Survey Says…! In November I asked you to fill out the Gallup ME 25 Survey. Thankfully many of you did which allowed the survey to have some statistical teeth. Before getting into the details of the results a word about surveys is in order. I believe it was Mark Twain who once quipped, "there are statistics and then there is the truth". The challenge with survey results or any kind of statistical analysis is that they are a lot like bikini's: they reveal a whole lot but leave the most important parts concealed.
What we (myself and the Parish Council) were looking to measure was the "condition of the spiritual condition" of the parish. So we were not looking for a demographic analysis or a customer satisfaction survey. While those things are important and can yield worthwhile information the heart of a Catholic Parish is really found in how well we are fulfilling our mission as disciples of Jesus. From that point of view we opted for a survey that attempts to measure the spiritual side of things.READ MORE
"Beware the Ides of March", so wrote William Shakespeare in his play Julius Caesar. The ides of March (the 15th) is generally considered the day that Julius Caesar was assassinated and the Roman Republic turned into the Roman Empire. Simply put this happened because there were some in Rome that believed the country could be better ruled by an Emperor than by the People and the Senate. (If you go to Rome today you will see SPQR, Senatus Populusque Romanus, the Senate and the People of Rome stamped everywhere. Even after the Emperor took over they continued to use that phrase to make the people think their government was still a government of the people or a Republic.) The republican form of government tried people's patience with its never-ending political gridlock and so the thinking went that an Emperor could solve that problem. There is a good lesson in there for us.READ MORE
Recently I have watched Rev. Franklin Graham (son of Rev. Billy Graham) interviewed several times on News shows about the slaughter of Arab Christians by ISIS. Each time he began his answer he started with: "First let me say that God loves all people. And to the terrorist who torture and murder, God will forgive you if you open you heart to Jesus Christ and accept his forgiveness." Rev. Graham always finds a way to proclaim the Gospel. How refreshing.
Yet as he sneaks in his proclamation of God's love for all people, the TV host is polite but doesn't quite know what to do about it. Instead they move right along and ask him about political solutions to the problem. Therein lies the challenge: while politics is part of the solution it is not the whole solution. We are engaged in a theological battle over the true nature of God and yet we don't know how to talk about it or even take on the challenge. We hide behind secularism and act as though we are embarrassed by our religious history. We act as though if standing up for the biblical values upon which Western civilization was built is a grave offense against Islamic terrorists. The God of the Bible clearly rejected murder and slavery and violence. The answer lies in whether the Islamic world will permanently reject violence, slavery and theocracy in the name of God or not.READ MORE
One of the very celebrated rages to hit college campuses in recent years (including lots of Catholic Colleges) was a play entitled "The Vagina Monologues". The play is a series of monologues by women about, well figure it out. Recently one college, Mt. Holyoke College, an all women's college in Massachusetts has now cancelled any further performances of the play since it is not in conformity with its values. The reason the once Christian college gave for cancelling the play on its campus is that it is exclusionary. The play excludes 'women' without vaginas (wwov's) and is not in conformity with its new admissions policy of admitting any "qualified student who is female or identifies as female" (i.e. wwov's).
While acceptance of transgendered persons (people who dress and try to act as the opposite gender) is all the rage in our society and our government and even our military are going into overdrive to push the cause not everyone is on board. A group identifying as radical feminists "insist on regarding transgender women as men, who should not be allowed to use women's facilities, such as public rest rooms, or to participate in events organized exclusively for women" according to an article in the August edition of the New Yorker. The article quotes Robin Morgan: "I will not call a male "she"; thirty-two years of suffering in this androcentric society, and of surviving, have earned me the title "woman"; one walk down the street by a male transvestite, five minutes of his being hassled (which he may enjoy), and then he dares, he dares to think he understands our pain? No, in our mothers' names and in our own, we must not call him sister." So now we have women with and 'women' without at odds.READ MORE
In Luke 14:28 Jesus tells us: "For which of you desiring to build a tower does not first sit down and count the cost whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish it, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'this man began to build and was not able to finish'."
For us these are instructions from Jesus himself to measure if we have what it takes to build the Kingdom. Very specifically it means we need to sit down and understand the necessary ingredients that go into becoming one of his disciples. We do this as Catholics by building communities or parishes that embody the Faith of Christians and pass that faith on generationally. As I pointed out previously though 93% of Americans state that they believe in some sort of deity and 95% of those agree that Jesus is the Son of God, a full 50% of those are unconnected to a Church or Parish. We ourselves are not "churchless Christians". So what should a Catholic Parish that is successfully carrying out its mission look like? How do you measure that or sit down and count the cost of discipleship?READ MORE