2016: Bringing our lapsed loved ones back.

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We had a fairly quiet new years eve this year. I was expecting the text, and when it came it said that a family member had passed away peacefully after receiving the last rites.

I’m glad they received the last rites. I was also able to have Mass said, and pray a Divine Mercy chaplet for them. You see, they were a very good person, but had not practiced their faith for a very long time.

We all have loved ones who have – for whatever reason – fallen away from the faith. Each circumstance is different, each family is different, each individual is different. But we all have 2 things in common:

  1. Jesus loves us.
  2. One day we will die.

When we come face to face with God at the moment of our death we will be called to give account of our lives. Jesus tells us that “He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice.” – (Divine Mercy)

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Divine Mercy

In this new year 2016, we as the Catholic Church on earth, in purgatory or in heaven, are focusing on Mercy. It seems to me that their is no greater act of mercy than to pray for those who need to come back to Jesus. We often become illusioned that our acts of kindness, mercy, charity and love have to be these big monumental events that change people’s lives. But I am saying no, they don’t. I believe that 99 times out of 100 it is the little things that make the difference. Little things done with great love.

The same can be said regarding evangelisation. People have this false manufactured notion that we need to be going out to spread the Gospel. But I disagree. I believe the people God wants us to evangelise to are the people closest to us: our spouse, children, siblings, parents. And after that: our friends, neighbours, work colleagues. God has already put us into a perfect situation to evangelise – our ordinary daily lives.

We are already surrounded by people who have fallen out of relationship with Jesus, or have not yet come into one. As positive as they are, we do not need to be setting up parish initiatives, or nationwide conferences or having meeting after meeting to decide how we are going to invent ways to take the Good News out to people, because for 99% of us those people already surround us!!!

I think for most of us it is less challenging to to talk about Jesus to a stranger than to our own family.

But the point of evangelisation is that it has to be authentic, and it has to be witnessed – and personally I believe it has to be organic ie. within the natural relationship we already have, rather than being a manufactured event. In this way evangelisation becomes much more challenging because it forces us to ask ourselves not only the question “How would I describe my relationship with Christ?” but “How do live my relationship with Christ, and can my family member/friend see this in my ordinary daily life?”

This is a big subject, and there is no way I an cover it in one blog post, but you are beginning to get the idea.

We all have lapsed loved ones who we desperately want to bring back into a relationship with Christ. And for many of us – perhaps all of us, this is going to mean taking a good look at our own relationship with Christ first.

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St Monica and her son St Augustine.

Perhaps St Monica is the one to go to here. She prayed for her wayward son for decades until he finally came back to the faith. Her wayward son of course went on to become St. Augustine.

I am surrounded by lapsed loved ones in my own life. It is, and has been one of the biggest sadnesses of my life that my faith is not able to be shared, but is instead belittled and often quietly ridiculed by those closest to me. But wasn’t Jesus mocked too? Yes, He was. And He still chose to love them and forgive them, and die for them.

In 2016, I hope I can find a way to love as Jesus loved, and be Christ to those around me who so desperately need to come back to Him. I hope you will join me in this year of mercy in praying for, and hopefully bringing all your loved ones back into a relationship with Jesus, before it’s too late.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 6 reasons Catholic Parents are not fulfilling their role as ‘Primary Educators’.

Over the last two generations in the west, we have experienced a massive watering down of the faith. We are in a position now where very few Catholic parents are fulfilling their role as primary educators. How can parents transmit something that they do not know themselves? It’s not fair.

I will fight for these parents – my siblings, my friends, for as long as it takes the lazy, crazy people in charge of the church right now to actually do something about it. Until that happens I will continue to teach parents how to Understand, Live and Transmit their faith to their kids through my other blog www.understandlivetransmit.com

There are of course many contributing factors to this massive problem, but here are my top 6…

1. Poor Religious Education. 

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Sadly, we cannot assume that the religious education received by today’s Catholic parents in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s has been thorough or effective. Since the Second Vatican Council the emphasis in religious education has been on providing students with a variety of experiences such as prayer services, art projects, and community service instead of teaching such basics as the Ten Commandments, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy and the meaning of grace etc. 

When this “experiential method” of teaching, along with religion textbooks which de-emphasized and watered down Church teachings, were introduced into Catholic classrooms in the 60s, proponents of the “new catechetics” promised that the new methodology and texts would make the Catholic faith relevant to youth. Instead they have resulted in widespread religious illiteracy and alienation from the Church and its teachings. I myself am living proof of this. I am 35. I came out of school with very little real knowledge of the faith. I had no idea that a relationship with Christ was possible. I had never even heard of Papal documents, the Catechism, Youcat or studied scripture in any real way until I went to Maryvale university 4 years ago. I never got taught the basics of the faith.

The methodology in teaching the faith over the last two generations has been Man centred rather than Christ centred. It has been predominantly preoccupied with the experience the student is receiving rather than the content being transmitted.

In 2000 Geraldine Stafford, Catholic Writer and Catechist for 25 years, recognised this problem and stated that: “Group prayer, art projects and community service all have their place in catechetics, but the primary responsibility of catechists is to follow Christ’s command to “teach them to observe all that I have commanded” (Matt. 28:20).” She recalls one student’s reaction when she told her year 8 class that she would be quizzing them on the Ten Commandments, the Two Great Commandments, and the Beatitudes. “You really expect us to learn these things?” one of her students asked in shocked disbelief. Her reaction indicated that memorization in RE class was a totally new experience for her.

She stated: “We must provide our youth with the experience of learning the teachings of Jesus and his Church if we expect them to develop a healthy, vibrant Catholic faith. As Saint John Paul II has pointed out: “The blossoms, if we may call them that, of faith and piety do not grow in the desert of a memory-less catechesis.”

In his article, “Mad Methodology,” Sean Innerst observed that “catechetical methodology is not only important insofar as it is the vehicle for imparting the content of the faith, but because, if wrongly conceived, it can undermine the whole content of the faith.” He cited this statement from the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee to Oversee the Use of the Catechism’s report: “When the methodological starting point is predominantly human experience, the texts at times easily leave the impression that human initiative is the prerequisite for divine action. God’s initiative appears subordinate to human experience and human action.” Innerst says that it is no accident that the “process of redefining faith and revelation in terms of personal experience coincides with a nearly 30-year process of dissent from Catholic teaching. . . . With the wrong methodology, even the best content will be no weightier than the opinion of the next person who picks up the text.”

2. Why are we playing Catechetical Roulette?

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“One of the biggest challenges (for Catholic families) is the defective catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church – I can speak from my experience in the United States – for the past 40 to 50 years.”  – Cardinal Raymond Burke, Family Synod 2014.

Why do we not have a central recommended program of Catechises and Evangelisation for each diocese? It seems strange to me that in one parish you will get brilliant formation and catechesis based on Holy Scripture, the Catechism and Papal doc’s, and in the parish up the road you will something quite different based on people’s own personal opinions of what they would prefer the catholic faith to look like.

It is at the point of First Holy Communion or Confirmation that many of today’s catholic parents are suddenly re-discovering their faith. For a large majority it will be the first time they will have ever read scripture. For many families it is the chance for the non-Catholic spouse to learn about the Catholic faith. It is an opportunity for evangelization and catechesis that must not be missed.

Parishes need to make adult formation classes a priority at the same time as the children are learning their sacramental prep. Sacramental prep needs to be family focused rather than child focused because if it is important to the parents, it will be important to the child.

What I would like to see:

  • Each parish will have in place a recognised ongoing adult formation / evangelisation course recommended by their diocese such as Anchor.
  • When people request to get married or have their Child baptised, Priests need to assess where people are in their relationship with Christ and then direct them accordingly– delaying the sacrament if necessary.
  • Marriage prep needs to CLEARLY spell out what catholic marriage is. The couple then have to decide if they really want a catholic marriage or not.
  • Marriage and Baptism prep need to include content on building a domestic church.
  • Pastoral accompaniment needs to go beyond the actual celebration of the sacrament.

3. Sacramentelised but not Evangelised or Catechised. 

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Here is Pope Francis famously Baptizing Giulia, who’s Catholic parents are married civilly but not in church. I hope the Holy Father took this opportunity to not only make sure Giulia’s parents are properly catechised and evangelised, but also to sort out their marriage situation. Obviously if they are wishing their home to be a domestic church in which the faith is transmitted, they will realise that their witness in being sacramentaly married (or not) will speak volumes to their child. They obviously do not see the need for a sacramental marriage. I would bet £100 that they do not realise they are the primary educators of their child and have never even heard the term ‘domestic church’. Baptism of a child presents itself as a natural opportunity for sorting out all these issues and enables and empowers the parents to carry out their role as primary educators much more effectively.

I believe the way the sacraments have been administered over the last 2 generations has resulted in a massive watering down of the faith. I believe not enough time, energy or money have been invested in sacrament prep. And from my own experience, a lot of the sacramental prep out there is variable in it’s accuracy and effectiveness.

Here is what you can get in terms of sacrament prep if you live in some of the parishes around my area…

Baptism: 1 hour

First Confession/Holy Communion: 6 months: 1 hour per week for the Kids. (Parents get 6 x 1 hour sessions based on what the kids have been learning.)

Confirmation: 6 months: 1.5 hour meeting per month + 1 day retreat.

Marriage: 1 full day

Holy Orders: 7 Years

There seems to be a lot of time money and effort put into Children’s catechesis, and very little put into Adult catechesis and ongoing formation. Why is this? Is adult formation not as important? I would argue that taking into account the lack of effective religious education and catechesis over the last 2 generations it is now more important.

Earlier this year I spent several months getting involved with a local Baptism prep class. It was a one off, 1.5 hour session. At the end of this 1.5 hours, parents were expected to go off and bring up their children in the faith! I was greatly surprised and horrified to discover that 90% of these parents were unable to recite the Our Father without reading it off a sheet in front of them. They also had to fill in a sheet during the class stating why they wanted their child baptised. Most of them wrote ‘Family tradition’. Others wrote ‘To be part of the Church’. Very few had any understanding whatsoever that Baptism is the choice to turn away from sin and to  begin a relationship with Jesus. The vast majority of these parents need to go through RCIA. A priest friend of mine feels that many catholic churches today have become “Baptism Factories”.

A friend of mine is a great example of this. She is open in saying that she had poor religious education and catechesis and as an adult she has decided that the Catholic church holds no spirituality for her, so she has chosen Buddhism instead. She wanted her son to go to Catholic school because she wanted him to learn good moral values. At age 7, he turned round and declared that he wanted to be baptized! She was very happy for this to happen. He got baptised abroad and his Godparents live abroad. His mum is now bringing him up half Catholic, half Buddhist. They do not attend church. It is great that her son got baptised, but he, like his Mum has been sacramentalised without being catechised or evangelised. The cycle continues…

Why are we dumping people after the service? Do we really think that now they have been sacramentalised they are ‘done’? This applies to all the sacraments – but especially marriage:

 

“The initial years of marriage are a vital and fragile period during which couples become more aware of the challenges and meaning of married life. Consequently, pastoral accompaniment needs to go beyond the actual celebration of the sacrament.” – (Para 35. mid-term report, Family Synod 2014)

The nurturing and social contact, the education and catechesis… the pastoral accompaniment must continue after the actual celebration of the sacrament.

 

4. Marrying a non-Catholic. 

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In 2013 in our parish we had 12 Catholic to Catholic weddings, and 23 Catholic to non-Catholic weddings. I feel it is safe to say that in the west, this is now the norm. Most families I know are in the position where 1 spouse is not catholic.

With one Catholic parent the transmission of the faith in the home by lived example, is reduced by at least 50%. 

Another childhood friend of ours is a perfect example of this. He is the Catholic in the marriage. However, growing up he suffered the same poor religious education, poor catechesis as we did and crucially, he is not evangelised. He has married his non-practising Hindu wife civilly and has not had the protection of a dispensation. This has resulted in their children remaining unbaptized. It is down to him to transmit the faith to his children. How exactly is he supposed to do this?

Of course every situation is different, and it very much depends on how supportive the non catholic spouse is. Another friend, for example, is married to an agnostic who accompanies him to church each week and is extremely supportive of their sons catholic upbringing. But very often the Catholic spouse compromises their faith to keep their non-Catholic spouse happy – especially (I have found) in the area of contraception. This is a subject that is never talked about and I feel Catholic parents in this position are currently offered no support.

 

5. Accepting Secularism as the norm. 

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“Today’s world appears to promote limitless affectivity, seeking to explore all its aspects, including the most complex. Indeed, the question of emotional fragility is very current: a narcissistic, unstable or changeable affectivity do not always help greater maturity to be reached… In this context, couples are often uncertain and hesitant, struggling to find ways to grow. Many tend to remain in the early stages of emotional and sexual life… The crisis in the couple destabilizes the family and may lead, through separations and divorce, to serious consequences for adults, children and society as a whole, weakening the individual and social bonds.” – (Para 10. mid-term report, Family Synod 2014)

The present climate of relativism, secularism and individualism rejects nearly all that Christianity stands for, meaning that those whose faith is unstable are facing many new and unexpected perils. Most are just not well equipped enough to deal with it.

Today’s secular culture, teaches us from youth that devotion to God is a private matter. Our society makes us ashamed not only to speak about God in the workplace or to our neighbours, we are even hesitant to show a vibrant faith to our own children. In fact, we often feel uncomfortable with our own religious desires.

It is essential for parents to be made aware of the realities of our secular culture and what that means in terms of being a catholic parent today: It’s massive anti-Christian influences such as the media, consumerism and many of today’s political ideas. Catholic parents and teachers, now more than ever, need to realise that living and passing on the Catholic faith is essentially counter-cultural

Once parents are awakened to the realities of how our society is under such major influences, it will be easier for them to recognise and confidently reject the things, regarded as normal by society, that are actually totally anti Christian. This takes a lot of courage and is much easier to achieve as a community than as individuals.

6. Clericalists Despise the Primary Educator.

Finally, there is one other extremely disturbing issue. I have come across members of the clergy, religious, and even catechists that do not recognise parents as the child’s primary educators. They do not believe in educating and empowering the parents to fulfil their role, but instead feel that it is their job. This goes directly against the teachings of the church and I would recommend people to be extremely vigilant of any type of children’s catechesis that does not directly involve the parents. Parent-less catechesis is only adding to the problem. If you ever come across this issue, you might want to show the people involved this section of Gravissimum Educationis:

“Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators. This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied where it is lacking. Parents are the ones who must create a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God and man, in which the well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered. Hence the family is the first school of the social virtues that every society needs. It is particularly in the Christian family, enriched by the grace and office of the sacrament of matrimony, that children should be taught from their early years to have a knowledge of God according to the faith received in Baptism, to worship Him, and to love their neighbour.  Here, too, they find their first experience of a wholesome human society and of the Church. Finally, it is through the family that they are gradually led to a companionship with their fellow men and with the people of God. Let parents, then, recognize the inestimable importance a truly Christian family has for the life and progress of God’s own people.” – Para. 3 Gravissimum Educationis

Come on Bishops! Wake up, admit your past mistakes, and DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS CRISIS!!!

 

 

The 5 Cardinals – Pope Francis – Kasper: Stuck in the middle with you!

Benedict XVI,  Pope Francis

 

Personally I can totally understand why Francis has been “irritated” by the recent 5 cardinals book reaffirming the true teaching on marriage. It shows that they have not understood his approach and they do not trust him. But why not?

Following my previous post on Pope Francis You are Loved I received this comment:

“Orthodox Catholics feel shaky, afraid the Traditional Latin Mass will be diminished, afraid that all the errors they were taught as children will continue, afraid that the Magisterium will not support the true faith. Many of us are like starving refugees who have (under Benedict) finally got food, terrified the lean times will come again. That’s a cross we must learn to bear; we must love and evangelize in the midst of our fear.”

I think this comment expresses perfectly what so many western orthodox Catholics are feeling at the moment in regards to Pope Francis. Generally i think most of us who are secure in the teachings of the church want to like him but there is this underlying fear that he is more favourable to the liberal side of things. I have already discussed that i feel these fears are unfounded. If you read Evangelii Gaudium you will see that he is an orthodox Pope. His papal style strips away the unnecessary superficial parts of the catholic tradition (the red shoes ect…) and focuses on the central message of mercy. He sees the person before he sees the sin. He meets them where they are in their process of conversion and shows them the dignity and respect they are due simply because they are a human being who Christ died for.

This does not mean however, that he is ignoring their sin. Not at all. What he is doing is putting that persons growing relationship with Christ in top priority. He understands that without a relationship with Christ, Catholic doctrine is just a set of cold hard rules that don’t make a lot of sense in the modern world. So in this respect i guess you could say he is putting the doctrine bit ‘on hold’ until that person is in a place where they are going to be able to understand and accept it. And this is where the problem lies…

In the early 1960’s we had Vatican 2. The 16 documents of Vatican 2 clearly set out the Catholic faith in relationship to the modern world. It was a time of massive change in the church. Sadly, some in positions of authority here in the west either did not study and understand these documents properly, or they purposely chose to interpret them incorrectly. It is down to their poor decisions that the true catholic faith has not been transmitted properly, which has resulted in hundreds and thousands of babies now not getting baptised because their parents don’t see the point.

I used to feel a huge amount of anger and resentment towards these people in authority. But now i realise that they too were/are on their own conversion journey’s and are also in need of compassion and forgiveness.  It’s just a shame they ever got into positions of authority. Anyway, here in the west, post Vatican 2, we entered a period where through our schools and parishes, the true teachings of the catholic church were just not taught to ordinary catholic’s. At a time in the worlds history when the true teachings of the church should have been upheld and taught with more vigour than ever, we got served ‘progressive’ ‘modern’ twaddle. Opinions and trends were prioritised over clear doctrinal teaching. In fact it was the faithful catholic’s who clung onto the doctrine for dear life that (i believe) has kept the church going in the west in the midst of a tsunami of modern progressive falsity.

This is the last time i will talk negatively about that period in the church’s recent history, because although it is important to acknowledge why things have happened, i feel it is unhelpful to keep dragging up the past. The new generations of committed western catholic’s coming through now ARE solid in their faith AND they are brilliant evangelisers.

One more very interesting point from a American friend of mine living in the UK…

“I admire Pope Francis for his compassion, his humility and his ceaseless preaching about the mercy and love of our Lord.  But I think there are things he does not understand about the Church in the English-speaking Western world.  Here, orthodox Catholics are often the movers and shakers amongst the faithful, in contrast to the more liberal within the Church who view traditional liturgical practice as exclusionary and irrelevant, piety as quaint, and evangelisation as gauche and anti-social.  Traditionalists are scandalised when the Pope appears to encourage this latter element.  Conversely, in much of Latin America and the developing world “conservative” can be a byword for arrogance, clericalism, and an attitude towards the poor that is at best indifferent and at worst repressive, whereas so-called liberals may burn with the boundless evangelical zeal the pope wishes for all Catholics to have.  Of course not everyone fits into these boxes, but I do think that these are the social trends that shape the way many of the faithful, including the Holy Father, speak and listen to each other, and may be at the root of the suspicion with which Pope Francis is regarded by some traditionalists, despite their shared aim to live and spread the Gospel.” – Victoria Seed.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ style is reminiscent of this post Vatican 2 era for us in the west because, as i said earlier, he puts the doctrine part of the conversion process ‘on hold’ until the person has established a relationship with Christ. He is showing the person mercy. But the huge and fundamental difference here is that he still upholds the doctrine. Repentance comes later on in the conversion process and he knows this.

This is fundamentally different from the approach Cardinal Kasper has taken. Kasper also believes in ‘mercy’ for the individual but in his mind this means changing the teachings of the church so as to make it so the person is no longer committing a sin. For example his solution to the issue that most catholic’s use artificial contraception, is to allow artificial contraception rather than actually teaching NFP (something that hasn’t been done over the last 2 generations). His solution to re-married catholic’s receiving communion is to just let them, rather than explore the annulment process AND take responsibility for the lack of effective marriage prep available at the time these people got married. Kasper is choosing to ignore the sin and ignore any responsibility the church may have had in terms of lack of catechesis. He wants to give in and change the doctrine. That is not mercy, it is indulgence. It is defeatist because it implies that the church has nothing better to offer. Kasper is at a stage in his conversion where he believes he knows better than the Holy Spirit. We’ve all been there.

Cardinal Walter Kasper

Cardinal Walter Kasper 

People are getting confused between the two hugely different approaches of Francis and Kasper because they both holler ‘Mercy’. They both look very similar on the surface but one does not have to dig very deep to see that the two men are coming at it from vastly different angles.

“They claim to know on their own what truth is, but Catholic doctrine is not a closed system, but a living tradition that develops. They want to crystallize the truth in certain formulas … the formulas of tradition.” – Cardinal Walter Kasper, September 2014

This is what Pope Francis said regarding Doctrine:

“Fidelity to the Church, fidelity to its teaching; fidelity to the Creed; fidelity to the doctrine, safeguarding this doctrine. Humility and fidelity. Even Paul VI reminded us that we receive the message of the Gospel as a gift and we need to transmit it as a gift, but not as a something of ours: it is a gift that we received. And be faithful in this transmission. Because we have received and we have to gift a Gospel that is not ours, that is Jesus’, and we must not – he would say – become masters of the Gospel, masters of the doctrine we have received, to use it as we please”. – Pope Francis, Janurary 2014

Francis is not a threat to doctrine. He is not repeating the errors of past. He is a threat however to those of us who see the sin before we see the person behind the sin, and believe that following doctrine comes before a relationship with Christ. We must not let our fear of the past make us cold. Love comes first, and those of us here in the west who are secure in the true teachings of the church must be the ones to make the first move. Francis is challenging the Pharisees amongst us Orthodox to become Evangelisers –  “…we must love and evangelize in the midst of our fear.”

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Evangelisation

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We had an Evangelisation day in our diocese today which was really good.

It was great to hear all the initiatives that are being tried out within the different parishes and also listen to new ideas that people had to go forward.

I’m very happy to  hear that Sherry Weddell’s book ‘Forming Intentional Disciples’ is beginning to circulate within the diocese as i believe this book is going to change a whole lot of things here in the UK. To buy this book please visit http://www.amazon.co.uk/Forming-Intentional-Disciples-Knowing-Following/dp/1612785905

At the end individuals were invited to go up and say a few words… and me, being completely unable to resist a free microphone, decided to jump up and say whatever popped into my small yet enthusiastic brain:

It’s great that so many people are looking to go out into the big wide world and evangelise to people who have perhaps not heard the Gospel before. But it is much harder to evangelise within our own parishes yes? How can we bring people into our parish if the parish is not yet evangelised?

And it is great to evangelise within our own parishes, but much harder to evangelise within our own families yes? How can we be happy within our parish knowing that many of our family members are not evangelised?

And it is great to evangelise within our own families, but are we sure that we ourselves are evangelised?

Let me ask you a question: Can you describe to me your own personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

I’ll ask you again: Can you describe to me your own personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Because if you can’t you are going to have real trouble evangelising anybody else. This is something we as Catholics have to start getting really comfortable with.

I’ll leave you to ponder one of my favourite quotes from G K Chesterton which describes how Jesus should be the absolute love of our lives:

“Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair.” – G K Chesterton

…I’m developing a taste for freestyling on the mic!