Category : Other Denominations

(America) Ed Block–The transformational world of Jon Hassler

In an interview for Image magazine in 1997, I asked Hassler about the origin of his Catholic worldview. He responded, “I’m indebted to those first few grades in parochial school for teaching me that everything in life is connected.” A bit later he added, “I guess maybe I see life as a whole.” It is part of Hassler’s gift, throughout his career, to see life as a whole, juxtaposing events and characters, thus yielding new meanings and interrelationships, making the entire work appear to fly. In a word, Hassler’s style is not “magic realism” but realism magically transformed.

Again and again Hassler transforms the banality of evil into Flannery O’Connor-type characters and events. A crazed woman kills a burnt-out teacher; a brilliant teacher stricken by multiple sclerosis turns psychotic in his despondency; an unloved juvenile delinquent is crushed beneath a walk-in cooler like the Wicked Witch beneath Dorothy’s Kansas cottage. But like St. Augustine, who speaks of God’s love treating “each of us as an only child,” Hassler (who includes many only children in his fiction) treats every character in that way. Jon Hassler discovers God’s presence in everyday life, as his novels throw a grace-filled light upon caring teachers, open-hearted wives and lovers, priests and spinsters””and a latchkey child who responds to an old man’s need for friendship and for love.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

George Weigel: (On his Feast Day) John Henry Newman’s Faith

I once had the honor of spending time in Newman’s rooms at the Birmingham Oratory, which are much as the aged cardinal left them at his death in 1890. Over the altar, which occupies one side of the room, are tacked-up notes by which Cardinal Newman reminded himself of those for whom he had promised to pray. In the sitting room, a tattered newspaper map, also tacked to a wall, bears silent testimony to Newman’s interest in Kitchener’s efforts to lift the siege of Khartoum and rescue General Gordon from the Mahdi, a 19th century jihadist (Gordon died with Newman’s poem, “The Dream of Gerontius,” in his pocket). Perhaps most touching are Newman’s Latin breviaries, which he began to use as an Anglican, causing much controversy about such popish practices.
It is as a man of faith that the Church beatified John Henry Newman, however: the kind of man of faith who could write the following (which I take from another prayer card I’ve had for years, given me by Catholic Worker artist Ade Bethune):

God has created me to do him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught”¦Therefore I will trust Him, whatever I am”¦He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me””still, He knows what He is about.

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us and for the unity in truth of Christ’s Church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Theology

Martin Luther for his Feast Day–A Sermon on the Gospel of John 2:1-11

But see, how unkindly he turns away the humble request of his mother who addresses him with such great confidence. Now observe the nature of faith. What has it to rely on? Absolutely nothing, all is darkness. It feels its need and sees help nowhere; in addition, God turns against it like a stranger and does not recognize it, so that absolutely nothing is left. It is the same way with our conscience when we feel our sin and the lack of righteousness; or in the agony of death when we feel the lack of life; or in the dread of hell when eternal salvation seems to have left us. Then indeed there is humble longing and knocking, prayer and search, in order to be rid of sin, death and dread. And then he acts as if he had only begun to show us our sins, as if death were to continue, and hell never to cease. Just as he here treats his mother, by his refusal making the need greater and more distressing than it was before she came to him with her request; for now it seems everything is lost, since the one support on which she relied in her need is also gone.

This is where faith stands in the heat of battle. Now observe how his mother acts and here becomes our teacher. However harsh his words sound, however unkind he appears, she does not in her heart interpret this as anger, or as the opposite of kindness, but adheres firmly to the conviction that he is kind, refusing to give up this opinion because of the thrust she received, and unwilling to dishonor him in her heart by thinking him to be otherwise than kind and gracious–as they do who are without faith, who fall back at the first shock and think of God merely according to what they feel, like the horse and the mule, Ps 32, 9. For if Christ’s mother had allowed those harsh words to frighten her she would have gone away silently and displeased; but in ordering the servants to do what he might tell them she proves that she has overcome the rebuff and still expects of him nothing but kindness.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Lutheran, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

[Catholic Herald] Dan Hitchens: The Church is now in a full-blown civil war over doctrine

A few weeks ago, the Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica published a startling article on women priests. Its arguments were familiar: the author, deputy editor Fr Giancarlo Pani, asked readers to consider whether an all-male priesthood might perhaps be outdated. “There is unease,” Fr Pani wrote, “among those who fail to understand how the exclusion of woman from the Church’s ministry can coexist with the affirmation and appreciation of her equal dignity.”
What is startling is that this appeared in a journal edited by one of the Pope’s closest advisers..

Read it all

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

(CNA) An Interview with Robert Spaemann on Amoris Laetitia

What then is Pope John Paul II’s exhortation about?

John Paul II explains human sexuality as a “real symbol for the giving of the whole person,” and namely, “without every temporal or other limitation.” He thus formulates very clearly in article 84 that remarried divorcés must refrain from sex if they want to go to communion. A change in the practice of the administration of the sacraments would therefore be no “further development of Familiaris consortio,” as Cardinal Kasper said, but rather a breach in her essential anthropological and theological teaching on marriage and human sexuality. The Church has no authority, without prior conversion, to approve disordered sexual relationships through the administration of the sacraments, thereby anticipating God’s mercy – regardless of how these situations are to be judged on a human and moral level. The door here ”“ as with the ordination of women to the priesthood ”“ is closed.

Read it all from last year, as it is still deeply relevant.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Sacramental Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CT) Wesley Hill–Henri Nouwen’s Weakness Was His Strength

What had prompted [Henri] Nouwen to embrace a spirituality and a ministry model like this one? Born in the Netherlands in 1932, Nouwen had grown up a pious, conscientious””and ambitious””eldest child. By the time he was five years old, Nouwen had acquired specially made child-size priestly vestments so that he could say Mass at a play altar. “I did all the proper things,” he would later write, comparing himself to the elder brother in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, “mostly complying with the agendas set by the many parental figures in my life””teachers, spiritual directors, bishops, and popes.” Two decades later, having already graduated from two seminaries, Nouwen was ordained to the Catholic priesthood at Utrecht, ready to fulfill a calling””an inevitability, it seemed to those who knew him best””he’d sensed from boyhood. In short, a walking specimen of oozing spiritual wounds, Nouwen most certainly was not. Gregarious, theatrical, often childishly playful, his priestly work led him from strength to strength.

But Nouwen’s deepest self-identification was with the younger son in the parable, not in his outward behavioral choices but in what he described as an inner pain of lostness. This accounts, it would seem, for his constant talk of woundedness. His distance from God the Father’s heart, as he would put it in what is probably his second most-loved book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, had to do not with public rebellion but with an acute inner sensitivity and susceptibility to feelings of rejection. At one of his life’s crucial turning points, he recorded the following sentiment in his journal: “What I am craving is not so much recognition, praise, or admiration, as simple friendship. There may be some around me, but I cannot perceive or receive it.” This insensibility would dog him through his exit from the academy, through his twilight years spent as a carer in a home for disabled persons, through his quieter days of writing, until, en route to St. Petersburg for another viewing of Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son which had renewed his faith years earlier, he died.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Church History, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Seminary / Theological Education, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

The full Text of the Evangelical Alliance Statement–The Reformation, evangelicals+Roman Catholicism

Same-sex relationships and marriage. Drawing especially on the biblical creation narrative (Gen. 2:23-4) and on the teaching of Jesus and Paul (Matt. 19:1-12; Eph. 5:22-3), evangelicals and Catholics have widely co-operated in recent times in the promotion, support and defence of marriage as a one-flesh union of one man and one womanfor life. Marriage in this sense has been presented by both as the foundational institution of human society ”“ a corollary to the common good which delivers better outcomes overall for spouses, children and communities than other forms of co-habitation. Alongside this convictionabout monogamous, heterosexual marriage, evangelicals and Catholics have also agreed in highlighting biblical representations of sexually active same-sex unions as falling outside God’s purposes for human relationships and human society. In more recent times, this has meant widespread joint action to oppose legislation approving same-sex marriage. Where same-sex marriage has been legalised, it has meant working together to protect the rights of churches and their ministers to reaffirm heterosexual marriage, and to retain the right to conduct only heterosexual marriages. At the same time, however, evangelicals and Catholics have worked more closely together on welcoming same-sex attracted people and same-sex couples in the church context, and on dialoguing with LGBTI groups to ensure mutual respect and understanding in this contentious area of Christian ethics, ministry and
pastoral care.

Read it all (8 page pdf).

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Evangelicals, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

The Evangelical Alliance–Evangelicals and the Reformation – 500 years on

The statement makes clear that we owe a great deal of our doctrinal, spiritual and cultural identity to the Reformation, and goes on to consider:

The enduring importance of the Reformation for evangelical Christians, as well as Christians more generally.
The core theological emphases of the Reformation, and the vital recovery of authentic gospel Christianity that they represented.
The divergences between evangelical and Roman Catholic faith and practice that are rooted in the Reformation, and which persist today.
The attempts that have been made, especially in recent decades, to promote greater understanding, convergence and common action between evangelicals and Roman Catholics.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT) Christian Leaders Denounce Trump’s Plan to Favor Christian Immigrants

By giving preference to Christians over Muslims, religious leaders have said the executive order pits one faith against another. By barring any refugees from entering the United States for nearly four months, it leaves people to suffer longer in camps, and prevents families from reuniting. Also, many religious leaders have said that putting an indefinite freeze on refugees from Syria, and cutting the total number of refugees admitted this year by 60,000, shuts the door to those most in need.

“We believe in assisting all, regardless of their religious beliefs,” said Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, the chairman of the committee on migration for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Jen Smyers, the director of policy and advocacy for the immigration and refugee program of Church World Service, a ministry affiliated with dozens of Christian denominations, called Friday a “shameful day” in America’s history.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Fewer+ Lonelier: Why the celibate priesthood is in crisis

The isolation experienced by elderly clerics, especially in wealthy, liberal societies, is one symptom of a crisis in the Catholic priesthood. They were ordained at a time when their status as men dedicated to the church was understood and revered, sometimes to an unhealthy degree. In that era, priests could look forward an old age in which the respect and support of the faithful might compensate to some degree for the absence of any life-partner. With the standing (and finances) of the clergy damaged, in many countries, by child-abuse scandals and shabby attempts to cover them up, the twilight years are a harder prospect than ever for priests on their own, even those who have led exemplary lives. Small wonder that fewer and fewer young men want to walk the same stony path..
As measured by the number of faithful, global Catholicism is faring decently. The flock is still growing in the developing world and migration from poor countries is reinvigorating tired congregations in the West. But the priesthood, with its hard calling of celibacy, is in freefall in many places. In America, the number of Catholics connected to a parish has risen over the past half-century from 46m to 67m, while the number of priests has fallen from 59,000 to 38,000. In France, about 800 priests die every year while 100 are ordained. Priest numbers there have fallen from 29,000 in 1995 to about 15,000. On present trends they may stabilise at less than 6,000.

The result is that many jobs once done by priests, like taking funerals or ministering to the sick, are now done by lay-people or by deacons who may be married. But certain functions, including the consecration of bread and wine which is Christianity’s most important rite, can only be performed by a priest.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Vatican Radio) Westminster Abbey and Sistine choirs at Ecumenical Vespers

Pope Francis on Wednesday afternoon presides at Vespers in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls for the closing of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. On that occasion, the Sistine Chapel choir will be joined by the men and boys of the Westminster Abbey choir, renowned as one of the finest choral music groups of its kind.

Ahead of this unprecedented event, pioneered by the two choirs are also performing a free concert on Tuesday evening in the Basilica of St John Lateran. Their collaboration grows out of recent years of deepening Anglican-Catholic relations, in particular following Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to London in September 2010.

Read and listen to it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations, England / UK, Europe, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(GR) Terry Mattingly–William Christopher-The real man behind that sympathetic priest on M*A*S*H

To prepare for his signature role, Christopher interviewed priests to “help get the tone right.” Finally, he created a Los Angeles-area panel of priests to help him deal with questions about how a Jesuit would have handled some rites, and tricky war-zone issues, in the era before the Second Vatican Council.

The goal was to show respect for the priesthood, while avoiding what he called “embarrassed priest situations and celibacy jokes.” It was especially sobering to learn how to handle rushed deathbed confessions and Last Rites.

“I tried to humanize Mulcahy as much as possible, although I knew there was a certain danger there since he is a priest. But I felt there was an even greater danger if we let him turn into a stereotype,” he explained.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Movies & Television, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

Will Willimon–Christian Talk about the Sin of Racism

Christians are determined by the conviction that a brown-skinned Jew””whose body was publically tortured to death on a cross by a consortium of government and religious officials, and whose crucified body was resurrected from the dead, opening up the realm of God to people of every color, including people who believe their skin is without color””is the truth about God.

The invention of whiteness is the sin of designating humanity by reference to physical characteristics for the purpose of one race (white) dominating nonwhite races. Race is humanly conceived, structurally maintained, deeply personal, and (from a specifically Christian standpoint) sin.

Because power is used to maintain and institutionalize racial privilege, racism is more insidious than disorganized, infrequent racist acts by disconnected individuals. Though a social construction, rooted in sinful misunderstandings of our humanity in Christ, race is a political reality that has far-reaching economic, social, and individual deleterious consequences.

While race is a fiction, a human construction, racism is a fact.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Methodist, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology

Pope Francis' Homily for Epiphany 2017

These men saw a star that made them set out. The discovery of something unusual in the heavens sparked a whole series of events. The star did not shine just for them, nor did they have special DNA to be able to see it. As one of the Church Fathers rightly noted, the Magi did not set out because they had seen the star, but they saw the star because they had already set out (cf. Saint John Chrysostom). Their hearts were open to the horizon and they could see what the heavens were showing them, for they were guided by an inner restlessness. They were open to something new.

The Magi thus personify all those who believe, those who long for God, who yearn for their home, their heavenly homeland. They reflect the image of all those who in their lives have not let their hearts become anesthetized.

A holy longing for God wells up in the heart of believers because they know that the Gospel is not an event of the past but of the present. A holy longing for God helps us keep alert in the face of every attempt to reduce and impoverish our life.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Epiphany, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pope Francis, Preaching / Homiletics, Roman Catholic, Theology, Theology: Scripture

More From Will Willimon–What are you hoping for at Christmas?

….one could learn a great deal from the question, “What do you hope to get for Christmas?” For if you know our hopes, you fairly well know us. If you want to know who a person really is, and plans to be, inquire into what that person is hoping for.

What are you hoping for?

I expect that is what most of us think religion is about, the fulfillment of our hopes. We hope to find peace in our anxious lives. So we come to church on Sunday morning hoping that the music of the hymns, the words of scripture and preaching may fill us with a sense of peace.

We hope for thoughtful, reflective lives. So we come to church on Sunday morning hoping for an interesting sermon, something that will help us to use our minds, something that will test our intellects, make us think about things in a way we haven’t thought before…..

The trouble is that the Gospels seem to engage in a continual debate with people’s hopes and expectations. Jesus came, light into our darkness. But the problem with Jesus was he was not the sort of light that we expected. That is where the trouble started. Jesus was the hope of the world. But he was not the hope for which the world was hoping!

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Methodist, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology