Archive for the ‘7 Quick Takes’ Category

Today is the feast day of St. Leo the Great.  In a General Audience in 2008, Pope Emeritus Benedict spoke of Leo, as part of the series he was doing on great figures in the Church.

The times in which Pope Leo lived were very difficult:  constant barbarian invasions, the gradual weakening of imperial authority in the West and the long, drawn-out social crisis forced the Bishop of Rome – as was to happen even more obviously a century and a half later during the Pontificate of Gregory the Great – to play an important role in civil and political events. This, naturally, could only add to the importance and prestige of the Roman See. The fame of one particular episode in Leo’s life has endured. It dates back to 452 when the Pope, together with a Roman delegation, met Attila, chief of the Huns, in Mantua and dissuaded him from continuing the war of invasion by which he had already devastated the northeastern regions of Italy. Thus, he saved the rest of the Peninsula. This important event soon became memorable and lives on as an emblematic sign of the Pontiff’s action for peace. Unfortunately, the outcome of another Papal initiative three years later was not as successful, yet it was a sign of courage that still amazes us:  in the spring of 455 Leo did not manage to prevent Genseric’s Vandals, who had reached the gates of Rome, from invading the undefended city that they plundered for two weeks. This gesture of the Pope – who, defenceless and surrounded by his clergy, went forth to meet the invader to implore him to desist – nevertheless prevented Rome from being burned and assured that the Basilicas of St Peter, St Paul and St John, in which part of the terrified population sought refuge, were spared.

"amy welborn"We are familiar with Pope Leo’s action thanks to his most beautiful sermons – almost 100 in a splendid and clear Latin have been preserved – and thanks to his approximately 150 letters. In these texts the Pontiff appears in all his greatness, devoted to the service of truth in charity through an assiduous exercise of the Word which shows him to us as both Theologian and Pastor. Leo the Great, constantly thoughtful of his faithful and of the people of Rome but also of communion between the different Churches and of their needs, was a tireless champion and upholder of the Roman Primacy, presenting himself as the Apostle Peter’s authentic heir:  the many Bishops who gathered at the Council of Chalcedon, the majority of whom came from the East, were well aware of this.


Aware of the historical period in which he lived and of the change that was taking place – from pagan Rome to Christian Rome – in a period of profound crisis, Leo the Great knew how to make himself close to the people and the faithful with his pastoral action and his preaching. He enlivened charity in a Rome tried by famines, an influx of refugees, injustice and poverty. He opposed pagan superstitions and the actions of Manichaean groups. He associated the liturgy with the daily life of Christians:  for example, by combining the practice of fasting with charity and almsgiving above all on the occasion of the Quattro tempora, which in the course of the year marked the change of seasons. In particular, Leo the Great taught his faithful – and his words still apply for us today – that the Christian liturgy is not the memory of past events, but the actualization of invisible realities which act in the lives of each one of us. This is what he stressed in a sermon (cf. 64, 1-2) on Easter, to be celebrated in every season of the year “not so much as something of the past as rather an event of the present”. All this fits into a precise project, the Holy Pontiff insisted:  just as, in fact, the Creator enlivened with the breath of rational life man formed from the dust of the ground, after the original sin he sent his Son into the world to restore to man his lost dignity and to destroy the dominion of the devil through the new life of grace.

This is the Christological mystery to which St Leo the Great, with his Letter to the Council of Ephesus, made an effective and essential contribution, confirming for all time – through this Council – what St Peter said at Caesarea Philippi. With Peter and as Peter, he professed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. And so it is that God and man together “are not foreign to the human race but alien to sin” (cf. Serm. 64). Through the force of this Christological faith he was a great messenger of peace and love. He thus shows us the way:  in faith we learn charity. Let us therefore learn with St Leo the Great to believe in Christ, true God and true Man, and to implement this faith every day in action for peace and love of neighbour.

You can access the writings of Leo the Great here….

He’s in The Loyola Catholic Book of Saintsunder “Saints are People who are Strong Leaders.”


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almost got away without doing pumpkins this year.  I just didn’t mention it, and I also sort of forgot about it, and then Friday evening I started feeling guilty, so I posed the question, “Um…do you all want to carve pumpkins?”

Tragically, they nodded.

So Saturday morning, I set out to see what I could find.  Wal-Mart was all Christmas, with not a pumpkin in sight. Nothing at Aldi. Then I swung by a local super-cut-rate grocery store that I drive by all the time, but have never actually entered – saw a box full of pumpkins outside the door, grabbed three, went inside and found that the store was actually pretty nice. So. There’s that useful discovery.

We don’t have an ample front porch, so someone came up with the genius idea of perching them in this tree-that-should-probably-be-cut-down-before-it-falls-on-my-car.

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Then trick-or-treating in the rain – one Indiana Jones, one Mayan warrior king.

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Lots of candy.


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Last Friday, Homeschooled 10-year old and I headed back over to Atlanta. The main objective was a Shakespeare for Kids performance of some iteration of Macbeth.

I had, if not high, then at least not low hopes for this, since I’d been told it was geared to K-5th graders.

Well, when we arrived, they announced from the stage that they were psyched to present this for an intended audience of K-3rd graders. Which was too bad, since most of the audience was definitely older than that.

Oh well. It was amusing, although my 10-year old who saw not one but two productions of Macbeth last year on stage (one at this theater, the other in town at Samford University) was obviously a little insulted at being talked down to in such a manner.

Then afterwards to the Aquarium, which…damn. Why can’t I ever remember that the Georgia Aquarium is really not a good value for the $$$$$$$$$$$$ you pay?  I don’t think I’ll forget now – but remind me in three years when I start thinking we should go again.

(If you are aquarium-hankering in the Southeast, go to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga instead.  It has a lot more exhibits and is far more educational – in a painless way – than that obviously tourist-baiting Georgia place is. Even the Charleston Aquarium is better, I’d say.)

Well, I do like ginormous sea anenomes, so there’s that.

And then some time in Centennial Park.

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A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about some of the interesting concerts happening around here – OF COURSE I didn’t make it to any of those (I almost got to the pop-up-opera-at-the-brewery thing but one of my older sons called just as I was circling the block looking for non-existent parking, and so I kept talking to him as I circled and circled…and then finally gave up and went and bought tissues and toilet paper at the Dollar Store.)

But this week I did make it to a performance of a new local early music group called the Highland Consort. 

The performance was free, and held at the Episcopal Church of the Advent downtown.


The program was a November-suitable, requiem-ish, All-Souls-reminiscent program of pieces including “When David Heard” by Thomas Tomkins, Burial Sentences from the Book of Common Prayer composed by William Croft, “O Quam gloriosum” by Tomas Luis de Victoria and the Missa pro Defunctis by Eustache du Caurroy. The last was composed in 1590 for the funeral of Henry IV of France and then performed for the next two centuries as the official Requiem for the kings of France. (from the program notes).

highland consort birmingham

It’s super great that now we can fully, active, and consciously participate now and sing Gather Us In instead.


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There are lots and lots and LOTS of homeschooling blogs and pages and thoughts out there.  You really shouldn’t read too many of them, or else you will end up feeling very badly about yourself.

One of the few exceptions to that rule that I’ve made is the Libertarian Homeschooler – there’s not blog, but “only” a Facebook page, and it’s great.  The posts are well-written and deeply considered, as, you can tell, has been the family’s entire homeschooling experience.  This is the sentence that made me go “yes!” today, related to a search for a perhaps-transitional-to-college-school:

“I think they would do very well but I don’t think I could do it to them. Giving them a superficial glance after we’ve spent so many years digging deep. We have tailored their experiences to meet their interests, needs, and capacities instead of state standards and grade requirements.”

If you want to understand the homeschooling movement, and why it’s taking off, especially in the context of test and achievement-obsessed schools….read this. 

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In honor of today, November 5, Guy Fawkes Day…here’s a related book review I wrote ages ago for First Things:

As Hogge traces the slow, agonizing path by which the Jesuits were unjustly implicated in the Gunpowder Plot—a path strewn with seemingly minor decisions like hearing a confession, writing a letter, or delaying a journey—the question of equivocation came to the fore. This was the point at which the government’s case against the Jesuits gained its popular force: the accusation that the Jesuits advised and approved the art of “equivocation,” answering questions in a way that would satisfy interrogators but at the same time preserve interior honesty. Being asked, “Are you a priest?” one could answer “No,” meaning, in one’s own mind, “No, I am not a priest of Zeus.” Equivocation was debated among moral theologians, and Garnet himself wrote a treatise in cautious support of it.

The question, answered equivocally or not, that caused the most problems was one that came to be known as the “Bloody Question”: If the pope were to invade England, whom would you support, the pope or the queen? Over time, the Bloody Question took slightly different forms, but the essence remained the same: Whose side are you on?

The truth was that most English Catholics wanted to be on both sides. They were loyal to their country and their monarch, and they also wanted to practice their religion in peace. In the sixteenth century, this was not thought to be possible, of course, as religious toleration was the ideal of neither Church nor state. But as the decades progressed, it became the last best hope of English Catholics. James I manipulated this hope in his effort to cement his succession—and then dashed it with even fiercer enforcement of the Penal Laws, a frustration and turnabout which ultimately inspired the Gunpowder Plot.

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Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, who likes Flannery O’Connor and is great for other reasons as well, delivered a brainy speech on religious liberty this evening at Notre Dame. Y’all should read it:

The Church cannot abide quietly while the eclipse of man is presided over by an impoverished temporal order. Thus, the Church understands that the divine mandate to teach includes a service to a society that has shoved aside its own best moments. Put another way, the divine mandate includes a mission to defend the prerogatives of reason, including speculative and contemplative reason. This is a service to reason and to the human person and thus to society, that the Church must, by divine mandate, render. What is needed then, is a robust philosophical discourse fully informed by the theological sources that prevent the reduction of man to product and producer. 

— 7 —

Commercial time!

Advent’s coming! 

Catholic Advent Materials

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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Here’s an article on the small Charlotte Mason-based private school in our neighborhood that is one of the two schools in town I might be tempted to send my 10-year old to.

I wish all  Catholic school administrators and pastors would read this article and understand that Catholic education could look like this, too. WHY DOESN’T IT. There is a  sizable potential student population for this type of school, Catholic classical schools,  Catholic Montessori schools and so on.  Some of which exist, scattered about the country, but which, in general, are too far outside the box for your basic Catholic school superintendent or pastor to take seriously or not be threatened by. Many people are staying away from Catholic schools, not only because they are open to life, having large families and can’t afford tuition, but also because what they see around them are schools all striving after the same goal: the achievement-oriented Blue Ribbon school with lots of computers and a winning sports program.

Well, guess what. There is an another way..lots of different ways and it is too bad that mainstream Catholic education can’t or won’t see this. The lack of imagination and courage in the Catholic education establishment is discouraging, if not surprising.

A Facebook friend linked to my post on this article and someone wrote on her post that she was sending her child to a local alternative school because all the parish school was doing was bragging about how much homework the kids would have at night.


Family Life?

Maybe we need a ……SYNOD to deal with this!

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Formal schooling gripe of the week – and not just mine (for those catching up – I homeschool a 10-year old, older kid is in  HS) , but shared by others whose kids are in other schools as well:

Some of us work really hard to restrict screen time at home.

You’re not helping when the assignments you give necessitate screen time in either the research, the composition, the presentation or the submission.

But…It’s what they’ll need to know in the workforce! 

Nonsense.  They won’t be in the workforce for ten more years, probably, and who knows what they’ll need to know then – and whatever skills specific to their job they’ll need to know? Yeah, they’ll be taught on the job or what they need to know will be transmitted through the diodes fixed in their scalps by the actual office drones.   What they need to know is how to think, how to read and write, and how to problem solve.

Three more years and three quarters to go…..

I might have written last year – not that you remember – about going to an open house at the monastery boarding school up the road. Unfortunately too far for us for day school, and no way we’re doing boarding school – I’m not interested in my 14-year old moving away yet.

Anyway, there was a mom and daughter  at the open house who had traveled from Missouri, the main reason being that they wanted to switch schools now because the school the girl was attending at the moment had gone all I-Pad for all texts and all work.

They knew that wasn’t right.  They knew that wasn’t the best educational practice.

And they wanted to switch…now. 

Research is starting to bear that out – which doesn’t surprise me.  Back when I was in the classroom, ages and ages ago, not a few of the interminable in-services we had to attend concerned differing learning styles, and it was continually emphasized to us that learning happened best when as many learning styles as possible were engaged, including kinetic – that is, learning styles which find physicality helpful.  And so we are learning, it is true – the act of holding a book, turning pages, associating the information on the page with a physical place in the book, in the universe, is helpful.  The act of writing, for whom that act is not burdensome (and it is for some, I know, and for them keyboards are a Godsend), helps reinforce retention and is an aid to creativity.  More and more  professors are banning laptops and other electronic devices from the classroom not only because their absence (not surprisingly) helps their students be more engaged, but also because physically taking notes, and the synthesizing that that process requires (as opposed to the taking-dictation-mode that a decent typist can bring to the job) helps, again, in retention and understanding.

So no, don’t tell me about your high-tech school …

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Oooh! The Gif posts were popular !

Well, I was going to follow up on Monday, but I was so exhausted – in every way – by the whole wretched Synod Scene and a super fast trip back and forth to Charleston that I easily found better things to do with my time.

"amy welborn"

When you don’t feel like a miserable failure of a homeschooler because your son thinks it would be amusing to leave this in a dresser drawer in the hotel room. 

Speaking of Charleston (where we have family), this time we discovered the very small, but FREE Mace Brown Natural History Museum.  It’s on Calhoun Street, just a couple of blocks down from King Street, on the second floor of a College of Charleston building.  As I said, it’s small – really just one quarter of a floor – but it’s got a lot of good fossil specimens and situates them very well in the context of the Southeast.  So if you are in Charleston, especially with kids, consider it – it’s open 11-4 during the week, but check the hours before you go.

"amy welborn"

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The main “better thing” is a project, and yeah, I indeed need to be working on that instead of scouring the Internet for amusing Veep gifs that match up to the irony of bishops who are Supposed to Be Smelling Like Their Sheep in an Environmentally Responsible Creation-Lovin’ Way instead burning carbon credits like crazy on flights to Rome and spending a month away from their Sheep in order to vote on a document that says “Families Are Good” and “Families Need Support.”

But -hey, Sheep – they’re back!

 Introducing Selina’s running mate and the new Veep,  Mr. Hugh Laurie.

So we’re good!

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Oh, wait! Did I overstep my boundaries? In talking about that Synod thing?

Because I only have an MA in Church History so that means I sure don’t have a Ph.D. or STL or what have you, so I probably should just shrink back into my proper place.


Eh. It’s not the New York Times here, so no one w̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶j̶e̶a̶l̶o̶u̶s̶ ̶o̶r̶ ̶r̶e̶s̶e̶n̶t̶f̶u̶l̶  cares.


— 6 —

But do you know what? Here’s the thing.

I have been writing these book things for fifteen years now (The Loyola Kids Book of Saints and Prove It! God were the first two, written in 2000), and most of them, with a couple of exceptions have been assignments.  That is, a publisher has contacted me and said, “Hey, we need a book on >>>>>>>. Would you write it?” (The exceptions are Here. Now. and The Words We Pray).  Almost every time I’ve said yes, because what I have felt is that in request from a publisher, God is responding to me.  Every suggested project has been on a topic that I needed to be exploring at that very moment. My research, the process of writing, the reflection on that given topic seemed to answer the questions central to my life at the time.

So it is with this current project, which, among other subjects, involves St. Catherine of Siena.

Okay. Thanks, God!

Really delving into her life and writings in a way that I never have before is giving me the opportunity to make some connections, to think in honest, tough and critical ways about the current modes of thinking and discourse prevalent in Catholicism, as well as the chance to reflect on the crazy, curious history of the Church and the role all of us  – lay, ordained and religious, educated or simply wise and experienced – have to play in that history.

— 7 —

Commercial time!

Advent’s coming! 

Catholic Advent Materials

Also…All Saints’ Day…are you ready?

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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Well, Birmingham, Alabama has finally arrived – our first Trader Joe’s opened up last week.  I like TJ’s fine, although I’m not a fanatic. I tend to go and buy the same things every time – the fig bars and orange-flavored cranberries, basically.  There was a time when I couldn’t find pappardelle pasta anywhere in this town -not even at Whole Foods – so I would add that to the list when I hit an Atlanta Trader Joe’s.

Plus, the location they’ve picked is terrible from my perspective.  It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t live here, but it’s in a high end shopping strip where, 6 days out of 7 and 23 hours of 24, the traffic is impossible. Unless you are required to head that way (that is, it’s on your work-school-home route), you probably avoid it.  So sure, it will get great business from those folks, but the rest of us in other parts of town will only get there occasionally – like on Saturday afternoons during Alabama or Auburn games.

But we’re finally back in business with these!

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I’m sad this photo turned out so terribly, but I like it (the original, not my photo) so much, I wanted to share it with you nonetheless.

It’s part of a contemporary icon at St. Bernard’s Abbey up in Cullman (we went there a couple of weeks ago, mostly to visit Ave Maria Grotto). The icon, in a triptych style, has a number of individual images designed around the dual themes of the Liturgy of the Hours and what I suppose are the Benedictine Virtues.

The gold made my phone wacky, but you can probably still make it out: the Hour is Compline, and the virtue is Hospitality.

Angels unawares. 

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It’s been gorgeous this week. I’ll take it.

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Railroad Park.

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So this is happening in Birmingham this week – I hope I’ll be able to make it. 

Tenebrae, an 18-strong mixed chorus composed of some of Britain’s finest singers, will make its Magic City debut on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at Southside Baptist Church. On the heels of appearances here by the likes of the King’s Singers, Voces8 and Tallis Scholars in recent years, the London-based choir’s concert promises to build on that legacy with a program titled “The Romantic Legacy of Renaissance Polyphony.

Nigel Short, a former member of the Tallis Scholars and King’s Singers, founded the ensemble in 2001. His hopes were to instill new fire and vocal color to the august institution.

Wait! ..argh….this is happening in my neighborhood, same night, same time,  and it sounds fun!

If you think you can sing a few bars and still hold your lirico, or even if you can’t, don’t be afraid to try Tuesday night, Oct. 27, at Avondale Brewing Company, 201 41st St. S. From 6-7:30 p.m., Opera Birmingham debuts “Opera Shots,” a series of pop-up concerts designed around “mixing and mingling in a social setting, with ‘a shot of opera,’” says Opera Birmingham’s director of marketing Eleanor Walter.

The event will be an open-mike setting of greatest hits, choruses, jazz standards and musical theater, with guest artists leading the way.

Wow! It’s like I’m living in Manhattan or something – so much choice!


— 5 —

Here’s my website suggestion of the week: Atlas Obscura. I unreservedly love this website – it constantly, every day, reveals again again what a weird, fascinating place this world of ours is.

— 6 —

Advent’s coming! 

Catholic Advent Materials

Also…All Saints’ Day…are you ready?

— 7 —

Here’s something interesting.  In 2009 and 2012, the last 2 liturgical year “B’s” – Synods were wrapping up and closing Masses for those Synods were celebrated on this particular Sunday. The Gospel reading is the healing of Bartimaeus, which it will be this year, of course. In 2009, the Synod was a “Special Assembly for Africa.” An excerpt from the homily at the closing Mass:

God’s plan does not change. Through the centuries and turns of history, he always aims at the same finality: the Kingdom of liberty and peace for all. And this implies his predilection for those deprived of freedom and peace, for those violated in their dignity as human beings. We think in particular of our brothers and sisters who in Africa suffer poverty, diseases, injustice, wars and violence, forced migration. These favorite children of the heavenly Father are like the blind man in the Gospel, Bartimaeus (Mk 10: 46) at the gates of Jericho. Jesus the Nazarene passed that way. It is the road that leads to Jerusalem, where the Paschal Event will take place, his sacrificial Easter, towards which the Messiah goes for us. It is the road of his exodus which is also ours: the only way that leads to the land of reconciliation, justice and peace. On that road, the Lord meets Bartimaeus, who has lost his sight. Their paths cross, they become a single path. The blind man calls out, full of faith “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!”. Jesus replies: “Call him!”, and adds: “What do you want me to do for you?”. God is light and the Creator of light. Man is the son of light, made to see the light, but has lost his sight, and is forced to beg. The Lord, who became a beggar for us, walks next to him: thirsting for our faith and our love. “What do you want me to do for you?”. God knows the answer, but asks; he wants the man to speak. He wants the man to stand up, to find the courage to ask for what is needed for his dignity. The Father wants to hear in the son’s own voice the free choice to see the light once again, the light, the reason for Creation. “Master, I want to see!” And Jesus says to him: “Go your way; your faith has saved you’. Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way” (Mk 10: 51-52).

Dear Brothers, we give thanks because this “mysterious encounter between our poverty and the greatness” of God was achieved also in the Synodal Assembly for Africa that has ended today. God renewed his call: “Take courage! Get up…” (Mk 10: 49). And the Church in Africa, through its Pastors, having come from all the countries in the continent, from Madagascar and the other islands, has embraced the message of hope and light to walk on the path that leads to the Kingdom of God. “Go your way; your faith has saved you” (Mk 10: 52). Yes, faith in Jesus Christ when properly understood and experienced guides men and peoples to liberty in truth, or, to use the three words of the Synodal theme, to reconciliation, to justice and to peace. Bartimaeus who, healed, follows Jesus along the road, is the image of that humanity that, illuminated by faith, walks on the path towards the promised land. Bartimaeus becomes in turn a witness of the light, telling and demonstrating in the first person about being healed, renewed, regenerated. This is the Church in the world: a community of reconciled persons, operators of justice and peace; “salt and light” amongst the society of men and nations. Therefore the Synod strongly confirmed and manifested this that the Church is the Family of God, in which there can be no divisions based on ethnic, language or cultural groups. Moving witnesses showed us that, even in the darkest moments of human history, the Holy Spirit is at work and transforming the hearts of the victims and the persecutors, that they may know each other as brothers. The reconciled Church is the potent leaven of reconciliation in each country and in the whole African continent.

healing of bartimaeus art

In 2012, it was on the New Evangelization. From B16’s homily:

The whole of Mark’s Gospel is a journey of faith, which develops gradually under Jesus’ tutelage.  The disciples are the first actors on this journey of discovery, but there are also other characters who play an important role, and Bartimaeus is one of them.  His is the last miraculous healing that Jesus performs before his passion, and it is no accident that it should be that of a blind person, someone whose eyes have lost the light.  We know from other texts too that the state of blindness has great significance in the Gospels.  It represents man who needs God’s light, the light of faith, if he is to know reality truly and to walk the path of life.  It is essential to acknowledge one’s blindness, one’s need for this light, otherwise one could remain blind for ever (cf. Jn 9:39-41).

Bartimaeus, then, at that strategic point of Mark’s account, is presented as a model.  He was not blind from birth, but he lost his sight.  He represents man who has lost the light and knows it, but has not lost hope: he knows how to seize the opportunity to encounter Jesus and he entrusts himself to him for healing.  Indeed, when he hears that the Master is passing along the road, he cries out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mk 10:47), and he repeats it even louder (v. 48).  And when Jesus calls him and asks what he wants from him, he replies: “Master, let me receive my sight!” (v. 51).  Bartimaeus represents man aware of his pain and crying out to the Lord, confident of being healed.  His simple and sincere plea is exemplary, and indeed – like that of the publican in the Temple: “God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk 18:13) – it has found its way into the tradition of Christian prayer.  In the encounter with Christ, lived with faith, Bartimaeus regains the light he had lost, and with it the fullness of his dignity: he gets back onto his feet and resumes the journey, which from that moment has a guide, Jesus, and a path, the same that Jesus is travelling.  The evangelist tells us nothing more about Bartimaeus, but in him he shows us what discipleship is: following Jesus “along the way” (v. 52), in the light of faith.

….It is significant that the liturgy puts the Gospel of Bartimaeus before us today, as we conclude the Synodal Assembly on the New Evangelization.  This biblical passage has something particular to say to us as we grapple with the urgent need to proclaim Christ anew in places where the light of faith has been weakened, in places where the fire of God is more like smouldering cinders, crying out to be stirred up, so that they can become a living flame that gives light and heat to the whole house.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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St. Junipero Serra now….

Go here for more information. There’s a particularly good FAQ.

I read a good introduction to him in an older book called Adventurer Saints that I’d forgotten I owned. As Pope Francis said in his homily, St. Junipero’s life was marked by movement away from comfort zones – a university professor who left it all to minister in the New World amid tremendous physical suffering, he was all about bringing the love of Christ to the edges of the world, in love, not domination.

Siempre Adelante!

— 2 —

One of the most fascinating elements of the missions to the New World -all of them, but especially the Franciscans and Jesuits in South America and the Southwest – was the importance of music.  You remember the role of music in The Mission, right? Well, it was that way for all the missions. In The Loyola KIds Book of Saints, I wrote about one missionary, St. Francis Solano, who saw the value of music in missionary work.

There is a lot out there written about music in the California missions, specifically. This might be a good start:

very mission had a library, carried on the schooling of Indian residents and provided instruction in the various manual arts. In addition, music instrument collections were amassed which involved organs, (barrel, reed and pipe), as well as string (violins, violoncellos, contrabass), woodwind (piccolos, flutes, oboes, clarinets), brass (trumpets and horns) and percussion instruments. Choirs and orchestras, in some cases of significant size and competence, were trained, often to a level of considerable proficiency. Visitors to the missions, as early as the closing years of the eighteenth century, commented upon the quality and scope of the music making at individual missions.

The sacred music of California that remains in manuscript form is the most extensive and diverse body of plainsong and polyphonic music to survive from any of Spain’s colonies in the contiguous forty-eight states. Much of the polyphonic music was brought to California from locations in Spain and Mexico, including the Convento de San Francisco, Palm, Mallorca and the Cathedral in Mexico City. The manuscript remains are preserved in ten different libraries and archives throughout California.

But it’s only a start…there’s so much out there, including music not just imported, but written in the New World. New World Baroque music is absolutely one of my favorite types of music to listen to.

— 3—

Chanticleer recorded an album of music from the California missions:

Speaking of the California missions, I’ve been to one: San Juan de Bautista (famous because of Vertigo, among other reasons.)  It’s so lovely. Here are some other images from that 2011 visit:

"amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn"

These are from 2011. I guess it was that trip I had an afternoon all mapped out to go to Carmel, where (now) St. Junipero is buried, but we got there and for some reason it was closed – it was Thanksgiving week, and I had checked the website to make sure it would be open, but lo and behold, we pulled up and saw several other people milling around the locked gates, peering through, trying to catch a glimpse of..something.  Should have called!

— 4 —

It was interesting to me that all the controversy preceding this canonization seemed to have flattened out somehow. It’s odd that there was hardly any expectation that Pope Francis would address any controversy or disappointment/criticism that he didn’t. Teflon, I tell you!

It’s too bad, too,  because I don’t believe in whitewashing historical apologetics about any era of history, ecclesiastical or secular. The encounter between Europeans and the native peoples of the Americas has layers of complexity and nuance as cultures clash, and especially as the Gospel finds its way to human beings in need of it in the midst of a maze of empire, power and exploitation. That dynamic is worth a moment of attention, and that attention is not an “attack” on anything (well, it doesn’t have to be), but merely exploration and questioning. How do we serve people and minister to them without becoming accessories to the sinful structures that enable our presence and activity? What is that relationship all about?

Still pertinent questions.

— 5 —

Homeschool book of the week is Adam of the Road – which is delightful and should be read in all late-elementary Catholic classrooms instead of the mostly prescriptive pap from secular textbooks that most of them unfortunately use.  It’s given us a chance to do history and geography, of course, but also to talk about various aspects of medieval Church life, including the monastery as a vibrant center of life in a society. Not closed-off, to be sure.

— 6 —

Read a couple of books this week, for really no reason except because they were around:

Catholic Revivalism was a re-read, since I’d used it in college decades ago. But do you remember how I keep telling you about the importance of reading history?  Doing so is helpful in keeping you grounded, anchored between either thinking the present is the absolute worst or the fabulous best. Reading a book like Catholic Revivalism reminds you, in case you didn’t know, that Catholics were actually not indifferent to evangelization, outreach and personal faith before two minutes ago and  that pastoral ministers have been concerned about Catholics not practicing their faith and knowing zilch about it anyway forever.

Comforting? Depressing? Both? Maybe.

Oh, and The Girl on the Train. Was that it? There were a bunch of copies on the shelf at the library, I vaguely remembered that it’s popular, so I took a couple of nights a read it. I liked the set-up and I thought the protagonist’s alcoholism was a different twist and initially well-done, but then it got tedious and repetitive, the other characters were superficially drawn, and the whole thing got absurd, just as most books like that do.

I need to get me another Dorothy Hughes.  That would be far more interesting to write about, too.

— 7 —

Don’t forget…St. Francis of Assisi in a week or so…get your books here or here!

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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— 1 —

Here’s a link to my interview with  Diana von Glahn, aka The Faithful Traveler, on her daily radio show on Real Life Radio. 

The link to listen is right here!


— 2 —

Our town, perhaps like your town, has what many towns used to have: an ornate downtown theater, A “Showplace of [insert state or geographic region here]” 

 And like many of those ornate, state-monikered theaters, it occasionally shows films – during December and the summer, to be exact.

When I was growing up in Knoxville, the Tennessee Theater revived itself and began showing classic films and oh, it was glorious. I think for a time, they did it year-round, not just during the summer, and in those mostly pre-cable and pre-VHS days, this was my introduction, in real life, to the films I yearned to see, from the Marx Brothers to Casablanca. My most vivid memory was a showing of Gaslight in a packed theater – packed because Gaslight was on a double bill with Casablanca, and everyone had come to see Bogart and Bergman (although I had come to see Rains…more my type).  Gaslight ended up surprising everyone, and the thrill of  that collective gasp from the audience at various points in the film taught me all I needed to know about the difference between solitary and communal experiences.

We’ve been able to hit only a couple of showings at the Alabama this summer, and both in the last couple of weeks – the first was Singin’ in the Rain, and the second, last Saturday, was The General with a score composed by the organist.

As per usual, the mostly older volunteers at the door marveled over the presence of anyone younger than 25, and asked of the boys, “Have you ever seen a silent movie before?” They nodded – they’ve seen Chaplin, and a few weeks ago the ten-year old and I watched Keaton’s The Camerman when his brother was off somewhere else.

What a great film – (I’d never seen it either) – very funny, astonishing physical dexterity, and some visual humor that is a subtle as you can get without sound – the opposite of Kathy Selden’s accusation of  “dumb show” in Singin’ in the Rain, of course!

And yes, the boys liked it. Kids learn to appreciate culture in whatever context their sensibilities are formed in, which is why it’s careless and irresponsible to just let them watch anything and everything. If they grow up exposed to increasing level of complexity and subtlety, a well as just  quality – they’ll ultimately be bored by stupidity and (hopefully) turn from it, not out of outrage or offense, but simply because they have better things to do with their short time on earth, and they know it.

— 3—

…or they could be the group of no older than 10-year old girls at the pool this week talking about how great Dumb and Dumber II was…sigh….

— 4 —

I FINALLY finished the trip report of our late May trip out West.  You can find all the post by clicking on this, which takes you to all posts in the category, “Wild West 2015.”

Ended with Las Vegas.  Hated it.  Boys weren’t impressed either.

— 5 —

We started watching the Amazon series Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street.  One episode in, and I like it very much. It’s funny, a little magical and quite humane, knowing rather than know-it-all. It looks as if it might be a win.

.— 6—

New high school son has Fahrenheit 451  as his summer reading, so since I’d never actually read it – as much as I liked Bradbury as a teen, I never got to this novel – I decided to read it, too.

It’s quite different from what I expected, based on the use of the books by contemporary “anti-censorship” activists. (I put that it quotes because most READ BANNED BOOKS movements are pretty happy to ban Bibles and religious materials, so I find it difficult to take them seriously)

Have you read it? If you haven’t you should, and if you last read it 30 years ago, give it another look, because it might strike you a little more powerfully in this Internet Age.  It’s not as much about “book burning” for specific ideas, but more about the differences between the act of reading, period and the state induced by visual and audio stimulation. 

Basically? The act of reading and the time and space we live in when we read encourages and enables actual thought, contemplation and an individual, unique relationship to ideas and reality.  The culture which Bradbury creates that stands opposed to that is instantly recognizable: people plugged in all the time. All the time. Living room walls turned into screens peopled by characters whose lives consume the public’s attention. Walking and sleeping plugged into earbuds.  The reader, the thinker, the wanderer, the dreamer, suspect and exiled.

Written sixty years ago, the book is eerily prophetic.  The modern reality of the plugged in world is a little different from what Bradbury creates in that it’s missing the communication aspect – his vision is that the power of technology is even more damaging because it emanates from a central source that uses it to keep the public uncritical, unaware and stupid. One could argue that our modern scene is the opposite – we don’t have a centralized source of technology, and in fact our lives are marked by a cacophony of voices that rain upon us from our screens and earbuds.

But somehow, even in that is uniformity. Because it’s still noise, it’s still a distraction, it still distorts our perspective and pulls us away from silence, contemplation, stillness and our purely individual encounter with words, ideas and images in the midst of that stillness, a stillness that affords us the mental space to relate, mull over, decide and, if we choose, close the book and walk away.

— 7 —

"amy welborn"

Insert Metaphor Here

Pinball Hall of Fame or Whatever. Las Vegas.

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— 1 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

— 2 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


— 3—

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

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

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

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

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

Is this sounding familiar at all?

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

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

A Response to God’s Love

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

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

— 4 —

For more information on these and other books, go here, to yesterday’s post. 

— 5 —

Earlier this week, we tagged along on a tour of the Mercedes plant – it’s between Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, and is the only Mercedes plant in North America.

Did you know that Mercedes doesn’t mass-produce these cars in bulk, but rather builds each car to order? Maybe you did, but I didn’t. It was interesting to observe and later discuss the distinctions between what part of the process is automated and which still must be left in human hands – for example, putting the panels in the doors and the flexible tubing stuff around the windows.

.— 6—

Over the past week, I’ve been reading some of the letters of St. Francis de Sales, found here in this book on the Internet Archive – the place to go for out-of-print books of any kind, usually offered in a number of different formats.  I usually pick the Kindle option and read it on the app on my Ipad.  A couple of excerpts of passages I particularly appreciated:

Those who are simply good people walk in the way
of God ; but the devout run, and when they are very
devout they fly. Now, I will tell you some rules which
you must keep if you would be truly devout.

Before all it is necessary to keep the general com-
mandments of God and the Church, which are made
for every faithful Christian ; without this there can be
no devotion in the world. That, every one knows.

Besides the general commandments, it is necessary
carefully to observe the particular commandments
which each person has in regard to his vocation, and
whoever observes not this, if he should raise the dead,
does not cease to be in sin and to be damned if he die
in it. As, for example, it is commanded to bishops to
visit their sheep, — to teach, correct, console; I may
pass the whole week in prayer, I may fast all my life,
if I do not do that, I am lost ….


Be on your guard not to let your carefulness turn
to solicitude and anxiety ; and though you are tossed
on the waves and amid the winds of many troubles,
always look up to heaven, and say to our Lord : O
God, it is for you I voyage and sail : be my guide,
and my pilot. Then comfort yourself in this, that
when we are in port, the delights we shall have there
will outbalance the labours endured in getting there.
But we are on our way there, amid all these storms, if
we have a right heart, good intention, firm courage^
our eyes on God, and in him all our trust.

And if the violence of the tempest sometimes disturbs
our stomach, and makes our head swim a little, let us
not be surprised ; but, as soon as ever we can, let us
take breath again, and encourage ourselves to do better.
You continue to walk in our good resolutions, I am
sure. Be not troubled, then, at these little attacks
of disquiet and annoyance which the multiplicity of
domestic affairs causes you ; no, my dearest child, for
this serves as an exercise to practise those most dear
and lovely virtues which our Lord has recommended
us. Believe me, true virtue does not thrive in exterior
repose, anymore than good fish in the stagnant waters
of a marsh. Vive Jesus ‘

— 7 —

Coming soon….. Diana von Glahn, aka The Faithful Traveler, is starting a daily radio show on Real Life Radio. The show starts next week.

And every Friday…I’ll be on it!


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