Young adults in the Catholic church: Where are they? You could say they're all over the place: Some are regular Mass attendees, some are away from home, some don't attend Mass, some are mothers, some are in the military, some are entering their third job, some are entering their first job, some are in college. It's a difficult demographic to minister to -- it encapsulates so many life stages and spiritual stages.
A lawsuit that was filed by the group American Atheists to keep a revered cross out of the National September 11 Museum is being challenged by a conservative law firm that defends the public display of religious symbols.
The American Center for Law and Justice filed a friend-of-the-court brief Monday on behalf of the suit's two defendants, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site.
"The legal arguments of the atheist organization are both offensive and absurd," the center's chief counsel, Jay Sekulow, said in a statement. He said 190,000 people had signed a petition opposing the lawsuit.
The lawsuit is just one more controversy surrounding the 9/11 museum, which has been delayed by an ongoing financial dispute between the foundation and the Port Authority. Most recently, the foundation has resisted efforts by some victims' family members to place the Koenig Sphere at the entrance to the museum. Like the cross, the sphere survived the attack damaged but intact, and has become a symbol of resilience.
All is not well in religious life in the English-speaking world -- that is, if we are to believe the media of late. The situation of the troubled state of apostolic women religious in the United States brought this to world attention with reports of both a review of one leadership group and an apostolic visitation conducted in regard to the question of quality of life of contemporary membership.
Much has been said about these matters and no doubt much more will be said over time. But all the discussion and inquiry is secondary to what underlies the nature of the changes that have taken place in religious life throughout the past 50 years. The root cause of the changes has been totally unacknowledged. Indeed, it has never been recognized.
In his recent book, Toward A True Kinship Of Faiths: How The World's Religions Can Come Together, the Dalai Lama recounts a 1994 visit to Israel during which he asked one of the chief rabbis "what it is that unites Jewish people the world over -- what the kernel of the doctrine is that unites all Jews." He was taken aback by the rabbi's response: "When it comes to doctrine, there is hardly any uniformity. What unites all faithful Jews are the rituals. Come Friday, all Jewish homes, from Siberia to Ethiopia, hold Sabbath in the same manner. We have been doing this for thousands of years, since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem."
Not being "a great believer in the efficacy of ritual in its own right," the Dalai Lama was initially surprised by this answer. But he came to understand what ritual means in the context of exile and diaspora: "a particular form of continuity and connection that allows great pluralism of views and beliefs," he said, "while at the same time links people through a shared set of practices and a language ... to a powerful lineage of memory and tradition."
LOS ANGELES -- Mention the word "exorcism" to most people, and you get descriptions of levitating bodies, spinning heads, oozing green bile and hissing serpentine tongues. But don't expect to see these eye-popping visual effects in this summer's stage version of "The Exorcist" at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.
STERRETT, Ala. -- Marija Lunetti, one of six young peasants who claimed that the Virgin Mary began appearing to them in 1981 in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, says the mother of Jesus is aware of the economic crisis in Europe.
"She's more preoccupied with spiritual (matters)," Lunetti said. "When there is a spiritual crisis, there is also an economic crisis."
Lunetti spoke briefly in an interview about the economic crisis in Europe and the weather -- "Hot like here," she said -- before she had her daily apparition on Sunday night on her visit to Shelby County, Ala. During the apparitions, she says the Virgin Mary appears to her and prays over the pilgrims, even though they cannot see her vision.
She's staying this week at the home of Terry Colafrancesco, founder of Caritas of Birmingham, a ministry that runs a large publishing operation and promotes the visions in Medjugorje.
Colafrancesco just returned with a group from Medjugorje, in what is now known as Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Lunetti arrived in Alabama on Friday night. Lunetti is married with four children and lives most of year in Milan, Italy.
High school kids can join the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Jewish Student Union, the Muslim Students Association and, in some schools, a Hindu or a Buddhist club.
Now they can join the young atheists club, too.
Following a more than yearlong investigation into the group's "adherence to the fullness of Catholic teaching," the future of a national association of ministries to gay and lesbian Catholics is uncertain because its board members refused to sign an "oath of personal integrity" to Catholic teaching given to them by the local bishop.
We find ourselves in a deeply divided church -- and society as well. For those who love the church, the many contemporary trials Catholics face cause concern and, for some at least, pain. Some trials, with origins stretching back 400 years, are manifest in an increasingly secularized society. Other trials are more contemporary and play out in criminal and civil courts. But in his poignant appeal for help Pope Benedict XVI saw that the present dark state of affairs goes much further and deeper: "What went wrong ... in our entire way of living the Christian life to allow such a thing to happen?"
I think the key to my becoming an avid reader began when, as a boy, I was unable to find much that I might want to read in my father's vast library.
Dad was a book publisher, as I am today, and yet I'm not sure that I gleaned any of my reading habits from him. Dad published evangelical Christian books, often written by the best-selling writers in that genre, but it was genre writing to be sure. Day after day I would spend scouring his bookshelves after school and my reaction eventually was: There must be more than this. And indeed, I learned, there was.