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With Christmas gifts, less can be more

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This Green living essay from Sheryl Eisenberg of the Natural Resources Defense Council offers good tips on green gift giving this Christmas season.

"I can still remember virtually every gift I received in childhood, not because the gifts were so special, but because they were so few. Though I was a comfortable child of the post-war boom, the times were thrifty compared to today. I never had more than a few dolls, stuffed animals, board games, crayons, records, books, a bike and a sled. And that was enough, more than enough, yet not so much more that I didn't appreciate each and every item -- and enjoy it to the end of its useful life, or my childhood, whichever came first.

What middle class American child can say the same today? Our kids are so inundated with playthings, they need bins and chests and extra closets to store them all. And we adults are equally awash in our grown-up toys.

Nevertheless, this holiday season, we will rush to the stores, actual and virtual, to buy more for our kids and each other. What gives?

Spinners weave wisdom ways

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The more things change the more they stay the same. Early in the last millennium there took place in Europe what historian of spirituality Richard Woods called “a mystical revolution.” In many ways this spiritual renewal in the 12th and 13th centuries was a distant mirror of what’s happening today.

Prior centuries had seen the rise of convents and monasteries, those great Benedictine, Augustinian and Carthusian institutions that preserved learning after the Roman Empire’s collapse. They offered new ways of living together, providing written “rules” that organized and shaped the nun or monk’s life. By the High Middle Ages, however, monastic institutions and convents became largely unavailable to non-aristocrats.

Dec. 1, Victims of the Fire at Our Lady of the Angels School

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On Dec. 1, 1958, a fire at Our Lady of the Angels parochial school in Chicago killed 92 children and three nuns.

Our Lady of the Angels was at 909 North Avers Avenue, at the intersection with West Iowa Street. Over 1600 children, mostly Italian-American, attended the school.

For detailed accounts of the fire, stories of the victims, stories of the survivors, maps and models, news reports from December, 1958, and many pictures, including "the defining image of the Our Lady of the Angels fire, seen around the world, and made into a moving fire prevention poster", please click here.


The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary who died in the fire were Sister Mary Clare Therese Champagne, Sister Mary Seraphica Kelley, and Sister Mary St. Canice Lyng. (Sister Mary Seraphica's charred body was identified in the morgue by her number in community, 2764, found on her cincture.)

Taking on incivility

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E.J. Dionne Jr., in the Washington Post today writes that "the most surprising and disappointing aspect of our politics is how little pushback there has been against the vile, extremist rhetoric that has characterized such a large part of the anti-Obama movement."

I concur. It is disappointing, especially when one believes that civility is a mark of a mature democracy and should characterize U.S. politics.

The Party-Crashers

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Icky! That is one word that leaps to mind when you look at the photos of the world’s most famous party crashers, Tareq and Michaele Salahi. Their name will now become shorthand for the cancer in our culture that thinks fame, at any cost, is a good thing, the cancer that creates shows like “Real Housewives of Wherever” and which confers significance upon people like Paris Hilton, the cancer that destroys basic standards of privacy and decency and then celebrates the destruction.

Of course, in the world of the Salahis, they have already received the worst form of punishment. They have been exposed as frauds. The whole world now knows that they were not invited to the White House state dinner, that they are not the life of the party, no matter what the photos on their Facebook page show, that this is a couple for whom the only reality is their own reality, that they genuinely seemed to revel in the clicks of the cameras and the flashes of the bulbs as they sashayed in to the White House as if they belonged, even though behind the smiles they knew that they would have to look around to figure out their escape before the appetizers were served.

An un-feast day

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Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Dorothy Day. Dedicated to a life of nonviolence and solidarity with the impoverished, Day opened the first Catholic Worker house with Peter Maurin in New York City in 1933.

Wishing to live out the works of mercy, they opened their doors and offered food, company and a kind ear to those that stopped in. Inspired by Peter and Dorothy’s example, individual Catholic Worker houses live out the Gospel by providing different types of hospitality across the world.

Day has been granted the title Servant of God and is under consideration for sainthood. Todd Flowerday has a nice little reflection on her place in the process here.

The flip side of Sabbath

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I'm all for keeping holy the Sabbath, but when your car breaks down on, say, the Saturday afternoon of Thanksgiving weekend in the middle of Indiana, it'd be nice to have a mechanic within 100 miles who could look at it before Monday morning.

Just saying.

FYI: Indiana's blue laws prohibit the sales of cars, as well as liquor--except restaurants and bars--on Sundays.

That said, the people of Indiana couldn't have been nicer while we spent our two days here. Maybe because they collectively value the importance of a day away from work for family and God.

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July 18-31, 2014

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