Perhaps I was too hard on ‘From Christendom to Apostolic Mission’

There is nothing in the above inadequate description of the Christian vision that claims any originality; others could no doubt give a better account.

Anonymous. From Christendom to Apostolic Mission. Bismarck, ND, University of Mary Press, 2020, pg. 66 .

The quotation above, from the very book itself, would sum up my critique of this book.

For the last 8 months or so I have been highly critical of the book From Christendom to Apostolic Mission: Pastoral Strategies for an Apostolic Age which was published with no named author in 2020. Since its appearance I have seen it pop up all over the place especially in my own Diocese. Ever since I read the book I have criticized it heavily as lazy, inadequate, pietistic and unoriginal. My basic evaluation of the book after some conversations and a number of readings has not changed.

However, perhaps I was too hard.

There are many valid and correct points made in this book that I would not dispute. My simple and critical evaluation is that the book is inadequate and adds nothing of substantial value to what many regard as the most important topic in the life of the Church.

We might then note these two basic modes by which Christianity interacts with human societies: an apostolic mode and a Christendom mode. The first is her way of confronting a society with a very different overall vision than her own; the second is her mode of acting when Christianity has fertilized the soil out of which the society’s basic assumptions spring.

Ibid.; pgs. 18 – 19.

This basic definition is fair enough. One might quibble with the highly reductionist definition of Christendom but I will certainly allow latitude in definition of terms when ‘mode’ is attached. However, the author then goes on to say the following:

Putting it this way is of course if far too simplistic: human societies are dynamic, and the degree to which Christianity is formative of a society’s culture and vision is never complete and static. Nonetheless, it can be of use to view these two modes as “ideal types” in order to inquire how best to respond to the cultural matrix we currently inhabit.

Ibid., pg. 19.

Yes, it is too simplistic. That summarizes my whole critique. Can it be of use to use these two modes as ideal types? If so, it is will be the duty of the book to evidence and argue for that position. Frankly, the weakness of the argument is prevenient:

Peter’s words found resonance in the deep substratum of the minds of his hearers, and three thousand converted in one day. And once converted to faith in Christ, these new believers did not need to be brought to an entirely different way of seeing the world; rather they could be welcomed into the newborn Church and take their places as intelligent believers fairly quickly.

Ibid., pg 17.

Such a view of the proclamation of the Gospel is wholly deficient. It does, in my view, implicitly deny the uniqueness, the un-expectedness, the un-looked for-ness, of the Resurrection of Jesus – an ‘entirely different way of seeing the world.’ While I would not at all deny the author’s belief in the Resurrection of Jesus the claim made in the above quotation is either too simplistic or, as is happens often these days, molding the Sacred Scripture to fit a narrative we desire to forward rather than Revelation as it is.

Not only was the Resurrection of Jesus an utterly unique and unexpected event, it’s implications were were likewise. See the lack of understanding on behalf of the Apostles that is recorded in Scripture. See how even recognizing the risen Jesus was difficult for all of them. Look at the heresies and misunderstandings that are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of Saint Paul and of Saint John. There is simply no reason to think that the words of Peter “found resonance in the deep substratum of the minds of of his hearers” nor that new believers could “take their places as intelligent believers fairly quickly.”

I see this sort of thing all the time.

One will hear people talk about Saint Peter as though he never met the Jesus risen from the dead or that that meeting had no real impact on him. You hear constantly about ‘the simple fisherman’ or ‘the brash personality’ or ‘ the man who denied Jesus.’ All of this is true but is also along way from the whole truth. Read about Saint Peter in the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of Saint Peter that are in Sacred Scripture and you will get a much clear picture of how the Resurrection of Jesus affects a person, their actions, their personality and their work.

On several occasions I have heard about how the Church after Pentecost did have any buildings or structures, didn’t work about schools and so forth but just went out and preached after Pentecost.

Really? Did they not have the Upper Room in which they stayed for a long time? Did they not remain in Jerusalem for a number of years? Did they not have people come and make monetary contributions? Oh yes they did.

I do not mean to make a mountain out of a mole hill. I do mean to suggest that a poor or simplistic interpretation of things is a critical flaw and can lead to poor conclusions.

To whit:

The last several centuries have seen an increasingly bitter contest in the West between two competing ruling visions: a largely Christian vision that had pertained for many centuries, and a humanistic and materialistic vision that began to emerge in the latter part of the seventeenth century, which goes by the general name of ‘the Enlightenment.

Ibid., pg. 29.

This is quite true and, I would say, quite obvious. Then on the very next page:

Until around World War I, Europe was by and large a set of Christendom cultures, though insightful observers were seeing the direction toward which as headed much earlier.

Ibid., pg. 30.

This is likewise true and the description that follows it is fair enough. Therein lies my fundamental point: insightful observers have see all of these things much earlier. The decline was far ahead of World War I as were the the cultural trends and ideas so opposed to the Christian vision and practice. The simplistic treatment of the problem leads to a simplistic offering of a solution. Which leads me to return to the beginning of this article.

There is nothing in the above inadequate description of the Christian vision that claims any originality; others could no doubt give a better account.

Ibid., pg. 66

Excatlcy so.

Kindly note that writing in your own book that your own book is inadequate does not free that book from being criticized as such.

I will not even get into the fact that he subtitle of the book is Pastoral Strategies for and Apostolic Age and no pastoral strategies of any substance are given in the book.

There are people who can profit from this book. People who need to have their complacency shaken and their mental outlook reframed. That is true and this book can work well for them.

If the people mentioned above are the clergy, diocesan chancery staff members, Directors Religious Education/Faith Formation/Youth Ministry, etc., then we are in terrible trouble – blind guides leading the blind comes to mind.

If you are in the group I just mentioned and haven’t already realized pretty much everything written in book From Christendom to Apostolic Mission then I can only wonder at what you have been reading, who you have been talking to and where you have been spending your time.

From Christendom to Apostolic Mission is not a bad book, it is not an offensive book, it will not harm you in any real way it’s just and inadequate description and others give a better account.

Trojan Horse in the City of God by Dietrich VonHilldebrand would be the best one

.Soul of the Apostolate by Jean-Baptiste Chautard would be another.

Saint John Henry Newman figured this all out – read his Sermons Parochial and Plain.

Sherry Weddell was all over this – the first chapter of the book Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell frames the vision quite well. Chapter One: A Generation of Saints from her book Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples gives a tremendously insightful vision of what has happened and how to deal with it.

The Acts XXIX White Paper: Re-Imagining What a Catholic Parish Can Be: A Destination for the 21st Century is a more brief, more accurate and responsive address to the situation at hand.

Perhaps the most practical and encouraging treatment of what to do about all of this is Go Make Disciples: A Common Vision for Evangelization as Proposed by the Most Reverend Donald J. Hying, Bishop of Madison.

Thanks be to God there are many good and even great resources out in the world for those who wish to address the current cultural and ecclesial crisis in which we find ourselves. I would submit that we should give greater attention to the good and great resources and leave the inadequate ones where they belong.

That said, whatever helps, helps. I will no more speak harshly about the book From Christendom to Apostolic Mission.

If you wish to leave comments about my thoughts I will read them. I may not respond to them but I will read them.

In laetitia, nulla dies sine Cruce!

Homily – Marriage & Life!

Click HERE to link to the homily.

As preached at the chapel of St. Cecilia in Wisconsin Dells, WI.  Below are the quotes I used from Pope Francis:

God’s dream does not change; it remains intact and it invites us to work for a society which supports families. A society where bread, “fruit of the earth and the work of human hands” continues to be put on the table of every home, to nourish the hope of its children.

Let us help one another to make it possible to “stake everything on love”. Let us help one another at times of difficulty and lighten each other’s burdens. Let us support one another. Let us be families which are a support for other families.

Perfect families do not exist. This must not discourage us. Quite the opposite. Love is something we learn; love is something we live; love grows as it is “forged” by the concrete situations which each particular family experiences. Love is born and constantly develops amid lights and shadows. Love can flourish in men and women who try not to make conflict the last word, but rather a new opportunity. An opportunity to seek help, an opportunity to question how we need to improve, an opportunity to discover the God who is with us and never abandons us. This is a great legacy that we can give to our children, a very good lesson: we make mistakes, yes; we have problems, yes. But we know that that is not really what counts. We know that mistakes, problems and conflicts are an opportunity to draw closer to others, to draw closer to God.

Address at the Rally for the World Meeting of Families

Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative. Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.

Evangelii Gaudium No. 213


Sometimes its hard to know what the right thing to do is.

Apologies for not having posted in a while.  I have been terribly ill of late.  Have no worries, all is looking up but the past two weeks have taken a lot out of me.

Now, to the brief point.

Ever had a hard time know what the right choice is?  You know, sometimes there is a decision to make and its not certain what direction you should take or where you should go.  I have had that short of moment recently and wanted to share some little spiritual advice.

Point 1 – the Moral Choice.

  • The first thing is to look at the two (or multiple) choices and first ask, ‘Is this morally right or morally wrong.’
  • This is generally the easiest step and if you are confused, ask an expert.
  • If the answer to a point is, ‘no, this is not morally justifiable.’  Then don’t do it.
  • If the answer is, ‘yes, this is morally justifiable.’  Then you can do it

Point 2 – Can I do it?

  • This is an important question.  Can I do one thing or another – do I have the practical, intellectual, physical, psychological, economical, capacity to do this thing.
  • While this question is fairly easy, it requires courage and honesty.  Do not kid yourself with this question.
  • Be courageous = have a broad avenue for saying ‘yes.’  Challenge yourself, push yourself – verso l’alto!  (to quote Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati.)
  • Be honest = sometimes we have already found our limit and know that, at this time, I just cannot achieve what is asked in this instance.

Point 3 – What do I want to do?

  • This is something that many well-meaning Christians miss.  They assume that what they want can’t possible be what God wants.  Since when?
  • You have a particular genius – a personality, skills, talents, hopes, dreams – a way of looking at creation that is singular to you.
  • True, you are not the only person in the world – that’s why this is not the first point – but God’s Will intersects with your life.
  • Be not afraid – you matter, you count, you are important.  “Follow after me and I will make you fishers of men.”  There is a choice here.  One can follow or not, one can walk or not but the individual must choose.

Point 4 –

Lo sguardo pasquale Kopie

  • Look at our Lord, ask Him what to do right to His Face.
  • After point 3, pray.
  • Have you ever had a conversation with someone?  Have you ever put forward and idea?  I mean a good idea, one you have thought about, have researched and pondered.  When you explain it to a person, face to face, you can tell what they think even before they speak.
  • This is true of our Lord.  His Face, incarnate in the Lord Jesus Christ, can be see and descried, it can be sought after and found.
  • Pray.

In case you are wondering the best place to see the face of Jesus, well there are many, but here’s number one:


The Holy Eucharist y’all.

Genius advice?  Probably not.  But even her in holy Rome it’s the way to go.

Love you all and ask for your prayers.

I Fell in Love Today

I have always loved the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Today, I fell in love with her.

This morning my friend Fr. Daren and I met Mr. Paul Badde at a little cafe not far from St. Anne’s Gate at the Vatican.  From there Mr. Badde took us to the Dominican Convent of the Holy Rosary on Mont Mario in Rome.

Mont Mario is a hill in Rome, though not one of the Seven Hills of Rome.  In ancient times it was outside of the city, located on the western side of the Tiber River and a bit north of the Vatican Hill.  It is recognizable to many who have visited Rome as it is the tallest hill in Rome and there is an observatory on the hill which can be seen from most parts of the city.  It is not often visited as there are many private homes and a beautiful nature preserve (which is not a normal Roman tourist destination.)  It is also held that Mont Mario is the place where Constantine had his vision of the Cross in the sky before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.

The Convent of the Holy Rosary has ancient foundations but the current church is a baroque building build in 1725.  The convent is home to an order of cloistered Dominican nuns – about 25 of them.  While Mont Mario is not the original location of this particular convent, the convent was founded by St. Dominic himself when he came to Rome, about the year 1220.  It is a beautiful place that, in addition to this wonderful contemplative order, houses significant relics of St. Dominic, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Catherine of Siena.

It is also home to this icon:


The icon is called in Greek Hagiosoritissa in Italian L’Avvocata or The Advocate.  It is sometimes all called Our Lady of St. Luke

I have not had time to research this history very deeply as most of it seems to be in either Latin or Italian and is almost completely lost in English.

In brief, it is a treasure.  It is said to have been painted by St. Luke.  The first established Christian community outside of Jerusalem sent a request saying, more or less, ‘hey, you have the Apostles, you have the Virgin Mary, can we at lest get a picture or something?’  Thus, the first images of Jesus and Mary were sent to this place.  When the Muslim conquests began they were sent to Constantinople.  When Constantinople was first threatened, the image of Our Lady came to Rome and was entrusted to the Dominicans.  That is the super short version.

It carbon dates to the first century, so that claim is clear.  There is an extant record of its being brought to Constantinople, so that is clear.  There is also a record of Greek monks bringing it to Rome, so the line is clear.  It is also a unique type of iconography.  Many iconographers have come to see the image and have testified that the method used to make this icon is unique and has been lost to history.  There is more historical detail but, it seems to have the clearest and strongest of all claims to be, if not the original icon of the Virgin Mary, an icon written by someone who knew Mary personally and looked upon her face.

I looked upon that face today and didn’t want to leave.

L'Avvocata and Me

The eyes of this image pulled me in like nothing I have seen before and filled me with a consolation I have not felt.  it was a window into endless beauty, pureness of love and joy beyond telling.  More to the point, when I looked at and prayed before this icon of Mary, my heart was pulled to love the Eucharist in the Tabernacle like I had never done before.  We prayed the Rosary before this image and all I could think was, ‘I don’t love Jesus enough but I can love Him more and more and more and more and more. . .’  It was a heavenly peace.

In brief, wow!  It is much like the image of Jesus at Manoppello (which I will write about soon.)  How do more people not know about this!

Pope Benedict XVI visited and venerated the image in 2010.  If I was the Pope I would be up there once a week and have that icon in St. Peter’s for just about every Marian feast day there is and twice on Saturdays.

It seems to me that the good God is re-unveiling some of this wondrous images and relics and working many miracles in a time when the world needs it so very much.  St. Faustina is proved true when she talks about the Lord God working  great miracles of the heart in these times.  May He be blessed forever!

As the West declines and the last lights of this once great civilization go off – a bright horizon opens by the work of the Holy Spirit to re-fire Divine Love in souls.

True enough I hope to obtain a doctorate in Liturgy from the Pontifical Institute for Liturgy at the Pontifical Athaneum Sant’Anselm while I am in Rome.  Just as much I hope to help spread the word about these great and holy icons (Manopello and Mont Mario) for I feel that, as He did in the early days of the Church, the good God wishes to use these things to bring people to know the wonder and glory of His Son, Jesus Christ.

O, and they have the hand of St. Catherine of Siena.

Daren and I with the hand of St. Catharine

O felix Roma!

Felix Roma Part 2 – A Pagan Heart

Rome is not a Christian city.

Christians live in Rome, Christians have built in Rome, Christians have shaped the look, history and destiny of Rome, Christians sustain the life of Rome but Rome is not a Christian city.

One might content that there is no such thing as a Christian city – we are but strangers and sojourners in a foreign land and have here no earthy city. This is the deepest truth.

Now Christians have founded many cities and built them up from nothing. You might say that Chicago is a Christian city in that sense. Most people would laugh at such notion but Chicago has Christian foundations. Rome does not.

It is thought that people have inhabited the area of Rome for about 10,000 years. The tradition of the founding of the city of Rome dates to 783 b.c. when Romulus slew his brother Remus as the fought to determine where the city should be founded, the Capitoline Hill or the Palatine Hill. Romulus one and founded the city on the Capitoline Hill.


This is a myth rooted in deep history, one inseparable from the other. It is all pagan, coming out of the tales and legend and history of pagan peoples. The meager city grew to a great empire roughly a century before any Christians arrived there. By that time the city was the heart of a great pagan empire, the city of divine emperors and heartland of heathen worship, with the great temple of Jupiter dominating the Roman Forum.  Rome’s founders and masters are all sons of the ancient worship of the pagan gods.  Demons or myths we know not, but obeisance to these are falsehoods are at the foundation of this great city.

The claim of Jesus Christ of this city was cemented by the martyrdom’s of Peter and Paul. Our Lord claimed this city by the prophesy of the death of Peter and through His Divine Will manifested in that martyrdom in the Circus of Nero on the Vatican Hill. The rest, as they say, is history.

It is worth noting that the Vatican Hill is not one of the seven hills of Rome, the markers of the ancient city. You see, every Protestant since Luther has carried on about the Vatican being the whore of Babylon in the Book of Revelation. It is important to note that the Vatican Hill is NOT one of the seven hills of Rome, it lies outside the foundations of the ancient city of the pagan lords who became masters of the world.

I hold the same opinion that St. Augustine did in City of God, Rome and her empire were but vehicles for the Gospel, no more and no less.  Thus the loss of the empire was little to grieve.  Ours is an empire of souls, a reign of God.  The petty pagan lords built their castles but they will all fall to ruin.

This city is the great example of that.  The glory of the pagan empire is ashes and crumbling rock.  The palace of the divine emperors are ruins in which every two-bit tourist and vapid teenager runs plot around self-absorbed in cell phones.  It is a crumbling testament to a mighty power, long since fallen.


For a while the Popes, the Vicars of Christ and  heirs to the keys given power by the Word made Flesh and blood shed on the Vatican Hill and off the Ostian Way (that’s St. Paul.)  They ruled and built and taught.  O yes, there were wars and sackings and revolts and plots and exiles, but they reigned over Rome.  The reign of their Christ and Lord spread from this city to nearly every corner of of the world and the Vicars of Christ became the Fathers of Princes and Kings.

But that too was destined to fall.  This is a city that has no masters nor lords.  She has a pagan heart and a demonic soul.  When the rule of the Vicars fell it was to much lesser lords.  Heathens like their political forebears but of a much lesser much lamer sort.  The Papal States fell and were replaced by a sham Kingdom with fool kings.  It was then that Romans, if there were any left, disappeared and the Tuscans and Sardinians and Umbrians and Sicilians and all the rest came to rule.  This kingdom fell quickly and was replaced by Il Duce, a much shorter though more brutal reign.  Soon the Nazi came but lasted even a lesser time than Il Duce.

When it all ended Rome was a modern city.  She has not invited modernity in but came nonetheless.


This city is ancient and always will be and heathen to its core.  She will never welcome the mere modernist or the simple secularist.  This city is religious to its core.  Though which religion and what gods have long be debated.  New little lords have come to rule over their petty empire of money.  The Vicar of Christ remains, holding the Keys of the Kingdom but still exiled on the Vatican Hill, he does not rule the city and all over the earth the Kingdom of his Lord is contested.  It will all fall one day for  not one stone will be left upon another and all will cry out ‘let the the mountains fall on us and the hills cover us.’

Blessed John Henry Newman came to study in Rome after his conversion and later wrote that he was certain that the Antichrist would arise in Rome.  This is not a new idea and it is certainly one that I believe.  There is a dark and ancient evil in this city, and evil born before time and brought to root deep in the hills of this ancient marshland when one brother slew another and a long history of the rape and pillage of nations began.  Ancient Rome promised peace, and brought it to the nations by the edge of sword, the justice of the pyre and on the backs of slaves.

The Cross of Christ did triumph, destroyed that empire and brought the Gospel to the world.  But the ancient foe is ever arrogant and there is a red dragon that lives here and calls every evil and darkness to itself.  Thus the reign of the Vicars has always been contested here, no matter how many martyrs or saints, no matter how beautiful the churches, how divine the music, how deep the charity and self sacrifice, the reign of the Vicars always has been and always will be contested in this city.

There is great beauty here, much wisdom, deep charity and divine teaching.  This is greatest city in the world and will be until the end of all things.  But she is a city at war with the Gospel, always has been and always will be, heathen all the way to her foundations.

I am proud of the Christianity of Rome and all that, by the Will of God, the Church of Rome has given to the world.  Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lord and His princes shed their blood here and, by His prophecy and promise, the heirs of those princes still rule the Church of God in charity and truth.  When the Son of Man comes will He find Faith on the earth?  Yes, He will find it in Rome.


But Rome will not be faithful, she cannot be.  To know this is to truly know Rome, what she is and what she is for.  It is not pessimism nor faithlessness, it is merely true.  I am privileged to live here and grateful as well.  But I see this place for what it is and praise God for it.

Pray for the Pope, pray for the Roman Curia, pray for those of us who live here.

I love you all and always will.

O felix Roma!