The Growing Desire for Silence in the Church – How Shall We Respond?

cover090814v2Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, recently said that at a time when young people are bombarded by noise and distractions, especially from the social media, there is a “deep desire” for silence and personal encounter with Christ. (The Tablet, July 12, 2014).

While I am not sure there is enough hard data to support this sweeping conclusion my own anecdotal experience says he is right.

The archbishop added, while speaking at a July 4-6 Catholic UK discernment festival:

Today there is so much noise, with social media, we don’t understand the value of silence. We go away from it, from ourselves. In silence . . . we encourage ourselves, and God. There is a desire for silence, desire for spirituality [amid] the problems of society. If we take time in silence we find the answer to this desire.

In the same issue of The Tablet, the leading Jesuit magazine in the UK, several Catholic bishops suggested that the Mass has become “consumerised.” Alan Hopes, the Bishop of East Anglia, says

CenterQuest–A Ministry to Draw us to the Christ the True Center

wil7My new friend, Wil Hernandez, has recently created a ministry called CenterQuest. I am thrilled by this direction and support wholeheartedly this cornucopia  of resources. I am also excited to partner with this dear brother.

Wil has a unique background. He was trained in very conservative evangelical settings but, like me, was led into a deeper experience of Christ through catholic spiritual formation and deep, growing practice of contemplation. Eventually Wil pursued his dream – to train people across the entire Christian spectrum to become deep, carefully formed, followers of Jesus Christ. CenterQuest reflects this vision in being an ecumenical hub for the study and practice of Christian spirituality. I was thrilled when Wil invited me, and ACT3 Network, to become an affiliate partner of CenterQuest. I urge you to check out this amazing resource. You will also benefit deeply from Wil’s writings on Henri Nouwen. He is the author of Henri Nouwen and Spiritual Polarities: A Life of Tension (2012), Henri Nouwen and Soul Care (2008) and Henri Nouwen: A Spirituality of Imperfection ( 2006). All

Learning the Mystery of Contemplation

140px-JohnvianneySt. John Vianney (1786-1859),  a French priest who is widely respected for his pastoral work and parish ministry, once noticed an elderly man visiting his church every morning before work and every evening after work. One day, out of profound curiosity, he asked, “What do you say to the Lord during your twice-daily visits?” The old man responded, “I say nothing to him, Father. I look at him and he looks at me.”

It is sound for us to think of prayer in a number of ways but this way, called contemplation, is one that I did not learn until later in my life. If I am asked what happens when I pray I answer, “I pour my heart out in words of gratitude and intercession. I express words of confusion and perplexing doubt deeply joined with resurrection hope.” God responds by his word and his Spirit and gives consolation and a fresh reminder of his love in the very silence of such an intimate context.

But St. John Vianney is right. Prayer includes just being in God’s presence

My Sisters the Saints (6) – An Inspiring Journey in Faith

images-1Colleen Carroll Campbell’s journey to femininity did not lead her to embrace a kind of Catholic “fundamentalism” with regard to the social, professional and economic gains that she had previously experienced because of feminism. John and Carroll Campbell clearly share a marriage of mutuality. They have just as clearly learned how to sacrifice and give up their personal agendas, one for the other. For those on the far right, who think the only way to respond to modern feminism is to throw “the baby out with the dirty bathwater” her conclusion will not satisfy you. At the same time if you want a radical feminist perspective that leads to a profound fear and loathing of men and motherhood then you must look elsewhere.

As Colleen read Edith Stein, and Pope John Paul II, she concluded that men are called to loving communion with others just as much as women. But Edith Stein believed that a man was called, more than a woman, to “action, work, and objective accomplishments. A man is less concerned with problems of being, whether

My Sisters the Saints (5) – An Inspiring Journey in Faith

images-3As Colleen Carroll Campbell tried to settle into her new work at the White House she found that she had never been so profoundly challenged in her work but so deeply dissatisfied with her life in general. She writes:

I wanted to blame patriarchy for my conundrum., blame my job, blame John. Deep down, though, I knew something else was pulling me home [i.e. back to St. Louis]. It was the force of my own desires, desires that sprang form a soft, passionate, feminine part of me that I thought I had smothered with résumés and credentials long ago. Decades of perfectionism and compulsive achievement had not managed to kill her off. Now she was daring me to reject the smart move and take a chance on love (79).

Trying to work her way out of this she turned to prayer. She turned to the Divine Mercy chaplet, the prayers that came from the journals and insights of Faustina. Don’t misunderstand. She was reading Scripture daily and meditating in the written words of the Holy Bible. Psalm

My Sisters the Saints (4) – An Inspiring Journey in Faith

imagesIn the spring of 2001, five years after Colleen Carroll Campbell had moved from Memphis to St. Louis to write for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, she fell in love with John Campbell, a young physician in training who would become her husband. Their love story is endearing and genuinely sweet. During this same time, in 2001, she took a year-long leave from the newspaper to write her book titled: The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2002). She describes this project as a “labor of love . . . a young writer’s dream” (55). She received a grant to travel around the country interviewing hundreds of her peers, mostly Catholics and evangelicals. Her desire was to track and reveal a growing trend among younger adults who were embracing more orthodox expressions of the Christian faith. Her interest grew out of her own experience of faith and astute professional observations. The book is not based on a poll, or the gathering of scientific data. It is anecdotal and profoundly fun to

My Sisters the Saints (3) – An Inspiring Journey in Faith

book-my-sisters-the-saintsAs Colleen Carroll Campbell’s spiritual memoir, My Sisters the Saints, evolves we begin to understand how her relationship with men was being changed profoundly. These changes clearly grew out of the spiritual formation that was now powerfully shaping her life as a growing Catholic Christian.

She writes that before Christmas break was over she did not want to make long-term plans with a man who regarded God as a competitor for her loyalty (22). She, in her own words, “surrendered her relationship [to] take a chance on God instead” (22). Her attempts to enter into a relationship with God was, at first, one of fits and starts. She was grasping for something, anything, that would “help her get her bearings” but the journey was not easy. (Is is ever? If it is then it will likely not last.) She finished college with many more questions but writes: “Teresa’s example convinced me that my journey to understand who I was and how I should live as a woman was inextricably bound with my journey toward God” (24). The party

My Sisters the Saints (2) – An Inspiring Journey in Faith

Colleen Carroll Campbell’s new spiritual memoir informs the reader, very early in the book, of how her reading St. Teresa’s biography brought deep change. She understood anew why her parents read the lives of the saints as she found in Teresa a woman of passion and purpose whose journey was deeply compelling for its many detours. What she describes as Teresa’s “spicy, messy, and meandering spiritual journey cast my own struggles in a new light” (19). images-2She saw huge differences between her life and that of Teresa but she wondered if the aching hunger that she knew, and her boredom with worldly pleasures, could find an answer in such a deep spiritual experience.

Before Christmas break was over she realized that she did not want to make long-term plans with a man who regarded God as a competitor for her loyalty (22). In her words, she “surrendered her relationship [to] take a chance on God instead” (22). Her attempts to enter into a relationship with God was, at first, one of fits and starts. She was grasping for

My Sisters the Saints (1) – An Inspiring Journey in Faith

ColleenatChristendomCrop1Collen Carroll Campbell is an accomplished, award-winning author, as well as a print and broadcast journalist. I have followed her writing and professional career, at least from a  distance, since I read her first book, The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy, back in 2002. I later quoted from that hopeful book in my own book, Your Church Is Too Small (Zondervan, 2010). I admit that Colleen has become one of my favorite religion writers in America. She writes an op-ed column on religion, politics, and women’s issues for the St. Louis Post Dispatch; blogs on those subjects for the New York Times and the Washington Post; comments on them on such networks as Fox News, CNN, and PBS; and discusses them as a host of Faith & Culture, a weekly television and radio show that airs on EWTN, the Catholic network. Colleen Carroll Campbell’s new book, My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir, is an intensely readable and highly evocative book. As a college student, at a fairly secular Catholic university, she was

Listening to God's Word with the Heart

Yesterday I made a point about the Hebrew word (dabhar) that is used for God's Word. This word means much more than the sound of words in our ear or the registry of a meaning upon our mind. The same Hebrew word is used for God's creating the world by his word. And this is the same word that expresses God's revelation in Jesus Christ. When the word became incarnate it was this creative, powerful, faith producing word, which became the Logos of God (cf. John 1:1).

We listen to words at many different levels and in many different contexts. Words come at us in many forms and at many levels. Some words go no further than our ears. We hear sounds and that is it. Others enter our minds and make us think. (I am convinced that this is how most people read the Bible!) Some words touch us on the surface of our emotions and bring shallow feelings of joy or sadness.



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