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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.)

Morning Briefing

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US protests over treatment of diplomat in Vietnam
Roughed up U.S. official was meeting with Catholic priest held in house arrest.

Clergy abuse in Delaware: Maryland parish victim settles
Case had been set to go to trial this week. $1.7 million settlement

Milwaukee Catholic schools feel funds are safe from bankruptcy filing
But hurting schools face more uncertainty.

Discovery Channel teams with Catholic church in look into demons
"The Exorcist Files" set to air in the spring

Fr. Cutie: Too little, too late

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Fr. Albert Cutie, the Miami priest who left the priesthood after the paparazzi caught him with his girlfriend on the beach, is in the news again. Now an Episcopal priest, husband (to said girlfriend) and actual father to a teen-aged stepson and infant daughter, Cutie has released a "tell-all" book this month.

Nothing in "Dilemma: A Priest's Struggle with Faith and Love" will surprise veteran church watchers and reformers:


  • A number of priests are involved in heterosexual and homosexual relationships, in part because celibacy makes them lonely and starved for intimacy.

  • Some bishops are hardly the pastoral shepherds they should be to their flocks, including their priests.

  • Many in the church hierarchy are only concerned with the church's image in the sex abuse scandal.

The new Mass translation: More than just words

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COLUMN

Check out Dominican Fr. Paul Philibert’s article in this week's issue of America magazine to learn why the new translation of the Roman Missal is catching flack for more than just bad grammar and antiquated English.

Philibert makes the case, respectfully but forcefully, that altering the words of consecration of the cup from "It will be shed for you and for all" to "It will be shed for you and for many" is a significant shift in emphasis from the accepted theological notion that Jesus died to save all people, not just a select number, however defined.

WikiLeaks: Israel wanted to keep Gaza economy 'on brink of collapse'

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Israel told U.S. officials in 2008 it would keep Gaza's economy "on the brink of collapse" during an Israeli blockade of the area, according to U.S. diplomatic cables published by a Norwegian daily and released by WikiLeaks Wednesday.

The information in the leaked Nov. 3, 2008 cable seems to contradict official declarations -- made by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert -- that the Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip wouldn't unduly target ordinary Palestinians.

From the Reuters report (via Haaretz):

"As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to (U.S. embassy economic officers) on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge," one of the cables read.

Israel wanted the coastal territory's economy "functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis", according to the Nov. 3, 2008 cable.

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