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Posts Tagged ‘7 Quick Takes’

— 1 —

Well, if you are a Catholic, it’s a bonanza kind of day. It’s First Friday and it’s the first Friday of Lent. Both of the sons I have at home right now go to Catholic schools – one elementary and one secondary – and both will be having Adoration and Stations of the Cross on Friday at school. So tonight, we had a brief talk about how that’s a lot of praying, and a great opportunity to pray for a lot of people.

 

— 2 —

It’s also the memorial of St. Katharine Drexel. I wrote about her in the Loyola Kids Book of Saints:

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

— 3 —

Currently reading:

Barchester Towers

The Unbanking of America

The Astronomer and the Witch. 

— 4 —

The first because I’m on a Trollope kick, and I have to say that I can see why readers pick Barchester Towers as their favorite. It is tight and lively, and not quite the discursive experience as other recent Trollopes I have read like Miss MacKenzie and Rachel Ray.  The characters are quite a bit more vivid and the humor more pronounced. Really, the Stanhope clan and Obadiah Slope are terrific creations.

I had assumed there was a BBC adaptation, so I went in search of one and found that indeed there was – a combined production of The Warden and Barchester Towers featuring lots of familiar faces including, quite memorably, the late, great Alan Rickman as Slope, in his first major television role. It’s hard to think of a more perfect match of actor and role.

I’ve watched bits and pieces, mostly to see Rickman as well as satisfy my curiosity about how the Stanhopes – the family of an Anglican vicar who’ve been living in northern Italy because  the vicar caught a cold of some sort and needed a bit of a rest cure. Twelve years later, they’ve been called back by the new bishop, and between them, Slope, the new bishop and his wife and a host of other characters, sparks are certainly flying, plans are being hatched – and sabotaged. The television adaptation is mildly entertaining, and it’s always fun to see how a good character translates from page to screen, but in this case, reading the book is a far more satisfying experience. The television adaptation can barely skim the surface, and at times does get things wrong.

In the novel, Slope and his sometime ally and sometimes enemy Mrs. Proudie, the bishop’s wife, are presented as adherents of the plain, more evangelical wing of the Church of England, people who are appalled that the trains run on the Sabbath and are unimpressed by chanting and other forms of music in the liturgy. In television terms, this gets translated into a kind of rationalism – Slope’s initial sermon, which causes scandal because he takes a stand against high church liturgy – becomes a paean of sorts to rationalism.

So, as I said, I’ve skipped around a couple of episodes, but enjoy the book much more.

— 5 —.

The Unbanking of America?  I read an interview with the author at Reason, the libertarian website, and was intrigued, as I always am, by the thought of someone who presents ideas that are opposed to Conventional Wisdom. I won’t rehash her arguments – simply know that the author is an economist who spent a few months working at both a check-cashing business and payday-loan business, and found that they fill a gap in the financial lives of many that banks just don’t anymore.  It’s like a long Atlantic Monthly or New Yorker article that you can knock off in a couple of hours, and I always enjoy that – grow my brain a bit without too much commitment, and thanks.

— 6 —

Did you know Johannas Kepler’s mother was tried as a witch? I didn’t, and this book is the story of that set of events – as well as a fascinating look at, of course, Kepler himself, and the very lively intellectual world of early 17th century Germany.  I’m just about halfway through and will talk more about it when I finish, but really, if you are even talking to someone who’s all about separating science and religion and who wants to tell you about that glorious time when scientists like Kepler finally busted the superstitious Age of Faith apart, invite them to consider what Kepler (and others) was really about – how he was a profoundly religious man who was all about discovering more about God via studying his Creation.

Oh, and about the witch business – it happened when Kepler was an adult, after he had started producing important scientific work, and when the accusations came to his attention, he rearranged his life to travel back home and work in his mother’s defense.

— 7 —

I was clued into this via, of course In Our Time, which had an excellent program on Kepler which featured the author of the Astronomer book as one of the guests.

Other recent listens have been programs on:

Parasitism – good, but not fascinating.

The Gin Craze – fantastic social history. 

And, just yesterday, a great program on Harriet Martineau, the 19th century British writer. If you listen to any of these programs – try this one first.

Just one note about Martineau. She was a prolific writer, primarily of descriptive and analytical essays reflecting her views on political philosophy and economics. I think it’s accurate to describe her as an early sociologist of sorts.Indeed, she spent two years in the United State and wrote about it – books of which I was vaguely aware, but now have put on the (very long) list.

What might interest you is Martineau’s conflict with Charles Dickens.

She had written for Dickens’ journal called Household Words, but over time, differences between the two developed. Martineau, a devotee of Adam Smith and Malthus, felt that Dickens’ view of what we’d now call the impact of the Industrial Revolution was simplistic, sentimental and uninformed by a coherent political philosophy. She didn’t appreciate his views on women and she was offended by his personal life.

But what caused the final split was Dickens’ anti-Catholicism.

Martineau herself was a strong, unwavering Unitarian, but in 1854, she was surprised that story she had written for Dickens, a story about the sacrifices of a Jesuit missionary, was rejected. As she wrote in her autobiography (written when she thought she was dying…but then she lived for twenty more years, and it ended up, indeed being published after her death.)

Some weeks afterwards, my friends told me, with renewed praises of the story, that they mourned the impossibility of publishing it, — Mrs. Wills said, because the public would say that Mr. Dickens was turning Catholic; and Mr. Wills and Mr. Dickens, because they never would publish any thing, fact or fiction, which gave a favourable view of any one under the influence of the Catholic faith. This appeared to me so incredible that Mr. Dickens gave me his “ground” three times over, with all possible distinctness, lest there should be any mistake: — he would print nothing which could possibly dispose any mind whatever in favour of Romanism, even by the example of real good men. In vain I asked him whether he really meant to ignore all the good men who had lived from the Christian era to three centuries ago: and in vain I pointed out that Père d’Estélan was a hero as a man, and not as a Jesuit, at a date and in a region where Romanism was the only Christianity. Mr. Dickens would ignore, in any publication of his, all good catholics; and insisted that Père d’Estélan was what he was as a Jesuit and not as a man; — which was, as I told him, the greatest eulogium I had ever heard passed upon Jesuitism. I told him that his way of going to work, — suppressing facts advantageous to the Catholics, — was the very way to rouse all fair minds in their defence; and that I had never before felt so disposed to make popularly known all historical facts in their favour. — I hope I need not add that the editors never for a moment supposed that my remonstrance had any connexion with the story in question being written by me. They knew me too well to suppose that such a trifle as my personal interest in the acceptance or rejection of the story had any thing to do with my final declaration that my confidence and comfort in regard to “Household Words” were gone, and that I could never again write fiction for them, nor any thing in which principle or feeling were concerned. Mr. Dickens hoped I should [94] “think better of it;” and this proof of utter insensibility to the nature of the difficulty, and his and his partner’s hint that the real illiberality lay in not admitting that they were doing their duty in keeping Catholic good deeds out of the sight of the public, showed me that the case was hopeless. To a descendant of Huguenots, such total darkness of conscience on the morality of opinion is difficult to believe in when it is before one’s very eyes.

Even worse, at some point later, was the publication in Household Words, of a rabidly anti-Catholic, scandal-mongering piece of fiction called The Yellow Mask. 

The last thing I am likely to do is to write for an anti-catholic publication; and least of all when it is anti-catholic on the sly.

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

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Seven Quick Takes

— 1 —

Busy week. Let’s get started.

First off, Publisher’s Weekly carried a brief notice about the book I’m working on with Loyola – the exciting completion of the Loyola Kids trilogy! Well, at least the third book I’ll have "amy welborn"written under that brand. It’s simple – a collection of Bible stories, but with an angle that I hope will make them particularly helpful to Catholic children, parents, families and catechists. When I wrote the Loyola Kids Book of Saints sixteen years ago, I never thought it would still be selling as well as it does – usually one of the top two or three titles in children’s religious biography on Amazon, and really still unique in approach.

My deadline for this manuscript is early February, so I’ll be working to get that done over the next few months as well as on some smaller projects.

— 2 —

The past week has been busy, with an odd recurring theme of organization and information – or really, a lack of it.

High Point climbing gym is one of my youngest son’s favorite places. It’s a huge gym in downtown Chattanooga, notable for the outdoor climbing wall.

They’re building a branch here in Birmingham, and last weekend, they had an open house for their still-under construction facility. So we started there – it looks good, although not as large as the Chattanooga place and sadly, no outdoor climbing wall. It’s also a bit far from our house on road that is often marked by horrendous traffic, but I told my son that if got up early on Saturday mornings to go, I’d take him once in a while. He was all in. What have I done?

— 3 —

After a brief stop back at home, I headed out and up the hill behind our neighborhood to the Altamont School, which was hosting a celebration in honor of the 100th anniversary of Walker Percy’s birth. You’ll recall that he was born here in Birmingham, and it was from here that his mother moved the family after his father’s suicide. Percy attended a school that was the predecessor of Altamont, which explains the event. Unfortunately, it was barely advertised – I only knew about it because someone in my parish sent me an email saying, “Whenever I see something about Walker Percy, I think of you. Have you seen this?” No, I hadn’t. Neither had many other people, for the panel discussion part of the afternoon, which is what I attended, featured four people on stage and ten in the audience. Even with the Crimson Tide on the field at the time, that’s surprising. A few days later, I spoke with someone local who is a big Percy fan, well-connected into the local cultural scene and he was astounded that this event had occurred – he’d heard nothing about it.

Anyway, what I took away – besides marketing, people – was, first of all, how challenging it is for people to get a hold of Percy’s Catholicism, probably because hardly anyone understands Catholicism properly, not getting the fundamental point that a character who defines himself as a “Bad Catholic” is actually expressing a sort of ideal Catholicism. Secondly, I was struck again by the Percy Effect, best summarized on this occasion by the young academic on the panel who described his feeling upon first encountering Percy’s writings. “I was splayed open” – he said, and then filled with an urgent sense that Percy was onto something and that it was important, even essential, to follow and see where he led. The person I was talking to a few days later said that when he was in campus ministry he would often give The Last Gentlemen to students, and after reading three chapters, they would return to him wondering…was Walker Percy in my dorm room? How does he know?

Something I wrote about Percy for CWR a few months ago.

 — 4 —

Then it was back down the hill, fix dinner, and then my younger son and I headed out to the Alabama Theater to see Post Modern Jukebox. It was a good concert – even with a couple of dicey moments that I think went mostly over his head anyway. The talent level is amazing, which you know from watching the videos. Two of my favorites – Casey Abrams and Aubrey Logan– were both in the troupe for that performance, although a major, major disappointment was that Scot Bradlee himself was not. My 11-year old pianist son was quite let down by that – the pianist performing that night was excellent of course, but my son has really enjoyed Scott Bradlee’s stylings and style and was a little stunned that he wasn’t actually there – I wouldn’t say I was stunned, but it hadn’t even occurred to me that he wouldn’t be performing.

— 5 

Sunday morning – serve Mass at Casa Maria.

In the afternoon, we went to a big local state park – Oak Mountain State Park – for an advertised “reptile program.” Here’s what was advertised – come see reptiles from noon to three. Really not much more than that. We arrived at the interpretive center at 1:30 to an room empty but for refreshments. The program would be across the road in the other building, at would start at 2.

Which it did, to a full room, and with lots of interesting animals and expert educational offerings. But it was far more formal than advertised and did go on. So instead of the drop-in and see and chat about animals at your leisure during a time frame experience I thought we were getting, we sat in chairs for 90 minutes – including thirty minutes past the advertised ending time. Yes, snakes, lizards and tortoises are well worth our time – why do you think we were there? – but there was certainly a big difference between advertising and reality. Do people not even read their own copy and think about how it matches their plans?

amy_welborn5

6–

Back to school on Monday, and then Tuesday night, Birmingham – in the form of Rev. Peter Leithert’s Theopolis Institute – welcomed Joseph Bottum to town.

I had met Jody years ago at an informal event First Things organized for me on a visit to New York. He was here from his South Dakota home to speak on “The Novel as Protestant Art” –  the article upon which his talk is based is here. It was a good talk with interesting engagement from the audience. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed that kind of in-person adult intellectual engagement, and what made it even better was that Avondale Brewery, where it was held, is about two minutes from my house. Always a plus.

amy_welborn2

We won’t have that level of activity this weekend. What’s on tap? One kid gone Friday and much of Saturday at a robotics competition, the other serving a Saturday retreat Mass and having a make-up piano lesson (his teacher was on a short recital tour earlier in the week and had to reschedule). A family Halloween party Saturday night – almost forgot about that! – and then..it looks like Sunday is going to be what I hate most – Finish The Project Day – around here. One has an Archimedes project, the other on The Scarlet Letter.

"amy welborn"

Have a Happy Halloween, Slash.

— 7 —

Oh, I did do a bit of television watching, aside from Rectify. I have been poking around for a show to binge on – I missed the Stranger Things fad. By the time it had cycled through from New Hotness to Old and Almost Busted, I lost interest. But then I started hearing about this Australian show called Glitch just come to Netflix, so I thought I’d try it out.

And I did, and I watched the whole thing, sort of hating myself by hour four. Not exactly hating, but knowing by that point that this was going to be a Lost kind of experience in which an initial intriguing hook ends up taking you for a fairly contrived ride. And Lost was a lot better than Glitch.

The conceit is that several people have risen from the dead, crawling out of their graves in the cemetery in a small Australian town. Those first scenes are quite arresting, and a couple of the story lines are affecting, but the writing is formulaic and stiff, serious questions are glossed over and really, it all comes down to the fact that the reaction of a widower to his once dead, now-standing-in-front-of-him wife is not much more intense than if she had surprised him by arriving  home early from work. It’s clear by the end that this event has not been caused – as the devout Catholic among the resuscitated exclaims – by any miracle – but by pharmaceutical hijinks of one sort or another, and there’s a major twist at the end of the series that makes the, er, dead affect of one of the non-risen characters finally understandable – and so that’s where this first season ends. So yes, I kept watching for that dumb reason we all do – just to see what happens – but I’m not proud, especially in light of the intelligent, nuanced experience of Rectify a couple of nights later. I should have spent those six hours reading a book instead. Walker Percy, probably.

“Yes. Death is winning, life is losing.”
“Ah, you mean the wars and the crime and violence and so on?”
“Not only that. I mean the living too.”
“The living? Do you mean the living are dead?”
“Yes.”
“How can that be, Father? How can the living be dead?”
“I mean their souls, of course.”
“You mean their souls are dead,” says Max with the liveliest sympathy.
“Yes,” says Father Smith tonelessly. “I am surrounded by the corpses of souls. We live in a city of the dead.”

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

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Seven Quick Takes

— 1 —

Happy feast day of St. Mary Magdalene. In case you haven’t been around, all week, I have been posting big chunks of the book I wrote on her a while back (now out of print, so it’s okay), De-Coding Mary Magdalene.  

Chapter one: Introducing Mary Magdalene in the Bible

Chapter two: Mary Magdalene at the Resurrection

Chapter three: Mary Magdalene in Gnostic writings

Chapter four: Mary Magdalene in Patristic writings

Chapter ten: Mary and the Mystics

— 2 —

You can access the entire book, in pdf form here. 

As far as I know, it’s the only book-length popular treatment of Mary Magdalene put out by a Catholic publisher in recent years, and I remain mildly bitter that it was put out of print. A little more creative marketing and a title that wasn’t so tied to a particular moment (The Da Vinci Code) might have helped.

— 3 —

Summer chugs along. For us, the end is sadly near – school in the South starts super early – August 8 for the high school, which means the week before for orientation and so on.

So, because of that and a couple of scout trips our family travel has been pretty low-key. Memphis last week for me and the kid left at home, next week a couple of days in Charleston, and that will be about it.

 

 — 4 —

That same younger son has been given most of his piano repertoire for the coming year, and I’m buying stock in Kleenex or Puffs or something. I mean…his teacher has been instructing him for two years and has a Master’s in this stuff and knows what he’s doing (M won the state concerto competition in his age group last spring) but still. Is he really going to be able to play this in eight months or so? Plus other stuff??

So weird (and good)  when your kid surpasses you in things like this…

— 5 

Here’s a new book!  Colleen C. Mitchell’s Who Does He Say You Are? is very good – honest and true and substantive. It would be great for a parish study group this fall..or any time.

amy-welborn2

6–

Oh, we did go to a water park this week. I am not a fan of such places – I don’t like to spend the money, the concrete and the mess get to me – it was so hot, the pool of which we are a member had lost its appeal for that day, and we hadn’t been in a couple of years, so…off we went.

It was fine. The place has come under new ownership since the last time we had gone. It was much cleaner, they didn’t charge for parking (that always sets me off), and they had somehow gotten a handle on the wasp issue, which was huge last time we were there – attracted by both the water and trash, it was a big, annoying problem.

amy-welborn3

— 7 —

Tomorrow I think that the younger son and I (since older son is off scout-ing) will head down to the southern part of the state for a little adventure. Follow on Instagram and Snapchat (amywelborn2) for more of that..

 

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

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— 1 —

We are in Ferrara, and as I wrote earlier today, it’s lovely. We saw how lovely all day today from the perspective of a bicycle seat. Well, three bicycle seats.

(Snapchatting away while they were back inside the apartment taking a short break. amywelborn2 on the Snapchats thing)

— 2 —

We rented bikes from this shop – nice people. I would say it’s in walking distance from our apartment (hey, I just did…), but everything in the city walls is withing walking distance of everything else.   The woman and man who were there didn’t speak English, so she called her son (I think) who did, and who went over everything with me on the phone to make sure I understood the terms – 7E/bike for all day. Not bad!

We started out riding on the old city walls (Lucca is another place in Italy where you can do this) and then moved into the town itself.

You know how bicyclists in the US are always griping about bike lanes? Well, there are no bike lanes in Ferrara, no one wears helmets, at any given time there are as many if not more bikes than cars on a stretch of road, people ride bikes carrying pizzas, with kids on the front or back, with a dog on a leash trotting beside, with a dog in their lap, texting (that’s the most impressive/frightening), men in suits carrying briefcases and big bunches of flowers, old women and men, women in heels, and all the time bikes and cars are sharing the road just fine.

It’s astonishing. I’ve never been in a place with so many bikes. It’s fantastic.

 

By the way, while many babies ride on seats mounted on the back, even more popular, it seems, is a seat in front of the rider with a windshield affixed to the handlebars. I’ll try to get a photo at some point. It makes sense.

— 3 —

I’ll admit I was a little nervous in the traffic, not so much for myself, but for my sons, but they did fine. Fairly early on, my older son’s bike developed a flat rear tire, so we just popped back by the shop and they replaced it.

 — 4 —

We made a few stops. We spent some time going through the Este castle, which stands right in the middle of town, still surrounded by a moat. We got some food, we went through a couple of shops, including Tiger, which became a favorite in Madrid – it’s like a cross between Ikea and Dollar General.  This also got our attention.

We went into the Cathedral, the ceiling of which must be in danger of falling because most of it was covered with netting.

— 5 

This is some of the graffiti in the prison room.  The right hand photos are of ceilings in various rooms of the castle. The tissue-like paper is holding cracks together. I don’t know if they have plans or funds to restore before the whole thing starts falling apart. The top photo is from one of the game rooms – the paintings are of Greek-Roman games – wrestling, etc. The bottom right is of a huge mirror positioned so that you can study the ceiling paintings without getting vertigo. 

We rode and rode, back up on another section of the walls. I think we got the bikes about 11 and returned them around 6. So that was a full day.

 

 

 

6–

Later, my younger son and I took a walk up to the spot where the palio will be held on Sunday. I didn’t take photos – but it’s a large, oval shaped piazza. The sand is laid down and hoofprints told us that practices had been occurring.

DSCN0136

On the way

 

— 7 —

Food today: lunch was foccaccia-type pizza slices from this bakery, eaten standing up on a side street with our bikes leaning against a wall. Dinner was salami, speck and mortadella from the salumentari/grocer a few doors down, cheese and bread from another grocery, and melon. And later, some gelato.

Tomorrow…Ravenna, I hope.

REMEMBER – if you are interested in photos and clips from this trip that I’m sending out several times a day, follow me on Instagram and Snapchat (amywelborn2).

NOT ITALY RELATED – read me here at Catholic World Report on “Walker Percy at 100.”  That’s tomorrow – Saturday, May 28 – that he was born where I now live, in Birmingham, Alabama. 

 

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

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— 1 —

Alrighty then.

T-TBA and counting until we liftoff and leave you suckers  behind in Trump/Clinton land…and I am rapidly tumbling into the Buyer’s Regret stage of my trip preparation, wondering…and why are we doing this? And wouldn’t it be less hassle to just stay home? It will pass once we hop in the car and drive away from the house, but yes, it’s strong right now.

Once it does pass, I will, I hope, be merrily sharing sights and sounds of Italy with you via social media. . I am going to be attempting Periscope on this trip (not kidding) and will definitely Snapchat (as well as Instagram & blog) – as long as it doesn’t interfere with the moment.

 

— 2 —

I will say that the reason I like blogging and things like Instagram is that I can be in an experience, snap some photos, and then later, when everyone is asleep and I don’t have anything else to do, I can fire up the computer, write it all up and post some pictures. I don’t have to interrupt that moment to Do the Thing. So we’ll see…as I keep saying.

I did do a Periscope earlier this week, and it was fine, but I ended up deleting it – it didn’t seem to be replaying correctly, and I’m not sure if it was just me or not, so I thought it best to get rid of it. I might try again on Friday, or just wait til next week in Italy. But sign up and follow so you will know!

UPDATE

It looks like Periscope is a no-go.  I have a new Android phone (have never had an IPhone, don’t intend to have one) – an Honor 5X – and while it seems as if the live broadcast attempt went through, it is not working correctly for replay.  It won’t replay at all on my own phone, and when I replayed it on the Ipad, it played, but there was no audio.  I do have Periscope on the Ipad, but my Ipad is 4 years old, the camera is pretty bad and I hate  the sight of people  using Ipads for cameras, and so no, I don’t want that to be me…

So forget that!

Which is just as well. 

might try a live broadcast at some point…but probably not. If I do I will put the word out on Twitter a few hours beforehand, so anyone who wants to

So when it comes to video, go to Instagram (1-minute videos allowed), Snapchat, or back here. I upgraded my WordPress account so I can upload video directly onto the blog. So look for that!!!

But do follow me on Snapchat – you can search me by just typing amywelborn2 and the same on Periscope. You can also do a screenshot of this icon and then do what Snapchat tells you to do with it.

amy-welborn75

 

— 3 —

Paris-based foodblogger David Lebovitz is on Snapchat, and I really have enjoyed what he’s shared so far – simply experiences of cooking and eating…that’s it. It’s another nice example of what can be done with the app. Someone on David’s Facebook page complained, “But the videos go away after 24 hours! So you can’t save the recipes you share!” Well, the person doing the Snaps can, indeed, share if they want to but, hey…David was tossing pasta, asparagus and pesto in a pan. I think I can remember that.

 — 4 —

Speaking of social media, a couple of random accounts I find valuable and interesting:

On Facebook, Iraqi Christians – really great photos and insight into the lives of Christians in this challenging landscape.

On Instagram, African Catholics. Just great photos and an important peek into real Catholic life in another part of the world.

Eucharistic Adoration in a prison in Kenya. 

Social media is good for a few things. A few.

— 5 

The first  In Our Time I listened to this week  was not so great. The subject was the impact of the 1815 explosion of the volcano on Mt. Tambora in Indonesia  on the global climate, and therefore on various aspects of society and culture. The meteorological information was interesting, but everything else seemed to come down to, “Well, we are pretty sure it made the weather bad around the world” and “Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein because of the lousy weather in  Geneva that one time.”

Much better was the episode on the notorious English insane asylum, Bedlam – short for Bethlehem. The history was quite fascinating, a history which illustrated the fact that when the institution began – as a Catholic residence, pre-Reformation -there were no problems and it was even a model. But later, when Church had nothing more to do with it, matters got difficult and the quality of care declined. One of the academics even blamed Calvinist-tinged religion for unsettling souls – as people had to constantly worry if they were the elect or not – and increasing levels of mental illness.

6–

HEY KIDS. They’re releasing an edition of The Da Vinci Code just for you! Catechists and religion teachers everywhere are so grateful.

“But this book said they were married!”

De-Coding Da Vinci is out of print, but believe me, I am scurrying to see what can be done about that, even if I have to do it myself – simply to offer said catechists and teachers a simple, straightforward means of response to this nonsense, and a way of using any interest as a useful teachable moment.

 Great headline: 

DAN BROWN IS RELEASING A YOUNG ADULT ‘DA VINCI CODE’ AND NO ONE’S SURE WHY

— 7 —

Trip reading: All the guidebooks, plus Fr. Augustine Thompson’s Cities of God and Dante, whom I am ashamed to admit I have never read. I read the Inferno last week and will read the other two sections over the next few days. Dante is buried in Ravenna, and was, of course a Tuscan, so yes, I can’t visit these places and not read Dante. Which I should have read a long time ago anyway.

And, appropriate to today, his feast, a bit about St. Bernardino of Siena…one of our destinations, as well as Catherine of Bologna, whom we might meet soon. 

Dear friends, with her words and with her life, St Catherine of Bologna is a pressing invitation to let ourselves always be guided by God, to do his will daily, even if it often does not correspond with our plans, to trust in his Providence which never leaves us on our own. In this perspective, St Catherine speaks to us; from the distance of so many centuries she is still very modern and speaks to our lives.

She, like us, suffered temptations, she suffered the temptations of disbelief, of sensuality, of a difficult spiritual struggle. She felt forsaken by God, she found herself in the darkness of faith. Yet in all these situations she was always holding the Lord’s hand, she did not leave him, she did not abandon him. And walking hand in hand with the Lord, she walked on the right path and found the way of light.

So it is that she also tells us: take heart, even in the night of faith, even amidst our many doubts, do not let go of the Lord’s hand, walk hand in hand with him, believe in God’s goodness. This is how to follow the right path!

And I would like to stress another aspect: her great humility. She was a person who did not want to be someone or something; she did not care for appearances, she did not want to govern. She wanted to serve, to do God’s will, to be at the service of others. And for this very reason Catherine was credible in her authority, because she was able to see that for her authority meant, precisely, serving others.

Let us ask God, through the intercession of Our Saint, for the gift to achieve courageously and generously the project he has for us, so that he alone may be the firm rock on which our lives are built. Thank you.

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— 1 —

Here’s a great story for you, from downtown Birmingham, Alabama:

Café Dupont, a downtown Birmingham restaurant known for fine dining, is normally closed on Mondays.

But owner Chef Chris Dupont opened up last night for a free private dinner for the staff, residents and program participants of Brother Bryan Mission.

Although Café Dupont was recently included in AL.com’s list of “Alabama’s Most Expensive Restaurants,” the tab for Brother Bryan Mission was zero….

 

Brother Bryan Mission through most of its history has been a shelter for homeless men, but now focuses on addiction rehabilitation programs.

Dupont first invited Brother Bryan Mission to dine at his restaurant last year. Since then, he’s hired two residents who have been through the mission’s rehabilitation program as dishwashers, Etheredge said. The mission has a 9-month drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, and a back-to-work follow-up program. Residents can continue to live at the mission for two years during the work program.

Etheredge said that more than just a great meal from a prestigious restaurant, the men got a full serving of dignity from Dupont.

“He was gracious,” Etheredge said. “He seems to enjoy doing it and our guys enjoyed it. It’s a fantastic treat for us. For him to treat our men with the dignity that he treated them with, that made it special.”

— 2 —

This weekend’s New York Times Magazine has a short piece on the Hawthorne Dominicans, founded by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s daughter Rose. The order serves cancer patients. 

As the nuns cared for their guests, Laub followed them with her camera — it’s her way. Then, even after her mother-­in-­law died in late September, she found herself returning to Rosary again and again, still wanting to capture something of the kindness that her family had found there. She asked the nuns to sit for portraits, in which she stripped away the background to show their eyes and faces in clear focus. “I wanted them to be quiet,” she said, “so their power could come through.”

The nuns in particular had moved her. She was struck by their tenderness with the dying, how they painted women’s fingernails and combed their hair, changed them into fresh nightgowns and arranged flowers in their rooms. “This is how dying should be,” Laub says. “It doesn’t feel like a place of death. It feels like a place of living.

– 3—

I wrote about Rose Hawthorne in the the Loyola Kids Book of Heroes. A couple of snippets of pages:

 

 — 4 —

Also in the Heroes book? Pentecost!

"amy welborn"

— 5 

It’s easy and justifiable to despair about the current relationship of the Church and the arts, but here’s a glimmer of hope: a brand new piece, commissioned by a church, utilizing the gifts of talented artists: A Rose in Winter : An Oratorio on the Life of St. Rita. My friend Matthew Lickona has written the libretto for composer Frank LaRocca. Some tidbits:

A Rose in Winter unfolds in two parallel stories: that of Saint Rita of Cascia, set in 15th century Italy, and a second one set in the present day, focusing on two pilgrims, Fideo and Tomas, whose chance meeting in Cascia during Holy Week prompts a series of tense dialogues about the scope and limits of religious belief…

…The stories of A Rose in Winter unfold in a variety of ways: choral narration, solo ariosos, and – in some of the most gripping moments – dialogues. At the heart of Saint Rita’s spiritual journey is an encounter with Jesus Christ in a vision that comes to her on Good Friday. It is in the aftermath of her dialogue with him that she receives her partial stigmata – a wound from the Crown of Thorns that she carries on her brow for the last 15 years of her life.

A more detailed, complete synopsis is here. 

An interview with LaRocca is here.  The piece premieres next weekend in Dallas.

To create sacred music for the liturgy, the composer has to internalize a discipline and restraint that is quite foreign to the present-day understanding of the “artistic temperament.” Complete subjective freedom, the breaking of restraints, unrestricted projection of personality and ‘originality’ are values inculcated into aspiring artists during their training and have been since the 19th century, reaching a new level of radicalism in the Crown-of-Thorns-768x768early 20th century.

This kind of approach is antithetical to authentic liturgical music, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has pointed out in many different reflections on sacred music.  Pope Pius X, in his motu proprio, Tra le sollecitudini, laid out with great clarity a very different set of criteria: “Sacred music, being an integral part of the liturgy, is directed to the general object of the liturgy, namely, the glory of God and the sanctification and edification of the faithful.” It must have the qualities of holiness, beauty and universality. The music must not be an end in itself as it may be—quite legitimately—in the concert hall.  Music in the liturgy takes on the role of a sacramental; it must prepare the faithful to receive grace and dispose them to cooperate with it.  To do this, it must be fused to the Logos, the Word, in an intimate and filial relationship, not drawing undue attention to itself and thereby distracting from the primacy of the Word.

As Benedict XVI has taught, sacred music must be Incarnational, that is, in the same way that the Incarnated Son on the Cross draws up all Creation to the Father, sacred music in the liturgy must self-sacrificially draw the faithful more deeply into the Word, the Logos.   

— 6-

Speaking of the arts…if you or anyone you know is into the adult coloring-book craze – or have skilled kid-colorers – remember that there are some high quality Catholic-themed resources out there.

Daniel Mitsui’s coloring pages (Mitsui did the image for the St. Rita oratoria above)

And now Matthew Alderman has published a book of coloring pages derived from his artwork – available here. 

— 7 —

See you next week, when I will be in full Trip Buyers-Regret-Mode…..

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— 1 —

First, an article about two religious women who served Hansen’s Disease patients in South Korea for decades:

After graduating from nursing school, the two nuns arrived in South Korea in the 1960s to work on Sorok Island, where a medical facility, more concentration camp than hospital, had been set up.

Whilst others who worked there armed themselves against possible infection with masks, gloves, and quarantine gear, the two women, then in their mid-20s, wore only white gowns as they tended to the patients. Even when their faces were spattered with blood and pus from wounds, they paid no attention.

Recalling her time on the island, Sister Marianne said, “It was through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that I was able to serve”. Above all, “The greatest joy came from seeing patients being discharged from the island and meeting their family members after their wounds healed.”

 

 

— 2 —

From another part of the East:

Some of you might already be aware of the conversion of Chinese artist Yan Zu to Catholicism, as recounted on National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency. A Dominican friar from the Western Province who is from Taiwan originally recently brought this story to my attention.

It was the study of European art history, and specifically of medieval illuminated manuscripts, that brought Yan to the Faith. She has a Chinese language blog from which these images of her own work are taken.

 

– 3—

One of the reasons I like having my sons serve at the Casa Maria retreat house is the opportunity to hear generally excellent homilies from the priests leading the retreat on a particular weekend. This past weekend, the retreat master was Fr. James Kubicki, national director of the Apostleship of Prayer.  I spoke with Fr. Kubicki after Mass, and he immediately made the connection with the chapter on the Morning Offering from The Words We Pray, which was nice!

"amy welborn"

 — 4 —

Italy trip prep continues. Well, not really. I haven’t done much, since there really isn’t much left to do.  I have almost been convinced to just leave Tuscany to chance, the winds and the Spirit. We’ll see.

 

— 5 

I’m serious about upping my social media game for the trip. I certainly don’t want it to dominate the experience as I juggle phones and cameras and spend the evening on the computer.. Absolutely not. But I do want to share various aspects of the trip – new sight  and sounds, a story or two per day. So if you are interested be sure to follow me here, and then on Instagram. I will probably try to Periscope, but I have to practice here on this side of the world, so look for that via Twitter at some point over the next couple of weeks.

 

— 6-

I’m excited about the new Richard Russo book, Everybody’s Fool.  I’ve always thought Nobody’s Fool to be one of the great American 20th century novels, and this one is sounding good.  If you want to laugh until you weep, read Straight Man. 

 And then there was that time I had contacted Richard Russo, my writing hero,  through either his agent or his publisher with the faint, crazy hope that he would write an introduction for a volume in the Loyola Classics series.  I am not one hundred percent sure, but I think it was Jon Hassler’s North of Hope.  As I said, it was pretty insane, and I thought nothing would come  of it.

One Friday morning, I went to the grocery store. I returned. There was a message on the voicemail.

Hi, this is Richard Russo. 

WHAT.

Yes, Richard Russo HAD CALLED MY HOUSE.

FIVE MINUTES before I walked back in the door.

And of course, he was calling (very politely and kindly) to tell me that he was swamped with work and couldn’t do the introduction.

So what was I going to do, fangirlishly call him back just to tell him…what? That I was sorry, but I certainly understood, and by the way, hey I’m talking to you right now, Richard Russo, writing hero?

No. I couldn’t do that. So I just stood there in my kitchen holding milk or green beans or whatever other meaningless object had made me miss talking to Richard Russo.

Writing Hero.

— 7 —

Well, speaking of writing, but on a less-exalted scale – you still have time….if your local Catholic bookstore has it in stock, you can grab it before Sunday. Or maybe even get super-quick delivery!

"amy welborn"

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