From the silly to the sublime. ID reader Alisa sent this to me and I thought I would share it with you. A 12 year old prodigy raised in an atheist home, who strives to paint what God reveals to her. Akiane.
I have an fairly urgent prayer request from The Other Sherry. Her 7 year old daughter Elizabeth had a urological operation on Tuesday and all seemed well until her kidney function dropped 50% in two days. Elizabeth is in the middle of another procedure which should put the problem right - but your prayers for Elizabeth's quick recovery, her mother Sherry (who is with her), and the rest of her family would be great appreciated!
Here is Elizabeth (with her Daddy, Dave, and sister Helen) being a mountain star in Colorado two summers ago.
It is time to keep some of those promises I made in Detroit.
First of all, I wanted to let you know about a really interesting set of Biblical commentaries coming out: The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. The General Editors are two of the Scripture scholars that I met at Sacred Heart last weekend: Mary Healy and Peter Williamson.
This series will eventually cover the entire New Testament and is intended to foster both personal discipleship and pastoral leadership. It occupies the all important "middle" place between a technical commentary for academics and brief popular works. It is intended for intelligent, college-educated readers whose interest is pastoral and existential rather than academic: pastors, preachers, teachers, catechists, serious lay people. The motto of this series sums it up: "The Word of God for the Life and Mission of the Church" The series is relatively inexpensive and the website even includes questions for personal reflection or small group study.
The first two volumes are The Gospel of Mark (May Healy) and First and Second Timothy/Titus (George T. Montague). Future volumes will be produced by Edward Sri, Tim Grey, Francis Martin and Scott Hahn.
Hysterical hyperbole is the flavor of the moment around St. Blog's.
From the left: The Church is becoming a sect!
From the left and right: Schism? Bring it on! Its about time those goats - and we know who they are - got weeded out.
From the right: Place an interdict on the entire Notre Dame campus so that thousands of serious Catholics are deprived of Mass? You bet ya.
Did you know that your final exams at the judgement throne of God will include whether or not you signed a certain online petition in March of 2009? What did the author of the Gospel of Matthew know anyway?
Fr. Jenkins and all the priests at Notre Dame are in a state of mortal sin and are unworthy to celebrate Mass. See note on schism and interdict above.
Then this morning comes this exceedingly grim news via the Associated Press. Married couples are aborting even desired babies because of their fears about their inability to support more children.
Planned Parenthood of Illinois clinics performed an all-time-high number of abortions in January, many of them motivated by the women's economic worries, said CEO Steve Trombley, who declined to give exact numbers. Abortions at Planned Parenthood's St. Louis-area clinics were up nearly 7 percent in the second half of 2008 from a year earlier - ending a stretch in which the numbers were dwindling.
Planned Parenthood said it has no up-to-date national abortion figures, nor do other private or government agencies. But Stephanie Poggi of the National Network of Abortion Funds, which helps women in need pay for abortions, said calls to the network's national help line have nearly quadrupled from a year ago.
Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, said her organization's help line is receiving many calls from women who postponed an abortion while trying to raise money to pay for it. Such delays often mean riskier abortions at an even higher cost - the price can double in the second trimester.
Dr. J. Stephen Jones, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic, said he has seen a surge of men seeking vasectomies, with his monthly caseload rising from about 45 to more than 70 since November. He said most of the men were married, had kids, decided they couldn't afford more and opted to get a vasectomy while they still had job-related health insurance.
"Several articulated very forcefully that the economy was the motive," Jones said. "I have a long discussion with them and ask if there's any chance they still might want kids. They say they know it's time."
Some experts believe such concerns about the recession may have an affect on the overall U.S. birthrate, possibly reversing the trends that resulted in last week's government report that a record number of babies were born in the United States in 2007.
What if there was a well publicized, national fund/help line, sponsored by the existing agencies like Birthright and the Nurturing Network that could help panicking parents choose to keep their babies in a time of economic crisis? It costs a lot more to keep and raise a baby than to kill it.
What if everyone who signed - and those who refused to sign - that famous online petition also gave $10 or more to that fund? (With over 118,000 signatures already, that would be 1.18 million dollars already.)
What if there was an aggressive campaign to recruit and support new adoptive parents? (Want to bet that the number of potential adoptive parents has dropped significantly due to fiscal anxiety? 40% of the births in this country are to single women. The need for adoption is steadily increasing. And Dr. Ray Guarendi, psychologist and father of ten adopted children, has a new book out: Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It designed to help other potential parents consider adoption.)
Now that's a work that could say the lives of many children right now and help unite all those who are truly pro-life.
Update: readers are asking (and I've been asking myself): could I actually set up such a fund?
But here's the deal: the level of my travel schedule at present - 3 days gone last weekend, three days gone this coming weekend, four days gone the week after with packed days and little or no e-mail contact, etc. - makes me a bad candidate. I am already working 7 days a week. This needs to be done right.
So, Anyone out there with good ties to the pro-life movement and the time and ability to oversee an online fund of this nature?
I bet it would take off like a shot in light of all the pent up frustration that pro-lifers feel.
Admittedly, It isn't as much fun as speculating on the prospects of schism. But it would have the advantage of being to the point.
Much kuffufle and passion about the Catholic blogosphere today.
Over at Commonweal and at Catholic Sensibility, there has been criticism of Archbishop Chaput's talk at the Lessons from St. Paul Conference last weekend which was picked up by CNA and highlighted in light of the concurrent controversy over President Obama's invitation to Notre Dame.
Since I actually attended (and spoke) at the St. Paul conference, I felt I needed to offer what clarification I could in the discussion over at Catholic Sensibility. Here's my comment, to which Todd has responded very graciously. (To see my whole post on my experience at the conference, see Spiritual Life and Death in Detroit.)
I was at the conference (which by the way was not about abortion or politics as such but the New Evangelization which I noticed that the CNA article did not indicate. Chaput’s speech was unique in its focus.) at which the Archbishop spoke and in the front row (cause I was speaking next).
Mark - no text of his talk was handed out to the audience so either the CNA reporter was taking fast notes or managed to get a copy later.
One thing that did not get reported by CNA was the Q & A time, which I think was significant.
As I wrote yesterday on Intentional Disciples:
“Chaput also gave an interesting answer to questioners who asked that the US Bishops respond to the Notre Dame invitation with a single voice. First of all, he noted that he did not expect the US Bishops to do anything as a body. He then pointed out that taking prophetic political stands is not really the center of a bishop’s job. A bishop’s primary job is uniting the Catholic community.
Chaput then turned to the lay men and women in his audience (the vast majority) and issued a challenge. He said that it was the Church’s teaching that, ultimately, protecting human life at all levels really is a lay responsibility and he encouraged us to take up politics as a career.
But his response seemed to deflate his questioners a bit. It was as though they desperately wanted to believe that if all the US bishops spoke with a single voice, the 65 million Catholics of the US would just snap to and abandon their divisions on this topic and that ND and the new administration would crumble in the face of an irresistibly united Catholic community. There would be no need for the long, bloody slog and inevitable partial-victories of grass roots and national politics; for the long obedience of personal evangelization, formation, and social entrepreneurship around the life issues. ”
Nothing says that you have to like Chaput but the press coverage of Chaput’s talk and the resulting blogosphere debate is seriously distorting the atmosphere and entire conference at which he spoke.
I did not at all get the impression while he spoke that he was blaming the “poor, dumb, apathetic Catholic laity” as such. Quite the opposite. He was pointing out that the real power in this area is in lay hands - not in the hands of bishops – as indeed it is. It was bracing but hardly bashing.
As you may know, I have written several times in great detail at Intentional Disciples about my chance to talk on election day, 2004, to two Australian Catholic leaders known for their careful orthodoxy who are world class, Vatican-class, experts on the subject of the Church’s teaching on life issues. They were both very clear that there was no definitive Church teaching - at that point - on the issue of voting and formal cooperation with evil. When I asked one – a bishop – why increasing numbers of Americans had the impression that the Church’s teaching was clear on the topic, he replied that public pronouncements by a few bishops was not the development of doctrine, I’ve wished several times that I could talk to them both again this year as the all or nothing pitch of the Catholic pro-life movement in the US has risen higher and higher!
Archbishop Chaput has the right as a Catholic and as a citizen to make his best public case for the response that he believes the Church should take. But I have noticed that he is always very careful to distinguish between his personal prudential judgment and that which actually obligates a faithful Catholic.
John Allen's articles on the Pope's visit to Africa referred to concerns about the impact of "sects".
It is interesting in light of that concern, that the African Assemblies of God has announced that it has set a goal of baptizing 10 million "new believers" during the next decade.
"AG African leaders committed themselves to the “Decade of Pentecost” at an AAGA meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, earlier this month that occurs once every four years.
Spearheading initiatives for the Decade of Pentecost will be Acts in Africa, a ministry aimed at encouraging Pentecostal revival in the Assemblies of God in Africa.
During the Decade of Pentecost, which will begin in 2010 and continue through 2020, national Assemblies of God churches will mobilize for global missions with the vision of reaching “yet-to-be-reached” peoples in Africa and the world with the Gospel, according to AG News.
AAGA’s strategies for achieving its goal include an annual Pentecost Day when about 48,000 AG pastors will be challenged to preach on the “baptism in the Holy Spirit and the mission of God,” and pray with believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
There are about 16 million AG members meeting in more than 50,000 churches in 50 countries in sub-Sahara Africa and the Indian Ocean Basin, according to the denomination. In 1990, there were only 2.1 million constituents and 12,000 churches.
The Assemblies of God is the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination with somewhere between 57 to 60 million adherents.
Three decades ago, the combined total of Pentecostals and Charismatics was less than 5 percent, now they make up some 17 percent of Africa’s population, or about 147 million people, according to a 2006 Pew Forum study that highlighted the dramatic growth of the movement within half a century."
These gatherings are the ecumenical councils of the evangelical world. 4000+ top evangelical leaders from 200 countries, representing thousands of different denominations, movements, networks, and organizations. Men, women, pastors, theologians, evangelists, missionaries, artists, businesspeople, all coming together to discuss, debate, share, pray, worship, network about the mission to bring Christ to the world.
Would that there were such gatherings on such a scale - devoted entirely and serious to practical evangelization - in the Catholic world. Would that there was some Catholic representation or witnesses at this upcoming Lausanne gathering. There has been an Orthodox presence before but no Catholics. We worry and write and discuss our concerns about evangelical/Pentecostal missionaries in Latin America, in Africa, in Asia. But we so seldom seriously engage them directly.
Evangelicals learn from us readily and without embarrassment. They read our history, study our saints and missionaries, and readily learn from and copy our successes. And no wonder, since there was almost no Protestant missionary efforts before 1800. The history of Christian missions for the first 1800 years of the Church's life was mostly Catholic history (the Orthodox were engaged in missions as well).
Evangelicals loved the movie "The MIssion" which portrays the efforts of 18th Jesuit missionaries in Latin America. They identified with the struggles of those priests, They found inexpressibly moving the scene where Fr. Gabriel first meets the Gaurani and wins their trust through the music of his oboe.
"A new survey found that about 5.3 million Iraqis, or about 19 percent of the population, watch the Christian satellite programs on SAT-7, the ministry reported Friday.
As Iraq’s tiny Christian community numbers less than 600,000, it is safe to say that most of SAT-7’s viewers are Muslims. According to the CIA World Factbook, 97 percent of Iraq’s population is Muslim (Shia 60-65 percent, Sunni 32-37 percent).
Data collected in the recent nationwide study conducted by Intermedia, an independent audience research firm, found that 97 percent of Iraqis have access to satellite television, and 18.8 percent watch SAT-7. The study also found that 2.6 million are watching on a regular daily or weekly basis.
SAT-7 is a Christian television ministry created by and for the people of the Middle East and North Africa. Its mission is to make Christ’s message of hope available to every home in the Middle East.
Each week, between nine and ten million people tune into the network, whose programs are broadcasted in three languages – Arabic, Farsi and Turkish.
The study by Intermedia found that SAT-7 is only 1.7 percentage points behind BBC Arabic in the number of people aware of the channel.
“It’s quite amazing when you consider that BBC Arabic has an annual budget of 25 million British pounds,” says SAT-7 CEO Terence Ascott. “A year ago when the BBC channel launched, that amount was worth about 50 million dollars. SAT-7’s total budget, split among three channels in 2008, was only 13 million dollars. Talk about value for your money!”
In addition to effective use of funds, SAT-7 says it is also glad that it can provide desperately needed support to the struggling Christian community in Iraq.
“Iraqi Christians have really suffered in recent years and many have fled the country,” says David Harder, SAT-7’s communications manager. “Iraqis often call and text us asking for prayer. Fortunately, through our programs, SAT-7’s Arabic producers and hosts can show God’s love and offer encouragement.”
The Iraqi Christian who drove me to the airport yesterday told me that many Muslim Iraqis are becoming Christians in the north of Iraq, above Mosul.
The trip to Detroit for the Lessons from St. Paul Conference was another immersion into one corner of the Church's rich and extremely diverse life - the sort of corner that doesn't get talked about much on Catholic blogs.
First of all - the area of Detroit near Sacred Heart Major Seminary is a blast zone, one of the most desolate places I have ever been. Sacred Heart is a magnificent brick ecclesial fortress surrounded on one end by streets full of homes that are ruined or abandoned and the vacant lots where homes once stood. The irony is that Sacred Heart is the western terminus of one of Detroit's most famous neighborhoods: Boston-Edison, filled with magnificent homes build in the 1905 - 1925 period when the seminary was built and when Detroit grew from the 19th largest city in the US to the fourth largest. (Detroit's population has halved since 1950.)
The driver of my sedan from the airport warned me in graphic terms of the dangers of the neighborhood and emphasized that I could not walk outside the fenced and guarded seminary campus because prostitutes and drug deals filled the streets after nightfall. He was a cheerful, semi-literate man who struggled to find Chicago Blvd on his GPS because he thought it began with "C-H-A", and made it clear that he had spent a lot of time in the rough end of the city. Even Nora, the efficient secretary who was the organizing force behind the conference, was clearly worried when I was late arriving at the seminary because I had an airport meeting with an editor from Servant books.
The seminary itself is vast and echoing in the grand old Catholic style: A four story square that is 600 feet long on each side. There were 325 at the conference and the great hulk easily accommodated the crowd. I was told by one seminarian that archdiocese had considered moving the seminary at one point but was told that, even abandoned, the building would survive for 450 years, a half ruined castle.. So today, 90 college and graduate level seminarians live and study there.
About the topic de jure this weekend around St. Blog's. I found out that Notre Dame had invited President Obama to give this year's commencement address on Saturday when a conference attendee asked Archbishop Chaput about it. As Tom Peters over at American Papist noted, the Archbishop invited those present to make their feelings known - charitably - in a letter to ND's president. (Archbishop Chaput emphasized the importance of charity in doing so. He said that he gets lots of critical mail and a goodly amount of it is not charitable.)
Here is CNA's coverage of Chaput's speech. Since I had left home early Friday morning before I heard about the Notre Dame kuffufle, I didn't realize that Chaput's remarks would get the sort of coverage they have. I'm used to a much higher level of obscurity at the sort of events I frequent.
Chaput also gave an interesting and appropriate answer to questioners who asked that the US Bishops respond to the Notre Dame invitation with a single voice. First of all, he noted that he did not expect the US Bishops to do anything as a body. He then pointed out that taking prophetic political stands is not really the center of a bishop's job. A bishop's primary job is uniting the Catholic community. Chaput then turned to the lay men and women in his audience (the vast majority) and issued a challenge. He said that it was the Church's teaching that, ultimately, protecting human life at all levels really is a lay responsibility and he encouraged us to take up politics as a career.
But his response seemed to deflate his questioners a bit. It was as though they desperately wanted to believe that if all the US bishops spoke with a single voice, the 65 million Catholics of the US would just snap to and abandon their divisions on this topic and that ND and the new administration would crumble in the face of an irresistibly united Catholic community. There would be no need for the long, bloody slog and inevitable partial-victories of grass roots and national politics; for the long obedience of personal evangelization, formation, and social entrepreneurship around the life issues.
I spoke after the Archbishop and the talk on Evangelizing Post Moderns seemed to go reasonably well. I had people coming up all day to thank me for it in very strong terms. At least two dozen told me that they were very interested in possibly attending Making Disciples this summer in Colorado Springs. And I was showered with some great evangelization resources of interest that I will be blogging about as well. Two break-out sessions on discerning charisms followed in the afternoon and I was done.
I got to catch up with an old friend, Tim Ferguson, (who graciously ran my little book table for me), met Margo Brown again, a regular ID reader, and meet some new people including members of the wonderful, out-of-the-box, faculty at Sacred Heart.
As a seminary and Catholic intellectual institution, Sacred Heart is certainly atypical in my experience. In the evening, I listened to a panel of Roman (Gregorian) trained scholars of Scripture, preach on the message of St. Paul with passion, exuberance, and drama. It wasn't just an academic lecture. It wasn't a cool head trip. These men were disciple-scholars and their intellects were integrated with their hearts, their souls, and their lived experience of following Christ personally.
It was very refreshing for me personally. They looked like they were having way too much fun. I suspect that there is genuine Christian community among the faculty. No wonder Sacred Heart is offering the only pontifical degree program in the world on the New Evangelization. Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and making disciples is the underlying passion of so many of the faculty.
An unlikely spiritual beacon in inner city Detroit. Nazareth.
The drive back to the airport was another part of the adventure. My driver was a Chaldean Iraqi who had lived in the Detroit area for 30 years. (Detroit has the largest number of Arabic speakers in the US.) He was raised within the Chaldean Church, which is in communion with Rome but six years ago, his wife had started attending a local Arabic language evangelical community. In order to convince her that she was wrong, he attended a few meetings, ended up "accepting Christ" and now evangelizes his passengers in his sedan car. His Bible and some reference books at the ready in the front seat. I encouraged him to talk about his experience.
As he put it, when he attended the Chaldean church, he "went in dummer and came out dummiest". Going to church had no meaning, it was just something you did. "We had no Bible in our house at all." What struck him so forcibly about the evangelical preacher was that he quoted constantly from Scripture. My driver talked about hearing a Catholic priest on the radio say that we are saved by our works.
How badly I wanted him to meet those disciple-Scripture scholars that I had just left behind me at Sacred Heart! But I told him about the conference and explained that the Church does teach that we are saved by grace alone and by faith in Jesus Christ, not through our own goodness, even though many Catholics do believe that they will be saved because they are good. As he dropped me off at the airport, he walked around to shake my hand and said "The Lord be with you" and I responded "Arrabumaakum."
He started and his eyes widened at an obviously Anglo woman knowing the phrase and repeated the short form "Rabumaak?" (It is the greeting that evangelical Christians in the Arab world give one another, the Christian variation on the Muslim "Allahmaakum". The Lord, Christ, be with you.)
I pray that my short time with him helped build a bridge of trust that may one day, help him rediscover Jesus Christ and the Scriptures at the heart of the fullness of the faith in which he was raised. All I could do was chip away a bit at his distrust.
Just another instance of the old ID truism: "If we don't evangelize our own, some one else will do it for us. If we don't form our own, someone else will do it for us."
Tomorrow, I"m off to Detroit for the Lessons From St. Paul for the New Evangelization conference at Sacred Heart Seminary. I've got a general session talk on Evangelizing Post-Moderns (Archbishop Chaput is doing the key note) and break-out sessions in the afternoon on discerning charisms. If any ID readers are in attendance, be sure and come up and chat! Pray that my anti-charism doesn't triumph over my MAC so I don't have to resort to the finger puppet version!
The Other Sherry just called to say that her husband, Dave, who is a historian of eastern Europe, was just notified that he has won a Fulbright fellowship to cover the costs of next year's sabbatical for the whole family in Poland.
It sounds so perfect - and well deserved. Congratulations, Dave!
The Vatican you tube site released this video of Pope John Paul II's visit to Cameroon in 1995 in preparation for Pope Benedict's visit. It is worth watching both for the images and for the commentary on the Incarnation and human culture.
I found this fascinating comment from Bonnie Ekwowusi about papal visits at allAfrica.com:
"Papal visits are important visits for several reasons. Aside from the spiritual benefits derived from such visits, they exert enormous influence on contemporary public life, dictate the right ordering of society, and, above all, leave a furrow of permanent positive change.
With 104 trips outside Italy (16 trips to the African continent) Pope John Paul 11 was outstanding for his tenacity in promoted peace, tolerance, commitment to social justice, respect for human dignity inter-religious dialogues. In fact Pope John Paul 11 acted directly as intermediary in the promotion of justice and peace in countries where peace was threatened. Recall that on 15th December 1982, Pope John Paul 11 had an audience with Yasser Arafat on the peaceful settlement of the Palestinian question. Not to talk of the famous meeting of the Pope to Morocco with King Hassan 11 on August 19th, 1995 which was attended by well over 80,000 youths. Or his visits to Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Cameroun and Nigeria.
In fact Pope John Paul 11's visit to Nigeria during the reign of Sani Abacha will remain indelibly engraved on the minds of many Nigerians. Life was very tough at that time. There were many human rights abuses. The Pope had a private audience with Sani Abacha and members of his family. After the Pope's visit some predicted that there would be change in Nigeria because no country the Pope had visited had remained same. True to their prediction, there was a resounding change in Nigeria; something happened which eventually paved the way for the enthronement of a civilian democracy."