Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pope's Prayer Intention for May

The Holy Father's general prayer intention for May is "that the laity and the Christian communities may be responsible promoters of priestly and religious vocations." 

Priestly and religious vocations will be plentiful in communities that take discipleship seriously, don't have a "don't ask, don't tell" religious culture, and that promote, model, and support achievement in their members.  

May the laity and the Christian communities be promoters of intentional, faithful discipleship, so that we may likewise be successful and effective promoters of priestly and religious vocations. 

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Happy St. Catherine's Feast Day from Cicely, Alaska

Happy St. Catherine's Feast Day from Alaska!

Fr. Mike is in Washington, D.C. doing deeply Dominican things in Dominican ways: such as making a presentation about our work at the Dominican House of Studies this evening.

While I am doing quirky Alaskan things.

Yesterday, my sister and I drove up to Talkeetna, one of the older mining towns about 170 miles north to see Mt. McKinley.

I had espresso in Wasilla (yes, that Wasilla) and I have the picture to prove it. I saw magnificent mountains and moose and heard many stories.

It all kept reminding me of a show that was filmed in the Seattle (in Roslyn) area in the 80's: Northern Exposure:

Talkeetna is the real Cicely, Alaska.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

An Interesting Read

I've just started a book that looks very interesting. "The New Evangelization: Overcoming the Obstacles," is edited by Fr. Steven Boguslawski, OP, and Ralph Martin, and published by Paulist Press. I've had the pleasure of meeting both of these gentlemen: Fr. Stephen is president of the Pontifical Faculty at the Dominican House of Studies, where I will be speaking tomorrow night. He's also the executive director of the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, DC. He made a presentation at our Provincial Council in Oakland last year, telling us about the work of the JPII Center and the Dominican Friars' involvement in it.

Ralph Martin is president of Renewal Ministries, as well as a faculty member and director of Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit, where Sherry has spoken and where she and Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP, the other co-founder of the Catherine of Siena Institute, will be teaching a graduate course on the theology of the laity at the end of May and beginning of June. He has come out to Colorado Springs to talk to Sherry and me about the work he's involved in, as well as to find out about us.

As I mentioned, I just started reading the book, which is a series of brief articles, some of which have responses from "practitioners," i.e., people involved in full-time ministry in Catholic parishes. I began in the middle, with an article by Fr. Robert Rivers, CSP, a Paulist who has published a book, "From Maintenance to Mission." His article, with the same title, speaks of three strategies for transforming parishes into centers of the New Evangelization: promoting discipleship, becoming more welcoming and inviting, and fostering a more collaborative style of ministry.

I'd like to share a few short quotes from Fr. Rivers. "
A disciple is someone who, first of all, is in relationship with the person of Christ. A personal relationship with Christ is the good soil upon growth in knowledge of the content of the faith can take place... We are following Christ through the various stages of our life experience. This way of thinking of ourselves as baptized Christians can help us overcome a major obstacle to Catholic evangelization: inactive Catholics and people with no church family have the perception that Catholics have a religion but not a spirituality. They see that Catholics have priests, laws, structures, institutions, sacraments, and rituals, but where is the spirituality? Where is the personal relationship?" (p. 92)
My only quibble with Fr. Rivers on this point is that he refers to discipleship as a metaphor, rather than what it is, a lived reality, a call - a requirement for being called a Christian.

When Fr. Rivers speaks about our parishes being more welcoming, he doesn't just mean that we have ushers and welcoming committees or hospitality greeters. "Welcoming is about becoming, first all (sic), more inclusive, more accepting of people, no matter their color, race, ethnic origin, language, social status, or sexual orientation." In other words, we need to live up to our name and truly be universal. It is too easy for our parishes to be segregated according to race, economic status, language, and, in some cases, even sexual orientation. In my travels around the country I have had the opportunity to walk into a variety of parishes. I have heard parishioners confide in me that they're worried about "their parish" being overrun by "them." Fr. Rivers points out that so often our parishes organize themselves along these inclusion/exclusion categories, and then work to meet the needs of the "membership."

The goal of becoming more welcoming/inclusive is dependent upon us becoming disciples. The relationship and union with Jesus overcomes all of the other barriers we so often set up. This is why Paul could claim that in Christ, there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.

Finally, the last strategy Fr. Rivers mentions is a collaborative style of ministry. Again, this goal is dependent upon developing a culture of discipleship. "When a parish knows itself as a community of disciples and all its members have gifts to share, then those members are willing to take responsibility for the identity, character, and direction of parish life. And this includes evangelization." p. 95 In fact, I would suggest that it not only includes evangelization, it would be centered on evangelization. Fr. Rivers would agree, I believe, because he calls evangelization the "one thing" that matters most to the Lord, because everything else depends upon it. In fact, I would emphasize evangelization in this strategy, because otherwise, our tendency is to focus on ourselves - and worry about collaboration in regard to liturgy, parish education and social programs, and the like. Evangelization is not just one menu option among many; it's the appetizer (as we proclaim the basic message of the Gospel), the main course (as we catechize those who have "repented and believed in the Gospel," and it's the hunger that brings us to the Eucharistic table.

Monday, April 27, 2009

April in Paris. Not.

The weather gremlins knew that I was going on a trip cause it snowed - again - last night. And I found myself sweeping great gobs of wet snow off the car at 4:30 am.

So I could go to Alaska.

I dream of April in Paris. And I get Winnipeg in January.

Now that I have gotten that Dominican grumble out of my system, I should note that it is supposed to be sunny and beautiful the rest of the week in Colorado.

Not in Anchorage however. They call this time of year "break-up". The time when all the garbage buried under the snow comes to the surface. Much of it animal produced, carbon-based, and fragrant..

And I have discovered that in this new era of flight, no food is served on the 6 hour flight to Anchorage. Unless you are in first class and I'm not. My, oh my, am I gritchy this morning.

I guess I'm not feeling the glamour of the mendicant life this morning.

I would like to ask you kind people for prayers for my sister Becky, with whom I will be staying. Beck has been diagnosed with a serious form of cancer and she, her husband, and all of us need all the grace we can get!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Inner OP Teddy Bear

Doesn't remind me of anyone I know . . .

H/T: American Papist

But it does remind me of a story that I heard Fr. Benedict Groeschel tell, of his quest to find a stupid Jesuit. And how delighted he was when he actually encountered one: a humble, holy, but undeniably dim member of the Society of Jesus. "He was a real find."

Dominicans are not noted for their whimsical, bear-of-little-brain cuddliness - but some (not all!) occasionally show their teddy bear side. It is usually found pinned under the weight of the gigantic OP brain.

Which is why I've noticed that Dominicans tend to get shorter as they get older. The burden of hauling around a brain full of St, Thomas.

You start out at 5'10" 3/4" and before you know it, you are 5'9" if you are lucky . . .

Friday, April 24, 2009

Online Discernment

Awhile back I came across , self-described as "a Religious Careers Placement Service" with one mission: "to assist those who are investigating a call to religious life in the Roman Catholic Church." They schedule and facilitate "retreats for those in the discernment process, with diocesan and monastic" (perhaps they mean religious, I don't know) "vocational directors in the area of their choice."

Part of their service includes a free online Ministry Potential Discerner, consisting of a 39-question survey meant to help a man or woman get an idea of their potential as a priest (for men) or religious (for men and women). The results are scored and you receive an e-mail with your score and an indication of whether you are a likely candidate for priesthood or religious life, or not.

According to their website, the Self-Assessment Survey "is designed to 'sow the seeds' of spiritual enlightenment for the future harvest of potential priestly and religious vocations as well as lay leadership within the Church. It can be used by dioceses, religious communities and other vocational organizations to help identify candidates who have an expressed interest in and aptitude for the priesthood, sisterhood or brotherhood....The MPD Self-Assessment Survey has been tested for its efficiency and reliability and is recognized as a powerful instrument of discernment among Church leaders throughout the United States. This discernment tool is not a psychological test. Rather it is a testing instrument based on the foundational principles of spiritual theology. The survey is primarily designed to be used as a mass testing instrument in schools, CCD programs and youth groups."

The survey was developed in the mid-1980's at Cardinal Muench Seminary in Fargo, N.D., and has been used by many vocation directors and religious communities (including the Western Dominican Province) since. It has been used in elementary and high schools, as well as at National Youth Conventions, where it was given to literally thousands of young people.

The Church in the U.S. has embraced this survey, including the vocation committee of the USCCB in its document Future Full of Hope. It is a simple tool to use by anyone with access to a computer.

The survey is administered online and is appropriate for students in junior high or high school, as well as those of college age or beyond, and can be completed in less than 20 minutes... individual and group results are tabulated and can be sent to vocational contacts. This allows vocation directors, youth ministers, pastors, pastoral associates or others to personally contact the students to extend an explicit invitation for the young person to seriously consider a vocation. Once identified as potential candidates for ministry, young men and women must be explicitly encouraged, invited and asked to consider a life dedicated to God.
This is a laudable attempt to help individuals self-identify a potential cal to a lifestyle vocation, and, like the Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory, is not discernment itself, but intended as a first-step, perhaps a tool to raise an awareness of a potential suitability to a vowed life of ministry within the Church.

I gave the website to a young single man who went through a conversion about four years ago. Many people have asked him, "are you going to become a priest?" because he goes to daily Mass, prays daily, talks about God readily, reads the Scriptures and the catechism, doesn't swear, drink or smoke, and lives chastely. Before I give you his reaction to the survey, I'll admit I went and took it, to see what kinds of questions they were asking. I'll also admit I scored high enough that I received information and phone calls from a variety of vocations directors (but no Dominican Provinces!). I do not want to encourage anyone to take the survey just to see the questions, and possibly lead vocations directors astray. Nor do I want to give away the survey, so I'll give you a sample of the statements. Respondents are asked to respond to each one Strongly Agree, Agree, Weakly Agree, Weakly Disagree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree.

I feel small coins, like pennies, nickels and dimes, are not worth much and sometime just throw them away.

I believe its ok to take drugs or alcohol to get high.

I have a special concern for people with sickness, handicaps, or problems.

I am happy about coming from a family that cares about our Catholic faith and beliefs.

I feel strongly that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, and makes a big difference in the way I live.

I do want to find out if God has given me special talents and gifts to be of service to others.

My friends feel that I am generally a happy, positive person.

When the 37-year old fellow I mentioned above took the survey, he score quite high. He's definitely an intentional disciple whose life has been changed by God's love and grace in a very powerful way, and against all odds. He has a high school diploma, and told me he read the first book in his life after his conversion. While with God, all things are possible, priesthood, with its academic demands, seems out of the question. He could possibly have a call to a religious community that could use his charisms and skills. However, what I found stunning was his response to the survey. After taking it, he asked me, "Fr. Mike, how is this going to help me discern a call to priesthood or religious life. Shouldn't every disciple of Jesus score high on this survey?"

He may not have much education, but he has a Godly wisdom. I couldn't agree with him more.

It seems that we have a hard time distinguishing between ordinary discipleship and a call to a particular lifestyle vocation. It's as though we say, "Hmmm. You talk about God, go to church regularly, read the Bible, have high moral standards.... You're not like the rest of us. YOU must have a vocation to priesthood or religious life." Part of the problem with that is it maintains the sense that nominal, cultural Catholicism is normative, rather than intentional discipleship.

That being said, if the ministry potential survey helps identify disciples, that would be a start in the right direction. My question is, what kinds of questions should be asked to help young men identify a possible call to priesthood? What kinds of questions would be suitable for those called to religious life? I think these would be different questions. And our questions will also say a lot about the kind of priests we are looking for.

I would like to think of this some more, and possibly develop some statements that I would like to see on such a survey. I'd be interested in your suggestions as well.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dog Paddling As Fast as We Can

Just a brief note: We haven't drowned. Exactly.

But we are dog-paddling as fast as we can.

Fr. Mike and I are in Colorado Springs and both of us are working like little (or not so little) beavers. Me on this fascinating but simultaneously overwhelming course in the Theology of the Laity for Sacred Heart Seminary and Fr. Mike on many things, including his presentation: Lay Apostles: A Fulfillment of the Priestly Office which he will give next week at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC on the feast of our patroness, St. Catherine of Siena.

And I leave early on Monday for a week in Anchorage: to spend time with my sister and to offer a Called & Gifted there.

I have to say: the history of work and spirituality of the laity is simply fascinating and surprising and very critical to understand because the theology of the laity and the Church's social teaching emerged together directly out of that history. I'll be covering the period from 1497 when the Oratory of Divine Love emerged out of the work of St. Catherine of Genoa. The Oratory was the practical beginning of the Catholic Reformation. Through the Second Vatican Council.

There is a terrific need for a scholarly, accessible, one volume history of the laity. We do not understand what God has done and is doing through the 98.7% of us who are not priests or religious, And to the extent we don't understand that, we don't understand the Church herself and part of the priestly office remain hidden and unfocused.

And now back to that dog paddling . . .

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ego and Acts

The men's group I'm a part of in Tucson met last night to begin discussion of a book we're reading by South African Dominican Albert Nolan, OP. I had the good fortune to meet Fr. Albert back in 1991 when I spent a summer with the Dominicans in South Africa. He had been an outspoken critic of apartheid, and I was deeply impressed by both his humility and his passion for people. His book, "Jesus Today: A Spirituality of Radical Freedom" begins by looking at some of the signs of our times, one of which is the culture of individualism that has grown in the West since the Enlightenment. Here are a few choice quotes, along with a reflection on the reading from the Acts of the Apostles from today's Mass.
In this individualistic culture, therapists and counselors have sen their task as that of helping the individual to develop his or her ego in order to reach the great Western ideal of self-fulfillment. Today psychologists are beginning to realize that this leads only to self-centeredness and narcissism. ... More and more people who have been reflecting on their own experience of spirituality are discovering what the mystics have always said, that we must undertake the painful and difficult task of moving beyond our self-centeredness, our individualism, and our egos. Programs that ignore this truth and offer a self-fulfillment or follow-your-bliss kind of spirituality are totally misleading.
While "ego" is used in a variety of ways by different schools of psychology, in general, we can define the ego in a way that makes sense in terms of faith. Nolan says the ego refers to "the self-centered self, the 'I' that imagines itself to be the center of the world, judging everything in terms of how it affects 'me' and only 'me.' The ego is the selfish self." This sounds very much to me like a description of the essence of fallen humanity.
This ego is possessive...The unbridled ego wants to conrol its world: people, events, and nature. Hence the obsession with power and authority. The ego compares itself with others and competes for praise and privilege, for love, for power and money. This is what makes us envious, jealous, and resentful of others. It is also what makes us hypocrites, two-faced, and dishonest.
This description of individualism and the unrepentant ego sounds so different from the experience of the early Church in today's readings from the Acts of the Apostles!
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. Thus Joseph, also named by the apostles Barnabas (which is translated "son of encouragement"), a Levite, a Cypriot by birth, sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the apostles.
It is tempting to read this as an idealized report or simply wishful thinking of how things should be in the Christian community, but when we encounter groups of intentional disciples, we see glimpses of this passage being lived today.

Discipleship, as St. Paul observed, overcomes barriers that our ego normally maintains. Paul saw that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Gal. 3:28. When our lives are given over to Christ in love, in response to his great work of redemption on the cross and because of the Spirit dwelling within us, we find that the barriers we normally establish between us based on differences in ethnicity, intelligence, skills, personality, experience, gender, and economic status become less and less significant. What truly matters is our mutual love for Christ and the experience of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Evidently, Jesus had to really struggle with the egos of his apostles, who so often wanted to be like the leaders of their age who "lorded it over" their fellow men and women.

Perhaps as we go about our day, we might watch for the clues that reveal our unbridled ego: the moments in which we get angry at someone else, or feel jealousy, or resent the success of another, or get frustrated when our expectations aren't met. It might be dismaying to begin to realize how highly we regard ourselves, but that's also the first step in humility, too.

St. Louis' New Archbishop

It was announced this morning that Bishop Robert Carlson of Saginaw, MI, will be the new archbishop of St. Louis. As I looked at his C.V., I was really excited to see that he is a Board Member of The International Dominican Foundation. I suppose he has a soft spot in his heart for the OPs, which may bode well for my brothers in St. Louis. Also, and this really excited me, he is a Board Member of Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, where Sherry has given several presentations and where she and Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP, will be teaching a graduate course on the theology of the laity this summer. Sherry's blogged on the amazing program in the New Evangelization that they have there.

Finally, Archbishop-elect Carlson is the Co-Chair of the Mission Advisory Committee, Institute for Priestly Formation, Omaha, NE, which is doing some great work with seminarians and priests, and is interested in some of the work that we are doing at the Institute. We have already had some interest in the Institute's work from folks in the archdiocese. Perhaps that may even increase under the new archbishop. He certainly has an interest in clerical vocations. Joe Waters, one of our teachers currently finishing an M.Div. in Washington, DC, told me this morning that when bishop Carlson first went to Saginaw, they had not had a new seminarian in four years, so bishop Carlson became his own vocation director. They now have twenty young men in the seminary.

Just looking at his activity as part of the USCCB for the last quarter century, you can see a pattern of interest in youth and young adults, evangelization, the laity, and vocations:

Past Chair, National Foundation for Catholic Youth Ministry
Past Chair, USCCB Committee on Vocations
Past Chair, USCCB Committee on Priestly Life and Ministry
Past Chair, USCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Youth
Past Chair, USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal
Former Member, USCCB Committee on Laity
Former Member, USCCB Committee on Pastoral Practice
Former Episcopal Moderator, USCCB Committee on Scouting
Former Episcopal Moderator, Serra International - USA/Canada Council
Past President, National Evangelization Team (NET)

May God bless him, his ministry, and the people of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

April Dreaming

Fr. Mike surprised me during a break at last weekend's Called & Gifted in Corpus Christ when he showed a slide show of some pictures he had taken of my garden at its height of color last summer. They looked better than the pictures I was able to take myself - especially by the time they were projected on the large screen where the garden just seemed to glow! I can see that very early in the morning may be the best time.

Anyway, as I returned to a lawn that is suddenly greening and bulbs (and weeds!) bursting forth, it reminds me of what I have to look forward to . . .

Click on the picture to get the full effect.

Upcoming Event in Washington, DC

Attention Washington, DC area readers!

Please join us for Lay Apostles: A Fulfillment of the Priestly Office, a talk by Father Michael Fones, OP on April 29, 2009, the feast of St Catherine of Siena, at 7 PM in Aquin Hall at the Dominican House of Studies, 487 Michigan Avenue, N.E., Washington, DC 20017 (Red Line: Brookland/CUA). 

A description of the talk: 

The Church exists to evangelize; yet few Catholics are prepared to share in that mission.  Not only do Catholics themselves need to be evangelized, few have access to that formation that Pope John Paul called, not a privilege of a few, "but a right and duty of all.” (The Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful, 63)  While each individual has the responsibility for their own formation, "priests and candidates for Orders [are] to be prepared carefully so that they are ready to foster the vocation and mission of the lay faithful." (The Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful, 61) This is a vital aspect of the priestly office – an exercise of the kingly power of Christ and pastoral governance – that is often ignored.  In this presentation, Fr. Michael Fones, OP, of the Western Province will examine the complementary roles of the clergy and laity in the Church’s mission, the spiritual gifts (charisms) that empower thoseroles, and the possibility of re-imagining the parish as a house of formation for the laity.

Please contact me at for more information. 

Sun, Surf and Sand

Sherry and I are leaving Corpus Christi, TX, after a wonderful Called & Gifted workshop, which included another great dinner at Hester's Cafe. About 200 people attended the workshop at the cathedral, and were very enthusiastic. Last night, over a wonderful meal that included a blackened amberjack salad, delicious lump meat crabcakes, and the best latte I've ever had (courtesy of Hester herself), I had a long conversation with Gerardo Hernandez, the energy behind The Encounter, a ten-week kerygmatic workshop that includes a mid-course weekend retreat that focuses on the Holy Spirit. Gerardo is an incredibly energetic, scripture-quoting lay evangelist who has seen the power of God at work through the over 9,000 folks (mostly, though not exclusively Catholic) who have gone through the process in the last eight years.

If you'd like to learn more about The Encounter and Body of Christ Ministry, which Gerardo leads, you can locate it here. And you should check out Hester's site, just to get your mouth watering...

Oh, and about the title of this blog... This morning I had the opportunity to gambol in the waves of the Gulf of Mexico. Tonight I'll be in the remnants of a snowstorm in Colorado Springs. What a life!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rain, Snow or 20 Below!

What is it about attempting to fly to Corpus Christi that produces snowstorms in Colorado Springs? And i just love packing for snow and 80 degrees in the same small bag!

Three weeks ago, I went to CC and a blizzard descended here. This weekend, they are predicting another gob of
heavy, spring snow to hit us tonight. The storm is supposed to last all day Friday and Fr. Mike and I were due to fly out early Friday morning.

So we've had to move our flight up to later this afternoon which means we'll be fighting the mobs in the Houston airport tonight - if we aren't grounded by thunderstorms. But at least we'll be in Texas and we'll know that we will make it in time for the workshop which begins at 7 pm Friday night

If you are in the CC area, come and join the fun!

Update from Houston:

We were held on the tarmac in Colorado Springs for about a hour due to wind sheer conditions and missed our connecting flight to Corpus Christ by 2 minutes. So we're spending tonight in Houston and will brave the hour flight to Corpus in the morning, At least we are in Texas!

St. Paul and Evangelization Is On the Air This Weekend

There was so much interest in the blogosphere in Archbishop Chaput's speech at Sacred Heart Seminary at the Conference on St. Paul and the New Evangelization on March 21 (and because I also spoke on Evangelizing Post-Modern Catholics), I thought I'd let our readers know that both talks were recorded and will be aired on Ave Maria Radio this weekend.

Sacred Heart sent out this notice:

You are invited to listen to a broadcast of the keynote speaker and main speaker from Sacred Heart Major Seminary's conference, Lessons From St. Paul for the New Evangelization, that was conducted on Saturday, March 21, 2009. Please tune in on Sunday, April 19 at 2:00 p.m. to Ave Maria Radio, 990AM in Metro Detroit area, 1440AM in the Saginaw area, 98.5FM in Naples, FL area, and of course on Their day by day broadcasting schedule is here.

You will have an encore opportunity to hear Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Denver, present Evangelizing Our Culture: Lessons From St. Paul. Also, Sherry Weddell, Co-founder and Director of Siena Institute in Colarado, will present Do Ask, Do Tell: Evangelizing Postmodern Catholics.

Please tune in.

I'm sure that Archbishop Chaput's talk (which was shorter) will be broadcast first.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

post-modern Britain

Rob Gifford of NPR is retracing the Canterbury pilgrimage route and looking at modern day Britain on All Things Considered all week. Of particular interest is today's story on Christianity in contemporary Britain. This is "must hear" for anyone interested evangelization in a post-modern context, world Christianity, and the decline of Christianity in Europe. Listen here. 

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It Rained in Tucson During the Vigil

But it could have been worse.

hat tip: Mark Cesnik

Mary MacKillop: Australia's First Saint?

For those wandering over from Mark's blog, here's the scoop on the wonderful Mary MacKillop, who we often talk about in the course of Called & Gifted workshops.

Number 400: Thanks Be to God!

Sorry about not blogging. I've been working furiously on the upcoming Sacred Heart seminary course on the Theology of the Laity. What' I'm learning is simply fascinating but I've got to get it written up for the course before I begin to blog on it.

Trust me. ID readers will be hearing about it for years to come!

And then, the road trips are beginning again. This weekend, Fr. Mike and I are headed to Corpus Christi for our first Called & Gifted workshop at the cathedral. There is a good size crowd already registered (160) but there is always room for you and your friends.

We'd love to see you there!

We Just got a couple interesting e-mails about the possibility of bringing both Called & Gifted and Making Disciples to Hong Kong in the next year or two. Time to brush up on my Cantonese . . .

And I wanted to notice a big milestone that is coming up for us: I just realized that the May 29 - 30 Called & Gifted in Bloomingdale, IL will be our 400th live workshop since the fall of 1993 when I taught (with my friends Mark Shea and Wendy Gahan) the very first 10 week discernment process as a mostly clueless volunteer in Seattle.

15 1/2 years, a couple million air miles, 50,000 inventories, 5 continents, all made possible by the provision of God and the charisms, generosity, and collaboration of nearly 100 Called & Gifted teachers.

Praise God. And a huge thank-you to all of you who have prayed for us, worked with us, participated in the
C & G discernment process and/or championed the vision over the years.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

White April Showers

The forecast says: "snow likely late in the morning. Accumulation of 1 inch." Right.

It's been snowing heavily for over 4 hours now and it's a winter wonderland out there. 3-4 inches easy.
The trees are looking heavily laden and I'm wondering if I need to go out and knock some of it off before their branches break.

In theory, this could turn to rain at some point. Cold driving rain. This is definitely an indoor Easter.

White April showers bring May flowers . . .

Update at noon:.

If I said that snowflakes the size of golf balls were coming down, I'd be exaggerating.

A bit.

The weather gurus insist on calling it "rain".

Don't try to fool a native of Latte Land. Seattlites know rain when we see it.


Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

We know that round here cause is is snowing. Again.

My snowiest Rocky Mountain Easter so far was spent in Westcliffe where I attended the Easter Vigil in a tiny Victorian church in a blizzard. It was much easier to accept there, 8,000 feet high at the foot of the towering Sangre de Christo mountains.

But the fact that I'm a bit put out that it is snowing again in mid-April shows you that I haven't fully adjusted yet.

Whatever the Easter weather where you are, I think you'll find this post of Peter Nixon's over at Commonweal a nourishing meditation on this day of ultimate hope. Peter quotes Fr. Henri Nouwen:

One reason is that the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the basis for the Christian attitude toward the human body. If the body is only a prison room from which we must be freed, then care for the hungry, the sick, the dying, prisoners, and refugees can no longer be seen as care for the body that is called to share in the glory of God.

The bodily resurrection of Jesus is the most profound basis for the sacredness of all human flesh and the most compelling argument for reverencing all forms of life. For Jean Vanier at L’Arche, the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the most precious of Christian truths. I can see why. Daily physical contact with severely handicapped people has put him in touch with the mystery of the human body. Their often very distorted bodies are not simply temporary dwelling places of an eternal spirit, but the sacred ground of the resurrected life. Washing, dressing, feeding and supporting handicapped people is a holy vocation when we know that their bodies, like ours, are destined to share in the resurrection of Jesus.

This quote is taken from Seeds of Hope: A Henri Nouwen Reader.

Not long ago, I was speaking to a very theologically literate parish leader who knew and believed it all: Christ's Incarnation, Life, Death, and Resurrection. As true history. But what startled me was that he found it hard to understand that not only does the keryma include these facts but also the proclamation that Christ did all this for our sake and a call for us to respond.

For him, it was not yet the truth of the Exultet sung at the Easter Vigil last night: Here sung mvoingly by Fr. Tim Hepburn of Atlanta

The passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ as center of human and cosmic history; the entire basis for all our earthly and eternal hopes.

"What good would life have been for us if Christ had not been our redeemer?"

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Behold the Wood

From the moment of the fall, the movement of history was directed to this moment on Golgotha.
In the very next chapter of Genesis after the fall, Cain and Abel are already offering sacrifices, and we hear Cain’s is not acceptable to God, while Abel’s is.
And we know what happens to poor Abel; he becomes the first of many who foreshadow Jesus.
The blood of animals, the many sacrifices prescribed by the Law, were all unacceptable to the Father, simply because they were not accompanied by obedience and love in all things. Sin precluded it.

The psalmist knew the futility of animal sacrifices when he sang, “sacrifice and offering you do not want; but ears open to obedience you gave me. Holocausts and sin-offerings you do not require; so I said, "Here I am; your commands for me are written in the scroll. To do your will is my delight; my God, your law is in my heart!"”

And so God humbles himself to take on our humanity and to do precisely what the psalmist describes.
It is because of Jesus’ obedience to the Father – his sinlessness - that he is crucified.
The reason is found on the lips of the wicked in the book of Wisdom,
Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; …He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us…With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.
The cross is our idea, which God foreknew from all eternity, and chose to use as the means of our salvation.
Jesus’ crucifixion is the will of the Father in that the Father allows it.
God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil.
He permits it, because he respects our freedom and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it (CCC no. 311).
So everything in God’s self-revelation in the Scriptures is a preparation for this greatest of all mysteries.

The Father has accepted Jesus’ obedience on our behalf. “We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all” as Isaiah foretold.
Jesus has taken all our sins upon himself and now God attributes Jesus’ righteousness, Jesus’ obedience, to us, who believe in him.

We venerated last night the rough wood of a cross as the means of our salvation.
Jesus chose to do His Father’s will in all things, and the cross was our response.
I pray we did not approach it as though it were simply a reminder of what Jesus has done for us.
We ought to embrace it, kiss it, only if we are willing to make the Father’s will our own; only if we are willing to take up the cross of obedience and are willing to accept whatever happens as a consequence.
But this we might do joyfully, for the blood-soaked cross is also the tree of life on which Jesus conquered sin and death.
And at every Mass we children of Adam and Eve taste the fruit of that holy tree.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Passion Sung by Fairuz

This is haunting. Fairuz, the great Lebanese singer, singing the Passion in Arabic. Stunning.

Greek Orthodox Good Friday Hymns

A Byzantine choir singing Greek Orthodox Good Friday hymns:

Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit

It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.' When he had said this, he breathed his last." (Luke 23:44-46)
In an unearthly midday darkness the Light is not overcome. Rather, that which has separated God from his people is overcome. The temple curtain is rent top to bottom, that inner curtain, 60 feet long and 30 feet wide, thick as a man's palm, that separates the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place.

It was shielding sinful humanity from a holy God. Whoever entered into the Holy of Holies was entering the very presence of God, and anyone except the high priest who entered the Holy of Holies would die. Even the high priest, God’s chosen mediator with His people, could only pass through the veil and enter this sacred dwelling once a year, on the Day of Atonement. On that day, the sins of the people would be placed on the head of a goat that would be sent into the wilderness to die, and with it, the sins of the people.

As Jesus’ life comes to an end, a new life is made possible for us. Jesus’ body, broken for us, opens the way for us to come to God. God’s redemptive plan is now complete. The age of animal offerings is over. The ultimate offering has been sacrificed.
The letter to the Hebrews encourages us.
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body …let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)
But let us beware. Through our elaborate churches with off-limit sanctuaries, and beautiful, elaborate liturgies we may well be sewing the temple veil together. A God so humble, so self-giving, so personal, may terrify us more than a far-off inaccessible God. A God safely hidden from us behind arcane language and exalted titles may have the power to impress our minds, but not move our hearts.

The Son of God dies on a cross, covered in dirt, sweat, blood and spit. Jesus reveals a God who dares insert Himself into our daily lives, who has torn the curtain that separated us so that our stony hearts might be torn open by His love so deep, so self-effacing, so intimate. We can easily miss the irony of addressing God as "almighty" while we stand beneath a crucifix.

And so Jesus, with his last breath, prays a final prayer with calm peace because he knows the Father, and knows that there is life with the Father beyond death. He quotes the fifth verse of David’s 31st psalm. “Into your hands I commit my spirit; you will redeem me, Lord, faithful God.” As a devout Jew he has prayed these words as part of an evening prayer all his life. Now at the end of his life he prays them one last time - and lets go of human life in order to embrace Life in the presence of the Father.

Jesus, thank you for your mercy. Thank you for nailing my sins to the cross. Thank you for being obedient for me, though I so often continue to live in disobedience. May I seek you alone, desire you alone, serve you alone, and love you above all things in this life. Throughout each day, may I be able to say with peace, “into your hands I commit my spirit.”

The Shroud of Turin: New Evidence

On the Discovery channel on Easter Sunday comes this most intriguing film about the new evidence for the
authenticity of the Shroud of Turin.

It looks good!

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Today is my father’s 87th birthday, and my mother’s is just a few months away.
They’re not just old, they’re “old school”, you might say.
It was important to them that my older brother and sister and I learned our manners.
We were taught to speak respectfully. And I was obedient.
If I asked for a cookie, I’d have to make sure I used the “magic word,” please.
I was taught to invite a guest at the door to please come in.
The word “please,” is derived from the Latin placere, “to be acceptable, be approved, be liked.”
“Please, come in” is short for, “if it please you, come in.”
You might have noticed the word is lacking in tonight’s readings.
Not one “please, ” or “if it please you,” or an “if you don’t mind,” in the midst of the instructions.
On the tenth of this month every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb…The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish…it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight… This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate … as a perpetual institution.
St. Paul’s no better. What Jesus said at the last supper was handed on to him and he has passed it on to the Corinthians, “Do this in memory of me.”
And Jesus concludes his foot washing with a command: “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

The issue is not one of rudeness, or incivility, but of a particular type of relationship that is behind the language.
We hear that relationship expressed by the centurion in the 8th chapter of Matthew, who asks Jesus to cure his sick servant with a word of command.
This kind of authority is something the centurion recognizes: “I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come here,' and he comes; and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it.” Mt8:9
You don’t say “please” to a servant, or a slave.

Jesus absolutely startles his disciples by washing their feet – by doing something that a Jew would not compel his own slave to do, it would be so demeaning.
But we might make the same mistake that Peter made, and think that Jesus is indicating that he is Peter’s servant – which is why Peter protests so much.
The master washes the feet of his servants, indicating that he, too, is a servant.
This is the point Jesus makes throughout the Gospel of John.
At the well outside the Samaritan village of Sychar he tells his disciples, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work.” Jn 4:34
In a dispute with the Jews after the incident with the woman caught in adultery, Jesus tells them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me.” Jn 8:28
And later in this meal, Jesus will tell his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments… just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love.” Jn 14:15, 15:10
Over and over again, Jesus emphasizes his complete obedience to his Father: like a servant, he has embraced his Father’s will and made it his own.
As a son, he has done so out of love.

Last Sunday we heard that, “though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness...
The whole point of the incarnation is for Jesus, in his humanity, to break the cycle of willful pride that has afflicted each human being since Adam and Eve asserted their will against God.
He, the Son, does this by taking on the form of a slave, a servant; the lowest human role imaginable.
Jesus is a servant – but not of Peter, nor you or me.
The Son takes on the form of a servant to his own Father, doing the will of his Father in all things, just as an obedient, faithful servant does the will of his master in all things.
And just as he humbles himself to wash his disciples’ feet, they must humble themselves and wash each others’ feet – not as servants of each other, but as servants of God.

We remind ourselves of this holy servitude each time we pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
And it is no coincidence that we then petition our divine Master for our daily bread; not just the bread that sustains our life from today to tomorrow, but also the bread become his Son’s body.
That new manna sustains us from today until he comes again, and we pass with him through death into an endless tomorrow.

This eucharist, that Jesus handed on to St. Paul through the community of servant-disciples, is the new Passover feast.
But like the first one God established with his chosen people, it is not a mere re-enactment.
For the Jews - including those who gathered with Jesus in the upper room - the Passover celebration allowed each successive generation to participate in that night in which Hebrew slaves prepared to escape from their Egyptian masters.
So, too, every time we eat of the bread and wine become the flesh and blood of Jesus, our Paschal lamb, we participate in his humble death, which makes possible an escape from the pride that masters us.

Everything about this night points to tomorrow.
The humiliating act of washing his disciples’ feet anticipates Jesus’ humiliation upon the cross.
The lamb of God humbly feeds his disciples with his own body and blood which will be offered on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice.
A sacrifice requires giving up something valued for the sake of something else deemed more important.
Jesus sets aside his will for the sake of doing his Father’s will.

And we who have been baptized, who have been washed and anointed by him, share his priesthood.
That means we, too, are to offer sacrifice – and if our priesthood is a sharing in his, then our sacrifice must be the same as his.
We must set aside our will for the sake of doing our Father’s will.
Be aware, my friends, that obedience to our Father has consequences!
Jesus “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”
Just as disobedience is linked to the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, obedience is linked to the cross, the tree of life.
In fact, obedience is the cross we are to take up daily – another thing to do in memory of Jesus.
But when obedience flows from love, as it did in Jesus, then it is “a yoke that is easy, and a burden that is light.”
It is also a sign that we are no longer mere slaves, but sons and daughters in the household of God.

The Vocation Crisis of the 1950's?

And one other thing I came across several times during my research trip to Denver:

Papal descriptions of a "crisis" in priestly vocation before the Second Vatican Council. Honestly, in light of the lamenting I've heard all my Catholic life, it was simply astounding.

But apparently, in the eyes of those living in the 1940's and 50's, they were not enjoying a surplus of priestly vocations - but had already noted a serious and worrying decline.

As I noted in my number crunching blog post back in March,

"In 1965, the priest/Catholic ratio in the US was about 1:777. (Here I'm using the figures from CARA)

To grasp the significance of our US experience, it helps to compare our situation to the situation in global Catholicism around the same time:

In 1970: The global priest/Catholic ratio was 1:1,557, 20.6% of the parishes in the world were without a priest-pastor, and priests made up 0.064% of the Catholic population.

Clearly, our situation was not the norm even then."

In the US, the number of priests continued to rise until 1975. But apparently, the situation before the Vatican council in Europe (about which Pope Pius XII was complaining) and the situation in Latin American (which had always been gravely deficient) were very different,

So it is becoming clear to me that when we insist that the unique American situation in the 1950's was the situation of Catholicism around the world and that the Second Vatican Council was the cause of the global drop in vocations, we are just dead wrong. A true example of American Exceptionalism.

Apparently, the Vatican was deeply worried about a decline in priestly vocations before V2 was a gleam in Pope John XXIII's eye.

I'll keep my eyes peeled for more examples of this - and document them. (I couldn't yesterday because I was under such a time crunch.)

No One Can Be a Genuine Christian Until He or She Thinks of Themselves As An Apostle

Since I couldn't sleep last night, between bouts of Pippin-petting and tending, I was perusing one of the histories of Vatican II that I brought home from Denver yesterday. The goal: to review in detail the discussions of the laity that took place during the Council.

I came across this stunning quote from Cardinal Cento, who was in charge of the Commission for the Lay Apostolate:

When Cento at last had the opportunity to present the schema (the proposed draft of the Decree on the laity) to the conciliar assembly in 1964, he said "it is the heart of this text, and our deepest desire, that all the baptized may become aware that no one can be a genuine Christian until he or she thinks of themselves as an apostle; the manifestation of such an awareness would be the greatest triumph of Vatican Council II." (Relatio super schema de Apostolatu laicorum, Vatican City, 1964, 4.)

If only I had known that back in 1995 when I gave my first presentation - before the Institute, as a still new Catholic and absolute nobody - to the friars of the Western Province. The one where my knees buckled on the way up to the podium.

"I, too, am an apostle in my own right and where is my house of formation?" I asked. "Your parish is my St. Albert's".

Although I knew intellectually that I was simply articulating the Church's clear teaching, I felt almost heretical claiming the title "apostle" out loud. And the intense silence in the room and the wide Dominican eyes looking up at me, told me that they felt the tension and uncertainty too.

The longer I travel around the Catholic world, the more I know that small "c" culture, not theology, not the Tradition, not Scripture, is what really determines how most Catholics live our lives at the parish level - even if that culture unconsciously but directly opposes what the Church explicitly calls every baptized to embrace. The culture we picked up by simply watching what other Catholics - our family, friends, fellow parishioners actually do and say around us. Most of us aren't spiritual geniuses who are able to think of and steadfastly pursue something that no one else around us thinks or talks about or actually does.

If that culture says "Don't ask, don't tell", we probably won't evangelize - though a bevy of Popes say otherwise.

If that culture say, "having a personal relationship with God" is weird and "non-Catholic", an army of spiritual giants and canonized saints will entreat us in vain.

If that culture says that lay Catholics are to be only the passive recipients of the ministry of clergy and religious, the authority of a mere ecumenical council is as nothing.

At the lived level, the real issue, the real barrier for lay Catholics that makes it difficult to grapple with the Church's teaching, is almost never theology. It is almost always about a unique combination of inherited culture, personal disposition, and personal experience.

If you don't address that, theology tends to run off like water off a duck's back.


I was up most of the night with Pippin, the cat. She had suddenly gone downhill just before I left for Kansas City and has stopped eating and drinking and became very lethargic. About 2 am, I realized that her restlessness and inability to sleep anywhere meant that she was in constant pain. So at 5 am, we took her to an emergency animal clinic and had her put to sleep. The clinic staff were very kind as I obviously was distressed.

It's very odd how the presence of such a small (and mostly quiet) animal fills the house - and how you miss it when that presence is no longer there.

Go with God, Pippin. Your sleek blackness was a bright light in our lives.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hi-Ho for Denver

It is a glorious spring day in Colorado and I'm off to the Archdiocese of Denver's theological library to do some research on the emergence of Catholic Action and the debates over the role of the laity at the Second Vatican Council. All for the course in the theology of the laity that Fr. Michael Sweeney and I are teaching at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit right after Memorial Day.

I'm already terribly late in getting my book list and syllabus in - and it doesn't help that my co-teacher is a very busy man and not prone to returning phone calls. (Ah, how many memories of the Institute's early days that brings back. When Fr. Michael's friends would call up and we would assure them that he would get back to them, they would just laugh. It took us a while to figure out why!)

I am finding some fascinating stuff - which will end up in blog posts as well, no doubt.

But now it is time to hit the mountain and mesa strewn road down to Denver (which at a mile high is really pretty low for Colorado. It is a 1,500 feet drop in elevation for me.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It Makes You Wonder

This is short and very cool!

This little video was produced by Life After Sunday, which has produces some very fine small group materials including a series designed for 150,000 new Catholics that are going to join us this Easter.

i've purchased their studies (which you can just download). They are very well organized, solid, and flexible and have that build-Christian-community-and-hang-out-with-a-little-vino-quality that one gets from Communion & Liberation-influenced folks.

God is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith is Changing the World

There's a new book out this week that is going to generate a lot of discussion: God is back: How the Global Revival of Faith is Changing the World.

It is telling that the book was written by two editors of the Economist and was reviewed in the Financial Times.

The thesis of the book can be summed up as "the world is moving in the “American direction, where religion and modernity happily co-exist, rather than in the European direction, where secularisation marginalises religion”.

As the authors put it in a Fox Forum essay this morning:

"The First Amendment introduced something that was new in human history: a political regime that separated church from state and made membership of a religious congregation completely voluntary. This not only institutionalized toleration. It also put competition at the heart of American religion: churches could not rely on government subsidies. They could only survive if they recruited souls. This unleashed a succession of waves of evangelization: churches embraced all the tools of business and popular culture to get their message across to the people. By the mid-19th century America had become the most religious rich country in the world.

Which raises an intriguing possibility: that the reason why religion withered in Europe was not because people lose their appetite for religion as they get more modern but because European churches were entwined with European states. The alliance between the church and the state dulled the church’s competitive instincts: why bother fishing for souls when you could rely on a stipend from the establishment? It also meant that the poor saw the church as an arm of the establishment.

The deeper reason why God is back is that the American religious model is spreading around the world: religious establishments are being weakened and upstart religious groups are using all the tools of modernity, from megachurches to radio and television to spread the world. Pentecostalism is spreading like wildfire around the world, with more than 500 million adherents. Five of the world’s ten biggest megachurches are in South Korea. There is even an upsurge of Evangelical Christianity in Europe."

So competition, not the Holy Spirit, is the key or so say the authors. The spread of the gospel as seen through conservative, capitalist eyes.

I haven't read the book myself. But I have a pretty good grasp of the global spread of evangelicalism over the past 40 years and strongly suspect that some of the major factors in play have eluded the authors. But I do think they have gotten one thing right. Christianity needs a challenge to be at her most shining, holy best.

As I told a couple of diocesan staff this past weekend, Catholicism historically is at her best when she is challenged and at her worst when she has a monopoly. In the US, her present challenges are evangelicalism and post-modernity.

Perhaps we should be thanking God for those challenges.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Holy Branch Sunday: Palm Sunday in Beijing

from Jen Ambrose's blog:

According to Jen, The Chinese name, Shengzhi zhuri, means literally "holy branch Sunday/sabbath. In Beijing, they use local yew branches on Palm Sunday.

Check out her pictures. I love these glimpses of the Church's life in very different settings and cultures!

Secular Apostles in the City

I stumbled across this simply amazing Protestant congregation last week. They got my attention because of the quality of support they offer to lay Christians who are called to vocations in the marketplace.

Redeemer Presbyterian Church of Manhattan is only 20 years old but 4,400 attend every Sunday and it has given birth to 100 "daughter churches" in the NYC area and elsewhere in the world (go here for more on the "church planting" movement).

But its most rare quality is the high powered support it is providing for Christian professionals and entrepreneurs who want to influence and help evangelize the very secular cultures and structures of New York City. A recent survey lists Redeemer as the 16th most influential church in the US and I think this is why. Redeemer is unknowingly, incarnating Catholic teaching on the formation and apostolate of the laity in some very impressive ways.

Start by visiting their Center for Faith and Work

Redeemer offers "vocation groups" for those in the legal profession, for workers in advertising/marketing, healthcare, financial services, business, education, and PhD students.

There is a separate initiative for those in the arts: support groups for Christian dancers, film makers, writers, artists and an Arts Greenhouse whose mission is to "encourage the creation of new works of art from a Christian worldview and build enthusiasm and support for them, and develop arts patrons with a nuanced Christian worldview about the arts and their influence on culture."

Then there is the Entrepreneurship Initiativee

The vision: "The Entrepreneurship Initiative is designed to equip, connect, and mobilize entrepreneurs within Redeemer’s congregation to create new ventures that bring about gospel-centered transformation for the common good. The Entrepreneurship Initiative is building a community to support entrepreneurship through workshops, conferences, mentoring relationships, and an annual business plan competition." The winner of the business plan competition doesn't get a ton of money but he or she does have access to the communal experience, wisdom, and networking influence of Redeemer's heavily connected congregation.

The Center for Faith and Work also offers retreats and courses that help Christians called to secular vocations integrate their faith and their work. The Gotham Fellowship provides a 9 month training program for young NY professionals to help them integrate their faith, personal life, and work in order to further the social, cultural, and spiritual renewal of New York City: develop a Christian worldview, and experience spiritual and personal renewal, in the midst of Christian community.

Redeemer is living our theology in New York City. Where are we really effectively and creatively living the theology of the secular mission of the laity? What is your experience? Are you aware of any outstanding Catholic examples of this sort of initiative?

Notre Dame Palm Sunday Protest

I found this Fox news clip of the Notre Dame Palm Sunday protest at You tube. Outside of that, I haven't been able to find much information about what actually happened.

The turn-out is clearly not enormous but looks like a couple hundred at least.

Some of the things I'm curious about: 1) How many attended the protest? 2) What percentage of the protesters were students and/or faculty/university staff; 3) What percentage of those attending were from outside the university; 4) What was said or done at the protest, 5) What was the mood?

I'd love to hear impressions from anyone who was present.

Update: Here's a detailed blog post from someone who was there. She said the crowd was estimated at 400.

MOMS and Faith on CNN

The Catholic organization: Ministry of Moms Sharing has gotten an incredible boost this morning: top billing in a CNN article on motherhood and faith.

But I haven't been able to find a website for the group. Any ID readers have direct experienced of and contact with MOMS and would like to share their experience? Any other resources for Catholic moms that you would recommend?

April Showers

Home again.

Beginning of second week of April and it is still frosty. I made it home through a North Dakota blizzard and got to stand in a group of freezing people waiting for non-existent taxis at 11pm Saturday. Never again, if I can help it. At least, I was dressed for the weather. Some people got off their planes in short sleeved shirts!

But the sun is supposed to come out in all her brilliance today and it will be in the 60's by tomorrow. Rain is predicted for later in the week.

The term "April showers" has a whole 'nother meaning in a place where you haven't seen ordinary rain in 6 months.

More blogging in a bit.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Or' The Fields We Go . . . In A One Horse Open Sleigh

Writing from yet another airport at 5:21 am. We had another unexpected white-out last night so I choose to go the extravagent cab route this morning. I just didn't want to dig out and slither through the icy streets at 4 am.

Call me crazy.

Off to Kansas City, Kansas where I will meet up with Fr. MIke before he abandons me to go and help out for Holy Week at my old parish, Blessed Sacrament, in Seattle. Where I understand it was snowing yesterday too.

It never snows in Seattle past the first week of March. The economy is wreaking havoc with the weather, I think.

Back very late Saturday. When it is supposed to snow again. :-}

Home for Holy Week. The hope of the Resurrection includes a weekend off the road.

Meanwhile, I continue my work on the theology of the laity course. I'm coming across some very, very interesting stuff and I'm working on the history that eventually generated the debates at the Second Vatican Council and what we now think of as theology of the laity.

More later.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fetal Foreclosure

I haven't seen this Slate piece, Fetal Foreclosure mentioned anywhere around St. Blog's but we should be aware of this very disturbing trend:

The power and financial dynamics between surrogate mothers, the couples for whom they are bearing a child, and the impact that the economic downturn is having on both,

For instance:

"Last week, for example, we looked at a Japanese case in which a doctor mistakenly put one woman's embryo in another woman's uterus. Weeks later, the second woman was told of the error and aborted the pregnancy. The first woman wasn't told about anything for two and a half months.

That's what can happen when you separate pregnancy into two stages. One woman can abort another's offspring."

Thousands of women have hired out as surrogate mothers. But because they are the one with the child in the womb, they can choose to abort the baby at any point in the process. The only legal recourse that the genetic parents have is to stop paying the surrogate.

It isn't just banks and investment firms who have fiddled the books. A large California firm, SurroGenesis (note their cutsy, pink website - what could be more innocent?), recently told a group of 70 clients "on March 13 via e-mail that their money was gone. Lawyers say that as much as $2 million may be missing, with some couples losing as much as $90,000."

So many of the surrogates are no longer being paid and their expenses are not longer being covered because the genetic parents can't afford it . The good news is that, so far, all of the surrogate mothers have chosen to continue their pregnancies. Some are paying their own medical expenses and other financial losses rather than abort. They and their babies deserve our prayers and support.

But what a nightmarish scenario.

Jerusalem: Center of the World

Jerusalem: Center of the World is being broadcast tonight on PBS. This looks very good.

Dylan Thomas once wrote of Swansea, his home town in Wales: "This town has more layers than an onion and every one of them can move you to tears."

When I was in Jerusalem, I thought how much more powerfully true Thomas' observation was of that ancient city.

Al Quds (or just "Quds") as Palestinians refer to it. "The Holy (City)".

Despite my very early departure in the morning, I'll try to have everything ready so I can watch this tonight.