Ireland By and By and Evangelical Resourcement Print
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 16 August 2008 09:11
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.