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It’s the 57th anniversary of Flannery O’Connor’s death – August 3, 1964. Here are some links so some things I’ve written about her:

First, our latest visit (2019) to Andalusia, her family home. 

Published  in Catholic World Report:  “The Spiritual Witness of Flannery O’Connor”

O’Connor’s work is important. Her life and spiritual witness is important as well.

For Flannery O’Connor, like all of us, had plans. Unlike many of us, perhaps, she also had a clear sense of her own gifts. As a very young woman, she set out to follow that path. She had fantastic opportunities at Iowa, made great connections and seemed to be on the road to success at a very young age. Wise Blood was accepted for publication when she was in her early 20s. She was in New York. She was starting to run in invigorating literary circles.

And then she got sick.

And she had to go back to her mother’s farm in Milledgeville, Georgia.

O’Connor’s story is a helpful and necessary corrective, it seems to me, of the current spiritual environment which privileges choice and health and seeks to baptize secular notions of success, achievement, and even beauty. What is missing from all of that is a cheerful acceptance of limitations and a faith that even within those limitations—only within those limitations—we are called to serve God.

“The Enduring Chill” played a part in my last visit to my parents’ house after I’d sold it:

Secondly, the association of the breaking through of the Holy Ghost with coldness.  A chill. An enduring chill.  There are a number of ways to look at it,  since the “chill” is of course a reference to fever,  but  this morning I couldn’t stop thinking about Flannery’s continual argument against the modern expectation that “faith” is what brings us  contentment and satisfaction.  In the Gospel today,  Jesus says Peace be with You.  But that’s after the crucifixion, you know.

Also on Asbury’s mind- primary, really – was his mother.  How he blamed her for his own failure as a would-be artist, and how what he wanted to do most of all was make her see this.  To give her an enduring chill that would be the result of her awareness of what she had done to him.

He would hurt her, but that was just too bad.  It was what was necessary, he determined, to get her to see things as they really are. Irony, of course, comes to rest on him in the end as the Holy Ghost descends.

So I read and talked about this story about parents, children, disappointment, blame,  pride and being humbled.

Then I drove up to Knoxville, alone, thinking about Asbury, about that Holy Ghost, about peace be with you and doubt no longer.

I drove up to see my father’s house for the last time and sign the papers so someone new could live there now.

Tears?

Sadness that my father died six months ago, that my mother died eleven years ago, that my husband died three years ago. Sadness for my dad’s widow.  But then tempered, as I stood there and surveyed the surrounding houses and realized that almost every person who lived in those houses when we first moved in, is also dead.

Remembering that forty years ago, my parents were  exactly where I am now, watching the preceding generation begin to die off, absorbing their possessions, making sense of what they’d inherited – in every sense – and contemplating where to go from there.

There’s nothing unique about it.  It’s called being human. Not existing for a very long time, being alive for a few minutes, and then being dead for another very long time.

And in that short time, we try.  I’m not going to say “we try our best” because we don’t.  It’s why we ask for mercy.  Especially when we live our days under the delusion of self-sufficiency, placing our faith in ourselves and our poor, passing efforts, closed to grace…when we live like that…no, we’re not trying our best.  We need it,  that  Divine Mercy. We need it, and as Asbury has to learn, we need it to give, not just to take.  More

 

A summary of a session I lead on “The Displaced Person”

There is a priest in the story, the priest who brings the family (the Guizacs) to the farm, and then continues to visit Mrs. McIntyre. He is old and Irish, listens to Mrs. McIntyre’s complaints about her workers and the difficulties of her life with a nod and a raised eyebrow and then continues to talk to her about the teachings of the Church.

He is seen by the others as a doddering fool, talking about abstractions, not clued into the pressing issues of the moment, telling Mrs. McIntyre, for example, about what the Son of God has done, redeeming us,  “as if he spoke of something that had happened yesterday in town….”

And at the end, as Mrs. McIntyre watches the black figure of the priest bend over a dead man ” slipping something into the crushed man’s mouth…” we see why he spoke of it that way.

It did happen yesterday in town. It happens today.

He’s here.

The priest, too, is the only character who recognizes transcendence.  Every time he comes to the farm, he is transfixed by the peacocks (see the header on the blog today), a fascination the others think is just one more symptom of foolishness and “second childhood.”

You must be born again….

And here is the “irony.” Although steeped in Catholic faith and sensibilities, we know it is not ironic – but to the world’s eyes, it is. That the priest who expresses the mysteries in such matter-of-fact, “formulaic” ways, ways which even theologians today fret are not nuanced or postmodern enough, which they would like to dispense with in favor of…what, I am not sure, unless it is one more set of windy journal articles…this priest is, as I said, the only character who can recognize beauty and the transcendent reflected there. And the one who embodies Mercy.

Flannery O’Connor always said that she found the doctrines of the Church freeing – and this is what she means.

And the story ends:

Not many people remembered to come out to the country to see her except the old priest. He came regularly once a week with a bag of breadcrumbs and, after he had fed these to the peacock, he would come in and sit by the side of her bed and explain the doctrines of the Church.

 

This one on the collection of her book reviews for the Atlanta Archdiocesan paper. 

Most of what O’Connor reviewed was non-fiction, and she did not like most of the fiction she did review – J.F. Powers, Paul Horgan and Julien Green being the unsurprising exceptions in the otherwise flowerly garden of pietistic fiction she endured.

The non-fiction choices are fascinating, although not a surprise to anyone familiar with the contents of O’Connor’s personal library and the scope of her reading we can discern from her letters. She was very concerned with the intellectual life of American Catholics and indeed saw what she was doing for the papers as in some way an act of charity in which readers might be encouraged to read beyond the pieties.

She was especially interested in Scripture, dismayed that Catholics did not read more of it, and quite interested in the Old Testament, especially the prophets. Again, perhaps not a surprise? She was, as is well-known, quite interested in Teilhard de Chardin, and reviewed a few books by Karl Barth, as well.

 

And….my piece “Stalking Pride” – which I think is a decent introduction:

Robert Coles answered the question well when he wrote of O’Connor, “She is stalking pride.” For Flannery O’Connor, faith means essentially seeing the world as it is, which means through the Creator’s eyes. So lack of faith is a kind of blindness, and what brings on the refusal to embrace God’s vision — faith — is nothing but pride.

O’Connor’s characters are all afflicted by pride: Intellectual sons and daughters who live to set the world, primarily their ignorant parents, aright; social workers who neglect their own children, self-satisfied unthinking “good people” who rest easily in their own arrogance; the fiercely independent who will not submit their wills to God or anyone else if it kills them. And sometimes, it does.

The pride is so fierce, the blindness so dark, it takes an extreme event to shatter it, and here is the purpose of the violence. The violence that O’Connor’s characters experience, either as victims or as participants, shocks them into seeing that they are no better than the rest of the world, that they are poor, that they are in need of redemption, of the purifying purgatorial fire that is the breathtaking vision at the end of the story, “Revelation.”

The self-satisfied are attacked, those who fancy themselves as earthly saviors find themselves capable of great evil, intellectuals discover their ideas to be useless human constructs, and those bent on “freedom” find themselves left open to be controlled by evil.

What happens in her stories is often extreme, but O’Connor knew that the modern world’s blindness was so deeply engrained and habitual, extreme measures were required to startle us: “I am interested in making up a good case for distortion, as I am coming to believe it is the only way to make people see.”  More

In the storms

Today’s Gospel is the account of Jesus calming the storm from Mattew 14. Here’s an excerpt from my retelling of the Gospel storm narratives from the Loyola Kids Book of Bible Stories. 

Click on each image for a larger version. You can see the structure, and note the end – at the end of each entry, I draw a spiritual or church-related point and then pose a “think quietly” question and a prayer prompt.

The Gran Tour

I am still adjusting a bit, an adjustment reflected in the previous post, and noting this book seems appropriate, for it touches on some of those same themes: Time passes quickly. What was so burdensome does have its impact on us, but for the most part, it fades and becomes just…the past.


The Gran Tour
– plucked off the “new release” shelf – a pleasant lark of a book with enough reflectiveness there to keep it from floating away

When Ben Aitken learnt that his gran had enjoyed a four-night holiday including four three-course dinners, four cooked breakfasts, four games of bingo, a pair of excursions, sixteen pints of lager and luxury return coach travel, all for a hundred pounds, he thought, that’s the life, and signed himself up. Six times over.

Good value aside, what Ben was really after was the company of his elders – those with more chapters under their belt, with the wisdom granted by experience, the candour gifted by time, and the hard-earned ability to live each day like it’s nearly their last.

A series of coach holidays ensued – from Scarborough to St Ives, Killarney to Lake Como – during which Ben attempts to shake off his thirty-something blues by getting old as soon as possible.

It’s quite enjoyable. Some of it’s beyond easy comprehension, assuming, as it does, familiarity with British geography, social mores and peculiarities of language. But none of that matters as much as the very human experience of being in the company of others – and being willing to learn from them.

What Ben learns isn’t shared directly or in a heavy-handed way. It’s simply embodied in the book. What does age teach a person? Mostly priorities and perspective. That crisis you suffered through? Well, you survived. Perhaps it wasn’t even so bad in retrospect. It might have even put you on a path that saved your life. Those people you couldn’t stand? Do you even remember their names now? The work you did every day for decades, work that you just endured? Well, it paid the bills, made it possible to raise a family, and so here you are, enjoying your coach trip through Wales. Not bad.

As we wait for our coffees to cool down, I can’t help but think that I’ve never enjoyed waiting for anything more. I guess what I mean is I’m happy, now, here, briefly on this bench. It’s been said – and I’m inclined to go along with this – that it’s rare to be uncomplicatedly happy for longer than ten minutes. Well, I manage twenty minutes, just sat next to Nan, listening to her go on about Alice, watching the seagulls terrorise a couple of kids with chips, waiting for our coffees to cool down.

Aitken, of course, can write.

Then Frank orders us off at a viewpoint, and he’s right to. It’s an almost fictional setting. You wouldn’t say the land was abounding in anything. It’s spring and yet nothing much is springing. It all looks rather trim and nibbled. A modest line of hills bisects the scene. If the hill line were a soundwave, the frequency would be low: its dives are shallow, its climbs are slight. Not much of the scenery is associable – can be associated with other things, stuff or ideas. There are some dwellings, and some electricity cables, and of course I recognise the sky; but little else refers to, or harks back, or brings to mind – not with any crisp explicitness – which is what makes the scene peaceful, I suppose. Having said that, the drystone walls that divide the land speak of plunder and seizure; of subjects and spoils; of the planting and plotting of Protestants. There’s less of that these days of course, but still these walls talk, and not everything they say is fit for a postcard. I take a picture of Chris taking a picture. Her pink jacket stands out against the grass and the gorse. She has her phone raised like a candle, and her hair’s the same shade as the sky. Her trousers and shoes look new and purposeful. She’s ready for golf, for the catwalk, for the hills. ‘It’s wonderful we can see such things,’ she says. Ah shut up, Chris. You’re after my heart.

Lovely.

Change of…

….argh. Hearing people sigh about a “different season” of life still makes me want to, unaccountably, throw a punch at someone, but yeah, here we are.

I’ve written about this before. Here and here. And another place that I can’t quite put my finger on at this moment. That’s the problem when you are lazy about categorizing and tagging your posts and you title far too many of them after the days of the week.

But anyway. No, the actual seasons are not changing in these parts. In fact, the dog days of summer are settling down for a good lie-down, probably for the next month, and I’m not complaining. The rest of you can prance on about how much you love fall, but I’ll take summer any time, and would move to the tropics if I could.

I wrote last week about the question of travel. This is somewhat related, for as I’ve been thinking over such matters the past couple of months, one of the things that’s become clear is how much less I have to do on that score.

In short, my role as Entertainment Director is shrinking by the day. Dramatically.

For the youngest now is approaching the end of his first year with his driver’s license, has a job and therefore has money, has a couple of crews of local friends, and really, the last thing he needs is his mother Working out an Itinerary and Drawing Up Plans.

Which, you know, is fantastic, especially when he wants to do things in which I have zero interest – I can hand him the key to the car, make sure he has his wallet and say “Godpseed.”

(Literally)

Some mourn that. I don’t. This isn’t my first rodeo, and while I’m sure my emotions will be all over the place a year from now when the Last One (hopefully) heads off, and as much as I thrive on guiding folks through those interminable Teachable Moments, there is something quite delightful, even as it’s a little unnerving, of looking at a week in August like this one in which College Guy takes off in his car at 6:30 am then texts at noon to say he and his crew made it safely to the beach, where they’ll be for the next almost-week, and then Kid #5 sketches out his plans for the week, which involve various social engagements, boxing boot camp, a day at a water park and other possibilities, none of which involve my presence, my car, or my funds.

Oh, I’ll have a few things to do in relation to them. There’s piano lessons and math tutoring, and while he often just takes himself to those, this week I’ll go along to have pre-school-year scheduling conversations. I should probably look into a British literature textbook – all the others for the actual classes have been ordered and will be arriving this week (although none of that starts for a month). Poison sumac seems to be under control.

And that’s it.

But… not really, of course. It’s not radio silence from anyone, nor do I want it to be. For even though they’re scattered across the country and all in quite different stages of life, I do hear from all five of them regularly. Thankfully, no one seems to be in crisis right now – although we’re always ready and willing to help out need be – so the contact is chit-chatty and informative for the most part.

I can’t tell you how many times over the past almost 40-years of parenting, I’ve been in the midst of what seemed to be responsibilities and moments and circumstances that seemed they would never end: sleeplessness, driving kids to school along the same routes, day after day, week after week, loads of diapers, fixing lunches, writing checks, checking folders, then back into the car and driving again.

Did you ever do that? Did you even consider how many hours of your life you spent in the car or on the sidelines, how many lunches you bagged up?

Wow. That was a lot.

And just like that – interminable has turned into a memory. It will happen. What seemed like it would never, ever end doesn’t just fade – it all but disappears and becomes the faintest memory of a bit of minor suffering that made up a part of life back then, moments that I hope and pray I performed with grace and an eye, not towards what I was getting out of it, but what I was being called to give – in love.

And just like that, it’s almost done, and just like that, off they go.

That’s today.

(If you ever go to Assisi and arrive by train, your station is at Santa Maria degli Angeli, and you then take some other means to get up the hill.)

EWTN Vatican correspondent  Joan Lewis gave a good explanation of both the Porziuncola and the Pardon of Assisi a few years ago:

Having prayed and meditated and discovered his vocation here in 1209, St. Francis founded the Friars Minor and eventually obtained the chapel from the Benedictines as a gift to be the center of his new Order.

Here, on March 28, 1211, Clare, the daughter of one Favarone di Offreduccio received the habit of the Poor Clares from Francis, thus instituting that Order.

And now we come to 1216 when St.Francis, in a vision, obtained what is know as the Pardon of Assisi or Indulgence of the Porziuncola (also written Portiuncula), approved by Pope Honorius III. This special day runs from Vespers on August 1 to sundown of August 2.

According to the official Porziuncola website, one night in 1216 Francis was immersed in prayer when suddenly the chapel was filled with a powerful light, and he saw Christ and His Holy Mother above the altar, surrounded by a multitude of angels.

They asked him what he wanted to be able to save souls and Francis’ answer was immediate: “I ask that all those who, having repented and confessed, will come to visit this church will obtain full and generous pardon with a complete remission of guilt.”

The Lord then said to Francis: “What you ask, Brother Francis, is great but you are worthy of greater things and greater things you will have. I thus accept your prayer, but on the understanding that you ask my vicar on earth, in my name, for this indulgence.”

Francis immediately went to Pope Honorius who listened attentively and gave his approval. To the question, “Francis, for how many years do you wish this indulgence?” the saint replied: “Holy Father, I do not ask for years, but for souls.”

And thus, on August 2, 1216, together with the bishops of Umbria, he announced to the people gathered at the Porziuncula: “My brothers, I want to send all of you to Heaven.”

Francis gathered his brother Franciscans here every year in a general chapter to discuss the Rule of the Order, to be renewed in their work and to awaken in themselves a new fervor in bringing the Gospel to the world.

It is also the site of St. Francis’ death. 

” He was at that time dwelling in the palace of the Bishop of Assisi, and therefore he asked the brethren to carry him with all speed to the “place” of St. Maria de Portiuncula, for he wished to give back his soul to God there, where (as has been said) he first knew the way of the truth perfectly….

…Then, for that he was about to become dust and ashes, he bade that he should be laid on sackcloth and sprinkled with ashes. All the brethren (whose father and leader he was) came together, and, as they stood reverently by and awaited his blessed departure and happy consummation, his most holy soul was released from the flesh and absorbed into the abyss of light, and his body fell asleep in the Lord. But one of his brethren and disciples, a man of no small fame, whose name I think it right to suppress now because while he lives in the flesh he chooses not to glory in such an announcement, saw the soul of the most holy father ascending over many waters in a straight course to heaven, and his soul was as it were a star having in some sort the bigness of the moon and possessing somewhat of the brightness of the sun, and borne up by a little white cloud.

It is also the spot where, according to her Spiritual Autobiography, Simone Weil prayed for the first time. From John Paul II’s letter on the occasion of the re-opening of the Porziuncola after the 1996 earthquake. 

The little church of the Porziuncola preserves and hands on a message and a special grace deriving from the actual experiences of the Poverello of Assisi. Message and grace still continue, and form a powerful summons to any who will allow themselves to be drawn by his example. This is borne out by the witness of Simone Weil, a daughter of Israel who fell under the spell of Christ: “Alone in the tiny romanesque chapel of St Mary of the Angels, a unique wonder of purity in which Francis had often prayed, I experienced a force greater than myself that drove me, for the first time in my life, to my knees”

The Porziuncola plays a part, naturally, in Adventures in Assisi It provides a climax of sorts, in the story in which the two children have walked in the footsteps of St. Francis, both literally and spiritually, having learned some lessons about humility and poverty of spirit.

Ann Engelhart found it a challenge to do a painting in which the scale of the small chapel in the huge basilica was evident, but still include the children. But I think she did a great job!

amy-welborn

Bread of Life

Two quick meditations on today’s Gospel from prayer books I’ve written:

Click on images for readable versions….

Amy Welborn Bread of Life

From Prayerful Pauses – which has now gone out of print, so isn’t available through the publisher’s website, and only through…other sources.

Amy-Welborn

From A Catholic Woman’s Book of Days.

Both are simple and short, intended to be a help in focusing, to be a gentle nudge.  They are similar to my Living Faith devotional entries. 

I don’t know if you can pick up on it or not, but the second is intended to be a play on our sometimes-reluctance to go to Mass, experienced on a sleepy morning, especially with sleepy kids objecting.

Temptation to stay away creeps up, but then we remember – and Eucharist is an act of remembering, in that particular way in which the remembering joins us to the reality, very present, very Really Present.

So we meet the temptation in ourselves and others, we remember Who meets us and what He has done for us, and of course, yes, we want to go.

amy-welborn

From Friendship with Jesus – 

Friendship with Jesus
amy_welborn

Every month of the year has a particular devotion attached to it. In August, it’s the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

From the Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols. 

This is the structure of the book….each entry has an illustration and a simple illustration on the left, and a “closer look” on the right. One page of the table of contents is below.

Fabulous conversation between Jane Clare Jones, and Helen Joyce, the author of Trans reviewed here.

Jones is the author of a darkly humorous, but essentially accurate mock dialogue I’ve linked to before called The Annals of the TERF Wars.

It seems that I link to “must-reads” regularly, so perhaps the impact has been dissipated, but yeah, this is a must-read – if you want a relatively succinct look at the current conversation on this issue. Of course, you’d want to read the book – or one of several others out there – but if you don’t have time, this is a decent introduction – with the added value of Joyce explaining how she got interested in the issue, which includes the trajectory many of us have traveled – from puzzlement to sputtering rage at the stupidity of it all.

Helen: When I started writing the book, I could imagine that the words ‘man’ and ‘woman’ meant something that’s not quite the same as ‘adult human female’ and ‘adult human male.’ But you can’t do that with ‘male’ and ‘female.’ They have really very specific meanings which are by no means just human meanings. When you say that a male person can be female, you can get to literally anything from that, because that’s like ‘zero equals one.’ During the research I was reading philosophy papers, and I remember [in] one paper I got to page 20 or something, and then there was a sentence: “I take it as axiomatic that trans women are women.” I actually shouted out loud, “For fuck’s sake!” How can you do that? That’s just like saying, ‘I take it as axiomatic that zero equals one.’ You’d have to do a lot of work, at the very least, to say that trans women are women. When I started writing the book, I thought that I was going to have to put in an entire appendix on arguments [that] ‘trans women are women’ and why they don’t work. And in the end, I just thought: “You know what, these are so shit.” These people are not debating, they’re not talking about their ideas; they’re just putting it out there. And people aren’t saying anything, because they’re afraid they’ll say something wrong. So unsurprisingly, this is the most pathetically weak, appalling, stupid body of work I’ve ever seen. You know that I’m not an academic philosopher, I’m not a philosopher at all, and I can look at this, and say, “Oh, that’s where you went wrong. That’s where you said zero equals one.”

So the intellectual reason was just how appalling this stuff was. It actually intellectually offended me. And then the personal reason was seeing these girls. That night after the Detransition Advocacy Network, I sat there and I couldn’t sleep and I just thought, “Yeah, I’ve got to write the book.” Suddenly there were no more questions. It was very straightforward: “They are sterilizing gay kids. And if I write this book, they might sterilize fewer gay kids.” So that’s simple.

Jane: My perception is that the trans rights project isn’t being driven primarily by pharmaceutical interests, but rather by the desire for validation. But by this point these interests have very strongly attached themselves to it, because of the money in it.

Helen: Of course; that’s the way they work. The two biggest lobby groups in America are hospitals and pharma companies, so of course they’re lobbying on this now. But that’s opportunistic. They come in afterwards. The first impulse is definitely middle-aged men whose desire for validation as women is greater than anything else; that’s the ‘zero equals one.’ They’re the people who insist that you say that they’re women. And once you say that lie, everything else follows.

Jane: Yeah, everything else is collateral damage. I mean, I think women’s spaces are a prime target, because they serve this validation function … but the kids are collateral damage, because they serve as evidence for the notion that gender identity is an essence.

……

Jane: Maybe this is a good place to end, because I think this is one of the great accomplishments of your book. As you say, one of the ways that this entire thing has been enabled is because what they’re trying to do is so bonkers that it’s taken us a very long time to convince people that they are actually trying to do what we say they are. It’s very easy to just go, ‘Oh, those are crazy women, they’re screaming about nothing. They’re hysterical. They just hate trans people.’ And one of the great achievements of your book is that you’ve managed to document this movement and its objectives, and you’ve done it with such lucidity and grace that it’s very compelling, and convincing, and it doesn’t sound like it’s you being the bonkers one.

Helen: Yeah, and on the other side as well, it’s very hard for a woman to decide, *deep sigh,* ‘I’m now going to dedicate two years of my life to something that’s mad.’ I know you can sympathize because you’ve done it too, but can [the] general [public] sympathize with somebody who has a million better things to be doing with their time and actually has to spend time writing down why we shouldn’t be putting rapists in women’s prisons?

Jane: That’s what makes me so angry, that we have to spend all this energy explaining …

Helen: I. Have. Better. Things. To. Do. With. My. Life.

The maddest bit of the whole book – there were many mad bits, but the maddest bit was saying, ‘Darwin actually worked out why there are two sexes.’ Sexual selection caused there to be two reproductive strategies, two reproductive pathways, bodies shaped by and directed towards two types of reproductive strategies. That’s it. There’s no other definition. It’s the same definition right across the animal and plant kingdom. That’s that. And I think that saved me a lot of time and stupid effort, although, God knows, I had to put a lot of time and stupid effort into this book. I mean, in a way, it’s been intellectually very interesting. But it’s also been ridiculous. And quite a lot of people in journalism have said to me, ‘Look, this is all so stupid, why are you wasting your time on it? Is this what you want to be known for?’ But the thing is, it’s all very well to think that this is so mad that someone will stop it. Well, someone has to be the someone.

There are also interesting observations about how American culture and feminism have contributed to this movement.

Of course, I don’t agree with every iota of every point, and you know that I’d say there are dots that are not being connected in ways that would clarify a lot – but that’s the case with any discussion of any issue, isn’t it?

More of my posts on this here.

Happy feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  In 2006, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke about him to…Jesuits!

St Ignatius of Loyola was first and foremost a man of God who in his life put God, his greatest glory and his greatest service, first. He was a profoundly prayerful man for whom the daily celebration of the Eucharist was the heart and crowning point of his day.

Thus, he left his followers a precious spiritual legacy that must not be lost or forgotten. Precisely because he was a man of God, St Ignatius was a faithful servant of the Church, in which he saw and venerated the Bride of the Lord and the Mother of Christians. And the special vow of obedience to the Pope, which he himself describes as “our first and principal foundation” (MI, Series III, I., p. 162), was born from his desire to serve the Church in the most beneficial way possible.

This ecclesial characteristic, so specific to the Society of Jesus, lives on in you and in your apostolic activities, dear Jesuits, so that you may faithfully meet the urgent needs of the Church today.

Among these, it is important in my opinion to point out your cultural commitment in the areas of theology and philosophy in which the Society of Jesus has traditionally been present, as well as the dialogue with modern culture, which, if it boasts on the one hand of the marvellous progress in the scientific field, remains heavily marked by positivist and materialist scientism.

Naturally, the effort to promote a culture inspired by Gospel values in cordial collaboration with the other ecclesial realities demands an intense spiritual and cultural training. For this very reason, St Ignatius wanted young Jesuits to be formed for many years in spiritual life and in study. It is good that this tradition be maintained and reinforced, also given the growing complexity and vastness of modern culture.

St. Ignatius was in my Loyola Kids Book of Saints, and you can read the entire chapter here:

Because he had spent all those months in his sickbed, Ignatius got bored. He asked for something to read. He was hoping for adventure books, tales that were popular back then: knights fighting for the hands of beautiful ladies, traveling to distant lands, and battling strange creatures.

But for some reason, two completely different books were brought to Ignatius. One was a book about the life of Christ, and the other was a collection of saints’ stories.

Ignatius read these books. He thought about them. He was struck by the great sacrifices that the saints had made for God. He was overwhelmed by their love of Jesus.

And Ignatius thought, “Why am I using my life just for myself? These people did so much good during their time on earth. Why can’t I?”

Ignatius decided that he would use the talents God had given him—his strength, his leadership ability, his bravery, and his intelligence—to serve God and God’s people.

While Ignatius continued to heal, he started praying very seriously. God’s peace filled his heart and assured him that he was on the right path.

When Ignatius was all healed and ready to walk and travel again, he left his home to prepare for his new life. It wasn’t easy. He was 30, which was considered old in those days, and he was getting a late start in his studies for the priesthood. In those days, the Mass was said only in Latin, and Latin was the language all educated people used to communicate with each other. Ignatius didn’t know a bit of Latin. So for his first Latin lessons, big, rough Ignatius had to sit in a classroom with a bunch of 10-year-old boys who were learning Latin for the first time too!

That takes a different kind of strength, doesn’t it?

The Loyola Kids Book of Saints

saints

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.

In The Words We Pray, I wrote about the Suscipe Prayer. That chapter is excerpted here:

The more you roll this prayer around in your soul, and the more you think about it, the more radical it is revealed to be.

One of the primary themes of the Spiritual Exercises is that of attachments and affections. Ignatius offers the account of “three classes of men” who have been given a sum of money, and who all want to rid themselves of it because they know their attachment to this worldly good impedes their salvation.

The first class would really like to rid themselves of the attachment, but the hour of death comes, and they haven’t even tried. The second class would also like to give up the attachment, but do so, conveniently, without actually giving anything up.

Is this sounding familiar at all?

The third class wants to get rid of the attachment to the money, which they, like the others, know is a burden standing in the way. But they make no stipulations as to how this attachment is relinquished; they are indifferent about the method. Whatever God wants, they want. In a word, they are the free ones.

The prayer “Take Lord, receive” is possible only because the retreatant has opened himself to the reality of who God is, what God’s purpose is for humanity, and what God has done for him in a particularly intense way.

A Response to God’s Love

The retreatant has seen that there is really no other response to life that does God justice. What love the Father has for us in letting us be called children of God, John says (1 John 3:1). What gift does our love prompt us to give?

In ages past, and probably in the minds of some of us still, that gift of self to God, putting oneself totally at God’s disposal, is possible only for people called to a vowed religious life. Well, God didn’t institute religious life in the second chapter of Genesis. He instituted marriage and family. I’m not a nun, but the Scriptures tell us repeatedly that all creation is groaning and being reborn and moving toward completion in God. Every speck of creation, everything that happens, every kid kicking a soccer ball down a road in Guatemala, each office worker in New Delhi, every ancient great-grandmother in a rest home in Boynton Beach, every baby swimming in utero at this moment around the world—all are beloved by God and are being constantly invited by him to love. And all can respond.

The Words We Pray

7 Quick Takes

—1 —

Well, hey everyone. A few updates.

Forgot to mention that I was in Living Faith on Wednesday. Go here for that. Next time will be in the second week in August.

Don’t forget – if you are planning school or formation-type things, consider my books!

Today: Blessed Solanus Casey

We took a short trip out east to visit and help with kiddos. But we’re back for a couple of weeks.

One kid is spending next week at the beach. The other will be here, finishing up his recuperation from the battle with poison sumac (visit to the derm this morning did wonders already), and enjoying the last days of summer with his friends who will be heading back to school – one set this coming week, another the week after that, and the last, the week after that. (Different sets, different schools, different schedules.)

And then it’s – get college guy settled, but it’s not too, too far away, and all that will be asked of me is to help with one load, and then I’ll be off.

As I mentioned, the last couple of weeks of August, Kid #5 and I will be doing some jaunts during the week (weekends are out because of the church job). I had been thinking Smoky Mountains National Park, but I’m drifting a little and thinking some combo of Cumberland Gap/Falls – Oak Ridge (Teachable! Moment!) – with some attempt to find not-inundated parts of SMNP. Not sure. But also the Mississippi Blues Trail. Definitely that.

No air travel, not so much because it’s a hassle, but because flying most places would then require renting a car, which is CRAZY right now. Forget it.

With all the seriousness in the world, I’m going to spend the rest of these takes chatting about movies we’ve watched over the past week or so.

— 2 —

Almost Famous: Watched w/20-year old, previously seen by me in the theaters when it was originally released. Love this movie, a coming-of age tale told with such affection and wisdom. The focus is most often, naturally, on the teen at the center – marvelously played by Patrick Fugit  – but of course, a parent is going to be watching Frances McDormand, and thinking…yes…no…well, that looks familiar. Do what you can to protect, listen, and then let go. What else can you do? And oh yes – DON’T DO DRUGS!

— 3 —

Kind Hearts and Coronets. Second or third viewing for me, but even so, I always forget how little Alec Guinness is actually in this film, and how it leaves me wishing for just more of him and less of Dennis Price having lengthy conversations with Joan Greenwood (as delightful as she is) and Valerie Hobson. Which makes my least favorite of the Ealing comedies. Still, so worth it for that final twist, though, which is a version of my favorite final twist – the criminal being upended by his own actions/pride or even just an accident. My memoirs!

— 4 —

Apocalypse Now – Kid #5 and I had watched  it last year, but College Guy had never seen it, so here we go. My previous post on it, and my Film Guy Son’s take.

The movie is both a hard watch and an easy one. It’s hard because of the inhumanity on display and the questions that it raises. It’s easy to watch because of the magnificent cinematography on display and the great performances by everyone involved……In the end, though, this work of madness by a madman who lost himself in the jungle is one of the most significant and greatest films made. A great companion piece, by the way, is Hearts of Darkness, the movie that Coppola’s wife made about the making of the movie.

We’ll probably try to watch the documentary over the next day or so, before College Guy heads to the beach.

— 5 –

The Taking of Pelham 123. NO. Not the remake, but the original, starring the incomparable Robert Shaw as well as a host of other familiar faces. A very entertaining film, with an ending that’s one more variation on my favorite trope mentioned above. Tight, smart and a fabulous look at early 70’s New York City. The language, though, surprised me. Standards were definitely loosening by this time, but even so, it struck me as stretching it for the period.

We watched the trailer for the 2009 remake (Denzel Washington and John Travolta) and what a difference (apparently). From some degree of character work to exploding, tumbling cars. Progress?

— 6 —

One, Two Three – Billy Wilder’s brash comedy, starring James Cagney as a Coca-Cola executive in West Berlin, having to clean up a mess when his Atlanta bosses’ daughter marries a Commie she met sneaking out to the East every night. I’d seen it years ago when networks still showed movies like this on television (so you know…a long time ago), but it never streams and is hard to find. Film Guy Son has a copy though, so on a recent visit, it was my request. Enjoyable, startling in its sharpness at times, and yes, frantic to the point of exhaustion, practically. Also stolen, essentially, by ……as Cagney’s German assistant, constantly fighting his deeply-engrained former Nazi ways.

The Thing – also watched during the visit. It had been on my list for a while, and yes, he owns it (as he owns many films), so it was a good non-heavy choice. Very well done, deserving of its reputation. Expert combination of gross horror and more subtle suspense. I will say I was most impressed by the performance of the dog – marvelously well-trained (watch the sequence with the animal walking down the hall, for example.)

— 7 —

Blast From the Past – this was last night. Again, I saw it in the theaters, I think, and always had a soft spot for it. But, as I’ve said many times before, comedy is the genre that seems to date the fastest, so I wasn’t sure if it would hold up. It does! At least for me. And the others enjoyed it, too. Yes, the premise is absurd, but it’s so well cast and moves so quickly that you really don’t have time to ask too many questions or wonder why the characters don’t ask some simple questions themselves. Brendan Fraser is wonderful and perfect in this role, and there are just so many entertaining scenes – as well as some gentle questioning of contemporary “standards” of behavior.

For more Quick Takes, Visit This Ain’t the Lyceum

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