A member of the tnrs family, a regular commenter here, suffered a great tragedy in her family yesterday. She let me know but asked me not to post the news she gave me. I will not give details or say who until she does, but I ask all of our tnrs family to offer special prayers today for one of our own. God knows who you will be praying for even if you don’t for a while. Thank you and God bless. –CJ
By Charlie Johnston
We have been getting many requests for me to come out on visits, make presentations and give interviews. For any who have requests, contact my volunteer assistant, Mary, at firstname.lastname@example.org. For the most part, I will not be making final decisions to go onto the calendar until April. I do not expect to make a lengthy, sustained tour this year like I did last year, so let me tell you a little about what I do expect to do.
Last year, knowing that cultural and institutional marginalization of Christians would grow very visible and intense, my thinking was that by getting crowds together across the country, it would show people that they were not alone, that though media and political types wanted to make them feel isolated and weird, they had many right in their own community who shared their love of God and their values. It was an effort to combat that marginalization and to lay seeds of people who could work together to proclaim the faith right where they are at. I figured that even if only 30 or so gathered in each location, it would be enough to instill confidence in the faithful who were being marginalized. It ended up working out better than I ever imagined. The average crowd size was about 120-140. I could see the moment when people would look around and realize they were not alone at all, that they were not weird, that they were not the ones who were out of step in these times. It filled me with joy to see people taking renewed hope and confidence that they were not alone in their commitment to the faith.
The first step this year is to get public Eucharistic and Marian Processions going around the country and the world. It is a bold proclamation of our faith in the midst of the dying toxic culture of death trying to marginalize actively faithful Christians out of existence. Bold does not mean contentious. We call, instead, on the Lord, recognizing the battle is always His – and that our first duty is to call on and follow Him. We walk between our two great pillars, Christ in the Eucharist and Holy Mary. Contentiousness is usually bred by fear of loss – that things are slipping away from us, by malice – or by both. When we turn to our two great pillars, we know the victory is ours and so can be magnanimous and calm even amidst resistance and attacks. We know we advocate on behalf of even those who oppose us, for God wants all His children to come back to Him. The Jericho Procession in Denver last weekend, precisely because it was prayerful and peaceful, gave a powerful witness that the most finely crafted arguments never could.
The first rule of the Processions is to keep it simple, simple enough so the guy who has not been to Church in a decade but who sees how bad things have become, can look and say, “I can do that – and I’m going to do that.” Many have seen how badly the “experts,” the “intellectuals,” and the elites hostile to any expression of traditional faith have botched things – and are ready to try something different, something that once gave life and hope, something that gave simple joy in everyday life. Our job is to make sure NOT to drive them away with heavy requirements, but to gather them in. We are matchmakers of a sort: help those who have lost faith, who have drifted into hopelessness fall in love anew with the faith. Increasingly refined expressions of that faith will follow – and become a joy, a new delightful discovery rather than a burden. We seek to make this the best first date ever for multitudes – and to do that, we need to hold off on heavy, complicated devotions. Stick with the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplets or other such simple and familiar practices that will be easily accessible for newcomers. Invite people to fall in love anew. That is your criteria for success, not how complicated the devotions you get them to embrace on this first date.
There is another key dimension to planning these Processions. For decades, the fraternal and filial bonds of affection between the laity and our Priests and Bishops have been fraying, tattered by scandal, clericalism, indifference, and growing public and spiritual disorder. The clergy have largely been reduced to mere bureaucrats, trying to stay out of trouble and controversy while administering Sacraments to often contentious flocks. Much of the laity has been reduced to mere consumers, coming to receive but resentful of any serious efforts to amend their hearts, outside of Sunday mornings. Enough. The laity has a true apostolate and are called to spread the Gospel message through the world through the refinement with which they live their ordinary work and everyday discourse. This is something our spiritual leaders cannot do on their own. Yet leadership can only come from the clergy, for they have been appointed by God for that purpose. A flock which ignores its shepherd is a confused muddle. A shepherd with no flock is pitiable.
This must be mounted so that the Priests and Bishops called upon to lead do not have it as another burden to be borne, but as an opportunity to have more people get actively involved in ministry to help them, to build those fraternal and filial bonds of affection and collaboration which make for an effective and fruitful team – as an opportunity to live their vocations in full together with an energized laity who are living their apostolate in full under their guidance. This is a means to build the spiritual and temporal infrastructure to go forth and preach – by living it publicly – the Gospel to all the world.
Though I will certainly be at some of these Processions, I will not routinely plan to go wherever they are mounted. This is not my project, but yours, and my work is to get together resources to help you do it effectively. When I participate at a Procession I will NOT speak or play any significant role other than as a lay faithful standing with the Bishop, Priest or Deacon who is leading us. If I am to give a presentation of any sort, it must be separate in the evening or the day before the Procession. No Procession is to be used as a vehicle to promote any presentation of mine, though any presentation I make will be used to promote the Procession you have put together.
Most of the travel I do this year will be to conferences, both public and private. For stand-alone visits, I will give preference to places I did not get to last year. I will go to places I already have mainly when it is connected with some other thing I am doing. In early May, in conjunction with a family celebration, I will visit with my friends in Birmingham and attend the dedication of a Chapel in Atlanta. This weekend I have a whirlwind series of meetings in the Midwest culminating in participating in a huge public Procession in Milwaukee.
Mainly, this year I will work to help you with what you need to get Processions going, to provide you with a schedule of those upcoming, and to give you reports from people who were there with pictures – and offer these to various media outlets. I will also work to build communication and mutual support with the groups that rose last year as I visited. I dearly want them working in their dioceses to build that Culture of Life and help bring hope to multitudes right around them – under the guidance and direction of their Priests, Deacons and Bishops, while comparing notes with other such groups around the country and the world on what is working and what is not..
Last year was about going out and assuring people that they were not alone – and doing it by letting them see how many in their own communities were hungry for the hope that is in Christ. This year is about mobilizing all of you to go forth, to give witness in your own communities, to do it all under the guidance and direction of your Bishops, Priests and Deacons. This is what the beginning of Rescue looks like.