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A special tradition.

Pic@salmon

Pic@salmon

Every year on the last Sunday before Christmas, we bring our Baby Jesus to the church for a ‘Blessing of the Bambini’. We love this tradition and look forward to it every Christmastime. Our Bambino is so content and happy.

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An Advent Message from Southwark’s Shepherd.

advent_12_pastoral (1)I am particularly fond of our spiritual Shepherd who oversees the vast pastures of the diocese of Southwark: His Grace, Archbishop Peter Smith.  His Advent pastoral letter  is worth ‘chewing over’ as he highlights the ever important alertness to be taken by Christians to live as faithful followers of Christ.archbishop_peter_160(Highlighted text is my comment)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The season of Advent is given to us as a “spiritual wake-up call” as we prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and look, in the longer term, to the final coming of Christ and the completion of the Kingdom of God at the end of time. (As Christians, we await Christ’s return to earth, our lives should be lived as such, not just as Christmas time.) In today’s Gospel, Jesus urges his disciples to “stay awake”. Advent, which begins the Church’s new liturgical year, is a time for us to be alive and awake, to become ever more watchful and faithful disciples. It is a time to witness to the life and hope which has been given to us in and through Jesus Christ, in whom we see made visible the God we cannot see. It is a time to look forward with hope and confidence to renewing our personal relationship with Christ in our hearts so that we can live out our faith in our daily lives. (We need Spiritual ‘fuel’ to keep us going on this Christian Journey:- Advent is the perfect stop to refuel and re-energize) A key question for each of us, is to ask “What is God asking of me?” This is the question which I want each of you to consider and reflect upon prayerfully, not only this Advent, but throughout the course of this Year of Faith.

Beginning with the Incarnation, and culminating in the Paschal Mystery, the coming of Christ reveals and celebrates God’s faithful and unconditional love for all people and for all time. He revealed himself as the God of unconditional love and compassion, who has a passionate care and concern for our salvation and our eternal well-being. Advent is a unique opportunity each year to allow God to deepen our faith and proclaim that love by the way we live and relate to others. It is especially a time, given to us by the Church, for us to focus on our relationship with the person of the risen Christ – an opportunity to make a new start with ourselves, with God and with others. It provides a more focused time to open our hearts to God in prayer, to allow God’s grace to change and mould us into clearer images of Jesus Christ, and to live as renewed and more faithful disciples. So we need to take to heart Christ’s challenge to all of us in today’s Gospel: “Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.”

We cannot hope to be changed, to be gradually transformed into more mature disciples, unless we keep alert to the opportunities of grace which God offers us day by day. The work of transformation and redemption is God’s work. It is literally a “labour of love” which God pursues through, with and in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This season of Advent is a special time for us to co-operate with that work, opening our hearts to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. It is a time for us to make use of all the means which Christ has given his Church for our renewal and transformation – especially the gift of Holy Scripture, the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, and the gift of personal prayer. (This paragraph to me, is the most important part of the message.There’s nothing new being said here, but it is set perfectly in the context of the whole letter) 

Pope John Paul II, (The one and only!)whose life and ministry made such a profound impact not only on the Church but on the whole world, reminded us that, “To be Christians has never been easy, and it isn’t easy today either. To follow Christ means having the courage to make radical choices that often go against the current. (The ever-present secular tidal-wave.)Do not be afraid to accept this challenge. Be holy men and women. Do not forget that the fruits of the apostolate depend on the depth of the spiritual life, on the intensity of prayer, of continual formation and sincere adhesion to the directives of the Church.” (We are always growing as Christians into the person that God intends us to become. We’ll never know all there is to know. This is the beauty of our Faith. By SINCERELY following the directives of the Church, we’ll be taking steps on the path of knowledge, understanding and Truth.)

Through the Church, God, in Christ, offers us again and again the love, nourishment and strength we need to continue on our journey of faith – a journey towards the fullness of life and love in the kingdom of our heavenly Father. (This is the reason why we, as Christians need to be an active parishioner in our churches.) As we make that journey day by day, we should do so with hope, confidence and joy. These are gifts of the Holy Spirit which we need to ask for in our prayer, and which he asks us to share with those around us. We are called to be the “light of the nations”, the “salt of the earth”. Like Christ we too live with the life of the Holy Spirit and we too are called “to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.” (Lk. 4: 18-19)

We are all called to proclaim the Gospel in the first place by the way we live. And we can only do that if we open our hearts fully and allow the Spirit, who dwells in the very depths of our being, to transform us more and more into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. Only with his help will we have the courage, the strength and the power to do as he asks of us – to proclaim the Gospel of God’s love, to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to welcome the stranger, to clothe the naked, and to visit the sick and those in prison. I pray that each one of us may grasp the opportunity that Advent gives us, listening to God’s Word, rejoicing in his gifts and confident of his love for us and for all people.

“Father in heaven, our hearts desire the warmth of your love,
and our minds are searching for the light of your Word.
Increase our longing for Christ our Saviour
and give us the strength to grow in love,
that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence
and welcoming the light of his truth.”
Yours devotedly in Christ,

Archbishop of Southwark

Given at Southwark,
26th November 2012

A bit of reading to do during the Year of Faith.

Papa Bene has asked that the faithful read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

 

  • Everything that the Church believes is  contained in this impressive publication. If you’d prefer to receive bite-size chunks at a time, click on the link on the left of this block and sign up for daily mails from flocknote. Not an easy read, but amazing just the same.
  • YOUCAT is a new publication aimed at teenagers. Both available at any reputable bookshop. Click on the link and take a look at the resources available on-line.  Hip, happening and user-friendly! Irresistible ..This is how our Pope introduced this publication to the youth: (my emphasis)

Today I recommend for your reading an unusual book. It is unusual both because of its content and because of the way it came to be. I would like to tell you a little about how it was written, because then it will be clear why it is so unusual.

You could say that it came to be from another work, whose origins go back to the 1980’s. It was a difficult time for the Church and for society worldwide. New guidance was needed to find the path to the future. After the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) and in a changed cultural situation, many people were confused about what Christians actually believe, what the Church teaches, whether in fact she can teach anything at all, and how everything can find its place in a culture that had changed from its very foundations. Is it still reasonable today to be a believer? These were the questions that even good Christians were asking.

At that time Pope John Paul II made a bold decision. He decided that bishops from all over the world should together write a book in which they would answer these questions. He gave me the task of coordinating the work of the bishops and seeing to it that from the contributions of the bishops a book would result—a real book, not just a haphazard collection of all sorts of documents. This book would have the old-fashioned title Catechism of the Catholic Church but would be something entirely new and exciting. It would show what the Catholic Church believes today and how one can with good reason believe.

I was alarmed by this task. I must admit that I doubted whether something like this could succeed. For how was it possible that authors scattered all over the world could together produce a readable book? How could men who not only geographically but also intellectually and spiritually lived on different continents create a text with an inner unity, one that would also be understandable throughout all those continents? And there was the further difficulty that these bishops would not be writing as individual authors but would be in contact with their brother bishops and with the people in their dioceses.

I must admit that even today it still seems to me to be a miracle that this project finally succeeded.’
Furthermore…he expounds after discussing the process by which he and Pope John Paul worked on the Catechism : (my emphasis)

So I invite you: Study this Catechism! That is my heartfelt desire.

This Catechism was not written to please you. It will not make life easy for you, because it demands of you a new life. It places before you the Gospel message as the “pearl of great value” (Mt 13:46) for which you must give everything. So I beg you: Study this Catechism with passion and perseverance. Make a sacrifice of your time for it! Study it in the quiet of your room; read it with a friend; form study groups and networks; share with each other on the Internet. By all means continue to talk with each other about your faith.

You need to know what you believe. You need to know your faith with that same precision with which an IT specialist knows the inner workings of a computer. You need to understand it like a good musician knows the piece he is playing. Yes, you need to be more deeply rooted in the faith than the generation of your parents so that you can engage the challenges and temptations of this time with strength and determination. You need God’s help if your faith is not going to dry up like a dewdrop in the sun, if you want to resist the blandishments of consumerism, if your love is not to drown in pornography, if you are not going to betray the weak and leave the vulnerable helpless.
If you are now going to apply yourselves zealously to the study of the Catechism, I want to give you one last thing to accompany you: You all know how deeply the community of faith has been wounded recently through the attacks of the evil one, through the penetration of sin itself into the interior, yes, into the heart of the Church. Do not make that an excuse to flee from the face of God! You yourselves are the Body of Christ, the Church! Bring the undiminished fire of your love into this Church whose countenance has so often been disfigured by man. “Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord!” (Rom 12:11). When Israel was at the lowest point in her history, God called for help, not from the great and honored ones of Israel, but from a young man by the name of Jeremiah. Jeremiah felt overwhelmed: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth” (Jer 1:6). But God was not to be deterred : “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you you shall go, and whatever I command you you shall speak” (Jer 1:7).
I bless you and pray each day for all of you.

Benedictus P.P. XVI

 Youcat website

 

THIS IS AN EXCERPT OF THE INTRODUCTION TO THE COMPENDIUM ON THE VATICAN WEBSITE:

”The Compendium is not a work that stands alone, nor is it intended in any way to replace the Catechism of the Catholic Church: instead, it refers constantly to theCatechism by means of reference numbers printed in the margins, as well as by consistent reliance on its structure, development and contents. In fact, theCompendium is meant to reawaken interest in and enthusiasm for the Catechism,which, in the wisdom of its presentation and the depth of its spirituality, always remains the basic text for catechesis in the Church today.

Like the Catechism, the Compendium has four parts, corresponding to the fundamental laws of life in Christ.

The first part, entitled “The Profession of Faith”, contains a synthesis of the lex credendi, the faith professed by the Catholic Church, as expressed in the Apostles’ Creed which is further elaborated by the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. In the liturgical profession of the Creed, the Christian assembly keeps the principal truths of the faith alive in memory.

The second part, entitled “The Celebration of the Christian Mystery”, presents the essential elements of the lex celebrandi. The proclamation of the Gospel finds its authentic response in the sacramental life, through which Christians experience and witness, in every moment of their existence, the saving power of the paschal mystery by which Christ has accomplished our redemption.

The third part, entitled “Life in Christ”, recalls the lex vivendi, through which the baptized manifest their commitment to the faith they have professed and celebrated, through their actions and ethical choices. The Christian faithful are called by the Lord Jesus to act in a way which befits their dignity as children of the Father in the charity of the Holy Spirit.

The fourth part, entitled “Christian Prayer”, summarizes the lex orandi, the life of prayer. Following the example of Jesus, the perfect model of one who prays, the Christian too is called to the dialogue with God in prayer. A privileged expression of prayer is the Our Father, the prayer that Jesus has taught us.”

On the cusp of a special year ahead.

 

I can’t help but feel excited (tinged with a little trepidation)  about the coming year of Faith which begins this week. It feels to me like a year that’s going to surpass any other in its importance and significance at this time on earth for devout as well as resting Catholics  in a Western culture steeped in secularism. The Church in Her wisdom, decides on ventures  over a period of years after much planning, debating and prayer. I think the decision about the Year of Faith could not have been better timed.

This evening at Mass, we heard a powerful message from our Archbishop Peter of Southwark, that ignited within an even more fervent desire to make a difference (however small) in this coming year.

Herewith an excerpt that made an impression on me: (emphasis is mine)

And quite recently Pope Benedict drew on that image of the Church, speaking of that participation of all the baptised in terms of the “co-responsibility” of all the baptised in proclaiming the Gospel. This is what he said: “Co-responsibility requires a change of mentality, particularly with regard to the laity in the Church, who should be considered not as ‘collaborators’ with the clergy, but as persons truly ‘co-responsible’ for the being and activity of the Church. It is important, therefore, that a mature and committed laity be united, who are able to make their own specific contribution to the Church’s mission, in accordance with the ministries and tasks each one has in the life of the Church, and always in cordial communion with the bishops. Your particular vocation as lay faithful, who are called to be courageous witnesses in every sphere of society, is that the Gospel might be the light that brings hope in difficult situations, in troubles and in the darkness that we today so often find along the path.” 

He goes on to say:

I also want to encourage every parish, either through the parish council or a specially commissioned group within the parish, to get together and determine what you can do as a parish community in co-operation with your parish priest, to participate fully in the Year of Faith. I think that will be a good way to foster Pope Benedict’s understanding of the exercise of ‘co-responsibility’ and build up our parishes as communities of prayer, of vibrant and confident faith and good works, open to welcome those who come in search of Our Saviour, Jesus Christ. And to discover too what gifts the Holy Spirit has given each of us to be committed and steadfast ‘proclaimers of the Gospel’ in our neighbourhoods, at work and wherever we take our leisure. May God bless you all in your endeavours, and let’s pray for each other and support each other in this great opportunity the Holy Father has given us.

How can his requests possibly be ignored? It feels so good to hear these directives from  the leader of the Flock here in Southwark. I feel motivated and rearing to go. I do like the idea of being a in a responsible partnership with our parish priest and I do hope that the other parishioners feel the same way.

Follow this link to read the Bishop’s entire letter.

 

Prayer of the month

“O Lord, accompany your missionaries in the lands to be evangelized, put the right words on their lips and make their labours fruitful.” 
May  the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Star of Evangelization, accompany all Gospel missionaries.
—from Pope Benedict’s 2012 Message for World Mission Day, quoting Blessed John Henry Newman

Learning The Faith. Sharing The Faith. Living the Faith.

 

Stained Glass window at Maryvale, Birmingham, at the shrine of The Sacred Heart.

I attended a Maryvale Institute study day yesterday as I am enrolled on the Certificate in Catechesis course. It’s  two years long, finishing for me at the end of 2013. The correct title for Maryvale being: International Catholic Distance-Learning College for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education.

These study days are as intense as they are uplifting, and I leave these sessions exhausted but itching to learn more. The aim of this course is to unpack the true teaching of the Church through knowledge of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, so that as messengers we can pass on the truths of the Faith accurately. We then spend the next three months studying and submitting essays and workshop topics. There is much to cover and sticking to a recommended hour a day reading and researching is a must in order to keep up with the workload. (the content is so absorbing that I end up spending as much as 2 hours a day reading and researching, when time allows.)

We start the study day with Mass and then go straight into lectures, facilitated by an enthusiastic Catechist with many years  experience under her belt. After a tea break and a delicious lunch, the two afternoon lectures are given by a visiting priest. The day concluded with Vespers (just so beautiful!!) and we felt blessed to be joined by a seminarian from the English College in Rome. Everything about the day is always just right. Not too much, not too little, just right.

Why have I decided to do this course? With the year of Faith upon us I want to be armed and ready with the Truth of our Faith when the opportunity comes along to share it. This piece sums up my feelings exactly:

The truth is that religion is important.  In fact, man is religious by nature.  We are created by God who made us for Himself.  God is always calling us to Him, drawing us toward Him, and our hearts naturally want to respond to that call.  St. Augustine famously said that our hearts are restless until they rest in God.  Religion is how God calls us and how we respond.  It’s how we enter into and sustain (and hopefully grow in) our relationship with God.  That’s why we can say that religion is natural to man.  To deny it, whether at a personal of societal level, is unnatural.  We are not fully human if we are not religious.  It’s also why government has to ensure its citizens the right to practice it freely.  Because the right to practice religion is not given to us by the state; it is given to us by God because He made us to be religious.

As members of the Church, we have an obligation to not only learn our faith but also to help others to learn it.  This is especially true for clergy and for parents who are the first teachers of the faith to the children that God has entrusted to them.  As Catholics, we believe that the Catholic Church possesses the fullness of the faith.  As human beings, we have a natural thirst for truth.  But truth ultimately is not a thing or an idea; it is a person.  Jesus Christ is Truth, and he who possesses truth possesses God.  That of course is a lot to possess, so we always have to continue studying our faith. (fatheracervo.com)

 

You have an invitation!

CONFESSION 1: Forgotten,ignored and definitely underrated.

 


The symbolism in this picture prompts a prayer from me:

I need Your mercy and forgiveness Lord: I reach out for  Your love, to be closer to You, to be reconciled with You;  I admit that I have strayed from Your path and that I have offended You in my thoughts, actions or words; I reach for greater intimacy with You my  Lord God and Saviour; I want Your Grace Lord, to renew me and open my eyes to You and in order to see how You want to use me for Your glory. Amen. 

I still call this Sacrament Confession however, this term is interchangeable with that of  RECONCILIATION. Ever since my first Reconciliation, this Sacrament remains an integral and indispensable  part of my relationship with Jesus. It has always been special because of  the Grace I receive through this Sacrament.

At a prayer group recently the topic of Reconciliation came up and I was surprised to find out that it is looked upon as a daunting experience. Yes, I am nervous at the thought of  confessing my sins to God but  I know that God instituted this Sacrament through Jesus, using His priests as conduits here on earth for the my benefit of my soul and my openness to the Grace which I receive at Holy Communion. I have experienced two Grace-filled times during  Holy Communion after having received absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It was just beautiful, so I continue to seek the tangible peace of the Lord again and again. Reconciliation plays a huge part in this search for me. All Catholics are free to receive this gift of Grace. The good Lord hands it out for free through His Sacraments of the Church.

A direct quote : from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

” I. What is This Sacrament Called?

1423 It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father5 from whom one has strayed by sin.
It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.

1424 It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a “confession” – acknowledgment and praise – of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.
It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent “pardon and peace.”6
It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the live of God who reconciles: “Be reconciled to God.”7 He who lives by God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: “Go; first be reconciled to your brother.”8 ”

Sacraments are God’s gift to the Church. They both symbolize God acting in the lives of people and they bring about what they symbolize. One way to think about how symbolic action has a real impact is to think of an embrace between husband and wife or between close friends. To those looking on, the embrace is a symbol of the closeness of the relationship between the people. For the people themselves the embrace actually brings them closer together as through it they feel more strongly bonded to each other. Sacraments are a little like that.

When a person is baptized, those observing the symbolic action of either immersion in water or of water being poured  – are prompted to think of wide range of associations that water brings to mind. Examples include water that cleanses, rain that refreshes parched land; the sea, lakes and rivers teaming with life; floods that destroy; and our fear of drowning. For the person who is baptized the experience of symbolic drowning and cleansing has an impact on their interior life of feelings and values. Through God’s grace bestowed in the Sacrament of Baptism a Christian’s life takes on a new meaning and their relationship with God and the Christian community becomes deeper and richer.

All of the sacraments involve people making use of material things acting in symbolic ways. God’s Grace works in the body, mind and spirit of a person as they participate in sacramental action. Sacraments have a real effect on the life of those who accept them as gifts from God. In and through sacraments people, are invited to reflect upon the meaning and significance of their relationship with God, with others and all of creation.

 

 

Largest denominations in the world

Debate between Catholics and Oriental Christia...

Debate between Catholics and Oriental Christians in the 13th century, Acre 1290. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Catholicism – 1.2 billion

  • Roman Catholic Church – 1,147 million[1]
    • Roman Catholic Church (Latin Rite) – 1,125.5 million
    • Eastern Catholic Churches (Eastern Rite) – 21.5 million
      • Alexandrian
        • Ethiopian Catholic Church – 0.21 million
        • Coptic Catholic Church – 0.17 million
      • Antiochian (Antiochene or West Syrian)
        • Maronite Catholic Church – 3.1 million
        • Syro-Malankara Catholic Church – 0.5 million
        • Syriac Catholic Church – 0.17 million
      • Armenian
        • Armenian Catholic Church – 0.54 million
      • Chaldean (Eastern Syrian)
        • Syro-Malabar Catholic Church – 4.0 million
        • Chaldean Catholic Church – 0.65 million
      • Byzantine (Constantinopolitan)
        • Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church – 4.3 million
        • Melkite Greek Catholic Church – 1.6 million
        • Romanian Church United with Rome, Greek-Catholic – 0.8 million
        • Ruthenian Catholic Church – 0.65 million
        • Slovak Greek Catholic Church – 0.37 million
        • Hungarian Greek Catholic Church – 0.27 million
        • Italo-Greek Catholic Church – 0.07 million
        • Croatian Greek Catholic Church – 0.06 million
        • Belarusian Greek Catholic Church – 0.01 million
        • Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church – 0.01 million
        • Georgian Byzantine Catholic Church – 0.01 million[2]
        • Macedonian Greek Catholic Church – 0.01 million
        • Albanian Greek-Catholic Church – 0.01 million
        • Greek Byzantine Catholic Church – 0.01 million

          Stripped image of John Wesley

          Stripped image of John Wesley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        • Russian Catholic Church – 0.01 million
  • Breakaway Catholic Churches – 28 million
    • Apostolic Catholic Church – 5 million
    • Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association – 4 million[3]
    • Philippine Independent Church – 3 million
    • Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church – 1 million
    • Old Catholic Church – 0.6 million
    • Mariavite Church – 0.03 million

Protestantism – 670 million

  • Historical Protestantism – 350 million
    • Baptist churches – 105 million[4]
      • Southern Baptist Convention – 16.3 million[5]
      • National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. – 7.5 million[6]
      • National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. – 5 million[7]
      • Nigerian Baptist Convention – 3 million[8]
      • Progressive National Baptist Convention – 2.5 million[9]
      • American Baptist Churches USA – 1.4 million
      • Brazilian Baptist Convention – 1.4 million
      • Baptist Bible Fellowship International – 1.2 million[10]
      • Myanmar Baptist Convention – 1.1 million[11]
      • Baptist Community of the Congo River – 1 million[11]
      • National Baptist Convention, Brazil – 1 million
      • National Primitive Baptist Convention of the U.S.A. – 1 million[10]
      • National Missionary Baptist Convention of America – 1 million
      • Samavesam of Telugu Baptist Churches – 0.8 million[12]
      • Baptist Convention of Kenya – 0.7 million[11]
      • Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of Russia – 0.6 million
    • Methodism – 75 million
      • United Methodist Church – 12 million
      • African Methodist Episcopal Church – 3 million
      • Methodist Church Nigeria – 2 million[13]
      • African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church – 1.5 million
      • Church of the Nazarene – 1.8 million
      • Methodist Church of Southern Africa – 1.7 million[14]
      • Korean Methodist Church – 1.5 million[15]
      • United Methodist Church of Ivory Coast[16]
      • Christian Methodist Episcopal Church – 0.9 million

        emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Fr...

        emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Français : emblème pontifical Italiano: emblema del Papato Português: Emblema papal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      • Methodist Church Ghana – 0.8 million[17]
      • Free Methodist Church – 0.7 million
      • Methodist Church in India – 0.6 million[18]
    • Lutheranism – 87 million[19]
      • Evangelical Church in Germany – 26.9 million[20]
      • Church of Sweden – 6.9 million
      • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – 4.8 million
      • Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus – 4.7 million
      • Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania – 4.6 million[21]
      • Danish National Church – 4.5 million
      • Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland – 4.3 million[22]
      • Batak Christian Protestant Church – 4 million[23]
      • Church of Norway – 3.9 million
      • Malagasy Lutheran Church – 3 million
      • Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod – 2 million
      • Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria – 1.7 million[24]
      • United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India – 1.5 million[25]
      • Evangelical Lutheran Church in Papua New Guinea – 0.9 million[26]
      • Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church – 0.8 million[27]
      • Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil – 0.7 million[28]
      • Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia – 0.6 million[29]
      • Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa – 0.6 million[30]
    • Reformed churches – 75 million
      • Presbyterianism – 40 million
        • Presbyterian Church of East Africa – 4 million[31]
        • Presbyterian Church of Africa – 3.4 million[32]
        • Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – 3.0 million
        • United Church of Canada – 2.5 million
        • Church of Christ in Congo-Presbyterian Community of Congo – 2.5 million[33]
        • Presbyterian Church of Korea – 2.4 million[34]
        • Presbyterian Church of Cameroon – 1.8 million[35]
        • Church of Scotland – 1.1 million[36]
        • Presbyterian Church of the Sudan – 1 million[37]
        • Presbyterian Church in Cameroon – 0.7 million[38]
        • Presbyterian Church of Ghana – 0.6 million[39]
        • Presbyterian Church of Nigeria – 0.5 million[40]
        • Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa – 0.5 million[41]
      • Continental Reformed churches – 30 million
        • Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar – 3.5 million[42]
        • United Church of Zambia – 3.0 million[43]
        • Protestant Church in the Netherlands – 2.5 million[44]
        • Swiss Reformed Church – 2.4 million
        • Evangelical Church of Cameroon – 2 million[45]
        • Protestant Evangelical Church in Timor – 2 million[46]
        • Christian Evangelical Church in Minahasa – 0.7 million[47]
        • United Church in Papua New Guinea – 0.6 million[48]
        • United Church of Christ in the Philippines – 0.6 million[49]
        • Protestant Church in Western Indonesia – 0.6 million[50]
        • Evangelical Christian Church in Tanah Papua – 0.6 million[51]
        • Protestant Church in the Moluccas – 0.6 million[52]
        • Reformed Church in Hungary – 0.6 million[53]
        • Reformed Church in Romania – 0.6 million[54]
        • Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa – 0.5 million[55]
      • Congregationalism – 5 million
        • United Church of Christ – 1.2 million
        • Evangelical Congregational Church in Angola – 0.9 million[56]
        • United Congregational Church of Southern Africa – 0.5 million[57]
    • Anabaptism and Free churches – 5 million
      • Brethren – 1.5 million[58]
      • Mennonites – 1.5 million
      • Plymouth Brethren – 1 million[59]
      • Moravians – 0.7 million[60]                                                                      

        English: Southern side of the Church of the Na...

        English: Southern side of the Church of the Nativity (formerly Utica Reformed Presbyterian Church), a Roman Catholic church located located at 126 N. Main Street (State Route 13) in Utica, , . Church profile. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      • Amish – 0.2 million
      • Hutterites – 0.2 million
    • Quakers – 0.4 million
    • Waldensians – 0.05 million
  • Modern Christian movements – 588 million[61]
    • Pentecostalism – 130 million
      • Assemblies of God – 60 million
      • New Apostolic Church – 11 million
      • International Circle of Faith – 11 million[62]
      • The Pentecostal Mission – 10 million
      • Church of God (Cleveland) – 9 million
      • International Church of the Foursquare Gospel – 8 million
      • Church of God in Christ – 5.5 million
      • Apostolic Church – 6 million
      • Christian Congregation of Brazil – 2.5 million
      • Universal Church of the Kingdom of God – 2 million

        Greek orthodox clergy waiting for their patriarch

        Greek orthodox clergy waiting for their patriarch (Photo credit: Government Press Office (GPO))

      • Church of God of Prophecy – 1 million
      • God is Love Pentecostal Church – 0.8 million
      • Indian Pentecostal Church of God – NA
    • Non-denominational evangelicalism – 80 million
      • Calvary Chapel – 25 million
      • Born Again Movement – 20 million
      • Association of Vineyard Churches – 15 million
      • New Life Fellowship – 10 million[citation needed]
      • True Jesus Church – 2.5 million
      • Charismatic Episcopal Church – NA
    • African initiated churches – 40 million
      • Zion Christian Church – 15 million
      • Eternal Sacred Order of Cherubim and Seraphim – 10 million
      • Kimbanguist Church – 5.5 million
      • Church of the Lord (Aladura) – 3.6 million[63]
      • Council of African Instituted Churches – 3 million[64]
      • Church of Christ Light of the Holy Spirit – 1.4 million[65]
      • African Church of the Holy Spirit – 0.7 million[66]
      • African Israel Niniveh Church[67]
    • Seventh-day Adventist Church – 17 million
    • Restoration Movement – 7 million
      • Churches of Christ – 5 million
      • Christian Churches and Churches of Christ – 1.1 million[10]
      • Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) – 0.7 million

Eastern Orthodoxy – 210 million

  • Autocephalous churches
    • Russian Orthodox Church – 125 million
    • Romanian Orthodox Church – 18 million
    • Serbian Orthodox Church – 15 million
    • Church of Greece – 11 million
    • Bulgarian Orthodox Church – 10 million
    • Georgian Orthodox Church – 5 million
    • Greek Orthodox Church of Constantinople – 3.5 million
    • Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch – 2.5 million
    • Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria – 1.5 million
    • Orthodox Church in America – 1.2 million
    • Polish Orthodox Church – 1 million
    • Albanian Orthodox Church – 0.8 million
    • Cypriot Orthodox Church – 0.7 million
    • Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem – 0.14 million
    • Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church – 0.07 million
  • Autonomous churches
    • Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) – 7.2 million[68]
    • Moldovan Orthodox Church – 3.2 million
    • Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia – 1.25 million
    • Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia – 0.62 million
    • Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric – 0.34 million
    • Estonian Orthodox Church – 0.3 million
    • Patriarchal Exarchate in Western Europe – 0.15 million
    • Finnish Orthodox Church – 0.08 million
    • Chinese Orthodox Church – 0.03 million
    • Japanese Orthodox Church – 0.02 million
    • Latvian Orthodox Church – 0.02 million
  • Non-universally recognized churches
    • Ukranian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) – 5.5 million[68]
    • Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church – 2.4 million
    • Macedonian Orthodox Church – 2 million
    • Orthodox Church of Greece (Holy Synod in Resistance) – 0.75 million
    • Old Calendar Romanian Orthodox Church – 0.50 million
    • Old Calendar Bulgarian Orthodox Church – 0.45 million
    • Croatian Orthodox Church – 0.36 million
    • Montenegrin Orthodox Church – 0.05 million
    • Orthodox Church in Italy – 0.12 million
  • Other separated Orthodox groups
    • Old Believers – 1.8 million
    • Greek Old Calendarists – 0.86 million
    • Russian True Orthodox Church – 0.85 million

Oriental Orthodoxy – 75 million

  • Autocephalous churches in communion
    • Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church – 45 million
    • Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria – 15.5 million
    • Syriac Orthodox Church – 10 million
    • Armenian Orthodox Church – 8 million
    • Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church – 2.5 million
    • Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church – 2 million[69]
    • Armenian Orthodox Church of Cilicia – 1.5 million
  • Autonomous churches in communion
    • Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church – 2.5 million
    • Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople – 0.42 million
    • Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem – 0.34 million
    • French Coptic Orthodox Church – 0.01 million
    • British Orthodox Church – 0.01 million
  • Churches not in communion
    • Malabar Independent Syrian Church – 0.06 million

Anglicanism – 82 million

  • Anglican Communion – 80 million[70]
    • Church of Nigeria – 18 million
    • Church of England – 13.4 million
    • Church of Uganda – 8.8 million
    • Church of South India – 3.8 million
    • Anglican Church of Australia – 3.7 million
    • Episcopal Church in the Philippines – 3.0 million
    • Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia – 2.5 million
    • Anglican Church of Tanzania – 2.5 million
    • Anglican Church of Southern Africa – 2.4 million
    • Episcopal Church of the United States – 2.2 million
    • Anglican Church of Canada – 2.0 million
    • Anglican Church of Kenya – 1.5 million
    • Church of North India – 1.3 million
    • Church of the Province of Rwanda – 1 million
    • Church of Pakistan – 0.8 million
    • Anglican Church of Burundi – 0.8 million[71]
    • Church of the Province of Central Africa – 0.6 million
    • Church of Christ in Congo-Anglican Community of Congo – 0.5 million[72]
    • Scottish Episcopal Church – 0.4 million
    • Church of Ireland – 0.4 million
  • Continuing Anglican movement – 1.5 million
    • Traditional Anglican Communion – 0.5 million
    • Anglican Church in North America – 0.1 million

Nontrinitarianism – 27 million

  • Latter Day Saint movement (Mormonism) – 14 million
    • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – 13.5[73]
    • Community of Christ – 0.25 million[74]
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses – 7.1 million
  • Iglesia ni Cristo – 6 million[75]
  • Oneness Pentecostalism – 6 million
    • United Pentecostal Church International – 4 million
    • Pentecostal Assemblies of the World – 1.5 million
  • Church of Christ, Scientist – 0.4 million
  • Friends of Man – 0.07 million
  • Christadelphians – 0.05 million

Nestorianism – 1 million

National Baptist Evangelical Life and Soul Sav...

National Baptist Evangelical Life and Soul Saving Assembly of the U.S.A. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Assyrian Church of the East – 0.5 million
  • Ancient Church of the East – 0.3 million

From Bible Press.com

5 Questions Before You Leave the Catholic Church.

Image @creativeuncut.com

Most of you have probably followed Jennifer Fulweiler’s blog, (Conversion Diary) read something about her by her or written by her. If you haven’t, I’m pleased to be the one to introduce you to an article written by her for the National Catholic Register.  This is not the complete article. If you want to read it in it’s entirety follow the link posted at the bottom of the post.

There are many criticisms of the Catholic Faith and much much-slinging has been going on for some time now, especially with  regard to the sex abuse scandals. This article simply asks 5 questions of those who may be considering leaving the Catholic Church:-

1. Are you sure members of the Church hierarchy are worse than anyone else?

When people cite the pedophilia scandals as a key reason for abandoning the Church, I worry that they’re setting themselves up for deep disappointment. The fact that priests abused children is an idea so horrific that one can hardly bear to think about it, and the fact that some bishops didn’t take action to stop it is almost worse. But the chilling fact — perhaps so chilling that we don’t can’t accept it — is that this is not a problem with Catholic priests and bishops; it’s a problem with human nature. A priest is no more likely to abuse a child than a male schoolteacher, and a bishop is no more likely to cover it up than a school administrator.

The problems may have seemed worse within the Church because it is a single, worldwide organization, so it’s easy to link all the bad occurrences under one umbrella. But if, for example, all the nondenominational churches on the earth were part of a cohesive worldwide system, you would almost certainly see the same issues at the same rates. Instead of each instance being lost in the anonymity of disconnected communities, when they were all considered together it would seem epidemic.

Other organizations are no more safe for children than the Church — in fact, based on personal experience, I believe they are now less safe. Thanks to the pervasive stereotypes about Catholicism, people are lured into a false sense of security when dealing with other organizations, and end up adopting the dangerous mentality that “it couldn’t happen here.”

2. Are you sure your faith life would be better outside of the Church?

Keep in mind that leaving the Catholic Church means leaving the sacraments — sacraments with real power, which are not available outside of the Church that Jesus founded. If it brings you joy to commune with Jesus spiritually, how much better is it to commune with him physically as well? And how lucky are we to have the sacrament of confession, where you can unload all your burdens, hear the words “you are forgiven,” and receive special grace to help you to be the morally upright person you strive to be?

Now, those who are considering leaving the Church may struggle with believing in the supernatural power of the sacraments (in which case I’d recommend checking out these resources). But even if that’s the case, within the two-thousand-year-old Church is an unfathomable treasure chest of spiritual wisdom. We have the Rosary as well as all the other time-tested prayers of the Church. Then there are the lives of the saints, countless stories that offer an inexhaustible supply of information and inspiration about how to have a rich spiritual life. And of course we have a worldwide network of monasteries and convents, and all the great religious orders. I suppose it’s possible to utilize some of these spiritual resources without being a practicing Catholic, but if you believe that they’re good and helpful, why sever them from the source of their wisdom?

3. Are you sure the Church’s teachings are wrong?

There is a pervasive sense in modern culture that whatever spiritual tradition places the fewest moral restrictions on its adherents is most likely to be right. This idea might feel good since it appeals to our natural desire for autonomy, and certainly it is accepted as an immutable fact by modern society. And so if a person follows the path of least resistance carved out by our culture, it would be easy to drift away from all these “oppressive” teachings of the Church, without ever pausing to ask:

But are they true?

Let’s take just one example: The Church’s crazy-unpopular prohibition against contraception. The Church says that it’s neither good for individuals nor for society for couples to use artificial birth control. It’s understandable that someone’s first reaction upon hearing that would be to reject this wildly counter-cultural teaching. I know that when I first heard it, I thought it was one of the most backwards, bizarre ideas I’d ever heard. But when I took a closer look, I was shocked by the wisdom behind this thinking: I realized that contraception doesn’t solve the problems its proponents claim it will solve. I discovered that it makes women lose control over their bodies. I thought of the women I’ve known who have had abortions, and realized that almost every single one of them were using contraception when they conceived. They had been told that it would be just fine to engage in the act that creates babies, even if they were sure they couldn’t have a baby. Then, when they saw the two lines on the pregnancy tests, they felt trapped and scared, believing that they had no choices outside of the walls of the local abortion facility.

Living without artificial contraception has its challenges, but it’s the only system that gives women real freedom. As with so many other Catholic teachings that seemed crazy at first glance, once I took the time to understand the details of this view, I saw that there was a wealth of wisdom behind it beyond anything I could have imagined. It had seemed crazy simply because our culture has it so wrong, and the Church is the last institution left that’s willing to proclaim what’s right.

4. Are you sure the Church’s doctrines aren’t divinely inspired?

In my own conversion to Catholicism I faced serious challenges, including the fact that I was diagnosed with a Deep Vein Thrombosis (blood clot in a major vein) which was caused by a genetic clotting disorder that’s exacerbated by pregnancy. My doctors told me I absolutely had to use contraception. It threw me into a crisis where I had to discern how serious I was about this religion, and how much I was really willing to risk to follow it.

Thanks to some wise advice, I realized that the situation was really quite simple: Is this Church guided by God in its teachings or not? If it’s not, then there’s no reason to listen to anything it says; if it is, then to say that I knew better than the Church was to say that I knew better than God.

When I looked at the unfathomable body of wisdom contained in this organization, considered that it has stood strong while empire after empire has fallen away around it, and saw that it has been unwavering in its core doctrines despite the imperfections of its hierarchy, I simply didn’t think that humans could pull this off on their own. Then, when I began to transform my life according to these teachings, I was completely convinced. Following the “rules” of the Church brought an explosion of grace and peace and love into my life, and into my family’s lives as well. I became convinced that these teachings are not human-made, but come from Someone who knows us better than we know ourselves.

5. Are you sure we don’t need the Church?

At the end of the NPR interview, Quindlen says, “I’ve never really gotten past that quote from Anne Frank in her diary, where she says that people are really good at heart.” I too have always been touched by that quote, and I think it’s worth putting some serious thought into. Because if it’s true that people are ultimately good at heart…then that means that the staff who worked at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, lining up children in front of the gas chambers, overseeing Anne Frank and her family in slave labor, were good at heart too. How on earth, then, could normal, good people participate in something so evil?

The answer is chillingly simple: Through the power of human rationalization.

To look at the smiling faces of the employees in these pictures of an on-site staff retreat at Auschwitz is to understand that they had all rationalized their behavior. Nobody ever wakes up and says, “I’m going to do something evil today!”, not even the staffers at Auschwitz. The only way evil ever works through us is when we convince ourselves that what we’re doing is actually good. The most dangerous force in the world is the human capacity for rationalization.

I think that some folks reject the concept of the Church’s divinely-inspired moral code because they don’t see why it would even be necessary. Why would God even care to institute something like that? Why can’t each person just get in touch with the spiritual realm and find what’s good and true for him- or herself? The answer to that question can be found in the smiles on the Auschwitz’s employees faces.

Though the individual members of the Catholic Church have made plenty of mistakes, sometimes gravely serious ones, its doctrines have always been a bulwark that protects human life. To a healthy American adult this may seem like an insignificant concept, since the only life that is devalued in our time and place is that of the severely disabled, the unborn, and others who literally do not have a voice. But that could change. The zeitgeist could shift, just as it did in Europe in the 1930s, and new groups of people may suddenly be seen as inconvenient and expendable. And one day the life that the Catholic Church stands up for may be your own.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jennifer-fulwiler/5-questions-before-you-leave-the-catholic-church#ixzz1wNzdbga0