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Burma 'orders Christians to be wiped out' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 22 January 2007 10:03
From the British paper, the Telegraph

The military regime in Burma is intent on wiping out Christianity in the country, according to claims in a secret document believed to have been leaked from a government ministry. Entitled "Programme to destroy the Christian religion in Burma", the incendiary memo contains point by point instructions on how to drive Christians out of the state.

The text, which opens with the line "There shall be no home where the Christian religion is practised", calls for anyone caught evangelising to be imprisoned. It advises: "The Christian religion is very gentle – identify and utilise its weakness."

The rest of the piece is here.

A majority of the Karen tribe have become Christians (evangelicals) over the past few decades. Let us pray for them in their suffering.

Another fascinating look at the Burmese Catholics growing under persecution from Catholic World Report and in light of our discussions here:

"Bishop Phamo now wonders whether the government edicts against Church-run institutions really were as devastating as they seemed. "Maybe the ban has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for us," he reflects. With even organized social work now being reserved by the military junta as a state monopoly, the Christian churches had no choice but to concentrate their energies on pastoral work.

Freed from the responsibilities that come with the administration of various institutions, pastors spent more time caring directly for their flocks. In a country that still remains largely under the cover of forests, and where the Catholic congregations are scattered across the map, ordinary pastoral care for parishioners is a time-consuming business. The bishop remarks: "We are now struggling to find time to visit our people more often. So what would our situation have been like if we had institutions to look after?"

Perhaps that personal attention to parishioners--which is practiced not only by Catholics but by the country's other Christian groups as well, for the same reasons--explains why the proportion of Christians within the population of Myanmar has grown in the years since the military takeover. Two decades ago, Christians accounted from 4.6 percent of the national population; today the figure has crept up to over 6 percent."

Hat tip: Dom Bettinelli




Parishes that Are Doing It PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 22 January 2007 08:43
I got to check in on the blog from the St. Patrick's library and was happy to see a lot of good discussion going on. But I did notice a theme: discouragement about the state of things in local parishes and the gratitude for the support provided by lay movements. I've been there. I know how frustrating it can be when you can't find a parish in your vicinity that provides or a pastor that understands the kind of support that serious lay Catholics long for. While I certainly want to support and encourage the good work of the movement, I also need to affirm that the situation really isn't that lop-sided.

It is happening in parishes around the country. Parishes that are committed to evangelization are to be found in Idaho, Texas, and Iowa. Parishes that are committed to becoming houses of formation for the laity are in Washington, California, and South Carolina. Parishes are forming their own gifts discernment teams in Seattle, San Francisco, Boise, Spokane, Dubuque, Nashville, Houston, Greenville, Atlanta, Colorado Springs. There are whole dioceses in which everyone from the Bishop down to the local volunteer catechists have been through the Called & Gifted process.

On our Institute website, we have a group of links called Parishes of Interest. At the moment, we have 79 parishes listed by state (or country) that we have either worked directly with or that have been recommended to us as exceptional.

We would love to expand our list but we need your help. Are you aware of a parish in the US or elsewhere, that is evangelizing and/or forming and supporting lay apostles effectively and has a website? If so, please post the parish name, location, and website here. Tell the rest of us about this pearl of great price and we'll add it to the list.
The Future of the Priesthood . . . PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 22 January 2007 07:23
One of the surprises about our time at St. Patrick’s in Menlo Park last week was the fact that 2/3 of the 86 men being formed there for the diocesan priesthood are non native English speakers: Hispanic, Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino, even Belgian, and three deaf students! They ranged in age from 22 to mid-50’s. They represent dioceses up and down the west coast: all the Californian dioceses, of course, but also Seattle, Alaska, Portland, etc.

The rector, a very welcoming Sulpician priest, told us that it costs five times as much to educate a single deaf seminarian as it does a hearing one but that the deaf community is seriously underserved. The mix of language, culture, age, and life experiences affects every part of formation.

It was illuminating to talk to the transitional deacons who are going to be ordained this summer. They all seemed palpably excited. They seemed especially interested in our presentation on Church teaching on the priestly task of governance, which includes calling forth the charisms and vocations of all the baptized for the sake of our common mission.

One Anglo student told me that he had left the Catholic Church for the Assemblies of God before reverting and entering seminary. We have noticed that 10 – 20 % of the most serious lay Catholics that we encounter on the road are either “double-dipping” (attending both Catholic and Protestant services at the same time) or have been heavily influenced by evangelicalism through attending Bible studies, listening to Christian TV/radio, reading evangelical authors, etc. I suppose there is no reason to expect candidates for the priesthood to be any different.

The deacon who drove me to the airport was intriguing: he was born into a Catholic family in Vietnam but did not attend church. He fled Vietnam in the late 80’s and spent time in a refugee camp in Hong Kong. There he was moved by the devotion and self-sacrifice of the priests, sisters, and lay volunteers who left comfortable lives to serve people like himself. This experience of God’s love triggered a conversion and within a year of entering the US, he began studying for the priesthood. He emphasized that he would not first serve in a Vietnamese community but in an “American” parish (his term).

At St. Blog’s, most of us don’t work in seminaries or with seminarians. I have noticed that so many of our discussions seem to presume that the priesthood will remain what most of us have known: majority native English speaking, European, cradle Catholic. The Fr. O’Malley model. However, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), 25% of all current US seminaries are foreign-born. They come from 84 different countries.

Some seem to believe that we can and should keep out non-Catholic, non-European influences which might “dilute” European Catholic culture and practice as we have known it.

The situation at St. Patrick’s would seem to say it is already too late. Non-European, “non-cradle” Catholicism is not just mushrooming in the global south, it is here in the US. Today. Ordained in three months and coming to a parish near you.

At least on the west coast.

Spring-loaded Catholics PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 21 January 2007 06:24

Written by Keith Strohm

It seems that both Jack and I were felled by a similar malady yesterday--although I've been dealing with mine for about 4 days now. In a strange way, being sick reminds me of my days in Graduate School. Not because I was always sick, but because the community at our Newman Center would have been tripping over themselves to pray for me.

These folks loved to pray for people--specifically praying over them. If someone had a sniffle, or a difficult exam, or a real tragedy in their lives, you could be sure there was a group of folks who would gather round, place a gentle hand upon a shoulder or a head and begin to pray.

We were like spring-loaded prayer warriors, launching ourselves at the darkness in people's lives. It brings a smile to my face--especially as I remember the more light-hearted moments. However, there was something powerful and holy about what they did as well.

When they prayed for something, they expected that God would answer--and in 'miraculous' ways. The amazing thing was, He often did move in a surprisingly tangible way.

Even without the "signs and wonders" that God performed during those days, I took away something very precious. The idea that catholics can, indeed, be open about their prayer lives--sharing the way that God has touched and gifted them, and offering those gifts on behalf of another.

It was different once I graduated and connected with a local parish. There was a "conspicuous silence" within that community that I have found in almost every single parish I've been a member of--with the exception of one. Within those communities there might be individuals who were open and excited about sharing their experience of God. I think there were even small faith groups geard toward that in some places. It always seemed, however, that these were hidden conclaves separated from the rest of the parish--places where folks of 'questionable manners' broke the unspoken code.

As I writer, I am often guilty of taking a bit of poetic license to drive home a point, and perhaps I am doing that here.

But not by much.

Somehow, somewhere we have bought in to the idea that our faith is personal and private--something that we should be careful not to bring out in to polite company or the public square. Something that we should reserve for Sundays within the confines of the parish walls.

We have, as a People, lost our spring.

Or as Jesus might have put it, "We are salt that has lost its flavor."

Creativity in Proclamation PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 19 January 2007 10:13

Written by Keith Strohm

Below you will find an example of creativity in proclaiming the Gospel to the world. It's an excellent marketing piece that draws youth to a special event, The 1 Event. You can bet that this event will highlight the proclamation of the kerygma as well as an invitation for a personal encounter with Christ.

The video was created by my neighbor, a protestant youth minister, and is a prime example of utilizing the new media to introduce young people to Christ. Leave aside theological issues with the protestant notion of "being saved" and take a look at what they have created. Not because these theological differences aren't important, but because these ecclesial communities seem to do a much better job of introducing men and women to Christ. This is a prime example of examining 'how' they are accomplishing that so we can become more effective in our efforts to connect and root men and women with the fullness of the Revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

I'm not suggesting that we start creating events where people "get saved," but I am asking that we look at these methodologies and see how we can authentically evangelize and support the discipleship of others.

The website is here.
Intentionality & Institutionality Part Deux PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 19 January 2007 07:09

Written by Keith Strohm

Mike Liccione over at Sacramentum Vitae has picked up on our discussion of intentionality and institutionality (which is only fair, as he started it). You can read the whole follow up post here, but I wanted to focus on something particular that he wrote:

I wholeheartedly agree that what's often missing is the "intentionality," and that the basis of the needed intentionality is "an emphasis on encounter and relationship with Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit." That's exactly why, for instance, I've joined Communion and Liberation. There, I find both intentionality and its basis, as one can indeed find them in certain other "ecclesial movements."

That is unlike most parishes, which are predicated on providing (a) the sacraments and (b) for want of a better term, pastoral services. Now both (a) and(b), especially (a), are absolutely necessary. But when there is no community based on experiential encounter with Christ in prayer and in each other, the sacraments and services are experienced primarily as institutional dispensations, and the enterprise starts running more on human than divine energy. The ordinary lay Catholic notices that other institutions provide similar services, most of them more reliably than her local church; she treats the sacraments as goodies you "receive" from the institution, which is located in a building complex at which you pull up and get what you're there for before you pull out, never really forming a community of intentional disciples with your fellow parishioners. The Church thus becomes, experientially speaking, a consumer organization, less exciting if occasionally more necessary than the shopping malls. That is often why people are "bored" by church. Given their experience, who wouldn't be?

As we have discussed here in the comboxes and in posts, intentionality (as defined by Mike) and the sacraments are integrally linked. The sacraments in a very real sense form (as in constitute) the community of faith, and lives of intentional discipleship allow the sacramental graces to unfold in our lives--deepening our communion and our growth in holiness, as well as disposing us to live out our secular apostolic office more freely and intentionally.

It's a classic Catholic "both/and" situation. We have, however, not effectively lived out the intentional part. Helping others meet Christ and forming communities of intentional disciples so that they may effectively fulfill their particular secular vocation is not a priority for most parishes--despite that clearly being what the Church has asked them to be.

And so, the parish is experienced as "sacramental way station." People come, get what they need/fulfill an obligation, and then move out. As someone who takes the challenge of the Second Vatican Council and the writings of John Paul II seriously, it is frustrating to see that men and women have to find intentionality and the full riches of the Church's Tradition in a movement rather than in their parish (and I say this as someone who has a tremendous respect for the New Movements). I'm even more frustrated and saddened when men and women feel like they have to leave the Catholic Church to encounter Christ and a life of intentional discipleship.

That is one of the reasons why I look to our protestant brothers and sisters to examine how they have built communities of intentional disciples. Not to import incomplete or incompatible theology, but to help us re-root the authentically Catholic things that they have preserved or rediscovered and, on a practical level, examine how they have prioritized and built cultures and structures of intentional discipleship so that we can more effectively do the same in a way that allows us to bring the fullness of the Church's Tradition to the endeavor.

Anyway, I can't encourage you enough to read the whole post over at Sacramentum Vitae--and stop in to Mike's comboxes to participate (you can always invite folks here as well).

Eucharistic Adoration PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 19 January 2007 06:31

Written by Keith Strohm

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Truly Present in the Holy Eucharist
I place all my trust in you!

One of the devotions that I have found central to my own life is Eucharistic Adoration. The time I spend before the Blessed Sacrament is truly holy and grace-filled. While I am there, I am surrounded by the Presence of God, wrapped in His arms, surrounded by wave after wave of His Divine Love. In those moments, I offer up my own praise and adoration--thanking Him for His Love and Presence in my life, for the depths of His great Sacrifice.

Working in lay formation for the past six years (and specifically youth formation for the past nineteen), I can truly say that Eucharistic Adoration has been the 'foundation' of all of the effective formation programs that I have been a part of. I have been utterly humbled and blessed to see the transformation that occurs in people as they encounter Christ in the Eucharist--particularly in a retreat setting, where people have cleared space and time in their busy schedule and have been hearing, discussing, and reflecting on the reality of Christ's Love for them. As Bernadette mentioned in her earlier post, their hearts (the center of who they are) have been tilled and prepared and they have an encounter (for many of them their first) of the Presence of Christ.

Bernadette's post got me to thinking about what has been fruitful and effective in my life and in the lives of others when it comes to fostering a relationship with God and supporting that relationship intentionally.
What about you?

Parable of the Sower PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 18 January 2007 21:20

Written by Bernadette

Tonight I finished week 2 of 7 of the Life in the Spirit Seminar at my parish. It's my fourth time attending (and I have worked a few more as a parish staff member). I often have conversations with Catholic friends on whether this Life in the Spirit stuff is "hocus pocus, razzle dazzle" and necessary to have a good faith life. The Life in the Spirit Seminar as a means of sharing the Gospel is not necessary for salvation but sharing the Gospel is. I wonder why people keep coming back time and time again. There is a woman in my group who is on her 9th seminar! During the seminar tonight, the speaker told us to turn to Jesus in distress, when in need. I have only heard that message twice in the Catholic Church, both times during healing services, only within the last 10 years and only once by a priest. It's sort the same reason why we read the Gospels over and over. Jesus is compelling.

The late Pope John Paul II made these statements in his 1979 Apostolic Exhortation, Catechesis Tradendae, which sums up why many of us are participating in this blog: initial proclamation of the Gospel has not taken place and as a result the attachment to Christ is not present.

Christocentricity in catechesis also means the intention to transmit not one's own teaching or that of some other master, but the teaching of Jesus Christ, the Truth that He communicates or, to put it more precisely, the Truth that He
is. Catechesis Tradendae 6
All in all, it can be taken here that catechesis is an education of children, young people and adults in the faith, which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted, generally speaking, in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life. Accordingly, while not being formally identified with them, catechesis is built on a certain number of elements of the Church's pastoral mission that have a catechetical aspect, that prepare for catechesis, or that spring from it. These elements are: the initial proclamation of the Gospel or missionary preaching through the kerygma to arouse faith, apologetics or examination of the reasons for belief, experience of Christian living, celebration of the sacraments,
integration into the ecclesial community, and apostolic and missionary witness.
Catechesis Tradendae 18
The specific character of catechesis, as distinct from the initial conversion - bringing proclamation of the Gospel, has the twofold objective of maturing the initial faith and of educating the true disciple of Christ by means of a deeper and more systematic knowledge of the person and the message of our Lord Jesus Christ.(49) But in catechetical practice, this model order must allow for the fact that the initial evangelization has often not taken place. A certain number of children baptized in infancy come for catechesis in the parish without
receiving any other initiation into the faith and still without any explicit personal attachment to Jesus Christ; they only have the capacity to believe
placed within them by Baptism and the presence of the Holy Spirit; Catechesis
Tradendae 19

As I read the posts on this blog questioning whether it is authentically Catholic or not, I am reminded of the parable of the sower from Matthew 13. What so many of us so desparately desire is that no one ever leave the Catholic Church because they lack knowledge and understanding of the Person of Jesus Christ (Matt 13:19). It is my prayer that not another friend leave the Catholic Church because in times of trouble aren't rooted in Christ and as a result they don't know it's Jesus Christ who heals or forgives or sustains them in whatever way they need via the sacraments (Matt 13:21). Finally, it's my desire that cafeteria Catholicism go away because the Catholic is so completely in love with Jesus Christ that they can't imagine anything coming between them and their Lord (Matt 13:22, Romans 8:37-39).

I'm not a gardener, but I do know that I need to prepare the soil before planting. The Holy Father taught almost 30 years ago that there is a danger of operating "without any explicit personal attachment to Jesus Christ." As an "intentional gardener," working the fields of faith formation, I desire to sow in soil made rich by a personal relationship with Christ, so that "the one who hears the word and understands it," will be an intentional disciple of Jesus.

What Is Catholicity? PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 18 January 2007 20:22

Written by JACK

I have been participating as a guest blogger here at Intentional Disciples for coming on three weeks now and the experience has been wonderful. And has brought some surprises.

One of the things that I didn't expect was the reaction some would have whenever mention is made on this blog about Evangelicals or other Protestants or some of the things learned from observing their life. Don't get me wrong. I fully appreciate caution. If people were posting things like, "Look at this wonderful Four Spiritual Laws booklet that some Protestants use as an evangelization tool! Catholics should use that," I would be among the first to say, "no" (while making the hand motions of Mortimer, Randolph and Coleman from the movie Trading Places when Billy Ray asks if he should break anything else).

But nobody at Intentional Disciples is doing that. Instead, what we are trying to do is learn from experience. The phenomenon of Catholics becoming Evangelicals is real. We would be remiss if we didn't acknowledge it and ask why. And when you look at the reasons these individuals give, it isn't that they were looking for a church that demands less of them, that imposes fewer rules. Time and again, they focus on the fact that they encountered Christ in this new environment. That's what they identify as missing. And what breaks my heart is that it usually accompanied by a doubt about whether He is present in the Catholic Church. As I commented over at Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed, when Scot looked at the same Fr. Mendoza article that was mentioned earlier on Intentional Disciples: "I share the need and desire that many are expressing wasn’t being met in the Catholic Church, but I lament the judgment that resulted from it, because it resulted in their leaving the Church, where I know they truly could find that desire fulfilled and so much more."

Given that purpose, the real suspicion that some have of these references to Evangelical or other Protestant practices caught me off guard. And as Michael Liccione wondered over at his blog, I similarly wonder if it is a misunderstanding of what catholicity is, seeing what we are suggesting as "incompatible with affirming the truth of distinctively Catholic doctrine, especially concerning ecclesiology and the sacraments."

In my School of Community last night, we took a look at what catholicity is. The lesson left me with a lot to think about. Quoting, Henri de Lubac: "... a universal is a singular and is not to be confused with an aggregate. The Church is not Catholic because she is spread abroad over the whole of the earth and can reckon on a large number of members. She was already Catholic on the morning of Pentecost ... Catholicity has nothing to do with geography or statistics. (Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man)" And Luigi Giussani: "Catholicity [is] the profound expression of [the Church's] pertinence to human matters and all the variegated forms they take. ... Catholicism declares its simple correspondence with all that comprises man's destiny (Why the Church?)." And Karl Adam: "The Church is not one society or one church alongside many others, nor is she just a church among men; she is the Church of men, the Church of mankind (The Spirit of Catholicism)."

It is this sense of catholicity that allows us the freedom to look into a culture and acknowledge the truth that may be present there without fear that somehow we are compromising our Catholic identity. For what we highlight that might be true and good in these Evangelical circles, in truth, properly belongs to the Church herself. Giussani gives the examples of the early Christians' engagement with Hellenistic thought and the history of monasticism as great examples of what we are talking about. I know some may find the ground less comfortable here in that the culture that we sometimes are pointing out is one of a religious community, but our purpose and method of engagement is no different.

Christ in the Marketplace PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 18 January 2007 06:36

Written by Keith Strohm

When I was the Chief Operating Officer of a small start-up publishing company, I spent a good part of my day dealing with employee issues, whether it was job dissatisfaction, job performance, or personal difficulties. Most of the time, it seemed like there was an endless stream of folks who needed to talk with me each day.

I really resented that, thinking that it was keeping me from my real work--until an employee walked in who had obviously been crying. It turns out that this woman's friend had been missing for a few days. The night before she had received a phone call from the police asking her to come down and identify a body. Her friend had committed suicide and she was the only one who could give a positive ID. Naturally, this woman was devastated--I was amazed that she even made it in to work at all.

We talked for quite a while--which mostly meant that I listened as she poured out all of the things that were on her heart. Now, I am not blessed with the charism of encouragement, but I did my best to really be present to her. She was an athiest--and a pretty wild one at that, but while she spoke I had a sense that she was searching for meaning in her friend's death. The only thing I could offer her was my presence--and somehow, for that moment, it was enough. There in my office, I had a sense that, through my willingness to listen, through the offering of my broken and limited gifts, that Christ Himself was present, listening and weeping and holding this woman in His arms.

At the end of our talk, I asked her if she would mind if I prayed for her and her friend. To my surprise, she said "yes." When this woman finally left my office, she still struggled with grief and devastation over her friend's death--but I know that she received some healing and peace in that encounter with Christ.

The whole experience brought me to my knees.

I began to understand that rather than being an interruption in my workday, dealing with the problems of my employees was perhaps my most authentic vocation. God had put me, in that company in that time and that place for a purpose. I began to see my employees as persons whom God had asked me to love and look out for, called to work for what was authentically human and good in their lives. That included making sure the business was healthy and strong.

Each day I sat in the parking lot in my car praying for the company and for each individual employee (we only had about 20). I've never looked at management the same since.

Christ in the marketplace.

How do you reflect the love and presence of Christ at work?

What are the difficulties in doing so?

Institution And Sacrament PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 17 January 2007 21:46

Written by JACK

On an earlier post, discussion turned to the institutional and charismatic dimensions of the Church and how there isn't a dichotomy between the two. I made mention of an insightful comment by then-Cardinal Ratzinger that I had found on the subject and thought I would follow up on it with a post.

As a member of a lay ecclesial movement, I am often asked how it affects my involvement with my local parish and whether I see these two aspects of the Church's life as opposed to each other. (I do not, for the record.) In response to a comment on Integrity, I started a series (still incomplete) called "Parishes vs. Movements?". In looking at the question of why movements at all, I stumbled across the following quote of Cardinal Ratzinger:

The duality of institution and event, or institution and charism, immediately suggests itself as a fundamental model for resolving the question. But if we try to analyze the two terms more closely in order to arrive at valid rules for defining their relationship, something unexpected happens. The concept of "institution" comes to pieces in our hands when we try to give it a precise theological definition. After all, what are the fundamental institutional factors in the Church, the permanent organization that gives the Church its distinctive shape? The answer is, of course, sacramental office in its different degrees: bishop, priest, deacon. The sacrament that, significantly, bears the name ordo is, in the end, the sole permanent and binding structure that forms so to say the fixed organizational pattern of the Church and makes the Church an "institution." But it was not until this century that it became customary, for reasons of ecumenical expediency, to designate the sacrament of ordo simply as "office" [Amt]. This usage places ordo entirely in the light of institution and the institutional. But this "office" is a "sacrament," and this fact signals a break with the ordinary sociological understanding of institutions. That this structural element of the Church, which is the only permanent one, is a sacrament, means that it must be perpetually recreated by God. It is not at the Church's disposal, it is not simply there, and the Church cannot set it up on its own initiative. It comes into being only secondarily through a call on the part of the Church. It is created primarily by God's call to this man, which is to say, only charismatically-pneumatologically. By the same token, the only attitude in which it can be accepted and lived is one unceasingly shaped by the newness of the vocation, by the unmanipulable freedom of the pneuma. The reason -- ultimately, the only reason -- why there can be a priest shortage is this. The Church cannot simply appoint "officials" by itself, but must await the call from God. This is why it has been held from the beginning that this office cannot be made by the institution, but has to be impetrated from God.
I found this a striking explanation of how the charismatic and institutional dimensions of the Church are intertwined.
Challenging Teaching of the Day PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 17 January 2007 09:15

Written by Keith Strohm

“A member who does not work at the growth of the body to the extent of his or her possibilities must be considered useless to both the Church and to himself.” (Apostolicam Actuositatem)
Take that!
Institutional vs Intentional PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 17 January 2007 07:41

Written by Keith Strohm

Michael Liccione, of Sacramentum Vitae, has a very interesting meditation on institutionality versus intentionality. Here is an excerpt from his thoughtful post:
. . .the Catholic Church, at least in this and other developed countries, is just too bloody institutional. That accounts for a great deal, if not most, of what bothers me. What got me thinking about this are two facts of which I have lately been reminded: the indulgence of Archbishop Wuerl of DC in Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's "celebration" Mass at Trinity College, where of course the pro-abortion pol received the Eucharist, despite USCCB and Vatican guidelines; and the explosive growth of Pentecostal churches throughout the Christian world. The former, discussed in an informative and lively threadat Amy Welborn's Open Book, exemplifies not rocking the boat against powerful cafeteria Catholics; the latter now presents us with what is arguably the numerically largest form of Christianity next to Catholicism itself. The former signifies institutional thinking; the latter signifies that such thinking is missing something.

Read the rest of it here.

Although he doesn't come right out and say it, perhaps the 'something missing' is intentionality--in formation and discipleship. We've talked a little bit about the reasons why Pentecostal Christianity seems to be the fastest growing section of the Church today, but one of things it does seem to have is an emphasis on encounter and relationship with Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Like Michael, I too don't believe that the Church can survive without its institutional side. Christ embraces the whole of our humanity--"stuff" matters. The reality is that where two or three are gathered in Jesus' name both Christ and politics are in their midst. The question is which will we follow?

So often, we, the members and leaders of the Spouse of Christ, the Church, act as if we were the Widows of Christ--stumbling along purely on our own human effort--forming and calling committees and commissions, acting as if we can deploy merely institutional resources toward particular issues.

So, I do have some questions:

Why are the pentecostal and other evangelical denominations growing at an explosive rate relative to our own?

Does intentionality matter?

How do we bring that intentionality into our own communities? What are the concrete things that can be done to accomplish this?

Discussions regarding who is or who is not eating in the "cafeteria" are not helpful to the dialogue, but I would imagine just about anything else is.

Lessons on the Road PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 17 January 2007 06:43

Written by Keith Strohm

Many times while teaching Called & Gifted Workshops for the Catherine of Siena Institute, I am brought face to face with the reality that God does actually call and gift us for our work in the world. :) It's a humbling and uplifting experience.

Last Spring, while teaching a workshop at a parish in California, I was doing Gifts Discernment Interviews with several of the workshop participants. One woman, a fairly soft-spoken and shy person, scored high on the Craftsmanship charism while taking the Gifts Inventory. As we began to unpack her experiences relating to this charism--particularly with art--I discovered that she was, indeed, an artist. She even had a website where she stored her work.

The interesting thing was that only a few people who knew her knew she was an artist. At the end of the interview, she indicated that she wanted to explore the Craftsmanship charism more but didn't know where she should start. I suggested that perhaps she should let others begin to see her artwork. The parish had a wonderful hall, and I said it would be great to put on an art show at the parish. After all, it was the first step to letting others see her work, and the parish would be a safe environment to start doing so.

I was lucky enough to go back to the parish about 6 months later and was delighted to find out that this woman did, indeed, hold an art show at her parish. Her work elicited such a positive response that she has started to do and show her artwork out in the local community--allowing others to have an encounter with God in the beautiful work she produces.

Sometimes, we only need a little nudge from our fellow brothers and sisters; God takes care of the rest. That's why it is so important to talk about our experiences of being used by God with each other.

Another lesson I've learned first-hand on the road.

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