My background is in theology and in nonprofit business/administration. As such, I have sought ways to combine the best business practices within ministry. And, with that in mind, I have wanted to “measure” what makes a successful parish. What can we examine and evaulate to deem that a parish is doing well and another is not. Or are we just to throw everything up to, “We will see the fruits in heaven?” There are many things we can analyze: offertory, mass attendance, number of baptisms and weddings, etc. While these would give us some perspective into the success of the parish, I think that they can be attributed (good or bad) to other factors outside of the parishes control. And, in some cases, I think these are additional by-products or secondary measurements caused by good catechesis and evangelization.
The two measurable areas that I think one could use to gauge a successful parish are the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life and the size of ones Rite of Christian Initiation Program (R.C.I.A.).
Caritas et Veritas is proud to announce that Apple has approved the very first Pro-Life iPhone app for distribution!
Life Rosary – Meditations and Prayers is a meditation and instructive aid for those praying the Rosary. It does NOT replace your Rosary beads, but rather helps you focus on the mysteries of the Rosary.
Fr. Frank Pavone from Priests for Life has shared additional prayers and meditations to compliment and focus your attention on life and human dignity. Each day of the week includes special prayers for mothers, the unborn, for forgiveness, governments, and the world.
Our Pro-Life Rosary app is priced at $1 to help raise money for pro-life causes. All of the proceeds go to support pro-life initiatives and organizations, including Priests for Life. Our first iPhone app is free and was downloaded 25,000 times in 6 months. With your help in promoting this latest app, we could raise $25,000 or more for pro-life initiatives this year!
Prayer is the foundation of all that we do in defense of human life. Our efforts—whether educational, pastoral, or legislative—will be less than fully fruitful if we do not change hearts and if we do not ourselves overcome our own spiritual blindness. Only with prayer—prayer that storms the heavens for justice and mercy, prayer that cleanses our hearts and our souls—will the culture of death that surrounds us today be replaced with a culture of life.1
I’d like to focus on three points in the pastoral plan that every one of us can take action.
Pray for life at every Mass
Parishes should include in the petitions at every Mass a prayer that ours will become a nation that respects and protects all human life, born and unborn, reflecting a true culture of life.2
As a new Catholic I was impressed by the prayers for life offered daily at Mass. If your parish does not participate in this request from the USCCB, please consider adding it to the book of petitions or speak with your pastor about including prayers for life at every Mass.
Lent is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting to prepare us for the hope-filled death and Resurrection of our Lord. This can include giving something up (think chocolate and television, not exercise and vegetables), or focusing more intently on a particular spiritual discipline (i.e. Lectio Divina or the Rosary). Lent (like Advent) can be a great time to build a habit that continues throughout the rest of the year.
For me, as I received the mark of ashes today, I’m particularly filled with a deep repentance for my apathy for the unborn. It’s not for lack of belief, but rather my belief has come with little action. But as St. John tells us in his first epistle, we ought to be concerned when our belief does not love with actions and truth.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18)
In my last post, I discussed that evangelization goes to the essence of who the Church is as Church. The missionary mandate that Christ gives is not something added to the nature of the Church; the Church is missionary in its very nature. It is intrinsic to who we are and thus evangelization has an ontological focus. It is, in the words of Ad Gentes, a “universal sacrament of salvation.” And, as a Church we need to constantly be of renewal and a visible witness to the salvific love of Christ. We also need to proclaim the “good news” of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection.
I wanted to emphasis our need to “share” our faith because I do believe that for many within the Catholic Church, this is a foreign concept. We have come to view evangelization as simply doing good and being good. The sense that we need to articulate and express our faith is a stretch for many within the Church. There are many reasons for this due to confusions regarding questions of salvation, Rahner’s “anonymous Christian,” grace versus nature, the necessity of the Church for salvation, and what about those people who never hear or come to know Jesus. These questions are just a sampling of some of the underpinnings that need to be explained for the Catholic faithful to again capture the evangelization fervor of Pentecost.
Do you know what is the nature of the Church? You might come up with various answers, but when the Church asks who are we at our very nature, it responds–missionary.1 Evangelization is at the core of who we are as Church–to go out!
Orthodoxy is necessary for evangelization to occur. Without it, one hasn’t anything to share, but their own conjecture and opinion. Without orthodoxy, there is nothing to share, and no need to share it. For evangelization to have meaning there is a necessary precursor of catholicity (right thinking-truth, fullness of faith and universal mission). Evangelization is about conversion of hearts, leading others to Christ through word and proclamation, into his visible body, the Church.
My dear friend Taylor Marshall has recently published a fantastic new book entitled: The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity. This is a book for anyone interested in understanding Catholic teachings and practices more, and particularly their biblical and Jewish roots. The book is clear and accessible to a wide range of readers, and it is beautifully written. Its orientation is certainly popular, but the scholarship that went into producing this text is apparent in the text itself as well as in the endnotes which conclude each chapter. I would recommend this book to both Catholics and non-Catholics. It is a quick and enjoyable read (I had difficulty putting it down when I first began reading it—I’ve read it twice already and am looking forward to reading it a third time when I am able).
The Crucified Rabbi is available for only $14.95 from Amazon.com. Marshall’s book encompasses a wide-range of topics exploring their OT and Jewish roots: Jesus’ messiahship; Mary as Queen mother of the fulfilled Davidic kingdom (the Church); the papacy; Catholic view of baptism; the Mass and the Eucharist; Catholic priesthood; priestly vestments; cathedrals; parishes; monasticism; Catholic views on marriage; holy days and the liturgical calendar; Saints; and the afterlife. His book also includes a very helpful appendix which lists over 300 OT passages Marshall believes Jesus fulfilled in His NT life and mission. His bibliography includes both useful scholarly and popular works for further reading. This book is a must read.
In the Catholic Church, Masses are celebrated every day of the year (except Good Friday when only Communion Services are held), and from the Lectionary, Bible passages are read, on a liturgical cycle, every day at these liturgical celebrations [the readings for the day may be found here. My wife and I used to be members of an adult education group at our old parish in Dayton, Ohio, which hosts short reflections on each of the day’s readings [available here]. My wife and I each still usually write two reflections a week for their website. I try to provide points of application at the end of my reflections. Often, I’ve had people come up to me and ask how we lay people are supposed to put some of these applications into practice: how are we to pray continually? How are we to share our faith? How can we devote our lives to serving others day-to-day? I’ve often encountered objections like the following: sure, I could pray continually if I were a monk or nun in a monastery. Sure, I could share my faith with others if I were a full-time missionary, like a religious brother or sister in some foreign country. Sure, I could devote my life to service if I were a Franciscan. But what about those of us who stay at home all day with children? What about those of us who work long hours in our various occupations, with computers or in manual labor or in other professions?
In this post I’m moving first to Mark’s Gospel before looking at any other major books or passages of the NT because the tradition of the early church, following the testimony of Papias (preserved for us by Eusebius) is that Mark’s Gospel is a summary of Peter’s preaching in Rome. What is interesting about this view is that the general contours of Mark’s Gospel follow the general outline of Peter’s preaching recorded in the Book of Acts. If you take a look, for example, at Acts 10:36-43, we see that Peter begins his preaching about Jesus with Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist. Of all four Gospels, only Mark begins in this way. Moreover, in 1 Peter 5:13, we find Peter referencing a “Mark” as his travelling companion, both of whom send their greetings from Rome.
The Petrine nature of Mark’s Gospel, although dismissed by most scholars, is noted by Dr. Richard Bauckham. Dr. Bauckham points out that,
Since Matthew’s Gospel has a special interest in Peter…it is very noteworthy that Mark mentions Peter by name considerably more frequently than Matthew does. Furthermore—a point of considerable importance for our argument that Mark’s Gospel claims Peter as its principal eyewitness source—Peter is actually present through a large portion of the narrative….1
Dr. Gary Anderson is Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at the University of Notre Dame and is quickly becoming one of the world’s leading scholars of Second Temple Judaism, the Dead Sea Scrolls and especially of biblical interpretation among early Jews and early Christians. He is also a Protestant convert to Catholicism. He earned a B.A. from Albion College, an M.Div. from Duke University, and a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament from Harvard University’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.
Dr. Anderson was raised Protestant and in fact entered Duke University as a Protestant seminarian. He writes some brief autobiographical insights in his important book The Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination. He tells how important studying church history at Duke University under such giants as Dr. David Steinmetz helped point him in the direction of the Catholic Church. He eventually entered the Roman Catholic Church and became one of the leading Catholic scholars of early biblical interpretation.