Fr. Anthony (our Dominican co-Director in Austrailia) writes:
Our presentation went well and the response was great. I had a chance to talk to with Fr. Alexander Sheerbrooke from St. Patrick's in Soho, London.You may be familiar with Spes, St. Patrick's Evanglisation School. It is really inspiring to hear about such wonderful work that they do in the heart of London.
Indeed, we are familiar with Fr. Sheerbrooke's remarkable evangelization efforts and have blogged about St. Patrick's here and here. I'm delighted that Fr. Anthony, Clara, and the CSI team had a chance to met him! Great stuff!
The commissioning mass at Telstra Dome last night went very well. I was somewhat worried before the Mass that the pilgrims would be a little out of control for Mass, but as soon as Mass began it was wonderful, and by the end of Mass singing the WYD hymn the presence of the Holy Spirit was so very palpable.
You should see the faces of ordinary Melbournians as they are confronted by youth from all around the world. I can't imagine the effect that this is having on the city.
The numbers for the Mass vary depending on which newspaper you read. It certainly wasn't full, but if you split the difference then 35,000 would be the number. Which isn't too bad for a cold winter evening in Melbourne. The important thing is the fact that it was about commissioning pilgrims to go to Sydney and I think that it worked very well at that level, helping those who might have been doubtful.
More updates from the CSI team as I get them. Today Clara and her family and Fr. Anthony and the OP students are all on the road - to Sydney. As is Pope Benedict!
Pray for protection for all who travel today to this remarkable gathering!
In the midst of everything else, I am very slowly working my way through Leon Joseph Caridinal Suenens' memoirs: "Memories and Hopes.
Suenens was one of the 4 moderators of the Second Vatican Council and played a pivotal role in the drafting of Lumen Gentium, in the debate on the apostolate of the laity and the charisms, and later was given the role (by Pope Paul Vi) of championing (and reigning in where necessary) the spontaneous grass fire of the charismatic renewal.
It is fascinating to read of a world before the divisions we now take as normative existed. When "it was possible to see Fr. Dhanis of the Holy Office (now the Congregation for Defense of the Faith) sitting at a small restaurant table, engaged in private conversation with Hans Kung."
Perhaps it is because he was formed in the era before the Council that Suenens does not fit our current polarizations very well. He was a leader of the "progressive" side during the Council but also had a deep, life-long Marian devotion which he saw as an expression of the charismatic dimension of the Church and was the great champion of the Legion of Mary.
I loved this:
"I mentioned that I had once asked (Karl) Rahner why trendy Christians are so indifferent to Mary, and I quoted his reply: 'For too many people, Christianity has become another "ism", an ideology, an abstraction - and abstractions have no need of mothers.'
And author John Moorehead is not just talking about the old Institutionalized "new religions" with which we are all familiar: Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses. But the much more esoteric world of do-it-yourself spirituality associated with the new group that the Pew Survey identified" the "religious unaffiliated"
"The Western Subjective Turn
One of the greatest challenges the Church faces in the modern Western context is the general turn away from interest in and involvement with institutionalized forms of religion, such as Christianity, and the corresponding move toward an inward and subjective expression of spirituality. Robert Wuthnow has referred to this as a shift from a “spirituality of dwelling” in institutions such as churches to a “spirituality of seeking,”1 involving an individualized spiritual quest.
This spiritual seeking takes place in consumerist fashion wherein the seeker selects from an expanding “spiritual marketplace,”2 looking for resources that facilitate an inward development of the self with its desires for wholeness, personal development, and meaning. Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead have described the inward turn in Western spirituality as “subjective life spirituality.” They note that those forms of spirituality which emphasize a holistic personal life are far more able to thrive in the present environment than those which do not.3
Increasing Spiritual Options These developments in the ways in which people pursue their religious and spiritual practices mean that the spiritual marketplace is made up of not only institutionalized forms of alternative spiritualities expressed in more familiar groups such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, but also more fluid and individualized forms of spirituality such as Neo-Paganism and Western esotericism.
In addition, large numbers of people pursue their own unique forms of Do-It-Yourself Spirituality constructed in eclectic fashion and drawn from elements of popular culture and diverse religious traditions.
Although the total number of adherents of new religions is small in light of the overall religious population in the West, as Christopher Partridge has noted, “New religions and alternative spiritualities should not be dismissed as superficial froth or the dying embers of religion in the West, but are rather the sparks of a new and increasingly influential way of being religious.”4
The question remains, however, as to what might be considered the best ways for the Church to engage the new religions, as well as the broader Western turn to self and holistic spirituality."
Those interested might consider attending the Consultation on Post Christian Spiritualitiess this October 16 -19 in Illinois. It is important that serious, well formed Catholics be part of these discussions - for our own sake and the sake of the Church's mission in the west and for the sake of the discussion itself , which deeply needs the perspective that comes with the full 2,000 years of Christian tradition and missionary experience.
Listen to the local denizens try to explain their spiritual beliefs. "I'm more about super brain yoga and not taking on other people's energies."
It is all so left coast and so familiar to those of us who have done singificant time in places like Seattle and LA. A real life illustration of the starting results from the Pew Religious Landscape Survey.
These vaguely-spiritual-but-not-religious men and women are our tribe, our generation. Most of them will never come to us on our terms. We are the apostles in this time and place. We need to go to them. We are the ones called to cross innumerable cultural divides to bring Christ to them and live Christ among them.
Enjoy this video prepared for Melbourne's Day in the Diocese.
It gives you a sense of the flavor of Melbourne which is a truly beautiful and cosmopolitan place. (Fantastic gardens, aboriginal art, turkish food, betting on - and winning - the Melbourne Cup, and spending US election day at the Dominican priory are some of my most vivid memories of Melbourne during our 2004 trip to establish the CSI team.)
And here's another snapshot of the Melbourne Days in the Diocese - and what they mean to different pilgrims: Via The Age:
WHEN 25-year-old Hungarian Andras Balazs announced his intention to become a Catholic priest, his Protestant mother and friends were shocked.
His mother's eyes still light up with hope when she sees him talking to a woman but she has accepted his chosen path with the church that is still recovering from years of persecution in Hungary.
"There was communism in our country that killed a lot of priests and the congregation," he said in Melbourne yesterday.
The young seminarian and his contingent of 23 Hungarians were clearly excited to mingle among the faithful from all over the world at St Patrick's Cathedral.
After yesterday's welcome, a group from Johannesburg joyously burst into Zulu hymns as they stepped out of the cathedral.
Simangele Katane, 21, said it had taken two hard years of fund-raising to make the journey from South Africa.
She said that while Melbourne's "really steep roads" were of tremendous fascination, attending Mass with the Pope in Sydney was still the highlight of their trip. "It's not every day you get to meet the Pope as he doesn't come to South Africa," she said between bursts of song.
Nearby, 21-year-old aspiring priest Nino De Aro, from the Philippines, was struggling with the coldest temperatures he had experienced in his life, which he blamed for a nose bleed.
I have been stunned at the relentlessly negative press that WYD has been getting in OZ, but this article was almost entirely positive:
I did enjoy this anectdote:
"Even the protests were more muted than organisers had suggested. Secular Party president John Perkins had a sandwich board proclaiming: "You think your religion is true. Prove it. $100,000 reward."
He had a couple of supporters on one side, and two young men, Jeshua and Joel, with a texta-inscribed cardboard placard, who came on the spur of the moment. "We've had photos and smiles from most people, and been blessed eight times," Joel said. "
Good on you. Blessing your enemies makes 'em crazy!
Of course, the next line was:
Another group of four found takers for all 500 of their souvenir condoms.
This description of the Commissioning Mass just in from Clara:
The Mass was an extraordinary display of energy and colour. We were sitting in front of the Lithuanians who have with them the largest flag made of parachute fabric which they unrolled overhead (including the heads of our group) and it covered an entire stand at the sports stadium! The Mexican wave during the pre-Mass entertainment was very effective especially when it went through the two stands of priests whose robes contributed to the flowing effects. There were a number of cardinals from overseers - the most prominent being Rodriques from Hondouras and Rapier from South Africa. Cardinal Rodriques has had some excellent press coverage as the "Cardinal with sax appeal" building on his reputation as an excellent saxophonist. On the more serious side, he spoke of the hope which WYD gives him and the important role it has in bringing together first world and third world youth.
Back to the focus on Asia and Oceania - we have noted large numbers from Papua New Guinea and East Timor, many of whom have been sponsored by Australian parishes. There are record numbers from Fiji. The Vietnamese have their largest contingent ever at any WYD - their proximity to Australia and the fact than many have family here has boosted their numbers. We were fascinated that they are flying the old South Vietnamese flag. They also LOVE Dominicans. The Basques are also flying their own flag and sporting smart black berets and orange scarves.
We had at least a dozen from Trinidad and Tobago attend our Siena Institute presentation. I commented to them that their WYD delegation must be larger than their Olympic team. I recall they only sent three or four to the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006. Look out for Called and Gifted stuff happening in Trinidad and Tobago as I have sold complete sets of materials to them.
Please pray for Clara, Fr. Anthony and our whole CSI team during the next week. They are already feeling the effort, were up to midnight last night for the Mass and have only one day to pack before leaving for Sydney. They need a shot of supernatural energy and clarity of mind over the next week - and a chance to collapse afterwards!
Monday was the feast to Peter to Rot, martyr catechist of Papua New Gunea nad one of the patrons of WYD.
I had the privilege of telling Peter's story in at our Called & Gifted workshops in Indonesia. He was the son of the first generation of Catholics in his area and began his work as a catechists at 21, after three years of study.
These were years of intense work to organize catechesis in the village, to gather large and small groups for instruction and prayer and to become acquainted with people's real life situations. All those who had him as their catechist recall his straightforward, immediate and effective teaching. He referred constantly to the Bible and always carried it with him (rare for Catholics of the time!), quoting it directly as the occasion required. He was particularly sensitive in discovering the inner problems in others' lives and shared them intimately.
In a scenario that has been repeated throughout the Church's history,
The decisive turning point in Peter To Rot's life and mission occurred in 1942. After the Japanese occupation, all the missionaries and mission staff were imprisoned in a concentration camp. The Servant of God remained alone. During the war he was the only spiritual guide for Catholics in the Rakunai district. With his constant presence, he provided prayer services, catechetical instruction, the administration of Baptism, the preservation and distribution of the Eucharist to the sick and the dying, and assistance to the poor. On the outskirts of Rakunai, he built a church for the Catholic community from branches, the only material available. The main church had been destroyed by the Japanese.
The Japanese decided to forbid Christian worship and all types of religious gatherings, public and private. Subsequently, the repression became more violent. The Japanese, seeking to force the local chieftains into collaborating with them, decided that the Tolais should return to their previous practice of polygamy. This was a severe blow after almost half a century of missionary work. Peter firmly opposed this and was not afraid to disagree publicly with his brother Joseph.
The Servant of God was arrested in April or May 1945. According to accounts, his questioning by the official Meshida was a farce as well as an expression of the crudest violence. He was sentenced to two months' imprisonment. Later, referring to his imprisonment, Peter said: "I am here because of those who broke their marriage vows and because of those who do not want the growth of God's kingdom".
Peter To Rot died a martyr at the hands of the Japanese army by lethal injection and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995 - the same year he beatified Australia's Blessed Mary of the Cross MacKillop.
The first twenty WYD pilgrims - ever - from Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands are being sponsored by the Australian Dominican Province. The heirs of Peter To Rot.
A glimpse of the excitement at the Days in the Diocese that are preceding World Youth Day all over Australia:
From Clara, our tzarina down under:
Melbourne is a very exciting place during Days in the Diocese.
I too am astonished at the way in which the Singapore contacts came together. You are right to highlight the possibilities for the Church in SE Asia.
Yesterday I met a subsistance farmer from Cambodia who had never before left his home town - he has no English so we just smiled and bowed a lot. He is in Melbourne for WYD, but more significantly for the final profession of his son as an Oblate of Mary Immaculate. Who knows what impact this visit will have on him, his family, his son, and the faith in Cambodia? The OMIs are doing great work in SE Asia with two recent Laotian ordinations - I think these two young men who studied in Melbourne constitute 50% of the entire Laotian clergy.
As we were walking through the Pilgrim Welcoming centre at the Australian Catholic University after our presentation, Fr Anthony's swishing Dominican robes caught the attention of a group of Thai pilgrims. They stopped us and wanted to talk and then insisted we have our photo taken with them.
I am also impressed by the numbers of African nations represented - at least 50 from Zambia.
Thank goodness for e-mail and the internet during an event like World Youth Day! I've gotten a small flurry of e-mails already about the impact of our team's first presentation at the Days in the Diocese in Melbourne.
One aspect of World Youth Day that I think that most of us around St. Blog's (including myself) hadn't grasped is the possible impact on the Church in south and southeast Asia. I've heard of first ever or larger than ever groups coming from places like Tonga and India - partly due to location, partly to improved economic conditions in parts of Asia, partly to political changes that allow more freedom.
We are acutely aware of the impact on the North American and European Churches (and now Australian and New Zealand) but think of what could happen if a couple hundred fired up young disciples return to much smaller and resource poor Catholic communities around Asia!
We are already seeing it happen on a small scale. A large group of Singaporeans attending the CSI presentation in Melbourne yesterday and their leaders have already been introduced (via e-mail) to the young Singaporean journalist who is flying out to attend Making Disciples and Called & Gifted interviewer/facilitator training next month. And I sit at my dining room table in Colorado overlooking the garden and watch these e-mails flying between Melbourne and Singapore with a nod in my land-locked direction 10,000 miles away.
It seems that there is a small group of young Catholic Singaporeans who were separately feeling their way toward helping others discern their charisms and wondering if any group or organization was already doing it. And now they have found each other.
Interviewer training in Greenville, South Carolina,in August is going to be such a cosmopolitan affair. A black former FBI agent from Nagadoches, Texas ; a newly ordained Dominican priest from Hong Kong, St. Blog's resident Indian Hindu turned Catholic seminarian Gashwin, and a journalist from Singapore.
The Church universal in collaboration. Very exciting.
This is the final brief reflection in a series on the beatitudes that I wrote while preparing a homily for a child's baptism.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. To be a Christian is to share in the Paschal Mystery – to experience misunderstanding, calumny, taunts, distrust, and worse. Show her the narrow path, the narrow gate. Help her learn to not follow the crowd, but to follow Jesus. There's no greater gift you can give her.
The beatitudes are Jesus' imitation to become like him, to live in him, to abide in him like a branch is part of a vine. The beatitudes are a command - not to imitate Jesus (no one does this very well) - but to invite him to live in us.
Had 4 trees planted today. There is nothing like getting to watch someone else work for a change!
And I took some pictures to give you an idea of how the Tuscan garden is coming along. Since the trees planted today were 3 pinion pines (the state tree of New Mexico) and a Ponderosa pine, what we have going here is a sort of wild-west, high-altitude, low-oxygen Tuscan garden. But it is beautiful all the same. And I can dream of pinon nuts someday.
People walking their dogs or children in the park behind regularly stop and look (and comment). It is a very pleasant neighborhood with gorgeous mountain views (which are ubiquitous in the Springs) but one where most back yards are comprised of dying Kentucky blue grass and/or scrub not quite hidden behind a decaying wood fence. Yesterday, i watched a man earnestly point to various elements in the yard and talk in animated tones to a woman companion for several minutes before moving on. Could we support the Institute through garden tours?
Clara, our CSI co-Director down under and czarina of our WYD team, sends word of an excellent group effort that will be covering World Youth Day from a multi-faceted Aussie perspective. Project Eye.
The contributors are all exceedingly sharp young women. Mary is one enthusiastic parish World Youth Day volunteer and will be giving the on-the-ground perspective. Trisha lost her husband in the 2004 tsunami and responded to that tragedy with a courage and creativity that resulted in being named Young Australian of the Year in 2006.
Mikayla Mernone is a member of our CSI teaching team at WYD and has a dramatic story of her own: surviving Guillain Barre Syndrome, which left her completely paralysed and in Intensive Care, unable to breathe. She recovered only to encounter a brilliant and wily Dominican priest (is there any other kind?) who changed the course of her life - personal and spiritual. (It is so cheering to know that we are linked in a common apostolate with someone of Mikayla's quality even though we have never met!)
Their coverage of WYD is going to be multi-media - blogging, video, photos, a compilation of MSM coverage as well - and all from a really knowledgeable and intelligent Australian perspective.
I know that I'm going to be tuning in to Project Eye on a regular basis. Check it out.
"On abortion, "Well I can't tell a woman what to do or not to do. That's judgmental." (So, if the woman in front of us turned around with a gun and wanted to kill you, I should not interfere?)
Oh but a fetus isn't a human being. On humanity, "We're no different from other animals really ... " (So, you're ok with the fact that eating a burger makes you complicit in murder? Would you eat a human being in the same way? How many cows do you know who've come and shared their deep angst with you?)
This repartee continued on and off through the day, at a fun, friendly level. At dinner, some other friends of friends of friends joined us for a bit. One of them was wearing a tee-shirt that read, "Make love, not babies."
"There you go dude, that's how one takes care of abortion."
I just shook my head.
The kicker was, "But you'd be ok with murder, right, if it meant killing the followers of those who pray to a different invisible man in the sky?"
An invisible man in the sky. That's who God is for this chap.
The thing is, he was raised Catholic. Baptized. First Communion. Confirmation. Yet, God is nothing but some invisible man in the sky, with no impact whatsoever on his life.
Later on in the evening, we were sitting up on a parking lot waiting for the fireworks to start, and sipping more, um, beverages.
"So, why seminary, man? I've gotta ask." So I talked a little bit, very briefly, about how I fell in love with Jesus Christ. "That's cool man." "
Sherry's comment: I found these new figures in the Pew Study over the July 4th weekend and don't know how I missed it before. And it has really shaken me up.
Based upon data from the Pew Survey, Gashwin, there's no guarantee that your friend of a friend of a friend actually believes in the possibility of relationship with God, much anything more. His talk of the "invisible man in the sky" sounds like he might not. But there's no way to know until you establish trust and invite him to tell you what he really thinks.
Because only 48% of adult Catholics are certain there is a God with whom one can have a personal relationship. And you can't really entrust yourself to Christ until you know that God is a God to whom you can entrust yourself.
Huge numbers of Americans are - of all religious background - are even further from a Christian world view. They believe God is an "impersonal force"
13% of "evangelicals" 29% of Catholics 34% of Orthodox 50% of Jews 42% of Muslims 54% of Hindus
You get the picture. There a huge number of Americans upon whom the basic gospel is probably just going to bounce off because they don't have the most fundamental mental categories necessary for it to make sense.
As Gashwin puts it:
It's been ages really since I've been around really secular people. Even as a campus minister, most of my interactions were with Catholic students. Sure I have secular friends, but they live far away and most of the time we don't talk about religion. And in seminary and formation, one is among insiders, so to speak, most of the time.
So ... who is going to be the one who might be able to share the Good News with young people such as this man? Our priests? Hardly -- they're busy feeding the sheep who do show up. In fact, the underlying assumption about ministry is that we'll serve those who show up. Very little time or energy is spent trying to reach those who are not there. We are mostly focused inwards. Our focus outwards tends to be related to outreach to the poor or charity -- no mean thing at all, and a constitutive element of living a Christian life. But what about evangelization as in inviting others to befriend Jesus Christ?
Would a young person such as this one, for all practical purposes a non-believer, open up in the same way to a priest? Perhaps, though when would he have an opportunity? In this case, I was friends with his girlfriend, not quite yet a priest, enough intrigue there to get a conversation going.
Who interacts regularly with the secular world? Not our priests. This is the job -- no, this is the vocation of lay Catholics. To take Our Lord with them into the world, into the work places and yes, even to ballgames, as appropriate.
G - you are going to so love Making Disciples cause we are dealing exactly with the questions you are asking!
Not that we have all the answers but we are seeing some very exciting things. Awarenesses and skills you can take with you into seminary and, God willing, into the priesthood. And that lay apostles can take to ballgames and into their families and into the marketplace.