[Transforming persons into little Christs] is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is so easy to get muddled about that. It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objectives -- education, building, missions, holding services. The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose. It says in the Bible that the whole universe was made for Christ and that everything is to be gathered together in Him.
Tom knows Fr. Michael Sweeney, who started CSI with me and is now President of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology. I've not met Tom yet but have heard of him from Fr. Michael who taught the Called & Gifted workshop that Tom attended.
Tom quotes Russell Shaw's excellent The Christian Laity in the Mission of the Church at great length. (we carry Shaw in our online bookstore). He then makes this startling statement: It is estimated that 33% of all parishes in California will be administered by deacons in ten years.
Really? I'll have to check that figure out. I know that the average parish in California has 10,000 people in it (as opposed to the national average of 3,500). So far haven't found any corroborating info on the internet. Anyone have wisdom to share on this particular statistic?
In any case, Tom sums it up this way:
here are three requirements for the laity to be involved in a fruitful way. The laity must:
1. Be well formed.
2. Use the gifts God has given them (“The Called and Gifted”). And,
3. Understand their purpose and the role they fill within the Church.
Loathe as I am to disagree at all with anyone who has the good taste and smarts to mention the Called & Gifted, I'd have to add a 4th point in first place.
1. Be intentional disciples of Jesus Christ in the midst of the Church.
a href="/This article leads to three questions : - What is evangelization? (what must every one find in the Kerygma) - How do you evangelize? - Once a people is interested in Christ (or better touched), how do you teach him to help him to be a "living" christian?
I mean all that in the harsh conditions of our parishes where priests haven't time to do anything, and where lay people just know few things about their faith, including sometimes reincarnation, etc...
How to begin with?
You have just asked the questions that our 4 day seminar Making Disciples was created to answer.
Disciples, leaders, and vocations flow out of a life-changing relationship with Christ in the midst of his Church. When Jesus asked Simon to “come, follow me,” Simon did not drop his nets to follow Jesus across Palestine for the next three years accidentally. . He did not become St. Peter unconsciously.
In the same way, the next generation of practicing Catholics, priests, religious, and lay leaders will not emerge accidently or unconsciously.
The non-negotiable foundation for Christian maturity and vocation today, as it was for St. Peter, is intentional discipleship.
Two keys to intentional discipleship are often missing in Catholic catechesis: pre-evangelism and initiatory catechesis that asks for a deliberate personal response.
Making Disciples will help you:
Understand intentional discipleship as the source of spiritual life, and thus the foundation of all pastoral ministry
Understand why initial discipleship precedes catechesis and how life-changing catechesis builds on discipleship.
Learn how to listen for and recognize pre-discipleship stages of spiritual growth.
Learn how to facilitate the spiritual growth of those, baptized or not, who are not yet disciples.
Discover ways of articulating the basic kerygma that awakens initial faith in a gentle and nonthreatening way.
Explore how to use these skills in a wide variety of pastoral settings: RCIA/inquiry , adult faith formation, sacramental prep, spiritual direction or pastoral counseling, gifts discernment.
Prayerfully reflect on your own journey of discipleship.
We are offering Making Disciples in three different locations this summer:
We have offered variations on this new seminar 5 times so far in very different setting and everytime the response has been electric. As far as we know, it is one of a kind and seems to name and clarify enormously the frustrations that almost all Catholic pastoral leaders have experienced in this area.
Making Disciples is ideal for anyone interested in evangelization: Pastors, Diocesan staff, DRE's, RCIA directors, spiritual directors, catechists, evangelists. All kinds of people will be there - including many who do not work for the Church but simply want to see the 8:1 ratio change.
I came across an abbreviated report of a conference held in Rome at the end of January and beginning of February. Given the findings of the recent Pew Foundation report on the number of former Catholics in this country, it seems like a timely article. Here's the majority of the short article:
If a parish does not evangelize, it is nothing more than a building, said a Vatican official, who offered four practical steps for transforming a parish into a missionary center.
Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, affirmed this at the end of January at a conference in Rome on "The Parish and the New Evangelization."
"Why should a parish be missionary," Archbishop Ranjith asked.
He explained that God's call of love mandates a missionary character for Christians: "Jesus loved his brothers and sisters to the extent that he was dedicated totally to their salvation -- this is the basis of evangelization."
The archbishop, who led the Diocese of Ratnapura, Sri Lanka, before being named to the Roman Curia, called evangelization a "sign of the maturity of our faith."
"The Church exists only if it evangelizes, and the same is true for the parish. If a parish does not evangelize, it is only a building," he said. “Evangelization is not a matter of free choice. It is an obligation of our faith, the perfect expression of our charity."
Archbishop Ranjith highlighted the importance of the Eucharist for a parish focused on the mission.
"The Eucharist is at the center of evangelization," the archbishop affirmed. "The Eucharist must generate faith. In some parishes it is celebrated in such a manner that it does not generate faith."
The 60-year-old prelate also focused on the role of parish priests. He said that priests should understand their role by saying, "'I am useless by myself but useful in his hands.'"
Archbishop Ranjith also contended that parishes should not focus on their community alone, but "make a determined effort to reach the lost ones."
He offered some "practical steps" for giving parishes a missionary character.
"The parish community must move away from a maintenance model to a missionary model -- if the only thing we do is repair the buildings, this will kill us spiritually," the archbishop said.
Secondly, he continued, parishes need "to move away from a spirit of pessimism to a spirit of optimism." And he noted the danger of becoming the Gospel's example of a "lazy servant."
The third practical step dealt with the role of laypeople. Archbishop Ranjith encouraged priests who still think the “mission is the sole responsibility of clerics," and that "priests should decide everything by themselves" to "share with the laity."
“Each layperson is a potential missionary," he affirmed.
The fourth step was related to the third. The archbishop encouraged involving as many people as possible: "associations, groups, men, women, youth and even children -- and be courageous to go into uncharted areas, look for new methods and means."
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust." Mt 5:43-45
A friend of mine pointed out to me yesterday that often at Mass here in Colorado Springs (and I'm sure in many cities) we pray regularly for the men and women in our armed forces. This makes sense since there are so many military bases around the Springs, and about 40% of the population is former military members. He asked me, "how come we never pray for our enemies? I've never heard anyone pray for Osama bin Laden, or Kim Il-Sung, or FIdel Castro."
He caught me off guard. In the Masses in which I lead the prayers of the faithful, I try to include a wide variety of groups of people, and often look through the paper before Mass for ideas. I've prayed publicly for criminals, illegal immigrants to this country, and politicians, but somehow I had not thought to include terrorists, enemy combatants, members of the mafia, drug pushers, the fallen executives of Enron, or heads of state of the "axis of evil." It hadn't really crossed my mind.
Now that it has, I will try to include these folks in our public prayer. I'll probably preface such prayers with "Jesus taught us to pray for those who persecute us..." Why? Because I'm a coward. I suspect some people would take exception to prayers for terrorists and suicide bombers. Yes, the things they do are despicable (I was horrified at the recent report that two women with Down's syndrome were fitted with explosives that were detonated by remote control as they walked through outdoor markets).
Yet, do we believe in the power of prayer, or not? Do we believe that God's grace is effective and capable of transforming lives - even the lives of our enemies? What would happen if Christians who want a swift return of our troops from Iraq and Christians who want to keep our troops there until Iraq has a stable government all began praying for a change of heart for the terrorists? Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Is there any chance at all that He may know something that we do not? If we aren't willing to trust Him, is He really our Lord? I suppose this is nothing new. He said to his own followers, "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' but not do what I command?" Lk 6:46
Perhaps, however, it's time for us to change, and to take Him at His word.
For many of us in mid-life and mid-stream, who are caught up in a particular long obedience and yet (Lord willin' as they used to say in MIssissippi) have many miles to go before we sleep, this wonderfully apt quote from St. Teresa of Avila speaks to our condition. Or at least to mine. The famous bookmark.
"Be not perplexed, be not afraid, everything passes. God does not change. Patience wins all things. He who has God lacks nothing. God alone suffices.
:"Evangelical Christianity has become the largest religious tradition in this country, supplanting Roman Catholicism, which is slowly bleeding members, according to a survey released yesterday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life."
I think the story really should have been titled "Mainline Protestant tradition fading in the US" - but I guess that's not a surprise anymore.
But this figure did startle me: In 1957, 66% of Americans were members of mainline Protestant churches. 50 years later, only 18% are part of mainline Protestantism. Now that's what you call a major fade!
"There is no question that the demographic balance has shifted in past few decades toward evangelical churches," said Greg Smith, a research fellow at the Pew Forum. "They are now the mainline of American Protestantism."
The overall percentage of Catholics hasn't changed that much in recent years - but if we weren't losing so many members, we'd be growing dramatically and make up 33% of the country, not 23%!
So the real story is complicated:
In the US, religious affiliation is anything but steady state.
No single religious tradition enjoys the sort of hegemony that mainline Protestantism enjoyed 50 years ago.
Mainline Protestantism had collapsed into a death spiral.
Evangelical/Pentecostal Protestantism, which was practically a sect 50 years ago, has replaced it as the largest and most influential form of Christianity in the US.
Catholic numbers have remained relatively constant because their massive losses (1/3) have been offset by a significant number of converts and huge Hispanic immigration.
Catholic losses are supplying two groups: evangelicalism (almost 5% of US population are Catholics who have become evangelicals) and the non-practicing (5% of US population are Catholics are not affiliated with any religious tradition).
For every US evangelical/Pentecostal who becomes a Catholic (roughly 1.8 million), 8 American Catholics have gone in the other direction (roughly 14 -15 million). The 8:1 ratio.
The disproportion is even greater among Hispanics. 20% of Hispanic US Catholics become evangelicals or Pentecostals.
Those who consistently evangelize, "win" in a culture in which individuals tend to "re-choose" their religious affiliation as adults.
"Renocentrism" is Leonardi's term for what I call "Reign of God theology". I've posted about it before on other blogs (before ID existed). As Pope Benedict puts it:
Since that time, a secularist reinterpretation of the idea of the Kingdom has gained considerable ground, particularly, though not exclusively, in Catholic theology. This reinterpretation propounds a new view of Christianity, religions, and history in general, and it claims that such a radical refashioning will enable people to reappropriate Jesus' supposed message. It is claimed that in the pre-Vatican II period, "ecclesiocentrism" was the dominant position: The Church was represented as the center of Christianity. Then there was a shift to Christocentrism, to the doctrine that Christ is the center of everything. But it is not only the Church that is divisive -- so the argument continues -- since Christ belongs exclusively to Christians. Hence the further step from Christocentrism to theocentrism. This has allegedly brought us closer to the community of religions, but our final goal continues to elude us, since even God can be a cause of division between religions and between people.
Therefore, it is claimed, we must now move toward "regnocentrism," that is, toward the centrality of the Kingdom. This at last, we are told, is the heart of Jesus' message, and it is also the right formula for finally harnessing mankind's positive energies and directing them toward the world's future. "Kingdom," on this interpretation, is simply the name for a world governed by peace, justice, and the conservation of creation. It also means no more than this. This "Kingdom" is said to be the goal of history that has to be attained. This is supposedly the real task of religions: to work together for the coming of the "Kingdom."
A quick and dirty take on some of the assumptions of this understanding of the mission of Christ and the purpose of the Church would be:
1) multiple economies of salvation (Jesus is salvific only for Christians at best);
2) repudiates the crucifixion as in any way redemptive because that would place an act of violence at the very center of God's purposes;
3) asserts that the Incarnation is an end in itself (God just wanted to share human life so much) and that objective redemption was not the purpose of Jesus' earthly life;
4) regards Jesus not primarily as Savior but as Announcer/Prophet of God's reign;
5) regards the Church strictly as a prophetic servant of the Reign of God which is independent of the Church and much more important; and
6) understands liturgy as a celebration of community which prepares us to go out and work for God's reign.
As Pope Benedict points out: "But the main thing that leaps out is that God has disappeared; man is the only actor left on the stage."
The Kingdom without the King. Instead of the Kingdom flowing out of relationship to the King.
Of course, much of the impetus behind the development of "reign of God" theology was an experience of an impotent/corrupt/self-satisfied local Catholic community who did little or nothing to aid the poor and aided and abetted their oppressors. The King was sacramentally present but the fruit of a transforming relationship was not.
According to Mission of the Redeemer, 16, the Kingdom ( Reign) of God is already present in the person of Jesus. It is slowly established in humanity and the world through “a mysterious connection with him.”
What is that mysterious connection? One of the main ways the kingdom is established is through the life-changing fruition of sacramental grace in the lives of individuals and then whole communities (often sparked by and fostered by those same individuals whose charisms and vocations emerge out of a living relationship with Christ).
Changing structures of injustice takes a long, anointed, patient, enduring, sacrificial obedience in the same direction. To change large scale, complicated structures of injustice takes many such people who engage it as a personal vocation and spend their lives doing so because Christ has called and is sustaining, inspiring, and guiding them.
The Kingdom emerges out of obedient relationship with the King.
"The report, released today by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, is the first selection of data from a 35,000- person poll called the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. Says Pew Forum director Luis Lugo, Americans "not only change jobs, change where they live, and change spouses, but they change religions too. We totally knew it was happening, but this survey enabled us to document it clearly."
According to Pew, 28% of American adults have left the faith of their childhood for another one. And that does not even include those who switched from one Protestant denomination to another; if it did, the number would jump to 44%. Says Greg Smith, one of the main researchers for the "Landscape" data, churn applies across the board. "There's no group that is simply winning or simply losing," he says. "Nothing is static. Every group is simultaneously winning and losing."
The percentage of the American population that is Catholic has remained fairly constant but that stability hides a lot of change:
"The Pew report shows that of all those raised Catholic, a third have left the church. (That means that roughly one out of every 10 people in America is a former Catholic, and that ex-Catholics are almost as numerous as the America's second biggest religious group, Southern Baptists.) But Catholicism has made up for the losses by adding converts (2.6% of the population) and, more significantly, enjoying an influx of new immigrants, mostly Hispanic."
Of those Catholics who leave, almost half joined Protestant groups. About half of ex-Catholics have no affiliation with organized religion, the Pew survey found, while a small percentage chose other faiths.
No wonder practically every cradle Catholic in American has a long list of family and friends who no longer practice. (I've been keeping count of those cradle Catholics I met who have never left the Church and all of whose siblings never left. After asking thousands of people about this, I think I have found 20.)
1) There have been many complaints about the "feminization" of Catholicism in recent years about St. Blog's and often the Orthodox are held up as a more masculine alternative:
According the the Pew poll - ALL forms of Christianity in the US are majority female.
Both the Catholic, Orthodox, and mainline Protestant communities are 54% female, Evangelical Protestants are 53% female, and Mormons (stunningly) are 56% women. Traditional black churches top out at 60% female.
If you want a majority male religion in the US, you need to look at Judaism (48% women), Buddhism (47%) Islam (46%) and Hinduism - the ultimate testosterone zone at 39% female membership.
2) Catholicism is dramatically less "white" that any other form of US Christianity at 65% Anglo. Evangelicalism is 81% white, mainline Protestantism is 91% white (!!!!), and the Orthodox are 87% white.
3) Overall percentages:
Evangelical Protestants are the largest single group in the country at 26.3% Catholics are second at 23.9% Mainline Protestants are third at 18% Historically black churches at 6.9%
Nearly 50% of Americans have left the faith tradition of their childhood. No wonder stories of conversion from X to Y are so common in our culture.
Because in the US, the classic Catholic working assumption that "inculturating" a child into the faith of its parents will ensure that it will follow that faith in adulthood is clearly not taking into account an enormously powerful cultural tide.
Notice that 2.6% of US Catholics are converts - an amazing figure compared to the rest of the world. To hold our own, we must evangelize.
The Gospel for today issues a challenge to us - as always. It's Luke's version of the rejection of Jesus as a prophet by the people of his own hometown, Nazareth. The crowd turns on him pretty dramatically after Luke mentions that "all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth" (Lk 4:22).
Several commentators I read this morning indicate that the turn of events hinges on the stories that Jesus tells in this pericope. In both cases, prophets of God are sent to minister to Gentiles, even though the need for the same ministry among the chosen people was great. Jesus identifies himself as a prophet who will reach beyond the religious boundaries of Judaism. This incensed a people who felt that they were the chosen of God, and who though of Gentiles, as one commentator quoted, as being "created as fuel for the fires of hell."
I mention this because I have read and heard of Catholics who long for a smaller, holier Church. They look at the exodus of Europeans from their parishes in the wake of growing secularism, and basically say, "good riddance." And while Jesus advises his disciples to shake the dust of towns that reject the the apostles and Gospel from their sandals (Lk 9:5), he also tells parables of God seeking out the lost (Lk 15).
The Church exists to evangelize, according to Pope Paul VI
Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ's sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection. (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14)
If people leave the Church in the wake of advancing secularism - or for whatever reason - we dare not simply accept that situation. I can not reconcile the command to love my neighbor and the willingness to let them leave the embrace of the Church. The temptation is to convince myself that they have knowingly rejected the Gospel, when, in fact, they may never have been fully evangelized in the first place.
For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new: "Now I am making the whole of creation new." But there is no new humanity if there are not first of all new persons renewed by Baptism and by lives lived according to the Gospel. The purpose of evangelization is therefore precisely this interior change... (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 18)
The questions that each of us must ask ourselves is, "have I undergone such a conversion?" As parishes, we must ask ourselves, "do we reflect the kind of transformed life that is itself a sign of transformation and new life?" (E.V., 23) The proof of my having been evangelized is that I now desire to share the good news I have received with others. This makes perfect sense. I remember the summer day in 1977 when I learned I had been accepted as a member of the McDonald's All-American marching band. It meant I had free trips to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, along with opportunities to make great music, meet kids from all over the country, and get to do some great sightseeing in those three cities. I had opened the letter from the McDonald's corporation fully expecting a rejection. In fact, I had even forgotten auditioning by tape some eight months previously. I couldn't wait to tell someone - anyone - and I was home alone, and it seemed that all my friends were away from their homes. It was a good hour or more before I could share my "good news," and I thought I was going to explode!
Pope Paul VI put it this way,
Finally, the person who has been evangelized goes on to evangelize others. Here lies the test of truth, the touchstone of evangelization: it is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn.
I believe we have to take evangelization and conversion much more seriously - beginning with our own deepening conversion to the Lord. As a friend of mine is fond of saying these days, "What - or who - is your God?" The more I focus my life on Jesus, God incarnate, and seek to worship Him alone, the more His grace will transform me and prepare me to evangelize with my life and my words. God's desire for His Church, I believe, is that it be both huge (even universal) and holy - a spotless bride.
Cheryl Hall, a business columnist for the Dallas News, wrote an article on Millennials that caught my attention. Millennials are the kids who were born after 1980. You may remember them as the generation whose parents (baby boomers) had the first "baby on board" signs hanging on the rear windows of their mini-vans. Their childhood was much more highly structured than mine, and featured "play dates," Mozart in the womb, more organized sports option, and much more affirmation than Gen-Xers, who could be stereotyped as the latchkey kids.
Problem is, all that affirmation and coddling is having a negative effect in their work performance.
Owen Hannay is the 45-year-old principal of Slingshot LLC, whose Dallas agency is known for its leading-edge marketing. He's put a moratorium on hiring Millennials, the newest cohort to enter the workplace.
It's not that millennials lack the creative genius or technological know-how that he's looking for. Far from it, he says. It's more that they lack the real-world grounding it takes to deal with responsibility, accountability and setbacks.
"They wipe out on life as often as they wipe out on work itself," says Mr. Hannay, who let go more than a dozen millennials from his 130-person staff over the course of 2006.
That's when he stopped hiring them. "They get an apartment and a kitty, and they can't cope. Work becomes an ancillary casualty. They're good kids with talent who want to succeed. That's what makes me nuts."
All true, says Ms. Looney, a certified reality therapist and retired director of children and family ministry at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church. And many employers are backing away from hiring them because they're so high maintenance.
"They've been overparented, overindulged and overprotected," she says. "They haven't experienced that much failure, frustration, pain. We were so obsessed with protecting and promoting their self-esteem that they crumble like cookies when they discover the world doesn't revolve around them. They get into the real world and they're shocked.
"You have to be very careful in how you talk to them because they take everything as criticism."..."If you want to get the best out of the millennials, you have to invest in them. You have to give them a mentor to teach them how to navigate the adult world," Ms. Looney says. "You have to tell them in black and white what your expectations are for them and what the consequences will be if they don't meet those expectations."
"These are kids who have a bunch of participation awards. They think they should be rewarded for showing up at work. You have to say, 'No, no darlin'. You're paid to show up. But you have to do a good job to get a raise.' "
Employers need to play to this group's significant strengths. Millennials are highly educated, well-traveled, goal-oriented, technologically superior and great team players.
While making generalizations about any group of people, especially when the group is simply formed by age, is a tricky proposition, it's still kind of interesting to muse on what Millennial seminarians and pastors might be like. Perhaps we can make sure their formation addresses some of these issues.
For example, if millennials work well with others, that may bode well for the next crop of priests. They may be more likely to work as a team with their staff and with the lay members of their parishes. Their technological savviness may be a boon in parishes that have been slow to consider the use of the internet, podcasts and blogs for connecting with parishioners and for the purpose of evangelization. Their creativity might translate into better preaching and teaching.
On the other hand, they are not likely to meet much criticism in seminary, nor are they likely to find failure. Seminaries may be a bit over-anxious to make sure that a fellow passes his courses and is ordained, since there's such a lack of priests in most dioceses. And what happens when Fr. X becomes a pastor, and various parishioners come to him with competing demands and expectations that conflict? Or what happens to Fr. Y when the full weight of his responsibility hits: daily preaching, counseling, teaching, sick calls, hospital anointings, parish and finance council meetings, chancery meetings, etc.? Every pastor I know has to face criticism and comparison with the previous pastor.
One possibility might be to make sure that Millennials have mentors. We might naturally expect the mentor to be a priest, and often that is the model - a newly ordained priest is placed with an older priest who can help show him the ropes. Unfortunately, those mentor priests are seldom if ever trained as a mentor, and may have precious time to devote to mentoring. It doesn't seem to be much of a priority. And mentoring goes way beyond spiritual direction. It would have to address the reality that a priest is to be a man of God for others. That may be hard for men whose self-esteem was nurtured in an artificial way as children, or who were given the impression that life really was about them and their needs.
Mentoring should include an understanding of the difference between collaboration and delegation, the mission of the Church and the role of the laity in it. The newly ordained will likely need to know how to work with pastoral councils, including the importance of having a pastoral plan.
And finally - but most importantly - the mentoring should help the young priest focus on the importance of his own discipleship, which may have been lost somewhat in the overly academic environment of the seminary.
It would be interesting to pursue the possibility of training mentors specifically to work with the newly ordained. Some would be priests, of course, but why not also deacons and theologically trained lay men and women? This might be one way a diocese invests wisely in her priests, and may avoid lots of heartache down the road for both the ordained and the laity.
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