The New Evangelization: Facebook and Love Being Catholic

imageAbout a year ago, one of my sisters had become so frustrated with the anti-Catholic bias in the media that she felt convicted to counter this by being publicly, enthusiastically Catholic in all areas of her life.

The two year campaign of the election competition, the atrocity of the HHS mandate which diminishes religious freedom for Christians in this country, and the so-called “war on women” nonsense of the Planned Parenthood and NARAL money machines really took its toll on us regular, practicing Catholics.

Our faith was mocked not only at the highest levels of our government but throughout the news media, the entertainment industry and of course the social networks. Putting a bumper sticker on her car just wasn’t enough for my sister.

It’s funny how when we let the bad guys bully us into silence, the bad guys win. And when we, in my own case, let the shame of being an alcoholic silence me into anonymity—shame wins.  I believe strongly this is the devil at work. And we can’t let him win.

She started a Facebook page called, “Love Being Catholic.”  And quickly collecting 100 “fans,” she was very pleased and it sort of became for her a way to confirm our Faith.

With the blessed Mother by her side, my sister crushed the serpent and went overtly public with her love of faith. This, in our social circles wasn’t easy. And she lost a few “friends” over this, including a couple of relatives who didn’t like how faithfully she professed her love of Church teachings particularly on abortion, gay marriage and the HHS mandate.

So–flash forward to today.

She and I had lunch yesterday and were talking about how her Facebook page had almost reached 10,000 fans–with a “reach” of over 700,000! We were laughing and were amazed, but also so in awe of the holy spirit. We talked about how each of us can participate in this New Evangelization in our own ways.

This morning I woke to an email with the screen shot of her page showing 10,000 fans.  I couldn’t wait to share. I was so proud of my sister and so happy that I too “Love Being Catholic!”

There’s is a great article in the Catholic Sun today about Pope Francis by one of my most favorite Catholic theologians and authors George Weigel. His new book called Evangelical Catholicism hit the newsstands last month. I have all of his other books and will buy this one for myself for Easter.  In his article today, Weigel says, “The new pope played a significant role in shaping the Latin American bishops’ 2007 “Aparecida Document,” which embraced the New Evangelization and put it at the center of the Church’s life.”

Like Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI before him, Pope Francis absolutely understands how important it is to counter, as Weigel calls it, “the acids of secularism.”

So, rise up Catholics and be not afraid. Wear your faith on your sleeve. Preach the Gospel to all and if necessary, use (social media) words.

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The Cloud of the Unknowing, Cafeteria Catholics and Pope Francis

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene--OlsenOne of my favorite spiritual works–I haven’t read it in its entirety but as I do with most of my God books I read bits and pieces and skip around—is The Cloud of the Unknowing.

The Cloud of Unknowing is an anonymous work of Christian mysticism written in Middle English in the 14th century. It is a spiritual guide on Catholic contemplative prayer. It proposes the only way to truly “know” God is to abandon all preconceived notions and beliefs or “knowledge” about God and be courageous enough to surrender your mind and ego to the realm of “unknowingness,” at which point, you begin to glimpse the true nature of God.

With the election of Pope Francis it seems a new era has swarmed into the Church. I am careful not to say a “better” era. I felt Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a brilliant pope who left us beautiful epistles, wonderful homilies and made great strides in uniting certain facets of Christians with the Church.  Also, he held fast to supporting the Church’s moral truths which are under attack in the secular world, therefore our very Catholic selves are under attack.  I loved him, looked at him as a true shepherd of our Church, guided by God to shepherd the whole Church.

What I mean by this new era is how Pope Francis is able to appeal to the other Catholics, ex-Catholics and the ones who might be more cafeteria-style in their Catholic morality but who nonetheless want to know, love and serve God. Unable to grasp the importance of God’s moral truths in following Him, they still want to follow Him.

And Francis opens that door, without compromising on the Church’s moral truths. By his humility, his meekness, his imperative and primary call to serve the poor, these Catholics fall silent–in a good way, silent. They stop attacking temporarily. They perceive a pope they might actually be able to relate to. This is the God they know and love, the God who serves the poor and the God who loves all of us, even those of us who can’t—-by nature of our ignorance and pride, which we all have to some extent in different capacities—come to accept moral truths.

I’ve listened to the commentary and have been impressed with comments like “breath of fresh air in the Church,” and “guarded hopefulness.”  As for me, it’s funny because the Church has ALWAYS been about social justice–at least in my lifetime. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were tremendous champions of the poor and the vulnerable.  So why couldn’t these other Catholics see it? And why do they see Pope Francis as a breath of fresh air?

I can only guess it’s because these types of Catholics abhor authority, hierarchy, pomp, Catholic morality?  I don’t have a problem with authority, hierarchy, pomp (beauty!) and theological morality. So, I saw the Church’s grand social justice network as part of a whole, not a separate thing.

Anyways, for those cafeteria and ex-Catholics who might entertain coming back to the fold because of Pope Francis, welcome! And yay! You don’t have to have a perfect understanding (I say “understanding” because if these Catholics truly understood Catholic morality they would embrace it) of morality in order to be welcomed in the Church.  Just come back. Your understanding of the necessity of her moral teachings will come more readily once you’re here for a while.  So come back and let the Church and the Holy Spirit transform you.

The most important moral teaching, the foundation of it all, is the Church teaching on the dignity of the human person. Thank God for her stubborn insistence on condemning abortion. Pro-life in all circumstances, it is my prayer that Catholics who support a “woman’s right to choose abortion” will come to understand the love behind the Church’s teaching on this.

I’ve been thinking about the things that appeal to more liberal Catholics–and in addition to social justice, to me they seem to be more existential in nature. I’m making a big generalization here but it’s also an invitation.

where-only-love-can-go-30-days-with-john-kirvan-paperback-cover-artCheck out the Cloud of the Unknowing. A contemplative myself, this is a great entry point for those looking for the softer side of the Faith. Softer as in—it’s all about “love”— and not morality.  But this spiritual classic is not for beginners who wish to dabble in spirituality and new ageness. This spirituality is deeply rooted in Jesus, in forgetting everything about the world and getting to know God without distraction.

The Cloud of the Unknowing is written in middle English and for me is very difficult to read. I have to read every sentence three times to get it. So books like the one by John Kirvan, “Where Only Love Can Go,” are excellent tools for me to embrace this spiritual classic.  Where Only Love Can Go is a thirty day trip through The Cloud of the Unknowing, in modern language.  Here is an excerpt:

My dear friend in the Spirit, up until now you have lived a good but ordinary Christian life, not very different from your friends. But apparently God is calling you to something more. Because of the love in his heart, which he has had for you from the moment of your creation, he is not going to leave you alone, not about to let you off so easily. You are beginning to experience in  a special way God’s everlasting love, which you were brought out of nothingness and redeemed at the price of his blood. You can no longer be content to live at a distance from God. In his great grace he has kindled a desire in your heart to be more closely united to him.”

Kirwan notes that the anonymous author of The Cloud of the Unknowing instructs its reader that this is a book and a journey, which requires serious attention. He goes on to say, “The Cloud of the Unknowing is not for those who are tempted to “dip into” spirituality, to play around the edges of contemplation, presuming that the journey to God is a trip into warm fuzziness and uninterrupted serenity.”

So, in conclusion here I’m excited that ex-Catholics and “cafeteria” Catholics are looking at Pope Francis fondly and therefore looking more fondly at our Church. If only they would stop criticizing her for a minute and simply experience her in all her beauty and complexity, they will come to love her as I do. The Cloud of the Unknowing, a very Catholic spiritual work, might be a good place to start. And eventually, their understanding of God’s moral truths will come—and they will see the moral truths are there not to punish or condemn us but to free us and perfect us to closer union with our Creator.

5 Reasons Pope Francis is a Great Choice for Alcoholics

ignatius.trinity5 Reasons Pope Francis is a Wonderful Choice by the Holy Spirit for Alcoholics

1.       A Jesuit, Pope Francis embraces Ignatian spirituality

The spirituality of Saint Ignatius in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is undeniable. Bill W., the “co-founder” of AA did not rely on Ignatius’ teachings in drafting the Steps; however, he developed a devoted friendship with Father Ed Dowling, a Jesuit priest who was the first to notice the presence of Ignatian spirituality in the Steps.

A gentle, charming man, Fr. Dowling sought Bill Wilson out and introduced him to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. It is said the Bill Wilson took his 5th Step with Father Dowling. The similarities between the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius and the 12 Steps hint at why the Steps have survived intact over the years. The principles of the Steps are based in ancient Christian principles.

ignatiusspirituality projectA remarkable Chicago-based Jesuit ministry which offers retreats to those who are homeless and seeking recovery from alcoholism and addiction is the Ignatian Spirituality Project. This ministry helps them find meaning and purpose as they reclaim their lives. The Ignatian Spirituality Project also trains the formerly homeless to assist in giving retreats.

As a Jesuit, Pope Francis no doubt is familiar with and practices these Spiritual Exercises, which would foster an empathetic understanding of the plight of the alcoholic and the recovering individual.

2.       Choosing the name “Francis” and the Prayer of Saint Francis for Alcoholics

In Alcoholics Anonymous’ companion book, the “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions,” Bill Wilson offered the Prayer of Saint Francis to alcoholics as a way of practicing the 11th Step. This prayer is typically noted as the 11th Step Prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.

What practicing, active alcoholic is not focused on self?  By design alcoholics put the drink before all else. We may call ourselves “functioning alcoholics,” but are we really?  Are we really present in the lives of our loved ones or are we seeking to be understood, loved? Aren’t we in the end in despair and lacking in hope?

By choosing the name Francis, this pope is reaching out to all of us to let us know that the key to peace, the keys to the kingdom are in serving others and thinking less often of ourselves and our needs, which also happens to be the foundational principles of 12 Step programs.

3.       Pope Francis and the “War on Drugs” in Latin America

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, then Cardinal Bergoglio was familiar with alcohol and drug addiction and its impact on families, cultures and parishes.

In 2011, in the annual Mass for Education he spoke to more than 5 thousand students about fighting drug trafficking in the schools. “We are giving future generations a culture of death and darkness,” adding that, “drugs and alcohol kill.”  On Apr 23, 2009, he exhorted thousands of students present not to be trapped by “the proposal of the easy shortcut, instant gratification, alcohol or drugs, because that is darkness.”

He urged, “Open your hearts to the light even though it is hard, do not allow yourselves to be enslaved by the promises that seem to be freedom but are in reality oppression, the promises of vain happiness, the promises of darkness.”

To the same group in 2008, he spoke about the children of alcoholic parents, of the boys and girls who are “abandoned of love, meaningful conversation, joy and who do not know what it is to play with Mom and Dad because their parents have succumb to the proposal of alcohol or drugs, which,” he says, “is darkness.”

An alcoholic mother myself, I appreciate Pope Francis’ focus on the perspectives of our children and how family alcoholism affects them.

in 2008, on Holy Thursday he washed the feet of 12 recovering drug addicts at a rehabilitation center in Buenos Aires.

4.       Pope Francis and Humility—the hallmark of recovery

One of the first things we discovered about our new Pope Francis was his apparent humility. From asking the crowd to pray for him to the stories of him washing the feet of AIDS patients, this Pope has already been identified to us as a very humble man.

ignatius2In Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the guiding principles behind the 12 Steps, and especially steps 2, 5 and 7 is humility. The word “humility” occurs 52 times in the first 164 pages of the “Big Book” and the “12&12.”  An alcoholic who fails to capture the essence of humility in her heart—not just in her mind—has a difficult road of recovery.

In speaking to the necessity for Step 7, Bill W writes in the 12&12, “That basic ingredient of all humility, a desire to seek and do God’s will, was missing.”

In speaking of taking Step 2, Bill writes on page 33 of the 12&12, “True humility and an open mind can lead us to faith, and every A.A. meeting is an assurance that God will restore us to sanity if we rightly relate ourselves to Him.”

And to Step 5, it says in the 12&12 on p.58, “Therefore, our first practical move toward humility must consist of recognizing our deficiencies.”

Fr. Joseph A. Tetlow, S.J., who became a Jesuit in 1947 and has served as a professor of history and dean of arts and sciences at Loyola University, writes in Making Choices for Christ,

“True humility does not attract many in this new age of self-realization. We tend to equate humility with self-abasement, but such “humility” would attract only the mentally ill. Christian humility, properly understood, requires a strong sense of self, and the greater the humility, the stronger the sense of self. For as more than one saint has remarked, humility is seeing and acknowledging the truth about yourself and your world.”

By practicing such a deep and obvious humility Pope Francis will show the way to those of us in recovery hoping to do the same.

5.       12th Step Work and the then-Cardinal Bergoglia’s call for a new evangelization in Latin America

Pope Francis, as Cardinal and head of the Church in Argentina, has shown a committed focus to the new evangelization, which is key for Catholic alcoholics.

Last May, along with the Latin American Bishops at their convention, then Cardinal Bergoglio, presented the Aparecida Document, which is the comprehensive document proposing a new evangelization. Pope Benedict gave his blessing to the Document. Our new Pope Francis spent a great deal of effort through this Document insisting the way to bring others back to Christ is by evangelizing through our actions. We normally might think of “evangelism” as intrusive and salesy. But this is not what is meant here. We are to evangelize by our example.

According to 12 Step texts, alcoholics are initially spiritually bankrupt; but many find their way back to God through practicing the principles of the 12 Steps.

The 12th Step calls us to “carry this message to other alcoholics.”  We are to “evangelize.”  We are, through our actions and example, to show active alcoholics how good life can be without alcohol.  We never insist or compel. We don’t force interventions. We can only be an example. We are to “evangelize” other alcoholics not with words but by our actions.

Taking the 12th Step a bit further, the Catholic alcoholic is in a position to be an example of how Christ transforms us.

Alcoholism has driven many away from the Church. In AA meetings I sit beside many “ex-Catholics.”  These ex-Catholics have found their way back to God, yet have not found their way back to their Church.  How do we evangelize them?

This is delicate but important 12 Step work. And I believe in addition to participating in communities like the Calix Society, the best way is by our example. Like Pope Francis’ example of forgoing the palace and the limo, our example of living our Catholic faith joyfully in recovery will lead ex-Catholics home. The New Evangelization called forth in this Latin American Aparecide Document, in the Year of Faith is in essence “12 Step work” for the Church.

Lectio Divina and the 11th Step for My Recovery

lectio divina 0One of my favorite forms of Catholic prayer is Lectio Divina. It’s one of the ways in which I practice the 11th Step in my recovery.

In Christianity, Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s Word. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word.

Traditionally Lectio Divina has four separate steps: read, meditate, pray and contemplate. First a passage of Scripture is read, then its meaning is reflected (meditation) upon. This is followed by prayer and contemplation on the Word of God.

The focus of Lectio Divina is not a theological analysis of biblical passages, but rather viewing them with Christ as the key to their meaning.

For example, given Jesus’ statement in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you,” an analytical approach would focus on the reason for the statement during the Last Supper, the biblical context, etc. But in Lectio Divina rather than “dissecting peace”, the practitioner “enters peace” and shares in the peace of Christ.

lectio divina 2In Christian teachings, this form of meditative prayer leads to an increased knowledge of Christ.

The roots of Scriptural reflection and interpretation go back to the 3rd century, after whom St. Ambrose taught them to St. Augustine.

The monastic practice of Lectio Divina was first established in the 6th century by Saint Benedict. It was then formalized as a four step process by the Carthusian monk, Guigo II, in the 12th century. In the 20th century, the constitution Dei Verbum of Pope Paul VI recommended Lectio Divina for the general public.

lectio divinaAnd yay! Our wonderful Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of Lectio Divina in the 21st century.

I practice Lectio Divina—not daily, but definitely often-— in the mornings when I read the daily Mass readings at home in my prayer chair.  It’s one of a variety of ways I practice my 11th Step–“sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as I understand God.”

I appreciate so much how I can go anywhere in the world and feel at home in an AA meeting and in a Catholic Mass.

AA meetings all have basically the same format. I know what to expect; and I can attend in silence without having to talk to anybody or interact with them if I don’t want to.  I love this because sometimes, especially when I travel, if I had to share, or introduce myself, or communicate with others, I probably wouldn’t go as often as I need to.

Don’t get me wrong—I love my “home group” where I share often and reach out to others.  But sometimes I just want to take it all in all by myself.

And the Mass is the same all over the world everyday, too.  I don’t think people who aren’t Catholic know this?

When my family travels for beach trips or visits to relatives out-of-state, we always make a point to find the nearest Catholic church and attend Mass on Sunday.

In every Mass — in the “Liturgy of the Word” part of the Mass, the same Scripture passages are read around the world.  If I’m in Idaho today, Thursday, January 31, 2013, attending Mass at a small chapel in a small town outside Boise, they will be reading the same passages from the Bible that are being read in New York City at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and in my home parish Saint Peter Chanel here in Roswell, Georgia:

First Reading for this example is Hebrews 10:19-25
Psalm 24: 1-6
Gospel Reading: Mark 4:21-25

lectio divina 3On Sundays, there is another reading from the New Testament added, as well.  The previous Sunday it was 1Corinthians 12:12-30, which is one of my favorites.

I love this about my faith, the universality of it all.  Since I usually only attend Mass on Sundays, I have a subscription to Magnificat, which takes me through prayers and meditations on the daily Gospels. (Or I can always check here to get the readings.)

And so this morning I practiced Lectio Divina in solidarity with all the Catholics around the world reading the same Scripture.

READ:
This example’s Gospel is from Mark 4:21-25:

Jesus said to his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand?  For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear out to hear. He also told them, ‘Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you.  To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

MEDITATE:
A lamp is to be placed on a lampstand, and not hidden. For me, today, I relate this to how I am beginning in sobriety to follow God’s will more perfectly. To do this, it seems God is calling me to share myself with others. By being vulnerable–and I am just learning this for the first time in my life—by being vulnerable, I am able to connect authentically with others.  If I make myself vulnerable and put myself “out there” in an honest way–not in a vain or self-serving way but in a way that truly helps me form connections with others—then this pleases God.

The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.  This passage always seems to cut me at my core.  How do I measure?  Do I measure others by how well they practice their faiths, how much money they have, how they raise their children, how they measure others?  I  have a tendency to judge people who judge others ha ha ha.  How messed up is that?

I want to measure others the way Jesus measures me.  With compassion, patience, love and mercy.

PRAY:
Dear God, thank you for another day of sobriety.  Please direct my thinking today and help me do Your will. Teach me to measure the way You measure.  Enlighten me to be aware of when You want me to reach out to others who need help. Keep me out of my own head. Teach me to see others as you see them.

CONTEMPLATE:
This fourth stage of Lectio Divina is when the prayer, in turn, points to the gift of quiet stillness in the presence of God, called contemplation. So, I sit, quiet, still, breathing deeply and taking in all God wants this reading to give to me.  I just sit and hang out with God.  Like Mary (the sister of Martha) just listening to Jesus talk while Martha busied herself in the kitchen, I just sit here at His feet and listen.

“Seek in reading and you will find in meditation; knock in prayer and it will be opened to you in contemplation” — Saint John of the Cross.

Here is a link to Jeff Cavin’s take on Lectio Divina.

In Search of Hope and Transformation

butterflyI’ve been an annoying re-blogger the past few days.  I spent three intense days on a marketing proposal I had to present Tuesday, and in good old obsessive fashion I thought of nothing else until it was complete and behind me.  Then yesterday I was in recovery mode from this and spent my time reading other people’s work and re-blogging good stuff.

Now that I’ve recovered from my marketing obsession, I have so many ideas that I want to write about. The problem is determining which one to dive into first. And then I saw a simple post over at Tired of Thinking About Drinking that inspired me to write my own similar post listing the “search terms” people use to find my blog.  This at least has gotten me going and I expect I’ll have two or three posts to follow before the day is over. I hope y’all (yes, I’m from Georgia) don’t get tired of me today!

Search terms used to find my blog:

  • mother son intimacy
  • aa logo
  • catholic and alcoholism
  • catholic alcoholic
  • adopt a cardinal
  • sobriety blogs
  • different kinds of saints
  • is aa ok for catholic
  • lectio divina
  • blog catholic alcoholism
  • 4th step prayer
  • catholic coping mechanisms
  • catholic alcohol addiction
  • prayer book for catholic addicts
  • mother teresa
  • catholic healing for alcoholic parent
  • catholic alcoholics anonymous women
  • catholics and alcohol
  • catholic and being alcoholic
  • gods will regarding alcoholism catholic
  • bruce willis alcoholic
  • mindy mccready suicide
  • 12 steps for catholic priests book
  • hope
  • mary magdalen and the egg
  • pilgrimage florida
  • catholics love alcohol
  • catholic beer
  • calix
  • heather king magnificat
  • “celebrate recovery” catholic
  • king paw jaguar
  • catholic alcohol recovery
  • catholic help with alcoholism
  • pope benedict commentary
  • catechism views on alcoholics anonymous
  • cloud of witnesses

Pretty interesting–at least to me!  So there are people out there searching for the kind of experiences I write about. Dear God, please direct my thinking and my writing so that if ever someone comes across my blog they are left with Your hope. As your dear servant Pope Emeritus Benedict said,

“To be effective the proclamation of faith must begin with a heart that believes, hopes, loves; and a heart that loves Christ also believes in the transformative power of the Holy Spirit!”

So if it be Your will, God, let me be an example of this transformative power of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You, Papa!

full moon vatican feb 27 2013Just 24 hours left in the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI and I am more in love with my Church and my faith than ever before. I’ve been pouring over blog posts from so many of you and eating up all the history and catechism refreshers.

I truly admire and love this Pope. I pray the conclave does God’s will and I hope God’s will is to bring a new springtime in.  What BXVI started in this year of faith really has created a mission heart in me and so many others–I don’t have to go to Africa or India to be a witness for my faith. I can do it right here in my little world, here in Alpharetta, Georgia and also here in my little place in the blogosphere.

Thank you Pope Benedict for your life of service to the Church. I am so happy you will be able to live out your days in prayer and comfortable brown shoes from Leon, Mexico.  XOXO, Number 9

***

“The upcoming Year of Faith is a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world” (Porta Fidei 6). In other words, the Year of Faith is an opportunity for Catholics to experience a conversion – to turn back to Jesus and enter into a deeper relationship with him. The “door of faith” is opened at one’s baptism, but during this year Catholics are called to open it again, walk through it and rediscover and renew their relationship with Christ and his Church.”