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Lent is coming, and that means New Age speakers! November 15, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, North Deanery, sadness, scandals.
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Ah, Lent……..that time of penitential offerings, self-denial, mortification, and New Age centering prayers.  Yes, nothing is more Catholic than channeling your inner Zen and engaging in that time honored Hindu practice of discovering the wonder that is…….you. 

There is a group of local Catholic churches that call themselves the Collin County Catholic Churches Association, which is odd, because not all the churches in Collin County belong, and one of the churches that does belong isn’t even in Collin County, but I digress.  These churches consist of St. Elizabeth Seton in Plano, Prince of Peace in Plano, St. Mark in Plano, Our Lady of Angels in Allen, and St. Joseph in Richardson.  Every year, these churches get together to bring in a, ahem, Catholic speaker at Lent.   Last year, it was Sr. Joyce Rupp, who has numerous New Age connections/influences.  In the past, they’ve had other New Age influenced speakers, including Thomas Keating, Richard Rohr, Macrina Wiederkehr, etc.  This year, they’ve invited Sr. Maria Schwan of the Sisters of St. Joseph to speak on the subject of “Living Centered in an Uncentered World” to speak at St. Mark in Plano in February.  Or maybe it’s in August, I won’t tell.  But, while Sr. Schwan may not have as long a paper trail as Sr. Joyce Rupp in the area of New Age practices, her work does draw deeply from New Age influences and centering prayer in particular (I think the title of the talk sort of gives that away).  Why should a Catholic care about centering prayer?  Well, first, the Vatican has specifically warned Catholics to stay away from New Age practices as being contrary to, and even dangerous for, the devout practice of the Catholic Faith.  Secondly, centering prayer in and of itself can be a dangerous practice, as Fr. John Dreher of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Rhode Island, explains:

Many people assume centering prayer is compatible with Catholic tradition, but in fact the techniques of centering prayer are neither Christian nor prayer. They are at the level of human faculties and as such are an operation of man, not of God. The deception and dangers can be grave.

Centering prayer differs from Christian prayer in that the intent of the technique is to bring the practitioner to the center of his own being. There he is, supposedly, to experience the presence of the God who indwells him. Christian prayer, on the contrary, centers upon God in a relational way, as someone apart from oneself. The Christian knows a God who is personal, yet who, as Creator, infinitely transcends his creature.

Centering prayer is essentially a form of self-hypnosis. It makes use of a “mantra,” a word repeated over and over to focus the mind while striving by one’s will to go deep within oneself.

In Catholic teaching, all men are creatures, called out of nothingness to know God. All men are also sinners, cut off from God and destined to death. A Christian is one whose life has been reconstituted in Christ. He is no longer in the place and stance of a sinner, that is, apart from God, acting as if he were the ultimate source, measure, and goal of his own behavior. He is in Christ. Henceforth, his life is supposed to originate in Christ and to be directed to God the Father. I say “supposed to” for it is a possibility that must be acted upon. It is not automatic.

Eastern religions, in contrast, lack revelation of God as a personal Creator who radically transcends his creatures. Though possessing many praiseworthy elements, they nonetheless seek God as if he werepart of the universe, rather than its Creator. This is because they are monistic, seeing all reality as one. Thus, God is a dimension, though hidden, of the same reality of which man is a part. The goal therefore is to peel away the exterior world to get to the spiritual reality beneath it. God is conceived of as an impersonal state of being. In contrast, for Christians, God is the Real, and the whole of the universe exists by God’s free choice; creation is a second, contingent reality—and, in Christian thought, did not need to exist. Moreover, this contingent universe is the result of a God who is vastly more than mere being; he is a loving Father.

The danger of New Age practices, as analyzed from an orthodox Catholic perspective, is that it is inherently focused on the self, on turning one’s gaze inwards to try to focus on one’s own views, preferences, wants, desires, etc., and trying to harmonize them, in some way, with one’s exterior environment.  The Christian gaze must turn always to God, recognizing our fallible natures but always striving through prayer and sacrifice to die to ourselves and live for God, through Christ.  It is a subtle, but hugely significant, difference. 

In addition to Sr. Schwan speaking at St. Mark, Fr. Bill Sheehan is reprising a speaking engagement at St. Joseph in Richardson, also during Lent.   Fr. Sheehan’s connections to New Age are far more direct – he has served in an organization specializing in centering prayer founded by Thomas Keating since 1983.  From the description on the announcement:

The WELCOMING PRAYER is a holistic practice that involves mind, body and spirit. It embraces the reality of what is happening in our lives in the present moment. It is a companion practice to Centering Prayer and a contemplative practice of “letting go” in the ordinary routine of our daily life.

The purpose of the WELCOMING PRAYER is to assist in healing the wounds of the human condition as they emerge in the midst of daily life. It is a practice of letting go of feelings, emotions, thoughts, commentaries and body sensations, and welcoming the present moment, and all it can bring, in the here and now.

Sound like the self-hypnosis described above?  Again, I cannot overemphasize how dangerous many of these practices can be in terms of one’s relationship with the Lord.  Sharon Lee Giganti has vast resources on this subject, and I dug up quite a bit during my research on Sr. Rupp last year.  More worringly, in his now-pulled book Exorcism and the Church Militant, Fr. Thomas Euteneuer makes clear that he has had to perform exorcisms on people who dabbled in the occult and/or New Age practices and thus opened themselves up to demonic influences.  Some may say that’s an outrageous claim, but Fr. Euteneur’s descriptions of the events read very compellingly.

So, what to do?  I don’t know….my experiences of a year or so ago indicate that once a speaker like this has been selected, getting the talk cancelled is virtually impossible.  But this year it is even more upsetting, as, one, no one can claim ignorance of the fact that New Age speakers are repeatedly coming into the diocese, and, two, one of the parishes involved happens to have one of our auxiliary bishops as pastor (St. Joseph!).  How much confusion will result from the fact that a church with a bishop as pastor has no problem bringing in New Age speakers?  Are New Age practices, in spite of all the warnings from some clergy and bishops and clear denunciations from the Vatican, part of the “fabric” of Catholic teaching in the Dallas Diocese?  I pray that is not the case, but the evidence is difficult to refute. 

I’m going to put some contact info below.  If you want to contact these folks, fine, but please don’t cuss or say things like “you’re evil, you’re demonic, etc,” because that does not help.  Let them know that you are opposed, that you think this kind of activity is wrong, and feel free to ask pointed questions about how practices like this help strengthen our collective Catholic Faith and identity. 

Mary Edlund   Chancellor, Dallas Diocese   chancellor@cathdal.org 214-379-2819

Elsa Espinoza, Secretary, Bishop Kevin Farrell: eespinoz@cathdal.org 214-379-2816

St. Mark Parish
Father Cliff Smith – cgsmith49@aol.com or 972 423-5600

St. Joseph Parish

Pastor – Bishop Doug Deshotel (972)231-2951
Anyone have an e-mail address?  The St. Joseph website is very cagey.
Commenter Mary helpfully shared the e-mail address:

pastor@stjosephcc.net

The main thing is to pray.  Pray that speakers like this will no longer come into this diocese on an annual basis.  Pray for the souls of those who will attend, and for those who continually insist on hosting events like this.  Pray for a miracle, that these events may be cancelled.  Based on my prior experience, when it comes to human agencies, once a deal like this has been set up, it’s almost impossible to stop.  So prayer is the only alternative.

Comments

1. Colleen Hammond - November 15, 2010

Yeah, and they say people like me are “too controversial” to speak at Lenten conferences! The difference is with me that nearly all of the controversy is made up. With them…it’s all TRUE!!!

2. Colleen Hammond - November 15, 2010

Hey, wait…what do you mean that Fr Euteneuer’s book was pulled?!? I know it’s out of stock right now…

tantamergo - November 16, 2010

Human Life International was the publisher. They not only declined to print any more copies, they pulled out of circulation almost all copies already printed. They made cryptic statements that “there is no problem with the content of the book, but if we were going to print any more copies, there would have to be changes.” I read it and found nothing even remotely heretical. It’s all a big mystery – Fr. Euteneur first loses his job at HLI, and then they pull his book, all within a month or so of publication (it was published in August).

3. Doug - November 16, 2010

Tantamergo, can you send me the source for your comment about Fr. Euteneur’s book being “pulled”? KATH brought him in to speak and it was excellent and faithful.

Thanks,
Doug

4. Dave in McKinney - November 16, 2010

Bishop Deshotel is supposed to be speaking up in McKinney at St Gabriel’s Mango Lecture series on Nov. 29… on “Advent and the Family”

5. Dave in McKinney - November 16, 2010

Two Questions:
1) Has this “infection” spread up North to McKinney’s parishes?

2) I wonder if our Eastern Catholic brothers & sisters have these same issues?

tantamergo - November 16, 2010

1. No, not in McKinney. Remember, the five parishes that make up “Collin County Catholic Church Association” are St. Mark, PoP, St. Elizabeth Seton, St. Joseph, and Our Lady of Angels. All have staff that are closely related and many sprang from the same source. They are the driving force behind these lectures. The parishes that do not belong to this association are generally much more orthodox – St. Anthony, St. Jude, St. Gabriel, St. Francis of Assisi, etc.

2. Not so much. In fact, their liturgy did not change after Vatican II. Although, the Syro-Malabar rite is a bit…….how should I say……less traditionally Catholic than many others, and is in some respects beyond Novus Ordo in terms of protestant influences. Maronite is generally pretty strong.

6. Mary - November 16, 2010

pastor@stjosephcc.net

This is the email address that should work for Bisho Deshotel.

It might be harder for this bishop to hide as he cannot distance himself from these events. He is ‘THE MAN IN CHARGE’ of what happens at this parish at this time.

It’s never to late to stop this type of infiltration (this is NOT Catholic teaching, but is contrary), to change direction.

7. Mary - November 16, 2010

They don’t want ‘controversial’ speakers, but welcome information controversial to the FAITH; ironic, isn’t it.

What they really mean is they don’t want information that makes them feel UNEASY. Following Christ isn’t meant to be easy and comfortable.

Colleen, next time reply that at least you’re not the one being controversial to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

8. Colleen Hammond - November 16, 2010

You’re right, Mary. UNEASY…how sad. Christ’s message makes many “uneasy”. But, as Peter said, To whom shall we go Lord? You have the words of eternal life!


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