18 September 2014

ONGOING UPDATES: A Boko Haram Ongoing News Round Up

18 September 2014
16 September 2014
12 September 2014
11 September 2014
10 September 2014
9 September 2014
8 September 2014
4 September 2014
3 September 2014
2 September 2014
29 August 2014
28 August 2014
24 August 2014
15 August 2014
14 August 2014
27 July 2014
11 July 2011
10 June 2014
June 2014
2 May 2014
28 May 2014
30 March 2014
26 February 2014

17 September 2014

New survey gives reasons Catholics have left - and remain in - the Church

According to a new survey conducted by researchers at Benedictine University, the very reasons why some people have willingly chosen to separate themselves from the Catholic Church are the same reasons why others willingly remain within the Catholic Church. For example:

  • 30% of those who have left the Church cited a lack of community as one of the reasons they left, while 85% of active Catholics said the sense of community they experience in their parish is one of the reasons they remain; 
  • 34% of those who have left the Church cited the Church’s opposition to abortion as one of the reasons the left, while 90% of active Catholics said the Church’s opposition to abortion is one of the reasons they remain;

Cognizant that Mass attendance at some parishes in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois decreased by as much as 30% between 1996 and 2011, His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki and his Presbyteral Council approached Dr. William Carroll, President of Benedictine University, to seek ways to learn why so many Catholics have left the Church and what might be done to call them back.

Conscious, too, that many of these fallen away Catholics would ask for an impossible change in some doctrines of the Church and that some requested changes, though perhaps possible, might also alienate those who have remained in the Church, the Bishop and the Presbyteral Council asked Dr. Carroll to help find ways to ask Catholics why they have remained in the Church.

(It should also be noted that during the same time period, other parishes in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois experienced no change in attendance and some experienced an increase of as much as 82%).

Dr. Phillip R. Hardy, PH.D, Assistant Professor of the Department of Political Science, and Drs. Kelly L. Kandra, PH.D and Brian G. Patterson, PH.D, Associate Professors of the Department of Psychology, prepared and conducted online surveys completed by volunteers solicited through advertisements in the Catholic Times, secular newspapers published throughout the Diocese, parish bulletins and announcements, postcards, the Diocesan web site and Facebook page, and by word of mouth. 575 individuals who self-identified as “inactive, lapsed, or drifting Catholics” responded to the first of the two surveys between November 2012 and March 2013. Between February and March 2014, 827 individuals who self-identified as active Catholics responded to the second of the two surveys.

The researchers presented the answers to these questions to the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois on September 10, 2014 in a 60-page document titled Joy and Grievance in an American Diocese: Results from Online Surveysof Active and Inactive Catholics in Central Illinois, and made available to the public yesterday.

In their final analysis, the researchers concluded that “Church doctrine plays a key role in individuals separating from the Catholic Church and it may be difficult to prevent current parishioners from leaving or to bring lapsed or drifting parishioners back to this faith community” (56). In this analysis, they are entirely right.

People make all sorts of excuses about why they have left the Church, including unwelcoming priests, an unfriendly word from a secretary, or a glare from a parishioner but in the end, they are only that: excuses, and not real reasons. As J.R.R. Tolkien once observed:

I have suffered grievously in my life from stupid, tired, dimmed, and even bad priests; but I now know enough about myself to be aware that I should not leave the Church (which for me would meaning leaving the allegiance of Our Lord) for any such reasons: I should leave because I did not believe, and should not believe any more, even if I had never met any one in orders [that is, a deacon, priest, or bishop] who was not both wise and saintly. I should deny the Blessed Sacrament, that is: call Our Lord a fraud to His face (J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter to Michael Tolkien, 1 November 1963).

These are the words of a man of deep faith and profound insight!

The only real reason, it seems to me, why someone would leave the Catholic Church is to because they never had – or somehow no longer have – a belief of the Real Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

A bad priest does not make someone leave the Church; they choose to leave. Tomaso di Celano tells us that Saint Francis of Assisi “often used to say: ‘If I should happen at the same time to come upon a saint coming from heaven and some little poor priest, I would first show honor to the priest, and hurry more quickly to kiss his hands.  For I would say to the saint: “Lo, Saint Lawrence, wait!  His hands may handle the Word of Life, and possess something more than human’” (The Second Life, 201)! This does not mean, of course, that a bad priest - or a rude layman - cannot lead to a weakening of someone's fragile faith by causing scandal, which should always be avoided. The decision to leave to the Church, though, remains that: a decision.

When reviewing the results of this survey, we should keep in mind the words of G.K. Chesteron, who famously quipped, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

The results of this survey indicate that there are some things we can do to try to draw those who have lapsed in the practice of the faith back to the Church. It shows that some who have left will not return until the Church is no longer the Church.

At the same, the survey shows, with no real surprise, that a great number of practicing Catholics have difficulties with the Church’s teachings on certain topics continually misrepresented in the media. The Church needs to redouble her efforts to explain these teachings well, and why she teaches them, but finding ways to get those who do not embrace these teachings to listen carefully and openly is not easy. The survey also shows the principle reason many Catholics have remained in the Church is the community they experience. While this is not bad - indeed, community is necessary! - it should be at least a little troubling that the Eucharist – Christ Jesus himself - is not immediately the principle reason they remain.

I encourage you to read the results of the two surveys carefully and prayerfully. I have read it once now and want to read it again to be able to thoughtfully address some of the issues raised in the survey here on the blog in the coming weeks, one at a time.

16 September 2014

A news round up - 15 September 2014

  • Muslims in Britain on calling on Prime Minister David Cameron that he should only refer to the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq as the "Un-Islamic State of Syria and Iraq." This is just silly. The government of China doesn't actually function as a republic, but no one is calling on any government leaders to refer to China as "the People's non-Republic of China."

15 September 2014

A ring given to us by God

In the past, I've sometimes found that one single passage is worth the cost of an entire book, even of an expensive book. I found the same again today as I sat down to read Saint Bonaventure's Commentary on Ecclesiastes.

In his introduction to his Commentary he seeks to explain what King Solomon means when he writes that we should have a contempt for the world. Considering the objection that "to praise a work is to give praise to the worker" and so "either the world was not made by God or it is not to be despised," the Seraphic Doctor makes use of a profound - and useful - analogy:
I reply: It should be said, as Augustine and Hugh hold, that this world is like a ring given by the bridegroom to the soul itself. Now the bride can love the ring given her by her husband in two ways, namely, with a chaste or an adulterous love. The love is chaste when she loves the ring as a memento of her husband and on account of her love for her husband. The love is adulterous when the ring is loved more than the husband, and the husband cannot regard such love as good. For just as there is a twofold love, so too there is a twofold hatred or contempt, because "as soon as one of two things that are opposites is mentioned, the other is implied." Contempt for a ring by treating it as a poor and ugly gift reflects on the husband, but contempt of a ring by regarding it as almost nothing compared to the love of a husband, gives glory to the husband.
That analogy will find its into many homilies and talks in the years to come, I have no doubt. Thanks, Saint Bonaventure!

14 September 2014

Seeing Jesus: Questioning children, Saint Francis of Assisi, & the Eucharist

A young daughter of one of my friends back in Quincy asked her mother a lot of questions throughout the Holy Mass today, questions such as "Was Jesus born on a birthday?" and "Is that the real Jesus [the crucifix, her mother explained] or is he in our hearts?"

These questions are easy enough to answer but some of her other questions - such as "Why did the soldiers fight Jesus?" - are not so easy to answer.

Her questions about God and his loving plan for us all are all very good and one of the many troubles that adults often find themselves in is that they stop asking questions. They stop asking questions because they stop wondering and they stop thinking. At the same time, when they do ask questions they either ask the wrong people or do not bother to search - with greater or lesser effort - to find a full and satisfactory answer to their questions.

This ability to ask both simple and difficult questions - and to plainly express hopes and longings - with great openness and the confidence that the questions will be answered is part, I think, of what Jesus had in mind when he said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3).

Some of the girl's questions, though, were actually statements, such as this one: "I wish I could see Jesus."

It reminded me of a time when I offered the Holy Mass in Shumway, Illinois one Sunday morning. As I elevated the Sacred Host after the consecration, the excited and whispered voice of a little boy was heard throughout the church: "That's Jesus!"

Many of the adults started giggling; I was in awe at what the Lord had revealed to this little one and hoped the adults would come to understand what he already knew (cf. Matthew 11:25). As I genuflected after the elevation, I prayed he would not forget this mysterious truth.

If I could respond personally to this little girl's hope to see Jesus, I would remind her that whenever she goes to Mass, she can see Jesus; she can see him in the Sacred Heart. This is why the priest exclaims: "Behold, the Lamb of God! Behold him who takes away the sins of the world!"

Deeply aware of the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, Saint Francis of Assisi said in his Testament: "And I act in this way since I see nothing corporally [bodily] of the Most High Son of God in this world except His Most Holy Body and Blood."

What does today's Solemnity mean to the Iraqi and Syrian Christians?

As I concelebrated the Holy Mass this morning in the Basilica of Saint Francis, I found myself wondering what today's Solemnity of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross means for the Christians in Iraq and in Syria who have recently seen their members of their families, their friends and neighbors, even - maybe - strangers, crucified in the streets. Do see the glory of the Cross today, or only its brutality?

When I returned to my apartment, I saw that Pope Francis and I must have been thinking along the same lines today, for during his Angelus Address today, the Holy Father considered the question of why the Church exalts the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We do so, he said, because "the Cross of Christ is our only true hope!"

He then turned his thoughts to our many brothers and sisters presently suffering greatly for their faith in Jesus Christ:
While we contemplate and celebrate the Holy Cross, we think emotionally of so many of our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted and killed because of their faith in Christ. This happens especially there where religious freedom is still not guaranteed or fully realized. It happens, however, even in well-to-do countries which, in principle, protect freedom and human rights, but where in practice believers, and especially Christians, encounter restrictions and discrimination. So today we remember them and pray especially for them.
Let us remember today that we are all N, that we are all members of the one Body of Christ; their suffering is our suffering.

13 September 2014

The only fault of a king was his mercy...

Louis I the Pious, King of the Franks and the son of the Emperor Charlemagne, has not been raised to the dignity of the altars as a Blessed or as a Saint, but there is a remarkable line about in the Vita Hludowici imperatoris, an early chronicle of his life by an anonymous author known to us as the Astronomer.

Coronation of Louis the Pious by Jean Fouquet
 When speaking of the enemies of King Louis the Pious, the Astronomer writes that
the envious could find only one fault to which he had succumbed: he was too merciful.
As I read this line yesterday in Andrew J. Romig's article, "In Praise of the Too-Clement Emporer: The Problem of Forgiveness in the Astronomer's Vita Hludowici imperatoris (Speculum 89:2 [April 2014], 382-409), I could not help but wonder what the world would be like if that was the only fault any of our enemies could find in us.

At the same time, I was keenly aware that I certainly have more than one fault of which my enemies could accuse me, and that being too merciful is not always one of my faults. Likely enough, it is the same with you.

Throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has stressed again and again and again the necessity of being merciful toward others because the Lord has been merciful to us. If a medieval king can be known for his mercy, why can't I? Why can't you?

Today the Psalmist asks, "How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good he has done for me" (Psalm 116:12)? We can make a return to the Lord by being merciful toward others, with the knowledge and gratitude of God's mercy already given to us.

12 September 2014

DAILY UPDATES: Do you know what's happening with the ISIS?

N.B.: I have reordered the series of links below to keep the most current date at the top of the list. Hence forward, when I add links to previous dates I will not only preface the link with UPDATE but also with the date of the update. Please keep sharing this link to keep people informed and continue to pray for the Iraqi Christians.

18 September
17 September
16 September
15 September
14 September
13 September
12 September
11 September
10 September
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6 September
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4 September
3 September
2 September
1 September

31 August
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