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Ash Wednesday 2019

And you know – Lent is coming up. Two weeks from today!

Last Sunday: Septuagisima Sunday

Next up – Sexagesima Sunday. 

amy-welborn

Here’s a page on Lent. 

Here are some Lent resources from me. 

Also – if you’re looking for a Lenten read, either as an individual or for a group – consider The Words We Pray. 

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As you may or may not know, every day of the liturgical year is full of saints’ memorials.  I’m sure there is a technical explanation somewhere as to which make it on to the universal calendar and why. If you go to the generally published calendar, say at Universalis, you find one saint mentioned, but there  are others.   But we do remember several saints on this day. If you have one of those multi-volume editions of Butler’s, you know what I mean – and also here, which lists most of the daily memorials.

So for example, there’s St. Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, a recently canonized saint from Chile, and one with – as is the case with all saints – an interesting story.

From the Vatican website:

…born in Viña del Mar, Chile, on 22 January 1901; he was orphaned when he was four years old by the death of his father. His mother had to sell, at a loss, their modest property in order to pay the family’s debts. As a further consequence, Alberto and his brother had to go to live with relatives and were often moved from one family to another. From an early age, therefore, he experienced what it meant to be poor, to be without a home and at the mercy of others.

He was given a scholarship to the Jesuit College in Santiago. Here he became a member of the Sodality of Our Lady and developed a lively interest in the poor, spending time with them in the most miserable neighborhoods every Sunday afternoon.

When he completed his secondary education in 1917, Alberto wanted to become a Jesuit, but he was advised to delay the realization of this desire in order to take care of his mother and his younger brother. By working in the afternoons and evenings, he succeeded in supporting them; at the same time, he studied law at the Catholic University. In this period, he maintained his care for the poor and continued to visit them every Sunday. Obligatory military service interrupted his studies, but once he fulfilled this duty he went on to earn his degree early in August 1923.

On 14 August 1923 he entered the Novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Chillán. In 1925 he went to Córdoba, Argentina, where he studied humanities. In 1927 he was sent to Spain to study philosophy and theology.

However, because of the suppression of the Jesuits in Spain in 1931, he went on to Belgium and continued studying theology at Louvain. He was ordained a priest there on 24 August 1933, and in 1935 obtained a doctorate in pedagogy and psychology. After having completed his Tertianship in Drongen, Belgium, he returned to Chile in January 1936. Here he began his activity as professor of religion at Colegio San Ignacio and of Pedagogy at the Catholic University of Santiago. He was entrusted with the Sodality of Our Lady for the students, and he involved them in teaching catechism to the poor. He frequently directed retreats and offered spiritual direction to many young men, accompanying several of them in their response to the priestly vocation and contributing in an outstanding manner to the formation of many Christian laymen.

In 1941 Father Hurtado published his most famous book: “Is Chile a Catholic Country?” The same year he was hurtadoasked to assume the role of Assistant for the Youth Movement of the Catholic Action, first within the Archdiocese of Santiago and then nationally. He performed these roles with an exceptional spirit of initiative, dedication and sacrifice.

In October 1944, while giving a retreat, he felt impelled to appeal to his audience to consider the many poor people of the city, especially the numerous homeless children who were roaming the streets of Santiago. This request evoked a ready and generous response. This was the beginning of the initiative for which Father Hurtado is especially well-known: a form of charitable activity which provided not only housing but a home-like milieu for the homeless: “El Hogar de Cristo”.

By means of contributions from benefactors and with the active collaboration of committed laity, Father Hurtado opened the first house for children; this was followed by a house for women and then one for men. The poor found a warm home in “El Hogar de Cristo”. The houses multiplied and took on new dimensions; in some houses there were rehabilitation centers, in others trade-schools, and so on. All were inspired and permeated by Christian values.

In 1945 Father Hurtado visited the United States to study the “Boys Town” movement and to consider how it could be adapted to his own country. The last six years of his life were dedicated to the development of various forms in which “El Hogar” could exist and function.

In 1947 Father Hurtado founded the Chilean Trade Union Association (ASICH) to promote a union movement inspired by the social teaching of the Church.

From the blog of Ottowa Archbishop Terry Prendergrast:

In 1941, he published a book which sent shock waves through the country:Is Chile a Catholic Country? It was a provocative title which pointed up both the increasing mediocrity of Chilean Catholic life and the renewing force of his own vision. In its pages, he opened up an offensive against materialism, its toxic effects on the young, its atrophying of vocations, and, above all, the way its pernicious cultural impact aggravated the plight of the poor.

Alberto was years ahead of his time in his approach to social issues. ‘Injustice’, he insisted with enviable clarity, ‘causes far more evil than can be repaired by charity’. So he advocated and made his own the arduous tasks of reading, social analysis, planning action, establishing institutions and deepening that Ignatian contemplative regard which takes in the whole world and is free enough to see just how bad things truly are. It was the antithesis of feel-good, charitable giving, but he knew that in it he would find God.

With this in mind, he undertook a gruelling trip to post-war France to update his thinking. Once again he stood out from the crowd. A fellow Jesuit describes his intervention at a conference as ‘a cry of anguish but at the same time an irresistible lesson in pure, ardently supernatural zeal’.

The trip enthused him greatly. Doubtless, he had already begun to sense in Europe the tremors which would lead to Vatican II. The prophet in him, meanwhile, grasped the shadow-side of that renewal, an advancing secularism and ‘a tendency to forget the true values of the Church, its traditional vision’.

Few individuals can take in a truly panoramic vision, seeking refuge instead in petty dualisms: either charity or justice, either tradition or renewal. How did Hurtado sustain such imposing breadth?

He once wrote: ‘I am often like a rock that is beaten on all sides by the towering waves. For an hour, for a day I let the waves thrash against the rock; I do not look toward the horizon, I only look up to God.’

From the homily of Pope Benedict XVI at his canonization in 2005:

“You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart…. You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 22: 37, 39). This was the programme of life of St Alberto Hurtado, who wished to identify himself with the Lord and to love the poor with this same love. The formation received in the Society of Jesus, strengthened by prayer and adoration of the Eucharist, allowed him to be won over by Christ, being a true contemplative in action. In love and in the total gift of self to God’s will, he found strength for the apostolate.

He founded El Hogar de Cristo for the most needy and the homeless, offering them a family atmosphere full of human warmth. In his priestly ministry he was distinguished for his simplicity and availability towards others, being a living image of the Teacher, “meek and humble of heart”. In his last days, amid the strong pains caused by illness, he still had the strength to repeat: “I am content, Lord”, thus expressing the joy with which he always lived.

For a more thorough, in depth introduction to this saint, take a look at this longer article by a fellow Jesuit (pdf). I read it last night, and it’s very helpful.

As an advisor and spiritual guide to those working for El Hogar de Cristo, Hurtado always taught the importance of combining a solid spiritual life with the apostolate. The spiritual contribution of collaborators shared equal importance with the physical works. In a letter to a sister who was lamenting her failure to give more time to the movement, he described the role of the Communion of the Saints, an essential part of his spirituality.

Up until now you have helped the children with your work, your lessons, your affection; now you continue helping them with your affection, your patience, your prayer, your very sincere desire to continue doing them good. There is a truly consoling dogma, that of the Communion of Saints. It teaches us that there is not a single one of our actions that lacks a social value. Never do we merit solely for ourselves, since all our actions hold a deep social value. In doing good, in suffering with patience, in praying, we always profit for others, for the entire Church militant on earth, for those waiting in purgatory; we give joy to the just in heaven, and, in a special way, we help those who are most intimately tied to us. In this way you continue working for Hogar not only with affection, but also with the same, or even greater, efficacy than before.

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In anticipation of the release of Silence at some unannounced date in 2016, I’m going to read as much Shusaku Endo as I can. I have read several of his novels, but by no means all, so I started yesterday and today with one that was on my shelf, unread: The Sea and the Poison.  

This was not Endo’s first novel, but it was one that brought him early acclaim. Published in 1958, it is based on historical events that Endo was the first to deal with in literature: the vivisection of eight American POW’s at a Japanese university hospital near the end of the war. 

It was natural for me to read this book with Silence (published a few years later) in mind, and for similar themes to strike me: characters in professions dedicated to human well-being put in situations in which their action or inaction will result in others suffering and being killed; these situations being agonizingly fraught; a sense of being trapped in a situation in which there is no “good” outcome; the depravity of human brutality on full display.

sea and poison endo

 

And, of course, the question of…how?

It is, of course, a different book though. The focus is a bit more diffuse, as several characters come other scrutiny, and the characterization does not have a great deal of depth – they really do function as representatives of a culture rather than as people, but that is, perhaps, Endo’s point: to critique the nihilism of Japanese culture as it was at the time.

The book begins well after the war, in a town – a suburb, perhaps – of Tokyo.  A man and his wife have just moved there, the man needs medical treatment and for it goes to the closest doctor, one Sugoru, who lives and works in dreary conditions, is mysterious and withdrawn, but who also has a surprising skill in the particular treatment in question, but with no human connection – bedside manner – at all.

We then move further back in history, to the end of the war at the hospital, where we remain for the rest of the novel. It’s a short book, so it doesn’t take long for us to meet the rest of the characters and get a sense of the situation: physicians, residents and nurses weary of war dealing with very ill, elderly patients – everything, it seems, is hopeless. War weighs on the situation, of course, but just as heavily is the politics of the hospital administration.

Sugoru, a young intern, has a conscience and cares for his patients, but he is really the only one.  In short order, he is pulled into the experiments – given a choice, to be sure – but with no real argument presented against it.  The prisoners, it is assumed, are going to die anyway, so why not in a way that will benefit others?

Now, here is what was interesting to me. Two other characters involved in the experiments are examined in depth. We get flashbacks exploring the backgrounds of Toda, another intern, and Nurse Nobu Ueda. Toda has absolutely no conscience, and never has. The void is illustrated through various stories from his childhood and youth. The nurse has experienced great suffering and loss, and her motivation for saying yes to participation are tied into that only in a reactive, complex way. For her, it is that by doing so, she will be a part of a secret of the chief surgeon’s life, a secret that his German wife – who has recently humiliated the nurse – will not be.

Anyway, what interests me is that Endo gives quite a bit of time to exploring the background and motivations of two characters who say yes to participation with little hesitation or pangs of conscience, but of Sugoru’s background – the one who begins the story and who is the only one to clearly have regrets – we know nothing. That’s a deliberate choice, of course, and it’s interesting to me.  Endo is known for stories in which Japanese pantheistic culture and Western theism are in conflict, but that is not the case here, at least explicitly. Sugoru is not a Christian (the only character who is, presumably, is the German woman, who at one point asks, in a rage and in relation to another situation, if no one fears God’s judgment), so it is fascinating to me that Endo has chosen to not go into his background.

What is the effect of this? In a way, it simply renders him more of an Everyman. His conscience is not due to any specific experiences. This – conscience –  is what makes us human beings – the failure of conscience, nihilism and total disregard for human life must be explained because it is a deviation.

The Sea and Poison is about excusing evil, about how evil can live under the veil of normalcy and about the tragic pointlessness of life defined by nihilism. It is about how evil can be domesticated as one more dimension of human attempts to gain power, to gain advantage over others or even, most paradoxically of all, to find meaning. How could this have happened? How could we have done this?

Endo invites his Japanese readers – and all of us –  to confront this question. A conscience, human sympathy and respect for life are natural elements of human existence – but consciences of individuals and societies can be deadened and they can be distracted by festering wounds to the point that once, again, we see how true it is that the one fixated on the self is, paradoxically, the one who loses the self in the end.

After the procedure, several of the characters try to make sense of what they have done. They pause and study the location, they mentally revisit the moment. Resigned, they turn away and move on. Nothing has changed for any of them, except for Sugoru, for whom everything has changed, even though, like the sea, it all still looks the same.

A disturbing, thought-provoking book.

 

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A post on what we’re doing schoolwise for the 10-year old…mostly these days, but with some future planning. Mostly to keep myself accountable….

  • We spent several weeks studying up on Spanish culture, geography and history, as well as honing in on the art we were going to see, particularly Valesquez, El Greco, Picasso and Goya. Don Quixote. I, Juan de Pareja. So that took up most of March. Then, field trip to Spain. Then there was Holy Week, during which they served many liturgies at a convent served that week by a very strong homilist.  You can’t get much stronger catechesis than being carefully trained to serve at the Triduum liturgies during which you are immersed in the deep tradition of the Church, including music, you witness a community gracefully and generously caring for its aged members and welcoming guests, and you hear strong, direct, missional homilies. Yup.
  • There’s another trip (stateside!) coming up in a few weeks, so prep has begun for that: geology, history, geography, bookmaking….
  • Back to the present:
  • Prayer today was Mass readings & Morning Prayer.  Every so often, we read the Mass readings from an actual Bible rather than the Universalis website, to give him practice in looking up passages in the Bible. He also wrote down some citations from my dictation (like Acts 3: 1-10. And then, what would it be if the citation were Acts, chapter 3, verses 1 AND 10. And so on.) When there’s geography mentioned, we pull out the map and figure out the lay of the land.
  • Reviewed liturgical year, particularly Easter Season.
  • Copywork today was Luke 24:35, the last sentence of the day’s Gospel.
  • Cursive practice, again and again! 
  • We finished Beast Academy 4C before our Spain trip, and so we are waiting with baited breath until 4D is released.  In the meantime, he is going through Life of Fred: Fractions, which is partly review and partly new stuff and a crazy story he loves to read.  We’re also working through a bit of Challenge Math. 
  • We’ve picked up the pace on Latin, hoping to finish up Getting Started With Latin in a couple of weeks. At the same time, we’ve started Visual Latin, another light introduction but at a quicker pace.  My older son worked through part of VL year before last, and I don’t recommend it as a stand alone by any means, but as an engaging (up to a point) supplement it’s okay. We’ll stay on this course until the fall, when he will probably start Henle – although I am still pouring over forums at The Well-Trained Mind sorting through resources.
  • We’ve started this writing program – I like it so far.  Still using a lot of the Brave Writer way of thinking as well, but this gives me a little more structure to work with.
  • Back to the MENSA poetry program – today we started “The Road Not Taken.” (link leads to teaching/memorization aids)
  • Science as per usual is all over the place.  It’s spring, so that’s happening: bees to be watched, dead wasps to be studied, blooms to be found…and so on. I want to finish the chunk of the grade-level science book that deals with electricity, but we’ll see how that works out.
  • I found a site (don’t remember where) that listed a lot of sources for free propoganda teaching materials from organizations and industries.   I’ve received a couple, and we’ll look at those this week – like this one ALL ABOUT COAL! 
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  • Our first EEME kit came this week, so we’ll hit that in the next couple of days (or probably early next week) and I’ll report back. (I paid for it – it wasn’t a review set, btw)
  • We get several magazines published by Cricket – highly recommended, watch for sales – and they, in addition to the couple of dozen books on his own interests (animals and natural disasters, mostly, although this week he brought home a book on Watergate….)  he checks out from the library every week, provide much of the history and science reading.
  • Some good videos lately, each of which leads to further exploration and discussion.  Most of them come from The Kids Should See This, Science Dump (although that has sexually-related material, so you can’t give free reign there, if you ever do to kids on the Internet, which I don’t.), Brain Scoop, Periodic Videos, and many of the other great science-focused YouTube channels out there.
  • Constant recreational reading.  Now he’s tearing through this series. Should take about a week. Before this, he consumed The Tripods trilogy.  Frequent interaction/questions/spontaneous narration about what he’s reading.
  • I found a really good music theory site: Dave Conservatoire.  It’s like Khan Academy for music.  So far, it’s great – even the videos on areas he’s familiar with are engaging enough to keep him (and me) interested and in every one, we learn something new. It will be even better once he has more interactive quizzes in place, but even as it is, it’s very useful.
  • And sometimes it all fits together: We watched some stuff on pitch from Dave Conservatoire, reviewed some of the many other activities we did on the physics of sound a couple of months ago, reviewed a couple of pages from the Usborne physics books we have, then watched sonic boom videos from Science Dump, and then saw and discussed this video on the George Mason students who devised a way of putting out fires using sound waves.  
  • Once a week, homeschool boxing class, and finally, his excellent art class is starting up again, after a basketball-induced break. (BB practice was at the same time as art). Schola at the Cathedral. Cub Scouts. There’s one more science center classes left before summer. A lot of piano this month – state competition, regular recital, and then a scholarship audition.
  • We’re continuing, at a leisurely pace of about once a week, to do the Mapping the World with Art curriculum, which he really enjoys.
  • Oh, if you want a good source for season-related poetry and quotes, go here – it’s great.  It’s a wonderful source for both copywork and general seasonally-inspired poetry reading and sharing. 
  • Lunch eaten to Horrible HIstories. (Now that Lent is over…he gave up TV for Lent, and didn’t complain once…)
  • Alabama Shakespeare is performing As You Like It, so next week, all three of us will start familiarizing ourselves with that..  (They are also performing King Lear, but I think we’ll stick with the comedy. )
  • Wanderings? Tigers for Tomorrow – a rescue facility for, well, tigers, and other cats as well as some bears, wolves and so on.  Excellent, thought-provoking tour.  The weather is now turning gorgeous, so definitely more adventures to come……Mental wanderings? Lots of drawing of imaginary worlds and cataloguing imaginary animals, and creating music on the keyboard and piano…

I think we’ll follow the same kind of path next year, simply getting a little more intentional with both the Latin and the writing. I hope his math progress can track with Beast Academy’s release schedule, but I’m afraid we’re going to continually be just a bit ahead.  He should, no matter what, be ready for the AOPS Pre-Algebra in 6th grade.  If you’d suggested that to me before Beast Academy, I would have scoffed, but now, about to finish up 4 and looking forward to grade 5 in the curriculum, I can see very clearly how the BA road is leading straight to AOPS – methods and ways of thinking that were new to my older son as he engaged with AOPS for the first time two years ago are being introduced in Beast Academy – so that when the 10-year old meets them in a year…he won’t be meeting them for the first time.

The last time I threw out a post like this, some concerned person wondered if the poor little fellow was having room to play in his busy schedule.  I’ll simply remind you that for us, “school”  –  takes three hours a day, tops. Then….recess for everyone!

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