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The money behind those end times billboards

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For months now, Family Radio has put the "save" in "save the date."

You may be one of the millions of drivers around the world that has passed billboards declaring May 21, 2011, as "Judgment Day." I saw my first billboard on the Connecticut Turnpike, along a stretch of road that is traditionally home to wealthy, WASPy types. I was convinced that Greenwich had gone fundy, until I saw my next billboard planted in the middle of a bohemian enclave in Brooklyn.

But it's not only U.S. highways that are littered with these doomsday predictions. Billboards have popped up in places as far away as China, Dubai and Jamaica.

On this day: Alcuin of York

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On this day we celebrate the feast of St. Alcuin.

"Alcuin was an Englishman from York, born into a noble family about 730, and educated by a pupil of Bede. Having become a deacon, he was made head of the cathedral school at York around 770. In 781 he was asked by the Emperor Charlemagne to become his minister of education. . . . Alcuin established scriptoria, dedicated to the copying and preservation of ancient manuscripts, both pagan and Christian. That we have as much as we do of the writings of classical Roman authors is largely due to Alcuin and his scribes. . . . To Alcuin, backed by Charlemagne, belongs much of the credit for the revision and organisation of the Latin liturgy, the preservation of many of the ancient prayers, and the development of plainchant."

-- "Alcuin, Deacon, Scholar, and Abbot of Tours", by James Kiefer.

Morning Briefing

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John Jay report in hand, Catholic group calls for end of church gay bashing

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Equally Blessed coalition leader Jim FitzGerald released the following statement today about the John Jay Report.

“The John Jay College Final Report issued yesterday does faithful Catholics good service by discrediting the ungrounded, homophobic accusations of the Catholic League's Bill Donohue and others that the church’s clergy sex abuse scandal was caused by gay priests. Now that research commissioned by the bishops themselves has shown Donohue’s rhetoric to be based in prejudice rather than in fact, we call on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to speak out on the side of truth when Donohue and his allies perpetrate homophobic slurs in the name of Catholicism.

A Reflection on a Justice Still Too Raret

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As I watched the story of the former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dominque Strauss-Kahn, unfold, I was first struck by stark contrasts. He was pulled out of a first class cabin of an international jet (after having spent the night before in a super luxurious hotel room) to face charges of rape, and then imprisonment at Riker’s Island.

Kidney donation starts altruistic chain

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Earlier this week I posted a blog on the tragedy of the illicit human organ trade.

Perhaps a counterweight to that story is this story about a New Jersey woman who donated her kidney to a person whom she did not know and was in need of a kidney. This act of kindness caused at least two other donors to come forward and donate a kidney.

Melissa Arlio is an upbeat, healthy 26-year-old from a big Italian family in Wayne, NJ. She grew up playing sports and ran her first marathon in 2009. With nothing to gain and a good deal to lose (namely, her job) Arlio elected to undergo surgery and donate one of her kidneys to a complete stranger last March. She did so in order to start an altruistic kidney chain through the National Kidney Registry.

South Tyrol: Vatican expresses reservations about confirming at age 18

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The Pray Tell blog has an entry about a diocese in Italy changing the age of confirmation from 12 to 18:

Rome, 5.17.11 (Kipa) The Vatican has temporarily delayed plans of the diocese of Bozen-Brixen in south Tyrol to raise the age of confirmation from 12 to 18. The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship has written a letter to Bishop Karl Golser asking for further information about the pilot project planned for this fall, as the diocese has confirmed to Kipa.

The letter states that the sacrament should be administered "at the age of discretion," with reference to the prescriptions of the Italian bishops’ conference which foresee confirmation "around the age of twelve."

Read more here.

On this day: St. Dunstan

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On this day we celebrate the feast of St. Dunstan, "an Anglo-Saxon churchman in England in the tenth century, who began as a monk. He began as a youngster as a monk in the Abbey of Glastonbury, and progressed because of his zeal and learning and ability, eventually to become not only Bishop of London and Bishop of Worchester, but finally Archbishop of Canterbury. He also became a great friend of the King, and was sometimes entrusted with royal powers when the King would be out of the country or perhaps out fishing. But in any case, Dunstan was formidable. He was a statesman. He was an artist. He drew beautifully in the style of his day. He was a worker in metals. He did black smithing. He cast bells. He built organs. He was an engineer and understood architecture. He was a Renaissance man."

--from a 2001 Lecture by Rowan LeCompte, the great stained glass artist who created many of the windows in the National Cathedral, including the west rose window.

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