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7 Quick Takes

Seven Quick Takes

— 1 —

Yesterday morning gave me a bit of a melancholy moment. The Diocese of Birmingham celebrated the annual beginning-of-the-year Mass for homeschoolers at the Cathedral of St. Paul. In past years, this had been a yearly event, but by the time I arrived, it wasn’t done anymore. Last year, I helped spearhead and organize a revival, and so this year..I had to return!

The numbers were very good – a couple hundred. Bishop Baker celebrated the Mass, with the Cathedral rector, Fr. Jerabek, concelebrating and preaching, offering a sweet reminder to the children, on the Nativity of Our Lady, that Mary was homeschooled, so they were in wonderful company.

It’s really not that hard for Church officials to be supportive and appreciative of Catholic homeschoolers. Really. Not that hard.

(Via Instagram Stories – amy_welborn. Sorry it’s so huge. Don’t have time to resize right now.) 

 

— 2 —

And so..yeah, it was a little sad. I miss being a part of that group, of that lifestyle. For I finally arrived at the insight, such as it is, that a fundamental appeal of homeschooling today is as a lifestyle. This is something that people who don’t do it, and especially people who are antagonistic to homeschooling don’t understand: its great appeal as a lifestyle.

I hope readers of my blog over the last few years have picked this up from what I have written. Much of what moved me to homeschool in the first place was a dissatisfaction with the lifestyle school forces on a family. We have so little freedom in the way we lead our daily lives anyway:  work limits our families, as do economic concerns. School – with its daily, weekly and yearly schedules, with its homework and projects, with its fundraisers – slams one more constraint on. As I have written over and over again, the reason we accept this is that we accept that what school gives is worth what we must give over to it. The tipping point for many of us comes when we realize that what the school gives is not worth it and what it demands is counterproductive to our children’s flourishing and our family lives and that the resources available to us, our own schools, and our  childrens’ not-yet-deadened curiosity means that we can do the same thing at home just as well or even better, and have a lot more fun doing it.

So yes. I miss that lifestyle right now. I’m consciously and intentionally trying to help us be as efficient as we can in schoolwork so that outside school hours are still ours as much as possible. And the younger son and I have settled on a vision of the future which, given the assumption that he stays in school for middle school (which he doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want to) which takes traditional high school completely out of the picture. (That moment will happen at the same time as his brother’s graduation from high school, so it works). If the stock market doesn’t crash and no other crises befall us before then, we will be free to do some serious roadschooling at that point. Something to look forward to …

— 3 —

 

Feastdays!

Contemporary Churchy rhetoric might lead you to believe that before the last couple of years, Catholics didn’t know that charity and mercy were at the heart of the Gospel. Surprise! They did! Take a look at our saints for today:

St. Peter Claver

“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. 

From Crisis:

Claver’s heroism in dealing with the diseased and sick is astounding. Even so, it was an everyday occurrence. Claver would wipe the sweat from the faces of the slaves with his own handkerchief. Moreover, he would often clothe the sick and diseased in his own cloak. As some of his interpreters witnessed, the cloak had to be washed up to seven times a day from the stink and filth which it had accumulated. It was routine for Claver to console his fellow man by joyfully undertaking practices which were considered extremely repugnant to most. As one eye-witness notes, “Most admirable was that he not only cleansed these plague-ridden ulcers with the two handkerchiefs he kept for that, but did not hesitate to press his lips to them.” He plainly saw Christ “in the least of these brethren.”

The chief problem in the evangelization of the slaves lay in the numerous languages used by the many “races” of Africans. Although Claver himself never mastered the African languages, he did have some facility with Angolese, the most common of them. On account of these linguistic difficulties, he continually worked with a team of interpreters, black slaves who had a fine ear and tongue for languages. It is important to note that Claver empowered these slave interpreters to become true leaders, diligently training them in the Christian faith. Treating them as his equals, close friends, and true collaborators in the work of evangelization, he always carefully looked after their food, clothing, and medicines. If they were seriously sick, he gave up his bed to them, and slept on the floor.

As images are the books of the illiterate, Claver was liberal in his use of pictures in catechizing the new converts. In his instructions, he taught them the rudiments of the faith. He especially enjoyed teaching them about the life, passion, and death of Christ through illustrations and the crucifix. At times, he even used the monitory pictures of hell to inspire in them a true sense of contrition for their own sins. At the same time, he also gave them hope, teaching them about the glories of heaven. It was not an easy task. The slaves had to be patiently drilled in such simple matters as the sign of the cross. At all times, however, he reminded them of their own dignity and worth, teaching them that Christ had redeemed them at a great price with his blood.

Every spring, Claver would set out on rural missions to plantations surrounding Cartagena. Here he would check up on the lives of his charges as much as he was able. Refusing the hospitality of the plantation owners, he dwelt in the Negro slave quarters. On many occasions, he was ill-received by the plantation owners and their wives. They looked at his spiritual ministrations among their slaves as a waste of their time. Throughout his life, he was never a revolutionary, a “hater of the rich and embittered protector of the poor.” Although he had a special predilection for the poor black slaves, he did not ignore the rich; rather, he exhorted the wealthy to carry out their social duties and he promoted cooperation between the classes.

He’s in The Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints

An excerpt:

Peter claver

 

 

 

 — 4 —

St. Frederic Ozanam, founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. 

 

 

— 5 

Someone posted this on Facebook, and I thought it was very good – an article that teases apart the distinctions in what’s most helpful to tell children about “strangers.”  Basically – it’s not a good idea to pound “stranger danger” in kids’ heads, because, well, not all strangers are bad, and there might be a point they would have to ask a stranger for help. This parent had come up with the idea of teaching her children about “tricky” adults – “tricky” adults ask kids for help, and should be avoided. Real, normal adults don’t ask children for help – they ask other adults.

(So, for example, in times when my children have flown alone, I have told them..only ask or accept help from someone who works for an airline, not some random person who comes up to them and offers. And to not, by the way, chat with strangers who try to strike up conversation, and if someone right out asks where their destination is, lie.) 

This is a distilled version of what I’ve always told my kids: watch out for adults who comport themselves as if they are your peers or want to be. Even if there won’t be abuse, those folks aren’t right, and you don’t want to be drawn into their worlds.  The way I always put it is to ask them to think of, say, me, in place of the questionable adult. What if I came home and said, “Hey, I made friends with this 15 year old and we’re going to hang out.” You’d think there was something very wrong…and you’d be right.

It’s a fine, delicate line in education and ministry between those who are simply dedicated to the well-being of kids and want to serve them and those who are attempting to fill some empty or even dark place by doing so.

6–

Here’s some mildly entertaining, wacky-religion reading for your Friday. Basically, start off as some sort of Holiness/Assemblies of God chapel in the Northwest, end up as a cat-worshipping and rescuing cult in Tennessee. Sounds legit.

“She died on the Winter Solstice,” Ruthven wrote in describing the founding of Eva’s Eden. “Death had come, now I needed to embrace Life. How does one explain such a love to a world that sees animals only as animals? As I had studied and taught my people that of Egyptian Alchemy, I grew in reverence for their beliefs of honoring the Felines as vessels that are able to guide us through our passageway of life.”

For Ruthven’s followers, this new ministry meant fostering cats and kittens by the dozens.

— 7 —

This is somewhat distracted because we have our grandson/nephew with us for a few days. Duplos and Curious George have returned! Plus a dog.

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

From Paula Huston:

How about this for a novel idea? What if we took up novel-reading as an act of radical resistance against bobbing around like flotsam? What if we lifted our heads, arched our backs, charted our course, and embraced the water as though it were home?

It is a notion I have been playing with for a while now. Long-form reading retrieved as a form of resistance, as a counter-cultural act, and doubling down by doing so on paper.

Now, I’ll say first that I’m sure this kind of reading has not died. I am surrounded by readers online and in real life, and although while waiting at offices or outside of children’s activities, most heads are bowed down, eyes fixed on screens, not all are. I still see books, and as I have indicated before, I’m making a point to ensure that I’m in the latter group.

It is not easy, and I am nowhere near as addicted to the screen as others are. My use of social media is mostly to post news and images of interesting sights, but I hardly ever “engage” on any of it. Gazing, amazed, upon the trainwrecks of other people’s Internet fights may be one of my temptations, but entering them myself isn’t.

But picking up a book does take a level of intention that touching a screen to see what’s going on doesn’t, although once I find a good one (as I recently did with The Good Companions),  the temptation of the screen fades.

And, as I said before recently, I’m working hard to do more of my long-form reading from actual books instead of the Kindle app. Not to be too dully repetitive, but again, it’s because I know I retain more when I read from pages, and secondly, I cannot, in good conscience harp on my kids about NO SCREENS and then…pick up the Ipad saying, “Oh, but it’s a BOOK.”  Some people can, I can’t.

Now that summer is fading, night comes earlier and we come back into the house earlier, it is, I have decided, very important for me to have a book going. That way, as homework and housework winds down, I can settle in a chair, turn on some music, and open a book or magazine.

I am not alone for long.

We are not an atomized household anyway. Closed doors are discouraged and I am often, by the end of the day, worn out by the conversations. In the Charlotte Mason mode of homeschooling, something called “narration” plays an important role. That is, the child’s understanding is gauged by “narrating” back what he has read or what she has experienced. Narration happens orally at first, and then more and more in writing. When we homeschooled, I believed this was important but worried at times that it wasn’t happening enough because I wasn’t formal about it. Then one day in the car while listening to some lengthy explanation of something about Aztecs or snakes or Percy Jackson, or probably all three mashed up I realized…I get narrated at ALL DAY LONG. 

Well, back to the present.

I discovered long ago the stupidly simple truth that if I want my children to do something the best way is to do it myself, or at the very least, be present in the area that in which The Thing needs to happen. So if everyone really needs to just be outside and seem at sea or resistant, I just take myself and go outside. I don’t even have to do anything. If I just sit there and watch the hummingbirds, they will soon follow and after some narration about Mayans or sea turtles or Michael Crichton, they’re off in a tree.

So, when I sit in the evening with my book, in they come. Sometimes they come with a book themselves, but sometimes they come to talk, which is fine. Even if there is no dearth of conversation in our house, the quality of the work-is-done-evening-is-falling conversation is different than what happens in the car or on the fly in the kitchen. It has the same quality as the talks we used to have a long time ago, but don’t any longer, because they are older and don’t need me to lie down with them and read stories together to get ready for sleep.

What has been on your mind all day but has been too much to process in the busyness of school and the voices of peers finally settles out and comes together and the calm space in the center of the home invites you to speak out loud. The person sitting there holds a book, but it is just one book, just one voice, and she can easily put it down and listen to you and nothing will beep or ding and she won’t glance every minute or so in the direction of the rest of the world clamoring for attention in that weighty black rectangle. No, that has been put away, nothing going on in the rest of the world matters as much as you do right now, and trusting that quiet attentiveness, you can speak.

(This post was supposed to be about The Razor’s Edge, which I just finished last night. So much for that, and now I need to go to the store, exercise, and work on the new book. So…later).

 

 

 

Chloe on the Edge

I never try to do much on Labor Day weekend.

Once, in 2011, I did.

I stupidly rented a house down on the Gulf – as one does in this part of the world  –  then spent a couple of days in the week leading up to the weekend emailing the owner, my nervousness mounting by the day as I watched the weather turn, and turn badly, since with rentals that close to the booking date, you’re generally stuck no matter what. I got the boys out of school early that Friday, started down 65, and then got the call from the owner. Don’t bother, he said, it’s coming. (I think the storm was Lee?) But he was also very generous about the whole situation and offered another weekend to me   – which he absolutely did not have to do.

Oh, well, the point was that ever since then I’ve not bothered to even think about making big plans, especially in this part of the country where Labor Day means not so much “end of summer” as “beginning of hurricane season.”

At first, this year, I had another reason to stick around as well: the boys were scheduled to serve at the convent Sunday morning. But early last week, Sister called and said that someone wanted to switch, and would that be possible? Since the weekend to which we’d switch was a weekend we had to be in town anyway for a piano recital…sure!

So, what to do? Friday night was high school football, and someone wanted to go to the game – as it ended up, both of them went. I toyed around with spending the next couple of nights away…but where? North Georgia mountains maybe? We’d done that one November and it was lovely. But this time – Nah. Too far. Nothing available for a reasonable price. Too much trouble. Besides, with both of them in school, hanging out at home and getting to sleep late in your own bed is a welcome change from days of early rising. “Vacation” would just not be restful, and I had to accept that.

(The son who has just come off four years of homeschooling said the other day, “The days seem so long now! Why do they seem so much longer?”  I said, “Considering you used to sleep until 9 or 9:30 and now you get up at 6:30…yes, your days literally are longer.  That might explain it.”)

But we managed to get out and about anyway.

Saturday morning, we started out at Pepper Place Market near our house, a farmer and crafty market which happens every Saturday from late April through November. I didn’t buy anything, but they like to wander and taste things and see the dogs people bring along.

(Huh. Thought I had pictures. Nope. Reason for everything.)

I then suggested Ruffner Mountain, where we’d not been in a while. It used to be quarried and mined, so there’s that attraction, as well as the views of the city. There are no creeks or other water features and not that many rocks to climb, though, so it’s not the first place that comes to mind for an interesting hike, but it’s about fifteen minutes from the house, plus there was an estate sale just a few houses away from the preserve’s gate, so that was what we settled on.

(We didn’t get much at the sale – just a few toys for the soon-to-be visiting grandson/nephew – and I picked up yet another empty, unused photo album. I hate spending ten bucks on those things, and these days, since hardly anyone actually prints photos anymore, I usually find at least one at most estate sales, and never pay more than a dollar. Because you’re fascinated, I’ll also tell you that the day before, I’d picked up  two very good, heavy, barely used frying pans for two dollars each at another sale as well as a never-used door-frame pullup bar for ten, so I could finally fulfill a promise I’d made months ago to the boys. About a pull-up bar, not frying pans.)

Then a good walk.

"amy welborn"

 

Which took us to about three. Back home for a bit, then Mass, then…what? A movie? No, it’s football season now…so it was shifting between the Florida, Alabama, and Indiana games.

(Speaking of football. My daughter just started graduate school at Alabama. She said, “People here really do say “Roll, Tide” instead of things like “Heck,yeah.”  So of course I sent her this:)

Sunday, I declared the Day We Would Find Martha’s Falls.  The younger one had been there with a friend last year, and had been bugging me to go back ever since. I kept forgetting, and every time I would remember, it would be about 1 in the afternoon, and it’s an almost two-hour drive. But Sunday, I remembered earlier, and sleeping until ten was accepted as late enough, so up 59 we went.

(I am not a fan of that stretch of road, the interstate that takes you from here up to Chattanooga. It always brings to mind those months and months I drove it so many times back in late 2011 and 2012, when my father was sick and then died and then I had to go up to Knoville and back to settle things again and again. I also drove it into Birmingham when we first moved here in 2008- I must have been in Knoxville before the final leg. Every time, I mentally note the convenience store where I got gas. So I-59 always makes me think of  death and the weird places life takes you. But again, I think about that every day, so no really a big change there, just in intensity.)

We had been to Little River Canyon and DeSoto Falls a few times before, but never to this section. If you ever have a chance, you really should check it out. It’s a gorgeous part of Alabama, and a really interesting land feature. What you have is Lookout Mountain – a loooooong mountain that is really part of the foothills of the Appalachians, and on top of that mountain and down into it is the Little River and the canyon it has carved, which is truly beautiful and not that developed. There are just a few spots to access the river and this one – Martha’s Falls or the “Hippie Hole” takes more than just a stroll from the car to get to. You park, and then you have to hike about a half mile through the woods, and much of the path is strewn with large rocks. The last few hundred feet take you down a fairly steep bank.

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But it’s gorgeous!

It was also pretty busy, and I’d hate to see how busy it would get if it were easier to access. So they can keep the way it is. That’s fine.

There was swimming and jumping. He also jumped from one higher level on the bank than this, but I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get it.

It was a typical Alabama scene. I hate to shatter your stereotypes, but a “typical Alabama scene” means that there are all different types of people there, enjoying themselves and getting along. College students, high school church groups, white, black, lots of Hispanics, South Asians, a group of Chinese families sporting Georgia Tech gear and a couple of dozen bikers.

Besides whatever you’re doing to amuse yourself, the major entertainment is watching people jump off the highest point on the bank. Some don’t hesitate, but more than a few do. We watched, for probably fifteen minutes, as a teenage girl considered the drop. She got to the edge half a dozen times, urged on by her friends below, looked as though she might do it, then backed away every time. Did Chloe ever jump? We’ll never know, because it was time for us to go.

Of course, I was boring and declared it to be a metaphor of sorts. I asked mine what it takes to do something you’re scared to do. “Just do it,,” they said. “Just stop thinking about it and what’s going to happen and just go.”

Like I said. A metaphor.

 

Just a quick word about a project that’s just becoming available and that I’m proud to have been involved in.

Most of you are familiar with Bishop Robert Barron’s Catholicism series. The Word on Fire team is following up with another video series and study program called Pivotal Players.  The first half of the program is just now being released. From the website:

CATHOLICISM: The Pivotal Players is a multi-part film series that illumines a handful of saints, artists, mystics, and scholars who not only shaped the life of the Church but changed the course of civilization.

The Study Guide looks very strong, with sections by scholars like Dr. Matthew Levering, Fr. Paul Murray, O.P. and Dr. Anthony Esolen. Here’s a pdf sample of the study guide material on Catherine of Siena.

My part? I wrote a prayer book: Praying with the Pivotal Players. 

Each figure gets five segments. Each segment begins with a quote from their writings, even Michelangelo who left many letters and wrote poetry. This is followed up with some reflections and then some prayer and reflection prompts. The sections are thematically aligned with whatever is emphasized in the episodes. I wrote the book last fall, and really enjoyed the process. It gave me an opportunity to immerse myself in the writings of these figures and I learned quite a bit. The table of contents is on the website. 

The book is included as part of the parish program packet, but judging from what I see on Amazon, you should be able to purchase it by itself eventually.

"pivotal players"

 

 

15 years!

I realized this past weekend that September 1 marked the 15th anniversary of The Loyola Kids Book of Saints. 

It was the first book I wrote. About the same time I was working on Prove It God, but this one came out first. It was a crazy time, that spring of 2000. (In publishing, it generally takes about a year from submission of the manuscript to publication. It can be done faster – DeCoding Da Vinci took two months – but generally not.)

As I said, it was crazy, with tons of life stuff going on. I procrastinated and before I knew it the holidays had sped by and I was facing a March 1 deadline. So I wrote it in six weeks.

(Lesson learned. Ever since, when planning out projects, I never ask for a deadline between January 1 and April 1. You hit mid-November and it’s almost impossible to get writing done and then you look up and it’s January 10 and you have a deadline in a month. Awful.)

And it’s still in print, which is great. It still sells well, which is even better.

 Loyola wanted a book of saints for children and they were familiar with my column-writing, so they invited me to do this.  I struggled a while with the organization.  I really wanted to make it different from other saints books, which are either organized chronologically through history, chronologically through the liturgical year, or alphabetically.  I wanted a more compelling, interesting organizational principle.  So was born the “Saints are people who….” sections, as you can see below.

Good for read-alouds from about age 5 on, independent reading (depending on child) from about 8 on. The emphasis is on helping children see the connection between their own journey to holiness and the saints’.

Saints Are People Who Create
St. Hildegard of Bingen,Blessed Fra Angelico,St. John of the Cross,Blessed Miguel Pro

Saints Are People Who Teach Us New Ways to Pray
St. Benedict,St. Dominic de Guzman,St. Teresa of Avila,St. Louis de Monfort

Saints Are People Who See Beyond the Everyday
St. Juan Diego, St. Frances of Rome, St. Bernadette Soubirous, Blessed Padre Pio

Saints Are People Who Travel From Home
St. Boniface, St. Peter Claver, St. Francis Xavier, St. Francis Solano, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini

Saints Are People Who Are Strong Leaders
St. Helena, St. Leo the Great, St. Wenceslaus, St. John Neumann

Saints Are People Who Tell The Truth
St. Polycarp, St. Thomas Becket, St. Thomas More, Blessed Titus Brandsma

Saints Are People Who Help Us Understand God
St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Jerome, St. Patrick, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Edith Stein

Saints Are People Who Change Their Lives for God
St. Ambrose, St. Gregory the Great, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Camillus de Lellis, St. Katharine Drexel

Saints Are People Who Are Brave
St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, St. George, St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Isaac Jogues, The Carmelite Nuns of Compiegne, St. Maximilian Kolbe

Saints Are People Who Help the Poor and Sick
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Martin de Porres, Blessed Joseph de Veuster

Saints Are People Who Help In Ordinary Ways
St. Christopher, St. Blaise, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Bernard of Montjoux

Saints Are People Who Come From All Over the World
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Paul Miki, Blessed Peter To Rot, Blessed Maria Clementine Anuarite Nengapeta

If you have used this (or the Book of Heroes) in any setting – especially the classroom – and have found it useful, would you write a testimony to that fact? 

We are working on a marketing push for fall 2017, and I thought it would be great to have blurbs from people who have actually used the books. So if you are a parent, librarian, catechist or classroom teacher, have something to offer and are willing to have your name and institution used in marketing materials, please send me an email – amywelborn60 – at – gmail.com – and I will pass it on to Loyola.

 

Thanks so much!

 

St. Teresa of Calcutta

The full text of Pope Francis’ homily:

Following Jesus is a serious task, and, at the same time, one filled with joy; it takes a certain daring and courage to recognize the divine Master in the poorest of the poor and to give oneself in their service.  In order to do so, volunteers, who out of love of Jesus serve the poor and the needy, do not expect any thanks or recompense; rather they renounce all this because they have discovered true love.  Just as the Lord has come to meet me and has stooped down to my level in my hour of need, so too do I go to meet him, bending low before those who have lost faith or who live as though God did not exist, before young people without values or ideals, before families in crisis, before the ill and the imprisoned, before refugees and immigrants, before the weak and defenceless in body and spirit, before abandoned children, before the elderly who are on their own.  Wherever someone is reaching out, asking for a helping hand in order to get up, this is where our presence – and the presence of the Church which sustains and offers hope – must be.

Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded.  She was committed to defending life, ceaselessly proclaiming that “the unborn are the weakest, the smallest, the most vulnerable”.   She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime of poverty they created.  For Mother Teresa, mercy was the “salt” which gave flavour to her work, it was the “light” which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering.

 

The articles at Angelus News – the Archdiocese of Los Angeles – are all very good, including this one by David Scott.

One of the most telling aspects of the Missionaries of Charity is how challenging it is to find information about their present activities online. They do not have a dynamic, smooth online brand or platform, they are not on social media, and it is even hard to just find a list of their locations. In fact, it’s impossible. This is the best I could do – on a web page devoted to volunteering with the MOC.  

I was interested in finding out if and how local news covered the MOC in their area in light of the canonization. It wasn’t an exhaustive search, but here’s some of what I found:

In Washington, DC:

At the Missionaries of Charity facility in Northeast Washington, he now helps care for 51 ill and aging men and women alongside 34 nuns and nuns-in-training. It is a place apart from the rest of Washington, secluded from curious neighbors by expansive gardens. And it is a place suffused with veneration for Mother Teresa, who will become a saint in the Catholic Church on Sunday….

…When their founder officially becomes Saint Teresa of Calcutta at a canonization Mass at the Vatican on Sunday, her nuns will celebrate all over the world – including in the District, where they maintain a presence in three locations.

There’s a contemplative order, a few nuns devoted to prayer, not works. There’s a facility the nuns operate for homeless single mothers in Washington’s Anacostia neighborhood. And there’s the nursing home, on a hill overlooking in the Woodridge neighborhood, near the District’s eastern border.

NYC:

The sisters live in a brick building with a banner of St. Teresa’s centennial stamp from 2010 hanging outside the front of the home facing a housing project. The sisters live without computers and wash their clothes by hand. They avoid pageantry for the good they do—rarely granting interviews or permitting media to enter the convent.

“We’re doing God’s will for us because this is our vocation,” said Sister Clare, who entered the Missionaries of Charity in 1979.

“We will only have true joy and peace when we do what God wants. So we’re called to this life and God has given us the grace to live this life. When this is your vocation, you receive a joy to be with the poor. It is true there are many sacrifices, but also many joys. If we live it, we will have joy.”…

 

…Past the garden, an entrance to a soup kitchen and homeless shelter awaits. Some 80 men and women, sitting at tables in separate rooms, are led in prayer before enjoying an early lunch of pasta with pie or cake for dessert.

Painted in royal blue, the walls of the eating area sport pictures including ones of St. Teresa and another of Jesus at the Last Supper as well as prayers such as the Hail Mary written on poster-size paper. Upstairs from the eating area is the homeless shelter for 18 men, who arrive at 4 p.m. and leave before 6 a.m. Two volunteers oversee the shelter at night.

“The sisters are really kind and wonderful to the volunteers. They are helping the poor with food and clothes as well as their spiritual lives,” said Cesar Mateos, a teacher for children with special needs in Spain who was volunteering in the Bronx for the month.

Norristown, PA:

Mother Teresa herself founded the house in 1984 — one of 17 in a division that covers the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada — at the request of the local archbishop.

Since that time, a rotating group of four sisters has lived in the house and fulfilled the vows of the order: chastity, poverty, obedience and free service to the poorest of the poor.

“All our work is immediate service,” said Sister Regis. “We are not going for continuous work, that someone else can do. Today the person is hungry, today the person has no place to stay.”

Along with an army of volunteers from are Catholic parishes, the order runs a soup kitchen that serves lunch most days. The community also operates an emergency women’s shelter with 16 beds and holds Sunday school for children. The sisters are also missionaries, providing services in tandem with evangelizing and prayer.

San Francisco (story is from 2015)

Six days a week the Missionaries of Charity and volunteers serve a home-cooked dinner to about 100-150 mostly homeless people, many of whom live near or under the freeway that passes over the intersection of Potrero Avenue and Cesar Chavez Street in San Francisco. The Missionaries cook the meal at their home at 55 Sadowa, near St. Michael’s Korean Church. They serve the food around 4 p.m. every day but Thursday, the sisters’ dedicated day of prayer. The tables are set up just outside the fence of the ballfield at James Rolph Playground. The sisters help in many ways, including cutting fingernails and trimming beards and hair.
The Missionaries of Charity, founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in 1950, came to San Francisco in 1982, when Blessed Teresa established a novitiate in a convent adjacent to St. Paul Church. Shortly afterward, the Missionaries opened a hospice for AIDS patients, the Gift of Love, now located in Pacifica, and a home for pregnant women, Queen of Peace.

And finally, in Kentucky. If you click through to any of these stories, include this o Kentucky. If you click through to any of these stories, include this one. I had no idea there was a Missionaries of Charity foundation in rural eastern Kentucky:

Typical days include about six hours of visiting with the sick and needy.

Among those who received a visit from the sisters on Tuesday were Carol and Roy Church.

Roy has a number of health problems and is recovering from recent foot surgery. As he reclined on a small bed in the front room of their home, Sister Suma Rani took a peek at his dressings.

“Time to cut,” she told Carol Church, pointing to the long nail on Roy’s big toe. “Be careful.”

They chatted about how each member of the family was doing, the coyotes that howl at night and the bear that ambled across the family’s front yard.

The nuns offered a bit of advice about a struggling teenager and, before they left, they prayed.

“That’s the best part,” Carol Church said.

She said the nuns have given them food, helped get repairs made to their ceiling and floor and cared for their children at their summer Bible camp.

“They have done so much for us,” she said. “They do for everybody around here.”

Missionaries of Charity in America

 

Gregory the Great

(Reprinted from 2015)

Gregory’s story has a lot to teach us about that tricky thing called discernment.

Back in 2008, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI devoted two General Audiences to this saint.  He began with a helpful outline of his life – born into an important Roman family, serving as prefect of Rome, turning his family’s land into a monastery togregory the greatwhich he retired, then entering the service of the pope during very difficult times in Rome, including the plague, which killed the pope, and then…

The clergy, people and senate were unanimous in choosing Gregory as his successor to thend  See of Peter. He tried to resist, even attempting to flee, but to no avail: finally, he had to yield. The year was 590.

Recognising the will of God in what had happened, the new Pontiff immediately and enthusiastically set to work. From the beginning he showed a singularly enlightened vision of realty with which he had to deal, an extraordinary capacity for work confronting both ecclesial and civil affairs, a constant and even balance in making decisions, at times with courage, imposed on him by his office.

Benedict engages in some more analysis in the second GA. This is useful and important to read. 

Wanting to review these works quickly, we must first of all note that, in his writings, Gregory never sought to delineate “his own” doctrine, his own originality. Rather, he intended to echo the traditional teaching of the Church, he simply wanted to be the mouthpiece of Christ and of the Church on the way that must be taken to reach God. His exegetical commentaries are models of this approach.

And that is what any teacher of the faith, especially a pastor, is called to do.

Moving on:

Probably the most systematic text of Gregory the Great is the Pastoral Rule, written in the first years of his Pontificate. In it Gregory proposed to treat the figure of the ideal Bishop, the teacher and guide of his flock. To this end he illustrated the seriousness of the office of Pastor of the Church and its inherent duties. Therefore, those who were not called to this office may not seek it with superficiality, instead those who assumed it without due reflection necessarily feel trepidation rise within their soul. Taking up again a favourite theme, he affirmed that the Bishop is above all the “preacher” par excellence; for this reason he must be above all an example for others, so that his behaviour may be a point of reference for all. Efficacious pastoral action requires that he know his audience and adapt his words to the situation of each person: here Gregory paused to illustrate the various categories of the faithful with acute and precise annotations, which can justify the evaluation of those who have also seen in this work a treatise on psychology. From this one understands that he really knew his flock and spoke of all things with the people of his time and his city.

Nevertheless, the great Pontiff insisted on the Pastor’s duty to recognize daily his own unworthiness in the eyes of the Supreme Judge, so that pride did not negate the good accomplished. For this the final chapter of the Rule is dedicated to humility: “When one is pleased to have achieved many virtues, it is well to reflect on one’s own inadequacies and to humble oneself: instead of considering the good accomplished, it is necessary to consider what was neglected”. All these precious indications demonstrate the lofty concept that St Gregory had for the care of souls, which he defined as the “ars artium”, the art of arts. The Rule had such great, and the rather rare, good fortune to have been quickly translated into Greek and Anglo-Saxon.

Another significant work is the Dialogues. In this work addressed to his friend Peter, the deacon, who was convinced that customs were so corrupt as to impede the rise of saints as in times past, Gregory demonstrated just the opposite: holiness is always possible, even in difficult times.

He proved it by narrating the life of contemporaries or those who had died recently, who could well be considered saints, even if not canonised. The narration was accompanied by theological and mystical reflections that make the book a singular hagiographical text, capable of enchanting entire generations of readers. The material was drawn from the living traditions of the people and intended to edify and form, attracting the attention of the reader to a series of questions regarding the meaning of miracles, the interpretation of Scripture, the immortality of the soul, the existence of Hell, the representation of the next world – all themes that require fitting clarification. Book II is wholly dedicated to the figure of Benedict of Nursia and is the only ancient witness to the life of the holy monk, whose spiritual beauty the text highlights fully.

Above all he was profoundly convinced that humility should be the fundamental virtue for every Bishop, even more so for the Patriarch. Gregory remained a simple monk in his heart and therefore was decisively contrary to great titles. He wanted to be – and this is his expression – servus servorum Dei.Coined by him, this phrase was not just a pious formula on his lips but a true manifestation of his way of living and acting. He was intimately struck by the humility of God, who in Christ made himself our servant. He washed and washes our dirty feet. Therefore, he was convinced that a Bishop, above all, should imitate this humility of God and follow Christ in this way. His desire was to live truly as a monk, in permanent contact with the Word of God, but for love of God he knew how to make himself the servant of all in a time full of tribulation and suffering. He knew how to make himself the “servant of the servants”. Precisely because he was this, he is great and also shows us the measure of true greatness.

I found an interesting website from Harvard – a collection of brief articles focused on medieval preaching as reflected in the Houghton Library’s holdings. 

Here’s a page dedicated to Gregory the Great’s influence:

The influence of Gregory the Great is so widespread that the great scholar of exegesis, Henri de Lubac, dubbed the period from Gregory’s death up to the thirteenth century “The Gregorian Middle Ages.” Preachers were everywhere citing, referencing, and, generally, re-using the work of one they affectionately called “our Gregory” or “the homilist of the Church.”

And he’s in The Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints. 

amy-welborn-bookgregory-the-great

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