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The virtue of prudence and the gift of counsel in political life. PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 25 May 2007 15:29

Written by  Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

A couple days ago, Sherry linked to a post in which George Wiegel speaks of a charism of political discernment. Sherry noted some common misconceptions of charisms latent in Wiegel's discussion. However, while I wouldn't speak of a charism of political discernment, I think Wiegel is on to something. In the Secunda Secundae (Second part of the second part) of St. Thomas' Summa Theologica, Aquinas deals with the virtue of prudence and its corresponding gift of the Holy Spirit: the gift of counsel. In speaking of the virtue of prudence, St. Thomas borrows a definition from Augustine. "Prudence", says Augustine, "is love discerning aright that which helps from that which hinders us in tending to God." Specifically, this love is charity, which is poured into our hearts through faith and the sacraments. This charity moves through our hearts in various ways, and one of the ways it does this is by moving the human person to discern what means are most appropriate to reaching life's most important ends. This is prudence. Every Christian who is in a state of grace is in possession of this virtue even if, for some reason, they are unable to actualize it. One of its most important forms is political prudence. By this one is able to "counsel, judge, and command concerning the means of obtaining a due end", but not with reference merely to one's individual good, but to the common good. Obviously, such a virtue is indispensable to a politician. One can see from this how the effects of faith cannot be limited to the private sphere. Grace transforms the person on whom it acts and the effects of this transformation cannot fail to manifest themselves publicly. A politician's Christian faith is never peripheral; all his actions must be informed by it if he wants his vocation as a politician to yield God's results. God, however, isn't satisfied with his grace perfecting what is natural in us. He also wants to guide us by supernatural means. Accordingly, all of the most important virtues are supplemented by the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Is 11:2: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord. According to Aquinas, the gift of counsel perfects the virtue of prudence. The gift and the virtue have the same objective- finding the appropriate means for attaining certain ends. However, by the gift of counsel the Christian is given, in a manner of speaking, a God's eye view of things. Christians are guided supernaturally in discerning the means to certain ends which, unaided by God, they would never be able to discern. In the case of the Christian politician, he or she is supernaturally guided in seeking certain means toward attaining the common good. Therefore I think there is something which, if not a charism, nevertheless can guide Christian politicians in their vocation as civil servants. Such guidance and help from God, however, doesn't come automatically. Such politicians need to make sure that they are acting from their faith and they need to dispose themselves to and avail themselves of the help that God gives them. Otherwise, the results are all too human. Therefore, during this celebration of Pentecost let us remember our brothers and sisters who labor in the political field and pray that God may transform them through the infused virtue of prudence and guide them through His gift of counsel.

An Ascension Homily from Timothy Radcliffe, O.P. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Friday, 25 May 2007 15:12
I know this is a few days late, but I just received a copy of a homily on the Ascension by Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., former Master of the Order of the Friars Preachers. Fr Timothy gave the following homily at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption & St Gregory, Warwick Street, London on Sunday. Here are a few excerpts.

Just outside Jerusalem, you can see the Chapel of the Ascension. There is a footprint of a right foot in the rock, as if Jesus had used it as a launching pad. And people often wonder how long Jesus went on going up. I spend much of my time at 36,000 feet. What might I have seen then?

The point is that today we celebrate Jesus' disappearance. At Easter we celebrated the appearances of the Risen Lord to the disciples. And now we celebrate that they ceased. He withdraws and is seen no more. And Luke's gospel, which we have just heard, tells us that the disciples went back to Jerusalem filled with joy. So what is so joyful about the disappearance of Jesus? You might have thought that it was a cause for sorrow.

One explanation might be that Jesus is going back to his Father. Having completed his work on earth he is going home to the Father. But this does not seem quite right, because the Father has never been absent. God is everywhere. Jesus could not make a journey back to God, as if the Father lived on some fluffy cloud in the sky.

Perhaps it would be better to think of the disappearance of Jesus as part of our homecoming. Jesus says in John's gospel: 'When I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.' The disciples had been at home with Jesus. They had shared his company, eaten and drunk with him, walked with him to Jerusalem, and witnessed his death and Resurrection. He had been their companion, the centre of the community.

But Jesus must disappear if they are to be not just with him but at home in him. With the Ascension and Pentecost, Jesus is transformed from being someone with whom the disciples are at home. Instead he becomes their home. They used to be with his body. Now they are becoming his body, as we are the Body of Christ. They have to lose him, paradoxically, if they are to discover this new intimacy.

It is the opposite of our own birth. When we are born, we lose the warm cosy home of the womb so as to be at home with our mother. We lose the intimacy of being in our mother's body so as to be able to see her face to face. The joy and the pain of birth is that we lose one form of intimacy, snuggling up inside our mother, being one body with her, so as to gain another and deeper intimacy, which is seeing her face, being with her, and eventually being able to talk to her. With our Christian rebirth, it is the other way around. The disciples lose Jesus as the one whose face they can see so as to find him as the one in whom they can be at home.

... the whole long history of salvation has been of God's slow disappearance. At the beginning, God walks in 'the cool of the day' in the garden, just like one of us after a hard day at work. But God comes to Abraham and Sarah in fire and smoke in the night, and then as three mysterious strangers needing food. He wrestles with Jacob. By the time we get to Moses, we have only a voice from a burning bush, and unbearable visions on the mountain. Then with the establishment of the Kingdom of David, God is seen no more. He speaks through the voices of the prophets. Finally he appears in an ordinary man who dies on a cross and shouts out, 'O God, my God, why have you abandoned me?' Today he disappears altogether.

So God is like the Cheshire Cat, slowly disappearing from our sight. But this is so that we may become more intimate. We lose God as over against us, a powerful stranger, the Big Guy who runs the Universe, so that we can discover him at the very heart of our existence. St Augustine famously said that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. 'Late have I loved, O beauty so ancient and so new. For behold you were within me and I was outside; and I sought you outside. You were with me and I was not with you.' As Thomas Merton, the Cistercian said, we lose him as an object so as to find him as a subject, the core of our own subjectivity. We do not look at God so much as with God.

So like the disciples, we can rejoice today at the disappearance of Jesus. It is all part of our coming home to God, or God's making his home in us. So the Church should be a sign of our home in God.

...The apostles who witnessed the disappearing of Jesus still clung on to images of God that took time to go. It took them time to realise that the God who only wanted to have Jews in his community was gone and that we Gentiles also are at home.

We are all learning.

The chapel of the Ascension is both a Church and also a mosque, a shared holy place for Christians and Muslims. It is a sign of God's unimaginably spacious home. Happy Ascension!
More From the Bishops in Brazil: "Great Continental Mission?" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 25 May 2007 12:31
Very interesting reports are coming out of the CELAM gathering, in light of our many discussion on ID about the mission and formation of the laity. Via Catholic News Service (

The first draft of the document coming out of CELAM is concerned with:

"The fundamental question of how to inspire Catholics to take ownership of their faith, seek a personal conversion that leads them to follow Jesus, and live out that commitment in the church and the world. The church leaders must candidly examine trends in both society and the church that lead some Catholics to join evangelical groups while a much larger number remain Catholic in name only.

In the description of "light and shadows" in the church, many of the strengths listed -- such as catechesis, liturgy, base communities and the use of the media -- are areas that bishops cited in the first two weeks of their conference as needing improvement or reinforcement. The draft describes weaknesses, including an overemphasis on sacraments to the detriment of the other aspects of faith life; financial troubles; clericalism; and discrimination against women and indigenous people. However, it offers few concrete steps toward solutions.

Nearly half the draft is devoted to the theology underlying the bishops' views of discipleship and mission, with specific sections devoted to issues such as vocations and formation. The document emphasizes the need to make Scripture central to Catholic life, a constant theme since the pope's speech May 13. It also notes the centrality of the Eucharist, a difficult challenge in a region with an average of one priest per 7,000 parishioners.

Christian initiation, continuing formation and Catholic education are seen as key to developing a sense of missionary discipleship. This must be further nourished through participation in groups such as base communities or lay movements, which are given relatively equal weight in the document, although they tend to reflect different ideological stances.

the greatest expectations were not of a document, but of a "great continental mission" that would breathe new life into evangelization.

Little was said about the mission until May 24, when Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil, who now heads the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy, raised the subject in the assembly. Afterward, he told journalists that the goal is not to convert non-Catholics, but to reach baptized but inactive Catholics.

Some bishops envision door-to-door canvassing, while others say that is not the main thrust. They must still define how and by whom the mission will be carried out.

One prelate commented that the region's conferences of bishops differ in their degree of enthusiasm and preparedness for such an effort. Another pointed out that before a "great continental mission" can be launched, the church needs high-quality promotional and training materials.

The bigger question, however, is to what kind of church lapsed Catholics are being invited to return. If it is structurally the same one they left, there is no reason to expect them to stay. Unless the bishops answer that question, neither the final document nor the great continental mission will have the desired effect."

Your thoughts?
Apostles on Stage PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 25 May 2007 09:14
This is great.

John Allen's Friday article is on New York's Storm Theatre and their "The Karol Wojtyla Theatre Festival, which we have blogged about before on ID. (

The Festival is up and running now through June 17, so if you are in the New York, check it out.

Allen's interview emphasizes that this theatre is a realization of the Church's call, so emphasized by JPII, on the secular mission of lay apostles:

The deepest legacy of John Paul II, however, may be less expressed by a small theatre company staging his plays, than the fact that the Storm Theatre exists at all. As its 47-year-old co-founder and artistic director, a devout Catholic named Peter Dobbins, puts it: "The purpose of this theatre is to lead people to God."

Utterly unplanned by anyone in ecclesiastical officialdom, Dobbins' Storm Theatre is precisely the sort of spontaneous, grass-roots evangelization of culture that John Paul hoped to set loose -- confident in the Catholic message, audacious in its determination to "set out into the deep." Since 1997, the Storm Theatre has staged a series of well-reviewed productions. Some, such as "Murder in the Cathedral" and "The Power and the Glory," have explicitly religious themes, but more often they're secular works with a spiritual and moral undertone.

In a sense, the Storm Theatre is John Paul II's ad extra> model of the lay vocation in action. Dobbins isn't interested in reading at Mass, or working in a chancery; his more daring aim is to redeem the entertainment industry from the inside out.

The Wojtyla festival, it should be said, is hardly the lone religious presence on Broadway. Nearby is the Jewish Actor's Temple (which bills itself as a "Cool Shul"), as well as a Church of Scientology. On the Catholic side, St. Malachy's Parish on 49th Street, also known as the Actor's Chapel, serves New York's artistic community. The Storm Theatre itself rents space from the Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin, built in 1894 as a physical expression of the tenets of the Oxford Movement -- an impulse which famously helped launch John Henry Neman's journey into the Catholic church.

In various forms, however, these are all ministries to theatre people. What makes the Storm Theatre unique is that, in effect, it's a ministry by theatre people.

Dobbins grew up in Philadelphia, where he attended Roman Catholic High School and Temple University. He developed a vocation for the theatre and drifted away from the faith. (As he puts it, "I lapsed pretty spectacularly.") Dobbins ended up in the prestigious Fine Arts program at Southern Methodist University in the late 1970s, whose all-star alumni include Kathy Bates, Powers Boothe, and Beth Henley. He said he went through a conversion experience triggered by being tossed out of SMU when he hit a wall as a student.

Ironically, Dobbins said he was led back to Christianity through the ubiquity of Eastern spirituality in the entertainment world.

"There's a lot of Eastern stuff that gets taught to you as an actor, relaxation techniques and so on. I began reading about Buddhism, and it was great, but when I picked up Christian writers, I found that they take it to another level. I always felt that Eastern spirituality goes in a circle, whereas Christianity breaks through it -- like a Cross, infinity in both directions."

Concretely, Dobbins said the books of C.S. Lewis were his point of departure, but what sealed the deal was reading Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton -- whose work Dobbins described as "Lewis to the zillionth power."

"This theater would never have existed if I hadn't read that book," Dobbins said. "It was literally like having a brain explosion."

Gripped by Chesterton's capacity to express the faith, Dobbins decided he wanted to try to do for the contemporary theater what Chesterton had done for early 20th century English letters. His Storm Theatre, founded in 1997, takes its name from a line in Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus": "Now is a time to storm; why art thou still?" (Dobbins believes Shakespeare was a "great Catholic playwright.")

Read the whole piece ( be inspired.
Charismania PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 25 May 2007 08:56

Written by Keith Strohm

I am returned from a long and unplanned hiatus. However, I have been checking ID faithfully and following the ongoing conversations here. In keeping with our pre-Pentecost theme, I wanted to share a little bit about how the Charismatic Renewal challenged my faith and helped me to move deeper in my relationship with the Lord.

I should actually preface this post by saying that I am not a member of the CCR, nor have I ever been. I hang around the outskirts of the Renewal, attending a prayer group on an irregular basis.

Growing up, I had a very cultural and intellectual formation in my faith. What catechesis I did receive pre-High School consisted of the message "God is Love" (a rather central and important one) and a number of exercises whereby I cut out doves and pictures from magazines to make mobiles. While in High School, the Marianists provided a rather rigorous 4-year formation that started with a year spent on the Old Testment, a year spent on the New Testament, a year studying Christian Philosophy, and a year studying Christian Existence (still more examination of philosophy, particularly from a Christian Humanism perspective).

By the time I made it through College and in to Graduate School, I had developed a love of meditation, the rhythms of monastic life, and contemplative prayer. Then, I met the folks at my Graduate School's Neman Center. They were, by and large, undergraduates. In addition to Mass on Sunday, they got together on Sunday evenings for prayer, praise, and worship. I went a few times and definitely enjoyed it. However, there were certain times that I would feel a little uncomfortable--mostly when they would ask if someone needed prayer and then "pray over" that individual. Sometimes, a few of them uttered things that sounded suspiscously like tongues.

Little did I know, but this group was sponsored by a local Catholic Charismatic Group. I found that out when my fellow Newman-ites invited me to attend Bible study at the house of one of the older members of the Charismatic Prayer Group. I went, and came face to face with what I called at that time full-blown "Charismania." There was praying out loud, calling on the name of Jesus, praying in tongues, talk of deliverance, and a very "literal" approach to the Bible.

I fled as fast as I could! I should say that at this time, courtesy of my English MA program, I was receiving a rather harsh indoctrination into post-modern literary theory, deconstuction, and feminist cultural criticism. Unfortunately, I took to that stuff like a duck to water. Therefore, the whole Charismatic approach to my faith seemed, in addition to being superstitious, backwards, and just plain horse hockey, also dangerously partriarchal and oppressive. The members of the prayer group spoke of Truth, of Good and Evil, of a personal and even physical experience of God through the Holy Spirit.


I resisted with all my heart, mind, and strength--protesting to my friends that I wanted no part in their damned charismania.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit had some other ideas.

One evening, while praying with the members of the Newman Center prayer group, I spoke a prayer out loud for those who were caught in the cycle of addiction (referring to some relatives). At that moment, I experienced what could only be explained as the sensation of two hands touching my head and praying over me (none of my friends were around me). I felt wave after wave of peace crest over me, and all of a sudden it was as if my head were expanding to touch the ceiling. Somehing was happening in my heart, as well--as if a soft voice were whispering something there, and that something was just out of hearing range.

I know that I've shared this story before here on ID, but I can not tell you how foriegn this experience of prayer was to me. When we ended with the Our Father, I opened my mouth and promptly snapped it shut, for I knew that if I prayed that prayer out loud, watever came out of my mouth would not be in the English language.

What followed in those weeks and months was an unending pursuit of my heart, mind, and soul by the Holy Spirit. I resisted and ran, and the Holy Spirit pursued and found. I have often described it as that period of time when God consistently hit me upside the head with spiritual 2 x 4's. When I think back on the amazing ways that God was manifesting His Love and Desire for me I am completely humbled and ashamed. I did everything I could to reject Him.

This period of uneasy courtship ended with a profound emotional healing--an amazing gift that God offered me--as well a powerful, life-changing experience of an anointing of the Holy Spirit (I don't like the term "baptism" in the Holy Spirit because I find it theologically confusing).

The thing is, none of that would have happened to me without the gentle support, encouragement, and challenge of my fellow Catholics who answered my questions, listened openly as I railed against this kind of spirituality, and who continud to love me day in and day out as I wrestled with the ways in which God was calling me to a deeper relationship with Him.

Yes, there were some kooky folks attached to that adult Charismatic Prayer Group, and yes there are sometimes rather unique views by individuals in the Renewal regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but their lives of intentional discipleship and their willingess to be apostles of Christ, sharing the ways in which the Holy Spirit worked in their lives, helped to prepare me for the way in which the Holy Spirit wanted to be in relationship to me.

I began to realize that if I was experiencing the very same things that Christians in the Bible experienced, then maybe my default "Christianity without the supernatural" approach to things was actually a way to hide myself from the fullness of that love relationship He was calling me to.

So, the Charismatic Renewal and their charismania changed my life.

Of course, now I realize tha it wasn't just them--the Holy Spirit changed and transformed me. The Advocate, the Paraclete, the Lover who touches the deepest part of who I am--He has wrapped me in His Love. I will never be the same.

And I never want to be!

The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 25 May 2007 08:09
Christianity Today has an interesting interview with Richard Lamb, author of The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends.

Lamb is an evangelical (he does campus ministry with Intervarsity) so some of his specific experiences don't apply to Catholics (such as the experience of "planting" a new Christian community) but many of his insights are most apropos.

Community is a buzz word. Everybody is talking about community. What essentially are people missing when they talk about community in the Christian community today?

I'm not sure if there's one thing. But part of the answer involves understanding what I think are three essential and kind of irreducible components of community. Community involves a move outward, a move inward, and a relational glue that keeps us together. I call the move outward partnership in mission; the move inward is accountability, depth of relationship; and the glue, the relational glue is friendship.

One of the points that you make in your chapter on presence and intimacy is the time factor involved in pursuing God in the company of friends. And you talk about Jesus and how he had a way of using his time that reached a lot of people but maximized that company of friends as a more important use of his time.

The whole notion there is a focus on the few for the sake of the many. This is an ancient notion and well discussed by Robert Coleman in his book of 40 years ago, The Master Plan of Evangelism. The idea of being intentional with people can be a little intimidating because it feels like, if I spend more time with this member of my small group then do I have to be fair about it? Just realize, Jesus focused on a few. He had 12 that he spent a lot of time with, and he had three that he was even more intimate with. And his pattern of relationship can be our pattern as well.

Many times the company of friends doesn't really have a stated leader, but there is an interplay between serving and leading.

Part of what I'm trying to recover is the notion that friendship and intentionality somehow don't go together. Friendship should be spontaneous. Intentionality implies work and insincerity. And I'm saying the deepest friendships are going to be highly intentional where we think about people even when they're not in the room, and we pray for them even beyond what they're asking prayer for.

That's a part of the case I'm trying to make that the effort and thoughtfulness applied to our friendships really strengthens those friendships.

What about somebody who hungers for community, but they feel they are alone? They don't feel like they have any friends, and what you're describing is even making that feel more painful.

I think everybody has a chance to find a group, like a small group or a new church perhaps, or a new small group. But you show up at that church or at that small group and you look around and you say, these people aren't like me. Or, I don't really feel like this is really meeting my needs. And one of the primary pathways or primary steps to community is to decide to make a commitment to a community.

You say this small group didn't meet my needs tonight. And it may not meet my needs for several months, but if I commit to this group of people over time, by virtue of that commitment I'm going to experience a deeper experience of community. I will no longer be alone. Then I can make other choices like deciding I am going to let them know what's going on in my life. I'm not just going to wait around and see if they like me. I'm going to be a part of making this group community for me.

We all can make those kinds of choices in our lives. We don't have to feel like that's a party to which we have not been invited.

If this topic speaks to you, consider attending our gathering on Building Intentional Community here at the stunning Penrose House in beautiful Colorado Springs on August 31. A number of the denizens of ID will be there: Fr. Mike, the Other Sherry and her husband Dave, Kathleen Lundquist & her husband Gary, will be present along with our old friend, Mark Shea and his wife, Jan. Everyone is welcome but we do need you to call and let us know you are coming so we can plan.

For more information, go to
How Will You Celebrate Pentecost? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 25 May 2007 06:46
Via the Catholic Virginian (

At Fr. Jay Biber's church, St. John the Apostle, in Virginia Beach (

It is in this same Spirit that individuals and different groups — families, youth groups, prayer groups, small faith communities — are gathering at St. John the Apostle on Pentecost Sunday, to pray anew for a fresh outpouring of the graces of Pentecost, of the Holy Spirit, upon our own Diocese of Richmond and the world.

This birthday celebration of the Church begins with an opening procession in which area youth groups display their banners and with Praise and Worship, led by Josh Dart, youth minister of St. Gregory’s, Virginia Beach. Walter Matthews, executive director of the U.S. National Service Committee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, will be the keynote speaker.

Father J. Morton Biber, pastor of St. John’s, will lead a procession of the Blessed Sacrament with the Knights of Columbus providing the honor guard. A potluck supper will follow.

I like the idea of praying intentionally for a fresh outpouring of the graces of Pentecost in my life, my parish, my neighborhood, my world today.

In the middle ages, Pentecost was celebrated in creative ways.

Some churches had "Holy Spirit holes" in the ceiling to symbolize their openness to God. On Pentecost, doves were released through the holes and bundles of rose petals were dropped from them onto the people gathered inside. Choirboys moved through the congregation making whooshing sounds and playing drums to remind everyone of the rush of the Spirit.

How will you and your friends, family, or parish celebrate Pentecost? What sort of transformation would you like the Holy Spirit to work in your life?
To Err is Human... PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Thursday, 24 May 2007 20:51

A fragment of the Gospel that many of us may hear this weekend caught my attention in a slightly new way this year. In John 20:21-23, we read,

"(Jesus) said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.'"

As is often pointed out in scripture commentaries, Jesus' act of breathing upon the disciples is
art by Hanna Cheriyan Varghese - Malaysia

a recapitulation or even fulfillment of God's imparting the breath of life to the lump of clay that becomes Adam in Genesis 2. Our Lord breathes a "new Spirit" and a new life into us at Pentecost - a new, supernatural life in Him that was lost in the Fall.

But what he says to them as a consequence of their receiving that Spirit also has links to the third chapter of Genesis, I believe.

In the temptation of Eve, the serpent responds to her protest that she and Adam will die if they eat of the forbidden fruit, "'You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad.'"

Not only does he call God a liar, he promises that the fruit will make Eve and her husband like gods because of their knowledge. Knowledge in the Hebrew scriptures is often a euphemism for "carnal knowledge," an intimacy with the thing known. Certainly ever since we have had an intimate knowledge of what is bad; from wars, plague, all the vices, betrayals - the list seems endless.

But this passage from the Gospel of John fulfills that longing to be like God that our first parents and all their children since have had. Jesus says, "whose sins you forgive are forgiven them..."

In the story of the paralytic lowered through the roof and healed by Jesus, (as well as in other similar stories) the scribes are scandalized because Jesus says to the man (because of the faith of his friends), "Child, your sins are forgiven."

They ask, "Who but God alone can forgive sins?"

In their question and in the command of Jesus in the Gospel of Pentecost we discover what it is to truly be like God. We are given a share in His power to forgive.

It can seem rather disappointing. For the human being, becoming like God doesn't convey the power Hollywood imagines in movies like, "Bruce Almighty." Nor does it look like the seeming power over others to which despots cling. For us, becoming like God is simply a sharing in the power that Jesus last exercises in the Gospel of Luke from the cross: "Father, forgive them..." (Lk 23:34)

But for those who experience forgiveness where none was hoped for or deserved, it is an awesome power. It is the power that changes attitudes, perspectives, priorities. It is the power that changes our life in time - and for eternity.
Images of Christian Ethiopia PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 24 May 2007 12:12

Very cool pictures of Christian Ethiopia are to be found here via Oasis:

Hat tip: commenter Alex Vitus
Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Thursday, 24 May 2007 04:55

Consider using this prayer as part of your preparation for the celebration of Pentecost.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Who before ascending into Heaven promised to send the Holy Spirit to finish your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, grant the same Holy Spirit to me, that He may perfect in my soul the work of Your grace and Your love.

Grant me the spirit of wisdom, that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal;

the spirit of understanding, to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth;

the spirit of counsel, that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining Heaven;

the spirit of fortitude, that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation;

the spirit of knowledge, that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the way of the Saints;

the spirit of piety, that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable;

the spirit of awe and wonder, that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and my dread in any way to displease Him.

Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of Your true disciples, and animate me in all things with Your Spirit.

A Bible Geek and Life Teen PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 23 May 2007 23:10
This article from the Arizona Republic tells the story of Mark Hart, the 33 year old Executive Vice President of Life Teen.

He picked up his moniker, the Bible Geek, a few years ago by accident. He was leading a Bible study and had to leave town. Before he did, he e-mailed a dozen teens in the study explaining how the scripture they were studying pertained to their lives.

"I didn't want the e-mail to be about me so I signed it 'Bible Geek,' and it became a huge hit instantly," said Hart, who lives in Gilbert.

Since then he has answered thousands of questions from teens, making the Bible fun and relevant.

Hart points to relevance, or lack thereof, as a reason teens have left the church. Life Teen, which was launched more than 20 years ago, has helped change that. Today, the program is in 1,200 parishes and 20 countries.

"Adults are willing to or wanting to kind of write teenagers off," Hart said. "Not all teenagers are deviant, taking drugs or a part of gangs."

A relationship grows when teens can look at God as their father, not just their savior, enjoying a more intimate connection, he said.

"I am not going to teach about a God that we don't know personally," Hart said.

Hart helps teens through Bible studies, online questions and answers, retreats and live podcast of the scriptures to help them find and understand individual relationships with God.

Hart emphasizes seven core values of a personal relationship between a teenager and God: love, joy, evangelization, primary vocation, affirmation, authenticity and Eucharistic spirituality.

Now those are seven core values that every Catholic can embrace.
A Charism of Political Discernment? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 23 May 2007 22:42
Now this is interesting: a new development in the theology of charisms has just been brought to my attention.

At the end of a long essay by George Weigel in the January, 2003 issue of First Things arguing for US intervention in Iraq, the reader comes across two memorable sentences:

There is a charism of political discernment that is unique to the vocation of public service. That charism is not shared by bishops, stated clerks, rabbis, imams, or ecumenical and interreligious agencies.

William Cavanaugh, associated professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, offered this pithy comment:

“Charism” is a theological term denoting a gift of the Holy Spirit. To apply such a term to whomever the electoral process of a secular nation-state happens to cough up does not strike me as theologically sound or practically wise.

Ya think?

Then there are the fundamental tests of a charism - that it cannot be used for evil, that it is an instrument of God's mercy, love, deliverance, healing, wisdom, beauty for others, that it flows directly from one's lived relationship with God, and of course, that it does what it is supposed to do.

For instance, if a charism of healing is present, people get well. If they are worse off after you are done - it's a clue.

Similarly, if a charism of political discernment is present, good, God-honoring, Kingdom building, political directions and decisions are made.

If the country is worse off after you are done - it's a clue.

Catholics in Mali PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 23 May 2007 22:10
Two thirds of the Christians in the west African nation of Mali are Catholic and the Catholic News Service did a nice article on them a few days ago. (

The 232,000 Catholics have 100 local priests and some missionary priests and sisters.

“There are catechists and as everywhere in Africa, they too are extremely important,” says the Bishop of Mali. (Sherry's note: there are about 30,000 Catholic priests in the whole of Africa for 137 million Catholics or 4,566 Catholics per priest. So the 358,000 catechists (382 Catholics/catechist) make an enormous difference.)

Lay Catholics are called to bear witness to the Gospel at work, with honesty, sincere and disinterested promotion of the common good. I am happy to say that I have heard non-Catholics say that we do not impose the Gospel, we live it.”

At the same time, the bishop says he reminds priests, religious and lay people that the Gospel must be announced. “I remember visiting a forest dispensary run by a religious order, an indispensable structure for several thousand people. I asked the people working there: Why are you here? Do you tell your patients why you care for them? The replies were somewhat reticent, almost as if not to hurt the feelings of non-Catholics.

“We must explain that we are animated by the Spirit of the Gospel: we do not want to impose our faith, but we do want to announce it,” he said. “The Church is not a non-governmental organization; it is at the service of the proclamation of the Word.”

"May They Be One" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Wednesday, 23 May 2007 21:08
I am both amused and saddened by the readings for Thursday, May 24. I get the giggles thinking about Paul's cleverness. Paul's been hauled before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem after causing a ruckus while telling a crowd of his conversion. We read,

"Paul was aware that some were Sadducees and some Pharisees,
so he called out before the Sanhedrin,
'My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees;
I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.'
When he said this,
a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees,
and the group became divided." (Acts 23:6-11)

As the story unfolds, the Sanhedrin ends up forgetting about Paul's testimony about Jesus, and basically dissolves into a fracas over Jewish doctrine.

But the readings are also incredibly saddening, because in the Gospel, we hear Jesus praying to His Father,

“I pray not only for these,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me." (John 17:20-21)

We dare not be comfortable with all the divisions within Christianity, and certainly must think twice about causing any division within the Catholic community. We know already that the divisions greatly impede the Church's mission of evangelization. How can people believe in Jesus through our word, when
1) we continue to emphasize the differences between Christian denominations and forget our common ground?
2) we speak disparagingly or even hatefully of other Christians?

We are like the Pharisees and Sadducees who forget why they'd gathered in the firstplace, and our divisions (especially when they become particularly violent, like in Northern Ireland) not only make evangelization less effective, they lead some people to the conclusion that Christianity is a detriment to human welfare.

I'm not just crying, "why can't we all just get along?" But I believe the closer we come to the Lord, the more intolerable will divisions in His Body be to us, and the more we will do what we can to be reconciled with one another. Christian unity can't only be addressed on the level of interdenominational ecumenical bodies. It begins with ordinary Christians, lay AND cleric, working side by side to address the problems in secular society. It begins with ordinary Christians praying together in simplicity and humility. It begins by inviting the Holy Spirit into our hearts and lives, for it was in the Spirit that Jesus prayed for unity, and it is the work of the Spirit to make us all one.

Nothing breaks down the barriers between Christians than to recognize the Holy Spirit at work within people of different denominations. The charisms are common to all the baptized, and through them God works in us for one another. Learning about them gives us a very powerful way to talk to one another of our lived experience of being a Christian and an instrument of God. If you want to know more about these spiritual gifts, visit our website at

Finally, not only did the Lord pray for our unity, but so did St. Paul. His words are particularly poignant as we approach the feast of Pentecost.

"I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift." (Ephesians 4:1-6)
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