March 2014

 

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March 2014
 

 

Dear Friend,

 

We’ve been freezing our way through the winter-at least 60% of the United States anyhow-and we look forward to the first signs of spring. Here in Washington, DC, we are getting predictions about when the cherry blossoms will sprout-but they’ve been wrong on that one before.

As we look toward warmer weather, we might think about special outreaches we can make:

  • Holy Week and Easter-a perfect time to invite people to think about joining you in Church. Services are more elaborate and choirs are usually at their best. If you are having a special “Vespers” or “Tenebrae” celebration, spread the invitation far and wide.
  • Stations of the Cross, held in procession, can be an excellent way to witness, touch other people, invite them along, and get them to know your church
  • Easter Vigil is the liturgical blowout of the season. Make sure that those entering the Church feel welcomed, and welcome their friends and neighbors. This is an excellent way for them to witness to their newfound faith and way of life.
  • Now is the time to get word out about any concerts associated with school, or Spring events. Make sure everyone knows and feels welcomed.
  • Check out our Neighbors Reaching Neighbors resources to see how you can reach out and draw people closer to Jesus Christ. Click here.

 

Spring is coming. Don’t lose hope!

Peace and blessings.

Fr. Frank DeSiano

Fr. Frank DeSiano, CSP

Lent is now upon us-a time when we celebrate the conversion of those catechumens who are joining the Church at Easter, and a time when we Catholics think about our own ongoing conversion.

There’s a mini-debate going on the church circles today and it basically centers on whether Catholics-the ordinary kind that mostly come to Mass-have experienced conversion. Or whether there is some other, lesser-level kind of religious activity going on in their lives. What, for example, do Catholics have to say to Evangelicals who ask them, “Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?” Often Catholics don’t know what to make of this.

My take in this discussion is twofold: (1) ordinary Catholics are constantly experiencing conversion in one way or another, even if they are not aware of it, or even if they don’t think of it as an experience of conversion; and (2) Catholics would be strengthened if they could identify more clearly the element of conversion in their everyday lives. Of course, none of this means that Catholics, of all stripes, do not need to experience greater conversion in their lives. Of course they do. Everyone does, even the most fervent follower of Jesus. We all say, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Fr. Frank DeSiano, CSP

This is part 2 of a three part reflection which basically tries to raise questions about how evangelization, and the “new” evangelization, can come across. In part 1 I raised questions about how we can look elitist, raising the bar and, indirectly, writing many Catholics out of the ranks of “disciple.” In part 2, I want to explore broader patterns of inclusion and exclusion, urging certain attitudes upon evangelizers. In the final part I will talk about discipleship in more detail.

Read Part I

Catholicism, like all Christian forms of expression, has to parse out some biblical tensions that pull in opposite directions. When Jesus says that the path to salvation is narrow (Matt 7:13), that “many are called, but few are chosen (Matt 22:14),” doesn’t this amount to a kind of gloomy Calvinist viewpoint? Or whereas Mark says that those who are not against us are for us (Mk 9:40), Luke says that those who are not with us are against us (Lk. 11:23). The end of Mark’s Gospel has this phrase: those who refuse to believe will be condemned (Mk. 16:16); on the other hand, 1 Timothy tells us that God “wills all to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4)-a pivotal concept in much Catholic thinking in the second half of the twentieth century, thanks to Karl Rahner, S.J., and other theologians.

This means that Christians have always had an option in reading the Scriptures. We can read them narrowly, emphasizing the radical demands of the Gospel, with only a few being saved. Or we can read them broadly, emphasizing the more universal and inclusive dimensions of the Scriptures. Because our Scriptures come to us after being strained through early conflicts with some segments of Judaism, internal conflicts which we can peek at in First Corinthians and the Letters of John, we can easily look at one line, or one direction of thought, as if it said everything. Yet every believer has to read the Scriptures from the viewpoint of a Redeemer who came for the outcasts and the marginalized, who upset established religious categories, and who affirmed that humankind was not made for the Sabbath, but just the opposite (Mk. 2:27).

 Factoid: Atheism Statistics

It is not easy to know how many atheists there are.  Even the definition of “atheism” is not easy to isolate.  Some people just say they are atheistic when they mean they do not profess a particular religion.  Others say they are atheists when they are actually rejecting a picture of God that few Christians subscribe to.  The statistics come from “Atheist Empire” and undoubtedly push the numbers as high as they can.  Nevertheless, the statistic should prove sobering to believers, and an incentive for us to be clear about who God is, and how we speak of God today.

Compliments of:
Paulist Evangelization Ministries
3031 4th St, NE, Washington, DC | 800.237.5515
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