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She was, after the Blessed Virgin herself, the most widely-venerated saint of the Medieval period, and July 22 is her feast day.

As Pope St. Gregory the Great said of her (as is quoted in the Office of Readings today)

 We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, "amy welborn"and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.
  At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love. As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.
  Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.
  Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognised when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognise me as I recognise you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognises who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher,because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.
I wrote a book about St. Mary Magdalene, rather horrendously titled De-Coding Mary Magdalene (an allusion to the previous DVC-related book…I argued against it, but…lost)…but I did enjoy researching and writing the book – the history of MM’s cultus is quite revealing about both Western and Eastern Christianity. The Da Vinci Code moment has mercifully past, but I hope St. Mary Magdalene’s hasn’t.

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How to Catechize

Today’s antithetical moment was all about me going through Augustine’s First Catechetical Instruction while working on my tan.

Sorry, St. Augustine.

As a Catholic Writer, one of the things I think about a lot is Why be a Catholic Writer When It’s All Been Said Before? 

And from that, I don’t back down.

Because it has, and far more substantively than any of us are saying it today.  You can spend all the money you want on all the newest BE AN AWESOME CATECHIST GUYS resources, but really, St. Augustine says it better.

(Shocked Face)

I have a couple of print editions of the work, but of course it’s easily available on line. 

(Although that translation is older and less understandable than newer versions.)

The genesis of the work is simple and pastoral.  A deacon wrote to Augustine seeking help on catechesis – specifically, the stage of catechesis offered to potential catechumens. That is, if you assented to everything you were taught in this stage, you would then be admitted to the catechumenate. The deacon has apparently confessed that he needs  little shot in the arm. He wants to make sure that he’s teaching the right material and, frankly, he’s getting a little bored.

As per usual, I’m most interested in the framework here.  I’m interested in what the work reveals about church life in 4th century North Africa, about expectations and assumptions and complexity.  What interested me the most:

  • The work is divided into two parts: theory and practice.  Augustine answers questions about the pedagogical and issues the deacon has raised, and then he gives him a sample catechesis.
  • Augustine recognizes that people bring varying levels of learning to the moment and reminds the deacon to constantly tailor his words to the listener’s capabilities.
  • He constantly reminds the deacon to be sensitive to his listeners’ situations – if they’re tired, let them sit! Don’t make them stand!
  • There is nothing elaborate about this stage of formation: the catechist straight-up teaches the material – which is basically the story of salvation history pointing to and culminating in Christ – and the listeners say, “Yup. I believe it.” And then they move on.
  • Augustine takes time to describe the mixed bag the potential Christian will encounter when he observes the Church.  He will see saints, but he will also see a lot of sinners and even heretics.  He speaks of the challenge the catechist has to keep pointing to Christ from the midst of this mixture of grain and chaff.
  • I want to quote at length from the passage in which Augustine advises the deacon on what to do to keep his own spirits and interest up.  I just find the consistency of human experience fascinating – here we have a man writing ONE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED YEARS AGO to another fellow who’s getting a little bored repeating the same lessons over and over and who’s unsure whether or not he’s being heard and really understood.

Is there a teacher out there who doesn’t share that concern?  A teacher of any sort?  Anyone who has to work with other people, period? Augustine breaks these problems down into several components:

  • Our words are inadequate to the truths we’re trying to express.  When it’s in our head, it’s wonderful and luminous, but the minute we try to speak, we become keenly aware of the limitations of language, and it’s discouraging.
  • We get bored.
  • Our listeners seem apathetic.
  • We’re irritated that we’ve been called to go catechize while we’re doing something else.

 

Once more, however, we often feel it very wearisome to go over repeatedly matters which are thoroughly familiar, and adapted (rather) to children. If this is the case with us, then we should endeavor to meet them with a brother’s, a father’s, and a mother’s love; and, if we are once united with them thus in heart, to us no less than to them will these things seem new. … Is it not a common occurrence with us, that when we show topersons, who have never seen them, certain spacious and beautiful tracts, either in cities or in fields, which we have been in thehabit of passing by without any sense of pleasure, simply because we have become so accustomed to the sight of them, we find our own enjoyment renewed in their enjoyment of the novelty of the scene? And this is so much the more our experience in proportion to the intimacy of our friendship with them; because, just as we are in them in virtue of the bond of love, in the same degree do things become new to us which previously were old.

But if we ourselves have made any considerable progress in thecontemplative study of things, it is not our wish that those whom we love should simply be gratified and astonished as they gaze upon the works of men’s hands; but it becomes our wish to lift them to (the contemplation of) the very skill or wisdom of their author, and from this to (see them) rise to the admiration and praise of the all-creating God, with whom is the most fruitful end of love. How much more, then, ought we to be delighted when men come to us with the purpose already formed of obtaining theknowledge of God Himself, with a view to (the knowledge of) whom all things should be learned which are to be learned! And how ought we to feel ourselves renewed in their newness (of experience), so that if our ordinary preaching is somewhat frigid, it mayrise to fresh warmth under (the stimulus of) their extraordinary hearing! There is also this additional consideration to help us in the attainment of gladness, namely, that we ponder and bear in mind out of what death of error the man is passing over into the life of faith. And if we walk through streets which are most familiar to us, with a beneficent cheerfulness, when we happen to be pointing out the way to some individual who had been in distress in consequence of missing his direction, how much more should be the alacrity of spirit, and how much greater the joy with which, in the matter of saving doctrine, we ought to traverse again and again even those tracks which, so far as we are ourselves concerned, there is no need to open up any more; seeing that we are leading a miserable soul, and one worn out with the devious courses of this world, through the paths of peace, at the command of Him who made that peace good to us!

 

****Nevertheless, supposing that we have once begun in that manner, we ought at least, whenever we observe signs of weariness on the part of the hearer, to offer him the liberty of being seated; nay more, we should urge him by all means to sit down, and we ought to drop some remark calculated at once to refresh him and to banish from his mind any anxiety which may have chanced to break in upon him and draw off his attention. For inasmuch as the reasons why he remains silent and declines to listen cannot be certainly known to us, now that he is seated we may speak to some extent against the incidence of thoughts about worldly affairs, delivering ourselves either in the cheerful spirit to which I have already adverted, or in a serious vein; so that, if these are the particular anxieties which have occupied his mind, they may be made to give way as if indicted by name: while, on the other hand, supposing them not to be the special causes (of the loss of interest), and supposing him to be simply worn out with listening, his attention will be relieved of the pressure of weariness when we address to him some unexpected and extraordinary strain of remark on these subjects, in the mode of which I have spoken, as if they were the particular anxieties,— for indeed we are simply ignorant (of the true causes). But let the remark thus made be short, especially considering that it is thrown in out of order, lest the very medicine even increase the malady of weariness which we desire to relieve; and, at the same time, we should go on rapidly with what remains, and promise and present the prospect of a conclusion nearer than was looked for.  

 

What I appreciate is the typical Augustine frankness and compassion.  He is honest about human beings – about the catechist, about the listeners. But he never fails to remind the deacon that love is at the center of all that he does. The medicine may be different, he says, but the love is the same.  There is no condemnation, no finger-pointing, no easy categorization, not even any sense of “them” – simply an call to let God work through us, to share the Good News despite ourselves and our weakness, in love.

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Saints for Children…

Perhaps you have a First Communion coming up….I have books for that.

(You should be able to purchase these at a local Catholic bookstore – if not, have them order and stock them! If you need it pronto, the online booksellers have them.  I also have some in stock here.  For expedited (non media mail)  shipping, email me – link on the about page.)

 


The Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints

Over 40 saints’ lives,written at a middle-school reading level.

I. Saints are People Who Love Children
St. Nicholas,St. John Bosco, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla

amy welbornSaints Are People Who Love Their Families
St. Monica,St. Cyril and St. Methodius, St. Therese of Lisieux,Blessed Frederic Ozanam,

Saints Are People Who Surprise OthersSt. Simeon Stylites,St. Celestine V,St. Joan of Arc,St. Catherine of Siena

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. Dominic 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

Saints Are People Who Help Us Understand God
St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Jerome, St. Patrick, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Edith Stein

Saints Are People Who Change Their Lives for God
St. Ambrose, St. Gregory the Great, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Camillus de Lellis, St. Katharine Drexel

Saints Are People Who Are Brave
St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, St. George, St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Isaac Jogues, The Carmelite Nuns of Compiegne, St. Maximilian Kolbe

Saints Are People Who Help the Poor and Sick
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Martin de Porres, Blessed Joseph de Veuster

Saints Are People Who Help In Ordinary Ways
St. Christopher, St. Blaise, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Bernard of Montjoux

Saints Are People Who Come From All Over the World
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Paul Miki, Blessed Peter To Rot, Blessed Maria Clementine Anuarite Nengapeta

The Loyola Kids Book of Heroes

More saints’ lives, organized according to the virtues they expressed through their lives.

amy welbornI. Faith

  1. Introduction: Jesus is Born
  2. John the Baptist: A Hero Prepares the Way
  3. Early Christian Martyrs: Heroes are Faithful Friends
  4. Medieval Mystery Plays: Heroes Make the Bible Come to Life
  5. St. Albert the Great: Heroes Study God’s Creation
  6. Sister Blandina Segale: Heroes Work in Faith

II. Hope

  1. Introduction: Jesus Teaches
  2. Pentecost: Heroes on Fire with Hope
  3. Paul: A Hero 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

Prudence

  1. Introduction: Jesus Gives Us Leaders to Help us Make Good Choices
  2. Paul and Barnabas at Lystra: Heroes See the Good in All Things
  3. St. Jean de Brebeuf: A Hero Respects Others
  4. Catherine Doherty and Jean Vanier: Heroes Bring New Ideas
  5. Venerable Solanus Casey: A Hero Accepts His Life
  6. Blessed John XXIII: A Hero Finds a New Way

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Well, shoot.  I had this local speaking engagement last night…but then Southeast Snowmaggedon 2 happened at just about the same scheduled time, so we cancelled…at since it was part of a series of speakers, I don’t know if and when it will be rescheduled.

So I have books!

"Amy Welborn"Here’s the link to the bookstore.  As I say on the page, all prices include Media Mail shipping.  If you would like them more quickly, let me know, and we can arrange it.  I really would prefer to ship only to the United States, but if you are outside the US, and have a burning desire for a book, again, email me and we can figure it out.

The only books I don’t presently have on hand are the three children’s picture books, but I’ll get some more of them presently.

So yes…books for your RCIA candidates, your confirmation candidates, your graduating seniors, your moms, dads, First Communicants…..etc.  

 

 

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The Power of the Cross

"amy welborn"

Download free here.

Or here. 

 

 

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…then you are blessed!

Seriously – thank you to all those who volunteer as catechists.

"Amy welborn"

And If you are teaching 2nd grade – the traditional age for First Communion formation – you might be interested in the page  describing the books I have that might be good First Communion choices – for gifts (too early, I know!) or supplements to instruction.

These books include Friendship With Jesus – a picture book with excerpts from a question-and-answer session Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had with children; Be Saints! another picture book with excerpts from a catechesis Benedict had with British schoolchildren; as well as the Loyola Saints books.

(Which are good for all ages – not just 2nd grade, of course!)

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Travels done for the moment, talk done…so here are some leftover Bambinelli Sunday for sale!  

We’ll have more in a couple of months, plus maybe even a giveaway of prints of some of Ann’s work?  Good idea?  I think so.

But if you would like to order a copy or two now, go here:

 

"amy welborn"

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These are the only books I have in stock right now, and you might as well buy some of them to save us from moving this, er, one box.

Go here to order. The following are available.

Wish You Were Here

Book of Saints

Book of Heroes

Church’s Most Powerful Novenas  –  1 copy remaining

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist

Catholic Woman’s Book of Days

Plus a couple of Pocket Guides by other authors (Hahn,Kreeft).

Go here to order.  Shipping is included in prices, shipping to US only, please.  

And don’t forget the free!  Free ebook downloads of 

The Power of the Cross 

"amy welborn"Come Meet Jesus 

Mary and the Christian Life

Those links will take to individual pages at my site where you can download pdfs.  You can also read all three via Scribd here. 

Also, I was honored to hear that a local parish woman’s group is using The Words We Pray as a discussion book this fall.

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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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Bambinelli Sunday:  A Christmas Blessing

Very pleased with this.  I’ll have more about it when it’s released in August, but until then…

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