Hillbilly Thomists

I feel like when they brought the good news from Ghent to Aix: not only is there a new bluegrass band called The Hillbilly Thomists but their album has been topping digital music purchases on Amazon.

Some Eastern Province Dominicans are making great music in the American tradition, connecting with the best of the Protestant tradition and writing some new material.

The Hillbilly Thomists were the number one most popular folk album on Amazon in mid-December and they remain in the top 50 as of today, Epiphany 1/7/2018, running alongside new stars and iconic musicians, from the Lumineers to Kate Rusby, Gordon Lightfoot, and Woody Guthrie! Read more here and listen to an original song, "I'm a Dog" here, as well as other hits, like my favorite "What Wondrous Love is This?"

Posted by
Gwen Adams

Story-telling: Moral Formation & Agape

Alasdair MacIntyre, Flannery O'Connor, C. S. Lewis, Benedict XVI, Simone Weil
I recently presented on story-telling at the annual Center for Ethics and Culture Conference at the University of Notre Dame.

In the talk I reference the ragamuffin first page (pictured left). I also ask Dr. Matthew Muller, professor at Benedictine College about David Lapp's talk at the 2017 Symposium on Advancing the New Evangelization held at Benedictine College. Call for papers on the theme of "Humanae Vitae 50 Years Later: A Call to Self-Gift" for Benedictine College's 2018 Symposium is now open at www.benedictine.edu/symposium

Elizabeth Russell is a writer and teacher; you can check out her interesting original and re-told tales at thefairytaleblog.com and her website at https://elizabethrussellauthor.com/. She attended the talk, and I am grateful to her for asking the final question about finding good stories. Following her question, several people came up afterwards to discuss reading suggestions. There were some delightful students from the Augustine Institute, as well as Hillsdale College and Trinity School. We had a great conversation about some of the following recommended books: Jane Austen's Persuasion, Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows, C. S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces, and Agatha Christie's Miss Marple (the best book about her being possibly Nemesis). Here is the presentation:

Developing a 2018 Summer Course at the Augustine Institute

(To audit or take this course for credit, or for information on the Augustine Institute, visit www.augustineinstitute.org or contact Amanda Ullman, Admissions Counselor at admissions@augustineinstitute.org or 303-937-4420, ext. 163.)

Here is John Paul II, gathering ideas for the New Evangelization.

That's a little how my week went, gathering ideas and stories to teach "New Evangelization & Culture" summer 2018 at the Augustine Institute. The faculty working with me on the course are going to include Joseph Pearce, Elizabeth Kline, and Scott Hefelfinger--all giants!

Developing the course description this week, I came across this amazing article about John Paul II's possible first use of the phrase "New Evangelization," at Nowa Huta in 1979. A lot of food for thought here.

Here is an excerpt from my course description for "New Evangelization & Culture" 2018:

Ben Hatke . . . A Day in the Life

Ben Hatke: Artist & Adventurer from Mirandum Pictures on Vimeo. I put this in the category of story-telling -- telling a story about a story-teller. I sure used to enjoy inventing stories with this family!

The Zita Trilogy, Little Robot, and Julia's House of Creatures are just a few of his works -- very prolific artist and story-teller (!) and you can read more at his website http://www.benhatke.com/.

Seascape by Stephen Spender

In memoriam M.A.S

There are some days the happy ocean lies
Like an unfingered harp, below the land.
Afternoon gilds all the silent wires
Into a burning music for the eyes
On mirrors flashing between fine-strung fires
The shore, heaped up with roses, horses, spires
Wanders on water tall above ribbed sand.

The motionlessness of the hot sky tires
And a sigh, like a woman's from inland,
Brushes the instrument with shadowy hand
Drawing across those wires some gull's sharp cry
Or bell, or shout, from distant, hedged-in, shires;
These, deep as anchors, the hushing wave buries.

Then from the shore, two zig-zag butterflies
Like errant dog-roses cross the bright strand
Spiralling over waves in dizzy gyres
Until the fall in wet reflected skies.
They drown. Fishermen understand
Such wings sunk in such ritual sacrifice.

Remembering legends of undersea, drowned cities.
What voyagers, oh what heroes, flamed like pyres
With helmets plumed have set forth from some island
And them the seas engulfed. Their eyes
Distorted to the cruel waves desires,
Glitter with coins through the tide scarcely scanned,
While, far above, that harp assumes their sighs.
--Stephen Spender

Observing Trees

One fall an unexpected snowstorm weighted the trees with more snow than some could handle.  There were a lot of downed trees!  Happily, this meant a friend was able to get me these different wood rounds for observing in Natural History.  This was good for seeing the inner parts of the tree--the cambium is bright orange on that bottom white birch slice, while the top slice of red oak has heartwood tinged pink in comparison to the paler sapwood.  I had the students observe and try to guess what trees had yielded these.  They were using past observations and what they had read in Charles Fergus' Trees of New England.  Since these slices were fresh (less than a year old), the colors are still bright.  In time that yellow slice (pin cherry) will fade, as will the others.

Life Itself Is a Vocation from God

Preparing lectures for my upcoming class on the Social Teaching of Benedict XVI, I came across this stunning sentence from Verbum Domini. This class is going to be amazing; register at the Augustine Institute and enjoy five days exploring the world of Benedict XVI. This is not assigned reading, but I'm kind of coveting Benedict's autobiographical Last Testament: In His Own Words and wondering if it is as good or better than Milestones.

Outdoor Classroom

I once enjoyed the use of an outdoor classroom for Natural History (aka Science).  A path along the woods led to a clearing where a number of seats were arranged--yes, just the weathered stumps of some old trees with a diameter of 24" or more.  Nearby there was a statue of St. Francis and a bird feeder which drew titmice, nuthatches, finches, jays and chickadees (and squirrels, sigh).  The braver birds would come even when the students were gathered.  The students had to come on their own for observations, but I wish we had done more silent observation as a class.  This place was great; even if the birds didn't come, you could listen for their different calls.  Anybody could set this up who had a little copse nearby or even just a quiet outdoor space that could be made to feel separate with a hedge or fence. It just needs to feel slightly enclosed so the birds are brave enough to come and the students less easily distracted by passing cars, foot traffic, etc.

Over the summer we did not fill the bird-feeder.  Look how the woods attempted to take over!

French Camp

A friend of mine once ran a week long morning "French Camp" for the young girls in her area.  They learned new vocabulary every day and ate steak frites and cherry clafoutis.  They learned, memorized, sang, and performed french songs--with accents so good I was envious.  They asked me to come over and teach them how to embroider Sacred Heart Badges and tell them about the Vendee.  What a great idea! And how about an Italian Camp or Latin/Roman/Greek camp?  Or a Spanish camp?  It is so much fun for the children attending, and a very easy way to tell wonderful stories, try new dishes, teach a little history and language.  At a young age, learning vocabulary and the proper accent are so much easier--take advantage! The more they take pleasure in French or Latin, etc., the more likely they are to attempt these languages in depth.  That will serve them and others in countless ways.

Beloved, Let Us Once More Praise the Rain

Let us discover some new alphabet,
For this, the often praised; and be ourselves,
The rain, the chickweed, and the burdock leaf,
The green-white privet flower, the spotted stone,
And all that welcomes the rain; the sparrow too,—
Who watches with a hard eye from seclusion,
Beneath the elm-tree bough, till rain is done.
There is an oriole who, upside down,
Hangs at his nest, and flicks an orange wing,—
Under a tree as dead and still as lead;
There is a single leaf, in all this heaven
Of leaves, which rain has loosened from its twig:
The stem breaks, and it falls, but it is caught
Upon a sister leaf, and thus she hangs;
There is an acorn cup, beside a mushroom
Which catches three drops from the stooping cloud.
The timid bee goes back to the hive; the fly
Under the broad leaf of the hollyhock
Perpends stupid with cold; the raindark snail
Surveys the wet world from a watery stone...
And still the syllables of water whisper:
The wheel of cloud whirs slowly: while we wait
In the dark room; and in your heart I find
One silver raindrop,—on a hawthorn leaf,—
Orion in a cobweb, and the World.
--Conrad Aiken


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