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On April 27, Popes John XXIII and John Paul II will be canonized. Both were great men who made epochal contributions to the Catholic Church. While John XXIII made an enormous contribution to transforming the Catholic Church, John Paul II is one of the greatest popes in the Church's 2,000-year-history, perhaps the greatest.
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After Mother Teresa died, her diaries revealed something that shocked many people, namely, during the last 60 years of her life, from age 27 until she died at age 87, she struggled to imagine that God existed and had no affective experience of either the person or the existence of God. Yet, during all those years, everything in her life incarnated and radiated an exceptional, one-in-a-hundred-million, selflessness, altruism and faith commitment.
What were Mary's and Martha's thoughts during Lazarus' illness and dying? Those who have nursed a loved one during such time may know. On one side, there is the growing realization that the dreaded moment creeps closer and closer. On the other side, nursed by shreds of prayer and stories of miracles, there is childlike hope. Maybe, maybe, God will hear our pleas and those eyes that are closing will open, healthy and joyful. All will be well again. Maybe.
The Alberta bishops' recent pastoral letter on Indian residential schools did many positive things. Besides again apologizing for Catholic involvement in the schools and inviting the Catholic community to participate in the March 27-30 Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in Edmonton, the bishops also said "God is speaking to us today through the gifts of aboriginal culture and spirituality."
The Big Bang has captured the scientific and popular mind as the spectacular beginning of the entire universe. There is even an eponymous sitcom which, to judge from what is available on airplanes, might just be the most popular television program ever made. The Big Bang. At one moment there was nothing and then the next moment – bang! – it was there, an explosive mix of all that would become, slowly but inexorably, all that is.
My preparations for Easter this year have a unique dimension; I am planning the route for a visit to my father's wartime past in Holland, a route that I will begin Easter weekend. I have been looking through old papers and photographs, reading books, talking to people in Holland who are the children of men he knew there, researching the museums and memorials for the ones that hold the most significance.
The question "What did you give up for Lent?" makes its rounds during many conversations right now. The usual answers came fast and furious. "Coffee." "Chocolate." "Butter." "Wine." Some cheer at the amount of weight they will lose during this religious season. Others acknowledge it as a test of their willpower. For many, it's a witness to their faith.
This spring marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. Triggered the night of April 6, 1994, Hutu extremists retaliated over the assassination of President Habyarimana by killing local Tutsis blamed for the attack. Mounting ethnic tensions between the Hutu majority and Tutsi minority erupted in widespread violence that engulfed the country. For the next 100 days approximately 800,000 Tutsi, Twa and Hutu moderates were killed.
Is hell a physical place? Does God send us to hell? Does the resurrection signify physical movement to a place in space with physical dimensions? If so, space exploration must be penetrating that physical place we still call heaven.
On Shrove Tuesday, I was at a church pancake supper. The conversation quickly turned to Lent, which started the next day, and about fasting. Each of us started talking about the specifics of what we were going to give up during Lent. Different foods and activities were named. Every year, there is a Scripture passage (Isaiah 58) that talks about fasting that appears in the Liturgy of the Hours on Ash Wednesday and in the daily Mass readings two days later.