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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

— 1 —

Not much reading this week. In fact, I didn’t crack a book open at all.  Yikes.  Traveling, plus a work deadline which occupied me until this morning.  Well, I did start reading Jane Eyre, as promised.  Just got one chapter in before other concerns took over, though. I’ll get back to that, as well as a couple of books I checked out earlier this week, including Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle. It’s a subject that interests me not only as a writer, not only as a Catholic writer who was told she had to get ICEL’s permission to have the text of the Hail Mary and the Our Father in a book (to be fair, the fellow at ICEL’s response was the polite written equivalent of, “Er….sure. Wait, what?”, but also as the former editor of the Loyola Classics series.  One of my responsibilities in that was researching and obtaining permissions, a task I really enjoyed for some odd reason.  Librarian and researcher genes, I guess.

— 2 —

We saw a really excellent production of The Music Man this evening at one of our local theaters."amy welborn" Mostly great cast, including a Harold Hill who echoed Robert Preston rather brilliantly without slavish imitation.  Not that referencing Preston is necessary, but it’s probably a challenge to skirt his influence completely, since the identification between actor and part is so close in this case.  That imbalance between first and second act, though, in which the first act is stuffed full of non-stop great music, while the second act must pause and Do Plot so all can be resolved – it’s in The Music Man and almost every other musical I can think of.  Are there exceptions?

— 3—

It brought back a couple of memories – first, my daughter’s 8th grade class doing a “junior” version of the play (she was one of the Pick-a-Little ladies), and then at some point in middle school, I think, one of my older sons had to learn “Rock Island” for music class – I think all the boys had to do it or something, maybe? I was actually impressed with the assignment. And it’s certainly an improvement over the sight (and sound) of struggling through those high notes in “Both Sides Now,” which is one of my more vivid memories of grade school music class. That and the controversy aroused by having us sing “One Tin Soldier.”  Oh, the 60’s and 70’s. Much controversy.  And honestly, even reconstructing it in my hazy memory makes me laugh.  Imagine a bunch of ten year olds pounding out “Go ahead and hate your neighbor! Go ahead and cheat a friend! Do it the name of Heaven! You can justify it in the end!” Imagine some teacher who thought it was awesome and he was such an brave iconoclast.

People. So crazy.

— 4 —

Speaking of school memories, twice this week I’ve had the chance to share the Fun Fact that in my high school in the 70’s – a Catholic high school in the South – we had a smoking pit.  It was a corner of sidewalk where those of age – mostly seniors  – could smoke.  Of course, for most of us today, it’s difficult to imagine a time in which anyone could smoke indoors in any public space, but the concept of having a sanctioned area for high school students to smoke during school seems especially bizarre, doesn’t it?

Anyone else experience that?

(And no, I never smoked.  My father was a lifelong, heavy smoker, it killed him, and I always hated it.)

— 5 —

I had a strange spike in blog hits today.  I discovered that it was because  Fr. Blake linked to my years-old report of a visit to his parish, a visit I was fortunate enough to make during a longish layover at Gatwick. He offered the link as a response of sorts to a ridiculous, agenda-laden Ship of Fools report on the parish.

— 6 —

Today is one of my days in Living Faith. Look for another on July 5.

— 7 —

Speaking of today – it’s July 3 and the feasts of St. Thomas the Twin.  Speaking of St. Thomas, here’s Pope Emeritus Benedict’s General Audience talk on him from 2006. 

Then, the proverbial scene of the doubting Thomas that occurred eight days after Easter is very well known. At first he did not believe that Jesus had appeared in his absence and said:  “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe” (Jn 20: 25).

Basically, from these words emerges the conviction that Jesus can now be recognized by his wounds rather than by his face. Thomas holds that the signs that confirm Jesus’ identity are now above all his wounds, in which he reveals to us how much he loved us. In this the Apostle is not mistaken.

St. Thomas July 3

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Tomorrow (June 27) is the memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria.  Here’s what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said about St. Cyril in his General Audience in 2007:

Cyril’s writings – truly numerous and already widely disseminated in various Latin and Eastern translations in his own lifetime, attested to by their instant success – are of the utmost importance for the history of Christianity. His commentaries on many of the New and Old Testament Books are important, including those on the entire Pentateuch, Isaiah, the Psalms and the Gospels of John and Luke. Also important are his many doctrinal works, in which the defence of the Trinitarian faith against the Arian and Nestorian theses recurs. The basis of Cyril’s teaching is the ecclesiastical tradition and in particular, as I mentioned, the writings of Athanasius, his great Predecessor in the See of Alexandria. Among Cyril’s other writings, the books Against Julian deserve mention. They were the last great response to the anti-Christian controversies, probably dictated by the Bishop of Alexandria in the last years of his life to respond to the work Against the Galileans, composed many years earlier in 363 by the Emperor known as the “Apostate” for having abandoned the Christianity in which he was raised.

The Christian faith is first and foremost the encounter with Jesus, “a Person, which gives life a new horizon” (Deus Caritas Est, n. 1). St Cyril of Alexandria was an unflagging, staunch witness of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, emphasizing above all his unity, as he repeats in 433 in his first letter (PG 77, 228-237) to Bishop Succensus: “Only one is the Son, only one the Lord Jesus Christ, both before the Incarnation and after the Incarnation. Indeed, the Logos born of God the Father was not one Son and the one born of the Blessed Virgin another; but we believe that the very One who was born before the ages was also born according to the flesh and of a woman”. Over and above its doctrinal meaning, this assertion shows that faith in Jesus the Logos born of the Father is firmly rooted in history because, as St Cyril affirms, this same Jesus came in time with his birth from Mary, the Theotò-kos, and in accordance with his promise will always be with us. And this is important: God is eternal, he is born of a woman, and he stays with us every day. In this trust we live, in this trust we find the way for our life.

— 2 —

Cyril was, of course, a theologian, engaged in discourse concerned with theological precision.

We are often told these days that such concerns are nothing but casuistry.  Theology, it is sometimes said or at least implied, is an obstacle to faith.

And it can be.

This is of course, not a new discussion, and is indeed reflective of an authentic dynamic and tension within Christian discourse since….the beginning.

But as anyone with an understanding of what it means to be Catholic in its breadth and depth understands the danger of sweeping generalizations that sweep out one side of the either/or.

Catholicism is the expression of the loving Presence of Jesus Christ in the world. But the human beings Jesus encounters are intelligent, reasonable, and seek to understand.

Precision matters.  As time goes on, the precision might harden, become brittle and lifeless, and finally crack, but that doesn’t mean that the search for the closest words and ideas – even in negation – should be scoffed at or cast aside.  The process is important, and more than that, inevitable.  You can dismiss theological discourse, you can go on and on, talking in a “pastoral” way but do you know what?

Stubbornly, the questions will be raised.

How do you know this?

Where do your words come from?

Who is God?

Why is this a sin, but this not?

Who are you to tell me all about this, anyway?

Son of God? Mother of God? What? 

Questions that deserve answers with language as precise as possible, humble and so aware of the limitations of that language.

But yes, that deserve answers.  Which is what Catholic theology is all about, and what it’s for.

We keep talking, thinking, searching, in faith, aware of our limitations but also aware of who we are as rational beings created in the image of God.

Logos and agape.

Not either, not or.

Both.

— 3 —

Some interesting reading and listening this week.  The listening first.

As I said this past week on Twitter – spend  less time on Facebook this week and listen to some good podcasts instead.  As long time readers know, my favorites are those from BBC Radio 4, particularly In Our Time.  There is simply nothing like it on American radio.  A brisk jaunt through some topic led by Melvyn Bragg and three academics.  It’s very tightly structured, and not a free-for all, but it’s always interesting and disagreements are certainly aired.

It’s also very non-American in that it’s absolutely free from PC cant or snideness when addressing issues of religion.  Historical figures’ religious faith is taken seriously and respectfully.  So refreshing.

— 4 —

This week I listened to an episode on Jane Eyre, which I confess….I’VE NEVER READ.  I have no idea how that happened, since as a teen, I read most of Austen, Hardy and even Middlemarch. 

That said, I think I’ll read it now….probably over this weekend.

The program examined Bronte’s life, particularly as it might have inspired various aspects of the book, her process of writing it, the plot and major themes, its reception and, at the end, its religious themes….as was pointed out, the last word in the novel is “Jesus.”

— 5 —

Next was an episode on the Curies.  I read a children’s biography of Marie Curie as a child and was quite inspired by it (obviously not to be a scientist, but there was a time around 5th grade when I thought I would be a doctor…so, sort of inspired, I guess).

Religion entered the discussion as the differences between Curie’s mother (observant Catholic) and father (atheist scientist) were touched on and brought back into play in the later French context.  Good discussion of the family dynamics, especially after Pierre’s death, and a clarifying section on Marie’s scientific achievements and the distinction between her chemistry and physics Nobel prizes. 

— 6 —

Speaking of 19th century women, over the past couple of days, I read a very good book called Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back by Janice Nimura.   It’s a very well-told history of five young Japanese women (really girls – ranging in age from 7 to young teens) who were sent from Japan to the United States to live and study in 1871.  Two returned fairly soon, but the three who remained ended up studying at Vassar and Bryn Mawr, Daughters of the Samuraiand each, in her own way, eventually made tremendous contributions to the cause of the education of Japanese women.

The author was blessed with fantastic resources – the women were faithful correspondents, some of which has been published, the American and eventually Japanese press covered various aspects of their lives, and they made speeches and wrote articles. 

Through the prism of these women’s lives, we learn quite a bit about late 19th century Japanese history and the sense that women in both countries had of themselves.

— 7 —

And once again….religion. And again, religion treated respectfully and honestly, since Christian faith motivated many of the women’s American benefactors, and one of the Japanese women converted to Christianity herself.  What is clear is something that anyone who has studied the history of both Protestant and Catholic Christianity both in the context of Europe and in its encounters with other non-European cultures:

Christianity elevates the status of women. And it was understood to do so.

This is one of the rarely-discussed reasons that Christianity was resisted in some traditional patriarchal cultures.  It was a profound motivator, especially for female Protestant missionaries. Everything happens within a particular context, of course.   The Japanese women of Nimura’s tale had, in our view, a “limited” understanding of what education should accomplish, and expressed

dissatisfaction with later more “radical” (in the 1910’s!) visions being expressed by younger women.  But in their own time, their work on behalf of women’s education was certainly radical in and of itself.

A really enjoyable, rich read.

 As I was pouring over this book last night, I was thinking about why historical fiction doesn’t interest me. I mean…the minute I pick up a novel and see that it has a real historical figure at its center, I lose interest. (Not necessarily events, of course, just a novel built around a particular real person.) I think part of that is because historians today have access to such rich sources, they can put their hand to it and pull out a narrative that’s as intriguing as any novel – more so.

(That said, I also resisted history that embroiders in any way – that sets up scenes not derived directly from sources or enters an historical figure’s mind. Hate that.  I thought there might be a bit of that at  the beginning of this book, but turning to the notes, I saw that she pulled the scenes I was questioning directly from correspondence. )

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

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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, from a 2007 General Audience

Continuing our journey among the protagonists who were the first to spread Christianity, today let us turn our attention to some of St Paul’s other collaborators. We must recognize that the Apostle is an eloquent example of a man open to collaboration: he did not want to do everything in the Church on his own but availed himself of many and very different colleagues.

We cannot reflect on all these precious assistants because they were numerous. It suffices to recall among the others, Epaphras (cf. Col 1: 7; 4: 12; Phlm 23); Epaphroditus (cf. Phil 2: 25; 4: 18), Tychicus (cf. Acts 20: 4; Eph 6: 21; Col 4: 7; II Tm 4: 12; Ti 3: 12), Urbanus (cf. Rm 16: 9), Gaius and Aristarchus (cf. Acts 19: 29; 20: 4; 27: 2; Col 4: 10). And women such as Phoebe, (Rom 16: 1), Tryphaena and Tryphosa (cf. Rom 16: 12), Persis, the mother of Rufus, whom Paul called “his mother and mine” (cf. Rom 16: 12-13), not to mention married couples such as Prisca and Aquila (cf. Rom 16: 3; I Cor 16: 19; II Tm 4: 19).

Among this great array of St Paul’s male and female collaborators, let us focus today on three of these people who played a particularly significant role in the initial evangelization: Barnabas, Silas, and Apollos.

Barnabas means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4: 36) or “son of consolation”. He was a Levite Jew, a native of Cyprus, and this was his nickname. Having settled in Jerusalem, he was one of the first to embrace Christianity after the Lord’s Resurrection. With immense generosity, he sold a field which belonged to him, and gave the money to the Apostles for the Church’s needs (Acts 4: 37).

It was he who vouched for the sincerity of Saul’s conversion before the Jerusalem community that still feared its former persecutor (cf. Acts 9: 27).

Sent to Antioch in Syria, he went to meet Paul in Tarsus, where he had withdrawn, and spent a whole year with him there, dedicated to the evangelization of that important city in whose Church Barnabas was known as a II-Barnabasprophet and teacher (cf. Acts 13: 1).

At the time of the first conversions of the Gentiles, therefore, Barnabas realized that Saul’s hour had come. As Paul had retired to his native town of Tarsus, he went there to look for him. Thus, at that important moment, Barnabas, as it were, restored Paul to the Church; in this sense he gave back to her the Apostle to the Gentiles.

The Church of Antioch sent Barnabas on a mission with Paul, which became known as the Apostle’s first missionary journey. In fact, it was Barnabas’ missionary voyage since it was he who was really in charge of it and Paul had joined him as a collaborator, visiting the regions of Cyprus and Central and Southern Anatolia in present-day Turkey, with the cities of Attalia, Perga, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe (cf. Acts 13-14).

Together with Paul, he then went to the so-called Council of Jerusalem where after a profound examination of the question, the Apostles with the Elders decided to discontinue the practice of circumcision so that it was no longer a feature of the Christian identity (cf. Acts 15: 1-35). It was only in this way that, in the end, they officially made possible the Church of the Gentiles, a Church without circumcision; we are children of Abraham simply through faith in Christ.

The two, Paul and Barnabas, disagreed at the beginning of the second missionary journey because Barnabas was determined to take with them as a companion John called Mark, whereas Paul was against it, since the young man had deserted them during their previous journey (cf. Acts 13: 13; 15: 36-40).

Hence there are also disputes, disagreements and controversies among saints. And I find this very comforting, because we see that the saints have not “fallen from Heaven”. They are people like us, who also have complicated problems.

Holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned. Holiness increases the capacity for conversion, for repentance, for willingness to start again and, especially, for reconciliation and forgiveness.

So it was that Paul, who had been somewhat harsh and bitter with regard to Mark, in the end found himself with him once again. In St Paul’s last Letters, to Philemon and in his Second Letter to Timothy, Mark actually appears as one of his “fellow workers”.

Consequently, it is not the fact that we have never erred but our capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness which makes us saints. And we can all learn this way of holiness. In any case, Barnabas, together with John Mark, returned to Cyprus (Acts 15: 39) in about the year 49. From that moment we lose track of him. Tertullian attributes to him the Letter to the Hebrews. This is not improbable. Since he belonged to the tribe of Levi, Barnabas may have been interested in the topic of the priesthood; and the Letter to the Hebrews interprets Jesus’ priesthood for us in an extraordinary way.

And, Fr. Steve Grunow:

One of the greatest desires we have is to be remembered, to be able to rest in a sense of accomplishments and receive recognition. True holiness delivers us from this inclination. For we are not called by the Lord to receive honors or even to see the great work of our lives to fruition. We give generously of what the Lord has given us, not because we will necessarily get something in return, but becasue in doing so we give praise to God and imitate the love by which he saved us.

Any memorial we seek for ourselves in this world passes away. What endures are faith, hope and love.

This spiritual truth should not only challenge us, but encourage us, for it means that everything is not simply dependent upon us. We are part of a greater purpose than our own ego, and a greater power than our own will moves us, shapes us and directs us toward our ultimate destiny.

On this feast of Barnabas, let us give praise to God for the life and destiny he has given us in Jesus Christ.

Looking ahead on the calendar a couple of days, you can read my entry for St. Anthony of Padua (June 13) from The Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints here. 

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(or Ephraim or Ephream)

One of today’s optional memorials.

From Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s lengthy General Audience series on great figures in Christianity. November 28, 2007.

Common opinion today supposes Christianity to be a European religion which subsequently exported the culture of this Continent to other countries. But the reality is far more complex since the roots of the Christian religion are found in the Old Testament, hence, in Jerusalem and the Semitic world. Christianity is still nourished by these Old Testament roots. Furthermore, its expansion in the first centuries was both towards the West – towards the Greco-Latin world, where it later inspired European culture – and in the direction of the East, as far as Persia and India. It St_Ephraim_The_Syrianthus contributed to creating a specific culture in Semitic languages with an identity of its own. To demonstrate this cultural pluralism of the one Christian faith in its origins, I spoke in my Catechesis last Wednesday of a representative of this other Christianity who is almost unknown to us: Aphraates, the Persian sage. Today, along the same lines, I would like to talk about St Ephrem the Syrian, who was born into a Christian family in Nisibis in about 306 A.D. He was Christianity’s most important Syriac-speaking representative and uniquely succeeded in reconciling the vocations of theologian and poet. He was educated and grew up beside James, Bishop of Nisibis (303-338), and with him founded the theological school in his city. He was ordained a deacon and was intensely active in local Christian community life until 363, the year when Nisibis fell into Persian hands. Ephrem then emigrated to Edessa, where he continued his activity as a preacher. He died in this city in 373, a victim of the disease he contracted while caring for those infected with the plague. It is not known for certain whether he was a monk, but we can be sure in any case that he remained a deacon throughout his life and embraced virginity and poverty. Thus, the common and fundamental Christian identity appears in the specificity of his own cultural expression: faith, hope – the hope which makes it possible to live poor and chaste in this world, placing every expectation in the Lord – and lastly, charity, to the point of giving his life through nursing those sick with the plague.

St Ephrem has left us an important theological inheritance. His substantial opus can be divided into four categories: works written in ordinary prose (his polemic works or biblical commentaries); works written in poetic prose; homilies in verse; and lastly, hymns, undoubtedly Ephrem’s most abundant production. He is a rich and interesting author in many ways, but especially from the theological point of view. It is the fact that theology and poetry converge in his work which makes it so special. If we desire to approach his doctrine, we must insist on this from the outset: namely, on the fact that he produces theology in poetical form. Poetry enabled him to deepen his theological reflection through paradoxes and images. At the same time, his theology became liturgy, became music; indeed, he was a great composer, a musician. Theology, reflection on the faith, poetry, song and praise of God go together; and it is precisely in this liturgical character that the divine truth emerges clearly in Ephrem’s theology. In his search for God, in his theological activity, he employed the way of paradoxes and symbols. He made ample use of contrasting images because they served to emphasize the mystery of God.

He continues, giving examples of Ephrem’s works, then concludes:

The figure of Ephrem is still absolutely timely for the life of the various Christian Churches. We discover him in the first place as a theologian who reflects poetically, on the basis of Holy Scripture, on the mystery of man’s redemption brought about by Christ, the Word of God incarnate. His is a theological reflection expressed in images and symbols taken from nature, daily life and the Bible. Ephrem gives his poetry and liturgical hymns a didactic and catechetical character: they are theological hymns yet at the same time suitable for recitation or liturgical song. On the occasion of liturgical feasts, Ephrem made use of these hymns to spread Church doctrine. Time has proven them to be an extremely effective catechetical instrument for the Christian community.

Ephrem’s reflection on the theme of God the Creator is important: nothing in creation is isolated and the world, next to Sacred Scripture, is a Bible of God. By using his freedom wrongly, man upsets the cosmic order. The role of women was important to Ephrem. The way he spoke of them was always inspired with sensitivity and respect: the dwelling place of Jesus in Mary’s womb greatly increased women’s dignity. Ephrem held that just as there is no Redemption without Jesus, there is no Incarnation without Mary. The divine and human dimensions of the mystery of our redemption can already be found in Ephrem’s texts; poetically and with fundamentally scriptural images, he anticipated the theological background and in some way the very language of the great Christological definitions of the fifth-century Councils.

Ephrem, honoured by Christian tradition with the title “Harp of the Holy Spirit”, remained a deacon of the Church throughout his life. It was a crucial and emblematic decision: he was a deacon, a servant, in his liturgical ministry, and more radically, in his love for Christ, whose praises he sang in an unparalleled way, and also in his love for his brethren, whom he introduced with rare skill to the knowledge of divine Revelation.

Links to the writings of St. Ephrem.

Image source.

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…try these!

The Prove It books – described in detail here.  Good for 8th grade and high school graduates.  Prove It! Prayer might be good for a Confirmandi.

"amy welborn"

All of them would be great to gift to your local youth minister or catechist, right?

A college graduate"amy welborn"?

Perhaps, Here.Now. A Catholic Guide to the Good Life or The Words We Pray. 

Here.Now. is no longer in print in a print  edition, but is available used and is being sold as a Kindle edition.  (Which are easy to gift – you just purchase it and send the recipient a link.  Remember you don’t have to own a Kindle to read a Kindle edition – you can just get the free app for any device.)

You can read the introduction here. 

The Words We Pray is a collection of essays on the prayers listed below – traditional Catholic prayers. In the book, I make the case for praying these prayers, suggesting that there is great value in joining our own hearts to the prayers of the Scriptures and of the saints. They’re a little bit of history and a little bit personal reflection. It’s probably my favorite of all the books I’ve written.

More information

  • The Sign of the Cross
  • The Our Father
  • Hail Mary
  • Credo"amy welborn"
  • The Morning Offering
  • Salve Regina
  • The Act of Contrition
  • The Jesus Prayer
  • Anima Christi
  • Angel Prayers
  • Prayers of St. Francis
  • St. Patrick’s Breastplate
  • Memorare
  • Suscipe
  • Veni Creator Spiritus
  • Grace at Meals
  • The Liturgy of the Hours
  • Glory Be
  • Amen
  • Where Do My Prayers Go?
  • Using Vocal Prayer

I don’t have any of these available for sale here, but in case you are still looking for picture books or The Catholic Woman’s Book of Days….check here.  (Remember, the picture books would be great end-of year gifts for catechists, DRE’s or your parish or school library or classroom.)

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— 1 —

One of the dads of my son’s 8th grade class writes icons.  So for the class school auction contribution, over a period of several weeks, the class worked with this dad to write an icon.

They worked in small groups, and on the day it was your turn, you were prepare beforehand by fasting and praying.

The completed icon was blessed at the liturgy at the local Melkite Rite Catholic Church.

(We couldn’t go because the boys were committed to serve elsewhere that morning. I was sorry to have missed it!)

Then it was purchased at the auction and donated back to the school, where it will hang.

"amy welborn"

We had an 8th grade appreciation dinner the other night, at which the icon was displayed, each 8th grader received a lovely copy of it,  and a video about the writing of the icon was shown. The soundtrack was haunting, fantastic Greek Catholic chant.

— 2 —

The thing is, when you talk about Birmingham, Alabama and Catholics, people don’t realize that along with the Italians, it was Eastern Catholics – Melkite and Maronite – who were the earliest Catholics inhabitants here, along with Russian (the first Russian Orthodox church in the South was founded in Brookside, a tiny community just north of Birmingham)  and Eastern European Orthodox. They came as miners, ironworkes, railroad workers, and shopkeepers.  Add the early, vibrant Jewish presence in Birmingham, and you have a community that has a surprisingly strong Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean historical subculture.  There’s great Mediterranean food here, both in local (but growing) chains like Taziki’s and Zoe’s Kitchen, both of which originated here, as well as in independent restaurants, including one of the newcomers, Eli’s Jerusalem Grill, where we ate last weekend, and which served the best falafel I’ve had here, and delicious shawarma.

What this means (back to the religious conversation) is that because the Catholic population as a whole is relatively small, but also with historical roots that are deep and diverse – for example, my son’s former Catholic school celebrated a Maronite Catholic liturgy twice every school year –  Birmingham Catholics tend to have a good, healthy understanding of the cultural  breadth of “Catholic.”

(By the way, Fr. Mitch Pacwa is bi-ritual and often celebrates the liturgy at the local Maronite parish)

— 3 —

Speaking of Catholic schools….how about an end-of-the year gift for…

….your children’s catechist?

….your parish DRE?

….your school or parish library?

"amy welborn"

— 4 —

"amy welborn"

May crowning at the convent.  I never have good Mass photos because I really don’t like to take photos during Mass.  This is about as good as it gets. My ten-year old is holding the crown of flowers over there.  The older one was camping, so he went to Mass somewhere in Georgia….

What is better than my photos is the quality of preaching we hear at the convent  – which along with the sound, simple, reverent Catholic sacred music – is a primary motive for our attendance there. Since it is retreat house, when there is a retreat, the Sunday liturgy is celebrated by the priest offering the weekend, so you know the preaching is going to be good.  Over the past weeks, we’ve heard homilies from Fr. Paul Check, director of the Courage apostolate, and Fr. James Kubicki, SJ, national director of the Apostleship of Prayer.  And when there’s no retreat, the celebrant is generally one of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, so that’s pretty good, too!

— 5 —

School proceeds apace.  The older son will be done with his school in a week, so the sort-of-formal homeschool will wind down then as well, although both will continue with math in some form all summer, and we’ll do a little bit of Latin every day (or close to it) as well.  Plus all of the other TEACHABLE MOMENTS, you know.  That never stops.  Poor kids.

Recent rabbit-holes:

(I judge the quality of our homeschool day by two things:  Did Math get done and were the rabbit holes interesting and plentiful?)

  • Latin vocabulary word was scutum, which means shield.  He knew he had heard something related before, so  he pulled out the big Oxford dictionary (for things like this, we use the print dictionary instead of the internet – you get a better sense of the breadth and depth of word roots and derivations with a dictionary).

Well, of course – a scute is a kind of/part of a reptile scale….so yes, he’d heard of it.  And learned some more as we poured over various related words.

  • Next up was lignum  – wood.  That, too, was familiar, but for a different reason.  I pulled out the coal samples we’d studied a few weeks ago, and we remembered that yes, one of them was lignite, so called because of all the forms of coal, on it, the outline of the original wood can often be most clearly seen.
  • Today’s saint was Flavia Domitilla, from Ponza…an island off the coast of Italy, which neither of us knew existed, so we looked that up and learned about it.  Archipelagos came up for some reason, so that was pursued, and various animals native to various islands were followed…and on it went.
  • I’d checked out a fun, cartoonish book on animals in history.  He’d read through most of it the other day, but we poked around it a bit more before returning it to the library, talking about Magellan, Napoleon, Newton, Mozart, and spending some time on Seaman, the Newfoundland who accompanied Lewis and Clark, and who is around in most of the statues commemorating the exploration, including this one – I’d remembered the statue, of course, but completely forgotten about the dog – from Saint Charles, MO, which was the starting point of the journey.

"amy welborn"

And earlier in the week, there’s been, after the piano lesson, time spent at the botanical garden (one of our city’s treasures…and, like the other treasure, the art museum….free) and the zoo, with old friends.

"amy welborn"

— 6 —

I have mentioned this on Twitter, but I’m not sure if I have mentioned it here or not – this great site that has loads and loads of quotes and poems related to every month and season of the year.  It’s just a lot of fun to peruse, period, but especially so if you want seasonally-related quotations and poetry to share with kids – say, for copywork or memory work.

As I look beyond Getting Started With Latin, I’m poking around various other Latin curricula, and considering an unhurried journey through Cambridge. While on that site, I discovered this really astonishing section on “Classical Tales” – complete with beautifully done audio retellings, printables, links….wow.   

— 7 —

Still time?  Maybe!

"amy welborn"

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

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Still without internet here. Coming to you from Zaxby’s this time.  I thought we were okay, but then it went out again, so I’ve made the call, and will be switching providers at some point this week.

But until then a few notes on homeschooling stuff:

(Obviously no videos all week…too bad…there have been some good ones posted at The Kids Should See This …but they will still be there!)

*We’re almost finished with Getting Started with Latin. As I said before, we are supplementing it with Visual Latin, but the more I get into the latter (again – we did a lot of it with my older son), the weaker it seems. The videos are amusing, but the order and pace is just off – jumping in and discussing “feminine, masculine and neuter” nouns without reference to declensions, for example – instead of exploring the first declension thoroughly before moving on to the second, then the concept of gender when you hit the neuter second declension nouns.  Yes, it means you will probably have to delay discussing adjectives, but I think it’s better to get a deeper sense of the concept of declensions as the way we understand nouns along with verb conjugations.  So, no, I can’t recommend Visual Latin.   (Besides, if you are not Christian or religious in your worldview, his “reading” passages hit religious themes right off, and the thing is, they’re made up – they’re not classical or even deeply theologically based  That bothered me the first time around, and even more so this time.)

*Catholic schools, please get a clue and start teaching Latin again, across the board, to everyone, starting in elementary school.  Even aside from the, you know, Catholic aspect of teaching Latin, the habits in instills are so important:  it has prompted a curiosity about word origin in my son, to the point that it’s almost a reflex for him to pause upon hearing a new word, and reflect on where it came from (if that word is English)  or what it leads to (if it’s a Latin or Greek word).  In addition, the particular skills that are learned in Latin translation, it seems, are deeply related to problem-solving and logic in a way that translation of living languages is not.  As my son has interacted with longer and longer sentences involving various cases and conjugations, I can see his brain work:  Quickly scan the sentence, get a sense of the general structure, find your verb, find your subject, and then drill down into everything else. It teaches him to get a general sense of a problem or issue, and then carefully take it apart –  before tackling – and being overwhelmed – by a mass of particulars.

*I LOVE the Writing and Rhetoric series from Classical Academic Press.  Granted, we are only on the first volume (Fables, Grades 3-4), and I don’t know if the process will eventually get repetitive, but four chapters in, I am sold.  The way it works in this first volume is that a fable is presented as the centerpiece of each chapter.  The student reads the fable, then narrates it back to the teacher.  After that point, the fable is used as a basis for various exercises: summarization, amplification, writing in a copious manner, exploring synonyms and always some form of creative writing.  I’m particularly struck by the process of summarizing that is taught:  Find the main idea.  Circle it.  Underline any words that are essential to the main idea.  Cross out any words or sentences that are not essential.  Then write a summary.  It’s very methodical, but it seems it really teaches how to summarize.

*I think this, combined with the Brave Writer method of tapping the imagination and observational powers, will be the core of our writing program here for now.  I can stop searching for that Platonic ideal at least.

*As I said in the 7 Quick Takes, Beast Academy 4D is here.  It continues to impress, and it continues to entertain my son, since he has already grabbed and read the whole text (in comic book form) at this point.  Since 5A will probably not be out until mid-fall, I’m guessing, we will take our time with this one, with a lot of supplementation – some from the Challenge Math book, and some from various books I picked up (digitally) during one of Scholastic’s 1$ sales – a book on fractions for grades 6-8, Building Math Vocabulary, and Algebra Readiness Made Easy, as well as Evan-Moor daily Math problem books, both regular and word problems.  I’m finding that at this point of in Beast Academy 4 – about ¾ of the way – seems to place a student mid 5th grade in traditional American math.  I’d have to get a textbook to make sure of that, as well as actually finish BA 4, but from leafing through 5th grade supplements at the bookstore last night, it seems about right.

*Books that have impressed this week:  As we have been deep into avian life, we’ve checked out several books (and will be "amy welborn"investing in a couple of birds of Alabama- type books), but one that is particularly lovely is the National Wildlife Federation-published World of BirdsIt features drawings and paintings rather than photographs, and it’s lovely, engaging and full of good information.  (And of course, if you are going to tackle birds, you will book mark the Cornell Orthinological site).

I love maps.  I think historical maps are such a great way of exploring history and geography and, as an implied side effect, the nature of human knowledge and understanding, which is never complete, and always changes and develops.  In short: don’t be arrogant,  human race.  What you think you know? That will change.

Great Maps is a new, big, fat, solid book that presents historical maps from all cultures with a great format:  One spread discusses the map in general, and then the next highlights certain intriguing or important features.  It’s really good, worth checking out and maybe even worth purchasing if that is your interest…okay…time’s up!

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