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2009: Out with the Old

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New Year’s is a time for looking back, as the various “lists” of the most important news stories or interesting people attest. And, for looking forward as the “predictions” being floated abound. I am not so good at predictions, and my memory is not what it once was. But, in the spirit of the holiday, today I offer some of the things from the past decade that we most hope not to see again and, tomorrow, things we hope to see more of.

First, I hope to see fewer government lies. Surely one of the most memorable moments in the decade just past was when Secretary of State Colin Powell testified before the U.N. Security Council about the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. And, Powell was one of the good guys. He fell into a trap of cognitive deceit, and it doesn’t matter whether people knew they were lying or were so convinced by their own propaganda that they could not recognize a lie when they saw it. There were other lies, such as the canard that we can cut taxes without harming the long-term fiscal health of the nation, but that has moved beyond a simple lie to the status of a pernicious myth. Let’s hope there are less of them too.

Servant leadership

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I often hear the term "servant leadership" used to describe the leadership model that should be used by church leaders. Bishop Tom Gumbleton talks about this idea in his homilies; see for example, his homily for Sept. 24, which on our Web site, we titled Hierarchs and lower-archs in the church.

When Timothy M. Dolan was named archbishop of New York in February, Catholic News Service reported that he "pledged his life, his heart and his soul to the people of the archdiocese."

At a press conference, he said to the Catholics in New York: "I am so honored, humbled and happy at the prospect of serving as your pastor."

Dolan told the priests of the archdiocese: "The priests are on the front lines. I am their servant. You can count on me to help them. ... That's not a chore; that's a choice." (I don't mean to single out Dolan; he just popped up first in the word search.)

"Servant leadership," I suppose, is most often applied to bishops and pastors, but it would also apply to lay men and women who have leadership roles in the church.

Religious profiling?

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The attempted destruction of Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day has raised new discussions about “profiling” passengers who are seeking to board flights. Some commentators want to single out all Muslims, or all Arabs (or all those who look like Arabs or Middle Easterners, I guess) – for special questioning or screening.

You know, every time I hear this, I wonder how we Catholics would feel if we were all “profiled” when liberation theology was popular… on suspicion that we might aid Latin American rebels somewhere.

Dec. 31, St. Jean-FranÁois RÈgis, S.J.

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Today is the feast of St. Jean-François Régis, S.J.

"Born on January 31, 1597, in the district of Fontcouverte at the foot of the Pyrenees in the south of France, he died at age forty-three on December 31, 1640, in the mountain hamlet of Lalouvesc (la-loo-vay) located in the Massif Central, not far from the French Alps."

He entered the Society of Jesus at the age of 19, and after four years of theology at Toulouse, he was assigned to teach at the college (high school) at Le Puy. "The main problem was keeping the fifteen-year-olds from killing each other in duels over petty arguments."

Hope, Ark. or Oyster Bay, NY or Hyde Park, NY?

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Harold Pollack over at TNR has a provocative idea: Whenever the health care bill is finally passed, President Obama should fly to Bill Clinton’s hometown of Hope, Arkansas and sign it there as a way of highlighting the role the Clintons’ effort in 1993, though unsuccessful, nonetheless paved the way for Obama’s almost certain victory on the issue early next year. He notes that Lyndon Johnson went to Independence, Missouri to sign Medicare into law at the Truman Library, highlighting his predeccesor’s effort which also had been unsuccessful.

Somersaults and tomfoolery

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One of my favorite wise women, Brenda Ueland, once counseled parents exhausted by their energetic children, fed up with endless evening exhortations to get their overly hyper children to bed, thusly:

"You yourself should be so vigorous, so healthy, in the pink of condition, so inexhaustible, rambunctious, jolly, full of deviltry and frolic, of stories, of jokes and hilarity, of backward somersaults and tomfoolery, that your children at last, after hours of violent exercise, worn down by laughter and intellectual excitement, with pale, neurasthenic frowns on their foreheads, cry 'Pleee...aase, Mama, go to bed?' "

Health care African style

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In a routine search for Catholic news on the Internet this morning, I came across this gem of a story from the Catholic Information Service of Africa.

The Catholic Diocese of Uvira in the Democratic Republic of Congo is building a new hospital in South Kivu, which is near the border with Rwanda and Burundi. Church officials said the hospital is "a symbol of peace among peoples suffering war."

Two bits of the story struck me: "The hospital, while it awaits electricity, will have a large central generator and generator sets for the various smaller pavilions."

While it waits for electricity ... That kind of puts our health care debate into perspective, doesn't it.

And: "There will also be 5 acres of land for agricultural crops (peanuts, maize, cassava, soy plant, beans, peas, legumes), and another 10 hectares to be cultivated to help self-financing of the hospital, available to the families of hospital staff and the sisters."

Dec. 30, Blessed Eugenia Ravasco, Founder

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Today is the feast of Blessed Eugenia Ravasco, 1845-1900.
At the age of 23, she founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

"Bl. Eugenia Ravasco was wholly concerned with spreading love for the Hearts of Christ and Mary. Contemplating these two Hearts, she was passionately devoted to serving her neighbour and joyfully devoted her whole life to young people and the poor. With foresight, she was able to open herself to the pressing needs of the mission, with special concern for those who had 'fallen away' from the Church.

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