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Known. Loved. Adored. Imitated. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 31 August 2009 22:33
Cardinal Betone on Pope Benedict's focus, via Zenit:

As regards the "reform of the Church," the cardinal affirmed "that it is above all a question of interiority and holiness."

For this reason, he said, the Pontiff concentrates on recalling "the source of the Word of God, the evangelical law and the heart of the life of the Church: Jesus, the known, loved, adored and imitated Lord."
 
Prayer Request PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 31 August 2009 21:34
I've just received this prayer request from a priest

Please ask the intercessors to pray for 2 priest that are dying:

(1) Fr. Neal Stull who has cancer all over his body.
(2) Fr. Feliciano, a young priest from Tampico, Mexico who is dying from the swine flu. He got pneumonia and is in a coma right now.

May the Father of all light bless you.

and for Fr. Eduardo, who also has caught the swine flu.
 
Whither RCIA? Part Four: Some Beginning Steps PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 31 August 2009 15:19
A few, hastily sketched out, preliminary ideas for such a time as this . . .

Six years ago, we brought out a landscape designer to look at our tragedy of a back yard and get her suggestions for what we could do with it. She gave it a once over and said "there's nothing here to save". Oookay . . .

She wasn't saying "Abandon all hope, ye who live here". She was saying that the climate here is profoundly different than in Seattle and you can't go about creating a garden high in the Rocky Mountains the way you could in moist, misty, moderate Puget Sound. You have to amend the soil differently and put in irrigation systems and consider how you are going to deal with that dazzling sun, those hail storms (4 this month!), and those 0 temp days and blizzards in mid winter.

If you don't, your seeds and bulbs which do contain the power and grace of life will behave like the seeds in the parable of the sower. 1) They won't germinate at all; 2) they will come up and be scorched by the sun and die; 3) The birds will eat them; or 4) they will be choked by the dozens of noxious weeds who are just waiting below the surface for a little water in order to emerge and choke everything in sight.

Or you could give up your old assumptions and expectations and take the trouble to learn how to create a environment in this very different climate that will nourish and protect what you plant and enable them to flourish, blossom and give glory to God.

Thank God, we choose to jettison what we thought we knew and learn all over again how to garden. You can see the result here.

That is exactly what I am seriously proposing for our approach to RCIA. Revisiting our working assumptions and practices from the ground up because our spiritual climate has changed so profoundly since 1960. (I know this will sound incredible to some readers but the Second Vatican Council didn't cause that cultural change which has impacted nearly everyone on the planet - 83% of whom are not Catholic and two thirds of whom are not baptized.)

I'm not referring at all to changing the liturgical aspects of the process but am suggesting, in as strong terms as I can, that we completely rethink how we approach the initial inquiry process and the task of genuine evangelization and the proclamation of Christ that is the indispensible foundation for all that is to follow.

It is a time of evangelization: faithfully and constantly the living God is proclaimed and Jesus Christ whom he has sent for the salvation of all…

From evangelization, completed with the help of God, come the faith and initial conversion that cause a person to feel called away from sin and drawn into the mystery of God’s love. The whole period of the precatechumenate is set aside for this evangelization, so that the genuine will to follow Christ and seek baptism may mature.”

RCIA Study Edition, 36, 37

1) I'd begin with year round RCIA: potentially the most powerful evangelizing structure that is widespread throughout all dioceses and the vast majority of parishes.

2) And I'd begin the RCIA process with a true year-round Inquiry process
that moved parallel to the actual catechumenate.
Not a few weeks of "mini-catechesis" but a process without a specific timeline where spiritual seekers can ask any genuine spiritual questions they have and wrestle with them in all their complexity: emotional as well as intellectual, relational as well as doctrinal. A process whose end is first and supremely "personal adherence to Christ', which is the foundation upon which the temple of the Christian life can be built.

3) Build in regular one-on-one interviews with each candidate - a long one just before they enter - and short (30 min?) ones periodically through the entire experience. In these private talks, focus on the whole person and their lived relationship with God - whatever it has been to this point in their life. In the first session, In addition to the usual church and sacramental background, the bulk of the time would be given to exploring two questions: Can you describe to me your lived relationship with God to this point in your life? If you could ask God one thing that you were certain he would answer right away, what would it be? And listen intently. Ask clarifying questions - but don't catechize. In later interviews, you listen for "Are they receiving the help they need to move closer to Christ and his Church? Do they have important questions or issues that we haven't (or can't) address in the group sessions? What do they need prayer for?

4) Building trust, rousing curiosity about Jesus Christ and his basic gospel (not fine points of Church teaching) and increasing openness to him in all areas of our life would be the non-negotiable heart and soul of this inquiry process. This is the time to shatter the traditional Catholic reticence to speak of our relationship with God.

As one enormously successful and experienced RCIA Director told me: "My job during the inquiry process is to help people fall in love with Jesus. My job during the catechumenate is to help them fall in love with the Church."

But first, we have to help them fall in love with Jesus. First, we make disciples in the inquiry period Then we form and catechize those disciples in the catechumenate.

" . . . the aim of catechesis is to be the teaching and maturation stage...the period in which the Christian, having accepted by faith the person of Jesus Christ as the one Lord and having given Him complete adherence by sincere conversion of heart, endeavors to know better this Jesus to whom he has entrusted himself; "
Catechesis in Our Time, 19

5) Separate the issues of marriage and entering the Church entirely. They must be dealt with separately. Remove the "We have set a May date for our wedding" deadline and the "I'm just doing this to satisfy my future in-laws" dynamic at the very beginning. Both are issues of discernment and discernment doesn't work on a pre-determined timeline.

6) Resist the temptation to move people into the formal catechumenate prematurely. They need to have moved from an essentially passive place to active seeking before they are ready to move into the formal catechumenate. At that point, catechesis is not longer a set of abstractions but answers to questions they are really wrestling with as men and women who are seriously considering following Jesus Christ in the midst of his Church.

7) Make sure all the members of your RCIA team and all your sponsors are intentional disciples. If they aren't, recruit new team members and work at making personal discipleship the norm of your team. If your RCIA team is made up of disciples, they will model, talk about, and radiate the reality of discipleship to your inquirers and catechumens. Do not give into the "my fiancee will be my sponsor" idea. Train your team and sponsors to

a) Listen to and recognize pre-discipleship levels of spiritual development and how to respond helpfully

b) How to share their own witness of what Christ has done in their life

c) What is the "Great Story" and how to tell it. The "Great Story" (as Fr. Robert Barron calls it) is the kerygma, the core of the Gospel about Jesus' incarnation, life, teachings, miracles, relationships, death, resurrection, and ascension on our behalf - and how he is calling us to respond. To commit their whole lives to Christ, they have to come to know him and every team member has to be able to tell the Great story and then how his or her own personal story relates to the Great story.

d) Help them discern and exercise their charismsbecause they are channels through which Christ's love, mercy, truth, beauty, and provision is made present and they are enormously important in building an effective team of evangelizersl Specific charisms are particularly useful to people at certain places on their journey. Hospitality to build initial trust in the Christian community, evangelism to help people lower their defenses against the possibility of change, etc.

8) Train "Ananiases" - sponsors who can be true spiritual mentors in the those critical early days after baptism or reception. Who can share their own relationship with God, help and encourage the new Catholic in basic spiritual disciplines, help them root in the community, and have someone to talk to about their experiences and feelings as they begin their life as a Catholic.

9) Create a reinforcing "cycle" of evangelization in the parish by sponsoring one of the many effective parish-based evangelization processes which are aimed at the evangelization of those who are already Catholic. A well structured inquiry-RCIA process can work very synergistically with other evangelization activities in the parish. Some will come of those retreats ready for RCIA.

If we focus on evangelizing those who are in RCIA today, the graces unleashed will change the dynamics of the rest of the RCIA process - including Mystagogia - and begin to change the entire spiritual climate of the parish itself.


I have posted before the story of one RCIA Director (Corinne) who did go back home after Making Disciples and revamped the parish RCIA process. Corinne wrote:

When we got back from Making Disciples last year, Doug and I went through our old RCIA outlines and basically threw most everything out,” Corinne told me. “We began asking ourselves, ‘Where do we want people to be spiritually when they are baptized or making a profession of faith?’” They decided that they needed to change their inquiry process to focus more on building trust between the members of the RCIA team and the inquirers and to make it clear that the purpose of the RCIA process is to help people become conscious, intentional followers of Jesus. It also meant greater care would be taken in selecting sponsors for the catechumens and candidates – a process that they are still working on.

Snip.

Whether she’s working with an individual, or part of a team working with a group of inquirers, Corinne says the initial focus is on “building a level of trust with them and then introducing Jesus and the possibility of having a relationship with him. We let them discover Him as a person and how he relates to each of us as individuals.”

Many of the people who enter inquiry have a Christian background. “Some of them who have had an evangelical background already have a relationship with Jesus and want to go deeper, but a lot of the people from mainline Protestant churches haven’t considered the relational aspects of their faith… What we’re going to share with them is the story of Jesus, who really lived. When we do this, so much more of the Catholic faith comes alive… We’ll talk about salvation history, the incarnation, the relationships Jesus had with the apostles and other people; how others sought him out… and how Jesus is the center of the life that comes from God the Father.”

Not only does the inquiry process focus on digging in to the stories in the Bible, people from the St. Thomas More community, including those who recently went through the RCIA process, are invited to come to the inquiry gatherings to share how their lives have been transformed by knowing Jesus.

“Charlotte [not her real name] came from a mainline Christian background. What got her interested in Catholicism was that her son ran with a kid who was Catholic. Her son stayed with them on over Saturday nights and went to Mass with them. That impressed her that their faith was important to them. She went through the RCIA process and when she started to have a relationship with Jesus, she decided to quit her job with Planned Parenthood.”


Snip.

As the process continues, the questions of the catechumens and candidates become more and more a part of the weekly gathering. The team concentrates on keeping the focus of the responses on Jesus. “There’s a total openness to seeing how Jesus is the center of all we do as Catholics,” Corinne said. “Your Catholic faith will lead you to follow Christ and if you’re following Christ you’ll want to be Catholic.”

Snip.

With a greater focus on Christ and the call to conversion, Corinne and her team have noticed the catechumens and candidates were noticeably hungry for solid catechesis. They continue to ask great questions as the team introduces the basics about sacraments, doctrine, and the Church’s social teaching after the Rite of Acceptance at the beginning of Lent.

Last Easter, four adults were baptized, confirmed and received first eucharist, while four others made a profession of faith. Doug and Corinne, through their conversations with them and observing their behavior, knew that all eight were either intentional disciples or seeking to become disciples. “I thought one of the guys was still seeking, but during his confirmation at the Vigil, he almost keeled over. His sponsor had to hold him. Since then, he’s cut a Christian rap CD. He’s on fire with faith and is just exciting to be around. He knows and loves Jesus and Mary!”

As Corinne puts it, “the proof is in the pudding.” All eight of the neophytes are active in the faith community. They’re helping with music at Mass, as lectors, and one fellow – sort of a blue-collar truck driver type - is leading a men’s Bible study. During mystagogia, a period of time after reception of the sacraments of initiation in which the neophytes discuss the effects of the sacraments in their lives, the eight of them were introduced to the charisms and instructed to be on the lookout for their appearance in their lives both inside the parish and in their secular pursuits.

So far this year 17 young adults and adults are journeying through the RCIA process at St. Thomas More, including two adults who “shopped around” various parish RCIA processes and settled in with Corinne, Doug, and their team. Corrine tells her pastor, Fr. Joseph Sergott, OP, that sending her and Doug to Making Disciples, “was the best money he’s spent!”

 
Whither RCIA? Part Three:The Marriage Factor PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 31 August 2009 12:38
When we left our heroine, Catholic marriage rates had plummeted 25% since 2001 and the number of adults entering the Church through RCIA had dropped 30.5% in the same time period. The obvious question is "Why?"

Both have become rites of passage in our culture. Increasingly, choosing one religious faith is much like choosing one's spouse - a normal part of young adulthood. (For more on this topic, see an earlier post, Looking for God.)

Of course, marriage is primarily for the young. 81% of Catholics were married for the first time by age 30. The median age is 24.

But it is concerning that only 41% of never-married Catholics who say that it is at least "a little likely: that they will be married in the future also say that it is either "somewhat or "very" important that their future spouse be Catholic. And especially that only 46% say it is either "somewhat" or "very" important that they be married in the Catholic Church.

This dynamic becomes a bit clearer when we look at figures for those who attend Mass regularly. While the numbers are higher for those who attend Mass weekly, I was still surprised at how low they were: 58% of those who attend Mass every week say it is "very important" to be married in the Catholic Church. But as I noted in an earlier post, 2007 CARA figures indicate that only 10% of Millennial adults attend Mass on a weekly basis. Now we are into single digit territory.

It shouldn't surprise us that believing in the importance of being married in the Church dips dramatically with attendance. Only 18% of those who attend a few times a year and only 3 % of those who rarely or never attend Mass think it very important to be married in the Church.
And if you aren't married in the Church, are you likely to care if your children baptized in the Church? At this point, the entire pastoral structure based upon sacramental motivation breaks down completely.

If Mass attendance affects one's view of marrying a Catholic and being married in the Church, the reverse also seems to hold true. While 88% of those who attend Mass on a weekly basis are married to a Catholic spouse, only 52% of those who rarely or never attend Mass have a Catholic spouse.

And the younger you are, the more likely it is that you will marry a non-Catholic. Although not statistically significant (according to CARA) the younger respondents are, the more likely they are to say that their spouse is not Catholic. 33% of Gen X and Millennial Catholics are married to a non-Catholics compared to 28% of Boomers and 21% of pre-Vatican Ii Catholics. 60 -75% of participants in RCIA (according to the 2000 US Bishop's Study on RCIA) were in an interfaith marriage or expected to be in the near future. Only 6% of the non-Catholic spouses of Catholics are interested in becoming Catholic themselves.

And here is a not altogether surprising side effect: Those married to non-Catholics are more likely (understandably) to attend non-Catholic religious services at least a few times a year (30%) as opposed to 22% of those with Catholic spouses.

Which bring us to this fascinating tidbit. 7% of self-identified Catholics are "practitioners" of non-Catholic religions as well. What do I mean?

If we use our own standard of attending services at least once a month as the standard for "practicing", these Catholics do so - but in a non-Catholic faith community while still regarding themselves as Catholic. 2% of Catholics attend non-Catholic religious services "at least once a month", another 2% attend "nearly every week", an additional 2% attend "every week", and another just under !% "attend more than once a week".

I have long estimated that 10 -20% of the most devout people in our pews were "double-dipping" and getting large parts of their formation in the evangelical world in some form: through attending services, Bible studies, watching evangelicals television, reading evangelical books, listening to evangelical radio and music, etc. Now I finally have some numbers to work with although these figures are for all non-Catholic religious groups.

So here's where we stand: 44% of US Catholics attend Mass "at least once a month" and about 7% attend non-Catholic services at least once a month and just under 5% do so with great regularity.. Double-dipping takes many forms. How many are attending both in the same week is unknown. But how many of the nearly 5% of Catholics who attend other religious services practically on a weekly basis or more are likely to also attend Mass on a weekly basis? I'm pretty sure that the majority do not.

Of those who leave the Church for another faith or for nothing, the vast majority do so before turning 24. 66% of Catholics who eventually become Protestant have left the Church by age 23. 79% of Catholics who leave the faith to become nothing ("unaffiliated") have also done so before their 24th birthday. Among those who left the Catholic faith as minors, most say it was their own decision rather than their parent's decision.

And this final, stomach-churning bit of data:

In the words of the Pew researchers "Among those raised Catholic, becoming Protestant is the best guarantee of stable church attendance as an adult."

Among Catholics turned Protestant (15%) weekly church attendance is stable at 63%. for practicing Catholics, 21%, and for Catholics who have dropped the identity altogether and become "unaffiliated", it is a mere 2%. All three groups report very similar levels of religious education as children and youth group activity as teens and neither seems to have a statistical impact on whether, in the end, young adult Catholics choose to stay or to go.

Oh, and just a word on the education factor. RCIA, as it exists today, was created by the educated for the educated and that reality has had the unintentional effect of ensuring that those with only a high school education seldom make it all the way. RCIA "alums" are 270% more likely to have BA's then the general population of Catholics and 3 times as likely to have a graduate degree as Catholics at large. The person least likely to finish RCIA is someone with a high school education or less.

Of course, the Church is full of intellectual, doctrinal, cultural and spiritual riches but entering the Church cannot be an option merely for the intellectual and culturally oriented or the privileged. RCIA must be adapted successfully for spiritual seekers with a lower educational profile - a profile much closer to the three quarters of our fellow Catholics and of our fellow citizens who do not have BA or graduate degrees. "Here comes everyone" has to be real.

One more post to come - with some suggestions as to how we can effectively respond in light of these 21st century realities.
 
Whither RCIA? Part Two: Millennials Rising PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 31 August 2009 09:06
Continuing from the post below: Whither RCIA? Part One.

There are three big factors that are widely recognized to affect who does and does not enter and finish the RCIA process in the United States: age, marital status, and education - and each affects the other.

Age: First of all, the majority of those who enter the Church through RCIA are on the young side. 48% enter by age 29. 64% by age 39. > (And here our little Catholic Studies Group thought of ourselves as pioneers since we knew of so few who had done what we were contemplating doing and it turns out we were just walking statistics! It's harder than it seems to be really original. . . )

That means that the first half of the Millennial cohort is in prime RCIA age range (19 - 29). Millennials are a large group demographically: 60 million strong, born between 1980 and 2000 (the exact dates are debated but this is a common benchmark) and more than three times the size of Generation X. Second in size only to the Boomer generation.

What do we know about Millennial Catholics as a group? Well, at least half of adult Catholics today are either Gen X or Millennials and that percentage is getting higher every day. But only 40% of millennial Catholic adults are certain you can have a personal relationship with God - the lowest number of any Catholic generation.

So it is no surprise that the percentage of the Millennial generation who "practices" their faith by attending Mass at least once a month is also the lowest of any Catholic generation. Here, the numbers are a bit confused since CARA gives two somewhat different sets of figures on their website. One is bad and the other worse. After much reading of the fine print, I think I've figured it out.

In a graph featured on their website, CARA indicates that 36% of Gen Xers "practice" and 15% attend Mass weekly while 34% of Millennial adults "practice" and about 17% will be found at Mass on a weekly basis. And that overall, about 23% of Catholics attend Mass weekly. These figures seem to be from 2005 surveys.

In October, 2007, as part of their study of marriage, CARA published new and grimmer figures:

21% of all Catholics attend Mass at least once a week. (We have to remember that that is 21% of those who retain the identity, whether they were raised Catholic or converted to the faith. About 32% of those "raised" Catholic no longer consider themselves to be Catholic.)

45% of the Pre Vatican II generation (65+) attend Mass at least once a week. 20% of Boomers. 13% of Gen Xers. 10% of Millennials.

The margin of error could be a factor here since the number of Millennials surveyed was smaller (since only half are adults today) and that raises the 3.1 margin of error. But clearly, the movement is not in the direction we would like to see.

Let's take a moment to really consider the implications of this. 50% of Catholic adults are either Gen Xers or Millennials in 2009. Obviously that percentage will only grow. And both groups are teetering on the edge of weekly single digit Mass attendance. And all the studies indicate that weekly Mass attendance is linked to a host of other desirable outcomes.

The implications for Catholic marriage and the whole "the sacraments will bring 'em back" scenario are eye-opening. 40% of married Gen X and Millennial Catholics were not married in the Church. It is no surprise, therefore, that the number of Catholic marriages in the US has dropped 25% over the past 7 years. If the majority of those at prime marriageable age - their 20's and 30's - seldom or never darken the door, why should we expect them to come back just to get married?

Which has big implications for RCIA because marriage and family is the primary reason that the majority of adults enter the catechumenate. It begins to make perfect sense that RCIA numbers and marriage numbers are falling together.

Part Three: the Marriage Factor
 
Whither RCIA? Part One PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 31 August 2009 07:27
Morning, Y'all.

I've been crunching RCIA related numbers this weekend (in the midst of a number of other things) and finally feel like I've got a handle on a question that hit me after to returned home from speaking to an RCIA team support network in Omaha a couple weeks ago.

The group in Omaha was great but I couldn't help but notice that the overwhelming majority of the people present seemed to be of or near retirement age. I already knew the majority of those who enter the Church through RCIA are young adults and that most Catholics who leave the Church do so very young - the majority before age 24. I started mulling it over and then got on line to peruse some resources that I've not had time to read thoroughly before.

After pouring through several major CARA reports (Sacraments Today, 2008; Marriage in the Catholic Church, 2007) and putting their findings together with what I've already gathered from the Pew US Religious Landscape Survey, 2008; the Pew Faith in Flux survey, 2009; and the results of the US Bishop's Study of RCIA in 2000 "Journey to the Fullness of Life", a picture began to emerge.

One that startled even me.

First of all, I hadn't realized that the numbers of adults entering the Church through RCIA has plummeted over the past few years. Partly this was because the US Bishops were not publishing the number of those entering as they once did a few years ago. I had wondered about this but it didn't seem urgent enough to make the effort necessary to find the statistics in other ways. This weekend, I was able to cobble together the whole picture from a variety of online sources.

The basics: According to CARA, 7% of US Catholics entered the faith as adults - aged 18 or older. According to the Pew studies, 2.6% of US adults are "converts" to the Catholic faith - about 6.5 million people which amounts to nearly 11% of those who consider themselves Catholic in this country - practicing or not. (Since the majority of those who enter the Church through RCIA leave the practice of the faith within a year, it is hard to know how many of them still hold to their Catholic identity and so told the Pew surveyors that they were Catholic. The total number of all who have at some point in their lives, entered the Catholic Church - whether as a child, teen, or adult - is almost certainly higher.)

3% of those raised Protestant in this country have become Catholic. 63% of RCIA "alums" were Protestant before becoming Catholic, 28% were not part of any faith, and 8% enter from an non-Protestant religious background.

This is the group for which RCIA is intended. (84% of Catholics enter the faith as infants, 8% as a child, up to 12 years old; 1% as a teen; and 7% as adults.) 75% of adults enter the Church through the RCIA process.

(Which raises the question: does being part of three RCIA processes but a graduate of none count? Or do Mark Shea and I fall into the 25% of adults who are not counted as having gone through RCIA because we were received before Christmas and never completed the RCIA process. Although our experience is clearly what the Church envisions happening for those who are already practicing Christians and who have a good grasp of the basics of the faith, I don't know where we fall on this spectrum.)

How many are entering the Church through RCIA?

In 1993, the US Bishops started to report not only adult baptisms but the number of already baptized adults being received into full communion. Between 1993 and 1998, between 154,000 and 162,000 entered every year.

Then came a surge. In 1999 and 2000, about 171,000 adults entered each year and the numbers grew again in 2001 when 178,000 adults became Catholic. (I wonder if the visibility of the Great Jubilee of 2000 and John Paul Il, failing but also in some ways, at the height of his fame and still capable of things like the iconic trip to the Holy Land was a factor)

2002: The Scandal broke in Lent of that year. 161,132 adults entered.

2005: Pope John Paul II died in April while 154,501 are received.

2006: The number received rises a bit to 157,500. (Perhaps related to the enormous global media coverage of the Pope's funeral and all the attendant talk of "John Paul the Great"?)

2007: The slide begins in earnest. 136,778 are received.

2008: Another drop to 124,000 adults received. A 54,000 person or 30.5% drop in new Catholics over a 7 year period. And with no ecumenical council to blame it on. What is going on?

2009: Figures will not be available until the Official Catholic Directory is published in June, 2010. The US Bishop's website had an article published just before Easter which speculated that perhaps as many as 150,000 adults would be received at Easter. If this did, in fact, happen, it would be a real bounce upward. (Would it be related to the success and media coverage of Pope Benedict's visit to the US in the spring of 2008?) But we'll have to wait another 10 months to know.

And I meditated on this, it occurred to me that one really significant factor might be something other than our usual debates about bad catechesis and culture war stuff or even highly positive media events involving the Popes. it might have to do with the turn of the generational tide and the coming into their own of the Millennial generation.

More on this topic in a second post.
 
Ripples of Grace in My Town PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 30 August 2009 06:34
How often the experience of a life transformed by Christ leads to the desire to share that new life with others. Here's a fascinating story from my town:

From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, 10 or so ministry volunteers work in shifts of three behind a stand to spread Christ’s message outside the courthouse. An office will open Tuesday at 102 S. Tejon St., Suite 1100, about two blocks north of the courthouse, where volunteers will witness to people in a more relaxed environment.

The mastermind behind Courtside Ministries is Colorado Springs attorney Tyler Makepeace.

A Springs attorney for 36 years, Makepeace has represented clients involved in domestic violence, rape, murder, shoplifting, DUI, burglary and a host of other crimes. He is known for witnessing to his clients, and he encourages other attorneys to do the same. Courtside Ministries is an outgrowth of his unrelenting desire to witness.

Makepeace became a born-again Christian in 1999. Till that point, he was sad and confused, he writes in a law magazine article published several years ago. His marriage was crumbling and he was a workaholic. “I was depressed all the time and could not understand or explain my predicament,” Makepeace writes.

One evening during this tumultuous time, I remember watching a Billy Graham Crusade and hearing him say, ‘God loves you,’” Makepeace writes. “I could not get my mind around such a thought. Then, several weeks later, I recall picking up a book about the life story of Mother Teresa and reading about her life ‘abandoned to God.’ Such a thought began to intrigue me. Unbeknownst to me, God was pursuing me, and I had begun a journey toward a more rewarding spirit-filled life.

I'm not surprised anymore when I read about people whose conversion was precipitated by both evangelical and Catholic influences. And what influence could be more quintessentially evangelical than that of Billy Graham and more truly Catholic than that of Mother Teresa? But both, in their own ways, radiated Christ.

How many lives have changed because people met Christ through the testimony of that man and that woman? In my town. In your town. And what unexpected ripples of grace reach many others because of those changed lives?
 
RCIA PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 28 August 2009 16:24
I've been mulling over a blog post on RCIA ever since I got back from Omaha and have been working on it today. Of course, stuff - good stuff mostly - kept happening so I haven't finished my mulling, but hopefully I'll get it up during the weekend.
 
Called & Gifted Facilitator Training - Coming to a Parish Near You! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 28 August 2009 14:25
Two more events confirmed for this fall in the past 24 hours. 14 events in October alone. We are going to be busy.

But the real heads up in this post is about the FIVE opportunities to be trained to facilitate the discernment of others' charisms in September and October. Coming to a parish near you - literally!

Kansas City, KS on September 18 - 19

Peachtree City, George (Atlanta) on September 27- 28

Houston, Texas, October 16 - 17

Linthicum, Maryland (Baltimore) October 18 - 20 in the evenings

Ann Arbor, Michigan, October 27 - 29 in the evenings (this just was confirmed so it isn't up on our website yet)

Learning to facilitate the discernment of others is one of the most valuable pastoral skill sets for pastors, pastoral staff and leaders and can have an enormous impact on life of individual Christians as well as in our parishes, our dioceses, and with regards to the Church's mission to and in the world. Have I also mentioned that listening to people's stories of being used by God is a incredible experience? How it opens our eyes to what God is doing in our midst and how it nourishes our own faith?

There are some important pre-requisites:

Step One: Begin Your Own Discernment

1) Experience the Called & Gifted introductory workshop (live or on CD).

(We have live workshops coming up this fall in Silverton, OR; Sugarland, TX; Peachtree City, GA (Atlanta area); Issaquah, WA (Seattle) Collierville, TN (Memphis area) Indianapolis, IN; Linthicum, MD (Baltimore area) Houston, TX; Seattle, WA; Petaluma, CA Corpus Christi, TX)

2) Take the Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory (which is distributed at a live workshop or can be purchased through our website)

3) Have a one hour, one-on-one personal interview with a trained interviewer.

a. If no trained interviewers are available in your area, you can arrange for a phone interview through the Institute office.

b. There is a nominal charge of $25 for a phone interview as we pay our interviewers an honorarium.

4) Pick a charism to explore and do some personal discernment. This experience will not only help you clarify
your own charisms but give you insight into the discernment process which will help you enormously when
listening to other people’s stories as an interviewer.


Step Two: Becoming an Interviewer and Small Gifts Group Facilitator

1) Prepares you to conduct a one hour, one-on-one session with someone who has been through a live
workshop or listened to the CDs and has taken the Inventory. During this interview:

a. We answer the participant’s personal questions,
b. Help participants recognize patterns in their life that may indicate the presence of a charism,
c. Help them pick one charism to discern and determine how they might do so.

2) Attend Gifts Interviewer Training:

a. Prerequisites for going through interviewer training:
i. Basic listening skills (we don’t have time to teach them during the training)
ii. Practicing Christian for a couple years, the basic spiritual and personal maturity to listen to
very different personal and spiritual experiences without interposing one’s own.

b. Interviewer training is short but intense. A typical weekend schedule would be Friday night from 7 – 9:30
and Saturday 9am – 8 pm. Some trainings are done in a series of three evenings in a row.

c. Cost: $100/person (includes the cost of extensive reference materials)
 
Prayer Request PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 27 August 2009 20:07
Mea culpa for the lack of blogging since I've gotten back. Tuesday was intense catch up and meetings. Lot of new opportunities have flooded in over the past two weeks and we are still trying to sort them all out. (Why does everyone want everything in October? We have five Called & Gifted facilitator trainings scheduled in September and October! If you want to learn how to have "the most fun you can have legally", you should consider attending one. I'll put up another post just about those trainings in a bit.)

Right now, I'm waiting for a phone call about my LA area gig on Labor Day weekend.

But in the meantime, I've received this urgent e-mail. A much loved priest, Fr. Neil Stull, S.O.L.T., is gravely ill with cancer and needs our prayers.

Let's hold Fr. Neil up tonight.

 
High Country PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 24 August 2009 22:52
The Leadville Trail 100 took place last weekend while we were in Memphis. Three weeks ago, I was high above Leadville, taking in the wildflowers at 12,000 feet. Here are some pictures (click to see the picture in full)

The trail up:



The flowers: Columbine, Indian paintbrush, larkspur, various kinds of asters and daisies.





The view over Turquoise Lake and Leadville (10,200 feet high and far below)


 
Happy Birthday William Wilberforce PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 24 August 2009 22:04
Today is William Wilberforce's 250th birthday. Wilberfoce is a man that is worth of remembrance by all Christians, the leader of the British anti-slavery movement for many years as well as part of many other faith-based reform movements.

All but one of Wilberforce's sons became Catholic (due to the Oxford Movement) but may have influenced the development of Catholic Social Teaching.

One way to celebrate would be to run out and get the recent and glowingly reviewed biography of Wilberforce or rent the movie "Amazing Grace" this weekend.
 
Update on Ted Fones: Aug 23 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Sunday, 23 August 2009 20:37
My father has had a rough road since breaking his hip August 11. He developed pneumonia in the hospital, had a second surgery to implant a stent in his neck, received his first dialysis through the stent, and today was moved to a new hospital.

My sister, brother, and I decided to move him, with his and my mother's permission, because of the terrible care he received in the first hospital. There were daily incidents that led us to no longer trust he was getting good healthcare - or even truly safe. I have a four page-long file outlining the problems we encountered with his care, and I'm not even finished with it. It has been a sad learning experience about the state of healthcare in this country, and I would recommend that if you have a loved one in the hospital that you be prepared to act as their advocate if they are unable to do so for themselves.

Thank you for your prayers for his recovery. Please keep them up!
 
Reconsidering Education PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Sunday, 23 August 2009 20:11
I don't have much time to post - I have to walk back from Starbuck's, where I have access to the 'net, back to the rectory where I'm staying the night, and then get up early for a flight back to Colorado Springs, but I ran across a review of a book that sounds interesting - and very Catholic - coming from a Dutch Reformed philosopher from Calvin College.

In Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Baker Academic) philosopher James K. A. Smith calls for a "temporary moratorium" on the hallowed notion of the human person as primarily a rational being, which has led educators to focus on reason, logic, data, and "that which can be proved," rather than as beings created for love.

Here's a bit of the review, which outlines Smith's question:
For Smith, worldview-centered education reflects a continued understanding of human beings as primarily rational creatures, moved and animated mainly by ideas. From this assumption has come a particular form of education—very much in line with the secular academy—that elevates the classroom and privileges fact, argument, and belief. To those who espouse this view, Smith poses one fundamental question in the form of a thought experiment: "What if education wasn't first and foremost about what we know, but about what we love?"

If educating is indeed about properly ordering our loves, as Smith (following Augustine) believes, then formation rather than information should become the primary end of our institutions. This presents a colossal problem for a professorate that's had its formation in the modern academy, and the modern world at large. Today's academic disciplines weren't exactly designed to get to the heart—quite the opposite, in fact. The very notion of "research," whether done by chemists or anthropologists, centers on cultivating detachment and "objectivity"; "thought," of course, requires freedom from emotion: this was the modern confidence, indeed, the modern creed.

But what has it turned out? Several generations of students-turned-professionals who have learned to love success and excellence, who climb corporate ladders with ease, and who are very good at shopping (in all forms). These are the kinds of loves that direct us away from our deepest ends; this is mis-education—missed education. And Christian institutions, Smith charges, have been complicit in this destructive, demonic project. "Could it be the case that learning a Christian perspective doesn't actually touch my desire, and that while I might be able to think about the world from a Christian perspective, at the end of the day I love not the kingdom of God but rather the kingdom of the market?"
This perspective is remarkably similar to a question Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP, poses in his parish mission titled, "Friendship With God." In this wonderful mission, Fr. Michael examined the Fall from the perspective of humans seeking the wrong thing: knowledge, rather than experience, or being - particularly the experience of being loved and loving, or appreciating that which is. It's a brilliant, inspiring extended reflection on our choices and what it is that God is really offering us.

I think Professor Smith's question is timely and important, especially given that so many Catholics seem more comfortable in the realm of ideas, rather than relationship. I don't want to propose a false dichotomy, either. Both ideas and relationship are important; both the mind and the heart make up the human. The Holy Father said as much more than twenty-five years ago in a preface of a book by Cardinal Suenens: "What is the relation between personal experience and the common faith of the Church? Both factors are important: a dogmatic faith unsupported by personal experience remains empty; mere personal experience unrelated to the faith of the Church remains blind."
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, foreward for a book by Cardinal Suenens, Renewal & the Powers of Darkness, 1983.

Our ideas of formation in Catholic circles these days does seem to be heavily weighted toward an intellectual formation. While this is important (I am a Dominican, after all), it is not the only aspect of the human that must be formed. There were many, many highly intelligent people in the Nazi regime, for example, but obviously their moral, spiritual, affective formation was altogether lacking - at least in regard to Christian teaching (or even the natural law, for that matter).

Particularly in regard to Christian formation, I think we are seeing the ineffectiveness of formation that is almost solely focused on the intellect. We try to teach our children the Faith, and time and time again they reject it. It is perceived as boring, abstract, out-of-touch, and inconsequential. Compared to the "facts" provided by science, the "Truths of the Faith," which cannot be seen, but must be believed, pale in reality. The faith of the apostles is something that is experienced as well as taught; felt as well as known; life-changing as much or more than mind-changing.
 
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