21-year old Marysa complained of not feeling well on 10.0.09, she saw her doctor on 10.9.09, was sent immediately to the emergency room at the hospital, and was placed on life support (feeding tubes and a ventilator) on 10.14.09. She was flown via helicopter to University Hospital on 10.15.09 where she remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit. Marysa is married to Ryan and has a 2 year old daughter Ainsley.
Ainsley has not seen her Mom since 10.9.09, and has seen her Dad only once since then.
Diagnosis: the flu - although not H1N1.
Whatever influenza it was, probably kicked the pneumonia in, and her immune system went into overdrive, since nothing else was working against the flu in her system. Since then, no one has been able to reduce her immune system's response.
Yes, I'm in "fabulous Las Vegas." It may seem like an odd place for Dominicans to gather - then again, not, since St. Dominic had a famous all-nighter with an Albigensian tavern owner-innkeeper. A group of us from the southwest portion of the Province are meeting to talk about issues facing our Province and its ministries as we prepare for our assembly next summer.
As I walked through the airport last night past the posters advertising various cabarets with showgirls, the Chippendales and something called the "Thunder from Down Under" (and it wasn't about the Institute's office in Melbourne), I recalled the Las Vegas slogan, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." I was reminded of it again this morning as I drank tea from a Las Vegas mug with its written reminder of its reputation as "Sin City."
That is moral (or, better immoral) wishful thinking. There is no sin that "doesn't hurt anyone." Even if no one else seems to be harmed, I am harmed. I am lessened by my own sin. I become less "Michael," and thus, since I am changed, it stands to follow that every relationship I am in is changed - perhaps imperceptibly, but changed, nonetheless.
"What happens in Vegas" doesn't stay in Vegas, except the cash I lose gambling, and a bit of my humanity. If I have come to Sin City to engage in sin, I will return home less authentic, less real; like the shadowy figures in C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce who cannot stand the sharp reality of the grassy plain that is the anteroom of heaven.
A bit of doggeral, learned in my pre-Catholic days, and wedged into some odd corner of my brain has just re-surfaced. It was obviously written before the Episcopal Church in the US ceased to refer to itself as "Protestant Episcopal". On this blustery, snowy morning, I just needed to share it. No need to thank me.
(Sung to the tune of "God Bless America")
I am Episcopal I am PE Not a high church. Or a low church. I am Catholic and Protestant and Free.
Not a Luther Or a Presby Or a Baptist, white with foooooam . . .
I am Episcopal. Just one step from Rooooooome . . .
Whither Anglicanism? Catholic? Evangelical? Orthodox? The answer seems to be "yes".
Yesterday's news was dominated by the remarkable announcement that the Vatican is creating new structures to welcome disaffected Anglicans from all over the world. These structures will allow Anglicans to hold onto some of their distinctive spiritual practices within the Catholic Church, including the ordination of married former Anglican clergy as Catholic priests.
Tremendous rejoicing has filled the Catholic blogosphere. Over at First Things, the Anchoress has pointed out (rightly) that the lion's share of the 84.7 million Anglicans live outside the west. (Anglicanism has mushroomed in Africa over the past 30 years. 37 million Anglicans now live in Africa as opposed to the 26 million who live in the UK.) The speculation "This is very big. If this reconnection is well-facilitated, we may see the entire African arm of the Church of England (which is currently its most vibrantly-growing branch) cross the Tiber."
I expect that we may see not just thousands but probably hundreds of thousands of Anglicans enter the Church over the next 5 - 10 years as a direct response to the Pope's initiative. (To put this in perspective, remember that even a half million entering the Catholic Church only represents a little over 1/2 of 1% of the entire body Anglican. it is more important psychologically than numerically.)
But what puzzles me is the tendency during this discussion around the Catholic blogosphere to ignore the existence of the 800 lb gorilla of the Anglican world: evangelicalism. Anglican evangelicals have very different concerns than do Anglo-Catholics and are much more likely to retain a basic suspicion or indifference to Rome.
Anglican evangelicalism comes in two basic flavors: classic reformed and contemporary charismatic. Evangelical Anglicanism is a huge factor in this country, in the UK, and certainly in African and Asian Anglicanism. This is because, unlike Anglo-Catholicism, evangelical Anglicanism is primarily mission-driven rather than liturgy-driven. Both streams of evangelicalism are intensely missional and are the engine behind Anglican growth outside the west.
Charismatic Evangelical Anglicanism's global reach is embodied in figures like Nicky Gumbel, Holy Trinity Brompton, and the Alpha course which has had 13.5 million participants globally. 2.5 million have attended in the UK alone. The phenomenal spread and success of Alpha has had an enormous impact on British Anglicanism. For the spread of Alpha in the Catholic world, go here.
(As an interesting aside, take a look at this latest Alpha television ad featuring Bear Grylls of the Discovery Channel's Man vs. Wild. Grylls is a former member of the British special forces and was the youngest Brit to ever climb Mt. Everest. He doesn't strike me as the sort of guy who is into fiddleback chasables but he is obviously happy to help market the Alpha course.
FYI, 1,200 leaders attended a US national Alpha conference in Florida this week. It is telling that the opening prayers of the US conference were said by Pastor Jackson Senyonga, Senior Pastor of Christian Life Church in Kampala, Uganda, which has 22,000 people attending each week. He was joined in a live internet link-up via a big screen by a large congregation attending a prayer meeting in Kampala at the same time, who prayed for the Orlando event.)
I agree with Fr. Dwight Longenecker who really knows the Anglican scene: "Readers should understand that amidst all the rejoicing the Anglo Catholics are a minority in the Anglican Church. The Liberal establishment rules all (most of their minions being the vast indifferent) and the Evangelical Protestant Anglicans are in second place. The one and only thing that unites the Liberals and the Conservative Evangelicals is the fact that they're not having the Pope."
My best guess is that the Anglo-Catholic movement will divide. Some will enter the Catholic Church, some will seek to remain Anglican, and some will become Orthodox.
Most Catholic bloggers missed the very interesting conference between Anglo-Catholics and Orthodox leaders at Nashotah House last week but Fr. Gregory Jensen was there and so, tellingly, were both Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Communion of North America and Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church of America. Fr. Gregory writes:
"Over the 3 or so days of the conference I was consistently impressed with the seriousness of all the speakers and the substance of their presentations. Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Communion of North America I think spoke for many of his fellow Anglicans when he said that “we (the Anglican Communion) come to you (the Orthodox Church) in our brokenness and our need for what it is you have.” This is, in my opinion, an extraordinary statement from a Christian leader.
After the meeting, Archbishop Duncan was in fact on his way to speak with the Anglicans of the Southern Cone (primarily Africa) about recent developments between ACNA and the OCAArchbishop must have known about the Vatican's initiative but was busy pursuing possible relations with the Orthodox Church of America."
Clearly, Archbishop Duncan knew that the Vatican announcement was coming as he was meeting with the OCA at Nashotah House. It was Archbishop Duncan who pointed out in his response to Pope Benedict's initiative: "our historic differences over church governance, dogmas regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary" and the nature of the priesthood." It makes sense from an Orthodox perspective that one commentator on Fr. Gregory's blog speculated that the Pope had gotten wind of this possible reproachment between Anglo-Catholics and American Orthodox and made his announcement to head it off.
That seems highly unlikely since the RC -Anglican conversations have been going on for years. But what is clear is that Anglo Catholic leaders are hardly all of a single mind and many are looking at all their options and several of those options are not Catholic.
What does seem to be the case is that Anglo-Catholicism as a movement within the Anglican communion is dissolving. In the future, Anglicans will be largely split between the liberal and evangelical factions with the evangelicals being the power outside the west.
I am finishing preparations for a retreat for priests I'll be giving in a week, and was re-reading a very well-written and inspiring article by Rev. Mr. James Keating, Ph.D. titled, Priestly Spirituality, Seminary Formation, and Lay Mission. It was published in Seminary Journal a couple of years ago, and I have not been able to find it online. The good deacon is director of theological formation at the Institute for Priestly Formation, Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska. Here are a few snippets from his article:
The grace of ordination allows the charity that is in everyone’s heart (love of God, love of neighbor) to be specifically the grace of “being with Christ in His spousal love for the Church.” There is something about this new “ordering” in the sacrament that places the priest in relationship to the body of Christ AS A WHOLE. He relates to all the members of the Body, sharing in the prophetic, kingly, and priestly ministry of Christ. The laity relate to the priest out of their own distinctive participation in these same Christological realities. The mode of existing in and among the members of the church is always inter-relationship. The communion between this man, the God who calls him, and the laity constitutes a spirituality—the breath of life between them all—that binds the facets of priestly formation together. The goal of this communion is to form the contemplative heart of the husband-priest. It is this priest who gazes upon the body of Christ, the church, the bride, not with a sense of entitlement or “lust” but with an ever growing pastoral desire, a desire born of this spiritual communion and finding its purpose and rest only in charitable service.
As I was reflecting on the story of the Fall in Genesis 3, I realized that the man Adam and Eve, created to be able to say, "you are bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh," i.e., "so much a part of myself that to be separated from you would be to lose a part of myself," is applicable to the priest - lay person relationship. In fact, the mutual distrust, envy, and power struggles that we sadly see in many of our parishes is a sign of the "original sin" affecting these relationships as well.
Keating continues this imagery,
The seminary, then, must also be fascinated with lay holiness. The paradox of the priest is that the life he gave up physically—wife and children—must become the life that rivets his imagination and love. When Christ calls a man away from marriage he does so only so that such a man is free in Christ to serve all marriages and families. Christ never asks priests not to be husbands and fathers. Instead he asks them to be husband in the same embodied way he does: chastely and in a life of celibacy.
I find this refreshing. I am not some neutered asexual being. It is normal and healthy for a man to want to see some fruitfulness in his life, some generativity. My life as a priest must be about bringing about "new life," albeit new spiritual life, but it is new life - leading to eternal life - nonetheless.
Keating is not afraid to be blunt. He writes - and this is for seminary leaders, mind you - "Any man who loves the idea of priesthood (clericalism) more than his service to the laity ought not to be a priest."
Finally - since my flight's boarding, I'll leave you with this, which has been something Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP, and Sherry Weddell have been saying for a dozen years.
These two vocations, priest and lay, are never to be separated or made rivals in any way. Like any husband and wife, having one without the other simply makes the vocation incomprehensible. The bridegroom brings out and supports what the bride is meant to become and the bride brings out and supports what the groom is meant to become. Though the lay vocation and the priestly vocation are held in equal esteem at the level of the human dignity of each individual who receives these callings (Canon 208), a difference that must be celebrated and maintained between both vocations remains. Vocations are incommutable. The laity have an independence from the clergy in many areas of church life by virtue of their baptism (see Canons 204-231), but it is clear that the laity receive their identity from the sacraments, whose ordinary ministers are priests.
Courtesy of Asia News: Last year 30 thousand Vietnamese from the Central Highlands (Montagnards) were baptized and 20 thousand others are preparing to become Catholics. The data was emphasized by the Bishop of Kontum, Michael Hoang Duc Oanh, at the World Mission Day. “It is the work of the Holy Spirit – he tells AsiaNews - with the sincere participation and contribution of so many people".
In the world of evangelical missiology, an event like this would be known as a "people movement": the mass conversion to Christianity of a particular ethnic/cultural/linguistic group. There has been a large number of "people movements" all over the world over the past 40 years but Catholics hardly ever acknowledge them, much less grasp their significance.
I hope that both western pundits and Asian bishops and leaders are paying attention.
During my last graduate course in the only Catholic university in my home town, we were treated to the ramblings of a priest-guest lecturer, who solemnly told us that Francis Xavier had gone to India to get away from the Pope, that Christianity in Asia was the failed outcome of western imperialism, that only 2% of Asians were Christian anyway, and that there was no such thing as genuine Christian mysticism. Since I was the only member of the class with a graduate background in the history and contemporary practice of Christian missions and had actually written a graduate paper on the history of the Jesuit missions in India, I just had to correct the lecturer and did so - publicly and privately.
But that was in Seattle - the land of None. Locals expect to be handed wildly anti-Christian propaganda with their skinny triple grande mocha lattes. What continues to astonish me is the prevalence of very similar attitudes all over the west in more diplomatic forms.
The Vietnamese Catholic Church is celebrating its 350 year anniversary in 2009 and is hardly a tiny, limping, passive remnant of western imperialism. Over 130,000 Vietnamese Catholics have died for the faith over the centuries. And now 50,000 Vietnamese citizens are entering the Church in the course of a couple years. They have earned the right to speak for themselves.
Pope Benedict, in his message for World MIssion Day, reiterated that mission is the fundamental task of the Church.
"I remind all Churches, old and young, that God called them to be the 'salt of the earth' and 'light of the world'. I urge them to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to everyone everywhere in the world. You must consider the mission to non-Catholics as the primary pastoral commitment".
I have another encouraging story from Asia pending but am waiting for a bit of additional information before i post it.
During the Mass and our Friday night exercise in front of the Blessed Sacrament in Omaha, the phrase "exchange of love" came to mind in a particularly clear and meaningful way. Here's the way this reality is summed up in the Catechism:
"God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange." CCC 221.
And you can see, Fr. Mike made it back to Colorado Springs earlier than I did. I crawled in (I was weary) about midnight last night. Fr. Mike leaves us again on Tuesday but I get to stay home for a week. The aspens about the house turned gold while I was in Omaha.
Making Disciples went very well in Omaha and I had the privilege of hearing the testimony of the Omaha doctor healed from terminal esophageal cancer through the intercession of St. Jeanne Jugan. That was cool - and heartening.
The Wall Street Journal was quoting Beliefnet founder Steven Waldman not too long ago.
Nones-Americans who profess no religious affiliation - now make up 15 percent of the population. Given their rapid growth, their numbers might soon surpass the nation's largest denominations. But get this: 24% [of Nones] say they believe in 'a higher power but no personal Go,' the belief system that used to be described as Deism. They don't believe in Scripture, or cotton to organized religion. But in the privacy of their home, they think that the distant, aloof God occasionally checks in to listen to their prayers
. I know, this doesn't sound at all consistent, but these days, as credal religions lose their members to the "Nones," all kinds of inconsistencies abound: like self-described atheists who believe God exists (18%; and 8% are absolutely certain God exists!)
As Sherry has pointed out before, many of those entering the category of "none" are young adults. There is much need for basic proclamation of the Gospel that focuses on who Jesus is and what he has done for us. That also requires that at some point each person has to recognize him- or herself as a sinner in need of forgiveness. That's a tough sell in today's market, you might say.
Speaking of "none," that well describes the existence of heartfelt public contrition. Think of it this way - when was the last time you heard someone publicly say they were sorry? I didn't follow the Letterman scandal, but it sounds as though he did make some kind of apology, although I doubt the word sin was used. (The Variety article noted that it was great for ratings!)
It may be my imagination, but public mea culpas sometimes seem to be along the lines of "mistakes were made." We have a hard time admitting failure and taking responsibility for it - Genesis 3 has it so right! Adam and Eve sin, and when confronted, Adam blames Eve (and God indirectly) and Eve blames the serpent and whines that it was a trick!
Let's take some responsibility for our sins so we can ask for - and receive - forgiveness. God offers that easily. What about us?
Let's also take responsibility for inviting others to experience the love and forgiveness of God that's found in the Gospel. Evangelization should be an act of love; an introduction of someone we care about to Someone who cares about us beyond measure.
Yes, I'm off with Sherry to Omaha. I'd appreciate your prayers, as I'm desperately trying to fight off a cold. Yesterday, however, an interviewer training was cancelled in Maryland that I was to give, so after some creative ticketing by Sybil, our bookkeeper / travel agent extraordinaire, I'll have a full day and two half-days in Colorado Springs after Omaha to recuperate.
Thanks to everyone for your prayers for my father. He's home, receiving dialysis three days a week, and is getting more confident walking with a walker. He and mom have in-home help for about five hours, five days a week, which has been a great blessing.
Fr. Mike and I are Omaha-bound to put on the first half of Making Disciples. Gone till Sunday night.
Then home for a week. The focus (once I've put the finished touches on a few up-coming presentations: Writing content for the Institute's new website which is scheduled to debut October 26.
Our old one is stunningly, 11 years old now. (Which is 246 years old in cyber-years.) It is elegantly designed but very, very difficult to change, and we needed something more flexible and interactive and something that reflects all that the Institute has been involved in and become over the last 11 years,.
The other focus will be planting bulbs: irises, daffs, tulips. 450 of em.
Daffs in the wildflower bed (which we mow every year after frost has laid the flowers low). They will bloom before the wildflowers wake up and the flowers will cover up their dying foliage.
I'm naturalizing irises in groups alone the fence line. Take 9 or 13 or 15 bulbs and just toss them in the general area you want to plant and plant em where they fall. Tulips around the waterfall area.
That's the plan. We'll see how it goes. It's hard work but once it is done, they'll multiply and grow and come back year after year with almost no maintenance. Like everything else in the garden. The vast majority of the work is up front.
Yesterday, I noticed that Mark Shea had a post up about an example of one Orthodox blogger and apologist who utterly rejected the value of anything Catholic and a number of outstanding saints such as St. Francis and Teresa of Avila. Mark went on to say that he had encountered a very similar "testosterone-driven" attitude among some Catholic apologists and didn't know how representative of Orthodox teaching and thought this particular blogger was.
I knew it was a case for my go-to guy for all things Orthodox: Fr. Gregory Jensen of Koinonia and so I asked Fr. Gregory to join in the conversation if he had time. Fr. Gregory responded with a beautiful note that I wanted to share with you in case you hadn't seen it over at Mark's.
Just a thought before you read Fr. Gregory's response.
As I have posted here before, many post-modern people have a hard time thinking of themselves as sinners in the sense that Christians have historically understood that term and many Catholics are concerned that people lack that sense of personal sin.
But I suspect that Fr. Gregory (who is a psychologist) is talking about a existential knowledge of our own brokenness that goes far, far deeper than a theological or catechetical concept. Post-moderns are not likely to use the term "sin" to name it until they have had a deep encounter with Christ but most of us know, feel the fear, anger, lack of peace and love, the ego-centrism, the lack of freedom within. The things we do that we do not want to do and how often we do not do what we know to be good. Which is why the Orthodox understand the ascetic struggle against sin to be at the heart of the spiritual life.
And of course, Fr. Gregory was writing for a reasonably well-catechized Catholic audience who do believe in sin not to a group of post-modern "nones".
"there is neither reconciliation or salvation where love is absent since love is the substance of the Gospel. And what is love except my ability to see in another what is unique and of lasting value; love allows me to see the beauty that is hidden to the eyes of the world but known to God.
I would suggest the problem isn't that Catholics and Orthodox Christians disagree but that we do not see the beauty in each other's tradition. More than that, however, is we too easily defer to the loud voices in our respective tradition. For all that these voices might have a grasp on the naked facts of history, they are loud because, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, they lack love and so are noisy gongs and clanging cymbals (see 1 Cor 13.1).
This is not to say that their lack of love is global, it isn't. But what is lacking is love of the other side of the conversation. Again, love is what makes it possible to see what is unique and beautiful in someone. And it is love, to paraphrase Chiara Lubich, that makes us bold and gives us the courage to draw close to each other in ways that acknowledge what we share, while remaining respectful of our differences as persons and traditions.
At the risk of being judgmental, I think too many apologists--Eastern and Western, Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant--are simply spiritually (and I suspect, psychologically) immature. And yet, to the degree we are able, we should remain gentle with them both in our speech and, more importantly, in our hearts.
Such gentleness is a podvig (ascetical challenge) for me. I have to remind myself (sometimes more than once in a single conversation) that a heart in which love is absent is a heart ruled by fear (see 1 Jn 4). Yes, I must speak the truth in love (see, Eph 4.15) to all I met--especially to those whose hearts are gripped by fear. But to speak the truth in love requires from me that I first love the person with whom I am speaking, that I see in that person what is unique and beautiful and of lasting value in his or her life.
To speak the truth in love, means not only to love but also to be myself lovable. Alas, for too many of us, the Gospel is not the revelation that we are loved by God, that is that I am lovable, but the opposite, that I am unloved. The fundamental anthropological truth of the Gospel is not that we are sinners, but that we are loved.
Repentance is not grasping that I am a sinner, any fool with a modicum of self-knowledge and awareness knows that about himself. No, repentance is knowing in a deep and personal way that I am loved. Based on their words and actions, I wonder how many, if any, of our self-appointed apologists know that they are loved? Love makes me gentle, patient, forgiving, respectful and long suffering with others in their struggles (see Gal 5). Where these are absent in speech, the (we can be sure) that it is merely a word spoken from my ego and that the Gospel is not being proclaimed."
"Men and women still are looking for the love of God and salvation in Jesus, but 'maybe not with an approach that starts with doctrine and morals.'
Once people meet Jesus, he said, 'then come doctrine and morality as a form of following that Jesus who attracted me, enchanted me, enlightened me. It is then that you begin talking about what it means to follow Jesus in practice; that's morality.'
Cardinal Claudio Hummes Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy as quoted by CNS in an interview about the Year for Priests.