Facing the Self

Facing the Self

1st Sunday of Lent (B); 2-26-12

Gn 9:8-15; Ps 25:4-9; 1 Pt 3:18-22; Mk 1:12-15

Deacon Jim McFadden; Divine Savior C.C.


          Lent is about belonging: staying connected to God, each other, and ourselves.  The first readings for all the Lenten Sundays in Lectionary Cycle B celebrate our covenant relationship with God.  Indeed, we might say that Lent is a season of covenant-making in which we take our true place before God.  To do that, we need to remember who we are—to live out of our truest self.

At baptism Jesus came to full consciousness of who he is: the beloved Son of God.  Once Jesus has that awareness, the Spirit drives him into the desert—a place of recognition, a place where he faces his Self.   In the desert Jesus isamong wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.  What happens to Jesus must happen to us.  These three verses are the spiritual journey in a nutshell; all the necessary parts  of the journey are present:  Coming to know oneself, facing the wild beasts and being ministered to by angels.

The starting point of the spiritual journey is to recognize our True Self and to begin the process of living out of that reality.  We recognize we are the beloved children of God, we have nothing to prove, nothing to protect.  We are who we are.  God loves and delights in us.

 Once we know who we are, we have to be ready for both the Darkness and the Light.  We can’t have one without the other: if we want the ministry of the angels, if we want the consolations of being in covenant relationship with God, we have to risk facing our Shadow.  A lot of religion can be preoccupied with repressing the Shadow, by pretending the wild beasts aren’t there—either within our own hearts or in our society, so it massages people, making them feel good and content, but not challenging them to grow by doing what Jesus did by being with BOTH the wild beasts and angels.

I believe that it is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we experience being “among wild beasts and being ministered by angels.” Sometimes, we fall into the trap that the sacrament is about obliteration and not reconciliation.  We seem to think that when we go to Confession, sin goes away. It doesn’t.  What God does do is take away the sin’s power to destroy us and for us to hurt other people.    For our part, reconciliation means we are coming to terms with our sin. We acknowledge, name, face, accept, and befriend our Shadow, our wild beasts.  That is the power of the sacrament and the mystery of the forgiveness of sin, which allows us to forgive our Shadow, our own wild beasts, and in then to experience depths of grace within us, which we never imagined were possible.

The covenant with Noah seems to imply that forgiveness is at the very heart of salvation.  God knows that our struggle to stay in the Light is ongoing; he knows we will sin again, but there is no reason for us to despair or give up.   We have been saved through Jesus.  We know how our story is going to end. Now it is up to us to live our lives out of that reality and conviction.

Brothers and sisters, I  encourage you this Lent to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is the Sacrament of naming our sin/Shadow and coming to terms with it.  In the sacrament we reconnect ourselves with God; we say “yes” to the covenant he desires to have with us.  We embrace the God who loves and delights in us.


The CARA Report: Catholic Trends

Dear Folks,
Below are some gleanings from the recent CARA Report (Center for
Applied Research in the Apostolate; Georgetown University).Peace and good will,
Deacon Jim

Catholic Trends-(February)


(The following are gleaned from The CARA Report (Winter ’12))


What’s Important to American Catholics?


Several core aspects of Catholicism are considered “very important” across all generations, according to a study conducted by The National Catholic Reporter (October 28, 2011).   These beliefs include belief in Jesus’ Resurrection (73%), helping the poor (67%), Mary, the Mother of God (64%), and the Sacraments (63%).

Other beliefs vary from generation to generation.  In terms of being “very important,”  other aspects included prayer (46%), opposition to abortion (40%), Devotions, such as the rosary (36%), opposition to same-sex marriage  (35%), Magisterium teaching authority (30%), opposition to the death penalty (29%), and a Celibate, male clergy  (20%)

The study found that “Highly committed Catholics tend to be older, married, and Catholic-educated.”  Interestingly, these “highly committed Catholics” say that “One can be a good Catholic without adhering to church teaching on specific issues,” such as abortion (31%), helping the poor (39%), divorce and remarriage (46%), weekly Mass (48%), helping the parish (56%), and birth control (60%).

The study also measured the impact of the sex abuse scandal vis-à-vis the American hierarchy.  Most Catholics think that the Catholic bishops as a whole did fair (38%) to poor (31%) job of handling accusations of sexual abuse by priests.  Only three in ten say the bishops have done a good job (24%) or excellent (5%).

Religious Change During Adolescence


Sociologists Lisa Perce and Melinda Lundquist have written an excellent analysis on this topic in their new book, The Faith of Their Own.  They describe five profiles of religiosity, which are apparent in the youth population of the U.S. and which they call Abiders (highly religious—consistent involvement in religious practices), Adapters (moderate participation), Assenters (they believe in God…but religion does not appear very central to their lives), Avoiders(“spiritual but not religious; passively disengaged), and Atheists.

Family religious background is the best predictor as to what profile an adolescent will fit.  In general the religious practice of parents will significantly influence the religious profile of teens.  For example, parent attendance at weekly Mass is a strong predictor of teen participation at liturgy.  You think so?

Parish Finances


Of the 18,000 or so U.S. parishes, the average parish has an annual revenue of more than $695,000 with more than $477,000 of this from weekly offertory collections.

How much do Catholics give to their parish?  ‘Modestly’ would be putting it delicately.   In what has been a constant thread since for the past 50 years, Catholic registered parishioners give $727 per hear (or $14/Sunday), which is less than half of mainline Protestants ($1,627).

Why do Catholics typically give less?  One explanation is that they make up their mind that particular Sunday (63% decide that way), whereas the majority of Protestants say they plan their church giving on an annual basis.  This situation may explain why Catholic homilists tend to avoid controversial topics as it would be akin to a self-inflicted cut in parish revenue.

Not surprisingly, tithing is a relatively rare phenomenon among Catholics as only 11% of Catholics report giving 10% or more of net income to their church.  That figure may expand if one included  donating to non-parish charities.

Diocesan Salaries


While nobody is going to get rich working for the Church, some are doing pretty good.  According to The National Diocesan Salary Survey the average salary of  legal counsel was $154,709; Chief, Finance and Administration, $114,601; Chief of Staff/Operations $105,091; Chief, Personnel, $104,522.

(to be continued)…