Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stations of the Cross for children: a sampling

I was surfing the net for some Stations of the Cross for children, and thought I would posts some links to a few I found. I also printed these out and have them available at the office:

-Large size colorable pages of the stations (just the images and the station titles, no description texts or prayers). I like this one best. I will print these out on cardstock so that we have a "portable" stations set that we can hang up in the daily mass chapel when requested (or, you can have a set printed out for your room--just ask, and we will make the copies:

-From CatholicMom.com another set of colorable stations, though these images are smaller than the ones found at the link above (also a little more carto0nish):

-from DomesticChurch.com:

-a stations for children, the images are not much, but there is a description text that you can check out. Also, a decent introduction to the Stations (explaining the meaning of a "station" etc.):

-a printer-friendly text for the stations:

-A traditional stations of the Cross booklet from the 1930's, short, with beautiful color pictures. Can be printed out as one-sided sheets, or as two-sided booklet form:

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Monday, February 25, 2008

the loss of Catholics in the U.S.

1 of 2 2/25/08 12:10 PM
February 25, 2008

Americans Change Faiths at Rising Rate, Report Finds

WASHINGTON — More than a quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood to join another
religion or no religion, according to a new survey of religious affiliation by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The report, titled “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” depicts a highly fluid and diverse national religious life. If shifts among Protestant denominations are included, then it appears that 44 percent of Americans have switched religious affiliations.

For at least a generation, scholars have noted that more Americans are moving among faiths, as denominational loyalty erodes. But the survey, based on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans, offers one of the clearest views yet of that trend, scholars said. The United States Census does not track religious affiliation.

The report shows, for example, that every religion is losing and gaining members, but that the Roman Catholic
Church “has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes.”
The survey also indicates that the group that had the greatest net gain was the unaffiliated. More than 16 percent of American adults say they are not part of any organized faith, which makes the unaffiliated the country’s fourth largest “religious group.”

Detailing the nature of religious affiliation — who has the numbers, the education, the money — signals who could hold sway over the country’s political and cultural life, said John Green, an author of the report who is a senior fellow on religion and American politics at Pew.

Michael Lindsay, assistant director of the Center on Race, Religion and Urban Life at Rice University, echoed that view. “Religion is the single most important factor that drives American belief attitudes and behaviors,” said Mr. Lindsay, who had read the Pew report. “It is a powerful indicator of where America will end up on politics, culture, family life. If you want to understand America, you have to understand religion in America.”

In the 1980s, the General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center indicated that from 5 percent to 8 percent of the population described itself as unaffiliated with a particular religion.

In the Pew survey 7.3 percent of the adult population said they were unaffiliated with a faith as children. That
segment increases to 16.1 percent of the population in adulthood, the survey found. The unaffiliated are largely under 50 and male. “Nearly one-in-five men say they have no formal religious affiliation, compared with roughly 13 percent of women,” the survey said.

The rise of the unaffiliated does not mean that Americans are becoming less religious, however. Contrary to
assumptions that most of the unaffiliated are atheists or agnostics, most described their religion “as nothing in
” Pew researchers said that later projects would delve more deeply into the beliefs and practices of
unaffiliated and would try to determine if they remain so as they age.

While the unaffiliated have been growing, Protestantism has been declining, the survey found. In the 1970s,
Protestants accounted for about two-thirds of the population. The Pew survey found they now make up about 51 percent. Evangelical Christians account for a slim majority of Protestants, and those who leave one evangelical denomination usually move to another, rather than to mainline churches.

To Prof. Stephen Prothero, large numbers of Americans leaving organized religion and large numbers still
embracing the fervor of evangelical Christianity point to the same desires. “The trend is toward more personal religion, and evangelicals offer that,” said Mr. Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University, who explained that evangelical churches tailor many of their activities for youth. “Those losing out are offering impersonal religion and those winning are offering a smaller scale: mega-churches succeed not because they are mega but because they have smaller ministries inside.”

The percentage of Catholics in the American population has held steady for decades at about 25 percent. But that masks a precipitous decline in native-born Catholics. The proportion has been bolstered by the large influx of Catholic immigrants, mostly from Latin America, the survey found.

The Catholic Church has lost more adherents than any other group: about one-third of respondents raised
Catholic said they no longer identified as such. Based on the data, the survey showed, “this means that roughly 10 percent of all Americans are former Catholics.”

Immigration continues to influence American religion greatly, the survey found. The majority of immigrants are Christian, and almost half are Catholic. Muslims rival Mormons for having the largest families. And Hindus are the best-educated and among the richest religious groups, the survey found.
“I think politicians will be looking at this survey to see what groups they ought to target,” Professor Prothero said.

“If the Hindu population is negligible, they won’t have to worry about it. But if it is wealthy, then they may have to pay attention.”

Sobering statistics. Of course, the desire for a "more personal religion" says volumes about American individualism (does this mean proving a more personal encounter with God--well, if lived to its fullest, Catholicism gives this)... a "more personal religion" sometimes means that it caters to individuals desire for a certain emotional experience (afterall, its all about ME)... sometimes it means that they can pick and choose what they believe... they are not "bound" by restrictive dogma, etc.

Ask St. John of the Cross, Blessed Theresa of Calcutta, St. Padre Pio, etc. if Catholicism was a "personal religion" for them. Through the Catholic Church they encountered the living God... and far from being a "me and Jesus" religion, they were also united with all the saints--throughout the world--those in heaven and earth--and throughout all of history. Sounds like a good religion to me. I think I'll stay Catholic, thank you.

This does show the need to evangelize. If 10% of Americans are ex-Catholics, we have to ask, how many of them ever learned their faith, how many of them even know what they left.


Monday, February 11, 2008

25 things you can do for Lent

25 Great Things You Can Do For Lent
…besides giving up chocolate
Compiled by Renée LaReau

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 days of preparation for the Easter season when Christians are called to renew their commitments to spiritual practices like prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Lent is an annual opportunity to grow in our faith, which means it’s about much more than giving up unhealthy foods or treats, as you may have done when you were a kid. It is about abstaining from whatever is unhealthy in our lives—gossip, laziness, lack of social conscience—and, most importantly, taking concrete steps to do something more. Challenge yourself this year, and go beyond the clichés of “giving up” something. Now is a great time to take stock of your spiritual life, and to grow in it. Not sure where to start? Check out these 25 ideas:
Want to hear more on what Lent’s all about? Listen to/read “What is Lent” by Fr. Greg Friedman, OFM

1) Make a commitment to reading the Sunday readings before you go to Mass. In the same way that reading up on football players, opposing teams, and coaching strategies will help you experience a game more fully, familiarizing yourself with the readings ahead of time can allow you to experience them in a deeper way on Sunday. (Find the Sunday readings here).

2) Don’t have time to read all three readings? Then just read the Gospel.

3) Make a commitment to trying something new spiritually. Never tried an hour of Eucharistic adoration? Find a parish where you can try it. Never attended Mass at a parish of an ethnic group that’s different than yours? Give it a try.

4) Think about what you usually spend your money on. Do you buy a few too many clothes? Spend a few too many bucks on iTunes? Eating out? Pick one type of expenditure that you’ll “fast” from during Lent, and give the money you would usually spend to a great local charity.
Challenge yourself this year, and go beyond the clichés of “giving up” something. Now
is a great time to take stock of your spiritual life, and to grow in it.

5)When you first sit down in front of your computer at work, or at the very end of your work day, try a great 10-minute prayer, based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, at Sacred Space brought to you by the Irish Province Jesuits.

6) Go to a weekday Mass one day during the week. Many parishes offer them early in the morning, at noon, or after work. Daily Masses are often more intimate and informal than Sunday Mass.

7) If you don’t have a cross in your apartment or house, buy a simple one and put it in your bedroom.

8) Read the entire Gospel of Mark in one sitting. As the shortest Gospel, it is the most concise story of Jesus’ life, and the cross, a central Lenten symbol, plays an even more prominent role than in the other Gospels.

9) Attend the Stations of the Cross somewhere—lots of parishes offer these during Lent, and often on Fridays.

10) Get some friends together and attend a Friday fish fry at a parish. Yes, an actual fish fry—not the healthiest thing in the world, but a fun Catholic tradition that’s kind of charming in a throwback sort of way.

11) Turn off your iPod or your car radio on your commute. The silence may be jarring at first, but you may find that you are able to concentrate better and will be more observant of your surroundings.

12) Buy a book of daily reflections and keep it by your bed. Local parishes often offer these for purchase during Lent, and there are some good ones available online. Try the Little Black Books from the Diocese of Saginaw, or reflection books by Edward Hays, sold by Ave Maria Press.

13) Think about a habit that has kept you from being whom God is calling you to be. Consciously give up that habit for Lent.

14) During Lent, we’re called to fast not only from food but from other things as well. Read a great reflection on fasting here.

15) Make a commitment to “fast” from cruel comments about others.

16) As a part of your Lenten almsgiving, make a point to learn as much about a particular social issue (immigration, human trafficking, racism, AIDS victims, child poverty) as possible. Give money to an organization, related to your chosen issue that supports the dignity of the human person.

17) Pray for somebody. As you’re walking the streets, driving the highways, sitting in your cubicle at work, or going to a movie, pick out a person who appears to be in need, and pray for that person. Be mindful of the words of Philo of Alexandria, who said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

18) Read these Lent FAQ’s from St. Anthony Messenger.

19) Lent originated as a time of preparation for people who were preparing for baptism. Those of us who are baptized use Lent as a time of preparation to renew our baptismal promises at Easter. One of the things we promised (or our parents promised for us) at baptism was to renounce sin.

20) As you are waiting to fall asleep at night, pray the Jesus Prayer silently as a mantra: “Lord Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me.”

21) Test your awareness of global poverty with Catholic Relief Services’ World Awareness Quiz. During Lent, take the money you would have spend on dinners out, clothes or iTunes, and donate to CRS’s Lenten Program, Operation Rice Bowl.

22) While Lent is traditionally 40 days long, there are really 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Wonder why? Research it. [Swallowed Scroll note: I edited this section, because it provided a link to a dissenting Catholic publication that is not worth wasting your time with... see my links for sites that you can use to research the answer]

23) Read the Works of Mercy as Jesus describes them in Matthew 25. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink…in prison and you visited me.” There are plenty of opportunities available in your own community to put this teaching into practice. Choose an act of service you can perform throughout Lent.

24) Make a list of all the excesses in your life. Think about which ones you could do without.

25) Celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. Can’t remember how? Simply tell the priest it has been a while, and ask him to guide you through it.

Renée LaReau is a Contributing Editor for BustedHalo.com. She writes from Columbus, Ohio.
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Sunday, February 10, 2008

The secret to being a good catechist

ZE08020809 - 2008-02-08
Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-21721?l=english

Secret of the Catechist Revealed

Pope Says It's to Live What You Preach

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 8, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The secret to being a good catechist is to live what you preach, Benedict XVI told the bishops of Costa Rica.

The Pope said this today upon receiving the prelates in audience, led by the president of the episcopal conference, Bishop José Francisco Ulloa Rojas of Cartago. The bishops are in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

After discussing the possibility of a new evangelization in the country, in the face of a materialistic and secular culture, and the appearance of new religious movements and sects, the Holy Father analyzed the decisive importance of catechists.

"They undoubtedly deserve the gratitude, encouragement, and constant attention of their pastors," he said, "so they always systematically receive a solid Christian formation, taking into account as well that they are called to carry Christian values into the various areas of society: the world of work, of civil society and of politics."

Speaking particularly to catechists, the Pontiff reminded them to "unite the transmission of right doctrine with personal testimony, with the firm commitment to live according to the commandments of the Lord and with the lived experience of being faithful and active members of the Church."

"This example of life," according to Benedict XVI, "is necessary so that your instruction does not stay in a mere transmission of theoretical knowledge about the mysteries of God, but that it leads to embracing a Christian way of life."

This was already the case in the early Church, in which at the end of one's period of Christian initiation, "it was examined if the catechumens ‘have properly lived their catechumenate, if they honored widows, if they visited the sick, if they have done good works,'" the Pope said, citing the "Apostolic Tradition," one of the oldest ecclesiastical constitutions, written around 215.
Of the more than four million residents of Costa Rice, 76.3% of the population is Catholic. The 13.7% remaining belong to evangelical denominations. Jehovah's Witnesses account for 1.3% of the population.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday - Lent begins!

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

more ignorant religion journalism

From Carl Keating's Jan. 29th e-letter [www.catholic.com ]:


The Religion News Service [http://www.religionnews.com/ ] describes itself as "the only secular news and photo service devoted to unbiased coverage of religion and ethics--exclusively." These words imply that RNS gets the facts right, whereas competing services (which are not secular and thus are hampered by denominational affiliations) are biased.

Well, maybe such services do have a bias, but I suppose it depends on what you think is the greater failing, toeing a denominational party line or not knowing what you're writing about.

Consider an RNS story written by Daniel Burke in September of last year. The headline was "Archbishop Heats Up 'Wafer' Wars." The Archbishop in question was Raymond Burke of St. Louis.

The story began this way:
"A hard-line U.S. Roman Catholic archbishop is urging ministers to deny Holy Communion to politicians who support abortion rights, arguing that it's a 'mortal sin' to offer the sacrament to 'the unworthy.'"

Right off, I see bias in the unbiased RNS report: "hard-line." Would the story have lost anything, other than a tilt, if that term had been absent? But let's go on. The third paragraph is the one I'm interested it. It read this way:

"Now, the conservative cleric is invoking the church's highest punishment--mortal sin--to convince the lay and ordained Catholics who distribute Holy Communion at Mass to safeguard the sacrament."

Daniel Burke tried to explain the instructions that Archbishop Burke issued to those under his authority:
"Drawing on the works of the late Italian Jesuit scholar Felice Cappello, Burke says those ministers are 'held, under pain of mortal sin, to deny the sacraments to the unworthy.'"

To me, this means that if those ministers disobey the Archbishop and knowingly give Communion to "the unworthy," the ministers themselves commit a mortal sin. But that’s not quite how Daniel Burke understood things. Let's go back to that third paragraph, where he referred to "the church's highest punishment--mortal sin." Have you ever read it explained that way? I had been under the impression that the Church's highest punishment was excommunication--or maybe interdict, if the Church wanted to levy a widespread punishment. I never read about mortal sin being something the Church slapped on you for being disobedient.

Mortal sin is something you bring on yourself. It's something you do, not something the Church does to you. Mortal sin is not itself a punishment or some kind of judicial decree, but there are punishments associated with it, the chief being going to hell if you die unrepentant (a fairly stiff penalty, I'd say).

Daniel Burke doesn't know what he's talking about. To call mortal sin "the church's highest punishment" is to say, at least to knowledgeable Catholics, "I don't understand the basics of your religion."If that is the case, why is he writing about our religion at all?

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