Evangelisation: the miracles God can work through us when say Yes and put our trust in him

Filed in Spirituality by on May 20, 2014 22 Comments


In this series of posts, “From the Mission Field”, I am sharing some inspiring stories: people open to the Holy Spirit, allowing him to do amazing things in their corner of the world. May these stories encourage us to keep fanning into flames the little fires we’re starting in our own little corners…

‘In the desert, people of faith are needed who, by the example of their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive’ (Benedict XVI). In these situations we are called to be living sources of water from which others can drink. At times, this becomes a heavy cross, but it was from the cross, from his pierced side, that our Lord gave himself to us as a source of living water. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope! (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 86)

#2 Evangelising Birmingham – Collette Power

I met Collette a few years ago at a Youth 2000 leaders’ weekend: straight away, it was like meeting a kindred spirit. As soon as I mentioned I worked for a parish in Balham, Collette shared her own passionate love for evangelisation, and we were off…

Collette is 26 and lives and works in the Archdiocese of Birmingham. Over the last few years she has led and developed the 2nd Friday project in Birmingham, a lay-led young adults’ movement with a focus on discipleship and evangelisation. She has now turned more towards parish ministry as well as freelance social communications work for the Church.

Collette, give us a snapshot of some of the evangelisation initiatives in your parish and in Birmingham – what’s going on?

During the two and a half years I led 2nd Friday, a small team of us – through the power of the Spirit – grew the group from six to over 100 young adults at each meeting. The meetings included Confessions, Mass and Adoration, teaching and fellowship. The focus at 2nd Friday has always been recognising how isolating it can be to be a young adult in many of our parishes, gathering young adults together for fellowship and formation and then sending them back to their parishes and places of work and study to bear fruit. We encouraged various works of evangelisation such as running the first NightFever in Birmingham, creating Scripture resources, founding the UK’s first March For Life, running a Life in the Spirit series, hosting a Youth 2000 retreat and much more.

This is separate from what I’m doing in my parish. Within the parish, I think you could sum up our work in one sentence: “If we aren’t leading people closer to Jesus, we are wasting our time.” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Here are three highlights of the last year: each is incredibly basic in approach, but going back-to-basics has sparked something of a renewal across the parish…

We held a study group on finding God in the workplace and we witnessed some really beautiful conversions here. It was amazing to see parishioners realise that God wants a relationship with them Monday-Friday as well as weekends. Work is meaningful to God and He desires to meet people there.

Another little thing was offering parishioners something on daily prayer. We printed a sheet with a brief outline for morning and evening prayer and taught the parish to pray. People were encouraged just to add one minute in prayer to the start and end of the day in prayer and to increase this as they felt more at ease in God’s presence.

Finally during Lent, we organised a Life in the Spirit-style series, with the simple aim of helping parishioners have a more personal encounter with Christ. Each week we met for adoration, fellowship and a talk on the basic message of the Gospel. We were blessed with about 60-70 parishioners coming each week, including many who don’t do “extra-curricular”, lapsed Catholics and also evangelical Christians from the local churches. The climax was a night of renewing or making our commitment to Christ. I was moved to tears as I witnessed parishioners dashing to the foot of the altar to say yes to Jesus. About 120+ people attended this session and it was an incredibly graced moment in the life of the parish.

These sessions also set a compass for “where next?” I was blown away at the final session when parishioners (and some of the unlikeliest people) were firing out ideas for mission. “We need to get out there and share Jesus with the whole of our town” was the common theme. It highlighted for me, what Pope Francis talks of in Evangelii Gaudium about an evangelising community going out in boldness because they know the Lord loves them and He takes the initiative. There is definitely an air of ‘holy boldness’ about the Church at the moment.

Going forward, we have a parish and school mission with the parish community next month. We are also looking at increasing adoration in the parish and are in the process of establishing cell groups.

Has it always been like this? How did it all begin?

No, it hasn’t always been like this. I left my parish to seek fellowship with other Catholics my own age and to grow in my faith. In doing this, I realised that there was very little on offer in my diocese for people my age and I ended up being asked to look after 2nd Friday. This was a catalyst for a whirlwind of young adult formation, activity and evangelisation in our diocese. In recent months I have felt called back into my parish to minister and witness in this setting. I would say the catalyst for renewal in the parish has been a small group of intentional disciples and our parish priest. We have got over “numbers”, focusing instead on growing this small group of disciples and in 12 months we have seen a domino effect in the parish as more and more people thirst to really know Christ. The witness of a life lived for Christ is very powerful and very attractive.

I think it begins when you recognise something is missing or not right in your community and you realise that you are being called to respond to that situation or need. At 2nd Friday there was the realisation that there was very little on offer for young adults in our diocese. In the parish, it was the realisation that we needed to renew our relationship with Christ, we needed to cultivate discipleship.

I truly believe that God places you in certain settings and shows you certain things because he desires you to do something about. Feel annoyed that there are no young people in the church? Does it irritate you that you have to travel outside of your parish to get faith formation? Maybe you wished your parish had more outreach to the poor or even a NightFever. Whatever it is, take it as a personal invitation from Christ to remedy that ill. He has no hands but yours. That’s how any mission starts…

Can you tell a couple of stories where you could see the Holy Spirit working? What has God done?

There are four stories (among many others) that I want to mention…

2nd Friday was really a beautiful gift from God. I was asked to look after the project, not even a year after coming back to the Church. I felt completely out of my depth but I begged God to send me young people and my, did He deliver! The Lord sent young people in their abundance, he sent priests to minister to us and he sent all the resources we needed to do his work.

Another story: years ago we hosted the UK’s first “March for Life” rather unintentionally. What started as a local event to mark the halfway point in our 40 days for Life campaign, ended up on Facebook six weeks before the event and we were soon welcoming people from across the UK. We had six weeks and no money to pull off this event; but through the power of prayer, the Lord sent us everything we needed. It was a testing time for all involved and we spent the best part of that six weeks storming heaven, but the Lord answered our prayers so beautifully and each time we received something we were back on our knees praising! “Thank you God for that power generator”; “We bless you Lord for sending us more helium”. The holy high we had at the end of the March was indescribable.

Another amazing thing that happened in the last few years: my friend, Lise and I founded a blog called ‘Generation Benedict’ in the wake of Pope Benedict’s abdication as a response to all of the negative press. The blog simply shared the stories of young people whose life had been impacted by the ministry of Pope Benedict. What began as a little idea quickly went “viral” and we were fielding interviews from across the world on the “youth and B16″. The blog was later nominated for a new media award and we received correspondence from the Vatican thanking us for our work. The whole project highlighted to me how God can use social media in such a powerful way to spread the Gospel and I’ve been hooked ever since!

Finally, we ran Nightfever in the parish about 18 months ago with the help of Youth 2000. It had an incredible effect on the parish, particularly how it renewed belief in the power of the Blessed Sacrament. It also made a great impression on our parish priest, who was initially very resistant to hosting Nightfever. He talked at Mass after the event of how the Lord changed his heart that night and how we just need to get out there and share the Gospel because people need it and God will equip us. This had a profound effect on the life and mission of the parish.

In your view, what are some of the key ingredients to fruitful evangelisation?

Prayer, prayer and prayer: essential! Pope Francis has often spoke about evangelisation starting on our knees in prayer, and this is so true. In prayer you cultivate your personal relationship with Christ and this is vital. Once your life has been touched by the life and love of the Risen Christ, you can’t help but want to share it with others. Prayer is also a vital place to test ideas for mission. Evangelisation is God’s work, we are just his instruments so we must always ask, “Lord is this what you want? Lord show me your will. Show me what you desire for our parish…”

I also think a passion for God’s people is another essential. When you launch a new initiative or project, it isn’t about ticking a box, it involves real people. Working with people can be really messy but God desires to enter this mess and it is where he works best. A passion for people means never giving up on a soul because the Lord thirsts for that person more than we can ever begin to imagine and he desires to use us to lead that person to Him.

Finally surround yourself with a good team! I am very blessed to have some close friends and priests in my life, to bounce ideas off, sharpen vision for certain projects and just pray together. We share a lot of the same desires and it is great to be able to encourage, challenge and inspire each other as we seek to do the Lord’s work.

From the outside, evangelisation in Birmingham seems to be flourishing… But what are some of the most difficult things that confront you? What discourages you and how do you deal with discouragement?

I think one of the hardest things is resistance to anything new in the life of the Church. You expect it from people outside the Church but when it comes from the people who should be on the same team: that’s tough. But I think that is probably a common experience across the Church and one that doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I find criticism of what we do and even of what we aren’t doing hard but my response to that will always be “so what are you going to do about it?” The call to build the Kingdom is given to everyone, not just a few. If you aren’t happy that something isn’t happening in your parish or diocese, then maybe God is calling on you to do something about it.

I think one of God’s best gifts to remedy this has been working with an incredibly supportive Archbishop and also with priests who have got your back. Archbishop Bernard has always been a great supporter of our apostolate, he would personally invite young people to 2nd Friday when visiting parishes across the diocese and would write and speak about our various initiatives. Unity with the our Bishop has always been important in our apostolate and knowing he supports our work, gives me a confidence that we are on the right path and helped me rise above difficulty and discouragement. In the parish setting, the support of a priest who believes in his young people and gives them real responsibility for mission in the parish because he values the gifts God has given them is a great remedy to discouragement. This unity with the Church brings a great peace in the face of difficulty.

How do you balance your work in evangelisation and the rest of your life?

To pay the bills, I work part time for Clinique at the moment. I don’t think “balancing” features in my vocab. To evangelise and share the good news of Jesus is such an integral part of my baptismal calling – it is hard to separate “evangelisation” and “life” because they are so closely tied. Through my secular employment, God has entrusted me this mission field and affords me many opportunities to share the Gospel here. For many people I am the only contact they have with the Church. So I pray for moments to share the Gospel throughout the day and to be able to spot the opportunities given to me to witness to the Gospel. The other night I was at an Irish Dance class (it is one way I take “time out” from Church “stuff”) but even in that class I ended up having a conversation with two ladies about IVF and contraception. I was able to speak about the beauty of the Church’s teaching into this situation and it just illustrated to me, we don’t get time off from the mission, even if we try!

If you had one piece of advice to a budding evangelist who wants to ignite a blaze, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid of doing something new for the sake of the Gospel. It’s from the Lord, he will send you all you need to accomplish it. I truly believe God honours those who seek to do His work; be confident that God has got your back. As the Popes have often reminded the youth, the Church needs your creativity, generosity and enthusiasm today not tomorrow. So be bold and dream big! And always stay close to the Church and your priests.

Any final words…?

Love Jesus. Love His Church. Love His people.

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About the Author ()

Hannah Vaughan-Spruce is an experienced catechist and youth worker, who now works for the Diocese of Portsmouth. Some of her Jericho Tree articles were first posted at her personal catechetical blog Transformed in Christ. They are used here with permission. See http://www.transformedinchrist.com/

Comments (22)

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  1. Paul Rodden says:

    What makes the above different from this?http://theresidentanthropologist.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/collective-effervescence-and-conventions-what-makes-conventions-so-amazing/

    It’s a serious question, because it’s what started happening in evangelicalism in England in the early 80s. It was the main thing that started me back home to Rome. It just didn’t ring true. The lens of sociology rather than that of Christianity explained what was beginning to happen. So, as it coincided with my 3rd year, I decided to study pathology and self-deception in religious experience as my final year dissertation.

    Common factors were strong groupthink amongst the participants of any of these ‘charismatic’ groups and cult-like behaviour. Sentimentalism and superficiality also characterised the groups as well as a strong yet tacit, rather than overt, insistence on conformity, so hugging and air kisses functioned more like masonic handshakes as affirmation of membership.

    If anyone seemed as if they were stepping outside the boundaries, especially by questioning, the group suddenly ‘cooled off’, and if it continued, they ‘excommunicated’, whilst never addressing the concerns. All of this is often subliminal as one of the characteristics of most members of these groups is their lack of any real sense of self-awareness.

    As part of my research I attended meetings at Miles Dempsey’s Catholic charismatic community (cult of personality) in Greenwich which claimed to be ‘spirit led’ and yet was riddled with liturgical abuses. Their ‘holy spirit’ was obviously at odds with the spirit of the liturgy. Which one was right? Why does the charismatic spirit lead Catholics to do things out of kilter with the tradition, or doesn’t liturgy really matter? Or is ‘Romanism’ at odds with itself? How much of it is just false irenicism, of false ecumenism and letting in error in order to appeal to those outside?

    From the First Great Awakening (which introduced the non-biblical idea of the altar call, and people in highly emotional/hysterical states running forward, as described in the article), there has been a trend for constant reinvention revivalism and so-called spirit lead movements which remain immature and frequntly set themselves apart from the main body (para-church), and heresy hunters and schism are often not far off.

    In the Catholic church we see it also in the ‘neojansenism’ (Catholic Puritanism) of certain traditionalist groups, too. Medium doesn’t matter but homogeneity (as opposed to unity) as it’s driven primarily by attachments and demagogues, with the same psychological controls as the ‘charismatics’ .

    In short, much of what poses as ‘religious’ today can be explained in terms of primitive anthropological, sociological, and psychological phenomena, and Schleiermacher’s religious viewpoint, rather than anything traditionally considered genuine faith, and Catholic history seems to paint a different picture, too.

    Any kind of charism in our saints normally appears as the fruit of maturity and years of faithfulness. That is, they are given when the saint is well on in their spiritual growth.

    However, in charismatic revivalism (Pentecostal restorationism) it’s turned on its head, and there’s lots of effervescence – signs wonders and good feelings – first off, but then the quest for more ‘fixes’ and the idea that when things are going my way it’s God’s will, and when it’s not, then it’s not God’s will. At this stage they often move on to a more vibrant group or ‘abandon parish’, when their need is not being met, i.e., it becomes ‘boring’ or the priest doesn’t teach what they want to hear. That is, driven more by dopamine than doctrine.

    Many would argue it’s a new Pentecost, but it seems more the good old bible fundamentalist restorationism. They see everyone around them, including the pews, as apostate, so need converting to their flavour of Catholicism, expressing the bog standard, protestant-like hubris more than anything Holy Spirit.

    What’s the difference between Pentecostalism and all the dissenter Catholic charismatics and their organisations and those who consider themselves traditionalist catholic charismatics? They both insist the Spirit is telling them all Christians should be in their image, whilst going in different directions whilst looking identical from the outside (look like pagan shamanism). Which should I choose as they all claim the Holy Spirit as their guide, whilst one observes division as their main fruit?

    To me it seems that either the Spirit is schizophrenic, both are misguided, or everyone else, apart from themselves, is wrong.

    What I find hard is all this protestant-like ‘dead Christians in our congregation’ talk, and by extension, the idea that alive ones have a particular profile the ‘dead’ ones don’t match, and so we have to convert them. That is, introduce them to our source of collective effervescence so they get sucked in: Zombies for Jesus.

    The article sounds more like what I’d call, a New Proselytisation, rather than Evangelisation.

    • mags says:

      They . . . them . . . . their. . . . . they. . . them . . . . .their. . . . they. . . them. . . . their. . they . . . them. . . . their . . . ism.

      I was once taught by a very wise person that if we wanted to see change, we had to begin by being that change.

      Holy Spirit is Love and it moves it great and mysterious ways.

  2. Paul Rodden says:

    I am in full agreement mags! That one can change only oneself doesn’t need a wise person to point it out. It’s just common sense, isn’t it?

    I’m not trying to change anyone, just point out that things might not be what they seem to the gullible and credulous. Love isn’t a synonym for noninterference or indifference, is it?

    Just as an aside, most HV-S articles these days, are I…I…I…I…I…I… and the same with Colette, above, and all the Evangelicals I know, with only a couple of exceptions.

    Two years ago HV-S was writing superb articles on catechesis over on Transformed in Christ. Sadly, now it’s all about subjectivity and personal experience, and when it’s not, it’s how we should spice up (change) our ‘dead’ congregations (‘them’) who aren’t intentional disciples, or tacitly undermining Confimation as a sacrament by implying more teaching is required rather than the grace that very sacrament brings, or even model them on Rick Warren’s consumer driven life model.

    Am I cynical? Yes. But that’s because I’ve seen the same self-deceived and disingenuous dissembling in too many passive-aggressive, smiley charismatics. Carl Jung frequently had people who’d been confined to wheelchairs for years get up and walk at his lectures, after all. So, ‘Miracles’, ‘Signs and wonders’ and ‘answers to prayer’ might not be anything of the sort.

    Read Fr Bertram’s excellent book on prayer, and how public extemporary prayer is often used to manipulate others to one’s own point of view, or as a substitute for asking people directly, ‘spiritualising’ their request, for example.

    As you say, the Holy Spirit moves in mysterious ways. Amen! But that’s another reason I’m suspicious because – like Evangelicalism – the Spirit seems to be working too much to order in the lives of Catholic charismatics I know, who describe things in the same ‘God-driven’ manner as above. ‘The spirit’ drives many non-trad lay Charismatics to stretch out their hands and ‘concelebrate’ during the Eucharistic Prayer, for example. To parody the title of one of Alasdair MacIntyre’s books, ‘Whose Rubrics, Which Spirit?’.

    Isn’t it funny how God’s and our wills coincide if we’re Evangelicals/charismatics? If something I want to happen happens, it’s God’s will, and if it doesn’t, it’s not. The judgement of the correlation between my will and God’s is just too convenient – and irresponsible. I’ve heard Catholic charismatics even argue that the reason X didn’t come about was because they didn’t pray enough, hard enough, or in insufficient numbers.

    Jesus told people to be as wise as serpents, not naive and stupid, and the Douay Rheims doesn’t use ‘innocent’ like Protestant translations on the second half of that admonition, but ‘simple’, as doves: undivided. Doves fly together and remain together for life, unlike fickle charismatics (and traddies) who flit from group to group, parish to parish, to have their needs met.

    The ‘Charismatic’ and spiritual immaturity/neurosis are too often found together.
    Discipline brings freedom in the spiritual life, not the other way round.

    Reading sound Jesuit writings on discernment of spirits, or the magnificent work of Fr Thomas Dubay is a must if people don’t want to be led down the erroneous garden path of ‘how could it be so wrong when it feels so right?’.

  3. mags says:

    Thank you for not taking offence at my comment. You could well of done, and it wasn’t intended to offend. You are obviously well read! ~ Everybody’s inner journey is deeply personal, and the outward expression of that inner journey will manifest itself in a highly personal way too ~ there will be as many different expressions of that experience as there are as many people experiencing it ~ namely every human being on some level. The Holy Spirits work is the annunciation of Gods Love into all our individual lives ~ and once we are awake and alive and respond to this Love, we can not help but collectively become a part of it, and a part of the inspiration. We are to look at others, not with judgement, but to share our Love in faith with them. The Holy Spirit and where it blows ~ thats Gods call. T’is not for us to authenticate. We are to discern our own path by observing our consolations and desolations.

    http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/dotmagis-blog/ and respond as God calls us.

    ‘Any kind of charism in our Saints normally appears as the fruit of maturity and years of faithfulness. That is, they are given when the saint is well on in their spiritual growth.’

    Spiritual growth begins at the point we are summons into being ~ is not linear ~ its collective to our whole lives lived. Its the response to our whole life, however long or short, summons at a point. Formation happens in a more linear fashion I think ~ but our spiritual growth is a growth that is much more holistic ~ and the fruit of our inner world ~ regardless of whether we are initially Churched or unchurched. One can have years of faithfulness to The Great Presence. There are many young Saints who excelled in their faithfulness to God ~ by Gods Grace ~ their ‘Charism’ always is one of magnanimous Love.

  4. mags says:

    ‘That one can change only oneself doesn’t need a wise person to point it out. It’s just common sense, isn’t it?’

    One can change others by example ~ and by Love.

  5. mags says:

    Paul there is a lovely article on the Holy Spirit and Evangelisation today at


    ‘Go Therefore and Transform Everything’

  6. Paul Rodden says:

    Hi mags.
    Thank you so much for your replies. I do appreciate you taking the time to reply and I will follow the links you have pointed out to me.

    I am looking for genuine answers, and find myself torn, but my experience has taught me that the way it seems Y2K and other movements are going, although they might work initially and attract the young ‘hipsters’, they lead to a glib and shallow sort of ‘narcissistic’ Christianity which, later on, resists, or crumbles, in the face of suffering or when emotions ebb.

    In many ways I feel ‘mean’ laying into HV-S, as I believe her intentions are good, but naive. I think she has a really good heart, but it doesn’t help that I’m not very good at wording things in a cuddly way, I’m afraid!

    As I’ve mentioned before I was an Evangelical and I work for an Evangelical vicar as well as closely with other Evangelicals. Evangelicalism itself is realising that it’s created a Frankenstein that is completly resistant to authority and driven by a dopamine-driven feel-good factor, and they wonder where the cross has gone.

    Megachurches, parachurches, celebrity churches and any conferences they run are simply not like real life, or shop-floor, Evangelicalism in normal parishes without the huge budgets and resources of the celebrity (read predominantly young, upper middle class, rich, and articulate) congregations.

    The non-city and more rural picture is very different. This past week or so, I’ve been chatting to three friends and all of them have said, ‘BTW, did you know I’ve left the Baptist Church?’, and all their reasons were subjective.
    That’s the fallout and mentality of around 25 years of the charismatic mindset: of something that so many believed was the silver bullet, packing churches in the 80s.

    But, it’s led to people to expect intravenous emotional experiences or preaching, or what’s happening now in many congregations, a weakening of moral boundaries in order to be relevant in an attempt to boost flagging numbers.

    Also, all the young are leaving their parishes or congregations and commute to celebrity or megachurches as soon as they can drive, leaving their home community to the elderly and under threat of closure.

    In our town, every time a new pastor arrives people go and try him/her out, and then the migrations start.

    If it’s about love, ‘Greater love hath no man…’: laying down our life and taking up the cross is essential. The ‘charismatic’ reverses this in the long term.

    I agree that a big problem is that ‘cradle Catholics’ are ‘sacramentalised’ but not evangelised, and often not catechised particularly well, if at all, but plugging our youth into sentimentality and emotions in a culture drowning in sensuality as it is, is asking for trouble down the line.

    I agree completely with your ‘long’ reply above, too. You put it beautifully. I think in nearly all things it’s an et-et, my problem is I tend to just throw out condensed comments, without unpacking.

    I think HV-S and people like her, need to get involved, long-term, with Evangelicals on the shop floor as friends, rather than at warm-fuzzie conferences where everyone has a love-in, and they’ll discover there are big problems. What’s more, Catholicism addresses them, and they’re exactly the kind of evangelists to make inroads and offer a great deal.

    If we’re going to evangelise our parishes so they grow and mature, and the young don’t become ‘bored’, we haven’t got to compete with secularism on ‘moving’ people.

    I’ve been assisting an Evangelical friend with her dissertation for her degree at St Johns, Nottingham. Her subject was why the pews in Evangelical churches are still devoid of young people despite all sorts of models and methods, and child/young person friendly (‘liturgy free’) worship.

    Looking at the research we see that, over the long haul, it’s parental example which is most powerful, and the issue seems to be one of family and parenting, rather than catechesis per se.

    Formation is linear in as much as it is part of a form of life before it’s a curriculum, and being Evangelical she was unfamiliar with the ideas of catechesis and the domestic church, but she realised these were exactly what she was looking for, but didn’t have a name for.

    Her children are all late teens and deeply committed Christians without any charismatic influence, but having wonderful Christian parents seems to be why.

    We need to encourage the ‘domestic church’ all we can over the long term, rather than take them out of the home environment and mess with their heads and hormones and then take them back to their ‘dead parishes’. (After these conferences are the times when even adults leave their ‘dead’ congregations of many years, to find a ‘living’ church)

    Catechists need to be primarily ‘parents in the faith’ not ‘parochial RE Teachers’. Not professionals, but mentors and ‘mums and dads’, but of all ages, rather than try to be ‘friends’, rather than parents, with their hormonal and emotional teenagers as people do in modern society, and its ‘charismatic’ equivalent.

    “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” as Paul VI put it.

    We need mature witnesses, not entertainment.

  7. mags says:

    When my firstborn (who as a teen rejects my faith) went to Lourdes (just once ~ on my first ever Credit Card) with the Youth Service, she came home absolutely Alive, Energised, Renewed, Fulfilled, Excited, bursting open with Love and Goodness. Because she was on ‘her pilgrimage’ with others her age, peers, new friends, people that inspired her, and she was filled with the spirit.

    We live too far away for this ‘movement’ and expression of faith for it to be freely a part of her life. And I do not have the money to get her there again ~ Its really sad ~ opportunities might have been different for her under different circumstances. I have No funds, but somehow on CC I will pay for child No. 2 to have that same experience next year (just once). So that he can experience this ‘irrelevant’ faith that he rejects in the same wonderful light as my daughter did. In fact he approached me and asked if he could go. I will do everything to get him there.

    The parish just doesn’t have enough children to offer them the same expression, energy or vibe. There is but 1 other girl her age (her best friend) and in the sister church there are a couple more ~ however they are loving their confirmation get togethers, but just once per month for 2 hours ~ held at the university.

    The expression that people find in the Church when it meets their needs should not be denied them. If it is centred on Jesus, Love, Joy, Goodness, Charity, Thanksgiving and forgiveness. The expression that meets their needs is entitled to change as they age.

    My childhood was secular ~ but full of Love. I explored different secular expression of ‘spirituality’. I now have a strong Catholic faith. I had my 5 children baptised Catholic, so that they had the eternal inner resource that I was not privileged to have as a child. ~ They kick against it. :O)

    Domestic Church is messy church! You obviously haven’t children! :O)

  8. Paul Rodden says:

    Hi mags.

    Thanks for sharing your story. It’s lovely to hear such stories of parents who really care about their children’s souls as well as their bodies.

    It is indeed a tragedy that our young people can feel so isolated, and I really feel for you. It is an uphill struggle. Being a parent myself, I agree: Domestic Church is messy church! :)

    Here’s an excellent 3-part series on handing on the faith Peggy Pandaleon has just finished over at the Word on Fire Blog you might enjoy (who admits her own need to be a St Monica of prodigals!):

    Part 1 http://wordonfire.org/WoF-Blog/WoF-Blog/May-2014/Families-and-Faith–How-Religion-is-Passed-Down-Ac.aspx
    Part 2 http://wordonfire.org/WoF-Blog/WoF-Blog/May-2014/What-Really-Matters-in-Passing-Down-the-Faith.aspx
    Part 3 http://www.wordonfire.org/WoF-Blog/WoF-Blog/May-2014/How-Religion-is-Passed-Down–Practical-Suggestions.aspx

    It’s interesting what the research has found, and ‘the charismatic’ or ‘free worship’ is not suggested as part of the solution.

    I think we’re all victims of at least 50 years of bishops and priests allowing our parishes to lie fallow. They’re far from dead, they’re just like an abandoned house with waist-high brambles, nettles an thistles everywhere, buddleia growing out of the gutters, and cobwebs inside.

    The Church is one of ‘wheat and tares’ (Matthew 13:24-30). We just have to choose whether we’ll be wheat or weeds. We understand we’re no better than others unless we get involved in Traditionalism or Charismania, then suddenly we think we’ve got the answers for ‘everyone else’, we’re no longer part of the smelly hoi polloi – we’re Intentional Disciples now! (Read Ronald Knox on ‘Holy’ (as one of the four marks) in his ‘Creed in Slow Motion’, and his magisterial study, ‘Enthusiasm’)

  9. Paul Rodden says:

    I’ve decided not to contribute any more, but I want to mention Pope Benedict and Hans Urs von Balthasar on beauty. The Liturgy has to be beautiful, and this is a thread in all Pope Benedict’s writing on the Liturgy.

    Beauty is reserved, it holds back. As Fr Barron points out, a beautiful, or perfect, golf swing is filled with discipline, as is playing Mozart beautifully. It’s not something that arises from ‘free worship’ or ‘free play’. It is restrained, linked to objective principles which make the ‘perfect’ golf swing something different from any-old golf swing. It has a tradition.

    We have to be able to distinguish between ecstasis and catharsis. They seem to look the same, but are completely different. I’m not quite sure how anyone who has probably read the Ressourcement school on the Liturgy could then promote religious experience which is fundamentally cathartic (‘letting it all hang out’ and ‘experiencing’) rather than ecstatic, being a meeting with the divine – ‘adoratio’.

    All I’m saying is that those Catholics who have studied the Church post-Vatican II bemoan what dissent (relativism of the intellectual and moral) has done to the Church, and Evangelicalism is just starting to adopt called ‘Emergent’. In the same manner, Evangelicals who have studied Evangelicalism post-1970s Charismania (relativism of the passions and emotions), are bemoaning the damage Charismania has done to Evangelicalism, and we’re starting to adopt! Why?

    Both have done damage, but it seems both sides want to close their ears to the evidence. When we set our subjective feelings and intellects, or the world, as criteria of judgement, the Church goes awry. The dissenters and charismatics are still trying to keep their sinking ships afloat.

    Why are we starting down a route our (‘Benedictine’) equivalent of orthodox Evangelicals themselves are admitting was a mistake?

  10. mags says:

    I went to High Mass at Brompton Oratory last week. It was Sublime 2 hours of Heavenly prayer. My children would think otherwise. I look at the way that Jesus lived and how He shared His Love ~ the Down to Earth (Heavenly) preaching, the simple breaking of bread, and the accepting, forgiveness and mercy of all ~ Simplify ~ The Didache way is a great example.

    When did it ever get so High and So Perfectly Sublime, and Exclusive?

    Maybe we All need to Simplify Again.

  11. mags says:

    I agree though ~ God is the author of All that is beautiful x

    • Paul Rodden says:

      Hi Mags.
      I’ve found it simplest never to try to do my own thing. :)

      Interestingly, this is how a book I started reading today began:

      One fortunate tendency of our times has been that which seeks to establish the supernatural life on the solid basis of dogma. Nothing is more right and necessary than this. Life ought to be based on truth; or rather, it is truth itself that descends, so to speak, from the heights of the understanding to pour itself out over the affections, the works, and all the activity of man.

      The truths that we beg God to reveal to us are not only “light,” but “spirit and life.” They are not only a sublime and complete doctrinal system; they are also “words of eternal life” — the exceedingly fruitful seeds that transform souls ‘when the intelligence and the heart are opened to them as to the very substance of life.

      Love is the essence of the Christian life. It is the charity poured by the Holy Spirit into souls, the charity that embodies the perfection of all the virtues. But it is a very ordered love, because virtue is order in love, according to the beautiful and profound words of St. Augustine. And that order is the fruit of light, of dogmatic truth, for, as St. Thomas teaches, it belongs to wisdom to set things in order.

      The influence of dogma in the Christian life puts each thing in its place and thus avoids those pietistic deviations caused by mere personal inclination or lack of instruction. Such deviations, although devout and well-intentioned, hinder the prompt and rich flowering of Christian perfection in souls. It is more important than we sometimes realize to put things in their proper place in the spiritual life.

      Chapter 1, True Devotion to the Holy Spirit, by Archbishop Luis M. Martinez, Sophia Press


      • mags says:

        ‘When Jesus speaks of his death and resurrection, of the path of God which does not correspond to the human path of power, flesh and blood re-emerge in Peter: “He took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him … This must never happen to you” (16:22). Jesus’ response is harsh: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (v. 23). Whenever we let our thoughts, our feelings or the logic of human power prevail, and we do not let ourselves be taught and guided by faith, by God, we become stumbling blocks. Faith in Christ is the light of our life as Christians and as ministers in the Church!’

        ~ Papa Francis

        Paul I am in Grace ~ I have a very intimate and profoundly blessed connection with my Lord through prayer ~ given or gifted ~ He reached me in the unbearable years (through Spiritual Communion) whilst separated from my children in the Eucharist. And that profound spiritual communion has never left me. likewise as a child The Spirit of Love was with me, even though there was no formal faith. And still now He gives me an understanding of things He wants me to understand and all other things are for someone else to discover. He is my Rabboni ~ He leads me ~ No one else. God Bless Paul †

        • Paul Rodden says:

          Hi Mags.
          I’m sorry if I caused offence, or looked like I was attacking good people. I’m not attacking you or real spiritual experiences.

          I’m not a cessationist, I’m not against miracles, locutions, or any other genuine spiritual manifestations. I’m not against spiritual experiences fully in line with the authentic development of the Tradition.

          I am against the ‘dog barking’, ‘Toronto Blessing’, sort of hysteria and sentimentalism which poses as contact with God. The ‘Toronto Blessing’ wasn’t passed on by the Spirit, but by word of mouth, for example.

          That is, you couldn’t have experienced the Toronto Blessing in the early days unless someone had A) told you about it and B) told you how it manifested itself. Once that happened, those people experienced it. Doesn’t that ring alarm bells about authenticity when it relies on human transmission for it’s manifestation?

          In short, if you hadn’t heard of the Toronto Blessing, you wouldn’t have experienced it.

          Also, the ‘Toronto Blessing’ was/is centred on HTB.

          I suggest reading what’s out there written by sane Christians (i.e., especially Protestant Christians who believe in doctrine – Confessional Christians) about Rick Warren and his Purpose Driven Everything. They think he’s completely gutted the Gospel for Church Growth and is part of the Church Growth Movement, founded by Norman Vincent Peale and later Robert Schuller, the televangelist of the Glass Cathedral. This is where Emergent/PoMo Christianity springs from.

          It is Catholic-friendly, because it has no content. It’s pluralistic/relativistic in its essence. We should all just get along. No cross, just bliss. God just blesses.

  12. Paul Rodden says:

    I know I said I wasn’t going to contribute any more, but there’s been an article posted over on Catholic Exchange which articulates my main worry, charismatic aside, better than I have been.

    We have really good people in our parishes. We are baptised Christians who, yes, might be sacramentalised, but not evangelised. The difficulty is, as I see it though, is that we’ve been battered enough. We are trying our best but, owing to the lack of sound formation, can’t even articulate our problem. I believe anyone’s at Mass wants Jesus. Some of us are at Mass weekly, or sometimes not as frequently, but at least we’re there.

    I believe we know ‘in our heart of hearts’ that we’ve been sold a pup over the past fifty years, despite being unable to articulate it, but also assume if we move ‘close to Christ’, we’ll have Jansenistic millstones put round our necks again, and those fumes are very much still around.

    As we see it, we can’t stand any additional burdens on top of our already chaotic lives. We simply cannot perceive ‘the burden as light’, as a relief. We see ‘the church’ as constantly ‘asking of us’ whilst we’re barely treading water.

    I believe this is because dissent has created a false ‘aut-aut’ mindset of rainbows, peace and tree-hugging as opposed to ‘nasty authoritarian Vatican’, old school nuns-with-rulers mentality, ‘out there’. We find ourselves placed between a rock and a hard place of history’s making. A faulty hermeneutical lens through which to view ‘Church’.

    Unfortunately, this is reinforced by the professional Modernism-Spotters, who feed this fear. These individuals (priests included) mistake ignorance and this tragic mindset for which most of us aren’t responsible, as dissent to be crushed at all costs. In a real sense, yes. BUT, they are incapable of discerning what is ‘informed’ (i.e., deliberate) or culpable from what is not, and just attack both indiscriminately.

    I was victim of this when I returned to the Church. My ignorance (Evangelical was all I knew) was attacked viciously. I was accused of being “Modernist” by members of the Catholic young people’s group I tried to join in London, when, in reality, I was just clueless.

    What I see happening is that well-meaning catechists are switched on for the Lord, but in their enthusiasm, meet resistance not because ‘it’s Satan’ – that is, they try to spiritualise it – but that the zeal might be just be reinforcing their fellow parishioner’s fears.

    It seems to me, and I might be wrong, but the average ‘non-evangelised’ parishioner might already have a huge sense of failure as it is, considering the faulty/erroneous mindset they have, and all this extra ‘stuff’ might simply be scary, deflating, or demoralising. Alternatively, it’s ‘priests and catechists’ (the ‘bad’ sort), yet again, trying to impose their own ideas on them.

    Might they be misinterpreting us as simply rubber-stamping them (yet again) as ‘REJECT’?

    As I have said in the past here, I think ‘Forming Intentional Disciples, is an excellent book, as is Weigel’s, Evangelical Catholicism’. My copies are underlined and scribbled all over.

    That said, I think my worry with the charismatic, as well as these books, is the mentality about ‘the Church’, but more specifically, our congregations, which the article calls ‘Remnant Theology’. Might we be getting it wrong – being overbearing and somewhat ‘elitist’ – in our enthusiasm?

    As Kevin Tierney, the author, states:
    ‘…It is clear this concept of a remnant is important in Christianity.

    While this importance shouldn’t be downplayed, I fear that many Catholics are learning the wrong lesson from this teaching. Somewhere (and I’m not sure where) we began to instantly associate “remnant” with “small minority” and “small minority” with “the true faith.” Everyone began building their own factions within the Church, all claiming to be the remnant of the Bible. Implicit in the concept of the so-called “Benedict Option” is the idea that they are that remnant not just in society, but in Christianity as well.

    This has gotten to such absurd levels that American Catholicism can hardly be described as a church but more akin to a roving band of ecclesial warlords leading their militias. Combine this increasing sectarian nature of the Church with a growing marginalization, and you get a Church not only isolated from the world, but isolated from each other as well. Pope Francis condemns this as the “self-referential Church.” ‘

    I think this is very like/exacerbated by the Intentional Disciple ‘2% Club’ mentality, or the quest for congregations of ‘Evangelical Catholics’. Are we creating and applying a ‘Cookie-Cutter Catholicism’ mindset in light of these concepts or models?

    If you want to read the full article, which I think gives pause, you can find it below:
    ‘Are We a Remnant Church?’

  13. Paul Rodden says:

    What is more beautiful…
    What is more simple…
    What is more Charismatic…
    …than a sacrament, rightly understood?

  14. Paul Rodden says:

    What happens when ‘miracles’ are paraded as if they’re, as Bernard Lonergan used to say of insights, ‘a dime a dozen. Eh?’?

    ‘Of course, God does relieve burdens. He does bless. He meets needs in miraculous ways. He brings babies to infertile couples. At times he will heal or reverse a terminal disease. Evidences of divine intervention abound: we call them miracles. But the reason they are called miracles is that they rarely happen. To have faith in God because he is bound to perform miracles is to have faith in miracles more than God.’

    S Arterburn and J Felton, Toxic Faith: Experiencing Healing from Painful Spiritual Abuse, Shaw Books, 2001. p27

  15. Paul Rodden says:

    No doubt people think I’m on a rant. Maybe I am.

    But it’s because I am REALLY concerned when it seems as if people who are in very responsible positions, nationally recognised as such, and therefore will be listened to based on their authoritative voice (especially by poorly catechised people), creates a real risk of laying vulnerable people wide open to possible spiritual abuse and harm if not mature enough to handle it or discern between false teachers and experiences.

    Frank Beckwith hits the nail on the head with the article of his published over at the Catholic Thing, yesterday.

    The Problem with God’s “wonderful plan for you”:

    Nearly all Evangelicals, even my friends in denominations, call themselves ‘non-denominational Christians’. I bet that’s true of even the people at HTB, I bet they wouldn’t say, ‘I’m a convinced Anglican’, like I would that I’m a convinced Catholic. They might call themselves a ‘Committed Christian’ even, but if they hear what they don’t like they become a committed Christian anywhere they feel at home and the message is one they want to hear.

    By ‘non-denominational’ they actually mean non-doctrinal Christian. It’s completely (conveniently) open-ended.

    They follow the Four Spiritual Laws. ‘God’s Wonderful Plan’, responding to the ‘Altar Call’ as being all that’s required to be a Christian, and most of them also probably believe in ‘Once Saved, Always Saved’ (Perseverance of the Saints.)

    Dr David Anders and people like him, have pointed out in various places, that this ‘Christianity’, as practiced by most Evangelical Protestants, isn’t even in line with the Reformation. It is a ‘novum’, based in the First and Second Great Awakenings, where, for example, the Altar Call began, and he points out has absolutely no scriptural basis (like many of their principles). [Read Patrick Vanderpool’s, Traditions of Men: Understanding the Thinking that Separates Catholic Christianity from Its Protestants (sic)]

    The article above is a classic example of ‘God’s Wonderful Plan for You’.
    Tell that to anyone suffering, and they either cling to it for salvation, maybe even go into denial and wishful thinking (and open to all sorts of abuse), or be (I hope) rightly suspicious of something that claims God’s Providence works in such a fatalistic, cause and effect, manner.

    ‘Say Yes, and God Will Bless’ – a new addition to the ‘Once Saved, Always Saved’, list of non-Biblical nostrums?

  16. Paul Rodden says:

    Just for those who think I’m some miserable, joyless, Traditionalist stick-in-the-mud…

    I believe in the New Evangelisation, and I wholeheartedly believe in a New Pentecost.
    Because I believe in a New Evangelisation, I believe in a New Penecost, and vice versa.

    But, because I believe so whole-heartedly in both then, as the new Evangelisation is not like the first, so I believe that the New Pentecost isn’t going to be one of replicating – or mimicking – the first Pentecost.

    The Church is not ‘progressive’, neither is she cyclical. That would be to be trapped in an Enlightenment/Hegelian view of her, using the wrong lens. God is always doing a new thing, but he does it through his Church: Newman, Newman, Newman.

    As I said, I’m not a cessationist. In fact, I’m expecting more, something far more profound and, like that first Pentecost, a big surprise.

    Maybe we should be considering the only thing we have in common with the first disciples, is our stupidity?

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