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Latina Catholics Becoming Muslims PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 30 May 2008 12:33
From a Muslim site, this extended post on Latina Catholics becoming Muslim:

What I find interesting is that none of the converts talks about their actual relationship with God. One major
topic seems to be wearing the hijab and how it affects how they feel about themselves and how others treat them.

When Beatriz Kehdy was growing up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, she felt uncomfortable with the standards of beauty that she says were a part of the culture in which she was raised.

An emphasis on external beauty and the body, she says, became increasingly foreign to her own personal values.

Kehdy moved to New York City almost 10 years ago and eventually discovered a sense of place in Islam and in the hijab, or headscarf worn by women in the faith.

“When I wear the hijab, I feel more respected, people talk to me with respect,” she said.
The now 27-year-old architect converted from Catholicism to Islam four years ago, but didn’t tell her family until a few years later, in a letter.

“When I started wearing the hijab, there was a problem,” she said.

“My father didn’t want me to wear it in public in Brazil.”

Kehdy is one of many Latin American women in the US who have embraced the Islamic faith.
The American Muslim Council, based in Chicago, estimates that there are more than 200,000 Latino Muslims in the United States.

Women make up 60 percent of conversions to Islam, according to experts.

Mosques around the country have begun to offer special classes where women converts can learn about Islam.

The North Hudson Islamic Educational Center, in Union City, N.J., offers both English and Spanish Language classes.

Mariam Abassi, vice president of the Da’wah (outreach) program at the center, said about 500 members of the center are Latino converts.

There are between 4,000 and 5,000 members in total.

Many Latinas choose to accept Islam because they marry Muslims.

Others convert when they’re single, often because they feel unfulfilled by the religion in which they were raised.

For a large number of Latinas, that faith is Catholicism.

“Some of them really have doubt about the Trinity,” a central belief in Catholicism that says God exists in three beings, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; said Chernor Sa’ad Jallah, assistant Imam at the Islamic Cultural Center, in East Harlem, the largest mosque in New York City.

“They find it really confusing,” In his community of about 1,500 people, between 10 and 15 percent are Latinos.

Some said they were uncomfortable making confessions to a priest and feeling as though they had no direct relationship with God.

“I was raised as a Catholic but I didn’t like it.

I felt this emptiness,” said Mayeline Turbides, a 21-year-old Dominican student who lives in West New York, N.J.” I was never convinced.” She took the name Leila after she became a Muslim.

Before discovering Islam, Turbides had explored evangelical Christianity and Mormonism, which failed to draw her in.

About two years ago, her Muslim boss started talking to her about Islam.

“I used to go out, to drink.

I got drunk 500 times,” Turbides said in Spanish.

“But nothing made sense.

I wanted rules.”

When it comes to assimilating to a new faith, Islam appeals to Catholic Latinas for several reasons.

“There are many similarities between Catholicism and Islam,” said Ibrahim Hooper, Communications Director and spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington, D.C.

“Both have principles that need to be followed, regarding how you conduct yourself as person, how you operate in a community.”

Others find a new religion to be an escape from the confines of machismo, or chauvinism.

“I feel more protected,” Turbides said.

“Men used to shout things at me when I was walking down the street.

They would honk their horns.

When I wear the hijab, nobody says anything.”

For New Yorker Yuri Lara, the 23-year-old daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants, understanding the role of women in Islam, and dispelling what she considers to be stereotypes, was one of her biggest concerns when she was studying the religion.

“We have rights, we have a voice, it’s all in the Quran,” said Lara, who studied psychology at SUNY Albany.

But for many Latina converts to Islam, conversion brings with it the challenge of gaining acceptance from their own families and other non-Muslims, a process that takes time.

“At first my family was unhappy,” said Demaris Tapanes, 32, who was born and raised in Union City, N.J., to a Puerto Rican mother and a Cuban father.

“'Why do you have to cover?'" she said of her family’s objection to the hijab.

“One of my brothers told me he didn’t want me to cover because after 9/11, people resented Muslims,” she said “He was concerned for my security.”

Wearing the hijab presents other challenges, as Turbides found out when she wore the head covering to the grocery store where she works.

“People would ignore me,” Turbides said.

“My boss is a Muslim, but they’re nice to him because he is an Arab.

Since I am Latina, they tell me that I’m pulling away from my religion.

I felt very bad that day.”

Despite the obstacles they face to practice their adopted faith, many women converts say Islam changed their lives.

“I’m a better version of myself now,” said Lara.

“I’m closer to my family than I ever was.

I think more about others, as opposed to me, me, me.

I think about what I’m going to eat before I take the last bite left.”

Estela Ramon, who attends the class at the North Hudson Islamic Educational Center, in Union City, became interested in Islam after her husband, Delfino, who was born in Mexico, converted to Islam four years ago.

“At first I asked him if he was crazy,” said Ramon, who is also from Mexico and was raised a Catholic.

Ramon, 34, says that her husband changed for the better when he turned to Islam.

“He used to drink and get angry,” she said.

“Now he is more confident in himself, he is more responsible.

And he doesn’t drink anymore.”
Ramon is reading a Spanish translation of the Quran and is thinking of converting too.

Although she says she is drawn to the lifestyle that Islam proscribes, Ramon says she is not ready to accept the faith.

“My time to say yes has not come," she said.

“When God wants me to, I will accept it.”

You have heard it here before: If we don't evangelize our own, someone else will do it for us. And they may be Muslim.

Is Canadian Catholicism Becoming "Evangelical?" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 30 May 2008 12:12
Is the Canadian Catholic Church becoming "evangelical"?

John Allen's piece today raises that question with Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto.

NCR: One word that seems to come up in describing the new crop of Canadian bishops, yourself included, is 'evangelical.'

Archbishop Collins: I hope so. One of things I'm talking about in this retreat with priests is St. Paul, preaching the gospel, reaching out. … We've got to be moving out into the secular world. As much as I admire Catholic journals and the Catholic media, I'm reminded that G.K. Chesterton wrote in the Illustrated London News. Later he wrote for a Catholic weekly, but most of his life was out in the secular world. We've got to do what we can in-house, we have to look at the gathered, but we've got to look at the scattered as well.

NCR: Part of what people mean by calling you 'evangelical' is a willingness to challenge the prevailing secular consensus.

Archbishop Collins: Oh, absolutely. … This is a very secular society, definitely not the United States. In Canada, there's a strong push among the ruling elite to address the issue of a multicultural and multi-religious society by saying, "Let us drain the public forum of all religion." The secular society would thus not really be the society of this age, which is what it should be, but a society drained of anything. It's iconic that after 9/11, in the country where it actually happened, everybody went to a cathedral where the president and religious leaders prayed. In the country to the north, which also lost people, the event was held on Parliament Hill, with nary a reference to God. I wasn't there, but somebody told me that the only hymn was "Imagine," an atheist hymn. We're all conscious of the Swiss Air tragedy. [In 1998, a Swiss Air flight crashed off the coast of Nova Scotia, killing all 229 people on board.] After that tragedy, there was a "God-free" public service. That's one alternative [for a multicultural society], and I think it's absolutely wrong-headed.

NCR: So the new Canadian bishops are determined to push back?

Archbishop Collins: I think so. We've had enough. We're here, and we're part of this society. As I often point out, if someone's vulnerable and on the street in Toronto, it's someone motivated by religion who's going to help them. We're there on the street, we walk the talk. Therefore, we have a place at the table. We've earned it, quite apart from the fact that all but 16 percent of the Canadian population claims some sort of religious affiliation, at least when approached by the census. I think the idea that the solution to a multiethnic, multi-religious, multicultural society is to deny the profound reality in the lives of the vast majority of the population, which is religion, is just bizarre. Why should we sit here and let that happen? I'm not talking about replacing this model with a theocracy. Obviously we've had that in history. The church is always healthiest when it's not in power, so I'm not recommending that. We should not be in power, but we're here, and we have a right to speak.

NCR: To what extent is this evangelical spirit present at the grass roots?

Archbishop Collins: I feel extraordinary hope. I had this hilarious experience last year, after I had just ordained six guys to the priesthood. We were outside going around taking photographs in a little courtyard beside the church. This reporter came up to me, looking soulfully into my eyes, and asked me to talk about the failure of people to respond to vocations to the priesthood and the disaster looming over the church. I said, "Well, I just ordained six of them. Talk to them, they're over there." He said, "But what about the failure and the falling apart of the church, people drifting away?" That's just not my reality. Sure, those things are real, but it's not the whole story.

NCR: It sounds like you're trying to project a robust Catholic identity, but one that's outward-looking rather than moving into a ghetto.

Archbishop Collins: Definitely not a ghetto. We're part of the society. We're good friends with all our neighbors of many faiths, and with the secularists too. …I think we should engage in hearty discussions with all kinds of people.

More Bishops like this, please. Love the fact that Archbishop Collins clearly understands the term "evangelical" in its Biblical sense and gladly claims it as Catholic without the slightest hesitancy.
A Theologian in Town Hall PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 30 May 2008 09:44
Intriguing article, "A Theologian in Town Hall", in the new issue of America. It is written by a tenured professor of theology, Georgia Masters Keightley, who quit her job and become major of her small Nebraska home town.

Keightley's interest is very much in the theology and mission of the laity:

Throughout my career, I had regularly taught courses in Catholic social ethics and was gratified to find students altruistic and enthusiastic about the idea that society could be transformed by their decisions and actions. Yet the more I taught these courses, the more I wanted to know how to translate this body of teaching into practical, everyday decisions and actions. What could educated Catholic professionals do to make the social, economic and political networks of their communities more fair and just, more supportive of the common good? How does one live out a preferential option for the poor in one’s professional life? How does the principle of solidarity apply to one’s daily use of money?

While I could remind students of the Gospel charge to do hands-on charity and service, such actions do not really address the structural causes of injustice, which, as Paul VI taught, must be a primary focus of the Catholic witness in our time. The pope described the need for Catholics to bring to conversion “the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs.” The question was how.


First, I learned that service as an elected official or as an appointee to a board or committee is a rich opportunity for Christian witness. Here one can directly affect the way taxes are raised and spent and create opportunities for employment, education and job training; one can work to ensure that affordable housing is provided and that building codes, safety and health standards are enforced. Above all I came to see such service as a vital way the baptized can heed the call of the Second Vatican Council to seek “the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will.” In this way, too, U.S. Catholics can practice what our bishops have come to call “faithful citizenship.”

But my time as mayor also gave me insight into some of the individual things that must be attended to if our collective institutions are to be humanized. And while most of what I learned was hardly revolutionary, my experience proved that St. Thérèse, the Little Flower, had it absolutely right: it is in the practice of love in the small details that we really begin to redirect the world to God’s purposes.


To be honest, I was relieved when my mayoral duties came to an end. To do such work takes vast amounts of time, humility, patience, a thick skin and a good sense of humor. Despite the challenges, I came away with a clearer grasp of what lay Catholics can do to renew society and its institutions. But the dearth of attention parishes give to promoting and then preparing laypeople for such indispensable work has been a continuing disappointment. How often does one hear homilies treating the great themes of Catholic social ethics: the dignity of work, the obligation to care for creation, the rights and duties associated with life in community? When and where are laypeople educated in the practical ways of using their learning, professional expertise and gifts of the Spirit to root out the conditions that give rise to hunger, homelessness and discrimination? (Sherry's emphasis)

Great observations.

It has been my experience across the board that one area where Catholic formation almost always is weakest is in helping people learn how to apply the principles of the Church's teaching in specific, concrete real live situations. Every time we've managed to come up with a theologically solid and practical process that addresses one specific area of lay formation, the demand for it is huge. Because the need to bridge the gap between the universal and its application in Colorado Springs or Dodge City or Houston in 2008 in this unique set of circumstances is never ending.

This really is the terrain, the jurisdiction, the responsibility and expertise of the laity.
Lots Going On PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 29 May 2008 21:49
Lots to blog. First of all, starting tomorrow evening at 7pm.

First Fr. Mike takes off early tomorrow for LA where he will help teach a Called & Gifted workshop at St, John Eudes in Chatsworth, CA.

while our one of our Chicago land teaching teams will be putting on a Called & Gifted workshop at St. Isidore's in Bloomington, IL

If you are in the LA or Chicago areas, feel free to join the fun.

Secondly, interesting stuff going on over at Inside Catholic's blog:

Mark Shea's piece on Getting Past Clericalism is their cover story - and talks about the work of the institute.

They are also showing this fascinating video of an underground evangelical preacher in China. It all seems extremely
evangelical until half way through when - without any warning, one of his little congregations begins to pray the Rosary!
(Honest - I listened to it twice to be sure. ) There was no commentary about this in the video. In many parts of the global south, the sort of divisions that are so important to us seem meaningless but I have to admit I never thought to see Chinese underground evangelicals praying the Rosary. They may not know its Catholic and apparently have no knee-jerk Protestant fears about it.

Thirdly, Gashwin Gomes has blogged a interesting 5 part interview with an Indian Jesuit who is a missionary in Gujarat.

Addendum: I've read the whole interview that Gashwin has written: Fascinating.

I was particularly struck by part 5 on evangelism and discipleship: Nominalism, culture, "followers of Jesus" vs. "disciples", relations with evangelicals in India - fascinating.

And very encouraging to hear from a Jesuit who believes strongly in proclaiming Christ. Thanks Gashwin for this glimpse of a very different world and to Fr. Jose for sharing his story and answering his call.
Catholics Come Home PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Thursday, 29 May 2008 17:22
I haven't had time to look around this website, but the three videos at the bottom of the homepage are worth watching. I had tears running down my face. It looks like a very well-conceived website and a great evangelization tool; very welcoming.
Working the Numbers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 29 May 2008 10:46
The new numbers for global Catholicism are out. The Vatican's Statistical Yearbook shows for the 7 year period from 2000 2006.

The overall Catholic percentage of the world's population remains steady at 17.3% (World population as of May, 2008 is estimated to be just over 6.7 billion. ) That would make the world's Catholic population nearly 1.16 billion.

To put that in perspective: The Center for Global Christianity estimates that in 2008 there are 79,000 new Christians every 24 hours. of which 29,000 are Independents, 28,000 are Catholic, 16,000 are Protestant, 5,000 are Orthodox, and 3,000 are Anglican. It also estimates that there are 69,000 new Muslims every day. Catholic per annum growth is 0.89%. Independent per annum growth is 2.55%.

Overall, the number of Catholic priests increased just over 2,000 to a world wide total of 407,000. While the number of diocesan priests is increasing, religious priests continue to decline and currently make up 1/3 of all priests in the world.

A final bright spot that the statistical yearbook noted was an upswing in the number of seminarians in diocesan and religious seminaries. Globally, their numbers increased from 110.583 in 2000 to more than 115.000 in 2006, a growth of 4.43 percent.

By area:

Europe: The decline continues. 25% of all Catholics live in Europe but the Catholic population only increased there by 1% over the first 7 years of the new millennium. Numbers of European priests dropped 5.75%. Europe saw a decline in the number of religious priests and a steep decline in the number of non-ordained religious (down 12%). The number of seminarians also dropped by 16%.

Oceania: site of this year's World Youth Day: The Catholic population grew 7.6% but their number of priests dropped
4.37% and non-ordained religious dropped nearly 17% over the same 7 years.

America (which includes north, central and south America) While the Catholic population of American grew 8.4% over the 7 year period, the number of priests and religious are essentially unchanged.

and now the "dynamic continents" as the report calls them:

Asia: The Catholic population has remained essentially unchanged but the number of priests has risen 17.7% and there was a 30.6% increase in non-ordained religious. The number of female religious is up by 12.78 percent).

Africa: The number of Catholics rose nearly 22% between 2000 and 2006. Priestly vocations rose even faster ( 24.24%) and non ordained religious rose by 8%. Female religious have risen by 15.45%.
Marian Chapel, St. James Cathedral, Seattle PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 29 May 2008 09:54
The exquisite Marian chapel at St. James Cathedral in Seattle is the most beautiful Marian chapel I've ever visited. The walls on three sides are covered with slender tapers.

What these pictures don't show:

The ceiling of the chapel is an inky dark blue covered with golden stars of various sizes. The more candles are lit below, the more stars become visible above.
Our Sorrowful Mother's Ministry PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 28 May 2008 11:56

Written by Joe Waters

My name is Joe Waters and I am the summer intern here at the Catherine of Siena Institute. I am a Masters of Divinity student at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and my work with the Institute this summer is in partial fulfillment of the pastoral field education requirement for my degree. One thing I hope to do this summer is profile a number of exciting lay initiatives that we have discovered through our work across the country.

The first such initiative that I wish to profile is Our Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry in Vandalia, Illinois. OSMM was founded in the late nineties by two laywomen, Debbie Pryor and Vanessa Keck, who decided to host a conference in their small town of 6,000 people after a rather disappointing trip to a Catholic conference in Chicago. The conference was initiated for the evangelization of their parish, but with little support from their parish or the wider community they successfully relied on registration fees from participants to fund the conference. And it worked! Since that first conference (1997) they have put on ten large conferences with nationally and internationally known speakers. Though they have shifted the focus of their ministry to healing and reconciliation they continue to have a large conference every year in the late fall and now have monthly healing retreats as well. These retreats are always led by at least two priests and feature daily Mass, Eucharistic adoration, the sacrament of penance, time for private prayer, spiritual direction with certified spiritual directors, and healing prayer. The retreats cover fascinating topics such as “Deep Healing in the Ocean of God’s Mercy,” “Inner Healing through Our Lady of Reconciliation,” and “Healing the Heart’s Wounds.” They now have two houses, one of which is used by priests and religious, and by the initiative of the Bishop of Springfield the Blessed Sacrament in reserved in OSMM’s chapel.

Having spoken on the phone recently with both Debbie and Vanessa their commitment to the Lord and the Church deeply impressed me. Both of them are intentional disciples who went through tremendous conversion experiences that set them on this path of reaching out to the suffering and wounded. Our world is in great need of healing and reconciliation, and it is beautiful to find lay apostles dedicated to bringing the Gospel’s message of healing, reconciliation, and mercy to the world.

A Catholic Global Village PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 28 May 2008 09:02

I just checked and only 60% of our readership over the past 12 hours came from the US. 6% from the UK, 3% from India. And readers from 25 other countries.

We've always had a pretty high international readership compared to other US Catholic blogs - probably due to the high number of posts on international topics.

But 40% non-American visitors is high even for us. In communion with the global Church - through Baptism, the Eucharist, and the hierarchy - but also through the internet. How cheering.
The Martyrs of Korea PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 28 May 2008 07:48
The history of the Korean church is unique in the Church. Founded by lay scholars and sustained mostly by lay people in the fact of incredible persecution for generations. Korea has the 4th largest number of martyrs in the world.

A good day to read this poignant description of that persecution and the relics left behind. From Pause for Prayer.

"Who wore those tiny shoes? Did they belong to a child, perhaps only four or five years old? Was the same small individual the owner of both the slippers and the ivory satin tunic with its mandarin collar? Did they belong to St. Peter Yu Tae-chol, strangled in prison at the age of thirteen on October 31st, 1839?

What about the ‘much-loved’ rosary, tired and grey, heaped in one corner? At what stage was it separated from its owner?

…and the two ropes, carefully wound into a tidy knot. They look as though they were new…perhaps only used on one occasion? The dark brown shackles say nothing. Were they witness to more than we can ever imagine? What of the ring made of thick rope, the hole in its centre little more than the width of my clenched fist? Its greasy appearance is ominous, but in what way was it used?

These few mementoes, treasured in the chapel upstairs as I write, are tangible contacts with some of the Korean martyrs. The Catholic community suffered major persecutions in the years 1839, 1846 and 1866, producing at least 8,000 known martyrs. Among them were the fervent Korean priest Andrew Kim Taeg?n and the Korean lay catechist Paul Ch?ng Hasang. The vast majority of the martyrs were simple lay people, including men and women, married and single, old and young. 79 martyrs of Korea were beatified in 1925 and 24 more were beatified in 1968 and the combined 103 martyrs have been canonized as saints, in 1984, with feast day September 20. Many of them experienced horrific torture before their equally agonising executions. Currently, Korea has the 4th largest number of saints in the Catholic world.

St. Andrew Kim Taeg?n wrote his last letter to his parish as he awaited martyrdom with a group of twenty persons:

“My dear brothers and sisters, know this: Our Lord Jesus Christ upon descending into the world took innumerable pains upon and constituted the holy Church through his own passion and increases it through the passion of its faithful….

Now, however, some fifty or sixty years since holy Church entered into our Korea, the faithful suffer persecutions again. Even today persecution rages, so that many of our friends of the same faith, among whom am I myself, have been thrown into prison, just as you also remain in the midst of persecution. Since we have formed one body, how can we not be saddened in our innermost hearts? How can we not experience the pain of separation in our human faculties?

However, as Scripture says, God cares for the least hair of our heads, and indeed he cares with his omniscience; therefore, how can persecution be considered as anything other than the command of God, or his prize, or precisely his punishment?…
We are twenty here, and thanks be to God all are still well. If anyone is killed, I beg you not to forget his family. I have many more things to say, but how can I express them with pen and paper? I make an end to this letter. Since we are now close to the struggle, I pray you to walk in faith, so that when you have finally entered into Heaven, we may greet one another. I leave you my kiss of love.”

…but some of them left behind tangible links in the form of clothing, ropes, shackles, a rosary…"
In the Beginning PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 28 May 2008 06:33
My mental fog is beginning to lift a little - although it is foggy here. What we call round here "a Seattle day" - a day when you can't see the mountains. Very rare around here and a good morning for strong, hot, Yorkshire Gold tea, I think. Let's see if I can manage a bit of blogging before turning to the day's work.

Fr. Michael Sweeney, (the original Fr. MIchael who founded the Institute with me) and I have just been asked to offer a graduate course in the theology of the laity at a major seminary. (Since the dates have not been finalized, I won't identify the seminary yet). Fr. Michael already teaches a similar course at the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology where he now serves as President.

Thinking about it brings back a lot of memories of the early years of our collaboration - and a good place to begin talking about the theology and history of the lay apostolate.

In the mid 90's, Fr. Michael and I were just getting to know each other (which was rather like watching two dogs meet, circle and sniff each other in a park. Foe or friend???? Hmmmm.)

He was my pastor at Blessed Sacrament in Seattle, I had just finished grad school and had worked my way through by working 12 hour weekend shifts at a local hospital, so got a dispensation to attend Mass on weekdays. The result was, I had little sense of Fr. Michael except through my friends, like Mark & Jan Shea and Dave & Sherry Curp, who raved about him.

Fr. Michael has always had a gift for relating to young adults and our gang of friends was simply entranced. Here was a priest who was brilliant, took the Church's teaching very seriously, channeled John Paul II, and simultaneously was not intimidated by the culture (and remember we were in Seattle - none land".) Nor was he angry or embattled. His cheerful, playful confidence in the Holy Spirit's work in and through the Church - including the Second Vatican Council - had a stunning effort on us. In our brief lives as Catholics, we had not met anyone like him.

I made an appointment with him to introduce myself and brought my cherished Master's thesis on the discernment of vocation for him to look at it. He skimmed it and returned it to me with a distinctly unenthusiastic "that's nice." I could take a hint - and didn't speak to him for the next two years. (Fr. Michael always insists he didn't know I wasn't speaking to him. Hmph!) But our friends kept urging us to try again because we were always talking about the same things.

By the time, he asked me to speak at the first gathering of pastors of the province in the fall of 95, we had gotten past those false steps and had begun collaborating informally. Which was how I, nearly fainting with terror at the prospect of facing 35 priests in white (I'd never seen that many priests together before. Fr. Michael, of course, found it all most amusing.) came to give this 30 min talk: The Strategic Role of Lay Catholics in the Dominican Mission

When I spoke these words

When you entered the Order, you spent years being educated and formed for your vocation. But I, too, am a preacher of the gospel in my own right - and where is my house of formation? Your parish is my St. Albert's, the only house of formation I may ever have to prepare me for my vocation as an evangelizing change agent in the world.

I can still remember the intense silence in the room and the wide eyes of a number of the OPs present.

Seven months later, Fr. Michael gave a related speech, Collaboration With the Laity, to the Assembly of the whole Province:

I am struck by the remarkable similarities which seem to pertain between the age of St. Dominic and our own age. St. Dominic faced a Church which appeared to be institutionally moribund in the face of the Albigensian heresy, much as our institutions, whether of diocese, parish, or Newman Center, seem inadequate in the face of the growing atheism and even paganism of modern culture. Dominic witnessed the remarkable success of the Poverello movements of the Middle Ages which, though separated from the communion of the Church, nevertheless were inspired by a genuine evangelical zeal and a desire to follow Christ, much as we are witnessing the growth of evangelical Protestantism. In the Albigensian heresy Dominic perceived, not just a false doctrine which was to be exposed, but a whole movement, as much cultural as it was religious, which threatened the whole fabric of medieval society, much as we are witnessing the defection of our own culture from its Christian roots.

Dominic's response was, if we can be both playful and honest, theft on a grand scale. Dominic stole from the Albigensians their zeal and their poverty, to reclaim it for Christ and his Church. He stole from the Poverello movements their evangelical zeal and their literal application of the evangelical counsels, in order that they might be placed, once again, at the disposal of the Church. He stole from Augustine his rule to accommodate his new Order, and stole from the cathedral canons their education and its place in their lives. Most significantly of all, he stole from Christ his sending of the disciples by twos, to proclaim the advent of the kingdom. The result of his thefts was the Order of Preachers.

I would like to suggest some thievery of our own. The one thread which is common to New Age, Protestant Evangelism and similar contemporary movements, is that they have mobilized their membership. They form intentional communities, with conscious and specific agenda; and no matter how little we may appreciate their ends, we should nonetheless be impressed by their means. In truth, we were there ahead of them: the single-minded zeal of the Evangelicals bears a great resemblance to the early Order. The only theft which it is really necessary for us to engage in is from the riches of our own tradition. We can mobilize our Catholic laity, and thereby play a significant role in the renewal of our Church, simply by applying our own tradition.

Both are still worth reading, I think, - especially Fr. Michael's. They set the stage for the work of the Institute - and for the series of posts I am going to try and begin this week on the history of the lay apostolate.
St. Thomas More's Descendents PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 26 May 2008 20:14
I received this note from reader Martin Wood, who is a descendant of St. Thomas More:

I have seen your blogs about St. Thomas More and thought you might be interested in my book "The Family and Descendants of St Thomas More" just published in the UK by Gracewing. It can be seen under 'New Titles' on the Gracewing website at

It is also under 'books' on

I attach a 'Flyer' which gives further details.
Best wishes,
Martin Wood

From the flyer:
The Family and Descendants of St Thomas More
Martin Wood

This book, weaving together the history and genealogy of the More family and of the other families to which they allied themselves by marriage, provides an illuminating sequel to the various lives that have been written of St Thomas More. It tells the story of what happened to his family in the wake of his heroic witness against the tyranny of Henry VIII and how his descendants, inspired by his faith, were affected by their refusal to conform to the Church of England as, under successive monarchs, England was forcibly transformed from a Catholic to a Protestant country.

The story begins with St Thomas More’s parents and through his sister Elizabeth traces a line of literary figures that includes John Rastell the printer, playwright, dramatist and designer of pageants, John Heywood the Court musician, dramatist and playwright, and John Donne, the poet.

After Thomas More’s execution all the members of his immediate and extended family felt the force of Henry’s fury. His stepmother and his widow, Dame Alice More, were both thrown out of their homes. His son, John, and son-in-law, William Daunce, both narrowly escaped the scaffold, but Giles Heron, another son-in-law, was executed at Tyburn on a trumped-up charge of treason. Others were called in for questioning and they, and their families, were carefully watched throughout their lives. Some sought refuge in Catholic Europe.

The book follows each generation down to the time when the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 finally brought relief from persecution. This is the story of a line of laymen and women, and of priests and nuns, all of whom had a deep faith.

Sounds fascinating. I'd love to get a copy myself. Fellow More-aphiles take heed!

PS. The blog posts about St. Thomas More that Martin Wood refers to was the result of a Thomas More frenzy I went through last June. Start here and scroll down.
Myanmar: The Aftermath PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 26 May 2008 20:00
The New York Time lead article on the situation in Myanmar is . . .heartbreaking, enraging, stunning. The accompanying picture of hundreds of desperate famers lining the road waiting in the hope that a car of Burmese civilians trying to aid their countrymen will pass by. It is their only source of hope because the military regime won't let aid in.

Read it all. I was struck by a comment made by 40 year old Ko Htay Oo.

“I am no beggar, so I didn’t eat anything in the past two days,” he said, leaning against a roadside palm tree. “Besides, you shouldn’t compete with kids for begged food.”

The combination of pride and discipline is telling. It tells me a) he is used to not eating regularly although he is not a begger. (I have a hard time imagining an American who hadn't eaten in two days talking like that.)
Elective Surgeries Cancelled During WYD? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 26 May 2008 19:37
I've got a Google alert going for World Youth Day" and it has been illuminating to read a number of Aussie articles grumbling about the inconveniences and even possible dire consequences of holding such an event. It's hard to tell how much of this is because it a Catholic event or just a gigantic event. Did the residents of Sydney also complain so vociferously about the Olympic games?

Here is one consequence of having 225,000 visitors drop in for a week::

The New South Wales Health Department is truly to dispel a rumor that elective surgery will be suspended during World Youth Day in July.

Dr O'Connell has told ABC 702 Sydney local radio that smaller procedures will be listed so theatres will not be tied up with long, complicated surgeries.

"Instead of doing, for example, large cases which take many hours and the patients need to stay in hospital for a number of days post-operatively, they'll ramp up their activities on smaller cases that can be turned over quickly, so the theatre can be rapidly released if there is some major event," he said.

He says the changes are a normal part of disaster planning in case there is an emergency during that week.

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