Vatican Radio: Pope Francis Issues First Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium

This new pope continues to impress. Check it out and see what you think.

The Joy of the Gospel is the title Pope Francis has chosen for 131106-popethis first major document of his pontificate, putting down in print the joyous spirit of encounter with Christ that characterizes every public appearance he has made so far. The man who has constantly kept the media’s attention with his desire to embrace and share his faith with everyone he meets, now urges us to do exactly the same. To “recover the original freshness of the Gospel”, as he puts it, through a thorough renewal of the Church’s structures and vision. Including what he calls “a conversion of the papacy” to make it better able to serve the mission of evangelization in the modern world. The Church, he says, should not be afraid to re-examine “customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel” even if they may have deep historical roots.

In strikingly direct and personal language, the Pope appeals to all Christians to bring about a “revolution of tenderness” by opening their hearts each day to God’s unfailing love and forgiveness. The great danger in today’s consumer society, he says, is “the desolation and anguish” that comes from a “covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.” Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests , he warns, “there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor.”

As we open our hearts, the Pope goes on, so the doors of our churches must always be open and the sacraments available to all. The Eucharist, he says pointedly, “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” And he repeats his ideal of a Church that is “bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets” rather than a Church that is caught up in a slavish preoccupation with liturgy and doctrine, procedure and prestige. “God save us,” he exclaims, “from a worldly Church with superficial spiritual and pastoral trappings!” Urging a greater role for the laity, the Pope warns of “excessive clericalism” and calls for “a more incisive female presence in the Church”, especially “where important decisions are made.”

Looking beyond the Church, Pope Francis denounces the current economic system as “unjust at its root”, based on a tyranny of the marketplace, in which financial speculation, widespread corruption and tax evasion reign supreme. He also denounces attacks on religious freedom and new persecutions directed against Christians. Noting that secularization has eroded ethical values, producing a sense of disorientation and superficiality, the Pope highlights the importance of marriage and stable family relationships.

Returning to his vision of a Church that is poor and for the poor, the Pope urges us to pay particular attention to those on the margins of society, including the homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly, migrants, victims of trafficking and unborn children. While it is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life, he says, it’s also true that “we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish.”

Finally the new papal document also focuses on the themes of promoting peace, justice and fraternity, through patient and respectful dialogue with all people of all faiths and none. Better relations with other Christians, with Jews and with Muslims are all seen as indispensable ways of promoting peace and combatting fundamentalism. While urging Christians to “avoid hateful generalisations” about Islam, the Pope also calls “humbly” on Islamic countries to guarantee full religious freedom to Christians”

Read it all.

What Kind of King is This?

Sermon delivered on Christ the King Sunday C, November 24, 2013, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.

If you would prefer listening to the audio podcast of this sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Jeremiah 23.1-6; Psalm 46.1-11; Colossians 1.11-20; Luke 23.33-43.

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today we celebrate Christ the King Sunday, a feast relatively new in the Church’s calendar. Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925 as a way to resist the rise of totalitarianism and secularism of his day. It marks the culmination of the brief Kingdomtide season we have been celebrating during the Sundays between All Saints’ Sunday and Advent Sunday where we have reflected on the reign of Christ on earth and in heaven. It also marks the last Sunday of the Church’s calendar year and as its name implies, today is a day when we celebrate Jesus as King, Messiah, and Lord of all God’s creation. So this morning I want us to look briefly at what having Jesus as king in our life might look like and why we should even care.

Imagine you are a Judean living in Jerusalem during the time Jeremiah issued the prophecy we heard in today’s OT lesson. You and your people are in trouble. Babylon has already deported the cream of the crop from Jerusalem and is once again threatening to invade your land. This is all very troubling to you because you really do believe God is sovereign over all the nations and their rulers. You really do believe that the God you worship at the Temple is the same God who delivered your ancestors from their bondage to slavery in Egypt. So why has God now apparently abandoned you and your people? O sure, you hear guys like Jeremiah accusing your people of forgetting what it means to be God’s chosen people to be a blessing to others but you are trying hard to follow God’s law and ritual requirements. So what’s going on?

Then you hear Jeremiah’s message today in which God promises to replace the rulers (shepherds) who have led your people to ruin, gather up the remnant from captivity, and be with you all once again. Not only that, God says he intends to finally fulfill his promise to king David to raise up God’s Messiah to rule his people wisely and with justice. This resonates with you because it is consistent with God’s behavior and faithfulness toward his people in the past, something that our psalm celebrates today. So what kind of king and Messiah would you be expecting to see, especially in light of the fact that this person would represent God’s faithfulness and glory? A mighty warrior? A conquering hero? A strong and outspoken political leader who is quick to deal with Israel’s enemies and the problems that beset your nation? A man with striking physical traits and intellectual abilities that would immediately draw people like yourself to him?

Do you see the point? Paul states very clearly and boldly that God’s promised king and Messiah has come as promised to straighten out things and put them to rights, and his name is Jesus. But according to Paul, Jesus is much more than the promised Messiah. He is the very image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, meaning that Jesus is not the first creature created but rather that he is the supreme ruler over all the cosmos. Jesus is also the firstborn from the dead, meaning that not only is Jesus ruler of the present cosmos, he is going to be the ruler of God’s new and reconstituted creation that will be fully born when Jesus returns in great power and glory to raise the dead and consummate God’s victory over evil won on Jesus’ cross. We can’t get a much more exalted and clearer description of a king than this. King Jesus is ruler now and forever!

But very few people in Jesus’ day and many in our own day steadfastly refuse to acknowledge King Jesus as Lord and ruler of God’s creation. We see this dramatically illustrated in Luke’s account of the crucifixion in our gospel lesson today. In a story heavy with irony, we see that the shepherds of Israel in Jesus’ day have actively worked to crucify Jesus and are now mocking him because they have accomplished their goal. “If you are really God’s Messiah, save yourself and come down from the cross!” they taunt him. But we quickly realize that if Jesus had saved himself we would all be lost forever.

Their mocking seems to be infectious because soon we see not only the soldiers mocking Jesus but also one of the criminals being crucified with him mocking him as well. Not only that, we notice the average folk are cooly detached from what is going on around them. They stand by and watch in silence instead of protesting this massive injustice. And of course the Jewish authorities (shepherds) had gotten a gentile ruler to buy into their injustice. Jesus wouldn’t have been hanging on the cross without Pilate’s consent. In this unfolding drama it seems Luke wants us to see the kind of behavior that led God to issue his condemnation of Israel’s shepherds for leading his people astray. Their Messiah had come and they are literally killing him!

Why is this? Simply put (although it’s not really all that simple), nobody was expecting a crucified Messiah. The kind of king and Messiah we envisaged a few minutes ago is exactly what many of Jesus’ contemporaries expected. They wanted someone who would kick their enemies’ teeth in and punish the nations for their cruel oppression of God’s people. None of this love your enemies and pray for them stuff. And no judging of others? Forget about it! Besides, if Jesus were really the Messiah, he wouldn’t have allowed himself to be crucified by the hated Romans. He would have been busy driving them out of the country and cleansing God’s Temple.

And we are not much different today. We don’t expect Jesus to cleanse the Temple and drive out the Romans, but if he’s really king of all creation, we certainly expect him to be at our beck and call to relieve us from all that bedevils us and put all the world’s wrongs to right. And of course that just isn’t happening as fast as we’d like, in the manner we prefer, or on the scale we’d like. Like Jesus’ contemporaries, if we are really honest with ourselves, we prefer Jesus to dispose of our enemies (which will naturally be his as well) so that we can get on with the business of enjoying life. And let’s not even get started on this business of unanswered prayer. What kind of king is this Jesus anyway?

Well, again Jesus is the kind of king we didn’t expect or particularly want because he doesn’t meet our expectations of how a king should behave. A king should be all about pomp and circumstance and power and glory and might, not some naked and bloodied man hanging on a cross for others to gloat over and mock. But this is who Jesus is and he has bigger fish to fry than what our own petty desires might allow. The kingdom that Jesus is bringing about on earth as in heaven is a kingdom of God’s love and righteousness, a love that spared us from God’s terrible wrath and the just penalty of death for our sin and rebellion against him. By Jesus’ death we are reconciled to God and find peace with him and each other. And we are formed into a new family of believers known as the Church to continue to embody Jesus’ presence to the world that still largely hates him, and therefore we can expect to be hated too.

We know Jesus is the promised Messiah because he is the firstborn from the dead and has ushered in God’s promised new age where there will be no more sin, sorrow, suffering, sickness, alienation, loneliness, madness, evil, or death. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we have done. By his blood shed for us on the cross, King Jesus has opened the doors to God’s eternal kingdom for us and invites us to come in, even when we are still wearing our filthy rags. We see this powerfully illustrated in Luke’s gospel when Jesus tells the repentant criminal, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Not tomorrow. Not 10,000 years from now. Today. Jesus didn’t ask the repentant criminal if he had the right pedigree or qualifications or whether he was worthy of living in God’s kingdom. Jesus simply responded in love and mercy to a dying and desperate man’s request to find healing, love, mercy, and forgiveness, just like every one of us desires. This is a king worthy of our highest love and worship and it takes a pretty hard heart not to be moved over God’s love for us that this scene exemplifies. And if we really come to understand how abhorrent our sin and rebellion are to God, when we consider what God has done for us on the cross of Jesus, we cannot help but be changed forever, and for the good.

There is, of course, good news and bad news in all this. The bad news is that when we are baptized in Jesus, we are baptized into a death like his (Romans 6.3). And what led to Jesus’ death? His claim of Messiahship and its attendant way of kingdom living. That means for those of us who choose to follow him, we are going to have to do the hard work of learning how to kill off our selfish desires so that we can stop making life all about ourselves and instead learn to love and serve others the way Jesus did. It’s a lot easier, for example, to sit home and enjoy a few drinks with friends than to go out and sort and pack up boxes of food for the poor. It means we will have to engage in the hard work of killing off our pride so that we can engage in the equally hard work of forgiveness and reconciliation and peacemaking when we’d rather just stick it to those we don’t like. It means we have to learn how to live with ambiguity and uncertainty that is part and parcel of this life because we realize we are part of a far bigger cosmic conflict between good and evil than meets the senses and that often we end up suffering from the collateral damage from that battle. And what can we expect for trying to live the way Jesus calls us to live? Persecution. Suffering. Ridicule. And sometimes even death. It is the way of the cross and if anyone is going to follow King Jesus, he/she is called to this way of life, with all its attendant suffering and sorrow because we live in a world that is hostile to God and his good purposes for it and us.

But there is also good news in following this king. As Paul reminds us, in this life we are to rejoice in our sufferings because our suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5.1-5). In other words, the same Spirit who lives in us and testifies to us about our hope in Jesus also gives us the strength and power to become like Jesus in his self-giving love and to endure the hostility that results from imitating him so that we can pass from death to life. That is why it is actually possible to have real joy in our life that is not tied to the circumstances of life.

But there is also a bigger prize that awaits us. As Paul also reminds us in his letter to the Romans, when we are baptized in Christ we share a death like his so that we can also share in a resurrection like his. We believe this promise is true because we believe Jesus really is the first-born from the dead. This is the hope that Paul talks about when he speaks of hope not disappointing us and in our desire for instant gratification, we dare not dismiss or marginalize our future hope because if we do, we will surely allow the Evil One to rob us of it and therefore rob us of the joy that is ours when we live our lives in ways that imitate King Jesus in his self-giving love and suffering. After all, if we do not have this future hope, a hope based on our belief that Jesus really has entered into our promised future glory through his own suffering, living the kind of life he calls us to live right now makes absolutely no sense at all. In fact, it would just be weird.

But following the way of the cross is not weird because it is God’s chosen path to glory, mysterious as that may seem to us, and our suffering and self-giving love is the only way to achieve it. King Jesus had to endure it and so must we whom he calls to follow him. Do we have the needed wisdom and humility to accept God’s chosen path to glory and rejoice in it? It is a question each of us must answer in the course of our lifetime. My prayer for us all, like Paul’s in today’s epistle lesson, is that we will find the needed grace and humility to embrace God’s path to glory and the lifestyle that accompanies it because in it there is Good News for us, now and for all eternity.

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Allen C. Guelzo: Lincoln’s Sound Bite: Have Faith in Democracy

A thoughtful piece on the Gettysburg Address’ enduring power. See what you think.

The surprisingly short story of the Gettysburg Address is that it was a surprisingly short speech — 270 words or so — delivered by Abraham Lincoln as part of the dedication 19guelzo-blog480ceremonies for the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg, on Nov. 19, 1863, four and a half months after the climactic battle of the American Civil War.

But the long story is that no single American utterance has had the staying power, or commanded the respect and reverence, accorded the Gettysburg Address. It has been engraved (on the south wall of the Lincoln Memorial), translated (in a book devoted to nothing but translations of the address), and analyzed in at least nine book-length critical studies over the last century.

What is less clear to us today is why it struck so many people as a landmark from the start. Partly, this instant recognition of the address’s power grew out of its language. It obeys the Churchillian dictum: Short words are best, and the old words when short are best of all. The address relies on crisp, plain vocabulary, over against the three-decker Latinate lexicon beloved of so many 19th-century school textbooks. Of some 270 words — there’s no recording — about two-thirds are single-syllable, and a half-dozen, four-syllable. Rarely has so much been compressed into such simple and uncomplicated elements.

Read it all.

Instructions for Living in the End Times

Sermon delivered on the 2nd Sunday before Advent C, November 17, 2013, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH

If you would like to listen to the audio podcast of this sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Isaiah 65.17-25; Canticle—A Song of Deliverance (Isaiah 12.1-7); 2 Thessalonians 3.6-13; Luke 21.5-19.

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

In our gospel lesson this morning, Jesus warns his disciples about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and I want us to look at what that might mean for us as Christians living in the 21st century who are long removed from that event, and who are also members of St. Augustine’s, specifically in light of what our other texts have to say to us. Too often this passage and its parallels in Matthew and Mark have been mistakenly read as end time (eschatological) passages that evoke images of cosmic disasters and Jesus flying around on the clouds like some kind of heavenly spaceman. But as Luke makes clear at the beginning of our gospel lesson, the disciples are asking Jesus about his prediction that God’s temple in Jerusalem will be destroyed. To Jews in Jesus’ day, that in itself would have been considered to be utterly catastrophic, especially in light of Herod’s magnificent rebuilding project. It would be tantamount to us being told about the future destruction of the White House or the Capitol building or other national monuments in Washington DC. Certainly if we believed that were going to happen, it would have the potential to cause us to tremble in fear and lose heart.

Regardless, we are certainly familiar with nation rising against nation and all kinds of natural catastrophes afflicting us. Unlike Jesus’ day, there are rarely rumors of these kinds of things anymore because now we know about these events almost instantaneously. But we are not so used to the other kinds of warnings Jesus issues because they are much more personal. We don’t much like to think we can be deceived about matters of faith but a quick look at the theology of some of the mainline churches in this country tells us otherwise. Some don’t give much credence to the authority of Scripture anymore, doubting or disbelieving massive parts of it, especially those parts that don’t quite support their own particular agenda. Sadly, there are Christians today who do not believe that Jesus really is God’s Son or that he arose bodily from the dead to usher in, at least partially, God’s promised new creation about which our OT lesson and canticle speak. There are Christians who do not believe in the atoning power of the cross, that Jesus died for our sins and rescued us from the dominion of darkness and death. Still others do not believe that Jesus is the only way to the Father, that the Christian faith offers only one of several ways to be rescued from sin and death and transferred into God’s kingdom. I do not have time to examine these things more closely but if we really take Scripture at its word and believe in its authority as God’s word to us, clearly there are many who have been deceived and doubtless they will not be the last. Neither can we sit by complacently and smugly, thinking that it is not possible for us to be deceived about matters of faith.

And we especially have trouble with Jesus’ warning that following him might actually cause those who are nearest and dearest to us to turn on us. But I know first-hand the reality of this warning and none of us want to contemplate having to make a choice between our family and friends and our faith in Jesus. We could go on but I hope you get the point. Jesus is warning us that being his disciple is not going to be a cakewalk, but rather we should expect our faith (and us) to be tested to the limits of our endurance (and if our faith is a cakewalk and we are not being persecuted for Jesus sake, we have to ask ourselves on occasion why that is). Our faith is going to be tested to its limits because we live in a world that is fundamentally hostile to God and his purposes. These purposes, of course, include God’s people because as we have seen, God has chosen to rescue his good but fallen world primarily through human intervention, first in his call to Israel through Abraham but finally and ultimately through the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah and the subsequent work of his people.

As we ponder these things, we cannot help but notice that Jesus is urging us not to focus on the end times (the time between Jesus’ resurrection and his second coming), whether it be the destruction of the Temple that was a concern for his disciples or whether it be about the timing of Jesus’ return that is a concern for many of us. Instead Jesus is telling us to keep our focus on living our lives as Jesus calls us to live them right here and now. In other words, we should focus on obeying his command to us to deny ourselves and take up our cross so that we can become like him in our character and behaviors.

Jesus’ message to us goes like this. “You live in a good world gone bad. Therefore you can expect to be tested to the max. But hang on and look for opportunities to witness to me to those who hate both you and me. It won’t be easy. But if you persevere, you will not only be my light to the world as I’ve called you to be, you will also gain your life.” And as Jesus promised his followers elsewhere, they would not have to endure the end times alone. He would be with them in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 20.19-23). In other words, Jesus is calling us to a radical trust in the power and purposes of God, even when we do not fully understand those purposes, and this trust itself serves as a powerful witness to the world.

And we attempt to obey Jesus’ seemingly outrageous request to persevere because we believe he has rescued us from sin and death by dying for us on a cross. Not only that, in the cross of Jesus we find healing and reconciliation with God. The cross stands as a wondrous symbol of God’s unfailing love for us and reminds us that even in our sin and brokenness, God loves us and wants us to be with him forever, starting right now. And as Jesus’ resurrection and our OT lessons attest, we have a glorious future awaiting us. For those of us who love the Lord, what better incentive and reason is there to persevere right now?

So how can we witness effectively to Jesus in these last times, in the face of the world’s anger and persecution? Paul has an answer for us in our epistle lesson—be Jesus’ Church in the world and show it how God’s healed and redeemed people behave toward each other. Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians seems shocking and unloving to us today. No food for someone who doesn’t work? Yet our uneasiness over this shows that we too might have become deceived on this issue, first because we fail to see what Paul is really addressing here and second because our idea of what is real love is no longer consistent with biblical agape love.

At first blush Paul’s command not only seems unloving, it seems to be anachronistic. We Americans no longer live in an economy of scarcity. Neither are our economic practices as interdependent they were in Paul’s day. We are all about amassing private wealth. But that is not the real message Paul wanted the Thessalonians and us to see. Throughout all his letters it is quite evident that Paul considered the Church to be a family of God’s redeemed people. And as God’s redeemed people who were rescued from sin and death, Paul expected us to behave accordingly. Yes, we are to take care of each other when there is real need but that also requires that we take care of ourselves and not become an undue burden to others.

To illustrate this dynamic, let me give you two examples from the life of our own parish: finances and service. The parish needs money to operate and every year we ask each of you to prayerfully consider what you will give to help support the operation and ministries of St. Augustine’s, with the tithe being the standard of giving. This, of course, depends on everyone participating. But what if some of us don’t give anything? If that happens, those folks are basically saying to the rest of the church that they are going to ride on other people’s coattails and take advantage of their generosity. In other words, if we do not step up and do our part, we place a heavier burden on others financially and this, Paul tells us, is not a loving thing to do.

Likewise for the many ministries we have. Take our ministry to Faith Mission or worship setup. When we refuse to give our time and efforts to these ministries we are placing an added burden on others. We count on them to do these ministries and our non-participation forces others to take on more than their fair share of the work. Now please do not misunderstand. I do not have anyone in mind when I offer these examples nor am I telling you subtly that I think you are doing a lousy job in these areas. To the contrary, I think as a parish we generally live up to the expectations Paul is laying out for us. Nevertheless, we need to pay attention to what Paul says here because it raises the bar for how we as a parish witness to the world.

That is why Paul is so adamant that those who do not do their fair share should be shunned (not kicked out). He says this not because he is vindictive, but because when members of a church family do not contribute their fair share to the life of the family, this is exactly as the world behaves! Paul obviously wants us to avoid that because we march to the beat of a different drummer and the world is watching. How can we witness to the world about how Jesus transforms lives and heals us if we act like we are still broken and selfish people who do not love each other enough to carry our own weight in matters of the life of our church?

There are other ways to witness to the world, of course. Think of the many themes we have looked at in our previous lessons from Luke, for example. Stories like the prodigal son, the good samaritan, and the unjust judge remind us that we are loved by God and called to be his light to the world to bring his healing love to bear on those who hate him (and us). We do this because God has done the same for us and calls us to do likewise. And we persevere in prayer precisely because we live in a world hostile to God and his people and we do not always see how our faithful living matters at all. But as Paul reminds us in today’s lesson it does. Otherwise we would grow weary in doing good and probably come to think that it’s ridiculous for us to even try in the first place. But because we believe in the promises of God, both present and future, Jesus’ and Paul’s admonitions to us should encourage us because we know God is sovereign and will use even our broken efforts to advance the coming of his kingdom on earth as in heaven, even when it is not readily apparent to us. If this were not so, why would our Lord have told us to witness for him like this, especially in the face of severe persecution? Think on these things and take them to heart because they are Good News for you, now and for all eternity.

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Fox News: Newspaper Retracts 1863 Editorial Calling Gettysburg Address ‘Silly’

When it comes to correcting the record about a timeless speech, no retraction is too late.

gettysburg-edit-outtakeOne-hundred and fifty years after Abraham Lincoln passionately appealed for the preservation of the union in the Gettysburg Address, the Patriot-News of central Pennsylvania, known back then as the Patriot & Union, is retreating from its stance in 1863 that Abe’s Civil War speech was “silly.”

“In an editorial about President Abraham Lincoln’s speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance,” the paper wrote on its editorial page Thursday. “The Patriot-News regrets the error.”

Heh. Would that the mainstream media have this kind of humility and good sense!

Read it all.

Fox News: American Pastor Jailed in Iran Denied Medication

Shameful. It is looking more and more like martyrdom is a real possibility for Abedini. Pray for this man and his captors. I note too that the only MSM outlet to report any of this is Fox News. Why is that?

Iranian jailers have denied crucial medication to Pastor Saeed Abedini, the American citizen imprisoned there for his faith, according to the Idaho resident’s family and legal team.

saeednewAbedini’s father went to visit him at the prison he was recently moved to, taking personal belongings, blankets and medications prescribed by Abedini’s doctor last July to treat internal bleeding he sustained while locked up in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison.

But the elder Abedini was denied entry and told his son could not have access to any of the items, his attorneys said.

Last week, Abedni, 33, who has been held in Iran for more than a year for practicing Christianity, was transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj, Iran, a prison known to house Iran’s most violent criminals.

According to reports, Rajai Shahr Prison was built to accommodate 5,000 inmates, but at present houses about 22,000, which has led to severe overcrowding and inhumane conditions.

Read it all.

Yahoo News: All Day Shopping Frenzy on Thanksgiving?

This is just wrong. The one sure way to stop it is to not participate in it. Don’t let creeping commercialism and greed besmirch Thanksgiving Day. Use it, instead, as a day of rest and thanksgiving to God who is the giver of all real gifts, X-box et al. notwithstanding.

Last Thanksgiving Day, Kimberly Mudge Via’s mother, sister and nieces left in the middle of their meals to head for the mall.

bf3dd8612766e726420f6a706700a530Now, Via says she’ll never host Thanksgiving dinner for her relatives again.

“They barely finished,” says the 28-year-old who lives in Boone, N.C. “They thanked me and left their plates on the counter.”

That scene could become more common in homes across the country. Black Friday shopping, the annual rite of passage on the day after Thanksgiving, continues to creep further into the holiday as more stores open their doors a day early.

It’s a break with tradition. Black Friday, which typically is the year’s biggest shopping day, for a decade has been considered the official start to the busy holiday buying season. Stores open in the wee hours of the morning with special deals called doorbusters and stay open late into the evening. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving and Christmas remained the only two days a year that stores were closed.

Now Thanksgiving is slowly becoming just another shopping day. Over the past few years, major retailers, including Target and Toys R Us, slowly have pushed opening times into Thanksgiving night to one-up each other and compete for holiday dollars. Some initially resisted, saying that they wanted their employees to be able to spend time with their families.

Read the whole sorry article.

Fox News: Vatican to Display Remains of St. Peter to Public for First Time

See what you think.

His soul may be waiting at the gates of Heaven, but the bones of St. Peter will be on display for the first time ever Caravaggio-Crucifixion_of_Peterlater this month at the basilica that bears his name, according to the Vatican.

The beloved saint’s remains, discovered during excavations of the necropolis under St. Peter’s Basilica in the 1940s, have stayed below ground and out of public view since their discovery – and since Pope Paul VI vouched for their authenticity in the 1960s. But top Vatican official Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who is  president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, made the announcement in Monday’s L’Osservatore Romano, part of, the official Vatican network.

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