Monday, September 28, 2009

The Age of the Nones

None, nothing, no belief, no faith, no religious affiliation, not a thing. Some of  these "nones" are agnostic,  perhaps some are affiliated with the "new atheism." Internet articles like the one I read by Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish, make me quite upset. The blog titled,  "The Coming Age of the Nones," should be a wake-up call for the Church.  Here's why......according to the article, "In 1990, 8 percent of Americans reported that they had no religious beliefs. Twenty years later, that's 15 percent. But when you look at younger Americans, you see that the proportion of "nones" is reaching 22 percent. The 1990s were the boom years for the Nones; and a huge 35 percent of the new Nones are ex-Catholics." I wonder, can that statistic be true? That's scary. 
Andrew Sullivan gives some reasons why he thinks agnostics are a growing phenomena and he says "these agnostics do not dismiss the religious life but remain at a cool distance from it."
According to Barry Kosmin, director of Trinity's Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture, "It's a kind of religious indifference that's not hostile to religion the way they are in France." 
"The study estimates that in 20 years, the Nones will make up 25 percent of Americans."He gives the political breakdown, which he calls fascinating. 
"The Nones are not wealthier than average, but they are more male. Almost 20 percent of American men are Nones, compared with 12 percent of women."
I hope and pray that the Church will take this study and ones like it seriously. Modernism, secularism, consumerism and "the new atheism," are apparently taking a toll on belief in God. 
Something needs to be done- a creative, modern, realistic, practical approach to help people realize the benefits of spirituality, religious affiliation, prayer and belief in God. 
If you'd like to read the entire article here's the link- 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mary's Shrine in DC & Christ in Majesty

I recently received Mary's Shrine, a newsletter from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. The color newsletter is informative and gives a lot of information about the Shrine, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Shrine this year. This National Marian Shrine and pilgrimage Church is dedicated to Mary and peoples from countries around the world. It has over 70 chapels and oratories. I visited this magnificent Church a few years ago, while in Washington, DC. My cousins live nearby in Virginia and I was asked to be a Confirmation sponsor, so my husband and I made the trip to Virginia for the Confirmation Mass. We also visited the Shrine during that trip, with my cousins. 
But getting back to the newsletter, I was happy to see a picture of Fr. Vito Buonanno, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, who is the new Director of Pilgrimages, in the newsletter. He's standing with Msgr. Rossi, who is the Rector of the Shrine. I sent a letter to Msgr. Rossi, after visiting the Shrine, but I'll mention that later in this blog, because looking back on it, it's rather funny. Anyhow, Fr. Vito looks happy in the photograph. I know Fr. Vito, from the Diocese of Brooklyn, he's a wonderful priest, with a good sense of humor. He served as an Interim and then as an Associate Director of Liturgy for many years, in the Brooklyn Diocese and also as pastor of Ascension Parish in Queens. He's a good choice for the Director of Pilgrimages and I know he'll be great in that position. 
Getting back to my visit to the Shrine. I met Fr. Holcomb, the previous Director of Pilgrimages while I was there and I introduced him to my family. I didn't know him before arriving at the Shrine, but he happened to be in his office and so we all said hello.
After arriving home, I sent Msgr. Rossi, the rector, a letter. Something bothered me about the Shrine, so I thought I would write him about it. At the Shrine, dominating the North Apse of the Great Upper Church is a Byzantine style mosaic titled, Christ in Majesty. It is one of the largest images of Jesus in the world and it contains more than 4,000 shades and colors. But I had a problem with the mosaic. Jesus looks very angry and stern in the mosaic. Not welcoming at all..............for a Shrine Church, with such significance and as a place of pilgrimage.... it upset me that Jesus looked so angry and that's what I wrote to Msgr. Rossi. He wrote back to me, explaining that it was suppose to show Jesus' power and might and that is how he is often depicted in Byzantine style art. It was nice of him to respond to my letter, but I still felt that for so important a piece of artwork, in such a prime location in the Shrine, a gentle, loving Jesus would be more effective.  So that's my story about the mosaic, Christ in Majesty. 
After receiving the letter from Msgr. Rossi, I mailed it to my cousins in Virginia and they thought the whole thing was very funny. 

Friday, September 18, 2009

Deepening Faith-Building Good Character

Every human being is intended to have a character of his own: to be what no others are and to do what no other can do.   William Channing

One spiritual writer put it this way (and I paraphrase), "The world doesn't need another Mother Teresa, the world needs you to be the best you can be and reach your full potential." I would add- to develop your gifts and talents, be united to God's will for you and do good. 
I gave a talk last night to parents to try to help them understand and remind them of the importance of deepening faith in their children and intentionally fostering their spiritual and religious development. I love when I give a talk and parents come up to me afterwards and say, "We needed to hear that, to be reminded of that." The suggestions I give them, which I've been gathering from books I've read such as "52 Simple Ways To Talk With Your Kids About Faith-Opportunities for Catholic Families to Share God's Love," by Jim Campbell make good sense to them, they know instinctively these suggestions will be good for their children. 
The problem is today children are involved in many extra-curricular activities such as sports and it is difficult for the most well meaning parents to fit everything in. 
I know what parents want for their children, they are the same things I wanted for my children. We want our children to be well-adjusted, successful, kind, compassionate human beings who are drawn to good, and lead fulfilling lives. Instilling Christian values in children fosters positive human development. It works, I know it, I've lived it. I've read the studies too, but I place a high value on experience as well. 
Children and adults need balance in their lives, especially in these hectic, fast-paced times we're living through. We all need time for quiet, solitude, rest, prayer and a relationship with God. It's healthy and necessary. I love to connect with Catholic parents, to feel they are in agreement with what I'm saying to them. Parents today need to be reminded of the value and importance of religious instruction and prayer and the benefits of giving their children faith experiences. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Reasons To Believe" Conference

I attended the "Reasons To Believe" Conference at Kellenberg HS on Long Island on Saturday. It was the first time I heard Dr. Scott Hahn speak and he was excellent. He gave three talks. (Fr. Anthony Stanganelli gave the opening talk and he was very good too.) Scott Hahn, who was formerly a Presbyterian minister before converting to Catholicism spoke about his faith journey and conversion. He used humor, at times, which was uplifting and he also used stories to convey that it seems all his studying, learning and knowledge of Scripture brought him to the Catholic religion. He explained that he read the Sunday homilies of the Early Church Fathers as a Presbyterian minister to help him write sermons. It was through those studies that he came to see and believe in Catholic truths. He came to see that the understanding of the Bible and the homilies that the Church Fathers wrote, explaining how the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament was a revelation for him. It was an understanding and explanation of biblical truths that he couldn't dismiss. He began to see Catholic rituals in a different light and the truths of the Catholic faith became evident to him. Over time, after attending Mass (while he was still a Presbyterian minister), he came to appreciate the beauty, depth and the sacredness of the Catholic Mass and it transformed him. He was astounded by connections he saw to the Mass and the Book of Revelation. He felt like he was experiencing the heavenly Jerusalem described in the Book of Revelation. He began to see and experience the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and there was no turning back. He was married to a Presbyterian woman, the daughter of a minister and so he had a lot of explaining to do to his wife. Ultimately, she converted too, but it took some time. They have six children. It's a great story of faith and the complexities of belief and conversion. 
He had many good stories of how God worked in his life and brought him to where he is today. He's a best selling author, lecturer and he has an amazing understanding of Scripture, (he learned much from the Church Fathers), and years of studying, which he conveyed very well.
All in all, it was a successful day. There were hundreds of people in attendence, all there trying to deepen their knowledge of God, the Bible and Catholicism. 
There were some vendors at the Conference as well.  I purchased a CD, titled, "Unlocking the Book of Revelation," from Lighthouse Catholic Media. I'm very impressed that they sell CD's for the reasonable price of $3.00. They even have a CD of the month club. Their website I've bought their CD's before and given them as gifts. 
The ticket price of $10.00 was a real bargain. Though you had to bring your own lunch, it was still a great value (4 excellent talks for $10.00). And as always, the "staff" at Kellenberg HS ensures that everything runs smoothly. 
Offering Catholic conferences (with dynamic speakers) at low cost is great for evangelization and for building faith and knowledge. "If you build it, they will come." 

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Hype About 2012

As you've probably heard by now a lot of people (mostly New Age thinkers, but some Christians too), think some form of apocalyptic event might possibly happen in the year 2012. People who study "ancient, New Age" writings and prophecies claim that this date surfaces in different prophecies in end time writings (or at least that's their interpretation). According to information I read,  some people believe the Mayan calendar (since when do calendars tell the future) will end in 2012, fueling this kind of end time furor, but most scholars dispute that claim. Other people believe that there will be a positive spiritual transformation in 2012 and the beginning of a new era. 
An apocalyptic movie is coming out called 2012. The History Channel with a number of "documentaries," on the end times and doomsday prophecies is also contributing to this interest in 2012. They began airing shows in 2006, with "Decoding the Past, Mayan Doomsday Prophecy," and most recently "Nostradamus 2012." A Catholic recently asked me what I thought about this, as he's watched the shows on the History Channel and believes at least some part of the hype. Some people are unnerved by these shows, so I'm hoping there will be a creative Catholic response to all these false predictions, perhaps on Currents and in Catholic newspapers. 
One critic of the History Channel said this, "These shows have been characterized as 45 minutes of unabashed doomsday hype and the worst kind of inane sensationalism." That is true, but the problem is, people are watching these shows. People are thinking about these predictions. 
So as Christians what are we to think? Of course we know that Jesus said no one knows the day or hour when He will return in glory. I recently quoted this Scripture in another blog entry, But of that hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven nor the Son, but the Father alone.....Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come...So too you must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.
But what if? Are you ready? If the Earth should undergo some cataclysmic event in 2012, (highly unlikely), are you ready spiritually? Are you where you want to be in your relationship with God? This is all hype but it doesn't hurt to reassess our relationship with God and our intentions for spiritual growth, once in awhile.  
Oh, by the way, the only thing that I could find out from reading information from the scientific community is that, according to NASA, there will be increased solar activity between 2010-2012 (it's called solar maximum), but that should only effect satellites and cell phone communications. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Birth of Mary

Birthday celebrations bring happiness to the celebrant as well as to family and friends. Next to the birth of Jesus, Mary's birth offers the greatest possible happiness to the world. Each time we celebrate her birth we can confidently hope for an increase of peace in our hearts and in the world at large.
(From of the Day-a valuable resource, concise and informative.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

What Undermines Faith?

New York Newsday newspaper has a weekly faith question that is asked of clergy and ministers. A recent question was, "What Most Undermines Faith Today?" Here is a sampling of the answers. I think it's worth repeating here, since this is a big problem today for most clergy, ministers, nuns, deacons and laypeople who are trying to evangelize and "convince" people (most especially teens and young adults) that faith, religion, prayer and worship are important for children and adults in the fast-paced, anxiety-filled, modern world we live in. I believe it's absolutely necessary for a well balanced, fulfilling and enriched life.
So here are some of the answers-from Rabbi Bennett Hermann, Temple Emanu-El of Long Beach, NY, (living in Long Beach, the city by the sea probably gives this Rabbi plenty of time to reflect near the seashore)-I personally believe that our age has gone overboard in its almost absolute allegiance to the scientific method and to technological advancement. We tend to believe and worship only that which we can scientifically prove. Whatever happened to our relationship to the spiritual-to that which we cannot see but to which we can feel within the depths of our hearts and souls. Love your neighbor as yourself; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might. What will it take to return us to the faith of our fathers and mothers-to believe in the one and living God....."
Dr. Anila Midha, president of the India Association of Long Island in Jericho wrote this, There are so many distractions these days with computer technology and other forms of communication. We spend so much time communicating with others that we don't take time to communicate with God. You see people with iPods, iPhones, using the Internet and other devices that they don't have time left to think about God and pray......."
A Protestant Pastor, James Steffens, from East Northport wrote the following and I think this is a major problem, As many people as there are, there are that many hindrances to maintaining an active faith. But if I were going to pick one, I think the main culprit undermining a vibrant relationship with God is over-commitment....People are taking on extra hours or working two jobs. ..By the time we get through paying for all our stuff, there's little left. And then we take that time and cram it with school activities, Little League, dance recitals........God gets the scraps that may be left over......Ultimately our souls and the souls of our families are more important than anything else. 
Yes, he's absolutely right, over-commitment is a big problem which keeps individuals and families with so much to do, there is little time left for prayer, worship and reflection.  Some people make it a priority and they try very hard to keep the discipline. It's not easy. 
Prayer has a calming effect on my soul and being. Worshipping God at Mass and receiving Eucharist fills me with peace and nourishment and helps me to live in this fallen world. I personally could not do without it, it's a part of who I am and it enriches my life. I can't even imagine life without faith, prayer or worship. I can't imagine ever missing Mass on a Saturday or Sunday morning. I would feel as if I missed something of utmost importance for my well being. And also I feel called to worship God at Mass. 
Parents are trying to do their best but it's difficult to fit everything in a schedule. All of the activities that their children do: sports, music, entertainment, dance, etc. are, of course, important and rewarding but so is their spiritual development.
We have to reconvince people that giving time to their faith and spiritual development is important and time well spent.  Somehow in the modern world, people are losing a sense of that and it worries me.
(By the way, sometimes a Catholic priest or layperson who works for the Church is asked to respond to a faith question in the newspaper, but for this particular question, they didn't have such a response or I would have listed it.)

Enjoy the beautiful Labor Day Weekend!