The Institute's phone and internet connections are down along with some of the neighboring businesses because some lovely person cut the phone lines last weekend.
You can still reach the Institute at by calling (719) 219 -0078. E-mails unfortunately, don't work at present, so if you e-mailed us over the weekend or earlier today, try calling the line above or forward a copy to me at
1:50pm Mountain Time:
Regular phone and internet service has been restored. So we'll get back to y'all, y'hear?
The Vatican Museums are going through a glorious change according to Zenit. (And I might add, their revised website is visually beautiful and full of virtual tours.
The Sistine Chapel has been restored, a new entrance has been built, the Raphael rooms in the apartments of Juilus II have been restored, and new works are being displayed regularly and new rooms are being opened.
"And a new initiative, opening the museums after hours to the general public on Fridays nights, signals the Vatican Museums desire to become part of the cultural life of the Romans, instead of just a stomping ground for tourists and pilgrims. What better Friday night date than exploring the history of the Eternal City through its greatest artistic treasures?"
And what an evangelizing opportunity as well. The ultimate art walk. Hey - anybody up for a long weekend in Rome? I'm signing up for that Vatican Garden as well.
Some Roman sisters have seized this opportunity to mix evangelization and art appreciation:
"Among these new guides are a small group of religious sisters, the Missionaries of the Divine Revelation, founded by Mother Prisca Mormina with the apostolate of catechesis. Wearing distinctive green habits, they have become a common sight in the Vatican Museums.
Several of these sisters took up the call to catechize with art, offering tours of St. Peter's Basilica and St. John Lateran. In 2008, they were invited to the Vatican Museums to develop museum itineraries reflecting art and faith. These tours, led by the sisters and their staff, look at the collections through the eyes of the faith the works express and the Christian beliefs that inspired the artists who made them.
Mother Rebecca Nazzaro, the superior of this little group, described their choice of a mission to the museums: "The Church needs art because through art man can leave his 'finite' self to enter into the infinite of God. The Church believes that the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the intimate and invisible life of God became visible to man, and the language of art therefore becomes a bridge between heaven and earth and visible and invisible."
These itineraries, available through the Vatican Web site, are offered in English and Italian. Through them, Mother Rebecca hopes to "offer pilgrims who are 'lost' amid the vast collection or visitors who find themselves distracted by the myriad of works, a journey through the history of man through the language of art." She considers art "a privileged instrument of evangelization for its comprehensible idiom and capacity to open dialogue between people of diverse social or religious extraction."
First of all, I'd like to point you to the Sower Review published by the excellent Maryvale Institute of Birmingham, England. Maryvale is the premier catechetical institution in the UK and is linked to the Association for Catechetical Ministry in the US. (ACM's website has a beautiful new introduction that is worth taking the time to watch.)
What I like about the Sower is the way that it combines initial proclamation, an emphasis on personal discipleship and spiritual formation with top notch catechesis. This is definitely not just catechesis as "rite of passage". If you are not familiar with the Sower, be sure and check it out.
The pre-reqs are dauntingly high for locals: Applicants should have a bachelor's degree and a standard of English comparable to that required by local universities for postgraduate students. Applicants also require approval from a bishop, and a letter of recommendation from their parish priest or Religious superior. The National Seminary intends to have a class of 10-15 students.
Since the Catholic Church has been in China for a long time, it should develop its own research work in theology, said Father Chen, who has a doctorate in education. After running a bachelor's program in theology for six years, he said, "God has given us the opportunity to train highly qualified personnel by launching the master's course."
He said the program aims to help Church workers keep pace with theological developments in the universal Church, develop evangelistic work in mainland China and contribute to the inculturation of the local Church.
Along with local Chinese priests and lecturers, there will also be foreign teachers arranged by Leuven university and the Lumen Vitae Institute in Brussels. Lectures will also be simultaneously translated into Mandarin-Chinese but some course materials will be in English. Father Chen observed that so far, applicants appear relatively competent in English.
According to the July newsletter of the Verbiest Institute, the Chinese civil authorities have approved the program. "This is considered to be a breakthrough," it reported. The newsletter hopes that after their studies, graduates will start pastoral centers in their own dioceses. (via Indian Catholic).
11:30 am update: It's actually snowing. Have I mentioned that we have WEATHER here? How much more literally can you take "the first day of autumn?"
Fall is coming in like a lion in a very un-Colorado like manner. (Usually September is the best month of all here with golden skies, no thunderstorms, highs in the 70's, lows in the 40's, and in late September, the aspens are at their dazzling height.)
The first cold spell of the season is whipping through as I type and the temperature has dropped 10 degrees since dawn to a rainy 37 degrees. Meanwhile, the Institute's phone and internet connections are down along with some of the neighboring businesses because some lovely person cut the phone lines last weekend. (You can still reach the Institute at (719) 219 -0078.)
But yesterday, it was still summer and I spent the last weekend of summer in the garden, which has suddenly reaches its full glory at the very end.
We held a little open-garden for the neighbors to celebrate the finishing of the waterfall and the landscape designer who laid out the plan in the spring of 2004 for us, came by to take a look. She was much more enthusiastic that we had anticipated - even though it is obviously unfinished and her experienced eye no doubt took in all the usual bobbles. She told us that sections of it reminded her of the Denver Botanic Garden - which serves as a kind of national display garden for mountain and high plains gardeners. She was being kind but to be mentioned in the same breadth with the Olympus of high country horticulture was something we never expected.
She also said that she had never seen a display of Tansy Asters like the one that fills the wild flower bed today.
That would be the Asters we considered pulling out half way through the summer because they formed a mysterious 5 foot flowerless wall that covered 2/3 of the bed and I couldn't figure out if they were friend or foe. I trimmed six inches off the top of these mysterious plants in July to at least make the shape a bit more regular and keep it from setting seed. God has mercy on clueless gardeners. The asters just came back with hundreds of new buds.
A pound of wildflower seeds, a spur of the moment trimming, a rainy summer, and the last Sunday of summer looked like this. (These pictures were taken at first light. Click to see the larger view.)
This refreshing video is the work of Fr. STEPHEN A. CUYOS, MSC whose blog Happy Faith is worth a visit. Fr. Stephen is currently studying Social Communications in Rome and is fascinated by the possibilities of using technology to evangelize.
I'm looking forward to seeing more from Fr. Stephen.
An ancient puzzle at the heart of Washington. A shadowy cult determined to protect it. A white-knuckled race to uncover the Mormon Church's darkest secret.
The Serpentine Glyph
When world-famous Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to the Capitol to analyze a mysterious ancient script—imprinted on a gold ring lying next to the mangled body of the traditionalist head docent —he discovers evidence of the unthinkable: the resurgence of the ancient cult of the Lucifori, a secret branch of the Mormon Church that has surfaced from the shadows to carry out its legendary vendetta against its mortal enemy, the Congregation for Divine Worship in the Vatican.
Langdon's worst fears are confirmed when a messenger from the Lucifori, Glen Beck, appears at the Lincoln Memorial to deliver a fateful ultimatum: Turn over Fr. Augustine Di Noia, OP, or one cherub will disappear from the Sistine Chapel every day. With the deadline fast approaching, Langdon joins forces with the freckled, home-schooled daughter of the murdered docent in a desperate bid to crack the code that will reveal the cult's secret plan.
Embarking on a frantic hunt, Langdon and his companion follow a 65,000 day old trail through Washington's most venerable churches and exalted buildings, pursued by a one-handed albino assassin the cult has sent to thwart them. What they discover threatens to expose a conspiracy that goes all the way back to Joseph Smith and the role of the Legionaries of Christ in the founding of the Mormon Church.
- With apologies to everyone and Slate's Dan Brown plot generator.
I just had to see if Mark Shea was right and that nothing beat using the name of Glen Beck to generate traffic!
OK, the name doesn't leap trippingly off the tongue but the url says it all: newsaints.
"The Hagiography Circle is a body of young scholars bound by a common interest in “re-telling” the lives of contemporary models of holiness who, within the past seven years, have dedicated some of their time to reading, translating, and reflecting on biographies sent to us by promoters of beatification and canonization causes.
This generosity has enabled us to establish a collection of hundreds of biographies in English, Italian, Spanish, French, German, Polish, Latin, Chinese, Hungarian, and other languages, as well as thousands of photographs of these models of holiness."
This site is a treasure trove. You can search by name or year of beatification or canonization from 1800 to the present. You can also find causes begun before 1800 - as early as the 11th century and those who were part of groups of martyrs. There are links to those causes that have their own websites. Google translator is built in as part of the site. The latest causes are listed separately. The whole canonization process and the technical language associated with it is explained.
There is a bit of a learning curve at first (I find the fluorescent color scheme wearing) but this site should be one of your first stops when you are looking for information about saints, potential saints, and the state of their causes. What the site doesn't provide is a detailed biography for each saint or blessed. But it is a great way to locate little known saints, find out how a cause is progressing, and keep abreast of new causes.
HT to Bobby Vidal, who is, a true connoisseur of sanctity.
I stumbled across a lovely blog by Anthony Lilles of Denver. Lilles is a layman and academic dean of the St. John Vianney theological seminary for the Archdiocese of Denver. And as he is also, as he puts it, "a student of spiritual theology".
His blog is called Beginning to Pray. Here is a taste of his most recent post on the Sign of the Cross:
"The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal or indifferent guest within our hearts. He never runs out of room because He constantly enlarges our hearts: purifying them, ordering them, and expanding them. His fire and light makes us burn to love God and our brothers and sisters with a love greater than any limited natural love. He deifies us, makes us partakers of the divine nature, so that we love with the love of God. He also respects us - and will only do what we permit Him to.
But He is never passive. He is ever alive, ever ready to increase whenever we say yes to Him in faith. The more we say yes, the more He is there to help us - even when all seems dark and lost this Divine Presence is with us in our hearts. If we are not to drown in our own weakness, the constant attacks of the Evil One, and in the anxieties and fears of the world, we must cling to the Spirit's presence like the shipwrecked cling to life-preservers. We must cleave to His Presence, hold firm to it, believe in it, stand fast in it. Yet, our own frail humanity is always forgetting, always letting go to cling to things we think more firm. But they are an illusion. We can only cleave to the Presence of God in our hearts through the strength and the certitude that He alone provides.
This is where the Sign of the Cross comes in. When we make the Sign of the Cross, it is a sign that we are choosing to cling to the Living God who dwells in us through the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Making this sign can actually be a moment of actual grace in which the promises of faith made at our baptism are renewed and the Gift of God remembered. And with the renewal of our faith, the Lord grants us a new strength to hold fast, a certitude and confidence that ever comes from Him."
How refreshing and encouraging!
Lilles is a busy man, dean, father of three. So his posts are occasional (several times a month, sometime more) but his blog is definitely worth adding to your blogroll and checking periodically.
"Their Church has a big stake in this: The nations' 624 Catholic hospitals and 499 long term care nursing facilities comprise about 17% of the nation's hospital beds. And the Church has an unbroken record of centuries of health service to the poor."
The relatively short post manages to encompass responses from The American Life League, Cardinal Martino Renato, Kathy Saile of the US Bishop's Conference, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., and Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and St. Blog's own Peter Nixon.
So you might as well add your voice to the mix. Tell 'em what you think.
A couple of worthwhile pieces regarding evangelism this morning:
Busted Halo (the Paulist site for young adults) is running a intriguing piece on every Catholic's nightmare: doing street evangelism in downtown New York city. It runs the gamut from Youth With a MIssion "prayer stations" (what an interesting idea!) to a liver transplant survivor who works the subway every day from 7 am to 10pm and wears a sign that says "Jesus saves from Hell".
The interviews with these committed evangelists are fascinating and Busted Halo treats them all with respect. Your comments?
Simply fascinating and very important for us to hear in light of the plummeting marriage, attendance, and RCIA rates among young adult Catholics. (For more on that, read my recent blog series on Whither RCIA?)
The article acknowledges exceptions to the overall generational trends: "One important caveat: not every American twenty-something is like this. In fact, many emerging adults have been reared into a world vastly different than the self-esteem culture. Some gravitate, instead, toward an Augustinian perception of the self and find their own contemporaries annoying." Which sounds like a pretty accurate description of the majority of the small minority (10 - 15%) of millennials who actually attend Mass on a weekly basis.
But the overall description of twenty something emerging adults (including the 80% of I-Gen Catholics who seldom or never darken the door and the 75% of Americans who are non-Catholic) is just plain jaw-dropping.
"One of the most insightful elements of Mann's book is whether iGens feel guilt. For a person to feel guilty, that person must have a sense of morality. But morality requires a potent sense of what is right and wrong, and it needs a powerful sense of what is true and false. Contemporary culture does not provide the average iGen with a profound grasp of what is right and wrong apart from the conviction that assaulting the self is clearly wrong.
Yet deciding to stake one's life on Jesus and the cross requires a sense that we are wrong, that we need Jesus, and that his saving death and resurrection can become effective. Mann claims that iGens are neither moral nor amoral. Instead, because of trends like the self-esteem movement and the impact of relativism, he concludes that iGens are pre-moral. Mann suggests that they do not feel guilt as much as they feel shame for not achieving what they are designed to accomplish.
This realization has helped me see that Jesus is the place to begin with iGens. In fact, we can make this more precise: Jesus as lived out by a credible witness or through a community that makes Jesus real. This is not Jesus as revealed by institutional religion or churches, but Jesus seen in the lives of genuine compassion and commitment to something that transcends the superficiality of modern and postmodern culture.
Dan Kimball wrote in his book They Like Jesus But Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations that what turns off iGens about the church is that it's too organized, political, judgmental, chauvinistic, homophobic, arrogant, and fundamentalist. But Kimball's research uncovered that iGens like Jesus. This is solid footing for gospeling iGens.
More evidence for starting with Jesus comes from the "Images of Jesus" personality profile designed by the North England Institute for Christian Education, and is republished in my book, The Blue Parakeet. In the assessment, a person records answers to personality questions about himself or herself ("Do you suffer from the nerves?") and then answers the same questions about Jesus ("Does he suffer from the nerves?"). There are no right answers. The intent is to determine how high a correlation exists between self-image and Jesus-image. Among iGens the answer is a loud Yes! This test shows that nearly everyone conforms Jesus to their self-image. A startling affirmation of what Jean Twenge discovered: iGens—surprise, surprise—have a robust enough self-image to think Jesus is just like them.
If this generation likes Jesus, and if iGens have the chutzpah to think they are like Jesus, then let's start with Jesus.
(I guess I have to say this or the conversation is going to bog down in the most predictable of manners:
Remember - this is not just a description of post-Vatican II Catholics. It is a description of an entire generation of Americans- the overwhelming majority of whom are not and have never been Catholic. They have never attended Mass - in any rite, in any language. Most of them have never heard of Vatican II.
This is so much bigger than us and our completely predictable insider baseball. Can we shake ourselves out of our well worn mental ruts and, for once, consider the culture at large - outside the Catholic Church?)
If this is an apt description of millennials as a whole, what does this mean for the Church's fundamental mission of evangelization? How do we reach out to this generation?
The Dan Brown Sequel Generator is now available on Slate for all your conspiracy needs. Just choose a city and a particular organization and see what darkness lies in the heart of men - and women - and Dan Brown.
I chose Jerusalem and the Boy Scouts of America. The eye lash curling result was:
"When world-famous Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to analyze a mysterious ancient script—drawn on a calling card next to the mangled body of the head docent—he discovers evidence of the unthinkable: the resurgence of the ancient cult of the Baalinati, a secret branch of the Boy Scouts of America that has surfaced from the shadows to carry out its legendary vendetta against its mortal enemy, the Vatican.
Langdon's worst fears are confirmed when a messenger from the Baalinati appears at the Shrine of the Book to deliver a sinister ultimatum: Deposit $1 billion in the Boy Scouts of America's off-shore bank accounts or the exclusive clothier of the Swiss Guards will be bankrupted. With the countdown under way, Langdon joins forces with the statuesque and quick-witted daughter of the murdered docent in a desperate bid to crack the code that will reveal the cult's secret plan.
Embarking on a frantic hunt, Langdon and his companion follow a 1000-year-old trail through Jerusalem's most venerable monuments and sacred libraries, pursued by a mustachioed assassin the cult has sent to thwart them. What they discover threatens to expose a conspiracy that goes all the way back to Davy Crockett and the very founding of the Boy Scouts of America."
I think its time I gave up my day-n-night-n-weekend job. . . and became Queen of the Baalinati.
Such a deal. An great opportunity to learn how to facilitate the discernment of others' charisms is coming to southern Michigan in late October!
This is the first time that the Catherine of Siena Institute has held Called & Gifted interviewer and facilitator training in Michigan. The training will take place Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings, October 27 - 29 and will be conducted by me (Sherry Weddell). Join thousands of other pastoral leaders who have been trained to facilitate the Called & Gifted discernment process in parishes all over the world.
Learning to facilitate the discernment of others is one of the most valuable and rewarding pastoral skill sets for pastors, staff, and pastoral leaders of all kinds and can have an enormous impact on calling forth new leadership and vocations of all kinds in our parishes and our dioceses. Listening to people's stories of being used by God is a incredible experience and opens our eyes to what God is doing in our midst and nourishes our own faith.
There is room for an additional 20 trainees in Michigan. First come, first serve. The training costs $100/person which includes extensive reference materials. Simple on-site housing is also available for 20 for a modest donation to cover breakfast food - for those who live too far away to commute. You would be responsible for your own food.)
There are critical pre-requisites:
* Basic spiritual maturity (practicing Christian for 2 years prior) * Already possess listening skills * Have attended a live Called & Gifted workshop or listened to workshop on CD, taken Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory, started personal discernment and had a personal Gifts Interview.
If you are interested in attending, but haven't been through a Called & Gifted workshop yet, call our office to order the workshop on CD and the inventory and to arrange for a Gifts interviews over the phone. The interview costs $25. )
Location: Most Holy Trinity Church 545 North Maple Street Fowler, MI 48835
Contact: Craig Pohl
Schedule: Tuesday, October 27; 6:00 - 10:00pm Wednesday, October 28: 6:00 - 9:00 pm Thursday, October 29: 6:00 - 9:30 pm
(If the training in Michigan or Kansas City doesn't work for you, the Institute is offering the same training in 3 other cities in September and October, 2009. Go to the Institute calendar for more information.)