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The long march of the universe

20 Jan

I must share this excellent, challenging essay I ran across through one of the WordPress blogs I follow. This makes for perfect reading as we bring our celebration of the legacy of Martin Luther King to a close and reflect on the ongoing relevance of his prophetic message and life.

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REFLECTION: Two bishops dialogue with peace activists

11 Dec

This inspiring article prophetic gathering by two heroic Roman Catholic bishops and twenty Catholic peace activists deserves a wide airing. Please read, reflect, and then reblog/share!

PAX CHRISTI USA

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

During the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Nov. 11-14 General Assembly in Baltimore, two bishops took time to share a simple supper – soup and bread – and dialogue with about 20 Catholic social justice and peace activists, including myself.

On the evening of Nov. 12, several blocks away from the Waterfront Marriott Hotel, where the bishops were meeting, Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis and Bishop John Michael Botean head of the Romanian Catholic Eparchy (diocese) of St. George in Canton, Ohio sat down with us to dialogue about war making, peacemaking, poverty and military chaplains in light of the teachings of the compassionate, nonviolent Jesus.

In the basement of historic St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, Martha Hennessy, a granddaughter of Dorothy Day said, “Based on my understanding of my grandmother’s life, I would conclude that priests should not serve in the military, as one cannot serve Christ…

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ADVENT 2013: Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent, December 8

3 Dec

I’m passing this Advent Reflection courtesy of the Pax Christi site.

PAX CHRISTI USA

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By Mary Jo Leddy

Isaiah 11:1-10 | Romans 15:4-9 | Matthew 3:1-12

The Dawning of Desire

Although the sun rises every morning, the dawning of salvation is less certain. Such a dawning is both a gift of God and the fruit of our efforts.

A new world of justice and peace dawns first in our hearts as a desire to live beyond the darkness.

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For some, this desire emerges as a parental hope for a better life for future generations. For others, this desire is the unseen ground of a determined resolve to move beyond the socially assigned roles of victim or oppressor. Then there are those who whose desire is set free as they hear a word of truth uttered in the dark deceptions of the moment.

Advent is that season in our lives when we face the choice between acquiescing to the darkness or acting on our own desire…

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“Autumn Leaves Do Not Shiver” (new original poem)

11 Nov

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“Autumn Leaves Do Not Shiver”

Autumn leaves do not shiver when they fall
but leap like little lads of yesteryear
who, when boisterously barrelling into a pond like tiny cannonballs,
and making their splash into water lilies,
never gave a damn about how far it is to the bottom.
For them, “tis the leap that counts,” after all!

No — these leaves do not shiver when they fall:
To fall is their call, after all!

How else are leaves to parade their fiery blaze of color,
that treasure hidden long before
under the zesty, green garments of Spring?

Ah — but it is WE who shiver —
(or rather, are SHAKEN out of complicity)
as we watch (this spectacle) and wonder IF —
when our time comes to leap:
will we likewise loosen our grip
that we might free fall under Winter’s magic spell
and finally promenade — with one last hurrah —
our own triumphant splash of exultant color?

(c) Thomas C. Webber 11/11/2013

Banned Books Week

4 Oct

I realize that I am late getting on the bandwagon with this post, but I wanted to do my part in “celebrating” the annual “Banned Books Week” (Sept 25 – Oct 2, 2010).

Being Roman Catholic, I come from a tradition that in the past published an “Index of Prohibited Books” from the mid 16th century through 1966, just after the Vatican II council. I am just old enough to remember growing up in a church that strove to protect its members from literature that, in its judgment, might endanger their faith and morals, or that might contain some kind of theological error. I also grew up in a small town in the Panhandle of Texas called Borger, where Catholics were certainly in the minority. This was deep in the heart of the Bible Belt. Around the very time that the Vatican dropped its “Index,” or shortly thereafter, I vividly remember scenes of fundamentalist Baptists and other Christian churches holding rallies in order to burn albums by the Beatles. (This happened right after John Lennon so famously proclaimed during a TV news conference that the Beatles were becoming more popular than Jesus. And, of course, this was simply a matter of fact that most anyone could observe for themselves.) So I have firsthand knowledge of the kind of mentality that drives fundamentalists and cultural conservatives who favor censorship with the hopes of saving people from being tainted by “certain kinds of thinking.”

From my point of  view, as an approach, the banning of books is not only patronizing but even counter-productive. As a theology teacher and educator of both youth and adults for the past 30 years, I have always stressed the importance of intellectual freedom and believed in the fostering of critical thinking as the central aim of  the whole educational enterprise. And this includes religious education. The whole idea of banning books, to me, flies in the face of these important values. Thus, as a concerned parent and a religious educator, not to mention being an avid reader myself, I have a strong interest in this topic.

I would urge you to look take a moment to look at the banned books that are published annually by the American Library Association. (You will find a link to do this, along with some other interesting links below.) If you have never done so before, you might well be surprised at how many of the great classics of literature that you have grown up believing are a necessary part of the educational canon have been under attack over these last few decades.

To whet your appetite, here is a short list of books that I have compiled that are frequently attacked:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – banned for language and racism

The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm – banned for excessive violence, negative potrayals of females

The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank) – banned for sexually offensive language

Wrinkle in Time – banned for promoting witchcraft, crystal balls and demons

Tarzan of the Apes – banned because he was “living in sin with Jane”

Sleeping Beauty – yes, this fairy tale has been banned for promoting magic and witchcraft

Little Red Riding Hood – this fairy tale banned for “condoning the use of alcohol” (one of the things in her basket was wine in the original version by the Brothers Grimm)

Canterbury Tales – banned as “lewd and inappropriate” (well, okay, you have to admit that there is quite a bit of lewd behavior in this biting satire…BUT…if it is to be argued that this should be banned, shouldn’t it be on stronger grounds, such as the fact that many English teachers make their students memorize whole chapters from this in the style of “Old English”?!?!?!)

Death of a Salesman – a school board in Kentucky declared it “junk” and banned it from their school

The Grapes of Wrath – banned for “vulgar language”

Of Mice and Men – both Tennessee and Ohio declared it a “filthy book”

A Light in the Attic – this humorous children’s book by Silverstein has been attacked because it is said to encourage kids to be disobedient and “to break dishes”

Farenheit 451 – banned for discussing censorship and book burning (now that’s irony!)

Brave New World – banned for being “anti-family” and “anti-Christian”

1984 – banned for being communist and its sexual themes (isn’t it ironic that a central theme of this book would be “thought control”?)

A Clockwork Orange – banned for “objectionable” language

Catcher in the Rye – banned because it “undermined morality” and was “blasphemous”

To Kill A Mockingbird – banned for profanity and racial slurs

Diary of a Young Girl – banned because of “sexually explicit language” and, I kid you not here, on the grounds that it is “a real downer” (is it possible that revisionist Holocaust denier historians would simply wish that this book by Ann Franke would go away?)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin – banned for racist language (oh the irony!)

The Lorax – this Dr. Seuss book (which I, frankly, had never heard of but now wish I had read it to my kids when they were younger!) was attacked because it “criminalizes the forest industry”

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – this important historical work chronicling the injustices inflicted on Native Americans by the U.S. government has been attacked as “too slanted” (which is interesting considering that most of the history texts used in primary and secondary schools still talk about Columbus “discovering” America!)

Oh, the list sadly goes on and on and on!!! Now, am I the only one who thinks that most of these books are targets more for their uncomfortable politics than for the “red herrings” that constitute  the stated reasons?

Here are some important links to help you dig more deeply into the books that have been and currently are being targeted:

The Top 100 banned / challenged books over this past decade (from the American Library Association): http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/challengedbydecade/2000_2009/index.cfm

An alphabetical listing of banned and challenged books by the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. If you click one of the books, it will also take you to another page containing additional background concerning the grounds for which each of the books have been attacked.: http://www.abffe.com/bbw-booklist.htm

Another helpful list of books with descriptions of the grounds for which they are banned is provided by the organization Delete Censorship (note that this link opens as a pdf file): http://www.deletecensorship.org/downloads/booklist_hpb.pdf

Please comment! Here are some questions that might help guide our discussion:

  • What are your thoughts concerning the practice of censorship?
  • As you look at the larger lists of banned / challenged books,are there any books that surprise you?
  • What are some of your favorite books that have made the list? Do have any idea as to why they were put there?
  • How do you think we should go about protecting our children from inappropriate literature? How do we decide where and when to “draw the line” to protect our young?

I’m looking forward to the discussion on this! Just for fun, I thought I would close by sharing with you a short, humorous educational video I found. Enjoy!

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