Alert the Magi: frankincense may be disappearing

One of the most celebrated gifts in history — and a staple of the Christmas story — is endangered: The world may still have gold and myrrh, but it’s quite possible that frankincense could become a thing of the past, given ecological pressures on the arid lands where it grows in Ethiopia. The storied resin, [Read More...]

Are veils coming back?

When  I was growing up, my mother kept a small white circle of lace in a plastic bag in her pocketbook, in case she needed to pop into church for one reason or another.  And in the 1960s, it wasn’t uncommon  for a woman to improvise a veil with a bobby pin and a Kleenex. [Read More...]

A senior citizen flash mob?

This is what happens when a group of senior citizens decides to be cool. Place: a Target Store in Lawrence, Kansas. Music: “Last Christmas,” from the cast of “Glee.” Don’t say I didn’t warn you. [Read more...]

Mary’s pregnancy test

The intentionally provocative image above — without any words — has been posted on a billboard by a church in New Zealand: Vicar Glynn Cardy said: ‘It’s real. Christmas is real. It’s about a real pregnancy, a real mother and a real child. It’s about real anxiety, courage and hope. This billboard portrays Mary, Jesus’ [Read More...]

Saints in storage: inside Pittsburgh’s warehouses for used religious items

Another sign of the times, from Pittsburgh: warehouses for used tabernacles, statues and religious items: As a seminarian, the Rev. Joseph McCaffrey knelt before a tabernacle in the chapel at Mercy Hospital, where his mother was being treated for a brain tumor, and prayed for her recovery. Later, when he was named pastor of Ss. [Read More...]

Tim Tebow’s gospel of optimism

It’s not everybody’s favorite gospel, particularly in the world of professional sports, but it’s got a lot of people talking and thinking — including Frank Bruni in the New York Times: He genuflects so publicly and frequently that to drop to one knee in the precise way he does has been given its own word, [Read More...]

Meet the “Nones”: “We may not believe in God, but we hope to one day”

Here’s a different take on religion and American culture from someone who professes no faith, but is still searching: For a nation of talkers and self-confessors, we are terrible when it comes to talking about God. The discourse has been co-opted by the True Believers, on one hand, and Angry Atheists on the other. What [Read More...]

Christmas card of the year

The mayor of San Juan, Jorge Santini, is sending the card pictured above to some of his friends. (Mine must have gotten lost in the mail…but it’s popped up in the interwebs). This story in a San Juan paper explains (via Google translator): According to El Nuevo Dia, the image is one of five that [Read More...]

The role of religion in the Civil War: “It was absolutely pervasive”

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, and at least one historian has taken the time to look at religion’s role in the war: “One of the things that surprised me was that there were certain dominant ideas, regardless of particular religious affiliation. Ideas about providence, ideas about sin, [Read More...]

In hard times, a surge in cremations

At the rate things are going, by the end of this decade a majority of Americans will choose cremation. Details: As Toni Kelly battled lymphoma, first with a bone marrow transplant and then with brutal rounds of chemotherapy, she worried obsessively that her four-year struggle would destroy her family’s finances. Her husband, Doug, refused to [Read More...]


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