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March Music Madness PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 18 April 2007 14:44
Somehow March slide by without my being aware of March Music Madness, the annual contest in which you can listen to and vote for your favorite Spirit and Song contemporary Catholic musician. This year's winner is "Come to Jesus" by Josh Blakesley.

While I know that this is a marketing ploy, its also fun. There are 64 songs up for internet listening. Check it out.
Priestless Parishes PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 18 April 2007 09:33
Per Fresno Bishop John Steinbock:

"In our nation there are seven dioceses that half of their parishes have no resident priest.”

It's not a surprise to us since we spend a good deal of our time in very small, poor, or missionary dioceses. Like Dodge City, Kansas - for which Institute teams have put on a least a dozen events - or Pueblo, Colorado which spans the entire southern portion of the state and is the third poorest diocese in the country.

More on this later when I have time.

114 Year Old Woman Received Into Catholic Church at Easter PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 18 April 2007 09:10
In Taiwan. Her secret to a long life? An exclusive diet of rice porridge and bean curd, her cheerful personality and regular exercise.

Welcome home, Hsu-Song Ai-ren!

I will be blogging more this evening now that Fr. Mike has exorcised my PC and bestowed upon it the demon-destroying MacBlessing.

Needless to say, SMUG doesn't even begin to describe him today.
Who wants to be a Lucifer? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Wednesday, 18 April 2007 09:08
Undoubtedly, some people are speculating about the eternal destiny of the disturbed young man at Virginia Tech who slew thirty-two faculty, staff and students and wounded more than two dozen others. Some might hope or even presume he's in hell. God will have mercy on him, and will deal with him justly. That's the way God is.

But the speculation reminded me that rather than judging another person, I have to consider my own life, my own behavior and attitudes. Fr. TImothy Radcliffe, OP, in his book, "What is the Point of Being a Christian," mentions that Dante, the great Renaissance Italian poet, speculated in his great reflection on hell, "Inferno," that the uppermost reaches of hell were reserved for sinners who had succumbed to their passions. They desired the good, but their desire was disordered. The middle reaches of hell housed sinners who had actually desired and committed evil, especially those who did violence to others. But the coldest, deepest parts of hell, closest to the Prince of Lies, were inhabited by liars, traitors, forgers, and flatterers. It was they who undermined human society itself, who rent asunder through their deception what God would join. Their dissembling undermined trust, the foundation of human relationships, whether with other people or God Himself.

All this got me thinking about my own level of honesty, and my reticence to unmask the lies of others. We live in the world Orwell envisioned in "1984" in many ways. In Nigeria if a policeman asks you for "a little something for the weekend," he's expecting you to give him a bribe. We here talk of "death with dignity" when what's being referred to is euthanasia. Military reporting might mention "collateral damage," and how many of us realize that means the death of innocents who got caught in the line of fire? The words "final solution" and "ethnic cleansing" sound positively positive, rather than revealing the gruesome desire to effect genocide. Who wouldn't want to fight for "reproductive rights," unless you knew that meant having the option to destroy an innocent life? And if "alternative interrogation" is necessary to protect us from terrorists, then so be it. Just don't call it torture, and my conscience is fine.

My own life is marked with little "white lies," or moments when I don't correct someone's false impression of me. I have betrayed friendships because I feared speaking up for someone I had convinced myself I cared about. I go along with the crowd all too easily, and my conscience isn't pricked by the euphemisms we use to cover our moral butts. We should know better, and we are liable to judgment - and, in fact, stand in judgment already.

"This is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God." John 3:19-21.
These euphemisms and our lies are signs that we prefer the darkness to the light. When we are willing to speak truthfully, and accept the truth others might speak to us (especially about ourselves), we are drawing closer to the light. And in that light we will see our sin all the more clearly, as one sees one's shadow better as a source of light is approached. But in that light we see light and come to the fullness of life. In that light we encounter not only God's judgment, but his merciful and healing love.

And if we live in truth, live in Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, we become bearers of light to others. Ironically, that means we take the place of Lucifer, whose very name means "light bearer."

Better to take his original place, than to take his current place!
Why Retreats Are Bad PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 18 April 2007 09:04

Written by Keith Strohm

No, I'm not talking about taking a weekend away from your everyday life to focus on God. I'm talking about the tendency for people of faith to draw away from the world, to retreat from its sometimes hostile environment.

I've been thinking a great deal about this, particularly in relation to fiction writing. In fact, I just finished a reflection entitled Why I Hate Christian Science Fiction and posted it on my blog. As a group, Christians tend to do what I call "enclaving," creating a cultural space around themselves where they feel safe. We see it in Christian Music, in Christian Films, and, yes, in Christian Science Fiction. We copy a cultural phenomenon and then "Christian-ize" it so we can feel good about enjoying it.

The bad thing about enclaving is that it tends to enforce an artificial separation between "the world" and us--a separation which, according to Christ who calls us to be salt, and leaven, and light--shouldn't exist. Catholics aren't immune to this instinct to draw back. In fact, we have institutional enclaves, called parishes, which more often than not focus their resources on protecting and meeting the needs of parish members rather than moving out into the local community to evangelize its people and structures.

Our shepherds (the ordained) need to do more than protect the flock from attack by wolves. They must equip us so that we can go forth among the wolves "as cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves." In short, we need to be formed, equipped for our role in spreading the gospel of salvation and building the Kingdom of God here on earth.

We shouldn't abandon our enclaves to do so. But we do need to leave them behind occasionally.

Your Best Life This Weekend PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 17 April 2007 16:08
Left or right coast, we have you covered this weekend.

Fr. Mike and Barbara Elliott will be presenting the Called & Gifted workshop at the famous St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville, South Carolina this Friday night and Saturday.

Meanwhile, I will be jetting over to the left coast and Riverside, California for

For Such a Time as This: How to Find and Live God's Purpose for Your Life.
A day devoted to the practical art of discernment.

LOCATION: St Andrew's Catholic Newman Center, Riverside CA.
Saturday, April 21, 9 am - 3:30 pm.

If you are an ID reader and can make one of these events, please come up and say "Hi!"

Testing PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 17 April 2007 16:05
Blogger has been refusing to accept my posts so this is a test.

In the absence of blogging, we are getting a lot of good work done on Making Disciples though.
Bad Joke. Bad, bad, bad PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 17 April 2007 09:34

A friend sent me this joke the other day via e-mail. It's a fairly common genre, but I read it a little differently yesterday.

An eye doctor, a heart surgeon and an HMO executive die and are in heaven. God asks the eye doctor why he should be let into heaven and the doctor explains to God that he helped people save or regain their sight. God says, "Welcome to heaven, my son."

God then asks the heart surgeon what he had done in life that should allow him into heaven. "I saved people from death from heart attacks and heart disease," the doctor replies. "Welcome to heaven, my son," God says.

God then turns to the HMO executive. God asks him what he was, and the man replies that he worked for an HMO. "Welcome to heaven, my son," says God, "but you have to leave in two days."

Why is this a bad joke? Not because it's a groaner (it is actually pretty funny and pointed). But notice the theology at its heart: salvation is something earned by being good, and conversely, hell is something earned by being bad. Relationship with Christ, belief in the salvific effect of his cross and resurrection, or even doing God's will in response to what God has done for me is not part of the picture.

Yes, I'm making a lot out of a silly little joke, but I'm reminded of an anecdote I heard about Peter Kreeft, who teaches in the theology department at Boston College, a little Jesuit school out east. He commented that for 25 years of teaching he has asked the students in one of his classes, "If you died today and were presented before God the Father and He asked you why you should be admitted into heaven, what would you say?" He lamented that year after year, students with eight to twelve years of Catholic education would reply something along the lines of this joke - "because I was good." Seldom, he said, was the name of Jesus mentioned. It seems remarkable that at every Mass we see the presider hold a cup of wine and hear him repeat the words of Jesus, "this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all SO THAT SINS MAY BE FORGIVEN..." and we still think we somehow earn salvation. Perhaps we think we're still drinking wine, too!

We are being formed in a variety of ways, much of it subtle, much of it unintentional, like this joke. All the more reason for us to take formation of ourselves, our children, and all Catholic adults seriously!
Sherry on the Evangelical Catholic PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Monday, 16 April 2007 12:12
We're back . . . from Madison, Wisconsin.

I didn't realize that Fr. Mike was keeping you up late regalling you with his thoughts. Love the Hell: No, We Won't Go meditation and title.

I didn't get the chance to blog or attend most of the sessions because I was talking, talking, talking. It was my first chance to present the Pre-Discipleship Stages of Spiritual Development as well as do two introductory talks on discernment and charisms.

Sometimes it is like that at conferences. What you say hits a nerve and everybody wants to talk. A presenter is usually wondering how something brand new is going to hit people, especially if it is a group that you have never worked with before. The exciting thing is not only when people tell you how much they appreciate it but when they begin to quote you or ask really detailed questions. The thrill of "By Jove, they got it!" runs through you with the secondary peace of knowing that you aren't in for a massive re-write following close behind.

I got to meet a lot of interesting denizens of the Apostolic Underground* ( There was the gang from National Evangelization Team (NET -, a young man representing the Glenmary Missionaries ( who work in and support Catholic parishes in the rural south, and Emmaus Journey (, the ministry of Rich Cleveland, a Catholic Navigator (, who attends my parish. A number of campus ministers from around the eastern half of the country as well as a few long-time friends like Bernie Vogel and Sue Lahocky. And I was excited to meet some readers of ID there as well!

I had long wanted to meet Fr. Dwight Longenecker "Standing on My Head" ( and was delighted to find him at the EC Institute and we had a nice long chat. He and his wife are hoping to attend the Called & Gifted workshop ( at St. Mary's in Greenville, South Carolina next weekend.

And of course, I had many diverse and long conversations with the Evangelical Catholic ( team who are young, smart, creative, and vibrant apostles. I hadn't understood how ad hoc the whole EC thing was, arising out of a small circle of Catholic friends on the Madison campus seven years ago. They have just hired their first staff member, are bringing on a husband-wife leadership team (who both hold newly minted MAs from Notre Dame) this summer, and have been asked by their Bishop to spread the EC vision of making disciples to parishes in their diocese.

They fit the Apostolic Underground (AU) model: small, passionate, risk-taking, evangelistic, orthodox, entrepreneurial, creative, lay-lead, and hand-to-mouth. Somehow, God will provide.

The theme of the weekend: parishes and dioceses are turning to small AU groups for help. I heard this not only from the EC people but also from the NET leaders. A chronic shortage of priests, youth ministers, resources of all kinds means that small, under funded or missionary parishes and dioceses are drawing upon the resources and energy of small apostolic groups. For instance, NET has its first "long-term" parish team which will spend two years in a specific parish focusing on youth ministry and outreach rather than a single week.

And all these groups wanted to know how to successfully transfer their gifts and expertise to the parish scene. Hence, all the talk, talk, talk.

But the most moving personal moment for me was meeting and spending a little time with Cardinal Avery Dulles. He is elderly and very frail now and walks with a four pronged cane, but still very sharp and possessing a lovely sense of humor. Very unpretentious - he simply introduced himself at breakfast as "Hello, I'm Avery Dulles". I got to sit at his small table at dinner and again at breakfast but the most memorable moment did not involve any words.

I visited the large, beautiful chapel before breakfast to spend a few minutes in adoration and found three other people there. Two students and Avery Dulles. He was alone, without his young priest assistant, who had been constantly at his side, steadying him throughout Mass and helping him ascend the podium. No longer able to kneel, he sat praying in a corner, his cane beside him.

The hidden source of all that wisdom.
Evangelism & Salvation PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 16 April 2007 07:49

Written by Keith Strohm

Hello everyone! I'm back from a rather protracted bout with writing and editing deadlines. Thankfully, I think I managed to hit my deadlines and remove those particular monkeys from my back!

The youth ministry program at my parish is wrapping up its year (we had our final meeting last night and a retreat next weekend), and this has me reflecting on a few things related to sharing the faith.

At some point during the year, as the "moderators" (youth ministers) were discussing the possibility of making some substantive changes in order to deepen and improve the ministry, one person exhibited resistance to a proposal that the moderators make a commitment to actually come to every meeting and prepare for their talks by proclaiming that "this isn't my job."

My initial thought (which I never voiced, unfortunately) was that this might not be your profession, but it's their (the teens') eternal life. What we do (or don't do) in terms of our own lackadaisical or half-hearted approach may have a direct effect on the eternal destination of the young men and women God (through the pastor) has entrusted to our care.

Of course, this expands beyond youth ministry to all elements of intentional discipleship. If, indeed, the Church's deepest and most profound identity is found in evangelization, then living out a life of faith isn't just about securing my own salvation, but also helping others experience the saving love of Christ.

In fact, my own salvation is, if I am correctly listening to the voice of God speak through the Tradition of the Church, intimately bound up with the salvation of others. To love my neighbor as myself includes sharing with them the transformative power of the gospel. If I won the Lottery, I would want to share my good fortune with those I love.

How much more have we been given in Christ Jesus. And how much more have we been called to share!

Evangelization is a way of salvation for others--and for ourselves--because it leads to the Way, Jesus Christ.

Hell - No, We Won't Go! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Sunday, 15 April 2007 06:23
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few." Mt. 7:13-14.

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, a day in which we celebrate the unfathomable mercy that God has for us. Yet as I witness the zeal of the young students here at the Evangelical Catholic Institute, and as I pray the last day of the Divine Mercy Novena, I am struck by a thought.

We Catholics act as though Heaven is the default destination of our souls, and that Hell (if it exists at all, we think) is reserved for really, really evil people: genocidal dictators, unrepentant mass murderers, and, one would suspect reading some Catholic blogs, people who play the guitar at Mass. You have to try really hard to get there, because God's mercy and love is so great. We forget, of course, that in God justice and mercy meet and embrace and are inseparable. Yet in Dante's vision of Hell, the deepest abyss isn't filled with the people we imagine. It's reserved for traitors and liars! I know I have betrayed friends and although I belong to an Order whose motto is truth, I haven't yet broken the habit of lying. In this day and age, lying seems more like a way of life than the road to perdition.

But the last day of the Divine Mercy novena focuses its prayer on a surprising group - lukewarm Christians; "tepid souls who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing (at the Garden of Gethsemane)" [Divine Mercy Novena] It seems ridiculous that Hell might await Catholics who are lukewarm, who show up for the sacraments but don't cooperate with the grace offered in them and thus aren't transformed by them. Could Hell really await people who have given up hope in or never even seriously desired a loving, living relationship with the Lord? If that were the case, why then, Hell would be a real possibility for me!

Would it benefit my own soul to consider that Hell - separation from God for eternity - might be my default destination if I am only mildly interested in a relationship with God in this life? Is going through life concerned primarily about my own success, my own likes and dislikes, my own goals, pursuing my own interests and pleasures a betrayal of my baptism? Does it make me a liar every time I claim to be a Christian?

I don't want to be someone who clings to religious things because of a fear of Hell. I hope to be someone who appreciates the Divine Mercy - the unmerited love that is offered to me by God - and responds joyfully, wholeheartedly, enthusiastically and selflessly. But I'm not there, yet, so maybe the reality of Hell as a possibility makes me ask for the grace of conversion with a bit more fervor and a bit more insistently.

P.S. I was really tempted to label this post under "global warming."
Evangelical Catholic Institute, part II PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Saturday, 14 April 2007 21:46
I had a great day today at the Evangelical Catholic Institute! The speakers I heard were insightful, and practical in their comments, and everyone here is talking about discipleship - even intentional discipleship! There are officially 215 folks here, including a dozen student leaders from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, MI, my alma mater! It was wonderful to hear them talk about what it's like on campus now, and sobering to realize that I graduated from Tech before any of them were born! Most amazing was the fact that I was an acquaintance of the mother of one of the students!

This day ended with a keynote address by Avery Cardinal Dulles, who spoke on six models of evangelization: personal witness, affirmation, worship, community, inculturation and works of charity. These models were drawn from the work of Fr. Timothy Bayerly (whose last name I may have butchered), a graduate student whom Cardinal Dulles advised. I'll share very briefly a few of the notes I took on Cardinal Dulles' keynote.

PERSONAL WITNESS - involves the witness of a life totally given to Christ; a communion with God that nothing can destroy. His Emminence quoted Evangelii Nuntiandi, 21.

AFFIRMATION - involves verbal testimony, which can include apologetics, catechesis and the "explanation for the hope we have in Christ." This testimony often follows upon the silent witness of one's life and is described as necessary to prevent even the best silent witness from being ineffective in the long run (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 22)

WORSHIP - worship is not normally conducted in order to make an impression on outsiders, but our sincerity of relationship with God, our sense of mystery and devotion, can and does have an effect on others; it can change hearts. Some people, in seeing the liturgy, are moved to study the doctrine behind the fervor and devotion of the Catholic faithful. Liturgy and the sacraments immerse us in the mystery of Christ, centers us on him, and makes us his heralds in the world.

COMMUNITY - combats the anonymity that so often marks modern secularism. The Protestant writer Rodney Stark wrote in "The Rise of Christianity" about the way in which the intentional community of the early Christians was such a witness to a pagan world that had no regard or mercy for children, women, the elderly, the sick or the poor. We need a similar communal witness today, and that is part of the power of the Neocatechumenal Way, Focolare, Communion and Liberation, the community of San Egidio, and communidades de base. As Cardinal Dulles spoke of this, I was reminded of a quote by Pope Benedict XVI, who encouraged every Catholic Christian to work to ensure that "new generations experience the Church as a company of friends who are truly dependable and close in all life's moments and circumstances, whether joyful and gratifying or arduous and obscure; as a company that will never fail us, not even in death, for it carries within it the promise of eternity."

INCULTURATION - the Cardinal called this the "incarnation of the Gospel in cultural forms recognizable to new cultures." He mentioned the long history of inculturation, beginning with the translation of Jewish categories of thought to Greek categories in the first century (especially the example of St. Paul in the areopagus [Acts 17:23-31], which is a model of incultured evangelization, since St. Paul quoted Greek authors and poets in that speech.) Sts. Cyril and Methodius inculturated the Gospel for the people of easter Europe, while St. Matteo Ricci was "successful in clothing Christianity in cultural forms of China and India." Yet the Cardinal also pointed out that culture, too, needs evangelizing, and John Paul II called us to transform the values we find already present in the world around us. This need for inculturation is especially profound when we talk about communications/mass media; human rights, international relations, bio-ethics. These are all new areopagii. These are areas that cannot be evangelized from without, but, rather, must be evangelized from within.

WORKS OF CHARITY - also known as the "social apostolate." St. Paul got us started by taking up a collection among the churchs in order to support the Jerusalem church during hard times. The Cardinal reminded the students of the history to which they are heirs; that we belong to a community that inspired people to begin hospitals, schools, the Catholic Worker, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Cardinal Dulles reminded us that, while works of charity are impressive, they can't take the place of the Gospel, nor can the Gospel be reduced to the pursuit of peace and justice in this world. He also pointed out that the social Gospel is lived out primarily by the laity.

Cardinal Dulles concluded by reminding us that evangelization is an act of love - that it begins and ends with the Holy Spirit. Finally, he said, "Faith is strengthened when it is given away, and, conversely, weakened when it is hoarded."

I'll try to write more tomorrow after the conclusion of the Institute! I'm falling asleep at my computer!
Read this, do one act of contrition, and call me in the morning... PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 13 April 2007 22:33

Written by  Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

Reading this post from Godspy was like peering into my own soul. Ick. Thank you for writing this Mr. Pessaro. I'll go do an act of contrition now.

Evangelical Catholic Institute PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Friday, 13 April 2007 21:44

Sherry and I managed to avoid snow-related snafus in air traffic and arrived in Madison, WI on our separate flights from Colorado Springs and Tucson. We are attending the 2007 Evangelical Catholic Institute at the Bishop O'Connor Center here in Madison. This event is sponsored by Evangelical Catholic, a ministry begun at St. Paul's Catholic Campus ministry here at the University of Wisconsin.

What is The Evangelical Catholic? According to their website, "The EC's vision is that the Catholic Church be experienced as a vibrant, evangelical movement. We work towards the renewal of individuals, campus ministries, and parishes through an emphasis on interior conversion, devotion to the Scriptures, formation in the habits of discipleship, intense Christian community, and a commitment to evangelization.

How many of us, lay and ordained, charged with providing pastoral care have ever received the practical training needed to effectively recognize, reach, inspire, encourage and help the spiritually hungry? Our hearts are filled with love for God and for those we serve, but we are unsure how to implement ministries that help people enter into a meaningful and life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. Our best attempts at offering interesting talks, community gatherings, and other events often leave us disappointed at how few they have attracted and how little they have impacted the lives of our students, parishioners and the life of the parish as a whole.

The EC seeks to provide solutions to these problems so that our vision, and the Church's mission, can become reality."

"Evangelical Catholic Ministry is a concrete method for bringing about the Evangelical Catholic Vision. Its goal is relational, not ideological, nurturing individuals and ecclesial communities in their relationship with Jesus and His body, the Church, through a focus on the priorities of the Evangelical Catholic Vision. It has three stages and four settings."

The Institute is hosting what looks to be about 200+ people from around the midwest and east, primarily. The vast majority of them are college students involved in campus ministry, along with their campus ministers. Sherry will be giving a couple of workshops over the next two days, as will several other presenters. Keynote speakers include Avery Cardinal Dulles and Msgr. Stuart Swetland, a professor at Mt. St. Mary's Seminary and the former Director of the Newman Foundation and chaplain to the Catholic students at the University of Illinois.

This evening Msgr. Swetland gave a spirited plea for the importance of personal conversion to Christ. He used John the Evangelist and St. Paul as examples of people whose lives were turned around by their encounter with Christ, and emphasized the warning from Scripture that "without Christ, we can do nothing." Sherry commented that his use of Scripture (including carrying the Bible around the stage and reading from it), his expansive gestures, the fervor in his voice reminded her of some of the preachers she knew from her Evangelical days. Both Msgr. Swetland and Mr. Michael Haverkamp, executive director of Evangelical Catholic, quoted Popes Benedict and John Paul II and their insistence that evangelization is not primarily about doctrine or programs, but the sharing of an experience of a person - Jesus Christ.

This promises to be an interesting couple of days. I'll do my best to keep you posted.
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