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On this day: Infallibility

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On this day we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Agatho, who was elected in 678 when he was over 100 years old. He reigned until 681.

The inscription on his tomb reads: "the highest priest Agatho holds firm the covenants of the Apostolic See. There is piety! There is the ancient Faith! The undefiled badges of the Fathers remain, nourisher, through your efforts."

It was a tribute to his stance against Monothelitism. Pope Agatho's judgment that Christ had two wills, human and divine, put an end to the Monothelite heresy. The legates he sent to the Sixth Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 680 carried letters that "repeatedly affirmed the inerrancy of the Apostolic See". The bishops agreed that "by Agatho, Peter spoke".

Morning Briefing

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Homeless man captures nation's 'theater of mind'

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NBC's Today Show coverage yesterday and today of the story of Ted Williams -- a homeless former radio professional rediscovered by a Columbus, Ohio radio station which took the time to video tape and record him as he stood on the highway with a sign begging for work -- fascinates me.

Everyone loves a redemption story, a second chance. However, William's mom, at 90 years of age, tells it like it is. She does not want to be disappointed again.

They both speak of the role of God in their lives and Ted, now two years sober, seems to want to move forward with life starting with an apartment.

On this day: Lay Associates

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On this day we celebrate the feast of Blessed Angela of Foligno, a laywoman, a widow, who achieved sanctity as a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis.

In October, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI delivered an address during the general audience in St. Peter's Square. In English, he said: "Our catechesis today recalls the medieval mystic Blessed Angela of Foligno, born in 1248. A carefree wife and mother, Angela at one time looked down on the mendicants and observers of strict poverty in religious life. However, tragic events and suffering in her personal life gave her cause to become aware of her own sins, leading her to a decisive moment of conversion in the year 1285. Invoking the aid of Saint Francis, who appeared to her in a vision, she made her confession at San Feliciano. Upon the death of her mother, husband and children, she sold all she had and joined the Third Order of Saint Francis. She died in 1309."

Why I take the tree down on Epiphany

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Nothing makes me sadder than seeing a tree by the curb on Dec. 26. In our house, we don't take the tree down till Epiphany (actually Epiphany Eve last night)--dry needles be damned.

It's not only laziness that has us keeping our decorations up long after most folks have already returned to work and school (We got them up late too). It's that we're trying to pay some attention to the liturgical calendar--not just the secular one. And that calendar says Christmas is not a 24-hour feast.

Now, I know some purists will say that Christmas really ends the Sunday after Epiphany, with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Others will insist it really goes until Feb. 2, on the Feast of the Presentation in the Temple.

But if I waited that long I wouldn't be able to recycle our tree. At least the City of Chicago has moved the deadline for dropping off your tree for mulching past the new year. Maybe celebrating the 12 days of Christmas isn't so countercultural, after all.

Arizona's anti-immigration law, xenophobia, and the Epiphany

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This morning in East Harlem thousands of schoolchildren took a school trip to a street festival honoring El D'a de los Reyes. The celebration, which honors the day that the Three Kings arrived at the manger of the infant Jesus, is a spirited example of the presence of Latin American tradition in the United States.

But in Arizona, such a class trip would be banned.

According to a new state law, public school children in grades K-12 can no longer be taught lessons in ethnic studies, defined as “history, anthropology and literature courses designed to teach the stories, histories, struggles and triumphs of people of color through their own unique perspectives.”

In both church and state, there are few epiphanies in Arizona lately.

Peace in Sudan: an appeal for prayers

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The following is a letter from Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, Bishop of Albany, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Ken Hackett, president, Catholic Relief Services:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in faith,

As the pivotal January 9, 2011 referendum in Sudan draws near, we urge your continued prayer and advocacy for the people and the Church of Sudan. Catholic Relief Services and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have encouraged Catholics in our nation to support our brothers and sisters in Sudan these last several months through our Catholics Confront Global Poverty initiative. We asked you to pray, learn, advocate, and give, and we are inspired by the energy and engagement that continues to grow for the people of Sudan at this critical time.

On this day: Kings

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On this day, "they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell downe, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts, Gold, and Frankincense, and Myrrhe."

--from the King James Bible, four centuries old this year.

In her Christmas message twelve days ago, Queen Elizabeth II described the King James Bible as a "masterpiece of English prose" and the "most vivid translation of the scriptures". The "glorious language of this bible" has influenced all English speakers, Christian or not, Anglican or not.

Click here to read the story of the Magi from the King James Bible of 1611, digitized for the 400th anniversary. (Enter 2 for the chapter, then double-click to enlarge the page.)

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