National Catholic Reporter

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Spirituality

Pope Francis' first Lenten message to focus on poverty, generosity

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Pope Francis has chosen the theme, "He became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich," for this year's Lenten message, said a Vatican statement Friday.

The theme comes from a verse from St. Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians, where the apostle is promoting generosity in giving and wishes to "test the genuineness of your love by your concern for others."

The full verse reads: "For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2 Cor 8:9).

Top brass say they're not aware of bias against military chaplains

Lawmakers peppered Pentagon officials Wednesday about claims that military chaplains have faced discrimination for their beliefs, and time and again, chaplains and personnel officials said they were unaware of any bias.

Virginia Penrod, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, told the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel that she could not cite specific instances where chaplains had to preach a sermon or oversee a ceremony that conflicted with their beliefs.

Spreading Christ's light

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At first glance, our reading from Isaiah seems to come about a month late. Weren't we just singing with Handel about the people in darkness being caught up in light? Hearing that prophecy during today's liturgy reminds us that that the light, as John says, shone in the darkness that vainly tried to overcome it. Today we remember both the light and the cost and joys of sharing it. Isaiah addressed people forced from their homeland, people whose shared suffering created shared hopelessness, who were figuratively or literally blinded to the possibility of a better future.

Strength from weakness

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It's difficult to understand the original meaning of today's Deutero-Isaiah passage unless we restore the first six verses to the Lectionary selection. Isaiah 49:1-6 is generally referred to as the Second Song of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh. The disciples of the anonymous prophet (Deutero-Isaiah) responsible for Chapters 40-55 of Isaiah not only passed on his powerful oracles, they also included four reflections on what it meant for him to be Yahweh's mouthpiece. The first three are autobiographical; the last, biographical -- composed by his followers after his martyrdom.

Bill de Blasio, New York's new 'spiritual but not religious' mayor

From its historic black churches to large Jewish enclaves to landmark Catholic and Protestant churches, New York City is the ultimate religious melting pot. And now, overseeing it all is a new mayor whose only religious identity seems to be "spiritual but not religious."

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who took office Jan. 1, is now perhaps the nation's most visible "none," an icon of one of the nation's fastest-growing religious groups -- those without any formal religious identification.

'Great misunderstanding' seen on church's teachings on end of life

There is "great misunderstanding" among Catholics and others about the church's teachings on whether and when life-sustaining medical treatment can be withdrawn when death is near, according to a leading Catholic bioethicist.

Marie T. Hilliard, director of bioethics and public policy and a staff ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said the Philadelphia-based center conducts about 2,000 consultations a year with "families in distress" who want to talk with an ethicist "about the church's teaching in light of their (family) situation."

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October 10-23, 2014

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