On Tuesday I was in Dayton, Ohio, where the University of Dayton put together a panel to discuss my argument that "evangelical Catholicism" constitutes a mega-trend in Catholic life. Aside from me, the panelists were William Portier, who holds the Mary Ann Spearin Chair in Catholic Theology at the University of Dayton; and David J. O'Brien, Loyola Professor of Roman Catholic Studies at the College of the Holy Cross.
All Things Catholic
Over a six-day stretch from last Wednesday through this Tuesday, I gave five presentations in four cities. The series kicked off last week when I served as the closing act at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, D.C. (I was publicly blessed at the end by Msgr. Ray East of St. Teresa of Avila Parish -- and when you're blessed by the dynamic Msgr. East, let me tell you, you feel it.)
In ancient Rome, the office of "tribune" was created to represent the common people, the plebeians, over against the patrician magistrates, meaning the elite ruling class. Over time the office basically lost this founding ideal, but the idea of a "tribune" as a voice for the common person still survives in other contexts -- for example, in its widespread use as a name for newspapers.
Next week, the annual “Catholic Social Ministry Gathering” will take place in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by 19 Catholic organizations, it’s an important annual get-together for Catholics who, in one way or another, are involved in social action and political advocacy on behalf of human life, justice and peace.
Reporters who have served on assignment in another part of the world have a rule of thumb that after six months you want to write a book about the place, but after six years you're afraid even to write a sentence. By that point, you know all too well the dangers of generalization.
Though it's still eight months away, next October's Synod of Bishops on the Bible is already causing ferment. The gathering will be the 22nd synod since Pope Paul VI created it in September 1965 as a means of giving bishops a voice in governance of the universal church (though it will be just the 12th "ordinary" synod). It is keenly anticipated for at least three reasons:
Without a doubt, the push for robust assertion of traditional Catholic identity is the most consequential mega-trend in the life of the church today, and it is also the core of Benedict XVI's agenda as pope. Emboldened by the election of John Paul II in 1978, the identity wave hit the arena of liturgy first, then went on to engulf Catholic education, Catholic media, priestly identity and formation, religious orders, and virtually every other sphere of ecclesiastical life.
Today brings to a close the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and I'm in Rome watching an all-star ecumenical cast mark the occasion. Although there's been no historic breakthrough on the path to reunion, collectively the week's events have offered a more hopeful counter-point to perceptions of an ecumenical "big chill."
I was in Saint Augustine, Fla., this week, speaking at a national “Cathedral Ministry Conference.” For American Catholics, Saint Augustine is, in a sense, where it all began; it was here on Sept. 8, 1565, that a Spanish missionary priest celebrated the first Mass in what would eventually become the United States.
College football fans probably felt a bit deflated this Tuesday, since the Bowl Championship Series, always their favorite time of year, came to a close Monday night. For Vatican devotees, Tuesday likewise brought a twinge of melancholy, and for much the same reason: the annual "bowl championship series" of papal teaching, which begins in mid-December with a message for the World Day of Peace, ended Monday with the pope's address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.