Fr. Jack Collins, CSP, hits the streets of New York City’s scary Greenwich Village, asking young adults what they know about the origins of Halloween — how it began, why people wear costumes, and the two Catholic holidays surrounding All Hallow’s Eve.
My dad is the king of Sunday morning. When I was growing up, Sunday was a day of ritual and beauty. Also, it should be noted that it had nothing to do with church or putting on fussy clothes or being anywhere at any particular time. It was about waking up to the smell of eggs cooking on the stove. (And not just eggs – dad eggs. These involved throwing random things from the refrigerator and freezer into the skillet to create awesomeness. I have tried this. Apparently it’s dad-specific magic.) It was about padding down to the living room in my jammies to find John Wayne or Judy Garland waiting to take me on some new adventure as I snuggled up on the couch and was issued a bowlful of eggs as provisions for my journey. It was about my dad taking his place in his big green chair to serve as my trusty guide. It was about family and digging in your heels to make time pass a little slower for just one day and enjoying each other… really and intentionally enjoying each other. It was Shabbat Shalom par excellence.
Now I have a family of my own and I try to keep some of the traditions of my non-traditional upbringing. I have an abiding love for ritual — whether that ritual belongs to my family of origin or my family of faith. I make a big Sunday breakfast before our midday mass and everyone pads downstairs in their jammies and snuggles up to the table for biscuits, eggs and bacon. We get everyone dressed and ready for church (an adventure easily rivaling any cattle-rustling/stampede-fleeing/mean hombre-chasing scene in a John Wayne movie).
At mass we pray, we sing, we kneel, and we receive the One who receives us with joy and forgiveness. We are reminded that the burdens of our week and the burdens of our community and the burdens of our world may be heavy, but we don’t bear them alone. The Sabbath is a day
We all know there’s a presidential election going on, right? And presidential elections are serious affairs with serious candidates running for a serious job with serious consequences. But with campaigns running effectively nonstop for years (Mitt Romney started running in 2007 and hasn’t really stopped since), all that seriousness gets very tiring. Maybe it’s time for some laughs — a little humor to go with all of the speeches, campaign rallies, candidate e-mails, and election TV commercials that we have been reading, watching, and even avoiding for the past many, many months.
There are, thankfully, some good laughs to be had on the campaign trail. If you’re a fan of Obama, there wasn’t much funny in the first presidential debate. But the VP debate a week later had Joe Biden laughing and provided plenty of material for The New York Times to create songified debate highlights. There was a repeat performance based on this week’s presidential debate (above)…
Both of my parents believe in God. I can’t say much more about what they believe because religious beliefs are so idiosyncratic and personal and tangled up in who a person is deep down in their marrow it seems presumptuous to try to articulate any but one’s own. Also, to be perfectly frank, my parents very seldom shared these beliefs with me. We did not go to church. We did not pray as a family. We did not read the Bible. I had the freedom to discover God on my own. And even though there were times when I wanted to go to church and I wanted to learn more about the Christian God cryptically entwined in the pages of the Bible my mother had received as a child, I am thankful for this. I am thankful for the freedom to feel that God is mine to know… mine to discover.
And then high school happened. Like any self-respecting American teenager, I set out to rebel against the mores of my parents… my once-hippie, liberal parents. I started attending a Pentecostal church with a friend. I joined an Evangelical Bible study club at school. It made my mother crazy. To her credit, she never forbade it. She asked me questions about what I was learning and what I believed. She listened. And eventually I stopped going. I had come to love Jesus, but the conservative, charismatic Protestantism of my Christian beginnings left me feeling bewildered.
I had come to the heart of the church that had loved me and supported me and nurtured me and saw that it was not my heart.
College ushered in a renewed interest in finding a Christian community to call my own — a community where I made sense. The chaplain at Wilson, the small women’s college I attended, was young, female, progressive and feisty. Through her I was introduced to a world of theology that centered on social justice, wholeness and community as ways of following Jesus. I began to attend a Presbyterian church in town, which, …
Last night’s debate between President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney was a slugfest focusing on taxes and the economy. Romney came out swinging, commanded the stage, and set the agenda. Obama seemed listless, tired, and resigned. Both candidates appealed to middle class voters, the unemployed, and those concerned that they pay too much in taxes. But what about another type of voter…?
Next week, for the first time in our nation’s history, two Roman Catholics, Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan, will share a stage for the vice presidential debate. This would have been unheard of only a few decades ago. When Al Smith became the first Catholic nominated for the presidency in 1928, political opponents openly and enthusiastically attacked his religion. When John F. Kennedy was nominated in 1960, he too dealt with religious hostility, famously addressing his Catholicism in a speech to Protestant ministers. He went on to win the White House in an election that some historians use to signify the movement of Catholics from an outside minority into the mainstream.
The Catholic Church has much to say about important issues facing Americans, and next week’s debate should give insight as to how these two faithful Catholics would approach some of them.
First, will poverty be a major topic in the debates? Probably not. But should it be? Both tickets say they are concerned primarily with preserving an increasingly vulnerable middle class, and they are right to focus their energy here. A strong middle class is the best antidote to poverty and its solvency is in question today. The wealthy have largely recovered from the tumult begun in 2008, while the middle class continues to see wage stagnation and a soaring cost of living.
However, the poor remain irrelevant and largely ignored and forgotten by both parties.
As a Catholic, I’d like to know how each administration would combat the growing poverty rate in the U.S., and how Biden and Ryan would both respond personally to this question.
Another issue that has largely been absent from the campaign is …
I was spending some time in New York City — specifically Manhattan’s Upper West Side. I met with a friend for lunch at an Italian restaurant a few blocks from Central Park. We were in one of New York’s more posh neighborhoods, home to the wealthy who have the time and money to enjoy all that New York has to offer.
A view from the first day of the Democratic National Convention. (CNS photo/Jessica Rinaldi, Reuters) The Democratic National Convention is going on in Charlotte, North Carolina, this week, a city where Evangelical legend Billy Graham’s career remains a powerful presence.
Pre-Convention activities began Sunday with a group called Charlotte 714 hosting a non-partisan prayer service that called for repentance and renewal in Charlotte and across the United States.
A group of about 200 Muslim activists also gathered for prayer in Charlotte Friday, with organizers choosing Charlotte in an attempt to highlight issues important to the Muslim minority in the United States.
Convention attendees can attend morning prayer each day, a Jewish Community Training workshop, and a panel on religious liberty for a discussion entitled, “Keeping Faith in the Democratic Party.”
Catholics will be represented by two notable individuals. Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of the left-leaning lobbying group NETWORK, who has been critical of the budget proposal crafted by GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan and who gained attention for leading the “Nuns on the Bus” tour spoke Wednesday. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, whose presence at the Republican National Convention initially ignited some controversy in Catholic circles, will close the convention with prayer Thursday evening.
Also making an appearance during the convention are:
Rabbi David Wolpe of Los Angeles, who was named most influential rabbi by Newsweek, offered the benediction Wednesday.
Vashti Murphy McKenzie, presiding bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, who is the first woman elected bishop in the nation’s oldest black denomination.
Metropolitan Nicholas, bishop of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Detroit.
The Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition.
Jena Lee Nardella, young adult and executive director of Blood: Water Mission, which works to alleviate the water crisis and AIDS epidemic in Africa. (Here’s a link to her benediction and prayer.)
The Republican National Convention begins today in Tampa, Florida, where a bit of religious history will be made when Mitt Romney, a Mormon, and Paul Ryan, a Catholic, are nominated for president and vice president.
I have a morbid fear of the ocean. I am not now nor have I ever been (nor, in all probability, will I ever be) a strong swimmer. Also, I am unilaterally opposed to entering any body of water the murkiness of which prevents me from seeing my own feet or the subaquatic creatures most likely poised to wreak all sorts of mischief on my unshod, obscured tootsies. I do, however, love being near the ocean. I love the sound, the smell, the vastness, the mystery, the treasures it reveals as it lifts the veil of the tide again and again. When it came time for us to embark on our first family vacation, we headed to the Delaware shore.
I will take the liberty of assuming that you have never travelled close to five hours in a four-door sedan with three children under 4 years of age. To surmount such a journey without major difficulty, meltdown or severe psychological and physical harm to any party involved requires the following: Snacks. You must have an overabundance of snacks to throw at the people in the back seat. Put even more snacks in the trunk. In prolonged car seat captivity the average baby human requires exponentially more snacks per hour than their counterparts free to roam in their natural habitat. Toys. You will need enough toys to occupy 20 children for a full week. The trick here is to take them out one at a time. Avoid those predisposed to being turned into projectiles, swords or means of escape. Clothes. Each little person in your entourage will require no less than three complete changes of clothing. Just for the drive there. I’ll spare you the gory details. You’ll have to trust me on this one. Diapers. Enough said. Boring Grown-up Words. Come up with a few key topics of conversation that are unfailingly boring to small children. Try talking about the Gross Domestic Product, the political history of Western Europe or the major points of contention at the Council of Nicaea. Avoid using
The U.S. Bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom campaign is finished, but the Romney campaign hopes to capitalize on some Catholic bishops’ efforts against the Obama administration’s contraception health care mandate by recapturing Catholic votes in key states such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The magic bullet? Religious liberty. The campaign believes questions over religious liberty have united Catholics, and voters of all faiths, across the spectrum.
“When people of faith feel like their freedom of religion is being trampled upon, that is something that unites people of all faiths,” said Peter Flaherty, a Catholic and longtime Romney advisor who is credited with coordinating the public endorsement of five former ambassadors to the Holy See. “Religious liberty is an issue that we continue to talk to leaders in the faith community about that continues to resonate every day, and it’s not letting up at all. The energy around it is absolutely incredible.”
But John Gehring, Catholic program director for the liberal advocacy group Faith in Public Life, said that broader social justice concerns and the economy may dwarf the issue of religious liberty.
“I have a hard time believing what’s keeping most Catholics up at night is whether or not a working mom who cleans rooms or serves food at a cafeteria at a Catholic hospital has her contraception covered. I think that Catholics, like most Americans these days, are struggling to pay mortgages, find a good job, or make sure their kids have access to quality health care. These are all profound moral issues, and should be part of a broader debate in this election,” he said, but he concedes that religious liberty has become an issue in this election year. “This has taken on political implications in a pretty significant way.”
Neither Romney nor Obama have been able to capture a strong majority of Catholic voters in polls this year, but Obama holds a wide lead over Romney when Catholics are asked which individual more closely mirrors their social issue concerns, 50-36% (though the numbers flip for weekly church-going Catholics).
At the beginning of the summer I took a one-week cruise with my family to Bermuda. There’s nothing like it. Not only are your meals, entertainment and accommodations included in the deal; you get to see other parts of the world. Holland America Line, the cruise line we were sailing with, always has a priest on board, which meant my brother and I had the chance to go to daily Mass. Priests are scheduled through the Apostleship of the Sea, an official ministry of the Church. They enjoy free passage but act as the on-board chaplain, leading both Catholic and non-denominational services and providing the sacraments to the passengers.
It was nice to find the comfort of the ritual of Mass in the middle of the ocean. Each day Mass had about 25 people and had the feel of a typical parish daily Mass. It was like I was back home! Our cruise ended on a Sunday so the ship offered a Saturday evening vigil, which was attended by more than 100 passengers. My brother and I were asked by the priest to be Eucharistic ministers. It was a privilege for me to bring Jesus to people who still desired his presence in the Eucharist even on vacation. And a vacation doesn’t mean holiday goers need God less. Jesus was literally with us in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. He journeyed with us from New York to Bermuda and back again. This fulfills my second favorite image of Jesus as traveler (my first is Jesus as bartender).
But there was another part to my voyage that caught me by surprise. It brought me more outward, beyond the walls of the ship. If you know me, you’ll know that I love days at sea, almost more than the ports themselves. Around the ship is nothing but ocean and sky. At first it’s a bit foreboding. Out there a lot of trust in God is needed. You hope the ship stays afloat — there’s no one around, at least not in the …
Country: United States/Brazil
Born: July 7, 1931
Died: February 12, 2005
Religion: Catholic, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
Sr. Dorothy Stang worked tirelessly for poor farmers’ rights and preservation of the Brazilian rainforest. Confronted by assassins on a deserted road, she opened her Bible and read the Beatitudes to them. She was shot six times.
Country: South Africa
Born: October 7, 1931
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, Desmond Tutu helped end apartheid and heal the wounds it left behind. His peace and reconciliation work is deeply rooted in his faith and daily spiritual practices.
Country: United States
Born: March 24, 1820
Died: February 12, 1915
Fanny Crosby was a prominent American lyricist, composer, poet, and advocate for the urban poor. She wrote approximately 8,000 sacred songs and is considered one of the mothers of American gospel music.
Born: June 17, 1703
Died: March 2, 1791
John Wesley was an Anglican minister and founder of the Methodist Movement. Wesley emphasized the need for faith to be focused on both personal piety and social justice; he believed there was “no holiness, but social holiness” and that our faith could not be lived in isolation.
The second I got off the bus I realized that I had no idea where I was going. I was somewhere in Southern Poland — mountains to my right, Slovakia to my left — with a duffel bag slung over my shoulder. No idea where I was sleeping that night, phone dead, entirely by myself. I took a deep breath and started walking. I never was one to travel like this. I always had a plan. But today all I had was a picture and a mission.
I had just come off a week in Krakow, traveling to Poland on spring break from a nine-month study abroad stint in Berlin, Germany. The trip had already drastically exceeded my expectations. I found myself reconnecting with the Poland of my family’s past, and at the same time finding a new one for myself, complete with both the traditional values of the old and the invincible spirit of the new. I could go to Mass in the morning and party with people my own age at night.
I just wasn’t ready to let go of something so precious yet. So instead of hopping on Air Berlin flight 131, I negotiated a three-day delay and e-mailed a Polish uncle, asking him for any information he had on our family home.
Walking through town, I noticed right away it was poorer here. A lot poorer. I felt far from the amber jewels and medieval spires of Krakow and was immediately aware of how much I stood out. But I was never one to back down from a challenge of fitting in. Navigating the unmarked wooden shops, I found a tucked away hostel. Washing off my charcoal eye shadow and taking off my indigo Turkish scarf, I threw on my brother’s gray football sweatshirt and some battered sneakers instead. Navigating rural Poland alone I didn’t feel the need to attract unnecessary attention.
Where no one knows your name
From signs, I deduced I was in Zakopane, a funny little resort town pressed right up against the Tatra Mountains. …