Book Week….

….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!)

"amy welborn"

First, some formal studies:

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

Parables: Stories of the Kingdom


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.

"amy welborn"

7 Quick Takes

— 1 —

And now…it gets real.  As in, with this weekend up until Christmas….whirlwind. Lots of stuff going on, but fortunately my role in most of it is check-writer and driver, which I don’t mind. 

Travel?  One, maybe two Nashville day trips, depending on the timing of a birthday party I’ve heard is in the works for next weekend.  I would like to take them to see this production of As You Like It, but would also like time to prepare the boys for it, so this weekend would be too soon, since I had no idea this production was happening until about an hour ago. 

"amy welborn"

The evening after art class, he’s still inspired.

— 2 —

When your 9-year old complains that his abs ache from the homeschool boxing workout and then goes to play with his snake, you kind of wonder how we all got to the place we are, whatever that place is.  

— 3 —

Speaking of snakes, we’re relieved to report that Rocky ate.  Finally.  Yup, that’s right.  We’ve had him for over two months, and he had not eaten up to last week.  I had been assured by The Experts On The Internet that as long as he wasn’t losing weight, it would be fine, that ball pythons can go months without eating, etc., but honestly it was getting ridiculous, and his owner was starting to really worry and have bad dreams about his snake dying, so we took a deep breath, gave up on the frozen/thawed rodents (I’d gone through a pack of two dozen, and tried everything recommended to get him to eat…he just looked away and slithered in the opposite direction, no matter what), and went and bought a live one.  That is, a mouse. Alive.  

Are you horrified?  Well, sorry.  It’s not my favorite thing, but  here we are with this snake THAT MIGHT LIVE FOR THIRTY YEARS I’M TOLD and it needs to eat, and in the wild, well, they eat living things. And I guess since I almost, you know, lost him, I probably owe him a shot at nourishment.  There are, however strong feelings about this issue on both sides in the herp community, with some feeling very strongly that feeding live rodents to snakes is, among other things, dangerous for the snakes – they could be injured by the prey.  This seems to be more of a risk with rats, who are meaner and have sharper and larger teeth and claws.  I’ll just say that the mouse…didn’t fight back.   I admit, I was so used to Rocky rejecting food that I was shocked when he struck, and not just because a snake strike is so blindingly fast.  

Of course…he was probably pretty hungry.  

(My thought on this is that Rocky was probably only fed live by his breeder – we bought him at a reptile show, and these fellows had a lot of snakes.  It seems to me it would be a major hassle to feed dozens of snakes with frozen/thawed feed – you have to thaw them, then warm them up so that the, er, prey, exudes some heat that will hopefully make the snake believe it’s alive.  To do this for a slew of snakes, all the time?  Nah.  A lot easier, I’m guessing, to feed them live and be done with it…)

(Can you believe I even know anything about it?  Pretty crazy. Well, life is all about learning and growing, I say….)

(I will also say that since we’ve had him, Rocky has shed – and that suppresses their appetites as well.  It was really very funny.  I had noticed the snake’s eyes changing color from their normal black to a greyish blue, and that he wasn’t coming out of his hide even at night.  I knew that these were signs that a shed was on the horizon, and I can’t forget the day I pointed this out to Michael.  “Look at his eyes,” was all I had to say, and he did and he JUMPED up and down in ecstatic joy and raced around the house.  “YES!  HE’S GOING TO SHED!”  We didn’t actually see it happen – we off somewhere – Charleston, I think – and when we returned ,there was the skin, now proudly displayed among various rocks, minerals and Mayan memories….)

— 4 —

So, er, what else?  Education in the Home is chugging away just fine. Herpetology, obviously. Piano lessons have begun again, the extra music theory class has begun, boxing class was experienced and will continue for at least a few more weeks despite the aching abs, art class is happening.  Math, check, Logic, check, cursive, check.   We buzzed through the Brave Writer work on The Cricket in Times Square pretty quickly and I think we’ll do Farmer Boy next. I have the Greek book, but haven’t started it yet with him – next week.  He’s working through this workbook called Meet the Great Composers.  He spends a lot of time every day reading through library books about various historical and scientific subjects.  Homeschool science center classes begin in a couple of weeks. 

Many, many rabbit holes, as per usual.   Some are just built into the discussions.  He practices extra math by working out the ages, for example, of the composers.  We have the atlas out anytime we read, tracking cities and countries.  We have an ongoing list of challenging spelling words that he’ll learn over the week, pulled from all the different things he’s studying and reading – this week, ranging from “parallel” and “perpendicular” to “Baroque” to “shrieking” (from The Cricket) 

And the videos.  For example Smarter Every Day.  This guy who does the Smarter Every Day videos – actually lives in (or around?) Huntsville, I discovered.  This video about jellyfish stinging mechanisms was fantastic. 

And I admit, having others that I trust educate the eighth grader?  A relief.  Not because he was difficult…not at all.  But just because they’ll do a fine job, and it’s good for him to be there with others, both peers and adults.  He’s also so accustomed to the warp and woof of our Teachable Moment Home that he doesn’t object at all when I, er, enhance what he says he’s learning with a video here or a book there or that we are still doing our Shakespeare memorization, albeit at a slower pace.  I have no idea what will happen for high school (I’d like to homeschool/roadschool 9th grade, but he’ll probably have his own opinions on that)  yet, but we’re good for now. 

Speaking of homeschooling, as we often do, at one of the special classes this week, I chatted with a woman who pulled her 4 school-aged kids out of a Catholics school and is homeschooling this year.  Why?  Nothing bad about the school, which is fine in every respect.  But, as she said, “They were doing homework until 9 and 10 every night, every weekend was all about projects, and the school was taking over our life.  We had no family life.”


— 5 —

This week’s exercise podcasts?

This documentary on Indian servicemen during World War I was fascinating- definitely worth your time.  I look forward to the second.

On the recommendation of a friend, I listened to this episode of This American Life  – about a North Carolina doctor who seeks the truth about his predecessor in the clinic where he works, a man who murdered his own father.  It was certainly absorbing, but there was one element that bothered me – I can’t really go into it without spoiling the twist for future listeners, but if you’ve listened to this one (or read the transcript), let me know in the comments.  

(I used to listen to This American Life all the time, but I stopped, I think because Ira Glass’ vocal mannerism started grating on me. Or maybe I just preferred Fred Armisen’s version instead…)

— 6 —


I read My Two Italiesa memoir of a scholar of Italian literature born of working class Calabrian parents. The “two Italies” are, of course, his parents’ southern Italian background and the Italy represented by his more cultured intellectual pursuits.  There is another key personal detail that I think is the core of the book, but gets mostly overwhelmed by not-quite relevant material – that is, until the very end, which is quite moving.  It feels like a good, meaty Atlantic or New Yorker article expanded to book length, to the material’s detriment. 

I have just started The Restoration of Rome, a new history that is getting slammed on Amazon party because of informality in the writing, but the premise of which – the popes did what the later emperors were unable to do – intrigues me, especially as articulated by a contemporary historian.  So I’ll forge on. 

— 7 —

And…speaking of books….don’t forget this one!  I’ll be doing a few posts next week on this…promise!!

"amy welborn"



For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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)

"amy welborn"


"amy welborn"


Continue Reading »

It’s Here!

Finally…more over the course of the week, but it is available.   

A great gift for your catechists?

(For bulk orders for this or Bambinelli Sunday thinking ahead – contact Franciscan Media.


And here’s the first interview – Ann was interviewed on WABC’s “Religion on the Line.”   Access the podcast here and her segment begins at about 8:45. 

More over the course of the week…..

Queenship of Mary

For today’s feast, Pope Emeritus Benedict, from 2012:

But now we may ask ourselves: What does it mean that Mary is Queen? Is it merely a title along with others, the crown, an ornament like others? What does it mean? What is this queenship? As already noted, it is a consequence of her being united with her Son, of her being in heaven, i.e. in communion with God. She participates in God’s responsibilities over the world and in God’s love for the world. There is the commonly held idea that a king or queen should be person with power and riches. But this is not the kind of royalty proper to Jesus and Mary. Let us think of the Lord: The Lordship and Kingship of Christ is interwoven with humility, service and love: it is, above all else, to serve, to assist, to love. Let us recall that Jesus was proclaimed king on the Cross, with this inscription written by Pilate: “King of the Jews” (cf. Mark 15:26). In that moment on the Cross it is revealed that He is king. And how is he king? By suffering with us, for us, by loving us to the end; it is in this way that he governs and creates truth, love and justice. Or let us also think of another moment: at the Last Supper, he bends down to wash the feet of his disciples. Therefore, the kingship of Jesus has nothing to do with that which belongs to the powerful of the earth. He is a king who serves his servants; he showed this throughout his life. And the same is true for Mary. She is queen in God’s service to humanity. She is the queen of love, who lives out her gift of self to God in order to enter into His plan of salvation for man. To the angel she responds: Behold the handmaid of the Lord (cf. Luke 1:38), and in the Magnificat she sings: God has looked upon the lowliness of His handmaid (cf. Luke 1:48). She helps us. She is queen precisely by loving us, by helping us in every one of our needs; she is our sister, a humble handmaid.


Thus we have arrived at the point: How does Mary exercise this queenship of service and love? By watching over us, her children: the children who turn to her in prayer, to thank her and to ask her maternal protection and her heavenly help, perhaps after having lost their way, or weighed down by suffering and anguish on account of the sad and troubled events of life. In times of serenity or in the darkness of life we turn to Mary, entrusting ourselves to her continual intercession, so that from her Son we may obtain every grace and mercy necessary for our pilgrimage along the paths of the world. To Him who rules the world and holds the destinies of the universe in His hands we turn with confidence, through the Virgin Mary. For centuries she has been invoked as the Queen of heaven; eight times, after the prayer of the holy Rosary, she is implored in the Litany of Loreto as Queen of the Angels, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins, of all Saints and of Families. The rhythm of this ancient invocation, and daily prayers such as the Salve Regina, help us to understand that the Holy Virgin, as our Mother next to her Son Jesus in the glory of Heaven, is always with us, in the daily unfolding of our lives.


The title of Queen is therefore a title of trust, of joy and of love. And we know that what she holds in her hands for the fate of the world is good; she loves us, and she helps us in our difficulties.



Praying the Rosary – the small devotional book I had a hand in. 

Free e-book on Mary? Got it right here: Mary and the Christian Life

"amy welborn"


7 Quick Takes

— 1 —


Adventures in Assisi has dropped!  

"adventures in assisi" "amy welborn"

A month before the previously announced publication date, the newest book from me and Ann Engelhart is available for order. I was hoping to do a big post on it this week, with quirky photos of my stash of the books, but….

I don’t have any.  Yet.  There was a delivery glitch, so I haven’t even seen the published book yet.   Hopefully I’ll have them tomorrow, and then I’ll talk a lot about this book, which is much different from any St. Francis-for-Kids book out there. 

(We have also, in the last month, come to an informal agreement on another book – #5 for us!)

— 2 —

School’s going just fine…for everyone.  

The 8th grader is getting along famously, takes his homework in stride, and is enjoying his Days Spent With People Not Related To Him. 

It’s weird doing school at home with only one, though.  It’s almost too easy.  Maybe I should add calculus and make it harder.

Or not.

"amy welborn"

Feeding an ant to the Venus Flytrap

— 3 —

Speaking of math, I’m going to bore you one more time by talking up Beast Academy.  I know, you go to the website and you see comic books and you think, how challenging can that be?  

Well, plenty – you have to do both the guide and the workbook, and when you do…it’s impressive.  I’m continually amazed by the pedagogy of this series.  I think I would describe it as sneakily challenging.  The workbook pages start off with simple treatment of the matter at hand, but within a few problems have led the student to a crazily higher level of thinking.   This series and its parent, the amazing Art of Problem Solving embraces a pedagogy centered on the value of a student sitting and stewing over a problem in a fruitful way.  I would show you the pages Michael did today on angles, but I wouldn’t want to violate copyright.  Let’s just say that in a matter of ten problems, he went from simply measuring angles with a protractor to being challenged to deduce the measurements of angles without a protractor and without being given step-by-step guidance on how to do it.  

So instead of that, I’ll just point you to the material they have on their site, including these pages from the 1st 4th grade book on triangles.

— 4 —

We’ve started doing some logic, and for writing/spelling and so on, we’re going to – among other things – use the Brave Writer method again.  He’ll be doing copywork and analysis of books for which BW provides issues of “The Arrow” – see here for more about that.  The first, in keeping with our recent trip to NYC, is The Cricket in Times Square.

— 5 —

"amy welborn"

This week…music lessons began, an art lesson,.another trip to the botanical gardens, picking up where our previous visit – cut short by a hurting leg – left off.  A trip to the Birmingham Museum of Art.

(If you ever come this way, please know that both the Botanical Gardens and the Museum of Art charge no admission and are both quite fine.) 

Also, a couple of library trips.  Of course. 

"amy welborn"

Sketching at the museum, math at the library.

— 6 —

Last weekend:

At the beach for about 24 hours….wish it could have been longer….

"amy welborn"

— 7 —

Today, we caught a school presentation/performance related to an event called Earfilms, presented over the last few days at UAB.  (University of Alabama at Birmingham).  Earfilms is an aural experience in which audience members are blindfolded and listen to a mesh of live narration and recorded sound relayed in a “3d” manner – surroundsound, if you will.  The school sessions weren’t the complete performance (which is almost 90 minutes) and we were disappointed there were no blindfolds (we were just asked to close our eyes), but we did get an interesting exposure to different understandings of music and sound from members of the UAB faculty and the artists involved in Earfilms, the latter of whom were British and one of whom wore a cool hat, so there’s that:


After the performance, in an interactive area with one of the artists, speaking into a 3D microphone, whatever that is.

Super busy weekend with two pool parties, a dance and a sleepover. Because socialization.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

On Wilkie Collins

For a long time, I’ve been searching for a really absorbing, can’t-put-it-down read, and several months ago, I finally found it, back in the 19th century:

No Name by Wilkie Collins.

I’d never read any Collins before, not even The Moonstone. I don’t remember the rabbit hole excursion that took me to this one, but the Amazon reviews were intriguing, so I splurged, spent $0.00, and was then occupied for weeks. 

I’m not sure how thick this book would be in dead tree edition, but it was long, and tedious only briefly, here and there. So I suppose since “brief” and “tedious” are antonyms..it wasn’t tedious at all?

For the most part, it was fascinating and quite absorbing, often contemporary in feel and entertaining.

"wilkie Collins"It’s also an interesting social commentary on social class, morays, inheritance laws, marriage and gender relations in 19th century England. 

In brief, No Name is the story of two young adult sisters whose parents die within days of each other, and because of a convoluted family situation only revealed at their deaths, lose what they thought would be their inheritance.  The story follows both sisters, in a way, although the center is really the younger sister, Magdalen, who goes to bizarre lengths to reclaim what she believes is rightfully hers, lengths which include a stint on the stage, many deceptions of various degrees, and interaction with a host of great characters, and of course, a few coincidences along the way. 

There are some fantastic characters in this book, figures that upon first introduction may seem sterotypical, but which acquire depth and verisimilitude along the way (with all those words describing them…they’d better…).  There is a bit of melodrama and moralism in the conclusion, but it’s really just a touch, and is almost earned.  

One of the most interesting elements of this book to me were chapters, interspersed between major sections, composed of only exchanges of letters or newspaper reports.  It’s a brisk, efficient way of moving the story along.  

Here is a good synopsis and discussion of the book at Book Snob. 

Next up:  Armandale. 

%d bloggers like this: