Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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almost got away without doing pumpkins this year.  I just didn’t mention it, and I also sort of forgot about it, and then Friday evening I started feeling guilty, so I posed the question, “Um…do you all want to carve pumpkins?”

Tragically, they nodded.

So Saturday morning, I set out to see what I could find.  Wal-Mart was all Christmas, with not a pumpkin in sight. Nothing at Aldi. Then I swung by a local super-cut-rate grocery store that I drive by all the time, but have never actually entered – saw a box full of pumpkins outside the door, grabbed three, went inside and found that the store was actually pretty nice. So. There’s that useful discovery.

We don’t have an ample front porch, so someone came up with the genius idea of perching them in this tree-that-should-probably-be-cut-down-before-it-falls-on-my-car.

"amy welborn"

Then trick-or-treating in the rain – one Indiana Jones, one Mayan warrior king.

"amy welborn"

Lots of candy.


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Last Friday, Homeschooled 10-year old and I headed back over to Atlanta. The main objective was a Shakespeare for Kids performance of some iteration of Macbeth.

I had, if not high, then at least not low hopes for this, since I’d been told it was geared to K-5th graders.

Well, when we arrived, they announced from the stage that they were psyched to present this for an intended audience of K-3rd graders. Which was too bad, since most of the audience was definitely older than that.

Oh well. It was amusing, although my 10-year old who saw not one but two productions of Macbeth last year on stage (one at this theater, the other in town at Samford University) was obviously a little insulted at being talked down to in such a manner.

Then afterwards to the Aquarium, which…damn. Why can’t I ever remember that the Georgia Aquarium is really not a good value for the $$$$$$$$$$$$ you pay?  I don’t think I’ll forget now – but remind me in three years when I start thinking we should go again.

(If you are aquarium-hankering in the Southeast, go to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga instead.  It has a lot more exhibits and is far more educational – in a painless way – than that obviously tourist-baiting Georgia place is. Even the Charleston Aquarium is better, I’d say.)

Well, I do like ginormous sea anenomes, so there’s that.

And then some time in Centennial Park.

 "amy welborn"– 3—

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about some of the interesting concerts happening around here – OF COURSE I didn’t make it to any of those (I almost got to the pop-up-opera-at-the-brewery thing but one of my older sons called just as I was circling the block looking for non-existent parking, and so I kept talking to him as I circled and circled…and then finally gave up and went and bought tissues and toilet paper at the Dollar Store.)

But this week I did make it to a performance of a new local early music group called the Highland Consort. 

The performance was free, and held at the Episcopal Church of the Advent downtown.


The program was a November-suitable, requiem-ish, All-Souls-reminiscent program of pieces including “When David Heard” by Thomas Tomkins, Burial Sentences from the Book of Common Prayer composed by William Croft, “O Quam gloriosum” by Tomas Luis de Victoria and the Missa pro Defunctis by Eustache du Caurroy. The last was composed in 1590 for the funeral of Henry IV of France and then performed for the next two centuries as the official Requiem for the kings of France. (from the program notes).

highland consort birmingham

It’s super great that now we can fully, active, and consciously participate now and sing Gather Us In instead.


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There are lots and lots and LOTS of homeschooling blogs and pages and thoughts out there.  You really shouldn’t read too many of them, or else you will end up feeling very badly about yourself.

One of the few exceptions to that rule that I’ve made is the Libertarian Homeschooler – there’s not blog, but “only” a Facebook page, and it’s great.  The posts are well-written and deeply considered, as, you can tell, has been the family’s entire homeschooling experience.  This is the sentence that made me go “yes!” today, related to a search for a perhaps-transitional-to-college-school:

“I think they would do very well but I don’t think I could do it to them. Giving them a superficial glance after we’ve spent so many years digging deep. We have tailored their experiences to meet their interests, needs, and capacities instead of state standards and grade requirements.”

If you want to understand the homeschooling movement, and why it’s taking off, especially in the context of test and achievement-obsessed schools….read this. 

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In honor of today, November 5, Guy Fawkes Day…here’s a related book review I wrote ages ago for First Things:

As Hogge traces the slow, agonizing path by which the Jesuits were unjustly implicated in the Gunpowder Plot—a path strewn with seemingly minor decisions like hearing a confession, writing a letter, or delaying a journey—the question of equivocation came to the fore. This was the point at which the government’s case against the Jesuits gained its popular force: the accusation that the Jesuits advised and approved the art of “equivocation,” answering questions in a way that would satisfy interrogators but at the same time preserve interior honesty. Being asked, “Are you a priest?” one could answer “No,” meaning, in one’s own mind, “No, I am not a priest of Zeus.” Equivocation was debated among moral theologians, and Garnet himself wrote a treatise in cautious support of it.

The question, answered equivocally or not, that caused the most problems was one that came to be known as the “Bloody Question”: If the pope were to invade England, whom would you support, the pope or the queen? Over time, the Bloody Question took slightly different forms, but the essence remained the same: Whose side are you on?

The truth was that most English Catholics wanted to be on both sides. They were loyal to their country and their monarch, and they also wanted to practice their religion in peace. In the sixteenth century, this was not thought to be possible, of course, as religious toleration was the ideal of neither Church nor state. But as the decades progressed, it became the last best hope of English Catholics. James I manipulated this hope in his effort to cement his succession—and then dashed it with even fiercer enforcement of the Penal Laws, a frustration and turnabout which ultimately inspired the Gunpowder Plot.

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Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, who likes Flannery O’Connor and is great for other reasons as well, delivered a brainy speech on religious liberty this evening at Notre Dame. Y’all should read it:

The Church cannot abide quietly while the eclipse of man is presided over by an impoverished temporal order. Thus, the Church understands that the divine mandate to teach includes a service to a society that has shoved aside its own best moments. Put another way, the divine mandate includes a mission to defend the prerogatives of reason, including speculative and contemplative reason. This is a service to reason and to the human person and thus to society, that the Church must, by divine mandate, render. What is needed then, is a robust philosophical discourse fully informed by the theological sources that prevent the reduction of man to product and producer. 

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Commercial time!

Advent’s coming! 

Catholic Advent Materials

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

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No ordinary St. Martin de Porres post here. Nope.

Start with  this is a wonderful brief account of the saint’s life and importance.

And now let’s go to the July 1962 issue of Ebony and read about the canonization:

(Click on image for a larger version, or just go to the archives site and read it there.)

martin de porres

martindeporres1 porres3 porres4 porres5 porres6

Complete with sweet mid-century ads!

(Honestly, those back issues of Ebony…don’t know about you, but they put me at great risk of rabbit-hole exploring..fascinating. So be warned.)

From John XXIII’s homily at the canonization:

The example of Martin’s life is ample evidence that we can strive for holiness and salvation as Christ Jesus has shown us: first, by loving God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind; and second, by loving our neighbours as ourselves.

When Martin had come to realize that Christ Jesus suffered for us and that He carried our sins in his body on the cross, he would meditate with remarkable ardour and affection about Christ on the cross. Whenever he would contemplate Christ’s terrible torture he would be reduced to tears. He had an exceptional love for the great sacrament of the Eucharist and often spent long hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. His desire was to receive the sacrament in communion as often as he could.

Saint Martin, always obedient and inspired by his divine teacher, dealt with his brothers with that profound love which comes from pure faith and humility of spirit. He loved men because he honestly looked on them as God’s children and as his own brothers and sisters. Such was his humility that he loved them even more than himself and considered them to be better and more righteous than he was.

He excused the faults of others. He forgave the bitterest injuries, convinced that he deserved much severer punishments on account of his own sins. He tried with all his might to redeem the guilty; lovingly he comforted the sick; he provided food, clothing and medicine for the poor; he helped, as best he could, farm laborers and Negroes, as well as mulattoes, who were looked upon at that time as akin to slaves: thus he deserved to be called by the name the people gave him: ‘Martin the Charitable.’

The virtuous example and even the conversation of this saintly man exerted a powerful influence in drawing men to religion. It is remarkable how even today his influence can still call us toward the things of heaven.  Sad to say, not all of us understand these spiritual values as well as we should, nor do we give them a proper place in our lives. Many of us, in fact, strongly attracted by sin, may look upon these values as of little moment, even something of a nuisance, or we ignore them altogether. It is deeply rewarding for men striving for salvation to follow in Christ’s footsteps and to obey God’s commandments. If only everyone could learn this lesson from the example that Martin gave us.

From 2012 at the New Liturgical Movement blog, a post on a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the canonization, in Lima

martin de porres

And remember I wrote about artist Jean Charlot last month? Among many other things, he illustrated a biography of St. Martin de Porres:


Oh. And let’s end with some Mary Lou Williams – jazz artist, Catholic.

Some background:

Black Christ of the Andes

Suitable for the day, but I prefer the Anima Christi

Last, and certainly least…he’s in the Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints – first page here


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"amy welborn"

On today’s Solemnity of All Saints, our hearts are dilated to the dimensions of Heaven, exceeding the limits of time and space.


From a homily of St. Bernard, used in the Office of Readings today:

Why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this feast day mean anything to the saints? What do they care about earthly honours when their heavenly Father honours them by fulfilling the faithful promise of the Son? What does our commendation mean to them? The saints have no need of honour from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning.
  Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed, to join the assembly of patriarchs, the ranks of the prophets, the council of apostles, the great host of martyrs, the noble company of confessors and the choir of virgins. In short, we long to be united in happiness with all the saints. But our dispositions change. The Church of all the first followers of Christ awaits us, but we do nothing about it. The saints want us to be with them, and we are indifferent. The souls of the just await us, and we ignore them.
  Come, brothers, let us at length spur ourselves on. We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no danger in setting our hearts on such glory.
  When we commemorate the saints we are inflamed with another yearning: that Christ our life may also appear to us as he appeared to them and that we may one day share in his glory. Until then we see him, not as he is, but as he became for our sake. He is our head, crowned, not with glory, but with the thorns of our sins. As members of that head, crowned with thorns, we should be ashamed to live in luxury; his purple robes are a mockery rather than an honour. When Christ comes again, his death shall no longer be proclaimed, and we shall know that we also have died, and that our life is hidden with him. The glorious head of the Church will appear and his glorified members will shine in splendour with him, when he forms this lowly body anew into such glory as belongs to himself, its head.
  Therefore, we should aim at attaining this glory with a wholehearted and prudent desire. That we may rightly hope and strive for such blessedness, we must above all seek the prayers of the saints. Thus, what is beyond our own powers to obtain will be granted through their intercession.
 Let us consider that Paradise is our country, as well as theirs; and so we shall begin to reckon the all saints daypatriarchs as our fathers. Why do we not, then, hasten and run, that we may behold our country and salute our parents? A great multitude of dear ones is there expecting us; a vast and mighty crowd of parents, brothers, and children, secure now of their own safety, anxious yet for our salvation, long that we may come to their right and embrace them, to that joy which will be common to us and to them, to that pleasure expected by our fellow servants as well as ourselves, to that full and perpetual felicity…. If it be a pleasure to go to them, let us eagerly and covetously hasten on our way, that we may soon be with them, and soon be with Christ; that we may have Him as our Guide in this journey, who is the Author of Salvation, the Prince of Life, the Giver of Gladness, and who liveth and reigneth with God the Father Almighty and with the Holy Ghost.
These are thoughts suitably to be impressed on us, on ending (as we do now) the yearly Festivals of the Church. Every year brings wonders. We know not any year, what wonders shall have happened before the circle of Festivals has run out again, from St. Andrew’s to All Saints’. Our duty then is, to wait for the Lord’s coming, to prepare His way before Him, to pray that when He comes we may be found watching; to pray for our country, for our King and all in authority under him, that God would vouchsafe to enlighten the understandings and change the hearts of men in power, and make them act in His faith and fear, for all orders {402} and conditions of men, and especially for that branch of His Church which He has planted here. Let us not forget, in our lawful and fitting horror at evil men, that they have souls, and that they know not what they do, when they oppose the Truth. Let us not forget, that we are sons of sinful Adam as well as they, and have had advantages to aid our faith and obedience above other men. Let us not forget, that, as we are called to be Saints, so we are, by that very calling, called to suffer; and, if we suffer, must not think it strange concerning the fiery trial that is to try us, nor be puffed up by our privilege of suffering, nor bring suffering needlessly upon us, nor be eager to make out we have suffered for Christ, when we have but suffered for our faults, or not at all. May God give us grace to act upon these rules, as well as to adopt and admire them; and to say nothing for saying’s sake, but to do much and say little!
Some from B16.

Today we have the joy of meeting on the Solemnity of All Saints. This feast day helps us to reflect on the double horizon of humanity, which we symbolically express with the words “earth” and “heaven”: the earth represents the journey of history, heaven eternity, the fullness of life in God. And so this feast day helps us to think about the Church in its dual dimension: the Church journeying in time and the Church that celebrates the never-ending feast, the heavenly Jerusalem. These two dimensions are united by the reality of the “Communion of Saints”: a reality that begins here on earth and that reaches its fulfillment in heaven.

On earth, the Church is the beginning of this mystery of communion that unites humanity, a mystery totally centred on Jesus Christ: it is he who introduced this new dynamic to mankind, a movement that leads towards God and at the same time towards unity, towards peace in its deepest sense. Jesus Christ — says the Gospel of John (11:52) — died “to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad”, and his work continues in the Church which is inseparably “one”, “holy” and “catholic”. Being a Christian, being part of the Church means being open to this communion, like a seed that dies in the ground, germinates and sprouts upwards, toward heaven.

The Saints — those proclaimed by the Church and whom we celebrate today and also those known only to God — have lived this dynamic intensely. In each of them, in a very personal way, Christ made himself present, thanks to his Spirit which acts through Scripture and the Sacraments. In fact, being united to Christ, in the Church, does not negate one’s personality, but opens it, transforms it with the power of love, and confers on it, already here on earth, an eternal dimension.

In essence, it means being conformed to the image of the Son of God (cf. Rom 8:29), fulfilling the plan of God who created man in his own image and likeness. But this insertion in Christ also opens us — as I said — to communion with all the other members of his Mystical Body which is the Church, a communion that is perfect in “Heaven”, where there is no isolation, no competition or separation.

Angelus 2010

Like beloved children, therefore, we also receive the grace to support the trials of this earthly existence — the hunger and the thirst for justice, the misunderstandings, the persecutions (cf. Mt 5:3-11) — and, at the same time, we inherit what is promised in the Gospel Beatitudes: “promises resplendent with the new image of the world and of man inaugurated by Jesus” (Benedict XVI,Jesus of Nazareth, Milan 2007, p. 72). The holiness, imprinted in us by Christ himself, is the goal of Christian life. Blessed Antonio Rosmini wrote: “The Word impressed himself in the souls of his disciples with his physical presence… with his words… he had given to his own this grace… with which the soul immediately perceives the Word” (Supernatural Anthropology, Rome, 1983, pp. 265-266). And we have a foretaste of the gift and the beauty of sanctity every time that we participate in the Eucharistic Liturgy, the communion with the “great multitude” of holy souls, which in Heaven eternally acclaim the salvation of God and of the Lamb (cf. Rev 7:9-10)

Angelus 2007:

Indeed, Christians are already saints because Baptism unites them to Jesus and to his Paschal Mystery, but at the same time they must become so by conforming themselves every more closely to him. Sometimes, people think that holiness is a privileged condition reserved for the few elect. Actually, becoming holy is every Christian’s task, indeed, we could say, every person’s! The Apostle writes that God has always blessed us and has chosen us in Christ “that we should be holy and blameless before him… in love” (Eph 1: 3-5). All human beings are therefore called to holiness, which ultimately consists in living as children of God, in that “likeness” with him in accordance with which they were created. All human beings are children of God and all must become what they are by means of the demanding process of freedom. God invites everyone to belong to his holy people. The “Way” is Christ, the Son, the Holy One of God: “no one comes to the Father but by me [Jesus]” (cf. Jn 14: 6).

Homily 2006:

The Church’s experience shows that every form of holiness, even if it follows different paths, always passes through the Way of the Cross, the way of self-denial. The Saints’ biographies describe men and women who, docile to the divine plan, sometimes faced unspeakable trials and suffering, persecution and martyrdom. They persevered in their commitment: “they… have come out of the great tribulation”, one reads in Revelation, “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rv 7: 14). Their names are written in the book of life (cf. Rv 20: 12) and Heaven is their eternal dwelling-place.

The example of the Saints encourages us to follow in their same footsteps and to experience the joy of those who trust in God, for the one true cause of sorrow and unhappiness for men and women is to live far from him.

Holiness demands a constant effort, but it is possible for everyone because, rather than a human effort, it is first and foremost a gift of God, thrice Holy (cf. Is 6: 3). In the second reading, the Apostle John remarks: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (I Jn 3: 1).

It is God, therefore, who loved us first and made us his adoptive sons in Jesus. Everything in our lives is a gift of his love: how can we be indifferent before such a great mystery? How can we not respond to the Heavenly Father’s love by living as grateful children? In Christ, he gave us the gift of his entire self and calls us to a personal and profound relationship with him.

Consequently, the more we imitate Jesus and remain united to him the more we enter into the mystery of his divine holiness. We discover that he loves us infinitely, and this prompts us in turn to love our brethren. Loving always entails an act of self-denial, “losing ourselves”, and it is precisely this that makes us happy.

Thus, we have come to the Gospel of this feast, the proclamation of the Beatitudes which we have just heard resound in this Basilica.

Jesus says: Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed those who mourn, the meek; blessed those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful; blessed the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted for the sake of justice (cf. Mt 5: 3-10).

In truth, the blessed par excellence is only Jesus. He is, in fact, the true poor in spirit, the one afflicted, the meek one, the one hungering and thirsting for justice, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemaker. He is the one persecuted for the sake of justice.

The Beatitudes show us the spiritual features of Jesus and thus express his mystery, the mystery of his death and Resurrection, of his passion and of the joy of his Resurrection. This mystery, which is the mystery of true blessedness, invites us to follow Jesus and thus to walk toward it.

To the extent that we accept his proposal and set out to follow him – each one in his own circumstances – we too can participate in his blessedness. With him, the impossible becomes possible and even a camel can pass through the eye of a needle (cf. Mk 10: 25); with his help, only with his help, can we become perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect (cf. Mt 5: 48).

Finally, if you are still reading..some insight on the propers for today’s Mass.  And why singing “We are Called” is such an impoverished choice…

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Here’s an article on the small Charlotte Mason-based private school in our neighborhood that is one of the two schools in town I might be tempted to send my 10-year old to.

I wish all  Catholic school administrators and pastors would read this article and understand that Catholic education could look like this, too. WHY DOESN’T IT. There is a  sizable potential student population for this type of school, Catholic classical schools,  Catholic Montessori schools and so on.  Some of which exist, scattered about the country, but which, in general, are too far outside the box for your basic Catholic school superintendent or pastor to take seriously or not be threatened by. Many people are staying away from Catholic schools, not only because they are open to life, having large families and can’t afford tuition, but also because what they see around them are schools all striving after the same goal: the achievement-oriented Blue Ribbon school with lots of computers and a winning sports program.

Well, guess what. There is an another way..lots of different ways and it is too bad that mainstream Catholic education can’t or won’t see this. The lack of imagination and courage in the Catholic education establishment is discouraging, if not surprising.

A Facebook friend linked to my post on this article and someone wrote on her post that she was sending her child to a local alternative school because all the parish school was doing was bragging about how much homework the kids would have at night.


Family Life?

Maybe we need a ……SYNOD to deal with this!

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Formal schooling gripe of the week – and not just mine (for those catching up – I homeschool a 10-year old, older kid is in  HS) , but shared by others whose kids are in other schools as well:

Some of us work really hard to restrict screen time at home.

You’re not helping when the assignments you give necessitate screen time in either the research, the composition, the presentation or the submission.

But…It’s what they’ll need to know in the workforce! 

Nonsense.  They won’t be in the workforce for ten more years, probably, and who knows what they’ll need to know then – and whatever skills specific to their job they’ll need to know? Yeah, they’ll be taught on the job or what they need to know will be transmitted through the diodes fixed in their scalps by the actual office drones.   What they need to know is how to think, how to read and write, and how to problem solve.

Three more years and three quarters to go…..

I might have written last year – not that you remember – about going to an open house at the monastery boarding school up the road. Unfortunately too far for us for day school, and no way we’re doing boarding school – I’m not interested in my 14-year old moving away yet.

Anyway, there was a mom and daughter  at the open house who had traveled from Missouri, the main reason being that they wanted to switch schools now because the school the girl was attending at the moment had gone all I-Pad for all texts and all work.

They knew that wasn’t right.  They knew that wasn’t the best educational practice.

And they wanted to switch…now. 

Research is starting to bear that out – which doesn’t surprise me.  Back when I was in the classroom, ages and ages ago, not a few of the interminable in-services we had to attend concerned differing learning styles, and it was continually emphasized to us that learning happened best when as many learning styles as possible were engaged, including kinetic – that is, learning styles which find physicality helpful.  And so we are learning, it is true – the act of holding a book, turning pages, associating the information on the page with a physical place in the book, in the universe, is helpful.  The act of writing, for whom that act is not burdensome (and it is for some, I know, and for them keyboards are a Godsend), helps reinforce retention and is an aid to creativity.  More and more  professors are banning laptops and other electronic devices from the classroom not only because their absence (not surprisingly) helps their students be more engaged, but also because physically taking notes, and the synthesizing that that process requires (as opposed to the taking-dictation-mode that a decent typist can bring to the job) helps, again, in retention and understanding.

So no, don’t tell me about your high-tech school …

— 3—

Oooh! The Gif posts were popular !

Well, I was going to follow up on Monday, but I was so exhausted – in every way – by the whole wretched Synod Scene and a super fast trip back and forth to Charleston that I easily found better things to do with my time.

"amy welborn"

When you don’t feel like a miserable failure of a homeschooler because your son thinks it would be amusing to leave this in a dresser drawer in the hotel room. 

Speaking of Charleston (where we have family), this time we discovered the very small, but FREE Mace Brown Natural History Museum.  It’s on Calhoun Street, just a couple of blocks down from King Street, on the second floor of a College of Charleston building.  As I said, it’s small – really just one quarter of a floor – but it’s got a lot of good fossil specimens and situates them very well in the context of the Southeast.  So if you are in Charleston, especially with kids, consider it – it’s open 11-4 during the week, but check the hours before you go.

"amy welborn"

— 4 —

The main “better thing” is a project, and yeah, I indeed need to be working on that instead of scouring the Internet for amusing Veep gifs that match up to the irony of bishops who are Supposed to Be Smelling Like Their Sheep in an Environmentally Responsible Creation-Lovin’ Way instead burning carbon credits like crazy on flights to Rome and spending a month away from their Sheep in order to vote on a document that says “Families Are Good” and “Families Need Support.”

But -hey, Sheep – they’re back!

 Introducing Selina’s running mate and the new Veep,  Mr. Hugh Laurie.

So we’re good!

— 5 —

Oh, wait! Did I overstep my boundaries? In talking about that Synod thing?

Because I only have an MA in Church History so that means I sure don’t have a Ph.D. or STL or what have you, so I probably should just shrink back into my proper place.


Eh. It’s not the New York Times here, so no one w̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶j̶e̶a̶l̶o̶u̶s̶ ̶o̶r̶ ̶r̶e̶s̶e̶n̶t̶f̶u̶l̶  cares.


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But do you know what? Here’s the thing.

I have been writing these book things for fifteen years now (The Loyola Kids Book of Saints and Prove It! God were the first two, written in 2000), and most of them, with a couple of exceptions have been assignments.  That is, a publisher has contacted me and said, “Hey, we need a book on >>>>>>>. Would you write it?” (The exceptions are Here. Now. and The Words We Pray).  Almost every time I’ve said yes, because what I have felt is that in request from a publisher, God is responding to me.  Every suggested project has been on a topic that I needed to be exploring at that very moment. My research, the process of writing, the reflection on that given topic seemed to answer the questions central to my life at the time.

So it is with this current project, which, among other subjects, involves St. Catherine of Siena.

Okay. Thanks, God!

Really delving into her life and writings in a way that I never have before is giving me the opportunity to make some connections, to think in honest, tough and critical ways about the current modes of thinking and discourse prevalent in Catholicism, as well as the chance to reflect on the crazy, curious history of the Church and the role all of us  – lay, ordained and religious, educated or simply wise and experienced – have to play in that history.

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Commercial time!

Advent’s coming! 

Catholic Advent Materials

Also…All Saints’ Day…are you ready?

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

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"amy welborn"

From B16, a few years ago:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, let us examine two of the Twelve Apostles: Simon the Cananaean and Jude Thaddaeus (not to be confused with Judas Iscariot). Let us look at them together, not only because they are always placed next to each other in the lists of the Twelve (cf. Mt 10: 3, 4; Mk 3: 18; Lk 6: 15; Acts 1: 13), but also because there is very little information about them, apart from the fact that the New Testament Canon preserves one Letter attributed to Jude Thaddaeus.

Simon is given a nickname that varies in the four lists: while Matthew and Mark describe him as a “Cananaean”, Luke instead describes him as a “Zealot”.

In fact, the two descriptions are equivalent because they mean the same thing: indeed, in Hebrew the verb qanà’ means “to be jealous, ardent” and can be said both of God, since he is jealous with regard to his Chosen People (cf. Ex 20: 5), and of men who burn with zeal in serving the one God with unreserved devotion, such as Elijah (cf. I Kgs 19: 10).

Thus, it is highly likely that even if this Simon was not exactly a member of the nationalist movement of Zealots, he was at least marked by passionate attachment to his Jewish identity, hence, for God, his People and divine Law.

If this was the case, Simon was worlds apart from Matthew, who, on the contrary, had an activity behind him as a tax collector that was frowned upon as entirely impure. This shows that Jesus called his disciples and collaborators, without exception, from the most varied social and religious backgrounds.

It was people who interested him, not social classes or labels! And the best thing is that in the group of his followers, despite their differences, they all lived side by side, overcoming imaginable difficulties: indeed, what bound them together was Jesus himself, in whom they all found themselves united with one another.

This is clearly a lesson for us who are often inclined to accentuate differences and even contrasts, forgetting that in Jesus Christ we are given the strength to get the better of our continual conflicts.

Let us also bear in mind that the group of the Twelve is the prefiguration of the Church, where there must be room for all charisms, peoples and races, all human qualities that find their composition and unity in communion with Jesus.

Then with regard to Jude Thaddaeus, this is what tradition has called him, combining two different names: in fact, whereas Matthew and Mark call him simply “Thaddaeus” (Mt 10: 3; Mk 3: 18), Luke calls him “Judas, the son of James” (Lk 6: 16; Acts 1: 13).

The nickname “Thaddaeus” is of uncertain origin and is explained either as coming from the Aramaic, taddà’, which means “breast” and would therefore suggest “magnanimous”, or as an abbreviation of a Greek name, such as “Teodòro, Teòdoto”.

Very little about him has come down to us. John alone mentions a question he addressed to Jesus at the Last Supper: Thaddaeus says to the Lord: “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us and not to the world?”.

This is a very timely question which we also address to the Lord: why did not the Risen One reveal himself to his enemies in his full glory in order to show that it is God who is victorious? Why did he only manifest himself to his disciples? Jesus’ answer is mysterious and profound. The Lord says: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14: 22-23).

This means that the Risen One must be seen, must be perceived also by the heart, in a way so that God may take up his abode within us. The Lord does not appear as a thing. He desires to enter our lives, and therefore his manifestation is a manifestation that implies and presupposes an open heart. Only in this way do we see the Risen One.

The paternity of one of those New Testament Letters known as “catholic”, since they are not addressed to a specific local Church but intended for a far wider circle, has been attributed to Jude Thaddaeus. Actually, it is addressed “to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” (v. 1).

A major concern of this writing is to put Christians on guard against those who make a pretext of God’s grace to excuse their own licentiousness and corrupt their brethren with unacceptable teachings, introducing division within the Church “in their dreamings” (v. 8).

This is how Jude defines their doctrine and particular ideas. He even compares them to fallen angels and, mincing no words, says that “they walk in the way of Cain” (v. 11).

Furthermore, he brands them mercilessly as “waterless clouds, carried along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars for whom the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved for ever” (vv. 12-13).

Today, perhaps, we are no longer accustomed to using language that is so polemic, yet that tells us something important. In the midst of all the temptations that exist, with all the currents of modern life, we must preserve our faith’s identity. Of course, the way of indulgence and dialogue, on which the Second Vatican Counsel happily set out, should certainly be followed firmly and consistently.

But this path of dialogue, while so necessary, must not make us forget our duty to rethink and to highlight just as forcefully the main and indispensable aspects of our Christian identity. Moreover, it is essential to keep clearly in mind that our identity requires strength, clarity and courage in light of the contradictions of the world in which we live.

Thus, the text of the Letter continues: “But you, beloved” – he is speaking to all of us -, “build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And convince some, who doubt…” (vv. 20-22).

The Letter ends with these most beautiful words: “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Saviour through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen” (vv. 24-25).

It is easy to see that the author of these lines lived to the full his own faith, to which realities as great as moral integrity and joy, trust and lastly praise belong, since it is all motivated solely by the goodness of our one God and the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, may both Simon the Cananaean and Jude Thaddeus help us to rediscover the beauty of the Christian faith ever anew and to live it without tiring, knowing how to bear a strong and at the same time peaceful witness to it.

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Below is one of the most mesmerizing things I’ve ever watched. In my life.

Rabbit hole trail: This Atlas Obscura article on La Taranta – which most of us associate with the Tarantella…more than a song from Peter Pan.

Anna wasn’t suffering from the average spider bite: she had been bitten by the tarantola, a creature of local myth and legend. She had become a tarantata.
Soon, the tambourines, mandolins, guitars, and harmonicas crowded into her small room in the center of town and began to play. They played one melody, and then another. But the woman barely stirred. “At the third melody, or maybe the fourth, the young woman in my presence awoke and began to dance with so much force and fury that one might have called her crazy,” writes Caputo, in his 18th century study of the infamous tarantula and its victims. “After two days of dance, she was free and healed.”

Salento is a region of Italy in the southernmost part of the Apulian peninsula, the “heel of the boot.” The region has long been associated with magic, music, and dance: from the Middle Ages until just a few decades ago, physicians, travelers, ethnomusicologists and anthropologists documented the regional phenomenon of tarantismo, or “tarantism.” Young women, and occasionally men, bitten by tarantulas or other venomous insects like scorpions, would be stricken by an apathetic unresponsiveness, from which they could recover only through hours, and often days, of lively dance.
“As she dances, she becomes the spider that bit her,” describes mid-20th century Italian anthropologist Ernesto de Martino in The Land of Remorse, one of the most extensive studies of the phenomenon.

(Summary/review of that book here – gives good background on the phenomenon)

On the Atlas Obscura site, there is a short clip from an (also) short documentary made in the early 60’s, based on de Martino’s work. The full version – only 18 minutes – is also online, here. I don’t understand a word of it, but I couldn’t stop watching. It’s hypnotic, strange, mysterious and sad, thought-provoking and intriguing.  It includes images from a “session” (for lack of a better word) inside a home, then moves to the village of Galatina and its chapel:

In the late 1700s, a chapel dedicated to St. Paul was built in Galatina, next to a well whose water, as the legend goes, had been blessed by St. Paul during his travels across the Mediterranean. If local musicians were unsuccessful in curing a tarantata in her home, she would be brought to St. Paul’s chapel in Galatina, where she would plead with the saint for mercy from the spider’s venom and often drink the blessed well water. In addition to the suite of musicians, the family would also bring monetary offerings for the saint and the church. For many tarantatas, this trip to Galatina became a yearly pilgrimage: in June of each year, her symptoms would return, and she and her family would work to collect the money to fund the trip and the pay the musicians that would accompany her.

Everything about it is fascinating: the afflicted (?) women’s behavior (including climbing around the chapel…), the postures and expressions of their friends and families, and the crowd behavior.

Most haunting to me is the brief scene around the 8-minute mark of the woman kneeling in front of the little boy holding the image of St. Paul. I would love to know what she is saying, but it seems unintelligible, even if you understand Italian.

You wonder what is embodied in her gesture.


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Plenty of time to get your kiddos introduced to the saints. (And I’ll add that catechists and classroom teachers and parish/school libraries always appreciate gifts?)

You can find excerpts from these books scattered on this blog:

Peter Claver

Simeon Stylites

Gregory the Great

"amy welborn"


As well as some at the Loyola Press site, for example:

Mother Teresa

Teresa of Avila

The Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints

Over 40 saints’ lives,written at a middle-school reading level.

I. Saints are People Who Love Children
St. Nicholas,St. John Bosco, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla

amy welbornSaints Are People Who Love Their Families
St. Monica,St. Cyril and St. Methodius, St. Therese of Lisieux,Blessed Frederic Ozanam,

Saints Are People Who Surprise OthersSt. Simeon Stylites,St. Celestine V,St. Joan of Arc,St. Catherine of Siena

Saints Are People Who Create
St. Hildegard of Bingen,Blessed Fra Angelico,St. John of the Cross,Blessed Miguel Pro

Saints Are People Who Teach Us New Ways to Pray
St. Benedict,St. Dominic de Guzman,St. Teresa of Avila,St. Louis de Monfort

Saints Are People Who See Beyond the Everyday
St. Juan Diego, St. Frances of Rome, St. Bernadette Soubirous, Blessed Padre Pio

Saints Are People Who Travel From Home
St. Boniface, St. Peter Claver, St. Francis Xavier, St. Francis Solano, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini

Saints Are People Who Are Strong Leaders
St. Helena, St. Leo the Great, St. Wenceslaus, St. John Neumann

Saints Are People Who Tell The Truth
St. Polycarp, St. Thomas Becket, St. Thomas More, Blessed Titus Brandsma

Saints Are People Who Help Us Understand God
St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Jerome, St. Patrick, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Edith Stein

Saints Are People Who Change Their Lives for God
St. Ambrose, St. Gregory the Great, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Camillus de Lellis, St. Katharine Drexel

Saints Are People Who Are Brave
St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, St. George, St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Isaac Jogues, The Carmelite Nuns of Compiegne, St. Maximilian Kolbe

Saints Are People Who Help the Poor and Sick
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Martin de Porres, Blessed Joseph de Veuster

Saints Are People Who Help In Ordinary Ways
St. Christopher, St. Blaise, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Bernard of Montjoux

Saints Are People Who Come From All Over the World
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Paul Miki, Blessed Peter To Rot, Blessed Maria Clementine Anuarite Nengapeta

The Loyola Kids Book of Heroes

More saints’ lives, organized according to the virtues they expressed through their lives.

amy welbornI. Faith

  1. Introduction: Jesus is Born
  2. John the Baptist: A Hero Prepares the Way
  3. Early Christian Martyrs: Heroes are Faithful Friends
  4. Medieval Mystery Plays: Heroes Make the Bible Come to Life
  5. St. Albert the Great: Heroes Study God’s Creation
  6. Sister Blandina Segale: Heroes Work in Faith

II. Hope

  1. Introduction: Jesus Teaches
  2. Pentecost: Heroes on Fire with Hope
  3. Paul: A Hero Changes and Finds Hope
  4. St. Patrick and St. Columba: Heroes Bring Hope into Darkness
  5. St. Jane de Chantal: Heroes Hope through Loss
  6. St. Mary Faustina Kowalska: A Hero Finds Hope in Mercy


  1. Introduction: Jesus Works Miracles
  2. Peter and John: Heroes are Known by their Love
  3. St. Genevieve: A City is Saved by a Hero’s Charity
  4. St. Meinrad and St. Edmund Campion: Heroes love their Enemies
  5. Venerable Pierre Toussaint: A Hero Lives a Life of Charity
  6. Rose Hawthorne Lathrop: A Hero Cares for Those Who Need it Most
  7. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: A Hero Lives Charity with the Dying


  1. Introduction: Jesus Strikes a Balance
  2. Peter and Cornelius: Heroes Love Their Neighbors
  3. Charlemagne and Alcuin: Heroes Use their Talents for Good
  4. St. Francis: A Hero Appreciates Creation
  5. Venerable Matt Talbot: Heroes Can Let Go
  6. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: A Hero Enjoys the Gift of Life


  1. Introduction: Jesus Gives Us Leaders to Help us Make Good Choices
  2. Paul and Barnabas at Lystra: Heroes See the Good in All Things
  3. St. Jean de Brebeuf: A Hero Respects Others
  4. Catherine Doherty and Jean Vanier: Heroes Bring New Ideas
  5. Venerable Solanus Casey: A Hero Accepts His Life
  6. Blessed John XXIII: A Hero Finds a New Way

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