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A tiny, humble piece of bread


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


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



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


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


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


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.


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.

An ancient and contemporary pathway to God


Mission Management

The Catholic church in the United States is facing a daunting challenge in trying to reach and provide spiritual formation for its estimated 65 million members.

According to a recent survey, 64 percent of U.S. Catholics do not attend Mass on a weekly basis. The survey, published in 2009 by Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., indicates that the fastest-growing segment of U.S. believers is the “Nones,” those who are “spiritual” but practice no formal religion. In 1990, the Nones accounted for 8.1 percent of the population, or 14 million people. By 2008, that number had risen to 15 percent, or 34 million people. And of that group, 35 percent identify themselves as former Catholics.

The catechism of our senses


Earth and Spirit

How sensual our world is. A lilac bush has spread its blooms outside my window at home while inside green beans simmer on the stove, as yeasty rolls bake in the oven. My wife crushes dried basil and oregano leaves harvested from our summer garden for a stew, wafting heady scent-detonations through the air. Out of good stereo speakers, Mexican cantina lyrics sung with a lusty, spine-chilling vibrato weave in and out of exuberantly melancholy mariachi trumpets.



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