Coffee Interviews: Jon Weiss and Family Missions Company

[youtube=http://youtu.be/A0BU5TUCMZw] Coffee Interviews is a series of video interviews of interesting people I would love to have coffee with and pick their brains.

Today I got to speak with Jon Weiss from Family Missions Company, a ministry where entire families move to third world countries for extended periods to minister to the local community. This is a powerful ministry of men, women, and children radically living out the call to "Go, make disciples of all nations" Matthew 28:18

Topics Covered

What is Family Missions Company? How do large families do mission work in third world countries? Spiritual poverty in the West How can families be more missionary focused?

Various Schtuff Mentioned


"The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father's work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task." Catechism #2205

Being Catholic Isn't An Excuse for Crap Writing: Lessons from a Journalist

writting If you've read my post about evangelization and cheese, you might not be surprised when I say that evangelistic efforts can't lack quality. Regardless of how true the Catholic faith is, if you can't communicate it effectively the truth will fall on deaf ears.

I'm not the greatest writer (shocker I know) and wanted some help in this area so I asked good friend Arleen Spencely to share some of her knowledge and experience as a writer, blogger, and journalist. Listen up!


Five Blogging Tips from a Journalist - Arleen Spenceley

Lots of what I know about blogging is what I learned in a newsroom – what I learned at the first desk on the left side of a Tampa Bay Times bureau, where on July 23, 2007, I marveled at the privilege of my new reality: “I can’t believe I work here.”

That day – my first as a Times staff writer – I was a college kid, now with Pulitzer Prize-winning colleagues, a press badge and a dream come true. That semester, the summer before I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in journalism, I discovered what I never expected I would:

You learn a lot more in newsrooms than in classrooms.

I wrote in Times newsrooms until December 2012, when, after five years on staff, I resigned to finish my master’s degree. I look back with gratitude, for great memories and a skill set I still use. What I learned in newsrooms, I’ve discovered, transfers seamlessly to blogs. Here are the four lessons I use most:

If you’re gonna write, you’ve got to read. And you’ve got to read good writing. At the paper, I’d spend 20 minutes browsing Times archives for stories by better writers than I before beginning to write my own. I’d read stories by Pulitzer winners and nominees, riveted by the result of their talent and experience. Then, I’d emulate it (or try). This also works when you blog (but don’t just read blogs! Read books, good newspapers, and/or magazines.)

Talk to strangers. We are surrounded by the people who surround us for a reason. We are also surrounded by good stories. One morning, I parked outside a Tampa bureau of the Times and crossed paths with a handful of young cyclists, circling the lot on bikes. My gut said “talk to them.” So, I did. As it turns out, the cyclists were siblings (among them, the drummer from rock band Anberlin) preparing to train for a 5k with their grandfather – the last one he intended to run, because knee pain pushed him to retire from running. It became one of the favorite stories I wrote – and I only wrote it because I talked to strangers.

Your senses are your friends. Whether what you write reads well might depend on whether you use them. Without senses, the 9/11 first responder you write about couldn't see through smoke. With senses, “Pulverized debris settled like dust on the city. (He) breathed it in. His mouth tasted like metal, but he worked.” Facts are fabulous, but details – which we find by using our senses, or borrowing the senses of the people about whom we write – are better. If you aren’t there to see, smell, hear, taste, or touch it, ask your story’s subject what they saw, smelled, heard, tasted, or felt.

Writer’s block doesn't exist. One afternoon in a newsroom, I buried my face with my hands and shook my head in front of a blank screen. A seasoned colleague noticed. “What’s wrong?” he asked. “Writer’s block,” I said. “But writer’s block doesn't exist,” he said. If you’re a writer, you can write. When you feel like you can’t, it isn't because you can’t. It’s because you need more information. Gather it. Browse the web for blog fodder. Conduct a follow-up interview. Talk to strangers again. The ability you thought you lost will come back when you do.



Arleen Spenceley is a Roman Catholic writer who primarily writes about love, chastity, and sex, and wrote for the Tampa Bay Times for five years. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com, tweets @ArleenSpenceley, and Facebooks (is that a word?) here. Click here to read the feature story about a 9/11 first responder she quoted above and wrote in 2011.

How to Proclaim and Defend the Entire Catholic Faith

Catechism 5 Ways

"...this book can be transformed from a silent instrument, like a valuable violin resting on a velvet cloth, into an instrument that sounds and rouses hearts." Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa 1st Advent Sermon to the Papal Household

So maybe you're one of those Catholics hipsters - hip young adult devoutly committed to Orthodoxy, sworn ally to the Pope, defender of Mother Church, reader of Chesterton and Percy, drinker of beer and wielder of apologetics.

Maybe you're not.

Either way, if you want to help spread the love of Christ, and fulfill Christ's not-so-optional Great Commission for all disciples (yes you too) then you have to spread the faith.

What faith?

          What parts of the faith?

                    THE ENTIRE CATHOLIC FAITH.

Yes that's right. And I mean Catholic as in the deposit of faith as guarded and upheld by the Catholic Church in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium.Right now there is a vast misunderstanding in our society, and even among some well-intentioned or self-professed Catholics, about what the Church actually teaches.

"Someone, somewhere in the Church founded by Christ must be in a position to tell the faithful, "this is true, and that is false;" or "this is morally good, and that is morally bad." Otherwise, the very existence of Christianity is in danger and the survival of the Catholic Church in any given country or locality is in jeopardy.

In many dioceses of America, attendance at Sunday Mass is down to some twenty-five percent of the professed Catholics in a diocese. Some Church officials are scrambling for a solution and recommending the most bizarre solutions. It never seems to dawn on these "experts" that the heart of the problem is the massive uncertainty in millions of Catholic minds about what is unchangeable doctrine in faith and moral principles." Fr. John Hardon

If you are striving to be a Catholic and defend the faith, then you must speak from the heart of the Church. You must be in a confident ability to charitably inform, or even sometimes correct, misunderstandings about the Catholic faith.

I mean the entire faith because the Catholic faith is not one long dainty necklace with doctrines and dogmas and pretty beliefs hanging separately and disjointed from one another.No, the faith is always entire and whole because the faith is unified and organic.

Our faith is more like a wheel. The center of the wheel being Christ, and the doctrines and beliefs being the spokes all in relation and connected to Christ - "the love that never ends".

The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love. Catechism Paragraph 25

Hold the whining. Its not as hard as you would imagine.

"We now have a one-volume reservoir of Catholic truth and practice for everyone who wants to bring others to Christ, if they are not yet Christians; to solidify the faith of those who have been baptized; to defend Roman Catholicism in a world in which the Church has been abandoned by so many once-believing Catholics and is being betrayed even by some of her ecclesiastical leaders." Fr. John Hardon

That's right my beloved Papists, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism is our one-stop shop for evangelization.

The Catechism might sound like a less-than-spectacular remedy for the slings and arrows of our time, but that's because of our preconceived notions, not because the Catechism is anything less than a powerhouse for evangelization.

"This Catechism is of historic importance. Depending on how seriously we take it, the future of the Catholic Church will be shaped accordingly." says Fr. Hardon. He explains that the course of the Catholic Church will depend on whether or not we see the Catechism as an act of God. "He is providing us with the opportunity of helping to make the twenty-first century the most glorious since the coming of Christ, but on one condition: that we capitalize on the gift He is giving us in the Catechism of the Catholic Church."

Fr. John Hardon, in his article "Understanding the Catechism of the Catholic Church", proposed five ways to use the catechism to help Christ evangelize the masses and spread the liberating and life giving faith who is Jesus Christ.

Here are Fr. John Hardon's five suggestions for using the Catechism:


Below each are explained in Fr. John Hardon's own words...

Know the Catechism.

Our most fundamental duty is to know the Catechism. How do you come to know anything? By reading, by discussing, by hearing it explained by competent persons.

Speed reading of the Catechism would be self-defeating. If anything, the Catechism should be not only read but prayerfully meditated. Spend some time set aside for reflecting, in God's presence, what the Catechism teaches through more than 500 pages of print.

How much time people waste in reading fiction, or worse. Is it too much for Christ to expect us to spend a few hours a week in reading, alone or with others, what promises to be the food that feeds the soul on revealed truth?

Trust the Catechism.

Already, critics have appeared who discredit the Catechism on both sides of the spectrum.

• Some criticize it for being outmoded and out of touch with the times.

• Others criticize it for giving in to Modernism and therefore discredit what the Vicar of Christ is offering the believing faithful for their spiritual sustenance in a world that is dying out of hunger for the truth.

Pay no attention to these critics. To distrust the Catechism is to play into the hand of the devil, who fears nothing more than security of doctrine among the followers of Christ.

Adapt the Catechism.

The Catechism is not simple reading. But neither is it sophisticated and out-of-touch with the vocabulary of the people. In any case, the Catechism contains all the essentials for Catholic faith, morality, and divine worship.

In using the Catechism to teach others, adjust the language to the mentality of those you are teaching. Adapt the ideas, without watering them down. Accommodate what the Catechism says, to the mental and spiritual level of those with whom you are sharing God's truth.

Live the Catechism.

This is no pious platitude. Teaching the true faith is unlike any other form of pedagogy.

The purpose of teaching the Catholic faith is to enable those you are teaching to practice the virtues which Christ expects of His followers. Very well, but how do you enable those you teach to practice what they have learned? You don't! Only Christ can give them the grace they need to practice what they believe. So how do they get the grace they need? From Christ, of course. But through you, their teachers.

What are we saying? We are saying that God uses holy people as channels of His grace to others. In the measure of our own union with Him, He will communicate to those we teach the light and strength they need to live the Christian faith. God uses humble people to give others the gift of humility. He uses chaste people as conduits of His grace of chastity; patient people to inspire patience; prayerful people to make others prayerful.

In a word, if we live the Catechism, we become instruments of divine faith to everyone whose life we touch. This, we may say, is the law of spiritual generation. Sanctity is reproductive; holiness is procreative.

Share the Catechism.

One final point should be made: On the last day we shall be judged on our practice of charity. How we hope that when Christ appears, He will say to us, "Come, blessed of my Father, and possess the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; thirsty and you gave me to drink; naked and you clothed me, sick and in prison and you visited me."

What does this have to do with the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Everything! This masterpiece of sacred wisdom provides us with all the resources we need to meet the spiritual needs of America. But we must be convinced that these needs are desperate, and that we have at hand the means of saving the soul of our society.


"Lord Jesus, you have given us the Catechism of the Catholic Church to bring light to those who are walking in darkness and supernatural life to those who are sitting in the shadow of death. "Enlighten our minds with your revealed truth and inspire our hearts with your divine love — so that by our courageous witness to your Name here on earth we may bring countless souls with us to that heavenly Kingdom for which we were made. Amen."

**This is an exerpt from Fr. John Hardon's excellent article "Understanding the Catechism of the Catholic Church"

U.S. Postal Service and Relevant Evangelization

In 2009 the United States Postal Service was struggling financially, as it still is today.  After noticing stamps of Elvis Presley sold better than stamps of Millard Fillmore (who?), the USPS decided to add more contemporary characters to their 2009 lineup of sea kelp and the state of Alaska (yay sea kelp!).

At the suggestion of a citizens panel, the USPS printed 1 billion (1,000,000,000) commemorative stamps with portraits of Simpsons characters: Homer, Marge, Maggie, and Baby Lisa.

It seems like a great idea and no brainer: millions of Americans watch The Simpsons, and the merchandise for the cartoon show is a hundred million dollar industry.  If Elvis sells better than Millard Fillmore, than Homer should sell better than Elvis.  Homer is more relevant to more people.

Between 2009 and 2010 the USPS sold only 318 million Simpsons stamps of the one billion they printed.  That leaves 682 million unbought and costing the USPS $1.2 million during a period of already deep debt. What happened?

The appearance of a culture is not the values (of the people) of a culture, even though they are related.

This needs explaining, because it is a subtle concept and the difference is nuanced.

Millions of Americans watch the Simpsons.  And the USPS was tempted to believe that if they translated the appearance of that culture into the snail mail world, the audience would follow and buy Simpsons stamps.

But the type of people who watch the Simpsons are not people who value sending letters in the mail, or who even receive letters in the mail.  The people who are part of a culture that watches the Simpsons place little to no value on physical mail.  They are a younger generation brought up on email and texting.  The visual trappings of the culture are not most important, the values of the people of the culture are most important.


The word relevant, according to Merriam Webster, is defined:

Relevant: having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand

All the trappings of any culture - hipster, indie, goth, rock and roll - are the outward expressions of inwardly held values and convictions. They are outward expressions of a perspective on the matters at hand - the matters that are most important to that particular culture.

Roots and Veneer

The Church wisely instructs us in a document specifically about evangelization:

"...what matters is to evangelize man's culture and cultures (not in a purely decorative way, as it were, by applying a thin veneer, but in a vital way, in depth and right to their very roots),... always taking the person as one's starting-point and always coming back to the relationships of people among themselves and with God." Evangelii Nuntiandi #20

If the pastor of a Church decides to start dressing like this:


for the sake of being "relevant" to hipsters, but never has any significant bearing on the matters most important to hipsters - nonconformity, radical independence, and shameless self-expression - then he is just applying a thin veneer to the Gospel.  The pastor who does this is not taking the person as the starting point, but the clothes and appearance as the starting point of evangelization.

The appearance of a culture originates in the values the people of that culture are most strongly rooted in.  Sure there are phoneys and fakes, but the core of any culture is born in a value held by a person.  Any attempt at evangelization must take into consideration the deeply rooted values of the people being evangelized.

How to Be Relevant

As a twenty-four year old baby-faced youth minister who wears jeans, I get tired of people over the age of 30 telling me again and again "It's so good you are a youth minister, because you are young and relevant to the kids."  I know plenty of people my age who would NOT be relevant to high school teens, and I know plenty of people over 50 who are extremely relevant to high school teens.

Just for one small example: hundreds of thousands of youth flocked to World Youth Days, wherever they were held, to see a 70+ year old Pope who captured the hearts of an entire generation of young Catholics.  I would consider Pope John Paul II pretty relevant.

What is the secret to coming across as relevant when speaking to teens, hipsters, the shuffleboard club, or democrats?  Having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matters at hand, that is, the deep rooted values these people hold.  

If I talk to high school teens about the intricacies of mutual funds using their lingo and wearing their clothes and referencing their culture, that is not relevant.  If I am 60 years old and talk about how much it sucks to breakup with your boyfriend, THAT is relevant.

And when you address the deep rooted values and concerns of people, you open up an opportunity to present them with a truth they are hungering for, a truth that transcends cultures and is not only rooted in Jesus Christ, but IS Jesus Christ.

This is how we make Jesus relevant.

"...man always exists in a particular culture, but it must also be admitted that man is not exhaustively defined by that same culture. Moreover, the very progress of cultures demonstrates that there is something in man which transcends those cultures. This "something" is precisely human nature: this nature is itself the measure of culture and the condition ensuring that man does not become the prisoner of any of his cultures, but asserts his personal dignity by living in accordance with the profound truth of his being" Veritatis Splendor #53