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Abraham Lincoln and the World He Lived In PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 14 December 2008 12:43
Cold and snowy. Present temperature 8 F. The high was forecast to be 13 but I don't think we made it. The ski resorts are rejoicing in tons of new power but the wind chills are formidable: -15F. Temps like that once floored me. Now I simply shrug and go out anyway like that hardened Coloradan that i've become.

As I blogged earlier, I went to Chicago this past week to pick up a car donated to the Institute.

A fire-engine red Mustang convertible with a lot of zip. It was fun to drive the 1200 miles home. Although we left home in a snowstorm and saw only fields of white from the plane, we drove back in a little bubble of cold sunshine and on blissfully dry roads.

At one point, I was only 30 miles or so from Fr. Mike's hometown of Washington, Illinois and would like to have made the pilgrimage but time was short and another man's home beckoned. I'll be back when they finally erect that shrine in Fr. Mike's honor.

Instead we stopped in Springfield - the capital - and visited Abraham Lincoln's home (part of a 4 block area of Victorian Springfield that is being preserved by the National Park Service.) It was comfortable but not luxurious. This is definitely not Mount Vernon or Monticello. Lincoln milked the cow and brought in the wood himself. Mary cooked dinner herself. But so far from the 16 X 18 log cabin in which he was born. The Park Service has the home decorated and furnished as if it were Christmas, 1860. It was to be Lincoln's last Christmas at home before moving to Washington, D.C.

Lincoln spoke these words as he left Springfield the following February, never to return:

"My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell."

The bi-centennial of Lincoln's birth take place in February, 2009. It is easy to forget since he and Washington had their birthdays merged into a single holiday that most of us just think of as a three day weekend and department store sales.

But almost exactly 200 years after the "Great Emancipator" was born, another President from Illinois, the first African-American President - will be sworn in. Unimaginable during Lincoln's lifetime. Unimaginable within the living memory of some who will read these words. Lincoln's story deserves to be told again and again.

Many very grave issues - life issues, the financial crisis, terrorism - lie before us. But imagining Abraham Lincoln lying on the wooden floor of his modest family room, reading aloud to his family from the newspaper by firelight (the chairs weren't big enough for his 6'4" frame) that last Christmas, gave me a thrill.

In late December, 1860, six states had already seceded from the Union, millions still lived in slavery, and civil war was only months away. He did, in fact, face a task greater than that which faced George Washington. And he prevailed.

Profound cultural change, change that honors and protects the life and humanity of those once considered to be less than human, is possible. The world we live in, the world that our children will take for granted, is possible because men and women like Abraham Lincoln lived and changed their world.

May future Americans say the same of us with gratitude.
Recession: Recognizing an Evangelical Moment PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 14 December 2008 06:45
A thought-provoking article in the New York Times this morning about the impact of recession on church attendance.

Evangelical church attendance.

"A recent spot check of some large Roman Catholic parishes and mainline Protestant churches around the nation indicated attendance increases there, too. But they were nowhere near as striking as those reported by congregations describing themselves as evangelical, a term generally applied to churches that stress the literal authority of Scripture and the importance of personal conversion, or being “born again.”

Part of the evangelicals’ new excitement is rooted in a communal belief that the big Christian revivals of the 19th century, known as the second and third Great Awakenings, were touched off by economic panics. Historians of religion do not buy it, but the notion “has always lived in the lore of evangelism,” said Tony Carnes, a sociologist who studies religion."

Interesting. Missionary strategists that I studied with were fascinated by the Great Awakenings - because they dreamed of being part of another such intense revival - and probed the conditions that made such a moment more likely. But I don't remember that the economic situation of the country was ever mentioned.

"A study last year may lend some credence to the legend. In “Praying for Recession: The Business Cycle and Protestant Religiosity in the United States,” David Beckworth, an assistant professor of economics at Texas State University, looked at long-established trend lines showing the growth of evangelical congregations and the decline of mainline churches and found a more telling detail: During each recession cycle between 1968 and 2004, the rate of growth in evangelical churches jumped by 50 percent. By comparison, mainline Protestant churches continued their decline during recessions, though a bit more slowly."

The article includes several stories of Catholics who have lost jobs being invited by friends to local evangelical Churches who are addressing the situation directly. In fact, all the stories of spiritually seeking people are of Catholic turning to evangelicals.

"Frank O’Neill, 54, a manager who lost his job at Morgan Stanley this year, said the “humbling experience” of unemployment made him cast about for a more personal relationship with God than he was able to find in the Catholicism of his youth. In joining the Shelter Rock Church on Long Island, he said, he found a deeper sense of “God’s authority over everything — I feel him walking with me.”


"At the Shelter Rock Church, many newcomers have been invited by members who knew they had recently lost jobs. On a recent Sunday, new faces included a hedge fund manager and an investment banker, both laid off, who were friends of Steve Leondis, a cheerful business executive who has been a church member for four years. The two newcomers, both Catholics, declined to be interviewed, but Mr. Leondis said they agreed to attend Shelter Rock to hear Mr. Tomlinson’s sermon series, “Faith in Unstable Times.”

“They wanted something that pertained to them,” he said, “some comfort that pertained to their situations.”

"The sense of historic moment is underscored especially for evangelicals in New York who celebrated the 150th anniversary last year of the Fulton Street Prayer Revival, one of the major religious resurgences in America. Also known as the Businessmen’s Revival, it started during the Panic of 1857 with a noon prayer meeting among traders and financiers in Manhattan’s financial district.

Over the next few years, it led to tens of thousands of conversions in the United States, and inspired the volunteerism movement behind the founding of the Salvation Army, said the Rev. McKenzie Pier, president of the New York City Leadership Center, an evangelical pastors’ group that marked the anniversary with a three-day conference at the Hilton New York. “The conditions of the Businessmen’s Revival bear great similarities to what’s going on today,” he said. “People are losing a lot of money.”

New York is not an evangelical hotbed. It is a heavily Catholic area. That's why those who are coming to evangelical congregations for the first time and were interviewed in this article are Catholic. The obvious question is "Why aren't they turning to their own parishes?"

As one Long Island pastor - in an exceedingly wealthy and educated community, the sort of community that is really hurting right now - told me: "My people aren't disciples. Did you know that there is no sin on Long Island? There is no sex on Long Island. The one remnant of their cultural Catholicism left is the belief "If you miss Mass on Sunday, you go to hell." So the only sin people confess is missing Mass on Sunday."

I remember another conversation I had with an elderly Hawaiian man several years ago. He was a regular at Mass who had come in for a gifts interview but all he wanted to talk about was his family's financial troubles. Finally, I gently reminded him that the interview was to help him discern his charisms and asked why he had come. His basic answer: he just needed to talk to someone. I asked him if he had prayed about his situation. "You can do that?" he asked in a surprised tone of voice.

I left that interview in a white hot rage. Rage - not at him - but at us. I didn't have the language I now have for where he was spiritually (courtesy of our work with Making Disciples) but I knew that he was essentially "pre-natal" and he was running out of time. All while being an "active" life-long Catholic.

Because Catholics don't ask one another about their lived relationship with God and we don't tell one another the basic kerygma and we don't challenge one another to follow Jesus.

When disaster or pain or change shakes our communities and baptized men and women - and both "inactive" and "active" hover on the edge of a new spiritual openness - who is going to be ready and waiting and actively reaching out? Who will ask and listen and talk to them about Christ and walk with them as the tentatively explore the possibility of a whole new kind of relationship with God?

Evangelicals recognize the spiritual significance of this moment. Do we?

My question:

Are you aware of any significant Catholic response/outreach specifically to those who are newly unemployed or have lost their homes due to the current financial crisis? Especially any Catholic outreach that has an intentionally spiritual component? Please share.
Roadtrip PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 11 December 2008 20:54
Been on the road. Chicago. St. Louis (filled with statues of the St. Louis). Kansas City, MO.

Home tomorrow. Then blogging will commence.

Love Google instructions like this:

Merge onto I-70. Drive 510 miles. The whole length of Kansas.

The danger of getting lost is minimal. The danger of falling asleep is high.
We Got Elegance . . . PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 08 December 2008 20:03
ID readers know that we like to keep things on a high intellectual plane around here. But I thought you would also like to see some candid photos of life in the office at holiday time.

Austin is our don't-mess-with-me office manager.

Cause when the natives get restless . . .

But you gotta admit the natives have style: Istvan, (our tech/production guy), Sybil (our bookkeeper) and Austin (office manager)

Lessons From St. Paul for the New Evangelization PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 08 December 2008 19:21
Guess I should blog about this since Tom Peters over at American Papist beat me to it - and he had access to the cool images that I, as a mere speaker, had never seen. So, in the best Dominican tradition, I stole it!

More details....

Keynote Speaker - Most Rev. Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Denver (i hope i get to meet him but Archbishops usually jet in and out of these kinds of events)

Main Speaker - SherryWeddell Co-Founder and Director Catherine of Siena Institute

Multiple Workshops - Scripture, Spirituality, Youth ministry, Parish renewal, and much more

Contact: 313-883-8792 ][][ This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Mark your calendars. It would be fun to meet some ID readers there!
Kerygma & Carols PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 07 December 2008 12:36
One of the topics upon which I've been mulling (in my spare moments) is the way in which the Kerygma, the core Gospel message that awakens Christian faith and lays the foundation for catechesis, is so seldom articulated among us, and yet fills the carols that we treasure at this time of year.

I've been listening again this Advent to a cd recorded by friend-of-this-blog Kathleen Lundquist. Kathleen has a truly beautiful voice and recorded a number of less familiar carols, including the wonderful 17th century All My Heart This NIght Rejoices. Listen to Kathleen's recording here. (Scroll down to tack #5.)

All my heart this night rejoices,
As I hear, far and near, sweetest angel voices;
“Christ is born,” their choirs are singing,
Till the air, everywhere, now their joy is ringing.

Forth today the Conqueror goeth,
Who the foe, sin and woe, death and hell, o’erthroweth.
God is man, man to deliver;
His dear Son now is one with our blood forever.

Shall we still dread God’s displeasure,
Who, to save, freely gave His most cherished Treasure?
To redeem us, He hath given
His own Son from the throne of His might in Heaven.

Should He who Himself imparted
Aught withhold from the fold, leave us broken hearted?
Should the Son of God not love us,
Who, to cheer sufferers here, left His throne above us?

If our blessèd Lord and Maker
Hated men, would He then be of flesh partaker?
If He in our woe delighted,
Would He bear all the care of our race benighted?

He becomes the Lamb that taketh
Sin away and for aye full atonement maketh.
For our life His own He tenders
And our race, by His grace, meet for glory renders.

For it dawns, the promised morrow
Of His birth, Who the earth rescues from her sorrow.
God to wear our form descendeth;
Of His grace to our race here His Son He sendeth.

All My Heart was written by Johann Georg Ebeling, who in 1662 became the cantor, (naturlich!) of the St. Nicholas Church, the oldest surviving church in Berlin. Most of St. Nicholas was destroyed during World War II but it was meticulously rebuilt in the 80's on the original 13th century foundation.
New Evangelization Television PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 07 December 2008 07:53

Written by Joe Waters

Check out the new "faith-centered cable TV network" in New York City called NET (New Evangelization Television):

Looks very promising.

Seeking St. Nicholas PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 06 December 2008 16:16
On this Feast of St. Nicholas, I know that you have been wondering:

Just what did St. Nicholas really look like? Well, you don't have to go further than the mega-site for all your St. Nicholas needs: The St. Nicholas Center

From their website:

St. Nicholas' remains are buried in the crypt of the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy. These bones were temporarily removed when the crypt was repaired during the 1950s. At the Vatican's request, anatomy professor Luigi Martino from the University of Bari, took thousands of minutely-detailed measurements and x-ray photographs (roentgenography) of the skull and other bones.

The current professor of forensic pathology at the University of Bari, Francesco Introna, knew advancements in diagnostic technique could yield much more from the data gathered in the 1950s. So he engaged an expert facial anthropologist, Caroline Wilkinson, at the University of Manchester in England, to construct a model of the saint's head from the earlier measurements.

Using this data, the medical artist used state-of-the-art computer software to develop the model of St. Nicholas. The virtual clay was sculpted on screen using a special tool that allows one to "feel" the clay as it is molded. Dr. Wilkinson says, "In theory you could do the same thing with real clay, but it's much easier, far less time-consuming and more reliable to do it on a computer."

After inferring the size and shape of facial muscles—there are around twenty-six—from the skull data, the muscles are pinned onto the virtual skull, stretched into position, and covered with a layer of "skin." "The muscles connect in the same place on everyone, but because skulls vary in shape, a different face develops," Wilkinson comments. The tangents from different parts of the nasal cavity determine the length of a nose. This was difficult because St. Nicholas' nose had been badly broken. "It must have been a very hefty blow because it's the nasal bones between the eyes that are broken," she continued.

"We used clay on the screen that you can feel but not physically touch. It was very exciting. We did not have the physical skull, so we had to recreate it from two-dimensional data. We are bound to have lost some of the level of detail you would get by working from photographs, but we believe this is the closest we are ever going to get to him," Wilkinson concluded.

Next the three-dimensional image went to Image Foundry Studios where a digital artist added detail and color to the model. This gave it Greek Mediterranean olive-toned skin, brown eyes, and grey hair and beard, trimmed in 4th century fashion.

The result of the project is the image of a Greek man, living in Asia Minor (part of the Greek Byzantine Empire), about 60-years old, 5-feet 6-inches tall, who had a heavy jaw and a broken nose.

Press reaction to the facsimile tended to imply that good Saint Nicholas had had a brawling past, hence the broken nose. It is more likely, however, that his nose was broken when imprisoned and tortured during the persecution of Christians under Roman Emperor Diocletian.

The results look remarkably like the traditional icons of St. Nicholas - except for the badly broken nose.

Ho Ho Ho!
Good Stuff Going On PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 05 December 2008 13:37
Even though we are well into December, the Institute still has a number of events going on.

This evening and tommorrow, a Called & Gifted interviewer training will be happening in Sugarland, Texas.

This weekend, Fr. Mike will be preaching at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Jamul, California as an introduction to the Advent mission he will be preaching on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week. If you are in the area, consider spending part of your Advent with Fr. Mike. He is a wonderful preacher (I speak from experience).

On the weekend of December 13/14, we will be offering yet another interviewer training in Kansas City, Kansas. Which is in preparation for the really big dual language (English/Spanish) Called & Gifted that we will be teaching on January 9/10. Sponsored by both Kansas City dioceses - Kansas and Missouri.

Then Fr. MIke will zip north to preach all the Masses on the weekends of December 14/15 and 20/21 at Blessed Sacrament parish in Seattle where the Institute was originally founded. Blessed Sacrament is magical (if damp) at Advent and Christmas. Go and hear him if you can. He will also be giving a special Advent talk on December 18 on "Journey to Bethlehem".

Then, because we are clement, we will allow Fr. Mike to go home for Christmas. I know. I know. Get's em into bad habits. They'll start to think they have a right to time off. But then I have always had have a soft spot for Dominicans. That man just twists me around his little finger.

There are two other very cool seasonal events coming up at Blessed Sacrament:

Fr. Allen Duston, OP will be giving a talk on December, 10 at 7pm. The subject: Angelic Art at the Vatican. And he should know. Fr. Allen served for years as head of development for the Vatican Art Museum and worked in the most amazing office in the Vatican - the 15th century papal robing room with the date 1496 still visible on the walls. It was Fr. Duston who arranged an an amazing privilege for us when Fr. Michael Sweeney and I were in Rome - an after-hours private tour of the Sistine Chapel. All by ourselves.

And then the Tudor Choir will be giving a true Christmastide concert at Blessed Sacrament on December 27.

What riches!
Pray for Jos, Nigeria PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 05 December 2008 12:32
Amy Welborn blogs on this important story: the flaring up of violence between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.

Especially in Jos, a university town. I feel a personal connection with Jos because my sister turned 20 in Jos while showing the Jesus film with Campus Crusade.

The Anglican diocesan website is chilling to read.

The headline reads "Jos goes up in flames. And beneath that is a depressingly detailed list of the damage and
deaths experienced by the Christian community.. Deaths, persons injured, churched destroyed, homes destroyed, livestock lost (2500 hens) and all by parish.

The Catholic Archdiocese has listed its losses here.

Those of us privileged to live in peace must hold our suffering brothers and sisters up in prayer.
This Morning PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 05 December 2008 08:12
10 F. Fresh powder covers the garden. Tuscany in winter.

No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious! Glorious!

Charles Dickens, The Christmas Carol

And just because it is such a stunning contrast, here's what it looked like 4 months ago:

The Fr. Mike You've Never Known Till Now PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 04 December 2008 19:41
For those of you who may have wondered how Fr. Mike discerned his call to priesthood, our local diocesan paper has published an interview with him about his journey into the Dominican order.

How a really nice would-be Stanford PhD and theoretical geophysicist got knocked off his horse on the way to Palo Alto.

My favorite bit:

"Because Mike was attracted to community life he began talking with the Franciscan vocations director. The director encouraged him to also consider the Dominicans. Later, he reluctantly visited the Dominican house of studies in Oakland, Calif. When walking down the street that led to the seminary he saw a Dominican in his white robes waiting for him and thought, "It’s 10 o’clock in the morning and this guy still has his bathrobe on," but then realized it was some kind of "religious get-up."

Just think: If he'd not gotten over it, we should not have known each other. . .

Sorry, Fr. MIke. Its too late to back out now!
Starry, Starry Lights PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 04 December 2008 15:50
Incredible in Pittsburgh.

210,000 lights, 3 months to put them up. 6 months to do the computer programing.

Here's the result. CNN is now carrying it. The owner says his e-mail has crashed. I'll bet.

You gotta ask: is this someone without enough to do in life? But it will knock your socks off.
And your kid's socks off.

Work Rears Its Ugly Head PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 04 December 2008 11:42
I'm falling behind in my blogging intentions. One is because I've gotten engaged in some very interesting. overlapping, and complex conversations on other blogs over the past few days. Here.

But work insists on rearing its ugly head. People who I think I have successfully fobbed off with e-mail questions insist on getting back to me and putting the ball back into my court. The nerve!

So for the moment, I must contemplate the falling snow in the park behind and focus on the stuff for which they pay me the big bucks. Will return asap.
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