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Episcopalian Attendance in US Drops 23% PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 07 July 2012 05:36

Wherever Catholics go when they leave, all the evidence is that they aren't heading to the Episcopal Church in significant numbers.  And it doesn't look like that many evangelicals are on "the Canterbury Trail" as we used to say back when becoming Episcopalian still looked wildly cosmopolitan and cutting edge.  As a young evangelical Quaker (there are maybe 300,000 Quakers in the whole world), Anglicanism looked immense and globe-spanning and in the hiearchy of non-fundamentalism, Episcopalians were (in our eyes) at the far end of the other side of the spectrum, right next to Catholicism.  Large, historic, liturgical, established, exotic.

Now the apt word seems "life support".

The average Episcopal Church attendance dropped a staggering 23% in the ten year period between 2000 and 2010 (via Whispers) In 2010, just under 700,000 attended TEC Churches in the whole world.

In the Seattle area, (Diocese of Olympia) where St. Mark's Cathedral still looms and KING FM has broadcast their lovely Sunday evening Compline for many years, average attendance in the whole diocese was 9,500.  9,500?  I've worked in Catholic parishes with larger weekly attendance than that.

The Episcopalian Diocese of Quincy, IL attendance has dropped 71% and averages 363 people in attendance at 9 parishes.  I've taught Called & Gifted workshops that were larger.  No wonder they are openly talking about reuniting with the Diocese of Chicago (attendance: 12,925).

To compare, CARA estimates that on a given Sunday, there are about 22 million Catholics in the pews in the US vs. approximately 657,000 Episcopalians.  In other words, there are roughly 33 times as many practicing Catholics as practicing Episcopalians.

This is not a time to gloat but to thoughtfully ponder.   A group I spoke to recently about evangelization wanted to look to the experience of mainline Protestants to see what they were doing.  Seriously?

If we are serious about evangelization, we would far, far better look to the experience of our evangelical brothers and sisters.  49% of American evangelicals weren't raised as evangelicals while Catholics have the second lowest number of converts of any American religious faith.


Nightfever In London PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 06 July 2012 09:33

Hey, gonna be in London this Saturday evening?  You are in luck - because the incredible St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Soho will be offering "Nightfever" from 6pm - 10 pm.

"Nightfever" grew out of the experience of young adults who attended World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005.  St. Patrick's is the cutting edge evangelizing parish in London so I'm not at all surprised that they are holding the first "Nightfever" evenings in the UK.

"Gentle candlelight and stirring music fills the dark parish of St Patrick´s in Soho on a Saturday evening. People from the street come in, all dressed in attire and some with several shopping bags in their hands. They are in the church for just a minute or two, these people are here as a result of ther Nightfever Team, a group of young people who approach people on the street to invite them to the event.

The Nightfever event in the Diocese of Westmister took place for the first time on Saturday 4 February 2012. It was supported from different groups, like SPES, Youth 2000, and the Emmanuel Community. They wanted to invite people who usually don´t go to church, haven´t been to church for a long time or of no faith, basically anybody! In front of the church door the team chatted to pedestrians and invited them to the church to light a candle, listen to music, or just offer them a flyer.

At a Nightfever event a non-threatening environment is created, for people to feel at ease to think about your life and faith and to think perhaps that the Catholic Church is different to their perceptions, particularly in regards to what they may have hward in the media. Through mediation, devotion, prayer and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament a prayerful atmosphere is created. There are a number of priests in the church available for the Sacrament of Confession for fallen-away Catholics or for people to just have the opportunity to be spoken too and share what is on their heart."

It will surprise no one that St. Patrick's is also a center for Catholic Underground, UK.

It is a wonderful example of the something I wrote about in Forming Intentional Disciples:

"What if we stop thinking of Adoration as primarily a devotion for the already devout and consider it also as a form of evangelization particularly suited to the postmodern mindset? It is, in fact, an ideal form of devotion for the non-devout.

Adoration appeals to postmoderns because it is experiential, mysterious, and accessible to everyone: the nonbaptized, the non-Catholic, the unchurched, the lapsed, the badly catechized, the wounded, the skeptical, the seeking, the prodigal, and those who aren’t sure that relationship with God is even possible. An acquaintance of mine aptly describes it as “Spiritual Radiation Therapy” because it places the soul in the direct presence of Jesus Christ in the trust that he will act if we leave the door open the merest crack. All it requires is the ability to sit down.

Any readers have a powerful experience of Eucharistic Adoration that you would like share?

Have We Turned Sacrament Into Sacrilege? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 05 July 2012 18:31

Well, Fr. Richard Simon's blog post has struck a nerve.  He is sick to death of clueless teens passing cluelessly and fruitlessly through confirmation prep and he's not going to do it anymore!

Here's a taste:

We have tied our religious education to the public school system of kindergarten and eight grades. The sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation have become graduation rituals, rites of passage, instead of the beginnings of a life of faith and commitment. We have turned sacrament into sacrilege.  When you “get your sacraments” you’re “outta” there.  (“Out of there” for those who don’t speak Chicagoan.) The Sacraments are an ending instead of a beginning. I can’t do this anymore. I believe it is morally wrong. The last time I brought this problem up, angry parents called the bishop. I remember one agitated parent who railed at me for questioning his Catholicism. He said that he was perfectly good Catholic. He went to Mass every single Easter and every single Christmas without fail.

And the Pew Forum's Faith in Flux survey would back him up.  They looked at our three major "strategies" for passing the faith onto our children and found that CCD amd youth ministry and even Catholic high school made little or no difference in whether or not children raised as Catholics would remain Catholic or become Protestant or become "Nones" as adults.

His solution?

I  no longer intend to prepare children for First Communion and Confirmation. There will no longer be First Communion and Confirmation classes. How and when will the children receive Communion and Confirmation? They will receive when they are ready.  When are they ready? They are ready when they want the Sacrament. How do we know they want the Sacrament? When they understand it, can tell the pastor what it is and why they want it. If they are not in ongoing religious education and they are not coming to Mass on regular basis, they don’t want the Sacrament.

What do you think?


Miraculous Healing of Breast Cancer From the Pen of St. Augustine PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 05 July 2012 15:33

A moving story of miraculous healing from the pen of St. Augustine (City of God, book 22, chapter 8).  It all sounds surprisingly contemporary.  Read the whole chapter because Augustine describe many more miracles in detail.

Note that St. Augustine was "extremely indignant" and felt that the woman who was healed should be reprimanded for not sharing the story of this incredible blessing with her friends and in her city.   This was about giving God glory, not false humility.  A sign of the cross made by a newly baptized woman and Innocentia's faith and obedience to a word of God in a dream was the door to a miracle.  Augustine says that in two years, more than 70 cases of miraculous healing were recorded in his diocese.


"In the same city of Carthage lived Innocentia, a very devout woman of the highest rank in the state. She had cancer in one of her breasts, a disease which, as physicians say, is incurable. Ordinarily, therefore, they either amputated, and so separate from the body the member on which the disease has seized, or, that the patient's life may be prolonged a little, though death is inevitable even if somewhat delayed, they abandon all remedies, following, as they say, the advice of Hippocrates.

This the lady we speak of had been advised to by a skillful physician, who was intimate with her family; and she betook herself to God alone by prayer. On the approach of Easter, she was instructed in a dream to wait for the first woman that came out from the baptistery after being baptized, and to ask her to make the sign of Christ upon her sore. She did so, and was immediately cured.

The physician who had advised her to apply no remedy if she wished to live a little longer, when he had examined her after this, and found that she who, on his former examination, was afflicted with that disease was now perfectly cured, eagerly asked her what remedy she had used, anxious, as we may well believe, to discover the drug which should defeat the decision of Hippocrates. But when she told him what had happened, he is said to have replied, with religious politeness, though with a contemptuous tone, and an expression which made her fear he would utter some blasphemy against Christ, I thought you would make some great discovery to me. She, shuddering at his indifference, quickly replied, What great thing was it for Christ to heal a cancer, who raised one who had been four days dead?

When, therefore, I had heard this, I was extremely indignant that so great a miracle wrought in that well-known city, and on a person who was certainly not obscure, should not be divulged, and I considered that she should be spoken to, if not reprimanded on this score. And when she replied to me that she had not kept silence on the subject, I asked the women with whom she was best acquainted whether they had ever heard of this before. They told me they knew nothing of it. See, I said, what your not keeping silence amounts to, since not even those who are so familiar with you know of it. And as I had only briefly heard the story, I made her tell how the whole thing happened, from beginning to end, while the other women listened in great astonishment, and glorified God."

A Hidden Hemorrhage Fueled by Spiritual Growth? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 05 July 2012 14:08

I was so grateful when Pope Benedict made this point to the bishops of Columbia a couple weeks ago:

Pope Benedict believes that Catholics who convert to evangelical Christianity often do so because they experience a lack of fervor, joy and community within Catholic parishes – rather than for doctrinal reasons.

“Often sincere people who leave our Church do not do so as a result of what non-Catholic groups believe, but fundamentally as a result of their own lived experience; for reasons not of doctrine but of life; not for strictly dogmatic, but for pastoral reasons; not due to theological problems, but to methodological problems of our Church,”he told a delegation of Colombian bishops at the Vatican June 21.

Yes. Yes!  YES!

We have to understand that the majority of Catholics who become Protestants are motivated differently from those who leave to become "nothing".  We must not confuse these two groups because they really are on different journeys for different reasons.

This is going to be very hard for some to hear but there is a hidden hemorrhage of Catholics from within our parishes to the Protestant world fueled by spiritual growth and spiritual hunger, not spiritual disinterest. The Pew US Religious Landscape Survey found that 71% of adult Catholics who became Protestant said their primary motivation was that "their spiritual needs weren't being met".  The whole "they just want to be entertained" meme that I've heard so often in Catholic circles is almost entirely a projection of our assumptions upon a group with very different concerns that we  haven't been willing to take seriously - yet.  (I'll get to the different motivations of Catholics who becoming "nones" in a later post.)

Pope Benedict, whom no one can accuse of being insufficiently theologically-minded or sophisticated, nailed it.  For the vast majority of these Catholics-turned-Protestants, it is about lived experience and the failure of the local parish community. They are becoming Protestant not primarily for truly theological reasons (which is actually rare) but for real life, existential, pastoral reasons.

As I wrote in Forming Intentional Disciples

“ 'Rachel,” who works in a large archdiocese, recently had six different people, all unrelated, approach her over the course of a single month and tell her, “I am on the verge of leaving the Church for a Protestant church, because I don’t know anyone in the parish that I can talk to about what is happening to me spiritually.”  Word had gone around the parish that you could talk to Rachel about spiritual issues and relationship with God. Happily, she was able to convince four out of the six to stay. She connected them with people and groups in the parish who could support them in their journey.

We need to recognize the presence of a hidden hemorrhage fueled by spiritual growth in our parishes. Numerous Catholics are experiencing spiritual longings but may have little or no language for what they seek. They sense there has to be more to faith than what they have encountered so far. In terms of thresholds, these people range from the later stages of curiosity through openness and early seeking. Their spiritual antennae are up, and they are quietly looking for people who might know, for clues, for guidance. But they are often invisible to the rest of us."

Here's the reality that the Pew study uncovered:  Among American adults raised Catholic, becoming Protestant was the best guarantee of stable church attendance as an adult.  Why?

Because the best predictor of consistant adult attendance is strong adult faith. According to the Pew surveyers, there was a huge rise in "very strong" personal faith for Catholics who joined Protestant communities:  from 22% as a Catholic teenager to 71% as a Protestant adult.

The irony is that those raised Catholic and remain Catholic as adults typically had a stronger faith as a teen that those Catholics who eventually became Protestant.  But their faith as an adult was much weaker: only 46% of those who remained Catholic as adults answered that they possessed a "very strong faith".  And their Mass attendance reflects it.

Ok.  Time for the mantra that long-time readers of ID have come to know and love:

If you want practicing Catholics, make disciples.

It can be done and is being done deliberately in real American parishes as I write this.  That's why I wrote the book - to start a larger conversation about fundamental pastoral issues at play in our parishes that are devastating the Catholic community but which we hardly ever talk about concretely.

Consider picking up a copy of Forming Intentional Disciples and join in this absolutely essential conversation to which the Holy Father is calling the whole Church.  Read and talk about it with your friends or small groups of parishioners or your pastor, parish staff or pastoral council, catechists, or RCIA team. And join in the conversation here.

This is too important a conversation for you to miss.  God has given all the baptized a critical, irreplaceable part to play in the Church's mission at this moment in her history.


Fireworks, Freedom and Frassatti PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 05 July 2012 09:59

Enjoy this brief but throughful and encouraging article about Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, lay Dominican, by Brother Michael James Rivera, OP of our own Western Province.




Miracles, Healing, and Conversion. Are We Ready for This? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 05 July 2012 09:34

The Catholic Diocese of Itanger in India has grown 40% over the past 35 years. Their secret? Miraculous healings apparently. Lots of them.  Conversions because of an encounter with the healing power of Jesus Christ are occuring by the millions all over the world and is readily spoken of by other kinds of Christians but Catholics are often reluctant to acknowledge that it happens among us as well.  And this reluctance is not just found among western Catholics.

Note the Vatican Insider title: India's "Impossible" Miracles.  Note that the Indian priest telling this story says the stories “baffle me. I have a theological mindset and it is easy to become skeptical about this kind of thing. But the interested parties are absolutely convinced that what happened to them was real.”

Just when must a theological mindset be at odds with acknowledging the power of God to heal? That's not a "theological" mindset (think St. Augustine gathering stories of healing in his diocese), that's an Enlightenment mindset. And it shows a poverty of both imagination and spiritual expectancy that would be very foreign to most of the great Catholic missionaries and evangelists of the past.

An Indian friend wrote and shared his experience of the Catholic attitudes toward evangelization in India:

There is a strong emphasis on the narrative that "evangelization has not worked," that India is somehow inherently impervious to the Gospel. It is also ironic because Indian cultures are *very* religious, popular devotions are, well, really popular, there isn't this kind of skepticism towards and distance between the "ordinary" world and the supernatural/spiritual/numinous, there is a long and rich tradition of mysticism and so on. Stories like Arunachal Pradesh are a reminder of the sovereignty of God! And so inspiring!

And I responded: “Interesting - the "India is impervious to the Gospel" which I also heard in the 90's at my Jesuit grad school from a Jesuit. He told our class (seriously) that Francis Xavier went to India to get away from the Pope! Fortunately, I happened to have a grad background in Indian - specifically Jesuit - mission history as well as a much more accurate sense of the realities of global missions. He said that only 2% of Asians were Christian while I knew that the number was really about 7% then.” Today, that percentage is nearly 9%.

So often, our public debates are based upon things that haven’t been true in half a century. In 1910, Christians comprised 1.7% of India’s population.  Today, the official census figures indicate that Christians make up nearly 5% of all Indians.  And the estimates of “unofficial” but real practice are startling. Consider this possibility (I have heard other estimates that are even higher.  I don’t think there is a definitive number).

As per unofficial figures the Christian population should be around 17% now. Most of the converts have not registered their conversion or not changed their religion in the Taluk or Panchayat offices. Some believe this is not necessary to change it and some believe it may affect their caste quota in education and jobs and while some others believe it may create unnecessary problems for the community itself due to anti-social elements may find it disturbing and may take revenge against innocent Christians around India.”

Whether the growth has been 300% or 1000%, the word "impervious" doesn't seem to fit at all.

Americans are completely unused to a national system where one has to “register” one’s religion, where one’s personal faith – or the lack thereof – is NOT considered private.   And where you can really lose – educationally, financially, and in terms of personal safety – by “registering” as a “public” Christian.

In any case, even “officially”, Indian Christianity grew nearly 300% in one century but – it wasn't primarily Catholic growth. Non-Catholic Indian Christians "share" of the Christian population grew from 25% to nearly 40% during that same century.  So the story of the miracles in the Diocese of Itanger is a very encouraging one.

God Has No Grandchildren - Even in Brazil PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 05 July 2012 07:28

Under the "God has no grandchildren" label and via World magazine online:

"The evangelical population of Brazil increased by 16 million people over the 10 year period from 2000 to 2010, to 42.3 million, according to census results from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) published Friday.

The 2010 census results reveal that over three decades the percentage of evangelicals jumped from 6.6 percent to 22.2 percent of the overall Brazilian population, making it the fastest growing religious segment in the Latin American country.

While the evangelical population ballooned, the Catholic population has decreased over the same 10 year period. In 2000 the Catholic population represented 73.6 percent of Brazil's population, but by 2010 that percentage had decreased to under two-thirds, or 64.6 percent."

As I have pointed out ad naseum here and during Making Disciples seminars and presentations and now in my book (Forming Intentional Disciples), 21st century culture religious fluidity *rewards* those faiths that actively evangelize and *penalizes* those religious traditions that depend upon inherited faith. It is as true in Brazil as it is in the US.

We don't have the luxury of thinking that evangelism is for Protestants anymore.

The Book is Out. The Blog is Back. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 05 July 2012 07:20

The book is out and I have one of the first copies, hot off the press and sitting on my table as I write.  It looks very good, although surprisingly small somehow.  (I've been used to reading the manuscript on my large IMAC screen, I guess.  Hard to believe that all that work ends up condensed into something so small.)

The book, is done, thanks be to God.  That means the blog is back.   More in a moment.


Incredible Lapsed Time Video of Waldo Creek Fire PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 29 June 2012 16:36


Incredible video - taken mostly north of the Air Force Academy looking south - accompanied by dramatic music.  Watch this one full screen.

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