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Spirituality

Holy Thursday reflection: Dinner among Friends

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A Holy Thursday reflection

Tonight we have been invited to an intimate dinner among a few friends. But these men did not begin as friends. Jesus was not a celebrity looking for fans, or a politician on the hustings. Jesus was a teacher looking for students, disciples. They didn’t have to be bright — just teachable.

So, he first chose Peter: rock-solid in his own way after he had been quarried. Loyal as a dog, dependable in crisis. He was the kind of leader that others could lean on. Jesus could count on Peter to get the job done whether it was easy or hard, whether he felt like it or not, whether he understood it or not.

On the other end of the spectrum was John. More a lover than a man of action. Someone to sit around with, talk with, pray with, be with. Not very useful otherwise. But then, what good is a new kingdom if there is no love there? John would keep recalling the others to the whole point of their message and mission.

Easter in memorable DVDs

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Pope Benedict XVI declared June 2008 to June 2009 “the Year of St. Paul.” At Easter, Paul becomes even more interesting, for me, as a man full of fire, love, hope and faith.

Key themes from Paul’s letters can be explored with films, themes that become especially meaningful in the Easter season. Paul experienced God in his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, in his mystical experiences and in his understanding of the Incarnation and redemption. For Paul, everything in his life that followed was rooted in that life-changing Damascus experience, the ultimate, human “holy moment” when Paul beheld the face of God.

God’s transforming action
Many films, either fictional or based on real events, deal explicitly with God’s intervention in human affairs and the human response:

“Millions” (2005): A British film directed by Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) about a little boy who has a unique relationship with the saints as he tries to find a way to use some unexpected cash to do good for others.

“The Third Miracle” (1999): Ed Harris plays a Chicago priest in the midst of a crisis of faith as he investigates miracles attributed to a local woman.

Catholic bishops say no to Reiki treatment

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Catholic Bishops said Thursday (March 26) that Catholic chaplains, health care facilities and retreat centers should not promote or support Reiki therapy, a Japanese alternative healing practice.

Reiki "finds no support either in the findings of natural science or in Christian belief," the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine said in six pages of guidelines.

"For a Catholic to believe in Reiki therapy presents insoluble problems," said the committee, which is chaired by Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn.

Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops' conference, said that over the last 18 months a number of bishops have asked the doctrine committee to evaluate the use of Reiki and make a judgment on its suitability for Catholic institutions.

Earth and Spirit: The homely God who holds us

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In May of the year 1373 the woman who would compose the first book ever written in the English language died at the tender age of 30 ... or so her bedside companions thought. In the throes of a severe respiratory infection, this English Catholic woman had what we call today a near-death experience.

We don't know her real name, but we call her Juliana, since she took the name of St. Julian's church in Norwich, where she lived as an anchorite.

Obama, an Enneagram One, to live the law

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Editor’s note: The Enneagram, an ancient means of describing nine personality types, began to draw fresh interest in the 1980s. Reactivated by the Jesuits in Catholic circles and popularized by Richard Rohr, it migrated to therapists, coaches and the habitués of retreat houses since. NCR recently asked Clarence Thomson, who has written several books on the Enneagram, using the tool, to assess the personality of Barack Obama and his presidency – and to offer any appropriate advice. His personal assessment follows:

President Obama, in my opinion, is a style One on the Enneagram graph. And while the enneagram is not an exact science, it can offer helpful personality indicators.

Ones, for example, tend to be idealistic, guided by clear convictions of right and wrong, and work oriented.

Every style has certain strengths and limitations. Style One is in one way, unduly humble. Ones have a tendency to erase their personal feelings and unite, almost merge their personal agenda with the demands of an ideal or law or tradition or principle.

Earth and Spirit: The Lenten paradox

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I like those lists of tips for more frugal living that appear in magazines and newspapers when hard times are upon us: Pay off your credit card every month. Sun-dry your clothes. Insulate your attic. Keep your car's tires inflated. Eat way less meat.

My favorite is one I've never personally adopted: Contract with the state police to notify you when a deer has been killed on the highway. Make sure you have a freezer to store it in.

Lent 2.0: No Facebook, no Twitter

Most days you can find college sophomore Adan Farrah on his laptop checking in with his classmates, looking at photos and updating his personal page on Facebook.

For the 19-year-old and many of his friends, the social networking site is something close to an obsession.

"I'm on there a total of three hours a day ... four hours on weekends," said Farrah, a native of Monroe, N.J., and now a student at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.

Editorial: The sign of Jonah

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Thomas Merton wrote in his early journals that the "sign of Jonas" -- the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection -- is "burned into the roots of our being." Sooner or later, everyone faces the universal truth that only through death to self do we find life. Merton embraced this sign and described himself as one like Jonah, because "I find myself traveling toward my destiny in the belly of a paradox."

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September 12-25, 2014

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