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Go Underground Tonight! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 31 March 2007 16:47
In light of our discussions about contemporary Catholic music and the new evangelization, here is something to watch: Another creative outreach of the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Renewal in New York: Catholic Underground. And their next meeting is tonight!

Catholic Underground © is a direct response to a call that began with Pope John Paul II, and is continued by Pope Benedict XVI. JPII said that because the Gospel lives in conversation with culture, we must be fearless in crossing the cultural threshold of the communication and information revolution now taking place.

The first part of the evening is Eucharistic adoration, and begins with Vespers (Evening Prayer). This is the universal prayer of the Church - prayed by the Catholics throughout the world in every time zone and in every language. After Vespers, there is a time of simple praise. This provides a window for each person to personally encounter Jesus Christ. The beauty of the darkened Church illumined by candles helps us enter the mystery of our Lord's presence in the Eucharist. The holy hour ends with solemn Benediction.

The second part showcases Catholic artists. Here we experience the “new evangelization”. The Underground includes music, poetry, visual art, dancers, film, drama, etc.

We end our evening as we began. With the prayer of the Church. Compline (Night Prayer) is simple and beautiful. It concludes with a hymn to Our Lady, Daughter Zion. Mother of the New Jerusalem.

When: tonight, March 31


Our Lady of Good Counsel
230 East 90th Street, New York, NY 10128
7:30 - 10:30 PM
Note: Other Catholic Undergrounds have been established in Long Island, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Allentown, and Mountain Top, PA.

Here's an introductory You tube video:

If I Am Lifted Up, I Will Draw All Men to Me PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 31 March 2007 07:15

I'm taking the weekend off blogging - things to do, places to go.

But I wanted to leave you with some images of Palm Sunday as it is celebrated around the world. With my background in missions, I just love the fact that the Church is truly global.

I have an atlas of Christian history. It is disconcerting to realize how geographically small Christianity was in say, 750 AD.

After the Muslim invasion had eliminated the great Christian centers of North Africa and the Middle East and covered Spain and halved the Byzantine empire and before monastic missionaries had brought the faith to Russia, Hungary, Poland, and Scandanavia. The Roman empire was dead. The Muslim armies were at the door. The Vikings were about to make their debut. Chaos reigned. A small island in the west - Ireland - was one of the few bright spots. That time is often referred to as the "dark ages" for a reason.

And yet today, one out of three human beings on the planet is a Christian. All 2.15 billion of us and 51% are Catholic.

Catholics alone number more than any faith on earth, except Islam. There are more Catholics than Hindus, three times as many Catholics as Buddhists. And for that matter, three times as many Catholics as historic Protestants.

Can any of us really take in what it means to be part of a truly global 1.1 billion member communion?

A communion in which the majority no longer lives in the embattled western Europe of 13 centuries ago but in Latin America and Africa and Asia? That when you and I receive the Eucharist this weekend, we are assenting to and nurturing a mystical, sacramental bond with members of the body of Christ in Doha, Mumbai, Jakarta, Nairobi, and Columbo? What difference does it make?

"If I am lifted up, I will drawn all men to me".

What difference does it make?
Mass - Congo style - in Boston PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 31 March 2007 06:45
The church is truly global.

A day in the life of an Cardinal named Sean Patrick O'Malley in Boston - celebrating a Congolese Mass. From Cardinal Sean's blog:

The Congolese community at St. Mary’s in Lynn invited me to celebrate the Sunday Mass with them.

"They have a wonderful, vibrant community there. Some of the young African Jesuit fathers who are studying at Boston College celebrate Mass for them regularly and there is a lay woman, Jacky Kalonji, who serves as coordinator of the community.

I was very impressed with their celebration. I celebrated the Mass and preached in French. The songs were both in French and in their native language, Lingala. The music was beautiful, and the Mass lasted for around two hours. They said it would have been much longer, but in Lent they keep things more austere!

One of the most interesting moments of the Mass came at the time of the offertory. Rather than passing baskets through the assembly, the people come up in line together singing and put their contribution in the basket. It is certainly something interesting.

I leave you with my photo of the week: a picture of the beautiful vestment given to me by the Congolese Catholic community in Lynn. I have included a close-up of the detail so that you can read the inscription. For those of you who don’t speak French, on the top it reads, “The Lord is my shepherd” and below is written “The Lord is my savior.”

And a reader added this rather moving comment:

"I don’t go to church due to very painful experiences in the past with the Church’s authorities/figures, but I often visit your blog and to read your reflections on the Gospel. They slowly help me to reconnect with church and its people. Thank you so much for sharing."

Martha Theresa

God bless you Martha Theresa! It's a good week to come back home.
The Beginning of the Beguine PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 30 March 2007 16:51
A fascinating website - that of the historic Beguinage of Amersterdam. It tells the story of this unique movement of lay women - the Beguines - who had an enormous influence and survived for 7 centuries right through the Reformation and persecution.


A Beguine could hardly be called a nun. She took no vows, could return to the world and wed if she would, and did not renounce her property. If she was without means she neither asked nor accepted alms, but supported herself by manual labour, or by teaching the children of burghers. During the time of her novitiate she lived with "the Grand Mistress" of her cloister, but afterwards she had her own dwelling, and, if she could afford it, was attended by her own servants. The same aim in life, kindred pursuits, and community of worship were the ties which bound her to her companions.

There was no mother-house, nor common rule, nor common general of the order; every community was complete in itself and fixed its own order of living, though later on many adopted the rule of the Third Order of St. Francis.

Communities were no less varied as to the social status of their members; some of them only admitted ladies of high degree; others were exclusively reserved for persons in humble circumstances; others again opened their doors wide to women of every condition, and these were the most densely peopled. Several, like the great Beguinage of Ghent, numbered their inhabitants by thousands.

Admirably adapted to the spiritual and social needs of the age which produced it, it spread rapidly throughout the land and soon began to exercise a profound influence on the religious life of the people. Each of these institutions was an ardent centre of mysticism and it was not the monks, who mostly dwelt on the countryside, nor even the secular clergy, but the Beguines, the Beghards, and the sons of Saint Francis who moulded the thought of the urban population of the Netherlands.

By the close of the 13th century there was hardly a commune in the Netherlands without its Beguinage, whilst several of the great cities had two or three or even more.The last Beguine died only a few years ago.

The story of the Beguines also shows something of the relative freedom of the pre-Reformation Church, especially where women were concerned.

In reaction to the Reformation, nearly all attempts to found unenclosed women's communities were suppressed for over 100 years. But prior to the Reformation, other unenclosed communities who took no vows were approved , such as that of St. Francis of Rome, who was married and lived at home with her husband until his death.

The website has many pictures and a very interesting section on the Eucharistic "Miracle of Amsterdam", which still inspires the "Silent Process" every March in which 10,000 pilgrims from around the country walk in complete silence in the wee hours of the morning.


Why Hasn't Five Centuries of Catholicism Had More Effect? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 30 March 2007 09:59
John Allen's All Things Catholic essay is up and he is asking some probing questions:

"Latin America has been Catholic for five centuries, yet too often its societies are corrupt, violent, and underdeveloped. If Catholicism has had half a millennium to shape culture and this is the best it can do, one might be tempted to ask, is it really something to celebrate? Mounting defections to Pentecostalism only deepen such ambivalence."

Honduras is deeply violent (it has a murder rate five times that of the global average) and is deeply corrupt ("revenue shortfalls due to corruption have produced a staggering national "electricity tax" of 49 percent, prompting people to refuse to pay their bills".

Allen was surprised that blaming the US wasn't the first response his hosts gave. Snip.

"The most frequent explanation I heard boils down to this: For most of the 500 years since the arrival of Columbus, Catholicism in Latin America often has been skin-deep. People were baptized into the faith, married and buried in it, but for a variety of reasons there was precious little else.

To be sure, the church exercises considerable political clout. But that influence, many observers say, often masks a superficial Catholicism at the grass-roots.

At first blush, the claim that five centuries haven't afforded enough time for real evangelization might seem a terrible indictment. Honduran Catholics told me that, given its scarce resources, the church never stood a chance. Moreover, they say, baptismal counts notwithstanding, the region has never been ideologically homogenous.

For example, some Hondurans assert that during the Cold War, the dominant ideology was not Catholicism, but Marxism, which had a much greater impact in shaping the attitudes of political and social elites. That's the view at the new Catholic University of Honduras, founded in 1993 and named "Our Lady Queen of Peace" in honor of the reputed apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

During my visit, rector Elio David Alvarenga Amador and members of his staff explained that the university was founded by lay Catholics who taught at the secular national university, and who were frustrated with what they saw as Marxist indoctrination, especially in education and the social sciences.

Vice-rector Virgilio Madrid Solís, who keeps an image of St. Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei, on his desk, though he's not a member, minces no words in describing the new university's mission: "To change Honduras."

Erika Flores de Boquín, another vice-rector, unpacked the point. She told the story of a recent engineering graduate who went to work for the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, where he was asked to sign what Flores described as a falsified environmental impact study, presumably skewed by corruption. The engineer lost his job, but he made a stand for principle.

"Little by little, such acts will transform this country," Flores de Boquín said. "The church is starting this work only now."

Hondurans also point to a severe priest shortage as limiting the extent to which Catholicism took hold. With just over 400 priests, the ratio of priests to people in Honduras today is 1 to 13,000.

"At the time of independence from Spain, most of the Catholic clergy were expelled," Rodriguez said. "We had one bishop and 15 priests for the entire country."

That shortage left vast sections of the population with no regular access to the sacraments, and no meaningful catechesis. The few clergy on hand, mostly foreign missionaries, did their best, but dreams of Honduran Catholicism shaping culture in the sense that one associates with Poland under Communism, local Catholics say, was never in the cards.

It's encouraging to see the lay initiative in founding a new university with the specific purpose of evangelization of both individuals and society.

More Spanish Colonial Art PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 30 March 2007 09:48

If you are like me and are fascinated by Spanish colonial art, you'll be interested in this exhibit at the Tucson Museum of Art

The Virgin, Saints, and Angels: South American Paintings 1600 - 1825 from the Thoma Collection

January 20, 2007 - April 29, 2007

This exhibition examines the diverse schools of painting that developed over time within the vast Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru, a territory that encompassed present day Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay, Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador.

The painting is part of the exhibition and is of the Virgin Mary, as a child, spinning thread.

Lay Evangelist Martyred in Ethiopia PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 30 March 2007 09:12

Via International Christian Concern, a group that provides advocacy, assistance and awareness for the persecuted Christian Church all over the world. They are evangelical but track persecution against all Christians: Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox. A group worthy of your attention.

The Christian minstries most likely to result in martyrdom? 1) bishop; 2) evangelist; 3) catechist.

WASHINGTON, Mar. 29 The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has just learned that an Ethiopian evangelist named Tedase was beaten to death by militant Muslims on Monday, March 26th, as he and two young women were on a street evangelism assignment in Jimma, Ethiopia. This marks the second time in six months that Christians residing in Southeast Ethiopia have been attacked and killed by extremist (Wahabbi) Muslims.

On Monday afternoon Tedase and two female coworkers were conducting street evangelism on Merkato Street in Jimma, Southern Ethiopia. Merkato Street runs by a Wahabbi Mosque. As the team was walking by the Mosque, a group of Muslims exited the Mosque and began to run after them to confront them. Tedase's female coworkers ran away from the mob but Tedase continued on. The Muslims caught up with Tedase, pulled him into the mosque, and savagely beat him to death. Sources from Jimma reported that Tedase was beaten with a calculated intention to kill him. This was no accident or case of mob frenzy getting out of control. His body was later taken to the hospital for an autopsy and he was buried Tuesday, March 27.

Our sources also reveal that Jimma Christians were conducting an evangelism campaign, and news of the outreach was spreading among Jimma residents as well as militant Muslim groups in the area. The Muslims that belonged to the Wahabbi sect purposefully beat Tedase to death as a message to Christians that they are ready to combat evangelism.

Aftershocks of the September 2006 Pogrom

This most recent incident in Ethiopia confirms ICC's decision to include this country in its Hall of Shame list, which highlights nations where Christians are enduring the most severe persecution. It is important to note that the Muslims who attacked Tedase belonged to the Wahabbi brand of Islam, an extremist sect imported from Saudi Arabia. It is clear that the Christians in Ethiopia are feeling Saudi Arabia's influence, particularly in Jimma, a Muslim dominated area where local authorities are almost exclusively Muslim. It was only six months ago, in September of 2006, that Muslim extremists burned down a number of churches and parishes, as well as Christian homes. As many as 2,000 Christians were displaced by the attack, an attempt to intimidate Christians with the hopes of converting them to Islam.

Evangelical church leaders are fearful that if police ignore Tedase's death, it will be a green light for Muslim groups in the area to attack their Christian neighbors at will and without retribution. We appeal to concerned individuals to contact the Ethiopian embassy in their own countries to ask for an investigation of Tedase's murder.

Ethiopian Embassy, Washington D.C.
3506 International Drive, NW
Washington, DC 20008 USA
Tel: 202/364-1200
Fax: 202/587-0195
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Ethiopian Embassy, London
17 Princes Gate
London SW7 1PZ UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7589 7212
Fax: +44 (0)20 7584 7054
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Ethiopian Embassy, Canada
#210-151 Slater Street
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1P5H3
Tel:- 613-235-6637
Fax: 613-235-4638
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Marriage and Conversion? PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 30 March 2007 08:02

Written by Keith Strohm

Over at Standing on My Head, Fr. Dwight reflects once again on the reality that converts to the Church often experience a disappointing reality once they make their decision to convert. Rather than just highlight the complaint, he compares conversion to the Church with marriage:

I'm sympathetic, but I'd like to stand this commonplace moan on it's head. Oh yes, you come into the Catholic Church and the liturgy is dreary, the music lyrics come from greeting cards and the music from the nursery. The preaching is dire, the youth ministry is downright creepy in its attempt to be 'cool' and the fellowship is non existent.

Remember two things: first, the disappointing human reality does not obliterate the eternal Truth. When we marry most people have high expectations of living happily ever after. Unfortunately, most marriages are not rosy all day every day. People fight. In laws arrive. Kids disobey and rebel. Siblings hate each other. Tragedy happens. Ignorance and vanity and selfishness intrude. Complacency and taking each other for granted grows like a cancer. Relationships break down. It's a mess.It's also what we call marriage.

When it doesn't go as we planned we don't bail out of the marriage (at least we shouldn't) Neither do we dismiss the institution of marriage as ill conceived. We don't throw marriage out and look for some different arrangement. We don't suddenly tell young people not to marry. We stick with it. We hang in there for better or for worse. If we are disappointed the best thing we can do is to examine our expectations. Maybe we are disappointed because we were expecting the wrong thing in the first place.

It's a beautiful reflection, and I encourage you to read the whole thing.

I agree with Fr. Longenecker wholeheartedly, and I believe that the Church needs to offer better preparation and support for this marriage. We'll never experience the "perfect" living out of our communal faith this side of heaven, but we can be more faithful to the "praxis" called for by Christ through the Scripture and the Tradition of the Church.

Sometimes the default response of cradle Catholics is, "Sure it's not perfect, just tough it out. Then you'll know that you've really converted." And I don't think that's helpful to converts at all. The real question is, "Gosh this is tough, so how can we more fully live out the gift that God has given us so that we might create more Christ-like communities of intentional disciples that draw all men and women to them?"

Debate or Talk? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 30 March 2007 06:55
Jeff Vihige over at Thursday Night Gumbo has a really interesting post on how those with a minority religious worldview can interact with a the majority secular worldview.

A short summary of Jeff's options:

The religious person can adopt:

1) a ghetto mentality
2) a "liberal" mentality
3) the attitude of open-dialogue with the secular mind

Jeff is proposing:

, i.e., an open consideration of the secular, modern mindset. This attitude rejects the isolationism of the ghetto; it realizes that Christianity, if it is to be effect, cannot exist in a hermetically sealed community. The modern world is asking questions. If Christianity is the truth, then it should be able to answer those questions. If it cannot . . . then do we not have a bigger problem at our door?

But the ghetto mentality has a legitimate concern, namely, that aggiornamento can lead to liberalism. What, exactly, is meant by an open consideration of the secular, modern mindset? Of what do these considerations consist? Is there a line between consideration and concession? Where is that line? If the Christian engaged in this open discussion with the modern world is not careful, they will soon loose everything distinctively Christian. They will be left with nothing.

So what is a modern Christian, who is interested in evangelization, to do? The best answer I can give is this: Study your faith. Do not study apologetics, because that won't help you much. Why? Because your study is based on your interlocutor's questions, not on the whole of Catholic theology. If you want to evangelize, then you need to know what the Church teaches, not how to win a debate.

Then when you come into contact with a non-Catholic view, regardless of whichever perspective it takes (secular, anti-Catholic, Protestant), you will be able to both defend the Church as well as evangelize the person. Why? Because this kind of in-depth study teaches you that when it comes to truth, one cannot debate, one can only talk."


As some of you know, I am busily at work on a new four day seminar on evanelization that we will be offering this summer called Making Disciples.

One of the issues that is coming up is that post-modern people simply don't think in categories of "this is true" and "this is not true". And that the classic catechetical approach that arose in the early modern era (late 16th, early 17th centuries) as part of the Catholic Reformation
(as many contemporary historians prefer to call it since it wasn't just a reaction to the Protestant Reformation as the term Counter-Reformation would imply) doesn't work as well in a post-modern era when people's beliefs and issues are very different.

Yet, Christ and the faith must be proposed for people to respond. So how did we propose it effectively in a very different era?

I'll post more on this later but now I must work. Thanks Jeff! Your post has triggered some great "ahas!"

What Would It Have Been Like? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 29 March 2007 15:09
Since moving to southern Colorado, on the very border of historic Spanish America (the Arkansas river 40 miles south of us was once the boundary of New Spain), I've enjoyed becoming familiar with Spanish colonial art and especially the popular devotional art of Mexico and New Mexico.

Next week, many pilgrims will come on pilgrimage to San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado to the La Mesa de la Piedad y de la Misericordia” (or The Mesa of Piety and Mercy). A series of gripping, life-like bronze sculptures are presented along a path that winds up a nearby mesa to an adobe chapel. The monument is the work of local artist Huberto Maestas, whose initial works on the shrine were presented to Pope John Paul II and are currently in the permanent collection of the Vatican Museum.

My Baptist gut was reeling a bit as I wandered through the museums in Santa Fe because nothing could be further from the aesthetic of the fundamentalism in which I was raised than popular Spanish devotional art.

I was completely stymied by one bulto, a small statue of a plain, unidentified woman in a long dress with seven . . .count 'em . . .seven swords plunged into her torso. It took me several minutes to grasp who she was: Our Lady of the Seven Dolours, of course!

The Protestant mind regards the "sword" that would pierce Mary's soul as a metaphor for her emotional and spiritual distress over her son's rejection, suffering and death. But the residents of New Spain didn't go in much for metaphors. The more concrete, graphic and gorier, the more devout you were. Why stop with one sword when you could have seven? I found myself wondering if the artist would have used more swords if Mary's frail torso could have accomodated them. In portraying the sorrows of Our Lady, there are apparently no such thing as too much.

The picture to the right is a 19th century retablo "La Mano Poderosa," or "The Powerful Hand" The five figures at the top represent Anne, Mary, Baby Jesus, Joseph and Joachim. In the lower quadrant, blood is flowing from the stigmata into an open gold chalice which is received by the seven sacrificial lambs below.

My favorites: the delightful ex-votos. Testimonies (a term that warms the evangelical heart) on tin. Ex-votos are small paintings of answered prayers and gratitude that combine a picture of the crisis with a written version of the story as well. The grateful recipient of the favor puts it up in their local church as an act of gratitude and praise.

So, Christ with a Van Dyke beard asleep in his four poster bed on a fluffy white cloud is awakened by the desperate prayer of some penitent below. (The Charles I Van Dyke beard with huge lace collar and large brimmed hat with feather trim was a very popular look well into the 19th century. I was smitten by a painting of the Trinity in a colonial church which basically looked like Charles the Father, Charles the Son, and Charles the Holy Spirit.)

Ex-votos date back to 16th century Italy but become hugely popular in Spain and therefore, Spainish America.

(The ex-voto above is dated 1853. The woman in bed was so ill that she was in danger of dying, after invoking the Virgin as the Immaculate Conception, she was cured and her mother gives thanks for the favor. Notice: the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was not defined until 1854.)

Of course, I can't leave this topic without sharing this popular image of the famous Dominican preacher, St. Vincent Ferrar, as an angel. Certainly all the Dominicans I've ever known were angelic. Wouldn't you agree, Br. Matthew?

I stood in those old adobe churches and wondered: if this art was all the catechesis you have access to, how would those who worshipped in these little villages have understood the faith?

Theirs was a hard world, full of poverty, hard work, little or no education, and few remedies for disease or disaster. Many times there was no priest available. Penitential brotherhoods who whipped themselves bloodly were a major force in Spanish colonial Catholicism.

Would you have known that God loved you?
Would it have been a relationship or would the Church and the sacraments and the saints be regarded in a magical light?

What would it have been like?

Catholic Quote of the Day PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 29 March 2007 12:17
From Christoph Cardinal Schoenborn of Vienna. It serves as a great summary, or starting point, for the Catholic approach to, well, just about everything:

"Despite sometimes heavy criticism, the church continues to firmly believe that there is in nature a language of the Creator, and therefore a binding ethical order in creation, which remains a fundamental reference point in bioethical matters," he said.

This is the difficult piece, the "untranslateable paradigm" that makes communication between those who believe in what the Church teaches and those who don't highly difficult--especially when it comes to the sciences. And yet, there is, really, nothing anti-scientific, in the Catholic position simply because it has this viewpoint at it's genesis (pun intended).

Nature does not simply signify itself. Rather, it points to (and is pointed to by) the Creator. We see this belief highlighted in the very first lines of the Nicene Creed: "I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth." This physical (and metaphysical) reality is the lens through which Catholics (and most other Christians) view the social, psychological, scientific, and spiritual questions of our age.

I think it is incumbent on those of us who do come from this paradigm to make that more explicit, and I also believe that others should take more time to listen to that. At the very least, it may help us communicate better with each other.
What Poetry Form Are You? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 29 March 2007 09:49

I'm terza rima, and I talk and smile.
Where others lock their rhymes and thoughts away
I let mine out, and chatter all the while.

I'm rarely on my own - a wasted day
Is any day that's spent without a friend,
With nothing much to do or hear or say.

I like to be with people, and depend
On company for being entertained;
Which seems a good solution, in the end.
What Poetry Form Are You?

Catholic History.Net PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 28 March 2007 22:37
Those of you who are interested in American Catholic history, as I am, would do well to check out Catholic History.Net. It has good bibliographies about different aspects of Catholic life in the US: American Catholic intellectual history; African American history, Catholic social thought, the history of women's religious orders, etc.

The site also lists important people, places, and events in American Catholic history organized by region of the country and era. The descriptions of each are very short but it's a good place to do basic research and become acquainted with people and events that are new before doing your in-depth research elsewhere.
Dissent Can Take Surprising Forms PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 28 March 2007 21:50
In his speech at the Communion and Liberation gathering in Rome last weekend, Pope Benedict XVI said this:

"In the message to the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements, May 27, 1998, John Paul II repeated, that in the Church there is no contrast or contraposition between the institutional dimension and the charismatic dimension, of which the movements are a meaningful expression, because both are co-essential to the divine constitution of the People of God, and in the Church even the essential institutions are charismatic, and, in any case, the charisms, in one way or another, have to institutionalise themselves in order to have cohesion and continuity."

I'm delighted to hear the Pope reaffirm the reality of the "charismatic dimension of the Church. Because dissent can take forms that would surprise most parishioners of St. Blogs.

Last spring, I sat in a meeting with a group of orthodox theologians, scholars, and pastors with doctorates, and listened to one very conservative scholar (who was not a theologian himself but very influential man who forms priests) vehemently assert that there was no such thing as "the charismatic dimension of the church". I pointed out that Pope John Paul II had talked about the charismatic dimension of the church and its "co-essential nature" with the institutional several times in major addresses. He just shook his head, unimpressed by mere papal teaching.

If fact, he went on to insist that charisms didn't really exist at all outside hierarchical functions. The 481 references to the word "charism" and its cognates in magisterial teaching since V2 and the debates in the Council on the charisms in the context of the apostolate of the laity didn't phase him. He implied that the term "charism" in the English documents was the result of a mistranslation of the Latin word "munus" meaning task or office.

(Since this isn't exactly Da Vinci Code territory - all the Latin originals being readily available on the Vatican website - I went home and looked up 38 important passages in eight major conciliar and magisterial documents where the English translation uses the word "charism". The passages about the responsibility of the clergy to honor, call forth, and help the laity discern their charisms and the passages about the importantance of the laity discerning their own charisms. In all cases but one, the Latin original was charismata or some cognate thereof. In one case, the Latin word was the "dones", meaning gift. In no instance, was the word "munus" translated into English as "charism".

It was the theological equivalent of an urban legend. To wit, that a ill willed hoax had been perpetrated on the Body Catholic by the simple expedient of a translation slight-of-hand . A hoax that had been repeated throughout the decades by two generations of translators every time a magisterial document referred to charisms. And no theologian,
including Josef Ratzinger, in the only institution on earth which still uses Latin in its daily round, had noticed for 40 years.

Unless, of course, the Latin editions on the Vatican website have been corrupted by the same band of conspirators. . . . and the originals are buried in an archbishop's casket in St. Sulpice! Wow, this is bigger than I thought. )

Then he insisted that the concept of the "People of God" (a phrase that occurs 41 times in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 106 times in the documents of the Council and 650 times in magisterial teaching since the early 60's.) was no longer valid, having been completely replaced and subsumed by the theology of "communio".

The other men in the group tried gently and then humorously to take issue with him but he was adamant. Privately, several told me later that the whole thing was absurd and inexplicable.

I must admit that I was completely floored. I had just met my first highly placed "conservative" dissenter who wasn't even attempting to make an argument for his assertions. He wasn't thinking critically at all. He was emoting using theological categories. It was as though he was trying, by sheer force of will, to erase large portions of the past 40 years of Church teaching and history.

In my travels, I've witnessed people on all sides of the spectrum do that. Under the right circumstances, we are all capable of doing it.

A truly Catholic faithfulness demands more of us: that we maintain a fundamental trust that the Holy Spirit have never ceased to guide the Church - in 1950 and in 1980. It is about remaining open and grateful for the whole Tradition of the Church - pre and post Vatican II and in all its breadth; ecumenism and the liturgy, evangelization and social teaching. Faithfulness demands that we not try to use one part of the Church's teaching or history to supress or bludgeon another part into oblivion in defense of our pet theories or personal preferences.

And faithfulness demands a basic attitude of humility and docility. Having striven for genuine expertise in one small area of the Church's teaching, I am exceedingly aware of the vast continents of Church teaching and life about which I am exceedingly clueless. A certain humility and willingness to trust the judgment of the Church is required even of the most learned Catholic. All of us are called to

So I'm very grateful that Pope Benedict, whom this gentleman could hardly accuse of being either "liberal" or theologically incompetent, reinterated the validity and "co-essential" reality of the charismatic last weekend.

Because it has been part of the Tradition since St. Paul. And
the Didache, Ignatius of Antioch, The Shepherd of Hermas, Justin Martyr, Ireneus, Tertullian (in his pre-Montanist days), Origen, Eusebius, Hilary of Poitiers, Cyril of Jerusalem, Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzus, the Apostolic Consitutions, John Chrysostom, and Thomas Aquinas. And yes, the second Vatican Council and all magisterial teaching since.

I hope his nibs was listening. More importantly, I hope I'm listening.

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