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A group blog devoted to the baptismal call, spirituality, gifts, vocations, ministry, work, history, theology, evangelization, formation, bad jokes, and pastoral support of lay Christians seeking to live their faith in the 21st century.

Sponsored by the Catherine of Siena Institute ---

Introducing myself PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 11 January 2007 20:50

Written by the other Sherry

I'm "the other" Sherry, i.e. not Sherry W. At her urging, I herewith introduce myself.

I am a history professor's wife and homeschooling mother of 3 girls. My husband and I entered the Church together a year after we were married; we were both from an evangelical background. We've been friends of Sherry W. for 16 years, and been co-conspirators of sorts in the development of the Catherine of Siena Institute and other efforts to nurture the apostolic awakening and formation of lay Catholics. I've taught the Called and Gifted worshop, and conducted gifts discernment interviews with around 200 people in person and on the phone over the past several years. I'm part of a group of folks in the two parishes here in my small Appalachian Ohio town that is working toward implementing the Church's guidelines on formation that are given in the new Directory for Catechesis.

In the church I was raised in, you couldn't sit through a single church service without hearing a basic version of the kerygma, and being invited to visibly respond to it. I can't remember not knowing that God loved me; that sin separated me from God; that Jesus died and rose again so that my (and humanity's) sins could be forgiven and I (and humanity) could live a joyful-though-not-easy relationship of intimacy with God that would last forever; that saying Yes to God's invitation (and receiving Baptism) would make me a child of God, heir of heaven, and co-worker with God to spread that message to every single human being. I took my time with saying "yes"; I was baptized at sixteen. But I knew what was at stake in that "yes".

What I found in the Catholic Church built upon and fulfilled that foundation in many unexpected ways. I deeply love the Church's teaching, history, and life.

Now I am raising children in a parish culture where that proclamation is not ever-present in the way it was for me, though Jesus is Here, and my children know that. That proclamation is not easy to hear in my parish -- and it is not a bad parish by any means. The Mass, and the Church's devotional life, assume it -- but the generation I am raising (and every other generation) needs to hear it proclaimed.

I want my children to be fully Christian, fully Catholic, to discover and live their vocations to the full -- and to help that happen it seems that I have to be part of changing the world, and to change the world, I have to be part of making all that beautiful teaching of the Church live. So be it. I am utterly inadequate to the task, but He delights in using the inadequate to do remarkable things.

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The Late, Great Delle Chatman PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 11 January 2007 15:51
If you need a boost or even if you don't - watch a few of these wonderful reflections here by Delle Chatman who died last November of ovarian cancer. Talk about a lay apostle!

As I wrote about her at the time:

I first heard about her from Barb Nicolosi who wrote about her death from ovarian cancer earlier this month.

But then I found this videos that she had made in the last couple of years for a Chicago station - what an incredible witness to the love of God and the hope of the faith! If only I had 1/10 of her faith and evident love! Occasionally, it can sound a bit like she thinks she's earning salvation - but I don't think that's it at all. I just think she is so consumed with the experience of the love of God that she sees all of life through that paradigm.

Watch a couple. They are magnificent. Delle wanted to be a priest, apparently, and only resigned herself to not becoming one a couple years ago and refused to become bitter. Or about having ovarian cancer and leaving a young daughter (she was a single mother)

The last e-mail she sent out as she entered hospice ended with this sentence:

"PS. Brothers and sisters, either we believe in eternal life - or we don't."

Watching her again just now say "I didn't keep the faith. Faith kept me." moved me to tears all over again. In the presence of such a glowing, radiant witness, how could you not be drawn to the love of Christ?
Reflected Glory PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 11 January 2007 12:23
Before I lived here

I spent 8 months living here - on the edge of the Gower peninsula along the coast of South Wales.
This is sunset on Worm's Head and dramatic Rhossili beach, the far end of the peninsula.

The Gower has long been recognized as one of the great beauty spots of Great Britain and has everything we Yanks associate with Britain:
castles and manor houses, Roman ruins, medieval churches, wild horses on the moor, "Arthur's stone" (yes, the stone he drew the sword out of - they are scattered all over Britain), 900 year old yew trees, ancient villages, great cliffs and wonderful beaches. In addition, the Gower has signs in a language filled to overflowing with double consonants and sounds that drive native English speakers to distraction.

Every week, I went for long (20 mile) hikes with a hiking buddy across the Gower so I got to know it pretty well and have dreamed of returning someday. It was only when I returned home that I discovered that I bear the same name as one of the early monk evangelists to south Wales. Who says that evangelism is Protestant?

St. Brynach is also known as (Brynach Wyddel: Brunn ack Withel) "the Irishman," though he was a native of Pembrokeshire and spent many years in Britanny following a pilgrimage to Rome. Here is a picture of his church. On his feast day, 7 April, it is said that the first cuckoo arriving in Wales sings its very first song from the top of a 13-ft high elaborately patterned Great Celtic cross, dating from the 10th century, perhaps the finest in Wales.

Me with a last name overflowing with double consonants and it had never dawned upon me that my family might have a Welsh connection. I was reminded because south Wales was hit by a huge wind and rain storm today and so made the news.
A Whole Lot of Good Stuff Going On . . . PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 11 January 2007 10:12

This is really an addendum to Keith's post "Diocesan Kudos" but seemed a big long for a comment.

Some parishes in this country are already quietly becoming virtual hotbeds of evangelism. In the course of our travels, we have come across a number of parish-based evangelization processes that have revolutionized the lives of literally millions of Catholics over the past 40 years.

The power of having it happen in the parish is that participants don’t get the impression that their faith is just between “me and Jesus” but experience a powerful spiritual awakening in the midst and facilitated by the Christian community. From the very beginning, discipleship is both personal and communal. As the new adult catechism puts it: "I believe and we believe".

I use the adjective “quiet” because in this country, effective Catholic evangelization that actually results in intentional discipleship is almost always a grassroots effort usually put on by (and often created by) lay people for lay people with the pastor’s approval. (The nationally known programs such as Renew or Disciples in Mission are not intended to provide initial proclamation of the Gospel. They supplement direct proclamation.)

Most direct evangelization processes have no websites or staff, operate on a shoestring, and spread almost entirely by word of mouth. The “national headquarters”, if it exists and you can find it, (it took me a year and half to locate one such office!) is often run by a few elderly lay volunteers armed only with a kitchen table and an answering machine.

In Boise, we have been working with a parish that has been transformed by a weekend Evangelization Retreat that focuses on the renewal of the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. Over the past 8 years, well over 500 adults have been through these retreats, which are facilitated by lay people for lay people and now draws significant numbers of non-Catholics to every retreat. Like Baptists who are coming to be evangelized by Catholics!

I can’t begin to count the number of retreatants who have told us that their lives were dramatically changed by that experience. Many of these people had been away from the Church for decades and now are passionate in their desire to follow Christ. And their passion has changed the life of that community.

Attendance at Mass and personal giving has risen significantly. Two hundred adults now meet weekly to share their faith in the small Christian communities that have arisen from the retreat. Parishioners are hungry to learn more about their faith and fill every adult formation class that is offered by the diocese.

So many volunteers want to help put on the evangelization retreats that the team struggles to find places for everyone! And word of what is happening has spread around the state. Large groups of parishioners have charted buses at their own expense to take the retreat to tiny mountain and desert parishes around the state. They will do anything and go anywhere to share the joy and power of the Gospel that has changed their lives. But almost no one has ever heard of the Evangelization Retreats outside Idaho.

The sheer numbers involved in these processes around the country and the world are staggering. For instance, over 1 million American Catholics have gone through Christ Renews His Parish weekends since the first one was given in a Toledo in 1969. Sixty million people world-wide have attended “Life in the Spirit” seminars.

In the evangelical world, evangelizing processes that impacted those kinds of numbers would have drawn thousands of eager pastors and leaders who would come from around the country to learn about the process. (For example, 400,000 pastors from all over the world have studied under Rick Warren, author of the Purpose-Driven Life, at Saddle-back Church in southern California.)

While it is comforting to know that few Catholic evangelists have to worry about the temptations of religious empire building, it says a great deal about our priorities as a community that they labor at something so crucial in such obscurity.
Diocesan Kudos PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 11 January 2007 08:55

Written by Keith Strohm

It's easy to look upon the statistics and our own experience of Catholicism and begin to feel a bit overwhelmed at the lack of structure and culture that would help build communities of intentional disciples. Every so often, I find myself wondering if, indeed, this is what God is calling His people to, why is taking so bloody long! Usually at that point, I pop up my favorite search engine and type in 'evangelization' and 'catholic.' In addition to getting numerous hits from protestant ministries seeking to reveal the 'truth' about Catholicism to catholics, I occasionally stumble upon something that lifts my heavy heart.

On my last search, I discovered that the Diocese of Sioux Falls has a fantastic evangelization initiative--one in which they are using modern multi-media in a very professional way--to call people to Christ.

And so, without further ado, I present to you The Story.


Some thoughts on justifying faith PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Thursday, 11 January 2007 05:14
I sometimes wonder if people who stumble across our blog might wonder just how Catholic it is with all the talk about intentional discipleship and the personal relationship with Jesus. That language often invites rejection from Catholics who fear a "me and Jesus" stance towards faith that disregards the importance of community. I would propose the contrary. Intentional discipleship impels us towards community.

In the 16th century, when the Reformers cried, "justification by faith alone," the bishops at the Council of Trent decreed that only faith that is active in charity and good works (fides formata, i.e., "well-formed faith") possesses any power to justify us (Gal 5:6, 1Cor 13:2). This well-formed faith, which is our response to grace, is what Sherry and I are calling intentional discipleship. The teaching of Trent stated that a faith lacking in charity and good works is dead in the eyes of God and insufficient for justification (James 2:17).

The Church's teaching tells us that the faith which justifies the believer begins with a firm belief in what God has revealed and is intimately linked with a conversion of heart and a desire to live a new life. That new life is characterized by love for others and contrition for one's sins and the adult to seek baptism – or, if already baptized – confession. Both of those aspects of a new life require me to have a regard for and participation in community. Real love is not just a sentiment, but a desire for the good of others that leads to action. Contrition for sin requires that I examine my relationship with others and begin to see how I have harmed them by both actions and the lack of action. Intentional discipleship is anything but, "me and Jesus."

So what does it mean, then, that the lines for confession are so short these days? I suggest it's not just that we've lost a sense of sin, which is definitely a part of the problem. But we've also lost our sense of honest self-awareness as well as a sense of adventure! We may well have also lost the communal aspect of being a person of faith as well. We're complacent and self-satisfied with the way things are – particularly the way WE are - and aren't ready for the radical change to which God invites us.

An article appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette January 2 that caught my attention. It was entitled, "You're Not That Hot," and reported that researchers have discovered again and again that many people systematically misjudge their competence, virtues, relevance and future actions. We consider ourselves to be smarter, luckier, better looking and more important than we really are. Might as well add "more moral" to that list.

Until we begin to emphasize that faith is the beginning of God's work of transforming us, calling us to a new life, life in its fullness, we will not only see short lines for confession, we'll find a dearth of intentional disciples. The Gospels relate how Peter, Andrew, James and John abandoned their lives as fishermen to follow Jesus. They were literally willing to "live without nets." That's what we must be willing to do, too. By "living without nets" I mean not only the willingness to change careers, if necessary, as those fishermen did, but to live without relying upon the "common sense" attitudes our culture teaches us and our egos crave. We must be willing to abandon ourselves to the teaching of Jesus that remains so counter-cultural and counter-intuitive: loving our enemies; loving our neighbor NOT as we love ourselves, but as Christ has loved us (Jn 13:34); imitating Him who came "to serve, not to be served" (Mt 20:28); forgiving those who offend us. This is not "me and Jesus" faith.

Of course, we cannot do this on our own, but only in cooperation with God's grace. We cannot do this without the support of a rich sacramental life in which we encounter Christ's presence among us. We cannot do this well without the support of other intentional disciples who are on the same difficult, yet joyful journey. Finally, we cannot do this if our lives are not saturated with prayer, including the quiet prayer of contemplation in which we present ourselves to God as we truly are: needy, poor children who depend upon our Father for everything. All of these are integral to the formation of a well-formed, justifying faith.
Michael of the Incarnation PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 10 January 2007 13:46
A couple years ago, Fr. Michael Sweeney and I had a conversation about the Carmelite practice of taking a religious name that highlighted an aspect of the Gospel that was most precious to you or reflected a devotion or spiritual path that you felt called to.

hence, Sr. Therese of the Holy Face of the Child Jesus

If you took a name for yourself, what would it be?, I asked him. "Michael of the Incarnation" was his reply.

I thought for a moment and then said "I'd be Sherry of the Redemption"

So gentle commenters and lurkers, if you have to answer that question, what name would you choose?
God Has No Grandchildren PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 10 January 2007 06:47
An article today in The Telegraph (a leading British newspaper) regarding the state of Catholicism in France is arresting in light of a saying I heard as an evangelical:

"God has no grandchildren."

Simply put, barely 51% of the French consider themselves Catholic and of that 51%, only half said they believed in God! Only 10% attend Mass.

"Many said they were Catholic because it was a family tradition"

The article is particularly interesting in light of a piece that appeared in Christianity Today in 2005 saying that a new "religious openness" simultaneously taking place in France - but the style is evangelical.

According to a study in 2003, 32% of the French who call themselves Christians had recently returned to their faith. In 1994, the number was only 13%. "Is Europe's most secular nation rediscovering its Christian roots?" asks Agnieszka Tennant in Christianity Today.

"Bible sales are currently at an all-time high in France," reports the French Bible Society's Christian Bonnet. Completely unexpectedly, 100,000 Bibles and 50,000 New Testaments were sold in 2003. La Bible Expliquée, a Bible with explanations for seekers, sold 80,000 copies in the first month, even in secular bookshops and supermarkets. "God, your shares are on the rise!" wrote a business magazine in a 72-page report on the sudden rise of religious interest in the post-materialistic age. "

Since 1950, the number of Evangelicals in France has multiplied sevenfold, from 50,000 to 350,000," says Tennant, and many nominal Catholics have experienced a renewal of their faith through Alpha Courses. Daniel Liechti, who researches church planting for France Mission, estimates that one new church was planted in France every 11 days for the past 35 years.

The Alpha course - a meal/video/small group -based evangelization course out of a charismatic Anglican church in London, is running in 400 churches around France. The April, 05 newsletter of the Alpha movement in Hong Kong reports something widely quoted around the evangelical world:

"The Catholic Archbishop of Paris, Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, says that Catholics have received two good things from the Protestants: the Charismatic movement and the Alpha Course, which is booming in Catholic parishes: in 1998, five Alpha courses were held; in 2004, the number had grown to 303."

As some of you know, I have my reservations about the Alpha course which you can find in this article at our Institute library (When Evangelical is Not Enough)

But, the point is, in so many countries of Europe, historical, wide-spread cultural Catholicism or Protestantism is rapidly being replaced by a smaller *intentional Christianity*, much of it evangelical and charismatic in theology and style. A similar spiritual awakening has been noted in deeply secularlized Holland, again linked to evangelical movements like Alpha, linked to movements that focus on initial missionary proclamation of the kergyma to a generation that has never heard it.

The relationship between culture and conversion is fascinating. An established Christian culture can foster conversion but it cannot replace conversion. Culture can powerfully transmit the kerygma but it can also obscure it. Christian culture is not self-sustaining. Christian culture is the fruit of personal faith. Without the preaching of the kerygma and personal conversion which is a source of renewal in every generation, Christian culture ultimately withers away and dies.

Hence, Sherry's mantra:

If we don't evangelize our own, someone else will do it for us.
If we don't form our own, someone else will do it for us.
The Role of Beauty PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 10 January 2007 06:25

Written by Keith Strohm

A while back, at the Shrine of the Holy Whapping blog, Andrew began an intriguing post with the following sentence:

I submit to you that beauty is really the source of authority
Reading this started me down a path of reflection about the role of beauty in the New Evangelization.

As we embrace our call to live as apostles of Jesus Christ in the 21st century, to what degree do we reflect the beauty of life in Jesus Christ. Not that we each have to look like we came off the cover of a magazine, or that our lives have to have a measure of studied perfection, like a Norman Rockwell picture--that would be beauty as the world sees it, transient and passing. Rather, in the storms and trials of life, as well as in its better moments, how clearly can our neighbors, our pharmacists, our childrens' school teachers, or even the strangers that we meet, see the loving heart of Jesus Christ in our life.?

It is beauty, ultimately, that sways the human heart. Intellectual explanations and reasoned approaches to the Revelation of God merely utilize human gifts to apprehend the beauty and the glory of the God who has pursued us before we were born. Beauty, therefore, moves us to conversion with the sublimity and power of its very nature.

But how can we, between our struggle to make mortgage payments, change the oil on the family car, wrestle children into clothes appropriate to school, get to work on time for that big presentation--how can we even think about being beautiful (as in the beauty of holiness) in the midst of the chaos of our lives?


It is grace that gradually perfects us, building upon our human nature so that we might become more like the One Who Is Beauty. It is grace that transforms the human heart, polishing its rough contours until it reflects the Sacred Heart of Christ Himself everywhere we journey. It is grace, therefore, that allows us to become Beautiful, so that others might encounter the Living Christ in everything that we do.

Our role is to dispose ourselves to that grace--to open ourselves to Beauty, even in the midst of ugliness and horror, or the numbing, relentless sense of blandness that can often afflict our lives. In doing so, we echo the insightful words of the Romantic poet John Keats in his poem, Ode On A Grecian Urn, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty."

The difference here is that Beauty is not a concept, but a Person.
Formation Opportunity PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 09 January 2007 16:18
Since one of the topics we've discussed on this blog is the difficulty some Catholics have in talking to others about their relationship with God, I thought I'd introduce a new formation program that can help in this area. It's called "Formation for Spiritual Companionship," and I'll give a little more information about it in a moment. But first, a little about the organization that produced it.

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

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

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

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

It looks like this formation process has a similar format as the Formation for Healing Prayer, in that video presentations provided by ICM are incorporated in the lessons. While I don't have access to the whole program, if it is produced as well as the Formation for Healing Prayer, it is well worthwhile.
Houston, we have a workshop . . . PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 09 January 2007 07:58
If you live near Houston or Nampa, ID, you are in luck because a Called & Gifted workshop is coming to your neighborhood this weekend.

The Called & Gifted is a fun, high energy introduction to our mission as lay apostles and the opportunity to begin discerning the "charisms" - ways we have been supernaturally empowered by God for the sake of others - that we were given by the Holy Spirit at baptism. C & G's typically run from 7pm-9:30 Friday night and 9:30 - 4pm on Saturday.

24,000 Catholics (and non-Catholics) have attended live C & G's to date and we are still regularly astonished and encouraged by what happens when lay Christians like you and I begin to discern God's call together. I always tell those we train to help others discern charism that "this is the most fun you can have legally". That is because witnessing what God is doing in the lives of "ordinary" intentional disciples will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up!

In Houston, our teaching team will be holding forth at St Thomas More Catholic Church, Houston.

CONTACT: Suzie Hamilton, Pastoral Associate, or the Parish office at (713) 729-0221 for information or to register.

In Nampa,
the workshop will be St Paul's Catholic Church, Nampa ID (Diocese of Boise)

CONTACT: Joan Ann Piper or the Parish Office at (208) 466-7031 for information or to register.

"Practical" Absolutes???? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 09 January 2007 07:38

As secular apostles, lay Catholics have primary responsibility for the application of the faith to human institutions and cultures. It is part and parcel of our call to find ourselves wrestling with extremely complicated questions about how to apply Church teaching in real-world situations.

How do you discern the good – especially the common good - in this particular situation with these people? What freedom, what authority, what power do I have to shape the outcome? What actions should you take, can you take, to foster all that is truly human and brings glory to God in this situation? These perplexing questions become even more so when the Church’s teaching, such as those regarding sanctity of human life, seems to be developing before our eyes in response to changes in technology and political systems.

John Allen’s January 5 column “Church Opposition to Execution “Practically Absolute” about the Church’s evolving stand regarding the death penalty was a reflection on this development. (You can read the whole piece at

Allen argues that the Vatican’s opposition to the execution of Saddam Hussein is a “milestone in the evolution of yet another category in Catholic teaching: Positions which are not absolute in principle, but which are increasingly absolute in practice. Opposition to war, unless undertaken in clear self-defense or with the warrant of the international community, and the use of capital punishment are the leading cases in point.”

Allen states that the Church now seems to have two different categories of moral teaching:

1) “ontic” or “inherent” absolutes. This would include abortion, euthanasia, and stem cell destruction – acts which are always and everywhere evil regardless of the circumstance.

2) “practical” absolutes: - acts which could be justified in theory under certain limited circumstances but which under present conditions cannot be justified.

Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in a December 30 interview, said:

"Man cannot simply dispose of life, and therefore it should be defended from the moment of conception to natural death," Martino said. "This position thus excludes abortion, experimentation on embryos, euthanasia and the death penalty, which are a negation of the transcendent dignity of the human person created in the image of God."

Allen writes “Note that Martino listed capital punishment on a par with key life issues long understood to admit of no exceptions.”

Obviously, this is controversial because in the past, the Catholic Church not only supported the validity of the death penalty but occasionally carried it out herself (as did all other Christian states, Protestant, Orthodox, or Catholic). A famous example is the execution in 1599 of the young Roman woman, Beatrice Cenci, for murdering her sexually abusive father. Cenci’s execution was overseen by Pope Clement VII.

In paragraph 2267, the Catechism of the Catholic church offers the following on capital punishment, reflecting this position:

"Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor."

Allen notes: “the Catechism also immediately adds what the Italians call a sfumatura, meaning a nuance, which effectively renders the "self-defense" argument null under prevailing circumstances:

“If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person. Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm -- without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself -- the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity ‘are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.'" (The quote at the end is from Pope John Paul II's 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, The Gospel of Life).

Allen continues: “The fact that neither the death penalty nor war are considered "ontic" evils probably means there will always be room for differing opinions in the church about the extent to which existing circumstances render them justifiable.” For instance, the highly respected American theologian, Cardinal Avery Dulles has publicly stated that he supports a more “traditional” interpretation of both Church teaching and the just war theory that did Pope John Paul II. Meanwhile, the Community of Sant'Egidio, one of the new Catholic lay movements, has called for a global moratorium on capital punishment.

Allen concludes: “Nevertheless, indications from the Vatican and from a wide swath of Catholic officialdom suggest that in practice, it's unlikely there will ever again be a war (defined as the initiation of hostilities without international warrant) or an execution the church does not officially oppose.”

So where does that leave us as lay Catholics, who actually bear the primary responsibility for conducting war, making peace, and for the entire justice system? How do we stay faithful to Christ and his Church in this situation? How do we discern and act for the good? How do we deal with faithful Catholics, who in good conscience, disagree with our judgment regarding the application of the Church’s social teaching in a particular situation? What do you think?

Before we begin, a reminder:

1) This is a very difficult issue and disagreement is natural, but comments impugning the motivations and good will of another poster are not welcome here and will be deleted. Charitable, thoughtful, discussion and/or disagreement that just might possibly shed new light on the issues involved for the rest of us is what we are shooting for.

Hardship of the Gospel PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 09 January 2007 07:36

Written by Keith Strohm

St. Paul exhorts us to "bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God." (2Tim 1:8) What we need to ask ourselves is exactly what hardships do we bear for the sake of the gospel. During Paul's time, being a Christian meant, in many instances, persecution--the threat of punishment, torture, and even death. Proclaiming the love and the truth of the resurrected Christ was a dangerous ministry.

Though times have changed, in many parts of the world living out or faith is not a punishable offense, sharing the truth of Christ's presence in our lives, through word and deed, is still a risk. We risk our reputations, the good opinion of others, and even, in some cases, job opportunities. The Wisdom of God is foolishness to the world, and so we are called to be 'fools' for Christ, proclaiming his love to a world that hungers for it, yet does not know the depths of its need.

What hardships do you endure for the sake of the gospel? If you're like me, and the answer is 'very little,' then perhaps we must confront a difficult truth: Perhaps we bear little hardship for the gospel because we bear only a little of the gospel to the world.

Generation Cross PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 08 January 2007 18:23

Written by JACK

The picture to the left is of Lino Rulli. The reason that I have included it is that I think examples can be helpful in exploring our Intentional Disciples theme and I think Lino's television show Generation Cross offers such an opportunity.

Generation Cross was a Catholic cable television show that Lino produced out of a parish in Minnesota that ran for about 6 years, won rave reviews, and netted him two regional Emmy awards. I first saw it during law school on Boston Catholic Television. The show was a series of comical, oddball vignettes that were designed to draw out some aspect of the Catholic faith in a fun way. Lino has since moved on to do two radio shows, Lino at Large and The Catholic Guy.

Besides the fact that I love his off-tilt, screwball and self-deprecating humor, what I loved about Generation Cross has nothing to do with whether it was an effective tool in teaching this dogma or that or whether it took some side in the Catholic culture debates. It was something far more simple than that: watching Generation Cross gave you a sense of the joy of the Catholic life and the relationships between Lino and the priests who were regulars on the show rung through as real and full of friendship.

I think a lot can be said for both of those aspects and what it means both for the living of intentional discipleship and evangelization.

First, the joy of life. Let's face it. None of us are looking for more misery. No, what we long for is meaning in our lives that generates satisfaction. Now, before I get a dozen people emailing quotes of how we are called to "pick up our cross" each day, if what you think that that means is that we should crush our desire for satisfaction and meaning, well, all I can say is that I think you misunderstand the quote. Because the search and desire for meaning is part of what it is to be human. And our faith doesn't call us to forgo our humanity, but instead shows its true nature and calling, as revealed in Christ. Frankly, I think some circles promote a very inhuman understanding of the faith and it is understandably found to be unattractive by many and, thus, something not worth taking seriously or investigating. But if Christ in fact makes me more fully human, then, nothing is lost. All the more, the world is opened up to me and I see it more fully and with greater awe, for I see Him present in it.

I think this spirit of joy, this recognition that Christ doesn't truncate, but broadens, my horizon is captured by Generation Cross, in all of the silly pranks and sketches, in how anything of life -- dancing, rock climbing, humor -- can reveal Him.

Second, Lino and the priests on the show exhibited a great friendship and a jovial companionship. They joked around with one another, made fun of one another, but also seemed to recognize that the core of their relationship was not simple sentiment alone, but their being one in Christ. I was really struck by this when I first saw it because it made me think about how rare it is for there to be genuine friendships between clergy and laity. Seriously, how many of us know a clergy member well enough that we are truly ourselves around them? (And they around us!) Or are we on our best behavior when we are around them, always thinking of some "churchy" thing that we can talk to them about? Or do we only know them from handshakes on the way out of the parish after Mass? Now, I live under no delusion that all of us will form close relationships with every (or even any) member of the clergy (or vowed religious) that we know. But community is something that the Church recognizes as being the fruit of being a Christian. We are one Body. We are a people. We are the Church. And companionship is at the root of any lived sense of that.

Some thoughts to consider. And if, like me, you are into quirky humor, you might want to check out one of Lino's shows.

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