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Martin Sheen Against Euthanasia Initiative PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 30 September 2008 06:44
Martin Sheen has made a radio and television ad against Initiative 1000, the euthanasia initiative in Washington State.that is being sponsored by a former governor. Good for Sheen.

Eileen Geller, RN, who is the campaign coordinator for the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide, points out a number of stunning flaws in the proposed bill:

Spouses and family members do not need to be told before — or after — a loved one is given lethal drugs.

Persons suffering from depression can be given a lethal overdose without any psychological counseling or treatment — nothing in the Initiative requires an assessment of potential depression by a qualified professional.

Health care insurers and HMO's could exploit I-1000 to save costs, since a bottle of lethal drugs costs far less than other end-of-life care.

Heirs to a patient’s estate are allowed to participate in the assisted suicide and to witness the request for lethal drugs. This would contravene existing practice governing wills and estates, a scenario that worries law enforcement because of the real potential for abuse.
The Times Are Never So Bad . . . PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 29 September 2008 08:24
At this moment, Fr. Mike is the stable one and I'm "the other foot who must obliquely run" as John Donne put it (See the imagery of Validictions Forbidding Mourning). He's spending a cozy week in CS while I'm off to Athens, Ohio tomorrow to spend a week in guided historical research under the hawk like eye of Dave Curp, historian.

Dave, Mark Shea, and I all got to know each other at Blessed Sacrament in Seattle where we were first exposed to the Church's teaching on the mission and theology of the laity at the hands of our then pastor, Michael Sweeney, OP.

Dave is brilliant, a historian's historian and while also a very serious Catholic (yet another convert) is meticulous about not confusing apologetics with history. His area is WWII and post-WWII eastern Europe (Poland) and he has a strong interest in the history of lay Catholicism in mid 20th century Poland.

Here's a illuminating article out on Christianity and slavery (originally written for the old Crisis magazine) that is very much worth reading. As Dave writes:

"Far from being an innocent bystander, or merely silently complicit, the papacy fully participated in the expansion of the European slave trade. This was not a product of greed, but of a thoroughly rational and tangible fear of the consequences of not using every available means to defend a rapidly contracting 16th-century Christendom.

Divorced from the context of a Europe under a tightening Ottoman siege, papal engagement with the slave trade would appear to confirm the worst prejudices of secular critics. Placed within its historical environment, however, what we confront is the lay faithful and their shepherds accepting a real evil — slavery — to avoid their own subjugation to militant Islam."

As I embark on study of the 17th century revival in France, I can't help but rejoice that the Church has been freed from the burden of the Papal states and leadership of Christendom as a political entity. She is - amazingly - more influential today and her teaching and practice much less driven by the exigencies of political alliances and conflict than in the past.

The course of the revival in France was energized, funded, hindered, and sometimes seriously distorted by the enormous role that royal and noble patronage played and the endless conflicts between the Papacy and different Catholic powers and the new Protestant powers. That was the world the great saints and apostles of the 17th century lived and wrestled with.

St. Thomas More noted" The times are never so bad but that a good man can make shift to live in them." Our challenges, the powers of our day, are just as real though very different. I'm looking forward to contemplating what we can learn from another, remarkably creative, post-conciliar generation.

I will be blogging from Athens so you'll be hearing more on that topic.
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Sunday, 28 September 2008 20:04
If there's one buzzword that has captured the hearts and imaginations of Americans it's CHANGE! So much so that both political parties have claimed it for themselves. Of course, the change's they're promoting all have to do with changes in institutions like banks, the military, and the Congress (good luck!). But even when our society invites us to personal change, it's superficial - a call to change my weight, haircolor, tone my blotchy, wrinkled skin, and build my muscles. But Jesus is calling us to something much more profound. The Gospel this weekend got me thinking about conversion and all that's involved in it. I'll share some of my reflections, in the hope that it may generate some reflection on your part. Feel free to share in the comments box.

Jesus is clearly challenging the religious elites of his faith community to mend their ways. They hadn't after John's preaching, and their question, "By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?" makes it clear they haven't given him permission, either - and they don't approve. Seems like they're still unwilling to move towards repentance. This raises the question in my own mind - why didn't they change - and, more importantly, WHY DON’T I CHANGE?

Well, I can think of a few reasons for myself - I can't speak for the chief priests and the elders. Now before you think I'm being overly hard on myself, I decided to use the first person in writing this as a more direct challenge to myself. Perhaps it will challenge you, as well.

I. I don’t believe I need to. Not really.

Now, why might I believe this?
1) My understanding of God is wrong. I act as though God’s love song to me is (with apologies to Billy Joel):

Don't go changing, to try and please me
You never let me down before
Don't imagine you're too familiar
And I don't see you anymore
I wouldn't leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far
I took the good times, I'll take the bad times
I'll take you just the way you are.

As an old saying goes, God loves us just the way we are, but loves us too much to leave us this way.

2) I can always find someone worse than me, and I can approach my relationship to him as though judgment is based on a curve. As long as I can find people who are more evil than me, and believe that there aren't that many better than me, I must be doing o.k. Of course, there's a bit of Pelagianism hiding in these beliefs.

3) I must not be reading the scriptures very attentively, or taking them seriously, because they are chock full of various and sundry calls to repentance, stories of repentance (and the lack of it), and warnings of what happens to those who don't repent.

4) I don’t see anyone else changing, and I don’t hear anyone talking about their conversion. I'm not terribly original, and I need inspiration from the lived experiences of people around me. The lives of the saints are too easy to dismiss as hagiography or somehow too ideal.

II. I don’t know what conversion looks like.
This follows from number 4 above. In the Bible, conversion always leads to an experience of newness. Even in cases of the rediscovery of a lost faith or the revitalization of a dead faith, conversion leads to some form of rebirth. Paul’s language of “new creation” and John’s language of “born again (from above)” sum up this image best.

In some cases it’s a dramatic change, like St. Paul, other times conversion is gradual – but in either case, it’s sought (even if indirectly, as in Paul's case - he was zealous for God as he understood Him) and is intentional.

Conversion/Change affects the whole person in the scriptures. It involves the mind, the body, the heart, and the spirit. People's priorities change, their desires change, the people they associate with change. Again, St. Paul's a great example of this.

III. I'm afraid of what I'll become.
Our images of holiness are often not very attractive: the pale, rather effeminate Jesus; Saturday Night Live’s "church lady"; the passive church mouse; the cleancut televangelist with a permasmile or crocodile tears; or knocking on doors, “Have you accepted Jesus…”

But I admit that one prominenet effect of conversion must be the urge to give testimony to others and consequently to evangelize. It only makes sense. Because conversion is a profound change in life for the good, it is natural for someone who has undergone a conversion to have the urge to spread the “good news” of that change.

This is my fear – will conversion make me someone I don’t recognize or like? Yet I know that conversion, in reality, means turning from my ego-driven false self with it's drive to be successful, attractive, in control, and impressive – to my true self in Christ. Other ways of putting that would be to say to turn from myself to God; to die to myself so as to live in Christ; to become a new creation.

I know my fear is misplaced and irrational. Conversion doesn’t mean imitating anyone else, except Christ, and then, only by grace and in my own unique way. Conversion requires that we become humble, like Christ, who emptied himself and took on our form, the form of a slave who does only the will of his master (in this case his Father in heaven). Conversion would mean pursuing the Father’s will for me (and thus it will be not quite like anyone else's path to holiness), and trusting Him wherever that Will takes me; believing that God’s desires for me will always be for the best, even if it means being given my own cross by those who haven’t experienced conversion themselves.

I believe that the change that accompanies conversion will strengthen my good qualities, and, under the influence of grace, bear greater fruit. I believe the change that accompanies conversion will allow me to recognize and be repulsed by evil - first and foremost in myself; I will see through my ugliness and pettiness, even when it looks impressive and powerful. Conversion and holiness won’t make me less myself, but more myself – as God has made me to be.

IV. I don’t know how to prepare for conversion.
Conversion is an act of God, and occurs in God's time. As an activity of God it is a mystery. It is an experience of His grace. I interact with this grace and am called to respond to it, but I do not initiate it. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit who facilitates a change in my life. I trust that conversion happens at God’s instigation, but I also know it requires preparation. Just as the farmer prepares the soil for the seed with fertilizer and water in order for plants to be fruitful, so, too, with me. If I am going to seriously seek conversion in life, I need to be prepared for God’s grace.

The Bible singles out two main aspects of preparation.
The first is the recognition and explicit acknowledgment of sinfulness. I can only turn to God when I turn away from sin.

Recognizing sin in myself is hard. It's amazing how easy it is to spot in others, though! Here's a brief and incomplete little examination of conscience that is helping me recognize some of my less obvious sins.
What relationships are broken in my life? Whom can I not forgive?
When was the last time I went out of my way for a stranger?
When was the last time I went out of my way for a friend, without resentment?
How often do I pray for my enemies, or the declared enemies of my Church or nation?
What groups of people do I feel free to hate, mistrust, condemn, or write off?
What are my goals? Are those God’s goals?
Have I helped feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visited the sick or the prisoner, talked to someone about God?
What do I believe I can't live without - at least according to how I act?
Sins of the flesh are pretty easy to spot, but some more reclusive sins can be teased out with the questions above - including sins of omission - the good I've failed to do.

The second aspect to conversion in the Scriptures is the necessity of hearing the word of God.
Hearing is also an act of obedience (in Hebrew the word is the same! “Let him who has ears, hear” could also be understood as “Let him who has ears, obey!”) God knows me, and wants me to know Him, so he has revealed himself as completely as possible in Jesus. So much so, that Jesus can gently chide Philip, saying, "The Father and I are one.”
If I want to prepare for conversion, I must read the Bible more and believe it - and that means I must take Jesus at his word.
He wants to be in relationship with me; and the eternal life I hope for is a relationship with him that must begin here and now.

And so one way to prepare myself for conversion is to also pray for it, sincerely, fearlessly – not for any possible improvement to me life – that would be to use God; to say, “I want you in my life for the benefits you bring.”

No, I have to seek God simply because it means being closer to the One who loves me with a passion that "eye has not seen, or ear heard."

So, for example, as I immerse myself in the Word of God, I can begin asking throughout our day, “What would You have me do here, now? How would you have me treat this person who is bugging me? What would you have me say?" Sometimes I can seem to forget that I may ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit – and expect guidance. Not necessarily in signs from heaven, but in internal promptings to do what is good for others, not just myself. I need to be attentive to those promptings and believe they are the Holy Spirit by faith.


V. I can believe it’s too late.
I can despair thinking, "I'm too set in my ways, God's forgotten me, I've been so evil that no amount of good living can outweigh it (Pelagian thinking again - as if I "earn" my salvation by being good!) Ezekiel promises that God’s fairness dictates that a person is free at any time to turn from self-centered wickedness to righteousness and vice versa. In each case, that person will be judged by the new life to which she has turned, not by her previous life.?

I can find hope in that promise.
And hope is a catalyst that can lead to conversion.
And conversion is the change I can believe in.
The Scene in Ann Arbor PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 26 September 2008 15:27
Back in town briefly.

Ann Arbor was tres interesting. In the small but mighty band I worked with were two eager young men (one a priest) from Slovakia and a young deacon from Hungary who organized the recent City Mission in Budapest. This mission is one in the series begin several years ago by Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna and the late Cardinal Lustiger of Paris. He was a trifle frustrated that there hadn't been more explicit proclamation of the kergyma but he said that it was such a new idea for the Church that had survived so many decades of Communist oppression that it was still very fruitful. What primarily changed was the Church's understanding of herself.

And there was the husband/wife team who have lead huge meetings in stadiums that hold 50,000 - 60,000 in Africa. So many fascinating experiences of mission in so many countries. Aside from the one priest and several deacons, the rest were lay men and woman - talk about lay apostles! Wow! This Renewal ministries group is really unlike any other group I've ever worked with. So it was a privilege to spend time with them.

And yet it was amazing to see that what we have been wrestling with here - mostly in a western context - seemed to be really useful to them. Also visited the Domino's Pizza HQ, attended Mass in their chapel, and saw all the Catholic apostolates (including the studio where Al Kresta records his shows) that are housed there. The Ann Arbor area is a Catholic hotbed situated in a Berkley like University town.

Off in about 30 minutes to Pueblo where Fr. Mike, Gustavo, Alma, Janet, and I will be putting on Called & Gifted workshops in English and Espanol this weekend.

Back Saturday evening. They'll have to hold the debate without me.

Then to prep for my week long trip to Athens, Ohio to do research in one of my guilty pleasures: the remarkable Catholic Revival of the 17th century.

To contemplate how another post-conciliar generation of Catholics responded to the enormous challenges of their day and powerfully shaped the world around them.

More blogging on Sunday.
Evangelization in a Multicultural Global Community PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Thursday, 25 September 2008 08:56

In my last few posts, I've drawn from a contemporary work on globalization to outline its effects. Now comes the hard part. How do we as Catholic Christians take advantage of what globalization offers us in order to share the Gospel with people worldwide? The Gospel, after all, is for all people, and we have easier access to people all over the world than any other generation has enjoyed. Globalization is, in effect, helping slowly to unite people in some ways - at least economically. And I would postulate that globalization can help enhance a desire for unity, or in some circumstances, highlight our differences and lead some to reject that which seems "other." We've seen that occur in some predominantly Muslim countries, as well as in our own in the debates over immigration and assimilation of people into the American melting pot.

The Gospel, when proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit, has the power to unite disparate people; so much so that Paul could proclaim that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, woman nor man. (cf. Gal 3:28) The Gospel transcends cultures and at the same time contradicts elements of every culture. It is a direct challenge to consumerism, individualism, relativism, the culture of death which seeks violence of all sorts as a solution to problems, prejudices of every kind, and the human tendency to seek retribution rather than forgiveness.

So let me take a look at some of the hallmarks of globalization, and offer some suggestions for how they might allow for effective evangelization. I welcome your comments and other suggestions you might have. I am certainly no expert!

1. More inter-state connections and the decreasing effect of state policy
One of the ways Pope Benedict XVI has taken advantage of this reality is through his intent on encouraging Muslim nations to allow the free expression of religious belief in their countries, in a similar manner in which that freedom is given in most Western nations. While this hasn't been taken up by secular leaders, as far as I know, one could imagine such concessions could be tied to economic relations (if the west were not so dependent upon oil from the Middle East and Indonesia, perhaps).

2. The development of increased transnational communication and activities
What comes to mind right away is the internet, primarily. For those who have grown up with the internet, it is the first source they go to for information. That means our parishes, lay groups, dioceses, the Vatican and individuals who hope to evangelize through the internet need to be aware that their websites may occasionally be viewed by the unchurched, the agnostic and atheist, non-Catholic Christians and non-Christians. Too often, some of our most "Catholic" websites aren't very catholic. What I mean by that is, many proudly Catholic websites are attractive to "insiders" - those who are already proudly Catholic. They may be more or less incomprehensible to others. In addition, if we intend our websites to have any power to evangelize, Jesus must be a prominent - the prominent feature. People have all kinds of issues with the Church, and although we are the body of Christ, we cannot afford to not feature our head. All that we have and are flows from Jesus, and many non-Christians (and, sadly, many Christians, including Catholics, for that matter) are ignorant of Jesus' life and teachings. He is immensely attractive and challenging; impossible to put into a neat, pre-existing category. Any Catholic website that would want to have an evangelizing effect would have to be "catholic" - universal - appealing, as St. Paul attempted to be, to all people. That requires us to try to better understand our potential audiences, and have features on our websites that are consciously made to address the questions of the groups I mentioned above.

I realize not every Catholic website intends to evangelize. Our own Catherine of Siena Institute website is an example. We are directing our attention to Catholics and Catholic parishes and diocesan staff, primarily - even though we get queries from non-Catholic Christians from time to time. But it is time for all parishes and diocesan websites coordinators and staff to ask, "in what way could our website help spread the Gospel of Jesus and attract people to become members of His Church?"

I haven't even touched the issue of a Catholic presence in radio and television, or the possibilities our diocesan papers could take advantage of with regard to helping Catholics be more confident at sharing their faith. They would have to - and many are beginning -to attempt to evangelize Catholics!

3. The emergence of global political, economic and cultural organizations and bureaucracies
The Catholic Church is one of the oldest cultural organization and bureaucracy there is! I'm pretty ignorant of other world religions, so I can't compare our bureaucracy with that of Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism or any other religion that might be older. But I would argue that the organizational bureaucracy of these religions have the same global impact as the Roman Catholic Church. Yet the effectiveness of the Church's impact on the international scene is weakened when individual Catholics within nation states are unwilling to follow the lead of the Pope when he speaks out against wars, economic injustice, environmental degradation, the assault on human life in the womb, as well as when he advocates greater cooperation among the people of different nations. If we lived the Gospel as a body, focusing on what it means to allow the truth that Jesus taught to impact our local and national governmental policies, I think we'd find more and more people drawn to our faith.

4. The world-wide spread of Western-style consumerism
For me, one of the most chilling scenes in the Paulist production, "Romero," was of a gathering of well-to-do Salvadoreans at which one of them exclaimed something like, "We just want to live as well as the Americans do." Yesterday at the gym, I spoke with an acquaintance - a self-proclaimed Christian - who said that no matter how much money he made (and he lives comfortably), he always desires to make more. Consumerism is a dead-end. Our desires are never going to be extinguished by things. Jesus himself observed how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. The economic disparity between nations is exacerbated by rampant consumerism, especially among the developed nations, and this disparity has far-reaching consequences. A South African webpage on sustainable development makes these observations (my access to this webpage is, by the way, an example of the effects of globalization!).
While some enjoy unprecedented wealth and luxury, 2.8 billion people are living in extreme poverty, earning less than US$2 a day (World Bank Annual Report 2000). One in seven people suffers chronic hunger and 45,000 die of starvation every day. This inequity is felt at both a global level, between developed and developing countries, and at a national level where there is great disparities of wealth within countries.

This is not making for a peaceful society. Since the Second World War over 20 million people have died in armed conflict and 31 million people are annually affected by it. These figures do not include crime-related deaths. Of the 2.3 million people reported as killed by conflict from 1991-2000, over three quarters were from countries with a low Human Development Indexiii. At the heart of most of these conflicts lies the issue of who gets to control and benefit from resources, whether agricultural land, minerals, fossil fuels or water. Many countries are already experiencing problems with illegal immigration and an influx of both political and environmental refugees. If the imbalance of wealth and power is not dealt with, this problem will only become worse in the future.
As Catholics living in a country with 5% of the world's population, yet consuming 25% of the world's energy, our concerted effort to eschew consumerism for the sake of the Gospel can be a powerful tool for evangelization. In his encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World, 21), Pope Paul VI asked us to imagine
a Christian or a handful of Christians who, in the midst of their own community, show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good. Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine. Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst? Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one. Here we have an initial act of evangelization.
5. Reflexivity - people are orienting themselves to the world as a whole, regarding themselves as both 'locals' and 'cosmopolitans'.
Again, this is already true for the Catholic Christian. We are members of our local parish and diocese, but also supernaturally linked to other people - Catholic or not - throughout the world and throughout time. If we take this seriously, we will consider those 45,000 people starving each day not as Bangladeshis, Indians, Zimbabweans, Haitians, and Sudanese, for example, but as "my brother, my sister, in Christ." Christ is the only means by which people of different races, ages, levels of education, and economic status can be truly united, and the Church should be the shining example of that unity. Currently, we are a poor example, especially when we witness factions within our parishes between people of different ethnic groups or nationalities - and in my travels around this country I've heard many stories and witnessed the effects of such factionalism. Yet, if we can be converted to Christ and truly see one another as brother and sister in Him, then, I believe the "reflexivity" that is an effect of globalization will help make the Church all that more intriguing.

6. Risk and Trust. Globalization increasingly involves everyone everywhere in a web of trust and risk, in that all of us have to place our trust in 'experts' and other unknown persons.

Trust is established through honesty in relationships. Part of our effort to evangelize will have to be founded on the painstaking task of establishing honest, trusting relations - true friendships - with those who are not Christian. In the past, the task of evangelization was often seen as the purview of missionaries - usually priests and religious - rather than ordinary layfolk. Yet time and again, as I listen to people's stories of conversion, there was at least one Christian (not always Catholic) with whom they had a true friendship that eventually led to discussions of "the meaning of life," faith, and the possibility of a lived relationship with God. While globalization involves placing our trust in more and more strangers, a more fundamental desire is to be able to place trust in a friend or friends. Whether we try to evangelize by telling the story of how God has changed our life, or through apologetics, or through the radical application of the faith to our daily life, all of these are tremendously more effective when we have first earned the trust of another through a real relationship that will not end should the other not become Catholic. In fact, the relationship of friendship, genuine concern for the good of the other, and self-sacrificing service itself becomes a model for the relationship that Jesus is offering our non-Christian friends.

This "relational evangelization" also involves risk on our part, because at the heart of the Gospel, and of Jesus' message, is a fundamental call to conversion. We have to be vulnerable enough to share our own struggles to respond to that call. We have to care enough about our friend who trusts us and has demonstrated a curiosity and openness towards Jesus, to be able to help them examine their own life and need for conversion - and walk with them on that journey.

The impact of globalization on our world is enormous and will undoubtedly continue to grow. It offers challenges to us - rampant consumerism encouraged through ubiquitous advertising, relativism as we become aware of different worldviews and morals, individualism that can ride on the back of laissez-faire capitalism and postmodern attitudes which encourage a "me first" perspective.

On the other hand, I believe there are some aspects of the growing globalization that offer opportunities for effective evangelization - especially if we recognize that the most effective evangelization is modeled on the example of Jesus, who befriended the sinner, healed the wounded, and shared with his disciples his own Spirit so that they could effectively do the same: person to person, one soul at a time.
Historical Growth of Globalization PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Wednesday, 24 September 2008 09:27

Globalization, according to Beynon and Dunkerley's A General Introduction in Globalization: The Reader, NY Routledge Press, 2000, is not only a contemporary phenomenon. They point out that between 1430-1530, the globe was explored by the Spanish, British, French and Portuguese. These nations had developed an 'outward looking-ness', while other powerful nations remained inward-looking, regarding the outside world as a hostile threat. In Asia, the Chinese explorer Cheng Juo, preceded the Europeans' exploration by a century, but such travels of discovery were stopped by the Chinese emperor as undesirable. The Koreans also did not explore much beyond their peninsula, and their resistance to western ideas and culture was expressed in the persecution of Catholics in the late 18th and early- to mid-nineteenth centuries.

There were some remarkable consequences of European exploration:
-expansion of geographical knowledge, with Europe at the center

-expansion of technical information. Europeans learned about different types of sails from the people of India, gunpowder and the compass from China, and the astrolabe from the Muslim world, to name a few sources of advancement in European technology.

-emergence of a 'global consciousness' as"'the capcity to conceive of the world as an accessible and attainable whole that could be explored and was, indeed available for exploitation by those who could achieve this." (Spybey, Globalization and World Society, 1996)

-the growing sense of destiny and a mission to spread European culture. European systems of trade, politics, administration, justice, government, military and worship were reproduced under colonization. Many colonized nations willingly adopted European ways, seeing the benefits of being part of an embryonic network of international relations. The Koreans began westernizing to counter Japanese dominance in the region - as well as an attempt to match the modern weapons used by the Japanese.

- the international acceptance of European standards, like the Gregorian calendar, and the Greenwich meridian. The European concept of the nation state was also widely adopted - an important aspect of globalization.

-the appearance in Europe in the 16th century of produce never seen before: spices, herbs, potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, peppers and chocolate, which had a dramatic local impact among those who could afford them.

In some ways, globalization has been a long-term process. The current globalization we are experiencing is simply the latest manifestation of a set of historical processes (Held et al., Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture, 1999)
Examples of these are the pre-historic and historic migration of people; the global spread of the major world religions; the impact of the great Empiresp the influence of powerful Western nation states and modern nationalism, including the outward expansion of Europe from the 16th c; the transnational flows of capitalism and of 'big' ideas (pertinent to science, liberalism, socialism, feminism, etc.); and, of course the hegemony of Ennglish as a truly 'global language'. There are technological antecedents, too: for example the development of the trans-Atlantic telegraph in the 1860's and cable communication across the British Empire by the 1880s.
Of course, even before then, there were ideas being transmitted through manuscripts: Benedictine monks in Europe translating and copying the works of Greek, Jewish and Muslim philosophers and early Church fathers.

David Held et al., in Global Transformations, look at four periods of globalization.

Pre-modern (before 1500) 'globalization' was interregional within Eurasia and the Americas, based on political and military empires and the movements of peoples into uncultivated areas.

The early modern (1500-1850). This was marked by the rise of the West and the movement of Europeans into the Americas and then Oceania. It was in the early modern period that world religions spread and exerted their most significant cultural influence, especially Christianity and Judaism, both of which attained a global distribution.

Modern globalization (1850-1945) This period witnessed an accelaration of global networks and cultural flows, dominated by the European powers, especially the British; and the great migration of European peoples to the new world. By the mid-nineteenth century European peoples, ideas and religions had transformed the Americas, with rapid developments in transport and communication technologies in the second half of the 19th century (for example telegraphy, telephones, radio, railways, shipping, canals, etc.) making connections over a large area possible.
Contemporary globalization is marked by an environment that is degraded in every region of the world, and new patterns of global migration have replaced the old. A worldwide system of nation states, overlaid by a combination of regional and global forms of regulation and governance, has emerged. Although still highly asymmetrical, contemporary globalization is less dominated by America and Europe: "distributional patterns of power and wealth no longer accord with a simple core and periphery division ... (and) ... reflect a new geography of power and privilege which transcends political borders and regions, reconfiguring established international and trans-national hierarchies of social power and wealth." (Held, et al.)

From roughly 1500 through the last century, one of the effects of colonization and the subsequent migration of people and ideas was the spread of Christianity. Sometimes that spread was forced or coerced, and accompanied by violence, and we look upon it today with different eyes. But the current globalization offers new opportunities for presenting the Christian faith to others, and I will look at that briefly tomorrow.
Familiarity in a Different Culture PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 23 September 2008 11:08

While I was in Korea (yeah, I'm still coming out of the vacation mode... slowly... sloooowly) I couldn't help but notice the ubiquity of recognizable consumer products. One tourist map I carried everywhere in Seoul had symbols for cultural centers, historic sites, museums - as well as about one hundred curious little green symbols. They showed the location of all the Starbuck's coffee joints. Dunkin' Donuts shops could be found not only in Seoul, but on Jeju Island. I also saw McDonald's (no surprise), Baskin-Robbins (usually in conjunction with a Dunkin' Donuts), Pizzeria Uno, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Old Chicago and Cold Stone Creamery. While looking for gifts for the folks back home in Seoul's high-rise "Techno Mall" I walked into a store and nearly burst out laughing. Over the loudspeaker came a kind of hip-hop version of John Denver's Country Roads.

The one personal souvenir I was looking to take home was impossible to find. I wanted a t-shirt with something written in Korean. I pointed out to my friend Yunkyung one day while we were taking in the sights with his family that every t-shirt worn by a Korean had English words on it. Not that the words necessarily made a lot of sense. The words might have been something like, "Kiss the world green," or "Making curious, living huge". Junha, Yunkyung's fourteen year-old son commented, "They don't have to make sense; just wearing something with English on it is cool."

While driving from Seoul to Andong on a marvelous highway (no billboards or potholes), we went through several dozen tunnels and crossed innumerable bridges. Since I was trying to learn the Korean alphabet and a few words, I'd sound out the names of the tunnels. I could check out my pronunciation against the transliterated English word. I presumed the last two syllables, which were always the same, were the Korean word for tunnel. Eventually, I tried to sound it out.

Tun- Nul


"Sure," Yun-kyung said, "We never had a word for tunnel, only a word for an animal's burrow. Rather than create a new word, we just borrowed the English word."

So this blog isn't about how I spent my summer vacation, but about globalization. In fact, it's the first in a series of posts on the topic. Because it's happening, and it is having profound effects in the way we live, and will open up opportunities for evangelization - or secularization- like never before. Yunkyung Cha, my Korean friend, is a professor at Hanyang University in Seoul, and studies the sociology of education. Recently, he helped found the Korean Association of Multicultural Educators to study the benefits, possibilities, and problems associated with multicultural education. While sitting in his office one day, I took some notes from a book on his shelf (in English, of course) titled, A General Introduction in Globalization: The Reader, by John Beynon and David Dunkerley, eds., NY Routledge Press, 2000.

In the introduction, the authors mentioned the hallmarks of globalization:
- more inter-state connections and the decreasing effect of state policy;
- the development of increased transnational communication and activities;
- a decline in the importance of the nation state;
- the emergence of global political, economic and cultural organizations and bureaucracies;
- the emergence of what Anthony King aptly terms 'global cities' (like London, NY, Paris, and Tokyo) as local sites of global interaction;
- a huge increase in the flows of comodities and cultural products;
- and the world-wide spread of Western-style consumerism.

Certainly I noticed the last feature in Korea. Apart from the language and the occasional old royal palace or Buddhist temple, it could have been any western city - at least one that emphasized high-rise apartment living. That shouldn't be too surprising, given the impact of the American presence since the Korean war, and the fact that much of Seoul has been built in the last generation.

What are some of the features of contemporary globalization, and do any of them help in the task of evangelization?
Well for one, there's an ever-increasing speed and volume of movement, goods, messages and symbols. My travel to Seoul took 11 hours from LA. Many of the planes in the skies are not carrying people, but mail and consumer products (FedEx and UPS have huge fleets themselves). And TV and movies communicate messages, ideas and symbols in increasingly powerful and subtly effective ways. Certain images, like the solitary man standing in front of a column of Chinese tanks in Tiananmen Square, become instant icons.

Another feature of globalization is the shrinking of space (expressed in time of travel or communication). With the internet, my ideas, however wise or perverse become instantly accessible to billions of people. Yes, billions, when you consider that 70% of the world's countries include English in their primary and secondary school education, according to my friend, Professor Cha, who studies these kinds of things. Cell phones, video conferencing, and Skype bring much of the world face to face - or at least ear to ear.

The highly militarized border between North and South Korea is becoming more of an anomaly in a world with increasingly permeable borders between nation states. Trade, tourism, radio and television, environmental pollution, global warming, and the golden arches are hardly impeded by the dotted lines on maps.

Globalization also leads to changes in how we perceived ourselves, in a phenomenon known as reflexivity. According to Beynon and Dunkerly,
people are orienting themselves to the world as a whole, regarding themselves as both 'locals' and 'cosmopolitans'. Local sites everywhere have an increased opportunity to interact with the global; local businesses increasingly participate in global markets; and governments cannot risk becoming isolated.
North Korea's political and economic isolation, with its concomitant dependence upon China, may have startling effects on its future. Already the People's Republic of Korea has sold mining rights and other economic advantages to the People's Republic of China that could jeopardize a future reunification with the south. In fact, China has already begun insinuating that some of North Korea was traditionally a part of China. In a perfect display of the power of television, South Korea produced and aired a somewhat sappy - and immensely popular - historical drama to refute the claim!

Globalization also means an increase in both risk and trust.
Globalization increasingly involves everyone everywhere in a web of trust and risk, in that all of us have to place our trust in 'experts' and other unknown persons.
(like this blog)
Also, we place our faith in science and medicine, yet no one could foresee the advent of AIDS or CJD (the human equivalent of 'mad cow disease'). Similarly, each of us can be affected, either directly or indirectly by something as apparently remote (and totally beyond our control) as the rise and fall in share prices in the NY, Tokyo or London stock exchange.
In many Korean restaurants, the menu will note where their beef originates; it's part of a five-year long import ban on U.S. beef imports because of the outbreak of mad cow disease. When the ban was lifted just one month before I arrived in Korea, protesters stormed the president's home in Seoul. Prior to the ban, South Korea was the third largest importer of U.S. beef, so this was a big deal - and one of the reasons why I didn't eat much beef in Korea. It was just too expensive.

The authors also seem positively prescient in saying "each of us can be affected, either directly or indirectly by something as apparently remote (and totally beyond our control) as the rise and fall in share prices in the NY, Tokyo or London stock exchange." The near meltdown of our economy in the last few weeks has had even more serious consequences in foreign economies.

In my next post, I'll look at some of the historical examples of increasing globalization before moving on to a reflection on what this might all mean for evangelization in the future.
Playtime for the Mice PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 23 September 2008 10:39

Sherry's away for a couple of days. I can't remember exactly where, but hey, I'm not my sister's keeper - it's above my pay scale. In the meanwhile, I thought I'd take a moment away from watching Sports Center and eating Power Bars to post a thought or two.

Well, that's enough hard work for now. Oooh, Animal Planet's about to begin.
Who Am I to Refuse This Gift? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 22 September 2008 21:05
Fr. Gregory Jensen has a wonderful response to the occasionally heated discussion that took place on his blog, Koinonia, about the Called & Gifted and the whole idea of having a Catholic team teach in an Orthodox church.

"The "Called & Gifted" workshop is certainly not without its own challenges. But it is worth noting, I think, that this kind of practical exchange between Catholic and Orthodox Christians—especially on the grassroots level—has a long history. This is especially so in Russia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. To take but one example, no less venerable an Orthodox saints than Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and Theophan the Recluse offered their own version of the Roman Catholic text Unseen Warfare: The Spiritual Combat and Path to Paradise of Lorenzo Scupoli.

St Theophan's work, to take another quick example, is noteworthy for his incorporation into an Orthodox spiritual context of the decidedly Counter-Reformation theme from Catholic spirituality of the dark night of the soul/spirit (San Juan de la Cruz).

And of course there is the defense of St Augustine by Blessed Seraphim Rose of Platina.

It seems to me that in any conversation between Catholics and Orthodox, both sides must exercise great care that we hold ourselves above the polemics of the Reformation/Counter-Reformation era. This something, I must point out in the strongest possible terms, that historically voices on both sides have failed to do. It is somewhat ironic, to me at least, that in the contemporary Orthodox theology, some of the most strongly polemic voiced sentiments, at least in the Russian tradition, are found in the anti-scholastic passages of the works of J. Meyendoroff, A. Schmemann and V. Lossky. What makes this ironic is that these men are often characterized by self-professed Traditionalists in the Orthodox Church as liberals (or if you rather, modernists).

Orthodox theology—including the theological scholarship of the men I just referenced—would be much the poorer it seems to me without the work of such Catholic scholars as H. von Balthasar, H. de Lubuc, and L. Bouyer who in leading the return of Catholic theology to the Fathers also made possible a like return among the Orthodox.

Finally, and unless I miss my guess all, or at least most, of those who have commented on the "Called & Gifted" workshop are ourselves converts to either Catholicism or Orthodoxy. One great temptation, especially I must say frankly and directly for those who were not well ground in the Great Tradition prior to their becoming Orthodox or Catholic, is to assume wrongly that the Catholic or Orthodox incarnation that, by God's grace they have found, exhausts that the Great Tradition. If, as a matter of faith, we hold that one expression (East or West, Greek or Latin) is theologically normative, we may not reasonably assume as a consequence that normative equals exhaustive. It does not. Let me go further and say that neither tradition is exhaustive in its articulation of the Gospel. And, likewise, we cannot understand either the Western or Eastern expression of the Great Tradition separate from, much less in opposition to, the other.

If East and West have grown apart in recent years, this separation does not undo our shared historical foundation. Much less does schism undo over 1,000 years of communion anymore than my sin undoes the grace given me in Baptism.

Acknowledging as we do baptism in each other's community, reminds us that there exists between us a real, if imperfect, communion. And, even if we argue that baptism is absent in other tradition, we would do well—or so it seems to me—to remember that we have put on Christ in Whom God has joined Himself to all humanity. Vested now in the grace of Holy Baptism, having been incorporated into the Body of Christ, I have then also, and with my Lord, been joined in Him to those He has already united Himself to in the Incarnation. If I really believe that I am in Christ, then, in Christ, I am also already joined, as is He, personally to the whole human family.

Who then am I to say by my words or deeds that I would refuse this gift from the hands of my Lord and the Master of my life?"

Amen, Father.
September Travels PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 22 September 2008 20:15
Ann Arbor tomorrow.

My first chance in 20 years as a Catholic to actually present in a missions context since I'll be working with the country coordinators who are in charge of the many international mission trips that Renewal Ministries makes every year. This should be different - and fun.

Back Thursday. Then off on Friday to Pueblo (40 miles south and the historic border between Spanish and English America) where we will be doing the Called & Gifted in English and Spanish for the diocesan catechetical conference.

On the other side of the country, our teaching team of Barbara Elliott, Joe Waters - and making his Called & Gifted debut - Gashwin Gomes, will be offering another chance to discern your charisms in Greenville, SC.

Back Saturday night. Home two days and then off to Athens, Ohio for the privilege of a week's guided reading in the history of the 17th French Catholic revival courtesy of my dear friends, Dr. David Curp and his wife, the famously Other Sherry who occasionally posts on ID.

Who knows? I may actually have more time on the road to blog than I seem to have had here lately.

Meanwhile, Fr. Mike is back in the Springs and so I turn control of this blog over to him. Who knows what might emerge from the mind of a Dominican?
Catholics for the Common Good PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 22 September 2008 06:54
It's a 21st century thing: the 5:30 am airport blog. I started this post yesterday . . .

Catholics for the Common Good is a new west coast (California) initiative that looks very interesting in this election year.

They call themselves a "New Catholic Action". In 1927, Pope Pius XI defined Catholic Action as "the participation of the laity in the apostolate of the hierarchy". This understanding of Catholic Action broadened considerably as a result of the debates at the Second Vatican Council where it was debated whether the laity were apostles in their own right, by virtue of their baptism, rather than through the delegation of the hierarchy.

Today the term is seldom used in the US so it is interesting that Catholics for a Common Good have reclaimed it.

As their website puts it:

"We often hear Catholics criticize bishops and priests for not taking more active leadership roles on cultural and public policy issues that conflict with the most fundamental doctrines of the Church. Many are surprised to learn that it is an error to demand political leadership from bishops. That is not their job.

As the late Cardinal Jan Schotte, former Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops, put it, a bishop is "neither a politician, a businessman nor an administrator, but rather has Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd as his model." As Jesus did, the bishops teach. And they have done that well, providing the Church with a body of social teachings faithfully based on Sacred Scripture and reason. These provide moral guidance for our time and culture, but they have not always been readily accessible and many Catholics are unaware of them.

While it is the role of the bishops to teach, the Church teaches it is the vocation of the laity to sanctify the world by their social and political participation. Therefore, it is actually our job or duty to provide leadership and engage our culture with faith and charity. In reality, a "cultural" effect can be accomplished through work done not so much by an individual alone but by an individual as "a social being," that is, as a member of a group, of a community, of an association or of a movement.

Such work is, then, the source and stimulus leading to the transformation of the surroundings and society as well as the fruit and sign of every other transformation in this regard.

As Catholic Christians, we are called to inform our consciences by our faith and to give witness to what is true for the benefit of society as a whole - the common good. This is a direct response to our baptismal promises, for which the sacrament of Confirmation has also prepared us. We must pray that the power of the Holy Spirit prepares our hearts to enable us to advocate with faith, reason, and charity."

CCG has an interesting board of ecclesial advisors, including Archbishop Niederauer of San Francisco, Bishop Vigeron of Oakland, Mark Brumley of Ignatius Press, Gil Bailie, William E. May, and my former Michael-in-crime, Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP, who is now President of the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology in Berkley.

Anyway, they have a lot of good resources on Catholic social teaching and are information about some current California events.

Check thou it out.
Formational Ecumenism PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 20 September 2008 16:12
This fall we are going to offer our first Orthodox Called & Gifted workshop at Fr. Gregory Jensen's church (Greek Orthodox) in Canton, Ohio. Fr. Michael Butler and a few leaders from his OCA parish will also attend. Fr. Gregory has also invited local Byzantine rite Catholics and with his usual generosity of spirit, make it available to interested Latin rite Catholics as well.

This should be fun! Fr. Gregory, Fr. Michael, Fr. Mike, and I have talked before of the possibility of a true, grass roots ecumenism centered around evangelization and formation. Fr. Gregory has issued an open invitation on his blog Koinonia and he makes some interesting observations as he does so.

"To be very direct about it, often in the Orthodox Church we see the Christian life in terms of monasticism rather than baptism. We too easily forget that monastic life is the fruit of a baptism and, as such, does not, and cannot, exhaust what God does in baptism. Compare this monasticization of the Christian life to the baptismal vision of the Christian life that inspires the "Called & Gifted" workshop: "The Church calls these gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christians are given for the sake of others 'charisms.'" They continue by asserting that "Discerning our charisms is an important first step to discerning God's call. These gifts of the Holy Spirit are both clues as to the nature of the mission for which God is preparing us and tools with which to successfully carry out our mission."

The teaching of the Catholic Church "that all of the baptized are called by Christ to proclaim his Gospel in the world" is certainly one that any Orthodox Christian could affirm. But, as in the Catholic Church, the pastoral implications of our baptismal call are often neglected. Rarely "do parishes provide a formation that prepares Catholics for so great a mission." Beside my personal respect for both Fr Mike and Sherry, I hoping that they will be able to do for Orthodox Christians, what they have done so successfully for Catholics. What is this you ask? Very simply that help people "bridge the gap between the Church's vision for the laity and their participation in the Church's essential mission of evangelization," on the one hand "and the typical reality within the parish where there is little awareness of the mission of the Church, lay responsibility for the proclamation of the Gospel, and the necessity of lay formation for effective participation in evangelization" on the other.

It is ironic that while the Orthodox Church has received from other Christian traditions, tens of thousands of adults into her midst, we seem (as I have pointed out in other posts) to have failed to provide these new Orthodox Christians with sound a spiritual formation that seeks to help them discern what is their own unique vocation. And, I hasten to add, we have failed to do this for new Orthodox Christians because we fail to do this for those baptized into the Church as infants.

The question that might be asked at this point why am I seeking assistance from Roman Catholics? Why not invite Orthodox Christian speakers? Let me answer the last question first.

While there are many Orthodox Christians who could be invited to speak, I am not aware of any who are skilled in lay spiritual formation. As I said, often if we speak of the spirituality of the laity at all, we do so from an at least implicit monastic model. This is not to reject monasticism far from it. But (as I said above) monasticism is a mode, or way, of living out our baptism, but it does not exhaust the gift of baptism.

More than that though (and this gets at to why I am asking a Roman Catholic team to speak), pastorally the Orthodox Church has largely neglected the formation of the laity. More often than not, we imagine that coming to Liturgy, going to confession, keeping the fasts and a rule of prayer is sufficient. But as the results of Pew Charitable Trust survey suggest, this is simply not working. One third of those baptized as infants simply leave the Church; two thirds of those who identify themselves as Orthodox Christians are not in Church on any given Sunday; over half of those who join the Church as adults, will eventually leave. Given the statistics it is hard for me to avoid saying flatly that we have simply failed.

My hope is that Fr Mike and Sherry, speaking from their own experience as Catholics, will offer to us as Orthodox Christians a deeper insight into what it is we have all received in baptism."

By the way, I recommend that ID readers regularly stop by Koinonia. Fr. Gregory has been doing a really thoughful series of posts on stewardship, work, mission, and formation. Austin in our office, tells me that he is very funny as well!

Fr. Gregory, let us see what God will do. We are delighted and honored to spend time with you and your congregation and to experience something of the spiritual riches that the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon his Church - east and west.
Guardian Angels: Close Encounters of a Supernatural Kind PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 19 September 2008 07:07

Via Time:

"More than half of all Americans believe they have been helped by a guardian angel in the course of their lives, according to a new poll by the Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion. In a poll of 1700 respondents, 55% answered affirmatively to the statement, "I was protected from harm by a guardian angel." The responses defied standard class and denominational assumptions about religious belief; the majority held up regardless of denomination, region or education — though the figure was a little lower (37%) among respondents earning more than $150,000 a year

The guardian angel encounter figures were "the big shocker" in the report, says Christopher Bader, director of the Baylor survey that covered a range of religious issues, parts of which are being released Thursday in a book titled What Americans Really Believe. In the case of angels, however, the question is a little stronger than just belief. Says Bader, "If you ask whether people believe in guardian angels, a lot of people will say, 'sure.' But this is different. It's experiential. It means that lots of Americans are having these lived supernatural experiences."

Sociologists may need further research to determine how broadly the data should be interpreted. The Baylor study tested other statements that might indicate a similar belief in the supernatural intruding into everyday personal experience — "I heard the voice of God speaking to me"; and "I received a miraculous physical healing." But far fewer people claimed to have had those experiences."


"Randall Balmer, chairman of the religion department at New York's Barnard College, says that the Baylor angel figures are one in a periodic series of indications that "Americans live in an enchanted world," and engage in a kind of casual mysticism independent of established religious ritual, doctrine or theology. "There is," he says, a "much broader uncharted range of religious experience among the populace than we expect." Just possibly, Baylor has begun to chart it."

So many things to say about this. The article's attempts to describe Catholic beliefs in this area were strangely off as they seemed startled that we believed in the possibility of the supernatural outside a pure sacramental context.

I would heartily agree with the last paragraph. Having done thousands of gifts interviews with ordinary Catholics and other Christians, we know that lots of people have experienced the numinous and astonishing.

This also fits well with one startling result from the Pew US Religious Landscape Survey that we point out in our Making Disciples seminars.

The number of Americans who believe miracles happen today is higher across the board in all categories than the number who believe in the possibility of a personal relationship with God. (Remember this survey taps into how American regard themselves and the religious labels they may use for themselves often don't correspond with dictionary definitions.)

Self-proclaimed "athiests": 6% actually believe in the possibility of a personal relationship with God but 21% believe miracles happen today.

"Agnostics": 14% believe in the possibility of a personal relationship with God but 37% believe miracles happen today.

"Secular Unaffiliated": those who respond that religion is not important and don't consider themselves to be part of any formal religious community. 20% believe in the possibility of a personal relationship with God but 48% believe miracles happen today.

"Religious unaffiliated": those who respond that religious is important or very important but don't consider themselves to be part of any formal religious tradition. 49% believe in the possibility of a personal relationship with God but 78% believe miracles happen today.

For many Americans, the numinous and the super-natural exist independently of a personal God. Think of all the films (martial arts, anyone?) we see in which characters experience and do all sorts of "miraculous" things that are portrayed simply as little manifested human abilities; the result of long discipline, secret knowledge, and training.

But a personal God that might demand something of us? Undermine our sense of autonomy or personal power? We're not as eager to embrace that. We want miracles that we control and are the ultimate source of. Miracles without the Lord of the gifts.

So ID readers? We openly believe in guardian angels around here.(Catholics having celebrated the liturgical Feast of the Guardian Angels - October 2 - since 1615.)

Had an encounter with your guardian angel that you'd like to share?

If you share yours, I'll share mine :-}
That's Us All Over . . . PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 17 September 2008 21:17
Word about the Called & Gifted workshop is online all over the place this week:

This week's issue of the National Catholic Reporter is their special "ministry" issue and includes an article called
Ministries: Gifts and the Gospel Call which does contain a few paragraphs about the Called & Gifted.

At the end, there's a bit about the lay group that I was part of in Seattle: the famously Nameless Lay Group. True to form, the NCR doesn't mention its name. For more on that effort, check out "It is Normal . . ."

Over at "E-Priest" there's a extensive description (under "best practices") of the Called & Gifted courtesy of the wonderful folks at St. Dominic's San Francisco. It is called "Transforming Parishioners into Lay Apostles"
This was cross-referenced over at the National Catholic Register as well.

And then here's an encouraging word from a C & G alum down under who was simply commenting as part of a larger discussion:

"A recent post at the Intentional Disciples blog "Bone Deep" suggests that many Catholics are simply unaware of the notion of personal discipleship. In my experience that has certainly been the case.

No one denies that Jesus had disciples, but the truth that - as a Christian - I am also called to be one of them is something I only encountered in recent years. And only due to the work of the Siena Institute (credit, where credit is due.)

I suspect that if someone had pointed that dynamic out to me earlier, then the blunt zeal of my post-reversion years would have been mollified and perhaps, just perhaps, I would've avoided the "ortho/heterodox" culture war that I fell into.

From conversations with younger Catholics I have become persuaded that one of the most significant problems that we have in the Church in Australia is also quite solvable. Many young Catholics who have become quite "activated" after their reversion/conversion/whatever, struggle to find mentors who can guide them in the faith. Lacking these role models, they become attracted to the loudest voices they can find. Popularly this tends to be in lobby groups (e.g. Right to Life) or movements with secular appeal (e.g. Make Poverty History.)

Please note, I'm not disparaging either of these groups. In fact, it is because both of these are founded in good convictions that makes them quite attractive. However the danger is that a Catholic becomes "for Apollo" or "for Paul" instead of for Jesus.

Imagine the difference if newly energised Catholics were reminded - or informed for the first time - that they are to be disciples of Christ, and if older Catholics were willing to support these younger Catholics through mentoring and modeling the faith to them. Imagine that.

Yes, I suppose some might regard that as a subservient view of the Christian life, but it needs to be remembered that the chief mark of a Christian is that he follows Christ."

Sorry to be slow about the blogging. Much going on. I will try to do better!
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