This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven

This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven

Ascension Icon
Ascension Icon by bobosh_t, on Flickr

“Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt 28,20)

Christ’s going to the Father is at once a source of sorrow, because it involves his absence; and of joy, because it involves his presence. And out of the doctrine of his Resurrection and Ascension, spring those Christian paradoxes, often spoken of in Scripture, that we are sorrowing, yet always rejoicing; “as having nothing, yet possessing all things” (2Cor 6,10).

This, indeed, is our state at present; we have lost Christ and we have found him; we see him not, yet we discern him. We embrace his feet (Mt 28,9), yet he says, “Touch Me not” (Jn 20,17). How is this? it is thus: we have lost the sensible and conscious perception of him; we cannot look on him, hear him, converse with him, follow him from place to place; but we enjoy the spiritual, immaterial, inward, mental, real sight and possession of him; a possession more real and more present than that which the Apostles had in the days of his flesh, because it is spiritual, because it is invisible.

We know that the closer any object of this world comes to us, the less we can contemplate it and comprehend it. Christ has come so close to us in the Christian Church (if I may so speak), that we cannot gaze on him or discern him. He enters into us, he claims and takes possession of his purchased inheritance; he does not present himself to us, but he takes us to him. He makes us his members… We see him not, and know not of his presence, except by faith, because he is over us and within us. And thus we may at the same time lament because we are not conscious of his presence… and may rejoice because we know we do possess it… , according to the text, “Whom having not seen… you love; in whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1Pt 1,8-9).

Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890), priest, founder of a religious community, theologian
Sermon « The Spiritual Presence of Christ in the Church », PPS, vol. 6, no.10
via Daily Gospel Online.

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Dom and I took the gang to Mass this morning at the pastoral center, which the kids call “going to Mass at Daddy’s work.” It’s a treat as far as they are concerned. It’s a nice chapel there and a lovely Mass, short but beautiful. All the various nuns always oooh over the kids and plenty of Dom’s lay coworkers too, of course.

Last night I was afraid we weren’t going to make it. Every time I went into the boy’s room to turn out the lights Anthony’s eyes popped open and if I tried to flip them off, he’d cry. Finally around 11 he came out of his room and plopped himself on the office floor. I couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t sleeping. When I asked him if anything hurt he didn’t respond. And that’s unusual because when he had the ear infections he definitely told me his ears hurt. So I gave him some ibuprofen anyway and put him on the recliner in the living room. He didn’t get up after that but did get us up at 6 am, which was probably the only reason I made it.

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Didn’t go to Mass? It might not be a holy day of obligation where you are: “Only the ecclesiastical provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and Omaha (the state of Nebraska) continue to celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord on Thursday.”


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  • How interesting to hear it put this way.  I have found a lot of Catholics seem to take the “optional spiritual enrichment” line, mostly, it seemed to me, as a reaction against Protestantism. 

    I do always wonder about the lockstep sacramental path.  On the one hand, I don’t really like it—kids have differing developmental paths, right?  On the other hand, I know of several adults who came into/came back to the church because their children were in that milieu.  If there weren’t that peer environment to pull the kids in, I don’t know that the adults would have been pulled in either.

  • Kathy,

    That’s an interesting point about reaction against Protestantism. Weddell does talk about how talking about Jesus can seem too Protestant to many Catholics…. He becomes “he who must not be named.”

    I don’t think it has to be an either/or. No one is advocating that we stop forming children. And when you do certainly children will draw parents in. But the problem arises when that’s your primary strategy for getting adults in the door. There has to be a concerted effort to make disciples first of those adults who are already in the Church and then they in turn will be energized, motivated, and filled with the Spirit to go out and proclaim the Gospel to those who are not. When your primary focus becomes helping the adults to mature in their faith and to discover their charisms, then those adults will help to form the children and will also help to create the structures within the parish which will help to form more adults and to draw people in as well.

  • Yes, I’m interested—this book has been on my tbr list for awhile but I haven’t gotten to it yet. From what I have seen (and from the quotes you’ve pulled here), I think Weddell is spot on. Looking forward to your next post, too, Melanie.

  • I am assuming that the state of Catholic religious education in Catholic (CINO) schols, from the pulpit and in what you call CCD classes is pretty much the same as in Australia: at best Catholicism light is being taught and at worst a mixture of worship of the environment plus Eastern meditation plus social justice forms the basis of Religious ed classes.  If this has been the case for the last forty years then it is not surprising that: ‘Pew researchers found that attending CCD, youth groups, and evn Catholic high schools made little or no difference in whether or not an American Catholic teen ended up staying Catholic, becoming Protestant, or leave to become “unaffiliated.”

    I think Waddell’s ideas are great but they won’t take the place of instruction in authentic Catholicism.  Both and would be good.

    Bishops have to man up and root out all of the weeds of ersatz Catholicism from the pulpit and the schools and on a solid foundation of the Faith combined with:  an explicit, personal attachment to Christ—personal discipleship—is normative Catholicism as taught time and time again by the apostles and reiterated by the popes, councils, and saints of the Church.

  • Sharon,

    I think the state of Catholic religious education, the “Catholicism light” is a symptom rather than a root cause. Weddell argues, convincingly, that the proclamation of the kerygma, the good news of the Gospel, must come before catechesis. Under the catechesis/religious education model of promulgating the faith the assumption is that that proclamation happens within the family. But clearly that isn’t happening.

    No, I think the model itself is broken. If we’re going to stop at saying that poor cetechesis is the problem, then we aren’t digging deep enough. We aren’t asking how we got to the point where all we are offering is “Catholicism light.” What happened to the teachers and textbook makers? Why weren’t they formed correctly. If the catechesis model were sufficient we’d never have got to this point. At some point a generation of adults raised in Catholic families and attending Catholics schools or CCD programs missed the message. They didn’t develop a relationship with Christ and they didn’t become intentional disciples. They formed an erroneous idea of Catholicism as a cultural identity instead of a living faith in the person of Jesus Christ.

    I think the weeds got into the garden because we started to treat Catholicism as an academic subject that can be taught is schools or programs. Oh sure it worked for a long time because the entire culture was Catholic. Perhaps in part because the religious education was only one piece of the puzzle. Because the parents lived their faith, because there were lay associations and sodalities and all sorts of opportunities for adults to grow in mature discipleship, to encounter Christ in adoration and prayer and intentional communities.

    But the assumption became that a religious education program was sufficient unto itself. That somehow we could pass the faith on in an hour a week CCD classes or 5 day a week religion class in Catholic schools. We began to think of passing on the faith as a thing we did to children and lost the idea that adults need formation. We started treating confirmation as graduation from Catholic education as if at that point one was done with religious formation for good.

    And the point is that given the situation as it is just weeding out bad catechists and bad textbooks isn’t enough. The idea that teaching kids their faith in a classroom will ever be sufficient is faulty in its premise. It fundamentally misunderstands what it means to be a disciple.

    “I think Waddell’s ideas are great but they won’t take the place of instruction in authentic Catholicism.  Both and would be good.”

    But Waddell isn’t suggesting we get rid of instruction. She’s saying we need to rethink what instruction means, that catechesis isn’t how you make disciples but how you help someone who has already become a disciple to grow in their faith and knowledge and love of Christ. We are putting the cart in front of the horse, treating the symptoms rather than the cause. In fact she’s saying that precisely the way to “root out all of the weeds of ersatz Catholicism” is to go out and make disciples. Because thinking that having a lot of book knowledge about Catholicism can replace formation is ersatz Catholicism.

  • Anyway, I think my second blog post about the thresholds of conversion will help explain better why just reforming catechesis isn’t enough.

  • Hi Melanie,

    Yes, I’ve read the book, and I really enjoyed it!  Sherry was putting into words—and supporting with a) Church documents and b)experiences culled from her work with CSI—things I’d been seeing but was having a hard time communicating to others. 

    I really appreciated her discussion of the 5 thresholds, and her insightful grasp of several things, including her question, “What is your lived relationship with Christ, up to this point?” 

    One of the most exciting things about this book (to me) is her insistence that the laity are responsible for evangelizing/apostolate work, and how much instruction/equipping for that work she offers in this book. 

    I cd summarize it by saying she says this:  “Here: here’s what Church teaching says we’re to be doing.  Based on my experience from the last 10+ years, here are some things that work better than other things—and while we’re at it, here are some things to really get you thinking again/more deeply about this whole topic in the Church and in your life.”

    I also bought “I Once Was Lost” by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp; they were the two who discovered the 5 thresholds and wrote about it. 

    What I’m appreciating about the book (and why I want to read it again) is that I really want to hear/see/know some context and how-to’s re: evangelizing—and I feel like Sherry’s really given me/us a lot of that in this book.

    Six thumbs up wink