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Archive for the ‘Lent’ Category

Preparing for the Lenten fast? I last posted some thoughts contrasting contemporary paradigms for fasting and the deeper Catholic tradition. No deep thoughts from me today, but just pointing you to St. Robert Bellarmine and his book The Art of Dying Well.  (Which, of course, is really about the art of living well.) It’s available free online here. 

The fruit and advantages of fasting can easily be proved. And first; fasting is most useful in preparing the soul for prayer, and the contemplation of divine things, as the angel Raphael saith: “Prayer is good with fasting.” Thus Moses for forty days prepared his soul by fasting, before he presumed to speak with God: so Elias fasted forty days, that thus he might be able, as far as human nature would permit, to hold converse with God: so Daniel, by a fast of three weeks, was prepared for receiving the revelations of God: so the Church has appointed “fasts” on the vigil of great festivals, that Christians might be more fit for celebrating the divine solemnities. The holy fathers also everywhere speak of the utility of fasting. (See St. Athanasius, Lib. de Virginitate St. Basil, de Jejunio. St. Ambrose, de Elia et Jejunio. St. Bernard, in sermone de Vigilia Santi Andræ., &c.) I cannot forbear quoting the words of St. Chrysostom (Homily in Genesis): “Fasting is the support of our soul: it gives us wings to ascend on high, and to enjoy the highest contemplation.!

 

Another advantage of fasting is, that it tames the flesh; and such a fast must be particularly pleasing to God, because He is pleased when we crucify the flesh with its vices and concupiscences, as St. Paul teaches us in his Epistle to the Galatians; and for this reason he says himself: “But I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.” (1 to Cor. ix. 27.) St. Chrysostom expounds these words of fasting; and so also do Theophylact and St. Ambrose. And of the advantages of it in this respect, St. Cyprian, St. Basil, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine, and in the office for Prime the whole Church sings, “Carnis terat superbiam potûs cibique Parcitas.” (Moderation in food and drink, tames the pride of the flesh.)

 

Another advantage is, that we honour God by our fasts, because when we fast for His sake, we honour Him: thus the apostle Paul speaks in his Epistle to the Romans: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service”(chap, xii.) In the Greek, “reasonable service,” is, reasonable worship: and of this worship St. Luke speaks, when mentioning the prophetess Anna: “And she was a widow until fourscore and four years; who departed not from the temple, by fastings and prayers serving night and day.” (chap. ii. 37.) The great Council of Nice in the V. Canon, calls the fast of Lent, “a clean and solemn gift, offered by the Church to God.” In the same manner doth Tertullian speak in his book on the “Resurrection of the Flesh,” where he calls dry, unsavoury food taken late, “sacrifices pleasing to God:” and St. Leo, in his second sermon on fasting saith, “For the sure reception of all its fruits, the sacrifice of abstinence is most worthily offered to God, the giver of them all.”

 

A fourth advantage fasting hath, is being a satisfaction for sin. Many examples in holy Writ prove this. The Ninivites appeased God by fasting, as Jonas testifies. The Jews did the same; for by fasting with Samuel they appeased God, and gained the victory over their enemies. The wicked king Achab, by fasting and sackcloth, partly satisfied God. In the times of Judith and Esther, the Hebrews obtained mercy from God by no other sacrifice than that of fasting, weeping, and mourning.

How to go about it? His thoughts:

The chief end of fasting, is the mortification of the flesh, that the spirit may be more strengthened. For this purpose, we must use only spare and unsavoury diet. And this our mother the Church points out since she commands us to take only one “full” meal in the day, and then not to eat flesh or white meats, hut only herbs or fruit.

This, Tertullian expresses by two words, in his book on the “Resurrection of the Flesh,” where he calls the food of those that fast, “late and dry meats.” Now, those do not certainly observe this, who, on their fasting-days, eat as much in one meal, as they do on other days, at their dinner and supper together: and who, at that one meal, prepare so many dishes of different fishes and other things to please their palate, that it seems to be a dinner intended, not for weepers and fasters, but for a nuptial banquet that is to continue throughout most of the night! Those who fast thus, do not certainly derive the least fruit from their fasting.

Nor do those derive any fruit who, although they may eat more moderately, yet on fasting-days do not abstain from games, parties, quarrels, dissensions, lascivious songs, and immoderate laughter; and what is still worse, commit the same crimes as they would on ordinary days. ….They also spent that time which ought to have been devoted to prayer, in profane quarrels, and even in contentions. In fine, so far were they from attending to spiritual things, as they ought to have done on the fasting-days, they added sin to sin, and impiously attacked their neighbours. These and other such sins ought those pious people to avoid, who wish their fasting to be pleasing unto God, and useful to themselves: they may then hope to live well, and die a holy death.

 

"amy welborn"

 

MORE, including on almsgiving:

Lastly, It is necessary above all things, if we wish to be saved and to die a good death, diligently to enquire, either by our own reading and meditation, or by consulting holy and learned men, whether our “superfluous” riches can be retained with out sin, or whether we ought of necessity to give them to the poor; and again, what are to be understood by superfluities, and what by necessary goods. It may happen that to some men moderate riches may be superfluous; whilst to others great riches may be absolutely essential. But, since this treatise does not include nor require tedious scholastic questions, I will briefly note passages from Holy Writ and the Fathers, and so end this part of the subject. The passages of Scripture: “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” “He that hath two coats, let him give to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do in like manner.” And in the 12th chapter of St. Luke it is said of one who had such great riches, that he scarcely knew what to do with them: “Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee.” St. Augustine, in the 50th book of his Homilies, and the 7th Homily, explains these words to mean, that the rich man perished for ever, because he made no use of his superfluous riches.

The passages from the Fathers are chiefly these: St. Basil, in his Sermon to the Rich, thus speaks: “And thou, art thou not a robber, because what thou hast received to be given away, thou supposest to be thy own?” And a little farther he continues: “Wherefore, as much as thou art able to give, so much dost thou injure the poor.” And St. Ambrose, in his 81st Sermon, says: “What injustice do I commit, if, whilst I do not steal the goods of others, I keep diligently what is my own? impudent word! Dost thou say thy own? What is this? It is no less a crime to steal than it is not to give to the poor out of thy abundance.” St. Jerome thus writes in his Epistle to Hedibias: “If you possess more than is necessary for your subsistence, give it away, and thus you will be a creditor.” St. John Chrysostom says in his 34th Homily to the people of Antioch: “Do you possess anything of your own? The interest of the poor is entrusted to you, whether the estate is yours by your own just labours, or you have acquired it by inheritance.” St. Augustine, in his Tract on the 147th Psalm: “Our superfluous wealth belongs to the poor; when it is not given to them, we possess what we have no right to retain.” St. Leo thus speaks: “Temporal goods are given to us by the liberality of God, and He will demand an account of them, for they were committed to us for disposal as well as possession.”

And St. Gregory, in the third part of his Pastoral Care: “Those are to be admonished, who, whilst they desire not the goods of others, do not distribute their own; that so they may carefully remember, that as the common origin of all men is from the earth, so also its produce is common to them all: in vain, then, they think themselves innocent, who appropriate to themselves the common gifts of God.” St. Bernard, in his Epistle to Henry, archbishop of Sens, saith: “It is ours, for the poor cry out for what you squander; you cruelly take away from us what you spend foolishly.” St. Thomas also writes: “The superfluous riches which many possess, by the natural law belong to the support of the poor”; and again: “The Lord requires us to give to the poor not only the tenth part, but all of our superfluous wealth.” In fine, the same author, in the fourth book of his “Sentences,” asserts that this is the common opinion of all theologians. I add also, that if one be inclined to contend that, taking the strict letter of the law, he is not bound to give his superfluous riches to the poor; he is obliged to do so, at least by the law of charity. It matters little whether we are condemned to hell through want of justice or of charity.

 

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Again with the  Daily Homeschool Report thing – and the short Thursday report.

  • Another class at the Cathedral for homeschoolers – his grade does drama one hour and then history of science the next. Today, the science focus was on Anton van Leeuwenhoek and his very early microscope.
  • Back home noonish – lunch.
  • We did some Beast Academy  – learning about like terms and combining terms. (5th grade, remember).
  • Then there was something else. What was it?
  • Typing this well after midnight after a 3-hour “book group.” Fill in the blanks.
  • Ummmm….
  • Nope. I actually think that was it.
  • Piano practice.
  • Off to piano lesson.

— 2 —

“Mr. R. did something really cool in my lesson today.”

“What?”

“He took the ‘A’ section of the Joplin and played it like a Chopin nocturne……

(pause)

……I want to be able to do that…”

*thank you*

 

– 3—

Movie report from last weekend:

  • The Ladykillers. What a fantastic film. We continue the Alec Guinness trend – partly because he was great and partly because his presence makes an old movie a more acceptable choice. And all the more intriguing because in every film of his we’ve recently watched, he plays such varied parts – I mean, compare him in Great Expectations, Bridge over the River Kwai and The Ladykillers. Fascinating.
  • (I have never seen the Coen brothers remake)
  • Here’s what is odd. See if you can work this out with me. We live in times in which popular culture is odd and inhumane, superficial and ready to expose and exploit whatever.
  • But does anyone think that this film – as an original – could be made today?
  • Yes, there was the Coen brothers remake which stayed faithful to the body count, but it was a *remake.*
  • It wouldn’t happen. There’s a kind of post-war awareness and acceptance of darkness and the quiet, persistent force of good that can knock it out – and does – that wouldn’t find its way to film today.

— 4 —

Guess what, I said. It’s the feast of St. Blaise, I said. We’ll go to Mass and have our throats blessed with candles, I said.

Okay!

So yes we did go to Mass. And the priest announced he’d be doing a communal blessing of St. Blaise at the end of it.  No sacramentals for you, suckers!

— 5 —

It looks like I’m going to be at NCEA in San Diego in March – for just a day – so if you are one of those teacher types, see if you can find me, and say hey.

— 6

My Goodreads widget over there says I am currently reading Trollope, but it has started to bore me just a bit – and I have started J. B. Priestley’s Good Companions. The first chapter was full up with dialect, which was a bit rough but necessary I suppose. The second gives me a break on that score, and I just might be able to stick with it. We’ll see.

Look for posting of a review of that Bouyer memoir later today (Friday).

— 7 —

Reminder – if you’re teaching First Communion prep…maybe consider this book?

Also, my bookstore is open – I don’t have everything in stock, but I do have lots of the picture books. If you are an administrator or pastor or otherwise generous person and are interested in some sort of bulk deal, let me know at amywelborn60 – at – gmail.

In less than two weeks…Lent.

Time to order your parish/school materials – even if you want to order some for a group of friends or a class…here you go!

A Stations of the Cross for teens:

"amy welborn"

Biblical Way of the Cross for everyone:

For Ave Maria press, we wrote John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross. The current edition is illustrated with paintings by Michael O’Brien.

"amy welborn"

There’s also a digital edition in app form.

Reconciled to God – a daily devotional. Also available in an e-book format. Only .99.

amy-welborn-3

Looking for a book study for a group? How about Matthew 26-28: Jesus’ Life-Giving Death from Loyola. 

"amy welborn"

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

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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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First off, I have today’s Living Faith entry:

 

At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.

– 1 Corinthians 13:12

My son recently got glasses, and his subsequent experience of unexpected clarity brought back memories.

If you’ve ever had corrective lenses of any type, you know how it goes. You get the glasses, or perhaps an updated prescription, and the first time you look through them, you’re amazed. You knew your eyesight was a little off, but what a surprise to find out how off it actually was.

Quite often, my time on this earth is marked with the same certainty that everything is just fine, that I’m seeing life with absolute clarity, and I must be on the right path because, well, it’s the path I’m on. No other reason, really.

If you’d like to read more of these type of brief reflections, check out The Catholic Woman’s Book of Days or, if you’re thinking, “Gee, I really want to have the Best! Lent! Ever!” try Reconciled to God, also published by Creative Communications for the Parish. 

Today is the memorial of St John Bosco – superseded by Sunday, yes, indeed, but let’s talk about him anyway. The old Catholic Encyclopedia entry is a good place to start.  Another good intro at the EWTN site.

I wrote about him in The Loyola Kids Book of Saints.

(You can click on individual images to get a clearer view.)

 

 

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You know, I’ve been doing this Daily Homeschool Report thing – our Thursdays tend to be shorter, so I’ll throw the Thursday report here. 

  • On Thursday mornings we head downtown where he participates in a couple of classes for homeschoolers – his grade does drama one hour and then history of science the next. Today, they rehearsed a play they’ll be performing and then learned about Galileo – he was full of fun facts afterwards.
  • Then home, where we did one page of math review (reviewing fractions now) and the next-to-last page of the Beast Academy workbook page on negative and positive integers.
  • Then I said….read, draw or play outside or whatever. Just no screens and no Legos. So he went off and read a bit and is now drawing. He wanders in every now and then to tell me things: why he likes Tolkein’s description of Smaug and (I thought this was interesting) his idea that in school, Show and Tell shouldn’t end with little kids.  Older kids should have a chance to bring in and talk about what they create and treasure, too.
  • In an hour it will be time to practice piano and then off to the weekly lesson. After that, pick up brother and then this one is going off to watch a basketball game at another school with a friend.
  • That’s why Thursdays are short.

— 2 —

Watch this video! It’s a beautiful video about St. Bernard’s Abbey, located north of here in Cullman. It’s good not just because of what it says about monasticism, but also, if you think about it, about Christian discipleship, period.

Argh, I wish they would open a Birmingham satellite of the school…..

 

– 3—

Movie report from last weekend:

  • Got in Bridge over the River Kwai. It’s long, but they endured and were about 80% engaged through most of it – the Alec Guiness factor helps. What struck me this time (which might as well have been a first time, considering it’s probably been thirty years since I saw it last) was the ending. The author of the original novel and one of the screenplay authors was Pierre Boulle, a French writer who also wrote the novel Planet of the Apes was based on.  Everyone knows the ending to that film, and the end of Bridge is strikingly similar – the doctor, the sole voice of morality and reason throughout all the insanity, sees the destruction and death in front of him and declares, “Madness! Madness!”
  • Boulle, who had been a POW in Southeast Asia during the war and had seen the worst that human beings can do to each other and to their world, obviously had a them going.
  • We then tried some Harold Lloyd – they’ve seen Chaplin (Gold Rush and a couple others) and Buster Keaton (The General  – at our local glam-movie house a while back), so it was time for Lloyd. We watched The Freshman which was amusing but did not exactly make them converts, I don’t think.  The most interesting element to me occurred at one point when, at a college mixer, the tailor who has come along to fix Harold’s barely-basted-together suit in secret has a dizzy spell which he says can only be alleviated by having a drink. So Lloyd dances in the crowd, flipping up coattails, searching for a flask – of course, because it’s Prohibition!
  • Don’t be super impressed with our Film Culture ways. Over the past couple of weeks, they also watched both Bill and Ted movies- but hey, I made them watch the chess season from The Seventh Seal before Bogus Journey so they’d get the reference. Does that count for something?

— 4 —

Speaking of Alabama Catholic stuff, the youngish rector of our Cathedral is heading to Rome to work in the Congregation for the Clergy. Under his leadership, amazing things have happened at the Cathedral – the renovation and the magnificent music program being just two. The parish, which is downtown and not in a residential area, is growing, not least by increasing numbers of younger families drawn to straight-up, solid, beautiful Catholic liturgy with no fear of cringy lameness. If you are ever in town, come visit.

Anyway, here’s an article from the local paper about the move:

“The Lord was preparing me to be moved,” Bazzel said. “It’s been a tremendous grace for me to be here at St. Paul’s. The parish is an incredible, growing, giving family. It’s hard to have a downtown parish. People here are really engaged. It’s something I will miss tremendously, having been here the last nine years.”

— 5 —

There were many great stories to come out of the March for Life – we all read about the Mass by the side of the road with the snow altar. Here’s another one – from St. John Cantius in ChicagoSt. John Cantius in Chicago. The group of young people and their chaperones was a wonderful witness to life and discipleship during the three days they were stranded in Pennsylania: 

That evening at Mass, Fr. Nathan Caswell, SJC preached a sermon that hit home. “We all want to go home, but heaven is our real home. And this is something that we can only do together.” Suddenly homesickness became a spiritual longing. That was it. In that moment, everything was offered.

Robert White, a young student from Rockford, reflected on this lesson, “When I was stuck in Pennsylvania, all my thoughts were on home until that last sermon on Sunday. It did something to me; it awakened some other part of me I have never seen before, the realization that we are all in this fight together, the fight for life. If we try to look after ourselves, we will never find life, we will only find death. To find life you have to go out of yourself.”

Kate Brown wrote “It was nice to see how people offered it up when they remembered the whole reason for the trip. If it takes being stranded in Pennsylvania to raise awareness for the pro-life movement, then it will all have been worth it.”

Angelica Kowara wrote, “It was hard being optimistic the whole time, and to be honest, I wasn’t. I doubted God’s plan. I was mad. I wanted to go home. But I realized, heaven is the real home I am trying to reach and being with the Crusaders for so long brought me one step closer.”

— 6

Recent reads:

  • Scandal by Shusaku Endo. (I’m trying to read what I can of Endo before the film Silence is released – I’m guessing this fall maybe. )
  • Pierre et Jean by Guy de Maupassant.  I was just poking around, looking for a short novel that I could knock off in an hour or so, and this was one someone’s list. Somewhere.  I can’t say a whole lot about the plot, for there’s an element on which the whole thing hinges that you really shouldn’t know going in, although you will probably see what’s coming fairly quickly. Although I tire of 19th century earnestness and verbiage and the absence of bite in the prose, the ironic force of the story is still strong: the shallowness of the bourgeoisie and the ill-effect of inherited wealth.

An hour well spent – better than an hour on Facebook!

  • Read about half of The Memoirs of Louis Bouyer this evening, which is far more than I had intended. (It’s not long, so don’t be impressed). His account of his childhood in and around Paris is quite evocative and charming, and although what follows is more head-oriented and a great deal of “I was influenced by X, and then influenced by Y,” it’s still interesting.

— 7 —

Reminder – if you’re teaching First Communion prep…maybe consider this book?

Also, my bookstore is open – I don’t have everything in stock, but I do have lots of the picture books. If you are an administrator or pastor or otherwise generous person and are interested in some sort of bulk deal, let me know at amywelborn60 – at – gmail.

In less than two weeks…Lent.

Time to order your parish/school materials – even if you want to order some for a group of friends or a class…here you go!

A Stations of the Cross for teens:

"amy welborn"

Biblical Way of the Cross for everyone:

For Ave Maria press, we wrote John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross. The current edition is illustrated with paintings by Michael O’Brien.

"amy welborn"

There’s also a digital edition in app form.

Reconciled to God – a daily devotional. Also available in an e-book format. Only .99.

amy-welborn-3

Looking for a book study for a group? How about Matthew 26-28: Jesus’ Life-Giving Death from Loyola. 

"amy welborn"

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

Read Full Post »

(This is a reprint of a post I did last year – but the issue is naturally coming up again since the pre-Lent season, of which this will be the final Sunday  should  begin tomorrow  – and is, if you celebrate Extraordinary Form or Ordinariate! , so here it is..again.

It also points to the potential, always present, of liturgical-directive-by-fiat-and-directive being totally wrong-headed. )

 

"amy welborn"

This is one of those (many, perhaps) aspects of the post-Vatican II liturgical changes that really, really makes you go, “Huh?”

It’s bizarre for many reasons having to do with the normal reasons of upending tradition via committee work, but also because it’s such an unecumenical move, and, on paper at least, Vatican II was, we hear, informed by ecumenical concerns.

Backtrack:

To those of you involved in the Extraordinary Form as well as the Anglican Use, this is not news, but today (February 1) on the older calendar has a special name.  It’s called Septuagisima Sunday. It’s the beginning of a little mini-liturgical season.   From Fr. Kirby:

 In three weeks our heads will be marked with the ashes of penitence. A special time of preparation for Lent emerged in the liturgy of the 6th and 7th centuries. The three Sundays preceding Ash Wednesday were called Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, meaning respectively, the seventieth, sixtieth, and fiftieth days before Pascha. The First Sunday of Lent is, of course, Quadragesima, the beginning of the Lenten fast of forty days.

Here is an excellent, thorough article in Dappled Things:

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

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

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

******

How the Church Keeps Septuagesima

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

MORE

Septuagesima and the following days are observed in Anglicanism and in some Lutheran groups. The Eastern Catholics and Orthodox of course observe pre-Lent, described very well here at the Aquinas and More Bookstore site. 

(Hence my comment above about ecumenism. If the Anglicans could keep it…wouldn’t it have been  ecumenical of us to give it a chance to live as well?)

The point being…Lent calls for preparation.  And while it’s all well and good to look at the calendar, wonder, “Hey, when is Ash Wednesday this year?” And then say, “Yikes…that’s soon!  Okay. Start thinking. What am I going to give up?” …well, what these traditional preparation-for-the-preparatory seasons do is to set the fact of that realization and need to prepare into a deep context that is wise, rooted in the richness of tradition , and helpful.

So, from a 7th grade religion textbook published in 1947, part of the The Christ Life Series in Religion: 

(Click on the images to get readable version)

"amy welborn""amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

What I particularly like is the long paragraph on p. 146.  I’ll type some of it out here:

Thousands and thousands of people upon the stage of lief are adjusting themselves to their roles in this drama — this drama which is real life.  Old men are there and old women, youths and maidens, and even little children.  From all parts of the world they come and from all walks of life — kings and queens, merchants and laborers, teachers and students, bankers and beggars, religious of all orders, cardinals, bishops and parish priests, and leading them all the Vicar of Christ on earth.  All are quietly taking their laces, for all re actors in the sublime mystery drama of our redemption.

We, too, have our own parts to play in this living drama.  And there is no rehearsal.  We begin now, on Septuagesima, following as faithfully as we can the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which comes to us particularly in the Mass and the sacraments.

It would be very clear, wouldn’t it, to the twelve-year old reading this, that he or she is not waiting to be a real, active Christian – the time is now, and the Spirit is active in the lives of all the baptized.  Rather stirring, isn’t it? You’re young, yes, but you’re not an extra in this – you are all in. 

So…..what happened?

As usual, it was determined that all this was too hard for us.

A good summary is offered by Dr. Lauren Pristas here (it’s a pdf file)

In short, the committees appointed to reform everything about the liturgical life of the Church after the Council decided to ditch it.  I’ll quote a bit here, but do check out the rest – it’s not long, although her specifics regarding the Collect prayers (her specialization) may not be of as much interest to you.  The options developed by the committee were:

  1. Either the names of the Sundays or the prayers are preserved, but the penetential aspect abolished
  2. Or the season itself is abolished, but the prayers used at another place in the Church year
  3. Or the season is abolished and the prayers used in the last three Sundays before Lent.

As Pristas points out, the two options that are not there are either making no change at all or abolishing everything, names, prayers, season – which is, of course,  what happened.

Van Doren’s answer to the question about Septuagesima appears first. He added
a solution, (d), according to which Septuagesima would be retained as a period of
austerity. He called Septuagesima ‘the doorway of Lent’ and voted that nothing
be changed. In the event his solution (d) would not prevail, Van Doren preferred
solution (c): that the name and penitential elements be removed but the formularies
retained.

None of the other members voted for Van Doren’s solution (d). Martimort called
for the suppression of Septuagesima. He did not comment on the formularies except
to say that these were the responsibility of other coetus.(committee)
Jounel also voted for suppression of the season, but wanted its

formularies used at another time. Amore
voted for suppression but divided the question of the formularies. He proposed that
the breviary lessons be moved to Advent, and the Mass lessons be retained in place.
Schmidt preferred that everything but the penitential elements remain the same, but
wanted the formularies retained even if the season were suppressed.Dirks voted
that the season with its penitential elements be suppressed but the formularies
retained. Nocent said that Septuagesima should be abolished for pastoral reasons:
so that the faithful may see the progress of the liturgical year clearly and not be
confused by diverse ‘anticipations’. He does not mention the formularies, but
summarises: ‘The names and penitential character ought to be abolished: the Gloria
and Alleluia said, the color green used, etc.’

The Birth of the Liturgy Committee, right there.  Crazy.

****

The records of Coetus 1 tell us that
Septuagesima was suppressed for the sake of the faithful: ‘the penitential character of
the time of Septuagesima or pre-Lent is difficult for the faithful to understand without
many explanations’. Further, Adrian Nocent said suppression of Septuagesima was
necessary if the faithful were to see the progress of the liturgical year clearly and not
be confused by diverse ‘anticipations’. But Callewaert’s historical study shows us
that the period of pre-Lenten penitence arose in the first place as an expression of the
devotion of the faithful.
This is key. Lent is a time of obligatory fasting and penance. Septuagesima, on the
other hand, is a short season through which the devotion of the faithful impels them
to prepare mentally, physically and spiritually for Lent. The Church has, since the
sixth century, encouraged and assisted the faithful in this preparation by appointing
special Masses and Offices for this season and using numeric nomenclature that
marks off the time remaining until both Lent (in Latin, Quadragesima or forty) and
the Pasch.

Look. Church Things come about for all kinds of reasons and out of all kinds of circumstances: good intentions, misguided intentions, evil, persecution and even accidents. The mystery of this dynamic intersection of divine and human ways is one of my abiding interests. In addition, liturgy develops, and while “organic development” is practically impossible to define, it’s also obvious that a handful of scholars from a particular place and time sorting through options for transforming a thousand year-old set of traditions in a way that will profoundly impact hundreds of millions of Catholics, present and future…ain’t it.

And perhaps… this example might also remind us – in case we’d forgotten – that there’s no need to view decision-making within Church institutions with piously folded hands that move only to place a finger to the lips while whispering Hush! Holy Spirit at work! All is well!

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— 1 —

Today is always such a sad day, even more so as the years go on – I read things I wrote over twenty years ago on life issues and, well, I could have written them today.

 

— 2 —

A couple of examples from the archives – forgive the simple formatting – they are from my original website, and very basic in appearance.

Teach your children well

We can send a man to the moon….

– 3—

As it happens, I penned today’s Living Faith entry. It’s here. 

At the end of Mass, the celebrant felt moved to add a word of thanks. The choir, normally very good anyway, had risen to particularly stunning heights. So he thanked the musicians for their nottheenemydedication. “And,” he added cheerfully, “thanks to our baby choir too!”

That morning, as usual, the baby and toddler voices had echoed through the cathedral as well. I don’t think anyone minded, and if they did, the celebrant’s words of gratitude undoubtedly gave them food for thought.

More

— 4 —

Well, I suppose I will throw in my Thursday Homeschool Daily Report here, since it’s late and it’s short.

The informal homeschool classes that are held at the Cathedral started up again today – drama and history of science – so that was the morning’s activity (for him…me? To a coffeeshop with pad and paper…the only one there not on a laptop…). Then lunch, then just a couple more things – math review sheets and some Writing and Rhetoric – chapter 2, doing more on narratives and copiousness – replacing dull, ordinary adjectives and nouns with exciting, vibrant and enticing words. By that point it was time to do a bit of practice then head out to piano lesson.

Finis. 

— 5 —

Random Lent Prep link: Some Lenten sermons of St. Francis de Sales. 

Maybe if you read them, you can have your best. Lent. ever! 

— 6

Oh, this was good – from Brave Writer. Countering the argument (such as it is) that the best way to make writers out of kids is to put pencils in their hands at the age of 4 and push technical grammar awareness in first grade, with five-paragraph essays mastered by 3rd.

Imagine if you tried to teach your young speaker to talk by correcting every sentence/phrase, by parsing the grammar and commenting on the organization? What if you determined the topics for speaking and deemed certain topics “off limits”? What if speaking were limited to one portion of the day?

Am I taking this analogy too far?

I don’t think so. Speaking is seen as a necessity because it is modeled around us all the time by everyone. We assume that all kids will learn to speak and that every topic is relevant because speaking is about communicating…

Hmmmm. Are you starting to see what we’ve done to writing?

 

— 7 —

Reminder – if you’re teaching First Communion prep…maybe consider this book?

Also, my bookstore is open – I don’t have everything in stock, but I do have lots of the picture books. If you are an administrator or pastor or otherwise generous person and are interested in some sort of bulk deal, let me know at amywelborn60 – at – gmail.

Hey…Lent begins in less than a month….

Time to order your parish/school materials – even if you want to order some for a group of friends or a class…here you go!

A Stations of the Cross for teens:

"amy welborn"

Biblical Way of the Cross for everyone:

For Ave Maria press, we wrote John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross. The current edition is illustrated with paintings by Michael O’Brien.

"amy welborn"

There’s also a digital edition in app form.

Reconciled to God – a daily devotional. Also available in an e-book format. Only .99.

amy-welborn-3

Looking for a book study for a group? How about Matthew 26-28: Jesus’ Life-Giving Death from Loyola. 

"amy welborn"

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

Read Full Post »

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