What is Catholic culture? Wednesday, Sep 29 2010 

There is a lot of talk about reviving Catholic culture.  But what is Catholic culture?  We can’t even define it any more because it has been lost to the last couple of generations.  This new series is worth watching.

Raising the hearts, minds and souls of those who behold art to God.

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It’s that time of year again… Tuesday, Aug 17 2010 

As everybody around us has already sent their kids off to school, many who home-school are still squeezing out the last few warm days of summer with their children.  They may be helping with the harvest, enjoying vacations or just relaxing before getting down to the business of studying once again.

There are many good home-school programs out there.  I am addressing this particularly to Catholic home-schoolers, because that is my primary focus.  If you haven’t quite decided what curriculum or supplemental materials to use, take a look here for some great ideas.   Aquinas and More carries curriculum materials for Mother of Divine Grace, Seton Home School, Kolbe Academy and St. Thomas Aquinas Academy.  In addition, they have some fantastic materials for imparting the Faith for all ages, from the Faith and Life Series to the Didache for high school, as well as other programs targeted to teaching apologetics and scripture.  For those who prefer, the popular books by Fr. Laux are available, such as Introduction to the Bible, Church History, Chief Truths of the Faith and Mass and the Sacraments.

For the students using a classical curriculum, the Latina Christiana series offers not only Latin studies, but books on handwriting, Logic, Rhetoric and studies in Ancient Greece, Rome and the Middle Ages.   As the students move into high school, the series of classical study guides will prove very helpful to help the students unlock the mysteries of the classical literature they will read.  These guides are soon to be available in digital form for individual download.

If you want a curriculum that spells everything out for you complete with lesson plans, check out the Mother of Divine Grace program.

If you are new to homeschooling, you might want to take a look here for suggestions and encouragement in this most worthwhile endeavor of teaching your children.   You are not alone–many people are opting to teach their own children, and if you have questions, you only have to ask.

May God bless you as you enter the wild wonderful world of home education.  Don’t forget to begin every day with prayer and to ask St. Anne, who taught Our Lady, to intercede for you for patience and wisdom.

Georgia, Day 3 Monday, Apr 20 2009 

Georgia, Day 3

Our day began early with another Mass of Vatican II celebrated by Fr. Fessio.  There were very few people in attendance—maybe 20.  That is such a shame because it contains the best elements of the Pre-Vatican II Mass and the Novus Ordo.  The best part of the Novus Ordo has not been experienced  by most people, unfortunately.

We spent the morning at our table in the vendor hall talking to people.  One feature of this conference was that it was made up of a very young crowd.  Almost all of the parents either had a baby/toddler in tow or one “in the oven, ” with a few older siblings as well.  I enjoyed visiting with the people and hearing their experiences.  Many are homeschooling and having children in the face not only of societal pressure not to, but also in the face of familial pressure which is almost harder to deal with than the societal pressure.    They are brave souls indeed, trying to live in fidelity to the Church and raise good families. 

We realized at 1:00 that we needed to hit the road in order to be able to mail the unsold books.  Well we missed the post office deadline and had to go to a UPS store instead.  That cost way too much because of their surcharge, and besides, we are not impressed with UPS right now.  But they had us, so we left the boxes and headed for our destination of Dobbins Air Force Base where we had a room reserved.  

We drove into Atlanta, spent $10 to park our car and then walked down to the Peachtree Center.  marriot-marquis-hotel-2

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marriot-marquis-hotel-in-atlanta

 

When we lived in Georgia 30+ years ago, we loved to go see the Marriot hotel which has an atrium from the top to the bottom. You can see by the pictures how dizzying the view is.  We took one of the glass elevators to the top but quickly went back down because we felt unsteady on our feet at that altitude looking down to the lobby below.

We found a nice Italian restaurant “Scallini’s” and had a relaxing dinner before heading back to the base for our last night in the Atlanta area.

Georgia, Day 2 Saturday, Apr 18 2009 

We left Warner Robins early and drove 2 1/2 hours to Acworth, north of Atlanta. My goal was to arrive before the first speaker took the podium so that I could ensure that there would be no technical glitches between my computer and the college media system.  Bill was there to help me and we were not able to stabilize the picture on the wall where it was being projected.  So they called in the campus IT guy who diddled for a good 45 minutes trying to figure out the problem.  Turns out it was a broken jack on the stage which had to be replaced. tech-problem-solver-daniel

Moral of story–always arrive early enough to check out the AV system.  To do anything else is to court disaster.

Once that was settled we went to a speaker’s luncheon.  Unfortunately the restaurant was closing for good that night–the economic downturn has hit everywhere.  So we had a harried lunch and then went to the conference.

The conference was beautifully organized but not well attended unfortunately.  Fr. Joseph Fessio was the keynote speaker but his plane was delayed and once he finally landed, he got stuck in traffic.  So when he finally arrived, he combined his talk with the Mass.  He did a beautiful explanation of the Mass of Vatican II and then celebrated it.  If this Mass had not been hijacked, I doubt there would have been so many problems after the Council.  As he explained it, most of the options allowed after the Council were ignored, and people took the most simplified, stripped-down path for the Mass, leaving it lacking in beauty and reverence.  fr-fessio

It was quite late after the Mass but the organizers had planned a delightful dinner for us at an Italian restaurant called Fusco’s.  We were in a building that had been a jail a long time ago–the building is over 100 years old.  It was good to relax, talk and laugh after a long day.  fuscos-restaurant-acworth-ga

larry-in-the-jail

The only creature to ever escape from the jail was a donkey.  The jail is now being used for restaurant storage.

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A tired but uplifted group after a long day.

Off to Georgia Wednesday, Apr 15 2009 

We are venturing out a bit further than usual for the Georgia Catholic Homeschool Conference where I’ll be speaking about Beauty.   We used to live in Georgia so we are looking forward to going back after 30+ years.  I am not a fan of flying but have a special intention I am offering up the flight for.   Please say a prayer that all goes well.  Thanks, in advance.

The Rule of St. Benedict, part 4 Sunday, Dec 7 2008 

To an outsider, the monastery seems like a very orderly place where a well-ordered life is lived.  St. Benedict’s Rule is Ora el Labora, or Pray and Work.  Prayer, or the Divine Office, is known as the opus Dei, or the work of God.  In addition to the prescribed periods of prayer, the nuns have periods of work, fulling the second half of the rule.  At St. Walburga, in addition to the housekeeping in which all participate, the nuns work the land, “man” the gift shop, care for cattle, make rosaries and greeting cards, run retreats and some write and edit Magnificat magazine, the monthly guide for morning and evening prayer as well as for the daily Mass.  I marveled that with the work they do, they always arrive for the Divine Office dressed in their habits.  Yes, they have work clothing, but they didn’t wear it into the Church.  Which says that care should be taken when going before Our Lord in formal prayer.  It is a courtesy to Him. 

This is the Abbey Church.    The cloister is to the back.  The retreatants stay about 3/4 of a mile away.  We walked back and forth during the day, but because of the warning about local mountain lions, we drove at dawn and after dark.

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The nuns have created several little “parks” on their property–they didn’t build this dam though–the beavers did!

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abbey-root-cellar

From our vantage, we thought the doors to the root cellar were round, but they aren’t.  This reminded us of a hobbit hole.

larry-facing-marian-hall

There are several buildings and lots of land to take care of, as well as people who go to visit. 

It was a wonderful experience, and we are thinking about the next opportunity we will have to go back.  The peace, the prayer and the quiet all beckon us to return.

Rule of St. Benedict, part 3 Thursday, Dec 4 2008 

I have been processing our experience of St. Walburga’s, and keep returning to the idea of peace and joy.  For the most part, the faces of the nuns were so calm and joyful.   They entered the church which is at the heart of their monastery without hurry, and they left the same way.  Much as we did in Catholic school, they line up to process in and out.   They face each other in the choir stalls on either side of the front of the church and sing the Office antiphonally.   And as the Rule states “if we wish to ask a favor of those who hold temporal power, we dare not do so except with humility and respect.  It is far more important that we present our pleas to God with the utmost humility and purity of devotion.”  (Chapter 20)  That devotion and humility were everywhere present. sisters-at-prayersisters-at-prayer-2

 

 To the right of the church, in a separate chair, sits the Abbess, identified by her crozier and large pectoral cross.  Either at the head of the flock, or behind, Mother Maria Michael shepherds her flock of nuns.  I cannot adequately describe the feeling that came over me to see her in that role.  She seems like a wonderful mother, and she has a most pleasant smile which she uses freely, not only with her daughters but also with the retreatants.  St. Benedict stated about the Abbot “To be qualified to govern a monastery an abbot should always remember what he is called (Abba = Father…In a monastery he is Christ’s representative, called by His name.”  (Chapter 2) 

  mother-maria-michael-newe

She is young and elected for life, until death or illness or the infirmities of age make it impossible for her to continue effectively.  In the prayers, she often leads, and when she sang the “Our Father” we knew she was singing for all of us. 

When we were studying Benedict’s Rule, we saw the considerable attention Benedict gave to the Abbot, for the Abbot, or in this case the Abbess, carries a heavy responsibility for the souls and wellbeing of his/her charges. 

Utmost care was taken to insure that the church was presentable for liturgies, even mopping up the flies which seemed to spontaneously generate and die by the dozens.  There were flowers lovingly arranged and placed around the altar, and all aspects of the liturgies were prepared in advance so as to present only the best to the Bridegroom.  There is so much we can learn about refinement in the things that matter from those who embrace this life.

The Rule of St. Benedict, part 2 Sunday, Nov 30 2008 

Surprisingly, it was not hard to get up at 4 the next morning.  We had decided in advance that we wanted to partake as much as possible in the prayer of the Church, known as the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office), and this was our chance.  So off we headed in the dark for the church which is 3/4 of a mile from the retreat center.  We entered in silence and there were a couple of nuns already there in prayer.  Then they all entered and went to their places in the “choir.”  Matins was sung acapella in simple chant.  It began with the invitatory  and included several psalms through which God is adored as faithful, long-suffering and merciful.  The theme of Saturday is the end, as it is the last day of the week.  This particular Saturday was the feast of St. Cecilia, so there were references to her in the various hours and readings of the day. 

The prayer of these Benedictine nuns is spread throughout the day.  In between the set hours of prayer, they work their farm and keep house, as well as read, study and pray privately. 

The cycle of prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours goes from Matins to Lauds in which God is praised and shown as the just Judge, to Terce in which a longing for Heaven is expressed, to Sext in which the work of creation is expressed, to None in which the last things are contemplated, to Vespers which is a thanksgiving, to Compline, which is night prayer before resting.  Vespers is one of the few hours that is still prayed outside of monasteries.  On this particular evening, Vespers was sung in Latin in preparation for the Feast of Christ the King.  All the stops were pulled for this Liturgy and the singing of the Gregorian Chant was accompanied by the organ, played by Sr. Hildegard. 

Compline was the cap on a full day of prayer and education.  I personally love this prayer of the Church.  It is a prayer of praise but also a call for help from the evil one.  It is a restful prayer in which the one praying abandons himself to the protection of God while he sleeps.  This was followed by the nuns gathering around the statue of Our Lady and singing of the Regina Coeli.  What followed had me fighting back tears, as Mother Maria Michael blessed all of us with holy water.  It was so reminiscent of the blessing my own mother always gave us as we went to bed. 

Then the nuns returned to their cloister, a place where we could not go.  The closing of the door seemed so final.  I was left pondering the life these beautiful women have chosen… door-to-the-cloister

The Rule of St. Benedict Saturday, Nov 29 2008 

In our Catholic homeschool, one of the first things our senior read was The Rule of Saint Benedict  as part of his classical education.  St. Benedict left quite a legacy in that the monasteries helped preserve culture during those terrible days after the barbarians sacked Rome.  Beyond the debt we owe to him in his monasteries of the time, we still have monasteries all over the world today in which God is praised and dedicated men and women live the Rule he established sometime in the early 500s.

The Sanity of Benedict’s approach gives added force to his central vision of the quest.  He sees it as an everexpanding, enriching exercise of love.  Communal life provides each member with the support and comfort of a family in which monks are brothers, sons with Christ of God, and of the abbot whose name means father.

“For the man of the twentieth century, rootless and isolated, such a vision may need transformation before it can be made real, but its appeal is undeniable.  Here is his Father’s house, the center of light and warmth.  Here are his brethren, united to each other by love and their quest for the God he seeks, and thus united to him.  He may not be able literally to seek their sanctuary and shelter within its walls, but the spirit that guards them, strengthens them and makes them one is his for the asking and receiving.”  From the Introduction to The Rule of Saint Benedict.

Last weekend, Larry and I went to the Benedictine Abbey of St. Walburga, where 21 nuns live according to the Rule of St. Benedict.  We were there for a Gregorian chant retreat.  What we experienced was a piece of Heaven.  The accomodations, outside the walls of course, were more than adequate.  The retreatants are put up in modulars which used to be the housing for the nuns while the Abbey was being built.  We stayed in married housing in a building named “St. Benedict.” in-domini-nomineThe nuns follow the exhortation from the Rule, Chapter 53, that “all guests to the monastery should be welcomed as Christ, because he will say, “I was a stranger, and you took me in.  Show them every courtesy, especially servants of God and pilgrims.”

Our first night, we were invited to join the nuns in the singing of Vespers.  That was our first glimpse of the Abbey church and our first introduction to the singing of the Liturgy of the Hours.st-walburga-church-interior  The red square of stained glass above the crucifix represents the blood shed by Christ.

Vespers was sung in simple chant in English, accompanied by the organ.  The music was sung beautifully and the gestures of standing, sitting and bowing all contributed to the dignity of the sung prayer. 

After Vespers we had dinner and then our first instruction in reading square notes.  From there, we went to bed at 8:30 p.m., knowing we would be getting up at 4 for Matins.  More about that next time.

History matters Sunday, Oct 19 2008 

Homeschooling gives you the opportunity to train your children in civic responsibility and action that makes sense.  It goes beyond teaching them to recycle and save the planet, and even affords you the opportunity to ask the question “save the planet from what or whom?”

Another thing that homeschooling provides is a context for thinking.  If you follow a good plan, the Classics for instance, you introduce your children to the great thinkers of Western Civilization, from Moses to Chesterton.  By studying their ideas, you help your children to understand why we believe and behave as we do.  You help them to understand the background of our government and the teachings of the Church, especially those regarding life.   You help them to see that most of our ideas are not new; rather they are rooted in the prayerful consideration of the meaning of life which has gone on for thousands of years.

In 2008,  Archbishop Chaput spoke to the ENDOW conference in Denver.  The title of his talk was “The Homicides involved in Abortion are ‘Little Murders.'”  The good Archbishop has a clear view of history and an understanding that history has a way of repeating itself.  Please take time to read his address to the conference, and you might want to look up some of those people he mentions along the way if you haven’t had the benefit of a classical education.  It is never too late to begin…

                                              

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