National Catholic Reporter

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Spirituality

Joining Jesus' story with the new science story

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Michael Morwood is an Australian author, speaker and teacher. His first book, Tomorrow’s Catholic, was declared to be “in error” by Archbishop George Pell of Melbourne, but sold well. A former priest with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Morwood works in adult faith formation in Australia and in the United States. His retreats and workshops focus on helping Christians articulate faith in Jesus in ways that resonate with a contemporary understanding of our place in the universe.

He has a master’s degree in pastoral ministry from Boston College. Following his silencing by Pell, Morwood resigned from religious life and priestly ministry. He and his wife, Maria, live in Perth, Western Australia. He is also author of From Sand to Solid Ground: Questions of Faith for Modern Catholics and Is Jesus God? Finding Our Faith (Crossroad).

NCR: Your books respond to the need of contemporary Christians to understand their faith in ways that respect their secular worldview and enable them to believe in Christ and believe in themselves and our place in the universe.

Relics, faith and truth

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Each summer, the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka, hosts a two-week-long Buddhist festival, Esala Perahera.

The main feature is a daily procession through the streets featuring thousands of torchbearers, dancers, drummers and other musicians. Each group of performers is followed by a decorated elephant. Even the elephants get into the mood, doing a sort of ponderous pachyderm pavane.

A tiny, humble piece of bread

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Catholic writer Paul Wilkes’ latest opus, Holding God in My Hands: Personal Encounters with the Divine, is a book of contemporary parables focused on the Eucharist. In particular, it is series of stories about Wilkes’ ministry, bringing God, in the form of a host, to the sick and dying. Each story, then, becomes a springboard for spiritual reflection. Author of more than 20 books, Wilkes is also a contributor to the National Catholic Reporter.

Fox: Why this book?
Wilkes: I’m a eucharistic minister at my local hospital. I’ve been doing this for 15 years. I go every week. I’ve probably seen 5,000 patients. I’ve been keeping track of the people I talk to, and if I would see them again I would make a note or two about what their condition was or what I or my parish might be able to do for them. The stories just started to occur.

You write about bringing the real presence of God as you visit patients. What’s that like?

Seeds of the Gospel in cinema

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The idea of cinema divina -- that is, sacred viewing -- first crossed my spiritual path in 1991, when I read an article in the Review for Religious by Benedictine Fr. Benedict Auer: “Video Divina: A Benedictine Approach to Spiritual Viewing.” He wrote, “Video divina requires a set disposition which says, ‘This evening, I wish to get closer to God, so I think I’m going to watch this film, which might give me better insights into myself or why my neighbor acts as she or he does.’ ”

Prayer expands the heart and inspires action

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ESSAY

The invitation to offer an essay on prayer came as a surprise. I am not a contemplative. My personal history recalls prayer styles that failed to increase my faith or stir my spirit. As a young sister, litanies bored me. As an older one, labyrinths hold no appeal. I explored the charismatic movement, and I profited from its emphasis on shared prayer and scripture, cherishing forever the injunction of the prophet Micah: To act justly, to live tenderly and to walk humbly with God. I walked away from the rest of it because it felt artificial. But each of the three I discarded is a wellspring of grace for others and I am happy for them.

The universe's communion of subjects

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My wife and I went out recently to an observatory site run by the local astronomy society to gaze at the universe, which was making big news headlines at the time, thanks to scientists Nikodem Poplawski and Stephen Hawking. With our telescope we joined a dozen others to observe the area around the constellation Sagittarius, located above the southern horizon in the summer and early autumn.

Raimon Panikkar, 'apostle of inter-faith dialogue,' dies

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Professor Raimon Panikkar, one of the greatest scholars of the 20th century in the areas of comparative religion, theology, and inter-religious dialogue, died at his home in Tavertet, near Barcelona, Spain, Aug. 26. He was 91.

Panikkar taught and lived in the United States from 1966-1987 and was known to generations of students here and around the world through both his lectures and his many books. What they heard and read were the arresting reflections of a multi-dimensional person, who was simultaneously a philosopher, theologian, mystic, priest and poet.

Prayers for the people who bump into things

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I’ve never had much luck with Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. The first time I ever kept her day, I was in theology graduate school with a bunch of people who should have known better. That some of us didn’t know better became clear when I walked into an empty classroom and found, under an invitation to remember Kateri Tekakwitha in prayer, directions to the “great oak” chalked on the board.

Eat. Pray. Love. Alas.

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Let's face it. There are some books that should never be made into movies.

Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth "Liz" Gilbert, my favorite book of 2008, is one of these.

I wanted to like the film, but got an inkling it might not live up to my expectations when I saw Julia Roberts, who plays Liz in the film, ride a bicycle along a tropical byway with what looks like a pasted-on smile. It didn't ring true and in my heart of hearts, I knew that the film might look good, but would miss the depth of Liz's one-year search for meaning.

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September 12-25, 2014

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