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The commonplace magic of Spring


Earth and Spirit

In the Midwest, the shockingly red cardinals begin singing in drab mid-February, no matter what the weather. That’s when my spring hunger begins. Their hopeful songs bring it on. Migrant robins return. My yearning cranks up. By March, garden seeds are on display in the hardware store while hoes, rakes and spades are up front. That gets me salivating.

A game of chess, strawberries, and emptiness revisited


Earth and Spirit

Beautiful, grotesque, disturbing, darkly terrible, inspiring, tragic, funny, deeply spiritual, shockingly antireligious -- all of these equally describe the late Ingmar Bergman’s 1956 film about a 14th-century knight (Max von Sydow) returning from the Crusades to his plague-ridden homeland. “The Seventh Seal” has become one of the cinema’s living legends. I watched it recently for the second time. I saw it first in 1964, when I was 19, just out of high school seminary. It shook me to the roots then.

Ministering to the ministers


Who ministers to the ministers? Where can priests and religious safely turn when they are depressed or addicted?

Guest House, a 54-year-old organization headquartered in Lake Orion, Mich., specializes in treating priests, religious, deacons and seminarians with addictions. Upper Room, a new crisis hotline based in Joliet, Ill., provides paraprofessional counseling, information, referral, suicide prevention and reassurance for elderly priests, brothers and deacons.

We dare to call God a lamb


Earth and Spirit

Our culture directs us to engineer our total security, to surround ourselves with things and wealth, so that we are in no way ever dependent upon another. However, our Catholic spiritual traditions tell us that if we protect ourselves from insecurity, from vulnerability, we in turn cut ourselves off both from the Source, but also from the community we need in order to be fully human and compassionate.

Franciscan preacher Fr. Richard Rohr has said: “One religion, Catholic Christianity, even dares to call God a lamb!” What is the nature of a lamb, if not simple, vulnerable and dependent on others? Spirituality often turns things upside down and inside out. To be human is to be insecure, dependent. Even God chooses community — to be a weak and gentle lamb in our midst.

Quake shakes, but doesn't tumble, faith of Haitians


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Did God abandon Haiti?

No, say its people of faith -- and there are many here in a place without much beyond faith. The earthquake was a sign of God's presence.

So, it should be no surprise that on a narrow street choked by debris, outside a church with a shattered ceiling open to the morning sky, what was left of the congregation of Haiti's Second Baptist Church stood in a courtyard and waved their hands in the air and shouted, "Victoire! Victoire!"


Obama tells church faith 'keeps me calm'

WASHINGTON -- President Obama addressed how his faith guides him and the importance of hard work as he marked the birthday of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at a Washington church on Sunday, Jan. 17.

"Folks ask me sometimes why I look so calm," he said at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, a historic congregation that was visited by King. "I have a confession to make here. ... There are times when it feels like all these efforts are for naught, and change is so painfully slow in coming, and I have to confront my own doubts. But let me tell you during those times, it's faith that keeps me calm. It's faith that gives me peace."

The president spoke for almost half an hour in the usual spot for the sermon on the church's program, addressing about 500 people gathered in the Family Life Center of the congregation founded by freed slaves in 1866. At times he spoke like a preacher, opening his speech with "Good morning. Praise be to God," and concluding with "through God all things are possible."


Begin the new year with new dose of hope


Physicians tell us that the human body can survive four to six weeks without food, up to three days without water and for about 10 minutes without oxygen.

How long can a human being survive without hope? Our own experience suggests that without hope the human spirit begins to die almost immediately. Even our bodies show signs of sagging when our horizons show no future or purpose.

Letting the children go


Parents spend years saying, “How do you ask?” and “What do you say?” to children who think the phrase “I want it” is information enough. Parents spend months of prime adult life crouched before toilet bowls cheering streams of urine from children who are quite content to wet their pants. Forever. Parents spend even more years enlisting unwilling children to help with dishes and laundry.

Why? Any honest parent will tell you that the simplest and most pleasant way to complete a household task is to do it yourself. If you cook dinner alone, you’ll do all the work, it’s true, but you can do it listening to NPR, or watching “Seinfeld” reruns, or working in blessed silence. No whining. No “Why do always have to help?” No complaining. No “I set the table yesterday!”

Latino Christmas: Nativities of Latin America


The Christmas narrative, focused on the Bethlehem nativity, has captured the imaginations of Christians through centuries. What is it about this image we find so captivating?

"Crèches are the perfect poetic metaphor for our faith," explains Dr. Nora Heimann, associate professor and chair of the art department at The Catholic University of America. “Crèches celebrate a return to the most basic principles of our faith, Jesus as a child. God then is not just a concept, but is real and human in the person of Jesus.”

Building on this Christian imagery, for the fifth consecutive year, the Knights of Columbus museum in New Haven, Conn., is presenting an exhibit on crèches. This year’s theme is titled, “A Latino Christmas: Nativities of Latin America.”

“We put on the crèche exhibits to provide a venue for families to receive an uplifting religious experience,” said Lawrence Sowinski, the museum’s director.

The Latino exhibit includes 120 hand-made crèches from 16 Latin American countries, the Caribbean and four southwestern U.S. states, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.



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September 12-25, 2014


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