Archive for the ‘Amy Welborn’ Category


Today:  St. Anthony of the Desert, or St. Anthony of Egypt, the father of Christian monasticism. 

Around the year 270, two great burdens came upon Anthony simultaneously: the deaths of both his parents, and his inheritance of their possessions and property. These simultaneous occurrences prompted Anthony to reevaluate his entire life in light of the principles of the Gospel– which proposed both the redemptive possibilities of his personal loss, and the spiritual danger of his financial gains.
Attending church one day, he heard –as if for the first time– Jesus’ exhortation to another rich young man in the Biblical narrative: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Anthony told his disciples in later years, that it was as though Christ has spoken those words to him directly.

He duly followed the advice of selling everything he owned and donating the proceeds, setting aside a portion to provide for his sister. Although organized monasticism did not yet exist, it was not unknown for Christians to abstain from marriage, divest themselves of possessions to some extent, and live a life focused on prayer and fasting. Anthony’s sister would eventually join a group of consecrated virgins.
Anthony himself, however, sought a more comprehensive vision of Christian asceticism. He found it among the hermits of the Egyptian desert, individuals who chose to withdraw physically and culturally from the surrounding society in order to devote themselves more fully to God. But these individuals’ radical way of life had not yet become an organized movement.

St. Athanasius’ Life of St. Anthony

As an extra, I found this piece on St. Anthony and reading – he was illiterate, almost, you might say, by choice – quite thought provoking. 

The seeds of Anthony’s disdain for letters, his obedience to his parents, his attentiveness to the scripture readings in the Lord’s house, and keeping what is good in his heart, come to fruition near the end of St. Athanasius’ account and indicate the true end of spiritual reading: the attainment of the wisdom of God.

St. Athanasius reports that “Antony was also extremely wise.”  St. Anthony was visited by many Greek philosophers seeking him out in the desert to ridicule him. When they came to mock him on the account that he had not learned his letters, he asked them:

“‘Which is first- mind or letters? And which is the cause of which- the mind of the letters, or the letters of the mind?’ After their reply that the mind is first and an inventor of the letters, Anthony said, ‘Now you see that in the person whose mind is sound there is no need for letters.’”

These and many others departed in amazement that an untrained man living in the wilderness could possess such understanding. He was “gracious and civil, and his speech was seasoned with divine salt, so that no one resented him.”

St. Anthony draws our attention away from the current obsession with material literacy and towards the true nature of literacy that sees that the real ends are the sane mind and sound heart. Though reading is of real instrumental value, the act of reading is a means to an end, not the end itself. The ends remain the proper consumption of spiritual food and hearing words is closer to the source than reading words. In spiritual reading, the written word is accompanied by extra but similar work to hearing the spoken word: the words have to be translated into a form that is audible and intelligible to the human heart.

In Mathew 4:4, when the Devil tempts Christ to turn stones into bread, our Lord responds by declaring that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  Just like we need bread for material existence, the words that proceed from the mouth of God are spiritual food, exponentially more important than bodily food and the objective of spiritual reading is to feed our souls by the bread that “proceeds from the mouth of God.” Spiritual reading is feeding our souls. St. Anthony didn’t abandon the feast of spiritual reading; he attuned his ear to revelation, his soul to the Holy Spirit, and his heart to the will of the Father so effectively that the written word was an unnecessary mediation. We will benefit far more from an attuned ear and willing heart than a sharp eye and keen mind.

Food for thought in the Information Age.  I often consider how in the present glut, I know a lot more than I might have in a previous era, but I am certainly no wiser.

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—1 —

Yeah, I start out each week thinking…this will be the week I blog every day and it will be substantive and awesome…and then I don’t.

The culprits this week? College Kid heading back to school for the spring semester, then getting back into Homeschool High School in a We’re Really Serious About This, Guys kind of way, music matters (practicing for church job/intensifying Brahms practice because Guess What, that’s going to be performed on the 26th – better get on that; and then heading back to jazz lessons after a two-month break…); conversations about a project or two, and of course the ever-present Trip Planning: South Florida and NYC at the moment.

And then there are the zillion interesting events that occur every day, which I try to shut out, but which find their way back to my attention – got to read the analyses and laugh at the memes….arrgh.

Thinking all the while, I have Things to Say…maybe I should write the words down.  But then events speed by so quickly, the moment passes, and, with some issues, I think, Does the world really need one more opinion drifting through the air? Nah. Probably not. 

But I promise   – that Young Pope/New Pope piece will be coming. As I said on Twitter, I may be hesitant to invite the boring yet totally predictable disapproval of my failure to disapprove of these programs, but really, after watching them, I can’t say that much of anything dramatized there is any less crazy or outrageous than the current Vatican shenanigans we’re blessed to enjoy here in the 21st century.

— 2 —

What’s going on the homeschool? Let’s make a list, quickly.

  • Reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – he’s read it before, but we think it was probably at least 2 or 3 years ago, and, as Twain himself said, it’s not a children’s book. Tom Sawyer is – but this isn’t.  Hope to get that done by the end of next week, then back to the ancients with The Odyssey.
  • Also read “The Destructors” by Graham Greene this week. If you’ve never read it – do.It’s here.And here’s a good pdf study guide. 
  • Religion: Read big chunks of the Pentateuch, Joshua and Judges, read Ruth today. Will read the appropriate material in this book for greater depth,and then start 1 Samuel next week. My favorite!
  • History: He does his own thing, which jumps between various ancient cultures and the World Wars. Next week, we’ll do a bit of Florida history in prep for a trip.
  • Biology: Still in the class taught by a college prof in the local Catholic homeschool co-op.
  • Math: Geometry via AOPS. We’ve settled down – after jumping between Counting, then a bit of Algebra II (quadratic equations) – and committed to Geometry for the rest of the school year. Right Triangles were the subject this week.
  • Music: That competition I wrote about before, which will happen over the next few months, with performance, technique and music literature analysis components. At least one Brahms performance coming up, and I’m starting to hear that there will be a jazz recital.
  • Latin: Chapters 17/18 of Latin for the New Millenium, then, per the tutor’s advice, he will hit “pause” on the text, and do focused vocab and grammar review in prep for the National Latin Exam, which he’ll take with a local group in the beginning of March.
  • Spanish: He works on his own, mostly with  Great Courses. We’re starting to think about another week in a Spanish-speaking country, maybe in the spring. Probably Costa Rica or Antigua, Guatemala.
  • Other: Fraternus, Nazareth House (catechist for developmentally disabled youth), serving dinner at a local woman’s shelter ever few weeks; probably getting back into boxing soon. Plus, of course, the church organ job.


— 3 —

This is a really good article from a secular publication (Cincinnati Magazine) on how the family of one of the Covington Catholic kids– one who wasn’t even in Washington, but was accused and doxxed – responded. It’s very inspiring.

When asked if he’s fully moved on from the doxxing, threats, and attacks, Michael says, “It sticks with me a little bit, but not really too much at all.” That said, it “has made me a lot more skeptical of social media. That, and the media, too. [It] just makes me look into facts behind different stories rather than just taking their word for it.”

Did the whole experience ruin his senior year of high school? “Even though all this happened, I would say this was probably my favorite year at CovCath,” he says, citing how the sense of brotherhood he’d always felt there somehow strengthened, in spite of everything.

Given all the Catholic undertones, there are lots of biblical stories that could speak to the lessons this whole event imparts. But maybe the moral of this particular story is better interpreted through the work of an extraordinary writer who lived and died long before the internet and social media were even invented. Flannery O’Connor, a devout Catholic, built a successful secular career writing fictional stories in the 1950s and ’60s about self-righteous people who ultimately became the very things they despised. O’Connor’s fiction was often misinterpreted as dark, for the tragic ends her characters almost always met, but in truth her overwhelming message was that healing and grace could, and often did, come from suffering and evil.

On Wednesday, January 23—the same day the Hodges hit rock bottom and Pamela came up with the idea to do a fund-raiser—the college lecturer who’d initially helped spread Michael’s name online posted a 252-word apology on her Facebook page that garnered little attention. Turns out, Andrew had reached out to her directly, explaining how the misinformation she’d helped spread had devastated the family. In the post, the lecturer took full responsibility for what she’d done, writing, “I am horrified at my own behavior as there is a child out there trying to live his life and was wrongly identified. I am now a party of the cause of his fear and misery…I am now guilty of behaviors I normally disdain. It is wrong. I did wrong to this young man.”

She is only one person of the thousands who rushed to condemn Hodge, Sandmann, and their peers. And yet, through O’Connor’s lens, maybe her bold example, paired with the GoFundMe and the way the CovCath boys grew so strong together, is nothing short of a beacon of hope.

— 4 —

“American Pilgrimage” by Stefan McDaniel, in First Things:


Back on the road, in between sung Latin rosaries and hymns, I got to know my brigade. They were disturbingly wholesome. Almost everyone was from an intensely Catholic family, yet no one, it seemed, was here out of inertia. Some had come on pilgrimage to mark a new, deliberate seriousness in their life of faith. One woman told me that her traditionalist community had shunned and slandered her after a broken engagement and she was here in part to ­reevaluate her beliefs.

Vehicular traffic was scarce, but wherever we encountered it we stopped it or slowed it down. Many motorists honked and waved encouragement; many scowled, some defying our Romanism with choice Anglo-Saxon words; and many (perhaps the greatest number) fixed us with confused stares.

We carried on till lunch, which we took at a pleasant park. A moment to rest was welcome, but it allowed our legs to freeze up. As we limped back to the road, I didn’t see how I could do this for two more miles, let alone two more days.

Near 3 p.m., we began the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy. I had always disliked this devotion, but to my surprise I joined in the recitation now with tremendous feeling. Physical pain, that concrete ­experience of my own limitations, softened my heart and brought home my need for mercy.

We arrived at our first bivouac as night fell. After setting up our tents, we were served a restorative dinner. Inhaling a good but peppery soup, I forgot my pain and delighted in the motley humanity at table with me: the Melkite priest, the man with the honest-to-God Mayan wife, the former Pentecostal sporting Carlist symbols and dressed like an alpinist. Chaucer could not have assembled a better cast.

The next morning, a Saturday, we heard Mass and began walking in the light drizzle under a gray sky—melancholy weather, but perfect for hard walking. Having used up our store of Catholic songs, my brigade turned, at my instigation, to the great common national treasury, freely mixing sacred and profane. After we had sung “Dixie” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” back-to-back (thus healing sectional divisions once and for all), we calmed down with the Joyful Mysteries.

Though we had returned to devotional themes, I remained in a reverie of patriotism. I realized that I had shaken off an anxiety that had clung to me for years. Like many Catholics of my generation, I had long wondered how I might rightly love America, having renounced the commercial, individualistic social philosophy called “Americanism.” Now, meditating on our North American Martyrs, I embraced their dream of a new Catholic civilization to be planted right here, in this land we were traversing, using their methods of husbandry: to respect, study, and refine existing virtues and institutions and order them to the Prince of Peace. What vision could be grander, or better inspire private and public virtue? Where should we find nobler Founding Fathers to revere and to imitate?


— 5 –

I was very glad to see that one of my favorite blogs, Deep Fried Kudzu, seems to be back after a hiatus. Ginger, a local, travels about the South and beyond – her interests are in food, literature, art and roadside oddities. Her notes and photos have guided my own explorations ever since we moved here. I’m glad she’s back.


— 6 —

After seeing 1917 (which we’re seeing this weekend),Bishop Barron writes a piece that I endorse 100%. He articulates what I’ve long thought – in all of our hand-wringing about the West’s loss of faith, we can blame scientism and positivism and rationalism and Communism all we want – and sure, why not? – but what about the impact of this:

For the past many years, I have been studying the phenomenon of disaffiliation and loss of faith in the cultures of the West. And following the prompts of many great scholars, I have identified a number of developments at the intellectual level—from the late Middle Ages through the Enlightenment to postmodernism—that have contributed to this decline. But I have long maintained—and the film 1917 brought it vividly back to mind—that one of the causes of the collapse of religion in Europe, and increasingly in the West generally, was the moral disaster of the First World War, which was essentially a crisis of Christian identity. Something broke in the Christian culture, and we’ve never recovered from it. If their Baptism meant so little to scores of millions of combatants in that terrible war, then what, finally, was the point of Christianity? And if it makes no concrete difference, then why not just leave it behind and move on?


— 7 —

Went to the movies tonight at our newish local art-house place, which is in the basement floor of our local food hall, which is in turn on the ground floor of a condo development which is all in a building that used to be a department store, back in the day.

The movie? Rififi – a 1955 French heist movie – very good, with a spectacular 30-minute dialogue-less set piece of, well, a jewelry store heist. That, plus the final outcome (spoiler alert) which highlights, as the best heist movie outcomes always do, the emptiness of all that hard work for ill-gotten gain, made it a satisfying couple of hours.



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

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Monday Notes

Very quickly:

Today’s my day in Living Faith. To read the devotional, go here. 

Mary Magdalene: Truth, Legends and Lies is free this week. Go here for that. 


We’re back in Ordinary Time – which means that our first Mass reading today brings us into that moment, after the Baptism, in which the ministry of Jesus begins – the calling of his disciples.

From The Loyola Kids Book of Bible Stories. 

Order one! Or two! For your local Catholic school!

First and last pages of the pertinent entry shared so you can see how it’s structured – with a retelling of the narrative, then ending with reflection questions and a prayer.

For the first readings in daily Mass, we’ll be running through 1 Samuel. If you’ve never read 1 Samuel beginning to end – why not start today? If you don’t have a Bible on hand, just pop online and find one. It just might be my favorite book of the Bible  – perhaps because it reads like a novel. But it also looms large to me – and I enjoyed teaching it – because there is not hiding anyone’s flaws. The individuals are fully human, beginning to end, absolutely recognizable. They experience the unexpected and unmerited, they sacrifice,  they have great hopes, they stumble and fall, they live with mental and emotional turmoil,  they sin, repent and sin again.  The humanity and flaws of the earliest leaders of Israel, laid out for all to see, not papered over, has always been a great argument for the fundamental historicity of these narratives to me. If they were making up stories about their first king – Saul – would they fabricate a figure who was clearly troubled, who defied God and, enabled his own death? Followed by a second, even more revered king who had another man killed so he could have that man’s wife?

So, no, you don’t really need any tousle-haired Christian Instagram Influencer to share the Amazing Revelation  that hey – Life! Is! Messy! If you’d paid a few seconds of attention to the narratives we’re surrounded with in Scripture and tradition – this would not be news to you. At all.

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7 Quick Takes

—1 —

This week – a piece of mine on trans issues over at Catholic World Report. 

I mentioned that two of my articles made the list of  Catholic World Report’s list of their 20 most popular stories and articles of 2019. 

Coming next week – a Living Faith entry. Monday, I think.   

The Absence of War – a piece of fiction  – is still free, up until midnight tonight. 


— 2 —

Related to gender stuff – this popped up on my FB feed this week, even though the column is from almost a year ago – but in it, Jen Fitz captured so much of what I’ve been trying to say in my thousands of words, far more succinctly, using the unexpected vehicle of girls in Boy Scouts – a good thing, she says – and I agree:

Traditional gender roles don’t come from nowhere. Men are, on average, larger and stronger than women. Women are uniquely endowed with the ability to conceive, bear and nurture young children.

In an earlier time, not every man became a father and not every woman became a mother (still true today), and yet the capacity for fatherhood or motherhood informed our understanding of manhood and womanhood. A firm confidence in one’s innate identity as male or female provided a base of security. You could be large, strong, rugged, no-frills, adventure-seeking woman – and still have no doubt you were a woman.

Today we lack that security. We lack that firm foundation. Having despised motherhood and fatherhood, we are left to define gender by stereotypes. When a girl doesn’t fit the stereotypes, she is encouraged not to reject the stereotype but to reject her very self. Online questionnaires encourage her to decide not that she needs to pursue her own interests, but that she needs to destroy her body in an effort to fit a different set of stereotypes.

BSA’s single-gender scout troops are offering a different path. You can be a girly-girl who wants to try something new, and slip your eye shadow into your pack as you head out to the woods. You can be a rough-and-tumble girl who wants to take on high adventure, and find a group of girls who want to do it with you – no need to pretend you’re one of the boys just to do something fun. You can be any girl of any size and ability, and find leaders who only know how to do one thing: Hold kids accountable to high standards of personal responsibility.


— 3 —


All right! Baptism of the Lord, and then let’s plunge into Ordinary Time before Pre-Lent and Lent hits us!

From The Loyola Kids book of Bible Storiesarranged with the stories in line with where we hear them in the liturgy – most of the time.



— 4 —

First and last page of the entry on Jesus’ Baptism – to give you a sense of what the entries are like. 


— 5 –

And then, related – from the Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols – the entry holy water in the context of the church.

The entries are arranged with a simple explanation on the left, with the illustration, and then a more in-depth treatment on the right.


— 6 —

There’s a lot of chat about babies and dreams out there right now.

Here’s my caution:

Be aware if our assumptions on any side of this matter even hint at objectifying or instrumentalizing other human beings.

Babies won’t get in the way of my dreams sounds super supportive of life, and it’s certainly far more so than kill the babies so I can pursue my dreams…but do you see the glitch, from a Christian perspective?

It still puts ME at the center of the conversation. 

It can even work to make the babies – and whoever else – tools in me fulfilling my goals.

But…but…what about their dreams?

Accepting a life into your life means putting those lives – children, spouse, friend, aging relatives, neighbors – before your own. It means loving sacrificially.

This isn’t about the outcome, as much as it is about the assumptions and framework for our discernment and decisions.

Christian discipleship isn’t about pursuing dreams, although good fruit can come from that. It’s about living and loving like Jesus did – which means until you’re crucified.

There are lots of ways that happens, an infinite variety of manifestations and results. It could be that your Big Idea and drive fits within the context of self-sacrificing Christian discipleship and self-giving to, first, those God has put, directly, into your life.

But if you have to empty yourself in a radical way of your own desires in order to let Christ’s sacrificial love frame and lead your life?

Can’t Instagram it. Can’t package and market it. Can build a platform or brand it.

And that is a good thing. Don’t fret. Don’t think you should be doing something else, something big, something to Make a Difference. 

Thank God that today, in this moment, He’s put you in this place – family, workplace, line at the post office –  with this people who need you, and that with His help, simply forgetting your own needs and putting others first, you can, indeed…make a difference. 


— 7 —

Hey! Check out my son’s website – full of his writings about movies and links to his books!





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For the People

All right, let’s push through the Holidaze and get back on track. Writing, cleaning, working, reading good stuff, and telling you all about it.

“Traditionalist Catholicism and Liturgical Renewal in the Diocese of Cuernavaca” by Jennifer Scheper Hughes is a chapter from a book – Catholics in the Vatican II Era: Local Histories of a Global Event But it can be read as a discrete article here. 


In the Mexican Diocese of Cuernavaca, conciliar reforms that sought to curtail devotion to saints and make other corrections to structures of popular piety met with significant resistance. Especially in indigenous communities identifying as “ traditionalist, ” efforts to remove saints were sometimes met with organized resistance, outright rebellion, and even violence.

It’s not a long article, and it’s blessedly free from academic jargon or bias. It tells a straightforward, and fascinating story: a bishop, all in with the Second Vatican Council reforms (even before the Council) is all about the people: liberation theology, the whole nine yards.

The bishop wants to strip the churches and the devotional life of the people of, particularly hagiography and saints’ images. His argument, as Hughes presents it, is that all of that is expressive of colonialism and imperialism. What the people of Mexico need and want is a Christian faith that’s free of that.

Trouble is – they actually don’t. Fascinating to me is that the strongest resistance comes from indigenous communities. 

I’ll let Hughes tell you about it.


The movement of liturgical renewal in the Mexican Diocese of Cuernavaca anticipated and even shaped the sweeping transformations of the Second Vatican Council. By the late 1950’s, the Mexican Bishop don Sergio Méndez Arceo had already embarked on an ambitious set of renovations in which he sought to modernize the Cuernavaca cathedral. The pioneering bishop “ swept clean ” his cathedral (he called the project a limpieza ) – removing from the sanctuary more than a dozen saints ’ images and the imposing side altars on which they had rested for centuries. The altars and the massive, gilded altarpiece “ crowded with flowers and candles and images ” overwhelmed the liturgical space, 1 the bishop explained, and the devotional activity that occurred at these altars during Mass distracted from the Eucharistic celebration.  One of the most ambitious articulations of the Catholic liturgical renewal movement in the world at that time, the renovations to the colonial-era Cuernavaca cathedral were not only aesthetic but also pastoral in nature: intended to curb the excesses and exaggerations of the cult of the saints and thereby reorient and purify popular piety.

Concerned that the saints and their altars distracted the faithful, Don Sergio (as he was popularly known) banished the now superfluous images to the cathedral basement. The basement was thus transformed into a sort of mausoleum for saints who had been retirados del culto , removed   from their devotional context. In their place, the bishop had the cathedral walls painted with passages of biblical text: gilded verses from the Gospels now appeared where candlelight once illuminated the hallowed forms of revered saints. Of the images, all that remained was one of the Virgin Mary (an early colonial image of Our Lady of the Assumption)and the crucified Christ. Gone, however, was the pained and suffering Christ so familiar to Mexican Catholicism.  The new, Vatican II crucifix was stylistically modern, with head raised, eyes open, arms thrown out in a gesture of welcome and blessing. This was an image of Christ triumphant;the Cristo triunfal , Don Sergio called it. Suspended from the ceiling of the sanctuary the modern crucifix floated on high, remote above the congregation: not a devotional object, but rather a work of art.Ordinary believers throughout the Diocese of Cuernavaca in the Mexican state of Morelos greatly grieved the removal of their beloved saints, or santos.

One elderly campesino who came to identify with a faction of schismatic traditionalists recalled his painful encounter of the renovated cathedral for the first time:

“There were no longer any images there in the cathedral, there was nothing left. It brought us a great sadness, una tristeza , because the images represent our Catholicism. Maybe we do not do all the things that a good Catholics hould. But this is who we are, this is our faith: We believe in God and we believe in our images.”

According to the campesino’s creed, devotion to saints is not simply one dimension of local Catholic practice – rather, it is fundamentally constitutive of faith itself. The removal of the saints from the cathedral was so distressing, the sense of loss and disorientation so profound, that the devout of the diocese felt compelled to intervene. According to popular memory,in the wake of the renovations a group of lay Catholics forcefully occupied the cathedral, blockading the bishop ’ s access to his own seat for eight days in protest.

What gives this situation an extra dose of interest is the fact that religious life in these communities was, in large part, maintained by lay associations. And so, in the name of bringing the faith closer to the people – this bishop took away the people’s agency in their own faith expression:

In Atlatlahucan,as elsewhere in LatinAmerica,the reforms of Vatican II and Medellín came into direct conflict with the jurisdiction of the mayordomías as protectors of the saints and guardians of local custom ( costumbre ). In Mexico,the mayordomía was the primary institution through which indigenous communities brokered their appropriation of Christianity: the principal mechanism for the production of the syncretic, hybrid expression of indigenous religion and local Catholicism that we understand today as Mexican Catholicism.The cargo , the shared burden of upholding and caring for the sacred, is one of the enduring structures of indigenous religion from before the conquest. The mayordomía preserved the cargo and gave indigenous and mestizo communities some degree of local control over religious and cultural expression in the face of the full weight of colonial power and imposition. Most important, even as cultural practice necessarily shifted, the mayordomía and the collective celebration of the saints ensured the survival of the ethnos , the identity of the local community as a people. Indigenous Catholic communities fully appropriated the institution: The mayordomía became a flexible institution, readily adaptable to local circumstances and functioning in relationship to but also with relative autonomy from official church structures and authority. In Mexico, mayordomías have been a site of contest and conflict between lay Catholics and their clergy from the colonial period: any challenge to the mayordomía was perceived as a threat to community autonomy and self-governance, so much so that during the late eighteenth century one archbishop worried that any effort to curtail them would lead to violence. This historical ,cultural context explains why the local laity in Atlatlahucan expected parish priests and even bishops to defer to the power of the mayordomías , and not, as we might expect,the other way around.

In the course of the resulting local conflicts that rocked his diocese, Don Sergio had come to regard the santos and the local, customary faith that surrounded them as vestiges of a colonial past, symbols of a kind of backward traditionalism that was the product of Spanish colonial rule. This was an early liberation theology critique that applied to expressions of popular Catholicism generally. Morelos anthropologist Miguel Morayta recalls a painful conversation with Méndez Arceo in which the young anthropologist boldly defended the cultural value of the veneration of images. Morayta recalls, “ The bishop’ s answer thundered like lightening: ‘ Images and mayordomías . . . were and remain instruments of colonization. Beliefs and principles are what matter, not images!’”

After Medellín, some Latin American bishops utilized ecclesial base communities (CEBs) as part of a deliberate strategy to disrupt the power of mayordomías . As a mode for organized parish life, the CEBs were generally more easily subject to clerical and episcopal oversight. In this way, the implementation of conciliar reforms threatened local religious autonomy in indigenous-identified communities, challenging the structures of religious authority that had been engineered to facilitate cultura lsurvival in the period of colonial rule.


Of course the devotional life of Catholics develops in balance. What emerges from the people’s experiences is sifted and judged by those given authority to do so by Christ – all the saints and spiritual masters recognize this dynamic. There’s no sense, in Catholic tradition, that just because something happens  – it’s authentic and from God. Nor is there a sense that everything of value comes from the top, with the ordinary people there just to receive what’s given. But there is a dynamic and an interchange, which, honestly, cannot be legislated or codified. It’s organic. All that is to say – when looking at popular devotions, those in authority have a duty to sift and judge and draw lines.

That said, this is simply fascinating, because it highlights some favorite themes of mine: unexpected consequences, hidden agendas, and hypocrisy. Especially regarding Base Communities, which -those of us who lived during the 80’s when this language was all the rage – which, the author indicates, were used by some in authority to exert more control over local communities from the top. Well, what a shock.

Lesson? Be wary when people in authority tell you that they’re taking action so you’ll have more rights. That’s….probably not what they really want. 

Read the entire chapter here. You may have to register for the site – I’m not sure. 

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Hey there. Almost done with Christmas break, which means more regular posting is on the way. So, we’ll digest.

ThursdayWriting:  I’m in Catholic World Report with a distillation of some of my thought on trans stuff. Regular readers will recognize some of it. It’s here. And more gender-related material here. 

I’ll be in Living Faith next Monday. Go here for that.

The Absence of War is still free. 

And…other stuff.

Reading:  Currently reading three books: Good Things Out of Nazareth – a new collection of Flannery O’Connor letters; Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson and Mauriac’s Therese Desqueroux. 

Also getting back into journal-reading. Come back later today for a close look at a fascinating article on the reception of post-Vatican II liturgical changes in a small area in Mexico. Very illuminating.

Watching: The Godfather the other night, with Godfather II probably tonight, after Piano Son plays another Christmas-party gig. Hey! It’s a Catholic thing and yeah, Christmas goes until Candlemas!

I’d never actually seen The Godfather, and found myself spending half the movie saying, “Wait…isn’t that….” Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton..my attention was absorbed, as well, by more or less continual comparisons to The Sopranos – thinking about how David Chase took so many of these themes – the juxtaposition of “ordinary life” with criminality, the implicit collusion of those benefiting from the criminality – and ran with them.

Planning: Got a few trips coming up in the next five weeks. Son #5 and I will be heading for a couple of days exploring the Everglades soon. We may try to get a few days in New Orleans (not connected) as well. Then an almost full week in New York City.

Listening: Not quite as much Christmas music as before, but as indicated above, it’s still around. Now we’re back full force into Haydn, Brahms, and Prokofiev. As I indicated before, Son #5 will be participating in a very interesting online piano competition this spring, which is not about live performance, but, really, study. There are four components: a technique exam (recorded and sent in), an theory analysis of a given piece of music – really, a test – then  a short paper to be written on one of the pieces he’s performing, and then videos sent in of performances of three different pieces. I had joked before about calling it a “class” for transcript purposes – but now that I’ve seen the requirements, I think it’s totally legit to do so. I mean  – it’s certainly more like a class than anything we’re doing.

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…right after Christmas, when people start wondering, if the search terms that lead people here are any indication: Wait…when’s Ash Wednesday? Soon? 

Answer – not this year. Not “soon” – as it is during those wonderful years when Ash Wednesday falls in early February. (I say “wonderful” because my philosophy is: “The sooner it starts, the sooner it’s over.” “It” being Lent, of course.)

Ash Wednesday is February 26. Easter is April 12.

Which you would know if your parish did the Epiphany Proclamation, guys. 

But I also know this because right after Christmas, those are the search phrases that bring people to my blog with more frequency. Most specifically, in recent years, “Septuagesima.”


I pulled together most of my substantive Lent-related posts onto a page here. Just keep it in mind, and if you’re interested in any of the resources I mention – now’s the time to start thinking about ordering. (For example, my Stations of the Cross for Teens from Creative Communications.)

But it’s not just a resource page – it’s features the posts I’ve done on fasting, on Septuagesima and, of course, The Gallery of Regrettable Lenten Food  – a post which also sees a spike in hits the minute the calendar turned to 2020. I guess once Christmas is over, people start thinking, Diet! No… I mean… when does Lent start and what am I supposed to do during it? 

"amy welborn"


So…if you want to observe Pre-Lent (and if you are Orthodox/Traditional Catholic/Anglican  – you will anyway) – here are the dates:

February 9 – Septuagesima Sunday

February 16 – Sexagesima Sunday

February 23 – Quinquagesima  Sunday

February 26 – Ash Wednesday

March 4,5,6 – Lent Ember Days

April 5 – Palm Sunday

April 9-11  Triduum

April 12  Easter Sunday

May 21 Ascension THURSDAY

May 31 Pentecost

So…a little less than a month, we’ll get that pre-Lent game on!

A bit more:

Here is an excellent, thorough article in Dappled Things:

In the chapter titled “The History of Septuagesima,” Dom Guéranger added, “The Church, therefore, has instituted a preparation for the holy time of Lent. She gives us the three weeks of Septuagesima, during which she withdraws us, as much as may be, from the noisy distractions of the world, in order that our hearts may be the more readily impressed by the solemn warning she is to give us, at the commencement of Lent, by marking our foreheads with ashes.”

Septuagesima Sunday is the ninth Sunday before Lent, and it is the day on which the Septuagesima season of preparation for Lent has begun for more than 1,000 years in the traditional calendar. The Septuagesima season is made up of three Sundays: Septuagesima (which means seventieth), Sexagesima (which means sixtieth), and Quinquagesima (which means fiftieth), and it extends until Ash Wednesday.

Quadragesima is the name given in most languages to the season of Lent that starts on Ash Wednesday. For a few examples, in Spanish the name is cuaresma, in Portuguese quaresma, in French carême, and in Italian quaresima. In English, in contrast, the word for spring, lent, was used, which derives from the German word for long, because at this time of year the days get longer.


How the Church Keeps Septuagesima

Beginning with Compline (Night Prayer) on the Saturday before Septuagesima Sunday the Alleluia, Gloria, and Te Deum are not said any more until Easter. Two extra Alleluias are said at Vespers on that Saturday. In some places charming ceremonies have been practiced in which an Alleluia is put in a little coffin and buried, to be resurrected again only on Easter Sunday. Throughout Septuagesima, violet vestments are worn, except on feasts observed during weekday.




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