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Archive for the ‘rosary’ Category

In a fractured, secular culture, in a society that elevates the individual and then leaves her to her own devices and bootstraps, it’s not surprising that those seeking to emphasize stability and a sure grounding for values and culture – not to speak of faith – would emphasize the family as the center of society, life, culture and civilization.

It does. It makes sense. There’s  a lot of truth there.

But.

Consider this.

Family  – especially the modern nuclear family of parents and children – is not actually the highest value in traditional Christian spirituality.

In fact, when you plunge into the Christian narrative, as articulated in Scripture, post-apostolic history, the primary veins of Christian spirituality, the development of Christian institutions and the lives of the saints, it’s not family that is the focus – even on a secondary level – but God’s redemptive work in his creation as apprehended by the individual soul.

In other words – it’s about each of us, as part of the Body, redeemed and journeying to eternal life.

Family is the natural, divinely ordered (which are the same thing) source and structure for our lives. It’s where we come from, its shape is designed for our flourishing in God’s image, participation in family is an aspect of vocation for all of us in some way, and family – as children, parents, aunts, uncles, grandchildren, siblings – is the first and primary arena in which we are called to live out the Gospel, and to serve and love sacrificially.

But when you really do take an honest, clear-eyed look at the Christian spiritual tradition, you find that family is just not at its core. It might be because for most of history, “family” is simply assumed, or perhaps because so much of Christian spiritual writing has been produced by celibates. Perhaps.

But did you catch that Gospel today?

At that time Peter began to tell Jesus, ‘What about us? We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.

  ‘Many who are first will be last, and the last first.’

As I do for many of these types of ills, I blame Protestants. Ditching vowed religious life, brushing aside a lifestyle expressive of a radical approach to the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity and obedience) acted as a wrecking ball, not only to women’s lives and spirituality, but to that balanced vision, evolved over the centuries, of an individual soul, created individually by God, destined for God, and making that journey in the context of creation, civilization and family.

In other words: If your family life is terrible, if your family is abusive or worse, if you don’t have much a family, if your parents are dead, you have no siblings, if you have no spouse or children, if you regret that or if you don’t and if you don’t fit that 21st century Western nuclear family mold – Jesus calls. You. 

Don’t make an idol out of family. 

So now, let’s talk about Marie de L’Incarnation

Marie de l’Incarnation was one of the notable early French settlers in Quebec, the founder of a school that still exists today, and a canonized saint.

She also left a child behind when she entered religious life:

You do, in fact have some reason to complain because I left you. I, too, would willingly complain if I could about he who came to bring a sword to earth, making such strange divisions. It is true that even though you were the only thing left in the world to which my heart was attached, he nevertheless wanted to separate us when you were still at the breast. I struggled to keep you for nearly twelve years, but I still had to share almost half of those years. Finally I had to yield to the force of divine love and suffer this blow of division which was more painful than I can tell you, but which didn’t prevent me from considering myself an infinity of times the cruelest of all mothers. I ask you to forgive me, my very dear son, for I am the cause of your having suffered much affliction. But let us console ourselves that life is short and that, by the mercy of he who thus separated us in this world, we will have an entire eternity to see each other and to celebrate each other in him. (Summer 1647)

Marie wrote thousands – thousands – of letters, which provide invaluable insight into life in New France. She ends one of her letters to her son by saying that she had to wrap it up because she had forty more letters to write before the ship back to Europe sailed.

The letters in this collection are just a sampling of those she wrote to her son, Claude Martin. Claude ended up joining religious life himself, and so the letters reflect Marie’s understanding of their shared vocation and God’s will at work through her counter-cultural choices.

You have therefore won much in losing me, and my abandonment has been useful to you. And similarly with me, having left in you what was dearest and most precious to me in all the world and in a word, having voluntarily lost you I found myself together with you in the bosom of this totally lovable God, by means of the holy vocation you and I have followed, and for which, according to the promises our Lord, we are rewarded on hundred-fold in this life – not to mention the eternal reward for which we hope in heaven. (1654)

Ah! My very dear son, who would ever have imagined — or even believed — that, you and I remaining alone after the death of your father, the Divine Majesty would have favored you from that point on, granting you the great and inestimable happiness of the religious profession? And even that he brought you into being for such honorable charges and such dazzling occupations? It is assuredly because I abandoned you out of love for him, and because I asked of him neither gold nor riches for you or for me but only the poverty of his son for us both…(1665)

Self-justification? Who knows. It’s a theme Marie returns to again and again over the decades. The fact that even late in life, she takes a great deal of time and space to work through the whole history again shows, I think, if not a conflict or regret (although that might be there), at the very least the centrality of this element of her life, expressive of the mystery of God’s ways. Although the course of her and her son’s life was the consequence of a choice, it is still an expression of the mysterious ways in which we respond to the lives we’ve been given, lives in which chance, accidents and tragedy all shape our perceptions of God’s call to us.  Things happen to us and we make choices. We accept them and we may even positively embrace and celebrate them, but that doesn’t stop us from returning to them in our minds and souls, pondering them, turning things over and contemplating how strange it all is.

So Marie left her son. As I noted elsewhere, even though in this era, children were often placed in the care of people other than parents (think wet-nurses, even), extended families were the norm, and children of certain classes were certainly far less intensely and directly parented than our contemporary ideals would have it, her decision to enter the Ursulines when Claude was eleven did not go uncriticized in her circle, and she knew and admitted it. But over and over, she justified the decision, and told Claude that she was confident he was grateful, because without the abandonment, he wouldn’t have entered religious life himself.

And of course, Christian history is full of similar stories – of husbands and wives separating, of other parents entering religious life, of parents leaving their children in monasteries and convents. Christian history is also full of examples of people using spirituality and religion  to  rationalize abandonment of family responsibilities or manipulation of other family members. It’s full of examples of abuse and exploitation justified by God’s will for you and for our family.

All the more reason to emphasize to our children that they’re here to serve the Lord who created and calls them, not us.

Did Marie make this clear in a particularly vivid way to her son? In a way that brought him pain? She’d probably say yes, but it was also the way she was absolutely certain was God’s will.

Not probably a path most of us would follow, and it might even horrify us, even if we know that mother and son lived out this way with a sense of peace. But even if we can’t see it as a path to emulate, it still might be worth thinking over in discerning that tension-filled tapestry woven out of our relationships to God and each other.

For here’s the thing: a tight-knit family can nourish and promote flourishing. A tight-knit, even mostly healthy family can be experienced as restrictive and confining. A ridiculous family can generate broken and tragic stories, but ridiculous family situations can also produce adults who have emerged mental and spiritual health intact and perhaps even carrying an expanded sense of empathy for the broken and messy.

Family is a component of the spiritual life. It plays a part in who we are, and we are called – and obliged – to serve family members out of love and duty. Simple Christian charity and agape love calls for us to love whoever is in front of us at that moment, in the best way we can, empowered by grace. That is all true. But as important as that is, natural family ties are always subordinate to the individual’s relationship with God.

That’s the Gospel. 

The trick is – and I think this is true, not just with this, but with so many other areas of life – to be deeply, always aware of and honest about that rationalization temptation. We rationalize oppressive, controlling, domineering behavior in families because we claim it’s God’s will for everyone to come along the ride we’ve discerned is right and true. Translation: Narcissism.  On the other hand, we turn around and rationalize withdrawal and neglect as a spiritual necessity. Translation: Narcissism. 

The fact is, most of the time what I’m being called to do is not so complicated. Most of the time it’s about sacrificing something I think I want to do because someone needs me, and that’s far more important than my desires. Marie’s case is complicated because of how she perceives and defines and understands all of these: need, desire, call….

It’s fascinating, really. Agree or disagree, Marie de l’Incarnation’s journey is thought-provoking, isn’t it? And talk about counter-cultural. Maybe next time you need some privacy, stick this quote on your bedroom door:

….the proximity of one’s relatives often causes difficulties and sometimes turns one away from God…

(1664)

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The taxi had dropped us a couple of blocks away from the Campo dei Miracoli.  He had brought us from the airport through the streets of Pisa, across the Arno river, then on more narrow roads until it made no sense to go any further. He had talked non-stop since picking us up, offering suggestions on how to spend our time and telling me, in answer to my query on his excellent English, that twenty years ago he had thought he would leave Italy for the United States, but, his voice trailed off to say, it hadn’t worked out. It was too bad, he said, for over there, you get paid more money and things cost less. Here we get paid less, and it costs so much more to live.

It was not hard to find the Field of Miracles after that, for all we had to do was follow the crowd, and once we arrived, that is what hit us. That: so many…people. And two other things: it’s going to rain and we don’t have an umbrella and it really does lean.

And it does. The Leaning Tower of Pisa really does lean, and it is much more dramatic in person than in photographs, since the straight right angles of the rest of the world are so much more present in contrast.

Even in the rain, even before the height of tourist season, so many people. Look at all of them.  Why are they here? To see an iconic image – and it is fun to be there with everyone else, most of us experiencing it for the first and probably only time in your life – that sense of community you experience in tourism. We are here, you are here, seeing this thing, and together we will remember it too and you – speaking English, Italian, German, French, Japanese, Madarin, Hindi..you’ll be a part of the remembering. I won’t just remember a white tower of marble. I’ll remember drizzle and security guards and the child scampering ahead of me and the older couple puffing behind me as we trudge up, leaning.

So yes, there we were. As we finished with the tower and moved to the church and then the baptistery, I was struck by what these crowds were about on this spot. They were walking around and in, studying, photographing and contemplating just those things: a church. A baptistery. And a tower with bells that for centuries had called not tourists, but worshippers and seekers, not just to see and gawk, but to be. To be with.

I thought of the other sights we had seen over the past three weeks – this was our last night in Italy.  All of the crowds we had joined, all the tickets we had purchased and photographs we had taken? Most of them had been of places where people had been baptized, where they had come to seek what is real, to connect with it, to have hope. All of these places had been heavy with images, and not just any images, and really the same images from place to place: Jesus hanging on a cross. Disciples following, listening. Saints gazing out, looking up, reaching. All of these had been places where even now, people touched by the hands of others who had been, back in the mists of history, touched by the apostles in the stained glass windows still talked about that Jesus. Even now, in most of those places, seekers still came to meet that Jesus hanging on a cross, to find life in his life, offered to them to eat and drink.

People don’t come to church anymore.

But they do, don’t they?

I travel a lot, and everywhere I travel, I end up in churches, for there are churches everywhere. The United States is not as heavy with historical and artistically-significant churches as Europe is, of course, but still, in every major city, you’ll find a downtown Catholic church or two of historical import.

And most of the time, you will find scores of people streaming in and out of that church during the day, perhaps even hundreds.

People don’t come to church anymore.

A few weeks ago, we were in New Orleans, and the scene I witnessed there is similar to what I’ve witnessed in other American Catholic Churches of this type.

It’s St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square, as iconic as they come. We popped in mid-day on a Saturday, and of course we were not alone. Dozens were in and out during the short time we were in there. A small group was being led on a tour by a Cathedral docent. It was a busy place.

People don’t come to church anymore.

What struck me, as it does in most similar situations, was the absence of printed materials that would help people understand the building. (Not to speak of actual human beings there to welcome and answer questions) There was a trifold pamphlet available for a dollar that had the most basic information about the building, but no detailed guides to the interior, to explanations of symbolism or structures.

It’s astonishing to me.

St. Louis Cathedral New Orleans

I think every church should have the materials I’m about to suggest – every one – but particularly churches that experience a lot of tourism. There’s no excuse not to have these. None. Not if you are serious about evangelization, that is. Not if you really and actually believe the stuff.

  1. A detailed guide of the historic and artistic aspects of the building.
  2. A guide identifying the important aspects of the structure and interior and explaining their meaning. As in: statues, crucifix, tabernacle, altar, confessionals, baptismal and holy water fonts, candles, altar rail, episcopal chair, choir stalls…whatever you’ve got. Explain it.
  3. A basket of rosaries. Holy cards, at the very least, and possibly medals related to the church’s patron saint.
  4. Copies of the New Testament, or at least the Gospels.
  5. Lots of bulletins or other parish information, presented with a welcoming “y’all come back!” and “let us know if you need anything” sensibility.

And yes, all of this should be free.  And there should be  a person sitting at a table with a smile on his or her face, answering questions. All day.

Listen. When have a parish of a thousand families, are thrilled when thirty adults show up at your religious education program and totally ignore the hundreds that come through to visit your historical church on a daily basis…you’ve got some blinders on and you might want to think about removing them.

Of course, the first immediate object relates to cost. Catholics hate giving anything away. We even charge parents to teach their children about Jesus. Go figure. But, as a long-time observer of this Catholic scene, I can safely say…it can be done. This is how you do it:

You make it a priority, you tell everyone that this your priority, and you invite them to join in the mission.

You say, “We have this amazing evangelizing opportunity. We have thousands of people come through our church every year to tour it. We are going to make presenting them with the truth and beauty of faith in Christ a priority. We need ten thousand dollars a year for free materials. These are the materials. Who’s in?”

I’m certain that when people are presented with a very specific pledge on how their funds are going to be used, and it is a valuable step in evangelization like this, they will step up.

And sure, if you want to produce something glossier with photos, do – and charge for that. But materials that invite people into a deeper consideration of the meaning of the objects and structures around them, a deeper consideration that might lead them to salvation?

Yeah, those should be free.

My point: I’ve been in historic Catholic churches all over the United States and rarely, if ever, seen materials like this available for tourists. And I’ve looked. Believe me, I’ve looked.

(Here’s last year’s rant on a similar score, inspired by a visit to Savannah, where hundreds come daily to the Cathedral during the Christmas season to see the Nativity scene.)

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No one comes to church anymore.

Of  course, I think these kinds of materials should be in the vestibule of every Catholic church, even if it was built in 1973 and looks like the banquet room at the Holiday Inn. You still get seekers, every Sunday, and maybe even every day.  There are many ways to meet those people and begin to draw them to Christ. Personal encounters are important. But so is the simple act of just having information freely available and invitingly presented.

In fact, I believe I have written before about a related idea: someone (publishing company, diocese, what have you) coming up with a basic template for, say, “A guide to our church” – that would have the theological and spiritual meanings already written up, perhaps with basic schematic sketches of say, a statue or altar or tabernacle – that would be customizable by an individual church.

Or, you know, you could just make one.

What is a “welcoming church?” Is it one in which elderly ushers accost latecomers and force them into the pew of their own choosing? Is it one in which we are ordered to awkwardly greet our neighbors or raise our hands and share where we’re from?

Or is a “welcoming church” one which:

  1. Has open doors as much as is practically possible.
  2. Has a congregation formed in the ways of simple Christian hospitality: don’t glare at children. Scoot your tail over and make room for other people in the pew. When Mass is over, make eye contact with strangers, smile, and say, “Good morning.” If you note possible confusion or hesitation, offer help in a friendly way. Don’t glare at children.
  3. Has free materials available: What to do at Mass. This is what the Stuff in Our Church Means. Here’s who Jesus is. Here are some good prayers.
  4. Has bulletins/cards/flyers and people sending the message: Here’s who we are. Come and talk. Let us know if we can help you. Here’s how you can join us in helping others. Maybe even a newcomer’s/seeker’s coffee once a month.

In essence:

Once a week, someone different on staff or in the volunteer corps should walk into your church with the eyes of a seeking, curious, nervous stranger.  What questions would that person have? Is there any attempt to answer those questions? What vibe would they be picking up? Would they have easy, non-threatening, non-awkward access to information that will make it easy for them to return and dig deeper?

In my limited experience, European churches can sometimes be a bit – just a bit  – better about providing informative materials, and of course many have porters who function more as guards and may not be the friendliest human beings on the planet, but at least they are there to answer questions.

So, for example, this, the first couple of pages from the free guide from Florence, which at least sets the tone. You can click on the images to get a clearer, readable, view.

EPSON MFP image

EPSON MFP image

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EPSON MFP image

 

Do you have evidence that I’m wrong? I hope so! Share it! I would love to see what your church provides, especially if it’s a tourist destination.

This was one of my favorites – I found it lovely and charming. It was at a small church in northern Arizona. St. Christopher’s in Kanab – very welcoming, aware that it’s a tourist stop – not because of its history, but because it’s on the way to and from the Grand Canyon and other place:

So simple to do. But it communicates: We believe.  It’s important. And we want to share it with you.

People do come to church. They come out of curiosity. They come to seek. They come to experience beautiful music and art. They come to find Pokemon. They walk by on ghost tours. They come because they’re hungry and homeless. They come to find shelter from  the sun, the cold or the rain.

They’re about to come in great numbers because it’s Christmas. Are you ready? Are you excited that they’re coming? Are you thrilled to know that there are people who are going to meet Jesus in a deeper way because they come to Mass at Christmas at your parish? Or are you irritated, resentful, dismissive, and already ready for it to be over and things to get back to normal?

So yes, they come.

The question is…do we really even care? 

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My late husband was the most spiritually serious and sensible person I ever knew, and he was also a huge sports fan. NASCAR most of all, and then all the other sports, especially those that involved Florida teams, and especially football. I ranged between indifference and SJW snark. It’s a waste of money and resources, it’s exploitative, it’s a distraction, it’s concussions. But I had to rein all that in, I had to reconsider, I had to pause because, indeed, he was so serious about the God Stuff but still loved his football, it made you think. It’s not that you give in completely, no. It’s that you just see another point of view, it’s just that if you are going to live and love you must stay true to yourself and say yes and no to what you think is right, but you also – oh, you must live in empathy, too, and maybe you don’t have all the answers, and maybe you don’t see the whole picture, just you alone.

So, yes, sports.

And it seemed as if  he was passing it on. I have this particular memory of an Indiana winter. Our older son was probably about five years old, and it was a Sunday afternoon.  The two of them were seated on the couch, and the NFL hustled and grunted on the television screen. I was going out shopping. I waved good-bye. I left them, son on dad’s img_1283lap, son talking a mile a minute about what was on the screen, asking questions, keeping up a running commentary on I don’t know what.  I returned two or three hours later. The two of them were in the exact same position. My son was still talking.  I raised my eyebrows in wonder. My husband shook his head and made that talking gesture with his hand. You know the one, like a clacking duck’s beak. He shrugged. This was the way it was, and there was a lot to talk about, even if you were five. It was football. It was good. It would always be this way, and it was a comfortable, lovely warm thing.

A couple of years later, we moved to Alabama. The older one was seven, the younger was three. It seemed pretty clear how things were going to shake out. The older one couldn’t stand the noise of engines, but the younger one thrived on it, but was, in turn, uninterested in team sports. So my husband would have his sports buddies, it seemed. The younger one for the races, and the older one for football and basketball. It would just go on and on.

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And then he died.

You know that story.

A few weeks after he died, we used the tickets to a UAB basketball game that he’d bought for the three of them. It was not a given that we would go, and I asked the oldest if he wanted to and he answered yes, of course. I think UAB was playing a Florida team, or maybe an Indiana one. So on a Saturday afternoon, we trooped over to the arena, and sat there, and all I could remember was years of sitting next to him at sporting events and I’m sure it was all they could remember too. I felt it. In a crowd of thousands, all I felt was stark, terrible absence, and I’m sure it is what the boys felt as small as they were – even perhaps especially because of it –  and so at halftime, I looked at them.

“Do you want to stay?”

The older one shook his head.

“It’s not the same without Daddy, is it?”

He bit his lip and his eyes glistened. So did mine.

A few months later, it was late summer, and life had gone on. We had been on this massive trip to Siciliy and Spain which had recalibrated life in a radical way and third grade was coming, and so was something else. Football.

Anxious to keep going, but still make connections, and build on the past and look into the future and whatever else you do, at some point in the beginning of August, six month after, I put on my most cheerful face, my Forge on With Faith Face, and thinking that the Worst Was Surely Over,  I pointed out this most interesting, exciting fact about what had always been such an important part of life in our house:

“Wow! Football season is starting soon! Don’t the Gators play next week?”

That eight-year old didn’t look up from whatever he was doing. He didn’t cry, he didn’t shout and he didn’t pause to consider. He simply uttered what his heart was beating:

I never want to watch football again.”

 


 

And so we didn’t that year. Any of it. College or pro. It was not on our television, and it was as if it had never happened and would never again.

A year passed. I bought a house here in town, because really, where else was there to go? A cunning frame bungalow that was all about starting over. We had been to counseling, sister was starting her senior year, little brother would be in kindergarten. One older brother, David, was back from Rome living with us and going to grad school, the other, Chris – the much older one – was still in Atlanta, working in sports media. Everyone was doing what they could, everyone was conscious of absence, everyone trying to figure out what that meant, how to live, what to take forward and what to just leave behind and how to help.

The summer melted us, then started to wane, and once again the talk out there was of rankings and quarterbacks and such and this time I didn’t know what to say. Nothing, I thought. I’ll say nothing.

Then one day, the nine-year old looked up from something. Maybe he was watching television, maybe we were driving home from school. I don’t know. I just remember what he said, out of the blue, after more than a year.

“Do you think,” he ventured, “Chris could take me to a Falcons game this season?”

YES.

Sooner than you know, I was on the phone. YES was the answer, for he got it, he understood. Of course.

It is seven years later now. I am still not a fan and could still give speeches if you asked, but I won’t. Because on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, there he sits. He makes sure he is here for Florida and Indiana, he likes the Vikings and Chargers, and once I even worked it so he could meet Philip Rivers, and that, I tell you, was a great day.

Not because football is anything transcendent or even inherently good, but just because it is a game that men play and men watch and maybe, I think, as the fifteen-year old sits there, almost as tall as his father was now, still chatting up a storm, a running commentary full of facts that I listen to the best I can, yes, it is fine and even good, warm and lovely. And maybe in this very good present,  maybe in these weekends filled with  color, noise, conflict and life, maybe, just maybe watching football on the couch…maybe that boy remembers.

 

 

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A blog comment indicated that I was leaving the impression that my lack of follow-up on a promised homeschool takeaway post was perhaps because I was in agony about it.

Yikes, no.

The delay is due more to the fact that it’s hard for me to write about the topic succinctly. I tend to plunge in and just go on and on. I’m going to give myself 30 minutes from start to finish on this one, starting….now. 

But inspired by that nudge, I’ll start. I’ll begin with the personal takeaway, and follow up at another time with my Big Thoughts on Philosophical Issues. I was initially going to write about this in terms of “what I learned,” but as I thought about it, I realized that wasn’t quite and accurate characterization of my takeaway. It wasn’t about learning, it was more about things I knew, but perhaps didn’t know I knew…or didn’t know that I believed so deeply.

When in doubt, bullet points:

  • I didn’t realize how much I had internalized the system. I thought I was all flexible and open, but I wasn’t. Homeschooling freed me in a deep way from assuming that once a certain path is begun, that’s the only way. That is – you start high school at this certain school..does that mean you have to finish there? Does that mean you are locked into the 4-year School Family Treadmill? No.
  • I learned that I’m not an unschooler. Sad. Just couldn’t let go of some things.
  • I learned that the reason we divide fractions is by multiplying the dividend by the reciprocal of the divisor is because that’s what division is . (8 divided by 5 is the same as 8 multiplied by 1/5.  8/5.)
  • Now, I say that, not just as a fun fact, but as a representation of a larger point: I learned a lot through homeschooling. 
  • With the math, as I have said before, I’m not mathy but nor am I terrible at math, img_20160819_110905.jpgand I’ve used it enough to still remember most of everything through Algebra. But using the Art of Problem Solving curricula with my kids taught me a great deal, introduced me to the architecture of mathematics in a way that I had never experienced and was sorry I hadn’t – understanding math the AOPS way would have helped everything make so much more sense to me in high school. So with the fractions and division thing – it was always presented as just a rule, with no reason. Sort of a random weird thing you do when dividing fractions. But it’s not random! There’s a reason! And that reason helps a lot of other things – division itself, fractions, decimals – fall together in a reasonable pattern.
  • But oh, so much more. Stuff I once knew, but had forgotten, and so much I didn’t know – about science, history, art…
  • One of the most wonderful things about homeschooling to me was that I think my kids understood that we were indeed learning together. Yes, I can go on and on about certain subjects, and sometimes they both irritate and amaze me with their questions to me and I say, “Well, I guess I should be flattered that you think I am some sort of encyclopedic genius,” but for the most part our homeschool environment was one of mutual learning and exploration, with me providing resources, guiding and explaining when needed, but me also saying regularly, “Wow, I didn’t know that!”
  • I think it became clear to them that the proper way to look at a teacher is as both an authority and expert of sorts, but also as a co-learner. Not all teachers present themselves that way, of course, but be honest. It’s what we are. I am endlessly curious about almost everything – which is not always a good thing, as it can lead to never being able to just calm down and stop researching – and I hope that they picked up that curiosity and open-mindedness, along with some degree of authoritative understanding – makes for a good learning experience.
  • We were also exposed, on a daily basis, to the fluidity of knowledge. Over and over again we encountered points of information that would be presented in a traditional school textbook as just FACT but are in FACT being called into question by current research and new information.
  • I came to appreciate the sciences and engineering and related fields so very much. I think this is a huge takeaway for me. It is not that I didn’t admire those fields – it’s that I come from a total humanities background – English/history/religion/political science/philosophy. Hardly anyone in my family (which is small, so I don’t have a large study cohort to go on) went into any other field but those. Through the reading that we did, the videos that we watched, the programs that we attended, I came to really appreciate the sciences and related fields as truly creative, exciting areas which contribute so much to human flourishing, even at the most technical levels, and this became a point I communicated to the boys over and over.
  • It may not make sense to some, but my goal as a home educator eventually evolved to: Help them become humble, skillful, wise skeptics. 
  • Humble: so we know how little we know and are never closed.
  • Skillful: so we can do what we need to do (write, compute, make)  well
  • Wise: so our minds are in communion with the Word
  • Skeptics: so we know that all human things, including knowledge, are contingent and temporary
  • I learned a lot about my kids. I am not keen on writing a lot about them in a public space, but I will say that my sense of my older son’s aptitude for planning, logic and making connections was confirmed and deepened by our two years of homeschooling and my appreciation of my younger son’s enthusiastic embrace of All Things Nature was as well.
  • Homeschooling them is going to be of great help to me in advocating for them and guiding them as we not homeschool.
  • On a very practical level, homeschooling revealed to me how many resources there are out there – explicitly educational resources, as well as others – both in real life in the community and online.  I wouldn’t have known about them if I hadn’t been up until 1 am following rabbit trails. There is no excuse for having a boring classroom these days. None.
  • I’m about to run out of time. So I suppose my final takeaway will bleed into the next episode about broader issues.  It was confirmed for me, although I had felt it and it was indeed a reason I decided to homeschool in the first place, how much of a time and energy suck school is. We did “school” in at most three hours a day – not counting days when they did classes or activities outside the home – and although we were busy, home was a pretty relaxed place.  Now they are gone 8 hours a day and re-entry into the home is marked by a flurry of papers, the dream2mental effort for everyone to sort out what needs to be done and when and fatigue and the general, already
    aggravated wistful look forward to May.
  • Don’t get me wrong. There are good teachers teaching interesting things in ways that they could not experience at home and systems that are having to build up ways to help everyone accomplish and learn and I get it. I get the challenges. I’ve been there. It’s just taking some effort to not allow the system and its many often picayune requirements pollute that culture of open-minded, relaxed learning that we enjoyed for four years, and in some small way, to keep it alive here in the amount of time The School Family permits.
  • Trade-off. Just keep saying it. Trade-offs. 

(Other homeschooling posts here, here, here and here. At some point I’ll do a category for these.)

 

 

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— 1 —

Here’s a great story for you, from downtown Birmingham, Alabama:

Café Dupont, a downtown Birmingham restaurant known for fine dining, is normally closed on Mondays.

But owner Chef Chris Dupont opened up last night for a free private dinner for the staff, residents and program participants of Brother Bryan Mission.

Although Café Dupont was recently included in AL.com’s list of “Alabama’s Most Expensive Restaurants,” the tab for Brother Bryan Mission was zero….

 

Brother Bryan Mission through most of its history has been a shelter for homeless men, but now focuses on addiction rehabilitation programs.

Dupont first invited Brother Bryan Mission to dine at his restaurant last year. Since then, he’s hired two residents who have been through the mission’s rehabilitation program as dishwashers, Etheredge said. The mission has a 9-month drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, and a back-to-work follow-up program. Residents can continue to live at the mission for two years during the work program.

Etheredge said that more than just a great meal from a prestigious restaurant, the men got a full serving of dignity from Dupont.

“He was gracious,” Etheredge said. “He seems to enjoy doing it and our guys enjoyed it. It’s a fantastic treat for us. For him to treat our men with the dignity that he treated them with, that made it special.”

— 2 —

This weekend’s New York Times Magazine has a short piece on the Hawthorne Dominicans, founded by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s daughter Rose. The order serves cancer patients. 

As the nuns cared for their guests, Laub followed them with her camera — it’s her way. Then, even after her mother-­in-­law died in late September, she found herself returning to Rosary again and again, still wanting to capture something of the kindness that her family had found there. She asked the nuns to sit for portraits, in which she stripped away the background to show their eyes and faces in clear focus. “I wanted them to be quiet,” she said, “so their power could come through.”

The nuns in particular had moved her. She was struck by their tenderness with the dying, how they painted women’s fingernails and combed their hair, changed them into fresh nightgowns and arranged flowers in their rooms. “This is how dying should be,” Laub says. “It doesn’t feel like a place of death. It feels like a place of living.

– 3—

I wrote about Rose Hawthorne in the the Loyola Kids Book of Heroes. A couple of snippets of pages:

 

 — 4 —

Also in the Heroes book? Pentecost!

"amy welborn"

— 5 

It’s easy and justifiable to despair about the current relationship of the Church and the arts, but here’s a glimmer of hope: a brand new piece, commissioned by a church, utilizing the gifts of talented artists: A Rose in Winter : An Oratorio on the Life of St. Rita. My friend Matthew Lickona has written the libretto for composer Frank LaRocca. Some tidbits:

A Rose in Winter unfolds in two parallel stories: that of Saint Rita of Cascia, set in 15th century Italy, and a second one set in the present day, focusing on two pilgrims, Fideo and Tomas, whose chance meeting in Cascia during Holy Week prompts a series of tense dialogues about the scope and limits of religious belief…

…The stories of A Rose in Winter unfold in a variety of ways: choral narration, solo ariosos, and – in some of the most gripping moments – dialogues. At the heart of Saint Rita’s spiritual journey is an encounter with Jesus Christ in a vision that comes to her on Good Friday. It is in the aftermath of her dialogue with him that she receives her partial stigmata – a wound from the Crown of Thorns that she carries on her brow for the last 15 years of her life.

A more detailed, complete synopsis is here. 

An interview with LaRocca is here.  The piece premieres next weekend in Dallas.

To create sacred music for the liturgy, the composer has to internalize a discipline and restraint that is quite foreign to the present-day understanding of the “artistic temperament.” Complete subjective freedom, the breaking of restraints, unrestricted projection of personality and ‘originality’ are values inculcated into aspiring artists during their training and have been since the 19th century, reaching a new level of radicalism in the Crown-of-Thorns-768x768early 20th century.

This kind of approach is antithetical to authentic liturgical music, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has pointed out in many different reflections on sacred music.  Pope Pius X, in his motu proprio, Tra le sollecitudini, laid out with great clarity a very different set of criteria: “Sacred music, being an integral part of the liturgy, is directed to the general object of the liturgy, namely, the glory of God and the sanctification and edification of the faithful.” It must have the qualities of holiness, beauty and universality. The music must not be an end in itself as it may be—quite legitimately—in the concert hall.  Music in the liturgy takes on the role of a sacramental; it must prepare the faithful to receive grace and dispose them to cooperate with it.  To do this, it must be fused to the Logos, the Word, in an intimate and filial relationship, not drawing undue attention to itself and thereby distracting from the primacy of the Word.

As Benedict XVI has taught, sacred music must be Incarnational, that is, in the same way that the Incarnated Son on the Cross draws up all Creation to the Father, sacred music in the liturgy must self-sacrificially draw the faithful more deeply into the Word, the Logos.   

— 6-

Speaking of the arts…if you or anyone you know is into the adult coloring-book craze – or have skilled kid-colorers – remember that there are some high quality Catholic-themed resources out there.

Daniel Mitsui’s coloring pages (Mitsui did the image for the St. Rita oratoria above)

And now Matthew Alderman has published a book of coloring pages derived from his artwork – available here. 

— 7 —

See you next week, when I will be in full Trip Buyers-Regret-Mode…..

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

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REPOST. SORRY NOT SORRY.

We are in the final weeks before Easter, which means that we are in the final weeks of candidate and catechumen preparing for full initiation at the the Easter Vigil.

(Of course, RCIA is really, properly only for the unbaptized and already baptized Christians can and should be catechized and brought into the Church year-round if it’s appropriate for that person. But, nonetheless…)

The Scrutinies are the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent and so perhaps this is a good time to share some good instructional material with friends or family members who are revving up for meeting Christ in the Eucharist for the first time in a few weeks.

The How To Book of the Mass has recently undergone a makeover – I had no role in it and was as surprised as anyone. Mike fought hard for the original cover – he didn’t want the normal Catholic-looking cover and wanted something that would really stand out on a bookstore shelf, so for years the left-hand image had been the cover.

The new cover looks much like any other intro-to-the-Mass book, but rest assured the content is the same. I’m glad it’s still in print, still selling welling, and helping people. And the content does reflect the most recent translation. Here is an excerpt. 

I have a few copies with the original  cover – you can order here. Or get through your local Catholic bookstore or online. 

"amy welborn"

In addition, I’d recommend my Words We Pray  – which is a collection of essays I wrote on traditional Catholic prayers from the Sign of the Cross to the Lord’s Prayer to the Memorare to the Liturgy of the Hours to Amen.  Each essay ties in some historical material with spiritual reflection, the goal being to help the pray-er link the prayers of his or her own heart with the prayer of the Church.  St. Paul says, In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.(Romans 8:26).

One way the Spirit helps us pray as we ought and give voice to our the depths of our hearts is via the Spirit-formed traditional prayer of the Church. It leads us away from solipsism and situates our prayer properly, putting praise and gratitude to God first, and placing our needs in the context of his will, above all.

I have a few copies of that here too, as well as all the picture books.  But you can get The Words We Pray online anywhere as well.  

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— 1 —

As per usual, Thursday school is short, so I’ll just offer that report in this space.  Thursday homeschool class at the Cathedral.  Today they apparently rehearsed the play they are doing for the drama class, and talked about Mendel and Galileo in history of science.

Once back home, we just did some more of those puzzles from Beast Academy.  Lunch, reading, practice piano, then off to piano lesson…etc.

— 2 —

Bill is coming to the US!

bil the movie

Bill is about, in case you didn’t guess, Bill Shakespeare. It’s a comedy made by the Horrible Histories people, released in the UK last year, but of course not on this side. I was waiting until the DVD came out to order (I have a cheap region 2 player I bought specifically for Horrible Histories sets that had not come out in US versions or were not yet streaming at the time.)

Well, Fathom Events, that does those one-(or) two – off movie theater events like The Wizard of Oz  is bringing it over and showing it on April 11 (April being the month of Shakespeare’ birth). Check here to see if it’s playing at a theater near you. 

I’ve joined their mailing list because I am always hearing about these showings the day after they happen. I mean – they showed the Maltese Falcon last week, and I had no idea.

3—

Well, that Popesplaining post really blew up, didn’t it?  The ironic thing is that I didn’t even try to make it blow up – didn’t promote it in any way.  I just had to get the stuff in my head out there, basically because I have work to do and all of these issues were like the Borg and taking over my brain, and I couldn’t think.

And just to clarify – my sense of what popesplaining is is the reflexive reaction that a critic of a critic or questioner of any pope (like this one) to blame the questioner: “Well, that’s awfully Protestant of you!” “Don’t you have any faith in the Holy Spirit?” “You don’t understand what the Pope is trying to do.”  “Try not listening to what the MSM says” or, in the case of some commenters, immediately whipping out the “Francis Hater!” and “Greatest Catholic of All Time!” accusation, attempting to shut down discussion and lazily shoving people in boxes.

It is entirely-totally, and absolutely like the tactics pro-abortion debaters use of answering pro-lifers’ concerns by saying, “You just hate women, that’s all.”

Exactly. 

— 4 —

Currently reading:

"amy welborn"

Notice that it is a real, actual book.

— 5 —

I have a like (not love)/hate relationship with e-books.

I much prefer to read non-fiction via print. I have a bad memory, so when I read non-fiction(mostly history for me), I must constantly flip back and forth to remind myself of who did what and when. It also just feels more solid.

I do appreciate digital books for what they are able to bring me from the past. I am a library rat, and could live in the stacks, so having the Global Stacks From the Beginning of Time at my fingertips is a joy.

But I do love a real book. I really do believe the research that is showing our retention is better when we read from a book – the totality and concreteness of the experience aids memory (how many times have you been able to recall a factoid or aspect of what you’d read by remembering where it was on the page?) I am deeply unimpressed by schools  and systems that brag they have gone “all tablet” or “all digital books.”  That’s not good for learning.

Plus, there’s this.  While I am pretty strict on screen time, they do have it. They don’t have phones, but they have Ipods and use of my Ipad.  (Btw, they are generally only allowed to use either in public spaces in the house, not in their rooms). I give speeches daily on the matter.

But then I started to feel a bit bothered. A great deal of my own reading was happening via my Kindle App on the Ipad. We’d all be in the living room, I’d order screens put away, then I’d take out the Ipad to read. They’d give me the side-eye, I’d offer an excuse.

What was I modeling?

And I also just started to experience a need to resist the screen culture in general.  I don’t have an Iphone, and am not attached to my phone as others are, but still…it’s like a reflex, isn’t it?  Bored? Waiting? Whip out the phone.  It really started to get to me – to see a table full of people at a restaurant, everyone looking at their phones.  Kids coming in to wait on their piano lesson, and the mom immediately handing them each a tablet for the wait.

I do it too, and I’ve decided to try to stop.

So the other day I was waiting for one of my sons to get out of a class at the zoo. There were a bunch of us standing around outside waiting, and every person was on a phone. My hand instinctively went for my jeans pocket. Nope. Don’t. 

It was hard. I studied the trees. I looked at the clouds. I read a few signs over and over. And I kept saying to myself, “Don’t take it out. Don’t take it out.”

Even if I had Tolstoy on the Kindle App (I didn’t), I wanted to leave it be and just be.

The point being, I can’t be an effective witness against screen time if I’m on a screen, even if it is reading a book.  It’s the sign value of the thing.

So yeah, I found a version of Cakes and Ale online (it’s still under copyright, but there was some weird edition that someone had put up legally), and started reading it there, but then when we were at the library the other day, I grabbed it, and well…isn’t it sad that I’m feeling victorious, virtuous and counter-cultural just for reading a real book? 

Like I said…Farenheit 451 was prophetic.

 

— 6–

Speaking of real books, I have put the picture books on sale – eight bucks apiece, and that includes shipping.  I just have too many, and need to clean out the closet.  So go here and get that First Communion shopping done….or buy gifts for teachers and classrooms…

— 7 —

It’s Friday. Stations day.

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"

 

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

 

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