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A delightful flight of fancy in Ecclesialand PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 12 April 2007 15:06

Written by Kathleen Lundquist

Tired of the liturgy wars, conflict over Catholic cultural markers, and the continuing quarrel over "the spirit of Vatican II"? I invite you to go with me and the lovely Anastasia down the rabbit hole into the story of Anastasia in Ecclesialand. This brilliant fantasy is the perfect spiritual bedtime story for those of us (intentionally Catholic) children who've come home from school exhausted from parsing teachers' sentences, struggling to impress our friends, and fighting with our siblings while the butler and governess ignore us. Here's a sampling:

Anastasia walked away. She walked on until she found two people loading a wagon. At least, that had been the original idea, but they were going about it in a crazy manner. One of them would load a box and the other would move that box to another position, throwing the load completely off balance and knocking another box off the wagon. They were both dressed in elaborate costumes, one wearing bib overalls and a shapeless red cap and the other dressed in an expensive business suit which he had to keep brushing off.

When they noticed Anastasia, the one in overalls stopped to say, "It's his fault you know. He is going about this all fifteenth-century-ish."

"Modernist!" cried the one in the suit, flinging a box off the top. "How, oh how, shall we ever get this wagon on the pilgrimage?"

Anastasia noticed she still had in her hands the book from the library. On the cover, it said, "READ ME." She opened it to an illustration of the wagon perfectly loaded, with full instructions on how to load it.

"Would this help?" she asked, offering the book.

"My dear, that book is positively twelfth-century-ish" cried the one in overalls.

"That book is full of modernisms," said the one in the suit.

"It's repressive!"



"Not authoritative!"

They kept up until Anastasia saw the bird fly out from under the wagon and onward down the path. As she followed it, she noted the sign on the side of the wagon: "LITURGY MOVERS-LET US MOVE YOU IN CIRCLES."

It's a brilliant piece by Martin Fontenot, originally published in the July/August 1996 issue of This Rock magazine. It sure gave a good rest, and much-needed perspective, to this child's tuckered-out heart and mind. Enjoy.

On Pilgrimage PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 12 April 2007 09:56
Speaking of travel:

If you are planning a pilgrimage to Lourdes, Rome, or Knock or have dreamed of walking the medieval pilgrim's route to St. James de Compostela in Spain . . .

You should visit our Pilgrimage/travel section on our website. We have gathered links to shrines all over North America and Europe.

For instance, you can check out this wonderful interactive map of the pilgrim route from Paris to Compostela or simply do an armchair tour of the Splendours of Christendom via Christus Rex.

When April with his showers sweet with fruit
The drought of March has pierced unto the root
And bathed each vein with liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower;
When Zephyr also has, with his sweet breath,
Quickened again, in every holt and heath,
The tender shoots and buds, and the young sun
Into the Ram one half his course has run,
And many little birds make melody
That sleep through all the night with open eye
(So Nature pricks them on to ramp and rage)-
Then do folk long to go on pilgrimage -

Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

April in Paris? . . . Or a Blizzard in the Rockies? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 12 April 2007 08:21

Trying to figure out how to fly out of Colorado Springs tomorrow morning in the midst of a blizzard feels like this:

By the way, its 73 degrees and clear in Paris right now.

But I'm not jealous. Not me.

Suffering while traveling for the sake of the Gospel - and kvetching about it - is very Dominican.
New Catholics in Oregon PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 12 April 2007 06:18
There are 900 new Catholics in Oregon this week. This story focuses particularly upon one family who who had been devestated when their bright 16 year old daughter was reduced to being "a blind and brain-damaged girl who will require round-the-clock care the rest of her life. A potent virus had invaded the girl’s body."

“We changed from a family planning spring break vacation to four lost souls huddled together feeling as if we’d mistakenly been put on house arrest,” Shelly Buell says. “We never thought it was possible to feel so frightened and alone.”

Holly requires two people to tend her and Buell wants one family member to be with her most of the time. Vance is the busy breadwinner and daughter Chelsea is making her own way in the world. That leave Buell to be caretaker.

Shelly sent out to "find a spiritual survival kit that I can count on to get me through 40 years in the desert.”

Continue to remember and pray for all who entered this Easter.
Rethinking the Carbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 11 April 2007 21:58
I happened to stumble tonight upon this PBS program about the Shroud of Turin and the new evidence that seems to contradict the carbon dating results which indicated that the cloth was medieval. The program is really very interesting, covers aspects of the case that I had never heard before, and definitely leans toward the possibility that the Shroud is first century.

The most compelling evidence is given at the end by one of the world's foremost experts on historic textiles. Before dealing with the Shroud, she studied and restored a priceless collection of ancient cloths, including the 13th-century grave garments of St. Anthony of Padua and of King Rudolph I of Bohemia, plus 11th-century liturgical vestments, the Tunic of Christ at Treves, and the cowl of St. Francis of Assisi.

She was the only person considered capable of doing repairs to the Shroud in 2002. On examining it, she was astonished to realize that the throud's very fine seam represented a kind of sewing that she had encountered only once before: in textiles used by the first century Jewish defenders of Masada!

Watch the show if you can or check out their extensive website information.
Seven Theses to Nail to the Church Door PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Wednesday, 11 April 2007 10:07
Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P. has an interesting article (linked in here) on the history of the laity in the Church. What struck me was how recent is the idea of a truly lay apostolate, rather than the idea that the laity participate in the only true apostolate, that of the hierarchy. Fr. Aumann writes,

"During and after the Second Vatican Council the lay members of the Church have been called repeatedly to assume their rightful place among the People of God and to perform the apostolate that is their responsibility. This in itself constitutes a remarkable change in the traditional under standing of the role of the laity in the life and ministry of the Church."

Briefly looking at the role of the laity through time and the clericalization of the Church, he notes that "Closer to our own times, Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846) stated: 'No one can deny that the Church is an unequal society in which God has destined some to command and others to obey.' Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) also declared that there are two distinct classes in the Church: pastors and their flocks, the leaders and the people. 'The role of the first order,' he said, 'is to teach, to govern and to lead men in life; to impose rules. The duty of the other is to submit itself to the first, to obey it, to carry out its orders and to honor it.'"

He mentions a few clerics who were instrumental in changing this view of the laity, like John Henry Cardinal Newman and St. Vincent Pallotti, founder of Catholic Action, not to mention the Popes named Pius X-XII. One of the foremost voices in the changing of the view of the hierarchy came from an outspoken and often suspected proponent of the laity, who in 1932 wrote,

"The prejudice that ordinary members of the faithful must limit themselves to helping the clergy in ecclesiastical apostolates has to be rejected. There is no reason why the secular apostolate should always be a mere participation in the apostolate of the hierarchy. Secular people too have to have a duty to do apostolate; not because they receive a canonical mission, but because they are part of the Church. Their mission... is fulfilled in their professions, their job, their family, and among their colleagues and friends."

That thought was taken up by the Second Vatican Council, which discussed the secular character of the laity in paragraph 31 of Lumen Gentium,

"Their secular character is proper and peculiar to the laity... By reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will. They live in the world, that is, they are engaged in each and every work and business of the earth, and in the ordinary circumstances of social and family life which, as it were, constitute their very existence. There they are called by God that, being led by the Spirit to the Gospel, they may con tribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties... The laity... are given this special vocation: to make the Church present and fruitful in those places and circumstances where it is only through them that she can become the salt of the earth."

Whose prophetic voice was it that challenged the view of the laity as simply being the helpers of the clergy?

None other than Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer, the recently canonized founder of Opus Dei.

In our polarized American Church (which too often mirrors the polarization in secular politics in our country), we too often find it impossible to believe that voices from the opposite side of the (church) aisle might have something to say that we can agree with. So we don't listen to each other. What a tragic mistake, and what a scandal we present to the world. But there is also a tremendous irony in the emphasis on the part of some people in the Church, mostly toward the progressive end of the spectrum, that sees the key to greater lay dignity in being involved in roles that were traditionally taken by clerics. Such a view stems from a pre-Vatican II view of the Church!

What do I mean by that? Fr. Aumann points out the, "slow and gradual process by which the laity were given their rightful place in the mission of the Church. For example, in the early days of Catholic Action, Pope Pius XI defined it (i.e., the rightful place of the laity) as 'the participation of the laity in the hierarchical apostolate of the Church.' That statement was made in 1939..."

Within a generation, the Second Vatican Council, focusing on the purpose of the Church as the spreading of the Kingdom of Christ throughout the earth and enabling all people to enter into a relationship with Jesus, wrote, "All activity of the Mystical Body directed to the attainment of this goal is called the apostolate, which the Church carries on in various ways through all her members. For the Christian vocation by its very nature is also a vocation to the apostolate...Indeed, the organic union in this body and the structure of the members are so compact that the member who fails to make his proper contribution to the development of the Church must be said to be useful neither to the Church nor to himself."

The Council, which has sometimes been called a council on the laity, calls the Church to see its primary focus as leaven within the world. In this sense, the laity have a primary role, and the role of the clergy is, in some ways, secondary, and focused on helping the laity be prepared for that apostolate, and offering their efforts with Christ to the Father in the eucharistic liturgy.

The Mass is essential to the success of the apostolate, don't get me wrong. We can do nothing without Christ and the grace His death and resurrection make available to us. The Mass is the source and summit of our life as Christians. It is the source of the success of the Church's apostolate. It is also the summit of our life as Christians when the fruits of the apostolate are offered to the Father with Christ within the eucharistic sacrifice. Those fruits include new Christians gathered around the table of the Lord and the efforts of Christians to humanize secular institutions. Both of these give glory and praise to God.

Unfortunately, many of our ecclesial structures still reflect the pre-Vatican II mentality that saw the role of the cleric and the inner workings of the Church as institution as primary. I am not advocating a "democratization" or "Protestantization" of the Church. Such a process would still be focusing on the Church and its inner workings. What I am suggesting can be summarized in this way:

If the purpose of the Church is the evangelization of the world and the changing of secular institutions so that they respect the human dignity of each person and better reflect the will of God which is the good of each person, then

1. The focus of each diocese and parish must increasingly become that purpose.
2. The role of the clergy must be seen as primarily helping the laity embrace and succeed in their apostolate, since it is the laity who have access to those far from the Church and who participate in secular institutions.
3. This will mean a change in priestly formation to include a coherent and integrated emphasis on evangelization, pastoral governance, charisms, and the role of the laity in the Church's mission.
4. This also requires a re-examination and restructuring of the ways in which the clergy and lay pastoral staff spend their time and energy, as well as a change in how lay Catholics view themselves, the Church, and the world.
5. A primary goal of the clergy and lay pastoral staff must be the conversion of individual Catholic Christians to a personal relationship with Christ and intentional discipleship, as well as an intention to help the Christian community support individual and communal apostolic initiatives.
6. The sacraments, particularly the Mass, which is the source and summit of our life as Christians, must be studied and experienced in the context of our mission to the world and as the catalysts and ongoing graced supports to the individual and communal relationship with Christ.
7. That means that our apostolic efforts must be consciously, purposefully and specifically acknowledged in appropriate places in Mass, and also recognized as an integral part of our worship and praise of God. That is, I am worshipping God not only before the altar, but also when I act from Christian principles at work, at home, at play, and at rest.

I'm sure there are other points that could be made, but this is a start. Feel free to add other ideas or observations I may have overlooked.
Barb Nicolosi Reports: The Mount of the Beatitudes PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 11 April 2007 07:56
Check out Barbara Nicolosi's great pictures and fascinating experiment on the Mount of the Beatitudes. How could Jesus have spoken to 5,000 people without a microphone? Turns out there's a natural amphitheatre on the mount where you don't have to shout to be heard far away.

I've been there. Had the wonderful privilege of walking around the Sea of Galilee from Tiberius to Capernum because it was Shabbat and no public transportation was available. Through showers and banana plantations. Accumulating a ton of Galilean mud on my sandles and really understanding for the first time something of what it was like for Jesus to hike from town to town and why washing one's feet after traveling was such a big deal. Spent the night at Tubgha, near the little shrine to Peter's primacy.

The most memorial moment: stumbling upon ruins amid the bananas and reading a sign in three languages: English, Arabic, and Hebrew: "This is the site of Magda, the home of Mary Magdalene.

It is exceedingly lovely and moving. Go if you have the chance.
Heart's Home PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 11 April 2007 06:55
Another member of the Apostolic Underground: Heart's Home or Points Coeur

A missionary lay movement founded in 1990 by a French priest,
Father Thierry de Roucy, S.J.M, Heart's Home gives young adults a chance to spend 14 months of their lives as missionaries serving some of the most suffering people in the world.

A Heart's Home is a very simple and welcoming house, a refuge of love and tenderness, located in a slum or a deprived area. It is the house of 4 or 5 missionaries (age 21 to 35 years), men or women of various nationalities, who chose to answer God's call through dedicating at least 14 months of their lives to the service of the poor. No previous experience or degree is necessary.

There are currently 30 "Heart's Home" in 20 countries, including two villages for the poor in Brazil and India. The first home in the US was opened in the Bronx in 2003.

If you or a young adult of your acquaintance is exploring missionary service, check it out.

My Life on the Road: Madison, Wisconsin PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 11 April 2007 06:39
This weekend, I'll be speaking at the Evangelical Catholic Institute in Madison, Wisconsin.

My topics: an introduction to pre-discipleship levels of spiritual growth (a one hour preview of our new Making Disciples seminar) and their implications for evangelization and (naturlich!) an introduction to charisms and discernment.

The good news is that it is supposed to be snowing in Colorado Springs when I leave and in Madison when I arrive.

So there's no danger that I'll be traumatized by unfamiliar weather.

If you are there, be sure and say "hi".

Addendum: I have just discovered that we have a BLIZZARD warning for late Thursday/early Friday morning when I am scheduled to fly out to Minneapolis. It's only a warning, not a watch, but in mid-April! Your prayers that I make it out would be greatly appreciated. I don't have to speak until Saturday so I can be late but I do need to arrive!
Of Tripe Dressers & Offal Salesmen PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 11 April 2007 06:18

A charming Anglophile must-read from the New York Times this morning:
The Perfect Bacon Sandwich Decoded

Or bacon buttie as many Brits call it.

"For Britons, butties come in a variety of guises — chip butties (French fries between slices of bread), crisp butties (ditto with potato chips) or even sugar butties, which are self-explanatory. None are viewed as especially healthful.

There are some finer points in the language, if not the cuisine. A sandwich containing sausages, for instance, is likely to be referred as a sausage sarnie, while sausages served with mashed potatoes are called bangers and mash.

There is no easy explanation for this."

Or indeed for many things British. Enjoy.

Flannery O'Connor on the Air PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 11 April 2007 05:36
Disciples with Microphones not only does a lot of pod-casting, they have their own blog. Michael Kreidler raises a really interesting question: the quality, or lack therefore, of the Catholic media in this country. Overall Kreidler gives it a solid "C".

Note: Kreidler does not hold to grade inflation where "fine" = a B. In Kreidler's grading scheme, average or "fine" is a C.

Kreidler on Catholic TV:

" EWTN? I am stepping into a quagmire here but I would say it is definately fine. I do not dispute that Mother brought the network about through blood sweat and tears and that God’s intervention allowed EWTN to be established and grow. I also admit that God has used the channel to bring about countless conversions. That is not my point. I assert the vast majority of the programming on EWTN is made up of talking heads. Sometimes the content is compelling and other times not."

Catholic terrestial radio?

"pretty bad. First of all, much of the programing is repurposed EWTN television. Hearing statements such as “as you can see…” on the radio is just terrible. Also, the broadcast of the Holy Mass on radio is just bad radio. . . So if EWTN on television is a ‘C’ then EWTN on radio is a ‘C-’. Beyond that, when local stations do original programming, it is again a duplication of the talking heads. Sometimes it is engaging, often boring.

The rise of some interesting programming is heartening, but the fact that no terrestrial station would pick it up speaks of a bigger problem. I suggest that the majority of terrestrial stations are afraid to take a chance on truly interesting shows. The fear seems to be not only the fear of making a bad programming choice, but a fear of saying or doing something wrong that is perceived to be ‘out of line with the Church’. These fears seem to drive all decisions in terrestrial radio. There is prudence and then there is fear. I see more fear than prudence. As a result we are left with pretty dull programming (with occasional notable exceptions). (Here Kreidler makes it clear that he is not referring to Relevant Radio since he hadn't heard enough to have an opinion.)

I am saying Catholic media is average, good, fine. Nothing necessarily wrong with it, but nothing that allows it to rise above the mediocre media that is in abundance in our world. The question we must answer is how will Catholic media move from ‘good’ to ‘GREAT’?"

Sherry: I have to agree. I seldom watch EWTN. In fact, haven't watched it since JP II's funeral. It's comes across as oddly evangelical in an old-fashioned way - endlessly earnest and exhorting. Can't comment on Catholic radio since I don't have access to it. My question: what would Flannery O'Conner do?

In any case, check out Disciples With Microphones.

But the whole discussion does remind me of another episode in the funny evangelical spoof on the MAC/PC ads.

Thousands of New Catholics in Beijing This Easter PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 10 April 2007 11:50

What an inspiring story from China via the always interesting Asia News.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Thousands of people were baptised into the faith in Catholic churches across China on Easter night. Yet in some areas the underground Church is still subjected to persecution and imprisonment.

In Beijing alone during the Easter Vigil, the number of adult baptisms numbered in the thousands! In the Church of Our Holy Saviour (Beitang) there were 180; in St Joseph’s (Dongtang) hundreds and in the Church of St Michael, where the Chinese of Korean origins, hundreds more, added to these, baptisms carried out in the underground Church.

The wave of religious rebirth and conversion to Catholicism is so great that the Christian community is having some difficulty in finding godparents to accompany the new catechumens. In the capital it is almost standard that any one godparent will have at least a dozen newly baptized to follow. The situation is analogues in most of China’s large cities: Shanghai, Xian, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xiamen, Shenzhen…

A priest and seminary professor points out to AsiaNews that contemporary Chinese society is marked by many open wounds: “the materialism of daily life,…. unbridled individualism, which generates selfishness and a lack of interest in other people, the future, the world around us”. The Church continues the priest “answers the silent cries of these people’s hearts, the thirst for God which is spreading throughout China”. Moreover, Christians are showing that “a healthy collaboration between faith and reason improves human life and promotes respect for creation”.

For the most part, the newly baptized tend to come from upper class backgrounds; they are materially wealthy, high level civil servants who despite having secured a comfortable lifestyle for themselves remain unsatisfied. “Only Christianity – one of them notes – has been able to sate my spiritual needs”.

Among those baptised are also University professors and students, people who question the meaning of existence and for whom the myths of Buddhism and Taoism, while fully respectable, have been unable to provide answers to scientific or rational exigencies.

The neo-converts also count the poor and immigrants, young people who have come to the cities from the country, in search of some monetary relief for their families. In the world of Chinese economics they are treated like slaves, underpaid, sometimes even unpaid and forced to work illegally.

Asking a Tough Question PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 10 April 2007 09:15
John Garvey, an Orthodox Christian and columnist over at Commonweal asks, "Why People Leave the Church?" He suggests it is too easy to blame the cultural climate alone, rather than admit the failings and frailties of the institutions that make up the Church. He claims that while, for example, the existence of pedophile priests shook the faith of some Catholics, the attempt to protect the reputation of the Church by some of Her leaders was more disturbing. He also writes,

"it is too easy for some of us who stick with the church to say, “Where else have we to go?” That was said of Jesus Christ, not of the institution. These days there are many other paths a seeker might choose-not only other churches (all of which have their own share of sorrows), but an honest, individual, inquiring search that might or might not end up leaving the searcher open to the truths of the gospel. Such an individualistic course is a great loss, I think, where the life of the sacraments and spiritual counsel is concerned; but I can see how someone might end up there.

We excuse the institution and its representatives too easily. One of my teachers, the late historian and theologian John Meyendorff, pointed out that Jesus’ denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees, the representatives of organized religion at the time, can-and should-be understood as a criticism of a similarly complacent and self-satisfied Christianity."

In some of the earlier discussions on this blog some commenters indicated concern that we at Intentional Disciples were trying to separate Jesus Christ from the Church; that in emphasizing the personal relationship with the Risen Lord, we were somehow downplaying the importance of the Church, which is His Body. I certainly do not want to do that. But I believe it is important that as His Body, or, perhaps, his Mystical Body, we keep in mind that our behavior must never tend toward self-preservation, and certainly not toward the denial of the woundedness of the Body. The resurrected body of Jesus still bears holes in his hands, feet, and side. The Church, too - all of us individually and together - have wounds which we dare not hide or pretend don't exist.

Rather, we need to keep Christ - and the focus of his earthly ministry - in mind. He did little to protect his reputation, other than to state again and again that nothing he does is his own, but only what the Father tells him to do. His focus seems to have been preaching the Good News of God's love and desire to save us, and to be that Good News through the miracles that were signs of the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God and the defeat of Satan. So, too, our focus as individuals and as a Church must be service, not self-preservation. If we really believe Jesus' promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church, then we have no need to protect our reputation, and can give ourselves over freely to the service of others and evangelization. Jesus said, "I have come not to be served but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many." (Mt 20:28)

If we forget that we give praise and worship to God not only in our liturgies but also in our service to and forgiveness and love of others, we will be in danger of becoming complacent and self-satisfied like the Pharisees of old. We will look much less like the Body of Christ, and people will drift away, seeking Him elsewhere.
The Apostolic Underground PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 10 April 2007 07:53
Over the past 60 years, a grass roots, hand-to-mouth, lay-lead network of small and large evangelizing groups has emerged in the Church. Everyone knows about them and few people talk about them. We take them for granted like background noise.

If forced to notice them, a goodly number of the Catholic chattering classes (conservative and liberal) shrug them off as faintly ridiculous groups filled with well-meaning but faintly ridiculous people who are filled with an embarrassingly literal and emotional enthusiasm for the faith. They aren't necessarily even aware of the big issues that interest us: the latest liturgical or curial rumor or social justice fashion or new theological development. Meanwhile these unfashionably ordinary Catholics continue to evangelize other ordinary people. By the millions.

Cursillo, which began in the 40s in Spain, has spread all over the world and spawned a legion of spin-offs, is the original. Eight million people have gone through Cursillo weekends in the past 60 years. And then there's the ubiquitous Life in the Spirit seminar that arose out of the charismatic renewal. Sixty million people have attended Life in the Spirit seminars around the world since the early 70's.

And then there is a quiet apostolic underground of "schools of evangelization" that have sprung up all over the world. Inspired by the documents of Vatican II, Pope Paul VI's Evangelii Nuntiandi, and John Paul II's call for a new evangelization, they have set out to, well, evangelize the world. In English and Spanish, French, Italian, and Chinese, they form adults (mostly young adults) to become apostles and evangelizers.

There is the Catholic School of Evangelization in Manitoba, Catholic Evangelization and Outreach in St. Augustine, Florida, the Pope John II Society of Evangelists in Hesparia, California, and the Eagle Eye School of Evangelism conducted by the Congregation of St. John in Princeville, Illinois. Or traveling groups like National Evangelization Team (NET) or the Militia Immaculata youth teams who travel the country putting on youth retreats in small town parish basements. (This is a picture of Mark Shea's 18 year old son Matthew - better known to his friends and family as "Cow" - leading an IM retreat in Ponchatoula, Lousiana last month.)

And then there's SOUL, the Servants of Unconditional Love in Picayune, Mississippi.

Picayune. A picayune was the name that the 18th century French inhabitants of New Orleans gave to a small Spanish coin worth about a nickel. Over the centuries, "picayune" has come to mean "trivial" or of "little worth".

I grew up 44 miles from Picayune and even as a Yankee transplant child, I found the town faintly ridiculous. For one thing, it was HOT, 40 miles inland from the perpetual cooling breezes of the Mississippi Gulf Coast where I lived. And it just wasn't the historic, beautiful, culturally rich Gulf Coast where wealthy New Orleanians had spent summers for 150 years. (Ironically, Picayune' population has doubled since 2000 due to Katrina refugees from the coast.)

20% of the Picayune's population lives below the poverty line. The median household income is 27,000. Catholics made up 4% of the county's population in 2000. There is one parish - St. Charles Borromeo. But what a parish.

The Catholic community of St. Charles is determined to give an answer for the hope that is within them. Their parish website is filled with home grown apologetics and catechetical resources and has won all kinds of award for excellence. In 1996, their pastor asked parishioners to submit the questions they were asked by their non Catholics neighbours. The questions were so good and covered such a variety of topics that the pastor published them in a book, I'm Glad You Asked, that local Catholics could use as a reference. (Note: Since most of the local non-Catholics were familiar with the King James version of the Bible, they used that version in formulating their responses. Talk about inculturation!)

St. Charles has Perpetual Adoration and Virtual Stations of the Cross
and a downloadable three year Bible study based upon the lectionary. And in addition, Picayune has its own school of evangelization for young adults.

All part of an apostolic underground led by obscure local Catholics in unfashionable places that most of us don't even know exist. Places where they don't have exquisite liturgies, historic churches, and great scholarship. Places we hardly ever talk about at St. Blog's or the Catholic media. The places where the majority of the really fruitful work of the Kingdom is taking place, has probably always taken place.

Let us praise and rejoice in the apostles of the underground.
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