I had some other things set to chat about today, but then this popped up on my Facebook feed this morning, posted  by the mother of a local seminarian.

You may or may not know of Francis Chan. If you follow contemporary evangelicalism, well – you do. He’s a long-time pastor/church leader/planter who is known for, among other things, leaving his thriving megachurch, going in new directions, critiquing establishment churches and generally preaching a radical dependence on God as the center of discipleship. Here’s an interview with him about why he’s moving to Asia to minister. 

More on that move from his website.

This video is of a sermon Chan preached last month – about the role of Communion in church life. 


In this first clip, he speaks forcefully and directly of the Body and Blood of Christ and shares his historical studies – which revealed to him that for 1500 years, church gatherings were not centered on a guy in pulpit, but on the Body and Blood of Christ.


In this clip, Chan describes what we’d call the Communion of Saints.



Here’s the whole sermon, if you’re interested. 

Again, and again, we see the same thing: Bored, fearful and sometimes simply faithless Catholic leaders, lay and ordained, turn from the core of the Faith, distract from it, minimize it, putting themselves and their own concerns at the center, seeking novelty and approval from whatever culture they’re living in at the moment.

But out here in the real world, human beings are still seeking, and the answer to their search – is what the apostolic Church – the Body of Christ – has treasured since the beginning, nestled in the place where God’s creatures feed, waiting in the House of Bread. 

7 Quick Takes

—1 —

Greetings from Charleston, where we are visiting and babysitting, and some of us sitting in trees.


— 2 —

It was great to see two of my articles on Catholic World Report’s list of their 20 most popular stories and articles of 2019. 

Hopefully more to come this year!

While you’re there, check out my contribution to the “Best Books I Read in 2019.” 

— 3 —

Tomorrow (Saturday, January 4) is the feastday of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. She’s in  The Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints under “Saints are people who love children.”

A sample page here:


— 4 —

Then Sunday – if it weren’t Epiphany, would be the memorial of St. John Neumann:

He’s a saint who was a strong leader….the first page of the entry in The Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints.

"amy welborn"


— 5 –


Then, yes, Epiphany. All I have this year (since I’ll be traveling through the weekend) is my annual reminder for you to read some Eliotand this photo of one of the first Ebay purchases I ever made. The kind of thing Ebay was invented for me to find.

"amy welborn"


— 6 —

Thanks to Steve McEvoy for including Friendship with Jesus on his book of best non-fiction reads of the last quarter of 2019. See his list here and the review here. 

— 7 —

I’m finally getting organized about the free books I’m offering on Kindle – just an explanation – as a publisher, you have a few days every quarter or so that you are allowed to offer promotions. I have several books self-published there, and sporadically remember to do a promotion. But let’s get organized! Right now – until midnight Saturday – is The Fourth Rule. 


The Fourth Rule: St. Benedict's Guide to Life by [Dubruiel, Michael]


Apologies for the lameness of these takes. As I said, I’m traveling, I’m using this Chromebook, which I hate, so I am making this quick. Back in business at a real computer on Monday……

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

Beginning 2020…

…as I probably began and ended 2019…randomly.

I said on Monday that I’d be posting on High School Homeschool stuff..yesterday. Well, that didn’t happen, so here I am today. Some other notes, first:






Okay, let’s get to it. I do this partly for us: I need to keep track, need to maintain a transcript, need to reassure myself that this is going okay. Also – it might be useful to one or two of you contemplating the same move, wondering if you’re on the right track. I do not recommend our course of action for anyone else!

Framework: Sort of unschooling, sort of not. A lot of time spent with music. So we’ll start with that:

Music:  Piano study, mostly long-distance, with DMA candidate at a graduate school out of state.

Intermittent Jazz studies with a local teacher.

Organ studies with a local teacher – 2X month.

This coming spring, he’ll participate in a rather in-depth competition, conducted online, with both theory and performance components. It was recommended by his teacher, not because he is competition-mad (he’s not, at all), but because he thinks the format is good, in that it emphasizes feedback from judges. We’re going to call it a class for transcript purposes: “Music Literature and Analysis.”

Image result for gif that's the ticket

Note: Kid does not want to pursue music professionally. He still wants to be an archaeologist.

Math: Did some Algebra II, moved over to Geometry, via Art of Problem Solving and some other resources. It’s fine. I’m going to have him take a local ACT prep workshop at the library in February to gauge where he’s at in that context and see what gaps need to be addressed. He may not even end up taking the ACT or SAT for real, ever (depending on where he decides to apply – in three years, who knows how many will have dropped them), but it will be a decent way to assess how math is going.

Science: Biology via a local Catholic co-op, taught by a Ph.D. from a local university. Lab component. That will continue this semester, and just got word that Chemistry is being offered next year, so we’re set with that.

Spanish: He does that mainly on his own, using the Great Courses Spanish II, and then, of course, there was the week-long immersion in Honduras, via this school.He’ll continue on that road, and over the next year, we’ll do another in-country Spanish school at least once, in either another Central American country or Mexico.

Latin:  Using Latin for the New Millenium and an occasional tutor (local Latin teacher) – he has almost finished Latin I and will spend the time up until early March reviewing, reviewing, reviewing (Declensions! Conjugations! Cases!) and prepping for the National Latin Exam. They have many, many resources on their website, so that will be the main resource for January-February.

History: Ad hoc, his choice. He reads books, articles, watches videos. His main interests this past fall have seemed to be the usual ancient civilizations, along with the two world wars. We did some intentional study of Central American history in prep for our trip.

Note: The kid has a lot of solid historical knowledge, and a good grasp of the main sweep of Western history. Dipping in and exploring what interests him is fine.

Literature:  The Iliad  – he read the whole thing. It took a while, but he did it. Then 1984. Also Hamlet  and on his own, he read/re-read The Fellowship of the Ring and some of the Simarillion. (as well as other light reading). In terms of the literature, he reads, we discuss, I toss in interesting supplementary material. For example, this lecture series on Archaeology and the Iliad. 

In addition, saw an excellent production of Hamlet. 

Spring: The Odyssey is next.  There will be at least one Shakespeare play, depending on what we are able to go see in Atlanta or Montgomery. He is applying to a Great Books-type summer program. If he gets accepted, he’ll be expected to have read the works to be discussed before he goes – so that will take up the bulk of the spring reading.

Religion: Daily discussion of daily Mass readings and saints. More formal focus on Old Testament. He read/studied all of Genesis and Exodus, and we did a little skip through the rest of the Pentateuch together. Besides the Bible itself, the text was A Catholic Introduction to the Bible: Old Testament by Brad Pitre. He doesn’t read every word of the textbook – I pick out sections and assign them, we discuss. We will continue this spring semester, probably wrapping it up by March, then move on to New Testament.

In addition:

  • Participation in a New Music Festival with his jazz teacher
  • Began job as church organist, 2 Masses a weekend
  • Weekly volunteer at a catechetical program for the developmentally disabled
  • Weekly participant in Catholic men/boys group.
  • Bimonthly volunteer in kitchen for shelter for women and children.
  • Is going to start boxing again in January (In previous homeschooling stints, he was part of a small group that did boxing/training once a week. He wants to get back into it – so sure!)
  • 2-week trip to Honduras/Spanish/archaeology study.

Okay, I feel a little better. That’s not too bad. Believe me, school would be great – if there were a school that he didn’t feel was wasting his time or that I didn’t feel would take lots of our money to violate our values. But we just don’t have that here – and while there are some excellent public schools here (and two of my older kids went through IB/AP in public schools), we’re not zoned for them and I’m not a fan of that high-level, intense, imposed-from-above politicized framework for high school learning. Plus, honestly – if he were in regular school, there’s no way he could manage the music, especially the organ, since, you know, we don’t have a pipe organ in our house, and must find other places to practice – most of which are only open and available during the school day.

It seems to be working so far. I guess.

Image result for gif don't know what I'm doing


Well, hey there. This will be boring.

Coming to you from a coffee shop in Birmingham, Alabama because the power’s been


out at my house since morning and now they’re saying it won’t be restored until early this evening. Okay, then. I’ll be right here. Until I go somewhere else for a while.

(Guys are in Florida.)

So let’s catch up with some digesting.

  • Writing:  I had a couple of short things due at the end of this week and then at the end of January – got them all done late last week!

I just spent the last couple of hours going through all my various and sundry Muji notebooks in which I scrawled my way through 2019. 75% of my Great Thoughts were, of course, not great at all, but what was salvageable I copied out in a new Muji notebook for 2020….

I don’t know what will come of any of it. Really. I have no idea.

  • Reading: My daughter got me Just Mercy for Christmas, and so I’ll be reading that over the next few days. I’m also reading Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters via Internet Archive – I’d had it on hold for a bit, and it finally was “returned.”  It’s…strange. It’s at the level of strange that I’ll probably finish reading it tonight out of curiosity.
  • Watching: As reported, we saw Knives Out..and I went against the tide on that one, as you can read here. Finished with The Mandalorian, which was not earth-shaking, but also not unpleasant watching. My favorite aspect of the show, besides from the Sergio Leone/Ennio Morricone homage aspect and okay, sure,  Baby Yoda, is the character of Cara Dune, played by former MMA competitor Gina Carano, who, while offering fairly wooden line reads, is of a body type that is actually convincing for a warrior, as opposed to the 90-pound waifs that we are usually expected to believe can take down whole divisions of whatever’s coming at them.
  • I am not a Disney person at all, but I have to say that they did the right thing in making The Mandalorian a traditional weekly release rather than an all-at-once-binge-streaming experience. I think that model just might be reaching a limit, don’t you? I’ve done my share of binge-watching and almost always regret it. It’s really a form of gluttony – satiating a felt need or desire, barely able to say no – and then being ultimately unsatisfied. Same thing when I read a book too fast – I can’t stop, but then it doesn’t take long for everything I’ve consumed to just pass through and move on –  I can hardly remember what I’ve read or watched. There’s something about experiencing something at a slower pace, and doing so in community and in conversation, that makes the experience more memorable and lasting.
  • I’ve been revisiting The Young Pope.  I’m definitely going to watch season 2 – The New Pope and thought I should probably go more deeply into the first season than I had. I have one more bit to watch, then I’ll write about it. Hopefully tomorrow.
  • Please don’t get either of those confused with The Two Popes, which I have no intention of watching. I’d rather watch a fabulist wanna-be Fellini-esque fever dream than revisionist agenda-driven dramatizations of recent history.
  • Listening:  A lot of Christmas music, naturally. Son #5 got through his first Christmas as a church musician – not as taxing as most since there was no Midnight Mass required. But he did a good job – particularly nice was  What Child is This, played with the organ on harpsichord setting along with a viola.

  • For some reason, this has been on heavy rotation, too.
  • Planning: School for the coming semester. Look for a post on that in the next couple of days as I work out my thoughts and sketch a transcript of sorts (he’s applying for a summer program, and so yeah, gotta do an actual transcript.). And then planning a bit of travel. We are circumscribed by his weekend job as well as Wednesday night church activity and, through mid-March Thursday morning biology class. But we’ll be skipping the mid-week activities for almost a full week in NYC in a bit, and then doing a couple other beginning-of-the week trips to other places – where we can either drive or hop on a direct flight – not many of those from BHM…


It’s the feast of the Holy Family, of course, but it’s also the memorial of St. Thomas Becket. 

He’s in the Loyola Kids Book of Saints in the section “Saints are people who tell the truth.”


Here’s the last page of the entry, so you have a sense of the content.



Holy Family Refugees

I’m not taking a stand on that specifically because there’s plenty of related verbiage out there, and most gravitate towards the view that confirms their political views anyway.

But here’s an slightly off-topic take.

Consider this:  for a few decades now, the mainstream view of the narrative in question, among Biblical scholars and those formed by them in seminary and divinity school (which would be most those preaching and teaching at most of you)  is that…wait for it…

none of it actually happened  anyway. 


Am I right?

Brown, Fitzmyer, Meier, etc., etc.

Now, I don’t want to get simplistic about this. It’s not a matter of Modern Skeptical Absolutism v. Literalist Absolutism. The question, for most scholars and their students is not as simple as: it’s all history and that’s why it’s valuable or it’s all myth and only valuable as such.

Subtle distinctions were made and teased out: the Gospel narratives are testimonies of faith rooted in experience, not 20th century histories, and should be treated and studied as such. There is a difference between exploring what the Gospel writers and their Paperback Jesus of History, Christ of Faith Bookcommunities were pointing to Christologically and saying that one or the other dogma can be “proven” historically. This is what drew questions about Brown and others, most famously,  about the Virginal Conception and the Resurrection. They’d say, “The normal methods of historiography can’t prove that these things happened. They’re in another realm of experience.” And it would be interpreted as “These scholars are saying that the Virginal Conception and the Resurrection weren’t historical events that occurred in the temporal sphere.”

Which sometimes they weren’t – and sometimes they were.

One person’s subtlety is another’s obfuscation.

But through the massive popularity of Raymond Brown’s The Birth of the Messiah  – THE authority on the infancy narratives from the time of its original publication in 1977 to perhaps the present –  historical skepticism gained the upper hand over more nuanced theological goals. Brown was “conservative” in a sense –this piece is a fair-minded treatment of his work, I think, but this conclusion, from another paper, authored by a (self-defined) non-conservative scholar, captures the essence of Brown’s project from a (liberal) critical perspective. This fellow says that Brown tried to have it both ways – to undermine the historicity of the infancy narratives, but at the same time saying that the essential Christological truths being communicated weren’t dependent on that historicity.  Brown himself says that the historical-critical method has cast doubt on the historicity of the events in the narratives, and that his project is to show that even if there are questions about historicity by 20th century standards, that doesn’t diminish their value to faith. Dawes disagrees, saying,

In pursuing this question I shall take Raymond Brown’s study of the infancy narratives as exemplary. Let me begin by avoiding some possible misunderstandings. I am not questioning the results of Brown’s exegesis. I shall assume that his results are substantially correct, that he has identified what the authors of these narratives intended to convey to their audiences. In his respect, I greatly admire Brown’s indefatigable detective work. Nor do I wish to dispute Brown’s generally negative judgments regarding the historicity of these stories. He produces excellent reasons to believe that there probably were no magi, that there probably was no star, and so on. I have no personal difficulty with these conclusions. What I wish to dispute is Brown’s assumption that these negative conclusions regarding historicity have no theological significance, that we can embrace the theological significance of these stories while no longer believing that the events they relate really occurred.

I am aware that I am not the only person to question this assumption. There are theologically conservative commentators—with whom I otherwise have little in common—who raise similar concerns. Their conclusion would be that we must regard these stories as reports of actual events, for they would otherwise lose their religious significance. I think that such commentators have sound theological instincts, but I have no desire to embrace their conclusion. I agree with Brown that for the most part we cannot regard these stories as historically accurate. But if it is true that the religious significance of these stories depends on their historicity, what follows? 

Point: There was hedging and tentative language, but honestly, the weight of Catholic Biblical scholarship for the past few decades has assumed that the Infancy Narratives of Matthew and Luke have very, very limited value as history.  It’s a pastiche, a midrash composed, not from the memories of those who were there, but from a mix of Jewish tradition, messianic prophecies and concerns of the communities out of which and for whom the narratives were produced.

And it filtered down, of course.

Consider this summary page from the very popular high school textbook by Thomas Zanzig, Jesus of History, Christ of Faith. 

“In fact, in their infancy narratives, Matthew and Luke may have moved beyond historical concerns altogether, focusing instead on insights into the origins of Jesus that only people of faith would be concerned about.”


Again, let’s not be simpletons about this.  Catholic Biblical interpretation has never been stuck in bare-boned literalism and historicism. That’s not what this is about. In terms of the Flight to Egypt, of course – as the Fathers long observed – the entire narrative in Matthew evokes the life of Moses, beginning here. We observe that, we meditate on it – but does that invariably drive us to conclude that Matthew wove the tale from threads he spun himself, divorced from historical events? It might surprise you to know how many would say “yes.”

So this is simply my typically over-long way of pointing out something that struck me as, well, ironic.

I mean – if we’re characterizing the Holy Family as refugees…does that mean we’re back to saying that the Flight to Egypt actually happened?



7 Quick Takes

—1 —

Happy Christmastide and feast of St. John –if you’re around the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham, Alabama at noon, you can come have some wine blessed:

Image may contain: drink

— 2 —

And then….there’s this:

Image may contain: 3 people

— 3 —

As a young person, and then youngish church geek, both employed and volunteer, I was formed in the late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s – an era in which people were forever making stuff up in the name of helping people bring faith into daily life, making it more relatable in modern times and such. When all along, what they should have been doing was rejecting the adolescent urge to reject what their parents (aka the Church) was giving them, listen, dig deeper, and see how almost two thousand years of Tradition and traditions means something. Maybe it just means that there are practices that, by their antiquity, have been experienced as powerful and, yes, pertinent to the daily joys and struggles of human beings, no matter where or when they lived.

— 4 —

Did you know that Hallmark worked with Salvador Dali to create Christmas cards? Not many were sold in the US, but here are a few articles and images.

From the Hallmark site.

From Artsy:

“It was the founder of Hallmark’s idea. Santas were always a hit,” explains historian for the Hallmark Archives Samantha Bradbeer of the anomalous, albeit wonderful Dalí painting. “Dalí’s first series of cards had just been pulled from the shelves, so he really wanted to design a popular card. He thought this might be it.” Hallmark, the biggest greeting card company in the world, had commissioned Dalí, and other up-and-coming artists of the decade, to design holiday cards earlier that year. But Dalí’s initial attempts—which depicted a headless angel, a glowing but featureless baby Jesus, and three wise men atop snarling camels—proved too avant-garde for the everyday buyer.

“Unfortunately, they just didn’t sell,” continues Bradbeer. “So that’s when Dalí asked for our founder J.C.’s advice.” Dalí’s second go, however, didn’t work out either. When the artist presented his unique Santa to Hallmark founder Joyce Clyde Hall, affectionately known as J.C., he wasn’t a fan. While Hall graciously purchased the painting for Hallmark’s permanent art collection, it was promptly stashed in a closet where it hid for many years. Only recently has it seen the light of day, on the walls of the company’s sprawling Kansas City headquarters.

From an expert on Spanish culture, more on these and the cards Dali created for Spanish markets:

This early 1948 rendition of a “Christmas” landscape, however, is but one of Dalí’s efforts to illustrate the holiday season. In 1958 he created the first of his eventual 19 greeting cards for Hoeschts, and the publishing company would annually send these artsy holiday cards to doctors and pharmacists throughout Spain. Importantly, Dalí’s renditions did not incorporate traditional Mediterranean, Catholic Christmas imagery such as the Nativity scene or the Reyes magos (Wise men), but rather they appropriated more American and Central European elements, such as the Christmas Tree. The “árbol santo” is in fact a constant element in these 19 illustrations, and Dalí occasionally converted the Christmas Tree into an allegorical depiction of the years events or infused it with distinctive elements of Spanish culture.



— 5 –

And here you go:

More images at all the links up there.

— 6 —

We have been awash in music, of course. Son #5, employed as the organist at a local parish. There’s a snippet of a postlude up on Instagram here.

— 7 —

Be sure to check out:

Christmas-related material for kids in some of my books!

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

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