NCR Today

When family is more than just family

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My Uncle Lou turned 93 years old this week. He's pretty amazing: Lou still gets around, still drives and lives on his own quite well. A few days ago, I discovered his secret.

I knew family was a large part of what kept him going -- but I didn't really know what "family" meant. My uncle has a son who lives nearby and visits every night on his way home from work. His grandchildren come by often, too, and bring their children along.

But my understanding of family opened up when I met Lou for lunch.

Morning Briefing

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Invitation to NYC NCR readers

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Chris Herlinger and Paul Jeffrey, whose words and photos have appeared in NCR countless times, are launching their newest book, Rubble Nation: Haiti’s Pain, Haiti’s Promise, Thursday Dec. 8. The press release says:

Chris Herlinger and Paul Jeffrey have again teamed up to take us inside the political and spiritual dynamics of a nation under siege. Two years after their landmark Where Mercy Fails introduced us to the international response to mass murder in the Darfur region of Sudan, with Rubble Nation the two veteran journalists provide a new perspective on vulnerability and hope in Haiti. Anchoring their work in the devastating 2010 earthquake, they guide us through the Caribbean nations’ complicated landscape of pain and promise.

The book launch will be in the 3rd Floor Conference Room, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, N.Y. 10115 at 4 p.m. Thursday Dec. 8.

'Arab winter' chills Christians

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The Wall Street Journal reports on the plight of Christians in the Middle East:

At least 54 Iraqi churches have been bombed and at least 905 Christians killed in various acts of violence since the U.S. invasion toppled Hussein in 2003, according to Archbishop Louis Sako of the Chaldean Catholic Church in the northern provinces of Kirkuk and Sulimaniya. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled. A report on Iraq released Tuesday by Minority Rights Group International said that about 500,000 Christians remain in Iraq, down from an estimated 800,000 to 1.4 million in 2003.

"It's a hemorrhage," Archbishop Sako says. "Iraq could be emptied of Christians."

A Homeboy holiday

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This time of year, my mailbox is stuffed with catalogs -- page after page of gadgets and gift suggestions, items that no one really seems to need. But then, a couple of days ago, something quite different hit my front steps.

It was a small, colorful brochure from Homeboy Industries, the nonprofit business founded by Jesuit Fr. Greg Boyle to create jobs for often-unemployable ex-gangsters and gang-girls in Los Angeles. This little mailing was just the latest sign of how Fr. Boyle and his donors have turned around an establishment that looked to be in a death spiral just one year ago.

As the economy plunged, so did donations to Homeboy -- Fr. Boyle took to the airwaves and implored people to step up donations and keep the place afloat. He promised he had a plan to build a Homeboy group that could stand on its own financial feet. People in Los Angeles came through, and so did Fr. Greg (G-Dog to his gangster clients.)

CBS features rifts in Catholic church

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In an extensive television piece Sunday, CBS's Sunday Morning featured the conflict between Sr. Margaret Mary McBride and Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmstead over her decision to authorize the termination of a pregnancy at St. Joseph's Hospital.

Both mother and fetus would have perished, McBride and her staff believed, if the action had not been taken. Olmstead subsequently declared McBride excommunicated and St. Joseph's no longer a Catholic hospital.

The TV segment also took notice of the condemnation of the American Catholic Council meeting by Detroit's archbishop and the harsh critique of Sr. Elizabeth Johnson's book by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It was titled "The Catholic church: A house divided?"

Watch it here.

Morning Briefing

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Is excommunication losing its bite?

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The proliferation of excommunications in recent years is sapping the energy out of that formerly most-feared weapon in the church's quiver. Once upon a time, excommunication was seen as a virtual death penalty to the soul of the unfortunate recipient. And in the Middle Ages, it could lead to a literal death sentence for the body as well.

But now the roaring lion appears to be morphing into little more than a mewing kitten.

During the last 50 years of the 20th century, the only excommunications most Catholics were aware of included the one pronounced against Jesuit Fr. Leonard Feeney, who insisted in 1953 that nobody, absolutely nobody, could attain salvation who was not a Catholic, and the one put on Archbishop Marcel Lefevre in 1988 for consecrating four new bishops without Vatican approval and starting his own schismatic church.

'The Heart of Christmas' touches the heart

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This is the third in a trilogy of blog posts by Sr. Rose Pacatte looking at some of this year's new holiday television movies. The first post, focusing on "Have a Little Faith," can be found here. The second post, on "Game of Your Life," can be found here.

The Heart of Christmas
Sunday, Dec. 4
GMC, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. EST

The Gospel Music Channel, now knows as GMC, will air its first primetime made-for-TV movie, "The Heart of Christmas," on Sunday.

It is based on the true story of little Dax Locke, who, at the age of 13 months, was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. The family literally moved from Illinois to St. Jude's Hospital in Memphis for 18 months. Julie, Dax's mom, started a blog that touched thousands of people.

St. Nicholas, patron saint of the Occupy movement?

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Despite the continuing Occupy protests taking place across the country, some have observed that those of us of the Roman bent aren't quite as involved as those of other faiths.

That observation has Tom Beaudoin, a theologian at Fordham University who blogs over at America magazine, asking "Where are all the Catholics?"

Noting that a meeting of Occupy Faith NYC, a coalition supporting the Occupy Wall Street protests, saw few Catholic churches or organizations show up yesterday, Beaudoin encourages people to support a new group: Occupy Catholics.

Take a look at the group's website. They're organizing a novena to St. Nicholas in support of the occupy movement until the saint's feast day, Dec. 6.

The organizers calling forth of Nicholas may be particularly appropriate. A fourth century saint, Nicholas is of course most remembered as the inspiration for Santa Claus because of his gifting of coins in shoes.

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May 19-June 1, 2017

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