Friday, November 30, 2007

Off to Chicagoland . . . and Phoenix

I'm off for the weekend. Training 25 parish leaders to facilitate the discernment of others - either one on one or in small groups. It's an interesting group - about half are bi-lingual (English-Spanish). Most are from a single parish - St. Isidore's in Bloomington which is developing its own Called & Gifted teaching teams but I've also got participants flying in from Iowa and Martha's Vineyard.

Gustavo, who is one of our Spanish Called & Gifted teachers is flying in from Galveston to train the group with me and working toward eventually offering the training himself in Spanish which will be very exciting! All the dioceses that have talked to us lately want implementation in both languages so it is critical that we expand our Spanish language capacities.

Anyway, such trainings are always fun - but very demanding so I'd appreciate your prayers. Back Sunday after which I will not leave town for a whole month.

Imagine . . .

Meanwhile Fr. Mike will be offering an Advent mission at Sts. Simon & Jude Cathedral in Phoenix Monday through Wednesday of next week. It's sure to be good so if you are in the Phoenix area, come and join in.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Whatever I Say Three Times is True

More hysteria from the Onion

Automakers Dash Nation's Hope For Flying Cars

Reminds me irresistibly of conversations I've had around St. Blog's lately.

hat tip: Mark Shea

PS - the "Repeal Day" which I had never heard of before is clearly a holiday manufactured by liquor companies like Dewar's for commercial ends - like so many of our current holidays - and it bugs me - alot. But I don't think I can separate the front/end ads from the Onion piece itself. Feel free to hit the stop button early and skip the last 30 seconds.

Things Byzantine

Been looking for that bird's eye view of the development of the Byzantine Catholic church? Well, here it is:

Given by Fr. Mark Malone, pastor of St. George Melkite-Greek Catholic Church in Sacramento. Very interesting and it comes with a chart of Apostolic Churches: Catholic, Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox that is going to give Tom Kreitzberg a run for his money! Here's a taste:

"A second term is the word catholic — what does it mean? You hear the definition all the time — universal. The primary definition is complete. The first person to use the word catholic was Saint Ignatius of Antioch, about the year 100. Tradition says that Ignatius was the little child that Christ held on his knees when He said: “Unless you become like a little you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” We have Ignatius' seven letters that he wrote on his way to his death. He uses the word catholic and makes a definition of the church especially related to the Eucharist, and says that where you have a bishop and his people and the Eucharist the whole church is there catholic — complete. That's going to make an interesting point later on.

What's the opposite of catholic — a trick question — Atheist? No! That's means without God. Heretic? Yes, it comes from the Greek verb heresis— to choose — to take a part and make the part the whole. Arius, for example says that Christ is man. That's true but he also says Christ is only man, that's He is not God also. Therefore, that's a heresy. Another heresy later on will say that Christ is only God.

The term orthodox means correct teaching, or correct worship — straight — the term orthodontics is related — straightening teeth. So straight teaching or straight worship — teaching and worship are related. The opposite? Heterodoxy, meaning another worship or another teaching! The fathers also were not unknown to use the word cacodoxy. You can guess the root of that. Just remember these aspects of these words.

The important thing is to remember that in the early church, East and West, that Christians called themselves Orthodox and Catholic. East and West both used the terms, and even to this day we all say the Creed and it says: “We believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” These terms later begin to take on political connotations. I want you to remember that we're using them in a strict theological sense, right now. It is curious that in the Roman Liturgy the First Eucharistic prayer says: orthodoxibus atque cultoribus (Orthodox worshippers). So, the Roman Catholic Church even used the word orthodox in that sense."

Both priests in residence at the parish are iconographers. One is a bi-ritual (Byzantine - Latin rite) Dominican of the Western Province, Fr. Brendan McAnerney.

Fr. Brendan's ministry is called (Domin-Icon was in residence at Blessed Sacrament when the Institute began 10 years ago and wrote our beautiful icon of St. Catherine of Siena for us. He also wrote this magnificent icon of St. Albert the Great for the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology's new campus.

A limited edition lithograph celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of St. Albert's has been made and a copy sent to every house and ministry in the Province. We got ours this week and it is very striking.

Servant of God Dorothy Day

Someday, November 29 will be the feast/memorial of St. Dorothy Day. She died 37 years ago today. Spero News printed the piece about her life yesterday.

This is what the late Cardinal O'Connor of New York wrote in his letter to the Holy See proposing her canonization:

It has long been my contention that Dorothy Day is a saint - not a "gingerbread" saint or a "holy card" saint, but a modern day devoted daughter of the Church, a daughter who shunned personal aggrandizement and wished that her work, and the work of those who labored at her side on behalf of the poor, might be the hallmark of her life rather than her own self.

To be sure, her life is a model for all in the third millenium, but especially for women who have had or are considering abortions. It is a well-known fact that Dorothy Day procured an abortion before her conversion to the Faith. She regretted it every day of her life. After her conversion from a life akin to that of the pre-converted Augustine of Hippo, she proved a stout defender of human life. The conversion of mind and heart that she exemplified speaks volumes to all women today on two fronts. First, it demonstrates the mercy of God, mercy in that a woman who sinned so gravely could find such unity with God upon conversion. Second, it demonstrates that one may turn from the ultimate act of violence against innocent life in the womb to a position of total holiness and pacifism. In short, I contend that her abortion should not preclude her cause, but intensifies it.

It has also been noted that Dorothy Day often seemed friendly to political groups hostile to the Church, for example, communists, socialists, and anarchists. It is necessary to divide her political stances in two spheres: pre-and post- conversion. After her conversion, she was neither a member of such political groupings nor did she approve of their tactics or any denial of private property. Yet, it must be said, she often held opinions in common with them. What they held in common was a common respect for the poor and a desire for economic equity. In no sense did she approve of any form of atheism, agnosticism, or religious indifference.

Moreover, her complete commitment to pacifism in imitation of Christ often separated her from these political ideologies. She rejected all military force; she rejected aid to force in any way in a most idealistic manner. So much were her "politics" based on an ideology of nonviolence that they may be said to be apolitical. Like so many saints of days gone by, she was an idealist in a non-ideal world. It was her contention that men and women should begin to live on earth the life they would one day lead in heaven, a life of peace and harmony. Much of what she spoke of in terms of social justice anticipated the teachings of Pope John Paul II and lends support to her cause

Cardinal Egan put it this way:

When I was in a high school seminary in the 1950s, I observed, the parish priest who had encouraged me to enter the seminary gave me a copy of "The Long Loneliness" and told me to read it and tell him what I thought of it. I do not recall exactly what I told him, but I know what was in my head: "This is a saint if ever there was one."

Check out the Dorothy Day Guild. Its purpose is to spread the word of her life, work, and sanctity; to identify the growing devotion for Dorothy Day by Catholics and non-Catholics; and to document her ability to intercede for people in need of God’s healing mercy and assistance.

Servant of God, Dorothy Day, pray for us.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Saint or "God's Police"?

Our lay Co-Director in Australia, Clara Geoghegan, is a huge fan of Carolyn Chisholm, the amazing Victorian champion of emmigrants and has written this article about Carolyn in this week's Kairos Catholic Journal:

"The Caroline Chisholm story is relatively well known in Australia, but it is a secularised interpretation. Her religious motivation – which she publicly acknowledged – has been omitted or caricatured, as in Anne Summer’s description of women in colonial Australia as being considered either ‘damned whores’ or ‘God’s police’ (the latter term specifically applied to Caroline Chisholm). Caroline never used derogatory language to describe the women she assisted nor was she condescending towards them; she always treated them with respect and understanding. She clearly understood the human condition and the doctrine of redemption.

The Good Samaritan

Caroline recounts the story of Flora, a young woman whom she had previously warned about a relationship with a man whom Caroline knew to be married. One evening some months later Caroline again encountered Flora: “…the ruddy rose of the highlands was changed for the tinge of rum; she had been drinking but well knew what she was about. ‘Tell me where you are going?’ ‘To hell!’ was her answer. I continued to walk by her side; she became insolent; but I was determined not to leave her. She made for Lavender’s Ferry; and said, ‘My mistress lives over there.’ I said ‘I will go to the other side with you, as I want to say a few words with you.’ She was unwilling; but I persisted; we crossed over; I felt certain from her manner that she meditated suicide …”

Caroline’s suspicions were confirmed. Flora was pregnant and intended to drown herself. She remained with Flora until she regained her composure and promised not to attempt self-destruction. Caroline Chisholm, reassured of Flora’s psychological state, made immediate arrangements to find her suitable accommodation.


Herminie Chavanne, a young Swiss woman, summed up her impressions of Caroline Chisholm after meeting her with the following words: “Kindness shone from her face, with never a hint of weariness and it was obvious that God had granted her all the courage and energy she needed for this living work for her ‘neighbour’ (this simple and profound word says so much that I need say nothing more).”

It's a cliche but Caroline was ahead of her time. "She did not limit her concern to the individuals and families she assisted but lobbied government and society to create structures which respected the dignity of the human person. Her concerns with social justice issues such as family wages, private ownership of family farms and freedom to migrate were yet to be articulated by the Catholic Church. Her main work unfolded in the 1840s and 1850s. The encyclical Rerum Novarum, which marks the beginning of the Church’s social justice teaching for the Modern Age, was written by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, 14 years after Caroline’s death. Many of the principles which Caroline fought for during her life are echoed in its postulates.

The Mission of the Laity

Similarly, Caroline Chisholm’s work echoes in the teachings of the Church on the laity as described by the Second Vatican Council. Vatican II recognised the laity’s “special and indispensable role in the mission of the Church” and, noting the new challenges facing the Church, called forward an “infinitely broader and more intense” apostolate. The document on the laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem, listed areas of lay activity including: the renewal of the temporal order, charitable works and social aid and the family – all areas which had concerned Caroline Chisholm more than an century earlier. "

For more on Caroline's remarkable life, go here.

Catholics & Voting in Australia

Australian have just elected a new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. Rudd was raised a Catholic and is now a practicing Anglican who quotes Catholic social teaching, Pope Benedict and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He also recently voted to make RU 486 available.

And there you have the dilemma that Australian Catholics face when voting. There is no strong, well-developed pro-life movement in Australia and abortion is a deciding factor only for a tiny minority on voters. Only one small political party called Family First (founded in 2002)is pro-life. FF is made up mostly of conservative Christians, and has one sitting MP. All citizens of voting age are legally required to vote in Australia, so abstaining is not an alternative.

As an Australian friend of mine wrote me today:

"I am also cynical in so far as the 'conservative' side of politics often has the pro-life rhetoric in practice it makes no difference. We have just come out of a situation where the Minister for Health - Tony Abbott - was a practicing Catholic but it made no difference to policy. The introduction of RU486 was taken out of his hands by the introduction of a Private Members Bill, embryonic stem cell research was approved, and so on. The only positive was that he managed to secure funding for pregnancy counseling services for the Catholic Centacare agency."

Take a look at this very colorful map of the positions of the six major parties on life issues. (prepared by the Marriage & Family Life Office of the Archdiocese of Sydney)and you'll get the idea.

It is hard for Australian Catholics to grasp the intensity of the debate about life issues in this country.

Oh, Christmas Moose . . .

This picture comes from my sister, who is enjoying her first Christmastide in Anchorage where moose hang out in the city in large numbers.

We had a moose that moved into downtown Colorado Springs one winter and hung out in the park. One of the local radio stations ran a contest to name him and the winner was:

Moose Springstein . . .

Moose humor

All You Can Say Is "Wow" - and "Praise God"

This is not meant to be triumphalist in any way but it is one of those stories to which all you can say is "wow" and "praise God". Via Zenit and sent to me by Bobby Vidal, one of our collaborators in LA.

A Romanian Orthodox woman is healed of terminal lung cancer by spending two weeks sitting in front of a statue of Padre Pio in Rome and talking to him.

Mariano (her artist son in Rome) kept his mother with himself in Rome so as to be near the doctor for checkups. He was working on a mosaic in a church and, as his mother does not speak Italian, he kept her close by. While he was working, his mother walked through the church, contemplating the paintings and statues.

In one corner, there was a large statue of Padre Pio. Lucrecia liked the statue and asked Mariano who it depicted. Mariano related briefly the story of the saint. In the coming days, he saw his mother spending all her time seated before the image, with which she chatted as if it were alive.

Two weeks later, Mariano took his mother to the hospital for her checkup. The doctor said the tumor had disappeared.

Lucrecia had asked Padre Pio to help her, even though she was Orthodox, and, she said, the saint had granted her request.

That line made me smile. I can't imagine that this women's Orthodoxy put Padre Pio off one whit.

Naturally her other son, the Orthodox priest, was thrilled and told his parishioners and a great devotion to St. Pio grew up in the parish. The sick started to receive favors from Padre Pio and "little by little, we decided to become Catholics, in order to be closer to Padre.”

It was a long process to move from Orthodox to Greek Catholic but now they are building a church in St. Pio's honor and the Metropolitan Archbishop of Romania came to be present at the laying of the cornerstone and meet the woman who had been healed by Padre Pio!

Somehow I'm not surprised. When I was speaking at Sacred Heart Seminary last month, they began class by announcing that one of the class members had been healed (apparently they had prayed for him with a relic of Padre Pio the week before!)

Anyone else have close encounters with St. Pio that you'd like to share?

Thanksgiving in Gaza

John Harry Gunkel, a retired American doctor is living in Jerusalem as a medical volunteer and shares his experiences on his blog: Mission to Jerusalem.

For those of us who have spent time in the area, it can't help but bring back memories.
But John's description of his visit to Gaza on the day before Thanksgiving is gripping and visceral:

Then yesterday, I visited Gaza. Only one day there and it's hard to know how to say it all. This blog will unpack the experiences in coming posts. But what should I say to you now? Should I tell you about the pervasive destruction and damage to virtually every structure? About the visible despair in people? About the children with observable evidence of malnutrition? About the current restrictions that allow no fruit but bananas to enter the area? About the previous restriction that allowed no milk in for several weeks? About the proscription of 80 medicines that are not allowed to enter the area? About the rubbish everywhere, some of it burning, some of it partially burned? About the resulting smell? About the family we visited who live in a cemetery? Live there. About the patients who lie in hospital and die because the necessary medication or surgery is not available and there is no possibility of leaving to go where they can get it? None. About the "security" measures on entering and leaving that may or may not provide security but that cannot fail to dehumanize, anger, and frustrate? About the man who said, "Dreams are forbidden in Gaza"? About the many people who told me that living in Gaza is living in prison?

What is there to say about a place of such suffering and uncertainty? Where is the promise in Gaza?

In a situation so complicated and so overlaid with conflict upon conflict, it's hard to know where to look for promise. But as I spent the day listening and learning, it seemed to me that the promise begins in the people there who still - somehow, incomprehensibly - laugh easily and share their tea, their stories, and their hospitality. Who ask for little except fairness and some compassion. Who want to be allowed to work, take care of themselves and their families, and have food to eat.

Advent Reflections online

Mary Sharon Moore, one of our Called & Gifted teachers, sent this to me, and I'd like to share it with all of you.

"In preparation for Advent, you may wish to listen in on a 50-minute live interview covering aspects of my vocations ministry, scheduled for Thursday morning, November 29th, at 8:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, on KBVM-FM—88.3 on your FM dial if you’re in the Portland area, or online at

“In Person” with host Dina Marie Hale will introduce my nine-part series of three-minute reflections in the Advent-Christmas season titled “Journey With the Word.” This series looks at the scriptures of the season through the lens of vocation. The series may offer you morsels of inspiration for your own vocational journey and for those whose lives you touch."

I hope you enjoy these reflections.

Christianity is Traveling the Silk Road - Again

Christianity has historically reached China through the ancient "Silk Road" the 2,000 mile long silk trading route through central Asia. Nestorian missionaries reached central Asia in the 8th century and Catholic friars in the 13th century. The Keirats, a Mongol tribe, numbered 200,000 believers in AD 1007 before they were decimated bwhile there were about 30,000 Mongol Catholics recorded in China by 1368. Kublai Kahn asked Marco Polo for 100 missionaries but only two friars ever set out.

Over and over again, the fledging Christian communities were always wiped out by new invasions and the decisions of their leaders to embrace another faith.

In the 20th century, Christianity is establishing a foothold in Mongolia again. As John Allen writes today "The church arrived in Mongolia only in 1992, and to date claims just 415 Catholics. They’re served by 65 foreign missionaries, including 20 priests and one bishop. The Mongolian church, described by its bishop as a “baby church,” is just now on the cusp of producing its very first seminarian.

Since Allen is writing for a English speaking Catholic audience, I supposed it is inevitable that he looks at this development through the eyes of our western debates: Catholic identity and liturgy. Allen heard Mongolia's Bishop, Wenceslao Selga Padilla, 58, a Filipino who has been in charge of the mission in Mongolia since its birth, speak in Rome Tuesday night.

Padilla said that when he conducts interviews with Mongolian converts to understand what attracted them and made them decide to join the church, most will say they first came into contact with Catholicism through one of its social programs – a school, soup kitchen, or relief center. What “hooked” them, however, was the liturgy.

“They say it’s the singing, the liturgy,” Padilla told an audience at the Oratory of St. Francis Xavier del Caravita in Rome. “They say it’s more worthwhile than what they experience in the Buddhist temple. They’re active in the prayers and in the singing, It’s not just the monks doing all the singing.”

Padilla said that even though the four parishes in Mongolia (and four parochial sub-stations) use largely Western liturgical music, it’s translated into the vernacular, and most of the liturgy now is also said using the Mongol language. That, too, he said, is a major point of entry for new converts, most of whom are young and from the middle class or below.

“We cater mostly to the young and to the very poor,” Padilla said.

I don't mean to be dismissive of Allen, whose reporting I admire, but to anyone with a background in missions, this is so not a surprise. Of course, peoples with no Christian background or history respond very differently than we do to different aspects of the faith.

In global terms, the debates that dominate St. Blog's are extremely parochial. They rise up out of European history, European cultural issues and questions - of the trauma of the Reformation and a century of religious wars(at a time when 90% of Christians in the world were European), the enlightenment and revolution, and of Vatican II.

The upheavals of Vatican II that long established Christian peoples (which would include centuries old communities like China) experienced (and not all - for instance, Poland has had a vernacular liturgy since the 1940's) don't resonant at all in other cultures where Catholicism is new. When we asked members of our Indonesian teaching team, what their memories of the changes after Vatican II were, they just looked at us. Many were converts - including from Islam - and most had no memories of the Church before Vatican II. For a variety of reasons, it was a non-issue.

As Allen noted:

"Even the fact of serving coffee, tea and cookies after Mass, Padilla said, is a departure from the normal Mongolian religious experience, and it’s an important point of initial contact for many Mongolians who attend Catholic liturgies or events for the first time."

Recently, Padilla was able to open a cathedral for the fledging Catholic community in Ulaanbaatar, the capital. Called Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, it’s built in the shape of a “ger,” which is a traditional Mongolian residence. It’s the first time such a structure has been put up in the country for religious purposes, Padilla said. The stained glass windows inside the cathedral were crafted by a brother from the ecumenical community of Taizé.

The good Bishop is very much aware of the need to deepen his fledging Catholics' new faith. In brief comments after his presentation, Padilla conceded that the attractiveness of the music and other forms of active participation in the liturgy may be what brings people in the church’s door, but it won’t suffice over the long term.

“We have to give them a deeper catechism and formation,” he said. For example, Padilla said, it’s important to press Mongolians towards a deeper understanding and appreciation of the personal nature of the Christian God, as opposed to the rather impersonal and abstract deity of Buddhist spirituality.

Check out this Asia News article about a new Catholic parish outside Ulaanbaatar (also known as Ulan Bator) established by the Salesians. In January of 2007, they had 22 members and 23 catechumens who would be received at Easter.

Of course, the evangelicals are there in force. (The World Christian Encyclopedia estimates a total of 39,000 Christians in Mongolia, 13,500 Independents, 16,500 Protestants, 800 Orthodox, and 500 Catholics, and 7,300 "marginals" - that is Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.)

If you are interested in the complex and fascinating history of Catholicism (non-Catholic Christianity in China is hardly dealt with) in China, Ignatius Press has published an excellent translation of Jean-Pierre Charbonnier's Christians in China. I picked it up at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception bookstore and it has made for a great and inspiring read.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Be Not Afraid

Mark Shea has this great piece in today's National Catholic Register on purity and the apostolic calling of the laity to the world.

"Beyond this, though, there is another dimension to holiness that has to be learned and many Catholics never do.

It is the realization that we do indeed live under the New Covenant and that our primary mission as Catholics is to make the world holy, not to keep the world from defiling us. We have to learn that the Church ultimately has the upper hand against sin because we have the power of Christ.

Some Catholics really don’t get this. To illustrate, let me quote a Catholic who was participating in a recent online discussion concerning whether Harry Potter books were proper for a Catholic to read: “One drop of anything not authentically Catholic poisons the whole glass.”

Now, this is not a column about Harry Potter. So let’s restrain the urge to go there. This is a column about purity. And the fact is, it is false to say that “One drop of anything not authentically Catholic poisons the whole glass.”

Neither Christmas trees nor Maypoles nor Easter eggs nor iconography nor statuary nor prayer beads nor wedding rings were Catholic in the beginning. They were pagan (meaning “human”) things. The Church looked at them and said, “All authentically human things can be Catholic things too!”

And this has ever been the Church’s approach. Everything from Stagecoach to 2001: A Space Odyssey is championed by the Vatican as good films without the slightest sense that, because they are the products of decidedly non-saintly Catholics or unbelievers, they are therefore necessarily “poison.”

The basic principle we have from the New Testament is that the power of the Spirit can overcome the powers of sin, hell and death. It is what has ordered the Church’s missionary work since the beginning. That is the meaning of the strange Dominical saying preserved at the end of the Gospel of Mark:

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17-18).

This language is particularly apt, particularly given the language we just saw above. The funny thing about the Gospel is how often, in the history of the Church, the Church has fulfilled Jesus’ promise, “If they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them” (Mark 16:18).

The Church has drunk from all sorts of pagan wells, ranging from Plato and Aristotle to the various ways in which Norse, German, Druidic, Roman, Indian and other forms of pagan culture have been baptized and turned to the service of Christ."


What Cats Are Really Saying

Too much.

Watch this short video first.

then go here for the "translation"

Hat tip: Fr. Gregory at Koinonia

Doctrine Lives Forward

Fr. Al Kimmel made an intriguing comment in a discussion on the Anatasis Dialog Blog here

"What the Catholic Church can do, though, is to reinterpret her dogmatic definitions in light of a greater whole, as Balthasar notes. This is precisely what happens in the history of dogma. An ecumenical council may speak a definitive word, yet not a final word. Doctrine lives forward. Ephesus needed to be followed by Chalcedon, lest it be misunderstood; and Chalcedon needed to be followed by the second and third councils of Constantinople."

and then went on to quote a most interesting statement from then Cardinal Ratzinger:

"Yet ... there is a "yet" and therein lies the ecumenical hope. If there were no "yet," Cardinal Ratzinger could not have tendered his startling 1982 proposal:

"Rome must not require more from the East with respect to the doctrine of primacy than had been formulated and was lived in the first millennium. … Reunion could take place in this context if, on the one hand, the East would cease to oppose as heretical the developments that took place in the West in the second millennium and would accept the Catholic Church as legitimate and orthodox in the form she had acquired in the course of that development, while, on the other hand, the West would recognize the Church of the East as orthodox and legitimate in the form she has always had."

How I wish I could ask Pope Benedict to elaborate upon this passage."


Monday, November 26, 2007

Spiritual Ecumenism: The Anatasis Dialogue

One new initiative that I've been distantly connected with - well, in e-mail conversation with a couple of the prime movers although I've never met them - is the intriguing Anatasis Dialogue. Be sure and visit their blog where a highly literate discussion is going on right now.

The Anatasis Dialogue is sponsored by Holy Resurrection Orthodox Monastery in "Newberry Springs, CA and supported by Cardinal George. I met Hieromonk Maximus briefly while he was studying at Patriarch Anthenagorus Orthodox Institute at the Graduate School of Philosophy in Berkley and living at St. Albert's, the home of the Western Dominican Province.

The goal is "spiritual ecumenism" - a phrase used many times in Church teaching.

"Change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the heart and as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and merits the name "spiritual ecumenism."

Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio), n. 8.

I made my own small contribution to spiritual ecumenism while conversing with the Orthodox priest who attended Making Disciples in Maryland. While standing in line for dinner, I commented that it would be hard to overestimate my total cluelessness regarding things Orthodox. His gracious reply: "That's part of your charm."

Ignorance and charm. Hmmmm. Well, whatever I can contribute to the cause . . .

Disaboom: The Internet Resource for People with Disabilities

Absolutely fabulous.

Here is one way that the internet can really change lives for the better.

Check out - the one stop resource for people with disabilities and their families and friends. Medical resources, news, a job bank, a way to meet and connect with others going through the same thing. It is early days yet and some of the material isn't available yet but it looks like it could be simply dynamite - and you could be part of making it happen.

Workshop on Sacred Music in Colorado Springs


Friday January 18 - Saturday January 19

There is going to be a fun, educational, 2-day workshop on singing and learning about Sacred Music that will leave you inspired and spiritually uplifted: January 18 -19, 2008 at St. Mary’s Cathedral at the foot of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs.

This Practicum on Gregorian Chant and Choral Polyphony provides a valuable introduction, as well as continued education and information, for all who are active and interested in the sacred music of the Catholic Church.

Hosted by the Diocese of Colorado Springs and under the direction of Dr. Horst Buchholz and Scott Turkington, the workshop will feature:

Singing sessions in sacred choral music and polyphony by Palestrina, Victoria, Byrd, and others

* Instruction in singing chant and reading Gregorian notation
* Singing sessions on the essential Latin chants every Catholic should know
* Dinner on Friday night and lunch on Saturday
* Sheet music as part of registration
* Lectures dealing with pertinent topics related to sacred music in the liturgy
* Fellowship with other musicians in the region
* SPECIAL GIFTS: 2 books (Introduction to Gregorian Chant & Basic Chant Collection for practical use)

The workshop culminates with a closing mass on Saturday at 4:00 pm at St. Mary’s Cathedral, the Most Rev. Michael Sheridan presiding.

To sign up, go here

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu of Unity

I came across the name of Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu of Unity just now while reading Ut Unum Sint, 27.

She was beatified some years before I was Catholic and paying attention to things like that so perhaps that is why I have never heard of her but her story is interesting. (Obviously this is a translation from the original Italian)

"Witnesses from the period of her childhood and adolescence speak of a character obstinate, critical, protesting, rebellious, but with a strong sense of duty, of loyalty, of obedience: "She obeyed grumblingly, but she was docile". "She would say no but she would go at once", is said of her.

What everyone noticed was the change that came about in her at eighteen: little by little she became gentle, her outbursts of temper disappeared; she acquired a pensive and austere profile, sweet and reserved; the spirit of prayer and of charity grew in her, a new ecclesial and apostolic sensibility appeared; she enrolled in `Azione Cattolica', a catholic Youth Movement.

At twenty one she chose to consecrate herself to God and, following the guidance of her spiritual father, entered the (Trappistine) monastery of Grottaferrata, an economically and culturally poor community, governed at that time by Mother Pia Gullini."


Her abbess, M.M.Pia Gullini, had a great ecumenical awareness and desire. After taking it up in her own life, she had communicated it to the community too.

"When Mother M.Pia, animated by Fr. Couturier, explained to the community the request for prayer and offering for the great cause of Christian Unity, Sr. Maria Gabriella felt immediately involved and compelled to offer her young life. "I feel the Lord is calling me" - she confided to her abbess - "I feel urged, even when I don't want to think about it"

Tuberculosis showed itself in the body of the young sister, who up to now had been extremely healthy, from the very day of her offering, sweeping her along to her death in fifteen months of suffering. (Sr. Maria Gabriella died in 1939)

Her offering, even before its consummation, was received by the Anglican brethren and found a profound response in the hearts of believers of other confessions. The influx of vocations, who arrived in great numbers during the following years, is the most concrete gift of Sister Gabriella to her community.

Her body, found intact on the occasion of the recognition in 1957, now rests in a chapel adjoining the monastery of Vitorchiano, whence the community of Grottaferrata transferred.

She was beatified by John Paul II on 25 January 1983, forty-four years after her death, in the basilica of St.Paul outside the Walls, on the feast of the Conversion of St.Paul, the last day of the week of prayer for Christian Unity.

A bit of explanation from the same site:

"Mother M.Pia Gullini (1892-1959)was abbess of Grottaferrata from 1931 to 1940 and from 1946 to 1951. She governed the community with a discerning intelligence and nurtured in it an ever wider and deeper vision of spiritual life, placing the Eucharist as its center. She lived the passion for the Unity of the Church with a prophetic intensity and thus became the cause for the community's adherence to the ecumenical ideal. She directed and sustained the sacrifice of Sr. Maria Gabriella."

Another note:

In 1935 Abbé Paul Couturier, a Catholic priest in France, advocated a “Universal Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” during which Christians would pray together ‘for the unity Christ wills by the means He wills’. Mother M. Pia heard about it and proposed prayer for the untertaking to her community. Sr. Maria Gabriella made her offering in 1938 and died in 1939.

Repentence: That We Might Be One

There is a sort of lyrical passion that comes through when you read John Paul II's encyclical on ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint. It has opened my eyes to an aspect of the Church's teaching and life that I had always skipped over before.

Partly for lack of time and partly because of a combination of unconscious factors: lingering suspicion from my evangelical days mixed with 20 years of exposure to an embattled Catholic community that is equally likely to regard ecumenism as a cover for theological sloppiness and dissent. We wanted sharp, clear doctrine and yield-no-ground apologetics: distinction, not dialog.

I knew enough to know that I should look into it - but it was never urgent enough until now. And you know what? I've discovered a goodly amount of sharp, clear Church teaching about ecumenism that means that I have some repenting to do and some actions to take.

Which I know may strike some of you as strange since I'm from a Protestant background, am fairly ecumenical by St. Blog's standards, and have been attacked by traditionalists a number of times for being insufficiently Catholic.

But the Holy Spirit, through the Church, is asking us for so much more. This is not about jettisoning or softening the truths of the faith (as all the major documents on ecumenism make abundantly clear).

It is about jettisoning our knee-jerk suspicion, which for most conservative US Catholics is focused upon Protestantism rather than Orthodoxy. We need to shed our fear, our tendency to dismiss non-Catholic, non-liturgical prayer as automatically shallow and non-Catholic non-liturgical worship as meaningless entertainment,to make (and listen to without protest to)a steady stream of snide comments about Protestants of any variety, Anglicans, main-line, evangelicals, Pentecostals, to exalt when they are weak in an area of our strength and to scorn the idea that we could learn anything from them. Even if you are a refugee from some form of terribly dysfunctional Protestantism who is profoundly relieved and grateful to be Catholic, the Church is calling us to something else, to something more.

Consider this passage from Ut Unum Sint, 15:

"Each one therefore ought to be more radically converted to the Gospel and, without ever losing sight of God's plan, change his or her way of looking at things. Thanks to ecumenism, our contemplation of "the mighty works of God" (mirabilia Dei) has been enriched by new horizons, for which the Triune God calls us to give thanks: the knowledge that the Spirit is at work in other Christian Communities, the discovery of examples of holiness, the experience of the immense riches present in the communion of saints, and contact with unexpected dimensions of Christian commitment.

In a corresponding way, there is an increased sense of the need for repentance: an awareness of certain exclusions which seriously harm fraternal charity, of certain refusals to forgive, of a certain pride, of an unevangelical insistence on condemning the "other side," of a disdain born of an unhealthy presumption. Thus, the entire life of Christians is marked by a concern for ecumenism; and they are called to let themselves be shaped, as it were, by that concern."

I have hardly ever given ecumenism a second thought, much less sought to have my entire Christian life shaped by it. How about you?

Ut Unum Sint, 2:

No one is unaware of the challenge which all this poses to believers. They cannot fail to meet this challenge. Indeed, how could they refuse to do everything possible, with God's help, to break down the walls of division and distrust, to overcome obstacles and prejudices which thwart the proclamation of the Gospel of salvation in the Cross of Jesus, the one Redeemer of man, of every individual?

Conclave Discussion of Ecumenism

From Catholic News Service regarding the conclave discussion of ecumenism:

"While the discussion about ecumenism was planned for only the morning session, the Vatican said so many cardinals asked to comment on the topic that the discussion extended into the evening session.

The Vatican said that "collaboration among Christians of different confessions for the defense of the family in society and in the juridical order," the importance of prayers for Christian unity and the central role of friendships for promoting ecumenism were among the points raised.

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles told CNS: "A big part of any dialogue is the personal relationship. We are not going to bring about Christian unity through theology, but through our personal relationships with Jesus Christ and with each other. That is what we will build unity on."


"Still, the cardinal (Kasper) said, looking at all the ecumenical dialogues under way there is a sense of "fragmentation and centrifugal forces at work" with progress coming in some areas and differences deepening in others.

"While on one hand we work to overcome old controversies, on the other hand there emerge new differences in the field of ethics," particularly regarding human life, the family and homosexuality, Cardinal Kasper said.

While differences on moral questions are pushing Catholics and some Anglican and mainline Protestant communities further apart, they also are providing new terrain for improved relations with some evangelical and Pentecostal communities, he said.

Taken together, the charismatic and Pentecostal groups have an estimated 400 million members around the world and, among Christian communities, are second in size only to the Catholic community, Cardinal Kasper said.

Some of the communities are open to dialogue with the Catholic Church, he said, while others are hostile to Catholicism and aggressive in trying to win Catholic members.

The Pentecostals, he said, are responding to a desire among modern men and women for a strong spiritual experience.

Rather than talk about what is wrong with the Pentecostals, "it is necessary to make a pastoral examination of conscience and ask ourselves in a self-critical way why so many Christians are leaving our church," Cardinal Kasper said."

You Are Here to Kneel Where Prayer Has Been Valid

Small Pilgrimage Places is a growing network of small and little known places of pilgrimage in the UK where one or two people won't get lost in the crowd. Many of them are wonderful centuries old chapels or cells that offer short term hospitality - a few hours, a day, 24 hours for prayer, meditation, or conversation.

Among them are the oldest Franciscan building in the UK and the church of Little Gidding - the site of Nicholas Ferrar's Anglican religious community that inspired the fourth quartet of Elliott's famous poem, Four Quartets:

"You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid"

You can stay at the Nicholas Ferrar House nearby. Be sure and visit the Little Gidding church website as well for lots of pictures and information about the famous quasi-monastic lay community that Ferrar founded which harbored (briefly) a refugee King Charles I. The Church still has no electricity and you can attend quarterly evensong by candlelight there in December.

December 4th is the Anglican feast of Nicholas Ferrar.

"Quick now, here, now, always -
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one."

Primate of Canada Calls for Repentence

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec and primate of the Catholic Church in Canada, made front page news across Canada on Nov. 21 with the publication of an open letter asking forgiveness for the sins of past church leaders. Cardinal Ouellet is calling for public repentence during Lent, 2008 in preparation for the Eucharistic Congress to be held in Quebec in June.

Below is an English translation of part of his letter:

"Inspired by the gesture of John Paul II in March of 2000, of which I have born witness, I am inviting Catholics to perform an act of repentance and reconciliation. Quebec society drags a wounded history whose bad memories block access to the sources of its soul and religious identity. The time has come to take stock and make a new start. Errors were committed which have tarnished the image of the church and for which we must humbly ask for forgiveness. I am inviting pastors and the faithful to help me seek the manner with which to recognize our mistakes and deficiencies, so as to help our society reconcile with its Christian past.

Inspired by the gesture of John Paul II in March of 2000, of which I have born witness, I am inviting Catholics to perform an act of repentance and reconciliation. Quebec society drags a wounded history whose bad memories block access to the sources of its soul and religious identity. The time has come to take stock and make a new start. Errors were committed which have tarnished the image of the church and for which we must humbly ask for forgiveness. I am inviting pastors and the faithful to help me seek the manner with which to recognize our mistakes and deficiencies, so as to help our society reconcile with its Christian past.

As Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada, I recognize that the narrow attitudes of certain Catholics, prior to 1960, favoured anti-Semitism, racism, indifference toward First Nations and discrimination against women and homosexuals. The behaviour of Catholics and certain episcopal authorities with regards to the right to vote, access to work and promotion of women, hasn’t always been up to par with society’s needs or conformed to the social doctrine of the church.

I also recognize that abuses of power and cover-ups have, for many, tarnished the image of the clergy and its moral authority: mothers have been rebuffed by priests without concern for their family obligations; youngsters were subject to sexual aggression by priests and religious figures, causing great injury and traumatism which have broken their lives! These scandals have shaken popular confidence toward religious authorities and we understand this! orry for all this sin!

The period of Lent in 2008, in preparation for the international eucharistic congress in Quebec City, will give us the opportunity to make a public display of repentance, basing ourselves on God’s gift to the world of life through the Eucharist. Other initiatives will follow to facilitate dialogue and heal memory.
May this search for peace and reconciliation, made in all sincerity, help Quebec more serenely remember its christian and missionary identity, which has given it an enviable place on the international scene.

For more on this story, read "What Happened to Christian Canada?"

The Key to Interpreting Vatican II

I've spent the past two days doing new research on the Church's teaching regarding ecumenism that is not related directly to some impeding deadline - a rare treat. And going for a brisk long walk in a local park that I had not discovered before but is remarkably lush for our "alpine desert" - full of large ponds, streams and rivulets, marshes and waterfalls.

You might think that someone from my background would naturally be drawn to it but I've spent the last 20 years attempting to grasp the Catholic faith in itself - not primarily in its relationship with other Christians. And I suppose I have always associated ecumenism with highly technical and esoteric discussions between main line Protestant and Catholic theologians, discussions that seemed oblivious to the fact that the most vibrant and largest Christian movements of the 20th century weren't part of the discussion at all.

I knew that I needed to get around to the Church's teaching on ecumenism but the struggle was always to find a block of time that allows me to do the research and carefully think through what the Church is proposing. (When I last tackled something like this, I spent ten 12 hour days searching out, reading, and compiling all magisterial teaching about evangelization.) But a combination of things: evangelical and pastoral grass-roots ecumenical opportunities opening (with the Orthodox to my surprise!) and encountering a number of traditionalist Catholics who are throwing out baby and bathwater (and large parts of conciliar and papal teaching since 1962)has made it seem more urgent.

What has been especially hard is summing up what the Church teaches on the topic in way that is both faithful and clear enough for a blog.

I'd like to begin here: with something noted by Cardinal Avery Dulles in an article he wrote for America on Vatican II: the Myth and the Reality.

"To overcome polarization and bring about greater consensus, Pope John Paul II convened an extraordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 1985, the 20th anniversary of the close of the council.

This synod in its final report came up with six agreed principles for sound interpretation, which may be paraphrased as follows:

1. Each passage and document of the council must be interpreted in the context of all the others, so that the integral teaching of the council may be rightly grasped.

2. The four constitutions of the council (those on liturgy, church, revelation and church in the modern world) are the hermeneutical key to the other documents—namely, the council’s nine decrees and three declarations.

3. The pastoral import of the documents ought not to be separated from, or set in opposition to, their doctrinal content.

4. No opposition may be made between the spirit and the letter of Vatican II.

5. The council must be interpreted in continuity with the great tradition of the church, including earlier councils.

6. Vatican II should be accepted as illuminating the problems of our own day."

(Sherry's note: Dei Verbum (on revelation) and Lumen Gentium (on the church) are Dogmatic Constitutions and the consensus seems to be that they are the most solemn and important of these four constitutions that are the "key" to understanding the Council. Sacrosanctum Concilium (on the liturgy) is simply called a "Constitution" and Gaudium et Spes is, famously, a "Pastoral Constitution".

Some conservative Catholics have tended to regard Gaudium et Spes with great distrust and to assert that because it is called "pastoral" it wasn't as authoritative as the "dogmatic" constitutions. But it seems quite clear now that the decision to call it a "Constitution" is an indicator that G & S is also key to a accurate interpretation of the Council. The four documents have been set apart - intentionally - to provide a hermeneutic in light of which all the other V2 decrees and declarations are to be read and understood.

And if someone out there can help me grasp the difference between a decree and a declaration, I'd be most grateful. I can't seem to find anything that explains the distinction being made.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Avery Dulles and the Perfect Cookie

After spending 10 - 11 hours today reading everything the Church has ever published on ecumenism, I just gotta say two things:

1) What Avery Dulles wrote below about ecumenism is lifted, almost verbatim, from the Decree on Ecumenism from the Second Vatican Council and tons of magisterial teaching since and there's really nothing "out there" or "cutting edge" about it. And I'm too tired to say more on the subject.

2) You need to look at pictures of really decadent, perfect hand-made chocolates and cookies and dream of what you could do this Advent.

Visit this blog, KUIDAORE, and be dazzled and inspired. I feel like Yenta, (from the old Barbra Streisand movie) wondering how the other woman makes her cookies all the same size? Can it be possibly that a mere mortal can produce such gorgeous stuff by hand?

Hat tip: Anna Ceznik via Fr. Mike

Any other Adventian/Christmassy foodie sites that you recommend?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Avery Dulles on Ecumenism

I am using my holiday morning to play with my new Mac, sitting in my dining room table looking out on our snowy garden with the Thanksgiving sun pouring in over me. I've added my new Windows for Mac which gives me my accustomed working software and we finally go my e-mail up and running. I thought that my first serious attempt at anything would be a blog post. hours later - alas the day got away from me and I still haven't finished the post. So here goes.

Cardinal Avery Dulles' new essay , Saving Ecumenism From Itself in the December First Things is a fascinating and challenging look at the history and possible development of ecumenism.

It is a long work and should be read in its entirety but I wanted to start by quoting the four main insights regarding the Church's relationship with other Christians that Dulles says emerged from the Second Vatican Council.

1) "First of all, the scandal of Christian division posed difficulties for the Catholic Church’s own missionary work. It was a stumbling block that impeded what the council called “the most holy cause of proclaiming the gospel to every creature.”

2) "In the second place, the Catholic Church recognized that the divisions among Christians impoverished her catholicity. She lacked the natural and cultural endowments that other Christians could have contributed if they were united with her. Catholicity required that all the riches of the nations should be gathered into the one Church and harvested for the glory of God."

3) "the fullness of Christianity in Catholicism did not imply that all other churches were devoid of truth and grace. . . The council taught, in fact, that non-Catholic churches and communions were “by no means deprived of significance and importance for the mystery of salvation” because the Holy Spirit could use them as instruments of grace. Vatican II, therefore, represents a sharp turn away from the purely negative evaluation of non-Catholic Christianity that was characteristic of the previous three centuries."

4) the Catholic Church, insofar as she was made up of human members and administered by them, was always in need of purification and reform. Through ecumenical contacts, other Christian communities could help her to correct what was amiss, to supply what was lacking, and to update what was obsolete

Dulles points out that "Vatican II taught that every valid baptism incorporates the recipient into the crucified and glorified Christ, and that all baptized Christians were to some extent in communion with the Catholic Church. Their status, therefore, was quite different from that of non-Christians, although these, too, could be related by desire or orientation to the People of God.

Relying on the new ecclesiology of communion, Catholic ecumenists now perceived their task as a movement from lesser to greater degrees of communion. All who believed in Christ and were baptized in his name already possessed a certain imperfect communion, which could be recognized, celebrated, and deepened. The ecumenical movement aspired to the full restoration of the impaired communion among separated churches and communities. Paul VI felt authorized to declare that the communion between the Catholic and Orthodox churches was “almost ­complete.'"

(Sherry's note: I don’t think anyone today would agree that is the case today)

More tomorrow.

Thanksgiving Morning in Colorado Springs

No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious! Glorious!

Charles Dickens, The Christmas Carol

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Joy of Blogging

This just about sums it up.

hat tip: Vox Nova

A Fruitcake You Will Not Toss - Except into Your Watering Mouth

The whole point of the build-up below is to give you this fabulous recipe. I've never been a big fruitcake fan but this makes a cake that almost no one can resist.

I received the recipe via Fr. Mike who got it from his friend, Judy in Salt Lake City. I have six of these loaves, marinating in brandy, sitting in a cold, protected spot in my garage as we speak. And none of them will be wasted on the Manitou Springs fruitcake toss! Remember: don't change the recipe!

1 box (15 oz.) raisins,
1- 16oz. pkg. pitted prunes,
1-8oz. pkg. dried apricots,
1-8oz. box chopped dates,
1-16 oz. carton glace fruit mix,
1-16oz. carton candied cherries,
1 cup brandy,
1 1/2 cups butter,
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed,
6 eggs,
3 cups flour,
1 tablespoon cinnamon,
2 teaspoons salt,
1 teas.nutmeg,
1 teas. allspice
2 large ripe bananas, mashed,
2 cups walnut halves.

Place raisins in a large bowl. Cut prunes and
apricots in fourths, add to raisins along with chopped
dates and glace fruit and cherries.

Pour 1/2 cup of brandy over fruit, tossing to mix. Cover and let
stand at room temp. overnight.

Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar
gradually, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time
mixing well after each addition.

Combine flour, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg and allspice and add to
butter mixture alternately with mashed bananas.
Stir in fruit along with nuts.

Turn into three very well greased loaf pans, lined with greased brown
paper, 9x5 inches. Bake at 250 degrees 2 1/2-3 hours
or untio cake tests done. Don't underbake.

Remove from pan and cool completely. Pour remaining brandy
over tops of cakes very slowly, so that it sinks into
cake. Wrap tightly to store. Makes 3 cakes.

Insufficient Bait - part 3

The third and final post on the missing piece in the effort to attract priestly vocations. Part one is here and part two can be found here.

Implications for Priestly Vocations
Why am I so interested in the image of the priest portrayed in vocational materials? I believe that some young men may not consider a vocation to priesthood if a critical aspect of priestly life is not lived fully by most priests and is not "advertised" in vocation promotional materials. That part of priesthood has to do with the royal ministry of Christ; that ministry of forming others, of governing the charisms of the laity and coordinating their use within the parish and in the mission of bringing Christ to the world.

Some young men may well be primarily attracted to the idea of bringing Christ to the faithful through the prayerful celebration of the sacraments. Others may feel called particularly to instruct the faithful through creative and insightful homilies, classes on Scripture, and through the proclamation of the Gospel in the RCIA process, for example. I know priests who would fall into those categories, and they're wonderful ministers. There are priests who spend as much of their time and energy as they can in pastoral counseling to individuals. They enjoy getting to know their parishioners, and there is a wonderful affection and even love shared between these pastors and the people they serve.

But is it not possible that there are men who are gifted by God to help form others – and who feel called to do so? These men could embody that part of fatherhood that calls forth the best from others and empowers them to take their place in the world and in their unique vocation. Many young Catholic men want to make a difference in the world. Some are called to do so directly, through working in the business world, in politics, in the fields of law, medicine, scientific research, agriculture, the arts, and more. But I believe there are also men who want to make a difference by empowering others to make a difference in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. They dream of seeing others realize their potential, and can imagine a multiplying effect as those enthusiastic disciples of Jesus touch the lives of those who have not yet met him and transform the worlds of business, politics, law, medicine, science, the arts – in short, the temporal world. Some of them may rightly discern a call to marriage, in which that empowerment will be directed toward their spouse and children.

But some might be delighted to find that dream fulfilled as a priest – if only they knew the whole story of what it means to be a priest.

While I enjoy teaching and am often awestruck at the opportunity to celebrate the sacraments with God's beloved people, I find my priesthood is not complete unless these help transform people into active disciples of Jesus who long to discern his will for their lives and use their gifts in his mission to the world. When that happens, it's a beautiful experience, and I know my priesthood – and thus my life - is bearing fruit.


Thanksgiving Dinner: Just Like Grandma Used to Make

By the way, if you are a lover of history and food, run, do not walk, to the Food Timeline.

On the day before Thanksgiving, what better way to begin the day but with a mug of java and the contemplation of historic Thanksgiving menus:

Thanksgiving, 1621]

"Our modern holiday fare bears little resemblance to the food eaten at the three-day 1621 harvest celebration at Plymouth Colony, the event now recalled as the “First Thanksgiving.” The Wampanoag and Plymouth colonists often ate wild turkey, however it was not specifically mentioned in connection with that 1621 harvest celebration. Edward Winslow said only that four men went hunting and brought back large amounts of “fowl” – more likely from the scenario to be seasonal waterfowl such as ducks and geese.

And what about the stuffing? Yes, the Wampanoag and English did occasionally stuff the birds and fish, typically with herbs, onions or oats (English only). If cranberries were served at the harvest celebration, they appeared in Wampanoag dishes, or possibly to add tartness to an English sauce. It would be 50 years before an Englishman mentioned boiling this New England berry with sugar for a “Sauce to eat with …Meat.” In 1621 England, sugar was expensive; in 1621 New Plymouth, there may not have been any of this imported spice at all.

Potatoes, which had originated in South America, had not yet made their way into the diet of the Wampanoag in 1621 (though the Wampanoag did eat other local varieties of tubers). By 1621, potatoes, both sweet and white, had traveled across the Atlantic to Europe but they had not been generally adopted into the English diet. The sweet potato, originating in the Caribbean, was cultivated in Spain and imported into England. It was a rare dainty available to the wealthy, who believed it to be a potent aphrodisiac. The white potato was virtually unknown by the average early 17th-century Englishman. Only a few gentlemen botanists and gardeners were trying to grow this colonial oddity.

But surely there was pumpkin pie to celebrate the harvest? Pumpkin -- probably yes, but pie – probably not...The typical menu of Thanksgiving dinner is actually more than 200 years younger than that 1621 celebration and reflects both the holiday’s New England roots and a Victorian nostalgia for an imaginary time when hearth and home, family and community, were valued over progress and change.

But while we have been able to work out which modern dishes were not available in 1621, just what was served is a tougher nut to crack. The only contemporary description of the event by Edward Winslow tells us that they had seasonal wild fowl and the venison brought by the Wampanoag and presented to key Englishmen. The same writer is eloquent about the bounty of his new home (items in bold were available in the early autumn).

"Our bay is full of lobsters all the summer and affordeth variety of other fish; in September we can take a hogshead of eels in a night, with small labor, and can dig them out of their beds all the winter. We have mussels ... at our doors. Oysters we have none near, but we can have them brought by the Indians when we will; all the spring-time the earth sendeth forth naturally very good sallet herbs. Here are grapes, white and red, and very sweet and strong also. Strawberries, gooseberries, raspas, etc. Plums of tree sorts, with black and red, being almost as good as a damson; abundance of roses, white, red, and damask; single, but very sweet indeed… These things I thought good to let you understand, being the truth of things as near as I could experimentally take knowledge of, and that you might on our behalf give God thanks who hath dealt so favorably with us."1

Another source describing the colonial diet that autumn said “besides waterfowl, there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had … since harvest, Indian corn.”2 Though not specifically mentioned as a food on the menu, corn was certainly part of the feasts. Remember that the harvest being celebrated was that of the colorful hard flint corn that the English often referred to as Indian corn. This corn was a staple for the Wampanoag and soon became a fixture in the cooking pots of New Plymouth. The English had acquired their first seed corn by helping themselves to a cache of corn from a Native storage pit on one of their initial explorations of Cape Cod. (They later paid the owners for this “borrowed” corn.)

It is intriguing to imagine how the English colonists processed and prepared the novel corn for the first time in the fall of 1621. One colonist gave a hint of how his countrymen sought to describe and prepare a new grain in familiar, comforting terms: “Our Indian corn, even the coarsest, maketh as pleasant a meat as rice.”3 In other words, traditional English dishes of porridge and pancakes (and later bread) were adapted to be used with native corn. ...

In September and October, a variety of both dried and fresh vegetables were available. The produce from the gardens of New Plymouth is likely to have included what were then called “herbs:” parsnips, collards, carrots, parsley, turnips, spinach, cabbages, sage, thyme, marjoram and onions. Dried cultivated beans and dried wild blueberries may have been available as well as native cranberries, pumpkins, grapes and nuts. While many elements of the modern holiday menu are very different from the foods eaten in 1621, the bounty of the New England autumn was clearly the basis for both."
---Partakers of our Plenty, Kathleen A. Curtin, Plimoth Plantation

"Bill of Fare of Thanksgiving Dinner in Connecticut, Nov. 1817.

Geese 50,000, Turkeys 5,500, Chickens 65,000, Ducks 2,000, Beef and Pork, 25,000 lbs, Potatoes 12,000 bu, Turnips 14,000, Beets 4,000, Onions 5,000, Cheese 10,000 lbs, Apple-Sauce 12,000 gls, Cranberry do. 1,000, Desert. Pump. Pies 520,000, Apple Pies 100,000, Other pies & Puddings 52,000, Wine, gls. 150, Brandy, gls, 150, Gin, gls 120, Rum, gls, 1,000, Cider, Bran., & Whiskey, 6000. Which would take 650 hhds, of strained pumpkin; 81 do. molasses; 4060 lbs. ginger; 7000 lbs. alspice, 86,666 lbs. flour; 43,333 lbs of butter or lard; 325 hhds. of milk of 100 galls each; 1000 nutmegs; 50 lbs. cinnamon; 43,5000 dozen eggs--all which would weigh about 504 tons, and would cost about $114,000."
---Times [Hartford, Ct.] December 30, 1817 (p. 3)

I particularly like the prospect of 43,000 pounds of lard. Presumably not all at one sitting. Back when $114,000 really took you somewhere.

Fruitcake Humor

One of the classic phrases regarding the longevity of this particular food was coined in 1983 by Russell Baker: "Fruitcake is forever."

"Thirty-four years ago, I inherited the family fruitcake. Fruitcake is the only food durable enough to become a family heirloom. It had been in my grandmother's possession since 1880, and she passed it to a niece in 1933. Surprisingly, the niece, who had always seemed to detest me, left it to me in her will....I would have renounced my inheritance except for the sentiment of the thing, for the family fruitcake was the symbol of our family's roots. When my grandmother inherited it, it was already 86 years old, having been baked by her great-grandfather in 1794 as a Christmas gift for President George Washington. Washington, with his high-flown view of ethical standards for Government workers, sent it back with thanks, explaining that he thought it unseemly for Presidents to accept gifts weighing more than 80 pounds, even though they were only eight inches in diameter...There is no doubt...about the fruitcake's great age. Sawing into it six Christmasses ago, I came across a fragment of a 1794 newspaper with an account of the lynching of a real-estate speculator in New York City."

---"Fruitcake is Forever," Russell Baker, New York Times, December 25, 1983, Section 6 (p. 10)

And in case you just had to know, the oldest continuously operating fruitcake bakery in the US is here: Corsicana, Texas

The Society for the Protection and Preservation of Fruitcake can be found here.

And you are always welcome to end your Christmas season by attending the annual Manitou Springs, Colorado fruitcake toss, just 25 or so minutes from us. Get that date on your calendar now: January 5, 2008.

Fruitcake categories include the ugliest fruitcake, the most creative use of a fruitcake, and the longest distance that a fruitcake is hurled. The all-time Great Fruitcake Toss record is 1,420 feet, set in January 2007 by a group of eight Boeing engineers, who built the Omega 380, a mock artillery piece fueled by compressed air, pumped by an exercise bike. They outlawed such tosses since.

The rules for competitors are here. Remember:

All Fruitcakes will be examined by the
“Fruitcake Toss Tech Inspectors.”

2. A limited number of fruitcakes will be available to rent for $1.00 if you were not fortunate enough to receive one of your own or if you were unable to find the time or recipe to bake one.

Standard & Super Heavy Weight Division for distance - You must use a 2 pound cake for the Launch or Hurl Division for the standard weight distance competition and a 4 pound fruitcake for the Pneumatic Division to qualify for the Super Heavy Weight distance competition.

Fruitcake Mystique

But it's the day before Thanksgiving, 22 degrees and snowing here in Colorado Springs. Which means its fruitcake time!
Because if you are going to make it this year and have time for it to age beautifully in that bath of brandy, you have to start thinking about it now.

First of all, we must deal with the great, universal fruitcake question.


The answer seems to be that human beings just like what happens when you stuff a cake full of fruit and nuts. From the History of Fruitcake:

The oldest reference that can be found regarding a fruitcake dates back to Roman times. The recipe included pomegranate seeds. Pine nuts, and raisins that were mixed into barley mash. Honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added during the Middle Ages. Crusaders and hunters were reported to have carried this type of cake to sustain themselves over long periods of time away from home.

1400s - The British began their love affair with fruitcake when dried fruits from the Mediterranean first arrived.

1700s - In Europe, a ceremonial type of fruitcake was baked at the end of the nut harvest and saved and eaten the next year to celebrate the beginning of the next harvest, hoping it will bring them another successful harvest. After the harvest, nuts were mixed and made into a fruitcake that was saved until the following year. At that time, previous year's fruitcakes were consumed in the hope that its symbolism would bring the blessing of another successful harvest

In the early 18th century, fruitcake (called plum cakes) was outlawed entirely throughout Continental Europe. These cakes were considered as "sinfully rich." By the end of the 18th century there were laws restricting the use of plum cake.

Between 1837 and 1901, fruitcake was extremely popular. A Victorian "Tea" would not have been complete without the addition of the fruitcake to the sweet and savory spread. Queen Victoria is said to have waited a year to eat a fruitcake she received for her birthday because she felt it showed restraint, moderation and good taste.

It was the custom in England for unmarried wedding guests to put a slice of the cake, traditionally a dark fruitcake, under their pillow at night so they will dream of the person they will marry.

Those of you who don't like fruitcake can be consoled by the knowledge that it was once outlawed.

The Oxford Companion to Food notes:

It was only in the 13th century that dried fruits began to arrive in Britain, from Portugal and the east Mediterranean. Lightly fruited breads were probably more common than anything resembling the modern fruit cake during the Middle Ages. Early versions of the rich fruit cake, such as Scottish Black Bun dating from the Middle Ages, were luxuries for special occasions. Fruit cakes have been used for celebrations since at least the early 18th century when bride cakes and plumb cakes, descended from enriched bread recipes, became cookery standards. The relationship between fruit breads and fruit cakes is obvious in early recipes, such as those given by Eliza Smith [1753] which include yeast...

Making a rich fruit cake in the 18th century was a major undertaking. The ingredients had to be carefully prepared. Fruit was washed, dried, and stoned [taking the pits out] if necessary; sugar, cut from loaves, had to be pounded and sieved; butter washed in water and rinsed in rosewater. Eggs were beaten for a long time, half an hour being commonly directed. Yeast, or barm from fermenting beer, had to be coaxed to life. Finally, the cook had to cope with the temperamental wood-fired baking ovens of that time. No wonder these cakes acquired such mystique..."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 321-322)

Once a Christian, Always A Christian

Archbishop Bruno Forte, who is a member of the International Theological Commission, has recently issued a pastoral letter on Baptism that I found encouraging and challenging: (via Zenit)in light of all the work we have done over the past year in preparation for Making Disciples.

In particular:

Proclamation of Christ is essential: (ok, you knew this was coming)

The proclamation of the Gospel, he said, is a necessary requisite for baptism, even though in past years this duty of the baptized "was almost discounted and the importance of preparation for baptism was rather neglected."
"In the complex society in which we live, multireligious and multicultural, the urgency of proclaiming the faith and of Christ's call to conversion shows itself in all its necessity," observed the 58-year-old prelate.

And I love this consoling thought:

"He who receives baptism is not alone: God who is love will guard you always."

"Thanks to the gift of baptism," said Archbishop Forte, "we have the certainty of belonging always to God, and we can experience the sweetness of being in the hands of one who will never betray us."

Sweetness indeed for those of us who are seeking God but struggle with hope or scrupulosity or depression or abandonment issues.

Some implications re: salvation and the Church

He continued: "This definitive relationship with God consists fittingly of the 'character' imprinted by baptism, the bond with him, which thanks to his fidelity cannot be canceled, will unite us always to his family, the Church."

Sherry's note: As the Catholic Encyclopedia has noted, theologians have speculated that baptized human beings can bear their baptismal character into hell itself. Literally nothing we can do, no sin, no apostasy, can erase the mark of baptism. Just as obviously, if we can bear, in some unfathomable way, our baptismal bond with God and his Church into hell itself, being marked with this character is not a guarantee that we will reach our ultimate happiness and spend eternity with God.

I sometimes wonder if we have not inverted the meaning of baptismal character. I am simultaneously running across Catholics who, caught up in the culture wars mindset, act and talk as though liturgical preferences or doctrinal differences or open dissent or indifference can make a person cease to be Catholic and many lapsed Catholics who assume they can just jettison their baptismal identity any time they choose. At the same time, we have noticed a near universal pastoral practice that de facto assumes that all the baptized are “saved” by the sheer fact of their sacramental incorporation into the Body of Christ regardless of their personal response to the grace they have received.

The Catholic belief is: Once a Christian, always a Christian but not “once saved, always saved.” We could still end up spending eternity apart from God. Because, as St. Augustine observed, God will not save us without us.

One really challenging ecumenical implication
of “once a Christian, always a Christian”:

For this reason, the archbishop wrote, "there exists among all the baptized [...] a communion stronger than their differences, which -- although it exists in different degrees -- is the basis of the ecumenical commitment, conducive to overcome the historical divisions among them."

The "passion for the unity that Christ wants," confirmed Archbishop Forte, is therefore "inscribed in the same baptismal grace."

This same mark, which cannot be erased even in hell, creates a communion stronger than our differences. This is true even though the communion exists in different degrees.

The Archbishop seems to be saying that Even the most distant baptismal communion between Christians is stronger than the differences between us.

Amazing. I need to chew on that one for a while.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Three Dominicans and Their Journey to Ordination

Appropos of Fr. Mike's series on priesthood, here is a video of three of the four Dominicans ordained this past August for the Western Province (of which the Catherine of Siena Institute is an apostolate.) They were interviewed two days before ordination.

The background gives you some idea of the beauty of the church at St. Dominic's in San Francisco, where Dominican novices spend their first year and where our Bay area Called & Gifted team is located.

Hat tip: Amy Welborn

Insufficient Bait - part 2

This is a continuation of a post I made yesterday about priestly vocations websites.

The Obligations and Rights of Clerics
The Code of Canon Law mentions that priests are to "acknowledge and promote the mission which the laity, each for his or her part, exercise in the Church and in the world." Can. 275 §2.

Several descriptions of the life of the priest that I read on diocesan and archdiocesan vocation pages were drawn from canon law's description of the obligations of a pastor.
Yet when it comes to describing the office of the pastor and how he expresses his priestly, prophetic and royal ministry, it is hard to see the relation between these aspects of his office and the promotion of the mission the laity have in the world. Here's what the Code says:

Can. 528 §1. A pastor is obliged to make provision so that the word of God is proclaimed in its entirety to those living in the parish; for this reason, he is to take care that the lay members of the Christian faithful are instructed in the truths of the faith, especially by giving a homily on Sundays and holy days of obligation and by offering catechetical instruction. He is to foster works through which the spirit of the gospel is promoted, even in what pertains to social justice. He is to have particular care for the Catholic education of children and youth. He is to make every effort, even with the collaboration of the Christian faithful, so that the message of the gospel comes also to those who have ceased the practice of their religion or do not profess the true faith.

§2. The pastor is to see to it that the Most Holy Eucharist is the center of the parish assembly of the faithful. He is to work so that the Christian faithful are nourished through the devout celebration of the sacraments and, in a special way, that they frequently approach the sacraments of the Most Holy Eucharist and penance. He is also to endeavor that they are led to practice prayer even as families and take part consciously and actively in the sacred liturgy …

This canon describes the pastor's prophetic and priestly function for the Christian community. The two paragraphs of canon 529 describe his royal function in an interesting way:
Can. 529 §1. In order to fulfill his office diligently, a pastor is to strive to know the faithful entrusted to his care. Therefore he is to visit families, sharing especially in the cares, anxieties, and griefs of the faithful, strengthening them in the Lord, and prudently correcting them if they are failing in certain areas. With generous love he is to help the sick, particularly those close to death, by refreshing them solicitously with the sacraments and commending their souls to God; with particular diligence he is to seek out the poor, the afflicted, the lonely, those exiled from their country, and similarly those weighed down by special difficulties. He is to work so that spouses and parents are supported in fulfilling their proper duties and is to foster growth of Christian life in the family.
§2. A pastor is to recognize and promote the proper part which the lay members of the Christian faithful have in the mission of the Church, by fostering their associations for the purposes of religion…

The first paragraph emphasizes the need for the pastor to know the lay faithful who have been entrusted to his pastoral care, and that certainly is a beloved image of the priest: one who is with his parishioners in the most significant moments of their lives. But how is one to interpret the job of "prudently correcting them if they are failing in certain areas"? If that correction had to do with matters of doctrine, I would expect it to appear in the section on the pastor's teaching function (Can. 528 §1). Since the second paragraph focuses more specifically on the proper part of the laity in the mission to the world, I would suggest that at least one "area for correction" would be those situations in which the laity are neglecting - or even denying - that mission.

Canon law does not exhaust the Church's instruction on what it means to be a priest. In addition to sharing the lives of his parishioners, a priest is called to acknowledge and discern the spiritual gifts they have been given, and help them recognize them, too. Priests are called, in fact, to recognize, uncover with faith, acknowledge with joy, foster with diligence, appreciate, judge and discern, coordinate and put to good use, and have “heartfelt esteem” for the charisms of all the baptized. (cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 30; Decree on Ministry and Life of Priests, 9; I Will Give You Shepherds, 40, 74; Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, 32) This is an incredibly important aspect of what it means to exercise pastoral governance, the heart of a priest's royal ministry.

Of course, that's a bit complex to demonstrate in the context of a short video, especially since very few lay people have experienced a priest who has assisted them in discerning their spiritual gifts, much less consciously coordinating them for the mission to the local culture.

As beautiful as "Fishers of Men" is, a vital part of the priest's vocation is absent. We priests are not simply teachers and sacramental ministers. If we are to truly act in persona Christi capitis (in the person of Christ the Head), we must not only teach and heal as he did, we must also form and prepare (lay) apostles to take the Gospel to the world!

The descriptions of the life of a priest that I read on the internet features the priest as the minister and everyone else as the recipient of ministry. The image of a priest as an animator of a community of fellow disciples preparing for an exciting mission to the world is absent. Pope Paul VI's The Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests and Pope John Paul II's I Will Give You Shepherds describe more of the collaborative relationship between cleric and lay person. These documents call the priest to cooperate with the laity in mission to world, listen to the laity, recognize lay expertise, awaken & deepen lay co-responsibility for the Church's mission, confidently entrust duties to the laity, invite lay initiative, help lay people explore and discern vocation, and form and support secular apostles. Decree on Ministry and Life of Priests, 9; I Will Give You Shepherds, 59; 74

More tomorrow - the implications of all that I've written above in regard to priestly vocations.

24 hours of Autumn

Colorado: the land of weather:

Yesterday, a high of 75
Today, a high of 57
Tomorrow, a high of 25 and snow

So I'm going Thanksgiving shopping today, thank you. More when I return.

I'm dreaming of a white Thanksgiving . . .

Realities We Could Not Have Guessed

Susan's comment below and my response reminded me of something I wrote years ago.

I thought that I would share a few excerpts from a presentation I gave in Seattle in 2001 which has since been published as one of our little $2 vision booklets: Making Disciples, Equipping Apostles.

"Another essential aspect of adult formation that we haven’t given much attention to is the task of helping lay men and women develop a truly Christian worldview. All of us work out of a set of assumptions about life and reality, whether we are conscious of those assumptions or not. These assumptions make up a worldview that determines how we understand the meaning of our daily lives, how we relate to each other, and is the basis upon which we make those daily decisions that affect the world around us.

Adult Catholics are regularly exposed to worldviews that are destructive of the dignity and happiness of human beings and contrary to the faith. Being formed as a Christian adult enables the teaching of the Church to make visible and challenge many of the assumptions that we have picked up just by living in this culture.

Unfortunately, we have tended in recent years to look upon wrestling with the content of the faith as an optional form of self-enrichment for the few lay people who are so inclined. The intuitive, heartfelt, and experiential have been regarded as sufficient foundation for the majority of lay people while ideas, doctrine, and thought are assumed to be the province of bishops and theologians. We have confused being an intellectual with understanding and discerning the real life implications of fundamental truths.

Few Catholics are gifted intellectuals but all of us need to be familiar with the essential of the Church teaching because through her we have access to revelation. Revelation contains truths that God must reveal to us because we human beings could not discover them on our own. These truths are beyond the grasp of our reason, intuition, and experience and yet they are critical to our happiness and destiny as human beings. Most of us will never read St. Thomas Aquinas for fun, but we can still ponder the significance of St. Thomas’ insistence that the ultimate destiny of human beings is perfect, eternal happiness. You don’t need an Ivy League education to ask “Is this true and if so, what does that mean for me and those I love?”

The lives of many remarkable Catholics testify to the liberating power of Christian revelation: A wonderful example is Henriette DeLille who was born in antebellum New Orleans to a free family of mixed race. The women of her family were expected to become the elegant mistresses of wealthy white men who were usually already married. When 14 year old Henrietta began helping a religious sister teaching the catechism to slaves, she recognized for the first time that a very different life was possible for a woman. Before the Civil war and in the face of strong family opposition and repressive racial laws, Henrietta founded an order of African American sisters that identified with and ministered to slaves and the poorest of the poor in the black community.

Encountering the truths of revelation often moves individuals to address critical issues that we have not yet recognized as a community. Such was the case of Bartholomew De Las Casas, a young grandee who was perfectly comfortable with the 16th century Spanish practice of enslaving the native peoples of the “new world” until he heard a Dominican preach against the whole system of slavery. That sermon was the initial spark that enabled De Las Casas to see the cruelty of slavery and changed the course of his life. He became a Dominican and spent the rest of his long adult life advocating ceaselessly for the recognition and protection of the human rights of native peoples.

Both Bartholomew and Henrietta were cradle Catholics who already had access to the sacraments but it was exposure to the teachings of the Church that enabled them to recognize and live truths that contradicted the assumptions and values of the society in which they lived. Exposure to Christian revelation liberates us from the peculiar blindnesses of our own culture, time, and place, and opens up huge new vistas of who we are as human beings, what our destiny is, and what our lives can be about. Being steeped in Christian revelation gives us a trustworthy standard by which to evaluate the torrent of half-baked assumptions, complex ideas, and contradictory choices presented to us every day.

To make the essentials of the Church’s teaching available to lay men and women at the parish level will require a great effort but it is worth it. We need a remedy that will clear our minds and open our hearts to realities that we could not have guessed. The ability to critically evaluate the truth and implications of a proposed idea or action is particularly important for American Catholics because of the power that each of us has to influence the world around us. We elect our own leaders, form our government, determine our social policy and shape the future of our nation and the world. We are the apostles to this world, and we stand in Christ’s place. We must see our world as he does. As C. S. Lewis observed: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” (The Weight of Glory, “Is Theology Poetry?” 1944, p. 92)

The nagging fear that lay Catholics will be bored to tears by doctrine has never been borne out in our experience. Over the past 10 years, we have taught over 27,000 adult Catholics how to discern the gifts and call of the Holy Spirit in live workshops across North America and in Australia,Indonesia,and Kenya. When we first offered the Called & Gifted workshop, we too were afraid that participants would be bored by the theology of the lay office and mission in the Church. Priests were puzzled as to why we would teach lay people concepts that they had wrestled with in seminary. Parish leaders would tell us that six hours of solid content was asking too much of those who attended. To our constant delight and astonishment, many attendees have told us that the theological portion of the workshop is the best part and a number have even informed us that the weekend is too short!

Our teachers have consistently found that if we present the essential truths of the faith with clarity and conviction, people do not find the Church’s teaching mystifying but compelling. The central doctrines of the faith are not abstractions for would-be scholastics longing for a return to the middle ages. The truths of revelation are alive and they speak profoundly to the hunger of 21st century hearts.

I was vividly reminded of this a couple years ago when my husband and I hosted a group of a dozen adults who were studying Josef Pieper’s wonderful book on the three theological virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love. I was touched to see deeply introverted men weep, so moved were they by the Church’s teaching on the virtue of love.

The same heart-felt reaction occurs regularly in our workshops. When Catholics first realize that they are apostles in their own right, that they are "sent ones" who literally stand in the place of Christ in the world, they are not bored, they are absolutely electrified. As one participant put it so beautifully: "I used to think that I was not worthy to kiss the sandals of Jesus. Now you're telling me that I'm to put them on and walk like they fit - that I stand in His place with my daughter, at work, with my friends. This is revolutionary!”

Light in Our Darkness

As I write this, I am listening to the beautiful soprano voice of Kathleen Lundquist, one of our contributors here at ID. Kathleen is a professional musician and singer and has a wonderful Advent/Christmas cd Light in Our Darkness.

Visit Kathleen's website here and listen to some of the tracks: I especially enjoy Of the Father's Love Begotten and All this Night My Heart Rejoices (which I rarely hear but is exquisite). Oh - and I really like Down in Yon Forest (a cheery medieval sounding number) and the Wexford Carol. I love encountering carols and other songs that are not often heard.

Listen and then pick up a copy. Kathleen's music makes a wonderful companion as you ease into Advent.

One song that Kathleen sings is of recent vintage (2004) and was written by Paul Cross

Mary the Dawn

Mary the dawn, Christ the Perfect Day;
Mary the gate, Christ the Heavenly Way!

Mary the root, Christ the Mystic Vine;
Mary the grape, Christ the Sacred Wine!

Mary the wheat, Christ the Living Bread;
Mary the stem, Christ the Rose blood-red!

Mary the font, Christ the Cleansing Flood;
Mary the cup, Christ the Saving Blood!

Mary the temple, Christ the temple's Lord;
Mary the shrine, Christ the God adored!

Mary the beacon, Christ the Haven's Rest;
Mary the mirror, Christ the Vision Blest!

Mary the mother, Christ the mother's Son
By all things blest while endless ages run. Amen.

And now I think I'll listen some more while I make the morning espresso and watch the sun rise.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Insufficient Bait - part 1

The vocations video, "Fishers of Men," produced by Grassroots Films for the USCCB, first came to my attention a few weeks ago when it was shown after Masses at a Church where I had helped present a Called & Gifted workshop. I was not able to watch it at that time, but I made a mental note to look for it. Shortly after I returned to Colorado Springs I was sent a link to the eighteen-minute long video in an e-mail from a friend.

It's a well-made video, with a stirring soundtrack, good production values, and wonderful comments from priests young and old who have joyfully embraced their vocation. It depicts priests being ordained, seminarians in the classroom and the chapel, priests engaged in pastoral counseling and presiding over celebrations of the sacraments, particularly the eucharist. But there's a crucial aspect of priesthood that's missing, and not only is it missing in the vocations video, it's missing from the ministerial lives of many, many priests.

Before I discuss what's missing in "Fishers of Men," I will take a look at some of what the Code of Canon law has to say about the obligations and rights of all Christians, of the laity in particular, and of priests.

The Basic Obligation and Right of all the Christian Faithful
Whether one is lay, religious, or ordained, we all have a common basic duty and the right to pursue that duty: the spread of the Gospel in obedience to Jesus' command to "go and make disciples of all nations…" (Mt. 28:19) This basic obligation is found in Canon 211 All the Christian faithful have the duty and right to work so that the divine message of salvation more and more reaches all people in every age and in every land. I would argue that this canon captures the reason for the Church's existence, and thus is at the heart of the mission and ministry of the priest. The vocation video title, "Fishers of Men," is a powerful image in conveying the mission of the whole Church.

The Obligations and Rights of the Lay Christian Faithful
For the lay Christian, the focus is particularly on the fish who have not yet been caught! The lay faithful are also called upon to improve the general health of the sea in which the fish live. Canon 225 deals with this in two beautiful paragraphs:

§1. Since, like all the Christian faithful, lay persons are designated by God for the apostolate through baptism and confirmation, they are bound by the general obligation and possess the right as individuals, or joined in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation is made known and accepted by all persons everywhere in the world. This obligation is even more compelling in those circumstances in which only through them can people hear the gospel and know Christ.

§2. According to each one’s own condition, they are also bound by a particular duty to imbue and perfect the order of temporal affairs with the spirit of the gospel and thus to give witness to Christ, especially in carrying out these same affairs and in exercising secular function.

The lay person, whether a streetcleaner, businessperson, attorney, housewife, or rancher, is bound to help every person on the face of the earth encounter the risen Lord and help transform the temporal society so that it reflects God's purposes and the dignity given each human by the Creator.

An important question – the question that is behind this article – is, "How will this happen without a proper formation – that is, a formation that is suited to the complexity of temporal society and the tremendous variety of situations a lay person will encounter throughout their life?" The code begins to answer that in Canon 229 §1. Lay persons are bound by the obligation and possess the right to acquire knowledge of Christian doctrine appropriate to the capacity and condition of each in order for them to be able to live according to this doctrine, announce it themselves, defend it if necessary, and take their part in exercising the apostolate.

So a part of the formation of the lay person is an appropriate understanding of Christian doctrine. This ties in with the prophetic, or teaching, role of the priest in his ministry. But the understanding of Christian doctrine is also gained through the participation of the rituals that surround the sacraments. An appreciation for, and experiential knowledge of Christ is gained when we encounter his healing in the anointing of the sick and his power to forgive in reconciliation, for example. In the sacraments of vocation (Matrimony and Holy Orders), we experience his self-giving love and the call to lay down our life for others (cf. John 15:13) But knowledge of Christian doctrine, whether through experience or proclamation and catechesis is crucial if the lay person is to engage in the apostolate described in Canon 225 above.

This is where "Fishers of Men", and each vocation website I examined in preparation for this post, is lacking. The priestly, and, sometimes, the prophetic aspects of a cleric's life are considered, but without any real acknowledgment of that mission to the world in which the laity play such a crucial part. In other words, the royal ministry of the priest, which has to do primarily with equipping the laity for their mission to the world, is absent. Yet the successful engagement of that mission by the laity is a sign of the fruitfulness of the priest's sacramental and teaching ministries!

Tomorrow: The Obligations and Rights of Clerics


Subscribe to the e-Scribe!

I'm back from our Making Disciples workshop, a Called & Gifted workshop in Eugene, OR and a short personal retreat at St. Benedict's Lodge, the Dominican retreat and conference center in McKenzie Bridge, OR. Time to do a little blogging. I thought I'd share with you some reflections on priestly and religious vocations websites that I've been looking at recently. This is a rather long reflection, so I'm going to post it in several pieces over the next few days. If you find it interesting, and would like to read other articles on lay people living their Christian vocation in the world, laity using specific charisms (gifts of the Holy Spirit given to the baptized for the benefit of other people), and the Church's mission to the world, consider subscribing to the e-Scribe, a bi-monthly e-newsletter published by the Catherine of Siena Institute. In addition to articles, it also has the Institute calendar of upcoming events, interesting websites to visit, and other goodies. Contact us at and ask to be put on our e-Scribe mailing list.

Catholic Quote of the Day

"the instrument of the world's conversion is the visible unity of the Christian community."

Fr. Giussani, founder of Communion & Liberation

Hat tip: Cahiers Péguy: the Drama of Christian Humanism

The Struggle to Apply Catholic Social Teaching

Three long posts this morning: All substantive and centered around a basic theme:

The struggle to apply Catholic teaching to practical moral dilemmas in the world.

The first: About a new blessed, Fr. Antonio Rosmini, whose written works were once held in suspicion because of his interest in democracy.

The second: on the new US Bishop's statement on voting in light of conversations I had three years ago with two of the foremost Catholic theological experts in the world on the subject of life issues.

The third: on the remarkable life of Peter Benenson, the founder of Amnesty International and convert to Catholicism, in light of Amnesty's recent decision to support abortion as a human right.

If you have time, try to read them all and comment. This is all very pertinent to a consideration of the complexity and critical importance of our mission as lay apostles to evangelize the cultures and structures of the human society.

As C. S. Lewis once pointed out somewhere, our motto is not "Be good, sweet maid, and let those who will be clever". It is "Be good, sweet maid, and remember that means being as clever as you can."

It is a struggle: personal, intellectual, spiritual, and often relational - to identify the good in the midst of a very complicated world and then to determine how best to pursue it and to do so while knowing that other Christians, who are just as faithful, can honestly and legitimately disagree with us. It is not for the faint of heart or the lazy of mind and spirit.

Antonio Rosmini: Once Under a Cloud, Now Blessed

A new blessed with a fascinating story: Antonio Rosmini (1797 - 1855)

"He was a priest, a religious and the founder of two religious Orders (the Institute or Society of Charity and the Sisters of Providence). He was an encyclopaedic thinker, author of more than a hundred works, constituting a type of summa totius christianitatis [a summa of the whole of Christianity] both philosophical and theological (Michele Federico Sciacca’s analogy). He was the embodiment of charity (which for him meant love of God) on all levels, temporal (he supported the poor of all types), intellectual (he provided intellectual nourishment) and spiritual (he helped the spiritually needy). . .

In order to fulfil his evangelical mission of intellectual charity Rosmini chose a language and method more in harmony with the times, but he remained solidly anchored to the genuine values, of authentic Christian tradition: he fostered the essence of the faith in Augustine and Thomas, and in drawing on it, he enriched it, but he initiated a method which can be summarised by saying that while preceding schools had started with God to arrive at man, I have started with man to reach God.

The new language, the upside down method, his interest in democratic movements, together with appropriate ideas, which later turned out to be prophetic, aroused some apprehension in traditional Catholic circles, in which we clearly see today both the short sightedness of his adversaries’ views and the confusion between the message and the new means in which it was communicated. They feared that the teaching of Rosmini would lead to a distortion in Catholic dogma and attempt to introduce democracy into the Church."

The result was a 152 year seesaw:

1849: his two books Le cinque piaghe della santa Chiesa [The Five Wounds of Holy Church] and La Costituzione secondo la giustizia sociale [The Constitution according to Social Justice] were put on the Index of prohibited books.

1854: After a thorough examination under Pius IX, his works were declared free from ecclesiastical censure.

"After the death of Pius IX Rosmini’s adversaries got his works examined a second time. This time the outcome satisfied them because it carried a condemnation, though precautionary, of forty propositions taken from many of his works, with the explanation that “they did not appear to be in harmony with Catholic truth”.

the 60's: In Vatican Council II some bishops hailed him as a prophetic figure. The Popes who followed Pius XII all spoke of him with esteem and appreciation, until the time came for the pontifical commissions to re-examine his works.

2001: "After three commissions, each lasting about two years, there came the outcome of the Nota of the Congregation of July 2001. This officially canceled the reservations established in 1888. Basically it said that the forty propositions had been prohibited as a precautionary measure because it was necessary that time and study should clarify their exact meaning."

This is what comes of being part of a communion that takes the lo-o-o-o-o-ong view.

A century and a half was needed in order that the person of Rosmini, removed from the passions and partisan views of the time, might be seen as a clear and holy thinker, while no one who had experienced it ever hesitated to doubt his holiness.

Which is a good reminder for us who are definitely caught up in a time of "passions and partisan views".

Voting, Intrinsic Evil, and the Development of Doctrine

Speaking of human rights and intrinsic evil, the recent US Bishops' Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship reminds me of conversations I had a world away on election day, 2004. Fr. Mike and I spent the evening of the US election in the Dominican priory in Melbourne where I had the chance to eat dinner beside and talk to one of the Catholic world's foremost experts on bioethics: Bishop Anthony Fisher (an OP)who is currently
heading up World Youth Day.

The dilemma faced by American Catholics is pretty clearly summed up by paragraphs 44 and 45 below. Just try and hold them together and find a candidate that supports both!

The Right to Life and the Dignity of the Human Person

44. Human life is sacred. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. Direct attacks on innocent persons are never morally acceptable, at any stage or in any condition. In our society, human life is especially under direct attack from abortion. Other direct threats to the sanctity of human life include euthanasia, human cloning, and the destruction of human embryos for research.

45. Catholic teaching about the dignity of life calls us to oppose torture,7 unjust war, and the use of the death penalty; to prevent genocide and attacks against noncombatants; to oppose racism; and to overcome poverty and suffering. Nations are called to protect the right to life by seeking effective ways to combat evil and terror without resorting to armed conflicts except as a last resort, always seeking first to resolve disputes by peaceful means. We revere the lives of children in the womb, the lives of persons dying in war and from starvation, and indeed the lives of all human beings as children of God.

Which brings up my conversations in Australia as I wrote them up immediately upon returning home:

"I’ve just returned from a couple weeks in Melbourne, where, with the help of Fr. Mike Fones and Clara Geoghegan, I trained the beginnings of our first teaching teams in Australia. Instead of being glued to CNN on November 2, we were wrestling with the much more enjoyable problem of picking the winner of the Melbourne Cup – a nationally televised horse race that is a combination of Ascot and the Kentucky Derby and brings the whole of Australia to a halt. (I won $12 AU in the first racetrack bet of my life)

While there, I took the opportunity to ask two world-class experts on Church’s teaching in this area (who are both known for their careful orthodoxy) and the intense political debate that it had engendered among Catholic voters in the US. One was Bishop Anthony Fisher, OP of Sydney (recently elevated by Cardinal Pell), who has a PhD in bioethics and is recognized as (in John Allen’s words) “one of the sharpest minds in English-speaking Catholicism”. The other was Dr. Tracey Rowland, Dean of the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne, and one of most respected new theologians emerging today. Clara has known both of them since they were all university students together – the Australian Catholic world is a small one!

Voting as formal cooperation in intrinsic evil:

1.Both Fisher and Rowland emphasized that Church teaching is “very underdeveloped” in this area. Bishop Fisher had attended a symposium in Rome on Evangelicum Vitae 73 in February of 2004. EV 73 reads in part:

73. Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. . .

In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to "take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it."(98)

A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. . . In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.

Fisher said that at this symposium two top notch, orthodox theologians presented completely opposite views and neither could be considered “wrong” in light of current Church teaching (although Fisher privately agreed with one over the other). The bishop noted that only about 9 scholarly works exist on the subject and that he has read them all. In other words, there is, as yet, no authoritative interpretation of EV 73 to guide us.

2.Fisher stated that there was no theological basis for asserting categorically that a Catholic could not, in good faith, vote for either US candidate since both had serious problems from the perspective of Church teaching. Fisher said that if he were an American, he’d be voting for Bush – precisely because of the abortion issue, but that it would be a matter of personal judgment. Life issues had been his personal passion since he was at university and naturally they dominate his moral appraisal of the current scene. Fisher noted that other people with other expertise would naturally be pre-occupied with different areas of grave concern (i.e., intrinsic evil)that would shape their prudential judgment.

3.Fisher then made a fascinating comment that I have not heard elsewhere - that there is no basis in Church teaching for comparing two very different “intrinsic evils” and determining that one is objectively and absolutely more grave than the other.

One can compare levels of a similar intrinsic evil. You could certainly say that 4,000 abortions is more grave than 40 or that a genocidal conflict that killed 10,000 was a more grave evil than one in which only 500 died. But you can’t, on the basis of current Catholic teaching, categorically determine that abortion, for instance, is always and absolutely more grave than a given unjust war or torture or severe economic injustice. By definition, something that is truly intrinsically evil can’t be relatively less evil anymore than a person can be only mostly dead (well, outside the alternate universe of the Princess Bride, anyway - although I did encounter some situations that came pretty close on the cancer unit).

So one cannot state, as definitive Church teaching, that the gravity of the evil of abortion must outweigh all other intrinsic evils or any possible combination of intrinsic evils in our political calculations. An individual could arrive at such a prudential judgment in a particular situation in good faith but an equally faithful Catholic could come to a quite different prudential conclusion in good conscience.

(Note: the US Bishops said something similar (when they use the word "grave", it is a reference to an intrinsic evil):

34. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should
not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

42. As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.

Back to my conversation with Bishop Fisher:

When I said that it was my observation that quite a few serious Catholics in the US were under the impression that doctrine had developed in this area, Fisher responded that a few bishops making personal pronouncements simply isn’t the development of doctrine. When I asked Tracy Rowland why some US bishops had made such statements when they must know that Church teaching did not support it, she pointed out that many bishops are not familiar with the nuances of Church teaching in this area.

Rowland (unlike Fisher, who thought that any talk of ex-communication in the midst of an election was imprudent) believed that then Cardinal Ratzinger had made a good case for refusing communion to a politician who publicly supports abortion but also agreed that there simply wasn’t any clear Church teaching about voting as a form of formal cooperation with evil."

My questions: What would constitute the development of doctrine in this area? Does the US Bishops' statement involve a bit of "development"? Can one country's bishops nudge the development of doctrine in a particular issue along when the rest of the world's bishops haven't dealt with the issue yet?

This is above my pay grade. Is there a moral theologian in the house?

Peter Benenson & Amnesty International

UK Catholic Bishops are forbidding Catholic parishes and schools from housing Amnesty International groups since the organization's International Committee voted to "support the decriminalisation of abortion, to ensure women have access to health care when complications arise from abortion, and to defend women's access to abortion, within reasonable gestational limits, when their health or human rights are in danger".

The irony: Amnesty International was set up in 1961 by Peter Benenson, an Oxford lawyer and convert to Catholicism. It has huge Christian support among 1.8 million members.

Benenson's remarkable life is profiled here and here.

"It is the story of a man in a bowler hat reading his newspaper on the London underground in late 1960. He reads a small item about two Portuguese students being sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for raising their glasses in a toast to freedom. He is outraged, decides to go to the Portuguese embassy in London to make a personal protest and then changes his mind. Instead he gets off at Trafalgar Square station and makes his way to the church of St Martin’s-in-the-Fields.

He goes in, sits down for three-quarters of an hour, and thinks..

In his words, "I went in to see what could really be done effectively, to mobilize world opinion. It was necessary to think of a larger group which would harness the enthusiasm of people all over the world who were anxious to see a wider respect for human rights."

That man was Peter Benenson, then a barrister in London. When he came outside into the square, he had his idea. Within months, he launched his Appeal for Amnesty with a front page article in The Observer newspaper.

Nothing quite like it had ever been attempted on such a scale before. The response was overwhelming, as if people worldwide were waiting for exactly such a signal. Newspapers in over a dozen countries picked up the appeal. Over a thousand letters poured in within the first six months. And the post-bags of the world’s heads of state changed forever.

Benenson’s idea was so simple, perhaps that’s why he remained so shy of personal publicity throughout his life. Termed "one of the larger lunacies of our time" by one of its critics, a network of letter writers was set up to bombard governments with individual appeals on behalf of prisoners jailed and ill-treated in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In an age of self-aggrandisement, his modesty was almost hard to fathom. He never went forward to receive the numerous accolades showered upon Amnesty, known universally by its candle in barbed wire. His mind was always fixed on what had not been accomplished and the countless victims still to be rescued."

In the first few years of Amnesty International's existence, Mr Benenson supplied much of the funding for the movement, went on research missions and was involved in all aspects of the organisation's affairs.

Other activities that Mr Benenson was involved in during his lifetime included; adopting orphans from the Spanish Civil War, bringing Jews who had fled Hitler's Germany to Britain, observing trials as a member of the Society of Labour Lawyers, helping to set up the organisation "Justice" and establishing a society for people with coeliac disease.

Sherry's note:

Benenson died in 2005. Did Amnesty feel free to make this change because its founder was dead?

Friday, November 16, 2007

My Most Married Finger

I may be a bit presumptuous but since Fr. Mike has asked for prayers before for his dear friend, Pat Armstrong, who has battled cancer for many years,I thought I'd do the same.

Fr. Mike e-mailed me the afternoon to say that Pat is not doing well. Your prayers for this valiant, funny, loving, Catholic woman and her beloved husband, Rich of 53 years would greatly appreciated.

To get a sense of Pat and her "Richie", go here.

Pat is a published poet and author and wrote this poem for her 52nd wedding anniversary - and since Fr. Mike has read it aloud in homilies, I don't think that I'm out of line in sharing it here. I must admit that I wept when I read it:

September 29, 2006

I, the wearer of little in the way
of jewelry, 'though the box
is full of pieces, all with histories
of givers and places and occasions
that mattered at the time.

Yet, I wear five rings on
my most married finger, farthest
out a Claddagh newly brought
from Ireland, worn, not for the giver
but for the memories
of where I'd choose to live out my days,
yet, not without you, my love,
giver of the next ring, another Claddagh,
with dark green stone always a reminder
of your feisty self, so annoyed
with the haughty sales clerk
were you that day in Galway.

A simple jade band is next
in line, exchanged after twenty-five years
when we feared that we would not
have another year together.
So close to the white gold band
that follows in this ring parade,
slipped on more than fifty-one years past
in a small church where we stood,
both in private thoughts
and public avowals.

Today, I celebrate the diamond,
the circlet closest to my physical heart,
the one that still beats daily, perhaps
because I have willed it to beat
since I cannot bear to leave you
until you promise to hold my hand
and come along for another ride.

As Pat wrote recently on ID:

"I am in countdown, I know. But as a lifelong writer and fan of inspirational words, I offer this passage from Edith Wharton's "A Backward Glance:" "In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways..." Amen.

Tom Kreitzberg Is Coming to Town

Let all the earth be silent.

Tom Kreitzberg of the fabulous and ever witty Disputations is coming to town.

Mark Shea is very jealous which is not exactly adequate compensation for the fact that I've haven't been asked to speak in Ireland yet but it does take some of the edge off.

But I digress.

Tom will be arriving in Colorado Springs on the evening of Monday, December 10, and would like spend the evening with a few CSIers and anyone else who would like to join in.

Think of it as a informal Dominican-flavored Advent party. Tom has promised to eat and drink and share some of his favorite diagrams with us.

If you would like to come (and who wouldn't?), drop me a line at

Brother Jerome

Read this simply wonderful tribute to Jerome Lejeune, lay Catholic, brilliant geneticist, and champion of disabled children. Lejeune discovered the chromosone that causes Downs Sydrome but then realized that his discovery was being used to destroy the children he was attempting to help.

He realised that the great chromosome discovery would be misused in a ‘search and destroy’ technique for the aborting of trisomic babies. This danger and his mission to fight it came poignantly home to him when a tearful trisomic youngster flung himself into his arms and begged him to defend those like him still unborn. He told his genetics team: “I am going to undertake the duty of speaking publicly in defence of our sick…If I do not defend them, I betray them, I renounce what I have de facto become: their natural advocate.”

He was the leading light in establishing the World Federation of Doctors who Respect Human Life (from conception to death), Chairperson of Laissez-le Vivres (Let Them Live), President of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. He set up ‘The Houses of Tom Thumb’ for mothers tempted to abort because of materially difficult situations. He became a brilliant defender of human life on platforms, television and radio. Too brilliant for some; after one television programme, his wife overheard a studio executive say to a subordinate, “Lejeune? That swine! But what talent! He’s too good. Don’t invite him again.” Other forms of opposition included threatening graffiti, harassment of patients and labelling of them as ‘monsters’ and disease-carriers, the attempted wrecking of meetings.

What saddened him immensely was the abandonment by so many doctors of their pro-life oath-bound Hippocratic ethos. At an international medical conference on health in New York which was favouring the legalisation of abortion, he did not mince his words: “This Institute of Health in an Institute of Death.” That evening he wrote to his wife: “This afternoon I lost my Nobel Prize.”

What a man. I've tried to do research on him in the past but what I came up with was unsatisfactory. This is so much better!

Hat tip: Dawn Eden

Charism & Tradition Via Shakespeare's Cobbler

Observations from Shakespeare's Cobbler from the Three Anachronisms blog.

Charism is a fire, and for a good fire you need a fireplace. Tradition is the fireplace. Where one is bringing the fire out into the wilderness, Tradition is the boy scout's lore of how to make a bonfire safe and yet strong.

Tradition often seems to many like a bunch of old stones. Yet for the river of Charism to reach the right destination, you need an aqueduct. Guess what – aqueducts are made of old stones!

Tradition is the bloodline, Charism is the energy of youth. Not all youth will be as energetic as most, but all must come from the bloodline. The more youthful resiliency and energy the youth of the bloodline have, the better. That's why Charism, as long as it flows in Tradition, is such a wonderful thing.

Thus the more Charismatics and Traditionalists will mix, the better. Once there is no difference between us will we be strongest in our mission to "Go forth and make Disciples of all nations."

Or as the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it:

"Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they are really genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms."

CCC, 800.

hat tip: Mark Shea

To find out more about charisms, consider attending a Called & Gifted workshop or listening to the Called & Gifted workshop on cd and beginning your own discernment process.

Catholic - Orthodox dialogue

Speaking of ecumenical dialogue, Cardinal Walter Kasper, had hopeful things to say about the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue document released Wednesday.

In the document, he said, "the real breakthrough is that for the first time the Orthodox were ready to speak about the universal level of the church" and not simply about the reality of the church on a local or regional level under a patriarch or archbishop.

The document recognizes there must be "synodality" -- responsibility exercised by all the bishops together -- on the universal level, but also that one bishop must hold the place of honor as the primate and that, in the ancient church, that position was held by the bishop of Rome.

The document said, however, that Catholics and Orthodox disagree on how his leadership translated into a concrete exercise of authority and jurisdiction over other bishops.

Cardinal Kasper said the agreement reached in Ravenna was important, but "it is only a first step."

The next phase of the dialogue will be to examine the role of the bishop of Rome -- the pope -- in the first millennium when Catholics and Orthodox still were united. After that discussion, they will need to look at how Catholic and Orthodox teaching on authority diverged and, particularly, on the development within the Catholic Church of the idea of papal infallibility.

"This will not be an easy dialogue," Cardinal Kasper said. "I think it will need a whole decade" to reach agreement.

The Ravenna document, he said, "is an important first step, a basis, but not more. And we hope with God's help and the prayers of many faithful we can go on with this ecumenical pilgrimage with the Orthodox churches."

I asked an Orthodox correspondent of mine what he thought of the document:

I thought the Ravenna statement was well thought out and did a good job not only of responding to Orthodox concerns about the papacy AND re-framing the office for Roman Catholics.

The more I see the folly in both our Churches, the more convinced I become that we need each other and might do well simply to declare victory. . . But a reconciliation, maybe on the order of say a "mixed" marriage. Might that work? I don't know.

What I do know is that--whatever our differences--we simply need each other. Yes there are scary things happening on the world stage, but I think, especially here in the USA, neither side is what we could be existentially. I will leave the dogmatics particulars of this existential reality to the theologians--me I'm just tired of the division.

Extraordinary Consistory on Ecumenical Dialogue

Pope Benedict XVI is to hold an extraordinary consistory of cardinals later this month to promote ecumenical dialogue with non-Catholic Christians.

The gathering of 202 cardinals from 67 countries will take place on the eve of the consistory on November 24, convened by the Pope to create 23 new cardinals. The debate on ecumenism will be led by Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

This should be interesting.

New Blog With Good Questions

Interesting new group blog:

Cahiers Péguy: the drama of Christian humanism

In the tradition of Charles Péguy's Cahiers: a journal vrai, the most beautiful thing in the world, a friendship and a city and a perfectly free association of men who all believe in something.

In this case, the free association of 3 men and a woman: a "grandma on call" in Duluth, a guy from Kansas, a young man in Seattle (who attends my old parish Blessed Sacrament and occasionally comments here at ID) and a deacon from Salt Lake City. With a strong Communion and Liberation theme.

They have a thought provoking post about the upcoming Presidential election based upon a post of Fred of Deep Furrows:

Father Giussani understood that simply taking a position against other positions in the public forum was self-defeating for the movement of CL [Communion and Liberation], not from a point of view of political strategizing but because it did not allow CL to accomplish the missionary dimension of the Church, that is, to be a presence.» (John Zucchi, "Luigi Giussani, the Church, and Youth in the 1950s: A Judgment Born of an Experience." Logos 10:4, Fall 2007, p 133).

As we go into this election season, I see many reactions of people I know in emails, conversations, etc. to the current political situation. Of the candidates available, who's the best? Who has the potential of getting elected? What issues are deal breakers and which are not?

What I'm not hearing is a creative response to current conditions. What are the key issues? What kind of leadership does the US need at this time?

How can we educate ourselves on these matters? How is it possible to participate in the political process creatively and not merely accepting the roles dictated to us by the halls of power? Alasdair MacIntyre's non servum is not really much of an option.

Worth thinking about as lay apostles. Worth checking out.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


A wonderful apostolate that grew up in Poland under Communism has taken root in England: Barka
Fr. Nicholas Schofield of London writes

"Barka was set up in Poland at the time of the fall of Communism to look after those on the margins of society, particularly the homeless and alcoholics. They were invited to live in communities - more families than cold institutions - so that they could rebuild their lives and even set up small businesses, helped by 'leaders' who had been in the same situation themselves.

Barka UK was set up to deal with the most recent phase of Polish immigration following EU expansion in May 2004. Hundreds of thousands have come over to the UK over the past few years, encouraged by the Government, but many find themselves unemployed, homeless, exploited, defrauded of their passports and money, and without income support. Even in homeless day centres, tensions are raised because it is perceived that the Poles are 'taking over.'

Barka UK currently works mostly in Hammersmith and Fulham and helps homeless migrants in desperate situations return to Poland and live in Barka communities (such as the four farms they run in Wladyslawowo, Marszewo, Posadowek and Chudobczyce). Between July and October 2007 over 40 migrants were repatriated in this way."

A Catholic couple, Barbara Sadowski and Tomasz Sadowski, husband and wife psychologists, founded Barka in 1989. They set up the first Barka community, using the derelict school building in Wladyslawowo (in the West of Poznan). This first community gave a home for 25 “life wrecked”” individuals, who were living together with the Sadowski’s family.

Barka is involved with the European Migrants Integration Network. The creation of the European union and the inclusion of the many of the countries of the former Soviet bloc (the "new accession" countries) is changing the face of affluent western Europe. From hundreds of thousands of Rumanians have settled in Italy thousands of Poles flock to Britain and are flooding into Catholic parishes there. Some will return home but many more will stay.

How will this shape the future of Europe?

When in Rome . . .

Trattoria degli Amici is a little Roman restaurant that is getting great reviews but there is alot of great stuff going on behind the scenes besides food:

This restaurant is a ministry of the Friends Movement of the Sant' that works to find ways to best use the talents and gifts of the disabled.

"The handicapped need to know that they are not condemned to a life alone but can contribute to change the world, says Stefano Capparucci, a member of the Catholic lay Community of Sant'Egidio."

"In the heart of touristy Trastevere, the restaurant blends in with the many other eateries. It provides opportunities for the handicapped, through jobs as support staff, and by featuring the paintings of disabled artists year round.

The restaurant's wait staff is all-volunteer, with only the chefs and the handicapped employees taking wages. The profits also go directly to the DREAM program.*

Not just helping those with disabilities, Capparucci affirmed, "the Friends Movement also explains to people who are a little afraid of the handicapped world: It is not a world of sadness but a world of great joy."

Trattoria degli Amici is getting good reviews from the like of Concierge.Com:

"This small, unpretentious trattoria has won the hearts of many Romans, and not just because it serves better food than most places in tourist-clogged Trastevere. The restaurant also offers jobs to mentally handicapped youth, who work both as waiters and in the kitchen. The menu features simple, consistently good dishes such as sea bass carpaccio, Tunisian-style couscous, chickpea soup, and fresh cassata and cannoli from Sicily."

Open Mondays through Saturdays 7:30 to 11 pm, September through July.

Sounds great! Dinner anyone?

(Sherry's note: the DREAM project is a remarkable Sant'Egidio ministry to AIDS mothers and children in Africa. It has an astonishing 90% success rate in preventing infected mother from passing the virus onto their children.)

Children Accused of Witchcraft

The New York Times covered this appalling reality today. It is heart wrenching and stomach turning.

In some parts of Africa (Angola, the Congo, and the Congo Republic)many children are being accused of witchcraft and then cast out of their families. Some are even being killed.

Culture, decades of war, poverty all play a part.

"It is a common belief in Angola’s dominant Bantu culture that witches can communicate with the world of the dead and usurp or “eat” the life force of others, bringing their victims misfortune, illness and death. Adult witches are said to bewitch children by giving them food, then forcing them to reciprocate by sacrificing a family member."

It is unacceptable to abandon a child because you cannot feed them but it is acceptable to abandon a child because he or she is a witch.

"But officials attribute the surge in persecutions of children to war — 27 years in Angola, ending in 2002, and near constant strife in Congo. The conflicts orphaned many children, while leaving other families intact but too destitute to feed themselves.

“The witches situation started when fathers became unable to care for the children,” said Ana Silva, who is in charge of child protection for the children’s institute. “So they started seeking any justification to expel them from the family.”

Bishop Emilio Sumbelelo of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Uige runs the only shelter for boys in the town (there is none for girls). 32 boys abandoned by their families because they were believed to be witches live in a shelter the size of a three car garage. All others have been turned away since July because there is no space.

"To date, we have not found any special way to fight against this phenomenon.” said the bishop.

Be sure and take a look at the multi-media that accompanies the article with its picture of the Catholic shelter.

I Say, Old Man, You Did It!

On behalf of the Other Sherry, I have an announcement to make.

David Curp, her beloved, was unanimously approved for tenure by the voting members of his department at Ohio University in Athens yesterday. Finally - after 18 years of relentless work! David is one of the foremost Polandnists of his generation, an expert on post World War II "population transfers" (that's ethnic cleansing to you and me)and a convert to Catholicism. His next research project is on the life of the Catholic laity in post war Poland.

Dave happens to be in New Orleans today where he is giving a paper at a professional gathering but what a place to celebrate! Have some beignet, jambalaya, and pralines for me, Dave!

To the tune of "You did it!" from My Fair Lady

Congratulations,Professor Curp,
For your glorious victory!
Congratulations, Professor Curp!
You'll be mentioned in history!

Chorus of hoi poli who have never written books with foreign language footnotes - (Simultaneously)

Congratulations, Professor Curp!
For your glorious Victory! Congratulations,
Professor Curp! Sing hail and hallelujah!
Ev'ry bit of credit For it all belongs to you!

Sherry W singing counterpoint:

This evening, sir, you did it! You did it! You did it!
You said that you would do it And indeed you did.
This evening, sir, you did it! You did it! You did it!
We know that we have said it,
But-you did it and the credit
For it all belongs to you!

Well - you and Sherry, your beloved, and all your academic mentors and we, your friends who gave you psychic support, and your guardian angel and the communion of saints and the Holy Spirit and . . . but I digress!

Congratulations, Daoud!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Century of Popes: John Paul II: An Anecdote

A revealing story about JPII from a PBS interview with Eamon Duffy:

...Shortly after he was elected...the Archbishop of Liverpool and a rather gray, austere man who'd been a career cleric...told me at dinner that he was absolutely entranced by the election of Wojtyla. And I said, "Why does he impress you so much?" And he said they had sat together on the proprietary commission for the bishops in the early 1970. And a number of meetings had been in Rome in the winter and the weather was terrible. was rather austere, a meeting of people who didn't really know each other very well from different countries.

And the key figure was Wojtyla. And he would tramp into the meetings, always just before they started, and on one occasion, he marched in (he walked all the way from wherever it was in Rome he was staying), and his cassock and his feet and his socks were sopping wet, skirted up his sock, took his shoes and socks off, squeezed the water from the socks and hung them on the radiator and he said, "Gentlemen, should we get down to business?" And they were just so entranced by a bishop with balls. You know, a man who was rugged and the energy and the lack of self importance. And so people suddenly felt here was somebody who wasn't tired, somebody who had vigor who was absolutely sure of himself. He could take his socks off in public.

A Century of Popes: Pope Paul VI: June 21, 1963 - August 6, 1978 (15 years)

It is a sign of our times, not his, that it is very difficult to find a online video of Pope Paul VI in English that is not accusing him of rank heresy or betraying the true Mass.

The only video about the man that I was able to find was in Italian. This one is entitled "Paulus VI: the forgotten Pope. It is nice to be see him early in his pontificate, the first Pope to travel to the Holy Land, to speak at the UN, etc. There are fascinating pictures of the conclave that elected him, of the heat overwhelming the crowds outside the Vatican during the conclave, of his early popularity.

A Century of Popes: John XXIII: October 28, 1958 - June 3, 1963 (4 years, 7 months)

By contrast, this film of the early days of John XXIII's pontificate shows him visiting and spontaneously speaking to prison inmates. A passionate demonstration broke out when he asked the men to write home and tell their families that the Pope was praying for them.

Watch his very expressive hands and gestures, eye contact, ready smile, rapid speech. You quickly understand why he captured the imagination - he almost seems like your favorite grandfather.

As Fr. Michael Sweeney, my co-founder, was quick to point out, John XXIII was actually very conservative in his spirituality and theology - much more so than John Paul II. It was his personal warmth, down-to-earth simplicity, and humor that made him seem so different from Pius XII.

A Century of Popes: Pius XII: March 2, 1939 - October 9, 1958 (19 years, 7 months)

This is a 10 minute video entitled "The Last Years of Pius XII (1951 - 1958). Try to ignore the melodramatic commentary and the charmingly idiosyncratic English subtitles and focus on the Pope's voice and gestures. Very dramatic. He reminds me of Fulton Sheen who sometimes used similar gestures.

A Century of Popes: Pius XI: February 6, 1922 - February 10, 1939 (17 years)

The Pope of the missing encyclical which was apparently written to denounce Nazism and anti-semitism - but Pope Pius XI died before it could be promulgated.

This video contains fascinating footage of the last year of his pontificate: a list of his "firsts" (apparently he was a ground-breaker like John XXIII and John Paul II): images of the great flood that covered Rome in 1938, of Italy under Mussolini, and Pius's death in 1939.

A Century of Popes: Benedict XV: September 1, 1914 - January 22, 1922 (7 years)

I haven't been able to find a video of Benedict XV, the Pope of World War I.

A Century of Popes: Pius X : August 4, 1903 - August 20, 1914 (11 years)

It is fascinating to see what images are available on line for which Pope and the commentary that accompanies them. It says so much about how our debates of the past 40 years have used and "spun" different Popes. Which is why I prefer to turn off the volume and just observe their gestures which reveal something of the man.

I haven't been able to find a video of Pius X although this is a nice still.

A Century of Popes: Leo XIII: February 20, 1878 - July 20, 1903 (25 years)

I've had the quixotic idea (inspired by New Advent's link to a video of John XXIII) to post as many video's of the popes of the last century as I can find online with the hope that by being able to see their gestures, to hear their voice, we will be able to grasp something of the man as he appeared to those about him. To see them as something other than figures in our own debates.

Watch this extraordinary footage of Pope Leo XIII in 1896. He is 86 years old and frail. It was Pope Leo whom 15 year old Therese Martin begged to allow her to enter Carmel.

Then listen to Pope Leo chanting in this first audio recording of a Pope's voice made in the year of his death: 1903.



A must watch Monty Python take on philosophical sport

Hat tip: Deacon's Bench

Ebert on Bella

The film Bella (which I had not seen)has been the center of a huge buzz in the Catholic blogosphere where I won't be adding to here except to say that I loved this excerpt from Robert Ebert's review(thumbs up!)

"If I were in the habit of criticizing other critics, which I am not, I would quote Robert Koehler of Variety, who writes: "Nina, however, could easily have been to work on time, since her delay was due to her buying and using a home pregnancy test -- something she rationally would have done after her shift was over." Uh-huh. And if Mr. Koehler feared he was pregnant, which would he do first? Buy and use a home pregnancy test, or review "Bella"? I don't trust a review written by some guy who's wondering if he's pregnant."

Preach it, brother.

Apostolic Entrepreneurs?

One of the things that has long fascinated me is the astonishing creativity released in people's lives when 1) they open themselves to God's grace and 2) they begin to recognize and exercise the charisms they have been given for the sake of others.

The saints have always manifested a remarkable level of creativity. For instance, St. Vincent de Paul started what is now known as the International Association of Charity (AIC). Begun in 1617, AIC is the oldest lay association of women volunteers in the world.

St. Vincent encouraged the spread of the "Charities" not only in France, but gradually, also in Italy and Poland thus creating an international association. In a desire for unity in this new foundation, St. Vincent drafted common rules, to find the best possible ways to help the destitute, based on the imitation of Jesus Christ, on evangelical love that goes beyond borders, and on organization and creativity.

As Dorothy Sayers (quoting A.D. Lindsey)observed "The difference between ordinary people and saints is not that saints fulfill the plain duties that ordinary men neglect. The things saints do have not usually occurred to ordinary people at all . . .'Gracious' conduct is somehow like the work of an artist. It need imagination and spontaneity. It is not a choice between presented alternatives but the creation of something new."

We might even call them "apostolic entrepreneurs".

What is an entrepreneur? The classic business entrepreneur is someone who creates value by offering a product or service in order to obtain certain profit.

A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change. Whereas business entrepreneurs typically measure performance in profit and return, social entrepreneurs assess their success in terms of the impact they have on society.

For instance, Mary Cunningham Agee is the founder of the wonderful Nurturing Network, through which 48,000 volunteers have assisted 19,000 women in crisis pregnancies to find alternatives to abortion. Cunningham describes herself as a social entrepreneur.

What about the possibility of "apostolic entrepreneurs"? Men and women called by Christ to take risks and create new alternatives for the sake of the Kingdom of God: in the inner life of the Church, in relationships, in the arts, in institution-building, in the family, in the academic world, the sciences, social services, business, or government.

As lay apostles called to apply the Gospel to the challenges and needs of our time, creativity and entrepreneurial vision and skills are especially critical. I'm hoping to blog some more on this topic as time permits this week.

A Glimpse of Vietnamese Catholicism

A fascinating glimpse of Vietnamese Catholicism as practiced in Florida can be found by watching this brief video about a new church. The tabernacle is a giant drum (which apparently has great resonance in Vietnamese culture) on the wall behind the altar with the names of 118 Vietnamese martyrs engraved upon it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

PC & MAC: Is It True Love?

Will it be true love?

The jury is still out on me and my MAC but in the meantime, you can enjoy this truly charming PC meets MAC video.

Msgr. Albacete also speaking in Portland, OR

I'm grateful to Alex Vitus of the CL School of Community in Seattle for mentioning that Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, the national leader for Communion & Liberation, will be coming to the West Coast at the end of this month.

The Portland CL School of Community is also hosting Msgr. Albacete and Gregory Wolfe for a evening of discussion on November 28 (the day before the Seattle event) at the Billy Frank Jr. Conference Center at the Ecotrust Building, 1st Floor, 721 NW 9th Avenue in Portland. Doors open at 6:30, with the program starting at 7pm.

The topic will be "Wounded by Beauty". Msgr. Albacete and Prof. Wolfe will explore the transcendent aspects of beauty, which is more than mere aesthetics. Through art and nature, beauty touches the heart and helps us to reach out to reality, and at its height it wields the power to recall each one of us to our ultimate destiny in Christ. Msgr. Albacete will also likely delve into and develop the insights in his book, God at the Ritz: Attraction to Infinity.

FYI, Msgr. Albacete is a New York Times columnist and a co-founder of the John Paul II Institute in Washington, DC. Gregory Wolfe is the editor and publisher of Image Journal and Writer in Residence as well as the Director of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University.

If you'd like more information, leave a comment and I'll get back to you. As our friend Mark Shea in Seattle says, don't miss it if you can!


On the Road to World Youth Day: Price-Gouging and Martyrdom

The November 2 issue of our local Colorado Catholic Herald had quite a story on the front page: All about how airlines and Sydney hotels have finally grasped the potential motherlode that is World Youth Day and have suddenly doubled their prices.

Which left pilgrims from my diocese stranded. Because United airlines (who with Qantas has an effective cartel on travel between the US and Australia) canceled the diocese's existing reservations and then offered a new rate - at nearly double the price.

Has your diocese been wrestling with something similar?

One fascinating result:

The diocese found a way to keep the overall price the same by scheduling a two night stay in Seoul, Korea on the way to Australia! The Archbishop of Seoul has been very welcoming and pilgrims will have a chance to learn something about the extraordinary history of Catholicism in Korea.

Catholicism was brought to Korea by lay scholars who first encountered the faith in China and has endured many decades of fierce persecution and priestlessness in the past. Today, the Church is growing faster in South Korea than almost anywhere else while Christians in North Korea live under the most terrible persecution in the world.

For more on the Catholic Church in Korea, go here, here, here, and here.

The Schonborn Site

And here is an impressive site: the Schonborn Site (Sorry, my keyboard doesn't do umlauts)

Everything you've wanted to know about the impressive Archbishop Of Vienna, Dominican, and Director of the Universal Catechism. Interesting bio, lots of pictures, links to many of his lectures., and a blog.

Alas, it looks like the site hasn't been updated for a year at least.

It was certainly ambitious and well crafted. Anyone know why the site owner just dropped out of the picture?


Check this out:

A Catholic portal for young adults in the Archdiocese of New York that sports eye-catching graphics and some really great services such as

a Catholic list which is a clearinghouse for jobs, living situations and service opportunities for young adults

An interactive map of Manhattan listing all Catholic churches and the times of Masses and other sacramental opportunities

An interactive map of Manhattan listing community opportunities: young adult groups, lay movements, etc.

An interactive calendar of events

The Young Adult office of the Archdiocese is apparently behind this. At the moment, the site information seems to be focused entirely on Manhattan but what a fabulous idea! Would that all our dioceses had the time and resources to put together something this slick and helpful.

And so they could - with our help.

Catholic Quote of the Day

From Pope Benedict's speech to the Portuguese Bishops in Rome for their ad limina visit, via Cafe Theology.

The Holy Father pointed out that, despite the fact that it is sometimes necessary to discuss the attribution of responsibility, we must remain focused on the “true mission of the Church” which must “speak principally not of herself but of God.”

“The evangelization of individuals and of communities depends on … the encounter with Jesus Christ,” said Benedict XVI, recalling how “Christian initiation normally takes place via the Church.”

“Faced with the large number of non-practicing Christians in your dioceses,” said the Pope, “it might be worthwhile to verify ‘the effectiveness of current approaches to Christian initiation, so that the faithful can be helped both to mature through the formation received in our communities and to give their lives an authentically Eucharistic direction, so that they can offer a reason for the hope within them in a way suited to our times’.”

Monday, November 12, 2007

The OP Did Tempt Me and I Did Buy . . a MAC

For three and a half years, Fr. Mike has been applying his formidable wit, charm, and occasional manipulation to convince me to switch from my PC to a Mac so that he would no longer be marooned alone and desolate in a PC-centric organization.

When my traveling laptop died (and rose) and died (and rose) and died (and sorta rose) again on the road, a decision had to be made - would I upgrade to Vista or get a Mac? Visions of no longer having to struggle to share files, or having to reformat Powerpoint slides when moving them from PC to MAC or vice versa danced in our heads. Visions of an effortless, amazing, syngergistic techno-bond that would make us the slickest twosome since Astaire & Rogers (pay no attention to the fact that neither of us can dance).

The OP did tempt me and I did buy. A 15" MAC Powerbook Pro with the dazzling new Leopard operating system sits on my dining room table as I speak.

Must go learn how to use it even though they didn't include a manual. Cause I guess its all so intuitive, you know.

Anyway, that's my major task of the week. But believe me, my old desktop is still up and functioning. Because it is unclear that even the great and mighty MAC is invulnerable to an anti-charism as powerful as mine.

Msgr Albacete speaks in Seattle

This looks great. ID reader Alex Vitus is giving Seattle area readers a heads-up:

THE RASH of books by atheists like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris have been grabbing the headlines in recent months. What might it mean to live in a world without God...or without Christ? And are there Christians who actually live as if there were no Christ?

A World Without Christ?

Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, National Director of Communion & Liberation will speak, and Gregory Wolfe will respond

Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete will discuss these and other questions, with reference to the book The Journey to Truth is an Experience, by Fr. Luigi Giussani, the founder of Communion and Liberation.

Thursday, November 29
7:30 PM
Library Seminar Room
Seattle Pacific University

Be there. I'm sure that Mark Shea will be!

My Maryland

Back home in the Rockies.

Fr. Mike is in Oregon on retreat this week and Keith and Barbara have returned to their homes in Chicago and Houston. I met a lot of great people and saw some wonderful things during my 9 days away in Maryland and DC. The weather was mild and mostly sunny and the leaves just turning.

It was very enriching to have a priest and pastor of the Orthodox Church of America attending Making Disciples. He is a convert and has a number of converts in his parish which is one of the fastest growing parishes in the OCA.

I spent a whole morning talking to him about his experience of evangelization and pastoral practice in Orthodoxy and I came to understand that almost all the same issues that we face are also faced by the Orthodox, only they are much, much smaller and don't have the huge network of institutions and resources that American Catholics take for granted. He pointed out several times that actual attendance at Orthodox liturgies across the nation is much lower than attendance at Catholic Mass (although his parish is an exception to that rule) with perhaps 40,000 out of a total official membership of 1 million attending the liturgy on Sunday. He seemed to find the insights and practices we covered in Making Disciples exceptionally useful and told me that he thought that other Orthodox priests could also benefit.

Christa Lipiccolo, who heads up Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Washington DC, (and attended Making Disciples last summer in Colorado Springs) assured me that there is lots of good stuff happening around her diocese for young adults. Almost all of her young adult leaders attending the Day of Discernment had never heard about charisms before but were fascinated and really interested in doing further discernment.

Christa told me of the work of Madonna House in the capital, where they operate a house of prayer and hospitality and offer poustinia rooms for 24 hours of prayer on bread and tea.

I got to visit the Paulists for dinner courtesy of Gashwin Gomes of Maior autem his est caritas. Gashwin is a tall, exuberant, articulate man and passionate Christian in his early 30's,and a Paulist novice, who was raised as a largely non-practicing Hindu in an Indian family and has a remarkable conversion story. His passion is direct proclamation of Christ which is what drew him to the Paulists. Now that I know his real name (Gashwin is a pseudonym)I suppose he'll have to send the infamous albino Paulist assassins to the Springs to make sure I don't talk but it was fun while it lasted.

I didn't realize that the Paulist's huge turn of the century house is next store to the US Bishops and also houses the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association. Neither the Paulist community (which is about the size of the Western Dominican Province) nor PNCEA (which is slightly larger but obviously much better heeled than we are) are that large but they maintain a high profile and are making very good use of new streaming technology to offer nation-wide seminars on evangelization.

Telling tidbit. When I asked one of their long term leaders (presuming that they would know of things I hadn't heard of yet), what were the most fruitful, cutting edge evangelization initiatives that they were aware of, the first response was:

"Well, you know, Catholics aren't that enthusiastic about evangelization."

So I've been told.

The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was an easy walk from where I was staying in DC and a wonderful place to visit if you actually have several hours to spend. I spent two hours walking slowly around (it is the biggest church in North American so just walking around takes time), contemplating the many wonderful altars and art works dedicated to Our Lady as she is venerated around the world and to saints like St. Dominic and Catherine of Siena. I spent two hours of intense, badly needed prayer there, praying for an ever lengthening list of people and needs. It was like a mini retreat and wonderfully refreshing.

I love this marble relief of the Universal Call to Holiness, as well as Mary, Queen of Ireland, Mary, Help of Christians, and a wonderful,tiny chapel devoted to a Vietnamese image of Mary and the infant Jesus, for which the Basilica's website doesn't yet have a link.

Before Making Disciples, Fr. Mike, Daniel, and I had the chance to visit the magnificent National Gallery of Art which could easily consume an entire day. I fell in love with Duccio di Buoninsegna's The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew.

This painting, which graced the altar of Siena's Cathedral and which Catherine of Siena must have known, is the image we have been using in Making Disciples for the moment when a person crosses into discipleship, the "drop-the-net" moment when a man or woman, like Peter, drops their nets to follow Jesus.

A Simple House in Washington, DC

One of the real privileges of my work is meeting fascinating people whom God is leading in remarkable ways.

One such group are the young men and women of A Simple House in Washington DC. Four of the five community members, all in their 20's, attended the Day of Discernment that I put on Saturday for the Young Adult leaders of the Archdiocese. The founder, who is the grand old man at 31, wasn't there so I didn't have the chance to meet him.

The Mission of a Simple House is to:

* wonderfully and radically fall upon the cross of Christ for grace and support;
* serve the poor, volunteers, and sponsors by proclaiming the gospel through acts of faith, love, and charity;
* sanctify volunteers through friendship with the Lord, observance of poverty, and obedience to the Holy Catholic Church.

A Summary of Our Philosophy

Friendship evangelization is the method we use to spread the Gospel. This evangelization is performed through words, actions, and relationships. We meet each individual on a personal level addressing their unique needs.

We also believe in complete Christian almsgiving which encompasses sacrifice, building a relationship, and meeting a need. Encouraging a spirit of sacrifice and friendship between donors, volunteers, and the poor is fundamental to our ministry.

Our motto is to ‘wonderfully and radically fall upon the cross of Christ for grace and support.’ This fall must include an obvious reliance upon God’s providence. We rely on providence by practicing personal and corporate poverty.

Volunteers do not financially profit from their work, and the organization has renounced endowments and savings accounts. As a general rule, A Simple House tries to have no more than three months operating expenses at any one time."

A couple of the Simple House volunteers told of befriending a homeless, unemployed mother of eight, who is now fully employed, has gone through quite a conversion and has been received into the Church with all her children.

Corpus Christ Watershed II

What a great initiative the other Sherry has found. And what fascinating initiatives they are involved with, such as

Our Lady Queen of China Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to ministry and evangelization of the Chinese people. Corpus Christi Watershed is designing pocket-sized booklets of each of the four Gospels in Chinese that will be handed out at Chinese parishes across the country. The Gospel of John has been completed and has been sent to the printer where 1,000 copies will be made to be distributed.

And be sure and read this great with St. Magnificat Mace, hermit and iconographer. I love it:

So you sing a lot when you write your icons?
Yes, when I get up in the night… I sing and I paint. Sometimes I go out to look at the stars and the moon. So I sing. I come back here maybe at 2:00 during the night. Then I start painting.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Lord provides plot turns more wonderful than we could imagine or plan ourselves

I just came across an interesting apostolate that is putting the creative charisms to what seem to me to be very good effect: The Corpus Christi Watershed.

From their website:

Corpus Christi Watershed is a new non-profit organization that was founded in Fall of 2006 on the Feast of St. Philip Howard, a poet and one of the English Martyrs. We are a non-profit dedicated to the fields of the creative arts. Our work is at the same time cultural and literary as well as religious and educational, and we seek not only to preserve and make accessible the great artistic works of the past, but also foster new creative ventures.

Our particular call is the hope of incarnating something of the Spirit in our creative works, be they documentary films, music albums or even something as pedestrian as ‘a newsletter’. Our project is Eucharistic, as our staff spend time in adoration each day, harvesting something of eternity that can inspire us and be plunged into our humble creative ventures. We seek that this be a work of the Holy Spirit above all else.

Whom do we seek to touch? Everyone we can. We consider the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and seek to be anything but exclusive. One does not need to be religious or Christian to visit the Sistine Chapel or the great basilicas of Rome. This is the same with any work such as the poetry of Dante and Hopkins or the sublime images of Fra Angelico or Carravaggio. The great treasury of sacred art is open for all to behold. Thus, Corpus Christi Watershed is very much a public charity, not only in terms of our pending 501(c)3 federal recognition, but even more importantly in terms of the Latin amor caritas. Love charity, and above all share it and broadcast it far and wide.

One project of theirs that I particularly love is the St. Noel Chabanel Responsorial Psalm Project, but a simple link to it is probably all that our liturgy-wars-free-zone policy will allow.

I particularly enjoyed this description (my emphasis):

...St. Joseph seems to have taken a special interest in this whole project from its inception. As soon as the idea came up a few years ago in the writers group when we were wistfully talking about a “writers’ colony,” it seemed like an impossibility, but Claire and I started making novenas to St. Joseph for guidance as to which direction we should follow and what God wanted us to be involved in, and St. Joseph seems to have taken on the task.

This has progressed with what seems to us miraculous speed and now we are on the slopes, skiing and tobogganing down with great rapidity and trying to control the car . . . but we leave it to the saints to drive the car, and we will savor the ride.

I also want to acknowledge the patronage of St. Phillip Neri who— since I have become aquainted with him through his style, his sanctified jocularity, and creativity— has been a luminous incentive for us to keep jogging along at his pace… which is faster than we are normally used to going. What seems to me is special about this project is that it is set very much in the style of Phillip Neri. We do not limit ourselves by a prescribed structure we envision ourselves, to which we would doggedly adhere as we progress, but rather we allow everything to develop according to the gifts of the people that God attracts to this project. Thus, we let personalities be the guide rather than any kind of pre-arranged formula.

Pope Benedict XVI in his first Mass spoke about this very thing, about his style of governance being not any kind of synthesized structure but the fruits of his own
personality and the fact that he would be completely open to the will of God and see what happens. This openness to the will of God becomes itself the structure.

So we can think of the endeavors of Corpus Christi Watershed metaphorically in terms of a book where it is not some kind of a pulp fiction that the writer drafts according to a formula some publisher gives him with a prescribed structure. Instead, ours is a more literary adventure where we allow the characters to develop the story. So day to day we do not know exactly what is going to happen, but we know that it us going to be a page turner, and everything we do will be an exciting surprise. We always shall be looking forward to the next page, and the next chapter, and we shall keep moving ahead that way. This is how things have been thus far
and we anticipate it to continue this way. The Lord provides plot turns more wonderful than we could imagine or plan ourselves.

I am still planning (the vagaries of life with kids and colds and a husband putting in late nights permitting) to do a few posts on our experience of launching the Nameless Lay Group, to perhaps be a help to others who may want to do something about fostering intentional community in their own circumstances.

In the meantime, the Holy Spirit is always at work in surprising ways, as Sherry W. mentioned last week:

We have been inundated with amazing, Holy Spirit engineered connections and unprecedented opportunities during these these past two weeks - so many that I'm losing count. Ten in all, I think. It is hard to know what God is doing, exactly how to respond, and which will come to fruition.

So keep praying! And expect to be surprised....

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Sunday Morning Update

As the teaching team for Making Disciples prepares for our upcoming seminar, we decided to take advantage of the "breathing room" we have before we begin this evening. My compatriots, many of whom have not been to Washington, DC recently (or ever), decided to take the morning and afternoon to do some sightseeing in the nation's capitol. I, on the other hand, am using this time as a mini retreat.

I woke up refreshed this morning from an extra hour's sleep (thank you Daylight Savings Time) and proceeded to eat a leisurely breakfast in a dining hall overlooking the Potomac River. It resembled something like this:
After breakfast, I spent some time in prayer and then headed out for a walk along the property of the Loyola Retreat House. Fall has just about made its journey in the Chicago area. The cool winds of Autumn are giving way to the frigid gusts of winter. There is an increasing bite to the air and a deeper frost on the ground. Maryland, however, seems to be not quite in the middle of its Fall season. The leaves are still firmly on the trees, and they have not quite "ripened" into the full flaming colors of an Eastern Autumn.

I walked through woods and across roads that were surrounded by the call of birds, the rustle of squirrels and chipmunks, and even the humming of insects that have not quite realized that summer is over. Each step brought me deeper into the mystery that is creation. Along the way, I sat before a still pond, and as I remained there, I felt a mirroring stillness within my own spirit--a profound cessation of thought and activity. I could see a clear reflection of the glorious, autumn-flamed trees in the pond, and I observed this reflection deeply.
As time passed and I stirred from this contemplation, I understood in that moment the truth of the psalmist when he wrote: "Be still and know that I am God." Stillness is a profound condition of the spiritual life. In order for us to better reflect the glory and the beauty of God to a world so desperately in need of it, we must be still, like a pond. Sin and preoccupation create ripples in our spiritual life that disrupt this reflection.
I pray that during this seminar, all of us (participants and teachers alike) will allow the Holy Spirit to still our hearts, minds, and spirits!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Live from Faulkner . . .it's Saturday Night!

After a long journey (for some folks who live at elevations too high for the rest of us mere mortals), several adventures (including eating lunch and shopping at Sam's Club), the Making Disciples Teaching Team (MDTT, or short) has arrived at our beautiful seminar location, the Loyola Retreat House. contrary to Sherry's prognostications, we actually do have interweb access thanks to the Pantech PX-500 Mobile Broadband Data Card that found its way into my travel bag.

I didn't tell Sherry about it at all before we got here, as I didn't want to see her Technology anti-charism in action. What this means is that we should be able to post periodically (or regularly even) about the Making Disciples Workshop. My prayer is that this event goes as well s the last MD in Colorado.

May God bless all those attending and guide them safely here!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Off to Maryland

Fr. Mike, Keith Strohm, and I are jetting off to Faulkner, Maryland tomorrow to offer Making Disciples. This should be interesting: we have an Australian priest, a priest from Cameroon, and a Russian Orthodox priest among our participants. The Church universal. We are in a lovely Jesuit retreat center on a bluff overlooking the Potomac.

Lord willing, I'll have dinner next Thursday with Gashwin Gomes and the Paulist novices, and also get to do some sightseeing with the gang on Sunday and by myself next Friday before doing a Day of Discernment on Saturday for the young adult leaders of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.

The retreat center has very little internet access and I don't know what it will be like in the house of formation where I'll be staying in DC, so blogging will be limited. After November 10, I'll be blogging in earnest again.

A prayer request:

We have been inundated with amazing, Holy Spirit engineered connections and unprecedented opportunities during these these past two weeks - so many that I'm losing count. Ten in all, I think. It is hard to know what God is doing, exactly how to respond, and which will come to fruition.

Your prayers for all attending Making Disciples, for our teaching team, for all the discernment and decisions we need to make and the people and resources we need to respond to these opportunities are very greatly appreciated.

Cardinal Schonborn on the "Bacon Priest", Fr. Werenfried

From Aid to the Church in Need, this neat tidbit about the founder of ACN, Fr. Werenfried, who like Brother Andrew, was Dutch.

Cardinal Schönborn speaks on the legacy left by Fr Werenfried

Cardinal Schönborn: "Father Werenfried only to be compared with Saint Paul and with Don Bosco"

Speaking to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, has said that Father Werenfried was "only to be compared with Saint Paul and with Don Bosco". He described the Dutch Norbertine priest, who died in 2003, as a "unique man of reconciliation and help in many kinds of need". His charism was still living on beyond his death, he said, adding that "this gift for the Church" was still necessary. In many places the Church was in need, the cardinal added. As Jesus had said, there was a "huge harvest", but far too few labourers. The fact that ACN was still so active was a "powerful sign of hope", he said. On the occasion of the charity's 60th anniversary, he wished ACN every blessing for the years ahead.

Cardinal Schönborn emphasised that Father Werenfried had been a great inspiration to him personally, since he had shown "how one should properly beg in order to help Christians and others in need". This was occasionally his own task too, the cardinal said, since he too often had to collect money for various needs.

Cardinal Schönborn had met Father Werenfried twice in person, he told ACN, and had been especially impressed when the founder of ACN had spoken to him about his help for the Russian Orthodox Church. "This impressed me deeply", he said. "This was the spirit in which he helped in Germany after the war." Yet as a Dutchman Father Werenfried came from a country that "had suffered so much under German rule". Nonetheless, he had sought reconciliation after the war. "And now, a few years ago, this effort to help the Russian Orthodox Church - again in a situation that was difficult. I consider this idea to be very, very precious", the cardinal continued, adding that it was a "profoundly Christian, profoundly ecumenical idea".

The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is directly answerable to the Vatican. It was founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, a Dutch Norbertine priest. Right after the Second World War, he began a campaign in Holland and Belgium for their former enemies, the Germans, in a spirit of reconciliation. In those days he used to collect gifts in kind and foodstuffs, especially bacon, which earned him the worldwide nickname of "Bacon Priest". In the course of time this post-war initiative developed into a worldwide charity which now provides pastoral aid wherever the Church faces discrimination or persecution or is too poor to fulfil her pastoral mission. Currently the charity sponsors projects in some 140 countries around the world.

International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Church

November 11 is the Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

"The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) is a global day of intercession for persecuted Christians worldwide. Its primary focus is the work of intercessory prayer and citizen action on behalf of persecuted communities of the Christian faith. We also encourage prayer for the souls of the oppressors, the nations that promote persecution, and those who ignore it. We believe that prayer changes things. Exactly what happens is a mystery of faith. God invites us to present to Him our requests and to pray without ceasing. Persecuted Christians often plead for prayer to help them endure. The most we can do is the least we can do — pray."

The IDOP is the largest prayer event of its kind in the world (so the website says but I'm thinking they probably aren't taking something like the World Youth Day in Rome or Manila into their calculations. In any case, WYD isn't an annual event) Over 100,000 local congregations in 130 nations take part. This is an event that few Catholics participate in but we can and should. Think how much larger it would be if Catholics, who make up 51% of the Christians in the world, participated? This would be a really useful form of ecumenism.

I like this FAQ from their website:

Why doesn’t the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church pray for all persecuted people regardless of their religious, political, or social affiliation?

As a human rights issue, the persecution of Christians dwarfs all other forms of religious injustice. It is beneficial to take advocacy for fellow believers who suffer for their faith as a starting point, as Christians living in free societies have been largely unaware of or silent to this increasing tragedy. As we gain a deeper understanding of the plight of our Christian family, we can also grow in knowledge about human rights issues affecting all people. A Christian’s compassion is not reserved only for fellow Christians, but is to be given to all who suffer injustice and oppression (Luke 12:29) and to those whose dark consciences press them to perpetrate evil (Matthew 5:44). Christians are encouraged to “do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10).

As part of this day, Brother Andrew (well known in evangelical circles but almost unknown among Catholics) will be hosting a video broadcast called Secret Believers about secret Christians in Muslim countries. It is being broadcast through the Church Communication Network (to local evangelical congregations) and alas isn't being streamed on the internet as far as I can see. But it would be worth watching if you can catch it because Brother Andrew is a man who has spent his life walking on water and through walls.

Brother Andrew began taking Bibles to Christians behind closed borders in 1955. His international best-seller, God's Smuggler, chronicles the early days of life and ministry, detailing dangerous border crossings, KGB pursuits, and his courageous journey toward living radically for Jesus Christ. That work has since become Open Doors International, a ministry to the Persecuted Church in over 60 countries, providing literacy/vocational training, Bibles, and economic relief in some of the most dangerous countries in the world. Brother Andrew remains among the few Western leaders to travel to the Middle East as an ambassador for Christ, holding private meetings with leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. In 1994, he was knighted by Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands. (Brother Andrew is Dutch.) In 1997, he was the recipient of the World Evangelical Fellowship’s Religious Liberty Award.

Aid to the Church in Need is the pontifically sponsored Catholic equivalent of Open Doors and a wonderful ministry to support.

In June of 2004, they sponsored "Forty Hours for the Suffering Church" in Rome Basilica of St. Anastasia. The “Forty Hours” will open with a Celebration of the Eucharist in the Greek Catholic Rite and close with a Celebration of the Eucharist in the Copt-Catholic Rite. In between, for forty consecutive hours there will be adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, readings from Holy Scripture and meditation. Priests, religious and faithful from many different parts of the world are expected to gather for the prayers which in three-hour cycles will be dedicated to the Church on the different continents with meditations taken from Pope John Paul II’s relative post-synodal exhortations commented by ACN benefactors and collaborators.

What a wonderful idea! Why couldn't US Catholics do something similar in conjunction with the IDOP?

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Hebrews 13:3

For Them, Life Has Changed, Not Ended

I am having trouble sleeping tonight, so I began thinking about friends, relatives and fellow Dominicans who have died, and whom I pray are with Jesus in glory. I continue to be blessed by their prayers and love, and I thought I might offer a brief litany of thanks to God for them.

Thank you, Lord, for Fr. Bernie, who remembered me and my classmate, Jose, in his daily Mass throughout my formation as a Dominican. He gave me my first priestly stole four years before my ordination, because he knew he would not live to see it. Is it merely a coincidence that Jose and I were the only two from my class of nine who were ordained?

Thank you, Lord, for my lay Dominican sister, Virginia, who kindly accepted my naive invitation to comment on my homilies, and then gave me brutally honest feedback wrapped in love. She had such a great devotion to the saints and to her friends that the saints were her friends, and her friends were encouraged to be saints. Was it merely a coincidence that she went to heaven on the feast of her favorite, St. Aelred, the patron of friends?

Thank you, Lord, for my Dominican sister, Kathleen Rose, whose laughter and love for ministry sustained her as she battled with breast cancer. Was it simply luck that gave us a sunny two days in the 70 degree temperature range on the Oregon coast in December the last time I saw her alive?

Thank you, Lord, for Granny Fones and Nana Simpson, the only grandparents I have any real memories. Granny served the sick in hospitals by cooking for them; she taught me how to play King's Corners, and I loved her easy laugh, and the clicking sounds her dentures made occasionally when she talked. I remember Nana bent in half as she picked dandelions in the yard, doing something to show her gratitude for living with my family for months at a time. She impressed upon me the importance of Scripture at an early age simply by reading her Bible in the blue chair in the living room sunshine.

Thank you for Fr. Antonio, who patiently dealt with my skeptical scientific mind as he taught me the way the ancient Greeks saw the world. I hope I never forget (and someday share) his childlike wonder at the beauty of the God's creation and the inspired creativity of God's human creatures.

I rejoice that for them, life has changed, not ended, and that their love for me is even greater now than it was during their earthly life. I rejoice that through Jesus in the eucharist we are still united, and I hope to be able to see them again, but with a love purified of selfishness, so that I can love them with and in the love of Christ.

For whom are you thankful today, among your brothers and sisters in Christ have gone to their rest? How have they inspired you? How will you remember them - and pray for them - on this feast of All Souls?

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Saint of the French Underground

Catherine Jarrige is one of my favorite heroines of the faith because she was so unpretentious,creative, and fearless. Catherine was not a "catechist" in our normal sense of the word - one who teaches catechism lessons to small children. But what do you call a lay woman who created an underground for priests and carried the entire weight of Catholic religious life on her shoulder for several years during the French Revolution. Parish life director, indeed!

Here is an article that I wrote year ago about the charism of service, using Catherine as an examplar.

This July 4, American Catholics will have something more than independence and fireworks to celebrate. It will mark the first celebration of memorial of Blessed Catherine Jarrige, who was beatified last November.

By any standards, Catherine, a French peasant and lay Dominican who outwitted a revolutionary government in order to keep Catholic life alive in a time of oppression, is a remarkable women. But more remarkable is the fact that her exploits seem to have been empowered by a gift that we consider one of the most ordinary and unremarkable - the charism of service.

The charism of service empowers a Christian to be a channel of God’s purposes by recognizing the logistical gaps or unmet needs that can prevent good things from happening, and by personally doing whatever it takes to solve the problem and meet the need. Christians with this charism see what the rest of us can so often miss—the organizational roadblocks and practical gaps that keep good things from happening. They are gifted with a kind of radar that seeks out and anticipates potential logistical problems.

Those with a gift of service are also energized by the challenge of taking personal action to solve the problem they have recognized. These are the people who will set up chairs without being asked when the facilitator of a meeting falls sick, or will spot a vacancy in the schedule of ushers and voluntarily fill in for the missing person.

People with the gift of service really know what it takes to get a job done and are personally willing to do whatever is necessary. Usually able to turn to their hands to most any practical task, servers are the hard-working backbone of any community. They are usually deeply involved in their local parish or Christian community because they find it intolerable that things should not be done for want of a little “common sense” and elbow grease.

Of course, their sense is anything but common. Catherine Jarrige, for example, was shrewd, fearless, and absolutely ingenious. During the French Revolution, all Christian churches and monasteries in France were closed and priests who were caught were routinely executed.

Catherine set up an underground for hunted priests, hiding them in robber’s dens and provided them with food, shelter, safe passage, and false papers. In her region, no babies went unbaptized or the dying without last rites. The entire religious life of the area rested on her capable shoulders for several years.

Catherine also helped restart parish life after the Revolution. There is real evidence that Catherine is still busy coming to other’s aid today. Attending her beatification ceremony in St. Peters last November was a man who had been miraculously healed at the age of six through Catherine’s intercession

I must not forget to mention that Catherine was a lay Dominican as well.

Living Saints

The November Lausanne World Pulse e-zine has arrived and it contains an article most pertinent to the Feast of All Saints.

The most severely persecuted Christians in the world live in North Korea and the little news we have from that country is amazing. Despite terrible oppression, Christianity is growing with great speed. No one knows exactly how many Christians survive in North Korea but it is estimated that one in five are in prison for their faith.

"Despite these statistics, God is growing his Church in this land. In 1989 there were an estimated eleven thousand Christians in the country. By 2004 this number had risen to as many as 100,000. By 2006 the estimate was somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 Christians.

For many of these Christians, five principles of faith are daily recited: (1) our persecution and suffering are our joy and honor, (2) we want to accept ridicule, scorn and disadvantages with joy in Jesus’ name, (3) as Christians, we want to wipe others’ tears away and comfort the suffering, (4) we want to be ready to risk our life because of our love for our neighbor, so that they also become Christians and (5) we want to live our lives according to the standards set in God’s Word."

According to the World Christian Database, it is estimated that there are about 40,000 Catholics in North Korea.

For more information, visit The Barnabus Fund.

A Lay Saint of Ancient Rome

St. Melania the Younger (d. 439)

A member of the Roman nobility, Melania convinced her mother and husband to abandon their luxurious lifestyle and beome part of a Christian community of thirty families. Against family opposition, she sold her vast properties and gave the money to the needy while purchasing the freedom of eight thousand slaves.

Melania knew St. Augustine, founded double monasteries for her former slaves, and finally settled in Jerusalem close to St. Jerome. Melania was venerated in the east but almost entirely unknown in the west until her biography, based upon a ancient manuscript found in the Vatican, was published in 1905.

Sherry's comment: Namedropper!

Two Lay Saints of Naples

Two lay saints who are not particularly well known in the US are St. Joseph Moscati (1880 - 1927) and Blessed Bartolo Longo.(1841 - 1926)

If you can imagine a devout and warm Gregory House, you will have a good picture of St. Joseph Moscati.

Joseph was a brilliant young physician in Naples who was well known for his heroic efforts to say his patients during the 1906 eruption of Mount Vesuvius. and the terrible cholera epidemic of 1911. Moscati was considered a master of using autopsies as a way to advancing medical knowledge.

The former Director of the Pathological Anatomy Institute had placed this sentence at the entrance of the room where autopsies were done in front of medical students as a teaching device: "Hic est locus ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae." ("This is the place where Death likes to help Life"). But in that Room, as Prof. Nicola Donadio writes, "there was no trace of religion, the place was severe but desolate."

Prof. Moscati thought to put on the top of a wall in that room, dominating the whole place, a Crucifix with this most happy sentence: "Ero mors tua, o mors" (= "Oh Death, I will be your death"), quotation of the Prophet Osea (Os 13, 14).

Joseph was convinced that the health of the body was dependent upon the health of the soul and he regularly encouraged his patients to draw nearer to God and to return to the sacraments. He gave free medical care to the poor, homeless, and to religious and had a gift for diagnosis that seemed to his colleagues to border on the miraculous. Moscati also served as Blessed Bartolo Longo's primary physician.

Bartolo Longo's incredible saga began when he was "ordained" a Satanic priest during his university days in Naples. Bartolo later wrote that on the night of his ordination by a satanic bishop, the walls of the "church" shook with thunder while blasphemous, disembodied shrieks knifed the air. Bartolo fainted with fright and for a while afterwards was deeply tormented and physically ill. Despite this depression and nervousness, he exercised his satanic priesthood by preaching, officiating at satanic rites, and publicly ridiculing Catholicism and everyone and everything connected with it.

Bartolo was brought back to the Christian faith by the prayers of his family and the witness of a friend who introduced him to the Dominican priest who was to become his friend, confessor, and spiritual director and who helped Longo withdraw from the Satanic cult. Fr. Radente said to him: "If you are looking for salvation, propagate the Rosary. It is the promise of Mary. He who propagates the Rosary shall be saved."

Bartolo became a professed Third Order Dominican and one of the greatest modern apostles of the Rosary. He build a magnificent church in Pompeii dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary. A respected lawyer, Bartolo and his wife spent much of their time and income caring for many orphans, especially the children of prison inmates, and paid for the training of forty five seminarians.

Oh - and just because you can't mention the city of Pompeii without thinking of its ancient history, here is a You tube bit from what looks like a very fascinating BBC recreation of the Last Day of Pompeii.

Blessed James Duckett

Consider the moving story of Blessed James Duckett.
(d. 1602)

Raised as a Protestant and apprenticed to a printer. After reading a book "The Firm Foundation of the Catholic Religion, James stopped attended Anglican services and was sentenced to prison twice. Finally, his employer revoked his contract for apprenticeship upon which James asked a priest, imprisoned in London, to instruct him in the faith and receive him into the Church.

After that, James made his living by printing and deal in Catholic books. He was arrested so often for this daring activity that he spent nine of his twelve years of married life in prison. Betrayed by a fellow Catholic, and sentenced to death for binding a book of Catholic apologetics, James was driven to his execution in the same cart as his accuser, whom he publicly forgave. After the rope was placed around their necks, James kissed his betrayer in a final gesture of forgiveness.

Forty two years later, a Fr. John Duckett, a relative of James, was betrayed at this spot near Wolsingham, and was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.

A Smorgaboard of Saints

In honor of all Saints Day, I thought I'd share some of the remarkable and little known stories of lay "patron saints" (canonized or not) that we routinely tell in the course of our Called & Gifted workshops. Of course, there is no official list of "patron saints" for certain charisms, as we make clear to those who attend, but I've written up a lot of short lives of great Catholics who manifested certain charisms during their lifetime. We encourage participants to take a "saint" as a patron and model for their discernment process. The complete set of bios is available in our Catholic Spiritual Gifts Resource Guide.

Under the rubric of the charism of Administration, I have

Venerable Pauline Marie Jaricot (1799-1862)

A gifted administrator, Pauline organized a brilliant method for collecting money for missionary work (which gave rise to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith) and also founded the Association of the Living Rosary. Her remarkable success aroused jealousy (especially in men who refused to acknowledge the gifts and inspiration of this young woman)and when the funds for one of her projects were embezzled by a trusted advisor, many of the Pauline's supporters turned against her and she spent the rest of her life in poverty, trying to pay the donors back. She was a friend of John Vianney, the Cure d'Ars.

St. Margaret of Scotland (1045-1093)

A member of the former Anglo-Saxon royal family (who left England after the conquest by the Normans), Margaret married the illiterate warrior King of Scotland, Malcolm III. Margaret was happy in her marriage and a gifted administrator who was enormously influential for good in her adopted country. Margaret reformed the law courts in the favor of the poor, ransomed slaveds, forbade royal soldiers to loot Scottish homes, founded churches (such as Dunfermline Abbey when she is buried) and organized church synods. Her eight children were all known for their faith and virtue. Here son David inherited the Scottish throne and built this little chapel, now the oldest part of Ediburgh castle, in memory of his mother

Margaret carried an exquisite little book of the Gospels with her everywhere and it now resides in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Listen to this delightful little BBC audio report on Margaret's Gospel Book