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Today is the feast of St. Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès, (1832-1914), a Lebanese Maronite nun.

Rafqa was born in a village near Bikfaya, Lebanon. Her mother died when she was seven, and four years later, her father sent her to Damascus to work as a servant.

She returned home at the age of fifteen. She was unwilling to marry the relatives her stepmother and her aunt selected for her, and in 1859 she entered the Mariamette convent in Bikfaya. She taught in the order's schools until 1871, when "a crisis in the congregation" caused her to transfer to the Lebanese Maronite Order.

U. N. report released on World Water Day says more people die from polluted water than from wars


Dirty water is killing more people than wars and other violence, the United Nations announced on World Water Day.

Almost all dirty water produced in homes, businesses, farms, and factories in developing countries washs into rivers and seas without being decontaminated.

What's more, over half of water supplies that have been purified to the point that they are potable are lost through leaky pipes and ill-maintained sewage networks, according to a report released today. Saving half of these lost supplies could give clean water to 90 million people without the need for costly new infrastructure, says the U. N. report.

“The sheer scale of dirty water means more people now die from contaminated and polluted water than from all forms of violence including wars,” the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said.

This includes 2.2 million people whose deaths are attributed to diarrhea, mostly from dirty water, and 1.8 million children aged under five who succumb to water-borne diseases. This equates to one infant every 20 seconds.

The Indispenable Sister Carol


It is always a bit dangerous to predict how future historians will interpret events. Certainly, Xavier Rynne never foresaw Jospeh Raztinger, by way of example. But, when historians come to analyze the reasons health care reform passed this time when such political giants as FDR and LBJ failed to achieve it, many people will get the credit. First and foremost, the voters who elected Barack Obama who pledged to deliver health care reform deserve a large bit of credit. Obama himself deserves his share of the plaudits, especially because the Massachusetts special election in January gave him ample reason to set the troublesome issue aside. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s performance shamed the historical reputation of the men who wielded the Speaker’s gavel before her. But, one woman seems to me to have been especially indispensable: Sister Carol Keehan.

The great balancing act


How do we live out our unique identity and embrace our own mystery? One way is to open the ancient overflowing toolbox of our spiritual traditions. Nestled therein are many reliable implements that have stood the test of centuries of use in the work of creative inner integration and soul crafting.

What are some of these tools? Patience, silence, incubating darkness, the wonderful yeasting action of prayer, wise and careful discernment, the adventure of striving for simplicity, meditation techniques, the great and not-so-easy art of letting go, the simple craft of mindfulness, the call to the death-rebirth dynamic of the paschal mystery, the cultivation of a contemplative attitude, renunciation, fasting, forgiveness, and the endless mystery of forgiving others.

Who's Cutting Slack for Whom?


It's been a while since "permissiveness" was blamed for America's social ills. Wall Street thievery and wildcate ventures including Bernie Madoff's helped set aside the notion that the old nemesis could be invoked on liberals with impunity -- and permissiveness talk sort of went away.

Now the pope's letter to the Irish, and the premise behind Rome's investigation of nuns, signal a revival. In one case, Benedict says child abuse was in large measure egged on when the "renewal" called for by Vatican II "was sometimes misinterpreted," a situation made more confusing by "profound social change" in and around it.

Nothing Benedict says indicates he thinks anything is wrong with church laws and discipline. Things just got lax and the church sheriffs were distracted from enforcing those laws. The remedy is to do a better job. There's no need to reform the system itself.

Unmentioned is the permissivness angle. Bishops are told they "failed, at times, greviously, to apply the long established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse." But so far the bishops face no sanctions for this permissive behavior.


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November 20-December 3, 2015


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