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As you know, we are well into 20th century literature, this week wrapping up Hemingway.

He’s reading four short stories, the first of which was “The Killers,” an early story, published in 1927 in Scribner’s.

When looking for a printable version of this story, I came upon a “reprinting” of the original Scribner’s publication, so I happily printed it out – all the better because it had illustrations.

What I hadn’t noticed until yesterday, when we talked about the story, was the piece that directly followed it. It’s an essay by one Grace Hausmann Sherwood called “A Catholic Laywoman’s View-Point.

Sherwood, from my brief research, wrote a couple of books – one a volume of poetry, and the other, a history of a religious order.

I’m going to type out the introduction and then just toss up images of the rest of the piece here. It’s a bit scattered – it seems in part to be a general apologetic for the seemingly counter-cultural aspects of Catholicism as well as an explanation for the role of women in Catholicism. I think anyone who’s interested in Catholicism, religious history, social history and women in religion will find it useful.

It’s also a helpful antidote to the caricature of pre-Vatican II Catholicism as a closed, inner-looking system, Sherwood frequently points to analogies and subversive justification for Catholic practices and beliefs in other faiths and in the secular world, and has no problem in saying, for example, that a Catholic woman is bound by beliefs that seem strange and unnecessary to other women, “as good and often much better Christians than herself..”

And of course, most interesting – and depressing for the current moment – of all is that there was actually a time in which it was perfectly normal for a major, national, popular magazine’s pages to lead directly from stories by Ernest Hemingway to an essay by a religiously observant woman explaining her faith.

Note: you can find the Scribner’s issue here. I’ve reproduced the introduction below, and then given you images of the piece if you don’t want to head over to Google Books.

And before you read – just note how little has changed from her description of the “spiritual commentary” landscape – whose voices are heard? the modernist, the fundamentalist, the layman who has just discovered the things of the spirit for the first time and the minister who is about to give them up…..

At a time like this when our foremost magazines carry almost invariably with each issue one article about religion and sometimes more than one: when even the American Mercury, edited by that famous scoffer, Henry Mencken, falls into line with the publication not so long ago of an article with the significant title: “A New God for America,” it seems not improbable to me that the view-point of the Catholic laywoman might interest the general reader.

For among the many voices which have been heard in this modern pulpit of the printed page, among the modernist, the fundamentalist, the layman who has just discovered the things of the spirit for the first time and the minister who is about to give them up because he has lost his faith in them, the man who thinks that Christ’s example is the only religion needed anywhere and the woman who would offer us Buddha as a substitute for Christ, the missionary’s note-book from some outpost of civilization and the gropings after spirituality of the man in the street—among all these the Catholic woman has been silent. What she thinks of her religion, how she feels about its practices as they relate to her and to her children, how full her share in spiritual things can be in a church governed entirely by men, and by men, at that, without wives, has not been told—if I have kept track of the argument and affirmation, the glimpses of mysticism, the discovery of prayer as a personal necessity, the hunger for spiritual insight, the longing for a definite way to enter upon the spiritual life which has surged like a tide through the pages of our better magazines for months or, rather, years.

The Mountain Lion

I read this novel yesterday. The Mountain Lion, written by Jean Stafford, a woman who had a difficult life (surprise), a situation not helped by being married for a time to poet Robert Lowell.

The Mountain Lion (New York Review Books Classics): Stafford, Jean, Davis,  Kathryn: 9781590173527: Amazon.com: Books

The Mountain Lion is rich, dense, evocative and dark. Children are at its center, but so are children at the center of Lord of the Flies and A High Wind in Jamaica. So that tells you something.

What is it? It’s hard to say. I will tell you that if you decide to read it, don’t read Stafford’s “Author’s Note” that’s published at the beginning of the NYRB edition first. It will, as we say, spoil the ending, although it doesn’t take long to discern, simply from the tone, that even if the specifics are yet to be discovered, the ending will be grim.

Briefly:

Eight-year-old Molly and her ten-year-old brother Ralph are inseparable, in league with each other against the stodgy and stupid routines of school and daily life; against their prim mother and prissy older sisters; against the world of authority and perhaps the world itself. One summer they are sent from the genteel Los Angeles suburb that is their home to backcountry Colorado, where their uncle Claude has a ranch. There the children encounter an enchanting new world—savage, direct, beautiful, untamed—to which, over the next few years, they will return regularly, enjoying a delicious double life. And yet at the same time this other sphere, about which they are both so passionate, threatens to come between their passionate attachment to each other. Molly dreams of growing up to be a writer, yet clings ever more fiercely to the special world of childhood. Ralph for his part feels the growing challenge, and appeal, of impending manhood. Youth and innocence are hurtling toward a devastating end.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between art and life, reading so many nineteenth and twentieth-century authors for school, reading them fairly closely and unpacking their lives in tandem For The Sake of Education – it’s hard to avoid it here, as well. The children in The Mountain Lion grow up where Stafford was born and grew up, and spend their summers and that final year in the state where she went to college. Stafford was quite close to her brother, who died in a car accident while serving in Europe in 1944. All the exterior and, I am assuming, interior details seem true. And Molly, the misanthropic, unpleasant writer-to-be, fits well in the tradition of the unnamed 12-year old girl in O’Connor’s “Temple of the Holy Ghost” and Harriet of, naturally, Harriet the Spy: sharp, sardonic, mildly malevolent observers of human nature, creations of those who knew them best, from the inside.

Yes, this is a coming-of-age story, but a very strange and dark one. But as unusual and elevated as the experiences are they still ring true to me, as accurate, if heightened.

It seems to me that The Mountain Lion is, in part, about the richness and the dangers of a child’s inner world as that child struggles to understand the outer world, most importantly, the behavior and expectations of adults. The dangers arise mostly because hardly a soul in this tale actually listens to the children or bothers with them. They were, after all, children, and one of them – Molly – is strange and a little frightening. Why listen? After all, they’ll grow up soon enough and all confusions will be straightened out, all yearnings and desires understood and directed properly, all illusions dissipated in the face of real life.

There’s more. A key aspect of the novel is the closeness of the siblings, which then is dramatically sundered, not so much by action, but by words – just words – but words that speak of mysteries that needn’t threaten, but in this context of silence and absolute division between these children’s inner lives and the lives of the adults around them – do.

I’m reading more Stafford tonight – some of her stories. Her life was…challenging, and included the marriage to Lowell, injuries sustained in a car accident in which he was driving, being a witness to a suicide (by gun) when she was in college….and so on.

Henry James said that a primary quality of good fiction was the experience of “felt life” on the reader’s part. How many ways is that accomplished? Innumerable, but central to it is detail rather than abstraction and assertion. I would say that with The Mountain Lion, I felt as if I were experiencing a Real Thing – but that’s not because the central characters felt real – the children themselves didn’t live as realistically as some of the secondary characters, and less so as they aged through the story. But it was more because in the reading, I had a conviction that I was indeed living in a reality – remembered, shaken apart, mourned, desired – not so much out there – but in there – in Jean Stafford’s searching, sorting, seeing mind:

When they had gone a hundred steps, they could see the palm trees that marked the boundary of their land. On this last stretch, Molly always thought for some reason of Redondo Beach where they went for a few weeks at the end of the summer. Looking up into the blank blue sky, she could feel that she was barefoot in the hot sand, hunting starfish and sand dollars, hearing the cries of the frightened ladies to their wading children who petulantly cried back that the waves were not high. The thought of the beach made her restlessly nostalgic and sometimes made her whimper, because she always remembered a feeling of queer and somehow pleasant horror when once a gull had winked at her and she had seen that his lower eyelid moved and not the upper one. But today she did not cry: Ralph was too gay, she knew, to comfort her and that was the only pleasure in crying, to be embraced by him and breathe in his acrid smell of leather braces and serge and to feel, shuddering, the touch of his warty hands on her face. It was always possible for her to will herself not to think sadly of the beach but to think instead of her dead father, of whom she had no memories but only the knowledge that he was up in the sky with Jesus and would miraculously recognize her when she came to heaven even though she had not been born when he died. This was the most thrilling thought she ever had and it had made her almost delirious ever since the day she and Ralph agreed not to die until he was ninety-nine and she was ninety-seven so that when they got up there they would look much older than their father who had died at the age of thirty-six.

(And someone he inspired….)

His memorial is today, May 10.

This webpage at EWTN has a good introduction.

From Pope Benedict’s homily at his canonization:

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”. The brief conversation we heard in the Gospel passage, between a man identified elsewhere as the rich young man and Jesus, begins with this question (cf. Mk 10: 17-30). We do not have many details about this anonymous figure; yet from a few characteristics we succeed in perceiving his sincere desire to attain eternal life by leading an honest and virtuous earthly existence. In fact he knows the commandments and has observed them faithfully from his youth. Yet, all this which is of course important is not enough. Jesus says he lacks one thing, but it is something essential. Then, seeing him well disposed, the divine Teacher looks at him lovingly and suggests to him a leap in quality; he calls the young man to heroism in holiness, he asks him to abandon everything to follow him: “go, sell what you have, and give to the poor… and come, follow me” (v. 21).

“Come, follow me”. This is the Christian vocation which is born from the Lord’s proposal of love and can only be fulfilled in our loving response. Jesus invites his disciples to give their lives completely, without calculation or personal interest, with unreserved trust in God. Saints accept this demanding invitation and set out with humble docility in the following of the Crucified and Risen Christ. Their perfection, in the logic of faith sometimes humanly incomprehensible consists in no longer putting themselves at the centre but in choosing to go against the tide, living in line with the Gospel. This is what the five Saints did who are held up today with great joy for the veneration of the universal Church: Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński, Francisco Coll y Guitart, Jozef Damien de Veuster, Rafael Arnáiz Barón and Mary of the Cross (Jeanne Jugan). In them we contemplate the Apostle Peter’s words fulfilled: “Lo, we have left everything and followed you” (v. 28), and Jesus’ comforting reassurance: “there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time… with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (vv. 29-30)….

….Jozef De Veuster received the name of Damien in the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. When he was 23 years old, in 1863, he left Flanders, the land of his birth, to proclaim the Gospel on the other side of the world in the Hawaiian Islands. His missionary activity, which gave him such joy, reached its peak in charity. Not without fear and repugnance, he chose to go to the Island of Molokai to serve the lepers who lived there, abandoned by all. Thus he was exposed to the disease from which they suffered. He felt at home with them. The servant of the Word consequently became a suffering servant, a leper with the lepers, for the last four years of his life. In order to follow Christ, Fr Damien not only left his homeland but also risked his health: therefore as the word of Jesus proclaimed to us in today’s Gospel says he received eternal life (cf. Mk 10: 30). On this 20th anniversary of the Canonization of another Belgian Saint, Bro. Mutien-Marie, the Church in Belgium has once again come together to give thanks to God for the recognition of one of its sons as an authentic servant of God. Let us remember before this noble figure that it is charity which makes unity, brings it forth and makes it desirable. Following in St Paul’s footsteps, St Damien prompts us to choose the good warfare (cf. 1 Tim 1: 18), not the kind that brings division but the kind that gathers people together. He invites us to open our eyes to the forms of leprosy that disfigure the humanity of our brethren and still today call for the charity of our presence as servants, beyond that of our generosity.

He’s in the Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints:

(written when he was still a Blessed)

Speaking of Hansen’s Disease, a few years ago, I read The Colony, which is about the history of the leper colony at Molokai.  It’s quite fascinating, and perhaps the most important figure I’ve learned about was one who was quite well known during the early part of this century and who now has, following his presently more famous colleagues, Sts. Damien and Marianne of Molokai, his canonization cause in process:

Brother Joseph Dutton:

In late July 1886, a ship pulled into Molokai, Hawaii’s leper colony. Father Damien de Veuster always greeted the newcomers, usually lepers seeking refuge and comfort. But one passenger stood out, a tall man in a blue denim suit. He wasn’t a leper; he was Joseph Dutton, and at age 43 he came to help Father Damien. The priest warned he couldn’t pay anything, but Dutton didn’t care. He would spend forty-five years on Molokai, remaining long after the priest’s death of leprosy in 1889.

Joseph’s journey to Molokai was full of twists and turns. 

Well worth reading and contemplating!

This, written on a veteran-centered website, has lots of details about his earlier life.

For about a year or so after the war, Dutton remained in government service and oversaw the morbid task of disinterring thousands of Union soldiers who had died while serving in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. Each body was placed in a coffin and hauled to national cemeteries established at Shiloh and Corinth. Dutton described this as “delicate work,” having to pinpoint and retrieve the scattered remains of soldiers only identified by crude markers. “So far as possible I made it a rule to be present at the disinterment of every body,” the meticulous officer stated. By the end of his assignment, Dutton claimed that he supervised the removal of 6,000 bodies.

Once his cemetery duties ended, Dutton became superintendent of a distillery in Alabama. The once-promising quartermaster, possibly battling depression from a recent divorce and the grim cemetery work he had been tasked, found relief in the bottom of a bottle. In 1870, broke and alone, he drifted to Memphis, Tennessee, looking for work. He took a job as a clerk with the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company. Afterward, he served as a special agent for the War Department investigating claims of persons who had remained loyal to the Union. His drinking got out of hand, and sometime between 1875 and 1876, Dutton decided enough was enough and swore to never take a drink again.

By the age of 40, now sober, he began to seriously consider his purpose in life. He turned to religion and was baptized a Catholic in April 1883. He took the name of his favorite saint, Saint Joseph.

More here

Here 

Here.

Father Damien—then a patient himself—greeted him as “Brother” on July 29, 1886, and from that moment until Damien’s death on April 15, 1889, the two maintained an intimate friendship.  Dutton dressed Damien’s sores, recorded a statement about the priest’s purity, and worked tirelessly to honor his memory and legacy in following years.  He led the movement to name the main road “Damien Road” and wrote both personal letters and newspaper columns about his sacrifice.  Included in Dutton’s collection at Notre Dame are strips of Damien’s cloak, other liturgical vestments, and several finger towels that he saved in envelopes.

In his 44 years in Kalaupapa, Dutton touched thousands of lives through his selfless service.  He headed the Baldwin Home for Boys on the Kalawao side of the peninsula, where he cared physically and spiritually for male patients and orphan boys.  From laboring as a carpenter and administrator, to comforting the dying, to coaching baseball, Dutton immersed himself in his community without accepting credit; to him, work was always about answering God’s call instead of personal fame or selfish desire.

The guild collection information for his canonization cause.

 

Me in Living Faith today:


One of the most marvelous sites of many at Yellowstone National Park is the Grand Prismatic Spring. It’s a huge depression in the ground in which hot water and chemicals from deep below mix, and there it is: a glorious multicolored prism, shimmering with shades of blue, green, pink and more.


Seeing it from ground level offers one view. But to get the full impact, you must take a vigorous hike uphill. The fruit of that challenging journey? A gorgeous, more complete perspective.


Peter had no trouble believing that Jesus was Lord and Messiah—for his own people. In time, God took Peter to a higher place.

7 Quick Takes

— 1 —

Yeah, as I keep saying, still distracted.

So let’s see what lameness I come up with this week. Maybe by this time next week, the distractions will have sorted themselves out and my brain can turn right-side up.

First, some local light-heartedness. Some of you are familiar with the video producers It’s a Southern Thing and SEC Shorts. They’re local, and one sometimes sees them around filming – I saw them at the neighborhood Pig once! – and if you don’t see them in the act, you certainly recognize the landmarks – many of which are near my house.

So this pleasant spring surprise from SEC Shorts was filmed in the park near my old neighborhood – and dunks on my alma mater, so all the better.

“Welcome to Knoxville.” Snort.

And this – quite often this kind of thing doesn’t come off well, but even Ms. Super Critic here enjoyed this one a lot – very well done and clever, including the plot twist at the end! I could relate to…all of it. Cause I’m old.

(“The Pig” = Piggly Wiggly, FYI)

— 2 —

Speaking of local – our Cathedral this week began the intricate and fascinating process of installing a brand-new pipe organ.

(Almost 100% paid for, btw)

You can follow the progress at the Cathedral’s Facebook page

Or Instagram.

Very grateful for this commitment to sacred music!

— 3 —

Some of you may recall last year, the news that long-time Christianity Today editor and writer Mark Galli was becoming Catholic.

Here’s a piece he wrote that’s on the Word on Fire site on the Blessed Mother:

In talking about my conversion to Catholicism with some women friends, I’ve heard more than once, “I could become Catholic except for its view of women.” I know some balk at the fact that women cannot become priests—perhaps a subject for another day. Otherwise, I suspect that Catholic men, lay and clerical, have been no more sexist than Protestants or unbelievers over the centuries. But my friends fail to recognize that it is one woman in particular through whom God became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. And that this woman, by God’s grace, is “full of grace” and the means by which we grasp the mercy of Jesus. It may be true that certain of the Church’s men can disparage women, but that doesn’t seem to be God’s problem, who uses women, and one woman extraordinarily, to do the most important task he’s given his Church: to make Christ’s mercy real to those troubled by sin and afflicted with suffering as they traverse the hard roads of this present life.

It’s lovely. And it’s part of a series – something to look forward to.

But when I knelt before the statue of Mary at my home parish that afternoon, I was startled. I moved my eyes from her delicate toes (that suggested the feet beneath her gown that crushed the serpent), to her gently outstretch arms, to her fixed gaze. Her focus was distant and yet caring, as if she was looking upon the millions who beseeched her. Her lips betrayed just a hint of a smile and her fondness for those millions. I knew instantly that included me, this sorry excuse for a man kneeling before her.

My ever-vigilant mind tried to kick in to dismiss what was happening: This is an idealized Mary; the artist crafted the statue in a traditional way to emphasize her youthful beauty and innocence, and to suggest her virtue. Normally when I observe art with the artist’s intention in view, it’s my mind that converses with the art. As much as my mind whirled with such thoughts before Mary, they were drowned out by the murmuring of my heart. I knew at that moment that Mary loved me and was praying for me.

— 4 —

Remember I have a book on Mary – here.

— 5 —

Taking these random takes in another, less cheery direction – but it’s the nature of the thing, to gather up notes that have struck me – one of my go-to sites, the Neglected Book sites, ran a piece on the once heralded, but now forgotten Isabel Bolton, nee Mary Britton Miller.

If you think you have problems, consider her life:

Grandfather committed suicide.

When she was four years old, her father caught pneumonia and died. Hours later, her mother died, also of pneumonia.

Mary and her siblings were sent to live in the care of an aunt and uncle who really didn’t ‘t want them. There was no abuse, it seems, but just, a clear sense that they were a burden and a nuisance.

At the age of 14, Mary and her twin sister Grace were swimming . Caught in a current, her sister drowned.

… this we saw was hopeless, a futile thing to do — to waste strength necessary to swim ashore. We were lost and terrified — Grace’s strength already spent. Was she clinging to me? No, she was not, she was still beside me in the water, swimming still. What was it she was saying? Clearly, I heard her voice; as though I myself were speaking the words, she said, “My darling Mary, how I love you….”

And so, Mary-Isabel did what she could do. She wrote.

— 6 —

It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday, a day about which I am utterly and completely unsentimental, even though I believe that there is no more important work I have done in my life than my (flawed) work as a mother. All the Influencer Ladeez are like “You can do it all! Follow your dreams! The Babeez won’t stop you!” And I’m just over like…Just freaking take time with your kids and listen to them. You’re weak and flawed, but there you go. It’s the most important thing you’ll do.

Oh, and same for the dads, btw.

So here’s my rant on Mother’s Day at Mass.

— 7 —

I think I’ll make Tzatziki Sauce tonight.

See more Quick Takes at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Let’s Poetry

Folks, my brain is…distracted these days. I’m thinking it will take a couple more days to regain focus, but until then, you know what we do…..edublogging, yes.

We are winding down the homeschool year – one more month, about. I wrote a bit about it last week. Or earlier this week. I’m not sure. Here?

I was greatly cheered yesterday by the release of next year’s schedule for the Catholic homeschool co-op that we’re a part of – physics (check) ; government (check); economics (check); apologetics (check). Now I just need to figure out math (Latin is set, Spanish and history are self-guided and we’ll be doing British lit with a focus on Shakespeare since hopefully live performances will be back both in Atlanta and Montgomery next year) , and we’re set, and can probably go ahead and call it a day – or high school career – at the end of the next school year, graduate him after the three years it will take to fulfill Alabama’s requirements for a diploma, and then just move on. Not to go immediately to full-time college, but to probably take a couple of courses, spend more time on music, travel, bike and figure things out. He’s doing a summer program that begins in just a few weeks that might help inspire some thoughts.

So, as I told the student yesterday, we’re going all in on the American literature this month. No mercy, drive on and lean in.

And remember – I don’t have him do writing. He can write. He can analyze. He’s taking an online fiction writing class. It’s fine, she said. I just don’t want the stress of evaluating it myself.

And since some of you are interested – and often have helpful hints as well – I thought I’d just talk about what we’ve done so far this week.

First off, we finished off Fitzgerald after last week’s field trip. We talked about Gatsby and Babylon Revisited. It was mostly talking about elements of plot and style, with a few helps from this set of questions about the story.

The main texts we’re using are this CLEP book and the Norton Anthology (I am working so hard not to do Amazon links, you guys…) which college kid used last year in his survey. So he read a few pages on Modernism from each book, and then we watched a couple of videos on poetry – not American poetry specifically, but just the question of what is poetry in general. We’ve read poetry, of course, but I think the shift into Modernism and other 20th century forms called for a little mind-opening. So:

And then for today, he read the CLEP material on Amy Lowell, Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg.

I am sure the poets and the poetry readers out there would have better choices than I for our reading, and certainly more to say. But I’m going by what’s in the anthology, and not much beyond it, and my purpose is just to explore, expose him to a variety of writers, give him a sense of the “canon,” and perhaps give him ideas for his own reading.

We’ll generally read the poetry together, aloud, or listen to recordings of either the poets themselves or others reading them.

Today’s poems:

By Amy Lowell, all read aloud and discussed:

September 1918

St. Louis

New Heavens for Old

Frost and Sandburg – we absolutely didn’t go much beyond the usual, and he’d encountered much of it before, but we did expand it with videos.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (listened to recording of Frost reciting.)

The Road Not Taken read aloud.

Mending Wall, too.

I will have him read Death of a Hired Man tonight on his own.

Sandburg:

Listened to recording of Chicago.

Read Fog and Grass aloud.

Took in just a bit of this interview with Frost – in which he recites Snowy Evening.

And this short bio:

Then I decided to plunge ahead with a couple of Hemingway videos. He’ll be reading Hemingway over the weekend and early next week, but it’s been a rainy day, there wasn’t anything else on the docket, so might as well knock these videos off:

No, we are not watching 3 hours of the Ken Burns doc. Just…not.

Tomorrow: Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams. Thursday: Pound. Friday: Marianne Moore. He’ll also start reading Hemingway: “The Killers” and “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” this week and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” next week as well as some excerpts from other works, and surveying the plots of the novels.

Sacrament Season

First Communion

…RCIA…Graduation…End-of-year Teacher Gift?

Got you covered!

It may be a little late, but you can file them away. Or even note these as good purchases for the beginning of a new school year….

First Communion:

For your First Communicant.  For your students, if you’re a catechist, DRE or pastor:

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I’ve been telling Ann for years she should sell these as prints, especially the two above. Follow Ann on Instagram! She does all sorts of wonderful watercolor tutorials.

More here.

26811_W

 Be Saints!

And then:

The Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints

Over 40 saints’ lives,written at a middle-school reading level.

saints

I. Saints are People Who Love Children
St. Nicholas,St. John Bosco, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla

Saints Are People Who Love Their Families
St. Monica,St. Cyril and St. Methodius, St. Therese of Lisieux,Blessed Frederic Ozanam,

Saints Are People Who Surprise OthersSt. Simeon Stylites,St. Celestine V,St. Joan of Arc,St. Catherine of Siena

Saints Are People Who Create
St. Hildegard of Bingen,Blessed Fra Angelico,St. John of the Cross,Blessed Miguel Pro

Saints Are People Who Teach Us New Ways to Pray
St. Benedict,St. Dominic de Guzman,St. Teresa of Avila,St. Louis de Monfort

Saints Are People Who See Beyond the Everyday
St. Juan Diego, St. Frances of Rome, St. Bernadette Soubirous, Blessed Padre Pio

Saints Are People Who Travel From Home
St. Boniface, St. Peter Claver, St. Francis Xavier, St. Francis Solano, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini

Saints Are People Who Are Strong Leaders
St. Helena, St. Leo the Great, St. Wenceslaus, St. John Neumann

Saints Are People Who Tell The Truth
St. Polycarp, St. Thomas Becket, St. Thomas More, Blessed Titus Brandsma

Saints Are People Who Help Us Understand God
St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Jerome, St. Patrick, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Edith Stein

Saints Are People Who Change Their Lives for God
St. Ambrose, St. Gregory the Great, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Camillus de Lellis, St. Katharine Drexel

Saints Are People Who Are Brave
St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, St. George, St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Isaac Jogues, The Carmelite Nuns of Compiegne, St. Maximilian Kolbe

Saints Are People Who Help the Poor and Sick
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Martin de Porres, Blessed Joseph de Veuster

Saints Are People Who Help In Ordinary Ways
St. Christopher, St. Blaise, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Bernard of Montjoux

Saints Are People Who Come From All Over the World
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Paul Miki, Blessed Peter To Rot, Blessed Maria Clementine Anuarite Nengapeta

More

The Loyola Kids Book of Heroes

More saints’ lives, organized according to the virtues they expressed through their lives.

I. Faith

  1. Introduction: Jesus is Born
  2. John the Baptist: A Hero Prepares the Way
  3. Early Christian Martyrs: Heroes are Faithful Friends
  4. Medieval Mystery Plays: Heroes Make the Bible Come to Life
  5. St. Albert the Great: Heroes Study God’s Creation
  6. Sister Blandina Segale: Heroes Work in Faith

II. Hope

  1. Introduction: Jesus Teaches
  2. Pentecost: Heroes on Fire with Hope
  3. Paul: A Hero Changes and Finds Hope
  4. St. Patrick and St. Columba: Heroes Bring Hope into Darkness
  5. St. Jane de Chantal: Heroes Hope through Loss
  6. St. Mary Faustina Kowalska: A Hero Finds Hope in Mercy

Charity

  1. Introduction: Jesus Works Miracles
  2. Peter and John: Heroes are Known by their Love
  3. St. Genevieve: A City is Saved by a Hero’s Charity
  4. St. Meinrad and St. Edmund Campion: Heroes love their Enemies
  5. Venerable Pierre Toussaint: A Hero Lives a Life of Charity
  6. Rose Hawthorne Lathrop: A Hero Cares for Those Who Need it Most
  7. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: A Hero Lives Charity with the Dying

Temperance

  1. Introduction: Jesus Strikes a Balance
  2. Peter and Cornelius: Heroes Love Their Neighbors
  3. Charlemagne and Alcuin: Heroes Use their Talents for Good
  4. St. Francis: A Hero Appreciates Creation
  5. Venerable Matt Talbot: Heroes Can Let Go
  6. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: A Hero Enjoys the Gift of Life

Prudence

  1. Introduction: Jesus Gives Us Leaders to Help us Make Good Choices
  2. Paul and Barnabas at Lystra: Heroes See the Good in All Things
  3. St. Jean de Brebeuf: A Hero Respects Others
  4. Catherine Doherty and Jean Vanier: Heroes Bring New Ideas
  5. Venerable Solanus Casey: A Hero Accepts His Life
  6. Blessed John XXIII: A Hero Finds a New Way

MORE

And then more recently:

More here. 

Confirmation? Graduation?

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The How to Book of the Mass

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Praying with the Pivotal Players

amy welborn

 Mother’s Day?

The Catholic Woman’s Book of Days is a 365-day devotional for Catholic women. It is loosely tied to the liturgical year, is a very handy size, and features special devotions for several saints. It is not structured to be tied to any particular year. So it’s sort of perennial. And no, I don’t know about the crosses on the cover. People always ask me about them, thinking they’re mine. You can take a look inside the devotional, including several entries for January and June here.

Teacher Gift?

Any of the above……

"amy welborn"

Long-time readers will probably remember this post. But given the nature of the Internet and how quickly readers come and go, I thought it was worth reprinting here.

Mother’s Day is a few days away, but I thought I’d toss this out there, especially for any priests, deacons or other preachers who might wander by.

My mother & a friend in Nogales, 1950’s.

The question of how to “recognize” mothers at a Mother’s Day Mass is a fraught one.

There is, of course, the view (mine) that everything that happens at Mass should relate only to the liturgical year. Stop doing all the other stupid things, thanks. As a community, we’re free to celebrate whatever in whatever way we choose outside of Mass, but when it comes to Very Special Mass in Honor of Very Special Groups of any sort – scouts, moms, dads, youth, ‘Muricans….I’m against it.

But of course, over the years, American sentimental pop culture creeps into the peripheries of liturgical observance, and quite often, here we are at Mass on the second Sunday of May, with the expectation that the Moms present must be honored.

I mean…I went to the trouble to go to Mass for the first time in four months to make her happy…you’d better honor her….

This is problematic, however, and it’s also one of those situations in which the celebrant often feels that he just can’t win. No matter what he does, someone will be angry with him, be hurt, or feel excluded.

Because behind the flowers and sentiment, Mother’s Day is very hard for a lot of people – perhaps it’s the most difficult holiday out there for people in pain.

So when Father invites all the moms present to stand for their blessing at the end of Mass and the congregation applauds….who is hurting?

  • Infertile couples
  • Post-abortive women
  • Post-miscarriage women
  • Women whose children have died
  • People who have been abused by their mothers
  • People with terrible mothers, even short of outright abuse
  • Women who have placed children for adoption
  • People who’ve recently lost their mothers. Or not so recently.
  • Women who are not now and might never be biological or adoptive mothers and who wonder about that and are not sure about how they feel about it.

And then there are those of us who value our role as mothers, but who really think Mother’s Day is lame and would just really prefer that you TRY TO GET ALONG FOR ONE STUPID DAY instead of giving me some flowers and politely clapping at Mass.

So awkward.

Nope. Making Mothers stand up, be blessed and applauding them (the worst) at Mass is a bad idea for a lot of reasons.

It’s not that people should expect to be sheltered from the consequences of their choices and all that life has handed them when the enter the church doorway.

The Catholic way is the opposite of that – after all, the fundamental question every one of us carries is that of death, and every time we enter a Catholic church we are hit with that truth, sometimes more than life-sized.

No, the question is more: Catholic life and tradition has a lot to say and do when it comes to parenthood – in ways, if you think about it, that aren’t sentimental and take into account the limitations of human parenthood and root us, no matter how messed-up our families are or how distant we feel from contemporary ideals of motherhood – in the parenthood of God. Live in that hope, share it, and be formed by that, not by commercially-driven American pop culture.

So here’s a good idea. It happened at my parish a couple of years ago, and is the standard way of recognizing the day there now.

Because, indeed, we’re not walled off from the broader culture. People enter into that sacred space carrying everything with them, and Christ seeks to redeem all of it.  So knowing that Mother’s Day permeates the culture, accepting it, but also accepting that motherhood and parenthood in general is far more complex than the greeting cards and commercials let on, and that people come bearing, not only motherhood-related joy, but motherhood-related pain as well – the Body of Christ embraces and takes it all in.

So, quite simply, at the end of Mass as we were standing for the final blessing, the celebrant mentioned that it was Mother’s Day (it hadn’t been mentioned before this), and said that as such, it was an appropriate day to pray for our mothers, living and deceased, and to ask our Blessed Mother for her intercession for them and for us. Hail Mary…

Done.

And done in a way that, just in its focus, implicitly acknowledges and respects the diversity of experiences of motherhood that will be present in any congregation, and, without sentiment or awkward overreach, does that Catholic thing, rooted in tradition  – offers the whole mess up, in trust.

Moonrise

Well! That was some picture!

I read about Moonrise in a blurb in the New Yorker the other day, mentioned because it’s currently streaming on the Criterion Channel:

Frank Borzage’s melancholy and mysterious 1948 film noir, “Moonrise.” Borzage, who, in 1929, won an Oscar for Best Director, was one of the most distinctive filmmakers of his time; his doom-laden romanticism pervades the movie’s visual style as well as its drama. It’s set in a small Virginia town, where a young man named Danny (Dane Clark), whose father was hanged for murder, has grown up as an outcast. He’s in love with a schoolteacher named Gilly (Gail Russell); after he kills his tormentor and rival (Lloyd Bridges), he eludes the law and wins Gilly’s heart even as the double anguish of his guilt and his heritage drives him to a destructive frenzy. With swooping, God’s-eye crane shots and ominous shadows, Borzage conjures the spiritual realm of sin and redemption in which the accursed Danny is enmeshed, and its worldly counterpart is found in Danny’s bonds with the town’s other outsiders, including an elderly Black hermit named Mose (Rex Ingram), who speaks frankly of the indignities that he fled.

So I watched it the other night and found it visually fascinating and thematically absorbing. It’s about the Sins of the Fathers, individual responsibility, scapegoating and the more general question of criminal justice: how does society punish crime, what’s the point, and what’s the effect?

This lengthy piece at Pop Matters focuses on the issue of justice and the death penalty, but also gives a careful reading of the film, which I highly recommend. They have some magic gizmo system over there that prevents copying-and-pasting, so I can’t be lazy and just construct the rest of this post from quotes from that piece. Well, that’s too bad,.

Anyway, Moonrise is, indeed, visually arresting, filled with interesting characters – a soda jerk who self-consciously and annoyingly speaks only in the latest slang – and some familiar faces , even to the casual modern television and film viewer (Lloyd Bridges as a bully, Harry Morgan – of MASH – as a deaf-mute). It’s a nuanced exploration of the theme of individual culpability under the weight of the past. Even the Magical Negro in the cast, played by the marvelous Rex Ingram, is depicted with subtlety.

It’s a 90-minute back and forth about these matters, intriguingly and sharply shot.

Here’s the opening scenes:

There’s one character whose comic response to every new person who enters his sight is actually more than comic, and provides an unexpected, concise summation of the plot. An old coot who spends his days sitting on park benches with his friends, he greets those he encounters by bending towards the closest friend and barking, “Who’s boy?” As in – I can understand who this person is if I understand his family connections – but can we?

In a way, yes, but that’s our constant struggle, even if we don’t bear the burden of our father’s execution. To acknowledge where we came from and its impact on us – but not be defined or controlled by it, at all.

It’s that impact – the effect of all the acceptance, rejection, resentment, hope, hate and love – on individual actions that Moonrise invites us to engage with, and to ultimately ask those questions – why do we do what we do? And….what impact do those motivations, conscious and unconscious, have on how we treat the wrongdoer?

For as the sheriff reflects:

If you went into all the reasons why that rock struck Jerry’s head, you might end up writing the history of the world.

Note:

Borzage had Catholic roots, and many place him, along with John Ford and Frank Capra, as a Hollywood director whose work displays a distinctive Catholic sensibility – in his case, the power of redemptive love, and I would argue, an acceptance of the complexity of human nature and social relations. That certainly comes through in Moonrise. For a longer treatment of this matter, see this article in Crisis (originally published in 1998).

Strange Cargo — certainly an unusual film for its time, with its mix of sensuality and spirituality — was condemned by the Legion of Decency, the Catholic watchdog group founded in 1934 to ensure the enforcement of Hollywood’s self-censorship code. The controversy is recounted in the well-researched book by Frank Walsh, Sin and Censorship (1996). The Legion deemed offensive the portrayal of the Christ-like figure and irreverent the use of the Scripture. Time has shown the Legion was woefully shortsighted in its judgment of one of the most Catholic films made in Hollywood.

The conflict with the Legion of Decency encapsulates the difficulty of understanding Borzage as a filmmaker with a Catholic view of the human experience. Borzage-the-man did not speak publicly about his religious beliefs, but Borzage-the-artist believed — and his work shows — that the spirit matters more than the letter of the law. The experience of beauty — generally through music — performs a radical transformation, as delicately summarized in the television play The Day I Met Caruso (1956), where a little Quaker girl’s austere view of joy is changed forever. (Like Babette’s Feast, this work contrasts Catholic and Protestant sensibilities.) Goodness, beauty, and truth — attributes of God — move a person, a couple, a family, and a community to transcend the limits imposed by a flawed human condition, become whole, and thus fulfill their humaneness. In his stories of conversion through love, there flows a predilection for the little people, for the weak, the wounded, the innocent, the children, for all God’s creatures blessed by Christ in the Sermon of the Mount. It was not by chance that Borzage’s last film was The Big Fisherman, and its climax that very passage of the Gospel. The director, an unprepossessing man, once remarked that the stories that most attracted him were the simple dramas of ordinary people, and that Hollywood had the moral obligation “to embody in the fundamentals of entertainment a point of view designed to enlighten as well as entertain.” In his films about love, beauty, suffering, and sacrifice Borzage translated the beatitudes of the Gospel to the Hollywood screen.

We’ll start with the more confusing one – James. As is the case with (in English) “Mary” – there are a lot of “James” in the New Testament narratives, so sorting them out is a challenge. And perhaps not even really possible.

Today’s feast celebrates James “the Lesser” – as opposed to James the Greater, brother of John, one of the first four apostles called by Jesus, present at the Transfiguration, feast June 25, etc.

This James, son of Alphaeus, is often identified with the James who was head of the Church in Jerusalem and the author of the New Testament letter.  That’s what Pope Benedict went with in his 2007 General Audience talk: 

Thus, St James’ Letter shows us a very concrete and practical Christianity. Faith must be fulfilled in life, above all, in love of neighbour and especially in dedication to the poor. It is against this background that the famous sentence must be read: “As the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead” (Jas 2: 26).

At times, this declaration by St James has been considered as opposed to the affirmations of Paul, who claims that we are justified by God not by virtue of our actions but through our faith "amy welborn"(cf. Gal 2: 16; Rom 3: 28). However, if the two apparently contradictory sentences with their different perspectives are correctly interpreted, they actually complete each other.

St Paul is opposed to the pride of man who thinks he does not need the love of God that precedes us; he is opposed to the pride of self-justification without grace, simply given and undeserved.

St James, instead, talks about works as the normal fruit of faith: “Every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit”, the Lord says (Mt 7: 17). And St James repeats it and says it to us.

Lastly, the Letter of James urges us to abandon ourselves in the hands of God in all that we do: “If the Lord wills” (Jas 4: 15). Thus, he teaches us not to presume to plan our lives autonomously and with self interest, but to make room for the inscrutable will of God, who knows what is truly good for us.

Now, Philip. I think this GA talk really highlight’s B16’s catechetical skills. We don’t know that much about Philip, but Benedict takes what we do know, and hones it down in the most practical…pastoral way:

The Fourth Gospel recounts that after being called by Jesus, Philip meets Nathanael and tells him: “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (Jn 1: 45). Philip does not give way to Nathanael’s somewhat sceptical answer (“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”) and firmly retorts: “Come and see!” (Jn 1: 46).

In his dry but clear response, Philip displays the characteristics of a true witness: he is not satisfied with presenting the proclamation theoretically, but directly challenges the person addressing him by suggesting he have a personal experience of what he has been told.

The same two verbs are used by Jesus when two disciples of John the Baptist approach him to ask him where he is staying. Jesus answers: “Come and see” (cf. Jn 1: 38-39).

We can imagine that Philip is also addressing us with those two verbs that imply personal involvement. He is also saying to us what he said to Nathanael: “Come and see”. The Apostle engages us to become closely acquainted with Jesus.

In fact, friendship, true knowledge of the other person, needs closeness and indeed, to a certain extent, lives on it. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that according to what Mark writes, Jesus chose the Twelve primarily “to be with him” (Mk 3: 14); that is, to share in his life and learn directly from him not only the style of his behaviour, but above all who he really was.

Indeed, only in this way, taking part in his life, could they get to know him and subsequently, proclaim him."amy welborn"

Later, in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, one would read that what is important is to “learn Christ” (4: 20): therefore, not only and not so much to listen to his teachings and words as rather to know him in person, that is, his humanity and his divinity, his mystery and his beauty. In fact, he is not only a Teacher but a Friend, indeed, a Brother.

How will we be able to get to know him properly by being distant? Closeness, familiarity and habit make us discover the true identity of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Philip reminds us precisely of this. And thus he invites us to “come” and “see”, that is, to enter into contact by listening, responding and communion of life with Jesus, day by day.

Then, on the occasion of the multiplication of the loaves, he received a request from Jesus as precise as it was surprising: that is, where could they buy bread to satisfy the hunger of all the people who were following him (cf. Jn 6: 5). Then Philip very realistically answered: “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little” (Jn 6: 7).

Here one can see the practicality and realism of the Apostle who can judge the effective implications of a situation.

We then know how things went. We know that Jesus took the loaves and after giving thanks, distributed them. Thus, he brought about the multiplication of the loaves.

It is interesting, however, that it was to Philip himself that Jesus turned for some preliminary help with solving the problem: this is an obvious sign that he belonged to the close group that surrounded Jesus.

On another occasion very important for future history, before the Passion some Greeks who had gone to Jerusalem for the Passover “came to Philip… and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus’. Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew went with Philip and they told Jesus” (cf. Jn 12: 20-22).

Once again, we have an indication of his special prestige within the Apostolic College. In this case, Philip acts above all as an intermediary between the request of some Greeks – he probably spoke Greek and could serve as an interpreter – and Jesus; even if he joined Andrew, the other Apostle with a Greek name, he was in any case the one whom the foreigners addressed.

This teaches us always to be ready to accept questions and requests, wherever they come from, and to direct them to the Lord, the only one who can fully satisfy them. Indeed, it is important to know that the prayers of those who approach us are not ultimately addressed to us, but to the Lord: it is to him that we must direct anyone in need. So it is that each one of us must be an open road towards him!

There is then another very particular occasion when Philip makes his entrance. During the Last Supper, after Jesus affirmed that to know him was also to know the Father (cf. Jn 14: 7), Philip quite ingenuously asks him: “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied” (Jn 14: 8). Jesus answered with a gentle rebuke: “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father: how can you say, “Show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?… Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me” (Jn 14: 9-11).

These words are among the most exalted in John’s Gospel. They contain a true and proper revelation. At the end of the Prologue to his Gospel, John says: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known” (Jn 1: 18).

Well, that declaration which is made by the Evangelist is taken up and confirmed by Jesus himself, but with a fresh nuance. In fact, whereas John’s Prologue speaks of an explanatory intervention by Jesus through the words of his teaching, in his answer to Philip Jesus refers to his own Person as such, letting it be understood that it is possible to understand him not only through his words but rather, simply through what he is.

To express ourselves in accordance with the paradox of the Incarnation we can certainly say that God gave himself a human face, the Face of Jesus, and consequently, from now on, if we truly want to know the Face of God, all we have to do is to contemplate the Face of Jesus! In his Face we truly see who God is and what he looks like!

The Evangelist does not tell us whether Philip grasped the full meaning of Jesus’ sentence. There is no doubt that he dedicated his whole life entirely to him. According to certain later accounts (Acts of Philip and others), our Apostle is said to have evangelized first Greece and then Frisia, where he is supposed to have died, in Hierapolis, by a torture described variously as crucifixion or stoning.

Let us conclude our reflection by recalling the aim to which our whole life must aspire: to encounter Jesus as Philip encountered him, seeking to perceive in him God himself, the heavenly Father. If this commitment were lacking, we would be reflected back to ourselves as in a mirror and become more and more lonely! Philip teaches us instead to let ourselves be won over by Jesus, to be with him and also to invite others to share in this indispensable company; and in seeing, finding God, to find true life.

Many years ago, I wrote a study guide for B16’s collected General Audience talks on the Apostles and other early Church figures. The study guide is available online in pdf form – so if you have a church discussion group and would like to use it, or even just for yourself  – there it is. 

Below are the pages from the unit which include St. James the Lesser. You can find the rest at the link, and feel free to use as you wish. 

 

Both images from St. John Lateran in Rome. 

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