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Six Degrees of Separation PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 25 October 2007 05:18

Written by Bernadette

It's great to see the power of the charisms, technology and personal relationships converge and form a new apostolate. Friend of the Siena Institute, Joanne Wakim, has launched a new nonprofit, Catholic Global Impact (CGI). CGI makes the six degrees of separation between the world's 1 billion Catholics an asset in being agents of God's transforming love. Check them out!

Mother Teresa's Dark Night PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Wednesday, 24 October 2007 11:34

Michael Gerson, a journalist writing for the Washington Post, wrote a short piece on Mother Teresa's letters published last September. I remember there was consternation on the part of some folks who believed that Mother Teresa would not have wanted her private pain to be so public. And yet, they may be exactly what we in the developed world need to hear. Christians in the US and other affluent nations are used to comfort and physical blessings, and it's natural to presume that these are signs of God's favor. Many are the times I've had pastoral counseling sessions with people who told me they were losing their faith because they or loved ones had encountered misfortune, because God didn't seem to be answering their prayers, or because some aspect of the Gospel or the Church's teaching based on the Scriptures seemed difficult or "out of touch with reality."

Perhaps we Western Christians need to hear of Mother Teresa's personal sorrow and sense of abandonment. It makes her decision to follow Christ's call to her all the more poignant. Gerson seems to cut to the heart of the matter as he describes how Mother Teresa came to understand her own suffering in a profoundly Christian way. A selection of his article follows. The entire article can be linked in the title of this post....

Eventually, on the evidence of the letters, Mother Teresa made peace with her darkness, identifying her own anguish with the suffering of her Savior and the suffering of the poor. "Now it does not really seem so hard," she eventually concluded. But she never regained the subjective religious experiences of her youth. "If ever I become a saint," she said, "I will surely be one of 'darkness.' "

There are lessons in this complicated spiritual life -- that holiness has more to do with obedience than spiritual feelings; that faith can coexist with suffering and doubt; that sainthood can be harsher and more difficult than we imagine.

But Mother Teresa's sense of abandonment raises a deeper issue. Assuming, for a moment, that she was not self-deluded in her calling, what kind of God would set such a difficult path -- ministering to lepers and outcasts for a lifetime -- and then withdraw his presence? Mother Teresa herself seemed to struggle with this unfairness: "What are you doing My God to one so small?"

There is no easy answer here, but the question is central to the Christian faith. Other noble religious traditions promise serenity, detachment from striving and release from the suffering of the world. Christianity, in contrast, teaches that grace is found in the worst of that suffering, and through a figure who despairs of God's presence in his parting words. This anguish is not convenient -- "Why hast Thou forsaken me?" is hardly the best religious marketing slogan. But for millennia this abandonment has offered hope that God might somehow be present even in shame, loneliness and betrayal, even on the descending path of depression, even in the soul's hardness and doubt, even in the silence of God himself -- and that all these things may be the preface to glory.

Through her pain-filled letters, Mother Teresa offers this assurance: Even when all we have to offer is ashes, and all we feel is emptiness, something beautiful may come of it in the end. But her decades of lonely sorrow are not an easy source of comfort. And Graham Greene might have been speaking of this abandoned mystic when he wrote: "You can't conceive, my child, nor can I or anyone the . . . appalling . . . strangeness of the mercy of God."
Cardinal Arinze: Potential Called & GIfted Teacher PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 23 October 2007 11:14
On September 23, Francis Cardinal Arinze spoke at Holy Apostles Church in Colorado Springs on "The Apostolate Specific to the Lay Faithful." Unfortunately, I was out of town and unable to attend. However, I was able to get a copy of his lecture, and I have summarized it below, with many quotations and a few observations of my own. The content of his lecture is remarkably similar to the Friday evening portion of the Called & GIfted workshop designed by Sherry Weddell and Fr. Michael Sweeney.

His talk was divided into seven brief sections:
1. what is the Church's mission?
2. who are the lay faithful
3. the foundation of the apostolate specific to the lay faithful
4. areas in which the lay faithful will need to be particularly engaged
5. involvement of the laity within Church communities
6. collaboration between clergy and laity
7. lay spirituality necessary to reap the fruits hoped-for in the apostolate

"For this the Church was founded; that by spreading the kingdom of Christ everywhere for the glory of God the Father, … the whole world might in actual fact be brought into relationship with him." (Apostolicam Actuositatem [AA], 2) Everything the Church does in pursuit of this goal is called the apostolate, or the mission of the Church.

Every member of the Church has a share in this apostolate. There are no spectator Christians. 'By its very nature the Christian vocation is also a vocation to the apostolate'" AA,2

Who are the laity?
"The lay faithful, clerics and the religious or people in the consecrated state all have a share in the apostolate of the Church. Negatively, the laity are those not ordained and not in a religious community. "Positively, and more importantly, the lay faithful are those Christians who by Baptism are made one body with Christ, are given a share in the priestly, prophetic and kingly functions of Christ, and are sent to carry out their own part in the mission of the whole Christian people with respect to the Church and the world."

"A secular quality is proper and special to the laity, and this distinguishes them from clerics and religious. The laity, by their very vocation, seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God…The laity…are called to live and work in the midst of the secular professions and occupations, to offer them to God, and to give witness to Christ in these arenas as insiders, acting from within."

Foundation of the Lay Apostolate
The foundation is the sacraments of initiation which incorporate the individual into the body of Christ and through which Christ commissions the individual to the apostolate.
"Each layperson can therefore say: 'I am commissioned and sent to carry out the lay apostolate by Baptism, strengthened in Confirmation and nourished by the Holy Eucharist. The other Sacraments received by the laity also empower me. Matrimony gives spouses the graces they need to witness to Christ in that state of life.'

He specifically singled out Baptism as the beginning and foundation of new life in Christ. As priests, lay people offer spiritual worship for the glory of God and the sanctification of people, and their lives are offered at Mass with Christ through the ordained priest. In their prophetic ministry, he said, the laity "evangelize the world from within, beginning in the family (cf Lumen Gentium [LG], 35). In their kingly role, they "seek to permeate the world by the spirit of Christ so that it more effectively achieves its purpose in justice, charity and peace. To discharge this role, the lay faithful will need to acquire competence in the secular fields, to know how to promote greater justice in society and a better distribution of earthly goods, and how to change social structures that promote evil or sin."

To call the lay apostolate "secular" is not to say that somehow it is less holy than the priesthood. It means first of all that sociologically the laity live in the secular sphere. But theologically, "secular" means that that is the part of life "where God has called them to live and work from the inside, to give witness to Christ there, and to sanctify it" in the manner of salt, leaven and light.

The Specific Nature of the Lay Apostolate
"The apostolate specific to the lay faithful is the evangelization, or Christianization, or animation of the temporal or secular order." Quoting Christifideles Laici [CL], 15, he said, "The 'world' thus becomes the place and the means for the lay faithful to fulfill their Christian vocation, because the world itself is destined to glorify God the Father in Christ."

Cardinal Arinze rightly points out that we are not attempting to establish a theocracy, because the things of this world "not only can help towards the attainment of our final end, but also possess their own intrinsic value. They take on special dignity because they are related to the human person."

The lay person at work, at leisure, in the family, and in the culture lives out his or her faith only insofar as they "organize these affairs in such a way that they may always start out, develop, and persist according to Christ's mind, to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer" (LG, 31)

Some Areas calling for lay Apostolate
The Cardinal mentioned marriage and family – but emphasized that this apostolate extends beyond the home into the political realm and in the mass media so that family life and marriage are protected and good schools provided for all.

In the area of work, the apostolate is normally of "like to like. The apostles of doctors are to be doctors. Teachers are to be evangelized by their colleagues. Dock-workers are to be brought to Christ by dock-workers."

Mass media are other areas ripe for the lay apostolate: the press, radio, television, the internet, the entertainment industry, advertising and communications in general are the challenging fields 'ripe for the harvest.' The same is true for the world of politics and science, particularly biotechnology.

Different Roles of the Laity within Church Communities
Within the Church community, the laity are indispensable in the celebration of the liturgy, working as catechists, serving on parish and diocesan councils and participating in various lay movements. When ordained ministers are not available, a liturgical role can be entrusted to a lay person, but "the Church gains nothing from efforts to clericalize the laity or to laicize the clergy."

He pointed out that at times the laity don't feel sufficiently integrated into Church structures, and where that is true "the situation should be studied and remedied, with all due respect for the nature of the Church as willed by our Lord, her Founder." But at other times, the perception may come from a situation in which the vital apostolate to the world has been ignored and/or forgotten.

Collaboration between Laity and Clergy
The effectiveness of the lay faithful in carrying out their apostolate both in the temporal order and in the Church, requires collaboration between clergy and laity.
"The lay faithful have the right to receive from the clerics the Word of God and the Sacraments. They should reveal to their pastors their needs and desires. They are free to express their opinion in matters touching the Church. Sometimes, by reason of their special competence, they are bound to do so through the proper channels and always with respect…
The pastors, on their part, are to recognize and promote the dignity and responsibility of the laity, to welcome their advice and collaboration, to assign them duties in Church communities, to encourage them to take initiatives on their own especially in society, and to 'respectfully acknowledge that just freedom which belongs to everyone in this earthly city.' While everyone in the Church is to strive to work with the gifts or charisms that the Holy Spirit has bestowed for the good of the whole Church, the pastors 'must make a judgment about the true nature and proper use of these gifts, not in order to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good." (AA, 3)

(my comment) This paragraph makes a potent argument for the nature of the charisms to be taught in seminary, and for clerical candidates and those preparing for pastoral ministry to know their own charisms. How can I as a priest 'make a true judgment about the true nature and proper use' of the charisms if I don't know what the signs of a charism are, how they are manifested, and what their effects are?

Lay Apostolate Spirituality
The lay apostolate begins with union with Christ, apart from whom we can do nothing (Jn 15:5). This life is nourished by the sacraments, the study of Scripture, deliberately following Christ and "concretized and manifested in love of neighbor and solidarity with the needy." Yet it is a spirituality distinct from the spirituality of the monk or nun. It is shaped by the encounter with secular society and directs the lay person back into that milieu. The temptation for any person in the apostolate, cleric or lay, is pride. "The gifts that God has lavished upon us – talents, health, learning, high position, achievement – are for God's work, not for our self enjoyment."

Furthermore, if we are to have an impact in this world of ours, "The lay apostle has to learn to work with others. There are many complicated and difficult apostolates which cannot be carried out by individuals alone, but only by organized groups marked by discipline, self-forgetfulness and readiness to sacrifice one's opinion for the sake of a greater good.

(my comment) This seems to me to be a real challenge for us as Catholics. We seem to lack the imagination to work together towards a goal, unless it is within an already established apostolate like the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Even within lay groups like the Knights of Columbus, lay affiliates of religious orders (like the Dominican laity), or Opus Dei, our tendency seems to be to work primarily as individuals. When these groups do work on a common project, so often it is directed within the Church community – as catechists, or providers of pancake breakfasts, or liturgical ministers. Those are fine, but perhaps we priests need to challenge the laity to work together to change secular society – and provide the spiritual and emotional support that truly secular apostles will undoubtedly need.

I was delighted to read Cardinal Arinze's lecture and to be reassured that the Institute's understanding of the VCII documents regarding the nature of the laity and their apostolate is "spot on." I'm glad the tune is being sung by more and more Catholic clergy and laity these days!
A Matter of Perspective PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 23 October 2007 09:43
I called my friend, Anna Elias-Cesnik, one of the faithful editors of the CSI e-Scribe, last night. Anna and her husband, Mark, teach the Called & Gifted workshop for the Institute, and live a few blocks from me in Tucson, AZ. During the course of our conversation, I mentioned that I had had to drive through a hard snowfall Sunday morning to a couple of small towns outside Colorado Springs, and that snow still blanketed much of the area.

Her gasp of horror was not too surprising. "Oh," I said, "no snow yet in Tucson?"

"Not at all," she said. "We're having a beautiful October. Not like normal when it's so terribly hot, and you're sick of the heat after the long, long summer. It's even chilly this evening. I had to put a sweater on."

"Really," I said, "How cold has it been?"


"Upper 80's, low 90's."

Reminder to self: take sunscreen home for Thanksgiving.
The Rockies: Altitude with Character PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 23 October 2007 03:22
Fascinating New York Times piece this am on the highly religious esprit de coeur of our Rockies baseball team:

The role of religion within the Rockies’ organization first entered the public sphere in May 2006, when an article published in USA Today described the organization as adhering to a “Christian-based code of conduct” and the clubhouse as a place where Bibles were read and men’s magazines, like Maxim or Playboy, were banned.

The article included interviews with several players and front office members, but team players and officials interviewed this week said it unfairly implied that the Rockies were intent on constructing a roster consisting in large part of players with a strong Christian faith. Asked how his own Christian faith affected his decision-making, General Manager Dan O’Dowd acknowledged it came into play, but not in a religious way. He said it guided him to find players with integrity and strong moral values, regardless of their religious preference.

“Do we like players with character? There is absolutely no doubt about that,” O’Dowd said during a recent interview in his Coors Field office. “If people want to interpret character as a religious-based issue because it appears many times in the Bible, that’s their decision. I believe that character is an innate part of developing an organization, and to me, it is nothing more than doing the right thing at the right time when nobody’s looking. Nothing more complicated than that.

“You don’t have to be a Christian to make that decision.”

Even if the Rockies are not consciously doing it, reliever Matt Herges, playing for his seventh organization, said the team had the highest concentration of devout Christians he had seen during his nine major league seasons.

Every Sunday, about 10 people gather for chapel, according to reliever Jeremy Affeldt, and Tuesday afternoon Bible study sessions usually attract seven or eight players. Affeldt said players discussed life and their families as well as scripture.

“Certain guys attend chapel, certain guys don’t,” outfielder Cory Sullivan said. “I don’t think that’s any different from how it is in any other major league clubhouse. Nothing’s shoved down your throats.”

On the whole, players were relaxed in speaking about their religious convictions but said that faith was not a requirement for peer approval. The Rockies, who will face the Red Sox in the World Series beginning Wednesday, care more about whether a teammate plays hard, is unselfish and treats everyone with respect.

Maybe we really are closer to God here ????? :-}
Is There A Thomist in the House? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 23 October 2007 03:13
Oh great, high, and worthy Thursday Night Gumbo, master of metaphysics and the mysteries of the universe. One can only meditate in silence upon your question:

I think it's time to discuss a really important question: Why, when the Colorado Rockies have already proven that they can take two out of three from the Red Sox and beat Josh Beckett, are they still underdogs in the World Series?

Is there a Thomist position on that one???

Fr Mike?
P. G. Wodehouse to the Rescue! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 22 October 2007 17:25
I had planned a little Wodehouse fest yesterday but alas our webserver was down all day.

It made me feel a bit like Percy, my twin brother, who died tragically years ago. I thought of the words inscribed on Percy's tombstone: Percy continued to stare before him like a man who has drained the wine cup of life to its lees, only to discover a dead mouse at the bottom.

I had dreamed of a entire day dedicated to the art of the master and my frustration grew until I couldn't stand to keep working away on my Detroit presentation. I started pacing as I often do when distressed. Unexpectedly, Fr. Mike dropped by to pick up some notes from our last meeting. As he told a friend later I could see that she was looking for something to break as a relief to her surging emotions ... and courteously drew her attention to a terra-cotta figure of the Infant Samuel at Prayer. She thanked me briefly and hurled it against the opposite wall.

Then Fr. Mike encouraged me in his usual compassionate way:Why don't you get a haircut? You look like a chrysanthemum.

As we talked, I was startled by a loud, sudden noise.The drowsy stillness of the afternoon was shattered by what sounded to my strained senses like G. K. Chesterton falling on a sheet of tin.

Fr. Mike, who used to work out religiously but was forced to give it up under the pressure of constant travel for the Institute, turned suddenly to see what caused the noise. I noticed that the lunches of fifty-seven years had caused his chest to slip down to the mezzanine floor.

We ran out of the house to find a large woman had been hit glancingly by a passing car and was sitting on the curb, gasping and furious, her face red and distraught. She looked like a tomato struggling for self-expression.

All in all, it was a trying afternoon. When it was all over and Fr. Mike was just about to leave, he turned and said thoughtfully: "I know that you wonder why you have so little name recognition. Have you ever considered changing your name to something more marketable like "She On Whom It Is Unsafe To Try Any Oompus-Boompus?"

Can no one rid me of this Dominican? I retreated back into the house and settled down with a badly needed gin and tonic. If only I had a lorgnette handy at moments like that! I knew that England was littered with the shrivelled remains of curates at whom a lady bishopess had looked through her lorgnette. I had seen them wilt like salted snails at the episcopal breakfast table.

It was then that I turned again to the one source of comfort that has never failed me in times of distress: The random Wodehouse quote generator.

Let me recommend it to you. When reading a P. G. Wodehouse quote, the slug is on the bloom and all is right with the world.
I'm Off to Detroit PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 22 October 2007 15:58
I'm off on a little two day trip to Detroit. I'll be filmed for Ralph Martin's TV show "The Choices We Make" and then will have the fun of teaching an afternoon class for 27 grad students in the STL/MA program in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Seminary.

I'll also get to reconnect with fellow blogger Tim Ferguson whom I knew at St. Dominic's in San Francisco and who is now a canon lawyer and STL student at Sacred Heart. And spend some time with Ralph Martin who I have wanted to talk to for years because his knowledge of the breadth and depth of the Church is pretty nearly unsurpassed - especially for a layman.

Back Thursday. I leave you in Fr. Mike's and Br. Matthew and Keith's ever competent hands till then.
Do Something about Breast Cancer! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Monday, 22 October 2007 13:45
My friend, Patricia Armstrong, is, so far, a breast cancer survivor. Each year in October, she's asked by her local paper, the Eugene (OR) Register-Guard, to write an opinion piece on cancer awareness month. Below is this year's offering from her enormous heart and talented pen. Because I know she's a faithful reader of this blog, I want to add a few preliminary words of my own.

Pat and Rich, her husband, are wonderful people! Married over fifty years (she's counting more carefully than I am), they are inspiring models of mutual, self-giving love, and by their example have taught this celibate a thing or two about the kind of love that enables one to "lays down his/her life for a friend." Pat's battle with cancer has been epic. Guerilla warfare, all-out nuclear strikes, terrorist attacks - all the metaphors apply in one way or another. In the middle of the turmoil, Pat has also acted as journalist; chronicling the attacks and counter-attacks in poetry and prose that has expressed the thoughts, desires, hopes, and despair of many, many women and men who have experienced the same battles. One of my favorites is a collection of poetry titled, "Daring to Dance, Refusing to Die," which sums up Pat's attitude wonderfully! From her public readings of her widely published poetry, short fiction and essays, Pat has raised thousands of dollars for breast cancer research. If you have a spare prayer, you might ask the Lord to give some publisher enough guts to publish her wonderful novel, "The Fattest Woman in Ireland." Every publisher who reads it loves it, but she's not a well-known novelist - at least not yet. I'd prefer that the literary awards she'd receive for it not be given posthumously.

She has served as the confidante of priests and lay ministers, as muse to a gifted local writer (who I'll call, "what's-his-name," since that's how he has referred to me). With her husband, Rich, she has helped pastors at St. Thomas More Newman Center in Eugene prepare couples for the sacrament of marriage - and has continued to support and encourage them after their marriage. Three young women who serve meals at the Eugene Hotel where she and Rich live have been talked into going to college by Pat. Her powers of persuasion are prodigious. (How's that for alliteration??) She has consented to be an editor of the bi-monthly e-Scribe I try to cobble together, and has shown the utmost patience with my prediliction to constantly use split infinitives.*

But enough from me - now you can read for yourself. But don't just read this note about breast cancer; DO SOMETHING about breast cancer! I know Pat and Rich would encourage you to pray for those who have the disease, their loved ones, cancer caregivers, and researchers seeking a cure. She just couldn't ask for that in a secular newspaper.


Your attention, please! We're back in the PINK again. It's October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a calendar commemoration, as with so many other worthy reminders, that must not be minimized, yet I muse continuously: where does the AWARENESS go for the other eleven months?

Q. Do we engage in some form of denial or benevolent amnesia?

A. No way! Not those of us with this damnable disease or our caregivers and loved ones.
Not we chickens (and some roosters, too) who follow our physicians' game plans with hopeful, if enervating endurance.

I've written in this same autumnal space before and, despite all predictions since my first dire diagnosis in 1992, I am still attached to the operative word "survival." I still dance the figurative hesitation waltz of treatments and some times horrific side effects, and I often feel almost apologetic for surviving this long. More than once in the past four years my local columnist friend has described me in print as "dying." Humor as my ultimate refuge, I chide him "Oh, isn't everyone?" True, there is a small inoperable alp on my already heavily radiated spine. (If one's cancer originates in a breast, the subsequent malignancies remain breast cancer in origin even if they travel to skeletal and/or visceral sites.)

And so this October I think the reminder should have an added focus, namely: Breast Cancer BEWARENESS Month! Consider the more than 40,000 women in this country we will lose again this year. Factor in the millions more who are in treatment now and perhaps a million who have not yet been diagnosed. Globally, the statistics haven't budged in the past two years. Someone, male or female, succumbs to breast cancer every 90 seconds.

This past year there were days when I almost felt part of something quite acceptably fashionable and grateful for the openness of women such as Elizabeth Edwards, Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge and TV's Robin Roberts, following the revelations of previous headliners like Nancy Reagan and Betty Ford. Because of their various open testimonies, cancer organizations and treatment centers reported an upswing in requests for mammograms and other information. A salvo of PINK for such honest witnessing!

Sure, early detection is the ideal with frequent self-exams and mammograms, perhaps the latter scans from an earlier age than many doctors suggest. But later detection is NOT an automatic death sentence. New clinical trials are ongoing and there are continuous reviews and modifications of dosages. There is medical progress, AWARENESS. For example, an emphasis of the exacerbating role of alcohol consumption on already difficult side effects. And there is new, less uncomfortable mammography machinery (we gals have long thought this would have been invented decades earlier had men been in the majority for breast cancer!)

Websites are now a patient's adjunct tools of treatment. Without playing doctor, patients and those who care for and about them should check online information for all medicines prescribed, all protocols, preferably before doctors begin regimens; so intelligent questions can be asked and answered. We should be informed advocates, partners with our medical team. Physicians, no matter how specialized and board-certified, are not gods. More and more, I've learned that modern medicine is more art than science.

There is a plethora of websites. Every day I click on (the PINK window in the middle). Corporate sponsors underwrite free mammograms using the number of visits to the site. Visit and and Patronize local merchants who give percentages of sales to Komen For the Cure or the American Cancer Society. Enhance AWARENESS by walking or running in the PINK periodic relays and races, including such local events as the Soroptimists' Walk for Life with pledges to help local women needing assistance with living expenses while they endure the effects of treatment. Wear the pink pins, buy the breast cancer stamps, volunteer for fund-raising. Reach out to diagnosed friends actively, offering rides to appointments, shoulders of compassion, humorous banter to distract from their onslaught.

I am in countdown, I know. But as a lifelong writer and fan of inspirational words, I offer this passage from Edith Wharton's "A Backward Glance:" "In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways..." Amen.

*THAT one was intentional, Pat!
However, I await the other corrections you'll have for me.
Great Canadian Catholics PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 22 October 2007 07:37
Here's an intriguing website: CCHeritage: Dedicated to Canada's Christian Heritage.

This site features biographies of some of the giants of 17th century Canada who were affiliated with the French revival of that era:

Jean de Brébeuf, missionary to the Hurons, martyr, and patron saint of Canada;

Marie Guyart de l’Incarnation

Jeanne Mance

Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve

Marguerite Bourgeoys

and in the 20th century:

Georges and Pauline Vanier.

Unfortunately, many of the other biographies are not currently available.
Catholic Quote of the Day PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 22 October 2007 07:26
. . . we should give serious thought as to how to achieve a true evangelization in this day and age, not only a new evangelization, but often a true and proper first evangelization.

People do not know God, they do not know Christ. There is a new form of paganism and it is not enough for us to strive to preserve the existing flock, although this is very important . . . I believe we must all try together to find new ways of bringing the Gospel to the contemporary world, of proclaiming Christ anew and of implanting the faith.”
- Address of Pope Benedict XVI to the German Bishops at World Youth Day
What Happened to Christian Canada? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 22 October 2007 05:54
Next year's Eucharistic Congress will take place in Quebec where local Catholic leaders are hoping that it will have the sort of impact that World Youth Day is expected to have in Sydney. It will be Quebec's 400th anniversary and organizers are hoping for a Mass of 100,000 on the plains of Abraham presided over by Pope Benedict.

This piece in Canada's Global National puts it this way:

"It's a sort of religious rock concert that Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the archbishop of Quebec, describes as a "religious and spiritual festival." And he believes this could revive the Roman Catholic faith that Quebecers have turned away from since the 1960s.

The International Eucharistic congress is slated for June 2008 and an outdoor mass that could be presided over by Pope Benedict will be the climax of the event. Some 15,000 delegates and 50 Cardinals from 60 countries will meet in Quebec to foster devotion to the eucharist, or mass.

"This will certainly be the culmination of our efforts to re-evangelize Quebec," said Ouellet.

"We have been preparing for this for years. There is a need in Quebec to reconnect with our Christian roots and to revive the Catholic identity," said Ouellet, the primate of the Church in Canada.

Quebec City is regarded as the cradle of French civilization in North America, but its role in the evangelization of the whole continent should also be celebrated, says Ouellet.

The provincial capital, the oldest diocese in Canada, was the gateway for the missionaries who went on to evangelize the continent. Fourteen of them have been beatified or canonized in the last 40 years, including Marie de l'Incarnation, a 17th-century nun who founded the Ursuline order in New France and converted natives, he added.

"There is a lot of criticism in the society now against the Catholic Church, and we need to be reminded of those positive values," Ouellet said.


Cardinal Ouellet has invited Pope Benedict to the congress, but he doesn't know yet whether the pontiff will attend.

I visited the plains of Abraham back in my Protestant days where I witnessed a re-creation of the British victory in 1759 which made Quebec a part of the British empire. Quebec City is a beautiful and fascinating place where Catholicism once permeated all of life.

After 1627, only Catholics were allowed to live in Quebec province. Montreal, the biggest city of the province, was founded by lay missionaries (influenced by the 17th century French revival) to evangelize the Huron and Alonkian. The first period of Canadian life up to 1663 is sometimes regarded at the "mystic" or "theocrat" period since the Church was involved in most areas of community that we now expect governments to deal with.

Read this fascinating essay on Quebec's history. The harsh winter climate, disease, and the refusal of the French government to allow French Protestants to settle, meant that the colony remained much smaller than the British colonies south of it and so vulnerable to attack.

In 1774, partly in reaction to the looming rebellion in her colonies to the south, the British passed the Quebec Act, recognizing French law, language and the Catholic faith in the colony. American colonists, fearful of the establishment of Catholicism in Quebec, regarded the Quebec Act as one of the "Intolerable Acts" that gave rise to the First Continental Congress and the Revolution. English Canada was built by tens of thousands of Loyalist British subjects who moved to Quebec and settled among its 90,000 French inhabitants.

It was actually in the late 19th century that the practice of Catholicism reached unprecedented heights in Quebec. In 1840, only 50 -60% of French Catholics did their "Easter duty" (received communion at Easter), by 1896 the percentage was a staggering 98 - 99%! 18 new religious congregations were formed during this 60 year period and nearly 50% of those graduating from the many classical colleges became priests. Only Catholic schools were permitted in Quebec, the only form of marriage was Catholic.
The Church controlled health care, education, and charitable services. By the late 19th century, the Church had become the State in many ways.

The early 20th century was a time of intense Christianization of all aspects of French Catholic society. Dozens of Catholic colleges and associations, a vast number of social action groups - including a Catholic temperence movement led by the Church (oh my!) Catholic unions and cooperatives were actively supported by the Church. There were a number of strong Catholic newspapers and even a vast network of movie theatres in Church basements.

In the end, new media brought in outside influences and the Church, in any case, could not financially support and provide the personnel to staff all these institutions.

The essay ends with this poignant, sobering paragraph summing up Catholic fortunes since 1960.

The election of the Liberals of Jean Lesage in 1960 unleashed the floodgates of change. This change was so sudden and widespread that it received the name of Quiet Revolution. In this period of modernization of Quebec no institution was to suffer more than the Roman Catholic Church. Values, ideas and institutions from the past were all questioned; these had all been anchored by the Church. Language replaced Faith as the pillar of survival and distinctiveness of Quebec. The State took over schools and hospitals (all were to eventually be deconfessionalised) and churches nearly emptied completely. Within ten years Quebec went from being the province with the highest birthrate in Canada to having the lowest! The society became profoundly secularized and Church influence fell to nearly nothing.

From an article "Whatever happened to Christian Canada? by Mark Noll, the well-known evangelical scholar.
Listen to this description of Georges Vanier' installation as Governor General. (Georges was the father of Jean Vanier, founder of the L'Arche movement and is, with his wife, Pauline, a candidate for canonization)

On September 15, 1959, Georges Vanier was installed as Canada's nineteenth Governor-General, the Queen's formal representative in her Canadian dominion. Vanier, a much decorated general, diplomat, and active Roman Catholic, began his acceptance speech like this: "Mr. Prime Minister, my first words are a prayer. May Almighty God in his infinite wisdom and mercy bless the sacred mission which has been entrusted to me by Her Majesty the Queen and help me to fulfill it in all humility. In exchange for his strength, I offer him my weakness. May he give peace to this beloved land of ours and, to those who live in it, the grace of mutual understanding, respect and love."

Noll sums it up:

Put generally, in 1950 Canadian church attendance as a proportion of the total population exceeded church attendance in the United States by one-third to one-half, and church attendance in Quebec may have been the highest in the world. Today church attendance in the United States is probably one-half to two-thirds greater than in Canada, and attendance in Quebec is the lowest of any state or province in North America.

This inversion, and the history of the last sixty years that created it, could not have been imagined in the years immediately after the Second World War. At that time, the vigor of Canadian religious practice seemed entirely in keeping with the general trajectory of Canadian history. Not only was Canada more observant in religious practice and more orthodox in religious opinion than the United States, but these comparative results represented only the latest chapter in a remarkable history of christianization stretching back to the eighteenth century. That history began with the creation in Quebec of a full-orbed, organic Catholic society--grounded in the colonial period on the self-sacrificing labors of several religious orders (both male and female), subsequently renewed by devotional and institutional revivals in the mid-nineteenth century, and then sustained deep into the twentieth century by a hegemonic but still remarkably resilient blend of popular piety and clerical supervision.

Canada at the mid-twentieth century had a much stronger claim as a "Christian nation" than its large neighbor to the south.

What happened?
The Most Exclusive Blog in Town PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 22 October 2007 05:48
No, we hadn't become the most exclusive blog in town. Our web server was down for nearly 24 hours (!) which is why you received the demand for log-on and password if you tried to view Intentional Disciples yesterday. We're delighted to be back up and will be posting soon.
Don't You Just Love Rocktober*? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 20 October 2007 08:20

It's a beautiful Rocktober* Day in Colorado.

(Non-Rockies fans may not grasp that the month between September and November has been renamed. And is being registered as a trademark. Seeing the Rockies still playing baseball in October is such a novel and unnerving experience.)

It's supposed to be 75 today so I'm going to be out and planting more bulbs. That's because it is supposed to be 39 and snowing tomorrow.

100 + more bulbs to plant in hard dry soil in and around established perennials. After my first trial last weekend, I went on line to discover the secret to planting lots of bulbs. Because those garden books I read talk lightly of planting 5,000 in one's yard. The defining moment was when I came across the story of a man who planted 400 bulbs with a pick-axe.


So I've bought a bulb auger, a sort of long dirt drill that you attach to your power drill. It's a miracle. It better be.

I also have to prepare the 400 sf bed for wildflowers.

I figure I can put the finishing touches on my Detroit presentations at Sacred Heart Seminary on Sunday. When it's snowing.
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