Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

I am about to head to the basement to dig out the Advent Stuff…hoping that there are candles, almost certain that there are not.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a family devotional for Advent published by Creative Communications.  Some of you might be seeing it in your parishes this weekend, but in case you would like quick access…you can get it instantly on Kindle (and remember you don’t have to have an actual physical Kindle to read books on Kindle – just download the reading app onto any device, even a phone.)

"amy welborn"


And don’t forget…Bambinelli Sunday is coming…


"amy welborn"

Read Full Post »

Time to start nagging…

"amy welborn"

Bambinelli Sunday is the title of a book I wrote with the wonderful watercolor illustrations by Ann Engelhart.

But it’s also a real thing, this “Bambinelli Sunday.”

No, it’s not on the liturgical calendar, but it’s definitely a thing, started several years ago in Rome, and continuing today.

Usually celebrated on the third Sunday of Advent , children of Rome are invited to bring Bambinelli – baby Jesus figures from their nativities – to St. Peter’s Square for a blessing from the Holy Father. 

(This year, they changed it to 12/20 though…don’t know why…)

(“Apriti cuore” means “open up the heart”)


Every year, I collect notices of parishes who are incorporating this tradition. Here’s the beginning of the list:

St. Albert the Great in Cleveland

Sacred Heart in Oregon

Mentioned by the “Catholic Grandparents Association” in Ireland...unclear whether this an event or just a suggestion…

Church of the Nativity in New Jersey

St. Mary Magdalene in Delaware

St. James in New Jersey

I’ll be adding to this list as time goes on and bulletins get put online.

Here’s a link to my Bambinelli Sunday Pinterest Board


"bambinelli sunday"


And the point?

The point is that Advent and Christmas are about welcoming the Word of God into our lives – which means our homes. The blessing of the Bambinelli – which we bring from our homes and return there – is an embodiment of this.  As Pope Emeritus Benedict said in his 2008 prayer for the event:

God, our Father 
you so loved humankind 
that you sent us your only Son Jesus, 
born of the Virgin Mary, 
to save us and lead us back to you.

We pray that with your Blessing 
these images of Jesus, 
who is about to come among us, 
may be a sign of your presence and 
love in our homes.

Good Father, 
give your Blessing to us too, 
to our parents, to our families and 
to our friends.

Open our hearts, 
so that we may be able to 
receive Jesus in joy, 
always do what he asks 
and see him in all those 
who are in need of our love.

We ask you this in the name of Jesus, 
your beloved Son 
who comes to give the world peace.

He lives and reigns forever and ever. 


Read Full Post »

Born in 1925, if she were still alive, she’d be 90.  And given her mother’s longevity (Regina died at the age of 99 in 1995), if lupus hadn’t taken her, she might well still be alive, indeed.

I’ve written quite a bit about Flannery over the years.  As far as I’m concerned she’s a saint and maybe even a doctor of the church, to really ramp up the hyperbole.  When I feel befuddled and know some clarity is in order, I head in one of two directions: Flannery and Ratzinger. Sometimes both.

Some posts and writings:

This one on the collection of her book reviews for the Atlanta Archdiocesan paper. 

Most of what O’Connor reviewed was non-fiction, and she did not like most of the fiction she did review – J.F. Powers, Paul Horgan and Julien Green being the unsurprising exceptions in the otherwise flowerly garden of pietistic fiction she endured.

The non-fiction choices are fascinating, although not a surprise to anyone familiar with the contents of O’Connor’s personal library and the scope of her reading we can discern from her letters. She was very concerned with the intellectual life of American Catholics and indeed saw what she was doing for the papers as in some way an act of charity in which readers might be encouraged to read beyond the pieties.

She was especially interested in Scripture, dismayed that Catholics did not read more of it, and quite interested in the Old Testament, especially the prophets. Again, perhaps not a surprise? She was, as is well-known, quite interested in Teilhard de Chardin, and reviewed a few books by Karl Barth, as well.

“The Enduring Chill” played a part in my last visit to my parents’ house after I’d sold it:

Secondly, the association of the breaking through of the Holy Ghost with coldness.  A chill. An enduring chill.  There are a number of ways to look at it,  since the “chill” is of course a reference to fever,  but  this morning I couldn’t stop thinking about Flannery’s continual argument against the modern expectation that “faith” is what brings us  contentment and satisfaction.  In the Gospel today,  Jesus says Peace be with You.  But that’s after the crucifixion, you know.

Also on Asbury’s mind- primary, really – was his mother.  How he blamed her for his own failure as a would-be artist, and how what he wanted to do most of all was make her see this.  To give her an enduring chill that would be the result of her awareness of what she had done to him.

He would hurt her, but that was just too bad.  It was what was necessary, he determined, to get her to see things as they really are. Irony, of course, comes to rest on him in the end as the Holy Ghost descends.

So I read and talked about this story about parents, children, disappointment, blame,  pride and being humbled.

Then I drove up to Knoxville, alone, thinking about Asbury, about that Holy Ghost, about peace be with you and doubt no longer.

I drove up to see my father’s house for the last time and sign the papers so someone new could live there now.


Sadness that my father died six months ago, that my mother died eleven years ago, that my husband died three years ago. Sadness for my dad’s widow.  But then tempered, as I stood there and surveyed the surrounding houses and realized that almost every person who lived in those houses when we first moved in, is also dead.

Remembering that forty years ago, my parents were  exactly where I am now, watching the preceding generation begin to die off, absorbing their possessions, making sense of what they’d inherited – in every sense – and contemplating where to go from there.

There’s nothing unique about it.  It’s called being human. Not existing for a very long time, being alive for a few minutes, and then being dead for another very long time.

And in that short time, we try.  I’m not going to say “we try our best” because we don’t.  It’s why we ask for mercy.  Especially when we live our days under the delusion of self-sufficiency, placing our faith in ourselves and our poor, passing efforts, closed to grace…when we live like that…no, we’re not trying our best.  We need it,  that  Divine Mercy. We need it, and as Asbury has to learn, we need it to give, not just to take.  More

A summary of a session I lead on “The Displaced Person”

There is a priest in the story, the priest who brings the family (the Guizacs) to the farm, and then continues to visit Mrs. McIntyre. He is old and Irish, listens to Mrs. McIntyre’s complaints about her workers and the difficulties of her life with a nod and a raised eyebrow and then continues to talk to her about the teachings of the Church.

He is seen by the others as a doddering fool, talking about abstractions, not clued into the pressing issues of the moment, telling Mrs. McIntyre, for example, about what the Son of God has done, redeeming us,  “as if he spoke of something that had happened yesterday in town….”

And at the end, as Mrs. McIntyre watches the black figure of the priest bend over a dead man ” slipping something into the crushed man’s mouth…” we see why he spoke of it that way.

It did happen yesterday in town. It happens today.

He’s here.

The priest, too, is the only character who recognizes transcendence.  Every time he comes to the farm, he is transfixed by the peacocks (see the header on the blog today), a fascination the others think is just one more symptom of foolishness and “second childhood.”

You must be born again….

And here is the “irony.” Although steeped in Catholic faith and sensibilities, we know it is not ironic – but to the world’s eyes, it is. That the priest who expresses the mysteries in such matter-of-fact, “formulaic” ways, ways which even theologians today fret are not nuanced or postmodern enough, which they would like to dispense with in favor of…what, I am not sure, unless it is one more set of windy journal articles…this priest is, as I said, the only character who can recognize beauty and the transcendent reflected there. And the one who embodies Mercy.

Flannery O’Connor always said that she found the doctrines of the Church freeing – and this is what she means.

And the story ends:

Not many people remembered to come out to the country to see her except the old priest. He came regularly once a week with a bag of breadcrumbs and, after he had fed these to the peacock, he would come in and sit by the side of her bed and explain the doctrines of the Church.

From one of my old blogs, an account of one of my visits to Andalusia.  I need to go back.

Never read her? Another old blog post on where to start.

A couple of interviews I did with KVSS on Flannery.

And….my piece “Stalking Pride” – which I think is a decent introduction:

Robert Coles answered the question well when he wrote of O’Connor, “She is stalking pride.” For Flannery O’Connor, faith means essentially seeing the world as it is, which means through the Creator’s eyes. So lack of faith is a kind of blindness, and what brings on the refusal to embrace God’s vision — faith — is nothing but pride.

O’Connor’s characters are all afflicted by pride: Intellectual sons and daughters who live to set the world, primarily their ignorant parents, aright; social workers who neglect their own children, self-satisfied unthinking “good people” who rest easily in their own arrogance; the fiercely independent who will not submit their wills to God or anyone else if it kills them. And sometimes, it does.

The pride is so fierce, the blindness so dark, it takes an extreme event to shatter it, and here is the purpose of the violence. The violence that O’Connor’s characters experience, either as victims or as participants, shocks them into seeing that they are no better than the rest of the world, that they are poor, that they are in need of redemption, of the purifying purgatorial fire that is the breathtaking vision at the end of the story, “Revelation.”

The self-satisfied are attacked, those who fancy themselves as earthly saviors find themselves capable of great evil, intellectuals discover their ideas to be useless human constructs, and those bent on “freedom” find themselves left open to be controlled by evil.

What happens in her stories is often extreme, but O’Connor knew that the modern world’s blindness was so deeply engrained and habitual, extreme measures were required to startle us: “I am interested in making up a good case for distortion, as I am coming to believe it is the only way to make people see.”  More

flannery o'connor stamp

No, this isn’t the real one, but an imagined redesign, which I like very much.  More on that here.  

It’s ironic that a stamp issued in honor of a writer who was determined to present reality as it is – prettifies the subject to the point of making her unrecognizable. 

Everybody, as far as I am concerned, is The Poor.

-Flannery O’Connor

Read Full Post »

My book club read George Saunders’ collection of short stories, The Tenth of December.  So good. He drills down deep into matters of human connection and purpose with a vision that in some stories evokes, in my mind, Walker Percy. At times, there are mysteries about what exactly is going on and what exactly this or that process or machine or war is all about, but all tenth-of-decemberthe better to help the reader be pulled into the world on the level of shared experience, rather than just curious observer.

A Goodreads reviewer took these stories to task for not having any heart, and, well, in my experience (and the experience of our group), the opposite was the case.

These stories are all about rescuing other human beings and what we have to overcome in order to acknowledge the  humanity of those needing rescue and our own reluctance to reach out, risk and sacrifice.

There is so much (well, some) chatter that abounds concerning..where is the faith in fiction? Where is the Catholic fiction? As much as I’m interested in both religion and fiction and as much affinity as I have for 20th-century Catholic-themed and sourced fiction, those conversations don’t interest me much.  I’m more interested in finding writers like Saunders (way after the rest of the world did, of course) and being engaged by the questions he poses in such arresting ways.

(Saunders, btw, was raised Catholic and is now Buddhist.)

If you want a taste of what Saunders is all about, these stories from that collection are available online for free:

Here is a blog post with links to several Saunders stories – three are in this collection: “The Tenth of December,” “Puppy,” “The Semplica-Girl Diaries.” (although with the last, the version in the book is longer than that which was published in The New Yorker.)  You can read “Victory Lap” here.  The story, “Home” is here. The last couple of paragraphs of “Home” are as deeply human and true as anything in contemporary fiction.

Read Full Post »

Continuing my series on books and other materials I’ve published that you might find useful in your home, parish or school.


Adult Faith Formation/RCIA books:

"amy welborn"

Children’s books (with more to come tomorrow)

Today – some of the devotional and parish resources I’ve published.  Some are more timely than others, but just so you can see, and in case anyone still wants pamphlets on Pope Benedict XVI!

First, A Catholic Woman’s Book of Days – published by Loyola.  This was probably the hardest book I ever wrote.  I mean – it "amy welborn"was endless.  Just imagine, if you would, reaching the point where you’d written two hundred short devotions. You feel pride. You’ve achieved something.  Then you realize, “That means I have 165 to go….”

Yeah, that was a challenging road.

But I finished! And I think it’s pretty good!  Since it’s designed to be used in any year, the entries can only get so specific.  So for the non-moveable feasts like Christmas and the Marian feasts, the entries are set.  But since the liturgical seasons are moveable, what I did was to make the late February and March entries Lent-ish, the late April and May entries Easter-ish and the December entries Adventy.

I’ve written quite a bit for Creative Communications for the Parish – which is a great company providing affordable, quality materials.

Of course, I contribute 6 devotions to every quarterly issue of Living Faith. There are print and digital versions.


This Lenten devotional:

"amy welborn"

Do I Have to Go?  – a little pamphlet on helping children get more out of Mass.

"amy welborn"

This year, I have a new family Advent devotional:

"amy welborn"

Currently out of print is a small booklet I wrote on St. Nicholas.

"amy welborn"

Also currently out of print, but I understand, coming back into print for Lent 2015 is the young people’s Stations of the Cross I wrote:

"amy welborn"

Okay…moving on to OSV:


Read Full Post »

….that is, my books.

(And of course, my intention was to publish this on Tuesday.  Now it’s Wednesday.  So it will be a short week.  Perhaps it will be “Book Weeks.”  Probably.)

Since Adventures in Assisi is now available, I’m going to seize the moment and take the week to offer a bunch of posts on the books I’ve written over the past fifteen years or so.  I’m going to begin today by suggesting some resources for those of you with adult education formation to plan…

(And remember, you don’t have to be An Official Staff Member of a Parish in order to get a small group going.  You can, you know, call up some people, invite them to invite friends, pick a book…and go to someone’s house or a coffeeshop or bar and..talk about it!)

"amy welborn"

First, some formal studies:

Loyola Press has a series of Scripture studies, and I wrote two of them:

Parables: Stories of the Kingdom


Matthew 26-28: Jesus’ Life-Giving Death.

Both are designed to be used over 6 weeks.  You can tell because the series is called 6 Weeks with the Bible. 

If you’d like something just as substantive but a little less structured, you could try The Words We Pray, also published by Loyola.

It’s a series of essays connecting the content, historical background and spiritual resonance of traditional Catholic prayers.

I have a page about the book here.

Here’s an excerpt at the Loyola site. An excerpt of the excerpt:

The words of our traditional prayers are also gifts from the past, connecting us to something very important: the entirety of the Body of Christ, as it was then, as it is now, and as it will be to come.

How many billions of times have Christians recited the Lord’s Prayer? How many lips, both Jewish and Christian, have murmured the ancient words of the Psalms?

There is a sense in which each of us is alone in the universe. At the end, there is no one but us and God. We are beholden to no one but him, and he is the one we face with an accounting of how we have used this gift called life.

But we are not alone. We have billions of brothers and sisters, all of whom breathe the same air and whose souls look to the same heights for meaning and purpose.

We whisper the words of the Hail Mary at our child’s bedside, in concert, in God’s time, with every other mother who has looked to the Virgin for help and prayers when the burdens of parenthood seemed unbearably heavy.

Every child stumbling through the words of the Lord’s Prayer, offering up simple prayers for simple needs out of the simplest, deepest love—every one of those children has countless companions lisping through the same pleas, and we are among those companions.

Together we beg God for mercy, we rage at God in confusion, we praise God in full throat. And when we do so using the Psalms, we are one with the Jews and Christians who have begged, raged, and praised for three thousand years.

We’re not alone. And when we pray these ancient prayers, in the company of the living and the dead, we know this.

I know of several small groups through the years that have used The Words We Pray as a source book.  It might be nice for RCIA as well.

Do you want something FREE?

If your group members have access to computers or tablets – which most of us do – you could use Come Meet Jesus or Mary and the Christian Lifeboth out of print now, but both available at no cost to you or anyone else.

More about Come Meet Jesusincluding the download.

More about Mary and the Christian Life, including the download.

Of course I can’t claim the real content for this, but I did write the study guide for Fr. Robert Barron’s series on Conversion.  Both it and the 6 Weeks with the Bible study on Matthew would be good for Lent, for those of you planning ahead. (It will be here sooner than you know!)

Finally, you might also find Michael’s How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist and The How to Book of the Mass good – the former for study/discussion groups, and the latter for RCIA.

Oh, one more thing.  Fiction-reading groups are very popular and a great way to bring up interesting issues of faith in a non-threatening and not-overly personal kind of way (although the good group facilitator will have developed the skill of tactfully handling the oversharers anyway, right?).  There are loads of good books out there for that purpose, but you might take a look at the titles in the Loyola Classics series.  I was the General Editor of this series for a long time – that means I cleared rights to books, acquired authors to write the forwards and then wrote the author bios and discussion questions for each book.

The titles are here.

"amy welborn"

Read Full Post »

For a long time, I’ve been searching for a really absorbing, can’t-put-it-down read, and several months ago, I finally found it, back in the 19th century:

No Name by Wilkie Collins.

I’d never read any Collins before, not even The Moonstone. I don’t remember the rabbit hole excursion that took me to this one, but the Amazon reviews were intriguing, so I splurged, spent $0.00, and was then occupied for weeks. 

I’m not sure how thick this book would be in dead tree edition, but it was long, and tedious only briefly, here and there. So I suppose since “brief” and “tedious” are antonyms..it wasn’t tedious at all?

For the most part, it was fascinating and quite absorbing, often contemporary in feel and entertaining.

"wilkie Collins"It’s also an interesting social commentary on social class, morays, inheritance laws, marriage and gender relations in 19th century England. 

In brief, No Name is the story of two young adult sisters whose parents die within days of each other, and because of a convoluted family situation only revealed at their deaths, lose what they thought would be their inheritance.  The story follows both sisters, in a way, although the center is really the younger sister, Magdalen, who goes to bizarre lengths to reclaim what she believes is rightfully hers, lengths which include a stint on the stage, many deceptions of various degrees, and interaction with a host of great characters, and of course, a few coincidences along the way. 

There are some fantastic characters in this book, figures that upon first introduction may seem sterotypical, but which acquire depth and verisimilitude along the way (with all those words describing them…they’d better…).  There is a bit of melodrama and moralism in the conclusion, but it’s really just a touch, and is almost earned.  

One of the most interesting elements of this book to me were chapters, interspersed between major sections, composed of only exchanges of letters or newspaper reports.  It’s a brisk, efficient way of moving the story along.  

Here is a good synopsis and discussion of the book at Book Snob. 

Next up:  Armandale. 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: