Fr. René Constanza is a Paulist priest serving in Austin, Texas. He is also a good friend. Fr. René has participated in all three of our Catholic-Evangelical Conversations in Chicago over the last three years. This young man is a dedicated minister and true servant of Christ who prays for the unity and works with me for this purpose.
As I sit this evening at my computer I am amazed. For five days every newscast and commentator has responded the visit of Pope Francis to America with such joy and positive energy. From every perspective, including the most non-religious journalists and broadcasters, people have talked about the pope but in doing so they have talked a great deal about Jesus, the Bible and the joy of the gospel. I have never heard so much public talk about matters of profound truth and faith in my lifetime, except perhaps at the funerals of President Kennedy (1963) and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968). We have seen pictures of Pope Francis with prisoners, in a seminary speaking to bishops and students about the two greatest works of a shepherd (prayer and the preaching the gospel), praying at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York with representatives of world religions, speaking before the United Nations, speaking before Congress, meeting with the Speaker of the House, meeting with the President and then this evening leaving our shores after being with
For He himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. (Ephesians 2:14-16)
What a radical concept Christian unity is! The fact that in Christ, we are one!
This heavenly reality certainly does not appear to be true when we look around the world. We all come from various backgrounds and cultures, life experiences, and we have our own denominational distinctions. Each person sees the world very differently, and because of this, we are inherently prone to disagree with and distance ourselves from those who are culturally, denominationally, and ethnically distinct from us.
Yes, it is easier to worship with people who look like us, act like us, and have the same theological beliefs as us.
“From September 1st to the 5th, the University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Mundelein Illinois was the site for the Third Annual Evangelical and Catholic Conversation. Along with the University, the conversation is sponsored by the Archdiocesan Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and ACT-3, a network of relational partnerships between churches, missions and leaders in missional ecumenism. Father Thomas A. Baima, Dr. John Armstrong, Dr. Craig Higgins and Pastor Norberto Saracco were the principal organizers. Participants include Catholics and Evangelicals from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Guatemala, England, South Korea and Argentina. They discussed Pope Francis’ call for dialogue, fraternity and action which he lays out in Evangelii Gaudium (the Joy of the Gospel) and heard two presentations. Fr. Thomas Baima delivered the keynote address on the biblical basis for a common understanding of the Church. Dr. Craig Higgins presented a response. Additionally, Dr. John Armstrong and Pastor Norberto Saracco led the group in discussing experiences of positive relations between Evangelicals and Catholics in their various countries.”
“This project is part of a larger effort called “missional ecumenism.” This effort operates alongside of the official dialogues
One of the most remarkable addresses I have watched this year was on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of historic Gordon College (Massachusetts). Gordon College is the flagship evangelical college in New England. Like all such evangelical colleges it is openly growing into deeper relationship with Catholics with each passing year. This lecture marks one of the most wonderful calls to deep, public unity that I have seen within the leadership of our churches in the United States.
Please pray for the visit of Pope Francis in September. On his heart, besides all the public meetings that you will see, is his deep concern for unity with evangelicals. Cardinal O’Malley is one with all of us who are seeking first the kingdom of God. Let us pray and rejoice at such an address and the historic symbolism of where it was given.
I know that I say this often but this is address is worth every minute you can invest in watching it. I know the trend says that very few people will watch such a long speech on their computer. But if you love Christian unity this presentation is
This is an “older” video of a dialogue that I did with Fr. Jon Braun, who is an Antiochian Orthodox priest. Fr. Braun was a Campus Crusade for Christ staff leader when I was a college student in 1967-1971. Eventually, along with several of his good friends on Campus Crusade for Christ staff, Fr. Braun entered the Orthodox Church. (He was a Presbyterian before his conversion to Orthodoxy.) We were both invited to share in this conversation together by an Orthodox Church in Bloomington, Indiana. I have never publicly posted this particular video. As you will note, if you follow me online, I was “the old John” in this video. (I was about 50 pounds heavier). I have been asked over the past three years, “Are you sick?” No, I intentionally lost a lot of weight and as a result I look thinner. More importantly, I feel much, much better. I hope you will find this dialogue interesting and helpful. It is the only one I’ve ever done “one-to-one” with an Orthodox priest in a public context.
With all the views of Pope Francis coming from right-left-and in-between I have wanted to see a god dialogue about the man, his view of important issues and his leadership style. Finally, the Jesuit magazine America has given me what I was searching for online. What is remarkable about this program is who is speaking here. The moderator is Nancy Gibbs, managing editor of TIME. Michael Gerson, next to Nancy in the panel, was a policy advisor to President George W. Bush. He is an evangelical non-Catholic. He is also a Wheaton College graduate. (He makes a joke about Wheaton College which is old but still funny). Michael was a TA to one of my favorite theology professors, Dr. Alan Johnson. Then there is the highly regarded progressive Catholic, retired Northwestern University professor and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Dr. Gary Wills. Wills has written some of the most critical contemporary commentary on the Catholic Church of anyone in American academia. At the end of this panel, on your right, is the editor of America, Fr. Matt Malone, SJ. I would describe this group, if
During the Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation in 2014 ACT3 Network video taped a number of short interviews about unity. This one is from my friend David Hickman, an evangelical leader in Charlotte, North Carolina.
On February 9, 2015, I did a remarkable and engaging dialogue with my friend, Fr. Robert Barron at St. Procopious Abbey in Lisle, IL. The full video of this event is on our ACT3 website. In spite of posting this a few weeks ago, after some effort to get it finished, I have never included it as a blog post. Now I post it here to secure the interest of more of you who follow me via these blogs and the online ministry of ACT3 Network. Now you can watch this entire evening here or mark it on this site and come back to it later when you have the time. It is one hour and thirty minutes in length so you will need to “kick back” and watch it all. I hope that you will. This is me doing what I believe in with all my heart and soul. Pray for this dialogue to reach hearts and change minds. It has already had an impact in the context in which it took place, back in February.