Adult Catholics need more than a catechesis designed for children.Along with the ordained, we have also been consecrated for a mission.We are called not only to receive Christ in the sacraments, but to bring Christ to the world.Adults need an integrating catechesis that prepares them to live as apostles, gifted men and women of faith, who are called by God to shape the world they live in through their love and work.
If formation for mission is essential to true catechesis, then the overwhelming majority of lay Catholics are not being truly catechized.
It is always encouraging to cradle Catholics like mysef to hear about the journeys that others are making into full communion. My own life has been blessed and enriched by sponsoring a number of folks through the Confirmation and RCIA process.
To all those entering the Church this Easter--welcome home!
Do check out Aimee's stories, and her blog in general. It's good reading!
Do take a moment this week to read this very moving account of a Jewish Catholic's Lenten journey to Dachau. The author, Miriam Stulberg, is a member of the Madonna House community.
"I stood at the ash grave before the remains of thirty-six thousand lives. "Thirty-six thousand" seemed more personal, somehow, than "six million."
Thirty-six thousand individual existences, destinies, living, breathing, laughing, loving, and now reduced to a six-by-two foot grassy knoll.
I tried to take it in.
Then, in the silence of Dachau, I heard the angel’s voice:
Why do you look for the living among the dead?
He is not here. He is risen (Lk 24:5-6).
That evening, as I received communion at Mass in the Carmelite cloister, I stood for a long moment with the host in my hand. My whole being trembled. To receive the Body of Christ was to receive all those for whom he died. It meant communion with the executioners and communion with the victims.
In Christ, there is neither Greek nor Jew (Gal 3:28), and I too am a sinner in need of God’s mercy."
"Something unexpected is happening in Europe. Signs of a re-awakening of the Christian faith are slowly cropping up. We have been reporting on the phenomenon, in bits and pieces, all year.
We covered the increase in female religious vocations in Italy. We summarized an article in the German magazine Der Spiegel headlined “Religion, Born Again.” The article made its case from a worldwide perspective, but added that “there are signs that faith in God” is growing “even” in the West.
In an astonishing article in the Weekly Standard, Joshua Livestro wrote about the revival of Christianity in thoroughly secularized Holland. He quoted a book by “professional trend-watcher” Adjiedj Bakas and Minne Buwalda, who predict: “Throughout Western Europe, and also in Holland, liberal Protestantism is in its death throes. It will be replaced by a new orthodoxy.”
Christian books are selling well in Holland, and a prayer-in-the-workplace movement has been surprisingly popular. Crucifixes have been re-introduced to Catholic schools, and school Masses which were formerly empty are now packed."
The Register's analysis of the reasons why?
1) The creation of the European union has created a blurring of national identities and a openness to new concepts of what to believe
2) A reaction to extremist Islam
3) The impact of Pope John Paul II and his successor, Benedict.
John Paul left behind him the seeds of a religious revival: The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Jubilee Year, the wildfire growth of the movements he encouraged within the Church, the World Youth Days, the Year of the Rosary (and the growth in personal prayer), the Year of the Eucharist (and the growth in adoration), and, after his death, the Synod on the Eucharist, a roots-up revamping of the Mass.
He also had a direct affect on Europe by the way he revitalized the faith of the Polish people.
“In the midst of a continent that suffers from priest shortages,” said one British newspaper, “Poland is the only country in Europe that is overflowing with priests” — priests who, increasingly, are being sent to churches in other countries. News reports show how British churches that were empty a short time ago are now filling up with Polish immigrants.
Even in Germany, which didn’t have Poland’s Catholic background, the fact that the new Pope is dynamic, courageous and German is having an effect.
The success of Pope Benedict’s World Youth Day in Cologne, and September trip to Germany, caught his home country by surprise. A German newspaper called him “The Pope of Hope.”
I would add one more factor, which is widely reported in evangelical circles: The rise of evangelicalism (who are mostly Pentecostals) in Europe.
It's been noticed from France, where evangelicals have grown 800% over the past 50 years - fueled partly by immigration from Afica - and where the Alpha course which is running in two thirds of the Catholic dioceses to the Ukraine where 17% of the population, 8 million people, are now members of "Independent" churches. (Ten months ago, I had breakfast in London with a missionary freshly returned from the Ukraine. He was simply bubbling with stories of the wonderful things happening there and regarded American Christianity, by comparison, to be moribund.)
Liberal, state sponsored Protestantism is dying. What sort of Christianity will become the standard bearer of the faith in 21st century Europe is the question.
Catholicism and evangelicalism would seem to be the answer. How those two forms of the faith will relate to and influence one another will be fascinating to watch.
Francois Bayrou is heir of a historic "liberal" Catholic tradition in France. His father was associated with movements who were the heirs of one of the earliest lay movements, the famous Sillon ("Furrow") movement founded by Marc Sangnier in 1894.
(This is a picture of Marc Sangnier working in the Sillon office)
Encouraged by Rerum Novarum, the landmark encyclical by Leo XIII, Sillon established Study Circles for young workers and students to apply the church's teaching and build democracy in France. Peter Maurin, who would later found the Catholic Worker Movement with Dorothy Day, was part of the Sillon movement in the early days.
Starting in 1906, Sillon became politically involved which led to conflict with the Church. Although Sillon was reorganized to try and meet the concerns of the French hierarchy, it wasn't enough. Pope Pius X wrote a letter to the French bishops, Notre Charge Apostolique, which condemned the Sillonnist conception of democracy, and called for resignation of leaders and episcopal control. Faithful to the Church, Marc Sangnier and the sillonnists closed down the movement.
80 years later, Pope John Paul II described the Church's response to different understandings of democracy:
"The Catholic acceptance of democracy becomes more convinced and open-armed, and this also, of course, implies the more precise delimitation of the positive side of democracy, which is chosen over against the negative and relativist meaning of democracy. To be sure, the right of being guided politically, in a participatory way, does not originate at all from an uncertainty about truth, and therefore from a leveling of all opinions as if they shared equal value. It originates, rather, from a specific dignity of the human person, who, to perceive the common action as his own and to grow through it, needs to be guided by an authority which gives reasons for its actions and which solicits the assent of those subordinated to itself." After Marc Sangnier's death on Pentecost Sunday 1950, his wife Rénée received this remarkable testimony from, Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, then Nuncio of the Holy See in Paris:
"I first heard Marc Sangnier speak at a meeting of Catholic youth in 1903 or 1904. The wonderful charm of his words and soul exhilarated me. The most vibrant memory of my whole young priesthood is of his personality as well as his political and social action.
His noble and frank humility in accepting late in 1910 the admonishment of saintly Pope Pius X - as affectionate and benevolent as it was - was to my mind the true measure of his greatness.
Souls like his with such a capacity to remain faithful and respectful to both the Gospel and the Holy Church are destined for the highest ascents which ensure glory: the glory of Christ who knows how to exalt the humble, even the glory of the present life before his contemporaries and posterity for whom the example of Marc Sangnier will remain as an example and as an encouragement."
Of course, Roncalli would eventually be known as Blessed John XXIII.
From Eureka Street, the Australian Jesuit periodical (you have to subscribe to read the whole thing):
Francois Bayrou: a former school teacher and 55 year old father of six is making a solid showing in the early stages of the French Presidential elections. And he is an openly serious Catholic.
"Indeed, Bayrou has never hidden neither his Catholic faith nor its importance for his vocation as a politician. "I am a Christian-democrat and fully aware of the significance of the linkage between the two words", he repeated recently."
But the dialogue between Catholicism and the political spectrum in France is very different than here in the US. In France, he is regarded to be part of "the right" while here, he would definitely be considered on "the left".
“ . . .many of Bayrou’s positions do in fact correspond to those of the modern environmental movement – moratorium on GM foods, support for bio-fuels, organic farming, a call to "defend the planet".
His positions on these and other issues illustrate why, even though his French critics often attempt to classify Bayrou with the right, he would generally be regarded as centre left on the Australian political spectrum.
Even on litmus-test 'faith' issues, Bayrou has managed to carve out political positions that seek to respect Catholic teaching without necessarily alienating other groups. He backs legal recognition of 'civil unions' among homosexuals, for example, while insisting that such unions remain legally distinct from marriage between a man and woman. He also supports the right of homosexuals to adopt children as individuals – as heterosexual singles may also do – but not as couples.
He also opposed the Iraq war because it was "not a just war" and was "contrary to the wishes of the international community and the UN". However, he also criticised Europe’s role in the crisis, saying that if the continent had managed to unite, it could have perhaps prevented the alliance of the UK with the US on the issue."
I have certainly noticed in my travels that the issues that grip American Catholics are often not those that serious, smart, orthodox Catholics in other countries find compelling. An abiding concern about abortion and marriage seems to be universal but outside of that, there is huge variety. Each Catholic community has its own distinct history and small "t" traditions that influence greatly how they understand and respond to the challenge to live the faith in the 21st century in their context.
It's refreshing to get outside the American context occasionally and realize how different "application on the ground" can look while still welling up from the same source: intentional discipleship.
It is a phenomena that most of us aren't aware of, but there are millions of Christian "believers" (they may or may not be baptized) around the world who gather together in isolated groups around radio broadcasts.
David Barrett, the guru of world Christian statistics, estimates that there are 9 million people are part of "radio churches" in India, for instance. There are also huge number of "radio churches" in China.
Here is a story of a "radio church" that is rather closer to home: the border between Mexico and Guatemala. "Radio Impacto, a small, 1,000-watt FM Christian radio station in La Mesilla, Guatemala, is also planting churches.
“Our goal is to reach Chiapas state [in southern Mexico] with the gospel,” said Christian Villatoro, pastor of the fast-growing Twelve Pearls Evangelical Church and general manager of the radio station. “It’s difficult to do ministry in Mexico and almost impossible to put a Christian radio station there. So we decided to focus our broadcasts to that audience.”
To do that, Radio Impacto incorporates Mexican music and invites pastors from Chiapas state to appear on the air regularly. In Mexico, it is illegal for a radio station to be owned by a Christian organization. Villatoro knows that the broadcasts are bearing fruit.
“Three years ago a listener traveled all the way from his small town in Mexico to visit me here in Guatemala,” Villatoro said. “He told me that he was Roman Catholic but had doubts about his faith. I invited him to my house and two hours later he accepted Jesus Christ. Today, in his town, there is an evangelical church and a growing number of Christians.”
Villatoro says that someone from Radio Impacto visits that town every eight to ten days to provide training and discipleship and help the new church grow.
Villatoro says that thirty percent of Guatemala is considered to be evangelical, but in his town the number reaches thirty-five percent of the population. In contrast, the evangelical population in Chiapas is about nineteen percent."
Radio Impacto is being assisted by HCJB (headquartered here in Colorado Springs, naturlich!) a global missionary radio network.
File this under the category
If we don't evangelize our own, someone else will do it for us - through the airwaves.
Last week I was back in the Seattle area to give a mission at Mary, Queen of Peace parish in Sammamish, WA. While there, I was invited by Zoltan Abraham, a pastoral associate there, to attend the Archdiocese of Seattle's Chrism Mass day lecture. It was given this year by John Allen, the Vatican correspondent of the National Catholic Reporter. He gave an overview of ten megatrends facing the Church and the world, and I found his presentation interesting and challenging. Although I didn't take notes, he mentioned, as far as I can remember:
1. the difference between the Catholic Church in the north and the Church in the south (south more biblically focused, rather than speculative theologically, more conservative morally and liberal politically [i.e., somewhat skeptical of free market capitalism]) 2. the rise of Islam 3. the rise of Pentecostalism as the new second-largest Christian denomination 4. China 5. ecology (not just global warming, but more specifically the shortage of potable water in Africa, the middle East, China, India, Pakistan, etc.) 6. bioethics and the increasing rate of moral issues associated with scientific research 7. the turn of the Church to the world vs. a return to a "ghetto" mentality (this might have been part of another mega-trend) 8. the slowing of population growth worldwide and the grayby boom - the increase in the number of 65+ people in the American church (meanwhile 90% of the world's people under the age of 15(I think) live in the southern hemisphere...) 9. changes in the laity's involvement in governance.
I can't remember the other trend, and I might have a few of these wrong. However, his basic thesis is, "people who are trying to change the Church from the inside should focus instead on the Church's interaction with the world and world events." The mega-trends he's looking at will require changes in the Church; not in terms of structure, really, but in terms of our ability to respond to, interact with, anticipate and shape these mega-trends.
I sat next to Fr. Bryan Dolesji, one of the Institute's teachers, for the second part of the presentation. On several occasions we were jabbing each other in the ribs, because Mr. Allen's presentation highlighted the centrality of the work of the Institute in terms of addressing some of these mega-trends. We're a cutting edge organization!
Christianity Today ran an article today about contemporary images of the events of Holy Week. Here's their short description of the images:
"During the Middle Ages, a tradition of prayer and reflection on images of the Passion formed into the Stations of the Cross, a sort of Via Dolorosa of the visual arts. This slideshow of contemporary art, although it doesn't stick to the traditional fourteen stations, can be used as a meditation on Jesus Christ's path to the Cross. Each artist's statement below the art explains how it connects to Christ's sacrifice."
Announced Monday by the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the World Missions Visa Card will take a small percentage of everyday purchases and send the money to support Catholic Church programs in more than 1,150 mission dioceses in the world's most destitute nations.
With the card, one percent of all purchases will be donated to the Propagation of Faith, which they would use to support the church’s evangelizing mission in more than 120 countries throughout Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands and Latin America. It would also help support educational and healthcare efforts.
According to The Society for the Propagation of the Faith, “Just $10 generated from this program can buy clothing for 10 Catholic school children in the Sudan for a year; $4 buys enough food for one week for a kindergarten program in the Missions where children learn the basics and discover, through the service of local Sisters, the love of Jesus.”
Besides aiding Catholic mission efforts, World Mission Visa cardholders also have many benefits, including full platinum privileges, coupons, online payment options, zero fraud liability, and no annual fee.
Last night, I was discussing early modern Church history with a friend of mine, a leading historian of 20th century Poland. We talked about how the Catholic church, in the late 16th and 17th centuries, reclaimed large parts of Europe that had become Protestant.
I was vividly reminded of that conversation when I came across this quote this morning. It seems a most appropriate way to remember John Paul the Great.
From an interview with Gian Franco Svidercoschi, a Vaticanist and co-editor of the book 'Swiadectwo' [Witness] by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Pope John Paul's long time secretary. In the Polish English language magazine Sunday Catholic Weekly (published in Czestochowa)
Question: - Did the efforts of John Paul II stop the process of secularisation and the Church managed to regain her right to act in politics and culture?
"In his book Cardinal Dziwisz wrote a beautiful sentence, ''The Pope regained the territory which the Church and Christians had lost throughout centuries. He regained the squares that the left-wing party had occupied; he regained the intelligentsia that had been under the influence of the secularised culture; he regained the youth that stopped to be ashamed of confessing faith and that aimed at their sanctification.' Thus John Paul II regained the Church's right to be present in society, naturally not to rule over it but to give it moral help."
I seriously wonder if the decline of Christian churches is tied to the neglect of charisms. If charisms are for the building up of the Church, then it makes sense that their neglect leads to empty and dying churches. The fastest-growing form of Christianity today is the type that emphasizes the charisms. The fastest-declining form of Christianity today is the type that is oblivious to the charisms.
And charisms are not just extraordinary. They are also more ordinary in character--to the extent that we can dare to say that anything inspired by the Holy Spirit is ordinary--such as teaching, administration, helping, etc.
But, hold on, you might say: aren't such ordinary charisms present in all the Christian churches? Yes and no. The problem is that instead of focusing on charisms or gifts of the Holy Spirit, many churches with a secular, overrationalistic spirit instead view abilities like teaching or administration as talents that come from us and are primarily part of our own self-realization.
When, instead, you look to talents as the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, something changes: we are no longer the focus, but the leading of the Holy Spirit is the focus. And where the Holy Spirit leads, churches grow and grow--just read the Acts of the Apostles.
I say it again: if charisms are given to build us up and to build up the rest of the Church, then their neglect equals decline. Ironically, there seems to be a form of orthodox or traditionalist Christianity that rejects the emphasis on charisms (for example, Southern Baptists and even some Catholics). Such rejection is ironic because these forms of orthodox Christianity have, willy-nilly, adopted the rationalistic viewpoint of the secular West, a viewpoint that rejects the supernatural, charismatic view of our talents. To the extent the charisms are neglected, we can say that those claiming to be orthodox are not being as orthodox as they think because they are neglecting an essential part of the deposit of faith so obviously displayed in the Scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments.
And I would add, as I have before: an essential part of the deposit of the faith to be found in the Fathers, in St. Thomas, in the documents of Vatican II and throughout magisterial teaching since Vatican II.
Charisms empower us to be instruments of the redemption that Christ accomplished through his Incarnation, earthly life, passion, death, and resurrection on our behalf.
Holy Week is an excellent time to resolve to begin your discernment for the sake of others and the sake of the Church herself. It is a wonderful way to celebrate the Resurrection by opening yourself to the ways that God intends you to be a small channel of that resurrection yourself.
"Whether extraordinary or simply and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world." Catechism of the Catholic Church, 799)
"It was absolutely amazing: Many of the students had never gone through the sacrament before. 7 priests responded and were able to hear confessions after the brief communal celebration. Although students were told it was optional, fully 95% chose to participate. Some cried; others laughed nervously; many paced and asked a million last-minute questions. But they went. And--most incredibly of all--on the evaluation form I asked them to fill out at the end of the day, many asked to have the experience repeated. Many listed it as the most positive part of the day."