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Forgot that today was one of my days. It’s about the lure of Ikea, in case you can’t tell. 

There are certain stores that must surely inject some sort of aspirational virus in me at the doorway.

A particular Swedish home furnishings enterprise. High-end cookware shops. Even big box hardware and lumber stores can get that buzz going in my head:

“My life could look like this. It could be neater, trimmer, coolly designed, and of course, if it were all that, it would be so much better than it is now. It might even be perfect. All I need to do is have this in my house and this and…”   MORE

Also recently, August 31

and

August 28

If you like that sort of thing, Living Faith is very affordable. 

And A Catholic Woman’s Book of Days is composed of those sort of devotionals. 

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From Atlas Obscura:

The martyrs were a group of priests, seminarians, bishops, and, most famously, the Archbishop of Arles. They were rounded up by a mob ofsans-culottes and imprisoned in the convent near St. Joseph’s after refusing to take an oath that undermined papal authority. The mob’s punishment for this transgression was quick and especially brutal. They began killing their prisoners on September 2, 1792, when they bashed in the Archbishop’s head, stabbed him, and trampled the body.

The following day the mob set up a kangaroo court to try the remaining prisoners. Martyrologist John Foxe described them as soaked in blood up to the elbows with executioners and judges freely subbing in for one another without bothering to wipe the gore off their hands.

Unsurprisingly, nearly all the clergy members were found guilty. But instead of condemning them from the bench, the judges simply told them they were free to leave. Each defendant left down the same stairway and at the bottom there were plenty of people waiting to hack their bodies apart. British ambassador, Earl Gower, described the wake the mob left behind:

“After [the killings] their dead bodies were dragged by the arms or legs to the Abbaye… here they were laid up in heaps till carts could carry them away. The kennel was swimming with blood, and a bloody track was traced from the prison to the Abbaye door where they had dragged these unfortunate people.”

When it was over, 190 people were killed at the convent in just two days. Their bodies were thrown in a pit and covered in quicklime.

We visited the site in 2011 – the account is here.  I didn’t know, at the time, that there were times to take scheduled tours. I I wish I had.  The Atlas Obscura site has photos from inside. Ah, well…you can read about what we did see here. 

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One of the several saints on today’s calendar is St. Simeon Stylites, who lived this way for 36 years:

From the 6th century historian Evagrius:

In these times [about 440 A.D.] flourished and became illustrious, Simeon, of holy and famous memory, who originated the contrivance of stationing himself on the top of a column, thereby occupying a space of scarce two cubits in circumference. This man, endeavoring to realize in the flesh the existence of the heavenly hosts, lifts himself above the concerns of earth, and overpowering the downward tendency of man’s nature, is intent on things above. He was adored by all the countryside, wrought many miracles, and the Emperor Theodosius II listened to his advice and sought his benediction.

Simeon prolonged his endurance of this mode of life through fifty-six years; nine of which he spent in the first monastery where he was instructed in divine knowledge, and forty-seven in the “Mandra” as it was called; namely, ten in a certain nook; on shorter columns, seven; and thirty upon one of forty cubits. After his departure [from this life] his holy body was conveyed to Antioch, escorted by the garrison, and a great concourse guarding the venerable body, lest the inhabitants of the neighboring cities should gather and carry it off. In this manner it was conveyed to Antioch, and attended, during its progress, with extraordinary prodigies….

…According to another writer, Theodoret, in Simeon’s lifetime, he was visited by pilgrims from near and far; Persia, Ethiopia, Spain, and even Britain. To these at times he delivered sermons.

You’ve heard of him, and perhaps you have thought of him as being nothing more than an extremely strange person.

His life is a radical statement, to be sure, but what is discipleship but radical?

Simeon sought to live his earthly life reaching for God, but don’t think that he therefore separated himself from the needs of others.  Paradoxically, from that distance, he was able to serve, and powerfully.

I wrote about him in the Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints. He’s under “Saints are people who surprise others.” While that chapter is not online, here are some screenshots of the first couple of pages:


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A word about this book.  When Loyola asked me to write a book of saints for children all those years ago, I though long and hard about a structure.  It seemed that everything had been done: to arrange the saints chronologically according to their lives or according to the liturgical year, or alphabetically.  What might be different?

Then I hit upon this notion of sections, each beginning, “Saints are people who…..”

In addition, I wrote the stories, not just to inform, but also to help children see that the circumstances of their own lives may look much different from those of the saints, but they really are not. The temptations, the obstacles and then, the abundance of grace through Christ mark the lives of the saint, yes, but also our lives – no matter how old we are.

Also, back to the saint – this book suggests that the pillars had held pagan statuary, and were appropriated by the stylite hermits for Christ. Interesting.

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Be bloody, bold, and resolute. Laugh to scorn
The power of man, for none of woman born
Shall harm Macbeth.
Well, that’s not appropriate, is it?
Okay, not really, but it’s what naturally popped into my head when I learned about today’s saint and what his name means…
Born in Spain in the 13th century, yet “not born”  – the meaning of his nickname, nonnatus. 
How could that be?
Because he was taken from mother, who had died in labor, one month prematurely.  The meaning of “born” was via the birth canal, hence emerging via Caesarean section would not come under the strict definition of “born.”
(Sorry for the Macbeth spoiler, there.)
Raymond, once an adult, joined the Mercederians:

The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy is an international community of priests and brothers who live a life of prayer and communal fraternity. In addition to the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, their members take a special fourth vow to give up their own selves for others whose faith is in danger.

The Order, also called the Mercedarians, or Order of Mercy, was founded in 1218 in Spain by St. Peter Nolasco Raymond Nonnatusto redeem Christian captives from their Muslim captors. The Order exists today in 17 countries, including Spain, Italy, Brazil, India, and the United States. In the U.S., its student house is in Philadelphia, and it also has houses in New York, Florida, and Ohio.

Today, friars of the Order of Mercy continue to rescue others from modern types of captivity, such as social, political, and psychological forms. They work in jails, marginal neighborhoods, among addicts, and in hospitals. In the United States, the Order of Mercy gives special emphasis to educational and parish work.

****

According to the most reliable Mercedarian tradition, Saint Raymond was born in the town of Portello, situated in the Segarra region of the Province of Lérida at the dawn of the thirteenth century. He was given the surname of Nonnatus or not born because he came into the world through an inspired and urgent incision which the Viscount of Cardona made with a dagger in the abdomen of the dead mother. In his adolescence and early youth, Raymond devoted himself to pasturing a flock of sheep in the vicinity of a Romanesque hermitage dedicated to Saint Nicholas where an image of the Virgin Mary was venerated. His devotion to the Holy Mother of Jesus started there.

 

He joined the Order of Mercy at a very early age. Father Francisco Zumel relates that young Raymond was a “student of the watchful first brother and Master of the Order, Peter Nolasco.” Therefore, Raymond was a redeemer of captives in Moorish lands. In a redemption which took place in Algiers, they had to stay behind as hostages. It was then that he endured the torment of having his lips sealed with an iron padlock to prevent him from addressing consoling words to Christian captives and from preaching the liberating good news of the Gospel. After he had been rescued by his Mercedarian brothers, Pope Gregory IX appointed him Cardinal of the Church of San Eustaquio. Summoned by the Supreme Pontiff, Raymond was on his way to Rome when he met death in the strong and rocky castle of Cardona in 1240

Some of the more contemporary accounts of his life, such as this pdf linked at the Mercederian site, cast doubt on the claim that he was named a cardinal. 

He is invoked as a patron of childbirth expectant mothers, midwives, the falsely accused and others.

Some other interesting facts:

As we approach this Year of Mercy, it is helpful to consider that this “beating heart of the Gospel”  – the merciful love of God – has been lived out, shared, expressed and embodied in countless ways over the past two thousand years, not least in the ordinary, amazing thing that happens thousands of times every day in every nation, in which Christ meets us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

It is helpful to study and reflect on the creative and courageous ways in which the saints have reached out to the peripheries and margins with God’s mercy and freedom, risking their own physical lives for the sake of the souls of others.

So here, we have an entire religious order (not the only one) established to share God’s mercy in a particular apostolate, and today’s saint willingly and joyfully devoted his life to this – mercy.

(What an interesting idea for a study guide/group discussion for the Year of Mercy – Saints of Mercy – or something like that. Thought-provoking, inspiring, and grounded in the life of the Body of Christ, past and present.)

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A look ahead at the saints this coming week….

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A couple of reminders:

  • These are only some of the saints and blesseds remembered this week.  Every day has at least ten names associated with it.
  • But then, you wonder…if you look at the liturgical calendar..why aren’t all of these actually there?
  • Simple answer: that would be crazy. 
  • More complete answer: It has to do with the priority of liturgical celebrations, which is a complicated thing. You can read more about it in many places, including here. Here also.  This is a good handout, especially for RCIA and catechists. 

Why am I focusing on this these days? Because I think that allowing our spiritual formation to be guided by the Church in this way leads us to a well-grounded, holistic understanding of what faith in Christ is all about. It isn’t about tagging on extras for the sake of “Catholic identity is awesome, you guys!” or shopping for a cool saint who works on my Spiritual Style Look Book or Pinterest Board.

So who can we encounter this week, if we choose?

  • A man who used his inherited wealth to establish monasteries, was engaged in diplomacy, wrote about pastoral care, and (unwillingly) became Pope.
  • A gifted young woman who studied music in New York City
  • A man who witnessed to Christ for decades — sitting atop a pole
  • A convert to Catholicism from Ethiopian Orthodoxy, caught between two worlds
  • Martyrs to revolution
  • An Albanian woman who served Christ in the dying and forgotten in India
  • A man, intended for service in the Spanish court, who instead dedicated his life to ransoming slaves.
  • A young woman who spoke truth to power –  the Holy Roman Emperor –  in the 13th century.

When you engage with the Church’s Scripture-soaked liturgy and the Saints on a daily basis, you really can’t hide. It becomes more difficult, if not impossible to work that do-it-yourself spirituality that all of us would prefer, led only by our favorite voices and Catholic Flavors-of-the-Month sympathetic to our prejudices and ideologies. It leads us out of simplistic, present-centered either/ors but paradoxically, to more clarity in the midst of deeper mystery.

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Well, here’s what’s up.

We have been “in session” for a couple of weeks now – ever since brother trotted off to start high school.  There are a couple of missing pieces, and only one of the extra classes (boxing) has started  – the rest won’t begin until mid-September.

There are two events next week – a rock-climbing training session at a park about an hour away and an Asian water-color class at the museum of art. And of course, piano has started back up on a regular basis. Social? Good friend down the street. Two hours of play tonight with another good friend while I was at a meeting.  An hour of boxing. Tomorrow: Seeing friends at and after the Mass for homeschoolers, and then another couple of hours with a friend…etc. In case you were wondering.

So….

  • Religion so far is daily prayer focused on the saint of the day and Mass readings, and discussions regarding saints and Bible that spring from that. We’ll start the 5th grade Faith and Life volume next week.
  • (To see how this works – today was the feast of St. Louis IX.  This led to a bit of discussion about Louis XVI and the French Revolution. Then we learned that he died in Tunis, so we pulled out the map and saw where that was, and then reviewed all those north African countries, saw that if we’d gone to Africa when were in Sicily, it would have been Tunis.  Then we read the Mass readings, reviewed Paul and why he was writing epistles and where Thessalonika and Philippi are. Then the Gospel, which led to a discussion of both its meaning and a bit about 1st century Jewish religious structure – what are scribes, Pharisees & Saducees. Etc. See how that works?  It’s that way with everything.) 
  • Math:  Beast Academy 4D, waiting patiently for new of 5A to be released.  We’re on decimals, so it’s easy to supplement, right now, with material from Math Mammoth, Pearson (the most commonly used school math program around here – I just grab worksheets online where I can find them), various Scholastic books (digital editions that cost a buck each during sales – watch for them), and Khan Academy.  But…hurry up, Beast Academy!
  • We are just now starting history for the actual year – he has been finishing up reading and discussing this book up to this point.  Now we’re going to mash up Hakim’s History of US and the Catholic Textbook Project From Sea to Shining Sea. 
  • We started by me giving him a blank US map and having him label all the states, which he did, almost all spelled correctly.  I was kind of amazed. Then he reviewed capitols via Sheppard Software, and will review geographical features via the same, so the basics are done.  Geography is a strong point over here, and doesn’t require a lot of reinforcement.
  • Latin for Children is going well.  It’ s not the best ever, but at this point, I prefer it to the Memoria curriculum, which I had used with another of my kids way back when. And it’s more substantive than either Visual Latin or Getting Started in Latin. (If I had to choose between the last two, I would choose the latter. In fact, I would say, don’t spend your money on Visual Latin.)
  • Continuing with writing. We are behind, grade wise, on this. I wanted to start from the beginning of the series when we picked it up last year when he was in 4th grade, and the first volume is grades 3-4.  We moved slowly through it, not because it was hard (it’s not) or because we don’t like it (we both do), but just because…well, because Rabbit Hole.  As usual. But we are trying to hit it hard right now and get up to the actual 5th grade books by January.  Let me repeat: I like this program quite a bit – the way that it teaches summarizing, amplification and just general stretching of the writing brain is very engaging and this interesting, effective combination of simple yet complete.
  • But also still trying to incorporate aspects of Brave Writer. 
  • I said before that we don’t do spelling, but in order to address his occasional concern about “keeping up,” I this week did the same thing I did last year, but earlier in the year this time – I downloaded and printed out all the year’s spelling words from the curriculum his former school uses, (also one of the worst reading programs I have ever seen.  They are all mostly bad anyway – this one weirdly managing to both dumb down material and ask impenetrable questions about same material…so strange)  and we just go through them orally, checking of the ones he knows and working on those he doesn’t. Which has been three total from the first 75 words.  Started yesterday, and we try to do a couple of lists a day, give or take, so we should we be done w/”5th grade spelling” by the end of September.
  • Understand that etymology is one of those things that we talk about all the time. 
  • Handwriting – daily cursive.  Goal is for all work to be done in cursive by January.  If he goes to school in 6th grade, which he will if he wants to, the school he’ll attend will expect that, so aside from all the other (good) reasons, there’s that.
  • Music:  his piano lessons are fairly demanding.  At home we listen to music all the time, talk about it, watch videos of performances, particularly of pieces he’s working on.  We’ve also been getting back to Classics for Kids, which is a great website – so far this year, we’ve done Joplin, Bach and John Philip Sousa – the latter because earlier in the summer, we saw a (great) local production of The Music Man, so I thought I would try to make sense of “And you’ll feel something akin to the electric thrill I once enjoyed when Gilmore, Pat Conway,The Great Creatore, W.C. Handy and John Philip Sousa all came to town on the very same historic day!”
  • And science:  We are doing Biology for the Logic Stage, but have hardly actually done anything, because of the press of the
    "amy welborn"

    Spore print

    Teachable Moment.  This week, it’s been two things:  mushrooms & hummingbirds.  Our yard sprouted with mushrooms, so we took an afternoon and examined them, discussed fungi, read about them in our main resource and on the internet, and then swung back to taxonomy – he memorized the basic categories of taxonomy (Kingdom, phylum, …etc) and then the five kingdoms.  Memorized the characteristics of living things. (Which take us back to what we should have originally been working on)  Did a spore print. Then started two long-term experiment/demonstrations:  a mold terrarium with 8 possibly moldy things, and then two pieces of bread, sprayed with water and put in plastic bags, one rubbed on the ground outside, one not.  Hypothesis formed, observation sheets printed, etc.

  • Then, the hummingbirds.  Of late, the hummingbirds coming to our feeder have been crazy.  There are three or four all afternoon, most afternoons, and they are apparently at war.  No more than one can be at the feeder at  once, and we have spent a great deal of time watching them fly from one tree to another, wait each other out, then dive
    "amy welborn"

    Also a quick trip to the zoo

    bomb as soon as one of the others makes a move for the feeder.  We can stand pretty close to the feeder, and they will still streak right by us, chirping angrily at each other and, yes, wings and little bodies humming as they speed by.

  • So, much research on hummingbirds, going over the taxonomy, watching slow motion videos on their wing action and articles about how they actually use their tongues to get the nectar.
  • Oh, and the spider.  So three teachable moment living things over the pats two days. A huge spider built a web outside the front door last night, and it was gone this morning.  Someone had told me before that the spiders actually take their webs back up in the early dawn, and I believe it – tonight, as I write, the spider is right back in the same spot, enormous web intact.  I will try to get up super early and take a peak outside to see if I can spy it retreating. So he researched what kind of spider it was and we watched it for a long time last night, just talking about spiders in the dark with his brother and sister, too.
  • One new (used) book that has come in very handy in all of this is this one.  I had read about it on some homeschooling board, and it lives up to the hype – it’s really good, and great for the budding naturalist.
  • As I said, there are missing pieces.  Shakespeare, an ongoing “school” novel aside from the books he’s already scarfing, and art.  Next week. Next week. But rock climbing and art at the museum, next week!  Argh.  Nope. NEXT WEEK.
  • Haven’t actually watched any of these, but this channel looks like it will be good to add to the video lineup.
  • One thing I’ve started doing this year is having him do a “learning journal” each day (or every couple of days) – he writes down what he learned about that day.  It made more sense to me than either:  Me doing it or him planning what he would learn about.  It made a lot more sense for this to be something he does after the fact, at the end of the day. It’s his learning, his brain, his mind – he’s the one that needs to mull it over and make sense of it, not me!

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"amy welborn"

Friday was a light day. Obviously.  We did prayer/religion and math, and then I told him the rest of the day was his.  So he spent time digging in the back yard and figuring stuff out about roots and ants, doing some trivia on the computer (starting with reptiles and somehow ending up at Star Wars, apparently)  and drawing a picture related to the Maya & 2012. 

"amy welborn"

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….also called Nathanael.  From B16:

We have no special information about Bartholomew; indeed, his name always and only appears in the lists of the Twelve mentioned above and is therefore never central to any narrative.

However, it has traditionally been identified with Nathanael:  a name that means “God has given”.

This Nathanael came from Cana (cf. Jn 21: 2) and he may therefore have witnessed the great “sign” that Jesus worked in that place (cf. Jn 2: 1-11). It is likely that the identification of the two figures stems from the fact that Nathanael is placed in the scene of his calling, recounted in John’s Gospel, next to Philip, in other words, the place that Bartholomew occupies in the lists of the Apostles mentioned in the other Gospels.

Philip told this Nathanael that he had found “him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (Jn 1: 45). As we know, Nathanael’s retort was rather strongly prejudiced:  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Jn 1: 46). In its own way, this form of protestation  is  important  for  us.  Indeed, it makes us see that according to Judaic expectations the Messiah could not come from such an obscure village as, precisely, Nazareth (see also Jn 7: 42).

But at the same time Nathanael’s protest highlights God’s freedom, which baffles our expectations by causing him to be found in the very place where we least expect him. Moreover, we actually know that Jesus was not exclusively “from Nazareth” but was born in Bethlehem (cf. Mt 2: 1; Lk 2: 4) and came ultimately from Heaven, from the Father who is in Heaven.

Nathanael’s reaction suggests another thought to us: in our relationship with Jesus we must not be satisfied with words  alone. In  his  answer,  Philip offers Nathanael a meaningful invitation:  “Come and see!” (Jn 1: 46). Our knowledge of Jesus needs above all a first-hand experience: someone else’s testimony is of course important, for normally  the  whole  of  our  Christian life begins with the proclamation handed  down  to  us  by  one  or  more  witnesses.

However, we ourselves must then be personally involved in a close and deep relationship with Jesus; in a similar way, when the Samaritans had heard the testimony of their fellow citizen whom Jesus had met at Jacob’s well, they wanted to talk to him directly, and after this conversation they told the woman:  “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world” (Jn 4: 42).

Returning to the scene of Nathanael’s vocation, the Evangelist tells us that when Jesus sees Nathanael approaching, he exclaims: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!” (Jn 1: 47). This is praise reminiscent of the text of a Psalm: “Blessed is the man… in whose spirit there is no deceit” (32[31]: 2), but provokes the curiosity of Nathanael who answers in amazement:  “How do you know me?” (Jn 1: 48).

Jesus’ reply cannot immediately be understood. He says: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig  tree,  I  saw  you” (Jn  1: 48).  We  do not know what had happened under this fig tree. It is obvious that it had to do with a decisive moment in Nathanael’s life.

His heart is moved by Jesus’ words, he feels understood and he understands: “This man knows everything about me, he knows and is familiar with the road of life; I can truly trust this man”. And so he answers with a clear and beautiful confession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (Jn 1: 49). In this confession is conveyed a first important step in the journey of attachment to Jesus.

Nathanael’s words shed light on a twofold, complementary aspect of Jesus’ identity: he is recognized both in his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the Only-begotten Son, and in his relationship with the People of Israel, of whom he is the declared King, precisely the description of the awaited Messiah. We must never lose sight of either of these two elements because if we only proclaim Jesus’ heavenly dimension, we risk making him an ethereal and evanescent being; and if, on the contrary, we recognize only his concrete place in history, we end by neglecting the divine dimension that properly qualifies him.

We have no precise information about Bartholomew-Nathanael’s subsequent apostolic activity. According to information handed down by Eusebius, the fourth-century historian, a certain Pantaenus is supposed to have discovered traces of Bartholomew’s presence even in India (cf. Hist. eccl. V, 10, 3).

In later tradition, as from the Middle Ages, the account of his death by flaying became very popular. Only think of the famous scene of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel in which Michelangelo painted St Bartholomew, who is holding his own skin in his left hand, on which the artist left his self-portrait.

St Bartholomew’s relics are venerated here in Rome in the Church dedicated to him on the Tiber Island, where they are said to have been brought by the German Emperor Otto III in the year 983.

To conclude, we can say that despite the scarcity of information about him, St Bartholomew stands before us to tell us that attachment to Jesus can also be lived and witnessed to without performing sensational deeds. Jesus himself, to whom each one of us is called to dedicate his or her own life and death, is and remains extraordinary.

The apostles are often portrayed in art with the means of their death, so you do see Bartholomew holding his flayed skin.  As Benedict mentions, the most well-known is the depiction in the Michelangelo’s Last Judgment.

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Also impressive is the huge statue in St. John Lateran. It stands in the central nave, along with representations of all the apostles. 

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Remember that all of Benedict’s General Audience talks on the apostles are available in book form. 

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