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Tanner’s Annunciation

December 25, 2013 Featured Today Comments Off on Tanner’s Annunciation

By JOANNE SADLER BUTLER This Christmas, I am meditating on what it was really like to be in Nazareth and Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. The images we are familiar with are from the Renaissance era or later — and while they were reverently done, they also were done with an eye to pleasing the man or woman who was paying for the work. Thus, we typically see a nicely dressed Virgin, an ethereal Gabriel, a well-appointed room, with (sometimes) cherubs in the background prefiguring a Disney World display. These images are soothing, but the reality was quite different. If you want a glimpse of what life was really like back then, I suggest studying Henry Ossawa Tanner’s 1896 painting…Continue Reading

I Wanted That!

December 24, 2013 Featured Today Comments Off on I Wanted That!

By DEREK BECHER There’s no denying the innocence, the wonder, and the magic of Christmas that’s seen through a child’s eyes. With all of the decorations, the gatherings of family and friends, the baking, the music, the aromas, the laughter, and the anticipation stuffed into just a few days, one of the greater rewards of Christmas is the genuine, spontaneous reactions of children as they reach their Christmas climax and tear into presents on Christmas morning. I was at my parents’ home on Christmas morning in 2003, along with two of my brothers. The other five of our siblings and their families would not be arriving for another day or two, so we agreed to open gifts addressed to those…Continue Reading

Journeying To Christmas

December 23, 2013 Featured Today Comments Off on Journeying To Christmas

By DONALD DeMARCO Christmas is a joyful time. Indeed, “‘tis the season to be jolly.” It is the time, as Charles Dickens, has rightly remarked, for “many merry Christmases, friendships, great accumulation of cheerful recollections, affection on earth, and Heaven at last for all of us.” Surely, without Christmas, December would be the bleakest and most colorless month of the year, and the year itself would be deprived of an essential Light. No one in his right mind wants to diminish the joy that goes with the merriment of Christmas. But there is another side to Christmas that can easily escape notice. Christmas is about a birth, and births are difficult and are preceded by considerable travail. The first Christmas…Continue Reading

Christmas And Frailty

December 22, 2013 Featured Today Comments Off on Christmas And Frailty

By JEFF MINICK (Below is a Christmas letter from the ever-feisty Uncle Samuel to his beloved — and often clueless — nephew Hobson.) +    +    + Dear Hobson, It pleases me to no end that you will attend the Christmas Midnight Mass at the Basilica with Abigail. These last four months since you met my young friend have certainly brought about some remarkable changes in you. By placing Abigail’s happiness ahead of your own selfish concerns, you are discovering the true meaning of affection, friendship, and love. When I first introduced the two of you by mail, it was my fervent hope that you would see in the lovely Abigail those advantages faith and grace have bestowed on her. Your…Continue Reading

The Beginning Of Human Life

December 21, 2013 Featured Today Comments Off on The Beginning Of Human Life

By DONALD DeMARCO The year 1938, like all years, had its problems: Hitler seized control of the German army and placed Nazis in key posts. The Civil War in Spain continued unabated on its path of destruction. Benito Mussolini published an anti-Jewish/African manifesto. Winston Churchill condemned Hitler’s annexation of Czechoslovakia. The League of Nations declared Japan to be an aggressor against China. It was a year in which certain factions did not agree that Jews, Africans, Spaniards, Czechs, and Chinese were fully human. Yet, like all years, there were areas that remained unaffected by a climate of turbulence. The beginning of human life was not an issue that was caught up in a maelstrom of cultural confusion. There was no…Continue Reading

Under The Tree

December 20, 2013 Featured Today Comments Off on Under The Tree

By DEREK BECHER Christmas this year was going to be very hard for Aaron — this was for certain. Just eight years old, he had lost his parents in a tragic accident, leaving him alone and understandably full of fear and uncertainty as his world had collapsed upon him. Fortunately, his solitude and worry would be short-lived. As he stood with tears on his face, dressed in his best clothes as he offered his last goodbye to his loving parents, Aaron was embraced by his aunt, his mother’s only sister, who immediately, happily, and lovingly adopted her orphaned nephew and welcomed him into her family as one of her own — a new brother for her own two children. Aaron’s…Continue Reading

Christmas Sourpusses . . . The New England Puritans And The Jesus Seminar

December 19, 2013 Featured Today Comments Off on Christmas Sourpusses . . . The New England Puritans And The Jesus Seminar

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK I don’t have a polling service to prove it, but I think it safe to say that liberal Christians dedicated to “demythologizing” the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth — such as those who promote the views of John Dominic Crossan and the “Jesus Seminar” — would fall on the left side of the political spectrum. I’d bet serious money that most favor legalized abortion and same-sex marriage. They would be offended if anyone linked them with the fire-and-brimstone 18th-century New England Puritans who spent their lives pointing fingers at their neighbors who were on their way to Hell. Yet it strikes me that the two groups have much in common when it comes to Christmas. Check…Continue Reading

Christmas And the Cult Of Liberty

December 18, 2013 Featured Today Comments Off on Christmas And the Cult Of Liberty

By JOANNE SADLER BUTLER This year, I want to share some thoughts with you about how the true meaning of Christmas clashes with today’s cult of liberty. When I say “cult of liberty,” I mean that peculiar American institution that transforms our founding fathers into iconic demigods, our Constitution and Bill of Rights into sacred texts, and together they are the physical proof that Americans are God’s chosen people. I’ll limit myself to one opening salvo on the demigod issue: Thomas Jefferson was not a Christian; he had a vague belief in a “Nature’s God” (as stated in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence). Further, to mollify his distaste for the Gospels, he snipped out all references to the…Continue Reading

Christmas 1944: Victory Denied

December 17, 2013 Featured Today Comments Off on Christmas 1944: Victory Denied

By MICHAEL D. HULL Allied hopes for a victory over Nazi Germany by the end of 1944 were dashed by the failure of Operation Market-Garden, the massive airborne invasion of Holland, that September. But the enemy forces in Western Europe, while fighting stubbornly, were nevertheless on the retreat as the British, U.S., and Canadian armies pushed doggedly eastward. A sense of euphoria persisted in the Allied headquarters, and many soldiers — generals, field marshals, and men on the front lines — still clung to the hope that the European war might be over by Christmas. Such optimism then vanished abruptly early on the morning of Saturday, December 16, 1944, when 25 German armored and infantry divisions rolled through thinly held…Continue Reading

Contemplative Nuns Make Billboard Chart History

December 16, 2013 Featured Today Comments Off on Contemplative Nuns Make Billboard Chart History

ATLANTA — The Missouri-based contemplative nuns Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles were named Billboard magazine’s Classical Traditional Artist 2012 and 2013. It’s the first order of nuns to ever win an award in the history of Billboard magazine. The sisters were recognized for their two bestselling albums, Angels and Saints at Ephesus, which spent 13 consecutive weeks at no. 1 on Billboard’s Classical Traditional Music chart, and Advent at Ephesus, which spent six consecutive weeks at no. 1 on the same chart. The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles bested a group of popular classical music artists to secure the award, including Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. “How does a community of Benedictine Sisters who follow the rule of…Continue Reading