Fun With Coins: Good Cents

cent-folderLike most coin collectors, I began the with humble cent. From age three, my father and I had a nightly routine. He would get home from work, and I would “check his change.” Checking meant extraction of all things copper. Some years later, I had a cloth bank bag full. Then I got serious about sorting out the contents.

I think I was about nine years old when I counted out about three thousand items. One third were minted in 1959 or later. Those were easily identified by the edifice of the Lincoln Memorial on the reverse side from President Lincoln. Those got rolled and cashed out into spending money. (“Thanks, Dad, for the unofficial allowance supplement!”)

lincoln-wheat-reverseThe remainder were identified by twin ears of wheat bracketing the very prominent “ONE CENT.” I lined them up by year and mint mark and checked the size of the piles against the reported mintages in my 1968 Red Book. The best looking of specimen were slotted into one of my two Whitman coin folders (1909-1940) and (1941-date). The former was a bit more than half-full; the other had no gaps. Coins with mintages under about five million had avoided my dad’s pocket. In my adult life, I resorted to purchasing those from dealers and at coin shows. Today, I have two gaps in my collection, the rarest and most expensive of the series.

My sense is that a young collector today would start out pretty much as I did when I was a boy. There are nearly sixty years of coins to assemble for a complete set. It might be somewhat easier to amass a cent from every year and mint mark* as the scarcest of these issues were produced on the order of a hundred million. In contrast, the “gem” of my collection only had about 866,000 companions that year.

A few fun activities for kids:

Collect some cents minted before 1982–as many as you can find. Ten is a minimum, but thirty would be good. Then count out the same number of cents dated later than 1982. Which weighs more? In 1982, the US Mint shifted mid-year from a coin made of 95% copper to a piece fabricated from zinc with just an exterior plating of copper. The coins look mostly the same but there is a noticeable difference when you hold them.

In the first activity, skip the 1982 dates. If you have a few saved, you can bring out a scale, and sort out the copper ones from the zinc. If memory serves, they made about 6 billion of one variety and ten billion of the other, so a diligent hoarder might be able to sift through enough of that date to determine which is likely more common in change, and therefore, likely the one with a higher production.

Compare the numbers of cents with a “D,” minted in Denver to those without a letter under the date. The mark-less coins were produced in Philadelphia. Which do you find more common in your area? then check your distance from either city. Did you find any with an “S”? See if your kids can guess what city that letter might represent.

With the held of a magnifying glass, notice how the font of the date numbers has changed over the years. You may not need every year represented, but if you have some coins from the 60’s, it is noticeable to a careful observer.

Did you know the 16th president appears twice on coins made in the years 1959-2008? Flip the cent over to the building. This is known as the reverse side. (Lincoln sits on the obverse.) With a magnifier, see if you can find the depiction of that magnificent statue between the columns.

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Amoris Laetitia 183: A Family For Mission

amoris laetitia memeThe Holy Father points one way for families. He doesn’t explicitly cite the passage in this paragraph, but the Lord’s citation of the prophet Isaiah in Luke 4:18-19 comes to mind.

183. A married couple who experience the power of love know that this love is called to bind the wounds of the outcast, to foster a culture of encounter and to fight for justice. God has given the family the job of “domesticating” the world (Cf. Catechesis (16 September 2015)) and helping each person to see fellow human beings as brothers and sisters.

The family works not for the culture, but against its darker impulses. A longer citation from one of the Holy Father’s addresses a few weeks later, acknowledges that the struggle goes two ways. Often aspects of our culture work against what is “fundamentally human”:

“An attentive look at the everyday life of today’s men and women immediately shows the omnipresent need for a healthy injection of family spirit… Not only is the organization of ordinary life increasingly thwarted by a bureaucracy completely removed from fundamental human bonds, but even social and political mores show signs of degradation”.(Catechesis (7 October 2015))

Pope Francis doesn’t advocate a self-promotion of families. The family may be under duress, but our mission still includes reaching out to those who are even more plundered by misfortune. It is, after all, basic Gospel:

For their part, open and caring families find a place for the poor and build friendships with those less fortunate than themselves. In their efforts to live according to the Gospel, they are mindful of Jesus’ words: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me (Mt 25:40)”. In a very real way, their lives express what is asked of us all: “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbours, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed” (Lk 14:12-14). You will be blessed! Here is the secret to a happy family.

Check Amoris Laetitia online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 182: A Holy and Ordinary Family

amoris laetitia memePope Francis invites reflection on Jesus, Mary, and Joseph:

182. No family can be fruitful if it sees itself as overly different or “set apart”. To avoid this risk, we should remember that Jesus’ own family, so full of grace and wisdom, did not appear unusual or different from others. That is why people found it hard to acknowledge Jesus’ wisdom: “Where did this man get all this? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” (Mk 6:23). “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” (Mt 13: 55). These questions make it clear that theirs was an ordinary family, close to others, a normal part of the community. Jesus did not grow up in a narrow and stifling relationship with Mary and Joseph, but readily interacted with the wider family, the relatives of his parents and their friends. This explains how, on returning from Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph could imagine for a whole day that the twelve-year-old Jesus was somewhere in the caravan, listening to people’s stories and sharing their concerns: “Supposing him to be in the group of travellers, they went a day’s journey” (Lk 2:44). Still, some Christian families, whether because of the language they use, the way they act or treat others, or their constant harping on the same two or three issues, end up being seen as remote and not really a part of the community. Even their relatives feel looked down upon or judged by them.

How many Catholics are convicted by this observation. I know a few people who have become very diligent in observing their faith. Yet they wonder why their children, siblings, neighbors, and other parishioners seem to shun them. Truth-telling may well be a burden to all involved, but is every fault open for rehashing at any time? Certainly we can respect the journey that has brought renewed conversion to some individuals and families. I’d want to hear about that. Often it is important to step back and make a judgment: What if I myself have become a poor messenger for the Gospel, turning people off rather than inspiring them to join me?

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 181: Families In The World, Not Escaping From It

amoris laetitia memeWith much Catholic discussion about the so-called Benedict option, Pope Francis seems to suggest thw world needs the witness of families, even large families:

181. We also do well to remember that procreation and adoption are not the only ways of experiencing the fruitfulness of love. Even large families are called to make their mark on society, finding other expressions of fruitfulness that in some way prolong the love that sustains them. Christian families should never forget that “faith
does not remove us from the world, but draws us more deeply into it… Each of us, in fact, has a special role in preparing for the coming of God’s kingdom in our world”.(Address at the Meeting with Families in Manila (16 January 2015)) Families should not see themselves as a refuge from society, but instead go forth from their homes in a spirit of solidarity with others. In this way, they become a hub for integrating persons into society and a point of contact between the public and private spheres. Married couples should have a clear awareness of their social obligations. With this, their affection does not diminish but is flooded with new light.

This sounds like a mutuality for sacramental marriage. There’s ideally a relationship not just between the partners but also of the partners with the world. That’s very Matthew 28:19-20. The couple and children stand as a locus for integrating others, rather than running away from them. Additionally, service for the common good serves in turn to enrich the marriage. Do you readers find this to be so?

From the Uruguayan poet Mario Benedetti:

As the poet says: “Your hands are my caress, The harmony that fills my days. I love you because your hands Work for justice.
If I love you, it is because you are My love, my companion and my all, And on the street, side by side, We are much more than just two”. (
Mario Benedetti, “Te Quiero”, in Poemas de otros, Buenos Aires 1993, 316)

The Spanish original is cited in the Holy Father’s footnote:

Tus manos son mi caricia
mis acordes cotidianos
te quiero porque tus manos
trabajan por la justicia.

Si te quiero es porque sos
mi amor mi cómplice y todo
y en la calle codo a codo
somos mucho más que dos.

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 180: The Fruitfulness of Adoption

amoris laetitia memeI followed the two synods on the family and last year’s world meeting in Philadelphia with some interest on this dear-to-my-heart topic. I’ve been largely disappointed with the institutional church not because I think it to be in error. I find the Magisterium’s approach to be incomplete and not deeply considered where the welfare of parentless children are concerned. Pope Francis cites the final document from the 2015 synod:

180. “The choice of adoption and foster care expresses a particular kind of fruitfulness in the marriage experience, and not only in cases of infertility. In the light of those situations where a child is desired at any cost, as a right for one’s self-fulfillment, adoption and foster care, correctly understood, manifest an important aspect of parenting and the raising of children. They make people aware that children, whether natural, adoptive or taken in foster care, are persons in their own right who need to be accepted, loved and cared for, and not just brought into this world. The best interests of the child should always underlie any decision in adoption and foster care”.(Relatio Finalis 2015, 65) On the other hand, “the trafficking of children between countries and continents needs to be prevented by appropriate legislative action and state control”.(Ibid.)

Important takeaways here:

  • “not only in cases of infertility”
  • Adoption is not about the “right” of adults, but about the responsibility to those in need. Framing adoption as a solution for childless couples is not a far cry from suggesting that soup kitchens serve to release the inner chef of the well-off.
  • Many nations are concerned about the adoption of their children to overseas couples. I confess mixed feelings on this. I have known many fine people who have adopted children from Asia, Russia, South America, and Africa. They have nurtured and loved young people who were languishing in orphanages without much hope of First World life. Now they have it. A half-million American kids are stuck in foster care without much hope of a permanent family until they marry.

Your thoughts on any of this?

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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One Thing At A Time

ev-2016As I’ve gotten back into flapping my arms in front of a group of singers the past fourteen months, I’ve been scouring the net as well as a library of music publications here in my office. I look for any short essay (books are too long) that gives me one good nugget. Then it gets gets clipped and saved in a file in my desk marked “conducting.” Indispensable to me: Gerald Custer‘s column in GIA Quarterly.

Another useful resource is a British one, and this post from their site underscores a very important principle: One Thing At A Time.

I have a few trained musicians in the parish. My second predecessor is now retired and a choir member. She does some work with our psalmists. I often have her take about fifteen minutes to lead off the rehearsal with some aspect of vocal pedagogy. My pianist is a fine reader and experienced church musician. She often hears things I do not. But if I listened to these two ladies on every stumble in our music ministry, we could all be working hard into the late evening hours. Sometimes it’s better to move on, playing the long game.

Last night, after we were working long and hard on an old Mass setting (new to about 1/4 of the people) things were getting a bit sloppy on cutoffs for a Communion psalm. At a pause, my pianist mentioned it. I heard it too. But I told her we were going to skip over it. Ms Hopkins’ advice from that second link above includes:

You don’t have to fix everthing all at once. Rehearsals are a finite length and it’s important to finish on time. You can’t deal with every little point and it’s counter-productive to try. You’ll end up demoralising your choir and yourself. If you’ve planned your rehearsal properly, you’ll already have a good idea of what you want to achieve at a particular session.

All I wanted to do yesterday was get the Mass parts they haven’t sung in three, four years to gel with me, the instrumentalists, and the singers. We worked hard for the better part of an hour to get that done. Mission accomplished. I let the people go home a half-hour early.

That principle of attending to one thing at a time has merit for just about every church ministry I can think of: preaching, soup kitchens, RCIA, wedding planning–you name it.

Come to think of it, it has a lot of merit in one’s personal life. I’ve spent most of the summer revising my diet and losing some weight I’ve allowed to add. I’ve also been noticing that despite feeling better with improved nutrition and less bulk around my middle, I’m still dozing off during prayer or even the occasional liturgy. My body tells me to attend to sleep. It might take me some weeks to reinforce a new habit on that front. But maybe I could start up an exercise program instead. Do both at once? Pah! One thing at a time. I can take heart that it’s exactly the way I would do it with my choir. This Fall is a good time to reinforce a better sleep pattern. I’ll still be alive in two months. Focus on fitness can wait for a rested and refreshed body.od

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Amoris Laetitia 179: Adoption

amoris laetitia memePope Francis on adoption:

179. Adoption is a very generous way to become parents. I encourage those who cannot have children to expand their marital love to embrace those who lack a proper family situation. They will never regret having been generous. Adopting a child is an act of love, offering the gift of a family to someone who has none. It is important to insist that legislation help facilitate the adoption process, above all in the case of unwanted children, in order to prevent their abortion or abandonment. Those who accept the challenge of adopting and accepting someone unconditionally and gratuitously become channels of God’s love. For he says, “Even if your mother forgets you, I will not forget you” (Is 49:15).

What I would affirm from the Holy Father’s pen:

  • Adoption is placed squarely in the perspective of the child: “the gift of a family to someone who has none.”
  • In the US, we might wonder about the legislation comment, but it must be acknowledged that Americans adopt children at much higher rates than the rest of the world. Adoption might be expensive. Adoption might be frustrating for choosy couples.
  • The one miss here is not seeing adoption as only an alternative to abortion or abandonment, but also as a response on behalf of older children who languish in foster care.

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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