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Success?

posted by awelborn

From a reader:

On the recent Osteen posts, and indeed whenever the topic of evangelical  megachurches comes up, there seems to be a tendency to compare their apparent (numerical) success with Catholicism’s apparent failure.  As I am currently reading Ratzinger’s God is Near Us, this brought to mind
his concluding thought from the homily "God’s Yes and His Love."

If I may excerpt:

"Did Jesus fail?  Well, he certainly was not successful in the same
sense as Caeser or Alexander the Great.  From the wordly point of view,
he did fail in the first instance:  he died almost abandoned; he was
condemned on account of his preaching.  The response to his message was
not the great Yes of his people, but the Cross.  From such an end as
this, we should conclude that Success is definitely not one of the
names
of God and that it is not Christian to have an eye to outward success
or
numbers.  God’s paths are other than that: his success comes about
through the Cross and is always found under that sign…. The Church of
the suffering…is God’s sign of success in the world; the sign…which
reaches beyond mere thoughts of success and which thereby purifies men
and opens up for God a door into this world."

This reflection is also a nice antidote to the ever-present poison of
the prosperity Gospel.  That Ratzinger is a pretty wise fellow.

Thanks for letting me share this, and I hope you find it interesting/useful/something.

A good point, and it gives me an opportunity to clarify my interest in megachurches.

For, me this isn’t about numbers. Truth is, as someone pointed out in a comments box, a big parish with six masses a weekend is a megachurch, too.

To me, it’s about bringing people to Christ and the fullness of truth.

When I read about the megachurches, emergent churches, and so on, I’m not interested in their numbers for their own sake. I’m listening to the reasons people give for finding this church or this style of church meaningful, listening to their stories of how it has changed their lives or brought them closer to God. Very often, those stories begin with "When I went to the Catholic church…."

But taking it another step, I’m not listening to those stories to see how the Catholic Church can "compete" on the same playing field. I don’t accept the evangelical megachurch playing field as my playing field. I do, however, accept the lives of normal Americans in the 21st century as my playing field, and I’m interested, not in how we can adapt what the Church is to what they want or expect, but how we can make clear that what they want and are yearning for, the answers to their questions can be found in Catholicism.

This is the tactic I used in the Prove It books, and not just because it’s a tactic, but because it’s the truth. Teens have a million questions about God, and legitimate ones at that. The answers are there. You don’t have to label your answer "This is what the tradition of the Catholic Church says" in order to draw upon that tradition to answer the question.

The tricky part, of course, as discussed here once or twice, is making what people experience on the local level match up the truth that is the Catholic Church.  Well, yes, Catholic tradition does point to Christ and a personal relationship with him, and the whole spiritual and sacramental system of the Church is geared to that, in an amazingly full and rich way that binds us, not only to Jesus, but to each other and all of creation in deep, ever-growing ways. Well, yes, Jesus does reach out to the outcast through the Church, and offer abiding love. Yes to all of that and more.

But if the big Fellowship down the street is drawing Catholics and the unchurched seeker…we need to listen to what they’re saying. Not for the purpose of imitation, but in order to figure out how we’re missing the boat on communicating the living, nourishing truth that’s right here -that we’ve been entrusted to share.



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Dad29

posted July 19, 2005 at 3:59 pm


1) Amy, I swear that perseverance in the Faith despite all the silliness is what earns entry into Heaven.
Church suffering, indeed!!!
2) The mega-churches tend to be the ‘church of the eternal feeeeeeelllll-good,’ which complements the Materialism rampant in the USA since the early 1960′s. The megas are the blossom (if you wish to call it that) of that period.



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Jonathan

posted July 19, 2005 at 4:02 pm


Amy,
One statistic to consider carefully are the numbers of young faithful (or orthodox) Catholics currently growing in the Church. Another is that dioceses considered obedient to the teachings of the Church are experiencing growth.
This latter is perhaps not only that people in these dioceses are more easily accepting of Church teaching, but that the priests tend to be younger and engaging and (usually) well-educated. They have answers and further questions, pushing youth to learn and engage the Faith.
Something C.S. Lewis said in one of his essays becomes more pertinent daily, and is especially remarkable in considering the megachurches. In “The Weight of Glory” he noted that “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” Youth (and indeed, many s) are driven to daily interaction with each other – through telephone, email, AIM, concerts, constant pulls on our attention, silence is lost. These megachurches play to this modern idea. I think it provides much , little substance. To figure out why the modern church down the street is drawing Catholics, there may be something of the engaging community there, but there may also be the world. We are called to engage with that world, but not be of that world. C.S. Lewis also noted: “To make Christianity a private affair while banishing all privacy is to relegate it to the rainbow’s end or the Greek Calends.”
If Catholicism desires larger congregations, then it must push harder and deeper for what is and always has been part of the Faith: Tradition, intellectual engagement, spiritual depth. These are what will draw people in, and teach them of Christ. Even our most spiritual Doctors are also the most philosophical, and the most powerful.
Once we abandon these in favor of megachurch-style worship, of churches that look like gymnasiums, of glitz and , we lose something of the awe of the Body of Christ at the center of our Mass.



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Jimmy Mac

posted July 19, 2005 at 4:40 pm


I think what we really need to to reactivate the bands of missionaries who preached parish missions on an annual/semi-annual basis. Paulists, Dominicans, Jesuits, Redemptorists, Passionists, etc.
They go into a parish and, maybe for the only time that year, give the people good preaching and solid food for thought.
I was raised with that kind of evangelization in a small midwestern town in the 1950s. The missionaries (really they were revivalists) got the “Christmas and Easter” folks out of their homes and bars and into the church, at least for a weekend.



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Derek

posted July 19, 2005 at 4:47 pm


As a former longtime vibrant Southern Evangelical, become vibrant Southern Roman Catholic (at least in the middle of the river and swimming with joy), what I have found to be so difficult is simply finding believers who, at the foundation of their being, are just. Who are willing to recognize that most of what they think is really prejudice. Who recognize that one of the most important and controversial questions before the Church was answered by them before it was ever asked.
There is a tremendous spiritual resistance to the Church. Didn’t Chesterton equate the Church to a magnet? One must continually be resisting her or be drawn in. It didn’t really surprise me that there would be resistance, but what did surprise me is what I have come to call the ‘Ostrich Factor’. So many seemingly informed and devout Christians who simply will not look at the truth! People that I have served and grown with for many years who simply stick there head in the ground over obviously major issues. Stunning!
My wife and I have seven siblings between us that have been to seminary and are in ministry in some non-Catholic capacity. Not one of them had any idea how to answer the questions we had about half way to jumping in, and only one has had any desire to bother themselves about it since. That surprised me, as I respect all of them. I had question after question that they simply could not answer and it did not bother them in the least.
Maybe that’s why the Lord likens us to Fishermen? They knew what it was like to come up empty time after time and that it was all part of the drama.



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tcreek

posted July 19, 2005 at 5:14 pm


Two great faults of our age . . . a never ending need to be entertained and the belief that bigger is better
Mega churches fulfill both those desires.
The Catholic Church is the place where we form a communion (common union) with God in the Eucharist.
Some people desire to experience their faith as a sensation or emotion and some desire the Real Thing. Sensations and emotions are merely the response of your nervous system. The Gifts of the Spirit are found elsewhere.



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Badly Drawn Catholic

posted July 19, 2005 at 5:20 pm


I have doing some brushing up on Sacramental Theology and what I have been struck by is that Catholic sacramental theology focuses on the metaphysical and canonical aspects of sacrament and liturgy (and this is the approach that is taken by the CCC). This has been the case since Lombard. We tend to think about what is required — matter, form and intention; ex opera operato; spiritual character; effects; etc. This approach can lead to a minimalism — What makes a sacrament valid and licit?
What we lose in the focus on the metaphysical and canonical (this is not criticism of Catholicism, just pointing out an opportunity) is the experience of the believer. Whether anyone has an experience of faith or not is a secondary consideration since God’s grace is operative. Bad liturgy or good liturgy, grace is there, as long as the proper matter, form and intention are present. Sure, disposition is important, but again this tends to be treated on a metaphysical and canonical level and not view from an experiential point of view.
Evangelicals operate from a point of view of Christian experience of the person. If you feel that you have experienced God in your life right now, the odds are good that you have experienced God right now. Since liturgy and sacraments to them are not channels of grace, more emphasis is placed on whipping up a personal experience of God or the feeling of being justified (although I think this qualifies as a work — the irony).
As Catholics, we know the sacraments are effective. But we should ask how we can make the sacraments seem effective in a way that touches peoples emotion and reason. We need to find better ways of uniting the metaphysical efficaciousness of the sacraments with a tangible sense of their effectiveness the faithful. We have to ask ourselves if people experience the forgiveness of sins; Christ’s presence; the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; etc. in the sacraments.



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Nancy

posted July 19, 2005 at 5:23 pm


The mega-churches tend to be the ‘church of the eternal feeeeeeelllll-good,’ which complements the Materialism rampant in the USA since the early 1960′s.
You can be right, Dad29, without calling other Christians names, or having such contempt for the way they worship God. It may be defective in your opinion; it may be defective in fact. But you won’t attract people to a better way by displaying scorn.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted July 19, 2005 at 5:28 pm


“I think what we really need to to reactivate the bands of missionaries who preached parish missions on an annual/semi-annual basis.”
I was just thinking the same thing the other day…



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Sherry Weddell

posted July 19, 2005 at 6:23 pm


“Two great faults of our age . . . a never ending need to be entertained and the belief that bigger is better
Mega churches fulfill both those desires.”
Sorry – but it just isn’t that simple. It’s a useless analysis that reduces the draw of evangelicalism to an entertainment so shallow that the tens of millions of Catholics who have turned to it can simply be dismissed as spiritual morons.
For instance, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church is completely ordered to helping the unchurched become committed disciples and apostles. I don’t know of single US parish who has been attempting such a thing for more than 4-5 years – and all the ones that I’ve been able to find that are attempting it have been influenced by the work of the Institute.
It isn’t entertainment that draws many to evangelicalism but the constant proclamation of an enounter with Christ that *changes your life.* Proclamation and worship that doesn’t result in changed lives is regarded as futile.
How many of us long for the possibility of freedom from addiction (like that of my father who was “healed” of a 2 1/2 pack a day cigarette habit instanteously and without struggle when he was “born again”) or the healing of one’s emotional wounds or family struggles, etc.
I remember telling my father’s story to a carload of Dominican priests whose skepticism showed. Not only did none of them expect God to heal someone of a major addiction like that, they seemed actually to find the very concept distasteful. It was too pious, too supernatural, too something. They’s have been much happier if he’d recovered after five years of intense counseling!
I have long meditated on the fact that had I been raised Catholic, I would probably never have experienced the intense emotional healing that I needed to become a high-functioning adult. I agreed with the Psalmist “I would have despaired if I had not seen the goodness of God in the land of the living.” And God took me up on it.
The intense focus on God’s intervention in our lives and how to facilitate that – whether through the direct action of God or inspired human skill – a focus which is very evangelical – gave me hope and support that I would never have had as a Catholic – and opened the door to some astonishing healing.
There is something wrong with how we live and preach the faith if large numbers of Catholics are not experiencing changed lives, changed priorities, changed relationships even the occasional out and out miracle. This is what normative Catholicism should look like. That it is foreign to the experience of the majority of American Catholics that I have meet over the years is very telling.



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tcreek

posted July 19, 2005 at 7:31 pm


When the Rick Warrens are not around, then what?
The Catholic Church has been bringing Christ to the world for 2 thousand years and will continue doing so till the end of time. The mega churches will collapse of their own weight as soon as the preachers with their shallow message of the day are no longer around.
As far as Catholics leaving the Faith, many did not like the message from the beginning. Nothing new there.



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Donna

posted July 19, 2005 at 8:13 pm


Evangelicals operate from a point of view of Christian experience of the person. If you feel that you have experienced God in your life right now, the odds are good that you have experienced God right now. Since liturgy and sacraments to them are not channels of grace, more emphasis is placed on whipping up a personal experience of God or the feeling of being justified.
Without discounting the deeper reasons Sherry W. points out for the rise of evangelicalism, I think Badly Drawn Catholic makes a good point.
I don’t think the evangelicals are morons. I do believe that our culture places a higher value than it should on feeling, and feeling alone, being a reliable source of truth. (Hence the popularity of people broadcasting their personal lives on Oprah and “reality” shows.) And Americans frequently get their backs up against the wall when it comes to any kind of human authority telling them what to do – which is a caricature of what many people think Catholicism is. Put the two strains – overemphasis on feelings and resistance to authority – together, and you have a fertile environment for evangelicalism.
I said in a post here a week or so ago that perhaps the most impressive Catholic service I’ve ever been to was a Mass at a black parish in D.C. Those parishioners clearly had found a way to marry the warmth (and amazing gospel music) of their traditional A.M.E. services to the greater formality of the Mass. (And no, it was not like something out of “Sister Act” – those old gospel songs are dignified and powerful.)
I think we can learn something from them – and perhaps we will learn more from the increasing numbers of native African, Hispanic, and Indian religious. I think that’s multiculturalism in the best and truest sense of the word. The important thing is to do it well and with reverence and dignity – not just tossing an Indian dancer or an African drummer into a Mass to spice things up.



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Joe

posted July 19, 2005 at 8:21 pm


AMEN to Sherry’s post!
It constantly amazes me to find such hostilityt towards Evangelicalism on the part of Catholics on the web. They seem to either not know of or ignore their current Pope’s positive words for Luther and the movement, or John Paul II’s close working with Evangelicals while in Krakow and thereafter.
In the meantime, it seems unwise to dismiss megachurches out of hand while the Catholic Church atrophies from sex scandals, bankruptcies, and widespread dissent. A priest I know recently said he did not understand why even atfunerals Baptists tsalk about salvation by faith: “Don’t they know everyone has heard it?! The people all know it.” I was amazed he could think so.
So it goes.



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Sherry Weddell

posted July 19, 2005 at 8:30 pm


“When the Rick Warrens are not around, then what?”
Well, since Rick Warren is training thousands of evangelical pastors around the world to do the same thing – it’ll be a while. And since evangelicals emphasize that God has no grand-children, they tend to generate new creative, evangelizing leaders in every generation – by the thousands! We won’t have to worry about their absence in our lifetimes!
“The Catholic Church has been bringing Christ to the world for 2 thousand years and will continue doing so till the end of time. The mega churches will collapse of their own weight as soon as the preachers with their shallow message of the day are no longer around.”
Well, now that’s what I call a thoughtful analysis. Just how many of these mega-churches do you know intimately? Since there are thousands of them in the US and in Africa and Asia and many of them are networked, don’t hold your breath. Individual churches can come and go in two or three generations but the vast network of para-church organizations, seminaries, denominational and transdenominational institutions that span the world aren’t going anywhere. And evangelicalism/Pentacostalism continues to grow at a staggering pace in third world. It’s already bigger than Anglicanism, Orthodoxy, and main-line Protestantism. It’s second only to Catholicism and growing much faster than we are. So none of us will have to contend with an evangelical-less world. Aren’t you relieved?
Yes, the Catholic Church has been around for 2,000 years but it’s life and vibrancy in every generation and every culture is dependent upon the choices and faithfulness of the Catholics present.
Catholicism has been essentially extinquished in numerous places (north Africa, and large parts of the middle east for 14 centuries, England for several centuries, France during the revolution; etc.) It mattered intensely to the lives and spiritual destinies of the millions who lived in those times and places. Being the true Church doesn’t magically protect the Church from the usual consequences of corruption, nominalism, and attack from without anymore than individual mega-churches are protected.
“As far as Catholics leaving the Faith, many did not like the message from the beginning. Nothing new there.”
Now that’s what I call an evangelical stance. Poor St. Dominic – he keep asking “what about the others?” – you know, those heretical Albingensians who had left the Church. If only he’d had St. Blog’s to assume him that the unchurched and the lapsed are just spiritual losers that we are better off without.
We just assume that its their spiritual obtuseness to blame and nothing to do with out own evangelical ineptitude? That is the biggest difference between Catholics and evangelicals. Evies *never* simply assign the blame to those who don’t respond – they always assume that there’s a good chance that they could have found a more appropriate, effective, Spirit-empowered way to communicate the Gospel to this particular group in this setting at this time. And they keep searching for the better way.
After 2,000 years, we ought to be humble enough to allow the apostolic creativity and zeal of non-Catholics to challenge us in ways that are deeply rooted in the fullness of the Tradition.



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Donna

posted July 19, 2005 at 8:44 pm


Catholic Church atrophies from sex scandals, bankruptcies, and widespread dissent.
Can anyone point me to some hard stats which show the Church is atrophying? I know the Church must have taken a hit from the scandals and I also know it’s growing more rapidly in the Third World. But – maybe I’m naive – I thought the priest shortage meant you have a small number of priests running around trying to minister to a large number of parishioners. When I look at the parishes which have combined during the last few years here in the Milwaukee archdiocese, the problem hasn’t been emptying pews, it’s been not enough priests.
The denominations I thought were really getting hit in terms of shrinking denominations were the Protestant mainliners. If anyone could steer me to some hard numbers, I’d appreciate it.
Every Sunday Mass I’ve attended since I came back to the Church has been at least three quarters full and many of the people attending were in their 20′s and 30′s. And this is after the Rembert Weakland scandal. I know I can’t judge by my experience alone, but sometimes when I’m reading Catholic blogs I get the idea that there’s about 9 Catholics left in the country.:-)



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Badly Drawn Catholic

posted July 19, 2005 at 8:55 pm


Maybe if we approached liturgy with the idea that anyone walking into a Catholic Church on a Sunday morning who had no idea of what was going on should be able to walk out and properly describe the effects of the Eucharist without resorting to the Catechism. The same could be said for all our sacramental celebrations. People should be able to discern the effects of the sacraments from the ritual and not a resource book. Sacraments are supposed to teach so let them teach.
We seem to spend a lot of time agonizing over rubrics and abuses (I am not condoning abuses or disregard for rubrics). With the Catholic focus on the rites in se, we tend make the form of the Eucharist the ends of our worship instead of the means through which worship occurs.
If Christ’s presence is not made tangible (beyond the Catechism saying that Christ’s presence is made tangible in the Eucharist) in a manner that people can comprehend during liturgy, we should expect people to seek recourse elsewhere.
Tcreek can criticize Warren, Osteen, et al. for watering down the gospel, that is fine. But if Catholics are leaving the faith because the Church is not living up to the mission of Christ, that sin is on us who remain more so than the people leaving the Church.
How are people supposed to the know the fullness of what the Church proclaims about Christ if the Church relies on nothing more than ex opere operato and canon law? If we are not truly engaging people in way they can understand Christ, then the Church failed those who leave instead of those leaving failing the Church. We have to do more than point to paragraph numbers in the Catechism. If we do Church well, people would not need to look things up in the Catechism. They would have already had the experience.



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Sherry Weddell

posted July 19, 2005 at 9:08 pm


Donna:
It depends upon your criteria.
The Catholic population of the US is 67 million and currently growing 10% every decade (in sheer numbers) – so no threat of numerical atrophy any time soon. We have been the largest faith community in the US for the past 150 years. 1.6 million adults joined the Church in the past 10 years alone.
Catholicism is 4 times larger than the Southern Baptist convention and 30+ times larger than Episcopalianism. I attend large parishes crowded with thousands of Catholics all over – so my observations would agree with yours.
Of course, non-practicing Catholics are also the seond largest Christian group in the US – right after practicing Catholics (who are Number 1). So it depends if you “count” those who don’t attend Mass on a given Sunday.
And then, if you also add the criteria of “uber-purity” – being an intentional, well-catechized, orthodox disciple who can count on a perfectly celebrated traditional liturgy and fabulous, challenging homilies in every parish they enter – the minimum daily requirement of many posters at St. Blogs’ – you’re pretty much down in the low single digits.



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Zhou

posted July 19, 2005 at 9:38 pm


Might I suggest three dimensions for comparing Catholics and Evangelicals; just three dimensions, but you can add more:
(1) Authority, from God through man to me
Catholics make much of the Magisterium, of tradition, of Canon Law, of the Catechism, of a number of authoritative written documents and offices. This is also, I believe, the “rub” for most “ex-Catholics,” and many “still Catholics.” It is hard to deny oneself and accept authority.
Very few Evangelical church will come right out and say, “You must do X, Y and Z.” Although Scripture is often the only written textual authority, it is interpreted by the leader(s) of the church, and their interpretations and decisions become the norms. Thus you can find the Church of your choice. And over time, as the leaders mature, or a new generation comes up, the interpretations, the rule, might change. Thus the Scripture is an explicit authority, but the living interpretation (local mini-magisterium) is more implict. This is also why you have Protestants who are tired of the endless changes coming back to the Catholic Church.
I find that although the Catholic Church claims that all teaching is based on and not contradicting the Scriptures, that actually few teachers really teach the Scriptures explicitly anymore, unlike in centuries past. Much more is made of teaching interpretations of Church documents, or the Summa, or whatnot. Scripture is still, I believe, at the base and implicit, but not so clearly presented as authoritative as in Evangelical churches.
(2) Holiness, God being magnified in me
In this dimension, both the Catholic and Evangelical churches are hit and miss. There are outstanding examples of true godliness in both churches, and outstanding examples of corruption and sin.
This might actually be an area with both communities could work together and learn from each other. The classical Catholic practice of Lectio Divina is probably more practiced in Evangelical Churches under such names as “Quiet Time.” Evangelicals can learn more about classical fixed forms of prayer from Catholics, and Catholics can learn more about spontaneous prayer from Evangelicals. Both can work together to learn how to love God and live God in our daily life.
In regard to ritualized helps to holiness, I feel Catholics really put much more emphasis in sacraments and sacramentals (even, IMHO, not much caring for the Liturgy of the Word), and Evangelicals are much into the “washing of the water of the Word” (Eph. 5) as an approach to sanctification. Both of these can strengthen and encourage each other.
(3) Gospel, God through me to others
I think here Catholics have a lot of weakness from great theologians like Aquinas and natural law, and from Rahner and “invisible Christians.” These approaches, although intellectually correct, do a lot to nullify any practice of evangelization. It is easy to say, “My neighbor can know God by the sun coming up, or at least by seeing me go to Mass; I don’t need to preach to him.”
Evangelicals, on the other hand, preach a lot, but they have the “Billy Graham” problem of, often, not having too much to bring people too behind them. Yes, you can lead people to Christ. But what do you do with them for the rest of their life? Few Evangelical Churches have the depth, the healthy diversity of experiences and charisms and paths that the Catholic Church can offer. Evangelicals can go to find the lost sheep, but the sheepfold is rather thin and flimsy.
Again, here is an area where both can work together. How many Catholics really preach to their family, their neighbors, their coworkers, carrying out the vision of the Lay Apostolate? I don’t mean just having a rosary on your rear view mirror, but actually preaching, with Scripture in hand?
Just some ideas from someone who has been on both sides.



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Jonathan

posted July 19, 2005 at 10:21 pm


All,
In those Catholic Churches in which I have seen the highest Mass attendance, genuine reflection and prayer both before and after Mass, and a commitment to children’s education in the Church, there has also been an active parish community, including large RE classes, lectures, music programs, etc. These were churches where people tended not to be “Sunday” Catholics, but during-the -week Mass attenders, were those who discussed Catholic ideas and ideals with their children and friends, as well as current developments in the Church.
Hence, I suspect that at the core, these megachurches have something which many Catholic Churches (individual parishes or even dioceses this time) lack. There is some sense of vibrancy and community at their base which we Catholics often miss.
With that said, because the Church is the repository of the Body of Christ, there is a need for reverence at the core. Some of the megachurches (not all, I suspect, though I have only visited a couple and viewed a few more) have a spiritual reductionism that could produce an irreverent effect. Since I have never been of that churchgoing variety, I do not know it first hand.
On the other hand, if these churches are bringing people in the door who already knew Christ, and their desire is to make worship more “fun” and “modern,” perhaps there is a failing at the very heart of our Culture, and in the World, which needs glitz and rather than silence and meditation to worship (I reference my initial post).
With those said, I have one comment to direct to Ms. Weddell. Your comments are excellent and intelligent, and quite insightful. I find myself initially repelled, however, by your scathing and somewhat condescending tone. Perhaps you might consider that some of us (us, speaking for myself; anyone is free to disagree) are simply lay Catholics trying to understand our Church and religious world, and do not have the education or experience as you do. I am sure I do not intend (nor is there evidence of others’ intent) to offend in any way.
Sincerely,
Jonathan



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Sherry Weddell

posted July 19, 2005 at 11:43 pm


Sorry for my tone, Jonathan. When I start to get snippy, its time to get out of the conversation. I’m too tired and frustrated and so I feel like I have to shout to make an impression. Obviously, that is not so. My apologies.
I’m leaving for 6 days of bloglessness in Seattle – part of which will be spent with HRE Mark Shea and his imperial consort and many heirs and lackies. Maybe I’ll get to read his book on Mary????
PS – a fun little note: Mark is gonna be in the next edition of Wha’s Wha (or Who’s Who for the non-Scots among us). And to think I knew him before he was a Who . . .or a Wha.



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Puzzled

posted July 20, 2005 at 12:49 am


In evangelical circles,Osteen is viewed with much suspicion of heresy.
Megachurches are -highly- controversial, as are the “emergent” existentialist “churches”.
They appeal to people’s desires, but they fail profoundly in shepherding the flock. They fit the modern McCulture ethos very closely, but are not able to bear the marks of the Church or rightly preach the word and offer the sacraments.
I don’t see what good can be gained from imitating them.



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Puzzled

posted July 20, 2005 at 12:50 am


That Ratzinger quote is wonderfully Lutheran, urrr, Catholic. Theologica crucis instead of theologia gloria.



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Puzzled

posted July 20, 2005 at 1:13 am


Lots of good thinking going on here.
But, to be somewhat pedantic:
Megachurches != evangelical. The first is method, the second is emphasis on conversion.
Evangelical isn’t about experience, though confusing emotional experience with conversion, as though the former was the latter, rather than a frequent result of the latter, is a decay product that frequently appears, Evangelical is about hearing with faith the Gospel and responding with,by and to God’s grace with personal conversion.
Now notice that none of this is contrary to the Catholic faith. Depth, balance, emphasis might all be questioned, but what happens when the Church allows error or imbalance in a region, and Catholics in that region respond by trying to re-balance the boat. Sometimes you get reforming orders, and once or twice you got schism when things weren’t handled properly.
So, the separated brethren -are- part of the Church, imperfectly, but truly. A lack of balance and depth would be expected, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that their emphasis is -wrong-. Just disordered.
To learn from the good as Sherry suggests is right. The Church is encouraged to take the good that comes from God’s work among the separated brethren.
But there is much chaff as well. From this side of the Tiber, we see so much harm in the megachurches. The shallowness, the lack of reverence for God, the intentional failure to preach against sin, and call for genuine conversion. -the removal of the Cross from the sanctuary lest it offend someone- There are some pretty scary things being done in the name of reaching people.
IIRC, there was a time when some Jesuits went too far in enculturation, too. And -that- means that the Church has already been through this problem in the past. It has the resources to rightly separate the wheat from the chaff, to engage the culture without compromising the truth. To urge personal conversion without falling into existentialism or denying the objective efficacy of God’s grace.



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Maureen

posted July 20, 2005 at 7:50 am


You know, a lot of people may be going to megachurches just because they’re there.
I remember when I was in college, we had a campus ministry with two priests and a Newman Club — but despite the fact that there were Bible study invitations from every church on the face of the earth plus Campus Crusade for Christ, we Catholics didn’t have a Bible study. There were a number of Catholic students doing big work for Campus Crusade, because Newman Club wasn’t about doing or studying or evangelizing anything. It might as well not have been there. So, since one of my few Catholic acquaintances was one of those folks, I went to CCC Bible study with her.
Needless to say, the whole situation was a disaster (I knew just enough theology to know how wrong the stuff was that people were saying, unlike my friend, the prayer style kept giving me hives, and the combination of everything that was going on threw me into a major faith depression).
But I didn’t know enough to ask, “Father, why don’t we have Bible studies of our own?” Because we never had had them at home, and the youth group at home had always assumed (just like the Newman Club) that what young Catholic people want is a place to hang out and meet dates and occasionally do a tad bit of charity work (“Pizza for the Poor” and the like), not actually learn anything or grow in the Faith.
(And when you consider that the youth group at home included forty year old guys still looking…well, there was a reason the “youth” didn’t stick around. I mean, nothing against middle aged guys in general, but if you’re a teenager it’s just ew.)



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Dad29

posted July 20, 2005 at 7:52 am


Donna, there were about 450 people at St. Sebastian’s for the 10:30 Mass a week-ago Sunday.
NONE of them attended Mass–it was invalid, made so by the single most impressive string of liturgical-law violations I have ever seen in 50+ years of Mass attendance. Not even the Jesuits of Marquette High pull the stunts I saw.
And I know that the priest-celebrant (??) is not alone in his reprehensible conduct.
While the situation in the Church is hardly dire, as you observe, it’s not ‘clear horizon, fair wind,’ either.



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Susan

posted July 20, 2005 at 8:42 am


Sherry, you wrote…
“I remember telling my father’s story (…who was “healed” of a 2 1/2 pack a day cigarette habit instanteously and without struggle when he was “born again”) to a carload of Dominican priests whose skepticism showed. Not only did none of them expect God to heal someone of a major addiction like that, they seemed actually to find the very concept distasteful. It was too pious, too supernatural, too something. They’s have been much happier if he’d recovered after five years of intense counseling!”
Your story illustrates one of the saddest truths about the majority of Catholics. We are, as a body, skeptics when it comes to miracles.
Having grown up Catholic reading and hearing of the miracles of Saints throughout history, I find it odd that for many of us miracles are part of the past.
As a traditional Catholic I’m very hesitant about sharing the small miracles Jesus has granted to me in my own life and the lives of family and friends. I’m afraid that I will be met with the skepticism of a carload of Dominican priests. God grants favors to His children and these supernatural experiences are like being born again and what respectable Catholic would want to sound like an Evangelical.
I know I’m not alone. Can I get a witness?
P.S. The Spiritual Gifts Inventory brought about another spiritual rebirth for me. Thank you.



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Nancy

posted July 20, 2005 at 8:55 am


Donna, there were about 450 people at St. Sebastian’s for the 10:30 Mass a week-ago Sunday.
NONE of them attended Mass–it was invalid

Dad29, you were made the judge of this by whom? Does the local bishop (who is the judge of this) agree with you on this point?



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Maureen

posted July 20, 2005 at 10:08 am


>”As Catholics, we know the sacraments are effective. But we should ask how we can make the sacraments seem effective in a way that touches peoples emotion and reason.”
Sounds like the Counterreformation.
Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with using both approaches at once — making Mass more prayerful and making the Church’s teachings more attractive. I mean, the Church’s teachings are God’s teachings, so by definition they are what people want. All we have to do is present it effectively enough to really give glory to God.
People are hungry. We need to let them know soup’s on.



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Gene Humphreys

posted July 20, 2005 at 10:22 am


Dad29,
Can you elaborate? What invaildated the Mass you attended?



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Brian

posted July 20, 2005 at 12:51 pm


Susan,
A witness for you – In Sept. 1991, I attended a Charismatic Renewal weekend and experienced the grace of God in a profound way. Up to then, I had struggled with being faithful to the Church’s teaching on artificial birth control in my marriage. Thereafter, the burden was gone – I was able to easily practice NFP with my wife. It was occasionally difficult but not the impossibility that I had experienced up to that point.



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Rod Dreher

posted July 20, 2005 at 1:13 pm


I’m so impressed with Amy’s comments that started this thread, and with everything Sherry Weddell has written here. And I am most unimpressed by people who simply state, one way or the other, that the megachurches are crap, and not to worry because we Catholics are the true church, yadda yadda. Some of y’all act like there’s something wrong with people if they actually expect to have their lives changed by an encounter with Christ at Sunday worship. You remind me of the Anglican bishop who sniffed at Billy Graham on one of his early crusades to England: “I don’t like your sort of evangelism.” To which Graham responded: “I prefer the kind of evangelism I’m doing to the kind you are not doing.”
A couple of things come to mind:
1. I have a friend here in town, a dear woman who has suffered a lot in her life, and who came to Christ last year in part through the ministry of a priest and me. She’s now a Catholic. It has weighed heavily on my mind how much harder she’s going to have to work to get the help and healing she needs as a Catholic here than if she had come to Christ through one of the very solid and vibrant Evangelical churches in Dallas.
2. Last month I was visiting family out of state, and saw that my relative had a copy of “The Purpose-Driven Life” on her coffee table. Like many people, I had dismissed this book as pop-spiritual pap without so much as having read a single page. I figured that something as popular as this book must be reaching a deep need in folks, so I’d better check it out.
I read the first few chapters, and realized something. Yes, it’s very, very basic stuff, even simplistic. But I asked myself: if I heard a Catholic priest on Sunday preach this simply and directly on meat-and-potatoes basics, I’d think I’d died and gone to heaven. And, taking off on something Sherry said above, Rick Warren writes as if he really believes that the people who hear him and follow Christ as he directs them can change their lives for the better. That they can be more faithful, more loving, happier, more purposeful, and so forth. However flawed he might be in his understanding of the Gospel, Warren comes across as someone who really wants to communicate a message of life-changing hope to his audience. He comes across as a man who wants to lead them to someplace good. That is powerful, and we are complete fools to ignore it, to dismiss it, or to fault ordinary people for responding to it.



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