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The last thing Abu Sabah ever pictured in his life was being homeless and living in a tent in a park somewhere. But that is exactly what he and his family are experiencing in Ainkawa, a Christian enclave outside of Irbil, the capital of the Kurdistan area of northern Iraq. Sabah, a Syriac Catholic from the predominately Christian town of Qaraqosh, a 45-minute drive away, had a good job, a big house, a car and was surrounded by a strong family community until Islamic State militants swept through the town Aug. 6, turning their world upside down.
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Elderly parishioners of St. Joseph's Basilica are gathering to socialize, strengthen their Catholic beliefs and receive spiritual guidance. Catherine Ryan and other parish seniors determined that less mobile or physically challenged seniors cannot always get out as often as they would like. "Wintertime in the city, they slide down sidewalks and maybe even not drive, so although they have Communion taken to them, they love to get to Mass. So we thought once a month, a spiritual experience such as this would be welcomed," said Ryan.
Inside the recently refurbished Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, a massed audience, banked on three floors, gazes attentively out over a wide, brightly lit stage. "Necessity will make us all forsworn. Three thousand times within this three years' space; for every man with his affects is born, not by might master'd, but by special grace," recited the actor playing Berowne in Love's Labour's Lost.
Since the end of the Oct. 5-19 Synod of Bishops on the family, news outlets have portrayed the outcome as a "setback" or "loss" for Pope Francis – even a "rebuke" to him. Journalists have pointed to the absence, in the synod's final report, of an earlier version's strikingly conciliatory language toward people with ways of life contrary to Catholic teaching, including those in same-sex unions and other non-marital relationships. Commentators have also noted the relatively low support, as measured by bishops' votes on the final document's relevant sections, for continued discussion of whether to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion.
Someone dies. What do we say when we meet their relative, their friend, their family? Too painful, right? Maybe we will blurt out something inane or insensitive. Yet this is the very time the grieving person needs words and/or actions of comfort. Father Leo Hofmann is sensitive to what not to say when someone has died, such as "God only takes the good ones." Or if a child dies, one shouldn't tell the parents, "'Oh, you are young. You can have another.' That is the most unfortunate thing. It's not like a litter of puppies.
As disciples of Jesus, Catholics are stewards, not owners, of what God has entrusted to them. "In fact we are accountable to God for what we receive and how we used it to serve others," explains Carla Smiley, coordinator of planned giving for the Edmonton Archdiocese. At the end of our lives, "we are to give whatever gifts we received back to God with increase." One way to be a good steward is to leave money to charity in your will, says Smiley, noting that Catholic charities rely primarily on Catholics for funding.
The famous opening line of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) is a stirring reminder of the Church's solidarity with the global society: "The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts." The second sentence should not be surprising since the followers of Christ are themselves "genuinely human."