Tag Archives: Acta Publications

Time for your Catholic parish to change?

February 12, 2014

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HolinessCultureDoes your parish have lackluster Sunday Masses where people mumble the responses, where only a third of the people sing and where almost everyone skips past the cup at Communion time?

Is the culture of your parish one that allows its members to come and go, live and die, without really being engaged in their faith?

If you’d like to get started helping to reinvigorate your parish so its members have the kind of encounter with Christ which leads to conversion, a richer community life and action that serves others — one that draws others to it because it is so attractive a lifestyle — then Bill Huebsch has a book for you.

“A Culture of Holiness for the Parish” (Acta Publications) is a mere 82 pages in the size of paperback that easily fits into a pocket or purse, but it’s filled with wisdom about the Catholic faith. Huebsch, who is director of pastoral planning, com and its online Vatican II Center, has grasped the meat of what the Second Vatican Council expects of Catholics, and his well-structured process to help Catholic parishes meet those expectations are presented in language others can grasp, too.

Pastors, parish ministers and core leaders of parish ministries and organizations show the way by sharing their own personal stories of seeing God active in their lives. As parishioners feel comfortable telling others about the holiness they feel and see, about the times they’ve been touched by an event or times they’ve felt God in their lives, “home lives are imbued with hospitality, forgiveness and love,” Huebsch writes, and “a new orientation of self-giving love seeps into parish life and reaches out in action to the wider community.”

Through “A Culture of Holiness for the Parish,” any parish can plan, launch and sustain a Catholic community which others will notice for the way its members love God and love their neighbor. Worth a try?

 

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When you least expect it, God shows up

November 26, 2012

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God puts us where he wants us.

He puts others where he wants them, too.

Sometimes our stories and those of others become enjoined, our “where” and the “where” of others come together, and God makes his presence felt. That’s what seems to happen in ”Unexpected Presence,” a gathering of a dozen stories destined to awaken one’s spirituality and remind us we’re all part of a greater story.

In less than an hour you’ll breeze through this little, pocket-size ACTA Publications collection that’s subtitled “Twelve Surprising Encounters with the Divine Spirit.”

These are first-person pieces, the longest only 13 pages and a couple only six. Every one is a winner, though, a credit to Dave Fortier who wrote one of them and edited the rest.

A few of the writers are published authors, but not all.

Alice Camille, a well-known Catholic writer and religious educator,  shares the time when, burned out on church work and temporarily employed at an incense factory, she had to explain the parable of The Prodigal Son to her co-workers. It’s an unforgettable anecdote you’ll find yourself re-telling others.

Charlotte Bruney is a lay pastoral administrator in New York who writes about the Holy Week she spent not at the church services she loves but as chaplain in a university hospital with a very busy trauma center. She notes, “Its steady diet of tragedy felt to me like an eternal Lent.” Instead of attending the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday or venerating the cross on Good Friday, Bruney tells of baptizing an infant with a massive tumor, of holding the hand of a suicidal heroin addict going through withdrawal, of bringing communion to a woman with an irreversible condition, of encouraging a scared teen to go through with a bone marrow transplant — and finding God in each setting. She writes:

I was not where I wanted to be that week; it was not what I wanted to be doing. Still, should I really be so surpassed to find the Divine One lurking in the darkest of places?

These are heartfelt and heart-warming stories all. You love the punch line from Donald Paglia, the head of a diocesan family life office who finds that parenting is the last thing he wants to do one evening.

Fortier’s own “confession” is a worthy entry, too, one that will make readers reflect on, as he puts it, “the greater story” often hidden as we make our judgments about those whose lives touch ours. These are stories that reveal God alive in our world, and that’s something we all need to be reminded of. — BZ

 

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Are American Catholic funerals ‘off the track’?

November 17, 2011

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Funerals aren’t what they used to be.

That’s the gist of the foreword to a book I’ve just gotten into.

The title is “Great American Catholic Eulogies” (Acta Publications out of Chicago), and it’s just that — a collection of eulogies of folks who are Catholic and whose names many of us will recognize: Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Flannery O’Connor, Joyce Kilmer, Dorothy Day.

There’s 50 in all, and the eulogizers are often just as well known as the person be eulogized: Grantland Rice (on Babe Ruth); Maria Schriver (on Tim Russert), Ronald Reagan (on John F. Kennedy).

I can’t wait to read these, but I was stopped by the following excerpt in the foreword and had to share it with somebody. It’s written by Thomas Lynch, an undertaker. Needless to say he attends a lot of funerals. I wondered how many of us would disagree with him, or like me find themselves nodding in agreement.

Here goes:

“…the ritual wheel that worked the space between the living and the dead still got us where we needed to go. It made room for the good laugh, the good cry, and the power of faith brought to bear on the mystery of mortality….

“For many Americans, however, that wheel has gotten off track or needs to be reinvented. The loosened ties of faith and family, of religious and ethnic identity, have left them ritually adrift, bereft of custom, symbol, metaphor, and meaningful liturgy or language. Many Americans are now spiritual tourists without home places or core beliefs to return to.  Rather than dead Mormons or Muslims, Catholics or Buddhists, we are now dead golfers or gardeners, bikers or bowlers. The bereaved are not so much family and friends or fellow believers as like-minded hobbyists or enthusiasts. And I have become less the funeral director and more the memorial caddy of sorts, getting the dead out of the way and the living assembled for a memorial ‘event’ that is neither sacred nor secular but increasingly absurd — a triumph of accessories over essentials, stuff over substance, theme over theology.

“The genuine dead are downsized or disappeared and we are left with memorial services where the finger food is good, the music transcendent, the talk determinedly ‘life affirming,’ the accouterments all purposefully cheering and inclusive, and where someone can be counted on to declare ‘closure’ just before the merlot runs out.”

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Catholic joke book offers a lot to smile about

November 7, 2011

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A boy comes home from Catholic school and tells his mother he has a part in the class play.

She asks, “What part is it?”

The boys says, “I get to play the part of a husband.”

The mother scowls and says, “Go back and tell the teacher you want a speaking part.”

He’s got a million of ‘em, does Deacon Tom Sheridan.

And they’re not all that lame.

In “The Third Book of Catholic Jokes,” Sheridan offers a collection centered on aging and relationships, and chances are you’ll chuckle at the majority.

You may very well have heard versions of some minus the Catholic angle, but that doesn’t detract from what I think is the real service Deacon Tom is doing with all three books in this series: All these are jokes one can tell in mixed company — and even in church. You’ll find these Acta Publications paperbacks at most religious goods stores.

Here’s my personal favorite joke from book number three:

At 75, the elderly pastor was finally retired and enjoying his one passion: fishing.

He was sitting in his boat when he heard a voice cry, “Pick me up; pick me up!”

Looking around, he couldnsee anyone. He thought he was dreaming until he heard the voice again, “Pick me up.” He looked in the water and there, floating on a lily pad, was a frog.

“The priest said, “Are you talking to me?”

“Yes,” the frong repled. “Pick me up, kiss me, and I’ll turn into the most beautiful woman you’ve ever see. I’ll make sure that all your friends are envious and jealous because I’ll be your bride.”

The pirest looked at the frog, reached over and picked it up carefully. Then he dropped the frog into his front pocket.

From the depths of the pocket the frog cried out, “Are you nuts? Didn’t you hears what I said? Kiss me and I’ll be your beautiful bride.”

The priest opened his pocket looked down at the frog and said, “Nah. At my age it’s too late. I’d rather have a talking frog.”

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God and grace are everywhere in Brian Doyle’s world

October 31, 2011

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It’s 5:59 a.m. on a Wednesday and I’m reading and laughing aloud at one end of the house, trying not to stir Sleeping Beauty at the other end. Five days later, at 6:05 a.m., instant replay. Brian Doyle and “Grace Notes” is to blame.

This is writing to savor in the silence and holiness before the rest of the world wakens.

Goodness the man can write.

Lord he can tell a story.

In “Grace Notes” Doyle tells 37 of them, about himself,  about his family, about people and things you’d never think someone would write about but when you’d finished reading you were glad Brian Doyle became a writer.

There’s a good balance of Doyle stories and other people stories in this 148-page Acta Publications paperback. He goes into tell-all phase about his interior life. He’s an amazingly acute observer of his kids and his wife, who he is quick to admit he doesn’t understand. That’s the laugh-aloud funny stuff.

But he’s at his best giving voice to others, a wonderfully eclectic mix whose lives you’ll be so glad you entered — even if vicariously through ink on paper.

There’s the woman on the bus who talks about wanting to have a child but whose husband is apprehensive, the parents dropping off their daughter for college and crying as they do so, the people behind the stories behind those white crosses we all see on the side of the highway.

Hope is everywhere

Doyle sees the grace in every corner of life. Here’s what I mean — you’ll recognize a key phrase in this quote:

“Look, I know very well that brooding misshapen evil is everywhere, in the brightest houses and the most cheerful denials, in what we do and what we have failed to do, and I know all too well that the story of the world is entropy, things fly apart, we sicken, we fail, we grow weary, we divorce, we are hammered and hounded by loss and accidents and tragedies. But I also know, with all my hoary muddled heart, that we are carved of immense confusing holiness; that the whole point for us is grace under duress; and that you either take a flying leap at nonsensical illogical unreasonable ideas like marriage and marathons and democracy and divinity, or you huddle behind the wall. I believe that the coolest things there are cannot be measured, calibrated, calculated, gauged, weighed, or understood except sometimes by having a child patiently explain it to you, which is another thing that should happen far more often to us all.

“In short, I believe in believing, which doesn’t make sense, which gives me hope.”

My favorite might be the story of the man who, as both a policeman in his town and a soldier, is the one who knocks on doors to tell mothers and father and wives and husbands that their son or daughter or husband or wife is dead.

The holiness pours from this man in his respect for people, his respect for life. Catch this, through Doyle’s writing: “You mostly just listen. People tell stories. Often their first reaction, after the initial shock and grief, is to tell stories….People tell me I should write them down but I feel that they are private stories, you know, stories that only came to me because someone’s heart broke in the kitchen.”

Finally, you won’t want to miss Doyle’s amazing lists of who is going to get into heaven and how they’ll be scrutinized — and by whom — before being allowed in. It’s priceless. Doyle is one of our generation’s great Catholic writers.– bz

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Golf book offers chance to sharpen your short game with God

March 11, 2009

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“And God Said Tee It Up!”,

by Gary Graf

Gary Graf is not a theologian, nor does he pretend to be.

But he’s done a whale of a job of research about both great memories in professional golf history and down-to-earth spirituality that move readers painlessly from the the fairway to reflecting on their own relationship with God.

The stories about golf’s great moments and the detail that describes the particular holes at great golf courses like St. Andrew’s, Winged Foot, Troon, Oakmont and Pebble Beach are likely to be gobbled up by sports fans.

When it comes to connecting those moment to faith, Graf takes more of a regular-guy, meat-and-potatoes approach. A scholar might take exception to linking which club to use to appreciating all the gifts God gives us, but you know, it’s really not all that much of a stretch. And Greg Norman’s dying — in the Masters — and rising to terrific success in several businesses is a good reminder of not only Jesus’ dying and rising but our own.

As Graf writes, “Granted, Norman’s fall and subsequent rise are but poor human analogies to something divine and mysterious. But each and every day we must die to something old and rise to something new. . . . Life presents us with the opportunity for rebirth, if we are open to it. As for Jesus, paradoxically his most devastating moment — his crucifixion — was the catalyst for his crowning glory.”

Take a hole at a time

Each chapter heading is a hole on a golf course — including the 19th, the post-match session in the clubhouse to congratulate and commiserate — and that makes for 19 short reading sessions if you read a chapter at a time.

That would be a good way to play — I mean, read — “And God Said Tee It Up!”

You can only absorb so many golf facts and so much golf history in one setting before they become a blur, and that will give you time to reflect on the spiritual points that Graf offers for pondering in each chapter.

The stories of Lee Trevino, Payne Stewart, Arnold Palmer and more are good copy, as are the background anecdotes about the naming of holes called “The Pulpit” and “The Valley of Sin,” the berms called “Church Pews,” and the course called “The Sistine Chapel of Golf” — Cypress Point Club at Pebble Beach, where “every hole is a work of art.”

Thanks to Acta Publications for being willing to get “Tee It Up” into print. — bz

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