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As I wrote earlier this week, we freaky southerners are getting ready to start school, and that includes me and my homeschooler.

Some of you homeschool all year round, and I admit that at the beginning of this summer we were Going to Do Math and Handwriting! Every Day!

Didn’t happen.

Mostly because of travel and other adventures, I suppose.  We started reviewing Beast Academy 4D in early July, but only in a scattered way.

1952jollyjumpupsjourney1The kid reads constantly, however, and did continue piano over the summer in a fairly intense way (sporadic lessons, but the repertoire – Bach’s Invention 13, Joplin’s “Elite Syncopations” and a movement of Mozart’s Sonata in C, K. 545  – has been challenging), so that’s been plenty.

But mostly for my own sake, I’m going to lay out the thoughts I’m having for the coming school year, and invite you all to tell me (and us) what you are doing:

Reminder: Kid is 10, almost 11, 5th grade. 

Note: I want to be more unschoolish here than we end up being.  I probably should just give up the pretense. This year, I am adding more formal science and history components for his sake, in this sense:  I know that when he sits for an hour reading the non-fiction science and history books we check out of the library, when we watch videos on the same, when we do science experiments with what we have on hand –I know that when we do all of that, he is learning, and learning plenty, but he  is starting to worry, especially since one of his friends has transferred from the old Catholic school he attended to one of the higher-pressure elite independent private schools around.  Spending some time with textbooks every day is going to help him  feel more secure that education is happening.  

Also:  I love  homeschooling, but I will straight up say that if there were a Classical academy around here (that wasn’t operated from a Reformed Christian perspective) – he’d be there. And he’d love it. 

Schoolish stuff:

So..I guess we can kiss that whole “unschooler” pretense goodbye, eh?

Except … I will cling to some semblance of that identity by emphasizing that if the kid sees something outside or in that draws his attention…he’s free to pursue it.  And if we read something or watch something that leads down a rabbit hole…we follow it.

Also, “school” occupies no more than three hours a day – no more.  And that includes video-watching time, which is super important – videos from  the Kids Should See This, and other places…

FYI, note the absence of spelling.  He’s a good speller, and so it’s really not necessary. We haven’t done “spelling” with him since the first year of homeschooling.

Outside of home, structured stuff:

  • Troops of St. George, which is starting in our area
  • Basketball, when that starts.
  • Science Center Class (once a month) – probably.  I waited too long to register, so he’s first on the waiting list…#mybad
  • Boxing (weekly)
  • A 6-week zoo class in being a “Junior Zoo Vet”  – he’s super excited about this one.
  • Not sure about art – he has enjoyed the classes in the past, but is saying he doesn’t want to start up again right now, which is fine.
  • Piano. 

Much more as it pops up – there are local outdoorsy homeschool meetups constantly and all over the place.  Fun stuff over the next few months in Atlanta, at the High Museum, History Center & Shakespeare Tavern, as well as up in Huntsville at the Space and Rocket Center – we’ll think about those for the winter or spring. 

What are we changing, besides being more structured with history and science “spines?”   Nothing, really.

What about you folks????

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From Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:

Before you read, think about mercy and the margins:

Today I would like to present to you the figure of a holy Doctor of the Church to whom we are deeply indebted because he was an outstanding moral theologian and a teacher of spiritual life for all, especially simple people. He is the author of the words and music of one of the most popular Christmas carols in Italy and not only Italy: Tu scendi dalle stelle [You come down from the stars].

Belonging to a rich noble family of Naples, Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori [known in English as Alphonsus Liguori] was born in 1696. Endowed with outstanding intellectual qualities, when he was only 16 years old he obtained a degree in civil and canon law. He was the most brilliant lawyer in the tribunal of Naples: for eight years he won all the cases he defended. However, in his soul thirsting for God and desirous of perfection, the Lord led Alphonsus to understand that he was calling him to a different vocation. In fact, in 1723, indignant at the corruption and injustice that was ruining the legal milieu, he abandoned his profession — and with it riches and success — and decided to become a priest despite the opposition of his father.

He had excellent teachers who introduced him to the study of Sacred Scripture, of the Church history and of mysticism. He acquired a vast theological culture which he put to good use when, after a few years, he embarked on his work as a writer.

He was ordained a priest in 1726 and, for the exercise of his ministry entered the diocesan Congregation of Apostolic Missions. Alphonsus began an activity of evangelization and catechesis among the humblest classes of Neapolitan society, to whom he liked preaching, and whom he instructed in the basic truths of the faith. Many of these people, poor and modest, to whom he addressed himself, were very often prone to vice and involved in crime. He patiently taught them to pray, encouraging them to improve their way of life.

Alphonsus obtained excellent results: in the most wretched districts of the city there were an increasing number of groups that would meet in the evenings in private houses and workshops to pray and meditate on the word of God, under the guidance of several catechists trained by Alphonsus and by other priests, who regularly visited these groups of the faithful. When at the wish of the Archbishop of Naples, these meetings were held in the chapels of the city, they came to be known as “evening chapels”. They were a true and proper source of moral education, of social improvement and of reciprocal help among the poor: thefts, duels, prostitution ended by almost disappearing.

Even though the social and religious context of the time of St Alphonsus was very different from our own, the “evening chapels” appear as a model of missionary action from which we may draw inspiration today too, for a “new evangelization”, particularly of the poorest people, and for building a more just, fraternal and supportive coexistence. Priests were entrusted with a task of spiritual ministry, while well-trained lay people could be effective Christian animators, an authentic Gospel leaven in the midst of society.

……

St Alphonsus Maria Liguori is an example of a zealous Pastor who conquered souls by preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments combined with behaviour impressed with gentle and merciful goodness that was born from his intense relationship with God, who is infinite Goodness. He had a realistically optimistic vision of the resources of good that the Lord gives to every person and gave importance to the affections and sentiments of the heart, as well as to the mind, to be able to love God and neighbour.

To conclude, I would like to recall that our Saint, like St Francis de Sales — of whom I spoke a few weeks ago — insists that holiness is accessible to every Christian: “the religious as a religious; the secular as a secular; the priest as a priest; the married as married; the man of business as a man of business; the soldier as a soldier; and so of every other state of life” (Practica di amare Gesù Cristo. Opere ascetiche [The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ] Ascetic Works 1, Rome 1933, p. 79).

Let us thank the Lord who, with his Providence inspired saints and doctors in different times and places, who speak the same language to invite us to grow in faith and to live with love and with joy our being Christians in the simple everyday actions, to walk on the path of holiness, on the path towards God and towards true joy. Thank you.

More

From a 2012 audience at Castel Gandalfo, on this feastday, focusing on the saint and prayer:

Dear friends, this is the main question: what is really necessary in my life? I answer with St Alphonsus: “Health and all the graces that we need” (ibid.). He means of course not only the health of the body, but first of all that of the soul, which Jesus gives us. More than anything else we need his liberating presence which makes us truly fully human and hence fills our existence with joy. And it is only through prayer that we can receive him and his grace, which, by enlightening us in every situation, helps us to discern true good and by strengthening us also alphonsus-liguorimakes our will effective, that is, renders it capable of doing what we know is good. We often recognize what is good but are unable to do it. With prayer we succeed in doing it. The disciple of the Lord knows he is always exposed to temptation and does not fail to ask God’s help in prayer in order to resist it.

St Alphonsus very interestingly cites the example of St Philip Neri who “the very moment when he awoke in the morning, said to God: ‘Lord, keep Thy hands over Philip this day; for if not, Philip will betray Thee’” (III, 3). What a great realist! He asks God to keep his hands upon him. We too, aware of our weakness, must humbly seek God’s help, relying on his boundless mercy. St Alphonsus says in another passage: “We are so poor that we have nothing; but if we pray we are no longer poor. If we are poor, God is rich” (II, 4). And, following in St Augustine’s wake, he invites all Christians not to be afraid to obtain from God, through prayer, the power they do not possess that is necessary in order to do good, in the certainty that the Lord will not refuse his help to whoever prays to him with humility (cf. III, 3).

Dear friends, St Alphonsus reminds us that the relationship with God is essential in our life. Without the relationship with God, the fundamental relationship is absent. The relationship with God is brought into being in conversation with God, in daily personal prayer and with participation in the sacraments. This relationship is thus able to grow within us, as can the divine presence that directs us on our way, illuminates it and makes it safe and peaceful even amidst difficulties and perils. Many thanks.

I really hate to be this directive, but I would like to re-read these excerpts, go to the links to the entire audiences, and consider them carefully.

One of my main issues with the current paradigm of conversation about evangelization and mercy are the unstated assumptions that up until very recently, for most of its history, the Church has really not been about mercy, charity and love, but go us, we’re all about that now.   You see this manifested in a couple of ways:

  • The dearth, in so much of public Catholic discourse – to the way that Catholics – saints, theologians, missionaries, pastoral workers, writers, artists, the Church has a whole – have lived out the Gospel in the complexities of the past.  Times are different, challenges are new, but the point of Incarnation/Redemption/Church is that we don’t start from scratch at every turn. We learn from mistakes, we understand when older modes of expression perhaps fall short of expressing the fullness of the Gospel in a contemporary context, we understand the dynamic, continual development of our understanding of all of this (this saint’s writings, deeply immersed in controversial moral questions and disputes of the day, show this so clearly) but we come at all of that in true humility, not the arrogance of presentism which ignores the depth and breadth of tradition and assumes that it is of no use.
  • And even more directly, the assumption that much of the Church’s teachings, particularly its fundamental human anthropology, stand counter to mercy and charity.  Spin that out to its logical conclusion, honestly, as see where you wind up in relation to thinking about revelation, ecclesiology and, well, the mercy and trustworthiness of God.

You can read all you want of the writings of this saint by heading to the Internet Archive. 

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For those of you in more normal parts of the world, you’re thinking, What? That’s not right…we’ve got a month left!

Not the case down here, where school starts well before Labor Day.

My son will be starting high school, and his orientation is a week from today, classes begin on the 10th.

(The satisfaction comes on the other end – his last day of class will be May 20. Some of you were posting “LAST DAY OF SCHOOL” photos when we’d already been out a month. So there.)

Yesterday I pulled the calendar out and started the ritual Marking-Up of Life.  The high school’s calendar, altar serving schedule, homeschool (5th grader) activities, writing deadlines…and I was thinking about all of this and what parts of the uniform are left to buy and if all the textbooks have arrived and what resources I need to order for the homeschooler and then I thought

IT’S STILL JULY!

And I got a little irritated until, once again, I remembered the merry month of May – we were done with school by May 14 this year and managed to do the Wild West Trip (story still to be finished!) before June.

Our travels for the rest of this summer have been mostly regional – well, all regional.  I had thought of doing a road trip to Philadelphia and Boston for, well, right now, but circumstances intervened, and that won’t be happening. So we are just hanging out here, reading, going to the pool, and getting ready for school. So some notes.

prove-it-complete-set-1001761

  • Are you planning adult education? Consider these resources.

"amy welborn"

  • Are you teaching First Communion children this year? Take a look at Friendship with Jesus and Be Saints. 
  • Are you teaching religion to elementary age students? Friendship with Jesus, Be Saints, Bambinelli Sunday, Adventures in Assisi, The Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints, The Loyola Kids’ Book of Heroes. 
  • Can you help catechists, Catholic schools and parish programs?  Consider gifting your parish, school or favorite catechist with copies of these books.  Click on the covers for more information.

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

"amy welborn"

I have copies of the picture books on hand – in my bookstore.  In fact, I have a lot of them!  If you are interested in bulk orders, contact me – we can make a deal!

Again – even if catechesis isn’t something you are personally involved in, any catechist, parish school, library or program would welcome a donation as a beginning-of-the-year (no matter when it begins…) gift.

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Beatified in 1985 by JPII, Carmelites celebrate him today:

The Carmelite Order celebrates the memorial of Blessed Titus Brandsma, O.Carm on July 27. Blessed Titus is not very well known. I even doubt if he is known at all outside the Order of Carmel. But this man of faith, a priest and a martyr, was a man of our times. He was born in the Netherlands in 1881 and entered the Order as a young man. He was ordained a priest in 1905 and was highly educated. He assumed positions in the academic world as a professor of Philosophy and of history of mysticism. He was a professional journalist and in 1935 was appointed ecclesiastical advisor to Catholic journalists. Both, before and after the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands , he fought against the spread of Nazi ideology and for the freedom of the Catholic education and titus_in_de_tuin_bthe Catholic Press. He was finally arrested and was sent to a succession of prisons and concentration camps. He showed his strength of character and his heroic virtues by the good example he showed to his fellow prisoners. True to his Carmelite vocation, he embraced the Cross of Christ and contemplated His presence in the solitude of his prison cell. His dark night experience was expressed in a poem he wrote while in his cell, “Before A Picture of Jesus In My Cell.” It shows the deep trust and abandonment of a true lover of Christ.

“A new awareness of Thy love
Encompasses ny heart:
Sweet Jesus, I in Thee and thou
In me shall never part.

No grief shall fall my way but I
Shall see thy grief filled eyes:
the lonely way that thou once walked
Has made me sorrow-wise.

All trouble is a white-lit joy
That light my darkest day;
Thy love has turned to brightest light
This night-like way.

If I have Thee alone,
the hours will bless
With still, cold hands of love
My utter loneliness.

Stay with me Jesus, only stay;
I shall not fear,
If reaching out my hand,
I feel Thee near.”

In 1942, after much suffering and enduring much humiliations, he was given a lethal injection and died in Dachau.

Here’s the Italian text of the beatification homily…it’s all I could find.

A very good, if awkwardly translated, more detailed biography – the source of the photo above.

More on Blessed Titus.

Brandsma came to the United States in 1935, where he lectured at Catholic University.  These writings on Carmelite spirituality were based on those talks.

Other saints coming up this week:

Martha, Peter Chrysologus, Ignatius Loyola, Alphonsus Liguori.

My entry on Ignatius of Loyola from The Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints is featured on the website – so prep your kids for the feast!

Link to the book

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— 1 —

Coming soon….. Diana von Glahn, aka The Faithful Traveler, is starting a daily radio show on Real Life Radio. 

And every Friday…I’ll be on it!

amy-welborn3

We’ll be talking about traveling with children/family travel, etc….the show begins on August 3, so be sure to tune in – we’ve recorded two segments already.  I’ve been talking about my life in general, some of our trips, and in particular our humongous three-month trip to Europe in the fall of 2012, with an emphasis on Assisi. Be sure to tune in! 

— 2 —

When last we spoke, we had just visited Warm Springs, Georgia, which again…I recommend. 

After that, we headed further south. The boys spent a couple of days with their family members in Florida.  I was also in Florida, in the Jax/St. Augustine area.  I had work to do, so I spent a lot of time in various Panera Breads doing that but I also stopped by here:

Chamblin’s Uptown – a great used bookstore, although I still maintain that Jacksonville is a strange, unappealing city.  The Durrells are for me and my younger son, the snake book is for him, Twelve Mighty Orphans is for the older one (and he’s devouring it), and No Name, which I’ve already read in e-form, is for my daughter, because I think she would like it.

— 3—

I also spent some time in St. Augustine, but not a lot, since I’ve been there many times before. My main impression this time, as it is every time I go there, because every time I go there it’s summer, is that it’s so. bloody. hot.  I don’t get it.  The temperature there is the same or lower than it is in Birmingham, but it’s so much more miserable. Bleh.

Anyway, the real point is that over the past month or so, I’ve spent time with two other Catholic blogger-types and one of my oldest friends, and neither Instagrammed or Facebooked any of it!

#Proud

— 4 —

Today (if you are reading this on Friday, July 24) is the feast of St. Charblel Makhlouf, who was Lebanese, but who is also very popular in Mexico.  I wrote about it here:

I was particularly interested in the saint in the center – San Charbel Maklouf – for I had seen his image in several homes during the week.  Why is a Lebanese saint so popular in Mexico?

(For, I was told, he is – along with St. Jude, one of the most popular saints in Mexico.)

The person I was talking to didn’t really know, but I assume at least part of the reason has to do with the fact that Lebanese are an important minority in Mexico,with deep roots going back more than a century. The world’s richest man (trading the spot with Gates now and then), Carlos Slim, is Lebanese -Mexican Maronite. Salma Hayak is part Lebanese-Mexican.

Most of all, of course, he’s popular because of the power of his intercession. I didn’t see it, but it’s common in Mexico to drape statues of San Charbel with ribbons on which you’ve written prayers. You can see images from the Flickr pool here, here and here.

— 5 —

Speaking of St. Charbel, readers may or may not know that Maronite Catholics are not unknown in the South.  Particularly along railroad line – the Lebanese were one of the ethnic groups that showed up to do the work.  I gave a woman’s day of recollection over in Jackson, Mississippi, once and a huge proportion of the women present claimed Lebanese roots.  Here in Birmingham, the Maronite Catholic Church, St. Elias, is venerable and established.  The Catholic school my boys used to go to had a Maronite school Mass twice a year. Fr. Mitch Pacwa, who lives here, is bi-ritual and regularly celebrates the Maronite liturgy at St. Elias when he is in town.

A few years ago, I went to an estate sale, and this one was unusual because there was lots of Catholic stuff.  That’s not a normal feature of estate sales in Birmingham, Alabama.  But this one was very Catholic and specifically, very Maronite.  This was one of my treasures from that day:

Do you have a St. Charbel thermometer?

Didn’t think so.

.— 6—

Ice cream is not that hard to make, and is so, so good.  I go between David Lebovitz’s base (eggs) and Jeni’s (no eggs, cornstarch & cream cheese).

This was a David Lebovitz base wtih a bit of chocolate syrup mixed in, as well as melted chocolate & a dab of olive oil for a straciatella thing.

"amy welborn"

— 7 —

If anything is ever going to drive me off of social media, it’s photographs of people’s feet. 

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

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Keeping with our series of interesting saints from all over…here’s Bridget of Sweden.  We’re lucky because the last two popes have written and spoken about her, John Paul II because he named her a co-patroness of Europe in 1999:

Accordingly, during the celebration of the Second Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops, on the eve of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, it has seemed to me that the Christians of Europe, as they join their fellow-citizens in celebrating this turning-point in time, so rich in hope and yet not without its concerns, could draw spiritual benefit from contemplating and invoking certain Saints who are in some way particularly representative of their history. Therefore, after appropriate consulation, and completing what I did on 31 st-brigidDecember 1980 when I declared Co-Patrons of Europe, along with Saint Benedict, two Saints of the first millennium, the brothers Cyril and Methodius, pioneers of the evangelization of the East, I have decided to add to this group of heavenly patrons three figures equally emblematic of critical moments in the second millennium now drawing to its close: Saint Bridget of Sweden, Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Theresa Benedicta of the Cross. Three great Saints, three women who at different times—two in the very heart of the Middle Ages and one in our own century—were outstanding for their fruitful love of Christ’s Church and their witness to his Cross.

…..

The first of these three great figures, Bridget, was born of an aristocratic family in 1303 at Finsta, in the Swedish region of Uppland. She is known above all as a mystic and the foundress of the Order of the Most Holy Saviour. Yet it must not be forgotten that the first part of her life was that of a lay woman happily married to a devout Christian man to whom she bore eight children. In naming her a Co-Patroness of Europe, I would hope that not only those who have received a vocation to the consecrated life but also those called to the ordinary occupations of the life of the laity in the world, and especially to the high and demanding vocation of forming a Christian family, will feel that she is close to them. Without abandoning the comfortable condition of her social status, she and her husband Ulf enjoyed a married life in which conjugal love was joined to intense prayer, the study of Sacred Scripture, mortification and charitable works. Together they founded a small hospital, where they often attended the sick. Bridget was in the habit of serving the poor personally. At the same time, she was appreciated for her gifts as a teacher, which she was able to use when she was required to serve at Court in Stockholm. This experience was the basis of the counsel which she would later give from time to time to princes and rulers concerning the proper fulfilment of their duties. But obviously the first to benefit from these counsels were her children, and it is not by chance that one of her daughters, Catherine, is venerated as a Saint.

But this period of family life was only a first step. The pilgrimage which she made with her husband Ulf to Santiago de Compostela in 1341 symbolically brought this time to a close and prepared her for the new life which began a few years later at the death of her husband. It was then that Bridget recognized the voice of Christ entrusting her with a new mission and guiding her step by step by a series of extraordinary mystical graces.

5. Leaving Sweden in 1349, Bridget settled in Rome, the See of the Successor of Peter. Her move to Italy was a decisive step in expanding her mind and heart not simply geographically and culturally, but above all spiritually. In her desire to venerate the relics of saints, she went on pilgrimage to many places in Italy. She visited Milan, Pavia, Assisi, Ortona, Bari, Benevento, Pozzuoli, Naples, Salerno, Amalfi and the Shrine of Saint Michael the Archangel on Mount Gargano. Her last pilgrimage, made between 1371 and 1372, took her across the Mediterranean to the Holy Land, enabling her to embrace spiritually not only the many holy places of Catholic Europe but also the wellsprings of Christianity in the places sanctified by the life and death of the Redeemer.

Even more than these devout pilgrimages, it was a profound sense of the mystery of Christ and the Church which led Bridget to take part in building up the ecclesial community at a quite critical period in the Church’s history. Her profound union with Christ was accompanied by special gifts of revelation, which made her a point of reference for many people in the Church of her time. Bridget was recognized as having the power of prophecy, and at times her voice did seem to echo that of the great prophets of old. She spoke unabashedly to princes and pontiffs, declaring God’s plan with regard to the events of history. She was not afraid to deliver stern admonitions about the moral reform of the Christian people and the clergy themselves (cf. Revelations, IV, 49; cf. also IV, 5). Understandably, some aspects of her remarkable mystical output raised questions at the time; the Church’s discernment constantly referred these back to public revelation alone, which has its fullness in Christ and its normative expression in Sacred Scripture. Even the experiences of the great Saints are not free of those limitations which always accompany the human reception of God’s voice.

Yet there is no doubt that the Church, which recognized Bridget’s holiness without ever pronouncing on her individual revelations, has accepted the overall authenticity of her interior experience. She stands as an important witness to the place reserved in the Church for a charism lived in complete docility to the Spirit of God and in full accord with the demands of ecclesial communion. In a special way too, because the Scandinavian countries from which Bridget came were separated from full communion with the See of Rome during the tragic events of the sixteenth century, the figure of this Swedish Saint remains a precious ecumenical “bridge”, strengthened by the ecumenical commitment of her Order.

A bit more from JPII on the 700th anniversary of her birth, in 2002:

Here, at the tombs of the Apostles and in the places sanctified by the blood of the martyrs, St Bridget spent many hours in prayer during the time she was in Rome. Here she drew strength and steadfastness in order to be able to fulfil that extraordinary charitable, missionary and social commitment which made her one of the most notable people of her day.

Contemplating the crucified Lord and in intimate union with his Passion, she was able, with prophetic determination, to complete the mission which Christ had entrusted to her for the good of the Church and society at that time.

The marble statue situated on the outside of the Vatican Basilica, near the entrance commonly called the “Door of Prayer”, aptly expresses the ardour of her life and of her spirituality. St Bridget is portrayed in an attitude of pryaer, with the book of her “Revelations” open, carrying a pilgrim’s staff and scrip, intent on contemplating the crucified Christ.

And then in a 2010 GA, B16:

We can distinguished two periods in this Saint’s life.

The first was characterized by her happily married state. Her husband was called Ulf and he was Governor of an important district of the Kingdom of Sweden. The marriage lasted for 28 years, until Ulf’s death. Eight children were born, the second of whom, Karin (Catherine), is venerated as a Saint. This is an eloquent sign of Bridget’s dedication to her children’s education. Moreover, King Magnus of Sweden so appreciated her pedagogical wisdom that he summoned her to Court for a time, so that she could introduce his young wife, Blanche of Namur, to Swedish culture. Bridget, who was given spiritual guidance by a learned religious who initiated her into the study of the Scriptures, exercised a very positive influence on her family which, thanks to her presence, became a true “domestic church”. Together with her husband she adopted the Rule of the Franciscan Tertiaries. She generously practiced works of charity for the poor; she also founded a hospital. At his wife’s side Ulf’s character improved and he advanced in the Christian life. On their return from a long pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, which they made in 1341 with other members of the family, the couple developed a project of living in continence; but a little while later, in the tranquillity of a monastery to which he had retired, Ulf’s earthly life ended. This first period of Bridget’s life helps us to appreciate what today we could describe as an authentic “conjugal spirituality”: together, Christian spouses can make a journey of holiness sustained by the grace of the sacrament of Marriage. It is often the woman, as happened in the life of St Bridget and Ulf, who with her religious sensitivity, delicacy and gentleness succeeds in persuading her husband to follow a path of faith. I am thinking with gratitude of the many women who, day after day, illuminate their families with their witness of Christian life, in our time too. May the Lord’s Spirit still inspire holiness in Christian spouses today, to show the world the beauty of marriage lived in accordance with the Gospel values: love, tenderness, reciprocal help, fruitfulness in begetting and in raising children, openness and solidarity to the world and participation in the life of the Church.

The second period of Bridget’s life began when she was widowed. She did not consider another marriage in order to deepen her union with the Lord through prayer, penance and charitable works. Therefore Christian widows too may find in this Saint a model to follow. In fact, upon the death of her husband, after distributing her possessions to the poor — although she never became a consecrated religious — Bridget settled near the Cistercian Monastery of Alvastra. Here began the divine revelations that were to accompany her for the rest of her life. Bridget dictated them to her confessors-secretaries, who translated them from Swedish into Latin and gathered them in eight volumes entitled Revelationes (Revelations). A supplement followed these books called, precisely,Revelationes extravagantes (Supplementary revelations).

St Bridget’s Revelations have a very varied content and style. At times the revelations are presented in the form of dialogues between the divine Persons, the Virgin, the Saints and even demons; they are dialogues in which Bridget also takes part. At other times, instead, a specific vision is described; and in yet others what the Virgin Mary reveals to her concerning the life and mysteries of the Son. The value of St Bridget’s Revelations, sometimes the object of criticism Venerable John Paul II explained in his Letter Spes Aedificandi: “The Church, which recognized Bridget’s holiness without ever pronouncing on her individual revelations, has accepted the overall authenticity of her interior experience” (n. 5). Indeed, reading these Revelations challenges us on many important topics. For example, the description of Christ’s Passion, with very realistic details, frequently recurs. Bridget always had a special devotion to Christ’s Passion, contemplating in it God’s infinite love for human beings. She boldly places these words on the lips of the Lord who speaks to her: “O my friends, I love my sheep so tenderly that were it possible I would die many other times for each one of them that same death I suffered for the redemption of all” (Revelationes, Book I, c. 59). The sorrowful motherhood of Mary, which made her Mediatrix and Mother of Mercy, is also a subject that recurs frequently in the Revelations.

In receiving these charisms, Bridget was aware that she had been given a gift of special love on the Lord’s part: “My Daughter” — we read in the First Book of Revelations — “I have chosen you for myself, love me with all your heart… more than all that exists in the world” (c. 1). Bridget, moreover, knew well and was firmly convinced that every charism is destined to build up the Church. For this very reason many of her revelations were addressed in the form of admonishments, even severe ones, to the believers of her time, including the Religious and Political Authorities, that they might live a consistent Christian life; but she always reprimanded them with an attitude of respect and of full fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church and in particular to the Successor of the Apostle Peter.

In 1349 Bridget left Sweden for good and went on pilgrimage to Rome. She was not only intending to take part in the Jubilee of the Year 1350 but also wished to obtain from the Pope approval for the Rule of a Religious Order that she was intending to found, called after the Holy Saviour and made up of monks and nuns under the authority of the Abbess. This is an element we should not find surprising: in the Middle Ages monastic foundations existed with both male and female branches, but with the practice of the same monastic Rule that provided for the Abbess’ direction. In fact, in the great Christian tradition the woman is accorded special dignity and — always based on the example of Mary, Queen of Apostles — a place of her own in the Church, which, without coinciding with the ordained priesthood is equally important for the spiritual growth of the Community. Furthermore, the collaboration of consecrated men and women, always with respect for their specific vocation, is of great importance in the contemporary world. In Rome, in the company of her daughter Karin, Bridget dedicated herself to a life of intense apostolate and prayer. And from Rome she went on pilgrimage to various Italian Shrines, in particular to Assisi, the homeland of St Francis for whom Bridget had always had great devotion. Finally, in 1371, her deepest desire was crowned: to travel to the Holy Land, to which she went accompanied by her spiritual children, a group that Bridget called “the friends of God”. In those years the Pontiffs lived at Avignon, a long way from Rome: Bridget addressed a heartfelt plea to them to return to the See of Peter, in the Eternal City. She died in 1373, before Pope Gregory XI returned to Rome definitively.

If you would like to take a dip into the Revelations, they are here in various formats. Even a quick look at the pertinent section will disabuse you of the fantasy problems in the Church are a recent development, if you still believed that…

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(Mostly a repost from 2014. Sorry. Lazy.)

She was, after the Blessed Virgin herself, the most widely-venerated saint of the Medieval period, and July 22 is her feast day.

As Pope St. Gregory the Great said of her (as is quoted in the Office of Readings today)

 We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.
  At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love. As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.
  Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.
  Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognised when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognise me as I recognise you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognises who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher,because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.
I wrote a book about St. Mary Magdalene, rather horrendously titled De-Coding Mary Magdalene (an allusion to the previous DVC-related book…I argued against it, but…lost)…but I did enjoy researching and writing the book – the history of MM’s cultus is quite revealing about both Western and Eastern Christianity. The Da Vinci Code moment has mercifully past, but I hope St. Mary Magdalene’s hasn’t.

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