Wednesday, January 1

Well, I finished Peace Like a River, a quite remarkable first novel by Leif Enger. You can read the synopsis at the preceding link, but I'll just say that if I were still running a parish reading group, as I used to a few years back, I'd incorporate this one into the program. It's deeply, beautifully written (at times a bit too much so, but it all balances out in the end), an intriguing exploration of faith through the prism of a mystery, compassionately drawn family relations, and the landscape of the West, with hints of magical realism tossed into the mix, and effectively so. Although I did find one of the more widely-praised characters - the brilliant nine-year old sister, Swede - rather hard to swallow at times, with her very mature talk and her epic Western poetry and all, but then, maybe all that shows is that I've never met any real, live brilliant nine-year old.

Here's an interview with Enger, and here's a quote:

Jeremiah Land is a deeply religious man who performs Christ-like miracles and apparently carries on conversations with God. Are you a religious person? How did your faith influence this book?

LE: Well, I'm a Christian—a decision I made when I was Reuben's age, 11 years old. I don't know how you write a book without your faith showing up in it. If I were a practicing Buddhist, a pantheist, or an atheist, you would expect to see that evident in my fiction. Your faith has everything to do, I think, with the way you see the world. And since my world-view is a Christian one, that's how my work is going to read. That said, the book is not an attempt to evangelize. It's really the story of a boy coming to grips with the faith he has been raised in and seeing it played out in terms of loyalty and sacrifice. I think those are things that matter, whether you're Christian or whether you're some other faith. If somebody writes a book making sure that no article of his faith, even if it's only a questioning of his faith, gets into the work, what kind of book is that? I don't think it's a novel. Maybe it's a math text.

I've been asked whether Peace is a Christian novel, and that label troubles me. Does it mean a novel written by a Christian? In that case, of course it is. But I think right now, and maybe it's been this way for a long time, there's kind of a milk toast connotation. Christian novel is taken to mean something tamed beyond all interest or something overtly evangelical, whereas what I think of as Christian novels are those that point out man's need for redemption. Crime and Punishment, Robinson Crusoe, Les Miserables, that wonderful one by Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory, all those books declare that man is incapable of saving himself, of delivering his own redemption. Yet we don't call those Christian novels, we call them classics.


These people don't waste time:

Ave Maria ready to roll:

While the tedious, time-consuming permitting processes are under way, the university is making plans to begin recruiting students at The Vineyards site to begin classes this fall. Two four-story buildings are nearing completion there. They will house administrative offices, classrooms and living space for the university's inaugural students. Several existing buildings will be used for lecture rooms, coffee bar, administrative offices and other needs. The property includes a swimming pool and fitness room. Already living and working at The Vineyards site are two of Ave Maria's powerhouses: Nicholas J. Healy Jr., the university's president, and the Rev. Joseph Fessio, a Jesuit priest "on loan" to the university as its chancellor.

Beginning Feb. 10 and ending April 7, the university will launch Ave Maria Institute, a lifelong learning program primarily designed for retirees but open to other devotees of continuing education and intellectual enrichment. Classes and lecture series on topics such as the lives of the saints, global politics from a Christian perspective, and other Catholic-oriented interests will be held in The Vineyards site's buildings. "There's a lot of interest for something like this in Naples, with the high population of retired people living here," Fessio said earlier. "We will fill a niche not quite filled already. It looks like a good fit."



80,000 young people gather at Taize for New Year's Eve.

Speaking of Taize, I'm moved to observe that if We, the Church, dumped most of the liturgical music written since 1965, not to speak of about half of what was written the century or so before and is still sung, and replaced it all with Taize music, a huge bunch of our liturgical problems would be solved immediately, don't you think?

In Slate, WaPost writer Hank Steuver writes about his mom the nun

From the LATimes (LRR):

In a church in the Philippines, they pay for prayers

It is unclear how or when the tradition began. Many prayer ladies say they inherited their jobs from their mothers and grandmothers. Since they wear casual clothing with no identifying marks, it can be difficult to distinguish them from the regulars shuffling in to pray.Quiet and still, they wait like stone angels in the back of the 16th-century church. They sit not on the wooden pews reserved for worshipers but on plastic chairs they bring from home. Unlike the street vendors hawking candles, amulets and herbal cures in the crowded plaza outside, they are not allowed to approach churchgoers or advertise their trade.


Paquin pleads guilty, will testify against Archdiocese

Paquin, an admitted child molester, was not removed from active ministry until two years ago, even though the archdiocese received at least 18 complaints in two decades that he had sexually abused young boys.

Newman, whose law firm represents about 300 of the additional alleged victims, said he expects Paquin to be a ''key player'' in providing information about the archdiocese's practice of transferring abusive priests. Paquin's defense attorney, Kevin Reddington, confirmed that Paquin ''will be available to testify'' in pending civil cases ''against the almighty Roman Catholic Church.''

....Cardinal Bernard F. Law reinstated Paquin to priestly duties as recently as 1998, and several of Law's former top aides - including current Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., and current Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y. - supported his return to ministry, even though they knew about multiple allegations against him. And despite Paquin's checkered history, the archdiocese paid him a severance package of nearly $80,000 last year.



Jehovah's Witnesses sued in abuse suit

The lawsuit, filed last week in Suffolk Superior Court, highlights a sexual abuse scandal that has begun to envelop a religious group other than the Catholic Church: Jehovah's Witnesses, who claim 1 million followers in the United States and 6 million worldwide.Those who have filed lawsuits against the church - calling themselves ''silent lambs,'' because they say the church has discouraged them from getting help - argue that doctrine requiring alleged sexual abuse victims to produce witnesses to their molestation breeds an environment that favors abusers and allows abuse to thrive. They also charge that the church's policy of investigating complaints on its own, and discouraging reports to authorities, is illegal.



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