I'm off for the weekend. Training 25 parish leaders to facilitate the discernment of others - either one on one or in small groups. It's an interesting group - about half are bi-lingual (English-Spanish). Most are from a single parish - St. Isidore's in Bloomington which is developing its own Called & Gifted teaching teams but I've also got participants flying in from Iowa and Martha's Vineyard.
Gustavo, who is one of our Spanish Called & Gifted teachers is flying in from Galveston to train the group with me and working toward eventually offering the training himself in Spanish which will be very exciting! All the dioceses that have talked to us lately want implementation in both languages so it is critical that we expand our Spanish language capacities.
Anyway, such trainings are always fun - but very demanding so I'd appreciate your prayers. Back Sunday after which I will not leave town for a whole month.
Reminds me irresistibly of conversations I've had around St. Blog's lately.
hat tip: Mark Shea
PS - the "Repeal Day" which I had never heard of before is clearly a holiday manufactured by liquor companies like Dewar's for commercial ends - like so many of our current holidays - and it bugs me - alot. But I don't think I can separate the front/end ads from the Onion piece itself. Feel free to hit the stop button early and skip the last 30 seconds.
Been looking for that bird's eye view of the development of the Byzantine Catholic church? Well, here it is:
Given by Fr. Mark Malone, pastor of St. George Melkite-Greek Catholic Church in Sacramento. Very interesting and it comes with a chart of Apostolic Churches: Catholic, Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox that is going to give Tom Kreitzberg a run for his money! Here's a taste:
"A second term is the word catholic — what does it mean? You hear the definition all the time — universal. The primary definition is complete. The first person to use the word catholic was Saint Ignatius of Antioch, about the year 100. Tradition says that Ignatius was the little child that Christ held on his knees when He said: “Unless you become like a little you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” We have Ignatius' seven letters that he wrote on his way to his death. He uses the word catholic and makes a definition of the church especially related to the Eucharist, and says that where you have a bishop and his people and the Eucharist the whole church is there catholic — complete. That's going to make an interesting point later on.
What's the opposite of catholic — a trick question — Atheist? No! That's means without God. Heretic? Yes, it comes from the Greek verb heresis— to choose — to take a part and make the part the whole. Arius, for example says that Christ is man. That's true but he also says Christ is only man, that's He is not God also. Therefore, that's a heresy. Another heresy later on will say that Christ is only God.
The term orthodox means correct teaching, or correct worship — straight — the term orthodontics is related — straightening teeth. So straight teaching or straight worship — teaching and worship are related. The opposite? Heterodoxy, meaning another worship or another teaching! The fathers also were not unknown to use the word cacodoxy. You can guess the root of that. Just remember these aspects of these words.
The important thing is to remember that in the early church, East and West, that Christians called themselves Orthodox and Catholic. East and West both used the terms, and even to this day we all say the Creed and it says: “We believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” These terms later begin to take on political connotations. I want you to remember that we're using them in a strict theological sense, right now. It is curious that in the Roman Liturgy the First Eucharistic prayer says: orthodoxibus atque cultoribus (Orthodox worshippers). So, the Roman Catholic Church even used the word orthodox in that sense."
Both priests in residence at the parish are iconographers. One is a bi-ritual (Byzantine - Latin rite) Dominican of the Western Province, Fr. Brendan McAnerney.
Fr. Brendan's ministry is called (Domin-Icon was in residence at Blessed Sacrament when the Institute began 10 years ago and wrote our beautiful icon of St. Catherine of Siena for us. He also wrote this magnificent icon of St. Albert the Great for the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology's new campus.
A limited edition lithograph celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of St. Albert's has been made and a copy sent to every house and ministry in the Province. We got ours this week and it is very striking.
Someday, November 29 will be the feast/memorial of St. Dorothy Day. She died 37 years ago today. Spero News printed the piece about her life yesterday.
This is what the late Cardinal O'Connor of New York wrote in his letter to the Holy See proposing her canonization:
It has long been my contention that Dorothy Day is a saint - not a "gingerbread" saint or a "holy card" saint, but a modern day devoted daughter of the Church, a daughter who shunned personal aggrandizement and wished that her work, and the work of those who labored at her side on behalf of the poor, might be the hallmark of her life rather than her own self.
To be sure, her life is a model for all in the third millenium, but especially for women who have had or are considering abortions. It is a well-known fact that Dorothy Day procured an abortion before her conversion to the Faith. She regretted it every day of her life. After her conversion from a life akin to that of the pre-converted Augustine of Hippo, she proved a stout defender of human life. The conversion of mind and heart that she exemplified speaks volumes to all women today on two fronts. First, it demonstrates the mercy of God, mercy in that a woman who sinned so gravely could find such unity with God upon conversion. Second, it demonstrates that one may turn from the ultimate act of violence against innocent life in the womb to a position of total holiness and pacifism. In short, I contend that her abortion should not preclude her cause, but intensifies it.
It has also been noted that Dorothy Day often seemed friendly to political groups hostile to the Church, for example, communists, socialists, and anarchists. It is necessary to divide her political stances in two spheres: pre-and post- conversion. After her conversion, she was neither a member of such political groupings nor did she approve of their tactics or any denial of private property. Yet, it must be said, she often held opinions in common with them. What they held in common was a common respect for the poor and a desire for economic equity. In no sense did she approve of any form of atheism, agnosticism, or religious indifference.
Moreover, her complete commitment to pacifism in imitation of Christ often separated her from these political ideologies. She rejected all military force; she rejected aid to force in any way in a most idealistic manner. So much were her "politics" based on an ideology of nonviolence that they may be said to be apolitical. Like so many saints of days gone by, she was an idealist in a non-ideal world. It was her contention that men and women should begin to live on earth the life they would one day lead in heaven, a life of peace and harmony. Much of what she spoke of in terms of social justice anticipated the teachings of Pope John Paul II and lends support to her cause
When I was in a high school seminary in the 1950s, I observed, the parish priest who had encouraged me to enter the seminary gave me a copy of "The Long Loneliness" and told me to read it and tell him what I thought of it. I do not recall exactly what I told him, but I know what was in my head: "This is a saint if ever there was one."
Check out the Dorothy Day Guild. Its purpose is to spread the word of her life, work, and sanctity; to identify the growing devotion for Dorothy Day by Catholics and non-Catholics; and to document her ability to intercede for people in need of God’s healing mercy and assistance.
Our lay Co-Director in Australia, Clara Geoghegan, is a huge fan of Carolyn Chisholm, the amazing Victorian champion of emmigrants and has written this article about Carolyn in this week's Kairos Catholic Journal:
"The Caroline Chisholm story is relatively well known in Australia, but it is a secularised interpretation. Her religious motivation – which she publicly acknowledged – has been omitted or caricatured, as in Anne Summer’s description of women in colonial Australia as being considered either ‘damned whores’ or ‘God’s police’ (the latter term specifically applied to Caroline Chisholm). Caroline never used derogatory language to describe the women she assisted nor was she condescending towards them; she always treated them with respect and understanding. She clearly understood the human condition and the doctrine of redemption.
The Good Samaritan
Caroline recounts the story of Flora, a young woman whom she had previously warned about a relationship with a man whom Caroline knew to be married. One evening some months later Caroline again encountered Flora: “…the ruddy rose of the highlands was changed for the tinge of rum; she had been drinking but well knew what she was about. ‘Tell me where you are going?’ ‘To hell!’ was her answer. I continued to walk by her side; she became insolent; but I was determined not to leave her. She made for Lavender’s Ferry; and said, ‘My mistress lives over there.’ I said ‘I will go to the other side with you, as I want to say a few words with you.’ She was unwilling; but I persisted; we crossed over; I felt certain from her manner that she meditated suicide …”
Caroline’s suspicions were confirmed. Flora was pregnant and intended to drown herself. She remained with Flora until she regained her composure and promised not to attempt self-destruction. Caroline Chisholm, reassured of Flora’s psychological state, made immediate arrangements to find her suitable accommodation.
Herminie Chavanne, a young Swiss woman, summed up her impressions of Caroline Chisholm after meeting her with the following words: “Kindness shone from her face, with never a hint of weariness and it was obvious that God had granted her all the courage and energy she needed for this living work for her ‘neighbour’ (this simple and profound word says so much that I need say nothing more).”
It's a cliche but Caroline was ahead of her time. "She did not limit her concern to the individuals and families she assisted but lobbied government and society to create structures which respected the dignity of the human person. Her concerns with social justice issues such as family wages, private ownership of family farms and freedom to migrate were yet to be articulated by the Catholic Church. Her main work unfolded in the 1840s and 1850s. The encyclical Rerum Novarum, which marks the beginning of the Church’s social justice teaching for the Modern Age, was written by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, 14 years after Caroline’s death. Many of the principles which Caroline fought for during her life are echoed in its postulates.
The Mission of the Laity
Similarly, Caroline Chisholm’s work echoes in the teachings of the Church on the laity as described by the Second Vatican Council. Vatican II recognised the laity’s “special and indispensable role in the mission of the Church” and, noting the new challenges facing the Church, called forward an “infinitely broader and more intense” apostolate. The document on the laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem, listed areas of lay activity including: the renewal of the temporal order, charitable works and social aid and the family – all areas which had concerned Caroline Chisholm more than an century earlier. "
Australian have just elected a new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. Rudd was raised a Catholic and is now a practicing Anglican who quotes Catholic social teaching, Pope Benedict and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He also recently voted to make RU 486 available.
And there you have the dilemma that Australian Catholics face when voting. There is no strong, well-developed pro-life movement in Australia and abortion is a deciding factor only for a tiny minority on voters. Only one small political party called Family First (founded in 2002)is pro-life. FF is made up mostly of conservative Christians, and has one sitting MP. All citizens of voting age are legally required to vote in Australia, so abstaining is not an alternative.
As an Australian friend of mine wrote me today:
"I am also cynical in so far as the 'conservative' side of politics often has the pro-life rhetoric in practice it makes no difference. We have just come out of a situation where the Minister for Health - Tony Abbott - was a practicing Catholic but it made no difference to policy. The introduction of RU486 was taken out of his hands by the introduction of a Private Members Bill, embryonic stem cell research was approved, and so on. The only positive was that he managed to secure funding for pregnancy counseling services for the Catholic Centacare agency."
Take a look at this very colorful map of the positions of the six major parties on life issues. (prepared by the Marriage & Family Life Office of the Archdiocese of Sydney)and you'll get the idea.
It is hard for Australian Catholics to grasp the intensity of the debate about life issues in this country.
This is not meant to be triumphalist in any way but it is one of those stories to which all you can say is "wow" and "praise God". Via Zenit and sent to me by Bobby Vidal, one of our collaborators in LA.
A Romanian Orthodox woman is healed of terminal lung cancer by spending two weeks sitting in front of a statue of Padre Pio in Rome and talking to him.
Mariano (her artist son in Rome) kept his mother with himself in Rome so as to be near the doctor for checkups. He was working on a mosaic in a church and, as his mother does not speak Italian, he kept her close by. While he was working, his mother walked through the church, contemplating the paintings and statues.
In one corner, there was a large statue of Padre Pio. Lucrecia liked the statue and asked Mariano who it depicted. Mariano related briefly the story of the saint. In the coming days, he saw his mother spending all her time seated before the image, with which she chatted as if it were alive.
Two weeks later, Mariano took his mother to the hospital for her checkup. The doctor said the tumor had disappeared.
Lucrecia had asked Padre Pio to help her, even though she was Orthodox, and, she said, the saint had granted her request.
That line made me smile. I can't imagine that this women's Orthodoxy put Padre Pio off one whit.
Naturally her other son, the Orthodox priest, was thrilled and told his parishioners and a great devotion to St. Pio grew up in the parish. The sick started to receive favors from Padre Pio and "little by little, we decided to become Catholics, in order to be closer to Padre.”
It was a long process to move from Orthodox to Greek Catholic but now they are building a church in St. Pio's honor and the Metropolitan Archbishop of Romania came to be present at the laying of the cornerstone and meet the woman who had been healed by Padre Pio!
Somehow I'm not surprised. When I was speaking at Sacred Heart Seminary last month, they began class by announcing that one of the class members had been healed (apparently they had prayed for him with a relic of Padre Pio the week before!)
Anyone else have close encounters with St. Pio that you'd like to share?
John Harry Gunkel, a retired American doctor is living in Jerusalem as a medical volunteer and shares his experiences on his blog: Mission to Jerusalem.
For those of us who have spent time in the area, it can't help but bring back memories. But John's description of his visit to Gaza on the day before Thanksgiving is gripping and visceral:
Then yesterday, I visited Gaza. Only one day there and it's hard to know how to say it all. This blog will unpack the experiences in coming posts. But what should I say to you now? Should I tell you about the pervasive destruction and damage to virtually every structure? About the visible despair in people? About the children with observable evidence of malnutrition? About the current restrictions that allow no fruit but bananas to enter the area? About the previous restriction that allowed no milk in for several weeks? About the proscription of 80 medicines that are not allowed to enter the area? About the rubbish everywhere, some of it burning, some of it partially burned? About the resulting smell? About the family we visited who live in a cemetery? Live there. About the patients who lie in hospital and die because the necessary medication or surgery is not available and there is no possibility of leaving to go where they can get it? None. About the "security" measures on entering and leaving that may or may not provide security but that cannot fail to dehumanize, anger, and frustrate? About the man who said, "Dreams are forbidden in Gaza"? About the many people who told me that living in Gaza is living in prison?
What is there to say about a place of such suffering and uncertainty? Where is the promise in Gaza?
In a situation so complicated and so overlaid with conflict upon conflict, it's hard to know where to look for promise. But as I spent the day listening and learning, it seemed to me that the promise begins in the people there who still - somehow, incomprehensibly - laugh easily and share their tea, their stories, and their hospitality. Who ask for little except fairness and some compassion. Who want to be allowed to work, take care of themselves and their families, and have food to eat.
Mary Sharon Moore, one of our Called & Gifted teachers, sent this to me, and I'd like to share it with all of you.
"In preparation for Advent, you may wish to listen in on a 50-minute live interview covering aspects of my vocations ministry, scheduled for Thursday morning, November 29th, at 8:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, on KBVM-FM—88.3 on your FM dial if you’re in the Portland area, or online at www.kbvm.fm.
“In Person” with host Dina Marie Hale will introduce my nine-part series of three-minute reflections in the Advent-Christmas season titled “Journey With the Word.” This series looks at the scriptures of the season through the lens of vocation. The series may offer you morsels of inspiration for your own vocational journey and for those whose lives you touch."
Christianity has historically reached China through the ancient "Silk Road" the 2,000 mile long silk trading route through central Asia. Nestorian missionaries reached central Asia in the 8th century and Catholic friars in the 13th century. The Keirats, a Mongol tribe, numbered 200,000 believers in AD 1007 before they were decimated bwhile there were about 30,000 Mongol Catholics recorded in China by 1368. Kublai Kahn asked Marco Polo for 100 missionaries but only two friars ever set out.
Over and over again, the fledging Christian communities were always wiped out by new invasions and the decisions of their leaders to embrace another faith.
In the 20th century, Christianity is establishing a foothold in Mongolia again. As John Allen writes today"The church arrived in Mongolia only in 1992, and to date claims just 415 Catholics. They’re served by 65 foreign missionaries, including 20 priests and one bishop. The Mongolian church, described by its bishop as a “baby church,” is just now on the cusp of producing its very first seminarian.
Since Allen is writing for a English speaking Catholic audience, I supposed it is inevitable that he looks at this development through the eyes of our western debates: Catholic identity and liturgy. Allen heard Mongolia's Bishop, Wenceslao Selga Padilla, 58, a Filipino who has been in charge of the mission in Mongolia since its birth, speak in Rome Tuesday night.
Padilla said that when he conducts interviews with Mongolian converts to understand what attracted them and made them decide to join the church, most will say they first came into contact with Catholicism through one of its social programs – a school, soup kitchen, or relief center. What “hooked” them, however, was the liturgy.
“They say it’s the singing, the liturgy,” Padilla told an audience at the Oratory of St. Francis Xavier del Caravita in Rome. “They say it’s more worthwhile than what they experience in the Buddhist temple. They’re active in the prayers and in the singing, It’s not just the monks doing all the singing.”
Padilla said that even though the four parishes in Mongolia (and four parochial sub-stations) use largely Western liturgical music, it’s translated into the vernacular, and most of the liturgy now is also said using the Mongol language. That, too, he said, is a major point of entry for new converts, most of whom are young and from the middle class or below.
“We cater mostly to the young and to the very poor,” Padilla said.
I don't mean to be dismissive of Allen, whose reporting I admire, but to anyone with a background in missions, this is so not a surprise. Of course, peoples with no Christian background or history respond very differently than we do to different aspects of the faith.
In global terms, the debates that dominate St. Blog's are extremely parochial. They rise up out of European history, European cultural issues and questions - of the trauma of the Reformation and a century of religious wars(at a time when 90% of Christians in the world were European), the enlightenment and revolution, and of Vatican II.
The upheavals of Vatican II that long established Christian peoples (which would include centuries old communities like China) experienced (and not all - for instance, Poland has had a vernacular liturgy since the 1940's) don't resonant at all in other cultures where Catholicism is new. When we asked members of our Indonesian teaching team, what their memories of the changes after Vatican II were, they just looked at us. Many were converts - including from Islam - and most had no memories of the Church before Vatican II. For a variety of reasons, it was a non-issue.
As Allen noted:
"Even the fact of serving coffee, tea and cookies after Mass, Padilla said, is a departure from the normal Mongolian religious experience, and it’s an important point of initial contact for many Mongolians who attend Catholic liturgies or events for the first time."
Recently, Padilla was able to open a cathedral for the fledging Catholic community in Ulaanbaatar, the capital. Called Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, it’s built in the shape of a “ger,” which is a traditional Mongolian residence. It’s the first time such a structure has been put up in the country for religious purposes, Padilla said. The stained glass windows inside the cathedral were crafted by a brother from the ecumenical community of Taizé.
The good Bishop is very much aware of the need to deepen his fledging Catholics' new faith. In brief comments after his presentation, Padilla conceded that the attractiveness of the music and other forms of active participation in the liturgy may be what brings people in the church’s door, but it won’t suffice over the long term.
“We have to give them a deeper catechism and formation,” he said. For example, Padilla said, it’s important to press Mongolians towards a deeper understanding and appreciation of the personal nature of the Christian God, as opposed to the rather impersonal and abstract deity of Buddhist spirituality.
Check out this Asia News article about a new Catholic parish outside Ulaanbaatar (also known as Ulan Bator) established by the Salesians. In January of 2007, they had 22 members and 23 catechumens who would be received at Easter.
Of course, the evangelicals are there in force. (The World Christian Encyclopedia estimates a total of 39,000 Christians in Mongolia, 13,500 Independents, 16,500 Protestants, 800 Orthodox, and 500 Catholics, and 7,300 "marginals" - that is Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.)
If you are interested in the complex and fascinating history of Catholicism (non-Catholic Christianity in China is hardly dealt with) in China, Ignatius Press has published an excellent translation of Jean-Pierre Charbonnier's Christians in China. I picked it up at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception bookstore and it has made for a great and inspiring read.
Mark Shea has this great piece in today's National Catholic Register on purity and the apostolic calling of the laity to the world.
"Beyond this, though, there is another dimension to holiness that has to be learned and many Catholics never do.
It is the realization that we do indeed live under the New Covenant and that our primary mission as Catholics is to make the world holy, not to keep the world from defiling us. We have to learn that the Church ultimately has the upper hand against sin because we have the power of Christ.
Some Catholics really don’t get this. To illustrate, let me quote a Catholic who was participating in a recent online discussion concerning whether Harry Potter books were proper for a Catholic to read: “One drop of anything not authentically Catholic poisons the whole glass.”
Now, this is not a column about Harry Potter. So let’s restrain the urge to go there. This is a column about purity. And the fact is, it is false to say that “One drop of anything not authentically Catholic poisons the whole glass.”
Neither Christmas trees nor Maypoles nor Easter eggs nor iconography nor statuary nor prayer beads nor wedding rings were Catholic in the beginning. They were pagan (meaning “human”) things. The Church looked at them and said, “All authentically human things can be Catholic things too!”
And this has ever been the Church’s approach. Everything from Stagecoach to 2001: A Space Odyssey is championed by the Vatican as good films without the slightest sense that, because they are the products of decidedly non-saintly Catholics or unbelievers, they are therefore necessarily “poison.”
The basic principle we have from the New Testament is that the power of the Spirit can overcome the powers of sin, hell and death. It is what has ordered the Church’s missionary work since the beginning. That is the meaning of the strange Dominical saying preserved at the end of the Gospel of Mark:
“And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17-18).
This language is particularly apt, particularly given the language we just saw above. The funny thing about the Gospel is how often, in the history of the Church, the Church has fulfilled Jesus’ promise, “If they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them” (Mark 16:18).
The Church has drunk from all sorts of pagan wells, ranging from Plato and Aristotle to the various ways in which Norse, German, Druidic, Roman, Indian and other forms of pagan culture have been baptized and turned to the service of Christ."
Fr. Al Kimmel made an intriguing comment in a discussion on the Anatasis Dialog Blog here
"What the Catholic Church can do, though, is to reinterpret her dogmatic definitions in light of a greater whole, as Balthasar notes. This is precisely what happens in the history of dogma. An ecumenical council may speak a definitive word, yet not a final word. Doctrine lives forward. Ephesus needed to be followed by Chalcedon, lest it be misunderstood; and Chalcedon needed to be followed by the second and third councils of Constantinople."
and then went on to quote a most interesting statement from then Cardinal Ratzinger:
"Yet ... there is a "yet" and therein lies the ecumenical hope. If there were no "yet," Cardinal Ratzinger could not have tendered his startling 1982 proposal:
"Rome must not require more from the East with respect to the doctrine of primacy than had been formulated and was lived in the first millennium. … Reunion could take place in this context if, on the one hand, the East would cease to oppose as heretical the developments that took place in the West in the second millennium and would accept the Catholic Church as legitimate and orthodox in the form she had acquired in the course of that development, while, on the other hand, the West would recognize the Church of the East as orthodox and legitimate in the form she has always had."
How I wish I could ask Pope Benedict to elaborate upon this passage."