Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘religion’

A look ahead at the saints this coming week….

"amy welborn"

A couple of reminders:

  • These are only some of the saints and blesseds remembered this week.  Every day has at least ten names associated with it.
  • But then, you wonder…if you look at the liturgical calendar..why aren’t all of these actually there?
  • Simple answer: that would be crazy. 
  • More complete answer: It has to do with the priority of liturgical celebrations, which is a complicated thing. You can read more about it in many places, including here. Here also.  This is a good handout, especially for RCIA and catechists. 

Why am I focusing on this these days? Because I think that allowing our spiritual formation to be guided by the Church in this way leads us to a well-grounded, holistic understanding of what faith in Christ is all about. It isn’t about tagging on extras for the sake of “Catholic identity is awesome, you guys!” or shopping for a cool saint who works on my Spiritual Style Look Book or Pinterest Board.

So who can we encounter this week, if we choose?

  • A man who used his inherited wealth to establish monasteries, was engaged in diplomacy, wrote about pastoral care, and (unwillingly) became Pope.
  • A gifted young woman who studied music in New York City
  • A man who witnessed to Christ for decades — sitting atop a pole
  • A convert to Catholicism from Ethiopian Orthodoxy, caught between two worlds
  • Martyrs to revolution
  • An Albanian woman who served Christ in the dying and forgotten in India
  • A man, intended for service in the Spanish court, who instead dedicated his life to ransoming slaves.
  • A young woman who spoke truth to power –  the Holy Roman Emperor –  in the 13th century.

When you engage with the Church’s Scripture-soaked liturgy and the Saints on a daily basis, you really can’t hide. It becomes more difficult, if not impossible to work that do-it-yourself spirituality that all of us would prefer, led only by our favorite voices and Catholic Flavors-of-the-Month sympathetic to our prejudices and ideologies. It leads us out of simplistic, present-centered either/ors but paradoxically, to more clarity in the midst of deeper mystery.

Read Full Post »

Well, here she is, folks…St. Monica.

The best source? Her son, throughout the Confessions, but mostly in Book 9. 

Such things was I speaking, and even if not in this very manner, and these same words, yet, Lord, Thou knowest that in that day when we were speaking of these things, and this world with all its delights became, as we spake, contemptible to us, my mother said, “Son, for mine own part I have no further delight in any thing in this life. What I do here any longer, and to what I am here, I know not, now that my hopes in this world are accomplished. One thing there was for which I desired to linger for a while in this life, that I might see thee a Catholic Christian before I died. My God hath done this for me more abundantly, that I should now see thee withal, despising st. monicaearthly happiness, become His servant: what do I here?”

What answer I made her unto these things, I remember not. For scarce five days after, or not much more, she fell sick of a fever; and in that sickness one day she fell into a swoon, and was for a while withdrawn from these visible things. We hastened round her; but she was soon brought back to her senses; and looking on me and my brother standing by her, said to us enquiringly, “Where was I?” And then looking fixedly on us, with grief amazed: “Here,” saith she, “shall you bury your mother.” I held my peace and refrained weeping; but my brother spake something, wishing for her, as the happier lot, that she might die, not in a strange place, but in her own land. Whereat, she with anxious look, checking him with her eyes, for that he still savoured such things, and then looking upon me: “Behold,” saith she, “what he saith”: and soon after to us both, “Lay,” she saith, “this body any where; let not the care for that any way disquiet you: this only I request, that you would remember me at the Lord’s altar, wherever you be.” And having delivered this sentiment in what words she could, she held her peace, being exercised by her growing sickness.

But I, considering Thy gifts, Thou unseen God, which Thou instillest into the hearts of Thy faithful ones, whence wondrous fruits do spring, did rejoice and give thanks to Thee, recalling what I before knew, how careful and anxious she had ever been as to her place of burial, which she had provided and prepared for herself by the body of her husband. For because they had lived in great harmony together, she also wished (so little can the human mind embrace things divine) to have this addition to that happiness, and to have it remembered among men, that after her pilgrimage beyond the seas, what was earthly of this united pair had been permitted to be united beneath the same earth. But when this emptiness had through the fulness of Thy goodness begun to cease in her heart, I knew not, and rejoiced admiring what she had so disclosed to me; though indeed in that our discourse also in the window, when she said, “What do I here any longer?” there appeared no desire of dying in her own country. I heard afterwards also, that when we were now at Ostia, she with a mother’s confidence, when I was absent, one day discoursed with certain of my friends about the contempt of this life, and the blessing of death: and when they were amazed at such courage which Thou hadst given to a woman, and asked, “Whether she were not afraid to leave her body so far from her own city?” she replied, “Nothing is far to God; nor was it to be feared lest at the end of the world, He should not recognise whence He were to raise me up.” On the ninth day then of her sickness, and the fifty-sixth year of her age, and the three-and-thirtieth of mine, was that religious and holy soul freed from the body.

Benedict XVI, from 2006, sums it all up:

Today, 27 August, we commemorate St Monica and tomorrow we will be commemorating St Augustine, her son: their witnesses can be of great comfort and help to so many families also in our time.

Monica, who was born into a Christian family at Tagaste, today Souk-Aharàs in Algeria, lived her mission as a wife and mother in an exemplary way, helping her husband Patricius to discover the beauty of faith in Christ and the power of evangelical love, which can overcome evil with good.

After his premature death, Monica courageously devoted herself to caring for her three children, including Augustine, who initially caused her suffering with his somewhat rebellious temperament. As Augustine himself was to say, his mother gave birth to him twice; the second  time  required  a  lengthy  spiritual travail of prayers and tears, but it was crowned at last with the joy of seeing him not only embrace the faith and receive Baptism, but also dedicate himself without reserve to the service of Christ.

How many difficulties there are also today in family relations and how many mothers are in anguish at seeing their children setting out on wrong paths! Monica, a woman whose faith was wise and sound, invites them not to lose heart but to persevere in their mission as wives and mothers, keeping firm their trust in God and clinging with perseverance to prayer.

As for Augustine, his whole life was a passionate search for the truth. In the end, not without a long inner torment, he found in Christ the ultimate and full meaning of his own life and of the whole of human history. In adolescence, attracted by earthly beauty, he “flung himself” upon it – as he himself confides (cf. Confessions, 10, 27-38) – with selfish and possessive behaviour that caused his pious mother great pain.

But through a toilsome journey and thanks also to her prayers, Augustine became always more open to the fullness of truth and love until his conversion, which happened in Milan under the guidance of the Bishop, St Ambrose.

He thus remained the model of the journey towards God, supreme Truth and supreme Good. “Late have I loved you”, he wrote in the famous book of the Confessions, “beauty, ever ancient and ever new, late have I loved you. You were within me and I was outside of you, and it was there that I sought you…. You were with me and I was not with you…. You called, you cried out, you pierced my deafness. You shone, you struck me down, and you healed my blindness” (ibid.).

May St Augustine obtain the gift of a sincere and profound encounter with Christ for all those young people who, thirsting for happiness, are seeking it on the wrong paths and getting lost in blind alleys.

St Monica and St Augustine invite us to turn confidently to Mary, Seat of Wisdom. Let us entrust Christian parents to her so that, like Monica, they may accompany their children’s progress with their own example and prayers. Let us commend youth to the Virgin Mother of God so that, like Augustine, they may always strive for the fullness of Truth and Love which is Christ:  he alone can satisfy the deepest desires of the human heart.

2009:

Three days ago, on 27 August, we celebrated the liturgical Memorial of St Monica, Mother of St Augustine, considered the model and patroness of Christian mothers. We are provided with a considerable amount of information about her by her son in his autobiography, Confessions, one of the widest read literary masterpieces of all time. In them we learn that St Augustine drank in the name of Jesus with his mother’s milk, and that his mother brought him up in the Christian religion whose principles remained impressed upon him even in his years of spiritual and moral dissipation. Monica never ceased to pray for him and for his conversion and she had the consolation of seeing him return to the faith and receive Baptism. God heard the prayers of this holy mother, of whom the Bishop of Tagaste had said: “the son of so many tears could not perish”. In fact, St Augustine not only converted but decided to embrace the monastic life and, having returned to Africa, founded a community of monks. His last spiritual conversations with his mother in the tranquillity of a house at Ostia, while they were waiting to embark for Africa, are moving and edifying. By then St Monica had become for this son of hers, “more than a mother, the source of his Christianity”. For years her one desire had been the conversion of Augustine, whom she then saw actually turning to a life of consecration at the service of God. She could therefore die happy, and in fact she passed away on 27 August 387, at the age of 56, after asking her son not to trouble about her burial but to remember her, wherever he was, at the Lord’s altar. St Augustine used to say that his mother had “conceived him twice”.

2010:

Again, in Confessions, in the ninth book, our Saint records a conversation with his mother, St Monica, whose Memorial is celebrated on Friday, the day after tomorrow. It is a very beautiful scene: he and his mother are at Ostia, at an inn, and from the window they see the sky and the sea, and they transcend the sky and the sea and for a moment touch God’s heart in the silence of created beings. And here a fundamental idea appears on the way towards the Truth: creatures must be silent, leaving space for the silence in which God can speak. This is still true in our day too. At times there is a sort of fear of silence, of recollection, of thinking of one’s own actions, of the profound meaning of one’s life. All too often people prefer to live only the fleeting moment, deceiving themselves that it will bring lasting happiness; they prefer to live superficially, without thinking, because it seems easier; they are afraid to seek the Truth or perhaps afraid that the Truth will find us, will take hold of us and change our life, as happened to St Augustine.

Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to say to all of you and also to those who are passing through a difficult moment in their journey of faith, to those who take little part in the life of the Church or who live “as though God did not exist” not to be afraid of the Truth, never to interrupt the journey towards it and never to stop searching for the profound truth about yourselves and other things with the inner eye of the heart. God will not fail to provide Light to see by and Warmth to make the heart feel that he loves us and wants to be loved.

May the intercession of the Virgin Mary, of St Augustine and of St Monica accompany us on this journey

St. Monica is in The Loyola Kid’s Book of Saints under “Saints are people who love their families.”  A page:

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

From Living Faith last year:

We may not all be mothers, as Monica was, but we all have had one. Our relationships with our mothers might be terrible or beautiful, or somewhere in an in-between place: bewildering, regretful and hopeful.


Desire lies at the heart of our mistakes and successes as parents, caretakers and children. Monica desired her son Augustine’s salvation, and Augustine yearned for a love that would not die. Around and around they went.


What is it I desire for others? Is it that, above all, they find authentic, lasting joy?

Lord, may I be a help to others as we journey to you.

Read Full Post »

Well, here’s what’s up.

We have been “in session” for a couple of weeks now – ever since brother trotted off to start high school.  There are a couple of missing pieces, and only one of the extra classes (boxing) has started  – the rest won’t begin until mid-September.

There are two events next week – a rock-climbing training session at a park about an hour away and an Asian water-color class at the museum of art. And of course, piano has started back up on a regular basis. Social? Good friend down the street. Two hours of play tonight with another good friend while I was at a meeting.  An hour of boxing. Tomorrow: Seeing friends at and after the Mass for homeschoolers, and then another couple of hours with a friend…etc. In case you were wondering.

So….

  • Religion so far is daily prayer focused on the saint of the day and Mass readings, and discussions regarding saints and Bible that spring from that. We’ll start the 5th grade Faith and Life volume next week.
  • (To see how this works – today was the feast of St. Louis IX.  This led to a bit of discussion about Louis XVI and the French Revolution. Then we learned that he died in Tunis, so we pulled out the map and saw where that was, and then reviewed all those north African countries, saw that if we’d gone to Africa when were in Sicily, it would have been Tunis.  Then we read the Mass readings, reviewed Paul and why he was writing epistles and where Thessalonika and Philippi are. Then the Gospel, which led to a discussion of both its meaning and a bit about 1st century Jewish religious structure – what are scribes, Pharisees & Saducees. Etc. See how that works?  It’s that way with everything.) 
  • Math:  Beast Academy 4D, waiting patiently for new of 5A to be released.  We’re on decimals, so it’s easy to supplement, right now, with material from Math Mammoth, Pearson (the most commonly used school math program around here – I just grab worksheets online where I can find them), various Scholastic books (digital editions that cost a buck each during sales – watch for them), and Khan Academy.  But…hurry up, Beast Academy!
  • We are just now starting history for the actual year – he has been finishing up reading and discussing this book up to this point.  Now we’re going to mash up Hakim’s History of US and the Catholic Textbook Project From Sea to Shining Sea. 
  • We started by me giving him a blank US map and having him label all the states, which he did, almost all spelled correctly.  I was kind of amazed. Then he reviewed capitols via Sheppard Software, and will review geographical features via the same, so the basics are done.  Geography is a strong point over here, and doesn’t require a lot of reinforcement.
  • Latin for Children is going well.  It’ s not the best ever, but at this point, I prefer it to the Memoria curriculum, which I had used with another of my kids way back when. And it’s more substantive than either Visual Latin or Getting Started in Latin. (If I had to choose between the last two, I would choose the latter. In fact, I would say, don’t spend your money on Visual Latin.)
  • Continuing with writing. We are behind, grade wise, on this. I wanted to start from the beginning of the series when we picked it up last year when he was in 4th grade, and the first volume is grades 3-4.  We moved slowly through it, not because it was hard (it’s not) or because we don’t like it (we both do), but just because…well, because Rabbit Hole.  As usual. But we are trying to hit it hard right now and get up to the actual 5th grade books by January.  Let me repeat: I like this program quite a bit – the way that it teaches summarizing, amplification and just general stretching of the writing brain is very engaging and this interesting, effective combination of simple yet complete.
  • But also still trying to incorporate aspects of Brave Writer. 
  • I said before that we don’t do spelling, but in order to address his occasional concern about “keeping up,” I this week did the same thing I did last year, but earlier in the year this time – I downloaded and printed out all the year’s spelling words from the curriculum his former school uses, (also one of the worst reading programs I have ever seen.  They are all mostly bad anyway – this one weirdly managing to both dumb down material and ask impenetrable questions about same material…so strange)  and we just go through them orally, checking of the ones he knows and working on those he doesn’t. Which has been three total from the first 75 words.  Started yesterday, and we try to do a couple of lists a day, give or take, so we should we be done w/”5th grade spelling” by the end of September.
  • Understand that etymology is one of those things that we talk about all the time. 
  • Handwriting – daily cursive.  Goal is for all work to be done in cursive by January.  If he goes to school in 6th grade, which he will if he wants to, the school he’ll attend will expect that, so aside from all the other (good) reasons, there’s that.
  • Music:  his piano lessons are fairly demanding.  At home we listen to music all the time, talk about it, watch videos of performances, particularly of pieces he’s working on.  We’ve also been getting back to Classics for Kids, which is a great website – so far this year, we’ve done Joplin, Bach and John Philip Sousa – the latter because earlier in the summer, we saw a (great) local production of The Music Man, so I thought I would try to make sense of “And you’ll feel something akin to the electric thrill I once enjoyed when Gilmore, Pat Conway,The Great Creatore, W.C. Handy and John Philip Sousa all came to town on the very same historic day!”
  • And science:  We are doing Biology for the Logic Stage, but have hardly actually done anything, because of the press of the
    "amy welborn"

    Spore print

    Teachable Moment.  This week, it’s been two things:  mushrooms & hummingbirds.  Our yard sprouted with mushrooms, so we took an afternoon and examined them, discussed fungi, read about them in our main resource and on the internet, and then swung back to taxonomy – he memorized the basic categories of taxonomy (Kingdom, phylum, …etc) and then the five kingdoms.  Memorized the characteristics of living things. (Which take us back to what we should have originally been working on)  Did a spore print. Then started two long-term experiment/demonstrations:  a mold terrarium with 8 possibly moldy things, and then two pieces of bread, sprayed with water and put in plastic bags, one rubbed on the ground outside, one not.  Hypothesis formed, observation sheets printed, etc.

  • Then, the hummingbirds.  Of late, the hummingbirds coming to our feeder have been crazy.  There are three or four all afternoon, most afternoons, and they are apparently at war.  No more than one can be at the feeder at  once, and we have spent a great deal of time watching them fly from one tree to another, wait each other out, then dive
    "amy welborn"

    Also a quick trip to the zoo

    bomb as soon as one of the others makes a move for the feeder.  We can stand pretty close to the feeder, and they will still streak right by us, chirping angrily at each other and, yes, wings and little bodies humming as they speed by.

  • So, much research on hummingbirds, going over the taxonomy, watching slow motion videos on their wing action and articles about how they actually use their tongues to get the nectar.
  • Oh, and the spider.  So three teachable moment living things over the pats two days. A huge spider built a web outside the front door last night, and it was gone this morning.  Someone had told me before that the spiders actually take their webs back up in the early dawn, and I believe it – tonight, as I write, the spider is right back in the same spot, enormous web intact.  I will try to get up super early and take a peak outside to see if I can spy it retreating. So he researched what kind of spider it was and we watched it for a long time last night, just talking about spiders in the dark with his brother and sister, too.
  • One new (used) book that has come in very handy in all of this is this one.  I had read about it on some homeschooling board, and it lives up to the hype – it’s really good, and great for the budding naturalist.
  • As I said, there are missing pieces.  Shakespeare, an ongoing “school” novel aside from the books he’s already scarfing, and art.  Next week. Next week. But rock climbing and art at the museum, next week!  Argh.  Nope. NEXT WEEK.
  • Haven’t actually watched any of these, but this channel looks like it will be good to add to the video lineup.
  • One thing I’ve started doing this year is having him do a “learning journal” each day (or every couple of days) – he writes down what he learned about that day.  It made more sense to me than either:  Me doing it or him planning what he would learn about.  It made a lot more sense for this to be something he does after the fact, at the end of the day. It’s his learning, his brain, his mind – he’s the one that needs to mull it over and make sense of it, not me!

amy_welborn amy-welborn

"amy welborn"

Friday was a light day. Obviously.  We did prayer/religion and math, and then I told him the rest of the day was his.  So he spent time digging in the back yard and figuring stuff out about roots and ants, doing some trivia on the computer (starting with reptiles and somehow ending up at Star Wars, apparently)  and drawing a picture related to the Maya & 2012. 

"amy welborn"

Read Full Post »

amywelborn2

Read Full Post »

Yesterday, the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word celebrated the Rite of Perpetual Profession for one of the sisters.

My boys were serving. I had dropped them off early, run off to do some errands, then returned.  I arrived in the middle of Bishop Baker’s homily. He was talking, at that point, about Flannery O’Connor, explaining the purpose of her use of the outrageous and extreme. As she said herself, I am interested in making a good case for distortion because i am coming to believe that it is the only way to make people see.

Even though I didn’t hear the first part of the homily, it seems that what he was saying was that in our times, radical, strong signs are what are going to draw people’s attention to the reality of sin, redemption and grace. To the reality of Christ.

And as he continued, he spoke of religious life and its center: The poor Christ; the chaste Christ; the obedient Christ. 

Most of the sisters are well under 50. Their primary apostolate is their retreat center – check out the schedule. 

Then later in the day, we went to Mass again. (“Again????”) – Saturday evening vigil Mass at the Cathedral, where we heard a strong, moving homily on that most telling, revealing Gospel passage:

As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

The homilist pointed out that when the disciples left, Jesus didn’t stop them in their tracks by saying, in effect, “Kidding! It’s just a metaphor!” And he expanded the moment, clearly, but subtly, into the broader issue of difficult truths, generally. This is it. There are hard, mysterious truths. But they are true and express reality, nonetheless. So our choice remains – do we leave, or do we stand with Peter, in the presence of Jesus, here.

Read Full Post »

— 1 —

Someone’s middle name is Bernard, so they got a cake yesterday. Instagram commenters quickly and brilliantly named it a Tonsure Cake. 

— 2 —

Friday is my day to talk with Diana von Glahn on The Faithful Traveler radio show – this week, we talk about St. Bernard-related things, mostly St. Bernard’s Abbey in Cullman, just a bit north of here, and the great Ave Maria Grotto. If you drive on I-65 through Alabama, you see the signs for it – the Catholic See Rock City. But believe me – it’s not tacky. It’s a lovely expression of faith that comes straight from the heart.

amy-welborn3

— 3—

 Today? Pius X. B16 here:

Today I would like to reflect on my Predecessor, St Pius X whose liturgical Memorial we shall be celebrating next Saturday and to underline certain features that may be useful to both Pastors and faithful also in our time.

Giuseppe Sarto, that was his name, was born into a peasant family in Riese, Treviso, in 1835. After studying at the Seminary in Padua he was ordained a priest when he was 23 years old. He was first curate in Tombolo, then parish priest at Salzano and then canon of the Cathedral of Treviso with the offices of episcopal chancellor and spiritual director of the Diocesan Seminary. In these years of rich and generous pastoral experience, the future Pontiff showed that deep love for Christ and for the Church, that humility and simplicity and great charity to the needy which characterized his entire life. In 1884 he was appointed Bishop of Mantua, and in 1893, Patriarch of Venice. On 4 August 1903, he was elected Pope, a ministry he hesitated to accept since he did not consider himself worthy of such a lofty office.

Pius X’s Pontificate left an indelible mark on the Church’s history and was distinguished by a considerable effort for reform that is summed up in his motto: Instaurare Omnia in Christo, “To renew all things in Christ”. Indeed, his interventions involved various ecclesiastical contexts. From the outset he devoted himself to reorganizing the Roman Curia; he then began work on the Code of Canon Law which was promulgated by his Successor Benedict XV. He later promoted the revision of the studies and formation programme of future priests and founded various Regional Seminaries, equipped with good libraries and well-qualified teachers. Another important sector was that of the doctrinal formation of the People of God. Beginning in his years as parish priest, he himself had compiled a catechism and during his Episcopate in Mantua he worked to produce a single, if not universal catechism, at least in Italian. As an authentic Pastor he had understood that the situation in that period, due partly to the phenomenon of emigration, made necessary a catechism to which every member of the faithful might refer, independently of the place in which he lived and of his position. As Pontiff, he compiled a text of Christian doctrine for the Diocese of Rome that was later disseminated throughout Italy and the world. Because of its simple, clear, precise language and effective explanations, this “Pius X Catechism”, as it was called, was a reliable guide to many in learning the truths of the faith.

Pius X paid considerable attention to the reform of the Liturgy and, in particular, of sacred music in order to lead the faithful to a life of more profound prayer and fuller participation in the Sacraments. In the Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini (1903), the first year of his Pontificate, he said that the true Christian spirit has its first and indispensable source in active participation in the sacrosanct mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church (cf. AAS 36[1903], 531). For this reason he recommended that the Sacraments be received often, encouraging the daily reception of Holy Communion and appropriately lowering the age when children receive their First Communion “to about seven”, the age “when a child begins to reason” (cf. S. Congr. de Sacramentis, Decretum Quam Singulari: AAS 2 [1910] 582).

Faithful to the task of strengthening his brethren in the faith, in confronting certain trends that were manifest in the theological context at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, Pius X intervened decisively, condemning “Modernism” to protect the faithful from erroneous concepts and to foster a scientific examination of the Revelation consonant with the Tradition of the Church. On 7 May 1909, with his Apostolic Letter Vinea Electa, he founded the Pontifical Biblical Institute. The last months of his life were overshadowed by the impending war. His appeal to Catholics of the world, launched on 2 August 1914 to express the bitter pain of the present hour, was the anguished plea of a father who sees his children taking sides against each other. He died shortly afterwards, on 20 August, and the fame of his holiness immediately began to spread among the Christian people.

Dear brothers and sisters, St Pius X teaches all of us that at the root of our apostolic action in the various fields in which we work there must always be close personal union with Christ, to cultivate and to develop, day after day. This is the essence of all his teaching, of all his pastoral commitment. Only if we are in love with the Lord shall we be able to bring people to God and open them to his merciful love and thereby open the world to God’s mercy.

— 4 —

A new education year is beginning….

  • Are you planning adult education? Consider these resources.

— 5 —

A friend of one my older kids just started law school.  He said that the orienters (sp?) strongly suggested only one extracurricular be pursued and for no more than an hour a day, and for that “we recommend either exercise or religion.”

write your own punch line. 

.— 6—

We were there!  Completely by accident – the boys serve at Casa Maria once a month, but not normally this particular Sunday. I’d asked to switch because I thought we might be out of town.  But I was so glad it worked out. It was great to meet Erin Manning, whose honest writing I have long admired, as well as her sister-in-law, who also blogs, and who has provided such wonderful resources (like coloring pages) over the years.  I honestly had no idea of the connections between all these folks, but was glad to finally make them, and most especially to meet everyone!

— 7 —

Back to school for everyone, and I’ll have more to say on that next week, but for now, just a word about this book – Oxford’s The Ancient American World, part of their series, The World in Ancient Times. Far more substantive than most books on the subject matter for late elementary/middle school, what I particularly liked about was that the work and techniques of archaeologists and historians are part of the story. This is important because it makes clear that what we “know” about ancient cultures isn’t, ahem, carved in stone.  It’s an interpretive decision based on evidence gathered in a certain way, posing and answering certain questions.  My 10-year old really enjoyed this, and although the books aren’t cheap, they have a lot of good material, well-presented.

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

Read Full Post »

Today, it’s Bernard of Clairvaux, via Benedict XVI, Pius XII, and Thomas Merton.

And no, “Doctor Mellifluus” is not the title of a film starring Vincent Price.  It means, “the honey-sweet doctor.”

(BTW – I’ll stick this here in case you won’t bother to read to the end of the entry (but you should! The Merton quote is excellent!) – tomorrow, on my usual Friday Family Travel slot on Diana von Glahn’s Faithful Traveler radio show, I’ll be talking St. Bernard, specifically St. Bernard Abbey and Ave Maria Grotto here in Alabama.

Starting most recently and moving backwards – from a 2009 General Audience, part of the lengthy series Benedict offered as a catechesis to the whole world on great men and women of the Church.

Today I would like to talk about St Bernard of Clairvaux, called “the last of the Fathers” of the Church because once again in the 12th century he renewed and brought to the fore the important theology of the Fathers. We do not know in any detail about the years of his childhood; however, we know that he was born in 1090 in Fontaines, France, into a large and fairly well-to-do family. As a very young man he devoted himself to the study of the so-called liberal arts especially grammar, rhetoric and dialectics at the school of the canons of the Church of Saint-Vorles at Châtillon-sur-Seine; and the decision to enter religious life slowly matured within him. At the age of about 20, he entered Cîteaux, a new monastic foundation that was more flexible in comparison with the ancient and venerable monasteries of the period while at the same time stricter in the practice of the evangelical counsels. A few years later, in 1115, Bernard was sent by Stephen Harding, the third Abbot of Cîteaux, to found the monastery of Clairvaux. Here the young Abbot he was only 25 years old was able to define his conception of monastic life and set about putting it into practice. In looking at the discipline of other monasteries, Bernard firmly recalled the need for a sober and measured life, at table as in clothing and monastic buildings, and recommended the support and care of the poor. In the meantime the community of Clairvaux became ever more numerous and its foundations multiplied.

In those same years before 1130 Bernard started a prolific correspondence with many people of both important and modest social status. To the many Epistolae of this period must be added numerous Sermones, as well as Sententiae and Tractatus. Bernard’s great friendship with William, Abbot of Saint-Thierry, and with William of Champeaux, among the most important figures of the 12th century, also date to this period. As from 1130, Bernard began to concern himself with many serious matters of the Holy See and of the Church. For this reason he was obliged to leave his monastery ever more frequently and he sometimes also travelled outside France. He founded several women’s monasteries and was the protagonist of a lively correspondence with Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny, of whom I spoke last Wednesday. In his polemical writings he targeted in particular Abelard, a great thinker who had conceived of a new approach to theology, introducing above all the dialectic and philosophical method in the constructi0n of theological thought. On another front Bernard combated the heresy of the Cathars, who despised matter and the human body and consequently despised the Creator. On the other hand, he felt it was his duty to defend the Jews, and condemned the ever more widespread outbursts of anti-Semitism. With regard to this aspect of his apostolic action, several decades later Rabbi Ephraim of Bonn addressed a vibrant tribute to Bernard. In the same period the holy Abbot wrote his most famous works such as the celebrated Sermons on the Song of Songs [In Canticum Sermones]. In the last years of his life he died in 1153 Bernard was obliged to curtail his journeys but did not entirely stop travelling. He made the most of this "bernard of clairvaux"time to review definitively the whole collection of his Letters, Sermons and Treatises. Worthy of mention is a quite unusual book that he completed in this same period, in 1145, when Bernardo Pignatelli, a pupil of his, was elected Pope with the name of Eugene III. On this occasion, Bernard as his spiritual father, dedicated to his spiritual son the text De Consideratione [Five Books on Consideration] which contains teachings on how to be a good Pope. In this book, which is still appropriate reading for the Popes of all times, Bernard did not only suggest how to be a good Pope, but also expressed a profound vision of the Mystery of the Church and of the Mystery of Christ which is ultimately resolved in contemplation of the mystery of the Triune God. “The search for this God who is not yet sufficiently sought must be continued”, the holy Abbot wrote, “yet it may be easier to search for him and find him in prayer rather than in discussion. So let us end the book here, but not the search” (XIV, 32: PL 182, 808) and in journeying on towards God.

I would now like to reflect on only two of the main aspects of Bernard’s rich doctrine: they concern Jesus Christ and Mary Most Holy, his Mother. His concern for the Christian’s intimate and vital participation in God’s love in Jesus Christ brings no new guidelines to the scientific status of theology. However, in a more decisive manner than ever, the Abbot of Clairvaux embodies the theologian, the contemplative and the mystic. Jesus alone Bernard insists in the face of the complex dialectical reasoning of his time Jesus alone is “honey in the mouth, song to the ear, jubilation in the heart (mel in ore, in aure melos, in corde iubilum)”. The title Doctor Mellifluus, attributed to Bernard by tradition, stems precisely from this; indeed, his praise of Jesus Christ “flowed like honey”. In the extenuating battles between Nominalists and Realists two philosophical currents of the time the Abbot of Clairvaux never tired of repeating that only one name counts, that of Jesus of Nazareth. “All food of the soul is dry”, he professed, “unless it is moistened with this oil; insipid, unless it is seasoned with this salt. What you write has no savour for me unless I have read Jesus in it” (In Canticum Sermones XV, 6: PL 183, 847). For Bernard, in fact, true knowledge of God consisted in a personal, profound experience of Jesus Christ and of his love. And, dear brothers and sisters, this is true for every Christian: faith is first and foremost a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, it is having an experience of his closeness, his friendship and his love. It is in this way that we learn to know him ever better, to love him and to follow him more and more. May this happen to each one of us!

MORE

Then Pius XII, who wrote an encyclical on St. Bernard on Pentecost, 1953:

6. From these words it is clear that in his study and his contemplation, under the influence of love rather than through the subtlety of human reasoning, Bernard’s sole aim was to focus on the supreme Truth all the ways of truth which he had gathered from many different sources. From them he drew light for the mind, the fire of charity for the soul, and right standards of conduct. This is indeed true wisdom, which rides over all things human, and brings everything back to its source, that is, to God, in order to lead men to Him. The “Doctor Mellifluus” makes his way with care deliberately through the uncertain and unsafe winding paths of reasoning, not trusting in the keenness of his own mind nor depending upon the tedious and artful syllogisms which many of the dialecticians of his time often abused. No! Like an eagle, longing to fix his eyes on the sun, he presses on in swift flight to the summit of truth.

7. The charity which moves him, knows no barriers and, so to speak, gives wings to the mind. For him, learning is not the final goal, but rather a path leading to God; it is not something cold upon which the mind dwells aimlessly, as though amusing itself under the spell of shifting, brilliant light. Rather, it is moved, impelled, and governed by love. Wherefore, carried upwards by this wisdom and in meditation, contemplation, and love, Bernard climbs the peak of the mystical life and is joined to God Himself, so that at times he enjoyed almost infinite happiness even in this mortal life.

After this encyclical was released, Thomas Merton was enjoined by his superiors to write a brief book introducing the saint and the encyclical to American readers. It’s called, The Last of the Fathers: Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and the Encyclical Letter Doctor Mellifluus. 

I read it on Scribd last night (and in order to read it you must have an account) and cannot cut and paste excerpts.  But just know that it’s a good, brief introduction to Bernard’s life and writings, and Merton’s treatment of the preaching of the Second Crusade is particularly helpful.  I’ll be non-lazy and actually type out an excerpt, which is Merton’s summary of Pius’ summary of one aspect of Bernard’s approach.  First, the encyclical:

In the following words, he describes most appropriately the doctrine, or rather the wisdom, which he follows and "amy welborn"ardently loves: “It is the spirit of wisdom and understanding which, like a bee bearing both wax and honey, is able to kindle the light of knowledge and to pour in the savor of grace. Hence, let nobody think he has received a kiss, neither he who understands the truth but does not love it, nor he who loves the truth but does not understand it.”[7] “What would be the good of learning without love? It would puff up. And love without learning? It would go astray.'[8] “Merely to shine is futile; merely to burn is not enough; to burn and to shine is perfect.”[9] Then he explains the source of true and genuine doctrine, and how it must be united with charity: “God is Wisdom, and wants to be loved not only affectionately, but also wisely. . . Otherwise, if you neglect knowledge, the spirit of error will most easily lay snares for your zeal; nor has the wily enemy a more efficacious means of driving love from the heart, than if he can make a man walk carelessly and imprudently in the path of love.”[10]

And then, as Merton puts it:

The Holy Father then proceeds to distinguish the wisdom of Saint Bernard from true and false philosophy, reminding us that the only philosophy Saint Bernard despised was the false ‘curiosity’ which could not lead to the true knowledge of God because it blinded us to our need for His merciful love.

Opposed to this curiosity, the science that ‘puffeth up’ because it is without charity, is the true theology which Bernard loved with the most ardent devotion. This theology, as the Holy Father points out in three succinct quotations from Saint Bernard is a wisdom rather than a science. It is not only a perception of the divine truth by understanding but an embrace of that truth by love. Both these elements of knowledge and love are absolutely essential for true wisdom, for ‘What would be the good of learning without love? It would puff us up And love without learning? It would go astray.’ This is one of those many instances in which Saint Bernard’s Latin loses all its character in translation. The original must be seen to be fully appreciated: ‘Quid faceret eruditio absque dilectione? Inflaret. Quid absque eruditione dilectio? Erraret.’

Saint Bernard, the Doctor of Mystical Love, must necessarily be a defender of truth and of learning. God Himself is wisdom. Therefore He can only be loved fittingly if He is loved wisely. Neglect of knowledge leads love into error, and the enemy of sols has no more efficacious way of drawing God’s love out of our hearts, Saint Bernard says, than by inducing us to seek Him without the light of intelligence. 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: