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Daily homeschool report. A distracted day on my part mostly because I kept thinking about  how next week, there are going to be about 5 hours available for “school.”

  • Prayer: Mass readings, discussion of the meaning of the first – what true fasting is, what God is telling us through Isaiah. Intercessions, Lord’s Prayer.
  • No copywork, and no drawing of past copywork either. For writing he did an exercise in Writing and Rhetoric, which asked him to expand a paragraph and make it into a tall tale of sorts – the Legend of Sleepy Hollow was the central story of the unit. They had three different paragraphs to do, and I had him choose one. He mentioned that he would think an invention that would take his voice and turn it into written words would be cool. I said…er…voice recognition software is a thing. We looked it up, and it’s in Windows. The reason he’s interested is because his handwriting can’t keep up with his ideas, and his word processing skills aren’t there yet. Sii
  • Then a lot of math. I had said I was going to let this new section wait until next week…but then I realized Monday was a holiday, and that would give us Tuesday as a beginning…and then I realized that big chunks of every day next week would be taken up with Other Stuff. So might as well get this going. And once we started going, it became clear that in order for it to stick, we needed to keep going. The subject was simplifying equations with variables.  The first chunk of reading is here. 
  • Yeah, that took a while. But I will say, I thought the methodology was ingenious. You can catch a bit of it in the linked pages. It begins by giving a “problem” – if you have a number, take away 3 and then divide by 4, what do you have? Well, you figure that out by working backwards and doing inverse operations. Master that concept and then moving on to actual equations, you see that when you isolate the variable by performing the same operation on both sides, you are essentially doing that work backwards thing but in a different way.
  • At this point – noonish – it was time think about heading out to run some errands before fetching the brother. We needed to go to the library to get the new Bosch book (they had it and it is a lot shorter than the others he has written – I think he had it half finished by the time we got home), we needed a few groceries, he needed new jeans and I wanted to look for whole frozen squid to dissect.
  • So with that in mind, we did one more unit – science. Which was the new OKGo video and attendant educational resources.  
  • I mean…zero gravity is science, right?
  • Then we watched a video about the big gravitational wave discovery. Whatever that is! But he’s studied Einstein in his history of science class, we’ve talked about it, and it’s just valuable for him to see people REALLY EXCITED about scientific discoveries – it matters, it’s interesting, and it’s about the world God made. So yes to gravitational wave frenzy.
  • The next video on the Kids Should See this page was a delightful and creative piece of animation – a guy creates animation cels on transparencies and then uses his IPhone to create stop motion films.  They’re funny and inspire a kid to think…hmmm….I could do that.  Or, if you can’t or don’t want to do exactly that, simply to think of your own creative inklings and think of  yourself as part of an endlessly creative group called the human race.
  • He mentioned that what he liked was how the animator superimposed his cells on everyday objects and brought them to life.  I began a lecture reflected on how he probably did this by simply looking and contemplating the world around him, which leads to something his one-time art teacher used to tell them “Most of art is not in doing, but in looking and seeing.”  “Oh, ” he agreed, “She said that all the time.”  And so we continued the conversation about this animator and the kid’s own creative efforts (mostly writing) along those lines.
  • Book checked out. Non-hormonal milk purchased. (I am indifferent to organic but think hormones in meat and dairy are bad and have probably brought much as-yet undiscovered harm). Squid sought – at Whole Foods, big Hispanic supermarket (I looked there because they carry a lot of Asian foodstuffs as well), Asian grocery. Fail. Many squidish rings and other pieces, but no whole squid.
  • It looks like the world’s squid are safe from our dissection skillz. Probably just as well. My older son said the ink sac smells bad when you break it open.
  • Next week will be weird and busy. Starting with tomorrow, which is about a basketball game, serving Mass at the convent, then a birthday party.  No school on Monday, but I am going to try to set up some science demonstrations and experiments to gestate over the weekend – they actually like that sort of thing as a leisure activity, believe it or not. Who knows.. Maybe cooking will be the only scientific endeavor that happens over the weekend. Tuesday is a music thing in the morning, then boxing, then a new zoo class late afternoon, then basketball practice. Wednesday is an all-day activity out of the house and then basketball. Thursday is  a break from Cathedral class, but there’s a school theater performance from a touring troupe from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival that we’re attending, plus piano lesson. Friday is a school music performance of the Alabama Symphony (I think – I haven’t bought tickets yet, but it looks like there are still a lot of empty seats), then Saturday is basketball and a piano competition/performance thing (I’m really not sure what it is).
  • #unsocializedhomeschooler

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— 1 —

Again with the  Daily Homeschool Report thing – and the short  Wednesday & Thursday report. It will be brief….not much memorable happened, what with all the interruptions, and what was probably most memorable I wasn’t present for.

— 2 —

Ash Wednesday and Lent were the center of prayer.  We went to Mass on Wednesday at the Cathedral, with the Bishop celebrating. Full church, naturally, including many fellow homeschool friends. We’ve also read – along with brother when he gets home – from that 7th grade vintage Catholic text I’ve been posting about. The tone and message are just right.

No copywork today, but yesterday was  this poem by Christian Rossetti:

It is good to be last not first,
Pending the present distress;
It is good to hunger and thirst,
So it be for righteousness.
It is good to spend and be spent,
It is good to watch and to pray:
Life and Death make a goodly Lent
So it leads us to Easter Day.

Latin review, a bit of writing in Writing and Rhetoric.  A bit of Beast Academy,but not too much since we finished one unit and the next one calls for a lot of reading and some careful thinking. Instead, we did review word problems from grade 6 Evan-Moor and will start the new section on Tuesday. (Monday – brother has no school so we won’t either, I suppose!)

Read about Daniel Boone in the history text. Tomorrow – Anthony Wayne – appropriate since he was born in Fort Wayne and my favorite restaurant there was Mad Anthony’s….

He continued his reading in Farenheit 451.  For leisure, he read this and this over the past couple of days and is also reading The Fellowship of the Ring.  The new Pseudonymous Bosch book is out and the library has it on the shelf (as of tonight), so we’ll go fetch that tomorrow.

Rabbit hole: Him holding one of the zillion chargers that fill our house. “How does something get charged? I mean…what happens?” 

Given that electricity is one of those things that I keep learning and relearning and have a terrible time conceptualizing, that’s a hard one for me to answer.  We were short on time, but we took some time to try to find some answers in a couple of books – The Way Things Work and the Usborne book on physics, and it was vaguely satisfying.

This morning was taken up with homeschool classes at the cathedral – drama class (taught by a theater major mom) and history of science, which focused on Mendel.  Lots of conversation about traits later on.

Tomorrow is an actual full day, but it would probably be more art-y and writer-y than anything else.  We’ll see. Next week will be…full. Maybe one “full” day without any activities? Maybe? Glad we got that crayfish dissected on Monday, because there sure wasn’t any other time to get to it this week. Although I do want to find a squid – I’ve read that the best is to find whole frozen squid. My older son said that when his homeschool science class at the science museum dissected a squid, the instructor said “you could eat this if you wanted to” – so I’m trusting that since she made that observation, they weren’t dealing with preserved animals. Maybe we’ll try to hit a couple of the Asian groceries to see what we can find.

And I just remembered something else going on next week that will take out most of another day. Oy.

– 3—

You need to read this Atlantic article on “The Math Revolution.” It’s about the explosion in problem-solving based extracurricular math and the impact it’s having on American students in general and their competitiveness in the global math scene specifically.  The programs we use – Beast Academy right now and the higher math in the past (and future) – are from one of the groups mentioned, The Art of Problem Solving. 

…You wouldn’t see it in most classrooms, you wouldn’t know it by looking at slumping national test-score averages, but a cadre of American teenagers are reaching world-class heights in math—more of them, more regularly, than ever before. The phenomenon extends well beyond the handful of hopefuls for the Math Olympiad. The students are being produced by a new pedagogical ecosystem—almost entirely extracurricular—that has developed online and in the country’s rich coastal cities and tech meccas. In these places, accelerated students are learning more and learning faster than they were 10 years ago—tackling more-complex material than many people in the advanced-math community had thought possible. “The bench of American teens who can do world-class math,” says Po-Shen Loh, the head coach of the U.S. team, “is significantly wider and stronger than it used to be.”

Rifkin trains her teachers to expect challenging questions from students at every level, even from pupils as young as 5, so lessons toggle back and forth between the obvious and the mind-bendingly abstract. “The youngest ones, very naturally, their minds see math differently,” she told me. “It is common that they can ask simple questions and then, in the next minute, a very complicated one. But if the teacher doesn’t know enough mathematics, she will answer the simple question and shut down the other, more difficult one. We want children to ask difficult questions, to engage so it is not boring, to be able to do algebra at an early age, sure, but also to see it for what it is: a tool for critical thinking. If their teachers can’t help them do this, well—” Rifkin searched for the word that expressed her level of dismay. “It is a betrayal.”

Now, here’s the problem. The normal course of events upon the explosion of a phenomenon like this is for education reformers to step up and say, “Oh, this is so great…let’s mandate this paradigm for all math teachers everywhere at every level, rewrite all the texts and ask Bill Gates to fund a new nation of workshops. Everyone should do this now.” 

Well, no. While I think the problem-solving angle is helpful and fundamentally worthwhile (I say that as a non-math person, too), I also don’t think it’s necessary for every student to buy into it or become experts in this way of doing math. What should happen? More support of these kinds of efforts in all sorts of communities for more students and the freedom for schools, teachers and communities that want to make this a part of their offering without worrying about how it fits into federal or state standards.

In other words, facilitate the flourishing, but for heaven’s sake don’t mandate it. Just stop mandating educational things and you will be amazed how much matters will improve.

— 4 —

Last week, with a break in the weather, I got outside for a walk and listened to the In Our Time podcast (the best) on Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, appropriate considering all of our American Revolution -study. A typically excellent program offering really interesting context for Paine, and, related to the education issue, one more illustration of how “school” does not equal “education.”  Paine, like so many of his peers, had only the most basic school-based education and learned everything else in the context of apprenticeships, intense discussion and study circles and self-study.

Go here for the In Our Time podcast page. 

— 5 —

For something completely different – if you are a Cracker Barrel fan (I’m not) you might be interested in this new fast-casual concept under construction that I drive by at least twice a day –  they are debuting  it right here in Birmingham,  and it’s called Holler & Dash.   Not many details, but from what I can pick up, it seems like a pretty smart concept.  You can follow the progress on the new place on Facebook, and when they make it to your neighborhood, know we had it here first.

— 6–

Commentary from the back seat in the – not kidding – twelve minutes it takes to drive home from basketball practice with an 11-year old.

  • Recounts the course of practice. Then…
  • “What’s that song….when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie…???”
  • (I answer. That’s Amore.)
  • Pause.
  • “That book…Anna and the King of Siam….is it in third person?”
  • (Me telling him yes, that Anna had written a first-person account, but this was a third-person, slightly fictionalized account, and the musical was based on that.)
  • (I have no idea where that came from. We have neither seen nor talked about it recently.)
  • Pause.
  • Recites haiku he wrote yesterday.
  • Pause.
  • “I would hate to be an amphibian. Your skin would be so wet and slimy all the time.”
  • (Me making the counterargument that it would be all you know, so no matter. He had a counterargument, but I don’t recall the details.)
  • Car stopped in front of Orthodox church, with large icon on the side. Pause.
  • “The proportions on that icon are wrong.”
  • (Me explaining that it was just like all icons, and proper proportions weren’t the point.)
  • And, home.

— 7 —

 

It’s Friday. Stations day.

A Stations of the Cross for teens:

"amy welborn"

Biblical Way of the Cross for everyone:

For Ave Maria press, we wrote John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross. The current edition is illustrated with paintings by Michael O’Brien.

"amy welborn"

 

Reconciled to God – a daily devotional. Also available in an e-book format. Still time! Only .99.

amy-welborn-3

 

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

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(Originally posted, in part, three years ago. Some additions.)

Finally, some more Vintage Catholic for you  – a 7th grade textbook published in 1935 by MacMillan, part of The Christ Life Series in Religion.  Authors are the famed liturgist Dom Virgil Michel OSB, another Benedictine, and Dominican sisters.

Note the tone.  It treats the young reader, not as consumer or client to be served or pandered to, but as a part of the Church with a vital role to play and a spiritual life capable of “courageous penance.”   I really love the paragraphs on p. 146 that set the global scene for the season.

On the eve of Septuagesima, with Vespers, the solemn evening prayer of the Church, all the members of the Mystical Body of Christ, bidding farewell to the Alleluia, suggestive of the joys of the Christmas Period, turn their steps toward the mountainous paths which lead to Easter. Thousands and thousands of people upon the stage of life 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 places, for all are 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.

If you click on the images, full-screen, readable versions should come up. 

"Charlotte Was Both"

"Charlotte Was Both"

 

What is also missing is that contemporary pervasive, nervous, anxiety-ridden definition of Lent as essentially about helping you feel a certain way about life and yourself, and if you follow these steps, it’s going to be a super dynamic time for you and give you a fabulous sense of purpose. None of that.  Just a sense of respect for each person’s capacity to respond to God, and trust that God is drawing each one to him.

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Hey, guess what? Short day!

(Homeschool boxing at 1.)

  • Prayer began with the Mass readings, which were more of Solomon, and Jesus with the Pharisees.  Read them aloud, then the petitions and Lord’s Prayer.  I asked him to explain what he understood the meaning of the Gospel was.  Told him we would talk more about Lent this evening when his brother was home.
  • Copywork – Tuesday is literature day –  was the first sentence of Fahrenheit 451 , which he just started reading (and likes so far) – see yesterday for why.
  • It was a pleasure to burn.
  • We talked about what he has read in the book so far. He gets it and commented that he liked the straightforward writing. I focused on one of my favorite moments – the end of the first burning scene when the woman who owns the house and the books about to burned ignites the fire herself rather than let the firemen do it. She “…..reached out with contempt to them all, and struck the kitchen match against the railing.” 
  • What does that mean? He had his ideas, and I argued for my interpretation: she would not let them have power over her. Books provide inner freedom, and they could not claim hers.
  • Math was more simplification of expressions in Beast Academy.  We then watched a bit of Khan Academy of the same topic – combining like terms and simplification. As in, “Two Chuck Norrises plus three Chuck Norrises equals five Chuck Norrises. If you add 2 of something else, you will still only have five Chuck Norisses – you can’t combine the Chuck Norrises with that other thing.”
  • We then watched a couple of the very good “Smarthistory” videos on art history. We watched the video on Warhol’s Campbell soup cans, and then one on Duchamp’s snow shovel – or “In Advance of a Broken Arm.”  We frequently visit art museums so the discussion  – how is that art? is not a new one, but the narrator’s discussion with Salman Khan, who was a great skeptical, yet open-minded devil’s advocate – laid out the question in simple terms, understandable to an eleven-year old, and not dodging issues of cynicism and commercialism, either.  We ended the discussion with the more general question of value – why is one piece of paper printed one way more “valuable” than another piece of paper with a different number printed on it? Etc.
  • I then suggested he go make some art, with the discussion in these videos in mind. He brought a footstool and was humorous about it, which was fine, but then decided he’d rather just write a haiku. Which he did. I am not sure what the point of any of that was – it wasn’t planned – I’d wanted to watch a couple of those videos, and those popped up.
  • He took his Latin and went off and learned the vocabulary (some adjectives) for the new chapter. He returned and we talked about English derivatives of said vocabulary.
  • Welp, then it was time to practice piano and then head to boxing.
  • Back from that, he ate lunch, then read over the first three pages of the next chapter in the history textbook – covering some of the same ground he had in yesterday’s reading from A History of US (early nationhood),  but from a different perspective. Read the adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in the Writing and Rhetoric book, as well as the questions afterwards, prepping to discuss and do some writing on it tomorrow.
  • That’s it.  There’s nothing happening tomorrow…oh wait. Ash Wednesday. Noon Mass. …..short day. If there was an 8-9ish Mass around here that wasn’t a school Mass, we’d go to that, but there isn’t, so noon it probably will be.
  • Timeframe before boxing: 10-12:30.

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Time for the Daily Homeschool Report. It’s not fascinating, it’s just a report so you can see how this thing happens in one little corner.

Are you tired of me saying “short day?” Well, here’s another one.  Early dismissal for brother, late start because of the Super Bowl..so yeah. Short day.

  • Scripture reading (we always pray with the daily Mass readings) was 2 Samuel 8 – placing the Ark of the Covenant in the just – built Temple.  I recapped some Solomon stuff that had preceded it.  He recited the list of OT books he knows so far – from Genesis through 2 Chronicles.  Then read the Gospel, prayed the Intentions and an Our Father.
  • Copywork was Scripture, since it’s Monday.  The last part of the Old Testament reading:
  •  Now when the priests came out of the sanctuary, the cloud filled the Temple of the Lord, and because of the cloud the priests could no longer perform their duties: the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s Temple.
      Then Solomon said:
    ‘The Lord has chosen to dwell in the thick cloud.
    Yes, I have built you a dwelling,
    a place for you to live in for ever.’
  • . Half in manuscript, half in cursive.

  • Math was more simplification of expressions –these worksheets from Beast Academy.  A bit of confusion, but by the end, it was understood.
  • He had had homework of sorts over the weekend – to read the first few chapters in the next volume of Hakim’s Story of US – about the early years of the United States – Washington’s presidency, the Hamilton/Jefferson conflict and the establishment of the District of Columbia.  We talked about that – can’t recall the specific points of interest, but there were some.
  • I then made my big announcement about his next “school” book (remember, we did short stories all last week): The Magician’s Nephew.  
  • “Oh, I’ve already read that. Remember?”
  • No, I didn’t.  I knew he hadn’t read all of the Narnia books, claiming he’d gotten bored,  but I didn’t know what he had read.  I guess I should have asked?
  • Okay, well, let’s think of something else then.
  • His brother read Animal Farm last week, and this one had heard us discussing it, so he asked for clarification of what it was about.  I explained who George Orwell was, what type of writing he did, and then the general point/plot of this novel, defining allegory in the process.  He then asked about Fahrenheit 451 , which had been brother’s summer reading.
  • I handed them both to him and told him that if he was interested, go into his room and read the first few pages of both and then whichever one he wanted to read first, that’s what we’d do. He picked the latter.  So it shall be.
  • Let’s see.  What next….Just a bit of Latin – some translating and parsing.
  • Then, let’s finish up with these invertebrates . Crayfish waiting.
  • Read about Crustaceans in the Animal book, which is become the science “spine” (as they say) of the month.
  • This is our third dissection, preceded by the earthworm and the grasshopper.  This was by far the best. The animal is larger and the organs are easier to see.
  • "amy welborn"
  • I also decided to do the dissection to the tune of a video – it just makes a lot of sense to dissect along with someone who knows what he is doing.  We focused on this one, and then after we were done, watched a bit of this one to get a slightly different perspective. It worked very well. We paused it occasionally so not to rush our cutting.  The most interesting parts were first, the gills – I had never known that the stiff but still sort of feathery things that come off with a lobster’s swimmerettes are gills, but that is what they are. Duh. Very interesting to see those and poke around. Secondly, the crayfish stomach, located practically in the head, has “teeth” in it – you can remove the stomach, see the contents – mud, mostly – and see and feel those little hard protuberances.
  • After we’d finished the dissection, I just named the systems, and as I did, he pointed and explained the course and shape of each in the animal. An exercise like this really emphasized exactly what the nervous system, for example is – you can see that central nerve “cord” and trace it along the body up to the head where it splits to go to the eyes and antennae then meets again for the “brain.”  To see the little heart and the hole in it through which the blood flows to the rest of the body in the animal’s open circulatory system – it simply clarifies the basic functions of all of these systems, not only in these simpler animals, but in all creatures.
  • Finally, he watched a video during lunch and after – the first episode of Egypt – a BBC docudrama about late 19th-early 20th century archaeological work.  I told him I’d just like him to try it out – if he doesn’t want to watch the whole series, that is fine.  He said the first one was good “like that Abbey show Katie watches but more interesting,” but I don’t know if he really wants to watch any more of it. We’ll see tomorrow.
  • Timeframe, including video, 10-2.

 

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A few of St. Augustine’s sermons on Lent have come down to us. This is a translation published in 1959 – you want sermons 205-211, that start on p. 185.  I am not sure of the dating or specific context – they seem to have been preached in different years, since the themes carry over from sermon to sermon – such as the repeated reminder that if you abstain from some food or drink, it then makes no sense to replace what you have sacrifice with something that either is more costly or affords you as much or greater pleasure.

I appreciated this, from Sermon 207. Forgive the formatting – go the original for a better view, in the format of your choice!

By the help of the merciful Lord our God, the temptations of the world, the snares of the Devil, the suffering of the world, the enticement of the flesh, the surging waves of troubled times, and all corporal and spiritual adversities are to be overcome by almsgiving, fasting, and prayer.

These practices ought to glow throughout the entire life of a Christian, but especially as the Paschal solemnity approaches which stirs up our minds by its yearly return, renewing in them the salutary memory that our Lord, the only-begotten Son of God, showed mercy to us and fasted and prayed for us. As a matter of fact, eleemosyna in Greek signifies mercy in Latin. Moreover, what mercy could be greater, so far as we poor wretches are concerned, than that which drew the Creator of the heavens down from heaven, clothed the Maker of the earth with earthly vesture, made Him, who in eternity remains equal to His Father, equal to us in mortality, and imposed on the Lord of the universe the form of a servant, so that He, our Bread, might hunger; that He, our Fulfillment, might thirst; that He, our Strength, might be weakened; that He, our Health, might be injured; that He, our Life, might die? And all this [He did] to satisfy our hunger, to moisten our dryness, to soothe our infirmity, to wipe out our iniquity, to enkindle our charity. What greater mercy could there be than that the Creator be created, the Ruler be served, the Redeemer be sold, the Exalted be humbled and the Reviver be killed?

In regard to almsgiving, we are commanded to give bread to the hungry,  but He first gave Himself over to cruel enemies for us so that He might give Himself as food to us when we were hungry. We are commanded to receive the stranger; for our sake He ‘came unto his own and his own received him not.’  In a word, let our soul bless Him who becomes a propitiation for all its iniquities, who heals all its diseases, who redeems its life from corruption, who crowns it in mercy and pity, who satisfies its desires in blessings.  Let us give alms the more generously and the more frequently in proportion as the day draws nearer on which the supreme almsgiving accomplished for us is celebrated. Fasting without mercy is worthless to him who fasts.

 Let us fast, humbling our souls as the day draws near on which the Teacher of humility humbled Himself becoming obedient even to death on a cross.  Let us imitate
His cross, fastening to it our passions subdued by the nails of abstinence. Let us chastise our body, subjecting it to obedience, and, lest we slip into illicit pleasures through
our undisciplined flesh, let us in taming it sometimes withdraw licit pleasures. Self-indulgence and drunkenness ought to be shunned on other days; throughout this season, however, even legitimate eating is to be checked. Adultery and fornication must always be abhorred and avoided, but on these days special restraint must be practised even by mar-
ried persons. The flesh, which has been accustomed to restraint in regard to its own satisfaction, will readily submit to you when there is question of clinging to another’s goods. 

Of course, care must be taken to avoid merely changing instead of lessening pleasures. For you may observe that certain persons seek out rare liquors in place of their ordinary wine; that they, with much greater relish, counterbalance by the juice of other fruits what they lose by denying themselves the juice of grapes; that, in place of meat, they procure food of manifold variety and appeal; that they store up,
as opportune for this season, delights which they would be ashamed to indulge in at other times. In this way, the observance of Lent becomes, not the curbing of old passions, but
an opportunity for new pleasures. Take measures in advance, my brethren, with as much diligence as possible, to prevent these attitudes from creeping upon you. Let frugality be
joined to fasting. As surfeiting the stomach is to be censured, so stimulants of the appetite must be eliminated. It is not that certain kinds of food are to be detested, but that bodily pleasure is to be checked. Esau was censured, not for having desired a fat calf or plump birds, but for having coveted a dish of pottage. 5 And holy King David repented of having excessively desired water. 6 Hence, not by delicacies obtained with much labor and at great expense, but by the cheaper food found within reach, is the body to be refreshed, or, rather, sustained in its fasting.

 

So, no, the parish Lenten All-You-Can-Eat Fish Fry would probably not fly with St. Augustine. Or any other the saints, I’m guessing.

For you see, traditionally, Catholic spirituality emphasizes frugality, simplicity and an appropriate level of asceticism, for all, not just religious. This was undoubtedly a more organically experienced reality in times in which most people lived in survival mode most of the time anyway. Our more generally prosperous times have undercut this sensibility, narrowed it and domesticated it, so that any call to bodily mortification and sacrifice is presented as a possibly helpful lifestyle choice rather than what all Christians should be striving for, since all Christians (as Augustine notes) live in imitation of Christ and his sacrifice and humility.

It is also a fundamental orientation that lived alongside the Catholic embrace of the Incarnation and God’s goodness as experienced through creation: that is the Feast, alongside the Fast. They coexist, sometimes uneasily and in tension, questioning and challenging each other in spiritual writings, traditions, liturgy, church law and the lives of ordinary Christians. They do so vividly this week, as Carnivale tumbles into Ash Wednesday.

Together we feast, together we fast, on our way, letting Jesus teach us what it is we are really hungry for.



"amy welborn"

 

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We have several of his Lenten homilies – I can’t find them all in English translation online, but what is there…is linked here. I think 49 is my favorite.

Reading these excerpts – or better, the entire homilies (it won’t take long – good Lent prep!) I’m struck, once again, by the continuity of human experience and, consequently, the continuity of the Catholic spiritual tradition which reflects that experience in dialogue with God and what God has revealed. “… for it is equally unhealthy to languish under empty delights, or to labour under racking anxiety.”

No less true today than it was 1600 years ago…

Sermon 39:

Relying, therefore, dearly-beloved, on these arms, let us enter actively and fearlessly on the contest set before us:  so that in this fasting struggle we may not rest satisfied with only this end, that we should think abstinence from food alone desirable.  For it is not enough that the substance of our flesh should be reduced, if the strength of the soul be not also developed.  When the outer man is somewhat subdued, let the inner man be somewhat refreshed; and when bodily excess is denied to our flesh, let our mind be invigorated by spiritual delights.  Let every Christian scrutinise himself, and search severely into his inmost heart:  let him see that no discord cling there, no wrong desire be harboured.  Let chasteness drive incontinence far away; let the light of truth dispel the shades of deception; let the swellings of pride subside; let wrath yield to reason; let the darts of ill-treatment be shattered, and the chidings of the tongue be bridled; let thoughts of revenge fall through, and injuries be given over to oblivion. 

40

Let works of piety, therefore, be our delight, and let us be filled with those kinds of food which feed us for eternity.  Let us rejoice in the replenishment of the poor, whom our bounty has satisfied.  Let us delight in the clothing of those whose nakedness we have covered with needful raiment.  Let our humaneness be felt by the sick in their illnesses, by the weakly in their infirmities, by the exiles in their hardships, by the orphans in their destitution, and by solitary widows in their sadness:  in the helping of whom there is no one that cannot carry out some amount of benevolence.  For no one’s income is small, whose heart is big:  and the measure of one’s mercy and goodness does not depend on the size of one’s means.  Wealth of goodwill is never rightly lacking, even in a slender purse.  Doubtless the expenditure of the rich is greater, and that of the poor smaller, but there is no difference in the fruit of their works, where the purpose of the workers is the same.

42

Being therefore, dearly-beloved, fully instructed by these admonitions of ours, which we have often repeated in your ears in protest against abominable error, enter upon the holy days of Lent with Godly devoutness, and prepare yourselves to win God’s mercy by your own works of Leo the Greatmercy.  Quench your anger, wipe out enmities, cherish unity, and vie with one another in the offices of true humility.  Rule your slaves and those who are put under you with fairness, let none of them be tortured by imprisonment or chains.  Forego vengeance, forgive offences:  exchange severity for gentleness, indignation for meekness, discord for peace.  Let all men find us self-restrained, peaceable, kind:  that our fastings may be acceptable to God.  For in a word to Him we offer the sacrifice of true abstinence and true Godliness, when we keep ourselves from all evil:  the Almighty God helping us through all, to Whom with the Son and Holy Spirit belongs one Godhead and one Majesty, for ever and ever.  Amen.

46

We know indeed, dearly-beloved, your devotion to be so warm that in the fasting, which is the forerunner of the Lord’s Easter, many of you will have forestalled our exhortations.  But because the right practice of abstinence is needful not only to the mortification of the flesh but also to the purification of the mind, we desire your observance to be so complete that, as you cut down the pleasures that belong to the lusts of the flesh, so you should banish the errors that proceed from the imaginations of the heart.  For he whose heart is polluted with no misbelief prepares himself with true and reasonable purification for the Paschal Feast, in which all the mysteries of our religion meet together.  For, as the Apostle says, that “all that is not of faith is sin933,” the fasting of those will be unprofitable and vain, whom the father of lying deceives with his delusions, and who are not fed by Christ’s true flesh.  As then we must with the whole heart obey the Divine commands and sound doctrine, so we must use all foresight in abstaining from wicked imaginations.  For the mind then only keeps holy and spiritual fast when it rejects the food of error and the poison of falsehood, which our crafty and wily foe plies us with more treacherously now, when by the very return of the venerable Festival, the whole church generally is admonished to understand the mysteries of its salvation. …

Relying, therefore, dearly-beloved, on so great a promise, be heavenly not only in hope, but also in conduct.  And though our minds must at all times be set on holiness of mind and body, yet now during these 40 days of fasting bestir yourselves938 to yet more active works of piety, not only in the distribution of alms, which are very effectual in attesting reform, but also in forgiving offences, and in being merciful to those accused of wrongdoing, that the condition which God has laid down between Himself and us may not be against us when we pray.  For when we say, in accordance with the Lord’s teaching, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors,” we ought with the whole heart to carry out what we say.  For then only will what we ask in the next clause come to pass, that we be not led into temptation and freed from all evils:  through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

49

For as the Easter festival approaches, the greatest and most binding of fasts is kept, and its observance is imposed on all the faithful without exception; because no one is so holy that he ought not to be holier, nor so devout that he might not be devouter.  For who, that is set in the uncertainty of this life, can be found either exempt from temptation, or free from fault?  Who is there who would not wish for additions to his virtue, or removal of his vice? seeing that adversity does us harm, and prosperity spoils us, and it is equally dangerous not to have what we want at all, and to have it in the fullest measure.  There is a trap in the fulness of riches, a trap in the straits of poverty.  The one lifts us up in pride, the other incites us to complaint.  Health tries us, sickness tries us, so long as the one fosters carelessness and the other sadness.  There is a snare in security, a snare in fear; and it matters not whether the mind which is given over to earthly thoughts, is taken up with pleasures or with cares; for it is equally unhealthy to languish under empty delights, or to labour under racking anxiety.

And so, that the malice of the fretting foe may effect nothing by its rage, a keener devotion must be awaked to the performance of the Divine commands, in order that we may enter on the season, when all the mysteries of the Divine mercy meet together, with preparedness both of mind and body, invoking the guidance and help of God, that we may be strong to fulfil all things through Him, without Whom we can do nothing.  For the injunction is laid on us, in order that we may seek the aid of Him Who lays it.  Nor must any one excuse himself by reason of his weakness, since He Who has granted the will, also gives the power, as the blessed Apostle James says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, Who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him949.”  Which of the faithful does not know what virtues he ought to cultivate, and what vices to fight against?  Who is so partial or so unskilled a judge of his own conscience as not to know what ought to be removed, and what ought to be developed?  Surely no one is so devoid of reason as not to understand the character of his mode of life, or not to know the secrets of his heart.  Let him not then please himself in everything, nor judge himself according to the delights of the flesh, but place his every habit in the scale of the Divine commands, where, some things being ordered to be done and others forbidden, he can examine himself in a true balance by weighing the actions of his life according to this standard.  For the designing mercy of God950 has set up the brightest mirror in His commandments, wherein a man may see his mind’s face and realize its conformity or dissimilarity to God’s image:  with the specific purpose that, at least, during the days of our Redemption and Restoration, we may throw off awhile our carnal cares and restless occupations, and betake ourselves from earthly matters to heavenly.

V.  Forgiveness of our own sins requires that we should forgive others.

But because, as it is written, “in many things we all stumble,” let the feeling of mercy be first aroused and the faults of others against us be forgotten; that we may not violate by any love of revenge that most holy compact, to which we bind ourselves in the Lord’s prayer, and when we say “forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors,” let us not be hard in forgiving, because we must be possessed either with the desire for revenge, or with the leniency of gentleness, and for man, who is ever exposed to the dangers of temptations, it is more to be desired that his own faults should not need punishment than that he should get the faults of others punished.  And what is more suitable to the Christian faith than that not only in the Church, but also in all men’s homes, there should be forgiveness of sins?  Let threats be laid aside; let bonds be loosed, for he who will not loose them will bind himself with them much more disastrously.  For whatsoever one man resolves upon against another, he decrees against himself by his own terms.  Whereas “blessed are the merciful, for God shall have mercy on them:”  and He is just and kind in His judgments, allowing some to be in the power of others to this end, that under fair government may be preserved both the profitableness of discipline and the kindliness of clemency, and that no one should dare to refuse that pardon to another’s shortcomings, which he wishes to receive for his own.

VI.  Reconciliation between enemies and alms-giving are also Lenten duties.

Furthermore, as the Lord says, that “the peacemakers are blessed, because they shall be called sons of God,” let all discords and enmities be laid aside, and let no one think to have a share in the Paschal feast that has neglected to restore brotherly peace.  For with the Father on high, he that is not in charity with the brethren, will not be reckoned in the number of His sons.  Furthermore, in the distribution of alms and care of the poor, let our Christian fast-times be fat and abound; and let each bestow on the weak and destitute those dainties which he denies himself.  Let pains be taken that all may bless God with one mouth, and let him that gives some portion of substance understand that he is a minister of the Divine mercy; for God has placed the cause of the poor in the hand of the liberal man; that the sins which are washed away either by the waters of baptism, or the tears of repentance, may be also blotted out by alms-giving; for the Scripture says, “As water extinguisheth fire, so alms extinguisheth sin.”  

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