There was You tube, then God tube, now there's Love to be Catholic. Same idea: broadcase self-generated videos but only solidly Catholic stuff. It's just up so the content is meager but it is early days yet.
It's odd that Catholics who are historically the great artists and writers because our faith is sacramental, aren't nearly as creative in the video department. The Catholic videos that I've seen so far are essentially all straight catechesis or preaching or filmed liturgies - with or without music. Enthusiastic undoubtedly, triumphalist sometimes, but largely without imagination or humor.
They remind me very much of the earnest evangelical "art" that I grew up around. (I can still remember a professor comment with a bit of a shudder that so many of his Christian students thought that Carmen was great art).
Of course, Love To Be Catholic does market itself as an evangelization tool and I suppose that is the point. Evangelization is its own art form, in a sense, and great art is a different endeavor - the creation of beauty - although it certainly can have a powerful evangelical impact.
But it would be wonderful to see some Catholic videos that aren't just knock-offs of evangelial prototypes or EWTN. Where are the Flannery O'Connors of the new media?
Per John Allen this morning in a article that is primarily about the distribution of Cardinals among the Catholic populations of the world but has some fascinating stats about the transformation of Catholicism during the course of the 20th century.
In 1900, there were 266 million Catholics in the world, 200 million of whom lived in Europe and North America. (75%)
Just a century later, there were 1.1 billion Catholics, only 380 million of whom were in Europe and North America with 720 million in Latin America, Africa and Asia. The global South accounted for 25 percent of the Catholic population a century ago; today it's 67 percent and climbing.
Drawing on the most recent edition of the Annuario, the Vatican's official yearbook, the global Catholic population breaks down as follows: Latin America, 43 percent; Europe, 22 percent; Africa, 14 percent; Asia, 11 percent; North America, 8 percent; and Oceania, 2 percent.
Here's a projection of what the top ten Catholic countries on earth will be in 2050, as measured by population:
Brazil: 215 million Mexico: 132 million Philippines: 105 million United States: 99 million (we are the largest Christian nation in the world but only the 4th largest Catholic country) Democratic Republic of Congo: 97 million Uganda: 56 million France: 49 million Italy: 49 million Nigeria: 47 million Argentina: 46.1 million
The huge influx of Poles into Britain since 2004 when Poland was admitted into the European Union is changing the face of British Catholicism and British life in dramatic ways. The New York Times has a colorful multi-media piece on Polish immigrants in London this morning.
500,000 Catholic immigrants over the past few years have made Catholic Church attendance take off. One London congregation was down to only 20 parishioners but suddenly had 1,400 in Mass on Sunday when they added a Portuguese Mass! In northern Ireland, where the police had been attempted to recruit more Catholic police officers because local Catholics mistrust the largely Protestant force, nearly 1000 Poles solved the problem by signing up.
"It is very, very good, but sometimes it can be difficult" to have so many parishioners, said Tadeusz Wyszomirski, a parish priest at Our Lady Mother of the Church in west London.
Even though he recently added a seventh Sunday Mass -- all of them are in Polish -- the large church with grand stained-glass windows still overflows at most services. Some people kneel in the aisles, others stand outside even in London's cold winter rain. Crowds also flock to the church's three daily Masses in Polish on weekdays.
"I hope it continues to grow," he said. But the five priests are very busy, he added, trying to keep up with all the weddings, baptisms and home visits to the sick.
At Sunday's 11:30 a.m. Mass, Marszalkowska stood outside, listening to prayers over loudspeakers with her 9-week-old baby and her father, who is visiting from Poland. She said she speaks both English and Polish but looks forward to hearing the Mass in her native language.
Afterward, she joined other churchgoers in the basement for tea and Polish pastries -- including huge slices of a very popular apple cake.
Monika Swierczyusko, who came here two years ago from Poland, was working behind the counter. She said she works in a factory six days a week and helps out at the church every Sunday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
"I don't understand people who don't like to go to church," she said, as another thousand people settled in upstairs for the next Mass.
There was much speculation last spring that Catholicism might become the dominant religion in Great Britain after 500 years of Protestant dominance.
Whether or not that happens, the new British Catholicism certainly won't be the Catholicism of, say, Brideshead Revisited. For one thing, the liturgical debates that have convulsed the Anglo world in recent decades have very little resonance for Poles. The Mass has been celebrated in the venacular in Poland since the 1940's with very little trauma. Just surviving in those days was traumatic enough. Dealing with the Nazis and the Communists and the death and deportation of 1/3 of your population tends to change your perspective on such things.
A lovely practice among Poles is to celebrate Christmas (and sing Christmas carols) for 40 days through Candlemas Day (February 2). What a wonderful thing it would be if that practice began to permeate the English speaking Catholic world!
One of the consequences of being a member of a truly world-wide faith at a time of globalization is change. The Poles and Portuguese are changing the face and practice of Catholicism in Britain today just as Hispanics and Vietnamese immigrants are changing the face of American Catholicism; just as Irish and German immigrants put their stamp on the American Church of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Our priorities, our debates, our practice and devotion will all be slowly transformed by the presence of the same faith shaped by a different historical experience and culture as their practice will slowly be changed by our traditions.
There is one Catholic faith but there are probably hundreds of Catholic "cultures" or "sensibilities". To talk of a single unitive Catholic "culture" as is so often done around St. Blog's is simply nonsense and is certainly not catholic.
There are as many Catholic cultures as there are Catholic peoples attempting to live and apply the one faith in the context of their own unique culture, history, time and place. Each unique Catholic culture will see, treasure, highlight, reverence, and celebrate different aspects of that one faith.
This wonderful diversity in a single communion is one of the great riches of living as a Catholic today. Catholicism in the 21st century does literally mean "here comes everybody."
Pray for Avery Cardinal Dulles. This bulletin was issued October 5 and I haven't been able to find any other information about his illness on the web so I don't know how he is doing today.
I met and spent a little time with Cardinal Dulles in April at the Evangelical Catholic Conference where we were both speaking. He was very frail then, having just gotten out of the hospital after a long stay.
As I wrote on ID then:
But the most moving personal moment for me was meeting and spending a little time with Cardinal Avery Dulles. He is elderly and very frail now and walks with a four pronged cane, but still very sharp and possessing a lovely sense of humor. Very unpretentious - he simply introduced himself at breakfast as "Hello, I'm Avery Dulles". I got to sit at his small table at dinner and again at breakfast but the most memorable moment did not involve any words.
I visited the large, beautiful chapel before breakfast to spend a few minutes in adoration and found three other people there. Two students and Avery Dulles. He was alone, without his young priest assistant, who had been constantly at his side, steadying him throughout Mass and helping him ascend the podium. No longer able to kneel, he sat praying in a corner, his cane beside him.
The hidden source of all that wisdom.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Sister Anne-Marie Kirmse, OP, Personal Assistant to His Eminence, Avery Cardinal Dulles, contacted the Diocesan Office of Catechesis with the news that Cardinal Dulles has developed a sudden neurological problem which has rendered speech near impossible. Therefore, with regret, it is announced that due to this sudden physical ailment, Avery Cardinal Dulles has canceled his visit to the Diocese of Lansing. Cardinal Dulles' doctors have determined that he did not suffer a stroke; however, the origin of this neurological condition remains as yet unknown. He remains alert and able to communicate by writing. The Cardinal is undergoing testing to determine the exact nature of his condition and the correct course of treatment.
While asking your prayers for the Cardinal's restored health, I wish to emphasize that the Diocesan Catechetical Days will proceed as planned. The workshops and presentations are still being offered, as well as opportunities for catechist formation and enrichment. The full text of Cardinal Dulles' keynote address will be read by a priest of the Diocese of Lansing in his place.
Cardinal Dulles conveys his deep regret that he will not be able to join us, along with his hope that the Diocesan Catechetical Days will be blessed with much success and that they will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those who are engaged in this important ministry.
Michael E. Andrews Director, Office of Catechesis Roman Catholic Diocese of Lansing
What a wonderful story of an extraordinarily creative and faithful lay apostle from Indian Catholic:
When Lingareddy Johannes Reddy came here as a teenager 63 years ago, the nearest Catholics were kilometers away.
Now, Mariapuram and five other villages served by Hyderabad archdiocese's Uminthal parish have more than 1,200 Catholics.
Archbishop Marampudi Joji of Hyderabad credits the 77-year-old Catholic layman for sowing and nurturing the Catholic faith almost on his own in an area of about 500 square kilometers.
Reddy related to UCA News that he was just 14 when his family moved here in 1944 from Guntur district, 300 kilometers southeast of Uminthal. The Reddys and two other Catholic families jointly bought about 60 hectares of land for cultivation, and they named the place Mariapuram (Mary's village).
A priest from neighboring Nalgonda diocese could visit only twice a year to administer sacraments and tend to other pastoral needs, Reddy recalled, but the Catholics later brought the priest on a bullock cart once a month for Mass.
Reddy remembered having no Bible when he began teaching villagers the basics of Catholicism. He said he learned the basics as a child from his father, who would explain them in the evenings after farm work. Reddy said he wanted to share the "strong Catholic faith and firm belief" he had inherited.
The villagers recognized his commitment and chose Reddy to lead their faith community when he was 16, with a fourth-grade education. In 1952, he married Jetrudamma, and their two daughters and six sons include a Jesuit priest.
Reddy's youngest son Bal remembers as many as 200 people attending his father's evening catechetical classes, which sometimes went beyond 10 p.m. Jetrudamma also taught prayers.
The layman's efforts bore fruit in 1968, when 170 people of Gattupally village were baptized. Archbishop Samineni Arulappa of Hyderabad sent five priests to conduct that ceremony. Ten years later, the archbishop sent Father T. Greenway, a Mill Hill missioner, to begin a mission in the area.
Reddy acknowledges that on his own he brought about 600 people from three neighboring villages to the Church. One village later became the base of Pargi parish and the home of Yesu Sneha Nilayam (abode of Christ's love) Church.
Reddy did not limit his service to preaching, his wife pointed out to UCA News. During a drought in 1972, she said, he distributed food items from U.S. Church aid agencies, and personally paid the transportation expenses.
Some villagers told UCA News about how Reddy has helped them. R. Rayappa, 50, a day laborer living in Manachanapally, said the lay leader obtains food for the poor, and even helps settle family problems and land disputes.
Sandaiah Doma, 52, a Catholic farmer in Gattupally, said Reddy conducted prayers in his village, which today has 60 Catholic, 10 Muslim and four Hindu families. When they were jobless, Reddy invited them to work in Mariapuram.
Father K.D. Joseph, the Pargi parish priest, told UCA News that though Reddy belongs to a high-caste group, he has worked mainly among dalit, people who come from the lowest castes and were once called "untouchable."
According to Father Stanislaus Manickyam, another priest in Pargi, Reddy has inspired local Christians to lead a good Christian life. As a result, the priest said, Hindu traders prefer farm produce from Mariapuram for its reliable quality and quantity, and bankers never hesitate to grant loans to the villagers since they are sure of being repaid.
Speaking of looking toward the good . . Ironic Catholic is featuring an interview with Paul Cat of Alive and Young today as part of their series on Catholic blogging humor. Since ID was already well launched in a Wodehousian vein, I thought it would good to revisit the truly memorable
I overhead some of your conversation. What about Christ were y’all discussing?” I inquired.
“We were just discussing the humanity and divinity of Christ,” replied the man sitting nearest me.
“What about it were you discussing?”
“Well,” replied the other man farther from me. “I just can’t see how Christ is both fully human and divine.”
“Oh, you mean the Hypostatic union of Christ. I happen to be enrolled in a Christian Doctrine class at the University of Notre Dame Du Lac, and I just leaned about the hypostatic union the other day. Maybe I can help” I stated.
“The hypostatic union is kind of like this black and tan,” I began.
I was barely finished saying the phrase when at once I could see their eyes light up, ears perk, and both men seemed to lean a little close to me. At the thought of mixing religion and beer and their reactions to my opening comment, I knew I was speaking their language. I continued:
“You see, Christ was both true man and true God. That is, He has two different natures. Just like this Black and Tan has two different natures – or styles -- of beer within its glass. Yet, even though there are two styles of beer in a Black and Tan they are both contained in the one drink that is called a Black and Tan. Likewise, Christ’s two natures are both found in the one Person called Jesus of Nazareth.
“If you look closely at the Black and Tan you will see that there is no separation between the Guinness and Bass: no division. One beer seems to flow into the other. It is similar to Christ. He has no distinctions or separation between his two natures. Christ’s humanity and divinity both work in harmony with one another: just as Guinness and Bass work together in harmony to make a Black and Tan. To remove one nature from the two would be to radically change the definition of both the drink and Christ. Remove the Guinness and there is no Black and Tan, there is only Black. Remove Christ’s divinity (if such an thing is possible, which it isn’t) and there is no Christ, there is only Jesus the Man and not Jesus the Christ.
“Furthermore, there is also no confusion between the two beers – likewise, there is no confusion between the two natures of Christ. That is why the drink is called a Black and Tan. If there were confusion between the two beers in the one glass it would be called something else: maybe a Brown would be a fitting name.
“Lastly, a careful examination of a Black and Tan reveals that the distinction and preservation of each beer is present. The Bass at the bottom still contains all the properties and characteristics of what it means to be Bass. The Guinness layered on top contains all the properties and characteristics of what it means to be Guinness.
“It is the same with Christ. There are still two natures of Christ: one, 100 percent human containing all the properties and characteristics of what it means to be human, the other is 100 percent divine containing all the properties and characteristics of what it means to be divine. Each nature is preserved in the one Person of Jesus Christ. Where the distinction of Christ’s divinity and humanity occur, I do not know for certain, and it is not as certain and as clear as it is with the Black and Tan. Perhaps it might be most clear in His Passion, death, and Resurrection.”
It is the mark of a happy disposition to see good rather than evil. Wherefore if someone has conferred a favor, not as he ought to have conferred it, the recipient should not for that reason withhold his thanks. Yet he owes less thanks than if the favor had been conferred duly, since in fact the favor is less, for, as Seneca remarks (De Benef. ii.) "promptness enhances, delay discounts a favor."
"To see good rather than evil" -- the Latin is, "ut magis attendat ad bonum quam ad malum," which may be more like "to pay more attention to good than to evil."
This struck me as a neat little formula (neater still in Latin, perhaps, with the "boni/bonum" parallel). If you have a good disposition, you notice and respond more to the good in those around you than the evil. Contrapositively, if you respond more to the evil, you probably don't have a good disposition.
Moreover -- and I know nothing about the history of the "boni animi" as a philosophical concept, so this might be a silly thing to draw attention to -- St. Thomas's argument assumes that people should have a good disposition, or at the very least that they should follow the lead of those who do.
I think this points to one of my pet themes (touched on in various ways, most recently with the posts about loving the sinner) that human nature is properly oriented toward the good.
Some people express themselves primarily in terms of "away from the evil." And to be fair, there are some topics that really are about avoiding evil. But that's an unnatural orientation for a human, especially for a Christian, who ought to be directed toward Christ first and foremost, and away from other things only by implication. (If you see what I mean.)
Others strike a balance in being "away from evil toward the good." Even Scripture does this in places (e.g., "I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse"). But when we think in these terms, it seems to me we need to avoid thinking we're in some third state from which we make our choice.
Let me try putting it this way: If I am looking toward Jesus, then I am necessarily looking away from other things (in the limit of Christian perfection, I'm looking away from all that is not God). But what I am actually doing is looking toward Jesus. I'm not looking away from evil and hey, what do you know, here's Jesus in front of me! I can't see what I'm not looking at; I certainly shouldn't be thinking about not looking at it.
True, a person might flee evil and collide unexpectedly into Jesus. But once they've seen Him, they shouldn't take their eyes off Him, not even to rebuke what they've fled.
Exactly. There are so many situations in life where this is playing out today: in our culture wars, in our liturgy wars, in the debates over "Catholic identity" and in our attempts at evangelization.
When we try to proclaim Christian morality without first proclaiming Christ, we give the impression that we have nothing beautiful, good and true to look toward. When we do not first present Christ whom we know and love and follow, but mutter abstractions about Christian "values", we will be understood by the average person as entirely negative since they assume Christian values are exhausted by a few wearily familiar "don'ts".
That's the impression many, many people that I've talked to who were raised within the Church received from their childhood catechesis.
Should sir or madam desire it, it is possible to purchase an elegant British timepiece that awakens one with the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry, the world's most perfect English valet, uttering gems such as
I'm delighted that you survived another night. May I add my my own small congratulations to the roar of the world's approval? Thank you, sir.
Good morning, Madam. The current issue of Vogue has devoted its issue to your sense of style, beauty, purpose and personal grandeur. It may be advisable to use the rear entrance today, Madam, to avoid the crowds.
And how could sir or madam resist the chance to be gently nudged awake by
Good morning. I'm so sorry to disturb you but it appears to be morning. Very inconvenient, I agree. I believe it is the rotation of the earth that is to blame.
Listen to the samples. Morning will never be the same.
Tom reminds me that Jeeves is a valet, not a butler. My head was full of an upcoming presentation when I posted in haste but there can be no excuse for such an error. One wonders if the term "gentleman's personal gentleman" would be wholly appropriate for one who would awaken Madam as well. One does indeed.
I love this. I don't know if I had even heard of blogging in May of 2002 when Pope John Paul II issued this message but it certainly seems relevant today. I've italicized some points I found most thought-provoking.
MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER FOR THE 36th WORLD COMMUNICATIONS DAY
THEME: "Internet: A New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel"
Sunday, May 12, 2002
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. The Church in every age continues the work begun on the day of Pentecost, when the Apostles, in the power of the Holy Spirit, went forth into the streets of Jerusalem to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in many tongues (cf. Acts 2:5-11). Through the succeeding centuries, this evangelizing mission spread to the far corners of the earth, as Christianity took root in many places and learned to speak the diverse languages of the world, always in obedience to Christ's command to preach the Gospel to every nation (cf. Mt 28:19-20).
But the history of evangelization is not just a matter of geographic expansion, for the Church has also had to cross many cultural thresholds, each of which called for fresh energy and imagination in proclaiming the one Gospel of Jesus Christ. The age of the great discoveries, the Renaissance and the invention of printing, the Industrial Revolution and the birth of the modern world: these too were threshold moments which demanded new forms of evangelization. Now, with the communications and information revolution in full swing, the Church stands unmistakably at another decisive gateway. It is fitting therefore that on this World Communications Day 2002 we should reflect on the subject: “Internet: A New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel".
2. The Internet is certainly a new “forum” understood in the ancient Roman sense of that public space where politics and business were transacted, where religious duties were fulfilled where much of the social life of the city took place, and where the best and the worst of human nature was on display. It was a crowded and bustling urban space, which both reflected the surrounding culture and created a culture of its own. This is no less true of cyberspace, which is as it were a new frontier opening up at the beginning of this new millennium. Like the new frontiers of other times, this one too is full of the interplay of danger and promise, and not without the sense of adventure that marked other great periods of change. For the Church the new world of cyberspace is a summons to the great adventure of using its potential to proclaim the Gospel message. This challenge is at the heart of what it means at the beginning of the millennium to follow the Lord's command to "put out into the deep”: Duc in altum! (Lk 5:4).
3. The Church approaches this new medium with realism and confidence. Like other communications media, it is a means, not an end in itself. The Internet can offer magnificent opportunities for evangelization if used with competence and a clear awareness of its strengths and weaknesses. Above all, by providing information and stirring interest it makes possible an initial encounter with the Christian message, especially among the young who increasingly turn to the world of cyberspace as a window on the world. It is important, therefore, that the Christian community think of very practical ways of helping those who first make contact through the Internet to move from the virtual world of cyberspace to the real world of Christian community.
At a subsequent stage, the Internet can also provide the kind of follow-up which evangelization requires. Especially in an unsupportive culture, Christian living calls for continuing instruction and catechesis, and this is perhaps the area in which the Internet can provide excellent help. There already exist on the Net countless sources of information, documentation and education about the Church, her history and tradition, her doctrine and her engagement in every field in all parts of the world. It is clear, then, that while the Internet can never replace that profound experience of God which only the living, liturgical and sacramental life of the Church can offer, it can certainly provide a unique supplement and support in both preparing for the encounter with Christ in community, and sustaining the new believer in the journey of faith which then begins.
4. There are nevertheless certain necessary, even obvious, questions which arise in using the Internet in the cause of evangelization. The essence of the Internet in fact is that it provides an almost unending flood of information, much of which passes in a moment. In a culture which feeds on the ephemeral there can easily be a risk of believing that it is facts that matter, rather than values. The Internet offers extensive knowledge, but it does not teach values; and when values are disregarded, our very humanity is demeaned and man easily loses sight of his transcendent dignity. Despite its enormous potential for good, some of the degrading and damaging ways in which the Internet can be used are already obvious to all, and public authorities surely have a responsibility to guarantee that this marvellous instrument serves the common good and does not become a source of harm.
Furthermore, the Internet radically redefines a person's psychological relationship to time and space. Attention is rivetted on what is tangible, useful, instantly available; the stimulus for deeper thought and reflection may be lacking. Yet human beings have a vital need for time and inner quiet to ponder and examine life and its mysteries, and to grow gradually into a mature dominion of themselves and of the world around them. Understanding and wisdom are the fruit of a contemplative eye upon the world, and do not come from a mere accumulation of facts, no matter how interesting. They are the result of an insight which penetrates the deeper meaning of things in relation to one another and to the whole of reality. Moreover, as a forum in which practically everything is acceptable and almost nothing is lasting, the Internet favours a relativistic way of thinking and sometimes feeds the flight from personal responsibility and commitment.
In such a context, how are we to cultivate that wisdom which comes not just from information but from insight, the wisdom which understands the difference between right and wrong, and sustains the scale of values which flows from that difference?
5. The fact that through the Internet people multiply their contacts in ways hitherto unthinkable opens up wonderful possibilities for spreading the Gospel. But it is also true that electronically mediated relationships can never take the place of the direct human contact required for genuine evangelization. For evangelization always depends upon the personal witness of the one sent to evangelize (cf. Rom 10:14-15). How does the Church lead from the kind of contact made possible by the Internet to the deeper communication demanded by Christian proclamation? How do we build upon the first contact and exchange of information which the Internet makes possible?
There is no doubt that the electronic revolution holds out the promise of great positive breakthroughs for the developing world; but there is also the possibility that it will in fact aggravate existing inequalities as the information and communications gap widens. How can we ensure that the information and communications revolution which has the Internet as its prime engine will work in favour of the globalization of human development and solidarity, objectives closely linked to the Church's evangelizing mission?
Finally, in these troubled times, let me ask: how can we ensure that this wondrous instrument first conceived in the context of military operations can now serve the cause of peace? Can it favour that culture of dialogue, participation, solidarity and reconciliation without which peace cannot flourish? The Church believes it can; and to ensure that this is what will happen she is determined to enter this new forum, armed with the Gospel of Christ, the Prince of Peace.
6. The Internet causes billions of images to appear on millions of computer monitors around the planet. From this galaxy of sight and sound will the face of Christ emerge and the voice of Christ be heard? For it is only when his face is seen and his voice heard that the world will know the glad tidings of our redemption. This is the purpose of evangelization. And this is what will make the Internet a genuinely human space, for if there is no room for Christ, there is no room for man. Therefore, on this World Communications Day, I dare to summon the whole Church bravely to cross this new threshold, to put out into the deep of the Net, so that now as in the past the great engagement of the Gospel and culture may show to the world "the glory of God on the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). May the Lord bless all those who work for this aim.
From the Vatican, 24 January 2002, the Feast of Saint Francis de Sales
Every August, the Toulouse province of Dominicans (friars and sisters) does a week of beach evangelization.
From August 8th to the 15th, Dominican friars and sisters came together at the beach to provide prayer and fraternity with a group of students and young professionals. The theme for the week was, appropriately: the treasure hidden in the sands. In addition to evenings at the cafe and beach volleyball, the friars offered a substantial serving of prayer and catechesis. Lauds (Morning Prayer) and Vespers (Evening Prayer) were prayed each day. In addition, there was a daily morning conference. The subjects of the conferences included: Dieu Un et Trine: invention des théologiens? [God One and Triune, Invention of Theologians?], L’homme créé à l’image de Dieu : le christianisme est-il une religion de la grandeur humaine? [Man created in the image of God: Is Christianity a religion of human greatness?]; and Dieu-fait-homme: a-t-on besoin du Christ pour entrer en relations avec Dieu? [God made man: Does one need Christ to be in relation with God?].
During the week, there was also time for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. There were also devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially in honor of the Feast of her Assumption, which concluded the week.
Of course, every week is La Week OP when one is privileged to work with such stellar Dominicans as Fr. Mike and Br. Matthew, mais oui?
What is a normal Christian life? This question occurred to me recently during a discussion with some friends. We often take 'normal' to be synonymous with 'typical' or 'routine'. Given this understanding of the word and judging by the many statistical studies which have been done regarding the religious practices and beliefs of self-identified Christians, we would have to conclude that a normal Christian life is pretty hard to distinguish from the life of a normal unbeliever, albeit with some differences regarding matters of belief and disbelief. However, if statistics are to be believed, in other factors such as rate of divorce, spousal abuse, work ethic, the propensity to cheat on tests and staying chaste before marriage, we really don't distinguish ourselves that much, if at all, from the non-baptized. The thorny theological problems which these kind of considerations provoked prompted Fr. Paul Quay SJ to write his magnificent work The Mystery Hidden for Ages in God. The main theme of the book is the idea of recapitulation, which says that each Christian is to
(a) relive in Christ, during the first portion of his life, all that God led His people through from the fall of Adam to Christ’s death and resurrection, and,
(b) thereafter, live as a son of God in Christ in the full freedom of the Holy Spirit, so as to glorify the Father in the Church by making Him known to all men through the Spirit’s power. (pg. 7)
That is, recapitulation happens as each individual Christian lives out the biblical narrative from Genesis to God's disclosure of the "mystery hidden for ages in God" which is the message of the Gospel: Christ's life, death and resurrection and the saving power of these events in the life of believers. All Christians relive the terrible effects of Original Sin described in Genesis. They feel the sting of sin; the pain of separation from the God for whom they were created. They understand the hatred and disordered passions which drive them to spurn God's ways and hate their neighbor. They understand the difficulty of following God, like Moses and the Israelites before them, through the barren desert on the way to a distant promised land. They understand their own propensity toward idolatry. Rather than being a shining light to the nations around them, many Christians, like the ancient Israelites before them, can easily outdo the pagans in the land with regard to their infidelity and abominable actions. Like we read in the Prophets, Christians can spurn and kill God's messengers and despise God's challenging message. We too have to spend time in exile in Babylon.
However, Christians also, if they stay faithful and strive to progress in the Christian life, have a growing awareness of Christ's mysterious presence within them. Like the Apostles in Acts, they inexplicably find themselves doing what Christ did: they find themselves loving their enemies, laying down their lives for others, preaching the Kingdom of God and doing and witnessing miraculous deeds of power.
Fr. Quay's book goes into great detail, using the Fathers of the Church as his guide, as to how this reliving of Scripture takes place. I would recommend the book to all who can find it (its a bit hard to come by). With regard to the question posed at the beginning of this post, I think the message of Fr. Quay's book is that the story of every Christian, the normal Christian experience, with 'normal' here defined as 'the norm' or 'what ought to be the case', is laid out for us with great clarity in the Scriptures. We are to read there not some irrelevant stories which happened to people centuries before us, but our own life story: the story of our alienation from and return to God. This is what Pope Benedict was getting at when he said, in his recent book Jesus of Nazareth, that the saints are the true exegetes or interpreters of scripture. They relive the story. They are the normal Christians.
I know I have been scarce of late. I had planned to post on Barb Nicolosi's thoughts about what is needed to transform Hollywood, but our Blogtrix beat me to it. :)
One of the challenges of applying the Church's teaching to the secular world is the necessity of engaging the culture with a language that draws on our common human experience rather than relying solely on theological principles or revelation.
I've said many times that Vox Nova, a group blog where lay men and women wrestle with this cultural engagement, is one of the best blogs around. Recently, several members of Vox Nova engaged in conversation with a feminist blog (Feministe) regarding abortion and the possibility of finding common ground across the ideological divide of pro/anti abortion belief. The result has been a fascinating example of how people of good will can indeed find some common ground while recognizing real division that still exists between them. Of course, the conversation also demonstrated how the lack of good will can cause people to talk past each other and retreat into ideological fortresses.
I found this quote to be particularly moving:
What is important to note is that the “excellent” social positions advocated by many of the contributors at Vox Nova directly follow from the fundamental principles of what appears to Toonces as the women-hating Catholic Church. Catholic positions on peace, immigration, distribution of wealth, environmentalism all unfold from the implications of a robust faith in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, who in his person, unites two natures–human and divine. In him, time and eternity, creation and Creator, the physical and the spiritual are eternally betrothed. And who stands at the center of this cosmic unity in Christ? Humanity, in the full scope of its essence and activity. Thus, a genuine Catholic is, indeed, “excellent” on social positions for this excellence excels in the very confidence of the Word made flesh. What I would propose is that if Karen agrees with much of the social concern at Vox Nova, yet argues for the right to abortion, then it is she who perhaps only “almost” gets it, for without the key component of protection of the unborn, social concern deteriorates into sham humanitarianism. I would suggest that it is the Catholic position–and I do not mean the partly Catholic position that is strong on liturgy and doctrine, but weak on social justice–that totally “gets it.”
Go here and check out the whole post (and subsequent comments).