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Welcoming winter's clarity

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When I mention to people here in the Midwest that I am a fan of the season of winter, they look at me in a puzzled, perplexed way. We winter fans are few, it seems. Here's why I like this unpopular season so much.

Take a walk on a winter afternoon. The nip in the wind wakes a quiet exultation that is peculiar to this season. Winter is streamlined and elementary. Its purposes are honest and straighforward. Nothing is hidden or obstructed with green as in summer. The anatomy of places is plainly visible. In the countryside the colors of its short days are mostly solemn grays, silvers, blacks and warm, homespun shades of brown, russet and tan. All these colors are muted and understated. The sillhouettes of tree branches against a sullen grey clouded sky look like a revelation.

Winter contains the divine. It is no accident that the season richest in liturgy is the winter time. Advent, Christmas, Lent are full of devotions, practices, pageantry and rich and meaningful prayer, as we celebrate outer and inner mysteries. Winter is vital to our spiritual lives, to the richness and wholeness of being human.

Volunteerism up in 2009

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An encouraging sign on volunteerism occurred in 2009.

"Both the number of volunteers and the volunteer rate rose over the year ended in September 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. About 63.4 million people, or 26.8 percent of the popula- tion, volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2008 and September 2009. In 2008, the volunteer rate was 26.4 percent.

"The volunteer rate of women increased from 29.4 percent in 2008 to 30.1 percent in 2009, while the volunteer rate for men, at 23.3 percent, was essentially unchanged. As in previous years, women volun- teered at a higher rate than did men across all age groups, educational levels, and other major demo- graphic characteristics."

State of the Union and Howard Zinn's Death

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I was getting ready to listen to President Obama's State of the Union Speech when I came across the heartbreaking news on the Huffington Post that historian Howard Zinn died of a heart attack at age 87. Howard Zinn Dies: Historian, Activist Was Early Opponent Of U.S. Involvement In Vietnam War.

The man who gave us A People's History of the United States will not be here to mentor us as we seek ways to end two wars and urge our leaders to stand up for a social justice agenda.

Jan. 28, St. Thomas Aquinas

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Today is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., (1225-1274), Doctor of the Church.

"On 6 December 1273 he celebrated the Mass of St Nicholas. Then he suddenly abandoned his usual routine and neither wrote nor dictated anything else. His long-serving companion (socius), Reginald of Piperno, urged him to return to work. The reply given was: 'Reginald, I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me.'

Afghanistan protesters barrage White House Facebook page

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Mashable, a website dedicated to social media news, is reporting that over 20,000 people have logged onto the White House Facebook page to ask the president to rethink his Afghanistan strategy in advance of the State of the Union speech tonight.

At the site users can leave comments for the President which can then be viewed by others worldwide. The basic script of the comments looks like this:

“President Obama, I am one of more than 20,000 signers of this petition from Rethink Afghanistan: ‘In your State of the Union address on January 27, 2010, I want you to provide a concrete exit strategy for our troops in Afghanistan that begins no later than July 2011 and which completes a withdrawal of combat troops no later than July 1, 2012.’

Sr. Mary Daniel Turner, RIP

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I just received word that Sr. Mary Daniel Turner, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, long time executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), and one of the great leaders of the renewal after the Second Vatican Council, died peacefully this morning, Jan. 27, at 4 a.m.

As Jane Burke, also a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, said simply in her notice: “As with the dying of Mary Luke Tobin last year, a great tree has fallen.”

May their strong and courageous spirits live on.

Haiti's children

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A heart-breaking story about the children of Haiti, but one that impels immediate and long-term attention.

"Haiti’s children, 45 percent of the population, are among the most disoriented and vulnerable of the survivors of the earthquake. By the many tens of thousands, they have lost their parents, their homes, their schools and their bearings. They have sustained head injuries and undergone amputations. They have slept on the street, foraged for food and suffered nightmares."

Tebow's Super Bowl Ad

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Florida’s Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow will be starring in an ad during the Super Bowl but he won’t be talking about football. Instead, he and his Mom will be talking about abortion. Tebow’s mother had a difficult pregnancy and evidently considered procuring an abortion but she carried the child to term and gave birth to Tim. The ad will be paid for by the rightwing group Focus on the Family.

This is not Tebow’s first step beyond the normal limits of football player commentary, which is generally limited to a discussion of why a certain pass play worked or how the other team’s defense managed ten sacks. Throughout the year, Tebow would write a biblical verse in the eye black that football players place under their eyes to cut down on glare. I always find it demeaning to the scriptures anytime someone uses the Good Book in a facile way, but we make allowances for youth and Mr. Tebow is young.

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October 10-23, 2014

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