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Mary Magdalene: The path of the heart

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July 22 is the feast day of Mary Magdalene.

When Mary Busby, co-founder of Sagrada Sacred Arts, an interfaith book store in Oakland California, tried to a find a children’s story about Mary Magdalene, she discovered that young readers’ collections “just didn’t include her at all.”

So Busby wrote one herself. Magdalene, the Path of the Heart is a saga based on traditional scripture accounts, oral tradition, the Gospel of Mary and other Gnostic texts. Beautifully illustrated by Holly Sierra, a Vermont artist, its sweet message will captivate both children and the adults in their lives. Magdalene,Path of the Heart weaves the simple tale of a little girl who would come to be known the world over as “the apostle to the apostles”, -- a strong compassionate woman who clearly articulates the teachings of her beloved friend, Jesus, for all times and places.

The Russian Orthodox Church, progressive Catholics and other Christians with feminist leanings view her this way, while traditionalists tend to dismiss Magdalene as the penitent prostitute, Busby noted.

Questions to ask at your local farmers' market

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Farmers’ markets are open-air outlets where anywhere from a few to dozens of [img_assist|nid=25795||desc=|link=none|align=left|width=225|height=169]farmers/producers regularly gather throughout the growing season to sell their fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy foods and other items. They are currently in peak season. Their bins and tables overflow with fresh offerings.

One of the most important ways to get the most out of the market and all it has to offer is to ask questions, lots of questions. Farmers' markets and sustainable agriculture in general are all about establishing relationships between eaters and producers.

Instead of yes or no questions like - Do you use pesticides? Or, Is your beef grass-fed? -- you can ask open-ended questions: How do you grow your strawberries (or corn, or tomatoes)? Or, How do you raise your beef (or chicken, or lamb)? Let the farmer/rancher tell you about what he or she does. Most of them are more than happy to tell you all about what they do.

The Catholic love of nature

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By Katherine Reynolds Abbott

About two miles from my parish in New Jersey, there is a place where on these blazing hot summer days, you can enter a green lawn under an enclosure of towering oak trees and feel ten degrees cooler. The oaks surround an ancient spring-fed pond, which has been enlarged and adapted over the years into a pond/swimming pool hybrid. In the 1930s children dove off a floating dock in the middle of the pond, but now they use diving boards and tubular plastic slides along a straight cement wall at the deep end.

Color to match the July sky

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This was written by Hal Borland, nature columnist for many years for The New York Times.

Chicory is in blossom at the roadsides and in neglected fields, in vacant city lots everywhere. It's one of the few wildlings of the season that have a color to match the July sky. Chicory bloom is one of the warmest blues on the rural landscape, and the individual flowers are as big as silver dollars, big as the field daisies that always seem to be near neighbors. In fact, some call it the blue daisy. Others know it as blue sailors, or succory, or coffee weed.

Green Catholic parish: Nativity of Our Lord, Detroit, Mich.

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Another Catholic parish that lives and teaches excellent spiritual, social and green values is Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church in Detroit, Mich. Nativity has taken the message of “being good stewards of the earth” seriously as shown by their positive environmental activities.

Continue reading about this parish in "Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church: An environmental treasure in Detroit."

Database of Catholic religious communities and the land

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A Benedictine monastery in North Dakota has introduced the use of wind power in a coal-producing state. A Dominican women's community in Western Kansas sponsors a large organic vegetable growing and animal raising enterprise, Heartland Farm. A Catholic project in New Mexico is cited for its use of straw-bale construction and solar energy. The 80-acre campus of St. John’s University in rural Minnesota has introduced a 250-year sustainable rotation of thinning and harvesting of their extensive forests. The monks there have managed the land since 1979 with a goal to restore biodiversity in both flora and fauna. They are planning a 150-acre wetland, savanna, and prairie restoration project. A task force is establishing a native habitat arboretum that will embrace the entire property. The monks offer land ethic outreach to the local community.

Green Mountain: First monastery devoted to care of the Earth

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In 1982, the sociology department of a Catholic university invited Passionist priest Fr. Thomas Berry, to reflect upon the future of the Catholic church in the United States. Fr. Berry, a cultural historian, author and geologian who had served as president of the American Teilhard Association for a decade, did not waste words.

“In my view (the church’s future)will depend above all on its capacity to assume its religious responsibility for the fate of the earth. … so far, church authorities, religious orders, the Catholic universities, and seminaries, priests and people have shown an amazing insensitivity to this most urgent of all issues confronting the human … My question is, after we burn our lifeboat (the Earth) how will we stay afloat?”

July's night skies

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The nights of July are short, but they are packed with sky happenings and objects. All five naked-eye planets are visible at some point during the month, with Venus ending its long run as the morning star. It is barely visible in early twilight at July's start, then disappears by the middle of the month.

The “dog days” of summer are upon us. They get their name from the Dog Star, Sirius. The brightest star in the night sky, it is immersed in the Sun’s glare at this time of year. Because of that, ancient skywatchers named this period in the star’s honor.

The Moon is full at 1:40 a.m. CDT today. The full Moon of July is known by several names, including Hay Moon and Thunder Moon. Since the first people landed on the Moon during the month of July, we might someday add “Apollo Moon” to the list.

The evening skies of summer feature Aquila, the Eagle, whose brightest star, Altair, is easy to see. But the constellation also hosts one of the faintest stars yet discovered. Known as Van 17, 2011

Matter matters: Environmental sacramentality

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The National Catholic Rural Life Conference's Web site carries a reflection, "Environmental Sacramentality," by Fr. Bud Grant, a theologian and pastor of a rural parish in Iowa. Fr. Grant is an assistant professor of theology at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa.

"In the physical elements of grain and fruit ground and crushed and remade into bread and wine, then blessed and broken and remade into Christ’s body and blood," he writes, "we Catholics have the most sublime expression of the innate beauty and goodness of creation. For us, to put it simply, matter matters."

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