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— 1 —

Traveling is so odd.  You go, you see places that you will probably never see again, and you walk in strange places.   A completely different experience of the world becomes a part of your experience, your worldview, your frame of mind.

And then you come back, and it’s as if you never left, and what happened a week ago floats somewhere between the distant past and a dream.

But it’s all still there, in your head, in your life.

Bigger now.

"amy welborn"

— 2 —

We’re back, but we don’t stay still.  We returned Monday night, the 13-year old went back to school on Tuesday, the 10-year old did a bit of school, had his homeschool boxing session, then they both had server practice for the Triduum in the afternoon. Wednesday, the 10-year old and I took a walk on a trail that’s not too far from my house but, I’m ashamed to say, I’d never even heard of before this week: The Irondale Furnace trail.

There’s a bit of a ruin along the trail, the ruin of an iron..processing? furnace, which was a part of a 2,000 acre mining and processing property that was burned up by the Yankees in 1863, rebuilt after the Civil War and used for about 15 years.  And now it’s a wall, a trail along a creek surrounded by a lot of high-end homes.

Talk about the distant past and dreams….

"amy welborn" "amy welborn"

— 3 —

Today, we went up 59 towards Gadsden to Tigers for Tomorrow. It’s a refuge for rescued animals, mostly cats, but also a few bears, wolves, and even some cavy.  I’d heard about it, and had been meaning to go for ages, but they are generally only open to the general public on weekends. But when Michael, still on Europe time, popped up awake super early, I decided we needed to go somewhere.  I looked this up and saw that they were doing some special Spring Break tours during weekdays, and for a reduced price, so we jumped in the car and drove up.

It was quite educational for both of us, and offered food for thought on issues related not only to endangered animals, but also animals in captivity and the relationship between animals and human beings.

(The animals come mostly from zoos, other refuges that close, and from people who had attempted to keep wild animals as pets. Always a grand idea.)

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn" "amy welborn"

— 4 —

We went to Mass on two Sundays in Spain.  Both had congregations of about thirty in attendance, minimal music,  fairly perfunctory ritual and (I just happened to notice) in both the Apostles’ Creed, not the Nicene was prayed.

"amy welborn"

We just peaked into this church on the way to the museum on Sunday…don’t remember what it was.

— 5 —

Speaking of churches and such….check out this post from the New Liturgical Movement on veiling statues during Passiontide…two Birmingham churches are in the mix.

— 6 —

I did something new on this trip: I rented our apartment through AirBNB, and I was very pleased with the experience.

In previous trips both to Europe and in the US, I’ve rented via VRBO and just independently through owners and managers. I’ve never had a bad experience with any stay  – except that one time in Sicily, but that wasn’t an apartment, it was a B & B, sort of, and I violated by policy of not renting when there were no reviews, so it was pretty much my own fault, and in retrospect…the whole thing was pretty wacky.

With the apartments, everything has been fine, but I’ll say that the Airbnb process strikes me as a level above what I’ve previously experienced.  The owner/ manager has a full profile and reviews – and the profile is more substantive than the minimal VRBO profile.  If he or she has used Airbnb as a traveler, the reviews of those places are posted as well. You, as a renter have to provide enough information to prove that you do, indeed, exist as well, and the owner is given an opportunity to review you as well, sort of like Uber.

I understand there are issues with the growing business of vacation rentals. I’ve read of people essentially buying out entire apartment buildings and transforming them into Airbnb properties, which isn’t right, because you’re then running a hotel without having to abide by appropriate regulations and taxation requirements.  If I lived somewhere and my neighborhood was slowly but surely turning into party central because of vacation rentals, I’d be upset.

But. All I’m saying is that the process of renting through Airbnb gave me an added sense of security above what I’d experienced with VRBO or independently, and I will definitely use them again!

(One of my older sons had used Airbnb the week before our trip, and had similar observations about the process. He was pleased.)

"amy welborn"

Some teachers give homework over spring break….

"amy welborn"

…but the nice ones don’t.

— 7 —

Do you want books for Easter gifts? For First Communion? For a new Catholic?

Got it!

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

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

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"black like me" griffin

This was the edition on my parents’ bookshelves when I was growing up…

Fr. Dwight Longenecker has a short post on John Howard Griffin, the author of Black Like Me.  Fr. Longenecker hadn’t known until recently that Griffin was Catholic.  Most people don’t – nor do they know that he was the author of a very Catholic novel.

It’s called The Devil Rides Outside.  I read it several years ago when I was editor of the Loyola Classics series – the series of at-that-moment out of print and obtainable mid-century Catholic-themed fiction.

I have lots of interesting stories to tell about the books we were able to get and those we weren’t.  Perhaps I’ll do a blog post over the weekend about some of them.  It was really a very interesting job.

Anyway, I learned about Griffin’s novel and obtained a well-worn paperback with quite a lurid cover, and started it with high hopes.  This will be great, I thought – bringing back into print the novel by figure so well-known for one part of his life and work and completely unknown in the present for this one.

At the time he wrote it (the late 1940’s) Griffin, not yet Catholic (he was Episcopalian) was suffering from blindness caused by an injury he suffered while in the military in Europe during World War II.  He would be healed of the blindness in 1957.

Griffin was an accomplished and knowledgeable musicologist, and had spent time at Solesmes Abbey exploring both religious vocation and chant.  This novel came out of that experience.

It’s a fascinating piece of work – heated and intense, a confessional novel of a young man’s struggle to find God as he’s pulled between life in the monastery and outside.

In an interesting twist, the novel played a role in overturning censorship laws.  In 1954, Pocket Books decided to use the book to test Michigan’s censorship statutes.  It had been banned there because of Griffin’s (for the time) frank sexual scenes.  The case reached the Supreme Court which decided that censorship laws that were explicitly intended to protect the young were unconstitutional since the consequence of such laws was denying anyone access to these materials, not just the young.

My take?  I probably need to read it again, because that first reading was done with a specific purpose in mind: would this have general appeal to a 21st century audience? So back then, with that in mind I decided…no.  It was certainly interesting – that’s why I say I think I’d like to read it again – but on the whole I found it just a bit overheated, too long, a little hysterical and caricaturish in its portrayal of women.   It’s mainly interesting for the portrait of monastic life – and this is one of the reasons I read even not-“classic” fiction with Catholic themes: you get little glimpses of Catholic history without the academic overlay.

But wouldn’t it be awesome to republish it with this cover?

"the devil rides outside" griffin

You can read it on Kindle now, anyway….so there you go!

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"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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amy-welborn4

— 1 —

.Then there was the night the tree fell on my house….

"amy welborn"

— 2 —

Last Saturday night, some big storms swept through here, and about 7:45, we heard and felt a serious THUD.  I could see some branches from the back patio glass doors, and thought it was just that – branches.  Until I ventured further and saw..no it was A TREE.

It’s not too bad.  Exterior damage and a little bit of damage inside a closet.  As the tree guy said, “It could have been worse.” (It usually could have, in anything. Remember that.) Specifically, if this were a newer home, it probably would have taken that whole wall out.

The good thing about homeowner’s insurance is that at this point, the adjustor and the roofing guy are figuring it out, so most of the time, I forget that it even happened.

— 3 —

10-year old has been bumped up in his music lessons – out of regular leveled curricula into mo’ serious stuff.  Bach’s First Invention, a Beethoven Sonatina.  It’s a transition, to be sure, so to ease it, I’m going Suzuki for a while and practicing the pieces myself, as well as adding in my favorite Invention from lessons past - #4.

— 4 —

Podcasts, podcasts…well, I’m still focused on Couch to 5k, and have finished week 7, still alive – running 25 minutes at a time. It’s probably deceptive though, since it’s on an indoor track. Once the weather warms up again (57/8 is my threshold for outdoor running. *Wimp*), I’ll take it back outside and we’ll see how I cope on the slightly hilly course I usually take.

Other than that, recently, I listened to the Great Lives podcasts on Louisa May Alcott and Dorothy Sayers and finally got in the last episode of the really excellent 3-part series called Global Classical Music – A New World Symphony an exploration of the explosion in popularity of Western Classical music outside of Europe. Really worth a listen, and the last moments, in which an Indian teacher explains the importance of this music – without denigrating his own important musical traditions – moves into the final strains of (of course) Dvorak’s New World Symphony  – are quite moving.

— 5 —

The only field trip we took this week was a short, but meaningful one  – to the research branch of our Central public library downtown. The research building, connected by an above-the-street walkway to the newer building, was actually the original public library.  It boasts some wonderful murals which you can read about  – and see better versions than I was able to photograph – here. I found the murals in the former children’s room particularly lovely.  A different world.

"amy welborn"

View down into main research room.

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Closer view of mural in children’s room – fairy tales and such.

"amy welborn"

Long view of former children’s room at Birmingham Library.

— 6 —

 I read Dawn Powell’s A Time to Be Born this week.  I generally enjoyed it – it was enjoyable mean in its depiction of highflown self-important New York media culture before the war (supposedly, one of the central characters is modeled on Clare Booth Luce, although Powell always denied it), but I found it a bit padded.

The other day in a used bookstore I picked up a copy of H. Allen Smith’s The Pig in the Barber Shop a travelogue of a trip to Mexico, published in 1958. I love old travel books – I find them to be an interesting way to read history, and I especially am always on the lookout for descriptions of Catholic Stuff, descriptions which are far more helpful in understanding the past than the presumptions and ideological narratives of the present.

Smith was a prolific journalist whom I only know because of his book, and the movie based upon it, Rhubarb, about a cat who inherits a baseball team.  I think I read that book half a dozen times as a kid.

I’m enjoying this one – and bonus – I opened it up, and found that it was signed by Smith!

— 7 —

 LENT IS COMING. 

Get your resources here!!

amy-welborn4 amy-welborn-3

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

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Sooner than you think.  Ash Wednesday is February 18 – about a month away.  Time for parishes and programs to be ordering materials, for sure.

  • Reconciled to God, a daily devotional from Creative Communications for the parish.  You can buy it individually, in bulk for the parish our your group, or get a digital version. (.99)amy-welborn-3

"amy welborn"

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  • The Word on Fire ministry is more than the Catholicism series – as great as that is! There are also some really great lecture series/group discussion offerings.  I wrote the study guide for the series on Conversion – a good Lenten topic. 
  • A few years ago, I wrote a Stations of the Cross for young people called No Greater Love,  published by Creative Communications for the Parish. They put it out of print for a while…but now it’s back!

amy-welborn4

Looking ahead to First Communion/Confirmation season? Try here. 

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  1. My son had a piano recital last weekend.  He reported:”You know that thin girl who played after the two bigger girls? Well, she was backstage talking, and do you know what she was talking about? She was talking all about The Illuminati. She was saying that the Illuminati were behind 9/11 and Apple was run by the Illuminati because the price of the first Ipad or something was 666 dollars or something and that the Illuminati are sending a message through that ‘What Does the Fox Say’ song because the sounds that one of the animals make is the Latin word for ‘destroy.’

    “Oh….”

    “And then when she was done, do you know what the other two girls started talking about?”

    “No…”

    “My Little Pony.”

    2.  Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The devotional for today in Living Faith was written by moi.  You can check it out here - Living Faith has started posting all of their devotions online on that designated day.  "amy welborn"

    Also…if you’re thinking you want to learn more about the Blessed Mother…check out my free e-book, Mary and the Christian Life.  

    3.  Still time for Christmas shopping - if I could recommend….The Catholic Woman’s Book of Days for..a woman?  Or Bambinelli Sunday or Adventures in Assisi  – signed by both Ann Engelhart and I – for a child.  Any of my/our children’s books for your favorite catechist or parish library.  The How to Book of the Mass for someone you know thinking about returning to the Church this Christmas.

    "amy welborn"Reminder:  I have all of Ann’s and mine books in stock, signed by both of us.  If you have trouble with Paypal, shoot me an email at amywelborn60 -at – gmail.com

    4. Speaking of Bambinelli Sunday – it’s this weekend.  You can hear Ann and I talking about our books with Monsignor Jim Lisante all over the Catholic radio, including the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM. This weekend’s Bookmark on EWTN is also with us.

    5.  Quick learning notes:   I recommend the Khan Academy videos on music.  Even though my 10-year old knows his musical notation, it was useful to watch these videos, which review notation, and then demonstrate the principles with various musical scores.  Really good.  We’re slowly working our way through the videos about musical instruments, as well.

    6.  I had a book signing last weekend at the Ave Maria Grotto bookshop – if you’ve ever passed the signs for the Grotto on I-65 and thought about stopping in…do it!  I’ve been a few times before, but really, it’s an amazing treasure of replicas of Catholic sites throughout the globe built with found materials.  It’s not cheesy, it’s wonderful.  At the book signing, I met a group of sisters who have recently settled in Cullman and are helping out at the school and with other ministries, I assume.  Young, enthusiastic…adding to the very interesting Catholic mix of central Alabama.

    7. Math with snake. #homeschool.

    "amy welborn"

    Go check out more 7QT at This Ain’t The Lyceum. 

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Advent begins soon – on November 30.

This year, Creative Communications (the publisher of the Living Faith devotionals to which I contribute – this edition, 10/8;10/9;12/7;12/9 and 12/12) asked me to write a family devotional for Advent.  

These things are harder to write than you think, because honestly, what hasn’t already been said?

The approach I took was to begin with families where they are during this season.  Instead of scolding and telling everyone YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG, I try to take the most common practices of this season and find space in which we can consider our gift-buying or cooking or decoration as pointers directing us to a deeper engagement with the One for whom we’re preparing.

You can purchase copies here – and I’m sure there is still time to purchase bulk copies for your parish or school.

And here’s something easy – for your own family, you can  purchase a digital edition for just .99!

(Kindle here and Nook here.)

"amy welborn"

Also remember that I have signed books for sale here. They’d be a nice gift for a child, a catechist, or for something like The Catholic Woman’s Book of Days – a mom, friend, or grandmother.

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