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Cape Town 2010: The Future is Here - and Catholics Aren't PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 09:10

Before I take off:

The long anticipated Lausanne III Congress: Cape Town 2010, is taking place this week in South Africa.  This is the ecumenical council of evangelical missions - with 4,200 mission leaders from 192 countries, 1,100 staff working behind the scenes, and another 100,000 participants meeting in groups at internet-based link points around the world.  The goal was to have 65% of those attending be from the global south, reflecting the new demography of global Christianity.

One problem with this representational approach is that almost no Catholics are present and they comprise 50% of the world’s Christians.  The organizers specifically mentioned their desire to have Catholic and Orthodox Christians present but it seems that the resulting numbers are very, very tiny and essentially invisible.  It is really too bad.  We badly need the wake-up call that witnessing the amazing passion, dedication, and sophistication of the evangelical missions movement would give.  Please take the time to look around the site and watch some of the videos.  Their focus is definitely not insider baseball.

If we think of Catholics and Orthodox Christians as a unit and all the heirs of the Reformation as a separate unit, we will see a definite trend.  In 1900, Catholics and Orthodox Christians together comprised nearly three quarters of all Christians on the planet.

The 20th century and the rise of Communism in its historical homelands was disastrous for Orthodoxy, whose global footprint has dropped from 22% of all Christians in 1900 to 12.6% today.

Catholics, who hit the high water mark of 53.9% of all affiliated Christians in 1970, have been slowly declining ever since.  A good case can be made that one cause of Catholic decline, in addition to the wide-spread disaffection in Europe, is because most of our missionaries abandoned initial proclamation of Christ as the heart of Catholic missionary work in the 60’s.  While evangelical and renewalist Protestants just revved their engines.

110 years later, the Catholic and Orthodox communions have dropped to roughly 60% of all Christians and the heirs of the Reformation now make up about 40%. (There are a number of double-affiliated Christians who have been counted twice.)  New forms of Christianity, which hardly registered on the ecclesial radar in 1900, are now major players.  Independent Christians make up 17% of all Christians and renewalist Christians (Pentecostal/charismatic/neocharismatics) make up 30%.  They are heirs of the Reformation, they are ones evangelizing, and they are the fastest growing faiths in the world.

To give some perspective, the general global population is growing at a 1.21% per annum rate.   Catholics lag behind at 1.0% growth per annum.  The Orthodox bring up the rear at a 0.68% per year growth rate. The Muslim community is growing nearly three times as fast as the Orthodox at 1.82% per annum.  While Independent Christians and renewalist Christians are growing at a blistering 2.42% per annum, twice as fast as the global population.  World Christian Trends estimates that there are 41,000 new renewalist Christians in the world every 24 hours.  (These figures are from the Status of Global Mission, 2010.)

The projections for 2025 follow the same trajectory.  But the outlook for Orthodoxy is even more bleak.  As John Allen pointed out in his book "The Future Church", the population implosion taking place right now in Russia and other parts of the Orthodox heartland means that it is very likely that Orthodox numbers will shrink another 25% in the next 15 years.  Since the Orthodox haven't done much mission work in the global south, they can't count upon growth there to counteract their losses in eastern Europe.

Meanwhile, the percentage of Catholics will continue its slow decline, dropping below the 50% mark to about 48.8% of all Christians. While Independent and renewalist Christians continue to grow rapidly.  If these trends do not change significantly in the next 40 years, Protestants and their spiritual heirs will comprise the majority of Christians by 2050.

This isn't a numbers-for-its-own-sake game.  We are talking about the spiritual, earthly, and eternal well-being of many hundreds of millions of human beings.  We have a beautiful and rich theology of evangelization but our practice as a communion is so lame compared to the energy and fire being demonstrated at Cape Town 2010.  (As I have noted before, watching Catholics evangelize is like watching a bunch of Southern Baptists sight-read their way through the liturgy of Holy Week.  Because knowing how to do something complex like evangelization or liturgy is as much about culture, inherited assumptions and practices, and building upon the achievements of past generations as the theology. )

This could have been our wake-up call – if we bothered to take the evangelical missionary movement seriously.  But we haven't.  One day soon, we won’t have a choice.

An interesting side note:

The online resources for Cape Town 2010 are so extensive that I haven’t had time to figure them all out but the goal was that interested Christians around the world could attend virtually.  (The software they are using has this motto ”Real is so yesterday”.)

The organizers announced this morning that their internet connections had survived a major cyber attack.  “We have 700 GlobaLink sites in 95 countries extending the Congress to 100,000 people’, said Victor Nakah, GlobaLink Chair for the Congress. ‘Finally, after two rough days, they are being served as planned.’

The word is out from Tall, Skinny Kiwi about about the source of the disruptions:

Here's the skinny. The bandwidth and internet access problems that have plagued the Lausanne World Congress in Cape Town over the past few days were the result of a malicious virus from a phone brought into the Cape Town International Convention Center. According to unofficial reports, millions of hits from 66 different sites eventually crashed the system.

Which country? Well, one of my strongest theories was that the New Zealand Government was upset at their small representation and were getting back at Lausanne. But now we have heard that 95% of these internet hits came from the country of China, and the 66 locations were also situated in China, and that account of a Chinese fellow taking photos of Congress participants before running away, and this has caused us to consider China at least as a potentially suspicious candidate.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government refused at the last minute to let the Chinese participants leave the country to attend Cape Town 2010.

The Catherine of Siena Institute Requests the Honor of Your Prayers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 08:45

Another gorgeous October morning and I stole out to enjoy the rising sun, mountains, turning leaves, etc.  My time at home this week is just a chance to turn about.  Last weekend, I was in St. Paul, doing a Called & Gifted with Keith Strohm at the Cathedral while Fr. Mike was doing a C & G and other sundry talks in the Seattle area.

This weekend, we'll meet again in Los Angeles for one of the largest and probably most strategic events we've ever put on.  On Saturday, October 23, Fr. Mike and I will be offering a "Come and See" introduction to our Making Disciples seminar for 760 parish leaders from 24 parishes in the San Fernando region as well as representatives of the other 4 regions of the archdiocese.  And next Monday, we'll be doing a similar day for 128 Catholic school teachers.  How this all came about is an amazing story.  All I can say now is never underestimate the power of praying lay people!

Notice my clever segue to our need for your prayers on our behalf.  I have often felt as though I was just along for the ride while some amazing LA disciples did all the work.  Now we are all waiting to see what God will do.

We would be most seriously grateful to anyone who kept us in prayer.

Later today, I'll be running up to Castlerock to meet with Kelly Wahlquist of The Great Adventure Bible study series to explore some ways we might be able to cooperate with one another.

Tracey Rowland--Seeking a Christocentric Culture PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:58

Written by Winston Elliott III


Winston Elliott, Tracey Rowland, Barbara Elliott

Recently Barbara and I had the opportunity to listen to a masterful presentation by Tracey Rowland on culture and the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. She is Dean of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies in Melbourne, Australia. She is also a member of the editorial board of Communio:  International Catholic Review, North America Edition.  Tracey has focused her scholarship on the interpretation of Vatican II and the theology of culture. She is the author of several books that I highly recommend: Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II, Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI and Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed.

Dr. Rowland's work, along with that of David Schindler, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Pope Benedict XVI, provides us with the theological and anthropological understanding necessary to transform our culture so as to reflect the perfect love of the perfect community, the Holy Trinity. Thank you Tracey.

Winston Elliott III

Mary MacKillop: The Whistle That Never Blew PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 07 October 2010 07:15

A week ago, newspapers and the internet was buzzing with the story that Bl. Mary MacKillop, who is being canonized in Rome this Sunday, was a "whistle -blower", a woman who had been excommunicated because she exposed the sexual abuse of a priest.

The story got considerable play over at dotcommonweal, the America blog, was featured as a news story on New Advent, Andrew Sullivan's blog, Get Religion, Religion News, etc.  Mary was going to be the unofficial patron saint of whistle-blowers.

The problem is that the whistle-blower scenario has turned out to be completely false.  And that news hasn't made it around the internet yet.

At the time the story came out, I did some research because I happened to own the definite biography of MacKillop, written by the postulater of her cause, Fr. Paul Gardiner.  (We have used Mary for years as an example of the charism of teaching in our Called & Gifted workshops.)  As I wrote in the discussion over at Dotcommonweal,

"The problem with the whistle-blower scenario is that Mary wasn’t anywhere near Adelaide in April, 1870 when her sisters there heard rumors about Fr. Keating, a local Franciscan. She was in Brisbane, 1,000 miles away, and didn’t return until nearly a year later. (A journey of 1000 miles in 1870 Australia took weeks.)

"The sisters in Adelaide heard stories of abuse and told Fr. Woods, their founder. Fr. Woods told the Vicar General of the diocese and the Vicar General sent Keating away. One of Keating’s confreres, Fr. Horan, set out to take his revenge on Fr. Woods by destroying the Josephite Sisters which he had founded. It was Horan who drafted a long list of accusations against the Sisters, calling them incompetent and disobedient, and it was Mary MacKillop who was trying to keep her footing and protect her sisters in the middle of what was essentially a dispute among priests. And all of this occurred while the bishop, who was the only one who could have defused the situation, was away in Europe for over a year at the First Vatican Council!


"It would be most odd for Gardiner not to mention Mary’s role in this – if she was involved – since the whole point of the chapter was to understand the complex patterns of events that led to her excommunication and dissolution of the Josephites in the Diocese of Adelaide (Some of the communities outside Adelaide survived.) Of course, an error is always a possibility but his book is not the work of a careless or incompetent man."

". . . the imagined “whistle-blower” scenario of Mary personally walking into the bishop’s office to report an abusive priest never happened. The Josephite community in Adelaide were whistle-blowers but the ultimate whistle-blower was Fr. Woods and he was the one that Horan was attempting to punish for it.

But in the current climate with the first Australian canonization happening in three weeks, it was much easier – and more profitable – to fudge the facts. So the saintly, unjustly treated woman becomes the whistle-blower while the mentally ill male co-founder, who actually did the reporting is ignored."

History is sometimes stranger than fiction!   The primary whistle-blower turned out to be a wildly eccentric, mentally ill male cleric, Fr. Woods, not our new woman saint.  Since Fr. Woods was regarded as "the founder" of the Josephite sisters, Fr. Horan sought to take vengeance by destroying the women's community that he had founded.

It turns out that the carelessness and incompetence lay elsewhere.  Now both Fr. Gardiner and the executive producer of the Australian Broadcasting Company's Compass show (the source of the original story) have vehemently denied ever asserting that Mary was a whistle-blower.

As Fr. Gardiner put it:

"Early in 1870, the scandal occurred and the Sisters of Saint Joseph reported it to Father Tenison Woods, but Mary was in Queensland and no one was worried about her," Father Gardiner told The Australian.

Father Gardiner, considered the nation's foremost authority on the history of MacKillop, said his words had been twisted to suit the "ill will" of media outlets.

"There was a long chain of causation. Somehow or other, somebody typed it up as if to say I said Mary MacKillop was the one to report the sex abuse," Father Gardiner said.

"I never said it - it's just false - it's the ill will of people who are anxious to see something negative about the Catholic Church. There's already enough mud to throw, though."

So as we come to this weekend of celebration and joy, can all bloggers of good will make a concerted effort to get out the true story?  Let's see if we can make the true story fly about the internet as quickly as the false one did.

By the way, here's the link for the Compass docu-drama that started all the fuss, which was broadcast last Sunday.  It is 53 minutes long and well done.  You'll notice that it was the community of Josephite sisters in Adelaide who reported the abuse to Fr. Woods.  Fr. Gardiner reports that Fr. Woods was the one who reported it to the Vicar General (because the Bishop was in Europe attending the First Vatican Council.)





Bl. Mary MacKillop's Amazing "Extra" Miracle PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 05 October 2010 10:36

The "also-ran" miracle, received through the intercession of soon to be Saint Mary MacKillop is making news tomorrow in the Wednesday, October 6 edition of Melbourne's newspaper, The Age. (I love getting good news from the future!)

A 19 year old is going to be attending MacKillop's canonization in Rome this weekend and his story is stunning even though it was not chosen as the second miracle for her canonization cause.

"The Simpson family's ordeal began in 1999 when Jack, then eight, collapsed at school. ''At first we thought he'd hit his head. His eyes were rolling, he couldn't stand and had no comprehension. It was unbelievably horrible,'' Mrs Simpson said yesterday.

For the first year there was no diagnosis, as his central nervous system went into meltdown, leaving him paralysed. Soon after the problem was revealed as juvenile MS - with a maximum life expectancy of five years - the family noticed lumps the size of bars of soap in his neck and groin.

''When he went to the nuclear medicine department and they put the tracer in, he was lit up like a Christmas tree. It was quite advanced, stage four Hodgkin's lymphoma.''

A friend organised novenas (nine-day prayer cycles) to Mary MacKillop at St Ambrose's Catholic Church at Woodend in 1999 and 2000, but nothing changed at first.

For Mrs Simpson the turning point came one night in 2000.

''That night I thought Jack was going to die. He seemed to be in the last stage, with the breath rattling. I thought, 'You can't keep fighting forever, you have to surrender,' and I said, 'If you want him, God, you can have him.' ''

But in the morning he was still alive. She thought he might be cured, so she stood him up, but he was still paralysed.

''That's when Mary MacKillop appeared. She helped me lift him up and get him back into bed. From then on, I knew I was never alone and her strength became mine.''

Four years later, Jack's multiple sclerosis and cancer vanished and his neurological functions began to return. .

"Andrew Kornberg, director of the neurology department at the Royal Children's Hospital, called Jack's recovery miraculous, and the Vatican agreed - not for the MS or cancer but for  . .  ." the return of his intellectual competency, because that has never been documented in human history.''

The story of the Woodend identical twin has not been told until now because, while the cases were being investigated by the Vatican, the family was asked to keep it secret."


Any of you have a devotion to or received a favor through the intercession of Blessed Mary MacKillop?  Tell us about it.

What Are the Ten Largest Gatherings of People Ever? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 04 October 2010 13:58

Ever wonder what the 10 largest gatherings of human beings on this planet have been?

Three are Hindu religious gatherings

one is a Catholic religious gathering

one is a Communist gathering

one is a Muslim gathering

and four are funerals (two of which tied in numbers).

Who knows where and when those gigantic gatherings of people occurred?

Update:  Since the first 1,000 visitors weren't brave enough to guess, I'll provide the answers:

1. Ardh Kumbh Mela, January, 2007: India

More than 70 million Hindu pilgrims from

around the world gathered at Allahabad in India for the Ardh Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest religious festival

and also the world’s largest gathering.


2. Simhastha Kumbh Mela, April 5, 2004: India

30 million Hindu pilgrims from all over the world traveled to Hindu holy city of Ujjain in India.

3. The funeral of C. N. Annadurai in 1969: India

Annadurai was a former Chief Minister of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.  I 5 million attended his funeral.

4. Mass Gathering of Red Guards, Beijing, 1966, China:

Eight Mass rallies between August and November of 1966, the height of the Cultural Revolution.  11 million Red Guards gathered in all.

5.  Karbala, Iraq, 2009:

9 million Shia Muslim pilgrims visited the shrine of Imam Hussein.  Only about 80,000 are non-Iraqis.

6. Sabarimala Pilgrimage, January 14, 2007: India

5 million Hindu pilgrims paid homage at Sabarimala Shrine in Kerala, India.

7. World Youth Day 1995: Manila, Philippines

4 million attend the Closing Mass of World Youth Day with Pope John Paul II.

8. Ayatollah Khomeini Funeral: June 3, 1989: Iran

Two to nine million Iranians gathered for the Ayatollah's funeral.

9.  Funeral of Pope John Paul II, April 7, 2005: Rome

Two to four million attended.

10: Umm Kulthum and Gamel Abdul Nasser Funerals, Egypt

February 5, 1975 (Umm Kulthum) and October 1, 1970 (President Nassar of Egypt).  Both were in Egypt and drew about 4 million people. Here's a little taste of the fabulous Umm Kulthum in action with convenient English commentary.

Fascinating, how many of the gigantic gatherings are unknown to most of us in the west.  I knew about Um Kulthum, Nasser, the Ayatollah Khomeini, and the Shia shrine of Karbala  because of my long interest in the middle east.  (For a fascinating look at women's lives in 1950's village Iraq, including a visit to Shrine of Hussein in Karbala, read Elizabeth Warnock Fernea's Guests of the Sheik.)  And of course, JPII.

But I have never heard of gatherings 1 - 4 and 6.  Even in the age of the internet, they might as well have occurred on the moon.  Notice the tremendous drawing power of religion.   So much for the new atheists.

For more details about each event, here is the original list.

Dr. OP: Catherine of Siena PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 04 October 2010 11:04

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Pope Paul VI's proclamation of St. Catherine of Siena as "Doctor of the Church"

Few of us understand the process that goes into such a declaration but Sr. Suzanne Noffke, OP's long, detailed, and fascinating article in the April, 2003 issue of Theology Today is available online.  Nofkke writes:

"The ecclesiastical doctorates of these women mystics-Catherine, Teresa, Therese-are often looked upon as something of a courteous nicety, a concession to feminist sensitivities. Surely they cannot be taken seriously as theologians! Do they-does Catherine in particular-deserve the title on theological grounds?


"It was just over five hundred years later that Pope Paul VI, on the feast of Teresa of Avila in 1967, told the World Congress on the Apostolate of the Laity of his dream that Teresa and Catherine should be the first women to be proclaimed doctors of the church. By December of that same year, the process was in full swing. The Congregation of Rites asked whether that title could in fact be given to a woman, especially in view of Saint Paul's strictures. They unanimously answered their own question in the affirmative the following March; the pope concurred.

There are actually three formal requirements for granting the doctorate in the church. The first, outstanding holiness, already had been attested to in Catherine's case in her canonization. The second, the testimony of popes or general councils, was easily garnered. The third, distinguished teaching, was yet to be judged and would be the chief topic of investigation. Letters of postulation (petition), the affirmation of the Dominican general chapter, and a formal petition from the master of the Dominican Order, Aniceto Fernandez, carried the process forward. Supportive monographs and articles were gathered as resources for the official advocates, censors, and others whose work would lead to the final positive decision. What were the reasons put forward for that decision?"

Some of the responses were unintentionally funny and show that even in 1970, some things were slow to change:   As when the Dominican master general asks of Catherine's Dialogue: "How could one imagine or believe that this was written by a woman?"

The article provides a fascinating window into the whole process of determining a doctor of the Church, a process that we may soon be witnessing again with Blessed John Henry Newman.


I just have to end on a very low note cause this has been rumbling around inside for years, screaming to get out.

I was feeling so bad
I asked my family doctor just what I had
I said "Doctor, Doctor. Missus OP.
Now can you tell me what's ailing me? Doctor?

It is stunning what you can find on You Tube.  

It is right up there with "Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be OP's . ."

Two Different Concepts of Parish Life PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 02 October 2010 15:36

I love this short pastor's letter which I found on the front page of the St. John Neumann Catholic Church (Lilburne, Georgia) website.

"There seems to be two different concepts of parish life that most adhere to, two different visions of what SJN is in itself.

In the first concept, some think of SJN as simply a place, an address, a geography. It is a place where you go to celebrate or "hear" Mass. The parish is a place where your children are sent to receive the sacraments. The parish is a place where engaged couples choose to have their wedding. The parish is a place where the dead are waked and prayed over. In this first concept of a parish, to be a parishioner of SJN means that you come to this address to receive the gifts of God, the gifts of God that are given to you  through those that serve the parish in ministry and through ordination. In this first notion of "parish", it's all about what you get when you come here.

In the second concept of "parish", others recognize that SJN, while being a place, an address, a geography, it  is also the meeting place of the encounter with God, where the mystery of the Lord's Presence is forming us into a living fellowship, a living community.  In this second concept of "parish", parishioners of SJN follow the invitation of the Lord, and trusting in his new Way of life, seek to give of themselves in imitation of the One who poured his life out for love of us. In this second notion of SJN,  parishioners seek to live out their faith as active and intentional disciples of the Lord Jesus, sharing themselves out of love... for God... for neighbor. We seek to be good stewards of the gifts of God; and we realize that each of us is called to fellowship with all, as the walls of isolation and separation are broken down by the power of divine love."

Archdiocese of Atlanta. Not a surprise.

Discussion:  How do most of your Catholic friends and family regard their parishes?  Paragraph number one, paragraph number two - or something else?  How do you think of your parish?

America's "Brainiest": Home Schooling Parents PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 02 October 2010 07:09

CNN is running a piece this morning on the "brainiest" major cities in America.  The criteria?  What percentage of the population has a bachelor or graduate degree.  Washington DC comes in first with 47.3% of adults 25 and older with college degrees.  Then San Francisco, San Jose, and Raleigh, NC.  Boston, Austin, Minneapolis, Denver, Seattle, and New York round out the field.

Now there are all sorts of problems with the idea that a simple concentration of college degrees in a town equals the "brainiest".  And these lists seem to change so rapidly.  In 2006, my home town of Seattle was labeled the "smartest city in the US" because 47% of adults held a bachelor's degree. And my adopted hometown of Colorado Springs was in the top 10.  (And not just because Fr. Mike started to spend a lot of time here in 2006 - although that undoubtedly altered the bell curve.)

But what does the MSM know?  All Coloradans know that the city of Boulder, just up the road, is blessed with a population where 56% of adults have bachelor's degrees, which blows DC out of the water and is more than twice the national average.  Hey, we're skinny and we're smart.  (Sorry, Mark, but "stout and out" just isn't our style in Colorado.)

But enough gloating.  The point is, that if we use the same criteria, the average home schooling family is a far brainier place than DC, Seattle, or Boulder.

A survey of nearly 12,000 home-schooling adults, conducted by Dr. Brian D. Ray and published in the peer reviewed Journal of Academic Leadership in 2009, produced some impressive findings.   66.3% of home-schooling fathers and 62.5% of home-schooling mothers have bachelor's degrees or higher. 20% of homeschooling fathers have masters degrees and 8% have doctorates while 11.6% of home schooling moms have masters and 2.5% have doctorates.

Compare those figures to the national average: 26% of US adults have bachelor degrees, 5.6% have earned a master's, and about 1% have doctorates.  Women who home-school are more than twice as likely to have masters degrees or doctorates as other American adults and home-schooling dads are nearly 4 times more likely to have a master's degree and 8 times more likely to have a doctorate than their peers.

The image, widely held in some circles, of home-schooling families as intellectual and cultural neanderthals, doesn't hold water.  Parents who choose to educate their children at home are much more like to be highly educated themselves, invested in education, and comfortable with it.  The confidence that comes with this, no doubt, makes the decision to educate their children at home easier to sustain and accomplish.

Your thoughts?


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