Here it is 18 and snowing (!) For the moment. it will warm up today. And the snow again. And then warm up again.
All before I get home on Friday afternoon just in time for Halloween and All Saints Day.
Speaking to leaders of the Pontiac Vicariate tonight about gifts discernment.
Then training 15 Called & Gifted interviewers from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Oregon - including our very first two Orthodox interviewers! The training will be in the evenings so if I have access, you may well be hearing from me.
Meanwhile, Fr. MIke is beginning a week long retreat for the priests of SOLT in Kansas City.
I have to agree with Brother Stephen. (I listened to almost all of the speeches online yesterday while doing housework.)
"First, it has been reported in the Telegraph that John Hind, Bishop of Chichester, is practically at the doorstep of St. Peter's. This was not at all how I heard his speech yesterday, which I didn't report on individually. The money quote in his speech to my mind was, " Everything points to the wisdom of holding steady just at the moment." From there he went on to raise his concerns about whether the ordinariates would be a real ecclesial community or merely a place for nostalga. He described the prospect of being merely a "religious movement" within the Roman Catholic church as "bleak." From there, he went on to defend the ARCIC vision of the Church of England as arriving at full communion with Rome as a worthy ecumenical partner. In short, he has stated that he's willing to be reordained, but he did not seem eager to do it tomorrow."
When I first saw references online to the Bishop of Chichester being on the edge of entering the Church, I had to go back to the Forward in Faith website and make sure that they were referring to the man whose speech I thought I had heard. I thought perhaps he had made an additional statement. That's not what he said in his speech at the Forward in Faith gathering.
The rest was as Brother Stephen describes it: all over the map. Everyone praised Pope Benedict's generosity, flexibility, and creativity. Some are clearly hoping that this new development will give them new negotiating clout with Lambeth. One sister declared that if you cut her open, you would find nothing inside but "C Of E". One priest declared that he hoped to die an Anglican. Others said "This is what we've been praying for all these years. How can we reject this incredibly generous offer?"
Just what you would expect. As Brother Stephen sums up the conversation: "TAC (Traditional Anglican Communion-mostly an Australian movement) has its bags packed and ready and that a good number of FIF members within the Church of England are coming on the fast track regardless of what the C of E offers them and that more are likely to follow. We know that FIF in the US and the Anglo-Catholics in the Anglican Church in North America are taking a pass as are most of the large evangelical Anglican provinces in the developing world. I'd say that, realistically this is about as good a start as was possible."
The spokesman of the Anglican Church in North America did mention the fact that some of his group were considering Orthodoxy as I noted in my earlier post: Whither Anglicanism: Catholics? Evangelical? Orthodox? And the keynote was given by a famous evangelical Anglican bishop who urged Anglo-Catholics to stay and form a united front with other orthodox Anglicans like the evangelicals and charismatics.
I think Brother Stephen's reminder below is critical for those of us watching from the outside:
"To Catholics and to especially my fellow converts, since we often carry the biggest chips on our shoulders, who want to rage about the evils of Anglicanism and want people to come crawling, chastened, and cowed, remember that it is the Holy Father himself who has chosen to kill the fatted calf. It seems that the least we can all do is make merry. Reviewing the parable of the wages of the laborers in the vineyard might do us all some good."
From Wednesday's General Audience in which Pope Benedict talked about St. Bernard of Clairvaux:
"Only Jesus -- insists Bernard in face of the complex dialectical reasoning of his time -- only Jesus is "honey to the mouth, song to the ear, joy to the heart (mel in ore, in aure melos, in corde iubilum)." From here stems, in fact, the title attributed to him by tradition of Doctor Mellifluus: his praise of Jesus Christ, in fact, "runs like honey."
In the extenuating battles between nominalists and realists -- two philosophical currents of the age -- the abbot of Clairvaux does not tire of repeating that only one name counts, that of Jesus the Nazarene. "Arid is all food of the soul," he confesses, "if it is not sprinkled with this oil; insipid, if it is not seasoned with this salt. What is written has no flavor for me, if I have not read Jesus." And he concludes: "When you discuss or speak, nothing has flavor for me, if I have not heard resound the name of Jesus" (Sermones in Cantica Canticorum XV, 6: PL 183,847).
For Bernard, in fact, true knowledge of God consists in a personal, profound experience of Jesus Christ and of his love. And this, dear brothers and sisters, is true for every Christian: Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us."
You will love this story of Frank Duff - the Irish founder of the Legion of Mary, a "genius of the apostolate" who received a standing ovation from the world's bishops at the Second Vatican Council. Bishop Gracida writes:
"Now to the point of this post. In Dublin I had the pleasure of meeting and talking at length with Frank Duff, who, please God, will someday be canonized and recognized for the saint that he was. I asked Frank Duff what was the secret of his great success in winning converts to the Church. He replied that every year he spent his summers bicycling through Europe and everywhere he went he engaged people in conversation. After a while he would ask each person if he or she was a Catholic. On being told that they were not, Frank Duff would ask: “Sure, and have you ever thought about being a Catholic?”
Simply asking the question, Frank Duff told me, planted the seed and the Holy Spirit did the rest. Sooner or later that person would ask himself or herself the question, “Why am I not a Catholic?” God’s grace would then do the rest, Frank Duff said."
Imagine - a real live dyed-in-the-wool-Irish!- cradle- Catholic (none of those slippery converts!), asking a relative stranger a question like that!
'Course it probably works best if you have a bit of a brogue.
Orombi said such measures by the Vatican are not called for in the African Anglican Church, which he said had successfully resisted liberalism from Western countries.
"Anglo-Catholic Anglicans have been disillusioned by the liberal churches in the West that created a theological crisis with their liberal attitude to sexuality. Many of them would be happy with the Pope's initiative. But the African Church does not need that because it is strong on biblical theology," he argued.
Orombi said the African Anglican Church split after realising that the Western churches had yielded to liberal measures on sexuality, which are contrary to the biblical teachings.
In a historic move, African Anglican churches held a conference in Jerusalem last year during which they officially broke away from Canterbury. "The African Anglican Church has undertaken measures to deal with the excesses of liberalism that invaded the western church. We are a Bible-believing Church," Orombi said.
"We don't compromise on scriptures, and that has been our fight with the West," says Rev. Syrenius Okoriko, the head of the Nigerian Anglican church's evangelical department, in a phone interview Wednesday from Abuja, the capital. "We have so many issues with the West: homosexuality, the interpretation of the scriptures. What the scriptures say is what we stand on."
The way in which these African bishops framed the issue as a "western" one about sexual issues is telling. Of course, the deepest issue is not the issue of ordaining homosexuals and that would certainly not be a good reason to be received into full communion.
There are essentially two different kinds of "western" Anglicanism at the heart of the matter: western liberalism and western traditionalism. And many African prelates don't seem interested in either.
Reading John Allen's coverage of the Synod on Africa and then reading these bishop's responses just reinforces how different the perspective of Catholics (and other Christians) in the global south can be. The debates that convulse us in the west are so often not compelling for them.
Those debates are fueled by traumas that western Christians experienced in the 60's and 70's that simply didn't touch large parts of Africa which were struggling with more basic issues - famine, disease, grinding poverty, systemic corruption, chaotic infrastructure - with life and death. The one exception may be in South Africa, which was ruled by the British during the 19th century when the Oxford movement swept across the Anglican world and where white rule wasn't dismantled until the early 90's.
It also gives me a sense of how different the priorities of an Africa or South American Pope might be. I'm currently re-reading Weigel's biography of Pope John Paul II and am struck by the intense experiences that shaped young "Lulek's" life and worldview. Six years of constant terror and hunger under Nazi rule, 4 years of hard labor, orphaned before he was 21. Decades under communist oppression. When a man who has lived through that says "Be Not Afraid", you believe him.
All bishops, all Popes are fully human. They have been formed by the time and culture in which they have lived. How the Holy Spirit works with, inspires, uses, (and sometimes over-rides) that humanity and that history to guide the Church in a particular generation is one of the great mysteries. They can surprise us and inspired by the Holy Spirit, do things that utterly transcend their background.
But grace does build upon nature. It does matter who they are - and where they have been - and what they have lived. Because that will, inevitably, shape, energize and limit the impact of their papacy.
Anglo-Catholicism is a deeply western movement, emerging in the early 19th century in the quintessential heart of intellectual England (Oxford) in response to developments in western thought and culture. Like traditionalist Catholicism, it is still overwhelmingly western and it seems that most of those Anglicans who will take advantage of the opportunity to enter the Catholic Church will also be western.
Which makes sense. Pope Benedict is European to his fingertips and his burning concern is the fate of an imploding Christianity in Europe. It is the task for which his whole life has prepared him. And healing some of the wounds of western Christianity will pave the way for other moments of grace that we cannot now imagine.
We just have to remember that slightly more than half of all Anglicans live in Africa. And that only 27% still live in the west. And that this is a western Anglican turning point, not a global Anglican moment.
Bishop Tichon, head of the diocese for Central and Western Europe of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, stated to the Pope, "We must find unity as soon as possible and finally celebrate together," L'Osservatore Romano reported.
"People don't understand our divisions and our discussions," the bishop stated. He affirmed that he will "not spare any efforts" to work for the quick restoration of "communion between Catholics and Orthodox."
Bishop Tichon said that "the theological dialogue that is going forward in these days in Cyprus is certainly important, but we should not be afraid to say that we must find as soon as possible the way to celebrate together."
"A Catholic will not become an Orthodox and vice versa, but we must approach the altar together," he added.
The prelate told the Pontiff that "this aspiration is a feeling that arose from the works of the assembly" of his diocese, held in Rome, in which all the priests and two delegates from every Bulgarian Orthodox parish took part.
"We have come to the Pope to express our desire for unity and also because he is the Bishop of Rome, the city that hosted our assembly," he stated.
Interesting. "A Catholic will not become an Orthodox and vice versa, but we must approach the altar together."
I don't follow all the ins and out of ecumenical discussions but the air is clearly filled with the idea that there might be new paths beyond the old barriers.
Of course, he and his clergy live in the west and may feel the separation more acutely.
"Rome, in its way, is a 500-year-old evangelization machine. The buildings and art created as a response to the Protestant critique still call to people who are searching and create a mood of reflection. Just before I arrived in Rome, I met an industrial psychologist who was a Christian but now follows a Native American practice. He told me that, when he went to the Vatican, sunbeams from the dome of the church hit Michelangelo’s Pieta and brought tears to his eyes.
A week ago I heard from two nuns, dressed in habits, who were stopped on the street by a Japanese tourist. She wanted to know, could they possibly spare a few moments to explain Christianity to her? Yesterday a Syrian found his way to our English-speaking church (he knew no Italian) asking the same question. He told me he had no particular faith, but he had been impressed with the Syrian Orthodox while in his own country and now, before he had to leave the country because of a document problem, he wanted to find out more. He asked his questions urgently, “And, so, Jesus was the Son of God?” “He promised eternal life?”
Searching Americans approach the faith issue differently. One recently told me he “gave up on God” when the Supreme Being did not cure his depression and taking a little pill did. I said there may come a time when something can’t be fixed, then what?"
Amazing conversations! Exactly the sort of thing we train those who go through Making Disciples to invite and respond to appropriately.
Rome. What a place to just be available to listen to and respond to people's spiritual questions and concerns.
But everywhere is Rome if we have the eyes to see it. The holidays are coming. Advent and Christmas and the whole Catholics Come Home TV campaign in places like Colorado Springs, Omaha, Chicago, and Seattle. Life is an "evangelizing machine." Especially during the holidays.
I'll be blogging more on that later but lets start praying right now to be available for those "divine appointment", to respond when the Holy Spirit whispers to us "Ask the question."
Where is God in your life? What has your relationship with God been like to this point?
And then listen to understand what their journey with God has been so far.
Not to catechize at first. Or correct. Or fix. Or judge. First, to understand.
We've had people make significant spiritual progress just through telling the story of their relationship with God - probably for the first time in their life - to someone who cared enough to ask and then really listen to them.
"On February 21, 2009, many Dominican priests, brothers, sisters and laity received an e-mail with an urgent prayer request requested by (then) Fr. Augustine DiNoia, O.P., Undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, asking all Dominicans to pray the Litany of Dominican Saints from February 22 (the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter) through March 25 (the Solemnity of the Annunciation) for an at-the-time undisclosed intention. Today, we received an e-mail from Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, O.P., the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, with the following announcement:
"Today there was announced -- at press conferences in Rome and London -- the forthcoming publication of an apostolic constitution in which the Holy Father allows for the creation of personal ordinariates for groups of Anglicans in different parts of the world who are seeking full communion with the Catholic Church. The canonical structure of the personal ordinariate will permit this corporate reunion while at the same time providing for retention of elements of Anglican liturgy and spirituality.
When I asked the Friars (and other OPs - Ed.) to pray the Dominican litany from 22 February to 25 March earlier this year, the intention was that this proposal would receive the approval of the cardinal members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which was necessary if the proposal of some structure allowing for corporate reunion was to go forward. Our prayers at that time were answered, and now that the proposal has become a reality we can tell everyone what we were praying for then.
Today is one of the glorious Colorado days that will make Fr. Mike might glad he forsook his life in sin (city). Pike's Peak's great shoulders are covered in snow and so is the ground but the sky is a brilliant blue, the gold leaves have not all fallen, and the air is crisp.
We are about to launch the Institute's new website so my focus for the remainder of the week must be revising or writing new content for the new website which is supposed to launch on Monday. With or without content.
This weekend, while Fr. Mike evangelizes in Corpus Christ, I should be planting bulbs by the hundreds. I've only planted 52 so far and my lower back has been screaming ever since. (That is unusual for me as I'm one of those weird people who can touch the palm of my hands to the floor without pain. Long torso and arms, relatively short legs - for a six footer. No back problems.)
Mulled red wine and Ibuprofen are a great cure. But time is a-wasting.
Meanwhile, Sybil in our office is deftly arranging last minute gift interviews for lots of those coming to training in southern Michigan. Somehow the normal pre-req for this training didn't get communicated. But our valiant phone interviewers (thanks Mary Sharon and Jen!) have risen to the occasion. We've got people coming from all over southern Michigan, Indiana, Oregon, and two Orthodox trainees from Ohio. Should be a good group.
Back to work. I have a major post pending on the whole Catholic Come Home campaign heating up this Advent but first I've got to pound the website into shape.
Boarding a flight back to Colorado Springs via Phoenix in a few minutes. Today I have a podcast interview with the good folks at ChristLife, and then it'll be an early night to catch a plane to Texas to attend and assist with an Encounter Retreat in the hopping diocese (evangelization wise, at least) of Corpus Christi.
We had a good meeting in Vegas. I was able to see my community for the first time in a long while, and we spoke of many issues facing our communities and our Province. It was sort of a microcosm of what's happening in the country - how to pay for healthcare with an aging Province, how to respond to the need of immigrant communities, especially Hispanics, Filipinos and Vietnamese, looking at other ministerial challenges and opportunities. The Catherine of Siena Institute and our work was strongly affirmed - but then, one of the co-directors was there! There are some other very interesting ministries in the region, including the St. Therese Center, the Las Vegas diocese's outreach to those affected and infected with HIV/AIDS. I'll be writing up an interview I did with Fr. Joseph O'Brien, OP for the e-Scribe.
One of the things that used to make me roll my eyes in my pre-Catholic days was the very common tendency among evangelicals to conflate the term "Protestant" with the word "Christian". It was just hard wired for many. The idea that the term "Christian" also encompassed Catholics and the Orthodox was almost unimaginable for some. (I'm fairly sure that most members of my own fundamentalist - tending family still don't know that Orthodox Christianity exists. Our imagination only extended as far as the Latin Rite.)
I always congratulated myself on the fact that Catholics weren't nearly so self-absorbed and parochial. Till now.
What is it with the all too common mistake of the Catholic media confusing the term "Catholic" with the term "Christian" these days? As I've noted before here, when discussing Christianity in Asia, we routinely reduce all of Christian experience to the experience of Catholics alone. Ignoring the fact that two thirds of the Christians of Asia are not Catholic. Out of mind, out of sight seems to be our motto there. We don't have to deal with realities we refuse to acknowledge.
But immediately under the title is a picture of this man:
You see my problem. I hope you see my problem.
Because Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the embodiment of Christian resistance to Adolf Hitler, was Protestant. Lutheran, in fact. Bonhoeffer was the most famous leader and martyr of the "Confessing Church", the Protestant resistance to the Nazi regime. He headed up an underground seminary for "confessing" Protestants. Bonhoeffer's most luminous and famous work is a revered classic among evangelicals: The Cost of Discipleship.
Bonhoeffer's famous distinction between "cheap grace" and "costly grace" was aimed at corruptions within German Lutheranism. You know. At what can happen when a group of Christians insists, as Lutherans do, that we are saved by grace alone.
It was one of the five Solas of the Reformation: Sola Christus. Sola Deo Gloria. Sola Fide. Sola Gratia. Sola Scriptura. In response, Bonhoeffer wrote:
Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing.... 45
Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian 'conception' of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins.... In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God. 45-46
Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. 'All for sin could not atone.' Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin....
Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. 47
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man’ will gladly go and self all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God."
Bonhoeffer was a exceptional ecumenical figure in his own day and is certainly revered by all Christians today.
But it doesn't mean that his face is the appropriate illustration for an article on Catholic resistance in Nazi Germany.
It evokes the same reaction in historically aware Protestants that say, using a photo of Pope Benedict directly under the title "Gospel Rap the Key to Evangelizing Post-Moderns, says Emergent Church Leader" would in the average Catholic blogger. Eye rolling would only be the beginning.
The article does contain a oddly placed paragraph about Protestant resistance to Hitler which mentions Bonhoeffer but that really doesn't eliminate the powerful initial impression of the combination of a title that screams "Catholic" and the image of that man's face below. Perhaps the paragraph was added to explain the photo? But why not just use a photo of a Catholic resister?
Apparently, the editor's grasp of pre-World War II history is a bit tenuous. I can live with that. But someone else should have caught it.
Even in an era where married Anglican priests can be received into and ordained as a married men in the Catholic Church, Protestants are not yet Catholics. Catholics are not Orthodox.
Together we are Christians but the word "Christian" is not co-terminus with the word "Catholic" or "Protestant" or "Evangelical".
"Always distinguish" is the Dominican motto. If we don't distinguish, we falsify our history and we can't begin to understand the world in which we find ourselves.
Here's another sign of the vitality of Asian Christianity: a fascinating glimpse of the first missionary congress was held in Mumbai, India last week.
It was the fulfillment of the dream of Pope John Paul II to organize continental mission congresses. 1500 members of India's three Catholic Church rites -- the Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara rites - attended.
There are loads of Congress videos up at You Tube (what was I expecting from the land of Bollywood?) and I scanned several. This one will give you a taste of the Congress and of Catholic life in India.