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The Spiral of Silence PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 30 September 2007 12:09
As those of you who have read ID for a while know, I have often written about the "don't ask, don't tell" culture of Catholicism. We don't ask where people are in their lived relationship with God and we don't tell them the good news of Jesus Christ.

So I was fascinated to come across Communication scholar Elisabeth Noelle-Neuman's theory of the “spiral of silence". You can tell that I didn't major in communications because Neuman published this theory 25 years ago and it has been talked about endlessly since.

Neuman's idea is that most people have an intuitive awareness of the majority sentiment within a group, and most are less likely to speak up when they find themselves in the minority. The silencing effect thus reinforces itself: if a 40% minority does only 20% of the talking, they perceive themselves to be even more outnumbered than they truly are and are thus even less inclined to speak. Hence, the spiral into silence.

Neuman found that individuals avoid speaking out on controversial issues due to an innate fear of social isolation.

Because of this fear of isolation, people continuously scan their environment to try to assess the climate of opinion at all times. This would includes current and future distribution of opinion. If we think that our opinion is shared by the majority or that it is gaining ground in our culture/group, we are much more likely to talk about it openly.

And this is fascinating: If people find no current, frequently repeated expressions for their point of view, they lapse into silence; they become effectively mute. In other words, if we don't hear people about us or in the media talking about something, we literally don't have the language to think or talk about it ourselves. Most of us don't think completely original thoughts in completely original language. We are given categories and frameworks and language with which to think and talk about the world from those around us.

Neumann was concerned primarily with the role of the media in establishing the impression that certain beliefs are the belief of the majority but she also studied the role of interpersonal support in enabling people holding minority opinions to hold to them and talk about them openly. If interpersonal support decreases, the number of those who will talk about a minority opinion and eventually, even hold to it also decreases. A Christian culture that is silent about fundamental things produces Christians who will also be silent about these things with their families, their friends, and in the marketplace.

•Noelle-Neumann quotes Tocqueville about this dynamic in regard to the Catholic faith in revolutionary France.

People still clinging to the old faith were afraid of being the only ones who did so, and as they were more frightened of isolation than of committing an error, they joined the masses even though they did not agree with them. In this way, the opinion of only part of the population seemed to be the opinion of all and everybody, and exactly for this reason seemed irresistible to those who were responsible for this deceptive appearance.

The combination of our secularized post-modern culture without and our "don't ask, don't tell" culture within the Church has helped ensure that the Church's teaching on evangelization is a dead letter on arrival.

If we are to enable Catholics to buck the cultural tide and not only hold onto their own personal faith but share it eagerly with others, if we are serious about evangelization at all, we have to start talking about following Christ and intentional discipleship explicitly in our parishes. We have to both ask and tell on an on-going basis.
Can Anything Good Come Out of Nazareth? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 30 September 2007 09:33
From Luceat! - a blog of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS)come this moving anecdote:

As we began our pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James the Apostle in Santiago de Compostella, five FOCUS missionaries and six student leaders joined the Benedictine sisters who kept our albergue (hostel) for prayer before we began walking the next day. As the mother superior intoned the ancient prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours, something about her caught my attention. She possessed a beauty that was uniquely feminine and radiated a sense of peace that told me she had a heart that had experienced both profound suffering and profound joy. This was a holy woman.

After vespers, this beautiful bride of Christ spoke with Jason, the missionary that led our pilgrimage. With great sorrow in her expression, she spoke with Jason about the state of the Church in Spain – about the devastation after the Spanish Civil War and about the breakdown in family life and about the mass exodus of young people from the Church and about the profound shortage of priests. “And then I see you,” she said to Jason with a renewed light in her eye “and I have hope.”

She explained to Jason that she and her sisters beg our Lord for a renewal in the church in Spain, but they have not yet seen the fruit of their prayers in the way that they hope. She explained that she sees the Church flourishing in Africa and in India, but that with her understanding of how grace builds on nature, these places do not have the political stability nor the economic means to raise up the other cultures of the world.

“No,” she said, “I believe, as did our beloved John Paul II, that the center of the New Evangelization must be the United States. The new Avila – the new Sienna – the new Assisi - must be your St. Louis, Missouri, your Chicago, Illinois, your Denver, Colorado.” Referencing the story of Joseph in Genesis, which happened to have been the first reading in mass that morning, she suggested that just as the family of God in Genesis was saved from famine through their youngest brother, so would the family of God living at this moment in Salvation History be saved through their “youngest brother,” the faithful disciples of Christ, especially “the dear young people” of the Catholic Church in the United States."

I was struck some months ago by a comment by an evangelical mission leader from Africa. He observed the Holy Spirit is most often visibly active on the periphery, not in the center of powerful institutions. I suppose it's the "can anything good come out of Nazareth" phenomena. Certainly we have found in our travels that almost all effective evangelization going on in the American Church today is happening at the grassroots,parish level. And that there are a lot of wonderfully creative grassroots initatives out there. Could Mother Superior be right? Could the American Catholics be the key to the New Evangelization?

I think she is - with a few caveats: It's true for now - for the next 10- 15 years, perhaps 20 years. Because the third world is catching up with us quickly in terms of stability and economic growth. India has been famously enjoying a economic book over the past decade and even Africa is changing while our eyes are focused upon her many struggles. I read an article in the New York Times observing that three times as many African nations are democracies now than in 1989. Some are fragile but there has been a definite trend. This is probably a crucial moment for the American Church but our unique advantages aren't going to remain unique very long.

In the end, much more important through Christian history than wealth, infrastructure, and political stability is passionate discipleship. The fastest growing Christian community in the world for the past 3 decades has been in China where the growth has often occurred in the midst of terrible persecution and where religious initiatives are still routinely restricted.

Nepal is an excellent case in point. Until 1951, Nepal was completely closed off to all missionary work. In 1960, there was only a handful of known Nepali Christians. The big breakthrough occurred in the early 60’s when two lay evangelists from India crossed the Himalayas to share the Gospel.

By 1970, there were about 7,450 Nepali Christians in an illegal underground movement led by teenagers who were tortured and imprisoned for their faith. In the early 80’s, I remember hearing an evangelical woman missionary just back from Nepal describing the marks of torture still visible on the hands of the young leaders. By the turn of the millennium, there were almost 600,000 Christians in Nepal, most associated with indigenous, New Apostolic movements.

Nepali Christianity is growing so fast that Barrett estimates that the Christian population topped 768,000 by mid-2005 and now makes up 2.8% of the total population. 582,000 or 76% of Nepal’s Christians are Independents. There are only 6,626 known Catholics in the country.

“At least 40 to 60 percent of the Nepali church became Christians as a direct result of a miracle," says Sandy Anderson of the Sowers Ministry. "Most times the people do not know what we are talking about when we preach the gospel. That's why it is very important to demonstrate the gospel. We preach. Then God heals the sick when we pray. The gospel is not only preached but demonstrated in Nepal." (The Church at the Top of the World, April 3, 2000, Christianity Today).

Passionate evangelizers can and will use any cultural or structural opportunities to spread the gospel that present themselves - from the Pax Romana to the internet - but only if they are already burning to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Discipleship, prayer, and apostolic imagination trumps societal stability and technology in this area every time. A man or woman who loves Christ and his Church will find a way to share that love - and the greater the love, the more creative and compelling the sharing will be.

I suspect the good sister is right. A unique opportunity is before the American Church - but only to the extent that we are intentional disciples of Jesus Christ who have taken up and living our apostolic identity and mission.
The Weight of Glory PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 29 September 2007 12:34
Back from the Diocesan Ministry Congress where I did a couple of break-out sessions and have fun of some great conversations with people who are discerning. Including this really intriguing conversation just before I left this morning.

A 40-something woman sitting at the booth next to us in the vendor's room asked me that most shaming of questions to a mendicant like myself: Do You Remember Me? AAAAAAHHHHHH!

I did a emergency search of the slovenly, jammed-packed warehouse that I call my brain but nothing turned up - no memory of her face or her story - much less her name. It was confession time - again since I face this dilemma several times a week. When you've worked directly with 33,000 people, that's about 32,800 people whom I encountered briefly and whose names I either never knew or have probably forgotten but whom I'm probably going to run into again - 6 months or 8 years down the road. (It has gotten to the point where I've had flight attendants come up to me in my seat and ask if I'm the "Called & Gifted" lady.) I long ago learned that honesty and self-depreciating humor is the only graceful way out.

I confessed. Mea Culpa. So she (I'll call her Fiona) filled me in. Apparently Fiona attended a workshop I taught about 21 months ago for religious educators and taking the Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory was a huge turning point in her life. And I did a "5 minute" interview with her, looking quickly at her inventory scores and pointing out the possible significance of the patterns. She had gotten a high score in celibacy and I asked her if she had ever considered religious life - which, though I didn't know it, was the single biggest issue in her life. I apparently pointed out that her profile was classically Dominican (a focus on communication gifts and charisms of understanding) and suggested that she might consider exploring Dominican communities.

So she did. She contacted Sr. Francine Barber, OP who now works for the Diocese of Pueblo, Colorado 40 miles away but who used to be stationed in Seattle. What this woman could not know was the Sr. Francine co-taught my very first RCIA program in Seattle all those years ago. I like to joke that I blame everything on Sr. Francine because she could stopped this whole "should I become Catholic?" thing at the very beginning.

After a year of discernment with Sr. Francine, "Fiona" realized that her call was to "stability" and she is, today, a aspirant to a local Benedictine women's community. And she said over and over that taking the Inventory and my brief conversation with her was very significant in that process.

God's network is amazing. Sr. Francine encouraged my first steps into the Church and then I (without knowing) was used by God to encourage this woman on her way into religious life which sent her to Sr. Francine - and so it goes.

It's the circle of Life alright. God calling us to his own life. And incredibly, He entrusts small but very significant roles in this great drama to every one of us.

I quote from C. S. Lewis' magnificent sermon "The Weight of Glory" at every Called & Gifted workshop and Lewis sums it up with such eloquence:

"It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load or weight or burden of my neighbor's glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strong tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you know meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations-these are mortal and their life is to our as the life of a gnat. But it immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit-immortal horrors or everlasting splendours."

A Tribute to Gloria Straus PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 28 September 2007 10:34
Go to the Seattle Times website and scroll down until you see the section with Gloria Straus's picture. Click on the audio slideshow: a tribute to Gloria.

It's radiant with love and faith and is a fitting remembrance of a radiant little girl.
A Hummingbird Spa PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 28 September 2007 08:35
One of the things I'm doing this weekend is plant more Agastashe - a tough, xeric flower for this climate that attracts hummingbirds like this:

Colorado is a major bird migration point and hummers are all over the place in the summer. One goal: to grow a sort of hummingbird spa in the backyard.
Whatever Is Truly Christian . . . PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 28 September 2007 07:58
Dr. Philip Blosser asks an excellent question in the middle of a long discussion with Janice Kraus:

"Let's get to the point: Here's a Catholic teaching and tradition. I would like you to comment on it. It says:

"... Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren. It is right and salutary to recognize the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood. For God is always wonderful in His works and worthy of all praise."

But wait. That's not all:

"Nor should we forget that anything wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can be a help to our own edification. Whatever is truly Christian is never contrary to what genuinely belongs to the faith; indeed, it can always bring a deeper realization of the mystery of Christ and the Church."

Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio) (1964), I, 4.

Janice, what do you think Mother Church is teaching us here? Which "truly Christian endowments" and "riches of Christ and virtuous works" among our separated brethren do you think could be described as "genuinely [belonging] to the faith," "wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren" and, moreover, could be considered as "a help to our own edification" as Catholics, bringing us to "a deeper realization of the mystery of Christ and the Church?"

Note, first, that the Decree is not even discussing Catholic converts here, but non-Catholic Christians; and, second, that the Decree is not stating merely that certain endowments and works of non-Catholic Christians are compatible with Catholic teaching or belong to "our common heritage, but that they may serve to edify Catholics. Your comments, please."

And we'd love to hear from you as well . . .
Bloggers: Witness or Shapers of History? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 27 September 2007 22:35
We have all heard the jokes about the pajamadeen, heros in pajamas and slippers who fight for truth and justice via the laptop on their dining room table. There has been huge debate about the power of bloggers to spread news around the world with astonishing speed. But this story coming out of Myanmar (Burma) gives a vivid sense of how powerful blogging can be.

Via CNN:

Armed with a laptop, a blogger named Ko Htike has thrust himself into the middle of the violent crackdown against monks and other peaceful demonstrators in his homeland of Myanmar.


He runs the blog out of his London apartment, waking up at 3 a.m. every day to review the latest digitally smuggled photos, video and information that's sent in to him.

With few Western journalists allowed in Myanmar, Htike's blog is one of the main information outlets. He said he has as many as 40 people in Myanmar sending him photos or calling him with information. They often take the photos from windows from their homes, he said.

Myanmar's military junta has forbidden such images, and anyone who sends them is risking their lives.

Ko Htike's blog (significant portions of which are in English)gives a chilling, immediate sense of the crisis and violence in Myanmar.

And the impact and significance of blogging.

Update: 9/28: CNN covered Ko Htike's activities, last night the internet was shut down all over Myanmar. Ko Htike writes:

Dear All,

I sadly announce that the Burmese military junta has cut off the internet connection throughout the country. I therefore would not be able to feed in pictures of the brutality by the brutal Burmese military junta.

I will also try my best to feed in their demonic appetite of fear and paranoia by posting any pictures that I receive though other means (Journos!! please don’t ask me what other means would be??). I will continue to live with the motto that “if there is a will there is a way”.

Update: 9/28, 10:00 am

Just another indicator. I stepped away from the computer for a bit, only to discover upon returning that CNN has linked to this post under the rubric of blogger's reactions to the plight of another blogger in London who is one of the few windows on what is happening on the other side of the world. The junta is desperately trying to control news leaving the country but it can't. Long live the pajamadeen.

Meanwhile in Ko Htike's comment boxes, journalists beg for interviews, bloggers in Italy are coloring their blogs in red in support, and lots of Americans are writing to let him know of their support. But, he's had to shut down his comments because someone "misused" them.

Please pray for the Ko Ktike and the people of Myanmar at this moment of crisis.

Rome, Sep 27, 2007 / 10:52 am (CNA).- The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Myanmar (CBCM) has called on Catholics to pray for their country as street demonstrations by Buddhist monks against the military government which has ruled for 45 years entered a second week.

According to press release published by the UCA News Agency, the bishops said, “The Church in Myanmar has been making chain prayers, fasting and perpetual adoration turn by turn in all the parishes of all the Archdioceses and Dioceses for peace and development in the country since February 1, 2006 up to now.”

“Especially at the present situation,” the bishops continued, “all Catholics are requested to make unceasing prayers and to offer special Masses for the welfare of the country. They also noted that in accordance with “the Canon Law and Social Teachings of the Catholic Church, priests and religious are not involved in any party-politics and in the current protests.”
Reclaiming Fatherhood PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 27 September 2007 22:28
It's a first: a conference on the effect of abortion on men will be held at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco on November 28, 29. Reclaiming Fatherhood

Topics covered will include current research, abortion as trauma, and counseling men who have experienced pregnancy loss through abortion. This is a unique opportunity for those who deal with men in pastoral or clinical settings to learn about this much neglected topic.
Carolyn Aigle PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 27 September 2007 22:09
What a woman.

Carolyn Aigle would have turned 33 on September 12.

But this remarkable Catholic woman - the first fighter pilot in France - choose to risk her own life in order to save the life of her unborn son. Diagnosed with a very agressive cancer when she was 5 months pregnant, Carolyn, together with her fighter pilot husband Christophe, refused to have an abortion when urged to do so by her doctors. Her son was born at the beginning of August (3 1/2 months early) but it was too late and Carolyn died three weeks later. Her doctor reports that son Marc is doing well.

Carolyn's "funeral was celebrated by Father Pierre Demoures, a former fighter pilot himself. In his homily, he remembered Caroline as someone who led people to Christ with “her qualities, kindness, willingness, passion,” and he praised her for choosing to give life to her son, for whom she “postponed a treatment that was urgent.”

Father Demoures recalled that when Carolina and Christophe sought him out for marriage preparation, they asked him for a book that spoke not about the love of one for the other, “but rather about the love that opens us to love others.”

Remember Carolyn, Marc, her husband Christophe, and their two other children in your prayers.
The Works of Catherine of Siena in Braille PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 27 September 2007 21:38
Over the past several years, thanks to some generous Catherine of Siena enthusiasts, the works of Catherine in English have been gradually transcribed into Braille. So far the Dialogue, Prayers, and one volume of the Letters have appeared, and just now Suzanne Nofke's Catherine of Siena: Vision through a Distant Eye.

If you are interested in access to these volumes, contact EVR Braille Services (Emelita de Jesus), 1906 Bonita Avenue, Burbank, CA 91504.

hat tip: Dominican Life
O Come, Let US ADORE Him PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 27 September 2007 21:03
ADORE is a new ministry of the Diocese of Houma/Thibodaux in Lousiana

Their inspiration: The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2097:

To adore God is to acknowledge, in respect and absolute submission, the nothingness of the creature who would not exist but for God. To adore God is to praise and exalt Him and humble oneself, as Mary did in the Magnificat, confessing with gratitude that He has done great things and holy is His name. The worship of the one God sets us free from turning in ourselves, from the slavery to sin and the idolatry of the world.

ADORE focuses on non-liturgical worship mixing contemporary Christian music, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and teaching. They offer regular gatherings within the diocese but have started to take it on the road, traveling to 8 states in the early-mid September.

In their FAQ's, they answer some obvious questions such as:

ADORE sounds more Protestant than Catholic. Is it Catholic?

In the Spring of 2004, Pope John Paul II declared October 2004 through October 2005 as ?The Year of the Eucharist?. In October of 2004, the Holy See published ?Mane Nobiscum Domine.? There, Pope John Paul II urged the Church universal to ?cultivate a lively awareness of Christ's real presence, both in the celebration of Mass and in the worship of the Eucharist outside Mass.? In addition, the Holy Father writes, ?During this year Eucharistic adoration outside Mass should become a particular commitment.? ADORE seeks only to foster worship that integrates the potent wisdom of the Holy Father, as well as the timeless Tradition of Eucharistic Adoration, with the contemporary trends of modern worship.

As a Catholic, I worship on Sunday, yet, ADORE is designed to lead worship. Don't Catholics worship at Mass?

Yes, we worship at Mass. In fact, worshiping on Sunday at Mass not only integrates the third commandment into our lives, but the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that "God's first call is that we accept Him and worship Him." In fact, the Catechism goes on to say, "The Church and the world have a great need for the various forms of Eucharistic worship." Thus, there are other forms of worship, Sacramental and Eucharistic worship, which have their ancient place in the Tradition of the Catholic Church. So, while Catholics are morally bound to worship at Sunday Mass, there are other experiences of worship in our Tradition.

Bishop Sam Jacobs seems to be supportive (the director - a lay man - and the other main speaker - a priest who is also a pastor and in charge of seminarian formation - work directly for the diocese). It probably is not an accident that Bishop Jacobs is Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Evangelization.

Take a look and tell us what you think.
Ham Lake, We're Coming Your Way , , , PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 27 September 2007 15:35
Well, Fr. Mike is coming your way - is actually flying your way - at this very minute.

Ham Lake, MN where he will be leading a team to put on our 325th live Called & Gifted workshop while

I will be slipping in and our of our local Colorado Springs Diocesan Ministry Conference.

Hope to see you there!
No More Elves Please . . .We're British PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 27 September 2007 08:33
A wonderful review of Diana Pavlac Glyer's The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community ran in the London Times a couple weeks ago.

Tolkien and Lewis formed the spine of the Inklings, regularly convening to read and discuss one another’s work in Lewis’s rooms at Magdalen College. There were nineteen members in all, and Glyer excels at depicting their world, with its petty rivalries, joshing honesty (“he is ugly as a chimpanzee”, wrote Lewis of fellow Inkling Charles Williams), its wit and learning and championship of scholarship for its own sake. The Inklings were often supportive and sympathetic (“the inexhaustible fertility of the man’s imagination amazes me”, wrote Lewis in 1949 on receipt of another instalment of The Lord of the Rings), but were capable of ferocious criticism if it was felt that a member had done anything less than his best (“You can do better than that. Better Tolkien, please!”). Tempers must surely have become frayed at times – as Tolkien became unyieldingly critical of Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia (“about as bad as can be”) or as the English don Hugo Dyson met the latest bulletin from Middle Earth by (according to Tolkien’s son Christopher) “lying on the couch, and lolling and shouting and saying, ‘Oh God, no more Elves’”.

Not that all of them were ever present at the Magdalen reading meetings: often no more than six or seven would turn up, while the rest preferred to save themselves for the more raucous social gatherings in the Oxford pub The Eagle and Child. Inkling James Dundas-Grant recalls a typical scene:

“we sat in a small back room with a fine coal fire in winter . . . . back and forth the conversation would flow. Latin tags flying around. Homer quoted in the original to make a point . . . . Tolkien jumping up and down, declaiming in Anglo-Saxon.”

Just like the old Nameless Lay Group. For Inkling fans and those - who like me - have visited the Bird and Baby in Oxford, it sounds like a must read.
Glory PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 27 September 2007 07:12

The Colorado high country in late September
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