Intentional reading

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‘How can we transmit a living, personal Catholic faith to future generations? By coming to know Jesus Christ, and following him as his disciples.

These are times of immense challenge and immense opportunity for the Catholic Church. Consider these statistics for the United States. Only 30 percent of Americans who were raised Catholic are still practicing. Fully 10 percent of all adults in America are ex-Catholics. The number of marriages celebrated in the Church decreased dramatically, by nearly 60 percent, between 1972 and 2010. Only 60 percent of Catholics believe in a personal God. If the Church is to reverse these trends, the evangelizers must first be evangelized-in other words, Catholics-in-the-pew must make a conscious choice to know and follow Jesus before they can draw others to him. This work of discipleship lies at the heart of Forming Intentional Disciples, a book designed to help Church leaders, parish staff and all Catholics transform parish life from within. Drawing upon her fifteen years of experience with the Catherine of Siena Institute, Sherry Weddell leads readers through steps that will help Catholics enter more deeply into a relationship with God and the river of apostolic creativity, charisms, and vocation that flow from that relationship for the sake of the Church and the world. Learn about the five thresholds of postmodern conversion, how to open a conversation about faith and belief, how to ask thought-provoking questions and establish an atmosphere of trust, when to tell the Great Story of Jesus, how to help someone respond to God’s call to intentional discipleship, and much more. And be prepared for conversion because when life at the parish level changes, the life of the whole Church will change.’ (Amazon review)

Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus by Sherry Weddell is a startlingly honest book about the state of most Catholic parishes today. I recognized many truths and heard the reasons for them explained. However, it wasn’t the problems which intrigued me so much as the hopeful signs, the solutions, and the positive maxim, “Never accept a label in place of a story.”

Her five thresholds of conversion were even more compelling as they’re readily identifiable points along the spiritual journey where the Holy Spirit is actively at work and by careful listening pastors and other church workers can facilitate smooth transitions to full discipleship.

They are:

1.) Initial trust—a positive association with Jesus Christ, the Church, a Christian believer, or something identifiably Christian; not the same as active personal faith.

2.) Spiritual curiosity—intrigued by or desiring to know more about Jesus, his life, and his teachings or some aspect of the Christian faith.

3.) Spiritual openness—personal acknowledgement of openness to the possibility of personal and spiritual change. This is not a commitment to change.

4.) Spiritual seeking—moving from being essentially passive to actively seeking to know God.

5.) Intentional discipleship—the decision to follow Jesus in the midst of his Church as an obedient disciple and to reorder one’s life accordingly.

When I finished Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus I had to walk away from it awhile. It contains a lot of statistics as well as a fair number of new concepts. The numbers were rather dismal but the ideas were hopeful and helpful, both on an individual and a group level. Ms. Weddell doesn’t offer enough solutions to the problems. If you are looking for some big fancy program which is going to ‘fix’ our broken parishes, then her book will be a disappointment. I believe in Jesus and the Holy Spirit and in the power of Love, prayer, communication and personal testimony to change hearts and lives.

So for me, this book is about how do I become a fully functional disciple? Some of this will involve my own relationship with Jesus, some will concern my other primary relationships, and the rest will involve what I do with, for and in my parish. If you want to change the world, or just your country, parish or home, best to begin with yourself.

It’s good and clean and fresh.

Papa Francesco's living quaters for World Youth Day in Brazil..

Papa Francisco’s living quarters for World Youth Day in Brazil..

Read more about Our Papa’s accommodation here.

WYD fever is upon the Catholic world…soon to commence in Brazil. Read about Papa’s itinerary here.

Offial WYD logo found @http://wydcentral.org/wyd-rio-2013-official-logo/

Official WYD logo found @http://wydcentral.org/wyd-rio-2013-official-logo/

Catholic England.

I came across this video clip on Catholicism Pure and Simple and thought it deserves to be shared in this space. I’m not a follower of Michael Voris, but this clip made me stop in my tracks and think about the implications of what he is saying about Catholicism in England and world-wide. Off the bat, I admit to being downhearted and filled with dismay at the sad picture he is painting about Catholicism generally. I proceed, sharing my thoughts and feelings about his  brush strokes.

Mr. Voris claims that there is a ‘philosophical and ideological war’ being waged between faithful Modernists and a growing  following that are proud to be known as Traditionalists on this English Isle.  He goes on to say that the contemporary Modernist, trendy Liberalist Christians  are dying away and that there is no sign of growth or vitality within modern day Catholicism here in England, other than a slow trickle of those  who are moving towards Traditional  Masses. I believe this trickle towards Traditionalism it’s a good sign.

He points to the article from the Economist to support his views

I quote from the Economist article Michael Voris refers to; 

…the congregation is young and international. Like evangelical Christianity, traditional Catholicism is attracting people who were not even born when the Second Vatican Council tried to rejuvenate the church. Traditionalist groups have members in 34 countries, including Hong Kong, South Africa and Belarus. Juventutem, a movement for young Catholics who like the old ways, boasts scores of activists in a dozen countries. Traditionalists use blogs, websites and social media to spread the word—and to highlight recalcitrant liberal dioceses and church administrators, who have long seen the Latinists as a self-indulgent, anachronistic and affected minority. In Colombia 500 people wanting a traditional mass had to use a community hall (they later found a church).

This ‘movement of young Catholics who like the old ways’ is to me  an encouraging sign , in that the youth are not easily swayed. They think for themselves and see right through farcical arguments. They recognise Authenticity for what it is:- Right and True. They wear their knowledge on their sleeves and are proud to share it.

Looking back over the last 12 years, my family and I have been blessed to be members of a strong and established parish, thanks to the dedication and foresight of our parish priest. He is a stickler for doing everything properly, which has led to undue criticism from those who feel  as though they are being spoken to in a ‘condescending manner’ after being reminded that:

  1. the at Mass it’s unacceptable to walk in after the Gospel has been read,
  2. or that it reflects poor manners to leave Mass straight after Communion,
  3. that when you enter the Church building you should do so in a quiet manner because it is a place set aside for prayer and worship,
  4. and that after Mass you should leave in silence out of consideration for those who are remaining behind  in prayer.

While my better half and I have grown to love and appreciate ‘Fr. Brown’s’ direct approach to how things are to be respected planned and executed, others have decided that his ‘nit-picking’ has driven them to leave the parish for ‘greener pastures.’  We’re proud of  our Pastor for being strong and unafraid of upholding  basic principles of behaviour expected in a Catholic church anywhere in the world.’ Fr. Brown’s ‘ tenacity and strength of character are the attributes that the thinking Catholic will be drawn to.

Portrait of G.K. Chesterton by Timothy Jones--see more of his art at http://timothyjones.typepad.com/timothy_jones_daily_paint/ This painting was used on the cover of "In Defense of Sanity", a collection of essays by G.K. Chesterton.

Portrait of G.K. Chesterton by Timothy Jones–see more of his art at http://timothyjones.typepad.com/timothy_jones_daily_paint/
This painting was used on the cover of “In Defense of Sanity”, a collection of essays by G.K. Chesterton.

I take offence at Voris’s claim to the lack of growth or vitality  within Catholicism here: he is obviously unaware of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal which is alive and well, boasting growing numbers  at annual  Catholic week-long conferences such as ‘New Dawn‘ and ‘Celebrate’the excellent work done by the Catholic theatre group TEN TENthe wonderful work of the SION community; the tireless work done by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal during the annual  Spirit in the City faith Festival in the heart of London’s West end over 4 days and every other day of the year; the popularity of Youth 2000the growing numbers of youth from England attending World Youth Day celebrations (which includes both those from the Modern and Traditional ‘persuasions’); the birth of  a new Catholic radio station (Heart gives unto Heart) available 24/7; the 80 000 + Catholics who joined the Holy Father in Hyde Park alone not to mention the development of the Catholic Voices organisation developed especially before the Holy Father’s visit to improve the image of Catholicism in the press here in England.

Sure things are changing in Catholicism, but I think, for the better. Papa Francisco points clearly in a new and fresh direction.

The real question is what CHOICE do each of us make in meeting our spiritual challenges?

I found this quote here that spoke so clearly to me immediately:

I believe the Catholic Church provides many opportunities to focus on the Gospels. Actually being in the pew is the first step. An active Catholic participates, seeks out information, and is engaged in the many activities, including charitable causes.

If a person joins an organization by signing their name, seldom attends the meetings, never volunteers, and is not in sync with the group’s basic principles, would they be considered an active member?

The real question is what CHOICE do each of us make in meeting our spiritual challenges?

Are you one of the ‘Cafe Catholics’ who has not darkened the door of the church for some time or who has little knowledge about Christ at the centre of His Church? Has your knowledge of Faith stagnated and become fuzzy, so you just add little bits into your ‘faith’ because it feels more comfortable to do so, and fits into your understanding of a relationship of Jesus? Are you unsure about the truth of the Faith? Do you cringe and turn away from those who criticise the Church and end up agreeing with others’ statements about Jesus and what He teaches just to end a conversation? Do you have serious grievances against the Church which have never been heard? Do you generally go to church at Christmas and Easter but couldn’t be bothered to go to Confession or to receive Holy Communion? Do you feel uncomfortable about secular issues but can’t put you finger on why you feel this way?  Do you openly criticise the tenets of ‘church and faith’ as a catholic?

There are so many inactive Catholics who have signed up and call themselves catholic! So many who are missing out on an exciting Spiritual Journey of Discovery:- the discovery of our Loving God and who He is, and how He can change our hearts and minds and make us notice things we’ve never recognised about Him before.  Get active in your parish!… search for our Lord. He is to be found there…in our midst. Search for the answers to your Spiritual Challenges. Be prepared for changes that will most certainly come your way.

What better way is there to do this than by getting involved with a group or setting up a new group in your parish? I have had the pleasure of  meeting many interesting people with many interesting talents with so much LOVE for our Lord. So much love to give. His Love oozes from them and in turn we are moved by His actions in them. We meet Him in them. It is in this way that we broaden our continuously growing knowledge of Love and how we understand this Love more in our giving to others . This well of Knowledge is deep and unending. The breadth and scope of what always seems to remain undiscovered spreads out in vast plains before us the more we search and thirst for our loving Father.

The youth of the parish exude a love for life asking urgent, challenging questions. The elderly preserve precious Traditions of the Church and in so doing, help us to understand those Traditions and grow more in love with our Lord. Our contemporaries support us in our Journey with a shoulder to lean on, prayers and understanding.

Parishes are built up  and made stronger by those who volunteer their talents for the sake of others. It is there that we learn to understand the meaning of humility and tolerance for others that little bit more each and every time we’re involved. It is there that we have the opportunity to share our experiences of the Lord and our love of Him with others in a way that only He can do, and in so doing you can move someone into a deeper relationship with Him. It is there that we are accepted and loved for who we are without any prerequisites or judgement. It is there that we build up the Church on earth. We are the Body  of Christ on earth.images (1)Catholic parishes are full to the brim with a cross-section of cultures and life experiences  with the Lord Jesus. Surely these experiences only work to build links and open invitations to getting to know God in yet again in another way through them? It is only there that you are exposed to the love given and received by your parish priest in ways sometimes most unexpected. You become witness to the many roles that you priest takes on a daily basis. The most important being: bringing Christ to those he is in contact with. Yes, you see Him at Mass and listen to him share the Gospels on a Sunday and hopefully, teaching about the Truth of our Faith: Jesus himself. Have you really listened to the Gospels for a message  pointed straight at you? Have you chosen to listen to the Word of God?

I have been privileged to meet some of the most inspirational priests, religious and lay people who are experts in their fields who can go a long way in answering those burning questions about Jesus that may have simmered for so long. The Journey is slow, gentle and welcoming. Just make the CHOICE to be active in your Faith. Active in your parish and in so doing in the wider the community. Make the CHOICE to get to know Jesus.

What better way to make up your mind about coming back into The Fold: Finding out about what’s new in the Church, how God is working in Her midst, finding Peace and restitution in God’s provision of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and then of course, Christ himself in the  Eucharist. Have you thought about making an appointment with your parish priest to ask questions, ask for guidance or ask your challenging Spiritual questions? I think you may be pleasantly surprised.

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Fancy the idea of making a change for the better? Come back to Church!

What do YOU think the Pope actually does?

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Image@catholicmemesfacebook

Short, sharp, and to the point. New Evangelisation at its best.

I viewed this over at Biltrix and thought it so valuable that it had to be shared at 1catholicsalmon.

‘…all of us are called on to play our part…”

I came across this article in the latest FAITH magazine. It spoke so clearly to me and resounded with my personal sentiments.

(Bold type is my emphasis)

”An Invitation to Evangelise
FAITH Magazine January-February 2013 

Not all of us are called to preach publicly, but all of us are called on to play our part in spreading the Gospel – the “Good News” that Jesus Christ is God with us, that he died to reconcile us to the Father, and that he is risen from the dead and has poured out the Holy Spirit on his chosen ones.

There are many ways we can do this and many different words and examples we can use to get this message across to the world around us. First of all, as fellow believers we remind each other of the good news by talking about our faith together, by encouraging each other to grow in knowledge of our faith and by praying together. 

The Parable of The Sower.

The Parable of The Sower.


Sometimes we may need to explain some point of the Church’s teaching to a fellow Catholic or clear up a misunderstanding. This can happen in casual conversation through ordinary friendships or in a formal setting like a school governors group, and so on. To “counsel the doubtful” is one of the spiritual works of mercy. 

I had been bothered of late, by the lack of  basic knowledge of the Faith during open discussions with Catholics.  The Holy Father in his wisdom certainly understood the need for a Year of Faith. Honestly, when I attended the inauguration of the Year of Faith last year, I was taken aback by the thought (call it naiveté/ lack of awareness , at it’s best)  that Catholics need to be evangelised, brought back into the Fold. This was the catalyst that lit the fuse in me to do ‘my bit.’ 

During prayer groups and casual gatherings, I do not have all the answers, but when someone who is a ‘practising’ Catholic states that,’maybe the devil and God ‘both live in our souls’, I have had to dig deep in order not to blurt out ‘NO OF COURSE NOT!’, and to carefully formulate pertinent questions and statements that could otherwise be misconstrued as critique – in order to change a train of thought an hopefully get the train back on track. I have also noticed that sometimes this kind of speak is tolerated as a ‘person’s right to voice an opinion’. If we do not speak up for about the Faith and what the Church teaches, people are going to think it’s fine to talk gibberish because whatever is said  will be accepted as ‘opinion’. The Good News is not a relative issue. It’s factual and true. There is no room for emotion or feelings, and ‘I think… ‘

For someone who needs a little time to ponder over things in order to formulate a response, I sometimes feel frustrated at not being able to have a full, quick and pertinent retort on the spot. I do my best knowing that I could’ve probably answered more fully. My middle-aged grey matter is also to blame for this I might add. For this reason I’ve made an inquiry to join a workshop given by Catholic Voices , a group that was formed around the time the Holy Father visited England three years ago. Their website is most definitely worth a visit.)

Putting the Church's case in the public square

Putting the Church’s case in the public square

The article goes on to say…

We may be called on to catechise others in the Church, such as children and young people or adults seeking full communion with Christ. This is both an honour and a duty. We are co-workers of the apostles (bishops and priests) in this work, but as lay Catholics we are all equipped and commissioned to speak for Jesus Christ because of our baptism and confirmation.We should always be alert to situations where a Christian influence can be brought to bear on the world around us. (Like when someone makes casual remarks about the Mass, that may just be off the mark.) 

The Road to Emmaus. Do others recognise Jesus in us, walking alongside them in day to day life?

The Road to Emmaus. Do others recognise Jesus in us, walking alongside them in day to day life?

Of course it is best not to do this in a sanctimonious or “churchy” way. But if we have built genuine relationships of trust and respect, and offered honest friendship to those around us, then with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will find the right words to say when the opportunity arises.

It may be a matter of dropping a thought provoking comment into a conversation which helps people to see beyond the secular view. (In order to do this, we need to be up to date with the news around us.) Or it may be that we quietly invite someone to a spiritual event (It might be an invitation to come to Mass, to come back to Sacraments of the Church or to some other Catholic devotion, to talk with a priest or spiritual advisor, to read a book, to listen to a lecture, to assist in some ministry, to pray together or to attend a parish social event) or gathering introducing them to the Catholic community – and ultimately introducing them to Jesus Christ.

 

There may also be times when we are called on to speak up in public or private situations where misunderstandings or misconceptions about the Catholic faith are being repeated. (It can be a little trickier of course, when the comments are made within a group of strangers,but I think it’s can be even more so within a family setting. This is why I’m leaning toward some professional apologetics teaching, so that I may in future be confidently prepared to answer  questions of the day regarding Christianity and the Church.) We may have to bear witness to human moral principles, ( I do believe this to be the most important one of all. Our actions show what we’re all about.We can tell others how the Holy Spirit has worked in our lives. We can also share our faith through actions that demonstrate the ways in which we try to live authentically the Gospel Message.) which are being undermined in politics, writing to the press or lobbying parliament.

We have to use our skills and influence in the world to protect the common good and promote an authentic Christian society.”

I want to be a true disciples of Christ. Evangelisation today is needed more than ever!

Pondering Ash Wednesday.

Image@http://juventutembristol.blogspot.co.uk

Image@http://juventutembristol.blogspot.co.uk

‘Remember, you are dust and unto dust you shall return’ [Ash Wednesday liturgy]

Julian Falat, Ash Wednesday

Julian Falat,
Ash Wednesday

 

image@http://www.jucoolimages.com/ash_wednesday.php

image@http://www.jucoolimages.com/ash_wednesday.php

 

Interesting Facts About Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. It is a day when we reflect on our own mortality and the need for repentance because the end can come at any time. The ash cross that we receive on our forehead is a physical reminder that we will someday return back to ash. During this day, Catholics are placed into a proper mindset for the Lenten Season. While preparing for Easter, Catholics purify the body and soul through fasting, abstinence, prayer, confession, and works of mercy. In other words, mortification and penance. The focus on our own mortality during Ash Wednesday sets us up for a good Lent that is then counter balanced by the celebration of Christ’s triumph over death at Easter.

 

Truly:- like a sheep thrown to the wolves.

These quotes are from Biblia.com (a wonderful resource at to have at the tips of your fingers) from the New Revised Standard Version: – Father Jonathan referred to this quote during his homily this morning. It’s so apt for what you will witness in the video clip below.

Coming Persecutions

(Mk 13:9–13Lk 21:12–17)

16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles.

marriage

From the outset of the ‘interview’ or rather the ‘attack’, Anthony O, (can’t catch his name) a representative from the SPUC, is besieged with stares of horror and gasps of disbelief. I found their behaviour so interesting, and to be frank I feel pity for them. What they heard Anthony say really shocked them. By their reactions he seemed to be talking about marriage from a bygone era on another galaxy. They are products of the perfect examples of people who exist in the secular culture in which we live.

It seems obvious to me that having Anthony O. on the programme was not because they wanted to hear or somehow understand an inkling of what he was sharing but rather to highlight that there is someone or rather a society of people, who do not support the redefinition of  the  institution of marriage which has always been accepted as one adhered to by heterosexuals  for the purposes of cohabitation and the intrinsic need for a partner and ultimately (God willing)  procreation.

I feel an affiliation to most of what Anthony had to say but felt rather let down by some of his retorts. His attempts at refutation and qualification were inadequate towards the end of the interview. Why oh why would anyone agree to discuss a topic such as this on morning t.v?? Bravo Anthony for having a go and I can say for sure that he fared much better than I ever would.  An eleven minute slot on morning t.v is definitely not enough time to convey sound Catholic teaching on the dignity and purpose of the Sacrament of marriage. As a result, the presenters and the recruited journalist ended up throwing knives thick and fast giving very little space for Anthony to answer any question fully.

I am shocked that Kally Rose (journalist) went as far as calling Anthony homophobic. What an insult. Anyone who is not in the know about what’s been going on in Britain regarding this debate will most probably also deem Anthony to be a barbarian from another time.

Just to set the record straight on what I know about issues raised:-

  1. People with same-sex attraction have always been on earth. This is no new phenomenon.  Sadly they have endured  and continue to endure verbal derision , attacks on their lives and discrimination because of the lifestyle choices they make.
  2. Even in the most ‘enlightened’ circles, the topic of same-sex attraction manages to ruffle feathers, get people moving and shifting or even departing. No matter how the press want to portray an ‘accepting all inclusive, all-embracing society’, this is still a topic which can cause arguments and embarrassment.
  3. Devoted, practising Catholic parents would accept their child with same-sex attraction with arms open wide, with absolutely no intention of forcing them to change. It’s impossible to change something inherent. It is their duty as Catholic parents to encourage their child (who may be a practising Catholic/or not as the case may be) to live a chaste life, just as other siblings may be encouraged to do the same as heterosexuals. It would be their duty to do this, but to continue loving their child.
  4. It’s important to know that there is another choice available out there for gays who don’t want to live a homosexual lifestyle. Believe it or not, there are gays who feel this way! I happen to know of a fair few. I started  following a blog written by this guy who has decided to live a life of chastity. Yes he is Catholic, and he calls himself Steve Gershom.  Pretty amazing is an understatement! His blog is a must-read.

Men in black: Vanguards of the Faith.

Men in black.

Men in black.

This is the letter which appeared in today’s Telegraph from a thousand English priests:

Sir,
After centuries of persecution Catholics have, in recent times, been able to be members of the professions and participate fully in the life of this country.

Legislation for same sex marriage, should it be enacted, will have many legal consequences, severely restricting the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship.

It is meaningless to argue that Catholics and others may still teach their beliefs about marriage in schools and other arenas if they are also expected to uphold the opposite view at the same time.

The natural complementarity between a man and a woman leads to marriage, seen as a lifelong partnership. This loving union – because of their physical complementarity – is open to bringing forth and nurturing children. This is what marriage is. That is why marriage is only possible between a man and a woman.  Marriage, and the home, children and family life it generates, is the foundation and basic building block of our society.
We urge Members of Parliament not to be afraid to reject this legislation now that its consequences are more clear.

The signatories are here 

I take my hat off to these leaders of the Faith, for having the courage to say what needs to be said in a united way. It gives me courage too. ‘Thank you’ to all of the signatories. We will follow by your example.

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