If you are looking for a fun read that still manages to remind you of what makes being Catholic cool yet countercultural, this is the book for you! And you do not need to be a hipster to enjoy it.
I found this gem of a book, co-written by about 15 bloggers and authors, to be a wonderful collection of Catholic devotions and practices, with each chapter liberally supported by a classic prayer, a short biography of a saint related to the topic at hand and an activity that will help you put your faith in action.
Each section starts with the word “rediscover” … Rediscover the Attitude, Rediscover the Stuff, Rediscover the Life, and Rediscover the Attraction. The book reminds us of the who we are in God’s eyes – that we are children of God and that we loved. It reminds us about the catholic practices that may have been left by the wayside but are being rediscovered by a new generation: from novenas, to chaplets to relics and brewing beer, growing beards and wearing sandals … all the while not being afraid of having a good sense of humor and a good dose of laughter with friends.
If you think our faith is boring, or irrelevant or just passé, check out this fun book, and rediscover (or discover for the first time) what continues to draw young people to this beautiful and ancient faith.
This week's resource for parish evangelization that I would like to recommend it ALPHA. In addition, I would recommend a small book in the Divine Renovation Series called Unlocking Your Parish: Making Disciples and Raising Up Leaders with Alpha.
I most recently went through the Alpha Program again at St. Peter's Parish in Massena. If you are considering running an Alpha Program at your parish I would highly recommend participating in an Alpha first. You will have a much better sense of how the process works and how it can be addapted to your own parish.
The beauty of Alpha is that you can invite anyone to the process. It is a basic introduction to Jesus, prayer, faith and the meaning of life. It consists of a meal, a talk (the new and improved videos are wonderful) and then small group discussions where participants share their thoughts, experiences and ideas about the topic presented.
Objections I hear a lot about the Alpha process are:
It is not Catholic: True, Alpha was started by an Anglican, but it is not Not Catholic … it is the basic kerygma, that initial introduction of who Jesus is, why he matters, what has done for us. It is thoroughly Christian and can help people enter into the relationship with Jesus, and his Church. Because it is so basic, it allows our Catholic faithful, who may have connected with church and Sacrament, but never realized that they can have a personal relationship with Jesus today to encounter Jesus in a non-threatening way. Similarly, those of other Christian backgrounds, or no religious background at all, can also connect with the process and come to discover for themselves the love Jesus has for them.
It is too simple, it couldn't possibly do anything: ALPHA is not a silver bullet. It is not catechesis, or RCIA. But it is a process that allows us, by design, to go OUT of our churches and to focus on spreading the gospel. It will not convert everyone, and it isn't FOR everyone. But it does create a shallow end of the pool, where people can dip their toes into this thing we call Church, and where those who may have drifted away from Church can find a way back.
The little book Unlocking Your Parish: Making Disciples and Raising Up Leaders with Alpha shares how Alpha is run at St. Benedict Parish in Halifax and gives some pointers, do's, and don'ts based on what they learned and experienced.
If your parish is interested in running Alpha, I would highly recommend sending a small group to go through Alpha as participants (St. Peter's Parish in Massena is starting another Alpha on October 1), browse through the material on the Alpha website (alphausa.org) and have potential team members read and discuss the Unlocking your Parish book.
Additionally, you may want to read this recent article in the North Country Catholic (Feb 27,2019) about Alpha and the experiencese of some of the participants.
CCO is Catholic Christian Outreach is a Canadian organization aimed at evangelizing college students. It is similar to FOCUS in the US.
Although the CCO material is really aimed at college students, they have some fantastic resources for basic evangelization, especially material for small group study such as the CCO Faith Studies Series . This series comes in five parts, but starts with DISCOVERY which is a small group process to present the Kerygma - the basic content of the good news that 1) Jesus loves us and has created us for relationship with him, 2) sin broke the relationship 3) Jesus restores the relationship through his life, death and resurrection, and 4) we are invited to respond by accepting the gift of salvation. DISCOVERY is divided into six sessions which include scripture, faith sharing and introduce the basic elements of Christian faith and invite participants to make a commitment to Christ.
Five other students following on DISCOVERY cover the role of the Holy Spirit in our lived (SOURCE), how to live out our faith (GROWTH), how to truly accept Jesus as LORD in various aspects of life (OBEDIENCE) and the Church's missionary character (COMMISSION).
Other CCO resources include THE MISSIONARY DISCIPLE PODCAST, TRAINING VIDEOS on how to share the kerygma using the CCO Ultimate Relationship Booklet which gives a very basic step by step process, as well as parish resources on how to run a faith study, and strategies for growing missionary disciples.
If you are interested in the Faith Studies Series, the Office of Evangelization has a set of leader guides which you are welcome to check out to see if this is a study that might work in your parish. Contact Marika Donders (email@example.com) for more information.
JUNE 30: THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
St. Paul tells us today that for freedom Christ set us free. But freedom does not mean to do whatever we want or even what is expected by our culture. Freedom is freedom to do the right thing. This is often hard and countercultural. In today’s gospel, the three would-be-followers of Jesus each have a good reason to delay the call to follow. The choice to follow Jesus is rarely the easy path. Yet, we are asked to follow none-the-less. Pray today to hear God’s call to you so you can answer with the words of the Alleluia verse: Speak Lord, your servant is listening; you have the words of everlasting life. And then, as our mother Mary taught us, do whatever he tells you.
JUNE 23: THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST (Corpus Christi)
In our gospel of the feeding of the five thousand, there is an allusion to the Eucharist: Jesus looked up to heaven, said the blessing, broke the bread and fish, and gave them to the disciples … Today these are still the action of the priest as he confects the Eucharist. The line that struck me in today’s Gospel is that they all ate and were satisfied. The hungry will be filled. What are we hungering for? Do we desire to receive Jesus? The Lord longs to fill us, to fulfill our desire for him. Let us open our heart today and not be afraid to ask him to come to us and transform our lives.
The Resource for this week is a book as well as all the resources that have sprung up around the original book such as workbooks, conferences, podcasts and apps for your phone. The original book that started it all is Divine Renovation: From Maintenance to a Missional Parish by Fr. James Mallon. The book traces Fr. Mallon's efforts to transform the parishes he was assigned in Halifax. Through his stories, and the successes and failures, we can learn to ask questions about the parish culture, and how we can cultivate a culture where parishes become vibrant communities that feed and form disciples in love with Jesus Christ and his Church. Fr. Mallon is first to tell you that no two parishes are alike, and what worked at St. Benedicts may not work at your parish, but the book does help you to ask questions about what is and isn't working and what might be some steps you can take to help form intentional disciples who will move your parish from maintenance to mission.
Since the book came out in 2014, it has created a whole ecosphere (as successful, inspiring books often do). There is now a guidebook - a step by stem manual or workbook to help you parish leadership team to create a vision, and assist parishes to implement that vision across the ministries. The guidebook is filled with lots of information, ideas and examples as well as ways to assess what is and isn't working for your parish.
There is also a divine renovation website with news and blogposts and resources at divinerenovation.net. Part of this site is membership based, but there is a great deal of free material as well, such as the Divine Renovation podcast and blog. There is also a Divine Renovation App both for iOS and Android. Just search for Divine Renovation in iTunes or the PlayStore.
The latest books in the Divine Renovation ecosphere are the Divine Renovation Group Reading Guide(six sessions for leading a small group to unpack the original book), Divine Renovation Apprentice: Learning to Lead a Disciple Making Parish and most recently Unlocking Your Parish: Making Disciples, Raising up Leaders with Alpha. I have not yet read these two books, but will post a review once I do.
Lastly, Fr. Mallon was the keynote speaker at the last New Evangelization Summit. His talk was Evangelization when you are not in a leadership position: 10 things to impact the shift. I will post my notes about that in a future blog post.
JUNE 16: THE MOST HOLY TRINITY
Everything that the Father has is mine; the Spirit will take from what is mine and declare it to you. The Holy Trinity is a perfect community to which we have been granted access through the power of our baptism. We live and move and have our being Christ and therefore, in the Trinity. We have been adopted into this community of love. In Christ, we have access to God through the Holy Spirit. We are not alone. We are connected and praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Every time we cross ourselves, we are reminded of this joyous fact. Every time we cross ourselves, we witness to this truth.
UEvangelize is a member based website that teaches and trains people to be evangelists. More than just a website, it is an online community. Membership is currently free and it gives you access to video course on evangelization made up of 5 modules of multiple lessons each covering Christian Identity, commitment to holiness, growing in courage, using the tools and persevering in mission. In addition to these courses, members also get access to videos of four years of New Evangelization Summit recordings. Right now, membership is free.
My favorite benefit of the UEvangelize membership is the online community. Every first Thursday of the month there is a online webinar presented by Michael Dopp and Josh Canning using Zoom as a platform. Members can participate in the discussion via the chat feature of the platform and when time permits can join the discussion. Through these discussions and chats as well as the private Facebook Group, the members who come from all over the world, truly become a community. I have been a member for just over a month and am really looking forward to meeting some of these folks in real life in the future.
Check out this wonderful free resource, and join in the learning and the discussion at https://uevangelize.org/