Saturday, January 5

We thought Arlo Guthrie was Catholic, but apparently he's gotten over that:

Along the way he has explored his Jewish roots (on his mother's side), spent time with Franciscan monks, studied Buddhism and found a personal guru who awakened him to what he says is the Hindu practice of embracing all religions.



"I have three or four major traditions that I am carrying around inside me," Mr. Guthrie said, "and they are all just different views of the same reality."





From a piece in the New York Times (link probably requires registration)

A good piece by James Pinkerton on J.R.R. Tolkien's distrust of power as expressed in The Lord of the Rings.

And so he spun out his own stories, in which good and bad characters alike are tempted and twisted, like Gyges of earlier yore, by lust for various magic rings, including the Ring of Sauron - "one ring to rule them all." Tolkien's tales were challenging and disturbing, because he presumed that nobody would be completely immune to such enticement.

It's a theme you can't miss in the film, even as it's rather awkwardly expressed in a couple of places. Another theme that Peter Jackson (the director) gets quite accurately is Tolkien's antipathy to ...uh...the Industrial Revolution, I guess. Appalled at the havoc and destruction wrought by the misuse of machines, Tolkien's heart and soul belonged to The Shire.

Death Encroaches On an Order of Nuns.

No, it's not the title of a detective novel. It's an article from the Houston Chronicle about the dwindling numbers of a religious order founded in Galveston in the 19th century. The piece quotes Ann Carey on the reasons for the general decline in the numbers of American religious women (50% decline since the 60's):

Ann Carey, author of the 1997 book, Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women's Religious Communities, cited a number of societal factors that contribute to smaller numbers of women opting for religious lives.

"Women have many more career opportunities than we had 40 years ago," she said. "Women have more opportunity for higher education. Catholic families are smaller, so fewer children mean a smaller pool of recruits. Our materialistic, individualistic culture does not value the spiritual lifestyle. Young people are less inclined to make lifelong commitments."

The article doesn't note that there are a few communities here and there that are experiencing growth - almost all more "traditional" communities with distinctive lifestyles and community life.

Here's an article about months of torture endured by an Afghan under the Taliban, who suspected he was a Christian. (He wasn't - he was Muslim, worked for the Red Cross, and had a personal library of over 500 books, including 2 Bibles).

Here's an article about religious freedom in China:

A court in China's Fujian province has issued an "evil cult" indictment to a Hong Kong businessman for transporting Bibles into China and may hand him a death sentence, a Hong Kong rights group said on Saturday.



The court in the city of Fu Qing said Hong Kong trader Li Guangqiang had "used an evil cult to damage a law-based society", the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said in a statement.

It is tragic that the pressure on China regarding human rights has collapsed, but not surprising. It's all about the market, and the market rules. Especially when the market is made of billions more customers wave happily in corporate dreams.

Here's a nice photo of a monk from the Trappist monastery in Conyers, Georgia chasing Canadian Geese in the "snow".
Today is the feastday of another Saint To Make You Tired, St. John Neumann. St. John Neumann was of German-Czech stock, and studied in Bohemia.

When time came for his ordination, the bishop was sick; the date for was never reset because Bohemia had an over-abundance of priests. John decided to go to America to ask for ordination and work with emigres. He walked most of the way to France, then took ship for America.

John arrived unannounced in Manhattan in 1836. Bishop John Dubois was happy to see him as there were 36 priests for the 200,000 Catholics in New York and New Jersey. John was ordained on 28 June 1836, and sent to Buffalo. There the parish priest, Father Pax, gave him the choice of the city of Buffalo or of the rural area; John chose the more difficult country area. He stayed in a small town with an unfinished church, and when it was completed, he moved to a town with a log church. There he built himself a small log cabin, rarely lit a fire, slept little, often lived on bread and water, and walked miles to visit farm after remote farm. John's parishioners were from many lands and tongues, but John knew twelve languages, and worked with them all.

He joined the Redemptorists and eventually became Bishop of Philadelphia. And then....

Built fifty churches and began building a cathedral. Opened almost one hundred schools, and the number of parochial school students in his diocese grew from five hundred to nine thousand. Wrote newspaper articles, two catechisms, and many works in German. First American man and first American bishop to be canonized.

Phew.

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