« 80 years ago | Main | Renewal »

April 26, 2007

Comments

Kathy

There has actually been a concerted effort by professional catechists, especially RCIA catechists, to de-emphasize teaching.

Content--bad.
"Conversion"--good.

See http://www.naforum.org/new_site/files/news_11_Spring%202007.pdf

Old Zhou

I wish to highlight this part of the post:

I think what's happened is that as faith and knowledge of the Faith (the difficult, personally costly part) disintegrated over the past several decades, the rituals (the easy, pretty parts) have survived as lovely cultural objects to be desired in themselves, apart from any faith commitment or understanding of what's going on.

The "difficult, personally costly part" requires a real Faith and living of that faith, an assent to the reality of Truth and the morality that implies. All of modern Western Christianity, not just Catholicism, is having a lot of trouble with this in our modern secular world.

The "easy, pretty parts," however, also lend themselves to modern notions of ecumenical and inter-religious sophistication. Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage are nothing more than cultural, anthropological rituals. If you can't get them from the Catholic Church, for some reason or another, it is just as good to get them from the Protestants (after all, the Catholic Church recognizes them), or other world religions. We are, after all, all human, right? And all the world's great religions ultimately point to God, right?

Living a life of faith is difficult and demanding. Religious rituals are freely available in the global marketplace.

And this is how we can get to modern, "post-Christian" churches, complete with sacraments, where you find very nice Catholics who are, not doubt, "good people."

Romulus

Content--bad.
"Conversion"--good.

I guess this (non-"professional") RCIA catechist doesn't get the distinction. How can one be converted -- conformed to Christ -- if one doesn't know him and His mystical Body?

A.Williams

My opinion is that almost every problem in the Catholic church can be blamed on one thing: Lack of Catholic Spiritual Reading from and early age and through life. The whole problem revolves around spiritual ignorance, which can be blamed largely on spiritual illiteracy.

Look at almost any saint. They always had some sort of spiritual literature close at hand, whether it be the lives and writings of the Saints, or other devout writings. Look at St. Benedict, he places great emphasis on study, and especially the study of asceticism, desert fathers, prayer, etc..

Then look at the saints themselves...they were almost all writers, to one degree or another: Think Fathers of the Church, Augustine, Anselm, Columba, Benedict, Bernard of Clairvaux,Francis, Dominic, Ignatius,Francis de Sales, Anthony Claret, John Bosco...etc...

Why write if these writings aren't mean't to be read?

And weren't the Saints those who were so outspoken in the praise and necessity of holy reading? But we now have a society which beleives that it is possible to invent new ways of faith and belief without concern for learning the secrets and ways of past Saints and teachers. If the writings aren't new, they aren't worth anything. And then all of the learned critics that find all of these new movements so strange and different from past forms of devotion, are very surprised at the reason. And the reason is...that all of these critics have only been criticising, and not giving holy books away for others to read!

We have so many people who today who are experts at diagnosing spiritual disease, but won't spend 10 dollars to prvide the remedy, which might come in the form of a book like "the Confessions of St. Augustine" or " the Little Flowers of St. Francis", or "The Story of A Soul".

To turn our beloved Church around we need MORE than the proposed Motu Propio! The Latin Mass was never sufficient for the Saints! We need to spread the knowledge of TRUE DEVOTION to every Catholic, and then to the world, by spreading holy Catholic liturature!

Every Catholic school student needs to read AT LEAST 2 biographies from the lives of the Saints EVERY YEAR! Every parishioner also needs to do spiritual reading!

Those who want to grow a plant without fertilizer don't need to be too surprised when the plant ends up scrawny or dwarfed! But oh how long?? How loong will it be till Catholics figure all of this out? How long until they apply this simple remedy?

All of the works are already written! What we need now is only distribution!

For my part I am not only preaching. I currently have about 12,000 short readings from the Life of St. Francis by St. Bonaventure,which I printed on an AB DICK small offest press, sitting in my basement, ready now for free distribution. Myself and the Legion of Mary in my area(S.F Bay) already delivered about 1- 2,000 of these readings already.

I hope all Catholics will realize the value of devout Catholic literature! If there is enough of it distributed, I think most of the other problems in the Church will resolve naturally, and we will then be able to stop spending all of our time complaining about and worrying about the future of the Faith! We all need to get to work by fertilizing the Church, and not just continually complaining that it NEEDS fertilization! This is a given! Now let's get to work!

scriblerus

Fr. Tucker has a good point in the final part of the long quote. Part of the reason for the enormous number of lackluster Catholics today is the result of the success of the pre-Vatican II church in America at inculcating regular reception of the sacraments. The very helpful "Habits of Devotion" book that Amy mentioned a month or two ago makes this point as well with much more emphasis.

One way to reverse this might be the reinstitution of the Eucharistic fast from midnight onwards. Thus, people might get used to not seeing everyone receive communion. If people didn't see the Eucharist as something they have a right to, they might be willing to allow that there are other conditions (state of grace, etc.) that govern whether or not they ought to receive it.

Sherry Weddell

For what it's worth:

We (The Catherine of Siena Institute) do emphasize good Catholic words like "holiness" and "saints" along with good Catholic words like "evangelization" and "proclamation". I don't know any converts who don't.

And honestly, neither I nor anyone I know, knews *exactly* how we got into this situation. I've never heard anyone blaming traditional devotions or anything like that. We just know that we are here and need (as John Paul II reminded us) to commit all our energies to a new evangelization.

I have been intriqued lately to read the evaluation of secular experts in the history of 17th century France that many parts of rural France were evangelized for the first time in the 17th century with the development of the rural parish missions of St. Vincent de Paul's Mission of the Congregation.

Perhaps there is a clue in that - we have to distinquish between living inside Christendom and the actual evangelization of the baptized. The Church has had to recognize the difference in the past and she has to do so now.

Randy

I would add that the focus on the "pretty parts" of the faith only makes sense for one generation. Chesterton's idea that the children of liberal either become orthodox or become atheist applies to this as well. If the sacraments you received were just a photo opp then your kids won't be able to see them that way. The hypocrisy will be just too obvious.

MarkAA

I'm feeling like I'm really, really missing something with this issue. Probably related to my position as a cradle Catholic in the process of reverting from a conservative Lutheran church. Nonetheless, that anyone would take issue with anyone intentionally trying to evangelize is preposterous. What did the Apostles do? What did all those monks who traipsed all over Europe and Asia in the Middle Ages do? What did those Jesuits in Japan and Franciscans in Latin America do? The Evangelized? The word itself is from Greek Euyangeleon (not sure how it's spelled), so Protestants didn't make it up; the Catholic gospel writers who chose it 2,000 years ago used it.

It seems to me, anybody who has ever tried to talk with a nonCatholic or nonChristian about their faith finds out rapidly that you have to do it intentionally. You can't not talk about your faith and then expect anybody to be converted. Nonbelievers generally don't eagerly desire to come into a church, then observe what's going on and calmly "become" Christian or Catholic. There has to be some evangelization, aka, talking about and witnessing to the faith. That's intentional.

I heard a convert speaker in a large Catholic parish perhaps gently ease past this situation by complimenting the lifelong, faithful Catholics in the audience (which was perhaps 90% of those there?) for staying the course and urging them to pursue their faith more vigorously to bring those on the outside IN. It was a good talk, I thought.

I just have a hard time seeing how being evangelical -- an evangelist -- could be construed as rebellious. St. Paul would be highly offended, I think.

My 17 cents.

Greg Popcak

I must admit that I am mystified by the criticisms that being an "evangelical Catholic" is somehow "Protestant"

To be Protestant is to protest Catholic doctrine. Period. "Being Protestant" has NOTHING to do with a style of evangelism or style of worship. It has everything to do with the rejection of Catholic Truth. Anyone who says otherwise is not only seriously misguided but using dishonesty to protect their own slothful agenda.

To be intentional about the faith, to proclaim the gospel to all nations, to seek personal holiness is just what all Catholics are called to. The truth is, people hate being challenged to leave their comfort zones--that's doubly true of when people are challenged to leave their spiritual comfort zones.

It isn't judgmental in the least to tell those Catholics who are offended by notions of intentionality that they are not living the gospel. As you, Amy, pointed out on my show today, "Jesus didn't say, 'Go out and make disciples of all nations--if you feel like it." Evangelization is a DUTY for all Christians. If that makes people uncomfortable, including the Faithful, GOOD. It SHOULD. Christ came to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable as the saying goes.

If people are offended at the idea that they should be intentional about their faith then they should be challenged to consider that their faith is not some binky to be clung to.

It is a mission to be embarked upon. Rise up and walk already.

Brigid

I have had this discussion with Fr. Jim in the past (I do Pre-Cana ministry in my archdiocese and in my parish). He is quite tortured about who receives the sacraments. Too tortured, I believe.

I say (as I said to him two years ago): give these searching souls the benefit of your doubt. Let the sacrament work as it is meant to work: an outward sign of an inward grace. And remember that you are a young priest who, one day, will have these couples who have been married for 20, 30, 40 years come back to you and thank you for the gift of this sacrament, in the case of marriage. And you will not even remember their names or faces and then you will know that you were not "Fr. Jim" who said the Mass or "Brigid" who did the Pre-Cana counseling. No. You were the face of Mother Church. And THAT is the power of the Sacrament.

geist

I am not at all mystified at the resistance to so-called "evangelical catholicism." As a cradle Catholic I find it quite off-putting and far more Protestant than Catholic. By this I mean the emphasis is primarily on the word (and I mean word not Word) and not on the Eucharist. As B16's recent AE notes, a truly Eucharistic spirituality will naturally overflow into evangelism, piety, and virtue. This is the source of Catholic evangelism and not lay people who seemingly want to transfer the previous ministerial work in to their new Church. Fundamentally, Catholicism is not about how many people get to do things, but about the real presence in the Eucharist. Obviously, I do not think that ec's doubt this -- but there does seem to be a misbegotten emphasis on the private/individual vs. the sacramental.

Sandra Miesel

Why should a priest marry couples who lack the right intention to form a Catholic marriage? (My old pastor wouldn't.)Those couples described above won't be coming back decades later to thank the priest. They'll be asking for annulments within a few years--assuming they still care enough.

Sherry properly brings up the "Christianization hypothesis" about the evangelization of Europe after Trent. Look up the career of St. Julian Manoir and his work in Britanny for a good example of what had to be done in a nominally Catholic country.

Daniel Mitsui

The problem with too much of the New Evangelization is this:

If we believe that Catholicism is so great, they why do we dress it up like something else? If we act like it isn't appealing enough to succeed on its own merits, then what non-Catholic is going to disagree?

A good deal of this is not evangelization at all; it's just marketing. Evangelical protestants will always be better marketers than us and real secularists will always be best. We should be trying to end the game of religious consumerism, not play it better than everyone else.

Catholic Mom

Thank you,Amy, for linking to my post. I have no fears about Catholics evangelizing. On the contrary, we are each unquestionably called to do so as I stated in my post. I do have concerns when the "personal relationship with Jesus" is seen as something distinct from the Church and Christ's presence in the Sacraments is minimized. I am not alleging that the Evangelical Catholic Institute or the Institute of St. Catherine of Sienna are guilty of this. I am just trying to explain why red flags sometimes go up when people hear the term "Evangelical Catholic".

My concern with ECI specifically was their use of a priest who is known for promoting women's ordination. I can understand how in a volunteer run organization such a fact could be missed. But rather than anyone from ECI saying that if they had known this priest did not endorse full obedience to the Magisterium they would not have utilized his services, I have heard that because he was speaking on his area of expertise, campus ministry, rather than on the topic of women's ordination it was acceptable to have him be part of the program. In my mind, this does taint ECI's credibility.

Greg Popcak

Geist,

I too am a cradle Catholic and you are right that Catholicism is primarily about those things you mentioned. But you are dead wrong when you say that it is somehow "protestant" to emphasize the Word.

Catholicism is the fullness of the truth because it is open to truth wherever it may be found--even (gasp) in Protestantism.

By contrast, Protestantism is NOT the fullness of the truth because it wants to pick and choose.

In an ironic twist, you are essentially making a Protestant argument (i.e., rejecting something that may be true because it doesn't mesh with your personal preferences) to protect your erstwhile "Catholic" sensibilities.

Tell you what, show me from scripture and Tradition where Catholics are called to reject evangelism, the pursuit of personal holiness, and loving the Word of God and I'll grant your point. But if you can't, then you can't escape the conclusion that you're simply arguing from your own preferences.

DOn't get me wrong. It isn't wrong to have preferences, but you have to be careful when you use them to argue against a spiritual movement--because to do so is more of a Protestant impulse than it is a Catholic one.

Maureen

I think a lot of what we're dealing with here is the sort of allergy to modern evangelical techniques that a lot of Catholics have picked up, mainly by being witnessed to in an extremely offensive way. I shrink from inviting people to church or being invited, because the same kids who tormented daily at the bus stop and on the bus suddenly decided to be all friendly to me one day because they'd get some kind of soulwinning points. Needless to say, I not only didn't accept their invitation to their church but found out they didn't think I was Christian.

Also, there seems to be an assumption that if you go out there and boldly speak the truth all will be well. Well, I'm perfectly willing to share my faith by writing a blogpost or making an mp3, but you really don't want me witnessing to anybody. It is the kiss of death. Every friend I witness to immediately loses interest in Catholicism and goes and joins some other religious group, up to and including pagan ones. (No, I am not kidding.)

Admittedly, I'm not very persuasive when I recommend books or movies, either.

Kathy

Catholic evangelization must a strong doctrinal component, because the Catholic version of what "faith" means is enormously loaded with specific meanings about what the truth is. Faith is not just another way of saying "hope/trust in Christ," and Truth is not my unformed and undisciplined conscience. It's not relativized depending on what I want it to be or what my living situation is. The Truth is a Person, Jesus Christ, who is really alive and has certain very real relationships to the Father, the Holy Spirit, and creatures--and Who has explained to the Church what these relationships are like.

So we can't just keep working on feeling converted. We have to learn the things that the Church knows. (The Rite itself--including the infamous Paragraph 75--calls for extensive doctrinal catechesis.)

Gashwin

I'm gung-ho about the EC (Evangelical Catholic) phenomenon (my own two cents about the recent contretemps are here, ): the Catholic Church is vast and diverse and as Amy rightly points out, there's room for a variety of approaches. I've never heard anyone at EC claim that their's is the only way. To me, EC, and the other movements, are clearly in response to Pope John Paul -- who saw the state of things so clearly -- who called for a new evangelization, new in "ardor and methods and expression." The task of evangelization is indeed the whole church's, and EC, in my opinion and experiences, tries to do that by making disciples full of zeal and love for the Lord and His Church.

Another way of talking about these things is (to use the title of a recent book published by Paulist Father Bob Rivers, here's ) is to emphasize mission (the mission of all believers) versus just maintenance, when it comes to our parish structures. [I recall an instance when Fr. Rivers had delivered a keynote at a conference in SC on this topic, and a friend of mine, a convert from evangelical Protestantism, leaned over and said, "This is new stuff for Catholics?] How many of our parishes are, if we're honest about it, to use this metaphor, just about "maintenance?"

I also think this kind of "intentionality" or "discipleship" -- while certainly a call for every age -- is particularly necessary in ours, with the insidious onslaught of secularism. In India, I see this in the urban areas, among my own friends, those who feel that their faith is only holding them back, or who see it as irrelevant or against progress and modernity, who don't get why the Sacraments are such a big deal. I've got these various thoughts about what I'm calling "ethnic" Catholicism/Christianity (which functions socially much as an ethnicity does -- lots of strengths, but some serious weaknesses, the biggest being difficulty in critiquing the surrounding culture, and, in response to secularism, a loss of nerve or self-confidence, and with it, an inability to transmit the faith meaningfully to the next generation.), and I see these as connecting back to a lack of "intentionality" or perhaps a sense of personal commitment to Christ.

Finally, I completely symphatize with Fr. Tucker: why get your child baptized if it doesn't mean anything? Yes, canon law describes the faithful as having "rights" to the sacraments. But not without responsibility? But then, do we really want to have parishes that administer the sacraments strictly?

Lots of stray thoughts which I may connect, God willing, at some point, a little more coherently.

rcesq

Brigid, your sentiments are lovely but far too sentimental. It's highly doubtful that the couples Fr. Jim marries in the Church today will come back 20-30 years from now to thank him.

Rather, the odds are that these couples will have been divorced once or twice and remarried civilly and not have sought or been able to obtain an annulment. Then, 20-30 years further on they'll need some service from the Church (or even a job in the Church), which their irregular marital status prevents them from getting. Then the charitable impulse you urged on Fr. Jim for these "searching souls" will bite them where it hurts.

Sharing the sacraments with people who ask for them as ceremonial events, but who know nothing about their real significance and who have no intention of making any further personal commitment to living the faith is not what Jesus intended. He wants a conscious assent, a loving "yes," a conversion of head and heart.

The Fr. Jims and Cana ministers in our Church are on the front lines of evangelization. You bear a serious responsibility to Our Lord and to our faith. I admire and pray for those who, like your Fr. Jim, are "tortured" about who receives the sacraments. They are the holiest gifts God has given us and should not be distributed like Easter candy.

ron chandonia

We baptize an incredible number of babies in our parish, but we have far fewer parents with young children among our parishioners. In fact, quite often it seems as if the parents (who sit down front with the babies awaiting baptism during mass) are unfamiliar with the points at which the congregation is expected to sit, stand, or kneel. At the end of mass, we always invite people to stand for recognition if they have never attended mass at our parish before. Sometimes the entire family of the newly baptized baby stands up.

Greg Popcak

I want to address this notion of the Christian's right to the sacraments. I am not a canonist and I do not play one on television, but I think the Church means something different than the popular culture when she uses the word "right."

Let's take marriage for an example.

The Church says that husbands and wives have a "right" to sexual intimacy in marriage. But that does not mean that husbands and wives have a right to demand intercourse whenever they want it, however they want it, regardless of whether the spouse desires it or not.

Rather, the Church means that marriage is the right place to express sexual intimacy and assuming normal conditions, the church assumes that a married couple will have sex and unjust burdens will not be placed upon this relationship.

In the same way, I cannot help but wonder if when the Church says that the faithful has a right to the sacraments, she does not mean something similar. That is, the Church is not saying that the faithful have a right to receive the sacraments when they demand them, however they demand them, and regardless of whether they are prepared for them. Instead, by using the word "right" the church is saying that reception of the sacraments is the normative behavior of the faithful and admission to the sacraments is the expected course of those who are faithfully pursuing the Christian life.

That said, in both instances, there are times it is absolutely appropriate and not at all offensive to the state of marriage or the state of the life of the faithful where limits can be placed on the celebration of the sacrament.

I think problems ensue when we impose American senses of the word "right" with what the Church means when she says it.

OF course I could be all wet.

TerryC

So much to say--
I would agree that to live a saintly life reading what the saints have written is a very good strategy.
On living a Christian life I have to say we in the West have it very easy. It is much harder to live your faith when you can be killed for espousing it. So you do not stand for the Church when you sit silent in the pews, but when you preach in the world, "using words if necessary."
Part of this preaching is drawing the line. I've seen a deacon who would baptize the child of a single unwed mother, before he would he would baptize a baby belonging to a couple who are only worried about grandma writing them out of the will if the child is not baptized (true story.) The young mother was you see repentant and well catechized. The couple unlikely to step foot in Church once grandma was satisfied, at least not until time for First Communion.
Our priest interviews each candidate for confirmation. Having been a confirmation sponsor several times I can tell you that our program is deeply spiritual and based in the CCC. We confirm rather late, when in High School, for which I'm grateful. Since many of these children do not go to Catholic school, and some have parents who are devout, but badly catechized, this has been a real opportunity to ensure that they have a solid catechetical basis. An opportunity to be taught core Catholic beliefs at an (almost) adult level, rather than the 7th grade level they had when getting First Communion instruction. Add the preparation they get in CCD, or what ever we're calling it this year, and they end up much better catechized than a lot of their parents.
If father isn't convinced they know what they need to know they wait another year.
I also see couples I've never seen before getting their baby baptized in my parish. Many times its just that it's a big parish and sometimes they might be regular attendees at another Mass. But I know that sometimes that is the only time they'll ever be in our Church. They attend the pre-baptismal classes and tell father they'll raise the baby Catholic, but...

Benedicamus

Wow, Terry, I wish our parish priest had interviewed each of us before Confirmation. Instead, we got some kind of retreat, the manifest purpose of which was to get us all to cry at some point. A classmate of mine responded by going out into the Church parking lot on one of our breaks and smoking a joint (and I am not kidding here).
Would I have been confirmed if I had an interview with our parish priest? That is a good question. Considering I couldn't have listed or explained the gifts of the Holy Spirit if my life depended on it, and my faith was based on some vague sense of family obligation, I don't know. Eventually, I know I would have, but at that point I was rather sleepwalking through (almost) my entire sacramental life.

Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B.

John 1:14,16,17b
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.
And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace.
Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Evangelization-- that word has as its root the Greek word for "message". The message is the Word that was in the beginning, that was with God and is God. The Word is "full of grace and truth."

When we carry the message, that is, when we evangelize, we must be full of grace and truth. Each of us must also be a "word"-- and a word that is "full of grace and truth". But as personified "words" (words made flesh) each of us must first be "full" (of grace and truth) otherwise our spoken words-- and evangelization-- are "empty of grace and truth". Then our evangelization is but "a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."

The secret of the burgeoning vocations of the Missionaries of Charity? (How do they "evangelize" and thus convert so many to join their ranks?) It is two-fold. Yes, they "evangelize" publicly by practicing the Corporal Works of Mercy. However, the other half of their evangelization is not so public, and it empowers the more public half: they keep the daily hours of liturgical prayer in common, personal prayer in private, spiritual reading, and Eucharistic adoration spelled out in their constitutions as a religious order.

The apostles themselves knew that two-fold "secret".

Acts 6:4-7
But we will devote ourselves to PRAY and to the ministry of the WORD."
And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Proch'orus, and Nica'nor, and Ti'mon, and Par'menas, and Nicola'us, a proselyte of Antioch.
These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them.
And the word of God INCREASED; and the number of the disciples MULTIPLIED GREATLY in Jerusalem, and a GREAT MANY of the priests were obedient to the faith.

Finally, there is the example of Jesus himself. First, he spent about thirty years in the silent seminary of his hidden life. Then, second, he spent no more than three years in public evangelization that changed everything. Not the second without the first.

peter

It's true that some evangelizers are unenlightened in their zeal and extreme in their approach. That makes people uncomfortable. But it's also true that some cradle Catholics are put off by anyone who puts his faith into more than Sunday and devotional practice. My mother is a convert and was criticized more than once by the Church ladies in our parish for her efforts. The idea was that her zeal proved she could never be "one of us." She was infected with the Baptist virus and could never be a "normal" Catholic.
It smacks of pietism for anyone to imagine that going to Mass and praying the Rosary are "enough," as though they were ends in themselves, and that all we have to do is "be" and wait for death. The Church has never taught such a preposterous thing. Isn't this just the "conservative" version of the teleologistic minimalism taught by Curran and moralists like him?
I am also frankly aggravated by people who assume that reading the lives of the saints is necessarily more Catholic than reading the Bible, because Protestants do that and not the former. How can a literate Roman Catholic worthy of the name so blithely abandon the Sacred Scriptures to the followers of heretics? It comes from God, so it belongs to us! The Bible can be misunderstood, but so can any attempt at meaningful communication. God's word matters to those who love him.
Can charity coexist with such self-congratulatory mediocrity, with such lukewarm indifference? The medieval artists did not hesitate to depict popes burning in hellfire; do we honestly think that by aiming for the lowest common denominator we will do better?

Jeffrey Smith

I think a lot of you are missing the point. No one is saying that Catholics shouldn't evangelize. The problem is that an organization with ties to dissidents is insisting on using the word "Evangelical". That word has definite baggage and I just don't understand on the insistance that we need to bow down and praise it.

Catholic Mom

As I read through these comments it seems we are trying to treat all the sacraments the same. There are three sacraments of initiation--Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist--in that order.(even though that is not the order they are typically celebrated. Please note confirmation is not the equivalent of a Bar Mitzvah! It does not equate to being an "adult" in the Church!) While these should not be handed out like "Easter Candy" as one commenter termed it, their use should be liberal. The grace of these sacraments exists regardless of the preparation of the recipient. The preparation enables the recipient to better receive this grace. So when evaluating the suitability of a candidate for one of these sacraments, I would advocate that we give the candidate the benefit of the doubt as much as possible.

Marriage and Holy Orders are sacraments of service. The preparation for these sacraments is much more extensive and the scrutiny of the candidates for these sacraments should be much more critical. I am much more concerned about a priest who will marry anybody than I am about a priest who will baptize anybody.

Anointing of the Sick and the Sacrament of Reconciliation are healing sacraments. They should be readily available to the faithful. I have heard criticism of the push to get people into the confessional because the vast majority of folks are so poorly catechized. I say that first step into the confessional may be the catalyst to inspire a renewed commitment to their faith. Again, we do have to trust in the power of sacramental grace.

Remember the tried and true definition of a sacrament: An outward or visible sign, instituted by Christ, to give Grace.

Going back to the concerns about "Evangelical Catholics": If the evangelism is all about pushing a "personal relationship with Jesus" independent of the Church and its sacraments, then, yes, it is very Protestant. The whole point of being Catholic is to experience the true fullness of Christ through His Church and its Sacraments.

anon

There has actually been a concerted effort by professional catechists, especially RCIA catechists, to de-emphasize teaching.

Content--bad.
"Conversion"--good.

In response to Kathy, I went to the article, interested in what you had seen there. Because I have catechized hundreds of people in the RCIA over more than two decades - and the goal IS conversion. That is what most of this post and the comments are about. How do we encourage people to live commited, converted lives in Christ. And of course, in order to do this with any intentionality and depth, one has to know Christ, which means knowing the Gospel and how that has been lived out in the tradition of the church.

So, I read the article - and that is precisely what it says. Catechize using the Scriptures and the Catechism in the context of the liturgical year. Help to open up the mysteries that we celebrate. Connect the knowledge of the faith and the living of the Gospel to the celebration of the sacraments.

I find that some of the arguments that rage about the RCIA are sort of useless. Some catechists want to march through the Catechism, pillar by pillar. Others want to match the topics to the liturgical year. (Discipleship in the fall; saints, four last things in November, etc.) Who cares? (Although I prefer the latter.) It doesn't matter in which order one introduces the topics. What matters is that those who have put themselves forward are beginning to experience the grace of God, helping them to turn more and more fully to Christ. And appropriating the wealth of riches in the tradition of the church so that they can live that grace and mystery more fully.

Now, does it always work? No. Sometimes the fault is in the presentation. Sometimes it is in the cultural expectation. "I'm becoming Catholic to marry a Catholic." Sometimes people are expecting trumpets and cymbals and they fail to hear the quiet whispering of Spirit. But I've long since discovered that one cannot control the grace of Christ or the movement of the Spirit. We just need to try and be as authentic as we can and hope that we don't betray what we say we believe. Then we have to let that grace do its work.

Sherry Weddell

Going back to the concerns about "Evangelical Catholics": If the evangelism is all about pushing a "personal relationship with Jesus" independent of the Church and its sacraments, then, yes, it is very Protestant.

Catholic Mom, this isn't aimed at you but at the bizarreness of this whole conversation in general.

But here's the point.

The Evangelical Catholic Institute was NOT, NOT, NOT about pushing a "personal relationship with Jesus independent of the Church and the its sacraments." I was there. I spoke three times to practically everyone in attendance. I spoke explicitly about the relationship of personal faith and sacramental grace. Some of the EC leaders were there and have raved about it ever since.

I spent many hours talking to the EC gang. I attended Mass (every day) and Eucharistic Adoration (organized by ECI) with Cardinal Avery Dulles. Never once was such a idea even hinted at.

And not in all the discussions on all the blogs has there ever been shown a shred of evidence that the Evangelical Catholic folks believe or affirm such a thing.

They have simply dared to use the "Evangelical" word and that is their crime. That word alone is the evidence that they must believe or teach such things. Oh, and the fact that they talk about discipleship and evangelization which can only be the result of a deviant theological stance apparently. I do wish someone had alerted Pope John Paul the Great to that fact before he made such a fuss over the "new evangelization"

It has been demonstrated that "evangelical" is a thoroughly Catholic word, appearing 482 times in conciliar and magisterial documents since the Council. But *mere* Church teaching on the topic doesn't apparently matter either to true birthright Catholics who can judge things by their infallible instincts rather than in light of mere doctrine.

No one at the Catherine of Siena Institute does or would use the term "evangelical Catholic" to describe ourselves or our work. This is because 1) the large majority of our staff and teachers are *not* converts but thorough-going cradle Catholics; 2) It could be understood to imply that mission and evangelization and formation of the laity is not Catholic and is something imported from outside and tacked on when our entire purpose is nothing more or less than to implement conciliar and magisterial teaching in this area.

But the fact that the EC people have dared to do so is not sign of anything except that they haven't gotten out much.

In Madison, WI, a old-fashioned bastion of liberalism, it apparently isn't a problem. And their bishop, who is one of those draw-a line-in-the-sand guys that traditionalist Catholics have been demanding, thinks they are orthodox because he is paying part of the salary of their first staff person and is housing their office in his chancery.

Somehow Bishop Morlino has managed to deal with the "e" word. Its about time we did too.

Walter

Catholic Mom said:
The whole point of being Catholic is to experience the true fullness of Christ through His Church and its Sacraments.

Really ??????

I understand that is a generalization, but I don’t think I agree with it. I mean, for me, being a Catholic is not about an experience, or experiencing something, though that will also happen.

The ‘goal’ of being a Catholic is to enter into the communion of the Blessed Trinity. I do this by accepting God’s personal love for me, and responding to that love by giving of myself to God and others (which includes leading others to Truth and the authentic meaning of life). It is this self-giving love, in imitation of Jesus, that creates/builds communion (the Body of Christ).

If my focus as a Catholic is to experience something, then I am likely to be more of a ‘taker’ than a ‘giver.’

----------------------------------------------------

From B16’s homily on 5/28/06 (in Krakow):

Believing means entering into a personal relationship with our Creator and Redeemer in the power of the Holy Spirit, and making this relationship the basis of our whole life.

Brigid

God and the sacraments offered by Holy Mother Church are much bigger than the scrutinizing judgment of *some* priests and DREs and catechists - and blog posters. I have been doing pre-Cana ministry for well over 15 years now and, yes, I have easily fallen into this type of judgment. It is easy to do. It actually causes you to say "no" to working with young couples. But I have learned that it is wrong. How? Because I believe in the power of the sacrament of marriage. I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of these couples. I believe in the power of my prayers for them. [I have been told that makes me an Evangelical Catholic!]

Finally, I have great concern for a young diocesan priest who can freely write this sentence on his blog: "I have come to understand why so many people who work in the Church are cynics, why so many priests have opted for religion without content, and why so many fundamentalist Protestants accuse us of fostering a religion of faithless works and empty rituals." IMHO, and I mean no direspect to Fr. Jim because it is merely one blog post but, perhaps, this is a red flag of a young priest who needs some serious counsel regarding his work in his parish. Again, there is just too much torture here. And, I have experienced Fr. Jim's sacramental concerns in the past, so it's not like this is a one time post for him. Prayers all around..!

Sandra Miesel

Brigid, I fear you're missing the canonical (and practical) point some of us have been trying to make. People who aren't committed to the Church's teachings on marriage (permanence, fidelity, openness to children) aren't receiving the Catholic sacrament of marriage in the first place. They are entering an annullable civil union. They may indeed receive actual graces to improve this situation but not the graces that flow from ae sacrament that they didn't receive. The majority of these couples are going to divorce and end up in painfully entangled situations with respect to the Church.

Our parishes should not let themselves be used as mere wedding chapels for people who just want a pretty ceremony.

TSO

Fr. Tucker's quote is ineffably sad.

Reminds me of a priest who used to charge $1 for his Tuesday night scriptural studies. He said he was charging because "people never respect things that are free".

This tags along with what a wise previous commenter wrote:

One way to reverse this might be the reinstitution of the Eucharistic fast from midnight onwards. Thus, people might get used to not seeing everyone receive communion. If people didn't see the Eucharist as something they have a right to, they might be willing to allow that there are other conditions (state of grace, etc.) that govern whether or not they ought to receive it.

It's a tough balance. I know someone in their 60s who still recalls how terrified she was before her First Communion lest she drink water. (Apparently even water was forbidden in the hours leading up to reception.) I don't know that she ever got a sense of the love of Christ. Which is also ineffably sad.

Kathy

Anon, if you are involved in a catechetical program that presents The Four Last Things, then you might not understand the doctrinal poverty of the approach that is being promoted by the NAForum.

The link I provided is to the Forum's latest newsletter, which contains among other things a front-page article (as you mentioned), a review of their competitors' RCIA materials, and a mission statement. All of these contain a strong bias away from the communication of doctrine, in favor of fostering the experience of conversion by "apprenticeship" and "liturgical catechesis". (Dense, representative examples of this point of view occur esp. on page 3 and page 13.)

The problem with apprenticeship and liturgical catechesis is that, necessary as they are, unless they are combined with a strong and effective transmission of doctrinal content, they can be very misleading. A person could easily take from an RCIA program, based entirely on the NAForum ideal, an idea that submission of the mind to revealed truth is an option that they can take or leave. And that is not the case. He/ she could come away with an idea that Jesus is whoever they encounter in their most emotional experiences of prayer--and that is not the case.

God leads people to the Church, hungry for truth. We have it. Why are we being so stingy?

Catholic Mom

Sherry,
Thank you for indicating your comment is not about me. My post was not about you, the ECI, or the St. Catherine of Siena Institute. If you read my blog post linked above, you know that I specifically stated we should embrace the idea of being evangelical, as long as that means bringing others to the Truth through the Church and the Sacraments. If that is what your organizations do, then wonderful! You will certainly find no objection from me.

Walter,
I knew as soon as I wrote the last paragraph that it did not accurately convey what I was trying to say. However, I had already written a long comment, I was trying to get to Mass, and I had not had my morning coffee so I let it be. Now that I am enjoying my coffee after Mass, I would probably change my wording from “The whole point of being Catholic is to experience the true fullness of Christ through His Church and its Sacraments” to “The great gift we have as Catholics is our experience of the true fullness of Christ through His Church and its Sacraments.” The point being that trying to evangelize without inclusion of the Sacraments is not Catholic evangelization.

Maureen

I guess the point is that we have to do everything necessary, at once. :) And really, that's the best way. Probably why Catholic schooling was a good system; they had X many hours a day to go over the scripture, doctrine, lifestyle, sacramentality, saints' lives, yadayada. They could do Catholic stuff in math class, if they wanted to.

That said, it's good for Catholics to evangelize, and it seems like the Siena folks do good and valuable work. They just need to find some happy medium on their use of religious language, so as to appeal more broadly and not set off anybody's allergies to evangelical non-best practices. :)

Walter

Mom:
I understand. Your revised sentence is wonderful! And is something with which I can wholeheartedly agree.

Sherry Weddell

Maureen:

The Catherine of Siena Institute *doesn't* use the language of "Evangelical Catholicism". We are an apostolate of the Western Dominincan Province located in Colorado Springs, CO. (www.siena.org or blog.siena.org. Our mission is the equip *parishes* to form lay apostles.

The Evangelical Catholic is a ministry out of Madison, WI that is associated with the St. Paul's Newman center in Madison. Their work has been almost exclusively with university students. EC is not associated with us in any way except that we are both passionate about the Church's call to evangelization and discipleship. http://www.evangelicalcatholic.org/

The Evangelical Catholic simply asked me to speak at their conference as a hundred other organizations, parishes, and dioceses have done before.

I was just trying to point out, as an eyewitness, that there was no evidence at all of dissent or "me and Jesus" Christianity at the EC Institute I attended.

Tom Kelty

Jp2 and B16 both have pointed out that in Europe, parishes are moribund and few attend Mass. Catholics who self-identify as such, do so through the Ecclesial Movements.

For many well identitfied reasons, the immigrant church in America flourished through the parishes. We are still very wary of the Ecclesial Movements and our aging pastors seem to be deeply suspicious of them. And we have lost the younger generation. God bless the friars and their approach. I hope they put their show on the road and head our way.

Brigid

@Sandra: As if those who are "faithful" by some sort of standard set by a priest or Bishop or Pre-Cana couple are *not* as vulnerable to divorce as the "unfaithful" ones? Faithfulness to Church teaching, mass attendance and bearing children are *not* indicators that a couple will remain married. Not by a long shot. I have just as many stories along those lines as I do for the "unfaithful" couples who are making it by the grace of God.

Sue T.

I concur with many of the posters here that we need to engage in the "new evangelism". However, I can see why some Catholics take issue with certain evangelical tactics. Within the past year, my parish decided to re-vamp its volunteer opportunities and develop a 21st-century approach to serving the faithful. While I haven't seen anything outright heretical, I do notice that it suddenly seems like my parish is striving to be hip or something.

I can't put my finger on what bothers me about it. We do have an orthodox priest, an orthodox Mass (most of the time), and we still retain traditional elements (occasional use of latin or solemn hymns). Still, there's this sort of consumeristic tinge to the whole approach. Like our parish has to have "cool enough" programs to keep everyone involved. Maybe I just need to get used to it.

Regarding people getting married in the Church for the wrong reasons. This is a tough issue. My brother and his wife fall into this category. They are not exactly church-goers, and they even cohabitated for a couple years before getting married. They wanted to go to Vegas, but my traditional Catholic mother pretty much begged them to get married in the Church and footed a good chunk of the bill. My sister-in-law isn't even Catholic, while my brother is nominal at best.

Still, I sometimes see seeds of hope for both of them. They now have two kids under age 2 ("Irish Twins"). My niece has already been baptized in the Church, and my nephew's is coming up this June. I guess there's something about having children that makes people evaluate their religious and spiritual values. Like I said, there's hope for them. But if my parish priest had refused to marry them, they could have been lost forever.

Scott


I want to build on many of the insightful comments already posted and say this:

The tendency I am weary of is a presupposed mutual exclusivity between "evangelization" and tradition (in all its cultural manifestations).

The contrary approach seems most potent: tradition used as The source of evangelization, the notion that being Catholic is not mere mental assent to a system of beliefs, but that AND the experience of those beliefs, whether at Mass or in the home. A Catholic culture has developed over the centuries for a very specific reason.

This seems to beg the following question: why do many (perhaps not all) so-called "evangelial" movements within Catholicism urge a program that is divorced from any semblence of traditional Catholic culture? That is the source of my skepticism: it seems they would WANT to use that culture as the basis for their goal of energizing folks to live out the Catholic way of life most ardently.

The question isn't merely what a "evangelical Catholic" movement does, but HOW it does it.

Julia

"Part of the reason for the enormous number of lackluster Catholics today is the result of the success of the pre-Vatican II church in America at inculcating regular reception of the sacraments. . .. One way to reverse this might be the reinstitution of the Eucharistic fast from midnight onwards. Thus, people might get used to not seeing everyone receive communion. If people didn't see the Eucharist as something they have a right to, they might be willing to allow that there are other conditions (state of grace, etc.) that govern whether or not they ought to receive it."

As much as I agree with the second part of the above quote, I must object to placing the blame for today's woes yet again on pre-Vatican II practices!!! I was in college during Vatican II and recall very well that I rarely went to Mass later than 9:30 on Sunday because my hypoglycemia would act up and sometimes I fainted. If I had to take my siblings to church at 11:00 I had breakfast and skipped Communion. As I recall it was first changed to 3 hours when evening Mass on Sunday started becoming common, but the token 1 hour thing is very post Vatican II.

I think confession has almost gone extinct because of dropping the fast. Previously, it was not unusual for people to not receive Communion and it was assumed that the person had given in and eaten breakfast. Once there was no fast everybody started going (maybe so people wouldn't guess they were in mortal sin) and it became noticeable when someone didn't go. So once people start going when they maybe shouldn't have, it gets easier to not bother with confession at all. Sometimes I wave off the Eucharistic minister in choir just to remind myself that I need to be properly disposed and to prevent it from becoming automatic.

Since the subject is on Evangelical Catholics, here it goes: I can understand how Catholics can belong to Communion and Liberation, Opus Dei, Legion of Mary (I'm an alumna), but why the tag "Evangelical Catholic"? Do they want their own Rite like the Maronite Catholics?

The word as a label has been attached to a certain kind of Protestantism for a long time now. And the "personal relationship with Jesus" thing automatically sends up red flags for me as the code long used by some Protestants even now to mean "we don't need no stinkin' priests or Pope or Virgin Mary to talk to God." Can't we think up our own phrases and names?

I live in an area with lots of Evangelical churches in the phone book - Evangelical & Reformed aka United Church of Christ not to mention Evangelical United Brethren aka United Methodist and the Evangelical Lutherans. Just as "Catholic" is a specific label and "catholic" is just an adjective, "Evangelical" means something different than "evangelical" or even "evangelist/Evangelist". Some of the most evangelical Protestants don't even have it in their name or the church's name. Why the name to borrow the label?

It feels to me and many others that we are aping the Protestant styles of worship and proselytism. My dad made 5 converts but he didn't proselytize anybody. I never miss an opportunity to explain my faith when it is appropriate, but I'm not going to knock on doors and go cold-calling.

I also don't understand this new term "intentional". Who is somebody that he/she can decide I don't know what I'm doing because I don't do the orans or hold hands at the Our Father or give some other approved outward sign that I know what's going on as well as they do? How do you know what another person's intentions are? In this secular culture, anybody going to Mass on Sunday is going on purpose. The days of going to Mass to please Mom are long gone.

Half of my family is Protestant of the very conservative type in rural Kansas. I'm sure they are very sincere in their beliefs, but they don't bang me over the head with them and I don't inflict mine on them. We need to give our neighbors and relatives the benefit of the doubt and some breathing space to be who they are unless they are truly interested.

Sorry this is long, but it's a hot button topic for this old lady. {Who gives people the right to decide who are lack-luster Catholics! Who was keeping an eye on the hermits back in the day?] I guess I'm banned now.

Fr. Mike Fones, OP

I hope this comment allows all of us who are passionate about Christ and His Church to make some important distinctions which can be forgotten when we talk about evangelization, sacramental preparation, and discussions about the disposition of an individual with regard to the reception of sacraments.

In the comments above, beginning with the very first one, there seems to be some disagreement about the nature and interrelationship between evangelization, proclamation and catechesis. Some argue the importance of catechetical content, others emphasize the importance of personal conversion to Christ, and so on.

All of these are important, but each has a particular role and place in the process of bringing someone into the fullness of relationship with Christ and His Church as it can be experienced in our earhtly life.

The National Directory for Catechesis recognizes that individuals fall into different categories with regard to what they need from the Christian community or the individual Catholic Christian.

Some people are in need of Pre-evangelization, i.e., preparation for the first proclamation of the Gospel. These include “non-believers, the indifferent.” The indifferent, I believe, can sometimes include people in our parishes. Pre-evangelization indicates that there are some obstacles that may need to be overcome before someone is capable of hearing and receiving the gospel. Sometimes that can be as simple as needing to trust a particular Catholic person who seems to genuinely care about me.

"Sharing the Light of Faith" (the old National Catechetical Directory) expresses this beautifully:

"Catechesis presupposes prior pre-evangelization and evangelization. These are likely to be most successful when they build on basic human needs - for security, affection, acceptance, growth, and intellectual development - showing how these include a need, a hunger, for God and His Word.

Often, however, catechesis is directed to individuals and communities who, in fact, have not experienced pre-evangelization and evangelization, and have not made acts of faith corresponding to those stages. Taking people as they are, catechesis attempts to dispose them to respond to the message of revelation in an authentic, personal way.

There is a great need in the United States today (1978!!) to prepare the ground for the gospel message. Many people have no religious affiliation. Many others have not committed their lives to Christ and His Church, even though they are church members. Radical questioning of values, rapid social change, pluralism, cultural influences, and population mobility - these and other factors underline the need for pre-evangelization." (Nat'l Catechetical Directory for the U.S., 1978, #34)

Once we have established some kind of relationship and have dealt with issues that might prevent the acceptance of the Gospel (which might be personal or philosophical), and individual is prepared for the initial announcement of the Gospel. This can include a wide variety of people: “Non-believers, those who have chosen not to believe, those who follow other religions, children of Christians, those who may have been baptized but have little or no awareness of their Baptism and . . . live on the margins of Christian life.” (Nat'l Directory for Catechesis, 2005, #49

Notice that proclamation is of the Gospel, which is about Christ! The intent is to foster the individual's relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior, which necessarily calls for personal conversion that is indicated by a change in one's life. This is the focus of the inquiry and precatechumenate stages of RCIA. If the RCIA process is to be a model for adult faith formation in this country, as the U.S. bishops suggested in Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us, we cannot afford to ignore the question of whether or not an individual has committed their life to Christ. A judgment has to be made by each one of us whether or not this is true.

AFTER initial faith and conversion, one is ready for initiatory catechesis that introduces the life of faith, the Liturgy, and charity. According to the National Catechetical Directory, this is appropriate for “Catechumens, those who are coming to the Catholic faith from another Christian tradition, Catholics who need to complete their initiation, children and the young.” (49) But always, personal conversion is presumed in these individuals. If it has not happened, they are not ready to receive the fullness of the truth the Church has to offer because they have not received Him Who is the Truth.

The teaching of the Church regarding evangelization, catechesis and proclamation is beautiful, scriptural, practical, recognizes the essential role for grace - and remains to be put into effective practice in many of our parishes and in most of our lives. It requires patience, prayer, good people skills, grace, a lived relationship with Christ and His Church, time, attentiveness to others, selfless love. It wouldn't hurt if the fruits of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,
gentleness, self-control (attributes that sometimes are lacking in Catholic blogs) were clearly to be found in us who would bring others to Christ and His Church.

Ling

My husband and I are one of those couples who married in the Church for the wrong reasons - almost 12 years ago. Only by the grace of God does our marriage survive. My husband was and still is, an atheist. After our kids were born, I changed. Although a cradle Catholic, I still went to RCIA, just to get to know my religion better, and am practicing faithfully now. I'm still learning so much and trying to truly live a Catholic life. In the beginning, my husband persecuted us (my children and I) for practicing our faith. Only after many years of prayer, he now is periodically attending Mass with us!! Our marriage is strong and happy. I agree with Sue T., if the parish priest had refused to marry us, I think we could have all been lost.

Eileen R

It's a tough balance. I know someone in their 60s who still recalls how terrified she was before her First Communion lest she drink water. (Apparently even water was forbidden in the hours leading up to reception.) I don't know that she ever got a sense of the love of Christ. Which is also ineffably sad.

The problem with the fast that my mother remembers - she was still quite young, though, when it changed - is that inevitably she and her siblings would feel so faint that they'd spend Mass dizzy and nauseous.

Kathleen Lundquist

I just put up a post on Intentional Disciples on this, in case anyone's inclined to visit and read it directly from the horse's mouth...

In a nutshell:

- No one is trying to make happy-clappy extroverts out of quiet, prayerful Rosary devotees, or door-to-door evangelists out of Tridentine Mass attendees. No one is trying to make faithful Catholics into something they're not. We are simply trying to follow, and help others follow, the example of Christ, the Apostles, and the saints in sharing God's love in real and concrete ways with our fellow beings on the planet. The resources for this endeavor are not the Institute's creations, but Church and papal documents, the writings and example of the saints, and the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit has placed in each person's soul by virtue of their baptism.

- The experience of Christ always leads a person to the Christian community. (Any Protestant who's read their Bible will agree with that statement.) Though they don't believe in the Catholic Church, they do believe in a church founded by Christ and the necessity of belonging to a body of believers with which they can learn and practice their faith. Our own Catechism instructs us that by virtue of their baptism into Christ, if it's done in the proper form, it brings them into a sort of communion with the Catholic Church (though their bond/communion is imperfect).

Friends, please forgive my tone here, if it raises your hackles - I realize that everyone's got a valid perspective here, but I find the "Protestants have cooties" attitude rather exasperating. They're our brothers and sisters in Christ - separated, yes - ignorant of their heritage, yes - wrong about important points of doctrine, yes - BUT RIGHT when it comes to affirming Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world. That's gotta count for something.

Kathy

Fr. Fones,

As a Dominican, you likely know that St. Thomas held faith to be an intellectual virtue.

Your comment seems to locate faith entirely in the will (towards the good), rather than the in the intellect as guided by the will (towards the true). (cf. ST II-IIae 4, passim.

Father Benedict

Fr. Jim's comment's are not "tortured" - a priest will answer to God for his threefold role as Teacher, Sanctifier and Ruler. He sanctifies principally through the administration of the Sacraments. He teaches by not presenting his own personal opinions, but the faith of the Church. Baptism is never refused, but it can, and should be deferred - possibly for a considerable time if there is not a well-founded hope that the child will be brought up in the practice of the faith. Likewise, Confirmation should be deferred for similar reasons. What we really have now, (which is why Fr. Jim is distressed rather than tortured - as are many priests) - is the consumerist approach to religion. For the 'infrequent customer', the local Church is merely spiritual Wal-Mart, a baby appears - we want baptism. First Communion - it's time for the ritual, the party and the gifts. When a priest stresses, kindly but firmly, that there does have to be SOME level of commitment - the disgruntled person usually writes to 'customer service' - the Chancery, to complain about not getting what they wanted. The Church of St. Irenaus, Polycarp, Felicity and Perpetua would not think it possible that the "mysteries" would be given to those who did not practice - to say nothing of a funeral Mass for those who left the community decades ago - they called that apostasy!

ContraMundum

Couldn't disagree more with what Brigid has had to say here in this thread. First of all, while she thinks Fr. Tucker is too "tortured" and pessimistic, I think his estimate is quite realistic and even hopeful. I fail to see anything alarmist in anything he wrote (of what Amy quoted). On the contrary, I find her judgments somewhat unwarrantedly rosy. As for the claim that those who attend Mass regularly are just as vulnerable to divorce, all the evidence says otherwise. It's certainly no guarantee that a couple won't divorce, but those who live according to the Church's teaching (especially re: contraception) and who attend Mass regularly on Sundays (and more often even) have far, far lower rates of divorce and marital problems.

As for Kathy's reply to Fr. Fones--where exactly is the voluntarism? I don't see it. St Thomas says that faith is a theological virtue whose subject is the speculative intellect--not that faith is an intellectual virtue (if it were the latter, it would be a natural, acquired, virtue). And faith also involves the will's intervention, since faith's object does not move the intellect with necessity, so it certainly does perfect the will, too.

Julia

"The problem with the fast that my mother remembers - she was still quite young, though, when it changed - is that inevitably she and her siblings would feel so faint that they'd spend Mass dizzy and nauseous."

I'm 62 and the eldest of six. It was my job in the late 50s and early 60s to take the younger ones who weren't babies to church at 8 AM and then babysit all of them so my mom could go to church at 9:30 or 11:00. Maybe your friend didn't have an older sibling who could take her to earlier Mass.

"I don't know that she ever got a sense of the love of Christ. Which is also ineffably sad." Don't feel sorry about that or think how sad it was that we didn't experience God's love. Maybe some physical discomfort brought home that something really special was going on. My gosh, we even had to be careful not to swallow water when brushing our teeth - talk about being intentional - we were ahead of our time.

I don't think Protestants have "cooties" - I'm related to a whole lot of them. I just object to borrowing terminology that sounds like we're trying to ape them. Nothing wrong with evangelizing, but why the need to tag your group as Evangelical Catholics when that term has so much baggage?

The way that conversion is being discussed here it almost sounds like making a decision for Christ at a Billy Graham event. Maybe we can also be "slain in the spirit" like I saw happen to a friend at a Joyce Meyers meeting in the 80s before I reverted.

It's nice that you have a group that is looking through scripture and church fathers, etc. But why do you think we are supposed to do it in a group? How do you know that folks aren't reading things on their own? And if somebody is just being the best Christian they can be and not doing all that reading, why imply that they are not being "intentional" whatever that is?

Ever hear of Martha and Mary?

I like to read Chaucer and I'm singing in a performance of Beethoven's 9th tomorrow night. But I don't think that friends who don't have such interests are stupid - they may be doing themselves more good with the exercize and fresh air they get from playing golf.

Maybe you don't realize how it sounds when you are talking about "lackluster Catholics" who are merely "good people".
Where did all this come from? I misssed cursillos and charismatics when I was away, but I never heard about the "intentional" stuff and the Evangelical Catholics until just recently. I guess I was gone longer than I thought. I don't recognize a lot that is going on my church anymore. How do I talk to somebody "Intentionally" anyway - is this code for something I'm missing?

Scott


I think Julia raises a fine point: in light of our inherent DUTY to evangelize, why the need to modify "Catholic" with "evangelical," which (as it has been observed here) imports much in the way of connotation to this discussion. We are "evangelical" by definition, and everyone does so in their own unique way. The man who quietly attends Mass every day and prays...he's evangelizing. The grandma who has a picture of the Sacred Heart on the wall and who tells her grandchildren beautiful stories about her father, her old parish priest, her 5th grade teacher, etc...she's evangelizing. Quiet, subtle, humble ways. It seems a bit of a modern error to presume or otherwise imply that "evangelization" is a mere outward or exterior activity.

I don't know if that's what people who call themselves "evangelical Catholics" presume or not. Just an observation. To be quite honest, I don't know what a "evangelical Catholic" purports to be. I do know one thing: If it means importing "praise and worship" type stuff into the Mass, as we've seen in some places and some "movements," I'll submit that that's a manifestation of what B16 meant by the phrase "hermeneutic of rupture" for it lacks a foundation in our liturgical tradition. I think we have to be very careful when we go down that road. The liturgy is not our's to do with what we please. Thinking of the Mass in terms of whether or not it satisfies the GIRM (and thus saying that's all that matters) is a bit too minimalistic. It's much, much more than that and we can look to our history, tradition, and Catholic culture to discover it. In fact, aren't we implored to look to back? How can we ever know where to go if we don't know where we're coming from? "Evangelization," by definition, seems more about bringing that past, the living tradition of our Church, etc. to light.

Sorry if some find this post a bit long...just a few thoughts. If you give me a penny for my thoughts, you'd get change. :)

Kathy

Volantarism comes in when a pre-catechumen is expected to have committed fully to Christ before hearing Him preached.

Kathy

ContraMundum, Voluntarism comes in when a pre-catechumen is expected to commit fully to Christ before hearing Him preached.

Kathy

Just to be clear: I'm not anti-evangelization. I just think that it should be done in a way that is doctrine-rich, beginning, middle, and end. (Not everyone will gravitate towards content at every stage. But for those who do, right from the beginning, it is really absurd that we withhold our teaching.)

I also want to clarify that I don't know much at all about the Institute or EC and am really only addressing an underlying tendency of the NAForum to collapse the theological virtue of faith into charity and hope.

Faith comes through hearing!

m

I'd like to respond to Father Tucker's quote.
From my experience, sometimes just the fact that we show up with what little faith or understanding we may have is all God needs.

I was a person who didn't know if I was going to raise my kids Catholic when I got married although I don't know if I was forthright enough to admit it. I hadn't darkened the doors in several years. My husband was 'never going to be a Catholic'. The priest who married us could not have been more welcoming.
We showed up again when we had our first child and had him baptized. Again, we were welcomed although I'm certain they were totally onto us. It wasn't deception, it was laziness, apathy and lack of commitment.

We floundered around spiritually until the oldest one was about to go to school and I decided that I needed to settle this church thing once and for all. Once again I was warmly welcomed. By this time, I was so anxious to be connected to God in any way I could, it 'took'. A few years later, my husband entered the church.

Some of us are a little slower on the uptake than others, but by the grace of God, many of us do come around.

Eric

Having no dog in this fight, and not really being familiar with the particular movement we are talking about, I'll make a very general comment about Protestant evangelicals.

Namely, what I have seen of them really makes me personally dislike their tactics and methods. I've experienced this in a professor, as well as friends and some of the local Crisis Pregnancy Center folks. They are condescending, emotional, hokey, overly aggressive, and quite frankly, the entire thing comes off as very cheap and phony.

I do think that Catholics need to do a lot of self-examination concerning evangelism in the modern world, and perhaps this group has some good things to say (my vote would be for a broader use of the campus group FOCUS, since Campus Crusade for Christ is everywhere). Something does need to change, but I think that it would be a huge mistake to mimick the mode and methods of many evangelicals.

First Communion Teacher

I'm a convert (from the evangelical wing of the Presybterian church) and I teach the first Communion class at my parish. This discussion of evangelization, especially as it touches on the un-evangelized and un-catechized demanding the Sacraments, has got my head spinning again.

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the frustration of teaching a room full of 7-year- olds all about the Mass and the Eucharist, striving to teach them about Jesus' life, his ministry, the Church, the Sacraments and at the same time, communicate that God loves them and hope that the children grow in their love for God at the same time--only to find out that of the 26 children in the class, only six or seven of them actually attend Mass on any given Sunday. That mostly, the parents go run errands during the class and skip Mass. And when the fall comes around again and you peek into the third grade class to say "hi" to your former students, you realize there are only four or five of them in there instead of the twenty or more you had last year.

More often I am convinced that Eastern rite Catholics have the proper time and order for the Sacraments of Initiation; receive them all at birth/directly after baptism. Then you can spend the next twenty years catechizing them and drawing them closer into the faith without this agonizing over whether or not they "deserve" to receive the Eucharist and Confirmation...at least until they get to Marriage! Maybe there are some Eastern rite Catholics who have some perspective on this?

I get so tired of the stunted and infantile understanding of the Catholic faith that many Catholics I encounter seem to have. Must the Sacraments almost always serve as carrots to entice lukewarm believers into a more active faith? I don't know, maybe I need to be more detached from those I am teaching. Perhaps like Fr. Jim (in my smaller, paler way) I am agonizing too much over whether the children I teach will ever show up at Mass again after First Communion. Just like I worry that they won't come to confession again after the first one.... After all, it's the parents' job to teach their children and bring them up in the faith primarily, not mine. Is it my job to simply teach the materials and that's it?

Obviously, I don't have any actual power over whether children receive the Sacraments, like Fr. Jim does, but shouldn't a good teacher inspire students to more than just mastering the workbook? How do you balance preparing people for Sacraments and observing them ignoring everything the Church teaches?

Cindy

First Communion Teacher,

Your attitude only serves to make me resonate with the response of Eric. A little humility, please. Pope Benedict doesn't treat Catholics this way and he knows more than you ever will.

First Communion Teacher

Cindy, of course Pope Benedict knows more than I do? Did I ever say otherwise??? As for humility, certainly I can always use some more of it. Please pray for me! But what about my attitude offends you? That I am concerned that some of my students don't attend Mass regularly and disappear after First Communion? Or that some of their parents know little and care little about the Catholic faith they themselves were raised in? How can you not be unhappy with the state of catechesis in most of American Catholicism today?

diane

Whew. No time to read all these comments now. Will simply mention that our parish is doing the "Why Catholic?" program, which emphasizes catechesis and personal renewal with a view toward evangelism. So far it has gone really well. Some people (online, not in Real Life) say it's namby-pamby. But IMHO you've gotta start somewhere. "Why Catholic?" seems like a good start, eff'n you ask me.

We're in the Bible Belt. If we don't evangelize our people, someone else will. You can count on it! :o

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.