Merry Christmas from The Bench!

If you somehow slipped off my mailing list this year…do me a favor and just pretend you got this in the mail. Merry Christmas!¬† ūüėÄ [Read more…]

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Homily for December 23, 2012: 4th Sunday of Advent

[Click here for readings] A few weeks ago, I saw an ad on the subway for Cole Haan shoes that was a little out of the ordinary: there were no shoes, no pictures of people wearing shoes.¬† There was just a phrase, printed on a dark background.¬† It said: ‚ÄúNo great story starts with: ‚ÄėIt [Read More…]

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Is Sunday shopping a sin? ‚ÄĒUPDATED

Some in Italy are saying so, and there is a move afoot in parts of Europe to keep Sundays sacred: The Roman Catholic Church, trade unions and small business associations have joined forces in a bid to save Sundays. In a bid to spur economic growth, outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti backed a new [Read More…]

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Is Santa missing from your mall?

Turns out, he isn’t quite as ubiquitous as he used to be. Details, from TIME: Throughout North America, most shopping centers are proceeding with the traditions of the season, including regular appearances of Santa, complete with the chance for kids to sit on his lap, tell him what they want, and get a picture taken‚ÄĒso [Read More…]

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“The Motherhood”: a rap for moms

After this, I guess a rap for mommies was inevitable. But it’s pretty funny — and the British accent just adds a little, I dunno, class. This is an ad for a new car by Fiat. [Read more…]

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Has fiction lost its faith?

That’s the provocative and sobering question that headlines this essay by Paul Elie in the New York Times Book Review this weekend: If any patch of our culture can be said to be post-Christian, it is literature. Half a century after Flannery O‚ÄôConnor, Walker Percy, Reynolds Price and John Updike presented themselves as novelists with [Read More…]

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Bishops favor “reasonable restrictions” on guns‚ÄĒUPDATED

From Catholic News Service:¬† As momentum builds to implement new limits on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, the Catholic bishops of the United States remain focused on seeking “reasonable restrictions” on gun ownership without infringing upon Second Amendment rights. “The bishops continue to support measures that control the sale and use of firearms and [Read More…]

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Haiti’s hope: two years after quake, plans for new cathedral

Details: The winner of the design competition for the new Cath√©drale Notre Dame de l‚ÄôAssomption in Port-au-Prince, Haiti was¬†unveiled today. The winning design was selected from among 134 entrants who submitted proposals for the replacement the former cathedral, which was destroyed in the 2012 Haiti earthquake. Segundo Cardona and a team of six other architects [Read More…]

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Shared grief: the Amish and the parents of Newtown

The horrific story of the Amish shooting in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania in 2006 was on my mind this week.¬† The people of Nickel Mines understand, perhaps better than anyone, what the families are facing in Newtown.¬† I remembered that the Amish responded to their grief with astonishing grace and mercy‚ÄĒreaching out to forgive what would [Read More…]

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Pray for this priest…

You’ve seen his picture, the young man in the middle shown here, next to Newtown’s Msgr. Weiss.¬† Now, hear his story: (H/T Mark Shea and Tom Crowe) The following comes from the priest’s sister: My friends, All of you, I am sure, have heard so much about the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Many of you [Read More…]

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How Charles Dickens saved Christmas

The story behind the most famous Christmas story since the Nativity, from the Capitol Hill Times: When Charles Dickens wrote ‚ÄúA Christmas Carol‚ÄĚ in 1842, the holiday was nearly dead in modern England. Christmas was celebrated by the rural and poor, but frowned upon by employers. It took an American, Washington Irving, to praise Christmas [Read More…]

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Catholics take over America

Trivia buffs, take note: If Senator John Kerry is nominated and confirmed to be Secretary of State, the four offices in line of succession to the presidency will all be held by Catholics: Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker John Boehner, Senator Leahy, and Secretary Kerry. Dave Gibson has more context, too, at dotCommonweal. [Read more…]

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Shock: Arkansas seminarian killed in car accident

This is heartbreaking news, just before Christmas, from the Arkansas Catholic: First-year seminarian Daniel Phillips was killed in a car wreck Dec. 18 near Danville. Son of John and Catherine Phillips, he graduated from high school in May and entered Holy Trinity Seminary near Dallas in August. He was 19. He attended Our Lady of [Read More…]

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How many deacons can say they’re married to a Supreme Court judge?

Next year, God willing, there will be at least one who can. An Indiana deacon dropped me the following e-mail: I thought you¬†might¬†be interested¬†to¬†know that on Friday the 28th, the wife of a deacon in formation in the Lafayette-in-Indiana¬†diocese will be¬†formally¬†elevated to the Indiana Supreme Court. (She actually took the oath of office in November [Read More…]

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“When you’re worried, and you can’t sleep…”

…count your blessings, instead of sheep…” Herewith, one of my favorite songs for the holidays‚ÄĒwhich really isn’t a Christmas carol, or a hymn, and it doesn’t even mention the season.¬† But it never fails to strike a chord and say to me, “Christmas.” It comes, of course, from the 1954 film “White Christmas,” which they’ve [Read More…]

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Guess who else is facing a vocation shortage?

Buddhists: BAAN PA CHI, Thailand ‚ÄĒ The monks of this northern Thai village no longer perform one of the defining rituals of Buddhism, the early-morning walk through the community to collect food. Instead, the temple‚Äôs abbot dials a local restaurant and has takeout delivered. ‚ÄúMost of the time, I stay inside,‚ÄĚ said the abbot, Phra [Read More…]

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Report: Obamacare could drive religious order out of the U.S.

Details, from the Daily Caller:¬† A religious order of nuns is concerned about its future presence in the United States because of Obamacare‚Äôs impact on its charitable operations. The Little Sisters of the Poor told The Daily Caller that it may not qualify for a long-term exemption from Obamacare‚Äôs healthcare mandate. The law requires the [Read More…]

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A novel idea for Christmas

How kids at one Catholic high school in Bloomington, Illinois are learning‚ÄĒand giving: Connor Sheehan, a high school student writing a children‚Äôs book, could picture himself as the next Dr. Seuss. Sheehan, 16, is becoming an author and illustrator as part of his Central Catholic High School sophomore English class. His assignment: to write a [Read More…]

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