On the American Public Media website you can download a podcast version of an interview of Shane Claiborne, a 31-year old founder of the 10-year old intentional community in north Philadelphia called, "The Simple Way." It's a wonderful example of intentional Christian discipleship. You can link to it by clicking here.
Listening to the interview, led by Krista Tippett, I kept thinking of my own life, of enthusiasm for a prophetic lifestyle that has waned over the years as a member of an established religious community. Many people might dismiss Mr. Claiborne and his community as 21st century hippies, or idealists. Perhaps there are similarities. But this group of Evangelicals, Catholics and others who had grown disillusioned with accomodation to nationalism, capitalism, and laws that tend to divide people from one another are drawing inspiration from the New Testament and its practitioners. Their heroes and models are St. Francis of Assisi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Teresa.
They are not at all drawing away from the world. Rather, they are looking at local problems in the inner city where they live and asking, "how can we creatively respond to these issues in the light of faith." I wouldn't be surprised if the charisms of mercy and wisdom might not be driving this community, with perhaps a whiff of prophecy as well.
One of the stories Shane told in the interview was of a married couple in their 50's who had never been able to have children. One day in their neighborhood they came across a young homeless woman who was six months pregnant. They decided to invite her to come live with them until she had her baby. They hit it off from the start, and after the baby was born, they welcomed her to continue to live with them. Eventually they told her, "You're helping us live our dream. What dream do you have, and can we help you follow it?" She said she'd always wanted to be a nurse. So they put her through nursing school, and took care of her child when she was in class. Now ten years have passed, and she still lives with the married couple, and works as a nurse. Her daughter is ten years old.
The married woman now has multiple sclerosis, but has a nurse living in her home to help care for her.
I encourage you to listen to the interview. Then look around your own neighborhood and see if there's something Jesus might be inviting you to do.
Shane Claiborne has also written a book titled, "The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical." You can find it at Amazon.com.
A creative approach to Catholic evangelization on campus in Corvallis, OR:
"Well, some friends of mine got the idea to "Saint bomb" campus. Using chalk, hundreds of Catholic Saint names were written all over campus last week. This was done during perhaps the busiest week of spring term. Many events took place this week on the Quad. The Genocide Awareness Project came to the quad, drawing a large number of people. The "Snow in the Quad" (put on by the Protestant apparel designer CIVIL) came to set up the next day. The Relay for Life event happened at night on the quad, which meant hundreds of students were walking by Saint names nonstop all night long. We also used chalk to advertise Mass times. Lots of exposure for the Church!
The Newman Center had a booth set up inside the Memorial Union building with a "Find your Saint" computer set up. Some non-Catholics came by to find their Saints. Other Catholics who haven't been to Church for a while saw their confirmation Saint name on the ground. Other Catholics got a lot of joy to see the names and to see Christ's presence in a tangible form on campus. And some others were annoyed at the audacity of these students.
We are trying to get more exposure to this project, so if you'd like to link to this video, please do! We'd like to see others get this idea, and maybe do it at their campus, to remind wayward Catholics of their roots and to show a strong presence of Faith! The response we've gotten from people around the community has been amazing, and the priests loved it!
One more thing to note... we got permission from the Memorial Union (the student union on campus) as well as the Church before doing this."
And naturally, the students have got a You tube video up:
Sue Gifford, the Catholic campus minister there, is a good friend of Fr. Mike's and has commented sometimes on ID.
USA Today has an article about the 475 men preparing for ordination to the priesthood in the next few weeks in the U.S. Interestingly, 9% have been touched by the Iraq war or served in the military before responding to a call to serve the Church, according to a survey by the USCCB. Of those who served in the military, one-third were in the Air Force.
"The 2007 class of priests includes a widower whose son was serving in Iraq when he became a deacon last year, and a 16-year Air Force veteran who flew B-52 bombers and saw combat in the Persian Gulf War. It also includes a graduate of the US Naval Academy who served on nuclear submarines before becoming a businessman and then joining a religious order."
"As in past years, most new priests worked at other vocations before deciding to take their vows. One in 10 were teachers. Others were skilled laborers, farmers, fishermen, salesmen and computer technicians. The group includes a professional pilot who once owned a hot-air balloon company, a retired bank president, an ad agency executive and a double bass player. Other class notes:
- The average age is 35, two years younger than in 2006. That's the first decline in age since 1998, when data were first collected. The youngest new priest is 25; the oldes is 68.
- One in three were born outside the USA, up from 24% in 1998. The largest number come from Vietnam, Mexico and Poland.
- There are more Asian and fewer Hispanics than the overall U.S. adult Catholic population. Asians make up 3% of American Catholics but 11% of new priests. Hispanics constitute 36% of Catholics but 11% of new priests."
The number of priestly ordinations has held stable at around 450 for the past five years, but during each of those years approximately 1300 priests have died or retired.
The Western Dominican Province is ordaining four men this June. All of them are younger than the average age for this country, and all of them entered immediately or shortly after finishing college. The eight-year Dominican formation they've gone through means they are all around thirty years old. You can read about them on our Province website at www.opwest.org. Two of them are interested in pursuing more education, one is interested in mission work, and one will be serving at the University of Arizona Catholic Campus Ministry, where I live when I'm not on the road.
In your experience, do you believe it makes a difference if a priest has had some kind of secular career prior to studying for priesthood? If so, in what ways do you believe they minister differently?
"Prenatal Partners for Life is a group of concerned parents (most of whom have or had a special needs child), medical professionals, legal professionals and clergy whose aim is to support, inform and encourage expectant or new parents.
We offer support by connecting parents facing an adverse diagnosis with other parents who have had the same diagnosis. We have many resources such as adoption agencies with clients waiting to adopt and love a special needs child should a parent feel they could not care for them.
We believe each child is a special gift from God."
They have a great list of links to resources for parents facing this crisis. Take the time to listen to the song that was written for them:
As always, Rick Warren is held up as the new model:
"the new breed of evangelical leaders — often to the dismay of those who came before them — are more likely to speak out about more liberal causes like AIDS, Darfur, poverty and global warming than controversial social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage."
But the issue of abortion remains constant:
But the conservative legacy of the religious right persists, and abortion continues to be a defining issue, even a litmus test, for most evangelicals, including younger ones, according to interviews and survey data.
“The abortion issue is going to continue to be a unifying factor among evangelicals and Catholics,” said the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who is often held up as an example of the new model of conservative Christian leaders. “That’s not going to go away.”
The persistence of abortion as a core concern for evangelical voters, who continue to represent a broad swath of the Republican base, could complicate efforts by Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has been leading the Republican presidential field in nationwide polls, to get primary voters to move past the issue and accept his support for abortion rights.
Zenit is running a interesting interview this morning with the English priest who is director of the Catholic Agency to Support Evangelization (CASE) of the bishops' conference of England and Wales (http://www.caseresources.org/)
LONDON (Zenit.org ): A new report on church attendance in the United Kingdom suggests that many Britons have no connection with organized religion, and that the majority of those who identify themselves as Christian never go to Church.
The Christian relief and development agency Tearfund released the report "Churchgoing in the U.K." in April, which revealed that more than half of those polled claim to be Christians.
Monsignor Keith Barltrop, director of the Catholic Agency to Support Evangelization (CASE) of the bishops' conference of England and Wales, tells ZENIT in this interview that the key to successful evangelization in the modern world is renewing a sense of confidence among Catholics in their faith.
Q: How did the decision by the bishops of England and Wales to establish CASE three years ago herald a change in the way the Church engages with evangelization?
Monsignor Barltrop: First of all, the decision to establish CASE heralded a recognition by the bishops that there was already a certain amount happening at grass roots level in England and Wales regarding evangelization, but it needed more official support and coordination if the challenges of 21st century Britain were to be met.
When the archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, asked me to help in setting up CASE, he told me that we needed to look at such new ecclesial movements and distil the secrets of their success into the mainstream of parish life, so that evangelization would no longer be a foreign, or even an embarrassing, concept to Catholics, but something they felt happy to engage in.
The bishops were thus trying to root in English and Welsh soil the understanding that Pope John Paul II gave the universal church -- that the time has come for a new evangelization. By that he meant that secularization had made such inroads into what were once Christian societies that the Church needed a new ardor and new methods in evangelization.
Q: What are the biggest obstacles to evangelization in Europe today?
Monsignor Barltrop: The biggest obstacles are sheer ignorance or "forgetting" of the Gospel, and the fact that many people who think they know what Christianity means actually have a distorted and woefully incomplete picture.
The "forgetfulness" of Christianity -- summed up in the well-known saying that "God is missing but not missed" -- is a phenomenon with a complex origin. In the 20th century the twin disasters of Communism and Fascism led people to become profoundly disillusioned with all attempts to explain and save the world. People have now become consumers of spirituality and religion, as they are of material products, and Catholic truth itself can become one more lifestyle option among others.
This problem is compounded by the way values of Christian origin -- such as justice, equality and human rights -- have become detached from their Christian roots and are now even being turned against the Church, so that the very proclamation of the truth is seen as somehow oppressive and destructive of human freedom and happiness. In such a world it becomes difficult to avoid the impression that evangelization is about clever manipulation of the truth or, even worse, associated with that fundamentalism which the modern world both fears and is, paradoxically, responsible for.
Q: Why is it often difficult to engage Catholics with the need to support evangelization?
Monsignor Barltrop: In Britain, one of the main factors is that evangelization is associated with a certain kind of Protestantism, or with related images such as people preaching aggressively on street corners and "televangelists" looking for money.
By making known a variety of Catholic methods of evangelization, and especially by associating it with the Eucharist and Eucharistic adoration, CASE tries to get across the message that there is a Catholic way of evangelizing.
There is also the problem that evangelization is seen as the preserve of specialists, but we want Catholics to see that it is fundamentally about living and sharing their faith in everyday life, with the people they meet at home, in the office or in their neighborhood.
This means Catholics need to recover a sense of confidence in their faith, and to see it as something coherent -- nothing less than the splendor which radiates meaning to every corner of the universe. Where there has been poor catechesis, liturgical deformation or a false understanding of ecumenism or interfaith work, Catholics lose the sense that the Gospel is a marvelous treasure that all need to hear.
Q: A report released recently by Tearfund on church attendance in the United Kingdom found that, while 53% of adults still claim to be Christian, only 15% attend church at least once a month. How do you explain this discrepancy?
Monsignor Barltrop: I think that by claiming to be Christian, people are saying they want to be associated with Christian values such as kindness, fairness and compassion. Obviously that is an inadequate understanding of Christian identity, which is actually based on faith in Christ leading to a personal relationship with him which can only be real if it is rooted in active membership of his body, the Church.
However, it does constitute a reminder to the Church that there is more good will and openness to the Christian faith in our society than we might think. It is up to us to find creative ways of engaging with whatever spiritual quest such people are on, however inadequate we judge its basis to be.
Q: How can the Church re-engage people with the Gospel who may never have encountered it?
Monsignor Barltrop: Through a change of mentality where we see ourselves as having something of immense value to offer everyone in our society, and through more imaginative methods.
As an example, I have just come back from a "Christian Spirituality Fair" in one of our Anglican cathedrals, at which I joined the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in blessing animals -- and people -- and in explaining the cross of San Damiano which spoke to St. Francis. We joined Christians of other denominations in reaching out to passers-by, yet were very clear about our Catholic faith and way of life. We have to believe fully in what Pope Paul VI called "the divine power of the message the Church proclaims," and look for creative ways to bring it to non-Christians.
The Catholic Church in Australia released a report a few years ago in which they estimated that 15% of the baptized attended Mass once a month. In Australia, attending once a month is the official definition of a "practicing" Catholic.
It's a specific area of life where you suck love out of the world.
I have an anti-charism regarding technology: a seemingly supernatural power over technology. My mere presence makes it die or go into convulsions. Even Bill Gates with all of his Empire and all of his minions cannot thwart the terrible power of my anti-charism.
Blogger is now letting me post (why? why did it refuse me for two weeks and suddenly let me in again? Does anyone know?)
But new Blogger won't let me create links to other sites so I'm having to provide the whole url.
Hey you! Yes, you - normal person without an anti-charism and some experience of Blogger out there. Any ideas?
You knew that this coming Sunday is the Feast of Pentecost, right?
Well, an ecumenical movement will be celebrating Pentecost as the Global Day of Prayer. This is one of the offshoots of the global prayer movement that I described in my article on Independent Christianity.
But this Sunday, you can take part in the Global Day of Prayer London (http://gdoplondon.com/). Notice that many of the "worship leaders" are black. This is an expression of the new British Christianity we've been hearing about - fueled by immigration from all over the world. It's multi-cultural, ecumenical, and charismatically flavored.
The organisers of the Global Day of Prayer London have expressed their hope that the event will encourage prayer participants to get involved in social action programmes seeking to combat some of the pressing issues facing Britain today.
That's not a surprise because the whole Global Day of Prayer movement began in Africa - with a vision received by a white South African Graham Power. As Christianity Today puts it: The Global Day of Prayer is an international prayer initiative that was started in 2001 by Power, a businessman, who felt God was calling him to bring South African churches together to pray. Over 45,000 Christians attended that event.
The vision was then expanded to the whole of the African continent in 2003 and in 2005 Christians from 156 nations took part in the first ever Global Day of Prayer. This grew last year as events took place in 199 nations. This year all nations are expected to take part.
In a letter sent around the globe, Power wrote: “Of the 21 nations which did not participate in 2006, good progress is being made in making contact. My request and plea is that you would pray for God to release 'believers' in those nations to join with you and I, and a likely 350 – 400 million Christians across the globe.”
Power will spend Pentecost climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with 100 other people, to pray for "repentance, revival and restoration for the whole world."
Closer to home, Global Day of Prayer, St. Louis (http://www.praystl.org/) will be meeting in the new Busch stadium on Pentecost evening. As they put it "Everyone who accepts the essential beliefs of Christianity as summarized in The Apostle's Creed and/or The Nicene Creed is encouraged to come."
Among the published co-sponsors in St. Louis are the priest in charge of eccumenical affairs for the Archdiocese, the leaders of the Catholic charismatic renewal, and the Rector of Rector Kenrick/Glennon Seminary.
Sherry's note: The organizers have an alert up regarding the last few countries in the world who haven't signed up to participate: There are 20, including North Korea, the Virgin Islands, and the Vatican.
“I find it hard sometimes to explain the scope of the problems in these camps with no light,” Mr. Bent said. “If you’re an environmentalist you think about it in terms of discarded batteries and coal and wood burning and kerosene smoke; if you’re a feminist you think of it in terms of security for women and preventing sexual abuse and violence; if you’re an educator you think about it in terms of helping children and adults study at night.”
As Peter Gatkuoth, a Sudanese refugee, wrote on “the importance of Solor.”
“In case of thief, we open our solor and the thief ran away,” he wrote. “If there is a sick person at night we will took him with the solor to health center.”
A shurta, or guard, who called himself just John, said, “I used the light to scare away wild animals.” Others said lights were hung above school desks for children and adults to study after the day’s work.
The flashlights usually sell for about $19.95 in American stores, but he has established a BoGo — for Buy One, Give One — program on his Web site, BoGoLight.com, where if you buy one flashlight for $25, he will buy and ship another one to Africa, and donate $1 to one of the aid groups he works with.
Check out BoGoLight - and consider becoming a light to the world in more than one way!
Cyril of Alexandria wrote regarding the Ascension of Our Lord, "As man then, Jesus appeared before the Father on our behalf, to enable us whom original sin had excluded from his presence once more to see the Father's face. As the Son he took his seat to enable us as sons and daughters through him to be called children of God. So Paul, who claims to speak for Christ, teaching that the whole human race has a share in the events of Christ's life, says that God has raised us up with him and enthroned us with him in heaven. To Christ as the Son by nature belongs the prerogative of sitting at the Father's side; this honor can rightly and truly be ascribed to him alone. Yet because his having become man means that he sits there as one who is in all respects like ourselves, as well as being as we believe God from God, in some mysterious way he passes this honor on to us."
I am a very privileged human being. I live a middle-class or better life. Moreover, I never worry about going hungry, being homeless or even unemployed. I have opportunities of which most people in this world never dream. So when problems arise in my life, or injury, either physical or emotional, or when someone I care about suffers, it's important for me to remember St. Paul's insight, "that the whole human race has a share in the events of Christ's life." That includes His suffering and death.
Human life is a repeating pattern: attachment, separation, loss, and recovery. It's a continual sharing in Christ's Paschal Mystery of life, death, resurrection and ascension. It begins for each of us as it began for Jesus: physical attachment to our mothers in the womb; birth, which is a death of the only existence we'd known to that point - a separation and loss that must happen if we are to continue to grow. Then begins our recovery. We enter into a new relationship not only with our mother, but with our father, our family, and a whole life of people who will become part of this new pattern we've joined. While Our Father knew us when we were being "fashioned in secret in our mother's womb" (Ps 139), we did not know Him. That begins with our baptism, and through the love we receive from those around us, and the grace the Father offers us as we grow in faith.
If we are to grow in Christ, this pattern must become conscious for each of us, as well as whole-heartedly embraced. For Jesus says, "Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day, and follow in my steps. Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." (Lk 9 :23-24) This takes daily acts of faith. We must trust that as we experience the loss of that to which we've grown attached, there is a recovery of something greater; and that "something greater" is a deeper union with Jesus, our Exemplar and Savior. In fact, we must choose these separations and losses, and not simply passively accept those that will inevitably come our way; choose them, and pursue only one attachment and consider all else as loss.
This is the Way we are to take, the path we must follow, in grace, if we would share in Jesus' resurrection, and join Him at His Father's - and Our Father's - side, in our true home.
This is so hard for me to write, because I am aware of some strong attachments I have, mostly to people. I can only imagine how someone with children might feel. But to become "unattached" to those we love doesn't mean we stop loving them. It means, among other things, we no longer try to possess them. We do not cling to them, try to keep them as they are, as Mary Magdalene may have tried to do with Jesus. (Jn 20:17) We do not try to mold them according to our image, but point them to Jesus, who would mold them into His image, whose love for them is far greater than our own, and who calls them from our side to His.
May is a very busy month for me since I have two huge creative projects underway:
1. That Tuscan garden in the Rockies. Today I'm planting 100 plants in the two beds in back. In anticipation of the great reunion later this summer with Mark Shea and his family and "the Other Sherry" and her family here for two weeks. The locals who walk their dogs in the park behind the house are beginning to stop and monitor progress.
2. Making Disciples - this month is our last chance to do the major new work on our new four day training on helping ordinary people - Catholic or not, become intentional disciples. It's very exciting stuff but original work takes a lot of time. (See side bar on the right for more information)
Result: not much original blogging going on. Sorry.
I'll get back to it this weekend but right now, need to get out and begin planting before it gets too warm. When the whole thing is done, I'll post pictures.