The Power of Silence vs. thinking too much

There is nothing like a crisis to get one’s mind and emotions churning and grinding incessantly and thus robbing us of peace, of presence of mind and the wisdom we need to determine what step to take next.

It is precisely in a time of crisis one needs to be able to rise above the turbulent thought and emotional stream, to press in to God and the peace of Christ, so as to be able to wisely handle important decisions.  Many a time when we see a friend facing a health or family crisis, we come armed with advice which we give sometimes unsolicited.  But when someone’s mind is overly busy and we’re not the only person giving advice, that individual has no ability to wisely evaluate it.  A well-meaning suggestion could even be experienced as a kick in the solar plexus.  The best thing I think we can do is come alongside someone in this state, pray for them, and help them rise above the thought stream and emotional turmoil by being importunate in prayer until they receive His Peace.  Then, He shows the way, providing a gentle light on the path ahead that illuminates the next step.

I’m thinking of this because I have started reading Cardinal Robert Sarah’s The Power of Silence.  I cannot praise this book or this Cardinal highly enough.

Continue reading

Catholics and evangelization: do we need to learn how to close?

Before I began writing for Catholic papers in 2004, I tried out the dream of being a full-time fiction writer for a year. I had a novel I hoped to get published (The Defilers came out in 2006) and I was already working on a sequel before then. I also attended many  writing conferences, including a big one in Los Angeles by a bestselling author telling us how to become a bestselling authors.

I had a sneaking suspicion that we were in the midst of a multi-level marketing scheme that was making money out of our dreams of getting published. If we followed their advice and signed up for their $1,500 online course on how to do it, we could then learn how to create our own online courses, leverage our networks etc. to help other aspiring authors become bestselling authors.

But I do recall a session by one master marketer on the art of closing a deal. It’s one thing to be out there and touting whatever it is you have to sell, it’s quite another to close the deal, and after answering all the objections, to make the “ask” that results in a “yes” and a sale.

I’ve been thinking about this in relation to Fr. Seraiah’s post about catechesis and why evangelicals have been seemingly more successful in recent decades in getting people to say “yes” to Jesus than Catholics have been in recent years.  Continue reading

Good and Bad Catechesis

“I had six children, and none of them remained Catholic. Father, what did we do wrong?” “We had eight children, raised them all in the Church, and today only one is still Catholic. I guess I’m not much of a parent.” Sadly, I have heard statements like these quite often. If you have not actually said them yourself, you have probably heard someone close to you say it. It is not uncommon, and we all have to admit it. So then, what are we doing wrong?

Why is it so common that children fall away from the faith in this day and age? It is not as though it never happened before, but it is hard to deny that it is more common than it used to be. Sometimes we try to ignore it and assume it is just an anomaly; other times we lament the state of things (and rightly so). Yet, what we cannot do is continue to use the same methods of catechising our children that got us into this situation.

Catechesis; that is the real issue. Yet, catechesis is not just a matter of what we stick in our children’s heads. Most will admit that it is also a matter of HOW we do it. You can catechize in a manner that is detrimental to a child’s faith (and not every parent or catechist thinks about that fact). Just getting children to memorize a few doctrinal details and do a service project does not transmit the faith properly. Furthermore, you can teach the dogmas of the Church in such a way that you bore the children to death with it. If we do not love God’s truth, how can we expect our children to?

Even with that said, however, there is another factor that I believe is missed by most people. That factor is: what else we stick in our children’s heads outside of their formal catechesis. What I speak of here is not merely the right details of education, or the right amount of education; neither quality or quantity is the key. It is a matter of what is destroying that education. One can eat healthy every day of his life, and yet if he ingests poison as well, all the healthy food will not keep him alive. Our ancient English Catholic patrimony is a beautiful thing and it will benefit the Church everywhere for it to be retained. The Anglican heritage is now under the protection of the Roman Catholic Church, and that means that it is safer than it ever was for the previous 500 years. That does not, however, guarantee that it will be passed on properly to the younger generations.

I want my great-grandchildren to enjoy our traditions, but that will not likely be the case unless my children enjoy those traditions today. This means that I cannot just pass on facts to them. I cannot just tell them, “this stuff is great, you should like it too”, because that is not very convincing. Beauty is, of course, beautiful, but that does not mean that our children will automatically see that. They may be “catechized” by the world to think that immorality is more beautiful than the Divine Worship Mass, and this often happens quietly and without notice.

If we think about the past 100 years, there have been radical changes to society. I am not just speaking about technology, but also about the way that we view the Church and its place in the world. Religion as a whole has been steadily marginalized so that it has become nothing more than “a personal opinion”. With the philosophical changes that were occurring in the 20th century and the frenetic pace of technology invading our homes, most families were largely unprepared to deal with it. The saw these changes as merely a neutral issue, and continued to teach their children the same way. Most continued to rely on the Church’s CCD programs, and yet the Church was just as unprepared as were the parents.

We were blindsided both by the entertainment industry (assuming it to be “just entertainment”) as well as the school systems promoting a world devoid of any reference to God. Many parents inadvertently allowed these other sources to gain a heavy influence on children’s moral and spiritual formation. The end result was numerous children who reached maturity and said, “Why should I believe this Church stuff, when there is much more fun available elsewhere?”

Continuing to teach the same things as in years past may be a good thing (truth does not change), but if our methods do not take into consideration the radical changes in society and the means of temptation, then we will steadily become less effective in our catechetical efforts. Parents are supposed to be the “first teachers” and that means that they are supposed to guard against any bad “second teachers” for their children. What other ideas are the children being taught that contradict the faith of our fathers? How do we pass on the truths of our Anglican patrimony that Anglicanorum Coetibus commissions us to do? It cannot be just a matter of transmitting information, we must go deeper than that.

We must consider the broader context of a world that is against us, and the evil one who wants us to fail. We must realize that catechesis happens at Church, at school, and at home; but it also happens in the music we listen to, the shows we watch, and web pages we visit and the character of any teachers that we hire to educate our children. Parents, protect your children’s hearts and minds, for they are the ones who will take this patrimony and hand it on when we have “gone to be with the Lord.”

Anglican patrimony: Morning Prayer and Evensong

In my days as a staunch evangelical, one of the recommended practices was a daily “quiet time” of prayer and Bible reading, preferably done first thing in the morning.

Those whom I recognized as mature in their Christian faith had this kind of daily discipline and when I practiced it, I could see its fruit in my life.

But I confess, it was not always easy to figure out what to read in the Bible on any given day.  Often, we would have a book hot off the press focusing on a particular Bible study that would be part of our Sunday school adult education, requiring readings during the week to give some structure.  It was good to have these books and I learned a lot from them.  On other days, well, it might involve opening the Bible at random and reading for a while, hoping something in the text would come alive for me.   Or I would default to turning to favorite passages and verses.  Maybe I’d find a good commentary online at Christian Classic Ethereal Library to help.  Or I might decide to read Genesis or the Gospel of John or some other book.  But many a morning, I floundered, wondering, okay, time for some Bible study, but what do I read now?  Where do I start?

After coming across Neil Anderson’s The Bondage Breaker and his Freedom in Christ ministries, and saying the detailed prayers of confession, renunciation for such things as involvement in the occult, false teaching, bitterness, lack of forgiveness, and so on, I learned the importance of maintaining my freedom in Christ by daily reciting a statement of faith, and choosing to have an Apostolic faith—whatever that was. I was now in search of such a faith–and thankfully, that search led me with our community into the Catholic Church.

What a joy in that process of deeper conversion to enter the traditional Anglican world, and the pattern of Morning and Evening Prayer, practiced not only by clergy but by lay people as well.  I realized Anderson was reinventing the wheel by re-instituting practices that had been widespread in the Christian world.  Not only did we recite the Apostles’ Creed twice a day, we prayed or sang canticles that are now committed to memory.   And the pattern of Bible readings —Old Testament, New Testament, promise and fulfillment, the steeping in the Psalms every day made it easy to know what to read every day, provided a framework that made you attentive to all of Scripture,  not merely the favored bits that confirmed my prejudices but challenged me against devolving to proof texts.

We await from Rome an approved version of our Divine Offices, but if the approved version of our liturgy is any indication, I think we will be most happy with it.

If you’d like to see a close approximation of what it might look like, John Covert’s Morning and Evening Prayer site follows the Ordo of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and you can join in via conference call from around the world.

 

 

Thanks

When I was a Baptist and switched to become a Presbyterian, I was the only one doing so. None of my Baptist friends were heading in the same direction, and they all thought I was nuts. When I was a Presbyterian and switched to become Anglican, none of my Presbyterian friends were heading in the same direction, and they all thought I was nuts. Some even refused to speak to me again. When I was an Anglican and I made the final switch to become Catholic, something different happened. There were many other Anglicans who were making the same switch. In addition, it was not just a “switch” this time. It was the culmination of a journey.

Having been through various trials in my previous “switches” and having felt so alone, there were times when I thought to myself, “am I and my family the only ones thinking this way?” and it left me uncertain more than once. I believed that I was heading in the right direction and trusted that God would help me to find the truth (whether I liked that truth or not!). Yet I felt down deep inside that there must be others who saw the need for communion with the Church Jesus started.

When a Catholic friend (who had formerly been one of my parishioners when I was a Presbyterian pastor) told me about some Anglicans who wanted to become Catholic, things changed. I started reading about this online, and talking to people on the phone who were thinking the same way that I was. I spoke to a couple of Pastoral Provision priests who had travelled the same journey that I had, and they were encouraging to me in numerous ways. I realized that I was not the only one who thought like this. I realized that the work that God was doing on my heart was going on in other’s hearts as well.

And that is what comes to mind this year on our American celebration of Thanksgiving. I am thankful for those others who travelled on that same path that I did. I am thankful for all those who sought full communion like I did. I am thankful for those scattered brothers and sisters who eventually became members of the Ordinariates. I think of you this year, and greatly appreciate the encouragement that you are to me. I rejoice in knowing that you are all “out there” and that the Church is bigger than this little corner that I live in. So this year, I give thanks to God for all of you; for your journeys have helped to sustain my journey. May God bless you richly.

30 Days of Gratitude of a Father’s Wife

By Andrea Erdman

I am married to a Roman Catholic priest.

I understand the confusion. There are very few of us priest wives out there, and even fewer have small children. Most Catholics have no idea there are any married priests in the world at all. My husband and I have been married for 15 years. He was an ordained Episcopal priest for about 11 years before following a call to leave the Episcopal church and come home to the Catholic Church. We came into full communion with the Catholic Church last year through the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, in accordance with Pope Benedict XVI’s “Anglicanorum Coetibus”. Fr. Jonathan and I have four delightful children together, and one more on the way.

Just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, I have assembled a collection of moments of gratitude from my own meditation and contributions from other Roman Catholic clergy wives of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

1. For the parishioner who offers to wash and fold laundry for a family of six when I have been sick every day in pregnancy. She does this when I’m especially ill and my husband is away for a week at Clergy Assembly, and I’m moved to the point of tears.
2. For the Ordinariate mass, lifting my soul to Heaven with its reverent language and echo of the ancient celebration of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
3. For markers, paper, and church toys occupying tiny hands of my children so I can pray during mass.
4. For our parishioners, who often work as hard as we do to evangelize the Catholic faith, extend service to the poor and needy, and give generously their talent and treasure to our tiny parish. Without every parishioner giving everything they can to the Church in the name of Christ Jesus, we could not succeed in our ambitious church plant.
5. For Fr. Bill Hammer, who welcomes our children to St. Margaret Mary Catholic School on a stewardship basis. Upon hearing of our family’s sacrifice to come into the Catholic Church, he reached out to us and offered to educate them in exchange for what our family could afford to give in stewardship.
6. For Archbishop Kurtz, archbishop of Louisville, who gave my husband a job to support our family.
7. For St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church, who gives our tiny parish a beautiful place to worship and supportive friends to share our ambitious evangelistic ministry.
8. For Pope Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis, and Bishop Lopes, without whom my husband could not be ordained into the Holy Catholic Church.
9. For fast food delivery and carry out on days when our sleepy family pours into our home after late night mass, and the anonymous donor who put $50 in my husband’s mailbox to finance our feast.
10. For the Christmas well-wishers who won’t be giving my husband this suit for Christmas.


11. For all those who understand how a very ill pregnant mom raising four children with a husband who works three jobs might have a home that looks like we are losing a game of Jumanji.
12. For our liturgical MCs (Master of Ceremonies) who lovingly redirect my scatterbrained 7 year old “boat boy” in the mass much like paddles in a pinball game. What would we do without you?
13. For our friends and family who aren’t Catholic, yet love us even when they don’t quite understand us.
14. For ginger, Zofran, and Ritz crackers, because they will help me get through Thanksgiving with guests while pregnant.
15. “Parishioners that love us and our kids like their own family.” (from Elizabeth Duncan.)
16. “The gift of fraternity with many priests which offers our children such a beautiful window into the church, vocation, holiness, etc.” (from Kathi Kramer)
17. “Grateful my husband is still alive is obviously #1, and
18. Grateful for my kids and their relationship with each other and my husband and I, and
19. Grateful for our Catholic community that took us in when we moved here, both within our Ordinariate community and the diocese as a whole.
20. And …. at night if Matt (husband) can’t join us for prayers, they go and find their daddy and ask him for their blessing. Hearing “ok, Latin or English?” “Latin!” Then hearing their little voices try to say “Et cum spiritu tuo” is seriously sweet! I think they like those nights better than when he just joins us and incorporates the blessing into the end of the shortened Compline I do with the kids, as it’s only for them! (Which ties back to being seriously grateful he’s still alive so that the boys can have these experiences!)” (#17-20 from Minerva Welling Venuti)
21. “I’m grateful for the 38 years of marriage to my husband, John, a man of God, a wonderful husband, an attentive father, and a humble servant of Christ in his priestly ministry to all of our congregations. Both of us are so thankful that we have been received into the Barque of Peter, into Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and for the Church’s Magisterium which guards and protects the spiritual treasures of our Christian faith.” (from Jane Hodgins)
22. For Catechesis of the Good Shepherd children’s ministry, which enables me to experience our Catholic faith anew through the eyes of children.
23. For my (super-cool) daughter who asked to wear a chapel veil to church, and didn’t care if no other kids wore them in her more modern Catholic school.
24. For hypoallergenic sweet-smelling incense raising our spirits to Heaven.
25. For my son who shouts “Amen. High five!” with his brother when he finishes his daily prayers.
26. “I’m grateful 35 years of marriage and happy!
27. I am thankful for health! Work that I enjoy! I am thankful for my children and my family! Thankful for friends! Thankful for all my sister and brothers in Christ!
28. So very thankful for the joy and peace God brings even during trials and the blessings he has bestowed upon us! Thank you Father, lord Jesus, Holy Spirit and your heavenly family! Amen!” (#26-28 from Cathy O’Neil Baaten)
29. For my fellow Ordinariate clergy wives, dear sisters in Christ, who offer support, understanding, and encouragement to be daily converted to Christ through our Catholic faith.
30. For our home, which has become a chapel of sorts for people seeking Christ, where I can spend time in reflective prayer with altar candles (from my long-deceased grandfather), crucifix and icons in my socks and pajamas.

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Anglican patrimony: the way we worship

I spent 10 wonderful years as part of a seeker-friendly Baptist community that offered me much love, sound teaching and good fellowship.  Worship services were a combination of contemporary praise and worship music done well and old hymns such as How Great Thou Art.  The centrepiece was the sermon, which was engaging. Communion was once a month, with little glasses of grape juice and small cubes of white bread passed out to each person.  Then, we consumed the bread and the grape juice at the same time, and often there were moments of powerful silence afterwards, filled with God’s presence. Fellowship afterwards was also great.  It was a warm, welcoming place with great leadership that knew how to lovingly take seekers and guide them into deeper conversion.

I am so grateful to that community because I think if I had gone immediately to Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary after my initial adult conversion, I would have been repelled by it.   Or maybe it would have been like throwing me into the deep end of the pool without my having a clue how to swim.

Interestingly, on Maundy Thursday, our pastor would read from the Book of Common Prayer!  I started attending occasionally some Anglican services nearby because I loved the language, the kneeling, the reverence.

Then, through a friend I found my way to Annunciation.  This was what I experienced in the Anglican church on steroids.  Morning Prayer and said Mass during the week with such reverence and a sense of prayerful recollection I could hear every word.  Then, the splendor of having the Mass sung on Sundays, with incense and marvelous hymns sung in four part harmony.

Even back in my Baptist days, I had an intuitive inkling of Real Presence—maybe it was my Orthodox infant chrismation kicking in—and it used to annoy me when people would take their little empty glasses of grape juice and put them on the floor.  Even if you believed the juice was only a symbol, it seemed disrespectful.  But at Annunciation, the way the priests genuflected before the Blessed Sacrament, the way they meant the prayers rather than rattling them off, the way they processed into the centre aisle to proclaim the Gospel, everything pointed to transcendent truths and sacramental theology that said so much more than mere letters on a page.  This was worship and sound catechesis through every gesture.  Despite the most humble surroundings—the creaky pews, the red indoor-outdoor carpet, the old gray linoleum, this was like being lifted up to heaven.  Time stood still.

Now  that we are Catholic, we have no doubts about our sacraments, which boosts everything we had in the days before the Ordinariates up by orders of magnitude.  Yet, all that we had beforehand —all the reverence and beauty of worship that is distinctly Anglican—we were able to bring into the Catholic Church with us.