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On this day: St. Lydia

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On this day we celebrate the feast of St. Lydia, who is mentioned in verses 14, 15, and 40 of Chapter 16 of the Acts of the Apostles.

Paul and Timothy were in Macedonia's chief city, Philippi: "And upon the sabbath day, we went forth without the gate by a river side, where it seemed that there was prayer; and sitting down, we spoke to the women that were assembled. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one that worshipped God, did hear: whose heart the Lord opened to attend to those things which were said by Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying: If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us."

Why not cut the military?

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The Republicans are loath to cut the military budget. The U.S. already spends about as much on so-called defense as the rest of the world combined. I find it difficult to imagine what more we need.

Even the assessment of the costs of war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya include materiel replacement costs for items we don't necessarily need to replace. We have a lot of weapons stockpiled.

Papal humor a la The New Yorker

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When Pope Benedict used Twitter for the first time recently, The New Yorker magazine did a selection July 25 of imaginary Tweets he might send. It was amusing, but many were more like one-liners any stand-up comedian might use. Here is a different selection which, I believe, is more papally grounded.

When I see all those people in St. Peter’s Square shouting “Viva Papa,” it sometimes makes me think they’re worshiping me, not God. I’ve got to stop thinking that way.

So I got this idea to come out on the balcony with a false nose, mustache and big glasses one time, just to let people know I’m human.

The Many Faces of Fundamentalism

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It may be small consolation, but the roar of the Tea Party is a welcome reminder that fundamentalism comes in a wide varieties of forms and fashions.

Snake handlers and Biblical literalists take the brunt of social and media sarcasm and scorn but they're just one expression. And they aren't confined to a certain set of churches on the Protestant right wing. They exist across the spectrum of traditions as a stratum within each. I've even known Unitarian fundamentalists. By comparison, Baptists have a lot, but so do Catholics.

Fact is that fundamentalism is a state of mind, a hunger for certainty, an affinity for absolutism. I'd guess few of us would be excluded entirely from this category. I'm a part time fundamentalist; just try to dislodge my firm conviction that the death penalty is wrong.

Fairness conspicuously missing in deficit reduction legislation

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Watching the politically manufactured debt ceiling debate draw to its sad conclusion, I think of the last stanza of T.S. Eliot’s often quoted poem, “The Hollow Men” …

... Not with a bang but a whimper

However you cut it, there is something quite disturbing -- and immoral -- about a debt reduction package that calls for cuts in critical services to the poor while at the same time calling for no sacrifice from the wealthiest elite in our nation. This, of course, is one more sign, if any more were needed, of a well-heeled and finely purchased Congress by the super rich among us. It’s quite sad and should be upsetting to all who support democracy around the world.

Two mandarin oranges

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I attended a wedding this weekend north of San Francisco; it gave me a different understanding of our national debt crisis.

The last few weeks have not been a pretty time for our democratic experiment; the wailing and breast-beating since the debt deal was announced has been just as hysterical. This moment, we are told early and often, marks the beginning of the end for America's golden place among the nations of our globe. We now find ourselves, inexorably, in steep decline.

But far outside the beltway, in a small Marin County town surrounded by hills and range, a very different American debt was paid in full: two young people got married. Nothing exceptional about that, of course, except for the story of their family. Bride and groom were Jewish, and it's safe to say at least one set of parents were fully astounded as they watched the day unfold.

On this day: Bl. Ceferino GimÈnez Malla

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On this day we celebrate the feast of Blessed Ceferino Giménez Malla, Patron Saint of the Rom and Sinti.

He was born 150 years ago this month. In the early days of the Spanish Civil War, 75 years ago this month, he was shot to death while trying to protect a priest.

"Zefferino Giménez Malla (1861-1936), known as 'El Pelé', was born of a Catholic gypsy family. He lived like a nomad for forty years and then settled in Barbastro (Spain). He married but had no children. Although he was illiterate, he taught the gypsy and non-gypsy children the first elements of Christianity, using the Bible above all, and he trained them to pray daily.

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