Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lent 2014: a study in virtue

Sometimes your Lenten focus comes to find you. Typically, we try to focus on some element of the faith together as a family, and this year I was coming up short trying to think of something. But that was probably the problem, right? I was trying to drum something up from my own resources, rather than trying to “see” what was already right there. As it happens, our gentle Lord was already pulling things together.

Benny is working on an amazing project right now for his Literature class at this fine learning institution for homeschoolers. There is a project fair coming up where students have to create a project that answers the question Why do we tell stories? The project must also approach the answer through the myths, legends, and fairytales that were studied in the first half of the year. Benny’s project is an involved, quest-style board game based in the legend of King Arthur and his knights. His answer to the question is To teach virtue. 

As you can imagine, the invention of a board game is a family affair. Consequently, there has been much discussion around virtue and vice as research for the game. It has opened up a world of language for us that we really didn’t have at the ready. As Catholic converts, neither Scott nor I had formation in the Virtues proper. It’s just not something that gets talked about in a systematic way very often in the church traditions we encountered. Have you ever noticed how language is crucial to complex thinking? If you don’t have vivid, specific language for something, it’s actually harder to think about it. This is why beautiful language matters...this is close to my heart!

Another discussion we’ve been having for a few months now has to do with Buckets. Buckets? Yes. As you may know, Scott is an elementary school art teacher. In his school, the language used to help the children with issues around “kindness” takes the form of “filling buckets.” You can imagine the scenario...Johnny hurt me on the playground, and that made my bucket feel empty. Or, When you said that you liked my shirt, that helped to fill my bucket. 


I hesitate to use the phrase ‘dumbing down,’ but…

And I guarantee that this methodology is being used across Massachusetts, if not across the country. Is “filling buckets” really the best we can do?

Can you imagine the greater possibilities for actually teaching virtue if we were willing to use words like fortitude, courage, hope, charity, temperance, kindness, humility, patience, chastity, diligence, and prudence?

So, we’ve been talking about this around the house for a while, and since Benny’s project is really drawing us into the subject, we’re studying the Virtues for Lent ( I guess, by the capital V, I mean the classical, time-honored virtues, including the Cardinal and Theological, as well as the medieval expression of the seven deadly sins and their counterpart virtues). Some of our "study" is coming directly from Aquinas, as we tackle each virtue and vice by definition. Some study and inspiration will come from other books.

Scott is reading The Father of the Family, which was recommended by you know who

I just finished Josef Pieper's A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart, which dear Erin pulled right off of her shelf when I told her I was looking for books about virtue.  It was wonderful.  In fact, I will probably do some writing about it in another post, since this one is getting too wordy! 

I’m also using a lovely, lovely book called My Path to Heaven with Asher right now (he's 7), and may even try it with Jude (9). It’s full of complex illustrations by Caryll Houselander, which the children have to look carefully at as the text is read. (Thank you for this recommendation Jennifer!) It's not about virtue alone, but it certainly fits in with what we’re doing. 

And finally, we have our Stations of the Cross candle stand, which Scott made a while back. Do you remember?

(they look so little up there! I think that was two years ago...)

This past week was First Friday, and we went to Mass, so we didn’t do Stations as well, but tomorrow, and hopefully the rest of the Fridays in Lent, we will use this candle stand by lighting them all, and snuffing them as we move through the stations. We’ve used the Liguori meditations in the past, which are wonderful. Though, Auntie Leila assures me that no complicated meditation is needed, just the prayers. However, I am excited to try these. (Do you know about these beautiful UK Jesuits? Thank you Sarah, for this tip!!) I need to do a whole post about how this website is teaching us to pray anew… Finally, we hope to get ahold of the DVD done by Father Barron called Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues, though I don't know how yet. Anyone out there have a copy to lend?

What do you do to study the virtues in your family? Do you have any great resources to pass along the titles of?

Praying for a Holy Lent for all of Christendom!