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Reading St. Francis

What can you do to celebrate the feastday of St. Francis of Assisi? Pick some flowers? Pet a wolf?

Maybe.

Or (after you pray) you could read his writings. 

Hardly anyone does, unfortunately. It’s too bad because there’s no reason to avoid them. They aren’t lengthy or dense, and you don’t have to pay to read them. You could read – not deeply, but you could do it – his entire corpus in part of an evening.

Here are links to all his extant works, although you can certainly find them in other places. 

The bulk of what he left was addressed to his brothers, but since most of us are not Franciscans, I’ll excerpt from his Letter to the Faithful:

Of whose Father such was the will, that His Son, blest and glorious, whom He gave to us and who was born for us, would offer his very self through His own Blood as a Sacrifice and Victim upon the altar, not for His own sake, through whom all things were made (cf. Jn 1:3), but for the sake of our sins, leaving us an example, so that we may follow in his footsteps (cf 1 Pet "Adventures in Assisi"2:21). And He willed that all might be saved through Him and that we might receive Him with a pure heart and our own chaste body. But there are few, who want to receive Him and be saved by Him, though His yoke is sweet and His burden light (cf. Mt: 11:30). Those who do not want to taste how sweet the Lord is (cf. Ps 33:9) and love shadows more than the Light (Jn 3:19) not wanting to fulfill the commands of God, are cursed; concerning whom it is said through the prophet: “Cursed are they who turn away from Thy commands.” (Ps 118:21). But, o how blessed and blest are those who love God and who do as the Lord himself says in the Gospel: “Love the Lord thy God with your whole heart and with your whole mind and your neighbor as your very self (Mt 22:37.39).

Let us therefore love God and adore Him with a pure heart and a pure mind, since He Himself seeking above all has said: “True adorers will adore the Father in spirit and truth.” (Jn 4:23) For it is proper that all, who adore Him, adore Him in the spirit of truth (cf. Jn 4:24). And let us offer (lit.”speak to”) Him praises and prayer day and night (Ps 31:4) saying: “Our Father who art in Heaven” (Mt 6:9), since it is proper that we always pray and not fail to do what we might (Lk 18:1).

If indeed we should confess all our sins to a priest, let us also receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ from him. He who does not eat His Flesh and does not drink His Blood (cf. Jn 6:55.57), cannot enter into the Kingdom of God (Jn 3:5). However let him eat and drink worthily, since he who receives unworthily eats and drinks judgement for himself, and he does not dejudicate the Body of the Lord (1 Cor 11:29), that is he does not discern it. In addition let us bring forth fruits worthy of penance (Lk 3:8). And let us love our neighbors as our very selves (cf. Mt 22:39). And if one does not want to love them as his very self, at least he does not charge them with wicked things, but does good (to them).

Moreover let those who have received the power of judging others exercise it with mercy, just as they themselves wish to obtain mercy from the Lord. For there will be judgment without mercy for those who have not shown mercy (James 2:13). And so let us have charity and humility; and let us give alms, since this washes souls from the filth of their sins (cf. Tob 4:11; 12:9). For men lose everything, which they leave in this world; however they carry with them the wages of charity and the alms, which they gave, for which they will have from the Lord a gift and worthy recompense.

We should also fast and abstain from vices and sins (cf Sir 3:32) and from a superfluity of food and drink and we should be Catholics. We should also frequently visit churches and venerate the clerics and revere them, not only for their own sake, if they be sinners, but for the sake of their office and administration of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which they sanctify upon the altar and receive and administer to others. And let us all know firmly, since no one can be saved, except through the words and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which the clerics speak, announce and minister. And only they should minister and not others. Moreover the religious especially, who have renounced the world, are bound to do more and greater things, but not to give up these (cf. Lk 11:42).

We should hold our bodies, with their vices and sins, in hatred, since the Lord says in the Gospel: “All wicked things, vices an sins, come forth from the heart.” (Mt 15:18-19) We should love our enemies and do good to them, who hold us in hatred (cf. Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27). We should also deny ourselves (cf. Mt 16:24) and place our bodies under the yoke of servitude and holy obedience, just as each one has promised the Lord. And no man is bound out of obedience to obey anyone in that, where crime or sin is committed. However to him whom obedience has been committed and whom is held to be greater, let him be as the lesser (Lk 22:26) and the servant of the other friars. And let him show and have mercy for each one of his brothers, as he would want done to himself, if he were in a similar case. Nor let him grow angry with a brother on account of the crime of a brother, but with all patience and humility let him kindly admonish and support him.

We should not be wise and prudent according to the flesh, but rather we should be simple, humble and pure. And let us hold our bodies in opprobrium and contempt, since on account of our own fault we are all wretched and putrid, fetid and worms, just as the Lord say through the prophet: “I am a worm and no man, the opprobium of men and the abject of the people.” (Ps 21:7) Let us never desire to be above others, but rather we should desire that upon all men and women, so long as they will have done these things and persevered even to the end, the Spirit of the Lord might rest (Is 11:2) and fashion in them His little dwelling and mansion (cf. Jn 14:23).

Why such a long excerpt? To give you a taste of what St. Francis was actually concerned about, which is perhaps not what we have been led to believe.

St. Francis is, not suprisingly, one of Bishop Barron’s “Pivotal Players.” So that means I wrote about him in the prayer book. 

Last year, I wrote a lengthy post on Francis. It’s linked here. Earlier this year, I noted that it was unfortunate that a bishop had cited the “Prayer for Peace” as having been penned by St. Francis – it’s wasn’t. 

An excerpt from that first post:

  • When you actually read Francis’ writings, you don’t see some things that you might expect.  You don’t, for example, read a lot of directives about serving the poor.   You don’t see any general condemnations of wealth.  You don’t read a call for all people, everywhere, to live radically according to the evangelical counsels.
  • You do read these sorts of things – although not exactly – in the early guidelines for the friars and the few letters to fellow friars that have come down to us.
  • But surprisingly, it’s not what is emphasized.  So what is?
  • Obedience. 
  • When Francis wrote about Christ embracing poverty, what he speaks of is Christ descending from the glory of heaven and embracing mortal flesh – an act  – the ultimate embrace of poverty – not just material poverty, but spiritual poverty – the ultimate act of obedience.
  • Through this act of obedience, Christ is revealed as the Servant of all.
  • So, as Francis writes many times, his call was to imitate Christ in this respect:  to empty himself francis of assisiand become the lowly servant of all.  To conquer everything that is the opposite: pride, self-regard, the desire for position or pleasure.
  • Francis wrote that the primary enemy in this battle is our “lower nature.”  He wrote that the only thing we can claim for ourselves are our vices and all we have to boast about is Christ.
  • Francis also emphasized proper celebration and reception of the Eucharist – quite a bit.  He had a lot to say about proper and worthy vessels and settings for the celebration of Mass.  He was somewhat obsessed with respectful treatment of paper on which might be written the Divine Names or prayers.  He prescribed how the friars were to pray the Office.
  • The early preaching of the Franciscans was in line with all of this as well as other early medieval penitential preaching:
    the call to the laity to confess, receive the Eucharist worthily, and to turn from sin.

Painting by Ann Engelhart, from Adventures in Assisi

I had to go back to the island.

— 1 —

Darn you, Lost.

I have been intending to write about my Lost rewatch as a separate post, but here we are on a Thursday night, having just finished two more episodes, then the boys to bed and me on the Internet obsessively reading Lost stuff like it’s 2005 again and…geez.

So…here’s your separate post. Forget all of your political anxieties and Catholic bloggy turmoil and let’s nosh on Lost, shall we?

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  — 2 —

I had watched Lost on its first airing along with a whole lot of other people. I don’t think I started from the very beginning, being influenced, as I recall,  by a snarky article, the gist of which was something like, “Okay, let me get this straight – the entire UCLA volleyball team crashes on a desert island and….?”

But I did eventually start …and finish, with a couple year break, mostly with my daughter. We were talking about it recently and she was remembering how wrecked she was at school the day after an episode featuring a certain character’s death. At the time, I was thoroughly engaged by the show ,even as I was mostly thoroughly confused. But that’s not surprising and pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things,  considering how easily confused I am by most television plots that don’t go straight from A to B. Not a visual learner.
And then it was over, and considering that I am not generally a person who rewatches things and that there’s been enough very good television since 2011 to entertain me for a few hours a week, it wasn’t something I even considered.

But then the  boys got older….

We don’t watch much episodic television around here. Up until some point last year, they had a few animated series they watched, but even those have largely fallen off the DVR at this point.  They watch exactly 0 – zero  – “regular” television series, either on broadcast or cable. On repeat, they watched all of Malcolm in the Middle and then most of The Office (don’t judge) over the past year, and when that was over, they turned me to me and said, “Now what can we watch?”

A year or so ago, the thought of rewatching Lost with them had occurred to me, but I had dismissed it for a couple of reasons. First, I do try to minimize screen time and I knew that it would  be totally addicting. Secondly, I wondered about the whole issue of frustration. Lost raises many questions and mysteries and really doesn’t answer all of them, and then it got really strange, of course, and the ending didn’t please everyone – although  I was okay with it at the time. I didn’t know if I would be bringing them into something that would absorb them but then ultimately just leave them feeling betrayed.

But then one night I rewatched the pilot myself and there was no question. Yup. We’re watching Lost. I don’t know how anyone could watch that pilot and not want to go on.

I did blog about Lost now and then over the years. Here’s my post after the season finale, which I didn’t read until after I’d written this one – and you’ll see some of the same impressions and themes.

— 3 —

 

So where are we? Almost at the end of season 2, and I have to say, our time watching Lost is just incredibly, deeply enjoyable and satisfying. We’ve got a while to go, obviously, but I’m already sad knowing that it will come to an end.

One of my favorite quotes from Flannery O’Connor – and I have many – is one that I actually have framed, having purchased the little print at Andalusia some years ago.

Total non-retention has kept my education from being a burden to me.

Me. In every way. Including, as I am discovering, Lost.

I mean, I remember the main points and the big beats, but hardly anything else. It’s intensely, even insanely entertaining to be re-immersed in this world.

Yes, there are some a few useless characters. Yes, there’s plotting nonsense and dead ends. Yes, it’s network, pop television. But when you look at it as a show about human beings being given a chance for redemption and wholeness…yes.

— 4

 

And this is how we’re experiencing it. No, I’m not being heavy-handed with study guides and endless teachable moments, but guys…there are teachable moments. Lots of them. For this is what I think Lost is about, and this is how I’ve framed it for them.

Lost is us, right here in this moment, wherever we are. Here we are, dropped on an island.  There’s weird, undefinable, unending mystery churning around us. All kinds of crazy things are happening, and who knows why? There seems to be a purpose, and there seems to be the possibility of great goodness, but there’s also evil. When we stop and listen to each other’s stories, we find that we are connected to each other in surprising ways. And so we’re here, brought here to this moment by this strange combination of the flow of life, chance, what’s been done to us, and our own choices. But here we are, together. What are we going to do about it? How are we going to live now?

The flashbacks that formed an important part of the first three seasons’ structure offer another essential aspect: how our pasts affect us. Which, of course, is a huge part of the Lost story, as the primary characters are brought to this place where, ironically, they must deal with their pasts – even though they’re in situations in which no one need know about those pasts at all. If Lost is about anything it’s about that:

Accepting the role that the pain in our pasts have in shaping us, but then refusing to be defined by that  pain– and moving on.

I was quite struck by a scene in the season 1 episode called “Whatever the Case May Be.” In the scene, one character, Charlie, feels generally despondent, and specifically so because of something bad for which he feels responsible – plus there’s the whole drug addiction thing. He sits next to Rose, whose husband was in the tail section of the plane but whom she feels – knows  – is still alive. Somewhere. This is their conversation:

CHARLIE: Your husband was in the tail section of the plane.

ROSE: Yes, he was. But he’ll be back.

CHARLIE: You think he’s still alive?

ROSE: I know he is.

CHARLIE: How?

ROSE: I just do. It’s a fine line between denial and faith. It’s much better on my side.

[Charlie starts crying.]

CHARLIE: Help me.

ROSE: Baby, I’m not the one that can help you… Heavenly Father, we thank you. We thank you for bringing us together tonight, and we ask that you show Charlie the path…

I was struck by this scene, not just because of the fact that Rose prays, but also by what she prays – she begins, not with questions or complaints, but with thanks. There she is, crashed on a weird island with no sign of rescue, life as she knew it gone, and what’s she got to say to God?

Thank you.

— 5 —

These are all big themes and of course Lost deals with them in a pop culture way, but it’s actually a very good, accessible way for teens to encounter these themes – as well as others. What I’m finding is that Lost is a fantastic entry into conversations about a variety of themes and ideas we want our kids to draw out of written literature: symbolism, foreshadowing, character, tension, conflict. Yes, yes, it’s television, so it’s often quite on-the-nose, but you know what? That’s okay for teens. In fact – that clarity is good.

So, for example, earlier this week, it just so happened that my 16-year old read An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge for English class, and then the next day, we watched the episode of Lost called “Dave” in which the plot plays with the possibility – through two sublots centered on two different characters – Hurley and Locke – that what these characters are experiencing is not “real” – and is either just happening in their heads or is the consequence of a deliberate deception.  Relating the story and the episode made for some good conversation, and then I have to go and throw in the whole St. Elsewhere Tommy Westphall issue, which left me with a lot of blank stares. So there’s that.

Here’s what I’m appreciating about Lost during this rewatch: it’s a show that accepts the transcendent and mystery and is respectful of religion and spirituality.  It’s a show with a deep, deep heart, centered on the possibility of redemption and the necessity of connection and community. It’s diverse in a non-self-conscious way.  It’s got mostly fantastic, interesting actors. The musical score is masterful. Those occasional final musical montages are killer. It’s funny. It’s fearless and crazy and intense. But then there’s that heart, and oh….not Penny’s boat.

*sob*

 

— 6 —

I’m very interested in what it teaches me about the creative process – no, of course, not everything was planned ahead,and every step of the way creative choices were influenced by external forces: fan reaction, network notes, a writers’ strike, actors getting DUIs, an actor deciding he hated living in Hawaii…all of that is reassuring in a big way. No, you don’t have to have everything worked out ahead of time for something to work.

— 7 —

Early on, I warned my 16-year old, “Now don’t go online and look up Lost stuff, because it will just spoil it for you. You don’t want to know what happens before it does.” And he hasn’t although he’s said it’s been tempting. And then he said rather wistfully, “I kind of wish I were watching it when it was first on – it would be fun to go online and talk about it and read about what people think about it as they’re watching it.”

Yes. Yes it would be. Yes  –  it was…..

Image result for lost gif peanut butter

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

I have some thoughts, but first some quotes.

Today is the feastday of St. Vincent de Paul. An account of his life:

Thus, although he had no advantages of birth, fortune, or handsome appearance, or any showy gifts at all, Vincent de Paul’s later years became one long record of accomplishment. In the midst of great affairs, his soul never strayed from God; always when he heard the clock strike, he made the sign of the cross as an act of divine love. Under setbacks, calumnies, and frustrations, and there were many, he preserved his serenity of mind. He looked on all events as manifestations of the Divine will, to which he was perfectly resigned. Yet by nature, he once wrote of himself, he was “of a bilious temperament and very subject to anger.” Without divine grace, he declared, he would have been “in temper hard and repellent, rough and crabbed.” With grace, he became tenderhearted to the point of looking on the troubles of all mankind as his own. His tranquillity seemed to lift him above petty disturbances. Self-denial, humility, and an earnest spirit of prayer were the means by which he attained to this degree of perfection. Once when two men of exceptional learning and ability asked to be admitted to his congregation, Vincent courteously refused them, saying: “Your abilities raise you above our low state. Your talents may be of good service in some other place. As for us, our highest ambition is to instruct the ignorant, to bring sinners to a spirit of penitence, and to plant the Gospel spirit of charity, humility, and simplicity in the hearts of all Christians.” One of his rules was that, so far as possible, a man ought not to speak of himself or his own concerns, since such discourse usually proceeds from and strengthens pride and self-love.

From his own words, in today’s Office of Readings:

Since Christ willed to be born poor, he chose for himself disciples who were poor. He made himself the servant of the poor and shared their poverty. He went so far as to say that he would consider every deed which either helps or harms the poor as done for or against himself. Since God surely loves the poor, he also loves those who love the poor. For when one person holds another dear, he also includes in his affection anyone who loves or serves the one he loves. That is why we hope that God will love us for the sake of the poor. So when we visit the poor and needy, we try to understand the poor and weak. We sympathise with them so fully that we can echo Paul’s words: I have become all things to all men. Therefore, we must try to be stirred by our neighbours’ worries and distress. We must beg God to pour into our hearts sentiments of pity and compassion and to fill them again and again with these dispositions.

 

The writings that St. Vincent left behind are mostly in the form of correspondence and conferences, which are in print today and easy to find. Some of these thoughts were collected in a small volume of “Counsels” which you can access via archive.org. For example, here.

I find reading works like this instructive for a number of reasons. First, naturally, because they are the thoughts and advice of a great saint, and that’s always good to put in your brain and fill your time with.

But secondly – what a contrast. What a contrast to the contemporary spiritual gestalt and yes, I’m talking about Catholic gestalt, too. Perhaps especially.

I am ever intrigued by popular spirituality, no matter what era, and in particular by the give and take, ebb and flow between Catholicism and secular thought and culture. When does the latter help illuminate the former? When does it obscure, distract and point us away from Christ? When we tease it apart, what should be retained, and what should be tossed?

When you read these Counsels of St. Vincent de Paul, you might start suspecting that much of what you’re encountering in contemporary Catholic spiritual and pastoral efforts falls into that latter category.

Harsh!

But why?

Because traditional Catholic spirituality, from St. Paul on, has been about humility and emptying the self and allowing Christ to fill you. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. 

Consider what you’re being sold these days, even from Catholics. In every way, in every corner, it seems to be about you and your self. Some of it is more obvious, as with Dynamic Catholic’s Osteenism-heavy products.   But it’s  there is more subtle ways, as we are constantly told that the core of spiritual seeking is to discover who you really are, with gifts ‘n’ talents at the ready, accept who you really are, accept that God accepts you as you really are, arrange your life around the self you have accepted, be passionate about that self and its potential for greatness, find a church community that accepts you as you really are, and then get upset if you feel that you’re not being accepted as you really are. Lather, rinse, repeat.

There’s that concept of being stuck in perpetual adolescence, and this seems to me to be one manifestation of it – that unrelenting focus on and anxiety about the self and how well we are understood and accepted. As well as a spirituality formed in a context of relative material prosperity and social segregation. Does it nudge us in the proper direction, open us to the fullness of the Gospel? Sometimes, perhaps. God can work through anything, no matter how weird and odd and even bad, and does. But really, this moralistic therapeutic deism, as it’s commonly called and what St. Vincent is preaching are…different. It’s good to pay attention and question your spiritual paradigm, not just once in a while, but every day.

Here’s my tonic for that temptation. From the Counsels:

The methods by which God chooses to work are not in accordance with our ideas and our wishes. We must content ourselves with using those small powers which He has given us, and not be distressed because they are not higher or more far-reaching. If we are faithful in a little, He will give much into our charge ; but that is His province, and does not depend on efforts of ours. We must leave it to Him, and try and fill our own niche.

The spirit of the world is restless, and desires to be active in all things. Let it alone. We must not choose our paths, but follow those into which it is God’s pleasure to direct us. So long as we know ourselves unworthy to be used by Him, or to be esteemed by other men, we are safe. Let us offer ourselves to Him to do or to suffer anything that may be for His glory or for the strengthening of His Church. That is all He asks. If He requires results, that is in His hands and not in ours ; let us spread out heart and will in His presence, having no choice of this or that until God has spoken. And, -‘meanwhile, pray we may have grace to copy our Lord in those virtues that belonged to His
hidden life.

Remember always that the Son of God remained unrecognised. That is 
our aim, and that is what He asks of us now, for the future and for always,
unless He shows us, by some method of His which we cannot mistake, that He wants something else of us. Pay homage to the everyday life led by our Lord on earth, to His humility, His self-surrender, and His practice of  the virtues such a life requires. But
chiefly pay homage to the limitations our Divine Master set on His own achievements. He did not choose to do all He might have done, and He teaches us to be content to refrain from undertakings which might be within our power, and to fulfill only what charity demands and His will requires.
I rejoice at this generous resolve of yours to imitate our Lord in the hiddenness of His life. The idea of it seems as if it must have come from God, because it is so opposed to the ordinary point of view of flesh and blood. You may be quite sure that that certainly is the state befitting children of God. Therefore be steadfast, and have the courage to resist all  the suggestions that are against it.
You have found the means by which you may become what God asks you to be and learn to do His holy will continually, and that is the goal for which we are striving and for which all the saints have striven. 

He’s in The Loyola Kids Book of Saints. 

Also, you can rent/stream the 1947 film Monsieur Vincent on Amazon.

To Thee Do We Cry

 

Although you probably won’t hear him mentioned at daily Mass, Hermanus Contractus, or, less sensitively,  Blessed”Herman the Cripple,” has a place on today’s liturgical calendar.

I wrote about Herman and one of the prayers attributed to him, the Salve Regina, in The Words We Pray. Here’s that chapter.

I have copies of the book here if you’d like to order.

Or get it online almost anywhere, I think. Or request it from your local Catholic bookstore.

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Weekend Notes

  • IMG_20170924_221254Current drink:  The rest of this bottle of Lambrusco that I bought fifteen months ago in Emilia-Romagna. I had sort of forgotten about it and thought for sure it would be undrinkable, but then needed some red for this Mexican Braised Beef recipe…and it was all I had. So I popped the cork, used a bunch, and gingerly tasted the archival remnants….not bad. 
  • (I think it was something like 2 Euros – I bought it at the winery, the day we did the wonderful food tour of Parma…)
  • Since the 7 Takes, what’s happened? I mean, in our house, not in the world. You all know all about that stuff.
  • Older son had to work both Saturday and Sunday, so any gallivanting was limited and local.
  • Last week saw a record three trips to the Zoo. Wednesday for the Zookeeper for a Day session, then Friday because of World Rhino Day, and then Saturday because of the Hispanic Celebration.
  • Please note – the Zoo is about 10 minutes from my house, we have a membership, and so “going to the zoo” is not a big deal and somewhat akin to stopping at Target for a quick look around.
  • So Friday – this will double as a Homeschool Daily Report –  we conquered Divisibility Rules, talked about the Autumnal Equinox, watched a video on that, looked up some stuff about hummingbird migration, watched this video on metamorphosis. He read in one of his library books about Assyrian royal culture. We read this article about some mesoAmerican cities. I would say Aztecs, but that would be wrong and I would be firmly corrected.
  • Then to the Zoo for World Rhino Day – the end of it at least. We didn’t see much extra – just a short keeper talk on Rhinos, during which the two females got  very angry with the one male – and that was a bit of a show that we’d never seen before. Then a quick trip to Our Friends the Reptiles, during which I was given all the inside scoop the Zookeeper for a Day had learned.  He also took the camera and did some shooting for his homeschool photography class which meets on Thursdays.
  • Saturday, the 16-year old headed to work at 7 am. The younger one’s main Saturday assignment was serving at a retreat Mass at the Sister Servants’ convent, which he did. After that, we headed out to the zoo again because they had designated it as a Hispanic Celebration Day, and we were up for that  – but as per usual with these kind of things, it seems (we found this the case at the art museum the previous week for their Hispanic celebration), the “Hispanic” focus was hard to find except for some bilingual keeper talks and flags of Latin and Central American nations stuck on the anaconda habitats and such. I probably should just be in charge of everything in the world, I think. Things would be much better.
  • Next week should be fine, though. This is happening, and we’re excited. 
  • By the time we were done at the zoo (after feeding Lorakeets and finding a small snake which I was repeatedly assured, Mom, it’s not a copperhead. No. I know it’s not a copperhead), 16-year old was home and wondering where the heck we were. The afternoon faded and it was time for Mass – the 12-year old’s second Mass within a 5-hour time span, but it really was for the best, considering the 16-year old’s schedule on Sunday.
  • (Want to see more of this stuff on the day it happens? Check me out on Instagram…especially Stories)
  • So off we went, to a parish that was not our usual, and at which we heard the usual good preaching for that parish and also the unfortunately usual horrendous music. I usually don’t outright refuse to sing things, but yeah, Sing a New Church? I don’t sing that crap.
  • #resist
  • Sunday – no zoo!
  • But we did head to the wonderful and always free Birmingham Botanical Gardens, which was hosting the Alabama Orchid Society show – the flowers were quite lovely, although there were only five or six actual exhibitors. I was a little surprised at that. More opportunities to practice photography.
  • And then over to the amazing huge Asian grocery store – we wanted to check for squid. As I’d mentioned, he dissected squid at the homeschool science lab the other day, but wasn’t satisfied with the experience, mostly because of other people’s….issues…and the fact that the squid was small. We found that yes, indeed, they carry fresh squid and they’re pretty honkin’ big, too. We’ll get one on another day when we are better prepared to haul a fresh squid home.
  • Then to the library to get the next “school” book, following the last read of Animal Farm.  Of Mice and Men. Bad mother? Probably.
  • Then to the pet store to get a medium feeder rat, please. You don’t want to know how that ended. Rocky was pleased. Does that make it better?
  • Then a vigorous walk around the park that’s over the hill from our house, where I ran into a friend and former neighbor – it was great to see her and catch up.
  • Working Son returned, ate food, and then One-episode-I’m-not-kidding-just-one-seriously-no-more-you-have-school-tomorrow. 
  • Which is really hard when this is the last scene. But we stayed strong. Man, I love this show, and what a pleasure it is to rewatch it with these two, seeing it for the first time. That’s Blogpost-In-The-Making-#4502.

 

7 Quick Takes

— 1 —

Guys, this is not a page from my  book of Bible stories.

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In case you are confused the narrator is Adam, and the “thing I love most” that “God made just for me” is the Bratz doll  Eve.

 

  — 2 —

For some reason mentioning Bratz dolls reminded me of an old post I had on an old blog about a Bratz Advent calendar, which in turn reminded me of something I saw recently about a Trader Joe’s Wine Advent Calendar that’s apparently only available in the UK. I am usually very, very, very scrupulous and unbearably purist about Advent, but this one gave me pause. It’s pretty.

Now back to your regularly scheduled links.

(I have been blogging this week – mostly on homeschooling, but it’s something, folks. Just scroll back and you’ll see the posts.)

— 3 —

Here’s a great interview with Daniel Mitsui, the marvelous religious artist:

As a religious artist, Mitsui sees his efforts firmly planted within the tradition. 

“I want to make things that have this liturgical, traditional, patristic order,” he says. “I want to be able to say that this work of art would be approved of by the council fathers who laid down these principles in the Council of Nicea.”  

Taking the Second Council of Nicea as his north star, Mitsui refers to himself as “a Spirit of Nicea II Catholic.”  

“That is a joke,” he says. “Its point being that I keep that ecumenical council at the forefront of my mind, living as I do in a time similar to the iconoclastic crises. I do not seek to interpret its doctrine regarding art and tradition beyond what its words actually say; indeed, what they actually say is bold enough.” 

I recently received a copy of Daniel’s most recent coloring book for adults: Christian Labyrinths. You can read the introduction and see samples here – and I’d encourage you to do so. It’s really beautiful, as is all of Daniel’s work.

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Daniel Mitsui’s website.

 

— 4

Speaking of art, and speaking of the Reformation, which we will be doing a lot of (unfortunately) over the next few weeks, Elizabeth Lev has an excellent article here about women, art and the Catholic Reformation:

In the Counter Reformation, women were not only exalted after their death as saints, but there was also room for women to lead in society. Beyond the stateswomen such as Mary Tudor of England and Mary of Scots, Catherine de’ Medici and Jeanne d’Albret, St. Angela Merici founded the Ursulines to offer solid Christian education for girls and young women, Victoria Colonna composed renowned poetry and debated theology, and art produced its first celebrated female painters.

On one hand, technological advances had opened the door for women painters. Oil painting permitted women to work alone (not with a team of male fresco artists) in an inexpensive and slow-drying medium. The Catholic Church, however, was looking for new ways to evangelize through art and was unafraid to give women a chance. Sofonisba AnguissolaElisabetta Sirani and Artemisia Gentileschi all had very successful careers working for both private and ecclesiastical patrons, but it was Lavinia Fontana who would burst the canvas ceiling when she was commissioned to produce the first Italian altarpiece to be painted by a woman.

(Here’s a link to my earlier CWR article on women and the Reformation.)

— 5 —

Speaking of history…and hurricanes, which we’ve been doing a lot of lately, here’s an interesting article about a hurricane that struck North America almost five hundred years ago this week, with a profound impact.

During the evening of Tuesday, September 19, 1559, some 458 years ago, strong winds from the north heralded the arrival of a great hurricane in Pensacola Bay.  The storm was not the first to assail the bay, nor would it be the last, but the 1559 hurricane did manage to change the course of human history by destroying a fleet of Spanish colonial ships riding at anchor off the newly-founded settlement called Santa María de Ochuse.

More links about the Spanish in the Southeast:

A website devoted to the missions of La Florida – with a comprehensive list. 

A recent article about a mission on a Georgia barrier island:

The Santa Catalina de Guale mission on St. Catherine’s Island was one of the oldest Catholic church sites in North America, founded more than 150 years before St. Junipero Serra arrived in California and just a few years after the founding of the mission at St. Augustine, Florida. In spite of this distinction, its history is not well known because, for centuries, the mission site on Catherine’s Island was considered “lost.”

The story is a tragic one – in 1597 all five friars living at the mission were brutally murdered by the Guale Indians. After the friars learned the Guale language, preached the Gospel, and lived peacefully with the native population, a rebellion was sparked when Friar Pedro de Corpa refused to allow a baptized Guale man to take a second wife.

Friar Pedro was slain on September 14, 1597, and his head was displayed on a pike at the mission landing. The four other Franciscans were killed in similar fashion. They have been proposed for sainthood, and cause for their canonization is underway.

By the mid-18th century, all traces of the mission’s existence had disappeared. Some 300 years later, a team of archaeologists began to excavate the area. In addition to Indian pots and arrowheads, researchers found rosary beads and Christian medals. Excavations revealed a rectangular plaza surrounded by the mission church and friary. By 2000, when excavations ceased, archaeologists had found over 2 million artifacts at the site.

— 6 —

An excellent article about the excellent Cristo Rey school network from City Journal – of which we have one in Birmingham.

When assigning internships, the school takes students’ long-term career goals into account, especially in their junior and senior years. Unlike traditional career and technical education programs, Cristo Rey’s is more about opening students’ eyes to the world of work than providing training in specific fields: the goal is not to produce, say, a technician or skilled tradesperson but to inspire poor kids to expand their horizons.

The schools’ board members make the work-study partnerships possible. Robert Catell is chairman of the board of Cristo Rey Brooklyn. He is a Brooklyn native raised by a single mother and attended public schools, including the City College of New York. Catell took a job at Brooklyn Union Gas in the meter-repair shop and rose to become CEO of National Grid. He sees parallels between his story and those of today’s students, and he cherishes the annual graduation ceremony. “You want to cry,” he says. “You see the families and their joy over their children going to the best schools in the country. . . . It’s a labor of love for me.”

— 7 —

Please take a look at Emily Stimpson Chapman’s searing, heartbreaking and prayer-inspiring blog post on infertility:

And, for a little while, I live in that hope. I start to relax. For a week or two, the sight of pregnancy announcements in my newsfeed and random babies and pregnant women on the street don’t make me burst into tears. Because maybe this month, God heard those prayers.

Then, on Day 28, the bleeding starts again. And hope dies. On that day, barren isn’t just the state of my womb. It’s the state of my soul.

The days that follow are my worst days. Those are the days all my years of waiting and longing for a baby really never prepared me for. They didn’t prepare me for the cruel 28-day cycle of trying, hoping, and failing. Simply desiring a baby and not being able to have one didn’t prepare me for monthly mourning. And it definitely didn’t prepare me for throwing all our efforts, all our prayers, and all our hopes, into the garbage can every few hours.

The initial cold shock of grief, of course, doesn’t last much longer than the false hope. At some point, it too passes and becomes something else. I’m not sure what it becomes for others, but for this redhead, it increasingly turns into a hot mess of flaming rage.

 

 

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

St. Matthew

A few St. Matthew links for you.

From B16,back in 2006:

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"amy welborn"People of God, but he also collaborated with an alien and despicably greedy authority whose tributes moreover, could be arbitrarily determined.

This 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.

This, of course, is from one of his GA talks on the apostles and which were collected in book form by various publishers, including OSV. Back in the day, I wrote a study guide for these collected talks to be used either by individuals or groups in parish discussion settings. Here’s the section on Matthew. Feel free to use!

 

 

Speaking of St. Matthew and speaking of parish adult religious education, maybe consider this Loyola Press Six Weeks with the Bible book on the Passion accounts in Matthew:

From today’s Office of Readings:

There is no reason for surprise that the tax collector abandoned earthly wealth as soon as the Lord commanded him. Nor should one be amazed that neglecting his wealth, he joined a band of men whose leader had, on Matthew’s assessment, no riches at all. Our Lord summoned Matthew by speaking to him in words. By an invisible, interior impulse flooding his mind with the light of grace, he instructed him to walk in his footsteps. In this way Matthew could understand that Christ, who was summoning him away from earthly possessions, had incorruptible treasures of heaven in his gift.

What strikes us about the story of Matthew is the immediacy of his response. Invited by Jesus, he simply leaves his sinful life behind. No ambiguity, no parsing of matters of subjectivity and objectivity. This perhaps is not something we are all capable of at every moment, but it is certainly a response we recognize as the ideal one, articulated by Jesus himself (Mark 10:29) and lived out by people like Matthew.

The spiritual life is a never-ending, fascinating and mysterious dynamic, it seems to me, between finding God in all things and if anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother…cannot be my disciple. 

 

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