The investigation of the contaminated cancer drugs comes as China is trying to restore confidence in its tattered regulatory system. In the last two years, scores of people around the world have died after ingesting contaminated drugs and drug ingredients produced in China. Last year, China executed its top drug safety official for accepting bribes to approve drugs.
On at least two occasions in 2002, Shanghai Hualian had shipments of drugs stopped at the United States border, F.D.A. records show. One shipment was an unapproved antibiotic and the other a diuretic that had “false or misleading labeling.” Records also show that another unit of Shanghai Pharmaceutical Group has filed papers declaring its intention to sell at least five active pharmaceutical ingredients to manufacturers for sale in the United States.
Because of opposition from the anti-abortion movement, the F.D.A. has never publicly identified the maker of the abortion pill for the American market. The pill was first manufactured in France, and since its approval by the F.D.A. in 2000 it has been distributed in the United States by Danco Laboratories. Danco, which does not list a street address on its Web site, did not return two telephone calls seeking comment.
There is an interesting conference underway in Rome on "The Parish and the New Evangelization". It is sponsored in part by the Emmanuel Community which sponsors some wonderful evangelization events - such as the open house/Adoration/welcome initiative that my pastor stumbled across at the Parthenon in Rome a few years ago.
Although the Emmanuel Community was founded by a layman, it now has priestly vocations that have sprung up from within. Father Yves le Saux, general delegate for ordained ministry of the Emmanuel Community was interviewed by Zenit:
" . . . the model of the parish in which the pastor is there, in the midst of its community, available for all the people to go to, is no longer sufficient today. If a pastor wishes to still have sheep, he should go to find them. Today, the parish should be understood as “mission territory.” It seems to me that perhaps the term “mission territory” has to be added to the term parish so that the priest and Christians who live in a determined place can enter into a dynamic of announcing the Gospel. From an interview with the head of the Emm
Said in another way, does the parish have a future? Yes, on the condition that it is missionary.
Q: What advice could you give to a pastor who has a deep consciousness of the evangelizing role of his parish but who feels alone facing this challenge?
Father Le Saux: It is clear that the responsibility for the mission should not fall on only one man. I think that today the parochial function should not be entrusted to only one man, but to a team of priests who have a demanding community life and who are prepared for working together in the mission.
But this is insufficient. Today a parish priest has to be surrounded by the baptized who share with him the same missionary drive. The priest who feels alone should, in principle, have the objective of surrounding himself with people who not only evangelize with him, but who also pray with him, reflect with him, have a Christian life with him.
That being said, I think that there is also a responsibility of the bishops themselves, who should be on guard to not leave a priest alone. A man alone, even with a lot of help and talents, remains limited in his fruitfulness."
Few diocesan priests that I've met have the alternative of working with a team of priests - certainly in large parts of the US and elsewhere. But they certainly can seek to be surrounded by the baptized who "share the same missionary drive." who evangelize with him, pray with him, have a Christian life with him.
Of course, that would require that both pastor and people were intentional disciples who were convinced that the Church's primary mission is outward, not inward and busy engaged in that mission.
Excellent grist for the conversational mill in Houston!
As Paul Tournier put it:
"There are two things a person can not do alone. One is to be married and the other is to be a Christian."
More specifically, St. Mary's Seminary, here we come.
Fly down Thursday. teach a modified C & G Thursday night and Friday morning for the student body and some faculty, optional interviews for those interested on Friday afternoon and evening, then back to CS on Saturday morning.
Marc Cohn (who is Jewish) captured the feeling I get returning to the south so well in his classic, Walking in Memphis
They've got catfish on the table They've got gospel in the air And Reverend Green be glad to see you When you haven't got a prayer But boy you've got a prayer in Memphis
Now Muriel plays piano Every Friday at the Hollywood And they brought me down to see her And they asked me if I would -- Do a little number And I sang with all my might And she said -- "Tell me are you a Christian child?" And I said "Ma'am I am tonight"
Then to re-focus on those missions looming so large on the horizon.
Blogging will probably recommence on Saturday - or possibly Sunday. Home for 5 days so I'll be able to get up some blogging steam.
More than ever, Information technology has become an important economic engine for urban communities in India. Private and public enterprises, large and small are experiencing its benefits, and large investments are being made in the development and implementation of IT. However, the specific community that ASSET is focusing on, namely the Children of sex workers and the sex workers themselves have been left out.
Even where computer access is available, children of sex workers (Csw) are denied access because of who they are and also it is costly, and the children lack the basic skills to make it a useful resource. Computer literacy among Csw is envisioned as a means of improving employment prospects than a tool for improving community life. ASSET aims to demystify technology by helping Csw to seek it out and embrace all its potential.
Available and accessible information technology can play an important role in promoting social change. ASSET hopes to empower local communities to collect their own data on unemployment, health, or other issues and use the data make their voices heard. Computers are an important means of accessing information to connect small communities with the larger society and economy. IT efforts in many communities are adopted as a top-down, private enterprise approach that treats local communities as consumers of a service. They do not integrate small communities by giving them a stake in technology development, and these initiatives tend to deepen the divide. And since social issues are not the priority of the large multinationals and private companies that so far dominate IT development, there has been little effort to promote the use of IT tools for social good and poverty alleviation.
ASSET offers locally-driven computer literacy training, and plans to work with parents to set up community-owned IT cooperatives to ensure democratic access.
Working with the parents, ASSET provides the community members with training in simple IT processes like the use of the computer in collecting and storing data followed by methods of analyzing the information.
Participants will their new skills to collect and sort data on the frequency and prevalence of diseases in their area, and then present the information to the authorities in support of their demand for better health services. After the successful completion of the pilot project in Chennai, ASSET plans to implement similar programs in Bangalore and Hyderabad.
ASSET is very focused on finding and developing special software to meet specific local needs. Access to hardware is just as crucial as skills and software in these communities where computers are expensive and scarce. ASSET has found generous partners who have donated desktop PCs and laptops. Volunteer organizations have been tapped to assist with outreach to support training and education programs. ASSET is also working with local colleges and institutes to invite socially oriented youth with special skills in software and web development, media, fundraising and other relevant areas to get involved as volunteers. To ensure the democratic dissemination of information technology, ASSET plans computer service centers that are run on a cooperative model training community members in hardware, hardware repair, and organizing social networks around computers to further integrate IT into community life.
The belief of the founders of ASSET, Inc. is that every child, irrespective of parentage counts. Their mission is to give children access to education which is not available to them through traditional means and to emphasize on structural intervention aspects of using technology to enable sex workers to dream of a better future for their children. This gives them something to live for and so adopt healthy behaviors.
It is encouraging to see that the Church is starting to recognize this newly emerging reality and take some action.
According to Allen:
Fr. Juan Usma Gomez of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Vatican official responsible for Catholic/Pentecostal relations, published a piece in the January 27 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, reporting two new developments that have not as yet garnered wide attention:
• The Joint International Commission for Catholic–Pentecostal Dialogue will shortly publish a new document: On Becoming A Christian: Insights from Scripture and the Patristic Writings. With Some Contemporary Reflections. Usma Gomez called the document a “true novelty,” because it’s the first time Catholics and Pentecostals have jointly studied the Fathers of the Church.
Fantastic. The Fathers are filled with references to charisms, the miraculous, and the work of the Holy Spirit. If any readers would like to learn more on the subject, be sure and check out this excellent, scholarly but accessible work: Christian Initiation and Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
After several years of preparation, for the first time the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity will hold “preliminary conversations” this April with leaders of various non-denominational Pentecostal movements, which could lead to the creation of a formal dialogue. Given that the majority of Pentecostals are now thought to belong to independent and unaffiliated grassroots movements, this means that for the first time the Vatican is opening a channel of communication with that sector of the Christian world where, in many respects, “the action is.”
Again, an extremely timely move. The dilemma is how to do ecumenical dialogue with Christians who are not centrally organized and many of whom consciously reject the classic denominational structures? This will not be dialogue as we have been used to it: scholarly and focused around historic creeds and theological debates.
Dr. David Barrett is the foremost expert in the world on the status of global Christianity and editor of the massive 2001 edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia published by Oxford University Press. He divides the contemporary Christian world into six ecclesial traditions or what he calls “Christian megablocs”. Five of these blocs are familiar historic groups: Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism, and what Barrett calls “Marginal Christians”; a bloc that would include groups like the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The sixth bloc is a 20th century phenomena that goes by the name of “post-denominationalist Independent”. This new kid on the block is already a major player. As of mid-2007, Barrett estimates that Independent Christians number 437.7 million, or roughly 20% of all the Christians in the world. (The updated mid-2007 figures that I will be quoting are available online at Status of Global Mission, 2007 in the Context of the 20th and 21st Centuries (hereafter SGM), http://www.gordonconwell.edu/ockenga/globalchristianity/resources.php.) If Barrett’s figures are close enough for government work, Independent Christianity is second in size only to Roman Catholicism. It is larger than all historic Protestant groups (excluding Anglicanism) combined, twice the size of Orthodoxy, and over five times larger than the entire Anglican communion.
Independent Christianity is growing faster than Islam. Independents constituted only 1.4% of world Christianity in 1900. By 2050, Barrett estimates they will make up nearly 25% of all Christians and 8.5% of the world’s population. In 2007, the Catholic Church showed a minimal growth rate of 1.14%, while Islam’s annual growth was 1.81%. Independent Christianity led the way with an annual growth rate of 2.12 % - nearly double that of Catholicism. (SGM)
None of this is surprising in light of Independent Christians’ passionate commitment to proclaiming Christ – to the baptized and non-baptized alike. As a group, Independents are what Barrett calls “Great Commission” Christians. That is, they hold that mandate of Christ to evangelize, baptize, and disciple all nations is still valid and is the central mission of the Church. (According to the SGM, 703 million or 32% of all Christians in 2007 were “Great Commission Christians”.). The five nations with the largest numbers of Independents in 2005 are China, the United States, India, Nigeria, and Brazil. According to Barrett, 52% of Asian Christians, 30% of North American Christians, 22% of African Christians, and 7.3% of Latin Christians are part of the Independent movement.
In light of its global size and dynamism, you would think that “Independent” Christianity would register on the Catholic ecclesial radar. One reason it does not is that this post-denominational Christianity has only been recognized as a unique movement in the past 20 years. It is so new that it can be easily dismissed by the historically-minded as yet another fly-by-night “sect”. Granted that the word “church” has a very specific meaning in Catholic thought, this does not mean that “sect” is an adequate label for Christian communities who do not qualify as churches. This word tells the listener nothing and gives the strong impression that the group in question is too marginal to be taken seriously. In any case, the term “sect” is manifestly inadequate to describe a movement that is 437 million strong.
A second reason we may overlook Independent Christianity is that it is a development from within evangelicalism that intentionally leaves historic Protestant practice far behind. They are therefore not an obvious partner for the sort of ecumenical dialogue we are familiar with that engages traditional Protestant denominations.
A third reason is that the Independent movement is not structured in standard ways. Most Independent Christians are part of loosely affiliated “apostolic networks” held together by personal relationships, a common charismatic spirituality, and a joint commitment to proclaiming Christ. Barrett estimates that there were about 22,000 such networks or para-denominations in existence in 2000 involving 1.7 million congregations.
The fourth and most critical reason is that Independent Christianity is nearly devoid of and completely uninterested in the marks of the Church that are so central to Catholic ecclesiology: historic, apostolic, creedal, and sacramental. The movement is almost a perfect antitype; it is a-historical, anti-hierarchical, anti-intellectual, and non-sacramental. It is also massively “pentecostalized” in spirituality and ecclesiology.
The Vatican is focusing on the positive per John Allen:
"Usma Gomez also lists several contributions which he believes the rise of Pentecostalism has bestowed upon contemporary Christianity: • Rediscovery of the central role of the Holy Spirit; • The fact that personal conversion to Jesus Christ is requested in an explicit and continuing manner throughout the life of every single Christian; • The emphasis placed upon prayer, and the power of prayer; • Rediscovery of charisms and spiritual gifts as realities, effective and necessary, in the life of every believer.
At the same time, Usma Gomez also cites some negatives associated with Pentecostalism, above all that some Pentecostals “underline their experience and their spirituality as the only one directly produced by God himself,” and thus “they’re not disposed to recognize the same importance or the same role to other Christian experiences.”
Of course, intentional discipleship, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the importance of charisms in the life of every believer is not new to Catholicism at all. Just read St. Paul or St. Cyril of Jerusalem's last two Catechetical Lectures or search for the word "charism" in the Vatican II documents and recent magisterial teaching. Even more intriguing is the insistence in papal teaching that recognizing, calling forth, honoring, discerning, and and coordinating the charisms of the baptized is an essential part of the priestly office, of governance.
Yet, almost no clergy are formed to do so. Indeed, practically none of the clergy that I have worked with so far have even heard that they are supposed to although the documents lay it out very clearly:
As both Fr. Mike and I have pointed out before on this blog:
Priests are also called to “recognize”, uncover with faith, acknowledge with joy, foster with diligence, know, appreciate, judge and discern, coordinate, put to good use, and have heartfelt esteem for the charisms of the laity (Lumen Gentium, 30; Presbyterorum Ordinis, 9; Pastores Dabo Vobis 40, 74, Christifideles Laici, 32)
Which makes our jaunt to St. Mary's seminary in Houston this week all the more timely and significant.
Fun workshop in Riverside and some very fun and interesting interviews. Ate fresh oranges off the tree, reveled in hummingbirds, and the rare clear vista of snow capped mountains in southern Cal.
Home, finally - for two days.
Fr. Mike and I lost our Monday. But today, we managed to slip out of Salt Lake City nearly 24 hours late and reach Colorado Springs. The storm that covered Salt Lake this morning is supposed to cruise over us tonight.
Must work on upcoming parish missions (3 for me, eight for Fr. Mike!)
Then off to St. Mary's seminary in Houston on Thursday. Back Saturday. The luxury of 5 days at home.
Then a long, multi-stage trip.
I will try to get some blogging in. Fr. Mike is too buried to blog right now.
I don't have time to write much about St. Thomas, the great Dominican scholar, saint, and doctor of the Church. Others will do a much better job today than I could. He is a phenomenal example of a Catholic with the charism of knowledge, which empowered him to diligently study scripture, philosophy, theology, and natural science. He once gave thanks to God that he never read a page he did not understand! His far-reaching thought searched out priniciples and was able to synthesize the thoughts of the ancient Greeks, Muslim and Jewish scholars, and the Fathers of the Church, and rejoice in the truths that they had discovered. And then he generously shared what he had discovered in his teaching and writing.
He is a model for Catholics today, especially in that "universal" approach to the search for truth. He was not afraid to study the thought of non-Christians and was confident that God would reveal truths to those that earnestly sought them, whether they were Christian or not. Too often today I run across Catholics who have a "ghetto mentality." They are unwilling to admit that anything useful can be learned from non-Catholics. That certainly was not Thomas's understanding. Not surprisingly, some Catholics in his own day, including a few bishops, condemned him for searching for truth amid the works of Plato, Aristotle, Averroes (Ibn Rushd), Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Moses Maimonedes. I suggest that Aquinas was able to discern the truth in aspects of their writings because of his own intense life of prayer in addition to his brilliance.
The following is taken from a short biography of St. Thomas found on the EWTN website. It underscores Thomas's own focus on Jesus as the source and summit of his life and study.
One night, in the chapel of the Dominican priory in Naples where St. Thomas was then living, the sacristan concealed himself to watch the saint at prayer. He saw him lifted into the air, and heard Christ speaking to him from the crucifix on the chapel wall:
"Thomas, you have written well of me. What reward will you have?"
"Lord, nothing but yourself."
His request was soon answered. On December 6, 1273, St. Thomas Aquinas was saying Mass for the feast of St. Nicholas in the chapel where the crucifix had spoken to him. Some profound experience - spiritual, mental, and physical suddenly overwhelmed him. He showed few external signs of the change at first; but he declared to his long- time secretary that he could write no more. "All that I have written," he said, "seems like straw to me."
This quote is a reminder to all of us who are concerned with good catechesis in the Church. While such catechesis is important, it stands on the foundation of the relationship with Christ, in Whom we live, and move and have our being. And just as reading about someone may give us an idea of who that person is, meeting them, getting to know them, and loving them is such a deeper experience of them that all we could write about them will inevitably seem - and be - inadequate.
Sherry and I missed our connection from Salt Lake City to Colorado Springs last night, and may spend most of the day here until we're able to catch a flight back to Colorado.
It's a significant time to be in Salt Lake City. Last night Gordon Hinckley, the president of the LDS church died. I imagine the airport will become more crowded as Mormons come to Salt Lake to pay their respects and perhaps attend his funeral.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) claims a worldwide membership of 13 million people, but fewer than half of them actually live in the United States. Thirty-six percent of church members reside in Latin America and 17 percent outside of the Western Hemisphere. A significant LDS community exists in Canada. Mormons recognize Jesus Christ as the head of their church, but they accuse the leading Christian denominations of a Great Apostasy, or loss of the original authority to lead the Christian movement. In its formative years, the church and its members were subjected to intense religious persecution, which caused many members to flee to the interior West and settle in what is now the US state of Utah. The church encourages its young members to serve for up to two years on full-time proselytizing missions around the world. As a result, nearly 53,000 Mormon missionaries are working currently in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and other parts of the planet. In addition, more than 3,500 special church envoys work worldwide as health care specialists, teachers, construction supervisors, agricultural experts and leadership trainers.
The LDS president is considered a prophet through whom God gives ongoing revelation. Last week I had a long conversation with a Mormon young man on a flight from a workshop. He explained that the Mormons believe the early Church erred in not choosing more apostles to replace the twelve as they died or were martyred. He wasn't convinced that the Catholic bishops continue the ministry of the apostles.
You may know that many fervent young Mormon men (and now some women) leave their homes at the age of 19 for a two year mission assignment (made by the president/apostle) somewhere in the world. This is a tremendous commitment to evangelization, for sure!
Tom Shanahan, SJ, comments on the readings for today at Creighton University's Daily Reflection. Among other things he notes,
The drama of the entrance to Damascus is all about conversion. In Saul/Paul’s case the conversion was immediate and historically decisive. He was baptized; he preached in the Synagogue at Damascus; he recognized and proclaimed vigorously that Jesus was the Son of God. What an incredible turnabout!
For most of us the conversion, the turnabout, is more gradual and much less dramatic. Conversion is a process and a process takes time and effort to be properly effected; it is not a once and for all situation.
Actually conversion is a lifetime project. A dramatic conversion story like Paul’s invites each of us to reflect on where we are along the line of that process, and how we might enhance or open ourselves to enhancement of that most important project of our lives. Ultimately our conversion has to do with relationship: the relationship with Jesus the Christ, the object of our Christian faith.
Absolutely, correct, Fr. Shanahan!
However, I would like to point out something; a basic presumption that I have heard many Catholics say over and over again - myself included. "Conversion is a lifetime project." So true. But what is the length of my lifetime - ahh, that's the rub! My parents are 85, and up until a few years ago were in remarkable health. My aunt is 90, and as spry as can be. But am I guaranteed so much time to ripen?
Saying "conversion is a lifetime project" has been for me an excuse to not take conversion very seriously; to presume that it'll just happen so long as I don't do anything extremely bad, or stop going to Mass, or quit being nice. Slowly and gradually I'll become like St. Paul - willing to travel the world and speak fearlessly of my relationship of love with Jesus of whom I will be able to say, "I no longer live; Christ is living within me." Unfortunately, I might be 80 by that time, and somewhat limited in my mobility. Unlike my parents, I might have some dementia. "I no longer live; someone else is living in me... oh, what's his name again?"
Saul's conversion was so dramatic, I believe, because he was so zealous for God and his Jewish faith. There were plenty of Pharisees in his day, but not all of them were willing to take their life in their hands and travel cross country to apprehend heretics (i.e., Jewish converts to Christianity). No, perhaps Saul's conversion was so profound and so rapid, and perhaps the Lord Jesus spoke to him in a blinding light because He knew He could put that zeal to good use. He could "convert it" to His own plans.
Am I really undergoing conversion day-by-day if I'm not passionate about a relationship with God? Fr. Shanahan correctly points out that conversion has to do with my relationship with Jesus, but as I look back on my life, my closest friendships and deepest loves have been - and are - with people with whom I have consciously pursued a relationship. They didn't "just happen." I wasn't content to let them grow untended, haphazardly, or without conscious effort on my part. I had to spend time with them, learn about them, grow in trust, take occasional risks and be vulnerable. Isn't it much the same with our relationship with Jesus?
Conversion means a turning away from direction we were heading. It means turning from ourself towards Jesus and our neighbor. Considered that way, no wonder we're content to let conversion be a life-long project. But is that what God wants for us? If my behavior is selfish, self-destructive, detrimental to loving human relationships, and contributes to the injustice found in the world, should I be content with a slow, inexorable turn like that of the Titanic from the iceberg? (I find it kind of ironic that the pain and suffering so many people endure is considered an argument against the existence of God. Often, pain is one of the clearest signs of God trying to wake us up and turn toward him.)
Yeah, perhaps dramatic conversions like Saul's are rare in our day. Maybe that's a problem.
In honor of the Feast of St. Francis de Sales today, I thought I'd repost something I wrote last summer about the network of friends that gathered around Francis and, together, changed an entire nation. This is also related to Fr. Mike's intriguing post below on Vocations Work in which he describes the remarkable initiative of John Jacques Olier, who was a spiritual heir of Francis in many ways.
I've been working on the Building Intentional Community Day that will be held in Colorado Springs this August 31 and, in the process, was inspired to attempt to diagram the relationships between the major players in the 17th century Catholic revival in France.
In their case, it truly was the pursuit of God in the company of friends - and their friendship changed the spiritual atmosphere of an entire nation. This interlinked network of 11 people known as the "generation of saints" (and here I am only acknowledging the most visible personalities - there were many hundreds and thousands of fellow travelers with which only specialists in the period are familiar)were:
"all intimately acquainted with, and more important, were inspired to become holy and zealous from personal contact with each other. They visited each other frequently or kept up active correspondence about their visions, prayers, sense of sin, and missionary activities. In a way, they set out as a group to remake the Church . . .” Paris in the Age of Absolutism, Orest Ranum
They were remarkable for their diversity:
A Cardinal, a Bishop, three priests including one who had grown up a peasant, two young widows with children, a Parisian housewife, a single woman, a soldier. Today, the same group is recognized for including four canonized saints, one blessed, one Doctor of the Church, and six founders of religious congregations.
Among the many fruits of their collaboration:
1) Re-evangelized large areas of France, especially the countryside, parts of which were being evangelized for the first time in history 2) Fostered a distinctly lay spirituality for the first time and inventions like the "retreat" to nourish the personal spiritual lives of lay and ordained> 3) Renewal of the diocesan priesthood 4) Successful establishment of the "new" seminary system for forming priests 5) New, more systematic and effective methods of compassion for the poor 6) Establishment of the first "active" non-enclosed women's religious communities 7) A vibrant new missionary outreach around the world 8) Four new religious communities 8) The founding of one of the world's great cities: Montreal
Anyway, here's the Powerpoint slide I came up with:
The green lines represent personal friendships, the orange lines spiritual direction or mentoring; and the blue lines founders. Many times, such relationships overlapped as between Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal who were dear friends as well co-founders.
As you study the network of relationships, what difference would it have made if they had not had each other?
“In fact, even cursory glances through the Gospels confirm that the work Jesus did in the lives of his disciples occurred because the disciples were in relationship, not simply with him, but with each other.
That manner of growth in spiritual depth – in the context of community – is not accidental. It is part of how people are built.
We were created to seek God and we were created to find him with others.” - Richard Lamb