Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

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…..

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Today is his feastday!

First, a General Audience from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, from 2011:



It is only the prayerful soul that can progress in spiritual life: this is the privileged object of St Anthony’s preaching. He is thoroughly familiar with the shortcomings of human nature, with our tendency to lapse into sin, which is why he continuously urges us to fight the inclination to avidity, pride and impurity; instead of practising the virtues of poverty and generosity, of humility and obedience, of chastity and of purity. At the beginning of the 13th century, in the context of the rebirth of the city and the flourishing of trade, the number of people who were insensitive to the needs of the poor increased. This is why on various occasions Anthony invites the faithful to think of the true riches, those of the heart, which make people good and merciful and permit them to lay up treasure in Heaven. “O rich people”, he urged them, “befriend… the poor, welcome them into your homes: it will subsequently be they who receive you in the eternal tabernacles in which is the beauty of peace, the confidence of security and the opulent tranquillity of eternal satiety” (ibid., p. 29).

Is not this, dear friends, perhaps a very important teaching today too, when the financial crisis and serious economic inequalities impoverish many people and create conditions of poverty? In my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate I recall: “The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred” (n. 45).

Anthony, in the school of Francis, always put Christ at the centre of his life and thinking, of his action and of his preaching. This is another characteristic feature of Franciscan theology: Christocentrism. Franciscan theology willingly contemplates and invites others to contemplate the mysteries of the Lord’s humanity, the man Jesus, and in a special way the mystery of the Nativity: God who made himself a Child and gave himself into our hands, a mystery that gives rise to sentiments of love and gratitude for divine goodness.

Not only the Nativity, a central point of Christ’s love for humanity, but also the vision of the Crucified One inspired in Anthony thoughts of gratitude to God and esteem for the dignity of the human person, so that all believers and non-believers might find in the Crucified One and in his image a life-enriching meaning. St Anthony writes: “Christ who is your life is hanging before you, so that you may look at the Cross as in a mirror. There you will be able to know how mortal were your wounds, that no medicine other than the Blood of the Son of God could heal. If you look closely, you will be able to realize how great your human dignity and your value are…. Nowhere other than looking at himself in the mirror of the Cross can man better understand how much he is worth” (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi III, pp. 213-214).

In meditating on these words we are better able to understand the importance of the image of the Crucified One for our culture, for our humanity that is born from the Christian faith. Precisely by looking at the Crucified One we see, as St Anthony says, how great are the dignity and worth of the human being. At no other point can we understand how much the human person is worth, precisely because God makes us so important, considers us so important that, in his opinion, we are worthy of his suffering; thus all human dignity appears in the mirror of the Crucified One and our gazing upon him is ever a source of acknowledgement of human dignity.

Dear friends, may Anthony of Padua, so widely venerated by the faithful, intercede for the whole Church and especially for those who are dedicated to preaching; let us pray the Lord that he will help us learn a little of this art from St Anthony. May preachers, drawing inspiration from his example, be effective in their communication by taking pains to combine solid and sound doctrine with sincere and fervent devotion. In this Year for Priests, let us pray that priests and deacons will carry out with concern this ministry of the proclamation of the word of God, making it timely for the faithful, especially through liturgical homilies. May they effectively present the eternal beauty of Christ, just as Anthony recommended: “If you preach Jesus, he will melt hardened hearts; if you invoke him he will soften harsh temptations; if you think of him he will enlighten your mind; if you read of him he will satifsfy your intellect” (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi III, p. 59).

Next, some photos of the huge Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua from our trip in 2012.

(I’m guessing there were no photos allowed inside…since I don’t have any of the interior)

(Sigh. I loved Padua -it is one of those mid-sized Italian cities that I find tremendously appealing – a vibrant, sophisticated interesting buzz around the carefully, but not fussily maintained medieval core.)

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

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— 1 —

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.

"amy welborn"

The street where our apartment was located.

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Right around the corner from the apartment…

"amy welborn"
"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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Update 12/17:   I’ll do the drawing at 7pm central tonight!


All right! Finally a moment of semi-peace, giving me time to get this giveaway started without messing it up. (I hope.  Never done this before.)

Here’s what we’re giving away:

1. A giclee print of one of Ann Kissane Engelhart’s paintings.


2. A copy of Bambinelli Sunday signed by both of us.

There will be two winners, obviously.

The winner of the print will receive a 13″ x 13″ fine quality limited edition giclee print of an original watercolor painting by Ann Kissane Engelhart. It will be printed with archival inks on fine German watercolor paper and will be numbered and signed by the artist. The winner will also receive a certificate of authenticity.

(A reminder – many artists do their work on the computer nowadays, but Ann is a watercolorist, and all of the illustrations in our books are originally paintings.  Colors may be tweaked digitally in production, but the original work is all with brushes and paint on paper. The giclee print evokes the original medium.)

The winner may choose a 13″ x 13″ print of the illustration from Bambinelli Sunday, of the famous Via San Gregorio Armeno in Naples, where our story begins…

Or, they may choose another image from Ann’s portfolio

Some of the images are from our other books, Friendship with Jesus and Be Saints!and some are of other works Ann has done.

How it works:
To enter, just enter a comment below, along with a name and a legitimate email address.  I will be using RandomPicker  to do the “drawing” from the pool of names.

I’ll do the drawing in a week – so Tuesday, December 17.  Sound good?

Please spread the word!

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Thanks to Ann Engelhart, I have this wonderful tutorial for you!  It’s suitable for families and classes of all kinds.

"Make Alessandro's Bambinelli from Bambinelli Sunday"

Please Note: These instructions were designed for a group of children to make Bambinellis in a school, Religious ed program or parish activity, where time is limited. The figures are painted while the clay is still soft. In an ideal world, it is best to let the clay dry for a day before painting.  Have fun and don’t worry about making “perfect” Bambinelli’s. They will all be beautiful!

Ann Kissane Engelhart



  • White Air-dry clay (Crayola makes a good one).
  • 2 in. gauze roll
  • 2 oz. bottles of Acrylic paint in assorted flesh tone colors: I used Americanain Flesh tone, Sable Brown and Light Cinnamon. (make sure that you shake them well before using).
  • Black, dark brown and red acrylic paint for features. Optional.
  • Excelsior (wood wool used in packaging) or Spanish Moss. (Both are available in art/craft stores)
  • Gold glitter pipe cleaners
  • Powder blush
  • Small paint brushes
  • Q tips
  • Small round tooth picks and larger 3 inch picks (available at art/craft stores).
  • Tacky glue or Glue Dots
  • Small paper plates and plastic sandwich bags for transportation. Optional

"Bambinelli Sunday Supplies"



1   Roll a ball of clay in hands with the diameter slightly larger than a quarter.

2.  Roll ball into a 2 in. cylinder.

3.  Use large pick or popsicle stick to cut it in half lengthwise. Cut one of those pieces in half, leaving 3 pieces of clay.

4.  Roll large piece into 1 ½ in. cylinder, one small piece into a ball for the head, and the remaining piece into a long, thin, 3 inch cylinder for the arms.

5.  Attach head to large cylinder. Pinch clay in the back to make sure that it is secure.

6.  Place the head and body on top of the center of the arms making sure that the arms are slightly below the neck area.

7.  Bring arms to the front and pose them so that they resemble a sleeping baby. Slightly pinch or bend the ends to create hands. Allow the children to experiment with different poses. You can even make your Bambinelli sucking his thumb! It is best to keep the arms close to the body so that they attach to the main portion of clay in order to make the figure more secure and to prevent breakage when the clay dries.

"Bambinelli Sunday"

8.  Use a small toothpick to make features such as fingers, eyes and mouth. Instruct the children to place the eyes halfway down the face for proper proportion. It is best to make small horizontal lines to suggest a sleeping baby, rather than deep, round eyes. Mistakes can be gently smoothed out (with the help of an adult) if the children want to change their first attempts at making a face.

For a simple Bambinelli for young children, continue here:

9.  Cut a piece of 2 in. wide gauze to about 4-5 inches. Fold lengthwise. Place the gauze around the waist and wrap around the body tucking in loose pieces. If the gauze doesn’t stay secure, use a tacky glue or Glue Dots to keep it in place. Fold the bottom under and secure in place.

10.   Invite the child to choose a hue of flesh colored paint. Holding the body on the gauze portion, paint the exposed clay.

"Bambinelli Sunday"

11.   Allow the paint to dry (you can use a hair dryer on a light setting if you are pressed for time). (You might use this time to practice painting eyes; see below).

12.    Using a Q-tip, rub powder blush onto the baby’s cheeks.

13.    It is not necessary to paint the other features, however, if the child is capable, they can use very fine brushes to paint the eyes with dark brown paint. Let the child practice first on scrap paper; draw several circles the size of the head in pencil and encourage them to practice painting the eyes. Remember that the eyes are halfway between the top of the head and the chin. Don’t demand perfection!

14.   To paint the hair use a soft medium sized brush or Q-tip using very little paint to create a dry-brush effect. Lightest skin tones can use the darker tones for the hair, while darkest skin tones can use the dark brown that was used for the eyes. Older children can mix their own color using a combination of hues.

15. Take a small handful of excelsior or Spanish moss to create a nest-like bed for the baby. Make a depression in the center to accommodate the body. Place the Bambinelli inside.

16.   To make halos (which are optional) wrap a pipe cleaner around the round handle of a wooden spoon or dowel. Remove coiled pipe cleaer and cut pieces to create a circle. Insert the loose ends into the nest above the head. Adjust the size for your Bambinelli. You may want to provide a plastic sandwich bag and small paper plate for children to safely transport them home.

17.   The Bambinelli’s will harden in one or 2 days, but they will remain fragile, so they should be handled with care.  For greater protection, they can be removed from the crèche and lightly sprayed with a clear varnish (only if acrylic paints were used).

Remember to bring the Bambinelli to Mass on Sunday for a blessing!

 To make Alessandro’s Bambinelli, follow the diagram and continue after Step 9. (For older or more experienced children)

10.  Give the child a dime sized ball of clay. Make legs by rolling it into a cylinder of about 8 inches, and slightly thicker than the arms.

19.  Gently fold it in half and attach it to the bottom of the body. Create feet by bending the ends. Use a tooth pick to create toes. Slightly bend the knees. Experiment with different poses.

20.   Paint the body and allow it to dry.

21.  Wrap a piece of folded gauze around the waist and gently tuck between the legs. Glue in place.

22. Paint features as above and continue to follow instructions for the simple Bambinelli.

"Bambinelli Sunday"


Come back later this afternoon for information on our giveaway! We will be giving away a copy of Bambinelli Sunday signed by both of us, as well as a print of one of Ann’s paintings.

Buy Bambinelli Sunday  on Amazon.

Buy Bambinelli Sunday at the Catholic Company

Buy Bambinelli Sunday at Barnes and Noble

See previous posts on Bambinelli Sunday, including video links. 


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Remember, my book Mary and the Christian Life  is available as a free pdf here.

You can also read it on Scribd here. 

Had a fun and very quick trip to Charleston.  Signed books!  Sold books!   Including one to a woman who opened the book, flipped through the pages, and said, “Huh.  I have a nephew named Alessandro.  He lives in Rome.  I guess I’m supposed to get this for him.”

Guess so!

Reminder:  On Monday, I’ll be announcing our giveaway of one of Ann Engelhart’s prints and a signed copy of the book.  But first I have to figure out how to do this giveaway stuff that all the Real Bloggers do.

And, oh this:

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I have, generally, no use for papal prognostication.  Most prognosticators are engaging in wish-fulfillment anyway. Including me, of course.

But…here goes:

Deep breath….

Either Ouellet, Ranjith or Scola.

Name: Gregory or Leo, with more money on Leo.

Watched this tonight.  What a day that was.  Electric. Watching it made me sad (that he resigned) and grateful (for his work, witness and papacy).

Well…onward…Veni Creator Spiritus

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