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Multi-culturalism, Islam, & Women's Rights PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 12 March 2007 09:12
Speaking of which, Asia News is featuring this pistol of an article by Samir Khalil Samir, SJ on the European tendency to tolerate traditional Muslim practices of polygamy and wife-beating, even though they are against the law and the dignity of women in the name of "multi-culturalism"

Comments?
 
News & the New Evangelization PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 12 March 2007 09:08
Asia News is a site that all interested in the welfare of Christianity around the world should check regularly. The Asia News folks regard their work as a form of evangelization. As they wrote when beginning their English language on-line version in 2003:

"A sociological study conducted by China's Open University (Renmin Daxue) demonstrates that 61.5% of Peking's students are interested in Christianity and want to be believers. The majority of them search for information on the Christian faith by way of literature. Since university students have internet access, we think that AsiaNews will help them to be familiar with the impact Christianity has on Asian and Chinese society. Already many Chinese intellectuals think China can be saved by Christianity, so as not to explode into a soulless market or a dictatorship that humiliates the individual."

 
Charisms & Conversion PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 11 March 2007 23:54
A discussion of charisms, Called & Gifted and even Intentional Disciples from David Schutz of Melbourne, a former Lutheran pastor turned Catholic, with the able assistance of our AU Co-Director, Clara Geoghegan.

As Clara puts it so well:

"I agree with you in that Baptism and Confirmation are the only sources of spiritual gifts. Unfortunately many in the Catholic charismatic movement have been exposed to Pentacostalist theologies and have adopted the term 'Baptism in the Spirit' to explain the phenomenon that not all Baptised Catholics appear to manifest their charisms. The terminology is wrong, but they are trying to name that event which alters the consciousness of Christians and places Jesus at the centre of their lives. To my mind it is a conversion experience - dramatic for some, or part of an ongoing conversion for others."
 
Left to Tell PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 11 March 2007 22:29
The stunning true story of Immaculee Ilibagiza, a devout 22 year old Catholic woman who survived the Rwandan massacre and somehow found the strength to forgive. She wrote her story in "Left to Tell".

“In 1994, Rwandan native Ilibagiza was 22 years old and home from college to spend Easter with her devout Catholic family when the death of Rwanda's Hutu president sparked a three-month slaughter of nearly one million ethnic Tutsis. She survived by hiding in a Hutu pastor's tiny bathroom with seven other starving women for 91 cramped, terrifying days. This searing firsthand account of Ilibagiza's experience cuts two ways: her description of the evil that was perpetrated, including the brutal murders of her family members, is soul-numbingly devastating, yet the story of her unquenchable faith and connection to God throughout the ordeal uplifts and inspires. This book is a precious addition to the literature that tries to make sense of humankind's seemingly bottomless depravity and counterbalancing hope in an all-powerful, loving God.”

By the way,
Immaculee Ilibagiza is one of the featured speakers at the Boston Catholic Women's conference which starts March 18th.
 
Evangelism and Pluralism PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 11 March 2007 22:04
Mark Mossa, SJ has a thoughtful post on Evangelism and Pluralism here.

An excerpt:

"We should take a cue from the fact that often in interreligious dialogue, the representatives of other faiths often do not concede anything. We respect them for that, while we go out of our way to be sure that they are not offended or excluded by indications of our devotion to Christ. And then we blame the erosion of the Church on secularism from without. But are we suffering from a secularism from within?

 

Vibrant evangelization and an engagement with the problem of pluralism need not be mutually exclusive. Like Rahner, we have to hold fast to the centrality of Christ, and proclaim that in our lives without fear of his name offending others. After all, Jesus promised that this would indeed be the case. If the Gospel is true, then isn’t withholding Jesus for fear of offense a betrayal? In interreligious dialogue, should our interlocutors leave the table saying, “That Jesus Christ must really have been something for them to have such strong faith,” or “Gee, those Christians were really nice”?


 
We Do Not Drift Into Devotion PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 11 March 2007 21:50

A long post on small groups and spiritual transformation by John Ortberg, an evangelical Presbyterian that still speaks directly to our situation, I think:


"Small groups are the place for people to get on the scale and reveal how intentional they have been to pursue transformation into the image of Christ. William Paulson writes, "It is unlikely that we will deepen our relationship with God in a casual or haphazard manner." I think he understates it. People do not drift into full devotion to Christ. People do not drift into becoming loving, joy-filled, patient, winsome, world changers. It requires intention and effort.

But the default mode of the human heart is to drift. If a person has experienced real transformation, it's typically because someone else has cared enough to say, "I want you to live God's way, and I want to help you know if you are serious about it."

We need to make some key decisions on our journey of transformation: what are my commitments about prayer, about Scripture, about my use of money, about evangelism, about servanthood, about truth? Keeping these commitments requires a community of accountability to serve as a scale revealing how we're achieving our goals or missing them.

During the spiritual revolutions of 18th century England, the Wesleyan movement thrived on small groups. When those groups originally formed, they existed to hold people accountable to their commitments as followers of Christ. They gathered in little bands to ask one another how their obedience to Christ was going. History notes, however, that over the decades the focus of the groups shifted from accountability to vague "sharing," in the process the power of the revival was lost, and eventually the groups died out."

In our experience, there is a big difference between small formation groups and faith-sharing groups. Any readers been part of a small formation group? What was your experience?



 
Speaking of Reverts PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 10 March 2007 22:22

Written by Keith Strohm

Over at Musings of a Pertinacious Papist, Dr. Phillip Blosser reflects upon the sad reality that a number of men and women who convert to the Catholic Faith from protestantism revert back to their roots and fall away from the Catholic Church.

Here's some of what he has to say in a post entitled, Protestant Reverts: Catholic Dishonesty in Advertising:

I am profoundly disappointed. Yet another of the souls I have seen through from an evangelical Protestant background to membership in the Catholic Church has, after some seven years' sojourn in Catholic parishes, reverted to Protestantism -- to a certain "Bible Covenant Fellowship Church" in Texas.

The sad thing is that these stories are not entirely rare. Sadder still the fact that I understand very well the reason why.Those who fall away from the Catholic Church typically fall into two classes: the (1) lapsed, who simply stop practicing their Faith in any institutional way, and (2) reverts, who return to the practice of some (usually Protestant) non-Catholic form of Christianity. (I realize I'm using the term 'revert' in an unconventional way here.) . . .

The situation with those who revert, however, is less transparent and perhaps even more troubling. These are almost without exception individuals of impeccable character for whom questions of "faith and morals" are of basic importance. When they become Catholics, they do not do so without expending serious effort in endeavoring to understand Catholic teaching, particularly since there is typically a personal cost and social stigma associated with the move they are making, at least in their erstwhile communities of faith.

In my own experience, I have had the privilege of serving as mentor or sponsor to some twenty Catholic converts over the past ten or twelve years. Of this number, three have lapsed, including the only two of the group who were baptized Catholics but never catechized or confirmed. Of the total number, three have reverted to Protestant forms of Christianity -- one, studying to become a Protestant pastor, the other two resettled in evangelical congregations.

So what is it that happens to Protestant reverts? While every individual's story is unique, I think some generalizations are fairly safe. These are generally souls who come from backgrounds already well-rooted in evangelical Christianity, in a life of Bible reading, prayer, and personal relationship with God. When these souls discover the truth about the Catholic Church, they fall in love with her. They are thrilled when they finally come, at least on some level, to apprehend the Catholic vision of the Church and to see and and understand her glory -- "ever ancient, ever new." They love the Church that spans the ages, the Church of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Cardinal Newman, Pope John Paul, Pope Benedict XVI. They love the moral courage of the Church, which stands like an adamantine bulwark against the evils of abortion, pornography, and relativism. They love the magnificent beauty of her ancient European cathedrals, her basilicas, her paintings and sculptures, her Gregorian chant and polyphony (readily accessible in any music store). They love her theology, which they encounter in the writings of great doctors and theologians of the Church. They love her incarnational vision of life, which they encounter in the writings of numerous Catholic novelists.

But then they join a local Catholic parish ...The process usually begins with a desert experience called RCIA (Rite for the Christian Initiation of Adults) -- a series of meetings and classes in which they are treated more like preschoolers than intelligent adults, spoon fed pathological doses of hand-holding and introspection, and treated to ample quantities of shared feelings. If they survive that, they're welcomed into an Amchurch parish, whose music is Haugan and Haas, whose homilies are psychology tips from Dr. Phil, whose art and architecture is a combination of bog Bauhaus and degenerate Art Deco, and whose members never read traditional Catholic authors but whose discussion groups can't stop talking about Richard Rohr, Thomas Groome, Anthony Tambasco, Sr. Joan Chittister, Andrew Sullivan, and John Dominic Crossan.

It would be easy enough to say their conversion to the Catholic Faith was never authentic, or that their understanding was incomplete. . . .Just today I received yet another email from a former student, a mature Protestant, who wishes to take more of my classes and has asked about starting RCIA classes at my church. I know I should be happy, and I suppose (trusting God) I am. Yet I cannot help feeling a bit of the ambivalence Malcolm Muggeridge's Canadian-born daughter-in-law, Anne Roche Muggeridge, expressed when, distraught over the disastrous aftermath of Vatican II, she wrote about converts she knew:

I must confess that some of us, to our shame, earnestly tried to delay them, on the grounds of the growing disorder in the Catholic Church. They forced their way past us anyway, thank God; though the priest I brought them to for instruction and I could not resist saying, when they had their first shocking confrontation with revolutionary priests and nuns over their children's education: "Well, you can't say we didn't warn you!"

The point is, these converts remind one of what one asks of the Church of God, as the old baptism question went; the answer being, "Faith!" (The Desolate City: Revolution in the Catholic Church [1986; Rev. ed., San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990]) Don't worry. I never remain depressed for long. But my present state of mind is not far from that in which I offered the rant late last year, "Welcome aboard the shipwreck: what converts don't know," (December 13, 2006).

I worry whether, one day, one of these students who gets fired up and converts to Catholicism will want to take me to court and sue me -- or the Church, for that matter -- for dishonesty in advertising.

We've talked about this phenomenon a great deal--the disappearance rate of those who enter the Church. Dr. Blosser approaches the problem from a catechetical point of view, but many Catholic converts speak of an incredibly deep isolation that they experienced after they entered the Church. What is it within Catholic culture that isolates the newly joined in the midst of the most profound experience of communio (rooted in the profound reality of the Eucharist)? How can we help to provide better formation and connection for these men and women, many of whom are making choices that profoundly affect all of the major relationships in their lives?


 
From the Dallas News Religion Blog PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 10 March 2007 22:14
From the Dallas News Religion Blog

Daniel Burke of Religion News Service has a story noting that Catholic participation in the sacrament of confession (or, as it's formally known, "reconciliation") has plummeted. He cites a Georgetown University study that says only 14 percent of Catholics go to confession even once a year. (The church would have all Catholics go much more often than that.) And 42 percent say they never go at all.

14%. Once a year. Even I didn't think it was that low.

(The article references Archbishop Donald Wuerl's confession initiative this Lent: All the churches in his archdiocese will be open for confession every Wednesday evening from 7 - 8:30.)

Comments?
 
Flannery Wisdom PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 10 March 2007 10:24
On having her picture taken for marketing purposes (or turned into a bizarro marketing video)

"I looked like I had just bitten my grandmother and it was one of my few pleasures in life."

From The Habit of Being

My sentiments exactly.

 
The Liturgy of the City PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 10 March 2007 09:30
Paul Grenier and Tim Patitsas have written in a intriguing Godspy article: "In America, a good city, like good bread, is considered a luxury whose enjoyment is a necessity only for the virtuous, in other words, for the wealthy. It is not considered necessary for the poor to be allowed to be human."

They are asking why has the New Urbanism failed to create good cities. And their answers are simple:

Time:


"The economic value of old buildings," wrote Jacobs, "is irreplaceable at will. It is created by time." What is missing from this picture more than anything else is a liturgical understanding of time. It is missing from most New Urbanist projects because the economics of real estate development in the free market won't allow it.

Because these new town centers rely on expensive new construction, developers are forced to lease their retail space at very high rentstoo high for such humble ventures as the pottery studio or the old produce market to pay."

Casual friendships build over time:

"
What gets thrown away and rejected? The casual kind of friendships which gradually form between store owners and clients who see each other over the course of years and decades. The emotional warmth that places acquire because others before us have also drank and laughed there."


An unhurried pace made possible by low rents:

At the old site the atmosphere had been relaxed. Now, in the new high-rent building, high-speed and high-volume is the only way for the owner to stay afloat. The pace is frenetic.

Spirit:

"Finally, they destroyed the spirit of the Italian restaurant, where the owner's whole attention was devoted to this particular place, a place where he could give his food (in a certain sense) as a gift to his clients. Vignola's had been a place where a man of small means could do what he loved. Mr. Vignola was not primarily motivated by profit. The spiritual warmth of the experience at his restaurant came from one's recognition that this was the case."


I know that one of the things I really liked about Colorado Springs was that even the very poor had often staggering mountain views. In Seattle, even a glimpse of a mountain or a bit of water meant that the cost of a home jumped $ 50,000 immediately. Here, the mountains are so close and so dominant that even developers can't monopolize them.

Read the whole Godspy piece and be sure and browse the left sidebar which lists interesting related links.


 
Young Evangelists PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 10 March 2007 07:55
Here's an interesting initiative that I'd never heard of before: Youth to Youth Catholic Evangelization of Lansing, MI.

It seems to be rather like NET only the teams seem to limit their evangelization work to the state of Michigan. But then Net started 25 years ago just offering youth led retreats in Minnesota. Today, they have offices in Canada and Australia.

In an average 9 month NET season, each NET team will:

* travel 20,000 miles
* serve 9 to 11 dioceses
* facilitate close to 120 retreats
* stay in 105 host homes
* reach 8,500 young people one on one with the Gospel

As I travel, I have run into many priests, religious, and diocesan leaders whose lives were transformed by being part of a NET team. Nine months of intensive formation and the experience of mission seems to leave a permanent mark.

Any of our readers been part of NET or a Net-like program? What was your experience and how has it continued to affect your life today?
 
Raising Our Children as Intentional Disciples PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 10 March 2007 07:22

Internet Monk has a very thought-provoking essay on his blog this morning about raising our children in the faith: He's writing as what he calls a "post-evangelical" but nearly all his points seem to be one that serious Catholic parents are dealing with except #2.


(As I travel, I've listened to hundreds of Catholics moan about their children and grand-children who have left the Church, many for evangelicalism. In fact, I've started tracking the number of Catholic families that I met, all of whose children are practicing as adults. I think I'm up to seven. Fr. Mike's family is one of them. But I almost never hear Catholic parents openly worrying about the ultimate salvation of their children.)

Here's Internet Monks' points:

When we look at our children, several major highways come together:

1) Our belief that the family is supposed to love, nurture, protect and discipline children in the knowledge and fear of the Lord. In other words, raise them in the faith.

2) Our belief that our children are, by nature, lost, rebels and sinners who must be converted, i.e. “born again,” if they are to have eternal life.

3) Our desire to protect our children from the worst aspects of culture.

4) Our desire for our children to participate in the best aspects of culture. Few evangelicals see the “Amish option” as viable, though from what I can tell, it’s making a lot of progress in some quarters.

5) Our ambiguity, as a religious movement, over public education. In short, we believe in it as a public good in a nation with over 40 million kids who need to be educated, and we hate/fear/loathe it as the primary competition for the minds and values of our kids. All at the same time. (Things seem to be tipping very strongly toward the hate/fear/loath side.)

But there are several warnings we need to heed:

1) Building a moral fortress will not make our children Christians, and the evangelical culture warrior’s version of “normal” may be more of an illusion than we want to admit.

2) Withdrawal from culture is much more difficult than we tend to think, especially in this information savvy age.

3)The building of an alternative culture that is safe for our children does not necessarily resemble the movement Jesus initiated in history.

4) Christian history teaches us that our calling to make disciples must extend to our children, and discipleship today calls for intentional, intelligent, interaction with and influence of culture.

5) Our anxieties about our children often make us vulnerable to manipulation, especially by those seeking political power, money and cultural influence. Can we be true to our desire to love and care for our kids and not become the unthinking dronish supporters of political demagogues, fear-mongers and salesmen?

6) We should beware of mis-reading scripture. God’s promises to our children are generous…but they are not absolute. Morality, isolation, saturation in a Christian ghetto and so forth does not make the Gospel true or Christ precious to a single person. Many Christian parents do not know the way the covenants work or how the Gospel promises to families work. Many of those parents will be greatly surprised and disappointed.

7) The evangelical strategy of making the church a collection of children’s and youth programming is a well-motivated, but highly flawed, response to these concerns regarding our children. It speaks deeply to how much we are willing to pay and do to assuage our anxieties. Evangelical young people are, to be blunt, doted over and spoiled by mega-churches. They are seldom asked to mature in ways the larger culture avoids, and the approaches we take in working with them often ship in much of the culture’s worst characteristics.

8) Many of these anxieties have roots in some of our own religious and psychological issues as a movement and as individuals. Our families are not the pretty pictures we see in church advertisements. . . Our children have the same disorders, the same addictions, the same frequency of medication. It is rare for a church not to have to deal with some issue of domestic abuse or sexual abuse.

How can we raise our children as intentional disciples?

 

 


 
Nigeria: the "Powerhouse" Church PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 09 March 2007 18:33
Per John Allen who is in Nigeria today:

In the 20th century, Africa went from a Catholic population of 1.9 million in 1900 to 130 million in 2000, a staggering growth rate of 6,708 percent. Half of all adult baptisms in the world, the surest sign of missionary expansion, are in Africa. Inexorably, pastoral and intellectual energy in the church will follow population, and this means that African leaders are destined to play an increasingly important role. Nigeria will have 47 million Catholics by 2050, and has the human capital and ecclesiastical infrastructure to become an African 'voice' in the global church.

Read the whole thing. It's fascinating.
 
The Primate of Ireland Tells It Straight PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 09 March 2007 16:07
Wow.

Some excerpts from a March 7 homily:

"Ministry in Ireland is much more exciting today than it was at the time I was ordained. Yours will be a challenging path, yes, and it will certainly not be business as usual. People will be coming to the Church from a wide variety of starting points. Your path will take you to a world where many of the traditional prerequisites for belonging to a Church community will no longer be the relevant ones. Young people will come having very little of the traditional knowledge and culture of their faith, despite years of education in Christian schools."

"We should not be dreaming of a golden age of the past, of a religious culture which is no longer there."

"Jesus is the one “who casts out demons and performs cures, today, tomorrow and the next day”, until his work is completed. The message of Jesus is not primarily a collection of dogmas and moral norms, of rules and practices or plans for a better world. It is above all an encounter with a person, with Jesus Christ, who addresses us and addresses us in our history, in our lives. We can learn off as many catechetical definitions and formulae as we wish, but if we do not have that liberating personal encounter with Jesus, then we have not understood what Christianity is about. We can propose plans to revolutionise the world’s economy and international political life, but if our plan does not lead to an encounter with the God whose love is revealed in Jesus Christ, then our plan will be just one plan among many."

"What is then the language of Jesus? Jesus identifies himself as he “who casts out demons and performs cures, today, tomorrow and the next day” until his work is completed. His is the language of healing and the restoration of people to their fullness in freedom."

"Knowing Jesus is an encounter with Jesus in which his desire to heal our infirmities and lead to the path to freedom, becomes our desire, even in the context of our limitedness and our brokenness. We live in a culture which prizes success and celebrity, which has difficulty in coping with brokenness. The loving tenderness and compassion of God reaches out in the first place to the weak, the poor and the marginalised, not to develop an ideology of weakness and poverty, but with the desire to restore their wholeness."


Can any of our readers give us a sense of what is happening in the Church in Ireland that might have prompted the Archbishop's words?

Hat tip: Neil at Catholic Sensibilities

 
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