Turning the Tables on Conventional Thinking For Better Evangelization.

021214Every now and again I am blessed to gather with brother priests to discuss best practices and share pastoral experience. One of my diocesan brothers, Fr. Patrick Smith, Pastor at St. Augustine here in DC, often has memorable advice that tends to turn the tables on conventional wisdom and in effect shift the paradigms we use.

A Paradigm is first defined as an outstandingly clear or typical example of something. But in a more extended sense it is a philosophical or theoretical framework that commonly underlies our thinking or actions. We often adopt these frameworks and assumptions in an unreflective or even unconscious way.

To “shift” a paradigm is to bring it to consciousness, and either adapt it, apply it newly, or sometimes wholly reverse its parameters.

Fr. Smith is an excellent paradigm shifter especially when it comes reversing the parameters of a paradigm or to put it another way, “turn the tables” on common thinking. I’d like to offer two of his paradigm shifts that relate to evangelization and parish life.

Paradigm Shift 1. “We usually pray and ask God to bless what we are doing. Instead we should find out what God is blessing and go do that.” – In other words, we need to learn to follow God’s lead more. Too often we hand God our agenda and ask him to sign off on it. It is astonishing how little we really seek God’s will.

A typical prayer at the beginning of a parish meeting will go something like: “O God we just ask you to bless our efforts, (yes Lord!), bless the car raffle, and our spaghetti dinner and please help us in our effort to replace the Church roof with the money we raise. In JESUS’ Name!”

Its not a bad prayer, nothing evil is being sought. But it is a rather directive prayer that says, “God do this, God do that…” But when do we ever ask, “God what is your will? What are you blessing? What are you saying to us?” Why haven’t we saved enough money over the years to repair our roof? What is your financial plan for your Church? Do we have proper spending priorities? What works in our parish are you blessing? What works and efforts are you letting go fallow? What is growing and what is declining? Are we following your lead as we consider this?

In many parishes and organizations we too easily fall into a “we do this because we’ve always done this” mentality. And often, we ignore mounting evidence that a lot of what we do no longer makes sense or needs to be adjusted. Meanwhile we often resist new outreaches that are often being blessed by God in strange and mysterious ways.

For example,

  • • Many pastors resisted the home schooling movement for years since it competed with the existing idea of running a Catholic School. Many homeschooling parents were labeled as kooks and troublemakers. Meanwhile God just kept blessing homeschooling.
  • • Mother Angelica started a television network in a garage with $200. The Conference of Bishops staffers resisted her because she was competing with their efforts and the millions that had been poured into a television arm of the Conference, and EWTN had  a traditional tone the staffers didn’t like. But God just kept blessing EWTN.
  • • Many radicalized orders of women have continued down self destructive paths that assure the death of their orders. Meanwhile God just keeps blessing orders that wear habits, have a focused apostolate and live in fidelity to the magisterium.
  • • Many pastors have irritation at certain new movements in the Church, be it charismatic movements, Communion and Liberation, Focolare, the Traditional Latin Mass, consecrated virgins, or any number of diverse movements. God is clearly blessing many of these, and while not every parish can or should do all of them, we do well not to discredit what God seems to be blessing.
  • • I am a great lover of traditional Catholic music from the Latin years. But I cannot simply deny that God has blessed many contemporary forms of music that have reached many young people.

We need to look more at what God is blessing and follow God’s lead. Discernment is still necessary. The mere fact that something is flourishing is not always a sign of God’s blessing. Nevertheless, it may sometimes surprise us what God blesses.

Do we simply ask God to bless what we are doing? Are we willing to seek what God is blessing and do that?

Paradigm Shift 2. Parish Boundaries used to tell Catholics where they should go to Church. Now Parish boundaries tell the Church where we should go.

It is widely asserted today that parish boundaries are meaningless, people will go to church wherever they please. It is true that almost no Catholic feels obliged to attend the parish within whose boundaries they live.

But parish boundaries still have this significance: the entire world is divided up into parishes and every territorial parish is responsible for every man, woman and child living inside its boundaries.

As a pastor, I am not simply responsible for the Catholics who attend my parish. Neither am I simply responsible for all the Roman Catholics who live inside my parish boundaries. Rather,  I am responsible for every man, woman and child, whether Protestant, Catholic, baptized or unbaptized.

And of course the pastor alone does not hold this responsibility, but rather the whole parish with him. As a pastor, I have taught my people that we have an obligation that human person within our boundaries has been invited to know Jesus Christ, to love him, adore him, accept him as their Savior and to live their faith in him in the beautiful Catholic Church that he founded.

Most Catholics do not think this way. Especially in an era commuter Catholicism were many shop around for a parish they like, too many Catholics drive into a parish they have joined, going past many men and women who have never had Christ effectively proclaimed to them. Most Catholics think little of the responsibility they have towards them: “They aren’t my neighbors.” Yes, but they DO live in the territory of the parish you claim as yours. So they ARE your neighbors.

Sadly, most pastors don’t think this way either. They look out the front window, or drive through the streets of their parish boundaries and many never think these are God’s people, and God has assigned me to care for them, and to call them to know him.

Too many parishes are clubhouses rather than lighthouses. People come in and form closed little circles, enjoy each others company, and certain types of liturgy, and then go home. Never mind that Jesus said, “Go make disciples.”

Demographic issues often intensify the problem. In my own parish which is historically Black, and situated in an historically black neighborhood, we have recently experienced rather significant and sudden shift, so that most of our new neighbors are White. In parishes like this where the attendees do not reflect the ethnicity or race of the neighbors the tendency is even stronger to say, “Not our folk…”

To the credit of my parishioners, a few naysayers aside, we have taken up the call to knock on doors, walk the neighborhood and make disciples. Up to forty parishioners walk on designated Saturdays to do sidewalk evangelization and door to door meetings. Most of my parishioners have well internalized our boundaries which I often recite: North to F Street, West to 11th Street, South to Pennsylvania Ave, East to the river. These are our folk, go call them!

Parish boundaries no longer tell Catholics where to go to Church, they tell the Church were to go.

Two paradigm shifts. Do you have any paradigm shifts…any ways of turning the tables on conventional thinking?

39 Replies to “Turning the Tables on Conventional Thinking For Better Evangelization.”

  1. Thank you very much for your explanations. Now I/we can now “GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES”
    This has really answered a lot of questions and reasons why we are called to be disciples of Christ.

    1. One ‘paradigm shifts’ coming soon. But will you be ready for it?

  2. This has answered a lot of questions for the reason why we are called to evangelize.
    We are ALL called to “GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES”.

  3. Wonderful video, the looking glasses of God’s Love: 1John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world.

    (“because as he is so are we in this world”… Wow!!)

  4. “In many parishes and organizations we too easily fall into a “we do this because we’ve always done this” mentality.”

    Good point. I think it’s fair to say that a lot of pastors and parish councils are not adept at “outside the box” thinking. Maybe this has something to do with the Catholic emphasis on conformity and tradition.

  5. Cardinal Rylko and Anuncio Movement (French, slightly charismatic) say: we do not longer ring the bells; now we must go out and ring the doors. This is the paradigm shift.

    An old paradigm also was: sacraments, cathechesis, more sacraments, full pews.

    That does no longer work.

    The new paradigm is: first kerigma, then cathequesis with kerigma, then sacraments with kerigma, then make the cathequised and sacramentalized Catholics become disciples, send them to announce kerigma and to obtain more disciples.

    1. Somehow, having a Catholic ringing a door bell at 10 am on a Saturday speaks of Protestant desperation, not the One, True Faith. God’s Church is the Catholic Church. God doesn’t need us. We need God’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. That’s the message a Catholic should send out by the way he/she lives; not by ringing doorbells.
      (And real, ringing church bells couldn’t hurt either. It’s certainly better than the recorded junk.)

      1. Get out there Hegel and stop rationalizing. Jesus rang doorbells err… I think the text actually said that he stands at the door and knocks. Would you ridicule Jesus…? Apparently so, he seems to act in a way contrary to your sense of DigNahtee…

  6. Msgr.,

    You are overlooking the obvious shift you are participating in right now – evangelization through the Internet. Many, many people have their Faith informed (for better or worse) through the web. Another form of evangelization that has been forgotten is through the arts. Millions of tourists line up every year to visit the great artistic achievements of the medieval and Renaissance Church. For many non-Christians, it is their only positive experience with God since the media is so hostile. The Church needs to return to beauty in its art. It attracts people in subtle ways.

    1. “The Church needs to return to beauty in its art.”

      Hear, hear! Too many modern Catholic church buildings look like office buildings or meeting halls. They don’t do much to stimulate faith.

      1. I agree with you that the Church needs to return to beauty in its art. The problem is that beauty costs money.
        The way our parishes are set up today, the biggest expenses are salaries and benefits. Those who do not attend Mass usually do not contribute. Fewer and fewer people are attending Mass. Unless there is a radical shift, we will one day be unable to maintain even our churches let alone our Mission. Sad. Sad.

        1. The real problem of money, though, is that 1/3 of us give nothing, 1/3 give just a little and the remaining 1/3 support most of the work of the Church and parish. Catholics in the 2/3 are notoriously stingy. The budget of a Protestant church of 1/4 size is larger and so are the donations. Shameful.

        2. If I had the talent to paint or sculpt, I would offer to make paintings/sculptures for Catholic churches for FREE!!! Alas, I don’t have the requisite talent. Are there no talented Catholic artists out there willing to give of their time and talents to the Church?

  7. Dear and V Rev Msgr POPE:

    I love your statement: “I am a great lover of traditional Catholic music from the Latin years. But I cannot simply deny that God has blessed many contemporary forms of music that have reached many young people”.

    I am writing from a country where I have the heritage of my own language (not just dialect), my own native music, my own arts, my own architecture and much more…

    As the Wise Men brought gifts to the New Born Jesus, may the Church always welcome the wise men and their many gifts from far off lands, including Hebrew, Greek and Latin enrichments…


  8. Msgr. Pope, would you also include Eucharistic Adoration in your list of examples for paradigm #1? I see fruits of it everywhere, and God especially blessing those parishes/communities/dioceses who have Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. Unfortunately the local pastors in our area are very resistant to it, even with the faithful asking for it and being willing to set it all up.

    1. Our diocese split off from a large Archdiocese in 1976; the Bishop asked each parish to select a specified day of the month (our parish picked the 16th) and have Eucharistic Adoration from the conclusion of the last morning mass on that date until the start of the first Mass on the following day.
      This has been of benefit to us, but with occasional deaths and disabilities of the older adorers, keeping all the hours “manned” seems a problem.
      With other parish priorities, having a “Sign-up Sunday” once a year – maybe in September after school starts – and with the pastor or one of the deacons “selling” the practice in a homily on that Sunday would be helpful. Some pastors (ours changes every ten years or so) are more supportive than others.
      Anybody have suggestions?

  9. Hi Msgr!

    As someone wanting to live the call of “go out and make disciples”, I would like it if you could respond in more detail about how you go door to door with your parishioners in your parish. Do you have hand outs? How often do you frequent the neighbors houses (do you go to the same set of houses every Saturday, or is there a rotation)? How are parishioners tasked in order to reach the entire parish neighborhood? Do you go two-by-two like the Mormons? Do your parishioners have a format/elevator speech, is it ad-hoc, or a mixture of both? Do you train your parishioners in how to go about speaking to the neighbors (how do you train them)? Do you ever experience neighbors with a ‘no-solicitors’ type attitude or hostilities, and how do you deal with it (do you stop frequenting those neighbors)? I am asking a lot of questions, but I am excited by what you are doing. If the response is too much for a post, please send me an email. Any advice at all is much appreciated.

    1. Yes we always go in pairs. We do rotate through all the boundaries and have visited at least 2000 homes by now. We go on 8 designated Saturdays, though I often go out on my on weekdays. We do have hand outs related to the parish offerings, a concert series, and apologetical materials. We do have a “speech” but they are encouraged to only to start with it and see how it goes and shift to more natural dialogue if the person seems willing. Yes, we trained for over a year. Some neighbors are hostile, others are glad we came. We deal with the hostility by remembering that we are just sowing seeds. Some will fall on rocky ground, some among the thorns but some will yield a harvest. Sometimes too, seeds take a while to germinate. But we sow, others water and God grants the increase.

      1. I wish I could witness how you are operating this in your parish. I have really no idea how I would start implementing this in my parish. I’ll be praying about it. I want to think big, but I am starting small!

  10. Mother Angelica’s courage and determination inspires me so much! There were so many obstacles to her work, her mission…some Bishops even fought against her and went to Rome to get the Vatican on their side but the Vatican sided with Mother Angelica!!! Reading her life story helps me to understand that when we try to understand and to carry out whatever task God gives us, He paves the way for us and helps us to get through barriers – He is pleased with our efforts however small and insignificant they may seem to us…we need only to keep going, keep making the effort to follow the Lord and trust God to make us fruitful…thanks for this article. Often I have read this tiny phrase: “Let the Lord take the lead and then follow in His way.” I try…fail often, but I try. And God is pleased with our efforts…really!

  11. Here’s my paradigm shift: My bishop some years back asked me to leave my job working at a major medical center to become diocesan director of Catholic Charities. After a short while there and having reflected on the fact that up to that point I had worked in hospitals all my life, I had the thought that our diocese should embark on medical missions to Guatemala. When I floated this idea to my staff, a few were very vocal that Catholic Charities should solely be an in-diocese effort to serve the poor. They explained to me that there were more than ample poor who needed us in our Southern State. My answer: Why can’t we do both?

    The result of this paradigm shift (which I would also say is God’s blessing): sixteen medical missions averaging 40 persons per mission trip, over 300 medical professionals having served as missionaries, a clinic built at that parish in Guatemala, a sponsorship program funded with well over $350,000 to insure the completion of the children’s education, a full time MD of indigenous background serving the clinic and funded by our diocese, and scores of lives changed because of a paradigm shift.

  12. I completely agree that we should take advantage of parish boundaries as areas of evangelization for our parish! What would be very helpful as laity though is 1. if our Pastors encouraged us to operate in this paradigm, but also 2. if we had access to maps of parish boundaries. Over the last few years I’ve looked in various dioceses for maps of this sort, dividing the diocese into parish boundaries (also for the purpose of finding out where I should be going to Mass!), but not once have I been able to find any such map.

    Monsignor, are those maps available anywhere?

    In Christ,


  13. OK, Msgr. Pope, you posted a video that made me cry. Thank-you.

    My wife loves growing flowers. I also love to garden. We have no yard, and there is only so much that can be done in pots. Next door is a large vacant lot.

    It felt wrong to appropriate a piece of the lot for myself. I have many blessings already, and this is a poor neighborhood. There is violence and addiction and neglect, with most people living their lives behind locked doors.

    And so, the paradigm shift.

    Instead of being a little greedy on my own behalf, I took over the whole lot on behalf of the neighborhood, and particularly the children. (My wife and I are childless) Here and there others have joined in, and we’ve been working for four years now to help it become a sort of park and community garden. I hadn’t known how much the neighborhood needed such a thing until I started making it. Blessings have been raining down.

  14. I did knocking on doors about 30 years ago with a big group at a summer conference. Fr. Rick Thomas instructed us for about 20 minutes, then we went out in teams of four. It was excellent.

  15. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once wrote this interesting quote: “don’t throw crumbs to little birds but throw little birds to crumbs.”

  16. Sometimes I seek to do, what seems like the type of paradigm shift you mention. I take a set of facts and visualize them in the standard order in which they’re usually presented. Sometimes, but not always, chronological order.
    Then I do one of two procedures – or perhaps both in turn – as in one then the other. I either metaphorically move myself to the other end and view them with the last first and the first last. Or cause them to rotate (in my visualization of the set of facts) while I stand in the same thoughtful place, again the first last and the last first.
    Having reversed something comparable to, but not the same as; priorities; something new (but usually compatible to) the original is added which expands the overall from the original understandin of. Just ended a sentence with a preposition but, it’s a struggle to express this.
    Feeling a necessity to mention a recent outcome of this; there’s an additional take on David hiding out in the hills from Saul. Saul seemed to desire that his son, Jonathon, succeed him as king to carry on a dynasty in his name but – David had been chosen by God through Samuel.
    Saul waffled between including David in his household and, thereby acknowledging this son of Jesse. Suddenly he would lose his temper and throw a spear at David. So, David left and hid out in the hills until the time came for his kingship. Then a group of malcontents and misfits flocked to him but, now David had to care for them.
    Donations of food and other necessities came in but, were these enough? If not, raiding Israelite settlemements (which may have been appropriate, but not righteous, for a gang of bandits) was an in-appropriate way to treat the settled people whom he would some day lead so, he had to find other means to provide.
    And, what about his band of men who were rebellious by nature. Some discipline was necessary but, a structure as comprehensive as Saul’s army was based of may well have led them to depart and disperse.
    All the trial and error involved may well have given David a pretty good set of transferable skills in management so as to provide a starting point when he did become king. Surely he needed God’s guidance but, now he’d been led to developing a frame work into which that guidance would fit. True, he didn’t always comform perfectly to God’s will but he did have the opportunity to do so. I freely admit that I sometimes find myself going a bit off on my ego on how I regard my past achievements and have to ask help to get back on track so – I try not to judge people like David who had a more demanding, and challenging job than I’ve ever had.
    Speaking of “challenging” a thing that’s always helped me in shifting viewpoints is to regard “problems” and “challenges” as two different names for the same thing. Just looked at (or looking from) from a different viewpoint.

  17. Even if you do not like my 5 starting questions, I hope you will like this approach to helping all seek the questions God wants all to seek HIS answers to. Thank you. Could this be a good process? (see end quote)

    My hope is that every church will support and improve this. Thank you.

    I had a thought following Father Newman’s sermon Sunday on how the Pillars Group could help those who are not members be more willing and more able to witness to their faith in public. The idea requires a moderator (or team of moderators) who will post suggested questions on a particular part of the parish webpage for people to be able to read and print out the questions and carry them in their wallet or purse. Then, when a person has an opportunity to dialogue with someone, they have these carefully worded, superbly well thought out questions, that they can hand to the other person and ask them if they should find God’s answer to that question.

    This idea does not negate everyone’s responsibility to know their faith and be eager to share it. It merely helps them be better armed, gives them a sense of confidence, so that even if they do not have all the answers at any given time (fear of which keeps many from engaging in dialogue) they know that they are armed with several well worded, simple questions that the other would know they should seek God’s answer to, and which we can be hopeful will lead them to the Catholic Faith.

    Some people will choose to print St. Mary’s web address at the bottom so the person receiving one question can find the entire list of questions.

    All the questions could be numbered so some people would copy one question on the slip of paper and then add a list of numbers of related questions that might follow a logical pattern.

    We would be following the first public example of Jesus when Mary and Joseph found Him in the temple, “asking questions” and “all were amazed at His wisdom”.

    I heard a quote many years ago, “ If you ask the right question, the answer will be intuitively obvious to the casual observer”, (casual observer is someone honestly seeking God’s truth, not someone who has an ax to grind with a closed mind).

    Think how many great questions could be made available and then we would have a fallback question if we get flustered and cannot think of a good, well worded question. I would suggest someone could come up with an improvement on:

    1. Can we know with a certitude of faith that since God has revealed His existence to us, He therefore wants us to go beyond faith in God and “accept the love of Truth so that they may be saved” (2Thessallonians 2:10) and eagerly seek to know whatever else that He wants everyone to know and believe and therefore He wants us to listen to what others believe and then ask from our hearts, “What evidence is there that what they believe is, or is not, what God wants all to believe”?

    2. What scriptural evidence is there to conclude that St. Paul’s use of “Body” in 1Cor. 11:20-29 (two times) and Our Lord’s use in John 6:45-61(four times) was not meant to be taken in the literal sense (especially 1Cor. 11:29)?

    3. 2Thessalonians 2:10 says, “He will give them a deceiving spirit because they have not accepted the love of truth so that they may be saved”; what scriptural evidence is there that shows the effective meaning of 2Thessalonians 2:10 is different than: No one has a chance at being saved if they do not accept the love of truth and if they stop loving the truth, they no longer are saved?

    4. Since God loves all that exists (Wisdom 11:24) and eternally sees all time and space all at once in one single infinite thought, God loves the devils eternally as He “did” when He created them and then the Question arises: Should we love all sinners whom God loves and how can this not include the devils?

    5. Since God has only one, single, eternal, always in the present, infinite thought that is everywhere and every when the same as when Jesus as a boy perfectly conformed His human will to the Divine Will, revealing the Divine Will to eternally be that Jesus love, honor and be subject to Joseph as the head of the Family with St. Joseph being the head of the family, not just a figure head; the question arises: Is there anything in scripture that could be interpreted to imply that God’s eternal, changeless thought has changed and God’s thought is actually transient and changes with time so that God no longer eternally gives St. Joseph such an unfathomable honor?

    Is this idea something that some members might want to think about and maybe work on to improve so that eventually there might be many, superb, well thought out questions (much better than my questions) that anyone could print out and carry?

    If we started something like this, could others across the country and world pick up on it and make it so easy for Catholics to have superb questions at their fingertips whenever dialogues began (especially if they started wearing the “Please, ask me why I am Catholic” buttons)?

    I recently read in Pope Francis’ apostolic Exhortation, EVANGELII GAUDIUM at 223 224, “What we need, then, is to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage other persons and groups who can develop them to the point where they bear fruit in significant historical events. Without anxiety, but with clear convictions and tenacity.

    224. Sometimes I wonder if there are people in today’s world who are really concerned about generating processes of people-building, as opposed to obtaining immediate results which yield easy, quick short-term political gains, but do not enhance human fullness.”

    My hope is that this idea can be a process whereby the laity have no excuse for not being armed with superb questions for people who they come in contact with (and with their own children, parents, siblings, in-laws and outlaws) and our next generation will produce much fruit because they have grown up asking superb questions in the sure faith that if the other person honestly seeks God’s answer, God will be pleased with both people.

    1. In response to Douglas Kraeger #4, “Should we love all sinners whom God loves and how can this not include the devils?” I also thought about this and was wondering if, at some time, God would forgive Satan. So I prayed about this. The net result was nightmares, both God and Lucifer were down on me. The universe trembled before me. Then God spoke to me, “Do not get between us.” My spiritual advice to any who read this, “Do not concern yourself about Satan, do not get in over your head.” God bless you Douglas.

  18. Here’s a paradigm shift: instead of tut-tutting people for parish shopping, how about parishes addressing why people shop? To wit: at one time one could go to any Church on the planet and worship in a manner that takes Our Lord seriously. Today, it’s a crap shoot. Sure, there are plenty of frivolous reasons for parish shopping, but there are also legitimate ones like not being scandalized.

    1. no tut-tutting here. I think you’re missing the whole point which is that parish boundaries are NO LONGER insisted upon by the Church and not followed by the faithful. (Hence your objection does not hold). The point is, boundaries are still important but for DIFFERENT reasons as stated above.

  19. Paradigm Shift #1 — beautiful guidance, Monsignor. I see it as a prophetic expansion upon God’s words to St. Paul: “It hurts you to kick against the goads.” Let us always oppose sin no matter how popular it gets, but let us also not deem ourselves better evangelical strategists than the Holy Spirit. I think a good addition to those bullet points you included would be “reverence for private revelation.” Look at the utter outpouring of God’s blessings at places like Medjugorje. Always with discernment, yes – but please God never with fear or Phariseeism.

  20. Here’s a paradigm shift for you: Modern American parishes put great emphasis on “building community” and being “welcoming” and making the Holy Mass more “relevant”. These are not bad things to emphasize. I have noted, however, that when a parish starts paying attention to what God asks for in regard to the Holy Mass, trying to learn more from the church documents which guide the Mass, and then making changes in “the way we’ve always done it” to conform more closely with what the documents actually say (not their “spirit”), then suddenly the community becomes stronger, people are drawn to the parish, and the Mass, being more about God, and less about us, becomes deeply, movingly, life-changingly relevant. Stop trusting our own great ideas about improving the Mass, and start trusting the plain language of God’s great ideas!

  21. We need a paradigm shift above the parish level. Where the Church’s business-as-usual institutions have missed the mark is in passively allowing the Church to be routinely branded on what are in fact moral issues rooted in the nature of the human person, that is, continually having to make its case from behind one 8-ball or another.

    When you allow yourself to be branded by others, you have already lost.

    How might the Church reframe the entire discussion on such politicized issues as normal marriage (vs the oxymoron gay marriage as a “civil right”). One rare and timely opportunity is the scheduled synods on the Family–the opportunity to proclaim a succinct, persuasive, inviting and maybe even artful message about the nature of man and the family and marriage, human sexuality, the theology of the body, etc. etc. Instead of a “no” on the political gameboard, a “yes” at a higher level. Hopefully the outcome will be broader than an intricate dissertation with footnotes on sacramental discipline within the Church.

    We cannot win a following for Christ, strategically, if the secularist culture is playing chess while we are still reacting–playing checkers.

  22. My mother died last month, she was 99 years of age and my best friend, at all times.

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