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Chant PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 06 October 2009 10:06
Just lovely.

This PBS recording of Emily Lowe, cantor at an Orthodox parish: Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland. (This is fun - we are scheduled to do our first Called & Gifted workshop in Linthicum later this month.)

For someone with a background like mine in Arabic music, the chant doesn't sound strange at all. The middle eastern quality is actually pretty minimal. Just enough to stand out to westerners.
And her description of learning to sing chant sounds so much like the classic description of the charisms that we have heard from so many others: it isn't me.

From a personal standpoint, I never had a very good voice before we became Orthodox. I believe that I found my voice in Orthodox music — that I didn’t have it in Protestant music or in secular music.

When people say, “Oh, you did such a wonderful job,” I feel like telling them it wasn’t me, because it really wasn’t. It doesn’t feel like me when I chant. I’m thinking about God and expressing the words the best that I can.

H/T: Get Religion
Checking In PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 06 October 2009 09:58
Hello from Old Hickory, TN, where I am in the midst of a four-day parish mission at St. Stephen Catholic Church. It's a wonderful community, and I have felt very welcomed. Yesterday I was given a tour of Carnton Plantation, the site of a major battle in the Civil War.
Beginning at 4 p.m. on November 30, 1864, Carnton was witness to one of the bloodiest battles of the entire Civil War. The Confederate Army of Tennessee furiously assaulted the Federal army entrenched along the southern edge of Franklin, TN. The resulting battle, believed to be the bloodiest five hours of the Civil War, involved a massive frontal assault larger than Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. The majority of the combat occurred in the dark and at close quarters. The Battle of Franklin lasted barely five hours and led to some 9,500 soldiers being killed, wounded, captured, or counted as missing. Nearly 7,000 of that number were Confederate troops. Carnton served as the largest field hospital in the area for hundreds of wounded and dying Confederate soldiers.
The floors of the plantation house are still stained with their blood. Many of the wounded were left on the battlefield overnight, and when the temperatures dropped into the 20s, died of exposure. One Yankee soldier wrote later he had stuffed his ears with cotton to block out the heartbreaking cries of the wounded and dying.

I am catching up on e-mails and other things this morning, plus working on a retreat for priests I'll give later this month. Prayers would be appreciated!
An African Prelate of Interest PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 06 October 2009 09:40
John Allen has a post on Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson titled, "Ghanaian Cardinal Destined to be an Ecclesiastical Star." Although I'm a bit uncomfortable with this kind of language ("star") with regard to anyone involved in Church ministry - since Jesus modeled the foot-washing service of a slave - the article is interesting.

One of the comments has to do with the Cardinal's ecumenical relations with two of the largest and fastest growing religious groups in the world. If he is a papabile, these encounters will be an important preparation for taking the see of Peter.

In recent years, Turkson has acquired a reputation as a leader in relations with two groups often seen as rivals to Catholicism on the African continent: Pentecostals and Muslims. In both cases, Turkson manages to blend a clear defense of the faith with an apparently sincere desire for dialogue, and a capacity to learn from what the others do well.
From the Pentecostals, Turkson has argued that Catholics can learn to put more emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit – healings, intercessory prayer, and so on, in addition to their strong emphasis on a personal relationship with Jesus.
With Muslims, Turkson has encouraged Catholics to study the Qur’an as a bridge to understanding. He’s also taken up Pope Benedict’s call for inter-cultural, rather than precisely inter-religious, dialogue, pursuing areas of common effort on charitable and social justice projects.

As the Catholic Church grows in Africa, and as Africans are raised to leadership in the universal Church, I suspect we will hear more about charisms and the importance of faith as relationship with the Father through the Son in the Spirit.
Christianity is Booming in Asia PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 06 October 2009 08:06
This is another one of those long, number-crunching posts.

Sandro Magister’s article: The Kerala Exception. A Trip to India's Most Christian and Peaceful State, is fascinating and a great read for those of us who are intrigued by news of the Church in the global south.

Magister’s primary focus in the article is the very important issue of peace vs. persecution in India. But I was non-plussed by the first few sentences:

“The Christian fertility of Africa contrasts with that of another continent, Asia, which instead shows itself to be much more impervious to the Gospel.

In Asia, the Philippines is the only nation with a Christian majority, and South Korea is the only nation in which Christianity is growing. Elsewhere, Christians are a more or less scant minority, in many cases busy resisting persecution, oppression, hostility of every kind.”

For reasons that are unclear to me, when discussing Asia, Catholic pundits (John Allen does the same thing) merge the categories “Catholic” and “Christian” in a way that they would never do when talking about Europe or the US or even Latin America. In those places, they are clear that a distinctly non-Catholic Christianity is a real force.

But they seem to be unaware that Asian Christianity, as whole, is growing like gang-busters in our own day and that two thirds of the new Christians of Asia are not Catholic. Which may explain the factual errors. The Philippines is no longer the only majority Christian nation in Asia (East Timor is overwhelmingly Catholic) and Kerala is not the most Christian state in India. Nagaland is over 90% Christian. 75% of it's population is Baptist.

We also have a tendency to assume that minority status and persecution means that the Christians of Asia are a fragile, cowed, static minority. The work of David Aikman (Jesus in Beijing) and Phillip Jenkins (The Next Christendom and other works) has received enormous publicity in recent years but it doesn’t seem to be enough to re-write our centuries' old script.

The stories of the persecution of Catholics from the 16th, 17th, and 19th centuries seems to trump any sense of what is happening in Asia in our own day. The problem is that in those centuries, the only Christians doing missionary work in Asia were Catholics (and the Orthodox to a much smaller extent) and they did heroically endure terrible persecution which ensured that Catholicism remained a tiny minority. But all that began to change about the year 1800 when the Protestant missionaries began to arrive.

If we are really concerned about and referring only to the fortunes of the Catholic Church in Asia, let’s say so. But if we are truly talking about Christianity, the far more accurate way to re-write that first sentence to describe our present situation would be “The Christian fertility of Asia contrasts with that of another continent, Europe, which instead shows itself to be much more impervious to the Gospel.

Here we need to turn to the resources of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon Conwell Seminary and their annual report: the Status of Global Mission (or SGM which is an annual summary of the changes in global Christianity as monitored by the staff of famous World Christian Encyclopedia, now available online.)

Let’s start with a look at the relative “Christian fertility” of Africa and Asia as opposed to the other continents of the world.

In mid 2009, African Christianity saw an annual growth rate of 2.59% which is far above the current global population growth rate of 1%. But Asian Christianity was a close second with an annual growth rate of 2.48%. These two continents are by far the fastest growing centers of the Christian faith in the world

The staff of the Status of Global Mission breaks down the figures in ways that really brings it home. They estimate that Africa sees 32,000 new Christians every 24 hours. And that by tomorrow morning, there will be 25,000 new Christians in Asia.

Compare that to the figures for Europe and North America and you really start to get the picture: Growth in European Christianity is almost non-existent (0.12%) and North America isn’t that much better (0.66%). There are more than twelve times as many new Christians in Asia as in Europe every single day.

The SGM contains figures by continent from 1800 on and a little analysis is mind-altering.

In 1800, nearly 84% of all the Christians in the world lived in Europe but the second most Christian continent was Asia with just over 4%. There were nearly twice as many Christians in Asia as in Latin America, (2.4%) and in Africa (2.1%) for instance.

The 19th century marked the beginning of the great Protestant missionary push and a century later, things had begun to change. By 1900, Europe held only 66% of all Christians and Latin America and North America held almost three times as many Christians as did Asia. Africa brought up the rear with a mere 1.7% of global Christianity. But 77.4% of all Christians still lived in what could now be called the “industrialized west” (Europe, North America, Oceania).

The 20th century was a century of staggering African growth. African Christianity grew from 8.7 million in 1900 to 355 million in 2000. But Asia was hardly standing still. Asian Christians grew from 20.7 million in 1900 to 293.8 million in the same century and by 2000, comprised nearly 15% of the Christians in the world. Only 38.5% of Christians lived in the industrialized west at the beginning of the new millennium.

By 2025, a mere 16 years from now, the SGM estimates that African and Latin American Christianity will have dramatically passed Europe, which will hold less than 20% of all the Christians in the world. There will be nearly as many Christians in Asia as in Europe and less than 30% of all Christians will live in the west. In the 125 years since 1900, Asian Christianity will have multiplied nearly 24 times.

The fastest growing Christian community in the world (China) and the largest churches in the world (South Korea) are in Asia. Even prestigious secular sources recognize this. For instance, the Economist published a thought-provoking article last October which began:

"ZHAO XIAO, a former Communist Party official and convert to Christianity, smiles over a cup of tea and says he thinks there are up to 130m Christians in China.


. . . according to China Aid Association (CAA), a Texas-based lobby group, the director of the government body which supervises all religions in China said privately that the figure was indeed as much as 130m in early 2008.

If so, it would mean China contains more Christians than Communists (party membership is 74m) and there may be more active Christians in China than in any other country."

Since 1960, dramatic Christian growth has occurred in China, Nepal, South Korea, and Indonesia. (For instance, there were about 50,000 Christians in Nepal in 1991. 18 years later, that number has mushroomed to 800,000.) Not to mention the fact that small, overwhelmingly Catholic East Timor broke away from Indonesia to become the second majority nation in Asia. And that in the last year or so, the number of Asian Christians has caught up with and probably passed the number of Asian Buddhists.

The fact that the vast majority of Asian growth is non-Catholic, is among Independent Christians, should not stop us from recognizing the vast change that has taken place in Asia any more than it has stopped us from recognizing the facts on the ground in Latin America.

If we don’t realize that “Christian fertility” is very much an Asian phenomena as well as an African one, we will be very seriously misreading the times in which we live. These days, we must distinguish between Christianity as a whole and Catholicism as its largest communion. We recognize the impact and dynamism of evangelical Protestantism in the west routinely. We must do the same in Asia as well.
Too Much Tolerance? St. Therese Pushes the Limits in the UK. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 05 October 2009 07:24
Check out this worthy blogging effort from across the pond:

Anna Arco is a writer for the British Catholic Herald and her blog is called Anna Arco's Diary. I first became aware of her yesterday because she linked to my recent post on the Alpha course and its impact in the Catholic world. (Since Alpha originated in London and 2.5 million Britons have gone through it - it is certainly newsworthy for British Catholics).

Today she has a fascinating piece on the 10,000 British pilgrims who stood in line in the middle of the night to venerate St. Therese' relics which laid in glorious, soaring York Minster for 18 hours this weekend.

Since the English Reformation, York Minster, the great jewel of the late medieval English church, has been Anglican. (What a truly fitting setting. The local Catholic cathedral in York, built in the 19th century, would be far too small.) I didn't realize that the St. Therese tour has an ecumenical side. How the times have changed since Margaret Clitheroe, who lived nearby in the Shambles, was pressed to death for harboring Mass in her home!.

But there was a small anti-idolatry demonstration yesterday outside the Minster. Half a dozen people with placards while 2,000 prayed inside. So all echoes of the past are not gone. Anna links to this essay in the Times where the author,Minette Marrin, (who calls herself a "peaceable agnostic") wonders if there is such a thing as "too much tolerance".

"To the agnostic all this seems pre-scientific mumbo jumbo, on a level with voodoo fetishes or the Buddha’s tooth in Sri Lanka. In primitive thought, objects do indeed have mana, as anthropologists call it — supernatural powers. One might say that it hardly matters; we all have our follies and if people here choose to believe that a statue in Southall of the Hindu elephant god really did suck up milk from votive saucers in 1995, they are and ought to be free to do so. It wasn’t so long ago that Europe was almost awash with gallons of the milk of the Virgin Mary, treasured by the faithful. And fellow citizens ought usually to be polite enough to keep their critical thoughts to themselves, in the name of courtesy and mutual tolerance.

However, there is a difference in this case. The Catholic Church is actively encouraging people to hope for miracles of healing. These reliquary jamborees can only inflame irrational expectations in people who are suffering and suggestible. Surely it cannot be right to do so. Any face cream promising much lesser miracles — merely the disappearance of wrinkles — would soon fall foul of trading standards officers and have to be withdrawn, to protect the innocent public from being deluded by the false claims of charlatans. Why, then, have the media been so uncritical about this mass deception?

Years ago I spent many months in the BBC trying to make television documentaries about supernatural healing, including Christian healing. After a great deal of research and countless visits, conversations and false trails, I had to accept that I could not find one single example of Christian healing (or any other supernatural healing). There were plenty of claims, but very little evidence, and certainly no evidence that would stand up in a documentary. What I did find was something that shocked me — the bamboozling of frightened, suffering, suggestible people by Christians who offered them the hope of a miraculous cure, if their faith were strong enough. Religious tolerance is difficult in such cases.

The intolerant, triumphalist atheists have never appealed to me. I cannot see why it is so important to them to denounce other people’s religious beliefs so aggressively. I don’t know why people who pride themselves on their rationality can be so irrationally sure that they are right; absolute certainty is not a rational position. Besides, Catholics and Christians generally are very often a force for good; most of what’s best in our society is built upon Christian foundations.

All the same, there comes a time when even a peaceable agnostic feels roused to indignation. For me it was last week, at the news that the Home Office has seen fit to let the bones of the Little Flower into Wormwood Scrubs prison. This almost defies belief. For, in allowing this, with all the due process and deliberation of bureaucracy, the government is conferring respectability on such relics. And in so doing, it opens wide the gates of reason to let into any public place any and every fetish or juju that any religious group claims is part of its spiritual life. The laws on equality and religious respect will require it."

I am honestly astonished that Minnette couldn't find any hard evidence of Christian healing in several months effort - especially considering John Henry Newman is about to be declared Blessed. I wonder where she was looking?

Anna Arco also has a very interesting post on Janne Haaland Matlary, professor of international politics at the department of political sciences of the University of Oslo.

"Matlary was the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs for Norway and a member of the Christian Democrat Party between 1997 and 2000. She is a convert to Catholicism and already serves on the Pontical Council for Justice and Peace and is a consultor on the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Readers will remember the fuss, last year, over Cherie Blair giving a talk at the Angelicum in December. The event was a conference on Women and Human Rights, in honour of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mrs Blair’s high profile and controversial talk, garnered all the media/blogging attention. Dr Matlary’s talk was very good but went largely unnoticed."

For a smart and well-written glimpse of Catholic life from a British perspective, we would do well to bookmark Anna Arco's Diary and stay tuned.
All Y'all Come PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 02 October 2009 09:10
This weekend, St. Paul, Minnesota, and Tennessee are the places to be.

There will be a Called & Gifted workshop at the Church of the Incarnation in Collierville, TN (Memphis area) this weekend while Fr. Mike will be preaching a parish mission at St. Stephen's in Old Hickory, TN Sunday through Wednesday.

And I'll be hanging round amid the glory of St. Paul's Cathedral in the aptly named St. Paul, MN on Saturday morning.

Those of you on the right and left coasts, dry those tears of despair. We're coming your way in the weeks ahead.
Alpha: A Force to Be Reckoned With in the Catholic World? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 02 October 2009 07:52
I can't believe that I'm blogging at 7:52 am on a day that I'm due to travel. Usually my wake-up call on a travel day is at 2:45 am, I leave the house at 4:30 and take off about 6:00 am. I should be over the Dakotas by now. But the miracle of a 1pm direct flight changes everything. So I'm sipping a home made a "slim" Hazelnut latte and nibbling a home made wholewheat scone while I type. Such luxury!

Every once in a while, I like to check on the status of the spread of the Alpha course. Alpha is the nearly ubiquitous "low cringe factor" 10 week evangelization course that emerged out of charismatically oriented (and Toronto Blessing linked) Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Brompton (London) in 1992 and rapidly became a phenomenon.

How much of a phenomenon?

As of June, 2009, 13 million people had attended 42,530 Alpha courses in 163 countries. 2.5 million in the Uk alone. (To compare, it is helpful to know that about 8 million people have attended some form of Cursillo in the past 60 years. The only similar event that I am aware of that has outpaced Alpha would be the Life in the Spirit seminar which has had 60 million participants since the late 60's.)

1500 delegates from 100 countries attended the Alpha International Gathering in London in June.

25 of those delegates were Catholic bishops and archbishops. Because there is a whole track called "Alpha in a Catholic context." And there are now national Alpha offices all over the Catholic world: Belgium, Austria, France, East Timor, the Philippines, Spain, Poland, and Latin America. The Ireland office just opened in March, 2009.

The Alpha movement, as a whole, is so big that it is developing into an international network that contains some of the characteristics that we traditionally associate with a denomination. In parts of the Catholic world, Alpha functions much like a movement.

The spread of the Alpha course among Catholics in France is especially impressive. Sponsored by the French bishops, there are about 450 courses running in the country. 6,000 priests and lay leaders have been trained to run the course. I've seen stats that say that 1/5 of the parishes in Paris are using the Alpha course to evangelize their own and their neighbors. In French Catholicism, Alpha is a true force to be reckoned with.

Are there problems with Alpha's theology and ecclesiology? Sure. I outlined a number of them in this Siena Scribe article "When Evangelical is Not Enough" some years ago.

Is Alpha effective as an evangelizing tool? The answer seems to be unequivocally yes" - with the accompanying caveat that it is simultaneously a formation in "basic" Christianity and therefore, the basic proclamation of Christ is "framed" in an understanding of salvation and the Church that is seriously defective from a Catholic point of view.

So why are Catholics embracing it? Because they know that the overwhelming majority of our people - active or not - have never been evangelized, that the initial proclamation of Christ and challenge to follow him has not taken place.

We don't seem to know how to do that ourselves and Alpha works. (And in my experience, overwhelmed pastors just love stuff that works.) And Alpha comes in an attractive, well tested plug and play package. And has a formidable global marketing arm behind it. (FYI, a very effective and truly Catholic equivalent of Alpha is in the final stages of development in the diocese of Corpus Christi.)

And my point is?

Simply that there are significant forces at work in the Church that we aren't discussing or even aware of around St. Blog's. Beyond our tight culture war categories of "traditionalist" "neo-con", "liberal" and whatever. Like the Alpha course. Which is being held right now in thousands of Catholic parishes around the world with the support of their local bishops.

Because they are offering something that we find so difficult to do for our own. Proclaim Christ and invite people to intentional discipleship.

If we don't evangelize our own, someone else will do it for us. Sometimes in our own parish halls.
In Heaven It is Alwaies Autumne PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 01 October 2009 07:59
I won't be making it to the high country this fall but this picture from nearby Mueller State Park captures the feel around here:

John Donne gave this sermon on Christmas Day, 1624 but it is also beautifully appropriate for autumn:

"God made Sun and Moon to distinguish seasons, and day, and night, and we cannot have the fruits of the earth but in their seasons: But God hath made no decree to distinguish the seasons of his mercies; In paradise, the fruits were ripe, the first minute, and in heaven it is alwaies Autumne, his mercies are ever in their maturity. We ask panem quotidianum, our daily bread, and God never sayes you should have come yesterday, he never sayes you must againe to morrow, but to day if you will heare his voice, to day he will heare you.

If some King of the earth have so large an extent of Dominion, in North and South, as that he hath Winter and Summer together in his Dominions, so large an extent East and West, as that he hath day and night together in his Dominions, much more hath God mercy and judgement together: He brought light out of darknesse, not out of a lesser light; he can bring thy Summer out of Winter, though thou have no Spring; though in the wayes of fortune, or understanding, or conscience, thou have been benighted till now, wintred and frozen, clouded and eclypsed, damped and benummed, smothered and stupified till now, now God comes to thee, not as in the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of the spiring, but as the Sun at noon to illustrate all shadowes, as the sheaves in harvest, to fill all penurees, all occasions invite his mercies, and all times are his seasons."

Marriage: A "Costly Luxury"? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 01 October 2009 07:27
There was this thought provoking article on the Forbes website last week on the fact that our tax laws make marriage a "costly luxury" for the working poor.

The piece is written by two Notre Dame Profs and clearly reflects a Catholic sensibility.

"As recently as 10 years ago, the "marriage penalty" was the exclusive province of the middle and upper classes: Two people with approximately the same incomes would pay more taxes if they married (and filed taxes jointly) than if they did not marry and filed as single taxpayers. The Bush tax cuts attempted to make tax rates "marriage-neutral"; for most middle-class taxpayers, there is now, in fact, little if any difference between filing as a married couple or as unmarried singles.

The working poor, by contrast, are in a highly undesirable position when it comes to marital status and taxes. It literally doesn't pay for working poor parents to marry. Instead, it costs them precious money in the form of lost tax credits.


Read the whole thing. The authors recognize the financial and political difficulties of coming up with a solution but point out.

"We applaud the recent efforts of Congress to eradicate or reduce the marriage penalty for those with higher levels of income, but these efforts have overlooked the most at-risk sector of our society: families headed by the working poor. Our current income tax laws create a hurdle to getting married or cause a devastating surprise when the newly married couple files their first tax return as husband and wife. In our opinion, this is unfair to the people involved and unhealthy for a society that already has many people cohabitating rather than living as husband and wife. Studies continue to indicate that one of the contributing causes of poverty, illegitimacy, crime, inadequate education and other socioeconomic problems is the absence of married, committed parents in a family."

A nice example of lay competence used to shape and "evangelize" our structures.
Catholic Discernment and Sensibility PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 01 October 2009 07:21
This is fun. Todd over at Catholic Sensibility has been through the initial Called & Gifted workshop and is discerning a charism of writing - on his blog.

Which means, we readers, can, if we wish, be part of his discernment.

Roam on over to Todd's periodically during the next couple of weeks and witness a bit of discernment in action.
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