One of the benefits of traveling with the Catherine of Siena Institute is the ability to accumulate frequent flier miles. I used them to get me to Seoul, Korea two days ago, where I'm visiting my graduate school room mate from Stanford, Professor Yun-kyung Cha of Hanyang University, and his family.
Korea, as you may know, is the most Christian of the countries of Asia. Yesterday, Cha took me via the incredibly extensive subway system of Seoul (at least 200 stations, as far as I can tell) to downtown Seoul, where I hopped on a city-wide tour bus and took in some of the sights. After walking around a series of traditional Korean-style homes and gardens near downtown, I walked off the beaten path and found Myeongdong Cathedral, the one-hundred year old Catholic center of Seoul and a focal point for the democratic movement in Korea in the '70s and '80s. The Catholic community of the cathedral has also played an important role in the expansion of human rights in Korea.
Even though the facade of the gothic Cathedral is undergoing restoration and reverberates with the sound of jackhammers, there were at least 20 Koreans praying in the nave. Most of them were young adult to middle-aged. There were also a number of young sisters in habits in the neighborhood, including three staffing a small religious goods store a few blocks from the cathedral. Unfortunately, none of them spoke English, so I was not able to find out what community they belonged to.
Seoul is a huge city, well over 10 million inhabitants. It seems like most of them live in high-rise apartments that are like small forests of steel and concrete. Cha's apartment complex has about ten high-rises around a small park with a half-court basketball area and exercise machines that utilize the user's weight as resistance.
There are little reminders that I'm not in Kansas anymore. I realized that after walking around Seoul and being driven through miles of it that I never saw a bit of graffiti. My first night in Cha's apartment, after not sleeping for 36 hours, I put what looked like toothpaste on my toothbrush. Fortunately, it was toothpaste, but I discovered that Koreans prefer "fresh pine-scented breath" to "fresh minty breath"! I'm looking forward to my stay here. I'll do some more exploring of Seoul, and Thursday I'll head out to the DMZ for a half-day tour. Korea is the last divided country in the world, according to Koreans.
Perhaps what's most amazing is the incredible transformation that has occurred here since the end of Japanese occupation, which over three and a half decades (1910-1945) crippled the Korean economy and impoverished the people. Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the country has been virtually entirely rebuilt, and the standard of living has increased tremendously. Koreans are very, very hard-working, and it will be interesting to see what happens in the future.
I'll try to send a few pictures of my travels from time-to-time.
"An all-singing, all-dancing army of Christian volunteers are gearing up for a mass evangelization of Riccione, one of the most popular - and wildest - tourist resorts on the Adriatic riviera.
Between Wednesday and Sunday, 120 young people from all over Italy plan to collar sunbathers on the beaches and recount how Christ changed their lives for the better.
The missionary army, who will wear green t-shirts bearing the legend ''if you are thirsty, come to me'', is also set to invade the town's bars and discos, notorious for their raucous night-life, to persuade party-goers to mend their ways.
''So many young people go out every evening excited and ready to conquer the night, and the next morning they find themselves robbed of a dream,'' Riccione parish priest Franco Mastrolonardo, one of the organisers of the event, told local press.
''I see them walking along the street from the window of the parish church in the early hours of the morning and they look dizzy, tired and above all sad,'' he said.
''The aim of this event will not be to demonize worldly life but to propose an alternative lifestyle to find happiness''.
The missionary army has spent the last two days praying on a retreat in preparation for the mass evangelization, which will also see them singing, dancing and praying on the streets in a bid to persuade passers-by to enter the churches.
Volunteers have pledged to refrain from taking a dip in the sea or eating ice-cream until their mission is over on Sunday.
The programme is one of a number of initiatives by the Catholic Church to target holiday-makers under way this year.
Catholic clergy in Molise have inflated a blow-up church on the shores of the Campomarino Lido to target young people who spend their evenings partying on the sands, while in the beach town of Mondragone in Campania nuns from the nearby convent have set up an altar where sunbathers can go to pray."
Let's remember these creative evangelistic outreaches in Italy in our prayers.
"The Milwaukee-based National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation, headed by Vicki Thorn, is organizing the conference, which seeks to bring to light what Thorn describes as the “invisible” issue in our society and even in the Church: the profound effect that abortion has on fathers whose children are aborted.
“As an organization of lay men that has a strong history and commitment to life, we think it is very important to highlight the issues faced by those fathers whose children are aborted,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “There are three victims of every abortion, the child and both of his or her parents, and it is our hope that this conference will be the beginning of a ministry within the Church to these fathers, who grieve the death of their unborn child in isolation and silence.”
Thorn has been working nationally and internationally – primarily with women – who have had abortions since 1984 through the Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Project Rachel, the Catholic Church’s post abortion healing ministry.
Experts including several therapists – as well as several fathers who have lost children to abortion – will cover topics including men’s healing process after abortion; abortion’s effects on men’s spirituality; fatherhood and abortion; and why men who have been involved in abortion come for help.
Anderson and Thorn believe the “Reclaiming Fatherhood” conference could help men deal with the psychological trauma of post-abortion reality the way Project Rachel – the Catholic post-abortion healing ministry Thorn founded – has helped women who have undergone abortions deal with their emotional and spiritual scars."
Masab-Joseph Yousef, a son of prominent West Bank MP Sheikh Hassan Yousef, has discussed his conversion to Christianity in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Praying that his family will “open their eyes to Jesus,” he expressed love for his enemies and claimed Muslims’ conversion to Christianity is the only way to have a chance for peace in the Holy Land.
Yousef, 30, said his first exposure to Christianity came in Jerusalem about eight years ago, when he was invited to learn about the faith. He converted four years ago, but did not tell his father. “For years I helped my father, the Hamas leader, and he didn't know that I had converted, only that I had Christian friends,” he said to Haaretz.
His father, Sheikh Yousef, was a founder of the extremist group Hamas in the West Bank and was imprisoned for several years for his membership in the organization.
Yousef, who now lives in California, described how an invitation to learn more about Christianity led him to convert.
“I was very enthusiastic about what I heard. I began to read the Bible every day and I continued with religion lessons. I did it in secret, of course. I used to travel to the Ramallah hills, to places like the Al Tira neighborhood, and to sit there quietly with the amazing landscape and read the Bible.”
“A verse like ‘Love thine enemy’ had a great influence on me,” he continued. “At this stage I was still a Muslim and I thought that I would remain one. But every day I saw the terrible things done in the name of religion by those who considered themselves 'great believers.'”
He explained that further study of Islam did not satisfy him.
This fascinating story is especially interesting in light of the pre-discipleship thresholds we studied during Making Disciples. There was a 4 year journey from the time this unlikely young man first heard a Christian presentation in Jerusalem at 22 and his baptism at 26. But the initial trigger seems to have been his exposure to the less savory elements of Hamas leadership in prison when he was 18.
Something happened during the four years after that experience that made him trust Christian friends and curious enough to actually attend a presentation on Christianity. And the image of Yousef escaping to the hills around Ramallah to read the Bible brings back memories for me of walking in those same hills among the olive trees and watching the setting sun glint off the Mediterranean far away. Ramallah was a historic majority Christian town before 1967 although that is no longer the case.
I must say that telling his story to an Israeli newspaper seems an extraordinary move and unnecessarily provocative, if he hope was to influence his family and friends I wonder why he choose to make his conversation known in this way and at this time? It seems most unlikely that he will be allowed home anytime soon and he will be extraordinarily fortunate of his family doesn't not simply cut him off - as Yousef expects with good reason.
A great magisterial quote that we used in Making Disciples this week.
Faith is born of preaching, and every ecclesial community draws its origin and life from the personal response of each believer to that preaching.
- Redemptoris Missio, 44
In light of Ann's observation below, I thought I would post the entire context of the quote above because the "preaching" referred to above is specifically the fundamental proclamation of Christ that awakens faith. It is narrower and more specific than liturgical preaching which encompasses many other aspects of the ministry of the Word.
The Initial Proclamation of Christ the Savior
44. Proclamation is the permanent priority of mission. The Church cannot elude Christ's explicit mandate, nor deprive men and women of the "Good News" about their being loved and saved by God. "Evangelization will always contain - as the foundation, center and at the same time the summit of its dynamism - a clear proclamation that, in Jesus Christ...salvation is offered to all people, as a gift of God's grace and mercy."72 All forms of missionary activity are directed to this proclamation, which reveals and gives access to the mystery hidden for ages and made known in Christ (cf. Eph 3:3-9; Col 1:25-29), the mystery which lies at the heart of the Church's mission and life, as the hinge on which all evangelization turns.
In the complex reality of mission, initial proclamation has a central and irreplaceable role, since it introduces man "into the mystery of the love of God, who invites him to enter into a personal relationship with himself in Christ"73 and opens the way to conversion. Faith is born of preaching, and every ecclesial community draws its origin and life from the personal response of each believer to that preaching.74 Just as the whole economy of salvation has its center in Christ, so too all missionary activity is directed to the proclamation of his mystery.
The subject of proclamation is Christ who was crucified, died and is risen: through him is accomplished our full and authentic liberation from evil, sin and death; through him God bestows "new life" that is divine and eternal. This is the "Good News" which changes man and his history, and which all peoples have a right to hear. This proclamation is to be made within the context of the lives of the individuals and peoples who receive it. It is to be made with an attitude of love and esteem toward those who hear it, in language which is practical and adapted to the situation. In this proclamation the Spirit is at work and establishes a communion between the missionary and his hearers, a communion which is possible inasmuch as both enter into communion with God the Father through Christ.75
Still coming down really hard. Nearly 2 inches of rain in the past 24 hours and that figure is clearly only going up. The dog walkers skulk by in the park, scrunched into their jackets as though that is going to keep the rain out.
To what grey, wet, foggy planet have they been suddenly been deported? Because this is certainly not Colorado in mid-August. In fact, it's not Colorado period. In Seattle, locals spend 9 months out of the year huddled with stoic indifference in one of the innumerable large economy size coffee shops or bookstores or foreign film emporiums. Armed with a triple grande latte, or Oolong tea and organic muffins, you read and surf and talk. Rain on the windows, dully gleaming grey sidewalks, and dripping black fir trees are all part of the natural scheme of things.
But here all the coffee shops and bookstores are small because no one expects to have to take shelter from the storm at any time of year. At least not for more than an hour when the sun will surely come out and the rain vanish or the snow begin to evaporate. I can only imagine the struggles going on in Leadville and on the slopes of Pike's Peak.
I just made the circuit of the basement to make sure there were no leaks. All dry so far. Thanks to new gutters (newly cleaned out!) and the french drain we carefully installed under all the new landscaping.
It's a good time to catch up on e-mail and blogging with a big, steaming mug of tea in hand. I'll pretend that I'm in Ireland and do as the Irish do!
Here's an interesting e-mail I received yesterday from an attendee at Making Disciples. (I have altered some of the details to protect my correspondent's privacy.) The morning after returning home, she had this interesting conversation with her pastor.
"He asked me about the conference. So, I filled him in on the thresholds, intentional discipleship & the sacraments, parishes as centers of formation and the lay apostolate, as well as what I'd gathered from the Doug & Don book (which I read on the plane yesterday). He seemed genuinely interested.
Pastor; "So, how do you see this being implemented here in our diocese?"
Me: "Umm. Well, let's start at the parish level?"
Pastor: "Ok, so what would you do if you could do anything?
I start speaking a bit ... start with the staff, prayer, slow steps, talk about discipleship, apostolate, and so on. And also the fact that not all Catholics are necessarily disciples.
Other staff member sitting quietly (the one who, at retreat, had said this evangelical stuff was a bit too much. "It's all mysterious how people respond. We can't program it." We can't, but that's not what this is about): "Well, I don't know if coming in and making changes is the best approach you know."
Me: "I agree totally. But Fr. asked me a hypothetical question ... :)" Fr smiled as he left.
And her e-mail ended with "I had a blast at MD! :)"
I wrote back:
Of course, the assumption among so many Catholics is that evangelism is an "invention" of Protestants. But the fact is that historically, Protestants didn't evangelize hardly at all for the first 300 years of their existence.
For the first 18 centuries of Christianity, it was Catholics who did almost all the proclamation and frontier evangelization - including during the 17th century Catholic revival. Which is why it did not occur to people like Frances de Sales and Vincent de Paul to worry about whether or not they were being sufficiently "Catholic" when they set out on their evangelizing preaching tours of rural areas, little villages, etc. In those days, they knew that they were simply following in a long and venerable Catholic tradition, in the footsteps of innumerable Catholic missionaries and saints. We have almost completely lost touch with our own tradition in this area.
The Protestant missionary/revival movement as we know it didn't take off until the early 19th century - when the fore-fathers of evangelicalism began their fledging efforts and it was only in the last half of the 20th century that Catholic evangelism efforts, traditionally led by religious orders, collapsed - while evangelicalism revved up into a truly global movement.
Our current situation is a complete aberration historically. Talk about returning to the sources and a hermeneutic of continuity! It's time our discussion of continuity encompassed more than the early 20th century and dealt with critical areas of the Church's life and mission beside the liturgy!
I think I'm going to have to add a few slides and a little riff on this to MD - early on - to help answer the inevitable reaction: "this is evangelical" cause the evangelicals really did get it from us.
There is a reason why in my history of evangelization course at Fuller, we studied Catholic missions and read Catholic authors. We read about the missionary monks of the dark ages, about Raymond Lull, the early Franciscan scholar of missions to Muslims, the Jesuits in India, etc. That's where I got my first knowledge of Ignatius and the early Jesuits - from the paper I did in that course on Jesuit missions long before I ever considered becoming Catholic myself.
Because there is almost no Protestant missionary history (except for the Moravians) before 1800. We have a vast treasury of evangelical, missionary, and pastoral wisdom hiding in our history but it is untapped for all practical purposes. This is part of the research I hope to begin while spending a week with my friends the Curps in Athens, Ohio this fall.
I keep forgetting that our participants - and our readers at ID - have no reason to know any of this.
In fact, it is had done the unthinkable around here. It has been raining nearly non-stop since my plane touched down and was stuck on the tarmac Thursday night in the middle of a colorful downpour-cum-hail-cum lightening episode. I could be in Seattle in November. Or January. Or March. Or June for that matter.
In Leadville, at 10,200 feet, it is 39 degrees right now and they are expecting some snow tonight. And the race began at 4 am. And will go on all day. And all night. At elevations of over 12,000 feet across Hope Pass.
And here in the Springs, the PP marathon - 13 miles up, 13 miles down - has never been cancelled and the show will go on apparently.
As the red bannered breaking news headline on our local paper's website put it:
The Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon will go on as planned this weekend despite forecasts of winter-like summit temperatures, snow, high winds and lightning.
"We know it's going to be cold soggy, slippery," said race director Ron Ilgen, "But these are experienced mountain runners. They'll be prepared."
The races are one of the flagship running events in Colorado. In the Saturday Ascent, 1,600 runners climb 13.2 miles from Manitou Springs to the Summit of Pikes Peak. In the Sunday Marathon, 800 do the round trip.
Weather on the 14,115-foot summit has often been a factor, but it could be especially daunting this year.
With a cold front pushing through, the Saturday forecast for the upper portion of the mountain from the National Weather Service says 1 to 3 inches of snow are likely, with wind between 15 and 25 mph and a high of 36 degrees.
A brief parting of the clouds Friday morning showed a summit dusted with white.
Thunderstorms are also possible.
"That's the worst thing, lightning," said Ilgen. "If it's rain, if it's snow, we can still have a race. Lightning is too dangerous."
The races have never been canceled, but some runners have been turned back due to weather.
In 2005, race directors turned back hundreds of racers at the halfway point when a powerful thunderstorm enveloped the summit.
Another 600 racers were stranded by 6 inches of hail, which closed the road to the top.
There wasn't enough room to house them and some cowered outside in the storm.
After that storm, Ilgen said race organizers changed their plans. This year they will have two full-length school buses parked at the summit to act as emergency shelters if the weather takes a turn for the worst.
"We can't set up tents, they would blow away," said Ilgen. "But the buses work well."
He said runners need to do their part by packing plenty of winter clothing for the top.
"That's just part of this race," Ilgen said
Postponing isn't an option, because so many runners travel from other states to try the peak, he said.
"I think we'll be able to deal with it, but we'll see," Ilgen said. "Spirits are good."
In Seattle, you have rain. In Colorado, you have weather.
Yesterday afternoon, while visiting with my godson's family, we decided to take in a newly released film, "Henry Poole is Here." I had received an e-mail announcement from the Catholic Campus Ministry Association, watched the trailer, and showed it to my friends. They decided to go see it, and took me, my 13-year old godson, Jake, his 10-year old sister, Grace, and Anthony, Jake's gradeschool buddy.
The film is about a "sad and angry" middle-aged man, played by Luke Wilson, who buys a slightly run-down house in his childhood neighborhood. The perky real estate agent has the home re-stuccoed before he moves in, and when Esperanza, the next door neighbor brings fresh tamales over to welcome him to the neighborhood, she spies a water stain in the new stucco that looks just like "el rostro de Dios" - the face of God. Pious mayhem ensues, and the cynical Henry Poole is caught up in a web of relationships that pull him out of himself.
It's a great story that examines the nature of faith - and the lack of it - as well as the nature of miracles. No sex, one "holy s***" and a PG rating. The SF Examiner review summarizes it well, "Although the ending is unsurprising, Henry Poole remains an interesting character. He behaves reprehensibly at times, yet his difficulty with faith resonates. Perhaps salvation can be found on a cracked stucco wall in the middle of Southern California, perhaps not. But the film's point - that we will all keep looking - is well taken."
I'm off for a couple of weeks while traveling. Back in September.
Gashwin Gomes made this shaky video and heavenly recording or my beloved Blessed Sacrament parish in Seattle. Mark Shea was squiring him about Seattle.
This will give you a better sense of what the sanctuary looks like.
Stepping cluelessly across the threshold of that (then, not now) crumbling sanctuary as an undergrad at the University of Washington changed my life. I felt the Real Presence although I had no language or mental concept for such a thing - and the rest is history. Blessed Sacrament is a place with a special anointing of God upon it and stepping across its threshold has changed many lives.
Yesterday they celebrated the 100th anniversary of the parish's founding and St. Dominic's Feastday by holding a ancient Dominican rite Mass - and the choir was practicing while Gashwin filmed.
He'll be joinng us at Making Disciples, so I'll have a chance to hear first hand how it went.
I won't have my computer with me (to make room in limited luggage space for critical seminar supplies), we'll be using Fr. Mike's to project the Poweroint slides and the other Sherry and Joe will also be there, so little or no blogging will occur between now and Friday.
Then Fr. Mike takes off for 2 weeks of vacation (such an exciting life he leads) - who knows when we'll hear from him again - but I'll be back till September and busy preparing for our many fall commitments. So blogging will re=commence.
Your prayers for the fruit of this Making Disciples would be most appreciated.
We received an e-mail last night from a MD alum which said
"I can’t tell you how much I’ve been affected by the Making Disciples workshop. It’s really helped clarify the direction for our parish."
John Allen has an interesting little article on Paul VI, whose 30th anniversary of his death passed with little notice (except at Pope Benedict's angelus message) on the Feast of the Transfiguration. In it, Allen quotes the pontiff's Ecclesiam Suam, in which he wrote on the importance of dialogue with the secular world."Theoretically speaking, the church could set its mind on reducing its relationships to a minimum, endeavoring to isolate itself from dealings with secular society; just as it could set itself the task of pointing out the evils that can be found in secular society, condemning them and declaring crusades against them," Paul wrote. "So also it could approach so close to secular society as to strive to exert a preponderant influence on it, or even to exercise a theocratic power over it, and so on."
"But it seems to us," Paul said, using the customary royal plural of the era, "that the relationship of the church to the world, without precluding other legitimate forms of expression, can be represented better in a dialogue."
Pope Paul described this dialogue in terms of four qualities:
Clarity: "Every angle" of one's language should be reviewed to ensure that it's "understandable, acceptable, and well-chosen"; Meekness: "Dialogue is not proud, it is not bitter, it is not offensive. Its authority is intrinsic to the truth it explains, to the charity it communicates, to the example it proposes; it is not a command, it is not an imposition. It is peaceful; it avoids violent methods; it is patient; it is generous." Trust: One should have confidence "not only in the power of one's words, but also in an attitude of welcoming the trust of the interlocutor. Trust promotes confidence and friendship. It binds hearts in mutual adherence to the good which excludes all self-seeking." Pedagogical prudence: "Prudence strives to learn the sensitivities of the hearer and requires that we adapt ourselves and the manner of our presentation in a reasonable way, lest we be displeasing and incomprehensible."
"The spirit of dialogue," Paul wrote, "is friendship and service."
"Before speaking, it is necessary to listen, not only to a man's voice, but to his heart," the pope said. "A man must first be understood; and, where he merits it, agreed with. In the very act of trying to make ourselves pastors, fathers and teachers of men, we must make ourselves their brothers."
In these musings we see a Pope who is very Dominican! Or perhaps it's just that Dominicans are very Catholic... Either way, St. Dominic spoke to his brothers about the importance of preaching with humility, while trusting in the Holy Spirit to move the hearts of others. He took on the austere poverty of the Albigensian heretics, who denied the goodness of matter, in order to gain a hearing from them. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, "Whatever is received is received in the manner of the one receiving it."
In other words, it doesn't matter how true what you say is, if you say it with disdain for your listener, or in a language incomprehensible to him. All you're doing is flattering yourself.
Finally, perhaps both Dominicans and Pope are imitating God, who humbles Himself to share our humanity and who speaks to us in gestures and language we can understand; who communicates himself to us in order to transform us. May our words - especially our preaching - take into consideration the heart and mind of the other, and may the Spirit give to our words and actions the power to transform.