Saturday, December 30, 2017

Father Palacious Issues Apology For Women's Dress Comments

From The Bahamas-

ANGLICAN Archdeacon James Palacious issued an apology on Friday for his recent statements about the impact of how women dress, admitting his words "could very well be seen as victim blaming".

In a Facebook post about Junkanoo tips last week, the Royal Bahamas Police Force advised that “if you appropriately dress, it takes away the chance of being groped or touched in an inappropriate manner.”

The advisory proved controversial. 

In comments published Friday, Father Palacious defended the police force's decision to exhort people how to dress to ward off unwanted attention but also emphasised that women have a right to dress how they please without being subjected to such attention or groping.

Following criticism of his comments, Father Palacious released a statement to The Tribune on Friday.

The statement read: "I write this statement further to my two interviews with the Guardian and the Tribune on Thursday past.

More here-

4 Reasons Seminary Shouldn’t Be Hard, It Should Be Harder

From Frederick Schmidt-

I found myself in a conversation with students about the challenges of being a seminarian. There is no doubt that there are innumerable challenges.

For most seminarians Masters work does not cover ground to which they’ve been introduced as undergraduates. Few have majored in religion and, in any event, a religious studies major, which focuses on comparative methods, is nothing like the world of theology. Theology is different in both its approach and subject matter.

There are a number of new disciplines to which seminarians are introduced that receive no mention at all in a religious studies major: pastoral counseling, church history, and homiletics, to name a few.


30,000 Shards of Historic Stained Glass Found in Westminster Abbey’s Attic Read

The Smithonian's take on a previous story-

Westminster Abbey is one of Britain’s most popular tourist attractions, but the vast majority of visitors have never seen its best feature: the view of the church’s interior from the triforium, a space used as an attic in the upper levels of the church. It was called “the finest view in Europe” by Sir John Betjeman, former poet laureate of Great Britain. That space is being remodeled into a museum, and in the process of cleaning it out, reports Maev Kennedy at The Guardian, researchers discovered 30,000 shards of stained glass from over the course of centuries of changes at the church. Those shards have since been conserved and are being reconstituted into new displays for a recently built tower.

Kennedy reports that archaeologist Warwick Rodwell first noticed the shards of glass glittering among dust and dirt in five-foot deep cone-shaped pits created by the cathedral’s vaulted ceilings. “Once I saw the glass, the penny dropped,” he said. “I realized this was treasure, not rubbish, and we would have to go through every inch of it. The workmen thought I was mad.”

Read more:

What do an Etonian, a Trumpite and a Corbyn fan have in common? My church

From The Guardian-

Reviewing the Christmas services it strikes me once again how diverse a group us churchgoers are. In terms of class, race, nationality, gender and sexuality, it’s hard to imagine any other regular collective gathering that pulls in such a varied collection of people. My church is a black majority church in a gentrifying area. University professors sit next to the people who clean their offices. The Ethiopian, Trump-supporting evangelical sings the same hymns as the chap with his fine collection of Jeremy Corbyn badges. The Romanian homeless guy prays alongside the person who is transitioning and next to the old Etonian ex-army officer. Many of these people have very little in common except their faith. But this is enough for them to treat each other as extended family. And I am proud to serve as their priest.

This will be the last of the Loose canon series. And so I have been in reflective mood about what I have been trying to achieve. Partly, I suppose, it has been an exercise in apologetics – a modest attempt to try to persuade people who don’t do God that those of us who do are not necessarily bigots or idiots. And I have been trying to do this not to win converts but rather to make it easier for those of us who believe in social justice to recognise each other as fellow travellers, irrespective of our religious commitments or lack of them. But something else too, for if our little secular corner of the world is going to understand the 84% of the planet who have a religious commitment, and further understand why that figure is getting larger not smaller, then developing religious literacy and understanding the way religious expression functions in the life of believers has to be important.

More here-

Friday, December 29, 2017

Will the monarchy and Church of England be 'dismantled' when Prince Charles becomes king?

From International Business Times-

The relationship between the church and state when Prince Charles ascends the throne is being hotly debated. When the heir to the throne, 68, eventually becomes king, he will be the Supreme Governor of the Church of England just like every other British monarch since Henry VIII's break with Rome in 1534.

But his accession is set to raise a ''particularly opportune moment'' on the possibility of disestablishing the Church of England, according to a new report by the National Secular Society (NSS).

The 'Separating Church and State: The Case for Disestablishment' document claims that Prince Charles will antagonise the non-Anglican majority of the UK population if he retains a coronation oath. This would overtly commit him to uphold the tenets of the Anglican faith.

The NSS has recommended a ''gradual dismantling, rather than securing a single clean break'' of the Church of England – a decision that will likely anger royalists and Anglican believers.

More here-

Washington Post to Christians on Christmas Morning: Jesus Didn’t Exist

From The Stream-

Early Christmas morning, the Washington Post thought it should stick its thumb in the eyes of those celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Its official “Post Opinions” Twitter account tweeted, “Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn’t add up.”

Many commented on the provocative timing. Publisher of Encounter books and author Roger Kimball said that the Post’s tweet was, “Really, all you need to know about that pathetic publication.” Conservative actor James Woods tweeted, “Why is this necessary today? Why insult people of a certain faith on the day they most cherish? It’s not a matter of being right or wrong, it’s a matter of simple courtesy. #Rude”. (He added a ruder hashtag as well.) Many others were affronted.

More here-

Evangelical Americans’ support for Trump doesn’t tally up with Christian teachings, say church leaders

From Quartz Media- (additional links below)

Another senior church leader in Britain has joined a chorus of voices speaking out against the “uncritical support” evangelical Americans have for Donald Trump. To them, the US president’s policies simply don’t tally up with the religion’s teachings.

Paul Bayes, a senior Church of England bishop, told the Guardian that he believed “self-styled evangelicals” who support Trump are evoking God in a way that contradicts his message of helping the poor.

“Some of the things that have been said by religious leaders seem to collude with a system that marginalizes the poor, a system which builds walls instead of bridges, a system which says people on the margins of society should be excluded, a system which says we’re not welcoming people any more into our country,” said Bayes. “Whenever people say those kinds of things, they need to be able to justify that they’re saying those things as Christians, and I do not believe it’s justifiable.”

More here-

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Were Jesus, Mary and Joseph refugees? Yes.

From American Magazine-

With refugees and migrants in the news, some commentators have sought to draw parallels between their plight and that of the Holy Family—Jesus, Mary and Joseph. How accurate are these comparisons? Were Jesus, Mary and Joseph what we would consider today “refugees”?


In the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we read the story of the “Flight into Egypt” in which, after the birth of Jesus and the visit from the Magi, an “angel of the Lord” comes to Joseph in a dream and warns him to leave Bethlehem for Egypt (Mt 2:12-15). Why? Because King Herod was planning to “seek out the child to destroy him.” Mary and Joseph do leave, along with Jesus, and, according to Matthew, make their way into Egypt. Afterward, King Herod slaughters all the male children in Bethlehem under two years of age. This dramatic episode is part of the Gospel reading for the “Feast of the Holy Innocents,” celebrated on Dec. 28.

More here-

The Middle Way of Erasmus

From Brian Zahnd-

Ever since becoming familiar with the Renaissance theologian and Christian humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466–1536) some ten or twelve years ago, I have often wished that Erasmus could have won the day during the theological tumults of the 16th century. By which I mean, I wish that the Renaissance-era Church in the West could have experienced reform without the divorce and subsequent Protestant fragmentation. (Recently I wrote some thoughts on the Reformation in a piece I called “Beyond the Wittenberg Door.”)

This month Ron Dart published a collection of essays on Erasmus under the title Erasmus: Wild Bird. Ron Dart is a Canadian professor, scholar, and theologian with considerable expertise in Church History, Patristics, George Grant, and Thomas Merton. Dart has written 35 books and is an accomplished mountaineer. He’s also a personal friend and there are few people for whom I have as much respect as I do Ron Dart. He is an inspiring example of a wise and contemplative academic.

More here-

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Leading Anglican bishop criticises Donald Trump's Christian supporters

From Yahoo-

A leading Anglican bishop has hit out at religious leaders in America who support Donald Trump.

Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool, told The Guardian that evangelical leaders were often ‘uncritically accepting’ of comments made by the divisive U.S. President.

‘Some of the things that have been said by religious leaders seem to collude with a system that marginalises the poor, a system which builds walls instead of bridges, a system which says people on the margins of society should be excluded, a system which says we’re not welcoming people any more into our country’, he said.

Mr Bayes, who became the Bishop of Liverpool in 2014, also questioned whether it was possible to support right-wing populism while justifying a belief in Christianity.

‘Whenever people say those kinds of things, they need to be able to justify that they’re saying those things as Christians, and I do not believe it’s justifiable’, he said.

More here-

50,000 pounds of food intended for Puerto Rico will now aid evacuees in Central Florida

From Central Florida-

Tens of thousands of pounds of donated food that have been sitting in a Jacksonville warehouse will be distributed to Puerto Rican families in Central Florida who have fled dire conditions on the island.

“The need for them is great,” said the Rev. Jose Rodriguez of Jesus de Nazaret Episcopal Church in Kissimmee.

His church works with 134 families who struggle to pay for groceries, and about one-fourth of them are Puerto Ricans who recently arrived from the island.

“I’m ramping up ... but I need to get another holiday push,” said Rodriguez, noting that donations tend to drop off after the holidays.

More here-

Westminster Abbey's attics yield a treasure trove of stained glass

From The Guardian-

When the archaeologist Warwick Rodwell scooped up a handful of dust from the attics of Westminster Abbey and saw dozens of tiny fragments of glass glittering in the grime, he realised they were dealing with excavation, not house clearance.

The salvaged glass – some dating back to the 13th century, including stars, flowers and sun rays, fierce little mythical animals and beautiful medieval faces – is being recycled into dazzling new windows being made for the abbey at the stained glass studio at Canterbury Cathedral, where some of the original medieval glass artists may have worked.

The Westminster attics, the triforium, were being cleared out to create a museum space opening next year. It will be the first time the general public has been admitted to the spectacular space.

More here-

Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible

From Biblical Archeology-

After two decades toiling in the quiet groves of academe, I published an article in BAR titled “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible.”a The enormous interest this article generated was a complete surprise to me. Nearly 40 websites in six languages, reflecting a wide spectrum of secular and religious orientations, linked to BAR’s supplementary web page.b Some even posted translations.

I thought about following up with a similar article on people in the New Testament, but I soon realized that this would be so dominated by the question of Jesus’ existence that I needed to consider this question separately. This is that article:1

Did Jesus of Nazareth, who was called Christ, exist as a real human being, “the man Christ Jesus” according to 1 Timothy 2:5?

The sources normally discussed fall into three main categories: (1) classical (that is, Greco-Roman), (2) Jewish and (3) Christian. But when people ask whether it is possible to prove that Jesus of Nazareth actually existed, as John P. Meier pointed out decades ago, “The implication is that the Biblical evidence for Jesus is biased because it is encased in a theological text written by committed believers.2 What they really want to know is: Is there extra-Biblical evidence … for Jesus’ existence?”c

Therefore, this article will cover classical and Jewish writings almost exclusively.3

More here-

Atheists at prayer for Christmas

From The Living Church (with a link to the Commonweal article)-

The Christmas Mass, as the pseudonymous parish priest Fr. Nonomen writes in Commonweal, is fairly unique. “This is the Mass where you politely ask people to finish their cups of hot chocolate and cans of Red Bull outside. … This is the Mass attended by the famous bi-annually faithful.” As such, Fr. Nonomen sagely notes, the Christmas Mass provides a “pastoral opportunity” that should not be wasted in minor displays of self-righteous annoyance or by desperately trying to impress visitors with “schmaltz” and “secular symbols” or (most tempting?) through attempting to conjure up guilt (“[D]o not say how you wish attendance could be good every Sunday”).

The presider should recognize that many different forces may have brought the participants to Christmas Mass, including those more familial than theological. Further, Nonomen counsels, “Be sensitive, too, to the many faiths embraced by those who are sitting in front of you.” Nonomen does not write, however, about those who may be agnostics or atheists, who may be in the pews for reasons as various as family solidarity, nostalgia, or curiosity.

More here-

When Christians Refuse to Serve Their Neighbor

From Sojourners-

The Supreme Court is considering a case about a Christian baker who refuses to make a cake for a gay couple. It’s framed to be about religious liberty and free expression.

There's way more to it.

The case reflects a trend in this country. Many self-described Christians are emphatically rejecting the suffering-servant model that Jesus taught, lived, and urged his followers to adopt.

They don’t want to suffer or serve.

Instead, they’ve come to the viewpoint that Christians should never have to sacrifice for their faith, but others can be inconvenienced to accommodate them. They think being Christian means they can choose which of God’s children they serve and which they can shun.

This isn't about religious freedom, but religious arrogance and supremacy. 

More here-

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

E.J. Dionne Jr.: Christmas turned the world upside down

From E. J. Dionne-

When you ponder what Christmas celebrates, the holiday's claim is staggering.

N. T. Wright, the widely read biblical scholar and former Anglican bishop, captures its import by noting that the Gospels do not cast Jesus as "parachuting down from a great height to dispense solutions to all problems nor zapping everything into shape like some kind of Superman."

Rather, Wright observes in his book "Simply Good News," Christ is shown as "living in the mess and muddle of a very difficult part of the world at an especially difficult moment in its history and absorbing the pain and the shame of it all within his own life, within his own body."

Everything about the Christmas account portrays a world turned upside down. A new king heralded as the Son of God comes into the world quite inauspiciously, born in a manger surrounded by farm animals as part of a working-class family. This is a radical inversion of how God or gods were typically understood at the time: mighty and all-powerful beings, lording it over often hapless humans. The Christmas story is about God becoming one of us, and a particularly humble member of our company at that.

More here-

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba must go!

From Black Opinion-

As an Anglican and a priest in God’s Holy Church, I hung my head in shame and utter disgust as I watched the “sermon” delivered by the Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, The Most Rev. Dr. Cecil Thabo Makgoba, in St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town on Christmas Eve.

When one expected to hear a sermon on the baby in the manger, the shepherds watching their flocks or the angelic host singing Gloria In Exelsis Deo, the whole Archbishop raved and rented about how Cyril Ramaphosa should immediately remove President Jacob Zuma. It was abominable to say the least. What made it most disgusting was that it was shouted from a pulpit, where the gospel of the Christ child should be preached.

We can stomach it if he calls TV cameras to record him toyi-toying with university students on the fees must fall campaign, but the pulpit should be respected for what it is, and what it is meant for. On what authority is the Archbishop giving orders to the African National Congress (ANC)?

More here-

“Anglicostal”: How Pentecostal Faith Prepared Me for the Anglican Church

From Church Leaders-

At my ordination, the bishop gave me the option of kneeling or laying prostrate while he prayed over me. Laying face-down in a worship service in front of hundreds of people? That might seem odd, but for me it was a no-brainer. As a Pentecostal, this was my assumed position for laying it all before Jesus. And as an Anglican pastor, I was ready to lay down my life.

Anglican and Pentecostal

My spiritual formation and upbringing were in charismatic Christianity. In 1994, my home church in Buffalo, New York, experienced a revival that saw weeks of daily services, healings and conversions, and (notably) people falling on the floor and laughing. It was in the same stream of 1994 revivals that swept not only the famed Toronto Blessing, but also Holy Trinity Brompton in the U.K. and the Brownsville revival in Pensacola the next year.

As a child, I tip-toed over rolling, jubilant bodies as children’s church let out, looking for my family’s belongings. Later, my own spiritual formation was rooted in a transformative year around age 19 when I pursued the realities of charismatic experience for myself.

More here-

Wyoming church pledges $100K for suicide prevention funding

From The Washington Times-

Not many Christian sects have a service specifically dedicated to suicide prevention. In many churches, suicide is taboo - something to be whispered about over after-service coffee but never mentioned from the pulpit. For some, suicide is a violation of the Fifth Commandment - thou shall not kill. For some, those who die by suicide are damned to hell.

But the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming doesn’t condemn those souls. Instead, the 49 parishes across the state are actively attempting to save them. Suicide prevention has been a priority for the Episcopal church in Wyoming for years. But after state lawmakers drastically cut funding for prevention earlier this year, the church’s efforts further intensified.

More here-

‘People in the Bible Belt make our lives difficult’: Middle Eastern Christians lambaste evangelicals over Jerusalem obsession

From Raw Story-

Christians living in the Middle East are expressing their unhappiness with President Donald Trump’s attempt to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which some see as a pandering to U.S. evangelicals.

With an overwhelming majority members of the United Nations roundly condemning the proposed move, the proposed shift of the embassy is also not popular in the region and has inflamed tensions both in the U.S. and abroad, according to the Washington Post.

Citing a poll stating that only 16 percent of Jewish Americans support moving the embassy to Jerusalem immediately, the Post contrasts that number with another poll showing that 53 percent of American evangelicals supported Trump’s decision.

More here-

A Christmas message for the Trumps? The power of love, the power of words

From Episcopal Cafe-

For his Christmas Eve sermon, the Reverend James Harlan, rector of the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, Florida, chose words that could be pointed. His congregation included Donald and Melania Trump, who sat close to the front. His message included the words of Proverbs, the words of Genesis, the words of Nelson Mandela…

We know the power of speech, of words.

Nelson Mandela the great champion of racial equality in South Africa, who was imprisoned for almost three decades for standing up to a government that was repressing and racist and all of that. Nelson Mandela knew the power of words. He said: “It is never my custom to use words lightly. If 27 years in prison have done anything to us it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.

More here-

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Guardian view on the power of heresy

From The Guardian-

In the 500 years since Martin Luther started the Reformation, not much that he believed has survived. The thought world in which he moved has vanished utterly and his perspective is very difficult for us to recapture. But one thing has lasted – he made “heretic” into a term of moral approval. He didn’t mean to: he thought it was his opponents who had fallen into heresy. To Luther, and to everyone before him, a heretic was someone who was wrong in fact and morally wrong as well. Today’s equivalent would be climate change denier or a “scientific racist”. But all these people would nowadays claim the benefit of heresy. The word has come to imply moral integrity, and the hope of future vindication. “Orthodoxy” is, by implication, something to be overthrown.

This means that heresy, after Luther, has become an innately unstable condition. No heresy can persist for very long: either it must triumph, and then it will form a new orthodoxy of its own, or it will fade into oblivion. This was not always true. Before Luther, and still in pre-Lutheran thought, heresies were perennial: they represented recurrent temptations to be wrong, the sort of thing we call today a cognitive bias rather than an intellectual disagreement. Some beliefs, like flat Earth theory, are heresies in both the modern and pre-modern senses. But most of the things we call heresies are meant in the modern sense.

More here-

We are so religious and yet bankrupt morally and spiritually – Okoye

From Nigeria-

The Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, Bishop of Abuja and Primate of all Nigeria (Anglican Communion), has urged the Federal Government to tackle the supply of electricity and health facilities in the country.

He made the appeal in an interview with newsmen, at the Cathedral Church of Advent Lifecamp, on Monday in Abuja.

Okoh noted that tackling electricity and health in the nation would go a long way to make the masses happy with their daily activities. He urged the government to have a task force to train and bring in facilities that would benefit the masses. “Whatever the government can do to tackle the issue of electricity and medical is good news to the poor. In this Church alone, we have lost somebody to cancer.

Read more at:

Trump celebrates Christmas at midnight service, wishes America ‘Merry Christmas’

From The Washington Times-

President Trump rang in the Christmas holiday at a midnight church service in Florida and wished America an unabashed Merry Christmas on Twitter.

Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump attended Christmas Eve services at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-sea in Palm Beach, Florida — the same church where they were married. They are spending the holiday at their Mar-a-Lago resort.

The president also tweeted, “People are proud to be saying Merry Christmas again. I am proud to have led the charge against the assault of our cherished and beautiful phrase. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!”

The Rev. James Harlan, the church’s rector, gave a homily focused on themes of the power of words and God’s light. He began by quoting Nelson Mandela, whom he noted rebelled against his government for its systemic oppression.

More here-

Emmanuel Episcopal Church feeds hundreds each Christmas

From South Western Virginia-

Marlene Tate didn’t know she used to work for the man who started the Emmanuel Episcopal Church’s annual Christmas dinner until she and her husband Larry attended yesterday.

Her former employer, late parishioner and Bristol businessman Jack Trayer, started the dinner in 1981. That year, many families in the area were struggling due to a recession. Trayer didn’t want them to lack food or comfort on the holiday, so he and rector George Bunn funded a free meal open to all members of the community.

Thirty-seven years later, the tradition is going strong. Marlene and Larry attended the dinner for the first time Monday, they said, because this year has been a hard one.

“Everyone’s been so kind and generous,” Marlene Tate said.

More here-

How I became Christian again: my long journey to find faith once more

From The Guardian-

A few mornings a week, I go running with a priest.

We meet at 5.30 under a streetlamp in central Austin and make our way down to the state capitol building and back, a distance of about eight miles. It’s a routine we started nearly two years ago, and it came during a pivotal point in my life.

I was 40 years old, the father of three small children, and beginning to wrestle with some of the bigger questions that loom at middle age, particularly about faith.

After growing up in the church and leaving for many years – even abandoning my beliefs at one point while covering war – I was contemplating a return. On a visit to my parents, my children had inadvertently exposed a void that I’d been trying to ignore. My three-year-old daughter asked my mother, “What is God?” only to have her brother reply: “Don’t you know, silly? God is Harvey.”

Harvey is what we called our Honda. The look my mother shot me is still burned into my retinas.

More here-

Christian cry with joy as they celebrate first Christmas in Mosul since ISIS were driven out of shattered Iraqi city they terrorized for four years

From The Daily Mail-

Christians celebrated Christmas in Iraq's second city of Mosul for the first time in four years today - and hymns and cries of joy flooded the church. 

The seasonal event marked the end of jihadist rule in the city and the Mass opened with the Iraqi national anthem as women wailed with emotion. 

Despite the modest interior of the church and the armoured police outside, wheelchair-bound Hossam Abud, 48, who returned this month from exile in Iraqi Kurdistan, said: 'This is a sign that life is returning to Mosul.' 

In 2014 when the Islamic State group seized the city ordering people to convert, pay taxes, leave or die, Mr Abud and thousands of other Christians fled Mosul.   

Read more:

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Why Don’t We Go To Church Anymore?

From Huffington-

In a Gallup Poll in 2016, 55% of Americans said that they were members of a church, synagogue, temple or mosque. In 1999 this number was 70%. When asked if they believe in God, 89% said yes, where back in 1967 that number was 98%. Americans identify themselves as 37% Protestant, 22% Catholic, 18% no religion, 10% Christian, 3% Jewish, 2% Mormon and 5% other.

Age seems to really make a difference. When Pew Research asked if “religion is very important in their lives” the yes response by age group was:

Silent Generation (born 1928-1945) 67%
Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) 59%
Generation X (born 1965-1980) 53%Older Millennials (born 1981-1989) 44%
Younger Millennials (born 1990-1996) 38%

More here-

Calculating Christmas The Story Behind December 25

From Touchstone-

Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Sun” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.

More here-

The Messiah’s message has been twisted beyond recognition

From The Star-

The first time I visited Bethlehem I thought I was going to die. Leaving the town where Jesus was born to re-enter Israel, I waited at the security checkpoint for the bored-looking soldier to check me through. In front of me was an elderly Palestinian man with his young grandson. There was a problem with their papers and the grandfather noisily tried to explain the situation. He then motioned to the child at his side, who lifted up his shirt to reveal a package clumsily taped to his belly. This was at the height of the time of suicide bombings and all I could think was that this was such a surreal way and place to die.

The appendage was actually a colostomy bag, and the boy had an urgent appointment at an Israeli hospital. He was allowed through, and taken to be cared for and looked after.

An hour later I sat in my Jerusalem hotel room and suddenly burst into tears. Not out of fear, I think, but out of despair. Salt-stained, sorrow-stained, pain-stained despair that in Bethlehem, where I believe that the great conduit of grace came into this world, so much suffering and confusion could still breathe and flourish. And not only in Bethlehem of course, but throughout the entire world; and the shadows of cruelty and suffering often appear not to be diminishing but positively growing in their clawing darkness.

More here-

The Triumph of Color: Notes on the Anglo-Catholic Aesthetic

From Amish Catholic-

Two facts have become steadily clearer to me over the course of my life as a Roman Catholic. First, that we don’t do beauty like we used to. Our churches are rife with liturgical art as dated and outrĂ© as the plastic on your great aunt’s furniture. Many of our houses of worship are stuck in the 1970’s, riddled with patently ugly, non-figurative depictions of Christ and the saints. Abstract windows cast unseemly splashes of light over softwood pews. And there are far too many carpets. My own old parish at UVA, St. Thomas Aquinas, is just now overcoming its long “awkward phase” (symbolized by an enormous chrome statue of the Angelic Doctor that looked like a cross between Buddha and the Tin Man – unhappily placed right across the street from the Chabad House).

In short, we have a problem with beauty.

The second thing I realized is that the Anglo-Catholics—or at least, those corners of the Anglo-Catholic world that held onto their patrimony—do not. And it seems to me that much of the renewal in sacred art that we’re witnessing today is indebted to the Anglo-Catholics, as any browsing on New Liturgical Movement will show. There is a distinctive style associated with the AC tradition. My hope is that by examining a few of its exponents, we might come to get a better glimpse of the art that is renewing our own Church today.

More here-

Fallen Kings: How Cardinal Law's Reign Cemented The Church's Fading Power

From NPR-

When the cardinal's residence was built in the 1920s atop a hill in the leafy, most western outpost of Boston, it was modeled after an Italian palazzo. The grand mansion, replete with ornate mahogany and marble appointments, stood as a testament to the Boston Archdiocese's stature in the very Catholic city of Boston. Political candidates — local and national — would come calling, and even the pope came to visit.

When Cardinal Bernard Law took up residence in the Renaissance Revival mansion, Boston's Roman Catholic movers and shakers would flock to the backyard for his garden party fundraisers.

Today, a steady stream of students hauling backpacks and members of the public traipse across that same property. The mansion, now owned by Boston College, has been gutted and converted to an art museum and meeting rooms — a remarkable fall from grace that parallels that of the Boston Archdiocese itself.

More here-