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Internet Porn: The Crack Cocaine of Sexual Addiction PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 30 April 2007 10:41
Posted for Sherry Weddell

A powerful piece from Catholic Exchange on the pervasive lure of on-line pornography addiction. Read the whole thing by clicking in here, but here's an excerpt.

"What Andy didn't realize was the highly addictive nature of his porn activity. Even at this entry-level porn use, he was already caught in the web of a chemical-like dependency called the "crack cocaine of sexual addiction."

Pornography or cybersex addiction can progress much more rapidly than any other chemical or behavioral addiction — the individual can become addicted in only a matter of weeks or months. The internet has an extraordinary capacity to introduce a trance-like state. Hours may pass while the individual is completely preoccupied with chatting online or gazing at pornographic images on the computer screen. This trance-like state is the first key element in the addiction cycle, which intensifies with each repetition. "


"Patrick Carnes, Ph.D., pioneer in the field of sexual addiction, maintains that all sexual addicts have certain faulty, core beliefs that make them vulnerable to addiction. They experience a fundamental lack of self-worth and a mistrust of others that come from early childhood experiences (whether through some traumatic incident or through impaired early attachment experiences) and are reinforced by our culture. The four dysfunctional core beliefs are:

1. I am a bad, unworthy person

2. Nobody would love me if they really knew me

3. My needs are never going to be met, if I have to depend on others

4. Sex is my most important need

Viewing pornography is accompanied by self-gratification and triggers arousal, satiation and an increase in fantasy, which induce powerful neurochemical responses in the brain similar to those induced by addictive drugs and alcohol. When these neurochemical changes happen repeatedly, the responses to sexual behaviors become habituated, and these behaviors are now "hard-wired" in the brain.

Yet this cycle repeats itself, often escalating as the user compulsively seeks increasingly deviant websites, or even tries to live out some of his sexual fantasies. The user may try to stop, but discovers that he experiences anxiety, restlessness, and unease (symptoms of withdrawal). Often the secret sin is never disclosed — until a loved one stumbles upon his addiction, or until he loses a job, or gets caught engaging in an illegal sexual act.

Once discovered, it is difficult, but not impossible, to treat. The treatment requires an integrated model of individual therapy, a self-help twelve-step group such as Sexaholics Anonymous, and a strong spiritual program with frequent reception of the sacraments. Our Catholic faith can combat the faulty core beliefs of the addict, but often therapy is needed to face the issues of the past that gave rise to the feelings of worthlessness, fear, and mistrust. Oftentimes, there is a childhood trauma or abuse that needs to be addressed.

There is a growing movement to address the problem of pornography and to offer hope to those afflicted. In his pastoral letter, "Bought with a Price," Bishop Paul S. Loverde outlines the nature of the offense and counters many of the false arguments that attempt to justify pornography. Just last week, the second largest Canadian wireless phone company pulled their plans to sell pornography on mobile phones, after the Archbishop of Vancouver, Raymond Roussin, urged Canadian Catholics to boycott.

If anyone is suffering from pornography addiction, a first step is to take a look at the website which was developed by Catholic mental health professionals and especially designed to help Catholics (and their families) who are afflicted by the scourge of pornography.
PBS on "The Mormons" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 30 April 2007 09:00
A strikingly positive review of the PBS show "The Mormons" in today's New York Times which will broadcast tonight and tomorrow.

If you watch it, come back and share your impressions with the rest of us.
Orthodox Politics? PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 30 April 2007 08:47

Written by Keith Strohm

As I was reflecting on the issue of Global Warming on my blog, I started thinking about the ways in which American politics seem to intertwine with orthodox Catholicism. If one were to take the whole of Catholic doctrine and "map" where it might fall on the American Political Spectrum, it would become quite apparent that it extends well into both Conservative and Liberal camps.
This has ever been the problem for many Catholics who wish to apply Catholic teaching in the current political landscape--for whom should I vote, seeing as no single political party stands for everything that I do? The Truth of Revelation can not simply be fit neatly into either increasingly polarized political view.

Over the course of the last year or so, I have been increasingly impressed with the folks over at Evangelical Catholicism. They consistently undertake a rather rigorous and nuanced application of Catholic Teaching to the issues at hand. And, at the end of the day, that is exactly what we, as lay members of Christ's Church, are called to do: apply the Truths of the faith to the world in which we live.

Regarding the relationship of Catholic Teaching to , Evangelical Catholicism has this penetrating analysis:

In my experience, it seems that in recent times, some Catholics in this country understand orthodoxy as a synonym for conservative ideals. However, these ideals are not necessarily concerned with the traditional moral values that many cultures still refer to. For instance, when I was growing up, my mom would always talk about how I had to uphold the conservative values she taught me: dress modestly, save myself for marriage, respect your elders, etc. These are not the ones I am referring to on this post. In contrast, the conservative ideals I am referring to seem to extend to the political and social spheres that are based on the principles of the Republican party. The problem is that when you go outside of the U.S., you will not find such marked differences between one party and another, so to evaluate orthodoxy in terms of one country’s political ideologies is not universally applicable, other than just being completely erroneous.

Orthodoxy means “right belief” and because as Christians we believe that belief is not isolated from actions, orthodoxy is always coupled with orthopraxis or “right action.” Some Catholics seem to use the term orthodoxy quite loosely even forgetting that one cannot judge someone else’s belief without looking at how their actions correspond to that belief. As a result, just because I prefer Gregorian chant to be sung in the liturgy and I enjoy the Tridentine Mass over the Novus Ordo, does not make me an orthodox Catholic if I ignore the homeless mother waiting outside of the church asking for help.

To be sure, faithful and orthodox Catholics can disagree on the best way to actually apply the Church's Teaching to particular issues--but we must all begin from the same set of Principles. As Katerina over at EC writes:

Catholic teaching is simply true. It is not conservative, nor liberal, nor socialist. Let us not reduce true Christian teaching to mere political ideals. Rather, let us see the problems we face in society in light of Catholic teaching, because if we take our political ideologies as our starting point, we will ignore the fullness of truth contained in the entire corpus of Catholic doctrine.

This is the classic Catholic both/and--a fullness and integrity of Truth with which we have been gifted. As men and women who have received this great gift, it is our responsibility to reflect carefully on how to bring this Teaching in to every area of human endeavor--this is the lay apostolate in action.

Coming to a Youtube near You: That Catholic Show PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 30 April 2007 08:06
Fr. Broderick and his gang over at SQPN have just launched That Catholic Show - a popular 5 minute video on the Catholic faith. Take a look at the initial episode: Sit, Stand or Kneel?

Catherine of Siena mega-site PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 30 April 2007 07:56
Do pay a visit to this wonderful site dedicated entirely to the life, work, writings, and spirituality of St. Catherine of Siena.

Hat tip: Amy Welborn
The Seuss is Loose PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Monday, 30 April 2007 05:27
This weekend I helped out a bit with a LifeTeen retreat sponsored by Holy Apostles Catholic Church in Colorado Springs, CO. The title of the retreat was "The Seuss is Loose," and the presentations offered by various members of the core team were reflections based on a few beloved Dr. Seuss stories, and focused on the need for perseverance in the faith in the face of opposition, growth in virtue, overcoming peer pressure, and the unique love that God has for each person.

I had the privilege of listening to some of the kids share about what's going on in their life, and I was blown away. Their adolescence is so different from my own. The pressures they encounter at school, the difficulties they face when they go home, sometimes, are incredible. I don't know how well I would handle them at age 47, much less age 17! In some cases, the children's parents are divorced, or working hard to maintain a standard of living and providing what their kids ask for. But of course, what the kids ask for and what they really need - parental time and individual attention - are two different things.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the importance of parents in the lives of their children:
"The joyful love with which our parents welcomed us and accompanied our first steps in this world is like a sacramental sign and prolongation of the benevolent love of God from which we have come. The experience of being welcomed and loved by God and by our parents is always the firm foundation for authentic human growth and authentic development, helping us to mature on the way towards truth and love, and to move beyond ourselves in order to enter into communion with others and with God."
Pope Benedict XVI. Sermon at the Fifth World Meeting of Families, Valencia 2006

George Barna, in a reflection on the Virginia Tech shooting linked in here, cites a number of chilling facts about parenting and the state of parenthood today, including:

-By the time an American child is 23 years old, as was the killer in Virginia, he will have seen countless murders among the more than 30,000 acts of violence to which he is exposed through television, movies and video games.

-By the age of 23, the average American will have viewed thousands of hours of pornographic images, which diminish the dignity and value of human life.

-After nearly a quarter century on earth, the typical American will have listened to hundreds of hours of music that fosters anger, hatred, disrespect for authority, selfishness, and radical independence.

-The typical worldview of a person in their early twenties promotes self-centeredness, the right to happiness and fulfillment, the importance of personal expression in all forms, the necessity of tolerating aberrant or immoral points of views, allows for disrespect of other people and use of profanity, and advances forms of generic spirituality that dismiss the validity of the Judeo-Christian faith. Largely propelled by postmodern thought, the typical worldview of young people does not facilitate respect for life, acceptance of the rule of law, or the necessity of hard work, personal sacrifice, paying the dues or contributing to the common good.

-The average adolescent spends more than 40 hours each week digesting media, and the typical teenager in America absorbs almost 60 hours of media content each week. For better or worse, the messages received from the media represent a series of unfiltered, unchaperoned worldview lessons.

-It appears that as many as one out of every five young people is or has been under the influence of mood-altering medications, some of whose long-term side effects are not fully understood by the medical community. Drugging children has become one of the ways in which we have coped with other issues.

-Stress levels have been steadily rising among young children over the past couple of decades. A variety of factors have contributed to such stress, including parental acrimony and divorce, household financial troubles, media-fed expectations regarding materialism, overscheduling of children, bullying, physical abuse within the home, and excessive peer pressure.

-One-third of the nation’s teenagers report having been in a physical fight at least once in the last year. Nearly one out of every five 9th through 12th grade students has carried a gun, knife or club in the past month.

-Education, both in the home and outside of it, provides diminishing emphasis upon the development of character, and increasing emphasis upon meeting academic performance standards, especially through standardized testing.

-Growing numbers of children seek to make their way through an increasingly complex life without the traditional safety net comprised of a loving and supportive family, a stable circle of supportive peers, teachers who know and help nurture the child, and a community of faith that assists in giving meaning to life and a sense of belonging.

-Most young people admit that they feel as if they do not receive sufficient attention from their parents; do not have enough good friends whom they can count on; are unsettled about their own future; have personal spiritual perspectives but not much of a sense of spiritual community; lack role models; and do not feel that they have intrinsic value."

The stress parents face is also outlined in the article.

In spite of this, the retreat demonstrated that adolescents can and do respond positively to positive role models, can support one another, are willing - even craving - a relationship with Jesus (witnessed by their attentiveness to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament). They can sing songs of praise with great enthusiasm, are able to be achingly honest in the sacrament of reconciliation, and will even forego an extra hour of sleep to attend a non-required early-morning Mass.

My hat's off to all those who work with our youth, and to parents who are struggling to remain in a healthy, positive, Christ-centered relationship with their children!

How can we support each other in this vital task?
In Honor of St. Catherine PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 29 April 2007 22:44

Written by JACK

Some Fruits of My Labor PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 29 April 2007 22:13

Written by JACK

I know I haven't been around the blog much. I've been quite busy at work and, in what free time I have had, I've been busily organizing my videos, pictures, etc., from my Rome trip onto a DVD. My, oh my, did I not realize how tedious that would be. Still working on it, but I thought I would share the fruits of some of my labor. Here's the intro to the DVD. The pictures are all mine. The music is a sample from Claudio Chieffo's work and is a beloved song within CL and was the one sung when the Pope arrived at the audience. (I know it has been over a month, but I will post on the trip soon, I promise!)

Let me take a stab at this... PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 27 April 2007 14:33

Written by Kathleen Lundquist

I’ve been following the dust-up regarding the word “evangelical” – the conflict between Protestant converts’ varied understandings and experiences of it and the negative images the word conjures in cradle Catholics’ minds, and the concerns about elitism and condescension on the part of those involved in such lay groups.

In my opinion, the best posts framing the issues and answering the questions are here (by Sherry W), here (also by Sherry), and here (Fr. Jim Tucker of Dappled Things), as well as Fr. Mike's post (below) from today.

From my perspective as a participant in the Institute's programs and an avid supporter for many years, I have to say this first regarding the charge of an elitist attitude: No one is trying to turn introverted, shy, prayerfully devoted contemplative cradle Catholics into happy-clappy extroverts who shout “Amen!” back at the priest during his homily and chatter incessantly about their “personal relationship with Jesus” to the person who sits next to them on the bus. No one is trying to turn faithful Catholics into something they’re not. The programs and resources of the Catherine of Siena Institute are not geared toward changing your personality; rather, they are designed to treat your personality, your personal conception and experience of God, and your specific charisms with the greatest of respect and care. Discerning one’s charisms in response to God’s call is a deeply and uniquely personal process, and the Institute’s goal is to equip you intellectually and emotionally to grow into the best you that God designed for you to be.

Though the standards of holiness are the same for us all, because of our unique personalities, holiness looks different on everyone – and this is what we recognize and encourage. Our vision is the diametric opposite of elitism – for how could we measure such a thing? Could we say that St. Thomas Aquinas was a more “intentional” disciple than St. Francis of Assisi, or vice versa? That Mother Theresa was more “evangelical” than St. Teresa of Avila? Taking the analogy of the human body for the Body of Christ, for a moment: Is the eye less important to the function of the body than the spleen? Is your right hand more important than the hormones secreted by your pancreas? Please – anyone who’s ever actually encountered the programs or materials of the Institute can vouch for the fact that charges of spiritual arrogance or elitism are unfounded (except for the unfortunate fact that we all sin personally now and again).

To me, “intentional discipleship” means “things I think about and plan on doing for/with Jesus, and then I do them”. There are no prescribed practices, no celices, no special society prayerbooks. Nothing but the “me” I’ve dedicated to the service of God and my fellow man on planet Earth; the equipment He’s given me in terms of my talents, experiences, and intellect; the resources of the Church and the power infused into my soul by the Sacraments; and my willingness to do the tasks and love the people He sets before me each day. That’s it.

I’ve been reading a book by Fr. Luigi Giussani, the founder of Communion & Liberation, entitled The Journey to Truth Is an Experience. Here’s a quote from his exegesis of Acts 1:12-14 that describes what happens when someone encounters Christ in a personal way, i.e. responds to the kerygma with faith, i.e. has an experience of Jesus Christ that radically alters their view of themselves and their place in the universe:

One who truly discovers and lives the experience of powerlessness and solitude does not remain alone. Only one who has experienced powerlessness to its depths, and hence personal solitude, feels close to others and is easily drawn to them. Like someone lost, without shelter in a storm, he or she feels his or her cry at one with the cries of others, her or her anxiety and expectation at one with the anxieties and expectations of all others.

Only one who truly experiences helplessness and solitude stays with other people without self-interest, calculation, or imposition, yet at the same time without “following the crowd” passively, submitting, or becoming a slave of society.

You can claim to be seriously committed to your own human experience only when you sense this community with others, with anyone and everyone, without frontiers or discrimination, for we live our commitment to what is most deeply within us and therefore common to all. You are truly committed to your own human experience when, saying “I”, you live this “I” so simply and profoundly that you feel fraternally bonded to any other person’s “I”. God’s answer will reach only the person committed in such a way.
(Giussani, Fr. L. The Journey to Truth Is an Experience. Quebec City: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006, p. 55-56)

Fr. Giussani’s words take some pondering and unpacking, but what I get from the above passage is this: It’s only through our experience of Jesus Christ, the One Reality, that we can have any sort of healthy bond to our fellow creatures at all. The recognition of our own powerlessness, sinfulness, emptiness, and aloneness without God is what we truly have in common with every other human being, and it’s on this basis that we bond, with the goal of helping one another succeed in apprehending the grace that God offers us and becoming what God intends for us to be. It’s only through the personal recognition of the truth of who God is, and therefore who we are and what our experience means, that we can be knit together in a diverse, complex, yet unified entity that can be a powerful force for good on our planet.

Every Protestant I know would agree with the following statement: The experience of Christ always leads a person to the Christian community. Though some Christians don’t make it into the Catholic Church, they still respond the best they can to Christ’s directives in the Scriptures, not the least of which is “We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25) Yes, Protestant ecclesiology is different; though they don’t believe in The Church, nearly all believe in a church. If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be anything we call a “Protestant denomination”; we would simply encounter individual Christian believers outside the Catholic Church, floating like tiny atoms of light in the midst of the darkness that surrounds us.

I hope this helps to allay the concerns of those who fear a “Protestantization” of the Church, but I don’t know if it will… Comments? Clarifications? Questions? (Coffee?)

Reader Bleg PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 27 April 2007 14:27

Written by Keith Strohm

From an ID Reader:

I am a big fan and daily reader of the Intentional Disciples blog and I have what I think they call a "bleg" for you and the other readers... I have just been hired at a parish to join their faith
formation team. They are a Generations of Faith parish, and really are ahead of their time in terms of thinking ahead, wanting to involve the whole parish in catechesis and evangelization. The idea is I'm supposed to work with the pastor and the faith formation team to get the parish all on one page, catechetically- I'll be working with RCIA and Marriage prep and Baptism prep and sort of filling in the nooks and crannies which aren't traditionally considered to be
included in faith formation.

The reason I'm having trouble describing it is actually the nature of my bleg... we are inventing this position as we go along! So I'd love to hear from your readers; What would your readers call a position like this? What could my title be? What would you include in the job
description? Does anyone have a position like this in existence in your parish? Any helpful hints or ideas?

I won't use my real name because I haven't made the move yet... but I appreciate your help and look forward to reading on your blog if there are any answers forthcoming!

MORE on Evangelization PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Friday, 27 April 2007 13:24

I made a long comment on Amy Welborn's blog, Open Book, where another discussion rages about intentional discipleship, evangelization, and the personal relationship to Jesus. A lot of Catholics in the blogosphere are passionate about the Church, Jesus, the Sacraments, evangelization, RCIA, which is a hopeful sign. Too often, though, we end up sniping at one another in a most unchristian manner. Sometimes, it's because we can't agree on what to do first. I spent too much time on this to not post it here, too. I include a picture of St. Dominic Here goes...

I hope this comment allows all of us who are passionate about Christ and His Church to make some important distinctions which can be forgotten when we talk about evangelization, sacramental preparation, and discussions about the disposition of an individual with regard to the reception of sacraments.

There seems to be some disagreement about the nature and interrelationship between evangelization, proclamation and catechesis. Some argue the importance of catechetical content, others emphasize the importance of personal conversion to Christ, and so on.

All of these are important, but each has a particular role and place in the process of bringing someone into the fullness of relationship with Christ and His Church as it can be experienced in our earhtly life.

The National Directory for Catechesis recognizes that individuals fall into different categories with regard to what they need from the Christian community or the individual Catholic Christian.

Some people are in need of Pre-evangelization, i.e., preparation for the first proclamation of the Gospel. These include “non-believers, the indifferent.” The indifferent, I believe, can sometimes include people in our parishes. Pre-evangelization indicates that there are some obstacles that may need to be overcome before someone is capable of hearing and receiving the gospel. Sometimes that can be as simple as needing to trust a particular Catholic person who seems to genuinely care about me.

"Sharing the Light of Faith" (the old National Catechetical Directory) expresses this beautifully:

"Catechesis presupposes prior pre-evangelization and evangelization. These are likely to be most successful when they build on basic human needs - for security, affection, acceptance, growth, and intellectual development - showing how these include a need, a hunger, for God and His Word.

Often, however, catechesis is directed to individuals and communities who, in fact, have not experienced pre-evangelization and evangelization, and have not made acts of faith corresponding to those stages. Taking people as they are, catechesis attempts to dispose them to respond to the message of revelation in an authentic, personal way.

There is a great need in the United States today (1978!!) to prepare the ground for the gospel message. Many people have no religious affiliation. Many others have not committed their lives to Christ and His Church, even though they are church members. Radical questioning of values, rapid social change, pluralism, cultural influences, and population mobility - these and other factors underline the need for pre-evangelization." (Nat'l Catechetical Directory for the U.S., 1978, #34)

Once we have established some kind of relationship and have dealt with issues that might prevent the acceptance of the Gospel (which might be personal or philosophical), and individual is prepared for the initial announcement of the Gospel. This can include a wide variety of people: “Non-believers, those who have chosen not to believe, those who follow other religions, children of Christians, those who may have been baptized but have little or no awareness of their Baptism and . . . live on the margins of Christian life.” (Nat'l Directory for Catechesis, 2005, #49

Notice that proclamation is of the Gospel, which is about Christ! The intent is to foster the individual's relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior, which necessarily calls for personal conversion that is indicated by a change in one's life. This is the focus of the inquiry and precatechumenate stages of RCIA. If the RCIA process is to be a model for adult faith formation in this country, as the U.S. bishops suggested in Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us, we cannot afford to ignore the question of whether or not an individual has committed their life to Christ. A judgment has to be made by each one of us whether or not this is true.

AFTER initial faith and conversion, one is ready for initiatory catechesis that introduces the life of faith, the Liturgy, and charity. According to the National Catechetical Directory, this is appropriate for “Catechumens, those who are coming to the Catholic faith from another Christian tradition, Catholics who need to complete their initiation, children and the young.” (49) But always, personal conversion is presumed in these individuals. If it has not happened, they are not ready to receive the fullness of the truth the Church has to offer because they have not received Him Who is the Truth.

The teaching of the Church regarding evangelization, catechesis and proclamation is beautiful, scriptural, practical, recognizes the essential role for grace - and remains to be put into effective practice in many of our parishes and in most of our lives. It requires patience, prayer, good people skills, grace, a lived relationship with Christ and His Church, time, attentiveness to others, selfless love. It wouldn't hurt if the fruits of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,
gentleness, self-control (attributes that sometimes are lacking in Catholic blogs) were clearly to be found in us who would bring others to Christ and His Church.
St. Catherine of Siena PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Friday, 27 April 2007 08:42

In honor of our patroness's feast day, Sherry thought she'd post a brief article she wrote several years ago about Catherine's life and impact

Life in 14th-century Siena seemed to offer 16-year-old Catherine Benincasa only two alternatives, an arranged marriage or life as an enclosed nun. What else could an illiterate, teen-aged daughter of a middle-class Italian merchant do? Astonishingly, Catherine refused to accept either option, fighting hard and successfully for a third way of life.

Catherine’s family, horrified at her refusal to do the conventional thing, forced her to endure months of mistreatment before she won the right to join the Dominican Third Order and live a devout life at home. For three years, Catherine lived a life of prayer, silence, and austerity in her tiny 9-by-12-foot room. During the Carnival of 1366, she experienced a mystical betrothal to Christ. A few days later, she realized that God was asking her to leave her contemplative isolation and re-enter the world. Catherine of Siena was only 19 when her public ministry began.

It was just as well that she got such an early start. Over six hundred years later, her life still strikes us as astonishing. In the next fourteen years Catherine lived the life of a dozen women. She was an ambassador and peace-maker, a nurse and a healer and a powerful evangelist whose very presence triggered innumerable conversions. She served as a counselor to Popes, queens, priests, housewives, and condemned prisoners, while composing one of the great works of Christian mysticism. Importantly, it was her status as a single laywoman that set Catherine of Siena free to answer a call from God that would alter the course of Western history and result in her becoming the first lay Doctor of the Church (as a Third Order Dominican, Catherine was not considered a nun).

Like her spiritual father, Saint Dominic, Catherine had remarkable charisms. While making peace between two branches of the Salembeni family, she sparked a religious revival. Thousands of local people would make their way through the mountains to the castle where Catherine was staying. The mere sight of her would set them clamoring for the sacraments. Seven priests worked all day and half the night hearing their confessions and could not keep up with the demand from penitents, some of whom hadn’t been to confession in forty years. Numerous healings were also attributed to Catherine. Her spiritual director, Blessed Raymond of Capua, once fell ill of the plague and had all the symptoms of impending death. She knelt by his side and prayed for an hour and a half until he wondered if she had forgotten about him altogether. But after eating food that she had prepared, he fell asleep, and upon waking, found himself completely well.

Catherine’s life was so remarkable that we are tempted to feel as if she has nothing to say to those of us whose faith and gifts seem all too ordinary by comparison. Remarkable as her gifts were, more remarkable was her sense of personal responsibility and authority to tackle the urgent issues of her day. She had no credentials of note in medieval society except that she was a disciple of Jesus Christ, a faithful daughter of the Church, and a woman of great spiritual depth and giftedness. Few lay Christians have had a clearer sense of standing in Jesus’ place than Catherine. Her influence was based upon her personal holiness and charisms, not her position. The most staggering thing about Catherine of Siena is that she did it all as a laywoman. Precisely on this account, there is much about Catherine’s ministry common to all of us who are called to live out our faith as lay Christians.

Like us, she cared deeply about the people and the world about her. One of my favorite stories about Catherine is of her experience in Pisa, where crowds thronged about her, kissing her hands. When accused of enjoying this attention, she protested that she hadn’t even noticed how people saluted her because she had been so interested in them! Catherine cared about the good of her hometown, of Italy, and of the whole of Christendom, which included the spiritual and institutional well-being of the Church itself. Like Saint Dominic, she constantly asked "What about the others?" But Catherine did more than care, she took action. When Siena was ravaged by recurring bouts of the plague, Catherine and her disciples risked their own lives to care for the sick and bury the dead. When the Pope needed to be strengthened in his resolve to leave Avignon and return to Rome, Catherine’s counsel gave him the courage he needed.

She plunged into the murky, chaotic world of Italian religious and political life without thinking that, because she was only an uneducated woman, she had no right to be there. There were no handy self-help guides to tell her How to Reconcile Warring City States in Five Easy Steps or How to Deal With Difficult Popes. The problems before her were every bit as complex and hard to grasp as are the problems facing us in our world. And, just as achievements in the our modern world can be difficult to measure, partial, and ambiguous in impact, so were Catherine’s.

Even her greatest political accomplishment, convincing Gregory VI to return to Rome, quickly lost its luster when two years later the Church found itself with two competing claimants for the office of Pope. Thus began the "Great Schism" that lasted thirty-six years and during which three men claimed to be Pope at the same time. Just as the results of our love and work are often obscured by the pressure of the problems and personalities about us, so the long-term effects of Catherine’s courageous struggle were not visible when she died at the young age of 33. At the end of her life, almost all of Catherine’s efforts in peace-making and church reform seemed to have ended in failure.

The key to Catherine’s lasting impact lay in her collaboration with others. A group of friends and disciples had gathered around her in Siena. It was a eclectic group made up of men and women, lay, religious, and priests, members of her family (including her mother, who repented of her opposition to Catherine’s vocation) and members of the nobility. A number of the "caterinati," as skeptics referred to her friends, went on to have an enormous impact for good. One of Catherine’s lay followers eventually became Prior General of the Carthusian Order. Raymond of Capua, who was Catherine’s confessor and biographer, became Master of the Dominican Order after her death and helped lead a major reform. John Dominic, the other great leader of the Dominican Reform, was only able to join the order because Catherine healed him of a speech impediment. He played a critical role in healing the Great Schism. He also founded the famous convent of San Marco in Florence and encouraged the work of Fra Angelico, the great Dominican painter. Catherine’s influence on all these men was profound.

Saint Catherine continues to touch the lives of men and women today. In the past six months, three different women have told me how traveling to Siena to visit Catherine’s home (which is carefully preserved) and shrine has powerfully changed their lives. We get phone calls and e-mail from people all over the country looking for information about our patroness. Others show up at our workshops simply because our organization is associated with Catherine of Siena.

We have much in common with the people of Rome who, upon hearing of Catherine’s death, poured into the chapel where her body lay, bringing their sick to ask for her intercession (miraculous cures did occur that heightened the crowd’s fervor). One of her Dominican friends mounted the pulpit to speak words of praise about her life, but he could not make himself heard over the voices of the vast throng praying around him. His response seems prophetic of her continued significance for us today as a saint and Doctor of the Church. "Catherine," he said, "speaks better for herself."
Come To Making Disciples PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 26 April 2007 16:49
The discussion about "is evangelism and intentional discipleship Catholic or Protestant?" has finally spilled over to Amy's.

I admit, I'm still a bit staggered at the seemingly endless controversy on a topic that has been the subject of endless magisterial teaching over the past 40+ years. But if any ID readers or visitors are interested in actually doing something about evangelization, consider attending Making Disciples this summer in Colorado Springs or this fall in West Virginia.

As we say on our website: The non-negotiable foundation for Christian maturity and vocation today, as it has always been, is discipleship. And the key to intentional discipleship is a critical part of catechesis and formation that seldom happens in the Catholic pastoral practice: thoughtful pre-evangelization and an initial proclamation of Christ that asks for a deliberate personal response.

Making Disciples is a four day seminar that will help participants

· Understand intentional discipleship and that it is the normative source of spiritual life, and thus the ultimate end of all pastoral ministry.

· Understand why initial discipleship precedes catechesis and how life-changing catechesis and formation builds on discipleship.

· Learn how to listen for and recognize pre-discipleship stages of spiritual growth.

· Learn how to facilitate the spiritual growth of those - whether baptized and “active” or not - who are not yet disciples.

· Learn how to articulate the basic kerygma that awakens initial faith in a gentle and non-threatening way.

· Learn how to use these skills in a wide variety of pastoral and personal settings: RCIA/inquiry, adult faith formation, sacramental prep, spiritual direction, pastoral counseling, gifts and vocational discernment,and personal relationships of all kinds.

· Have an opportunity to prayerfully reflect on their own journey toward discipleship.

Although the focus of Making Disciples is primarily pastoral and practical, Church teaching on evangelization and catechesis, grace, faith, disposition, the Holy Spirit, baptism and confirmation, and the charisms will be integrated throughout the seminar.

Check it out.
More On Evangelical Catholics PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 April 2007 11:03

Written by Keith Strohm

John Armstrong has a fascinating analysis regarding "evangelical" Catholics from an evangelical perspective:

The word evangelical has been variously misunderstood and disowned by Roman Catholics. The reason for this is not hard to understand. Catholics remember the reactions of fundamentalists and they watch evangelical Christian television and find it most unattractive and, at times, anti-Catholic. But the word originates from the Greek word for gospel in the New Testament (euangelion). It has always been a word that described those whose lives were transformed by the good news. This is why the Protestant revivals produced new "evangelicals." (By the way, there have been real Catholic revivals as well, as scholar Jay P. Dolan has made abundantly clear!)

I believe Catholics should help us reclaim the right use of the term evangelical. This word can be reclaimed, in a new time and with new meaning, if we both recognize it as a way to express the transformation that is brought about by believing the gospel of Jesus Christ. And if we are committed to proclaiming this message, in word and deed, then we have a common basis for a true ecumenism in a world that needs a strong Christian witness from all churches.

I found the entire article to be fascinating. Check it out here!

Hat Tip: Deep Furrows

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