The Pope's mission intention for August is particularly beautiful:
"That the answer of the entire people of God to the common vocation to sanctity and mission may be promoted and fostered, with careful discernment of the charisms and a constant commitment to spiritual and cultural formation"
The Abbey of Mary, Help of Christians (Belmont Abbey) is a small Benedictine community and college, with a very noble history of evangelization and missionary zeal, in the verdant foothills near Charlotte in Western North Carolina. Belmont is a daughter of St Vincent's in Latrobe, Pennsylvania and was founded by a group of monks led by the indomitable Abbot Leo Haid in 1876. Before a diocese was established in North Carolina in 1924 (the Diocese of Raleigh) the Abbot of Belmont had succeeded Cardinal James Gibbons as the Vicar-Apostolic and the monks had responsibility for many of the parishes, missions, and stations in North and South Carolina. The Abbey remained a territorial abbey with territory comprising some of the surrounding counties with the Abbot exercising episcopal authority until the Holy See suppressed the territory shortly after the erection of the Diocese of Charlotte in the mid-1970's.
I have the privilege of being a Benedictine Oblate of Belmont and since all of my family is from the Western Carolinas we well know the influence of the monks and their college (the current governor of North Carolina is an alumnus). Furthermore, their history is an excellent study in evangelization and home mission, since it was primarily their witness that drew many in those early days of the North Carolina mission to Catholicism, because they, as all Benedictines do, presented the Christian society in microcosm and offered a taste of it to Protestant North Carolina. In so doing, they drew many to the Faith and some even to the monastic life.
The spirit of mission and evangelization continues...
The Abbot of Belmont has recently begun a one-minute a day radio spot dedicated to exploring "the timeless wisdom of the Rule of St Benedict." It does not appear that you can listen to any of these spots on their website, but you can order a free copy of the Rule from the site and find out more about bringing "One Minute Monk" to a Catholic radio station in your area.
George Wesolek, Director of the Archdiocese of San Francisco's Office of Public Policy and Social Concerns, has a thought-provoking guest editorial in Catholic San Francisco about the upcoming election, the bitter polarization between US Catholics that our elections inflame, and how politicians have taken advantage of this polarization.
"Structural decisions made 34 years ago by American Catholic Church leaders - bishops, clergy, religious and laity - are a primary cause of these circumstances today. The fruit of these decisions continues to be an obstacle to American Catholic unity of thought and purpose and the cause of bitter division and partisan infighting.
When the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops set up a separate Pro - life ministry with its own staff and network right across the hall from its office for Social Development and World Peace ( Justice and Peace ) , it set in motion a chain of developments that has compartmentalized Catholic social teaching and helped to create two Catholic constituencies. Instead of establishing one office of Catholic social teaching which would expound one message - clearly and consistently about the human person from the unborn through the life cycle right until death - the decision makers set up parallel structures, each with its own message. These structures resulted in dysfunction and confusion that continues to this day.
Each message has created a constituency around it. These two constituencies often have little in common; have opposite world - views regarding culture and politics and, frankly, dislike each other.
More problematically, by dichotomizing the essence of the message of Catholic social teaching, it has allowed Catholic constituencies to pick and choose their favorite Catholic social teaching concept and discard or trivialize other important elements. In the present political climate, it has allowed "cover" for Catholics, especially Catholic politicians. With faith and values all the rage now in both political parties, it is clear Catholic politicians will continue to claim the mantle of faith by using terminology, sometimes taken directly from the "Compendium on Catholic Social Teaching," to describe their beliefs about the poor, the unborn and the like. Unfortunately, all too often, they will proclaim only part of the teaching, not all of it.
I cannot help but wonder what the present American political theater would look like if the Catholic Church had been teaching a unified, clear and consistent message for more than 30 years. Could it be that legalized abortion would be a thing of the past? Could it be that healthcare and housing would be available to all? If a core group of 65 million Catholics understood the Church's full message and acted on it, would there be the a Democratic Party today which still considers pro - life Democrats as somehow unfaithful? Would Planned Parenthood still have a stranglehold on the party? Would the Republican Party have a different slant on those who live on the margins of society as more than just collateral damage of Adam Smith's "invisible hand"? Could it be that with a unified and consistent message taught more than three decades, there would actually be a true "Catholic vote" in the U.S.?
The structural dysfunction caused by separate structures negates and distorts the fact that Catholic social teaching is seamless. The teaching of the Church does not have different principles for different social issues. There is no set of Catholic teaching that applies only to life issues or only to issues of economic or social justice. Each of the basic principles of Catholic Social Teaching is immediately applicable to all situations that involve the human situation, both personal and social. At the core of the teaching is the anthropological assertion that every human being has a dignity that is sacred - that every person is made in the imago Dei regardless of race or creed, whether rich or poor, smart or not, athletic or disabled. That principle extends from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death and includes everybody in between. It is the basis for our concern and legislative advocacy about the African who lives on less than 65 cents a day, for the millions of children with no medicine who die before the age of five, for those with no food or shelter both abroad and in our own country, for the unborn and the vulnerable elderly.
The precipitating event that instigated this structural course of action was the advent of Roe vs. Wade. What had been presumed as unthinkable became a legal reality - abortion on demand, for any reason to anyone, more available even than some common medical interventions. After some 48 million abortions to this day, the attacks on this fundamental human freedom, the right to life, become more widespread with the possibility of assisted suicide becoming legal in more states than Oregon.
The structural response by the Church after Roe was to institutionalize the educational and advocacy efforts to overturn the decision and to stop the tide of other dehumanizing legislation akin to it. At the time, it perhaps seemed logical to set up a separate office to meet this threat. Many dioceses followed the model.
The two separate constituencies created and galvanized by this structural framework began fighting early and still wage war in a cultural and political context. "Justice and Peace" constituents quickly grabbed onto Cardinal Joseph Bernadin's "consistent ethic of life" metaphor implying if not asserting outright that certain Catholic politicians who were pro - abortion made up for it by being good ( and therefore acceptable under the Catholic mantle ) on a host of other issues on the spectrum: poverty, health care, etc. Many in the pro - life community, on the other hand, developed a tunnel vision approach, which would not even mention any other issue regarding the poor other than abortion. Their passion for this issue drove them completely into the embrace of the Republican Party. This embrace brought with it support for no tax - and - spend policies and a philosophy of government that does not align with classical Catholic social teaching and Vatican encyclicals of the last 100 years. The other side, the classic "economic justice" Catholic ( most of whom are now in their waning years ) will overlook a Catholic politician's perfect 100 percent rating by NARAL ( National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws ) and do anything to elect them with an equal amount of passion. Although it is now difficult ( one hopes ) to maintain Catholic identity and be "pro choice," they survive by winking and nodding at the abortion issue, basically trivializing it.
A unified structural model of social action works. Both the life constituency and the peace and justice constituency get the same message. The action on behalf of justice at the "Walk for Life" and at the Conference on Global Poverty model to them the completeness of the Catholic social teaching message. Pro - life people are becoming aware and supporting action for the poor, supporting the end to the death penalty, while "justice" people are marching at the West Coast Walk For Life.
Over the course of these 30 - plus years, there has been a gradual evolution of the bishops' clarity on Catholic social teaching. The confusion about abortion and euthanasia being "one of many issues on the spectrum of life" has been rejected. The bishops now state: "The direct and intentional destruction of human life is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed." ( Faithful Citizenship 2007 )
The bishops are also clear that: "Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing and health care." ( Living the Gospel of Life )
So now the catechesis is whole and integral again. The structures and educational strategies to communicate them are not."
I would certainly agree that separate structures has perpetuated separate factions. But I think the author doesn't go back far enough in history. The separate factions already existed and were driving the whole debate about abortion in the early 70's.
The one factor that Wesolak has not mentioned iis the huge cultural upheaval of the 60's. Timing is everything. By the time the Roe V. Wade decision was made in the early 70's, political discourse in this country had already radically changed. Peace and justice issues, including racial justice and opposition to the Vietnam war, had already become inexorably tied to the sexual revolution and so had the right to abortion through the early feminist movement. If Roe V Wade had been handed down in 1963, before things became so polarized, the Catholic response might have progressed very differently.
Conservatives who opposed abortion were simultaneously resisting the sexual revolution (and remember, often opposing racial justice and supporting the Vietnam war) and in midst of an even more charged climate than we have today, naturally came to associate the advocates of social justice with the opposition. It was a kind of political and pastoral civil war. The structures of the US Bishop's Office reflected a divide that had already torn apart the entire country.
As Wesolak notes, it has taken 45 years for the US Bishops to reintegrate the disparate strands of Catholic social teaching into a coherent whole. But the echoes of our social civil war still drive so much of our political realities and it is those realities, not Church teaching, that drives most of our Catholic discourse on the subject.
Daniel Tay of Singapore, writes of his experience at World Youth Day and specifically about what he learned at our Australian team's presentation at the Days in the Diocese in Melbourne. A view of the Called & Gifted process from the flip side of the world.
"During World Youth Day in Sydney, and the Days in the Dioceses leading up to it which I experienced in Melbourne, I gained three important insights. The first one was to start loving myself more.
The second spiritual insight I gained was an affirmation of what I had been working on while I was still in Singapore. It was during the FireBrandz Conference that I first had an inkling on what it was about. It concerns using our God-given gifts. When I later heard it again during a workshop “Called To Witness” conducted by members from the Catherine of Siena Institute, I couldn’t believe my ears.
One of the speakers spoke about how we could use our God-given charisms to achieve supernatural effects, and how using these charisms were our path to holiness. The speaker also explained the difference between charisms and gifts, which is something I had been grappling with for some time.
A gift is a natural talent that we have. A charism, on the other hand, combines our gifts together with the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives to achieve supernatural effects. The key word here is “supernatural”, because most of us know that we can only achieve so much on our own, or even when we work as a team. But when we work together with God, we can effects that are naturally impossible, hence the word “supernatural”.
Another insight that I gained from the talk is that while we are born with gifts, charisms are given to us only at baptism and at confirmation. This teaching irons out another issue I had been grappling with, and I am pleased to learn that the insights I had late last year on gifts and using them to change the world were not just something I came up with, but are really part of the richness of our Catholic faith.
For example, one of my charisms lies in writing, and when I started, I knew only this much. Later on, as I started to explore different ways to use my writing, I came to see that I was called to Catholic writing, hence the title of this blog, and journalism."
Another journalist from Singapore is attending MD in Spokane in 10 days and then Called & interviewer/facilitator training in Greenville, SC where she will meet up with Fr. David Seid, OP of Hong Kong for the first time. So we are excited about what might emerge in Singapore.
This podcast is the first in a series entitled, Reclaiming Who I Am, drawn from a three-day retreat I gave in February 2008. The title refers to the fact that over the course of our lives things happen that cause us to lose sight of who we really our. Our expierences creat certain baggage in us; we develop certain myths. In this first podcast, I identify some of the myths we live with that block us from seeing ourselves as God sees us, and that therefore block our ability to receive God’s love fully.
Welcome to all who found our blog by listening to Ralph Martin's interview with me on EWTN this evening. (Somehow we didn't expect it to run at 6pm in prime time!)
We are delighted that you are seriously seeking to know what God desires of you and might be calling you to.
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I have been doing some reading today on the "Missional Church" movement and have discovered some things I like about the movement that could easily stimulate our (Catholics) thinking on parish life. While there are problems with this movement, it can be helpful to see how other Christians are responding to contemporary culture, so that we can learn new, innovative ways- and appropriately adapt them- to more faithfully fulfill the Lord's mandate to "make disciples" in every time and culture.
1.The Missional Church is a pan-Protestant movement that locates the church's reason for existing in the "mission of God." Thus the heart of the local congregation's activity is rooted in incarnating God's life in the world. The local congregation is a "colony of heaven" on earth and that we are "resident aliens," with an equal emphasis on "resident" and "alien."
2. The Missional Church takes "covenant" and "context" very seriously as a way of understanding the life of the local congregation. I am inextricably caught up in the mission of the Church by virtue of my baptismal covenant. The context or place in which I participate in the mission of the Church is to be valued and relied upon as a clue to the means and the method I employ to participate more fully in the mission of Christ in the Spirit (i.e. my work, my home, my social location, etc. are all contexts for mission).
3.The local parish must be aware of its own context and value that context as the location in which they are called to incarnate Christ's life through the witness of their own regeneration and forgiveness through "water and the Spirit." While the world must not set the agenda for the Church, the Church must recognize that the world exists to be brought back in communion with God through the Church. Therefore, the world is not simply theological "other" as far as the Church is concerned, but the very object of mission and "arena of God's action in history." (George Weigel, see below)
4. The Missional Church is rooted in the mission of the Trinity. The Trinity seeks to bring all things into communion with Them. Therefore, mission and communion are intrinsically related.
As Catholics we have the fullest understanding of both mission and communion, but our grounded-ness in the Trinity and the relationship of Trinitarian life to mission are undervalued as a source for the life and work of our local parishes. We must relearn (in practical ways, because we well know it theologically) that to make disciples is to begin the process of incorporation into the life of the Church, which is "a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Lumen Gentium 4, St Cyprian).
Sources: Missional, Emerging, Monastic: A Traveler's Guide by Len Hjalmarson, On Making Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, William Abraham in Marks of the Body of Christ, ed. by Carl Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Eerdmans, 1999), Robert W. Jenson, The Church's Responsibility for the World, in The Two Cities of God, ed. by Carl Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Eerdmans, 1997), and George Weigel, The Church's Political Hopes for the World in The Two Cities of God.
World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney was a triumph for the Catholic Church and its 81-year-old head, Pope Benedict XVI. About 400,000 people attended a final Mass on Sunday (July 20), briefly making the pilgrims’ destination bigger than the nation’s capital, Canberra. Some baffled journalists described it as a Catholic Woodstock – the 1969 orgy of, drugs and sex and rock ‘n roll which became an iconic moment for baby-boomers. But 40 years later, the world has moved in an unexpected direction. WYD, the biggest youth event in history, is an anti-Woodstock, a repudiation of the materialism and secularism of the baby-boomers.
After years of being booed offstage, the curtains have again opened and God is being greeted with tumultuous applause. As a young woman commenting the event on Australian TV said, with unabashed confidence, it used not to be “trendy” to be a Catholic in Sydney, but now “it’s become cool again”. No wonder the news that Madrid will host WYD 2011 was greeted with such jubilation.
Despite the shadows, Benedict’s rapturous reception in Sydney shows that Christianity is far from dead, or even dormant. Flags from dozens of countries were waving in the stiff breeze which blew up as World Youth Day drew to a close. Amongst them was the red star of the People’s Republic of China. Even there, in an officially Communist regime, the Pope has enthusiasts. Over the past five years a bitter secularism has sought to push religion into a closet. Books by proselytising atheists have captured the imagination of the media. Now, after a week of joyful, unashamed religious sentiment Down Under, everyone knows that there is a viable alternative. God is back in the game.
In the rush of work and gardening, it is possible to forget (and be intensely grateful) that I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
But today, I was reminded again as we drove around the mountain backroads of the Pike National Forest near home. 1.2 million acres. A few glimpses of what we encountered. Almost anywhere else, such beauty would be a community's greatest treasure and attraction. As Theodore Roosevelt summed it up when he visited a century ago: "Scenery that bankrupts the English language." But in Colorado, they are considered rather ho-hum and treasured mostly by locals.
My most memorable present was the time to savor being home.
Yes, it is the blessed day in which we remember the birth of the Queen of Charisms, the Diva of Discernment, the one, the only
I know many of you are wondering, "Just how old is Sherry today?" Well, your wondering days are over. In just a few moments, I will be revealing the year when the stars aligned just so when the angels got together, and decided to create a dream come true, etc., etc.
Oh, wait, there's someone at the door...pounding rather insistently.
I'd better get it.
Oh, no, they've broken down the door and are running up the stairs.
Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon professor who delivered the world famous "last lecture" after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, died this morning.
I've been tracking his treatment on his personal website from time to time. Like so many of us, I was taken by his courage, grateful spirit, joi de vive, and love for his family. I prayed that he would also somehow encounter God on this journey since religious faith was a subject that he didn't talk about.
Pray for Randy, his wife Jai, and his three small children.
And listen to Dr. Pausch's "surprise" talk to Carnegie Mellon grads in May.
I was searching for an unrelated quote today and came upon this wonderful bit by Pope Benedict on personal vocation and the priest's role in reawakening the awareness of personal vocation, mission, and the call to act in the history of the Church. Enjoy!
Every person carries within himself a project of God, a personal vocation, a personal idea of God on what he is required to do in history to build his Church, a living Temple of his presence. And the priest's role is above all to reawaken this awareness, to help the individual discover his personal vocation, God's task for each one of us. I see that many here have discovered the project that concerns them, both with regard to professional life in the formation of today's society - where the presence of Christian consciences is fundamental - and also with regard to the call to contribute to the Church's growth and life. Both these things are equally important.
Today we film an important segment for Making Disciples. We are still in the throes of final editing for our Spokane seminar.
I also have to finish writing up my tentative proposal to the archdiocese wanting a plan to make their parishes "Missional". Oh, and get back to that Director of Diaconate formation. And prep for all my upcoming commitments in the fall.
My schedule: Detroit, Pueblo, Athens, OH, Chicago, Munich, (maybe Warsaw, we'll see!), Chicago, LA, Iowa, Omaha, Canton, Seattle, maybe Oakland. Fr. Mike's travel schedule is even more complicated. We'll see each other mostly on the road.
The topics? Missionary formation, historical research into the 17th century Catholic revival in France, the Stewardship of mission and vocation,, military wives, discerning charisms, parish mission, training teachers, Making Disciples, our first C & G for an Orthodox community, writing a book. Hence the need for so much preparation.
Variety being the spice 'o life
And then in the next year I must plunge whole-heartedly into preparation for two big events, both at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit:
The first is a Pauline Year Convocation with Archbishop Chaput on March 21
The second is a two week intensive graduate course on The Theology of the Laity taught by me and my old partner in crime and co-founder, Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP (May 27 - June 5). Mark your calendars now.
Oh, and then there is that little spring Tour of Tuscany and Rome "In the Footsteps of St. Catherine of Siena" April 27 - May 7. We are just finalizing the details and will let you know asap how you can join us. Spring in a fabulous Tuscan villa ending with a pilgrimage to Rome? How can you resist?
All of which is to say: that's why you aren't hearing much from us. But I hope to do better this weekend.
More from Inheriting Paradise by Vigen Guroian, Armenian Orthodox theologian and gardener:
"Man is a microcosm in whose flesh resonates and reverberates the pulse of the whole creation, in whose mind creation comes to consciousness, and through whose imagination and will God wants to heal and reconcile everything that sin has wounded and put in disharmony."
"the lay faithful are called to restore to creation all its original value. In ordering creation to the authentic well-being of humanity . . . they share in the exercise of the power with which the Risen Christ draws all things to himself . . .” - The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, (Christifideles Laici)14
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