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The Catholic Diocese of Itanger in India has grown 40% over the past 35 years. Their secret? Miraculous healings apparently. Lots of them. Conversions because of an encounter with the healing power of Jesus Christ are occuring by the millions all over the world and is readily spoken of by other kinds of Christians but Catholics are often reluctant to acknowledge that it happens among us as well. And this reluctance is not just found among western Catholics.
Note the Vatican Insider title: India's "Impossible" Miracles. Note that the Indian priest telling this story says the stories “baffle me. I have a theological mindset and it is easy to become skeptical about this kind of thing. But the interested parties are absolutely convinced that what happened to them was real.”
Just when must a theological mindset be at odds with acknowledging the power of God to heal? That's not a "theological" mindset (think St. Augustine gathering stories of healing in his diocese), that's an Enlightenment mindset. And it shows a poverty of both imagination and spiritual expectancy that would be very foreign to most of the great Catholic missionaries and evangelists of the past.
An Indian friend wrote and shared his experience of the Catholic attitudes toward evangelization in India:
There is a strong emphasis on the narrative that "evangelization has not worked," that India is somehow inherently impervious to the Gospel. It is also ironic because Indian cultures are *very* religious, popular devotions are, well, really popular, there isn't this kind of skepticism towards and distance between the "ordinary" world and the supernatural/spiritual/numinous, there is a long and rich tradition of mysticism and so on. Stories like Arunachal Pradesh are a reminder of the sovereignty of God! And so inspiring!
And I responded: “Interesting - the "India is impervious to the Gospel" which I also heard in the 90's at my Jesuit grad school from a Jesuit. He told our class (seriously) that Francis Xavier went to India to get away from the Pope! Fortunately, I happened to have a grad background in Indian - specifically Jesuit - mission history as well as a much more accurate sense of the realities of global missions. He said that only 2% of Asians were Christian while I knew that the number was really about 7% then.” Today, that percentage is nearly 9%.
So often, our public debates are based upon things that haven’t been true in half a century. In 1910, Christians comprised 1.7% of India’s population. Today, the official census figures indicate that Christians make up nearly 5% of all Indians. And the estimates of “unofficial” but real practice are startling. Consider this possibility (I have heard other estimates that are even higher. I don’t think there is a definitive number).
“As per unofficial figures the Christian population should be around 17% now. Most of the converts have not registered their conversion or not changed their religion in the Taluk or Panchayat offices. Some believe this is not necessary to change it and some believe it may affect their caste quota in education and jobs and while some others believe it may create unnecessary problems for the community itself due to anti-social elements may find it disturbing and may take revenge against innocent Christians around India.”
Whether the growth has been 300% or 1000%, the word "impervious" doesn't seem to fit at all.
Americans are completely unused to a national system where one has to “register” one’s religion, where one’s personal faith – or the lack thereof – is NOT considered private. And where you can really lose – educationally, financially, and in terms of personal safety – by “registering” as a “public” Christian.
In any case, even “officially”, Indian Christianity grew nearly 300% in one century but – it wasn't primarily Catholic growth. Non-Catholic Indian Christians "share" of the Christian population grew from 25% to nearly 40% during that same century. So the story of the miracles in the Diocese of Itanger is a very encouraging one.
Under the "God has no grandchildren" label and via World magazine online:
"The evangelical population of Brazil increased by 16 million people over the 10 year period from 2000 to 2010, to 42.3 million, according to census results from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) published Friday.
The 2010 census results reveal that over three decades the percentage of evangelicals jumped from 6.6 percent to 22.2 percent of the overall Brazilian population, making it the fastest growing religious segment in the Latin American country.
While the evangelical population ballooned, the Catholic population has decreased over the same 10 year period. In 2000 the Catholic population represented 73.6 percent of Brazil's population, but by 2010 that percentage had decreased to under two-thirds, or 64.6 percent."
As I have pointed out ad naseum here and during Making Disciples seminars and presentations and now in my book (Forming Intentional Disciples), 21st century culture religious fluidity *rewards* those faiths that actively evangelize and *penalizes* those religious traditions that depend upon inherited faith. It is as true in Brazil as it is in the US.
We don't have the luxury of thinking that evangelism is for Protestants anymore.
The book is out and I have one of the first copies, hot off the press and sitting on my table as I write. It looks very good, although surprisingly small somehow. (I've been used to reading the manuscript on my large IMAC screen, I guess. Hard to believe that all that work ends up condensed into something so small.)
The book, is done, thanks be to God. That means the blog is back. More in a moment.
Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path of Knowing and Following Jesus is just about to be born! It is due out July 1 from Our Sunday Visitor.
How can we transmit a living, personal Catholic faith to future generations? By coming to know Jesus Christ, and following him as his disciples.
These are times of immense challenge and immense opportunity for the Catholic Church.
Consider these statistics for the United States.
Only 30 percent of Americans who were raised Catholic are still practicing.
Fully 10 percent of all adults in America are ex-Catholics.
The number of marriages celebrated in the Church decreased dramatically, by nearly 60 percent, between 1972 and 2010.
Only 60 percent of Catholics believe in a personal God.
If the Church is to reverse these trends, the evangelizers must first be evangelized-in other words, Catholics-in-the-pew must make a conscious choice to know and follow Jesus before they can draw others to him. This work of discipleship lies at the heart of Forming Intentional Disciples, a book designed to help Church leaders, parish staff and all Catholics transform parish life from within. Drawing upon her fifteen years of experience with the Catherine of Siena Institute, Sherry Weddell leads readers through steps that will help Catholics enter more deeply into a relationship with God and the river of apostolic creativity, charisms, and vocation that flow from that relationship for the sake of the Church and the world.
Learn about the five thresholds of postmodern conversion, how to open a conversation about faith and belief, how to ask thought-provoking questions and establish an atmosphere of trust, when to tell the Great Story of Jesus, how to help someone respond to God's call to intentional discipleship, and much more.
And be prepared for conversion because when life at the parish level changes, the life of the whole Church will change.
Welcome to EWTN and Ave Maria Radio listeners! We're excited that you are seeking to discern how God has empowered you for the sake of others and for the sake of his redemptive work in the world and the Church.
“Speak with warmth and with devotion, with simplicity, candor, and trust... The words need to be inflamed, not through yelling or oversized gestures, but rather through inner feeling; it needs to come from the heart rather than the lips... The heart speaks to the heart, and the tongue speaks only to the ears.” Sermons are good if they change the lives of those who hear them."
Saint Francis de Sales was famous among his contemporaries for his holiness, which was also expressed through good manners. “His biographies speak of Francis as a perfect gentleman with everyone, whether they were noble, learned, or simple people,” says Father Scudu, “a man who always had a smile for the people he spoke with, who treated everyone with kindness and friendliness; who, when arguing with his Protestant adversaries, never used harsh, threatening, arrogant, or humiliating words. His adversaries came away from Francis perhaps unconvinced by his theological arguments, but won over all the same by his always-respectful behavior.” He himself summarized the importance of good manners in his own pastoral work, saying: “You attract more flies with a drop of honey than a barrel of vinegar.”
But what did Francis de Sales know? He had only gone in on foot, by himself, and re-evangelized an entire area of alpine France where every Catholic church had been padlocked for 60 years because its ruler was Protestant. He was only a bishop and the man whom, his generation - the "generation of saints" who began the Catholic revival that transformed France and whose effect lasted 150 years - regarded as the greatest living saint. He is only a Doctor of the Church.
Frances de Sales didn't have to deal with idiots in comboxes. What could he possibly have to say to us? After all, someone out there on the internet is wrong!
It combines arguments and facts with practical media skills, hearing the ‘question behind the question’ and listening for the ‘positive intention’ behind the criticisms. It gives insider tips on how to present arguments clearly, compellingly and concisely in a quick-fire atmosphere.
"The teaching and practice of the Catholic Church are summarised, the reasons for them explained, and the objections against them teased out.
The treatment is urbane, respectful of journalists and of the media to which they belong. In each case attention is paid to the positive values that underlie both Catholic teaching and the objections raised by its critics. The eirenical character of the presentation flows from the simple principles of good communication enunciated in the book. They are based on respect due to partners in conversation and on recognition of the positive values that animate them. Respect enables differences to be explored in a way that generates light, not heat, speaks to the heart as well as the mind, is compassionate, and focuses on winning people rather than winning battles. Respect for truth entails respect for those who seek it, despite disagreements with the positions they take."
"We have very strong growth among Pentecostal movements. That is a new reality worldwide, which is almost the second largest [Christian] movement after the Catholic Church. Actually we should speak of a Pentecostalization of ecumenism."
Because of the historic distrust and vast cultural differences between "historic" Christians and these brand new Christians, we are seeing the development of two separate forms of Christianity in the Muslim world. Some of these new Christ-followers are not baptized, some are.
It is not impossible to envision a point where there will be more "new" Christians from Muslim backgrounds than "historic" Christians living in the traditional Muslim world. Another unprecedented challenge in the area of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue.
Today is the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The resources for prayer on the Vatican website were composed of representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and Old Catholic and Protestant Churches active in Poland.
THE THEME FOR THE YEAR 2012 is an encouraging one.
“We will all be changed by the Victory of our Lord Jesus Christ”
(cf. 1 Cor 15:51-58)
Pope Benedict's catechesis today was challenging:
Benedict XVI explained that the Second Vatican Council “placed the ecumenical search at the centre of life and of the Church’s work.” It is up to “the responsibility of the entire Church and of all the baptised, who must augment the partial communion that already exists among Christians until achieving full communion in truth and charity,” he added.
This is why prayer for unity “must then be an integral part of the prayer life of all Christians, in all times and places, especially when people from different traditions come together to work for victory in Christ over sin, evil, injustice and the violation of human dignity.”
Benedict XVI reminded faithful that “since the birth of the modern ecumenical movement, over a century ago, there has always been a clear awareness of the fact that a lack of unity among Christians prevents a more efficient announcement of the Gospel, because it destroys or jeopardizes our credibility. How can we give a convincing testimony if we are divided?”
And if it is true that “as far as the fundamental truths of the faith are concerned, there is far more that unites us than divides us,” “divisions over practical and ethical questions do remain, spreading confusion and mistrust, weakening our ability to pass on” the Gospel.
In this sense, according to Pope Benedict XVI, ecumenism “is a great challenge for the new evangelisation, which will be more fruitful if all Christians together announce the truth of the Gospel and Jesus Christ, and give a joint response to the spiritual thirst of our times.”
I may be the last person on the planet to hear about this - but the majority of the chocolate consumed in this country involved slave labor at some point in its production. Because the Ivory Coast is the largest cocoa producing country and 90% of the cocoa there is grown with slave labor. 100,000 children are thought to be involved in the Ivory Coast. CNN has an excellent detailed expose: The Human Cost of Chocolate.
There are a number of websites that monitor various chocolate brands for their involvement in slavery. But the simplest standard seems to be buy 1) fair trade or 2) organic.
The book manuscript on parish-based evangelization is done. I sent it to my editor at Our Sunday Visitor last week. The original plan was publication this June but we'll see.
Since I only had 5 months to get it done, I worked 12 + hours a day, 7 days a week except for Christmas and when I was already scheduled to be on the road. So, no time for blogging.
Here's a taste from Chapter 3 "The Weight of My Neighbor's Glory"
The presence of a significant number of disciples changes everything: a parish’s spiritual tone, energy level, attendance, bottom line, and what parishioners ask of their leaders.
Disciples pray with passion. Disciples worship. Disciples love the Church and serve her with energy and joy. Disciples give lavishly. Disciples hunger to learn more about their faith. Disciples fill every formation class in the parish or diocese. Disciples manifest charisms and discern vocations. They clamor to discern God’s call because they long to live it. Disciples evangelize because they have really good news to share. Disciples share their faith with their children. Disciples care about the poor and about issues of justice. Disciples take risks for the Kingdom of God.
The Holy Spirit is planting charisms and vocations of amazing diversity in the hearts of all his people. Like the graces of the sacrament, they are real but they are not magic. Just as the gifts of children must be fostered deliberately and with great energy by parents if their children are to reach their full potential, so vocations must be fostered by the Church. In this area, we are not asking for too much, we are settling for too little. God is not asking us to call forth the gifts and vocations of a few people; he is asking us to call forth the gifts and vocations of millions. Our problem is not that there is a shortage of vocations but that we do not have the support systems and leadership in place to foster the vast majority of the vocations that God has given us. Most fundamentally, when we fail to call our own to discipleship, we are unwittingly pushing away the vast majority of the vocations God has given us.
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