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(This will be quick)

The show had quite a bit.  Style, 2/3 excellent acting, great humor and did I mention style?

The most powerful, pointed works of art reach both outward and inward.  A character is recognizable as both a symbol of some telling aspect of the world around him and as a human being.

The problem with Don Draper was that, in the end, he was all symbol, and not, as written, recognizable as a real human person.

What did he symbolize?

The modern man’s lack of identity and roots. His willingness to slip in and out of roles with no deep sense of who he is.  The resultant endless search and treatment of other people as non-persons as well.

The endless circle of materialism that we exploit and dig into as we search, search, search.

Interpersonal exploitation and exploiting what one learns in the exploitation so one can dream up ads for crap that no one needs but now thinks they do because they, too, are searching, dreaming, and yearning.

But Mad Men, unlike, say, Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, ultimately, I think fails in this regard (while it succeeded in many other) for two reasons:

First, the absence of any real satirical edge.  I wrote about this before.  Mad Men gives us all these interesting people tossing about occasionally interesting ideas and recognizing certain truths in service of….ads for stuff. And if you look at advertising in the 1960’s, it’s mostly goofy and ridiculous and lame and doesn’t match the pseudo-elevated tone of the creative strivings of the characters.  There were flashes here and there, but the whole series would have been more honest if there had been at least one character who consistently grappled with the moral questions that arise from striving for wealth and using one’s gifts to produce awkward clips that  seek to manipulate consumers into buying things.

Secondly, as I began this post…Don Draper is ultimately not a real person.  And perhaps that is the point? Okay, but again, here’s where irony and satire comes in play.  If the ending had been satirical, I would have bought it with great enthusiasm.  And perhaps it was?  But…I don’t think so.  It’s presented as the completion of a circle of sorts in terms of Draper’s relationship with himself and advertising as an extension of himself.  Fine.  There’s a point to that that is consistent with the entire series.

But. It’s coy and unsatisfying as well because it doesn’t address the fact that Don Draper has failed as a human being. This failureis symbolized most powerfully and even ironically, in terms of the whole series, by the fact that cigarettes, where he made his mark, killed the woman who became his ex-wife because of his lies about his identity and his infidelity. That’s no secret, and yeah, Betty’s still smoking in that last shot, lung cancer or no.

It’s not unrecognized in the episode, either, that failure.  When he tries to give the same “You won’t believe how easy it is to walk away from your child” speech to Anna’s niece as he had given to Peggy, she rejects it out of hand, and in that, he is forced to confront the falsity of his entire life of walking away from his children.

And he does, breaking down into really nothing.

Then he meditates, cut to Coke.

Which, as I said, works on a certain level…when you have had a character development trajectory that has been dosed with a knowing satirical and ironic critical edge all along.  Yup, here we go, we’d be able to say.  One more con.  One more attempt to compensate for your moral failure by creating an advertisement that expresses what you should be bringing to your actual life, but aren’t.

But we haven’t had that edge, testing and teasing Don.  We’ve been immersed in Don’s endless agonizing and victimization of others as a serious human quest for identity and acceptance, and therefore, the resolution should be consistent with that path.

It wasn’t.  The bare facts of it could have been, but structurally, it didn’t work and wasn’t satisfying, not because we “need to know what happens” regarding Don and his kids, for example, just because we’re curious, but because that along with all of Don’s personal problems, was an issue. 

In the end, Weiner couldn’t create a character that held all of this in the right sort of tension, balancing truth about human life and choices with a knowing, ironic look at all we throw out there as a distraction and ultimately fruitless compensation.

But yeah, I’d watch The Campbells of Wichita.  In a heartbeat.

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That’s what it is, no matter what…40 days after Easter, right?

(Although in Italy, also, it’s celebrated on Sunday, so these homilies reflect that.)

Some reflections from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:

2006, from a homily in Krakow:

Brothers and Sisters, today in Błonie Park in Kraków we hear once again this question from the Acts of the Apostles. This time it is directed to all of us: “Why do you stand looking up to heaven?” The answer to this question involves the fundamental truth about the life and destiny of every man and woman.

The question has to do with our attitude to two basic realities which shape every human life: earth and heaven. First, the earth: “Why do you stand?” – Why are you here on earth? Our answer is that we are here on earth because our Maker has put us here as the crowning work of his creation. Almighty God, in his ineffable plan of love, created the universe, bringing it forth from nothing. Then, at the completion of this work, he bestowed life on men and women, creating them in his own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-27). He gave them the dignity of being children of God and the gift of immortality. We know that man went astray, misused the gift of freedom and said “No” to God, thus condemning himself to a life marked by evil, sin, suffering and death. But we also know that God was not resigned to this situation, but entered directly into humanity’s history, which then became a history of salvation. “We stand” on the earth, we are rooted in the earth and we grow from it. Here we do good in the many areas of everyday life, in the material and spiritual realms, in our relationships with other people, in our efforts to build up the human community and in culture. Here too we experience the weariness of those who make their way towards a goal by long and winding paths, amid hesitations, tensions, uncertainties, in the conviction that the journey will one day come to an end. That is when the question arises: Is this all there is? Is this earth on which “we stand” our final destiny?

And so we need to turn to the second part of the biblical question: “Why do you stand looking up to heaven?” We Salvador Dali, Ascensionhave read that, just as the Apostles were asking the Risen Lord about the restoration of Israel’s earthly kingdom, “He was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.” And “they looked up to heaven as he went” (cf. Acts 1:9-10). They looked up to heaven because they looked to Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Risen One, raised up on high. We do not know whether at that precise moment they realized that a magnificent, infinite horizon was opening up before their eyes: the ultimate goal of our earthly pilgrimage. Perhaps they only realized this at Pentecost, in the light of the Holy Spirit. But for us, at a distance of two thousand years, the meaning of that event is quite clear. Here on earth, we are called to look up to heaven, to turn our minds and hearts to the inexpressible mystery of God. We are called to look towards this divine reality, to which we have been directed from our creation. For there we find life’s ultimate meaning.

….I too, Benedict XVI, the Successor of Pope John Paul II, am asking you to look up from earth to heaven, to lift your eyes to the One to whom succeeding generations have looked for two thousand years, and in whom they have discovered life’s ultimate meaning. Strengthened by faith in God, devote yourselves fervently to consolidating his Kingdom on earth, a Kingdom of goodness, justice, solidarity and mercy. I ask you to bear courageous witness to the Gospel before today’s world, bringing hope to the poor, the suffering, the lost and abandoned, the desperate and those yearning for freedom, truth and peace. By doing good to your neighbour and showing your concern for the common good, you bear witness that God is love.

2009, at Monte Cassino:

In this perspective we understand why the Evangelist Luke says that after the Ascension the disciples returned to Jerusalem “with great joy” (24: 52). Their joy stems from the fact that what had happened was not really a separation, the Lord’s permanent absence: on the contrary, they were then certain that the Crucified-Risen One was alive and that in him God’s gates, the gates of eternal life, had been opened to humanity for ever. In other words, his Ascension did not imply a temporary absence from the world but rather inaugurated the new, definitive and insuppressible form of his presence by virtue of his participation in the royal power of God. It was to be up to them, the disciples emboldened by the power of the Holy Spirit, to make his presence visible by their witness, preaching and missionary zeal. The Solemnity of the Lord’s Ascension must also fill us with serenity and enthusiasm, just as it did the Apostles who set out again from the Mount of Olives “with great joy”. Like them, we too, accepting the invitation of the “two men in dazzling apparel”, must not stay gazing up at the sky, but, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit must go everywhere and proclaim the saving message of Christ’s death and Resurrection.

2005:

The human being finds room in God; through Christ, the human being was introduced into the very life of God. And since God embraces and sustains the entire cosmos, the Ascension of the Lord means that Christ has not departed from us, but that he is now, thanks to his being with the Father, close to each one of us for ever. Each one of us can be on intimate terms with him; each can call upon him. The Lord is always within hearing. We can inwardly draw away from him. We can live turning our backs on him. But he always waits for us and is always close to us.

(This 2005 homily is very interesting, for it was delivered very soon after his election, and contains good thoughts on the role of the papacy, particularly its limits.)

2010 Angelus:

The Lord draws the gaze of the Apostles our gaze toward Heaven to show how to travel the road of good during earthly life. Nevertheless, he remains within the framework of human history, he is near to each of us and guides our Christian journey: he is the companion of the those persecuted for the faith, he is in the heart of those who are marginalized, he is present in those whom the right to life is denied. We can hear, see and touch our Lord Jesus in the Church, especially through the word and the sacraments……

….Dear Brothers and Sisters, the Lord opening the way to Heaven, gives us a foretaste of divine life already on this earth. A 19th-century Russian author wrote in his spiritual testament: “Observe the stars more often. When you have a burden in your soul, look at the stars or the azure of the sky. When you feel sad, when they offend you… converse… with Heaven. Then your soul will find rest” 

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Mary related from my stuff:

The free e-book of Mary and the Christian Life.  Go. Read.  Download! 

"amy welborn"

The Rosary

From the introduction:

In his apostolic letter, John Paul II wrote that the most important reason to encourage the practice of the Rosary is that it fosters a “commitment to the contemplation of the Christian mystery” in all of its richness. Our model of contemplation, the Pope says, is Mary. In the way that any mother would look upon the face of her child, Mary as the mother of Jesus is the perfect model for our approach to contemplation of the face of Christ.

The Gospels show that the gaze of Mary varied depending upon the circumstances of life. So it will be with us. Each time we pick up the holy beads to recite the Rosary, our gaze at the mystery of Christ will differ depending "amy welborn"on where we find ourselves at that moment.

Thereafter Mary’s gaze, ever filled with adoration and wonder, would never leave him. At times it would be a questioning look, as in the episode of the finding in the Temple: “Son, why have you treated us so?” (Lk 2:48); it would always be a penetrating gaze, one capable of deeply understanding Jesus, even to the point of perceiving his hidden feelings and anticipating his decisions, as at Cana (cf. Jn 2:5). At other times it would be a look of sorrow, especially beneath the Cross, where her vision would still be that of mother giving birth, for Mary not only shared the passion and death of her Son, she also received the new son given to her in the beloved disciple (cf. Jn 19:26-27). On the morning of Easter hers would be a gaze radiant with the joy of the Resurrection, and finally, on the day of Pentecost, a gaze afire with the outpouring of the Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14) [Rosarium Virginis Mariae, no. 10].

As we pray the Rosary, then, we join with Mary in contemplating Christ. With her, we remember Christ, we proclaim Him, we learn from Him, and, most importantly, as we raise our voices in prayer and our hearts in contemplation of the holy mysteries, this “compendium of the Gospel” itself, we are conformed to Him.

Also, for more on some Marian prayers, check out The Words We Pray:

And then, as Compline drew to a close and night settled, the monks started singing.

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy

It was what all monks sing at the end of Compline, everywhere. The Salve Regina. I had never heard it before in my life.

Our life, our sweetness and our hope.

"amy welborn"The chant drifted through the chapel, settling around us like stars emerging from the night sky.

To thee do we cry, Poor banished children of Eve

Yes. I cry, banished, my own actions bringing tears to the lives of others. What could I do?

To thee do we send up our sighs, Mourning and weeping In this valley of tears.

All of us.

Turn then, most gracious Advocate, Thine eyes of mercy towards us,

Please.

O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!

The monks raised their voices in hope at the end of each phrase, and then paused a great pause in between, letting the hope rise and then settle back into their hearts. My own heart rushed, unbidden by me, uncontrolled, right into those pauses and joined the prayer. A prayer written by a eleventh-century bedridden brother, chanted by monks in the middle of Georgia, and joined by me and the silent folk scattered in the pews around me, each with his or her own reasons to beg the Virgin for her prayers.

And we weren’t the only ones joined in that prayer. With us was a great throng of other Christians who had prayed it over the centuries, and who are praying it at this very moment.

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— 1 —

One of the dads of my son’s 8th grade class writes icons.  So for the class school auction contribution, over a period of several weeks, the class worked with this dad to write an icon.

They worked in small groups, and on the day it was your turn, you were prepare beforehand by fasting and praying.

The completed icon was blessed at the liturgy at the local Melkite Rite Catholic Church.

(We couldn’t go because the boys were committed to serve elsewhere that morning. I was sorry to have missed it!)

Then it was purchased at the auction and donated back to the school, where it will hang.

"amy welborn"

We had an 8th grade appreciation dinner the other night, at which the icon was displayed, each 8th grader received a lovely copy of it,  and a video about the writing of the icon was shown. The soundtrack was haunting, fantastic Greek Catholic chant.

— 2 —

The thing is, when you talk about Birmingham, Alabama and Catholics, people don’t realize that along with the Italians, it was Eastern Catholics – Melkite and Maronite – who were the earliest Catholics inhabitants here, along with Russian (the first Russian Orthodox church in the South was founded in Brookside, a tiny community just north of Birmingham)  and Eastern European Orthodox. They came as miners, ironworkes, railroad workers, and shopkeepers.  Add the early, vibrant Jewish presence in Birmingham, and you have a community that has a surprisingly strong Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean historical subculture.  There’s great Mediterranean food here, both in local (but growing) chains like Taziki’s and Zoe’s Kitchen, both of which originated here, as well as in independent restaurants, including one of the newcomers, Eli’s Jerusalem Grill, where we ate last weekend, and which served the best falafel I’ve had here, and delicious shawarma.

What this means (back to the religious conversation) is that because the Catholic population as a whole is relatively small, but also with historical roots that are deep and diverse – for example, my son’s former Catholic school celebrated a Maronite Catholic liturgy twice every school year –  Birmingham Catholics tend to have a good, healthy understanding of the cultural  breadth of “Catholic.”

(By the way, Fr. Mitch Pacwa is bi-ritual and often celebrates the liturgy at the local Maronite parish)

— 3 —

Speaking of Catholic schools….how about an end-of-the year gift for…

….your children’s catechist?

….your parish DRE?

….your school or parish library?

"amy welborn"

— 4 —

"amy welborn"

May crowning at the convent.  I never have good Mass photos because I really don’t like to take photos during Mass.  This is about as good as it gets. My ten-year old is holding the crown of flowers over there.  The older one was camping, so he went to Mass somewhere in Georgia….

What is better than my photos is the quality of preaching we hear at the convent  – which along with the sound, simple, reverent Catholic sacred music – is a primary motive for our attendance there. Since it is retreat house, when there is a retreat, the Sunday liturgy is celebrated by the priest offering the weekend, so you know the preaching is going to be good.  Over the past weeks, we’ve heard homilies from Fr. Paul Check, director of the Courage apostolate, and Fr. James Kubicki, SJ, national director of the Apostleship of Prayer.  And when there’s no retreat, the celebrant is generally one of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, so that’s pretty good, too!

— 5 —

School proceeds apace.  The older son will be done with his school in a week, so the sort-of-formal homeschool will wind down then as well, although both will continue with math in some form all summer, and we’ll do a little bit of Latin every day (or close to it) as well.  Plus all of the other TEACHABLE MOMENTS, you know.  That never stops.  Poor kids.

Recent rabbit-holes:

(I judge the quality of our homeschool day by two things:  Did Math get done and were the rabbit holes interesting and plentiful?)

  • Latin vocabulary word was scutum, which means shield.  He knew he had heard something related before, so  he pulled out the big Oxford dictionary (for things like this, we use the print dictionary instead of the internet – you get a better sense of the breadth and depth of word roots and derivations with a dictionary).

Well, of course – a scute is a kind of/part of a reptile scale….so yes, he’d heard of it.  And learned some more as we poured over various related words.

  • Next up was lignum  – wood.  That, too, was familiar, but for a different reason.  I pulled out the coal samples we’d studied a few weeks ago, and we remembered that yes, one of them was lignite, so called because of all the forms of coal, on it, the outline of the original wood can often be most clearly seen.
  • Today’s saint was Flavia Domitilla, from Ponza…an island off the coast of Italy, which neither of us knew existed, so we looked that up and learned about it.  Archipelagos came up for some reason, so that was pursued, and various animals native to various islands were followed…and on it went.
  • I’d checked out a fun, cartoonish book on animals in history.  He’d read through most of it the other day, but we poked around it a bit more before returning it to the library, talking about Magellan, Napoleon, Newton, Mozart, and spending some time on Seaman, the Newfoundland who accompanied Lewis and Clark, and who is around in most of the statues commemorating the exploration, including this one – I’d remembered the statue, of course, but completely forgotten about the dog – from Saint Charles, MO, which was the starting point of the journey.

"amy welborn"

And earlier in the week, there’s been, after the piano lesson, time spent at the botanical garden (one of our city’s treasures…and, like the other treasure, the art museum….free) and the zoo, with old friends.

"amy welborn"

— 6 —

I have mentioned this on Twitter, but I’m not sure if I have mentioned it here or not – this great site that has loads and loads of quotes and poems related to every month and season of the year.  It’s just a lot of fun to peruse, period, but especially so if you want seasonally-related quotations and poetry to share with kids – say, for copywork or memory work.

As I look beyond Getting Started With Latin, I’m poking around various other Latin curricula, and considering an unhurried journey through Cambridge. While on that site, I discovered this really astonishing section on “Classical Tales” – complete with beautifully done audio retellings, printables, links….wow.   

— 7 —

Still time?  Maybe!

"amy welborn"

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

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…is coming.  And you still have time to order this, even from me!

(Update:   if you go to the order page, you will see two ordering options.  One is sent Media Mail, and the other is Priority. Order “priority” if you would like it by this weekend.)

The Catholic Woman’s Book of Days is a 365-day devotional for Catholic women. It is loosely tied to the liturgical year, is a very handy size, and features special devotions for several saints. It is not structured to be tied to any particular year. So it’s sort of perennial. And no, I don’t know about the crosses on the cover. People always ask me about them, thinking they’re mine. You can take a look inside the devotional, including several entries for January and June here.

I would like to add that the devotional entries were very carefully composed to be inclusive of all women, no matter their state in life or areas of interest.  I don’t presume that all women are married, have children, single, widowed, divorced, young, elderly, employed outside the home or not, homeschoolers, are into shopping or shoes or purses, are engaged with social media, or what have you.  It wasn’t an easy book to write – in fact, it was the most difficult book I’ve written – but I’m pleased with the outcome, and I think most readers are as well.

If you want to get more of a sense of what these devotions are like, check out my Living Faith contributions.  You can read a few here:

April 23

April 19

January 18

December 7, 2014

December 12, 2014

January 20

January 23

I have a few copies of this book here. The price I ask includes shipping, but I send Media Mail.  If you would like it shipped Priority, I’d just ask that you email me at amywelborn60-at-gmail.com, so we can arrange faster shipping.

Other Mother’s Day suggestions:

I also have copies of all the Engelhart/Welborn collaborations (sorry, no saints books right now – but we’re holding strong at #1 and #2 bestsellers in that category on Amazon.) – and you can get all four for $50, shipping included, and they will be signed by both of us.  Also, copies of The How to Book of the Mass and How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist. 

As always, make sure your local Catholic bookstore carries these books first!

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…not really great. Just a silence?

Yeah, no internet or landline for a week now.  I’ve been promised a fix tomorrow – just as I’ve been promised every day.  I’ll wait to unload on this matter until it is, actually restored.  I’m sitting in McDonald’s trying to answer some email, so I thought I would just check in.

This week in Living Faith:  

April 19, here.

And today’s – April 23. 

More later.  I hope.

And don’t forget!  Books!

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A few years back, I had whipped up a graphic using this, one of my favorite Benedict quotes, but I couldn’t find the one I was thinking of.  I did find this one, though, which isn’t super pretty, but seems to me especially appropriate for this, his 88th birthday.

"pope Benedict XVI"

Stay united to one another, help one another to live and to increase in faith and in Christian life to be daring witnesses of the Lord. Be united but not closed. Be humble but not fearful. Be simple but non ingenuous. Be thoughtful but not complicated. Enter into dialogue with all, but be yourselves.

-Meeting with young people in Genoa, 2008.

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