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The Gospel on the Second Sunday of Lent is traditionally the account of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

From a 2011 homily of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, preached outside the Vatican, at a new parish in Rome:

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The Transfiguration. The Evangelist Matthew has told us what happened when Jesus, taking with him three of his disciples — Peter, James and John — climbed a high mountain. While they were up there, on their own, Jesus’ face, and likewise his garments, became radiant. This is what we call “Transfiguration”: a luminous, comforting mystery. What is its meaning? The Transfiguration is a revelation of the Person of Jesus, of his profound reality.

In fact, the eye witnesses of the event, that is, the three Apostles, were enfolded in a cloud, also bright — which in the Bible always heralds God’s presence — and they heard a voice saying: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Mt 17:5). This event prepared the disciples for the Paschal Mystery of Jesus: to endure the terrible trial of the Passion and also to understand properly the luminous event of the Resurrection.

The narrative also speaks of Moses and Elijah who appear and talk with Jesus. Actually, this episode is related to another two divine revelations. Moses climbed Mount Sinai and there received God’s revelation. He asked God to show him his glory but God answered Moses that he would not see his face but only his back (cf. Ex 33:18-23)

God made a similar revelation to Elijah on the mountain: a more intimate manifestation, not accompanied by a storm, an earthquake or by fire, but by a gentle breeze (cf. 1 Kings 19:11-13).

Unlike these two episodes, in the Transfiguration it is not Jesus who receives the revelation of God; rather, it is precisely in Jesus that God reveals himself and reveals his face to the Apostles. Thus, those who wish to know God must contemplate the face of Jesus, his face transfigured: Jesus is the perfect revelation of the Father’s holiness and mercy.

Since this homily was delivered at a new parish under the patronage of St. Corbinian, the Pope had special words about that as well:

Before reflecting, however, on the Dedication of your church, I would like to tell you that my joy at being with you today is enhanced for a special reason. Indeed, St Corbinian founded the Diocese of Freising, Bavaria, of which I was Bishop for four years. In my episcopal coat of arms I chose to insert an element closely associated with this Saint’s history: a bear.

It is said that a bear had torn St Corbinian’s horse to pieces while the Saint was on his way to Rome. He harshly reprimanded it, succeeded in taming it and on its back loaded his baggage which had so far been carried by the horse. The bear bore this burden as far as Rome and only then did the Saint set it free.

Perhaps this is the point at which to say a few words about the life of St Corbinian. St Corbinian was French. He was a priest from the region of Paris, not far from which he had founded a monastery for himself. He was held in high esteem as a spiritual counselor but was more inclined to contemplation and therefore came to Rome to build a "amy welborn"monastery here, close to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul.

However Pope Gregory II — it was in about the year 720 — had founded a monastery nearby — thought highly of his qualities, had understood his qualities and ordained him a Bishop, charging him to go to Bavaria and to proclaim the Gospel in that land. Bavaria: the Pope was thinking of the country between the Danube and the Alps which had been the Roman Province of Raetia for 500 years. Only at the end of the fifth century did the majority of the Latin population return to Italy.

A few simple people had stayed there. The  land was sparsely populated and a new people settled in it, the Bavarian people which, because the Country had been Christianized in the Roman period, discovered there a Christian heritage. The Bavarian people had understood straight away that this was the true religion and wanted to become Christian. However, there was a lack of educated people and priests to preach the Gospel.

And so Christianity had remained very fragmented, in its early stages. The Pope knew of this situation, he knew of the thirst for faith that existed in that country. He thus charged St Corbinian to go there and proclaim the Gospel there. And in Freising, in the ducal city on the hilltop, the Saint built the Cathedral — there was already a Shrine to Our Lady — and the Bishops See remained there for more than 1,000 years.

Only after the Napoleonic period was it transferred to Munich, 30 kilometres further south. It is still called the “Diocese of Munich and Freising”, and Freising’s majestic Romanesque cathedral has remained the heart of the diocese. So we see that saints uphold the Church’s unity and universality.

Universality: St Corbinian connects France, Germany and Rome. Unity: St Corbinian tells us that the Church is founded on Peter and guarantees to us that the Church founded on the rock will endure for ever. One thousand years ago she was the same Church that she is today, because the Lord is always the same. He is always Truth, ever old and ever new, very up to date, present, and the key opening the future.

The next year, 2012, when the Gospel was from Matthew, which it cycles back to this year:

If God gives himself in the Son, he gives us everything. And Paul insists on the power of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice against every other force that can threaten our life.

He wonders: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?” (vv. 33-34).

We are in God’s heart, this is our great trust. This creates love and in love we go towards God. If God has given his own Son for all of us, no one can accuse us, no one can condemn us, no one can separate us from his immense love. Precisely the supreme sacrifice of love on the Cross, which the Son of God accepted and chose willingly, becomes the source of our justification, of our salvation. Just think that this act of the Lord’s endures in the Blessed Eucharist, and in his heart, for eternity, and this act of love attracts us, unites us with him.

Lastly, the Gospel speaks to us of the episode of the Transfiguration (cf. Mk 9:2-10): Jesus manifests himself in his glory before the sacrifice of the Cross and God the Father proclaims his beloved Son, the one he loves, and commands the disciples to listen to him. Jesus goes up a high mountain and takes three Apostles with him — Peter, James and John — who will be particularly close to him in his extreme agony, on another mountain, the Mount of Olives.

A little earlier the Lord had announced his Passion and Peter had been unable to understand why the Lord, the Son of God, should speak of suffering, rejection, death, a Cross, indeed he had opposed the prospect of all this with determination.

Jesus now takes the three disciples with him to help them to understand that the path to attaining glory, the path of luminous love that overcomes darkness, passes through the total gift of self, passes through the folly of the Cross. And the Lord must take us with him too ever anew, at least if we are to begin to understand that this is the route to take.

The Transfiguration is a moment of light in advance, which also helps us see Christ’s Passion with a gaze of faith. Indeed, it is a mystery of suffering but it is also the “blessed Passion” because — in essence — it is a mystery of God’s extraordinary love; it is the definitive exodus that opens for us the door to the freedom and newness of the Resurrection, of salvation from evil. We need it on our daily journey, so often also marked by the darkness of evil.

Now, moving to the Angelus addresses.

2006:

When one has the grace to live a strong experience of God, it is as if one is living an experience similar to that of the disciples during the Transfiguration:  a momentary foretaste of what will constitute the happiness of Paradise. These are usually brief experiences that are sometimes granted by God, especially prior to difficult trials.

No one, however, is permitted to live “on Tabor” while on earth. Indeed, human existence is a journey of faith and as such, moves ahead more in shadows than in full light, and is no stranger to moments of obscurity and also of complete darkness. While we are on this earth, our relationship with God takes place more by listening than by seeing; and the same contemplation comes about, so to speak, with closed eyes, thanks to the interior light that is kindled in us by the Word of God.

2007:

There is another detail proper to St Luke’s narrative which deserves emphasis: the mention of the topic of Jesus’ conversation with Moses and Elijah, who appeared beside him when he was transfigured. As the Evangelist tells us, they “talked with him… and spoke of his departure” (in Greek, éxodos), “which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem” (9: 31).

"amy welborn"Therefore, Jesus listens to the Law and the Prophets who spoke to him about his death and Resurrection. In his intimate dialogue with the Father, he did not depart from history, he did not flee the mission for which he came into the world, although he knew that to attain glory he would have to pass through the Cross.

On the contrary, Christ enters more deeply into this mission, adhering with all his being to the Father’s will; he shows us that true prayer consists precisely in uniting our will with that of God. For a Christian, therefore, to pray is not to evade reality and the responsibilities it brings but rather, to fully assume them, trusting in the faithful and inexhaustible love of the Lord.

2008:

This is the crucial point: the Transfiguration is an anticipation of the Resurrection, but this presupposes death. Jesus expresses his glory to the Apostles so that they may have the strength to face the scandal of the Cross and understand that it is necessary to pass through many tribulations in order to reach the Kingdom of God. The Father’s voice, which resounds from on high, proclaims Jesus his beloved Son as he did at the Baptism in the Jordan, adding: “Listen to him” (Mt 17: 5). To enter eternal life requires listening to Jesus, following him on the way of the Cross, carrying in our heart like him the hope of the Resurrection. “Spe salvi”, saved in hope. Today we can say: “Transfigured in hope”.

2009:

I wish to emphasize that the Transfiguration of Jesus was essentially an experience of prayer (cf. Lk 9: 28-29). Indeed, prayer reaches its culmination and thus becomes a source of inner light when the spirit of the human being adheres to that of God and their respective wills merge, as it were, to become a whole.

2010:

The disciples no longer have before them a transfigured face or dazzling garments or a cloud that reveals the divine presence. They have before them “Jesus… alone” (v. 36). Jesus is alone with his Father while he prays but at the same time, “Jesus… alone” is all that the disciples and the Church of every epoch have been granted; and this must suffice on the journey. The only voice to listen to, the only voice to follow is his, the voice of the One going up to Jerusalem who was one day to give his life to “change our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil 3: 21).

“Master, it is well that we are here” (Lk 9: 33) are Peter’s ecstatic words, that often resemble our own desire before the Lord’s consolations. However the Transfiguration reminds us that the joys sown by God in life are not finishing lines; rather they are lights he gives us during our earthly pilgrimage in order that “Jesus alone” may be our Law and his word the criterion that directs our existence.

2011:

Peter, James and John, contemplating the divinity of the Lord, are ready to face the scandal of the Cross, as it is sung in an ancient hymn: “You were transfigured on the mountain and your disciples, insofar as they were able, contemplated your glory, in order that, on seeing you crucified, they would understand that your Passion was voluntary and proclaim to the world that you are truly the splendour of the Father” (Κοντάκιον είς τήν Μεταμόρφωσιν, in: Μηναια, t. 6, Rome 1901, 341).

2012:

It is for this reason that Jesus takes three of them with him up the mountain and reveals his divine glory, the splendour of Truth and of Love. Jesus wants this light to illuminate their hearts when they pass through the thick darkness of his Passion and death, when the folly of the Cross becomes unbearable to them. God is light, and Jesus wishes to give his closest friends the experience of this light which dwells within him.

After this event, therefore, he will be an inner light within them that can protect them from any assault of darkness. Even on the darkest of nights, Jesus is the lamp that never goes out. St Augustine sums up this mystery in beautiful words, he says: “what this sun is to the eyes of the flesh, that is [Christ] to the eyes of the heart” (Sermones 78, 2: PL 38, 490).

And then…2013.  His last Angelus address before retiring:

In meditating on this passage of the Gospel, we can learn a very important lesson from it: first of all, the primacy of prayer, without which the entire commitment to the apostolate and to charity is reduced to activism. In Lent we learn to give the right time to prayer, both personal and of the community, which gives rest to our spiritual life. Moreover, prayer does not mean isolating oneself from the world and from its contradictions, as Peter wanted to do on Mount Tabor; rather, prayer leads back to the journey and to action. “The Christian life”, I wrote in my Message for this Lent, “consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love” (n. 3).

Dear brothers and sisters, I hear this word of God as addressed to me in particular at this moment of my life. Thank you! The Lord is calling me “to scale the mountain”, to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church; indeed, if God asks me this it is precisely so that I may continue to serve her with the same dedication and the same love with which I have tried to do so until now, but in a way more suited to my age and strength.

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No matter what the year in the liturgical cycle, the Gospel for this Sunday is always the narrative of Jesus’ temptation in the desert.  Some reflections from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. (There were no public Masses, therefore homilies, from these days each year, but there are Angelus reflections. On the second, third or fourth Sunday of Lent, the Pope would normally go out to a Roman parish or a youth detention center, so there will be homilies from those Sundays.)

2006:

The image of the desert is a very eloquent metaphor of the human condition. The Book of Exodus recounts the experience of the People of Israel who, after leaving Egypt, wandered through the desert of Sinai for 40 years before they reached the Promised Land.

During that long journey, the Jews experienced the full force and persistence of the tempter, who urged them to lose trust in the Lord and to turn back; but at the same time, thanks to Moses’ mediation, they learned to listen to God’s voice calling them to become his holy People.

In meditating on this biblical passage, we understand that to live life to the full in freedom we must overcome the test that this freedom entails, that is, temptation. Only if he is freed from the slavery of falsehood and sin can the human person, through the obedience of faith that opens him to the truth, find the full meaning of his life and attain peace, love and joy.

2007:

During these days of Lent, let us not distance our hearts from this mystery of profound humanity and lofty spirituality. Looking at Christ, we feel at the same time looked at by him. He whom we have pierced with our faults never tires of pouring out upon the world an inexhaustible torrent of merciful love.

2008:

It means not off-loading the problem of evil on to others, on to society or on to God but rather recognizing one’s own responsibility and assuming it with awareness. In this regard Jesus’ invitation to each one of us Christians to take up our “cross” and follow him with humility and trust (cf. Mt 16: 24) is particularly pressing. Although the “cross” may be heavy it is not synonymous with misfortune, with disgrace, to be avoided on all accounts; rather it is an opportunity to follow Jesus and thereby to acquire strength in the fight against sin and evil. Thus, entering Lent means renewing the personal and community decision to face evil together with Christ. The way of the Cross is in fact the only way that leads to the victory of love over hatred, of sharing over selfishness, of peace over violence. Seen in this light, Lent is truly an opportunity for a strong ascetic and spiritual commitment based on Christ’s grace.

2009:  (Same Gospel as this year)

Today is the First Sunday of Lent and the Gospel, in the sober and concise style of St Mark, introduces us into the atmosphere of this liturgical season: “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan” (Mk 1: 12). In the Holy Land the Judean desert, which lies to the west of the River Jordan and the Oasis of Jericho, rises over stony valleys to reach an altitude of about 1,000 metres at Jerusalem. After receiving Baptism from John, Jesus entered that lonely place, led by the Holy Spirit himself who had settled upon him, consecrating him and revealing him as the Son of God. In the desert, a place of trial as the experience of the People of Israel shows, the dramatic reality of the kenosis, the self-emptying of Christ who had stripped himself of the form of God (cf. Phil 2: 6-7), appears most vividly. He who never sinned and cannot sin submits to being tested and can therefore sympathize with our weaknesses (cf. Heb 4: 15). He lets himself be tempted by Satan, the enemy, who has been opposed to God’s saving plan for humankind from the outset.

In the succinct account, angels, luminous and mysterious figures, appear almost fleetingly before this dark, tenebrous figure who dares to tempt the Lord. Angels, the Gospel says, “ministered” to Jesus (Mk 1: 13); they are the antithesis of Satan. “Angel” means “messenger”. Throughout the Old Testament we find these figures who help and guide human beings on God’s behalf. It suffices to remember the Book of Tobit, in which the figure of the Angel Raphael appears and assists the protagonist in every vicissitude. The reassuring presence of the angel of the Lord accompanies the People of Israel in all of their experiences, good and bad. On the threshold of the New Testament, Gabriel is dispatched to announce to Zechariah and to Mary the joyful events at the beginning of our salvation; and an angel we are not told his name warns Joseph, guiding him in that moment of uncertainty. A choir of angels brings the shepherds the good news of the Saviour’s birth; and it was also to be angels who announced the joyful news of his Resurrection to the women. At the end of time, angels will accompany Jesus when he comes in his glory (cf. Mt 25: 31). Angels minister to Jesus, who is certainly superior to them. This dignity of his is clearly, if discreetly, proclaimed here in the Gospel. Indeed, even in the situation of extreme poverty and humility, when he is tempted by Satan he remains the Son of God, the Messiah, the Lord.

2010

Christ came into the world to set us free from sin and from the ambiguous fascination of planning our life leaving God out. He did not do so with loud proclamations but rather by fighting the Tempter himself, until the Cross.

2011

The Devil opposed this definitive and universal plan of salvation with all his might, as is shown in particular in the Gospel of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness which is proclaimed every year on the First Sunday of Lent. In fact, entering this liturgical season means continuously taking Christ’s side against sin, facing — both as individuals and as Church — the spiritual fight against the spirit of evil each time

2012  (Again, like this year, Mark was the Gospel)

St Mark’s concise narrative lacks the details we read in the other two Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The wilderness referred to has various meanings. It can indicate the state of abandonment and loneliness, the “place” of human weakness, devoid of support and safety, where temptation grows stronger.

However, it can also indicate a place of refuge and shelter — as it was for the People of Israel who had escaped from slavery in Egypt — where it is possible to experience God’s presence in a special way. Jesus “was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan” (Mk 1:13). St Leo the Great comments that “The Lord wanted to suffer the attack of the tempter in order to defend us with his help and to instruct us with his example (Tractatus XXXIX,3 De ieiunio quadragesimae: CCL 138/A, Turnholti 1973, 214-215).

What can this episode teach us? As we read in the book The Imitation of Christ, “There is no man wholly free from temptations so long as he lives… but by endurance and true humility we are made stronger than all our enemies” (Liber I, C. XIII, Vatican City 1982, 37), endurance and the humility of following the Lord every day, learning not to build our lives outside him or as though he did not exist, but in him and with him, for he is the source of true life.

The temptation to remove God, to arrange things within us and in the world by ourselves, relying on our own abilities, has always been present in human history.

Jesus proclaims that “the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk 1:15), he announces that in him something new happens: God turns to the human being in an unexpected way, with a unique, tangible closeness, full of love; God is incarnate and enters the human world to take sin upon himself, to conquer evil and usher men and women into the world of God.

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Sorry for the repeat – it’s just easier this way.  Yes, it’s too late to order parish materials, but most of these books and booklets are available in digital format, and at a low cost (including….free). 

  • Reconciled to God, a daily devotional from Creative Communications for the parish.  You can buy it individually, in bulk for the parish our your group, or get a digital version. (.99)amy-welborn-3

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  • The Word on Fire ministry is more than the Catholicism series – as great as that is! There are also some really great lecture series/group discussion offerings.  I wrote the study guide for the series on Conversion – a good Lenten topic. 
  • A few years ago, I wrote a Stations of the Cross for young people called No Greater Love,  published by Creative Communications for the Parish. They put it out of print for a while…but now it’s back!

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Looking ahead to First Communion/Confirmation season? Try here. 

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  • We finally moved past that last chapter – on logic – in Beast Academy 4B4C arrived and we are now comfortably sorting through divisibility rules, with factorization on the horizon today.
  • We’re tracking well with the release of new volumes in the Beast Academy series. If they keep up the present pace,  M should finish up 5D right on time to begin the Art of Problem Solving Pre-Algebra in 6th grade.  That sounds early, but it’s the way the program is being planned, and having worked through the AOPS pre-Algebra with my older son, I can see how the foundations are being laid in Beast Academy, and very well.
  • Speaking of Beast Academy – it’s alluded to in this excellent article from Wired about techies homeschooling their kids. 

And yet the boys were focused on what I soon learned were math workbooks—prealgebra for Parker, a collection of monster-themed word problems for Simon.

The Cook boys are homeschooled, have been ever since their parents opted not to put them in kindergarten. Samantha’s husband Chris never liked school himself; as a boy, he preferred fiddling on his dad’s IBM PC to sitting in a classroom. After three attempts at college, he found himself unable to care about required classes like organic chemistry and dropped out to pursue a career in computers. It paid off; today he is the lead systems administrator at Pandora. Samantha is similarly independent-minded—she blogs about feminism, parenting, art technology, and education reform and has started a network of hackerspaces for kids. So when it came time to educate their own children, they weren’t in any hurry to slot them into a traditional school.

“The world is changing. It’s looking for people who are creative and entrepreneurial, and that’s not going to happen in a system that tells kids what to do all day,” Samantha says. “So how do you do that? Well if the system won’t allow it, as the saying goes: If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

  • A bit on prayer, and I’ll go a little off-topic here.  As I’ve said, the basics of our daily prayer are a mash-up of daily Mass readings and Morning Prayer and maybe the Office of Readings if it’s understandable in any way to a 10-year old.  We use Universalis most of the time, and Magnificat when I can find our copy.  I have written many times, even in book form, in defense and promotion of centering one’s prayer life around the prayer of the Church in whatever way one can. As Flannery O’Connor said as she was recommending A Short Breviary to a correspondent,  “So many prayer books are so awful, but if you stick with the liturgy, you are safe”
  • So while our solipsism and self-centeredness tempts us to put ourselves first when we pray and to fashion our prayer around our own perceived needs, centering ourselves on the prayer of the Church, we are forced, first of all, into the proper stance for prayer which – as Jesus teaches us when he’s asked how to pray – puts worship of God first in our hearts and on our tongue.  Secondly, our prayer for ourselves and others are directed in ways that we might not consider, but probably need, and in ways that plant seeds for the day:
Help us to keep your commandments;
  so that through your Holy Spirit we may dwell in you, and you in us.
– You are our Saviour and our God.
Everlasting Wisdom, come to us:
  dwell with us and work in us today.
– You are our Saviour and our God.
Help us to be considerate and kind;
  grant that we may bring joy, not pain, to those we meet.
– You are our Saviour and our God.
  • If I were running a Catholic school, I would immediately ditch every prayer source that’s “written for kids” and especially those that are written by kids…and immerse them in this, every day.
  • (I am not sure how my list dots are getting messed up, but I’m in too much of a hurry to fix it. Sorry.)
  • Since Genesis 1 was started yesterday for the Mass readings, that became the focus of religion instruction. Today, more of that, plus St. Scholastica and her brother.
  • Science: I wanted to write a whole post about science instruction and explorations, but that’s probably not going to happen.  So for now, I’ll just say that we’re using a regular 4th grade science textbook and workbook as a “spine” – (as they say in homeschooling) and just enriching and experimenting all over the place, as one does.  Last week was sound, which we had studied earlier in the month just because music is such an important part of life around here, but we threw in some demonstrations we hadn’t done before.  This week is light.   This website will come in handy: Optics4Kids.
  • There are many great YouTube science channels, and I’ve mentioned some of them before, but I discovered this one last week, and it’s good: Physics Girl. She has a degree from MIT and has very clever, understandable way of explaining things. 
  • What I wanted to mention were some of the best printed resources I’ve found. There are plenty of books on individual topics, but I wanted to highlight two books of experiments and demonstrations that I come back to again and again.
  • First are any of the Janet van Cleave books.  I resisted these for a while just because of the cover art and titles – I didn’t think they were serious. But I was wrong! They are great , and in fact I just ordered most of those we don’t already have.  Each book is a course on the topic at hand, arranged in lesser to greater levels of complexity and the demonstrations are doable with materials you probably already have on hand.
  • "Amy Welborn"Also well-worn by this point is this Hands-on Physical Science Activities for Grades k-6. Written for classroom educators, most of the activities are, again, doable at home, and the explanations and process are excellent. 
  • On tap today? Prayer, copywork (probably a line or two from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, which is currently being memorized.  Yesterday was Genesis 1:1 (see how it all fits together?), tomorrow copywork will probably be a short, amusing poem (last week was a John Ciardi poem).  Then a couple of lines of cursive.  Then prime factorization, then Latin, then science, then probably time for him to just read some of the science/nature/history magazines or library books that interest him. Then the weekly…homeschool boxing class…watch out! 
  • More good reading: This heartbreaking article from the AtlanticCatholic schools take note:  the more you thoughtlessly follow secular trends and the “needs” of students as defined by this culture, albeit with Catholic Schools Week slogans cleverly affixed, the further you walk away from filling  the yawning, tragic void described in this article – a void that you are uniquely poised to fill:

I get it: My job is to teach communication, not values, and maybe that’s reasonable. After all, I’m not sure I would want my daughter gaining her wisdom from a randomly selected high-school teacher just because he passed a few writing and literature courses at a state university (which is what I did). My job description has evolved, and I’m fine with that. But where are the students getting their wisdom?

One might argue that the simple solution is religion—namely, biblical texts. The problem, though, is that I doubt religion is on most kids’ minds. When I recently shared a poem that included the phrase, “Let there be light,” hardly any of my students, who are high-school juniors, could identify the allusion. As a staunch believer in the separation of church and state, I don’t feel comfortable delving into the Bible’s wisdom. Even if I did, the environment is far from conducive to these discussions—students are generally embarrassed to reveal their spiritual beliefs. A fellow teacher recently cited a biblical reference in a standardized test as “evidence of institutional bias,” and the community was generally shocked; some people, meanwhile, were outraged a few years ago when a valedictorian’s speech personally advised his peers to “love God above self.”

With all this in mind, I recently read the line “Fools will be destroyed by their own complacency” in The Book of Proverbs, and I thought of my students at the cusp of young adulthood. I considered how deeply profitable this kind of advice could be for those about to be on their own—and I don’t mean profitable in the way that the advocates of “career readiness” generally conceive it. I’m not saying teachers should include the Bible in their classes in any way, but it feels strange to bite my tongue and instead teach simple skills like “interpreting words and determining technical meanings.” Meanwhile, research suggests that asignificant majority of teens do not attend church, and youth church attendance has been decreasing over the past few decades. This is fine with me. But then again, where are they getting their wisdom?

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Another quiet week at the homefront.  Basketball, roof repair (finally!), brick-n-mortar school schedules and coldish weather keep us close to home these days.  But in a couple more weeks….we’re free! (-ish)

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This week, I’ve been reading Captive Paradise, which is a history of Hawaii.  No, we’re not going there (although I’d love to!) – I’m just on a kick.  I read a history of the leper colony at Molokai, and this was on the “new releases” shelf at the library.  And then, as I started reading it, I noted that the author was talking about charging up against politically correct interpretations of history, and I was all in. 

I adore revisionist history – from any angle. I’ve always been just as interested in historiography as I am in history – may I blame my 9th grade history course at Knoxville Catholic High School which used a curriculum that was all about primary sources and interpretation?  Perhaps.  I’ll have more about it when I finish, but at this point, I’m really interested in the various interpretations of pre- and post-contact island life.

Although since everyone’s  – seriously, EVERYONE’S –  name  begins with “K,” I admit that I’ve given up on the details. Big Picture, people.  Big Picture.

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Speaking of historiography, tonight while I was running , I listened to this week’s In Our Time, which was about the 4th century BC Indian king, Ashoka.  Ashoka is famed for converting to Buddhism and attempting to shape his kingdom according to Buddhist ethics.  What was fascinating about this program was the straight-up disagreement between the historians.  First we had two (young female) historians who told the story of Ashoka pretty straightforwardly, admitting a bit of ambivalence about the sources, but really not too much.  Then comes the Old Boy who basically says everything that’s been said so far is BS because reliable primary sources are non-existent.  Awkward!  It was a fascinating listen, not only for that but also to learn about later (and present-day) Hindu-dominated India’s neglect and outright ignoring of the Buddhist king who abhorred the caste system.

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Speaking of my exercise…

I run/walk in a facility that has a track floating above a gym.

(Running around a track is certainly rat-in-a-maze-like, but it strikes me that doing a treadmill would be worse. So 80 laps it is!)

Last year, during intramural basketball season, I took note of a particular team and a particular coach, and I’m stupidly happy to be able to have them in my sights again this year as I run in circles above their games.

They are teenagers, and their coach is one of them – they’re maybe 16/17 years old.  But the thing is – and this is what I noticed last year – the kid who coaches…wears a tie, every single game.  Sometimes he sports a jacket it with it, and other times a sweater vest, but whatever, it’s hysterical.  I love it.  He stands at the sidelines like he’s Rick Paterno in his jacket and tie, coaching his friends, while the other side is coached by some dad being all casual in shorts and a t-shirt, and tonight, when they were losing by a lot, he grabbed someone’s jersey, threw it over his vest and tie, and put himself in the game for the last two minutes.

Everyone thinks they’re doing it like an individual…but only some of us actually are.

— 5 —

I was thinking I would try to do a learning post for Melanie this week, but with a writing deadline,  basketball on Saturday and a birthday party on Sunday, that’s not happening. So for now, I’ll just mention a couple of things:

This past week, Michael read this book, which is part of a 3-book series: Michael at the Invasion of France.  I am a firm believer in the “living books” pedagogy of history, either with non-fiction or historical fiction, and this was a great example of how well this works  It’s an excellent book (Joseph had read it a few years ago) about a boy involved in the French Resistance.  Her “author’s note” at the end about the role of children in the Resistance actually made me choke up a bit as I read it.

(My) Michael read it and then we’ve spent a couple of days working through the study materials Calkoven herself provides – background material as well as questions that (my) Michael discussed with me and wrote about.  Ample opportunity to discuss, not only the specifics of history but also issues of loyalty, authority, and resistance as well.

Last year at some point, I had let our subscriptions to the Cricket-group magazines lapse, but I recently renewed them – we subscribe to Muse, Dig, Odyssey and Calliope. Well, they all came this week…so there was a lot of “Go read some of the magazines.”  And I don’t even have to add , “And come talk to me about them,” because it’s like a tic with him.  As I’ve written before “narration” is a central aspect of the Charlotte Mason pedagogy, but with this one, I don’t even have to try.  I get narrated all. Freaking. Day. Long. 

— 6 —

So this happened this week:

I had purchased this book – Gods and Heroes in Art.  We have a couple of the saints-related titles  in the series, and they’re good, so since Michael is deep in the Percy Jackson books (again), I thought I’d add this to our considerable mythology collection.  I have lots of historical material, but nothing else specifically related to art.

We were leafing through it, and he paused at the “Perseus” entry.

“Wait,” he said, “I’ve seen that.  Isn’t that at our museum?”

"amy welborn"

Find the credits.

Why, yes it is.

If you had asked me? Not in a million years would I have remembered ever seeing that painting before in my entire life.

I mean…what? 10. Years. Old. Barely.

Now. Can you please remember to put your shoes in your closet? 

Thnx.

— 7 —

 (Repeat from last week and the week before…but…still pertinent)

Lent is coming!  Full list of resources here, but take special note today, if you don’t mind, of these Stations of the Cross..and pass it on to your parish!

John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross, published by Ave Maria Press.  This, again, is available as an actual book and in a digital version, in this case as an app.  Go here for more information. (The illustrations are by Michael O’Brien)

"amy welborn"A few years ago, I wrote a Stations of the Cross for young people called No Greater Love,  published by Creative Communications for the Parish. They put it out of print for a while…but now it’s back!

amy-welborn4

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

Read Full Post »

"amy welborn"

This is one of those (many, perhaps) aspects of the post-Vatican II liturgical changes that really, really makes you go, “Huh?”

It’s bizarre for many reasons having to do with the normal reasons of upending tradition via committee work, but also because it’s such an unecumenical move, and, on paper at least, Vatican II was, we hear, informed by ecumenical concerns.

Backtrack:

To those of you involved in the Extraordinary Form as well as the Anglican Use, this is not news, but today (February 1) on the older calendar has a special name.  It’s called Septuagisima Sunday. It’s the beginning of a little mini-liturgical season.   From Fr. Kirby:

 In three weeks our heads will be marked with the ashes of penitence. A special time of preparation for Lent emerged in the liturgy of the 6th and 7th centuries. The three Sundays preceding Ash Wednesday were called Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, meaning respectively, the seventieth, sixtieth, and fiftieth days before Pascha. The First Sunday of Lent is, of course, Quadragesima, the beginning of the Lenten fast of forty days.

Here is an excellent, thorough article in Dappled Things:

In the chapter titled “The History of Septuagesima,” Dom Guéranger added, “The Church, therefore, has instituted a preparation for the holy time of Lent. She gives us the three weeks of Septuagesima, during which she withdraws us, as much as may be, from the noisy distractions of the world, in order that our hearts may be the more readily impressed by the solemn warning she is to give us, at the commencement of Lent, by marking our foreheads with ashes.”

Septuagesima Sunday is the ninth Sunday before Lent, and it is the day on which the Septuagesima season of preparation for Lent has begun for more than 1,000 years in the traditional calendar. The Septuagesima season is made up of three Sundays: Septuagesima (which means seventieth), Sexagesima (which means sixtieth), and Quinquagesima (which means fiftieth), and it extends until Ash Wednesday.

Quadragesima is the name given in most languages to the season of Lent that starts on Ash Wednesday. For a few examples, in Spanish the name is cuaresma, in Portuguese quaresma, in French carême, and in Italian quaresima. In English, in contrast, the word for spring, lent, was used, which derives from the German word for long, because at this time of year the days get longer.

******

How the Church Keeps Septuagesima

Beginning with Compline (Night Prayer) on the Saturday before Septuagesima Sunday the Alleluia, Gloria, and Te Deum are not said any more until Easter. Two extra Alleluias are said at Vespers on that Saturday. In some places charming ceremonies have been practiced in which an Alleluia is put in a little coffin and buried, to be resurrected again only on Easter Sunday. Throughout Septuagesima, violet vestments are worn, except on feasts observed during weekday.

MORE

Septuagesima and the following days are observed in Anglicanism and in some Lutheran groups. The Eastern Catholics and Orthodox of course observe pre-Lent, described very well here at the Aquinas and More Bookstore site. 

(Hence my comment above about ecumenism. If the Anglicans could keep it…wouldn’t it have been  ecumenical of us to give it a chance to live as well?)

The point being…Lent calls for preparation.  And while it’s all well and good to look at the calendar, wonder, “Hey, when is Ash Wednesday this year?” And then say, “Yikes…that’s soon!  Okay. Start thinking. What am I going to give up?” …well, what these traditional preparation-for-the-preparatory seasons do is to set the fact of that realization and need to prepare into a deep context that is wise, rooted in the richness of tradition , and helpful.

So, from a 7th grade religion textbook published in 1947, part of the The Christ Life Series in Religion: 

(Click on the images to get readable version)

"amy welborn" "amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

What I particularly like is the long paragraph on p. 146.  I’ll type some of it out here:

Thousands and thousands of people upon the stage of lief are adjusting themselves to their roles in this drama — this drama which is real life.  Old men are there and old women, youths and maidens, and even little children.  From all parts of the world they come and from all walks of life — kings and queens, merchants and laborers, teachers and students, bankers and beggars, religious of all orders, cardinals, bishops and parish priests, and leading them all the Vicar of Christ on earth.  All are quietly taking their laces, for all re actors in the sublime mystery drama of our redemption.

We, too, have our own parts to play in this living drama.  And there is no rehearsal.  We begin now, on Septuagesima, following as faithfully as we can the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which comes to us particularly in the Mass and the sacraments.

It would be very clear, wouldn’t it, to the twelve-year old reading this, that he or she is not waiting to be a real, active Christian – the time is now, and the Spirit is active in the lives of all the baptized.  Rather stirring, isn’t it? You’re young, yes, but you’re not an extra in this – you are all in. 

So…..what happened?

As usual, it was determined that all this was too hard for us.

A good summary is offered by Dr. Lauren Pristas here (it’s a pdf file)

In short, the committees appointed to reform everything about the liturgical life of the Church after the Council decided to ditch it.  I’ll quote a bit here, but do check out the rest – it’s not long, although her specifics regarding the Collect prayers (her specialization) may not be of as much interest to you.  The options developed by the committee were:

  1. Either the names of the Sundays or the prayers are preserved, but the penetential aspect abolished
  2. Or the season itself is abolished, but the prayers used at another place in the Church year
  3. Or the season is abolished and the prayers used in the last three Sundays before Lent.

As Pristas points out, the two options that are not there are either making no change at all or abolishing everything, names, prayers, season – which is, of course,  what happened.

Van Doren’s answer to the question about Septuagesima appears first. He added
a solution, (d), according to which Septuagesima would be retained as a period of
austerity. He called Septuagesima ‘the doorway of Lent’ and voted that nothing
be changed. In the event his solution (d) would not prevail, Van Doren preferred
solution (c): that the name and penitential elements be removed but the formularies
retained.

None of the other members voted for Van Doren’s solution (d). Martimort called
for the suppression of Septuagesima. He did not comment on the formularies except
to say that these were the responsibility of other coetus.(committee)
Jounel also voted for suppression of the season, but wanted its

formularies used at another time. Amore
voted for suppression but divided the question of the formularies. He proposed that
the breviary lessons be moved to Advent, and the Mass lessons be retained in place.
Schmidt preferred that everything but the penitential elements remain the same, but
wanted the formularies retained even if the season were suppressed.Dirks voted
that the season with its penitential elements be suppressed but the formularies
retained. Nocent said that Septuagesima should be abolished for pastoral reasons:
so that the faithful may see the progress of the liturgical year clearly and not be
confused by diverse ‘anticipations’. He does not mention the formularies, but
summarises: ‘The names and penitential character ought to be abolished: the Gloria
and Alleluia said, the color green used, etc.’

The Birth of the Liturgy Committee, right there.  Crazy.

****

The records of Coetus 1 tell us that
Septuagesima was suppressed for the sake of the faithful: ‘the penitential character of
the time of Septuagesima or pre-Lent is difficult for the faithful to understand without
many explanations’. Further, Adrian Nocent said suppression of Septuagesima was
necessary if the faithful were to see the progress of the liturgical year clearly and not
be confused by diverse ‘anticipations’. But Callewaert’s historical study shows us
that the period of pre-Lenten penitence arose in the first place as an expression of the
devotion of the faithful.
This is key. Lent is a time of obligatory fasting and penance. Septuagesima, on the
other hand, is a short season through which the devotion of the faithful impels them
to prepare mentally, physically and spiritually for Lent. The Church has, since the
sixth century, encouraged and assisted the faithful in this preparation by appointing
special Masses and Offices for this season and using numeric nomenclature that
marks off the time remaining until both Lent (in Latin, Quadragesima or forty) and
the Pasch.

Look. Church Things come about for all kinds of reasons and out of all kinds of circumstances: good intentions, misguided intentions, evil, persecution and even accidents. The mystery of this dynamic intersection of divine and human ways is one of my abiding interests. In addition, liturgy develops, and while “organic development” is practically impossible to define, it’s also obvious that a handful of scholars from a particular place and time sorting through options for transforming a thousand year-old set of traditions in a way that will profoundly impact hundreds of millions of Catholics, present and future…ain’t it.

And perhaps… this example might also remind us – in case we’d forgotten – that there’s no need to view decision-making within Church institutions with piously folded hands that move only to place a finger to the lips while whispering Hush! Holy Spirit at work! All is well!

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— 1 —

Okay – about Brother Sun, Sister Moon.

I’ve written about this before.  Somewhere, to far back to dig up, and I’ve defended the movie, relating how it’s a guilty pleasure for me mostly because of the emotional associations.  When I was a freshman in college, the student center at UT showed it one night and our whole crew – those of us who were active at the Catholic student center – went. There we were, deep in our friendships and community, really into this Catholic thing, in the way that mostly (only?) young people can be, and we all went and saw this movie…and came out even more ecstatic, convinced that this thing was real and beautiful.

If you want your dream to grow…

I know there are those that hate it, but even in adulthood, and even now, no, I don’t hate it, but this most recent viewing last weekend, probably 15 years at least since the last time, revealed its flaws quite clearly.

— 2 —

  • It’s not exactly Christocentric.  Not surprising, right?  Of course Christ is mentioned – Francis does say he wants to live like Christ and the apostles, but it’s not presented as his central motivation.  And naturally, Francis’ whole focus on penance – that was what he was doing, really – embracing the life of a penitent, not a homesteader, is absent. (it’s absent from most contemporary takes, even Catholic ones, as well, though. When you actually read St. Francis, it’s very clear – his motive wasn’t primarily “simplify” or even “the poor.”  It was “penance for my sins.”
  • The scene in Rome with the Pope is over the top and almost laughable.
  • He didn’t have as much actual contact with Clare after she embraced poverty as the movie suggests.  In fact, after they had established how she was to live, he didn’t see her again until he was dying.
  • I’m pretty sure it doesn’t snow in Assisi as much as the film suggests.

Good things?

  • The atmosphere is wonderful.
  • So many haunting images that might not be historically accurate but are, well.. truthy. 
  • My favorite scene in the film is this one:

And there are other good ones.  Yes, the Jesus-centeredness of Francis is not..central. But if you can balance that out with what you’ve learned from Fr. Thompson’s biography and this fantastic book….all the better.

adventures-in-assisi

Aside:  The first time Francis encounters Clare, he follows her to an area where, to his horror, lepers gather to wash. She has brought them bread, which she lays on a rock. She then warbles, “Brothers! Brothers!”   Years ago, when my daughter was maybe 5 or so, we watched the movie and for days, she would call her own (perhaps to her, leprous) big brothers by trilling, “Brothers! Brothers!” herself.

— 3 —

Speaking of Hansen’s Disease, I’m still reading The Colony, which is about the history of the leper colony at Molokai.  It’s quite fascinating, and perhaps the most important figure I’ve learned about was one who was quite well known during the early part of this century and who now has, following his presently more famous colleagues, Sts. Damien and Marianne of Molokai, his canonization cause in process:

Brother Joseph Dutton:

In late July 1886, a ship pulled into Molokai, Hawaii’s leper colony. Father Damien de Veuster always greeted the newcomers, usually lepers seeking refuge and comfort. But one passenger stood out, a tall man in a blue denim suit. He wasn’t a leper; he was Joseph Dutton, and at age 43 he came to help Father Damien. The priest warned he couldn’t pay anything, but Dutton didn’t care. He would spend forty-five years on Molokai, remaining long after the priest’s death of leprosy in 1889.

Joseph’s journey to Molokai was full of twists and turns. 

Well worth reading and contemplating!

More here

Here 

….

Before his death on March 26, 1931, he said: “It has been a happy place—a happy life.” It had been a restless life until he found happiness among the lepers of Molokai. At the time of his death, the Jesuit magazine America noted: “Virtue is never so attractive as when we see it in action. It has a power to believe that we too can rise up above this fallen nature of ours to a fellowship with the saints.”

Here.

Father Damien—then a patient himself—greeted him as “Brother” on July 29, 1886, and from that moment until Damien’s death on April 15, 1889, the two maintained an intimate friendship.  Dutton dressed Damien’s sores, recorded a statement about the priest’s purity, and worked tirelessly to honor his memory and legacy in following years.  He led the movement to name the main road “Damien Road” and wrote both personal letters and newspaper columns about his sacrifice.  Included in Dutton’s collection at Notre Dame are strips of Damien’s cloak and several finger towels that he saved in envelopes.

In his 44 years in Kalaupapa, Dutton touched thousands of lives through his selfless service.  He headed the Baldwin Home for Boys on the Kalawao side of the peninsula, where he cared physically and spiritually for male patients and orphan boys.  From laboring as a carpenter and administrator, to comforting the dying, to coaching baseball, Dutton immersed himself in his community without accepting credit; to him, work was always about answering God’s call instead of personal fame or selfish desire.

josephdutton

— 4 —

A good week for saints this week, eh?  Well, it always is, but I’m also struck by the aptness of this week’s saints for Catholic Schools Week:  Angela Merici, Thomas Aquinas and Don Bosco.

Read their lives. Contemplate their lives. Called to take different paths in varied circumstances, all listened and responded.  They prayed, they thought, they wrote, they were all creative as they, shall we say…reached out to the peripheries?

Who’d have thought it possible….

— 5 —

Speaking of Catholic schools, it was nice to see the Diocese of Birmingham featured in this NCRegister article on the impact of vouchers on Catholic schools.  This past fall, Ann Engelhart and I spoke at St. Barnabas, one of the schools mentioned, and I was so impressed with the children, who knew quite a bit about (guess who) ..St. Francis of Assisi already.

amy welborn

— 6 —

Did a homeschool roundup post here yesterday.  Here’s how Guatemala has progressed.  It will be painted today:

amy-welborn10

I mean…I wouldn’t have done the mountains that way, but it’s not my salt dough map of Guatemala!

— 7 —

 (Repeat from last week…but…still pertinent)

Lent is coming!  Full list of resources here, but take special note today, if you don’t mind, of these Stations of the Cross..and pass it on to your parish!

John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross, published by Ave Maria Press.  This, again, is available as an actual book and in a digital version, in this case as an app.  Go here for more information. (The illustrations are by Michael O’Brien)

"amy welborn"A few years ago, I wrote a Stations of the Cross for young people called No Greater Love,  published by Creative Communications for the Parish. They put it out of print for a while…but now it’s back!

amy-welborn4

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

Read Full Post »

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