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The Last Great Push PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 19 June 2007 10:11
This week is my last push to put the final touches on Making Disciples. So blogging will happen but be sporadic.

Fr. Mike is offerings a series of talks this week in a parish of his old stomping grounds in Eugene, Oregon. His topics sound exciting to me so if you find yourself in the Eugene area, consider attending.

There's a reason why Fr. Mike wears Oregon athletic gear so much of the time - he is a deeply committed fan of the . . .DUCKS. . . The Mighty Ducks. . . The mind boggles.

As a Husky myself (University of Washington alum), I've grown used to being on the receiving end of the slings and arrows of outrageous Duck fandom. He's told me some story about Walt Disney offering a large sum of money to the University 50 years ago if they would take the Duck (Donald?) as their mascot but I'm sure its just an urban legend.

But what else could explain it? Any of our readers know the true story?
National Catholic Singles Conference - San Diego PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 18 June 2007 20:18
The National Catholic Singles Conference - San Diego is coming: Friday, June 29 - Sunday, July 1, 2007.

The roster of speakers looks interesting and includes Christopher West. Check it out.

I delighted to finally see something being done in this area since 50% of US Catholic adults are NOT married. 25% have never been married - but you wouldn't know it from the way our parishes are organized.
The Christian Underground: in Seattle, My Home Town PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 18 June 2007 14:30

My tribe: Seattlites.

I'll be back in a couple weeks -savoring her five espresso stands on every corner, the wind whipping on the ferries, the salmon sailing through the air at the Pike Place Market. I'll hang out with Mark Shea and the clan, and see old haunts again and revel in her lush greenness and Mt. Rainer (if the mountain is "out") etc.

But I won't miss this: the incredibly hostile spiritual atmosphere.

Trying to live as a believing Christian (Catholic or evangelical) in Seattle's atmosphere of deep hostility and skepticism is like trying to take a relaxing stroll against a hurricane force wind. There's nothing relaxing about it. Nothing in the culture can be assumed to be for you. You are always on alert. There are some wonderful churches in town (Blessed Sacrament where the Institute started, being one of them) and some creative and significant ministries.

But if you are not part of the Christian "underground", you need never know they - or we - exist. Religion in the public square: unimaginable.

This piece in the local newspaper, the Stranger says it all - from the perspective of an unbeliever.

The Church of Skepticism: Seattle's One True Faith Gets Mobilized
By Sean Nelson

This is my 15th year living in Seattle, and I can count on one hand the number of churchgoers I've met since moving here—and still have a finger left to hail a taxi to drive me the hell away from them. That's a joke, obviously, but it reflects an attitude I've encountered a lot in Seattle: Religious people are to be avoided.

It's not fair or true to suggest that all people who believe in a god and attend worship services are crazy or unreasonable. We all know that. It's also possible that I've met observant Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists in my time as a Seattleite (someone's going to all those churches). But if I have, they've kept a pretty tight lid on their Sabbath adventures.

Maybe that's because, as certain religious leaders like to claim, the "faithful" compose a persecuted majority, and the observers are scared of being ostracized, even persecuted, for admitting their beliefs. That's a reasonable enough concern in a town as judgmental as Seattle, I guess. But leaving aside the question of how weak the faithful must be if they can be driven underground by a little ridicule, I don't think that's what's really going on. I think it's that the real religion of this city is skepticism, and the word is spreading.

Last week, 850 people packed Town Hall to hear a presentation by Christopher Hitchens, in town to promote his new book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, which was number one on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. Hitchens's stance in favor of war in Iraq has made him a polarizing figure among your standard-issue Seattle lefty crowd, but Town Hall was bursting with people ready to embrace the message that religion is a "Bronze Age myth."

"This stuff," Hitchens said, referring to religion, "is not to be believed." And the crowd roared.

Hitchens's argument—posed to a fully complicit choir, admittedly—was made all the more compelling because no one answered the call to debate the author about the existence of a god or the validity of religion. Seattle could not produce one radical Fundamentalist, sober moderate, or disinterested scholar to stand for the holy side. That's telling (we're the only city that has failed to meet Hitchens's challenge to debate all comers), but it's not what made the event resonate.

I described my shock at the open manifestation of religion in the marketplace in Colorado Springs in a Siena Scribe article:

When we moved our office to Colorado Springs I did not understand how different life would be in the "Evangelical Vatican." Over 100 national and international evangelical Protestant organizations make their home here including Focus On the Family. We have no skyscrapers, only "purple mountain majesties" (America the Beautiful was inspired by the view from Pikes Peak) and gigantic churches with names like "Radiance" or "New Life" that dominate the corners and hilltops. Visible, unapologetic faith is much more a part of the public scene here than would ever be imagined in Seattle.

When I drop into my local dry cleaner's or Mail Boxes, Etc., the staff is listening to Christian talk radio. During a recent morning walk, a friendly older man wanted to demonstrate his dog's best trick. I witnessed the apparently charismatic pooch "praise the Lord" by rising on her hind legs and waving her paws in the air on command. Honest.

If I walk into the local discount warehouse, the genial older gentleman who greets me will very likely bellow a few bars of "Amazing Grace" into the public address system. The first time I heard it, my West Coast urbanite paranoia kicked in. "He's singing a Christian hymn in a public place. He can't do that! He'll be fired for sure." Six months later, he's still singing at the top of his lungs. I now know that Colorado Springs shoppers consider him a bit of local color rather than a one-man assault on the separation of church and state.

So what is atmosphere like in your neck of the woods? Open hostility to the faith, indifference, or surrounded by believers? How does that affect how you live and express your Catholic faith?
News from the Front PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 18 June 2007 08:02
Stories I heard this weekend:

1) Parishes where hundreds of second grade kids are prepared for First Communion every year. The overwhelming majority of these children then completely vanish for the next SEVEN YEARS until its time for Confirmation prep. They don't attend Mass. Their parents don't attend Mass. Talk about sacramental filling station . . .How soul destroying.

2) The diocesan sponsored catechist training where participants were told that conversion works differently for Catholics. Catholics, according to this scenario don't and shouldn't expect to experience any faith-based discernable change or transformation in their lives for a long, long time. None of that discernable, conscious, Peter "dropping-his-nets-and-following-Christ" stuff. Catholics just wake up one day. and find that they are just different.

Help me out here. I'm confused. Would a fair analogy be "Why bother going to the trouble of attending med school and living through the long purgatory of internship and residency because one day I'll just wake up to discover that I've became a brain surgeon in my sleep?"

I always knew those MCAT prep courses were a scam.

As St. Augustine observed: God created us without us but he won't save us without us.
Newark Parishes Support Women Suffering from Post-Partum Depression PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 18 June 2007 07:15
Well, its a beautiful, cool, breezy, summer morning in my neighborhood. I didn't get enough sleep (plane delays in Burbank) so I'm only half awake - but home.

The Archdiocese of Newark has anounced a new initiative: parish-based support to women suffering from post-partum depression. What an interesting idea. I wonder how this evolved? There's usually intersting stories behind something like this: a story that began in suffering.

This news comes via Postpartum Progress, the blog of Canadian entertainer Amy Sky, which offers lots of links and information about Post Partum Depression. She points out that something like 10 - 15% of all women who give birth in the US every year - at least 400,000 women - suffer from ppd in the US.

I have a good friend who suffered a psychotic break immediately after her first pregnancy and experienced more serious ones after babies two and three. She couldn't care for her own children for over a year after the last birth.

So no more children - for the sake of those she already has. The family are devoutly Catholic and remarkably upbeat and cheerful about the whole thing - but my friend will be probably be on anti-psychotic meds the rest of her life.

Knowledge and understanding at the parish level for new moms confronting ppd and more serious problems would be such a help. It is part of being truly pro-life.
I"m Back PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 18 June 2007 00:38
Will blog tomorrow. But now to bed.
What a Weekend Coming Up PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 14 June 2007 12:28
500 attendees at two Called & Gifted workshops in two new dioceses
A Called & Gifted teacher training
A Called & Gifted interviewer training

8 teachers on the road including me and Fr. Mike. 20 boxes of resources


I just found out that 18 people from the parish in Boise which is HQ for the Called & Gifted workshop in Idaho are traveling to San Francisco this weekend to put on the first evangelization retreat at the parish which is HQ for the Called & Gifted in San Francisco.

I know because I had to call our team leaders in both parishes to see if they could meet with the representatives of a Australian archdiocese who are planning to criss-cross the western US in July talking to parishes who have implemented Called & Gifted.

Oh yeah, and I really, really have to get back to cutting those 15 slides out of the Tuesday morning schedule for Making Disciples because our teachers like Keith Strohm would really, really like to know what they are supposed to be doing.

There's a reason why brilliant, witty, original blogging is in short supply at the moment. (Beside the fact that Fr. Mike is putting the final touches on his presentations in Eugene next week!)

Your prayers appreciated. If you are a reader of ID and attend one of our events this weekend, be sure and give the teachers a shout out! We'd love to meet you.
That Parish With All the Believers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 14 June 2007 08:30
Reality in parish life captured in a single moment:

Via a ID reader who, I suspect, would prefer to remain anonymous so as not to identify either bishop or diocese.

Our bishop is known to embarrass the pastor by calling across a large roomful of priests, "Hey, how's that parish you've got with all the believers?"
Vatican Urges All Catholics to Stop Donating to Amnesty International PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 14 June 2007 07:46
Amnesty's new position on abortion is very frustrating for me because I had long supported their human rights work.

From the BBC:

The Vatican, which regards life as sacred from the moment of conception, said it was an "inevitable consequence" of the group's policy change.

Amnesty said it was not promoting abortion as a universal right.

But the group said that women had a right to choose, particularly in cases of rape or incest.

"No more financing of Amnesty International after the organisation's pro-abortion about-turn," said a statement from the Roman Catholic Church's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

The Church's request covers funding from Catholic groups, non-governmental organisations, parishes, schools and individuals.

'Misrepresented account'

The council's president, Cardinal Renato Martino, described abortion as "murder".

"And to justify it selectively, in the event of rape, that is to define an innocent child in the belly of its mother as an enemy, as 'something one can destroy'," the cardinal said.

According to Roman Catholic doctrine, life - which begins with conception - must be respected.

Amnesty says it does not take any position on whether abortion is right or wrong.

But it defended its new position in support of abortion for women when their health is in danger or human rights are violated, especially in cases of rape or incest.

"We are saying broadly that to criminalise women's management of their sexual reproductive right is the wrong answer," Amnesty's deputy Secretary General Kate Gilmore told Reuters news agency.

"The Catholic Church, through a misrepresented account of our position on selective aspects of abortion, is placing in peril work on human rights," Ms Gilmore said.

Sherry's note:

Well, Ms. Gilmore, here's the deal: the right to life is a human right. You can't place the rights of adult women against the rights of the unborn (the majority of whom are the women of the future!)

And here's a stunner(for me anyway)

Some 45 million unintended pregnancies are terminated around the world every year, the World Health Organisation says. Nearly 70,000 women die annually from unsafe abortions, it says.

All those unique lives, created by God and redeemed by Jesus Christ.

Laws alone won't stop it as we have seen throughout history and around the world.
What will it take to ensure that all women everywhere have real, positive alternatives to abortion?
The You Tube Presidential Debates PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 14 June 2007 07:44
Via the New York Times:

"The presidential debates are about to enter the world of YouTube, the anything-goes home-video-sharing Web site that puts the power in the hands of the camera holder. YouTube, which is owned by Google, and CNN are co-sponsoring a debate among the eight Democratic presidential candidates on July 23 in South Carolina, an event that could define the next phase of what has already been called the YouTube election, a visual realm beyond Web sites and blogs.

The candidates are to assemble on a stage in Charleston, S.C., at the Citadel (yes, the Citadel, the military school criticized by some Democrats a decade ago before it began admitting women). The questions will come via video submitted by ordinary people through YouTube. Moderating between the viewer and the candidates will be Anderson Cooper, the CNN anchor.

The video format opens the door for originality and spontaneity — elements usually foreign to the controlled environment of presidential image-making. Because visual images can be more powerful than words, the videos have the potential to elicit emotional responses from the candidates and frame the election in new ways.

“It’s one of the biggest innovations we’ve seen in politics,” said Mike Gehrke, director of research for the Democratic National Committee, which has sanctioned the YouTube/CNN event as the first of six official Democratic debates this year (which means the party has coordinated them).

User-generated video, he said, is changing the balance in campaigns. “It used to be a one-way street,” he said. “It would cost a lot of money for a campaign to put together a good TV ad, then you had to buy time, put it on the air and later on Web sites. Now it goes the other way too, and you have people talking to each other and to the campaigns.”

Billy Graham's Wife, Ruth, Close to Death PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 14 June 2007 06:42
For your prayers:

Ruth Graham has fallen into a comma and seems to be dying:

Billy Graham said:

"Ruth is my soul mate and best friend, and I cannot imagine living a single day without her by my side," Graham said. "I am more in love with her today than when we first met over 65 years ago as students at Wheaton College."

My grandparents were married 67 years and I wear my grandmother's 1921 engagement ring as I write this. She was 16 and grandpa was 18 when they become engaged.

It is hard to imagine how it must feel to lose the one person on the planet who knows all your life in its details, to whom you have instinctively turned in all situations, to whom you have been deeply bonded for so many years.

Fr. Michael Sweeney has often commented about the death of his own father "he was the only person who still saw my mother as a young girl."

People like that: spouses, siblings, parents, close friends whose love stretches over the years and decades, hold such a precious and irreplaceable place in our lives. Only God knows us better.

It's a good day to tell them how much they mean to you.
Settling for Too Little PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 14 June 2007 05:55
Zenit has a nice interview with Jean-Luc Moens, who has been recently named to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Vatican dicastery that oversees the Church's charitable activities.

Moens has served as president of FIDESCO, a nongovernmental organization that helps in development projects, since 1997. FIDESCO is a NGO founded by the Emmanuel Community in 1981, currently operating in France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, the United States, Australia, Rwanda, and Congo.

Since it was created, FIDESCO has sent more than 1,000 young people to more than 40 countries. At present, we have 120 volunteers on location and about 60 who are preparing to leave in September.

Sherry's note:

The more I hear of the Emmanuel community, the more impressed I am. I would certainly agree with Moen's comment:

Indeed, I have been impressed to discover that the new movements and communities that grant the laity an important role are also those where many vocations to the priesthood arise.

We must always bear in mind that all priests have started out as laymen!

We have certainly observed in our work that a Catholic culture of discernment where it is normal for all adults to ask "where is God calling me" is a culture that produces priestly and religious vocations as well as lay vocations of remarkable creativity.

There is so much more to facilitating the discerment of vocations than the traditional four "states of life": priesthood, religious, married, single.

As I wrote in Making Disciples, Equipping Apostles,"aren’t we’re in the middle of a vocation crisis? Indeed we are, but I would like to suggest that our crisis is that many are being called but only a few are discerning.

The Holy Spirit is planting charisms and vocations of amazing diversity in the hearts of all his people. Like the graces of the sacrament, they are real but they are not magic. Just as the gifts of children are in-born and yet must be fostered deliberately and with great energy by parents if their children are to reach their full potential, so vocations must be fostered by the Church.

In this area, we are not asking for too much, we are settling for too little. God is not asking us to call forth the vocations of a few people, he is asking us to call forth the vocations of millions. Our problem is not that there is a shortage of vocations but that we do not have the support systems and leadership in place to foster the vast majority of the vocations that God has given us."

Formation is not just something we give to a few who are already clear about God’s call. Formation awakens Christians to and clarifies God’s call; formation empowers men and women to hear and respond to the call that is already present. As Pope John Paul II has written: “The fundamental objective of the formation of the lay faithful is an ever-clearer discovery of one’s vocation and the ever-greater willingness to live it so as to fulfill one’s mission.”, 58.
Youth Mannafest PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 13 June 2007 21:43
This sounds like a great event: Youth Mannafest Prayer Festival in Edmonton.

According to this article from the Western Catholic Reporter, a young man's swollen foot was healed and 25 young people indicated a possible call to a priestly or religious vocation.
The Debate Over Dominus Iesus and the Validity of Contemporary Missions PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 13 June 2007 06:42
Since Amy over at Open Book has linked to my Monday post on Christianity in Asia, I thought it would make sense to repost a relevant excerpt from that 10 part article on Independent Christianity posted originally in early May.

The Debate over Dominus Iesus & the Validity of Contemporary Missions

There is a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon between the Independent reading of Christian fortunes in Asia and that of theologians like Peter Phan. Phan asserted, in an article titled “The Next Christianity” (America, February 3, 2003), that at most Christians in Asia make up only 3% of the population after 500 years of evangelization and strongly implied that the missionary enterprise was a bust. Meanwhile, David Barrett gives a figure that is three times larger (9%), and which represents a fourfold growth in Asian Christianity since 1900. Indeed, Barrett estimates that Christians will outnumber Buddhists in Asia before 2025!

At first, I was flummoxed. How could two experts in the field come up with figures that were so far apart? The answer came when I discovered that both Barrett and Fides, the communication arm of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, put the number of Asian Catholics in 2002 at 110 million or 2.9% of the total population. (Sherry’s note: David Barrett’s updated 2005 figures estimate that there are nearly 123 million Catholics in Asia.)

I realized that Phan must be using the word Christian as a synonym for Catholic. But there are twice as many non-Catholic Christians as Catholics in Asia. When I added in the numbers of Asian Protestants (57 million), the Orthodox (13.6 million), and the huge numbers of new independent Christians (179 million), the gap between 3% and 9% was easily bridged.

This is not just statistical nit-picking. Our understanding of the state of global Christianity is shaping our theological discussions. For example, John Allen’s September 23, 2005 summary of global Catholicism in The Word From Rome, states:

There's a sense in which Asian Catholicism is to the Catholic church today what Latin America was in the 1970s and 1980s, that is, the frontline of the most important theological question of the day . . . Today, it's over what theological sense to make of religious diversity, meaning whether or not we can say that God wills religious diversity, and if God does will it, what does that do to Christianity's missionary imperative? In Asia, the social reality of Christianity as a tiny minority surrounded by millennia-old religious traditions such as Hinduism and Buddhism makes this an urgent, and inescapable, theological challenge.

Sherry’s note: the emphasis is mine.

Once again, we are being told that one of the primary reasons to rethink historic Christian belief and practice regarding the mission ad gentes is the failure of that mission. And once again, the dramatically different experience of non-Catholic Christians, who comprise two thirds of Asian Christianity, is not being taken into account when discussing this issue.

It is sometimes said that Catholics have a “big battalion” mentality. Is being a small but growing minority evidence of a failed mission? This would seem to imply that “success” involves the rapid conversion of the majority and the establishment of some kind of “Christendom”. In contrast, Independent Christians expect to be a minority and have no use for Christendom. They accept “outsider” status as the normal situation in which Christians live in this world and in which evangelization and mission occurs. For them, minority status is not evidence of mission failure. What matters is, “Are people becoming intentional disciples of Jesus Christ?”

The conversion of 1% of the population of a hitherto completely non-Christian people would be regarded by Independents as a giant breakthrough. But viewed through the lens of the “Christendom norm,” it could be used to “prove” the futility of missionary activity.

Nepal is an excellent case in point. Until 1951, Nepal was completely closed off to all missionary work. In 1960, there was only a handful of known Nepali Christians. The big breakthrough occurred in the early 60’s when two lay evangelists from India crossed the Himalayas to share the Gospel.

By 1970, there were about 7,450 Nepali Christians in an illegal underground movement led by teenagers who were tortured and imprisoned for their faith. In the early 80’s, I remember hearing an evangelical woman missionary just back from Nepal describing the marks of torture still visible on the hands of the young leaders. By the turn of the millennium, there were almost 600,000 Christians in Nepal, most associated with indigenous, New Apostolic movements.

Nepali Christianity is growing so fast that Barrett estimates that the Christian population topped 768,000 by mid-2005 and now makes up 2.8% of the total population. 582,000 or 76% of Nepal’s Christians are Independents. There are only 6,626 known Catholics in the country.

“At least 40 to 60 percent of the Nepali church became Christians as a direct result of a miracle," says Sandy Anderson of the Sowers Ministry. "Most times the people do not know what we are talking about when we preach the gospel. That's why it is very important to demonstrate the gospel. We preach. Then God heals the sick when we pray. The gospel is not only preached but demonstrated in Nepal." (The Church at the Top of the World, April 3, 2000, Christianity Today).

So what’s the verdict? Are the Christians of Nepal a failed and beleaguered minority, or a success story that sounds remarkably like the first century church? How different the evangelical imperative looks if we stop assuming that creating another Christendom—the ultimate big battalion—is the measure of validity.

Independents aren’t the only Christians who have experienced dramatic growth in recent years. Catholic growth alone - outside the west - has sometimes been spectacular in the past century. As John Allen points out:

Africa in the 20th century went from a Catholic population of 1.9 million in 1900 to 130 million in 2000, a growth rate of 6,708 percent, the most rapid expansion of Catholicism in a single continent in 2,000 years of church history. Thirty-seven percent of all baptisms in Africa today are of adults, considered a reliable measure of evangelization success since it indicates a change in religious affiliation.” The Word from Rome, September 23, 2005.

How can we simply dismiss Catholic missions as a failure? If we look at the overall picture of Asian Christianity, Christians are likely to outnumber Buddhists in less than 20 years. How can we call them a “tiny minority”?

Here the contrast between Catholic and evangelical interpretations of mission history since 1960 is that of night and day, winter and summer.

What does it mean for the debate about Dominus Iesus and multiple economies of salvation if a significant portion of global Christianity is experiencing dramatic, unprecedented growth as a result of vigorously proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord?

In what ways should the very different experiences of non-Catholic Christians challenge our current practice in this area?
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