One of the aspects of life in Iraq that we easily forget about is the near-constant threat of violence that Christians live with. I received a reminder of this in an e-mail from the Promoter for Social Justice of our Dominican Province, and I share it with you. Please pray not only for the Dominican sisters, but for all of the innocents who are suffering because of those who have embraced a life of violence.
Our Sisters in Iraq have experienced a great tragedy in Mosul the day before Thanksgiving. Their motherhouse was invaded by three men who climbed over a wall and into their compound and set off three bombs that did severe damage to the Motherhouse along one side where ten rooms were hit. The sisters are okay, but Sr. Maria and her community have serious decisions to make this weekend. Please keep them in your prayers.
The e-mail from Iraq follows:
My friend, I need your prayers for Sr. Maria and the councilors because our Motherhouse in Mosul was bombed yesterday Nov 26, 09. It destroyed the convent very much, thanks be to God none of the six sisters were injured or killed neither the men who guard the convent. Also, they bombed another Catholic Church near by the motherhouse which was in very bad shape and again nobody died
Please remember the Christian people in your prayers and especially Sr. Maria for the decisions that she needs to make.
Thank you again for you prayers Aman Miriam Mansoor
I took Fr. Bede, an elderly friar in our community, to see The Blind Side. It was recommended by Fr. Bart, our superior, and I had heard good things about it from a few other folks. The movie’s title refers to the part of the field the quarterback tends to not see – the part of the field off his throwing arm. That's the side that needs to be protected from onrushing defensive ends.
The Blind Side is based on the story of Michael Oher, an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, who was taken from his drug addict mother at the age of seven, never knew his father, and bounced from foster home to foster home until a friend begged a Christian high school coach to see his athletic potential and give him a chance at the high-end private school.
While there, he was given a place to stay by Mr. and Mrs. Sean Tuohy, a well-to-do couple with a daughter and son who attended the same school. Leigh Anne Tuohy, wonderfully portrayed by Sandra Bullock, is a Christian woman who may well have the charisms of mercy and hospitality. She sees “Big Mike” walking in the rain while driving home from school with her husband and son, and asks him where he’s going. Michael, wearing the same shorts and shirt he always wears responds, “To the gym.” Mrs. Tuohy knows the gym is closed and gets Michael to get in their car. When her husband asks, “Where to?” she responds with a look that says, “Duh!” and says, “Home, of course.”
Mrs. Tuohy sees to Michael’s needs: new clothes, a driver’s license, and, eventually, a tutor; all practical things that restore his dignity. The movie demonstrates that as the incredibly quiet Michael becomes more and more “at home” in his own skin as the movie progresses. One of the signs of any of the charisms is that they energize us, and while the Sandra Bullock character is something of a southern force of nature, there’s an intriguing bit of dialogue between Sean and Leigh Anne. At one point when they are alone and are asking why they are opening their home to this enormous stranger from the wrong side of the tracks, Sean observes that Leigh Anne “gets some strange pleasure from this,” (or something along those lines).
Another sign of the charism of mercy is that Leigh Anne takes several trips into the projects where Michael grew up; something her society friends wouldn’t dream of doing. And while she may not be entirely comfortable there, she is profoundly moved by the plight of the poor. Shortly thereafter, while eating an $18 salad with her friends, she remarks that they (herself included) really have no idea how some people live just a few short miles from their own multi-million dollar homes. Immediately, the other three women assume that Leigh Anne is going to start some kind of fund-raiser to help the poor, as though this is the sort of thing she always does.
Opening one’s home to a stranger is exactly the sort of thing that someone with the charism of hospitality would do. Mrs. Tuohy – as well as the rest of the family – make Michael at home, and eventually Sean and Leigh Anne become Michael’s legal guardians.
The story is based on real events, and I found myself smiling throughout the entire movie. It shows the wonders God can do in the life of an individual through the help of others. In the case of Michael Oher, it wasn’t just the Tuohys, but the friend who took him to the Christian school and went to bat for him, the football coach who gave him a chance, and the teacher who cared enough to see his potential. It also shows that God’s grace can overcome even a horrific childhood, as Michael, in spite of the difficulties he faced, was able to avoid participating in the violence and drugs that seemed to surround him.
Fr. Bede enjoyed “The Blind Side,” too, so it gets two thumbs up from these Dominicans. So, too, do Mr. and Mrs. Tuohy, Michael Oher, and our common Father in heaven.
Until now, my most memorable Thanksgiving was in Ramallah (the West Bank) where I cooked an American Thanksgiving dinner for the Episcopalian bishop of Jerusalem. But now I have a close contender.
Eight inches of fresh Alaskan snow and an afternoon spent with 15 sled dogs. That's a day after Thanksgiving to remember.
Called & Gifted alumni Eric Rogers and his wife Marti generously invited my sister (Becky), brother-in-law (Rod) and myself over to their house to meet their sled dogs, experience a sled dog ride (on a ATV as there wasn't quite enough snow for the sled), and hear all about the famous Iditarod: the Last Great Race. It is the ultimate dog sled race: 1,150 miles from Anchorage to Nome in March, when the snow pack is the heaviest. Temperatures of -60 F are not uncommon. The winner will do it in about 10 days. The last finisher may take two weeks.
Eric is a member of a very select group. As he pointed out, more people have climbed Mt. Everest than have finished an Iditarod. About 670 so far. Eric has finished three times and hopes to go for number 4.
Among this rare breed of men and women, Eric is one of a kind. The only physicist-musher in the race. Eric's passion for the race is compelling, he obviously loves his dogs who are very loving and playful, he and Marti are great fun, and the ride and getting to help with the dogs was a blast.
Yesterday at the Thanksgiving Mass, Fr. Bart, the director of the Newman Center at the University of Arizona, quoted the following declaration made by the Continental Congress in 1777. It got our community talking, and I thought I'd share the proclamation of the first official Thanksgiving celebration with you. Note the date; this act of congress came in the middle of the war for Independence!
FOR AS MUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased, in so great a Measure, to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal success:
It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole: To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE: That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth "in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost." And it is further recommended, That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.
Jefferson's famous expression, "the separation of Church and State," used to describe the intent of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, is nowhere evident in that clearly Christian statement.
The clearly religious origins behind the establishment of a Thanksgiving holiday seem lost on most Americans, who, I suspect, don't ask, "to Whom are we giving thanks?" Just as telling, perhaps, is the Congressional members' assumption that schools are places in which virtue and piety are cultivated!
On this Black Friday, we might ask ourselves what we might consider our greatest blessings. Are they independence, peace, solidarity, virtue, and the forgiveness of sin - or the opportunity to purchase a large, high-end electronic device at 40% off? Hurry to the store if you want to get a Zhu Zhu hampster. I hear they're going fast.
At the University of Arizona campus, students are preparing to leave for Thanksgiving, but thoughts are also turning towards finals week. I found this story apropos.
At LSU, there were four sophomores taking chemistry and all of them had an "A" so far. These four friends were so confident, that the weekend before finals they decided to visit some friends and have a big party.
They had a great time, but after all the hearty partying, they slept all day Sunday and didn't make it back to LSU until early Monday morning. Rather than taking the final then, they decided that after the final they would explain to their professor why they missed it. They said that they visited friends but on the way back they had a flat tire.
As a result, they missed the final.
The professor agreed they could make up the final the next day.
The guys were excited and relieved. They studied that night for the exam.
The Professor placed them in separate rooms and gave them a test booklet.
They quickly answered the first problem, worth 5 points. Cool, they thought!
Each of them in a separate room, thinking this was going to be easy.... then they turned the page.
I had to take advantage of a free offer to try in-air wifi, so I thought I'd post a little something as we sail along to Anchorage.
It is so rare that I make a trip that isn't work-related, that I'm feeling a little giddy and wickedly luxurious.
This isn't work although it isn't exactly play either since my sister has a serious form of cancer. But my brain doesn't seem to be registering that right now. And I"m grateful.
I remember a You Tube clip that was making the rounds last year of some comedian doing a hysterical riff on spoiled airline passengers who get miffed when they try airborne internet for the first time and it doesn't work.
He said something like "so now the universe owes you something you didn't know existed ten minutes ago?
You are sitting . . . in a chair . . . IN THE SKY! You are participating in the miracle of flight. YOU"RE FLYING!!!!
"Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be." Luke 12:33-34
Jesus' listeners were often the poorest of the poor, eking out a living in an occupied land, saddled with oppressive taxes, with little hope for the future. So it was natural that Jesus would address their focus on material things. It is not only the rich who can obsess about money and property, after all.
But a perennial questions for each of us are, "Where does my treasure lie? Where is my heart's focus?" Money isn't the problem (the love of money is another question, however). My heart can focus on all kinds of things besides what truly matters. Maybe I'm a huge sports fan, and die a thousand deaths as my team falls behind in the game. Maybe I'm obsessed with my health - or lack of it; or my weight - too much of it.
In the Church, we can focus on the wrong things, too. John Allen has a good article that touches upon this called, "Rethinking the Catholic 'box score'", which draws upon his analogy of Catholicism to baseball: "Both venerate the past, both spawn vast bodies of rules and lore, and both put a premium on patience." And as some baseball categories, like a batter's hitting percentage is helpful, it may not be as helpful as another statistic: how often he gets on base when one or more of his team mates is already on base. Allen argues, "the analogy applies here too: In the church as on the diamond, flawed categories skew perceptions of the game."
What flawed categories is he talking about? These - 1) Thinking not just in local or national terms, but globally. 2) Focusing not just on controversy, scandal, and newspaper headlines, but where ordinary Catholics actually invest their time and treasure.
Allen gives an example of the first.
"In Mexico, the country's bishops issued a cri de Coeur Nov. 12, in the wake of 14,000 violent deaths since a crackdown on drug cartels began in 2006: 'To the producers, dealers, pushers and consumers, we say, "Enough!" Stop hurting yourself, and stop causing so much damage and pain to our young people, to our families and to our country.' The bishops also apologized for 'superficial evangelization,' and what they euphemistically described as an 'anti-witness from many of the baptized.' That's an indirect way of admitting that in a country where 90 percent of the population is nominally Catholic, such carnage would be impossible if Catholics weren't complicit."
At first, this may not seem like a global issue, but remember, drugs may be entering from more southern Latin American countries, or even overseas, and moving through Mexico into the U.S. Tucson, my home, is the terminus of I-19, a major drug highway.
I began thinking about "the meaning of life," as a graduate student in geophysics, when, while walking along a nicely kept area of Palo Alto, CA, I encountered within a few feet of each other, a homeless man taking a spongebath on the curb, and a neatly coiffed woman dressed to the nines. "How can this happen in the U.S., the richest country the world has ever known, and a supposedly Christian nation, as well?" I thought. Sure, I was idealistic, but perhaps no more so than the Mexican bishops.
We are not as Catholic - or generically Christian - as Mexico, but even so, there are many things that happen with little or no comment that makes you wonder how superficial our Christianity is. While there is a vocal struggle over abortion, and, to a lesser degree, capital punishment, most Americans seemed fine with the idea of the appropriateness of torture to "protect" ourselves. We accept ever-increasingly lewd behavior on prime-time TV, horrifically violent video games for our teens, obscene disparities in wages between laborers and the highest levels of management, and act as though conspicuous consumption is a virtue, if not a right.
The response to this is not to become an outsider who condemns what is happening and try to move into a Catholic ghetto. Nor is it to simply shrug and say, "that's the way it is." The answer is conversion to Christ and accept a commission from him to go to the front lines - that is, the heart of the marketplace - and slowly begin to change things from within. That takes the patience that Allen mentions is a part of the Catholic life.
The second issue, of focusing on controversy, scandal, and newspaper headlines, instead of where ordinary Catholics actually invest their time and treasure, is something Sherry's addressed in previous posts, but is worth repeating. Sherry tells the story of going into one of her RCIA sessions when she was trying to enter the Church with a book in her hand. I don't remember what she was reading, but one of the people leading the RCIA class took one look at it and said to her, "Well, we certainly know now where you're coming from!" The irony is, of course, that Sherry didn't even know where she was coming from. This happens today, still - perhaps even more regularly. I sometimes wonder how people will react if I show up to teach in my habit. Or how they'll react if I don't. How will I be judged if I say I enjoy reading Fr. X? It's amazing how quick we are to slap labels on one another. And there are basically only two labels, "one of us," and "not to be trusted."
I have been very blessed to travel across the country - and beyond, at times - and to meet lay Catholics in big cities, small towns, from wealthy parishes and very poor parishes. I can promise you, poor, simple Catholics I've met here in Corpus Christi are not interested in culture wars. They - at least the ones at the evangelization retreats I've helped out with - are interested in making ends meet, overcoming illness, addiction, and sin. They're not interested in the culture wars, or liturgical reform. They are seeking healing, and want to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They want to know God is real, and want to be changed by His grace.
It's a breath of fresh air for me, and forces me to focus on Jesus, because that's who they want.
That's Who they need. And for more and more of them, it seems that their treasure lies in Jesus.
I was just reading last night in The Future Church about Allen's theory of "two ecumenisms" in the near future: "orthodox" and "reform".
The orthodox ecumenism would take place between "evangelical Catholics" (Allen's term: it doesn't mean Protestantized Catholics), most Orthodox, most evangelicals and renewalists (Christians influenced by charismatic spirituality.)
"An unprecedented coalition of prominent Christian clergy, ministry leaders, and scholars has crafted a 4,700-word declaration addressing the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty. The declaration issues “a clarion call” to Christians to adhere to their convictions and informs civil authorities that the signers will not “under any circumstance” abandon their Christian consciences.
The statement, called “the Manhattan Declaration,” has been signed by more than 125 Catholic, Evangelical Christian, and Orthodox leaders, and will be made fully public at a noon press conference in the National Press Club in Washington DC on Friday.
“We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence,” the statement says."
15 Catholic bishops and Archbishops (including Archbishop Chaput of Denver and my own bishop, Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs), Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church of America, Charles Colson and James Dobson, etc.
My brilliant former partner in crime, Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP, was waxing eloquent in Anchorage last month and as always, has lots of intriguing and important things to say.
He does so in the most traditional of Dominican roles: as a begger. Fr. Michael always insisted that the old nursery rhyme "Hark, Hark, the dogs do bark. The beggers are coming to town" really meant "hang on to your wallets, here come the Dom -i -canes" (dogs of the Lord).
It certainly mean that when he was working with the Institute and he is still begging today for the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology which he now serves as President.
Fr. Michael's address is long but worth the read. He is speaking directly to our situation as western Christians facing a western culture that is deeply hostile to our faith and understanding of reality.
"The last great cultural upheaval of the West began, arguably, about five centuries ago. Consider what is afoot in Europe in the year 1500: a new “humanism” focuses upon the individual; the first stirrings of the Protestant reformation are already being felt; the nation states are beginning to take shape, first in France and then elsewhere in Europe; the discovery of the new world and its colonization begin, raising questions of international law and also of human rights (are the North American natives to be regarded as human?); the new-found wealth pouring into Europe causes an inflation of the currency not ever experienced before, and raises commercial and ethical questions concerning inflation, currency and interest.
In the midst of all this Francisco de Vitoria, O.P. assumed the chair of theology at the University of Salamanca where, with the assistance of his Dominican confreres, he began to apply the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas to the challenges of the day. Together they founded what history now knows as the “school of Salamanca”. This was not a school in the sense of a separate institution –they were professors at the University of Salamanca. Rather, it was a school of thought: a common intellectual and scholarly enterprise to address the questions of their day, an initiative that lasted for at least a century, and whose impact is still felt. They articulated the humanism that is integral to the tradition of St. Thomas; in economic theory they introduced the ideas of just price, supply and demand and the scarcity theory of value; they argued, successfully, for the rights of native peoples applying St. Thomas' discussion of the ius gentium and offered the world the first systematic articulation of human rights; they advanced the just war theory, and were the first in history to propound the idea of international law."
"Let us dwell for a moment on this point. In the Summa Theologiae St. Thomas asks whether prudence or holiness is to be sought on the part of someone who governs. He answers that prudence, the virtue by which one acts decisively and well in practical matters is the virtue that is proper to the one who governs; holiness adds nothing to right action. I might add, parenthetically, that everyone's experience bears him out: we have all encountered people of great holiness who have not fully mastered a practical approach to life! This has many ramifications today. So, for example, Catholic politicians who recuse themselves in moral questions on the grounds that they cannot represent the tradition in a pluralist society should be held to account, not on the grounds that they are disobedient to the magisterium, but on the grounds that they are negligent of the common good.
The hallmark of the Dominican tradition is to integrate philosophical and theological study both for the sake of advancing the tradition itself and for the sake of applying it, with authority, to contemporary questions. In the Dominican tradition, this is what it means to preach: not merely to exhort the faithful to a holy life, but to put the tradition at their disposal so that they may apply it with authority to contemporary life and therefore to undertake the work of Christ, which is to redeem the world."
A look at a couple more topics from John Allen's new book, The Future Church, before I leave. For those who haven't read it, you need to know that Allen is looking very specifically at what the 21st century may be like for the Catholic Church. Since we have almost finished the first decade of that century, he is really looking most specifically at the 40 years between now and 2050.
After reading the chapter on "Evangelical Catholicism" two times, I see why the reviewer at Commonweal was less than enthusiastic about the book. Listen to the words Allen uses to describe the future of "liberal" Catholicism:
"years in the wilderness" "catacomb" "likely to decline" "worst of times" for reformers "find themselves out of a job" "harbors in the storm" "feel increasingly uncomfortable in other Catholic venues" "Exile" "Schism"
It says a great deal about Allen's status that he was able to write in as straight forward a fashion as he has while, famously, still working for the National Catholic Reporter, a major center of influence for progressive Catholicism.
In Allen's judgement, a 21st century Church focusing on Catholic identity is not going to be hospitable to "liberal" Catholics.
Their options as Allen sees them:
Near Certain 1) Abandon the intra-ecclesial debates and attempts to set policy which they can not win and focus their efforts on mission outside the Church, engaging social and political questions. LIberal Catholic reform movements will decline inside but there may be a burgeoning audience for their message outside the Church.
2) Work within the Church but focus on areas of Church teaching and activity where the bishops will support them: poverty, war and peace, ending the death penalty, protecting the environment.
Allen holds up the community of Sant'Egidio as a model. He writes that Sant'Egidio was founded at the height of the 60's by "progressive Catholics who didn't want to leave the Church." The community has focused on the Church's mission to the poor,anti-death penalty campaigning, peace-making and conflict resolution, ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. And they have prospered. "In the twenty first century, movements such as Sant'Egidio are the future of liberal Catholic activism."
Probable 3) Migrate. Many liberal Catholics will leave (or be forced out of) the parochial system: parishes and dioceses, schools and hospitals, and Pontifical Universities and take refuge in institutions run by older, progressive religious orders.
4) Advocates for new approaches will have to phrase their proposals in the language of the Church in order to be heard.
5) Informal "schisms" grow in the global North. Liberal Catholics regard themselves as in a form of "internal exile"
Long Shot: 6) Schism in the North: In Europe and North America. Unlikely because there is no Bishop with a strong following who seems to be willing to lead such a formal break.
As I read, I couldn't help it but think of how Europeans regarded their future in 1910 before the horrors of World War I turned the world upside down. Before Communism rose. Before the Nazis and the Holocaust and World War II and the long years of the Cold War. Could they have even imagined 21st century Islamic terrorism and 9/11? In 1910, the Ottoman Empire was regarded as the "Sick Man of Europe" and the larger Muslim world seemed prone before the western colonial powers. But that was before oceans of oil was discovered under those desert sands.
It is very difficult to project the present into the future. And yet, it isn't completely useless as long as we remind ourselves of how extremely contingent such speculation is.
I was struck by what Allen did not talk about in his book as a whole (not just with reference to the future of liberal Catholicism) : the action of God.
Please hear me: I am NOT saying and I do NOT believe that Allen does not believe that God is at work. He just does not address that here in his role as a journalist and focuses instead on observable sociological trends. That's a legitimate approach and perfectly understandable approach (he is not a theologian or spiritual director and the subject he has tackled is already extremely complicated).
But I believe that we cannot talk about the future without taking God's redeeming action into account. I believe that history is changed by the action of God through his people just as it is changed by evil and folly. So I hope to blog on that aspect of the situation later.
I also could not help but hear echoes of the language that traditional Catholics use of their experiences in the 60's and 70's during the heyday of Catholics liberalism. They too felt themselves to be in internal exile, in the wilderness, etc. How long will the pendulum continue to swing wildly?
Allen sums it up his findings in a way that is sure to tick off both liberal and traditional Catholics:
"the recent past of Catholicism belonged to the liberals, its present belongs to the evangelicals, and the future belongs to the Pentecostals.”
Heading north tomorrow. 10 days in Anchorage with my sister. It's 10 below there tonight and the amount of daylight drops by nearly 5 minutes every day at this time of year. This will be an experience.
We will have the chance to go dog sledding as a wonderful local Iditarod racer and Called & Gifted alum, Eric Rogers, has offered to let us meet his dogs and take us for ride.
And I hope to see the Northern LIghts!
I will have internet access and probably the time to blog so you'll be hearing from me.
I've been hanging out in Corpus Christi for about ten days now; giving talks on the Holy Spirit in Scripture in some parishes, giving four talks on a weekend retreat called, Catholic Journey of Faith, doing some gifts interviews, a Q&A at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, and doing some administrative work for the Institute.
Catholic Journey of Faith is one of about a dozen different parish evangelization processes found in the diocese of Corpus Christi. This is an eight-week course offered in a parish, with a 45 minute talk each week followed by Q&A and a small group discussion. The seventh week includes a Saturday retreat with more presentations, singing, adoration, and prayers for healing. I gave a three-hour session on Sunday on applying what people had learned and experienced on the retreat, and gave a plug for the Called & Gifted workshop that will be held at the Cathedral this coming weekend.
The goals of the CJOF are "to provide a group study environment for Catholics, Christians, Protestants, and non- Christians, to all come together to either deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ or to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ. We come together to promote fellowship to strengthen our parish community and to lift up the Body of Christ. We conduct ourselves in accordance with church teachings, sacred scripture of the Catholic Bible and the Catechism. To develop all human talents given to us to glorify God through Song & Praise (Music) worship, Bible study and group discussion, a better understanding of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. To promote stewardship and to be docile to the Holy Spirit as John Paul II called us to do. To foster a conversion of hearts and a commitment to Jesus Christ."
At the evening session that followed the retreat Tuesday night, a 16 year-old girl who is unmarried and six months pregnant stood up and gave this testimony, which I share with you.
Growing up as a child I wasn’t really into my faith. My parents would literally have to drag me and my sister to church. I guess when your struggles get even worse at such a young age you really have no one to turn to but God. Our family wasn’t perfect and where we lived wasn’t perfect, but like my mama put it, “at least the roof didn’t leak”.
Last May, we were the chosen family for a new house. It was for the Habitat for Humanity. It took about 19 months to build and we finally have a house that we can say “won’t fall apart”. I know our family, especially my mother, wanted this house. I say, “my mother especially” because without her and her trust and faith in God, we would have never got to where we are now. And if it wasn’t for my mom, I would’ve never started coming to the Journey of Faith and I’m so glad I did. It’s really nice to wake up in the morning on a Tuesday and say “Today’s another day I can get closer to the Lord”. When they mentioned the retreat, I thought maybe this will be good for me and it was. It turned out to be one of the wonderful things I’ve done on my own.
The day of the retreat when I entered the kitchen to eat my breakfast, I noticed the upper part of my back started hurting and earlier in the days, it hurt, so I wasn’t concerned, it usually went away. When I sat with my team (on the retreat), it got worse, then I felt nauseated. Either I was going to cry or release the stomach pain. So I did what I had to do, I went to the restroom and threw up. My grandma came in with my mother and I told them I had to change clothes. My grandma asked my mom if she wanted her to take me home. And I really couldn’t think of why it was hurting so bad. Then I snapped and told my mom “I’m coming back!” So we left, I changed and came back. The pain went away when we left the retreat and as I walked back in the doors, the pain got even worse. But I stuck it out just a bit longer, then the pain got unbearable to the point where I felt I couldn’t stand. I wanted to go home, but then all I could think of was what made me snap earlier in the day and I told God “I’m not giving up, I’m staying.” I tried everything to relieve the pain. I even thought maybe going to confession would help. Talking to Susan (one of the speakers and a member of the Intercessors of the Lamb) about how much I’ve been hurt and still nothing relieved the pain. Susan really wanted me to stay for the Mass and the Healing Service, so I sucked it up and stayed.
I’m so happy that I did, because a lot things came out of this day that were good. I learned to forgive the people that I expected I would never forgive. I prayed more than I have prayed in my life. And out of my whole pregnancy, now 6 months, my little girl received the Holy Eucharist for the first time. So I got a lot out of those two days.
Now for my ending, I want to explain to you what made me snap… it was Satan. He knew my being there would change me for the better and bring me closer to God. Walking out of the retreat the second day, I was so angry but yet so happy and it was because Satan put me through so much pain, but he did not win. The saddest part of all of this is that it took me 16 years to realize that the Lord will never give up on me and He loves me more than I will ever know. He’s real in every way and for the time that’s left, I need to keep my faith in Him. Without Him, there is no possible way of living our lives easily.
On October 22, at a papal audience, Pope Benedict said, "Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us."
The exuberant Rae Stabosz had a funny conversion on her way out of that Called & Gifted workshop in Chicago last summer.
"I started investing in the stock market this summer. So far, it's a fascinating adventure. In the past, the market bored me but I am willing to admit now that it was not so much boredom as prejudice and spiritual snobbery. I viewed it as "unworthy" a subject for study, for an aspiring saint.
That all changed when I took a Called and Gifted workshop this summer in Chicago, from the Catherine of Siena Institute. There I learned to get off my high horse and disabuse myself of the idea that money itself is the root of all evil. NO, NO, NO - it's the LOVE OF MONEY that is the root of all evil, or so the saying goes. I don't even know where the saying comes from.
Just goes to show that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.
It turns out that I score very high in the charism of Giving, one of whose manifestations is the ability to create wealth in order to give it generously where it is needed. I've always enjoyed being generous, and I've always enjoyed hustling for money, but I never put the two together before that workshop as two sides of the same charismatic coin.
So I'm having a blast in the market."
Rae is scheduled to reveal her secret recipe for making a quick and honorable fortune on Oprah next week. (Ok, that's a lie but she will tell you all about it on her blog.)
Buy low, sell high. Ditch those Starbucks stocks.
I have been regularly stunned and amazed at what God does through the Called & Gifted discernment process. I think of it as a divine "shock and awe" campaign. Rae's story just makes me grin.
Of course, the ultimate test of a charism is effectiveness. We'll know when she gives some of the those freshly minted dollars to the Institute! :-}