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December 6th, 2008
St. Nicholas

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Advent Fast Fact…
Saint Nicholas of Myra, a Greek Christian bishop of the fourth century, is the primary inspiration for Santa Claus. Nicholas was famous for his generosity to the poor. In the most famous story, he gave an impoverished faithful Christian man dowries for his three daughters, so they would not have to become prostitutes. A more legendary version of the story has St. Nicholas throwing a gold bar through the window when each daughter needed her dowry. With the last daughter, the window was closed, and rather than break the glass, he climbed to the roof and threw the gold bar down the chimney.

Today’s Prize is: a Sirius-XM Hat and Knapsack.
This day’s contest

December 5th, 2008
"Visions of Sugar-Plums?"

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Advent Eating……

"…While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads" — from "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (better known as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas)

What the heck are “sugar-plums” anyway?
Sugarplums are simply dried, sugared plums. In the Victorian era, they were most popular as a Christmas treat, but were also served year-round. The technique of creating sugarplums is very time-consuming, but not too hard.
Summer, when plums are ripe but firm, is the best time to make your own. Many gourmet stores carry sugarplums—but, according to food expert Arthur Schwartz, it is better to buy them from Europe.

December 4th, 2008
American Elites and Their Response to Torture

Panel 2, part 1 (see part 2 and Further Reflections below)…
The photographs that revealed the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib shocked the world. American military personnel and civilian contractors are seen engaged in practices prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, the Army Field Manual, and U.S. and international law. Further revelations about CIA rendition policies, deaths in custody, Guantanamo detainees, and government secrecy raise critical questions about U.S. culture and the practices and conditions that have fostered the resort to torture.
This Headline Forum, sponsored by the Fordham Center for Religion and Culture examined two issues:

What in U.S. culture predisposes us

December 4th, 2008
Who created manger scenes?

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Advent Fast Fact…
St. Francis often gets credit for creating the Nativity scene. However, his scenes were live ones—with real animals, real straw and a real trough. Modest Nativity scenes include, at minimum, a manger—sometimes known as a crèche or crib—which was a feeding trough for animals. (Some say this is so because Jesus came to offer himself as food for all creation.) Home nativity scenes usually have little figurines and can fit on a mantelpiece with relative ease. Some people choose to put them under their Christmas tree to symbolize God’s gift to all of us in the birth of Jesus.
Amazingly, many pet owners report that, each Christmas, their dog always sits right near

December 3rd, 2008
Ho, Ho, Ho, Ay?

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Advent Fast Fact…
Canada Post, tired of seeing too many letters addressed to Santa end up in the dead letter files, came up with an ingenious solution.
Postal codes in Canada consist of six characters, alternating letter-number. For example, an address in Toronto might have a postal code of M6G 2M1.
The good folks at Canada Post assigned Santa his own postal code: H0H 0H0.
Since 1982, over one million letters per year mailed using that code have received an answer from one of 11,000 retired or current Canada post employees.

Today’s Prize is: a Sirius-XM Hat and Knapsack.
This day’s contest is over. The winner was: Carol R. of Lacey, WA
If you enter our drawing using the form

December 2nd, 2008
Popular Culture, Graphic Representations of Torture and Violence

Panel 1, part 1 (see parts 2 and 3 below)…
The photographs that revealed the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib shocked the world. American military personnel and civilian contractors are seen engaged in practices prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, the Army Field Manual, and U.S. and international law. Further revelations about CIA rendition policies, deaths in custody, Guantanamo detainees, and government secrecy raise critical questions about U.S. culture and the practices and conditions that have fostered the resort to torture.
This Headline Forum, sponsored by the Fordham Center for Religion and Culture examined two issues:

What in U.S. culture predisposes us to torture or to a tolerance

December 2nd, 2008
Surprising others this Christmas...

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While we are all warm and snuggly around a family fireplace, men and women are serving our country in the war-torn Middle East.  
BustedHalo is asking their readers to send phone cards to soldiers this year so they can call their loved ones at home on Christmas.
There are two different ways that you can send phone cards to troops:

If there is a soldier that you know, and you have their full name and address:

You can order a card through AAFES. AAFES is the Army Air Force Exchange Services, basically a store on base that also has an online catalogue. Their link is: https://thor.aafes.com/scs/default.aspx.
You can also send a card through a non-profit organization. (Military branches…

December 1st, 2008
In response to Cara O'Brien's "Do We Invite God"

I smiled ruefully on reading Cara O’Brien’s article, “Do We Invite God?” Whether to “invite” God to the wedding is clearly a sincere question for her—and many other young adults. But it indicates both a common misconception (as if God needs an invitation to be present and care for us) and a fundamental mistake that many brides make by getting so wrapped up in their wedding that they miss the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Matrimony. I urge young couples to strive to keep things simple and get married, not “wed-Dinged.”
Many young women planning weddings think in terms of what is best for “me,” what “I” like, what “I”…

December 1st, 2008
Sartre

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Advent Quotable
While serving in the French army in 1940, Jean-Paul Sartre, the existentialist philosopher and playwright, was captured by Germans and placed in a prisoner of war camp. Before Christmas, a fellow-prisoner named Paul Feller who was a Jesuit, persuaded Sartre to write a Christmas play for the Christians imprisoned with them. By 1940, Sartre—who had been baptized a Catholic—was a declared atheist, but he agreed to the request out of a sense of solidarity with the other prisoners. The following is a brief excerpt from the resulting play, called “Bar-Jona,” in which Sartre offers a moving reflection on the Virgin Mother and her newborn son, Jesus.…

November 30th, 2008
Where does the idea for an Advent wreath come from?

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Advent Fast Fact…
The Advent wreath actually has pre-Christian Germanic origins. During the shortest day of the year (the winter solstice) people used wreathes with lit candles as a sign of hope that the warmth of the sun and extended-sunlight days would soon return. In Scandinavia during winter, lighted candles were added to a wheel. Prayers were then offered to the god of light to turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth.

Today’s Prize is: a Sirius-XM Hat and Knapsack.
This day’s contest is over. The winner was: Mari A. of Philadelphia, PA
If you enter our drawing using the form below, your entry will

November 25th, 2008
Surprising Info and Prizes on EACH DAY of Advent

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The Grand Prize drawing in our Advent Surprise Calendar contest — a Sirius Sportster 5 Satellite Radio with car and home installation kits plus a free six-month subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio (a value of over $200) — will be conducted Friday night / Saturday morning at 3 a.m. EST. Enter in today’s calendar posting.
Remember, all valid entries for a daily prize received between November 30 and 3 a.m. EST December 20th will be eligible to win our random drawing for the grand prize. There is no limit to the number of times you can enter (each entry however must be accompanied by the…

November 24th, 2008
Frustrated American dieters seek spiritual support

As you gather round the family table to give thanks, you’ll consume anywhere from 2000 to 7000 calories as you graze on turkey, stuffing and candied veggies galore. Certainly not everyone is so fortunate to have a horn of plenty this time of year, but the majority of Americans will eat their fill… and then some.
As we gobble gobble, a growing number of groups caution us God might not approve of that second piece of pie. Yes, that’s right. The omnipresent world of wonder diets and slim-down regimes now has a foothold in the world of the omnipotent.
I wrote this piece for USA Today but thought that it might have some resonance with young adult spiritual seekers as well. Post your thoughts below……

November 19th, 2008
A financial advisor and a scripture professor offer advice on how to navigate the current economic crisis

Whether it is the rising cost of your weekly grocery bill, water cooler rumors about layoffs or the nightly news, everyone is reminded about the downturn in the economy on a daily basis. Last month, the Pope was quoted as saying, “We are now seeing, in the collapse of major banks, that money vanishes, it is nothing.” While that may be true on a spiritual level, money is an inescapable aspect in our daily lives. If money vanishes, so does our ability to feed, clothe and house ourselves.
For most of our generation, this is our first experience of a global financial crisis. What should the government do? What should we do as Christians? Busted Halo interviewed Timothy Sandoval, a professor of the Hebrew Bible…

November 18th, 2008
A young bride-to-be struggles over God's place in her wedding ceremony

The women sitting behind my mother were horrified. They had just heard the wedding vows of a radiant young couple, vows that included no mention of God or any church. They began whispering and tsk-ing halfway through the vows, and didn’t let up.
Hearing this story made me think about my own vows.
I’m just beginning to plan my wedding and, as a writer, I feel obligated to write my own vows. But I haven’t decided, just yet, what or who might go in them, or what or who might not.
Once firmly in the realm of houses of worship, wedding ceremonies have moved outdoors, out of the box and out from under the robes of the church.
But not every couple married in a church is deeply religious. Not every couple married…

November 16th, 2008
Descended from the Jesus Movement of the 60s and 70s, The Twelve Tribes strives to restore true Christianity

When Shuvael and Matanah Hebert sold their upscale, four-bedroom home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to join a controversial Christian commune called the The Twelve Tribes, friends and family said they were crazy. But seven years later, the middle-aged couple insists that they have no regrets, despite sharing bathrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a washing machine with 40 devoted members in a community home in a working-class area of Brunswick, Georgia.
“It’s about surrendering completely to God’s providence,” insists Matanah, 45, who also left behind a well-paying chemist’s job. Matanah, who doesn’t wear makeup, perfume or jewelry because God didn’t…

November 13th, 2008

Father George Coyne, SJ, former director of the Vatican Observatory, talks with host Mike Hayes about the Catholic Church’s official view on evolution with regards to scientific theories and religious interpretations of the origin of the world. As part of our ongoing series “Googling God: Resources for the Spiritual Seeker,” Fr. Coyne covers topics like:

Is intelligent design science?
Can a Catholic believe in evolution?
Are the stories of scripture scientifically based?
What does science say about our religious beliefs?…

November 12th, 2008
A boomer contemplates the millenials on the night of the election

Nov. 4, 2008 — … I’m hanging out in an enormous public room at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. A large screen TV has one election coverage team chattering and there is an even larger screen on which is projected another channel’s chatterers. We flip from channel to channel (Fox News eliciting boos and laughs), while the screens flip between the talking heads and brightly colored maps of the U.S.A. The states are slowly filling, red and blue and more blue.
Dozens of students, black and white and Latino and Asian, lounge on couches or chat with friends. They type on laptops and click and text. Many have one ear bud from an iPod in one ear; the other ear is “open” for the outside world. This

November 11th, 2008
Honest answers for young adults' frank questions

This past Sunday I gave a lecture on sex, dating and relationships at the Newman Center at the University of Iowa. As a professor here, I teach classes on the American family and introductory sociology courses, so I’ve heard a lot about the undergraduate hook-up culture. My students aren’t sure what a hook-up really means, or how to find a lasting relationship when casual sex is the norm. So when the Newman Center invited me to speak to young adult Catholics on these issues, I jumped at the chance.
To prepare for the talk, I attended at Thursday 10 p.m. Mass where about 75 committed Catholic undergrads served as a focus group: After I explained why I thought it was important for issues of sex and dating to…

November 6th, 2008
The human side of the foreclosure crisis hits close to home

When my husband and I started looking for a house this past spring, we were in the same boat as a lot of first time homebuyers. We knew that we couldn’t afford much in the overpriced housing market of our metropolitan area, Washington DC. We knew that we needed to get a steal in order to find a house that would accommodate our growing family. We loved the neighborhood, the proximity to public transportation, and the big poplar trees that provided a canopy over our street. We were smitten and we did end up getting a steal—we paid two thirds of what the previous buyer had paid only a few short years ago. My husband and I however had no idea that the purchase of our starter home in Falls Church would leave us knee deep in…

November 3rd, 2008

Almighty and ever–living God, bound in faithful love to Your people, be attentive to our deepest needs; for as a nation we place all our trust in You.
Since election day approaches, we pray for all those who have placed their name before the people; to seal their commitment of public service for the common good. Purify the intentions of those who deserve the public trust. Transform self interest into compassion for Your people, as You make them harbingers of our future.
Empower each voter with Your Spirit; so that as the free people of Your creation they may recognize truth and personal integrity in those they choose. May the representative government they place in service mirror their own commitment to search…

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