Unless the local priest can be just like Jesus Francis, why bother? Why not go to church with the flabby evangelicals?

After a television interview, I was talking with a young producer who told me of her experience. She had been raised Catholic, but stopped going to church in college. Now she is engaged and was encouraged by her fiancé and Francis to give the church another try. After going to church a few times, she felt called to go to the sacrament of reconciliation. It was a disaster. The priest yelled at her and told her that everything bad that had happened to her was because she had not gone to confession in 10 years.

There will be no “Francis effect” if when people return to the church they do not meet someone like Francis at their parish. Going to confession today is like playing Russian roulette. You don’t know whether you will meet the compassionate Jesus or some angry, judgmental crank who thinks it is his job to tell people how bad they are. This is a form of abuse about which the church has done nothing.

Nor should we limit our focus to the clergy. Parish staff can be tempted to clericalism, and parish communities can ignore new parishioners who can feel lost in a crowd of people.

Try this experiment. Go to a Catholic church you have never attended and see how long it takes before someone initiates a conversation with you. Then go to an Evangelical church and try the same experiment. The Evangelicals will win every time.

Papal audacity only goes so far (sort of like wishing after hearing White Horse Inn that Mike Horton and Kim Riddlebarger could be your pastors).


11 thoughts on “Winning

  1. Maybe we will have three popes in a year or two:

    Pope Francis has several times indicated that his will not be a long papacy. During the press conference on his flight back from Korea he spoke about Pope Benedict’s retirement and said, “I would do the same. I would do the same. I will pray, but I would do the same. He [Benedict] opened a door that is institutional not exceptional.” Realizing that he is seventy seven years old, Pope Francis also spoke to reporters about his awareness that his life was close to its end. Referring to his reign as pope he said, ”…I know it will last only a short time. Two or three years and then I’ll be off to the Father’s House,”


  2. If the Romanists get Pell, they’ll have a mean rugby player, yo:

    Cardinal George Pell is the rugby playing former Archbishop of Sydney in Australia. Pell is on the Pope’s team of eight cardinals aiming to reform the curia and heads up the Secretariat for the Economy. Known as an uncompromising conservative in matters of faith and morals, Pell is also a muscular churchman, who coming from the New World would have resonance across the English speaking developed world without having to cope with the anti-American prejudice felt in many parts of the world.


  3. A priest “yelled” at her… somehow the story sounds more than a bit grossly inflated if you are familiar with the state of play on the ground in parishes. As for friendly people, the Mormons have the Evangelicals beat, so what does that say? And as for Pell being “known as an uncompromising conservative in matters of faith and morals,” please. He dissents form inerrancy, original sin, Christian exclusivism, you name it. But he does toe the line in terms of things like divorce and birth control. That’s Mainstream Catholicism Today’s version of conservative. Which makes Dolan a conservative too. And francis for that matter. Conservative… ROFLOL.


  4. Really winning.

    Before Super Bowl XLVII starts (yes, that’s this year’s) the NFL Channel will air a documentary spotlighting Vince Lombardi, including discussion of how his devout Catholic faith shaped him into the coach he became (watch it below)

    The winner of the Super Bowl gets the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Lombardi started out hoping to be a priest, and remained a daily communicant throughout his career.

    His love for faith has stayed in his family. So did his love for football. The National Catholic Register this week features an interview with his grandson Joe Lombardi, offensive coordinator for the Lions, who saw his own faith life renewed by Janet Smith’s “Contraception: Why Not?” and the daily Rosary.

    Vince Lombardi’s faith story is featured in Catholic Vote’s own American Catholic Almanac and won him a place in the American Catholic Hall of Fame at the Gregorian Institute of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.


  5. Going to win?

    Yes, Patriots fans, I know that Tom Brady is a cradle Catholic who wed supermodel Gisele Bundchen at St. Monica’s Catholic Church in Santa Monica, California (a wedding attended by his year-and-a-half-old son by actress Bridget Monyahan, whom he did not marry, and during whose pregnancy he was courting his eventual wife).

    But, I’m a Seahawks fan, so before I run out to Mass and then head off to a Super Bowl party (sure I’m not alone in that), I’d like to tell you a little about two of the reasons I joined the happy band of long-distance 12s (the “12th Man” is the name given to the Seahawks’ incredibly loyal and LOUD fans, a reference to the 11 players allowed on the field for each team, with the fans adding one more). . . .

    In his tearful postgame interview, Wilson told sports broadcaster Erin Andrews, “God so good all the time, man, every time.”

    Wilson — who visits a children’s hospital in Seattle every Tuesday — is an outspoken Christian, having undergone a powerful conversion experience as a teenager (and he’s not alone in his faith on the team, which also includes Catholic coach Dan Quinn).

    “In terms of my legacy off the field,” Wilson said at the Super Bowl XLIX media day, ”I want to be a Christian man that helps lead and helps changes lives and helps serve other people. It’s not about me.”

    In a story posted at the National Catholic Register on Jan. 30, Catholic Luke Willson, a native of Windsor, Canada, and a participant in Catholic Athletes for Christ, spoke of his prayer routine:

    Yes, I pray in the end zone before the game, and also at halftime. I thank God for where I’m at and ask for protection Luke_Willsonand guidance for me and the team. I also say a guardian angel prayer (the one that starts out, “Angel of God, my guardian dear …”), an Our Father, a Hail Mary, a prayer of praise and also one to St. Sebastian, a patron of athletes.

    Prayer helps to calm me down and get the right perspective on life. It’s a reminder that the most important things are not seen and that, long after this life, heavenly friendships endure. It’s also a very basic way of being supplied with the grace to live a Christian life. Being a Christian is not just a matter of study; it’s about living in Christ. We can’t do that unless we’re praying daily.

    One of the biggest things you get from prayer is recognition of the many blessings God has given us. You see that God is the first source of any blessing and that he is only concerned about our good. You think in terms of God’s ways instead of your own, which sets you free to glorify him. . . .

    It’s my personal belief that God is a football fan, but one thing I do know for sure — God is a fan of humanity, and the more that sports can bring out the best in us, the happier He is.

    Oh, and … Go Hawks!


  6. When winning is losing:

    In a recent episode of HBO’s Real Sports, Bryant Gumbel spoke with several members of the 1985 Chicago Bears, whose historically dominant season ended with a devastating rout of the New England Patriots. If you lived in Chicago during their reign, or really anywhere near a television or radio, there was no escaping the ’85 Bears. There was “The Superbowl Shuffle”–predicting a national championship halfway through the season (to the chagrin of several members of the team). There was the cover of Time magazine. There were the TV spots. The inevitable SNL sketch. They were superstars.

    But some of that light has dimmed in recent years. Former quarterback Jim McMahon now experiences extended periods of depression, and has struggled with suicidal thoughts for years. He has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia. Nearly half of McMahon’s teammates are now suing the National Football League for the injuries they’ve suffered playing the game. William “The Refrigerator” Perry can hardly walk. Keith Van Horne claims that the team medical staff concealed–with the aid of generous distribution of pain meds–the fact that he was playing on a broken leg. Wilber Marshall is on disability. Richard Dent describes himself as “very damaged goods.” At the age of fifty, Dave Duerson shot himself in the heart so that his brain could be donated for the NFL brain bank. His son found his suicide note, instructing the family to have his brain studied.


  7. The whole thread is humorous (see link below if interested):

    While I am sure that God remains involved in His creation at the very quantum level, I am pretty sure he doesn’t much care who wins. My guess is that he’s handed off the Big Game to the Arminians for them to “choose” …source


  8. What happens stays?

    Famous for its nightlife scene and known as the gambling capital of the United States, perhaps the city of Las Vegas has earned its worldwide title of “Sin City.”
    But among the nearly 75 casinos, countless nightclubs and other entertainment venues in town, another Las Vegas stronghold is growing at a record pace.

    With more than 2 million residents, nearly 700,000 Catholics and an estimated 40 million tourists visiting Las Vegas each year, the 19-year-old Diocese of Las Vegas faces the challenge of fixing the looming problem of overcrowded churches and Catholic schools. And, according to prominent diocesan clergy, the diocese is moving fast to address the challenge.


  9. Francis effect or Francis fatigue?

    Yes, we agree with you that excessive materialism is harmful to the spirit, but we’re really not “living large.” Some of us are commuting a total of four hours a day to our job, not to be rich — not to exploit poor people, or to oppress anyone, or to ignore anyone’s suffering; not to mindlessly keep up with ownership trends — but simply to pay the utility bills, and the taxes, and the student loans, and write the checks to support the charities we believe in, and support the parish, and get the car inspected and repaired, and keep the kids in a sport or activity, like Scouting, so they can learn some worthwhile skills.

    We stumble in from work, eat something we can rustle up quickly, be “family” for a while — which is often a turbulent thing — and then around 10PM we plop down on the couch, looking to relax a little, turn on the news — and there you are, telling us to get up and go do something useful!

    And then, we trudge up the stairs to bed, with your words ringing in our ears, and we’re feeling guilty because we have a bed to sleep in, when someone does not. We brush our teeth wondering, “But what should we do? We’re already volunteering; we bring food to the pantry every week; we volunteer in parish ministry; we celebrate birthdays and weddings by purchasing goats and donkeys and water pumps for people living in distressing poverty. We see a hungry person on the street, we buy them food, or at least give them money, as we try to get to work on time.
    “We’re doing our best, Holy Father, and we’re kind of tired. Should we give our bed to someone else, and sleep on the floor? It seems impractical. How is justice served, if — because we are poorly rested from sleeping on the floor — we eventually lose our jobs, lose the ability to pay the bills, and the taxes, or keep the car, or to buy goats and water pumps, or enroll our kids in a good program that does not become an inherently bad one, simply because everyone is not in it?”


  10. Or maybe it’s just papal fatigue. If I remember correctly, a certain Augustinian monk also realized that he couldn’t live up to the Pope’s standards. And Luther actually listened to the Pope so he knew his justification was in jeopardy because of it.

    But luckily, all you have to do is want to do good and go to church to make up for it (thanks for the link on Twitter):

    For sick or elderly persons unable to travel, he says: “Living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial, receiving communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication, will be for them the means of obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence.”

    For those in prison, he states: “The Jubilee Year has always constituted an opportunity for great amnesty, which is intended to include the many people who, despite deserving punishment, have become conscious of the injustice they worked and sincerely wish to re-enter society and make their honest contribution to it.”

    Or just go to your excommunicated church:

    Regarding the Society of St. Pius X, a traditionalist sect of priests and bishops who widely reject the changes of the Second Vatican Council, the letter says bluntly: “This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one.”

    “I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity,” states Francis.

    “In the meantime, motivated by the need to respond to the good of these faithful, through my own disposition, I establish that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach these priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins,” he continues.

    The Society of St. Pius X was founded by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 as a response to objections he and others had to the reforms of the Council.

    Pope Benedict XVI had sought to repair relations with the group, lifting the excommunications of four of their bishops in 2009. Those efforts ultimately failed when the group’s current superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, rejected a doctrinal statement drafted by the Vatican for the group to sign.

    Members of the schismatic group are considered not to be in full communion with Rome, and, in normal circumstances, its priests and bishops cannot exercise Roman Catholic ministry.


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