Friday, May 30, 2008

Latina Catholics Becoming Muslims

From a Muslim site, this extended post on Latina Catholics becoming Muslim:

What I find interesting is that none of the converts talks about their actual relationship with God. One major
topic seems to be wearing the hijab and how it affects how they feel about themselves and how others treat them.


When Beatriz Kehdy was growing up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, she felt uncomfortable with the standards of beauty that she says were a part of the culture in which she was raised.

An emphasis on external beauty and the body, she says, became increasingly foreign to her own personal values.

Kehdy moved to New York City almost 10 years ago and eventually discovered a sense of place in Islam and in the hijab, or headscarf worn by women in the faith.

“When I wear the hijab, I feel more respected, people talk to me with respect,” she said.
The now 27-year-old architect converted from Catholicism to Islam four years ago, but didn’t tell her family until a few years later, in a letter.

“When I started wearing the hijab, there was a problem,” she said.

“My father didn’t want me to wear it in public in Brazil.”

Kehdy is one of many Latin American women in the US who have embraced the Islamic faith.
The American Muslim Council, based in Chicago, estimates that there are more than 200,000 Latino Muslims in the United States.

Women make up 60 percent of conversions to Islam, according to experts.

Mosques around the country have begun to offer special classes where women converts can learn about Islam.

The North Hudson Islamic Educational Center, in Union City, N.J., offers both English and Spanish Language classes.

Mariam Abassi, vice president of the Da’wah (outreach) program at the center, said about 500 members of the center are Latino converts.

There are between 4,000 and 5,000 members in total.


Many Latinas choose to accept Islam because they marry Muslims.

Others convert when they’re single, often because they feel unfulfilled by the religion in which they were raised.

For a large number of Latinas, that faith is Catholicism.

“Some of them really have doubt about the Trinity,” a central belief in Catholicism that says God exists in three beings, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; said Chernor Sa’ad Jallah, assistant Imam at the Islamic Cultural Center, in East Harlem, the largest mosque in New York City.

“They find it really confusing,” In his community of about 1,500 people, between 10 and 15 percent are Latinos.


Some said they were uncomfortable making confessions to a priest and feeling as though they had no direct relationship with God.

“I was raised as a Catholic but I didn’t like it.

I felt this emptiness,” said Mayeline Turbides, a 21-year-old Dominican student who lives in West New York, N.J.” I was never convinced.” She took the name Leila after she became a Muslim.

Before discovering Islam, Turbides had explored evangelical Christianity and Mormonism, which failed to draw her in.

About two years ago, her Muslim boss started talking to her about Islam.

“I used to go out, to drink.

I got drunk 500 times,” Turbides said in Spanish.

“But nothing made sense.

I wanted rules.”

When it comes to assimilating to a new faith, Islam appeals to Catholic Latinas for several reasons.

“There are many similarities between Catholicism and Islam,” said Ibrahim Hooper, Communications Director and spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington, D.C.

“Both have principles that need to be followed, regarding how you conduct yourself as person, how you operate in a community.”

Others find a new religion to be an escape from the confines of machismo, or chauvinism.

“I feel more protected,” Turbides said.

“Men used to shout things at me when I was walking down the street.

They would honk their horns.

When I wear the hijab, nobody says anything.”

For New Yorker Yuri Lara, the 23-year-old daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants, understanding the role of women in Islam, and dispelling what she considers to be stereotypes, was one of her biggest concerns when she was studying the religion.

“We have rights, we have a voice, it’s all in the Quran,” said Lara, who studied psychology at SUNY Albany.

But for many Latina converts to Islam, conversion brings with it the challenge of gaining acceptance from their own families and other non-Muslims, a process that takes time.

“At first my family was unhappy,” said Demaris Tapanes, 32, who was born and raised in Union City, N.J., to a Puerto Rican mother and a Cuban father.

“'Why do you have to cover?'" she said of her family’s objection to the hijab.

“One of my brothers told me he didn’t want me to cover because after 9/11, people resented Muslims,” she said “He was concerned for my security.”

Wearing the hijab presents other challenges, as Turbides found out when she wore the head covering to the grocery store where she works.

“People would ignore me,” Turbides said.

“My boss is a Muslim, but they’re nice to him because he is an Arab.

Since I am Latina, they tell me that I’m pulling away from my religion.

I felt very bad that day.”

Despite the obstacles they face to practice their adopted faith, many women converts say Islam changed their lives.

“I’m a better version of myself now,” said Lara.

“I’m closer to my family than I ever was.

I think more about others, as opposed to me, me, me.

I think about what I’m going to eat before I take the last bite left.”

Estela Ramon, who attends the class at the North Hudson Islamic Educational Center, in Union City, became interested in Islam after her husband, Delfino, who was born in Mexico, converted to Islam four years ago.

“At first I asked him if he was crazy,” said Ramon, who is also from Mexico and was raised a Catholic.

Ramon, 34, says that her husband changed for the better when he turned to Islam.

“He used to drink and get angry,” she said.

“Now he is more confident in himself, he is more responsible.

And he doesn’t drink anymore.”
Ramon is reading a Spanish translation of the Quran and is thinking of converting too.

Although she says she is drawn to the lifestyle that Islam proscribes, Ramon says she is not ready to accept the faith.

“My time to say yes has not come," she said.

“When God wants me to, I will accept it.”


You have heard it here before: If we don't evangelize our own, someone else will do it for us. And they may be Muslim.

Comments?

Is Canadian Catholicism Becoming "Evangelical?"

Is the Canadian Catholic Church becoming "evangelical"?

John Allen's piece today raises that question with Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto.

NCR: One word that seems to come up in describing the new crop of Canadian bishops, yourself included, is 'evangelical.'

Archbishop Collins: I hope so. One of things I'm talking about in this retreat with priests is St. Paul, preaching the gospel, reaching out. … We've got to be moving out into the secular world. As much as I admire Catholic journals and the Catholic media, I'm reminded that G.K. Chesterton wrote in the Illustrated London News. Later he wrote for a Catholic weekly, but most of his life was out in the secular world. We've got to do what we can in-house, we have to look at the gathered, but we've got to look at the scattered as well.

NCR: Part of what people mean by calling you 'evangelical' is a willingness to challenge the prevailing secular consensus.

Archbishop Collins: Oh, absolutely. … This is a very secular society, definitely not the United States. In Canada, there's a strong push among the ruling elite to address the issue of a multicultural and multi-religious society by saying, "Let us drain the public forum of all religion." The secular society would thus not really be the society of this age, which is what it should be, but a society drained of anything. It's iconic that after 9/11, in the country where it actually happened, everybody went to a cathedral where the president and religious leaders prayed. In the country to the north, which also lost people, the event was held on Parliament Hill, with nary a reference to God. I wasn't there, but somebody told me that the only hymn was "Imagine," an atheist hymn. We're all conscious of the Swiss Air tragedy. [In 1998, a Swiss Air flight crashed off the coast of Nova Scotia, killing all 229 people on board.] After that tragedy, there was a "God-free" public service. That's one alternative [for a multicultural society], and I think it's absolutely wrong-headed.

NCR: So the new Canadian bishops are determined to push back?

Archbishop Collins: I think so. We've had enough. We're here, and we're part of this society. As I often point out, if someone's vulnerable and on the street in Toronto, it's someone motivated by religion who's going to help them. We're there on the street, we walk the talk. Therefore, we have a place at the table. We've earned it, quite apart from the fact that all but 16 percent of the Canadian population claims some sort of religious affiliation, at least when approached by the census. I think the idea that the solution to a multiethnic, multi-religious, multicultural society is to deny the profound reality in the lives of the vast majority of the population, which is religion, is just bizarre. Why should we sit here and let that happen? I'm not talking about replacing this model with a theocracy. Obviously we've had that in history. The church is always healthiest when it's not in power, so I'm not recommending that. We should not be in power, but we're here, and we have a right to speak.

NCR: To what extent is this evangelical spirit present at the grass roots?

Archbishop Collins: I feel extraordinary hope. I had this hilarious experience last year, after I had just ordained six guys to the priesthood. We were outside going around taking photographs in a little courtyard beside the church. This reporter came up to me, looking soulfully into my eyes, and asked me to talk about the failure of people to respond to vocations to the priesthood and the disaster looming over the church. I said, "Well, I just ordained six of them. Talk to them, they're over there." He said, "But what about the failure and the falling apart of the church, people drifting away?" That's just not my reality. Sure, those things are real, but it's not the whole story.

NCR: It sounds like you're trying to project a robust Catholic identity, but one that's outward-looking rather than moving into a ghetto.

Archbishop Collins: Definitely not a ghetto. We're part of the society. We're good friends with all our neighbors of many faiths, and with the secularists too. …I think we should engage in hearty discussions with all kinds of people.

More Bishops like this, please. Love the fact that Archbishop Collins clearly understands the term "evangelical" in its Biblical sense and gladly claims it as Catholic without the slightest hesitancy.

A Theologian in Town Hall

Intriguing article, "A Theologian in Town Hall", in the new issue of America. It is written by a tenured professor of theology, Georgia Masters Keightley, who quit her job and become major of her small Nebraska home town.

Keightley's interest is very much in the theology and mission of the laity:

Throughout my career, I had regularly taught courses in Catholic social ethics and was gratified to find students altruistic and enthusiastic about the idea that society could be transformed by their decisions and actions. Yet the more I taught these courses, the more I wanted to know how to translate this body of teaching into practical, everyday decisions and actions. What could educated Catholic professionals do to make the social, economic and political networks of their communities more fair and just, more supportive of the common good? How does one live out a preferential option for the poor in one’s professional life? How does the principle of solidarity apply to one’s daily use of money?

While I could remind students of the Gospel charge to do hands-on charity and service, such actions do not really address the structural causes of injustice, which, as Paul VI taught, must be a primary focus of the Catholic witness in our time. The pope described the need for Catholics to bring to conversion “the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs.” The question was how.


Snip.

First, I learned that service as an elected official or as an appointee to a board or committee is a rich opportunity for Christian witness. Here one can directly affect the way taxes are raised and spent and create opportunities for employment, education and job training; one can work to ensure that affordable housing is provided and that building codes, safety and health standards are enforced. Above all I came to see such service as a vital way the baptized can heed the call of the Second Vatican Council to seek “the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will.” In this way, too, U.S. Catholics can practice what our bishops have come to call “faithful citizenship.”

But my time as mayor also gave me insight into some of the individual things that must be attended to if our collective institutions are to be humanized. And while most of what I learned was hardly revolutionary, my experience proved that St. Thérèse, the Little Flower, had it absolutely right: it is in the practice of love in the small details that we really begin to redirect the world to God’s purposes.


Snip.

To be honest, I was relieved when my mayoral duties came to an end. To do such work takes vast amounts of time, humility, patience, a thick skin and a good sense of humor. Despite the challenges, I came away with a clearer grasp of what lay Catholics can do to renew society and its institutions. But the dearth of attention parishes give to promoting and then preparing laypeople for such indispensable work has been a continuing disappointment. How often does one hear homilies treating the great themes of Catholic social ethics: the dignity of work, the obligation to care for creation, the rights and duties associated with life in community? When and where are laypeople educated in the practical ways of using their learning, professional expertise and gifts of the Spirit to root out the conditions that give rise to hunger, homelessness and discrimination? (Sherry's emphasis)

Great observations.

It has been my experience across the board that one area where Catholic formation almost always is weakest is in helping people learn how to apply the principles of the Church's teaching in specific, concrete real live situations. Every time we've managed to come up with a theologically solid and practical process that addresses one specific area of lay formation, the demand for it is huge. Because the need to bridge the gap between the universal and its application in Colorado Springs or Dodge City or Houston in 2008 in this unique set of circumstances is never ending.

This really is the terrain, the jurisdiction, the responsibility and expertise of the laity.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lots Going On

Lots to blog. First of all, starting tomorrow evening at 7pm.

First Fr. Mike takes off early tomorrow for LA where he will help teach a Called & Gifted workshop at St, John Eudes in Chatsworth, CA.

while our one of our Chicago land teaching teams will be putting on a Called & Gifted workshop at St. Isidore's in Bloomington, IL

If you are in the LA or Chicago areas, feel free to join the fun.

Secondly, interesting stuff going on over at Inside Catholic's blog:

Mark Shea's piece on Getting Past Clericalism is their cover story - and talks about the work of the institute.

They are also showing this fascinating video of an underground evangelical preacher in China. It all seems extremely
evangelical until half way through when - without any warning, one of his little congregations begins to pray the Rosary!
(Honest - I listened to it twice to be sure. ) There was no commentary about this in the video. In many parts of the global south, the sort of divisions that are so important to us seem meaningless but I have to admit I never thought to see Chinese underground evangelicals praying the Rosary. They may not know its Catholic and apparently have no knee-jerk Protestant fears about it.

Thirdly, Gashwin Gomes has blogged a interesting 5 part interview with an Indian Jesuit who is a missionary in Gujarat.

Addendum: I've read the whole interview that Gashwin has written: Fascinating.

I was particularly struck by part 5 on evangelism and discipleship: Nominalism, culture, "followers of Jesus" vs. "disciples", relations with evangelicals in India - fascinating.

And very encouraging to hear from a Jesuit who believes strongly in proclaiming Christ. Thanks Gashwin for this glimpse of a very different world and to Fr. Jose for sharing his story and answering his call.

Catholics Come Home

I haven't had time to look around this website, but the three videos at the bottom of the homepage are worth watching. I had tears running down my face. It looks like a very well-conceived website and a great evangelization tool; very welcoming.

Working the Numbers

The new numbers for global Catholicism are out. The Vatican's Statistical Yearbook shows for the 7 year period from 2000 2006.

The overall Catholic percentage of the world's population remains steady at 17.3% (World population as of May, 2008 is estimated to be just over 6.7 billion. ) That would make the world's Catholic population nearly 1.16 billion.

To put that in perspective: The Center for Global Christianity estimates that in 2008 there are 79,000 new Christians every 24 hours. of which 29,000 are Independents, 28,000 are Catholic, 16,000 are Protestant, 5,000 are Orthodox, and 3,000 are Anglican. It also estimates that there are 69,000 new Muslims every day. Catholic per annum growth is 0.89%. Independent per annum growth is 2.55%.

Overall, the number of Catholic priests increased just over 2,000 to a world wide total of 407,000. While the number of diocesan priests is increasing, religious priests continue to decline and currently make up 1/3 of all priests in the world.

A final bright spot that the statistical yearbook noted was an upswing in the number of seminarians in diocesan and religious seminaries. Globally, their numbers increased from 110.583 in 2000 to more than 115.000 in 2006, a growth of 4.43 percent.

By area:

Europe: The decline continues. 25% of all Catholics live in Europe but the Catholic population only increased there by 1% over the first 7 years of the new millennium. Numbers of European priests dropped 5.75%. Europe saw a decline in the number of religious priests and a steep decline in the number of non-ordained religious (down 12%). The number of seminarians also dropped by 16%.

Oceania: site of this year's World Youth Day: The Catholic population grew 7.6% but their number of priests dropped
4.37% and non-ordained religious dropped nearly 17% over the same 7 years.

America (which includes north, central and south America) While the Catholic population of American grew 8.4% over the 7 year period, the number of priests and religious are essentially unchanged.

and now the "dynamic continents" as the report calls them:

Asia: The Catholic population has remained essentially unchanged but the number of priests has risen 17.7% and there was a 30.6% increase in non-ordained religious. The number of female religious is up by 12.78 percent).

Africa: The number of Catholics rose nearly 22% between 2000 and 2006. Priestly vocations rose even faster ( 24.24%) and non ordained religious rose by 8%. Female religious have risen by 15.45%.

Marian Chapel, St. James Cathedral, Seattle

The exquisite Marian chapel at St. James Cathedral in Seattle is the most beautiful Marian chapel I've ever visited. The walls on three sides are covered with slender tapers.



What these pictures don't show:

The ceiling of the chapel is an inky dark blue covered with golden stars of various sizes. The more candles are lit below, the more stars become visible above.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Our Sorrowful Mother's Ministry

My name is Joe Waters and I am the summer intern here at the Catherine of Siena Institute. I am a Masters of Divinity student at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and my work with the Institute this summer is in partial fulfillment of the pastoral field education requirement for my degree. One thing I hope to do this summer is profile a number of exciting lay initiatives that we have discovered through our work across the country. 

The first such initiative that I wish to profile is Our Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry in Vandalia, Illinois. OSMM was founded in the late nineties by two laywomen, Debbie Pryor and Vanessa Keck, who decided to host a conference in their small town of 6,000 people after a rather disappointing trip to a Catholic conference in Chicago. The conference was initiated for the evangelization of their parish, but with little support from their parish or the wider community they successfully relied on registration fees from participants to fund the conference. And it worked! Since that first conference (1997) they have put on ten large conferences with nationally and internationally known speakers. Though they have shifted the focus of their ministry to healing and reconciliation they continue to have a large conference every year in the late fall and now have monthly healing retreats as well. These retreats are always led by at least two priests and feature daily Mass, Eucharistic adoration, the sacrament of penance, time for private prayer, spiritual direction with certified spiritual directors, and healing prayer. The retreats cover fascinating topics such as “Deep Healing in the Ocean of God’s Mercy,” “Inner Healing through Our Lady of Reconciliation,” and “Healing the Heart’s Wounds.” They now have two houses, one of which is used by priests and religious, and by the initiative of the Bishop of Springfield the Blessed Sacrament in reserved in OSMM’s chapel. 

Having spoken on the phone recently with both Debbie and Vanessa their commitment to the Lord and the Church deeply impressed me. Both of them are intentional disciples who went through tremendous conversion experiences that set them on this path of reaching out to the suffering and wounded. Our world is in great need of healing and reconciliation, and it is beautiful to find lay apostles dedicated to bringing the Gospel’s message of healing, reconciliation, and mercy to the world. 

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A Catholic Global Village

Fascinating.

I just checked and only 60% of our readership over the past 12 hours came from the US. 6% from the UK, 3% from India. And readers from 25 other countries.

We've always had a pretty high international readership compared to other US Catholic blogs - probably due to the high number of posts on international topics.

But 40% non-American visitors is high even for us. In communion with the global Church - through Baptism, the Eucharist, and the hierarchy - but also through the internet. How cheering.

The Martyrs of Korea

The history of the Korean church is unique in the Church. Founded by lay scholars and sustained mostly by lay people in the fact of incredible persecution for generations. Korea has the 4th largest number of martyrs in the world.

A good day to read this poignant description of that persecution and the relics left behind. From Pause for Prayer.


"Who wore those tiny shoes? Did they belong to a child, perhaps only four or five years old? Was the same small individual the owner of both the slippers and the ivory satin tunic with its mandarin collar? Did they belong to St. Peter Yu Tae-chol, strangled in prison at the age of thirteen on October 31st, 1839?

What about the ‘much-loved’ rosary, tired and grey, heaped in one corner? At what stage was it separated from its owner?

…and the two ropes, carefully wound into a tidy knot. They look as though they were new…perhaps only used on one occasion? The dark brown shackles say nothing. Were they witness to more than we can ever imagine? What of the ring made of thick rope, the hole in its centre little more than the width of my clenched fist? Its greasy appearance is ominous, but in what way was it used?

These few mementoes, treasured in the chapel upstairs as I write, are tangible contacts with some of the Korean martyrs. The Catholic community suffered major persecutions in the years 1839, 1846 and 1866, producing at least 8,000 known martyrs. Among them were the fervent Korean priest Andrew Kim Taegŏn and the Korean lay catechist Paul Chŏng Hasang. The vast majority of the martyrs were simple lay people, including men and women, married and single, old and young. 79 martyrs of Korea were beatified in 1925 and 24 more were beatified in 1968 and the combined 103 martyrs have been canonized as saints, in 1984, with feast day September 20. Many of them experienced horrific torture before their equally agonising executions. Currently, Korea has the 4th largest number of saints in the Catholic world.

St. Andrew Kim Taegŏn wrote his last letter to his parish as he awaited martyrdom with a group of twenty persons:

“My dear brothers and sisters, know this: Our Lord Jesus Christ upon descending into the world took innumerable pains upon and constituted the holy Church through his own passion and increases it through the passion of its faithful….

Now, however, some fifty or sixty years since holy Church entered into our Korea, the faithful suffer persecutions again. Even today persecution rages, so that many of our friends of the same faith, among whom am I myself, have been thrown into prison, just as you also remain in the midst of persecution. Since we have formed one body, how can we not be saddened in our innermost hearts? How can we not experience the pain of separation in our human faculties?

However, as Scripture says, God cares for the least hair of our heads, and indeed he cares with his omniscience; therefore, how can persecution be considered as anything other than the command of God, or his prize, or precisely his punishment?…
We are twenty here, and thanks be to God all are still well. If anyone is killed, I beg you not to forget his family. I have many more things to say, but how can I express them with pen and paper? I make an end to this letter. Since we are now close to the struggle, I pray you to walk in faith, so that when you have finally entered into Heaven, we may greet one another. I leave you my kiss of love.”


…but some of them left behind tangible links in the form of clothing, ropes, shackles, a rosary…"

In the Beginning

My mental fog is beginning to lift a little - although it is foggy here. What we call round here "a Seattle day" - a day when you can't see the mountains. Very rare around here and a good morning for strong, hot, Yorkshire Gold tea, I think. Let's see if I can manage a bit of blogging before turning to the day's work.

Fr. Michael Sweeney, (the original Fr. MIchael who founded the Institute with me) and I have just been asked to offer a graduate course in the theology of the laity at a major seminary. (Since the dates have not been finalized, I won't identify the seminary yet). Fr. Michael already teaches a similar course at the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology where he now serves as President.

Thinking about it brings back a lot of memories of the early years of our collaboration - and a good place to begin talking about the theology and history of the lay apostolate.

In the mid 90's, Fr. Michael and I were just getting to know each other (which was rather like watching two dogs meet, circle and sniff each other in a park. Foe or friend???? Hmmmm.)

He was my pastor at Blessed Sacrament in Seattle, I had just finished grad school and had worked my way through by working 12 hour weekend shifts at a local hospital, so got a dispensation to attend Mass on weekdays. The result was, I had little sense of Fr. Michael except through my friends, like Mark & Jan Shea and Dave & Sherry Curp, who raved about him.

Fr. Michael has always had a gift for relating to young adults and our gang of friends was simply entranced. Here was a priest who was brilliant, took the Church's teaching very seriously, channeled John Paul II, and simultaneously was not intimidated by the culture (and remember we were in Seattle - none land".) Nor was he angry or embattled. His cheerful, playful confidence in the Holy Spirit's work in and through the Church - including the Second Vatican Council - had a stunning effort on us. In our brief lives as Catholics, we had not met anyone like him.

I made an appointment with him to introduce myself and brought my cherished Master's thesis on the discernment of vocation for him to look at it. He skimmed it and returned it to me with a distinctly unenthusiastic "that's nice." I could take a hint - and didn't speak to him for the next two years. (Fr. Michael always insists he didn't know I wasn't speaking to him. Hmph!) But our friends kept urging us to try again because we were always talking about the same things.

By the time, he asked me to speak at the first gathering of pastors of the province in the fall of 95, we had gotten past those false steps and had begun collaborating informally. Which was how I, nearly fainting with terror at the prospect of facing 35 priests in white (I'd never seen that many priests together before. Fr. Michael, of course, found it all most amusing.) came to give this 30 min talk: The Strategic Role of Lay Catholics in the Dominican Mission

When I spoke these words

When you entered the Order, you spent years being educated and formed for your vocation. But I, too, am a preacher of the gospel in my own right - and where is my house of formation? Your parish is my St. Albert's, the only house of formation I may ever have to prepare me for my vocation as an evangelizing change agent in the world.

I can still remember the intense silence in the room and the wide eyes of a number of the OPs present.

Seven months later, Fr. Michael gave a related speech, Collaboration With the Laity, to the Assembly of the whole Province:

I am struck by the remarkable similarities which seem to pertain between the age of St. Dominic and our own age. St. Dominic faced a Church which appeared to be institutionally moribund in the face of the Albigensian heresy, much as our institutions, whether of diocese, parish, or Newman Center, seem inadequate in the face of the growing atheism and even paganism of modern culture. Dominic witnessed the remarkable success of the Poverello movements of the Middle Ages which, though separated from the communion of the Church, nevertheless were inspired by a genuine evangelical zeal and a desire to follow Christ, much as we are witnessing the growth of evangelical Protestantism. In the Albigensian heresy Dominic perceived, not just a false doctrine which was to be exposed, but a whole movement, as much cultural as it was religious, which threatened the whole fabric of medieval society, much as we are witnessing the defection of our own culture from its Christian roots.

Dominic's response was, if we can be both playful and honest, theft on a grand scale. Dominic stole from the Albigensians their zeal and their poverty, to reclaim it for Christ and his Church. He stole from the Poverello movements their evangelical zeal and their literal application of the evangelical counsels, in order that they might be placed, once again, at the disposal of the Church. He stole from Augustine his rule to accommodate his new Order, and stole from the cathedral canons their education and its place in their lives. Most significantly of all, he stole from Christ his sending of the disciples by twos, to proclaim the advent of the kingdom. The result of his thefts was the Order of Preachers.

I would like to suggest some thievery of our own. The one thread which is common to New Age, Protestant Evangelism and similar contemporary movements, is that they have mobilized their membership. They form intentional communities, with conscious and specific agenda; and no matter how little we may appreciate their ends, we should nonetheless be impressed by their means. In truth, we were there ahead of them: the single-minded zeal of the Evangelicals bears a great resemblance to the early Order. The only theft which it is really necessary for us to engage in is from the riches of our own tradition. We can mobilize our Catholic laity, and thereby play a significant role in the renewal of our Church, simply by applying our own tradition.


Both are still worth reading, I think, - especially Fr. Michael's. They set the stage for the work of the Institute - and for the series of posts I am going to try and begin this week on the history of the lay apostolate.

Monday, May 26, 2008

St. Thomas More's Descendents

I received this note from reader Martin Wood, who is a descendant of St. Thomas More:

I have seen your blogs about St. Thomas More and thought you might be interested in my book "The Family and Descendants of St Thomas More" just published in the UK by Gracewing. It can be seen under 'New Titles' on the Gracewing website at www.gracewing.co.uk.

It is also under 'books' on www.amazon.co.uk

I attach a 'Flyer' which gives further details.
Best wishes,
Martin Wood


From the flyer:
The Family and Descendants of St Thomas More
Martin Wood


This book, weaving together the history and genealogy of the More family and of the other families to which they allied themselves by marriage, provides an illuminating sequel to the various lives that have been written of St Thomas More. It tells the story of what happened to his family in the wake of his heroic witness against the tyranny of Henry VIII and how his descendants, inspired by his faith, were affected by their refusal to conform to the Church of England as, under successive monarchs, England was forcibly transformed from a Catholic to a Protestant country.

The story begins with St Thomas More’s parents and through his sister Elizabeth traces a line of literary figures that includes John Rastell the printer, playwright, dramatist and designer of pageants, John Heywood the Court musician, dramatist and playwright, and John Donne, the poet.

After Thomas More’s execution all the members of his immediate and extended family felt the force of Henry’s fury. His stepmother and his widow, Dame Alice More, were both thrown out of their homes. His son, John, and son-in-law, William Daunce, both narrowly escaped the scaffold, but Giles Heron, another son-in-law, was executed at Tyburn on a trumped-up charge of treason. Others were called in for questioning and they, and their families, were carefully watched throughout their lives. Some sought refuge in Catholic Europe.

The book follows each generation down to the time when the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 finally brought relief from persecution. This is the story of a line of laymen and women, and of priests and nuns, all of whom had a deep faith.


Sounds fascinating. I'd love to get a copy myself. Fellow More-aphiles take heed!

PS. The blog posts about St. Thomas More that Martin Wood refers to was the result of a Thomas More frenzy I went through last June. Start here and scroll down.

Myanmar: The Aftermath

The New York Time lead article on the situation in Myanmar is . . .heartbreaking, enraging, stunning. The accompanying picture of hundreds of desperate famers lining the road waiting in the hope that a car of Burmese civilians trying to aid their countrymen will pass by. It is their only source of hope because the military regime won't let aid in.

Read it all. I was struck by a comment made by 40 year old Ko Htay Oo.

“I am no beggar, so I didn’t eat anything in the past two days,” he said, leaning against a roadside palm tree. “Besides, you shouldn’t compete with kids for begged food.”

The combination of pride and discipline is telling. It tells me a) he is used to not eating regularly although he is not a begger. (I have a hard time imagining an American who hadn't eaten in two days talking like that.)

Elective Surgeries Cancelled During WYD?

I've got a Google alert going for World Youth Day" and it has been illuminating to read a number of Aussie articles grumbling about the inconveniences and even possible dire consequences of holding such an event. It's hard to tell how much of this is because it a Catholic event or just a gigantic event. Did the residents of Sydney also complain so vociferously about the Olympic games?

Here is one consequence of having 225,000 visitors drop in for a week::

The New South Wales Health Department is truly to dispel a rumor that elective surgery will be suspended during World Youth Day in July.

Dr O'Connell has told ABC 702 Sydney local radio that smaller procedures will be listed so theatres will not be tied up with long, complicated surgeries.

"Instead of doing, for example, large cases which take many hours and the patients need to stay in hospital for a number of days post-operatively, they'll ramp up their activities on smaller cases that can be turned over quickly, so the theatre can be rapidly released if there is some major event," he said.

He says the changes are a normal part of disaster planning in case there is an emergency during that week.

WYD: According to the Outspoken Anglican Dean of Sydney

The Dean of Sydney's Anglican cathedral airs his criticism of the catholic Church while welcoming pilgrimages to World Youth Day.

But his criticisms are not what we are used to hearing from Anglican deans. It seems that Philip Jensen, in fact, the whole Anglican Archdiocese of Sydney represents that rarest of rare birds these days - old fashioned Reformed or Puritan Anglicanism.

Jensen writes in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Protestantism is a protest. Our protest is against the enormity of the claims of the Roman Catholic Church.

Some people are born as Protestants. They are anti-Roman Catholic because of their own tribal roots. They have no belief other than that Roman Catholics are wrong. But Protestantism is not tribalism. It is the belief in the sole authority of the Bible. The Bible explains to us that salvation is only by the generosity of God. This salvation comes through Christ alone, and is received by faith without any works on our part. All is to the glory of God alone.

So we protest against Roman Catholic claims to authority. We object to the Pope claiming to be the Vicar of Christ. We reject all claims to authority that imply the insufficiency of scripture. We reject any implication that Jesus's work on the cross was insufficient or is received by more than faith or requires some other mediator.

This protest against Roman Catholicism is no small complaint. It goes to the very heart of God's central message to mankind - the way of salvation. The 39 articles of the Anglican Church state "the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith".

That sentence was written in the 16th century. Since then the Roman Catholic Church has added to its errors - the Immaculate Conception (1854), the Infallibility of the Pope (1870), and the bodily Assumption of Mary (1950). There is nothing in modern Roman Catholicism that reduces our need to protest.


And yet Jensen goes to say:

It is also to the credit of our city that we are willing to be hospitable not only to people with whom we agree but also to those with whom we disagree.

Of course our hospitality is expensive. That is the nature of hospitality. Compared to the amount of tax our Roman Catholic neighbours contribute it is as nothing.

Naturally our hospitality is inconvenient. We are regularly inconvenienced by parades and demonstrations, by sporting events and parties. That is the nature of living in a world city.

Snip.

I will not be welcoming the Pope, going out to see him or waving a flag. Given what I have said, the Pope wouldn't expect me to. But I am certainly not going to pray for rain on his parade. Remember, our Lord said that our Father in heaven sends sun and rain on all - as the Bible puts it the "just and unjust" alike. This is God giving secular support. We should want our Government to do the same.

Celebrating Corpus Christi in North Georgia

An encouraging tale of a Corpus Christi procession in north Georgia - the first ever. Pastor Randy Mattox writes:

"This year we did our first Eucharistic procession. Since our church is just a block off the town square, I have been wanting to do one through the downtown area. This year our seminarian wanted to organize it, so he did and it was beautiful!

There is a great joy and thrill in honoring our Lord publicly in this way. I felt myself overwhelmed with emotion during communion time, with everyone receiving Jesus, uniting ourselves to Him and to one another, and then knowing that this most intimate moment would culminate in processing out of the church to proclaim to the town and the whole world that our Lord is with us, feeding us, loving us, strengthening us even now as we journey on toward Heaven! It was truly an overwhelming experience!"

During the actual procession, we prayed the litany of the Eucharist and made our trip around the block through the downtown area. It was a short trip this time, I am thinking next year will be longer!!! Nevertheless cars drove by, watching us, probably thinking, "what in the world are they doing?" I felt sorry for them that they didn't yet know what blessing was passing their way. Hopefully with more catechesis and evangelization they will one day. Hopefully they too will join us one day in proudly, humbly, thankfully, walking with Jesus through the streets of Ellijay on the feast of Corpus Christi."


Corpus Christi in fundie land. I know the seminarian who "organized it". He happens to be a blogger and a convert but since he hasn't written about it directly, I won't blow his cover. But I can only imagine what a joyful experience it was for him!

A Goal Worth Shooting For: Your 80th Wedding Anniversary

Lovely. Britain's longest married couple celebrated their 80th (!!!!) anniversary today. After their wedding, they went out to see a Charlie Chaplin film!

Frank Milford, 100, and Anita Milford, 99, will celebrate by spending a quiet weekend together - like most of their days.

“At our age that’s all you need,” said Mr Milford. “Just us together, no big fuss.

Their observations:

. . .the secret to a successful marriage? Share a little kiss and cuddle every night before bed.

“It’s our golden rule,” Mrs Milford said. “Couples these days don’t last long because they often don’t take enough time for each other. There just isn’t enough respect - love is about give and take. Our advice to young couples would be to make time for a little romance every day.”

Mr Milford added: “To win over your sweetheart you need a dose of old fashioned chivalry and don’t let your standards slip. We do everything together even after nearly 80 years.”


And I thought my grandparents were remarkable for their 67 years together. Any one else know a couple who has been married 60 years or more?

Nepal's First Native Priest in Tucson Diocese

Nepal's first native priest is visiting the US. I've blogged on him before but found this article in the Sierra Vista Herald to be really interesting.

In a nation of more than 27 million people, about 7,000 are Catholics. (Sherry's note: Nepal has a total of 768,000 native Christians today although there were almost no Nepalese Christians in 1960. Almost all are Independent Christians. I've written about the extraordinary explosion of Christianity in Nepal here.) The 43-year-old priest is the first native Nepalese to be ordained into the priesthood, after attending seminary in India.

And, what led him to become a Catholic has a twist. The former Hindu was converted to Christianity by a Protestant missionary, who used John 3:16 — “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” — for changing his faith." (Sherry's note: Not surprising considering the history of Christianity in Nepal. What is interesting is that he became Catholic.)

Snip.

“I was converted when I was 19,” Father Silas said.

He got the call, a spiritual awakening to enter the clergy when he was 26.

For his Hindu parents, the decision to leave the faith of his birth “was devastating, although they have now accepted it,” Father Silas said.

As the eldest son, he was expected to marry, father children and carry on the family’s line, which now becomes the responsibility of his brother, he said.

Snip.

Currently there are 15 Nepalese men who are in seminaries in India, and they need funds for their education, he said.

So far, though his talks at churches in Sierra Vista, Green Valley and Tucson, he has been able to find sponsors who will support three of them to the tune of $1,200 a year, Father Silas said.
Nepal is a landlocked nation about the size of Arkansas that is going through some political turmoil as the kingdom transitions toward what he hopes will become a constitutional republic.

The last of the absolute monarchs has been forced out of office, and on Wednesday the new government that is forming will meet to determine the direction Nepal will take, he said.

What may surprise some people is that Nepal’s prime minister has asked the former Maoist insurgents to form a government. The Maoists, formally known as the Communist Party of Nepal, led a bloody revolution against the king, leading the people to eventually call for the elimination of the monarchy by a vote.

“The Maoists have promised freedom of religion,” Father Silas said.

The promise of a secular government with the right for people to practice whatever religion they want is the right direction for Nepal to take, he said.

“It will give us the opportunity to evangelize,” the priest said.

Individuals who would like to donate money to assist with Catholic work in Nepal can do so by donating funds through St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church at 800 Taylor Drive, Sierra Vista AZ 85635.

The funds will be transmitted directly to Nepal through Caritas, the Catholic international social services organization, the Rev. Greg Adolf said.

Memorial Day Garden

Between the dizzying demands of Institute work and the spring gardening season, blogging has almost been nil. This weekend has been given over almost entirely to gardening: a truckload of topsoil, 12 yards of mulch put down, 4 extra large garbage can bags of debris raked up. All in preparation for planting.



Last summer, we built the skeleton. This summer, we are fleshing it out. Trees, shrubs, grasses, wildflowers, perennials. No time or money for annuals this year. (The big bed above is already planted with wildflower seeds that are just germinating and too small to be seen. Pikes Peak would be visible in the distance just left of center if our volunteer poplar wasn't obscuring the view.)



(Russian Hawthorne trees planted last June in full bloom today.)

That's because, as one family member put it memorably: "you aren't landscaping a yard, you are building a park!"

And its beginning to feel that way. Who knew that 1/3 of an acre was so big?



(Xeric perennials and bulbs planted last summer are back in good form.)

When we're done, there will be 17 trees and 27 large (as in 6 - 12 feet high) shrubs in the back yard. And that's just the big stuff. There are 57 trees/shrubs/roses/lilacs/vines to be planted along the back fence alone!



Someday, I know there will come a Memorial Day weekend when I will simply sit on the patio and revel. But it is not this day.

But I did get a glimpse of things to come this morning and thought I'd share a few pictures with you.

For Sherry

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Seems appropriate for a weekend

Gotta love Aussie humor! Perhaps they'll perform for Pope Benedict XVI...

Reflection on Corpus Christi

This is a big weekend – with a big story to unfold.
It's one that has really captured the imagination of lots of people.
It features a rugged – and unlikely – hero, with a ragtag bunch of misfit hangers-on, involved in one adventure after another.
He deals with supernatural forces, and faces opposition by human enemies who often look good on the outside, but are corrupt inside.
He even goes after them sometimes armed only with a whip.
The whole saga starts with a story featuring the Ark of the covenant, goes on to include bloody human sacrifice, and let's not forget the Holy grail and its promise of everlasting life.
And always lurking as a side story is our hero's attitude regarding snakes.

I suppose it's this marvelous sense of adventure that keeps us coming back to Mass week after week to hear more of the story of Jesus.
Who did you think I was talking about?
I mean, after all, Indian Jones is a make-believe character, and his adventures aren't real.
Mary is the living Ark of the covenant, the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees the one Jesus calls "whitewashed tombs."
Jesus offers himself in sacrifice on our behalf.
He's the new Adam who is wounded by the serpent, but crushes the head of our ancient enemy as foretold in Genesis 3.

We gather each week not only to hear about Jesus and his adventures, but to enter into his story ourselves.
Because at each Mass we take up the holy Grail and the bread of angels, and eat and drink that which Jesus promises will give us eternal life: his body and blood.
And we do this, as often as we do it, in remembrance of him – as he commanded us.

If you think I'm being overdramatic in saying we enter into Jesus' life and death at Mass, it's because we don't understand what it means to celebrate the Eucharist as a memorial in the Jewish sense in which Jesus understood it.
This is Memorial Day weekend, a celebration of the beginning of summer and the summer blockbuster movie season, to be sure.
But it's also a time to remember those who have died in the service of their country.
We decorate their graves, give speeches recalling their valor, and look backwards in time to events of the past, while remaining in the present.
We don't think of ourselves as being present on a bloody Civil War battlefield, a shelled Normandy beach, a bunker in a Vietnamese rice paddy, or a bombed-out section of Baghdad.
Ancient Jews – and modern, ones, too – remember differently.
When they celebrate the Passover meal, which anticipates the Eucharistic sacrifice and meal, the Book of Exodus commands the Jewish father to explain the meaning of the feast this way: “On this day you shall explain to your son, ‘This is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt’” (13:8).
In other words, the Jew celebrates Passover as though they'd been alive at the time of the Exodus.
The ritual action of the Passover meal is not just an act of mental recall, it is a participation in the event itself.
This is why St. Paul asks the Corinthians, "The cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? 
The bread that we break,
is it not a participation in the body of Christ?"
When we gather around the altar-table, no new sacrifice is offered, but the one sacrifice of Christ's cross.
The same body and blood of Christ offered to his eleven friends is offered to us.
Time and space are transcended; history is made present, and future glory is promised.
The Passover proclaims God’s continuing liberation of His people in the present day and looks forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises for complete salvation when the Messiah comes.
So, too, each Mass proclaims the ongoing freedom we are offered in the Holy Spirit Jesus gives us, and points us towards his future return in glory.

We first, however, have to prepare ourselves to drink from the cup. The cup, the holy grail, will contain the blood of the Lord that seals an everlasting covenant between the Father and us, his adopted children.
It is the fulfillment of the covenants made with Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David.
When James and John ask Jesus, as he goes up to Jerusalem, if they can sit at his right and his left when he enters his kingdom, he asks them if they can drink from the cup he is to drink.
They don't know what they are asking, as he points out.
For the cup from which he will drink is the cup he asks His Father to allow to pass by him.
It is the cup of suffering; the cup of his own life poured out for others – for sinners, no less – who will themselves put him to death.

We are already in the midst of an adventure – a real one involving supernatural forces that seek our ruin.
Not Nazi archeologists or heart-ripping pagan priests, but the demons who convince us to live for ourselves – to seek power, security, the satisfaction of our own desires.
In short – to live for ourselves - which is spiritual death, just as it was for Adam and Eve.
Dare we drink from this true holy grail?
Are we willing to accept what it means?
It means to enter into the life and death of Jesus; to live as he lived:
serving others, and not asking if they're worthy of our service;
binding their wounds, whether physical or spiritual - and not demanding an explanation of how they were wounded;
teaching them in truth and with utter patience when they aren't receptive;
expelling their demons with prayer, our presence, and with the power of Jesus – not our own;
forgiving them even if they should attempt to kill us.

This is the adventure we are to embrace – and many have.
They're adventurers in the image of Christ, and we often call them saints.
People like Catherine of Siena, who traveled to Avignon, France, when most people stayed in their walled villages where it was safe, and told the Pope to get his holy hide back to Rome. She died at age 33 – perhaps the age of her Master – having spent herself entirely for Him.
Or Fr. Damien de Vuester, who traveled from Belgium to Hawai'i to preach the Gospel, and then traveled to Molokai'i to minister to lepers until he died as one of them.
Or Franz Jagerstatter, a 36 year-old Austrian father of three who traveled from his farm to the heart of Nazi Germany where he was executed for refusing to join the Nazi army.
Or Dorothy Day who traveled from atheism and communism to faith and communing with the poor from the dark days of the Great Depression until she died.

You and I are called to our own unique adventure in grace.
Living as Jesus lived is possible only if we drink from this cup and eat from the one loaf.
We cannot live as Christ unless we live in Christ – if we remain in him.
But to live in him paradoxically means we have to die.
We have to die to our own will.
In Gethsemane Jesus prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done." Lk22:42
The drinking of the cup demands that we do the will of the Father, which is revealed to us by the Son, and summed up in "love one another as I have loved you."
Only by seeing one another - whether pope, leper, Nazi or hobo - as another self, do we, though many, become one body.

St. Paul says, "Because the loaf of bread is one,
we, though many, are one body,
for we all partake of the one loaf."
The body is now not only bread become Jesus, but also “we,” the community that participates in Christ’s sacramental body.
Later in this same letter to the Corinthians, Paul addresses their lack of love for one another, demonstrated by their lack of sharing at the communal meal that preceded the Eucharistic feast.
He says to them, "anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself." 1Cor 11:29
Do we discern the body? Are we willing to live the adventure that follows upon any decision to love someone for Christ's sake?

If we hold any grudges against someone who's wronged us; if we hold prejudice in our heart against gays, blacks, whites, immigrants, Democrats, Republicans, pacifists or hawks; if we resent the poor or are jealous of the rich; if we withhold anything good from someone because we've judged they don't deserve it – then we drink judgment upon ourselves when we drink from the one cup. We "choose poorly."
Unlike the bad guy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, we won't age 100 years in a moment and become "dust in the wind."
But we will have no life within us, because, truly, we do not yet remain in Christ. His will is not yet our own.

In order to eat and drink without condemnation, our lives must be transformed.
We must adopt Jesus' attitude of selfless love and utter commitment to the Father's will.
Only then will we properly "do this in remembrance" of Jesus – truly enter into his life by embracing his death.
Only then will we, though many, become one – united by one will, that of the Blessed Trinity.
Only then will the real adventure begin – and continue into eternity.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Counting Sheep - Colorado Style

Just because it's fun:

It's May and lambing time for Big Horn Sheep who live in the canyons and mountains around Colorado Springs. The local herd numbers about 100.

A local reporter went up and did a video of the team who are tracking the health and welfare of these lambs who are born and spend their first month with their mothers on inaccessible rocky shelves to protect them from predators.

Big horn sheep are so impressive - they wander the ground of Glen Eyrie, the fabulous estate of the city's founder - General Palmer - and for the past 50 years, the headquarters of the Navigators.

big horn sheep at glen eyrie, colorado springs

As in this great winter photo above (click on the photo and it will expand to full size) and this summer photo of the "castle" below:



Glen Eyrie is one of the places I often take visitors to see. On one such visit, a huge ram simply stood blocking the road in front of us with magnificent indifference to the fact that we were the ones in a car.

Benedict: Ever Wonder Y?

Cardinal Pell has opened a new website totally dedicated to pre-event news for the 50 days leading up to World Youth Day for International Pilgrims News will be posted daily in English and Spanish.

It's got a interesting title:

Benedict: Ever Wonder Y?

Saturday (It's already early Sunday morning in Australia as I write) 300 young Aussies spread out over Sydney promoting WYD in 52 malls around the area. This followed by a party with Cardinal Pell featuring a Latin American band.

At the party, they will be making a 30 WYD video featuring featuring young adults welcoming pilgrims in different languages.

What a huge undertaking even the smallest WYD is! God bless all who are laboring for the sake of Catholic youth and young adults all over the world.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bridging the Gap Between Generations of Priests

Fascinating article in Commonweal by a young priest about bridging the generation gap between priests. It is definitely worth reading so do read the whole thing. A few things that stood out for me:

Fr. Damian J. Ference writes:

On entering seminary out of high school:

I decided to enter a college seminary in late July of 1994. I had earned my high-school diploma a few months earlier and chose to abandon my previous plans in order to follow what seemed to be God’s plan. My parents were shocked but supportive. My older brother asked me if I was gay. An old friend made a remark about little boys.


On the experience gap between generations of priests:

"My pastor recalled memorizing the Baltimore Catechism in grade school. I told him that I made collages about my feelings in religious-ed class. When he complained that his seminary formation had been too militaristic, I told him of my frustrations with a seminary formation that seemed too lax. When he spoke of the years he spent studying Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, I expressed embarrassment at not knowing how to chant the Pater Noster as I concelebrated Mass with Benedict XVI at World Youth Day a few years ago in Cologne. When my pastor expressed gratitude that the clerical dress code had been relaxed over the years, I said I thought it was important that the priest be a visible sign of the church, to remind the world that God is not dead. But when it came to the abuse scandals, we were on the same page-or at least in the same book. The scandals hit us both hard, though in different ways.

The generation before mine remembers a time of general stability and respectability within the priesthood. When my pastor’s generation entered the seminary, family members did not ask him or his classmates if they were gay or attracted to little boys (though I am told there have always been people who thought there was something sexually suspect about priests). Priests of my pastor’s generation didn’t have protesters at their ordinations. Their suffering was different. They battled with pastors over implementing the teaching of Vatican II, watched classmates leave the ministry in droves, and struggled to find a balance between the ordained priesthood and baptismal priesthood."


"When my generation entered the seminary, the reputation of the priesthood had already been tarnished. Sure, there was still support in parish communities and youth groups for a vocation to the priesthood, but it was nothing like what the previous generation had experienced. As seminarians, we knew that the days of full rectories were a distant memory and that we might be made pastors right after our first assignment-even pastors of more than one parish. We understood that the communal meals of the seminary were a kind of luxury, that we would likely be eating most of our meals alone once we were ordained. We also knew that the days of “Father knows best” were gone, and that the laity had a vital role in the health and growth of the parish. (Most of us knew this firsthand because we came from families that were key players in the life of our home parishes.) We knew that the stakes were high. We also knew that we were maybe not the most qualified. But then neither were the apostles, and we took comfort in that: God qualifies those he calls."

Father makes a fascinating observation about the generation in seminary right now:

"What makes this phenomenon so fascinating is that these young men are actually drawn to the challenge and the sacrifice of the priesthood-to the fact that they may be persecuted, or at least despised, because of their vocation. They are eager to give themselves away, to lay down their lives in service of God and his church. I am afraid that this aspect of the priesthood has sometimes been obscured or soft-peddled, but no longer. Vocation directors have stopped talking about the priesthood as a duty or as a way up in the world and have instead begun talking about it mainly as sacrifice and adventure. The church has always depended on the idealism of young people to stand strong in the face of danger, persecution, and despair, and the faith of this new generation has been a great blessing that is only beginning to be recognized."

On priestly identity and the culture wars:

"Over the past few years, Commonweal has published a number of articles, editorials, and letters to the editor that comment on the new generation of priests and seminarians. Unfortunately, most of the comments have not been very encouraging. My generation has been described as intellectually second-rate, theologically deficient, arrogant, blindly loyal to Rome, authoritarian, and out of touch with the laity. If these descriptions are accurate, the future of the priesthood looks bleak indeed. On the other side of the ideological fence, conservative journals and blogs praise the same generation of priests and seminarians for their orthodoxy, courage, fidelity, zeal, and pastoral charity. These observers joyfully predict that the new generation of priests and seminarians will restore what has been lost since the Second Vatican Council and reinvigorate the church through strong and determined leadership."

So which is it? Are we part of the problem or part of the solution? That all depends on what one expects us to be.

And on the "We can't wait for the boomers who destroyed everything to die" syndrome:

"It seems to me that priests my age have attempted, knowingly or not, to distance themselves from the generation that came just before them. Paradoxically, for a generation often accused of being too traditional, we seem to want to move ahead without really knowing where the church has just been. And although most of us have a few older priests we look up to, we often assume that we have everything figured out, dismissing our elders as out-of-touch has-beens. This frustrates older priests who long to play the role of mentor and guide. Then again, when we do go to older priests for direction and guidance, we sometimes discover that they take little interest in our concerns and priorities. For many of them, we seem to be no more than a source of annoyance.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and it shouldn’t. The different generations of priests need each other for support, wisdom, experience, enthusiasm, inspiration, accountability, and fraternity. Priests cannot expect to be bridge-builders in the church if they are divided among themselves. There is an urgent need for reconciliation, and it starts with us. My generation needs to hear the stories of priests from our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. We need to learn from the men who grew up during the Depression, fought in the Second World War, and were ordained before Vatican II-and we need to realize that there isn’t much time left to hear their stories. We need to listen to our baby-boomer predecessors tell their stories about seminary life and priesthood at a moment when the church was in major transition. Their generation has its own hopes and joys, triumphs and sufferings, and we need to hear about them. Too often we fail to appreciate their perseverance and faith through a very turbulent period of church history."


Thank God for young priests like Fr. Ference. May his tribe ever increase!

The Brooklyn Bridge Turns 125.

The Brooklyn Bridge turns 125 today and New York celebrated with fireworks last night.

Here's the Everything You Wanted to Know About the Brooklyn Bridge But Never Thought to Ask website


Including this famous poem about the view from the Bridge:

The New Colossus
by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
with conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
with silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


And for a beautiful and poignant reminder of what the city used to look like - watch this lovely
video taken in 1999 of the Bridge at sunset - and the Twin Towers beyond
.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Rise and Walk

Ok, we'll try this again.

from Christianity Today (which does not state the source for the stats):

45% Hispanic Catholics in the U.S. who say they have received or witnessed a divine healing.

21% Non-Hispanic Catholics who say this.


I've witnessed several healings, including that of a wheel-chair bound dancer who rose and walked after an all
night prayer session. And my own healing.

Guess that makes me part of the 21% of non-Hispanic Catholics who say this.

There is a story about St. Dominic getting a tour of the riches of St. Peter's from the Pope who observed "that Peter can no longer say "Gold and silver have I none.". To which Dominic is said to have responded: "Neither can he say "Rise and walk."

Dominic was the agent of numerous miracles during his lifetime including the raising of a dead boy. But then he was Spanish.

Anyone else want to share an experience of healing?

Vanished

Okay. I'm freaked. A reader has read and commented upon a post that has mysteriously vanished although I know I had posted it successfully. So Bobby's comment ended up on another post. Just as weird - I got a Google alert to tell me about the post which did not take but which a search engine found anyway!

Very, very weird. There is no end to the power of my anti-charism.

Or the alternate universe in which I apparently live.

Guess I'll recreate that post.

Righteous Among the Nations

"Honored • Elizabeth and Caspar ten Boom, with the title of Righteous Among the Nations by Israel's Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. The sister and father of Corrie ten Boom (author of The Hiding Place) were instrumental in saving nearly 800 Jewish lives before their imprisonment and deaths in German concentration camps. Corrie ten Boom was honored with the same title in 1967." (via Christianity Today)

I grew up with the story of Corrie ten Boom and her heroic family of Dutch Calvinists who risked their lives to save Jews in
Nazi occupied Holland.

It is more than fitting that Betsy and Casper have also been recognized for their heroic sacrifice.

Here's a brief video of the secret hiding place built in Corrie's bedroom where 6 "guests" - 4 Jews and 2 members of the Dutch underground took refuge when the Gestapo arrested the Ten Boom family in 1944. Although the family all went to prison and Corrie alone survived (she was released due to a clerical error one week before all the women her age were gassed.) the hiding place was never found and all those sheltered there escaped.



The Ten boom house is now a museum. Corrie later shared her family's story in the moving book The Hiding Place which became a quite gripping film. Both are still available and still inspire today.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Voting & Intrinsic Evil

Since the election is heating up and the issue of voting as cooperation in intrinsic evil is once more being discussed by Catholics around St. Blog's, I thought I'd share some insights on the topic that I gleaned from two world class experts in the subject back on election day, 2004.

Before I begin, I must emphasize: I am not a moral theologian nor do I play one on the internet. I am reporting what I was told by two outstanding theologians with special concerns and expertise in the life issues. I had this conversation the night before I left to return home and wrote it down as soon as I got 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 (election day, 2004) 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."


Bishop 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 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 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. (Sherry’s note: As one theologian of my acquaintance pointed out so clearly this summer, one problem in the discussion in the US was a failure to make it clear when the bishops were sharing their own prudential judgments rather than articulating Church teaching that obliged all the faithful.)

1) When I (Sherry) 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 Rowland why some US bishops had made such statements when they must know that Church teaching did not support it, she responded 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 (she said that she was a big fan of 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."

End of report. Comments?

Note: I'm home and will be monitoring this conversation closely. The usual ground rules around here apply.

Purity Balls: LIfe in the Evangelical Vatican

Local color:

The New York Times does this piece on our local annual Purity Ball, held in the Broadmoor, our very upscale five star resort. The purity ball movement started here and ours is still the biggest and most glamorous. Mother of them all.

Here, it is the fathers who make a pledge, not the daughters.

But after dessert, the 63 men stood and read aloud a covenant “before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity.”

The gesture signaled that the fathers would guard their daughters from what evangelicals consider a profoundly corrosive “hook-up culture.” The evening, which alternated between homemade Christian rituals and giddy dancing, was a joyous public affirmation of the girls’ sexual abstinence until they wed.

Yet the graying men in the shadow of their glittering daughters were the true focus of the night. To ensure their daughters’ purity, they were asked to set an example and to hew to evangelical ideals in a society they say tempts them as much as it does their daughters.

“It’s also good for me,” said Terry Lee, 54, who attended the ball for a second year, this time with his youngest daughter, Rachel, 16. “It inspires me to be spiritual and moral in turn. If I’m holding them to such high standards, you can be sure I won’t be cheating on their mother.”

Relying on word-of-mouth that brought families mostly from the thriving evangelical community in Colorado Springs and from as far as Virginia and California, Randy and Lisa Wilson built their Purity Ball into an annual gala that costs about $10,000, financed by ticket sales. This year, about 150 people attended the dinner, purity ceremony and dance.

The purity pledges for the fathers to sign stood in the middle of the dinner tables. Unlike other purity balls, the daughters here do not make a pledge, said Amanda Robb, a New York-based writer researching a book about the abstinence movement who was at the Broadmoor event.


Snip.

Recent studies have suggested that close relationships between fathers and daughters can reduce the risk of early sexual activity among girls and teenage pregnancy. But studies have also shown that most teenagers who say they will remain abstinent, like those at the ball, end up having sex before marriage, and they are far less likely to use condoms than their peers.

No one knows for certain how many purity balls are held nationwide, because they are grass-roots efforts. The Abstinence Clearinghouse, an advocacy group, says it sells hundreds of purity ball kits annually to interested groups all over the country and abroad.

Snip.

Her father, Jim, said he brought her to show her how much he cherished her after almost losing her in a car accident two years ago.

"Loss tinged many at the ball. Stephen Clark, 64, came to the ball for the first time with Ashley Avery, 17, who is “promised” to his son, Zane, 16. Mr. Clark brought Ashley, in her white satin gown, to show her that he loved her like a daughter, he said, something he felt he needed to underscore after Ashley’s father left her family a year ago.

Mrs. Wilson, the organizer, said that her father abandoned her family when she was 2, and that Mr. Wilson’s father was distant. One father said he had terminal cancer and came with his two daughters. Others were trying to do better in their second marriages.

“I’ve heard from fathers that this challenged them, to guard their own eyes, for example,” Mr. Wilson said. “It is a call to covenant which basically says I as my daughter’s father will be a man of integrity and purity.”


I know that to people in many parts of the country, this sort of thing must seem unbearably corny but Colorado Springs is a city marked by its evangelical inhabitants.

As I wrote in "When Evangelical is Not Enough" shortly after moving here:

"When we moved our office to Colorado Springs I did not understand how different life would be in the "Evangelical Vatican." Over 100 national and international evangelical Protestant organizations make their home here including Focus On the Family. We have no skyscrapers, only "purple mountain majesties" (America the Beautiful was inspired by the view from Pikes Peak) and gigantic churches with names like "Radiance" or "New Life" that dominate the corners and hilltops. Visible, unapologetic faith is much more a part of the public scene here than would ever be imagined in Seattle.

When I drop into my local dry cleaner's or Mail Boxes, Etc., the staff is listening to Christian talk radio. During a recent morning walk, a friendly older man wanted to demonstrate his dog's best trick. I witnessed the apparently charismatic pooch "praise the Lord" by rising on her hind legs and waving her paws in the air on command. Honest.

If I walk into the local discount warehouse, the genial older gentleman who greets me will very likely bellow a few bars of "Amazing Grace." The first time I heard it, my West Coast urbanite paranoia kicked in. I gasped, "He's singing a Christian hymn in a public place. He can't do that! He'll be fired for sure." Six months later, he's still singing at the top of his lungs. I now know that Colorado Springs shoppers consider him a bit of local color rather than a one-man assault on the separation of church and state.

While most Catholics would shrivel like salted slugs at the prospect of singing religious solos in a discount warehouse, the general acceptance locally testifies to the prevalence of evangelical culture and how it affects our response to religious expressions."


I sometimes miss the cultural bright lights of a big city: museums, great buildings, great restaurants. But there are other compensations here that money can't buy.

Several years ago, I was paying my airport parking ticket last at night after arriving home from yet another road trip. For some reason I can not recall, I was feeling depressed and tears were slowly sliding down my face in the dark as I waited for the clerk in the booth to process my ticket.

She noticed and when she handed me back my credit card, she said simply "I'll pray for you."

God bless that intercessor, holding up those who pass by her booth in the wee hours of the night. Her prayer felt like the balm and protection of God at that moment. As indeed it was.

A city filled with a significant percentage of intentional disciples - even those on the Puritan end of the spectrum - is a different kind of city. Still full of people who are selfish, angry, violent, fearful and fully human - but there is a difference you can feel.

Even late at night while idling your car beside an airport parking booth.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Irena Sendler

Fr. Anthony Walsh, OP, one of our Australia co-directors who will be presenting at World Youth Day in Sydney, sent me
this moving You tube video of Irena Sendler. Sendler was a Catholic nurse who saved 2,500 Jewish children's lives in Nazi-occupied Warsaw by smuggling them out to stay with Polish Catholic families.

Irena was imprisoned and tortured but never gave away any names. The names of the rescued children were buried in a jar in
her garden.

Irena died May 12. She had been recognized by the State of Israel as "Righteous Among the Nations"



Well done, good and faithful servant.

Praise God! Dreams Come True.

Congratulations, Aimee MIlburn!

You've just graduated from the Augustine Institute as valedictorian!

What are you going to do now?????

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Springtime in South Korea

Our gathering is done and was, i think, very fruitful. I'll blog about it a bit later. Right now, I must finish tweaking Making Disciples - that is the task of the weekend. I will blog sporadically as "quickies" come to my attention - but anything that requires thought will have to wait!

But I wanted to share this interesting piece on a veteran Franciscan missionary in South Korea and how his work has been integral to the remarkable growth of the Catholic Church there."In 1958", observes Giancarlo, "in (South) Korea there were no more than 800,000 Catholics. Now there are almost 5 million. More than half of these received baptism as adults".

Friday, May 16, 2008

The World is Just Awesome



Confess. It's pretty darn irresistible. Discovery channel's new ad.

HT: Fr. Kyle over at Called by Name

WYD: How Good is This?

I love this.

Fr. Mike and I had the chance to met Bishop Anthony Fisher (the youngest bishop in Australia and a Dominican) when we visited Australia in 2004 to train our national team there. In fact, we spent election evening 2004 with the Dominicans, who were eagerly watching the results and shuttling them into their American visitors. I was able to have a fascinating discussion with Bishop Fisher (a expert in Catholic teaching on bio-ethics) on the issues that were dominating the election for American Catholics. (I'll have to blog on that soon)

In 2007, Bishop Fisher was named Co-ordinator of the World Youth Day team. He has an opinion piece in the Australian today that is responding to a highly critical essay God's Big Day Out a Shambles? that I blogged about a few days ago.

It's great - and more colorful than I would expect from a bishop in the US.

"NOVELIST Alan Gold demonstrates his skill as a fiction writer in his recent opinion piece about World Youth Day 2008.

While the Sydney Olympics ran like a well-oiled machine, he says, insecurity, top-level resignations and a growing "sense of doom" have turned the organisation of WYD into a potential nightmare.

Now let's be clear. There have been no top-level resignations from WYD, which is unusual given the size of the staff and the mammoth task involved.

The reason for the extraordinary sticking power of our staff is that, far from a sense of doom, there are such good spirits and excitement among the leaders and staff, as there are among other Australians. The same cannot be said for some of those campaigning against World Youth Day with their dire predictions and constant carping about costs.

Despite all the obstacles placed in its path, WYD is on track to deliver all the overlay to venues - yes, even the toilet cities - as per its timetable.

Track protection for Randwick Racecourse is based not on "guesswork" but on past experience with similar events, including the Paris World Youth Day which was held, believe it or not, on a racetrack. Far from being a disaster, Longchamp had such a good experience with WYD that the French have used it for a number of other major events since.

Apocalyptic predictions from novelists notwithstanding, health and safety experts have assisted with and signed off on measures such as corralling. These are no different to similar events. Even judged from a purely secular, business point of view, WYD is great value for the economy and will bring very significant returns for a much smaller outlay by government than is usual for big events in Australia. WYD08 will also showcase Sydney and Australia to international television audiences of up to a billion people. That's why the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, Tourism NSW, Tourism Australia and business generally are so pleased.

When 125,000 young pilgrims from overseas join 100,000 young Australians for the week of WYD celebrations, it will be a magical time for all Sydney, and for all Australia, not just the Catholics, not just the youth. Ordinary people will join the pilgrims in big numbers and will have an emotionally and spiritually uplifting time. At least, that's been the experience in every previous host city.

So what's going on here? Why the constant negativity in some quarters? One reason may be "Sydney Events Syndrome". A senior reporter recently told us WYD08 was suffering the "bash 'em up" phase. But he thought that would finish soon and erstwhile critics and sceptics would then move to the "How good is this?" phase. Ultimately, we will have the "We're so proud we did this" phase. But in the meantime some prefer to whinge about costs and road closures ...

It was the same with the Olympics. And the Rugby World Cup. Doom and gloom, then grudging admissions that this might not be so bad after all, then growing excitement, then the joy of being hosts for something so special and, finally, pride afterwards.

What that tells us about Australia is interesting. We want to be a big player on the world scene. We want big events here. But as soon as we realise they are coming, we become like a horse that habitually takes fright just before the gates are opened.

This seems to be especially the case for Sydney. As Deputy Lord Mayor Tony Pooley put it recently, rather more colourfully than a bishop might, "I don't think (Sydney) can pretend to be a global city unless we occasionally invite the bloody globe here."

The recent papal visit to the US offers some interesting points of comparison. It was a great celebration for America. There wasn't all the negativity in the months leading up to it. Just excitement and expectation, an expectation that, in the end, was more than fulfilled.

Of course there are other critics apart from the gloom merchants and nervous nellies. A few seem to be driven by a mixture of old-fashioned anti-Catholicism and more newfangled feeling against all religion. Sectarianism and intolerant secularism are ugly parts of Australia's spiritual landscape which, happily, is more commonly marked by very willing co-operation among churches and faiths and those who are still searching.

Certainly, that's been the WYD08 experience. All the churches and religions are working with us in various ways, from practical help with venues, accommodation and volunteers, to taking part in spiritual, musical and other cultural activities.

Sydney and Australia will love World Youth Day. It will build up the faith and idealism of our young people and move us all in the process. The time has come to put aside all the divisive antagonisms and the end-of-the-world talk.

In company with God, the holy father, and the youth of the world, let's move on to the "How good is this?" phase."


Bishop Anthony Fisher OP is the co-ordinator of World Youth Day 2008.

Catholic Quote of the Day

"The truth of Christian life is like manna: it is not possible to hoard it for it is fresh today and spoiled tomorrow. A truth that is merely handed on, without being thought anew from its very foundations, has lost its vital power. The vessel that holds it — for example, the language, the world of images and concepts –becomes dusty, rusts, crumbles away; that which is old remains young only when it is drawn, with all the strength of youth, into relation with that which is still older, with that in time which is perpetual: the present-day revelation of God.

No Holy Communion is like another, although it is the same Christ who gives himself. In the same way, no sermon and no word of doctrine, indeed no Christian word at all and no Christian thought can be the same as any other, although each is a vessel and a form of the one, eternal Word among us. To honor the tradition does not excuse one from the beginning each time, not with Augustine or Thomas or Newman, but with Christ.

And the greatest figures of Christian salvation history are honored only by the one who does today what they did then, or what they would have done if they had lived today. The cross-check is quickly done, and it is shows the tremendous impoverishment, not only in spirit and life, but also quite existentially: in thoughts and points of view, themes and ideas, where people are content to understand tradition as the handing-on of ready-made results. Boredom manifests itself at once, and the neatest systematics fails to convince, remains of little consequence. The little groups of those who have come to an understanding with one another and cultivate what they take to be the tradition become more and more esoteric, foreign to the world, and more and more misunderstood, although they do not condescend to take notice of their alienation.

And one day the storm that blows the dried-up branch away can no longer be delayed, and this collapse will not be great, because what collapses had been a hollow shell for a very long time."


–Hans Urs von Balthasar, Razing the Bastions. trans. Brian McNeil (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 33 - 35.

HT: Vox Nova

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Urgent Prayer Request

Urgent prayer request:

Robert & Linda Walker are long time friends of the Institute. We have just told that their 24 year old son. Robert, has been critically injured in an automobile accident and is in very serious condition. Your prayers for Robert and his family would be greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

John Allen: Will Sydney's WYD Be a Repeat of Denver?

As the date grows nearer, there is plenty of dire predictions and complaining going on in the Australian media. (See God's Big Day Out a Shambles" from the Australian to get the flavor.)

In an encouraging counterpoint, John Allen had a major editorial about World Youth Day run in the Sydney Morning Herald last Sunday. Allen writes that the World Youth Day most comparable to the one to be held this summer in Sydney is that
of Denver in 1993.

. . .it is entirely appropriate for Australians - especially Australia's 5.1 million Catholics, who will do most of the work and pick up part of the tab - to ask, "What do we stand to gain?"

Perhaps the best parallel for Australians to ponder is the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado.

Denver marked the first World Youth Day held outside a traditionally Catholic culture - previous instalments had been in Rome, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and Czestochowa, Poland. Somewhat like Australia, the Rocky Mountains are not known as an important Catholic crossroads, so heading into the event there were fears of low turnout, blase public reaction and a general whiff of failure.

Moreover, in 1993 the US was still looked upon with deep ambivalence in the Vatican. American Catholics were seen as rambunctious, often rebellious, and the US was viewed as a largely Protestant culture historically hostile to Catholicism. The idea of plunking the Pope down in such an environment caused more than one case of indigestion in Vatican offices.
In the event, Denver was a runaway triumph. Measured against modest expectations, turnout was impressive. More to the point, the 500,000 youth who showed up were wildly enthusiastic. The city rolled out the red carpet, and American media coverage was both extensive and overwhelmingly positive.

One can date a sea change in Vatican attitudes towards the US from that moment. Most importantly, the 1993 World Youth Day helped Rome to grasp that America's traditions of pluralism and church-state separation do not inhibit religion, but rather allow the faith to flourish. That is a theme Benedict XVI repeatedly stressed on his recent visit to Washington and New York.

This background helps explain why Denver offers such an intriguing parallel to Sydney. In some ways Australia stands today in Roman eyes where the US was in 1993. Wariness about the state of things Down Under was clear, for example, in a 1998 statement following a summit between Vatican officials and Australian bishops. It warned of a "crisis of faith" marked by widespread relativism.

As was once the case with the US, there is concern in Rome that Australia's egalitarian culture, with its emphasis on tolerance rather than truth, is not the best soil for Catholicism to flower. Lacking little direct contact with Australia, the perceptions of many Vatican officials are sometimes disproportionately shaped by media reports of conflict and the complaints that reach their offices from a handful of well-organised activists.

Sydney's World Youth Day thus represents a chance for Australia to recast itself in a positive light. If all goes well, the event could not only showcase the best of Catholicism for the Australian public, but it could also usher in a new "era of good feelings" with Rome.

Such a transformation would not merely be of intra-Catholic interest. The Vatican is a critical voice of conscience in global affairs, and Australia plays a key leadership role in its region of the world. It is healthy for everyone, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, when these two players are on good speaking terms.

Ironically, Denver's World Youth Day crowd of 500,000 was the smallest to date, as compared with 4 million in Manila in 1995, and 2 million in Rome in 2000 - yet arguably it had the most profound impact.
"

Catholics in Denver agree - their World Youth Day was the beginning of a dramatic renewal and they are still feeling the impact 15 years later. May it be so again. Let's remember to pray for the success of this summer's World Youth Day and the renewal of the Australian Church.

What Do You Really Believe?

Sue Gifford, a friend of mine who is involved in Catholic campus ministry at Oregon State University, sent me a link to NPR's "This I Believe" radio program website. There were a couple of essays that I was directed to, but the essay by Sr. Helen Prejean of "Dead Man Walking" fame, held a couple of lines that really got to me.

In her essay on what she believes, Sr. Helen begins by saying,
Belief and faith are not just words. It’s one thing for me to say I’m a Christian, but I have to embody what it means; I have to live it. So, writing this essay and knowing I’ll share it in a public way becomes an occasion for me to look deeply at what I really believe by how I act.
This is an important and sometimes overlooked way of evaluating our relationship with God and the Church. Orthodoxy (right belief) is important, but must result in orthopraxis (right action). As the letter of James reminds us, "Faith without works is dead." (cf. James 2:14-17)

But how often do we look at things from the opposite direction, as Sr. Helen suggests? What do my works - my life - say about what I really believe? I find it somewhat chilling that in Jesus' description of the last judgment in Matthew 25, the criteria for salvation and damnation are actions done towards the naked, hungry, imprisoned, sick - basically people who are miserable for one reason or another. What am I doing, concretely, to help them?

Jesus, the One through Whom anyone comes to the Father, is not suggesting, nor is St. Matthew, that we are saved by our works. No, we are saved by Christ's obedient, once-for-all self-offering on the cross. The question is, have I really thought about that, and considered what it means for me and the way I relate to people and to whom I relate? Contrary to what some Protestants claim, the Mass is not another sacrifice, but the sacramental representation of that one perfect sacrifice of Our Lord. But have I really thought about that "for-all" part of "once-and-for-all"?

Sherry's post about Dorothy Day raises this same issue.
In the 1960s, when a Catholic cardinal went to the White House for a prayer service with Richard Nixon and when another cardinal was in Vietnam blessing U.S. warplanes, Day unloaded: "What a confusion we have gotten into when Christian prelates sprinkle holy water on scrap metal to be used for obliteration bombing and name bombers for the Holy Innocents, for Our Lady of Mercy; who bless a man about to press a button which releases death to 50,000 human beings, including little babies, children, the sick, the aged . . ."
It is incredibly challenging to be a disciple who tries to see the redeemed humanity of every person. It is easy to conform to any of the -isms of our own day, including patriotism. One parishioner at Holy Apostles pointed out that I regularly pray for the service men and women who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan (my youngest nephew may soon join them, I'm afraid). Colorado Springs is ringed by military bases, so it's not unlikely that at least some of the attendees at daily Mass have friends or family members in harm's way. It's a popular prayer. But this young man pointed out that I never prayed for those we consider our enemies - and that Jesus said, "love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." Luke 6:27-28

Ah, that may not be so popular, particularly with someone who's lost a loved one in the war.

But of course, if our actions flow from a desire, above all else, to follow Jesus, popularity will be the last of our worries - for two reasons. First of all, as I just said, our desire will be to follow Jesus! And secondly, if we really do that, we will be as popular as Him - in His day. Which really wasn't that popular in the end, was it?

That's where Sr. Prejean's essay is challenging. What do my actions really say about what I believe? Do they say I believe it's imperative to follow Jesus and to die to my own selfish desires and be a man of service, especially to the weak, outcast and despised? Or do they betray my desire to be successful, accepted, respected, and perhaps just a wee bit popular?

Dorothy Day: Saint of Holy Irony



Speaking of lay apostolate, May 1 was the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Catholic Worker movement by 36 year old Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. (Dorothy is shows above reading to her daughter Tamar, who just died earlier this year.) Whispers quotes a weekend Washington Post article at some length:

"It was on May 1, 1933, when Dorothy Day, then 36, went to a Communist Party rally in New York's Union Square. She worked the Depression-era crowd, handing out her eight-page newspaper, the Catholic Worker. Included with articles about poverty, unemployment and injustice was Day's editorial laying out the paper's mission: " . . . For those who are huddling in shelters trying to escape the rain. For those who think that there is no hope for the future, no recognition of their plight -- this little paper is addressed. It is printed to call their attention to the fact the Catholic Church has a social program, to let them know that there are men of God who are working not only for their spiritual but for their material welfare."

Snip.

Three years after the first issue of the Catholic Worker newspaper, circulation rose from 2,500 copies to more than 150,000. Still eight pages published monthly, now with a circulation of 25,000, it is the country's only paper that can rightly claim that it has held to one editorial line, one typographical layout and one price: a penny a copy.

In her column, "On Pilgrimage," Day ranged from reportage on the doings at the Worker's soup and bread lines to criticism of the church hierarchy. In the 1960s, when a Catholic cardinal went to the White House for a prayer service with Richard Nixon and when another cardinal was in Vietnam blessing U.S. warplanes, Day unloaded: "What a confusion we have gotten into when Christian prelates sprinkle holy water on scrap metal to be used for obliteration bombing and name bombers for the Holy Innocents, for Our Lady of Mercy; who bless a man about to press a button which releases death to 50,000 human beings, including little babies, children, the sick, the aged . . ."...

During the next 50 years, she would attend daily Mass, pray the monastic hours, feed and house uncounted thousands of jobless and homeless, write eight books, be hounded by the FBI, bond with labor unions, be imprisoned on civil disobedience charges (so often that a New York jail had a "Dorothy Day suite"), get the paper out, be uncompromising in her commitment to nonviolence and be invited by Eunice Kennedy Shriver to spend time in Hyannisport to take a break from all the frenzy....

After Day died Nov. 29, 1980, no Catholic bishop attended her Requiem Mass. Years later, when she was not around to rebuke churchmen for their just-war theories, it was safe to call on the Vatican to create Saint Dorothy. One promoter for sainthood was Cardinal John O'Connor of New York, in front of whose St. Patrick's Cathedral Day and fellow Catholic Workers had often protested the Vietnam War that the cardinal, as the U.S. church's military vicar, backed.

If Day ever is canonized, it might be as the patron saint of holy irony.


And of course, Catholic Worker houses continue the same ministry today. One such ministry is the Catholic Worker houses of Boise, founded by Ellen Piper, who was launched into ministry with the homeless by discerning her charisms through the Called & Gifted process. 8 years later, she has started a day shelter for the homeless and two houses - men and women's - to provide transitional housing for the homeless in Boise.

Dorothy is a giant figure in the 20th century but it helps to understand her life and impact in the context of the whole development of the lay apostolate.

As Rocco has noted, her dairies, which were sealed for 25 years after her death in 1980, have just been published: I simply adore these anecdotes:

Like most holy people, she often fell short of her ideals. We know this because she herself calls attention to her faults - her impatience, her capacity for anger and self-righteousness. "Thinking gloomily of the sins and shortcomings of others," she writes, "it suddenly came to me to remember my own offences, just as heinous as those of others. If I concern myself with my own sins and lament them, if I remember my own failures and lapses, I will not be resentful of others. This was most cheering and lifted the load of gloom from my mind. It makes one unhappy to judge people and happy to love them."...

In response to the insecurity, the sorrows, and drudgery of life among the "insulted and injured", she tried always to remember "the duty of delight": "I was thinking how, as one gets older, we are tempted to sadness, knowing life as it is here on earth, the suffering, the Cross. And how we must overcome it daily, growing in love, and the joy which goes with loving."


"it makes one unhappy to judge people and happy to love them.""

Pray for us, Servant of God, Dorothy Day.

Coming Up: The Fascinating History of the Lay Apostolate

Yes, we're here. But in the last throes of getting ready for the gathering tomorrow and Thursday and preparation for two back to back major events in June.

Blogging may be sparse over the next 48 hours but will resume afterwards.

Since I"m (amazingly) going to be home between how and September (with the exception of the two Making Disciples seminars in Wisconsin and Washington), I thought it would be fun to do some special blogging on the history of the development of the lay apostolate - before, during, and after the Council - starting in the middle ages. I've accumulated a ton of stuff over the years on the topic but it just sits in my files waiting to be used.

Why not share some of this great stuff via the blog?

Especially since the history is so rich, nuanced, and complicated and far more interesting than the simplistic "everything was great/terrible before the Council and everything has been the pits/fabulous since" scenario that we can't seem to get beyond.

One fascinating thing - before the Second Vatican Council, the champions of the lay apostolate were usually on the "liberal" end of the continuum as it existed in their day - indeed sometimes on the extreme left hand side of the spectrum in political and economic terms - while since the Council, the champions of the lay apostolate are perceived as usually, but not always, being on the "conservative" end. Of course, such categories flatten out the complexity of the reality and don't begin to tell the tale.

But its a tale worth telling - and a fruitful summer's blogging, I think.

So watch for the first installment - hopefully later this week.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Wondering How to Help?

One of the things I appreciate about CNN is their emphasis on adding "How you can help" links beside stories of
suffering around the world. It's called Impact Your World.

The horrific earthquake in China and the tragedy in Myanmar are just some of the areas in need of help. They all have links to the tornado striken communities in the US.

As things are going, we probably should just create a bookmark to that link.

And pray for all those children. families, men and women trapped in these horrible situations.

Indian Catholicism

Fascinating piece by John Allen on Catholicism in India:

Some background on Catholicism in India.

Though Catholics represent only 1.6 percent of the population, India is so big that this works out to a sizeable Catholic community of 17.6 million. The Church is divided into three rites: Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara, and the Latin rite. The Syro-Malabar rite has an estimated four million adherents, the Syro-Malankara about 500,000, and the rest belong to the Latin Rite.

In many ways, Indian Catholicism is thriving. The Church is growing at a rate ahead of overall population growth, and by 2050 there could be almost 30 million Catholics, which would place India among the twenty largest Catholic nations on earth, roughly on a par with Germany in terms of its Catholic population. Outside its traditional base in the south, Catholicism is also expanding in the northeast. In the state of Arunachal Pradesh on the eastern border with China, where Catholicism arrived barely 25 years ago, there are today 180,000 Catholics out of a total population of 800,000.

A noteworthy point about Catholic demography in India is the disproportionate share of Dalits, or untouchables. Estimates are that somewhere between 60 and 75 percent of Indian Catholics are Dalits, who often see Christianity as a means of protesting the caste system and of affiliating with a social network to buffer its effects.

Catholicism enjoys wide respect across India for its network of schools, hospitals and social service centers. When Mother Teresa died in 1997, the Indian government afforded her a state funeral, only the second private citizen after Mahatmas Gandhi to receive the honor. Her casket was born by the same military carriage which carried Gandhi’s remains in 1948.

Yet the Catholic community in India also faces steep challenges, among them the rise of aggressive Hindu nationalism. Radical Hindu movements often claim that Christians engage in duplicitous missionary practices in an effort to “Christianize” India. Though by most accounts the Hindu nationalists represent a tiny fraction of the population, they have the capacity to create tremendous grief.

Organized radical groups today sometimes move into Christian villages, preaching a gospel of Hindutva, or Hindu nationalism, and urge people to take part in “reconversion” ceremonies. These groups also routinely stage counter-festivals during Christmas celebrations. Fear of a Christian takeover is pervasive; in 2001, when Italian-born Sonia Gandhi ran in national elections, one national newspaper carried the headline, “Sonia – Vulnerable to Vatican blackmail!”

Sometimes, as in the recent case of Orissa, these tensions turn violent. In 2006, for example, Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore and two priests were attacked by a mob in Jalahally, 10 miles south of Bangalore. The three clerics had come to inspect the same after St. Thomas Church and St. Claret School in Jalhally had been sacked by Hindu nationalists. Members of Catholic religious orders are also exposed. In April 1995, nationalists cracked the skulls of two nuns in a convent on the outskirts of New Delhi; another mob broke into a residence of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Angels and beat the five sisters, along with their maid, using iron rods.

As the Catholic population continues to swell in India, and as India emerges as global superpower, these challenges are likely to occupy a growing share of time and attention in Rome and around the Catholic world.

In particular, American Catholic leaders may increasingly find themselves pressed to persuade the United States government to take a more activist role in defending religious freedom in India, just as they have in recent years in China. If so, Catholic leaders may be on a collision course with emerging U.S. political and economic calculations.


Sherry's note:

India with as many Catholics as Germany - interesting.

Of course, in terms of all Christians , India is already the 7th largest Christian nation in the world and will have risen to #5 by 2025 with 107 million Christians and 137 million Christians by 2050. If true, Catholics will make about 29% of the Christians of India in 2050.

And to put it all in perspective: It is estimated that by 2050, non-Hispanic "white" Christians will only make up 1/5 of the world's Christians.

Addendum:

Gashwin has some great and extensive background on the whole situation here.

Pope Benedict on the Beauty of Being Baptized in the Holy Spirit

From Zenit on Pope Benedict's comments after Mass on Pentecost Sunday (thanks, Ed, for bringing it to my attention)

"In effect, Jesus' whole mission was aimed at giving the Spirit of God to men and baptizing them in the 'bath' of regeneration," the Pope said. "This was realized through his glorification, that is, through his death and resurrection: Then the Spirit of God was poured out in a super-abundant way, like a waterfall able to purify every heart, to extinguish the flames of evil and ignite the fire of divine love in the world.

"The Acts of the Apostles present Pentecost as a fulfillment of such a promise and therefore as the crowning moment of Jesus' whole mission. After his resurrection, he himself ordered his disciples to stay in Jerusalem, because, he said, 'In a short time you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit'; and he added: 'You will have the power of the Holy Spirit, who will descend upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all of Galilee and Samaria unto the ends of the earth.'"

Church's baptism

Benedict XVI said that Pentecost is thus, "in a special way, the baptism of the Church who undertakes her universal mission beginning from the streets of Jerusalem with prodigious preaching in the different languages of humanity."
"In this baptism of the Holy Spirit," the Pope continued, "the personal and communal dimensions -- the 'I' of the disciple and the 'we' of the Church -- are inseparable. The Spirit consecrates the person and at the same time makes him a living member of the mystical body of Christ, participant in the mission to witness to his love."

This consecration and insertion into the mystical body of Christ, "is actualized through the sacraments of Christian initiation: baptism and confirmation," he said.

"In my message for World Youth Day 2008, I invited young people to rediscover the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives and, therefore, the importance of these sacraments," the Holy Father added. "Today I would like to extend this invitation to everyone: Let us rediscover, dear brothers and sisters, the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit; let us be aware again of our baptism and of our confirmation, sources of grace that are always present."


Comments?

WYD and Catholicism Down Under

I've been tracking internet reports about World Youth Day and it has been intriguing to get a glimpse about how this gathering is being viewed in Australia.

For instance, here is Australian Community Radio's interview with Jim Hanna, spokesman for WYD and Dr. Kathleen McPhillips, Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Languages at the University of Western Sydney, about religion online.

There's the internet as spiritual agora (as Mark Shea calls it):

"Well, major religious traditions, all of them have websites. Then you get new age religions, so lots of pagan websites and you get lots of witch websites and so on. Then you also get lots of religious healing sites, sects and cults are on the internet. There also very productive websites, such as interface dialogue discussions between faith tradition. So it can be a space where there is a lot of diversity and tolerance.

And then a fascinating question that receives a pretty limp answer that would be phrased more cautiously in the much more religious American context, I think.

Is it that religion is changing? Or is it just taking on a new form of communication?

"This is a very good question and it’s one of THE questions – does the internet change the nature of religion and religious practice?

I think the answer to that has to be yes. I mean, first of all, there’s the question of the internet itself. It is a kind of mysterious technology. It’s a form of virtual or cyber space – we can’t see it. It isn’t magic – so how does it happen that we can connect up with people that live so far away from us in less than a second? So there’s a question about whether the internet itself is a kind of religious experience and may encourage people to believe in something that doesn’t exist. Then there’s another question about whether people can have religious experiences on the internet using some of the sites."


Dr. McPhillips is pretty obviously more familiar with "non-traditional" religions like internet only Jedi faith:

"What I know about is the New Age sites and I think they’re using them for a lot of different things. You can set up your own website for starters and you can advertise yourself and your religious preferences. But I think for information, to join a group, to do healing practices and also to have fun. You can access things like an Ouija board, so the black arts are there as well. I mean some religious groups only have an existence on the internet and there I’m particularly thinking about Jedi Religion. Now I don’t know if you recall but in the early 2000s (2001 Census) 70 000 Australian nominated Jedi religion as their religious practice and it was a phenomenon that also happened in other Western countries like Britain. From that developed a number of internet sites on Jedi religion so you can actually join a group and become a Jedi Master or practice some of the more esoteric practices associated with Jediism."

And this startlingly hostile phrase from the interviewer:

"In what has been termed by some as the Big Prey Out, over 60 000 Aussies from outside of Sydney will join double that from all over the world in this years World Youth Day."

I googled "Big Prey Out" and got almost no results so its not exactly a household phrase even in Australia. So "some" must be the interviewer's circle of friends.

And finally a description of the digital prayer wall by Jim Hanna, the WYD spokesman:

"The other thing that I think most people are finding very innovative is an idea we got when U2 were out here the last time, where you could text your phone number to a particular number and you could see your name come up on the big screen at the event. Well what we want to do is do that in a Catholic sort of way. Often people want other people to pray for something, some intention or other, it could be world peace, it could be freedom from hunger, it could be for a sick relative, it could even be for their footy team to win – and Lord knows I’ve been doing a lot of praying for my team! They had a win last week so that’s good – it does work everyone! So what we’re doing is a Digital Prayer Wall where you can text your prayer to a particular number and it will come up on the screen where a couple of hundred people are gathered. It’s great to know that at least some of the people in that crowd would all being praying for that same intention. It gives people a sense of warmth and reassurance. So that’ll be a first and hopefully that will be something that continues on to the next WYD."


What strikes me is the difference in tone and language from what would be in such an interview in the US. There's almost no obviously religious language and its all so vague. Is there little or no popular religious culture that one can tap into?

If not, you can see why Cardinal Pell is so controversial. In the US, he'd be conservative. in Australia, he's an earthquake.

There has been much talk in Australia this past week about the fact that registration for WYD is falling seriously short of the numbers expected - and the very substantial financial losses involved. Luxury hotels had reserved thousands of rooms and almost none have been taken. How might this be affected by the economic downturn, oil prices, etc?

The WYD coordinators projected 250,000 pilgrims but right now only 123,000 have signed up and only 30,000 of those are Australian. Almost as many Americans have signed up as have Australians so far. WYD organizers insist that many young people sign up late and that they still expect to make their 250,000 target.

Only 30,000 Australians registered so far? Now that I find startling.

There are about 5 million Catholics in Australia but recent national surveys show that only 13 - 15% attend Mass once a month (which is the criteria for "practicing" in Australia). so 750,000 practicing Catholics. And 30,000 Aussie pilgrims so far,

I'm going to continue to watch this whole situation. Australia is the least historically Catholic and least religiously observant country that has hosted a World Youth Day. How will that affect the impact?

In Colorado, they are still talking about the profound impact that Denver's World Youth Day has had. But do we have a sense of the long term impact in Toronto, for instance? Anyone know?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Catholic Quote of the Day

"Christ’s entire mission is summed up in this: to baptise us in the Holy Spirit, to free us from the slavery of death and ‘to open heaven to us’, that is, access to the true and full life that will be ‘a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy’. "

(Spe Salvi, 12).” Pope Benedict XVI (Angelus Reflection, L’Osservatore Romano, 16/01/08).

Who Healed Me?

A fascinating story for Pentecost from China by way of an interview in Good News with Fr Elias Vella OFM (Conv) who teaches part-time in the major seminary in Beijing.

"One story Fr Elias tells is of a woman troubled with some mental problem who came to see one of the priests he taught (having already tried the Buddhists, Fortune Tellers and so on). He didn’t know what to do but he laid his hands on her and said an Our Father. The woman was instantly healed and she asked, “Who healed me?” “Jesus,” said the priest, and then he told her about him. She was later baptised and became a powerful evangelical voice in the parish. Whenever she came across people who were sick or disturbed she told them that Jesus would heal them if they keep his word. She has apparently brought some 200 to faith this way. And the parish priest says that his parish is now “on fire”."

Read the whole article. It gives a good overview of the complexity of the Church's situation in China.

Next Week

We've got a lot going on this week.

Planted my wildflower bed early this morning before going to Mass. Spent several hours raking up leaves, hauling mulch, and whacking mystery plants that must go.

Revising Making Disciples yet again - not a huge revision but the usual pre-event tweaks. And we are finishing up a total overhaul of our Called & Gifted teacher training for June.

Most interestingly, Fr. Mike and I will be spending two days this week in a informal gathering with leaders of two graduate schools of theology and another national/international ministry exploring the possibility of collaboration between our four organizations. Your prayers for this meeting on Wednesday and Thursday would be greatly appreciated as we explore what God might have for us.

The meeting is happening in my house so I need to clean! (The domestic aspects of life have been getting minimal attention
for a long time, I'm afraid. )

So blogging will be catch as catch can.

An Experience of Pentecost in the Far North

On the spur of the moment, I did a Google video search under the world "Pentecost". The first video up was this:

The experience of an Eskimo Anglican parish in Alaska in 1999.

What struck me and added a sense of authenticity to it is that the word that several witnesses used of the impact was "humbling" and the desire to ask for purity and cleansing of the heart. Be sure and watch to the end.

(And before you even go there - no, I am not trying to make the case that this is what Catholic Masses should be like.)

I'm just wondering at the mysterious and wonderful way God works with people. If he filled Cornelius with the Holy Spirit before he was baptized, surely he can visit a small group of Anglican Eskimos in a surprising way.

The humble heart is one that God loves to dwell in. What, I wonder, has been the long term fruit, because that is always the test.

The embed html does not seem to work - so go here:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

More on America's Family

I have written before about Steve Bigari, a businessman/entrepreneur in Colorado Springs who is working to end poverty among the working poor. Here's a YouTube movie that gives a brief story about America's Family



There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God 
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.

As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ. I Cor 12:4-7, 12
Steve is using his gifts to build up the body of our society. God bless you, Mr. Bigari!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Kathleen Lundquist on American Public Radio

Kathleen Lundquist, convert, musician, and sometime poster/commenter here on ID, wrote a short piece
for the American Public Radio's Mapping the Landscape of Catholic Voices.

Great job, Kathie! Great picture too!

"I am a convert to the Catholic faith from evangelicalism, and I was drawn by several things:

- The historical continuity of the Church in its interactions with culture.
- The beauty of Church art, music, architecture, and liturgy.
- The elegance, balance, and logic of Catholic theology."

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Baby OP's

It's a baby boom - for the Western Dominican Province.

Four men are being ordained May 31 at stunningly beautiful St. Dominic's Church in San Francisco

and six guys are make final profession on June 7 at St. Dominic's.

Praise God.

Guess its too late for a rousing chorus of that classic western song:

"Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be OP's . . ."

Encountering Jesus in LA

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles will be celebrating Pentecost with a new pastoral letter on Evangelization called
A Fresh Encounter with Jesus Christ: Directions in Evangelization.

"The title references Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter Ecclesia in America in which he writes that all church goals and ministries must be rooted in a "fresh encounter with Jesus Christ." Unless there is in each person a deep encounter with the person of Jesus Christ, the efforts of the faithful, however well-intentioned, will not bear fruit.

Even in Southern California, where Catholic parishes are vital and vibrant, says Cardinal Mahony, there is still an ongoing concern that many people feel they lack a transformative, personal encounter with Christ.

Evangelization is the primary mission of Christ and of the Church. As such, delegates to the archdiocesan Synod (concluded in 2003) endorsed "Evangelization and 'the New Evangelization'" as the first pastoral initiative to govern all planning and activities in this Archdiocese for the coming years.

To this end, the Synod and the pastoral letter on evangelization identify three levels of evangelization. "First, evangelization entails allowing one's own heart to be seized and saturated by the Gospel, responding to the call to lifelong conversion to Christ by the gift of the Spirit.

"Second, evangelization requires reaching out to others to proclaim in word and deed the Reign of God.

"Third, evangelization demands that the values of the Reign of God, a reign of truth, holiness, justice, love and peace, permeate each and every culture, transforming every sphere of life."

"New evangelization" signifies efforts to re-evangelize under-catechized, inactive and alienated Catholics as well as efforts by active Catholics to allow Christ "to touch the unconverted corners of our lives."


I can feel the cynical reactions of some readers from here - and I have some of my own. As we begin working more and more with dioceses, it is becoming clear how much more complicated it is to really accomplish something at the diocesan level than at the parish level. And for many reasons - not just the usual suspects that get bandied around St. Blog's so readily.

Part of it is that Bishops and diocesan staff aren't implementers. They can prevent things from happening by not giving permission but it is much tougher to make something new happen. Diocesan leaders, even and especially a Bishop, are very dependent upon the good will and cooperation of the real implementers who are at the parish level.

Bishops can order. They can mandate - but it still won't be done well and fruitfully without the enthusiastic cooperation of pastors and parish leaders. Who are already up to their eyeballs in a thousand other commitments even if they would normally be interested.

So Pastoral letters are good. They encourage and give the official seal of approval to various critical initiatives like evangelization. But making evangelization actually happen? We'll see.

And just a reminder:

If you are eager to make evangelization happen in your parish, check out our Making Disciples seminars coming up June 8 - 12 in Benet Lake, Wisconsin and August 8 - 12 in Spokane, Washington.

May

Just returned from a little meander through the garden (latte in hand, naturlich)

May. Daffodils I planted last fall in bloom. Tulips I planted last fall about to burst into glory. Perennials that I planted last year coming back with vigor in the bed on top the stone wall that Fr. Mike and my army of clerical slaves built. Aspens and the trees we planted last year breaking into leaf. Grass we laid last summer greening up. Cool, sunny morning and fresh snow on the mountains.

The gardener's reward at long last. And from here, it all looks so natural and effortless.

Those Mystic Monks



As the first soft light of another Rocky mountain dawn fills the sky, I'm considering whether or not it is time for my daily home-made latte. (We grind our own beans. Can't help it - I'm from Seattle. The mothership. Latteland.)

Which reminds me that I want to make sure that you know about Mystic Monk Coffee which supports an up and coming Carmelite men's monastery in Wyoming.

Fair Trade Ethiopian? De-caf Chocolate Mint? Mystic chant? Have a prayer request? The real monks of the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary can help you. They have a definite ease with the new technology and a sense of humor. (They solemnly inform the reader that monks discovered coffee)

As they put it:

"Catholics must learn solidarity and the monks hope that Mystic Monk Coffee will help in this endeavor. To think that catholic money spent every day on coffee could go to a catholic cause through a catholic coffee. The monks have 40 young men discerning a vocation. Wy can't catholic coffee money go to support catholic vocations? Thus the monks hope that this catholic coffee Mystic Monk Coffee will help them continue to flourish through Catholics choosing to use their catholic coffee dollar for Christ and his catholic church.

Every catholic monastery has its own manual labor, a way to support itself by its own hands. Then it usually sells what it makes as its monastery gift item. Coffee is unique in that Catholics everywhere drink coffee daily. So this is a monastery gift for every day of the year. Catholics should find this as another way to integrate the church into their daily lives, through catholic coffee. Every morning as they sip their coffee, why not think of the church and say a morning offering to Christ? The reality that this catholic coffee could help catholic culture is true. Catholics need a culture to sink their roots in and Mystic Monk Coffee hopes to be a big part of this endeavor with the monastery gifts of a catholic coffee."


They also have a kickin website obviously intended to appeal to the JPII generation (some member is either a website developer or they got professional help) No wonder they have 40 young men discerning a possible monastic vocation.



So buy right and drink up. Besides - everything tastes better when it comes with altitude!

Cardinal Pell, WYD, and New Technology



Cardinal Pell on World Youth Day. Via You Tube, of course.

World Youth Day is embracing the new technology in a big way, including a social networking site:XT3 and "digital prayer walls". Hmmmm. Just how does a digital prayer wall work exactly?

And apparently, Pope Benedict will be text-messaging attendees every day.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Myanmar Cyclone

The tragedy in Myanmar is stunning. 100,000 dead? I know those sorts of figures get thrown about in the early days when
we don't have a firm grasp of the realities on the ground but it does give us a sense that the destruction is incredible.

It triggers memories for me of my family losing everything in a hurricane when I was a child - but even something like Katrina is a totally different experience than a disaster like this in a country where great poverty is the norm, resources and infrastructure are at a minimum and where a secretive military junta is keeping out desperately needed aid.

We, in the US, literally cannot imagine it.

Here is the World Vision page on Myanmar. World Vision has worked in Myanmar for 40 years and already have teams on the ground that have been given freedom by the government to begin relief efforts. (The problem is getting the government to allow new agencies in).

Pray. Give. Rinse. Repeat.

From English language Al Jazerra:

When Its All Been Said and Done

This lyrical piece by Ireland's Robin Mark says it all.

In the end, on that day, I will not be asked what style liturgy I attended or
whether I was Catholic "enough" but "did I respond with my whole being to the grace I had been given, did I obey, did I love?

For those of us to whom the fullness of the faith has been given, much more is required.

The Life-Changing Power of Jesus Risen From the Dead

In a related post, Gashwin asks some interesting questions this morning about the evidential power of beauty in the Orthodox tradition and asks "is it enough"?

In his post, he links to two old posts of mine that discuss what I was hearing from some Orthodox priest friends about discipleship within their communion.

I'd like to quote a snippet from one of the posts that Gashwin cites:

"As articulated by theologian Bradley Nassif in a hard hitting article: The Orthodox Christian Opportunity.

The most urgent need in world Orthodoxy at this time is the need to engage in an aggressive internal mission of spiritual renewal or outright conversion of our clergy and people to Jesus Christ. All of us—bishops, priests, and people—need to make the Gospel crystal clear and absolutely central in our lives and in our parishes. We must constantly recover the personal and relational aspects of God in every life-giving action of the Church.

Read the whole article. As Nassif puts it with considerable passion:

Still, an untold number of converts are coming through the Church like a revolving door: They enter with zeal, but quietly leave depressed and disappointed. Few take notice, and even fewer seek to retrieve them. In some cases, the converts are even blamed by Orthodox for not really knowing the Church or its ways. Good and godly Anglicans, evangelicals, charismatics, and mainline Protestants who could strengthen the Church end up being shunned by Orthodox fundamentalists within it. Legalism replaces love; mere church attendance gets counted as godliness; some priests control their parishioners through fear instead of leading them with a gentle spirit; and the pulpit disagrees with the altar by focusing on moral reform rather than spiritual healing. Now this is not true of all Orthodox parishes, to be sure. But it is true of too many of them not to say something about it.

Converts are leaving our Church in increasing numbers. Not because of a disagreement with Orthodox doctrine, but because of the distortions of Orthodox practice. They or their families are simply not being fed the Gospel, despite all the liturgical celebrations that go on. They are finding our Church to be more about Orthodoxy as a religion than about the life-changing power of Jesus Christ risen from the dead.

This past year I have received more letters acknowledging this problem than at any other time in my life—and I’ve been preaching about it for the past 35 years. Orthodox people throughout North America and abroad are asking me how they can help change the Church for the better. They ask, “What can we do to regain the central message of the Gospel in our churches? What needs to be done to make the faith relevant to our everyday lives?”

I don’t have easy answers, but I do know where the answers lie. The Scriptures give us the cure, and their message is not complicated. So I say this every chance I get:

The most urgent need in world Orthodoxy at this time is the need to engage in an aggressive internal mission of spiritual renewal or outright conversion of our clergy and people to Jesus Christ. All of us—bishops, priests, and people—need to make the Gospel crystal clear and absolutely central in our lives and in our parishes. We must constantly recover the personal and relational aspects of God in every life-giving action of the Church."


Spiritual renewal - a truly ecumenical mission.

Following Jesus into the Church

The local Catholic Herald is running an article on the "Coming Home" gathering that I spoke at a couple weeks ago.

That gathering was the first time that Paul McCusker, of Focus on the Family and creator of the famous Odyssey radio program for children, had spoken about his entrance into the Church last August. He was a bit nervous and somewhat overwhelmed that there was that much interest in his journey.

They did misspell my name but I, the chronically challenged speller, can't really cast any stones here.

But they did catch a good bit of the spirit of my journey.

What won't be clear from the article is that I *was* reading all the same books as most evangelicals (Newman, etc.) but the primary reason I entered was not intellectual (although I have a strong intellectual streak) or historical (although I adore history, was a history major, etc.) or about issues of authority or as a refuge from the culture.

Which seems to be the very thing that that so enrages certain individuals who haunt my blogging steps and which
strikes them as irreducibly foreign or smacking of the unspeakable "P" word. I didn't enter the Church for her own sake. The Church, by herself, did not loom largest in my consciousness or calculations. I did not fall in love with the Church.

(Please understand: I'm not dissing those who do enter for those reasons. Falling in love with the Church is truly a wonderful, blessed thing. I'm just saying that it wasn't my path. There are many wonderful, blessed paths into the fullness of the faith. The "I read my way into the Church" journey is only one albeit the one that has been lionized in our generation.)

I entered the Church to follow Jesus, because I believed Jesus desired it, indeed, commanded it. Because I wanted to be at the center of His Body and purposes on earth, to be where His central redemptive act, the central act of history, was the center of worship.

Entering the heart of the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ in order to follow Christ. I emphasized this in my talk because I wanted those who might hear of it in our very evangelical town to know it was more than possible.

How is it that so simple a thing should strike serious Catholics as contrary to "Catholic sensibilities"?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Myanmar Cyclone

Gashwin Gomes has links to information about the horrific cyclone in Myanmar and numerous links to agencies
who are ready to help. Pray. Give. Rinse. Repeat.

Bach's Bible & Pelikan on "The Need for Creed"

Watch this lovely slideshow from Public Radio's Speaking of Faith

The debate over whether or not J. S. Bach was truly a believer himself was settled when his personal Bible with his personal annotations was found in the 1930's.

And take a look at this 2003 interview with Jaroslav Pelikan, then 80, about "The Need for Creed"

Free Rice

My sister told me about a website where you can increase your vocabulary and help feed hungry people at the same time. It's called freerice.com, and it works quite simply. You are given a word and four brief, often one word definitions. You simply click on the answer that best defines the word. If you get it right, you get a harder word. If wrong, you get an easier word. For each word you get right, 20 grains of rice are donated to the United Nations World Food Program. You do not lose rice if you do not know the correct definition, and you are given the correct definition if you are wrong. You will be given the word you missed a few minutes later to see if you remember the correct definition. One cool feature is the ability to hear the word pronounced.

Here's a video about the program:
http://documents.wfp.org/stellent/groups/public/documents/newsroom/wfp152916.wmv

The rice is paid for by the advertisers whose names you see on the bottom of your vocabulary screen. This is regular advertising for these companies, but it is also something more. Through their advertising at FreeRice, these companies support both learning (free vocabulary for everyone) and reducing hunger (free rice for the hungry). The banner I had said, "This banner is being funded by a generous individual committed to reducing hunger."

FreeRice is not sitting on a pile of rice―you are earning it 20 grains at a time. Here is how it works. When you play the game, advertisements appear on the bottom of your screen. The money generated by these advertisements is then used to buy the rice. So by playing, you generate the money that pays for the rice donated to hungry people.

The rice is distributed by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). The World Food Program is the world’s largest food aid agency, working with over 1,000 other organizations in over 75 countries. In addition to providing food, the World Food Program helps hungry people to become self-reliant so that they escape hunger for good. Wherever possible, the World Food Program buys food locally to support local farmers and the local economy.

Free Rice does not make any money from operating the site. Check it out! I have to run to my sinecure.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Preparing for Pentecost

For all of Lent and much of Easter season I was on the road giving parish missions across the country. I spoke about conversion, prayer, discipleship, and some of the struggles I have with each of those aspects of Christian life. In several places, I had people come up to me and ask for an appointment to talk about something that had happened in their life.

In each case, they told me about personal experiences of God's power that they had encountered, and how the experiences had changed their lives. In every case, they would preface their story with something like, "You'll probably think I'm crazy, but..." One young woman told me of having several experiences in which all of the surrounding noises, whether it was the sound of a crowd in the church vestibule or traffic noise simply stopped and she heard Jesus speak a few brief sentences of comfort or direction. Another fellow spoke of how God had made it possible for him to go on a mission trip to Jamaica with his wife, even though he really didn't want to go and had told her there were five conditions that had to be met before he'd accompany her there. God met all five conditions. Then, while giving a destitute man in a shelter a shave (while trying to stay as far away from the man as possible) he experienced the eyes of Christ looking at him with love, rather than the poor man's eyes. That completely changed his attitude towards the whole experience in Jamaica, and began a profound experience of conversion to Christ for him.

A friend of mine told me the other day that sometimes while he's praying and contemplating the events of his life the Holy Spirit shows him a connection between what he thought were random events and he is filled with joy and begins to laugh spontaneously and uncontrollably - and he loves it! I am convinced this same fellow has received infused knowledge from God; insights into the nature of God that I know from years of study that have been revealed to him in prayer.

These experiences are not unique. We read of similar experiences, as well as locutions, ecstasies, visions, etc. in the lives of the saints. But for some reason, we have come to believe they are rare and only for the select few - those destined to be saints.


All these people haven't told many others, or in some cases any other people, because they don't hear others speaking of such experiences. They may be afraid that people will not just think they're crazy, but that they think they're special, and that they're making a claim to be "holier than thou." Yet when we read the Acts of the Apostles, Luke describes all kinds of powerful spiritual experiences that lead many people to speak in tongues, to prophesy, to spontaneously and joyfully praise God. The Acts of the Apostles are filled with signs and wonders performed by the Holy Spirit through the apostles and others. These experiences of the Holy Spirit lead to the conversion of thousands of people in some cases. Often we can dismiss these stories as exaggerations, group hysteria, or events unique to the early Church and no longer to be expected.

Peter Herbeck, Vice President and Director of Missions of Renewal Ministries in Ann Arbor, MI, writes about our low expectations for these sorts of religious experiences and our reticence to trust them in his new book, "When the Spirit Comes in Power." He quotes Mary Healy, a contemporary scripture scholar and theologian, who writes, "generations of ordinary lay Catholics have imbibed the notion that the spiritual life is essentially one of moral striving and formulaic prayer, apart from any direct experiential contact with God and his saving deeds." Jesus promises his disciples in the Gospel of John's Last Supper discourse, ""If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." John 14:15-18. Yet we live as though orphaned when we do not ask for guidance from that same Spirit of truth that guided the apostles, St. Paul and all the saints. We live as orphans when we do not believe Jesus who promises to abide in those who love their neighbor and keep his commands.

Of course, the Lord is present to us in a most intimate way in the Blessed Sacrament, his Body and Blood which we receive at Mass. He is also present in the Scriptures, especially when proclaimed at Mass. He is present in the presbyters and bishops who act in persona Christi, and in his body, the Church. The Holy Spirit touches our lives through the charisms God has given to others for our benefit, and we encounter his power, provision and healing through the manifold charisms distributed among the faithful. But there are other forms of religious experience that we can, and I believe, should expect if we are open to them.

Luke Timothy Johnson defines religious experience as "a response to that which is perceived as ultimate, involving the whole person, characterized by a peculiar intensity, and issues in action." Notice the experience is a response to an encounter with someone or something that is recognized as ultimate - and for Christian religious experience that is Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega. The Lord is the initiator. The experience is not generated by person him or herself. Nor is the focus on the emotional experience, as powerful as it might be. Herbeck writes, "All the spiritual writers in the Catholic mystical tradition warn against an excessive focus on religious experience and the need to apply solid discernment when we encounter spiritual phenomena...Yet, despite their constant warning, the mystical writers understand that religious experience is a normal part of the Christian life. In fact, their warnings assume it." These experiences are so powerful because they involve the whole person: intellect, will, emotions, memory, body and soul. It is an experience that in many cases leaves the individual fumbling for words to describe it. And, perhaps most importantly, it leads to action.

Sometimes the action may be a changed life with a new interest in reading the Bible and studying the Church's teaching. It may mean a long-held vice is abandoned. Sometimes it may lead to the pursuit of a particular calling in life, as in the case of Sr. Mary Teresa, a Loretto sister teaching in a school for the children of the elites of Calcutta, who was insistently called by Jesus to don a sari and minister to the poorest of the poor.

Perhaps part of our problem is fear. In his inaugural homily, the Holy Father spoke openly and eloquently about this fear....
Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom?
We may be afraid of what Jesus might ask of us, or, like the people I spoke to, wonder if people will think we are "Jesus freaks," liars, simple-minded enthusiasts, or addicts who've switched drugs of choice.

But what if during this week prior to Pentecost, we asked for an outpouring of the Spirit into our hearts? What if we took a careful moral inventory and examined where we are still selfish, and looked at what sins - however seemingly small - we still commit and have grown accustomed to? Do we really believe the Lord's promise to send an Advocate to be with us always? If so, always includes today, in your town, in your heart and mine. Let's stop underestimating God, and pray that the gifts given us in Confirmation may begin to bear fruit in our lives. May we believe that it is really possible for Jesus to abide in us and we in Him through the action of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Some Things to Ponder

Given that most Catholic parishes have static (i.e., seldom changing) websites - if they have one at all - and that we're slow to take advantage of podcasting and other forms of contemporary communication, this video is really challenging. Among other things, it points out that information is growing at an exponential rate, as are our abilities to calculate and communicate at greater speed. At the end of the video, the question, "What does it all mean?" is raised. The answer given is completely unsatisfactory: "Shift happens."

Yes, information is being made available to more and more people, but without moral guidelines and without a belief that objective truth exists, how we use the information available becomes a frightening question. More information is not helpful without a moral framework from which to evaluate it. Information must be interpreted, and interpretations depend upon the interpreter and a whole host of variables: personal experience, philosophical worldview, vested interests, fears, desires, goals, vices, virtues, and faith (or the lack of it) all will determine how information is interpreted. The debate regarding global warming is just one issue in which we have lots of information, and very different interpretations of that information.

All the more reason why it is vital for Catholics to have a strong moral compass with which to evaluate all this information, and the fortitude to live according to that compass at work. But even that ability is contingent in many ways upon the life-changing personal encounter with the risen and ascended Lord. Because there will be more and more competing interpretations of the exponentially increasing information we have to deal with, mere "head knowledge" will very likely not be enough to do what is good, right and just in the absence of the personal conviction and supernatural graces that flow from a profound religious experience of the Holy Spirit.

Watch the video - what do you think?

Thanks for the link, Pat!

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Friday, May 2, 2008

Evangelicals Discovering Liturgy

I read an interesting article this morning by Mark Galli, an evangelical pastor who uses what sounds like an early 20th c. version of the Anglican liturgy - or perhaps he occasionally attends such a liturgy. His point in the article is that evangelicals are often focused on making their worship services "relevant," so much so that they simply mirror contemporary culture. Some evangelicals are discovering that the worship of God, who transcends time and space, might just rest upon a liturgy that in some significant ways transcends time and space. Good liturgy, according to Eugene Peterson, a Protestant theologian whom Galli quotes, 'takes God seriously and takes the worshippers seriously.' Galli even quotes the then Cardinal Ratzinger
"The grandeur of the liturgy does not rest upon the fact that it offers an interesting entertainment, but in rendering tangible the Totally Other, whom we are not capable of summoning. He comes because He wills."
Two ongoing challenges still face Catholics regarding the liturgy. One is to make sure that it, in fact, takes God seriously, so that everything we do is done well and beautifully. The liturgy really does deserve our best; from our best attempts at music, art, architecture, proclamation, preaching, and even our clothing. Different cultures and churches with different economic means will have different looking "bests." One of the most beautiful liturgies I ever attended was in a squatter camp in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1991. The singing was glorious, the people joyful and dressed in their best (I especially remember women wearing beautiful, bright scarves in their hair in such a way that they looked like birds ready to take wing. Must've been the starch...) The priest clearly loved his congregation, and led them in prayer that was clearly heartfelt. I still remember it because I was deeply moved by the faith of these people who had next to nothing in the way of material goods. Yet they had caught a glimpse that change was coming to their country (a few of the apartheid laws had been repealed), and they saw God's hand at work. Many of them had family and friends who had been imprisoned, tortured, and even killed by the government. Some of them bore the marks of vigorous "questioning" on their own bodies. Yet the liturgy was an expression of their hope in things unseen, and in a power and love that transcended the violence and racism they had suffered.

The other challenge we face as liturgical worshippers, however, is to not get so caught up in the necessarily transcendent nature of liturgy that we forget its many purposes: the worship of God, the participation in Christ's passion, death and resurrection, the renewal of our initiation into Christ, the exodus from a life of sin to a life of grace, and the living of that life in the secular world in such a way that it is changed by Christ's power at work through his Church, to name a few. Galli ends his article:
[Liturgy] has steadfastly refused to let the culture determine its shape or meaning. Liturgical churches know that as profound a reality as is the surrounding culture, there is an even more profound reality waiting to be discovered. The liturgy gently and calmly gets us to open our eyes to the new reality, showing us the "necessary separation" from the old. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, we find our gaze directed away from ourselves and toward God and his kingdom. When we return to our homes, we are never the same.
When I am simply caught up in the beauty of the liturgy and am not changed by it, have I truly worshipped well? Have I encountered the Living God? Or have I simply enjoyed an uplifting, beautiful (and culturally irrelevant) aesthetic experience in which my pleasure has once again become the focal point? Can liturgy be beautiful, transcendent, and deeply disturbing all at the same time? After all, we gather to remember and encounter once again Jesus, who was lifted up on a cross that he called "his cup," and invites us to drink from that same cup in the liturgy.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

In and Out

Fr. Mike returns from the mission trail to Colorado Springs today. I'll be in and out over the weekend so blogging from me will be sporadic.

But be good - cause I'll be checking in!