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Mars HIll Audio PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 22 March 2007 16:14
Mars Hill Audio Journal is a specialized service for thoughtful Christians. The Journal is a monthly 90 minute series of 10 - 15 minutes audio interviews intended to provoke engagement with our culture. Ken Myers, who worked for National Public Radio as a producer for 8 years, chooses the topics they run the gamit from community-building, literature, music, art, law, history, life issues. The Journal is what I would call "High Ecumenical" and features a number of Catholic interviewees and topics such a J R R Tolkien, Gerard Manley Hopkins, or Ralph McInerney.

Their purpose:

"We believe that fulfilling the commands to love God and neighbor requires that we pay careful attention to the neighborhood: that is, every sphere of human life where God is either glorified or despised, where neighbors are either edified or undermined. Therefore, living as disciples of Christ pertains not just to prayer, evangelism, and Bible study, but also our enjoyment of literature and music, our use of tools and machines, our eating and drinking, our views on government and economics, and so on."

Go here to hear a number of their past journals for free.
An interesting new way to evangelize.... PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 22 March 2007 12:24

Written by  Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

Amy Welborn has an interesting post regarding a new idea from a group promoting Catholic evangelization.

CATHOLICI SUMUS is a non-profit Catholic organization formed to help bring about the late Pope John Paul II's vision of a new springtime for the Church. Our name
is Latin for "We are Catholic." We are advocates for the Catholic Faith. In
doing so, our goal is to help bring people into a closer relationship with
INNOVATE - That's how we plan to share our message. Our first initiative is to sell one million wristbands with the Latin phrase Periucundum Est Catholicum Esse. That translates to: "It's cool to be Catholic!" All profits from the sale of these wristbands will go to support our mission and the Church.
EVANGELIZE - It is our hope that these wristbands will become a way for Catholics to evangelize. Wearing the bracelet makes a statement. More importantly, every time someone inquires about the purple (the color of penance) band on a friend's wrist it opens the door for dialogue. This can be a welcoming opportunity and unassuming way for people to talk about their Catholic faith.
IMAGINE - One million Catholics wearing these wristbands, leading to millions of daily opportunities to share the faith!

See the wristbands at their website.

I think I'll stick with my usual evangelization accessories- chains, hairshirt, cilice, stigmata, and pocket-sized Summa Theologica. ;)

Augustine the Bishop, Part II PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 22 March 2007 09:20

Written by  Br. Matthew Augustine, OP


Here is an interesting ditty on the phenomenon of chariot racing in Augustine's day:
"There was always the same insensate roaring of the crowd, the same wild gambling, the same passionate partisanship for one of the four colours, the same fury of disappointment on the part of those whose colour had lost, the same everlasting quarrels when partisans shouted up the colours they favored, the same adoration of a popular charioteer, the same kind of mass magnetism that a champion of sport always seems to command; there was the same never-ending chatter about favorites and fancies."



If I am Lifted Up . . . PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 22 March 2007 07:32
One very interesting thing I have see in my own experience and heard from others as I travel is the mysterious power of the presence of the Blessed Sacrament to affect even those who are not believers and have no idea Who is present.

There are a number of stories I could tell:

There is my own story since it was the recognition of a presence of God that I had not experienced elsewhere that originally lured me into praying in Catholic churches as an undergraduate.

And the story of a friend of mine, who was a unbelieving, practicing homosexual and yet was also seeking and would spend hours at a time simply sitting in my parish, soaking up the Real Presence.

I could tell you of an unbaptized college student who went to a friend of mine, a Catholic chaplain and said she wanted to become Catholic. The priest asked "Why? Do you have Catholic family members or friends, do you attend Mass, have you been reading books? What has made you want to become Catholic? "No", she replied and then dragged him with trembling hands into the sanctuary and pointed to the tabernacle. "I want that", she said. She didn't know what That was but she could feel the goodness eminating from the tabernacle.

I could tell you of a large, urban diocese rejuvenated by a lay person who championed Eucharistic Adoration and collaborated with her bishop to establish it in the cathedral and then throughout the diocese.

My question:

What if we stop thinking of Adoration as only a devotion for the already devout and consider it also as a form of evangelization particularly suited to the post-modern mindset which responds to mystery and presence?

The presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is accessible to the non-baptized, the non-Catholic, the unchurched, the lapsed, the badly catechized, the wounded, the skeptical, the seeking, and the prodigal.

I know that there are movements for youth and young adults that combine adoration and praise and worship in various creative ways. I know of evangelization retreats that incorporate Adoration into the retreat. But this is the sort of thing that could be easily done in the local parish - Adoration regularly presented in a context that would be accessible to and sensitive to the unbelieving, the marginal, the seeking.

So it would have to be simply explained and simply presented and not simply dripping with the uber Catholic insider visuals that could distract or alarm. Reverent, haunting, and intentionally accessible on a regular basis to those with no Catholic background.

"If I am lifted up, I will draw everyone to me" said Christ in John 12:32.

Anyone know of a parish or diocese that is doing this?

Graduate Study in the New Evangelization PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 22 March 2007 06:53
FYI, For those of you passionate about the New Evangelization:

Sacred Heart seminary in Detroit began the first STL in the US in the New Evangelization in 2004. They offer an STL (Licentiate in Sacred Theology, pontifical degree which allows the graduate to teach at the seiminary level), an MA in theology, and an MA in Pastoral Studies, all with a specialization in the New Evangelization.

The goal? The graduates lead programs in evangelization in parishes or dioceses. What is interesting is that the program is headed up by Ralph Martin, who is not an academic (MA in theology) but a actual practicing evangelist of many years experience.

I've wondered exactly how they approach the topic and will get a chance to find out more this
October 24 when I'm scheduled to speak on charisms in the "Models of Evangelization course".
Belloc at Mass PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 21 March 2007 21:39

Written by  Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

I just recieved this Hilaire Belloc story from a friend:

"[Belloc] was visiting New York and attending High Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral. During the Canon he remained standing, as was the custom on the Continent. An usher came up and said to him, 'We kneel here, sir.' Belloc, holding his missal, turned to the usher and said calmly, 'Go to hell.' The surprised usher replied, 'I'm sorry! I didn't know you were a Catholic!'"

What NOT to learn from Evangelicals... PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 21 March 2007 14:00

Written by  Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

There have been a number of posts on ID of late regarding what we can learn from evangelicals. I must admit that while I typically agree with the substance of these posts, I always find myself squirming a bit. What is it that makes me uncomfortable with such posts? I think the answer is that I, as a former evangelical, have become keenly aware of some of the weaknesses of evangelicalism. Therefore, while I agree that we need to learn from evangelicals (for instance, I agree that the Catholic Church needs to recapture the four points Keith alludes to in his 'Rant' post), this shouldn't mean imitating evangelicals. We need, in capturing the strengths of evangelicalism, to use Catholic means. This is not a new concern -- on several occasions Sherry has urged caution in importing evangelical methods in toto. However, I think it might be helpful if we brainstorm a bit at how we might, in practice, achieve these ends while avoiding certain irksome evangelicalisms. Toward such a goal I offer a list of certain evangelical shortcomings to be avoided while trying to take possession of its strengths.

1) Making the Scriptures too "relevant": Evangelicals, in their concern that Scripture be relevant to contemporary men and women, tend to make the biblical message more transparent than it really is. The difficulty, opacity, and strangeness of certain biblical passages are passed by or explained away, with the result that a certain depth of meaning is lost or certain possibilities in the text are not realized or apprehended.

2) Confusing worship with 'having an affective experience of God": Evangelicals utilize worship and music styles which seek to engage people on an affective level. Evangelical preaching is also ordered too exclusively, in my opinion, toward an affective response. You can see this in the typical layout of their services: initially there is upbeat and joyful worship music which is followed by a sermon with a rhetorical punch. The effect of that 'punch' is nurtured by quiet introverted ballad-type music (maybe with dimmed lighting) and the service is typically ended with the sort of upbeat music with which it began. As can be seen, the whole of the service is often ordered to producing affective responses and if those responses do not happen, people may go away with the sense that their worship was diminished. They may even blame themselves for not having had the 'correct' experience. I remember going to church and seeing people rise from their seats and wave their hands in the air ecstatically. I would close my eyes and pray that I might be inspired to do such things or have the kind of worshipful experience they were having and, if I didn't, I would wonder what was wrong with me.

3) Superficial community and a spirit of conformity: Sometimes in evangelical churches people's engagement with one another can tend toward superficiality. I remember that my sister and I, when we were just elementary-age children, could see right through this. We used to parody people's overwrought interactions with each other. I admit that this was wrong of us. I also remember as a teenager deliberately looking unfriendly and glum as an (admittedly immature) protest against the pressure to put on an unnatural facade of cheerful contentedness. Thus, while it can sometimes appear that evangelical churches are friendlier places and have better communities, the reality can belie the appearance.

Not all evangelicals and evangelical churches are guilty of the above mentioned weaknesses. Nevertheless they are problems which I believe evangelicals generally face.They are all drawn from my own lived experience of being an evangelical. That said, I owe much to my evangelical background, perhaps even my Catholicism. I can honestly say that if I had been raised a Catholic, I may well have fallen away. We can learn much from evangelicals, but it would be a shame if in learning their strengths we also inherited their weaknesses. Can anyone think of other negative 'evangelicalisms' which we might avoid? And how might we draw upon the resources of the Catholic Church to avoid these quirks while at the same time capturing the strengths of Evangelicalism which often (lest we forget) cause people to leave Catholicism for these other communions?

John Allen: Charismatic Movement Stems Catholic Losses? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 21 March 2007 13:13
We certainly seem to have a theme going today - dramatic spiritual experience, Muslims converting to Christianity, Keith's rant, and Phillip Jenkins's interview.

And now John Allen, writing from Honduras, touches on all these issues - with a new twist: Priestly vocations are rising dramatically although the percentage of Catholics in Honduras has dropped sharply!

"Rev. William Okoye, founder of the All Christian Fellowship in Nigeria and chaplain to the country’s president, Olusegun Obasanjo, told NCR in early March that the “explosive growth” of Pentecostalism in his country initially came at the expense of other Christian bodies, “especially the Anglicans and the Catholics.”

“Some years ago, this was an ecumenical problem,” Okoye said in the office of his sprawling church in downtown Abuja. “Now, the other churches are more accommodating. The Catholics allow the charismatic renewal movement. The Anglicans do the same thing, so their people can remain Catholics and Anglicans, but they act like Pentecostals.”

“To a large extent, that has stemmed their losses,” Okoye said.

Okoye said that in his own congregation of several thousand, he notices substantially fewer ex-Catholics than was the case perhaps 10 or 20 years ago. Today’s growth, he said, is more likely to come in the north of Nigeria, among people who were once nominally Muslim but who today are attracted to the dynamism and family spirit of Pentecostal Christianity.

Rev. Orestes Zúniga Rivas of the Iglesia di Diós in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, one of the two largest networks of Pentecostal churches in the country, said much the same thing in a March 20 interview.

“There are fewer converts today [from the Catholic church] because the charismatic option exists within Catholicism,” Zúniga said.

“Today, it’s common for us to hold spiritual retreats where Catholic charismatics will join us, but then they return to their own church with no problem,” he said. “There are others who come to our church as well as the Catholic church, which is no problem for us, because you can find God anywhere.”

Today, Zúniga says, new converts to Pentecostalism do not come from practicing Catholics, but from Hondurans who have been largely “unchurched.”

That growth is clearly visible in both Nigeria and Honduras. In Nigeria, Christians are roughly half the population of 140 million, with Pentecostals today representing as much as 50 percent of the Christian total. In Honduras, once an overwhelmingly Catholic nation, Pentecostals are today 35 percent of the population, and Zúniga believes they could eventually be as much as 50 percent.

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez of Tegucigalpa told NCR on March 20 that it would not surprise him if the Honduran population is one day evenly divided between Catholics and Protestants, with most of the latter being Pentecostal.

Some of our people were never real Catholics,” he said. “They were baptized but had no real formation. Today, we’re more consolidated, our laity are more involved, and we’re growing in terms of those who are really alive in the faith. It’s not that we are losing, we are gaining,” he said.

Rodriguez pointed to rising vocations to the priesthood as one sign of growth. A generation ago, the seminary population in Honduras had dwindled to the single digits; today, there are 170 candidates in the seminary in Tegucigalpa, and the number is expected to continue rising."
Phillip Jenkins on God's Continent PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 21 March 2007 10:54
A simply fascinating interview with Phillip Jenkins in the March Catholic World Report about his new book coming out in May: God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis. (via Virtueonline). Some of Jenkin's observations:

"If you're trying to track the decline of institutional Christianity in Europe, you can take a point in 1960 or 1965 and compare that to today. Whether you are looking at vocations or number of seminarians, we are now at one tenth of where we were, across the continent. People are not going to seminaries. They're not choosing vocations in anything like the number they used to.

Question: How effective was the Soviet Union at stomping out religious belief, in Russia and in its satellite countries?

Jenkins: They were very effective in transforming it. What they did was almost a Darwinian process. In some areas, they drove away a lot of the more lukewarm believers and created a very fiery hard core. The great example of that would be in the Caucasus with the Chechens. Middle-of-the-road tolerant people got purged and that just left the very hardcore Sufi-run resistance.

Sometimes the scale of the destruction was so total they did uproot the whole apparatus. The Buddhists in Central Asia were basically utterly destroyed-it was a very bad century for Buddhism. But they couldn't be as effective in Eastern Europe, in Poland, where they did a wonderful job of making the Catholic Church the symbol of anti-Communist resistance. They just made going to mass a way of ticking off the Soviets.

Question: How does the rate of Christian observance in the U.S. compare to Europe if we count only mainline, well-established denominations?

Jenkins: Well, until you added the last clause, I had a great answer. In terms of church attendance, it's probably about three terms larger. In terms of how people identify and how they assume that religion is part of the landscape, it's even higher.

There are all sorts of possible answers. Two things I pay attention to. One is the constant history of migration in this country. You continually have new waves of people coming in. They are looking for community. They find it in churches, synagogues, religious institutions. Europe, traditionally, was a much more static society.

Linked to that, America is a vastly larger country. It's best to think of it as a subcontinent by European standards. When people move around within the United States, they look for community, they look for somewhere they can send the kids. The obvious place for that is a religious institution. Historically, Europe, a much smaller society, much more compact, much less mobile, has not had those kinds of forces. Belgium is about the same size as Maryland. If you move from one side of Belgium to another, you haven't actually gone all that far. If you move within the United States, then you are cutting yourself off from your older, established community and roots.

Also, there is evidence that when people migrate, it's that quest for community that makes than more religious than they ever were at home. That's what happened to Italians when they came to America at the end of the nineteenth century. People who'd never been inside a church in Italy suddenly find themselves quite devoted churchgoers in the U.S.

Question: Are fears of a future "Muslim Europe" well-founded?

Jenkins: I don't think they are because the numbers at present are very small. And while they're going to grow, by American standards Muslim minorities in Europe are not going to be that huge. The other big issue is that when people talk about Muslim minorities, they automatically assume that everyone of Muslim background is going to continue to be a dyed-in-the-wool, hardcore Muslim in Europe.

There's a lot of evidence that they're not. If you look at Algerian people in France, they have a strong sense of ethnic identity, but there's quite a low level of religious observance. They look like Episcopalians more than anything. Now obviously, there's a small and potentially very dangerous hardcore of quite extreme Islamists, and you'd have to be a fool to ignore that. But the majority of people are very happy to assimilate to some kind of French or Dutch or German identity."

Question: You note that birthrates have leveled off in some countries that most readers wouldn't expect. Between 1986 and 2000, average births per woman in Iran have fallen from 6 to 2, which is slightly lower than the replacement rate of 2.1. Indeed, birthrates almost everywhere are plummeting. Why is that?

The Middle East in the last 15 years is going through the great demographic transition and that is one of the great facts in world politics. What it should mean is that in about 15 years these countries should be vastly more stable. The next 15 years could be a very rocky ride, but the long-term trend is to underpopulation. These countries will have to figure out how do deal with all those old people. Sometimes-and I'm not speaking about Steyn particularly here-when people talk about these astronomical birthrates, they're using pretty dated figures.

Question: You write that the U.S. has managed to "resist the trend of sharply falling fertility" nearly everywhere. What explains that?

"Partly, it's very very high immigration rates. People who migrate tend to be the young and the fertile and the ambitious and that creates a particular kind of population profile. Also, you still have this strong religious commitment which is usually reflected in larger families. Increasingly, the U.S. looks like a very weird society on the global stage. On religious affiliation, it's half way between Europe and Africa and in some ways it looks like that in demography too. It's not a European society, it's not a Third World society, it's something very distinctive. So there I am back to American exceptionalism."

It is long but rich. Read it all.
A Wonderful Musical Initiative PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 21 March 2007 08:27

Written by Keith Strohm

If you are involved in music ministry of any kind, pop on over to Michael James' video podcast Forty Days of Praise. A gifted catholic musician, Michael is featuring a new song each day of the lenten season.

Each podcast includes a video tutorial and downloadable sheet music that is available for use according to the generous usage agreement.

Check it out!

A public service announcement from the fine folks at Intentional Disciples!

I Feel A Rant Coming On PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 21 March 2007 07:38

Written by Keith Strohm

So, today while driving in my car, I heard a segment from the Drew Mariani show on Relevant Radio. A mother was calling in basically saying that her daughter had attended an evangelical Church with her boyfriend and was completely blown away by the experience. This concerned mom wanted to know how to help her daughter appreciate the mass.

Drew's ultimate response: Give her a book!

All through the discussion every Catholic involved made references to the fact that the protestant service was "feel good." At several points, Drew said that since the protestant service didn't contain the sacraments all you had was great music and an inspirational message.

Not once did anyone mention the fact that their might--just might--be something that we as Catholics can learn from our brothers and sisters.

I'd like to know what conciliar document or post-synodal apostolic exhortation says that I must make a choice between licit and valid sacraments and powerful music and an inspirational homily. Where does it say that the Catholic worship experience must primarily involve the intellect at the expense of the other faculties?

God made my whole being, He redeemed my whole being, and I'd like to offer my whole being back to Him in worship.

This whole "Catholic" notion that protestant worship is primarily entertainment and "feel good" is just so much arrogant garbage that must be jetissoned from the Body of Christ if we are really ever going to be able to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to bring about unity in the Church.

Let me tell you what "feel good" translates into for many of the Catholics who either leave the Catholic Church for a protestant denomination or "double dip" (attend both Catholic mass and a protestant service):

1. A personal encounter with Christ that involves the whole person--mind, will, and heart. Often, this encounter is a Power Encounter--involving definite sensible and practical supernatural experiences that reveal the Love of God for the individual.

2. A breaking open of scripture that is directly applicable to living one's life as a disciple of Jesus Christ in the world.

3. A welcoming community of believers that actively participate in the life of the new believer (as spiritual companions and fellow disciples who help support the individual and help hold them accountable).

4. High quality teaching and worship--offering God the best of the gifts the community has to offer.

Now, I'm definitely not advocating that anyone leave the Catholic Church for protestantism. The fullness of the Revelation of God in Jesus Christ subsists in the Catholic Church. I believe and affirm this with every fibre of my being. There are definitely things that are missing from protestant worship services (most notably the Sacraments) and beliefs that are incompatible with the Deposit of Faith.

All that being said, a careful examination of these communities can help us rediscover some of the riches of the Church that we have either put aside or forgotten.

For those people who encounter the "feel good" nature of protestant worship, very few are simply going to remain in the Catholic Church based upon a theological principle. Why should I stay in the Catholic Church because of the Eucharist when its a doctrine I don't understand and, more importantly, it has no "real" bearing or effect on my life. And that's what we have to realize. For most Catholics, the reality of the Eucharist is not immediate.

We know that the Church teaches Christ's Real Presence (well, we should know, anyway), but it is a distant thing. In practice, the host is a piece of bread that we are supposed to believe is something else.

That's it.

Now, the reason we have generations of Catholics in this situation is complex. And some of it does have to do with poor catechesis. But we can't lay the whole blame on faulty teaching. We must also acknowledge that on some level, we have not lived out the fullness of our faith. If, indeed, lex orandi, lex credendi, lex celebrandi, lex vivendi (the rule of prayer is the rule of belief is the rule of worship is the rule of life) then as Catholics we evidence a fundamental disconnect, a dissonance between the richness of what God has given us and and the poverty of our stewardship of these gifts--particularly at the parish level.

Our response to somebody who has encountered "feel good" protestant worship and is struggling to encounter the full Church of Christ can not be a book. It has to be an invitation to live out all of the dimensions of our life as the Body of Christ.

And to do that, we need to rediscover them ourselves.

End of rant!

Eucharistic Miracles - Live! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 21 March 2007 07:38
On Catholic Answers live today with Patrick Madrid. 4 - 5 pm. Looks interesting!
Unity Humility Prayer PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 20 March 2007 22:36
The Artisan Initiative is another amazing lay apostolate. It was founded 10 years ago in London by Steve Cole, "a non-professional musician" as a resource for people working out their Christian faith in Arts, Media, Fashion and Entertainment industries.

Their values:

Unity – We need one another. Life and our relationship with God was never designed to be a solo journey.

Humility – As individuals we all have our part to play, but we are not the key. Only God can transform these industries.

Prayer – As in all of life, prayer must be central. It is so often key to seeing God breaking into nations; people; industries.

The Artisan Initiative has spread around Britain and now has groups in New York, San Francisco, and LA.

90028: The World's Most Influential Zip Code PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 20 March 2007 22:15
The Hollywood Prayer Network invites you to pray for the most influential zip code in the world: 90028. HPN is a non-denominational Christian prayer ministry for the purpose of praying for the people, the projects and the powerful influence of the Entertainment Industry.

"HPN believes that by mobilizing global prayer we can be a part of God's miraculous work of changing the spiritual climate of Hollywood, from the inside out."

They estimate that there are 5,000 plus Christians working in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Go here for a list of Christian ministries (including Act One) that are active in Hollywood.

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