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October 18, 1996     The Message
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October 18, 1996
 

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2 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana . New Age: What is it and how should Catholics deal By MARY ETTA IQE1t O.S.B. Message Staff Holy Family Church, Jasper, was the scene of a presentation Wednesday evening, October 9, on the New Age Movement. The lecture and discussion period came about as a result of numer- ous questions on the nature and practices of the movement, and the different views of New Age by many people in southwestern Indiana. Benedictine Father Matthias Neuman, professor of systemat- ic theology, at St. Meinrad, out- lined the three-fold purpose of the presentation in introducto- ry remarks: to describe more exactly the New Age Movement; to examine reasons for its cur- rent growth, and to develop a possible Catholic response. Father Neuman described New Age as a pluralistic soci- ety of semi-religious groups which hold in common a collec- tion of beliefs and practices. He emphasized that New Age is not Christian, and its practi- tioners probably have no inter- est in the Christian faith. In fact, New Age is not organized; that is, it has no central author- ity, creed, or laws for gover- nance, and therefore, poses no threat of conspiracy against the church. Practices of this loose- ly-knit movement may or may not be divergent from Catholic practice. Among these beliefs and practices are healings with herbs or crystals, paranorrnal experiences (such as out-of- body and near-death), abduc- tions by extra-terrestrials, rein- carnation, assistance from angels, and the use of vegetarian diets (it must be said that not all New Agers are vegetarians, and by the same token, not all vegetarians New Agers). Other New Age interests are music which combines sounds of nature with synthesized and tra- ditional instrumental sounds, Eastern health and healing reg- imens, and the practices of con- templative and meditative prayer, using the methods of the medieval Church and/or those of Hinduism or Buddhism (again, the contemplative, centering, and meditative prayer methods are part of Church tradition). Father Neuman pointed to vari- ous books described as New Age books, including the best-seller of two years ago, The Celestine Prophecy, a New Age novel by James Redfield. Why is New Age so popular now? Father Neuman pointed out that the movement is large- ly found in developed countries. New Age may be, in part, a Benedictine Father Matthias Neuman, speaking on the New Age Movement October 9 at Holy Family Church, Jasper, directs some warning remarks to high school juniors and seniors present in the audience. "It is likely that most of you will go away to college. Know what you believe. Study, reflect, judge, and pray for understanding .... You will be questioned and even ridiculed. Be ready to stand by what you believe." -- Message photo by Mary Etta Kiefer, O.S.B. rebellion against reason, science and technology, which play such an important role in changing our daily lives. It may also be related to the human need for the mystical and spiritual. The New Age movement is attract- ing the unchurched and those who feel disenchanted with organized religion. How do New Age beliefs dif- fer from Catholic? At the core of its practices are several convic- tions: A new consciousness--a new way of seeing--is emerging among humans. The new con- sciousness is an interconnected- ness and harmony with all things and all people, with all that exists. New Agers see all existence as one giant energy, and the goal of human life is to become aware of that energy and achieve harmony with it. The New Age believes in para- normal phenomena as evidence of that energy beyond the usual experience. Perhaps the clearest differ- ence can be found in the attitude toward a "higher power." The Christian believes in a personal and transcendent God active in our lives, and also believes in the power of sin or evil. New Agers, on the other hand, believe in a world-energy of which all are a part, and in this sense, all are "God." Body, soul,and spirit are at the center of this existence to the New Ager. What is the Catholic response to the New Age movement? Father Neuman pointed out options open to Catholics: to react in panic, perceiving New Age as a great conspirator- enemy of the church; to jump on the bandwagon and buy the "new" ideas; or, to take a mid- dle, discerning position, and carefully discriminate; to real- ize that New Age holds quite dif- ferent positions from the Roman Catholic Church, especially on God and Creation, Jesus Christ as Savior from sin, and gifts of grace from God, rather than from our own Both in his closing remarks, man cautioned words make the ( When New Agers they may ly foreign to the ed meaning of the Neuman described as cultures, ancient those concepts purposes. It is Age has claimed aims as worthy, just do, and that New certain concepts such as masses netic fields, and balance. It is now find Gregorian New Age music, even chant is part of tradition. Members of the asked questions Age tation. One questior are so many attracted to New Neuman, who is chaplains for the he did not have reason that Sisters are Age. Benedictine activities and the Sisters "are New Age, when, part of our own tion." Perhaps the posed by New Age lenge to Christians practice their faith such a way that and hope in their Father Matthias ! prayer for the ticularly for the leave for college, is study, reflect, wisdom and Trust in God as scendent, foreign to New Age. : American giving: There's good news, bad By JERRY FILTEAU Catholic News Service WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Independent Sector's. latest biennial report on U.S. giving and volunteering, released Oct. 9, was filled with good news and bad news: Good news: For the first time since 1989, per-household giving was up last year after adjusting for inflation. Bad news: Fewer Americans did the giving. The percentage of households that reported no charitable contributions rose from 27 percent in 1993 to 32 percent last year. Good news: People give or vol- unteer when someone they know well asks them. Contribu- tors and volunteers rated that the top reason they gave or vol- unteered. Bad news: Too many people are not asked. More than half those surveyed said they had not been asked to do volunteer work by someone they knew. Of that group, only one in five took the initiative to volunteer. For religion, the good news is that people who belong to a charities" -- than those who claim no religious involvement. But for Catholics there was bad news. Among Americans with reli- gious affiliation, Catholics sit way down on the bottom rung in giv- ing n less than half the rate of the other groups. Catholics surveyed reported giving an average of 1.4 percent of household income to charity last year, while Protestants reported giving 2.9 percent and members of other religions 3.0 percent. In constant dollars the aver- age household contribution in 1995 was $1,017, up from an average of $928 in 1993. Volunteers donated an esti- mated 20.3 billion hours of time in 1995, up 1 billion hours from 1993. The estimated dollar value of volunteer contributed services was over $200 billion, and a slight increase in the percentage of people who did volunteer work marked a reversal of a substantial decline in the years 1989-93. Independent Sector is a national coalition of nearly 800 voluntary and philanthropic and encouragement of philan- thropy, volunteering and not-for- profit initiative to improve American life. Every other year it commis- sions the Gallup Organization to conduct an in-depth survey, through more than 2,500 in- home interviews, of the giving practices and volunteer activi- ties of Americans over the pre- vious 12 months. It released its 1996 report at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington. "Trends over the last five sur- veys" give important informa- tion about giving and volun- teering patterns, said Virginia Hodgkinson, Independent Sec- tor director of research. The first is that giving and doing go together, she said: On average, volunteers give three times as much of their house- hold income as nonvolunteers. "Volunteering, the giving of time, is very precious" to the giv- ing of money, she said. "The second thing we've learned is that membership is extraordinarily important to the level of giving and volunteering, not only in religious organiza- church or synagogue give more ::.|zfi..m?, :IVwas f.ot ,d.ed:!n',,. t.ion. i b.,,in:::0theT/:vrganiza. w "both to religion and to other, 988ra4m, ixm,forvemavehorr" iov  Bho said... , .......... "If you were a member of a religious organization, 76 per- cent of households contributed, and if you were not a member, 55 percent contributed," she added. "If you were a member of a religious organization, 55 per- cent volunteered; if you were not, one out of three volun- teered." Membership in any organiza- tion -- from garden clubs to alumni organizations, from eth- nic organizations to sports clubs to labor unions n significantly increases the likelihood of both giving and volunteering, she said. She attributed this to "the power of the ask: If you are member of an organization, you are asked to give and you are asked to volunteer." "For example, if you were a member of a religious organiza- tion, 67 percent reported they were asked to give (to some charitable cause) last year, and 48 percent were asked to volun- teer. If you were not a member, only 45 percent reported that they were asked to contribute and 31 percent we,re asked to volunteer," she said. "We've also found out that :,'events when (people nre) young have lifetim, reported. She said the re and who were groups or youth or who saw their teering "are two to the rate" of adults have those youth "This is a very vention. If we had with an opportunity to! to be a member of a we could see major behaviors as adults Hodgkinson re survey data gave dence that tax charitable critical factor in table giving, and probable impact indicate it would funding problems organizations. She said advocates including those ify for a tax deduction for contributions. It makes no to treat "affluent ent people same ctivity:. ....