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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Here are links to a couple of old columns I wrote – probably for OSV – on life issues.   Old, as in probably 14-15 years ago. They, along with many others,  were stuck in the caverns of my website, so I just cleaned them enough to make them presentable. In other words: forgive the very basic formatting.

We can send a man to the moon….

Mysteries…

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(I got this graphic years ago from a pro-life website/group that no longer exists and the name of which I don’t remember.  So…thanks whoever you are…)

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There’s a little fare war going on right now from JFK and EWR to Milan.  The fares seem to apply mostly to buying two tickets (sparked by an Emirates sale), but as of this writing, you can still get over there (if you buy 2 tix, as I said) for around 450 apiece for spring travel.

Well worth it.  In fact, I’m tempted.

We were there four years ago, inspired by a similar, even more awesome sale – our tickets from New York to Milan were (wait for it) 250 apiece.  Two hundred and fifty dollars.

So yes, if you are in the NY area and can swing it – try Milan.  It’s not as heavily touristed as other Italian cities, and is a bit more of a challenge to navigate since it is not as compact.  Nor does it have a medieval or renaissance center – in fact there’s hardly any pre-19th century architecture readily seen, mostly because Milan, as the capital of Lombardy, has been the object of invasion and conquest and various other battles since Roman times.

(The Last Supper barely survived Allied bombing in World War II)

So, some photos and blog posts from that great trip.

(This is the apartment where we stayed)

The Duomo, of course.

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From the roof of the Milan Duomo

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On the Duomo roof

First blog post:

We were there for the 150th anniversary of Italian unification

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Under the duomo – where Ambrose baptized Augustine.

The natural history museum

Day trip to Stresa, on Lago Maggiore

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A Sunday afternoon in Pavia 

…and all for probably less than some people spent for a week at Disney World….

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At Castle Sforzesco – see what happens when you buy a cheap umbrella from a street vendor?

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Gelato at Castle Sforzesco at night

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Fantastic Archimboldo exhibit. A complete surprise, and the boys loved it.

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From past Angelus addresses by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:

2005:

Yesterday, after solemnly celebrating Christ’s Birth, today we are commemorating the birth in Heaven of St Stephen, the first martyr. A special bond links these two feasts and it is summed up well in the Ambrosian liturgy by this affirmation: “Yesterday, the Lord was born on earth, that Stephen might be born in Heaven” (At the breaking of the bread).

Just as Jesus on the Cross entrusted himself to the Father without reserve and pardoned those who killed him, at the moment of his death St Stephen prayed: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”; and further: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (cf. Acts 7: 59-60). Stephen was a genuine disciple of Jesus and imitated him perfectly. With Stephen began that long series of martyrs who sealed their faith by offering their lives, proclaiming with their heroic witness that God became man to open the Kingdom of Heaven to humankind.

In the atmosphere of Christmas joy, the reference to the Martyr St Stephen does not seem out of place. Indeed, the shadow of the Cross was already extending over the manger in Bethlehem.
It was foretold by the poverty of the stable in which the infant wailed, the prophecy of Simeon concerning the sign that would be opposed and the sword destined to pierce the heart of the Virgin, and Herod’s persecution that would make necessary the flight to Egypt.

It should not come as a surprise that this Child, having grown to adulthood, would one day ask his disciples to follow him with total trust and faithfulness on the Way of the Cross.

2006

It is not by chance that Christmas iconography sometimes depicts the Divine Newborn carefully lain in a little sarcophagus in order to indicate that the Redeemer is born to die, is born to give his life in ransom for all.

St Stephen was the first to follow in the footsteps of Christ with his martyrdom. He died, like the divine Master, pardoning and praying for his killers (cf. Acts 7: 60).

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Carlo Crivelli, 1476

In the first four centuries of Christianity, all the saints venerated by the Church were martyrs. They were a countless body that the liturgy calls “the white-robed army of martyrs”,martyrum candidatus exercitus. Their death did not rouse fear and sadness, but spiritual enthusiasm that gave rise to ever new Christians.

For believers the day of death, and even more the day of martyrdom, is not the end of all; rather, it is the “transit” towards immortal life. It is the day of definitive birth, in Latin, dies natalis. The link that exists then between the “dies natalis” of Christ and the dies natalis of St Stephen is understood.

2008

Dear brothers and sisters, in St Stephen we see materializing the first fruits of salvation that the Nativity of Christ brought to humanity: the victory of life over death, of love over hate, of the light of truth over the darkness of falsehood. Let us praise God, for this victory still enables many Christians today to respond to evil not with evil but with the power of truth and love.

2009

Stephen is also the Church’s first deacon. In becoming a servant of the poor for love of Christ, he gradually enters into full harmony with him and follows Christ to the point of making the supreme gift of himself. The witness borne by Stephen, like that of the Christian martyrs, shows our contemporaries, who are often distracted and uncertain, in whom they should place their trust in order to give meaning to their lives. The martyr, in fact, is one who dies knowing with certainty that he is loved by God, who puts nothing before love of Christ, knowing that he has chosen the better part. The martyr is configured fully to the death of Christ, aware of being a fertile seed of life and of opening up paths of peace and hope in the world. Today, in presenting the Deacon St Stephen to us as our model the Church likewise points out to us that welcoming and loving the poor is one of the privileged ways to live the Gospel and to witness credibly to human beings to the Kingdom of God that comes.

2011

This is why the Eastern Church sings in her hymns: “The stones became steps for you and ladders for the ascent to heaven… and you joyfully drew close to the festive gathering of the angels” (MHNAIA t. II, Rome 1889, 694, 695).

After the generation of the Apostles, martyrs acquired an important place in the esteem of the Christian community. At the height of their persecution, their hymns of praise fortified the faithful on their difficult journey and encouraged those in search of the truth to convert to the Lord. Therefore, by divine disposition, the Church venerates the relics of martyrs and honours them with epithets such as: “teachers of life”, “living witnesses”, “breathing trophies” and “silent exhortations” (Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 43, 5: PG 36, 500 C).

Dear friends, the true imitation of Christ is love, which some Christian writers have called the “secret martyrdom”. Concerning this St Clement of Alexandria wrote: “those who perform the commandments of the Lord, in every action ‘testify’, by doing what he wishes, and consistently naming the Lord’s name; (Stromatum IV, 7,43,4: SC 463, Paris 2001, 130). Today too, as in antiquity, sincere adherence to the Gospel can require the sacrifice of life and many Christians in various parts of the world are exposed to persecution and sometimes martyrdom. However, the Lord reminds us: “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt 10:22).

2012

On St Stephen’s Day we too are called to fix our eyes on the Son of God whom in the joyful atmosphere of Christmas we contemplate in the mystery of his Incarnation. Through Baptism and Confirmation, through the precious gift of faith nourished by the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, Jesus Christ has bound us to him and with the action of the Holy Spirit, wants to continue in us his work of salvation by which all things are redeemed, given value, uplifted and brought to completion. Letting ourselves be drawn by Christ, as St Stephen did, means opening our own life to the light that calls it, guides it and enables it to take the path of goodness, the path of a humanity according to God’s plan of love. Lastly, St Stephen is a model for all who wish to put themselves at the service of the new evangelization. He shows that the newness of the proclamation does not consist primarily in the use of original methods or techniques — which of course, have their usefulness — but rather in being filled with the Holy Spirit and letting ourselves be guided by him.

The newness of the proclamation lies in the depth of the believer’s immersion in the mystery of Christ and in assimilation of his word and of his presence in the Eucharist so that he himself, the living Jesus, may speak and act in his messengers. Essentially, evangelizers can bring Christ to others effectively when they themselves live in Christ, when the newness of the Gospel is reflected in their own life.

And then, two more, from other occasions.  The first from the General Audience of 1/10/2007, in which Benedict discusses Stephen as a part of the series he did on great figures in Christianity (collected in several books):

Stephen’s story tells us many things: for example, that charitable social commitment must never be separated from the courageous proclamation of the faith. He was one of the seven made responsible above all for charity. But it was impossible to separate charity and faith. Thus, with charity, he proclaimed the crucified Christ, to the point of accepting even martyrdom. This is the first lesson we can learn from the figure of St Stephen: charity and the proclamation of faith always go hand in hand.

Above all, St Stephen speaks to us of Christ, of the Crucified and Risen Christ as the centre of history and our life. We can understand that the Cross remains forever the centre of the Church’s life and also of our life. In the history of the Church, there will always be passion and persecution. And it is persecution itself which, according to Tertullian’s famous words, becomes “the seed of Christians”, the source of mission for Christians to come.

I cite his words: “We multiply wherever we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed…” (Apology 50, 13): Plures efficimur quoties metimur a vobis: semen est sanguis christianorum. But in our life too, the Cross that will never be absent, becomes a blessing.

And by accepting our cross, knowing that it becomes and is a blessing, we learn Christian joy even in moments of difficulty. The value of witness is irreplaceable, because the Gospel leads to it and the Church is nourished by it. St Stephen teaches us to treasure these lessons, he teaches us to love the Cross, because it is the path on which Christ comes among us ever anew.

And then from 2012, as he was discussing prayer in the General Audiences, and in particular the relationship between Scripture and prayer:

Dear brothers and sisters, St Stephen’s witness gives us several instructions for our prayers and for our lives. Let us ask ourselves: where did this first Christian martyr find the strength to face his persecutors and to go so far as to give himself? The answer is simple: from his relationship with God, from his communion with Christ, from meditation on the history of salvation, from perceiving God’s action which reached its crowning point in Jesus Christ. Our prayers, too, must be nourished by listening to the word of God, in communion with Jesus and his Church.

A second element: St Stephen sees the figure and mission of Jesus foretold in the history of the loving relationship between God and man. He — the Son of God — is the temple that is not “made with hands” in which the presence of God the Father became so close as to enter our human flesh to bring us to God, to open the gates of heaven. Our prayer, therefore, must be the contemplation of Jesus at the right hand of God, of Jesus as the Lord of our, or my, daily life. In him, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we too can address God and be truly in touch with God, with the faith and abandonment of children who turn to a Father who loves them infinitely.

For more from Benedict XVI on saints, but for children, see my book Be Saints! 

Also, a piece I wrote for the National Review years ago on these feasts that fall after Christmas:

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Here.

Not here. 

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I haven’t done a school post in a while,so here’s a quick one:

  • Remember, 13-year old is back in “regular” school for 8th grade, so it’s me and the very self-directed 10 year old.
  • Who is busy.  This fall, on a weekly basis, he’s had: piano lesson, musicianship class, schola at the Cathedral, boxing, 1 2-hour art class, another 1-hour art class, and monthly science center classes.  Plus Cub Scouts. And outside play and herpetology. And Legos.
  • What we do at home is sort of directed by his interests and sort of by what I want him to learn.  It’s pretty loose, and also directed by current events, including those in our own family (so, for example, European and German history and geography dominated November.)
  • Every day begins with prayer (some mash-up of the daily Mass readings and Morning Prayer, along with discussion of the saint of the day); cursive practice and copywork.
  • Math is still Beast Academy.  He’s on 4B, and the chapter on Counting almost did us in, but we survived and even learned.
  • Almost done with the Greek alphabet book - he wants to continue with learning actual Greek and asked about Latin, so in January, we’ll start that, in a low-key fashion, using stuff we already have here – Visual Latin and some other easy curriculum I have sitting around here somewhere.  (To reinforce the Greek letters, we used a couple of apps and online games as well)
  • For English grammar mechanics, I use a variety of online resources as well as Scholastic and Evan-Moor workbooks, Language Mechanic and Editor-in-Chief.  For the record, I’m not thrilled with these last two resources(which had looked good to me online) – they can’t stand alone, although they are decent supplements. The copywork and exercises I make up myself based on whatever he’s reading reinforces all of these.
  • We do a lot of geography.  Again, I use the Scholastic and Evan-Moor resources, as well as various online games – the Sheppard Software site has a lot of good stuff, and we recently started with this - Mapping the World with Art – which is challenging for a just-10 year old, but excellent.
  • We do poetry all the time, but considering I know nothing about poetry, I’ve been thinking…we should be using resources from people who do know.  And then I found this – from Mensa For Kids, which sounds sort of revolting, but it’s an excellent resources…and free!  We’ve just started…so…no man is an island, you know?
    • Various science things …various art things…more on that next week, because I’m getting tired here.  Well, there’s these, which don’t look that impressive, but were instructive and enjoyable(and quick)  – all about negative space. (Projects here)

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We read this one today, and it was surprising how artfully Benet condenses the experience of settling the southern colonies.

And…we’ve seen two productions of Macbeth, a production of Amahl and the Night Visitors, gone to a lecture on the use of satellite technology in archaeology….so, yes, life and education goes on, although I’m feeling that we need to get more intentional about some things…but then every time I feel that, he comes and stands in the kitchen and gives me a lecture about the Phoenicians, which I didn’t even know he knew anything about, so who knows….

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This morning, we headed to the Community Food Bank, where, with dozens of others, we volunteered with the Society of Saint Andrew  to bag and then help load up sweet potatoes.  It was a project of the Society of St. Andrew, which works with farmers to gather excess and not-pretty-enough produce and then distribute them to those in need.

A good day.

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Michael, in a crate, helping bag the potatoes on the bottom.

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One box of many.

Friday night, we enjoyed a very good performance at Samford University – a local, Baptist university with an arts program that continues to impress. (The Macbeth we saw there a couple of weeks ago was well done.)

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Advent begins soon – on November 30.

This year, Creative Communications (the publisher of the Living Faith devotionals to which I contribute – this edition, 10/8;10/9;12/7;12/9 and 12/12) asked me to write a family devotional for Advent.  

These things are harder to write than you think, because honestly, what hasn’t already been said?

The approach I took was to begin with families where they are during this season.  Instead of scolding and telling everyone YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG, I try to take the most common practices of this season and find space in which we can consider our gift-buying or cooking or decoration as pointers directing us to a deeper engagement with the One for whom we’re preparing.

You can purchase copies here – and I’m sure there is still time to purchase bulk copies for your parish or school.

And here’s something easy – for your own family, you can  purchase a digital edition for just .99!

(Kindle here and Nook here.)

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Also remember that I have signed books for sale here. They’d be a nice gift for a child, a catechist, or for something like The Catholic Woman’s Book of Days – a mom, friend, or grandmother.

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