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Twenty Catholic Church Workers Gave Their Lives in 2007 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 31 December 2007 13:43
Let us remember them, pray for them, honor them: Via Catholic News Service:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- From the war-torn lands of Iraq and Sri Lanka to violence-ridden neighborhoods around the world, at least 20 Catholic Church workers were murdered or sacrificed their lives for others in 2007, the Vatican's Fides agency said.

Each year, Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, publishes a list of pastoral workers who died violently. The 2007 list was released Dec. 29. The Fides report included a priest whose death was found most likely to be self-induced and accidental.

While Fides does not refer to the missionaries as martyrs -- technically a term reserved for those the church formally recognizes as having given their lives for the faith -- it said it was important to remember their sacrifices and to recognize that "each one of them, in a different way, contributed to the growth of the church in various parts of the world."

The list included Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni and three subdeacons who were shot outside a church in Mosul, Iraq, in June; and Father Nicholaspillai Packiyaranjith, a diocesan priest who worked with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Mannar, Sri Lanka, and was killed in September when a roadside bomb exploded as he was driving to a refugee camp.

Fides also highlighted the case of Sister Anne Thole, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Family, who died in April trying to rescue three patients trapped in a fire in an AIDS clinic in Ratschitz, South Africa.

The Fides' list included 14 priests, the three Iraqi subdeacons, a Marist brother, Sister Thole and a seminarian from the Society of St. Paul.

Besides the four killed in Iraq, two died in Mexico, three died in the Philippines, two died in Colombia, two in Spain, two in South Africa and one each in Brazil, Guatemala, Kenya, Rwanda and Sri Lanka.
A New Year's Tradition of a Completely Colorado Kind PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 31 December 2007 12:53
It is exceptionally cold in Colorado on this New Year's Eve. I-70 is still closed across the mountains (and 2,000 travelers are stranded) and Leadville is expecting -15 F temps tonight. Alamosa is expecting a low of -31 F.

I'm back in the lowlands (6700 ft) where it is only supposed to drop to -3. Weather like this creates the proper mindset to contemplate the heroic efforts of the AdAmAn Club.

Every New Year's Eve since 1922, this dauntless group has spent two days climbing Pike's Peak in the dead of winter in order to set off fireworks from the peak (14,110 feet) at midnight New Year's Eve. Moonglow, snow or 50 below. Whether those of us living at the mountain's foot can see the fireworks or not. On a clear night, the fireworks can be seen for 125 miles. Every year, they "add a man" or woman to the original "frozen five" below.

There are 88 members now although I don't know if they all will make the climb this year. Here is a detailed description of the process from a member of the AdAmAn club.

Enjoy this picture of the fireworks from 2004. And be grateful that you will be at that party or curled up by the fire with a nice Irish coffee.

Religion Stories of the Year PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 31 December 2007 08:06
Apparently it all depends . . .

Time magazine's list of the top ten religion stories:

1) Mother Teresa's darkness
2) Democrats Embrace Religion
3) Death of Jerry Falwell
4) The Pope's Moto Proprio
5) The Episcopal Church at Odds Over Homosexuality (Again!)
6) The "Greening" of Evangelicalism
7) The Road of Atheist Books
8) The Trials of our local meg-church, New Life
9) The Creation Museum opens (boy, did I miss this one!)
10) South Korean Missionaries Kidnapped in Afghanistan

From the annual poll of US Catholic editors conducted by Catholic News Service, the three top stories were:

1) The debate over immigration
2) The war in Iraq
3) Developments in stem cell research

From Jim Wallis' God's Politics blog:

1) Faith & Politics: "how the conversation on faith and politics has changed in the U.S"
2) Region in Crisis: Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan
3) Israel-Palestine
4) Democratic Congress in 2008
5) Global Warming
6) Darfur
7) the Death Penalty
8) Immigration
9) Guns
10) Muslim-Christian dialog

What stories do you think should have made the list and didn't?
Why Dick Clark Owes Pope Gregory PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 31 December 2007 06:20
We take for granted the TV and internet images of New Year's celebrations around the world but January 1 wasn't a truly global celebration until well into the 20th century.

The celebration of January 1 as the first day of the New Year was a Catholic innovation. January 1 became New Year's Day as a result of the adaption of the Gregorian calendar in 1582. The change had been mandated by the Council of Trent. The goal was to ensure that the Church celebrated Easter on the day that the Council of Nicea in 325 had celebrated Easter.

There is a very detailed Wikipedia article on the Gregorian reform.

Only 4 Catholic countries adopted the new calendar in 1582: Spain, Portugal, the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, and most of Italy. "Most non-Catholic countries initially objected to adopting a Catholic invention, especially during the Counter-Reformation (of which Gregory was a leading proponent); some Protestants feared the new calendar was part of a plot to return them to the Catholic fold. In the Czech lands, Protestants resisted the calendar imposed by the Hapsburg Monarchy. In parts of Ireland, Catholic rebels until their defeat in the Nine Years' War kept the "new" Easter in defiance of the English-loyal authorities; later, Catholics practising in secret petitioned the Propaganda Fide for dispensation from observing the new calendar, as it signalled their disloyalty. [6]

Denmark, Norway and the Protestant states of Germany adopted the solar portion of the new calendar on Monday, 1 March 1700, [7] . . They finally adopted the lunar portion of the Gregorian calendar in 1776. The remaining provinces of the Dutch Republic also adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1700.

Britain and the British Empire (including the eastern part of what is now the United States) adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752 (see the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750) by which time it was necessary to correct by 11 days. After 1753, the British tax year in Britain continued to operate on the Julian calendar and began on 5 April, which was the "Old Style" new tax year of 25 March. A 12th skipped Julian leap day in 1800 changed its start to 6 April. It was not changed when a 13th Julian leap day was skipped in 1900, so the tax year in the United Kingdom still begins on 6 April.

In Alaska, the change took place when Friday, October 6, 1867 was followed again by Friday, October 18 after the US purchase of Alaska from Russia, which was still on the Julian calendar. Instead of 12 days, only 11 were skipped, and the day of the week was repeated on successive days, because the International Date Line was shifted from Alaska's eastern to western boundary along with the change to the Gregorian calendar.

In Russia the Gregorian calendar was accepted after the October Revolution (so named because it took place in October 1917 in the Julian calendar). On 24 January 1918 the Council of People's Commissars issued a Decree that Wednesday, 31 January 1918 was to be followed by Thursday, 14 February 1918.

The last country of Eastern Orthodox Europe to adopt the Gregorian calendar was Greece on Thursday, 1 March 1923, following Wednesday, 15 February 1923.

Just in time to witness that glittering ball descending in Times Square.
Christmas In Japan PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 31 December 2007 06:01
This fascinating seasonal vignette from Japan comes via Asia News. Christmas has been nearly universally adopted as a national holiday in Japan as a result of US influence during the occupation after World War II. But it is an almost totally secular celebration. The three words used of Christmas are "illumination", "Santa", "presents"

But the church that is an example of a flowering oasis lies 25 kilometres from Fuchu, almost within the heart of the capital- It is the Church of St. Ignatius, run by the Jesuit fathers. For six months now the parish priest is a 70 Italian Fr. Domenico Vitali, who has spent the last 43 years in Japan. He entered the Jesuits after having read the biography of his compatriot: Fr. Matteo Ricci.

I knew that the Church of St. Ignatius is more or less the heart of Catholicism in Tokyo, but after meeting with Vitali I came to learn details that positively shocked me.

The Yotsuya quarter, where the Church lies, isn’t a residential area, but an office district. Even on working days, besides the morning masses there is midday mass and an evening mass at 6 pm: both are assiduously attended by employees from the local offices.

On the afternoon and evening of Christmas Eve, 6 masses are celebrating in order to cope with attendance.

“This year, Vitali told me; over 10.500 people took part in the celebrations: three quarters of them weren’t even Christians”. What lies behind this non-Christian affluence? Curiosity? No… All of those people were willing to withstand hours of queuing in the cold because they felt, instinctively, that Christmas is celebrated in the Church and not in restaurants or hotels.

Madonna & Child PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 31 December 2007 05:51
On the 7th day of Christmas, enjoy this Nativity image from Asia News
Cuddle Corps to the Rescue PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 31 December 2007 05:36
Here's a great story from Catholic News Service about Anchorage Catholic Hospital's "cuddle core" - the group of volunteers whose job is to hold sick infants for two hours at a stretch. Parents of children hospitalized for weeks or months usually an't be at the hospital 24/7 for that long and nurses have too many other duties to supply that much attention.

"Dr. Lily Lou, medical director of the unit, is unequivocal in her praise of the Kuddle Korps.

"For any baby that can't be home with their families, it's a lifesaver," the doctor said.

Occupational therapist Carol Matthews agrees.

"There's a huge difference in the way babies act and look when they're regularly touched and held," she said, adding that studies show that being touched is necessary for the proper development and even survival of infants.

Anchorage Catholic isn't the only hospital to do this. We had a similar group of volunteers at the NICU at the hospital where I worked while finishing grad school and creating the Called & Gifted workshop. And I'm sure that there are many such corps around the country.

But If you are asking yourself where you could volunteer or make a difference in 2008, consider becoming a baby cuddler. Being pro-life doesn't get much sweeter than this
35 Million Move In and Out of the Christian faith in 2008? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 30 December 2007 13:27
Some fascinating realities to contemplate on the verge of a New Year:

First of all, religious identity is remarkably fluid: for good or ill. This is contrary to what most Catholics have assumed and has helped fuel our "don't ask, don't tell" culture. As I wrote in part 10 of my series "The Challenge of Independent Christianity"

"We tend to regard the three basic “types” of Christianity - Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy - as essentially stable and fixed. Given the long histories and long memories of these faiths, it is only natural to think of religious affiliation as a deeply-rooted identity that changes only with difficulty and very slowly. We don’t expect to wake up tomorrow and find that Protestants have decided en masse that the Reformation was not a good idea or that the Orthodox have jettisoned their icons in favor of store-front missions. Our ecumenical dialogue is founded upon this presumed stability.

David Barrett, however, has a fascinating sidebar in his World Christian Encyclopedia indicating that a surprising amount of religious change is, in fact, the norm. As Barrett puts it, “Every year, millions of people are changing their religious profession or their Christian affiliation. Mass defections are occurring from stagnant majority religions to newer religions” (World Christian Encyclopedia, p. 5). It is imperative for us to understand that a significant part of this change is the result of personal choices, and not just natural birth and death. Evangelicals have a saying: “God has no grandchildren”.

(You can read the whole 10,000 word article on Independent Christianity beginning here)

This has been especially so in times and places where certain factors converge :ready access to new religious ideas (sometimes through evangelizers who come to you and sometimes through locals who are exposed to new ideas elsewhere and bring them home like the lay scholars who brought Christianity to Korea from China in the last 18th century) and circumstances that have prepared local people to be open.

We live in one of those times. The advent of the internet and globalization combined with the world-wide spread of new, intensely evangelizing forms of Christianity and post-modern ideas and assumptions has rendered clear, this-not-that, "steady state" religious identity a thing of the past-especially in the west but increasingly in large parts of the developing world as well. There has been some discussion around St. Blog's in the past year about the idea that a first generation, personally "chosen" faith is not as culturally rich as an inherited, historic faith that one simply absorbs from one's serenely homogenous, practicing family and community.

No doubt but that isn't the choice before us. Not in 2008.

Every serious Anglo Catholic (on the left or right) that I've ever met in this country has a sense of going against the flow of the culture - and often against the feelings of significant parts of his/her family and friends as well. The situation is not as grave among recent immigrants from strongly Catholic backgrounds but it will be for their children.

Our situation both demands and is tailor-made for the New Evangelization. Spend a few minutes at this year's end contemplating the following global statistics in light of our Lord's call to make disciples of all nations and the recent CDF Note on evangelization:

19 million people convert to Christianity every year around the world. (Conversions to all other faiths combined: about 2.5 million/year)

122,000 new Christians are baptized every 24 hours around the world.

37,000 new Catholics are added to the Church every 24 hours around the world.

This fluidity of belief and practice cuts both ways:

16.5 million Christians leave the faith every year.

In the historically Christian west, we naturally been acutely aware of those leaving.

Christianity has experienced massive losses in the Western world over the last 60 years...every year, some 2,7655,100 church attenders in Europe and North America cease to be practicing Christians within the 12-month period, an average loss of 7,500 every day.

But the global result is still a gain:

David Barrett, in his World Christian Encyclopedia, estimates a yearly global "net gain" of 2.5 million Christians or 69,000 new Christians per day.

If (as is most unlikely) 19 million non-Christians became Christian and a entirely different 16.5 million Christians left the faith in the new year, it would mean that over 35 million people moved in and out of the Christian faith in 2008 (more than the entire population of Canada!) Whatever the actual numbers are, this is clearly anything but "steady state", if-it-was-good-enough-for-mama, it's-good-enough-for-me faith.

At the beginning of the 21st century and at the end of 2007, huge numbers of people on this planet are searching, are open to something new, are spiritually hungry. Not a few exceptional souls but tens of millions.

And a few of them are living or working or hanging out around you and me.

In 2008, how can we reach out and present Christ in the midst of his Church to those who are seeking him - perhaps without knowing it, without the words to articulate what they are seeking - around us?
Christmas Season in the Rockies PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 30 December 2007 06:50

Saturday's sunrise over St. Catherine of Siena's chapel at the Archdiocese of Denver's retreat center, St. Malo's. By a enthusiastic local photographer via weatherunderground.

Colorado's beauty breeds photographers like it breeds extreme outdoor enthusiasts.
Christmas Evangelization in China PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 29 December 2007 17:00
A great evangelization story from China to end 2007. Via Indian Catholic:

Non-Catholic neighbors joined Catholics in Lingbi county for Christmas Eve festivities despite freezing temperatures in the poverty-stricken lowland area in eastern China.

At 8:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, about 1,000 Catholics of Bengbu diocese and 200 guests braved a temperature of minus-seven degrees Celsius to watch a fireworks display that kicked off an almost-four-hour entertainment program ahead of midnight Mass.

Many of the guests had received help from Catholics when storms and floods affected their livelihood this year.


During the program, Catholics gave cultural performances, sang hymns and acted in dramas portraying the story of Christ. They also staged comedies, danced and chanted. Some middle-aged Catholic men also acted as Santa Claus, provoking laughter from the crowd.

Before the program ended, the parish priest, who gave his name as Father Paul, handed each performer a souvenir. The priest also sang a song, titled Give me hope in English translation, for the audience.

The non-Catholic guests left before the start of the Christmas Vigil Mass.

Around midnight, amid music from bands, a statue of the Infant Jesus was carried into the church and placed in a manger beside the Marian grotto. The Mass ended two hours later, after which participants enjoyed a light meal of hot rice porridge with beans and cereal.

One lay Catholic told UCA News that many non-Catholic residents of the area joined the program because the Church helped them when natural disasters struck during the year. "Local villagers affected by floods were moved by the Church's concern for them," he said.

After incessant rain and floodwaters destroyed most of their crops, Catholics helped the villagers by selling them 58,000 kilograms of corn, peanuts and wheat at low prices for consumption and cultivation.

Father Paul told UCA News some of the villagers initially were suspicious of the Catholics' gesture but later expressed appreciation and even attended the Christmas celebration.

"Some even volunteered to perform in the program, and some expressed their desire to know God," he added.

"Our Church is located in an area which has very poor people," the priest noted. "Instead of using words to preach, which may not help them to understand what the Church or faith is, we did something practical for them."

The power of the corporate and spiritual works of mercy together: the Great Commandment lived in light of the Great Commission. Not either or. Both and.
The Year That Was and the Year That Will Be PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 29 December 2007 13:38
2007 has been quite a year for the Catherine of Siena Institute: 78 live events in total - including 46 Called & Gifted workshops, 5 parish missions, 9 one-of-a-kind presentations; 12 gifts-related training events, and 2 Making Disciples seminars.

December 31 will mark the end of our first year of blogging here at ID. You have paid us over 90,000 visits this year. While that is nothing compared to the big boys and girls (before she cut back to spend more time writing, Amy Welborn probably had that many visitors in a month!), we're happy.

We have written our 1300 posts this year in and around those 78 events and the 500 plane flights required to get our many wonderful teachers to those events, between answering the thousands of phone calls and e-mails from all over the world, publishing and shipping out thousands of formation books and cds, and responding to hundreds of donors whose continual generosity enables us to do all the rest. Oh yeah, and then there's the continuous research and writing necessary to keep producing new lay formation resources. God has blessed and sustained us in the midst of the never ending demands.

It makes for erratic but interesting blogging and I wanted to say "thank you, thank you!" to all who have dropped by this year and especially to those of you who have commented and added to the richness of the conversation. And thanks to Fr. Mike, Kathleen, the other Sherry, Keith, Br. Matthew, Bernadette, JACK and all who have posted on ID this year.

2008 is shaping up to be even busier: so far we have 50 events on the Institute calendar and the year hasn't begun: 30 Called & Gifted workshops, 9 parish missions (Fr. Mike is the mission king!), 4 special events (including some very exceptional gigs like World Youth Day!) and 5 Making Disciples seminars.

But we are also looking forward to another year of blogging on Intentional Disciples. A Happy and Blessed New Year to you all!
The Life and Times of Benazir Bhutto PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 27 December 2007 12:52
A interesting video biography of Benazir Bhutto via Al Jazeera's English language news division.

And Sir David Frost's interview with her last month about the terrible bombing which killed 158 people (and in which she herself nearly died) that marred her first day back in Pakistan in October.

Glory to God in the Highest PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 27 December 2007 08:47
Back from the high country where when the sun shines, it is magnificent beyond words, (Glory to God in the HIghest, indeed) and when the sun does not shine, it's very, very cold.

But the cold and the snow have followed us "down" to 6,700 feet - the whole Front Range is expected a major winter storm today and its has begun to snow already.

Meanwhile, Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated (please pray for that extremely dangerous situation in Pakistan and the whole region) and Armenian and Orthodox priests were engaged in a brawl at the Shrine of the Nativity in Bethlehem, The same thing happened the year I spent Thanksgiving in the Holy Land. It's old news. Sigh.

The world didn't look noticeably brighter two days after Jesus' birth 2000 years ago either. But God had entered the world in a wholly new way and the work of redemption had begun in history. And we are, all of us, caught up in that great, cosmic work today - however unlikely it may seem. How can we offer ourselves today, to be used as an instrument of Christ's love?

O come, let us adore him.

There will be more blogging today as I wade through e-mails, etc.
900 Volunteers "Monitor" Santa in Colorado Springs PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 24 December 2007 20:57
This is obviously not a Christian tradition but a strong local tradition in Colorado Springs on Christmas Eve.

NORAD (headquartered in Colorado Springs) has been "tracking" Santa Claus every Christmas Eve since 1955. This year 900 local volunteers will be answering phone calls and e-mails from children (as of this moment, they say that 46,000 children have contacted this this evening) and offering "updates" as to Santa's location.

Here are tonight's updates - if you or someone in your family just has to know. Word is that Santa Claus is over Caribou, Maine at this every moment. There are many "videos" of Santa over the Great Wall of China, India, Iraq, etc.

See Here where Santa meets up with the International Space Station.

Which raises the obvious question - how do we proclaim Christ when this charming, deeply embedded tradition is so dominant for so many?
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