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Beating Back the Gates of Hell: How a Weak Church Strengthens Saint & Sinne...

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Vallombrosa Center

250 Oak Grove Avenue

Menlo Park, CA 94025

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Weekend Retreat with new Auxillary Bishop Robert Christian.


Beating Back the Gates of Hell: How a Weak Church Strengthens Saint & Sinners.

Join our new Auxiliary Bishop and Rector of St. Patrick Seminary, Robert Christian and explore how, without sugarcoating anything, and without being in denial about the presence of personal and structural sin in the Church, we can live, in His Church, in Jesus' victory: We CAN snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Renew yourself, renew the Church. Starts July 26, but will SELL OUT.


TENTATIVE SCHEDULE:

FRIDAY:

How Weak IS the Church? We shall examine the evidence of a “de-Churching” of the population in the United States and elsewhere, and we shall see that the malaise among Catholics is shared by many other Christian communities.

At the same time, we shall note that evangelical and Pentecostal groups are growing.

This leads us to examine the question, Is the Church to be more concerned with maintenance or with mission? If she is to be concerned with mission, this will require a resolve to make use of all people, saints and sinner alike, who have received the sacraments of Christian initiation to share, through the power of the Spirit given in Confirmation, the faith that must be handed on.

SATURDAY:

(Morning) Satan and Sin. We shall look at the Church’s teaching on Satan and God’s universal salvific will, and ask the questions, To what extent am I responsible for the evil I do? What effect does the devil have on my moral choices? What did Pope Paul VI mean when he referred to the smoke of Satan in the Church? What spiritual remedies does the Church have to combat Satan who “prowls throughout the world, seeking the ruin of souls”?

(Afternoon) “By what authority?”: the lack of credibility of the claim that the Church has the power to bind and loose in Jesus’ name. Not only the recent scandals in the Church, but also the renewal of her life in the past fifty years, can lead people to think that the Church is the source of her own authority—that she self-proclaims what she has a right to demand. It is necessary to distinguish the human and divine realities of the Church, just as one distinguishes the human and divine natures in Christ. The Church, like Christ, is not made up of human and divine “halves,” but is at once both human and divine. Her authority over what is changeable can indeed look different over time, but her authority over what is divine and perennial is truly God-given. It therefore behooves thinking Catholics to distinguish between the Church’s decisions regarding relatively peripheral matters like fasting, from matters at the heart of the spiritual life, like the Eucharist. At the same time, it must be sorrowfully acknowledged that the sins of prominent Church leaders deprive their decisions in central matters of credibility.

The same can be said regarding matters of authoritative teaching. We shall explore the differences between teachings requiring the assent of faith, and other teachings that do not require assent, but do expect “religious respect” (obsequium religiosum). By so doing, we shall learn that disagreement among committed Christians is not always evidence that someone is wrong and, possibly, blameworthy, but rather, evidence that the Church is still seeking to articulate with clarity what (a) she believes, and (b) what she believes should be believed.

(Evening) The Development of the Church’s Social Teaching. The key idea of this conference is to apply the notion of development to Catholic teaching. We shall see that development is a fairly complex reality demanding analysis of changing situations and the attempt to apply what has been received through Scripture and Tradition to those changing realities. It is not always easy to apply time-honored notions to novel circumstances (we can think of debates about the nature of matrimony, for example), and recognizing the difficulty means that at one and the same time, the Church’s magisterium is certain of her principles, but not equally certain of how those principles relate in the concrete to new circumstances. Yet, as Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) notes, it is precisely because the Church is certain of her heavenly goal that she immerses herself in the task of promoting a world that is “more human.”

SUNDAY

Fidelity to One Faith in a Society that Is Multicultural, with Clashing Values (Sunday morning): The Church claims to be the sacrament of Christ, the chosen sign and instrument of Christ, the only Savior, to save the human race from sin. Such a sweeping claim sounds arrogant, particularly in light of recent scandals and a pervasive view of religion as intolerant, even violent. Yet a clear understanding of these claims is necessary to understand how the weak Church is strong, even in the lives of those who have no knowledge of Jesus Christ. Examining, with the help of liturgical texts, how the Church understands her unique role in the salvation of all who will be saved, enables us to affirm that even in her weakness, the Church possesses the power of the Almighty that serves to better both saint and sinner.

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Vallombrosa Center

250 Oak Grove Avenue

Menlo Park, CA 94025

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