Cold and snowy. Present temperature 8 F. The high was forecast to be 13 but I don't think we made it. The ski resorts are rejoicing in tons of new power but the wind chills are formidable: -15F. Temps like that once floored me. Now I simply shrug and go out anyway like that hardened Coloradan that i've become.
As I blogged earlier, I went to Chicago this past week to pick up a car donated to the Institute.
A fire-engine red Mustang convertible with a lot of zip. It was fun to drive the 1200 miles home. Although we left home in a snowstorm and saw only fields of white from the plane, we drove back in a little bubble of cold sunshine and on blissfully dry roads.
At one point, I was only 30 miles or so from Fr. Mike's hometown of Washington, Illinois and would like to have made the pilgrimage but time was short and another man's home beckoned. I'll be back when they finally erect that shrine in Fr. Mike's honor.
Instead we stopped in Springfield - the capital - and visited Abraham Lincoln's home (part of a 4 block area of Victorian Springfield that is being preserved by the National Park Service.) It was comfortable but not luxurious. This is definitely not Mount Vernon or Monticello. Lincoln milked the cow and brought in the wood himself. Mary cooked dinner herself. But so far from the 16 X 18 log cabin in which he was born. The Park Service has the home decorated and furnished as if it were Christmas, 1860. It was to be Lincoln's last Christmas at home before moving to Washington, D.C.
Lincoln spoke these words as he left Springfield the following February, never to return:
"My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell."
The bi-centennial of Lincoln's birth take place in February, 2009. It is easy to forget since he and Washington had their birthdays merged into a single holiday that most of us just think of as a three day weekend and department store sales.
But almost exactly 200 years after the "Great Emancipator" was born, another President from Illinois, the first African-American President - will be sworn in. Unimaginable during Lincoln's lifetime. Unimaginable within the living memory of some who will read these words. Lincoln's story deserves to be told again and again.
Many very grave issues - life issues, the financial crisis, terrorism - lie before us. But imagining Abraham Lincoln lying on the wooden floor of his modest family room, reading aloud to his family from the newspaper by firelight (the chairs weren't big enough for his 6'4" frame) that last Christmas, gave me a thrill.
In late December, 1860, six states had already seceded from the Union, millions still lived in slavery, and civil war was only months away. He did, in fact, face a task greater than that which faced George Washington. And he prevailed.
Profound cultural change, change that honors and protects the life and humanity of those once considered to be less than human, is possible. The world we live in, the world that our children will take for granted, is possible because men and women like Abraham Lincoln lived and changed their world.
May future Americans say the same of us with gratitude.
"A recent spot check of some large Roman Catholic parishes and mainline Protestant churches around the nation indicated attendance increases there, too. But they were nowhere near as striking as those reported by congregations describing themselves as evangelical, a term generally applied to churches that stress the literal authority of Scripture and the importance of personal conversion, or being “born again.”
Part of the evangelicals’ new excitement is rooted in a communal belief that the big Christian revivals of the 19th century, known as the second and third Great Awakenings, were touched off by economic panics. Historians of religion do not buy it, but the notion “has always lived in the lore of evangelism,” said Tony Carnes, a sociologist who studies religion."
Interesting. Missionary strategists that I studied with were fascinated by the Great Awakenings - because they dreamed of being part of another such intense revival - and probed the conditions that made such a moment more likely. But I don't remember that the economic situation of the country was ever mentioned.
"A study last year may lend some credence to the legend. In “Praying for Recession: The Business Cycle and Protestant Religiosity in the United States,” David Beckworth, an assistant professor of economics at Texas State University, looked at long-established trend lines showing the growth of evangelical congregations and the decline of mainline churches and found a more telling detail: During each recession cycle between 1968 and 2004, the rate of growth in evangelical churches jumped by 50 percent. By comparison, mainline Protestant churches continued their decline during recessions, though a bit more slowly."
The article includes several stories of Catholics who have lost jobs being invited by friends to local evangelical Churches who are addressing the situation directly. In fact, all the stories of spiritually seeking people are of Catholic turning to evangelicals.
"Frank O’Neill, 54, a manager who lost his job at Morgan Stanley this year, said the “humbling experience” of unemployment made him cast about for a more personal relationship with God than he was able to find in the Catholicism of his youth. In joining the Shelter Rock Church on Long Island, he said, he found a deeper sense of “God’s authority over everything — I feel him walking with me.”
"At the Shelter Rock Church, many newcomers have been invited by members who knew they had recently lost jobs. On a recent Sunday, new faces included a hedge fund manager and an investment banker, both laid off, who were friends of Steve Leondis, a cheerful business executive who has been a church member for four years. The two newcomers, both Catholics, declined to be interviewed, but Mr. Leondis said they agreed to attend Shelter Rock to hear Mr. Tomlinson’s sermon series, “Faith in Unstable Times.”
“They wanted something that pertained to them,” he said, “some comfort that pertained to their situations.”
"The sense of historic moment is underscored especially for evangelicals in New York who celebrated the 150th anniversary last year of the Fulton Street Prayer Revival, one of the major religious resurgences in America. Also known as the Businessmen’s Revival, it started during the Panic of 1857 with a noon prayer meeting among traders and financiers in Manhattan’s financial district.
Over the next few years, it led to tens of thousands of conversions in the United States, and inspired the volunteerism movement behind the founding of the Salvation Army, said the Rev. McKenzie Pier, president of the New York City Leadership Center, an evangelical pastors’ group that marked the anniversary with a three-day conference at the Hilton New York. “The conditions of the Businessmen’s Revival bear great similarities to what’s going on today,” he said. “People are losing a lot of money.”
New York is not an evangelical hotbed. It is a heavily Catholic area. That's why those who are coming to evangelical congregations for the first time and were interviewed in this article are Catholic. The obvious question is "Why aren't they turning to their own parishes?"
As one Long Island pastor - in an exceedingly wealthy and educated community, the sort of community that is really hurting right now - told me: "My people aren't disciples. Did you know that there is no sin on Long Island? There is no sex on Long Island. The one remnant of their cultural Catholicism left is the belief "If you miss Mass on Sunday, you go to hell." So the only sin people confess is missing Mass on Sunday."
I remember another conversation I had with an elderly Hawaiian man several years ago. He was a regular at Mass who had come in for a gifts interview but all he wanted to talk about was his family's financial troubles. Finally, I gently reminded him that the interview was to help him discern his charisms and asked why he had come. His basic answer: he just needed to talk to someone. I asked him if he had prayed about his situation. "You can do that?" he asked in a surprised tone of voice.
I left that interview in a white hot rage. Rage - not at him - but at us. I didn't have the language I now have for where he was spiritually (courtesy of our work with Making Disciples) but I knew that he was essentially "pre-natal" and he was running out of time. All while being an "active" life-long Catholic.
Because Catholics don't ask one another about their lived relationship with God and we don't tell one another the basic kerygma and we don't challenge one another to follow Jesus.
When disaster or pain or change shakes our communities and baptized men and women - and both "inactive" and "active" hover on the edge of a new spiritual openness - who is going to be ready and waiting and actively reaching out? Who will ask and listen and talk to them about Christ and walk with them as the tentatively explore the possibility of a whole new kind of relationship with God?
Evangelicals recognize the spiritual significance of this moment. Do we?
Are you aware of any significant Catholic response/outreach specifically to those who are newly unemployed or have lost their homes due to the current financial crisis? Especially any Catholic outreach that has an intentionally spiritual component? Please share.
Guess I should blog about this since Tom Peters over at American Papist beat me to it - and he had access to the cool images that I, as a mere speaker, had never seen. So, in the best Dominican tradition, I stole it!
Keynote Speaker - Most Rev. Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Denver (i hope i get to meet him but Archbishops usually jet in and out of these kinds of events)
Main Speaker - SherryWeddell Co-Founder and Director Catherine of Siena Institute
Multiple Workshops - Scripture, Spirituality, Youth ministry, Parish renewal, and much more
Contact: 313-883-8792 ][ http://www.shms.edu/][
Mark your calendars. It would be fun to meet some ID readers there!
One of the topics upon which I've been mulling (in my spare moments) is the way in which the Kerygma, the core Gospel message that awakens Christian faith and lays the foundation for catechesis, is so seldom articulated among us, and yet fills the carols that we treasure at this time of year.
I've been listening again this Advent to a cd recorded by friend-of-this-blog Kathleen Lundquist. Kathleen has a truly beautiful voice and recorded a number of less familiar carols, including the wonderful 17th century All My Heart This NIght Rejoices.Listen to Kathleen's recording here. (Scroll down to tack #5.)
All my heart this night rejoices, As I hear, far and near, sweetest angel voices; “Christ is born,” their choirs are singing, Till the air, everywhere, now their joy is ringing.
Forth today the Conqueror goeth, Who the foe, sin and woe, death and hell, o’erthroweth. God is man, man to deliver; His dear Son now is one with our blood forever.
Shall we still dread God’s displeasure, Who, to save, freely gave His most cherished Treasure? To redeem us, He hath given His own Son from the throne of His might in Heaven.
Should He who Himself imparted Aught withhold from the fold, leave us broken hearted? Should the Son of God not love us, Who, to cheer sufferers here, left His throne above us?
If our blessèd Lord and Maker Hated men, would He then be of flesh partaker? If He in our woe delighted, Would He bear all the care of our race benighted?
He becomes the Lamb that taketh Sin away and for aye full atonement maketh. For our life His own He tenders And our race, by His grace, meet for glory renders.
For it dawns, the promised morrow Of His birth, Who the earth rescues from her sorrow. God to wear our form descendeth; Of His grace to our race here His Son He sendeth.
All My Heart was written by Johann Georg Ebeling, who in 1662 became the cantor, (naturlich!) of the St. Nicholas Church, the oldest surviving church in Berlin. Most of St. Nicholas was destroyed during World War II but it was meticulously rebuilt in the 80's on the original 13th century foundation.
On this Feast of St. Nicholas, I know that you have been wondering:
Just what did St. Nicholas really look like? Well, you don't have to go further than the mega-site for all your St. Nicholas needs: The St. Nicholas Center
From their website:
St. Nicholas' remains are buried in the crypt of the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy. These bones were temporarily removed when the crypt was repaired during the 1950s. At the Vatican's request, anatomy professor Luigi Martino from the University of Bari, took thousands of minutely-detailed measurements and x-ray photographs (roentgenography) of the skull and other bones.
The current professor of forensic pathology at the University of Bari, Francesco Introna, knew advancements in diagnostic technique could yield much more from the data gathered in the 1950s. So he engaged an expert facial anthropologist, Caroline Wilkinson, at the University of Manchester in England, to construct a model of the saint's head from the earlier measurements.
Using this data, the medical artist used state-of-the-art computer software to develop the model of St. Nicholas. The virtual clay was sculpted on screen using a special tool that allows one to "feel" the clay as it is molded. Dr. Wilkinson says, "In theory you could do the same thing with real clay, but it's much easier, far less time-consuming and more reliable to do it on a computer."
After inferring the size and shape of facial muscles—there are around twenty-six—from the skull data, the muscles are pinned onto the virtual skull, stretched into position, and covered with a layer of "skin." "The muscles connect in the same place on everyone, but because skulls vary in shape, a different face develops," Wilkinson comments. The tangents from different parts of the nasal cavity determine the length of a nose. This was difficult because St. Nicholas' nose had been badly broken. "It must have been a very hefty blow because it's the nasal bones between the eyes that are broken," she continued.
"We used clay on the screen that you can feel but not physically touch. It was very exciting. We did not have the physical skull, so we had to recreate it from two-dimensional data. We are bound to have lost some of the level of detail you would get by working from photographs, but we believe this is the closest we are ever going to get to him," Wilkinson concluded.
Next the three-dimensional image went to Image Foundry Studios where a digital artist added detail and color to the model. This gave it Greek Mediterranean olive-toned skin, brown eyes, and grey hair and beard, trimmed in 4th century fashion.
The result of the project is the image of a Greek man, living in Asia Minor (part of the Greek Byzantine Empire), about 60-years old, 5-feet 6-inches tall, who had a heavy jaw and a broken nose.
Press reaction to the facsimile tended to imply that good Saint Nicholas had had a brawling past, hence the broken nose. It is more likely, however, that his nose was broken when imprisoned and tortured during the persecution of Christians under Roman Emperor Diocletian.
The results look remarkably like the traditional icons of St. Nicholas - except for the badly broken nose.
Then, because we are clement, we will allow Fr. Mike to go home for Christmas. I know. I know. Get's em into bad habits. They'll start to think they have a right to time off. But then I have always had have a soft spot for Dominicans. That man just twists me around his little finger.
Fr. Allen Duston, OP will be giving a talk on December, 10 at 7pm. The subject: Angelic Art at the Vatican. And he should know. Fr. Allen served for years as head of development for the Vatican Art Museum and worked in the most amazing office in the Vatican - the 15th century papal robing room with the date 1496 still visible on the walls. It was Fr. Duston who arranged an an amazing privilege for us when Fr. Michael Sweeney and I were in Rome - an after-hours private tour of the Sistine Chapel. All by ourselves.
The headline reads "Jos goes up in flames. And beneath that is a depressingly detailed list of the damage and deaths experienced by the Christian community.. Deaths, persons injured, churched destroyed, homes destroyed, livestock lost (2500 hens) and all by parish.
The Catholic Archdiocese has listed its losses here.
Those of us privileged to live in peace must hold our suffering brothers and sisters up in prayer.
For those of you who may have wondered how Fr. Mike discerned his call to priesthood, our local diocesan paper has published an interview with him about his journey into the Dominican order.
How a really nice would-be Stanford PhD and theoretical geophysicist got knocked off his horse on the way to Palo Alto.
My favorite bit:
"Because Mike was attracted to community life he began talking with the Franciscan vocations director. The director encouraged him to also consider the Dominicans. Later, he reluctantly visited the Dominican house of studies in Oakland, Calif. When walking down the street that led to the seminary he saw a Dominican in his white robes waiting for him and thought, "It’s 10 o’clock in the morning and this guy still has his bathrobe on," but then realized it was some kind of "religious get-up."
Just think: If he'd not gotten over it, we should not have known each other. . .