Yesterday morning gave me a bit of a melancholy moment. The Diocese of Birmingham celebrated the annual beginning-of-the-year Mass for homeschoolers at the Cathedral of St. Paul. In past years, this had been a yearly event, but by the time I arrived, it wasn’t done anymore. Last year, I helped spearhead and organize a revival, and so this year..I had to return!
The numbers were very good – a couple hundred. Bishop Baker celebrated the Mass, with the Cathedral rector, Fr. Jerabek, concelebrating and preaching, offering a sweet reminder to the children, on the Nativity of Our Lady, that Mary was homeschooled, so they were in wonderful company.
It’s really not that hard for Church officials to be supportive and appreciative of Catholic homeschoolers. Really. Not that hard.
(Via Instagram Stories – amy_welborn. Sorry it’s so huge. Don’t have time to resize right now.)
And so..yeah, it was a little sad. I miss being a part of that group, of that lifestyle. For I finally arrived at the insight, such as it is, that a fundamental appeal of homeschooling today is as a lifestyle. This is something that people who don’t do it, and especially people who are antagonistic to homeschooling don’t understand: its great appeal as a lifestyle.
I hope readers of my blog over the last few years have picked this up from what I have written. Much of what moved me to homeschool in the first place was a dissatisfaction with the lifestyle school forces on a family. We have so little freedom in the way we lead our daily lives anyway: work limits our families, as do economic concerns. School – with its daily, weekly and yearly schedules, with its homework and projects, with its fundraisers – slams one more constraint on. As I have written over and over again, the reason we accept this is that we accept that what school gives is worth what we must give over to it. The tipping point for many of us comes when we realize that what the school gives is not worth it and what it demands is counterproductive to our children’s flourishing and our family lives and that the resources available to us, our own schools, and our childrens’ not-yet-deadened curiosity means that we can do the same thing at home just as well or even better, and have a lot more fun doing it.
So yes. I miss that lifestyle right now. I’m consciously and intentionally trying to help us be as efficient as we can in schoolwork so that outside school hours are still ours as much as possible. And the younger son and I have settled on a vision of the future which, given the assumption that he stays in school for middle school (which he doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want to) which takes traditional high school completely out of the picture. (That moment will happen at the same time as his brother’s graduation from high school, so it works). If the stock market doesn’t crash and no other crises befall us before then, we will be free to do some serious roadschooling at that point. Something to look forward to …
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Contemporary Churchy rhetoric might lead you to believe that before the last couple of years, Catholics didn’t know that charity and mercy were at the heart of the Gospel. Surprise! They did! Take a look at our saints for today:
St. Peter Claver
“No life, except the life of Christ, has so moved me as that of St. Peter Claver.”
–Pope Leo XIII
A statue of Peter Claver and a slave in Cartagena. This is a very good introduction, from a Cartagena page.
Claver’s heroism in dealing with the diseased and sick is astounding. Even so, it was an everyday occurrence. Claver would wipe the sweat from the faces of the slaves with his own handkerchief. Moreover, he would often clothe the sick and diseased in his own cloak. As some of his interpreters witnessed, the cloak had to be washed up to seven times a day from the stink and filth which it had accumulated. It was routine for Claver to console his fellow man by joyfully undertaking practices which were considered extremely repugnant to most. As one eye-witness notes, “Most admirable was that he not only cleansed these plague-ridden ulcers with the two handkerchiefs he kept for that, but did not hesitate to press his lips to them.” He plainly saw Christ “in the least of these brethren.”
The chief problem in the evangelization of the slaves lay in the numerous languages used by the many “races” of Africans. Although Claver himself never mastered the African languages, he did have some facility with Angolese, the most common of them. On account of these linguistic difficulties, he continually worked with a team of interpreters, black slaves who had a fine ear and tongue for languages. It is important to note that Claver empowered these slave interpreters to become true leaders, diligently training them in the Christian faith. Treating them as his equals, close friends, and true collaborators in the work of evangelization, he always carefully looked after their food, clothing, and medicines. If they were seriously sick, he gave up his bed to them, and slept on the floor.
As images are the books of the illiterate, Claver was liberal in his use of pictures in catechizing the new converts. In his instructions, he taught them the rudiments of the faith. He especially enjoyed teaching them about the life, passion, and death of Christ through illustrations and the crucifix. At times, he even used the monitory pictures of hell to inspire in them a true sense of contrition for their own sins. At the same time, he also gave them hope, teaching them about the glories of heaven. It was not an easy task. The slaves had to be patiently drilled in such simple matters as the sign of the cross. At all times, however, he reminded them of their own dignity and worth, teaching them that Christ had redeemed them at a great price with his blood.
Every spring, Claver would set out on rural missions to plantations surrounding Cartagena. Here he would check up on the lives of his charges as much as he was able. Refusing the hospitality of the plantation owners, he dwelt in the Negro slave quarters. On many occasions, he was ill-received by the plantation owners and their wives. They looked at his spiritual ministrations among their slaves as a waste of their time. Throughout his life, he was never a revolutionary, a “hater of the rich and embittered protector of the poor.” Although he had a special predilection for the poor black slaves, he did not ignore the rich; rather, he exhorted the wealthy to carry out their social duties and he promoted cooperation between the classes.
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Someone posted this on Facebook, and I thought it was very good – an article that teases apart the distinctions in what’s most helpful to tell children about “strangers.” Basically – it’s not a good idea to pound “stranger danger” in kids’ heads, because, well, not all strangers are bad, and there might be a point they would have to ask a stranger for help. This parent had come up with the idea of teaching her children about “tricky” adults – “tricky” adults ask kids for help, and should be avoided. Real, normal adults don’t ask children for help – they ask other adults.
(So, for example, in times when my children have flown alone, I have told them..only ask or accept help from someone who works for an airline, not some random person who comes up to them and offers. And to not, by the way, chat with strangers who try to strike up conversation, and if someone right out asks where their destination is, lie.)
This is a distilled version of what I’ve always told my kids: watch out for adults who comport themselves as if they are your peers or want to be. Even if there won’t be abuse, those folks aren’t right, and you don’t want to be drawn into their worlds. The way I always put it is to ask them to think of, say, me, in place of the questionable adult. What if I came home and said, “Hey, I made friends with this 15 year old and we’re going to hang out.” You’d think there was something very wrong…and you’d be right.
It’s a fine, delicate line in education and ministry between those who are simply dedicated to the well-being of kids and want to serve them and those who are attempting to fill some empty or even dark place by doing so.
Here’s some mildly entertaining, wacky-religion reading for your Friday. Basically, start off as some sort of Holiness/Assemblies of God chapel in the Northwest, end up as a cat-worshipping and rescuing cult in Tennessee. Sounds legit.
“She died on the Winter Solstice,” Ruthven wrote in describing the founding of Eva’s Eden. “Death had come, now I needed to embrace Life. How does one explain such a love to a world that sees animals only as animals? As I had studied and taught my people that of Egyptian Alchemy, I grew in reverence for their beliefs of honoring the Felines as vessels that are able to guide us through our passageway of life.”
For Ruthven’s followers, this new ministry meant fostering cats and kittens by the dozens.
This is somewhat distracted because we have our grandson/nephew with us for a few days. Duplos and Curious George have returned! Plus a dog.
For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!