Wednesday, October 31

Should Catholics Celebrate Halloween?

The Great Christian Feast-Halloween - by Michael Dubruiel



This is one of those thoughts that comes to you in a moment of clarity with such force that you wonder how it could be that everyone just doesn't see the truth of it.

Last night when I made one of my few trips to the door to hand out candy, it just hit me. There I was confronted with a skull painted white on the face of an African American, who was standing there holding open a bag, expecting something from me.

A home invasion? No.

Trick or Treat!

I gladly obliged his request with a handful of candy and he turned and went on his merry way to join the other hordes of beggars that flooded our streets.

I had just fulfilled the mandate of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! I had just welcomed Him in the guise of the hungry, "When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat." Matthew 25!

"When did we see you Lord?"

"Whenever you did it to the least of my brethren, you did it to me."

Is there anytime left in our year when Americans are so blatantly Christian, welcoming the strangers that come to their door? Is there anytime that we reward those who on purpose try to repulse us by their costumes?

Yet the thought that it is better to give than receive dominates this day and truly the day fulfills its purpose of being the eve of All Saints Day! For if we are ever to join the saints we must learn to make everyday Halloween!

So that today when we meet those we might otherwise demonize, we give what we have freely as though we were meeting Christ Himself in the streets (and if we believe the Gospel message we are in fact meeting him)!

I used to joke that strangers could in fact be demons, (this was when the angel rage was in full swing and I use to make the point that yes a stranger might be an angel but who is to say if it is a good one or a bad one--sort of a twist of the Glenda the Good Witch's question to Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ, "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?"), but I would ask you to reflect on Halloween a bit more with me.

If we give to the stranger, indeed we welcome them as Christ. But if we look at the stranger only as someone who has something to give and we judge them based on that we are apt to conclude that all strangers are demons!

For example if we start viewing every middle eastern looking Arab that we do not know personally as a terrorist we are forgoing an opportunity to see them as Christ (who happened to be of middle eastern descent). Abraham was visited by three strangers (one would presume of middle eastern descent) and he fed them--they turned out to be angels and they gave him a blessing! But let's suppose that we in fact do come across some terrorists in our daily activities. What if our interaction with them, seeing them as Christ and giving them whatever we have to give at that moment (even if it is only a smile of acceptance) led them to change their whole way of viewing Americans?

It is sad to think that a day that is the perfect example of what it means to be a Christian has been protested by so many Christians in this country. Do they read the Gospels?

No one is celebrating or worshipping demons on Halloween. The children who dress up in their costumes are playacting and giving the individual behind every door an opportunity to imitate Christ.

It is also sad that many miss the point in the other direction. They overdo it in the name of "everyone else is doing it" and light their houses up as though it is Christmas, rather than encountering the little masked Christs in the darkness the way it is intended to happen and does happen in daily lives. The vacuous nature of their souls demands making a show of their giving. Sadly they have already received their reward--the empty praise of their neighbors and friends.

There have been moves lately among some Catholics to have children dress up as saints-- this may be a fine thing to do on All Saints day but it totally misses the point of Halloween. We will never be saints, nor will we imitate them, until we open the door everyday and welcome the ghouls we encounter as though they are Christ.



Tuesday, October 30

All Saints Day for Children


The Loyola Kids' Book of Saints

by Amy Welborn

Amy Welborn


 Over 40 saints' lives,written at a middle-school reading level.

  I. Saints are People Who Love Children St. Nicholas,St. John Bosco, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla

Saints Are People Who Love Their Families St. Monica,St. Cyril and St. Methodius, St. Therese of Lisieux,Blessed Frederic Ozanam,

 Saints Are People Who Surprise OthersSt. Simeon Stylites,St. Celestine V,St. Joan of Arc,St. Catherine of Siena

  Saints Are People Who Create St. Hildegard of Bingen,Blessed Fra Angelico,St. John of the Cross,Blessed Miguel Pro

  Saints Are People Who Teach Us New Ways to Pray St. Benedict,St. Dominic de Guzman,St. Teresa of Avila,St. Louis de Monfort

  Saints Are People Who See Beyond the Everyday St. Juan Diego, St. Frances of Rome, St. Bernadette Soubirous, Blessed Padre Pio

  Saints Are People Who Travel From Home St. Boniface, St. Peter Claver, St. Francis Xavier, St. Francis Solano, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini

  Saints Are People Who Are Strong Leaders St. Helena, St. Leo the Great, St. Wenceslaus, St. John Neumann

  Saints Are People Who Tell The Truth St. Polycarp, St. Thomas Becket, St. Thomas More, Blessed Titus Brandsma

  Saints Are People Who Help Us Understand God St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Jerome, St. Patrick, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Edith Stein

  Saints Are People Who Change Their Lives for God St. Ambrose, St. Gregory the Great, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Camillus de Lellis, St. Katharine Drexel

  Saints Are People Who Are Brave St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, St. George, St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Isaac Jogues, The Carmelite Nuns of Compiegne, St. Maximilian Kolbe

  Saints Are People Who Help the Poor and Sick St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Martin de Porres, Blessed Joseph de Veuster

  Saints Are People Who Help In Ordinary Ways St. Christopher, St. Blaise, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Bernard of Montjoux

  Saints Are People Who Come From All Over the World Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Paul Miki, Blessed Peter To Rot, Blessed Maria Clementine Anuarite Nengapeta

Monday, October 29

All Saints' Day for Kids

The Loyola Kids Book of Heroes by Amy Welborn


 More saints' lives, organized according to the virtues they expressed through their lives.

I. Faith
  1. Introduction: Jesus is Born
  2. John the Baptist: A Hero Prepares the Way
  3. Early Christian Martyrs: Heroes are Faithful Friends
  4. Medieval Mystery Plays: Heroes Make the Bible Come to Life
  5. St. Albert the Great: Heroes Study God’s Creation
  6. Sister Blandina Segale: Heroes Work in Faith
II. Hope
  1. Introduction: Jesus Teaches
  2. Pentecost: Heroes on Fire with Hope
  3. Paul: A Hero Changes and Finds Hope
  4. St. Patrick and St. Columba: Heroes Bring Hope into Darkness
  5. St. Jane de Chantal: Heroes Hope through Loss
  6. St. Mary Faustina Kowalska: A Hero Finds Hope in Mercy
Charity
  1. Introduction: Jesus Works Miracles
  2. Peter and John: Heroes are Known by their Love
  3. St. Genevieve: A City is Saved by a Hero’s Charity
  4. St. Meinrad and St. Edmund Campion: Heroes love their Enemies
  5. Venerable Pierre Toussaint: A Hero Lives a Life of Charity
  6. Rose Hawthorne Lathrop: A Hero Cares for Those Who Need it Most
  7. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: A Hero Lives Charity with the Dying
Temperance
  1. Introduction: Jesus Strikes a Balance
  2. Peter and Cornelius: Heroes Love Their Neighbors
  3. Charlemagne and Alcuin: Heroes Use their Talents for Good
  4. St. Francis: A Hero Appreciates Creation
  5. Venerable Matt Talbot: Heroes Can Let Go
  6. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: A Hero Enjoys the Gift of Life
Prudence
  1. Introduction: Jesus Gives Us Leaders to Help us Make Good Choices
  2. Paul and Barnabas at Lystra: Heroes See the Good in All Things
  3. St. Jean de Brebeuf: A Hero Respects Others
  4. Catherine Doherty and Jean Vanier: Heroes Bring New Ideas
  5. Venerable Solanus Casey: A Hero Accepts His Life
  6. Blessed John XXIII: A Hero Finds a New Way

Friday, October 26

Amy Welborn Interview

What is your prayer routine for an average day?

My prayer routine is, like many parents, I imagine, quite closely related to my children’s lives and routines. My homeschooled son and I begin our day with prayer that is a mash-up of the day’s Mass readings and morning prayer, using either the Universalis website or Magnificat. As a family, we manage to work in a version of Compline once a week or so, but I read and pray it more often on my own. At least once a week we go to daily Mass. I pray the rosary two or three times a week, often (I admit) when exercising, and of course go to Sunday Mass and often other liturgies in area parishes, depending on the season and what’s out there: Vespers, Stations of the Cross, Benediction and Adoration and so on.
Much of my prayer life is ad hoc. I can’t walk into a room in my house without seeing a crucifix, statue or other type of religious image, so I live in continual spiritual conversation
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through the dynamic between what I am doing in my life at that moment (sweeping a floor, checking math work, writing an article) and the presence of God right here and now as expressed through a crucifix, an image of the Blessed Mother, a photograph of pilgrimage site, or an icon. My work immerses me in Scripture and the writings of the saints, which inspires moments of prayer and meditation, even briefly.

How well do you achieve it, and how do you handle those moments when you don’t?

Well, I do what I do, and I know the spiritual consequences of not being consciously open to God. And nor am I under the delusion that “this is the best I can do right now.” I think there’s an honest balance to be reached between accepting the reality of our present level of intimacy with God, but also not accepting it. Shrugging and saying, “I’m just doing the best I can,” is an understandable reaction to scrupulosity, but it’s also not consistent with the traditional understanding of the spiritual life, which is oriented toward drawing closer and closer to God. I don’t beat myself over the head, but nor do I rest, self-satisfied. One shouldn’t do that in any relationship, least of all one’s relationship with God, right?

Amy Welborn Interview

Thursday, October 25

Amy Welborn on Facebook

If you would like to follow Amy Welborn's current blog, Charlotte was Both, on Facebook, click here. 


amy welbornIt is not often that someone comes along who is both a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.
(E. B. White, the conclusion of Charlotte's Web.)

Wednesday, October 24

Bambinelli Sunday by Amy Welborn



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It's a Christmas book. From the publisher:


Alessandro is staying with his grandparents, who run a small shop that sells figures for the presepe (Nativity scene), while his parents look for work in another country. To help with the boy’s loneliness, his grandfather encourages Alessandro to make his own figure of the baby Jesus. They will bring that figure to Rome in two weeks to have it blessed by the Holy Father on Bambinelli Sunday. Through the events that occur in the time leading up to receiving the blessing in St. Peter's Square, Alessandro comes to see his world in a new way, and receives the best surprise of all in the end. 
  This book for children ages 7-10 tells a wonderful story about sharing, comfort, generosity, and forgiveness through the lens of a long-standing Italian tradition. The beautiful illustrations and timeless story make this a treasure Advent and Christmas resource for generations to come.

Tuesday, October 23

Praying with the Pivotal Players

Praying with the Pivotal Players is the most recent video and study series from Bishop Robert Barron.

Amy Welborn wrote the prayer  book accompanying the series:  Praying with the Pivotal Players. 
Each figure gets five segments. Each segment begins with a quote from their writings, even Michelangelo who left many letters and wrote poetry. This is followed up with some reflections and then some prayer and reflection prompts. The sections are thematically aligned with whatever is emphasized in the episodes. I wrote the book last fall, and really enjoyed the process. It gave me an opportunity to immerse myself in the writings of these figures and I learned quite a bit. The table of contents is on the website. 
The book is included as part of the parish program packet, but judging from what I see on Amazon, you should be able to purchase it by itself eventually.


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Monday, October 22

Amy Welborn on Facebook

If you would like to follow Amy Welborn's current blog, Charlotte was Both, on Facebook, click here. 


amy welbornIt is not often that someone comes along who is both a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.
(E. B. White, the conclusion of Charlotte's Web.)

Sunday, October 21

Amy Welborn, Writer


IgnatiusInsight.com: What do we know about Mary Magdalene and what are our sources for our knowledge of her?
Welborn: Our primary sources for knowledge of Mary Magdalene are in the Gospels. From them, in Luke 8, we learn that Mary of Magdala (a small town on the Sea of Galilee) had been exorcised of seven demons by Jesus, and left everything behind in gratitude to follow him, along with some other women, and provide for the disciples' needs. This could be doing domestic work for them, providing funds to support the ministry, or both.
We then see Mary, in every gospel, at the Cross, then as the first to discover the Empty Tomb.
There is an enormous amount of legendary material about Mary Magdalene in both West and East. It's fascinating and rich. One of the primary strains in the West has her traveling to Provence (an idea picked up by the radical feminist author of The Woman With the Alabaster Jar, Margaret Starbird, and then turned for her own ends) and, along with Martha and Lazarus, evangelizing the area; there is even some medieval art that depicts Mary preaching and baptizing. She was a favorite subject for medieval mystery plays and, of course, art.
But what we know for sure about her is contained in the Gospels.

Saturday, October 20

Catholic Bible for Children



A Child's Book of Psalms  by Amy Welborn is a hardcover introduction to the Psalms.  It includes many of the Psalms themselves, and an introduction - written by me - explaining what the Psalms are and how they have been prayed by Jewish and Christian people over the centuries, and still are today.

(Illustrated selections from 22 of the Bible s best-loved Psalms. Author Amy Welborn explains the history, background, and types of Psalms in an introduction and two supplemental chapters. Includes a map and visual history of the Holy Land from Abraham through Solomon. Author: Amy Welborn Format: 61 pages, Hardcover Publisher: C. D. Stampley Enterprises (September 2007))

Friday, October 19

St. Isaac Jogues - October 19

St. Isaac Jogues'  feastday is today, October 19. His story is told under "Saints are people who are brave."  A page:
"amy welborn"


The Loyola Kids' Book of Saints

 Over 40 saints' lives,written at a middle-school reading level.

I. Saints are People Who Love Children St. Nicholas,St. John Bosco, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla
  Amy WelbornSaints Are People Who Love Their Families St. Monica,St. Cyril and St. Methodius, St. Therese of Lisieux,Blessed Frederic Ozanam,

Saints Are People Who Surprise OthersSt. Simeon Stylites,St. Celestine V,St. Joan of Arc,St. Catherine of Siena

Saints Are People Who Create St. Hildegard of Bingen,Blessed Fra Angelico,St. John of the Cross,Blessed Miguel Pro

Saints Are People Who Teach Us New Ways to Pray St. Benedict,St. Dominic de Guzman,St. Teresa of Avila,St. Louis de Monfort

Saints Are People Who See Beyond the Everyday St. Juan Diego, St. Frances of Rome, St. Bernadette Soubirous, Blessed Padre Pio

Saints Are People Who Travel From Home St. Boniface, St. Peter Claver, St. Francis Xavier, St. Francis Solano, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini

Saints Are People Who Are Strong Leaders St. Helena, St. Leo the Great, St. Wenceslaus, St. John Neumann

Saints Are People Who Tell The Truth St. Polycarp, St. Thomas Becket, St. Thomas More, Blessed Titus Brandsma

Saints Are People Who Help Us Understand God St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Jerome, St. Patrick, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Edith Stein

Saints Are People Who Change Their Lives for God St. Ambrose, St. Gregory the Great, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Camillus de Lellis, St. Katharine Drexel

Saints Are People Who Are Brave St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, St. George, St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Isaac Jogues, The Carmelite Nuns of Compiegne, St. Maximilian Kolbe

Saints Are People Who Help the Poor and Sick St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Martin de Porres, Blessed Joseph de Veuster

Saints Are People Who Help In Ordinary Ways St. Christopher, St. Blaise, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Bernard of Montjoux

Saints Are People Who Come From All Over the World Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Paul Miki, Blessed Peter To Rot, Blessed Maria Clementine Anuarite Nengapeta

Buy this at Aquinas and More Catholic Goods
Barnes and Noble
Amazon

Thursday, October 18

St. Luke October 18

Today is the feastday of St. Luke. Deepen your appreciation of his gospel with a study of the parables.

Amy Welborn

Looking for a parish Bible study for this fall, winter or spring?


Through the Bible parables, Jesus reveals who he is and how we are to follow him. Learn how to relate the parables of Jesus to life today in Parables: Stories of the Kingdom by Amy Welborn.

It is a part of Loyola Press' Six Weeks With the Bible series, which provides individuals or groups plans for concise but thorough 90-minute sessions to learn about and discuss the pertinent Scriptural passages.  

Wednesday, October 17

Advent 2018 Resources by Amy Welborn

amy-welborn6
The Advent item I have out is the family devotional Creative Communications published last year. Perhaps for your parish or religious education program?amy_welborn2
Years ago, I wrote, also for Creative Communications, a little booklet on St. Nicholas.  I rather liked it, but unfortunately it's out
of print. You can grab the prayer I wrote for it here (remember it was a booklet for non-Catholics as well as
Catholics). You can also read the excerpt on St. Nicholas from The Loyola Kids' Book of Saints here - both are at the fabulous St. Nicholas Center which you might want to start exploring now, as opposed to the night of December 5, the way I usually do.
And Bambinelli! Sunday!
Bambinelli Sunday
Many, many posts on it - are you a DRE or Catholic school teacher/administrator or pastor? Consider doing your own Bambinelli Sunday, like they will do in Rome on the 3rd Sunday of Advent...

Tuesday, October 16

October is Rosary Month

October is the month of the rosary.

Michael Dubruiel conceived and put together the small hardbound book, Praying the Rosary.  I wrote the introductory material. Click on the cover for more information.

Monday, October 15

St. Teresa of Avila - October 15

St. Teresa of Avila is  in The Loyola Kids' Book of Saints, and Loyola has a very readable excerpt here 

I. Saints are People Who Love Children
St. Nicholas,St. John Bosco, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla
amy welbornSaints Are People Who Love Their Families
St. Monica,St. Cyril and St. Methodius, St. Therese of Lisieux,Blessed Frederic Ozanam,
Saints Are People Who Surprise OthersSt. Simeon Stylites,St. Celestine V,St. Joan of Arc,St. Catherine of Siena
Saints Are People Who Create
St. Hildegard of Bingen,Blessed Fra Angelico,St. John of the Cross,Blessed Miguel Pro
Saints Are People Who Teach Us New Ways to Pray
St. Benedict,St. Dominic de Guzman,St. Teresa of Avila,St. Louis de Monfort
Saints Are People Who See Beyond the Everyday
St. Juan Diego, St. Frances of Rome, St. Bernadette Soubirous, Blessed Padre Pio
Saints Are People Who Travel From Home
St. Boniface, St. Peter Claver, St. Francis Xavier, St. Francis Solano, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini



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Saturday, October 13

Teaching Confirmation Class for Catholic Teens

Prove It: You by Amy Welborn

The final book in the series isn't apologetics, but a guide to discipleship. How can a teen live joyfully and amy welbornfaithfully? What does it mean to do that? What's right and what's wrong? What's my life for?
  • Who Am I
  • Sure, I Want to Be a Good Person, But...How?
  • What's Jesus Got To Do With It?
  • It Was Only a Little Lie. So?
  • I've Got All The Time In The World...Don't I?
  • Love Who? Everyone? Really?
  • It's My Body. All Mine.
  • How Far Can I Go?
  • Whose Life Is Worth Living?
  • It's A Big World With Too Many Problems.  Can't I Just Live My Life?
  • "Be Not Afraid"
I know that you as young people have great aspirations, that you want to pledge yourselves to build a better world . Let others see this, let the world see it, since this is exactly the witness that the world expects from the disciples of 

Friday, October 12

Free Catholic Book

If you would like an simple introduction to this thought written for a popular audience, try my Come Meet Jesus: An Invitation from Pope Benedict XVI by Amy Welborn.  
This book is centered on Christ as the center of Pope Benedict’s thought and work as theologian and vocation as Pope.   It seemed to me that he is “proposing pope benedict XVIJesus Christ” both to the world and to the Church.  He was about reweaving a tapestry that has been sorely frayed and tattered:
  • Offering the Good News to a broken humanity and a suffering world that in Jesus Christ, all of our yearnings and hopes are fulfilled and all of our sins forgiven.  We don’t know who we are or why we are here. In Christ, we discover why.  But it is more than an intellectual discovery. In Christ – in Christ – we are joined to him, and his love dwells within us, his presence lives and binds us.
  • Re-presenting Jesus Christ even to those of us who are members of the Body already.  This wise, experienced man has seen how Christians fall. How we forget what the point is. How we unconsciously adopt the call of the world to see our faith has nothing more than a worthy choice of an appealing story that gives us a vague hope because it is meaningful.   He is calling us to re-examine our own faith and see how we have been seduced by a view of faith that puts it in the category of “lifestyle choice.”
  • Challenging the modern ethos that separates “faith”  and “spirituality” from “religion” – an appeal that is made not only to non-believers, but to believers as well, believers who stay away from Church, who neglect or scorn religious devotions and practices, who reject the wisdom of the Church –  one cannot have Christ without Church.

Thursday, October 11

RCIA Resources by Amy Welborn

The Words We Pray by Amy Welborn  is a collection of short essays that reflect on the meaning of traditional Catholic prayers, tying together history, theology, spirituality, and personal devotion.

Read more about it here.
The monks raised their voices in hope at the end of each phrase, and then paused a great pause in between, letting the hope rise and then settle back into their hearts. My own heart rushed, unbidden by me, uncontrolled, right into those pauses and joined the prayer. A prayer written by a eleventh-century bedridden brother, chanted by monks in the middle of Georgia, and joined by me and the silent folk scattered in the pews around me, each with his or her own reasons to beg the Virgin for her prayers.
And we weren’t the only ones joined in that prayer. With us was a great throng of other Christians who had prayed it over the centuries, and who are praying it at this very moment.
My days as a prayer snob were over.

It would be a great resource for inquirers into the Catholic faith.  

Wednesday, October 10

Teaching Teens about Jesus

Prove It: Jesus by Amy Welborn

amy welbornI’ve Always Wondered….
  1. …Is What the Gospels Say About Jesus True?
  2. …What Are the Basic Facts About Jesus?
  3. …What Did Jesus Really Teach?
  4. …Did Jesus Really Perform Miracles?
  5. …Why Was Jesus Executed?
  6. …Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?
  7. …When Is Jesus Going to Come Again?
  8. …Was Jesus Really God?
  9. …How Could Jesus Be Both God and Human?
  10. …Why Did Jesus Come at All, and What Does It Mean for Me Today?
Excerpt from Prove It: Jesus

A resource for teen catechesis and Catholic youth ministry

Tuesday, October 9

Blessed John Henry Newman - October 9



October 9 is the memorial of Blessed John Henry Newman
In 2010, Pope Benedict visited England for the Beatification of John Henry Newman.  During that visit, he gave a talk to school children at an event called “The Big Assembly,” and like all of the talks and homilies he gave at such events,  it was rich and so expressive of his skillful way of teaching, which is profound, yet simple..and yet again, not watered down…so…"amy welborn"
Another book by Amy Welborn


Again, CTS was a joy to work with.  In structuring this book, we combined the pope’s words with quotations from various saints.  The images are mostly of contemporary children engaged in activities that illustrate the call of Pope Benedict and the saints to follow Christ.  Here’s the text of the entire talk. Some images:





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And here is the page specifically concerning Newman:

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Monday, October 8

Prayer Book for Christian Teens






amy welborn

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of

Prove It: Prayer by Amy Welborn

I Don't Need to Pray...
Because God's In My Heart All the Time


Well, sure. God is with you constantly, and has been since the moment you were a darling little-itty-bitty embryo:

Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13)


And God’s with you right now, as you’re reading this book. He’s with you at school. He’s with you on the practice field. He’s with you in the bathroom (eeeew…..but true!). He’s with you while you scarf down your nourishing breakfast of cola and corn chips (You think I’m kidding? I taught high school. I’ve seen it.)


God – is – with – you – every – second.


O Lord, you have probed me and you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand. (Psalm 139:1)


Got it. Now answer a question for me. So what?


Why does God’s gracious presence with you somehow imply that you don’t have to do anything in response?


Imagine, for a moment, that you’re with your family at dinner. It’s one of Mom’s typically fabulous meals (and you do tell her it’s fabulous, at least every once in a while don’t you? She needs to hear it, and believe me, complimenting a meal racks up a whole lot of points that just might come in handy some day.)


Anyway, dinner is great, everyone’s there together, chattering away, until a moment comes when, deep in your Tuna Tortilla Surprise, you notice that silence has suddenly descended. You raise your eyes. You see everyone at the table, from Grandpa to the baby, staring at you. Waiting.  For what?


“Well?” Dad asks. “What do you think?”


Of what? What do I think of what? You can’t help but wonder.


For you see, while you were certainly physically present in this room full of very real, very lively, very loud people, somehow, you hadn’t heard a word anyone was saying.


You were way too deep in meditation – about what, we won’t ask, because we really don’t want to know. 


But the fact is, your physical presence didn’t guarantee - well, presence.


You were there, but you weren’t there. You weren’t listening, you weren’t relating to anyone, and you couldn’t tell us what color Grandpa’s tie was if we offered you a million dollars. (It was green with violet polka-dots, by the way. Retro, but nice.)


So there’s lesson number one: Presence doesn’t automatically mean relationship.


Now with God, of course, the problem is all on our side. God’s never inattentive, His focus never wanders, He never turns His back, not even for a second:


Even all the hairs on your head are counted. (Matthew 10:30)


But when it comes to us – well, we might like to talk big, like we’re some sort of deep mystics, constantly in touch with God, but let’s be honest.


That’s not exactly the case, is it?


After all, if it were true that we were incredibly aware of God all the time, our lives might be just a little bit different – in a word, we’d be saints. But we’re not. We live in a way that’s more like what a mystic named Meister Eckhart described centuries ago:


God is near to us, but we are far from him. God is within; we are without. God is at home; we are abroad. (Sermons 6, “The Kingdom of God is at Hand”)


So it’s a great, comforting truth that God is present with us all the time. But unless we consciously try to plug into that presence, we’re like we were at dinner that time: sitting there kind of pathetically, in our own private space, wondering what everyone else is talking about, alone even though we’re in a room full of people.


Think of it this way. It would be very nice for a dear friend to stand in front of you telling you how much he liked you. But what impact would that have on your life if you met his presence and his affection with nothing but the most cursory acknowledgment, day after day, never responding, never sharing, never even looking him in the eye? How would your friendship grow? Would you even have a friendship?


That’s exactly the way it is with us and God. God’s always present to us in love, but we must make a conscious effort to be present to Him, too, or else we don’t really have a relationship with Him.


That’s what prayer is.


Sure, there are lots of ways to do this thing called prayer: We do it with spoken words, we do it with songs or even silently. We do it alone, we do it with others. We use other people’s words, or we make up our own. We use the Bible to help us, or we use a sunset. We come to God in joy and praise. We come to thank Him and to beg Him for mercy. We turn to Him to ask for help for ourselves and others. We come to Him to find truth and meaning, and in the end, we’re coming to Him to find ourselves. Our true selves – way down underneath the worries and needs, the people that everyone on earth from our parents to friends to advertisers tells us that we should be – we know there is a true self, made for joy and peace. The only other One who knows this true self is the One who made it , and that’s God. The journey to that true self, the self we long for isn’t that long really. It’s just as long as the journey to God, and you know how far that is, right?
Any way you choose to do it, when you’re opening your heart, turning to God, talking to Him, listening and searching, what you’re doing at that moment is acknowledging God’s presence and responding to it.


That, in a nutshell, is prayer.


Here it is in another, slightly bigger and more brilliant nutshell, fashioned by a great pray-er, St. Therese of Lisieux:


For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.(Manuscrits autobiographiques, C 25r)


So for all of our rather arrogant claims that sure, we can have a great relationship with God without actually ever, well, taking time to develop a relationship, there’s really only one thing to say, and the person who said it is another great pray-er, St. Theresa of Avila:


We are always in the presence of God, yet it seems to me that those who pray are in His presence in a very different sense. 


If you’ve ever known anyone who is authentically, truly prayerful, you’ll know what St. Theresa was talking about. There’s a peace and tranquility, a real goodness that shines through a person who’s really aware of God’s presence. 


When you think about it, you just have to ask: Why wouldn’t everyone, given the choice (which we are) want to live that way? 


You also have to ask yourself: Given the choice (which you are), why wouldn’t you want to live that way?


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Sunday, October 7

Feast of the Holy Rosary - October 7

October 7 is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

Michael Dubruiel conceived and put together the small hardbound book, Praying the Rosary.  I wrote the introductory material. Click on the cover for more information.

Saturday, October 6

Catholic Bible for Kids

The Loyola Kids Book of Bible Stories by Amy Welborn is now available.

Written by popular Catholic children’s author Amy Welborn, this beautifully illustrated collection of Bible stories for kids and their families is uniquely arranged according to where the stories fall in the liturgical year and when they are proclaimed at Mass. Divided into five sections—Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter Season, and Ordinary Time—each section is subdivided into Old and New Testament stories. From “the Fall” to St. Paul, from the Exodus of the Israelites to the Ascension of Jesus, Loyola Kids Book of Bible Storiesnurtures family and individual reading of the Bible at home, while familiarity with these stories will help children connect far more meaningfully with the liturgy.


Friday, October 5

St. Faustina - October 5



St. Faustina's Story is in the Loyola Kids Book of Heroes

"amy welborn"


The Loyola Kids Book of Heroes

 More saints' lives, organized according to the virtues they expressed through their lives.

I. Faith
  1. Introduction: Jesus is Born
  2. John the Baptist: A Hero Prepares the Way
  3. Early Christian Martyrs: Heroes are Faithful Friends
  4. Medieval Mystery Plays: Heroes Make the Bible Come to Life
  5. St. Albert the Great: Heroes Study God’s Creation
  6. Sister Blandina Segale: Heroes Work in Faith
II. Hope
  1. Introduction: Jesus Teaches
  2. Pentecost: Heroes on Fire with Hope
  3. Paul: A Hero Changes and Finds Hope
  4. St. Patrick and St. Columba: Heroes Bring Hope into Darkness
  5. St. Jane de Chantal: Heroes Hope through Loss
  6. St. Mary Faustina Kowalska: A Hero Finds Hope in Mercy
Charity
  1. Introduction: Jesus Works Miracles
  2. Peter and John: Heroes are Known by their Love
  3. St. Genevieve: A City is Saved by a Hero’s Charity
  4. St. Meinrad and St. Edmund Campion: Heroes love their Enemies
  5. Venerable Pierre Toussaint: A Hero Lives a Life of Charity
  6. Rose Hawthorne Lathrop: A Hero Cares for Those Who Need it Most
  7. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: A Hero Lives Charity with the Dying
Temperance
  1. Introduction: Jesus Strikes a Balance
  2. Peter and Cornelius: Heroes Love Their Neighbors
  3. Charlemagne and Alcuin: Heroes Use their Talents for Good
  4. St. Francis: A Hero Appreciates Creation
  5. Venerable Matt Talbot: Heroes Can Let Go
  6. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: A Hero Enjoys the Gift of Life
Prudence
  1. Introduction: Jesus Gives Us Leaders to Help us Make Good Choices
  2. Paul and Barnabas at Lystra: Heroes See the Good in All Things
  3. St. Jean de Brebeuf: A Hero Respects Others
  4. Catherine Doherty and Jean Vanier: Heroes Bring New Ideas
  5. Venerable Solanus Casey: A Hero Accepts His Life
  6. Blessed John XXIII: A Hero Finds a New Way

Thursday, October 4

St. Francis of Assisi - October 4

St. Francis' feastday is coming soon - October 4. So there's still time to help your kids prepare.

Adventures in Assisi is the fruit of my interest in St. Francis as well as trips both Ann and I have taken to the town.  Ann has been twice, and I traveled there two years ago with my two youngest, on our epic 3-month stay in Europe.
  
There are, of course, many books on St. Francis for children, but ours is different in several ways:
(Click for full size)
1) It's set in the present. There are regular allusions to and illustrations from St. Francis' life, but the children at the center of the story are contemporary children, interacting with St. Francis, his life and his message, in the context of their own lives.
2) It's not about the wolf of Gubbio or the creche or St. Francis and creation - as great as those are, those stories are the subjects of most of the books about Francis out there, and really, do we need one more?
3) The children, we hope, are physically more representative of most children you see in picture books in general, and in picture books for Catholic in general, who tend to be pretty much all Caucasian.  This was quite important to me.  Given the makeup of the Catholic Church, even just in the US, it's ridiculous that the demographics of children's book illustrations don't reflect that.  The models for these children, incidentally, are Ann's family members.
More tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 3

Prove It God by Amy Welborn

Is Prove It God required for your Catholic school theology class?

This series of apologetics works for Catholic teens and young adults by Amy Welborn encompasses the diverse questions Catholic teens have in their own hearts about faith, and those they are asked by others.

Prove It: God I Don't Believe in God Because....
amy welborn
  • ...No One Can Prove He Exists
  • ...Science Shows That the Universe Exists Without a God
  • ...People Could Have Just Made the Stuff in the Bible up
  • ...It’s So Difficult to Find Him
  • ...People Have So Many Different Ideas About Him
  • ...There are So Many Hypocrites in Churches
  • ...People Do Such Horrible Things in the Name of Religion
  • ...It’s What I Believe and I Don’t Need Anyone Else to Tell Me What to Believe!
  • ...I Want to Be Free to Be Myself
  • ...I Don’t Need Him
  • ...Innocent People Suffer

Monday, October 1

St. Therese - October 1

St. Therese is featured in this book by Amy Welborn. Here's the first page of her entry:



"amy welborn"

The Loyola Kids' Book of Saints

 Over 40 saints' lives,written at a middle-school reading level.

I. Saints are People Who Love Children St. Nicholas,St. John Bosco, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla
  Amy WelbornSaints Are People Who Love Their Families St. Monica,St. Cyril and St. Methodius, St. Therese of Lisieux,Blessed Frederic Ozanam,

Saints Are People Who Surprise OthersSt. Simeon Stylites,St. Celestine V,St. Joan of Arc,St. Catherine of Siena

Saints Are People Who Create St. Hildegard of Bingen,Blessed Fra Angelico,St. John of the Cross,Blessed Miguel Pro

Saints Are People Who Teach Us New Ways to Pray St. Benedict,St. Dominic de Guzman,St. Teresa of Avila,St. Louis de Monfort

Saints Are People Who See Beyond the Everyday St. Juan Diego, St. Frances of Rome, St. Bernadette Soubirous, Blessed Padre Pio

Saints Are People Who Travel From Home St. Boniface, St. Peter Claver, St. Francis Xavier, St. Francis Solano, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini

Saints Are People Who Are Strong Leaders St. Helena, St. Leo the Great, St. Wenceslaus, St. John Neumann

Saints Are People Who Tell The Truth St. Polycarp, St. Thomas Becket, St. Thomas More, Blessed Titus Brandsma

Saints Are People Who Help Us Understand God St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Jerome, St. Patrick, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Edith Stein

Saints Are People Who Change Their Lives for God St. Ambrose, St. Gregory the Great, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Camillus de Lellis, St. Katharine Drexel

Saints Are People Who Are Brave St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, St. George, St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Isaac Jogues, The Carmelite Nuns of Compiegne, St. Maximilian Kolbe

Saints Are People Who Help the Poor and Sick St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Martin de Porres, Blessed Joseph de Veuster

Saints Are People Who Help In Ordinary Ways St. Christopher, St. Blaise, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Bernard of Montjoux

Saints Are People Who Come From All Over the World Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Paul Miki, Blessed Peter To Rot, Blessed Maria Clementine Anuarite Nengapeta

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