Monday, May 28, 2007

Study: College students get an A in narcissism

I offer the following without comment:

NEW YORK — Today’s college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors, according to a comprehensive new study by five psychologists who worry that the trend could be harmful to personal relationships and American society.

“We need to stop endlessly repeating ’You’re special’ and having children repeat that back,” said the study’s lead author, professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. “Kids are self-centered enough already.”

Twenge and her colleagues, in findings to be presented at a workshop Tuesday in San Diego on the generation gap, examined the responses of 16,475 college students nationwide who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006.

Read more: Study: College students get an A in narcissism

Committment to Transformation

Here's a comment I left over at Intentional Disciples. I wrote the post a while ago, but I think the information may be of interest to some.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Hi Keith,

Thank you, and to everyone at Intentional Disciples, for your thoughtful and challenging posts.

Regarding the parish council--in the Orthodox Church the council serves an active administrative role in the life of the parish (something that is at best a mixed blessing for the priest). In missions, I've been able to build on this administrative role to have the council work as active participants/leaders in the pastoral life of the parish.

While it can be done, I think based on my own experience anyway, there need to be clearly articulated boundaries and expectations. Again, when it works it is a great joy and blessing. But when it doesn't work it typically doesn't because someone comes on council with an agenda of power and control. When this happens quite literally all hell breaks loose.

From my experience the key seems to be having people on parish council whom(1) the pastor knows from his personal experience of the person in confession, is serious about the spiritual life and (2) this person demonstrates that commitment by actively working to help others discover and exercise their own gifts on behalf of Christ and His Church. As person who doesn't trust the pastor enough to come to confession and/or who doesn't trust his neighbors enough to make room for them to exercise their own gifts, is someone who you don't want on parish council.

Just some thoughts. Keep up the good and Godly work.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

The Parish: Mission or Maintenance?

Fr. Michael Sweeney, O.P. and Sherry Anne Weddell have a real good post over at The Catherine of Siena Institute. The begin by quoting Pope John Paul II:“Throw open the doors to Christ!

They continue:

Pope John Paul II inaugurated his pontificate with this invitation to the world; now he inaugurates a new Christian millennium with the same invitation. And, throughout the Church, we are witnessing a remarkable convergence of signs of renewal of the Church in her mission to the world. The apostolic role of the laity has been resoundingly affirmed and promoted at the highest levels of the Church for the first time in our history. The Holy Father has called the whole Church to re-dedicate all her energies to the new evangelization. Lay Catholics who assume personal responsibility for the Church’s evangelical mission are emerging by the millions all over the globe. A dramatic shift in the historic relationship between clergy and laity is well underway, which has important implications for all Catholic leaders who work with lay people.

It is our conviction that, through these historic developments, the Holy Spirit is both illumining and empowering the office of the ordained, and releasing the full vigor of the lay apostolate, for the sake of Christ’s redeeming purposes in the world. But something even more unexpected is happening. As the apostolic gifts and call of the laity have become evident, the apostolic potential of the parish – the one truly universal Catholic institution and the place where ninety-eight percent of Catholics have their only contact with the Church– has also been revealed in a whole new light. No longer can the parish be simply a place where the laity receive the spiritual goods of the Church. If all lay Catholics are apostles to the world as the Church teaches, then the institutions that nourish them must become places of apostolic formation, support, and consultation. The worldwide network of parishes that has sustained the faith of lay Catholics for centuries can and must become primary centers of lay formation and outreach to the world. We would like to explore with you the theological and practical implications of this new challenge.

Interested? Then read the rest here: The Parish: Mission or Maintenance? and please leave your thought.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Listening While Sitting in a Coffee Shop

I love sitting in coffee shops. When I lived in Redding, CA I built a parish by sitting in coffee shop (Sue's Java) 1-2 hours/day 3-5 days a week. I learn an awful lot about people and the community just listening to people and watching them interact with one another.

Having spent almost 11 years now as a priest serving missions parishes and college students, I guess I've developed what might be called a rather eccentric view of the Orthodox Church. Or maybe more accurately, the ministry of the Orthodox Church here in the good ol' US of A. While I think we serve well the people we serve, I fear that we really do not serve all that many of the men and women who are Orthodox. When I look at the vast majority of people who we do not reach because they are not Orthodox, the amount of work facing us is unbelievable.

Looking at things from my own perspective I think that we have allowed ourselves to become rather passive. We are happy to serve those who come to us and meet our expectations. We seem curiously unwilling to allow ourselves to be challenged, to be changed by the needs of others.

The change that comes from serving others as the come to us is not a change in essentials, but priorities. This doesn't mean, as Roman Catholics and Protestants discovered, allowing the world to set the agenda for the Church. Rather, we need to ask ourselves, what are the unmet needs that I see around me?

For example, a few moments ago I heard someone use the phrase "real money." This struck me as an odd phrase since, well, money isn't real is it? It is a culturally agreed upon medium of exchange. Money is inherently artificial, as clear an example of a culturally conditioned object as we might hope to find. Anyone who has had the opportunity to travel to foreign country knows how odd and "unnatural" it can feel to try and buy things with someone else's currency. It just doesn't quite feel right.

And of course is doesn't feel right because I mistake something purely cultural (US currency) as being universal.

Likewise, I can rather easily confuse the parts of the Gospel that feel natural to me (because of the culture in which I was raised or, somewhat more narrowly, my own preferences) with being the whole of the Gospel, or at least the most important parts of the Gospel.

Having lived now in Pittsburgh for the past 4 years, I have been struck with how important buildings seem to be for many Orthodox Christians. Of course church buildings (and what is really "critical," halls) have their role to play. But often the building drives the agenda. Committing ourselves to large buildings means committing ourselves as well to having a community that can sustain financially our large building.

While this isn't necessarily wrong, it does mean that a parish must place a fairly high value on its own long term stability. The easiest way to stability is uniformity--"our people"--in the rather common phrase of Orthodox Christians here in western Pennsylvania. But uniformity means we either ask people to conform to our agenda or we ask them to leave. Again, within limits, this is appropriate--but these limits are not (or should not be) drawn by the need to maintain a building.

I guess what I'm saying is that while I don't want us to do away with buildings, we need to develop additional, more flexible, forms of ministry if we hope to reach even a small percentage of the large numbers of lapsed Orthodox Christians and unchurched out there. What these ministries might look like is unclear to me, but I think the idea of developing means of service and outreach that is not dependent upon a building is exciting and worth investing in financially and personally.

The Apostles were wandering preachers who established communities and moved on. Especially here in America this has proven to be a successful form of ministry and might be worth incorporating more intentionally in the Church's.

Other areas for service are schools, hospitals and counseling agencies. I have often come to appreciate the value of small groups that meet informally in people's homes, or coffee shops, for prayer, study and mutual support. Yes, all of these forms of ministry have their limitations, chief among them is that we can naively, or proudly, assume that they are REAL ministries and the stuff that happens in the parish is, well, not really real.

But this confusion is not limited to informal or non-parochial forms of ministry. We all of us our tempted to assume that what we do with what we all ought to do. It is rather easy to universalize our own prejudices.

What will the future of Orthodox Christian minstry in America look like? I don't know. But I hope that in addition to the good work that takes place in parishes we might see a growth in non-parochial work as well.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory