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Future of Christianity lies in drawing near to Christ, says speaker

In today’s anti-Christian culture, Catholics no longer have the option to be idle and indecisive about living their faith, said author and speaker Dan Burke.

During his talk Aug. 14 at St. Mary Parish in Aspen on “The Future of Christianity?”, Burke said he told faithful it’s time to act.

“Cultural Catholicism isn’t going to cut it anymore,” said Burke, who is president and founder of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, which offers online spiritual education classes. “Those sitting on the edges are going to have to make a decision.”

Drawing closer to Christ, especially through Scripture, is how Christianity will endure a secular culture, he shared with the Denver Catholic during an interview.

“We better draw near to Christ, because if we don’t we’re going to find ourselves enveloped by the darkness. Instead of advancing to the kingdom, we’ll (advance) through the gates of hell,” he said.

Burke, who is also the executive director of and blogger for the National Catholic Register, gave a talk at the parish during a weekend celebration of its feast, the Assumption of Mary.

Avila’s academic dean and co-founder Anthony Lilles—former professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver—also gave a talk over the weekend. Father Nathan Cromly of the Community of St. John celebrated weekend Masses at the parish.

Through a partnership with Avila, the parish plans to host engaging talks, courses and training for faithful who live in the affluent and highly-cultural town of Aspen.

The area needs a strong Catholic presence, said pastor Father John Hilton, who recently completed a cross country bike ride to help support the parish’s initiative.

“I think Aspen is one of those places where culture is formed,” Father Hilton told the Denver Catholic in May. “The challenge for us at St. Mary’s is to be relevant to the life of the people here. It would really be a tragedy for the Church to not be engaged in the culture.”

St Mary Aspen map
St. Mary Parish in Aspen

Father Hilton’s bike ride was part of a parish campaign to fund a renovation of the church and build a new pavilion where the Avila Institute would host its courses.

With a $4 million renovation to the church built in 1892 and a new pavilion, Father Hilton hopes the faith will grow in relevance to the community.

“Father Hilton wants to draw in some of the community here who maybe don’t attend church or are Catholics who have drifted away,” Burke said.

The new pavilion would also provide the Avila Institute with its first physical campus for spiritual formation classes, personal enrichment courses and a masters-level spiritual theology program.

If faithful cling to the Gospel and grow in their faith, the Church will survive through difficult times, Burke said.

“The darker our culture gets and the more hostile it gets toward people of faith, the brighter the lights will shine within those who have a living relationship with Christ,” he said.

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