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Archive for the ‘Adventures in Assisi’ Category

— 1 —

Blogfodder first.   I hate linking to – hell I hate reading the Huffington Post, partly because it’s mostly boring predictable liberal agitprop but mostly because they don’t pay writers for providing content that makes the website money.

But this struck me as very true, so here it is. 

Simplicity Parenting encourages keeping fewer toys so children engage more deeply with the ones they have. Payne describes the four pillars of excess as having too much stuff, too many choices, too much information and too much speed.

When children are overwhelmed they lose the precious down time they need to explore, reflect and release tension. Too many choices erodes happiness, robbing kids of the gift of boredom which encourages creativity and self-directed learning.

It’s a useful argument to have handy: “You’re bored? Good. I’m just here to help. You’re welcome.”

— 2 —

True story:  11-year old just showed me a drawing of a space scene he’d done, describing the moment as “A cross between The Far Side and Mister Roberts.” 

(The theme being the character in the drawing feeling left out of the action and feeling a yearning to be involved in distant battles and adventures. The Far Side cartoon involved a wolf in the middle of a forest holding a desk job, apparently.)

– 3—

Very few Daily Homeschool Reports, I know.  School has certainly happened, but every day has been truncated by afternoon activities – some of our own design, like walking the trail behind the local Jewish Community Center – and some involving other homeschoolers. Park Day, Gym Day, etc. Too nice to stay inside.

"amy welborn"

 — 4 —

The most notable thing we’ve done this week is read and discuss half of The Red Pony.  I had never read it, but I have to say that I am being blown away by the depth of discussion this slim book is inspiring.  It is a tough book in some respects, but also a very good starting point for a young reader to dive deeply into motifs, themes and so on. It is probably all but impossible to teach in a classroom now, even the young teens who could be ready for it,  considering that it involves death and sorrow and other triggers.

— 5 

LOOK.

Ann Engelhart has illustrated a new book for Regina Doman’s Chesterton Press, a book written by Chesterton doyenne Nancy Carpentier Brown: 

Chestertons and the Golden Key

Doesn’t it look lovely? I can hardly wait to see a copy!

— 6–

Hey, guys, I will be at the Catholic Library Association/National Catholic Education Association meetings in San Diego on March 29-30.  I am for sure signing books at the OSV booth Tuesday at 2, and hopefully will be at one or two other publishers’ as well. If you are going to be there or have an educator friend who will, please tell them to say hello!

Oh – today’s my day in Living Faith. Check out the entry here. 

A couple of years ago, we visited the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta. There’s a tour there, during which you can peer through windows and see lots and lots of paper money being collected and sorted. At the end, you take away a little plastic bag full of shredded bills, once “worth” something, now “worth” nothing.

 

MORE

— 7 —

Speaking of books…order some from me!  Signed editions of any of the picture books (illustrated by Ann)  at 8 bucks a title.  Big orders for your entire First Communion class welcome! If you order in the next day or so, they will probably reach you by Easter.

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

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How about a signed picture book? 

The copies I’m selling right now will be signed by both Ann & me. Not that a kid cares, but if we have them, might as well sign them, right?

(And I can personalize the sig – just go to the proper place on the order form or let me know what you want via email. amywelborn60 – at- gmail – dot – com.)

Go here to order.

Below are some images that Ann made for a presentation – the pictures are from Adventure in Assisi.  Ann lives in the NYC area, and if you are interested in having her come to your school or parish, here’s her website and contact information. 

 

corpworksofmercy"amy welborn"

 

assisi

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…on sale!

I have a stock of the picture books I have done with watercolor artist Ann Engelhart, and it’s time to focus on clearing out that particular closet!

So I have cut prices on all the picture books to $8.00 each – and that includes shipping. (Media Mail). 

You can order books here.  Find out more about them at that link as well. Any questions, contact me at amywelborn60 – at – gmail-dot-com.

(I don’t currently have any of the saints book in stock. You can order them online from any Catholic bookstore, and most brick-n-mortar Catholic bookstores carry them as well.)

 

 

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love this.

CXKS1STVAAQsteB

 

It is from a small book by Anglo-Catholic Enid Chadwick called My Book of the Church’s Year. It is no longer in print, but you can see all the pages here. Just so lovely – simple, concise and substantive.

(Image initially discovered through the Twitter feed of Catholic University professor Chad Pecknold.)

 

 

 

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I am about to head to the basement to dig out the Advent Stuff…hoping that there are candles, almost certain that there are not.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a family devotional for Advent published by Creative Communications.  Some of you might be seeing it in your parishes this weekend, but in case you would like quick access…you can get it instantly on Kindle (and remember you don’t have to have an actual physical Kindle to read books on Kindle – just download the reading app onto any device, even a phone.)

"amy welborn"

 

And don’t forget…Bambinelli Sunday is coming…

 

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Ah…education.

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.

Yay?

Family Life?

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

— 2 —

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 …

— 3—

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"

— 4 —

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!

— 5 —

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.

Better?

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

AmIright?

— 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!

"amy welborn"

— 2 —

"amy welborn"

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. 

— 3—

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

"amy welborn"

Railroad Park.

— 4 —

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!

Kidding. 

— 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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Yes, there’s a stupid radio station in this town that is already playing Christmas music 24/7. They’ve been doing so since September 25. Yikes.

Well, as soon as I say that in a disparaging tone, I’ll follow it right up and say this…order your stuff! 

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The Advent item I have out is the family devotional Creative Communications published last year. Perhaps for your parish or religious education program?amy_welborn2

Years ago, I wrote, also for Creative Communications, a little booklet on St. Nicholas.  I rather liked it, but unfortunately it’s out
of print. You can grab the prayer I wrote for it here (remember it was a booklet for non-Catholics as well as
Catholics). You can also read the excerpt on St. Nicholas from The Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints here – both are at the fabulous St. Nicholas Center which you might want to start exploring now, as opposed to the night of December Bambinelli Sunday5, the way I usually do.

And Bambinelli! Sunday!

Many, many posts on it – are you a DRE or Catholic school teacher/administrator or pastor? Consider doing your own Bambinelli Sunday, like they will do in Rome on the 3rd Sunday of Advent…

bambinelli-sunday

The most efficient way to learn about it is to go to the Pinterest Board I’ve made. 

I have a lot of copies of Bambinelli Sunday on hand, so if you would like to order, let me know. 

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Today is the memorial of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, C.S.Ss.R., whose story and tireless ministry is amazing to read about:

His availability and innate kindness in understanding and responding to the needs of the faithful, quickly made him well known as an expert confessor and spiritual director, so much so that people came to him even from neighboring towns. Faithful to the Redemptorist charism, he practiced a simple lifestyle and a simple manner of expressing himself. The themes of his preaching, rich in biblical content, were always heard and understood even by everyone, regardless of education, culture, or background. A constant endeavor in this pastoral activity was instructing the little children in the faith. He not only favored this ministry, he held it as fundamental for the growth of the Christian community in the parish. In 1854, he was transferred from Pittsburgh, to Baltimore, then Cumberland in 1857, and to Annapolis (1862), all the while engaged in parish ministry and serving in the formation of future Redemptorists as Prefect of Students. Even in this post, he was true to his character remaining always the kind and happy pastor, prudently attentive to the needs of his students and conscientious of their doctrinal formation. Above all, he strove to instill in these future Redemptorist missionaries the enthusiasm, the spirit of sacrifice and apostolic zeal for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the people.

In 1860 he was proposed as a candidate for the office of Bishop of Pittsburgh. Having been excused from this responsibility by Pope Pius IX, from 1863 until 1866 he dedicated himself to the life of an itinerant missionary preaching in English and German in the states of Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

After a brief period of parish ministry in Detroit, Michigan, he was assigned in 1866 to the Redemptorist community in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here also, as pastor of the Church of St. Mary of the Assumption, he was known as a pastor who was joyously available to his faithful and singularly concerned for the poorest and the most abandoned. In God’s plan, however, his ministry in New Orleans was destined to be brief. In the month of September, exhausted from visiting and caring for the victims of yellow fever, he contracted the dreaded disease. After several weeks of patiently enduring his illness, he passed on to eternal life on October 4, 1867, at the age of 48 years and 9 months.

A few years ago, we visited the Seelos shrine in New Orleans. I tell the story here and here, including why this…

"amy welborn"

More here…

This statue of Our Lady of Sorrows was at the shrine. It was blessed by Fr Seelos. I find it really lovely

"amy welborn"

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We all love St. Francis, and most of us know a bit about him, too.

But as many have noted over the years, St. Francis is like Jesus in more ways than one. Like Jesus, he’s put to many uses by people with sometimes wildly varied agendas.

In general, though, we all agree that in essence, Francis of Assisi decided to follow Jesus by giving up material things and living with and for the poor, he really loved nature and he founded a religious order in order to spread his message.

There’s truth in that common portrait, but there are also distortions and gaps.

Because Francis lived so long ago and because the written record is challenging to interpret, the search for the “real Francis” is a fraught one. A few years ago, Fr. Augustine Thompson set to the task, and produced a biography that anyone seriously interested in Francis should read.  I’ve written about it a couple of times, including here. Also here, and I’ll quote from it. Well, I’ll just repost most of it. #lazy

Bullet points for brevity’s sake.

  • Francis didn’t have a plan.  He did not set out to form a band of brothers – at all.   His conversion was a personal one, and the life he lead for the first couple of years after it was the life of a penitent, pure and simple.
  • What was his conversion, exactly?  This actually is a knottier problem than we assume.  It wasn’t simply rejecting a life of relative wealth for a life lived in solidarity with the poor, through Christ.  In fact, well, it doesn’t seem to be fundamentally about that at all.
  • Screen shot 2014-10-05 at 11.50.50 PMFrancis doesn’t say much about this at all himself.  He refers to being “in his sins.”  After his traumatic battle experiences, Christ drew him closer, he abandoned all for Christ, lived as a rather sketchy hermit-type penitent on the outskirts of Assisi, and then, in a crucial moment, encountered a leper.
  • As he describes it himself, lepers had been figures of particular horror to him when he was “in his sins.”  But now, God intervened, converted him, and the leper became a person through whom Francis experienced peace and consolation.
  • Francis sought to do penance, live the Gospel and be a servant.  He did not intend to draw followers, but did, and their initial way of life was simply living in this same way, only in community.
  • It wasn’t until their form of life was approved by Pope Innocent that preaching entered the picture – it was an element that the Pope threw into his approval.  This was a surprise to Francis.

Okay, break time.

To me, this is most fascinating because, as I mentioned in the other blog post, when we read history, we often read it with the eyes of inevitability.  As in:  everything unfolds according to intention and human plan.  Just as it is with life in general, this is not the way history is, and it’s not the way the life of Francis was – well, not according to his plan.  For he didn’t have one.

But this interesting turn of events shows how the Spirit shakes us up and turns us in a slightly different direction from where we thought we were going.  It happened to Francis.  He adapted, shakily and slowly.  It happens to us.

Back to bullet points.

  • When you actually read Francis’ writings, you don’t see some things that you might expect.  You don’t, for example, read a lot of directives about serving the poor.   You don’t see any general condemnations of wealth.  You don’t read a call for all people, everywhere, to live radically according to the evangelical counsels.
  • You do read these sorts of things – although not exactly – in the early guidelines for the friars and the few letters to fellow friars that have come down to us.
  • But surprisingly, it’s not what is emphasized.  So what is?
  • Obedience. 
  • When Francis wrote about Christ embracing poverty, what he speaks of is Christ descending from the glory of heaven and embracing mortal flesh – an act  – the ultimate embrace of poverty – not just material poverty, but spiritual poverty – the ultimate act of obedience.
  • Through this act of obedience, Christ is revealed as the Servant of all.
  • So, as Francis writes many times, his call was to imitate Christ in this respect:  to empty himself and become the lowly servant of all.  To conquer everything that is the opposite: pride, self-regard, the desire for position or pleasure.
  • Francis wrote that the primary enemy in this battle is our “lower nature.”  He wrote that the only thing we can claim for ourselves are our vices and all we have to boast about is Christ.
  • Francis also emphasized proper celebration and reception of the Eucharist – quite a bit.  He had a lot to say about proper and worthy vessels and settings for the celebration of Mass.  He was somewhat obsessed with respectful treatment of paper on which might be written the Divine Names or prayers.  He prescribed how the friars were to pray the Office.
  • The early preaching of the Franciscans was in line with all of this as well as other early medieval penitential preaching: francis of assisithe call to the laity to confess, receive the Eucharist worthily, and to turn from sin.
  • Praise God.  Whatever the circumstances – and especially “bad” circumstances – praise God.
  • Accept persecution.  It’s interesting that Francis routinely resisted church authorities affording his order any privileges or even writing them letters allowing them to preach in a certain vicinity.  He felt that if they entered an area and were rejected, this was simply accepting the Cross of Christ, and should not be avoided.
  • Begging was not a core value for Francis, as we are often led to believe.  He and his friars did manual labor.  In the early days, begging was only allowed on behalf of sick and ailing brothers, and then only for things like food.  No money, ever.
  • He really didn’t like telling people what to do.  Well, my theory was that he actually did – what we know about his personality, pre-conversion, indicates that he was a born leader.  Perhaps his post-conversion mode was not only an imitation of the Servant, but a recognition that his “lower nature” included a propensity to promote himself and direct others.
  • That said, Francis’ emphasis on servanthood meant that his writings don’t contain directions for others beyond what the Gospel says (repent/Eat the Bread of Life) unless he’s forced to – when composing a form of life and so on.   This tension, along with ambiguities in the Franciscan life, made for a very interesting post-Francis history, along with problems during his own lifetime as well.

To me, Francis is a compelling spiritual figure not simply because he lived so radically, but, ironically, because the course of his life seems so normal. 

Why?

Because he had a life.  That life was disrupted, and the disruption changed him.  Disoriented him.  He found a re-orientation in Christ: he found the wellspring of forgiveness for his sins and the grace to conquer them (a lifetime struggle).  His actions had consequences, most of which were totally unintended by him, and to which he had to adapt, as he sought to be obedient to God.  His personality and gifts were well-equipped to deal with some of the new and changing circumstances in his life, and ill-equipped for others.  He died, praising God.

Yes, Francis was all about poverty. All about it.  He was about the poverty of Christ, who was obedient and emptied himself.

“I am the servant of all”  

*******

SO…I decided to write a book trying to communicate this to kids.  I worked, of course, with my friend Ann Engelhart, and the result is Adventures in Assisi, in which two contemporary children travel in Francis’ footsteps, confront their own need for greater charity and humility, and experience the fruit. It’s intended to be a discussion-starter, to get kids talking and thinking and praying about how they treat each other, and how they think about Christ in relationship to their own lives.

I mean..it’s not hard to get kids to get into animals or Christmas creches.  But St. Francis of Assisi was fundamentally about imitating Christ in his poverty of spirit, and I thought that aspect of the saint’s life was woefully underrepresented in Francis Kid Lit.

I’ll have more about it in the next couple of days, but we’ll start with an interview Ann and I did with Lisa Hendey:

Q: What prompted you to write/illustrate “Adventures in Assisi” and what will our readers discover in this book?

Amy: I love history and I love to travel and the saints are central to my Catholic spirituality. In my teaching and writing, I’ve always particularly enjoyed bringing Catholic tradition and history to readers and listeners and many of my books reflect that interest.

St. Francis of Assisi has always interested me not only because his is a truly compelling, radical figure, but also because he is  rather mysterious.  The radical nature of his conversion and the singularity of his journey is unique, but the legends and stories that have grown around him over the past eight hundred years have only added to the mystique and have always "amy welborn"piqued my curiosity.  My earliest encounters with Francis were both quite memorable, although both were rooted, I now understand, in more fiction, personal ideology and a cultural moment than fact – reading NIkos Kazantzakis’ St. Francis as a teenager and seeing Brother Sun, Sister Moon with my friends from the Catholic campus ministry in college.  Despite the serious limitations of both, what moved me in these works was my vivid and thought-provoking encounter with the possibility that radical sacrifice was, paradoxically, the path to fullness of life.

In the subsequent years, I encountered St. Francis here and there.  I taught his story when I taught high school theology.  I wrote about him in the Loyola books. I wrote about his prayers in The Words We Pray.  Over the years, I probably read every existing children’s picture book about Francis to my own children, most of which were about either the wolf of Gubbio or the Christmas creche.

And then, a few years ago, I read the new biography of Francis by Fr. Augustine Thompson OP  – Francis of Assisi: A New Biography.  It’s a tight, compact, rich work, and Fr.Thompson’s insights struck me to the core, so once again, St. Francis moved me…. MORE

Q: Ann, please say a few words on the artwork in this new book. How did you conceive of the characters “look”? What type of research do you have to undertake to artfully depict a venue like Assisi?

Ann: I was able to visit Assisi on two occasions, once with my teenage children and another time alone with my husband. I was able to walk the same paths as the characters in this book as they followed St. Francis’ footsteps.

I took countless photos because the style of my work is quite detailed, and I wanted the reader to authentically experience the exquisite Umbrian landscapes, the extraordinary architecture that is both grand and humble, and the simple beauty of the country roads and olive groves that surround St. Francis’ hilltop hometown….

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"amy welborn"

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