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Blessed John Paul II by April 2? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 19 March 2010 21:05
I just got a Blackberry text message from a friend who says it was just announced at the LA Religious Congress that Pope John Paul II will be beatified on April 2!  This would be the 5th anniversary of his death.

I've checked around on the net and the story is being carried by Catholic Online:

"It began with a Polish News Report in the Polish daily “Dziennik” and spread throughout the blogosphere within hours, the late beloved Servant of God John Paul II will be beatified on April 2, 2010. He died on April 2, 2005 at 9:37 p.m. in his private apartment shortly after asking “Let me go to my Father’s House”.


"The Polish newspaper was not the only print source to make this claim of a pending beatification. The Italian Daily “La Stampa”, another reliable source, in an article written by Giacomo Galeazzi, carried a similar report. It indicated that the position paper has already been forwarded by the theologians who carefully examined the life, message and alleged miracles.Msgr. Tadeusz Pieronek is the polish priest who served as the postulator for the cause of the late pope at the Diocesan level. He commented to La Stampa, “This is very good news”."

I have to admit that I'm surprised because I saw other stories today that said that JPII's beatification was being put off until 2011.

It seems incredibly short notice - only two weeks - but I'm not an expert.

What's the word on the street?
St. Teresa of Avila & St. Joseph PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 19 March 2010 06:39
The great Teresa of Avila was devoted to St. Joseph.  In her autobiography, she challenges the reader to put devotion to St. Joseph to the test.

I took for my advocate and lord the glorious Saint Joseph and commended myself earnestly to him; and I found that this my father and lord delivered me both from this trouble [a temporary paralysis] and also from other and greater troubles concerning my honor and the loss of my soul, and that he gave me greater blessings than I could ask of him. I do not remember even now that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant.

I am astonished at the great favors which God has bestowed on me through this blessed saint, and at the perils from which He has freed me, both in body and in soul. To other saints the Lord seems to have given grace to succor us in some of our necessities but of this glorious saint my experience is that he succors us in them all and that the Lord wishes to teach us that as He was Himself subject to him on earth (for, being His guardian and being called His father, he could command Him) just so in Heaven He still does all that he asks. This has also been the experience of other persons whom I have advised to commend themselves to him; and even to-day there are many who have great devotion to him through having newly experienced this truth."

"I wish I could persuade everyone to be devoted to this glorious saint, for I have great experience of the blessings which he can obtain from God. I have never known anyone to be truly devoted to him and render him particular services who did not notably advance in virtue, for he gives very real help to souls who commend themselves to him. For some years now, I think, I have made some request of him every year on his festival and I have always had it granted. If my petition is in any way ill directed, he directs it aright for my greater good."

I only beg, for the love of God, that anyone who does not believe me will put what I say to the test, and he will see by experience what great advantages come from his commending himself to this glorious patriarch and having devotion to him. Those who practice prayer should have a special affection for him always. I do not know how anyone can think of the Queen of the Angels, during the time that she suffered so much with the Child Jesus, without giving thanks to Saint Joseph for the way he helped them. If anyone cannot find a master to teach him how to pray, let him take this glorious saint as his master and he will not go astray."

What's your experience of devotion to St. Joseph?
Representative Joseph Cao Says "No" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 18 March 2010 21:56
Update: The intriguing Louisiana 2nd District Rep. Joseph Cao, a very serious Catholic, and the lone Republican to cross the aisle to support the earlier House version of the health reform bill, has announced that he will vote against the Senate bill in its current form.

"Noting that the Senate bill is "much weaker than the version we passed through the House" in regard to abortion, Cao said he intended to vote against it.  Cao, appearing on "WDSU News at 4," said he could still vote "yes" on a health care reform package that was more restrictive on abortions.

He said his office has been flooded with calls and visits from those on both sides of the health care issue.

"We have people knocking at our doors, we have groups coming in, lobbying," he said. "It comes down to me and my own conscience and that's what I have to deal with."

Cao said that while most Louisianians oppose the measure, he recognizes that many in his mostly urban district want health care reform.

"We do need some kind of health care reform to assist many people in the district," he said. "But again, my decision to support the health care bill cannot contradict my conscience."

The Delightful and Comforting Joy of Evangelizing PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 18 March 2010 21:25
A wonderful quote that I'v read before but just came across again in my research.

"Let us preserve the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, event when it is in tears that we must sow.....May it be for us the great joy of our lives. May the world of our time, which is searching - sometimes in anguish, sometimes with hope - be enabled to receive the Good News not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervour, who have first received the joy of Christ, and who are willing to risk their lives so that the kingdom may be proclaimed and the Church established in the midst of the world".

(Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80).
Prayer Requests PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 18 March 2010 14:53
As we pass into the final days of Lent, please pray for

1) a young wife and mother, Sara, who is scheduled to be received into the Church at Easter and has just been diagnosed with three tumors and two different kinds of breast cancer.  She is scheduled for a double mastectomy and then a hysterectomy because her cancer is estrogen-driven.

Her surgery is scheduled for a week before Easter Sunday so she and her husband may put off their reception until she has recovered her strength.

2) a 5 year old girl who has had a very bad virus with a high fever for over a week and got a very bad rash
and had to be in the ER overnight. Doctors thought it was the swine flu but it turned out not to be.

Now she has developed a head and neck tremor that doctors can't seem to find the source.
A Rocky Mountain March PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 18 March 2010 14:11
Right now it is 67 degrees.

The high predicted for tomorrow is 29 with a 90% chance of snow.

Happy St. Joseph's Feastday!
The Devil in the Details: Health Care Reform and Prudential Judgement PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 18 March 2010 12:12
Trying to keep up with the debate over health reform and what position is truly in keeping with the Church's teaching is overwhelming for someone like me who has little time and is finding it difficult to evaluate the claims and counter claims.

At the moment, the US Bishops have posted resources to explain and support their current stand that they would "regretfully, have to oppose the final bill if these changes were not made"  (I say "current" because the ball is still in play and changes could conceivably be made that would make it acceptable to the US Bishops)

Meanwhile one group of Catholic sisters has come out in support of the health reform bill

And the other major group of Catholic sisters, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious,  in the US has come out against it

Archbishop Chaput of Denver has come out against it as has Archbishop Neumann of Kansas City, KS and Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, MO

but Bishop Lynch of St. Petersburg, FL is blogging and has modified his support for the USCCB position against the health reform bill as it exists at present.  Bishop Lynch quotes a letter from Sr. Carol Keehan which says that Cardinal George's statement mischaracterized the position of the Catholic Health Organization.

Pro-life congressmen and Senators are taking public positions on both sides of the issue.

Update: The intriguing Louisiana 2nd District Rep. Joseph Cao, a very serious Catholic, and the lone Republican to cross the aisle to support the earlier House version, has announced that he will vote against the Senate bill in its current form.

"Noting that the Senate bill is "much weaker than the version we passed through the House" in regard to abortion, Cao said he intended to vote against it.  Cao, appearing on "WDSU News at 4," said he could still vote "yes" on a health care reform package that was more restrictive on abortions.

He said his office has been flooded with calls and visits from those on both sides of the health care issue.

"We have people knocking at our doors, we have groups coming in, lobbying," he said. "It comes down to me and my own conscience and that's what I have to deal with."

Cao said that while most Louisianians oppose the measure, he recognizes that many in his mostly urban district want health care reform.

"We do need some kind of health care reform to assist many people in the district," he said. "But again, my decision to support the health care bill cannot contradict my conscience."

Meanwhile, Catholic bloggers are doing their best to fuel the debate, dividing down perfectly predictable lines:  the folks over at Dot.commonweal and the National Catholic Reporter being for the bill as it stands and Father Z and the National Catholic Register are sure it would fund abortion.

And I know serious, thoughtful, orthodox Catholics on both sides and I can feel a headache coming on because I feel so incompetent to make the necessary judgements.

Fr. Robert Imbelli, whose spiritual and theological depth I have come to admire, described his own position in a post aptly titled: The Devil in the Details

But I think it important to underline that this is a prudential judgment, based in part upon a personal, non-expert, reading of the material, but also on personal trust placed in those who seem to be both extremely knowledgeable and deeply committed to moral principles in keeping with the Catholic tradition. I certainly do not escape responsibility for that prudential judgment. May I also, respectfully, suggest that those who advocate for such a decision, in favor of the Senate bill, also bear an added responsibility for their advocacy.

It might be of help, then, if all sides were to acknowledge the fallibility of their prudential judgment, and that it is entered upon with a certain salutary “fear and trembling,” since so much is at stake."

The Catechism describes prudence as follows:

547. The lay faithful should act according to the dictates of prudence, the virtue that makes it possible to discern the true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means for achieving it. Thanks to this virtue, moral principles are applied correctly to particular cases. We can identify three distinct moments as prudence is exercised to clarify and evaluate situations, to inspire decisions and to prompt action. The first moment is seen in the reflection and consultation by which the question is studied and the necessary opinions sought. The second moment is that of evaluation, as the reality is analyzed and judged in the light of God's plan. The third moment, that of decision, is based on the preceding steps and makes it possible to choose between the different actions that may be taken.

548. Prudence makes it possible to make decisions that are consistent, and to make them with realism and a sense of responsibility for the consequences of one's action. The rather widespread opinion that equates prudence with shrewdness, with utilitarian calculations, with diffidence or with timidity or indecision, is far from the correct understanding of this virtue. It is a characteristic of practical reason and offers assistance in deciding with wisdom and courage the course of action that should be followed, becoming the measure of the other virtues. Prudence affirms the good as a duty and shows in what manner the person should accomplish it[1146]. In the final analysis, it is a virtue that requires the mature exercise of thought and responsibility in an objective understanding of a specific situation and in making decisions according to a correct will[1147].

The truth is that at this very moment, there are serious Catholics, truly desiring to think with the Church, and to protect the unborn, and who have studied and consulted with others who have a much larger experience in this area, and they are coming to divergent opinions in good faith.

That doesn't mean of course that they are objectively right in their conclusions..  In fact, it is possible - even probable - that both sides are wrong is some respect because the issues at hand are so complicated and some of the consequences are, as always, unforeseeable.   But that doesn't let us off the hook.   We have to make a choice. Because very important things are at stake.

But it does means that we have to retain a firm grip on the fact that equally faithful Catholics can come to different conclusions in good faith on this very, very complicated topic of health care reform because it falls into the arena of prudential judgement.

It will take as much courage and obedience to remember that in the midst of the hyper accelerating emotions and "he said-she said" that is flooding the media as it will to make our best discernment and act accordingly.
Shortage or Abundance? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 17 March 2010 21:37
I've been prepping for a day of training for lay ecclesial ministers and experienced one of those major "convergence" things when 10 or 12 separate realizations:  theological, historical, and demographic  -  suddenly come together in my head and form a whole that sheds a new light on everything.

I'm still working through it but while doing so, I came across this and I just had to publish a brief compare and contrast.  To begin:  Two archdioceses, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona where we lay our scene . . .

OK.  Maybe not. - but we will start with two archdioceses with populations of 500,000 Catholic apiece.

That's where the similarities end and where a window on the realities of this new world of southern Catholics opens up.

Archdiocese of Cincinnati
500,000 Catholics                                               
221 parishes                                                       
493 priests                                                        
122 brothers                                                      
468 lay ministers                                                  

Archdiocese of Lahore, Pakistan
500,000 Catholics
29 parishes.  A rural parish includes 90 - 130 villages
22 priests
12 brothers
190 cyclist catechists:Each is responsible for evangelizing and catechizing and staying in touch with 250 - 500 families.

And this glimpse of one catechist:

Arif Noor gets up just before dawn six days a week to rouse children for catechism classes.

“Wake up kids, time to go to church!” shouts Noor as he passes through the streets of Salamat Pura, a small village in a northern suburb of Lahore. About 10 years ago, the 58-year-old Catholic layman became the driving force behind a subsidized Christian educational center at St. Paul’s Church in Lahore archdiocese. Since 2007, the number of centers has risen to 10.

They open at dawn and enable children aged five to 15 to get a religious education. After class, the children go to school, if they attend school, or return home.

The centers are helping to fill the gap left by a shortage of Sunday school teachers in the 29 parishes of Lahore archdiocese.

“There aren’t any Sunday school services specifically for children in our community,” Javaid Joseph, catechist of St. Paul’s Church, told UCA News. “Noor’s program is actually helping our mission.”

Noor, an electrician, is also vice president of St. Paul’s Church.

He said his catechism mission is an act of gratitude for the help his daughter received from a Christian charity after she was badly injured while playing with fireworks in 1986.

I'm sure that the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is worried about its priest shortage.  There are 42 parishes without resident pastors.  But we live in a world where one diocese's shortage would be another's unimaginable abundance.
A Little Miracle PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Wednesday, 17 March 2010 11:12
braelynn-797718Many of you read the story of the miraculous recovery of a young married mom named Maryssa, who was on death's doorstep with H1N1 while pregnant.  She gave birth last week, and here's a picture of her healthy daughter, whose middle name, Gianna, is in honor of St. Gianna Molla, whose intercession was sought by Maryssa's parents.  The next day, Maryssa began to recover, and left the hospital six days later!
Over Ireland PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 16 March 2010 17:50
An exhilarating ride over the magnificent land and the people that St. Patrick gave his life to: 


The Power of Silence PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 16 March 2010 12:02
On Friday evening, after the first session of the retreat I gave outside Halifax, NS, as I was walking back to my cabin, I had to pause.  The retreat center is about 45 minutes outside Halifax on a large plot of heavily forested land on one of the many small lakes that are the result of the heavy scouring of the land during the last ice age some ten millennia ago.  Because of its isolation, light pollution is hardly an issue.  Even Halifax, where half the population of the Province lives, is not much more than a small city.

Like the day that had preceded it, the night sky was absolutely clear, and the stars overhead sparkled and glimmered with a ferocity that I’m not accustomed to, having lived in more densely populated areas all my life.  The woods around me were only discernible as a ochre shadow, a jagged tear marking the edge of a star-strewn fabric.

And then I noticed something that absolutely startled me.  It wasn’t quiet.

It was silent.

I threw all my attention at that absence, waiting to pick up something – some sigh of the wind in the pines, or the call of a night bird or insect.

But there was nothing.  It was thrilling; like a void that had swallowed my young companions, the memory of sound, even time itself.  I had to shift my weight and hear the report of pebble on pebble to reassure myself that I had not gone inexplicably deaf.

Of course, the awareness of that kind of silence changes your definition of “quiet.”  This morning at the Dominican house in Tempe, AZ, as I sat before the Lord in the chapel, I was mildly annoyed at just how loud the quiet was.

The chapel clock tick-tocked loudly, then the furnace rumbled to life, it’s motor a triplet cadence thrumming in perfect synchronicity with the clock’s duplet.  The forced air moving through the vent in the small room was a noisy, ten-minute long exhalation that died long after the thermostat hit a chilly (for Phoenix) 69 degrees.  Occasionally the window would add it’s own shiver of sound as it vibrated in sympathy with the furnace.  So loud was the quiet that I hardly heard the occasional snippet of song from the morning’s early birds.

At the end of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, the author of those letters proposes a toast to the minions of hell, looking forward to the day when all of earth is bathed in noise.  I sometimes feel as though they’ve succeeded, particularly when I am in airport terminals. There, CNN’s talking heads, mood music meant to calm, and the chatter of innumerable monologues from cell-phone users form a background punctuated by announcements for flight arrivals, departures, gate changes and recorded voices reminding me that we are (still) at a level orange terrorist threat alert.  But it’s not that different everywhere I go: the grocery store, downtown, a restaurant.

An empty church can be a refuge, but even there it is not silent, unless it’s located in the country, with thick insulating walls and a distance from the road that took you to it.

Just as we grow hungry every few hours for food, our souls and minds hunger for quiet, and, I now believe, true silence.  Just as the grandeur of a vast landscape reminds us of our smallness and the insignificance of our problems, so, too, the vast sonic landscape painted by silence.  In that silence, God speaks to our hearts.  The saints and mystics of every religious tradition have all discovered that.

But such silence is a scalpel.  Using it God would excise the trivialities that occupy us and feed our never-sated anxieties.  Silence, when sought and endured, lances the ego grown festering from a glut of information and opinions carried like concealed weapons.  Silence – especially our own – is a garden that must be carefully tended if we should ever hope for wisdom to grow.
Catholic Outreach on Canadian Campuses PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 16 March 2010 11:57
I had a wonderful experience in Halifax this weekend.  The retreat for college students and members of the Catholic Christian Outreach went well, and I have to give a shout out to the CCO.  Their website gives a brief description.
Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) is a university student movement dedicated to evangelization. We challenge students to live in the fullness of the Catholic faith, with a strong emphasis on becoming leaders in the renewal of the world.

CCO was founded at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1988 after receiving the approval of the local bishop. From a humble beginning of four students, the movement now serves hundreds of students on several campuses through a wide array of programs and outreaches.
The young people I met involved with CCO included a young couple with a six-month old girl and several single women from different provinces - all working in Halifax at Dalhousie University and St. Mary's University.  St. Mary's used to be affiliated with the Catholic Church, but it seems that the administration of most of the Catholic Universities in the country have been taken over by government agencies.  I didn't find out why, though, and those I spoke with about this seemed to take it as a matter of course.

The young adults who work for CCO are involved in evangelization through one to one ministry and small group work.  This often takes the form of short small group bible studies that have a focus on the proclamation of the kerygma, the basic kernel of the Gospel that must be proclaimed to call people to conversion to Christ.
CCO's work is seen as:
A response to Christ's command that his disciples "Proclaim the Good News to all creation" (Matthew 28:18-19, Mark 16:15-16).
A concrete way to foster the Church's primary and universal mission of evangelization (Evangelii Nuntiandi, #14).
A positive answer to the call of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, for a "new evangelization" in our times.
An active outreach to the distressingly small numbers of believing and practicing youth.
A positive and successful influence in the promotion of religious vocations.
A practical way to respond to cults and fundamentalist sects aimed at undermining the faith of Catholics.
CCO employs a multiplication model of ministry. Like Jesus did, we can invest spiritually in the lives of a few to the point where they in turn can invest in the lives of others. We proclaim Christ to the students, equip them to be mature Christians, then commission them to proclaim to and equip others.

Our programs are aimed primarily but not exclusively at university students:
generally between 18 and 30 years of age
both women and men
who are churched, nominally churched, or unchurched
who have been leaders and show further leadership potential.
Our programs equip students with the necessary attitudes, skills, and knowledge to become mission-ready, multiplying disciples.

CCO's programs include:
Weekly on-campus faith study groups
One-on-one ministry and leadership training
On-campus large group meetings, teachings, and training
Retreats and conferences
Practical leadership and ministry opportunities
Youth outreaches
Overseas and domestic mission projects
Summer faith sharing groups
Sports, recreation and socials.

The most needed help in sharing their faith for many Catholics is the simple courage to actually begin to evangelize, coupled with a conviction that such efforts can prove excitingly fruitful. We give not only doctrinal principles but also clear and practical teachings on how to evangelize. Such teachings are most effective when there is an opportunity to put them into practice in the company of experienced evangelizers.

The young evangelists involved in CCO are very, very committed.  They have to fund their salaries each year, which means "support raising" $30,000 Canadian annually.  They are sent by the CCO administration to eight university campuses, and their goal is to increase that by twenty over the next twenty years.

This may sound familiar to those of you acquainted with FOCUS, which seems to be an American counterpart to CCO.
Pray for the Christians of Karnataka, India PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 15 March 2010 10:21
One consequence of the global shift (via Fides)

Over 1,000 incidents of anti-Christian violence in the past two years in the Indian state of Karnataka, in southwest India.

"Today, March 15, the police went to the Cathedral of Karwar (coastal town in Karnataka) and warned the Vicar General to stop spreading Christian literature and Christian religious pictures because "it offends Hindus." This is just one of the latest examples of the incidents that have been reported to Fides, that show the considerable deterioration of respect for human rights and religious freedom in the Indian state of Karnataka, in southwest India.

Other recent episodes have reached Fides from the local Christian communities: March 8, a Protestant pastor was beaten and injured in Mysore by Hindu activists who brutally interrupted a prayer meeting he was leading. Also in Karvar, in late February, some Hindu radicals blamed local Christians of “forced conversions,” striking them in public and leaving them unconscious in the street.

"Anti-Christian attacks, incidents of persecution, and obvious discrimination take place on a daily basis, amidst the silence of the authorities and the general public," Fides is told by Joe Dias, a lay Catholic and leader of the Catholic Secular Forum, the Indian non-governmental organization that works to defend and promote the rights of Christians, publicly supported by Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai.

"The attacks are carried out by Hindu militant organizations in the area, with political cover for such attacks being guaranteed by the government of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), the Hindu nationalist party which has been in power in Karnataka for two years," said Joe Dias.

The assessment for this two-year period has been bleak for Christians. "We have documented more than 1,000 anti-Christian incidents in this period. It is unacceptable. The picture that emerges is worse than what happened in Orissa, because there there's been an uprising of public opinion, the outrage of the international community, and the intervention of the federal government. In Karnataka, however, thanks to the underground coverage of the BJP and the state police, there is no cultural or emotional impact on the population. Often there are no official complaints (which the police refuse to record), and there are no articles or reports from the mass media. Everything happens in silence, indifference, and impunity, but the Christian community is obviously suffering," Joe Dias tells Fides."

Global Shift: How Did We Get Here and What Does It Mean? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 15 March 2010 08:37
Our world is shifting under our feet.

A couple years ago, I posted an 11 part series on the growth of Independent Christianity which began with Catholic missiologist Peter C. Phan's evaluation of the famous 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Congress:

Peter C. Phan’s article “Proclamation of the Reign of God as Mission of the Church: What for, to Whom, by Whom, with Whom, and How?” ( Phan’s title intrigued me and I started to read eagerly, only to be stunned by the first few paragraphs:

"But now things have changed, and changed utterly. The change from the enthusiasm and optimism of the World Missionary Conference that met in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1910—whose catchy slogan was "The evangelization of the world in this generation"—to the discouragement and even pessimism in today’s missionary circles, Catholic and Protestant alike, is visible and palpable. . . .To the consternation of Western missionaries, the shout "Missionary, go home" was raised in the 1960s, to be followed a decade later by the demand for a moratorium on Christian missions from the West.

In addition to the political factors, the collapse of mission as we knew it was also caused by the unexpected resurgence of the so-called non-Christian religions, in particular Hinduism and Islam. The missionaries’ rosy predictions of their early demise were vastly premature. Concomitant with this phenomenon is an intense awareness of religious pluralism which advocates several distinct, independent, and equally valid ways to reach the Divine and therefore makes conversion from one religion to another, which was considered as the goal of mission, unnecessary." [emphasis mine]

As I wrote then "I was incredulous. I knew that the last word one could use of the Christian missionary enterprise at the beginning of the 21st century was “collapse”. Once more, I was standing on the edge of an unbridgeable chasm of experience that yawned between this prominent American theologian and the world I had known. I couldn’t help but wonder if Peter Phan inhabited the same planet as the evangelicals with whom I had lived and studied. Discouragement? Pessimism? Evangelical missionaries have faced the same historical and cultural realities as Catholics since 1960. But they believe that they have been privileged to be part of the greatest expansion of Christianity in history and are absolutely exuberant about the future of missions."

And that exuberance is on display in a global manner in this 100th anniversary of the Edinburgh Conference.  There are no less than 4 global congresses being held in honor of the anniversary: in Tokyo, Edinburgh itself, South Africa, and Boston.

By far the largest gathering, Cape Town 2010, will function like an ecumenical council of missions (although it won't last nearly as long as Vatican II!), gathering together over 4,000 hand selected missionary leaders from all over the world to celebrate what God has done in the last 100 years and to take council together about where to go from here.  In this age of the internet, the gathering will be beamed to sites all over the world so that additional thousands can take part.

As a preparation for Cape Town 2010, an internet based "Global Conversation" is taking place with a different topic every month.  This month's topic is Responding to Religious Pluralism.  The lead article has an intriguing title:  Sowing Subversion in the Field of Relativism

In December, the topic was "Muslim Background Believers".  This topic reflects the tremendous change that has occurred over the past 30 years in the world.  Yes, the largest Mosque in the world outside the Middle East now towers over London's Regent's Park.   I snapped two women in the most conservative Muslim dress, feeding the pigeons in the shadow of the mosque the last time I was in London.  But this is a spiritual shift that cuts both ways.

Consider this summary of what is happening in the Muslim world from the Caleb Resources February, 2010 news letter.

( A bit of background: The term "Muslim background believers" refers to individuals born Muslim who are now following Jesus.  Note the term "Christ - followers" below.  They may or may not be part of local Christian congregations, who are usually reluctant to trust or accept Muslim background believers.  They may not even be baptized.  This does not compute in Catholic sacramental theology but there are millions of unbaptized "Christ followers" in the Muslim and Hindu worlds now.  A new sort of life long catechumen.)

Since the beginning of the Iraqi war, more than 5,000 Muslims have turned to Christ in Iraq, with dozens of growing churches being birthed across the region. Similarly, pre-9/11 Afghanistan knew 17 Muslim background believers, while today there are more than 10,000. In neighboring Iran, where there were as few as 500 Christ-followers 30 years ago, national pastors suggest this number could now be one million. Perhaps this is due in part to satellite television making gospel broadcasts available at all times in that country; living under a repressive fundamentalist regime may also have some influence.

In Egypt, it’s the JESUS Film that’s increasing in circulation. Whereas in the 90s, sales averaged 3,000 per year, in 2006, the Egyptian Bible Society sold 600,000 copies, as well as 750,000 audio Arabic Bible and 500,000 Arabic New Testaments. Other programs reach a more global audience, such as broadcasts from Norway that can be found on the radio, TV, and the internet. A surprising population where these are received well is among Arabs in the US and Canada, where in the span of a few months, as many as 30,000 have responded with interest in coming to Christ.

Several countries are also seeing a drastic shift in the percentage of the population that is Muslim. Some countries, like Indonesia, don’t even want to know what those numbers are anymore. The last religious census there revealed that 20% of the population chose to be registered as Christians. That was over 30 years ago. In Ghana, the number of those who claim Islam as their religion dropped by 25% in the past ten years. Also in Uganda, the percentage is down from 22% Muslim 25 years ago to around 6% today. The Ugandan church now sends missionaries to places like South America, Japan, and the United States. Meanwhile, a growing missionary force is coming from Latin America, the majority of which goes to serve in the Muslim world.

What this should tell you is that God is continually building his kingdom. As many as 160,000 people a day hear about Christ for the first time, and roughly 3,000 put their faith in him per hour. Two hundred years ago, only 25% of the world’s people had the chance to receive the gospel. Today that number is flipped, with those who haven’t heard about Christ being only 28%.

In this anniversary year, I'm going to be posting more on Cape Town 2010, as well as blogging on the remarkable history of Catholic and Orthodox missions (with the help of my friend, Fr. Gregory Jensen, an Orthodox blogger)

In 1800, there were about 106.8 million Catholics in the world.

In 1900, there were roughly 266.5 million Catholics in the world, 75% of whom lived in Europe and North America.

By the end of 2010, there will be about 1.2 billion Catholics, 65% of whom live outside Europe and North America.

10,278% growth in 210 years.

How did we get here and what does it mean?

We didn't get here by accident. The almost complete identification of Christianity with Europe for over a thousand years was a historical and ecclesial aberration.  It was the result of historical trauma, not intrinsic to the faith itself.

The foundations of the global shift that we are living through was laid centuries ago by the great figures of the medieval and Tridentine Church, by the likes of Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Francis Xavier and Matteo Ricci. In the end, a truly global Christianity was created through the obedience of innumerable great and humble men and women who sought to respond to the command of our Lord himself to make disciples of all nations.
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