Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Revolutionary Beverage

The lately-affianced Miff Dandridge fhews the moft Taftie Parte of her Dowrie 
(Aprill, 1750)

A couple of years ago I read this bit in the WSJ:

"As the first first lady, Mrs. Washington served Cherry Bounce in the president’s house. Abigail Adams would write to her sister about “Mrs. W’s publick day” party on New Year’s Day, 1790: The two delicacies of the season were “a kind of cake in fashion upon this day call’d New Year’s Cooky. This & Cherry Bounce.”

The article was about Cherry Bounce. I read bits to Janet who also thought it sounded way cool, so we saved that section of the paper until this year. Like Martha Washington, we're hosting a New Year's Day party, and the featured beverage will be homemade Cherry Bounce per Martha's recipe.

Janet bought (or had) the ingredients, along with some big preserving jars. First thing was to apportion the cherries sans stems into the jars along with sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Ideally the whole process takes 3 months. We didn't have 3 months, so we wrapped the filled jars in an electric blanket. Within a few days they were all fermenting away. Tonight we turned the blanket off and moved the jars into the kitchen.

They smell good. Very powerful and...elemental. Each jar had started off packed to the top with cherries, but  now each one was about 2/3 full of warm, aromatic, fermenting juice. At this point we ran each jar's contents though the blender at low speed to break up the cherries without (we hope) grinding up the pits. This seemed to work pretty well.

Then we added cognac. The proportion is about 1 part (quart) cognac to 2 parts (pounds) cherry. Because the jars were at or below the 2/3 level, it was easy to top them off with 1/3 cognac. Total liquid is about 4 gallons.

We resealed them, and won't open them again 'til New Years when we'll strain the chilled contents into a punch bowl. Looks like an auspicious beginning to the new year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Murmuring Grumblers

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets 

We are not grumbling

When we cover Exodus in Wednesday Sunday School, I emphasize to the kids how the Israelites whine to Moses about anything that isn't to their liking. For example in Numbers 11, they are tired of eating manna: "the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick. But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all beside this manna before our eyes." Waaah!

They complain so much that Moses tells God, "I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness." That's right, just kill me now. (Priests probably never have such sentiments; modern flocks are much more docile.)

"Whine" is my word; it's more fun than complain, gripe or grumble. But Exodus in the KJV uses none of those words: it says "murmur," or more clearly, "murmur against."  I'm not fond of using murmur in the sense of grumbling: to me, murmur is to speak quietly in love, the very opposite of grumbling. Too bad for me. Murmur is a Romance (not that kind of romance) word which English gets from Latin through French; in St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate, the word for Israelite grumbling is murmurare. Oh well, I lose this one.  

 Murmur is probably imitative of some natural rhythmic sound, mur-mur-mur... a creek? Likewise, babble imitates the ba-ba-bla-bla of babies or foreigners, and descends from Greek barbaros through Latin babbulus. And the coo-cooing of doves is expressed in Greek by the verb gogguzo / γογγύζω, which means-  murmur. In both Old (LXX) and New Testaments, gogguzo is the Greek word for grumble, murmur. A Greek noun for murmur is mourmourisma/ μουρμούρισμα, but it doesn't show up in the Bible. Still nice to know. Now I wonder where the Romans got murmurare from...I can't imagine.

The murmur business matters in class because I use murmuring to connect two scenes: the Israelites' desert murmurings against Moses right before the manna bread miracle; and the murmurings against Jesus when he hints at a future bread miracle. That is, Exodus doesn't speak about symbolic "bread from heaven," and neither does Jesus. In both instances the people murmur their obstinacy.

Exodus 16: "And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger. Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you."

Exodus 16 in the KJV says murmur eight times, including this packed sentence: "And Moses said...the LORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: your murmurings are not against us, but against the LORD."

Then in John 6: "Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'/   "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst./  The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" Jesus answered them, "Do not murmur among yourselves./  For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed."/ Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before?"

In Exodus, people murmur; God provides miracle water. People murmur; God provides miracle bread. People murmur; God provides miracle flesh. In John, people want another bread miracle; instead of working a miracle, Jesus makes an odd prophecy about bread. They murmur about that; Jesus says to stop murmuring, and expands the prophecy to bread and flesh. People murmur some more; people argue; people leave.

Remember, the Old Testament was translated into Greek about 200 years before the first Gospels were written. Writers of the New Testament would surely know how a given Greek word was (or wasn't) used in the O.T. before using it (or not) in the New. So John's author says gogguzo / γογγύζω / murmur when people get cranky as Jesus prophesies his own bread/ flesh miracle through the manna miracle, which also followed "murmuring."

But the writer didn't have to say murmur. He could've used other Greek N.T. verbs such as mempsimoiros / μεμψίμοιρος / complain (Jude 1:16: "These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts..."), but didn't. He used the one word that makes a clear connection to the critical Old Testament antecedents. In fact, he takes every opportunity to say murmur, as though he were trying to make the connection as obvious as possible.

In class, murmur just doesn't register with 6th graders, so I say grumble, which is an accepted translation of goggyzo.The thing is, to say grumble is to take a step away from goggyzo's literal, imitative murmuring sound of doves' goo-goo. My consolation is that there are only 5 other people on the planet besides me who are interested, only 2 of them care, and none of them are in 6th grade Wednesday Sunday School. So grumble it is.

But it's worth checking a few translations, isn't it. Hello...isn't it? Sure it is.

The Douay-Rheims and the King James say murmur in both Exodus and John, and everywhere else; but never say grumble at all, even to translate synonymous Greek verbs, which I will not list here. You're welcome. In this instance the D-R and KJV are utterly consistent and simple. Ditto Jerome's Vulgate: unsurprisingly it always uses murmurare. The RSV says murmur in both passages, but may say grumble elsewhere. I can live with that; to an extent, it tends to make the use of murmur more distinctive. Good ol' RSV. The NIV, which I usually object to, says grumble all the time and never says murmur. Weirdly enough, for once I prefer the NIV's translation for the kids- and probably for most adults. Stranger yet, the NAB, which is the Bishops' Official Catholic Bible, says the Israelites grumbled in the desert, and the Jews murmured in Galilee. As my mother-in-law says: oh dear. To me that obscures a connection that's pretty clear in Greek, and in every other translation I've looked at. And not just a connection, but a Catholic connection. Why wouldn't the approved Catholic Bible be all over this?

Dunno....everybody else is whether they intend to be or not.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fine Art 5, Res Ipsa 8, Pitchers 6: Christmas unParty

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

This bit comes from the last class of the year. The kids knew we would not have a party, but 11 of 12 came anyway. Every year I tell the kids that they are too old to have a party when there is serious learning to be done, and they always seem to respond positively to that. There were brownies, pizza, and sugarfizz, so they were more rambunctious and less focused than usual; but we still had class.

1. To kick off our Nativity lesson we started with this wordless handout:

I wanted to use this in the 2010 class, but forgot to ask for copies of the picture. I got a couple of the girls to play the parts, but the picture would've been better. This year's discussion digresses due to good questions, which is fine. It's a rare class in which we cover every single thing, but that's because I agree with Joe Paprocki: overplan your lessons.

There's also a great backstory to this artwork.

2. Next we cover the Visitation:

Right before baby John leaps in the womb, I hold my two rubber fetuses on Mary & Elizabeth's tummies. At the right moment, fetus John goes nuts.

3. Next is the Nativity through the Holy Innocents. I read Isaiah's Nativity prophecies one at a time, and the kids tell me what to draw based on each one.

2011 Nativity

2010 Nativity

BTW, when I listen to my class recordings (or anything else) and want to keep my eyes entertained while I listen, I often play Bubble Town. Straight-up is OK, but I think the Ball version is better.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fine Art Handout 4: Isenheim Annunciation

 This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Tanja Cilia's image-laden post on the Annuciation got me thinking about my favorite Annunciation (ok, one of my favorites), the one that's part of the Isenheim Altarpiece by Mattias Grünewald:

I couldn't remember the artist; I get Annunciations confused all the time. Fortunately, My Wife the Art History Professor could listen to my vague description and say, "No, that's not Van Eyck. I think you want the left-hand panel of the second configuration of Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece." Umm...yes! "I'll send you a link to a good jpeg." OK, thanks! (Thank ya Jesus for my wife.)

I have to digress already. Recently in class we were discussing Gabriel's visit to Zechariah, and learned that the Greek word angel/ ἄγγελος simply means messenger, as does the Hebrew word malak/ מלאך (whence the name Malachi). For example in Numbers, when "Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom," the messengers are malachim. To distinguish a heavenly messenger from the run-of-the-mill sort, the Hebrew Old Testament will say messenger of the LORD, יהוה מלאך, malak YHWH, as in "the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham"; or messenger of God, מלאך אלהים, malak Elohim, as in "the angel of God called to Hagar." In the Greek New Testament (and Greek Septuagint O.T.) we read ἄγγελος κύριος, aggelos kyrios, angel of the Lord (you know, kyrios as in Kyrie eleison).

The kids must understand that angel just means messenger. Then when we get to words such as evangelist and evangelium, they'll know that angels don't have anything directly to do with those words.

To further digress, when LORD is all caps it refers to YHWH. By using LORD in English we avoid pronouncing or writing God's name.

So we were sorting out messenger/ angel, and one of the kids says, "What about Mercury? I dunno- what about him? Well, he's a messenger. Yeah, a mythological messenger, so? He has wings, too. Yeah he does... I bet he was called an angel too! Was that your point? Yes. Genius at work, yes, he's a winged messenger, an angel like Gabriel. Except that Mercury...isn't...real! Yes."

In Tanja's article she points out that as in Grünewald's painting, Gabriel may carry a staff to indicate he's a messenger. Like so:

Oops, that's Mercury. Huh...wings...staff...even his staff has wings...he'd make a mighty robust Gabriel.

And there are other 6th-grade-understandable symbols in this Annuciation:

Above the green curtain temple veil hovers an ethereal dove, ready to overshadow Mary with God's creative energy. And what's that around the dove? A cloud? Yes...what cloud? No guesses? It's the [on the board] S-H-E-K-  Shekhinah! Yes, the Glory Cloud which overshadowed...the Meeting Tent! Yes, and the Meeting Tent covered...the Ark! Yes- so Mary is like...the Ark! Right, so we call her the Ark of the New Covenant. Yes, what? That looks like a church not a temple. Well, were there any churches when Mary was a young woman? No. But there will be, so think of it as both temple and church. The curtains temple veils themselves are pulled back so we can see clearly all the way to the back. What would you expect to see in the Temple when the curtains are pulled back? The Ark! Yes! And do y'all see the Old Covenant Ark? Is it that box? Yes, I think so. Now in a church you'd expect to see a Tabernacle back there... do you see one? Why isn't there one?  'Cause Jesus isn't born yet! Yes! Now tell me about Mary's book. It's the Bible. Yes...or at least the Old Testament, which would reasonably rest on the...Old Ark? Yes. When Mary was alive was there a New Testament? No! Why not? All the stuff hadn't happened yet! Yes! Y'all are so smart. Now show me the Old Ark again...uh-huh. And the New Ark...yep. They're side by side, right under the curtain rod. Which one is leaving the building? They're not moving they're just sitting there. OK, but which Ark has probably been in the temple-church a long time? The Old one. Yes but now it's almost out. Which way is Mary going? In the church! Yes, why? Because she has Jesus in her now. Yes. The stuff in the New Ark is replacing the stuff in the Old Ark.

Say Mary, whatcha reading? Why, Ah'm perusin' this li'l ol' book a Isaiah as pawt a my mohnin' devowtions. Well, that's a long book. Oh, Ah'm jus' readin' Chaptuh sehvun, vuhse fowtteen in the Vuhl-gait: "...ecce virgo concipiet, et pariet filium, et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel." Yeah, that is Latin in the painting...Mary, can you translate? Awl-riyte, "...behowld, a vuhgin will conceive an' beah a sun; an' his nayme shall be cawled Ehmmanuwell." Umm, Mary do you realize that any second now that prophecy..."

Annunciations often show Mary reading Isaiah 7:14, the very prophecy she's about to fulfill. But none of these symbols is the one that makes Grünewald's Annunciation a favorite. It's the one in the upper left hand corner...up there...oops, I accidentally cropped it off from that top image. Here you go:


"Who is that old fork-bearded turban'd guy with another book? A book painted in....Hebrew. Why is he hovering up there in the corner? No guesses? Whose prophecy was Mary reading? Umm...Isaiah's? So? That's Isaiah? Yes, that's Isaiah, and he's reading in his own Old Testament the same 7:14 passage as Mary, but in Hebrew. Isaiah can't read Latin like Mary can...or something. Apparently God's let him out of Sheol long enough to see his prophecy be fulfilled."

Kids love to learn by figuring out pictures like this one. In this case, through our discussions of the Old Testament they already know bits about the temple, the veil, the Ark, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Isaiah, and his prophecies. Prior to this year, they learned the Annuciation story, Gabriel, the Hail Mary, etc. Those accumulations allow them to analyze an Annunciation pretty much on their own with minimal guidance on my part.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Greenville Ephrathah

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets 

I moved to Greenville, SC from alluvial Houma, Louisiana in 1965 when I was 8 years old. Greenville was a hilly Baptist textile town, with disturbingly orange dirt. The local college was fenced-in Bob Jones University, the very Buckle of the Bible Belt. There were only two Catholic churches: St. Mary's downtown, and Holy Rosary (now Our Lady of the Rosary) near the closed Donaldson Air Force Base. Virtually all the Catholics were Yankees, and their faith and accents made them stranger than Martians to the locals. I remember my own culture shock: how can you have a parade without people on the floats throwing necklaces and candy to everybody? Do you just stand there and look at it?

But the Catholic minority has been putting down roots in the hard Piedmont clay for a few generations now. And like a transplanted grapevine, the Church has been shaped by the bracing Fundamentalist/ Evangelical terroir (I just wanted to say "terroir") of the Upstate. Among other distinctives, local Catholicism tends toward Scriptural literacy, an evangelistic readiness to explain the faith, and an appreciation for the Bible-believers' assumption that religion matters- and not just privately, but publicly.

In the last decade or so, this Upstate Catholicism has acquired...what, a momentum? a gravity? that continues to develop. I'm not gonna name names, but my wife and I think of all the people we know who weren't Catholic, and are now; people who were already Catholic, and decided to move here; and people who aren't Catholic, but are being drawn into the Catholic orbit. My parish has about 40 people in RCIA who'll enter the Church on Easter Vigil. And we wonder at this confluence. Is just by accident? Is it for some purpose? And it isn't just one church, but a coalescence that extends across parishes, and even rites. Nor is it primarily driven by the pastors. They play a critical leadership role, but the laity are self-motivating.

Our house nickname for this phenomenon is Greenville-Ephrathah, by which we mean that little nowhere Upstate South Carolina may be unknowingly preparing for an as-yet-unspecified role in some mysterious process. I'm uncomfortable thinking about it too explicitly- maybe it's supposed to be an inchoate (I just wanted to say "inchoate") je ne sais quoi (uh-huh) for the time being, and patience is required. It's scary, but in a good way. I've even been reluctant to make a peep about it here, but in the last year the energy has palpably increased.

Thus far there's been no reason for anything but optimism. But I'm reminded of the Catholic novel Morte d'Urban, in which great promise is ultimately dissipated. And if this swell of faith is indeed real and part of a larger plan, then Satan is sure to try to derail it. So my motivation for blabbing this on the net is that if something bad does happen here (I have no idea what, except it wouldn't be the usual), nobody should be discouraged, no-one should lose heart. If bad comes, it doesn't have to be the end; rather, through renewed faith & works it'll turn out to have been just an obstacle that was overcome.

And meanwhile, it's an interesting time to be Catholic in the Upstate.

But thou, O Greenville Ephrathah, though thou be little among the thousands of America, yet out of thee shall...shall what? what?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Le Mot Juste 2

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets
Can you read this? Me neither!

My Wife the Energizer Bunny put on a Post-Vespers Christmas dinner party last night. I would post the menu but don't want to hear wailing & gnashing of teeth in the darkness. Anyway, late in the evening (not that late) I was talking with a couple of former Protestant clergymen* about how the Bible becomes mo' betta when viewed through a Catholic lens. Because it's Advent, we were discussing how examples of overshadowing in the Old Testament (O.T.) provide a more comprehensive view of Mary when they're understood simultaneously with Luke's line, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you." As in Luke's case, the word "overshadow" is explicitly used in verses such as this detail of the Ark of the Covenant: "The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be." The Hebrew word translated as overshadow is sakhakh (סכך), which is more often translated as cover. Deciding whether to say cover or overshadow in English can depend on the Greek words used in the Septuagint translation.

By the way, in Greek will overshadow is episkiazo (ἐπισκιάζω). Epi means over, and skiazo is, umm...I forgot. Anyway, skiazo and shadow share a common Indo-European root, and over a few millennia differ only a bit more than skirt and shirt, or shin and skin differ over a few centuries. And in the Vulgate, to overshadow is obumbrare. The Latin stem for shadow, umbra, is also found in umbrella, and sombrero.

Besides sakhakh, there are other Hebrew words that indicate the concepts of covering/ protecting/ selecting/ possessing/ separating/ dedicating, but they aren't necessarily translated by overshadow. For example, in the book of Ruth, Ruth tells Boaz, "I am Ruth, your maidservant; spread your skirt over your maidservant, for you are next of kin." (Thus Boaz would show intent to marry Ruth). Likewise, in 1Kings, Elijah "passed by [Elisha] and cast his mantle upon him," showing his selection and protection of Elisha, his intended successor. Ruth is an endearing story, but I've never used it in Catechism class because there is not enough time to treat every interesting thing in the Bible. We do act out the Elisha bit and refer to it later on at the Annunciation.

Kids like things to be clear and simple (kind of like adults now that I think about it). So in class when I read "the power of the Most High will overshadow you" from Luke, I like to review supporting verses which also use the word overshadow. A Greek translation of the Bible will say to overshadow or to shadow in more verses than I can use in 6th grade, but English isn't too reliable in this respect. Different English Bibles will use the word overshadow in different verses, and only a few times; although I expect that they all use it with regard to the Annunciation and the Transfiguration. Otherwise it's hit and miss in English. So if I read a verse in class from my NAB in English which doesn't say "overshadow" (but Greek does), I say "overshadow" to keep it consistent for the kids.

Up until this year the word overshadow comes up in these cases:

The Ark overshadowed by the cherub's wings.

The Ark overshadowed by the Glory Cloud, God's Presence.

Psalm 91: "He will overshadow you with his shoulders: and under his wings you shall trust," which dovetails well with the overshadowing cherubs' wings.

Mary overshadowed by the Holy Spirit.

The Transfiguration: "He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him."

And the concept expressed by overshadowing is treated in an Elijah-covers-Elisha skit. And maybe someday (time permitting) we'll do the Ruth bit, too.

That's plenty of overshadowing for 6th grade. But last night after the party I was rechecking instances of epi-skazein/ over-shadow, and noticed this:

"...they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them." To which you say, "Close, but no banana- that's not quite the same as overshadowing." You're right, it's not. But that verse in Greek reads: ὥστε καὶ εἰς τὰς πλατείας ἐκφέρειν τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς καὶ τιθέναι ἐπὶ κλιναρίων καὶ κραβάττων, ἵνα ἐρχομένου Πέτρου κἂν ἡ σκιὰ ἐπισκιάσει τινὶ αὐτῶν. I can't read all that either, but look at this bit: σκιὰ ἐπι-σκιάσει. That's skia epi-skiasei, [the] shadow [might] over-shadow. So when Luke wrote Acts, he was careful to say overshadow, just as he did in his Gospel....could it possibly matter? Since 1999 I've been connecting this bit of Acts to sacraments (God's power may flow through physical media), but have never connected it to overshadowing until now. I have to assume that recent translators decided "shadow....overshadow" was too clunky for readers of the word-rich English language. Well, I disagree: without the right words, one can't make the right connections.

Now I'm curious about which Bibles do say shadow-overshadow:

Latin Vulgate? Yes: "Petro saltim umbra illius obumbraret quemquam eorum."

Martin Luther's Bibel? Yes: "sein Schatten ihrer etliche überschattete."

Douai-Rheims? Yes: "his shadow at the least might overshadow any of them."

KJV? Yes: "the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them."

Revised Standard Version- Catholic Edition? No: "his shadow might fall on some of them." Ya done me wrong, RSV-CE!

Catholic NAB? No: "his shadow might fall on one or another of them."

NIV? No: "Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by."

If St. Luke were alive today he'd be rolling over in his grave.
Traduttore, traditore.

* One of the former Protestant clergy posts here on the same conversation.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Res Ipsa Loquitur 7

Excerpt from the December 7, 2011 class, mostly a review of the Old Testament in about 10 minutes.

Once we get past Solomon, the rest of the O.T. is summarized as the oppressed Jews praying for a Messiah, and the prophets who anticipate that Messiah.

Usually 10 or 11 kids are in class (roll is 12), but only 6 kids came this Wednesday, so the volume of participation is about half of normal. They still held up their end pretty well.

This post is linked to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pitchers 5: Sinless Stuff

Part of the board during our 12/7/11 Immaculate Conception discussion, a subtopic in the lesson on the first chapter of Luke

1. The Holy Spirit overshadows Mary, Ark of the New Covenant, as the Shekhinah overshadowed the Ark of the Old Covenant. That dot in Mary's womb is newly-conceived Jesus, made from one of Mary's eggs and the divine overshadowing.

2. The dot grows into a more recognizable baby. This life-size Jesus in the womb shows his complete physical connection to, and dependence on, his mom. Jesus gets all his oxygen and food from Mary's body. If Mary was a sinner, how would that sinful stuff stay out of Jesus? How could a sinful Ark be a suitable home for a sinless person?

3. Mary even as a little girl already has in her the egg that will become Jesus. Would it make sense for Jesus to be conceived using a sinner's egg? How could Jesus be made of sinful stuff? Would God want to get the sin out of the egg before it was used to make Jesus? Wouldn't it be more straightforward to have Mary be saved from sin when she was conceived in her mom? That way Mary's tummy would be a pure place for Jesus to grow, and her egg would be a source of sinless stuff for Jesus' body to grow from.

4. Who perfectly atoned for our sins? Jesus. Yes. And the Church teaches that Mary was spared from Original Sin by Jesus' atonement before she was born. But Mary was born first! Yeah, so? So how could Jesus die for her sins? He would be too late!  Well, look at this:

Twist & turn Highway 178 perceived from the road itself, versus from a hot-air balloon

Remember, God stands outside of time. Time is something He created, so he doesn't see things one after the other like we do. It's like Highway 178 from Pickens to Rosman- it may take 20 minutes to experience the road in your car. But daughter, if you were up above the road in this balloon, how long would you need to see the whole road? I could see it all at once! Yes. You'd need no time at all. God sees everything all at once, too. So for God to let Jesus' atonement work "ahead of time" for Mary would be no big deal.

 This post is linked to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Friday, December 2, 2011

Prophecy Potpourri

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets
The temple, where Isaiah scolded the Sons of Abraham; where Jeremiah scolded the Sons of Abraham; where Jesus scolded the Sons of Abraham by quoting Isaiah and Jeremiah.

The November 23 class covered the majority of Isaiah's prophecies, excluding all the ones which relate directly to Christmas: they'll be covered in the Dec. 14 class. On the 30th, we quickly reviewed some of them, and launched into prophecies by Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Micah and Zechariah. Ideally we'd have gotten through Malachi. But Malachi is the end of the New Testament, so in some ways it's good to begin the next class with Malachi, do a review of the Old Testament, and then jump into the New.

Because there are so many prophecies, and time is tight, we only cover the ones that I think are most understandable by the kids; and/or are explicitly referred to in the New Testament or the Mass; and/or directly apply to Jesus. Each one is permanently highlighted in my Bible and temporarily sticky-tabbed so I can quickly go from one to the next.

In each case, I give a bit of background to the prophet, where he and the Jews were in that point in history, read the passage, and then ask the class how the verses will be fulfilled. The following verses overlap both classes. For brevity, a single verse here typically represents the wider passage which I would actually be reading. Likewise, the kids' answers are usually not as pithy as what I show here. Nevertheless, the kids do their own thinking.

Isaiah 6:

"I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory."

The Mass quotes the seraphim.

"Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin purged."

This passage anticipates the understanding of Purgatory as a cleansing of sin through fire.

"8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here I am!"

Isaiah responds to God using Samuel's words.

Isaiah 11:

"1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots."

The future Messiah will be a descendant of David, who was messia'd, anointed, by Samuel.

"he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked."

But the Messiah won't be tough guy like David.

Isaiah 22:

"In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 21 and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open."

Jesus will likewise give keys to Peter. This section of Isaiah 22 is acted out, it's more than just asking questions.

Isaiah 24:

"6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines..."

God won't limit his blessings to just the Chosen People.

Isaiah 40:

"3 A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain."

Israel would be happy to get another David-type Messiah...but Isaiah says prepare the way for God. Later on, John the Baptist will quote Isaiah at the Jordan river.

Isaiah 42:

"1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, with whom I am pleased; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street..."

At Jesus' baptism at the Jordan, God will quote Isaiah. And if this is a Messiah prophecy, why is he such a wallflower?

Isaiah 52:

"13 Behold, my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. 14 As many were astonished at him-- his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance..."

" damaged, beat up? Yes, how does this apply to Jesus? The soldiers beat him up? Yes, and? Whipped him? Yes, and? They stuck the crown of thorns on him? Yes, good."

Isaiah 53:

"5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed."

The soldiers whipped Jesus which made blood stripes on him.

"he poured out his soul to death....yet he bore the sin of many"

Jesus died for our sins.

Isaiah 56:

"To the [foreigners] who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, 5 I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters."

God will adopt people who aren't Jews to be his children.

"...these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples."

People who love God can come to the temple just like Chosen People; and later on Jesus talks about the House of Prayer.

"I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered."

God will love more than just the Chosen People. What does the Bible call those other people? Pagans? Close, but no...Gentiles? Yes, good.

Isaiah 57:

"Are you not children of transgression...who slay your children in the valleys, under the clefts of the rocks?"

Some Jews would still sacrifice their children to baby-eating false gods.

Jeremiah 7:

"Stand in the gate of the LORD's house, and proclaim there this word"

Jeremiah stands at the temple, as Isaiah did, and as Jesus will do.

"...if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, 7 then I will remain with you in this place..."

If the Jews don't stop ignoring God, he won't dwell among them in the temple.

"Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, 'We are delivered!'--only to go on doing all these abominations?"

You can't expect God to ignore your sins.

"1 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of thieves in your eyes?..."

In the New Testament, Jesus quotes Jeremiah at the temple.

"12 Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel...therefore I will do to the house which is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh."

God abandoned Shiloh and never dwelled there again. Would he quit living in the temple if Israel kept on sinning?

"And they have built the high place of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire..."

More baby-killing kind of like today, when most baby-killing is by abortion.

Jeremiah 31:

"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah"

Jesus talks about a New Covenant at the Last Supper, and we hear those words at Mass, too.

"I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts"

A law written on your heart is better because it's based on love.

Ezekiel 36:

"I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you."

Sprinkling water is how Levitical priests would purify lepers; it's also like baptism, and when Naaman immersed himself in the Jordan to get clean of his leprosy. Sometimes there's immersion, sometimes sprinkling.

Daniel 7:

Wasn't Daniel put in the lion's den, but he didn't get eaten? Yes, that's him. Here's part of a prophetic vision Daniel had:

13 I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man..."

Jesus would refer to himself as the Son of Man. [the kids didn't know this at all, I had to just tell them.] And at the Ascension he went up in clouds. And at the Second Coming he'll come down on clouds.

Micah 5:

"But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days."

David was born there! And Jesus will be born in Bethlehem too!

Zechariah 9:

"9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass."

"So in the Bible, what's an ass? A donkey! Yes, so how does Jesus fulfill this prophecy? He came into town on a donkey! Yes, what town? Jerusalem! Yes, and the people thought he was...the Messiah! Yes, like who? David!  Yes."

Classtime ran out at this point. Next week we'll finish the Old Testament with a look at Malachi, and review the whole New Testament in 15 minutes or so. Then we'll jump into the New with a discussion of the Immaculate Conception, which will be the day after class.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Déjà Joué

Yes- almost déjà vu.

I've been playing wargames since I was 11 years old. Just in case you aren't up on what a wargame is, it's this sort of thing.  Let's agree that they are, like opera, an acquired taste. Anyway, in this weekend's edition of the Wall Street Journal, there was a review of a novel, The Third Reich, in which the wargame The Third Reich (I own a copy) plays a critical role. This game came out when I graduated from highschool in 1974.

It's oddly affirming to see it mentioned in the WSJ of all places, after so many years.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Res Ipsa Loquitur 6

9 minutes from the November 16 class. Review of earlier Old Testament material connects to future New Testament material, as described in Plus de Review 2.

Notice that from :30 to :54 my bouncer decides to separate a couple of mischievites, and the kids are rearranged on the fly with very little disruption to the lesson flow.

Sorry about the rough edit.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Thanksgiving Dinner, courtesy of My Wife the Energizer Bunny

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Plus de Review 2

This article is also posted at Amazing Catechists

Review is a form of repetition. And review, like repetition, should be used introduce new concepts which relate to the items being reviewed. That is, review is not just for reteaching old shown from these bits of review from the November 16 class:

"Y'all remind me please, who did God tell to get out of town last week? Elijah! Yes, why? 'Cause he told the King there would be a drought. Yes. And if God tells you to leave town on short notice during a drought, what would you soon be needing? Water! Yes,! Yes. "So he went and did according to the word of the LORD; he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. 6 And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank from the brook." (1Kings17)

Someone else remind me what the Israelites needed while they were in the desert. Water! Yes,!'d they get those things? Moses hit the rock with his stick and water came out. Yes, and? They had manna. Yes, which was...fried chicken? Well, wasn't it bread? Yes, sort of. God had said he'd rain down bread on them, and what "rained down" was manna. What other food did God provide? No guesses? Remember when the Israelites complained to Moses about being hungry they said, "in the land of Egypt...we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full." So what did they want besides bread? Umm...flesh? Yes, but in modern English what would we say? Meat! Yes. Somebody decirme, cómo se llama "meat" en Español; how do you say "meat" in Spanish? Carne! Yes. And how do you say "flesh" in Spanish? Ummm...I think that's carne, too. Yes. In English we have two words for that idea. One Bible will say "meat" when another says "flesh". Spanish doesn't have that problem, it's always carne, like in carnivorous. But I think it's better if English Bibles say "flesh" as we'll see in a minute. But first, y'all remind me what flesh God gave the Israelites. Ravens! Close, another bird. Quail! Yes, quail flesh, quail meat.

So God gave the Israelites bread and...flesh! Yes, and He gave Elijah...bread and flesh! Yes, the same. When the Bible says things the same way on different occasions, you should understand that they are related. For example, did the Israelites walk on wet mud when they crossed the Red Sea? No, dry ground! Yes, and Elijah crossed the Jordan on...dry ground! Yes. 

By the way, when God provides people bread and flesh like that, what's it called? A miracle? Yes, a miracle. And speaking of bread and flesh miracles, can anyone tell me a Jesus bread and flesh miracle? When he made the loaves and fishes? Mmm, good guess, but fish don't count as meat, as flesh. Another guess? No? Sometimes 6th-graders get this. OK, later on we'll cover Jesus' bread and flesh miracle. When we get to it, remember these other ones. Yes, what? What's the miracle? Nuh-uh, if y'all can't guess, I'm not telling. Just pay attention when it comes up later on.

New review topic: what's this? A stick. Gosh, really? Think some more. Moses' stick! Yes. Tell us about it. He hit the rock and water came out. Yes, and? He parted the water! Yes, so the Israelites could cross on...dry ground! Yes.

And what's this? Your coat. C'mon, y'all don't play dumb. It's Elijah's coat! Yes, his cloak. So tell it. They hit the water with it and it parted.  Yes...what water? The Jordan River. Yes. And Elijah and Elisha crossed...on dry ground!  Yes.

And this is...Elijah's bone! Close...Elisha's bone! Yes, somebody tell it please. They threw the dead man on his bones and he came back to life. Right. Yes? That's a chicken bone. Yes, use your imagination. If you don't have any imagination you can't be in this class. What do all three of these things have in common: the stick, the cloak, and the bone? They're all stuff? Yes, genius, they're all stuff! Yes. And would any of those miracles have worked without this stuff being involved? No! Right. God's power went through His creation, His stuff. What are we made of [I draw the Gingerbread Man]? A body'n'soul! Yes, and our bodies are made of...stuff! Yes. Our bodies are stuff. Now when people experience God through miracles like the ones that go with the stick, cloak, and bone, pieces of stuff, is it through the soul or the body? The body? Yes, they're just physical miracles. Dogs don't have eternal souls, but even a dog could have crossed over the Red Sea on dry ground or eaten a quail. But if we were just souls without bodies, that sort of miracle wouldn't mean much to us.

 Body'n'Soul, aka The Gingerbread Man

Remind me again, we're a...body'n'soul. Yes. So if we want to have a complete miraculous experience of God we'd want to have it with which parts? Well, both parts? Yes. But these Old Testament miracles just affect people's... bodies? Yes. But Jesus left us with some miracles that let us experience God body and soul. Can y'all think of one? No guesses? What's the water miracle we do in church? Ummm...baptism? Right...yes, what? Is baptism a miracle? Well...tell me what happens. You pour the water and the sins are gone. Yes. Washing away sins with water is pretty miraculous, isn't it?  I guess so, but baptism's a sacrament, not a miracle. That's a good point, but maybe Baptism is both a sacrament and a miracle, and we're just so used to it that we don't notice. We can't see the miraculous part of a sacrament, but it's still there. By the way, if there's no water is it ok if the priest just pretends to pour water? No!  Right, the miracle won't work without the stuff. We are spirit'n'stuff, so the sacraments are...spirit'n'stuff too!  Yes.

When we get to Jesus in a couple of weeks we'll see him work some physical miracles, but also some that are physical and spiritual. I want y'all to be able to tell them apart, so keep an eye out for that."


The above review took about 10 minutes. Probably half of the time we were applying new ideas to the old material in preparation for Jesus and the New Testament.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pitchers 4

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Partial board from the November 9 class. As usual, comments are limited to what's on the board, and don't include everything that was covered.

1. Picking up from last week, Elijah flees Samaria for the safety of pagan Sidon. He stays with the widow in Zarephath, a key story which Jesus will refer to in Luke's gospel. (1Kings 16-17)

2. A reminder that Sidon is a pagan country which worships the baby-eating false god Baal.

3. Elijah returns to Samaria, and has a showdown with 450 priests of Baal. Elijah wins. The people haul the priests down to a creek, where Elijah slits their throats. The creek runs red with their blood. Samaria returns to worship of the LORD, and the drought ends. (1Kings 18)

4. God tells old Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor. He puts his cloak over Elisha's shoulders, which indicates Elisha selection, and also a sense of being protected, being a protege. (1Kings 19:19+) This idea of protection by covering is related to the Glory Cloud overshadowing the Meeting Tent & Tabernacle (erased). This idea will later be extended to Mary and the Holy Spirit, and the Epiclesis at Mass.

5. Elijah journeys again across the Jordan. On the way, Elisha affirms 3 times he will not abandon Elijah. They cross the Jordan on "dry ground" after Elijah strikes the water with his cloak. The kids tell me that Elijah didn't die, but was taken up in a whirlwind. This reminds them of the other guy who didn't die...Enoch, and also Mary. Elisha picks up the left-behind cloak, strikes the Jordan, and recrosses on "dry ground." (2Kings 2)

Volunteers and I act out all of the Elijah & Elisha bits. If we can act things out, I usually won't draw.

6. I briefly read a couple of Elisha's miracles which remind the kids of both Elijah's miracles and Jesus' miracles. Then I start drawing as I read and tell the story Naaman and his miracle cure in the Jordan. (2Kings 5) That's a picture of Naaman in his horse-drawn chariot coming to Elisha's house. After Naaman is cured, he takes a wagonload of earth back to Syria so that he may properly worship the LORD. I note that the Bible says Naaman "plunged" into the Jordan. Next week I'll introduce the Greek word baptize, and review ritual sprinkling.

7. Elisha dies and is buried. Years later, a dead man comes back to life by being thrown on Elisha's bones (2Kings 13: 20+). I use my chicken bone for acting this out, and we discuss saints and  relics for a couple of minutes before class lets out.

Go to Res Ipsa Loquitur 5  for the audio of this class.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pitchers 3


Partial board from the November 2 class, from David's adultery up to Elijah in Zarephath. From left to right:

1. Review of Levitical sacrifice reminds kids of the necessity of both forgiveness and atonement. I read bits of 2Sam11 as the kids learn the story of David & Bathsheba.  David later confesses his sins (violating 3 commandments which the kids figure out) to Nathan .  I tell the kids that Nathan is Hebrew for gift.  Remembering that -el- in a Bible name means God, they then figure out that Nathan-i-el means Gift of God. (BTW, Netan-yahu means Gift of YHWH.)  Through Nathan, God forgives David [forgiveness is checked off].  But God takes David and Bathsheba's baby as atonement [atonement is checked off].

Old Testament examples of forgiveness and atonement are emphasized in class.  Later on we'll compare them to Christ's perfect atonement.

Coincidentally, Tuesday's Dear Abby involved a reference to David and Bathsheba. Next week I'll read that article to start class, and get the kids to explain the relevance of D & B to the situation.

2. The kids tell me that later on David and Bathsheba have another child named Solomon; they also tell me he was famous for his wisdom. I say a bit about the difference between knowledge and wisdom, and then the kids tell the story of the two women and the baby. I draw a baby with women's faces to each side, and adjust their expressions as the story is discussed [this picture was erased]. The key lesson is that the mother loved the baby more than herself, while the other woman loved herself more than the baby.

3. Following a comparison of Solomon's Temple with the Meeting Tent [I have a handout: they're too complicated to draw] I draw a king, and to his right a queen. The kids tell me that's Solomon, and then figure out that the Queen is his mom Bathsheba, not one of his wives. I read (1Kings2) and tell the story of Adonijah seeking Bathsheba's intercession with her son. Based on that story, the kids extend the king/ queen mother concept to Jesus and Mary. They then tell me the story of Cana, and see the intercessory parallel between Bathsheba and Mary.

4. After Solomon dies, Israel is split into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. The kids make fun of my banana map of Samaria and Judea, and recall the parable of the Good Samaritan. I briefly explain the problems Samaria has due to its separation from Jerusalem and the Temple.  Now the king becomes Ahab, king of Samaria, and his queen is Jezebel, a woman from pagan Sidon. Along with Jezebel, Ahab worships the baby-eating false god Baal. 

5. I introduce Elijah to the class and write his name, but then replace the J with a Y: ELIYAH.  I write YHWH next to ELIYAH, and with some help, the kids see that El-i-jah means [my] God is YHWH.  I read a bit from 1Kings17 as Elijah speaks for God. Elijah tells Ahab there will be drought as long as there is Baal-worship in Samaria.  Then Elijah follows God's command to flee to pagan Sidon, lest Ahab use his head as a bowling ball.

Class over!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Catechist's Psalm

In case you catechists didn't know, yes there is a Psalm just for you. Maybe not the whole thing (it's way long), but at least the first part: "Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, 3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders which he has wrought. 5 He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children; 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments."

But Psalm 78's not for just catechists: it's for the catechized as well. As I tell my class:

"Y'all see how this Psalm describes my job...which is... to teach. Yes. And what’s your job? Our job? Yes. To learn? Yes, but more, listen again and tell me: “he commanded our fathers to teach to their children; 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children…” Well? We have to learn so we can tell our kids! Yes. You don’t learn about God just for yourselves, but for the children you'll have and teach. When you become parents, teaching your kids about God will be one of your responsibilities.

I don't want y'all to just drop your kids off at Sunday School and think you're done. You'll have to teach your children well. Do y'all get that?  

Get what? 

Never mind.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Plus des Pitchers

Behold the board at the end of the 10/26 class. As usual, much of it was erased and then refilled. This photo corresponds to the lesson plan as it runs from settling down in Canaan through the anointing of David. I'm not going to discuss everything we covered, just what is on the board.

 1. The Ark of the Covenant.  Some review of last week's class. The Glory Cloud/ Shekhinah is introduced, which settles on/ overshadows/ dwells in the Ark and Meeting Tent. At the far left a sketch of Moses atop Sinai  under the Glory Cloud/ Shekhinah has been erased. Tent drawing to left illustrates how the Glory Cloud overshadowed the Tent during the 40 years in the desert, and moved away when it was time to pull up stakes. Overshadowing implies protection. (future connections to Elijah & Elisha, the Holy Spirit & Mary.)

2. Review of atonement, forgiveness, and  Levitical sacrifice is followed by the question, "Could good Israelites who had their sins forgiven & atoned for by the sacrificial system go to Heaven?" If not, then where did they go? (future connection: Jesus descended into "Hell.")

3. The ritual mixing of cleansing water and atoning blood is introduced (Lev 14): "This shall be the law of the leper for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest; 3 and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall make an examination. Then, if the leprous disease is healed in the leper, 4 the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two living clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet stuff and hyssop; 5 and the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water. 6 He shall take the living bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet stuff and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water; 7 and he shall sprinkle it seven times upon him who is to be cleansed of leprosy..." (future connections to the Crucifixion and Baptism)

4. The Israelites settle down in Canaan. God dwells in the Meeting Tent at Shiloh. I add Eli sitting on his stool to the left while his corrupt sons profane the Dwelling.

5. Review of Samson introduces the word Nazirite, someone who is dedicated and separated to fully serve God. (future connection to John the Baptist, priests and nuns) Samuel's story follows Samson's, including Samuel being called by God 3 times and responding in the affirmative 3 times, which makes an oral contract. (future connections to Elijah & Elisha, Jesus & Peter)

6. Connecting the past to the present. A reminder that the Israelites still fight with their neighbors over the Promised Land.

7. Israel's enemies worshiped an assortment of baby-eating false gods, yet they were also afraid of the God of Israel: "Israel went out to battle against the Philistines....Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who slew about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, "Why has the LORD put us to rout today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that he may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies....the Philistines were afraid; for they said, "A god has come into the camp." And they said, "Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who smote the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness." (1Sam 4)

Sinful Israel is defeated, Eli & sons die. The Ark is captured, but due to plagues including my favorite plague, hemorrhoids, the Ark is returned to Israel. But the LORD never dwells again in Shiloh, which remains desolate. (future connections to Jeremiah, the Temple, and Jesus)

8. Confronted with the prospect of being misgoverned by Samuel's no-good sons, Israel insists on a king after Samuel. Samuel picks Saul, who as we see from the picture is tall and handsome.

9. Saul has his problems; God sends Samuel out to secretly anoint a new king: David. We act out the anointing process. The kids learn the common meaning of Messiah, Christos, and Anointed One. Some etymologically related words are discussed, especially chrism and msha, the Egyptian word for crocodile, whose oil was used to anoint Pharaoh. (lots of connections to all this)

10. The Gingerbread Man represents the unity of Body and Soul. This had to do with the hypocritical behavior of Eli & Sons. I usually draw him when the issue of Faith and Works comes up. The arrow from the body back to the soul indicates that one's works reflect one's inward disposition; so if your works oppose your faith, then you probably don't really believe. (connects to constant theme of Faith & Works)

Catechists, never forget the words of St. Francis of Assisi, Petter of Squirrels: "Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, draw pictures."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Deutsche Romanische Kirchen

I like church architecture. While I admire the technical daring and spectacle of Gothic architecture, I prefer Romanesque churches. And among the churches built in the Romanesque manner, I like the German ones best.

One of German Romanesque's strong points is its design flexibility: that is, its visual vocabulary and structural system allow each church to be very different from the others while recognizably belonging to the same family. If Gothic churches tend to all be sisters, the German Romanesque family would include aunts and nieces. The German churches may have a front main entry, side main entries, or main entries at both ends along with altars at both ends. There may any number of towers in an assortment of shapes and sizes. Within the vocabulary almost anything goes. And if they don't compare well against Gothic's glamor, they more than compensate by their charm and individuality.

A very few of my favorites:

Maria Laach Abbey, so small it needs 2 photos.



Speyer (the town is named after the spires)

Tournai, Belgium (it's not in Germany)

Late in the last century our architectural office (Greene & Associates) designed a 2400-seat Baptist church. For assorted reasons the project borrowed heavily from German Romanesque sources, including the above examples. A few drawings follow.

East Elevation

                      Ground Floor Plan
 South Elevation

A recent photo of the church taken by local photographer Jerry Spain

We do a lot of churches, but rarely have a budget and a client that allows for this kind of project.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Go Negative

A useful tactic to get kids to think in the classroom is to do what I call going negative.  I learned this way of thinking about a problem when I was a teenager, especially when trying to figure out faith.  Going negative isn't new: Sherlock Holmes fans may remember how he took the same approach in asking why the dog didn't bark. So instead of asking why Jesus did x, or why the Church teaches y, I was constantly wondering, "why didn't Jesus do a" or "why doesn't the Church say b." Pondering (sometimes for years) the a,b & c that weren't said or done often shed light on the superiority (not just the option) of x, y & z.

 I churned for decades over the fundamental problem of why God required the whole Jesus project instead of simply declaring us forgiven.  God is omnipotent, after all. I suppose this is no problem for billions of Christians, but I had to grind through dozens of negative propositions to arrive at an understanding of Salvation History that meant something to me. I knew all my life that "Jesus had to die for our sins,"  but that was just a fact, like heliocentricity.  I was in my late 20s before I finally understood Jesus' sacrifice in a way that mattered.  Oddly enough, years of "but why not...but why not...but why not..." eventually illuminated a childhood experience with a broken window which was full of "but why nots."  Once I sorted out the broken window, faith fell into place.  I don't think I'd've ever acquired a motivating faith without having reflected on the "why nots."

In Catechism class the kids will sometimes make no real progress in answering a positive question, such as "why did Moses hit the rock with his staff?"  They will readily say, "God told him to;" but reader, that ain't progress- that's parroting. If I say, "Yes, but why did God tell him to?" I typically get, "because the people were thirsty" which is just another bit of fluff. My temptation is to give them an answer, but they can often make progress through negative questions, such as:

Why wasn't it enough for Moses to just pray for water?
Why didn't God make water flow from the rock without the stick business?
Why didn't God just make the people's thirst go away?
Why didn't God put a lake ahead of them that they'd run into?
Why couldn't Moses go by himself to hit the rock?

Once a couple of kids give thoughtful answers to negative questions they never heard before, we can move forward again. Within the first month of class, the kids get used to going negative when their thinking stalls. They learn to perk up each time the negative questions start, and are stimulated by the oblique thinking that negative questions engender.

Typical negative questions I might ask:

Why didn't Jesus heal the paralyzed man as soon as he was plopped down in front of him?
Why didn't the paralyzed man's friends stay home and pray for his healing?
Why didn't the Prodigal Son's father interrupt his confession?
Why wouldn't the Pharisees accept that Jesus had healed the blind man?
Why didn't John the Baptist get married?
Why wouldn't Elisha come out and speak directly to Naaman?
Why didn't the little boy bring his bread and fish directly to Jesus?
Why didn't Jesus and the apostles eat any lamb at the Last Supper?
Why weren't Jesus' wounds healed up after his Resurrection?
Why didn't the stewards tell Jesus they had run out of wine?
Why didn't God take more than one rib from Adam?
Why didn't God take a toe instead of a rib?
At Mass why don't the people put the bread and wine on the altar?

I'd give you the answers- but you'll learn better if you work them out on your own.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


I draw all the time in class.  This is a relatively tidy board, so it makes a good example of how the drawing flows along with the lesson plan.  Last night class started with some closing discussion of the Golden Calf, and finished with Samson collapsing the roof.

Here's the board at the end of the 10/19 class; some stuff has been erased to make room for new stuff.  It's not a very big board, so sometimes a entire board's content has to be erased to make space for another round of picture-drawing.  I'm going to comment mostly about what's in this picture, not the stuff that was erased.

1. The Golden Calf prodded final discussion of idol-worship, with blue squiggles showing the drunken Israelites misbehaving.  The kids knew that nobody nowadays would worship a calf statue, and suggested other types of idols that people put ahead of God.  Money was first, which led to other possessions, and ultimately to the idea of self-worship.  This led to discussing how babies only think of themselves, and that life is a process of becoming more other-oriented and less self-oriented.  During that conversation I drew a squalling baby (erased) to the upper left of the Calf, and the man on the upper right.  That was to illustrate the growth of each person from baby to adult.  I explained to the class that when I was 30 and single, I had made idols out of cars; being so self-oriented I was essentially a 30-year-old baby.

2. At this point we were discussing this handout from left to right:

Once we got into the Holy of Holies, I drew the Ark of the Covenant while reading parts of Exodus 25:

"They shall make an ark of acacia wood; two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 And you shall overlay it with pure gold... 12 And you shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. 13 You shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. 14 And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark by them. (I don't tell the kids what the poles are for. I make them tell me)...16 And you shall put into the ark the testimony which I shall give you. (The kids help decide what goes into the Ark, and as each item is named, I draw it in.) 17 Then you shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be."

The squiggly red line indicates that God's presence descends from Heaven to hover over the mercy seat.  To give a rough sense of scale I draw a high priest in a special outfit.

1a. Now we discussed different types of Levitical sacrifice.  To introduce the topic, I read and acted out Moses' (pre-Levitical) sacrifice in Exodus 24:

"[Moses] rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient." 8* And Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words."  We re-imagined the Golden Calf sketch as Moses' sacrifice as I added in the blood and the basin.

3. Here we were discussing the story of Manoah and his wife, from Judges 13.  This picture illustrates the moment that the sacrifice and the angel ascend to heaven, which will figure prominently in our Eucharistic Prayer class in the Spring:

"So Manoah took the kid with the cereal offering, and offered it upon the rock to the LORD, to him who works wonders. 20 And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar while Manoah and his wife looked on; and they fell on their faces to the ground."

Through discussion, the kids figure out that Manoah isn't making an atonement sacrifice for sins, but a thanksgiving sacrifice for his wife's pregnancy.  Next week we'll review this a bit, connect it to thanksgiving sacrifices by Abel, Melchizedek, and Moses, and introduce the Greek word Eucharisteo.

4. God had told Manoah's wife, "Behold, you are barren and have no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Therefore beware, and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, 5 for lo, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth."  The kids figured out what "no razor shall come upon his head" implies, and then named the long-haired man that was Manoah's son: Samson.  The kids can tell the Samson story, so I don't need to draw.  But I do list the the things that make Samson dedicated and separated.  Next week I'll explain what a Nazirite is, and connect that term to the concept of dedication & separation, which will repeatedly come up during the rest of the year.