NCR Today

Kathy Kelly: Christmas reflection from Kabul

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I first became aware of Kathy Kelly during a phone call some months before the first part of the war against Iraq. Back then it was called the Persian Gulf War, and it began in August of 1990 and ended the following February.

During the phone call, she told me that a group of pacifists was going to camp on one of the borders of Iraq, intent on witnessing to what she believed was the futility of war and generally to get in the way of warmaking in some small way by being where she wasn't supposed to be.

I listened, wondering about the sanity of the person on the other end of the
line. But over the years I've grown to think that, for the most part, she's one of the sanest and bravest people I know. She's usually where governments would rather she not be, getting to know people who are otherwise considered either enemies or mere ciphers in the calculation of war's collateral damage, witnessing always to deep truths of the gospel that normally get shoved to the background in the shouted "religious" discourse of one or another of the culture wars.

The war in Iraq was an abject failure

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President Barack Obama and administration officials are hailing the so-called end to the war in Iraqi as some kind of success. Some are saying that the loss of about 4,500 American lives with more than 100,000 injured as well as the thousands more Iraqis killed and wounded was worth the price of the war commenced by President George W. Bush in 2003.

But, in my opinion, this senseless war was not worth a single American or Iraqi life.

It was a war based on lies and deceptions, a war with the intent by the Bush Administration (supported by some opportunistic Democrats) to assert U.S. military power to underscore the maintenance of the American empire, not only in the Middle East but throughout the world.

This empire consists of ensuring American access to markets and to natural resources such as oil in different parts of the world. U.S. military power in the form of hundreds of worldwide military bases is also part of this empire.

Can anything good come out of Montana?

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Well, according to the Great Falls Tribune, a "local boy done good" is coming home to celebrate Christmas Masses in his hometown of tiny Hobson, Mont.:

"This Christmas season, the parishioners of Hobson's Sacred Heart Catholic Church will enjoy a special gift -- one rarely available to people living in small rural communities. A visiting priest will assist with the Christmas Masses, one whose resume includes art studies in Florence, Italy, an internship in the U.S. Senate; who has studied Elizabethan culture at Oxford University; and who who is currently working to complete his doctorate in Theology at Cambridge University in England.

The Christmas story out of the mouths of babes

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Last year, artists and children from St. Paul's Anglican Church in Aukland, New Zealand, got together and produced a charming and exuberant video of the Christmas story.

I know videos of cute kids lisping through the Gospel tale abound on YouTube, but this one is professionally rendered and well worth viewing. It is the project of St. Paul's Arts and Media (SPAM), a collective of individuals interested in exploring art and media in the context of contemporary spirituality, and St. Paul's Arts and Kids (SPANK).

Last-minute gift book ideas

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This week, my son and I will indulge in a gift ritual that began when I was living in California. It evolved in 1993 with these questions: "What to get Mom when she comes home to Ohio for Christmas?" "What to get for Alan when I visit Ohio for Christmas?"

"Books and more books" was our mutual choice that year. It worked so well, we've continued the custom. First we have lunch at our favorite restaurant, then off we go to the big book store. "Meet you back at the checkout counter in 45 minutes," we agree. Right down to the minute, we return, each carrying three or four treasures we have picked out for ourselves. Gift-wise, what could be better than this?

Now that I'm living back in Columbus, our holiday custom continues.

Needless to say, I love giving books to friends, too -- both old and new titles. Here are some at the top of my gift list which might spark your interest, as well.

For the environmentalist

Has Hildegard made the cut for saint and Doctor of the Church?

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There is a story floating around in small but very knowledgeable circles that Pope Benedict XVI will canonize Hildegard von Bingen at a ceremony in October 2012. Word has it that he also plans to name her a Doctor of the Church at the ceremony.

There are 33 Doctors of the Church. As of now, only three are women. (I'll save you a Google: Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena and Therese of Lisieux.)

The story came initially from Andrea Tornielli at the Vatican Insider on Dec. 16. Rome Reports also picked up the story and posted a brief video on saint-to-be.

Hildegard lived in the 12th century in what is modern-day Germany. She was a theologian, cosmologist, physician, botanist, poet, painter, composer and, last but not least, mystic. She is considered a pioneer in many of these fields.

Walter Reed backtracks on Bible ban

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"Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is backtracking on an order that banned family members from bringing Bibles and other religious materials to injured soldiers," reports The Washington Examiner in this story.

A spokeswoman for the hospital told the newspaper that the policy was "written incorrectly," according to the story.

However, the Family Research Council, a Christian organization, has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to gain access to documents related to this policy.

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February 24-March 9, 2017

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