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How to celebrate the fall of the wall

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With all the coverage of the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I tried to think of a way to commemorate this historic, history-changing event that happened 20 years ago. A generation ago. Anyone 30 years old and younger probably has no emotional link with images of a bunch of young people dancing while they tore down a far away wall covered in graffiti.

I grew up under the Red Menace; like many others reading this blog. I imagine you, too, practiced what to do should the sirens signal an attack. My dad started digging a bomb shelter in the backyard of our house in San Diego but as the Cuban Missile crisis ebbed, he decided to use the five gallon water jugs he bought for storage for home brew instead. How quickly we forget.

Nov. 11, St. Martin of Tours and Venerable Catherine McAuley

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Today, Veterans Day, is the feast of a patron of soldiers, St. Martin of Tours.

When Martin was a young soldier in a cavalry unit of the Roman army, he "happened to meet at the gate of the city of Amiens a poor man destitute of clothing. . . . Martin . . . had nothing except the cloak in which he was clad, for he had already parted with the rest of his garments for similar purposes. Taking, therefore, his sword with which he was girt, he divided his cloak into two equal parts, and gave one part to the poor man, while he again clothed himself with the remainder. . . . In the following night, when Martin had resigned himself to sleep, he had a vision of Christ arrayed in that part of his cloak with which he had clothed the poor man. . . . Ere long, he heard Jesus saying with a clear voice to the multitude of angels standing round -- 'Martin, who is still but a catechumen, clothed me with this robe.'"

--from Sulpicius Severus, "On the Life of St. Martin"

The Memorial Service at Fort Hood

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The President’s speech at the Fort Hood memorial service this afternoon was a difficult speech to give. Grief is a complicated emotion in any circumstance, but when it is combined with feelings of shock and anger, it is difficult to hit the right emotional balance. President Obama, known for keeping his emotions in check, struck exactly the right note by focusing his words on the lives of those who died in last week’s mass murder, mentioning details about their life and work and, especially, their families. He personalized the loss of those who were killed in an impersonal act of murderous rage.

Most importantly, the President put the sordid act of last week in perspective. He called for justice, not vengeance, and made the important point that the accused will receive all the rights that his victims enlisted and died to protect. His entire speech was a tribute to the military and to their grief. And, he made a specifically theological claim when he said that the perpetrator of this murder would meet justice not only in this life but the next.

An Apology to Women

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Yesterday I wrote an article about Sr. Louise Akers' talk at the Call to Action gathering held in Milwaukee over the weekend. Today a received an email from some folks in Australia who, upset by the Akers situation have started a site at which men can apologize ("An Apology to Women") to women "for the continued second class situation that women have to cope with in the Catholic church." I am told, truth be known, the idea originated with a man.

You might want to check it out - and some of you (men) might want to be part of the collective apology.

Support the World March for Peace and Nonviolence

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The World March for Peace and Nonviolence, which involves 50 marchers and the support of dozens of peace organizations including some two dozen Nobel laureates, will be coming to the United States Nov. 3, arriving in New York before moving on to Washington DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

The march began in New Zealand Oct. 2, the anniversary of Gandhi’s birth and will conclude in the Andes Mountains (Punta de Vacas, Aconcagua, Argentina) on Jan. 2.

It has just left Berlin, where its activities coincided with the anniversary of the fall of the Wall. Having crossed Oceania, Asia, the Middle East, northern Europe and the Balkans, the march arrived in Italy today.

Why the World March? As its sponsors affirm:


  • Because we can end world hunger with 10 percent of what is spent on arms. Imagine how life would be if 30-50 percent of the arms budget went toward improving people’s lives instead of being used for destruction.

Read a review and an excerpt

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This is John Allen's blog and he'll be doing the color commentary here (to stretch even further the baseball analogy he began earlier this morning), but I thought I should alert readers of this blog that the review of John's book is the NCR Book Club selection this week.

Reviewing it is Jesuit Fr. John W. O’Malley, a church historian and professor of theology at Georgetown University in Washington. Here's the review: A new Catholic horizon.

There is also an excerpt of the book available here: The horizontal dimension

The nukes in Pakistan

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A must read article by Seymour M. Hersh at The New Yorker: Defending the Arsenal
In an unstable Pakistan, can nuclear warheads be kept safe?
. Some highlights:

"Current and former officials said in interviews in Washington and Pakistan that [the Obama] Administration has been negotiating highly sensitive understandings with the Pakistani military. These would allow specially trained American units to provide added security for the Pakistani arsenal in case of a crisis. ...

Miguel Diaz profile

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The Minneapolis Star Tribune has a very well done article about the U.S. ambassador at the Vatican: Abortion debate dogs envoy to Vatican

As the son of Cuban immigrants, Miguel Diaz was drawn to Barack Obama for his ability to cross cultures and engage people from different backgrounds.

Now, plucked from the relative obscurity of central Minnesota to be President Obama's envoy to the Vatican, the St. John's University theologian finds himself in the vortex of an unwelcome battle over what it means to be a Catholic in the service of a president who supports abortion rights.

Saint of the Day, Leo the Great

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In the Office of Readings for today's feast of St. Leo the Great, Pope, Church Father, and Doctor of the Church, the saint reminds us that we all are kings, and we all are priests:

"For all, regenerated in Christ, are made kings by the sign of the cross; they are consecrated priests by the oil of the Holy Spirit, so that beyond the special service of our ministry as priests, all spiritual and mature Christians know that they are a royal race and are sharers in the office of the priesthood. For what is more king-like than to find yourself ruler over your body after having surrendered your soul to God? And what is more priestly than to promise the Lord a pure conscience and to offer him in love unblemished victims on the altar of one’s heart?"

Raphael's "Repulse of Attila" depicts the meeting in 452 between Pope Leo and Attila the Hun on the banks of the Mincio River.

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March 27-April 9, 2015

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