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The hallmark of holiness

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The late Blessed Sacrament Sr. Gloria Davis taught Native American spirituality in the Santa Fe, New Mexico archdiocese for many years. In an interview with her, she told me that her notions about spirituality were first formed as she grew up in her traditional Navajo family.

"I noticed," she said, "that the holy people in our community, the ones we all turned to for spiritual guidance, the ones who conducted the elaborate sings, blessing ceremonies and healing rituals were always the people who had the keenest sense of humor. You could always tell them by the laugh wrinkles around their eyes."

What an idea! The hallmark of holiness here is not a gaunt, hollow-cheeked face or a look of otherworldly serenity, but just a common, garden-variety lively sense of humor. And a sense of humor is chiefly woven of the fabric of life's ups and downs, its absurdities and sorrows, its humdrum everyday, its joys and comic interludes, its tediums, tensions and ironies, its unpredictable encounters and quiet satisfactions.

Some good Jewish friends ... and some of their perspectives

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A postcript on the blog by my colleague, Joe Ferullo, regarding a statement by Alan Dershowitz regarding Justice Scalia on the death penalty posted yesterday on this site.

Have you, too, noticed that some of your Jewish friends follow Catholic morality, based in the church's social teachings, more closely that some Catholics you know?

U.S. poverty numbers rising

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The Associated Press reports that the numbers of poor and uninsured Americans are probably rising, with more than 38.8 million thought now to be in poverty.

Rebecca Blank, the Commerce Department's undersecretary of economic affairs, spoke in advance of next month's release of census data. Blank said the 2008 data will probably show a "statistically significant" increase in the poverty rate, to at least 12.7 percent. That would represent a jump of more than 1.5 million poor people last year.

The number of people who lack health insurance is also expected to increase from the current estimate of 46 million.

Almost 150 countries have signed up to back nuclear treaty

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The total number of countries that have ratified the United Nations-backed Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty has inched closer to 150 after Liberia ratified the agreement this week.

In September, US President Barack Obama is scheduled to chair a meeting of the Security Council focusing on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation issues.

Justice Scalia, the Church, and the Death Penalty

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Thought-provoking article posted Wednesday in the online magazine "The Daily Beast." Written by famed lawyer and author Alan Dershowitz, "Scalia's Catholic Betrayal" takes the Supereme Court Justice to task for remarks made earlier in the week regarding a death penalty case.

Here is an excerpt from Dershowitz,who challenges Scalia not only on Constitutional grounds, but on Catholic moral grounds.

From Dershowitz:

"I never thought I would live to see the day when a justice of the Supreme Court would publish the following words:

'This court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged ‘actual innocence’ is constitutionally cognizable.'

Tom Fox on PBS

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I sit 15 feet from him but didn't know this until I got a press release.

In its next broadcast, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, the weekly PBS newsmagazine show, substitute anchor Deborah Potter will be quizzing NCR editor Tom Fox about the Vatican's investigation of U.S. women's religious orders and whether the religious women are "straying" from church doctrine.

The show is to be taped and released on Friday (Aug. 21). Check your local PBS station for broadcast times in your area, or watch the episode online at http://www.pbs.org/religionandethics/

Cristo Rey vs. alumni

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What happens when your old Catholic alma mater is no longer the same place it used to be? That's become an issue for many successful alumni of Verbum Dei high school in the Watts section of south Los Angeles.

In the year 2000, Verbum Dei was like a lot of inner city Catholic schools -- struggling to make ends meet while serving an increasingly impoverished student body. As the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday, that was when Cardinal Roger Mahony approached the Jesuits to take over the school.

They did and converted it into the "Cristo Rey" model -- schools for the poor where students help meet tuition requirements by taking work/study jobs with major corporations and other sponsors. It has been remarkably successful throughout the country, and it saved Verbum Dei.

But, Verbum Dei was the first school that did not start out as a Cristo Rey institution -- so it has legions of alumni from the "old days." They are now successful and solidly middle-class, thanks to their alma mater -- and want to send their children there to keep the tradition alive.

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July 18-31, 2014

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