I’m busy with family things right now, so this is a quick post. Related note – here’s an idea for someone. Produce a short video introduction to Holy Week from a Catholic perspective for children that is not lame. That has quality animation, if it’s animated, is engaging and not amateurish.

Some images from the Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols, Loyola Kids Book of Bible Stories and the Loyola Kids Book of Seasons, Feasts and Celebrations.

Signs & Symbols is arranged in thematic sections. Each entry has two facing pages: on the left, a (beautiful!) illustration and a short explanation, and then on the facing page (not shown), a longer, more in-depth treatment suitable for older kids.

There three entries for “Cross and Crucifix” (only one shown here) because they are found in three settings, and deserved (I thought) three distinct treatments: in the context of the life of Christ, in church, and in the home.

Link goes to the Loyola site, but the books are available at all online booksellers and hopefully in your local Catholic bookstore – if they don’t have it, please request it!

Here’s an Instagram Reel I made with these images.

And then the Loyola Kids Book of Bible Stories.

Remember, those stories are arranged in sections according to the liturgical season in which one would normally hear that particular Scripture narrative. So, these are in the “Lent” section. Each story is retold, and then at the end of each story, I link the Scripture to some aspect of Catholic faith or practice, and provide a thought question and a brief prayer. One of those pages can be seen in the gallery below.

Finally, the Loyola Kids Book of Seasons, Feasts and Celebrations. Organized in an obvious way! Here’s just one page from the Holy Week section.

Monday Random

Quick random here, as I am off in a bit. Stay tuned to Instagram for some photos if they are taken.

By middle school, not only is there even less time for activities such as class read-alouds, but instruction also continues to center heavily on passage analysis, said LaGarde, who taught that age group. A friend recently told me that her child’s middle-school teacher had introduced To Kill a Mockingbird to the class, explaining that they would read it over a number of months—and might not have time to finish it. “How can they not get to the end of To Kill a Mockingbird?” she wondered. I’m right there with her. You can’t teach kids to love reading if you don’t even prioritize making it to a book’s end. The reward comes from the emotional payoff of the story’s climax; kids miss out on this essential feeling if they don’t reach Atticus Finch’s powerful defense of Tom Robinson in the courtroom or never get to solve the mystery of Boo Radley….

….We need to meet kids where they are; for the time being, I am writing stories that are shorter and less complex. At the same time, we need to get to the root of the problem, which is not about book lengths but the larger educational system. We can’t let tests control how teachers teach: Close reading may be easy to measure, but it’s not the way to get kids to fall in love with storytelling. Teachers need to be given the freedom to teach in developmentally appropriate ways, using books they know will excite and challenge kids. (Today, with more diverse titles and protagonists available than ever before, there’s also a major opportunity to spark joy in a wider range of readers.) Kids should be required to read more books, and instead of just analyzing passages, they should be encouraged to engage with these books the way they connect with “fun” series, video games, and TV shows.

Young people should experience the intrinsic pleasure of taking a narrative journey, making an emotional connection with a character (including ones different from themselves), and wondering what will happen next—then finding out. This is the spell that reading casts. And, like with any magician’s trick, picking a story apart and learning how it’s done before you have experienced its wonder risks destroying the magic.

And though the Scouring of the Shire throws a major wrench in those plans initially, once Saruman is ousted from the Shire a return to normalcy is indeed what happens for Sam, Merry, and Pippin. Not only do they return to their former lives: they live out an idealized version of their former lives that their adventure made possible. Sam marries Rosie and they move into Bag End with Frodo. Continuing to dress in their mail and finery, Merry and Pippin hold the rest of the Shire spellbound with their songs and tales of their journeys.

But the same does not occur for Frodo, who after acting as Deputy Mayor for a time slowly begins to fade from public life in the Shire. In his struggle with wounding, his eventual fate, and Sam’s sudden experience of the grief of Frodo’s departure, I believe we can find some truths about loss and healing to take with us for help and encouragement.

Just be kind

It’s been quite a few days on the gender beat.

First, the good news – the decision of the World Athletics Association. From the website Fair Play for Women.

On March 23rd Seb Coe, the president of World Athletics, surprised almost everyone by announcing that transgender women – that is, males who identify as women – will be banned from female competition from the end of the month….

…The new policy comes into force within days. At world level, many of those international federations like World Rowing and UCI (cycling) which followed World Athletics in 2019 must now reconsider their policies. This is likely to lead to a domino effect, especially in the UK where equality law already supports sex-based sport. UK Athletics is likely to follow World Athletics in short order, having already said they favour Open and Female. Those UK sports governing bodies (NGBs) which held back, citing their international federation’s policy, may soon find that their world federation policy aligns with the UK Sports Council Equality Group guidance in 2021. That should make the decision very easy.

Now – let’s move to an incident that might, in the future, often end up being an answer to a question that’s often posed on discussion boards regarding this issue: What peaked you?

Try what happened in Auckland, New Zealand.

Auckland was the worst. At Albert park in the centre of the city yesterday, the mob could not hide its vengeful loathing of the uppity women who disagree with its ideologies. Parker is a new kind of witch, one who willingly submits herself to a witch-trial, so that the rest of us might see just how dogmatic and unforgiving the new witch-hunters are. I am full of admiration for her. Her courage is shining a light on the visceral intolerance that advances under the banner of identity politics.

The events in Auckland should be a wake-up call for liberals everywhere. We glimpsed the iron fist of authoritarianism that lurks in the velvet glove of ‘Be Kind’. The misogynistic streak in trans extremism is undeniable now. Watch enraged men kicking down metal barriers so that they might get closer to the witch Posie and tell me this isn’t sexism masquerading as radicalism. Witness the crowing of men who are delighted that the mob made the ‘coward TERF’ run away and tell me this isn’t chauvinism on steroids. Behold the use of megaphones and expletive-laden chants and physical menace to silence a woman and tell me this isn’t a sexist, censorious crusade against women’s freedom of speech.

Here’s what I think is very important to understand: Let Women Speak is not a “protest.” It’s a series of gatherings of women where women – hold on – speak. They speak about being women and about the challenges of being women especially in this cultural moment in which the definition of “women” apparently now must includes “men.”

Here is Keen being interviewed about the experience.

Inevitably then, the trans activists show up and engage in mob behavior to shut this event down. Watch the video. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that if Kellie-Jean hadn’t been surrounded by a cordon of people protecting her (not the police, I want to point out) – she would certainly have been seriously hurt.

Sunday, at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, a smaller version occurred. Women gathered there, as they do once a month, to speak about their experiences. Once again, they were completely surrounded by yelling, drum-beating trans activists calling them Nazis and telling them to kill themselves and once again, the police did little to help, claiming that they could not infringe on the free speech of the trans activists. (Mumsnet thread on the event here. Another Mumsnet thread with transcripts of the women’s speeches.)

I’m just going to leave this video here. It’s Andrew Doyle, aka Titania McGrath, giving a barnburner (in his calm manner, but still) of an opening statement and then speaking with Helen Joyce and Ella Whelan.) If you’d like a twenty minute introduction, this is it.

(I have tried several times to get it to start from the beginning, but it’s refusing – just scroll back a bit, because you want to hear his opening.)

Oh, and here’s a website that documents the website he refers – Terf is a Slur – which documents violent threats against gender-critical women. It’s not currently updated, but perhaps that’s good – you can see that this kind of threatening behavior is not new.

(This website only concerns itself with public threats. It doesn’t even begin to address the deplatforming and professional cost women – and some men – have suffered simply by maintaining that men cannot be women.)

Okay, one more link to help you see the variety of the pushback that’s occurring. This mother is protesting against a policy telling girls who are uncomfortable sharing a restroom with a boy-identifying-as-a-girl that they can use a single-stall washroom. Because the boy’s feelings are more important, of course.

She also reiterates something I have tried to emphasize several times: Pushing this agenda on girls and young women encourages them to repress their instinct that very reliably distinguishes between male and female as well as to center male desires above their own instinct for self-preservation. She lives in Ontario, and prepared this statement to present to her local school board. They told her she could not give it publicly, but only at a “private meeting” of the board.

I have to ask: do you feel that it’s kind to force girls to undress in spaces they no longer feel comfortable in? To give them the message that their consent is conditional? Do you feel that it’s right to imply that they are transphobes and bigots for wanting private spaces away from males? Is it a good idea to encourage girls to ignore their natural instinct to be wary of males in certain situations?

My page on this issue.

My gender-critical Twitter list.

Book Notes

Some quick book notes. I’ve read three books over the past week, with two more currently in progress.

If you are super nosy, you can check up on my 2023 reads here. (It’s not Goodreads, which is now owned by Amazon so blah.)

I was going to write this post to play off the theme of a certain genre of (mostly) English literature – the village novel. I was going to write that my favorite British genre is actually the hotel or boarding house novel (like The Feast or The Slaves of Solitude), but I’d read these two village-genre novels that were really interesting, so here they are – but then I read another novel that was completely different, I have other things coming up and simply do not have the time to be doing all these various posts, so we’ll have to throw them all together in one post and forget the genre musings, for which you are probably grateful.


Who was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns:

This is the story of the Willoweed family and the English village in which they live. It begins mid-flood, ducks swimming in the drawing-room windows, “quacking their approval” as they sail around the room. “What about my rose beds?” demands Grandmother Willoweed. Her son shouts down her ear-trumpet that the garden is submerged, dead animals everywhere, she will be lucky to get a bunch. Then the miller drowns himself . . . then the butcher slits his throat . . . and a series of gruesome deaths plagues the villagers. The newspaper asks, “Who will be smitten by this fatal madness next?” Through it all, Comyns’ unique voice weaves a text as wonderful as it is horrible, as beautiful as it is cruel. Originally published in England in 1954, this “overlooked small masterpiece” is a twisted, tragicomic gem.

For some reason, going into it, I’d thought that this book had a spectral aspect related to the impact of the flood. It didn’t, and I don’t know why I believed that.

So, moving on to what it actually was: you may not believe it from the description above, but as darkly comic as this novel is, as high as the body count is, it is ultimately hopeful. I will say, though, that while I enjoyed reading it – it’s short, and took about two hours of my time – I found it ultimately a little empty, as if it had been constructed for effect rather than to say anything meaningful about human life. Even darkly comic novels have the most lasting impact if they seem to be rooted in something real.

Odd, though, that there is – per usual in my reading as you might know – the Unexpected Catholic Element here. I couldn’t find any mention of Comyns being Catholic or even Catholic-adjacent, but just know that in the end, her most down-to-earth character ends up becoming Catholic, and perhaps even surviving the mini-apocalypse in good condition because of it.

Note: Who was Changed and Who Was Dead was banned by the Irish Censorship Board upon its 1954 publication. This blog post tries to figure out why, and really can’t, and posits in the end, that it was due to an absence of authorial judgment of some of the grotesqueries she describes.

All Quiet on the Orient Express – even stranger. And better, I thought.

From the current publisher:

The novel’s narrator, an itinerant odd-jobber, is camping out, waiting for summer to end so that he can set off for some vague notion of the East . . . Turkey, Persia, overland to India. In the meantime, he agrees to do a small painting job for the owner of his campsite. One job leads to another. Before long, our hero is hopelessly and hilariously enmeshed in the off-season mysteries of the placid northern English community, grappling with dark forces beyond his power—some of which hang out at the local pub. To think it all began with a simple paint job . . .

This was such an interesting book. The style is straightforward, but the effect is increasingly creepy. On one hand, you could take it as the story of Everyman entrapped by circumstances and financial exigencies. It is certainly that. But it’s also a bizarre parable using the insularity and given-ness of life in a small community, exploring secrets, assumptions and the motivations for why any of us do what we do. Why do we stay? What does it take for us to come to our senses and just get the heck out?

Finally, last night: My Nemesis:

Tessa is a successful writer who develops a friendship, first by correspondence and then in person, with Charlie, a ruggedly handsome philosopher and scholar based in Los Angeles. Sparks fly as they exchange ideas about Camus and masculine desire, and their intellectual connection promises more—but there are obstacles to this burgeoning relationship.

While Tessa’s husband Milton enjoys Charlie’s company on his visits to the East Coast, Charlie’s wife Wah is a different case, and she proves to be both adversary and conundrum to Tessa. Wah’s traditional femininity and subservience to her husband strike Tessa as weaknesses, and she scoffs at the sacrifices Wah makes as adoptive mother to a Burmese girl, Htet, once homeless on the streets of Kuala Lumpur. But Wah has a kind of power too, especially over Charlie, and the conflict between the two women leads to a martini-fueled declaration by Tessa that Wah is “an insult to womankind.” As Tessa is forced to deal with the consequences of her outburst and considers how much she is limited by her own perceptions, she wonders if Wah is really as weak as she has seemed, or if she might have a different kind of strength altogether.

This novel was not what I expected, and I’m not complaining. I didn’t expect it to be as intellectual read as it was, although as the book goes on, one comes to suspect that the “intellectual” element is mostly posturing and rationalizing on the narrator’s part, and I think that’s right.

Anyway, there was an element of artificiality about the plot: I could not buy the sudden intimacy between Tessa and Milton and this random scholar from LA, an engagement which could have been handled more organically (unless I’m missing some other reason for this element, which is absolutely possible).

Other than that, this short (under 200-page) novel was fascinating in the way that Craig teased out issues related to mainstream feminism and parenting, in particular and invites us to interrogate those assumptions, first, through Tessa’s arrogant assertions about her own choices and then her inevitable questioning of those choices as she gets to know Wah. The choices are about a parent’s relationship to and responsibility for a child, no more, no less.

Tessa assumes that centering the child, that sacrificing for the child, is an act of ceding to patriarchy, of weakness. She and her husband, who never had children together, but have children from previous marriages, tell themselves that they’re making their children stronger by centering their own concerns in the family. But is that really so?

Tessa is part of a panel on motherhood at a college (organized in part by her own daughter), and this is one voice raised:

One of them, a violinist named Irene, spoke of the ordinary hardship of being a mother today, a hardship that had kept her from realizing even an eighth of what she knew she was capable of accomplishing creatively. And still, she said, now that her twins were in their teens, she was aware of having achieved something elusive, something less tangible than a record of significant performances. “There are performances and there are performances,” she said obscurely. “Even something rehearsed in a rush can come off as convincing. But not children. Raising them can’t be faked. Their substance has to be nurtured moment by moment, choice by choice. Will I allow myself to snap at them because I haven’t been able to rehearse a single phrase without interruption? Will I lock myself in the basement for six hours a day? Should I, instead, master myself enough to teach them self-sufficiency while also considering their reasonable need to be mothered by me?” She said that when she thought about justice in motherhood, she wondered why no one bothered to recognize the important achievement of raising people with substance, people secure enough to know themselves and their values because they had been parented attentively. Speaking for herself, she saw clearly that her greatest achievement had been one she’d done privately: transmitting to her children the best of herself, such that, by some alchemy of grace, they had become “much better than me.”

I was surprised to read this in a mainstream literary novel published in 2023.

The power of the novel lies in Craig’s great skill in dropping these questions throughout the narrative in what Tessa experiences, encounters and considers, building up to a sense of self-understanding and hope that it might not be too late.

My Nemesis also has the Unexpected Catholic Element, which I will not reveal, but will only say that it is vaguely reminiscent – very vaguely, don’t get any ideas, no there is no murder that happens – of Lancelot in that respect. An unexpected interlocutor, let’s say.

Finally, what I’m reading now: Truly, Madly – It’s the story of the relationship between Vivian Leigh and Lawrence Olivier. Yes, it’s a pivot.

So…this book had been sitting on the “new release” shelf of one of my libraries for ages. I’d picked it up, leafed through it, and thought…I have more valuable ways to spend my time than to read about a celebrity couple’s relationship. I mean – I did this probably three times. Then one night, I was swiping through the library’s digital collection, and there the silly book was again, with this absolutely irresistible cover, and yes, I do judge books by their covers, thank you very much.

Fantastic cover.

So, I’ve been reading it, and enjoying it and might have a bit more to say about it later. The lives of most of these people – these two included – are so sobering and sad from the beginning (and in the end, with her serious mental illness) – Olivier’s weird, distant, religiously obsessed, but not really very Christian father, his beloved mother who died when he was a teen, Leigh’s parents putting her in a convent boarding school when she was seven –

Of course, books like this tend to lead one down a rabbit hole digging out video clips, and here’s the first place it led me – to some of the screen tests for Scarlett O’Hara. Leigh was far and away the best, with Paulette Goddard, in my opinion, second, and Lana Turner doing surprisingly well. Jean Arthur, a favorite of mine, is just the worst match, which just goes to show…just because you’re good at one thing doesn’t mean that anything is a good fit for you…

Anyway, I’ve just gotten to Leigh’s filming of A Streetcar Named Desire and the increasing severity of her bipolar symptoms. It’s sad.

The other book? The Glass Pearls, one of two novels written by Emeric Pressberger, screenwriter partner to the great British director Michael Powell.

It deserves to be recognized both for its own virtuosity, and as an important addition to the genre of Holocaust literature. Indeed, I’d go as far as to declare it a master class in rendering the banality of evil. In the same way that the brilliance of Powell and Pressburger’s very best films wasn’t recognized until the seventies, when critics like Ian Christie and filmmakers like Martin Scorsese began to champion the work, the audiences of the mid-’60s simply weren’t ready for the disturbing complexity of The Glass Pearls. The novel’s reissue in 2015 by the Faber Finds imprint—with a new preface by Macdonald and an introduction by the film scholar Caitlin McDonald—has gone some way to righting its place in the canon, yet it still sadly remains largely unknown and unread.

Not by me! Well, ten pages at least.

Her feast is today – she was martyred on 3/25, but considering that’s the Feast of the Annunciation, no her memorial would not be assigned to that day.

In England, she is also remembered on August 30, along with Anne Line and Margaret Ward.

Here are related pages from the Loyola Kids Book of Saints. She’s in the section: “Saints are People Who are Brave.”

Last summer, we traveled to England, and spent a couple of days in York. Here’s the blog post on that day, and below are some images from her shrine:


Cathedral of St. Paul, Birmingham, Alabama 3/26/2023

In the days before the Second Vatican Council’s liturgical forms, Lent had a different shape. I write ad nauseum every year about Septuagisima and the other pre-Lent Sundays, but there is another major difference as well: Passiontide.

In the pre-Vatican II calendar – still used, of course, by those who celebrate the TLM and the Ordinariate, many Anglicans and even Lutherans, this fifth Sunday of Lent is called Passion Sunday and begins the two weeks of Passiontide. 

I’ll begin with the Lutherans and Anglicans because, as I do with the issue of ad orientem, I think it’s important to situation the matter in a broader context, so that we can perhaps see that this is not just a niche issue for stuck-in-the-past Catholics but does have, dare I say it – an ecumenical dimension.

From a Lutheran church in Michigan – the explanation of Passiontide even references Guéranger, which is something you’re not going to find in many Catholic churches these days are you?

Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

From the website of a Lutheran church in Spokane. 

One pious tradition that reinforces this theme is that the crosses in the sanctuary are veiled after John 8 is read. It reinforces the “hiddenness” of God. “Truly, you are a God who hides himself,” the prophet Isaiah says of the Lord (Isaiah 45.15). Deus absconditus, Luther called Him—“the hidden God.” This is the over-arching theme of Passiontide: that God has disguised himself in weakness and shame.  As in Lent the Gloria has given us the slip, so in Passiontide the Lord will cloak His glory in suffering. He absconds into the dark chasm of the Cross.

Very Lutheran, wouldn’t you say?

You can find images of veilings in Anglican and Episcopal churches – although I think the photo in the “Little Guide to a Great Lent” from St. Thomas Episcopal on 5th Avenue in Manhattan looks to be stock and seems to be from a Catholic church. The explanation for veiling is worth noting mostly because it’s…sad: it’s a sign of sorrow and penitence, and it’s also a way of making the church look more austere, different, so that when the veils are lifted, everything suddenly looks more bright and festive and multi-dimensional again!


This Anglican church in Australia does much better:

But of course…..

…the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council and their advisors…knew better. 


More on Passiontide and veiling from the New Liturgical Movement. 

I really like Fr. Z’s discussion:

We lose things during Lent.  We are being pruned through the liturgy. Holy Church experiences liturgical death before the feast of the Resurrection.   The Alleluia goes on Septuagesima.  Music and flowers go on Ash Wednesday.   Today, statues and images are draped in purple.  That is why today is sometimes called Repus Sunday, from repositus analogous to absconditus or “hidden”, because this is the day when Crosses and other images in churches are veiled.  The universal Church’s Ordo published by the Holy See has an indication that images can be veiled from this Sunday, the 5th of Lent.  Traditionally Crosses may be covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday and images, such as statues may be covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.  At my home parish of St. Agnes in St. Paul, MN, the large statue of the Pietà is appropriately unveiled at the Good Friday service.

Also, as part of the pruning, as of today in the older form of Mass, the “Iudica” psalm in prayers at the foot of the altar and the Gloria Patri at the end of certain prayers was no longer said.  
The pruning cuts more deeply as we march into the Triduum. After the Mass on Holy Thursday the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the main altar, which itself is stripped and bells are replaced with wooden noise makers.  On Good Friday there isn’t even a Mass.  At the beginning of the Vigil we are deprived of light itself!  It is as if the Church herself were completely dead with the Lord in His tomb.  This liturgical death of the Church reveals how Christ emptied Himself of His glory in order to save us from our sins and to teach us who we are.

The Church then gloriously springs to life again at the Vigil of Easter.  In ancient times, the Vigil was celebrated in the depth of night.  In the darkness a single spark would be struck from flint and spread into the flames.  The flames spread through the whole Church.    

When in doubt, we turn to our 1947 7th-grade religion textbook, With Mother Church, part of the Christ-Life Series in Religion. Here you go:

More, from the New Liturgical Movement, on the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Mary that developed as a commemoration of the Friday of this week:

The Passiontide feast emerged in German-speaking lands in the early 15th-century, partly as a response to the iconoclasm of the Hussites, and partly out of the universal popular devotion to every aspect of Christ’s Passion, including the presence of His Mother, and thence to Her grief over the Passion. It was known by several different titles, and kept on a wide variety of dates; Cologne, where it was first instituted, had it on the 3rd Friday after Easter until the end of the 18th century. Before the name “Seven Sorrows” became common, it was most often called “the feast of the Virgin’s Compassion”, which is to say, of Her suffering together with Christ as She beheld the Passion. This title was retained by the Dominicans well into the 20th century; they also had an Office for it which was quite different from the Roman one, although the Mass was the same. …

….In the wake of the Protestant reformation, the feast continued to grow in popularity, spreading though southern Europe, and most often fixed to the Friday of Passion week. It was extended to the universal Church on that day by Pope Benedict XIII with the title “the feast of the Seven Sorrows”, although none of the various enumerations of the Virgin’s sorrows is referred to it anywhere in the liturgy itself.

Lazarus, come out!

From the 2020 Book of Grace-Filled Days.

The first and last page of my retelling of the narrative, the Gospel for the Gospel reading for year A of this Fifth Sunday of Lent – which you might here at Mass, if your parish is praying the Scrutinies, from the Loyola Kids Book of Bible Stories. 

Link does not go to Amazon, although they sell it. I am so grateful for you purchasing this book anywhere , but most grateful if you do so from a brick-and-mortar Catholic bookseller.

Jesus had just demonstrated that he had more power than anything, even death. No person has that kind of power. Only God does. Only God can conquer death, and in Bethany that day, Jesus revealed that power.
Death has no power over Jesus, and when we are friends with him, death and sin have no power over us, either. Jesus’ power over evil and darkness doesn’t begin at our tombs, though. When we sin, even a little bit, we choose death over life. Refusing to love or give or show kindness to others gives darkness a bit more power in our lives.

We were not made for this. We were made for light and love!

We can think of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as the moment when we, like Lazarus, are brought back to life by Jesus. Jesus stands outside the little tombs we live in—the tombs made out of selfishness, anger, sadness, and pain. He knows we are not lost forever, even if it seems like that to us. The worst sins and bad habits? Jesus has power over them. Jesus doesn’t want us to live in darkness. He wants us in the light with him, unbound—free and full of joy.

The book is structured around the liturgical year. In planning it, I asked myself, “When do most Catholic children and families encounter Scripture?” The answer is – in a liturgical context. This context is, in addition, expressive of the more general context in which all Catholics – and most Christians since apostolic times – have encountered, learned about, understood and embraced Scripture – in the context of liturgy, which is, in the most general terms, the context of the Church.

So the stories in the book are organized according to the liturgical season in which they would generally be heard, and the stories are retold with that liturgical context in view, as well as any specific and age-appropriate theological and spiritual themes – so, for example, here, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

For more about the book from the Loyola Press site.


There’s a substantial excerpt here. 

Born in 1925, if she were still alive, she’d be 98 today.  And given her mother’s longevity (Regina died at the age of 99 in 1995), if lupus hadn’t taken her, she might well still be alive, indeed.

She’s a year younger than my own mother, which is weird. 

No, she wasn’t born in Milledgeville, pictured above and described here, but in Savannah. I’ve not been back to her birthplace in ages– I’ve attempted it twice in recent years, but always pass through on a day it’s closed. 

Today’s a big day in Milledgeville. On Friday, they opened their new interpretive center, and today (Saturday) is a birthday celebration with interesting talks. I would love to have gone, but the stars did not align…

Photographs and streams of the events are on the Andalusia Facebook page.

I’ve written quite a bit about Flannery over the years.  As far as I’m concerned she’s a saint and maybe even a doctor of the church, to really ramp up the hyperbole.  When I feel befuddled and know some clarity is in order, I head in one of two directions: Flannery and Ratzinger. Sometimes both.

Some posts and writings:


“The children have been to Florida before,” the old lady said. “You all ought to take them somewhere else for a change so they would see different parts of the world and be broad. They never have been to east Tennessee.”

Think about it all, thinking about Milledgeville, this small town in the middle of nowhere, the place she lived, far from where she’d thought she’d live in the big, busy, world. Thinking about  what she saw:  the farmers, the farmworkers, the white, the black, the few wealthy, the many poor, the ancient Confederate soldiers, the spiritually fervent, the know-it-all college girls, the unbalanced, the misfits, the proud, the lame, the displaced persons – all there, right there –

you can be broad right where you are, it seems. You just have to know how to see.

From Catholic World Report on her spiritual witness:

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.

It’s because of that part of Flannery O’Connor’s story—and not just the story of her genius and art—that Uncommon Grace would be an excellent choice to show, not only to interested adults, but also high school students. Many will be reading at least one O’Connor story as part of their curriculum, and Uncommon Grace is an excellent basic introduction to the themes in her work. But adolescents would also benefit from this brief encounter with Flannery O’Connor as a person much like themselves—young, hopeful for her future with gifts to share with the world—and from considering her faith-filled response when life, as it tends to do, doesn’t go as planned.

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.

“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.


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.

A 2019 visit to Andalusia.

Never read her? Another old blog post on where to start.

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

flannery o'connor stamp

No, this isn’t the real one, but an imagined redesign, which I like very much.  More on that here.  

It’s ironic that a stamp issued in honor of a writer who was determined to present reality as it is – prettifies the subject to the point of making her unrecognizable. 

Everybody, as far as I am concerned, is The Poor.

-Flannery O’Connor

Of course, it’s the Feast of the Annunciation.

From the 2020 Book of Grace-Filled Days

Eleanor Parker, the “Clerk of Oxford:”

….the medieval church considered 25 March to be the single most important date in history: it was both the beginning and the end of Christ’s life on earth, the date of his conception at the Annunciation and his death on Good Friday. To underline the harmony and purpose which, in the eyes of medieval Christians, shaped the divinely-written narrative of the history of the world, 25 March was also said to be the date of other significant events: the eighth day of Creation, the crossing of the Red Sea, the sacrifice of Isaac, and other days linked with or prefiguring the story of the world’s fall and redemption. The date occurs at a conjunction of solar, lunar, and natural cycles: all these events were understood to have happened in the spring, when life returns to the earth, and at the vernal equinox, once the days begin to grow longer than the nights and light triumphs over the power of darkness. The resonances of 25 March reached even unto Middle Earth, as Tolkien aligned the downfall of the Ring to this most auspicious of dates.

‘Lady Day in Lent’ is the springtime feast of the Virgin Mary….

Here’s an image, which I ran across at some point last year. I think the artist either won or placed in a sacred art competition. Her name is Ivanka Demchuk.

You can purchase a print of this and others of her marvelous artwork here, at Etsy.

Some Annunciation-related material from my books:

The Loyola Kids Book of Bible Stories

The Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols


The Loyola Kids book of Seasons, Feasts and Celebrations:

And…here’s the chapter from Mary and the Christian Life on the Annunciation. (pdf)

The entire book is available here – free through midnight Saturday night.

There’s also, of course, a chapter on the Hail Mary in here.

Here’s the first page.

And then, Edwin Muir’s poem, “Annunciation:”

The angel and the girl are met.
Earth was the only meeting place.
For the embodied never yet
Travelled beyond the shore of space.

The eternal spirits in freedom go.
See, they have come together, see,
While the destroying minutes flow,
Each reflects the other’s face
Till heaven in hers and earth in his
Shine steady there. He’s come to her
From far beyond the farthest star,
Feathered through time. Immediacy
Of strangest strangeness is the bliss
That from their limbs all movement takes.
Yet the increasing rapture brings
So great a wonder that it makes
Each feather tremble on his wings.

Outside the window footsteps fall
Into the ordinary day
And with the sun along the wall
Pursue their unreturning way.
Sound’s perpetual roundabout
Rolls its numbered octaves out
And hoarsely grinds its battered tune.

But through the endless afternoon
These neither speak nor movement make,
But stare into their deepening trance
As if their gaze would never break.


Saw John Wick 4 last night.

Better than watching the Vols lose, I suppose.

This is all I’m going to say about it. We’ll be spoiler-free here.

No, it’s not a spiritual journey. It’s…John Wick.

But what it shows, once again, is the truth of something I have been saying for years:

One of the post-Vatican II (here we go) tropes I lived through was the consistent denigration of physical expressions of faith, from medals and holy cards to church buildings themselves. People these days comment on this, but they never really seem to grasp the motivation – they rumble on about wreckovation and revolution without any attempt at all to look at what was actually being said and written at the time.

It was actually pretty simple: All of that stuff was an expression of, first, an immature faith that required “props” and externals. Secondly, all that stuff was time bound – it did not express the faith of Modern Man. Third, all of that stuff functioned as a distraction, a diversion. It lulled people into thinking they were practicing the faith, that they were faithful, but actually all they were doing was sitting in a pretty building, listening to nice music, not even actively participating, the horror. Fourth, it was essential that people get past all that to understand and live the reality of Church, which is the people of God, not a building.

It was absolutely necessary to strip all of that away so that we would grow up, recognize Christ in each other and in the community, witnessing to Christ in the modern world as modern people, who of course, as Modern People, have no use for those externals. They’re put off by all of that. That stuff is not what’s going to attract Modern Man.

Well, they were wrong, weren’t they?

This is a false dichotemy. For church buildings are witnesses to the presence of Christ in the world: in the middle of a city, in a neighborhood, in a suburb, on a rural road in the midst of cornfields.

And people – yes modern people in the 21st century still see them, go to them, and experience them as such, even if they don’t believe. Even if it’s just functioning as a prop or a background –

…that prop or background is the most powerful and immediate way to connect action or an inner state with important, essential human experiences and promptings: contemplating love, death, meaning, purpose and connection.

And it’s not just cultural baggage. There really is something integral about the sights and sounds of traditional Christianity, east and west, that organically evokes and connects even non-believers to these truths and sensibilities.

So in John Wick 4 – you not only have John, in a candle-doused church (I mean…who lit all those candles? Who’s maintaining them? Okay, it’s a movie, I know….) musing to Caine, the blind assassin – Donnie Yen is the best part of the film, I think – about whether or not he can communicate with his dead wife, but you also have this….

I wish I had a screen shot – one might eventually turn up, but it hasn’t yet – but one of the final scenes of John Wick 4 has John sitting on the stairs in front of Sacre Coeur, the gleaming white church in the background, and not just because a huge fight scene has taken place on the 222 steps leading up to the basilica, but because….it’s an important moment. What’s below is a shot of filming from this website.

Whether the filmmakers intended it or not, whether it was chosen just because it was cool and because of those steps, this moment happening in this place carries a meaning that it wouldn’t if it were happening in front of another iconic Paris landmark like the Eiffel Tower. They can’t help it. It’s just there: built into the building that stands as a witness in the midst of the city, in the thick of the chaos, violence and death.


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