“Struggle” is the theme emerging for Wisdom Wednesday: War in Gaza and in Ukraine. Struggle for human dignity. Journalists struggling to stay alive. Queer families in the Midwest. Defiant German bishops on the Synodal Path. Armenian Christians battling hotel development in Jerusalem.
There’s hope too. Busy young people finding a bit of monastic peace. Central African Catholics praying together in Advent for peace. Dams coming down along the Klamath River, salmon going upstream. Surprising items this week: Pope Francis trying to “demasculinize” the church; Putin’s preference for “disposable” personnel to fight in Ukraine; a “Madonna and Child” depicting Mary with a nose piercing, ripped jeans and tattoo of her immaculate heart as she nestles a swaddled Jesus. Also, two new film documentaries, two stories about saints, and one quiz about Islam.
War stories dominate our news today, but we begin with a quick look at the climate summit, “trendy vibes . . . and an existential threat,” courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor. And we offer some good environmental news: “When stagnant waters become fresh,” from the Christian Century.
The great tragedy of war isn’t that there are winners and losers, but that a sense of our common humanity is lost in the process. Some reflections on human dignity in Israel and Palestine, from US Catholic.
Mosaic Magazine seeks to clarify ambiguities, as it offers a view into Hamas from Israel: Is Hamas a terror organization, a political party, or a social movement? Answer: all of the above; Is it more Palestinian or more Islamic? Answer: it is both.
The Associated Press offers an in-depth look: How the Israeli kibbutz of Nir Oz embodied Hamas’ hostage strategy.
The AP also finds that one journalist or media worker is killed every day on average in the Gaza war. About 60 have been killed since the Oct. 7 start of the war, already close to the same number of journalists killed during the entire Vietnam War half a century ago.
Amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, another battle is playing out in Jerusalem among its small but storied Armenian Christian community, battling an Australian-Israeli businessman who is said to be set on taking over the Armenian Quarter of the Old City. Religion News Service provides the details.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy plans to appeal to US senators for more aid to help Ukraine fight Russia. The White House says Kyiv’s efforts may grind to a halt without further military and economic assistance
Russia has recruited 100,000 prisoners to fight in Ukraine, according to Newsweek. They demonstrate Putin’s preference for “disposable” personnel rather than mobilizing the young, urban population, experts say. The prisoners recruited include murderers and even a Satanist convicted of the ritualistic killing of four teenagers.
Some relief from the heavy news of war
Catholics in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Burundi – the three member-countries of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACEAC) – began Advent, as they have the previous 39 years, with a day dedicated to prayer and reflection on forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. The story from La Croix Internatioanl.
Busy young adults are offered a taste of monastic peace and quiet. Another La Croix article reports on the Assumptionist Sister who serves as associate director of the French bishops’ vocations office. She tells us why a mini-retreat in a monastery can be attractive to today’s young people.
As Pope Francis grapples with defiant bishops in Germany and the United States, a high-ranking Vatican official who oversees church law clarified on Tuesday (Nov. 28) the protocols for disciplining a bishop, saying any failure to act in communion with the church and the pope can be cause for dismissal. An RNS report.
Pope Francis asks theologians to ‘demasculinize’ the church. “Women have a way of reflecting on theology that is different from us men,” Francis told the International Theological Commission.
The next conclave
How Pope Francis’ unorthodox governing style is likely to impact the next conclave After a whirlwind pontificate that’s broken with longstanding Vatican customs and protocols, the cardinals may want the next pope to be someone who’s more “institutional.” Robert Mickens speculates from Rome.
A new documentary, “We Live Here: the Midwest,” tells the story of queer religious families in the Midwest. The movie profiles queer families and individuals living, grappling with their identity in a conservative and traditional environment. It is out today on Hulu (December 6).
“City of a Million Dreams,” a 2021 indie documentary covering the history of second line jazz funerals in New Orleans, is screening now (as of December 5) in Los Angeles, the latest in a string of engagements this year as the crew seeks a distributor. The story, from Black Catholic Messenger.
Sainthood: Who is in, who is not
A “Modern Saints” book offers more relatable, sometimes provocative icons and illustrations.
The book, just out yesterday (December 5), includes reflections from 50 “saints of tomorrow” including Jesuit priest James Martin and public theologian Christena Cleveland. In “The Modern Saints,” artist and editor Gracie Morbitzer offers eight images of Mary among her collection of 52 saints that challenge her docile, white-washed image.
It’s been more than four hundred years combined since the deaths of the first six African-American Catholics now on the path to sainthood, and there is yet to be any clear sign from the Vatican that the first beatification is on the way, says Nate Tinner-Williams. But in October, a lay-led group from Baltimore—which for years has been petitioning the pope to make a move—finally received a meeting with the Vatican’s saint-making office.
Seven years of sex abuse: How Mormon officials let it happen
The Associated Press has conducted an investigation into child sex abuse in the Mormon Church. The AP cites recordings of how the Mormon Church protected itself from child sex abuse claims, and offers several takeaways from the investigation.
- How Mormon officials let it happen
- Recordings show how the Mormon church protects itself from child sex abuse claims
- Takeaways from The AP’s investigation
Some research in search of a moral judgment
How much do you tip a restaurant server? Pew research surveys the varied landscape of minimum wages and tip credits in the U.S.
Laurence J. “Larry” Payne, a longtime leader in church and civic affairs in Texas and on the national Black Catholic stage, has passed away after an extended battle with cancer. He turned 73 on November 16, ten days before his death. He was said to be the first layperson and first African American to hold the title of vicar in the U.S. Catholic Church, when became the head of urban affairs for the Diocese of Belleville. While in that position, Payne was a major figure in the Black Catholic Movement, helping to plan national initiatives and working with such luminaries as Servant of God Thea Bowman. Most notably, it was Payne who envisioned the revival of Daniel Rudd’s long-dormant Colored Catholic Congress movement, ultimately resulting in the formation of the National Black Catholic Congress (NBCC) in 1987.
Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, died December 1 in Phoenix, Arizona, due to complications related to advanced dementia and a respiratory illness. She was 93. O’Connor was baptized in the Episcopal Church and attended Sunday worship services at Washington National Cathedral during her tenure on the Court. She served on the cathedral chapter, the governing body of the congregation, for eight years.
A point to ponder
Why is it that being a Buddhist Christian is often flagged as a problem, but being a capitalist Christian is not? Suppose that to be religious is a matter of what one does with one’s desires—to what do I give my heart? Well, truth be told, says theologian John Thatamanil, there has never been a more effective way of disciplining the heart invented in history than the market.
How much do you know about Muslims and Islam?
Muslims are the second-largest religious group in the world, and they have a growing presence in the West. Yet our surveys indicate that relatively few people in the U.S. or Europe say they have much knowledge about Islam. The quiz is from 2015 but still relevant.