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\"The wisest man I ever met\"

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I received this reminiscence about a 20-year friendship with Fr. Thomas Berry from Vic Hummert, former Maryknoll priest and environmental activist who lives in Louisiana.

Thomas Berry and I first met in April 1989 as I awaited an extended visa to teach English in an ecumenical seminary in Matanzas, Cuba. I tried to do some environmental education in the area while patiently waiting for the visa in St. Paul’s parish in Yonkers , NY. With time as a precious gift I decided to phone Thomas Berry in the Riverdale Center on the Hudson River.

“Father Berry , my name is Vic Hummert, a Maryknoll priest. I have been reading some of your papers and would like to know if I could just come to visit you some day.”

“What are you doing for lunch today?”

“Nothing planned. I will get on the train and come down to Riverdale.”

“That would be fine. What do you mean? Coming on the train? You don’t have a car?”

“No, I gave up on cars since going to Hong Kong in 1970.”

“Stay right there, I’ll come and pick you up.”

The anti-Catholic canard

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Even with Catholics in commanding positions of power and influence in the culture, there are some loud voices among us who want to keep the sinister, anti-Catholic plot alive. They make their living off such fearsome conjecture, and there’s always a blog or a comment or a conspiracy theory available to keep their faxes humming.

So it was a pleasure (as it always is) to come across the calm and considered wisdom of noted historian Dr. Martin Marty in his Sightings column yesterday.

He was musing on the appointment of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and how “remarkable” it would be to have a sixth Catholic judge on the bench. (We’ll allow the aforementioned blogs and faxers to conduct the internecine battle over just how Catholic one must be to be Catholic and whether Sotomayor meets their standards.)

Susan Boyle and a family from Vietnam

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It’s a uniquely Western story: Susan Boyle, an obscure, homely but endearing women, is skyrocketed to fame and just as quickly torn down by the very forces that raised her up.

Uniquely Western -- because her story reminds me of a Vietnamese family I tried to draw into the media whirlwind several years ago.

Boyle became an overnight sensation when she appeared on “Britain’s Got Talent.” Her rendition of “The Dream I Dreamed” from the musical “Les Miserable,” stunned the audience and the show’s judges. But more than that, it sparked a Great Re-Examination of How We Judge People.

Wind and Fire

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The late spring burst of sunshine made it possible to hang out the laundry this weekend. Clotheslines long ago lost out to convenient dryers and were even banned in some neighborhood covenants as unsightly. But they are coming back as both environmentally friendly and energy saving habits. Perhaps the recession is reminding us of simpler times, childhood memories of the billow and snap of sheets in every backyard, a place to run and hide among the rows of bed sheets or the chance to pretend you had been impressed to serve in the ropes of a block-long British man-of-war commanded by stay-at-home moms.

This not-unpleasant task of hanging the laundry makes labor into am approved contemplative escape. The light breeze and warm sunshine do the work for you. Wind and fire come free of charge and have their effect slowly and naturally.

From ëModerately Pro-Choice' to ëGravely Wicked'

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In 1994, First Things conducted a symposium the topic of which was “killing abortionists.” What follows below are the comments of Princeton University’s Robert P. George offered as part of that special section of the publication. Yesterday, May 31, writing on National Review Online, George offered his views on the murder of Dr. George Tiller. These words are also quoted in their entirety.

My encounters with Fr. Thomas Berry

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I first heard Thomas Berry speak at the first North American Conference on Christianity and Ecology that was held the summer of 1987 in Indiana. The conference aimed to gather together for the first time religious leaders from the nation’s Christian denominations in order to begin to transform faith-based communities into forces for reshaping the human presence on the planet.

The dream was to enlist the nation’s 155 million church and synagogue members in the struggle. At that time, its roster of speakers and presenters made up a who’s who of the religion/ecology movement in America – agriculturist Wes Jackson, poet-farmer Wendell Berry, bioregionalist David Haenke, Jesuit Fr. Al Fritsch, Protestant activist Calvin DeWitt, Srs. Miriam McGillis and Paula Gonzalez, and many more.

Moral conflict just isn't what it used

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E. J. Dionne is on the side of the angels, as well as being one of the nicest people in Washington. And, his analysis of how religious concerns intersect with politics is second to none. But, he missed a beat in this morning’s column.

Dionne writes that "moral values" were seen as decisive in the 2004 election but that recent polling data has shown that other issues have risen to the top of voters' concerns, starting with the economy. "But a funny thing happened on the way to the revival tent. The crash of the economy has concentrated the minds of Americans on other things. Moral conflict just isn't what it used to be."

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September 12-25, 2014

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