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The Heart of Jenin PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 29 July 2010 08:48

CNN is covering an amazing story from a place where hope has been extinguished for many decades.

The Heart of Jenin.  The story of a Palestinian father, Ismael Khatib, who made a remarkable decision when his 12 year old son, Ahmed, was shot by Israeli soldiers who thought his toy gun was the real thing.  With the nudge of a wise male nurse, he agreed to have his son's organs donated to six other children.  Among the recipients were a Druze girl with heart failure, a Beduoin boy with kidney failure, and an Orthodox Jewish little girl in Jerusalem.

Two years later, the film makers shot Ismael, who is traveling across military and cultural lines, to visit all three children on the second anniversary of his son's death.  He is clearly moved to see the three children now healthy (and incredibly cute), whose lives were saved by his son's donations.  The tense meeting between the Jewish and Palestinian father is facilitated by his Hebrew speaking Israeli Arab cousin, who clearly has the heart of a peace-maker.

The resulting film was called "The Heart of Jenin".  This is a moving and thought provoking film and you can see a long excerpt here. You will be really glad you took the time.  Three men all made critical choices:  the nurse, who gently encouraged the donations, the father who choose to express his grief through giving new life, and the cousin, who used his bilingual and bicultural skills to bridge the gap between two men who, except for this tragedy, would never, ever have encountered each other in peace.  The journey remains difficult and partial and ambiguous but more has been healed than the bodies of the three children.  And the ripples are spreading.

Now, Ismael, has founded a center for the children of Jenin which offers them an alternative to life on the street.  Among the things the center offers is a film-making course.  Ismael and the film makers have partnered in restoring the only movie theatre in Jenin, his city of 70,000, which will open with a 3 day film festival.  The feature file, naturally, is the "The Heart of Jenin".

Although organ transplants aren't covered by name in the traditional list of the corporal works of mercy, I don't think there is any question that this Muslim father's choice was in the spirit of the Beatitudes:

"Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?

When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?

When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'

And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

Your comments?


 
Vacation Images PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Wednesday, 28 July 2010 08:33

Hello from the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  UPI'm staying with my sister, Barbara, for a few days of vacation. For those of you who think of Michigan as a mitten, the state is actually composed of two peninsulas.  The second, less well known peninsula, sits atop Wisconsin and is bordered by Lake Superior to the north.  I completed my undergraduate education at Michigan Technological University, which is located on the Keewenaw peninsula, the most northerly part of the U.P. which receives, on average, over 250 inches of snow each year.  The south easterly part of the peninsula ends at Lake Michigan, and my sister lives about five blocks from the lakeshore in Escanaba, a.k.a. "Esky".  The high school mascot here is... the Eskymos.  eskymoSo far, no native American groups have complained about the faintly asiatic-looking fellow.

There are other interesting small school mascots in the U.P., like the Brimley Bays, Calumet Copper Kings, Houghton Gremlins (not the Ford Deathtraps), Kingsford Flivvers, Ishpeming Hematites (in the Iron Range, of course), Bessemer Speedboys and, my favorite, Gwinn Modeltowners.

From here I'll drive with my sister to the La Crosse diocese's catechetical in-service, where Sherry and I will give a Called & Gifted workshop.  My brother, Dave, will be driving up from Champaign, IL, to join us.  It'll be the first time my siblings have been to a workshop, and since my sister just retired, and my brother (who's the eldest) is close to retiring.

Many folks are strapped for cash these days, and vacations may seem out of the question.  If you're in the midwest, you might consider the U.P.  Pasties (a very filling meat pie with potatoes, rutabagas, onions and spices) will set you back less than $5, generally.  The copper and iron ore miners used to take them into the mines for lunch up here, and I can assure you, they didn't go hungry!

picturedOn Monday my sister and I drove to Munising, MI, on the shore of Lake Superior and took a boat trip along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on a calm, hot (for the U.P.) day.  Lake Superior was like glass because the wind was from the south, and given that there are 350 shipwrecks - many of them uncharted still - on the bottom of Lake Superior, you know that's not always the case.  You see, Lake Superior's well-known for it's deadly northeastern squalls, as Gordon Lightfoot's haunting ballad taught us.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.

There's more here on the tragic and as yet mysterious sinking of the 729 foot-long Edmund Fitzgerald.  It's a frightening scenario that gives you an idea of the immense power of nature in the far north.

I've also picked fresh, wild blueberries on the Garden peninsula, not far from where my sister lived when she first moved to the U.P.  The sandy soil there is ideal for the low bushes that are filled with succulent berries.  They made a great home made pie, by the way!

One evening Barbara and I rode bicycles down to the park along Lake Michigan where we listened to Grassfire, a local bluegrass band.  For free.  For two hours.  Under a blue sky with the setting sun to our backs.  Not a bad way to spend an evening in a small town.

Oh, and last night's Scrabble contest was interrupted by a power outage during a ferocious thunderstorm.  No problem, though, Barb and I finished it the old-fashioned way - by candlelight.  She whupped me, too, scoring over 320 points.

Gotta run - we're off to Mass at the local parish - another bikeride away.


 
Priestly Intercession - 3 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Monday, 19 July 2010 07:16

This is my final reflection on how intercessory prayer is a part of my life as a priest.  It's also the final day of my retreat.  I'll be heading back to Colorado Springs for a few days before going to the upper peninsula of Michigan to be with my sister for a few days before going to La Crosse, WI, for a Called & Gifted Workshop.

The final question I had been asked to respond to was this: based on your experience, why would you say that this anointed priestly prayer matters—to God or to the world?

When I think of my priestly prayer, I normally think of gathering the prayers of all the faithful in a perfect sacrifice of praise at the Mass.  Because it is then that our prayers are most part of Jesus’ high-priestly prayer on behalf of the world.  But my personal prayer of intercession for others is intimately connected to my ordination, as well, for all that I learn about people and their lives comes through my experience of being their priest.

I was pastor at the St. Thomas More Newman Center in Eugene, OR for six years – my longest assignment, to date.  There, I got to know the congregation pretty well, particularly through individuals who touched my life and gave me access to theirs.  I was able to learn about their work, their hopes, their frustrations, their challenges.  One man worked hard on a family farm passed from his father to him; he was the steward of that land, not its owner.  He was, and is deeply committed to sustainable agriculture.  Another fellow was an ObGyn who never performed or recommended abortion as an option, but who helped all his patients see their pregnancy as an opportunity for wonder.  Another person struggled with alcoholism, another was learning the intricacies of ancient Chinese literature in a Ph.D. program.  One friend worked for city hall in the planning department, which in Eugene, OR, is like trying to herd cats.

Every week they’d come in procession to receive Jesus in the humble form of bread and wine, hoping to be strengthened and encouraged to continue to face what life, or the Evil One, threw at them They also wanted to better recognize the much more common moments of grace. I came to the point where sometimes I could identify them just by their hands: the strong, perpetually dirt-stained hands of the farmer, the large, thick hands of the ObGyn, the slender fingers of the pianist, the scholar’s right hand with the callous where his pen sat.

It was during this time that I read Christifideles Laici, and was taken by this quote: “The lay faithful are sharers in the priestly mission, for which Jesus offered himself on the cross and continues to be offered in the celebration of the Eucharist for the glory of God and the salvation of humanity. Incorporated in Jesus Christ, the baptized are united to him and to his sacrifice in the offering they make of themselves and their daily activities (cf. Rom 12:1, 2).”

This became a common theme in my preaching; reminding people that their very lives, as ordinary as they might seem, could be an offering to God that is then united, with everyone else’s, including Jesus’s at the Sunday eucharist.  I remember at times being in tears as people came forward to receive the Lord and to offer themselves to him; all those hands – so different, each with a story.  These were hands that were meant to become holy and whose every deeds could consecrate the world to God.  The Christians who were coming forward for communion were acknowledging His part in all the good they'd done.

Over the years, my understanding of priesthood has developed to the point where now my prayer of intercession for others often focuses on their graced ability to overcome obstacles that would prevent them from becoming the person God created them to be.  I pray that they discover their calling in the world and have the courage to live it.  I pray that they become more in love with the Person of Jesus, and desire to follow Him where ever He might lead them.  I believe that kind of prayer is pleasing to God, Who wants the best for His children.  I also believe it's the best prayer for others, because it is only in discerning what we were created to do and to be that we will discover the greatest happiness, fulfillment and meaning in this life.

In becoming who God created us to be, we will be more likely to hear at the beginning of our eternal life, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

That's why I can say confidently that my prayer for others to discover their purpose for living matters to God, and why it matters to others.  Because in becoming who we were meant to be from all eternity we will be the most profound good in this world, and experience the most satisfaction.  My prayers for that kind of discovery and fulfillment for others - whether in my personal prayer or in the context of the Mass - are, perhaps, one of the deepest expressions of what it means to be a priest.

 

Now I would like to ask your intercession on my behalf.  Throughout this week I have been splitting wood at the cabin where I've been staying as a way to thank the owners for letting me use it.  Yesterday, while trying to pull apart two halves of a particularly large log that had not been completely split by the wedge and sledge hammer method, my back began to spasm.  Alternating applications of heat and cold are helpful, but it is most uncomfortable to sit and painful to walk.  I slept well, thanks to drugs, and it appears that laying with my feet elevated is helful.  But tomorrow I have a long car ride ahead, and I'm not looking forward to that.  Thanks for any prayers you can send my way!


 
Our Ways Are Not THE Way PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Sunday, 18 July 2010 07:13

I admire John Allen, a correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter in Rome. I find NCR tends to try to impose a very American, democratic and political view of things upon the Church, which often leads to unfair, even hysterical criticism.  Mr. Allen, on the other hand, really tries to help Americans understand the ways of the Church's leaders in Rome, who by necessity take a longer view of history, and a have to consider much broader ways of seeing the world than just the American lens. In a report found here, he responds to a New York Times editorial of July 9 which called for the Pope to make the American bishops’ Dallas Charter's “zero tolerance” approach to sexual abuse binding on the worldwide Catholic church.

Allen responds that the Pope is unlikely to do that for a number of reasons.  I thought it might be good to offer those here, because you may hear other Catholics and non-Catholics criticizing the Holy Father for being "soft" on pedophile priests and bishops who apparently abbetted them.

The first reason Allen gives is that the "zero tolerance" approach is a very American legal response to crime, which I would add is similar to the "three strikes and your out" approach that can put people behind bars for life for third offenses that normally wouldn't warrant such harsh penalties.

Allen writes,

...it’s a well-known fact of Catholic life that the “one strike and you’re out” rule at the heart of the American norms -- automatic removal from ministry for life for even one act of sexual abuse against a minor -- plays to mixed reviews, at best, around the global church. That’s not because the rest of the Catholic world is necessarily soft on abuse, but because some bishops and canon lawyers regard the “one strike” policy as a distortion of the church’s legal tradition. Over the centuries, they argue, canon law has resisted “one size fits all” penalties, preferring to leave discretion in the hands of judges to make the punishment fit the crime.

To illustrate the point, critics sometimes put things this way: There’s a world of difference between a priest who’s a serial rapist of pre-pubescent children, and a priest who had a consensual encounter with a teenager 20 years ago. Policies that ignore or downplay such distinctions, they argue, risk remedying one injustice with another.

Next, Allen points out that in the U.S. and throughout the developed West, there is a well-founded and wide-spread trust in civil authority and the police.  We may criticize the governing party, but we have the ability to offer that critique, and work for the election of politicians of a different party, freely, without fear of personal harm.  That's not the case throughout the world, and we must not forget that.

...there are aspects of what’s come to be known as the “American approach” which might not translate well in every corner of the world. Take, for example, cooperation with the police and other civil authorities. For Americans and Western Europeans -- where the rule of law holds, and the police play fair -- such a policy seems like a no-brainer, not to mention a long-overdue correction to the notion that the church is above the law.

Things look different, however, in a place such as Ukraine. There, a new pro-Russian government is reviving Soviet methods for pressuring the Greek Catholic Church, the largest Eastern rite Catholic church in the world and arguably Ukraine’s most important engine for democratic reform. Among other things, the successor to the KGB has recently been sniffing around the Catholic University in Lviv, dropping in on the rector and making ominous calls to staff on their cell phones (calls of the “we know where you live” variety).

Recently I asked a few figures in the Greek Catholic church what a requirement of automatic compliance with every police probe would mean in their environment today. Typically, I got a one-word answer: “Suicide.”

Fr. Paul Wicker, a diocesan priest friend of mine in Colorado Springs has traveled extensively in eastern Ukraine and has many connections there within the Catholic community, and has many other stories, not published in our papers, of subtle and systematic suppression of the Church by local government officials.  And that's just one country.

Finally, Allen brings up a topic that I might call the ongoing "ugly American" syndrome.  We do have the tendency to believe that our ways are the best, and to seek quick fixes. One example is our attempt to introduce American-style democracy in nations where such political processes may not have a history or even cultural support.  Not that democracy is bad; on the contrary, it is a great blessing.  But it springs from and is nurtured by a whole set of presumptions about the human person and society that don't exist universally.  We also tend to be ignorant of other cultures, their (much longer than American) histories, and their sensibilities.  That leads to a fairly widespread distrust of our conclusions on a whole host of issues, including the way to respond to sexual abuse by priests.

...anyone who has spent much time travelling around the Catholic world knows the love/hate dynamic that often defines reactions to the American church. On the one hand, Catholics elsewhere admire the dynamism, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the resources of American Catholicism; on the other, they often sense that Americans are a bit too eager to swoop in and tell the rest of the world how things ought to be done, sometimes with little understanding of the local situation.

In that context, anything that looks like shoving the “American way” down the throat of the rest of the church is destined to stir resistance. The Vatican has to be conscious of that bit of baggage too, to avoid making things worse in the name of making them better.

For all the criticism that is levied against the Roman curia and the Holy Father himself (often by the NCR, among others), it is vitally important that we realize we Americans are a small minority in the Church - only 6%.  The U.S. has great secular power, and the U.S. Church has great vitality in our multi-cultural and religiously diverse land - which the Holy Father has acknowledged he is intrigued by.  Nevertheless, our American ways are not the only way.  The Holy Father is the leader of all Catholics, and must consider how the Church lives in a variety of lands, and among a variety of peoples.  The crisis of clergy sexual abuse originates from sin within the Church, and the critique of the Church's response from American and European media has helped the Roman curia acknowledge its seriousness.  But the overall response to the crisis will necessarily have a more universal character - because that is the nature of the catholic Catholic Church.


 
Priestly Intercession - 2 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Friday, 16 July 2010 06:45

Yesterday, I began sharing some reflections on intercession based on three questions I was given some time ago - unfortunately, I don't remember by whom.  But on my retreat I have an opportunity to review these brief reflections and expand them a bit.  So here was the second question, and my response.

In your own experience, how has this priestly work of submission to God and intercession shaped you as a priest?

When I was the director of the Newman Center at the University of Oregon, I had a young pastoral associate, Stefani, a woman I had first met when she was a freshman at Arizona State University, and I was a newly ordained priest.  Our lives intersected years later when she was looking for a job at a parish and our campus ministry was searching for a lay pastoral associate.  On occasions in which I was acting as though the success or failure of our ministry depended upon me, she would say, "Fr. Mike, get off the cross, we need the wood."  It was a humorous, yet pointed reminder that I was not the Messiah.  I had to give up the fantasy of control and humble myself in submission before God.  It was a reminder of who is the Savior, and that I should go to Him in prayer and intercession regarding those things I was so worried about.

Intercessory prayer helps defuse the frantic hyperactivity that springs up like unwanted weeds in my soul.  First of all, the act ofpraying interceding itself acts as a brake on that momentum generated by busyness.  It reminds me that I have to consciously trust that God loves me and the people around me, and that no matter what may be weighing upon me, God promised Julian of Norwich that "all shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well."  Of course, that doesn't mean that things will turn out the way I want, but placing myself before God as a supplicant for others immediately takes the focus off of me, and reminds me that I’m not in control, and it’s not all up to me, and, in fact, the One Whom it is all up to can be trusted.  In fact, I’m a much better priest when in my private prayer I acknowledge my dependence upon God, remind myself of his loving concern for me by reading Psalm 139, or Jesus' admonition to "consider the lilies." (Mt. 6:28-30)  The constant temptation I face, however, is to abandon private prayer to “get things done.”

There are two patterns I've noticed in my prayers for others that are linked to the idea of submission before God. And I suppose I should indicate what I mean by submission, because in our culture it's something of a demeaning concept.  By submission, I simply mean a willing, even joyful acknowledgment that God knows better than me, loves better than me, is more trustworthy than me, and is eminently worthy of my trust.  And so because God is so trustworthy, my intercession for others is, first of all, almost always petitions for their change, rather than an attempt to change God's mind.  I believe that God desires their good, and that natural evils, or the assaults of the Evil One or those doing his malicious will, can ultimately be for our good.  So for those who are sick, or facing surgery, for example, I ask that they be given peace, or deeper trust in His love, or that the illness might be a catalyst for spiritual growth and conversion.  I so believe that there are worse things than death, that I pray they might be freed from those things, rather than be protected from death itself.

Secondly, unlike people with a charism of intercession who find their prayer directed by the Holy Spirit, or who can pray for long periods of time, I find that my intercession for someone is usually brief, and often an expression of trust that they are in God's loving embrace.  I simply ask God to help them recognize that reality.  Then, sometimes, I know I need to contact the individual, to remind them of that, or to simply know that I have not forgotten them, and that there are people praying for them not only on earth, but in heaven.

And that's the final aspect of how priestly intercession has shaped my life.  A friend of mine who went through a powerful conversion from selfishness, drugs, reckless promiscuity and violence did so without any apparent explicit spiritual guidance from the people around him - including the Catholics who saw him when he periodically showed up at Church.  I expect that there were people praying for him, but most of the people he hung out with weren't living as Christians, and likely weren't interceding much for him.

I believe it was the powerful intercession of the saints that made the difference.  And so part of my priestly intercession involves enlisting the saints - something I re-learned from a wonderful priest who was my superior at Arizona State, Fr. Nathan Castle, OP.  But I also enlist the help of wonderful friends and companions who have passed from this vale of tears to Jesus' side.  I experienced their imperfect love in this life, and was blessed by it beyond what I deserved, and trust that it has been purified and is much more potent now.  So I call upon that love for me, and for others, and ask for their prayers regarding the people and situations I'm concerned about.  That gives me great comfort, and reminds me that I am not alone in my intercession for others.

But I also pray for those dear friends.  At every Mass, during the Eucharistic prayer we are invited to pray for those who have died.  So now I pause, and I remember, always, five women who were particularly good to me, and who I know interceded for me while they were alive.  I experienced through them God's mercy, encouragement, and love that I do not deserve.  So I take time to remember Sue, Pat, Sr. Renilde, Sr. Kathleen and Ginger, along with a number of Dominican friars who have died, like Fr. Bernie, who prayed for me every day while I was a seminarian, until he died.  I must admit, sometimes the pause lasts awhile!  But perhaps, maybe, in those places where I preside on a regular basis, the congregation has come to expect that, and intercedes on the behalf of people they know and love - or for those who have no one to pray for them.

Part of the blessing of being Catholic is knowing that we are not separated from our loved ones by death.  When my dear friend and fellow campus minister, Sue Gifford, died almost two years ago, I knew my tears (and there weren't all that many) were all about my loss of her physical presence and her way of asking, "And you, Michael, what can I do to support you?"  They were tears flowing from self-interest, more than anything.  They certainly were not out of sorrow for her, because I believe she is with God, Whom she had served so faithfully as a minister in the Church.  In fact, I could rejoice for and with her, because the suffering she endured for many years because of her chronic illness (which she hid very well) and because her ministerial contributions were often ignored, was over.

It's appropriate to be reflecting on intercession while at the cabin of Art and Kathleen Nutter.  You may have been part of the story of intercession for their daughter, Marysa, who nearly died while in the third term of a pregnancy last year.  The efficacy of corporate prayer for her and her child, as well as the intercession of St. Gianna Molla, led to a miraculous recovery and a safe, healthy granddaughter for the Nutters.  More importantly, it led to a conversion for Marysa and her husband, who was baptized at this year's Easter Vigil, thanks be to God.

Yes, thanks be to the Father, Who invites our intercession for each other so our human dignity can be raised by becoming secondary causes of the good He wishes to pour out upon the world.  And in our intercession we unite ourselves with Jesus, the High Priest who constantly intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father, and so fulfill the priestly ministry He shares with us.


 
Priestly Intercession - 1 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Thursday, 15 July 2010 10:31

While I'm on retreat I'm praying, but also reflecting on my prayer.  That is, I'm asking, "What does it mean for me to pray as a priest for others."  In doing this, I came across an old survey that I filled out for someone.  I don't recall whom.  However, it was providential, as it reminded me of earlier reflections on this theme.  I hope you don't mind if I share them with you over the next few days.

The survey first asked, "What one poignant experience comes to mind of your own priestly experience of submission before God and intercession on behalf of the world?"

My response: The poignant experience didn’t hit me at the time.  I didn’t recognize it as anything unusual at all, actually.  The poignancy came just a few weeks ago [which, at the time I originally wrote this, would have been the end of December, 2009], when I was in Eugene to give a parish retreat.  I met with a couple of friends, Charlie and Pam.  They are former Protestants who are now Catholic.  Charlie told me over a glass of wine one night how when he and his wife were thinking of joining the Church in early September 2001, tragedy befell the US in the form of a terrorist attack that scarred the psyche of Americans.
His own pastor at his local church was frantically trying to put together some kind of prayer experience at which his congregation could gather. Charlie had come to the St. Thomas More Newman Center in Eugene to ask me what we Catholics would do in response to the horrific loss of life and the devastation that New Yorkers were experiencing.

I had replied, “We’ll do what we always do; what we do every day.  We’ll offer Mass.”

I don’t remember the comment at all, though I remember the day well.  I don’t remember the Mass that was offered, who was there, or how many.  But I know we offered the Mass, as I had promised.  The congregation, who knew nowhere better to turn in their suffering than to the Christ who suffered for them, offered the Mass for a whole host of people.  The 2995 victims on the airplanes and on the ground in New York, Washington, DC, and Shanksville, PA, including the 19 terrorists who had plotted the deaths of anonymous people - Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, unchurched, agnostics - who’s only offense was to be American, or working for the military or American financial institutions.

We prayed for the dead.  All of them, including the terrorists.  How could we not?  God’s love is impartial, everlasting, unmerited.  It is an act of submission, in spite of whatever we might have been feeling, to pray even for those who declared themselves to be our enemies, for that is what Jesus commands us to do.  Especially in the Mass, where we offer His blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant God makes with us, which is shed for us and for all so that sins may be forgiven.

That response, which could have sounded trite, lame, or lazy to Charlie, had a profound influence on him.  The Holy Spirit touched his heart, helping him realize that he had been included in our prayers for doctors, for parents, for spouses, for those seeking a more intimate union with Jesus even though we didn't know him.  The universality of the prayer that is the Mass became part of the reason Charlie and his wife became Catholics.

As a priest, people often ask me to pray for them or their loved ones.  Sometimes I suspect they believe that my individual prayers are more efficacious because I'm a priest; that somehow God takes my prayers more seriously than theirs.  But for all of us who are baptized and anointed with chrism and enfolded into the one priesthood of Christ, our sacrifice of prayer reaches its perfection when we offer our prayers in the high priestly prayer of Christ at Mass.  That's what I should remind people when they ask for my prayers.  I should help them recall their own priestly dignity and encourage them to consciously offer their intention through Jesus, with Jesus and in Jesus, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, to God the Father, at Mass.

What a treasure we have in the Mass, and in the opportunity to pray with Jesus on behalf of the world.  I need to make that connection more consciously when I preside.


 
Pray As You Go PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 13 July 2010 08:20

Lets see if I can finish a short blog post without an unwary move of my mouse sending it into oblivion.  I've lost at least a half dozen posts that way lately and I find it so frustrating and pointless.  I lost another short post again cause I hadn't hit "save" 30 minutes ago.

It is one of the reasons you haven't heard much from me over the past couple of months.  I've learned for the sake of my own well-being not to fight it but simply turn to something else.  Ah well, we are going to move the blog into a Wordpress format soon - but still at this url - which is designed for blogging and is infinitely better suited to it.  And it does automatic back-ups so I don't have to blog in a state of constant anxiety.

Wouldn't you know.  Just as I typed this words "I wanted to make ID readers aware", my post vanished again.  But I had saved it - twice! - so I only lost a couple sentences and can begin again.  (A lovely woman who worked with me at the University of Washington, had a amusing habit of being sweet as pie with people on the phone.  But if she found them too irritating, she would put them briefly on hold, shake her herself, mutter "Scream of Rage!" and then, feeling relieved, return to the conversation.  My sentiments exactly!)

Back to the point of this post.

It is to make ID readers aware of a wonderful daily prayer resource:  Pray As You Go.  The website is the creation of the British Jesuits and provides short (10 - 12 minute) daily prayer/meditations that combine gorgeous music, Scripture, and meditation questions.  You can download them a week in advance in MP3, WMA, or I-Tunes format if you don't want to pop in everyday.  There is also a helpful 8 minute review-of-the-day exercise and links to other prayer and spirituality resources in the UK.

Like St. Breuno's, a gorgeous looking retreat house in Wales where Gerard Manley Hopkins spent three years and wrote some of his most famous poems.  Their annual Gerard Manley Hopkins retreat begins today.  (The pictures bring back such memories of living in Wales!  I must visit this place someday.)

"Away in the loveable west,
On a pastoral forehead of Wales,
I was under a roof here,  I was at rest.....


 
Suffering on Behalf of Another PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 13 July 2010 08:11

Carlos had a friend, Tony, dying of cancer. Tony was told he had only a short time to live, so he ended his chemo treatments and to simply spend time with his wife and children.

Summer ended, then Thanksgiving came, then Christmas, and still he didn’t die. Eventually he decided to go back to work, and to take some experimental cancer drugs. But he was afraid the side effects would be like those of chemo, and rob him of his ability to spend time with his family.

Tony was telling Carlos this one day over the phone, just before he was going to receive the experimental drugs. When he hung up, Carlos began to pray.  “Lord, if I can share this cross with Tony, let me.  Let me bear the side effects, if I can.”  And he went back to work.

About an hour later he began to feel a little light headed, then dizzy.  A bit later waves of nausea began that increased in severity.  He asked his wife to drive him home because he didn’t feel well.  “I wonder if I’m getting the flu,” he said to her.  On the way home, he remembered his prayer.

That night he awoke with terrible pain in his feet, like fire ants stinging and stinging and stinging.  All he could think was, “thank you, Lord.”

And it came as no surprise to him when Tony called a few days later and said, “Carlos, you won’t believe it.  I had no side effects from the drugs they gave me.  The docs said I must be lucky.  People usually get nauseous and some even have terrible pain in their legs or feet.”

And Carlos smiled, “As a matter of fact, I do believe you, Tony.”

I believe Carlos's prayer is the kind that God loves to answer.

Why?  Because Carlos prayed to become like Jesus, who came to fulfill His Father's will in all things, and then embraced the cross we gave him in response to that faithfulness.  Jesus lovingly accepted the fate we sinners deserved so that we would not have to suffer separation from our Father.  In asking to endure what Tony might otherwise suffer, Carlos unknowingly asked to imitate Jesus.

The Father delights that we become like his Son.

Do you and I have the courage to do what Carlos did?


 
Drink Coffee. Do Good. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 12 July 2010 21:37

Here's a good news story.  A part-time Anglican priest has started a coffee company in the Atlanta area to help heal the wounds of the Rwandan genocide.

It is called 1000 Hills Coffee Company and they are doing well in the midst of a tough economy.  A dollar from every bag of coffee sold goes to support widows of the genocide or purchase high quality coffee bikes which farmers use to bring their coffee to market quickly.  So far, they have distributed $30,000 in micro-loans.

If you live in the Atlanta area, they have three coffee houses there.  If not, you can order online or join their monthly coffee club.  So far, American coffee drinkers have made it possible for

2000 Farmers to earn a living wage

270 Coffee Bikes to be Purchased

400 Micro-Financed Loans to be offered.

 

They even have an online widget that will tell you the impact that your order of $X has had on Rwandan farmers.

Their motto says it all: Drink Coffee.  Do Good.

Check it out and if anyone has ever drunk their coffee, write a little review.  The whole world of faith-motivated social entrepreneurship is fascinating.


 
St. John Chrysostom on "Christ's Room" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 12 July 2010 09:33

Saint John Chrysostom (c.345-407), priest at Antioch then Bishop of Constantinople, Doctor of the Church 
Homily 45 on the Acts of the Apostles; PG 60: 318-320

«Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to drink... will surely not lose his reward."

"I was a stranger," Christ says, "and you took me in" (Mt 25:35). And again, "In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me." (Mt 25:40). In every believer and brother, though they be least of all, Christ comes to you. Open your house, take them in. "Whoever receives a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward."... These are the qualities that ought to be in those who welcome strangers: readiness, cheerfulness, liberality. For strangers feel abashed and ashamed, and unless their host shows real joy, they feel slighted and go away, and their being received in this way makes it worse than not to have received them. 

Therefore, set aside a room in your house, to which Christ may come; say, "This is Christ's room; this is set apart for him." Even if it is very simple, he will not disdain it. Christ goes about "naked and a stranger"; he needs shelter: do not hesitate to give it to him. Do not be uncompassionate, nor inhuman. You are earnest in worldly matters, do not be cold in spiritual matters... You have a place set apart for your chariot, but none for Christ who is wandering by? Abraham received strangers in his own home (Gn 18); his wife took the place of a servant, the guests the place of masters. They did not know that they were receiving Christ, that they were receiving angels. If Abraham had known it, he would have lavished his whole substance. But we, who know that we receive Christ, do show not as much zeal as he did, who thought that he was receiving mere men.

Thanks to my friend, Eryn Huntington, who sent this to me.  And me who feels guilty because this was exactly why I thought that we ended up with a large fixer upper.

So let's talk:  Do you have a "Christ room" - whether or not it is labeled as such?  Do you know someone who does?  Who do you know who lives this sort of lavish Christian hospitality?   What kind of impact has it had on your life or the lives of others?

 

 


 
Catholic Quote of the Day PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 12 July 2010 07:44

"God does not ask much of us. Remembering Him, praising Him, asking for His grace, offering Him your troubles, or thanking Him for what He has given you. Lift up your heart. Little remembrances please Him." 

... Brother Lawrence


 
A Weekend Thought PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Friday, 09 July 2010 15:48

This Sunday's Gospel is the beloved story of the Good Samaritan.  We have diluted the force of this engagement between the scholar of the law (likely a scribe) and Jesus.  The whole incident stems from the scribe trying to test Jesus - asking a question that he thinks Jesus may not be able to answer, or for which he might provide the wrong answer.  The question is, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" (v. 25).  In other words, "what must I do to be recognized as God's child?"  After all, it is children who do the inheriting, normally.

Jesus said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?"
He said in reply, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."
He replied to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live."
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

Good_Samaritan_Watts

It is that question about eternal life that the story of the Good Samaritan is still answering, along with the question, "and who is my neighbor?"  And the story leads Jesus to turn around the lawyer's question. It's no longer, "who is my neighbor?" but "to whom must you become a neighbor?"  The lawyer realizes that one must become a neighbor to anyone and everyone in need.  To be recognized as God's child seems to mean we reach out with compassion to all people, even to our enemies - just as God reached out to us in Jesus, even when we were still sinners.  St. Paul put it this way, "God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8)

With all the anger, name-calling, and character assassination found on the blogosphere and in public discourse in general, we might take this story of Jesus to heart.  It's one thing to be zealous about the Faith, but it is a terrible thing to use that zeal as justification for hatred for people.  And there's very little "loving the sinner, hating the sin" going on around the blogosphere or in society.  St. Paul, perhaps remembering the answer to the question Jesus put to the scribe, warns us, "The whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another." (Gal 5:15)

Another thought to take home this weekend.  If Jesus were to tell you this story, who would take the place of the Samaritan as the hated group?  A liberal? A conservatives? A gay or lesbian? An illegal immigrants? A child molester?  Try reading that Gospel and inserting that group, and see how uncomfortable it makes you feel!  That's a call to conversion.

 


 
A Pontifical Council for US - part III PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Friday, 02 July 2010 15:01

In Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's 2000 address to Catechists and Religion teachers, he spoke of "expropriation" as the method of evangelization.  In other words, as I understand him, the individual Christian is the primary evangelizer, and this happens through "dying to one's self" for the good of the other.  I share my faith, which has been given to my by the Father and nurtured in the arms of Mother Church, with those who have not yet heard of Jesus, or who have not fully encountered him through prayer and grace.  It is a passing on of what I have received, with the focus being on God, rather than me or even the institutional Church.

In that same address, he spoke of the content of evangelization, and I suspect it looks quite a bit different from what is often shared in RCIA programs.  Often, there the focus is on helping people become Catholic, with an emphasis on Church teaching on morality, Church history and structure, the Sacraments and the saints.  All good, important topics, but too often presented without significant reference to the Kingdom incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth.

So what did the Holy Father say was the content of the New Evangelization five years before he became Pope?

He mentioned four areas of content, which I will summarize below with copious quotes.

 

I. Conversion

This shouldn't be a surprise, since the Gospel of Mark begins with Jesus calling his listeners to repentance and belief in the Gospel (which, they would discover, is He Himself).

The Greek word for converting means: to rethink—to question one's own and common way of living; to allow God to enter into the criteria of one's life; to not merely judge according to the current opinions. Thereby, to convert means: not to live as all the others live, not do what all do, not feel justified in dubious, ambiguous, evil actions just because others do the same; begin to see one's life through the eyes of God; thereby looking for the good, even if uncomfortable; not aiming at the judgment of the majority, of men, but on the justice of God—in other words: to look for a new style of life, a new life.

This newness of life is consistent with the experience and preaching of St. Paul, who said, "whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come." 2 Cor 5:17  The life of the converted man or woman is meant to be markedly different - not a life "in the flesh," in conformity with the ways of the world, but a radically new life "in the Spirit," by which St. Paul could judge all that he had formerly held in esteem as "rubbish."  I have witnessed this kind of change in people who have had powerful encounters with the risen Lord.  One former drug addict told me that Christ had revealed to him during his conversion the emptiness of the promises of this world, and the futility of his old way of life. Others have told me of how others - even church-going Catholics - look on them as people who have changed in profound ways.

But one of the hallmarks of genuine conversion is an unwillingness to judge others.  Instead of comparing their behavior to other people's, they begin to take Christ as the standard of their behavior, which leads to an ever-deepening humility and reliance upon him.  They seek communion with him.  The cardinal wrote about this in a beautiful passage:

All of this does not imply moralism; reducing Christianity to morality loses sight of the essence of Christ's message: the gift of a new friendship, the gift of communion with Jesus and thereby with God. Whoever converts to Christ does not mean to create his own moral autarchy for himself, does not intend to build his own goodness through his own strengths. "Conversion" (metanoia) means exactly the opposite: to come out of self-sufficiency to discover and accept our indigence—the indigence of others and of the Other, his forgiveness, his friendship. Unconverted life is self-justification (I am not worse than the others); conversion is humility in entrusting oneself to the love of the Other, a love that becomes the measure and the criteria of my own life.

Conversion of this sort is intensely personal, unique to each individual, but it should not lead to a "me and Jesus" spirituality, or the sentiment so often heard today, "I'm spiritual, but not religious."

Conversion is above all a very personal act, it is personalization. I separate myself from the formula "to live as all others" (I do not feel justified anymore by the fact that everyone does what I do) and I find my own person in front of God, my own personal responsibility.

But true personalization is always also a new and more profound socialization. The "I" opens itself once again to the "you," in all its depths, and thus a new "We" is born. If the lifestyle spread throughout the world implies the danger of de-personalization, of not living one's own life but the life of all the others, in conversion a new "We," of the common path of God, must be achieved.

In proclaiming conversion we must also offer a community of life, a common space for the new style of life. We cannot evangelize with words alone; the Gospel creates life, creates communities of progress; a merely individual conversion has no consistency.

That is to say, people who undergo the radical transformation that Jesus invites need community.  They realize that following Jesus and being "in the world but not of it" is a difficult task.  Without other disciples to provide encouragement, support and models to imitate, the path of God will soon be abandoned - the the precious seed eaten by birds, trod underfoot, or choked by weeds.

 

II. The Kingdom of God

The disciples in last weekend's Gospel were commissioned by Jesus to proclaim the Kingdom of God, and that Kingdom is an essential part of evangelization.  If you were to ask most Catholics what is meant by "the Kingdom of God," you would probably get a variety of answers, but many would probably refer to change within society and its institutions; like the end of injustice and war, perhaps, or material prosperity for all.  Some might point to the Church as the inbreaking of the Kingdom. Cardinal Ratzinger said, "the Kingdom of God is not a thing, a social or political structure, a utopia. The Kingdom of God is God. Kingdom of God means: God exists. God is alive. God is present and acts in the world, in our—in my life."

I found this description exciting.  Again, he points us to the intimacy with which God wishes to deal with us.  God is not far away - not some stern Judge that I need to placate with good behavior.  Nor is He the God of the Deists who, by and large, framed our Constitution - a watchmaker God who is on an extended vacation and leaves us to fend for ourselves.  Sometimes we live as Deists, rather than Christians.  Even in the rarefied air of religious academia, theologians can end up talking about God with such detachment and abstraction that one wonders about the quality of their faith.  So, Cardinal Ratzinger, perhaps one of the greatest theological minds of our times, says, "Theology must go back to being truly theo-logy, speaking about and with God" And then he gives us all a sharp critique, "we Christians also often live as if God did not exist (si Deus non daretur). We live according to the slogan: God does not exist, and if he exists, he does not belong."

Certainly American Catholics often live as though God does not belong anywhere except in the safe confines of the tabernacle.  We will reverence the tabernacle, but not the "living stones" of the Church with whom we rub shoulders.  Our parishes, like society, can be the scene of backbiting, bigotry, gossip, and grasping for power - just one more political scene.

Therefore, evangelization must, first of all, speak about God, proclaim the only true God: the Creator—the Sanctifier—the Judge...God cannot be made known with words alone. One does not really know a person if one knows about this person secondhandedly. To proclaim God is to introduce to the relation with God: to teach how to pray. Prayer is faith in action. And only by experiencing life with God does the evidence of his existence appear.

It is in prayer that I can seek and encounter the God who astounded the world by taking on human flesh, and who chooses to make us temples of His own Spirit.  The New Evangelization must then be marked by an ability to speak of a life with God - a life in which I invite God to participate with me in my work, in my relationships, even in my frustrations and failings.  This is a life in which I can expect God to guide and to act - a life in which there no longer are coincidences.

This life of prayer moves beyond personal prayer to the communal prayer of popular religiosity; praying for and with others, whether its the extemporaneous prayer with my neighbor who is sick, the common rosary before the abortion clinic, or the liturgy of the hours with the men's group.  There is a complementarity between these types of prayer and with the formal liturgical prayer life of the Church and all of them are intimately connected to and find their summit in the sacraments.

Speaking about God and speaking with God must always go together. The proclamation of God is the guide to communion with God in fraternal communion, founded and vivified by Christ. This is why the liturgy (the sacraments) are not a secondary theme next to the preaching of the living God, but the realization of our relationship with God.

There, God reaches out to us in ways that are profound, yet intimate; using humble elements like bread, wine, oil, water, human touch, human flesh, meaning-laden words.

 

III. Jesus Christ

The Kingdom of God becomes even more sharply focused when God unites with humanity in Jesus of Nazareth. "Only in Christ and through Christ does the theme [of] God become truly concrete: Christ is Emmanuel, the God-with-us—the concretization of the "I am," the response to Deism. Today, the temptation is great to diminish Jesus Christ, the Son of God, into a merely historical Jesus, into a pure man. One does not necessarily deny the divinity of Jesus, but by using certain methods one distills from the Bible a Jesus to our size, a Jesus possible and comprehensible within the parameters of our historiography."

It was this diminishment of the divinity of Jesus Christ, and the downplaying or "demythologizing" of his miracles (perhaps by Biblical scholars who hadn't done enough talking with God!) that led to the publication of the Holy Father's book, Jesus of Nazareth.

In the proclamation of Christ, Ratzinger mentioned two aspects.  One, in the translation I have, he calls the "Sequela" of Christ.  I suspect the "Following" of Christ might be a better translation, but it has a special meaning for him.

Christ offers himself as the path of my life. [The] Sequela of Christ does not mean: imitating the man Jesus. This type of attempt would necessarily fail—it would be an anachronism. The Sequela of Christ has a much higher goal: to be assimilated into Christ, that is to attain union with God. Such a word might sound strange to the ears of modern man. But, in truth, we all thirst for the infinite: for an infinite freedom, for happiness without limits.

That assimilation is the effect of the sacraments, that combination of divine action and our response.  This can be most clearly seen in the sacraments of initiation in which I truly become part of the living Body of Christ today, and am empowered by the Holy Spirit to "do the works" that Jesus did - and greater still (John 14:12).  But I can be assimilated into Christ through the participation in his suffering, too.

The Paschal Mystery is the other aspect that necessarily must be proclaimed in evangelization.  It's what I'd call a kind of "truth in advertising."  Becoming a disciple of Jesus in no way includes a promise of only good times ahead.  Rather, his disciples are told they must take up their cross daily and follow.  "The Sequela of Christ is participation in the cross, uniting oneself to his love, to the transformation of our life, which becomes the birth of the new man, created according to God (see Ephesians 4:24). Whoever omits the cross, omits the essence of Christianity (see 1 Corinthians 2:2)."  This is precisely why in the Making Disciples workshop we walk participants through the whole kerygma - the basic message of the Gospels - so they can understand how the cross is a necessary part of our redemption - and a necessary part of the Christian life.

 

IV. Eternal Life

The former Cardinal's understanding of this aspect of the New Evangelization is interesting, and again touches upon God's intimacy in our life, as well as God as our only source of genuine hope. "The proclamation of the Kingdom of God is the proclamation of the God present, the God that knows us, listen to us; the God that enters into history to do justice. Therefore, this preaching is also the proclamation of justice, the proclamation of our responsibility."

This aspect of the New Evangelization will necessarily bring in aspects of the Church's social teaching, but it primarily focuses upon our personal need to act justly.  That is to say, the New Evangelization must not only call me to a personal conversion, but also a conversion that has social ramifications.  I will be judged - and not only for the things I have done as an individual, but also for my associating with institutions that either promote or destroy human freedom and dignity.

The article of faith in justice, its force in the formation of consciences, is a central theme of the Gospel and is truly good news. It is for all those suffering the injustices of the world and who are looking for justice.  This is also how we can understand the connection between the Kingdom of God and the "poor," the suffering and all those spoken about in the Beatitudes in the Speech on the Mountain. They are protected by the certainty of judgment, by the certitude, that there is a justice. This is the true content of the article on justice, about God as judge: Justice exists. The injustices of the world are not the final word of history. Justice exists.

I have to finish this reflection with the end of Ratzinger's speech, because it is truly eloquent and moving.  If you've made it this far - thank you!

If we seriously consider the judgment and the seriousness of the responsibility for us that emerges from this, we will be able to understand full well the other aspect of this proclamation, that is redemption, the fact that Jesus, in the cross, takes on our sins; God himself, in the passion of the Son, becomes the advocate for us sinners, and thus making penance possible, the hope for the repentant sinner, hope expressed in a marvelous way by the words of St. John: Before God, we will reassure our heart, whatever he reproves us for.

"For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything" (1 John 3:19ff). God's goodness is infinite, but we should not diminish this to goodness to mawkish affectation without truth. Only by believing in the just judgment of God, only by hungering and thirsting for justice (see Matthew 5:6) will we open up our hearts, our life to divine mercy.

This can be seen: It isn't true that faith in eternal life makes earthly life insignificant. To the contrary: only if the measure of our life is eternity, then also this life of ours on earth is great and its value immense. God is not the competitor in our life, but the guarantor of our greatness. This way we return to the starting point: God.

If we take the Christian message into well-thought-out consideration, we are not speaking about a whole lot of things. In reality, the Christian message is very simple: We speak about God and man, and this way we say everything.

 

 

 


 
A Pontifical Council for US - part II PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Friday, 02 July 2010 14:52

Friday I posted the beginning of this lengthy reflection on the New Evangelization.  Here it continues...

If we want to understand this new evangelization, a great place to start, besides the two letters of Pope John Paul II I mentioned above, might be an address given by then-Cardinal Ratzinger to catechists and religion teachers ten years ago.  There are some great passages worth quoting here, but I hope you read the entire address, which is only about six pages long.  The Cardinal describes evangelization succinctly and surprisingly, given how terrified most Catholics are at the idea of evangelizing someone.  He wrote, "To evangelize means: to show this path [to happiness] —to teach the art of living." Evangelization is first of all about helping people discover how to live happily in this life!  "The inability of joy presupposes and produces the inability to love, produces jealousy, avarice—all defects that devastate the life of individuals and of the world.  This is why we are in need of a new evangelization—if the art of living remains an unknown, nothing else works. But this art is not the object of a science—this art can only be communicated by [one] who has life—he who is the Gospel personified."

So right away we see that the heart of evangelization is the proclamation of Jesus, the Kingdom of God and the Gospel personified.  It's not the Church, nor is it primarily about doctrines, initially.  It's about a person: a person I love, who has changed my life, whom I have come to know in a relationship of prayer combined with actions based upon Who He has revealed Himself to be and what He has to say about life, purpose, meaning, and happiness.

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger also hinted at what the New Evangelization is not, and mentioned a temptation that I have encountered personally and in many other pastoral ministers.  It is

the temptation of impatience, the temptation of immediately finding the great success, in finding large numbers. But this is not God's way. For the Kingdom of God as well as for evangelization, the instrument and vehicle of the Kingdom of God, the parable of the grain of mustard seed is always valid (see Mark 4:31-32).

The Kingdom of God always starts anew under this sign. New evangelization cannot mean: immediately attracting the large masses that have distanced themselves from the Church by using new and more refined methods. No—this is not what new evangelization promises.

New evangelization means: never being satisfied with the fact that from the grain of mustard seed, the great tree of the Universal Church grew; never thinking that the fact that different birds may find place among its branches can suffice—rather, it means to dare, once again and with the humility of the small grain, to leave up to God the when and how it will grow (Mark 4:26-29).

So this means we have to abandon - or at least be much more realistic - about programs like advertising campaigns or websites, or even group processes that attempt to evangelize over a set length of time, or that focus primarily on becoming a "practicing Catholic."  While they may be means of actual grace that touch people's hearts and call them to conversion, they cannot replace the effort to call individuals to faith in Jesus Christ and invite them to deepen that relationship with the sacramental and communal life of the Church.  We should no longer rely strictly on methods that promise us efficiency without efficacy, or simply be overwhelmed at the huge numbers of people in our parishes.  Ratzinger said something rather pointedly about "the fundamental paradox of the history of salvation," which is simply that "God does not count in large numbers; exterior power is not the sign of his presence."

The Method of the New Evangelization

When he spoke to the catechists and religion teachers about the method of evangelization, he said, "We are not looking for listening for ourselves—we do not want to increase the power and the spreading of our institutions, but we wish to serve for the good of the people and humanity giving room to he who is Life.  This expropriation of one's person, offering it to Christ for the salvation of men, is the fundamental condition of the true commitment for the Gospel."

The New Evangelization is costly for the evangelizer.  It means imitating Jesus who

"introduces us into the Trinitarian communion, into the circle of eternal love, whose persons are 'pure relations,' the pure act of giving oneself and of welcome. The Trinitarian plan—visible in the Son, who does not speak in his name—shows the form of life of the true evangelizer—rather, evangelizing is not merely a way of speaking, but a form of living: living in the listening and giving voice to the Father. 'He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak,' says the Lord about the Holy Spirit (John 16:13).

This Christological and pneumatological form of evangelization is also, at the same time, an ecclesiological form: The Lord and the Spirit build the Church, communicate through the Church. The proclamation of Christ, the proclamation of the Kingdom of God presupposes listening to his voice in the voice of the Church.

But this is not to say that evangelization is the work of those who are employed by the Church!  Rather, each Catholic encounters Christ also in the Church, through the proclamation of the Scriptures, the reception of the Sacraments, and the challenge of rubbing shoulders with others struggling to be disciples.  But in addition, we are to proclaim the God with whom we have a personal relationship, expressed in the dialogue of prayer. "All methods are empty without the foundation of prayer," Cardinal Ratzinger wrote. "The word of the announcement must always be drenched in an intense life of prayer."  I believe this is because, especially in our post-modern, post-Christian society that is suspicious of institutions, it is imperative that we speak of our personal experience of faith as first of all a relationship with God in the Spirit, through Christ, that impels us into the arms of the Church, despite her obvious problems and imperfections.

To evangelize is to suffer death.  It is to place the good of another and their happiness over my own convenience and anonymity as a Christian.  It is the willingness to be blessed either by helping another discover the joy of being loved by Jesus, or by suffering rejection "for the sake of the Gospel."  The process of expropriation is the concrete form (expressed in many different ways) of giving one's life in the cause of evangelization.  I have never associated Jesus' promise, "Whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:35) with evangelization.  Now I see it is at its very heart.

Tomorrow, I'll look at what I suspect Pope Benedict will propose as the content of the New Evangelization.  Care to make any guesses?  I'll give you a hint - there are four primary areas.

 


 
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