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A remarkable life PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 16 September 2008 13:25

Written by Joe Waters

Many of you have probably already come across the story of Thomas Vander Woude who drowned last week in a septic tank while saving his son from the same fate. I first heard about this on Sunday evening (the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross) at the 5 p.m. Mass at Church of Our Savior in New York City, where Fr George Rutler preached on his life as an example of the sacrificial love that sought always to emulate the love of Christ on the Cross even until his dying moments. The Washington Post ran a profile that only confirmed for me the truth of Fr Rutler's words.
May the Angels lead him into paradise.

By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 10, 2008; A01

If you ever ran into Nokesville dad Thomas S. Vander Woude, chances are you would also see his son Joseph. Whether Vander Woude was volunteering at church, coaching basketball or working on his farm, Joseph was often right there with him, pitching in with a smile, friends and neighbors said yesterday.

When Joseph, 20, who has Down syndrome, fell into a septic tank Monday in his back yard, Vander Woude jumped in after him. He saved him. And he died where he spent so much time living: at his son's side.

"That's how he lived," Vander Woude's daughter-in-law and neighbor, Maryan Vander Woude, said yesterday. "He lived sacrificing his life, everything, for his family."
Read the rest of the story here.

Iran's Parliament Approves Death Sentence For Muslims Who Convert to Another Religion PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 16 September 2008 10:46
Last week, Iran's Majlis ratified a bill under which any Muslim who converts to another religion would be put to death, with no possibility of pardon.

The bill was approved by a majority of 196 to 7, with two abstentions.

The few Iranian media outlets that covered the issue played down their reports, while on others, such as the Majlis website and the website of the conservative daily Resalat, the reports were removed after a few hours.

Under the bill, anyone declaring publicly that he was knowingly abandoning Islam of his own free will face the death penalty.

The bill is now in permanent force, after being extended every five years since its temporary ratification in 1991.

It should be noted that a ruling by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, states that any Muslim who converts to another religion is subject to the death penalty, but until now this ruling has not been anchored in civil law.

Source: Iran, Iran, September 10, 2008; Radio Farda, Europe, September 9, 2008

This will simply heighten the intensity of the discussions at the upcoming Muslim Background Believers Conference to be held in Texas in September 26-27.

This article from World magazine lays out the realities for Muslim background believers in Iran:

The government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has introduced legislation before the Iranian Majlis that would mandate the death penalty for apostates from Islam, a sign that it will brook no proselytizing in the country. "Life for so-called apostates in Iran has never been easy, but it could become literally impossible if Iran passes this new draft penal code," says Joseph Grieboski, the president of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy in Washington. "For anyone who dares question the regime's religious ideology, there could soon be no room to argue—only death.''

Minorities. Grieboski points out that the text of the draft penal code uses the word hadd (prescribed punishment), which explicitly sets death as a fixed, irrevocable punishment. He worries that it could be applied to religious and ethnic minorities like Christians, Bahais, Jews, and Azeris by treating them as apostates.

Articles 225 to 227 of the draft penal code define two kinds of apostates: fetri, or an innate apostate—who has at least one Muslim parent, identifies as a Muslim after puberty, and later renounces Islam; and melli, or parental apostate—who is a non-Muslim at birth but later embraces Islam, only to renounce it again. The draft code says outright that punishment for an innate apostate is death. However, parental apostates have three days after their sentencing to recant their beliefs. If they don't, they will be executed according to their sentence. It isn't clear when this bill will be passed, though Grieboski says, "International pressure and attention—in large part due to our work—has significantly slowed the parliament's progress.''

In the past, apostasy could draw a range of punishments, from imprisonment to death, under legal practices that were more ambiguous than the draft statutes. In one instance that drew international attention, Mehdi Dibaj, an Iranian convert, was held in prison for his Christian beliefs for 10 years starting in 1984. He received the death sentence at the end of 1993. But he was released from prison in January 1994 after an international publicity campaign by Haik Hovsepian Mehr, a prominent Christian pastor in Iran. A few days after Dibaj's release, Hovsepian Mehr was abducted in Tehran, and his body, with 26 stab wounds, was found secretly buried in a Muslim graveyard. Six months later, Dibaj, freed but still under a pending death sentence, was abducted and murdered.

To give you some idea, 80% of the membership of Jama'at-e Rabbani, one of the largest churches in Tehran (Assemblies of God) are converts from Islam.
God in the Hospital Room PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Monday, 15 September 2008 13:57
A friend of mine who has been living with cancer for much of the last fifteen years sent me an online article published by CNN article recently titled, "How to Talk to Your Doctor About God". A new study in Archives in Surgery finds that many Americans have a faith that leads them to pray for a sick person, and believe that God can heal, even when physicians involved in the patient's care believe there is no hope.
In the study, 57 percent of randomly surveyed adults said God's intervention could save a deathly ill family member even if physicians said treatment would be futile.

However, just under 20 percent of doctors and other medical workers said God could reverse a helpless outcome.

The study was published last month ... is one of many to show a "faith gap" between doctors and patients. "Patients are scared to death to talk to their doctors about this issue," said Dr. Harold Koenig, co-director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University.

Given this gap, how can you discuss God with your physician? We asked advice from Koenig and two other physicians who study faith and medicine.

1. It's OK to ask for a doctor who also has strong religious convictions

Koenig suggests this approach when talking to a physician: "I would say: 'My religious beliefs are very important to me and influence my medical decisions and the way I cope with illness, and I want a doctor who has those same convictions. If you don't come from that perspective, do you know a doctor you can refer me to?' "

If you're a Christian, you might find a like-minded doctor through the ZIP code search at the Christian Medical and Dental Associations.

2. Don't be surprised if you find No. 1 difficult to do

"Religion is the last taboo in medicine," said Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, an internist, a Franciscan friar and director of ethics at St. Vincent's Hospital and New York Medical College in New York. "Doctors and patients talk about intimate details like sexual practices and drug use but still have this great reluctance to talk about religion."

Sulmasy suggests not asking directly about the doctor's own religious beliefs but instead focusing on your own religious needs.

3. It's OK to ask your doctor to pray with you

According to a 2006 study by the University of Chicago, 53 percent of doctors surveyed said it was appropriate to pray with patients when asked.This can work even when doctor and patient don't share the same faith. For example, Koenig, who's Christian, has prayed with Jewish patients. "In most cases, a general prayer asking for God's comfort, support and healing will be sufficient," he said.

4. Be specific about your religious needs

"If I'm a Muslim and I come to the point of dying, the hospital might need to relax the visiting rules, because it's important to have as many people as possible with me as I recite the Quran," Sulmasy said.

"If I'm a Buddhist, it may be important to me to hear chant as I'm dying," he added. "If I'm a Catholic, I may want to receive the Sacrament of the Sick."

5. If you believe in miracles, say so

"Get that out in the open," advised Dr. Robert Fine, an internist and head of clinical ethics and palliative care at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.

Confusion may ensue if you don't, he explains. For example, sometimes doctors think families are against removing life support at the end of life because they don't understand the medical facts, when they do understand but are waiting for a miracle.

"Once we know that, we can have a discussion about faith," Fine said.
Of course, Catholic Christians, among others, believe in miracles, and the charisms of Intercessory Prayer and Healing do bring about healing in the lives of the sick that have no natural explanation. Unfortunately, we sometimes don't pray with the expectation that God might actually do something, even if we might have an "intuition" that the person is not meant to die.

I would suspect that Catholics, with our "don't ask, don't tell" approach to issues regarding faith, including prayer, would be among the least likely to ask for a physician to pray with them. I would include myself in that category up to a few years ago.

In fact, I had a situation back in 1991 related to this issue. I was in three hospitals in South Africa with an undiagnosed malady that caused intense abdominal pain for many hours a day. In the third hospital - a Catholic one - I was told by my nurse that I was being treated by a physician who prayed an hour a day before the Blessed Sacrament for his patients. He was Anglican. I was not healed spontaneously, but he did figure out what was wrong, and treated me accordingly.

My friend (I'll call her Ethel, just to peeve her) has had a lot of experience talking to doctors, and recently has had some interesting experiences. She has, in the last few weeks or months, had 45 radiation treatments, and her radiology oncologist has asked her to come by his office regularly even if she doesn't continue the therapy. "I need you," he's said to her.

Which raises an interesting question. Are physicians less likely to "give up" on patients they bond with than those with whom they don't bond, or whose personality they dislike? Physicians are only human, after all. Perhaps in addition to being able to talk to our physician about God, it might also help to find a physician with whom we can bond in some way - we might get more dogged healthcare!
Kids Helping Kids Fix Broken Hearts PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Monday, 15 September 2008 12:05
We all know, I hope, that the family is the domestic church. That means that most everything that happens in the local parish should also be happening in the homes of parishioners. That includes the proclamation of the Gospel, ongoing catechesis and formation, outreach to the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, discernment of vocation, prayer, scripture study, healing of the sick, table fellowship, the offering of our work/relaxation/self to God, etc.

I'm afraid not many families take this very seriously, nor ask themselves how they might become cells within the larger body of the Church. One family I know takes this seriously, and one of the ways they do it comes in the way they teach their five children, ages 9 months-10 years, to appreciate the blessed life they have (their father is a surgeon, so they have a comfortable life). As they become old enough to understand, they are taught to select a charity to support as part of the way they can help those who are less fortunate. Sometimes they help support an existing charity through organizations set up to do that. Other times, they are encouraged to start up something themselves.

One example of the latter is a project begun by the children this year called, "Kids Helping Kids Fix Broken Hearts". Emily, the second child, who's nearly ten, made a design which was used to decorate dishtowels that they children are selling to raise funds for Angel Notion Medical Clinic in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Angel Notion is a non-profit that helps poor children of Playa del Carmen in need of heart surgery. Angel Notion has teamed up with Rosa Christus Children's Hospital in San Antonio, TX, to provide these surgeries at low cost. Even so, it is more than the families of Playa del Carmen can afford, and they must also provide their own travel expense. So these kids decided to do what they can to help.

This is a great example of putting our faith into practice within the home, especially by expanding the awareness of young children of the existence of other kids, just like them, who struggle with health problems and poverty.

It should come as no surprise that these kids are a delight to be around, too!
Bone Deep PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 15 September 2008 08:53
Back from San Francisco.

The workshop (which was a greatly shortened version of Making Disciples and is somewhat experimental) went very well and the hand-picked participants seemed to grasp the significance and power of attending to lived relationship with God and how understanding pre-discipleship thresholds could help.

Fascinatingly, several participants came up to Fr. Mike and I and said the same thing: " I don't think I'm an intentional disciple yet.". I didn't pick up any sense that they felt judged (for which I was glad) - it was just an spontaneous and honest recognition. As one woman said to me: "No one's ever talked to me about this before".

I know. Don't ask, don't tell" is alive and well even in our most vibrant parishes.

I'm talking about culture, of course, not the Church's formal teaching. That bone-deep sense of what it means to be Catholic that we have picked up from our family and friends and our experience in our local congregations. That culture says you don't ask where someone is in their lived relationship with God and you don't talk about your own lived relationship with God.

It's alive and well in our vocational discernment programs. Let me share a single conversation that I had last spring, while at breakfast with a diocesan vocation director (not here – from another diocese in the east)

This vocation director is one of the “new” priests. Only ordained a few years, in his clerics, orthodox in his theology and traditional-leaning in his liturgical convictions. A classic new-orthodox-JPII-generation-Benedict-is my-German-Shepherd priest.

In the course of our conversation, I asked him this question:

Would you say that your candidates for priesthood are disciples?

His instant response: “No!”

My obvious next question: “Why not?”

His response (and I quote) “They don’t know how. No one has ever talked to them about it. They have knowledge about Christ. They don’t have a personal relationship with Christ.”

He was talking about men considering priesthood – discerning a call to become a *alter Christus* – but they don’t yet have a relationship with the great High Priest himself.

It's alive and well even in our evangelization efforts.

Last week, before I left for San Francisco, I listened to a webinar on evangelization recommended by a reader. It was well done, full of interesting stats and insights but by the time it was half way done, I realized that the presenter never talked about Christ. Or Jesus. Or God. Or the Church in relationship to God. The Body in relation to her Head, The Bride in relationship to her Groom.

The presenter could have been talking about any number of large institutions or organizations to a group of heavily invested and concerned shareholders. How to reinvigorate the base, get them to commit once again, to be involved once again.

Business leaders are now using the term "evangelization" to mean aggressively promoting their products. There wasn't much distance between the way "evangelization" is used in business settings and how it was used in this seminar.

I realized after this weekend that we will almost certainly never give a version of Making Disciples during which at least one participant will not come to the conclusion that he or she is not an intentional disciple. (Which is a good thing) And will also say with an air of new discovery, "no one has ever talked to me about this before" - which is not.

"Don't ask, don't tell so permeates the air we breathe that the majority of Catholic actually believe that not asking where we are in our lived relationship with God and never talking about it is one of the essences of true Catholicism, one of those most profoundly Catholic things that sets us apart from Protestants.

As one Catholic theologian at a major Catholic university wrote me earlier this year:

"I particularly liked your observation in another post that evangelization--the church's deepest identity--is also entirely foreign to its sensibility or culture. That is very true, and we both know how such talk repeatedly gets classed as "not Catholic." I grew up in the remnants of a Catholic ghetto in NYC and such talk would have been inconceivable even a decade ago; in many ways, it still is. But, something is afoot, and we have to move forward as a church. Your labors are one such effort . .

A Korean Super-Parish PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 14 September 2008 22:46

Written by Joe Waters

Here is an example of a truly 'missional' Catholic parish located in an urban slum in Seoul, South Korea.
SEOUL (UCAN) -- A special parish located in the midst of urban poor communities in northeastern Seoul garnered praise for its service to them during its 10th-anniversary celebration.

Samyang-dong Mission Parish "has given much love to the poor for 10 years," Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul said on Sept. 4. I hope it continues to grow into a community of love, sharing and service."

The prelate delivered the homily at the anniversary Mass held in the chapel inside the parish building, a three-story house on a mountain slope surrounded by tenement houses.

Addressing about 80 priests, nuns and laypeople, he noted how the mission parish is "different from a 'regular' parish" in that it "is located in the very middle of the urban poor in the Samyang-dong" area.

"Serving and living with them is its purpose," said the prelate. Ten priests, five of whom work in mission parishes, concelebrated the Mass with him.

According to Bishop Yeom, five of Seoul archdiocese's 12 quasi-parishes are mission parishes located at markets, an expressway bus terminal and a hospital.

Samyang-dong was the first of these five and has about 80 parishioners, according to Father Elias Lim Yong-hwan, the parish priest.

The parish building includes his residence and a meeting room.

Clara Lee Seung-ok, head of the parish pastoral council, told UCA News after the Mass that the parish's networking with various small communities, not only its location and unusual physical aspects, make it special.

"Many parishioners including children are involved in a day-care center, a scouts group, a sewing factory, a secondhand home appliances shop and a welfare center located around the parish, all of which belong to the archdiocese," she explained.

Lee added that many parishioners come from low-income families and live in rented apartments.

According to a leaflet distributed to Mass participants, the factory was established in 1995 as a cooperative, the scouts group in 1998, the House of Peace welfare center in 1999 and the shop in 2000.

The welfare center offers education programs and activities for children, and organizes free food donations to elderly people who live alone as well as visits to sick people in the area.

Rufina Shin Deok-rye said that while the relationship between parishioners and the parish priest in a "regular" parish is superficial because of the large number of Catholics, her parish is like a family.

Othilia Kim Deok-sim agrees. "I once lost my faith but regained it after I attended a Mass here five years ago," she said. "The parishioners are close enough to one another to know each other's economic situation. So I feel like coming here to meet them all the time."

Both Shin and Kim work in the factory producing religious garb for Religious and priests. Like them, most of the factory workers are parishioners.

Father Peter Lee Kang-suh, president of Seoul archdiocese's Catholic Urban Poor Pastoral Committee, which set up the five mission parishes, says they are needed because the poor have become more isolated and anonymous in large cities like Seoul.

"In this situation," he told UCA News, "mission parishes support the poor well, because parish priests are always available to them and care for their welfare especially through the House of Peace," he explained.

The Catholic Urban Poor Pastoral Committee has set up eight House of Peace centers in the Seoul mission parishes.

"We plan to set up another House of Peace for North Korean refugees," Father Lee added.

Destruction All Around Them, Just Out of Reach PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 13 September 2008 07:43
This poignant depiction from the Houston Chronicle's blog - where they have been live-blogging all night:

Galveston Co. emergency officials wait it out in League City

Locked in a reinforced-concrete bunker overnight, Galveston County's emergency management officials could only reach the outside world by phone and radio.

It was a frustrating night for dispatchers unable to send help to desperate callers.
The county's emergency operations center in League City, fortified to stay standing in a Category 5 hurricane, shook as sheets of wind sliced against it through the night.

The power went out shortly after midnight, and the center seamlessly switched to generators. Inside, emergency workers walked the fluorescent-lit halls in jittery exhaustion, rubbing their eyes and chugging coffee.

``I'm done answering phones,'' said one dispatcher, retiring to the bunk room after her shift ended at 4 a.m. ``So many people are stranded. It's heartbreaking.'' Rescue crews were under orders to stay inside through the night, until the worst of the winds subsided. But the panicked, angry voices on the other end of the phones begged for exceptions.

``I told them, we'll put you on a list. We'll get to you,'' the dispatcher said. ``One woman was mad because I told her she couldn't take her dog. I said, `Ma'am, we have human lives to save all over Galveston County. You're not the only one.' But she was upset. She was yelling and cursing.''

The dispatcher plans to retire before the next hurricane season. In the central command room, a projection screen scrolled with the latest emergency calls, documenting the restlessness of bunkered emergency crews.

``Fire crew coming out of shelter to respond to fire visible from shelter,'' read one update.

They could see destruction all around them, just out of reach.

Hurricane Ike "Underperforms" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 13 September 2008 07:31
This in fron the Weather Nerd blog on Hurricane Ike: (By the way the Weather Nerd is the blogger who predicted the devastating impact of Katrina.)

7:46 AM EDT: As I explain below, it appears Ike’s storm surge was far less severe than all the models and experts predicted. This was not a Category 2 hurricane with a Category 4 surge, as we featured it would be. Surge heights generally peaked around 10-12 feet, not the 15-25 feet projected.

Obviously, this is very good news. Hopefully the media will report it, rather than ignoring it. When a hurricane underperforms expectations, people need to be told this — and, if possible, be told why it happened — rather than being subjected to ongoing, unrelenting hype that pretends a lucky non-calamity was the calamity we feared. When the hype continues as if nothing has changed, the public is less likely to recognize that things could easily have been far worse, and that the doom-and-gloom predictions actually appeared fully justified at the time they were made, based on then-available data. This leads to ever more cynicism and complacency about future predictions. This is actually where the media screws up most severely in my view: in failing to ramp down the hype, once it becomes clearly unjustified.

Thanks be to God! I know that many millions were praying.

Obviously, no one is saying there won't be extensive damage or even deaths - as an unbelievable 40 percent of the Galveston population refused to evacuate!!!!!!

I know, I know, Mississippians did the same thing and so some tragic stories are bound to emerge.

But it won't be Katrina level horror stories.

Thank God. Thank God. Let's keep praying for all who are still hunkered down in the midst of the storm.
Hurricane Ike PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 11 September 2008 11:51
Dr. Jeff Master's, the founder of Weather Underground, is hurricane blogging and he says that Ike is a very nasty piece of work:

"Ike is now larger than Katrina was, both in its radius of tropical storm force winds--275 miles--and in it radius of hurricane force winds--115 miles. For comparison, Katrina's tropical storm and hurricane force winds extended out 230 and 105 miles, respectively. Ike's huge wind field has put an extraordinarily large volume of ocean water in motion. When this swirling column of water hits the shallow waters of the Continental Shelf, it will be be forced up into a large storm surge which will probably rival the massive storm surge of Hurricane Carla of 1961."

Masters is predicting that 180 miles patch of the Texas Gulf Coast (including Galveston) is going to get hit with a 10 - 15 foot storm surge.

The obvious: Please pray, give, and if you know anyone in the area, strongly urge them to leave now!

They really don't want their children to be able to tell these kinds of stories someday:

About our renter who was forced out of his car by water, took refuge on a rooftop until it crumbled under him and then (miraculously!) rode out a more powerful hurricane than Ike in a tree.

About my classmate whose father tied his family to a tree when their house washed away. Her mom died tied to the tree, her father died two days later of shock, and she lived despite being impaled by a tree branch driven through her lung.

About my parent's best friends who lived a half mile inland but were driven up into their attic crawl space by rising water. They found an ax there, chopped a hole in the ceiling, climbed onto the roof, and amazingly, (thank God!) their boat had survived and was floating beside the house. And so they sailed away, escaping certain death.

We lived on the beach and we almost didn't leave. One room - my bedroom upstairs - survived but the rest of the second floor collapsed upon the first floor. I have sometimes thought about what might have happened if my father hadn't changed his mind. Tried to imagine what it would have been like to live through that night, hearing the house crumble around us, the howl of the wind, certain that we were going to die.

It's not worth it. Go Now. Live to never regret it.


From the National Weather Service for Galveston and other coastal communities. . I have never seen a severe weather warning like this:

Life threatening inundation likely!

All neighborhoods... and possibly entire coastal communities...
will be inundated during high tide. Persons not heeding
evacuation orders in single family one or two story homes will
face certain death. Many residences of average construction
directly on the coast will be destroyed. Widespread and
devastating personal property damage is likely elsewhere. Vehicles
left behind will likely be swept away. Numerous roads will be
swamped... some may be washed away by the water. Entire flood prone
coastal communities will be cutoff. Water levels may exceed 9 feet
for more than a mile inland. Coastal residents in multi-story
facilities risk being cutoff. Conditions will be worsened by
battering waves. Such waves will exacerbate property damage... with
massive destruction of homes... including those of block
construction. Damage from beach erosion could take years to

Missing In Action PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 11 September 2008 11:20
Sorry to be missing in action. There have been a number of things I'd like to have blogged on but I've been busy trying to get a number of proposals off and workshop schedules for this fall worked. And now I'm working on my presentation at the International Catholic Stewardship Council's conference in Chicago next month.

Our fall travel schedule has begun. Tomorrow, I will join Fr. Mike in San Francisco where we will be offering an experimental greatly shorted introduction to some of the evangelization basics that we cover in Making Disciples.

But I'll be back and hopefully blogging on Monday. Meanwhile, Joe has agreed to pick up some of the slack from the far off reaches of the Dominican House of Studies in D.C.
Impregnate the world with the Christian Spirit PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 11 September 2008 08:28

Written by Joe Waters

The Pope met today with the Bishops of Paraguay on their ad limina visit. He spoke specifically about the vocation of the lay faithful and the formation required for the laity to fulfill their mission.
Yet in order for the Christian message to reach "the furthest corners of the world", said the Holy Father, "the collaboration of the lay faithful is indispensable. Their specific vocation consists in impregnating the temporal world with the Christian spirit, and transforming it in accordance with the divine plan. For their part, pastors have the duty to offer them all the spiritual and formative means they need".

"One significant aspect of the mission of the laity is the service of society through political activity". For this reason, "they must be encouraged ... to practice responsibility and dedication in this important dimension of social charity, so that the human community of which they are part ... may progress in justice, in honour and in the defence of true and authentic values such as the protection of human life, of marriage and of the family, thus contributing to the real human and spiritual benefit of all society".
from the Vatican Information Service

St Paul the Apostle PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 10 September 2008 18:48

Written by Joe Waters

The Pope had some interesting things to say today in his catechesis on St Paul regarding evangelization and catechesis:

Last Wednesday I spoke about the great turning point in St. Paul's life after his encounter with the Risen Christ. Jesus entered his life and transformed him from persecutor into apostle. That meeting marked the start of his mission. Paul could not continue to live as he did before. Now he felt invested by the Lord with the charge to proclaim his Gospel as an apostle.
It is precisely about this new condition of life, namely of his being an apostle of Christ, that I would like to speak today. In keeping with the Gospel, we normally identify the Twelve with the title of apostles, thus intending to indicate those who were life companions and hearers of Jesus' teaching. But Paul also feels himself a true apostle and it seems clear, therefore, that the Pauline concept of apostolate is not restricted to the group of Twelve.
The second characteristic is to "have been sent." The Greek term "apostolos" itself means, in fact, "sent, ordered," that is, ambassador and bearer of a message; therefore he must act as charged with and representative of a mandate. It is because of this that Paul describes himself as "Apostle of Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1), namely, his delegate, placed totally at his service, so much so as to call himself "a slave of Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:1). Once again the idea appears in the first place of another initiative, that of God in Jesus Christ, to whom one is fully obliged, but above all the fact is underlined that a mission was received from him to fulfill in his name, putting absolutely in second place all personal interests.
A typical element of the true apostle, brought well into the light by St. Paul, is a sort of identification between the Gospel and the evangelizer, both destined to the same end. No one like Paul, in fact, has evidenced how the proclamation of the cross of Christ appears as "a stumbling block" and "foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:23), to which many react with incomprehension and rejection. This occurred at that time, and it should not be surprising that the same happens also today. The apostle also shares in the destiny of appearing as "a stumbling block" and "foolishness," and Paul knows it; this is the experience of his life. has the full text.

Catholic Quote of the Day PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 08 September 2008 10:15
I had to share this bon mot from johnmcg in the Vatican Has Many Voices comments below:

"Most people use Church documents the way baseball managers use statistics and drunks use streetlights -- for support, not illumination."
The Vatican Speaks with Many Voices PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 08 September 2008 08:02
A important and thoughtful article by John Thavis for Catholic News Service from last week and one particularly relevant to those of us who seek to think with the Church but aren't professional Vaticanistas or moral theologians. The article begins:

"A provocative article on whether brain death is true death has illustrated once again that the Vatican speaks with many voices, not all of them equal.

The article appeared in early September at the top of the front page of L'Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper. That's a prime location in the complex geography of Vatican media.

The author, Lucetta Scaraffia, argued that the generally accepted practice of using brain death as the criterion for declaring a person dead was open to new challenges and debate, both in the church and in the scientific community.

Such a debate could have deep repercussions in health care ethics, particularly on the question of organs harvested from brain-dead patients whose bodies continue to function.

Within a couple of hours, the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, put some distance between the Vatican and the article's line of reasoning, saying that the content reflected merely the author's views and not the church's teaching.

In fact, previous statements by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and leading church officials have made it clear that the church recognizes brain death as "the true criterion for death."

So how is a regular Catholic-in-the-pews, glancing at some headline before racing off to work or to tend to some family chore, supposed to sort this out? Especially when you add the competing voices of the Catholic blogosphere, adding another level of "interpretation" - which many readers treat as authoritative - to the equation.

Thavis' article continues:

"The Vatican holds to a fairly detailed hierarchy of information that ranges from papal proclamations on the high end to offhand comments from curial officials on the low end. When translated into news stories, however, such distinctions generally fall by the wayside.

One perennial area of confusion has been the church's position on the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS. Although there has never been an explicit Vatican pronouncement on this specific issue -- it is, in fact, under study -- various cardinals and lesser-ranking prelates have weighed in, generating headlines as disparate as "Vatican condemns condoms" and "Vatican rethinks condom ban."

On another hot topic, some media recently reported that Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, head of the Vatican's Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, said that Catholic politicians who support legal abortion should not be given Communion.

Archbishop Burke made his views on this issue well-known when he headed the Archdiocese of St. Louis, but voicing them as head of the Vatican's highest tribunal seemed to elevate them to a "Vatican says" level. The problem was, he gave the interview last spring, before he was named to his Vatican post; an Italian magazine got around to publishing the interview in August."

How many times have I read a blogger who treats a reference from the Catechism as an equal or greater authority than a document from an ecumenical council? Or doesn't distinguish between the writings of Cardinal Ratzinger - as a private theologian before he become Pope - and an authoritative encyclical issued by the same man as Pope Benedict?

Many Catholics are prone to the same mistake that journalists make: collapsing all pronouncements that can be somehow traced to some part of the Vatican into a single level of authority, How often i have longed for a really thorough, clear, and trustworthy summary of the subtleties in interpreting such things that Vaticanistas take for granted!

The absence of such an aid just makes forming our conscience and making prudential judgements even harder than it is already is. The depth, richness, and subtlety of Catholic moral teaching has its down side. It was formulated by professional theologians primarily for clergy and presumes a "ecclesial insider's" formation and a scholastic's joy in fine distinctions.

But the reality is that Catholic social teaching must be applied in the real world by very busy lay people who have real power to shape their society but seldom have the formation or the leisure to think through the necessary distinctions as they apply to a given situation carefully and evaluate the relative weight of various statements.

Sigh. We were having this same discussion 4 years ago. I must make an effort to find the good stuff that is already out there. If any of y'all know where good resources are to be found, shout out.
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