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Review by Peggy Clores, adult educator Diocese of Rockville Centre
”Faith is built one brick at a time and when it’s strong enough, not one event, doubt or tragedy can demolish it.”-Alex Basile
This work resonates in a big way! In one power-packed, neat little package, we have been given an effective tool for our time and for all ages, teens on up. Alex Basile meets us where we live now.
Confronted, right out of the gate, with a gripping forward by Marianist Fr, Tom Cardone, the longing for answers is painfully aroused and each turn of the page proceeds to satisfy that longing. We know, up front, that this is by no means “another boring religion book”!
Current, relevant and dead on, it is clear that after 25 years of engagement and dialogue in the Catholic high school setting, Basile has been listening and he has heard. He gets why we can’t hear and why we can’t see. In 100 compact pages and bite-sized chapters, he pierces into the heart of many key obstacles to faith – obstacles that transcend the teen years – and he swiftly directs our attention to where it needs to be. By correctly diagnosing and effectively addressing a broad array of challenges, he places the wealth of his experience squarely in our laps and accomplishes what many earnest attempts at programs, workshops, texts and manuals often fail to do.
Replete with key points of evidence for the skeptical and with an occasional touch of humor, Basile takes on the reasons we doubt: suffering, illness, heartbreak, hurts, disappointments. Citing the pain and desolation he often sees on the faces of many of his students due to 21st century pressures (divorce, separation, death, alcohol, drugs and the urgent crisis of teen suicide and depression), he leads us to confront our indifference and what well may be our fear of finding God. Perhaps best of all, he clearly underscores what we are missing out on by abandoning or putting off the search.
With so many things competing for the attention of our students/colleagues/family and friends, the tools we use to bring others to Christ need to get the job done powerfully and efficiently. This broad-end, simple resource is effective for: adult or teen retreats, youth groups, high school and 8th grade CCD classrooms, independent RCIA reading, the under-catechized of all ages; basically anyone struggling with faith in God or the Church for any reason. This is the perfect Confirmation gift! It will break down walls and serve as a great springboard to challenging, fruitful and impactful discussion!
As an adult educator observing and fielding like issues for the past two decades, I highly recommend “Finding Faith in a Godless World”. As Alex Basile tells us, “You stand to win everything.”
This is one of the “stories behind the vocation stories” that adds the “color.” You will want to make the time when you have time. Nice stuff.
But first, let us ask ourselves, how often does it happen that three brothers all end up becoming Deacons! How beautiful is this? And the Clores family is blessed to know them well.
[See this week’s TLIC feature on the Bonocores but read on first to better appreciate this!]
To this piece, I add ‘my take’ on the Bonocore “Boys” and let you figure out what God is doing! As the saying goes…”For your discernment.” As Dale’s big day approaches — and he will be ordained tomorrow morning — I am both laughing and grinning ear to ear. You may find that an odd reaction but you have to understand. When God called these guys, He was really working “outside the box”. Talk about New Evangelization. Jesus, I Trust in You!
The day I received the phone call that our oldest son Michael more than likely had cancer(10 years back), I was sitting at my desk at the A. J. Bonocore Insurance Agency. I had been working for the family for roughly two years by that time. It was mid-afternoon, and both of my employers were out on appointments so they had no idea that this was taking place. I will return to that point. But first to the humor.
I ended up working for Anthony Bonocore and his sons because Michael Bonocore reached out to a mutual Catholic friend, Irene, and asked her if she knew any faithful Catholic women who might be interested in a part-time secretarial opening. Not one hour earlier, I had mentioned to that same friend that I was looking for part-time employment and asked her to keep her ears open for me! The very next day, I was in Michael’s office and hesitantly telling him that I had no experience in the Insurance business.
Michael (who has the craziest personality and rides a motorcycle) said “I don’t care about that. This is what’s important to me. Have you made your Consecration to Mary yet?” You can imagine how taken aback I was. I laughed and said “Well, no, I haven’t.” Michael said “What kind of girl is Irene sending me! We have to take care of this immediately!” He picked up the phone and called her Catholic shop and said “Irene, put one Consecration To Mary on hold for Peggy. She’ll be by later to pick it up. Put it on my tab. She didn’t realize that it was a job requirement.”
Please understand that when I say “outside the box”, this Michael was sitting there with a do-rag on his head (in fact he owned a whole collection of them) as an insurance agent, while telling me of this “requirement”.
Life at the Bonocore Agency was crazy. Always some kind of “Catholic drama” going down. (I guess some might say, “You must have fit in perfectly, Peggy.” No comments from the peanut gallery.) Definitely not your run of the mill water cooler discussions by any stretch! The discussions went from the hilarious to the serious. But there was no doubt about it. The Catholic Faith was a big deal to these guys. (Dale was a bit calmer than Michael. But not much! Oh yes. He rode a motorcycle, too.) Somewhere in there, their younger brother from New Jersey entered the Diaconate. The men were so excited but there wasn’t a whisper of a clue — at least not to me! — that the other two would eventually follow.
Then came the day our family ended up in Winthrop Cancer Center for Kids. I called my co-worker, updated her that the news was definite and serious and to relay the message to Michael and Dale that I was going to need some time off to sort all of this out. The next morning, while the doctor was prepping Michael for the spinal tap, I heard a big commotion in the waiting room. I heard the nurses saying, “But you can’t give blood at this center. We have to send you to a Blood Center.” It was Dale and Michael. They asked if we were there and could they see us. You have to know these guys. They won’t take “no” for an answer and patience was hardly their dominant virtue. (One would hope that in their ‘ordained state’ they will grow in both temperance and patience and channel all their force for the good!)
Together ‘the Sons of Thunder’ (good grief) continued on to burst into the examination room! There they were. Crack of dawn. Flew to our side and from there forward, couldn’t do enough. How they lifted our spirits. (I could tell the doctor and staff were a little taken aback by their overwhelming ‘presence’, you might say!) After the Bonocore boys got the ‘low down’, Michael Bonocore went on to say (with forearms outstretched and not quietly), “We came rushing down here to give blood with our arms like this! We said ‘Where do we go to give blood!! Where do we give blood!’ We were crushed that we couldn’t give it immediately!!” (Our Michael was going to be in need of many transfusions.) “We want to give it now!!” They were so intense, you couldn’t help but be touched. Later that day, the Bonocore brothers made their way to a Blood Center.
Many times during that first month of intense chemo and transfusions, when we had to sit at the Cancer Center all day, Michael would burst into the place and entertain our Michael in every sense of the word! They played chess, they told jokes, while Michael did his best to keep up our son’s spirits. In preparation for the hair loss to come, Michael Bonocore presented our Michael with his very own ‘official’ do-rag! It was so consoling to see our Michael laugh whenever Michael would show up! The Bonocore family were all very good and very generous throughout and held my job open indefinitely. Michael and Dale also went to work immediately setting up this site invoking prayers, donations, and help on our family’s behalf. Looking at this link, how could we not have seen the “Deacon” handwriting on the wall!
Oh yes. I neglected to mention that not a few times, Michael Bonocore would tease our Michael saying, “Do you think they put my blood in you yet?!” and then let loose with a hilarious laughing fit. I would roll my eyes and say, “We’ll know when Michael starts acting crazy.” For years, I’ve said to Michael that our Michael will never be normal because of it. And he laughs some more.
I hope you enjoyed a piece of one of the “stories behind the Vocation story”. On a serious note, God surely did know what He was doing asking three brothers to step up to the plate.
We wish Dale all the best as Deacon Mike and Deacon Steve vest him in the morning! Hope to make it to the Cathedral but our prayers are always with you!!!
Hope your vestments don’t get tangled in the wheels of your motorcycles!!
Peggy and the Clores Family!
Every one of us who is passionate about the treasure that is the Catholic Faith has encountered moments of difficulty when attempting to unlock the door to this treasure for another human soul. There are varying levels of difficulty depending on where any particular individual is on the path to their journey to God and to reality. I am referring here to each one or us, as well as the person God presents to us. After such difficulties, we often find ourselves replaying the scenario that transpired in our minds. “I should have said this. I should have said that.” Sometimes we are painfully aware that we are not sure what we should have said or what was the most effective way to say it. For those of us who are catechists or support members of an RCIA team (the Church’s process for assisting adults who are exploring the Catholic Faith, considering becoming a Catholic, and/or never received Communion or Confirmation), we can find ourselves in this state of unrest at any point in the process most particularly when we get into the divisive and polarizing issues of our time. Though we do need to remember that it is God’s grace and a soul’s cooperation with that grace that ultimately unlocks the door to the treasure, there is no denying the fact that effective and timely words and actions on our part can make a radical difference. It is also important to note that it is oftentimes we, ourselves, that need better understanding in any one particular area of our Faith.
The goal of this column is to assist all adult Catholics in more powerfully and effectively communicating the treasure that is the Catholic Faith both in your RCIA programs and in your every day encounters with family, friends, and acquaintances as well as that random stranger that God places on your path. These tips will be applicable regardless of the faith background and/or world view of the person you are presented with.
Those of you who are involved in, thinking about becomig involved in, or know someone who is involved in RCIA, read on.
My paramount goal in working this column, is to share the secret of our very successful RCIA program and make a radical difference in how RCIA programs are conducted, particularly in the U.S. Unfortunately, too many programs are not nearly as effective as they should be. Many RCIA programs “lose their people” after they have received their Sacraments at Easter and rarely see them at Mass again. This happens, in large part, because they have not been given substance or the Truth. Too many teams make a deliberate choice to shy away from the teachings of our Faith, oftentimes because they themselves are not convinced or comfortable with some, or all of the teachings. They tend towards bringing a “politically correct” mindset into the process along with a false sense of ecumenism (the Catholic Faith is just “one of many ways” to God). Tragically, all too often, a good number of students are fed partial or total error, doing all involved a great disservice. Whether it is because of these factors, or because an earnest team is at a loss for the best way to “get the job done,” many catechumens and candidates are received into the Church with little understanding of the life transforming treasure that is the Catholic Faith.
I plan to share the secret of the dynamics and structures that we built into our RCIA program, where absences are rarely, if ever, an issue (despite a weekly Sun 9AM Mass commitment followed by an additional hour-and-a-half of catechesis and discussion, from Oct-June) and where, by the time we deal with the polarizing issues of our day, our students are open vessels because they are standing on solid ground! I will share the secret of why they trust what we are saying and, far from resisting, light bulbs are going off and many of them find themselves on the opposite side of these issues for the first time in their experience. Most of the time, it is because they have never heard the facts on the side of objective Truth and they almost universally become exhilarated. I want to share the secret of how we have even developed things to a point where, if they are still uncomfortable, we “scoop them right up” and they are very quickly back on track.
Finally, I plan to share the secret that keeps our students coming thru the end of the year, typically quite sad that the classes are over, sometimes coming back again in the Fall, often joining our team and/or getting involved in some kind of Church work, raising strong Catholic kids and, most importantly, effectively evangelizing themselves! The bottom line: The Truth works and there are effective ways to transmit it to others!
It is my prayer that the readers of this column will become exhilarated themselves, as they learn to more powerfully fulfill the will of the Christ “to make disciples of all nations.” A broken world needs your help. Let our journey begin!
2009 Peggy Clores
A critical ingredient for the optimal effectiveness of any catechetical endeavor is conviction. I can tell you that with every beat of my heart and every breath that I take, I am radically and immeasurably convinced that the Catholic Faith is the fullness of Reality; the fullness of objective Truth.
In “The Truth Works,” I spoke of my plans to utilize this column to share the secrets behind the success of our RCIA program; the secrets behind dynamically and effectively communicating the treasure that is the Catholic Faith. The first secret begins with a conviction that lives in the hearts of our Team members and ends (by God’s grace) with the eventual conviction in the hearts and minds of at least 95% of our students. [In subsequent articles, I will back that statistic.]
If your RCIA has poor ongoing attendance or your students stop going to class (and Mass!) after Easter, your solution begins here. You must begin to rectify what it is that keeps you from being convinced.
For my part, I was not always convinced. Far from it.
I “left” the Church as a young adult because I perceived Her to be irrelevant, out of touch with issues, boring (at times), absurd, intolerant and lacking in compassion. The summer before college, I recall fighting back tears as I challenged my father’s imperative that I “must go to Mass!” At risk that he might have a sound answer, I promised him that if he could give me one good reason why I had to go, I would continue to go. After a long pause, his answer was, “You just have to, that’s all. It’s the right thing to do.” It was the nail in the coffin for me. My dear father was absolutely right, but he, too, never put the pieces entirely together – yet it was enough for him. Welling up, as it killed me to hurt him, I said the words, “That’s not enough for me, Daddy.”
God, Our Father in Heaven, said, “Not so fast.”
In the years that followed, He led me to a long line of people who turned all of this on its head and inside out. The first in the line-up would eventually become my husband of thirty years. At age eighteen he had it amazingly together on this count and turned my misconceptions around one day at a time, often one long argument at a time. In the end he, and many effective Catholics to follow, helped me to recognize where my faculty of right reason was coming up short.
At the same time, God also permitted into the history all manner of challenge in other good and intelligent people who compelled me to “turn over every rock”: Atheists, Agnostics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Born-Again Christians, New Agers, etc. As I delved deeply and extensively into the Church’s wisdom on every challenge, I came to realize that, though we certainly share much common ground with other belief systems, nothing is as complete or as backed by solid history and sound evidence. I was astounded; overwhelmed by the Church’s brilliance, insight and foresight. It became apparent that my eighth-grade religious education had only scratched the surface and left me with a largely limited understanding of the Church’s teachings. I thought I knew what the Catholic Church taught and why. In the grand scheme of things, I hadn’t a clue.
Everything changed so dramatically. All of life – its purpose and direction, all of trial and challenge – found its most profound meaning and context. I was given the tools and means to elevate functioning and living to heights one would not have thought possible – especially under the worst of circumstances!
I will share more of my story in articles to come, but for now let’s get back to the “unconvinced” catechist.
So what pieces are you missing? The time has come for you to “turn over every rock” and begin anew to persevere in knowledge, in trust, and in prayer to become radically and immeasurably convinced! To launch your pursuit, I suggest the first in a line up of many excellent works: “Theology and Sanity,” by Frank Sheed.
2010 Peggy Clores
There’s a lot of talk in our present culture about “empowerment”. Interestingly enough, a great deal of the commentary and well-intentioned advice attached to the word has precious little to do with authentic empowerment. In effect, quite the opposite.
Familiar litanies abound.
“You have to find your own truth.”
“You have to be true to yourself.”
“You only need look within to find the answers you seek.”
“You don’t have to change for anyone. You’re perfect just as you are. You need
to celebrate that!”
“No one has the right to tell you what to do.”
“Freedom is being able to do what you want when you want to do it.”
Empty yourself. Breathe. And all will be well.
An honest, serious, and objective look at a culture that is finding it increasingly hard to function speaks to something largely amiss here. Either we’re having a real challenge applying these mantras that have influenced much thought and behavior for the last several decades, or there is something largely absent from the philosophy fueling the mantras themselves.
That something is authentic empowerment.
Authentic empowerment is rooted in objective Truth (or Reality), from which we genuinely get a sense of who we are, where we’re going, and what life is all about. As well-known speaker and author, Father John Corapi, puts it, “A working definition of insanity is to be out of touch with reality!” This is where our present-day notions of empowerment disintegrate and leave us severely handicapped; actually, un-empowered.
My primary objective, from the first encounter with a prospective participant contemplating our Adult Education/Formation program is that they encounter an authentic sense of empowerment on contact. Recently, an RCIA coordinator from a nearby parish asked for my help in mapping out for him what it is we do on our Information Night that attracts participants to say “yes” to a pretty intense commitment. In previous dialogue, I had impressed upon him that “You have to ‘hit it out of the park’ from Day One.” Out of time to map out the details, I banged out the following email on the morning of his scheduled Information Night:
Some or all of these dynamics should be evident to the participants through your collective presentation. The Truth-Christ-is all of these things; and that should come through in the Team’s words, warmth and strength. Though this list is not comprehensive, it covers most of the bases.
You collectively want to be:
Compelling, dynamic, infectious, passionate, convicted, inspiring, sincere, substantive, relatable, interesting, intelligent, relevant, practical, competent, credible, sane…… and majorly irresistible!
The prospective participants need to instantly sense that their key to achieving true happiness and meaning, and the highest levels of functioning even when confronted with grave suffering, are contained in what they are about to receive!
In a nutshell, you want to take their breath away!
These dynamics may seem a very tall order to achieve over the course of your RCIA year, let alone in one Information Night. Yet they are, in the end, the automatic and natural manifestations of authentic empowerment. The more a catechist (and by extension the RCIA Team) allows Christ and His Church to overtake everything that they are, the more Christ will do the rest. He will ‘take the participant’s breath away!’ And with each passing week, a sense of authentic empowerment will begin to overtake their very being.
Authentic empowerment, then, is another secret to the effectiveness behind our RCIA Team’s efforts. In Him, with Him and through Him. In each of us, Christ.
[Book recommendation: “Half Truths: What’s Right (and What’s Wrong) With The Cliché’s You And I Live By” by Montague Brown. Sophia Institute Press Co. 2003]
2010 Peggy Clores
So how does an RCIA Team measure if we are, in fact, effective? More to the point, how do we assess that our participants are rationally and emotionally convinced and gradually falling in love with all they were made for!
The first measure could best be summed up by “What Are the Participants Doing?.
By God’s grace and a first decade of trial and error, it seems our Team has presently managed a winning formula yielding consistency in effectiveness over the course of our second decade. We utilize fifteen indicators to evaluate whether or not we are serving our students best interests effectively. Upon review, your Team may find it ‘an extreme’ or even an impossibility to shoot for all fifteen. It is not my intention to discourage you! I have a tri-fold positive purpose in sharing these effectiveness indicators:
-To both edify and encourage you in your work
-To assure you of what, in fact, is possible
-To assist you in defining your goals!
While subsequent columns will address how to get here, let’s first determine where we are going.
Effectiveness Indicators (What Are The Participants Doing?)
1) Their interest is high from the first class to the close of the year. (In our program, that time spans from Oct thru June and includes the post-Easter Mystagogia Period.)
2) Apart from genuine emergencies, conflicts of a serious nature, clearly genuine instances of illness, or grave circumstances, there are NO challenges with attendance.
3 ) Their trust is high very early on and is sustained throughout
4) Regardless of the participant’s age, sex, marital status or prior perspective, your students miss attending the program when they have a day off and are truly saddened to see the year come to an end, longing to build on what they have received.
5) By the time you are working through the Commandments and divisive issues challenging our present day culture, your participants (for the most part and/or to the extent that they are presently able) have become rationally convinced that the Church guards and holds the objective truth about God and Reality; in other words, the truth about who they are, why they are here, and where the direction of their lives needs to be heading!
6) Your students feel entirely freed up to get all of their most difficult questions answered and come to the point where they feel a relative sense of peace.
7) When any given class is over, rather than ‘bolting’, they linger for further discussion. (With charity and gratitude, I share that many of our students, after an hour and a half class- preceeded by Mass-will hang around to the point where we have to ‘usher them out’!)
8 )All participants automatically attend the Rite of Election or Call To Continuing Conversion, Holy Week Services and the Neophyte Mass.
9 )When the program is over, they continue to attend Weekly Mass and, in some cases, begin to incorporate Daily Masses into their lives. They regularly frequent Confession and begin to develop a prayer life, incorporating the Rosary, Adoration, and attendance at special Holy Hours.
10) They often return the next year to reinforce select topics and/or retake the whole year of their own volition!
11) They expand out, taking advantage of additional programs, courses, and lectures, as well as reading books in areas of personal interest and utilizing the internet to increase and deepen their understanding of the Faith.
12) If their state in life permits, they become actively involved in the Church, serving in various areas or ministries. (At least half of our Team of 30 is presently made up of past participants!)
13) Those who have children take the raising of those children in the Faith seriously and consider it the top priority of anything and everything they could possibly give them.
14) The participants begin to respond to trial, suffering, and life’s challenges differently than when the program started.
15) They are better able to (or desire to be able to) explain and stand up for the Catholic Faith.
Subsequent columns will address the dynamics that yield this level of effectiveness. Next month, however, we explore a second measure of Evaluating Effectiveness: “What Are The Participants Saying?”
[Book recommendation: “Winning Converts: A Symposium on Methods of Convert Making for Priests and Lay People”, Edited by Rev. John A. O’ Brien; Forward by Karl Keating; Catholic Answers Inc., 1996]
2011 Peggy Clores
Peggy Clores has been engaged in Catholic Adult Education at Our Lady of Mercy Parish and in the RVC Diocese for almost 30 years. In addition to holding a B.A. in Psychology and Theatre Arts from the State University of New York at Stony Brook , she is Co-Coordinator of her parish Adult Ed/RCIA Program, a catechist, speaker, Conference organizer, the LI contact for EnCourage, and a founding member of Catholic Writers of LI. In all her endeavors, her primary mission is to challenge each heart to the dynamism that is the Catholic Faith! Peggy resides in Huntington Village, with her husband, Peter, and has three grown sons, Michael, Sean and Paul. Peggy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1) Effective Evangelization for Adults
2) Building a Successful RCIA Program
3) Making Sense Out of Suffering
4) Dangers and Errors in New Age Spirituality
5) Jesus Christ: Not “One of Many Prophets or Spiritual Teachers”
6) What’s Wrong With Being “Spiritual, Not Religious”
7) Our Catholic Rights in the Public Square: Getting Past the “Imposition of Morality” Argument
8) Daughter of a Holocaust Survivor Defends Pope Pius XII
9) Daughter of a Holocaust Survivor Speaks Out Against the Abortion Holocaust
10) Euthanasia is Here: Understanding the Present Danger