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"amy welborn"

 

 

St. Paul’s Cathedral, Birmingham. 

Full-out Mass with choir at 8:30, followed by Benediction and a procession around the block. Amazing music. I do wish the Music Director would put his music notes that he writes for the worship aide online.  I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else. We got Ego sum panis vivus by Palestrina and O sacrum convivium by Bartolucci as well as all the propers, an excellent homily….

Speaking of homilies, as is my wont, here are some excerpts from a couple of past B16 homilies:

In fact, concentrating the whole relationship with the Eucharistic Jesus only at the moment of Holy Mass risks removing his presence from the rest of time and the existential space. And thus, perceived less is the sense of the constant presence of Jesus in our midst and with us, a concrete, close presence among our homes, as “beating Heart” of the city, of the country, of the territory with its various expressions and activities. The Sacrament of the Charity of Christ must permeate the whole of daily life.

In reality, it is a mistake to oppose celebration and adoration, as if they were in competition with one another. It is precisely the contrary: the worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament is as the spiritual “environment” in which the community can celebrate the Eucharist well and in truth. Only if it is preceded, accompanied and followed by this interior attitude of faith and adoration, can the liturgical action express its full meaning and value. The encounter with Jesus in the Holy Mass is truly and fully acted when the community is able to recognize that, in the Sacrament, He dwells in his house, waits for us, invites us to his table, then, after the assembly is dismissed, stays with us, with his discreet and silent presence, and accompanies us with his intercession, continuing to gather our spiritual sacrifices and offering them to the Father.

 

The Corpus Christi procession teaches us that the Eucharist seeks to free us from every kind of despondency and discouragement, wants to raise us, so that we can set out on the journey with the strength God gives us through Jesus Christ. It is the experience of the People of Israel in the exodus from Egypt, their long wandering through the desert, as the First Reading relates. It is an experience which was constitutive for Israel but is exemplary for all humanity. Indeed the saying: “Man does not live by bread alone, but… by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Dt 8: 3), is a universal affirmation which refers to every man or woman as a person. Each one can find his own way if he encounters the One who is the Word and the Bread of Life and lets himself be guided by his friendly presence. Without the God-with-us, the God who is close, how can we stand up to the pilgrimage through life, either on our own or as society and the family of peoples? The Eucharist is the Sacrament of the God who does not leave us alone on the journey but stays at our side and shows us the way. 

 

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I kept wanting to write about the television series Rectify last year, but I never did, did I? I meant to because I found the program fascinating, beautiful, and spiritually suggestive in a way that is absolutely unique to television – indeed American pop culture.

The program is about Daniel Holden a man released from 19 years on death row. He had been convicted for the rape and murder of his girlfriend, but finally released because of issues with DNA evidence.

The show’s first season had only six episodes, each covering a day or so in Daniel’s first week of freedom.  It’s a meticulous rectifyexamination of his reintroduction to life outside, his family’s reintroduction to him, as well as the small town that still holds him guilty (as he well might be – we don’t know at this point.)

The tone is a combination of meditative and the grotesque – and since it’s set in a small Georgia town and has spiritual undertones, we are obliged to term that grotesque “Flannery O’Connor-esque” aren’t we?  But it’s valid here.  And be warned – there are rough points, unpleasant to watch, but they always have a point.

Spirituality is taken very seriously – conversations happen, questions are raised, and differences explored. It’s refreshing.

Last night, the show returned, this time for a ten-episode run. I don’t think I’d recommend starting fresh with this season.  Even I, who’d watched the previous season twice through, was a little confused at some points and regretted not re-watching at least the last episode of season one.   But…let’s go on:

The episode picks up where the last ended: Daniel had visited the grave of the girl he was convicted of killing, and while there, was beaten almost to death.  We find him now in the hospital in an induced coma, his mother and his sister at his side.  The episode moves between the present moment and the reactions of Daniel’s family and the townspeople to his beating and the dreams deep within Daniel’s damaged self, all of which reflect his prison time – the dehumanizing moments and the life-giving ones.

Matt Seitz has a piece on Vulture today that calls Rectify “truly Christian art.”   This is startling, coming from a website and magazine that normally has no interest in religion except the sneering kind, but the piece is good and true and the description of the show isn’t even intended ironically:

Rectify is a straightforwardly spiritually minded drama in which Southerners weave talk of the presence or absence of God into everyday conversation, along with allusions to prayer and doubt, heaven and hell, sin and redemption. Daniel’s deeply devout sister-in-law, Tawney Talbot (Adelaide Clemens), has casual conversations about God, sin, and afterlife with Daniel, and much pricklier ones with his sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer), who isn’t too big on the whole “God has a plan” thing, given all that’s happened to Daniel and their extended family. Tawney knows her husband Ted Talbot Jr. (Clayne Crawford) is growing apart from her because “we don’t pray together anymore.” This is a world that a lot of Americans live in, and yet you rarely see it depicted on TV. Here it’s portrayed without hype, and with zero condescension. 

Old and New Testament imagery are built right into the story. The first season consisted of six episodes that unfolded over six consecutive days. The season ended with Young’s character, the former death row inmate and autodidact Daniel Holden, comatose after being attacked by vigilantes; somehow McKinnon has turned “He is risen” upside down (“He has fallen”) and fused it with “On the seventh day, He rested.” Add that to all the different variations of death/birth already depicted on the series (Daniel was reborn intellectually through his studies in prison, reborn again upon his release, and then reborn yet again when evangelicals baptized him; his presence in town forces many citizens to grapple with un-Christlike revenge fantasies) and you’ve got more Christ imagery than you’d think any TV show could handle. Somehow Rectify handles it. It’s all part of the texture. It’s there if you want to latch onto it, and if you don’t, no biggie. 

Well, I would disagree with that last point – given the centrality of these themes and images, if you don’t want to “latch onto it,” you’ll miss quite a bit – going back to O’Connor – if you don’t understand that her stories are about grace and our resistance to it, then yes, it’s a biggie.

Last’s nights conversation between the devout Tawney and the doubter Amantha (and yes, she is as annoying as her name – I sometimes wonder if McKinnon gave the character this irritating name that isn’t quite right to subtly guide our reaction to her character) brings out the best of Rectify’s treatment of spiritual matters – and a weakness.

In the waiting room, Tawney tearfully wonders how God could have let this happen – she fully believes in Daniel’s innocence and seems puzzled as to why the rest of the world doesn’t agree.  My quibble with this particular articulation of theodicy is that I really don’t think any devout Christian would ask that question – “How could God let this happen” about that incident – thugs beating up a guy they thought was guilty of a terrible crime.  She might ask different questions – why can’t we see the good in others? Why do we judge? How can help others reconcile?  But I think Tawney, given her understanding of her faith, wouldn’t be tempted to blame God for the actions of others in this case.

BUT – here’s the good part.  And it was only a few words, but it expressed so much.  Amantha is the free spirit, of course, with undefined spiritual views.  We might assume she’s an atheist or at the very least agnostic.  Tawney turns to her.

“Do you believe in God, Amantha?”

Amantha stumbles over her words, waves her off, shakes her head – and perhaps we think she is going to say straight out “no” – but instead she says in aggravated resignation, “Well, I believe in evil, so…..”

And off she goes, wondering.

How very interesting. Suggestive. Who else said something like that?

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing the universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.

 

 

 

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Catching up….

A few weeks ago, during one of our now-periodic visits to Charleston, I took the opportunity to worship with the Corpus Christi Community at St. Mary of the Annunciation Church downtown.  

It’s part of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter – the former Anglicans now in union with Rome. 

What a revelation.

Long-time readers know that I have always had a keen interest in the authentic, traditional diversity of Catholicism, most vividly expressed in its religious orders with their varied charisms and in the different rites of the Church.  We don’t have an Anglican Use parish here in Birmingham, but for a mid-sized Southern city, it’s sort of amazing what we do have: a parish at which the Extraordinary Form is regularly celebrated and supported without controversy (and not the only one in the diocese of Birmingham, either – take that New York City!); Maronite Rite and Melkite. At least once a year, the Catholic school that my boys attended would celebrate a Maronite Rite Liturgy.

(Perhaps you’re wondering about that?  Well, there are a lot of Lebanese and Greeks in the South, and they’ve been here since the late 19th and early 20th centuries – folks who came to work for railroads and other industries. Birmingham’s food culture has a strong Middle Eastern and Greek streak running through it, and it’s earned.)

Anyway. 

I had been wanting to attend the Anglican Use (not Rite!) liturgy there in Charleston since my son and daughter-in-law moved there, and finally got my chance.

Sorry I don’t have better photos.  I wish I had the courage to take something besides surreptitious photos at Mass…but maybe I don’t, either.

Here’s my confession:

Long-time readers know that for a while, I followed the Episcopal/Anglican Wars fairly closely. I did, that is, until the acronyms spun out of control and I couldn’t muster the energy to untangle them yet again.  I was grateful for the establishment of the Ordinariate, but I confess (here we go) that  did think sometimes…um…really?  Why can’t they just become Roman and suffer lame liturgy with the rest of us? SACRIFICE, people!  If it’s true….you’ll jump no matter what, right?

Yes, I understand that there was more to it, and these conversions were fraught with complexity, tension, pain and joy.  But I admit, I really didn’t get the liturgy thing.  To my superficial eye, it was mostly about psalmody and Vespers. (Although I admit, I have followed Atonement Parish in San Antonio for years and long thought that if I were to ever move just for the sake of my children going to a particular school…it would be Atonement Academy….)

So…sorry?

If you have the opportunity, I’d encourage you to worship with an Anglican Use community.  Here’s what struck me about the liturgy:

(Note:  I should have written this post immediately after attending…it was a month ago, and I can’t be as specific as I would like.)

"amy welborn"

  • The differences between this and the Roman Rite Mass were clear.  I’m sure you can find discussions and comparisons online, perhaps even contentious ones.  The structure is, of course, the same, but the differences are intriguing and expressive of a more explicit sense of humility as well as greater formality than your typical, contemporary Roman Rite Mass.
  • I suppose to the superficial observer, the use of ad orientem is worth remarking on, but to me at this point, it’s not really. Except I just did. Well, then. The very next Mass I attended in Charleston, at a Roman Rite parish, was celebrated ad orientem and it is not a big deal to me at all..except for the fact that I wish it would be reinstated now, everywhere that it’s possible.  (Also…this is an old discussion for me.  I’ve run several blog posts on it over the years, including those in which we talked about Lutheran, Anglican and Eastern Christian use of ad orientem. Do an image search for “Lutheran altar” and see how many of them are slam up against the back wall….)
  • What struck me most about the Anglican Use liturgy was the same thing that struck me about Eastern Rite liturgies – not the external postures so much as the internal posture of humility which it assumes and fosters.  The emphasis is on supplication and humility.  You don’t pray “have mercy on us” a zillion times as you do in an Eastern liturgy, but you do say it – or something like it - a lot more than you do in the Roman Rite.
  • You will say a lot more of everything in the Anglican Use liturgy.  The post-Vatican II Roman Rite is quite stripped down and streamlined, that being, of course, one of the intentions of those who constructed it.  There is a verbal richness about the Anglican Use that I found comforting and akin to a richly adorned physical space.

 

So, it was a great experience, and I finally get it.”  I get the reluctance to leave it behind – it preserves much – not just in the Mass itself, but in the other traditions that the Anglican Use brings with it – that were lost in the Roman Rite after the Second Vatican Council.

It was great to see Fr. Patrick Allen again that day – I had met him before at the Cathedral last fall, and he’d brought his children to my book-signing in Charleston in December.  And added bonus?  I finally got to meet Dawn Eden!  As it happens, she was giving a talk in Charleston that very day and was at Mass.  It was a delight to finally meet!

 

 

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— 1 —

Quick, quick, quick.

So quick because Birmingham is getting so hot that New York magazine has us all rocking out. 

I know the theme of the thing was music (I guess), but it was still odd to see an article about visiting this city that doesn’t mention the Civil Rights Institute…

But anyway. Good things are happening here, and it’s fun to see people noticing.

 

— 2 —

My daughter is home for a bit, which means that there is a lot of old-movie watching going on.  She & the boys have watched An American in Paris, Singin’ in the Rain, and several Marx Brothers movies.  My 9-year old is developing a great Harpo impression.  Purely visual, of course.

— 3 —

Earlier this week, we headed to the Cahaba River Natural Preserve, where, for a couple of months a year, the Cahaba Lily blooms. "amy welborn" It needs the rocks and flowing water to grow, and so they stand out there in the river, amidst snails and mussels.  It was a little tricky getting out into the shoals, and thanks my banged knee is feeling much better now, two days later, but that was the only injury.  I had no idea that there was a swimming area right there, so we weren’t prepared for that, except for having a couple of towels in the back and Michael had an extra pair of shorts.  That didn’t stop anyone for long, though.  We’ll return, and prepared this time.

"amy welborn"

 

— 4 —

The book club of which I am not the most faithful member met last night to discuss Heather King’s Redeemed.  I’d read it years ago, along with her other memoirs, but coincidentally (because I had no idea they were reading Redeemed until I saw one of the members at Pepper Place on Saturday and she told me) was in the midst of her latest, Stripped.   In a way, I find this latest, the most compelling of all of Heather’s books, perhaps because, although I don’t have cancer myself, I’ve known enough people who have taken enough different paths after diagnosis to have spent some time considering that question…what would I do? 

— 5 —

A few of my favorite quotes from Stripped:

Mass was so non-spectacular, so non-cataclysmic, seemingly, so not geared toward having an “experience.” I wasn’t interested "heather king"in having an “experience.” I was interested in connecting with the rest of the world, and I was convinced that participating with people I had not personally hand-picked – the people at church being one prime example, and the people with whom I stayed sober another – was the way. 

*******

Now I know that what matters is not whether I suffer, but that I offer my suffering to the world. 

****

….in that sterile chapel, I experienced a moment of peacce such as I never had known before and never have quite known since: a feeling that I might be in for who knew how long a session of sheer, unadulterated hell but that somehow, in the end, things would be all right. I’d had moments of peace before, but this moment had a new dimension: this time I knew things would be all right even if I died. 

********

Who can parse out which part of our wound is killing us and which part of our wound is keeping us alive? 

— 6 —

I ran across this photograph in the recently published collection of newly-found photographs from World War I. It’s quite a powerful expression of the point of ad orientem, I think.  This doesn’t say, “priest with his back to the people.”  It says, “Everyone journeying in the same direction.”

 

Source.

— 7 —

The Pentecost Novena begins today – the Original Novena, right? Well…here’s a book of novenas you might like!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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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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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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— 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.

"amy welborn"

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. 

/sarcasm.

— 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:

Reading
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.
Amen.
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,
Amen.

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

AMEN

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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This has been my Song of the Season:

There are two arrangements of this – the original, by American Jeremiah Ingalls, and a later, less energetic version by Elizabeth Poston.  I far prefer the earlier, robust rendering.  (The introductory title on the above video is incorrect – they are singing the Ingalls, not the Poston).  The recording I have is from a wonderful album called Carols from the Old and New World.  You can listen to an excerpt here - it is even a bit more energetic than the version above.

The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green;
The trees of nature fruitless be,
Compar’d with Christ the appletree.

This beauty doth all things excel,
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
This beauty doth all things excel,
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
The glory which I now can see,
In Jesus Christ the appletree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought;
I miss’d of all, but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the appletree.
[refrain]

I’m weary’d with my former toil,
Here I shall set and rest awhile;
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the appletree.
[refrain]

I’ll sit and eat the fruit divine,
It cheers my heart like spir’tual wine
And now this fruit is sweet to me,
That grows on Christ the appletree.

This beauty doth all things excel,
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
This beauty doth all things excel,
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
The glory which I now can see,
In Jesus Christ the appletree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying soul alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the appletree.

This beauty doth all things excel,
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
This beauty doth all things excel,
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
The glory which I now can see,
In Jesus Christ the appletree.

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Pope Francis, today:

“In the joyful atmosphere of Christmas,” the pope noted, “this commemoration might seem out of place. Christmas in fact is the celebration of life and gives us feelings of serenity and peace. Why upset its charm with the memory of such brutal violence? In reality, from the perspective of faith, the Feast of St Stephen is in full harmony with the deeper meaning of Christmas. In martyrdom in fact, violence is overcome by love, death by life. The Church sees in the sacrifice of the martyrs their “birth in heaven.” Let us therefore celebrate today Stephen’s “birth”, which deeply stems from the birth of Christ. Jesus transforms the death of those who love him into the dawn of new life! The same clash between good and evil, between hatred and forgiveness, between gentleness and violence, which culminated in the Cross of Christ, is played out in Stephen’s martyrdom. Thus, the memory of the first martyr comes immediately to dissolve the false image of Christmas as a mushy fairy tale that does not exist in the Gospel! The liturgy brings us back to the true meaning of the Incarnation, connecting Bethlehem to Calvary, and reminding us that divine salvation involves a struggle against sin through the narrow gate of the Cross.”

For the pope, Saint Stephen’s martyrdom is the reason why “we are praying today especially for Christians who suffer discrimination because of their witness to Christ and the Gospel.”

“We are close to those brothers and sisters who, like Saint Stephen, are unjustly accused and subjected to violence of various kinds. This happens especially where religious freedom is still not guaranteed or not fully realised. In my opinion, there are more today than in the early days of the Church. As it happens however, even in countries and places that protect freedom and human rights on the paper, believers, especially Christians, encounter limitations or discrimination.”

“For these brothers and sisters, I would ask you to pray, for a moment, in silence, everyone,” the pope said off the cuff. After a brief moment of silence, he continued, saying, “Let us entrust them to Mary,” and called on everyone to say a Hail Mary for them.

 

Pope Benedict in 2012

On St Stephen’s Day we too are called to fix our eyes on the Son of God whom in the joyful atmosphere of Christmas we contemplate in the mystery of his Incarnation. Through Baptism and Confirmation, through the precious gift of faith nourished by the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, Jesus Christ has bound us to him and with the action of the Holy Spirit, wants to continue in us his work of salvation by which all things are redeemed, given value, uplifted and brought to completion. Letting ourselves be drawn by Christ, as St Stephen did, means opening our own life to the light that calls it, guides it and enables it to take the path of goodness, the path of a humanity according to God’s plan of love. Lastly, St Stephen is a model for all who wish to put themselves at the service of the new evangelization. He shows that the newness of the proclamation does not consist primarily in the use of original methods or techniques — which of course, have their usefulness — but rather in being filled with the Holy Spirit and letting ourselves be guided by him.

The newness of the proclamation lies in the depth of the believer’s immersion in the mystery of Christ and in assimilation of his word and of his presence in the Eucharist so that he himself, the living Jesus, may speak and act in his messengers. Essentially, evangelizers can bring Christ to others effectively when they themselves live in Christ, when the newness of the Gospel is reflected in their own life. Let us pray the Virgin Mary that in this Year of Faith the Church may see an increasing number of men and women who, like St Stephen, can bear a convincing and courageous witness to the Lord Jesus.

Pope Benedict in 2011

Today, the day after the solemn liturgy of the Lord’s Birth, we are celebrating the Feast of St Stephen, a deacon and the Church’s first martyr. The historian Eusebius of Caesarea describes him as the “perfect martyr” (Die Kirchengeschichte v. 2,5: GCS II, I, Lipsia 1903, 430), because in the Acts of the Apostles it is written that “Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people” (6:8). St Gregory of Nyssa commented: “he was a good man and full of the Holy Spirit. He was sustained by the goodness of his will to serve the poor and curbed enemies by the Spirit’s power of the truth” (Sermo in Sanctum Stephanum II: GNO X, 1, Leiden 1990, 98). A man of prayer and of evangelization, Stephen, whose name means “crown”, received from God the gift of martyrdom. Indeed, “full of the Holy Spirit … he saw the glory of God” (Acts 7:55) and while he was being stoned he prayed: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). Then, he fell to his knees and prayed for forgiveness for those who accused him: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).

This is why the Eastern Church sings in her hymns: “The stones became steps for you and ladders for the ascent to heaven… and you joyfully drew close to the festive gathering of the angels” (MHNAIA t. II, Rome 1889, 694, 695).

After the generation of the Apostles, martyrs acquired an important place in the esteem of the Christian community. At the height of their persecution, their hymns of praise fortified the faithful on their difficult journey and encouraged those in search of the truth to convert to the Lord. Therefore, by divine disposition, the Church venerates the relics of martyrs and honours them with epithets such as: “teachers of life”, “living witnesses”, “breathing trophies” and “silent exhortations” (Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 43, 5: PG 36, 500 C).

Dear friends, the true imitation of Christ is love, which some Christian writers have called the “secret martyrdom”. Concerning this St Clement of Alexandria wrote: “those who perform the commandments of the Lord, in every action ‘testify’, by doing what he wishes, and consistently naming the Lord’s name; (Stromatum IV, 7,43,4: SC 463, Paris 2001, 130). Today too, as in antiquity, sincere adherence to the Gospel can require the sacrifice of life and many Christians in various parts of the world are exposed to persecution and sometimes martyrdom. However, the Lord reminds us: “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt 10:22).

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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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