Pope Emeritus Benedict’s birthday is this coming Sunday..if you’d like an simple, free introduction to his thought, take a look at the book I wrote a few years ago, now out of print, but available in a pdf version at no cost. Did I mention, “free?”
Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category
Posted in Amy Welborn, Amy Welborn's Books, Bambinelli Sunday, Book Reviews, Catholic, Catholic Mother's Day Gifts, Catholicism, Christian, Christmas Gifts, Christmas gifts for Catholics, Church, germany, history, Italy, Joseph Dubruiel, Michael Dubruiel, Pope, Pope Benedict XVI, rome, tagged Amy Welborn, Amy Welborn's Books, books, Catholic, Catholic books, Catholic Gifts, ebooks, faith, Free ebooks, Germany, Italy, Michael Dubruiel, Pope, religion, Rome on April 12, 2017|
Posted in 7 Quick Takes, Amy Welborn, Amy Welborn's Books, art, Be Saints, Birmingham, Birmingham Museum of Art, Book Reviews, Catholic, Catholicism, Christian, Church, Confirmation Gifts, Escaped Snake, Family Travel, First Communion Gifts, Jesus, Joseph Dubruiel, Living Faith, London 2017, Loyola Kids Book of Heroes, Loyola Kids Book of Saints, Michael Dubruiel, prayer, Protestant Reformation, Religion, roadschooling, Spirituality, Travel, travel with kids, tagged 7 Quick Takes, Alabama, Amy Welborn, Amy Welborn's Books, art, Birmingham, Catholic, Catholicism, Christianity, Confirmation Gifts, Easter, First Communion Gifts, London 2017, Michael Dubruiel on April 7, 2017| 2 Comments »
Traveling is so very weird. A week ago today, we were gearing up for the very tail end of the trip…and now…that was a week ago, and the trip is already in what seems like the distant past…
You can access all my posts from London, including a wrapup post, by clicking here.
Life rolled back to normal, mostly. I was Mean and made everyone go to school on Monday – although one of them awoke at 5am (as I did) and so was up anyway….
The drama of the week involved weather – as it often does in the South in the spring. Bad storms were predicted for Wednesday, and were due to hit in the early morning. So first, the schools announced a delayed opening (which made sense) and then everyone just threw up their hands and cancelled classes for the day – even the University of Alabama.
You can understand the skittishness. Several years ago, an April tornado did terrible damage in the area. But you can probably also predict what happened…
Yes, there was rain in the morning…and that was it for most of the area. In the late afternoon, one slice of town saw some hail, but really…it was an overreaction. Understandable, and yes, better safe than sorry, since these things are so unpredicatable, but still…
We took advantage of the break to stop by my younger son’s favorite lunch place downtown, a little deli he can’t normally enjoy because it’s only open on weekdays. After, we stopped by the Birmingham Museum of Art, where a mandala is in progress.
We talked about what it means – he had seen one a couple of years ago that was being made in advance of a visit by the Dalai Lama.
I wondered if the museum would ever invite an Icon writer to set up shop in the lobby and end the experience with a choir chanting Orthodox vespers…..
Should a Christian want to know something of a Passover Seder, there is many a readily available Jewish host who would set a fine table for his or her Christian friends and neighbors. We have often welcomed non-Jewish visitors to our Shabbat dinner tables, our Passover meals, weddings, bar or bat mitzvah ceremonies, and the like. In these settings, it is clear that the ritual is a wholly authentic Jewish experience. There is a world of difference between being a guest in someone else’s home or house of worship, and the expropriation of another’s ritual for one’s own religious purposes.
Back in the 70’s, it was all the rage to celebrate Seder meals in Catholic parishes on Holy Thursday. Thankfully, that fad seems to have passed. If I’m invited by a Jewish family or group to participate in their Seder or other ritual, that’s one thing, but, well, appropriating it in this way just always gave me an uncomfortable feeling.
I think the article is also good to read because it addresses the issue of whether or not the Last Supper was a Passover meal. The author points out that whatever the case, the “Seder” as we understand it, in its specifics, comes after the time of Jesus, so Christian Seders that try to mash-up the two are a mess for a lot of reasons.
Speaking of misappropriation of history, if you haven’t yet read it and if you are interested in such matters, this article on Pope Francis’ interpretations of history and the statements he makes based on those interpretations is very good and rather important.
Pope Francis, however, in order to push along the cause of Catholic-Lutheran reunification, casts Luther as someone who had no wish to sow discord among Christians. For the hardening sectarian divisions of the early modern era, Francis blames, instead, others who “closed in on [themselves] out of fear or bias with regard to the faith which others profess with a different accent and language.”
With all due respect to His Holiness, this explanation of what unfolded during and after Luther’s time is not only condescending to the full-blooded, spirited, and hardly faultless reformer himself. It is insulting to the intelligence of numerous theologians, apologists, and preachers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including Robert Bellarmine and other Jesuits who devoted years of life, and heart, to clarifying and defending serious, important Catholic doctrines against serious, important Protestant challenges. And it is cavalier toward the memory not only of countless martyrs and war dead on all sides of that era’s terrible struggles, but also of numerous families, villages, even religious communities in Reformation Europe’s confessional borderlands, which were torn apart, agonizingly—while very much speaking the same language, with the same accents!—over very serious, important, real disagreements about doctrine and praxis.
Pope Francis has often spoken of the Church accompanying people. I have seen this in the many religious congregations in Africa whose core mission involves feeding the hungry, educating children, helping orphans, and providing hospice care, crisis pregnancy support and healthcare in the most dire situations. In the villages, towns and cities of Africa, the Church is often in the background accompanying and caring for the least of the Lord’s brethren.
I’m sure it will not come as a surprise when I say that most of our African priests and bishops are clear and unambiguous in explaining the loving (and sometimes difficult) position of the Church on important issues that concern the sanctity and dignity of human life and sexuality. It is rare to find people openly dissenting or opposing the Church in her teaching authority on issues such as abortion, contraception, cohabitation and divorce. No wonder that Cardinal Francis Arinze, the former prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship, has been recently quoted as saying: “By African standards, I’m not conservative, I’m normal.”
I believe that it is because of this unflinching fidelity to the teachings of Christ that the Catholic Church in Africa has flourished, even in the midst of the most difficult tragedies, the most extreme conditions and a growing cultural imperialism from Western nations.
(For children, mom, sister, friend, new Catholic….)
For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!
Posted in Amy Welborn, Amy Welborn's Books, Bible, Bible Study, Book Reviews, Books, Catholic, Catholicism, Christian, Church, evangelization, Faith, First Communion, history, Jesus, Joseph Dubruiel, Loyola Press, Matthew 25, Michael Dubruiel, prayer, RCIA, Reading, Religion, Saints, Spirituality, Writing, tagged Amy Welborn, Amy Welborn's Books, Catholic, Catholicism, faith, Gospels, Jesus, Loyola Press, Michael Dubruiel, Prayer, spirituality, The Words We Pray on March 7, 2017| 3 Comments »
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this:‘Our Father in heaven,may your name be held holy,your kingdom come,your will be done,on earth as in heaven.Give us today our daily bread.And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us.And do not put us to the test,but save us from the evil one.‘Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’
Of course, we have taken Jesus at his word here and taken these prayers as literally– how we are to pray.
Although, I wonder how widespread memorization of these words are among those who aren’t Catholic? Years ago, my daughter was in a high school production of Lilies of the Field down here in Birmingham. There’s a scene in which the sisters recite the Lord’s Prayer. They weren’t off book then, but, you know…the Lord’s Prayer. My daughter was the only one who knew it by heart, here in Bible country. Perhaps none of the other girls were church-goers at all, but it did prompt me to wonder…would evangelicals know the Lord’s Prayer as a stand-alone?
Anyway, as a memorized prayer, taking Jesus literally, the Lord’s Prayer is foundational. But it is more than that. My conscience has long been pricked by Jesus’ words here because it seems to me they go far deeper than telling me what words to say. They are about how to pray, no matter what words – or no words – I bring. They are about an attitude and approach.
So often when we think about prayer, we focus on petitions and on ourselves. We begin by spilling out our guts to God, loading up on our problems and needs. But how does Jesus tell us how to pray? By beginning in giving praise to God and acknowledging who God is. Half the prayer is that – God is Father, God is holy, God reigns. Oh, and then…may we be sustained. May we be forgiven. May we be faithful in the face of temptation.
Not a lot of words. No self-centered babbling. A lot of God, not much us.
As I said, a conscience-pricker.
Posted in Amy Welborn, Amy Welborn's Books, art, Bible, Book Reviews, Catholic, Catholicism, Christian, Church, Current Reads, education, evangelization, Faith, fiction, history, Jesus, Joseph Dubruiel, Life, Matthew 25, Michael Dubruiel, Protestant Reformation, Spirituality, Writing, tagged Amy Welborn, Amy Welborn's Books, book reviews, books, Catholic, ebooks, England, fiction, history, Internet, Michael Dubruiel, religion on March 3, 2017|
The Warden is the first of Anthony Trollope’s Barchester novels, books which are primarily focused on the clergy and their families of the fictional town.
The plot is simple. From Goodreads, because I hate summarizing plots. I must have had a traumatic experience in fourth grade or something.
“The Warden” centers on Mr. Harding, a clergyman of great personal integrity who is nevertheless in possession of an income from a charity far in excess of the sum devoted to the purposes of the foundation. On discovering this, young John Bold turns his reforming zeal to exposing what he regards as an abuse of privilege, despite the fact that he is in love with Mr. Harding’s daughter Eleanor. It was a highly topical novel (a case regarding the misapplication of church funds was the scandalous subject of contemporary debate), but like other great Victorian novelists, Trollope uses the specific case to explore and illuminate the universal complexities of human motivation and social morality
Reading Trollope, first of all, will disabuse a reader of the notion that in past eras, clergymen and church affairs were considered off-limits for satire, mocking and criticism. Of course this is not the case, and has never been, but Trollope’s treatment of religion is particularly instructive because he is so straightforward in presenting the humanity and politics of the world of the church (of England in this case, of course).
The Warden is much shorter than most of Trollope’s other work, and more focused, although the political and journalistic world of London comes under scrutiny as Mr. Harding travels there to make his case. I earlier highlighted Trollope’s evisceration of the press in his chapter “Mount Olympus.”
I want to highlight just a few quotes from The Warden, passages which I particularly appreciated either because of their insight into human behavior or high satirical quotient. In the first, “the doctor” is the Archdeacon of the Cathedral, who is also Mr. Harding’s son-in-law. He is determined that the threat against Harding’s position is no less than a threat against the privileges of the entire Church of England, and must be stopped.
Having settled this point to his satisfaction, the doctor stepped down to the hospital, to learn how matters were going on there; and as he walked across the hallowed close, and looked up at the ravens who cawed with a peculiar reverence as he wended his way, he thought with increased acerbity of those whose impiety would venture to disturb the goodly grace of cathedral institutions.
And who has not felt the same? We believe that Mr Horseman himself would relent, and the spirit of Sir Benjamin Hall give way, were those great reformers to allow themselves to stroll by moonlight round the towers of some of our ancient churches. Who would not feel charity for a prebendary when walking the quiet length of that long aisle at Winchester, looking at those decent houses, that trim grass-plat, and feeling, as one must, the solemn, orderly comfort of the spot! Who could be hard upon a dean while wandering round the sweet close of Hereford, and owning that in that precinct, tone and colour, design and form, solemn tower and storied window, are all in unison, and all perfect! Who could lie basking in the cloisters of Salisbury, and gaze on Jewel’s library and that unequalled spire, without feeling that bishops should sometimes be rich!
I love this passage, in which Trollope is taking the language usually used to express how beautiful and orderly church architecture leads the mind to consider the glory and nature of God and turns it around.
A minor character, Sir Abraham Haphazard, will be the defender of the Church’s privilege in the House of Lords, but he is also busy with another cause:
Sir Abraham Haphazard was deeply engaged in preparing a bill for the mortification of papists, to be called the “Convent Custody Bill,” the purport of which was to enable any protestant clergyman over fifty years of age to search any nun whom he suspected of being in possession of treasonable papers, or jesuitical symbols: and as there were to be a hundred and thirty-seven clauses in the bill, each clause containing a separate thorn for the side of the papist, and as it was known the bill would be fought inch by inch, by fifty maddened Irishmen, the due construction and adequate dovetailing of it did consume much of Sir Abraham’s time. The bill had all its desired effect. Of course it never passed into law; but it so completely divided the ranks of the Irish members, who had bound themselves together to force on the ministry a bill for compelling all men to drink Irish whisky, and all women to wear Irish poplins, that for the remainder of the session the Great Poplin and Whisky League was utterly harmless.
Again, great, (if heavy-handed!) satire, not only on British anti-Catholicism, but on the ways of politics, so often centered not on direct discussion of policy, but on misdirection and throwing up false flags for distraction and disturbance of enemy forces.
Having gone through this Mr Harding got into another omnibus, and again returned to the House. Yes, Sir Abraham was there, and was that moment on his legs, fighting eagerly for the hundred and seventh clause of the Convent Custody Bill. Mr Harding’s note had been delivered to him; and if Mr Harding would wait some two or three hours, Sir Abraham could be asked whether there was any answer. The House was not full, and perhaps Mr Harding might get admittance into the Strangers’ Gallery, which admission, with the help of five shillings, Mr Harding was able to effect.
This bill of Sir Abraham’s had been read a second time and passed into committee. A hundred and six clauses had already been discussed and had occupied only four mornings and five evening sittings; nine of the hundred and six clauses were passed, fifty-five were withdrawn by consent, fourteen had been altered so as to mean the reverse of the original proposition, eleven had been postponed for further consideration, and seventeen had been directly negatived. The hundred and seventh ordered the bodily searching of nuns for jesuitical symbols by aged clergymen, and was considered to be the real mainstay of the whole bill. No intention had ever existed to pass such a law as that proposed, but the government did not intend to abandon it till their object was fully attained by the discussion of this clause. It was known that it would be insisted on with terrible vehemence by Protestant Irish members, and as vehemently denounced by the Roman Catholic; and it was justly considered that no further union between the parties would be possible after such a battle. The innocent Irish fell into the trap as they always do, and whiskey and poplins became a drug in the market.
Ending on a far simpler note, I love this tight observation of John Bold, who is pursuing this suit about the hospital, for no particular reason except, as we might say today, “Because Reasons” and with no real thinking through of the consequences to those he is professing to help:
And the Barchester Brutus went out to fortify his own resolution by meditations on his own virtue.
I think that’s a good nudge for a penitential Lenten Friday, myself….
Posted in 7 Quick Takes, Amy Welborn, Amy Welborn's Books, Bible, Book Reviews, Catholic, Catholicism, Christian, Church, Cross, Current Events, Current Reads, Europe, evangelization, Faith, Family, fiction, germany, history, In Our Time, Internet, Italy, Jesus, Joseph Dubruiel, Lent, Life, Loyola Kids Book of Saints, Loyola Press, Michael Dubruiel, Mission, prayer, Protestant Reformation, Reading, Religion, Saints, Spirituality, tagged 7 Quick Takes, Amy Welborn, Amy Welborn's Books, blogging, book reviews, books, Catholic, Catholicism, Christianity, England, faith, Germany, history, Italy, Loyola KIds' Book of Heroes, Loyola Kids' Book of Saints, Loyola Press, Michael Dubruiel on March 3, 2017| 1 Comment »
Well, if you are a Catholic, it’s a bonanza kind of day. It’s First Friday and it’s the first Friday of Lent. Both of the sons I have at home right now go to Catholic schools – one elementary and one secondary – and both will be having Adoration and Stations of the Cross on Friday at school. So tonight, we had a brief talk about how that’s a lot of praying, and a great opportunity to pray for a lot of people.
It’s also the memorial of St. Katharine Drexel. I wrote about her in the Loyola Kids Book of Saints:
The first because I’m on a Trollope kick, and I have to say that I can see why readers pick Barchester Towers as their favorite. It is tight and lively, and not quite the discursive experience as other recent Trollopes I have read like Miss MacKenzie and Rachel Ray. The characters are quite a bit more vivid and the humor more pronounced. Really, the Stanhope clan and Obadiah Slope are terrific creations.
I had assumed there was a BBC adaptation, so I went in search of one and found that indeed there was – a combined production of The Warden and Barchester Towers featuring lots of familiar faces including, quite memorably, the late, great Alan Rickman as Slope, in his first major television role. It’s hard to think of a more perfect match of actor and role.
I’ve watched bits and pieces, mostly to see Rickman as well as satisfy my curiosity about how the Stanhopes – the family of an Anglican vicar who’ve been living in northern Italy because the vicar caught a cold of some sort and needed a bit of a rest cure. Twelve years later, they’ve been called back by the new bishop, and between them, Slope, the new bishop and his wife and a host of other characters, sparks are certainly flying, plans are being hatched – and sabotaged. The television adaptation is mildly entertaining, and it’s always fun to see how a good character translates from page to screen, but in this case, reading the book is a far more satisfying experience. The television adaptation can barely skim the surface, and at times does get things wrong.
In the novel, Slope and his sometime ally and sometimes enemy Mrs. Proudie, the bishop’s wife, are presented as adherents of the plain, more evangelical wing of the Church of England, people who are appalled that the trains run on the Sabbath and are unimpressed by chanting and other forms of music in the liturgy. In television terms, this gets translated into a kind of rationalism – Slope’s initial sermon, which causes scandal because he takes a stand against high church liturgy – becomes a paean of sorts to rationalism.
So, as I said, I’ve skipped around a couple of episodes, but enjoy the book much more.
The Unbanking of America? I read an interview with the author at Reason, the libertarian website, and was intrigued, as I always am, by the thought of someone who presents ideas that are opposed to Conventional Wisdom. I won’t rehash her arguments – simply know that the author is an economist who spent a few months working at both a check-cashing business and payday-loan business, and found that they fill a gap in the financial lives of many that banks just don’t anymore. It’s like a long Atlantic Monthly or New Yorker article that you can knock off in a couple of hours, and I always enjoy that – grow my brain a bit without too much commitment, and thanks.
Did you know Johannas Kepler’s mother was tried as a witch? I didn’t, and this book is the story of that set of events – as well as a fascinating look at, of course, Kepler himself, and the very lively intellectual world of early 17th century Germany. I’m just about halfway through and will talk more about it when I finish, but really, if you are even talking to someone who’s all about separating science and religion and who wants to tell you about that glorious time when scientists like Kepler finally busted the superstitious Age of Faith apart, invite them to consider what Kepler (and others) was really about – how he was a profoundly religious man who was all about discovering more about God via studying his Creation.
Oh, and about the witch business – it happened when Kepler was an adult, after he had started producing important scientific work, and when the accusations came to his attention, he rearranged his life to travel back home and work in his mother’s defense.
Other recent listens have been programs on:
Parasitism – good, but not fascinating.
Just one note about Martineau. She was a prolific writer, primarily of descriptive and analytical essays reflecting her views on political philosophy and economics. I think it’s accurate to describe her as an early sociologist of sorts.Indeed, she spent two years in the United State and wrote about it – books of which I was vaguely aware, but now have put on the (very long) list.
What might interest you is Martineau’s conflict with Charles Dickens.
She had written for Dickens’ journal called Household Words, but over time, differences between the two developed. Martineau, a devotee of Adam Smith and Malthus, felt that Dickens’ view of what we’d now call the impact of the Industrial Revolution was simplistic, sentimental and uninformed by a coherent political philosophy. She didn’t appreciate his views on women and she was offended by his personal life.
But what caused the final split was Dickens’ anti-Catholicism.
Martineau herself was a strong, unwavering Unitarian, but in 1854, she was surprised that story she had written for Dickens, a story about the sacrifices of a Jesuit missionary, was rejected. As she wrote in her autobiography (written when she thought she was dying…but then she lived for twenty more years, and it ended up, indeed being published after her death.)
Some weeks afterwards, my friends told me, with renewed praises of the story, that they mourned the impossibility of publishing it, — Mrs. Wills said, because the public would say that Mr. Dickens was turning Catholic; and Mr. Wills and Mr. Dickens, because they never would publish any thing, fact or fiction, which gave a favourable view of any one under the influence of the Catholic faith. This appeared to me so incredible that Mr. Dickens gave me his “ground” three times over, with all possible distinctness, lest there should be any mistake: — he would print nothing which could possibly dispose any mind whatever in favour of Romanism, even by the example of real good men. In vain I asked him whether he really meant to ignore all the good men who had lived from the Christian era to three centuries ago: and in vain I pointed out that Père d’Estélan was a hero as a man, and not as a Jesuit, at a date and in a region where Romanism was the only Christianity. Mr. Dickens would ignore, in any publication of his, all good catholics; and insisted that Père d’Estélan was what he was as a Jesuit and not as a man; — which was, as I told him, the greatest eulogium I had ever heard passed upon Jesuitism. I told him that his way of going to work, — suppressing facts advantageous to the Catholics, — was the very way to rouse all fair minds in their defence; and that I had never before felt so disposed to make popularly known all historical facts in their favour. — I hope I need not add that the editors never for a moment supposed that my remonstrance had any connexion with the story in question being written by me. They knew me too well to suppose that such a trifle as my personal interest in the acceptance or rejection of the story had any thing to do with my final declaration that my confidence and comfort in regard to “Household Words” were gone, and that I could never again write fiction for them, nor any thing in which principle or feeling were concerned. Mr. Dickens hoped I should  “think better of it;” and this proof of utter insensibility to the nature of the difficulty, and his and his partner’s hint that the real illiberality lay in not admitting that they were doing their duty in keeping Catholic good deeds out of the sight of the public, showed me that the case was hopeless. To a descendant of Huguenots, such total darkness of conscience on the morality of opinion is difficult to believe in when it is before one’s very eyes.
Even worse, at some point later, was the publication in Household Words, of a rabidly anti-Catholic, scandal-mongering piece of fiction called The Yellow Mask.
The last thing I am likely to do is to write for an anti-catholic publication; and least of all when it is anti-catholic on the sly.
For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!
Posted in Amy Welborn, Amy Welborn's Books, Be Saints, Bible, Bible Study, blogging, Book Reviews, Catholic, Catholicism, Christian, Church, Cross, Easter, Eucharist, evangelization, First Communion, First Communion Gifts, Good Friday, Gospels, Jesus, Joseph Dubruiel, Lent, Liturgy, Loyola Press, Matthew 25, Michael Dubruiel, Mission, prayer, Religion, sacraments, Spirituality, Triduum, Works of Mercy, Writing, tagged Amy Welborn, Amy Welborn's Books, blogging, Catholic, Catholic books, Catholicism, Lent, Lent 2017, Lent Daily Devotional, Michael Dubruiel, Prayer, religious life, spirituality on February 22, 2017|
(Feel free to swipe and share)
One week! One week from today!
If you’re on the lookout for resources for yourself, your kids or your parish or school, take a look at these. It might be cutting it close for parish or school resources, but maybe not – it’s worth a call.
Contact Liguori at 1-800-325-9521 for parish and school orders. No promises, but they can probably get orders to you by next week.
- Reconciled to God, a daily devotional from Creative Communications for the parish. You can buy it individually, in bulk for the parish our your group, or get a digital version. (.99)
- John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross, published by Ave Maria Press. (The illustrations are by Michael O’Brien)
- The Word on Fire ministry is more than the Catholicism or Pivotal Players series – as great as they are! There are also some really great lecture series/group discussion offerings. I wrote the study guide for the series on Conversion – a good Lenten topic.
- A few years ago, I wrote a Stations of the Cross for young people calledNo Greater Love, published by Creative Communications for the Parish. They put it out of print for a while…but now it’s back!
- Michael Dubruiel’s The Power of the Cross is out of print, but feel free to download it here.
- Throughout the years, parish groups have used The Words We Pray for study groups – you might consider that, as well.
- Or you might take a look at the book I wrote for the Pivotal Players series. That might work for you.