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March for Life, Paris PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 21 January 2008 08:49
Very extensive coverage of the March for Life, Paris can be found at Blog by the Sea.

10,000 to 20,000 took to the streets in Paris. I find it simply fascinating to watch Catholics from all over Europe marching on a day that really only has meaning in US history but also exciting to see a nascent world-wide movement inspired by 35 years of
faithfulness here.

Like here, the march has been heavily politicized and so there is much less public support from the hierarchy.

The annual pro-life march has been associated with France's right wing politics. That association with right-wing politicians undoubtedly has been a problem for the Paris march, and is probably a reason why the walk did not draw more support than it did from the French bishops and laity.

But as we can see from the phalanx of bishops marching in SF on Saturday, that can change as well.
Pictures from Walk for Life, San Francisco PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 21 January 2008 07:24
The Cafeteria Is Closed has lots of good pictures of the San Francisco Walk for LIfe which took place last Saturday.

You will notice significant representation from the Western Dominican Province (OPs in full habit are very photogenic and both the novices and students are educated in the Bay area). The sisters with them are Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist who have started a new mission in Loomis, CA
Avery Cardinal Dulles: Who Can Be Saved? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 21 January 2008 06:57
Pippin (the cat) is insisting on helping me blog this morning by walking over my MAC as I type.

So with Pippin's assist, I'd like to point you to Avery Dulles' new piece in this month's First Thing. It is most relevant to my post below on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

Entitled "Who Can Be Saved?", it is a fascinating walk through the history of Christian and Catholic thought on this very question. The answer to that question has changed and developed over the centuries - but none of the answers ever proposed = all of us are saved and all of us have earned it. Be sure and read the whole thing.

Dulles' conclusion is hopeful, not sloppy.

"Who, then, can be saved? Catholics can be saved if they believe the Word of God as taught by the Church and if they obey the commandments. Other Christians can be saved if they submit their lives to Christ and join the community where they think he wills to be found. Jews can be saved if they look forward in hope to the Messiah and try to ascertain whether God’s promise has been fulfilled. Adherents of other religions can be saved if, with the help of grace, they sincerely seek God and strive to do his will. Even atheists can be saved if they worship God under some other name and place their lives at the service of truth and justice. God’s saving grace, channeled through Christ the one Mediator, leaves no one unassisted. But that same grace brings obligations to all who receive it. They must not receive the grace of God in vain. Much will be demanded of those to whom much is given."

Or as C. S. Lewis put it so winningly in The Great Divorce (with my emphasis)

No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 21 January 2008 06:22
Up working early to plow through an enormous amount of stuff

But wanted to share this challenging article from my alma mater, Fuller, on youth ministry about a phenomena that I somehow missed:

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

Christian Smith, Associate Chair of the Department of Sociology at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says that the average youth worker across the country should recognize these statements almost immediately. According to the research he and his colleagues have been doing in partnership with the National Study of Youth and Religion , these are the core religious beliefs of youth aged 13-17 today.

God exists and has created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.

• God wants people to be good and nice to each other and to be moral, as taught in the Bible and most world religions.

• The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.

• God does not need to be particularly involved in life except when needed for a problem.

• Good people will go to heaven when they die.

Smith coined the phrase: Moralistic Therapeutic Deism to describe this set of beliefs

Moralistic: This means that youth generally think it is important to be a good person (and that this a major goal of being “religious”).

Therapeutic: Religious experience, indeed religion itself, exists to help us through life’s problems and makes us nicer people. In this approach, religious participation will often be defined around how religious experience has helped someone overcome personal difficulties.

Deism: God exists, had something to do with the creation of the world, but generally isn’t terribly active or demanding of God’s creation, especially in terms of the actual, spiritual experience of youth. It’s an explicit rejection of Christian orthodoxy.

If you can’t tell, this religion (and we should call it a religion) is not particularly grounded in a set of thoughtful traditions. It’s not even particularly theological as much as it is theopersonal , i.e., how God, the Heavenly Divine Butler, benefits the person, the individual.

And our kids are riddled with it. But where do they get it? Where could such a self-centered, consumerist, egocentric remaking of Christianity have come from? Smith says kids learn this behavior from the adults around them, strongly suggesting that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD) is the pop religion of American families.

While Smith is reflecting upon his experience of American Christian kids as a whole, I must say that this fits what we are encountering as we talk to Catholics adults around the country.

95% of all Catholics I've talked about issues of salvation to are de facto Pelagians, 99% are de facto universalists, and huge numbers are working deists. Even those who are most enthusiastic about evangelization often freeze when asked to contemplate the mere possibility that not everyone is automatically "saved".

You know, given eternal life completely independent of some conscious response to the grace of God in whatever form it has reached us.

Last year I tried to sum up for myself the heart-level assumptions of regular life-long Catholics in ordinary parishes that I've encountered. it went like this:

All of us are saved
And all of us have earned it
but none of us are saints
because that wouldn't be humble.

'Cause most older cradle Catholics still know that they are supposed to be humble.

The upshot: Most of us are humble where what is called for is magnanimity (the aspiration to accomplish great things for God and others) and we are presumptious where we desparately need a dose of humility. (Just how good am I, really, and what does Jesus Christ have to do with any of this?)

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. It isn't just for teens anymore.

If we don't get it, how do we expect our children and grandchildren to get it?
Angelus: Evangelization Moves Along the Path of Ecumenism PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 20 January 2008 15:27
The Pope's talk at today's heavily attended Angelus is about the Octave of Christian Unity:

"Christ had a specific evangelizing goal in mind when he prayed at the Last Supper that all his disciples "be one," says Benedict XVI.

Christ desired "that the world believe," the Pope said today to the crowd of 200,000 who had gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray the midday Angelus during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which will end Jan. 25.

The Church's evangelizing mission," the Holy Father added, "therefore, moves along the path of ecumenism, the path of unity of faith, of evangelical witness and authentic fraternity."

Commenting on the biblical theme for the 100th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity -- "Pray Without Ceasing" -- the Pontiff explained that the invitation of St. Paul to the community of Thessalonica was to communicate "that from the new life in Christ and in the Holy Spirit there flows forth the capacity to overcome all egoism, to live together in peace and fraternal union, to bear in large measure the burdens and sufferings of others."

"We must never tire of praying for the unity of Christians," said Benedict XVI. "We all have the duty to pray and work for the overcoming of every division between Christians, responding to Christ's desire 'ut unum sint.'"

"Prayer, conversion of heart, the reinforcement of the bonds of communion, form the essence of this spiritual movement that we hope will soon lead the disciples of Christ to celebrate the Eucharist together, the manifestation of their full unity," he added."

Via Zenit.

Let it be so.
200,000 Turn Out for Today's Angelus PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 20 January 2008 07:47
Here are pictures and details from the Associated Press of the huge (200,000) turn-out for today's Angelus led by Pope Benedict in St. Peter's Square. The huge turn out is a show of support for the Pope after his appearance at a local Roman university was cancelled due to protests by a small group of faculty and staff. This is a much larger attendance than normal.

In reaction, Invitations are reportedly flooding in for the Pope to speak at various Italian universities including Galileo's own university.

"Benedict referred to the issue on Sunday, saying he had put off the visit "against my will" but that the climate surrounding his appearance had made his presence at the school "inopportune."

He noted that he had a long history in academia - he taught theology in Germany for many years - and that he was greatly attached to the "love for the search for truth, for confrontation, for frank and respectful dialogue for reciprocal positions" found in university life.

"As a professor - shall we say, emeritus - who has met with so many students in my life, I encourage all of you, dear university students and professors, to always be respectful of other people's opinions and to search for truth and goodness with a free and responsible spirit."

In recent years, however, there has been a debate in the United States about whether Catholic universities should invite speakers, such as politicians, whose positions differ with Catholic Church teaching.

The pope was interrupted several times by applause from the crowd, which included students carrying banners that read "University Students," "Sapienza" and "At University for Truth" as well as Italian politicians. Students were also out in force because Sunday marked the Diocese of Rome's celebration of the Day for Catholic schools.

The pontiff thanked them all for turning out in such large numbers."

Cardinal O' Connor and the Impulse of the Holy Spirit PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 19 January 2008 22:21
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus has a wonderful post about the late Cardinal O'Connor of New York in the First Things blog. He ends with this anecdote:

Let me stop with a story. One ordinarily does not repeat in public what the pope says in private conversation, but I asked and John Paul gave me permission to tell this one. When during the O’Connor years I had occasion to meet with the pope, he would always ask, “How is Cardinal O’Connor?” And I would always say that Cardinal O’Connor is flourishing and is an inestimable gift to the Church. One time I went on to say, “You know what Cardinal O’Connor said the other day, Holy Father?” “No,” he answered. “What did Cardinal O’Connor say?” “Cardinal O’Connor said that he gets up every morning and prays that he will go to bed that night without having discouraged any impulse of the Holy Spirit. Now isn’t that a beautiful thing for a bishop to say?” A pause of several seconds. “Yes,” said the pope, “that is a beautiful thing for a bishop to say. I told him that.”

John Cardinal O’Connor. John Paul the Great. I think about them, I thank God for them, I talk with them, every day.

What a great story. What a wonderful thing to pray for and work toward: to finish a day without having discouraged any impulse of the Holy Spirit.
Kenya: Hotel Kisumu PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 19 January 2008 19:41
The news of massacres in Kenya has died away a bit but I just came across this gripping description of the situation in Kenya provided by the Dominican friars who run the OP Novitiate there. Their compound has become a haven for frightened families from various tribes. It sounds an awful lot like the movie "Hotel Rwanda". Read it. Pray for the people of Kenya.

The house in Kisumu and the Hawthorne Sisters are a distance from downtown Kisumu. They are also protected by a stone wall built after fr. Tom Heath, OP was killed in robbery in 2005. An electric fence tops the stone wall. In addition, they have a security team living on the compound from the Tugen tribe, (frankly, they are Tugen warriors) who are known for their toughness. Fr. Martin Martiny and the community have taken in a number of refugees. We can be pretty sure that they will safe on that compound.

On the compound we have some 32 "guests" in addition to the 60 or so kids who have asked for safe haven for fear of getting killed or burnt out of their houses. Some are family members of our excellent accountant, Gatwiri, a Kikuyu, who rented a room or house just 1/3 mile away - she came with all her stuff, sisters and brothers-in-law and kids. John Linus, an OP laity and his entire family asked to come (nine well behaved children) because in his neighborhood life was becoming untenable due to police shooting, mob burning and looting. The day we picked him up he told us the locals had just finished emptying out totally the home of a Kikuyu just a few doors away. Yet he's a Luo, as are some of the young men who were also afraid and asked for temporary lodging here: they're in the warehouse.

Then yesterday came Dr. Demwanza, accused of being a Kikuyu (he's Congolese!), whose house a mob tried three times to burn down; he came also with his entire family for their security. Fortunately we have space for them on the compound, between the sisters' guest house & rooms, and our postulancy + St. Martin de Porres house (the Peace Corps couple occupying this latter were "consolidated" in a safe spot in Milimani, so they could be evacuated together if their administration decides to do so!). All these folks are being fed up on the upper compound with Fr. Tom's kids. The only real fear we have at this point is that apparently some people came by today asking what tribe the people on our compound were!!! So we've put the guards on special alert (well, they've been on it for a week now, but to be aware that there may be some special risk here). It's good we have the wall and electric fence!

Evangelizing Youth & Young Adults in Boston PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 19 January 2008 08:38
The Archdiocese of Boston is also reorganizing their Youth and Young Adult ministry. Here's the entry from Cardinal Sean's blog (roll down):

We are bringing together the Offices for Youth and Young Adults with Campus Ministry and the Vocations Office. With this new office, the people who work with adolescents and young adults in the archdiocese will have contact with each other. They will be able to support each other, coordinate their efforts to evangelize, form young people in the faith and prepare them for their vocations in life, especially the call to holiness: the call to priesthood, religious life and the call to marriage.

Collaboration. Diocesan offices and initiatives working with each other like we were on the same team. Imagine.

And this note from Fr. Matt Williams, the new Directory of Youth and Young Adult Ministry which raises some challenging points:

"So what’s up with the name:

Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults?

Well, we wanted a name that would energize and excite, as well as capture the vision of what this office will be about. The words “New Evangelization” are proclaimed by our late and great Holy Father, John Paul II, who was drawing from the wisdom of Pope Paul VI as he addressed the challenges facing the mission of the Church. The term “New Evangelization” is meant to be prophetic and revolutionary. Acknowledging that there are so many Catholics and Christians who are Christian in name only, there is a dire need for evangelization to be new in its “ardor, methods and expression” (JPII). It is “not a merely matter of passing on doctrine but rather of a personal and profound meeting with the Savior” (JPII). Now that is exciting!!!

So why youth AND young adults in the same office???

Well, Cardinal Seán says it best: “business as usual isn’t working.” Something new is needed! A recent study out of the University of North Carolina researched how effective different denominations have been in passing on the faith to their young. Catholics came in last. If you think of it, most of our efforts to reach out to young people revolve around sacraments: baptism, first reconciliation, first communion, confirmation and marriage. What we fail to do is walk with our young people from one sacrament to the next. Inevitably young people fall through the cracks. Just ask any pastor what percentage of the couples who come to him for marriage in the Church he knows personally. NOT MANY! What is needed is a new vision in which we intentionally organize ministries that accompany our young people through all stages, from early adolescence through adulthood. In this way the Church is actively meeting her young people at these crucial moments in their lives."

As we are seeing in our conversations with leaders around the country and elsewhere, they know that "business as usual isn't working" and this new generation of leaders is very aware that personal, intentional discipleship is the foundation of everything else the Church does.

What was that Bob Dylan classic from the 60's? Oh yeah. "The times, they are a-changing . . .

Beantown in the Rockies PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 19 January 2008 07:15

Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston is spending a snowy week here in the mountains of Colorado leading a retreat for the seminarians of the diocese at St. Malo's Retreat Center. He has posted a lot of photographs of St. Malo on his blog, including pictures of Pope John Paul's visit there in 1993 (when he was in town for World Youth Day) .

St. Malo's has a spectacular setting as you can see but the retreatants won't be going for many strolls since the temps will be well below freezing all week and the wind chills will be truly chillin'. (it's spectacularly beautiful, frosted, sunny and very cold here this morning so I can only imagine what is is like 1700 feet higher with 45 miles a hour wind gusts!)

Cardinal Sean (as he referrs to himself on his blog) writes about the Archdiocese of Denver's practice of having their candidates for the priesthood spend an extra "spirituality" year before beginning their philosophy studies.

"It is yearlong program for spiritual formation with emphasis on prayer and apostolic service to the poor. Being here gives me an opportunity to hear from the seminarians themselves about how they have experienced that year. At St. John’s in Boston, we have been sending seminarians out to Creighton University, a Jesuit school in Nebraska, for a similar program, but it lasts only a summer rather than a full year."

The idea of both the additional "spirituality" year in Denver and the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton (about which I had heard fabulous things) is the personal spirituality - the intentional discipleship - of seminarians. As I have heard from both Michaels and from other priests, the intellectual focus of seminary is considerable and constant -but the integration of the spiritual and human aspect of their lives has often received less attention, especially in the recent past. That is changing dramatically now - and in some very creative and powerful ways.

I've been in touch with some of the faculty and students of IPF who see a significant correlation between our work at the Institute and theirs. Take a moment to browse their website - its very impressive.

I've had a long post brewing for a while on this whole subject - but it is one of those posts that requires real thought, work, and time - and I'm going to be working at full speed all weekend trying to get caught up before the next round of trips and workshops so this isn't the day. Visiting the IPF website is a good way to stimulate your own thinking on the topic.
Pastor of Third Largest Methodist Church in World Becoming Catholic PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 18 January 2008 09:07
I suppose this also made the rounds a few days ago but Allen Hunt, who, a year ago, was senior pastor of the third largest Methodist church in the world (Mt Pisgah in Georgia) announced that he will be received into the Catholic church. He had apparently transitioned out of the senior pastorate during the last year in preparation for this announcement not. and has focused upon his daily radio show. His wife will remain active in the Methodist church.

The responses on his personal blog run the gamut but are mostly positive.

Drop in and write him a note of welcome if you can. (Update: I see that comments have been closed at his blog site)

The Archdiocese of Atlanta is one of the healthiest in the nation so he's in a very good place to make the transition but he still needs our prayers. This is a very difficult transition to make - especially if you were pastor of a booming evangelical mega-church.

Abu Daoud asks one obvious question in the comments below:

Can Allen Hunt be a candidate for priesthood even though he is married? We all know that there have been a number of married Anglican/Episcopalian men ordained as Catholic priests. But a Methodist?

As of 2005:There are at least seventy-seven married men who have been ordained as Catholic priests in the United States. Sixty-six of these married priests were former Episcopalians, seven were former Lutherans, three were former Methodists, and one was a former Presbyterian.

So it is not unheard of - but I'm sure would be determined very individually - if Allen Hunt feels called to explore such a possibility. (how his wife remaining Methodist would affect this, I don't know).

You might it interesting to check out Allen Hunt's "All Catholic" show from December, 2006 featuring his good friend, Steven Boguslawski, O.P,
Octave of Christian Unity PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 18 January 2008 08:56
Today is the beginning of the Octave of Christian Unity. Ancient-Future Catholic has some good resources for the Octave which makes sense since their very interesting apostolate is focused upon articulating the Catholic faith to post-moderns, especially in light of reconciliation between eastern and western Christianity.

Go here for a history of this observance and here for some very nice prayer resources for the Octave.
George Washington, Catholic? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 18 January 2008 08:34
A fun bit of geekiness:

Did George Washington become a Catholic on his deathbed? Make the sign of the cross during meals? Have a picture of
the Virgin Mary in his possession? Mason & Catholic? Urban legend or reality? And just how did it affect the whole cherry-tree chopping episode?

Inquiring minds who gotta know should visit Per Christem: the "ancient and future Catholics" blog for more.
Pastoral Practice and Imagination: Wholesale or Retail? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 18 January 2008 06:53
I was quite taken by this snippet from John Allen's column today: his topic the necessity of being imaginative about communicating the drama and power of what goes on inside our Catholic communities (especially our cathedrals) to the rest of the world.

Here's his very apt summary:

To repeat, the problem is not a lack of material to communicate. Every RCIA director in this country has stories to tell of that remarkable convert whose life is the stuff of a Hollywood screenplay; our social action directors know families whose lives were rescued by a timely intervention of the church; our principals and teachers can point to kids whose lives were headed in the wrong direction, but who were instead given the chance to flourish in our schools; our confessors and counselors understand more deeply than most what’s churning today in human hearts. Incredible drama unfolds in cathedrals every day; indeed, it would be stunning if this were not the case. Religion is where people bring their deepest fears, their highest hopes, their most intense passions -- it’s the Coliseum of the conscience, the arena in which the universal human struggle between sin and redemption, between disgrace and new grace, plays itself out.

You don’t have to manufacture news, in other words, you simply have to be imaginative about communicating the stories we already have before our eyes.

We have experienced ourselves over and over during gifts interviews when men and women share - often for the first time - some amazing experience of God's grace. And we are seeing it again during Making Disciples training when participants have the chance to really listen to another's lived relationship with God. So far, all the feedback we have received is that it is an moving, healing, even life-changing experience before which one's "don't ask, don't tell" assumptions and fears simply dissolve.

The most startling thing for me is to see the impact of this experience on priests. I suspect that most lay Catholics assume (I certainly did) that priests hear these kinds of stories on a regular basis but the rapt attention and misty eyes of clergy listening to a story of transformation like that of our friend Daniel indicates otherwise.

As Fr. Xavier put it with his usual directness during the OP pastoral conference last week: Pastors and parish leaders tend to do religion "wholesale, not retail". We move huge numbers through the sacraments and various programs while telling ourselves that we don't have the luxury of attending to God's grace at work in individuals.

But "retail" - the work of God in a individual human heart - is the end for which the parish and the Church and the pastoral office exists. it is what gives "wholesale" its purpose and meaning.

The great stories of faith, stories that fire the imagination, even a thoroughly secularized imagination, and galvinize the heart and will, are always "retail". There is always the story of an Augustine or Francis or Dominic or Catherine or Teresa at the epicenter. Movements and wide-spread renewal and true cultural or structural change is always the fruit of hundreds of thousands of individual choices to respond to God's grace in a particular manner.

Extraordinary stories are being lived in our midst right now. Stories that can heal our own broken, tired hearts and renew our hope. Stories that illumine and confirm both doctrine and experience, that "name" us and enable us to hear God's call, that help us grasp something of what God is doing in our generation. Hundreds of thousands of stories that proclaim the reality of Christ's loving, powerful, redemptive, transforming presence in the world and capture the imagination and can open doors to the Gospel for many.

If we bother to ask.

If we can set aside our anxiety and busyness long enough to listen.

If we dare to tell.
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