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Daily homeschool report. A distracted day on my part mostly because I kept thinking about  how next week, there are going to be about 5 hours available for “school.”

  • Prayer: Mass readings, discussion of the meaning of the first – what true fasting is, what God is telling us through Isaiah. Intercessions, Lord’s Prayer.
  • No copywork, and no drawing of past copywork either. For writing he did an exercise in Writing and Rhetoric, which asked him to expand a paragraph and make it into a tall tale of sorts – the Legend of Sleepy Hollow was the central story of the unit. They had three different paragraphs to do, and I had him choose one. He mentioned that he would think an invention that would take his voice and turn it into written words would be cool. I said…er…voice recognition software is a thing. We looked it up, and it’s in Windows. The reason he’s interested is because his handwriting can’t keep up with his ideas, and his word processing skills aren’t there yet. Sii
  • Then a lot of math. I had said I was going to let this new section wait until next week…but then I realized Monday was a holiday, and that would give us Tuesday as a beginning…and then I realized that big chunks of every day next week would be taken up with Other Stuff. So might as well get this going. And once we started going, it became clear that in order for it to stick, we needed to keep going. The subject was simplifying equations with variables.  The first chunk of reading is here. 
  • Yeah, that took a while. But I will say, I thought the methodology was ingenious. You can catch a bit of it in the linked pages. It begins by giving a “problem” – if you have a number, take away 3 and then divide by 4, what do you have? Well, you figure that out by working backwards and doing inverse operations. Master that concept and then moving on to actual equations, you see that when you isolate the variable by performing the same operation on both sides, you are essentially doing that work backwards thing but in a different way.
  • At this point – noonish – it was time think about heading out to run some errands before fetching the brother. We needed to go to the library to get the new Bosch book (they had it and it is a lot shorter than the others he has written – I think he had it half finished by the time we got home), we needed a few groceries, he needed new jeans and I wanted to look for whole frozen squid to dissect.
  • So with that in mind, we did one more unit – science. Which was the new OKGo video and attendant educational resources.  
  • I mean…zero gravity is science, right?
  • Then we watched a video about the big gravitational wave discovery. Whatever that is! But he’s studied Einstein in his history of science class, we’ve talked about it, and it’s just valuable for him to see people REALLY EXCITED about scientific discoveries – it matters, it’s interesting, and it’s about the world God made. So yes to gravitational wave frenzy.
  • The next video on the Kids Should See this page was a delightful and creative piece of animation – a guy creates animation cels on transparencies and then uses his IPhone to create stop motion films.  They’re funny and inspire a kid to think…hmmm….I could do that.  Or, if you can’t or don’t want to do exactly that, simply to think of your own creative inklings and think of  yourself as part of an endlessly creative group called the human race.
  • He mentioned that what he liked was how the animator superimposed his cells on everyday objects and brought them to life.  I began a lecture reflected on how he probably did this by simply looking and contemplating the world around him, which leads to something his one-time art teacher used to tell them “Most of art is not in doing, but in looking and seeing.”  “Oh, ” he agreed, “She said that all the time.”  And so we continued the conversation about this animator and the kid’s own creative efforts (mostly writing) along those lines.
  • Book checked out. Non-hormonal milk purchased. (I am indifferent to organic but think hormones in meat and dairy are bad and have probably brought much as-yet undiscovered harm). Squid sought – at Whole Foods, big Hispanic supermarket (I looked there because they carry a lot of Asian foodstuffs as well), Asian grocery. Fail. Many squidish rings and other pieces, but no whole squid.
  • It looks like the world’s squid are safe from our dissection skillz. Probably just as well. My older son said the ink sac smells bad when you break it open.
  • Next week will be weird and busy. Starting with tomorrow, which is about a basketball game, serving Mass at the convent, then a birthday party.  No school on Monday, but I am going to try to set up some science demonstrations and experiments to gestate over the weekend – they actually like that sort of thing as a leisure activity, believe it or not. Who knows.. Maybe cooking will be the only scientific endeavor that happens over the weekend. Tuesday is a music thing in the morning, then boxing, then a new zoo class late afternoon, then basketball practice. Wednesday is an all-day activity out of the house and then basketball. Thursday is  a break from Cathedral class, but there’s a school theater performance from a touring troupe from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival that we’re attending, plus piano lesson. Friday is a school music performance of the Alabama Symphony (I think – I haven’t bought tickets yet, but it looks like there are still a lot of empty seats), then Saturday is basketball and a piano competition/performance thing (I’m really not sure what it is).
  • #unsocializedhomeschooler

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In the leadup to Lent, and probably throughout at this rate (I had intended to get this up on Tuesday….)  I’m going to posting some links to and excerpts from various sources.  There is valuable contemporary material out there, but it seems much of it, even the Catholic stuff, neglects some important aspects of Lent.

Perhaps it comes down to this. It’s the difference between understanding Lent as a particularly listcicle-friendly (40 days! 3 disciplines!)  opportunity for an individual’s spiritual growth and understanding it as the entire Church’s solemn call and responsibility to do penance and grow in faith.

Are those different things? Yes.  Think about it. Not in tension, not opposed, but slightly different roads and paradigms.  The first is centered on pleasing ourselves, the second on pleasing God.

It is the distinction highlighted by Francis’ last of three pointers for a good fast: fast to please God alone.  To many of us, this sounds odd, since we have been formed to believe that we need to nothing to please God other than accepting ourselves as we are, haven’t we?

For what happens in modern spiritual discourse is that we have collapsed the two – we please God most of all when we are ourselves and are content with ourselves.  When you dig deeply, that’s true – when we are the selves God created and that above all brings us contentment and peace. But what our spiritual wisdom has always admitted is that to get to that point requires stripping and sacrifice and a hard journey – not simply acceptance of the Good News that we are God’s creatures and loved by him. It is complicated, yes, but the bottom line seems to me that when you remove penance and the organic nature of fallen creation and the role of our fallen selves in that, you really are just left with individuals on a journey to feel okay about themselves, and not much more.

It is the distinction highlighted by Francis’ last of three pointers for a good fast: fast to please God alone.  To many of us, this sounds odd, since we have been formed to believe that we need to nothing to please God other than accepting ourselves as we are.

It’s an intriguing distinction. As an amateur student of the strangeness of modern Catholicism, I am most often struck by the sharp ironies and waves of unintended consequences that mark our slice of history.

We post-Conciliar Catholics were formed in a way that emphasized both individual spiritual freedom yet also the greater weight of  community, perhaps best encapsulated by the sense that no, Mass is not the time to come and focus on God’s presence as an individual. Rather, it is the time in which individuals freely come, but not to pray individually, but rather to do “the work of the people” in liturgy.

(This is why some liturgists think the worst sin one can commit during Mass is to kneel and pray quietly after receiving Communion instead of standing with the group and singing that you are bread ready to be chewed for justice or some such. We are here as the people of God, by God.)

The irony to me is that when you consider pre-Vatican II materials, the sense of communal identity was actually much stronger in those bad old days when (we are told) indvidual piety was emphasized above community.

So why is it that now, we are continually having to be told that we are community, experience community-building experiences and asked how we would like our parishes to create stronger communities?

Part of it is simply cultural and social.  “Community,” period was stronger, sometimes to oppressive extents.  You didn’t have to build community, you were born into it, you lived in it your entire life, and perhaps woe to you if you attempted to crack those walls.

Double-sided and full of shadows – that’s everything, that’s life.

But you see it in older treatments of Lent.   If you read pre-Vatican II popular and catechetical works on Lent, you encounter an unmistakable sense of the season being about the entire Church – the community – engaged in a journey – being willing to sacrifice in order to form itself to be more like Christ, in gratitude for all God has given, in sorrow for sin, with each individual’s efforts being a part of that greater whole, and being important because of it.

But today, we are on our own. Lent is about you and your walk with Jesus and making that better. It’s ironic. Matthew Kelly’s “Best Lent Ever” marketing campaign is the pinnacle of this sensibility: it’s all about Lent as a peak individual consumer experience – like Sandals for the soul.

As an aside on the “best Lent ever” slogan…I’m reminded of the more traditional way of inspiring spiritual fervor during the season, something an older priest up in Indiana used to regularly pull out and that I’ve heard on retreat…not make it your best Lent ever but a reminder that we should approach the season as if it were our “Last Lent ever.”

(The same template might be used for Advent or even about Sunday and reception of Communion….receive Communion as if it might be your last..)

Dire, yes, but as the kids say, you’re not wrong. 

Because it could be, indeed.  Both “best” and “last” indeed center us on the self and the needs of the soul, but with different orientations and expectations. 

And then there is penance.  Fasting serves many purposes, as St. Francis de Sales will tell us. But at root, it is a penitential act, not simply one to help us to “grow in faith” and find peace and joy and focus.  Yes it does, indeed do so, but it does so, Catholic tradition has normally held, because, among other things, the penitential act of fasting is part of the process of ridding our lives of sin and its effects – a process which  of course brings us closer to Christ. Not just because it’s fasting and giving stuff up, but because it is penitential.  I’ll let St. Francis de Sales explain.

 

To treat of fasting and of what is required to fast well, we must, at the start, understand that of itself fasting is not a virtue. The good and the bad, as well as Christians and pagans, observe it. The ancient philosophers observed it and recommended it. They were not virtuous for that reason, nor did they practice virtue in fasting. Oh, no, fasting is a virtue only when it is accompanied by conditions which render it pleasing to God. Thus it happens that it profits some and not others, because it is not undertaken by all in the same manner.

We find some people who think that to fast well during the holy season of Lent it is enough to abstain from eating some prohibited food. But this thought is too gross to enter into the hearts of religious, for it is to you I speak, as well as persons dedicated to Our Lord. We know very well that it is not enough to fast exteriorly if we do not also fast interiorly and if we do not accompany the fast of the body with that of the spirit.

 

The first condition is that we must fast with our whole heart, that is to say, willingly, whole-heartedly, universally and entirely. If I recount to you St. Bernard’s words regarding fasting, you will know not only why it is instituted but also how it ought to be kept.

He says that fasting was instituted by Our Lord as a remedy for our mouth, for our gourmandizing and for our gluttony. Since sin entered the world through the mouth, the mouth must do penance by being deprived of foods prohibited and forbidden by the Church, abstaining from them for the space of forty days. But this glorious saint adds that, as it is not our mouth alone which has sinned, but also all our other senses, our fast must be general and entire, that is, all the members of our body must fast. For if we have offended God through the eyes, through the ears, through the tongue, and through our other senses, why should we not make them fast as well? And not only must we make the bodily senses fast, but also the soul’s powers and passions — yes, even the understanding, the memory, and the will, since we have sinned through both body and spirit.

How many sins have entered into the soul through the eyes, as Holy Scripture indicates? [1 In. 2:16]. That is why they must fast by keeping them lowered and not permitting them to look upon frivolous and unlawful objects; the ears, by depriving them of listening to vain talk which serves only to fill the mind with worldly images; the tongue, in not speaking idle words and those which savor of the world or the things of the world. We ought also to cut off useless thoughts, as well as vain memories and superfluous appetites and desires of our will. In short, we ought to hold in check all those things which keep us from loving or tending to the Sovereign Good. In this way interior fasting accompanies exterior fasting.

This is what the Church wishes to signify during this holy time of Lent, teaching us to make our eyes, our ears and our tongue fast. For this reason she omits all harmonious chants in order to mortify the hearing; she no longer says Alleluia, and clothes herself completely in somber and dark colors. And on this first day she addresses us in these words: Remember, man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return [Gen. 3:19], as if she meant to say: “Oh man, quit at this moment all joys and merrymaking, all joyful and pleasant reflections, and fill your memory with bitter, hard and sorrowful thoughts. In this way you will make your mind fast together with your body.”

This is also what the Christians of the primitive Church taught us when, in order to spend Lent in a better way, they deprived themselves at this time of ordinary conversations with their friends, and withdrew into great solitude and places removed from communication with people…….

 

The second condition is never to fast through vanity but always through humility. If our fast is not performed with humility, it will not be pleasing to God…..

But what is it to fast through humility? It is never to fast through vanity. Now how can one fast through vanity? According to Scripture there are hundreds and hundreds of ways, but I will content myself with telling you one of them, for it is not necessary to burden your memory with many things. To fast through vanity is to fast through self-will, since this self-will is not without vanity, or at least not without a temptation to vanity. And what does it mean to fast through self-will? It is to fast as one wishes and not as others wish; to fast in the manner which pleases us, and not as we are ordered or counseled. You will find some who wish to fast more than is necessary, and others who do not wish to fast as much as is necessary. What causes that except vanity and self-will? All that proceeds from ourselves seems better to us, and is much more pleasant and easy for us than what is enjoined on us by another, even though the latter is more useful and proper for our perfection. This is natural to us and is born from the great love we have for ourselves.

Let each one of us examine our conscience and we will find that all that comes from ourselves, from our own judgment, choice and election, is esteemed and loved far better than that which comes from another. We take a certain complacency in it that makes the most arduous and difficult things easy for us, and this complacency is almost always vanity. You will find those who wish to fast every Saturday of the year, but not during Lent.{2} They wish to fast in honor of Our Lady and not in honor of Our Lord. As if Our Lord and Our Lady did not consider the honor given to the one as given to the other, and as if in honoring the Son by fasting done for His intention, one did not please the Mother, or that in honoring the Virgin one did not please the Savior! What folly! But see how human it is: because the fast that these persons impose on themselves on Saturday in honor of our glorious Mistress comes from their own will and choice, it seems to them that it should be more holy and that it should bring them to a much greater perfection than the fast of Lent, which is commanded. Such people do not fast as they ought but as they want.

There are others who desire to fast more than they should, and with these one has more trouble than with the first group.

The glorious St. Augustine, in the Rule that he wrote for his religious (later adapted for men religious), orders that one follow the community as much as possible, as if he wished to say: Do not be more virtuous than the others; do not wish to practice more fasting, more austerities, more mortifications than are ordered for you. Do only what the others do and what is commanded by your Rule, according to the manner of living that you follow, and be content with that. For although fasting and other penances are good and laudable, nevertheless, if they are not practiced by those with whom you live, you will stand out and there will be some vanity, or at least some temptation to esteem yourself above others. Since they do not do as you do, you experience some vain complacency, as if you were more holy than they in doing such things.

Follow the community then in all things, said the great St. Augustine. Let the strong and robust eat what is ordered them, keeping the fast and austerities which are marked, and let them be content with that. Let the weak and infirm receive what is offered them for their infirmity, without wishing to do what the robust do. Let neither group amuse themselves in looking to see what this one eats and what that one does not eat, but let each one remain satisfied with what she has and with what is given to her. By this means you will avoid vanity and being particular.

 

The third condition necessary for fasting well is to look to God and to do everything to please Him, withdrawing within ourselves in imitation of a great saint, St. Gregory the Great, who withdrew into a secret and out-of-the-way place where he remained for some time without anyone knowing where he was, being content that the Lord and His angels knew it.

 

This is all that I had to tell you regarding fasting and what must be observed in order to fast well. The first thing is that your fast should be entire and universal; that is, that you should make all the members of your body and the powers of your soul fast: keeping your eyes lowered, or at least lower than ordinarily; keeping better silence, or at least keeping it more punctually than is usual; mortifying the hearing and the tongue so that you will no longer hear or speak of anything vain or useless; the understanding, in order to consider only holy and pious subjects; the memory, in filling it with the remembrance of bitter and sorrowful things and avoiding joyous and gracious thoughts; keeping your will in check and your spirit at the foot of the crucifix with some holy and sorrowful thought. If you do that, your fast will be universal, interior and exterior, for you will mortify both your body and your spirit. The second condition is that you do not observe your fast or perform your works for the eyes of others. And the third is that you do all your actions, and consequently your fasting, to please God alone, to whom be honor and glory forever and ever.

Lent 2016

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"amy welborn"

(Click for a larger version.  Feel free to reproduce and share with your local Catholic bookstore or religious ed program…seriously!)

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I was pulling together a post on some more of my favorite medieval Christmas music, and was going to feature this:

Riu riu chiu, la guarda ribera;
Dios guardo el lobo de nuestra cordera,
Dios guardo el lobo de neustra cordera.

El lobo rabioso la quiso morder,
Mas Dios poderoso la supo defender;
Quisola hazer que no pudiese pecar,
Ni aun original esta Virgen no tuviera.

Riu, riu chiu…

Este qu’es nacido es el gran monarca,
Christo patriarca de carne vestido;
Hemos redemido con se hazer chiquito,
Aunqu’era infinito, finito se hiziera.

Translation:

River, roaring river, guard our homes in safety,
God has kept the black wolf from our lamb, our Lady.
God has kept the black wolf from our lamb, our Lady.

Raging mad to bite her, there the wolf did steal,
But our God Almighty defended her with zeal.
Pure He wished to keep Her so She could never sin,
That first sin of man never touched the Virgin sainted.

River, roaring river…

He who’s now begotten is our mighty Monarch,
Christ, our Holy Father, in human flesh embodied.
He has brough atonement by being born so humble,
Though He is immortal, as mortal was created.

River, roaring river…

(You can see that it’s a song about both the Nativity and the Immaculate Conception)

The version I have is from this CD by the Boston Camerata (you can hear it here.)  but there are loads out there…including…

…make way for them…

(It’s really very lovely….although Peter and Davy holding the incense is sort of random)

Thanks to a commenter…here’s the Kingston Trio. 

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I’m pleased to let you know about the Catholicism Pilgrimage Journal  written to help teens and young adults connect more deeply with the content of Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism series.

 

It evolved last year as Fr. Stephen Grunow and I brainstormed on ways to integrate the program more deeply into various aspects of parish life.  You can find more details about the program here.

Here’s an interview I did with Word on Fire.

Today (5/7), I’ll be on Sheila Liaugminas’ radio show, talking about the Pilgrimage Journal and other projects.

(In other work with WOF, I wrote a study guide for Fr. Barron’s excellent series on Conversion – think about it for next Lent!)

 

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Prayer Corner

We are all about rocks here – well one of us is all about rocks here – so we spent some time this evening reading about – and more importantly – looking at photographs of – the astonishing Cave of Crystals in Mexico.  

I thought this one was good for this space.

"amy welborn"

Source.

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Okay, so I was thinking about all the virtual ink that’s been spilled, tears that have been shed and skin that’s been worn off hands because of all that wringing over the LCWR/Sr. Farley business, and I figures at some point soon, the columnists and bloggers are going to run out of material, and they just might need another example of a Religious Sister, Kept Down By The Men.

(Not a fake issue, historically speaking, by the way! Not kidding!)

So, I thought of one!

Here you go: the American religious sister who’s had more conflicts with more bishops than any other over the past few decades. Who’s gone head-to-head with a bishop or two, whose work has been supported by lay people, but who’s had bishops has her primary opponents, both overtly and covertly, who, up until various shifts and changes of the past 5-7 years, has had probably 80% of the American bishops strongly in opposition to her ministry.

Nun v. Male Bishops! For your next column, blog post, Colbert bit or #hashtag campaign! Ready?

(more…)

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