NCR Today

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.

Morning Briefing

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Ottawa, Canada -- Disgraced Catholic bishop Raymond Lahey apologizes in court Tuesday for possessing child pornography, telling a judge he had an "indiscriminate" addiction to online pornography but didn't seek help because of his high-ranking position in the church.

Orange, Calif. -- 'Hour of Power' cathedral is future diocese home. Rev. Robert H. Schuller approves of sale, says he trusts Roman Catholic church, calling it the "mother church," which will never change its theology.

Chicago -- Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn defended his actions as governor on Monday after a meeting with the state's Catholic bishops.

United Methodist Women and edification

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Here's a story I love, a kind of pre-Christmas present to you, dear reader.

After World War II, the United Methodist Women's fund had accumulated to a sizable amount.

The United Methodist Men said, "Let us manage that money for you."

But the women answered, "No, we have some plans."

To the astonishment and (to some degree) the horror of the men, the women bought two buildings, one on 1st Avenue in New York, right across from the United Nations construction site, and the other in Washington, D.C., on Maryland Avenue, across Second Street from the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

For 60 years, these two buildings have offered low rent to nonprofit organizations to work for justice and peace at the United Nations and in the halls of Congress. These buildings were a great investment, a great gift to us all.

The other day I was explaining the meaning of the word "edify" to a young friend. I am indeed edified by the United Methodist Women. I'm also edified by the authors of so many profound and loving responses to my last blog on why military spending is bad for the economy. Thank you.

Morning Briefing

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In new book, Cardinal Wuerl encourages Catholics to challenge culture

'Posada' draws attention to immigration reform

Half world’s 2.3 billion Christians are Catholic: New survey

Alabama -- Church leaders seek repeal of immigration law

MANILA, Philippines -- 'We lack everything' With no clean water, electricity, food and shelter, residents of flood-hit areas in Mindanao are grappling with a humanitarian crisis.

Slab City becomes a respite for victims of recession

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Out in the far reaches of California's piece of the Mojave Desert is a place that has long been "off the grid," a gathering spot for people looking to drop out, hide out or just be left alone. But now the area known as "Slab City" -- near a shrinking lake called the Salton Sea -- finds itself growing in population as the recession drives more and more families out of their homes.

A report from CBS News, lays out what is going on, along with a more detailed follow-up this weekend by the Los Angeles Times.

Remembering Christopher Hitchens -- though not very fondly

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I had never heard of Christopher Hitchens, but after a certain event in 1994, I came to know him as one of the English-speaking world's most prolific atheists.

Back then I was living and studying in London, and my community was asked by Channel Four, the alternative to BBC I and II and the commercial channel ITV, to negotiate on its behalf with our sisters in Japan to use footage from an award-winning documentary they had produced on Mother Teresa, "Mother Teresa and Her World." (It was released in 1989 and directed by Shigeki Chiba, who had just released his third film about Mother Teresa; the producer was Sister Joseph Shirai Shoko, a Daughter of St. Paul.)

What if the immigrants we reject are Jesus, Mary and Joseph?

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Last week, I was in Santa Fe, N.M., and experienced a couple of things that made me reflect on the continuing concern over immigration to this country.

First, I attended the annual Las Posadas performance at the downtown Santa Fe plaza. This is the reenactment of the story of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter in Bethlehem before Mary gave birth to the baby Jesus.

They were seeking posada, or shelter. Unfortunately, every inn they approached turned them away telling them that there was no posada available. Consequently, they had to find shelter in a barn. The play reminded me of our current immigrants, especially from Mexico and Central America, who enter without documents, but, like Mary and Joseph, seek posada in their cases from lack of economic opportunities for their families in their home countries.

However, and regretfully, like the innkeepers, we also deny them posada. Yet the Christmas season should remind us of how Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus also represented migrants and refugees who were rejected like today's immigrants.

Morning Briefing

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Joyful parishioners regain their church. The Archdiocese of Miami formally reopened St. Cecilia Church on Sunday, undoing an earlier decision to merge it with another parish.

Occupy Des Moines demonstrators establish an around-the-clock occupation outside of President Barack Obama’s Des Moines campaign office.

Gingrich Represents New Political Era for Catholics

Three best friends embrace H.U.G.S’ mission, Three best friends — all seniors at Joliet Catholic Academy — and created a program to teach young girls with Down Syndrome how to dance.

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June 16-29, 2017

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