The inimitable Barb Nicolosi shoots from the hip and make sense - again:
I said this at an event in Wichita this past summer, and a young woman came up to me cradling a child in her arms and kind of got in my face (with all the "You've clearly been poisoned working in Sodom, I bet you receive Communion in the hand" subtext) and said, "You don't have children, do you?" As though, the having of children would also spawn the conviction that cultural endeavors are exclusively for the damned. (I wanted to say to this young chicken something to the effect that, "Actually, at last count I have about 700," but it occurred to me that the appeal to the notion of spiritual childhood would just be way too Apostolicam Actuositatem for her.)
" . . .we have only two real options for profoundly changing the channels (and literally changing the channels isn't one of them):
1) Create a new missionary imperative to recruit, form, support and commission for Hollywood a whole new generation of well-catechized, loving, merciful, prayerful, self-sacrificing, talented and professionally trained writers, directors, cinematographers, executives, producers, agents, attorneys, managers, publicists, editors, lighting designers, production designers, musicians, animators, and I suppose we must have some actors too.
2) Convert through prayer, sacrifice, patience and intentionality, the writers, directors, cinematographers, etc. who are already here.
Every other initiative to impact culture is ultimately straw.
And it is "straw" because it is not pleasing to God, who wants us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. And He also wants us to tell "all creation" the Good News. He just isn't that wrapped up in us making mediocre, low-budget pep-rally projects for the disciples who are cowering in caves wishing the non-believers would either go away, or at least entertain us without sex, language and violence.
I am struck once again by Barb's passionate take-no-prisoners wisdom and especially by her phrase prayer, sacrifice, patience and intentionality.
Boy does that resonate! Because it takes precisely that: long years of prayer, sacrifice, patience, and intentionality to live one's vocation(s) fruitfully and faithfully. To change the course of Hollywood or to affect the evangelization and formation of the baptized. Talk about a long obedience in the same direction . . .
Take this week for instance. It seems like a fairly quiet week but over time, as you answer a call, you forget what "ordinary" looks like has changed dramatically.
we're meeting with a bishop
We received an intriguing e-mail invitation to be part of an Orthodox-Catholic dialog on the theology and spirituality of the laity
Had a long conversation with our lay Australian director about all the opportunities opening up down under for the Institute
Received an inquiry by a priest doctoral student in Rome whose faculty advisor recommended that he contact us about research possibilities regarding collaboration between the clergy and laity
One of our staff is meeting with a family foundation interested in funding a major state initiative
Gave a talk to the DRE's of a major archdiocese
Writing a presentation to be given next week to graduate students of evangelization at a major seminary and prepping for a half-hour TV interview
Talked to an academic friend about possible funding for that graduate course on the "charismatic" in Catholic thought, history, and pastoral practice that I will be teaching next year at a major graduate school of theology
And it looks like I really will be able to begin work on that long-delayed book in the near future.
yet the week seems quiet. Probably because I haven't had to get on an airplane.
I still think of the Institute as a tiny, obscure, poverty-stricken, ramshackle outfit that is held together with paper clips and duck tape and kept afloat by God's grace and a series of small miracles. And so we are - but we are much bigger tiny-obscure-poverty-stricken-ramshackle-outfit than we used to be.
I joked with Fr. Mike yesterday that I must be the most obscure, very experienced, really, really good Catholic speaker out there. After 10 years of continuous travel and speaking in who knows how many venues, I apparently have no name recognition at all. My friend Mark's name is known everywhere I go. Barb Nicolosi is a personality. But I'm just warning you, folks. Don't ever try to draw people to an event by using my name. You'll get three who show up and a fourth who dropped by looking for some other event. They will rave when I'm done and tell their friends about this great talk they missed - but I'll be just as obscure when it is all over. It is both mysterious and classically Dominican.
And yet, despite our many liabilities, the level at which we are working has very slowly changed over the years like the tide rising. We haven't noticed it a good deal of the time because we were too busy bailing. Prayer, sacrifice, patience, and intentionality in answering God's call over the years is bearing fruit; the ripples of a thousand small, repeated obediences and sacrifices on the part of hundreds of people have become a major wave but although you have been there for the whole ride, you can't quite reconstruct how you got here.
The only thing you know is that it wasn't you. So real and powerful and mysterious is the work of God's grace in our lives. We can give up everything to cooperate with God's grace but at the end of that long obedience in the same direction, you know that it was all a gift.
Attention Polish readers of ID - especially if you attended Catholic University of Lublin (Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski).
My friend David Curp is a professor of eastern European history and especially of post-WWII Poland. David is acutely aware that most academics assume that when one speaks of the Church, one is really speaking of the clergy, not the laity and that really significant aspects of lay Catholic life have yet to be written about in English.
David is planning a large scaled research project - the KUL Project - about five cohorts of lay students who choose to study at the Catholic University of Lublin during the Communist years when they were also certain to be penalized for doing so. Dave is seeking to hear from lay students in the faculties of Philosophy and Humanities in the graduating classes of 1948, 1960, 1972, 1974 and 1980.
As Dave writes: the goal of this study is to consider the roles of faith, alienation (from the "new reality" of the PRL) and solidarity in sustaining and expanding KUL in the postwar era and to write a social history of KUL in the PRL.
Why did they choose KUL instead of a state university? How did graduating from KUL affect your career in People's Poland? Who helped you and why? Who discriminated against you? By pursuing these questions David hope to develop a more detailed description of lay religious life in Poland. Check out the KUL blog to learn more.
(Przepraszam, ze jeszcze nie pisze po polsku, a teraz chce zaczynac ten blog a to jest spieszniej dla mnie pisac po angielsku. To nie znaczy, oczywiscie, ze chce listy i informacje tylko po angielsku. Po okresie nauczanie w Ohio University tego kwartalu wiecej zamierzam pisac po polsku).
Which is the last intelligible Polish you are ever going to encounter on this blog!
I received this e-mail from a very dear friend a couple of weeks ago. Her and I were social justice peer ministers together at our Newman Center in Bellingham, Washington. She is the person who first encouraged me to join the Dominican Order. She entered religious life, the Maryknoll Dominican Sisters, around the same time I entered the Western Dominican Province. She is now heading off to a mission of several years in East Timor. I count myself privileged to know her and to be her friend. Please keep her and her apostolate in your prayers. She sent along this letter regarding the situation in Burma with a link where ID readers can go to help alleviate the suffering of the Burmese people. Please take a moment and sign the petition.
Dear Sisters and friends,
Greetings to you from Bellingham, my precious college town, where I'm visiting a dear friend. It's been wonderful to be home in the northwest,reconnecting with many special people and places. Three weeks ago I officially received my first mission assignment. In late December I will be going to South-East Asia. I've been assigned to the Maryknoll community in East Timor. This was my first choice and I'm very grateful to be moving there. It will not bean easy place to live or work...but I believe that God's grace, which calls me there, will give me what I need. This message, however, concerns the people in Burma. You may be aware of what's going on there, concerning the military's attempt to stop the non-violent protest movement. The people's pro-democracy and resistance movement got international attention once the Buddhist monks and nuns came into the streets. They began praying, chanting, and publicly calling for change,and their cries for an end to military oppression was clearly heard. Now the country is full of martyrs suffering from attacks, imprisonment, torture, and death. The military is leading a counter-movement to block all communication and terrorize the people into silence. My heart was instantly moved to prayer and solidarity with the Burmese people--especially because of my intimate friendship with Sarah, my group-mate from Burma/Myanmar. Because of the violence and repression,she can't go home to visit her family. And as I enjoy my family and friends, I ask myself, "what can I do?" Here is a petition addressed to the UN Security Council and Chinese government, pressuring them to intervene. Please join our efforts to show solidarity with the Burmese and ask the UN to intervene now. Join us in prayer to share the experience of non-violent actions for peace. Please sign this petition to share a political effort to help. This is an instant LINK to the petition. Please, do something for the Burmese...
"The dominant factor in our lives is Love: love of God, and love of neighbor as we love ourselves for love of God. The missioner's portion is a special consciousness of God's thirst and hunger for the love of all. It was to satisfy this love that we came here".
More than 300 Catholic families cannot celebrate mass and teach catechism in the Rosa Mystica Church at Crooswatta in Kotugoda parish (see photo), about 15 kilometres north of Colombo, because of fear of violence by Buddhist monks and extremists.
Fr Susith Silva, Episcopal vicar for the northern region of Colombo, told AsiaNews that the chief Buddhist monk at a nearby temple, Uddammita, along with other extremists, protested on September 28 against the construction, threatening that “if building does not stop by tomorrow, you’ll lose 10 to 15 lives.”
Father Silva went to court where the judge appealed to both sides to settle the dispute amicably and temporarily suspended the church extension. The parish has obeyed the injunction but this has not stopped the problems.
On October 6, police interrupted the celebration of mass and told Fr Siri Cooray to stop the function. Scared and wondering what was going to happen next worshipers were ordered home
Some 301 families for a total 1093 Catholics attend the local church. “Most are poor people,” said Father Silva, “and cannot pay for a taxi to the nearest church, which is several kilometres away.”
Catholics have now gone to court to be allowed to hold mass, catechism and other religious activities whilst the broader issue of the church building is solved. Buddhists have protested instead that this is an insult to the 348 Buddhist families living in the area.
Uddammita Buddahsiri, the Buddhist monk who heads Kotugoda’s Boddhirukkaramaya Buddhist Temple said that “most people in the area are Buddhist and they don’t want a church here. Catholics can go to the other two or three churches in the area. We are not going to let them finish the building. If it restarts the whole village is going to rise up.”
Pray for this community - and the fearful Buddhist community around them. Remember that the freedoms we enjoy are not the norm. Be grateful for those freedoms, be creative and loving in taking advantage of those freedoms.
"My parishioners did not know how to say 'no' to killing. We are baptizing, but we are not educating. How do we form Christians who are capable of saying 'no'?"
Anglican Archbishop Emmanuel Kollini, July 2005, to a Duke Divinity School group in Kigali, speaking of the killing of 800,000 people in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. What a terrible question - and how true and necessary that we ask it.
The Duke Center for Reconciliation is very impressive. Operating in the midst of the Divinity School, it's mission "flows from the Apostle Paul’s affirmation in 2 Corinthians 5 that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself,” and that through Christ, “the message of reconciliation has been entrusted to us.”
In many ways and for many reasons, the Christian community has not taken up this challenge. In conflicts such as the Rwandan genocide and challenges such as family fragmentation, neglected neighborhoods, urban violence, people with disabilities, and on-going racial and ethnic divisions in America and worldwide, the church typically has mirrored society rather than offered a witness to it. In response, the Center seeks to form and strengthen transformative Christian leadership for reconciliation."
Chris Rice, one of the co-Directors of the Program,wrote in an short article for the Lausanne Worldpulse magazine:
"The Church should have faithful practices of social engagement, even if they result in no visible change. These are profound indications of hope amidst destructive conflicts. Examples are when Christians forgive persecutors, prophetically challenge unjust situations and offer hospitality across divides."
The power of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy to change the entire spiritual atmosphere of a community. It is extraordinarily fruitful when those who are experienced, wise, and tempered practitioners of one or more of the works of mercy are given the opportunity to share their wisdom with the rest of us.
They seem to be doing this at Duke by bringing in Christian practitioners of reconciliation to live in residence for a semester. One of the current fellows started on his journey by spending several months with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. Today, his organization, Word Made Flesh, is at work with the poorest of the poor in many places, including Calcutta, where they work freeing women and children in the sex trade.
I've heard great things about the Duke program. Joe Waters, one of our Called & Gifted teachers, is a Catholic grad student in the Duke Divinity School who will be doing his 2008 summer internship with us. Duke seems to be remarkably flexible. Joe is spending his third and last year at Duke studying at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC.
Aimee Milburn of Historical Catholic is writing about her long-dreamed of door-to-door evangelization training and asks for prayers. Aimee is just training her first "class" as part of her graduate internship and I hope, will keep us all up to date. God bless Aimee!
The amazing One Laptop per Child is about to hit the market in November. One Laptop Per Child (laptop.org) has developed a very low-cost, high-potential, extremely rugged computer for the two billion educationally underserved children in poor countries. Watch this fun New York Times review featuring David Pogue.
Here's the deal:
For two weeks, starting November 12, you can give one and get one. Give one XO laptop to a child in a developing country and have another delivered to your own child for Christmas for $399.
What an incredible Christmas present to give a child that could literally change the course of her life and her family's life. What a wonderful gift for your child and yourself.
The possible impact of this innovation is so huge that a couple of Vatican commissions are sponsoring an evening (October 29) called Bold Innovations in Education: “One Laptop Per Child”with the creator of the XO, Professor Professor Nicholas Negroponte for superiors of missionary groups and those involved in the education of the poor.
An exciting missions resource that I just stumbled upon in St. Francis Magazine. One thing that is most unique about St. Francis magazine is that it clearly is the fruit of collaboration across the Christian spectrum - including Orthodox, Coptic and Catholic thinkers like Samir Khalil Samir, S.J.,an Egyptian Jesuit, who is a professor of Islamic studies and of the history of Arab culture at the Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut and at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome.
(Samir wrote this about Pope Benedict's approach to proclaiming Christ in a Muslim context: I really like this pope, his balance, his clearness. He makes no compromise: he continues to underline the need to announce the Gospel in the name of rationality and therefore he does not let himself be influenced by those who fear and speak out against would-be proselytism. The pope asks always for guarantees that Christian faith can be “proposed” and that it can be “freely chosen.” )
From the St. Francis website:
St Francis Magazine aims to strengthen the Christian witness in the Arab World. The magazine does this by the articles we publish here, through studies, and by offering applied training on matters related to the Christian apostolate in the Arab World.
In missiology much can be debated, and that is what we like to stimulate with St Francis Magazine. However, we have some solid parameters. Central for us is our commitment to the triune God as revealed in the Christian Scriptures and ultimately in his Son Jesus Christ. We adhere to the historic faith as expressed by the Ecumenical Councils of the early Church.
We also hold that good missiology can never be separated from good ecclesiology. As Jesus Christ expresses Himself through His Body, the Church, those who proclaim Him can never do so in an individualist manner, but only in communion with the Church.
2010 will be the 100th anniversary of the famous 1910 Edinburgh World Missionary Conference. This anniversary is another example of the hermetically-sealed-alternate- universes of Catholics and evangelicals when it comes to missions.
Catholics like Fr. Peter Phan regard the Edinburgh Conference as a symbol of western over-reach and missionary failure. Meanwhile, Evangelicals are getting ready to throw a giant global party in 2010 to celebrate the extraordinary success and fruitfulness of the missions movement for which Edinburgh was a significant turning point. The party - better known as Lausanne III: International Congress on World Evangelization - will take place in Cape Town, South Africa. They expect about 4,000 delegates from missionary groups, churches, and denominations all over the world. This is not just an evangelical enterprise. Both Anglicans and Orthodox will be represented. What is unclear to me is whether or not there will be any significant Catholic representation.
It is not an accident that while the first Lausanne Conference took place in Switzerland in 1974, the third one, a mere 36 years later, is taking place in Africa. It is the global south, especially Africa, which has become the center of Christianity in our lifetimes.
A couple of graphs from Todd Johnson's plenary briefing given at the Lausanne Bi-Annual International Leadership meeting in Budapest, Hungary in June dramatically illustrate the changes.
First of all there has been little change in the percentage of Christians in the global population over the past one hundred years. Catholics today make up 55% of all Christians although many Catholics are "doubly affiliated" - i.e., involved with other Christian bodies. For the entire 100-year period, Christians have made up approximately one-third of the world’s population. This masks dramatic changes in the geography of global Christianity. There have been massive gains in the global south offset by massive losses in the industrialized west.
And types of Christianity that did not exist at the dawn of the 20th century are now major players such as the 600 million Independent Christians (millions of whom are double-affiliated Catholics or Protestants)
Look at the graph below which shows the proportion of Christians in the north and south over the past 2000 years. Note for the first 900 years of the church, southern Christians comprised the majority and that the Reformation occurred during the 16th century, the only century during which 90% of Christians lived in the global north. Also note that southern Christians become the majority again in 1981 and that in 2010, the proportion between north and south will be roughly the same as it was in 200 AD.
Now look at this fascinating map of how the geographic center of Christian population has moved over the past 2000 years and especially over the past 100 years. The large red dot in Spain shows the geographic center in 1910 - the year of the Edinburgh conference. The large red dot in western Africa shows the geographic center as of 2010 and the Cape town conference.
Here is a list of the top 10 Christians nations by population in 1900, 2005, and projections for 2050. Note: in 1910, 9 out of 10 of the most populous Christian nations were western, in 2010, only 3 are, in 2050, only the US will remain. (Fascinatingly, the US is the top of the list in all three years)
What is called "renewalist" Christianity - that is Christianity that is influenced by Pentecostal or charismatic beliefs and practices - is very important in the global south. Here is a global map showing the percentage of "renewalist" Christians in each country.
Note the languages that dominate renewalist Christianity. Number one: Portuguese because Catholic Brazil is both the second largest Christian nation and one of most pentecostalized countries on earth. Note that Spanish is number 3 - and Spanish Christians are overwhelmingly Catholic - and that Tagalog, spoken widely in the Catholic Philippines, is number 10.
Last Sunday was Mission Sunday but I was in Seattle, attending Mass at Blessed Sacrament, and unable to blog. In an act of open and unapologetic despotism, I'm declaring today Mission Sunday on ID because I've just come across an amazing trove of great missions stuff that I'd like to share.
Several posts are brewing in my head and I'll try to get them down today. But first Mass and then more bulbs. 54 down, 120 to go. Bulb planting, I am discovering, is work. Hard work for the sake of something hoped for but not seen - 7 months from now.
Meanwhile, here's a glimpse of Mt. Sneffels from Ridgeway, CO this weekend - where the classic film "True Grit" (with John Wayne) was filmed.
via the fabulous nature photos from all over the world at weatherunderground.com. It is easy for you to submit your favorite weather/nature photos for the rest of us to enjoy.
This weekend is bulb planting and preparing a 400+sf bed for wild flower seed sowing (to prevent premature germination, the seed can't actually be sown until our evening temps drop below 40 on a regular basis and they are just about to start to dip below)
but I will be doing some blogging as well.
What do you think of our Colorado Rockies, hmmm? Reminds me of the first year the Seattle Mariners got into the playoffs and "refused to lose".
Here's the reaction in the stands when the Rockies turned the corner: longest Wild card tie-breaking game in history, down 2 runs at the beginning of the 13th inning.
Dreadnaught (John Heard of Australia) responds to comments from ID reader SWP on his original essay "More Ways of Being Catholic Than Have Been Imagined".
SWP responded to the original post:
I take it to mean that there are many paths to sanctity. If there were a prescription for how to live a holy life, we could simply plug in and hold on for the ride. But we are called to carve out that path in the material of our own daily striving. It we are truly listening to the Holy Spirit in consultation with what we know to be true doctrinally, we can't be led astray-- yet the path may lead us unexpectedly-- God may meet us somewhere we didn't think it possible for Him to be. Such surprises are nothing new to the Saints, but they were new to them at some point in their lives. John Heard articulates very well how this seeming paradox occurs. Note the accent on living authentically. Secular postmodernism offers falsehood and the absence of reality. Christ offers something dynamic and life transforming, even if only by steady degrees. We are called to unlimit what God can accomplish in our lives, to see heroic virtue as something possible in our ordinary day. And recall that poster you liked so much, "Ordinary Time: there's nothing ordinary about it."
We know what the prohibitions are; John is asking us to think more expansively about what might be possible, the manifold ways we might pursue Christ, each one of us in our uniquely flawed and infinitely redeemable raw material. When we remove the limits of where God can be and how me might follow, we open wide the doors to Christ- we fear not, we Dread Nought. I admire greatly John's courage and candor.
What a marvelous exercise: to ask ourselves, "Where am I meeting Christ today?"
In other places I talk of 'living authentically' in line with the deposit of faith.
What I mean by this is simply that there is always more to living Catholic, more to our faith and our options for service, than a slavish adherence to what has already happened, or what has been previously modelled by other humans.
As long as our model is Christ, as long as were are tied on to orthodoxy, we can adapt to daily or cultural contingencies in ways that might otherwise be surprising, especially if we've had a merely legalistic view of the possibilities.
I guess this is what the saints do, they map out more ways of being Catholic, and they prove the quality of their vision by the virtue they accrue and the souls they win over.*
Thus, today we might blog our faith, we can carry Christ into the 'gay' bar, we can endeavour to write for the secular press and declare our faith - without compromise - in the most hostile regions.
We can be certain that while our particular context might change, the space occupied by the Church is always the same: namely, where Christ has gone before us.
:: The Upshot ::
As long as we hurry after Him, the 'ways of being' open to us are as limitless as His reign.^
* (It is, of course, trivial to speak of 'new' ways of being a Christian. There is, in an important sense, only this way to be a Christian - one must follow Jesus Christ. There is nothing novel then in what a saint either does or is, rather - and I am sure this is why Taylor avoided using 'new' - it might be better to say the saint finds yet another way to do/be part of something 'as old as time and (yet) fresh each morning', namely the Church. This points up the nature of Taylor's 'more'. The 'way of being' is novel only insofar as it is simply phenomenally/experientially unprecedented - but heroic virtue goes further, into 'more' - when it assimilates any such novelty into the wider constancy, what might be called the eschatological irresistibility, of Christ's reign).
I think that Dreadnaught is wrestling with a question that is central to the secular office of the laity which are called to bring Christ to the world outside the parish. If we are the apostles to the unbelieving and unbaptized men, women, cultures, and structures of the world, we have to learn to walk - in obedience and virtue - in unaccustomed places where our allegiance to Christ is not understood or regarded with hostility. Some of us have special calls to follow Christ in especially delicate, difficult, and abandoned places. By the very nature of our call, lay apostles must often think outside the box in applying the faith to the infinitely complex situations into which we are plunged.
Is such a call potentially dangerous to our own faith and walk with Christ? I think the honest answer is that danger attends all vocations - within and without the Church (try talking to people who have lost their faith working within the Church). In some situations the danger is clearer and more immediate than others, but we can all lose our way - and yet, if we don't walk the path through which that Christ has ordained that we should reach heaven - we can lose much more. And those to whom Christ is sending us lose as well.
Which is exactly why is it so critical that we have access to genuine Christian community that is gathered around discipleship, around the teaching of the Church, around the sacraments and prayer - where people who love us and love Christ can say to us "How is it going?" A Christian community that can provide us roots, balance, discernment, and the encouragement necessary to take Christ to our world.
This whole wonderful discussion reminds me of Dorothy Sayer's repeating an observation by A. D. Lindsay in her The Whimsical Christian:
"The difference between ordinary people and saints is not that saints fulfill the plain duties that ordinary men neglect. The things saints do have not usually occurred to ordinary people at all . . .'Gracious" conduct is somehow like the work of an artist. It needs imagination and spontaneity. It is not a choice between presented alternatives but the creation of something new."