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Ordinary Monday

Going to warm up for a more substantial post with a digest.

Monday

Writing: First, I’m in Living Faith today, reflecting a bit on, yes, Ordinary Time. Go here to read that. Or subscribe to the publication! I’m in it five times a quarter.

Thinking through current events for blog posts, of course. Like this one and this one. More to come later today.

Have a meeting today about a new project. Nothing big, nothing personal, just a bit of work for the cause.

Reading: After some lighter mid-century reading, I’m back to Don Quixote, which strikes me as immediately applicable to the present day, but I’ll wait until I’m finished to share those thoughts.

Also, for the homeschool, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which I read for the first time a few years ago as now-College Guy was reading it for school. Here’s part of what I wrote then:

I finished Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and was so very glad I read it. I don’t know if you can really understand this period – or even American history – without having read Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It’s a polemic, to be sure, but a powerful one. Stowe does a masterful job of laying out the various, complex views of slavery via her character’s choices and opinions. Most important of all are the characters who are either torn or fancy themselves exonerated from culpability because they are not directly involved in slavery – Stowe does not spare them, of course, and even today, the dissection remains pertinent because moral issues are still hard-fought and we are still tempted to complacency and hand-washing if we fancy it not our problem or beyond our powers to have an impact.

MORE

ALSO – over the past week, I’ve read a bunch of Hemingway stories. I think it started when I was contemplating watching The Killers – and then trying to decide which version – 1946 or 1964 (ended up watching neither…) and then discovering they were based on a Hemingway story, and deciding to read it, liking it a lot, and then deciding to explore more beyond Hills with White Elephants, which was the only one I’d read before.

I’ll have more to say perhaps tomorrow, but even though I am mostly on board with what Hemingway is doing in these stories, I was struck – repeatedly – by one point.

The fact that our gal Flannery is repeatedly castigated and critiqued for “racism” when….hoo boy ….have you read Hemingway lately?

Let me put it this way. I would have no problem teaching any work of O’Connor – even a story with a title like “The Artificial Nigger” to any group of students, while I would give serious pause to teaching something like The Killers or The Battler.

What’s the difference? Well, if you are agonizing over whether or not O’Connor was racist, you should take a look at those two stories, compare and contrast. In Hemingway, his narrators regularly describe and characterize Black characters by the n-word, and describe their characteristics in those terms – as qualities or quirks specific to Black people – but not called Black. In O’Connor, her characters may think racist thoughts and treat Black people poorly…because that’s what those characters would do. And racist characters are there, not just because they were in her world and she was committed to accuracy, but because they are, and are ultimately understood as, one more specimen of that thing called Pride.

It doesn’t make it super-easy to have students encounter these words and descriptions and views, but at least in O’Connor they are presented as expressions of specific characters living in a specific place. Hemingway, being a bit more abstracted from time and place in many of his stories, has his mostly objective narrators describe Black characters in racist, stereotypical terms.

In O’Connor’s world, racism exists in the world, but it is obviously a damaged part of a fallen world. In Hemingway, racist attitudes are just The Way It Is, no problem, no argument, no tension.

Cooking: Not much. People have been out visiting and working, so there hasn’t been a lot of eating at home. C’est dommage.

Watching: Same. In what time people are around, as I mentioned, College Guy and I are working through Mad Men, hoping to get done before he (hopefully) goes to Europe in mid-February. Youngest is currently absorbed in something called Attack on Titan, which he describes as having a Lost-like feel to it (in regard to surprises and worlds within worlds…or something).

Listening: For me, my usual – piano jazz and some random classical composer I’m currently fixated on. Right now that’s Mendelssohn.

Also, to this, which we re-homed last Friday. More here.

Traveling: Yes, I’m planning a trip. After College Guy heads off to Italy (hopefully), it’s time for the youngest and I to hit the road. We are limited by a class he takes on Thursday mornings and his weekend church music

IMG_20200127_113517
Last year’s memorable sight

job, but he’s due for a break there (hasn’t had a weekend off since October), so we will be working within those constraints and doing a Thursday afternoon – Wednesday night trip in February to a Land with Minimal Lockdowns – but not Florida (last year’s January trip) , in case you are wondering. I figured that’s high season for Florida anyway, and with it being one of the few Free States these days, it’s going to be slammed. So we’ll head…in another direction.

And yes, we could actually go outside the country – at this point, Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica are relatively open. But….we’re down a passport, which was due for renewal 2/1, and I don’t expect the new one will be back until the end of February. I don’t have much interest in traveling outside the US right now, anyway, although I have read a couple of really nice trip reports from recent Guatemala travelers who just made recent trips, so that had me tempted…

Any Welborn

I’m going to be writing a little bit about the Internet and social media every day this week.

“A little bit” and “every day” are nothing more than a probably pointless attempt at self-discipline. This is the kind of knotty issue I do contemplate every day and that might lead me sit for hours in front of the computer hashing out ridiculously long walls of text. So I’m going to limit myself. And sitting here, it’s 9:15 am – I am committing to publish this by 10. AM. Let’s see how I do.

Strange times, what with social media bannings and excommunications and attempts to even deny upstarts and dissidents a framework for their businesses. There’s a lot to unpack here, a challenging task because of the almost frantic narrative shaping that’s happening. We really don’t know – as usual. I have my suspicions. I think the core of what’s happening, both in Congress and in Big Tech, is an effort to strip Trump of his power immediately,  before 1/20, not because they seriously think he will have a second term, but because of what he can still do in the next couple of weeks: namely declassify, pardon and issue executive orders (as Pompeo did regarding Taiwan in the last couple of days.)

We’ll see.

That’s not my subject today, anyway.

And yes, what is “actually happening” in the United States government is more important the Internet/social media treatment of it, but they are also intimately connected.

I also want to be very clear on something else: there are serious issues here, related to repression of information and news, and the greater power that has concentrated in a few hands as other news sources have disappeared. That’s not my subject today.

Over the past couple of days, the calls to Follow Me on [Alternative Platform] have heightened. I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook (and hardly any at all commenting or “discussing”), but every other post, it seems, over the past few days has been invitations to migrate, declarations of cancellation and so on.

Valerie Cherish Take 3 GIF by The Comeback HBO - Find & Share on GIPHY

I won’t be following anyone on to any new platforms. Not a one. In fact, this is a clarifying moment for me. It’s time to take a few more steps away. I’m in the process of stripping down my FB presence – they don’t make it easy, that’s for sure. It might take a few weeks, but in the end, I’ll still have a FB page, but it will only have a week’s worth of posts on it at a time – and none of those personal, just links from here.

(My only concern – and the reason I’m taking time – is to catch personal photos or anecdotes I might have posted there, but not saved elsewhere.)


Before this (yes) wall o’ text, let me just give you an abstract. Maybe save you some time:

If you’re frustrated by the limitations of social media, discern why. Maybe it’s not time to find another, more acceptable form of social media. Maybe it’s time to turn away.

Pay attention, come to me;

listen, and your soul will live.

-Today’s first reading. Isaiah 55

Let me offer a little spiritual perspective. Limited, as usual. Perhaps even wrong – not unusual. But perhaps it might help one or two of you.

When we live, shaped by a framework of Catholic spirituality, we live in tension – an acknowledged tension between radical acceptance of God’s will and acceptance of God’s call to courageously plunge into the world and, with his help, affect radical change.

I think following the latter path correctly is totally dependent on embracing the former.

And in traditional Catholic spirituality, acceptance of God’s will in my life means approaching a particular event or circumstance, not with a reflexive reaction of rejection or outrage or determination to do what I did before, but rather of calm watching and listening.

What’s happening here? What is God teaching me through this? How can I grow through this? What does this invite me to embrace that’s good and from God? What elements of my life or the world is it revealing to me I should turn from or change?

So, in the wake of great loss – say, a death – you can rage and grieve – and there is a place for that – but then there is a point at which such emotions become an exhausting treadmill, not to speak of a rejection of God’s will, and it’s time to take a look at life, not as you want it to be, but as it is.

How can I grow closer to God now, not despite this, but through this?

For that – lest we forget – is why we’re here. Not to make our voices heard, not to right earthly injustices, but to grow in holiness. We may do that through those other efforts, but our first reason for existence stems from the fact that God created us, God loves us, and wants us to love him and dwell with him forever.

So when something happens – good, bad, indifferent – our call is to stop, look and listen, set our egos aside, and say….what does this reveal? About my sins? About my temptations? About my love of God and neighbor?

So much for no wall of text.

Anyway. All that is to say – in a moment like this, I find it really ironic that as we have spent years fretting and clucking over the mostly negative impact of particularly social media on our individual and social lives – the minute the true face of these powers is revealed, so many of us respond by….trying to find another way to remain in their caves.

What about this? What about seeing this as a clarifying moment and girding your loins and actually leaving the cave?

Maybe begin with the following. First recognize that this internet/social media loop is not random. It didn’t just happen. Like marketing, it’s designed.

It’s designed to elevate and harness various aspects of human personality and behavior, not for the benefit of society, not for your personal benefit, but for their profit.

There’s no nobility here. There’s no idealism. It’s about money and power, period.

It’s about using particular types of energy that make you tick, like you’re a cog in a machine.

  • First, and most obviously, you’ve given up your data. All of it. It’s there, from your Social Security number to what you searched for on Ebay just now. It’s all there.

But of more interest to me is how this ecosystem engages and exploits:

  • Our curiosity
  • Our nosiness
  • Our anxiety
  • Our loneliness
  • Our aspirations
  • Our desires
  • Our tribalism
  • Our anger
  • Our ego
  • Our creativity
  • Our drive for change
  • Our desire for freedom

Yes, the Internet can help us direct our good qualities in positive ways. But I think it’s clear, particularly in the context of the authoritarian ecosystem this is turning out to be, it’s mostly a negative and it’s time to leave it behind, as much as we can.

For it is good and natural to:

  • Want to know and understand
  • Feel as if I belong
  • Know that I’m not alone in my views, interests and loyalties
  • Express myself
  • Connect
  • Play
  • Share what I know
  • Share my gifts

How does social media exploit these good, even holy aspirations and desires and turn them into destructive, demeaning dross?

Double Indemnity

So as with anything else – we look to this digital empire and we must discern. It’s true of any moment, of any situation – there is a neutral aspect to it, there is the potential for positive outcomes, and there is always, no matter what, temptation. Temptation to let our qualities, both good and bad, be used for the sake of another’s profit and power.

As you can see, this isn’t so much a comment of the events over the past week, but more a nudge offered about how to approach the moment. To stand apart from the events, whether they be in Washington or on the screen in your hand, and to consider how truth is being served by the events and how they are used, and to consider what how this digital ecosystem is tempting us, what it’s delivering and who is ultimately benefiting.

To consider how they are all exploiting you, your anger, your idealism, your anxiety, and even your desire for change.

And how do we get out? What do we do?

We look at the good aspects of life that we hoped were served by this ecosystem – and perhaps were and are – and we consider two points in relation to that:

  • What is the cost of finding community, self-expression and so on in the context of this digital/social media world?
  • What temptations does this digital world touch and exploit in me?

All that  – yes – wall of text – is to say – here’s this moment. It’s clarifying even as it’s very confusing. Perhaps it makes sense to respond by finding another outlet that won’t exploit both your worst and best instincts and censor you when you violate the chosen narrative.

Or perhaps….it doesn’t make any sense at all.

9:56. Made it!

Baptism of the Lord

All right! Baptism of the Lord, and then let’s plunge into Ordinary Time before Pre-Lent and Lent hits us!

From The Loyola Kids book of Bible Storiesarranged with the stories in line with where we hear them in the liturgy – most of the time.

EPSON MFP image

First and last page of the entry on Jesus’ Baptism – to give you a sense of what the entries are like. 

And then, related – from the Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols – the entry on holy water in the context of the church.

The entries are arranged with a simple explanation on the left, with the illustration, and then a more in-depth treatment for older children on the right.

I actually wrote part I of this a little over four years ago, when lots of folks in my circles, both immediate and distant, were fretting about what to tell the children about the weird guy of dubious personal morality who’d just been elected president.

Here it is. As you can imagine: Zero sympathy.

83608363d7052fec55cc6f11e8a66e43

The conversation seems to be recurring this week, with a slightly different concern. Times are strange and disturbing, no matter what your political views. Insurrection! Censorship! Democratic norms!

What do we tell the kids?

Well, you’ll tell them whatever your worldview suggests. And hopefully, no matter what that worldview is, you won’t expose children to unnecessary anxiety about events over which they have no control.

It can perhaps, be an opportunity to educate from a few different angles:

The ideals and framework upon which the government and social compact of this country you happen to live in were built – and how we’re living up to them in the present day, or not. It’s always good to go back to the Constitution and the discussions about our founding to remember what all this is supposed to be about.

The weakness and limitations of human nature and activity.

Photo - SLUMS, BRAZIL. Rio de Janeiro. Favela Rocinha. This is the largest  shanty town in Rio, housing tens - Hard Rain Picture Library

And perhaps, the moment offers a chance for a greater perspective, both for them and for those of us who have children in our care.

What shall we tell the children about political chaos and strangeness, as they sit in their warm house with plenty of food to eat and a big-screen TV to watch all day, surrounded by books, clothes without holes and decent medical care on call in case they fall ill?

I dunno. Maybe put yourselves in the place of parents who have to think what will we tell the children who wake up to this every single morning.


So, anyway.

As I was skipping through a few of these what shall we tell the children posts, I realized that if we’re sticking to First World Problems, I have most of you beat.

What to tell the children? Well, let’s remember October 1962.

Of course, I have no memory of it myself, but only know what my parents told me later in life. Somewhere in young adulthood, I suppose.

That as the Cuban Missile Crisis loomed, and people really were wondering if they’d be blown off the face of the earth tomorrow (See the Meditations in an Emergency episode of Mad Men), Americans made plans.

They stocked up. They built bomb shelters.

My parents agreed that if the bombs were launched, they’d overdose me on sleeping pills.

This sweet thing, biking along in Lubbock, Texas? In October 1962, no less, completely unaware of what might be in store?

Yeah, it’s really not so bad. It’s really not.

I tell you, it’s coming.

I’ve been telling you for years, when it comes to social media, put not your trust in princes.

This has nothing to do with political preferences, but with other issues I’ve been contemplating, in my usual haphazard way, for years, and which I’ll set down later today.

Here.

Not in an Instagram or Facebook post. Not on Twitter. Not on a podcast or a YouTube video.

Here.

Yes, this space is prone to censorship and deplatforming as well. We’ve seen it. One of the best “Gender Critical” (i.e. anti-trans movement) blogs was completely removed from WordPress a couple of years ago. Including the archives, I believe. Google owns Blogger. You know what that means.

But for the moment, this is what it’s always been. Mostly mine.

For the moment, at least.

Update: How strange, but appropriate to see news, right after posting this, that Kathy Shaidle, pioneering blogger, both in general and in the Catholic arena, has died:

Following a tedious rendezvous with ovarian cancer, Kathy Shaidle has died, wishing she’d spent more time at the office.

Her tombstone reads: GET OFF MY LAWN! 

She is relieved she won’t have to update her LinkedIn profile, shave her legs, or hear “Creep” by Radiohead ever again. Some may even be jealous that she’s getting out of enduring a Biden presidency. 

Kathy was a writer, author, columnist and blogging pioneer, as proud of her first book’s Governor General’s Award nomination as of her stint as “Ed Anger” for the Weekly World News. A target for “cancel” culture before the term was coined, she was denounced by all the best people, sometimes for contradictory reasons

 


We’ll start easy.

So this happened.

Amy Welborn

(Ladder next to piano is part of our very professional setup for the remote piano lessons. Guitar is his own purchase with his organ-playing money.)

Someone was giving it away. Saw it on (okay….I know…shut up) FB Marketplace. As it happens, the family lives just a few houses down from our house before this one – just a couple of miles away. No way we could transport it ourselves, so I figured paying someone to move it + free fully operational organ (- one key, as you can see below) still = pretty good deal.

And for the record, these small organs from the 60’s and 70’s are items which, these days, you can really only give away. They have zero resale value. In fact, one organist discussion board I read said that the benches have more resale value than the instrument themselves – and yes, it’s a nice looking bench.

Organ Guy is delighted. It only has one octave of pedals, which makes it less than optimal for home practice for church pieces, but at least he can work with the manuals. And he’s having fun doing it. I had wondered before getting it, if it was really worth it, considering that he has a pretty nice digital keyboard already, but I can already see that yes, it’s different, with other, good reasons to decide to spend time with it, rather than the new shiny keyboard.

He remains noncommittal on a music career, but he does enjoy it, spends a lot of time practicing and then fooling around with various instruments, so as far as I’m concerned it’s money well spent.

Actually, my goal is for him to fill our house with sounds like this.

7 Quick Takes

— 1 —

Carl Olson posted his favorite jazz and non-jazz albums at the Spirit of Cecilia blog here and here. His tastes in music and mine don’t seem to coincide at a lot of points, but I did find some new albums to explore and even a couple I liked. I think my tastes are more plonky, jangly and dissonant than his, in general. To be technical about it.

— 2 —

As I mentioned earlier, we watched Goodfellas this week, which means I finally understand this meme image.

Goodfellas | Know Your Meme

I always thought it was from the Great Gatsby, for some reason?

Good to be culturally caught up, at long last.

— 3 —

Speaking of music: Terror and transcendance in the late masterpieces of Schubert, who died at 31:

Schubert contracted syphilis in 1822 and would thereafter have been aware that he was not to live out a normal span. It is not difficult to discern in his music the presumed effects of this knowledge; Tom Service has even written an article about an 1824 piano work (D784) entitled “Schubert’s syphilitic sonata”. Once infected, he had to cope with severe pain and visible, socially embarrassing symptoms, though these were interspersed with periods of remission. In a famous letter to the painter Leopold Kupelwieser in March 1824, he describes himself as “a man whose health will never be right again” and who is “the most unhappy and wretched creature in the world”. Whilst it is generally undesirable to map biographical elements onto abstract music in the absence of external evidence, in Schubert’s case the evidence is to hand. There is moreover a directness of utterance, an absence of artifice or gesture in his music, which make him for many the most lovable of all composers. His genius is to draw us in to the melancholy of his interior world, and at the same time to set before us a vision of unattainable beauty, albeit one suffused with the ineffable sadness of transience.

It is instructive to contrast the Requiem with Schubert’s own last religious work, the Mass D950 (June 1828). The Sanctus, which typically celebrates God’s holiness and majesty, is here a nightmare: Schubert’s music begins unexceptionably in E flat major, though the whispered piano is unusual, before building to a terrifying fortissimo outburst in the unforeseeable key of B minor. (A not dissimilar effect is to be found in the same movement of the Mass D678 from 1822). 

— 4 —

More on Schubert’s faith:

As one might deduce from this opera, Schubert was a deeply pious man. He wrote a significant number of religious works, including six Latin Masses. But Schubert’s faith was somewhat unorthodox. In each of the Masses he deleted “unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam” from the Credo. No one really knows why. Could it have been from a streak of anti-clericalism, such as is often found in all-Catholic countries? It is all the more puzzling since the deletion made the Masses unsuitable for church performance until the words were restored.

As one might imagine from his text deletions, Schubert’s approach to the Mass is not rigidly doctrinal. He seems more concerned with recreating the experiences the doctrines define: the awe, the mystery, the veneration, the devastating sorrow, the sublime elevation, and the ultimate joy. This is why his response to the words is so individual and vibrant. The last Masses seem more a personal response to the liturgical drama than a formal liturgy. As Schubert said of his religious compositions, “I never force devotion upon myself and, except when involuntarily overwhelmed by it, never compose hymns or prayers of this kind, but then it is usually the right and true devotion.” Right and true devotion is what one senses here in an overwhelming way.

— 5 —

Yet more music, via Micah Mattix:

Three Small Liturgies of the Divine Presence at 75: “A little more than two weeks before the first VE Day, on April 21, 1945, Olivier Messiaen’s Three Small Liturgies of the Divine Presence (Trois petites Liturgies de la Présence Divine) had premiered. In the decades since then it has become difficult to hear this rarely performed work, but new online resources are changing this. Several performances are available on YouTube, including one recorded earlier this year (just prior to the pandemic) with Kent Nagano conducting the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and women’s chorus. You can also listen to a recording synchronized with the published musical score. Finally, archived online performance notes from the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (2002) put an English translation within easy reach. At age seventy-five, the Three Small Liturgies has never been so readily accessible.”

— 6 —

Perusing the future Church calendar dates, I noticed that tomorrow, one of the many memorials is that of St. Andrew Corsini. His bio struck me as timely:

  During the 1348 general chapter at Metz, he was made Tuscan provincial and briefly lead the province through the ravages of the Black Death that was to claim over 100 Carmelites. This election was short-lived because in October 1349 Pope Clement VI nominated him to be bishop of Fiesole, a town about 5 miles north-east of Florence. Taking up his episcopal duties in March of the following year, Andrew was faced not only with the consequences of the Black Death, but also with a diocese that had been neglected by his predecessors. The diocesan bishops of Fiesole had not lived in the diocese for over a century leaving the cathedral and diocese to fall into ruin. Andrew moved swiftly to repair the material and spiritual damage to his diocese, working tirelessly to rebuild the cathedral, restore parish churches, and improve the moral life of his priests.  

Andrew went about establishing a small religious community around him, disbanding the large Episcopal entourage and reducing the number of house servants to six. He also invited two friars from the Carmine to live with him in community. He considered himself the “father and helper of the poor” and devoted special care to the sick in the wake of the devastation brought about by the plague. He was also an eloquent preacher of reconciliation, and a successful peacemaker in Fiesole, Florence, Prato and Pistoia.

There are, of course, any number of ways a religious leaders can “not live” where he or she is supposed to be living.

And what’s the key to reform? No matter what the specifics, it also comes down, it seems to the same thing: casting aside worldly comforts and honorifics and living a life of poverty and humility. It starts there. Of course it does.

— 7 —

Not what you expected? Not what you came here for, at the end of a crazy, even disturbing week?

Well, considering that I believe that one of the worst consequences of the Internet and social media is the amplification of the ego, and the ever-present suspicion that whenever something happens in our lives or our world, we must share it and say something and that the world needs our point of view in order to keep revolving….nope.

In fact, I stripped down my Facebook “friends” list even more this week, and am getting closer and closer to a bare-bones presence, I hope.

Just remember:

Making a difference, having an impact, bringing about change Posting a status

Not posting a status ≠ Unconcerned, unengaged or inactive

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

St. Andre Bessette

Quick explanation: Yes, today is Epiphany. No matter whether we celebrated in American churches on Sunday or not…today is the feast of the Epiphany. Globally.

That’s why this saints’ memorial is celebrated today (the date of his death, yes) in the United States, but indeed, tomorrow, January 7, in other countries, including Canada.

If you don’t know about today’s saint – St. Andre Bessette – just take a quick look.

Born Alfred Bessette in Quebec in 1845, he was orphaned by the time he was 12. With little-to-no formal education, he became a Holy Cross brother and because of his sickly nature, was assigned as the doorkeeper at Notre Dame College in Montreal, a post he held for nearly 40 years. It was in this role as a porter that St. André was able to minister to the sick.

He prayed with them to God and St. Joseph, as an intercessor. Hundreds credit their healing to St. André’s prayers. The walls of  St. Joseph’s Oratory are lined with crutches of those who were healed, but St. André always gave credit to God and St. Joseph’s intercession as Jesus’ earthly father.

As he became known as the “Miracle Man of Montreal,” St. André was later assigned full-time as the caretaker of the church that he built to honor St. Joseph. He spent his days seeing healing the sick. By the 1920s, the Oratory hosted more than a million pilgrims annually, and hundreds of cures were attributed to his prayers every year.

St. André Bessette died in Montreal on Jan. 6, 1937. It is estimated that more than a million people made the pilgrimage to the Oratory to say their good-byes to their beloved Brother André. He was beatified on May 23, 1982, and canonized in October 2010, becoming the Congregation of Holy Cross’ first saint. Worldwide the Congregation of Holy Cross community observes St. André’s Feast Day on Jan. 7, because the Vatican and many nations observe the feast of Epiphany on Jan. 6

Andre Bessette is one of the “doorkeeper saints” – who fascinate me. They provide a vital antidote to some of the distracting and even harmful trends in contemporary pop spirituality. Some more thoughts here, related to Solanus Casey. 

Anyway, quickly – I’ve been to the amazing St. Joseph’s Oratory twice. The last time, in 2011, I was amazed at the busloads of Latino pilgrims present. Start off the photos with some vintage holy cards:

"amy welborn"
This one interests me because it predates the large oratory’s construction.
"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

Simeon and John

Yes, yes, Christmas season. But you know how I am about those saints. Two good ones today.

Simeon Stylites may have heard a vocational call to stay in one spot for most of his life, but his feast day is all over the place, calendar-wise. He’s on the Roman calendar for January 5, although in this country the celebration of St. John Neumann would dominate that day – as if we’d be celebrating a Pillar Saint at all…Various Eastern Christian groups celebrate him on different days, including Byzantine Catholics, who celebrate him on September 1.

He’s in the Loyola Kids Book of Saints, from which I’ve excerpted a couple of pages below. The question might come up – why include this nutty guy in a book of saints for children in the 21st century at all? Isn’t he a little scary and off-putting? Don’t we want the kids to feel that Christianity is normal and fun and won’t make them weird?

Nope. Christianity, to take a Chestertonian sort of position, is both the most normal thing in the world and the weirdest. It is normal because it alone reflects the whole of life and reality as it is, but since the World dwells mostly in denial of this reality, yes, Christianity is weird. The sooner kids understand that paradoxical dynamic, the better.

Further, Catholic spirituality is all about seeing the movement of grace everywhere. Read the great spiritual writers. They will advise you to seek God in all that happens to you: in those who hurt you, in those who mock you, in suffering and in witnessing what seems strange and even insane.

It’s radical. But in this place, to a man praying atop a pillar, people were drawn, and once drawn, heard about Jesus.

Radical witness takes all forms.

So just a couple of pages from the book. He’s in the section, “Saints Are People Who Surprise Others.”

And then, of course, St. John Neumann, another Saint to Make You Tired:

When time came for his ordination, the bishop was sick; the date for was never reset because Bohemia had an over-abundance of priests. John decided to go to America to ask for ordination and work with emigres. He walked most of the way to France, then took ship for America. John arrived unannounced in Manhattan in 1836. Bishop John Dubois was happy to see him as there were 36 priests for the 200,000 Catholics in New York and New Jersey. John was ordained on 28 June 1836, and sent to Buffalo. There the parish priest, Father Pax, gave him the choice of the city of Buffalo or of the rural area; John chose the more difficult country area. He stayed in a small town with an unfinished church, and when it was completed, he moved to a town with a log church. There he built himself a small log cabin, rarely lit a fire, slept little, often lived on bread and water, and walked miles to visit farm after remote farm. John’s parishioners were from many lands and tongues, but John knew twelve languages, and worked with them all.

He joined the Redemptorists and eventually became Bishop of Philadelphia. And then….

He built fifty churches and began building a cathedral. Opened almost one hundred schools, and the number of parochial school students in his diocese grew from five hundred to nine thousand. Wrote newspaper articles, two catechisms, and many works in German. First American man and first American bishop to be canonized.

Phew

Turning again to the Horse I Like to Beat, note the reason for the hard work and dedication: not building his brand or getting you to pay attention to him, but, energized by Christ, to serve Him through serving others. Doesn’t matter if anyone knows who you are or not. Your “influence” starts with those right in front of you, today, at this moment.

Radical witness takes all forms.

He’s in the kids book o’ saints, as well.

And then, a person who is almost twenty years old now ponders a holy place:

Monday

And as I’m composing a post on St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, trying not fall into a rant of one sort or another about

Monday

the narrow-mindedness and elitism of most modern Catholic educational institutions in this country, I think how unenthusiastic I am for the beginning of our homeschooling high school spring semester and I think…yeah, maybe *I’m* the one who should be begging for her intercession and looking to her as a model today…

Eye…meet beam…

As per usual.

Anway, let’s start the new year out with a digest.

Writing: Was in Living Faith last week, sent off a new batch (July-September) this morning. Wrote some blog posts of late:

On a novel, Vespers in Vienna – part one here and part two here. On, yes, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. On Epiphany yesterday. On how to praise God in Te Deum here. On Lent! Which starts…in a few weeks! On Public Domain Day.

This week: I think there are loose ends of some projects to tie up. Get my head deeper into the novel I’m currently tackling.

Reading: Vespers in Vienna, as noted here. That interrupted my first-ever read of Don Quixote – I figured the latter being so long, I’ll interrupt it frequently for shorter reads.

Also last night, I read Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener – to see if we should read it here in the homeschool. What an odd piece. I need to write about both it and The Overcoat in this space. I think we’ll read the latter, but maybe not the former. It’s not that it’s too hard, I just think our time is better spent on other, less abstruse works of more immediate appeal. Although we’ll see.

Also will be reading the new Catholic news and analysis Substack from JD Flynn and Ed Condon: The Pillar.

Greatly needed.

Cooking: At various times – beef stew, chicken tortilla soup, biscuits of one type or another and last night, Serious Eats’ Chicken Parm. I’d never made Chicken Parm before – breaded filets of chicken are one of my go-tos, so I never thought it was necessary to douse them in tomato sauce and add cheese, but it was suggested to me, so I went ahead – yes, the end result was very different from my ordinary filets, not just because, well, it’s a different recipe, but also because the breading technique here made them ENORMOUS. I didn’t eat a lot of it, but what I did eat was very good, if I do say so myself.

Which we ate while watching…Goodfellas. So, appropriate.

Watching:

As mentioned, Goodfellas, which was okay, but somewhat scattered, with some great acting by some – and some overacting by others. I was mostly watching it, thinking about how The Sopranos took all these motifs form this and all the other mafia pop culture and built on them. For the better I think. And also about the sly casting choice of Lorraine Bracco as Tony’s therapist.

Also, based on Eve Tushnet’s listing of it in her top ten of the year: Big Deal on Madonna Street, which was an entertaining very Italian caper. In my view, very Italian, not just because of the exaggerated speech and gestures (not just because they’re…Italian, but also because it’s a comedy), but because of its ending. Which I don’t really want to spoil, but struck me as…well..I’ll say it again…very Italian.

Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958) | MUBI

Rewatching Mad Men with College Guy. We’re about to finish up season 2.

Att some point over the past two weeks, College Guy and I watched The Royal Tennebaums – I think I saw it in theaters, and this was one of his multiple viewings. I liked it, but enjoyed The Darjeeling Limited more.

We also watched Bottle Rocket – Wes Anderson’s first movie – earlier this week. We watched the full-length feature, and then after, watched the short that Anderson entered at Sundance and got him on the road to Hollywood, so to speak. We enjoyed both, but also both agreed that the short was “better” in a way. The longer film was clearly padded – not all the padding was bad, and a lot of it was entertaining, but there was a random charm and mystery about the short that was unique. It led to a good discussion about how a creator can tell when he or she is “finished” – when he’s said all he needs to say in just the way he wants to….and not too much.

Of course, that’s almost impossible.

Over on the east coast, Film Guy Son watched all of Fellini and ranked them…

...and taking considerably less time, watched Rian Johnson’s first film, Brick, and raves.

Listening: Let me outline Organ Son’s work over the past ten days, and you can guess what we’ve been listening to:

Three Christmas Eve/Christmas Masses. One Holy Family Mass. Two Mary, Mother of God Masses. One funeral. One Epiphany.

Besides that, because he is next tackling Mendelssohn’s Rondo, I got caught up in a slew of Mendelssohn chamber music – his Octet is my favorite so far. A current playlist here.

Today is her memorial.

Here’s to the American Church turning to her on her memorial, praying for her intercession and looking to her guidance as thousands, if not millions of children and their families – particularly the poor and the marginalized, those without internet access for remote schooling, those whose parents don’t have the kind of position that allows them to work from home – are being abandoned by public school systems.

Be creative. Be courageous. Think outside the institutional walls. Think beyond the balance sheets – all of them.

Serve.

She’s in the Loyola Kids Book of Saints in the section “Saints are people who love children.”

De Paul University has a large, digitized collection of Seton materials, including many books.

Her collected writings – all here, digitized.

A database of quotes from St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac, and…St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. I can’t link to a specific “Seton” page, but you’re smart enough to figure out the navigation:

I am gently quietly and silently a good Catholic. The rubs, etc., are all past. No one appears to know it except by showing redoubled kindness. Only a few knotty hearts that must talk of something and the worst they say is “so much trouble has turned her brain.” Well . . . I kiss my Crucifix which I have loved for so many years, and say they are only mistaken.

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