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From Where I Stand

Why is our country just not functioning?


It’s been a tumultuous decade, hard to equal in terms of long-term effect. In this short span of U.S. history, spasms of upheaval and change swept through every major system in the country: political, military, social and economic. Historians to come may well see it as a major turning point, not only for U.S. global domination, but also for the very history and internal stability of the country itself. The temblors have been legion.

Good event, bad event


Boethius, a philosopher of fifth-century Rome, taught the world of his time something important for ours. “Every age that is dying,” Boethius taught in the midst of a declining Roman Empire, “is simply another age coming to life.”

New life, in other words, is not death unless we reject it. New life is growth, not decline unless we refuse it. New life is evolutionary, not revolutionary unless we make it so.

Remembering our past and who we truly want to be


On the 160th anniversary of my great-grandfather's birth, I stood on the ruined foundation of the small Irish house and mill in which he had been born in Donegal.

A piece of granite from that foundation now sits on my desk -- a monument to both the past and the future. It was a long time coming. I've wondered for years where my family was really from and how we got here and what happened to the families our ancestors left behind.

Expulsions from religious orders, family, and minority wisdom


The Jewish Talmud, one of humanity’s great sources of wisdom, has a format much of the rest of the world -- our world, certainly -- would largely reject. The Talmud, the rabbinical interpretation of Judaism’s basic laws, does not depend on majority votes. It preserves the general opinions and major conclusions as agreed upon by most of the rabbis of a given era.

Wisconsin has uncomfortable parallels with the Mideast


I've been muddling over this particular column for days now. And I have reasons:

First, I myself come from a union family and I know the pull of bias when I see it. Especially my own.

The first demonstration I ever attended I was huddled in my father's arms as strangers rushed by the front of our house. Late one night, I could hear the union men come roaring down the street, the men yelling, the torches burning, parked cars being rocked and rolled onto the sidewalks.

After Tucson, we must bring conversations 'into the light'


The country is in a new kind of national simmer these days, the boiling point of which may well determine the social climate of this country for years to come. All the signs are clear.

For the first time in history, the President of the United States has raised the nature of civil discourse to the level of a State of the Union address. Assembled for that speech, many members of the Congress of the United States sat together, intermingled, as if they really were all cooperating citizens of the same country.

Evolution conference invites us all to a 'new beginning'


The Monastics of the Desert didn’t have anything to say about New Year’s resolutions but they had a lot to say about life. “Abba Poemen said of Abba Pior” one collection of early records report, “that every day he made a new beginning.”

Monasticism, we can see, is an ancient spiritual tradition with an eye for wisdom. Obscured as this new year may be by an era of financial fear, personal pain, and the struggle to survive, this new year is also, ironically, a time crying for great creativity and change. We are in need of ‘a new beginning’ on multiple levels.

'Don't even think about it' just isn't working anymore


Change always happens one way or another. If it happens through the system, we call it evolution. If it happens despite the system, we call it revolution. The problem is that the spirit of revolution -- that unguided burst of change so often triggered by frustration or despair -- is in the air now, politically, economically and spiritually.

Almost half a century after the opening of the first session of the Second Vatican Council in October 1962, there is a new spirit in the church.

But the spirit that is rising in this church no longer pulses with the promise and energy of Vatican II. There is little sense of new possibilities now. The council’s mandate to welcome the fresh air of the Spirit has gone stale.

But not completely.

Read the full column here: 'Don’t even think about it' just isn’t working anymore

We need St Francis now


Some things never go way. The best ones, in fact, come back to us in whole new ways. Saints are like that.

The church calendar that formed me, for instance, provided the Catholic community one feast day after another designed to remind us of the heroes of the Catholic community. On those days, congregations held special masses, sang special songs, prayed special prayers and blessed special statues.


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In This Issue

October 21-November 3, 2016

  • Reformation's anniversary brings commemorations, reconsiderations
  • Picks further diversify College of Cardinals
  • Editorial: One-issue obsession imperils credibility
  • Special Section [Print Only]: SAINTS