Friday, November 2, 2007

For Them, Life Has Changed, Not Ended

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Ya Gotcher Basic Poiple Mountain Majesties Above Da Frooted Plain Goin' on Here




All us vacationers made the haj to South Park yesterday. No, not that South Park. The South Park that is an awesome vista consisting of an immense valley in the interior of the Colorado Rockies, surrounded by huge mountain peaks. It's the sort of place that should still having living dinosaurs in it.



Peter Shea

We had a loverly leisurely walk with the kidlets on a nature hike trail and looked for various plants and critters. We ate donuts. We cruised past the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center (which we plan to visit today with our guys). We experienced the pleasures of mild hypoxia (I come from the land of oxygen-thick air right at sea level). And we sat out on the patio in the cool of the evening and watched the full moon rise. God is good.




Sean Shea


Two more days and then I give a talk for Siena and the Diocese on the Care and Feeding of the Lay Catholic Apostle. Three more days and we have our soiree on Discipleship and Community. Looking forward to meeting all y'all! Till then, our boys have more fossils to check out (and I don't mean me).



Sherry Curp (AKA "the other Sherry on ID)



Curps on a Rocky Mountain High (Miriam, Dave, Helen, and Elizabeth who was calling herself "the mountain star" at that moment.)

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Intentional Disciple Elves Hard at Work

Mark Shea here again. The little elves of the Siena Institute are (between going to the Uncle Wilbur Fountain, visiting the Cave of the Winds and hanging off of cliff dwellings) getting revved up for our soiree next week. It's been a peculiar combination of goofing off (for us visitors from Ohio and Washington) and working (for Dave Curp and Sherry W.).

Sherry is toiling away on the prep for the Building Community meeting on the 31st. We had a good long talk into the evening and got a bit of a preview of things to come. I think those who are coming will be happy with the chewiness of the content. Sherry is not fluffy.

Here on the Shea front, sleep seems to have been interrupted last night. I got in about four hours and then woke with a headache, so I talk a long walk at dawn and had a lovely view of the prairie stretching away off to the east from Colo. Spgs. I also got in a decade of the Rosary and spent the walk sort of venting at God and trying to listen a bit. Jan and the kids are still in bed, which is a switcheroo since I've been the slugabed.

I've been laboring to not think deeply about things much, which I find is disturbingly easy. That said, I've also been enjoying our time here. I've got some big decisions I need to make and not having other things pressing has been good. Especially good has been the chance to, 'ow you say?, "pursue God in the company of friends" (a phrase of which you shall hear more on this blog presently). It's been really wonderful having a chance to re-connect with Sherry and the Curps (and the little Curplings). Simply the chance to hash out things out loud is really sweet, since we all have our various struggles and trials to deal with. So I am grateful.

Sherry is going to need the computer pretty soon and I have to decide whether to crash or go to today's expedition, so I'm logging off for now. But I will check in later.

Ciao!

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Greetings from the Sheas of Colorado!

Mark Shea here. Chesterton said that inconveniences were only adventures wrongly considered. On that accounting, I have had a weekend of adventures! After I saw Jan, Peter and Sean off on their flight to Colorado Springs, my flight to Amarillo was canceled, so I caught a redeye and was up all night. I got into Amarillo shortly before I was to speak, gave my first talk, then crashed in my hotel room with a wakeup call for 15 minutes before the next talk. Both talks seemed to go well (though it's typically hard for me to tell). I got to meet the bishop of Amarillo (a very good man named Yanta, a Pole who has, among other things, given Priests for Life a sort of headquarters and house of formation, not to mention coordinating a bunch of laypeople in a prayer campaign which has shut down 18 out of 20 abortuaries in the diocese. Speaking of Priests for Life, Fr. Frank Pavone was there this weekend and he kindly gave me a little tour of the new facilities for his apostolate. He seems to know what he's doing in terms of organization and creating a long-term ministry that will be fighting for the rights of the unborn for a long time. Also, he preached the Mass yesterday and was, as usual, terrific.

The flight to Colorado Springs was also full of adventure. The plane to Denver was inexplicably late by an hour, so I wound up missing my flight to Colorado Springs. However, I was able to catch a later flight and so arrived safe and sound and delighted to see Jan (who came and got me) and Sherry Weddell and the Curps (old friends all) as I stumbled through the front door of the house.

We sat up talking till 1:00 and played a bit of catchup (we haven't all been together since the last trip to C. Springs in 2003). Then we drifted off to bed and (for me) the beginning of some serious sleep deficit payoff. Today we popped out to the library and brought home *ridiculous* numbers of books--ridiculous as in "people were laughing at the giant armload of books I was lugging out to the car".

C. Springs is All That. Clear blue skies and warm with the Colorado Rockies Right There and Pike's Peak looming over you. The streets in the neighborhood are all named for plants and flowers. It's like the classic American town in addition to being the Vatican of American Evangelicalism.

We're taking it easy mostly. The oxygen level here is half that of Seattle due to altitude. So I am dutifully taking my iron and drinking a lot of water to stave off headaches. The two Sherrys and Jan are planning Big Things (something I overheard as I slipped off into my afternoon nap (ah!). I have no big plans at all. That's my idea of vacation. We did bring along the Dangerous Book for Boys as a resource idea for fun stuff to do as father and sons and will probably consult that oracle in our next bit of down time. I'm going to push for swimming soon, because it's 83 degree indoors.

I may be popping in from time to time on this blog to say howdy and chronicle our adventures. And I look forward to seeing those of you who are coming to the Siena Soiree in a week or so! Till next time: toodles!

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Friendship and Evangelization

Fr. John McCloskey, in an article on friendship and the evangelization of men notes that the Church grew after Pentecost, through multiple persecutions, and when there were no social advantages, up until the latter part of the fourth century.

"All of this was the work of the Holy Spirit. Yet because God works normally through secondary causes, we can ask: How did it all come about, in human terms?

First let us acknowledge how it did not happen. It did not happen because of full diocesan seminaries, monasteries, religious orders and congregations. It did not happen because of a large system of parochial grammar schools, high schools, and universities. It did not happen as a result of diocesan plans for evangelization. It did not happen because of the widespread distribution of formal catechetical material through books, radio, television, and the internet. It did not happen under the influence of great Christian art, architecture, and literature that was accessible to all. It did not happen as the result of strong papal leadership and magisterial teaching.

I should hasten to add that I am in favor of all the above influences. But they simply did not exist in the first centuries of Christianity–nor indeed for many centuries afterwards.

The growth of primitive Christianity in those first centuries was, I suggest, the result of the same influence that will be the key to the "new evangelization" of the third Christian millennium. It was due to the prayer, sacramental life, moral behavior, and charitable works of Christian persons and families, who communicated their love of Christ and his Church to the people around them through friendship.

The wonderful example of charity of the first Christians, particularly in their willingness to risk their lives in taking care of the victims of the intermittent plagues that struck during the first centuries of the Christian era, no doubt had a powerful role in evangelization. So did the attractiveness of the moral life of Christian families. However, without the personal influence of friendship, all otherwise useful and admirable means of evangelization and apostolate would have been largely ineffective."

Sherry once asked me what characteristics my friends had in common with one another. I told her, "they all make me want to be a better man and better Christian throught their words and through their examples." That's true for both my male and female friends.

I believe this is the essence of evangelization - the love and trust that is established between friends can be deepened when Christ is introduced and eventually becomes the center of the relationship.

Have you been evangelized by a friend? Have you evangelized any of your friends?

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Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Formation Opportunity

Since one of the topics we've discussed on this blog is the difficulty some Catholics have in talking to others about their relationship with God, I thought I'd introduce a new formation program that can help in this area. It's called "Formation for Spiritual Companionship," and I'll give a little more information about it in a moment. But first, a little about the organization that produced it.

The Dominican parish of Blessed Sacrament in Seattle, WA, is not only the birthplace of the Catherine of Siena Institute, but also the Institute for Christian Ministry. The latter was founded by Fr. Leo Thomas, O.P., to help lay people be spiritual companions to one another and to provide and sustain training for spiritual healing. You can click on the title of this post to go to their website.

When I was director of the St. Thomas More Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Oregon, several parishioners asked me if they could go through the Ministry of Healing Prayer formation program that ICM produces. At first I was a little nervous about something called "healing prayer," but I trusted the wisdom and faith of the folks who were proposing this, so I supported their initiative. I was very impressed with the thorough two-year program ICM provided that formed members of the Newman Center to pray with and for those who desired spiritual, physical and emotional healing. Their formation was solidly grounded in Catholic teaching, prayer and common sense. I often recommended the ministry to those whom I had anointed in the sacrament of the sick as an ongoing support, and when I had knee reconstruction after a basketball injury, I asked to take part in a prayer service for me. It was a wonderful experience of the love of the Christian community for me.

Now ICM has just produced a new formation program entitled Formation for Spiritual Companions. According to a flyer describing the program, the formation "has elements of spiritual direction, but is a relationship of peers...Over a span of time, the relationship can bless companions in a number of ways as it gives them:
1) Someone to talk to about spiritual things, which gives a sense of being heard.
2) a person to be accountable to for some or several areas of their Christian life.
3) a partner to pray with.
4) a person who provides encouragement and support.

In addition to showing participants how to be companions, this program offers spiritual formation through worship times and some of its presentations. The latter teach elelments of Christian spirituality and give a deeper understanding of the One we worship and trust."

It looks like this formation process has a similar format as the Formation for Healing Prayer, in that video presentations provided by ICM are incorporated in the lessons. While I don't have access to the whole program, if it is produced as well as the Formation for Healing Prayer, it is well worthwhile.

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