NCR Today

On this day: St. Benedict

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On this day, we celebrate the feast of the transitus (death) of St. Benedict, c. 560.



Benedict and Scholastica were from Norcia, an Umbrian town named for the Goddess of Good Fortune, a place of abundance and of sorcery. The town is known today for its pork products, domestic and wild, and for its truffles. Truffle hunters still invoke the old goddess for luck in finding the precious "nails". In the late 5th century, when the holy twins were born, the Cumean Sybil was believed to live in a cave in the Monti Sibillini, safe from encroaching Christianity.

Morning Briefing

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Eighth Anniversary of Iraq invasion --- not much in the news about it

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Today, March 19th, marks the eighth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq -- carried out on the false pretense to eradicate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Of course those weapons were never there.

What a heavy load that decision would be on the conscience of any reasonably self-examined soul.

Not much is being said today about this tragic anniversary - with the exception of some commentary I found by Congressman Charles Rangel who tells us why he introduced the Universal National Service Act, calling on all to share in service to country and ridding our nation from the egregiously unfair burden of the one percent of our young who currently carry the burdens of our unfunded wars.

Writes Rangel:

Praying on your knees

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Stuck to my kitchen window is a small wind chime given to me by my best friend, a wonderful person who has made only one bad choice in her life -- to live two states away from me.

The chime has a tiny poem inscribed on it, reminding the reader that “someone remembers you in prayer.” Normally, when someone says, “I’ll be praying for you,” I take it with a grain of salt, knowing that people get busy.

Obama to visit Romero's tomb

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The White House has confirmed that President Obama will stop at the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero in the crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador during his upcoming three-nation visit to Latin America. The president will visit Chile, Brazil and El Salvador from March 19-23 to address mostly issues of economic and security cooperation.

The symbolic stop on Tuesday, March 22, at Romero’s grave on the eve of the national commemoration of his assassination in March of 1980, will serve as kind of solemn pause in the state visit to recall the 12-year civil war that devastated the small Central American country.

Ways the pentagon uses our treasure

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As part of my own Lenten reflection, I’m writing about some of the weapons systems that the General Accounting Office has identified as boondoggles. Today we are looking at robots, drones, sensors, smart bombs and other types of artificial intelligence.

It is sort of like what Paul tells the Ephesians: These are things we have not seen and cannot imagine. So far we have spent about 15 billion on them. The initial estimate was $92 billion but now it’s gone up to $340 billion.

Because of this huge increase in estimated costs, future expenditures are unclear. The New York Times notes that some expensive communications systems have been replaced in the field by a simple, secure Web-based tool.

Research, both military and commercial, is certainly on the hunt for artificial intelligence. Particular to the budgetary and economic debates of the moment is their role in job creation.

These systems are capital intensive, that is, they utilize few skilled workers. The panels or motherboards that guide them are generally assembled by unskilled workers, young girls with small agile fingers who live in Mexico, Indonesia and China.

Christians upset that Gandhi may not be in Hell

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A recent article in The New York Times might make even the most discontented Catholics feel better about their tradition.

While differing Catholic factions are struggling over the fate of their church, many evangelical Christians are wrestling over more cosmic concerns: namely the fate of non-Christian souls.

In his forthcoming, Love Wins: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, the youngish, charismatic pastor Rob Bell calls “the dogma that ‘a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better’” both “misguided and toxic.”

Bell, who has been called a “singular rockstar in the church world” and a “hipster,” seems to be accomplishing what most Christians -- including Catholics -- are finding nearly impossible: he is attracting the attention and devotion of Millennials. Many credit his popularity with his willingness to question entrenched evangelical convictions.

To Be or Not to Be Exceptional

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Every now and again, the notion that America is "exceptional" comes back to haunt us. This is one of those times when it's popping up in the crazy quilt flurry of jabber about this country's role in the world.

At its worst, it's an appeal to blind arrogance, built on the pride that might makes right and that God underwrites our adventures as the Koch brothers back the crusade to crush unions.

It is a term so easily prone to misuse by a multitude of greedy, self-righteous causes that it deserves to be banished.

But since it won't likely go away, it's worth remembering that the basis for the pompous word has a kinder, gentler side.

The derivation is religious, of course, and drawn from the naive but innocent hope by those 17th century migrants to New England that they might establish a society that escaped the evils of Europe. They held the illusion that they could give birth to a Christian community as it was meant to be. Soon their own forms of intolerance and waywardness would testify against that idealism but somehow it never left our collective system. The belief that we are the light of the world lives on.

Big win for the Vatican in European crucifix case

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In a big win for the Vatican in terms of church/state relations in Europe, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has reversed an earlier ruling and upheld the right of Italy to display crucifixes in its public school classrooms.

Though the Vatican was not formally a party to the case, it strongly supported the position taken by Italy and a coalition of other European states, mostly drawn from the majority Orthodox regions of Eastern Europe, in defense of Italy’s right to have crucifixes in the classrooms.

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December 2-15, 2016

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