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Coming home to \"Women of Spirit\"

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It was like coming home. Thursday night I went to the S. Dillon Ripley Center of the Smithsonian Institute for the opening of the exhibit, Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America.

About 200 women and men came to celebrate the history and heritage of Catholic Sisters in America over a period of almost 300 years. The exhibit is a magnificent testimony to the leadership of women in decades before most women even thought about being presidents of universities or administrators of hospitals, much less founding such institutions. It is a celebration of women dedicated to social justice, from the streets of Selma to Capitol Hill. It will be at the Smithsonian through mid-April.

Among the crowd was Mother Clare Millea, ASCJ, the sister leading the investigation of American women religious. I wondered what she was thinking.

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Praising Sisters May Not Provide a Shield

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As Tom Fox reports on this blog, Loyola Marymount and Mt. St. Mary's college have joined the procession celebrating the example and service of American sisters.

Similar tributes have been forthcoming in the face of the Vatican's investigation of religious communities and the beliefs of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. LCWR earlier contributed its own in the form of an exhibition of the history of U.S. sisters now showing in Washington.

These honors are well deserved and often overdue. Do they also constitute a conscious effort to combat the Vatican's attempt to find fault with them? I don't know how much, if any, coordination has prompted the tributes, but it seems plausible that it does represent at least a loose coalition of desires to display a collective "character witness."

The strategy of open protest against the "visitation" has, by comparison, been used rarely. For a variety of reasons, most sisters have refrained from publicly rejecting the initiative. The most striking example has been indirect as many communities refused to comply with sections of the investigation's questionnaire.

Getting Beyond Politics

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This morning, on the Diane Rehm Show, a panel discussed whether it was wise of President Obama to ask his two immediate predecessors to coordinate America’s efforts to provide relief to the suffering people of Haiti. Most of the criticism has focused on President George W. Bush’s failure to effectively help the people of New Orleans when the levees broke after Hurricane Katrina.

This criticism is as misplaced now as it was deserved after Katrina. Bush is no longer in charge of the government and it is President Obama’s responsibility as Commander-in-Chief and President to coordinate the immediate combined military and civilian efforts to save those trapped in the rubble, bury the dead, and bring food, water and medical aid to the survivors. Bush and Clinton will have a different task, to raise money and to keep the American people mindful of the suffering in Haiti after the CNN cameras are gone.

The Book of Eli: Prophecy or High Octane Action Flick?

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Sometime in the not-too-distant future, a lone man walks the bleak, deserted roads of what was the United States. The landscape is torched and his dark glasses signal that there is no longer any natural protection from sunlight. He carries a weapon and a backpack. His name is Eli (Denzel Washington) and he is on the alert for thieves and marauders.

Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop welcomes new postulants

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It is no secret that Bishop Robert W. Finn of the Kansas City ~ St. Joseph diocese is pleased to support the women religious of his diocese. One of his special interests is providing support for a traditional order, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. On Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, the Benedictines of Mary had four postulants undertake the investiture in the Benedictine Habit. The ceremony took place at the Oratory of Old Saint Patrick in Kansas City, MO, during a mass celebrated by Bishop Finn.

Today is the feast day of St. Maurus and St. Placid

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"Brother Maurus, run as fast as you can, for Placidus, who went to the lake to fetch water, has fallen in, and is carried a good way off."

--St. Benedict

A very happy feast of St. Maurus and St. Placid to all Benedictines -- Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, Cistercian, and Trappist; to all Oblates; to all alumnae and alumni of Benedictine schools; and to everyone whose life has been touched in any way by Benedictine contributions to world culture. (That's everyone, so happy feast to one and all!)

In perfect obedience to Benedict, young Maurus rescued Placid from the water.

Fra Filippo Lippi illustrated the miracle.

For the blessing of Saint Maurus over the sick, click here.

For a Medal of St. Benedict, used in the blessing, click here.

End of Danneels era in Belgium completes European facelift

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One of my early reporting assignments in Rome was to cover the European Synod in 1999, and I remember sitting down over dinner my first night in town with a few veteran vaticanisti. They gave me the lay of the land, among other things explaining that the liberal bloc in the European church had long been led by three towering cardinals: Carlo Maria Martini of Milan, Basil Hume of Westminster (who died shortly before the synod), and Godfried Danneels of Brussels.

tMore than ten years later, Hume is gone and Martini is retired, and in a matter of days it seems likely the third member of the trio will also be out of job. Rumors in Belgium suggest that sometime soon, Pope Benedict XVI intends to appoint Bishop André-Mutien Léonard of Namur to succeed Danneels in Brussels.

tIf so, the changing of the guard at the senior levels of the European church will be virtually complete.

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