Monday, February 24, 2003

Saturday night, we were given, if not a blizzard, a close relative. For hours, the wind howled and the sky hurled snow of various types down on us – sleet, then thick, wet flakes, and finally tiny dry specks surrounding us like fog. Strangest of all was the lightening – yes. I counted two huge lightening flashes and an unmistakable roll of thunder. Maybe some of you long-time Yankees are used to such sights, but I’d never seen or heard of such a thing.

If this were mid-December, we’d all be undisturbed about the snow, perhaps even happy to see it cover the late autumn earth tones and get us ready for Christmas. But this is almost March, for heaven’s sake, and just Friday I was watching the ground slowly re-appear as prior snows receded, thinking that it was about time.

It still is.

Went to Mass Saturday evening (between the sleet and the thick flakes) at a smaller church up the road, a church built late in the last century, I assume, in the Gothic style. It is called St. Peter’s, its German heritage unmistakable, betrayed by the German-language titles on the Stations of the Cross. It is not a mile away from St. Patrick’s, the parish founded expressly for Irish immigrants, perhaps two miles from St. Paul’s the parish that is now the home of a predominantly Hispanic congregation, and a mile in another direction from St. Mary’s, a parish which has been home many of the city’s African-American Catholics.

The church is impeccably maintained, and possesses a truly unique feature – at least to me. The main and two side altars have, of course, tall and elaborate Gothic-style backings (there must be a technical name for them, but I’m too lazy to look it up.) in which stand statues and candles and such. They also are host to something else, something you don’t know until late in Mass, – borders of large light bulbs that remain dark until Communion time, at which point they are switched on, lighting up the sanctuary with an effect that unfortunately approaches that of an extra-large vanity and makeup mirror.

The homily was uber Catholic – a dry, thoroughly “orthodox” recitation of the benefits of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, offered to a congregation composed mostly of gray heads, who, I would imagine, scarcely require such a fundamental catechesis.

As a homily, it paled beside the brief reflection of a parish priest from Warwick, RI this morning, who was being interviewed on one of the morning news shows. Asked what he was saying at Masses, this weekend, he simply responded that the Gospel was the account of friends feeling such compassion for another that they went to the trouble of climbing on a roof and lowering him into the healing presence of Jesus. In a time like this, he said, that is all we can do.

Internal Affairs Dep't:

I've updated what the kids call the "blogroll" on the left over there, deleting a couple of apparently inactive blogs and adding a couple of newer ones that I particularly appreciate. I've also added a few news links.

And don't forget to send me your suggestions for a Lenten Reading List!

Also.. I just added a "soundtrack" section to the rail over there, with a list of the CD's that are currently living in the living room player.

HMS blog has helpful updates on Al Kresta's condition and the outcome of Detroit's Mercy High School's "Catholic Identity on the Block" (as Greg calls it) auction of lunch with Governor Granholm.

Three book reports this week:

First was Virgin Trails: A Secular Pilgrimage.

Of course you know that “pilgrimage” is all the rage, but really only in the same sense that “spirituality” is all the rage, which means that ultimately, It’s All About Me. There are tons of books out there on pilgrimage, sacred journeys, whatever you want to call them, most by people whose beliefs about fossil fuels are held with far more certainty than their beliefs about the Transcendent.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for seekers. I’m one myself, and I admit it freely, just as freely as I admit my sympathetic understanding of the views of the agnostic and the atheist. Without Jesus, if I do say so myself, it seems mighty hard to believe in God at times. But that’s just me.

So anyway, the books about seekers on journeys flood the market. Most of them are going to Machu Picchu (the most recent theory of which says it wasn’t a holy spot at all, but a royal resort. Heh.) or similar pagan and/or natural destinations, but some haunt Christian spots, and since most Protestant theology is too scared to let the Incarnation somehow spread into stuff, that leaves our seekers who’ve a mind to traveling to Roman Catholic and Orthodox places, taking what they can, and telling the rest of us about it with the appropriate mix of muted respect for the luminousness of the place and relief that they don’t have to take it too seriously.

Well, Virgin Trails isn’t like that. Really. It’s not like that because the author, a youngish Canadian journalist named Robert Ward, while an admittedly agnostic seeker, treats what he sees – in Paris, Lourdes, Spain and Rome – with the deepest respect and a completely open mind. Best of all, he avoids the common modern pitfall of constantly and oppressively inserting himself into the narrative. Oh, he’s there all right, on every page, but his personal quest isn’t the center of the story – we sort of get why he’s doing this, but sort of not, and that’s not because he’s being coy, but rather because he chooses to put what he observes, not himself, on center stage. Take it from one who’s read almost every seeker-encountering-Catholic-stuff tale that’s come down the pike in the past five years – such reticence is refreshing.

There has been a great deal of lovely stuff – as well as dreck – written about Lourdes, but what Ward does with it ranks with the best. He weaves history in which his observations of his two-week stay, which included a stint working as a volunteer with the malades, and produces some fine writing:

Sickness, in Lourdes, is an honored state, for the sick here are not simply individuals with infirmities, they are The Sick who Christ called and blessed and healed. I have said that Lourdes can be thought of as the stage for a Christian drama. That drama is the enactment on earth of Jesus’ word that in the kingdom of Heaven the last shall be first. There is nothing sanctimonious or condescending in this. All understand their role in the ritual. The volunteers come here prepared to serve; the sick, to be served. The unanticipated consequences is that Lourdes, drizzly, dolorous, Virgin-ridden Lourdes, is a very cheerful place. One of the most cheerful on earth, in my experience.

As I read the book, I appreciated Ward’s stance from another angle, as well. I was glad he wasn’t a believer, for a believer describing the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal or Lourdes or any of the stops along the Camino Santiago Compostela pilgrimage route might be tempted to overlay his observations with his convictions about the truthfulness and the personal religious significance of what he sees. Useful and interesting sometimes, but most of time, not.

Next up: Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age by Ruth Harris. Another excellent book, of a different type though, and if history’s not your bag, this book won’t be either.

Harris deals thoroughly and fairly with Bernadette’s apparitions and the events surrounding it, and then turns to the development of the shrine in the context of late 19th and very early 20th century France – how the development of pilgrimages to Lourdes – particularly carefully organized national pilgrimages – occurred in response to the secularist forces in French culture and government, how the shrine was the locus of clashes between religion and science, but in the end, came to play a role in their entente, and what the role of women in the shrine’s development reveals about, among other things, the Frenchwoman’s relative indifference to women’s issues as they were being played out in the US and in Britain.

Finally, I spent much of today reading The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust by prolific historian Martin Gilbert.

The book is an almost encyclopedic , country-by-country survey of non-Jewish rescuers during the Nazi era. There are literally hundreds of stories told in this book, too many to absorb in one reading, which was not, I’m sure, the intention, anyway. It’s a book to consult, to have handy and, quite seriously, meditate on.

The effort to document the Righteous Among Nations has been systematic and continuous for many years, and the efforts are centralized at Yad Vashem. Much has been written about rescuers, and not just Schindler’s List. You may have heard of the Oliners’ The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe or Eva Fogleman’s Conscience and Courage or Pierre Sauvage’s documentary about the Le-Chambon-sur-Lignon, the French village that rescued him and scores of other Jewish children, Weapons of the Spirit.

But there are many more stories than this. So far, Yad Vashem has authenticated over 19,000 Righteous of the Nations, and Gilbert includes a breathtaking number of them here, ranging from the familiar, like Schindler, Wallenberg and the entire country of Denmark to the countless quieter, no less heroic examples of Christian clergy and religious, impoverished peasants, aristocrats, Muslims, and yes, even a few German military officers who risked their own lives to hide, move, protect, feed and provide false identification for Jews.

Of particular interest to me are the stories involving Catholic clergy and religious, and there are many – for accounts of a lot of them go here if you’re not planning to take a look at Gilbert’s book, or even if you are.

It is common and understandable and thoroughly correct to view these stories as uplifting moments of light in a wretched, evil darkness. And they are.

But after plowing through hundreds of them, I had another reaction, mixed in with my gratitude. It was grief. Grief at the plain fact that there were not more rescuers, that anti-Semitism was so deeply ingrained in some of the Nazi-occupied countries, that rescuers were often run out of their own villages by their own fellow countrymen after the war was over. Shame that for every Father Bruno who rescued over 300 Jewish children in Belgium, there was a Father Tiso, willing puppet head of Slovakia under the Nazis who authorized the deportation of Jews from his country. (By the way, I am disturbed and fascinated that in this article by Ronald Rylchak opposing Goldhagen’s work, Rylchak mentions Tiso, talks about the Vatican’s protests against deportation - but never mentions that Tiso was a priest. Too bad, because we can’t ask honest appraisals of history from everyone else, and then hedge on it ourselves.)

But anyway – take a look at this book, or simply revisit the phenomenon of the Righteous, the non-Jews who took great risks to rescue Jews. Be inspired, but also be chastened by reality.

The French lawyer and historian Serge Klarsfeld, a hidden child during the war, whose father was deported to Auschwitz and perished there, has stressed that the war against the Jews in France was more than anything a war against children. Between 1942 and 1944, 11,402 French children aged seventeen and under (some tiny babies) were deported, many of them without their parents. Only three hundred of those children survived. These harsh facts make the acts of rescue that did take place all the more remarkable, while also raising the ever-present question: What if more people had been able to take the risk of hiding Jews?

And so tie the book reports together, a fact for you:

Franz Werfel a novelist, a Czech, and Jewish, was inspired to write his novel The Song of Bernadette after a brief time of hiding at Lourdes in the late 1930’s on his way from Europe to the United States.


(this is going to be a lengthy list, so keep coming back throughout the day to see what I've added.)

We're pleased and proud as anything around here to note that Michael's latest book, The How-To Book of the Mass, has been selected as one of Catholic Digest's two featured books for March, with a very nice and rather lengthy review in the March issue.

Tony Blair at the Vatican:

A "prickly" meeting

A private Mass

A conversion?

Cherie's faith

Faith in the shadow of war:

On Sunday, several hundred Marines attended church services on the sand. A tent was set up, but too many people showed up so they held services outside. The chaplains set a box in the dirt for a lectern and gathered people around to sing hymns and pray. With the Iraqi border just a stone's throw away, thoughts of violence and death were just beneath the surface of the songs and sermons.

A popular Catholic priest, the Rev. Bill Devine, started Mass with the hymn "Be Not Afraid." Later, he asked God to "protect us from men of violence and keep us safe from weapons of hate." He also prayed for peace. And no war. Every Marine at the service carried some kind of weapon and a gas mask. They never go anywhere without them.

Later, at the Protestant service, eight Marines were baptized. A hole had been dug in the sand and lined with a plastic sheet. It was filled with water to about thigh deep and the men, who had stripped down to T-shirts and shorts, climbed in one at a time for full-immersion baptisms.

A reader writes to add:

Just thought I would drop you a line to let you know that I personally

know Fr. Devine. During 6 months in 1995-1996, I was an active duty Army officer stationed in Egypt with the Multinational Force and Observers. Spiritually,

I had a couple of rough spots during my time there, and Fr. Devine helped me tremendously. Fr. was only able to make it to our camp on Mondays (if the transport plane was flying). He is a WONDERFUL priest (Josephite). It's good to hear news about him.

The forewoman of the Long Island grand jury investigation abuse in the Diocese of Rockville Centre reflects on her experience

Her name is the only one mentioned on the stark cover of the scathing 180-page report on priests who sexually abused children and how it was covered up by the Diocese of Rockville Centre. The report was the first major examination of how one diocese dealt with abuse, and its findings reverberated around the nation when it was released two weeks ago. Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said that had there been no time limit on prosecutions, he could have brought charges against 23 priests in the diocese.

The heartwrenching cost of abuse revealed as a victim accuses his abuser and the bishop

Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown defends its secrecy

One of the more notorious clerical abusers of recent years has been Monsignor Robert Trupia of the Diocese of Tuscon, who's been publicly called a "notorious and serial predator" by officials of his own diocese. Suspended from the priesthood since 1992, he's resurfaced in the news recently because the vicar general of the Diocese of Monterey resigned a few days ago as revelations of his ties to Trupia were revealed: he facilitated the Monterey diocese employing Trupia as a consultant for years (up until 2001) and bought a $110,000 condo in Ellicott City, Maryland in which Trupia lives.

A story from Arizona a couple of days ago looked at the diocese's continuing support of Trupia - a $1,450 a month stipend, which it says it's just gotta give him until he's laicized. Which may be true on the paper called canon law, but is absolute lie in practice, unless there's a secret codicil that applies the law only to pedophiles and homosexual predators and excludes heterosexuals married to adult persons of the opposite sex. You never know.

Indeed, Canon 1350 of Catholic Church law says that unless a priest has been defrocked, provision must always be made that he does not "lack those things which are necessary for his decent support." "Right now we are bound by that," Diocese of Tucson Chancellor June Kellen said Friday. "We continue to pursue laicization." When an Arizona Daily Star reporter tracked him down in Ellicott City, Md., last month, Trupia appeared to be doing well financially. He was driving a 1999 Mercedes-Benz C320, and living in a $110,000 condominium in a suburb of Baltimore for a rent of $1,100 per month.

A short article about the value of religious poetry

From Africa:

John Paul addresses North African bishops:

Addressing the bishops of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, the Pope noted "the quality of relations" between Christians and the Muslim populations of these countries, and he affirmed: "All this is possible thanks to reciprocal knowledge, daily meetings of life and exchanges, particularly with families." "Continue to encourage these meetings as a priority day after day," John Paul II urged. "They contribute to the evolution of mentalities on both sides and help to overcome preconceived images that the media still present all too frequently." ....Lastly, the Holy Father appealed to the small Catholic minority of these countries, made up primarily of immigrants, to become an "expression of the goodness of God for all men" through the "service of charity to the poorest," regardless of "race, culture or religion."

A clinic aids the needy in the Congo

For four years a specialized center has been offering medical care and psychotherapy to victims of the Congolese war, hoping to bring them back to a normal life. The Mater Misericordiae center, in the Kivu region, was founded by surgeon and psychotherapist Colette Kitoga, who studied at the Catholic University in Rome. She and her collaborators take care of victims of the conflict that has convulsed the country since 1996. Eighty-five percent of Dr. Kitoga's patients are children. "These are children marked by experiences such as witnessing the killing of their parents, watching people being buried alive, or themselves being raped at an early age," she told Vatican Radio. Child soldiers and raped women are also given care. There are "very many, because rape is used as a weapon of war," she said. "In eastern Congo, seropositive men or those with confirmed AIDS are used. It is really regarded as a biological weapon."

Kaduna, Nigeria, torn by religious strife

Once a lively urban mélange of faiths and tribes, this today is a partitioned city, the Kaduna River cutting a line through its heart. Muslims crowd into the neighborhoods bizarrely renamed Kandahar and Jalalabad. Christians pack a new settlement of unpaved red dust roads, where pigs roam free and churches multiply: they call it New Jerusalem. "We have no Muslims here," one of Ms. Agbu's neighbors offered by way of explanation.

Kaduna, with a best-guess population of two million, is not only the crucible of trouble in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, where riots touched off by ethnic and religious divisions have killed nearly 10,000 in the last four years. It is also an object lesson on what happens to the geography and soul of a city when fear and distrust are allowed to spiral out of control in the contest for political power.

Kaduna today is abuzz with religious piety, with Koranic schools sprouting on one side and crowded Christian prayer meetings on the other. Even local entrepreneurs display their religious stripes: "God's Will Depot" promises Coca-Cola and 7-Up at affordable prices. But Kaduna is also a snapshot of the most twisted sort of piety. "Jesus is the king of the world," reads the graffiti in the courtyard of a gutted mosque in a Christian part of town. A Catholic church in a largely Muslim enclave has been set on fire, its roof has collapsed, its priest has been hacked to death.

600 Ugandans struggle to be recognized as Jews by Israel

The Abayudaya make no claims of ancient Jewish heritage. They discovered Judaism in 1919 when a local chief, Semei Kakungulu, who had been converted to Christianity, abruptly turned his back on that religion and declared himself a Jew. Legend has it that he learned the outlines of Judaism from some Jewish traders who had passed through his territory.The community's greatest test came a half century later, during the reign of the dictator Idi Amin, when Judaism was banned in Uganda and the Abayudaya synagogues were destroyed. Now, the 84-year-old community is attempting to gain broader recognition and face the challenges of preserving a dwindling population

Check out this article from the NYTimes Magazine about the growing attention to repression as a valuable coping therapy

The new research is rooted in part in the experience of Sept. 11, when swarms of therapists descended on New York City after the twin towers fell. There were, by some estimates, three shrinks for every victim, which is itself an image you might want to repress, the bearded, the beatnik, the softly empathic all gathered round the survivors urging talk talk talk. ''And what happened,'' says Richard Gist, a community psychologist and trauma researcher who, along with a growing number of colleagues, has become highly critical of these debriefing procedures, ''is some people got worse. They were either unhelped or retraumatized by our interventions.'' Gist, who is an associate professor at the University of Missouri and who has been on hand to help with disasters from the collapse of the Hyatt Regency pedestrian skywalks in Kansas City, Mo., in 1981 to the United Airlines crash in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1989, has had time to develop his thoughts regarding how, or how not, to help in times of terror. ''Basically, all these therapists run down to the scene, and there's a lot of grunting and groaning and encouraging people to review what they saw, and then the survivors get worse. I've been saying for years, 'Is it any surprise that if you keep leading people to the edge of a cliff they eventually fall over?'''

....Bonanno pauses. ''I've been studying this phenomenon for 10 years,'' he says. ''I've been deeply troubled. My work's been in top journals, but it's still being dismissed by people in the field. In the 1980's, trauma became an official diagnosis, and people made their careers on it. What followed was a plethora of research on how to heal from trauma by talking it out, by facing it down. These people are not likely to believe in an alternative explanation. People's intellectual inheritance is deeply dependent upon a certain point of view.''

George Bonanno works in New York City, while Richard Gist works in Kansas City; the doctors have never spoken, but they should. They share a lot. Gist told me: ''The problem with the trauma industry is this: People who successfully repress do not turn up sitting across from a shrink, so we know very little about these folks, but they probably have a lot to teach us. For all we know, the repressors are actually the normal ones who effectively cope with the many tragedies life presents. Why are we not more fascinated with these displays of resilience and grace? Why are we only fascinated with frailty? The trauma industry knows they can make money off of frailty; there are all these psychologists out there turning six figures with their pablum and hubris.''

The LA Times' David Shaw on the problems secular journalists have with religion

Television news programs virtually ignore religion, and even good newspapers with weekly religion pages and full-time religion writers don't consistently give religion the kind of serious attention throughout the paper that would seem warranted by the "powerful role" it plays in the lives of most Americans, says Doug Underwood, in his recent book "From Yahweh to Yahoo!: The Religious Roots of the Secular Press.""Members of the faith community are on target," Underwood writes, "when they complain about the incapacity or the unwillingness of journalists to take seriously the importance of the spiritual dimension in the lives of so many people."Indeed, media coverage of not just religion but also of politics, science, psychology and technology, among other subjects, would be "much better if journalists better understood the role religion plays as a motivating force in so many areas of society," says Underwood, a former reporter, who's an associate professor of communications at the University of Washington.

There's a bill being introduced in Congress that would fund the provision of ultrasound machines to non-profit centers, aka CPC's:

The two sides are clashing over a $3 million bill, backed mostly by Republicans, that would provide up to half the cost of ultrasound equipment, which ranges from $20,000 to more than $100,000. The money would go only to nonprofit centers that do not charge for services. The vast majority of pregnancy centers that fit this description oppose abortion.A similar bill went nowhere last year, but its chances are somewhat improved by Republicans controlling Congress.Even without the funding, about 350 of an estimated 2,500 anti-abortion pregnancy centers around the country have ultrasound equipment. It appears to be working as intended, according to officials at several centers, who report many changes among "abortion-minded" women once they see ultrasounds of their fetuses.

Speaking of rescuers...

North Korean Christians being helped to escape

In the dead of winter, North Korean refugees sprint across the frozen Tumen River bordering China and quickly disappear into a thick forest to await the Christian underground railroad. In recent years, Christian advocacy groups -- sponsored mainly by Koreans living in the United States, Japan and South Korea -- have set up a chain of safe houses and orphanages to smuggle North Koreans into China. The underground railroad has enabled tens of thousands of refugees, many of whom are fleeing food shortages and the problems of the failing government of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, to reach South Korea via nations bordering China, such as Russia, Mongolia, Burma and Laos.

Again, more rescuing:

Christianity Today on the state of abortion:

Ultrasound and abortion alternatives

An editorial sees new hope for the prolife movement:

The prolife movement is on the right side of history, regardless of cultural trends. The prolife movement is persistent—and wins converts each year from the bloody ranks of the abortion industry—because its people realize that the sanctity of human life is not negotiable. Like the church storming the gates of hell, the prolife movement batters away at the strongholds of violence and death. In time it will prevail. It's been a long while since the movement's future looked as hopeful as it does in 2003.

We'll see....

From our friends and brethren in the Anglican Communion:

Dance parties cause rift in SF (duh) church

The rhythm society was formed in the early 1990s as an exclusive club: The idea was to provide spiritual seekers a way to dance their way toward enlightenment.Soon after, the society began hosting quarterly, invitation-only gatherings at St. John's, midnight-to-morning celebrations featuring DJ's, light shows and New Age themes such as "Dream" and "Explore."The society's gatherings drew about 350 people, more than three times the number that belonged to the parish. They ranged from children to seniors, but the core group consisted of young adults in their 20s and 30s.

(via Relapsed Catholic

Group releases study flailing Church of England

"The only part of the Church of England that has increased has been the number of its bishops and their bureaucracy," said the study's editors, the Rev Peter Mullen and Digby Anderson, the unit's director.

Via The Corner

Good article (even if it's from a gaming magazine) on the impact of casinos on nearby Catholic churches.

I actually think it would be more interesting to see a piece on the same subject, but relate the issue to evangelical churches - say in Biloxi.

If you were the child of an academic growing up in the 1960's..

you probably had a book called The Pooh Perplex hanging around your house, and you probably wondered what the hell it was, because it sure wasn't like your Winnie-the-Pooh books.

Well, Frederick Crews, the author of that satire of academic fads, has come out with a sequel, forty years later. It's called Postmodern Pooh, and here's an article about it from the Seattle Weekly:

Crews' second challenge was tougher: to do justice to his satiric targets, modern critics so crazy it's hard for satire to exaggerate their hilariousness. Crews solves the problem by inventing imaginary critics--some based on readily identifiable academic stars--and anchoring their cuckoo lucubrations with quotes and footnotes from actual academic publications. Thus the scholar Das Nuffa Dat (from Calcutta via Eton and Oxford) is Crews' creation, but when Dat cites Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak on "the post-colonial attempt at the impossible cathexis of place-bound history," it's all too real.

Similarly, Carla Gulag, Joe Camel Professor of Child Development at Duke University, is imaginary. But Duke University (endowed by tobacco money) is a real postmodern stronghold whose English department was so bitterly fractious in the '80s that the dean had to put a botany professor in charge of it. Gulag quotes her Marxist mentor, the real-life literary theorist Frederic Jameson--he famously defended the Nazi writings of Paul de Man and wrote that Heidegger's Hitler commitment was "morally and aesthetically preferable to apolitical liberalism"--and goes on to note that when Piglet cakes himself in dirt, he's "reasserting his class identity and [preventing] social castration by the whitening, starching, homogenizing influence of that sylvan soccer mom, Kanga." The "gynocritic" Sisela Catheter has a more radical feminist view of Kanga, not to mention the "Fire Island-style fireworks" of Pooh: "When Eeyore appears most invitingly available to be sodomized, the abashed Pooh realizes that the requisite tool is missing." Poor patriarch Pooh! In "The Courage to Squeal," Dolores Malatesta, a nonexistent Seattle author, cites actual nut-job authorities to support her theory that Piglet's a victim of Satanic sexual abuse.

Mennonite and Amish helping north Alabama rebuild

Their muddy boots rest by the door of the fellowship hall at Arley First Baptist Church as a dozen hungry Mennonites dig into a Southern Baptist-prepared lunch of smoked chicken and ham, sweet potatoes and cole slaw.Since January, rotating crews of Mennonites and Amish volunteers have been toiling in the winter cold and rain to build homes for the victims of November's tornadoes. The storms tore through Walker and Winston counties, killing 12 and destroying homes and businesses.Christian Aid Ministries, a Mennonite assistance service, is building eight homes in small communities such as Curry in Walker County and Arley in Winston County. A separate organization, Mennonite Disaster Service, is working closer to Carbon Hill

America magazine will be running what looks to be an interesting series on "Contemporary Catholics and Traditional Devotions" during Lent.

The link only takes you to an introductory page and an invitation to subscribe, but it definitely looks to be something worth taking a look at, no matter where you get your America - library, bookstore or parish vestibule while juggling a baby.

Over the next few weeks, our essayists will offer their thoughts on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, pilgrimages, the Angelus, litanies, the Miraculous Medal, novenas, the rosary, holy water, Our Lady of Guadalupe, first Fridays, lectio divina, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, relics, the Liturgy of the Hours and the Stations of the Cross. Obviously, this list of devotions is not meant to be exhaustive. Rather, it tries to encompass some devotions that may have fallen into desuetude, that may be ripe for a kind of renewal or that may be less well known or understood by some contemporary Catholics. Each of these traditional devotions, however, continues to exert a powerful and undeniable influence on our writers and, not incidentally, on a great many of the people of God.

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