Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

The tradition round here - as I mentioned last year - is fireworks at midnight on the top of Pike's Peak. No matter what the weather. The Ad-a-Man club has been climbing the mountain and setting off fireworks for over 80 years.

Here's a charming story of one man who has done it 42 New Year's Eves in a row.

It's amazingly warm here tonight - 48 degrees at 11:30 and clear although very windy. I may bundle up and pop out to see what I can see.

Starry, starry night . . . from the Garden of the Gods, New Years 2004.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Apostles & Martyrs 2008

From CNS:

At least 20 church workers were killed in 2008, demonstrating that Catholic men and women -- bishops, priests, religious and laity -- continue placing their lives at risk in order to proclaim the Gospel and serve the poor, said the Vatican's Fides news agency.

Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Iraq, led Fides' 2008 list. The 65-year-old archbishop was kidnapped Feb. 29 in an attack that left his driver and two bodyguards dead. His body was recovered two weeks later after the kidnappers told Catholic leaders in Iraq where he had been buried. For more on the aftermath, go here.


The last name on the list is that of Boduin Ntamenya, 52, who was killed Dec. 15 in Rutshuru, Congo. The husband and father of six children worked for an Italian Catholic aid agency running schools in the war-torn country. Ntamenya and a driver were visiting the schools in the region to ensure they survived recent fighting when four armed men opened fire on their vehicle. Ntamenya died on the way to the hospital; the driver was wounded in the hand and the side.


From the beginning of 2001 to the end of 2008, at least 193 church workers were killed, Fides said, adding that the actual total is likely to be higher because the figures include only missionaries whose violent deaths were reported to the evangelization congregation.

A communion of saints, indeed.

The Crowd, Disciples, and Apostles

Fr. Gregory over at Koinonia has posted these great, thought-provoking notes from a retreat he recently gave. He is speaking from an Orthodox perspective (Orthodox parishes are unbelievably tiny by our standards - so they can commit suicide quite literally) but so true to my experience around the Catholic world.

Fr. Ted Bobosh, the priest of St. Paul the Apostle Church (OCA) in Dayton, OH, has a very helpful way of thinking about the parish. In a blog post, "Seeking Christ: The Parish as Crowd," he begins by observing that:

Every parish gathering is a time for people to come to be near Christ. As in the Gospels, people came to Christ for all kinds of reasons - some to hear Him, some to see Him, some to oppose Him, some to touch Him, some to be healed, some to be fed, some to trap Him or trick Him, some to be His disciples, some out of curiosity, and some out of animosity, some in hope, some in despair, some to debate Him, some to stop Him, some to be comforted by Him, some to learn from Him, some to be praised by Him, some just to touch the hem of His garment and some to be glorified by Him. Whatever the reason, they came and crowded around Christ - friend, foe, follower. And He allowed it. He didn't chase away the curious or the hostile, the needy or the greedy, the hungry or those full of themselves. And just as the bishop notes in Leskov's novel On the Edge of the World, some really do just want to touch the hem of His garment and not become His disciples or his ambassadors. He welcomes them all blessing some, bantering with others, shepherding and being lamb, teacher and foil, giver of light and lightening rod.

As I have thought about this, and especially as I have thought about this in light of our conversations here, I have come to see the value of Fr Ted's observation.

During His earthly ministry, the vast majority of the human community was unaware of the events happening in Israel. Of those who may have had some awareness, most were indifferent. Of those who weren't indifferent, some were hostile, some were believers, but the vast majority were somewhere in the middle.

And even among those who were followers of Jesus Christ, there were two different groups: disciples and apostles—an outer circle and inner circle of believers. We can draw from the Gospel a typology of the Church that lets us see three concentric circles of believers: the crowd (who are the vast majority), the disciples (who were once part of the crowd but now have drawn closer to Jesus Christ as students who form their lives around Him and His teaching) and the apostles (those disciples who have said yes to a personal call to be ambassadors of Christ).

But again, we need to keep in mind that at any given moment, the majority of parishioners are going to be members of the crowd. These men and women are not—at least not yet—disciples, much less apostles, of Christ. This does not preclude them from the life of the Church, from her liturgical life or the sacraments.

As with the crowds who surround Jesus in the Gospels, they have their own motivation for coming Liturgy on Sunday, for receiving Holy Communion, baptizing their children, for having their marriages blessed, and it is important that we not put any obstacles in their way. The temptation of disciples and apostles is to send the crowds away, to leave them to their own devise, and to refuse to feed them from the bounty they have received from Christ. When they do this, when they drive away the crowds (whether passively or actively, by word or deed), the disciples and apostles fail in their own obligation.

This then raises a question: What is the obligation of the disciples and apostles to the crowd?

The task, the vocation of disciples and apostles, relative to the crowd is to invite the men and women in the crowd to become themselves disciples. This is hard work and work that is often met with frustration. But it is essential that those who are disciples and apostles within the Church understand that they are no more or less members of the Body of Christ then are those who are in the crowd. And just as those in all three groups are equally members of the Body of Christ, so to they are members of one another and they need one and other.

Events such as this one, retreats, workshops, pilgrimages, visits to monastic communities, adult education classes, preaching that has as its goal the spiritual formation of those who listen, all of these things need to be supported in the parish by those who are disciples and apostles. And they must encourage—and even make possible—the participation of those who are members of the crowd in these and other events that have as their goal awakening people to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Where we usually go wrong in the parish, is in one of two ways. First, and this is more the shortcoming of converts and communities in which converts are prominent, we want to exclude the men and women who are in the crowd. When I was first ordained, I did damage I think to people because I wanted a parish of all disciples and apostles. While this might seem a noble goal I wanted to be more successful than Jesus.

The second mistake that we often make is that we fail to distinguish the different groups within the parish. At the risk of being offensive, we cannot entrust leadership positions in the parish or the diocese, to the crowds. Discipleship is the prerequisite for any leadership position in the Church. Members of the crowd are certainly member of the Body of Christ, but they can't serve as parish or diocesan council members or church school teachers. Those who are not disciples, can't undertake the apostolic works of outreach and evangelism. And they cannot be seminarians and they certainly can't be ordained into the clergy.

Unfortunately, this is often what does happen. We are often so concerned to get volunteers, that we entrust leadership roles to those who are themselves not disciples of Christ. Doing this is it any wonder that we have some of the problems we have in the Church?

Let me conclude by encouraging you to take seriously the necessity of a personal commitment to Christ. And let me encourage you, no, better yet, let me beg you, to support your priest in his limiting leadership roles in the parish to those who have demonstrated by the integrity of their lives, their commitment to the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church, their stewardship of time, talent and treasure and their life of philanthropic involvement to others (whether inside and outside the Church), their commitment to Christ.

Leadership in the Church cannot be simply a matter of functional skills, much less a popularity contest or a frantic attempt to fill slots. Christian leadership is the fruit of a personal commitment not only to Christ and His Church, but also to the poor and all those who the world deems marginal and even useless.

I often hear from people that their parish is dying. And every time I've heard this, and heard the reasons why this is so, I have also seen possibilities for life and growth that people simply weren't taking. Parishes, I have concluded, don't die. They commit suicide.

The Way of Life for our community, your community, is by embracing all who are members of Christ, not only those who are disciples and apostles, but also those in the crowd. But not only this. We must understand that Christ has called to serve as leaders in the Church only those who are disciples. Having said this, though, we must remember that those who see themselves as disciples, as leaders—whether lay or clergy—must never tire of inviting, encouraging and sustaining those in the crowd to become disciples.

Your thoughts?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fathers Without Borders

A glimpse of our truly catholic, multi-cultural future:

The New York Times is running a fascinating series of articles on foreign priests working in the US. The introductory article, Fathers Without Borders" ran on Sunday and gave the lay of the land in the Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky and in the nation as a whole.

"One of six diocesan priests now serving in the United States came from abroad, according to “International Priests in America,” a large study published in 2006. About 300 international priests arrive to work here each year. Even in American seminaries, about a third of those studying for the priesthood are foreign-born." Be sure and click on the graphic side-bars. They give a great sense of how much the "priest shortage" is a global matter and how much better off we are in the US than in many places like Brazil or the Philippines.

Just FYI, quotes a 1957 book that gives Catholic figures as of that year:

...Pope, Pius XII, wields spiritual authority--through 62 cardinals, 1,427 bishops, some 400,000 secular priests, 300,000 religious priests and lay brothers, and 970,000 sisters--over some 484 million souls served by 410,000 churches in the world. " The author seems to merge the category of religious priest and religious brother because he is quoted elsewhere as saying that the Catholic Church has 700,000 priests in 1957 - which seems tremendously exaggerated since the number of priests has stayed about 405,000 since the mid 90's.

Although we've yet to work in Owensboro, The NYT figures are not a surprise. We run into foreign-born - usually African or Vietnamese - priests everywhere and in the seminaries we've worked in. (See my post on our experience at St. Patrick's Menlo Park.)

Today's piece is a heart-warming tale of a missionary priest from Africa and his 4 years at largely rural, largely white St. Michael's parish in Kentucky.

" In Kenya, Father Oneko became the sole pastor for 12 satellite parishes in an 80-mile stretch. He served more than 3,000 people communion on a typical weekend and ran a girls high school.

It was a hardship post. His car, the only one in the vicinity, was used as a school bus, an ambulance and, if the local officers caught a thief, a police car — with Father Oneko the driver."

Fr. Oneko has adapted successfully to his new congregation's very different ways but his profoundly different experience of life has left him with little sympathy for American self-pity.

"He confessed that he had an easier time relating to white Americans than African-Americans because he did not understand why blacks carried such resentments toward the United States.

“Their ancestors are long gone,” he said. “They are bitter for I don’t know what.”

He has little tolerance for what he sees as unnecessary self-pity. When an unemployed Vietnam veteran told him he blamed his war experience for his poverty, Father Oneko said he told him: “I blame you, because military people have so many opportunities. You are getting some pension from the government, so you should not complain.

“There are some poor people, poorer than you, somewhere, in Africa, in Jamaica,” Father Oneko said. “But you, at least you have freedom. You have somewhere to sleep."

Fr. Oneko's experience of injustice and poverty is much more immediate:

"One morning in January, Father Oneko received a phone call from his family in Kenya, where a disputed presidential election had just set off a wave of intertribal anger and violence.

A mob had set fire to his parents’ house because they had given shelter to a family of a rival tribe the mob was chasing. Father Oneko’s 32-year-old brother, Vincent Oloo, arrived in time to help their elderly parents escape the burning house. But the mob turned on Father Oneko’s brother, shooting him dead. He left a wife and three children.

“My parents were just crying and crying,” Father Oneko said. “My father is crying and saying, ‘Now I’m losing all the children, who will bury me?’ ”

Father Oneko phoned his friend the Rev. John Thomas and then Mrs. Lake, his faithful volunteer administrator. She was stunned at the news, and for half an hour listened to and consoled her priest — a sudden role reversal. Father Oneko was troubled to hear his mother wailing on the phone and to know that he could not go to Kenya to perform the funeral. His parents insisted it was too dangerous for him to come."

His congregation of 300 - 400 clearly cherish him and responded magnificently.

"Mrs. Lake called three of the church’s Silver Angels, a club of elders. They phoned more church members, and in two hours 60 people had assembled at a special noon Mass in memory of Father Oneko’s brother.

At the end of the Mass, they lined up in the center aisle as if for communion, and Father Oneko stood at the front receiving their embraces one by one.

He was overwhelmed by the outpouring of sympathy. Children in the parish school in Hopkinsville made him cards; one showed his brother with a halo, in the clouds. The bishop and priests of the diocese e-mailed and phoned their condolences. St. Michael’s and the parish in Hopkinsville took up a special collection for his family that totaled $5,600.

“It seems the whole church is praying with me,” Father Oneko said a few days later, as he read through the children’s cards. “You feel like you’re not a foreigner, just a part of the family. It makes me know how much I am to them.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hot Tip

Here's a hot tip for those who are going to be outside in the cold this winter.

Cayenne pepper. Who knew?

Yep - the word from the outdoor pros here in the Rockies is Cayenne pepper. Sprinkle it in the toe of your sock before you pull it on or cover your toes in vaseline first and the sprinkle a handful of cayenne pepper on those greasy little piggies and then cover them with said sock.

Yum! Winter athletes working out in sub-sub-freezing temperatures swear by it.

Just make sure you take a shower afterwards . . .

What's In Your Bible?

Here's a nifty way to compare and contrast Biblical canons. From Bible Study Magazine. comes a colorful chart which compares and contrasts the 7 major canons: Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Syrian, Ethiopian, Hebrew, and Samaritan.

The issue of the canon is a very complicated one and this chart is simplification - but a very helpful one.

The Ethiopian canon is the least known to me - and the one with the most books. And the Samartian canon is by far the shortest

And for those of us from English language Protestant backgrounds - a little note on the history of the "Apochrypha" or Deutero-canonical books.

"Protestant Reformers like Martin Luther doubted the canonicity* of the Apocrypha*, but when Luther prepared his translation of the Bible into German, he did not remove the Apocrypha; he simply moved those books to an appendix. This tradition continues in many European bibles.

The English were the first group of people to remove the Apocrypha altogether. In 1599, an edition of the Geneva Bible was published without the Apocrypha. In 1615, during the reign of King James the First, George Abbot, the Archbishop of Canterbury, declared the penalty for printing a Bible without the Apocrypha to be a year in prison! But over the next three centuries the growing influence of Puritans and Presbyterians over the populace, the government, and the British and Foreign Bible Society led to a strong tradition of printing bibles containing only 66 books.

The situation today reflects this bifurcation. The bibles used by many European Protestants, as well as the Anglican Church, still include the Apocrypha. Most other English-speaking Protestant churches have bibles without the Apocrypha."

(The Protestant canon in the chart below is the European/Anglican version which does include the Deutero-canonical books - not the 66 book version that I grew up with. Here's the link:

What's in Your Bible? Find out at

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas in Mosul

Ah, the luxury of reading the dead tree version of the New York Times while sipping a grande decaf non-fat Latte with sugar-free Hazelnut. Must be the second day of Christmas!

Anyway, I was struck by a poignant story from Iraq about the Christians of Mosul - and the impact that one brave young Chaldean priest and a few fearless sisters have had on the community. God bless and protect them!

"But many of the Christians who have returned said they did so because they were inspired by the determination and faith of one priest and a handful of nuns to remain in the city against the odds.

At St. Paul’s, Mikhail Ibrahim said the only reason he returned to Mosul after fleeing for a few weeks with his family was because of his faith in the Rev. Basman George Fatouhi, the Chaldean Church’s de facto leader in Mosul.

“He was the only one who stayed and took care of the community,” Mr. Ibrahim said. “He told us to come back and we did.”

Father Fatouhi, a charismatic 27-year-old priest, was thrust into the effective leadership of the Chaldean Church in Mosul after the kidnapping and death this year of its leader, Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho. Archbishop Rahho’s closest aide, another senior figure in the church, was killed in 2007.

Father Fatouhi had negotiated with the archbishop’s kidnappers, who abducted the archbishop after a church service and killed three of his companions.

Their demands went from $300,000 to $20,000, but after the lesser sum was paid the negotiators were told that the archbishop had died in captivity because he did not have his diabetes medication.

Father Fatouhi and another church member dug his body out of a shallow grave and took it to the morgue.

Since the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Christians have been hit hard, particularly in parts of Baghdad and Mosul. Numerous churches and the Chaldean archdiocese building in Mosul were bombed, and many priests and parishioners were killed or kidnapped for ransom."


"Amid the violence, the few remaining church leaders like Father Fatouhi and Sister Autour Yousif, who also belongs to the Chaldean Church, are working against the tide to keep their faith alive.

During the depths of the crisis in October, they were not only providing moral and spiritual support, but often venturing out at great risk to buy food and provisions for families who were too scared to even go to the market. They have also been determined to maintain church services in some of the most dangerous parts of the city.

On numerous occasions the pair have found themselves carrying out the grim task of collecting the bodies of Christians from the morgue because their families were too afraid to do it.

Sister Yousif is among three nuns at a convent next to the Miskinta church who have refused to leave Mosul. They care for 27 orphan girls and reach out to Muslims and Christians alike.

“We are like the rest of the people,” she said. “We will remain until they all leave. The poor need us.”

In his homily on Thursday, Father Fatouhi compared Jesus to a flame that continued to “warm the hearts” of the faithful during difficult and trying times."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Midnight Mass at St. Peter's

How many of our Christmas traditions that we consider immemorial are very recent indeed? you know that midnight Christmas mass at St. Peter's is both an ancient and very new development? I watched parts of it yesterday on EWTN with no idea.

Here is a picture of the 1944 Christmas Midnight Mass celebrated by Pius XII. (h/t Monastic Musings)

It was the first midnight Mass at St. Peter's since the coronation of Charlemagne on Christmas Day, 800 - 1,144 years earlier. A mere bagatelle! Rome had been liberated just 6 months earlier - and after years of war and occupation, the turn-out for midnight Mass was enormous and I"m sure, heart-felt for many. The joyful American soldiers here are perched onto of a confessional to get a better view.

Here is a contemporary description of Charlemagne's coronation:

"On the day of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ all [who had been present at the council] came together again in the same basilica of blessed Peter the apostle. And then the venerable and holy pontiff, with his own hands, crowned [Charles] with a most precious crown. Then all the faithful Romans, seeing how he loved the holy Roman church and its vicar and how he defended them, cried out with one voice by the will of God and of St. Peter, the key-bearer of the kingdom of heaven, "To Charles, most pious Augustus, crowned by God, great and peace-loving emperor, life and victory."(Salus et victoria) This was said three times before the sacred tomb of blessed Peter the apostle, with the invocation of many saints, and he was instituted by all as emperor of the Romans. Thereupon, on that same day of the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the most holy bishop and pontiff anointed his most excellent son Charles as king with holy oil."

No Vacancy

A Blessed Feast of the Nativity to all!

Here's a most appropriate meditation for Christmas Day from Catch the Digital flow:

"Alicia Robey, a Vincentian Lay Missionary stationed in Ethiopia, writes to us from Kenya where she is waiting to renew her visa. I’ve excerpted some wonderful reflections on the Advent Season. . .

“Jambo from Thigio, Kenya, everyone!! Today is Jamhuri Day
(Independence Day) here, so we have had a relaxing day celebrating
this wonderful country’s 45th anniversary of their independence from
Britain. This morning I went out with the postulants (three young
women who are in the discernment process of joining the Daughters of
Charity… they live next door to us) to visit the elderly in the area.
For the first time in my entire life, I got to spend some joyful,
laughter-filled moments with a person who is 105 years old (and, I
know you’ll find this IMPOSSIBLE to believe, as I had difficulty
myself, but he has a son who is, at most, 3 years old and others in
grade school… Wow, I know, right?). Samuel was a delight… pure
delight. Even though I understood no more than 4 words of what he
said, my face hurt because I was laughing so hard. I so wished that I
spoke Kikuyu, as I wanted to ask him a million things about living the
good life (as he seems to be doing just that), but I settled with just
basking in his presence and the warm Kenyan sun.

I’m headed back to Ethiopia tomorrow night, so I wanted to share with
you a little bit about my time in Kenya while I’m still in the

. . . .Shortly after Kids’ Club, we went into Karen for Saturday evening
mass. It wasn’t until the choir began singing “O Come, O Come
Emmanuel” that I realized the purple cloth covering the altar and saw
the advent wreath displayed at the front of the church. I said (loud
enough for the family two rows in front of me to slightly turn), “Oh
my goodness, it’s Advent!”

I was surprised by how shocked I was (that sounds a bit redundant,
eh?). I knew Thanksgiving was celebrated back home just a few days
before, so why the shock? I sat through mass contemplating this, and
I found myself asking a very basic question… the theme of nearly every
cheesy holiday film… What is the true meaning of Christmas?

To the first question, I think I realized that I was so shocked
because the usual external cues that for so long have told me that
Christmas is coming were absent this year. Stripped of cookies,
carols, Christmas trees, and commercials… presents, parties, and
pageants… and without a ground covered in snow, houses bedecked with
lights, and bellies filled with hot chocolate… I have been gratefully
forced to consider the following: How do I know that Christ is coming
and how am I making myself ready and preparing the way?
Finally, later that afternoon, I accidentally walked in on Esther’s
formation class with Sr. Catherine. They kindly invited me to join
them in their discussion of Fr. Gregory Gay’s Advent letter (he is the
Superior General of the Vincentian family). He begins by quoting Luke
2:7, “And there was no room for them.” Though I’ve heard the Nativity
story countless times, rarely have I paused to consider this phrase as
it relates to the true meaning of Christmas. What does it mean on
Christmas, in our world today, in my life, that Jesus was born into
and lived a life among the rejected, the outcasts, the unwanted? When
I am preparing for Christmas, I don’t know that I have ever paused
during the frenzy to consider those I have told, “Sorry, there is no
room for you in my life.”

All of this is heightened this year, as I spend every day in a
community that was formed because its members were cast out of their
home communities due to leprosy. Though those who live in Ginjo and
Tulema make it easy for me to make room for them in my life, and they
have certainly welcomed me wholeheartedly into theirs, I know all too
often I have been one of those innkeepers turning away the Holy

How can I keep expanding my heart and never post a ‘no vacancy’ sign?"

H/T Susan Stabile

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Escape from Seattle

Depending upon whom you talk to in Seattle, either Seattle never gets snow like this, or they used to get snow like this but don't anymore, or yeah, it snows like this every year. I heard all three from people who live in this suddenly snowbound city. If snow like this is a regular occurrence, the city is woefully unprepared for it.

Thanks to the generosity of the Dominican community in Seattle, and the quick thinking of Fr. Daniel Syverstad, OP, the pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish, Seattle, I made it home to Tucson yesterday afternoon from Seattle. My original flight on USAirways was cancelled, as I had mentioned earlier, with December 26th as the next departure I could be offered. After frantically trying to find options, I settled on an Alaska flight to Idaho Falls, connecting to Salt Lake City, then to Tucson, departing at 11:30 a.m. yesterday. Yesterday morning, as I was packing, Fr. Daniel told me he was talking to a representative at Alaska about a non-stop from Seattle to Tucson departing at 12:20 p.m. on Monday. While she was telling him it was sold out, a seat opened up. Fr. Daniel booked it for me, and took me to the airport Monday morning around 8:30 a.m. The Seattle airport was a madhouse, with lines for ticketing, checking luggage, and going through security that seemed endless. Not to mention people trying to figure out what to do since their flights had been cancelled.

I cancelled my Idaho Falls junket before leaving for the airport. While I waited in line to check a bag (fortunately Fr. Daniel had printed out my boarding pass, so I missed one line), I chatted with the fellow in front of me who was headed to (drum roll) Idaho Falls. While looking for the end of the line for one security checkpoint, I overheard a volunteer mention there was another checkpoint that might not be as crowded. Understatement. There was one person in front of me when I got to that line.

While I was waiting for my flight to Tucson, I noticed the flight for Idaho Falls had been cancelled, and while walking back from getting lunch, I saw the fellow from the luggage line now standing in a line to get re-booked. I offered my condolences, and said a prayer that he and all the other stranded passengers would get to their destinations quickly and safely.

If you're home, be grateful - and say a prayer for those whose travel plans have been disrupted, as well as for the harried airline and airport workers who are spending extra hours at the airports struggling to get these passengers to their destinations.

Arabic Christmas Chant

Mysterious and magnificent.

A Byzantine era Christmas chant in Arabic with wonderful images from the middle east and English subtitles.

It is 7 minutes long but worth it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

O Emmanuel

The O Antiphon for December 23:

O'Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles, yea, and salvation thereof, come to save us, O Lord our God!

The Huron Carol: In the Moon of Wintertime

Really lovely and different.

The Huron Carol, written in 1643 by Jesuit missionary and martyr,Jean de Brébeuf, a Christian missionary at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons in Canada. Brébeuf wrote the lyrics in the native language of the Huron/Wendat people; the song's original Huron title is "Jesous Ahatonhia" ("Jesus, he is born").

Brebeuf was part of the 17th century French revival that I have posted about before. (Here, here, and here) The Iroquois, who martyred Brefeuf 6 years later, also attacked and destroyed the Huron mission in 1649 and 1650. St. Marie Among the Hurons has been recreated as a living museum and there are some fascinating details about life in the mission on their website. There is a fascinating museum of western Jesuit missions at St. Louis University Art Museum. (Blogger Mark Scott Abeln posted some very nice online pictures of some of the collection here.)

Next time I'm in town, I must visit!

According to Jesuit Father Francis X. Heiser's accoun, the Hurons who escaped the Iroquois attacks preserved the hymn. They later settled at Loretto, near Quebec, led by other missionaries. Father Étienne de Villeneuve recorded the words of the hymn, which were found among his papers following his death in 1794.

Father Heiser gave the second stanza of Father de Brébeuf's hymn in the original Huron language. (He said that the Hurons have no M, so the missionaries substituted for it the French dipthong ou, so "Mary" appears as "Ouarie" (pronounced 'Warie').

Aloki ekwatatennonten shekwachiendaen
Iontonk ontatiande ndio sen tsatonnharonnion
Ouarie onnawakueton ndio sen tsatonnharonnion
Iesous ahatonnia!

The song's melody is a traditional French folk song, "Une Jeune Pucelle" ("A Young Maid"). The well known English lyrics were written in 1926 by Jesse Edgar Middleton.

This recording is in all three languages: Huron/Wendat, French, and English.


The English words sung in this recording are different from the lyrics I've been able to find about the net and I don't know why. The English rendition of the text of the hymn as it appears here is from Selections from the Pius X Hymnal except for the second stanza, which is from Father Heiser's book.

The Huron Carol

Twas in the moon of wintertime
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wond'ring hunters heard the hymn:
Jesus, your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

O, harken to the angels' word,
Do not decline
To heed the message which you heard:
The Child Divine,
As they proclaim, has come this morn
Of Mary pure. Let us adore.
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender Babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapp'd His beauty 'round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel song rang loud and high:
Jesus, your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on
The helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before Him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Jesus, your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free,
O sons of Manitou,
The Holy Child of earth and heav'n
Is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant boy;
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy.
Jesus, your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stuck in Seattle

My flight from Seattle to Las Vegas to Phoenix to Tucson was cancelled for Monday. The next flight I can take on USAirways gets me home on 12/26. It was crazy trying to get another flight out. It's still snowing (see the picture taken from a second floor landing at Blessed Sacrament Priory) and Seattle's already had about 7-10" of snow, I'm guessing. Folks are saying they've never seen so much snow in Seattle before. All of the flights out of Seattle to warmer places were sold out. I even looked into flying into Edmonton, Canada tomorrow (where the HIGH will be -11 F!) That got sold out from under me. I know am scheduled to fly in a prop plane to Idaho Falls, ID to Salt Lake to Tucson. I leave a little later in the morning, so maybe the flights will be departing by then. I have about a two hour layover in Idaho Falls, so maybe I have a little leeway should my Seattle flight be delayed.

I'm just praying I don't spend several days in Idaho Falls.

Last year I was stuck in Colorado Springs in a blizzard 12/20-24. Still have Christmas shopping to do, too! Please pray for people who are stuck in airports, or whose vacation plans are being spoiled, or whose long-awaited trips home are being threatened.

O Rex Gentium

The "O" Antiphon for December 22

O King of the Gentiles, yea, and desire thereof! O Corner-stone, that makest of two one, come to save man, whom Thou hast made out of the dust of the earth!

Russian Carol

Listen to the choir of the Orthodox church of St Varvara in Kazan performs a carol in the end of the night service for Nativity on Jan., 7 2008. This is quite wonderful.

Although the majority of Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas on December 25, the Russian Orthodox Church does not (they will follow the Julian calendar)

Sleepless and Flightless in Seattle

O ID reader, could you pray for Fr. MIke to make it home to Tucson?

His flight out of Seattle Monday morning (or "North Pole" as residents are currently regarding it) has been cancelled and arranging alternates is very difficult. Thousands of people are spending the night at Seattle Tacoma International airport tonight - and the restaurants are running out of food since deliveries can't make it in. So they are warning passengers to bring their own food and drink with them to the airport!

But this is Fr. Mike's second Christmas in a row being trapped by blizzards in a far-away city. Last year, he finally made it home late Christmas Eve. After a long 3 months on the road, he deserves some time at home.

So pray for all who are trapped in airports and bus terminals and cars tonight - for their safety and well-being - and especially Fr. MIke.

The House of Christmas

One of Chesterton's Christmas poems that has always moved me in a profound way:

The House of Christmas

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost - how long ago!
In a place no chart or ship can show
Under the sky's dome.

This world is wild as an old wive's tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

O Oriens

O'Dayspring from the East, Brightness of the everlasting light, Son of justice, come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!

Indeed. In the past two days, my sister has told me that her specialist is pretty sure that her cancer has metasticized, another Seattle friend wrote to say that husband has just been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and I sat at table after Mass this morning with an older couple who had just lost their son to brain cancer a month before.

In contrast, a close friend also wrote to say that their eldest son has just found out that he will become a father for the first time next year.

In so many ways, all of us - whether currently in good health or not, joyful or stunned or grieving, sit in the shadow of darkness and the shadow of death. How desperately we need the mercy, the hope, the healing, the deliverance, the light that the Son of Justice comes to bring us.


The weather outside was frightful last night, as the song goes, and I'm not sure about a timely departure Monday morning for the balmy climes of Tucson. We had about six inches of wet, heavy snow last night. I was out at 6 a.m. shoveling the many sidewalks and stairways that lead to the doors of Blessed Sacrament church. Nine folks came to the 7:30 a.m. Mass - seven on foot. I think this afternoon I'll do my laundry, settle down by the fire and write some Christmas cards, and listen to this song which has a special attraction this year...

I'm dreamin' tonight of a place I love
Even more then I usually do
And although I know it's a long road back
I promise you

I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents under the tree
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light beams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light beams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams
If only in my dreams

Star over Seattle


Seattlites are posting some great photos of the storm on the KIRO website. I loved this one of the Bon Marche Department store star through a park. I remember that star seemed absolutely magical to me as a small child and it is still magical today. Long time Seattlites still call it the Bon Marche star. Even I was stunned when I was last in town to find out that the Bon Marche no longer existed and the lovely old art deco building now belongs to Macy's.

And you've got to admit that this is a keeper:

The Abominable Snowman. Or maybe just "Ugly Lama in Snow"

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow in Bethlehem

In honor of the cold and snowy weather spreading over the much of the country today - and especially to my friends and family in my birthplace, Seattle - where they are actually expecting a blizzard (!) (I'm sure that people will slog through the storm to hear Fr. Mike preach at Blessed Sacrament all the same), I thought I would share this wonderful little passage from Chesterton:

"This is written amid fields of snow within a few days of Christmas. And when I last saw snow it was within a few miles of Bethlehem.

The coincidence will serve as a symbol of something I have noticed all my life, thought it is not very easy to sum up. It is generally the romantic thing that turns out to be the real thing, under the extreme test of realism. It is the skeptical and even rational legend that turns out to be entirely legendary.

Everything I had been taught or told leg me to regard snow in Bethlehem as a paradox, like snow in Egypt. Every rumour of realism, every indirect form of rationalism, every scientific opinion taken on authority and at third hand, had let me to regard the country where Christ was born solely as a sort of semi-tropical place with nothing but palm-trees and parasols.

It was only when I actually looked at it that it looked exactly like a Christmas card."

O Clavis

The Antiphon for December 20:

O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death. <br /> <br />value="">

Reflection on Advent IV

Reading I: 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
Responsorial Psalm: 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29
Reading II: Romans 16:25-27
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

Mary is called the “New Eve,” which means in Christian theology Eve is seen as a “type” of the woman to come – sort of a point of comparison and contrast to the young girl we meet in the Gospel today. So that suggests that to understand this Gospel passage more readily, we should look consider Eve, “the mother of all the living.” In Genesis 3 we have one of my favorite accounts in the Bible; the story of the Fall. Every time I reflect on it, it seems, there’s some new insight to be had into our human condition. Consider, for example, the passage we know as “the temptation.”
Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the LORD God had made. The serpent asked the woman,
"Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?" The woman answered the serpent: "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, 'You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'"
In the garden, Adam and Eve are stewards of an earthly, harmonious paradise. They even walk with God in the breezy time of the day. Into this natural perfection comes the Serpent, the cunning one, who asks the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” There’s no temptation in that statement, but it sets the stage for the temptation. That question is absolutely necessary for the temptation to have its effect. The Tempter is mis-named. He should be called the Limiter, the spoil-sport, the whiner. Because we cannot be tempted unless we are aware of some limit – some absence or gap in our life.

Eve is reminded that there is one tree in the garden from which she cannot eat. Once that has happened, the temptation can be effective – “The moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad.” This is a Semitic way of saying, “you’ll know everything.” 'You won’t need to rely on God’s knowledge. You can be free.'

The first Eve encountered the cunning serpent in the garden; Gabriel meets the second Eve in the confines of her father’s house. This encounter with the angel Gabriel is Mary’s moment of decision. A new offer is given to a new Eve. Gabriel tells Mary, “Do not be afraid,” but gives her reason to fear. Will she accept an unexpected – and quite unique – pregnancy? This was an issue of life and death. As a virgin betrothed to Joseph, how would she explain this to him? He could rightfully expose her to the law and have her stoned to death as an adulteress.

Mary also had to trust a preposterous claim Gabriel made: this son of hers “will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” Pretty lofty claims, considering Mary was young, female, poor, and living in a land conquered by the world’s most efficient and brutal army, with no end in sight to their servitude. Our fate, and the fate of the whole world – all who’ve ever lived – rested upon Mary’s free response to that invitation. Like Eve, she had the choice – to focus on the limitations to her existence, or to trust God.

She chose to trust – and not just this time, but when she has to give birth in a stable, when old Simeon claims her heart will be pierced by a sword, when her beloved son, the fruit of her womb, dies on the cross – and with him, seemingly, Gabriel’s promise, but not Simeon’s. She responds, “as you wish,” and although it’s not included in today’s Gospel, it’s important to note what Mary does after Gabriel leaves; Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. Faith in God gets us moving; listening to the Limiter paralyzes us (it's interesting to note that Dante imagined Satan in the depths of Hell immobilized within a frozen lake). He focuses our attention on what we don’t have and what we think we can’t do. He takes our attention away from what God has done, and what God might do through us.

The reading from 2 Samuel illustrates our forgetfulness. We’re told King David is enjoying peace in his palace, the Lord having “given him rest from his enemies on every side.” Comparing his palace to God’s tent, he proposes to build a suitable house in which God may dwell. And through the prophet Nathan, God tells David he has things backwards.
“Should you build me a house to dwell in?

It was I who took you from the pasture
and from the care of the flock 
to be commander of my people Israel. 
I have been with you wherever you went,
 and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. 
And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth.
 I will fix a place for my people Israel; 
I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place
without further disturbance.
…I will give you rest from all your enemies.
…and when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, 
and I will make his kingdom firm.
God might have added, “If it weren’t for me, you’d still be sitting in a pasture watching sheep!”

For all our opportunity and power we Americans have, we often act as though we're powerless – at least I do. How often have I seen evidence of a problem – like homeless folks sleeping in a shop doorway, or statistics about high school dropouts, or even ice-covered sidewalks, and said, “there’s nothing I can do about that.” How often have you wanted to do something to address a problem but thought, “what can one person do?” How often have we looked at people like Mother Teresa, or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or Dorothy Day, or Abraham Lincoln - or Abraham, for that matter - and thought, “Wow, there was a remarkable human being.”

The saints, and great, good people from the past started out like you and me. But they didn’t listen to the temptation; they weren’t paralyzed by their perceived limitations. Nor did they place limits on what God can do. They trusted God, stepped out in faith, made themselves available to Him – and simply kept taking one step at a time – even though they didn’t know exactly where He was taking them. It wasn’t that they were so great, it’s that they prove how great God is.

We, who have been baptized into Christ Jesus, who have received the Holy Spirit in baptism and Confirmation, have no reason to downplay what God can do, with our assent and cooperation. If God, through the Holy Spirit can make simple bread and wine become the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus, his Son, what might He do with flesh and blood?

In a few days we’ll celebrate the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity: God-made-flesh. St. Paul knew the incarnation didn’t end with Jesus’ ascension, but that we are the body of Christ. Just as the power of the Holy Spirit flowed through his humanity as he cured the sick, expelled demons, taught the crowds, and had compassion for sinners, so, too, that power continues to flow through those who will be his instruments. Every step of the way the Tempter – or, better, Limiter - is there whispering to us, “What can you do? You’re just one person.” And of course, the Tempter’s right – but he withholds part of the truth. Jesus told his disciples, “whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.” He also promised told us, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5b

In the power of the Holy Spirit and grace, we can take the next step in spite of our fear, in spite of our doubts, in spite of what everyone else may be doing. And when that happens, look out! You never know where God will take you – or what great things He’ll do with you.

With God, all things are possible. Just ask Mary.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow "Buries" Seattle

This was the headline that greeted me in this morning's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Snow Buries Area!"

Chicken Little lives in the Puget Sound. Downtown Seattle had four inches of the white stuff, while other areas got up to a foot. Of course, this is quite unusual for the area, and Thursday morning had people scurrying for cover as the snow was accompanied by thunder. Apparently, many native Seattle-ites don't know what thunder is, either.

In the upper peninsula of Michigan where I went to college for my undergraduate degree (Michigan Tech, in Houghton), four to six inches of snow was a daily occurrence. Of course, there were all kinds of snow removal equipment to keep the roads serviceable. Even so, since the town was built on the side of a steep hill, most of the roads that climbed the hill were off limits for much of the winter. I remember seeing cars sliding slowly backwards down the grade, the driver frantically trying to keep the back end pointed straight down the hill...

I will admit, the snow and ice has kept me off the roads. There are precious few snowplows here, no trucks dropping salt or sand, so the roads are quite treacherous. I gave a talk last night (to a dozen or so hearty souls who braved the elements - most walked to the church), and afterwards gave a ride home to a woman who walked thirty minutes to get to Blessed Sacrament. The icy hills and narrow car-choked streets around Blessed Sacrament made me extra careful.

I am supposed to fly out Monday morning after preaching at Blessed Sacrament this weekend. Unfortunately, another storm is supposed to hit Saturday night, with sustained winds of 50-70 mph and gusts up to 90 mph along the Puget Sound, accumulations of six to twelve inches in downtown Seattle, and rain turning to ice later. This is sounding like last year, when I got stuck in Colorado Springs December 20-24 because of a blizzard.

This is not a complaint. I am very, very blessed to have a roof over my head and warm clothes to wear. This cold is bitter by Seattle standards, and the homeless here are filling the shelters and churches that offer refuge from the cold. Sunday I'll help out with the weekly soup kitchen that this small parish has hosted for several decades. The parishioners recently renovated the kitchen and dining areas, and those who come here for a hot meal will appreciate being out of what is forecasted to be an absolutely miserable day.

India: With Jesus in the Stable

Lots of moving stories coming out of India this Christmas. Via Asia News. This horrifying and moving one about a 10 year old girl who was badly scared in an explosion set by Hindu terrorists and is responding by committing her life to sharing the Gospel has been making the rounds.

Another very moving story in a similar vein about young women recently widowed by anti-Christian violence in India:

The women have left the refugee camp in Orissa, and have come to Bangalore. The trip was organized by activists of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), in order to permit the women to celebrate the Christmas holiday. In Orissa, tension remains high, and the Christian community has been threatened with new violence in the case of celebrations connected to Christmas.

Among the many stories of women marked by pain and suffering, AsiaNews has gathered that of Asmitha Digal, from the village of Bataguda, 25 years old and with two young children, whose husband was barbarously killed by fundamentalists: "On August 26th [editor's note: one of the first days of the anti-Christian violence in Orisa] my husband Rajesh came by train, got off at Muniguda station and began walking to Kandhamal as there was no other transport and all the roads were blocked with felled trees. He was accompanied by a young Hindu boy Tunguru Mallick."

"At around 9 am," Asmitha continues, "they had reached Paburia village, they were stopped by a mob of nearly 60 RSS extremists [editor's note: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a nationalist paramilitary group] armed with long wooden clubs and batons, they snatched Rajesh’s satchel, which had a Bible and gospel tracts. Mallick ran away and hid in some bushes, they thrashed Rajesh and told him to embrace Hinduism which he meekly refused. This angered the extremists who threw him into a pit and covered him with mud neck-downwards, and once again told him to become Hindu, yet again Rajesh refused, then they took huge stones and stoned him to death."

Asmitha says that she tried to report the case, but received no response or compensation. For her, the trip to Bangalore represents an opportunity to issue a message of hope.

"I have to live for my children, my husband is with Jesus, and Jesus will be born for us at Christmas to bring us a new life. Jesus comes as a little baby, so helpless and born in a stable, our relief camps are like stables - bare tents, and we like Jesus are shivering in the cold, but Christ is alive and this is what makes the radicals afraid, we pray and believe in a living God.


Just noticed.

ID crossed the 200,000 visit mark this week. I know that this is small stuff indeed compared to the big blogs but we're happy to have crossed cyberpaths and sometimes wits with you! We're looking forward to our third year of blogging which begins January 1.

Catherine of Siena Institute Meets Facebook

Those of you who are masters of the New Media - facebooking and twittering your merry way through life - will find it hard to grasp that mere mortals like myself are finding Facebook a little hard to get a handle on. I've always liked computers, got the hang of the internet and e-mail without worries. Blogging made immediate sense (although my technical skills are still very sketchy) but Facebook seems to be different.

For instance - those "messages" I am supposedly getting - are they legit or just ads? How do you export addresses from IMail to Facebook in order to invite people to join your page? (I've tried to do so, but I seemed to import the addresses rather than export them)

And all the smiles, snowballs, pokes and stuff, I'm struggling with those as well.

So I"m resorting to "old" media of blogging (cause a media form with a lifespan of more than two nanno seconds is "old" these days) to let you all know that the Catherine of Siena Institute now has a Facebook page and I'd like to invite you all to consider becoming "fans" and joining in the conversation there as well.

See you there!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Chesterton on Christmas

From the G. K. Chesterton: the Spirit of Christmas

If we study the very real atmosphere of rejoicing and of riotous charity in "The Christmas Carol" we shall find that all the three marks I have mentioned are unmistakably visible. The Christmas Carol is a happy story first, because it describes an abrupt and dramatic change; it is not only the story of a conversion, but of a sudden conversion; as as the conversion of a man at a Salvation Army meeting. Popular religious is quite right in insisting on the fact of a crisis in most things.

It is true that the man at the Salvation Army meeting would probably be converted from the punch bowl; whereas Scrooge was converted to it. That only means that Scrooge and Dickens represented a higher and more historic Christianity. But in both cases happiness is rightly valued because it follow dramatically upon unhappiness; happiness is valued because it is 'salvation' something saved from the wreck.

Again, "The Christmas Carol' owes much of its hilarity to our second source - the fact of its being a tale of winter and of a very wintry winter. The is much about comfort in the story; yet the comfort is never enervating: it is saving from that by a tingle of something bitter and bracing in the weather.

Lastly, the story exemplifies through throughout the power of the third principle - the kinship between gaiety and the grotesque. Everyone is happy because nobody is dignified. We have a feeling that somehow Scrooge looked even uglier when he was kind than he had looked when he was cruel. The turkey that Scrooge bought was so fat, says Dickens, that it could never have stood upright. That top-heavy and monstrous bird is a good symbol of the top-heavy happiness of the stories."

O Radix

The antiphon for December 19.

O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at Whom the kings shall shut their mouths, Whom the Gentiles shall seek, come to deliver us, do not tarry.

More Groupies

Well, as promised, I have put together a few suggested names for groups of Dominicans, friars, bloggers, PCs, Macs, laity, clergy, charisms, Christmas ornaments, and angels. Obviously, these are things or people that I work with, live with, and are on my mind these days with the Nativity of Our Lord on the horizon.

But first, here are suggested names for groups that were provided by readers of this blog...

A pride of Dominicans
An expository of Dominicans
A pack of Dominicans

A phalanx of friars
A frenzy of friars
A bucket of friars (extra crispy)
A family of friars
A fraternity of friars

A blather of bloggers

A crash of PCs
A passel of PCs

A smirk of Macs

A scallop of laity
A largesse of laity
An oppression of laity
A laxity of laity
A latency of laity
A fertility of laity
(trying to accommodate varying ecclesiologies)

a cocktail of charisms (uniquely combined gifts of the “spirits”)
a combustion of charisms

a collar of clergy
a cataclysm of clergy

an anthem of angels

a memoir of Christmas ornaments

And now, here are my suggestions, some of which have definitions provided for the suggestions, which I hope will help you understand why they are so appropriate, in my humble opinion.

a motley of Dominicans (motley: consisting of people or things that are very different from one another and do not seem to belong together)

a congregation of laity (duh!)

a mess of friars

a gratuity of charisms

a stereotypy of bloggers (stereotypy: a pattern of persistent, fixed and repeated speech that is apparently meaningless and is characteristic of some mental conditions)

a plenitude of PCs

a dearth of Macs

a frock of clergy (my favorite!)

a pindance of angels

a gaud of Christmas ornaments

And one for good measure...
a flimsy of apologists (flimsy: unconvincing and difficult to believe)

Charisms: Orthodox Style

This is fun: An article on our recent Called & Gifted at the Orthodox Church in America parish in Canton, Ohio, It is from the OCA's Archdiocese of Chicago website.

CANTON, OH (MW Communications) - On Friday November 21-Saturday November 22, 2008, Holy Assumption Orthodox Church (OCA), hosted 50 participants for a "Called & Gifted" Workshop here. The workshop was presented by Sherry Anne Weddell, the co-director of the Catherine of Siena Institute in Colorado Springs, CO and Fr Gregory Jensen, the priest-in-charge at Holy Assumption. The central theme of the workshop is that by virtue of our baptism, each of us is an essential part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All of us, whether lay or ordained, are not only called by Christ to proclaim the Gospel, but we are given unique gifts (charism) that that makes our apostolic and evangelistic call both possible and fruitful.

We are not, in other words, simply passive consumers of religious good, but have been sent out (Gk: apostolos, "someone sent out", e.g. with a message or as a delegate) by Christ to announce (GK: euangelion, or "good news") the Gospel or the Good News. The charisms/gifts we receive at baptism are what make it possible for us to do this. These charism, Sherry stressed, are not given to me for me alone, but for you, for your salvation.

Christians are called and gifted by Christ to be men and women for others--and this is true whether we are laypeople, monastics, clergy or hierarchs—we are all of us called to live for others.

Seeing ourselves this way means being willing to see the Church in a new way. The Church is not an end in itself. As Metropolitan JONAH said in Pittsburgh at the All-American Council, what happens at Liturgy is important, but is only about "5%" of what it means to be a Christian. The rest of our Christian life is about how we treat others. This is a very challenging notion for all of us.

As part of the workshop a very simple self-scored paper and pencil test was given to the participants as a place to begin his or her own prayerful discernment of his/her personal vocation. While such a test can't replace the insight that comes from our spiritual fathers, it does have great practical value in helping us understand the different gifts God may have given us.

Grounding our vocation not in a mere conformity to an external standard but to the prompting of grace in our hearts and confirmed by the Church is something both perfectly compatible with Holy Tradition and often sadly lacking in our work with people in the parish and the seminaries. St Anthony the Great says somewhere that if I would know God I must first know myself. The "Called & Gifted" Workshop is I think a valuable aid in helping Orthodox Christians fulfill the saint's advice to us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chesterton on Waiting for Christmas

I thought I would mark the last week of Advent with excerpts from my much cherished collection of G.K. Chesterton Christmas essays and poems.

As Maisie Ward wrote:

"Some men, it may be, are best moved to reform by hate, but Chesterton was best moved by love and nowhere does that love shine more clearly than in all he wrote about Christmas.

Here's a most appropriate one for a Wednesday in Advent.

"There is no more dangerous or disgusting habit than that of celebrating Christmas before it comes, as I am doing in this article It is the very essence of a festival that it breaks upon one brilliantly and abruptly, that at one moment the great day is not and the next the great day is.

Up to a certain specific instant you are feeling ordinary and sad; for it is only Wednesday. At the next moment your heart leaps up and your soul and body dance together like lovers; for in one burst and blaze it has become Thursday. I am assuming (of course) that you are a worshipper of Thor, and that you celebrate his day once a week, possibly with human sacrifice. If, on the other hand, you are a modern Christian Englishman, you hail (of course) with the same explosion of gaity the appearance of the English Sunday.


And all the old wholesome customs in connection with Christmas were to the effect that one should not touch o see or know or speak of something before the actual coming of Christmas Day. Thus, for instance, children were never given their presents until the actualy coming of the appointed hour. The presents were kept tied up in brown-paper parcels, out of which an arm of a doll or the leg of a donkey sometimes accidently stuck.

I wish this principle were adopted in respect of modern Christmas ceremonies and publications. Expecially it ought to be observed in connection with what are called the Christmas numbers of magazines. The editors of the magazines bring out their Christmas numbers so long before the time that the reader is more likely to be still lamenting for the turkey of last year than to have seriously settled down to a solid anticipation of the turkey which is to come.

Christmas numbers of magazines ought to be tied up in brown paper and kept for Christmas Day. On consideration, I should favour the editors being tied up in brown paper. Whether the arm or leg of an editor should ever be allowed to protrude I leave to individual choice."

O Adonai

The O Antiphon for December 18:

O'Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai, come to redeem us with Thy outstretched arm(s)

Advent Calendar

Over at Christianity Today they have a series of paintings, photos and other artwork for each day of Advent, along with a passage from Scripture and a snip from various sermons and books. It's worth a quick look each morning as you settle in to your day; a bit of thoughtfulness and beauty to help offset the relentless drumbeats of consumerism outside our doors.

Preaching to Young People

Fr J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P., a friar of the Province of St Joseph (Eastern U.S.A.) and undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, recently gave the Father Carl J. Peter Lecture at the Pontifical North American College. His lecture, Clearing Away the Barriers: Preaching to Young People Today, will no doubt be of interest to the readers of Intentional Disciples. 
The full-text is available at the Eastern Province vocations blog here.


O Sapientia

Today the traditional "O Antiphons" begin.

Today's antiphon:

O'Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to teach us the way of prudence!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Nearly 24 degrees outside at 7:20 am!

Practically t-shirt weather around here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Group Exercise

In the book, "Exaltation of Larks” by James Lipton, the author offers a collection of words that group like items. Among them: a gaggle of geese, flaps of nuns, a peep of chickens, a peel of vacationers, a twaddle of public speakers, a grope of groupies, a hive of allergists, a void of urologists, a wheeze of joggers and a lie of golfers.

Which got me thinking...what words would describe the following groups, do you think?

a _________________ of Dominicans

a _________________ of laity

a _________________ of friars

a _________________ of charisms

a _________________ of bloggers

a _________________ of PCs

a _________________ of Macs

a _________________ of clergy

a _________________ of angels

a _________________ of Christmas ornaments

You don't need to offer suggestions for all of them if you don't want.

I'll provide my own suggestions in a day or so.

What if Starbucks Was Run Like a Catholic parish?

This is a clever piece, and clearly directed towards the megachurch crowd. There'd be some differences if the question were "What if Starbucks was run like a Catholic parish?" Here are my own speculations:

1. There wouldn't be a menu board; the presumption would be you know what to order.
2. It's likely no one would talk to you.
3. There might be lots of talk about filters, references to arcane gadgets for making coffee, and speculation about the chemical properties of coffee among the baristas
4. The place would be fairly crowded with people doing all kinds of socializing - with each other, not you (see #2 above).
5. Only a handful of people would be drinking coffee, and they'd be treated as slightly odd.
6. 48% of the folks there would doubt coffee was potable.

This reminds me of an experience Sherry and I had. We had given a workshop at a parish, went to the Saturday vigil Mass, and heard during the announcements that there'd be a pancake breakfast in the morning hosted by the Knights of Columbus. We decided to return the next day for a cheap meal before flying out of town.

When we arrived, there were large signs in front of the church advertising the breakfast. They just didn't tell you where to go. We stopped several parishioners to ask, and received directions that went something like this.

"O.K., you see that gap between the church and the school? Go over there and in the doorway in the corner of the addition connecting the two buildings, you'll find a door. Go through the door, turn left, go down the hall, turn right and open the second door on your right. Go down the steps there, and turn left at the landing at the bottom. Don't go to the right, or you'll end up lost. Go through two sets of double doors, and you'll be in the parish hall."

None of the doors, hallways, or stairwells had any signs indicating, "Pancake breakfast this-a-way." By the time we got to the first set of double doors we could smell the pancakes, so we knew we were on the right trail.

hat tip: Joe Waters

Sunday, December 14, 2008

St. Dunstan's Weather

"Foggier yet, and colder! Piercing, searching, biting cold. If the good Saint Dunstan* had but nipped the Evil Spirit's nose with a touch of such weather as that, instead of using his familiar weapons, then indeed he would have roared to lusty purpose." - Charles Dickens, The Christmas Carol.

It is quickly moving beyond cold tonight. An "Artic front": -8F in Leadville and below zero in Pueblo which is odd since they are nearly 2,000 feet lower than we are. The Denver International Airport set a record low this evening of - 15 F.

Meanwhile, I'm cosily ensconced in the Rocky Mountain Riviera: CS is a balmy .1 F. Scrap that. In the time it took to write this post, the temperature here has fallen to - .3 F.

This sort of weather is extremely dangerous. Pray that the homeless all find shelter tonight. I'm sure that all emergency shelters will be open tonight throughout the Rocky Mountain region, the great plains and upper mid-west.

Another sign of the situation: It snowed in New Orleans yesterday. The earliest snowfall ever recorded in the Crescent City.

*St. Dunstan was Archbishop and confessor, and one of the greatest saints of the Anglo-Saxon Church. Against the old church of St. Mary he built a little cell only five feet long and two and a half feet deep, where he studied and worked at his handicrafts and played on has harp. Here the devil is said (in a late eleventh legend) to have tempted him and to have been seized by the face with the saint's tongs.

Update: It seems to have dropped 7 degrees in the last few minutes and is now -17 F in Leadville with a wind chill of -37 F. Y'all in Leadville - stay indoors!

The Word Made Flesh

I was in Eugene, OR, to preside and preach at the funeral of my dear friend, Patricia Mees Armstrong, who died just before Thanksgiving after a long struggle with cancer. I chose as the Gospel the beginning of the Gospel of John, which seemed to fit her so well, since she loved both the Word and words. With all my travels and preaching, I haven't had time to blog, so I thought I'd post my homily for Pat's funeral, along with the Gospel that was read.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth." John 1:1-5, 14

Patricia Mees Armstrong was a woman of few words.
You don’t believe me? Just listen to her poem, When One's Soul is Green.
Before they came to see me
from across the pond
& then some,
they packed up my memories
from the sands of a coast
I once walked
from green gaps
I had hiked. They stored
my songs in their throats
to unpack, tune
after tune, no tin
whistle or bodhrán,
my tears for chorus.

One brought me soil
from her Wicklow garden,
another knowing
smiles from pubs
where tourists never go
& prayers from a wee
church that once
befriended my knees.

Into a small green
unbreakable jar, they
let me breathe
Irish air, enough
to last my lifetime.

See! A woman of few words.
Her poetry’s often spare, bare bones;
Mere verbal sketches, allusions, hints of memories you could have had if you weren’t so attached to a life of safe respectability.
Her poems are scattered morsels of Pat.
But if you had read all her words but never met her - well, you know it’s not the same.
Words can be misunderstood, misinterpreted; or we can mistakenly skim along the surface, and think we’re completely immersed.

If you’d read all her works and then met her for the first time, you would have had to say, “ah, yes… yes… you’re something like what I imagined – but in other ways… well, I just never could have known…”
And even when you knew her, words couldn’t quite describe her as well as images could.
Her long-time friend, Bob Welch, created “Mrs. H,” - an imaginary muse who was a thinly veiled Pat – who was described as “equal parts Maude, Mother Teresa, Emily Dickinson and Rod Serling.”
This literary Mrs. H described herself at their introduction, and it might as well have been Pat herself; "Who am I? I'm the roar of a McKenzie River rapid, the whistle of a Florence wind. I'm 14 Country Fair parking passes on the bumper of a '69 Volkswagen.”

Pat was like a certain unnamed woman in the New Testament, who sought to touch Jesus for healing.
You see, Pat suffered almost all her life from a hemorrhage that began at age 10, if not before.
A hemorrhage of words, that turned her inside out; a flow not of blood but of ink; never clotting.
She didn’t want the words to dry up, but sought healing of childhood wounds through which so many of those words flowed.

If you know her poetry and short stories, you know Pat is Birch and Siobhan; Pat is, in some ways, her poetry – her flesh become words.

I must apologize - a funeral homily is not a eulogy (eulogy, meaning, good word, or speaking well).
Rather, a funeral homily should be about a Good Word – the Word made flesh.
The Word that was in the beginning, and was with God and was – and is – God.
This Word remained hidden, even to the Hebrews whom God fashioned from the offspring of Abraham, and called out of slavery in Egypt, and formed into a people in the wasteland of Sinai.
Their scriptures are sacred words extracted from divine threads of triumph, mercy, and loving kindness - and human threads of disaster, ego and desertion – all carefully woven into divinely inspired poetry, laments, praise, wisdom, laws and prophetic hopes.
Written by time-bound mortals, they are the self-disclosure of our Creator in much the same way Pat’s poetry revealed her.

But words about God are easily misunderstood, misinterpreted; too often we content ourselves with skimming across their surface, twisting them to our advantage, rather than allowing them the sharpness meant to separate flesh from bone.
And so the Word became flesh; and came to his own, and his own did not know him.
“Ah, yes… yes… there’s something familiar, but in other ways not at all what we expected – or wanted.”

God’s self-expression, God’s eternal Word and beloved Son, became flesh to reveal the heart of God more completely.
In Jesus, every story, parable, command, reveals our Father who speaks the Word in eternity.
Jesus tells us God is like a good shepherd seeking the lost sheep, a shameless Semitic paterfamilias who sprints to embrace and welcome home a reprobate son.
He withholds nothing from us: “I have told you everything I have heard from my Father” (Jn 15:15)
Not only does Jesus tell us what His Father is like, he shows us His Father, in a way we can comprehend.
He claims, “whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (Jn 14:9)
Actions speak louder than words, and the New Testament reveals in Jesus the God who heals, forgives, drives out our demons, and unveils our hypocrisy.
Jesus, the Word made flesh, is love made flesh, goodness made flesh, truth made flesh.

But love, goodness and truth have no lasting home in a disobedient and fallen world.
In the end, we had to silence the Word.
From the cross comes his last and only wish, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
In his humanity, Jesus does what none of us can do.
He is obedient to His Father – even though the consequence of that love is the cross.
He is a single eternal word –a ‘yes’ that overcomes each and every ‘no’ we utter.
His Father attributes that obedience to each one of us – even though we cannot deserve it.
This is the heart of mercy.
We are made adopted sons and daughters of the Father, and brothers and sisters of Jesus and each other.
The love for humanity Jesus demonstrates is also Our Father’s love for us.
And validating all that Jesus said and did, the Father raises him from the dead – the firstfruits of the resurrection we may share because of our adoption.

Jesus is the Redeemer for whom poor Job longed; the New Adam whose cross is the tree of life denied the first Adam; his broken body, the fruit of that tree which Pat ate.
St. Paul, so well-versed in the Hebrew scriptures, saw the ramifications of all this.
Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? It is Christ (Jesus) who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Apparently, nothing, in St. Paul’s mind.

Thus we believe that Pat is – or will be - in heaven, inseparable from Christ’s love.
Not because she was good at words; certainly not because she was good, but because of her trust in Christ’s death for her and each of us.
Now, Pat did good things – she was an inspiring teacher, an indefatigable encourager, a trusted confidante, a mother with high expectations and a passionately grateful spouse.
But hers was a borrowed goodness – as is all human goodness, thanks be to God.
You see, Jesus invites each of us to be a disciple – one who learns from a Master.
And in Jesus’ culture, one didn’t learn simply by listening to the Master’s words and by observing what he does, but also through imitation.
According to the Gospels, after spending some months or more with Jesus, he sends his disciples to “do what he does,” to teach, to proclaim the Good News, to expel demons and cure the sick.
The good any of us manage is his good, done through the Holy Spirit bestowed on us by the resurrected Christ – we are not good on our own.
When it comes to love and goodness, we're all plagiarists.

The genuine love, that is truly for the good of the other, is His love.

And this is a great gift.
It means that when we meet him, as we all surely will when our life’s cord is cut, we can hope to meet not a stranger, but an intimate.
Because our love, our goodness comes from him, we will recognize him as the one who has always loved us – and often through others.
I believe, Rich, that when Pat met the Lord, she gasped for joy, because she discovered that your love that was poured out upon her was his.
And the love from her sons was his.
And our devotion, admiration, patience, love, and delight in her presence was his.
She knew Jesus in this life, so perhaps she wasn’t so surprised, after all, to discover that she already knew Him as he is.

And I believe that when the Lord met her, he saw a family resemblance; flesh knows its own.
God, too, is a poet.
I can imagine him touching her face, healing her deep wounds that only he knew.
In that touch, the flow of words stopped, because words were no longer sufficient.
Words are never adequate to express a love so broad, so deep that neither the present, nor the future, nothing as trivial as life, or death, can overcome.

Abraham Lincoln and the World He Lived In

Cold and snowy. Present temperature 8 F. The high was forecast to be 13 but I don't think we made it. The ski resorts are rejoicing in tons of new power but the wind chills are formidable: -15F. Temps like that once floored me. Now I simply shrug and go out anyway like that hardened Coloradan that i've become.

As I blogged earlier, I went to Chicago this past week to pick up a car donated to the Institute.

A fire-engine red Mustang convertible with a lot of zip. It was fun to drive the 1200 miles home. Although we left home in a snowstorm and saw only fields of white from the plane, we drove back in a little bubble of cold sunshine and on blissfully dry roads.

At one point, I was only 30 miles or so from Fr. Mike's hometown of Washington, Illinois and would like to have made the pilgrimage but time was short and another man's home beckoned. I'll be back when they finally erect that shrine in Fr. Mike's honor.

Instead we stopped in Springfield - the capital - and visited Abraham Lincoln's home (part of a 4 block area of Victorian Springfield that is being preserved by the National Park Service.) It was comfortable but not luxurious. This is definitely not Mount Vernon or Monticello. Lincoln milked the cow and brought in the wood himself. Mary cooked dinner herself. But so far from the 16 X 18 log cabin in which he was born. The Park Service has the home decorated and furnished as if it were Christmas, 1860. It was to be Lincoln's last Christmas at home before moving to Washington, D.C.

Lincoln spoke these words as he left Springfield the following February, never to return:

"My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell."

The bi-centennial of Lincoln's birth take place in February, 2009. It is easy to forget since he and Washington had their birthdays merged into a single holiday that most of us just think of as a three day weekend and department store sales.

But almost exactly 200 years after the "Great Emancipator" was born, another President from Illinois, the first African-American President - will be sworn in. Unimaginable during Lincoln's lifetime. Unimaginable within the living memory of some who will read these words. Lincoln's story deserves to be told again and again.

Many very grave issues - life issues, the financial crisis, terrorism - lie before us. But imagining Abraham Lincoln lying on the wooden floor of his modest family room, reading aloud to his family from the newspaper by firelight (the chairs weren't big enough for his 6'4" frame) that last Christmas, gave me a thrill.

In late December, 1860, six states had already seceded from the Union, millions still lived in slavery, and civil war was only months away. He did, in fact, face a task greater than that which faced George Washington. And he prevailed.

Profound cultural change, change that honors and protects the life and humanity of those once considered to be less than human, is possible. The world we live in, the world that our children will take for granted, is possible because men and women like Abraham Lincoln lived and changed their world.

May future Americans say the same of us with gratitude.

Recession: Recognizing an Evangelical Moment

A thought-provoking article in the New York Times this morning about the impact of recession on church attendance.

Evangelical church attendance.

"A recent spot check of some large Roman Catholic parishes and mainline Protestant churches around the nation indicated attendance increases there, too. But they were nowhere near as striking as those reported by congregations describing themselves as evangelical, a term generally applied to churches that stress the literal authority of Scripture and the importance of personal conversion, or being “born again.”

Part of the evangelicals’ new excitement is rooted in a communal belief that the big Christian revivals of the 19th century, known as the second and third Great Awakenings, were touched off by economic panics. Historians of religion do not buy it, but the notion “has always lived in the lore of evangelism,” said Tony Carnes, a sociologist who studies religion."

Interesting. Missionary strategists that I studied with were fascinated by the Great Awakenings - because they dreamed of being part of another such intense revival - and probed the conditions that made such a moment more likely. But I don't remember that the economic situation of the country was ever mentioned.

"A study last year may lend some credence to the legend. In “Praying for Recession: The Business Cycle and Protestant Religiosity in the United States,” David Beckworth, an assistant professor of economics at Texas State University, looked at long-established trend lines showing the growth of evangelical congregations and the decline of mainline churches and found a more telling detail: During each recession cycle between 1968 and 2004, the rate of growth in evangelical churches jumped by 50 percent. By comparison, mainline Protestant churches continued their decline during recessions, though a bit more slowly."

The article includes several stories of Catholics who have lost jobs being invited by friends to local evangelical Churches who are addressing the situation directly. In fact, all the stories of spiritually seeking people are of Catholic turning to evangelicals.

"Frank O’Neill, 54, a manager who lost his job at Morgan Stanley this year, said the “humbling experience” of unemployment made him cast about for a more personal relationship with God than he was able to find in the Catholicism of his youth. In joining the Shelter Rock Church on Long Island, he said, he found a deeper sense of “God’s authority over everything — I feel him walking with me.”


"At the Shelter Rock Church, many newcomers have been invited by members who knew they had recently lost jobs. On a recent Sunday, new faces included a hedge fund manager and an investment banker, both laid off, who were friends of Steve Leondis, a cheerful business executive who has been a church member for four years. The two newcomers, both Catholics, declined to be interviewed, but Mr. Leondis said they agreed to attend Shelter Rock to hear Mr. Tomlinson’s sermon series, “Faith in Unstable Times.”

“They wanted something that pertained to them,” he said, “some comfort that pertained to their situations.”

"The sense of historic moment is underscored especially for evangelicals in New York who celebrated the 150th anniversary last year of the Fulton Street Prayer Revival, one of the major religious resurgences in America. Also known as the Businessmen’s Revival, it started during the Panic of 1857 with a noon prayer meeting among traders and financiers in Manhattan’s financial district.

Over the next few years, it led to tens of thousands of conversions in the United States, and inspired the volunteerism movement behind the founding of the Salvation Army, said the Rev. McKenzie Pier, president of the New York City Leadership Center, an evangelical pastors’ group that marked the anniversary with a three-day conference at the Hilton New York. “The conditions of the Businessmen’s Revival bear great similarities to what’s going on today,” he said. “People are losing a lot of money.”

New York is not an evangelical hotbed. It is a heavily Catholic area. That's why those who are coming to evangelical congregations for the first time and were interviewed in this article are Catholic. The obvious question is "Why aren't they turning to their own parishes?"

As one Long Island pastor - in an exceedingly wealthy and educated community, the sort of community that is really hurting right now - told me: "My people aren't disciples. Did you know that there is no sin on Long Island? There is no sex on Long Island. The one remnant of their cultural Catholicism left is the belief "If you miss Mass on Sunday, you go to hell." So the only sin people confess is missing Mass on Sunday."

I remember another conversation I had with an elderly Hawaiian man several years ago. He was a regular at Mass who had come in for a gifts interview but all he wanted to talk about was his family's financial troubles. Finally, I gently reminded him that the interview was to help him discern his charisms and asked why he had come. His basic answer: he just needed to talk to someone. I asked him if he had prayed about his situation. "You can do that?" he asked in a surprised tone of voice.

I left that interview in a white hot rage. Rage - not at him - but at us. I didn't have the language I now have for where he was spiritually (courtesy of our work with Making Disciples) but I knew that he was essentially "pre-natal" and he was running out of time. All while being an "active" life-long Catholic.

Because Catholics don't ask one another about their lived relationship with God and we don't tell one another the basic kerygma and we don't challenge one another to follow Jesus.

When disaster or pain or change shakes our communities and baptized men and women - and both "inactive" and "active" hover on the edge of a new spiritual openness - who is going to be ready and waiting and actively reaching out? Who will ask and listen and talk to them about Christ and walk with them as the tentatively explore the possibility of a whole new kind of relationship with God?

Evangelicals recognize the spiritual significance of this moment. Do we?

My question:

Are you aware of any significant Catholic response/outreach specifically to those who are newly unemployed or have lost their homes due to the current financial crisis? Especially any Catholic outreach that has an intentionally spiritual component? Please share.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Been on the road. Chicago. St. Louis (filled with statues of the St. Louis). Kansas City, MO.

Home tomorrow. Then blogging will commence.

Love Google instructions like this:

Merge onto I-70. Drive 510 miles. The whole length of Kansas.

The danger of getting lost is minimal. The danger of falling asleep is high.

Monday, December 8, 2008

We Got Elegance . . .

ID readers know that we like to keep things on a high intellectual plane around here. But I thought you would also like to see some candid photos of life in the office at holiday time.

Austin is our don't-mess-with-me office manager.

Cause when the natives get restless . . .

But you gotta admit the natives have style: Istvan, (our tech/production guy), Sybil (our bookkeeper) and Austin (office manager)

Lessons From St. Paul for the New Evangelization

Guess I should blog about this since Tom Peters over at American Papist beat me to it - and he had access to the cool images that I, as a mere speaker, had never seen. So, in the best Dominican tradition, I stole it!

More details....

Keynote Speaker - Most Rev. Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Denver (i hope i get to meet him but Archbishops usually jet in and out of these kinds of events)

Main Speaker - SherryWeddell Co-Founder and Director Catherine of Siena Institute

Multiple Workshops - Scripture, Spirituality, Youth ministry, Parish renewal, and much more

Contact: 313-883-8792 ][][

Mark your calendars. It would be fun to meet some ID readers there!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Kerygma & Carols

One of the topics upon which I've been mulling (in my spare moments) is the way in which the Kerygma, the core Gospel message that awakens Christian faith and lays the foundation for catechesis, is so seldom articulated among us, and yet fills the carols that we treasure at this time of year.

I've been listening again this Advent to a cd recorded by friend-of-this-blog Kathleen Lundquist. Kathleen has a truly beautiful voice and recorded a number of less familiar carols, including the wonderful 17th century All My Heart This NIght Rejoices. Listen to Kathleen's recording here. (Scroll down to tack #5.)

All my heart this night rejoices,
As I hear, far and near, sweetest angel voices;
“Christ is born,” their choirs are singing,
Till the air, everywhere, now their joy is ringing.

Forth today the Conqueror goeth,
Who the foe, sin and woe, death and hell, o’erthroweth.
God is man, man to deliver;
His dear Son now is one with our blood forever.

Shall we still dread God’s displeasure,
Who, to save, freely gave His most cherished Treasure?
To redeem us, He hath given
His own Son from the throne of His might in Heaven.

Should He who Himself imparted
Aught withhold from the fold, leave us broken hearted?
Should the Son of God not love us,
Who, to cheer sufferers here, left His throne above us?

If our blessèd Lord and Maker
Hated men, would He then be of flesh partaker?
If He in our woe delighted,
Would He bear all the care of our race benighted?

He becomes the Lamb that taketh
Sin away and for aye full atonement maketh.
For our life His own He tenders
And our race, by His grace, meet for glory renders.

For it dawns, the promised morrow
Of His birth, Who the earth rescues from her sorrow.
God to wear our form descendeth;
Of His grace to our race here His Son He sendeth.

All My Heart was written by Johann Georg Ebeling, who in 1662 became the cantor, (naturlich!) of the St. Nicholas Church, the oldest surviving church in Berlin. Most of St. Nicholas was destroyed during World War II but it was meticulously rebuilt in the 80's on the original 13th century foundation.
Check out the new "faith-centered cable TV network" in New York City called NET (New Evangelization Television):
Looks very promising. 


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Seeking St. Nicholas

On this Feast of St. Nicholas, I know that you have been wondering:

Just what did St. Nicholas really look like? Well, you don't have to go further than the mega-site for all your St. Nicholas needs: The St. Nicholas Center

From their website:

St. Nicholas' remains are buried in the crypt of the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy. These bones were temporarily removed when the crypt was repaired during the 1950s. At the Vatican's request, anatomy professor Luigi Martino from the University of Bari, took thousands of minutely-detailed measurements and x-ray photographs (roentgenography) of the skull and other bones.

The current professor of forensic pathology at the University of Bari, Francesco Introna, knew advancements in diagnostic technique could yield much more from the data gathered in the 1950s. So he engaged an expert facial anthropologist, Caroline Wilkinson, at the University of Manchester in England, to construct a model of the saint's head from the earlier measurements.

Using this data, the medical artist used state-of-the-art computer software to develop the model of St. Nicholas. The virtual clay was sculpted on screen using a special tool that allows one to "feel" the clay as it is molded. Dr. Wilkinson says, "In theory you could do the same thing with real clay, but it's much easier, far less time-consuming and more reliable to do it on a computer."

After inferring the size and shape of facial muscles—there are around twenty-six—from the skull data, the muscles are pinned onto the virtual skull, stretched into position, and covered with a layer of "skin." "The muscles connect in the same place on everyone, but because skulls vary in shape, a different face develops," Wilkinson comments. The tangents from different parts of the nasal cavity determine the length of a nose. This was difficult because St. Nicholas' nose had been badly broken. "It must have been a very hefty blow because it's the nasal bones between the eyes that are broken," she continued.

"We used clay on the screen that you can feel but not physically touch. It was very exciting. We did not have the physical skull, so we had to recreate it from two-dimensional data. We are bound to have lost some of the level of detail you would get by working from photographs, but we believe this is the closest we are ever going to get to him," Wilkinson concluded.

Next the three-dimensional image went to Image Foundry Studios where a digital artist added detail and color to the model. This gave it Greek Mediterranean olive-toned skin, brown eyes, and grey hair and beard, trimmed in 4th century fashion.

The result of the project is the image of a Greek man, living in Asia Minor (part of the Greek Byzantine Empire), about 60-years old, 5-feet 6-inches tall, who had a heavy jaw and a broken nose.

Press reaction to the facsimile tended to imply that good Saint Nicholas had had a brawling past, hence the broken nose. It is more likely, however, that his nose was broken when imprisoned and tortured during the persecution of Christians under Roman Emperor Diocletian.

The results look remarkably like the traditional icons of St. Nicholas - except for the badly broken nose.

Ho Ho Ho!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Good Stuff Going On

Even though we are well into December, the Institute still has a number of events going on.

This evening and tommorrow, a Called & Gifted interviewer training will be happening in Sugarland, Texas.

This weekend, Fr. Mike will be preaching at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Jamul, California as an introduction to the Advent mission he will be preaching on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week. If you are in the area, consider spending part of your Advent with Fr. Mike. He is a wonderful preacher (I speak from experience).

On the weekend of December 13/14, we will be offering yet another interviewer training in Kansas City, Kansas. Which is in preparation for the really big dual language (English/Spanish) Called & Gifted that we will be teaching on January 9/10. Sponsored by both Kansas City dioceses - Kansas and Missouri.

Then Fr. MIke will zip north to preach all the Masses on the weekends of December 14/15 and 20/21 at Blessed Sacrament parish in Seattle where the Institute was originally founded. Blessed Sacrament is magical (if damp) at Advent and Christmas. Go and hear him if you can. He will also be giving a special Advent talk on December 18 on "Journey to Bethlehem".

Then, because we are clement, we will allow Fr. Mike to go home for Christmas. I know. I know. Get's em into bad habits. They'll start to think they have a right to time off. But then I have always had have a soft spot for Dominicans. That man just twists me around his little finger.

There are two other very cool seasonal events coming up at Blessed Sacrament:

Fr. Allen Duston, OP will be giving a talk on December, 10 at 7pm. The subject: Angelic Art at the Vatican. And he should know. Fr. Allen served for years as head of development for the Vatican Art Museum and worked in the most amazing office in the Vatican - the 15th century papal robing room with the date 1496 still visible on the walls. It was Fr. Duston who arranged an an amazing privilege for us when Fr. Michael Sweeney and I were in Rome - an after-hours private tour of the Sistine Chapel. All by ourselves.

And then the Tudor Choir will be giving a true Christmastide concert at Blessed Sacrament on December 27.

What riches!

Pray for Jos, Nigeria

Amy Welborn blogs on this important story: the flaring up of violence between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.

Especially in Jos, a university town. I feel a personal connection with Jos because my sister turned 20 in Jos while showing the Jesus film with Campus Crusade.

The Anglican diocesan website is chilling to read.

The headline reads "Jos goes up in flames. And beneath that is a depressingly detailed list of the damage and
deaths experienced by the Christian community.. Deaths, persons injured, churched destroyed, homes destroyed, livestock lost (2500 hens) and all by parish.

The Catholic Archdiocese has listed its losses here.

Those of us privileged to live in peace must hold our suffering brothers and sisters up in prayer.

This Morning

10 F. Fresh powder covers the garden. Tuscany in winter.

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

Charles Dickens, The Christmas Carol

And just because it is such a stunning contrast, here's what it looked like 4 months ago:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Fr. Mike You've Never Known Till Now

For those of you who may have wondered how Fr. Mike discerned his call to priesthood, our local diocesan paper has published an interview with him about his journey into the Dominican order.

How a really nice would-be Stanford PhD and theoretical geophysicist got knocked off his horse on the way to Palo Alto.

My favorite bit:

"Because Mike was attracted to community life he began talking with the Franciscan vocations director. The director encouraged him to also consider the Dominicans. Later, he reluctantly visited the Dominican house of studies in Oakland, Calif. When walking down the street that led to the seminary he saw a Dominican in his white robes waiting for him and thought, "It’s 10 o’clock in the morning and this guy still has his bathrobe on," but then realized it was some kind of "religious get-up."

Just think: If he'd not gotten over it, we should not have known each other. . .

Sorry, Fr. MIke. Its too late to back out now!

Starry, Starry Lights

Incredible in Pittsburgh.

210,000 lights, 3 months to put them up. 6 months to do the computer programing.

Here's the result. CNN is now carrying it. The owner says his e-mail has crashed. I'll bet.

You gotta ask: is this someone without enough to do in life? But it will knock your socks off.
And your kid's socks off.

Work Rears Its Ugly Head

I'm falling behind in my blogging intentions. One is because I've gotten engaged in some very interesting. overlapping, and complex conversations on other blogs over the past few days. Here.

But work insists on rearing its ugly head. People who I think I have successfully fobbed off with e-mail questions insist on getting back to me and putting the ball back into my court. The nerve!

So for the moment, I must contemplate the falling snow in the park behind and focus on the stuff for which they pay me the big bucks. Will return asap.

We Know What You're Up To

Christianity Today has an interesting interview with two film-makers who are doing what many Catholics want them to do : create intelligent beautiful films that don't beat their viewers over the head with religion and morality but deal with themes of faith and redemption in more subtle ways.

They find themselves caught between the rock of secular industry suspicion and the hard place of a potential Christian audience that is mostly evangelical and wants their cinematic religion loud and clear.

Executive producer Buzz McLaughlin and director Aaron Wiederspahn formed Either/Or Films—named for a book by Soren Kierkegaard—a few years ago "for the purpose of developing and creating films of beauty and artistic excellence that provoke the public to engage with the providential mystery of grace," as their mission statement says.


Other than ourselves, however,we don't know of any contemporary American filmmakers with films in distribution, who are upfront about their faithand attempting to make intelligent films outside the commercial marketplace that are not evangelical or didactic in intent.If they're out there, we'd love to know them.

Before The Sensation of Sight premiered in 2006 at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, you hired a well-reputed firm, Premier Public Relations of London. But before the festival you received a surprising phone call from the PR person, didn't you?

McLaughlin: Yes, not long after we hired them, I received a call in which she said, "I know who you are." I asked, "What do you mean?" She said, "I was a philosophy major in college.I know about Kierkegaard, and I can see from the film what you're up to."

This surprised me. We'd thought that The Sensation of Sight would be our Trojan Horse into the film business, since the spirituality was not overt; we were trying only to tell a story of a man's search for meaning in a hurting world. Our mission statement appears on our website, but is not explicitly Christian.

Her next question was even more unexpected: "Did your church fund you?" I assured her that all our capitalization had come from private equity investors. She warned that there would be considerable hostility from the press, and that we should be careful not to mention anything about our faith or why we founded the company.

That must have been a surprising revelation to you.

McLaughlin: Up until that moment, both of ushad been blissfully unaware that a sizeable portion of the secular media would be hostile to any production company bold enough to state what they're trying to accomplish on the spiritual plane. Our assumption while making The Sensation of Sight was that the work would be assessed on its own terms, on the basis of quality and artistic merit. Like most film companies, we'd employed the best talent possible, from actors (including Strathairn, an Academy Award nominee for Best Actor in Good Night, and Good Luck) to cinematographer to key crew; most of themwere not religious, and had come on board simply because they wanted to work and liked the material.

As it turned out, our London PR person was right. This is something that we've learned to live with since.In some venues where the film has screened, there hasn't been a problem at all, with everyone seeming to judge the film on its own terms.At others we can sense the resistance, and sometimes wonder how the film even managed to slip into the festival. Of course, this brings up the issue of the gatekeepers and the power they wield in accepting or rejecting films.

The dilemma of so many creative lay apostles in the marketplace. I wonder what Barb Nicolosi would say to them?

And I should note - this is ID's 2000th post. And our 2 year anniversary is coming up on the first of January. Mark Shea just marked 20,000 (!!) posts but I will gladly leave industrial size posting to him.

Thanks all y'all for your companionship, comments, and the memories over the past two years. And for giving us a chance to think (or bleat) out loud for your entertainment.


Sunset on Monday looked like this around here:

A lovely crescent moon with both Venus and Jupiter nearby.

I didn't take this picture - a sneaky little rosy cloud, like the one in the picture, covered the planets shortly after I glimpsed them. This was taken near Denver.

But it was magical.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

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

And because you need to make this ahead of time so it can age, I'll re-post the recipe for the best fruitcake ever.

I've never been a big fruitcake fan but this makes a cake that almost no one can resist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cynical fruitcake humor in the comment boxes will be tolerated and loftily ignored.

Peace on Earth

It will be cold and snowing here for the next couple of days. Just the setting to watch this touching video. It is a recreation of the bitter-sweet moment during Christian Eve, 1914 when British, German, and French troops all spontaneously declared a ceasefire for the evening. Beautifully done.

Taken from the 2005 French film Joyeux Noel.

There is a fascinating WIki article on the many (not just one) examples of such ""unofficial" Christmas ceasefires during World War I.

H/T Mark Shea

CSI: The Place for One of the Kind Gifts

Our traveling teachers are a most gifted group and are doing all kinds of interesting things when not roaming the country with us. If you are looking for thoughtful, one of a kind gifts, some of our CSI family have interesting things to offer this Advent.

Mary Sharon Moore of Eugene, Oregon, is one of our traveling Called & Gifted teachers. She is also a spiritual director, retreat leader, and vocation consultant, and has just published a book, Touching the Reign of God: Bringing Theological Reflection to Daily Life. Be sure and check out Mary Sharon's website Awakening Vocations,

Katherine Lundquist of Portand, Oregon, is not only an occasional poster and commenter on ID and long time CSI supporter. She also is a wonderful musician and glass artist. You can listen (and buy) her exquisite Advent cd here and view her fused glass jewelry here.

Meanwhile, the amazing Barbara Elliott, author, journalist, speaker, philanthropic adviser, human rights champion and gadfly, continues to delight in teaching the Called & Gifted and Making Disciples seminars. Her book, Street Saints, is a one of a kind guide to some of the most cutting edge and effective urban ministries in the US. You can buy a copy through the CSI online bookstore.

We are privileged to have all these women as part of our little family of co-conspirators.

Meet the Byzantine Rite Carmelites

It is fitting, in light of our conversations lately about practical and spiritual ecumenicism between Catholic and Orthodox, that I stumbled across this interesting site: the only Byzantine Catholic Carmel in the US:

I love this story from their website:

It is recorded in the Life of Pope John XXIII that when he was Apostolic Nuncio in Istanbul an old Armenian priest questioned him: "Excellency, what is the great sin against the Holy Spirit?" To which query the Archbishop replied, "Your Reverence tell me". "The division in the Church" was the old priest's answer.

That incident has been reported as the origin of the Vatican II Council. At any rate we may safely say that Church unity has been the great desire of the 20th century pontiffs. It is also the reason for the foundation of Holy Annunciation Monastery - that Carmel be not the gift to, the possession of only the Western Church, but that the spirit of Teresa and John and the Carmelite charism be open to women of the Catholic East.

The community is quite large for a Carmel (15) and multi-cultural and multi-rite in background: the US, Slovakia, Carpathia, and India (5 sisters of the Malabar rite are part of the community). Reconciliation seems to be one of their charisms.

The community supports itself by breeding the most gorgeous little horses. One little horse, only 24 inches high, apparently serves as a therapy horse during Christmas. I'm sure she is a hit where-ever she goes.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Preaching in America

Fr. James Moore, OP, a young, newly ordained Dominican friar who lives with me in Tucson, and I went on a hike in the Santa Rita mountains the day after Thanksgiving. Hiking up to a saddle below Mt. Wrightson, not too far from my parents' home, the conversation turned to preaching, as sometimes happens among members of the Order of Preachers. Fr. James mentioned that he was receiving some great comments on his preaching, but also some negative ones as well. In the course of the discussion, he pointed out that Dominicans were known for their doctrinal preaching, and that's when it hit me (or, better, when the Holy Spirit enlightened me).

St. Dominic and his early compatriots lived in a very different society than we do today. The Order of Preachers formed out of a preaching mission to heretics. These were people who were interested enough in the spiritual life and the question of how a disciple of Jesus is to live that they were willing to "buck the trend" and formally leave the Catholic Church, which was, at least in Europe, pretty much the only spiritual game in town. For them, doctrinal preaching was exactly what was needed. They needed to hear the Church's doctrine explained clearly and logically, as well as how the Albigensian/Cathar interpretation of scripture was incomplete. They also needed to hear this message proclaimed by men who were living simply - even poorly - since they were rejecting the goodness of created things and saw any trappings of wealth as a kind of spiritual degradation.

The challenge for Dominicans - and for all those who have the office of preacher in the Church in the US and the rest of the developed world - is quite different. Rather than preaching to people who are passionate about questions of God and how to live according to God's will, we face congregations with many individuals for whom religion is not much different than belonging to a club. According to the recent Pew Foundation study on religion in America:

43% of Catholics surveyed say religion is "somewhat important" or "not too/not at all important" (and the younger you are, the less important religion is to you)
48% of Catholics are absolutely certain that God is personal
45% of Catholics are certain in the existence of an afterlife
42% of Catholics attend Mass at least once a week.

These statistics do not indicate a great deal of religious zeal in our parishes, and while all of those four points have to do with doctrine, perhaps the more important emphasis in preaching today needs to be on the question of how does one relate to God? I would propose that preachers today need to be more transparent regarding their own relationship with God: Father, Son and Spirit. If I, as a preacher, never speak about my relationship with God - the struggles, joys, disappointments, hopes - my congregation may simply think of faith as simply a set of ideas that are not terribly interesting or pertinent to daily life.

Gotta board a plane. More later, perhaps.

Pray for the Peace of India

It is stunning to realize that a mere two weeks before the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Catholics held a huge (100,000 in attendance) peace rally i downtown Mumbai.

Catholic bishops, leaders of other religions and human rights activists who addressed the Nov. 15 Sadbhawna Melawa (peace rally) called for harmony and peace in India, which they said is being ravaged by divisive forces.

Bombay Catholic Sabha (council) organized the rally at Shivaji Park in downtown Mumbai, a popular venue for political events. Participants in the three-hour rally that began at 3:30 p.m. protested religion-linked violence, bomb blasts and mob terrorism in the country, and pledged to work for communal harmony and peace.

After leading the opening prayer, Auxiliary Bishop Bosco Penha read out a message from Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay that highlighted the need for fellowship and unity. "India is a great country and there should not be room for terrorism, violence and hatred. God will be with us if we only love our neighbor," the message said.

Bishop Penha now looks after Bombay archdiocese, India's largest diocese in terms of Catholic population, as Cardinal Gracias recuperates from cancer surgery. The archdiocese based in Mumbai has retained the old name of the city, India's commercial capital, 1,410 kilometers southwest of New Delhi.

Reminding participants that they are all God's children, Bishop Penha urged them to join the struggle "to transform society from hate to love, from division to unity, from violence to peace."

Bishop Percival Fernandez, another of the archdiocese's three auxiliaries, told the people hate propaganda feeds terrorism and "should be stopped before it is too late." Citing terrorist attacks in various parts of the country, he said: "Peace, my dear friends, is not absence of war but harmony, justice and love." The biggest problem India faces now, in his view, is the threat to sectarian harmony.

Dolphy D'Souza, who heads Bombay Catholic Sabha, estimated 100,000 people attended the program. Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims joined the mainly Catholic crowd to pray for peace and pledge to "build bridges of love and understanding," he told UCA News on Nov. 16.

The lay leader described the gathering as "a rainbow of all faiths, castes, creeds, organizations and common citizens" that has kindled hope amid "dark clouds" of divisive politics. He told the rally recent attacks on churches and Christians, especially in the eastern state of Orissa, have upset all Christians in the country.

Speakers from other religions also saw the rally as an auspicious sign and said they hoped the momentum for peace would continue.

Muslim academician Mehmud-ur Rehman remarked that such a huge gathering signaled the triumph of love over hate. "If each one here could become an ambassador of peace, we can overcome divisive forces in the country," the former university vice chancellor asserted.

Sikh leader Surjan Singh Ahuja called the rally "a good beginning to spread the message that violence and hatred have no place in any religion."

Buddhist monk Venerable Bante Ayupal called for a federation of religions to fight discrimination and violence.

Hindu leader G.K. Bhanji commented that he knew of no other meeting at the park that did not discuss politics or a political agenda. Rather, people craving peace had gathered there, he said.

Teesta Setalvad, secretary of Mumbai-based Citizens for Justice and Peace, condemned sectarian violence as a cancer weakening the country's democracy: "Violence against any minority has to be treated as violence against humanity. This can only be done when the rule of law is enforced properly."

Obviously the terrorist attacks were planned for months in advance but the first word that came to mind as I read this was "spiritual warfare".

There is a tremendous need for organized, prolonged, intercessory prayer to address the spiritual power behind the many and complex historical and cultural sources of this violence.

Pray for the peace of India.

Reaching Inactive Catholics

For those of you interested in evangelization, I'd like to recommend this upcoming on-line offering by the Paulist National Evangelistic Association.

Keys to Reaching Inactive Catholics (January 2009)

Item 8145 The Paulist Evangelization Training Institute (PETI) will offer its online course Keys to Reaching Inactive Catholics from January 19 to February 29, 2009. Over the six-week course, John and Therese Boucher will discuss ways to reach today's inactive, marginal and unchurched Catholics. They will explore six keys for developing a new model of everyday missionary outreach that goes beyond programs and relies on God's presence in each person's journey of faith

I know the Bouchers and they are the real deal - dedicated, creative, effective, experienced evangelists. This won't just be about getting bodies back in the pews - it will be about calling Catholic to intentional discipleship in the midst of the Church. John is Director of the Office of Parish Life and Evangelization Ministry for the Diocese of Trenton. Therese wrote the new Life in the Spirit seminar manual.

This is especially timely because if you register by December 19, the course is half-price. A mere 75 samolians.
Check it out!

Monday, December 1, 2008


I'm not ignoring y'all and I do have a number of things to blog but first i have to write a book proposal.

It's simple. All I have to do is write a 100 -125 page book summing up the most important stuff we've learned over the past 11 1/2 years and the implications for pastoral ministry and leadership at all levels, the new evangelization, the formation of the laity, the discernment of charisms and vocations, and the fulfillment of the Church's secular mission to heal and transform the culture. No worries.

That's one of the main reasons that I am going to be home a good deal more over the next six months. That and re-writing interviewer training, revising Making Disciples yet again, and developing a graduate level course on the theology of the laity for Sacred Heart Seminary starting the day after Memorial Day.

Don't worry. The tempter will tempt me and I will blog. Always more fun than working!

But I could really use your prayers for the book. I am a slow and tortured writer - and even though I will be drawing upon the writing charism of my old friend, Mark Shea to help break my writer's block, it's still going to take a lot of focused effort.

Focus? What's that? Its much less demanding to run in panicked circles!

The Sky is Falling

The Charlie Chaplain of the cat world lives here.

I let Pippin, our black and impossibly youthful 17 year old house cat out on the patio to experience snow.

As she tentatively made her first pawprints in the white stuff, a small avalanche dropped from the roof directly on her. In a flash, she was back inside the house and watching the open door apprehensively for any further move by the evil winter gods.

Pippin is not the stuff of which cat superheroes are made.