I've been working on the Building Intentional Community Day that will be held in Colorado Springs this August 31 and, in the process, was inspired to attempt to diagram the relationships between the major players in the 17th century Catholic revival in France.
In their case, it truly was the pursuit of God in the company of friends - and their friendship changed the spiritual atmosphere of an entire nation. This interlinked network of 11 people known as the "generation of saints" (and here I am only acknowledging the most visible personalities - there were many hundreds and thousands of fellow travelers with which only specialists in the period are familiar)were:
"all intimately acquainted with, and more important, were inspired to become holy and zealous from personal contact with each other. They visited each other frequently or kept up active correspondence about their visions, prayers, sense of sin, and missionary activities. In a way, they set out as a group to remake the Church . . .” Paris in the Age of Absolutism, Orest Ranum
They were remarkable for their diversity:
A Cardinal, a Bishop, three priests including one who had grown up a peasant, two young widows with children, a Parisian housewife, a single woman, a soldier. Today, the same group is recognized for including four canonized saints, one blessed, one Doctor of the Church, and six founders of religious congregations.
Among the many fruits of their collaboration:
1) Re-evangelized large areas of France, especially the countryside, parts of which were being evangelized for the first time in history 2) Fostered a distinctly lay spirituality for the first time and inventions like the "retreat" to nourish the personal spiritual lives of lay and ordained> 3) Renewal of the diocesan priesthood 4) Successful establishment of the "new" seminary system for forming priests 5) New, more systematic and effective methods of compassion for the poor 6) Establishment of the first "active" non-enclosed women's religious communities 7) A vibrant new missionary outreach around the world 8) Four new religious communities 8) The founding of one of the world's great cities: Montreal
Anyway, here's the Powerpoint slide I came up with:
The green lines represent personal friendships, the orange lines spiritual direction or mentoring; and the blue lines founders. Many times, such relationships overlapped as between Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal who were dear friends as well co-founders.
As you study the network of relationships, what difference would it have made if they had not had each other?
“In fact, even cursory glances through the Gospels confirm that the work Jesus did in the lives of his disciples occurred because the disciples were in relationship, not simply with him, but with each other.
That manner of growth in spiritual depth – in the context of community – is not accidental. It is part of how people are built.
We were created to seek God and we were created to find him with others.” - Richard Lamb
During this period of confusion and apparent decline, it seemed to many that only a return to a spirituality like that of the early Church would be able to bear new fruit. This is one way to interpret the birth of a small charismatic prayer group one evening in May 1972. The first Catholic group of its kind, it originally consisted of four young people brought together by a 58-year-old Catholic film critic in Paris. Ironically, the first meetings took place in a small apartment just a few yards from the café where Sartre’s existentialism was born. The film critic, Pierre Goursat, had just come back from a trip to the United States where he had seen the beginning of a charismatic movement in the American Church. With the encouragement of his spiritual father, Goursat organized a meditation on the charisms as they are evoked in the Acts of the Apostles, followed by a period of spontaneous prayer. The project was no more defined than that, Goursat’s very aim being to leave the group free to the invitations of the Holy Spirit. Little by little, the gifts of the Spirit began to appear. Some people sang in tongues, which others interpreted; all were astonished and overwhelmed by what they had seen and felt.
One year later, the group had grown from five to 500 members. According to Martine, one of the five original members, they felt as if they were "reliving the Pentecost."
Where the Spirit Is
Surprised by this unhoped-for growth, the original group spawned several smaller groups in Paris before moving into other cities in France. They called themselves the Emmanuel Community. With this name, Goursat wanted to indicate that the prayer groups were not meant to be social clubs turned in on themselves; they were called to become gifts of God to the world, to become new "Emmanuels" (God with us). In 1976, the Church gave the community official status. During the first few years of its existence, its members were married or single laypeople living in the world. Then religious vocations began to manifest themselves: First, there were just brothers and sisters of Emmanuel, but later, the community—which had its first headquarters on a barge in the Seine—decided, with the agreement of the bishops, to form its own priests.
If many young people see their faith come alive in the Emmanuel prayer groups, the community is also a source of renewal for older Christians. André, who recently became a grandfather, describes it as a "new youth." "I was a Sunday Christian," he says. "For me the faith was the Mass, a few holy days, and not getting into trouble during the rest of the week. In the prayer groups, I came to understand that a God who had given me His life—well, I could at least give Him mine. Now, even when I’m playing with my granddaughter, in a way it’s for Jesus."
The second is the Community of the Beatitudes, which has a branch in Denver:
The same period saw the birth of the Community of the Beatitudes. Brother Ephraim, the founder of the community, had struggled through all the contradictions and questions of his generation: Raised in a Protestant family, he had studied to become an artist before joining the community of Lanza Del Vasto, a utopian group that practices a kind of syncretic spirituality loosely tied to Eastern mysticism. After his conversion to Catholicism, Brother Ephraim started the Beatitudes community, which evolved through a series of forms between 1973 and 1981. Members live away from cities and towns in community houses that give material and spiritual support to those in need. Following a routine deeply rooted in prayer—especially eucharistic adoration—the lay and religious members of these houses are united by the same desire to live in the spirit of the beatitudes. The community now has houses in 25 dioceses in France and in 28 other dioceses around the world.\\
The common themes of these communities:
The call of the laity to holiness and making an inherited faith personal:
Significantly, both Brother Ephraim and Goursat founded their communities as laymen. Brother Ephraim is married. Goursat, who several times refused to be ordained as a priest, envisaged the lay life as a veritable vocation. Here one sees another of the features that characterize these communities, a feature that corresponds to one of the key intuitions of Vatican II: Both the Emmanuel and Beatitudes communities testify to the calling of all Christians—lay or religious—to holiness. To accept this calling, one must be willing to surrender himself to God in even the most ordinary circumstances. It is an idea that comes up again and again as Celine describes her spiritual journey: "For me, the charismatic renewal is above all—as the name itself suggests—a renewal. I understood that my faith was condemned to fade away if it was nothing but the preservation of a tradition. I had received the faith as a kind of inheritance from my family—and that is by itself a tremendous grace—but this community allowed me to make that faith my own, to make it the heart of all my personal commitments.
If the charismatic renewal is characterized by a spirituality of praise based on personal experience—as well as by a renewal in forms of liturgy and community—it’s also the movement within the French Church that insists most urgently on the importance of evangelization. For these communities, evangelization is a matter of letting the Word shine forth, not shutting it up in small clubs of polite company. This is what motivates members of Emmanuel to organize regular missions of evangelization. They gather in front of churches to sing and share their faith with passersby, inviting them inside to adore God in the Eucharist or to speak with a priest. Marie, who works for a job-placement agency, participates regularly in these missions. "To evangelize, to witness—whether it be in the community or in my professional life—is to say that God is my joy," she says. "Joy can’t be selfishly preserved; it is diffusive of itself. It’s like being in love and wanting to tell everyone all the time about the person you love."
From Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney in the World Youth Day Newsletter:
"Jesus promised that this work and His presence would be made possible by His gift of the “Advocate”/“Paraclete” who is the “Spirit of Truth” (John 16:7-15) known to Christians as the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, God the Holy Spirit. The Acts of the Apostles describes the coming of the Holy Spirit like “tongues of fire” upon the Disciples in the Upper Room (or Cenacle) on the day of Pentecost (Act 2:1-13). It is the Holy Spirit who continues to animate and unite the Church through her leaders and through her faithful.
Each person Baptised in Christ, is “remade in Him” and receives special gifts and strengths of the Holy Spirit. The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are the personal graces of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and awe for the Lord.
The graces of the Holy Spirit are also called “charisms”.
These were identified in the New Testament (Rom 12:6; 1 Cor 12: 4, 30f; 1 Tm 4:14, 2 Tm 1:6; 1 Pt 4:10). The charisms are particular spiritual powers freely and often surprisingly given by the Holy Spirit at different times in response to the needs of others and particularly in order to revive, build up, purify or restore the work of Christ in the Church. Charisms appear in the Church’s history especially in times of crisis. The charisms of healing, encouragement, discernment of spirits, mercy, organisation, preaching, prayer, and wisdom in the lives of Saints Dominic, Francis, Teresa of Avila, Vincent de Paul and Mother Teresa and in notable figures such as Jean Vanier and Dorothy Day ignite movements and new institutions within the Church which shine the Gospel to the world.
The Church and the Holy Spirit
At the end of St Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus as he returns to the Father at His Ascension assures his disciples, “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). This assurance of Jesus’ continuing life-giving and healing work in His Church is accompanied by His commission to the disciples that in His Name, they continue His saving work in time: “making disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and proclaiming “repentance and forgiveness of sins...” (Luke 24:47). Since that time, Christians understand that they are not to keep Jesus to themselves but must help all people to know Jesus Christ and His saving love and presence in the Church. This is the task of evangelisation.”
Last Friday, July 20, a year from the day of the final papal Mass, young and old alike united in one of the oldest churches in Sydney for what the coordinator of WYD '08, Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher, dubbed "A Holy Hour of Power."
The evening began with a stunning rendition of the already popular WYD theme song, "Receive the Power," performed by young Catholic performing arts students.
Tears then sprang to the eyes of some of those gathered as they witnessed a screening of Benedict XVI's most recent audience emphasizing his encouragement in the Australian mission.
But following some more song, Scripture and a personal testimony from ex-professional football player-turned WYD director of evangelization and catechesis, Steve Lawrence, it was really Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament who took center stage.
Then Bishop Anthony Fisher talked about this poignant moment in Australian Catholic history that I have never come across before:
He recounted the history of St. Patrick's Church as dating back to the early 1800s when the first Catholics in the nation tried to obtain a grant of land for a church and the government refused their request. Then, the only priest was expelled by the British Authorities, leaving behind just one consecrated Host.
But this didn't stop the Aussie Catholics witnessing to their faith, the bishop told us. The picture of persecuted Catholics gathering secretly for prayer was used to describe those early years as a "catacomb" era.
"The lay faithful continued to guard and adore Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament for an entire year … until another French priest arrived to consume it and say a Mass for them again," the bishop explained.
As Sherry has mentioned, one of the least honored (and least supported) roles in the Catholic Church today is that of the lay man. I just came across what looks like a very well produced, faithful, creative, and challenging response to that reality: a program called "That Man Is You!", put together by Paradisus Dei.
Some of the description from the website:
That Man is You! seeks to form men who are fully alive by harmonizing what has typically been referred to as the Three Wisdoms of the Catholic Church: knowledge (secular knowledge including medical and social science); understanding (theology including Scripture, the Magisterium and Tradition); and wisdom (contemplative or mystical knowledge found primarily in the writings of the saints).
Recognizing that modern men live in and are comfortable with a culture dominated by the findings of secular science, the program makes extensive use of medical and social science. The findings of medical science have proven invaluable in helping men understand the mystery of the human person, created male and female, while the findings of social science have proven indispensable in helping men understand the fundamental importance of marriage and the family to larger society.
Recognizing that the vast majority of men are married at some point in their adult life, the theological content of the program heavily emphasizes the importance of the spousal union in salvation history: "Marriage has been placed at the heart of the great struggle between good and evil, between life and death, between love and all that is opposed to love" (Pope John Paul II, October 7, 1995). As such it relies heavily upon the writings of Pope John Paul II. Special emphasis is given to his Wednesday audiences gathered together in The Theology of the Body and to his Apostolic Exhortation on the family, Familiaris Consortio.
A particular strength of the program is the vision of woman presented to men. This vision is heavily influenced by St. Maximillian Kolbe's contemplative insights into Our Lady's inseparable union with the Holy Spirit. The understanding of woman provided by this vision is credited with literally transforming men and their marriages.
Recognizing that Pope John Paul II has made the "contemplation of the face of Christ with Mary," an essential aspect of the new evangelization, the program seeks in a somewhat limited manner to introduce men to the Church's great treasury of contemplative theology. The writings of the saints as well as those of Fr. Marie Dominique Philippe, founder of the Brothers of St. John, one of the fastest growing contemplative orders in the Church, have proven effective in providing the theological depth lacking in many men's programs.
By harmonizing these "three wisdoms," the program has "opened vistas" and "made the faith come alive" for men in ways that would have been impossible given a more narrow focus. Men consistently consider the content to be the greatest strength of the program. ... Seven Covenants The path of conversion whereby men turn away from sin and turn towards God according to each of the three fundamental orientations takes concrete form in The Seven Covenants of That Man is You!
Covenant on Sexual Purity: "I will live in sexual purity according to the sixth and ninth commandments and I will take whatever action is necessary to safeguard sexual purity for myself, my spouse and my children."
Covenant on Financial Responsibility: "I will become financially responsible for myself and my family by giving God the first fruits of my labor, saving a portion of my earnings and eliminating all credit card debt."
Covenant to Reclaim Sunday as the Lord's Day: "I will reclaim Sunday as the Lord's Day by attending Mass together with my family and making the gift of that day to my family so that we may experience the superabundant joy of God together."
Covenant on Reading Scripture: "I will spend at least fifteen minutes a day gently reading Scripture and allowing God to speak to me. I will validate my insights through my spouse and/or spiritual guide as appropriate."
Covenant to Encounter God in the Home: "Seven times each day I will stop what I'm doing and praise God for all the gifts that He has given me, beginning with the gift of my spouse."
Covenant on Intimacy with Christ in the Eucharist: "In addition to receiving Christ in the Eucharist on Sunday, I will receive Him in the Eucharist once per week in thanksgiving for all his gifts. If I am unable to receive Him in the Eucharist, I will at least stop to visit Him residing in the Tabernacle."
Covenant to Profoundly Receive God's Mercy: "I will receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation once each month or immediately upon committing a serious sin. I will manifest the merciful Father by gratuitously offering something to each member of my family at least once per week." ... That Man is You! began in the summer of 2004 when a group of exceptional men in Houston, TX decided to pool their talents to do something wonderful for Catholic men all across America. After studying successful men's leadership programs from various Christian denominations and corporate America, they designed a 26 week interactive men's program combining the best research from science with the teachings of the Catholic faith and the wisdom of the saints to develop the vision of a man fully alive. Test programs were run in the Houston and Dallas/Ft. Worth areas, which were unqualified successes.
Responding to inquires from numerous parishes and dioceses, a plan was developed to bring That Man is You! to parishes across the nation. The theology was reviewed by leading theologians on marriage and the family. Promotional materials were professionally prepared. A host parish packet containing an abundance of supporting materials was prepared and presenter training workshops were organized. Finally, an interactive website was designed to bind individual programs together and to accommodate the busy lifestyles of modern men. ... That Man is You! is a 26 week interactive, multimedia men's program divided into two 13 week "semesters" that follow the typical academic year. The Fall semester is dedicated to developing a vision of man fully alive while the Spring semester is dedicated to becoming "that man." The Spring semester includes an organized Lenten journey that participants make together. The weekly meetings are designed to provide men with the opportunity to receive and apply relevant information to issues facing men today. The essential elements of the weekly program include:
Gathering over a Fellowship Meal: Men gather together over breakfast or dinner while light entertainment (sports highlights or bloopers) are projected onto a large screen in the background. The casual meal setting is designed to facilitate men's social interaction.
Transitional Music Video: Men transition from the casual meal to the heart of the program with the aid of specifically produced religious music videos containing images of our Catholic faith set against popular religious music.
Master of Ceremonies: The MC has the essential role of ensuring that the men are familiar and comfortable with the overall program structure and logistics as well as setting the tone of the individual sessions. He also helps guide the men in their continuing education efforts.
Presentation: The presentation utilizes an interactive, multimedia approach where a live presenter is supported through animated PowerPoint presentations and video clips from the original presentations in Houston. The combination of theological material, social science statistics and personal stories is designed to engage the men's mind in understanding the relationship between our faith, our personal lives and larger societal issues.
Small Group Discussion: The small groups provide the indispensable opportunity for men to form substantial bonds of fellowship which provide the necessary support to embrace a life of discipleship which is counter to the prevailing culture. ...
It is a 3-year program. The topics for the first year:
FALL SEMESTER: Week 1: The Need for Leadership
Week 2: A Society in Crisis
Week 3: The Family as the Foundation of Society
Week 4: The Image of God in Man
Week 5: Behold the Man
Week 6: Woman: The Masterpiece of Creation
Week 7: The Union of Man and Woman
Week 8: Satan's Attack on the Family
Week 9: A New Adam and a New Eve
Week 10: Marriage as the Return to Paradise
Week 11: The Temptation of Modern Man
Week 12: A Broken Covenant?
Week 13: The Passion of the Church
Objectives: Identify the four leadership roles of men. Identify Moral Leadership - man's union with God - as the foundation for all authentic leadership. Identify Satan's enduring attack on authentic leadership. Understand how Christ perfectly fulfilled the leadership roles of man and offers every man the opportunity to do so.
SPRING SEMESTER: Becoming a Man after God's own Heart
Week 14: What Must I Do?
Week 15: I Will Turn the Hearts of Fathers
Week 16: Becoming a Man after God's own Heart
Week 17: The Temptations of Satan
Week 18: Penance: Conquering the Flesh
Week 19: Charity: Conquering the World
Week 20: Prayer: Overcoming the Devil
Week 21: Scripture: The Ascent of the Mind to God
Week 22: Eucharist: The Practice of the Presence of God
Week 23: Marriage: God Coming to the Soul
Week 24: Confession: The Triumph of Mercy
Week 25: Guideposts for Your Faith
Week 26: The Path to Life
Objectives: Identify the three fundamental orientations of each person and the means by which we encounter God according to these orientations. Identify the three fundamental temptations in the spiritual life and the means for overcoming them. Put into place a spiritual plan of life. --------
It would be a bit late to begin implementing this program this fall in a parish (they recommend beginning preparation by June of the previous year), but since the materials and presentations are available in audio and video formats, a small group of guys might be able to pull this off even starting this late, with a plan to then do a more full-scale version beginning the following year.
Since I'm talking about my friend Fr. Maximos, I should mention an article he wrote for First Things some time ago. It is a searching examination of celibacy and its rootedness in one's baptismal vocation. He reminds us that a renewal of priestly celibacy will not come about without the support of an overall ecclesial culture of asceticism. In a paragraph that may sound strangely un-CatherineofSienaInstitute-ish, he says:
There is therefore something deeply tragic in the way the contemporary Church has gradually stripped itself of much of its traditional asceticism, leaving only a few craggy remnants of this vanished culture silhouetted against the sky. Of these lonely remains, surely the most incongruous is clerical celibacy. Until the Church restores the supporting superstructure of her ascetical tradition, clerical celibacy will remain a fundamentally meaningless and even dangerous relic of a past long gone...In short, the laity cannot justly complain that their priests do not keep the law of celibacy while at the same time demanding that they themselves be subject to no ascetic discipline. Until the laity begins to accept the need to fast, to be mindful of what we wear, how we speak, how we relate to each other-in short, until the laity accepts its baptismal vocation in all its radical other-worldliness-there is no hope that the clergy will find the strength to do so. Only a Church of mystics can realistically expect their clergy to be saints.
Again, to those familiar with the work of the Institute, the other-worldly vocation of the laity may sound like a misnomer. However, just as I think the Eastern Churches can benefit from examining the West's theology of the laity, the East can gently remind us, with its heavenly liturgy and demanding ascetism, that while the earthly city is the primary place of the laity's apostolic labors, the heavenly city is their final abode (domus).
In the barren swath of desert that separates Los Angeles and Los Vegas is a community of Byzantine Rite Catholic monks, the monks of Holy Resurrection Monastery. I and the rest of the Dominican brothers in formation at St. Albert's Priory have had the pleasure of sharing a couple of academic years with a member of this monastery, Fr. Maximos Davies. Fr. Maximos lived with us at St. Albert's as he completed a degree at the Athenagoras Institute at the Graduate Theological Union. Recently, I also had the opportunity to do a week-long retreat with the rest of the community at Newberry Springs. I was moved by the community's commitment to the monastic life and their life of devotion and ascesis. Recently, they have started a blog dedicated to building ecumenical relations between the Eastern and Western Churches. Visited the blog here. In the meantime, here is Abbot Nicholas' opening post, describing the mission of the blog:
"Welcome to the latest ecumenical endeavour of Holy Resurrection Monastery. We have always been convinced that Eastern Catholic monastics have a special responsibility to work for the re-union of the Churches, especially those Churches with which they share their tradition of prayer, theological reflection and ascetic practices. Not only is this idea one we hold firmly, it is actually a demand made of us by our own Church, and made with special forcefulness by the late Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter, Orientale Lumen. There are a number of monastic ventures around dedicated to building bridges between ecclesiasial communities and faiths. The Benedictine and Cistercian families in particular have institutionalized this work in such important organizations as the Dialogue Interreligieux Monastique and in the special vocation of the monastery of Chevetogne in Belgium. The monastic family of Holy Resurrection Monastery (including the sisterhood of Holy Theophany Monastery in Olympia, Washington) with the blessing of our hierarch, His Grace Bishop John Michael (Botean), and the encouragement of a number of other prelates both Catholic and Orthodox, is now beginning to embark on our own, more humble, version of these ministries. Hence, The Anastasis Dialogue, a way to bring together Catholics and Orthodox, especially in the English-speaking world, to explore their common monastic heritage with a view to finding common ecumenical ground. This blog is the first step in beginning this askesis or podvig as we see the work of ecumenical dialogue. For us, ecumenism is not an "apostolate" in the sense that it is simply a thing to do in order to support the inner religious life. Rather, it is a necessary and organic overflow of our internal life of prayer, work and fasting. What we will do here, is gather our thoughts on the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, news from home and abroad and provide a place where all this can be digested and discussed by our wider community of friends. All this is designed to support the next stage in the work of this Anastasis Dialogue which is likely to include sponsorship of seminars and lectures, retreats and other work in partnership with such organizations as the Orientale Lumen Conferences, Society of St. John Chrysostom and so forth."
We have gotten a couple requests in the past week to translate the Called & Gifted workshop and materials into Chinese.
One such request was from a Chinese American Dominican who will be attending Making Disciples and four days later traveling to Hong Kong to join the Province of the Holy Rosary, which is entirely dedicated to missionary work.
I knew nothing about them so looked up their website and found this remarkable set of pictures of Catholic life in rural northern China and in Tibet.
It is the stories behind the pictures that are so moving and shed so much light on the realities lived by Catholics elsewhere.
This is a gathering of Catholics in a small village. They have being many years without a priest, but today Fr. Dang has come from the city of Kunming, more than 900 km. away, so the people from the village have spread the news around and everybody has come to the church, but the size of the crowd exceeds the capacity of the church, so many of the Christians have to attend Mass standing outside.
China has adopted the one child policy. This sight of brothers and sisters together is very seldom seen in the cities.
The Feast of Pentecost
See the whole slide show here. Whoever took this pictures has an artistic eye and a great love for the people.
There has been so much talk of "Catholic culture" around St. Blog's and the assumption is always that there is a single Catholic culture which is manifest nonsense.
There is one Catholic faith and as many Catholic cultures as there are Catholic peoples.
Every believer must attempt to integrate the universal faith into their own life setting - which means their own culture. And that means that there is a "cultural Catholicism" in China and Philippines and Brazil and Nigeria but these "cultural Catholicisms" are all different from one another and certainly from our version. The Chinese have a Catholic history and culture that is as old as that of Latin America but it isn't the same.
The industrialized west is not the world. The west is no longer synonymous with Christianity and our cultural debates are not the debates of the Church as a whole.
Look at these pictures and meditate for a moment on the cultural issues that these brothers and sisters wrestle with.
"Pope Benedict is working on a plan to put more women in top jobs at the Vatican, his spokesman has disclosed.
Briefing journalists after visiting the Pope at his holiday retreat in the Alps, the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the pontiff would give women "more space and more importance". At a debate late on Wednesday, the cardinal, who runs the Vatican bureaucracy, said changes would be introduced in an expected reshuffle of senior posts.
"We're drawing up the new appointments in the Vatican - everyone knows that - and in the context of the responsibilities of the women, there'll be posts that they take up", he said.
The top priority of Benedict's papacy is to tackle what Catholic leaders see as rampant secularisation in Europe. A key reason for this, in the view of many Vatican officials, is the disaffection of women who once formed the backbone of Catholic congregations."
Rocco over at Whispers has written about this last March: "that Benedict is intent to keep making good on his much burnished record of giving women the most collaborative place possible at the table of ecclesiastical administration.”
As I have noted before on ID, the issue at stake is governance and the laity, not just women.
Since I can never think in tidy politically correct categories, I have often been struck by the fact that the acrimonious debate over the ordination of women and feminism in general in the west has obscured and distorted several other critical discussions.
Like the fact that the debate over governance is not first and foremost a male-female issue. It is a ordained/non-ordained issue. And male cleric and non-ordained woman are not the only two categories at issue here. What about lay men?
Of the approximately 500 million Catholic men in the world, only 441,669 are ordained bishop, priests, or deacon. That's .0008833 %, folks. Only 9/100th of 1 % of all Catholic men are ordained. Yes, we ordain men but it doesn't therefore follow that the charisms, leadership and creativity of men, as a whole, have been honored and welcomed. (Of course, that also imply that simply changing the gender make-up of this tiny ordained minority would not mean that the charisms, leadership and creativity of women, as a whole, would have been honored and welcomed either.)
It has been my experience that the role of lay men is the least honored and appreciated one in the western Church today. The debate over feminism have made most western Catholics eager not to seem to be sexist. (This is clearly less true in cultures where women are regarded as inferior). In the west, because the image of the male cleric looms so large, there isn't a lot of room for another kind of strongly Catholic male image.
The debate over governance and leadership in the Church is not just, as it is so often portrayed, a battle of the sexes. It is most profoundly, a opportunity to consider the implications of the Church's teaching on the apostolic anointing of all the baptized (female and male), the insistence that the Church's primary identity is that of mission outward, and the integration of the “co-essential” (as Pope John Paul II put it) charismatic and institutional dimensions of the Church.
As we become clearer about the mission and role of the laity, it sheds new light on the ordained priesthood, whose entire purpose for existence is the fruition of the baptismal priesthood, and the larger issue of leadership as well. If Church’s primary mission is truly outward, not inward, that has huge implications for all forms of leadership, ordained or lay.
A CNS story from last March (which no longer has a working link) acknowledged the larger issue of the role of the laity with these final paragraphs:
"Some sources noted that while attention is often given to the men-women ratio at the Vatican another slow but significant shift has occurred in the number of lay employees in the Curia.
Laypeople now represent about 38 percent of employees in major curial agencies, numbering close to 300 people. Fifty years ago, half of the 12 Vatican congregations had no laypeople on their staffs; among the handful of laity who did work there at the time, none were women."
There's a noteworthy article in India.com's Outlook on Christianity in Kerala: one of the largest Christian communities in India and one of the oldest in the world.
The title? "Pent-Up Baptism" How's that for evocative?
The bottom line sounds a great deal like the stories we hear from Latin America: the Pentecostals are coming and main-line Christians, especially Catholics are leaving for Pentecostal groups in great numbers.
"Catholic clergy estimates that such desertions, if unchecked, will earn the Pentecostal church more followers in Kerala than the mainstream ones by 2020."
The language is more colorful that we are used to seeing in stories on the same topic:
"frenzied alternatives", "crazed sects" BUT
there are also some useful observations.
Father Paul Parathazham, a sociology professor at the Papal Seminary in Pune, who surveyed "flock stealing/flock desertions" in 2002, says the Church should be "perturbed" by the phenomenon. His study located three reasons for the near-exodus: the absence of Christian fellowship in mainline churches, an inability to "experience" God and decreasing exposure to the scripture. The report prompted the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India to issue a set of guidelines—it conceded the symptom of the "unmet religious needs of the faithful".
The Conference felt the answer to the problem was making prayers more spontaneous, appealing and personalised. The Catholic church has also sought initiation of the bcc—Basic Christian Community—movement through family units for closer interaction.
If a section of the clergy sneers at migrations, Fr Parathazham's survey reveals that 83 per cent left in times of personal crisis when they were deprived of emotional support—or lack of pastoral care.
Note: "unmet religious needs of the faithful"
Note the list: lack of fellowship, little "experience" of God, decreasing exposure to Scripture, Lack of emotional support and pastoral care during crisis.
Now, look again at the assumptions behind the Nameless Lay Group. It is nearly a perfect match.
It isn't rocket science. The bishops in Latin American have come to nearly identical conclusions. In an era where lay people around the globe have attractive and readily available religious and spiritual alternatives to Catholicism, millions won't stay or come back unless they experience the faith as personal, living, and life changing.
There is a story on the front page of the Seattle Times today that has moved the city: 11 year old Gloria Strauss is in the last stages of cancer and a local reporter has been following the story of her and her devoutly Catholic family. Gloria's dad supports the whole clan on his salary as a coach at a local Catholic high school. His wife has MS. They have 7 children.
This is the 5th article in a series on Gloria. In a city famous for its antipathy to traditional faith, especially orthodox Christianity, the gospel is being preached via the media in a way that is moving thousands.
Since further treatment has been declared impossible, the family has turned to their faith. A huge support network has developed around the family. Prayer groups for Gloria meet every night of the week.
TOM CURRAN, A STRAUSS FAMILY FRIEND, has been directing a ministry to Catholics for almost two decades. For the past few weeks, he and his wife, Kari, have held a Tuesday-night prayer session about Gloria at their home. He visits the Strausses often to pray with them. In some ways, he is the family's spiritual adviser, but he refuses any credit.
Curran encounters a common question while praying for Gloria with others: What do you pray for?
He says people fear they are praying wrong. They wonder if they are good enough to be asking for a miracle. Curran explains the idea behind praying for Gloria.
"You're asking for Jesus to come close to this situation and to be who he is," Curran says. "You're saying, 'I want you, Jesus. Come close. Be who you are. And bring salvation.' That's the first miracle. When we say yes to Jesus and we come and we pray, in some mysterious way, God uses that.
"I pray with great confidence. I don't come seeking some thing. I come seeking someone."
It's a long article but be sure and read it to the end.
As the reporter, Jerry Brewer, puts it on his blog:
Gloria V is ready to go. I'm really excited about it now because I had to change the ending. This was -- and in many ways, still is -- the saddest story of the five, but Gloria does something at the end that leaves plenty of hope. That's all I'll say about it right now.
The story could've run as early as Thursday, but some other news events pushed it back a few days. At first, I was disappointed about that, but now I see why. If the story had been in the paper before Gloria's hopeful moment, it would've left everyone sad and even bitter. Now you should marvel at the girl's strength.
If you're not religious, you will say it's totally random, pure luck, that the story got moved back to allow for this development.
But if you are religious, you will say that God doesn't want the family or readers to give up on Gloria, so the story got delayed and allowed time for God to send a message.
Throughout this series, I've never forced beliefs on anyone. My job is to simply explain the Strausses' Catholicism and how it influences their lives. I owe that balance to readers, even though it means suppressing my personal Christian beliefs.
So take your pick on luck versus God's message. I will say, however, that one sounds a lot more hopeful than the other.
Take a look at the trailer of this moving documentary in the making As We Forgive Those about a movement in Rwanda to reintegrate 40,000 killers into society who confessed to murders during the genocide.
Faced with the harsh reality that full justice will never be served, Rwanda’s response, both politically and socially, has been to promote reconciliation. In response to the enormous backlog of genocide court cases still awaiting trial in 2003, the government began releasing from prison thousands of genocide perpetrators who had confessed to their crimes and served a minimum sentence. Consequently, these ex-prisoners were sent back to the very communities where they murdered to await a less formal, community trial known as the ‘gacaca‘ court.
After discovering the truth of their loved ones’ murder through the gacaca process, a growing number of genocide survivors are releasing their impulse to seek just punishment and seek instead reconciliation. While most victims still refuse to associate with the murderers, a few are choosing not only to forgive, but also to befriend the people who slaughtered their families.
Why are survivors who lost entire families willing to forgive and befriend those who destroyed their lives? Why are once-militant Hutus who brutally murdered their neighbors now repenting of their crimes? How does the church, which failed at moral leadership during the genocide, fit into the process of reconciliation today? In a world that exalts “justice for all,” what does the concept of radical forgiveness say about the human capacity to forgive and its need for redemption? And what does it mean for the restoration and future of Rwanda? As We Forgive Those explores these questions through the lives of three genocide survivors and their encounters with the men who once sought to wipe them out.
In Rwanda, ex-prisoners are building houses for the families of the ones they killed as part of reparation and forgiveness.
is being held at my local library branch in Colorado Springs starting at 10 am on Saturday so that readers who bought their copy at Barnes & Nobles at midnight can talk to other insomniacs. Just thought you'd want to know.
I do like my library. Its a truly civilized place with a large iris garden out front, a lovely little espresso and sandwich cafe inside, a great used bookstore where I can pick up disposables for the next airport, and comfy chairs where you can drink your latte and read your book or contemplate the full-on view of the Rockies through the floor to ceiling windows.
What Potter mania is planned in your neck of the woods?
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