August 2009


Madly in Love: With Ronald Knox.  Just re-read The Theology of Martyrdom.  Man I love this guy.   If you are a Chesterton and Lewis fan, he’s the next step after.  The dry humor, the precision, the willingness to talk touchy subjects.  Love it.  (Note for non-catholic friends: Definitely a catholic writer.  Which is not to say you won’t love him, but his business is teaching and defending the *catholic* faith, just so ya know.)

Gonna go scour the parish library and maybe my local catholic bookstore to see what else I can find.   (Already have The Hidden Stream.)  And speaking of which, if you are, by any chance, the person who is holding my copy of If Your Mind Wanders at Mass by Thomas Howard, now would be the time to speak up.   I can’t find it, so I assume it’s out on loan to somebody.

Crazy Person Ideas: Some very kind, perhaps slightly sneaky, people persuaded me to sew my own fencing tunic.  And, the real madness: I decided to do it.  Let us clarify: I am nobody’s seamstress.  I have successfully sewn 1 toddler tunic (single layer!) and a handful of dishcloths into rectangular pouches.   Made up the pattern for the muslin mock-up yesterday, and I’m supposed to finish cutting fabric today, but there’s too much craziness in the house, I don’t see it happening this afternoon.

But I will do it.  Because I own the fabric.  And because it’s the only way to get what I actually want.  Which is not to say that I *will* get what I want, only that I will try.

And finally, Catechetical Madness:  Trying to explain the principals of Double Effect and Means-Don’t-Justify-Ends to a 4th grader.  In broad strokes, yes, sure.  But honestly, I’m not sure most of us adults really have a knack for the fine line where the one ends and the other begins.  But, as with the tunic, the only way to hope to get it done, is to try it.

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Started the new school year yesterday.   So far so good.

Mr. Boy & I are starting up a massive Latin review, as we realized we hadn’t quite mastered our lessons from last year.  Fun — I mean that.  Also this year we’re doing a year-long unit on just warfare, waging peace, legitimate self-defense, and conflict resolution.  Combination of thelogy and history.  (Literature tie-in: Lord of the Rings and the Narnia series.)  Way cool, I’m super excited and both of us are already enjoying it.

Happy to report that a year of Spelling Power, the boy’s first year of formal spelling study, has pushed him up two grade levels on the placement testing from this time last year.  Turns out that study and practice can be good for you ; – ).

Aria is doing a heavy push on reading skills as she enters second grade — she’s a definite beginner reader still.  At her request we’re also starting ASL this year, which I took a couple classes on when I was younger, but still have much much much to learn.  All kids are doing that, and so far so good.  All children are also in for intense penmanship training — they have nature and nuture both working against them in that department, and it’s evident we need to take radical action to counteract the forces of illegibility.

Discovered the Bun is definitely a right-hander (had my doubts).  She is thrilled to be K, and begs to do her princess math book every day.    Startling to have a kindergartener again, and see both how much a little one has to learn, and see that fresh enthusiasm for school.  Delightful.

Andabel of course was indignant that any suggest she *isn’t* in school.  So she sits at the table and pitches fits when I won’t give her magic markers.  I don’t care if they are “washable”, you’re only 3, you get washable crayons, darling.

And all this is pretty much got me consumed.  Skipped fighter practice tonight (SCA – fencing!) even though I really really want to get back to learning (have been away due to the summer vocation and vacation combination), because I just have sooo much to do before tomorrow morning.  Like sit around and breathe, lol.  And get children to bed.  And then actual work, too.

So that’s the news for this week.

The Angels & Their Mission by Jean Danielou

Sophia Institute Press, 2009

ISBN 978-1-933184-46-3

Originally published in French in 1953, published in English in 1957 by The Newman Press, The Angels and Their Mission is one of the many great titles being brought back into print by Sophia Press.  I picked this out as part of the Catholic Company review program, and like all the titles I’ve chosen so far as part of that program, I can highly recommend it.

The book is a survey of the teachings of the early church fathers about angels.  Themes are arranged historically, starting with “The Angels and the Law” (of the Old Testament) and ending with “The Angels and the Second Coming”.  A full five chapters are devoted to the roles angels play in the current lives of believers — in the church, in the sacraments, in the spiritual life, as guardians, and at the time of death.

The survey is thorough and eye-opening.   Included are mention of certain beliefs held by one or another church father that are not consistent with catholic doctrine, but were, presumably, open theological questions at the time.  One of the most interesting things I learned was that the old cartoon depiction of an angel on one shoulder and a little devil on the other, each pushing and pulling at the human soul, is in fact a long-held belief taught by the church fathers.

–> And this is why I find this book invaluable.  We hear very little about angels these days.  Here is a book that remedies the doctrinal ignorance that plagues modern christians.

This is not, however, a beginner book.  The text is readable, along the lines of any of Pope Benedict’s popular works — my new word for this book was “Trisagion”.  Although I think the ideas presented would be interesting for a non-catholic who wants to compare beliefs about angels, I suspect that you really need a working knowledge of the catholic faith in order to make sense of the information.  If you are not yet comfortable consulting The Catechism of the Catholic Church, this book might not be for you.

Likewise, a little background in patristics would go a long ways.  All the quotes from the fathers are footnoted, though there is no guide to the abbreviations used in the footnootes.  If you’ve never read any of the church fathers, a book like Pope Benedict’s The Fathers would be an excellent pre-read to get you ready for this one.

Know in advance that this a book you read for information, not entertainment.  It is not light — the writing is clear but technical.  It is not humorous — no punny subheadings — and it does not contain any heartwarming Chicken-Soup-For-the-Angel-Lover’s-Soul type anecdotes.  Unlike Pope Benedicts’ writings, there are not inspiring pastoral comments tied into the theological survey.

–> But if you want to know what the historic church teaching is on a topic, here it is.  Laid out systematically, so that is is easy to find the information that you want.  And the theology is, as theology always is, inspiring and edifying on its own.

So I recommend this book as one for the shelf.  While there is value in reading the book cover-to-cover, you can safely go straight to to the chapter of interest, to be informed and delighted there where you really wanted it.

And because the book is so rich with information, you can’t possibly read it once and have retained everything.  For a catechist or apologist, you will want this at hand so that when someone asks, “Well, what *do* catholics beleive about  . . . <insert angel topic>??” you can quickly get to the appropriate chapter and review the historic teaching.

Good book.  It took me a long time to finish it, mostly due to personal busyness.  And I ended up with two copies, because I misplaced the first in the process of dragging it everywhere trying to get it read.  Now I’m glad, because I really want to keep a loaner copy on hand, without letting *my* copy off the shelf.

Did so many fantabulous fun field trip things I can’t remember them all.  Red Rocks, Great Basin, Excalibur, shootin’ .22’s in the desert, Mt. Charleston, Baker Archeological Site . . . oh, and there was a wedding in there somewhere, too.  And Aria went to Girl Scout Camp.

Gotta get my report cards done for the end of this school year.  Did my basic planning f0r the coming year.  Mr. Boy’s going to be working a unit around Just War and related topics (religion, history, literature), Aria’s going to be doing the full press on reading skills.  For all children, need to improve penmanship, and breathe a little life into the math program.

Trying to decide whether the Bun should do Primer or Alpha for Math-U-See . . . starting K, but have noticed lately that she seems to know more math already than I had realized.  That little unschooled wonder.

I forsee the vocation continuing to swirl about, filling in those little spaces of reading and writing time that I always think I have, but apparently do not anymore.

So much to do.  Always so much to do.  Good problem.