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Good books: inoculations against despair and cynicism


When life has become too complicated, when things are just too much, go borrow a good book from the nearest child. Or, better, revive that fine old custom of sitting down of an evening to read to children. Know for a short time once again the astonishment of being.

"Childhood is not something which dies within us and dries up as soon as it has completed its cycle," philosopher Franz Hellens wrote. "It is not a memory. It is the most living of treasures and it continues to enrich us without our knowing it." Adults need to curl up with a good tale as much as any child. Good reading can foster and restore in us and in our children a hope-filled approach to living. The encounter of one imagination with another can "purge from our inward sight," says the poet Shelley, "the film of familiarity which obscures from us the wonder of our being." Good books remind us of the riches we already possess: the ability to see beauty everywhere, the capacity for awe and for compassion, for taking joy and delight in the simplest things.

He made me proud to be a Catholic


I don’t often cry when a public figure dies. This morning, I cried when I heard the news that Senator Ted Kennedy had passed away.

I "grew up" with the Kennedy Clan. I remember how John Kennedy broke the "Catholic barrier" with his election in 1960. I remember Robert Kennedy’s prophetic words as he ran for President in 1968… his fearless embrace of the “least of these” and his opposition to the War in Vietnam. And I remember the wrenching agony of the two Kennedy assassinations.

But today feels a bit like the end of an era. Ted Kennedy, like his brothers, was a champion of civil rights, women’s rights, and the welfare of the “least of these.” He strongly and eloquently opposed the war in Iraq. Because his life (and the lives of others in his family) embraced the great Catholic social justice tradition, they have made me proud to be a Catholic.

So I guess now… the torch has been passed… to us.

Biopic on Opus Dei founder


Filmmaker Roland Joffe, twice nominated for Oscars, including for "The Mission," which dealt with leftist Jesuit priests, is the church's more conservative members, the Assocaited Press reports.

Joffe is in Argentina directing a biopic of Opus Dei founder Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer, who sided with Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War and allegedly spoke positively of Adolf Hitler. The church dismissed the controversies before Escriva was canonized as a saint by Pope John Paul II.

Opus Dei is financing the film, the Assocaited Press reports, but "the British director has 'creative space' to make the film he wants."

Science, religion and the mystical


Exactly 400 years ago today, on Aug. 25, 1609, the Italian astronomer and philosopher Galilei Galileo showed Venetian merchants his new creation, a telescope -- the instrument that was to bring him both scientific immortality and, more immediately, a whole lot of trouble.

To mark this anniversary, NCR is re-releasing an Podcast interview Tom Fox did with Beatrice Bruteau, a Christian contemplative, passionate scientist and philosopher, in 2007. They speak about the creative impulse behind the evolutionary design of the universe.

It's an Encore NCR Podcast: Science, fear, God and the mystical


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