Posts Tagged ‘Catholic’

This is a repeat post, with some additions….so forgive…

Here are some of our resources that you might find helpful:

  • Reconciled to Goda daily devotional from Creative Communications for the parish.  You can buy it individually, in bulk for the parish our your group, or get a digital version.

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

Update:    There are several used volumes of The Power of the Cross on Amazon, very reasonably priced.  

  • I have some contributions in this year’s Living Faith Lenten devotional. 
  • Also free:A few years ago, I wrote a Stations of the Cross for young people called No Greater Love, published by Creative Communications for the Parish.


    "Amy Welborn"No Greater Love is no longer in print, but I’ve been receiving inquiries about it, so since it’s out of print, and I hold the rights, the publisher has agreed that it would be fine for me to distribute it as I wish.  So, if you’d like to download it, make copies for your teens or group, feel free.

    You can download the pdf file by clicking here.  It’s not in a booklet form – just 9 pages, basically.  But perhaps you can use it.

Also, thinking ahead to First Communion, Confirmation, Graduation, Mother’s Day, Easter Vigil…..here are some books for sale. 

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— 1 —

"amy welborn"

Casa Maria Convent.

We attend Mass there – not as often as I would like, but every six weeks or so. More often in the near future, as the boys are going to be trained to serve there.   The apostolate is retreats, which means that your odds of hearing a substantive homily at Sunday Mass are pretty high.  Plus, there is the music, which is mostly chant and polyphany, with some hymns thrown in, and it’s simple, not overbearing or self-aggrandizing.

— 2 —

Engineering Day at McWane was chaotic (many schools in attendance – which is the point!) but illuminating.  Various engineering disciplines had table and demonstrations scattered throughout the museum, so the boys got a good taste of the variety, from materials engineering to nuclear to electrical and more.

— 3 —

House of Cardis really ridiculously awful.  I’ve watched through episode five of this season, I think, and I’m done.  It’s not just the pro-life terrorist angle, which is stupid but expected, and not just the amorality of the characters, but it’s the amorality of the characters in an amoral framework. Do you know what happens when you watch amoral sociopaths operate in a narrative framework with no moral tension?

— 4 —

My turn to be boring.  Reminding you that Lent is coming, and here’s some pertinent stuff:

  • Reconciled to Goda daily devotional from Creative Communications for the parish.  You can buy it individually, in bulk for the parish our your group, or get a digital version.

Also, if you missed my post on the fantastic app, The Mass Explained, go here. 

— 5 —

We’re presently on a road trip and listened to this part of the way down.  It’s “silly,” as the 9-year old says, but entertaining enough.

— 6 —

Speaking of reading, we finished Call of the Wild, which I really enjoyed (had never read it before), and have moved to this. 


The “David” in the inscription is my late father. I had never read this before – or if I had, I’ve forgotten it.  I have to say that for a book written in the bad old days of purported cultural insensitivity and paternalism…it’s very culturally sensitive and non-paternalistic.

The first day, we only got a few pages in since rabbit holes were immediately encountered: Chinese geography and foot-binding.

Speaking of China, you do read Jen Ambrose, don’t you?

— 7 —

Yes, a little-bitty road trip, squeezed in between basketball games and other obligations.  Perhaps you’ll see a bit of it on Instagram on Friday….

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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More free stuff

A few years ago, I wrote a Stations of the Cross for young people called No Greater Love, published by Creative Communications for the Parish.

(They publish my Lenten devotional Reconciled to God, and I am a regular contributor to their Living Faith devotional.  I’m currently working on an Advent 2014 devotional for them, as well.)

"Amy Welborn"No Greater Love is no longer in print, but I’ve been receiving inquiries about it, so since it’s out of print, and I hold the rights, the publisher has agreed that it would be fine for me to distribute it as I wish.  So, if you’d like to download it, make copies for your teens or group, feel free.

You can download the pdf file by clicking here.  It’s not in a booklet form – just 9 pages, basically.  But perhaps you can use it.

(They might bring it back into print at some future year, so be prepared to yank it and pay fifty cents for it again!)


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We finally got out of the Birmingham area this week – one day - one day  – without basketball, scouts or music…so I grabbed it, and we traveled….to ANNISTON. ALABAMA.

It’s about an hour from here, a little less than halfway to Atlanta, so we pass it regularly, but had never stopped.  In reading all of my “Alabama Day Trips” blogs and such, I had often run across mentions of the Anniston Natural History Museum, and all of those mentions had been positive – and without reservation.  As in, no well, at least they’re trying. Two points for that  None of that.

And “they” were right!

I mean, it’s not worth flying down from Bismark for, but really, for an off-the-beaten-path museum, it’s rather impressive.

"amy welborn"

As the name indicates, it’s all about the nature.  So yes, dinosaurs, minerals and volcanoes, as well as a condensed journey through Alabama’s various ecoystems (biomes? habitats? I get so confused. So much lingo.). But what impressed me were two particular exhibits.  One was on predators and prey – a big draw for young people, naturally. But it stood out because of the pedagogy behind it, which results in a substantive and clear exhibit.  Attacker and defender behavior was identified by one of three colored stripes, each representing a particular tactic: behavioral, physical or chemical. The subject matter was interesting to the boys anyway, but the whole stripe thing gave it a puzzle aspect that cemented the learning.

"amy welborn"

What was really lovely was the Birds of America exhibit.  I’m quite interested in the history of museums and collecting, being so appreciative of the efforts of  single-minded and sometimes eccentric collectors and “amateur” scientists whose passions form the nuclei of so many museums worldwide.  The Anniston bird exhibit is one of those. There is unfortunately, not much about the history of the collection on the museum’s website, but the Atlas Obscura tells us:

The Anninston Natural History Museum holds one of the oldest taxidermy collections in the United States, created by H. Severn Regan in 1930 with a donation of over 1000 birds, nests and eggs arranged in dioramas.

Today, the museum has over 400 species of birds on display. Of special interest is the museum’s collection of passenger pigeons (Ectopistes migratorius). Formerly one of the most common birds in North America, passenger pigeons could once be seen in migratory flocks a mile wide and 300 miles long, containing upwards of a billion birds. There are tales of pigeon swarms darkening the skies for days at a time. Due to wide-scale commercial hunting and deforestation, the passenger pigeon is today extinct, but it and several other extinct species are still preserved in this small natural history museum.

"amy welborn"


"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

The exhibit is very well done, with attractive retro signage and an easy educational aspect, highlighting the various aspects of avian physiology.  As the entry above indicates, the dioramas were painted by Regan himself, and they are beautifully and faithfully preserved.   A really pleasant surprise.

— 2 —

Right next door is the Berman Museum, which features the collection of a local couple (not originally from the area – she was French).  It held a large collection of weaponry, and some interesting pieces – the boys were most interested in a number of weapons hidden in smaller objects like belt buckles.  But there was oddness like a toiletry set and camp plate of Napoleon’s, a crown from Czech royalty, some Mussolini gear and such. If you are interested in military history, it would be a good stop.  We ended up not having to pay because of our McWane membership, so go us.

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

— 3 —

Started the Taming of the Shrew.  We started fairly lowbrow, with a read through of this kids’ version, and then, this evening, watching the “Atomic Shakespeare” episode of Moonlighting.  I mean…it’s not faithful or anything (especially the ending), but it’s fun.   We’ll watch the BBC animated version tomorrow and then start our more serious read-through, probably along with the Taylor-Burton version.  And then at some point watch Kiss Me, Kate.  And I will get out the photos of Padua and sigh.

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The street where our apartment was located.

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Right around the corner from the apartment…

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"amy welborn"

(My goal? To enjoy Shakespeare. We talk about some themes  - but I don’t go hard core.  I basically want them to not be intimidated by Shakespeare, to offer them this really profound and rich window through which to view the human experience, and just….enjoy. I could do more “analytical” stuff, but you know what? I don’t want to. Our conversations and bit of memorization here and there are good enough.)

Both the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival are performing this play over the next few months, and I’m not sure if we’ll go to one or both. I love the Tavern, but we’ve never been to the ASF, so I’m leaning that way.

— 4 —

Tomorrow (Friday): a school performance of the Koresh Dance Company from Philadelphia. 

They are thrilled. 


— 5 —

A quick word in favor of formal prayer.

I wrote a whole book about this, I know, but our experiences with Morning and Night prayer have just deepened my appreciation and convictions on this score.

It can be done, you know.  Even with children, we can frame our prayer in terms of our own intentions and needs. We can offer up our relatives, friends and enemies, we can pray for the suffering throughout the world, we can offer God our own personal gratitude, hopes and sorrows, and then, stepping into the liturgy, join them to the prayers of the whole Body of Christ.  When we do this, we who “do not know how to pray as we ought” learn how to pray and are shaped by the Spirit in that prayer.

When we reflect on how the Holy Spirit acts in our lives, I think we should be wary of an overly individualistic take.  The way I have come to understand it is that the Spirit was poured out on the Church – the Church as a whole  – and that the primary way that I, as an individual, encounter the Holy Spirit is through the prayer, works of mercy and big T Tradition of that Church.

So in that light, it just seems to me that praying the amazing and rich liturgical prayers of the Church – from the Mass to the Liturgy of the Hours and other forms – is an encounter with the Holy Spirit that shapes me, if I am open, at my deepest level.

So, for example, Compline or Night Prayer.  We don’t have the patience to pray all of it, focusing on one Psalm, the short reading, and the prayers at the end.  Believe me, praying those prayers every night, puts everything in context much more than our own meanderings would:

1 Thessalonians 5:23 ©
May the God of peace make you perfect and holy; and may you all be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Short Responsory
Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
You have redeemed us, Lord God of truth.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.

Canticle Nunc Dimittis
Save us, Lord, while we are awake; protect us while we sleep; that we may keep watch with Christ and rest with him in peace.
Now, Master, you let your servant go in peace.
  You have fulfilled your promise.
My own eyes have seen your salvation,
  which you have prepared in the sight of all peoples.
A light to bring the Gentiles from darkness;
  the glory of your people Israel.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
  as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
  world without end.
Save us, Lord, while we are awake; protect us while we sleep; that we may keep watch with Christ and rest with him in peace.

Let us pray.
Lord our God,
  restore us again by the repose of sleep
  after the fatigue of our daily work,
so that, continually renewed by your help,
  we may serve you in body and soul.
Through Christ our Lord,

The Lord grant us a quiet night and a perfect end.


Lex orandi, Lex credendi. That’s what it means.

— 6 —

I think our next major day trip will be down to Montgomery, even aside from the ASF.  Joseph did the state capitol on a school field trip,I’ve been to Hank Williams’ grave,  but I’d like to go to the art museum, the zoo, and some of the other civil rights sites down there – the King parsonage and the Rosa Parks Museum.  Maybe the Fitzgerald house.

Leave it to the Brits….isn’t it good?

— 7 —

Lent is late this year, but it’s still coming….if you’re looking for resources for your parish, I have a few:

Reconciled to God daily devotional (reviewed here)

This Bible study on the Passion narrative in Matthew from Loyola Press. (For some reason I’m not listed as the author on the Loyola website but…I am.)

Contributions in the Living Faith Lenten devotional.

John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross , with paintings by Michael O’Brien (there’s also an app for that – linked on that page)

And then The Power of the Cross, which is available for a free download.  There are a few used copies available on Amazon.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Okay, this is funny.

Now, parts of it are just wrong and really off about the Mass – whoever wrote it hadn’t been to Mass in a while and/or had really hazy memories of what happens, when and how.   And it definitely reflects a most superficial version of modern Irish cultural Catholicism.

But just know that my daughter said, “Mom, you have to watch this.  You’ll think the music part is hilarious.”

It is – in a really painful way.  Painful because it’s true, not just in regard to the past it represents (WAAAAAY back in the 1980′s), but also in terms of the now.  In short: Think you’re all cool and down with the kids now.? Fine.  Just wait…..

The show?  Moone Boy, from Chris O’Dowd. 

I’ve watched the first two episodes now (this - Godfellas – is #5) – and I give the series an “Eh” – it’s amusing at times, fun for the late 80′s references, definitely not kid-friendly, although I do "moone boy"like the conceit – O’Dowd plays the imaginary friend of this very well-played and charming boy growing up in western Ireland in the late 80′s.  It shows flashes of authenticity here and there, but there’s also a sort of shallow meanness and neutrality towards weirdness that I find off-putting.

And maybe the portrayal of the er, pastoral musician here is part of that, but maybe because I resonate with the critique I can look past the shallow meanness in this case.. Guilty as charged.

But oh…

“When we sing for the Baby Jesus it’s never awful..…Usually”

(If you watch, note the dissonance, in the first Mass scene,  between the music book in the stand and what’s actually being sung.  Snort.  How can that not be intentional?)

(Also, the frantic search for “some kind of black leather footwear” was….familiar.)

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She was, after the Blessed Virgin herself, the most widely-venerated saint of the Medieval period, and today 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, 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 horribly titled De-Coding Mary Magdalene (an allusion to the "Amy Welborn"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.

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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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I want to briefly weigh in on Brandon Vogt’s discussion of copyright and permission in relation to official Church texts.

Basically – the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the New American Bible, papal documents, and (although he doesn’t stress this – it has come up enough in other quarters to merit mention) – liturgical texts.

Copyright is a knotty, knotty area.  I have some familiarity with the area not only because I’m an author who must seek permission to use texts in my work, but because, as general editor of the Loyola Classics series, one of my primary responsibilities was to track down copyright holders.

(And I actually enjoyed it.  It was detective work, essentially.)

Brandon’s post here lays out the problems, so I don’t need to rehash, but the issue is, at root, that the USCCB and the Vatican have the rights to these official church texts, and in order to reproduce any part of them, one must seek permission and, in some cases, pay a fee.    As many have found, it is not always easy to get permission (although sometimes it is) and the fees can be high.

As with all publishing, the permissions sought can vary, and usually according to the amount of text you want to quote.   Under a certain number of words (or verses), you are okay with just getting permission, but beyond that, you might have to pay a fee, and so on.  I don’t know the details, but that’s the way it works, not only for these works in question, but for any work one writer wants to quote in publishing, period.

Now, in this world, there are serious questions raised about copyright (in general) all the time.  Copyright is routinely exploited, and right now in the United States, the length of time a work is copyrighted is quite long (76 years, I think) and is routinely voted to be extended by Congress, actions that are blamed mostly on Disney, who doesn’t want Micky Mouse to become public domain.  Seriously.  Not kidding.  That’s what drives the quite lengthy term of copyright in this country.

There are also anti-copyright absolutists who argue strenuously for the injustice and absurdity of the notion of “intellectual property” at all.

Many have pointed out the advantages to a creator to being relaxed with copyright.  The South Korean rapper Psy, for example,  has allowed parodies of Gangam Style to flourish on the internet, figuring, we can assume, that the publicity can only help him.  And he’s right.

So yes, copyright gives us a lot to talk about.  But let’s get back to #FreetheWord.

What Brandon argues for is for the Church to protect its intellectual property under a different kind of license  - one that would permit the Church to retain control over the content, yet would allow for wider use of the materials by others who would like to help in the ministry of evangelization.  To produce the documents in other formats not provided by the institution, for example, as Brandon sought to do, or to disseminate snippets of the Catechism or NAB and so on.

I think this is fair.  It makes sense to me.  But here are some other bullet points, that are, as per usual, all over the place.

  • I’m a big advocate for “free.”  I hate to see parishes charge for programs and materials.  (And don’t tell me - oh, Catholics are so stingy, they have to charge.  Nonsense.  When Catholics are presented with a goal, as in “We don’t want to charge a single dime for religious education or adult formation materials this year, but we need $10K more in donations to accomplish that - it would happen.  Catholics just don’t go for vague fundraising appeals anymore, if they ever did.  There is not so much trust that the institution is making fair or good use of the funds. )
  • At the same time, things do cost money.  It would seem like a very good idea for the Church not to charge at all for use of the materials, but then, if you were still requiring users to ask permission, you would have to have staff to vet those requests, and you probably have a lot more requests, so that means you would have to have more staff to vet them…people who would need to be paid, and paid a just wage.
  • Of course, these materials are freely available.  You can access everything from the NAB to the Code of Canon Law on the internet, at no cost.
  • The issue is format and re-use.  These are good conversations to have, and the institutional Church certainly needs to understand how quickly the world of information is changing , how people are accessing information, and need to be more on the ball about that.
  • So I think it’s good to avoid hyperbole and exaggeration in the conversation.  More people have more access to more Churchish information than ever before in history.  At no cost.  So yes, the “Word” is still free.   Just because it’s hard to read on your Kindle doesn’t mean it’s inaccessible.
  • There is always – and has always been – great tension in the Church between the forces of creativity/innovation and those of Holding Down the Fort.   I don’t think there’s any sunny resolution to that tension anywhere in the future.  Exhibit A in recent history is the history of Catholic television in the United States.  The bishops tried and failed and bored everyone to death, Mother Angelica succeeded, ticked bishops off, and now there is some sort of uneasy truce on that score, but still, there are plenty of Church official-types, lay and cleric, who believe that the Church would be better off without EWTN.
  • It’s not inconceivable that there are individuals who work for the institutional Church who put up roadblocks to easier access because they don’t want the message out.  During Pope Benedict’s papacy, questions were raised about this constantly in relation to translation issues.  Why did it take so long to get these translations done?  Why were they sometimes….wrong?   Why is the motu proprio liberalizing the 1962 Mass available on the Vatican website only in Latin and….Hungarian? 
  •  In the United States, there was, of course, great resistance to the release of the Catechism.  That was twenty years ago – that I sat in diocesan religious education meetings and heard a diocesan directors and yes, a bishop say things like, “We have to be careful who gets their hands on this Catechism.”  and “It’s not for the people, really, you know.  It’s for us – clergy and directors and so on. ”  and “We don’t want the people reading the Catechism and then comparing their parish programs to what’s in it.”
  • I’m assuming that two decades later, we’re past all that…but…you never know.
  • It’s also amusing how quickly they came down on Brandon when compared with the length of time various idiocies and worse are allowed to fester…priorities!
  • $$$$.  It’s an issue, and, as Brandon points out, more transparency on that score would be good.
  • All that said, I want to say that I do think the Church – both nationally and internationally has a strong interest in protecting its intellectual property.   I think permission should not be a hassle and a half to seek, but I do think it should be required and imaginatively and courageously granted.
  • But to play the other side, just consider this, as well.  Even if you don’t make money from repurposing a part of the Catechism or a papal document or the NAB, you might gain something else, right?   If I jump on an opportunity to re-use a Church document in a way that redirects people to my apostolate instead of to the USCCB or vatican.va – I’m gaining something.  I’m building my brand.  I’m gaining followers.  I might even sell some more books or get some more speaking gigs.
  • I just think it’s good to be honest about it.  I actually do think it’s better for a seeker to end up at the Vatican’s website than mine, for pete’s sake.  I want that to happen.  I’ve also never had the deep hate for vatican.va that some do.  I don’t think it’s that awful.  The search function needs a big tune-up, but…I’ve always sorta liked it, myself.
  • One thing that Brandon doesn’t emphasize is liturgical texts, which is a whole other kettle of fish.  Jeffrey Tucker has very able fought this battle for ages, and I really stand in 100% agreement with him on this.  But (again) – as anyone who has tried to find it knows, the official order of the Mass in English isn’t available online.  It just isn’t!  
  • There have been times this has struck me as really quite ridiculous.  And I was thinking about this this morning, after I read Brandon’s post and as I headed off to daily Mass at the Cathedral downtown.
  • And as I sat there, praying and listening, I thought…hmmm.  Is it really so bad that if you want to know exactly what the Catholic Mass is all about, you have to actually go to a church to find out?
  • I will be rude and say that I doubt that’s the motivation behind the online absence, but perhaps it’s a decent sort of unintended consequence.  Since the Mass is not just words on a screen – in fact since the Mass isn’t that at all – it makes sense that if I really want to know, I must go to the place where it happens.
  • (Now, what helpful materials I encounter once I actually do get myself down to that Catholic church to see…well that’s another kettle of fish, isn’t it?)
  • So I think that some of this is just the usual institutional short-sightedness and slowness, some of it is an expression of legitimate concern to protect the texts, some of it might be financially motivated, and some of it might be cultural – as in, I don’t know how many Vatican staff are thinking that lots of people are wanting to read the newest encyclical on their smartphones. Probably not even vaguely on their radars. It should be, considering that while no one can predict the future, it does seem as if mobile devices are certainly giving a beat down to the “traditional” computer, and material needs to be formatted with that in mind, always.

So, those are random, as is usual for me these days.  In short:  I agree that permissions and copyright should be reexamined and that creativity in the name of evangelism should be encouraged.  But I also think we should be realistic and honest.  There really is no such thing as totally “free,” and to move towards more expansive permission-granting is actually going to require more human resources than being tight with them, there are ways that individual creators can benefit from more relaxed policies that are short of direct material profit, but still perhaps not the most spiritually healthy, and finally - this is not just a Catholic issue. 

This is where I think the conversation could have more depth.  What do other international Christian denominations do about rights to Bible translations, foundational catechetical texts and liturgical texts?  Are they all just there, for anyone to use in anyway they like, even with permission?


I don’t have time to do a lot of research on this, but even a quick search turned up similar (heated) discussions in relation to Luther’s Small Catechism, for example.    You can’t just quote from the ESV or NRSV without getting permission – although the permission is far more relaxed and easier to acquire than it is for the NAB which, she said snidely, is perhaps not a tragedy.

(Most Catholic publishers will tell you, as an author, to not use the NAB in your writing because of the hassle and possible expense. )

I think that further examination would find that these denominations do, for the most part, have restrictions on use of these materials, and it would deepen the conversation to look at what they do as well.

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I’ve been spending a lot of time with St. Francis of Assisi lately, thanks to a book project.

The thinking I’ve been doing has been shaped by Fr. Augustine Thompson’s biography of the saint (first reviewed here) as well as studying and contemplating the writings we can credibly attribute to him. 

I just have a few thoughts here – some I made in that earlier post.  I’m doing this mostly for my own sake – to make sense out of all the notes and thoughts I have.

Bullet points for brevity’s sake.

  • Francis didn’t have a plan.  He did not set out to form a band of brothers – at all.   His conversion was a personal one, and the life he lead for the first couple of years after it was the life of a penitent, pure and simple.
  • What was his conversion, exactly?  This actually is a knottier problem than we assume.  It wasn’t simply rejecting a life of relative wealth for a life lived in solidarity with the poor, through Christ.  In fact, well, it doesn’t seem to be fundamentally about that at all.
  • Francis doesn’t say much about this at all himself.  He refers to being “in his sins.”  After his traumatic battle experiences, Christ drew him closer, he abandoned all for Christ, lived as a rather sketchy hermit-type penitent on the outskirts of Assisi, and then, in a crucial moment, encountered a leper.
  • As he describes it himself, lepers had been figures of particular horror to him when he was “in his sins.”  But now, God intervened, converted him, and the leper became a person through whom Francis experienced peace and consolation.
  • Francis sought to do penance, live the Gospel and be a servant.  He did not intend to draw followers, but did, and their initial way of life was simply living in this same way, only in community.
  • It wasn’t until their form of life was approved by Pope Innocent that preaching entered the picture – it was an element that the Pope threw into his approval.  This was a surprise to Francis.

Okay, break time.

To me, this is most fascinating because, as I mentioned in the other blog post, when we read history, we often read it with the eyes of inevitability.  As in:  everything unfolds according to intention and human plan.  Just as it is with life in general, this is not the way history is, and it’s not the way the life of Francis was – well, not according to his plan.  For he didn’t have one.

But this interesting turn of events shows how the Spirit shakes us up and turns us in a slightly different direction from where we thought we were going.  It happened to Francis.  He adapted, shakily and slowly.  It happens to us.

Back to bullet points.

  • When you actually read Francis’ writings, you don’t see some things that you might expect.  You don’t, for example, read a lot of directives about serving the poor.   You don’t see any general condemnations of wealth.  You don’t read a call for all people, everywhere, to live radically according to the evangelical counsels.
  • You do read these sorts of things – although not exactly – in the early guidelines for the friars and the few letters to fellow friars that have come down to us.
  • But surprisingly, it’s not what is emphasized.  So what is?
  • Obedience. 
  • When Francis wrote about Christ embracing poverty, what he speaks of is Christ descending from the glory of heaven and embracing mortal flesh – an act  - the ultimate embrace of poverty – not just material poverty, but spiritual poverty – the ultimate act of obedience.
  • Through this act of obedience, Christ is revealed as the Servant of all.
  • So, as Francis writes many times, his call was to imitate Christ in this respect:  to empty himself and become the lowly servant of all.  To conquer everything that is the opposite: pride, self-regard, the desire for position or pleasure.
  • Francis wrote that the primary enemy in this battle is our “lower nature.”  He wrote that the only thing we can claim for ourselves are our vices and all we have to boast about is Christ.
  • Francis also emphasized proper celebration and reception of the Eucharist – quite a bit.  He had a lot to say about proper and worthy vessels and settings for the celebration of Mass.  He was somewhat obsessed with respectful treatment of paper on which might be written the Divine Names or prayers.  He prescribed how the friars were to pray the Office.
  • The early preaching of the Franciscans was in line with all of this as well as other early medieval penitential preaching: the call to the laity to confess, receive the Eucharist worthily, and to turn from sin.
  • Praise God.  Whatever the circumstances – and especially “bad” circumstances – praise God.
  • Accept persecution.  It’s interesting that Francis routinely resisted church authorities affording his order any privileges or even writing them letters allowing them to preach in a certain vicinity.  He felt that if they entered an area and were rejected, this was simply accepting the Cross of Christ, and should not be avoided.
  • Begging was not a core value for Francis, as we are often led to believe.  He and his friars did manual labor.  In the early days, begging was only allowed on behalf of sick and ailing brothers, and then only for things like food.  No money, ever.
  • He really didn’t like telling people what to do.  Well, my theory was that he actually did – what we know about his personality, pre-conversion, indicates that he was a born leader.  Perhaps his post-conversion mode was not only an imitation of the Servant, but a recognition that his “lower nature” included a propensity to promote himself and direct others.
  • That said, Francis’ emphasis on servanthood meant that his writings don’t contain directions for others beyond what the Gospel says (repent/Eat the Bread of Life) unless he’s forced to – when composing a form of life and so on.   This tension, along with ambiguities in the Franciscan life, made for a very interesting post-Francis history, along with problems during his own lifetime as well.

To me, Francis is a compelling spiritual figure not simply because he lived so radically, but, ironically, because the course of his life seems so normal. 


Because he had a life.  That life was disrupted, and the disruption changed him.  Disoriented him.  He found a re-orientation in Christ: he found the wellspring of forgiveness for his sins and the grace to conquer them (a lifetime struggle).  His actions had consequences, most of which were totally unintended by him, and to which he had to adapt, as he sought to be obedient to God.  His personality and gifts were well-equipped to deal with some of the new and changing circumstances in his life, and ill-equipped for others.  He died, praising God.

Yes, Francis was all about poverty. All about it.  He was about the poverty of Christ, who was obedient and emptied himself.

“I am the servant of all”  

"Amy Welborn"

Last November, in Assisi


The Basilica of St. Francis

The Basilica of St. Francis, from Rocca Maggiore.

"amy Welborn"

Coming up on the Basilica

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"st. joseph"

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


"st. Joseph"

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

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

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