Posts Tagged ‘7 Quick Takes’

— 1 —


"amy welborn"

— 2 —

Homeschool boxing class was cancelled this week, so climbing with friends had to do as a substitute.

"amy welborn"

 – 3—

That bare feet weather is going to end soon, I think. Freeze warning tonight.  Although even that might not last. I remember a few years ago, we spent the first part of Thanksgiving week in a rental cabin in the north Georgia mountains, and it was in the 80’s.

That was a great weekend, except for the dropping-the-phone-in-the-creek part. (And for the record, that time, at least the “phone in a bag with rice” solution worked.)

(This was the cabin – sigh. We need to go back...)

— 4 —

Here’s your good education-related reading for the week. From the Atlantic, Explaining your math: Unnecessary at best, Encumbering at worst” 

Explaining the solution to a problem comes when students can draw on a strong foundation of content relevant to the topic currently being learned. As students find their feet and establish a larger repertoire of mastered knowledge and methods, the more articulate they can become in explanations. Children in elementary and middle school who are asked to engage in critical thinking about abstract ideas will, more often than not, respond emotionally and intuitively, not logically and with “understanding.” It is as if the purveyors of these practices are saying: “If we can just get them to do things that look like what we imagine a mathematician does, then they will be real mathematicians.” That may be behaviorally interesting, but it is not mathematical development and it leaves them behind in the development of their fundamental skills.
The idea that students who do not demonstrate their strategies in words and pictures or by multiple methods don’t understand the underlying concepts is particularly problematic for certain vulnerable types of students. Consider students whose verbal skills lag far behind their mathematical skills—non-native English speakers or students with specific language delays or language disorders, for example. These groups include children who can easily do math in their heads and solve complex problems, but often will be unable to explain—whether orally or in written words—how they arrived at their answers.

— 5 —

About once a week, a “ridiculous” Common Core math problem is passed around Facebook, but the reaction to said problem doesn’t go much deeper than “Wow! So complicated!”  Although some of the article commenters disagree, I think this article gets to the heart of the problem with this new approach. Any of you who are struggling to help your kids with this new paradigm might benefit from reading the article.

Quick comment:

I am not a math person, but neither am I “math-phobic.”  I made A’s in math all through high school, but never took anything more advanced than Trig and what we called “advanced math” back in the day. It may have had elements of pre-Calculus, but I doubt it.

I’ve spent almost 30 years now helping kids with math homework and almost four homeschooling.  So I’ve thought through a lot of math and worked with non-mathy people in helping things make sense. (For the record, of the five of my kids, two are very mathy and so I never paid much attention to what they were doing).

The first year we homeschooled, which was three years ago, my older son was in 6th grade, and because we were doing our Europe thing and the question of returning to school in January was an open one, for math, we stuck with the then-school’s program, so if he did return, he would be on track. It was the Pearson enVision program, very reflective of Common Core principles in a way that was immediately discernible even to me, a non-math person.

And I have to say, as a non-mathy person, I didn’t hate it.  I thought it was sort of interesting.  What I liked was that it presented a number of different approaches to a topic, different ways of solving problems. I thought the emphasis on number sense was good.

"beast academy"(As you can see from the first quick take, I’m using enVision with John Cena the current 5th grader.  We bounce between it, Beast Academy and Khan Academy.  Thankfully the new Beast Academy arrived yesterday, so we can settle back into that for a while. It really is the best. Check it out!)

But here’s what I had a real problem with, and still do, as I read more about this approach in articles such as the one I have linked.

It is good to expose children to a number of different problem solving strategies, number sense, various ways of using mental math, as well as the ability to explain one’s reasoning (the subject of the article). But…the way it pans out in reality is that a student’s grade becomes dependent on the mastery of all of what I would call this “background” as well as – in terms of the “explaining” part – verbal expression.

It is insanely complicated and burdensome.  Grades are a contentious matter, but I have no problem with kids being exposed to all of this interesting mathematical thinking in instruction (if a teacher/school desires to go that way – imposing federal or even state standards of instruction is another issue. I’m against it, obviously.), but I think the making a final evaluation in math instruction at the elementary and middle school level dependent on comprehending all of it is idiotic and ultimately not helpful to students, teachers or schools.

(Which is one more reason it is unfortunate that the NCEA does not seem to be backing off from its embrace of Common Core – Catholic education should be in part about the dignity of the individual student and, as much as possible in a classroom environment, enabling individual student learning in ways that are attentive to individual differences and interests, and imposing standards that have evolved from secular interests motivated largely by financial gain stands in opposition to this goal. As I have said before Common Core is a money-making enterprise and, because just remember –  no one makes money when teachers are using older, non-revised textbooks and school districts don’t have to pay for consultants and workshops to bring everyone up to speed on constantly evolving pedagogies…sort of like the liturgical music scene, amIright?)

— 6 —

Today! St. Frances Xavier Cabrini!

If you ever feel tired…read her story.

If you ever wonder how the Church can “go to the margins” …read her story.

If you are under the impression that before the last couple of years Catholics were unaware of the missionary call of Christ and spent their lives closed up in fortresses….read her story.

Here’s an excerpt from the chapter on St. Frances Cabrini from my Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints.  To reiterate – it’s an excerpt.  There’s more at the beginning at the end to relate her story to a younger child’s life.  It’s in a section called,“Saints are People who Travel Far From Home,” along with St. Boniface, St. Peter Claver, St. Francis Xavier and  St. Francis Solano. 

By the late 1880s, Mother Cabrini became interested in a new problem. Hundreds of thousands of Italians moved to America, seeking a way out of the poverty of their new land. Very few of these immigrants were successful right away. Most lived in worse poverty than they’d endured back in Italy. They lived in crowded and dirty apartments, lived on scraps, and were unable to find work. Sad stories traveled back to the home country, right to Mother Cabrini. So Mother "frances cabrini"Cabrini set out on the long trip to America.

Over the next thirty-seven years, Mother Cabrini was constantly on the move, starting schools, orphanages, and hospitals for Italian immigrants, and others in need. In the first few years she traveled between New York, Nicaragua, and New Orleans. After having a dream in which she saw Mary tending to the sick lying in hospital beds, Mother Cabrini started Columbus Hospital in New York City.

After she founded the hospital, Mother Cabrini made trips back to Italy to organize more nuns for work in America. Between these trips, she and some sisters headed south to Argentina. The sisters went by way of Panama and then Lima, Peru. They made the journey by boat, train, mule, and on foot.

Back in the United State, Mother Cabrini traveled constantly taking her sisters to Chicago, Seattle, and Denver. It was in Chicago that Mother Cabrini, at the age of sixty-seven, passed away. She’d begun her work with just a handful of sisters. By the time she died, fifty houses of sisters were teaching, caring for orphans, and running hospitals. Her order had grown to almost a thousand sisters in all.

Image source

“I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus to those who do not know Him or have forgotten Him.

— 7 —

Commercial time!

Advent’s coming! 

Catholic Advent Materials

Bambinelli Sunday!

"bambinelli sunday"

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

Read Full Post »

— 1 —


almost got away without doing pumpkins this year.  I just didn’t mention it, and I also sort of forgot about it, and then Friday evening I started feeling guilty, so I posed the question, “Um…do you all want to carve pumpkins?”

Tragically, they nodded.

So Saturday morning, I set out to see what I could find.  Wal-Mart was all Christmas, with not a pumpkin in sight. Nothing at Aldi. Then I swung by a local super-cut-rate grocery store that I drive by all the time, but have never actually entered – saw a box full of pumpkins outside the door, grabbed three, went inside and found that the store was actually pretty nice. So. There’s that useful discovery.

We don’t have an ample front porch, so someone came up with the genius idea of perching them in this tree-that-should-probably-be-cut-down-before-it-falls-on-my-car.

"amy welborn"

Then trick-or-treating in the rain – one Indiana Jones, one Mayan warrior king.

"amy welborn"

Lots of candy.


— 2 —

Last Friday, Homeschooled 10-year old and I headed back over to Atlanta. The main objective was a Shakespeare for Kids performance of some iteration of Macbeth.

I had, if not high, then at least not low hopes for this, since I’d been told it was geared to K-5th graders.

Well, when we arrived, they announced from the stage that they were psyched to present this for an intended audience of K-3rd graders. Which was too bad, since most of the audience was definitely older than that.

Oh well. It was amusing, although my 10-year old who saw not one but two productions of Macbeth last year on stage (one at this theater, the other in town at Samford University) was obviously a little insulted at being talked down to in such a manner.

Then afterwards to the Aquarium, which…damn. Why can’t I ever remember that the Georgia Aquarium is really not a good value for the $$$$$$$$$$$$ you pay?  I don’t think I’ll forget now – but remind me in three years when I start thinking we should go again.

(If you are aquarium-hankering in the Southeast, go to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga instead.  It has a lot more exhibits and is far more educational – in a painless way – than that obviously tourist-baiting Georgia place is. Even the Charleston Aquarium is better, I’d say.)

Well, I do like ginormous sea anenomes, so there’s that.

And then some time in Centennial Park.

 "amy welborn"– 3—

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about some of the interesting concerts happening around here – OF COURSE I didn’t make it to any of those (I almost got to the pop-up-opera-at-the-brewery thing but one of my older sons called just as I was circling the block looking for non-existent parking, and so I kept talking to him as I circled and circled…and then finally gave up and went and bought tissues and toilet paper at the Dollar Store.)

But this week I did make it to a performance of a new local early music group called the Highland Consort. 

The performance was free, and held at the Episcopal Church of the Advent downtown.


The program was a November-suitable, requiem-ish, All-Souls-reminiscent program of pieces including “When David Heard” by Thomas Tomkins, Burial Sentences from the Book of Common Prayer composed by William Croft, “O Quam gloriosum” by Tomas Luis de Victoria and the Missa pro Defunctis by Eustache du Caurroy. The last was composed in 1590 for the funeral of Henry IV of France and then performed for the next two centuries as the official Requiem for the kings of France. (from the program notes).

highland consort birmingham

It’s super great that now we can fully, active, and consciously participate now and sing Gather Us In instead.


— 4 —

There are lots and lots and LOTS of homeschooling blogs and pages and thoughts out there.  You really shouldn’t read too many of them, or else you will end up feeling very badly about yourself.

One of the few exceptions to that rule that I’ve made is the Libertarian Homeschooler – there’s not blog, but “only” a Facebook page, and it’s great.  The posts are well-written and deeply considered, as, you can tell, has been the family’s entire homeschooling experience.  This is the sentence that made me go “yes!” today, related to a search for a perhaps-transitional-to-college-school:

“I think they would do very well but I don’t think I could do it to them. Giving them a superficial glance after we’ve spent so many years digging deep. We have tailored their experiences to meet their interests, needs, and capacities instead of state standards and grade requirements.”

If you want to understand the homeschooling movement, and why it’s taking off, especially in the context of test and achievement-obsessed schools….read this. 

— 5 —

In honor of today, November 5, Guy Fawkes Day…here’s a related book review I wrote ages ago for First Things:

As Hogge traces the slow, agonizing path by which the Jesuits were unjustly implicated in the Gunpowder Plot—a path strewn with seemingly minor decisions like hearing a confession, writing a letter, or delaying a journey—the question of equivocation came to the fore. This was the point at which the government’s case against the Jesuits gained its popular force: the accusation that the Jesuits advised and approved the art of “equivocation,” answering questions in a way that would satisfy interrogators but at the same time preserve interior honesty. Being asked, “Are you a priest?” one could answer “No,” meaning, in one’s own mind, “No, I am not a priest of Zeus.” Equivocation was debated among moral theologians, and Garnet himself wrote a treatise in cautious support of it.

The question, answered equivocally or not, that caused the most problems was one that came to be known as the “Bloody Question”: If the pope were to invade England, whom would you support, the pope or the queen? Over time, the Bloody Question took slightly different forms, but the essence remained the same: Whose side are you on?

The truth was that most English Catholics wanted to be on both sides. They were loyal to their country and their monarch, and they also wanted to practice their religion in peace. In the sixteenth century, this was not thought to be possible, of course, as religious toleration was the ideal of neither Church nor state. But as the decades progressed, it became the last best hope of English Catholics. James I manipulated this hope in his effort to cement his succession—and then dashed it with even fiercer enforcement of the Penal Laws, a frustration and turnabout which ultimately inspired the Gunpowder Plot.

— 6 —

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, who likes Flannery O’Connor and is great for other reasons as well, delivered a brainy speech on religious liberty this evening at Notre Dame. Y’all should read it:

The Church cannot abide quietly while the eclipse of man is presided over by an impoverished temporal order. Thus, the Church understands that the divine mandate to teach includes a service to a society that has shoved aside its own best moments. Put another way, the divine mandate includes a mission to defend the prerogatives of reason, including speculative and contemplative reason. This is a service to reason and to the human person and thus to society, that the Church must, by divine mandate, render. What is needed then, is a robust philosophical discourse fully informed by the theological sources that prevent the reduction of man to product and producer. 

— 7 —

Commercial time!

Advent’s coming! 

Catholic Advent Materials

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

Read Full Post »

— 1 —


Here’s an article on the small Charlotte Mason-based private school in our neighborhood that is one of the two schools in town I might be tempted to send my 10-year old to.

I wish all  Catholic school administrators and pastors would read this article and understand that Catholic education could look like this, too. WHY DOESN’T IT. There is a  sizable potential student population for this type of school, Catholic classical schools,  Catholic Montessori schools and so on.  Some of which exist, scattered about the country, but which, in general, are too far outside the box for your basic Catholic school superintendent or pastor to take seriously or not be threatened by. Many people are staying away from Catholic schools, not only because they are open to life, having large families and can’t afford tuition, but also because what they see around them are schools all striving after the same goal: the achievement-oriented Blue Ribbon school with lots of computers and a winning sports program.

Well, guess what. There is an another way..lots of different ways and it is too bad that mainstream Catholic education can’t or won’t see this. The lack of imagination and courage in the Catholic education establishment is discouraging, if not surprising.

A Facebook friend linked to my post on this article and someone wrote on her post that she was sending her child to a local alternative school because all the parish school was doing was bragging about how much homework the kids would have at night.


Family Life?

Maybe we need a ……SYNOD to deal with this!

— 2 —

Formal schooling gripe of the week – and not just mine (for those catching up – I homeschool a 10-year old, older kid is in  HS) , but shared by others whose kids are in other schools as well:

Some of us work really hard to restrict screen time at home.

You’re not helping when the assignments you give necessitate screen time in either the research, the composition, the presentation or the submission.

But…It’s what they’ll need to know in the workforce! 

Nonsense.  They won’t be in the workforce for ten more years, probably, and who knows what they’ll need to know then – and whatever skills specific to their job they’ll need to know? Yeah, they’ll be taught on the job or what they need to know will be transmitted through the diodes fixed in their scalps by the actual office drones.   What they need to know is how to think, how to read and write, and how to problem solve.

Three more years and three quarters to go…..

I might have written last year – not that you remember – about going to an open house at the monastery boarding school up the road. Unfortunately too far for us for day school, and no way we’re doing boarding school – I’m not interested in my 14-year old moving away yet.

Anyway, there was a mom and daughter  at the open house who had traveled from Missouri, the main reason being that they wanted to switch schools now because the school the girl was attending at the moment had gone all I-Pad for all texts and all work.

They knew that wasn’t right.  They knew that wasn’t the best educational practice.

And they wanted to switch…now. 

Research is starting to bear that out – which doesn’t surprise me.  Back when I was in the classroom, ages and ages ago, not a few of the interminable in-services we had to attend concerned differing learning styles, and it was continually emphasized to us that learning happened best when as many learning styles as possible were engaged, including kinetic – that is, learning styles which find physicality helpful.  And so we are learning, it is true – the act of holding a book, turning pages, associating the information on the page with a physical place in the book, in the universe, is helpful.  The act of writing, for whom that act is not burdensome (and it is for some, I know, and for them keyboards are a Godsend), helps reinforce retention and is an aid to creativity.  More and more  professors are banning laptops and other electronic devices from the classroom not only because their absence (not surprisingly) helps their students be more engaged, but also because physically taking notes, and the synthesizing that that process requires (as opposed to the taking-dictation-mode that a decent typist can bring to the job) helps, again, in retention and understanding.

So no, don’t tell me about your high-tech school …

— 3—

Oooh! The Gif posts were popular !

Well, I was going to follow up on Monday, but I was so exhausted – in every way – by the whole wretched Synod Scene and a super fast trip back and forth to Charleston that I easily found better things to do with my time.

"amy welborn"

When you don’t feel like a miserable failure of a homeschooler because your son thinks it would be amusing to leave this in a dresser drawer in the hotel room. 

Speaking of Charleston (where we have family), this time we discovered the very small, but FREE Mace Brown Natural History Museum.  It’s on Calhoun Street, just a couple of blocks down from King Street, on the second floor of a College of Charleston building.  As I said, it’s small – really just one quarter of a floor – but it’s got a lot of good fossil specimens and situates them very well in the context of the Southeast.  So if you are in Charleston, especially with kids, consider it – it’s open 11-4 during the week, but check the hours before you go.

"amy welborn"

— 4 —

The main “better thing” is a project, and yeah, I indeed need to be working on that instead of scouring the Internet for amusing Veep gifs that match up to the irony of bishops who are Supposed to Be Smelling Like Their Sheep in an Environmentally Responsible Creation-Lovin’ Way instead burning carbon credits like crazy on flights to Rome and spending a month away from their Sheep in order to vote on a document that says “Families Are Good” and “Families Need Support.”

But -hey, Sheep – they’re back!

 Introducing Selina’s running mate and the new Veep,  Mr. Hugh Laurie.

So we’re good!

— 5 —

Oh, wait! Did I overstep my boundaries? In talking about that Synod thing?

Because I only have an MA in Church History so that means I sure don’t have a Ph.D. or STL or what have you, so I probably should just shrink back into my proper place.


Eh. It’s not the New York Times here, so no one w̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶j̶e̶a̶l̶o̶u̶s̶ ̶o̶r̶ ̶r̶e̶s̶e̶n̶t̶f̶u̶l̶  cares.


— 6 —

But do you know what? Here’s the thing.

I have been writing these book things for fifteen years now (The Loyola Kids Book of Saints and Prove It! God were the first two, written in 2000), and most of them, with a couple of exceptions have been assignments.  That is, a publisher has contacted me and said, “Hey, we need a book on >>>>>>>. Would you write it?” (The exceptions are Here. Now. and The Words We Pray).  Almost every time I’ve said yes, because what I have felt is that in request from a publisher, God is responding to me.  Every suggested project has been on a topic that I needed to be exploring at that very moment. My research, the process of writing, the reflection on that given topic seemed to answer the questions central to my life at the time.

So it is with this current project, which, among other subjects, involves St. Catherine of Siena.

Okay. Thanks, God!

Really delving into her life and writings in a way that I never have before is giving me the opportunity to make some connections, to think in honest, tough and critical ways about the current modes of thinking and discourse prevalent in Catholicism, as well as the chance to reflect on the crazy, curious history of the Church and the role all of us  – lay, ordained and religious, educated or simply wise and experienced – have to play in that history.

— 7 —

Commercial time!

Advent’s coming! 

Catholic Advent Materials

Also…All Saints’ Day…are you ready?

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

Read Full Post »

— 1 —

Well, Birmingham, Alabama has finally arrived – our first Trader Joe’s opened up last week.  I like TJ’s fine, although I’m not a fanatic. I tend to go and buy the same things every time – the fig bars and orange-flavored cranberries, basically.  There was a time when I couldn’t find pappardelle pasta anywhere in this town -not even at Whole Foods – so I would add that to the list when I hit an Atlanta Trader Joe’s.

Plus, the location they’ve picked is terrible from my perspective.  It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t live here, but it’s in a high end shopping strip where, 6 days out of 7 and 23 hours of 24, the traffic is impossible. Unless you are required to head that way (that is, it’s on your work-school-home route), you probably avoid it.  So sure, it will get great business from those folks, but the rest of us in other parts of town will only get there occasionally – like on Saturday afternoons during Alabama or Auburn games.

But we’re finally back in business with these!

"amy welborn"

— 2 —

"amy welborn"

I’m sad this photo turned out so terribly, but I like it (the original, not my photo) so much, I wanted to share it with you nonetheless.

It’s part of a contemporary icon at St. Bernard’s Abbey up in Cullman (we went there a couple of weeks ago, mostly to visit Ave Maria Grotto). The icon, in a triptych style, has a number of individual images designed around the dual themes of the Liturgy of the Hours and what I suppose are the Benedictine Virtues.

The gold made my phone wacky, but you can probably still make it out: the Hour is Compline, and the virtue is Hospitality.

Angels unawares. 

— 3—

It’s been gorgeous this week. I’ll take it.

"amy welborn"

Railroad Park.

— 4 —

So this is happening in Birmingham this week – I hope I’ll be able to make it. 

Tenebrae, an 18-strong mixed chorus composed of some of Britain’s finest singers, will make its Magic City debut on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at Southside Baptist Church. On the heels of appearances here by the likes of the King’s Singers, Voces8 and Tallis Scholars in recent years, the London-based choir’s concert promises to build on that legacy with a program titled “The Romantic Legacy of Renaissance Polyphony.

Nigel Short, a former member of the Tallis Scholars and King’s Singers, founded the ensemble in 2001. His hopes were to instill new fire and vocal color to the august institution.

Wait! ..argh….this is happening in my neighborhood, same night, same time,  and it sounds fun!

If you think you can sing a few bars and still hold your lirico, or even if you can’t, don’t be afraid to try Tuesday night, Oct. 27, at Avondale Brewing Company, 201 41st St. S. From 6-7:30 p.m., Opera Birmingham debuts “Opera Shots,” a series of pop-up concerts designed around “mixing and mingling in a social setting, with ‘a shot of opera,’” says Opera Birmingham’s director of marketing Eleanor Walter.

The event will be an open-mike setting of greatest hits, choruses, jazz standards and musical theater, with guest artists leading the way.

Wow! It’s like I’m living in Manhattan or something – so much choice!


— 5 —

Here’s my website suggestion of the week: Atlas Obscura. I unreservedly love this website – it constantly, every day, reveals again again what a weird, fascinating place this world of ours is.

— 6 —

Advent’s coming! 

Catholic Advent Materials

Also…All Saints’ Day…are you ready?

— 7 —

Here’s something interesting.  In 2009 and 2012, the last 2 liturgical year “B’s” – Synods were wrapping up and closing Masses for those Synods were celebrated on this particular Sunday. The Gospel reading is the healing of Bartimaeus, which it will be this year, of course. In 2009, the Synod was a “Special Assembly for Africa.” An excerpt from the homily at the closing Mass:

God’s plan does not change. Through the centuries and turns of history, he always aims at the same finality: the Kingdom of liberty and peace for all. And this implies his predilection for those deprived of freedom and peace, for those violated in their dignity as human beings. We think in particular of our brothers and sisters who in Africa suffer poverty, diseases, injustice, wars and violence, forced migration. These favorite children of the heavenly Father are like the blind man in the Gospel, Bartimaeus (Mk 10: 46) at the gates of Jericho. Jesus the Nazarene passed that way. It is the road that leads to Jerusalem, where the Paschal Event will take place, his sacrificial Easter, towards which the Messiah goes for us. It is the road of his exodus which is also ours: the only way that leads to the land of reconciliation, justice and peace. On that road, the Lord meets Bartimaeus, who has lost his sight. Their paths cross, they become a single path. The blind man calls out, full of faith “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!”. Jesus replies: “Call him!”, and adds: “What do you want me to do for you?”. God is light and the Creator of light. Man is the son of light, made to see the light, but has lost his sight, and is forced to beg. The Lord, who became a beggar for us, walks next to him: thirsting for our faith and our love. “What do you want me to do for you?”. God knows the answer, but asks; he wants the man to speak. He wants the man to stand up, to find the courage to ask for what is needed for his dignity. The Father wants to hear in the son’s own voice the free choice to see the light once again, the light, the reason for Creation. “Master, I want to see!” And Jesus says to him: “Go your way; your faith has saved you’. Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way” (Mk 10: 51-52).

Dear Brothers, we give thanks because this “mysterious encounter between our poverty and the greatness” of God was achieved also in the Synodal Assembly for Africa that has ended today. God renewed his call: “Take courage! Get up…” (Mk 10: 49). And the Church in Africa, through its Pastors, having come from all the countries in the continent, from Madagascar and the other islands, has embraced the message of hope and light to walk on the path that leads to the Kingdom of God. “Go your way; your faith has saved you” (Mk 10: 52). Yes, faith in Jesus Christ when properly understood and experienced guides men and peoples to liberty in truth, or, to use the three words of the Synodal theme, to reconciliation, to justice and to peace. Bartimaeus who, healed, follows Jesus along the road, is the image of that humanity that, illuminated by faith, walks on the path towards the promised land. Bartimaeus becomes in turn a witness of the light, telling and demonstrating in the first person about being healed, renewed, regenerated. This is the Church in the world: a community of reconciled persons, operators of justice and peace; “salt and light” amongst the society of men and nations. Therefore the Synod strongly confirmed and manifested this that the Church is the Family of God, in which there can be no divisions based on ethnic, language or cultural groups. Moving witnesses showed us that, even in the darkest moments of human history, the Holy Spirit is at work and transforming the hearts of the victims and the persecutors, that they may know each other as brothers. The reconciled Church is the potent leaven of reconciliation in each country and in the whole African continent.

healing of bartimaeus art

In 2012, it was on the New Evangelization. From B16’s homily:

The whole of Mark’s Gospel is a journey of faith, which develops gradually under Jesus’ tutelage.  The disciples are the first actors on this journey of discovery, but there are also other characters who play an important role, and Bartimaeus is one of them.  His is the last miraculous healing that Jesus performs before his passion, and it is no accident that it should be that of a blind person, someone whose eyes have lost the light.  We know from other texts too that the state of blindness has great significance in the Gospels.  It represents man who needs God’s light, the light of faith, if he is to know reality truly and to walk the path of life.  It is essential to acknowledge one’s blindness, one’s need for this light, otherwise one could remain blind for ever (cf. Jn 9:39-41).

Bartimaeus, then, at that strategic point of Mark’s account, is presented as a model.  He was not blind from birth, but he lost his sight.  He represents man who has lost the light and knows it, but has not lost hope: he knows how to seize the opportunity to encounter Jesus and he entrusts himself to him for healing.  Indeed, when he hears that the Master is passing along the road, he cries out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mk 10:47), and he repeats it even louder (v. 48).  And when Jesus calls him and asks what he wants from him, he replies: “Master, let me receive my sight!” (v. 51).  Bartimaeus represents man aware of his pain and crying out to the Lord, confident of being healed.  His simple and sincere plea is exemplary, and indeed – like that of the publican in the Temple: “God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk 18:13) – it has found its way into the tradition of Christian prayer.  In the encounter with Christ, lived with faith, Bartimaeus regains the light he had lost, and with it the fullness of his dignity: he gets back onto his feet and resumes the journey, which from that moment has a guide, Jesus, and a path, the same that Jesus is travelling.  The evangelist tells us nothing more about Bartimaeus, but in him he shows us what discipleship is: following Jesus “along the way” (v. 52), in the light of faith.

….It is significant that the liturgy puts the Gospel of Bartimaeus before us today, as we conclude the Synodal Assembly on the New Evangelization.  This biblical passage has something particular to say to us as we grapple with the urgent need to proclaim Christ anew in places where the light of faith has been weakened, in places where the fire of God is more like smouldering cinders, crying out to be stirred up, so that they can become a living flame that gives light and heat to the whole house.

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

Read Full Post »

— 1 —

What is “Southern?”

People work hard to come up with satisfying definitions, but to me, if you want to understand “Southern” – here you go:

A local bar that calls its special cocktail night “Church Night.”  Why?

One of the key figures in Birmingham’s booming cocktail scene, Angel Negrin runs a twice-weekly craft cocktail program at Lou’s, a Lakeview hangout for a loyal, mostly beer and mixed-drinks crowd since it opened in 1987.

It was pure coincidence that the bar shifts Negrin inherited at Lou’s in January 2013 were on Wednesdays and Sundays.

“As the pop-up became established, customers began asking when cocktails are available,” Negrin says. “To help them remember we’d tell them to think ‘church nights.’ We said it often enough and the guests thought it was clever enough it kind of became a thing. Only then did it get a title.”

Because, you see, down here, everyone knows Sunday and Wednesday nights are church nights, even if you don’t go yourself…yup…church night!

— 2 —

Speaking of church night – one of my boys is involved at a Wednesday night activity at a (of course) Catholic church that meets (of course) on Wednesdays, and it coincides with RCIA on the same property as well as a couple of choir practices, I think.  I learned yesterday that the boys’ gathering and the RCIA gathering both close, together, with Compline in the church.  I plan to go early next week to check it out myself, but even without doing so, a scathingly brilliant idea struck me:

What if at Catholic churches, activities/meetings on weeknights were planned to meet at the same times and end at the same times, with all the groups then gathering in the church for Compline? Perhaps not every night, but in a large, busy parish, that actually might be the case.

One of my (many) hobbyhorses regarding pastoral ministry has always been to use what we have and be who we are as Catholics. Hence, my nagging about the popularity of “small groups” and how in a Catholic parish, “small group” stuff should flow from daily Mass, the original “small group.”

So it is with parish gatherings and prayers. Having been the victim of many a groovy, soulful composed prayer services with nice clip art at the beginning  or end of meetings, I have always wondered why leaders and planners don’t just depend on the prayer of the Church – the Liturgy of the Hours in some form or other.

— 3—

A week ago, the 10-year old and I headed over the the Moundville Archaeological Park for their Native American Days.  Moundville has an excellent little museum which we had visited before – a good thing because they were rationing out entry during the festival, and the line was quite long.

We enjoyed a bit of education about lighting fires and rifles and cooking, and hoop dancing.

My son asked the dancer afterwards if he got dizzy. The man breathlessly answered that no, he’d been doing it for 40 years, so he didn’t suffer from that.

Also, a local chapter of a Kateri Circle – I had no idea that this existed or that there was a shrine to St. Kateri at a (sort of) local parish.  We’ll have to go on a jaunt to check that out.

— 4 —

On  Sunday, we went up to Ave Maria Grotto, on the grounds of St. Bernard’s Abbey (and boarding prep school, grades 7-12).

If you have driven on I-65 through Alabama, you’ve seen billboards for it or pamphlets at the gas stations. It’s well worth the admission and 45 minutes or so of your time, if you ever need a break.  A true labor of love, an expression of a very profound Benedictine spirituality of ora et labora right there in found materials. from marbles to cold cream jars to roof shingles.

You might be going to Hanceville to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament on the same trip, and you’ll find that interesting too, this big Catholic, Assisi-like church in the middle of nowhere, Alabama. I prefer the idiosyncrasy of the grotto, myself.

— 5 —

As note before, I’m doing a 3-year anniversary travelogue of our European trip on Instagram – posting photos of what we were doing that day 3-years ago.  Follow me on Instagram here. 

— 6 —

I do enjoy the category, “Two Monks Inventing Things” at The Toast. 

MONK #1: what was the birth of Jesus like
MONK #2: gold box
bunch of rocks
small roof, no walls, sad Joseph, curious twins
pretty basic
MONK #1: ahh tytyty


I think the first Toast piece I ever read was “All the Comments on Every Recipe Blog” which is  dead. On. 

“I love this recipe! I added garlic powder, Italian seasoning, a few flakes of nutritional yeast, half a bottle of kombucha, za’atar, dried onion, and biscuit mix to mine. Great idea!”

“Due to dietary restrictions, I am only able to eat Yahtzee dice. I made the necessary substitutions, and it turned out great.”

“If you use olive oil for any recipe that’s cooked over 450°F, the oil will denature and you will get cancer. This post is irresponsible. You should only use grapeseed oil you’ve pressed yourself in a very cold room.”

— 7 —

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the feastday of St. Ignatius of Antioch.

Here is a link to his letters….plenty of time to read them.

I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God.
  No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.
  The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God. If you have him in your heart, you will understand what I wish. You will sympathise with me because you will know what urges me on.
  The prince of this world is determined to lay hold of me and to undermine my will which is intent on God. Let none of you here help him; instead show yourselves on my side, which is also God’s side. Do not talk about Jesus Christ as long as you love this world. Do not harbour envious thoughts. And supposing I should see you, if then I should beg you to intervene on my behalf, do not believe what I say. Believe instead what I am now writing to you. For though I am alive as I write to you, still my real desire is to die. My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: “Come to the Father.” I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world. I want only God’s bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed of the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish.

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

Read Full Post »

— 1 —

Ah, finally In Our Time is back – my favorite BBC Radio 4 podcast.  They take a summer break, but have been back for three weeks now. The first topic –  perpetual motion – was not my favorite, and I’m not sure it was a great choice. The discussion seemed as if it would be about historical efforts to construct perpetual motion machines, but that petered out fairly quickly, and as I recall, attention turned to more general questions of physics. Meh.

But the following week – Alexander the Great – was better, and I’m looking forward to next week’s episode on Holbein and the Tudor Court.  It is invariably such a balanced, informative, non-PC, mostly unconcerned with modern pieties presentation. It’s refreshing and unlike anything you’d hear on American radio.

— 2 —

As an addendum to yesterday’s education post:

Made it to the Botanical Gardens (one of our great treasures here – free, as in no admission, just like our excellent art museum)  on Wednesday afternoon, then collected leaves in our own yard this morning.  We looked at diagrams of cross-sections of leaf structure, compared, contrasted, drew, and finally looked at our own samples under the microscope, as well as our prepared plant-related slides.

Our long-term experiments were not super-successful, though. A couple of weeks ago, we had performed two operations on a house plant. In the first, you were supposed to slather the tops of some leaves with Vaseline, and then do the same to the underside of some leaves on the same plant.  The second set was supposed to die, since the stomata would be blocked.  I guess we didn’t put enough Vaseline on, since all the leaves are still alive, although some in the second group do have brown patches, so maybe it did work, in a way.

In the other demonstration, we tightly covered a leaf with black construction paper. After a couple of weeks, it was supposed to have lost its color as photosynthesis was blocked. Well, it was still green, but definitely a little lighter shade than all the others.

So they kind of worked?

"amy welborn"

— 3—

Not to live in the past, but as I went through a mega-Instagram fit on Sunday, posting photos of our 2012 trip to Assisi, it occurred to me that it would be fun to finish up the trip. So from now until the end of November, I’ll be posting daily on Instagram with photos I took on that day three years ago, wherever we were in Europe at the time.

"amy welborn"


Follow me on Instagram.

(In case you are wondering, there are no big trips planned for the near future. My daughter is back from her year + in Europe, so that excuse is no more, and everyone has announced they are converging in this direction for Thanksgiving.  I hate travelling on planes at Christmas time, especially with a crew and with time constraints.  So probably no big travel until the spring. But that’s fine – there’s plenty to see around here!)

— 4 —

Finished a project! It’s not due until January 1! That truly is a record for me. Now on to the next one..which is due..er…December 15.

— 5 —

Reminder: I’ve mentioned this site before, but it bears a repeat.  If you are ever in need of seasonal or month-related quotes or poetry, this is a great site. I use it for copywork and just general reading breaks all the time.

— 6 —

I have been off on my days all week for some reason.  So last night, I thought today was the 9th, so I went all St. Denis on this blog…but..I was off a day.  Well, so you got a sneak peak? 

Today (really – the 9th. I’m sure of it)  is also the (optional) memorial of Blessed John Henry Newman.  Here’s a link to B16’s homily at his beatification:

The definite service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing “subjects of the day”. His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world. I would like to pay particular tribute to his vision for education, which has done so much to shape the ethos that is the driving force behind Catholic schools and colleges today. Firmly opposed to any reductive or utilitarian approach, he sought to achieve an educational environment in which intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment would come together. The project to found a Catholic University in Ireland provided him with an opportunity to develop his ideas on the subject, and the collection of discourses that he published as The Idea of a University holds up an ideal from which all those engaged in academic formation can continue to learn. And indeed, what better goal could teachers of religion set themselves than Blessed John Henry’s famous appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity: “I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it” (The Present Position of Catholics in England, ix, 390). On this day when the author of those words is raised to the altars, I pray that, through his intercession and example, all who are engaged in the task of teaching and catechesis will be inspired to greater effort by the vision he so clearly sets before us.

While it is John Henry Newman’s intellectual legacy that has understandably received most attention in the vast literature devoted to his life and work, I prefer on this occasion to conclude with a brief reflection on his life as a priest, a pastor of souls. The warmth and humanity underlying his appreciation of the pastoral ministry is beautifully expressed in another of his famous sermons: “Had Angels been your priests, my brethren, they could not have condoled with you, sympathized with you, have had compassion on you, felt tenderly for you, and made allowances for you, as we can; they could not have been your patterns and guides, and have led you on from your old selves into a new life, as they can who come from the midst of you” (“Men, not Angels: the Priests of the Gospel”, Discourses to Mixed Congregations, 3). He lived out that profoundly human vision of priestly ministry in his devoted care for the people of Birmingham during the years that he spent at the Oratory he founded, visiting the sick and the poor, comforting the bereaved, caring for those in prison. No wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as his body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here. One hundred and twenty years later, great crowds have assembled once again to rejoice in the Church’s solemn recognition of the outstanding holiness of this much-loved father of souls. What better way to express the joy of this moment than by turning to our heavenly Father in heartfelt thanksgiving, praying in the words that Blessed John Henry Newman placed on the lips of the choirs of angels in heaven:

Praise to the Holiest in the height
And in the depth be praise;
In all his words most wonderful,
Most sure in all his ways!
(The Dream of Gerontius).

More of B16 on Newman from that visit.

— 7 —

The book Be Saints! was inspired by that 2010  visit – here’s the page which references Newman:

"amy welborn"

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

Read Full Post »

— 1 —

St. Junipero Serra now….

Go here for more information. There’s a particularly good FAQ.

I read a good introduction to him in an older book called Adventurer Saints that I’d forgotten I owned. As Pope Francis said in his homily, St. Junipero’s life was marked by movement away from comfort zones – a university professor who left it all to minister in the New World amid tremendous physical suffering, he was all about bringing the love of Christ to the edges of the world, in love, not domination.

Siempre Adelante!

— 2 —

One of the most fascinating elements of the missions to the New World -all of them, but especially the Franciscans and Jesuits in South America and the Southwest – was the importance of music.  You remember the role of music in The Mission, right? Well, it was that way for all the missions. In The Loyola KIds Book of Saints, I wrote about one missionary, St. Francis Solano, who saw the value of music in missionary work.

There is a lot out there written about music in the California missions, specifically. This might be a good start:

very mission had a library, carried on the schooling of Indian residents and provided instruction in the various manual arts. In addition, music instrument collections were amassed which involved organs, (barrel, reed and pipe), as well as string (violins, violoncellos, contrabass), woodwind (piccolos, flutes, oboes, clarinets), brass (trumpets and horns) and percussion instruments. Choirs and orchestras, in some cases of significant size and competence, were trained, often to a level of considerable proficiency. Visitors to the missions, as early as the closing years of the eighteenth century, commented upon the quality and scope of the music making at individual missions.

The sacred music of California that remains in manuscript form is the most extensive and diverse body of plainsong and polyphonic music to survive from any of Spain’s colonies in the contiguous forty-eight states. Much of the polyphonic music was brought to California from locations in Spain and Mexico, including the Convento de San Francisco, Palm, Mallorca and the Cathedral in Mexico City. The manuscript remains are preserved in ten different libraries and archives throughout California.

But it’s only a start…there’s so much out there, including music not just imported, but written in the New World. New World Baroque music is absolutely one of my favorite types of music to listen to.

— 3—

Chanticleer recorded an album of music from the California missions:

Speaking of the California missions, I’ve been to one: San Juan de Bautista (famous because of Vertigo, among other reasons.)  It’s so lovely. Here are some other images from that 2011 visit:

"amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn"

These are from 2011. I guess it was that trip I had an afternoon all mapped out to go to Carmel, where (now) St. Junipero is buried, but we got there and for some reason it was closed – it was Thanksgiving week, and I had checked the website to make sure it would be open, but lo and behold, we pulled up and saw several other people milling around the locked gates, peering through, trying to catch a glimpse of..something.  Should have called!

— 4 —

It was interesting to me that all the controversy preceding this canonization seemed to have flattened out somehow. It’s odd that there was hardly any expectation that Pope Francis would address any controversy or disappointment/criticism that he didn’t. Teflon, I tell you!

It’s too bad, too,  because I don’t believe in whitewashing historical apologetics about any era of history, ecclesiastical or secular. The encounter between Europeans and the native peoples of the Americas has layers of complexity and nuance as cultures clash, and especially as the Gospel finds its way to human beings in need of it in the midst of a maze of empire, power and exploitation. That dynamic is worth a moment of attention, and that attention is not an “attack” on anything (well, it doesn’t have to be), but merely exploration and questioning. How do we serve people and minister to them without becoming accessories to the sinful structures that enable our presence and activity? What is that relationship all about?

Still pertinent questions.

— 5 —

Homeschool book of the week is Adam of the Road – which is delightful and should be read in all late-elementary Catholic classrooms instead of the mostly prescriptive pap from secular textbooks that most of them unfortunately use.  It’s given us a chance to do history and geography, of course, but also to talk about various aspects of medieval Church life, including the monastery as a vibrant center of life in a society. Not closed-off, to be sure.

— 6 —

Read a couple of books this week, for really no reason except because they were around:

Catholic Revivalism was a re-read, since I’d used it in college decades ago. But do you remember how I keep telling you about the importance of reading history?  Doing so is helpful in keeping you grounded, anchored between either thinking the present is the absolute worst or the fabulous best. Reading a book like Catholic Revivalism reminds you, in case you didn’t know, that Catholics were actually not indifferent to evangelization, outreach and personal faith before two minutes ago and  that pastoral ministers have been concerned about Catholics not practicing their faith and knowing zilch about it anyway forever.

Comforting? Depressing? Both? Maybe.

Oh, and The Girl on the Train. Was that it? There were a bunch of copies on the shelf at the library, I vaguely remembered that it’s popular, so I took a couple of nights a read it. I liked the set-up and I thought the protagonist’s alcoholism was a different twist and initially well-done, but then it got tedious and repetitive, the other characters were superficially drawn, and the whole thing got absurd, just as most books like that do.

I need to get me another Dorothy Hughes.  That would be far more interesting to write about, too.

— 7 —

Don’t forget…St. Francis of Assisi in a week or so…get your books here or here!

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

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: