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Wednesday 28 August 2013

Just Because-Eye Candy a la Francis Bedford


Dark Night of The Soul And Patience: Part 44

I wrote here about the theological virtues and the Dark Night.

There are many other posts on the life of the virtues, which is the most misunderstood area of our Catholic lives and rarely taught correctly. Just put the title virtues in the search bar, or use the tags.

In all of my long years, I have only heard one sermon from the pulpit, and Fr. Chad Ripperger's talks in which a priest actually delineated the need for purification BEFORE the life of the virtues is being exemplified. This is indicated in Garrigou-Lagrange and in St. John of the Cross. Why priests do not share this information can only mean that they do not know it, or are dumbing down the process of living in the virtues.

We are given the theological and cardinal virtues as gifts in baptism. Every time we receive the Eucharist or go to Confession, we allow God to stir up those virtues as it were.

However, to live in the holiness of the life of the virtues, a person must go through purification, must.


Several reasons. The first is that most adults have sins and tendencies which clog up the heart, mind, soul and will like slug in mechanical works. Years of bad habits, turning away from grace, the lack of penances and the avoidance, or hatred of suffering create obstacles to the free flowing of the virtues.

Purification is like putting Drano in the drains so that the river of grace can enter into every part of one's being. Sadly, some of us need more than the liquid or gel; we need the drain snakes.

A second reason is pride, the basic sin of all of us. Without humility, the opposite of pride, one is not free enough to use the virtues for God alone, instead of for one's own ego.

Now, one of the greatest blockages is the sin of impatience, which St. John of the Cross notes is an impediment to holiness.

One becomes impatient with others, and one's self; impatience with events; and worse, with suffering.

The value of getting older is that impatience becomes less a burden. The older person is forced by nature, by the slowing down of the body's ability to do everything extremely well and in a timely fashion, to become patience.

If an old or older person is impatience, this is a huge sign that he is not cooperating with the suffering of the Dark Night. I have written several posts using the lunge line in horse training as a metaphor for the discipline which comes in the Dark Night. Aging is a lunge line.

Suffering, because of our fallen state, is a necessity for this
purification. Sadly, many of us run away from suffering,
especially Americans, who frequently strive after the cult
of comfort.

If one fights this discipline and dies outside the life of the virtues, one will go to purgatory.

Virtues are not emotions, but effect the life of the emotions. Patience is the acceptance of imperfection, not a feeling. It is the acceptance of one's sinful nature and the limitations of the soul, the mind, the will.

When I was a child, some of my favourite books were the horse series by Marguerite Henry. How does a horse become a champion? Training, discipline, love, hard work...

This all takes time and effort. Ask yourself whether becoming holy and living the life of virtue are priorities in your life.

And, the worst part, in my mind, of Catholics not cooperating with the purification needed for the living of the life of the virtues, which, in another phrase, could be called living in the Indwelling of the Trinity as fully as possible while on earth, is that without persons exhibiting the virtues, the Church remains weak and ineffective in the world.

Can you imagine a Church full of power, changing the world, because of every individual member cooperating with grace and living in the life of the virtues? A Church of thoroughbreds?

Cultivate the life of virtue in your children. In coming posts, I shall give some concrete advice on how to do this.

To be continued...

Home Schooling Advice Ten Religion V: Called By Name

Some things I just know by instinct and by intellectual training. As one who has studied Aristotle, Aquinas and Montessori, I am steep in the real, the necessity for experience as well as working on the intellectual.

In May of 1927, Dr. Montessori was interviewed about religion and the child. If I had a scanner, I would scan the entire interview. However, I shall highlight some main points.

The first is connected to Aristotle, Aquinas and how we all learn. I knew this point she made, which is coming after this long introduction, instinctively. This is it.

The Protestants spoiled religion, of course, in many ways, but one of the biggest ways was destroying Tradition including the Sacramental life of the Church. By only emphasizing the Bible, as people who only believed in private interpretation, they ruined the concept that religion is mostly learned by doing.

Learning about Baptism with water, candle and shell

Montessori uses this truth by stating in the interview that millions of people who never learned how to read were good, even holy, Catholics.  This is because of the Liturgy, primarily, and the Sacraments, as well as sacramentals.

She makes the point that the child learns by making the sign of the Cross, putting his finger in holy water, kneeling down at Mass, following all the actions in the Mass.

Jesus and Apostle figures for the Last Supper

She notes that what she is teaching in her method, things such as the silent game, which I played with my son, and proper deportment, carrying glass objects (real Montessori rooms have NO plastic) and so on.

The natural development of both small and large motor movements aid the child in doing the lay rubrics of the Mass and children should be made to do these.

Just yesterday, I was appalled at a grandmother letting a child old enough to sit, stand, kneel, run around the aisles and in the back of the Church. This is not necessary. Children KNOW appropriateness in certain places if they are encouraged to do so.  As Dr. Montessori notes, the child's daily activities in learning "are lifted to a higher plane to acquire a new and deeper meaning".

The problems are not in the child but in the parents who think children are not capable of sublime religious experiences.

Part of her interview reveals the basis of her method, that memorizing the Catechism, which she totally thinks is necessary, comes after the child has experienced the Mass, hymns, sacramentals and so on.

Dr. Montessori is very aware of modernism and states that the child should memorize the Catechism EXACTLY, as exact definitions are important.

The use of "didactic material" followed by formal Catechism memorization would create a powerful little Catholic.

If you have not visited the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd site do so.

I learned most of this on my own, obviously not realizing that the Holy Spirit was inspiring me. How exciting when I learned that the Good Shepherd materials were what I had made spontaneously.

Experience and words, according to the ability and age of the child...not just words...

There should be, as Montessori notes in the interview, no BREAK between daily life and religion. But, the religious teaching materials should be kept separate out of respect and the sense of the spiritual. Also, as she notes, the special shelves are like a little prayer corner, which I also had for my son-with small icons. If one has a large house, one should have one room devoted to prayer and the religious materials for teaching-a little chapel for the entire family. The house I had did not allow for this, but a section of the school room sufficed. Maria Montessori developed her idea of the Atrium from medieval  architecture. That is why in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the name of the special room is called the Atrium. And, years and years ago, one of the most beautiful ones I saw next to an Episcopalian Church, purpose built for the children, had a large sunroof in the shape of a cathedral tower in the middle, leaving light in through the glass as in a church. It was almost perfect....

This would make an ideal Atrium

My son on the religion shelves, starting at age three, had boxes of the parables with little clothes peg characters we made together. The Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep, the Good Shepherd, the Prodigal Son complete with pigs, the Good Samaritan and so on were made out of pegs, pipe cleaners, glue and felt. The Bible was kept on the same shelf.

One day, when he was about four, and could read by that time, he was working on the timeline of the Old Testament. We decided to do the Exodus. For a week, we used about 99 clothes pegs to make an angry Pharaoh in gold lame with a crown, Moses, Miriam, Aaron, Caleb, Joshua and many, many Israelites and soldiers. Then we had to figure out how to do the Red Sea. Happy Days...Now the Exodus is a real event and the parables are stories, but my son was savvy enough to know the difference.

Now the key to these things, besides making them together, is that mom must read the real passages out of the Bible, not out of a paraphrased version, but the real deal.

The child listens to the passage, the parable and then acts it out with the clothes peg people, and what fun...

I spent years on my hands and knees on the floor teaching the Old and New Testament. Timelines are made with ribbons and circles with the main events of the two Testaments. I chose twenty of each Testament, made circles with my cookie cutter shapes tracing around those on white heavy paper, writing the event and NOT the date (I did draw symbols, however, connected to the events) and had my son learn to put them in order after I showed him. As soon as the child can read, one can do this, and then, read the appropriate passages with the 40 events.

Great fun....Here is another example of the Twelve Apostles and Jesus for the Last Supper part of pre-Communion training like the one above.

Here are some quotations from an Orthodox CGS site which partially summarizes this post:

In the Children's Room the child  is honored, nurtured,  and given a place for experiential activity,  reflection, and expression of their religious instincts. 

The prepared environment is one that supports the child's natural inclination to be in relationship with God and the child's way of being.

The Children's Room supports the child’s natural rhythm of movement as the children are free to move in a purposeful way.

I highly recommend parents to read, Sofia Cavalletti, The Religious Potential of the Child 

To be continued...silence and meditation for children comes next.....................

Home Schooling Part 9 Religion IV First Communion Prep in 1923

I cannot copy these photos but take a look at children in the 1920s on First Communion Day and May Crowning in England.

Now, many parents think that children cannot be silent or reflect. This is simply not true. When I was working in Montessori schools in the 1970s and early 1980s, and I do not mean day care centers, but proper schools. silence was the norm.

Silence is crucial for the nurturing of the spiritual life in a child.

And, children respond to silence.  In taking children to church, for example, parents should not bring toys or food. The child begins to understand by watching, and then, slowly comprehending the depth of what is happening at Mass.

As Montessori writes, the child of four knows the difference between the water in the holy water stoup and that of the sink where he washes his hands.

Here are her words, "...intellectual labour which the little creature initiates when he begins to realize that he is a child of God, lovingly received into the house of the great Heavenly Father..." follows the senses of absorbing what is around him in the church.
I made my First Communion in 1957, and my dress and veil were very like the second girl in line, just after the break in the line.

She quoted an aunt who stated that her nephew wanted to go to Mass daily because he was allowed to put out the candles, which captured his imagination. Just as the great cathedrals and abbeys captured the imagination of adults in days past, so too, the child responds to beauty and symbolic gestures.

The Sacraments are understood because the child pays attention to the things, the physical objects which are the matter of the Sacraments: water, oil, and so on.  Little by little, as Montessori points out, the child begins to understand the realities behind the actions and matter.

In fact, Montessori noted that some of the little ones were explaining the Sacraments or Mass to their parents in profound terms  in which the parents had not much the same way that St. Joseph Cupertino, who was severely mentally challenged, could explain the Trinity to a bishop.

Maria Montessori way back in the early part of the 20th century warned against the watering down, the broadness of religious teaching to children.

Specifics teach. The little school she started on Barcelona, after the ones, she set up in Italy, England and other places,  planted wheat and grapes in a small garden so that children could understand "I am the Vine, you are the branches", plus the matter of the bread and wine which becomes the Body and Blood of Christ. The children did all the work, with help, but what an excellent way to teach, through one's hands and senses, which is the basis for the Montessori Method.

I did this in my little home school and I made most of the materials myself, out of egg cartons, baby wipe boxes, which I saved, and odds and ends. My son did gardening with me from the age of two, watering my plants and his little part of the garden with his little toddler watering can. We watched the changes in plants and animals so that my son would see the Grandeur of God and come to know the Creator through nature. This is part of Sacramental prep, as nature provides the matter for the Sacraments. But, the child is also, through watching caterpillars, or flowers, or rabbits, learning about God the Creator and His love for His Creatures, including the child himself. A child naturally takes joy in these things, and learns both mutability and beauty through nature.

So, the child learns about God through his eyes, nose, hands, mouth.

Montessori had the children pick the wheat and harvest it. They has machines for making hosts, all without electricity,  and all of these things wheat and hosts were part of the Bishop's procession on Corpus Christi.

The grapes were crushed and the juice put in an amphora as these had been made into wine with help.

Can one imagine this being part of First Holy Communion training?  We need to cultivate this type of daily awareness of the sacred. These children were younger than seven, as the next year was their First Holy Communion at that age, and this was shortly before 1924!

By the way, Montessori invented the idea of having the children's names on cards on the walls of the school so all could pray for the ones coming up for that Sacrament.

Also, preparation was always in the Church with the priest, candles, prayers. And the children had
to learn the Creed, the Ten Commandments and basic of the Faith, which they had to recite to the priest before receiving.

Here was the curriuculum in 1923 for First Communion prep: Faith, the dogmas, The Creed; Love, charity, the Commandments; Prayer, in Latin, of course, the Ave, Gloria, Pater; The Sacraments, including Confession first; the Mass, the Eucharist.

Then before the day of Holy Communion, the children went on a retreat, and let me descibe this--The were apart from their families and companions (remember, they were seven\) and dined in the school alone in recollection.

During the retreat, they spent a lot of time in the garden looking after plants and little animals.

They also made their own silver rosaries for their Communion day and they made their own little five page books for the day.

They learned on the retreat and in the sessions in the church to kneel, stand, sit quietly.
They were trained not to turn their head at distractions or noises, but to concentrate on loving and praising God

They were given lantern slides, which could be power-points today, on the lives of the saints, and learned little hymns, as well as washing their own dishes after meals and cleaning up. The humility of Christ's Birth and His Hidden Life of Nazareth would have been part of this.

Pasrt of your home schooling prep should be a little altar as in the photo earlier, with candles, missal, little paten, chalice as a start. See the Catecheis of the Good Shepherd for this presentation.

Also, the reference to the Last Supper with little characters of Jesus and the Twelve can be part of this.

If little peasant children in 1923 could learn, why not our children, unless they have been raised like weeds by careless parents.

The retreat, by the way, lasted five days.  Here is Montessori's comment. on the results.

Not only do the principles of human justice interest them (at this age), but a simple love of Jesus is born in theirs hearts and with it a great desire of purifications.

Parents, do not underestimate the holiness which your little ones can achieve at a very young age. Do not spoil what aspirations God has put in these little ones.

To be continued....


St. Augustine of Hippo, Pray for Us

If you have not read the Confessions or the City of God, do.

I actually, years ago, was asked to teach the City of God at a small Catholic college.

What a phenomenal book! I had already taught the Confessions, which was as treat.

St. Augustine, imo, is the saint for our times.

I would want to be this little dog, just sitting in Augustine's presence.