The US Court of Appeals: Just the Place for a Snark!
Now here's a important cultural landmark:
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Now here's a important cultural landmark:
Amazing thing about technology. Sacred Heart Radio Station e-mailed us the MP3 file for the interview on "personal relationship with God" that I did this morning and we've got it up on our website here.
I performed a baptism this past weekend for a former parishioner from Tucson. She chose the Beatitudes from Matthew's Sermon on the Mount for the Gospel text to be proclaimed, and I sat down and wrote a brief reflection on each of the beatitudes - more for myself, really, as I thought about the connection between them and baptism. I thought I'd share them with you over the next week, since I've not blogged about anything for ages.
Baptism begins a new relationship between Aspen and God. She cannot offer any obstacles to the grace, the new life in the Holy Spirit, that God, Father, Son and Spirit offer her today. When the blessed water is poured over her head, original sin is forgiven, she becomes a daughter of God, her soul is marked with a character making her eligible to participate in the sacramental life of the Church, and she becomes a member of Jesus' body living today.
You make promises today to not only raise her in the Catholic faith, but to introduce her to God who has created her. All of us in the Church are to model for her what it is to be a disciple, and help her live in such a way that she can experience the blessings Jesus describes in the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount.
But these are peculiar blessings, and they have to be modeled and taught. We don't come by them naturally. Jesus and His mother are the best models of actually living the beatitudes he preaches, and I can't help but believe that he was preaching from experience. If that's the case, then we might presume that the blessings Jesus promises begin in this life, and find their fulfillment in heaven in the next. Thus, one of the greatest gifts you can give your daughter is to model for her "beatitude living" and teach her to live this way, too.
Let's look briefly at each of them.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
As you may know, in Luke's Sermon on the plain, Jesus says simply, "Blessed are the poor," and I believe that helps us understand what Matthew may be getting at with "poor in spirit." When the rich young man who has followed the commandments from his youth asks Jesus, "What must I do to inherit everlasting life?" Jesus responds by saying, "follow the commandments," but he's already done that and senses something's missing. So Jesus tells him to sell all he has – becoming physically poor, reliant on others – and then to come, follow him...become a disciple if he wishes to enter the kingdom. To be a disciple is to follow, and that means allowing another to lead, to make the decisions of which way to go, to trust when you can only see a few steps ahead. To be poor in spirit is to choose dependence over independence, guidance over self-determination, and trust over self-reliance.
Often we refer to headstrong, willful children as "spirited." You must teach Aspen to become poor in spirit. Rather than pursuing her own will, her own designs, you must teach her - and show her - how to make Jesus' will her own – to give up living for herself, relying on herself and her own goodness, and trusting the grace and providence of God to be enough. Teach your daughter to accept the kingdom as a gift, rather than a reward earned. And, help her learn to trust that following Jesus is to begin entering the kingdom now.
Here's a fascinating glimpse of Catholic life in China. (HT to Gashwin)
On the home page of the World Youth Day site is a fun map. Roll over the various continents and the registered number of pilgrims from that continent/area pops up.
This weekend, the Pauline year was formally inaugurated by Pope Benedict. Amy has all the news and a plethera of links.
Pier Giorgio Frassati
had a vocation
...he was not a priest,
...he was not a religious,
...he was not married.
When he was Baptised he
was called and gifted.
He responded to that call
and used those gifts to love
and serve God by loving and
serving those around him.
He died at age 24. The poor of
Turin flocked to his funeral.
He lived life to the full sharing
his material and spiritual wealth
The Siena Institute can help
you discern your Gifts and
Good stuff. By the way, if you want to reach our Australian team, you can reach Clara by dropping her an e-line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Radio interview done. Liked Brian, the interviewer - he was very prepared and professional.
Radio interview this morning - Sacred Heart radio in Cincinnati - 6:40 am my time!
Last month, we asked you to pray for Bob and Linda Walker's son Robert who was in a terrible accident. We just learned yesterday that he has died. Your prayers for Robert and his family would again be greatly appreciated.
It is always startling for me to listen to serious Catholics respond to the idea of "personal relationship with God" as has happened over at Mark's place today during a discussion of the Pew Forum study:
“I’d also note that having a “personal relationship with Jesus” is such a staple of evangelical rhetoric that many Catholics may be saying “no” as a way of saying that they don’t experience God in the same way that evangelicals say that they experience God. That is, Catholics meet the Lord in the Sacraments, in the liturgy of the community, etc., not just in private unstructured prayers.”
“Some Catholics might hear a reference to “personal God” and think it refers to an Evangelical understanding of Christian faith. But overall it leaves me scratching my head. What the heck is meant by “personal,” anyway?”
“If I pray to God, isn’t that a sign of something personal? I am not praying to someone or something abstract. But I agree with sd that catholics are not taught culturally to think of that as a “personal relationship.” At least I know that I did not look on it that way. Much of the poll results could be attributed to linguistic tone deafness of a sort.”
To which I responded:
Re: “Personal” and “relationship”. As in relationships we have with others in our lives - family, friends, co-workers, etc.
What I found mystifying is how seemingly normal adult Catholics, all of whom have some experience of personal relationship or they would never have lived to grow up, suddenly freeze when the idea of relationship with God is proposed.
We all have some experience of relationship and we routinely talk about our relationships - with our parents, children, siblings, spouses, friends, etc.
Relationship is a extremely common topic here at CAEI. And I have yet to hear anyone here say:
“Just what do you mean by “personal relationship” with your spouse or your child or your friend? Relationship is something that Protestants talk about. That’s not something Catholics do.”
As though a Protestant is another species or order of being and their relationships are so totally different from our own.
We are all human beings here with the same basic frailties and capacities for grace and response to God and there is only one God. It is absurd to talk as though Protestants and Catholics are from different planets in this matter or seeking to relate to a different God.
I’ve never read a saint who reacted that way when asked about their relationship with God. Most of them couldn’t shut up on the subject.
Marriage -one of the most intimate human relationships possible - is used as the great metaphor for every Christian’s relationship with God in the Scriptures and therefore, is part of the Catholic Tradition. And the foundation of the whole Theology of the Body.
Relationship is the crux of our whole understanding of heaven which is eternal life in the presence of and participating in the life of the Blessed Trinity. Even the Trinity as understood by historic Christianity is profoundly personal and relational. Relationship and self-giving are intrinsic to the very heart and nature of God.
God is profoundly personal and relational. And so are human beings. When we were baptized, we were baptized into Jesus’ relationship with his Father. We became adopted sons and daughters of God and therefore, Jesus is now our brother as well as our Lord - an extremely intimate relationship.
Relationship - whether mediated and nourished by the liturgy and sacraments or not - is the heart of this whole drama we are all engaged in.
And I add here:
Pope Benedict began Deus Caritas Est with these words:
“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16). These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny. In the same verse, Saint John also offers a kind of summary of the Christian life: “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us”. We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life.
“A personal relationship with God and an abandonment to his will can prevent man from being demeaned and save him from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism...Even in their bewilderment and failure to understand the world around them, Christians continue to believe in the “goodness and loving kindness of God” (Tit 3:4). Immersed like everyone else in the dramatic complexity of historical events, they remain unshakably certain that God is our Father and loves us, even when his silence remains incomprehensible.”
As the Pope said to the young people of America:
“What matters most is that you develop your personal relationship with God. That relationship is expressed in prayer. God by his very nature speaks, hears, and replies. Indeed, Saint Paul reminds us: we can and should “pray constantly” (1 Thess 5:17). Far from turning in on ourselves or withdrawing from the ups and downs of life, by praying we turn towards God and through him to each other, including the marginalized and those following ways other than God’s path (cf. Spe Salvi, 33)….”
Catholicism is not a “relationship-free” faith.
If the idea of a “personal relationship with God” gives us pause or strikes us as foreign, we need to re-evaluate our own understanding of the faith, and more to the point, our own lived relationship with God.
I spent yesterday and today crunching the numbers from Part II of the Pew Forum US Religious Landscape Survey and the results have been illuminating, especially in light of our work on our new seminar Making Disciples.
The new stealth religious best-seller, "the Shack" has made it to the pages of the New York Times.
A glimpse of the Catholic faith as practiced in Ghana via an immigrant group in Virginia. From the Accra Daily Mail.
Stephen Sparrow of New Zealand, who is a regular ID reader and commenter underwent surgery on Monday and is currently in the "High Dependency" Unit (intensive care? Recovery?) and would appreciate our prayers for him and his family.
Today I came across a unique project out of Louisiana called Catholic Underground (not the NYC Franciscan Friars of the Renewal initiative), which is a regular podcast hosted by two priests, a layman, and some other regular guest panelists. It seems that they are really serious about proclaiming the Gospel using new media.
Gashwin has a exuberant post about Atlanta's dynamic Eucharistic Congress:
Hey, New Yorkers and New Yorkers in spirit!
Thanks Joe for finding and posting the piece below.
Sorry about the lack of posting.
Tomorrow is Take Your Dog to Work Day. Again.
PBS's Frontline is going to be showing a fascinating glimpse of "Jesus in China" next week. Most PBS stations will carry it Tuesday, June 24 at 9 pm and it certainly looks worth watching.
And here's an enthusiastic Aussie fan of WYD: Fr. John Speekman
Twenty Four young adults will be confirmed by Pope Benedict at World Youth Day next month. Very cool
Speaking of Called & Gifted alumni, I'd like to bring a new book and author to your attention:
Called & Gifted news from all over:
Back. From Wisconsin and Illinois.
"St. Columbanus' message focuses on a powerful call to conversion and detachment from worldly goods, with a view to the eternal reward. With his ascetic life and his uncompromising attitude to the corruption of the powerful, he evokes the severe figure of John the Baptist. Yet his austerity ... was only a means to open himself freely to the love of God and to respond with his entire being to the gifts received from Him, reconstructing the image of God in himself, and at the same time ploughing the earth and renewing human society"."A man of great culture and rich in gifts of grace, both as a tireless builder of monasteries and as an uncompromising penitential preacher", the Pope concluded, Columbanus "spent all his energies to nourish the Christian roots of the nascent Europe. With his spiritual strength, with his faith, with his love of God and neighbour, he became one of the Fathers of Europe, showing us today the way to those roots from which our continent may be reborn".
"should foster knowledge and love of the word of God which is living, effective and penetrating, in order to rediscover the infinite goodness of God who reveals himself to man as friend, encounters him and invites him to communion."
"Moreover," he added, "through the word of God, there is the hope of reinforcing the ecclesial community, fomenting the universal vocation to salvation, reinforcing the mission to those who are close and those far away, renewing imaginative charity, and attempting to contribute to the search for solutions to the many problems of contemporary man, who is hungry both for bread as well as for every word that comes from the mouth of God."
“O’Connell had been asked to reflect theologically on a presentation from Catholic sociologist James Davidson of Purdue University, reviewed data from surveys of what he identified as four distinct generations of American Catholics, grouped with respect to the Second Vatican Council (1962-65):• Pre-Vatican Catholics, meaning those born before 1941, representing 17 percent of American Catholics;• Vatican II Catholics, born between 1941 and 1960, at 35 percent;• Post-Vatican II Catholics, born between 1961 and 1982, at 40 percent;• Millennial Catholics, born since 1983, at 8 percent.”
“Davidson argued that the results of surveys from 1987, 1993, 1999 and 2005 show a clear trend, amplified in each succeeding generation, away from what Catholic writer Eugene Kennedy calls “Culture One Catholicism,” with a high emphasis on religious practice, clerical authority and doctrinal conformity, towards “Culture Two Catholicism,” emphasizing lay autonomy and the individual conscience.Asserting that church leaders are today attempting to return the church to a “culture one” model, Davidson said that because the socio-economic status of American Catholics is not in decline and because “laity are not willing to grant control” to the hierarchy, “the percentage of Catholics who are culture one will continue to decline.”If older liberal Catholics are over-represented in reform groups such as Call to Action and Voice of the Faithful, Davidson said, younger conservative Catholics are equally over-represented among new priests, seminarians, and even theologians.Speaking specifically about theologians, Davidson said that a growing tendency for younger theologians to reflect a “culture one” mentality reflects “a larger pattern of separation between the laity and the leaders of the institutional church.”O’Connell largely agreed, saying that one distinguishing feature of her generation of theologians is that it came of age in an era of a “near-total disconnect between a culture one hierarchy and a culture two laity.”Facing that situation, O’Connell said, many younger theologians today feel a need to try to be of pastoral service to the church – working with disparate movements such as Voice of the Faithful, the Focolare and Sant’Egidio, for example, or writing for non-specialized audiences outside the academy. Those activities, she said, represent an attempt to “fill in the pastoral gaps.””
“In that light, O’Connell proposed that amid today’s tensions over Catholic identity, perhaps a defining characteristic of what constitutes a “good Catholic theologian” ought to be what she called “pedagogical excellence” – meaning a commitment to teaching and formation.”
Fr. Mike, Joe and I will be blasting off this weekend to Benet Lake, Wisconsin where we will join Barbara Elliott to put on Making Disciples.
Warning long, juicy post ahead!
Catholic Online has a great video piece about the Year of St. Paul which begins June 28, 2008 and runs through June 29, 2009. Unfortunately, there's no embed code but you can watch it here.
Just a note to let you all know about a new essay of mine that's up today on Catholic Exchange entitled The Great Divorce and the Challenge of Faith (click on the title to go there). It's a meditation on faith and our heavenly destiny, based on C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce with insights from Fr. Luigi Giussani's new book Is It Possible to Live This Way?
Fr. Giussani thus radically reorganizes the categories of the faith vs. reason debate. Since faith is the foundation of our knowledge about the world, faith is the most reasonable choice to make when evaluating the testimony of someone you know and trust — especially if the encounter is exceptional in some way. He continues: “From a rational point of view, it’s clear that if you become certain that another person knows what he or she is saying and doesn’t want to deceive, then logically you should trust, because if you don’t trust you go against yourself, against the judgment you formulated that that person knows what he or she says and doesn’t want to deceive you.”[v] For Lewis’ fellow bus travelers to the heavenly valley, faith is actually the most reasonable response to the extraordinary encounters they are having, but in denying and rejecting the new vision, the visitors are acting in a most tragically irrational, unreasonable way. The human bond of trust they had with their now Bright friend or loved one should have enabled them to trust the information they were receiving and to allow themselves to be led by that love and trust into the mountains. But alas — they could not overcome their pride, their bitterness, their greed — that is, their insistence that Heaven’s infinite glory conform to their finite conceptions. And they go against themselves.
Very interesting Zenit article today: an interview with Michael Naughton, who holds the Moss Endowed Chair in Catholic Social Thought and is director of the John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.
As those of you who have read ID for a while know, we periodically get mystery visits from commenters who drop in to accuse me of importing categories, ideas, or practices from my Protestant past and in so doing, distorting the faith. Some of these commenters have made it clear that they don’t consider Protestants to be real Christians and that we have nothing at all to learn from them.
What is particularly interesting in this brief news piece from the Cutting Edge News about the new Encyclical ( tentatively entitled Caritas in Veritate (Charity/Love in the Truth) is the public acknowledgement of the team helping the Pope write it:
And yet another sign of our times. From the Telegraph again.
I am being besieged with quirky but noteworthy bits of information. Via the Telegraph.
A California-based evangelical outreach to Iranians is receiving death threats.
Pope Benedict's prayer intentions for June:
On the signs of summer here is the sight of multiple hot air balloons rising in the early morning light, catching the air currents off the Rockies.
Interesting little World Youth Day vignette from an Aussie applying for work at Starbucks in Sydney: