Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Reflections

It’s been a long time since I wrote—almost a month. And like every month in this busy life, a lot has happened since I wrote. The retreat with my students went wonderfully. The semester ended well. I got to spend a day coloring and talking with students and I was reminded yet again how blessed I am to have my job, my students, my mentor, my friends.

Now it is December 24 and as I write this, I am watching the clock slink closer and closer to midnight. It has been a tradition for me as long as I can remember to stay up on Christmas Eve, writing or reading, reflecting. Of course, it is different now. I no longer wait eagerly for the mountain of presents or listen for the bells of Santa’s sleigh. And now, my room (which I had finally gotten organized when I started college) is filled with boxes of random things from my house in Dallas and I’m never really sure where things are or what they are, and I suspect the boxes are mating and multiplying (this pains the neat freak in me, who far prefers organization to chaos).

As I reflect I begin to realize that this Advent was not what I wanted it to be—that my preparation for Christ was not what he deserved. Certainly it involved some failure on my part, some sin or missing the mark, but mostly it involved my inability to slow down, to focus, to concentrate, to reflect. Winter is a time for reflection, as Mother Earth takes her long, deep rest and Persephone spends her months in the underworld with her ghastly groom, I always feel the need to look back, to ponder, and to think about the future. This year, I feel like I failed (as perhaps I have failed every year) to adequately reflect, to adequately prepare. I have long ago shed the childish notion of Christmas as a birthday party for Jesus and embraced it as an opportunity to prepare, as we should all year round, for the second coming and to reflect on the mystery of what happened that night, long ago in a stable in Bethlehem.

At the beginning of Advent this year, as I crept slowly into the cave of my heart, ready to embrace the hibernation that the world around me was entering (something I have not witnessed these last four years, as winter is a stranger most of the time in Dallas… or, perhaps not a stranger, but that annoying friend who comes in the night at some unexpected moment with no warning, and then leaves almost as quickly). I began reading a book by Jan Richardson (In Wisdom’s Path), recommended by S. Donna, SP. I fell in love not only with her writing (particularly her beautiful poetry), but also the image she presented. She presents an idea that she got from a sister from the CSAs, namely that Christ was born in a cave and that Advent is a time to enter the cave of our hearts, the space within us where Christ longs to be born. As I read about Jan’s experience of a slow Advent, I started to feel overwhelmed by my own. I feel guilty commenting on mine, when I know that my housemates were certainly busier than I. Sadly, I think that the majority of my Advent was not passed busily at work like my community’s (although things were more active than Fr. Jeff predicted), but rather that my Advent was spent aimlessly watching television with my housemates (even though I hate tv), passing time on facebook (I didn’t even have the energy for pinterest, which I enjoy much more… a sad statement on my life), and just sleeping. I suppose the sleep is in keeping with the theme of hibernation, but it was a far cry from the reflection that I was hoping to attain (my goal of reading the bible every night fell apart a week before Thanksgiving and I haven’t quite gotten back to it yet, even though I’m at the beginning of Luke, a favorite since I translated it myself).  

Now, here I am, exhausted from the preparations for the commercial celebration of Christmas (I can’t even pretend that wrapping gifts is preparing for the Christ child). Yet, I am also filled with joy after the celebration with my family tonight. I don’t know what it is, but even when I’m not participating in the conversation, just sitting and listening to Travis, Jodie, Kenna, Chris, Madison, Sara and all my other family talk about people I don’t even know or things that happened, I just feel filled with joy. Being with my family, particularly my cousins and their beautiful kids, brings new life and new joy into my heart. The babies (Trustin, Colton, JW, Westin, Bailey, and Tanner), especially, are a blessing. I love them each for their own special gifts. They are all so sweet (though they’re all capable of being what my aunt lovingly terms as “stinkers”). Then, to be with my Aunt Carol and my Aunt Marie, two women whom I have looked up to since I was a little girl, is also a blessing. To have my cousin, Christina, around as well is just wonderful. Perhaps I am channeling Richardson or have spent too much time with the SPs, but I appreciate their feminine energy. I am amazed at their ability to whip up several dishes, decorate, and watch their grandkids all at once. I long to be like that someday, even though my cooking isn’t ideal and my baking has come to almost a standstill since I got serious about the gluten free thing. I know that none of them are perfect at what they do, but I still dream of being able to do it as well as they (because I have no desire to be perfect). I am reminded of Richardson’s cave and wonder if this leaving behind of our normal lives in order to prepare a meal, in the same way my grandmother did before them, and the same way that women have for hundreds of years, is not another way of withdrawing into a cave. Perhaps the images on the wall of woman’s cave really do involve recipes for grandma’s light opera creams or the famous mac n’ cheese that Chris makes in Grandma’s honor at every holiday. It irks the feminist inside of me to admit that I want to have those on the walls of my cave, too; that I, too, long to nourish my family with the work of my hands. Of course, I have never liked Grandma’s light opera creams (sorry, Grandma, but you knew that before and now that you’re in heaven, I’m sure you don’t really care) and any pasta for me has to be gluten free, but surely there’s a way to bring it together, to participate in the feminine heritage that has been passed on from generation to generation. I am reminded of Richardson’s poem, “Rahab, Tamar, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary.” The poem comes with a reflection on the Jesse tree’s relationship to the male ancestors of Christ, and she thinks of another tree, forgotten, which contains the names of the female ancestors. I hope that if I ever have children that I will teach them this part of their heritage, their legacy. I love this part of Christmas and I must admit, I miss washing dishes with my aunts, a practice now obsolete since there is a dishwasher.

This has been my celebration so far, and as I write this I notice that there are five minutes left of Christmas Eve. Ready or not, he’s coming.
(Picture: The Family by John Dickson Batten, my favorite picture of the Holy Family) 

Earlier today, I can’t remember what it was that had happened, but I was reflecting on what sort of world it is that Christ is now (and perpetually) being born into. In a world where there is such a disconnect between everything—between humanity and the earth, other animals, each other, between families and friends and husband and wife, a disconnect between Christian and Christ, between the church and the believer… how do we make a connection with this god-man, this child wrapped in swaddling clothes, a God who needs his diapers changed, who dies a gory, bloody death on the cross only to have us turn his incarnation into a commercial event? How do we make sense of it? How do we welcome him in? I am nervous to welcome him in, ashamed. Couldn’t it have been made better for him by Christmas? I find myself thinking of the various stories we hear of war, when there is a cease fire at Christmas and opposing armies would gather together and sing songs before going back to killing one another the next day. I ask myself, what sense does this make? If we could stop killing for one night, why can’t we stop killing for good? What was the meaning of singing songs together, recognizing our common belief in Christ, our common dignity as humans, if we were only going to turn around and kill each other?  Sure, I know the morality behind just war, but just war be damned if we’re going to sing songs together one minute and shoot each other the next. There’s no logic that will make me understand.

And what kind of world is the Christ child being born into when we waste so much? Whenever I’m with my family I try to shut my mouth and ignore the ache that starts in my stomach when I see the piles of disposable plates, the food left on them, unwanted. At least we try to save the scraps for the dogs or the chickens, but even so, the wastefulness of plastic drains me. Yet, I cannot criticize, knowing that my Aunts, already tired, have no desire to rinse tons of dishes and then run the dishwasher the three times it would take if our dishes were real. We trade one evil for another and then invite the Christ child to enter, unsure of which was worse.

Perhaps I am rambling on. The time is late. I am now five minutes into the feast and my body is telling me it’s time to sleep. Ignoring the seasons and the sun’s path have ruined my internal clock, as it does everyone’s. I will go now, wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a year filled with many blessings. If you are interested in Richardson, let me share with you one of her poems which has intrigued me today. I am trying to do a writing retreat with her next semester, if I can get it arranged.

A Woman in Winter
(from In Wisdom’s Path by Jan Richardson, page 18)

A woman in winter
is winter:
turning inward,
elemental force,
time’s reconing;
sudden frost
and fire’s warming,
depth of loss
and edge of storming.
She is avalanche,
quiet hungering,
utter stillness,
snowfall brewing;
hollowed, hallowed,
shadows casting,
field in fallow,
wisdom gathering.
Waiting, watching,
darkness craving,
reaching, laboring;
burning, carrying fire
within her,
a woman turning,
becoming winter. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011


So, I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written. It’s not that life has become monotonous with nothing to say, but rather that it’s become so full that there’s no time to process all the things that are going on. Right now, I just finished (literally, five minutes ago) my last “normal” women’s ministry night of the year (next week it will be PAR-TAY TIME!). Tomorrow, the women’s and men’s ministry groups at Butler will be coming over to the Manor for an overnight retreat. Then, Saturday, we have Cookies for Kids—cooking at local houses for kids in need. Next week is a big party for the Immaculate Conception and we will decorate the Blue House, then the following Sunday (the third in Advent) we will have a midnight mass and sing carols to celebrate Christmas (or, really, Gaudete Sunday) as a community before the students all go home. All this, plus I have a paper that was due over a week ago that needs to be finished. Life is so full!

Last week was Thanksgiving (it seems so long ago already) and I got to go home to my parents’ house. I was barely home for an hour when we got the phone call saying that Fr. Mike had a stroke. It was a scary moment and although he is going to be okay, he is in great need of prayers. After a lot of phone calls, my mother and I realized there was nothing we could do, so we continued on with our plans for the evening: going to see White Christmas at OAT with the Mugels. (Frankly, the first act sucked, but I thought the second act was pretty good.) It wasn’t the best OAT play I’ve seen, but some of it was absolutely wonderful. The Hamacher girls were adorable.

The rest of the week went by filled with insanity. I helped out at the office, Mom got sick, I spend two nights at Grandma’s working on Christmas stockings for my housemates (pictures below) with Grandma and Mom. I got to spend a wonderful day with my two families, got to meet my BEAUTIFUL cousin Westin, got to see all our other wonderful babies (Tanner is growing and getting cuter every day… I just love him, and all of them!). We invited one of mom’s friends from the parish to bring her daughter, so that was interesting to share our family.

All in all, it was a wonderful week that had some really tough, scary moments—rather like life. It was so exhausting that I was actually happy to arrive back in Indy. I made it back just in time for 7pm Mass at Butler and it was a great welcome home to enjoy the Mass with my students.

On Monday we decorated for Christmas at the Manor, which was also really exciting. It was nice to just be with my community and enjoy each other. I feel like we haven’t gotten to really enjoy each other in a long time. It was also fun decorating with the boys—I think Amy and I both agree that Pat and Joe make life a lot more fun in general. I lament that I didn’t grow up with brothers (lucky Amy—she has two!—David, I still love you, even if we didn’t grow up in the same house).

At any rate, the rest of the week has been a blur. All I know is that tonight was a wonderful night, and a good reminder of why I work in ministry—and love my job. I had the whole thing planned beautifully and nothing went like I planned it, and that’s the best part. The “community” that I have been working on forming all semester became alive today as each of the girls had something that they really needed to get off her chest or talk about or cry about and the rest of the community was completely there for her. We laughed, we cried, and we just enjoyed each other. It must certainly have been like a foretaste of heaven—or of the garden before the fall—for us all. I’m tired as I write this from my desk, knowing I have a 25 minute drive home and that it’s going to be a long weekend, but I’m filled with a joy and a hope for the future of the BCC and the world at large. I spent my evening with seven young women who I know will change the world, even if, as one of them said, it is only by raising her kids to see the world differently and to love others as Christ loves. I am just so grateful that I’ve been given the opportunity to know them and to serve them, to learn from them, and, most importantly, to love them. What a beautiful gift.

So, goodnight world. I give to you, my friends, these prayer requests: for Fr. Mike’s continued healing and strength, for the parish of St. Patrick’s Church and those who are leading them, for my students as we go on retreat this weekend and for Fr. Jeff and I that we are able to lead them and bring them closer to Christ, and for all families who struggle this Advent—in health, from unemployment or underemployment, from grief, sadness, or distress. May Christ find room in all our hearts this Christmas.

My gingerbread ornament broke. 

Patrick, the Ornament Doctor, decided he had to fix her. 

 Ginger, as Pat named her, goes under the knife.
 The surgery was long and difficult...
 But she got all better! Thanks, Pat!!
 Our tree... or, trees. Amy decided to put ornaments in our permanent tree as well!
 Pat's stocking-- he loves Bagels, he's from NY.
 Amy, the Disney Princess
 Joe's stocking with airplanes
 My stocking, of course, with Elvis!!

I also made stockings for Matt, Natalie, and Michelle but I don't have pictures of those right now. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Allergic to Religion? (INHEM Notes)

When I got back from Dallas, I had the opportunity to attend the Indiana Network for Higher Education (INHEM) Connections Conference.

Here are the notes on the Keynote Presentation:

Keynote Presentation: “Allergic to Religion: The ‘Spiritual but not Religious’” by Dr. Linda Mercadante (Professor of Theology at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio; Healthy Beliefs- Healthy Spirit at

·      Religion is not an alien territory, it is God’s home for us.
·      In her family, religion was not a good thing—her Jewish mother associated religion, particularly Christianity, with the killing of Jews.
·      She was a newspaper reporter on a diocesan paper and then became an atheist.
·      “Unfettered Beliefs, Untethered Practice” – her Henry Luce Theology Award… she was investigating an ethos which
o      rejects all organized religion
o      feels all religions are the same
o      minimizes belief—belief doesn’t matter
o      is highly individualistic
o      verges on the non-theistic
o      experiments with monism, pantheism, paganism, and dualism
·      This is a generalized, large ethos that is coming on like a tsunami and we’re on the shore
·      Outline for her talk:
o      What’s going on
§       social, intellectual, demographic changes
o      Changes within organized religion
§       “Spiritual but not Religious” movement (SBNR)
o      Strategies going forward
§       What to avoid, what to promote
o      Hope and Challenge
·      Surveys confirm a dramatic change
o      Pew Forum
o      News Week (“A Post-Christian Nation”)
o      Parade Magazine
o      every few months since 2007, there’s another survey about religion
·      Decline in religious loyalty: 6 in 10 Americans have switched religions at least once
·      A less “Protestant” America
o      In 1992, >66% was Protestant
o      In 2007, <51%
o      In 2011, even lower
·      There has been a rise in the “Unaffiliated”
o      This is the largest growth of any group
o      In 1990, 8%
o      In 2007, 16%
o      In 2011, 20-25%
o      And this is especially among millenials (among millenials it may be as high as 75%)
·      Decline in Religious Involvement
o      50% rarely or never attend services
o      22% say Religion has no place in their lives
o      24% say they are “spiritual but not religious”
·      Why is this happening?
o      Changes in social landscape
o      Changes in intellectual landscape
o      Demographic changes
·      Social Changes
o      Rise in diversity of religion and ethnicity
o      Decline in “felt” importance of religion
o      Disaffiliation and unaffiliation
§       The millenials and gen x’s are not bothered by a lack of identity (as a member of one of these groups, I would disagree with this. We’re ALWAYS talking about “finding ourselves.”)
o      More (religiously) mixed marriages
o      Less children are being raised with religion
o      Competition and the “Spiritual Marketplace”
§       America is like a spiritual mall
o      Mix of religion and politics
·      Intellectual Changes
o      Fragmentation of knowledge, information, roles, meanings, etc.
§       There is an information explosion, but it causes fragmentation
§       We have fragmented roles that keep us from having a core identity
o      There are no longer claims of a universal truth—we hide behind subjectivity
o      Humans have lost their place—we’ve lost the sense of being human beings created by God and having a special place in the universe.
o      In the midst of the chaos, each human is alone to create their own meaning.
§       Bricolage
§       Spiritual Tinkerers
·      Changes in Belief Patterns
o      Believing without Belonging?
o      Hybridity
o      Syncretism
o      Anti-rationality—reason is not to be trusted
§       In AA, they say that “your best thinking got you here,” in other words, don’t trust your own reason
§       “Leave your mind at the door.”
o      Retreat into emotive, experiential
·      Demographic Changes—Seven Key Trends
o      Delayed marriage—this means we’re waiting longer and longer for the prodigals to come back to church
o      Fewer children and later
o      uncertainties in work and money—maybe I’ll have to move, so I don’t want to make ties at this church or parish; maybe I’ll have to work on Sundays; I don’t want to join when I don’t know if I’ll have money to tithe
o      Higher Education—young people are exposed to more and more
o      Loosening Relationships—people are afraid to commit
o      Globalization—leads to spiritual tinkerers
o      Information Explosion
·      Spirituality has become a big business—look at all the different ads on tv for “spiritual” or religious groups
·      SBNR ethos is shaping American faith
o      many are less loyal
o      many within religion are increasingly attracted to the eclectic spirituality of SBNR
·      “Unchurched Spirituality is gradually reshaping the personal faith of many who belong to mainstream religious organizations.” –Robert Fuller
·      Example: one of her friends is Mennonite, but claims to find God through Buddhist meditation.
·      “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” (Christian Smith at ND) is what my generation is looking for.
·      “Moralistic” to my generation means
o      act so other people will like you (Jesus didn’t do this)
o      fulfill your personal potential
o      don’t be socially disruptive (He certainly didn’t do this)
o      Don’t be interpersonally obnoxious
o      Feel good about yourself
·      “Therapeutic”
o      The goal is to feel good, happy, secure, and at peace.
o      Gain subjective well being
o      Able to solve problems.
o      get along with others
·      “Deism”—a mild form of theism
o      18 Century Deism with a twist… the distant God is selectively available for taking care of your needs.
o      God is a divine creator, lawgiver, keeps a safe distance, and is not demanding.
o      God’s job is to solve your problems, make you feel good, not get too personally involved
o      God is the divine butler and cosmic therapist.
·      Basic tenets of “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” (MTD):
o      God exists, created, watches over
o      The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about yourself and your life
o      Good people go to Heaven
o      All religions teach these things, so we don’t have to choose one.
·      What does it mean to be SBNR?
o      3rd largest group among young adults, after Roman Catholic and Baptist.
o      More among Gen Xers and Millenials (can I just say I hate these terms?)
o      Less likely to attend services of any kind
o      about 20% of Americans and 50% of unaffiliated are SBNR
o      Show little interest in church attendance and orthodox beliefs
o      Ethos prevalent in much of the industrialized west (I saw it particularly in Italy).
o      More likely to practice alternative spiritualities
o      More interest in mysticism
o      More likely to experiment with unorthodox beliefs and practices
o      Negative feelings towards clergy and churches
o      The idea that being an SBNR is a badge of honor
o      Religion is seen as a roadblock
§       Many reject claims to absolute truths
§       many believe religion demands abdication of personal liberty
§       many feel entitled to be patrons rather than subscribers… not have to have loyalties to partake
o      Trying to separate spirituality and religion
§       spiritual vs. material
§       individual vs. institutional—people don’t trust institution/authority
§       Interior vs. exterior
§       private vs. public
o      What do they believe?
§       there is something sacred—a universal energy source… no actual God, it’s an energy that you plug into and use as you like.
§       human nature—the self becomes God, the self is sacred… there is no God that is outside you.
§       community vs. freedom—not a lot of community, there is no long term relationship or commitment to community
§       life after death—balancing between feeling of eternity and individuality with a droplet going back into a pool of water… energy returning to energy
o      There’s a lot of hybridity here.
·      There is an emerging meta narrative here…
o      We are all one.
o      There is no personal God out there. Instead, he’s a universal energy source that exists but is non-conscious, non-communicative.
o      We are on par with nature
o      The self is sacred
o      You need to find your “true self”
o      Tradition stifles the individual
o      nothing left when we die, except perhaps energy
·      How different is this? She gives a long comparison to the Abrahamic traditions, but I think we all know these.
·      What are possible outcomes?
o      secularization like Europe?
o      highly individualized spiritual practices?
o      Changes in social structure?
o      More egalitarian, less community?
o      New Reformation?
o      “Leaner” more effective religions?
·      This may be the most dramatic religious, intellectual, and social change since Christendom took root in Europe.
·      Strategies that WON’T work:
o      Condemning
o      denying
o      minimizing it
o      ignoring it
·      Style vs. content
o      Some congregations won’t change their style, but will change their content.
o      Some change style but won’t change their content… won’t address contemporary needs… or, more positively, won’t give up their basic beliefs.
o      Can we change our style while still promoting our core content?
·      A generalized spirituality is inadequate to provide
o      a moral compass
o      individual and corporate responsibility
o      real human identity
o      guidance for spiritual formation
o      true moral freedom
o      lasting conversion
o      clear, guiding vision
·      Promising strategies
o      revitalizing our own faith
o      communicating our spiritual experience
o      creatively encountering SBNRs
o      Thinking theologically about our culture.
o      Becoming the alternative—the counter culture (isn’t this what the Catholic Church was originally?)
·      Possible Scenarios?
o      Organized religion as
§       counter-cultural
§       niche-oriented
§       believing and belonging
§       community and credibility
§       open minded yet confident and trusting
·      Good news…
o      this generation is seeking
o      many want to talk theology
o      searching for meaningful spiritual practices (Catechetically, this means we need stop saying, “We do this because it’s tradition” and start showing them why what we do has meaning.)
o      searching for spiritual community
o      31% of millenials list being spiritual or close to God as one of their life goals.
·      Things to avoid:
o      unclear, anemic worship
o      lack of confidence and joy
o      over organizing
o      judgment, intolerance
o      stunting enthusiasm and creativity
o      top-down leadership
o      minimizing the spiritual experience
o      separating mind and body in worship
o      squelching honest questions and doubts
o      theology disconnected from life experience
·      Things to do:
o      be hopeful
o      show vital community
o      listen, listen, listen
o      figure out what’s been missing in their lives
o      renew your own faith

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

UDMC Notes, 2012

I apologize for the length of this post, but I wanted to share my notes from UDMC this year. It was a great conference.

University of Dallas Ministry Conference
28-29 October, 2011

Session I: Developing Lay Ecclesial Ministry by Francis Cardinal George (born in Chicago in 1937, 1st native Chicagoan to become bishop of Chicago)

·      Cardinal George wishes to address 4 points
  1. Ecclesiology/Theology of the Church: we must start with relationships
  2. Integrate Ministries into mission: take a look at the relationship between Church and the world. In Vatican II, the Church is called the “Sacrament of the Unity of the Human Race.”
  3. Culture: Sacraments, Community, Ecclesiology
  4. Lay Ecclesial Ministries
·      The development of the Lay Ecclesial Minister is a “Sign of the Times.”
·      In our culture, there is an idea that what you do equals who you are, this is inaccurate.
·      “Ministry begins not with control, but in going to others on their terms.”
·      Cardinal George wants to avoid the term cleric—a cleric is someone who is not accountable to a superior and so as Catholics we shouldn’t use this term.
·      Relatedness is primordial; we are in relationship before we understand the concept of “I.”
·      Only relationships are eternal.
·      “Communio” is basic and important to Vatican II. It is used many times. We miss this in English because they use several different words to translate it.
o      It is used more than 200 times in Lumen Gentium.
·      We have to rethink community if we are going to be Vatican II Catholics.
·      Vatican II wanted to understand the Church as relationships, not worried about the state as an institution but the culture of the people.
·      How does the Church address the world in order to change the world?—this is our mission.
·      We don’t want to be isolated, sectarian.
·      The purpose of Vatican II was not to just change the Church, it was to change the Church so that we could change the world. It was to enable us to clean up our act so that we could convert the world.
·      It’s not shaping the state, it’s shaping the culture that we must try to do. [I would argue that in shaping the culture of a republic like the US, we would be shaping the state.]
·      Cardinal George discussed the protestant background of the US
·      This protestant background still shapes us, which impedes us in our own faith lives.
·      The Church’s voice is inside, it’s a mother’s voice—it teaches us, tells us how to think, what to do.
·      A gift is a commodity with a person attached, you accept the gift but also the person.
·      We share the gifts of Christ.
·      The purpose of ministry is to share the gifts.
·      Our ministries should be welcoming.
·      Sacraments create a new world.
·      If you can’t govern and can’t care for people, don’t become a priest.
·      Start with Christ as pastor and that explains everything else.
·      You cannot be a priest without a people.
·      We all have titles—that title involves the relationship. To think of only the title without the relationship negates the title.
·      Lay—of the world; Ecclesial—of the Church; Ministry—bringing people closer to Christ.
·      Lay Ecclesial Ministry—Participation in pasturing without the sacrament of Holy Orders.
·      In Lay Ecclesial Ministry, we are the Church relating to the Church. Disciple relating to disciple, not head to body.
·      You need a call from the head of the Church, calling you to be Christ not just to the world, but to other disciples.
·      It is a vocation within a vocation.
·      Formation in Lay Ecclesial Ministry has four components:
  1. Invisible—the Call from God. This is an urgency, a sense that God is calling me to serve beyond what I’m already doing.  It is a call to be in relationship to other disciples to make them holier.
  2. Skills acquisition—Academic. This should not be the most important part, but you cannot be a good Lay Ecclesial Minister without it.
  3. Along with that, personal formation is important. “Together in God’s Service” is the formation program in Chicago. Personal formation is as important as academic formation. Lay Ecclesial Ministers are also accountable to the Bishop, just as a priest is.
·      In Chicago, they do the formation and academic eductionation along with the seminarians so that there are less divisions between the two groups.
·      80% of the Lay Ecclesial Ministers in Chicago are women.
·      Examples of Lay Ecclesial Ministers: DREs and Pastoral Associates
  1. Commissioning—Lay Ecclesial Ministers are commissioned by the diocese. If the parish can’t afford a Lay Ecclesial Minister or cuts the program, the diocese sees to it that the Lay Ecclesial Minister is reassigned. Ministry for the sake of mission.

Session II: Called to be Prophets and Poets by Dr. Robert McCarty

·      We must look at our ministry through the lenses of prophet and poet.
·      Without the prophetic core, we lapse into stagnation. Without the poetic core, we lapse into self righteousness and exhaustion.
·      Objectives:
o      Discipleship as call to be prophet and poet.
o      3 skills that a Prophet and poet needs
o      The good news that motivates us
·      Prophet:
o      Prophets are the audible voice and the visible sign of the invisible God’s love and compassion.
o      A prophet reminds the establishment what it was established for, reminds us of our mission.
o      The prophet takes the inaudible God and makes him audible.
o      Tells the stories of the marginalized.
o      Who is telling the stories of poverty in the US?
o      Prophets are usually reluctant. We’re not born prophets, not born courageous—we become prophets, we become courageous.
o      What excuses do we make?
o      Five step movement in prophesy:
1.     Assess the situation:
o      look around, see the injustice, name what we see, avoid the conspiracy of silence.
o      The last century was split by the holocausts, epidemics, wars.
o      The prophet has to see it and name it.
o      Oscar Romero was considered safe and middle of the road. They thought he wouldn’t be a problem for the government. It took a friend’s death to make him see.
o      Thomas Merton—we should always read with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.
2.     Characterized by speech: no, never, never again.
o      hypersensitive to evil
o      not afraid to speak the truth to power.
o      they ask the hard questions: “How do we…” “Why is it…”
o      “Prophets are a pain in the neck.”
o      Jesus was annoying because of what he says.
o      This is what prophets do—they see and speak out.
3.     Prophesy is anchored in mission and flows from mission
o      Prophets are not judged by their success but by their staying true to the word.
4.     Pathos: Prophesy is characterized by tears.
o      Injustice can seem overwhelming.
o      compassion for the human condition
o      having a moist heart—combination of compassion and tears (a Native American saying)
5.     Leads to a new situation
o      The prophet is transformed by hope
o      “Hope has two lovely daughters: anger and courage.” -Augustine
o      Harness the anger on behalf of change
o      Prophets have to be believed or killed.
o      “To be truly involved in life is prophetic. To be a prophet without experiencing the pain of rejection, failure, and being misunderstood is impossible.” –Robert Wicks
o      We also shouldn’t care about that rejection. Keep going anyways.
o      Dr. McCarty was asked by a High School student, “Why did Jesus get whacked in the first place?” – this is the essential question.
o      If we don’t get this, we don’t get anything.
o      Jesus gets whacked because he redefined the kingdom: “The first shall be last…”—he ticked off the first.
o      We’re part of the first!
o      Jesus was radical compassion.
o      How much do we love those who seem unlovable?
o      Reflection Questions:
o      Where in your ministry do you feel like a prophet?
o      What are the costs?
o      What are the payoffs?
o      Who have been prophets who spoke to you, challenged you?
·      Poet:
o      It’s not enough to do for Jesus, we also have to be in Jesus.
o      A bishop was once asked, “Which do you love more: working for the kingdom of God or God?” Afterwards, he added another hour of prayer to his day.
o      The prophet emphasizes the work on behalf of the kingdom, the poet emphasizes relationship with God.
o      If our commitment to Jesus is complete, then our lives will be lived in holy communion with Him.
o      Only when there is genuine conversion will justice win.
o      Don’t just do something, sit there… this is the ministry of being.
o      “The Christian of the next century will be a mystic or nothing at all.” Karl Rahner
o      Our mystics and not our theologians will be the better chance of relating to our young people.
o      Learn to sit in the presence
o      The Ministry of Being
§       “I do mission.” – Prophet
§       “I am mission.” -Poet
o      Just sitting and waiting with people who are hurting is part of the mission
o      To be a poet, we must practice Sabbath.
o      We must recapture Sabbath theology
o      To live in Sabbath time means to be attuned to the holiness in time.
o      Poets talk about time in terms of the second act, the third stanza… their language is different than hours and minutes.
o      It’s about being in time so we can stop and listen to what we are called to do in time.
o      Being present to the moment
o      Are we living fast or are we living deep?
o      It’s challenging to be in the moment right now.
o      Unconditional love is a part of the poet
o      Our culture encourages us to run form experience to experience. We become experience junkies who collect experiences without dwelling on them.
o      We must be a person of prayer in order to live deep.
o      We will not encounter love by living fast.
o      To practice Shavat:
§       Learn to stop.
§       Busyness can cause blindness (or death).
§       Become attentive.
§       Leisure is closely allied to Sabbath.
o      Let’s put ourselves in time out.
o      To practice Sabbath is to practice re-creation: creativity, artistic expression
§       Recreation in community
§       festivity and delight
§       people of joy
o      Sabbath repairs the world.
o      We put a limit on Sabbath joy, but this should not be so.
o      Remember, the only thing that Jesus makes for dinner is reservations.
o      We have this idea: “Don’t be too happy, it’s clearly got to be sinful.”
o      Only Catholics could have invented Lent (they were probably Irish Catholics), but only Catholics could have invented Mardi Gras (the French).
o      Our wonder quotient: when did we last experience wonder and awe?
o      Reflection Questions:
§       When in my ministry do I most feel like a poet?
§       What have been the costs?
§       What have been the payoffs?
§       Who are poets for me?
·      Prophet and Poet: When we put these two together, we get holiness.
o      Mary and Martha—we need to be both Mary and Marth to be holy.
o      Holy Thursday—breaking bread and washing feet
·      We are called to be a both/and kind of people.
·      People of devotion and people of Catholic Social Teaching. People of Paul/Peter; Gentile/Jew; Great Cathedrals/Great Soup Kitchens; Progressive/traditional.
·      Prophet: Good Friday and the Crucifixion, Poet: Easter and the Resurrection.
·      3 Skills:
·      Pay Attention. It is heroic to pay attention. Name the false idols and false values.
o      Redefine the kingdom.
o      If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention.
o      Success is a false message.
o      If relationships are only about use, it’s not a relationship.
o      Failure to notice the false messages leads to corruption.
o      There is a cost to being a true Christian: Romero, MLK Jr.
o      In 2009, 23 Catholic missionaries were murdered for their faith.
o      But pay attention also to the good, to the presence of God.
o      Collect moments of grace—those moments are clearly sacramental.
o      The consequences of the moment
·      Speak the Truth gently.
o      Speaking gently as opposed to speaking forcefully and egotistically
o      What truth can the poor speak to us?
o      The spirituality of the oppressed—the call to conversion
o      “I tell you this so that you might have life and have it abundantly.”
o      Oscar Romero said that the poor are preaching in El Salvador and their truth shall set us free.
o      How we treat the powerless is the real test of the Christian.
o      Jesus named the evil, called for repentance.
o      The call to conversion: turning away and turning towards.
o      Through word and witness
o      As gentle as Mother Teresa was, her message was not gentle.
o      We are called to speak the truth by what we say and what we do.
·      Get a dream.
o      It’s all about the size of your dream.
o      The societal dream versus a dream worthy of reckless abandon
o      We must have a dream that’s worthy of reckless abandon, that’s worth grabbing onto, worthy of an adventure.
o      Remember the power of the faith of a mustard seed.
o      We’ve been sold the wrong dream, the dream of a culture of death.
o      The Jesus dream—Jesus reading from Isaiah. He announced the reign of God and signed his death warrant.
o      The reign of God is the Jesus dream, that’s the message.
·      To speak about God is one thing, but to dare to speak for God requires great arrogance and great humility.
·      There is a challenging and transforming aspect of the Good News.
·      Are we afraid that the Gospel has lost its power?
·      We must proclaim clearly with a prophetic and poetic voice that darkness doesn’t win.
·      Are we more joyful? Are we more loving? peaceful? forgiving? courageous?
·      If you want to be happy for an hour, take a nap. If you want to be happy for a day, go fishing. If you want to be happy for a month, get married. If you want to be happy forever, serve God. [I’m not sure how I feel about marriage only bringing a month of happiness… but he did laugh when he said it.]

Session III: Teaching on Tough Issues: Practical Tips for Helping God’s People Embrace Challenging Truths by Ken Ogorek

  •  Never mistake resistance on your part for error on the Church’s part.
  • When we feel discomfort, we take this discomfort and then automatically think the teaching needs to change.
  • We have to ask God for help to understand the reasoning and to change ourselves.
  • God reveals some of his preferences to us—we are not groping blindly in the dark.
  • For instance, God’s preference for forgiving sin is in the sacrament of confession. While this is the preferred way, it’s not the only way. We can’t put God into a box.
  • Fullness of truth is important
  • God loves us so much that He blesses the Church with his fullness of truth.
  • The hierarchy of truths is taught poorly and then sounds like it says that moral relativism is okay.
  • If the hierarchy of truths is taught poorly, it leads to being a Cafeteria Catholic.
  • If it’s in the CCC, it’s all true.
  • The truth of the trinity is necessary to teach baptism in the name of the trinity. Hence, it’s core.
  • Never mistake a clever argument for the truth.
  • There is no higher authority than an individual’s INFORMED conscience.
  • There are moral absolutes.
  • An act can be intrinsically evil where there can be no set of circumstances where it isn’t evil.
  • It’s so easy to believe something is okay if our end is good.
  • Not only do our goals have to be good, but our means do as well.
  • Sexuality is a beautiful gift from a loving God. We have to look at the gift as it is given to us, how it comes naturally.
  • Coins: the gift of sexuality has two sides just like a coin. One side is unitive, the other is procreative. When you separate the two sides of a coin, it is no longer a coin.
  • Every use of sexuality should respect both sides.
  • JPII imagined this like a diamond with four points. The four points are free, faithful, fruitful, and total.
  • Faithful—exclusive
  • Fruitful—open to new life
  • total—not holding back on any aspect of who you are.

Session IV: Leading With Soul by Dr. Lee Bolman (professor at UMKC)
Note: This lecture was not at all what I expected after reading the description, however, it was an enjoyable session.

·      Wrote the book Leading with Soul for business leaders who are trying to be leaders addressing the soul as well as the business world. Leadership Spirituality
·      The book is not addressed to a particular religious faith
·      Modern leaders do not know how to talk about faith and morals.
·      How can we talk about leadership spiritually but ecumenically?
·      Qualities of Great Leadership
o      Focus—a clear sense of direction
o      Passion—rooted in love. When you love your work, the people you’re with, and the place you’re at, it’s easy to be passionate.
o      Courage—even leaders who aren’t in danger of getting killed face real risks.
o      Wisdom—to decide what to do.
o      Integrity—People only follow those they trust.
·      Extraordinary leaders are people of extraordinarily powerful, deep faith.
·      For many people, that deep faith is a challenge.
·      What is soul?
o      CCC on soul—“Soul signifies the spiritual principle in man.”
o      His preferred definition: a bedrock sense of self—who you are, values, what I really believe in
·      The search for soul as a lifelong journey.
·      So, in this definition of soul, it can be characteristic of a couple.
·      This idea of soul could also apply to an organization.
·      Soul makes a huge difference in whether an organization succeeds.
·      Soul as a core ideology.
·      Companies should have a core ideology.
·      You should focus on something deeper than the bottom line in business, something deeper and more important than the profit.
·      For companies, profits should be like oxygen—necessary, but not the purpose.
·      Poem by Rumi:
All day I think about it,
then at night I say it.
Where did I come from,
and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere,
I'm sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.
·      Questions about origin, purpose, meaning, destination…these are the basic spiritual questions.
·      The twin faiths of technology and consumerism are not making us happy.
·      There’s got to be something more to life than shiny new technology.
·      Joseph Campbell—The Hero’s Journey
·      There’s really only one story people care about and they care about it so much that they keep retelling it.
·      3 Parts of the spiritual journey
  1. Leaving home—escaping shackles of convention
  2. The Quest—entering the wilderness, plunging the depths, confronting demons
  3. Returning Home—Armed with gifts earned on the quest
·      Clip from The Lion King: Simba following Rafiki through the woods to see the reflection
·      Antonio Machado
·      Walt Whitman—Passage to India
·      Leadership gifts that we as leaders can give to others:
o      Authorship: helping other paint their own canvas. Art is important because of the making f it and the pride in being able to make, produce, and create. As parents or leaders, we sometimes do things for others that they really should do themselves.
o      Power: enabling others to feel they make a difference. We make others feel they can make a difference.
o      Love: Caring, compassion… we must choose the person or the relationship over the meeting.
o      Significance: Find meaning in contribution; is what we’re doing important? What the heck is it all about?
·      Clip from Ghandi… a leaders gives all four of these in two minutes to a total stranger—redemption is possible.
·      “I know a way out of Hell…”
·      Ghandi showed compassion
·      Rather than judging, he asks why
·      Penance and reconciliation
·      another Rumi poem
In this world you have three companions:
One is faithful, the others are treacherous.
The latter are friends and possessions;
the faithful one is excellence in deeds.
Your wealth won’t come with you out of your palace;
your friend will come, but only as far as the grave.
When the day of doom comes to meet you,
your friend will say, “I’ve come this far, but no farther.
I will stand a while at your grave.”
Your deeds alone are faithful: make them your refuge,
for they alone will accompany you into the depths of the tomb.

Session V: What Does the Catholic Church teach about Evolution? by Dr. John Norris (UD Theology professor)

Note: I took a class with Dr. Norris on this topic, so my notes are pretty bare. If you want more information, I’ll have to get you my class notes. Sorry!

·      We live in a two truth world: science and faith
·      Evolutionary Theory: Random mutations at the genetic level were passed on through offspring. These random mutations help the individual with these traits to survive more than others. Eventually the variation is distinct enough that there is no interbreeding and there is a separate species.
·      Evolutionary problems for theology:
o      What role does randomness mean in evolution?
o      How does survival of the fittest describe human existence?
o      In what sense is God no longer necessary to help understand the world? Is God just the God of the gaps?
·      Philosophical Materialism—Dawkins: God as a God of the gaps… in this theory
o      random mutation denies any kind of divine causality or creation
o      God is merely a God of the gaps and is no longer necessary when the gaps are explained.
o      Science is a primary means of knowing.
·      Principles for a Catholic Approach to the relationship between faith and science
o      Truth does not contradict truth.
o      Revelation and Theology come from God.
o      Church teaching is inspired by God.
·      We can sort of have a playroom together for scientists and theologians.
·      Dei Filius—problems arise from theology making claims that are faulty or beyond its competence… same thing from science. Both have their own domains, methods, and limitations.
·      Barbour’s 4 models of interactions between faith and science: Conflict, Independence, Dialogue, and Integrations
·      Growth and Change in Catholic theology
o      John Cardinal Newman
o      Semper Idem—always the same… this is not true in Catholic history.
o      There’s a continuity, but also authentic development
o      Recognition of proper authority of levels of teaching

Session VI— Catechist as Witness: Embracing Jesus, The Way, The Truth, and The Life by Dr. Diana Dudoit Raiche, Ph.D.

·      John 14:6… Judas has just left the last supper and Jesus says that he must go where they cannot go.
·      Who is Jesus? Who is Jesus for me? When did you become aware of Jesus as the Son of God?
·      It is the relationship with Jesus that is critical for every catechist. It invites, calls, propels us to become leaders.
·      We do it because it is Good News and we’ve been called.
·      My teaching is not my own, but it is from the one who sent me. Christ said this and so do we.
·      1 Corinthians 15:3
·      NDC calls for witnesses to the faith
·      CCC states that at the heart of Catechesis is Jesus (CCC 426)
·      Catechesi Tradendae
·      As human beings, we mirror the actions of Judas, Peter’s denial, Thomas’ doubt, John’s loyalty, Mary Magdalene’s awe.
·      Each of us carries within us a way of understanding Jesus was given to us.
·      The Jesus we know and experience is the only one we can share with others.
·      We have four lenses to look at Jesus:
  1. Mystery
  2. Myth
  3. Messiah
  4. Man
·      As we think, we believe. As we believe, we act.
·      Jesus as Mystery:
o      Mark 4:11—Jesus says the mystery of the Kingdom has been granted to you.
o      Dr. Raiche always begins her classes with a discussion of the Kingdom of God.
o      You can’t not believe in heaven if you’re with a dying person who has deep faith.
o      The key to grasping mystery comes through experiencing it in history. –Karl Rahner
o      Modern day search for mystery—we look in all the wrong places.
·      Jesus as Myth:
o      When we consider Jesus as myth, it’s when we take Jesus off the cross. We want a tame Christ. (He’s not a tame lion. – C.S.L.)
o      When we think of the myth of scripture, it must be grounded in a firm faith.
·      Jesus as Messiah:
o      The woman at the well attests to Jesus as the Messiah
o      Jesus as Lord… he receives this title on many, many occasions.
o      Every good Catechist shares their faith story. How did you come to understand who Jesus is and who he is for you?
·      Jesus as Man, the son of Mary and Joseph:
o      Central theme of Christian anthropology… grace
o      Catechesis is a work of evangelization. Jesus is the context of that evangelization.
o      We must guard our truths very carefully… blood was shed in the streets to establish our doctrine.
o      once we accept Jesus, we can be catechized.
o      You cannot give to someone what they are not willing to accept.

Session VII: Together on the Journey of Hope: Reflections on the Responsibilities of Lay Catholics for treatment of Migrants and Immigrants by Dr. John Norris

·      USCCB document, “Strangers No Longer” (published January 22, 2003) is the source of much of this talk.
·      VII and Cardinal George recap
o      Remember his definition of church as the sacrament of the unity of humanity.
o      We have to get the Church’s act together so that it can make a difference in the world for the better.
·      Catholics and immigration reform—is there an awareness of Catholic principles among Catholic people? [From what I’ve seen, that would be a resounding no.]
·      How can we best teach people about Catholic teachings on immigration?
·      Authority Level of social justice teaching
o      Some think that because this teaching isn’t infallible or longstanding, it’s not important for Catholic teaching
o      There are principles that are part of Catholic dogma included in social teaching… for example, human dignity.
·      Prudential Application—there is a lot of spectrum for how one applies principles of dogma.
·      Those who seek to migrate are suffering.
·      Many are tragically dying
·      Human rights are being abused
·      Catholics must be concerned about this
·      We believe human being have rights that are inherent to their dignity… these rights are being abused.
·      Families are being kept apart.
·      Racist/xenophobic attitudes
·      John XXIII
·      Principles of Catholic faith are looked at as a means for arguing for reform. Examples: VII and the Church in the modern world, Common good and natural law theory.
·      Some think we are just supposed to be individuals and not ask for systematic reform… this is wrong
·      Our government is not working right and we have a responsibility to speak out. This is part of our call to be prophets mentioned in session II.
·      It is a Lay Responsibility to make these reforms happen—make a difference in the world.
·      Lumen Gentium emphasizes that all Christians are Christ-like and so called to be prophet and king.
·      We must see the injustice and stand up, do something about it.
·      In this process, we have to accept that people of good faith can have different visions and disagree.
·      Exodus 23:9—You shall not oppress a resident alien.
·      We must be grateful for things we did not earn—we did not earn being American.
·      Matthew 25:35-36
·      Christ welcomes the stranger
·      If we’re going to be Christians and think all human beings have human dignity, we must be welcoming
·      Gaudium et Spes
·      This is the heart of the Church in the modern world and we must protect it.
·      Emphasis on personal charity in the pastoral letter:
o      Economic Theory
o      Political Responsibility
o      Universal Human Rights
o      International Accords
·      Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families.
o      Like Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of private property—it is considered moral to steal bread if you have no other way of feeding yourself.
o      Private property is not an absolute right.
o      Neither are government boundaries.
·      All the goods of the earth belong to all people.
·      Sovereign Nations have the right to control their borders, but not merely for the purpose of acquiring additional wealth.
·      The human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected.
·      Focus on the term “undocumented,” not “illegal.”
·      Government policies that respect human rights of undocumented migrants are necessary.
·      The USCCB’s vision is balanced. They recognize protecting rights of US families and workers, recognizing rights to protect borders, but also recognizing the rights of the migrant.
·      The sovereign state may impose reasonable limits on immigration
·      Nations able to receive migrants should do so whenever possible.
·      There are people called to prophesy and people called to diplomacy… not necessarily to both.
·      Prophets must not overstate their case and must not be disrespectful.
·      We have to be careful what we say as prophets—some of the stupid things said at rallies and marches have hurt the cause more than helped.
·      The Bishops’ call:
o      support for migrant and immigrant families
o      hospitality, not hostility for migrant families along their journey
o      Migrant shelters that provide appropriate pastoral and social services.
o      Work with community to address the causes of undocumented migration—1st world nations like the US enter into development of these countries, but we only do so for our own benefit.
o      Help newcomers to integrate
o      Special attention for migrant and immigrant children—educational support for undocumented young people.
o      Dedicate resources to provide pastoral care for migrants who are detained or incarcerated.
o      Encourage local diocese to sponsor pertinent social services for migrants.
o      encourage local parishioners to be home missionaries.
o      Earned Legalization
§       for foreign nationals of good character
§       create a path to citizenship
o      Future worker program to permit foreign born workers to enter the country legally and safely
§       should include safeguards against displacement of US workers
·      Questions to consider:
o      How are we prophets?
o      Do we profit from the work of migrants?
·      Alabama Law—criminalizes anyone who has any contact with a migrant worker who does not turn him/her in.
·      This is not right. Christian religions must have the opportunity to provide charity and help.
·      Comparison to Nazi Germany at the beginning…
·      Change should be welcoming and Christ-like, not losing our identity.
·      Change should be slow and communal.
·      A lot of times what we’re doing is accommodating and separating. That’s not communal.