Quick Question: How Do You Teach the Beatitudes to 4th-Graders?

I need your help. Tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 pm, I begin teaching the Beatitudes to fifteen ten-year-olds, beginning with arguably the toughest one of all: “Blessed (or Happy) are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” How do you teach that to a fourth-grader? What does poor in spirit mean to you, and what can it possibly mean to a child? Our textbook is all about teaching the children that we should not be attached to material possessions, what we wear, the toys we have. But is that all there is to it? Anyone have any good ideas? I’m scratching my head here.

Thanks to Danielle Rose

Guest post by Allison 
A few weeks ago, my friend Andy introduced me to Guido D’Arezzo, the Benedictine monk who invented modern musical notation by creating the four-line staff.Then Andy, who founded our parish’s Chant Club and has a master’s degree in medieval literature from the University of Notre Dame, read my post about Guido, including my dismissive remarks on the theologically suspect, “folksy religious songs of my Catholic childhood.” And Andy had another lesson for me.

He and his wife are nearly two decades younger than Greg and I. We are products of the well-meaning and sometimes misguided reforms of Vatican II and I call their generation the “JP2 babies”—unafraid of orthodoxy, unabashed in their faith.

Andy told me he believed folk music can have a place in Catholic worship—if its lyrics reflect orthodoxy. He told me about a folk musician he and his wife had known when they were students at Notre Dame: Danielle Skorich, whose professional name was Danielle Rose.

Last month he placed a Danielle Rose’s CD, called “Mysteries,” on top of our TV in the family room. There it sat, unplayed until Sunday night.

Sunday afternoon at Chant Club, Andy yet again mentioned the two-album CD, which is a series of musical reflections on each of the rosary mysteries. He encouraged me to at least listen to the song on the Transfiguration, given that it was Transfiguration Sunday.

I spent late Transfiguration Sunday evening listening to Danielle Rose’s album on my laptop. In her liner notes, Danielle Rose says she was inspired to produce the album in response to Pope John Paul II’s October 2002 letter introducing the Luminous Mysteries to the rosary. The album, in a wide range of musical styles, reflects on all 20 mysteries of the rosary.

As someone who spent endless hours as a teen alone in my bedroom listening to Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez records, I was transfixed—yes, that is the word—by the soulful, soaring, dare I say sensuous, tunes of Danielle Rose. Her music incorporates a range of styles, including folk, chant, gospel, rock and bluegrass. She tells the story of each mystery from the perspective of Biblical characters.

In “Listen to Him,” she relates the Transfiguration, the fourth Luminous Mystery, from Peter’s perspective: I hear the voice of every generation listen to Him. Time stands still when I behold your Transfiguration.

A cradle Catholic, Danielle Rose grew up in Duluth, Minnesota. Her father is an eye surgeon who volunteered his talents in India for 25 years. Both parents encouraged her to a life of service. Danielle Rose’s faith deepened in college, when she began attending daily mass and reflecting on the Real Presence. She graduated from Notre Dame in 2002 with degrees in both music and theology. Her first album, “Defining Beauty,” was released by World Library Publications before she graduated.

Danielle Rose went on to travel the world as what she called a “music missionary,” hoping to bring her musical gifts to a spiritually impoverished world. She was the 2005 United Catholic Music and Video Association (UCMVA) Unity Award Winner for Female Vocalist of the Year.

When Andy loaned me the CD of her work, he mentioned that Danielle Rose’s website and her MySpace page are out of date and he wasn’t sure if she was writing and performing anymore.

“Maybe she got married,” I responded. In fact, she did.

In August 2007, Danielle Rose Skorich entered a Charismatic and Franciscan community near Amarillo, Texas, called the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. In August of the next year, she was accepted as a novice and received the religious name Sister Rose Therese.

“He revealed the desire of His heart for my life, and thus transformed my heart from the one being pursued by Christ, to the one in pursuit of Christ. ‘I want to be your spouse,’” Sister Rose Therese, DLJC, wrote.

Ten days before Sister Rose Therese entered the convent, she created her final mainstream album called “Pursue Me” about her discernment journey. All royalties from the sales go to promoting vocations to both the priesthood and religious life.

In a 2007 concert in Duluth, before taking her vows, Danielle Rose said she would not say farewell to her loved ones even though—other than her family—she could no longer call or email them. “See you in the Eucharist,” she sang.

I’m still quite fond of Guido. But now I’m also a Catholic thanks to Sister Rose Therese.

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Because of CL and BXVI

To follow up on my post about Mass with Cardinal Seán O’Malley at the Cathedral in Boston last Monday— The Cardinal ran a piece about the Mass in his blog post for February 26. In it, our archbishop confirmed something I had only heard—and converts are the last to hear, you know, but like elephants, we never forget! In his post, Cardinal O’Malley lays out a close connection between Pope Benedict and the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation (CL). It’s inspiring to know that when our School of Community is discussing Fr. Giussani on charity at our weekly School of Community, so is BXVI.

Here’s the Cardinal’s report:

On Monday, I celebrated Mass for Communion and Liberation at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. It was a memorial Mass marking the anniversary of the death of their founder, Father Luigi Giussani. We celebrated it actually on the feast of the Chair of St. Peter.

Father Giussani was a high school religion teacher in Italy who began a youth movement that has grown into a very important reality in the life of the Church. CL now not only has lay people but priests in the Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo who are in the archdiocese now, as well as consecrated members — men and women who make vows, live in the community, and pursue their secular professions.

In fact, last Saturday I had a nice visit with a community of the Memores Domini — the consecrated members — who are living in the North End. They came to tell me they are expecting more members to come to be part of their community, so their presence will be permanent here in Boston. I was very pleased to hear that news.

They happen to be Italians, so it’s a great blessing to have them in the Italian neighborhood there where there are many other immigrants.

The Holy Father has a group of Memores Domini who run the papal household. Traditionally, that was a task that was performed by religious women, but Pope Benedict has invited women from Communion and Liberation to be the ones who run his household for him. And, he participates in their weekly meeting, which is called the “School of Community.”

So we had the Mass at the Cathedral, and afterwards there was a dinner. There were testimonies and singing.

Because You Don’t Have to be a Young Earth Creationist to Believe in Salvation History

There’s a wonderful settling-in process that occurs when you convert to the Catholic Church. For example, two years ago, at my first Easter Vigil I sat in the dark, literally and figuratively, wondering what all those long readings were for. Last year, I had a better idea that they were about Salvation History, and I was one of the readers. This year, my daughter will be received into the Catholic Church in North Carolina, and I will be a listener again.

While I will dearly miss singing my first Gloria in seven weeks alongside my friends in choir, I’m sure I will sing with gusto when the lights come on at the Newman Center in Chapel Hill, maybe with tears. And I will listen even closer to the readings.

All of this came into focus for me this morning as I read the Office and the prescribed scripture reading for today—the single most spectacular scene ever filmed, the parting of the Red Sea!

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I’m not sure whether Cecil and Charlton did God a favor with their great film. As EPG has said, and I paraphrase, there’s nothing that looks hokier than something that was contemporary 20 years ago. “The Ten Commandments’’ was made over 50 years ago, and shows it. But I thought I’d lighten up this post with that trailer.

Salvation History really is “the greatest adventure story ever hurled from any book.” And each year it becomes truer for me. You don’t have to believe that the Earth was made in literally seven days, or that the Earth is thousands of years old, not millions, as the Young Earthers do.

You have to believe two things only: God created the Earth. God sent Jesus Christ to save us. That’s Salvation History in a nutshell. Though you have to admit, that’s a great beard on Charlton Heston.

Thanks to Sorta Religious Rock ’n Roll (Music for Mondays)

A couple of male bloggers have to have some fun, even during Lent, right? And since the Jesuits, at least, say that the trick is to see God in everything, let’s see if you can spot God in these guys: Lenny Kravitz, Eric Clapton, J. J. Cale, Buddy Guy, and Mark Knopfler.

Gentlemen, the YIMC stage is all yours—

Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love? Hardly.  This past week, we’ve been writing about love here, here, here, and even here. Christianity—It’s a “Love Revolution”!

There’s nothing you can’t do and that’s no lie
You were designed to use your mind
To move what you can’t see so don’t be blind
’Cause there is a Love
That won’t let you down and it always holds ground
Wear your crown
This love will never leave you
This love will never let you go

Oops. That video is gone. That’s okay, we can make do with “God Gave Me Everything” instead. Roll clip,

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One of Eric Clapton’s first songs for the group Blind Faith was Presence of the Lord. Frank bets you did not know that. Have a listen.

I have finally found a place to live
Just like I never could before
And I know I don’t have much to give
But soon I’ll open any door

Everybody knows the secret
Everybody knows the score
I have finally found a place to live
In the presence of the Lord
In the presence of the Lord

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Let’s stick with Clapton and add in a little J. J. Cale, for “Call Me the Breeze.” Frank remembers the Lynyrd Skynyrd version of this tune from down south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Webster’s not really sure this is even sorta religious, but he likes it, he really likes it.

They call me the breeze, I keep blowing down the road
They call me the breeze, I keep blowing down the road
I ain’t got me nobody, I ain’t carrying me no load
Ain’t no change in the weather, ain’t no change in me
Ain’t no change in the weather, ain’t no change in me
I ain’t hidin’ from nobody, ain’t nobody hidin’ from me
I got that green light, babe, I got to keep moving on
I got that green light, babe, I got to keep moving on
I might go out to California, might go down to Georgia, might stay home

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Time to move Eric Clapton off stage. (You’ll see him watching from the wings.) Don’t need no lyrics. It’s Buddy Guy’s version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Virgin Mary? Lamb of God? Probably not.

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Finally, “Speedway at Nazareth,” a song about car racing, but at least it has Nazareth in the title and the best finger-pickin’ guitarist ever to come out of Newcastle-on-Tyne. Oh, yeah, and it’s Webster’s favorite Mark Knopfler tune. So it qualifies.

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Because Love Comes from God, Not from Me

When I was an child, I loved as child. Now that I am a man, I wish to love as a man. CS Lewis offers advice about this in his book Mere Christianity. Msgr. Luigi Giussani (left) does more than offer advice, he shows the way, in his three-volume work Is It Possible to Live This Way? The third volume, Charity, is currently the focus of Communion and Liberation’s Schools of Community worldwide.

In Book III, chapter 9 of Mere Christianity, part of our YIMC Book Club reading this week, “Jack” Lewis draws the distinction between love as a feeling and love as an act of will. His simple advice is, Don’t wait to feel love for your neighbor, and for heaven’s sake, don’t sit around trying to pump up love for your enemy. Act as if  you love your neighbor and your enemy, and eventually you will love them.

This is good advice, of course. Try smiling when you don’t feel like it. Force your face muscles into a grin and hold it for a while. You will feel better. Lewis adds one grace note to this thought at the very end of the chapter:

The great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, [God’s] love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.

It’s a beautiful thought. Don Giussani goes much further.

Here’s a contrast: In Mere Christianity, Lewis discusses the three theological virtues, Charity, Hope, and Faith in that order. In the famous passage from 1st Corinthians, 13, St. Paul speaks of them as Faith, Hope, and Charity, and so does Don Giussani. Better, Giussani explains why.

Over the past two years, Schools of Community have read the first two volumes of Is It Possible to Live This Way?, Faith and Hope. Faith, Giussani writes, is founded not on a leap (of faith) but quite reasonably on a fact—the fact of Christ’s presence in the world. Hope is a completely reasonable extension of this fact into the future, our own future, where our destiny lies.

While so far we are only about 30 pages into volume 3, Charity (slow readers seem to predominate in CL!), it is clear where all this is leading. Because already Giussani is writing of charity not alone as an act of will but as a sharing in God’s gratuitous love for us. Without faith and hope, without the certainty that God exists, that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist, in his Church, and in the companionship of those who share with us in this Presence, there can be no true charity. Lewis’s act of will is worthy, but how can it be whole?

I would quote Giussani at length, but his Italian-translated-to-English is an acquired taste, and I encourage you to learn more on your own, by checking out the CL Web site. But here are a couple of small bites of Giussani on charity:

Charity . . . indicates the deepest content, discovers intimacy, discovers the heart of the Presence that faith recognizes. 

Note that charity hinges on faith. And here:

The most intimate content of the supreme reality exists in experience, because it is felt, and, when followed, it produces an effect, it changes things. 

So love or charity does begin with a feeling—or it begins with faith, which prompts a feeling. A feeling that arises from the statement “He exists.” From that certainty, everything else follows.

Which is to say that love comes from God—as Giussani writes later, from God’s “gratuitous love” for us—and not from an act of human will alone, and certainly not from me. Sorry, Jack, but I’m afraid Don Giuss has got you covered on this one. Although to give you credit, Jack, I think you really might have loved School of Community.

Because This Time the Joke’s on St. Peter

I just had to share this joke from reader Cathyf. Woke up, found it in my in-box, smiled five minutes. I may be the last Catholic on earth to have heard it. We converts are all crazy about Christ and his Church but we’re a little bit short on Catholic culture. But that’s OK, because then the joke’s on me, and I’ve already eaten some humble pie during the first full week in Lent. Take it away, Cathy!

You see, heaven is a large walled compound, with gates of pearl at the entrance, where St. Peter takes his post with his keys. When the newly departed arrive at those pearly gates, St. Peter looks them up in his book, and either lets them in, or sends them down the road.

So one day it is St. Pete’s day off, and he is wandering about, and he sees some folks that he is pretty sure he sent down the road — but there they are inside heaven. He doesn’t think too much of it, though. He’s not paying all that close attention to faces, and after all they do tend to all run together anyway. But he does spend the next days paying closer attention to exactly who is being let in and who is being sent down the road. And on his next day off, he sees 3 different people who were definitely sent along their way.

St. Pete decides to do some investigating. He marches out the pearly gates and down the road. Around the corner, down a little ways, around another corner, where he is brought up utterly dumbfounded by the sight. There is St. Joseph, and he is boosting people over the wall! St. Pete marches over to St. Joseph and starts haranguing him. He says that this is utterly against the rules, absolutely unacceptable, and that there will be consequences! St. Joseph doesn’t say anything. Finally St. Pete finishes up his harangue by telling St. Joseph that he will not mention this little incident to anyone as long as St. Joseph makes sure that it never happens again.

Thinking that he has dealt with this outrage very well, St. Pete then spins on his heel, marches back up around the two corners and down the road and through the pearly gates. He resumes his job, but is still being careful to remember faces and who got let in and who got sent down the road. On his next day off, again, there are the Wrong People in heaven!

So again St. Pete marches out in high dudgeon; again he comes around the corner; again St. Joseph is boosting people over the wall. This time Pete is utterly apoplectic. He rages on and on about how unacceptable, wrong, not be tolerated, Pete is going to report this straight to God, terrible things will happen, maybe even Joe will get thrown out of heaven. Around this time Pete needs to pause for a second to take a breath. At which point St. Joseph, shrugging, says, “Hey, I go—I take the wife and kid with me.”

For All the Saints: Teresa of Avila

On the trail of St. Joseph, because he is my patron and because his feast day is approaching (March 19), I stumbled across Teresa of Avila. And when I did, I sat down for a spell, and after I had sat in her presence, I didn’t want to leave. That’s what the saints will do for you—so convince you of the truth of the Christian claim that you want to spend the rest of your life at their feet.

Teresa’s devotion to St. Joseph, and so mine to her, began in 1538, when she was 25 years old. A Carmelite nun in the throes of a complete physical breakdown that she laid to heart trouble, Teresa despaired of conventional medical treatments and “decided to seek a cure from ‘heavenly doctors,’” according to biographer Shirley du Boulay:

She had Masses said for her—strictly in accordance with the church’s teaching, for she had no patience with unorthodox ceremonies—and she commended herself to someone who was to become her favorite saint, St. Joseph. Strong-willed by temperament, yet determined to be obedient, she found she could submit to the image of one to whom Christ himself was subject on earth. She attributed her improvement—it could not be called a cure, because she was at no time completely well—entirely to him and never ceased to commend him to others. She would make requests of him every year on his festival, claiming that they were always granted, even that “if my petition is in any way ill directed, he directs it aright for my greatest good.”

From then on, Teresa would always observe Joseph’s feast day with particular devotion. In her Life, she would write of St. Joseph:

I wish I could persuade everyone to be devoted to this glorious saint, for I have great experience of the blessings which he can obtain from God. I have never known anyone to be truly devoted to him and render him particular services who did not notably advance in virtue, for he gives very real help to souls who commend themselves to him. For some years now, I think, I have made some request of him every year on his festival and I have always had it granted. If my petition is in any way ill directed, he directs it aright for my greater good.

I only beg, for the love of God, that anyone who does not believe me will put what I say to the test, and he will see by experience what great advantages come from his commending himself to this glorious patriarch and having devotion to him. . . .

In her forties, Teresa began to experience visions, raptures, locutions—the mystic experiences for which she is perhaps best known—though she was one hard-boiled, down-to-earth mystic, who founded seventeen reformed Discalced (Barefoot) “Carmels” in her lifetime, working like a modern-day businesswoman on a fast track. St. Joseph sometimes appeared to her in visions. When in 1562, at age 47, she founded her first Carmel, she named it St. Joseph’s. She viewed her new reformed foundation as being like the home of the Holy Family in Nazareth, “a heaven, if one can be had on this earth.”

His Majesty earnestly commanded me to strive for this new monastery with all my powers, and He made great promises that it would be founded and that He would be highly servied in it. He said it should be called St. Joseph and that this saint would keep watch over us at one door, and our Lady at the other, that Christ would remain with us, and that it would be a star shining with great splendor.

From then on, no matter where she traveled through Spain in a covered wagon that maintained her enclosure from the world, St. Joseph’s would be Teresa’s home. St. Joseph himself was always at the ready, always nearby. In 1575, en route to founding one of her Carmels, according to du Boulay, Teresa’s party—

took the wrong turn, realized they were lost, and, at Teresa’s injunction, began to pray to St. Joseph. At once they heard a distant voice calling out that they must stop immediately, otherwise they would fall over a precipice. They obeyed the invisible command and discovered they were indeed in a perilous position, a chasm yawning beneath the wagon wheels, but what could they do? How could they turn round in the narrow path? The voice told them to go gently backward for a hundred turns of the wheels; they would come to no harm and would find the track again. It was just as the voice said.

In an essay on “The Historical Development of the Holy Family Devotion,” Joseph F. Chorpenning, OSFS, writes that Teresa’s devotion to St. Joseph is one of the key reasons that we honor him and, indeed, the Holy Family as such today. Chorpenning traces this devotion from the late Middle Ages, through Teresa’s time in the sixteenth century, right down to our times, when Pope John Paul II wrote Redemptoris Custos, his Apostolic Exhortation “on the person and mission of Saint Joseph in the life of Christ and in the Church.”

But I’ll leave that for another post. I’ll end simply with the last line from du Boulay’s biography of the Carmelite saint and the first female Doctor of the Church, Teresa of Avila:

To anyone asking for proof of the existence of God, anyone saying, “Is God there?” Teresa’s whole life offers a resounding “Yes.”

Because Parish Life Isn’t Easy

Guest post by Allison 
My husband and I, both cradle Catholics, grew up in households where one of our parents was not. Consequently, going to Mass was more or less the only way our families expressed their Catholicism; they didn’t pray family rosaries, or read the Bible together or talk about their faith journeys. And they didn’t involve themselves in the life of their parish, other than my dad, who sang in the choir from time to time.

In contrast, Greg and I have immersed ourselves in our parish life. My husband serves on the parish council, where he oversees parish communications, and he is a lector. I sing in the choir and the Chant Club and I also co-founded and coordinate a youth group. Our eldest son is an altar server and also sings in the Chant Club. Because our parish is tiny, we know our parish priest well. He is a family friend who has shared books and meals with us on many occasions.

This all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Well, sometimes it isn’t.

Being involved intimately in a small parish means we are witness to everyone’s foibles and failings and they get first-row seats  to ours.

Good writing means offering your readers good detail, painting a picture so they can see what you are talking about. But I’m unwilling  to provide specifics, because anyone with even a passing knowledge of the families and staff at our parish would recognize the people I am describing.

Suffice it to say that the whole human condition is on display at our parish—people who have trouble holding their tongues, people who fail to speak up even when it would be in their best interest to,  people who gossip, and people who hold grudges. I will confess here that sometimes I have fit every one of those descriptions.

And sometimes, the whole enterprise is discouraging. If we adults can’t behave ourselves in a parish,  of all places, where can we?

Recently, another thought has occurred to me: parish life is hard because life is hard. You don’t get to pick your parents and you don’t get to pick who sits next to you in a pew.

What continues to draw me to the Catholic Church is not always my fellow travelers. It is always the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Because of His presence, we don’t need a telegenic pastor or the loveliest of voices singing in the choir.  We don’t need our lectors to sound like voice-over artists or for all our parishioners to be saintly and charitable at all times.

I like the metaphor that a church is like Noah’s Ark transformed into the boat, or Barque of Peter. Yves Congar, the late French Dominican cardinal and theologian, described it this way:

We are pilgrims and passengers and members of the crew beckoned onward by what the Church calls “the universal call to holiness.” Which is to say, beckoned on by Christ and the promise of the Kingdom. What is expected of us is to respond to the call where we are, and in doing so to allow ourselves to be carried where we are to be.

I am Catholic because parish life isn’t easy. It isn’t supposed to be. We are imperfect travelers—sometimes scared, sometimes grumpy, sometimes just bone tired. We journey together on a boat, through a storm. We are holding on for our lives and praying we make it to our destination safely.

Dateline Beverly: Blogger Issues Mea Culpa!

It’s sometimes your most clever posts that get you in trouble. First there was Popeye, which has had more comments than any post yet—including several justified complaints. (OK, Popeye isn’t really Catholic, and Bluto isn’t Protestant.) But now I‘m in trouble with my priest, Father Barnes! Sheeeesh. I’m not sure the offense is confessable. You be the judge.

In my most recent post, I asked a simple question: Let’s say you could be a priest. What order would you enlist in? I had some fun with the post: I mentioned a couple of orders I was once quite interested in (Franciscans, Carthusians) and gave what I thought were amusing, off-center reasons for joining them, or not. Then I said I saw myself as a Dominican because (pushing my tongue further into my cheek) I look good in white. I read the post to Katie at dinner. She smiled and, more tellingly, did not grimace.

Then before our CL School of Community last night, I told Father Barnes about the post and the poll alongside. He asked for the list of choices in the poll, and after I had reeled it off he asked, “What, no dicocesan priest?”

My heart sank, but my mind, which can prove any point, right or wrong, had a quick answer: “It’s not an order, Father!”

He shrugged, smiled slyly, and said, “I’m just saying . . . ”

And he’s right, of course. I should have given the option to vote diocesan, but then, it’s too late now. Which leaves me uttering a meek and mild mea culpa. I tried to pick a sheepish-looking photo, but I’m not sure I do sheepish well.

I suggest that those who want to express their solidarity with Father Barnes and make a certain blogger look even more foolish than he already does could check off “Other” in the poll.