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From 2006, Pope Emeritus Benedict on St. Matthew:

On the basis of these simple observations that result from the Gospel, we can advance a pair of thoughts.

The first is that Jesus welcomes into the group of his close friends a man who, according to the concepts in vogue in Israel at that time, was regarded as a public sinner.

Matthew, in fact, not only handled money deemed impure because of its provenance from people foreign to the People of God, but he also collaborated with an alien and despicably greedy authority whose tributes moreover, could be arbitrarily determined.

amy-welbornThis is why the Gospels several times link “tax collectors and sinners” (Mt 9: 10; Lk 15: 1), as well as “tax collectors and prostitutes” (Mt 21: 31).

Furthermore, they see publicans as an example of miserliness (cf. Mt 5: 46: they only like those who like them), and mention one of them, Zacchaeus, as “a chief tax collector, and rich” (Lk 19: 2), whereas popular opinion associated them with “extortioners, the unjust, adulterers” (Lk 18: 11).

A first fact strikes one based on these references: Jesus does not exclude anyone from his friendship. Indeed, precisely while he is at table in the home of Matthew-Levi, in response to those who expressed shock at the fact that he associated with people who had so little to recommend them, he made the important statement: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk 2: 17).

The good news of the Gospel consists precisely in this: offering God’s grace to the sinner!

Elsewhere, with the famous words of the Pharisee and the publican who went up to the Temple to pray, Jesus actually indicates an anonymous tax collector as an appreciated example of humble trust in divine mercy: while the Pharisee is boasting of his own moral perfection, the “tax collector… would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!'”.

And Jesus comments: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 18: 13-14).

Thus, in the figure of Matthew, the Gospels present to us a true and proper paradox: those who seem to be the farthest from holiness can even become a model of the acceptance of God’s mercy and offer a glimpse of its marvellous effects in their own lives.

St John Chrysostom makes an important point in this regard: he notes that only in the account of certain calls is the work of those concerned mentioned. Peter, Andrew, James and John are called while they are fishing, while Matthew, while he is collecting tithes.

These are unimportant jobs, Chrysostom comments, “because there is nothing more despicable than the tax collector, and nothing more common than fishing” (In Matth. Hom.: PL 57, 363). Jesus’ call, therefore, also reaches people of a low social class while they go about their ordinary work.

Another reflection prompted by the Gospel narrative is that Matthew responds instantly to Jesus’ call: “he rose and followed him”. The brevity of the sentence clearly highlights Matthew’s readiness in responding to the call. For him it meant leaving everything, especially what guaranteed him a reliable source of income, even if it was often unfair and dishonourable. Evidently, Matthew understood that familiarity with Jesus did not permit him to pursue activities of which God disapproved.

The application to the present day is easy to see: it is not permissible today either to be attached to things that are incompatible with the following of Jesus, as is the case with riches dishonestly achieved.

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

Here’s the study guide I wrote – it’s out of print, the rights revert to me – so feel free to use if you like. An idea for a free parish study group – use the talks from the Vatican website, and then this study guide – there you go!

And from the Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols – the symbols of the evangelists:

EPSON MFP image

7 Quick Takes

—1 —

School. So much to say about school. No, I don’t mean from my personal perspective – nothing has changed here – but from observations and the news. What a mess, from top to bottom, bottom to top.

A quick survey from Kerry McDonald:

Many schools have reopened for in-person learning with social distancing stipulations, although most larger, urban school districts remain remote-only for the foreseeable future. Some schools opened then quickly closed.

Pandemic pods continue to sprout, as families try to figure out ways to balance learning and working while offering their children much-needed social interaction. More families are choosing independent homeschooling, but that too looks unfamiliar this fall with many libraries and museums closed and in-person homeschool classes and activities less abundant.

It’s the start of a very strange academic year for everyone.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically disrupted every layer of the education sector, from early childhood through higher education. Some of this disruption is good and will hopefully lead to lasting change in expanding families’ education options. Some of it is bad, such as creeping government control. Some of it is just plain ugly. Here are a few highlights of the good, bad, and ugly in back-to-school 2020:

— 2 —

One sign of hope, locally – a charter school that’s opened with several hundred kids and seems to be doing spectacularly.

Opening a charter school in the middle of a worldwide pandemic wasn’t in the guidebook nor in the original plan for the school, two years in the making, and now the state’s largest charter is up and running with 420 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

As opening day approached, Principal Martin Nalls was uncertain about whether to open for in-person learning, watching as neighboring school systems in Birmingham and Jefferson County decided for remote-only learning at the start of the school year.

But Nalls said the new school had to open its doors for students. “Why are we here if we’re just going to do school the way school it is being done everywhere else,” Nalls told AL.com in an interview at the school Friday morning.

Here’s the school’s Instagram feed, if you want some cheerful news in your life.

Just a note: You may think that Alabama is a welcoming landscape for charter schools, but it’s the opposite. Charter schools have had a huge uphill battle in Alabama. There are only a few in the whole state. The teacher’s association fought like mad against it.

— 3 —

Why are we here if we’re just going to do school the way school it is being done everywhere else?

That’s a striking statement and one I wish more Catholic schools would take up and run with, hard. Some are – in our area most Catholic schools have been open for face-to-face learning (with online option) since mid-August, and everything’s going fine.

But in general, nationwide, we are not seeing Catholic institutions seize this moment and meet the needs of families now desperate to find educational resources for their children. It could happen in all kinds of creative ways, from offering space to creating educational opportunities that fall outside the box, expectations and boundaries of current thinking and practice.

But no. In general, as with church openings and Mass attendance, Catholic “leaders” study the civil regulations, attorneys and insurers at their nervous sides, proclaiming their solidarity with secular powers, anxious lest they be perceived as troublemakers or worst of all, outsiders.

— 4 —

Rod Dreher came through town earlier this week, and we met for coffee/tea and good conversation that was, as per usual these days, depressing with a few glimmers of hope.

I’m looking forward to reading his new book!

— 5 –

Went to our favorite local piano store the other day to consult about a gift for my daughter, who turned 29 this week. While there, Piano Man of course got to try out lots of good instruments, including the 220k Fazioli they have in the back. Pretty nice. Although quite different from a Steinway.

You can check out some video here.

— 6 –

Speaking of my daughter, give her a birthday present and check out her Etsy shop! Some cute cross-stitch kits and patters she’s created, plus vintage things – including a gorgeous fan and lovely typewriter.

— 7 —

Finally got around to watching a movie last night – first time since College Son left a month ago – the three of us had a fairly regular routine of watching movies a few nights a week (I might try to do a post with a list of all the films we watched since he returned in March), but since he left, Kid #5 spends his days schooling and music-ing, and then late afternoon and early evening out biking with his neighborhood friends, which leaves him an hour or so at night to tend to his video games…

But last night, we had time and I acceded to his request that I watch Interstellar with him – one of his favorites, which I’d not seen.

It was…okay. I really appreciate what Christopher Nolan does in his films – he has vision and grapples with ideas, and is almost counter-cultural in that respect. And while I like the theme of love and really like the emphasis on family ties in this film, the whole thing was a just a bit overwrought and over complicated for me.

I don’t see a full review from Movie Son, but he does mention it here in a bigger essay he wrote on “Awe.”

My point being that while emotional connection to a film is one of the chief reasons we watch movies to begin with, awe is one of the hardest emotions to create in an audience. Not every film can even attempt for the emotion, but when a movie comes along that does go for it, I want it to work. I’m not going to write much about it, but The Fountain tried it a decade ago as well, and largely didn’t succeed either, but I still enjoy it for the attempt. Interstellar tried it as well, but Nolan kept the movie too small thematically for it to really connect at that level. I’m always looking for that next movie that’s going to hit me in the same way.

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

St. Robert Bellarmine

..is today’s memorial.

First, an interview with Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J., who has spent a great deal of his recent life translating Bellarmine into English:

Asked how he became interested in translating St. Robert Bellarmine, Fr. Baker mused that, “I had just finished translating the Sacrae Theologiae Summa [an eight-volume series on dogmatic theology, also available from Keep The Faith publications]—which is based mainly on St. Thomas Aquinas, but also brings in many of the other Doctors, too—and, since I was now back at Bellarmine Prep, I thought I’d look into the school’s namesake and discovered there was much of Bellarmine’s work that had not yet been translated into English.”

Hence the 1000-page Controversies. Fr. Baker says, “The Controversies took a full year to translate.” Contained in a single (if enormous) volume, part one deals with the Bible, part two with Christology, and the third part is concentrated on the primacy of St. Peter and the papacy.

“This is good, solid, spiritual reading,” notes Fr. Baker. “I enjoyed translating Bellarmine very much—it was very instructive and I learned a lot in the process.”

“Bellarmine really goes after the Protestants in his work [the Controversies]—he doesn’t hold back at all—in every one of his writings: Luther, Calvin, Zwingli—they were fomenting a hostile, violent environment inimical to the Catholic Church and Bellarmine was having none of it,” Fr. Baker reminds us. “So, he really refutes Calvin and Luther and Henry VIII. In fact, at Oxford and Cambridge Universities they would have classes on how to refute Robert Bellarmine, since he was so convincing in his arguments against them!”

“Bellarmine never, ever calls them ‘Protestants’—he calls them ‘Heretics.’ And he says point-blank that they [Luther et al.] are undoubtedly in hell!” Fr. Baker says.

“One of Bellarmine’s confreres in the College of Cardinals called him ‘The most learned churchman since St. Augustine’— and I’d agree with that,” Fr. Baker said. “His knowledge of Scripture and Theology—he seemed to know the entire Bible by heart, plus the teachings not only of nearly every pope, but of many bishops, too! It’s just astonishing. Bellarmine was truly a polymath.”

From a few years ago, a review essay of a couple of books on Bellarmine’s political thought:

Despite his rehabilitation in the last quarter of the 19th century, Bellarmine’s intellectual legacy remains mixed. In one respect, at least, he was a product of his time because his vision of a res publica Christiana depended on a united Christendom that could never be restored. Yet, what is easy to see, in hindsight, was not so clear in the early 17th century. On the other hand, his defiance of royal absolutism, in defense of rule of law and religious truth, is far from outdated. Indeed, the very modern assertion of state power only justified further the papal need to secure its political independence by maintaining its temporal possessions. Yet, the Papal States could not secure this independence because the pope depended on other nations for their defense. This dilemma was resolved satisfactorily when the Italian state formally recognized the Vatican as a sovereign entity in 1929. The concordat, negotiated by Pius XI, secured for the papacy, the freedom to exercise its spiritual duties. Furthermore, Bellarmine’s effort to limit spiritual and political power to their proper jurisdiction, was a continuation of, rather than a departure from, the long Scholastic tradition that formed the basis of Jesuit political ideas. As Harro Höpfl observed in Jesuit Political Thought, “In Jesuit political theory…legitimate government was limited government.” Given the modern state’s insatiable hunger for power, Bellarmine’s political philosophy has not lost its relevance.

Tutino is right to highlight the importance Bellarmine placed on papal spiritual authority. He was, in this respect, a man ahead of his time, because he saw clearly what papal spiritual power could do when unencumbered by temporal distractions. Yet, even with no temporal power, a pope, like Pius XII, thought it dangerous to confront the Nazi menace, explicitly and directly, with his spiritual authority. In a world indifferent to the Gospel, at best, and hostile, at worst, Christians oftentimes find themselves in a position of weakness and danger. For Catholics, all we possess is moral persuasion. Bellarmine may help us choose the only viable course we have left. Since it was all the Apostles had, there is reason for hope that lost ground can be recaptured, though not without some sacrifice. Tutino’s valuable study, and her handsome collection of translations, can help guide our way.

From Word on Fire:

In his time as archbishop he dedicated himself to bringing his people into closer union with God by instructing them in the faith. One biographer reports that, at a time when sermons were common in Capua only during Advent and Lent, St. Robert dutifully preached every Sunday and feast day in Capua and went to great trouble to get to the remote portions of his diocese during the week in order to catechize his congregation. Though he was recalled to Rome for service to the universal Church after only a short period of ministry in Capua, he never ceased to be mindful of the education of the faithful.

In the last years of his life he wrote several spiritual books that became immensely popular among the laity. Reportedly the most famous of these was The Mind’s Ascent to God by the Ladder of Created Things. He notes in this work how easy it is for man to forget God since he “can neither see nor easily think about him nor cleave to him in affection…” Therefore, following such masters as St. Paul, St. Bonaventure, and St. Thomas Aquinas, he offers a series of meditations on the works of God to help bring men to greater knowledge and love of the Creator. He demonstrates that we can come to know just how close God is to us by pondering created reality, for it is a true (though by no means comprehensive) reflection of his majesty and perfection.

From B16, back in 2011:

His preaching and his catechesis have that same character of essentiality which he had learned from his Ignatian education, entirely directed to concentrating the soul’s energies on the Lord Jesus intensely known, loved and imitated. In the writings of this man of governance one is clearly aware, despite the reserve behind which he conceals his sentiments, of the primacy he gives to Christ’s teaching.

St Bellarmine thus offers a model of prayer, the soul of every activity: a prayer that listens to the word of God, that is satisfied in contemplating his grandeur, that does not withdraw into self but is pleased to abandon itself to God.

RobertBellarmine

A hallmark of Bellarmine’s spirituality is his vivid personal perception of God’s immense goodness. This is why our Saint truly felt he wasa beloved son of God. It was a source of great joy to him to pause in recollection, with serenity and simplicity, in prayer and in contemplation of God.

In his book De ascensione mentis in Deum — Elevation of the mind to God — composed in accordance with the plan of theItinerarium [Journey of the mind into God] of St Bonaventure, he exclaims: “O soul, your example is God, infinite beauty, light without shadow, splendour that exceeds that of the moon and the sun. He raised his eyes to God in whom is found the archetypes of all things, and of whom, as from a source of infinite fertility, derives this almost infinite variety of things. For this reason you must conclude: whoever finds God finds everything, whoever loses God loses everything”.

In this text an echo of the famous contemplatio ad amorem obtineundum — contemplation in order to obtain love — of theSpiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola can be heard. Bellarmine, who lived in the lavish and often unhealthy society of the end of late 16th and early 17th centuries, drew from this contemplation practical applications and applied them to the situation of the Church of his time with a lively pastoral inspiration.

In his book De arte bene moriendi — the art of dying a good death — for example, he points out as a reliable norm for a good life and also for a good death regular and serious meditation that should account to God for one’s actions and one’s way of life, and seek not to accumulate riches on this earth but rather to live simply and charitably in such a way as to lay up treasure in Heaven.

In his book De gemitu columbae — the lament of the dove — in which the dove represents the Church, is a forceful appeal to all the clergy and faithful to undertake a personal and concrete reform of their own life in accordance with the teachings of Scripture and of the saints, among whom he mentions in particular St Gregory Nazianzus, St John Crysostom, St Jerome and St Augustine, as well as the great founders of religious orders, such as St Benedict, St Dominic and St Francis.

Bellarmine teaches with great clarity and with the example of his own life that there can be no true reform of the Church unless there is first our own personal reform and the conversion of our own heart.

Bellarmine found in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius recommendations for communicating the profound beauty of the mysteries of faith, even to the simplest of people. He wrote: “If you have wisdom, may you understand that you have been created for the glory of God and for your eternal salvation. This is your goal, this is the centre of your soul, this the treasure of your heart. Therefore consider as truly good for you what leads you to your goal, and truly evil what causes you to miss it. The wise person must not seek felicitous or adverse events, wealth or poverty, health or sickness, honours or offences, life or death. They are good and desirable only if they contribute to the glory of God and to your eternal happiness, they are evil and to be avoided if they hinder it” (De ascensione mentis in Deum, grad. 1).

These are obviously not words that have gone out of fashion but words on which we should meditate at length today, to direct our journey on this earth. They remind us that the aim of our life is the Lord, God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ, in whom he continues to call us and to promise us communion with him. They remind us of the importance of trusting in the Lord, of expending ourselves in a life faithful to the Gospel, of accepting and illuminating every circumstance and every action of our life with faith and with prayer, ever reaching for union with him. Many thanks.

And then looking back (or forward?) to Lent...one of my traditional posts: What Robert Bellarmine wants you to know about fasting:

"amy welborn"

Notice: Helps you feel better about yourself or helps you achieve your dreams and goals are not  on the list.

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So, it was ten years ago today that Pope Benedict XVI began his apostolic visit to England. The Catholic bishops of England have a section of their website dedicated to the anniversary and the visit.

After Friendship with Jesus was published by the Catholic Truth Society, Pope Benedict visited England.  During that visit, he gave a talk to school children at an event called “The Big Assembly,” and like all of the talks and homilies he gave at such events,  it was rich and so expressive of his skillful way of teaching, which is profound, yet simple..and yet again, not watered down…so…

Another book!

First published by Catholic Truth Society, then by Ignatius, but now out of print – although I’ve never been formally informed that it was out of print by Ignatius. Who knows. It’s not on their website any longer, though.

(Used copies here. I may have one or two, but since it’s out of print, I probably need to hold on to them.)

In structuring this book, we combined the pope’s words with quotations from various saints.  The images are mostly of contemporary children engaged in activities that illustrate the call of Pope Benedict and the saints to follow Christ.  Here’s the text of the entire talk. Some images:

"amy welborn"
"amy welborn"
"amy welborn"

Ann Engelhart’s website.

Ann Engelhart on Instagram – follow here there! She does a lot of great “action videos” of painting. Very interesting!

Sacrifice and Sorrow

This is a bit of a repeat from last year. But maybe worth re-reading or reading for the first time? Still?.

And so reflecting on these two days – the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and Our Lady of Sorrows and today’s Gospel, I thought I’d pull some ideas together.

The question I’ve been asking – as in this essay – is: How do the modes of contemporary media that we use to communicate faith affect the shape and experience of faith – both of the speaker and the listener?

This, as you recall, was the question in the novel The Hack – and I spent some time exploring that and attempting to apply it to the present moment.

In short – contemporary modes of communication enable each of us to be a creator, a producer, a publisher and the star of whatever we make. It’s persona-based communication – put an attractive persona out there with a compelling personal narrative for people to get caught up in, and then they’ll hear your message.

In this post, I suggested that, in looking at this landscape, we remember that a product reflects its producer’s concerns. So someone who puts a lot of time and energy into putting herself out there is (to be circular about it) probably going to be a person whose understanding of success and goal-meeting and fulfillment is – putting herself out there. Joy = creating something and getting attention for a media product and message that centers on them. Oh sure, to encourage and inspire you, but still.

Yes, I know it’s circular. But then – the process is circular. It just is.

All I’m saying is that if the Spiritual Guru Flavor of the Season is telling you to that fulfillment and joy happens when you Wash Your Face and Claim Your Awesomeness – they’re just telling you about what gets them jazzed and hoping that by…putting themselves and this narrative out there – they can make a living.

Even if it’s couched in religious or vaguely spiritual terms – bottom line, yeah, it’s marketing and trying to make a living.

While – as Bert Flax’s story reminds us – doing some good along the way. He’s doing so much good. 

So the question worth asking is – does any of this overwhelming message of self-actualization and fulfillment and worldly happiness have anything to do with the Gospel?

Not really. Not at its core. The fruit of faith can certainly be self-acceptance and peace and even worldly “success” or prosperity – as we get our lives together, try to stop being a jerk and see ourselves and the world more clearly, sure. Who knows what can happen?

But as a spiritual goal? As a test of faith? Nope.

And here we come to the issue – an important question. Or, as Paul says, the opportunity to test everything. 

In a persona-soaked spiritual landscape in a privileged, materially prosperous culture, what is lost?

Marian devotion focuses on contemplation of the relationship between the Mother and her divine Son. In their prayers and sufferings, in their thanksgiving and joy, the faithful have constantly discovered new dimensions and qualities which this mystery can help to disclose for us, for example when the image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is seen as a symbol of her deep and unreserved loving unity with Christ.

It is not self-realization, the desire for self-possession and self-formation, that truly enables people to flourish, according to the model that modern life so often proposes to us, which easily turns into a sophisticated form of selfishness. Rather it is an attitude of self-giving, self-emptying, directed towards the heart of Mary and hence towards the heart of Christ and towards our neighbour: this is what enables us to find ourselves.

In other words, in other paradoxical words:

If this is not your thing, if your life seems too quiet and humble and even painful to boast about, if, on a daily basis, you put aside your own desires so you can serve others, and the current flow makes you wonder about that, prompts you to wonder sometimes if you’re actually living an “authentic” “vibrant” “fulfilling” “faith-filled” life? If – and this pertains the shape of 2020 – circumstances have challenged and upended that as a goal and you’re having to spend time shifting gears, serving others and making sacrifices for them and the greater good instead of chasing your own goals? And if this year of 2020, when you look back, will be defined, most of all by words like confusion, grief and loss?

Well, hang on – and it’s not me saying this. It’s the Catholic spiritual tradition, from Jesus himself on. Be assured:

In your sacrifice and, when it comes, in your sorrow, you are close – very close – the heart of Christ. 

And so in that, peace. 

…is kind of a big deal.

It’s a feast, not just a memorial. That means that there are Sunday-like three readings at Mass, rather than the usual daily two. You can read them here. 

More:

This day is also called the Exaltation of the Cross, Elevation of the Cross, Holy Cross Day, Holy Rood Day, or Roodmas. The liturgy of the Cross is a triumphant liturgy. When Moses lifted up the bronze serpent over the people, it was a foreshadowing of the salvation through Jesus when He was lifted up on the Cross. Our Mother Church sings of the triumph of the Cross, the instrument of our redemption. To follow Christ we must take up His cross, follow Him and become obedient until death, even if it means death on the cross. We identify with Christ on the Cross and become co-redeemers, sharing in His cross.

We made the Sign of the Cross before prayer which helps to fix our minds and hearts to God. After prayer we make the Sign of the Cross to keep close to God. During trials and temptations our strength and protection is the Sign of the Cross. At Baptism we are sealed with the Sign of the Cross, signifying the fullness of redemption and that we belong to Christ. Let us look to the cross frequently, and realize that when we make the Sign of the Cross we give our entire self to God — mind, soul, heart, body, will, thoughts.

O cross, you are the glorious sign of victory.
Through your power may we share in the triumph of Christ Jesus.

Symbol: The cross of triumph is usually pictured as a globe with the cross on top, symbolic of the triumph of our Savior over the sin of the world, and world conquest of His Gospel through the means of a grace (cross and orb).

The Wednesday, Friday and Saturday following September 14 marks one of the Ember Days of the Church. See Ember Days for more information.

From “A Clerk at Oxford” Blog:

Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (‘Holyrood day in harvest’, as it was sometimes called in the Middle Ages), so here’s a fourteenth-century translation of the Crux Fidelis, a verse of the sixth-century hymn Pange Lingua:

Steddefast Crosse, inmong alle other,
Thou art a tree mikel of prise;
In brawnche and flore swilk another
I ne wot non in wood no ris.
Swete be the nalis, and swete be the tree,
And sweter be the birdin that hangis upon thee.

That is:

Steadfast cross, among all others
Thou art a tree great of price;
In branch and flower such another
I know not of, in wood nor copse.
Sweet be the nails, and sweet be the tree,
And sweeter be the burden that hangs upon thee.

From the Latin:

Crux fidelis, inter omnes arbor una nobilis:
nulla silva talem profert,
fronde, flore, germine.
Dulce lignum, dulces clavos,
dulce pondus sustinet.

This verse is used in the liturgy several times through the course of the year, and at different seasons its poetry will resonate in subtly different ways. This tree is like no other, and it bears at once both flower and fruit; what kind of tree you picture as you sing this verse will depend on what your eyes are seeing in the world around you. The hymn is sung in the spring, on Good Friday and at the cross’ first feast in May, and at that time of year the image of a flowering tree evokes blossom and the spring of new life; and it’s sung again at this feast in the autumn, when trees are laden with fruit (their own ‘burden’), and the image instead speaks of fruitfulness, sustenance, the abundance of divine gift. Imagery of Christ as the ‘fruit’ of the cross is common in the liturgy of Holy Cross Day, perhaps in part because of the time of year when it falls. One purpose for the image is to draw a contrast with the fruit of the tree in Eden, to link the sin and the redemption, the sickness and the remedy: as one medieval antiphon puts it, ‘Through the tree we were made slaves, and through the Holy Cross we are made free. The fruit of the tree seduced us; the Son of God redeemed us.’

In 2012, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI signed a post-Synodal exhortation for the Synod of the Bishops of the Middle East on this date. He said – and note what I’ve bolded:

Providentially, this event takes place on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a celebration originating in the East in 335, following the dedication of the Basilica of the Resurrection built over Golgotha and our Lord’s tomb by the Emperor Constantine the Great, whom you venerate as saint. A month from now we will celebrate the seventeen-hundredth anniversary of the appearance to Constantine of the Chi-Rho, radiant in the symbolic night of his unbelief and accompanied by the words: “In this sign you will conquer!” Later, Constantine signed the Edict of Milan, and gave his name to Constantinople. It seems to me that the Post-Synodal Exhortation can be read and understood in the light of this Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and more particularly in the light of the Chi-Rho, the two first letters of the Greek word “Christos”. Reading it in this way leads to renewed appreciation of the identity of each baptized person and of the Church, and is at the same time a summons to witness in and through communion. Are not Christian communion and witness grounded in the Paschal Mystery, in the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ? Is it not there that they find their fulfilment? There is an inseparable bond between the cross and the resurrection which Christians must never forget. Without this bond, to exalt the cross would mean to justify suffering and death, seeing them merely as our inevitable fate. For Christians, to exalt the cross means to be united to the totality of God’s unconditional love for mankind. It means making an act of faith! To exalt the cross, against the backdrop of the resurrection, means to desire to experience and to show the totality of this love. It means making an act of love! To exalt the cross means to be a committed herald of fraternal and ecclesial communion, the source of authentic Christian witness. It means making an act of hope!

Source

Jump back to 2006, and the Angelus on 9/14:

Now, before the Marian prayer, I would like to reflect on two recent and important liturgical events: the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, celebrated on 14 September, and the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, celebrated the following day.

These two liturgical celebrations can be summed up visually in the traditional image of the Crucifixion, which portrays the Virgin Mary at the foot of the Cross, according to the description of the Evangelist John, the only one of the Apostles who stayed by the dying Jesus.

But what does exalting the Cross mean? Is it not maybe scandalous to venerate a shameful form of execution? The Apostle Paul says: “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (I Cor 1: 23). Christians, however, do not exalt just any cross but the Cross which Jesus sanctified with his sacrifice, the fruit and testimony of immense love. Christ on the Cross pours out his Blood to set humanity free from the slavery of sin and death.

Therefore, from being a sign of malediction, the Cross was transformed into a sign of blessing, from a symbol of death into a symbol par excellence of the Love that overcomes hatred and violence and generates immortal life. “O Crux, ave spes unica! O Cross, our only hope!”. Thus sings the liturgy.

In 2008, Benedict was in Lourdes on 9/14:

“What a great thing it is to possess the Cross! He who possesses it possesses a treasure” (Saint Andrew of Crete, Homily X on the Exaltation of the Cross, PG 97, 1020). On this day when the Church’s liturgy celebrates the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Gospel you have just heard reminds us of the meaning of this great mystery: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that men might be saved (cf. Jn 3:16). The Son of God became vulnerable, assuming the condition of a slave, obedient even to death, death on a cross (cf. Phil 2:8). By his Cross we are saved. The instrument of torture which, on Good Friday, manifested God’s judgement on the world, has become a source of life, pardon, mercy, a sign of reconciliation and peace. “In order to be healed from sin, gaze upon Christ crucified!” said Saint Augustine (Treatise on Saint John, XII, 11). By raising our eyes towards the Crucified one, we adore him who came to take upon himself the sin of the world and to give us eternal life. And the Church invites us proudly to lift up this glorious Cross so that the world can see the full extent of the love of the Crucified one for mankind, for every man and woman. She invites us to give thanks to God because from a tree which brought death, life has burst out anew. On this wood Jesus reveals to us his sovereign majesty, he reveals to us that he is exalted in glory. Yes, “Come, let us adore him!” In our midst is he who loved us even to giving his life for us, he who invites every human being to draw near to him with trust.

This is the great mystery that Mary also entrusts to us this morning, inviting us to turn towards her Son. In fact, it is significant that, during the first apparition to Bernadette, Mary begins the encounter with the sign of the Cross. More than a simple sign, it is an initiation into the mysteries of the faith that Bernadette receives from Mary. The sign of the Cross is a kind of synthesis of our faith, for it tells how much God loves us; it tells us that there is a love in this world that is stronger than death, stronger than our weaknesses and sins. The power of love is stronger than the evil which threatens us. It is this mystery of the universality of God’s love for men that Mary came to reveal here, in Lourdes. She invites all people of good will, all those who suffer in heart or body, to raise their eyes towards the Cross of Jesus, so as to discover there the source of life, the source of salvation.

The Church has received the mission of showing all people this loving face of God, manifested in Jesus Christ. Are we able to understand that in the Crucified One of Golgotha, our dignity as children of God, tarnished by sin, is restored to us? Let us turn our gaze towards Christ. It is he who will make us free to love as he loves us, and to build a reconciled world. For on this Cross, Jesus took upon himself the weight of all the sufferings and injustices of our humanity. He bore the humiliation and the discrimination, the torture suffered in many parts of the world by so many of our brothers and sisters for love of Christ. We entrust all this to Mary, mother of Jesus and our mother, present at the foot of the Cross.

Of course, this feast is related to St. Helena:

St. Helena is in the Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints….first page here…her section is “Saints are people who are strong leaders.”

"amy welborn"
"amy welborn"

St. John Chrysostom

Today is the feast of St. John Chrysostom, about whom Mike Aquilina posts here.

It was his fame as a preacher, however, that brought him to the attention of the wider Church, and especially the imperial court. Thus, when the patriarch of Constantinople died, the emperor unexpectedly summoned John from Antioch to the most powerful bishop’s throne in the East. John declined the honor. But the emperor ordered that John be taken by force or subterfuge, if necessary, and so he was.

john chrysostom

John’s habitual honesty and integrity did not serve him well, by capital standards. He was a reformer and an ascetic, demanding much of others, but even more of himself. The clergy of Constantinople were not, however, eager to be reformed or to imitate John’s spartan lifestyle. Nor was the imperial family — especially the empress — interested in John’s advice about their use of cosmetics, their lavish expenses, and their self-aggrandizing monuments. John found it outrageous that the rich could relieve themselves in golden toilet bowls while the poor went hungry. He reached the limits of his patience when the empress went beyond the law to seize valuable lands from a widow, after the widow had refused to sell the property. (John did not miss the opportunity to cite relevant Old Testament passages, like 1 Kings 21.)

Ordinary people found inspiration, solace, and — no doubt — entertainment in the great man’s preaching. But the powerful were not amused. They arranged a kangaroo court of bishops to depose John in 403. In fact, a military unit interrupted the liturgy on Easter Vigil, just as John was preparing to baptize a group of catechumens. Historians record that the baptismal waters ran red with blood.

Fr. Steve Grunow:

Yet St. John was not flattered by the presence of celebrity, nor was he impressed by wealth. He saw himself as a servant of God’s truth in Christ and therefore repeatedly called for the transformation of the society of his day, reminding the wealthy of their responsibility to aid the poor, and all Christians to remain faithful to the Lord in whom they had been saved.

From today’s Office of Readings:

The waters have risen and severe storms are upon us, but we do not fear drowning, for we stand firmly upon a rock. Let the sea rage, it cannot break the rock. Let the waves rise, they cannot sink the boat of Jesus.

What are we to fear? Death? Life to me means Christ, and death is gain. Exile? ‘The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord. The confiscation of goods? We brought nothing into this world, and we shall surely take nothing from it. I have only contempt for the world’s threats, I find its blessings laughable. I have no fear of poverty, no desire for wealth. I am not afraid of death nor do I long to live, except for your good. I concentrate therefore on the present situation, and I urge you, my friends, to have confidence.
Do you not hear the Lord saying: Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst? Will he be absent, then, when so many people united in love are gathered together? I have his promise; I am surely not going to rely on my own strength! I have what he has written; that is my staff, my security, my peaceful harbour. Let the world be in upheaval. I hold to his promise and read his message; that is my protecting wall and garrison. What message? Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!
If Christ is with me, whom shall I fear? Though the waves and the sea and the anger of princes are roused against me, they are less to me than a spider’s web. Indeed, unless you, my brothers, had detained me, I would have left this very day. For I always say “Lord, your will be done”; not what this fellow or that would have me do, but what you want me to do. That is my strong tower, my immovable rock, my staff that never gives way. If God wants something, let it be done! If he wants me to stay here, I am grateful. But wherever he wants me to be, I am no less grateful.
Yet where I am, there you are too, and where you are, I am. For we are a single body, and the body cannot be separated from the head nor the head from the body. Distance separates us, but love unites us, and death itself cannot divide us. For though my body die, my soul will live and be mindful of my people.
You are my fellow citizens, my fathers, my brothers, my sons, my limbs, my body. You are my light, sweeter to me than the visible light. For what can the rays of the sun bestow on me that is comparable to your love? The sun’s light is useful in my earthly life, but your love is fashioning a crown for me in the life to come.

And then to B16:

The first two were general audience talks.  As you recall, Benedict’s General Audience talks tended (like John Paul II’s) to be thematic, being really “mini courses” on some aspect of Church history or theology.  For a good long while, Benedict focused on great figures on the Church, beginning with the Apostles and moving forward in time. (these were, of course, collected and published by various publishers.)

So, 9/19/2007 he concentrates on biographical material:

It was here that he reached the crucial turning point in the story of his vocation: a full-time pastor of souls! Intimacy with the Word of God, cultivated in his years at the hermitage, had developed in him an irresistible urge to preach the Gospel, to give to others what he himself had received in his years of meditation. The missionary ideal thus launched him into pastoral care, his heart on fire.

Between 378 and 379, he returned to the city. He was ordained a deacon in 381 and a priest in 386, and became a famous preacher in his city’s churches. He preached homilies against the Arians, followed by homilies commemorating the Antiochean martyrs and other important liturgical celebrations: this was an important teaching of faith in Christ and also in the light of his Saints.

The year 387 was John’s “heroic year”, that of the so-called “revolt of the statues”. As a sign of protest against levied taxes, the people destroyed the Emperor’s statues. It was in those days of Lent and the fear of the Emperor’s impending reprisal that Chrysostom gave his 22 vibrant Homilies on the Statues, whose aim was to induce repentance and conversion. This was followed

by a period of serene pastoral care (387-397).

Chrysostom is among the most prolific of the Fathers: 17 treatises, more than 700 authentic homilies, commentaries on Matthew and on Paul (Letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians and Hebrews) and 241 letters are extant. He was not a speculative theologian.

Nevertheless, he passed on the Church’s tradition and reliable doctrine in an age of theological controversies, sparked above all by Arianism or, in other words, the denial of Christ’s divinity. He is therefore a trustworthy witness of the dogmatic development achieved by the Church from the fourth to the fifth centuries.

His is a perfectly pastoral theology in which there is constant concern for consistency between thought expressed via words and existential experience. It is this in particular that forms the main theme of the splendid catecheses with which he prepared catechumens to receive Baptism.

Then, the next week:

Against this background, in Constantinople itself, John proposed in his continuingCommentary on the Acts of the Apostles the model of the primitive Church (Acts 4: 32-37) as a pattern for society, developing a social “utopia” (almost an “ideal city”). In fact, it was a question of giving the city a soul and a Christian face. In other words, Chrysostom realized that it is not enough to give alms, to help the poor sporadically, but it is necessary to create a new structure, a new model of society; a model based on the outlook of the New Testament. It was this new society that was revealed in the newborn Church. John Chrysostom thus truly became one of the great Fathers of the Church’s social doctrine: the old idea of the Greek “polis” gave way to the new idea of a city inspired by Christian faith. With Paul (cf. I Cor 8: 11), Chrysostom upheld the primacy of the individual Christian, of the person as such, even of the slave and the poor person. His project thus corrected the traditional Greek vision of the “polis”, the city in which large sectors of the population had no access to the rights of citizenship while in the Christian city all are brothers and sisters with equal rights. The primacy of the person is also a consequence of the fact that it is truly by starting with the person that the city is built, whereas in the Greek “polis” the homeland took precedence over the individual who was totally subordinated to the city as a whole. So it was that a society built on the Christian conscience came into being with Chrysostom. And he tells us that our “polis” [city] is another, “our commonwealth is in heaven” (Phil 3: 20) and our homeland, even on this earth, makes us all equal, brothers and sisters, and binds us to solidarity.

At the end of his life, from his exile on the borders of Armenia, “the most remote place in the world”, John, linking up with his first preaching in 386, took up the theme of the plan for humanity that God pursues, which was so dear to him: it is an “indescribable and incomprehensible” plan, but certainly guided lovingly by him (cf. On Providence, 2, 6). Of this we are certain. Even if we are unable to unravel the details of our personal and collective history, we know that God’s plan is always inspired by his love. Thus, despite his suffering, Chrysostom reaffirmed the discovery that God loves each one of us with an infinite love and therefore desires salvation for us all. For his part, throughout his life the holy Bishop cooperated generously in this salvation, never sparing himself. Indeed, he saw the ultimate end of his existence as that glory of God which – now dying – he left as his last testament: “Glory be to God for all things” (Palladius, op. cit., n. 11).

That same year, he issued a letter on the occasion of the 1600th anniversary of the birth of the saint:  It is well worth reading.

Chrysostom’s faith in the mystery of love that binds believers to Christ and to one another led him to experience profound veneration for the Eucharist, a veneration which he nourished in particular in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Indeed, one of the richest forms of the Eastern Liturgy bears his name: “The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom”. John understood that the Divine Liturgy places the believer spiritually between earthly life and the heavenly realities that have been promised by the Lord. He told Basil the Great of the reverential awe he felt in celebrating the sacred mysteries with these words: “When you see the immolated Lord lying on the altar and the priest who, standing, prays over the victim… can you still believe you are among men, that you are on earth? Are you not on the contrary suddenly transported to Heaven?”. The sacred rites, John said, “are not only marvellous to see, but extraordinary because of the reverential awe they inspire. The priest who brings down the Holy Spirit stands there… he prays at length that the grace which descends on the sacrifice may illuminate the minds of all in that place and make them brighter than silver purified in the crucible. Who can spurn this venerable mystery?”[59].

With great depth, Chrysostom developed his reflection on the effect of sacramental Communion in believers: “The Blood of Christ renews in us the image of our King, it produces an indescribable beauty and does not allow the nobility of our souls to be destroyed but ceaselessly waters and nourishes them”[60]. For this reason, John often and insistently urged the faithful to approach the Lord’s altar in a dignified manner, “not with levity… not by habit or with formality”, but with “sincerity and purity of spirit”[61]. He tirelessly repeated that preparation for Holy Communion must include repentance for sins and gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice made for our salvation. He therefore urged the faithful to participate fully and devoutly in the rites of the Divine Liturgy and to receive Holy Communion with these same dispositions: “Do not permit us, we implore you, to be killed by your irreverence, but approach him with devotion and purity and, when you see him placed before you, say to yourselves: “By virtue of this Body I am no longer dust and ashes, I am no longer a prisoner, but free; by virtue of this, I hope in Heaven, and to receive its goods, the inheritance of the angels, and to converse with Christ'”[62].

Of course, he also drew from contemplation of the Mystery the moral consequences in which he involved his listeners: he reminded them that communion with the Body and Blood of Christ obliged them to offer material help to the poor and the hungry who lived among them[63]. The Lord’s table is the place where believers recognize and welcome the poor and needy whom they may have previously ignored[64]. He urged the faithful of all times to look beyond the altar where the Eucharistic Sacrifice is offered and see Christ in the person of the poor, recalling that thanks to their assistance to the needy, they will be able to offer on Christ’s altar a sacrifice pleasing to God[65].

7 Quick Takes

—1 —

Mark Galli, former editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, is being received into the Catholic Church on Sunday:

Catholics live with a paradox that I find extraordinary. On one hand there is this incredibly high call to live a life of holiness, to give one’s whole self—heart, soul, mind, and strength—to loving Christ and living for him. At the same time, there is a kind of calm acceptance of the fact that we are miserable sinners and that we may not even come close to living the life of holiness to which we aspire. The Catholic Church is the Church of both Graham Greene’s “whiskey priest” (in The Power and the Glory), who despite his many moral weaknesses is still used by God, and Father Damien, the saint who ministered to lepers at the cost of his life. The one message that comes through every time I go to confession is that we serve a merciful God, who has the highest expectations for us and whose mercy toward us is even higher still. It’s not holiness or mercy; it’s both/and.

— 2 —

Are there any aspects of Catholic teaching, or the Catholic Church in general, that still give you pause or make you uncomfortable? If so, how do you view these in light of your coming into full communion with the Church?

Of course I’m still uncomfortable with some things in the Catholic Church; I’m still uncomfortable with some things Jesus said. (“Loving my enemy, Jesus? You’ve got to be kidding!”) One does not convert to Catholicism, or Jesus for that matter, and immediately enter into an intellectually pristine state. There’s a learning curve as I try to understand the depth, breadth, and beauty of all that Catholicism teaches. That’s the point of conforming oneself to the Church and its teaching—to allow the Church to shape my mind and soul. That’s what I’m really looking forward to in the years ahead.

— 3 —

I think that previous excerpt from the interview is worth pondering, in this era of “Faith=what I’m comfortable with.”

Pundits like to cite the percentages of Catholics who disagree with the Church’s teaching on sexual issues as an argument for changing those teachings.

I always wonder, upon hearing arguments like that, what’s the percentage, derived either from surveys or from inductive reasoning from the way many of us live, that we “disagree” with Jesus’ teachings on wealth and poverty?

— 4 —

“In Plague Time: Readings on Pandemics Past:”

Epidemics that seem to come out of nowhere, and that disappear as suddenly as they broke out, induce a peculiar distress of mind and soul in the affected population, and even in some who merely read about them centuries after the fact. These pestilences possess the dire mystery of what are still called acts of God, and thus suggest an obscure justice or even an active malevolence at work, even if they are simply accidents of nature. As men tend more and more to accept that these calamities are purely accidental, the ground buckles under their feet, for the suffering and death that once seemed moral ordeals—trials of the soul—are exposed as meaningless mischance. Which is why, when one turns to old books about the plague for their reports of human behavior in extremis and for their efforts to explain the darkest fatalities, one seeks a wisdom that is not readily come by in our own bleakly modern experience. We find men and women very like ourselves, tormented as we are by fears of an awful death, but the best of whom proved heroes of unflinching intelligence, or irrepressible vitality, or godly devotion. For they knew they had souls and lived by that knowledge. As in our accident-prone modernity we still can, too.

— 5 –

Read this week:

Splash: 10,000 Years of Swimming

I’m not a big swimmer, but I do love the water, and I do have an interest in social history of just about any object or activity, so I was game for this. I’ve

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often thought about the history of swimming since learning about the 1904 General Slocum tragedy – the greatest peacetime loss of life in New York City before September 11, 2001 – in which a ferry taking a huge group of mostly German Lutheran immigrants on an excursion to Long Island caught fire, broke apart and sank. Because of navigation mistakes and the poor condition of the ship, many would have died no matter what but one of the factors that’s always been cited in the high death toll of the disaster – 1000 dead – was the fact that in this time and place, so few people knew how to swim.

So that’s one of those incidents that got stuck in my brain, and that I often think about in many contexts, including that ever-present framework of “The paradigm and assumptions of your present moment aren’t the paradigm and assumptions of the past.”

So, as I said, I was up for this book. It was…fine. Again, like so many of these, it could have sufficed as a long New Yorker article. Oddly enough, I think the book suffers from being written by a swimming enthusiast. I mean – who else would have written it? I know, I know – but I felt, especially with the last third, that the author’s interest in the technicalities and statistics of athletic swimming speeds and distances functioned as a distraction from any bigger point he was making about the role and place of swimming in human history.

Nonetheless, his survey of the role of swimming in ancient cultures, its decline during the Middle Ages and its eventual resurgence during the Renaissance and Early Modern Period is worth an hour’s read – and then the more well-known, perhaps, look at swimming as entertainment and achievement – swimming the English Channel, and so on.

Just remember this: Some people channel surf, watch television or movies that they’re only vaguely interested in or scroll through Instagram to relax – I sometimes do those things, but mostly I try to find something interesting to read. I’m not always looking for deep meaning or high literature – simply just to learn something and expand my world a little, and not be bored in doing so.

— 6 –

I attempted to read The Day of the Locust this week – Nathanael West’s famed novel of 1920’s Hollywood depravity – which I felt I should have read a long time ago. I couldn’t get beyond four chapters, simply because the writing was as flat as an 8th grader’s expository writing essay.

So much for that.

— 7 —

Time to fill the space with family links:

My daughter’s Etsy shop.

My son-in-law’s YouTube channel and local (Louisville) business

My son’s writing and movie website – and his Amazon page.

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

“No life, except the life of Christ, has so moved me as that of St. Peter Claver.”

Pope Leo XIII

A statue of Peter Claver and a slave in Cartagena. This is a very good introduction, from a Cartagena page. 

He’s in the Loyola Kids Book of Saints.

BTW, link does not go to Amazon, but to the publisher’s page, where you can find links to all the Loyola Kids books that I and others have written and still others have beautifully designed and illustrated.

Here’s the entry. Mostly so I can experiment with this new editor.

If you’re ever in Cartegena…from Lonely Planet:

This convent was founded by Jesuits in the first half of the 17th century, originally as San Ignacio de Loyola. The name was later changed in honor of Spanish-born monk Pedro Claver (1580–1654), who lived and died in the convent. Called the ‘Apostle of the Blacks’ or the ‘Slave of the Slaves,’ the monk spent all his life ministering to the enslaved people brought from Africa. He was the first person to be canonized in the New World (in 1888).

The convent is a monumental three-story building surrounding a tree-filled courtyard, and much of it is open as a museum. Exhibits include religious art and pre-Columbian ceramics, and a new section devoted to Afro-Caribbean contemporary pieces includes wonderful Haitian paintings and African masks.

You can visit the cell where San Pedro Claver lived and died in the convent, and also climb a narrow staircase to the choir loft of the adjacent church…. The church has an imposing stone facade, and inside there are fine stained-glass windows and a high altar made of Italian marble. The remains of San Pedro Claver are kept in a glass coffin in the altar. His skull is visible, making it an altar with a difference.

Tuesday

Ha. I typed “Monday” as the first title of this post.

Nope, here we are. Digest time, to get our week going.

Writing: Finished. Mostly. I think. Project I’ve been on since July, with a 2-

Tuesday

week break for Yellowstone. Sent in the ZIP file of the last chunk this morning. I believe there is one more little element that needs to be written, but I’ve not yet received directions on what to do with that, so I can’t claim complete victory yet. And of course, there will be revisions. I can’t imagine why…but I assume someone along the line will find fault. Ah, well.

But it still feels great. It’s one of my favorite feelings in the world – finished this part of a project. I can stack up all the resources I’ve used and put them away, throw out tons of paper on which I’ve scribbled ideas and drafts, and just generally clean up and get ready for the next thing.

And do remember – if you are homeschooling religious type subjects, or know people who are, from elementary up through high school, please consider suggesting my books as resources.

Sales continue at a pace of about double what they were this time last year – summer being the fallow period, generally, for book sales – so that rise this year tells me lots of people are doing just that.

Watching: Nada, really. Kid #5 has been either doing school, music or out and about all day until the early evenings most days, so he’s been using that nighttime screen time for gaming a bit with friends online, mostly.

I did see that Fargo season 4 is coming on 9/27, so that gives me some light in these dark times.

Listening: Those Gershwin preludes and the 3rd movement to the Moonlight Sonata plus various antiphons and prelude/postlude type music for Mass. A lot of listening to that.

I picked up a couple of volumes of The Real Book – jazz lead sheets – at an estate sale last week, and that was appreciated, as well.

Cooking: Made this, my favorite poblano/pork stew last week, plus these cornbread drop biscuits. Nothing more until after Wednesday, since various dinner-serving activities start up again this week.

Reading: As noted, over the weekend, I read The Vapors – about the history of gambling in Hot Springs. Last night, I read Muriel Spark’s A Far Cry from Kensington.

Not my favorite Spark, and a little odd – well, most of her books have a dash, at least, of oddness. Still thinking about it.

That’s it. Time for Algebra 2.

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