NCR Today

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

ìGod was the 34th minerÖî


That was one of the most memorable statements to come from one of the men trapped for 69 days in the bowels of the earth in Chile. I can only imagine how these miners coped with their confinement, especially during the first 17 days when they had no contact with the surface, and no assurance that anyone was even close to locating them.

Reports indicate that faith and prayer played a significant role for many of them and for their families.

The whole rescue highlighted the power of “resurrection” and why it is so central to the story of Christianity. Those of us who watched the capsule emerge from the earth, each time with a freed miner, were mesmerized and thankful. I know I asked friends for hours, “How many have been rescued now?” “Are they all out yet?” And I suddenly sensed what it might have been like for Martha and Mary watching Lazarus emerge from his tomb.

For Palestinian Christians, things 'not hopeless, yet not very promising'



For Arab Christians in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, the situation is “not hopeless, yet not very promising,” a prominent educator and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council for Jerusalem said today.

Bernard Sabella, associate professor of sociology at the Holy See's Bethlehem University, and a participant in the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, offered the assessment during a press conference organized by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and the Canadian media network “Salt and Light.”

Sabella also said that Palestinian Christians can and should make a critical contribution to their societies: Promoting the development of secular, democratic states in which all citizens are equal before the law.


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In This Issue

April 21-May 4, 2017