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Becoming a lent girl


In the same way some young girls during the heyday of the Beatles identified themselves as “Paul girls” or “John girls,” I tend to identify myself as an Advent girl rather than a (sigh) Lent girl.

Nonetheless, Lent is upon us and I made it through Ash Wednesday on almost a complete fast -- three strawberries and a half-handful of almonds at 7 a.m. and a very small apple at 3 p.m. (Hardly seems like fasting when compared to our siblings of other faiths who fast from sunrise to sunset, but it was slightly better than the cutting-corners-allowed rules of Catholic fasts.)

That accomplishment under my belt, I realized late Ash Wednesday that for the first time in my life, I’m not dreading the next six weeks. I don’t think I’m a full-on Lent girl, but I’m definitely seeing this season as holding the potential for growth instead of just a long slog through misery.

Airport chaplains: 'Flying on a Wing and a Prayer'


The Wall Street Journal offers a glimpse into the spiritual offerings of a airports around the world:

At least 140 airports around the world have designated chapels, and more than 250 have airport chaplains, according to the International Association of Civil Aviation Chaplains, an ecumenical non-profit organization. While chaplains are among the first-responders in the event of a crash, day to day they spend their time offering solace to travelers, consoling the bereaved, hearing confession or offering blessings to passengers before they board airplanes.

"It's a ministry of presence," says the Rev. Chris Piasta, a Roman Catholic chaplain at New York's Kennedy International Airport. "Years ago people enjoyed flying. Nowadays, no one talks about an enjoyable experience anymore."

New book confirms: Benedict XVI is his own best spokesperson



One keen irony about the papacy of Benedict XVI is that while the Vatican regime over which he presides has sometimes come off as ham-fisted in terms of public relations, the pope himself is almost universally acknowledged as a gifted communicator.

A veteran theologian and teacher, Benedict can express complex theological ideas in crystalline sentences that don’t require a Ph.D. to grasp, and he has a knack for phrasing the Christian message in positive terms -- what I’ve called his “Affirmative Orthodoxy.”

In the old days, a pope would say or do something controversial, and then his aides would smooth things over. More recently, it’s actually been the pope who gets the Vatican back “on message” after someone else has put his foot in his mouth. (This, by the way, should not be taken as a criticism of Benedict’s official spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, who does a heroic job under the circumstances.)

We’ve had another example of that dynamic in recent days with the release of volume two of Benedict’s book Jesus of Nazareth (published in the United States by Ignatius Press.)

On this day: The Pope's New Book


On this day, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection, by Pope Benedict XVI, will be published by Ignatius Press. To read compelling excerpts, scroll to the links at the bottom of the publisher's page.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote to Pope Benedict: "I commend you for forcefully rejecting, in your recent book, a false charge that has been a foundation for the hatred of the Jewish people for many centuries."

Church should not pursue conversion of Jews, pope says


After excerpts from the second volume of the pope’s book on Jesus made the rounds last week, featuring his rejection of the idea that “the Jews” killed Christ, the full text adds another point with important implications for Christian/Jewish relations -- in effect, that Christianity “must not concern herself with the conversion of the Jews.”

The comment comes in Benedict XVI’s book Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, the full text of which was released today.

Senate rejects budget cuts in victory for Catholic advocates


In what seems to be a victory for Catholic social ministry advocates, the U.S. Senate today rejected two budget proposals that would have exacted massive cuts in federal spending for domestic social programs and international aid.

The Huffington Post reports that Senate Democrats voted down a House Republican bill that would have cut $57 billion from current funding levels. The bill failed 56 to 44.

Catholic activists and advocates have been vocal in their disagreement with the House budget bill, which cuts poverty-focused international assistance by 27 percent.

Representatives with Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. bishops conference said those cuts are “disproportionate” and don’t “share the sacrifice with the rest of society" on a Feb. 28 conference call.

Because Congress didn't approve a full-year budget plan last fall, it must pass and President Obama must sign a "continuing resolution" to keep the federal government operating until the end of the fiscal year. The deadline is March 18.

As the cardinal exits


Compelling column in the Los Angeles Times by Tim Rutten -- who conducted an "exit interview" with Cardinal Roger Mahony.

Here, Mahony covers a range of topics that thread through his 25 years as archbishop of Los Angeles. (He retired last week when he turned 75 years old.) It's interesting to read a tour of issues and societal changes by a man who left a large imprint on Southern California.

This is Mahony on why he would not refuse to give Communion to elected officials who stray from church teachings: "You know, throughout the Gospels, Jesus never appeals to punitive measures to change anyone's life," Mahony says.

He then asks: if you're going to punish an official for, say, a pro-choice vote, where does it stop? "Does that mean the chief of staff who didn't stop him or her from voting that way also can't go to Communion? Does that mean that the secretary who handles their paperwork also can't go? I mean, where does it end?"

Facebook is the new chocolate


In previous generations, chocolate or candy was probably one of the most popular things to "give up" as a penance for the 40 days of Lent. Today, a growing number of U.S. Catholics are choosing to give up Facebook.

In the past week, I've read (on Facebook, ironically) about a number of friends who are unplugging for 40 days from social networking or even the from entire Internet, or at least personal use of it.

Good for them. I'm not questioning or debating anyone's individual choice about how best to practice the spiritual disciplines of fasting, prayer and almsgiving during this spiritual season. And, for many, social networking can be an unhealthy distraction that takes away from work, in-person relationships or prayer time. Certainly worthy of fasting from--at least temporarily.

But let me tell you why I won't be giving up Facebook for Lent.

I just finished scrolling through my friends' Facebook status updates from this morning, and about three quarters of them mention Ash Wednesday or offer a link to some spiritual sustenance.

For example:

Pope: Digital media must allow us to 'think more deeply'


Pope Benedict Feb. 28 addressed the annual gathering of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication (PCCS), headed by Archbishop Claudio Celli, successor to Cardinal John P. Foley of Philadelphia who helmed the commission and then pontifical council from 1984 – 2007.

In his remarks the pope refers to his address for the upcoming 45th World Communications Day on June 5th, Truth, proclamation and authenticity of life in the digital age, and describes the task of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication:


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In This Issue

November 20-December 3, 2015


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