indeed American pop culture.

The program is about Daniel Holden a man released from 19 years on death row. He had been convicted for the rape and murder of his girlfriend, but finally released because of issues with DNA evidence.

The show’s first season had only six episodes, each covering a day or so in Daniel’s first week of freedom.  It’s a meticulous rectifyexamination of his reintroduction to life outside, his family’s reintroduction to him, as well as the small town that still holds him guilty (as he well might be – we don’t know at this point.)

The tone is a combination of meditative and the grotesque – and since it’s set in a small Georgia town and has spiritual undertones, we are obliged to term that grotesque “Flannery O’Connor-esque” aren’t we?  But it’s valid here.  And be warned – there are rough points, unpleasant to watch, but they always have a point.

Spirituality is taken very seriously – conversations happen, questions are raised, and differences explored. It’s refreshing.

Last night, the show returned, this time for a ten-episode run. I don’t think I’d recommend starting fresh with this season.  Even I, who’d watched the previous season twice through, was a little confused at some points and regretted not re-watching at least the last episode of season one.   But…let’s go on:

The episode picks up where the last ended: Daniel had visited the grave of the girl he was convicted of killing, and while there, was beaten almost to death.  We find him now in the hospital in an induced coma, his mother and his sister at his side.  The episode moves between the present moment and the reactions of Daniel’s family and the townspeople to his beating and the dreams deep within Daniel’s damaged self, all of which reflect his prison time – the dehumanizing moments and the life-giving ones.

Matt Seitz has a piece on Vulture today that calls Rectify “truly Christian art.”   This is startling, coming from a website and magazine that normally has no interest in religion except the sneering kind, but the piece is good and true and the description of the show isn’t even intended ironically:

Rectify is a straightforwardly spiritually minded drama in which Southerners weave talk of the presence or absence of God into everyday conversation, along with allusions to prayer and doubt, heaven and hell, sin and redemption. Daniel’s deeply devout sister-in-law, Tawney Talbot (Adelaide Clemens), has casual conversations about God, sin, and afterlife with Daniel, and much pricklier ones with his sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer), who isn’t too big on the whole “God has a plan” thing, given all that’s happened to Daniel and their extended family. Tawney knows her husband Ted Talbot Jr. (Clayne Crawford) is growing apart from her because “we don’t pray together anymore.” This is a world that a lot of Americans live in, and yet you rarely see it depicted on TV. Here it’s portrayed without hype, and with zero condescension. 

Old and New Testament imagery are built right into the story. The first season consisted of six episodes that unfolded over six consecutive days. The season ended with Young’s character, the former death row inmate and autodidact Daniel Holden, comatose after being attacked by vigilantes; somehow McKinnon has turned “He is risen” upside down (“He has fallen”) and fused it with “On the seventh day, He rested.” Add that to all the different variations of death/birth already depicted on the series (Daniel was reborn intellectually through his studies in prison, reborn again upon his release, and then reborn yet again when evangelicals baptized him; his presence in town forces many citizens to grapple with un-Christlike revenge fantasies) and you’ve got more Christ imagery than you’d think any TV show could handle. Somehow Rectify handles it. It’s all part of the texture. It’s there if you want to latch onto it, and if you don’t, no biggie. 

Well, I would disagree with that last point – given the centrality of these themes and images, if you don’t want to “latch onto it,” you’ll miss quite a bit – going back to O’Connor – if you don’t understand that her stories are about grace and our resistance to it, then yes, it’s a biggie.

Last’s nights conversation between the devout Tawney and the doubter Amantha (and yes, she is as annoying as her name – I sometimes wonder if McKinnon gave the character this irritating name that isn’t quite right to subtly guide our reaction to her character) brings out the best of Rectify’s treatment of spiritual matters – and a weakness.

In the waiting room, Tawney tearfully wonders how God could have let this happen – she fully believes in Daniel’s innocence and seems puzzled as to why the rest of the world doesn’t agree.  My quibble with this particular articulation of theodicy is that I really don’t think any devout Christian would ask that question – “How could God let this happen” about that incident – thugs beating up a guy they thought was guilty of a terrible crime.  She might ask different questions – why can’t we see the good in others? Why do we judge? How can help others reconcile?  But I think Tawney, given her understanding of her faith, wouldn’t be tempted to blame God for the actions of others in this case.

BUT – here’s the good part.  And it was only a few words, but it expressed so much.  Amantha is the free spirit, of course, with undefined spiritual views.  We might assume she’s an atheist or at the very least agnostic.  Tawney turns to her.

“Do you believe in God, Amantha?”

Amantha stumbles over her words, waves her off, shakes her head – and perhaps we think she is going to say straight out “no” – but instead she says in aggravated resignation, “Well, I believe in evil, so…..”

And off she goes, wondering.

How very interesting. Suggestive. Who else said something like that?

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing the universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.

 

 

 

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