Today is also the memorial of St. Helena (Helen), mother of Emperor Constantine and according to tradition, discoverer of the True Cross.

True Christian zeal motivated St. Helena. Eusebius described her as follows: “Especially abundant were the gifts she bestowed on the naked and unprotected poor. To some she gave money, to others an ample supply of clothing; she liberated some from imprisonment, or from the bitter servitude of the mines; others she delivered from unjust oppression, and others again, she restored from exile. While, however, her character derived luster from such deeds … , she was far from neglecting personal piety toward God. She might be seen continually frequenting His Church, while at the same time she adorned the houses of prayer with splendid offerings, not overlooking the churches of the smallest cities. In short, this admirable woman was to be seen, in simple and modest attire, mingling with the crowd of worshipers, and testifying her devotion to God by a uniform course of pious conduct” (The Life of Constantine, XLIV, XLV).

For a decidedly novel and novelistic take on Helena, check out Evelyn Waugh’s novel Helena.  It was his favorite of all of his novels. Some people hate it, but I love it. When I was working as editor of the Loyola Classics series, the book was amazingly out of copyright in the US, so we were able to publish it with an introduction by George Weigel.  I see that the copyright issue has gone another way, it seems, so the book is now published as part of a series of Waugh novels by .  You helena waugh amy welborncan get copies of the Loyola edition here, and the current edition here. 

Some, as I said, hate it because, they say, it’s basically the type of characters you find in Vile Bodies and Handful of Dust  –  1920’s British upperclass twits – plopped down in the 4th century.  Well, that’s part of the reason I like it. It’s entertaining in that way.

But also – when you read deeper, you see that this novel is about the search for truth – the True Cross is a real thing, but it’s also a metaphor.  Helena’s life is a search for faith, and what she is seeking is something that is true and real. She is offered all sorts of different options that are interesting, intricate, sophisticated or satisfy her wants and desires, but none of them are real.  Except one. From Weigel’s introduction:

Waugh was not a proselytizer, and Helena is no more an exercise in conventional piety than Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, whose hero is an alcoholic priest. But Waugh was a committed Christian apologist, and his apologetic skills are amply displayed in Helena. Thus Helena was not only addressed to those Christians who were trying to figure out the meaning of their own discipleship; it was also intended as a full-bore confrontation with the false humanism that, for Waugh, was embodied by well-meaning but profoundly wrong-headed naturalistic-humanistic critics of the modern world like Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.

More specifically, Waugh wanted to suggest that an ancient pathogen was lurking inside the hollowness of modern humanisms: gnosticism, the ancient heresy that denies the importance or meaningfulness of the world. So, to adopt a neologism from contemporary critics, Helena is, “metafictionally,” an argument on behalf of Waugh’s contention that modern humanistic fallacies are variants on the old, gnostic temptations exemplified by helenathe Emperor Constantine and his world-historical hubris. And at the core of the gnostic temptation was, and is, the denial of the Christian doctrine of original sin – which is, in effect, a denial of some essential facts of life, including the facts of suffering and death. In Helena, the arrogantly ignorant Constantine puts it in precisely these terms to old Pope Sylvester, as the headstrong young conqueror heads off to his new capital on the Bosporus: “You can have your old Rome, Holy Father, with its Peter and Paul and its tunnels full of martyrs. We start with no unpleasant associations; in innocence, with Divine Wisdom and Peace.”

And what was the answer to the gnostic fallacy, which produced in Constantine’s time, as in ours, a kind of plastic, humanistic utopianism? For Helena, and for Waugh, it was what the aged Empress went to find: the “remorseless fact of the lump of wood to which Christ was nailed in agony,” as Waugh biographer Martin Stannard put it. This “remorseless lump of wood” reminds us of two very important things: it reminds us that we have been created, and it reminds us that we have been redeemed. Helena believed, and Waugh agreed, that without that lump of wood, without the historical reality it represented, Christianity was just another Mediterranean mystery religion, a variant on the Mithras cult or some other gnostic confection. With it – with this tangible expression of the incarnation and what theologians call the hypostatic union (the Son of God become man in Jesus of Nazareth) – a window was open to the supernatural, and the “real world” and its sufferings were put into proper perspective. For God had saved the world, not by fetching us out of our humanity (as the gnostics would have it), but by embracing our humanity in order to transform it through the mystery of the cross – the mystery of redemptive suffering, vindicated in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.


Although set more than a millennium and a half ago, Helena is a bracing antidote to this contemporary gnosticism: this “bosh” and “rubbish,” as Waugh’s Helena would put it. From her childhood, Helena is determined to know whether things are real or unreal, true or false — including the claims of Christianity. For her, Christianity is not one idea in a world supermarket of religious ideas. Christianity is either the truth — the Son of God really became man, really died, and really was raised from the dead for the salvation of the world — or it’s more “bosh” and “rubbish.” The true cross of Helena’s search is not a magical talisman; it is the unavoidable physical fact that demonstrates the reality of what Christians propose, and about which others must decide.

One Waugh biographer suggests that the novelist’s later years were marked by an agonizing spiritual quest for compassion and contrition. As for many of us, the contrition likely came easier than the compassion. But it is difficult to read Helena without discerning in its author the capacity for a great compassion indeed – a compassion for the human struggle with the great questions that are raised in every life, in every age. Evelyn Waugh’s comic energy was once sprung from his pronounced power to hurt others, as a novel like Vile Bodies demonstrates. But in the mature Waugh, the Waugh who wrote Helena and thought it his finest achievement, the farce has been transformed into comedy, and the comedy has become, for all the chiaroscuro shadings, a divine comedy indeed.

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

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

As you may or may not know, every day of the liturgical year is full of saints’ memorials.  I’m sure there is a technical explanation somewhere as to which make it on to the universal calendar and why. If you go to the generally published calendar, say at Universalis, you find..no one simply because there are no obligatory or optional memorials for the day.  But we do remember several saints on this day, just not in the liturgy in the United States, if that makes sense.

So for example, there’s St. Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, a recently canonized saint from Chile, and one with – as is the case with all saints – an interesting story.

From the Vatican website:

…born in Viña del Mar, Chile, on 22 January 1901; he was orphaned when he was four years old by the death of his father. His mother had to sell, at a loss, their modest property in order to pay the family’s debts. As a further consequence, Alberto and his brother had to go to live with relatives and were often moved from one family to another. From an early age, therefore, he experienced what it meant to be poor, to be without a home and at the mercy of others.

He was given a scholarship to the Jesuit College in Santiago. Here he became a member of the Sodality of Our Lady and developed a lively interest in the poor, spending time with them in the most miserable neighborhoods every Sunday afternoon.

When he completed his secondary education in 1917, Alberto wanted to become a Jesuit, but he was advised to delay the realization of this desire in order to take care of his mother and his younger brother. By working in the afternoons and evenings, he succeeded in supporting them; at the same time, he studied law at the Catholic University. In this period, he maintained his care for the poor and continued to visit them every Sunday. Obligatory military service interrupted his studies, but once he fulfilled this duty he went on to earn his degree early in August 1923.

On 14 August 1923 he entered the Novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Chillán. In 1925 he went to Córdoba, Argentina, where he studied humanities. In 1927 he was sent to Spain to study philosophy and theology.

However, because of the suppression of the Jesuits in Spain in 1931, he went on to Belgium and continued studying theology at Louvain. He was ordained a priest there on 24 August 1933, and in 1935 obtained a doctorate in pedagogy and psychology. After having completed his Tertianship in Drongen, Belgium, he returned to Chile in January 1936. Here he began his activity as professor of religion at Colegio San Ignacio and of Pedagogy at the Catholic University of Santiago. He was entrusted with the Sodality of Our Lady for the students, and he involved them in teaching catechism to the poor. He frequently directed retreats and offered spiritual direction to many young men, accompanying several of them in their response to the priestly vocation and contributing in an outstanding manner to the formation of many Christian laymen.

In 1941 Father Hurtado published his most famous book: “Is Chile a Catholic Country?” The same year he was hurtadoasked to assume the role of Assistant for the Youth Movement of the Catholic Action, first within the Archdiocese of Santiago and then nationally. He performed these roles with an exceptional spirit of initiative, dedication and sacrifice.

In October 1944, while giving a retreat, he felt impelled to appeal to his audience to consider the many poor people of the city, especially the numerous homeless children who were roaming the streets of Santiago. This request evoked a ready and generous response. This was the beginning of the initiative for which Father Hurtado is especially well-known: a form of charitable activity which provided not only housing but a home-like milieu for the homeless: “El Hogar de Cristo”.

By means of contributions from benefactors and with the active collaboration of committed laity, Father Hurtado opened the first house for children; this was followed by a house for women and then one for men. The poor found a warm home in “El Hogar de Cristo”. The houses multiplied and took on new dimensions; in some houses there were rehabilitation centers, in others trade-schools, and so on. All were inspired and permeated by Christian values.

In 1945 Father Hurtado visited the United States to study the “Boys Town” movement and to consider how it could be adapted to his own country. The last six years of his life were dedicated to the development of various forms in which “El Hogar” could exist and function.

In 1947 Father Hurtado founded the Chilean Trade Union Association (ASICH) to promote a union movement inspired by the social teaching of the Church.

From the blog of Ottowa Archbishop Terry Prendergrast:

In 1941, he published a book which sent shock waves through the country:Is Chile a Catholic Country? It was a provocative title which pointed up both the increasing mediocrity of Chilean Catholic life and the renewing force of his own vision. In its pages, he opened up an offensive against materialism, its toxic effects on the young, its atrophying of vocations, and, above all, the way its pernicious cultural impact aggravated the plight of the poor.

Alberto was years ahead of his time in his approach to social issues. ‘Injustice’, he insisted with enviable clarity, ‘causes far more evil than can be repaired by charity’. So he advocated and made his own the arduous tasks of reading, social analysis, planning action, establishing institutions and deepening that Ignatian contemplative regard which takes in the whole world and is free enough to see just how bad things truly are. It was the antithesis of feel-good, charitable giving, but he knew that in it he would find God.

With this in mind, he undertook a gruelling trip to post-war France to update his thinking. Once again he stood out from the crowd. A fellow Jesuit describes his intervention at a conference as ‘a cry of anguish but at the same time an irresistible lesson in pure, ardently supernatural zeal’.

The trip enthused him greatly. Doubtless, he had already begun to sense in Europe the tremors which would lead to Vatican II. The prophet in him, meanwhile, grasped the shadow-side of that renewal, an advancing secularism and ‘a tendency to forget the true values of the Church, its traditional vision’.

Few individuals can take in a truly panoramic vision, seeking refuge instead in petty dualisms: either charity or justice, either tradition or renewal. How did Hurtado sustain such imposing breadth?

He once wrote: ‘I am often like a rock that is beaten on all sides by the towering waves. For an hour, for a day I let the waves thrash against the rock; I do not look toward the horizon, I only look up to God.’

From the homily of Pope Benedict XVI at his canonization in 2005:

“You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart…. You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 22: 37, 39). This was the programme of life of St Alberto Hurtado, who wished to identify himself with the Lord and to love the poor with this same love. The formation received in the Society of Jesus, strengthened by prayer and adoration of the Eucharist, allowed him to be won over by Christ, being a true contemplative in action. In love and in the total gift of self to God’s will, he found strength for the apostolate.

He founded El Hogar de Cristo for the most needy and the homeless, offering them a family atmosphere full of human warmth. In his priestly ministry he was distinguished for his simplicity and availability towards others, being a living image of the Teacher, “meek and humble of heart”. In his last days, amid the strong pains caused by illness, he still had the strength to repeat: “I am content, Lord”, thus expressing the joy with which he always lived.

For a more thorough, in depth introduction to this saint, take a look at this longer article by a fellow Jesuit (pdf). I read it last night, and it’s very helpful.

As an advisor and spiritual guide to those working for El Hogar de Cristo, Hurtado always taught the importance of combining a solid spiritual life with the apostolate. The spiritual contribution of collaborators shared equal importance with the physical works. In a letter to a sister who was lamenting her failure to give more time to the movement, he described the role of the Communion of the Saints, an essential part of his spirituality.

Up until now you have helped the children with your work, your lessons, your affection; now you continue helping them with your affection, your patience, your prayer, your very sincere desire to continue doing them good. There is a truly consoling dogma, that of the Communion of Saints. It teaches us that there is not a single one of our actions that lacks a social value. Never do we merit solely for ourselves, since all our actions hold a deep social value. In doing good, in suffering with patience, in praying, we always profit for others, for the entire Church militant on earth, for those waiting in purgatory; we give joy to the just in heaven, and, in a special way, we help those who are most intimately tied to us. In this way you continue working for Hogar not only with affection, but also with the same, or even greater, efficacy than before.

As I’ve noted before, I’ve been reading a randomly-selected volume of the letters of St. Alphonsus Liguori.

Here’s my post on some of his correspondence on publishing, which is very practical, and which still rings very true. 

And then a post on liturgical matters. Really interesting. 

The last section of the book includes two lengthy letters – almost pamphlet-length, really – one about preaching and the "amy welborn"other about the usefulness of missions. (Remember Alphonsus Liguori founded the Redemptorists, an order originally dedicated to the preaching of parish missions.)

The letter on preaching begins on page 359, and might be of interest to..preachers, of course.  He is making the case for simplicity and directness of language in preaching, in opposition to those who would preach in flowery, self-indulgent or abstruse ways.

I was really interested in his letter to a bishop about the preaching of missions.  The bishop was supportive of missions being preached in his diocese, but had apparently written to St. Alphonsus seeking answers to the objections that others had voiced.  It begins on page 404.

A modern reader (like me) might read this as a reflection on evangelization, period.

 But, it will be asked, are there not over the poor in the
villages pastors who preach every Sunday? Yes, there are
pastors who preach ; but we must consider that all pastors
do not, or cannot break the bread of the divine word to the
illiterate in the manner prescribed by the Council of Trent.
” They shall feed the people committed to them with whole
some words, according to their own capacity, and that of
their people, by teaching them the things which it is neces
sary for all to know unto salvation, and by announcing to
them, with briefness and plainness of discourse, the vices
which they must avoid, and the virtues which they must
practise.” 2 Hence it often happens that the people draw
but little fruit from the sermon of the pastor, either because
he has but little talent for preaching, or because his style
is too high or his discourse too long. Besides, many of
those who stand in the greatest need of instruction do
not go to the sermon of the parish priest. Moreover,
Jesus Christ tells us that No prophet is accepted in his own

country } And when the people always hear the same voice,

the sermon makes but little impression upon them.

But the sermons of the missionaries who devote their lives
to the missions are well arranged, and are all adapted to the
capacity of the ignorant as well as of the learned. In their
sermons, as well as in their instructions, the word of God is
broken. Hence, in the mission, the poor are made to under
stand the mysteries of faith and the precepts of the Deca
logue, the manner of receiving the sacraments with fruit,
and the means of persevering in the grace of God : they are
inflamed with fervor, and are excited to correspond with the
divine love, and to attend to the afifair of salvation. Hence
we see such a concourse of the people at the missions, where
they hear strange voices and simple and popular discourses.
Besides, in the missions, the eternal truths which are best
calculated to move the heart, such as the importance of
salvation, the malice of sin, death, judgment, hell, eternity,
etc., are proposed in a connected manner, so that it would
be a greater wonder that a dissolute sinner should persevere
in his wickedness, than that he should be converted. Hence,
in the missions, many sinners give up their evil habits, re
move proximate occasions of sin, restore ill-gotten goods,
and repair injuries. Many radically extirpate all sentiments
of hatred, and forgive their enemies from their hearts; and
many who had not approached the sacraments for years, or
who received them unworthily, make good confessions dur
ing the missions

His concern, over and over, is for the poor, the illiterate, particularly those in rural areas and villages.

From this section, I could only conclude…my. That’s a lot of violence happening….

Speaking of the missions given by the venerable priests
of the Congregation of St. Vincent de Paul, the author of
his Life says that, during a mission in the diocese of Pales-
trina in 1657, a young man whose arm had been cut off by
an enemy, having met his enemy in a public street after a
sermon, cast himself at his feet, asked pardon for the hatred
he had borne him, and, rising up, embraced him with so
much affection that all who were present wept through joy,
and many, moved by his example, pardoned all the injur
ies that they had received from their enemies. In the same
diocese there were two widows who had been earnestly en
treated but constantly refused to pardon certain persons who
had killed their husbands. During the mission they were
perfectly reconciled with the murderers, in spite of the re
monstrance of a certain person who endeavored to persuade
them to the contrary, saying that the murders were but re
cent, and that the blood of their husbands was still warm.
The following fact is still more wonderful: In a certain
town, which I shall not mention,* vindictiveness prevailed
to such an extent that parents taught the ; r children how to
take revenge for every offence, however small : this vice was
so deeply rooted that it appeared impossible to persuade the
people to pardon injuries. The people came to the exer
cises of the mission with sword and musket, and many with
other weapons. For some time the sermons did not pro-

duce a single reconciliation; but on a certain day, the

preacher, through a divine inspiration, presented the cruci
fix to the audience, saying: ” Now let every one who hears
malice to his enemies come and show that for the lov >i his
Saviour he wishes to pardon them : let him embrace them
in Jesus Christ.” After these words a parish priest whose
nephew had been lately killed came up to the preacher and
kissed the crucifix, and calling the murderer, who was pre
sent, embraced him cordially. By this example and by the
words of the preacher the people were so much moved that
for an hour and a half they were employed in the church in
making peace with their enemies and embracing those whom
they had before hated. The hour being late, they con
tinued to do the same on the following day, so that parents
pardoned the murder of their children, wives of their hus
bands, and children of their fathers and brothers. These
reconciliations were made with so many tears and so much
consolation that the inhabitants long continued to bless God
for the signal favor bestowed on the town. It is also related
that many notorious robbers and assassins, being moved by
the sermon, or by what they heard from others of it, gave
up their arms and began to lead a Christian life. Nearly
forty of these public malefactors were converted in a single

 I have said enough ; I only entreat your Lordship to con
tinue with your wonted zeal to procure every three years a
mission for every village in your diocese. Do not attend to
the objections of those who speak against the missions
through interested motives or through ignorance of the great
advantages of the missions. I also pray you to oblige the

pastors and priests of the villages to continue the exercises
recommended to them by the missionaries, such as common
mental prayer in the church, visit to the Blessed Sacrament,
familiar sermons every week, the Rosary, and other similiar
devotions. For it frequently happens that, through the
neglect of the priests of the place, the greater part of the
fruit produced by the mission is lost. I recommend myself
to your prayers and remain,

Creativity. Zeal. Compassion. Inclusivity. Reaching to the margins and the peripheries.  Mercy.

On several days this week, we remember Japanese martyrs of the 17th century. This is not the most well-known group of Japanese martyrs to those of us outside Japan – that would probably be Paul Miki and Companions, remembered in February.

But included in this other group are:

On 17 August we celebrate the memory of many more Japanese martyrs, including Blesseds Michael Kiraiemon, Francis Kurobiove, Miguel Kurobioye, Martin Gomez, Luke Kiemon, and Francis Kuloi.

On 18 August we celebrate the memory of Blessed Mary Guengoro and her husband Thomas and son James, who were crucified at Kokura in 1620.

(Note: the son was only two years old)

On 19 August we remember Blessed Thomas Koyanangi, who was arrested as a passenger on the ship of Blessed Joachim Firayama-Diz and beheaded at Nagasaki in 1620.

On 25 August we remember Blesseds Louis Sasanda, Louis Sotelo, Peter Vasquez, and companions, who were martyred at Shimbara in 1624.

Some more information here.  This group of over 205 martyrs was beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1867.

The source for the information on that website is a book called Life of the Blessed Charles Spinola, of the Society of Jesus : with a sketch of the other Japanese martyrs, beatified on the 7th of July, 1867.  You can read the full text at archive.org here. 

Extra  Did you know that Pius IX proclaimed March 17 as a feast in Japan called “The Finding of the Christians,” commemorating the date the Hidden Christians of Japan made themselves known to a French missionary in Nagasaki. More in this book. 

Also remembered today is Jeanne Delanoue, also known as St. Joan of the Cross. Beatified in 1947, canonized in 1982:

Jeanne (Joan) was born June 18, 1660 at Samur in Anjoú, France. She was the youngest of twelve children and her early life was one of self-centeredness, pride and avarice. She was described as bad-tempered and egotistical. Her long widowed mother died when Jeanne was twenty-five and she took over as proprietress of her mother’s small store.

Jeanne provided accommodations for pilgrims coming to the shrine of Our Lady of Ardillier. She caused great "amy welborn"scandal by opening her shop on Sunday, an unheard of practice in 17th century France. Jeanne’s only interest was making herself rich from the pilgrims and she paid no heed to what other’s thought or said about her.

At some point Jeanne underwent a conversion and became a changed woman. She began to live a very austere life and apparently in a dream or vision was told that her vocation was to care for the poor.

Jeanne began to care for orphans, taking them into her home. Soon other like-minded women joined Jeanne and the foundation of the Sisters of St. Anne of the Providence of Samur was born. At first she was criticized by many who did not believe in her sincerity, but over time she won their hearts by her unselfish love and care for all those in need.

From the Vatican website:

Despite the responsibilities she had accrued, in response to this call which she believed to have come from God, Jeanne turned toward the poor. They assumed more of her time each day than did her clients until finally they became her full-time occupation. Within a short time no longer did the poor await her visits to them, but they came to her. In 1700, she warmly welcomed a child into her home, and soon after she took in the sick, the aged, and the destitute.

With so many needing lodging, the only place for the poor were the grottos hollowed out in the tuff. She made them as comfortable as she could, however it was necessary for her to seek help. Within four years, in 1704, some young girls were interested in helping Jeanne and were even willing to wear a religious habit if she wished them to do so. It was thus that the congregation of Sainte-Anne de la Providence was born. Under this name the constitutions were approved in 1709.

Jeanne Delanoue’s tenacity, supported by the dedicated women who worked with her, brought about the foundation of Saumur’s first home for the poor (in 1715) – a home which King Louis XIV called for in 1672!

Very quickly her charity spread beyond the limits of Saumur and of her diocese. More than that, already there were forty helpers who were under her direction and who had made the decision to follow her example of self-sacrifice, of prayer, and of mortification.

At her death, August 17, 1736, Jeanne Delanoue left a dozen communities, as well as homes for the poor and schools. “The saint is dead”, they said in Saumur.

Everyone could admire her zeal and the work she accomplished in the numerous visits she received and made, but only her closest friends knew about her mortification, her life of prayer and of union with God. It is from this that her untiring charity proceeded. She was attracted toward all those who suffer, but especially those who are poor-and God knows they were many during those sad years of want, of cold, of famine and of war.

The Sisters of Jeanne Delanoue, as they simply call themselves today, number about 400 sisters in France, in Madagascar, and in Sumatra, where they began in 1979.

From the Facebook page. 


Again…why am I fixated on telling these saints’ stories and pointing you to the the prayer of the Church, aka the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours?  Because, as I said last week, this is where Catholic prayer starts. Also, context. Mercy and deep faith were not hidden for two thousand years and rediscovered only recently. In addition, any discussions of mercy and evangelization in Catholicism must happen within a Catholic context, which means 2000 years of history, tradition, intellectual life, spiritual life and (yes) movement of the Holy Spirit.


Bread of Life

Two quick meditation from prayer books I’ve written:

Amy Welborn Bread of Life

From Prayerful Pauses


From A Catholic Woman’s Book of Days.

Both are simple and short, intended to be a help in focusing, to be a gentle nudge.  They are similar to my Living Faith devotional entries. 

I don’t know if you can pick up on it or not, but the second is intended to be a play on our sometimes-reluctance to go to Mass, experienced on a sleepy morning, especially with sleepy kids objecting.

Temptation to stay away creeps up, but then we remember – and Eucharist is an act of remembering, in that particular way in which the remembering joins us to the reality, very present, very Really Present.

So we meet the temptation in ourselves and others, we remember Who meets us and what He has done for us, and of course, yes, we want to go.


From Friendship with Jesus – 

Friendship with Jesus


I have many copies of this and my other children’s picture books available for sale.  They would make great beginning-of-the-year gifts for your local catechist, Catholic school library or classroom.  Email me at amywelborn60-at-gmail dot com for bulk rates.

7 Quick Takes

— 1 —

Friday is my day to talk with Diana von Glahn on The Faithful Traveler radio show – this week, we talk about our visit to Assisi in 2012 – the interviews coordinate with saints’ days and feasts of that week, so since Clare was this week, Assisi it was.  Next week, we’ll be talking about St. Bernard, and specifically Ave Maria Grotto right up the road from me, Mary, Queen of the Universe and the importance of attending Mass during vacation (in addition to the whole “obligation” part)  and then the following week, several sites we have visited related to St. Augustine, from Florida to Milan to Pavia.


— 2 —

The Assumption is tomorrow – a free book on Mary would be great, wouldn’t it?!


"amy welborn"

— 3—

St. Maximilian Kolbe is today, August 14.  I like what Fr. Steve Grunow has to say:

We should not look back wistfully on the twentieth century, nor should we be uncritical about the so-called achievement of the modern world. 

One of the lessons we might learn from all this is that what we call civilization is a rather thin veneer, and what lies beneath this surface is a terrifying heart of darkness. Christians, who are called to live in the truth, must be realists about this and cannot afford to be naive. 

It was in the heart of civlized Europe, among the fading remains of Christian culture, that the death camps were built and millions of innocent men, women and children were put to death for no other reason than that their very existence challenged the ideological conceits of their oppressors. 

In the midst of the world’s darkeness, we are called by our Baptism to be a light in the shadows of this fallen world. Saint Maximilian is one such light, his life and death stands as a testimony to Christ, the eternal light, whom the darkness cannot overcome. 

St. Maximilian Kolbe is included in my Loyola Kids Book of Saints. 

— 4 —

High school has begun, and seems to be going well.  Son has only been subjected to a couple of Mom-Rants in response to procedures and process.  But it’s still only Week One.

— 5 —

Good online reading:

The blog “An Eccentric Culinary History” is really good – longish form blog posts exploring various aspects of food history.  “The Great Sushi Craze of 1905” is how I found it. Not that I like sushi, but the whole topic of hidden, forgotten history and overthrowing contemporary assumptions never fails to interest me.

“Homeschooling in the City” in City Journal is really good – and should be read by all Catholic pastors and school administrators.  It lays out, better than most articles, the reasons parents homeschool, centered on: “You are wasting my child and my family’s time.”  And, “No, I don’t want to shelter my kids.  I want to expose them to more than what your pedagogy-o-the-month and ideology permits.”

As lousy as the public schools often are, urban parochial schools don’t always measure up, either. Ottavia Egan grew up in Italy, the daughter of an American mother and an Italian father. Today, she lives on 72nd Street on Manhattan’s Upper East Side with her husband, Patrick, and their four kids. The Egans’ middle school–aged daughter had attended a local parochial school, where the books assigned tended toward “junky” literature, paranormal horror stories, and vampire-themed fiction. “These were the only kinds of books my daughter would read willingly. I had to plead with her to give the classics a try,” she says.

Ottavia admits that the thought of detaching from the traditional school model terrified her. She worried that, as a homeschooler, she would have to do everything herself. But she soon sensed that she had made the right choice. “My daughter is the type of kid who needs to ask a lot of questions. On the first day, she had 12 questions for me in the first hour. She never would have had those questions answered at school.”

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Mother of the Year entry for today:

A couple of weeks ago, the 10-year old complained about an achy place on the back of his head.  “Is there a bump?” I asked.  “I think so.”  I felt it (his hair is longish and thick, btw).  Yeah, a little bump.  Well, you must have hurt yourself somehow. It will go away! Wait it out!

A few days after that conversation, he got up in the morning and said, “Mom, it really hurts, and it’s getting bigger.”  I parted his hair and took a quick glance at what looked to me like a fleshy protrusion.  Ew.  It looked to me like a weird skin tag.  Ew! I looked it up – hmmm…skin tags can grow quickly on children, caused by virus, similar to warts, picked up in swimming pools (where we have spent a lot of time the past month).  That must be it!  I called the doctor and we’d go in later in the afternoon.

We arrived, the nurse took us in, parted his hair, and visible started and jumped back a little.  “That’s big!” She said.

(You probably already know what’s coming.)

She looked closer, and then looked at me. “It’s a tick. Didn’t you see the legs?”


So, yes, it was one of those gross white dog tick things that can get huge, and that’s what the poor child had been harboring on his head for a week.

(You ask..didn’t he wash his hair? Not in those last couple of days when it had really grown, I guess. When you go to the pool every day in the summer late in the afternoon, and you’re ten…you don’t really feel the need.)

Several nurses streamed in to behold the site, the doctor came in, braced herself for the tug of war, and after a bit of struggle, got it out.  His head was sore for a few days.

As I said, Mother of the Year. 

(And as for tick-borne diseases – she checked his lymph nodes – fine – and told me what to look for.  She said that’s not as much a problem in the South as it is in other parts of the country)

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"amy welborn"

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