An article at Foreign Policy makes for some depressing reading. “There's a new Sudan calamity in the making, and it may well come in 2010 with a unilateral declaration of independence by the enclave of South Sudan,” writes J. Peter Pham, a senior fellow at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. “If it does, the resulting conflict stands to be more painful, militarized, and devastating than Sudan has ever known. Imagine Darfur with a lot more guns, not to mention Chinese fighter jets.”
The sisters prepared us well. On the day of days we dressed all in white – shoes, socks, underwear, pants, shirt, even a white belt. “Don’t let it touch your teeth,” Sr. Agatha Irene warned, “and if, God forbid, you get sick, vomit, the priests know what to do. And remember only he can touch the host with his consecrated hands!”
Just before the priest’s fingers deposited the wafer on my outstretched tongue, I recall I trembled. How could I accommodate this presence in the same mouth that filled with sugary grape Kool-Aid in the summer, spongy Twinkies on school day afternoons? Into that familiar orifice came the same bread that dwelt in the silent, golden tabernacle with the ornate candle perpetually burning before it. That object of adoration, somehow transmuted into the substance of the very shaper and crafter of the seas and skies, the Love that moves the sun and stars, melted on my fluttering tongue.
A simple email message from Rick Warren, pastor of the evangelical Saddleback mega-church in Southern California, garnered $2.4 million in donations in 48 hours, reports the Los Angeles Times. Warren had said the church needed $900,000 to continue with its ministries in the new year.
Granted, the church has some 22,000 congregants who attend weekly services at its five locations. But in these economic times, this kind of fund-raising is, well, almost miraculous.
Warren is the author of the best-selling "The Purpose-Driven Life," in which he counsels people to discover and follow God's master plan for their lives. He also was criticized--from both the religious right and secular left--when President Obama asked him to give the invocation at his inauguration.
You got to give him this: He trusts God--and his church members--to come through.
It has always impressed me how different workplaces, communities, parishes and organizations look depending on whether one is on "top" looking "down," or seeing from the "bottom up."
In the mid-1990s we did a two day-long discernment process here, faciliated from outside and designed to improve the ways in which we worked together. First, we workers met for a day, then the next day we met with management. Our two perspectives were alike as Bugs Bunny and his carrot. For one thing, workers agreed that gossip, so disparaged from the "top," was essential to the health, vitality and information transfer of the company. Gossip can sometimes be caring creativity seething out from under "top down" efforts to manage a bubbling cauldron of life. Put another way, from the "top," gossip looks like chaos; from the "bottom," a nutrient.
"Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of Saint John Neumann with a special feast day Mass at the National Shrine. Saint John Neumann was the fourth Bishop of Philadelphia from 1852 until his death on January 5, 1860 at the age of 48. As Bishop, he was the founder of Catholic education in America and the first to organize a Diocesan Catholic school system."
"Saint John Neumann's body lies beneath the altar at the National Shrine which bears his name at Saint Peter the Apostle Church in Philadelphia."
tAn extra two yards of space has been added to the central corridor in St. Peter’s Basilica when the pope processes down the aisle during major liturgical celebrations, in order to give security personnel more room to maneuever should someone breach the barriers as happened Christmas Eve.
tMeanwhile, rumors are swirling in Rome that the woman who lunged for the pope on Christmas eve, Susanna Maiolo, a 25-year-old Swiss-Italian national, may soon get a tête-à-tête with the pontiff, perhaps at the end of a Wednesday General Audience. On Dec. 31, Maiolo was visited by Monsignor Georg Gänswein, the pope’s private secretary, and the head of Vatican security in the psychiatric hospital where she was admitted after the Christmas Eve incident.
tItalian news reports said that Gänswein relayed the pope’s forgiveness, and Vatican spokespersons said that Maiolo’s eventual release is probable.
In past incidents when people have breached papal security without malicious intent, they've often later been granted a few moments with the pope. While that's usually seen as a laudable humanitarian gesture, critics have argued that it may actually encourage such incidents.
tGlobally speaking, the most serious new tension dividing Jews and Catholics is Pope Benedict XVI’s decision just before Christmas to advance the sainthood cause of Pius XII, the wartime pontiff whose alleged “silence” on the Holocaust has long been a subject of polarizing historical debate.
tOn the ground in Jerusalem, however, Jewish/Christian animus has a much more prosaic cause: Spitting.
tRecently, the Jerusalem Post carried a piece quoting Rabbi David Rosen, a veteran of Catholic/Jewish dialogue, acknowledging that incidents of ultra-Orthodox Jews spitting at priests, nuns and other Christian clergy is “a part of life” in Jerusalem. Such incidents have been occurring for the last twenty years and are now on the rise, according to the story, although they appear to be limited to Jerusalem.
tThe piece quoted a Texas-born Franciscan, Fr. Athanasius Macora, who heads the Christian Information Center inside the Jaffa Gate, who said that he’s been spat upon by ultra-Orthodox Jews as much as fifteen times in the last six months – not only in the Old City, but also outside his Franciscan friary.
Time magazine (Jan. 11, 2010) has an interesting article on how some Evangelical megachurches are bridging the racial divide by making their parishes at least 20 percent multi-racial. The story centers on the work of Pastor Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor at the Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago's northwest suburbs.
Some startling statistics are presented: According to Michael Emerson, a specialist on race and faith at Rice University, the proportion of American churches with 20 percent or more minority participation has languished at about 7.5 percnet for the past nine years. But among Evangelical churches with attendance of 1,000 people or more, the slice has more than quadrupled, from 6 percent in 1998 to 25 percent in 2007.
With the end of 2009, a lot of people scrambled around, looking for something that defined the decade: the housing bust, the war on terror, perhaps Katrina. But none of that worked for me – none crystallized in one clear moment what 00’s were all about.
And then I saw it.
In Sunday’s Los Angeles Times. Page One. An article about stomach surgery.
For so many reasons, the national obsession with weight seems to symbolize much about the decade just passed: too many Americans indulged in record amounts of processed calories and then sought the quickest way out. To the honestly desperate, the morbidly obese, that answer became stomach-reduction (or stomach-stapling) surgery. This took the need for control and discipline out of the hands on the individual and placed it in the hands of a willing surgeon.
But now, according to the Los Angeles Times, the not-mobidly-obese want in on the action -- people with some weight to lose but not a life-threatening amount or diabetics unable to follow a nutrition regimen.