Posts Tagged ‘catholic church’
Mennonite churches have not historically focused on the man made religious rituals in the 40 days leading to Easter.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of an ancient but relatively new tradition that the Mennonites have taken on, as the following examples from the March 2014 issue of their Mennonite Brethren Herald magazine confirm.
What I like about Lent
by Dora Dueck
Lent was not part of my experience growing up in a Mennonite church. It was something that “others” did (read: Catholics), and when one is young, what those others do often seems vastly inferior to what one’s own people do. We celebrated Good Friday and Easter and that was enough. Lent had an aura of gloominess and “works righteousness” about it, and we were beyond all that striving and uncertainty and climbing the stairs to heaven on our knees. (I speak as a child.)
But in the meanwhile, many Mennonite churches, including my own, have adopted various practices of the liturgical calendar, and I’ve come to appreciate Lent’s invitation to reflection, to deep consideration of Christ and the cross, to give up or to take on. To see oneself as one is: as in the words of Thomas Merton, “I walk from region to region of my soul and I discover that I am a bombed city.” To hear oneself named “Beloved” in the midst of that desolation.
One can do this any time, of course, but Ash Wednesday with its formal beginning and the six Sundays leading up to Easter with their liturgies and sermons and reminders are helps along the way.
So it’s a good time. But one of the things I like best about Lent is that it’s not a big deal in the wider culture. It’s not commercial. Having ashes imposed (I love that word for this ritual) to mark repentance and awareness of being “dust” seems by now, in fact, the strange activity of a strange minority . . .
Note: Thomas Merton is thought to be the greatest popularizer of interspirituality and said “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity … I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.” Click here for more.
LTRP Note: Worth noting, Rick Warren is coming out with a new book, The Daniel Plan, on December 3rd. He is co-authoring the book with two of the Daniel Plan New Age advocates, Dr. Daniel Amen and Dr. Mark Hyman (see our related articles below UTT’s headlines for this week).
Weekly News in Review with Understand the Times, International
- October 4 – Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church Launching 3 Global Campuses in ’12 Cities PEACE Plan’ Movement
- October 9 – Interaction, dialogue needed to end religious violence, priest reflects
- October 8 – Kazakhstan bishop urges greater devotion to Eucharist
- October 10 – Pope To Consecrate World to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Sunday
- October 3 – ‘Designer Babies:’ Patented Process Could Lead to Selection of Genes for Specific Traits
Related Articles on the Purpose Driven Movement:
By Rachel Donadio
New York Times
ROME — For generations, homosexuality has largely been a taboo topic for the Vatican, ignored altogether or treated as “an intrinsic moral evil,” in the words of the previous pope.
In that context, brief remarks by Pope Francis suggesting that he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation, made aboard the papal airplane on the way back from his first foreign trip, to Brazil, resonated through the church. Never veering from church doctrine opposing homosexuality, Francis did strike a more compassionate tone than that of his predecessors, some of whom had largely avoided even saying the more colloquial “gay.”
“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis told reporters, speaking in Italian but using the English word “gay.”
Francis’s words could not have been more different from those of Benedict XVI, who in 2005 wrote that homosexuality was “a strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil,” and an “objective disorder.” The church document said men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” should not become priests. Click here to continue reading.
By Ahn Do
L.A. Times (From June)
(courtesy Deception in the Church)
On the plaza of the future Christ Cathedral, 3,000 chairs and 7,000 water bottles awaited the faithful. On Saturday [June], before Mass welcomed families from St. Callistus Church to their new home, an organizer said into the microphone: “Those sitting in the sun will get more blessings from God.”
The service on the grounds once belonging to the Crystal Cathedral started on time at 4 p.m., as a parade of priests led by Bishop Kevin Vann let their words — English, sprinkled with Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese — embrace the multicultural crowd.
“No matter the weather, we must be here,” said Rosa Maria Rosales, a 26-year member of the Garden Grove Catholic church. After lunch, she had attended the parish’s farewell service at the old church, then continued on to this gathering with her friend Mary Sanchez, who cradled a 5-month-old baby.
“Hello and goodbye. Of course, we don’t like to leave the old place, but look at this new place!” Sanchez exclaimed, gesturing at the wide expanse of 35 acres — nearly four times the size of the former place of worship less than a mile away.
“And look at all the people together, for the same reason. Es un milagro,” she added, describing it as a miracle. Click here to continue reading.
I had always been confused as to the real nature of this advance in the Catholic church. Was this just the work of a few mavericks and renegades, or did the church hierarchy sanction this practice? My concerns were affirmed when I read in an interview that the mystical prayer movement not only had the approval of the highest echelons of Catholicism but also was, in fact, the source of its expansion. – Ray Yungen
“Contemplative Spirituality – the Source of the Catholic Church’s Expansion”
by Ray Yungen
While many Christians are still not even aware that a practical Christian mystical movement exists, momentum is picking up, and an obvious surge towards this contemplative spirituality has surfaced. Evidence regarding the magnitude of this mystical prayer movement is now within reach of the average person. In 1992, Newsweek magazine did a cover story called “Talking to God,” which made a clear reference to it. The article disclosed:
[S]ilence, appropriate body posture and, above all, emptying the mind through repetition of prayerâ€”have been the practices of mystics in all the great world religions. And they form the basis on which most modern spiritual directors guide those who want to draw closer to God.1
It is amazing to me how Newsweek clearly observed this shift in the spiritual paradigm over fifteen years ago, while many Christians (including most prominent leaders) still live in abject ignorance of this change. Are the teachings of the practical Christian mystic actually being assimilated so well that even our pastors are not discerning this shift?
In September 2005, Newsweek carried a special report called “Spirituality in America.” The feature story, titled “In Search of the Spiritual,” is seventeen pages long, and for anyone who thought that a Christian mystical movement did not exist, this article is all the proof needed to show it not only exists but is alive, well, and growing like you wouldn’t believe.
The article begins by describing the origin of the contemporary contemplative prayer movement, which began largely with a Catholic monk named Thomas Keating:
To him [Keating], as a Trappist monk, meditation was second nature. He invited the great Zen master Roshi Sasaki to lead retreats at the abbey. And surely, he thought, there must be a precedent within the church for making such simple but powerful spiritual techniques available to laypeople. His Trappist brother Father William Meninger found it in one day in 1974, in a dusty copy of a 14th-century guide to contemplative meditation, “The Cloud of Unknowing.”2
The most obvious integration of this movement can be found in Roman Catholicism. Michael Leach, former president of the Catholic Book Publishers Association, made this incredibly candid assertion:
But many people also believe that the spiritual principles underlying the New Age movement will soon be incorporated–or rather reincorporated–into the mainstream of Catholic belief. In fact, it’s happening in the United States right now.3
Incorporating it is! And it is assimilating primarily through the contemplative prayer movement.
Contemplative leader Basil Pennington, openly acknowledging its growing size, said, “We are part of an immensely large community … ‘We are Legion.’”4 Backing him up, a major Catholic resource company stated, “Contemplative prayer has once again become commonplace in the Christian community.”5
William Shannon [a mystic proponent and the biographer of Thomas Merton] went so far as to say contemplative spirituality has now widely replaced old-style Catholicism.6 This is not to say the Mass or any of the sacraments have been abandoned, but the underlying spiritual ideology of many in the Catholic church is now contemplative in its orientation.
One of my personal experiences with the saturation of mysticism in the Catholic church was in a phone conversation I had with the head nun at a local retreat center who told me the same message Shannon conveys. She made it clear The Cloud of Unknowing is now the basis for nearly all Catholic spirituality, and contemplative prayer is now becoming widespread all over the world.
I had always been confused as to the real nature of this advance in the Catholic church. Was this just the work of a few mavericks and renegades, or did the church hierarchy sanction this practice? My concerns were affirmed when I read in an interview that the mystical prayer movement not only had the approval of the highest echelons of Catholicism but also was, in fact, the source of its expansion. Speaking of a meeting between the late Pope Paul VI and members of the Catholic Trappist Monastic Order in the 1970s, Thomas Keating, disclosed the following:
The Pontiff declared that unless the Church rediscovered the contemplative tradition, renewal couldn’t take place. He specifically called upon the monastics, because they lived the contemplative life, to help the laity and those in other religious orders bring that dimension into their lives as well.7
Just look at the latest official catechism of the Catholic church to see contemplative prayer officially endorsed and promoted to the faithful by the powers that be. The new catechism firmly states: “Contemplative prayer is hearing the word of God … Contemplative prayer is silence.”8
I realized just how successfully Pope Paul’s admonitions have been carried out when I discovered the following at one popular Catholic bookstore. Many shelves were marked as spirituality–the focal point of the entire store. Eighty to ninety percent of the books on those shelves were on mystical prayer. It was clearly the overriding theme….
Contemplative spirituality reaches far beyond the walls of the Catholic church. Mainline Protestant traditions (Episcopalians, United Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, United Church of Christ, etc.) have dived into the contemplative waters too. Their deep tradition of twentieth-century liberalism and sociopolitical activism has left them spiritually dry and thirsting for supernatural experiences. This school of practical mysticism gives them a sense of spirituality while still allowing them a liberal political correctness. Marcus Borg, [former] professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University and someone who resonates with mystical spirituality understands the popularity of mystical prayer. He states:
In some mainline denominations, emerging-paradigm [contemplative] Christians are in the majority. Others are about equally divided between these two ways of being Christian.9
A sales person at a bookstore that caters to these denominations once told me the contemplative prayer view has found a large audience in the Protestant mainstream, and many pastors are very open to these practices. She added that some members of the clergy did show resistance, but a clear momentum towards the contemplative direction was nevertheless occurring. An article in Publisher’s Weekly magazine addressing the move toward contemplative prayer in mainstream religious circles confirmed her observation. One woman in the publishing field was quoted as saying, “[M]any Protestants are looking to satisfy that yearning by a return to the Western contemplative tradition.”10 Another college professor pointed out:
My students have been typically middle-aged and upper middle class Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists, active in the lay leadership of their churches. To outward appearances, they are quite conventional people. Yet I have found that virtually every one of my students has encountered the new age in one of its many forms and has been attracted by its mystery.11
Contemplative spirituality provides a seemingly profound experience of God without having to adhere to a conservative social outlook. It also gives its practitioners comfort to know they draw on a so–called Christian well of tradition. This dilutes any reluctance some might have about the orthodoxy of these practices.
To underscore the scope and reach of the contemplative prayer movement let’s look at the numbers put out by an organization called Spiritual Directors International (SDI). On their website this group gives ample evidence of what their practices are. In one national conference, the following was presented:
This workshop offers an opportunity to study and experience the [spiritual] director’s role in a person’s move into the beginning and early stages of contemplative prayer, silence, and openness to new sorts of praying.12
One of the objectives of SDI is “Tending the holy around the world and across traditions.” A 2008 membership list showed 652 Episcopalians, 239 Presbyterians, 239 Methodists, 175 Lutherans, and a whopping 2,386 Roman Catholics; counting another forty or so “traditions,” the total was 6648. To show the nature of just what they mean by “across traditions,” the list included Buddhist, Gnostic Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Siddha Yoga, and even Pagan/Wiccan.* (see below)
(For more information about contemplative spirituality, spiritual formation, and New Age mysticism coming into the church, read A Time of Departing.)
1. Kenneth L. Woodward, “Talking to God” (Newsweek , January 6, 1992), p. 44.
2. Jerry Alder, “In Search of the Spiritual” (Newsweek, August/September 2005, Special Report: “Spirituality in America”), p. 48.
3. Michael Leach (America, May 2, 1992), p. 384.
4. M. Basil Pennington, Centered Living: The Way of Centering Prayer (New York, NY: Doubleday Publishing, Image Book edition, September 1988), p. 10.
5. Sheed & Ward Catalog, Winter/Lent, 1978, p. 12.
6. William Shannon, Seeds of Peace (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing, 1996), p. 25.
7. Anne A. Simpson, “Resting in God” Common Boundary magazine, Sept./Oct. 1997, http://www.livingrosaries.org/interview.htm), p. 25.
8. Catechism of the Catholic Church (Urbi et Orbi Communications, 1994), p. 652.
9. Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 2004), p. 7.
10. Kimberly Winston, “Get Thee to a Monastery” (Publisher’s Weekly, April 10, 2000), p. 39.
11. Bruce Epperly, Crystal & Cross (Mystic, CT: Twenty-third Publishers, 1996), p. 14.
12. Spiritual Directors International, Conference Workshops: “Exile or Return? Accompanying the Journey into Contemplative Prayer” (http://www.sdiworld.org/conference_workshops.html).
*Note on Spiritual Directors International. Since 2005, there have been significant increases in the SDI’s demographic statistics of spiritual director members. The overall increase went from around 5000 members in 2005 to 6648 in 2008 with new denominations and religious groups added.
By RACHEL DONADIO
New York Times
VATICAN CITY — Citing advanced years and infirmity, but showing characteristic tough-mindedness and unpredictability, Pope Benedict XVI shocked Roman Catholics on Monday by saying that he would resign on Feb. 28, becoming the first pope to do so in six centuries.
Speaking in Latin to a small gathering of cardinals at the Vatican on Monday morning, Benedict said that after examining his conscience “before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of leading the world’s one billion Roman Catholics.
The statement, soon translated into seven languages, ricocheted around the globe.
A shy, tough-minded theologian who seemed to relish writing books more than greeting stadium crowds, Benedict, 85, was elected by fellow cardinals in 2005 after the death of John Paul II. An often divisive figure, he spent much of his papacy in the shadow of his beloved predecessor. Click here to continue reading.