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As part of his General Audience series on the Greek and Latin Church Fathers, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke twice about St. Jerome, whose feast is today:

First:

What can we learn from St Jerome? It seems to me, this above all; to love the Word of God in Sacred Scripture. St Jerome said: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”. It is therefore important that every Christian live in contact and in personal dialogue with the Word of God given to us in Sacred Scripture. This dialogue with Scripture must always have two dimensions: on the one hand, it must be a truly personal dialogue because God speaks with each one of us through Sacred Scripture and it has a message for each one. We must not read Sacred Scripture as a word of the past but as the Word of God that is also addressed to us, and we must try to understand what it is that the Lord wants to tell us. However, to avoid falling into individuali"amy welborn"sm, we must bear in mind that the Word of God has been given to us precisely in order to build communion and to join forces in the truth on our journey towards God. Thus, although it is always a personal Word, it is also a Word that builds community, that builds the Church. We must therefore read it in communion with the living Church. The privileged place for reading and listening to the Word of God is the liturgy, in which, celebrating the Word and making Christ’s Body present in the Sacrament, we actualize the Word in our lives and make it present among us. We must never forget that the Word of God transcends time. Human opinions come and go. What is very modern today will be very antiquated tomorrow. On the other hand, the Word of God is the Word of eternal life, it bears within it eternity and is valid for ever. By carrying the Word of God within us, we therefore carry within us eternity, eternal life.

The next week:

For Jerome, a fundamental criterion of the method for interpreting the Scriptures was harmony with the Church’s Magisterium. We should never read Scripture alone because we meet too many closed doors and could easily slip into error. The Bible has been written by the People of God and for the People of God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Only in this communion with the People of God do we truly enter into the “we”, into the nucleus of the truth that God himself wants to tell us. For him, an authentic interpretation of the Bible must always be in harmonious accord with the faith of the Catholic Church. It is not a question of an exegesis imposed on this Book from without; the Book is really the voice of the pilgrim People of God and only in the faith of this People are we “correctly attuned” to understand Sacred Scripture. Therefore, Jerome admonishes: “Remain firmly attached to the traditional doctrine that you have been taught, so that you can preach according to right doctrine and refute those who contradict it” (Ep. 52, 7). In particular, given that Jesus Christ founded his Church on Peter, every Christian, he concludes, must be in communion “with St Peter’s See. I know that on this rock the Church is built” (Ep. 15, 2). Consequently, without equivocation, he declared: “I am with whoever is united to the teaching of St Peter” (Ep. 16).

Obviously, Jerome does not neglect the ethical aspect. Indeed, he often recalls the duty to harmonize one’s life with the divine Word, and only by living it does one also find the capacity to understand it. This consistency is indispensable for every Christian, and particularly for the preacher, so that his actions may never contradict his discourses nor be an embarrassment to him. Thus, he exhorts the priest Nepotian: “May your actions never be unworthy of your words, may it not happen that, when you preach in church, someone might say to himself: “Why does he therefore not act like this?’. How could a teacher, on a full stomach, discuss fasting; even a thief can blame avarice; but in the priest of Christ the mind and words must harmonize” (Ep. 52, 7). In another Epistle Jerome repeats: “Even if we possess a splendid doctrine, the person who feels condemned by his own conscience remains disgraced” (Ep. 127, 4). Also on the theme of consistency he observes: the Gospel must translate into truly charitable behaviour, because in each human being the Person of Christ himself is present. For example, addressing the presbyter Paulinus (who then became Bishop of Nola and a Saint), Jerome counsels: “The true temple of Christ is the soul of the faithful: adorn it and beautify this shrine, place your offerings in it and receive Christ. What is the use of decorating the walls with precious stones if Christ dies of hunger in the person of the poor?” (Ep. 58, 7). Jerome concretizes the need “to clothe Christ in the poor, to visit him in the suffering, to nourish him in the hungry, to house him in the homeless” (Ep. 130, 14). The love of Christ, nourished with study and meditation, makes us rise above every difficulty: “Let us also love Jesus Christ, always seeking union with him: then even what is difficult will seem easy to us” (Ep. 22, 40).

Prosper of Aquitaine, who defined Jerome as a “model of conduct and teacher of the human race” (Carmen de ingratis, 57), also left us a rich and varied teaching on Christian asceticism. He reminds us that a courageous commitment towards perfection requires constant vigilance, frequent mortifications, even if with moderation and prudence, and assiduous intellectual and manual labour to avoid idleness (cf. Epp. 125, 11; 130, 15), and above all obedience to God: “Nothing… pleases God as much as obedience…, which is the most excellent and sole virtue” (Hom. de Oboedientia: CCL 78, 552). The practice of pilgrimage can also be part of the ascetical journey. In particular, Jerome promoted pilgrimages to the Holy Land, where pilgrims were welcomed and housed in the lodgings that were built next to the monastery of Bethlehem, thanks to the generosity of the noblewoman Paula, a spiritual daughter of Jerome (cf. Ep. 108, 14).

Lastly, one cannot remain silent about the importance that Jerome gave to the matter of Christian pedagogy (cf. Epp. 107; 128). He proposed to form “one soul that must become the temple of the Lord” (Ep. 107, 4), a “very precious gem” in the eyes of God (Ep. 107, 13). With profound intuition he advises to preserve oneself from evil and from the occasions of sin, and to exclude equivocal or dissipating friendships (cf. Ep. 107, 4, 8-9; also Ep. 128, 3-4). Above all, he exhorts parents to create a serene and joyful environment around their children, to stimulate them to study and work also through praise and emulation (cf. Epp.107, 4; 128, 1), encouraging them to overcome difficulties, foster good habits and avoid picking up bad habits, so that, and here he cites a phrase of Publius Siro which he heard at school: “it will be difficult for you to correct those things to which you are quietly habituating yourself” (Ep. 107, 8). Parents are the principal educators of their children, the first teachers of life. With great clarity Jerome, addressing a young girl’s mother and then mentioning her father, admonishes, almost expressing a fundamental duty of every human creature who comes into existence: “May she find in you her teacher, and may she look to you with the inexperienced wonder of childhood. Neither in you, nor in her father should she ever see behaviour that could lead to sin, as it could be copied. Remember that… you can educate her more by example than with words” (Ep. 107, 9). Among Jerome’s principal intuitions as a pedagogue, one must emphasize the importance he attributed to a healthy and integral education beginning from early childhood, the particular responsibility belonging to parents, the urgency of a serious moral and religious formation and the duty to study for a more complete human formation. Moreover, an aspect rather disregarded in ancient times but held vital by our author is the promotion of the woman, to whom he recognizes the right to a complete formation: human, scholastic, religious, professional. We see precisely today how the education of the personality in its totality, the education to responsibility before God and man, is the true condition of all progress, all peace, all reconciliation and the exclusion of violence. Education before God and man: it is Sacred Scripture that offers us the guide for education and thus of true humanism.

And why is a lion one of Jerome’s attributes in art?

St. Jerome was quite a popular subject for artists – the inherent drama of his situation – out there in the wilderness, surrounded by his texts, translating and writing  – was quite attractive to artists.

And what of that lion? The imagery is rooted in early medieval hagiography which told a story  – inspired most assume by Aesop, but others draw connections to nother saint, >Gerasimus, whose legend includes a similar tale. The story is of a lion, rescued from a wound by Jerome, who is brought into the monastery to watch and protect the monks’ donkey. One day, the donkey is lost, and the monks (not Jerome) assume the lion has killed him, and punish him with menial tasks as a consequence.

The donkey, however, had been stolen by traders, and one evening the lion sees the donkey, returning with the traders, and he alerts the monastery. The monks, so quick to rush to judgment, are chastised by Jerome, and the lion lives out his days, faithful to his friend.

Goddenstjerome_1There are at least two versions of this story retold for children. The more contemporary version was written by Margaret Hodges, who has quite a few saints’ books under her belt, and illustrated by Barry Moser.

Then there’s the Rumer Godden version which is a little longer than the modern telling, and is of course, by Rumer Godden.

 

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Last weekend was mostly lived without the boys around – they were camping – so in their absence I did things like extended my exercise time (fun!), watched a Fellini film, went to Mass on a Saturday during college football season and ate at a restaurant that doesn’t have chicken fingers or pizza on the menu.

— 2 —

I also hit an estate sale. Now, the boys don’t mind going to estate sales.  Most of the time, in fact, when I offer, they choose to come along.  Joseph is always on the lookout for sports cards and Michael for…anything, Mexican themes preferred.

But this one – one of the few this weekend (estate sales really slow down around here during college football season – see #1) was kind of far out of town, and not one that I’d have dragged them to.

About 2/3 of the estate sales I go to are in homes that have been fairly well kept up, some spectacularly so.  The other 1/3 are thought-provoking, sad and sometimes horrible.  This was one of those.

It was in a fairly large Tudor in what was one of the “better” neighborhoods of this outlying community. The area was probably fairly sharp in the 80’s, but, well, it’s not the 80’s.  And this home was a wreck.  No serious cleaning in probably 30 years, threadbare, filthy carpet, piles of stuff everywhere, general decrepitude and worse, really. The house was for sale, but honestly, you’d have to gut it to even begin to make it livable.

It only took a quick look to see that there wasn’t anything I’d be interested in (often even in those situations I can find a small bookshelf or table that’s great for a quick, cheap, colorful redo – not here), and then lingered at the top of the stairs to the basement,listening to the fellow running the sale relate the late owner’s story – a 95-year old woman who’d fallen outside while taking down her flag. Broke her hip, complications ensued, and she died.

I always wonder..she was living in this?  Was she so stubborn that she wouldn’t allow anyone to help her?  Did she have children, grandchildren or other relations? Were they all awful people, had she alienated them, had they just drifted apart?

And just as the estate sales are reminders to me about where my real treasure lies, they’re also reminders to…try very hard not to be that 95-year old woman living in squalor.  Five kids…my chances are decent that one of them will still like me enough in forty years, right?

Anyway, after I finished eavesdropping looking upstairs, I headed to the basement and was stopped short by what greeted me on the stairway.  Papering the walls of the stairway, one side even backlit somehow, were pinups from no later than the 60’s – torn and cut out from magazines and calendars, I suppose, most very demure – and at the bottom of the stairs a basement full of what you would find in a basement workshop, much of piled up, some surprisingly organized.

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Hard to take this shot without looking creepy.

What a sight, from top to bottom.

— 3 —

After that, I went church-hunting.  I wanted to find the original St. Mark’s Catholic Church - one of the first Catholic churches built in Birmingham after the (now) Cathedral of St. Paul.  It was constructed for the Italian immigrants who peopled the area, immigrants who have long since moved to other sections of the city.  There is a new St. Mark’s now, built twenty miles south of this, in a well-off section of the county.

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It’s now a Protestant church of some type.

I’m really looking forward to a new exhibit at our Vulcan museum, one that starts this weekend, focusing on the Italian community.

vulcan italian exhibit

Unfortunately, we’re missing the St. George Melkite Catholic Middle Eastern Food Festival this weekend – maybe we’ll catch the Greek Festival the following weekend...and the Jewish Food Festival later in October or the Russian/Slavic Festival in November….

— 4 —

The week has proceeded as normal – school(s), music classes, science center class (no boxing this week), and an outing to Moss Rock Preserve, just about 20 minutes from our house when the traffic cooperates.

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— 5 —

It seems as if “Book Week” is turning into “Book Month” as I post about my books at this surprisingly glacial rate.  This week, I got to my books for teens and young adults – here. 

(Also earlier this week, in case you missed it, I wrote about my first solo trip to New York City, when I was 18.)

— 6 —

BBC podcasts?

Since In Our Time is still on its summer hiatus, I’ve had to fill the gap mostly with science documentaries and what other history I can find over there.  One series that has caught my interest has been Great Lives, in which the host is joined by one enthusiast who has chosen the “great life” to discuss, and then an academic expert on said great life.

I particularly enjoyed this episode – punk poet John Cooper Clarke on Salvador Dali, whom, he says, “entered my life as a Catholic mystic.”

There’s an audio excerpt of that section here  – less than 2 minutes.  And an interview with Clarke here. Amidst all the drug and punk culture talk, there’s this:

Clarke grew up a Catholic and still has faith. “People who believe in God are happier than those who don’t. I’ve never met a happy atheist.”

I was intrigued in a different way by this episode with the almost always irritating and pretentious Naomi Wolf on her pick, Edith Wharton.  What was interesting to me about the program, the picture of Wharton that had evolved was of a not-very likable person whose “revolutionary” sensibilities had nothing to do with women – she opposed suffrage and refused to fund scholarships for women particularly since doing so might risk funding an education for a Jewish woman)  in general but were really only about Edith Wharton.  The host raised the spectre of selfishness at the very end of the program, but Wolf did her best to wave it away…

— 7 —

All right.  Next week – my books with Ann Englehart, with special attention paid to Adventures in Assisi, of course!

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Some photos from one of the inspirations for the book – my own trip to Assisi with the boys two years ago…..sigh.

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Oh, and I did cook this week, but instead of talking about that, I”ll point you to this. It’s the most true thing I read on the Internet today.  Just don’t read it in a hotel room with children who are trying to go to sleep. 

“I don’t have any of these ingredients at home. Could you rewrite this based on the food I do have in my house? I’m not going to tell you what food I have. You have to guess.”

“I don’t eat white flour, so I tried making it with raw almonds that I’d activated by chewing them with my mouth open to receive direct sunlight, and it turned out terrible. This recipe is terrible.”

“Could you please give the metric weight measurements, and sometime in the next twenty minutes; I’m making this for a dinner party and my guests are already here.”

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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

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

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

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

— 2 —

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

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

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

And then it hit me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Damn straight!

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

(And no…I didn’t ask for a photo…)

— 3 —

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

— 4 —

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

— 5 —

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

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

I, Claudius

The Pallisers 

Shoulder to Shoulder.

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

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

— 6 —

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

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

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

— 7 —

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

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

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

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For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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….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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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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Mother’s Day?

It’s coming…perhaps you’d like to share one of my books with your mom or grandmother as a gift?

It’s the Catholic Woman’s Book of Days, published by Loyola Press – a 365-day devotional.

 

 

Also, with confirmations and graduations coming up, you might take a look at Here. Now. A Catholic Guide to the Good Life and the Prove It series.  Or even The Words We Pray. 

(I am not currently selling any of these myself, but you can get them online or from a local Catholic bookseller.  The few titles I do have on hand for sale are here.)

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Books…Books…Books

I have some books left from a talk I gave today…if you’re interested, you can find and purchase them here, along with some other random stock. 

What I have:

On other book-related matters:

I don’t have any copies of the Pope Benedict XVI children’s books, but you can follow the links on the right sidebar.  They are really nice, and perfect for First Communion…even now.

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