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An Introduction

One of the most beautiful things about human beings is our infinite curiosity and insatiate desire to understand the world around us. This curiosity is why we develop formulas to calculate the forces of nature.
It’s why we organize complex taxonomies to categorize the millions of species in the natural world. And it’s why we devote incredible amounts of money to space exploration and deep-ocean exploration. We want to know and understand how the things around us fit into the bigger picture of life.

For me, the most fascinating mystery is that of the Church on earth. The Church exists within time, but her reach extends beyond time. She transmits the perfect graces of Christ, but she herself is imperfect in her human manifestation. The Church is a phenomenon of symmetries and paradoxes, and countless theologians have studied her nature and actions in time throughout the past two millennia. They have recognized that, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “The Church is not a manufactured item. She is the living seed of God that must be allowed to grow and ripen.”

Existing within time, the Church has undergone—and continues to undergo—many developments in the way she operates, in how she interacts with the world, in her makeup of believers, and in the way she teaches and governs. At different times, these developments trend in noticeable directions. While the word “trend” often connotes a fleeting pop-culture fad, it simply means an inclination or movement in a particular direction, and this latter meaning is how I use it.

Over my twenty-five years of ministry and involvement with the Catholic Church in America, I have been intrigued by the trends that have unfolded. This fascination has led me to undertake more formally the project of observing and reflecting on some of these developments. For the benefit of the Church and her members, I want to be keenly aware of what is happening in the Catholic world, and track how, over time, patterns emerge. It is by being in touch with these movements that we, as ministry professionals, can make decisions that are informed, relevant, and forward-looking.

How do I plan to do this? First, I will identify online content that I believe points toward a current Catholic trend. Then, I will either personally analyze this content in a blog post or will invite an “expert” guest to appear on my podcast to share his or her analysis. The content I will observe, read, and track will be drawn from Catholic and secular news sources, Catholic blogs, and polls, as well as reports published by research organizations such as the acclaimed Center for the Applied Research of the Apostolate (CARA).

My intent is not simply to aggregate Catholic content online in one space, since many sources already do that fairly well. What I hope to bring to the table is a unique way to track, categorize, and analyze what that content might mean for both local and global Catholic communities. To this end, I will draw from Cardinal Avery Dulles’ book, Models of the Church, in which he categorizes and describes six lenses through which people tend to view and understand the Church. To learn more about these models and how I will use them to guide my work, click here.

In summary, here is what you can expect to find in my blog:

    • Commentary responding to coverage of current events unfolding in the Church
    • monthly summary that highlights key Catholic content and categorizes that content according to the six models of the Church
    • Interviews with Catholic personalities from various spheres within the Church commenting on emerging Catholic trends

I hope that this blog will prove to be a valuable resource that helps you keep your ears to the ground and respond to the trends of the Church with the ingenuity that Christ speaks of when he calls us to be as “shrewd as serpents and as innocent doves!” (Matthew 10:16).