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More Catholic Kentucky

I’m back from my weekend way up north.

(Pictures here, but a bit of video on Instagram – if you miss today’s Stories, check out the “Monasteries 2022” highlight. I’ve stopped by two over the past couple of weeks – well, actually three, come to think of it, since I took one of the grandkids to Ave Maria Grotto – and as it happens, in my near-future travels, I’ll be working in a few more. It’s not the focus, but they’re on the way, so why not.)

Sunday morning, I went to Mass at St. Louis Bertrand, which was gorgeous and larger, I think, that our Cathedral here in Birmingham. I thought it was the choral Mass, but it wasn’t – that would be at noon – but perhaps another time.

I do love woodwork in church interiors, and this was magnificent. It’s a Dominican parish, the preaching was good and actually happened in the pulpit designed for it. The communion rail has been retained and is also used, which was interesting. No ushers emptying pews and guiding lines – a pleasant change.

On my way back, I stopped at the Abbey of Gethsemani. I have been a couple of times before, but not for many years. It being later on a Sunday, none of the visitor services were open, and I couldn’t figure out how to get back to the monastic graveyard to pay my respects, again, at Fr. Louis’ grave. I think you might have only been able to access it via the retreat house, or perhaps if the visitors’ center was open. It’s fine.

(My basic take on Merton is here)

I was there for Vespers.

“God Alone” is carved over the entrance to the cloister – a reminder of what the monks’ lives are all about. “Pax” is for the visitors. It’s what’s offered there, and what we are invited to nurture, and take with us on the journey.

So, Dominicans and Trappists. Men wearing white with dark shaded scapulars. One ministering in the middle of the city, based in a beautiful, highly decorated edifice, preaching with words. The other in the Kentucky hills, most of the time in silence, emerging to pray together in the stark, simple, undecorated chapel and to share that prayer with the few outsiders who’ve showed up in the back.

Different ministries, different charisms, different settings, both absolutely necessary to the Body of Christ. Both living out and sharing gifts, through the witness of their lives, their words, their silence, their prayer, their scholarship, their hospitality – that the rest of us receive in whatever way we can, whatever our capacity and capability – not to keep to ourselves, but to share with a suffering world.

For the Assumption….

From the Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols– related to the Blessed Mother.

(Previously:

Remember the structure: Each entry has two pages. The left-side page features a beautiful illustration and a short definition. The facing page features a longer explanation, suitable for older children.

Don’t you think every Catholic school classroom needs a copy?

There’s a section on Mary, of course:

Some of the entries (first page).

EPSON MFP image

For more information.

I’m sharing with you here the chapter on the Assumption from my book Mary and the Christian Life. It’s free from midnight Sunday until midnight Monday on Kindle)

Interested in more free books? The following are all links to pdf versions of books of mine that our now out of print. Feel free to download and share and even use in the parish book groups.

Come Meet Jesus: An Invitation from Pope Benedict XVI

The Power of the Cross

Free pdf versions of study guides to General Audience talks by Pope Benedict XVI:

The Apostles

The Fathers

Not free, but cheap: Mary Magdalene: Truth, Legends and Lies. 

Yes, it’s Sunday, but….

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:

“Hail Mary!” was the last prayer on the lips of St Maximilian Mary Kolbe, as he offered his arm to the person who was about to kill him with an injection of phenolic acid. It is moving to note how humble and trusting recourse to Our Lady is always a source of courage and serenity. While we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption, which is one of the best-loved Marian feasts in the Christian tradition, let us renew our entrustment to her who from Heaven watches over us with motherly love at every moment. In fact, we say this in the familiar prayer of the Hail Mary, asking her to pray for us “now and at the hour of our death”.

St. Maximilian Kolbe is included in my Loyola Kids Book of Saints, pp. 244-247 in the section “Saints are people who are brave.

"amy welborn"

Beginnings

I made a brief stop today in Bardstown, Kentucky. Those of you in the South and Midwest might know of the importance of this area to American Catholicism, but it might be a surprise to others. We’re used to thinking of the beginnings of Catholicism in the United States (not the Americas in general) in association with the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic – New York, Boston, Baltimore.

But…Kentucky?

Yup.

In 1808, four new dioceses were created from Baltimore, which had been the new country’s single diocese up to that point. Those were: New York, Philadelphia, Boston and….Bardstown, Kentucky.

A brief history.

Bardstown was the center of the only see west of the Alleghenies mostly because a lot of Catholics had settled in the area.

The Howards had no children, and the farm was willed to the Catholic Church when Thomas died in 1810. Thomas’s will stipulated that the church received ownership of the land upon his death, but that his wife was to remain on the property and be cared for until she remarried or died.

Pope Pius VII created the Diocese of Bardstown in 1808 along with the dioceses of Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. All four dioceses were created out of territory of the original diocese of Baltimore. The French Sulpician priest Benedict Joseph Flaget was appointed the first bishop of Bardstown, arriving in Kentucky in June 1811. When he arrived in Bardstown, Bishop Flaget chose the Howard farm as the site for the beginnings of Catholicism in Bardstown.

Bishop Flaget moved the seat of the diocese from Bardstown to Louisville in 1841. In 1937, the Diocese of Louisville was elevated to an archdiocese. The original territory for which Bishop Flaget had pastoral responsibility is now part of over forty dioceses and archdioceses, including Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Detroit.

I didn’t have a lot of time, but I did have enough to stop by two landmarks:

St. Thomas Parish church, the diocese’s first:

It’s in a rural area outside of Bardstown. It’s to the left rear in the picture below. Interesting to think of it as the center of Catholic life in the area.

As you’ll see below, embedding Scripture quotes in the exterior in this way was the thing to do.

(The church was locked, which I didn’t complain about. It’s an historic edifice, and if there was no one around to safeguard, it makes sense to lock it. What I do complain about is the complete lack of signage indicating the building’s historical background and importance. I mean – nothing. Nada.)

And then the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral.

It’s the oldest cathedral west of the Alleghenies.

St. Joseph is the first Cathedral west of the Allegheny Mountains and is listed by the U.S. Library of Congress as a national landmark possessing exceptional interest and worthy of careful preservation. Having been sufficiently completed in 1819, for services to be held, it stood in the Kentucky wilderness as a monument to the faith, toil, and zeal, of the French priest, Benedict Joseph Flaget, who became the Bishop of the Diocese of Bardstown, and to the families of the area both Catholic and Protestant. It truly became a consecrated sanctuary, a work of many human hands!


This historic edifice contains fine paintings and other gifts from Europe donated by Pope Leo XII, Francis I, King of the Two Sicilies, and King Louis Phillippe of France, just to name of few.

It’s in that Federal style common to churches of this era. A classical, simple interior with some paintings of the period, as indicated above, but also some painted wall medallions that are much more recent and….just a little cheesy-looking.

But at least there was an attempt to share the history of the place – although the pamphlet could use more detail about the paintings and stained glass, for example.

There’s a ton of Catholic history in this area – including, quite essentially, women’s religious orders and of course the Abbey of Gethsemani. I’ve been to the latter a few times, but not for many years. I’m going to try to stop by tomorrow on my way back.

The Decalogue on plaques embedded in the exterior wall

Saturday Random

Because I’m on the road today. I’m writing this on Friday night, but my plan for Saturday includes some interesting sites. Maybe check out Instagram to see if reality cooperates.

Anyway:

After this weekend, I’ll be home and settled for a week or so, determined to get my head together after a Summer of Change and a few Weeks of Duty. Then it’s off – probably. We’ll see. I mean, HipCamp and Airbnb reservations have been made, but you know my philosophy, right?

You never know…..

Okay, here’s a couple of more intelligent random items:

I have no idea why you would not find that fascinating.

  • I have written about Fr. Coyle before – murdered on the front porch of the rectory of the Cathedral of St. Paul here in Birmingham by the father of a young woman whom the priest had, that day, married to a Puerto Rican man. The father being a protestant minister and a KKK member, bore no consequences. This week, our cathedral rector and Jim Pinto spoke to Fr. Mitch Pacwa about Fr. Coyle.

I, Joan

This was supposed to be part 2 of this post, but that post, as it turned, out, deserved its own space.

So let’s move to Joan of Arc.

You may recall that earlier this summer, we traveled to England and as part of that trip, took in a production of King Lear at Shakespeare’s Globe starring the great Kathryn Hunter as Lear. Gender bending casting, yes, but completely appropriate. Hunter was marvelous as Lear – as my sons observed – absolutely believable as a wizened old man. Maybe even more than many male actors.

Well, the Globe has come out with another gender-twisting performance, but this time in line with current gender ideology.

Hey, what if Joan of Arc was….non-binary?

The men are all fighting, again. An endless war. From nowhere, an unexpected leader emerges. Young, poor and about to spark a revolution. This is Joan.

Rebelling against the world’s expectations, questioning the gender binary, Joan finds their power and their belief spreads like fire.

Join us in the wooden ‘O’ and feel the heat of the sun and the pulse of Joan’s passion. With open hearts and raised voices, dance and cheer with us as we rediscover Joan’s story. It’s alive, queer and full of hope.

…but evidently nothing to do with God or those saints whose voice she heard. Whatevs.

Anyway, that is not my angle today. You can fill in those blanks quite easily in your head.

No, what I’m about today is, of course, the erasure of women and the bizarre re-emergence of gendered social and cultural norms.

What are we saying here?

Are we saying that girls and women can’t be strong, non-conforming, idiosyncratic, determined figures?

Are we saying that if a female lives in a way that externally conforms to a male paradigm in her culture – she can’t be an actual, real female?

I said it once, I said it twice, I say it way too much – what happened?

The production is not being met kindly by historians and feminist scholars:

(Good)

But you know what? In times like these, all we really need is Titania McGrath:

(Also – as someone has mentioned – is this image supposed to evoke a binder?)

Related, from Helen Lewis, who’s commenting on the Globe’s making …wait for it…Elizabeth I non-binary:

…the general practice of declaring historical women too interesting to be mere females is regressive…

Absolutely.

Dooce and Joan

Why are you agreeing with us when we are telling you that we hate ourselves?

Wow.

This account is turning into nothing but saints, gender ideology, and travel.

Someday I’ll read a book again, I suppose.

Or…what about this…write one, perhaps??

Anyway, to the Friday afternoon business at hand:

Oh, Dooce.

Those of you who have observed the blogging – especially the Mom Blogging – world for a couple of decades now – well, you know about Dooce.

Dooce, aka Heather Armstrong, was the first Mom Blogger to get big with huge readership, notoriety and a book deal or two, I guess. I was never a big reader of Dooce, but checked in with her once in a while as a part of taking the temperature of the Online World. I had no strong opinions about Dooce except…wow. Oversharing much?

But that was definitely her brand. In super-stream-of-consciousness, anxious prose. About everything.

The last I’d read, a few months ago I guess, was about her older daughter declaring a non-binary identity.

Then today…whew.

You probably don’t want to wade through the extensive, er, prose here, as rambling and as strange as it is, but here’s the gist, and it’s fascinating:

Heather, who has, by her own account, dealt with body dysmorphia her entire life (she is skeletal), very astutely ties the trend to non-binariness and transness with that particular issue. She is, of course, being cancelled right and left and accused of transphobia, but my Lord, the pain here is so real and deep and again…real. And the writing is very brave.

UPDATE (8/14): She’s pulled the post. What she has left up there, however, does contain and feature the quote with which I began this post. So that means something. Anyway, you have this to get a sense of it:

When I was your age I was angry at everything and everyone, and if I had thought that testosterone would make me feel better about how skinny I was or wasn’t, how curvy I was or wasn’t, how a pair of jeans never fit my body the way they fit the bodies of supermodels I had hanging all over my walls, I would have injected testosterone into my arms like heroin.

Instead, I did was de rigeueur at the time. I tried to control what I put in my body. I tried to control the way I looked…

…..

When we shackle ourselves to an idea of happiness, and that idea can look like anything — a thin body, a man’s body — we blind ourselves to a million instances of happiness that don’t look like that image. We are shackling ourselves to a life of constant suicidal ideation that is in no way temporary.

When I stopped drinking I returned to that eating disorder only this time I had Adderall. I had developed a whole new league of eating disorder. Let’s call it Anorexia on Speed.

That’s how fucking serious I am.

I want you to memorize this phrase and repeat it to yourself over and over again in case you ever think that you would be better off dead:

Suicide is a permanent fix to a temporary problem.

Moms, and more specifically WHITE PROGRESSIVE MOMS, you know exactly who you are because you want to be the fun mom, they need you to knock off your bullshit.

Stop playing into this nonsense because you are helping them destroy their lives…

….

White progressive moms, I am talking to you now. And I have no fucks to give should any of this hurt your feelings. I feel your pain, too, because when my they/them told me they wanted to change their pronouns I believed they were riding this massive cultural shift in acceptance and inclusion.

But I was wrong. America is fucking wrong.

During my recovery process I began to realize that I was not asking the right questions about what we think is a radical new way of celebrating diversity.

White progressive moms, are you asking yourselves the right questions? Maybe you should so that I don’t have to do the work for you. But since none of you are doing the work, lean in close and let me give you the answers to the questions you won’t ask.

Gender dysphoria is social contagion.

Should your theys and thems be afraid to read this or disinterested in the manic rambling spiral of some looney white anorexic on the internet, this part is for you and your kids together. Read this part together calling upon the pain of your childhood that in hindsight might have made you realize that your girls are experiencing normal human sadness. They are teenagers. They were once your precious baby girls.

They are experiencing the same sadness you experienced when you were their age.

Your children are perfect. They were born perfect. And you love them just the way they are.

Let me say it again, and you need tor repeat this over and over again to your girls. Every single day for the rest of their lives because WHO KNOWS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DIE:

Your children are perfect. They were born perfect. And you love them just the way they are.

That’s how fucking serious I am. I have been thinking a lot lately about how much I have destroyed my body, and that has made me consider death in a way I never have. I cannot imagine losing anyone in my life knowing how many memories I have decimated with drugs.

And now, at last, we have come to the Radio Free Europe portion of the program, kids.

And adults if you are still reading and not already writing an angry missive to your progressive congressperson who doesn’t give two fucks about your kids anyway, this is important for you, too.

Desisters and Destransitioners, these women are my heroes. And they are going to save this planet because no one else has the guts to do it. And I am going to help them.

Desisters and Destransitioners are being silenced. And they are being kicked off every forum and social platform for trying to tell you to stop doing this to them and to each other. They are telling you what they wish they had known long before they headed down a path toward transition, and I am the only progressive white woman alive who is willing to say publicly and proudly and authentically and unapologetically:

These Desisters and Destransitioners, these women, they are right.

I am a white progressive women who co-opted oppression and saddled my own teenage girls with all that baggage. These Desisters and Destransitioners are now tasked with the burden of undoing the damage done to them by their own parents and trying to figure out a way to get everyone to safety before the whole boat sinks.

They are trying to megaphone the shit out of this goddamn tragedy of millennial proportions. They are screaming:

Get off that boat because that boat is heavier than the Titanic.

Celebrities won’t say it because they are buying into it. Celebrities are selling it. Celebrities are cloaking themselves in it as if they are aligning themselves with all that is good and right in the world and no one seems to be asking, have we lost our goddamn minds? These celebrities and white progressive moms think they are on the right side of history.

And let me tell you, they are dead wrong.

Desisters and Destransitioners — these genuine heroes of mine — they are being silenced and threatened and canceled by their friends and every one in power who should know better.

They are the poster children for the question I have asked myself every goddamn day of my life, “Why are you agreeing with us when we are telling you that we hate ourselves?”

And finally, the Radio Free Europe portion of the program which we will co-opt today, immediately, here on my platform and rename it:

Trans Central Station

Radio Free Europe was a broadcast news organization that hosted the free flow of information to parts of the world where free speech had been silenced by their government entities.

Desisters and Destransitioners, I speak your language. My brain and your brain, they are one, and I will never dismiss your pain.

I have messaged some of you to let you know what I am doing and I will host your stories here.

If I can quit all these drugs and this pain and this shame, I believe that you will save the planet. Does that sound insane? I don’t care. Because I know you will. You kids, you desisters and detransitioners, you are my inspiration. You are the bravest kids who have ever walked the Earth. No one has ever really told you that yet. So let me say it to you again:

You will save Earth.

Here I am. I am here to tell you that you are perfect, now. Right now. In your body right now you are perfect no matter what damage you may think you have done to it.

America needs your stories. You speak the language of the theys and thems the most. And their white progressive mothers need to read your stories over and over and over again. I will publish them here.

And you can trust me. You will never be banned or censored. You can speak your truth here.

I have contacted a few of the women here, and I will post those women’s stories after I emphasize again:

Everyone needs to leave my family out of this.

No one wants me to do this but when I realized that my whole life has been leading up to this point, I don’t really have a fucking choice. No one else on Earth is willing to do this work. The purpose of my life is this right here.

If you are going to get angry at someone, get angry at me. If you are going to threaten anyone, threaten me. This is my cross to bear.

And now for the totally bonkers portion of the program which will get me canceled in 17 languages. Are you ready for this?

Good. Buckle up, buttercup…..

Kids, do you ever sit around and think about having a family? Do you want to become a breeder?

You know I am calling all of your bluffs, potential breeders.

Because I know what you’re doing when you are referring to women like me and your mother as “breeders” but do you know? Do you know what asexuality is? Do you know how children are conceived? They are conceived biologically through sex with someone from the opposite sex. Your mother is a breeder and I am a breeder and we brought you into this world because at some point before you were a glimmer in our eyes we had sex with your dads. And they are dudes. They are men. They are male. And we had orgasms while we were doing it.

And do any of your moms know what you are referring to when you deadname yourself? They will now when they read this link. And then they are going to think about you and your friends dropping the name they gave to you at birth in exchange for a new name you choose out of some random grocery aisle that means as much to your real heritage as a saltine cracker.

Can you imagine what they are going to think if they named you after a female family member who was important to them?

She’s even dedicated a part of her website to publishing detransitioners’ stories.

God bless her. Really. Unhinged and rambling, but the core of it? She’s not wrong.

Well, I was going to also address the Shakespeare Globe’s non-binary interpretation of Joan of Arc, but..I think this is enough for one post.

….don’t think about yourself and just do the best you can…

481px-Johanna_Franziska_von_Chantal

If you don’t know about St. Jane de Chantal by herself or in conjunction with St. Francis de Sales….here’s an excellent introduction. 

Her letters have been collected in various formats. Public domain versions – aka free – can be found at archive.org – like here. 

Practical and down to earth:

You have done well to discontinue your retreat. I assure you I never undertake mine in the very hot weather on account of the great drowsiness which it causes. Well, if God wishes us to walk like one who is blind and groping in the dark, what does it matter ? We know that He is with us.

One of the things I appreciate most about Jane de Chantal is her insistence on spiritual simplicity.  She is frequently reminding her sisters not to fall into the trap of spiritual self-absorption and solipsism, forever wondering what things mean and most of all turning your spiritual life into an endless reflection on yourself.

You’re here to praise and serve God and serve him through love and charity to others.

Do it.

Vive Jesus !

PARIS, 1619.

I want you to know, my dear little daughter, what a great consolation your letter has been to me. You have portrayed your interior state with much simplicity, and believe me, little one, I tenderly love that heart of yours and would willingly undergo much for its perfection.

May God hear my prayer, and give you the grace to cut short these perpetual reflections on everything that you do. They dissipate your spirit.

May He enable you instead to use all your powers and thoughts in the practice of such virtues as come in your way. How happy would you then be, and I how consoled ! Make a fresh start in good earnest, my darling, I beg of you. For faults of inadvertence and suchlike, humble yourself in spirit before God, and after that do not give them another thought. You will do this, will you not, my love ? Ah, do ! I ask it through the love you bear to your poor mother. For the rest, say out boldly everything in your letters; they always con sole me. Let nothing worry you. Always yours in sincerity. Pray much for me. May the sweet Jesus accomplish in you His holy will.

Vive Jesus !

ANNECY, 1616.

Who can doubt, little one, but that a thousand imperfections are mingled with all our actions. We must humble ourselves and own to it, but never be surprised nor worry about it.

Neither is it well to play with the thought, but having made an interior act of holy humility, turn from it at once and pay no further attention to your feelings. Now let me hear no more about them, but use them all as a means of humbling yourself and of abasing yourself before God. Behave yourself in His presence as being truly nothing, and if you do, these feelings about which you talk will not do you any harm though they will make you suffer.

Indeed, as much may be said of this fault of over-sensitiveness. Pray what does it matter whether you are dense and stolid or over-sensitive ?

Any one can see that all this is simply self-love seeking its satisfaction. For the love of God let me hear no more of it: love your own insignificance and the most holy will of God which has allotted it to you, then whether you are liked or disliked, reserved or ready-tongued, it should be one and the same thing to you. ….

In a word aim at indifference and cut short absolutely this introspection and all these reflections you make on yourself. This I have told you over and over again. I can well believe that you are at a loss how to answer these young persons who want to know, forsooth, the difference between contemplation and meditation. How can it be, Sister (The Superior) puts up with them, or that you do in her absence? Sweet Jesus, what has become of humility ? Stop it all, and give them books and conferences treating of the virtues, and tell them that they must set about practising them. Later on they can talk about high things for by the exercise of true and solid virtue light comes from Him who is the Master of the humble, and whose delight it is to be with souls that are simple and innocent. At the end of all, when they have become Angels, they may talk as the Angels do.

As to prayer, be at peace and do not attempt anything beyond keeping yourself tranquilly near Our Lord. This too I have often told you. In a word you are not to move any more than a statue can do. Your one wish has to be to give pleasure to God; now if He in His goodness shows you what you have to do, is it right for you to turn from this to do something else because this, His will, has no interest for you ? You must take care not to fall into this fault, but be simple; don’t think much about yourself and just do the best you can.

.

I wrote about St. Jane de Chantal in The Loyola Kids’ Book of Heroes by Amy Welborn.  Here’s the first page.

amy-welborn
"amy welborn"

(Explanation of the headline: we celebrate her feast in the US on August 12.  It is not so throughout the rest of the word and has not been so even in the US for that long…it’s…confusing.)

Duty

A space opens up…what do you do?

Whether it be in terms of your career or personal life or just the day, what’s the question you ask?

Is it What do I want to do? How can I follow my dreams today? What are my dreams, anyway?

Or is it…

What is my duty right now? What does love invite, call or even require me to do in this moment?

That duty might be to specific people in your life, to others in your social, cultural or work context, to the world in general, yes, to yourself and ultimately through all that, to the God who created you to … know, love and serve him.

Every one loves according to his taste ; few love according to their duty and the taste of our Lord. What is the use of building castles in Spain, when we have to live in France ? It is my old lesson, and you know it well ; tell me, my dear child, if you practice it well.

-St. Francis de Sales

Isle of Palms, South Carolina

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