BOBF: Preachers and profiteers

What do we make of people hitting the "Catholic speaking circuit"? Should Catholic speakers be paid to give speeches and, if so, how much? Filia Day tackled the topic in this post from 2010 — and it generated a fair amount of commentary.

The influence of secular thought and ideas inside the Church; in her theology, liturgy, and apostolates, interests me greatly. There are certain problematic tendencies which are to be found in the Church these days:

Relativism in the form of cafeteria Catholicism, thinking that there is no real absolute truth to be adhered to in Revelation, or to be discovered in the natural life, leading to a pick and choose mentality, with all choices being equal and personally determined by one's own individual evaluation of the faith;
Scientific Positivism in the form of a moral theology and Christian ethics developed purely from measurable phenomena in people, as often discovered and expressed in decadent psychology, leading to the rejection of the Church's Traditional teaching on sexual ethics, especially homosexuality; and
Marxism in the form of a certain type of liberation theology, leading to a superficial social activism, and a reduction of measuring the fruitfulness of the Gospel in any given place by material well-being.

That's only a few.

And, even the decadence of:
Capitalism, has found its way into the Church, and some of her well-regarded members, which we see in certain aspects of the American Catholic evangelists/speakers who charge the earth to speak around the world.

For example, if a Catholic speaker was invited to NZ, was having their airfares paid for by those inviting them, and was to give approximately 3 talks per 3 dioceses visited, but was to charge each diocese $7000 per visit, would we feel that this is acceptable from a Catholic viewpoint?

That's $21,000 for a one week visit. $21,000 for one week of work, assuming of course, that a speaker actually worked for 40 hours during the visit. If the money was purely for the talks and time spent in related social tasks, then that loosely correlates to $2350 per talk event. That's incredible money for these types of speakers.

Additionally, what if a particular speaker only gave one type of talk when they were to come? And what about if when they give these talks, they are exactly the same, exactly the same, like a formula, a script, or a recording, word for word? Word for word, as compared with other talks of theirs as found on YouTube, and as compared to other talks given during the same visit? With this approach, one begins to wonder whether such speakers are true witnesses who have deeply assimilated their material in Christ, or merely people who can read a speech well, remember some lines, and play a part. I don't know to be honest. I do wonder though.

Do we feel that this is acceptable, and worth paying so much for? No matter what their own living conditions are, i.e., they have a family to feed, etc, or they have an apostolate to run and fund, is this too much?

Many of these speakers give a good message, are faithful to the Church, and their words have a good effect. As St Paul says, as long as the Gospel is being preached, he didn't care too much for some of the dubious motives and practices involved with some who were doing it etc.

But even so, the question remains: Is this a good thing? Is it something to support? Is this worth it?

If a speaker was brought out here (airfares paid, which is normal), and a collection was taken, and in the process, a good amount was given, as a response to the quality of the talk/speaker, with people wishing to help in covering costs (at all levels), and wanting to support the person themselves, and the goodness and worth of their mission in future endeavors, and support the apostolate that they work for (back in their home country), then that seems very acceptable and normal.

But to charge that amount, a large amountlike an appearance fee, is troubling and worrying to me. Is this a type of commercialization of the Gospel? Is this where certain apostolates, run under certain business models, are thinking of their speakers like business gurus, with a certain expertise, who run seminars for companies, and charge immense amounts for very little actual work?

Is this mode of operating faithful to what Jesus taught regarding preaching the Gospel? $21,000 for multiple release of the same production-line talk.

Did the saints ever do this? That's often a good starting point to look at. How have the saints acted?

What do others think? A worker deserves their wages for sure, but is this too much?

If a man can't make a reasonable living giving talks on the faith, then find another profession, and leave it to those who are willing to be poor for the sake of the Gospel, so as to truly be a witness.

BOBF: Social beings

There are often discussions about how well Churches welcome people into their parish or congregation — beyond the "welcome to any visitors to the parish" at the beginning of Mass or a service in another Christan context. In this 2011 post by Joan of Arc, she wonders if we're doing enough.

I'm pretty certain that God made us to be social (and I'm not just saying that because I'm an extrovert!). This is something that has really struck me in the last week. We need each other.

During the week I have been working with a single mother who called me in tears because she simply had nobody to talk to. To have no friends to share with is an experience I can't even imagine but the situation is not uncommon in society today. People have become isolated. For many of the families I work with professionals are the only people they interact with. You could say: "well why don't they get out there and make some friends?" but that is so much easier said than done. No wonder there is so much depression in our society.

The woman who called me is a member of a church but could not name a single  person from the church who she would feel comfortable speaking with about the 'ups and downs' of her current situation. What has happened to Christian community? Many churches that I interact with in my work are able to respond to requests for help in a practical sense (providing food, etc) but it seems to be so much harder to find a person in their congregation who will just keep an isolated person company and take the time to listen to their story. Christ does not necessarily ask us to 'like' people in our community but He does ask us to love them.

This week has left me asking myself: Do I take time to weep with those who are weeping and rejoice with those who are rejoicing (even and especially when I have something else I would rather be doing)?

BOBF: The Catholic Bart Simpson

The Simpsons has been a source of much inspiration on Being Frank; just check out the titles of the posts from Methuselah's Beard over the years :) In this post from 2010, Inkling offered her thoughts on Bart Simpson becoming Catholic — and what lessons it might hold for non-cartoon Catholics.

I don't normally watch the Simpons, but the episode the other night caught my attention when I heard that Homer and Marge were sending Bart to a Catholic school – and when Bart offered (in all sincerity) to pray a Rosary for someone.  I missed the end (only saw up to the panic-stricken Marge (a Protestant) dragging Bart and Homer out of First Holy Communion Class), but I think any Catholic watching it must have been laughing heartily most of the way. 

Watching Catholic Bart being Catholic with conviction and sincerity (up to where I left it) was interesting, especially watching him doing normal Catholic things in front of his worried 'Protestant' family (e.g. doing the Sign of the Cross before his meal).  I'm highly doubtful as to the evangelising effect a Catholic Bart might have (although who knows – God works in mysterious ways) but to me it showed (strangely enough) how confidence, conviction and sincerity in someone's attitude toward something (particularly religion) is undeniably attractive; it's the thing a good leader has (or is able to show). 

On Sunday, reflecting on the Gospel reading in his homily, our priest observed that sometimes he sees people in restaurants doing this: (he did the sign of the cross super-quick and small across his chest, glancing furtively from side to side).  He had the whole congregation in stitches (though I'm sure the laughter was heartier by the odd twinge of guilt). 

Showing youself to be Catholic in restaurants and public places is challlenging thing, precisely because it lays you open to being judged, derided or challenged – the same is true of anything that exposes some deep truth about a person.  People are funny; we like to wear masks.  But there is a definite difference between standing in the middle of the major intersections on Queen Street waving evangelical banners, and saying grace before a meal in a restaurant.  Doing the Sign of the Cross is not some sort of subversive attempt to convert the table next to you – if anything it is admirable.  I think this is where a lot of evangelicals go wrong; their actions are often more off-putting than anything, and certainly won't convert anyone to Christianity.  By the same token, Christians should not hide their faith – how and where is the balance to be struck?

There is a lot to be said for confidence, courage, and joy.  One thing that gives me confidence is seeing other people being confident:  I think there are few things braver, bolder or more inspiring than one of the best soccer players in the world scoring a brilliant goal, then making the Sign of the Cross and pointing to heaven as his team mates pile on top of him.

BOBF: Guilty?

Christ's great exhortation — that whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me — has been an inspiration to many. In this post from 2008, EyeWitness writes about her first time being involved with prison ministry and how it made her think about the prisoners and their lives.

This morning for the first time I went to the Catholic Prison Ministry Service at Mt Eden prison along with The Captain and about twenty others of all ages. I some what nervously entered the prison going through bars and security guards. We went to one particular wing with about forty or so prisoners who surprised me by being really into coming! I didn't really expect the guys to be so attentive and enjoy singing the songs and listening to the bible readings so much. One man was almost in tears during the service and seemed to hang on every word we said. No one seemed proud or happy to be within those rock walls. One man (an inmate) took the guitar from our lead guitarist and sang a song imploring that Jesus be in this place and with the prisoners in such a beautiful voice I actually cried because it seemed so moving, which was a little embarrassing… It also touched me that in the little hole in the front of the cell door I could see opposite me the man inside had placed his ear to the hole and seemed to be straining to hear what we were talking about, but obviously didn't want to actually come. Others watched semi-interested from the balconies above us.

Many prayed for their partners, family and children who they are separated from. It felt really worthwhile to me to do something which Jesus talks about directly in the bible, but more than anything to feel that people were actually getting something from it. We must have sung about twenty different songs with the men seeming to want to sing as many as we could stay for.

One thing which I noticed in myself which I am quite happy about is that I could really feel no judgment for anyone standing face to face with them. Maybe I would if I actually knew what they had done, I don't know. But I don't know their lives. I don't know their circumstances. What I do know is the older I get and the more experiences of people I have is that everyone lives with different circumstances and everyone sins, and even people who seem to live in sparkly houses with sparkly husbands, children and jobs, find life tough too, just like Jesus said (I can trust Him after all I seem to learn more and more!). I have done things I would be way too embarrassed to tell you, so who am I to be the one to cast any stones.

I guess that's another to think about when voting. Obviously we need a justice system, we need protection for society from people who are dangerous to others, we need consequences for actions – but as for judging, I have no idea what you've been through, so I'll try not to judge you, as hard as I find that simply among my own friends and family sometimes.

I think we've talked about it on the blog before but there are details about coming along from leaders within Inner City Parishes (St Bens / St Pats groups) if you're interested in trying it out.

BOBF: 40 days of what?!?!

As we continue through the Lenten season, we look back today at On the Road's musings on Lent from February 2010. As he asks, how committed are you to the Lenten fast? Two weeks into Lent, how are we getting on?

I have been reflecting on the upcoming Lenten season, my 2nd as a Catholic. I love the journey the Church takes us on leading up to Easter. Culminating in the Easter mass, it is a real time to draw closer to Christ and remember His journey and suffering.

Growing up, when the liturgical season bared little relevance to the nature of the church service, Lent was not much different to every other part of the year, except the pastor was adamant on dressing up the church in purple. Every 2nd or 3rd Lent I would be forced to give up something trivial by my parents, and of course I made out like it was the biggest deal in the world.

This year, I hope to really give myself in the Lenten fast. It is something I have never taken very seriously, but I have realised that it is a great opportunity to unite myself more fully to Christ and His suffering. I have learned recently that we are not called just to 'give something up' and then yearn for Easter so we can have it back. We are called to a true fast, one which daily we are impacted in such a way that we remember who made the ultimate sacrifice for us and that we are to remain masters of our own desires. Fasting does not merely mean giving something up either – but adding virtue everyday. So, in the same manner, we have the opportunity to 'add' something to our day – such as going to weekday mass or volunteering or giving extra for a certain cause.

So how committed are you to the Lenten fast? What are the ways in which you draw closer to Christ during this time of year? While I have chosen what I will be abstaining from (God help me on this one), I would be keen to hear how others give of themselves during this season.

God Bless.

BOBF: What goes on upstairs?

In our continuing Being Frank retrospective, The Dumb Ox asks "What goes on upstairs?" in this post from 2010. Spoiler alert: He's not talking about the choir loft…

I was in Mass a while back, and at one point I found myself looking around the church at everyone else present for Mass (yes, I know, I probably should have been paying more attention to Christ, and less to my fellow congregants!).

It was quite obvious, based on what they were doing, that some of the people at that Mass had no real investment in what was going on, in fact some of them seemed downright bored by it all.

But here’s the interesting thing, many of these people attend Mass at my parish every week, and they show exactly the same sort of disinterest each time.

Please understand that I am not being judgmental or critical at all here, I am simply trying to understand why someone would keep coming back to Mass each week if it doesn’t actually mean anything to them at a deeper spiritual level.

This phenomenon really intrigues me.

I often find myself asking whether it’s because of some sort of loyalty to a family member (did they once promise their mother on her deathbed that they’d attend Mass every week?)

Maybe it’s because they enjoy the social interaction after Mass?

Maybe it’s because they think that it brings them some sort of prestige in certain circles, or will earn them a better chance at getting their kids into a Catholic school.

Maybe they feel an obligation to go each week?

Maybe they view it as some sort of cultural thing that their family has always done on a Sunday, so they do it too?

Maybe they enjoy organ music and singing hymns?

Maybe they carry guilt and other burdens, and they see this as some sort of atonement?

Like I said, I find this a really intriguing phenomenon.

BOBF: Death penalty = travesty

As leaders in Australia and around the world make last-ditch pleas to stop Indonesia's plans to execute two men convicted of attempted to smuggle drugs from Indonesia to Australia, we revisit The Captain's post from November 2007.

Cor blimey. Got breathlessly excited last week when I saw John Grisham had written another book and judging by the cover (as I do so often…) it looked like he'd finally returned to doing what he does best; gritty courtroom dramas (after a smewhat disturbing foray into touchy feely rubbish). So, I skimmed the back cover and bought the book (for four quid – gotta love the UK sometimes!).

Only then did I realise that it's a non-frickin-fiction. About a man condemned to death row in Oklahoma 1987 for a murder he didn't commit. It's a hell of a read so far, and the number of people on death row with him who are innocent is just crazy.

I don't know too much about this issue -with the exception of the occasional Hollywood portrayal of the subject, I haven't seen or read much about it – but, like most people I guess, the more I see the more disturbed I am at the system.

Now, I'm a passionate anti-death-penalty person. In any circumstances. I know we've covered this topic before on the blog, but my happening-upon Grisham's latest book (which I highly recommend) has brought it to the forefront of my mind lately so I wanted to raise it again.

It seems criminally ridiculous – and sinful – that this carry-on still occurs. What's wrong with us as humans that we sanction this? Amnesty International did some work on this recently in New Zealand, getting Helen Clark to add New Zealand's voice to the call for a ban on the death penalty worldwide. I just pray that it's heard.