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Lay Apostolate: Risky Business? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 13 October 2009 06:36
An Australian pharmacist has really gone out on a limb: he is refusing to sell contraceptives and condoms in his pharmacy.

"Trevor Dal Broi, who runs East Griffith Pharmacy in New South Wales, is now handing out a leaflet to women with prescriptions for the contraceptive pill, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The leaflets say he accepts the teachings of the Catholic Church on artificial contraception and that he has a moral objection to dispensing them."

Fortunately, there is no law in New South Wales that forces a pharmacist to sell any particular medicine.

But the level of incomprehension in Australia's very secularized society is high toward such a rare public stand. And the chances that someone will shortly propose a new law that requires all pharmacists to sell contraceptives in response to the publicity about this one man's decision is very high. I wonder what kind of support is available to him from the Catholic community as he takes this most unusual stand?

One of Fr. Mike's themes in his homily last weekend in Indianapolis was the issue of how the Christian community could really support lay apostles who undertake difficult or risky initiatives in the public square in order to follow Christ. It could be the whistle-blower in a big corporation (think Enron), the intern who refuses to be trained in or perform abortions, a conscientious objector in the military, the nurse who takes a leave of absence from her job to lead the local opposition to a euthanasia initiative, or the young community activist who is heading up a creative response to homelessness or the needs of immigrants.

One very gifted priest of my acquaintance found the idea that ordinary lay Catholics should take risks for the sake of their faith to be unthinkable. It wasn't part of a lay Christian's role. Religious could take risks because they had a community behind them supporting them. But lay Catholics were alone, completely self-supporting, and vulnerable and therefore, not called to economic or professional risk-taking for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

Alas, my priest friend, was reflecting the deep assumptions of Catholic life. The combination of our American individualism, the lack of a culture of discipleship in our parishes which would help make this sort of situation seem appropriate and "normal", and our Catholic tendency to pass one another like ships in the night at Mass, makes it very rare to find genuine support for such risky obediences on the part of lay people in the Catholic community.

We usually lack the vision and structures in our parishes to even begin this conversation. To know how to listen to and lovingly discern an individual's sense of God's call and to have ways in place to appropriately make a genuine call known to the community and to provide support for that call.

As Fr. Mike found out during his years as a pastor, many lay men and women are incredibly reluctant to have what they are doing outside their parish involvements made visible to the community at all. He wanted to let the community know about the wonderful things he was hearing, to be challenged by the creative apostolates that some of his parishioners were engaged in, but every single person declined the opportunity to share their story with the rest of the parish.

It doesn't seem humble somehow and violates the widely existing working assumption that it isn't the province of lay people to talk about their faith (that's for priests and religious). Lay people just "do it". Good Catholics do what they do outside the community quietly and inconspicuously. If you do talk about it at all, it would be in confession or spiritual direction or to a priest who would keep it confidential and could give you any support or direction that was necessary. Or to your family or little circle of friends.

Of course, if no one else knows, they can't help us discern or support us or join us in the work. But who were you to think that what you were called to by God has any possible meaning or significance for the larger community? How arrogant can you get? So much of what God is doing in our midst goes unrecognized and unacknowledged and it never dawns upon the vast majority that they have anything to discern.

But what if it is not about us?

A few years ago, I heard this story from a wonderful, creative apostle in the upper Mid-west (Yes, all those Garrison Keillor jokes are true.) She told me that she knew what her charisms were but she had stopped using them because she had gotten so much positive feedback about them that she was afraid of becoming proud. But what if it wasn't about her?

What if discerning our charisms and our call is not primarily about you or me at all?

What if the main point is about what God intends to reach someone else through our consent and cooperation with his grace?

If all of us who are baptized have received the Holy Spirit and charisms and a mission (as the Church teaches), then being "proud" of our charisms or our mission makes about as much sense as being proud of having a library card. It is a good, useful thing but if everyone else has one, what's the big deal about acknowledging it publicly?

It makes about as much sense as being proud of having a driver's license. Which is a big deal at 16. But if you are still treating it as a big deal at 30, the rest of us will be thinking " Get a life."

One of the consequences of the fact that our parishes are not characterized by a culture of discipleship, is that it so often feels odd, off-putting, and self-agrandizing for lay Catholics to openly talk to one another and to the community about a sense of call -especially to non-ecclesial apostolates. Because we still regard such a sense of call to be "normal" only for priests and religious. And very, very rare for lay men and women.

But if we can't talk about it with one another, how can we support one another? How can we discern if we are also called to be part of the same work?

How many of us never recognize and answer God's call because we don't see others around us - who are like us - doing so? How many of us even dream that God might call us at all? If we don't see other ordinary Catholics around us wrestling with discernment, why would we ever dream that we would be that "rare" lay person called to something specific by God? Why would we take risks for the sake of the Gospel that we don't see anyone else around us even contemplating?

It is the Church's teaching that all the baptized are anointed for a mission. That the whole purpose of the formation of the laity is to enable each one to discern and live God's call. That is it is an integral part of the priestly office to call forth the charisms and vocations of the laity.

At best, we are calling forth only 1 - 2% of all the vocations God is sending us. As risky as it is for us to hear and answer God's call, it is immeasurably riskier for us to essentially refuse to accept 98% of the vocations that God is sending us by not doing whatever it takes to help every baptized person encounter Jesus Christ and embrace the vocation(s) that will emerge from that encounter.
St. Damien: Of Molokai, Waikiki, and Lahina PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 12 October 2009 09:38

Damien, the apostle to the lepers of Molokai, has been declared a saint. He was the Mother Teresa of his generation and famous for the same reason.

The canonization took place on Sunday with celebrations in Belgium and Hawaii.

I find it odd that the Hawaii media said they had sent to Belgium (where most of St. Damien is buried) for a relic. The reality is that there is a wonderful storehouse of relics in the islands.

Specifically the tiny labor-of-love "Damien museum at St. Augustine's parish on Waikiki in Honolulu (right on the beach and with a great view of Diamondhead - what a location!). This museum was run by a husband and wife team and contained nearly every existing relic associated with Damien: his pipes, chasubles, the prie dieu he built with his own hands and used for his own prayer.

I am told that a ceiling leak several years ago forced the collection out of that location and that it is now scattered. This will make the local Church wake up to its treasures, I hope.

I remember kneeling beside the saint's prie dieu (covered in plexiglass). I sensed, I felt the presence of the numinous, the presence of God in that place. Not only had Fr. Damien built it with his own hands but no doubt poured his own fear and pain and loneliness to God after contracting leprosy himself.

I also experienced something very similar in the historic parish Church in Lahina on Maui. As I walked down the aisle I was suddenly overcome with a utterly unexpected joy. I sensed that there had been some kind of struggle or tragedy in that place which was now being redeemed and restored. "Weeping endures for a night but joy cometh in the morning." was the verse that flashed to mind.

As I have learned to do when I have these experiences, I asked a local: "Has something wonderful happened here lately?"

He thought for a moment and then said "Well, the pastor, who was greatly loved, was recently removed because of a sexual scandal" and that was very hard on the congregation. But we've just been assigned a new pastor: one of Mother Teresa's priests, of the Missionaries of Charity."

"Ah" I thought "I'm picking up the presence of a saint."

But our guide went on: "And of course, Fr. Damien used to serve here as well."

The presence of two saints, it seems.
God's Frozen Chosen PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 12 October 2009 08:29
Dawn, September 20 - the last day of summer.

Dawn, October 12 - apparently the first day of winter with Pike's Peak glowing over the garden path.

This is why gardens and gardeners have to be undaunted around here.

The sun has come out, the temperature is rising, and ice and leaves are falling everywhere. There is a constant thump-thump on the roof as ice falls off the aspens and giant spruce. Cosmos and Damien are beside themselves running from window to window trying to figure out what is going on.

The Alligator Ate My Homework or Why The Next Two Weeks Are Going to Be a Blur PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 11 October 2009 21:22
You may be thinking to yourself: Where are these ID people? Why aren't they blogging?

It's like this. Here's our schedule for the next two weeks. (Thank God for our intrepid traveling teachers)

October 12 -14: Fr. Mike and I get to hang out in Colorado Springs, eating frozen bon-bons.

October 15 - 17: We fly to Omaha for the first weekend of a two part Making Disciples seminar. While we are in Omaha, Mark Ceznik (Tucson) will help a new group of discernment facilitators get ready to roll in Houston and Mary Sharon Moore (Eugene) and Keith Strohm (Chicago) will offering our first Called & Gifted in the Archdiocese of Baltimore in Linthicum.

October 18: I fly back to Colorado Springs while Fr. Mike proceeds on to Linthicum, Maryland to train yet more Called & Gifted interviewers and facilitators in the three evening format.

October 22: Fr. Mike flies to Corpus Christi to speak at that weekend's Encounter Retreat while Barbara Elliott (Houston) leads our team in offering a Called & Gifted workshop at St. Vincent de Paul parish in Houston and Fr. Bryan Dolejsi, (who was one of our traveling teachers before he was ordained) will offer a one day Called & Gifted in Seattle on October 24.

October 26: I fly to Detroit where I will offer a introductory presentation on gifts discernment to the leaders of Pontiac Vicariate while Fr. Mike flies to Kansas City where he will spend the week offering a retreat for the priests of the Society of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) on the topic of pastoral governance, charisms, and collaboration with the laity.

October 27: I pop up to Fowler, Michigan where I will spend the next three evenings training yet another set of Called & Gifted interviewers and facilitators.

October 30,31: Our San Francisco Bay area team, lead by Scott Moyer, will offer a Called & Gifted workshop in Petaluma.

November 1: Cause we are such a low energy, overly generous organization, we are going to allow Fr. Mike to go home to Tucson for his birthday and to see his parents.

Cause it's one of those BIG birthdays. He's going to have to rest up to blow out all those candles.

You can tell the real road warriors. We like to compare and contrast the fine points of Frequent Flier programs and make sure each other knows when we make it to a whole 'nother level. Fr. Mike is about to achieve Platinum bliss while this last trip nailed Gold Medallion status for next year for me. (We are on different airline plans)

I figure Fr. Mike has already gotten his prezzie and I'm off the hook!
Home Again PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 11 October 2009 16:39
Both Fr. Mike and I are back in CS for a few days. The workshop in Indianapolis went very well.

My flight was nearly diverted to Denver due to freezing fog. Everything - turning aspen leaves, the wild flowers - are covered in half an inch of ice and we beat the old low for this date by 11 degrees.

More in a bit.
Easter in October PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 08 October 2009 20:52
I'm off tomorrow for Indianapolis to join Fr. MIke and put on our 407th Called & Gifted workshop. (Every once in a while, I count so I don't lose track. Today was a counting day.)

They are predicting our first snow tonight so your prayers that I can get to the airport tomorrow without problems would be most gratefully appreciated.

One of our commenters, who used to attend Christ the King parish (featured in my recent post "Vocations are US" in Ann Arbor) urged ID readers to go to the CTK website and listen to one of the Easter Vigil homilies.

I did. And he was right.

I've been all over the Catholic world and attended Mass in many different languages and settings, from St. Peter's on down, but have never heard the challenge to discipleship put so simply, so clearly, and lovingly in a Catholic setting. (And I've heard some great homilies - trailing around after OP's and all that.)

Nor have I ever heard over a minute of thunderous applause after the triple "He is Risen". I have often longed for "something" - although I admit that applause would not have occurred to me as the way to do it. (Although I know of the tradition of corporate applause as a form of praise.)

Some way to truly express the joy and hope of the Resurrection that wasn't completely scripted and impersonal. Something that said that we, the Catholic community in this place, are really beside ourselves with joy because the one we loved, whom we believed was dead, is alive and in our midst once more.

So I'm going to link to the homily from this past Easter Vigil. It is 22 minutes long. But worth every minute. All who feel in need of a spiritual pick-me up will find it refreshing and challenging, I think.

May we all know the love and presence of the Risen Lord today - and tomorrow.
Personal Encounter With the Eucharistic Jesus PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 08 October 2009 14:29
Here's a praise report from that RCIA director who had asked for our prayers two days ago.

Thanks for all of your help spreading the intercession request! Everyone had an amazing experience last night during adoration. So many men and women were moved to tears as the Lord revealed Himself to them in powerful ways. I still can't believe it, myself. God is just so generous!

From the feedback we have received, this was the first time that many of the RCIA participants ever had a personal encounter with God that they could point to in order to say with confidence that God loved them. Thresholds were definitely crossed last night, because of the power of the Holy Spirit and in the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus!

Thanks to all of you who prayed! Imagine if we had regular intercessory teams for all our inquirers, catechumens, and candidates. What a huge impact that could have.
Good Stuff In St. Paul PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 08 October 2009 08:16
Despite the fact that I must have flown in and out of the Minneapolis airport at least 100 times, I had never set foot on Minnesota soil till last Friday. I've waxed eloquent about Atlanta, Corpus Christi, Denver, Boise, and southern Michigan. It's time for the Twin Cities to get its share.

The Cathedral of St. Paul is truly gorgeous in a vast, stone and marble, elaborate bronze grill sort of way. ( I couldn't help ask my host when we first walked in if we hadn't made a mistake and were in St. Peter's Basilica. I wasn't entirely surprised to meet tourists with cameras milling about when I was done. It is the national shrine to St. Paul, after all. ) But "intimate" would not be the word that comes to mind.

It could have been the 30 foot high Art Deco-ish looking figures of the four Evangelists. Or the massive marble figure of St. Patrick that made him look like he weighed 300 lbs and was preparing to hurl anathemas at you. Or the fact that 250 people scattered about that great space looks pretty lonely. Or that I was tethered to a podium a long way from those attending with a mic that was too short for my height and I had to talk hunched over the podium. (Are there no 6 foot plus priests in St. Paul?). And that I was speaking in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament. I just couldn't help but be more subdued than usual. Which was appropriate but not exactly my normal style.

It seemed to go well all the same. And the cathedral staff are most impressive. The pastor is a very sharp, young and lively polyglot, who is working with a parish of Hmong refugees in his spare time. (When you already know 6 languages, how hard could it be to learn how to celebrate Mass in Hmong?) And Marc, who is in charge of faith formation and RCIA, is a joyful disciple and bringing in a wonderful collections of speakers for special events.

The people I met were also impressive: a number of cradle Catholics whose faith was awakened by spending time in the evangelical world and are now on fire and wrestling with the implications of that. One woman talked to me about the fact that she is the only serious Catholic in her circle of family and friends - most of whom were raised Catholic. How could she communicate to them the beauty she sees in the Church? I'm sure that her passion was already visible and even thought-provoking in ways that people around her aren't necessarily ready to acknowledge yet.

And a exuberant young woman who probably has a pastoring charism and feels called to form other lay apostles. Meeting new leaders of her quality emerging all over the country is one of the satisfying parts of this work.

Along with a cheerful young leader of the St. Paul based NET ministries. He wanted to invite me to attend a NET-sponsored monthly gathering that evening of 1,000 teens! I was bummed that I couldn't go because I had to catch my plane but excited about what he told me of the collaboration between NET and the Archdiocese. Nearly everyone involved in youth ministry in the Archdiocese has been involved with or directly influenced by NET.

The National Evangelization Teams form and then send out 18 - 28 year old Catholics around the country to evangelize. Their latest group of 100 + new missionaries have just begun their journeys. Their motto: Challenging young Catholics to love Christ and embrace the life of the ChurchI' They've been doing it for 27 years.

The fruit is obvious. Over 25,000 retreats have been conducted for 1.6 million youth. 1,822 young adults have been trained in youth evangelization. And the impact of the NET experience is often life-long. I have run into innumerable "alumni" of NET all over North America and in Australia who are still on fire and now exercising various kinds of leadership in the Church.

I"m adding the Archdiocese of St. Paul - Minneapolis to my informal list of dioceses where evangelization is taking hold. What I have come to look for is evidence of a genuine evangelizing synergy between the diocese, pastors, and creative lay apostles that is beginning to or has already taken root.

Good stuff is happening in the soon-to-be frozen north.
"Vocations are Us" in Ann Arbor PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 08 October 2009 06:27
A little note about a couple of those thousand points of light out there that we've encountered out there. First of all, one of our seminarian readers brought the story of one amazing parish to my attention:

25 home-grown priests. 20 men currently in seminary. 15 - 20 women in religious formation. All from one parish?

Yes. If that parish is Christ the King of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

I've heard about Christ the King for years but have yet to have the chance to visit. It is unique: a "personal parish" for the charismatic renewal. Their history is fascinating (from their website)

"In 1981, a group of Catholics in the "Charismatic Renewal" met weekly for Mass and reception of the sacraments with the blessing of the Bishop of Lansing. In 1986, Bishop Povish established us as a Lay Association of the Faithful and we were given the name Christ the King Catholic Association. In 1991, we began the process of becoming a personal parish of the Diocese of Lansing, a process that was completed in 1997."

A charismatic style of prayer is common at Christ the King, including during certain parts of the Mass. Their website describes that as "external markers". Their internal markers?

Internal markers include a radical surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all parts of life, a strong adherance to the Gospel and the teachings of the Catholic Church, and the pursuit of strong friendships centered on Christ. As Catholics, this obviously includes abiding in the heart of the Church in union with our beloved Bishop and Pope Benedict XVI

In other words, this is a parish that treasures and intentionally nurtures a culture of discipleship. Discipleship and formation for all. It sounds like their RCIA program is booming as well with seekers from both Christian and unchurched backgrounds. It probably helps that their dynamic pastor, Fr. Ed Friede, is a convert himself. And priestly and religious vocations are the direct fruit of discipleship.

And their mission statement? I've read hundreds of parish mission statements (which usually amount essentially to "we want to be nice, helpful people doing nice Catholic things in a nice way") and I've never seen anything like this. It begins:

- To be a people committed to surrendering our lives completely to the Lord Jesus, knowing that "Christian living consists in following Christ," we choose in all things to "say yes to Jesus Christ."
(Pope John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae, #'s 5 & 20)

and then it goes on for another 12 paragraphs - all with magisterial references.

Ann Arbor (and southern Michigan in general) is a Catholic hotbed. I know from my brief time in the area that Christ the King isn't the only parish doing great things there. And alot of dynamic extra-parochial groups are headquartered there: the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, Renewal Ministries, Ave Maria Radio, and another women's community, The Servants of God's Love.

Not to mention Domino's Pizza (I've attended Mass in their quite sumptuous chapel).

And that many of the dynamic faculty at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit live in Ann Arbor.

I'm going to be in the area for 4 days at the end of October (I'm speaking at the Pontiac Vicariate Fall Assembly and then offering a Called & Gifted facilitator training)

Maybe I can finagle a visit to CTK!

More good news in a second post.
Discerning the Times in Which We Live PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 07 October 2009 09:44
John Allen has been turning out a lot of fascinating articles this week and there are several that I find particularly noteworthy.

I'd like to start with the strong sense of gratitude that Allen brought the essay, "The Church and the New Reality of Africa, No Longer the Beggar of the World", by Andrea Riccardi, the founder of Sant’Egidio, to our attention. Sant'Egidio has been heavily and creatively involved in African in the areas of peace-making and the treatment of AIDS for many years. Based upon this experience and very much from a lay perspective, that is, as a serious Christian immersed in the realities of this world and acutely aware of extra-ecclesial currents and movements that impact the Church's life and mission, Riccardi wrote this:

"There’s a young generation emerging, ready to exploit the opportunities of globalization, with a different cultural horizon from the traditional one. When talking about African culture it’s important to be careful, because a discussion of ‘African authenticity’ risks revealing itself as ideological and outdated. African culture today is far more modern than ethnic and traditional images based on folklore, whether they come from Europeans or Africans.

Understanding of Africa must become more sophisticated than the painful and simplified image from the time of the dictatorships. Society, which has become complex, is no longer naturally religious as is so often said. If large masses of people are still caught between the past and the future, many Africans have nevertheless taken an enormous step forward. Given how fast things are changing, perhaps the Catholic bishops should re-read the reality, not trusting in stereotypes, in order to better understand the world in which their faithful live."

Thank God for Riccardi. It is true in Africa as in Asia and in this country: it is so easy for us to rely upon stereotypes that were true a decade or re-fight the battles of one or two generations ago rather than take in the actual-situation-on-the-ground before us now. Cultural change occurs with great speed today and what was true in the 70's or 90's may well no longer be the case in 2009.

Real life is a complicated mixture of continuity and change and we can't know which is which and what is actually happening about us unless we truly listen to and then discern the times in which we live. The apostolic faith of the Church does not change in its dogmatic essentials but it does develop in real ways. The Church's understanding of what God has revealed to her is shaped and does develop as she lives in time and discerns and appropriates the best of what each generation has learned from living the faith in a given historical and cultural context,

How the faith can and must speak to this generation and how it can and must be applied in this particular situation does depend to a great deal upon our ability to grasp the essential issues and needs of our time and place.

If only 35% of the world's Christians live in the industrialized west, if Asian Christians are no longer a static, passive minority, if Africa is about to become the largest Christian continent and young Africans are not necessarily traditionally minded, and if the vast majority of young American Catholics are not only NOT JP II Catholics but aren't even darkening our parish doors, what does it mean for us? What does it mean to respond in Christ's name to this generation?

We cannot fully discern God's call unless we have first discerned the times in which we live.
Join in Prayer for Christian Europe at Noon PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 07 October 2009 08:56

europe4christ is a grassroots, ecumenical prayer and activism movement among European Christians to, in a poignant phrase: "in a step-by-step manner, to help Christians emerge from this part-voluntary, part-involuntary ghetto existence."

europe4christ is headquartered in Germany but its website is in 11 languages. E4C has a two part action plan:

1) Prayer: A "critical mass" can trigger a revolution - both spiritually and sociologically (breaking the "spiral of silence"). Moreover, Christians should expand their horizons and also include in their prayers issues from public life - the "globalisation of prayer".

An aid in this direction would be a short prayer, prayed at a specific time of day. Participants in “Europe for Christ” commit to pray an “Our Father for a Christian Europe” each day at noon.

2) Common action around seven themes:

- the culture of life /human dignity

- the family, husband and wife, sexuality

- Christian social teaching

- freedom, tolerance, living in harmony with other religions

- separation of Church and State (its authentic meaning)

- religion and education

- Christianity and history (the identity of Europe, the identity of Christianity, Christianity and the history of ideas (political ideas, human dignity...); the "darker chapters" in the history of the Church.

E4C publishes regular encouraging circular letters including this fiery one from a frustrated Nigerian seminarian:

"In Western Europe, there has been a storm of critique on Christianity for a long time, an Anti-Christian trend. To have faith is seen as a pitiful situation. To say it gently, the majority of Christians waits helplessly and inactively for the total destruction of already wounded Christianity. I am not worried that the Church would not survive difficult situations (Mt 16:18) or that Christ would abandon his Church (Mt 28:20). But I worry about the degree of carelessness and apathy that Christians in Europe show in this difficult situation.

Christians meet the increasing wave of Anti-Christianity with total passivity. Because of the media, daily newspapers, magazines, TV and radio, people are on a daily basis confronted with ideologies that only deep faith and clear discernment can withstand. The question is: How do Christians react to this? What did they do until now?

I read daily newspapers and I am bewildered because of the eagerness with which journalists and editors make arbitrary statements, leap to illogical conclusions and criticize the Church in a hostile way. The passivity with which Christians react on these assaults is alarming.

Why do you observe instead of argue, defend and proclaim the truth from a rational point of view? Why not react on negative developments, especially when they turn into a dangerous ideology?

Now it is time to wake up, everyone in their way and in their environment! Let’s write! Let’s speak loudly! We have to prepare ourselves, because as Christ has already warned us: “...for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light...” (Lk 16:8)

It is not enough to wait for a miracle! We could not impede this development by waiting for a wonder from God. Why should He perform a miracle, when he already gave us the ability to act through faith and common sense?

Prayer is undeniably the first step that we have to make, but it is not enough. We have to act. We owe that to our descendants. People leave the church because they receive wrong answers to their questions. And they get these wrong answers from the wrong people.

An average Europeans who read daily newspapers probably will tend to lose their faith than remain a believer. It is time to let Christ lead us. Let everyone around you notice that there is a Christian. Where are you? What do you see? What do you hear? What do you know? Speak aloud! Our silence is our pain."

Kizito Chinedu Nweke

and this earlier portion of a larger essay by Phillip Jenkins on Europe' Christian Come-back:

"For all we hear about Islam, Europe remains a stronger Christian fortress than people realize. What’s more, it is showing little sign of giving ground to Islam or any other faith for that matter.

To be fair, the trend is counterintuitive. Europe has long been a malarial swamp for any traditional or orthodox faith. Compared with the rest of the world, religious adherence in Europe is painfully weak. And it is easy to find evidence of the decay. Any traveler to the continent has seen Christianity’s abandoned and secularized churches, many now transformed into little more than museums. But this does not mean that European Christianity is nearing extinction. Rather, among the ruins of faith, European Christianity is adapting to a world in which its convinced adherents represent a small but vigorous minority.

In fact, the rapid decline in the continent’s church attendance over the past 40 years may have done Europe a favor. It has freed churches of trying to operate as national entities that attempt to serve all members of society. Today, no church stands a realistic chance of incorporating everyone. Smaller, more focused bodies, however, can be more passionate, enthusiastic, and rigorously committed to personal holiness. To use a scientific analogy, when a star collapses, it becomes a white dwarf—smaller in size than it once was, but burning much more intensely. Across Europe, white-dwarf faith communities are growing within the remnants of the old mass church. (…)

The result has been a rediscovery of the continent’s Christian roots, even among those who have long disregarded it, and a renewed sense of European cultural Christianity. Jürgen Habermas, a veteran leftist German philosopher stunned his admirers not long ago by proclaiming, “Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. To this day, we have no other options [than Christianity]. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter.” Europe may be confronting the dilemmas of a truly multifaith society, but with Christianity poised for a comeback, it is hardly on the verge of becoming an Islamic colony."

You can join europe4christ here. The primary commitment is daily prayer as outlined below. What a wonderful thing it would be if we non-European Christians joined our prayers to those of their European brothers and sisters?

The time: Noon
The place: Wherever we are
The prayer: the "Our Father"
The focus: Christian Europe
I Want To Be There PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 06 October 2009 15:34
And other ID reader reports a recent, encouraging, conversation with a colleague who is seeking - and simultaneously fighting the whole issue of following Christ tooth and nail:

He had some questions for me - my personal belief.

"Will there be a Second Coming?" "Yes.", says I.

"Will our bodies be physically raised"?

Me, gulping, "Well Jesus Christ was raised physically - he was recorded eating a piece of fish - he invited Thomas to put his hand in his side - Jesus resurrected is the model for what will happen to us on Judgement Day."

Seeking Friend: "Well I would want to be there."

So do we all.
Prayer for RCIA Inquirers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 06 October 2009 15:28
We have received a wonderful prayer request from an RCIA Director:

I have a number of men and women who are going through the RCIA process. We have focused (during the first 4 weeks of Inquiry) on evangelization. Tomorrow will be the culmination of our evangelistic efforts. I will be sharing my own experience of the love and providence of God (my testimony), along with a healthy dose of the basic gospel message. We will follow this immediately with Eucharistic Adoration. Our hope is that the Holy Spirit has been softening hearts during our journey with these individuals, and that tomorrow will be a turning point for them---that they will be overwhelmed with the love that God has for them, and that they will encounter Christ in a deeper, newer way while praising and worshipping Him in the Blessed Sacrament.

If you have the time, could I ask for your intercession for these folks? I have been fasting and offering rosaries on their behalf, as well. However, I'm hoping to get some real gifted intercessors involved in this process. In the short period of time that we have been together, I have developed quite an attachment to this group, and I so want them to experience and come to know Christ in a new way.

It would be wonderful if all ID readers could take the time to shoot up a prayer for this group of inquirers and tomorrow's gathering. Who knows what God desires and will do?
The Futures of Christianity PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 06 October 2009 13:17

Written by Joe Waters

I am participating in the annual convocation at Duke Divinity School, which is focusing this year on "The Next Generation." Today's presentations were by Philip Jenkins about whom Sherry has blogged about in the past (including this week). I have blogged some of my observations from this morning over at my parish blog. They may be of interest to the readers of Intentional Disciples.
As St Vincent de Paul said 370 years ago: "Christ said the Church would last to the end of time. He said nothing about Europe." (as quoted by Jenkins)
Notably, Jenkins said that Christians who are unwilling to deal seriously with charismatic gifts, spiritual warfare, healings, exorcisms, etc. should stay out of the Global South. These are so important and so bound with the practice and politics of Southern Christianity that Christianity in the Global South is unimaginable without them.

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