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Spirituality

Why I love 'Downton Abbey'

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COLUMN

"Don't be defeatist, dear; it's very middle-class."

If you recognize this quote, you're probably a fan -- make that a fanatic -- of the PBS series "Downton Abbey." There are millions of us spanning several continents, making the Masterpiece Theater mini-series that just finished its second season a veritable pop culture phenomenon.

Former Anglican priests begin formation to be ordained Catholic priests

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HOUSTON -- Forty-two former Anglican priests from across the country have officially begun their training to become Catholic priests.

It was both a long-awaited milestone and the beginning of a new journey as they gathered in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston for the first formation weekend in late January at St. Mary Seminary and Our Lady of Walsingham Church in Houston.

The group included the wives of the Catholic clergy-in-training, so there was a total of 76 participants.

More than 100 former Anglican priests have applied to become Catholic priests for the U.S. Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. To date, 42 have been accepted into the program.

The application process for each candidate included a criminal background check, psychological evaluation and recommendations from the Catholic bishop where he lives and from his Anglican ecclesiastical authority, if possible.

Bringing God to the rhythms of our days

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COMMENTARY

As readers of my “Distinctly Catholic” blog on the NCR website know, I came down with the flu at the beginning of the year. Seven days of it. Yuck.

Because I could not get out of bed, I missed Mass twice. And, consequently, for the weeks that followed, I never knew quite which day it was. I felt like a cat that falls and doesn’t land on all fours, disoriented and flustered. The whole week wasn’t right because it had not started the way it was supposed to.

It is so easy to take Sunday Mass for granted. We all lead busy lives. We look at the church bulletin and see that our parish church has four or five Masses every weekend. Protestants don’t do that. Why all this effort to make Mass available to people? Because, without the Mass, nothing else seems meaningful. Without the Eucharist, we are a hungry people.

Praying for New Orleans, one block at a time

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NEW ORLEANS -- Millie Campbell slipped the transmission into reverse and backed her blue Chevrolet away from her spotless brick home. "Oh God," she said, "we thank you for the blood of Jesus."

Then the 76-year-old cranked the wheel straight, put the car into drive, and headed slowly up Frenchmen Street, one hand on the wheel, the other turned upward toward the heavens.

The 'schoolboys' have no real authority

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VIEWPOINT

In the very early years of the 20th century, my dad attended primary school in a one-room country grade school on the plains of central Kansas. Conditions were still very rustic on the frontier in those days. They had just the basics. There were no phones, no electric lights and no indoor plumbing. The roads were of dirt, and the law was miles away. One teacher taught all eight grades and had to be a fairly tough and self-sufficient individual.

The instinct to worship

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Christmas

About “early holiday decorations and shopping,” it seems, little more can helpfully be said. But what can be said about the “Christmas story” will always be inexhaustible. Even, for example, about demigods and demagogues before whom, unaccountably, human beings have so long been inclined to bow their knees.

In the ancient Near East, kings represented the gods -- and were reverenced accordingly. Israel’s monotheism provided a sharp critique not only of polytheism but of all ruler-worship. But after Julius Caesar, deification of the Roman emperor became common (probably of course taken most seriously among the less educated classes). Augustus was certainly regarded as a god, and on the denarius that Peter found in the fish and showed to Jesus there would have been the inscription “Son of the Divine Augustus.” In the Greek-speaking but multiethnic East, ruler worship was even more common.

Nor was the practice simply ancient. Think of the way Nazi crowds idolized Hitler (and how neo-Nazi terrorists are active today).

Despite different beliefs, we are one family

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Christmas

For many years, Maryknoll Fr. Bob McCahill has been sending an annual letter to NCR and other friends at Christmastime, chronicling his experience living among the people of Bangladesh since 1975. Following is an edited version of his 2011 letter.

Dear Friends,

Skinny, awkward 6-year-old Bareek was brought to me by his skinny, worried mother. A doctor has diagnosed the boy’s cerebral palsy. I pledged to arrange a two-week course of physiotherapy so that mother could learn to help her son. On that very day, Haroon and I were hauling earth in baskets to lay as a foundation for my new house. Bareek decided to help us. In his family’s cooking shed he found a high-sided rice plate. Working alongside the men, Bareek filled his plate repeatedly, carried it 15 meters in his jerky gait, and emptied it wherever Haroon and I emptied our basketfuls. Neighbors who observed his voluntary efforts thought, pound for pound, Bareek was the most admirable of all the earth haulers.

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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