Archive for the ‘Catholicism’ Category

One of the more persistent annoyances in the contemporary Catholic world is the proud declaration that now we finally know that we’re supposed to evangelize and go forth and go out and not sit smugly inside the church walls!  Finally! 

It’s not all the fault of the Francis Moment.  Since the Second Vatican Council, that idea: that the pre-Vatican II Church was closed-off, and we’re all about the openness, energy and evangelization now –  exists in the Catholic Atmosphere somewhere between assumption and dogma.

But how odd, then, that when we dig out examples to inspire us in our current efforts to take the Gospel into the world, to be energetic and creative and engaged, we tell each other that we need to be more like…

Francis de Sales!

Catherine of Siena!

Frederic Ozanam!

Maximilian Kolbe!

Alphonsus Liguori!

Francis of Assisi!


or today’s saint: Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher!

Who all, it seems, managed to understand Jesus’ call pretty well, despite having to live rigidly with access only to the ©TLM.

Just think what they could have accomplished with more freedom and the right to actively participate!

(My take has always been that what Vatican II unleashed, even as it was called in order to enable the Church to offer the Gospel to the world with more vigor and understanding, was mostly decades and decades of self-involved naval-gazing and infighting as the energy to go out was redirected into endless meetings trying to figure out new structures and mission statements and what we’re all about and for, a massive waste of time and misdirection that we’re seeing reach its natural climax in #Synod15.)

Eh, as usual, I’m absorbing that very same distracting energy in composing this blog post, which was intended to be pretty simple. So, pull back, and get back to business.

In the midst of my usual historical rabbit-hole explorations the other day, I happened upon a book at Archive. org called The Blind Sisters of Saint Paul. 

It’s an account, written by one Maurice de la Sizerannt, of a religious order founded in the mid-19th century, not only to serve the blind, but as once accepting blind women as members. From another source:

The story of the conversion of St Paul in the Acts of the Apostles (“For three days he was without his sight and took neither food nor drink”, Acts 9,9) is the origin of the charisma of the Blind Sisters of St Paul founded in Paris in 1852 to be, “Light in the Lord” (Eph 5,8).

This Congregation is connected with an intuition of mademoiselle Anne Bergunion, born in Paris in 1804. She had a sewing workshop and had accepted a few blind girls turned away from the National Institute for Young Blind People. The idea of starting a religious community came to her when she read the phrase: “with one of two persons, a week of work and three rooms one could found a congregation”. Mgr Henry Juge, a priest of the diocese of Versailles, immediately supported the endeavour and accompanied it for forty years until his death (1893).

Both founders distinguished themselves for their dedication and their love for the girls. The foundress proposed: “My God I wish to be the slave of the blind for ever”. Her spiritual director said: “If after my death they were to open my heart, in it they would find a blind girl “. To help them work, Canon Juge opened a Braille printing works in 1864.

This was an absolute novelty for the times, both in the social panorama — there was no form of structured assistance — and in the ecclesial field — there had never been a congregation for people with this sort of disability. The foundation was achieved thanks to support from Pius IX, who exclaimed when he heard of the initiative: “There is really a woman who thought of this? This is an admirable undertaking, which was lacking in the Church!”. This phrase still opens the Institute’s Constitution today.

Community life

After giving the community rules and constitutions, Anne Bergunion (now Mère Saint Paul) made her first religious vows in the presence of Mgr. de La Bouillerie, on 22 May 1855. Mother Saint Paul had called the blind sisters “choir sisters” and those who could see “lay sisters “, but Canon Juge wished for there to be no difference between the roles. The intuition proved to be fundamental for community life, inspired by absolute equality. In every day life the blind sisters are assisted by the other members of the Institute. The only one of its kind in the world, the Congregation welcomes young blind aspirants who wish to consecrate their life to God and the Church, to serve others, teaching little girls suffering from blindness. On 21 April 1856, the Holy See granted the Institute a Decree of Praise.

The first half of the book is a description of the lives and experiences of the blind in a more general sense, but then the second half is a very detailed look at the lives and work of this congregation.  From the article above, and from what I could find online – without having to take an hour to translate – the institute still exists, although I am not sure how large the actual congregation of sisters is, or if, that original mandate to incorporate blind women as sisters is still in evidence.

But it’s all just one more tidbit – one of thousands that could be offered – to correct the current assumption that Catholic life in the past was all about living inside walls, closed to the world. Indeed, as I tried to say in my last post on this matter, I think that the “rules” mentality and the expectation that the serious Christian’s life would be defined by sacrifice – or, in more positive terms, the Catholic’s understandings of his or her obligations to practice the virtues and works of mercy  – put this kind of activity in the forefront in a way that made it more difficult for the individual to dismiss.

Yes, there was conflict. That dynamic of conflict and paradox is embedded in Christianity from the beginning: The Gospel and St. Paul are all about the freedom human beings find in gentle yoke of Christ, and when we look at the breadth and depth of Catholic history, we see a continual exploration of what this means and how it is to be lived out, as movements rise, lose their identity to worldly values, are reformed, as creative thinkers butt heads with religious authorities, whose visions are denied one year, then embraced the next.

From the book:

When first the community was founded, blind
and normal nuns used to be assembled in separate
groups, so as to exhort the former to resignation
and the latter to gratitude; now all goes smoothly,
there is no longer juxtaposition, but fusion, of the
two elements. Both classes of nuns consider them-
selves Sisters of St Paul — ^that says everything; and
if preferences or special friendships were allowed
in convents, they would most often be between a
blind and a normal nun. On January 25 and Octo-
ber 24, there are general rejoicings; on the day of
St Paul’s Conversion the nuns with eyesight have a
festival for the blind, and on St Raphael’s Day the
blind sisters return the compliment.

It would be a great mistake to imagine the seeing
nuns as ^* Marthas,” entirely taken up with exte-
rior works; and the blind nuns as ”Maries,” per-
petually kneeling before the tabernacle and choos-
ing ”the better part.” A purely physical difference
cannot make such a line of demarcation; some nuns
who can see have more contemplative souls than
some of their blind sisters. It is the interior appeal
of our Lord that makes “Maries,” and not the lack
"amy welborn"or possession of any one physical sense. Tasks are

dual’s aptitudes; some very important ones fall to
the blind, such as music, some branches of scholas-
tic teaching, and training to the brush-work and

In searching the annals of the community we see
still more intricate tasks confided to blind nuns; a
certain Sister Mary Amelia, whilst the congrega-
tion was unavoidably divided between Bourg-la-
Reine and Paris, took the direction of the former
group; Sister Mary Dosithea, treasurer, becoming
totally blind, continued her avocation most success-
fully, being only assisted in the mechanical work of
book-keeping by a young novice; the real manage-
ment falling entirely on the Sister.

On great feast days in summer the
blind delight in the flowers which dress the altar
and sanctuary and perfume their chapel; and when
clouds of incense fill the air while triumphal hymns
are sung by the whole congregation, they feel them-
selves plunged into an atmosphere of happiness and
mystic joy. They love their dear chapel too, when
coming back at the close of a feast-day to look for
a book or make a short adoration, they find it
warm from the flame of tapers, impregnated with
incense, and as if still thrilling with the diants
that have just ended. If we have the patience or

devotion to spend a little time in a comer of St

Paul’s chapel, we shall see many interesting types
of blind women: sometimes a sister enters by the
nuns’ door; she walks quickly and unhesitatingly to
her little stall: sometimes an old woman dressed as a
*Mady ” comes in very slowly and almost on tip-toe,
with much hesitation and faltering, keeping close to
the wall so as not to lose her way, and touching
each row of chairs to count them and discover when
she reaches her own seat. Thiswill bealady-boarder,
who has recently lost her sight; inher own home she
would not have ventured out of her room or down-
stairs without a guide. Here, example has embold-
ened her, she knows that she is surrounded by other
blind people who make every allowance for her
and are kind instead of critiod; she does not feel
set apart, she has taken confidence and tried her
best (‘^essay6 de pouvoir”) and has succeeded;
each day she has made a little progress and has
gradually recovered more and more independence.
The next moment another blind woman enters,
also dressed with a certain amount of care; she
walks quite steadily if slowly, and finds her place
without feeling for it; she is an organist and teacher
of music who, brought up in a blind school, has re-
tired to St Paul’s after forty years of work; she pays
for her board out of the little income which her
savings produce and the few hundreds of francs
left her by her parents. Later a group of young
girls come in together to pay their visit to the
Blessed Sacrament; these also are quite unembar-
rassed and walk with great precision; they are
Children of Mary, and have been for some time in
the house. Finally, an old blind nun quietly enters,
leading a very young blind child, almost a baby, to

pray to the Infant Jesus, and she teaches her how
to make the sign of the Cross. On Feast days, when
the Church exultantly invites the faithful to form
out-of-door processions as a manifestation of their
faith in the Blessed Sacrament or their devotion
to our Lady, and leads them through city streets
and village roads decorated for the occasion, the
family of St Paul’s refuses to be behindhand. Pro-
cessions in honour of Corpus Christi, the Assump-
tion and the Rosary are specially dear to the
Community. They take place in the garden, under
the avenues of lime trees, and on Corpus Christi
a humble Altar of Repose is erected at the far end
of the garden. Little children, students, work-girls.
Children of Mary, lady-boarders, blind and normal
nuns march along singing:

This is day which the Lord hath made; let us be glad and
rejoice therein.

O Lord, save me, O Lord, give good success.

Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord. We
have blessed you out of the house of the Lord. The Lord is
God, and He hath shone upon us. — Psalm cxvii.

What does this mean? That the past was “better?” Nope.  It means, more than anything else, that the notion of “progress” has no place in Catholic self-understanding. There is no earthly ecclesial progression towards a “more true” apprehension and expression of the Gospel over time.  That arrogant presentist bias is contradictory to the Gospel, in which we all, since the Resurrection, live in expectation of the Second Coming of Christ together, across time and space.

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— 1 —

Ah, finally In Our Time is back – my favorite BBC Radio 4 podcast.  They take a summer break, but have been back for three weeks now. The first topic –  perpetual motion – was not my favorite, and I’m not sure it was a great choice. The discussion seemed as if it would be about historical efforts to construct perpetual motion machines, but that petered out fairly quickly, and as I recall, attention turned to more general questions of physics. Meh.

But the following week – Alexander the Great – was better, and I’m looking forward to next week’s episode on Holbein and the Tudor Court.  It is invariably such a balanced, informative, non-PC, mostly unconcerned with modern pieties presentation. It’s refreshing and unlike anything you’d hear on American radio.

— 2 —

As an addendum to yesterday’s education post:

Made it to the Botanical Gardens (one of our great treasures here – free, as in no admission, just like our excellent art museum)  on Wednesday afternoon, then collected leaves in our own yard this morning.  We looked at diagrams of cross-sections of leaf structure, compared, contrasted, drew, and finally looked at our own samples under the microscope, as well as our prepared plant-related slides.

Our long-term experiments were not super-successful, though. A couple of weeks ago, we had performed two operations on a house plant. In the first, you were supposed to slather the tops of some leaves with Vaseline, and then do the same to the underside of some leaves on the same plant.  The second set was supposed to die, since the stomata would be blocked.  I guess we didn’t put enough Vaseline on, since all the leaves are still alive, although some in the second group do have brown patches, so maybe it did work, in a way.

In the other demonstration, we tightly covered a leaf with black construction paper. After a couple of weeks, it was supposed to have lost its color as photosynthesis was blocked. Well, it was still green, but definitely a little lighter shade than all the others.

So they kind of worked?

"amy welborn"

— 3—

Not to live in the past, but as I went through a mega-Instagram fit on Sunday, posting photos of our 2012 trip to Assisi, it occurred to me that it would be fun to finish up the trip. So from now until the end of November, I’ll be posting daily on Instagram with photos I took on that day three years ago, wherever we were in Europe at the time.

"amy welborn"


Follow me on Instagram.

(In case you are wondering, there are no big trips planned for the near future. My daughter is back from her year + in Europe, so that excuse is no more, and everyone has announced they are converging in this direction for Thanksgiving.  I hate travelling on planes at Christmas time, especially with a crew and with time constraints.  So probably no big travel until the spring. But that’s fine – there’s plenty to see around here!)

— 4 —

Finished a project! It’s not due until January 1! That truly is a record for me. Now on to the next one..which is due..er…December 15.

— 5 —

Reminder: I’ve mentioned this site before, but it bears a repeat.  If you are ever in need of seasonal or month-related quotes or poetry, this is a great site. I use it for copywork and just general reading breaks all the time.

— 6 —

I have been off on my days all week for some reason.  So last night, I thought today was the 9th, so I went all St. Denis on this blog…but..I was off a day.  Well, so you got a sneak peak? 

Today (really – the 9th. I’m sure of it)  is also the (optional) memorial of Blessed John Henry Newman.  Here’s a link to B16’s homily at his beatification:

The definite service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing “subjects of the day”. His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world. I would like to pay particular tribute to his vision for education, which has done so much to shape the ethos that is the driving force behind Catholic schools and colleges today. Firmly opposed to any reductive or utilitarian approach, he sought to achieve an educational environment in which intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment would come together. The project to found a Catholic University in Ireland provided him with an opportunity to develop his ideas on the subject, and the collection of discourses that he published as The Idea of a University holds up an ideal from which all those engaged in academic formation can continue to learn. And indeed, what better goal could teachers of religion set themselves than Blessed John Henry’s famous appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity: “I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it” (The Present Position of Catholics in England, ix, 390). On this day when the author of those words is raised to the altars, I pray that, through his intercession and example, all who are engaged in the task of teaching and catechesis will be inspired to greater effort by the vision he so clearly sets before us.

While it is John Henry Newman’s intellectual legacy that has understandably received most attention in the vast literature devoted to his life and work, I prefer on this occasion to conclude with a brief reflection on his life as a priest, a pastor of souls. The warmth and humanity underlying his appreciation of the pastoral ministry is beautifully expressed in another of his famous sermons: “Had Angels been your priests, my brethren, they could not have condoled with you, sympathized with you, have had compassion on you, felt tenderly for you, and made allowances for you, as we can; they could not have been your patterns and guides, and have led you on from your old selves into a new life, as they can who come from the midst of you” (“Men, not Angels: the Priests of the Gospel”, Discourses to Mixed Congregations, 3). He lived out that profoundly human vision of priestly ministry in his devoted care for the people of Birmingham during the years that he spent at the Oratory he founded, visiting the sick and the poor, comforting the bereaved, caring for those in prison. No wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as his body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here. One hundred and twenty years later, great crowds have assembled once again to rejoice in the Church’s solemn recognition of the outstanding holiness of this much-loved father of souls. What better way to express the joy of this moment than by turning to our heavenly Father in heartfelt thanksgiving, praying in the words that Blessed John Henry Newman placed on the lips of the choirs of angels in heaven:

Praise to the Holiest in the height
And in the depth be praise;
In all his words most wonderful,
Most sure in all his ways!
(The Dream of Gerontius).

More of B16 on Newman from that visit.

— 7 —

The book Be Saints! was inspired by that 2010  visit – here’s the page which references Newman:

"amy welborn"

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

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(Sorry…I’m a day ahead…)

Tomorrow is the memorial of St. Denis, bishop and martyr.  You can read about him here:

Missionary to Paris, France. First Bishop of Paris. His success roused the ire of local pagans, and he was imprisoned by Roman governor. Martyred in the persecutions of Valerius with Saint Rusticus and Saint Eleutherius. Legends have grown up around his torture and death, including one that has his body carrying his severed head some distance from his execution site. Saint Genevieve built a basilica over his grave. His feast was added to the Roman Calendar in 1568 by Pope Saint Pius V, though it had been celebrated since 800.

So that legend is why he is often portrayed holding his head, as in the Paris subway near the Basilica of St. Denis, here:

The Basilica of St. Denis stands outside the usual tourist track in Paris, but was really one of the most memorable sites we visited in our month there.  So absolutely worth the metro ride. It’s of great historical importance, first because it represents one of the first (if not the first) major expression of Gothic architecture, and secondly because of its role as the last resting place of the French monarchy.  

The Abbey of Saint Denis was the burial site of the kings of France for centuries and has thus been referred to as the “royal necropolis of France.” All but three of the monarchs of France from the 10th century until 1789 have their remains here. The abbey church contains some fine examples of cadaver tombs.

The effigies of many of the kings and queens are on their tombs, but during the French Revolution, these tombs were opened by workers under orders from revolutionary officials. The bodies were removed and dumped in two large pits nearby.

Archaeologist Alexandre Lenoir saved many of the monuments from the same revolutionary officials by claiming them as artworks for his Museum of French Monuments.

Napoleon Bonaparte reopened the church in 1806, but the royal remains were left in their mass graves. Following Napoleon’s first exile to Elba, the Bourbons briefly returned to power. They ordered a search for the corpses of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, which were found on January 21, 1815 and brought to St. Denis and buried in the crypt.

So the Basilica today is repository of funerary imagery….Pepin the Short, the Bourbons….everyone.  It’s fascinating.

The absolutely most intriguing statuary to me were the two or three sets of married monarchs whose monuments had two elements: the king and queen in full worldy regalia, and then, the two of them represented laid out completely nude…as they came into the world, and as they went back into the earth:

I wrote a Living Faith devotion about it, here:

Louis XII and Anne of Brittany’s tomb is topped by images of them kneeling in prayer, fully dressed, but in a space below, we see them again, lying as in death, completely nude. It is a startling, sobering sight.

It’s also a sight that reminded me that living under the robes of any worldly honor, power or possession is a creature just like me. Only one king–gracefully born into that mortal flesh but wearing the crown of glory forever–deserves my worship, only one is truly Lord of my life now and for eternity.

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There are people out there who homeschool loads of kids. I don’t know how you do it! I could barely do two at once, so…bow down to you all.

(I know someone who has, I think 12 or 13 kids she homeschools and they wear uniforms. When I first learned this, I thought it was a leetle over the top now. But when I actually contemplated the possibility of educating 12 children in my own one-room schoolhouse, I thought, well, yes, of course. Uniforms. It sends a message: “This is school time.” It’s cheaper. It makes for less morning chaos. Smart, in other words.)

But my almost-11 year old and I are (I think) enjoying our year, so I thought I’d do a quick “learning notes” kind of thing to catch you up – and help myself stay on top of things, as well.

(I usually do all sorts of links with these posts, but tonight, I don’t have time. Sorry!)

(Oh, and I started this last night (Tuesday) but now it’s Wednesday night. So I’ve updated a bit.)

  • Prayer: Our day begins with prayer based on some mash-up of the daily Mass readings and Morning Prayer. We use this book and this one to talk about the saint of the day – so, for example, yesterday, we talked about St. Bruno, which led to a little refresher on religious orders, monasteries and what reform of the Church means and how authentic reform happens and where it’s rooted.
  • This week’s first readings are from Jonah, so he just went ahead and read the WHOLE BOOK yesterday, and I encouraged him to be proud that he’d read an entire BOOK OF THE BIBLE in one sitting.  We talked about what the book meant, what it reveals to us about God and his mercy. We pulled out the atlas and talked about where these places were: Ninevah, Tarshish, and so on.
  • Since the Gospel yesterday was Mary/Martha, we also looked at some art related to that narrative.
  • Today (10/7), we talked about the Battle of Lepanto, read Chesterton’s poem, and prayed a decade of the rosary.
  • Copywork: The schedule, from M-Thursday is: Scripture, Literature quote, poetry, Saying/Aphorism/Proverb. Friday, he illustrates his copywork from that week in whatever way he chooses.  Monday’s copywork was the first couple of verses of Jonah, and yesterday’s was:  He was sounding the deeps of his nature, and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back into the womb of Time. From The Call of the Wild, which we read last year as a family. Today, the copywork was a few lines from Chesterton’s poem on Lepanto. 
  • Cursive practice. Now he prints most everything, but the goal is by early spring to be writing most of his work in cursive.
  • Language review. I use pages from Evan-Moor “Language Review” books, grades 5 and 7 – error correction, editing, etc. He does one “day” per day.
  • One “day” of math review, also from an Evan-Moor book, this one is grade 6, I believe.
  • All of that (from copywork through math review) takes about 15 minutes at most. Maybe ten.
  • Math: We have been hanging loose with Beast Academy, waiting for word that 5A was coming.  I saw on their FB page that they are finally sending it to the printers, so we are going to be starting up the last chapter of 4D (probability) this week. Up to this point we have been using the Pearson enVision program, grade 5, which I’m familiar with because it was used at their former school – I have some issues with some of it , which I’ll detail in another post – I think that as much as they trumpet being all about “number sense” (a good thing), they actually end up depending way too much on “number tricks.”  But it’s useful for just starting grade 5 math. We’ll be through chapter 5 this week. Then start back on BA, and have that done by the time the new book arrives.
  • Also working on Khan Academy Grade 5 at the same time. I like it, but I’m not sure how anyone could really use it as a complete curriculum, although I know some do. It’s a great supplement, though.
  • Working casually through Latin for Children I. Emphasis on vocabulary. Finished up chapter 9 today.
  • Poetry: We do random readings throughout the day from various poetry books. I have him read them aloud to me, as practice in, well, reading aloud.  He does great.  He also always has a memory poem in the works, and right now, he’s decided to go ahead and memorize all of Marc Antony’s speech from Act 2 of Julius Caesar  –  I had him memorize the first 6 or 7 lines or so, but he decided that he would go ahead over the next couple of weeks and try to memorize the whole thing.  (We’ve seen a production in Atlanta, watched the Brando version, a big chunks of the fantabulous RSC version set in a modern African nation.)
  • Adam of the Road.  This year, we will be doing a lot of novel reading  – aside from his already voluminous personally-driven reading. I want to do a bunch of novels that we can knock out in a week or ten days, max. We read this, as I mentioned before, and he has been doing comprehension/writing/reflection exercises from this study. We’ll finish that tomorrow.  Had a slight delay because somehow, the book got…lost ( hmmmm) and we couldn’t go on until we’d checked another out of the library.  As I mentioned before, it’s a very good book, and great for some interesting history and Catholic-y stuff. A glimpse into a time in which life was lived, not only be the earthly seasons, but the sacred seasons as well.  Not sure what we will do next – maybe The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. 
  • In addition, we’re doing this – Fable and Narrative from the Writing and Rhetoric program from Classical Academic Press.  At this point, I still like it quite a bit. The emphasis is on teaching how to both condense/summarize and then expand, and I think the approach is quite helpful. One chapter a week.  Today, he finished up lesson 2, which focused on the Parable of the Prodigal Son – the last exercise (he’s working on it as we speak) is to rewrite the end of the parable in the first person, from the perspective of the older son.
  • We’re up to New France in history.  We use the Catholic Textbook Project book From Sea to Shining Sea along with select chapters from Hakim’s History of US, as well as loads of supplemental library books. There’s just a lot of conversation and looking at maps and him telling me things he knows from other reading, which, when we were on the Spanish, was a lot.
  • History update:  Today he read the short sections on Henry Hudson from the Catholic history book, Hakim and from the Explorers book noted below. Tomorrow he’ll write a paragraph on Hudson based on all that. Writing Across the Curriculum! Sometimes.
  • Two books that we checked out of the library are these:

amy-welborn11 amy-welborn123

They are very good, and I particularly like the second. (Click on covers for links)   If you have a chance, see if your library has it.  The maps are different, the information is good and it would be a great book for any home, homeschooling or not. I like it so much, I might actually purchase it.

  • Science is botany. We’re pulling from this and this, as well as loads of library books and wandering outside and indoor experiments.  More on that later in the week in a dedicated post. There. If I say I’m going to write a post on it, that means it’s going to get done!
  • Keyboarding: He’s starting doing that – using some program we had around here.  Whenever he wants, he can go back there and work through the lessons.
  • Various videos from places like The Kids Should See This and Brain Scoop. We watch a few of those every day.
  • The first disc of Bernstein’s Concerts for Young People came this week, so we’ll be watching that over the next few weeks.
  • Boxing class on Tuesdays
  • Birmingham Zoo class on being a “Junior Zoo Vet.”  It’s a six-week class, and he’s enjoying it, although there’s not quite as much direct interaction with animals as he had hoped. They did see a blood draw from a goat today, though, so there’s that! (This class isn’t a homeschool class – it’s in the late afternoon.)
  • Piano. Here.
  • Thursday morning homeschool co-op class at the Cathedral – the two classes are drama and History of Science – he loves them both. So far, the science classes have covered Marie Curie and Newton, with Galileo and others unknown to come.
  • The missing piece, in my mind, is art.  He’s not taking any outside art classes at this point, and with the weather so great, once the school-ish stuff is over, it tends to be outside time. However, I realized just as I was typing that, he does go into the front room and draw every night – he is drawing these big landscapes of a fantasy world that he then spends ten minutes explaining to me.  He’s also started making a shield for his Halloween costume, which is going to be a Mayan something.
  • There are things coming up in the next few weeks at the various museums around town that I need to figure out and get organized for. I think there is camping this weekend. Maybe.
  • Teachable moments of the week:  The Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry and medicine – no, I don’t understand much of the research, but we dip in anyway and get a taste of what real research is all about and how it helps people.  Also the line-up of planets – will try to get up before dawn (HAHAHAHA) and catch it, and have been given orders to wake him up if I do accomplish this.
  • Why do I do this? Because I have a curious, open-minded kid who can get the basics in two seconds and flourishes when he’s challenged to discover more, talk about it, and write about it. And I’m at a place in my life at which I can do this. I would not mind more time to myself – not just to recharge, but also because I have work to do – but honestly – I’m 55, he’s my youngest, I have the means to give him this space to learn outside of a classroom, so no excuses.  Next year (6th grade) things might change. It’s up to him. If he wants to go to school, he can. If he wants to keep doing this crazy thing we’re doing, he can. It will be interesting to see what he decides. I’m fine either way.

So…what’s my assignment for the rest of the week? Get to the Botanical Gardens, at least once, maybe twice and be all intentional about the nature observation.

Update: We did it!  Got to the Gardens, wandered, talked about trees. Learned some things. 

Oh, here’s a pro tip: If you do a watch-beans-germinate-while-ensconced-in-damp-paper-towels thing, be sure you do your observation before the beans have started turning brown and, when cut open, have maggots wriggling in them. Or not. There’s value in that, too, I guess.

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It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
that I may learn your statutes.

– Psalm 119:71

My friend fought cancer for years and years. Every part of her body, it seems, was afflicted. At some point in the midst of all of it–halfway between her diagnosis and her death–she said to me, with complete conviction, “Thank God for my cancer.” She explained that she felt–no, she knew–that before her cancer, she had been living on what she now saw as a superficial level. Cancer had ravaged her body and was cutting her physical life short, but my friend felt strongly that cancer had opened her eyes to grace, deepened her capacity for love and brought her closer to God.

If I am honest, if I look at my own life, I really can’t deny that it’s mostly through suffering that my soul expands and my embrace widens. Admitting that is a challenge. Why? Because, as I pray with the psalmist, I’m opening myself to take the cup and drink in more lessons learned in this way, which is nothing less than the way of the cross.

365 of this sort of thing in The Catholic Woman’s Book of  Days

Today is also St. Bruno. Here’s B16 reflecting on him from 2010, in a visit to the Charterhouse of Serra San Bruno:

“Fugitiva relinquere et aeterna captare”: to abandon transient realities and seek to grasp that which is eternal. These words from the letter your Founder addressed to Rudolph, Provost of Rheims, contain the core of your spirituality (cf. Letter to Rudolph, n. 13): the strong desire to enter in union of life with God, abandoning everything else, everything that stands in the way of this communion, and letting oneself be grasped by the immense love of God to live this love alone.

Dear brothers you have found the hidden treasure, the pearl of great value (cf. Mt 13:44-46); you have responded radically to Jesus’ invitation: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mt 19:21). Every monastery — male or female — is an oasis in which the deep well, from which to draw “living water” to quench our deepest thirst, is constantly being dug with prayer and meditation. However, the charterhouse is a special oasis in which silence and solitude are preserved with special care, in accordance with the form of life founded by St Bruno and which has remained unchanged down the centuries. “I live in a rather faraway hermitage… with some religious brothers”, is the concise sentence that your Founder wrote (Letter to Rudolph “the Green”, n. 4). The Successor of Peter’s Visit to this historic Charterhouse is not only intended to strengthen those of you who live here but the entire Order in its mission which is more than ever timely and meaningful in today’s world.

Technical progress, especially in the area of transport and communications, has made human life more comfortable but also more keyed up, at times even frenetic. Cities are almost always noisy, silence is rarely to be found in them because there is always background noise, in some areas even at night. In recent decades, moreover, the development of the media has spread and extended a phenomenon that had already been outlined in the 1960s: virtuality risks predominating over reality. Unbeknownst to them, people are increasingly becoming immersed in a virtual dimension because of the audiovisual messages that accompany their life from morning to night.

The youngest, born into this condition, seem to want to fill every empty moment with music and images, out of fear of feeling this very emptiness. This is a trend that has always existed, especially among the young and in the more developed urban contexts but today it has reached a level such as to give rise to talk about anthropological mutation. Some people are no longer able to remain for long periods in silence and solitude.

I chose to mention this socio-cultural condition because it highlights the specific charism of the Charterhouse as a precious gift for the Church and for the world, a gift that contains a deep message for our life and for the whole of humanity. I shall sum it up like this: by withdrawing into silence and solitude, human beings, so to speak, “expose” themselves to reality in their nakedness, to that apparent “void”, which I mentioned at the outset, in order to experience instead Fullness, the presence of God, of the most real Reality that exists and that lies beyond the tangible dimension. He is a perceptible presence in every creature: in the air that we breathe, in the light that we see and that warms us, in the grass, in stones…. God, Creator omnium, [the Creator of all], passes through all things but is beyond them and for this very reason is the foundation of them all.

The monk, in leaving everything, “takes a risk”, as it were: he exposes himself to solitude and silence in order to live on nothing but the essential, and precisely in living on the essential he also finds a deep communion with his brethren, with every human being.

Some might think that it would suffice to come here to take this “leap”. But it is not like this. This vocation, like every vocation, finds an answer in an ongoing process, in a life-long search. Indeed it is not enough to withdraw to a place such as this in order to learn to be in God’s presence. Just as in marriage it is not enough to celebrate the Sacrament to become effectively one but it is necessary to let God’s grace act and to walk together through the daily routine of conjugal life, so becoming monks requires time, practice and patience, “in a divine and persevering vigilance”, as St Bruno said, they “await the return of their Lord so that they might be able to open the door to him as soon as he knocks” (Letter to Rudolph “the Green”, n. 4); and the beauty of every vocation in the Church "amy welborn"consists precisely in this: giving God time to act with his Spirit and to one’s own humanity to form itself, to grow in that particular state of life according to the measure of the maturity of Christ.

In Christ there is everything, fullness; we need time to make one of the dimensions of his mystery our own. We could say that this is a journey of transformation in which the mystery of Christi’s resurrection is brought about and made manifest in us, a mystery of which the word of God in the biblical Reading from the Letter to the Romans has reminded us this evening: the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead and will give life to our mortal bodies also (cf. Rom 8:11) is the One who also brings about our configuration to Christ in accordance with each one’s vocation, a journey that unwinds from the baptismal font to death, a passing on to the Father’s house. In the world’s eyes it sometimes seems impossible to spend one’s whole life in a monastery but in fact a whole life barely suffices to enter into this union with God, into this essential and profound Reality which is Jesus Christ.

This is why I have come here, dear Brothers who make up the Carthusian Community of Serra San Bruno, to tell you that the Church needs you and that you need the Church! Your place is not on the fringes: no vocation in the People of God is on the fringes. We are one body, in which every member is important and has the same dignity, and is inseparable from the whole. You too, who live in voluntary isolation, are in the heart of the Church and make the pure blood of contemplation and of the love of God course through your veins.

Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis [the cross is steady while the world is turning], your motto says. The Cross of Christ is the firm point in the midst of the world’s changes and upheavals. Life in a Charterhouse shares in the stability of the Cross which is that of God, of God’s faithful love. By remaining firmly united to Christ, like the branches to the Vine, may you too, dear Carthusian Brothers, be associated with his mystery of salvation, like the Virgin Mary who stabat (stood) beneath the Cross, united with her Son in the same sacrifice of love.

Also from 2010, an Angelus reflection on today’s Gospel:

Christ’s words are quite clear: there is no contempt for active life, nor even less for generous hospitality; rather, a distinct reminder of the fact that the only really necessary thing is something else: listening to the word of the Lord; and the Lord is there at that moment, present in the Person of Jesus! All the rest will pass away and will be taken from us but the word of God is eternal and gives meaning to our daily actions.

Dear friends, as I said, this Gospel passage is more than ever in tune with the vacation period, because it recalls the fact that the human person must indeed work and be involved in domestic and professional occupations, but first and foremost needs God, who is the inner light of Love and Truth. Without love, even the most important activities lose their value and give no joy. Without a profound meaning, all our activities are reduced to sterile and unorganised activism. And who, if not Jesus Christ, gives us Love and Truth? Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us learn to help each other, to collaborate, but first of all to choose together the better part which is and always will be our greatest good.

velasquez martha mary

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (Velázquez)

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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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Today’s her feastday!

She’s in The Loyola KIds’ Book of Saints under “Saints are people who love their families.”  Here are the first two pages of the entry:

amy-welborn amy-welborn2

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on today’s saint, Therese of Lisieux.  From the General Audience of 4/6/11:

"therese of lisieux"

Dear friends, we too, with St Thérèse of the Child Jesus must be able to repeat to the Lord every day that we want to live of love for him and for others, to learn at the school of the saints to love authentically and totally. Thérèse is one of the “little” ones of the Gospel who let themselves be led by God to the depths of his Mystery. A guide for all, especially those who, in the People of God, carry out their ministry as theologians. With humility and charity, faith and hope, Thérèse continually entered the heart of Sacred Scripture which contains the Mystery of Christ. And this interpretation of the Bible, nourished by the science of love, is not in opposition to academic knowledge. Thescience of the saints, in fact, of which she herself speaks on the last page of her The Story of a Soul, is the loftiest science.

“All the saints have understood and in a special way perhaps those who fill the universe with the radiance of the evangelical doctrine. Was it not from prayer that St Paul, St Augustine, St John of the Cross, St Thomas Aquinas, Francis, Dominic, and so many other friends of God drew thatwonderful science which has enthralled the loftiest minds?” (cf. Ms C 36r). Inseparable from the Gospel, for Thérèse the Eucharist was the sacrament of Divine Love that stoops to the extreme to raise us to him. In her last Letter, on an image that represents Jesus the Child in the consecrated Host, the Saint wrote these simple words: “I cannot fear a God who made himself so small for me! […] I love him! In fact, he is nothing but Love and Mercy!” (LT 266).

In the Gospel Thérèse discovered above all the Mercy of Jesus, to the point that she said: “To me, He has given his Infinite Mercy, and it is in this ineffable mirror that I contemplate his other divine attributes. Therein all appear to me radiant with Love. His Justice, even more perhaps than the rest, seems to me to be clothed with Love” (Ms A, 84r).

In these words she expresses herself in the last lines of The Story of a Soul: “I have only to open the Holy Gospels and at once I breathe the perfume of Jesus’ life, and then I know which way to run; and it is not to the first place, but to the last, that I hasten…. I feel that even had I on my conscience every crime one could commit… my heart broken with sorrow, I would throw myself into the arms of my Saviour Jesus, because I know that he loves the Prodigal Son” who returns to him. (Ms C, 36v-37r).

“Trust and Love” are therefore the final point of the account of her life, two words, like beacons, that illumined the whole of her journey to holiness, to be able to guide others on the same “little way of trust and love”, of spiritual childhood (cf. Ms C, 2v-3r; LT 226).

Trust, like that of the child who abandons himself in God’s hands, inseparable from the strong, radical commitment of true love, which is the total gift of self for ever, as the Saint says, contemplating Mary: “Loving is giving all, and giving oneself” (Why I love thee, Mary, P 54/22). Thus Thérèse points out to us all that Christian life consists in living to the full the grace of Baptism in the total gift of self to the Love of the Father, in order to live like Christ, in the fire of the Holy Spirit, his same love for all the others.

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