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800px-Fra_angelico_-_conversion_de_saint_augustin

The Conversion of St. Augustine. Fra Angelico

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Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a great student of St. Augustine, and devoted several General Audience talks to him. As in….five. 

January 9, 2008

January 16

January 30

February 20

February 27

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From the last GA:

The African rhetorician reached this fundamental step in his long journey thanks to his passion for man and for the truth, a passion that led him to seek God, the great and inaccessible One. Faith in Christ made him understand that God, apparently so distant, in reality was not that at all. He in fact made himself near to us, becoming one of us. In this sense, faith in Christ brought Augustine’s long search on the journey to truth to completion. Only a God who made himself “tangible”, one of us, was finally a God to whom he could pray, for whom and with whom he could live. This is the way to take with courage and at the same time with humility, open to a permanent purification which each of us always needs. But with the Easter Vigil of 387, as we have said, Augustine’s journey was not finished. He returned to Africa and founded a small monastery where he retreated with a few friends to dedicate himself to the contemplative life and study. This was his life’s dream. Now he was called to live totally for the truth, with the truth, in friendship with Christ who is truth: a beautiful dream that lasted three years, until he was, against his will, ordained a priest at Hippo and destined to serve the faithful, continuing, yes, to live with Christ and for Christ, but at the service of all. This was very difficult for him, but he understood from the beginning that only by living for others, and not simply for his private contemplation, could he really live with Christ and for Christ.

Thus, renouncing a life solely of meditation, Augustine learned, often with difficulty, to make the fruit of his intelligence available to others. He learned to communicate his faith to simple people and thus learned to live for them in what became his hometown, tirelessly carrying out a generous and onerous activity which he describes in one of his most beautiful sermons: “To preach continuously, discuss, reiterate, edify, be at the disposal of everyone – it is an enormous responsibility, a great weight, an immense effort” (Sermon, 339, 4). But he took this weight upon himself, understanding that it was exactly in this way that he could be closer to Christ. To understand that one reaches others with simplicity and humility was his true second conversion.

But there is a last step to Augustine’s journey, a third conversion, that brought him every day of his life to ask God for pardon. Initially, he thought that once he was baptized, in the life of communion with Christ, in the sacraments, in the Eucharistic celebration, he would attain the life proposed in the Sermon on the Mount: the perfection bestowed by Baptism and reconfirmed in the Eucharist. During the last part of his life he understood that what he had concluded at the beginning about the Sermon on the Mount – that is, now that we are Christians, we live this ideal permanently – was mistaken. Only Christ himself truly and completely accomplishes the Sermon on the Mount. We always need to be washed by Christ, who washes our feet, and be renewed by him. We need permanent conversion. Until the end we need this humility that recognizes that we are sinners journeying along, until the Lord gives us his hand definitively and introduces us into eternal life. It was in this final attitude of humility, lived day after day, that Augustine died.

This attitude of profound humility before the only Lord Jesus led him also to experience an intellectual humility. Augustine, in fact, who is one of the great figures in the history of thought, in the last years of his life wanted to submit all his numerous works to a clear, critical examination. This was the origin of the Retractationum (“Revision”), which placed his truly great theological thought within the humble and holy faith that he simply refers to by the name Catholic, that is, of the Church. He wrote in this truly original book: “I understood that only One is truly perfect, and that the words of the Sermon on the Mount are completely realized in only One – in Jesus Christ himself. The whole Church, instead – all of us, including the Apostles -, must pray everyday: Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” (De Sermone Domini in Monte, I, 19, 1-3).

Augustine converted to Christ who is truth and love, followed him throughout his life and became a model for every human being, for all of us in search of God. This is why I wanted to ideally conclude my Pilgrimage to Pavia by consigning to the Church and to the world, before the tomb of this great lover of God, my first Encyclical entitled Deus Caritas Est. I owe much, in fact, especially in the first part, to Augustine’s thought. Even today, as in his time, humanity needs to know and above all to live this fundamental reality: God is love, and the encounter with him is the only response to the restlessness of the human heart; a heart inhabited by hope, still perhaps obscure and unconscious in many of our contemporaries but which already today opens us Christians to the future, so much so that St Paul wrote that “in this hope we were saved” (Rom 8: 24). I wished to devote my second Encyclical to hope, Spe Salvi, and it is also largely indebted to Augustine and his encounter with God.

In a beautiful passage, St Augustine defines prayer as the expression of desire and affirms that God responds by moving our hearts toward him. On our part we must purify our desires and our hopes to welcome the sweetness of God (cf. In I Ioannis 4, 6). Indeed, only this opening of ourselves to others saves us. Let us pray, therefore, that we can follow the example of this great convert every day of our lives, and in every moment of our life encounter the Lord Jesus, the only One who saves us, purifies us and gives us true joy, true life.

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If you read the excerpt above, you will not a reference to a “pilgrimage to Pavia.”  Pavia is the small city in northern Italy where you will find the tomb of St. Augustine.  Benedict made his pilgrimage in April of 2007, and the shrine has a full – very full account at this page, which includes links to information about the saint’s impact on Ratzinger and his importance in the latter’s work. 

(And on a truly more minor note – St. Augustine is in the Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints under “Saints are People Who Help us Understand God”)

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We have been to both Milan and Pavia, and I’ll be talking about those trips with…….

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As I’ve mentioned before, Diana tries to structure her daily shows around the saint and feasts of that particular week.  So this week, I had a lot to say about our family travel to Milan (where St. Augustine was baptized)

Under the Milan duomo, the site of the baptistry where Ambrose baptized Milan. The subway walkways are right outside the door.

Pavia (where he is buried)

The church where Augustine’s tomb is located. How his remains arrived here from North Africa and then Sardinia is related here. 

…and…St. Augustine, Florida!  St. Augustine is so named because the Spanish landed on August 28, 1565. St. Augustine, like most of Florida, is fun for families, but my main piece of advice was…if you can swing it…avoid it during the summer. I have a high tolerance for heat -in fact, I prefer it and would be fine moving to the tropics today (I think) but there is something about the town of St. Augustine that produces a rather intense, reduce-you-to-a-puddle effect. Every photo I have of any of us in St. Augustine is marked by burning hot red cheeks and sweaty hair sticking up all over the place.

By the way…I loved Pavia.  One of those great mid-sized European cities, full of life and authentic, deep culture, not affected and strained. It was a thirty-minute train ride from Milan and a delightful Sunday afternoon. With chocolate.

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Earlier this week, our Cathedral hosted a beginning-of-the-school-year Mass for Catholic homeschoolers.  I knew they had done this before, years ago, but had seen nothing recently.  Back in the spring, a bunch of moms were talking while kids were racing around a local Catholic school gym, donated for our use for the afternoon, and the expressed need and desire for just a few more opportunities for fellowship and connecting sparked the idea for the Mass, and since I seem to have the fewest kids and the most free time, I offered to get it going…and it went…a spectacular success.  It was so great to see a couple hundred (or more, perhaps) parents, grandparents and kids present.  Four priests concelebrating, homeschoolers serving as servers, lectors and cantor. It’s great to be in a place where people are supportive of homeschooling, and don’t feel threatened by it.

Photo courtesy of Fr. Doug Vu. 

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Speaking of homeschooling…well, schooling, formation and education in general…here’s a resource you might be interested in:  a website for Fr. Junipero Serra, to be canonized by Pope Francis in DC in a month!

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

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Well, here’s what’s up.

We have been “in session” for a couple of weeks now – ever since brother trotted off to start high school.  There are a couple of missing pieces, and only one of the extra classes (boxing) has started  – the rest won’t begin until mid-September.

There are two events next week – a rock-climbing training session at a park about an hour away and an Asian water-color class at the museum of art. And of course, piano has started back up on a regular basis. Social? Good friend down the street. Two hours of play tonight with another good friend while I was at a meeting.  An hour of boxing. Tomorrow: Seeing friends at and after the Mass for homeschoolers, and then another couple of hours with a friend…etc. In case you were wondering.

So….

  • Religion so far is daily prayer focused on the saint of the day and Mass readings, and discussions regarding saints and Bible that spring from that. We’ll start the 5th grade Faith and Life volume next week.
  • (To see how this works – today was the feast of St. Louis IX.  This led to a bit of discussion about Louis XVI and the French Revolution. Then we learned that he died in Tunis, so we pulled out the map and saw where that was, and then reviewed all those north African countries, saw that if we’d gone to Africa when were in Sicily, it would have been Tunis.  Then we read the Mass readings, reviewed Paul and why he was writing epistles and where Thessalonika and Philippi are. Then the Gospel, which led to a discussion of both its meaning and a bit about 1st century Jewish religious structure – what are scribes, Pharisees & Saducees. Etc. See how that works?  It’s that way with everything.) 
  • Math:  Beast Academy 4D, waiting patiently for new of 5A to be released.  We’re on decimals, so it’s easy to supplement, right now, with material from Math Mammoth, Pearson (the most commonly used school math program around here – I just grab worksheets online where I can find them), various Scholastic books (digital editions that cost a buck each during sales – watch for them), and Khan Academy.  But…hurry up, Beast Academy!
  • We are just now starting history for the actual year – he has been finishing up reading and discussing this book up to this point.  Now we’re going to mash up Hakim’s History of US and the Catholic Textbook Project From Sea to Shining Sea. 
  • We started by me giving him a blank US map and having him label all the states, which he did, almost all spelled correctly.  I was kind of amazed. Then he reviewed capitols via Sheppard Software, and will review geographical features via the same, so the basics are done.  Geography is a strong point over here, and doesn’t require a lot of reinforcement.
  • Latin for Children is going well.  It’ s not the best ever, but at this point, I prefer it to the Memoria curriculum, which I had used with another of my kids way back when. And it’s more substantive than either Visual Latin or Getting Started in Latin. (If I had to choose between the last two, I would choose the latter. In fact, I would say, don’t spend your money on Visual Latin.)
  • Continuing with writing. We are behind, grade wise, on this. I wanted to start from the beginning of the series when we picked it up last year when he was in 4th grade, and the first volume is grades 3-4.  We moved slowly through it, not because it was hard (it’s not) or because we don’t like it (we both do), but just because…well, because Rabbit Hole.  As usual. But we are trying to hit it hard right now and get up to the actual 5th grade books by January.  Let me repeat: I like this program quite a bit – the way that it teaches summarizing, amplification and just general stretching of the writing brain is very engaging and this interesting, effective combination of simple yet complete.
  • But also still trying to incorporate aspects of Brave Writer. 
  • I said before that we don’t do spelling, but in order to address his occasional concern about “keeping up,” I this week did the same thing I did last year, but earlier in the year this time – I downloaded and printed out all the year’s spelling words from the curriculum his former school uses, (also one of the worst reading programs I have ever seen.  They are all mostly bad anyway – this one weirdly managing to both dumb down material and ask impenetrable questions about same material…so strange)  and we just go through them orally, checking of the ones he knows and working on those he doesn’t. Which has been three total from the first 75 words.  Started yesterday, and we try to do a couple of lists a day, give or take, so we should we be done w/”5th grade spelling” by the end of September.
  • Understand that etymology is one of those things that we talk about all the time. 
  • Handwriting – daily cursive.  Goal is for all work to be done in cursive by January.  If he goes to school in 6th grade, which he will if he wants to, the school he’ll attend will expect that, so aside from all the other (good) reasons, there’s that.
  • Music:  his piano lessons are fairly demanding.  At home we listen to music all the time, talk about it, watch videos of performances, particularly of pieces he’s working on.  We’ve also been getting back to Classics for Kids, which is a great website – so far this year, we’ve done Joplin, Bach and John Philip Sousa – the latter because earlier in the summer, we saw a (great) local production of The Music Man, so I thought I would try to make sense of “And you’ll feel something akin to the electric thrill I once enjoyed when Gilmore, Pat Conway,The Great Creatore, W.C. Handy and John Philip Sousa all came to town on the very same historic day!”
  • And science:  We are doing Biology for the Logic Stage, but have hardly actually done anything, because of the press of the
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    Spore print

    Teachable Moment.  This week, it’s been two things:  mushrooms & hummingbirds.  Our yard sprouted with mushrooms, so we took an afternoon and examined them, discussed fungi, read about them in our main resource and on the internet, and then swung back to taxonomy – he memorized the basic categories of taxonomy (Kingdom, phylum, …etc) and then the five kingdoms.  Memorized the characteristics of living things. (Which take us back to what we should have originally been working on)  Did a spore print. Then started two long-term experiment/demonstrations:  a mold terrarium with 8 possibly moldy things, and then two pieces of bread, sprayed with water and put in plastic bags, one rubbed on the ground outside, one not.  Hypothesis formed, observation sheets printed, etc.

  • Then, the hummingbirds.  Of late, the hummingbirds coming to our feeder have been crazy.  There are three or four all afternoon, most afternoons, and they are apparently at war.  No more than one can be at the feeder at  once, and we have spent a great deal of time watching them fly from one tree to another, wait each other out, then dive
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    Also a quick trip to the zoo

    bomb as soon as one of the others makes a move for the feeder.  We can stand pretty close to the feeder, and they will still streak right by us, chirping angrily at each other and, yes, wings and little bodies humming as they speed by.

  • So, much research on hummingbirds, going over the taxonomy, watching slow motion videos on their wing action and articles about how they actually use their tongues to get the nectar.
  • Oh, and the spider.  So three teachable moment living things over the pats two days. A huge spider built a web outside the front door last night, and it was gone this morning.  Someone had told me before that the spiders actually take their webs back up in the early dawn, and I believe it – tonight, as I write, the spider is right back in the same spot, enormous web intact.  I will try to get up super early and take a peak outside to see if I can spy it retreating. So he researched what kind of spider it was and we watched it for a long time last night, just talking about spiders in the dark with his brother and sister, too.
  • One new (used) book that has come in very handy in all of this is this one.  I had read about it on some homeschooling board, and it lives up to the hype – it’s really good, and great for the budding naturalist.
  • As I said, there are missing pieces.  Shakespeare, an ongoing “school” novel aside from the books he’s already scarfing, and art.  Next week. Next week. But rock climbing and art at the museum, next week!  Argh.  Nope. NEXT WEEK.
  • Haven’t actually watched any of these, but this channel looks like it will be good to add to the video lineup.
  • One thing I’ve started doing this year is having him do a “learning journal” each day (or every couple of days) – he writes down what he learned about that day.  It made more sense to me than either:  Me doing it or him planning what he would learn about.  It made a lot more sense for this to be something he does after the fact, at the end of the day. It’s his learning, his brain, his mind – he’s the one that needs to mull it over and make sense of it, not me!

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Friday was a light day. Obviously.  We did prayer/religion and math, and then I told him the rest of the day was his.  So he spent time digging in the back yard and figuring stuff out about roots and ants, doing some trivia on the computer (starting with reptiles and somehow ending up at Star Wars, apparently)  and drawing a picture related to the Maya & 2012. 

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….also called Nathanael.  From B16:

We have no special information about Bartholomew; indeed, his name always and only appears in the lists of the Twelve mentioned above and is therefore never central to any narrative.

However, it has traditionally been identified with Nathanael:  a name that means “God has given”.

This Nathanael came from Cana (cf. Jn 21: 2) and he may therefore have witnessed the great “sign” that Jesus worked in that place (cf. Jn 2: 1-11). It is likely that the identification of the two figures stems from the fact that Nathanael is placed in the scene of his calling, recounted in John’s Gospel, next to Philip, in other words, the place that Bartholomew occupies in the lists of the Apostles mentioned in the other Gospels.

Philip told this Nathanael that he had found “him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (Jn 1: 45). As we know, Nathanael’s retort was rather strongly prejudiced:  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Jn 1: 46). In its own way, this form of protestation  is  important  for  us.  Indeed, it makes us see that according to Judaic expectations the Messiah could not come from such an obscure village as, precisely, Nazareth (see also Jn 7: 42).

But at the same time Nathanael’s protest highlights God’s freedom, which baffles our expectations by causing him to be found in the very place where we least expect him. Moreover, we actually know that Jesus was not exclusively “from Nazareth” but was born in Bethlehem (cf. Mt 2: 1; Lk 2: 4) and came ultimately from Heaven, from the Father who is in Heaven.

Nathanael’s reaction suggests another thought to us: in our relationship with Jesus we must not be satisfied with words  alone. In  his  answer,  Philip offers Nathanael a meaningful invitation:  “Come and see!” (Jn 1: 46). Our knowledge of Jesus needs above all a first-hand experience: someone else’s testimony is of course important, for normally  the  whole  of  our  Christian life begins with the proclamation handed  down  to  us  by  one  or  more  witnesses.

However, we ourselves must then be personally involved in a close and deep relationship with Jesus; in a similar way, when the Samaritans had heard the testimony of their fellow citizen whom Jesus had met at Jacob’s well, they wanted to talk to him directly, and after this conversation they told the woman:  “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world” (Jn 4: 42).

Returning to the scene of Nathanael’s vocation, the Evangelist tells us that when Jesus sees Nathanael approaching, he exclaims: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!” (Jn 1: 47). This is praise reminiscent of the text of a Psalm: “Blessed is the man… in whose spirit there is no deceit” (32[31]: 2), but provokes the curiosity of Nathanael who answers in amazement:  “How do you know me?” (Jn 1: 48).

Jesus’ reply cannot immediately be understood. He says: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig  tree,  I  saw  you” (Jn  1: 48).  We  do not know what had happened under this fig tree. It is obvious that it had to do with a decisive moment in Nathanael’s life.

His heart is moved by Jesus’ words, he feels understood and he understands: “This man knows everything about me, he knows and is familiar with the road of life; I can truly trust this man”. And so he answers with a clear and beautiful confession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (Jn 1: 49). In this confession is conveyed a first important step in the journey of attachment to Jesus.

Nathanael’s words shed light on a twofold, complementary aspect of Jesus’ identity: he is recognized both in his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the Only-begotten Son, and in his relationship with the People of Israel, of whom he is the declared King, precisely the description of the awaited Messiah. We must never lose sight of either of these two elements because if we only proclaim Jesus’ heavenly dimension, we risk making him an ethereal and evanescent being; and if, on the contrary, we recognize only his concrete place in history, we end by neglecting the divine dimension that properly qualifies him.

We have no precise information about Bartholomew-Nathanael’s subsequent apostolic activity. According to information handed down by Eusebius, the fourth-century historian, a certain Pantaenus is supposed to have discovered traces of Bartholomew’s presence even in India (cf. Hist. eccl. V, 10, 3).

In later tradition, as from the Middle Ages, the account of his death by flaying became very popular. Only think of the famous scene of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel in which Michelangelo painted St Bartholomew, who is holding his own skin in his left hand, on which the artist left his self-portrait.

St Bartholomew’s relics are venerated here in Rome in the Church dedicated to him on the Tiber Island, where they are said to have been brought by the German Emperor Otto III in the year 983.

To conclude, we can say that despite the scarcity of information about him, St Bartholomew stands before us to tell us that attachment to Jesus can also be lived and witnessed to without performing sensational deeds. Jesus himself, to whom each one of us is called to dedicate his or her own life and death, is and remains extraordinary.

The apostles are often portrayed in art with the means of their death, so you do see Bartholomew holding his flayed skin.  As Benedict mentions, the most well-known is the depiction in the Michelangelo’s Last Judgment.

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Also impressive is the huge statue in St. John Lateran. It stands in the central nave, along with representations of all the apostles. 

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Remember that all of Benedict’s General Audience talks on the apostles are available in book form. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Good online reading:

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

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

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

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

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Mother of the Year entry for today:

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

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

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

(You probably already know what’s coming.)

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

Uh…no.

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

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

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

As I said, Mother of the Year. 

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

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"amy welborn"

Favorite time of day

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

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Actually, it’s not just free for the Feast of the Assumption – it’s free all the time.

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A review from  by Sarah Reinhard here

In less than 150 pages, Welborn shares relevant history, devotions, and thoughts on the Blessed Virgin. Her language is so accessible, so real, that I almost feel like she was sitting across the table from me as I drank coffee and devoured the book.

If you’re unsure about devotion to Mary and why it’s important, this is a great book to introduce you to it without hitting you over the head with it. If you’re grounded in your Marian approach, pick up this book and find yourself reminded of the beauty of the simple, of the richness of the history, and of the thoughts of great minds before us about Mary.

You can download a pdf or find a link to Scribd here.

Related: I also wrote the text for a small book on the rosary which OSV has mysteriously (to me) put out of print, but you can find used copies here:

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From the Vatican website, a good article on today’s saint in the context of the permanent diaconate:

In his De Officiis (1, 41, 205-207) we have Ambrose’s particularly eloquent account of the martyrdom of St Lawrence. It was subsequently taken up by Prudentius and by St Augustine. Hence it passes to Maximus of Turin, St Peter Chrisologus and to Leo the Great before emerging again in some of the formularies of the Roman Sacramentals, the Missale Gothicumm and in the Caerimoniale Visigoticum (Bibliotheca Sanctorum, …..1538-1539).

Ambrose dwells, firstly, on the encounter and dialogue of Lawrence and Sixtus. He alludes to the distribution of the Church’s goods to the poor and ends by mentioning the grid-iron, the instrument of Lawrence’s torture, and remarks on the phrase which the proto-Deacon of the Roman Church addresses to his torturers: “assum est…versa et manduca” (cf. Bibliotheca Sanctorum …., col 1538-1539).

We shall dwell on the Ambrosian text of the De Officiis (Cap. 41,nn. 205-206-207), which is very moving in its intensity and strength of expression. Thus writes St Ambrose:

“St Lawrence wept when he saw his Bishop, Sixtus, led out to his martyrdom. He wept not because he was being let out to die but because he would survive Sixtus. He cried out to him in a loud voice: ‘Where are you going Father, without your son? Where do you hasten to, holy Bishop, without your Deacon? You cannot offer sacrifice

without a minister. Father, are you displeased with something in me? Do you think me unworthy? Show us a sign that you have found a worthy minister. Do you not wish that he to whom you gave the Lord’s blood and with whom you have shared the sacred mysteries should spill his own blood with you? Beware that in your praise your own judgment should not falter. Despise the pupil and shame the Master. Do not forget that great and famous men are victorious more in the deeds of their disciples than in their own. Abraham made sacrifice of his own son, Peter instead sent Stephen. Father, show us your own strength in your sons; sacrifice him whom you have raised, to attain eternal reward in that glorious company, secure in your judgment”.

In reply Sixtus says: “I will not leave you, I will not abandon you my son. More difficult trials are kept for you. A shorter race is set for us who are older. For you who are young a more glorious triumph over tyranny is reserved. Soon, you will see, cry no more, after three days you will follow me. It is fitting that such an interval should be set between Bishop and Levite. It would not have been fitting for you to die under the guidance of a martyr, as though you needed help from him. Why do want to share in my martyrdom? I leave its entire inheritance to you. Why do need me present? The weak pupil precedes the master, the strong, who have no further need of instruction, follow and conquer without him. Thus Elijah left Elisha. I entrust the success of my strength to you”.

This was the contest between them which was worthy of a Bishop and of a Deacon: who would be the first to die for Christ (It is said that in tragedy, the spectators would burst into applause when Pilade said he was Orestes and when Orestes himself declared that he was Orestes) the one who would be killed instead of Orestes, and when Orestes prevented Pilades from being killed in place of himself. Neither of these deserved to live for both were guilty of patricide. One because he had killed his father, the other because he had been an accomplice in patricide.) In the case of Lawrence, nothing urged him to offer himself as a victim but the desire to be a holocaust for Christ. Three days after the death of Sixtus, while the terror raged, Lawrence would be burned on the grid-iron: “This side is done, turn and eat”. With such strength of soul he conquered the flames of the fire” (Ambrose, De Officiis).

…..

The principle characteristic defining the Deacon in se, and his ministry, is that he is ordained for the service of charity. Martyrdom, which is a witness to the point of shedding one’s blood, must be considered an expression of greater love or charity. It is service to a charity that knows no limits. The ministry of charity in which the Deacon is deputed by ordination is not limited to service at table, or indeed to what former catechetical terminology called corporal works of mercy, nor to the spiritual works of mercy. The diaconal service of charity must include imitation of Christ by means of unconditional self-giving since he is the fruitful witness …… (cf Ap 1, 5:13; 14).

In the case of Lawrence, as St Ambrose explains, “no other desire urged him but that of offering himself to the Lord as a holocaust” (de Officiis, 1,41, n. 207). By means of the witness borne before his persecutors, it is evident that the diaconal ministry is not to be equated with that of service to one’s neighbour, understood or reduced solely to their material needs. Lawrence, in that act which expresses a greater love for Christ and which leads to his giving up his own life, also permits his tormentors, in a certain sense, to experience the Incarnate Word who, in the end, is the personal and common destiny of all mankind. This is a theological service of charity to which every Deacon must tend or, at least, be disposed to accept.   More

A good summary of his life from a site for deacons.

A short an interesting article on the iconography of St. Lawrence:

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…the curse being for the kid being homeschooled, of course.

I’ve written about introversion and parenting before  In fact, it’s one of the more frequent search terms bringing people to my blog – some combination of “introverted” and parenting.

And what’s an INFP? Well, probably gobbledygook, but I’ve actually found it to be a useful and pretty accurate way of understanding myself. The initials stand for Introverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiving.  What it means in my psyche is that I am not shy or awkward with others, but am drained by time with others and energized by time alone.  The NFP parts add up to mean that I deal with life by observing and responding to it rather than trying to organize it ahead of time.

So yes, I plan, but I do so by watching you and then figuring stuff out at 2 AM. And then jotting a few notes down on the back of an envelope, but being perfectly willing to jump down a rabbit hole if the situation seems to call for it.

So this afternoon, the boys were at a movie, and I was at Barnes and Noble, going through all my bookmarks and Pinterest pins and endless emails I’ve sent to myself with pertinent homeschooling links and getting psyched about the year.

As I wrote before, the ten-year old is not unenthusiastic, but he does have  a bit of anxiety about “keeping up” and his friend who is going to the brainiac school up the hill. As I clicked and scrolled and my pen flew over the pages of my Moleskin (of course), I pondered this, and considered “my” planning, and stopped short.

He’s ten. Almost eleven.  I keep saying I’m all about the unschooling. And we have tried to be totally unschooling, but it’s not a great fit for the older boy (who will be going to high school this year anyway), and then the younger one’s worry kicked in, so I got more proactive and started planning, and then there I was at the bookstore…planning.

I thought…what. Am I doing. There’s got to be a way to help this super smart kid with a ton of interests to take more charge of his own schooling…but feel okay about it.  To help him feel that “yes, this is school, yes you are keeping up. More than keeping up.”

So I closed the computer, picked the boys up, came home, opened the computer back up, typed up some sheets, printed them up and put them in a notebook.  In a little bit, we’ll sit down and go over them.

  • Page 1: The subjects for this year and the spines we’ll be using. (“spines” are the foundational texts – lots of supplementary material and activities are assumed.)
  • Page 2: What should happen every day.  Prayer & chat about the saint of the day; Handwriting/copywork; Math; Latin; Creative time – draw, sculpt, play music, go outside and explore, write, etc.
  • Page 3:  the list of other activities and when they’re happening, from piano to boxing to Troops of St. George to zoo class, etc.
  • Page 4: What he wants to do. What specifically does he want to study this year? (for example, over the past couple of days, he’s mentioned he really wants to delve into herp biology and also do a lot of dissection. Not of Rocky, we can assume). Does he want to play with another language (via Duolingo or something)? Pick up another instrument? Find a different kind of art class? Cook? Clean the basement?

It just occurred to me that his needs weren’t being well served by my instinct to keep things in my head and just respond to the moment.  He needs more than that.  And I really hope – and believe – that what’s going to happen in me being more organized, and us talking it out and being more collaborative, even if I’m taking the lead, the end result just might be him feeling confident enough to  take a bigger role in staking out his own direction, without being afraid that he’s “behind.”

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