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Incredibly Blessed or In a Time of Crisis? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 20:55

So far, no culture shock at the missions congress I'm attending. The majority of people came from outside the country and its a sea of black heads. But one thing I and my friend agree on: the tremendous different in tone. This is a gathering of highly committed evangelical/Pentecostal missions types and many major leaders that I've heard of for years are here.

And they repeatedly say things ...like "God is doing amazing things, stupendous things over the past 10 years. Things only dreamed of before in the 2,000 year history of Christianity. We are an incredibly blessed generation to be living to see this."

They live in the same world that Catholics do. But they see if with totally different eyes. As they see the 50 years since 1960 with different eyes. they are focused on the incredible growth of Christianity in the global south while we are fixated on the decline of the last remnants of Christendom in the west.

And the flying car is there with its creator Steve Saint. It can fly for 3 hours and drive 450 miles.

 


 
Entering the World of Evangelical Missions Again PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 13:53

I'm off in the morning to Los Angeles. Only this time to attend a conference that I signed up for last January - back when I thought that I never had any commitments right after Thanksgiving! It is a large, high level evangelical Congress on global evangelism called Call2All that is being held at the Long Beach convention center. I haven't spent time in this sort of environment since I became Catholic so I expect to be challenged and experience a bit of culture shock. I'm going with a friend and collaborator who is also bi-cultural (former Baptist). Even with the book looming over me, this should be fun and a real learning experience.

For instance, they have a whole track about something that Catholics NEVER talk about: Orality. What they mean by that is that 70% of the world population learns primarily through oral means rather than written means - even if they are literate. In fact, they have a category called "secondary orality" by which they mean literate westerners - even college grads - who are still oral learners in their hearts and never read a book again willingly once they have finished school. As they point out, these people need to be evangelized and discipled differently but almost all the methods used by evangelists currently are those of people who learn through written materials. So solar powered audio Bibles, anyone? Creative story-telling, etc. Very interesting. I'll post more as the week goes on.




 
Gratitude is Happiness Doubled by Wonder PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 24 November 2011 11:55
I am profoundly grateful to God and to many people, including all who read this blog and are collaborators with us this Thanksgiving. So I thought I'd share some inspiring gratitude thoughts:

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” — G. K. Chesterton

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." - G. K. Chesterton

“Thou that has given so much to me,
Give one thing more–a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Thy praise.”

– George Herbert

“If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice.” — Meister Eckhart

"Gratitude brought me into the church and that gratitude grows, and the first word my heart will utter when I face my God is 'Thanks'." - Dorothy Day

'Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.'
I Chronicles 16:34

 
Everything You Wanted to Know . . . About The Pilgrim Thanksgiving PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 24 November 2011 08:51

Here's a cool Thanksgiving link for children or anyone interested in what really happened at the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving (which was not the very first Christian Thanksgiving in the New World).  From the living history museum at Plimoth Plantation.

http://www.plimoth.org/media/olc/intro.html


 
Thanksgiving in New York PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 24 November 2011 08:43

The Catholic Charities Thanksgiving Meal Distribution from Catholic Charities New York on Vimeo.


 
Fact Checking the Vatican Insider PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 21 November 2011 17:12

Here’s the English headline in today’s The Vatican Insider:  34 Thousand Catholics More Each Day.

The numbers are designed to get your attention.  The only problem is that 1) the numbers are wrong and 2) in any case, the numbers don’t mean what VI apparently thinks they mean.  Because there are tens of thousands more Catholics every day but it still isn't good news.

Ah globalization.  VI identified a mysterious source, Analisis Digirtal (!), as the source of the report.  Analisis Digital turns out to be an online news source from Uruguay.   But the Status of Global Mission is in fact, published in English by the evangelical Protestant Center for Global Christianity headquartered at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in the US.  This report has been issued annually for at least 20 years.  At least that is how long I’ve been consulting it.

So apparently, the 2011 SGM was translated from English into Spanish, picked up by Analisis Digital and then VI, translated into Italian and then back into somewhat quixotic English and a few things got lost in translation. Since there’s nothing like going directly to the source, here’s the link to the original.

Now for the Errata:

As you can see, the number of Catholics added to our rank every day is estimated to be 31,000, not 34 thousand as reported by VI.  Just to be clear, the overwhelming majority of this group of new Catholics has joined us through natural biological growth, not conversion.

Here’s the information you need to grasp the significance of these numbers.

  • The SGM estimates that 234,000 additional human beings are added to our planet every 24 hours.  The Catholic contribution of 31,000 is just 13.25% of the total which is significantly lower than our 16.5% “cut” of the human population.  In other words, our slice of the global human pie is shrinking, not growing.

  • 83,000 additional Christians are added every 24 hours.  Catholics make up almost exactly half of the Christians on this planet in 2011 but our portion of the growth is only 37.3% - far below what it would need to be to sustain us at 50%.  56.6% of all Christian growth comes from the heirs of the Reformation.  Our share of the global Christian pie is shrinking, not growing.

  • The Atlas of Global Christianity (produced by the same group that maintains the Status of Global Mission) estimates that the global Catholic population will only make up 45.5% of all Christians by 2050.

 

  • Catholic per annum growth is only 0.98% while that of historic Protestant groups is 1.68% and that of Independent Christians is 2.33%.  Independent Christians have the fastest growth of any religious group on earth and are the only religious group growing faster than Islam.   The majority of Independent growth is through conversion rather than birth.

 

As you can see from my comment below, Independent Christians are wildly diverse.  We have got to get over our easy assumptions that they are all stupid and venial (while patting ourselves on the back about how smart and noble we are to have the good taste to be born Catholic or to have converted.)  Some of these people are very impressive by any standards.  Take a look at this post which I did last Easter about one of the impressive ones.

 

Your comments?


 
Dinosaur Ice Dancing PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 18 November 2011 08:18

Denver Museum of Science "Dino" from Smoke & Mirrors on Vimeo.


 
The Pope Goes to Benin PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 17 November 2011 23:03

The Pope is traveling to Benin this weekend so I thought a little background would be useful.  Benin is the site of the former kingdom of Dahomey, which was one of the centers of the African slave trade.

First of all Benin is in west Africa.  In 1910, only 1.7% of the residents of west Africa were Christians.  Today, nearly 36% are Christians.

Benin is one of the centers of Vodun (Voodoo) which is followed by 17% of the population.  Vodun traveled with African slaves to the new world, especially New Orleans.  Possession is an important element of Vodun.  (Marie Laveau, the famous "Voodoo Queen" of New Orleans was a free woman of color who was a placee - long term mistress - of a white man.  The most devout Catholics in the city at the time were free women of color.  Marie is said to have abandoned vodoo at the end of her long life and devoted herself to her Catholic faith.)

Today, roughly a quarter of west Africa's Christians are Catholic (35.5 million).  Another quarter of Christians are members of historical Protestant groups and yet another quarter are members of the new Independent church movement which grew out of Protestantism.

Benin has seen the same staggering growth in Christianity over the past century.  In 1910, a little over 1% of Benin's population was Christian.  Today, nearly 40% are Christians: 2/3 of which are Catholic.  Catholics are the largest religious group in the country, closely followed by Muslims.

Benin's President is an evangelical Protestant and a convert from Islam.

EWTN will be covering the Pope's trip November 18 - 20.

 

 


 
The Catholics Are Coming . . .What Will We Do? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 03 November 2011 10:18

Catholics Come Home is announcing a huge nation-wide television campaign this Christmas which will show on a variety of networks and during some specially selected TV shows.  They hope to have as many as 1 million Catholics return as a result.

I interviewed Tom Peterson, the founder of Catholics Come Home for my book a few months ago. One of the questions I asked was "what do you know about what happens to people after they return? Do we know many returnees are there a year later?"

I asked because while dioceses that have done Catholics Come Home have clearly experienced a significant rise in attendance (this is measured by a diocesan wide head count shortly after the campaign ends), I could find no information on the long term impact of CCH's campaigns.  Tom told me that it was CCH's job to bring people back to the local parish and the parish's job to deal with them after that. 

I was told by staff members of one diocese that did CCH that their numbers went up and then were exactly the same 1 year later. It is impossible to tell if all those who returned due to CCH left again (unlikely) or that some who returned left again while some practicing Catholics, untouched by the campaign, also left. But overall, it was a wash.   

So much of the long term fruit of CCH depends upon local parish responses and there's the problem.  Very few parishes are geared up to even notice, much less really meet those returning, find out where they are and help them make the rest of the journey. Especially at Christmas time when we are used to being flooded with Catholics whose practice is marginal at best. (And of course, how do you measure which of the holiday returnees are impacted by the television ads?)

What CCH's campaign will do is bring additional spiritual seekers at various thresholds (trust, curiosity, openness, etc.) back into the same parish culture that didn't know how to reach them in the first place.  

At least we have two months warning.  Knowing that many hundreds of thousands of people may well stick their toe in the Catholic ocean this Advent/Christmas, how could we handle this better?

What can we do now, how can we organize to recognize and reach out to returning Catholics and other searching men and women when they walk hesitantly through that door?  What could you do personally?  What could your parish do?

Ideas?

 



 
Saint: The Burning Bush That Is Not Consumed PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 09:18

Take a moment to read Fr. Mike's moving All Saints homily (originally given at St. Albert's Priory in Oakland):

 

“Oh Father, you’re so holy.”

It’s not unusual to hear lay people say that.

They’re always people who don’t know me, but simply see the habit and make an assumption.

In the future, I hope to have the presence of mind to take a cue from Jesus, and respond differently than my usual, “aw shucks, I bet you say that to every Dominican” shtick.

When Jesus was asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to obtain eternal life?”  He responded, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”

I hope I have the wits to ask, “Why do you presume I’m holy?”

I honestly don’t know why an individual would presume I’m holy. (or that you're holy, for that matter!)

Perhaps it’s wishful thinking on their part.

It could be because they presume I pray a lot.

Or they think “poor Fr. Mike’s given up so much to be a Dominican” – meaning primarily sex and a family of my own.

Or maybe they presume that I was already holy before I became a Dominican, and that religious life and priesthood is the sad fate of those unfortunately pre-disposed to holiness.

I really need to ask why someone would marvel at my level of holiness because I suspect the unspoken thought is, “I, a mere lay person, can’t be holy.  Not really.”

But of course, that’s wrong.

Of the over 450 saints canonized by Pope John Paul II, more than half of them were lay people.

St. Francis de Sale’s classic, “The Devout Life” is all about the path to holiness through the ordinary.

In the Apostolic Letter “at the Dawn of the New Millennium,” Pope John Paul noted:  "The ways of holiness are many, according to the vocation of each individual. I thank the Lord that in these years he has enabled me to beatify and canonize a large number of Christians, and among them many lay people who attained holiness in the most ordinary circumstances of life" (n. 31).

It should be noted in this context that the Beatitudes in the Gospel today are given to the disciples and the crowds.

They’re meant to be lived by us all.

They’re not a new set of commandments, but a description of those who are blessed, or “happy,” as another translation of the Greek word makarios allows.

But what he describes as happy people sounds strange.

They’re poor in spirit - people who are dependent upon God, who are willing to receive from Him, who trust Him to give what is sufficient for today.

They’re like Simon the fisherman, who lets Jesus get in his boat after he’s fished all night and caught nothing, who lets Jesus direct him – “put out into deep water; lower your nets for a catch.”

Even though he’s tired, he does it, and with Jesus hauls in a huge catch of fish.

People who trust God so completely don’t worry – and so are already entering the Kingdom.

And they will see God at work in their life.

How can mourners be happy? Because they’re not addicted to feeling good.

They fail a metaphysics exam and don’t have to drop $50 at the Gap to start feeling good again.

They can accept unhappiness as a part of the human condition.

One way God comforts them is by turning their attention from what’s missing in their life to all the good that He’s giving them.

And the meek? They’re happy because they aren’t trying to control the behaviors of other people.

Ever try to get your brother to cooperate with your plans?

If that made you happy, then you must also enjoy herding cats.

The merciful are like God; they are good to those who haven’t earned that goodness.

Their happiness lies in the fact that they aren’t keeping score – how many good things have I done for you versus how many good things you’ve done for me.

The peacemakers are happy and will be called children of God because, like God, they seek to gather people together – especially people who have become estranged.

So these meek, poor, peaceful, mourners are different from most folks.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger said the saints “express the divine in the human, and the eternal in time.”

They’re not addicted to power, pleasure, honor or wealth – and there’s tremendous freedom there.

They aren’t caught up in comparing themselves with others, or needing the approval of others.

It’s a freedom that is a foretaste of the joy and freedom of heaven.

As a consequence of that freedom, the holy ones among us, are stunning in their individuality.

It’s like they’re lit up from within by God himself, like the burning bush that is on fire, but not consumed, or a disciple at Pentecost, flames – or halo - hovering overhead.

The holy one is a person who is free to be the unique person that God created them to be.

Out of all the problems in the world around them, they discover a set of problems – or even one - to which they are uniquely suited to respond.

The problem is a locked cell that imprisons others – perhaps in ignorance, or in hunger, doubt, hatred, loneliness, poverty, lust, or any of the other plagues that beset humanity.

The saint is a key fitted perfectly for that lock, and through their love and service, lives are set free so that they can fulfill their potential.

We struggle to fit the saintly into neat conventional categories, or dismiss them with labels like, insane, or heretic, or – sometimes - saint.

Dorothy Day wouldn’t accept that last label precisely because she didn’t want to be dismissed that easily.

Every one of us has been created for a purpose, for a special way of being-for-others.

Discovering that purpose, that unique way to use our spiritual gifts, natural talents, skills and experience to help others is the surest way to personal satisfaction and meaning.

Living as God intends you to live, to the fullest of the abilities He’s given you, is the way you glorify God.

I would say the more we foster one another’s holiness, the more unique we will become.

Although we friars may dress alike, if we are becoming more holy, no one will ever mistake one brother for another.

The true Christian community is not composed of people who act and think the same, but who are passionate about and responsive to many different challenges in our world.

Thus, even in the shadow of Auschwitz St. Maximillian Kolbe could observe, “Only Love is creative.”

That creativity of God is witnessed in the lives of the saints.

May we allow that divine creativity to be made flesh in each other, as we draw our inspiration from the saints, and hope to become one with them.


 

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