NCR Today

Meeting at Mass


As my community celebrated Mass Oct. 16 in our chapel here in Culver City, Calif., a young man was marrying the love of his life during a wedding Mass at a parish in Staten Island, N.Y. The groom's parents have been friends of our community in New York for 35 years, and I have known them since Josh was a little tyke. We asked our chaplain here to celebrate the Mass for the intentions of the happy couple.

The high and the mighty


There’s a 1950s John Wayne movie in which the actor wore not a cowboy hat but a commercial airline pilot's cap. It's called The High and the Mighty. It featured a melodic whistling theme song written by the great film composer Dimitri Tiomkin.

On a walk in the country last week, I found myself humming it after I’d seen nature’s “the high and the mighty” – a flock of wild geese that winged overhead as I walked.

They come from over the horizon. If it’s a clear day they fly high in the sky. If grey clouds cover the earth they fly lower, and you can hear their garrulous conversations as they leisurely chatter, gossip and confer with one another while flapping their big wings to keep aloft.

Of all the migrating birds in this season, the wild geese seem the most emblematic of autumn.

Where I live, the flyway is probably from northern Minnesota or possibly even from the permafrost bogs of nothern Manitoba. In other locales of the country, they might be coming from Alaska or from Hudson Bay. Their journey to the south is an epic one, fraught with difficulties and perils, and repeated twice a year.

Message from Iraq: 'Take our wealth, but leave us in peace'


ROME -- Four Chaldean Catholics from Iraq met the press this afternoon on the margins of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, and their cri de couer to the outside world was perhaps best expressed by Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad.

“Take our wealth,” Warduni said, “but leave us in peace.”

Ecumenism a survival strategy in Middle East



In most parts of the world, ecumenism is seen by Christians either as a Gospel imperative or simply as a good cause, a way of healing historical wounds and reaching out to fellow believers.

In the Middle East, however, it’s a survival strategy –- a way for the region’s tiny Christianity minority to hang together, so they don’t end up hanging separately.

tCalls for concrete steps towards unity have been heard repeatedly throughout the Oct. 10-24 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which is now at the midway point. On Saturday, participants discussed a first draft of their final message, which will be amended and then presented for a final vote next week.

tA harrowing reminder of what the Christians are up against in some parts of the Middle East came from Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka, the Syrian Catholic leader in Baghdad, Iraq. It was testimony that carries special resonance for Americans.

t“Since the year 2003, Christians are the victims of a killing situation, which has provoked great emigration from Iraq,” Matoka said. “Half the Christians have abandoned Iraq, and without a doubt there are only about 400,000 Christians left of the 800,000 that lived there.”

Spirituality in six words


As a fun exercise in the lesson of "writing short," I ask my journalism students to write a "Six-Word Memoir," summarizing their life and philosophy in just a half dozen words. I stole the idea from Smith Magazine, who stole it from Ernest Hemingway, who (allegedly) won a bar bet by writing the best life story in six words: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Now Killing the Buddha (a blog for "people made anxious by churches") has challenged people to write six-word spiritual memoirs. It's their response to PBS's call for spiritual memoirs in its "Faithbook" project connected to the documentary "God in America" (which unfortunately I haven't had a chance to watch yet).

But why write an essay, a paragraph or even a "monstrous 140-character Tweet," when you can do it in six words? It does force people to get creative. Here are some of my favorites:

* From knowing all to knowing nothing.
* Between Familial Tradition and Accidental Grace


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February 10-23, 2017