September 27, 2015

When Pope Francis arrived in Washington, D.C., last week, the level of civil discourse in the U.S. was reaching an egregious new low. At the forefront of today’s bash-your-enemies-and-while-you’re-at-it-dis-your-friends communication style — of course — was the vitriol-spewing presidential hopeful Donald Trump. Francis and Donald — the two men couldn’t be more different. And I’m not talking about their politics or their theology. I’m talking about the way they talk to (and about) their fellow human beings. Some examples: Donald on Sen. John McCain: “He’s… Read more

September 22, 2015

I encountered dozens of Americans of every stripe in the course of researching my book, “Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt  and Faith”– from atheist to Zoroastian, from fundamentalist Christian to progressive Muslim. Sadly, I couldn’t squeeze everyone I talked to into the book. Much of their wisdom now languishes in a file cabinet, reproaching me from the far side of my writing room. Tori Isner’s is just one of those stories. An Army vet and a grandmother, Tori is an adopted Lakota… Read more

September 15, 2015

By Barbara Falconer Newhall For three days – the entire train trip – the cattle car doors had been kept sealed. Several people had died, and there had been no way to remove their bodies. But, now, at last, the doors opened and a ramp was placed at the door. Ernie Hollander watched his mother walk down the ramp ahead of him. She held Ernie’s (more…) Read more

September 8, 2015

No doubt about it. Pope Francis is a charmer. In the years since his election in March, 2013, the breath of fresh air that is Francis has caught the imagination of people all over the world — Catholic and otherwise. I too had been feeling the warm and fuzzy Francis effect — until a couple of weeks ago, that is, when I got a first-hand look at the Catholic hierarchy, in the flesh. It was pretty much male flesh. The occasion… Read more

September 1, 2015

Some temporary art installations deserve to be temporary. The graceless light projections of Danish artist Asbjoern Skou are a good example. So is the half-submerged red sedan in the rhino exhibit at the Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna. Ditto the wind-battered half-mile of plastic trash bags that a white-booted woman named Sheri strung across Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for Burning Man one year. For me, some temporary art installations are just plain annoying. Sometimes it’s because the rationale behind the art work is way too rational for my taste. Skou, as an example, describes his… Read more

August 25, 2015

By Barbara Falconer Newhall My brothers had charged me with planning the memorial service for my mother. I was a religion writer, after all, and of the three of us the only churchgoer. After my father died, my mother had returned to the Catholic church of her girlhood, so we made plans to hold a memorial mass at the tiny St. Vincent Catholic Church in Pentwater, Michigan, where she had spent summers as a child. The priest sent along a copy of… Read more

August 18, 2015

Some say that the Mass is at the heart of Catholicism. Others might say it’s getting those sins dispatched through regular visits to the confessional. Some just plain love the Blessed Virgin and wouldn’t dream of trading their Hail Marys for evangelical praise songs. For a man that Pope Francis recently appointed auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles — the Rev. Robert Barron — the central truth of all Christianity is the Incarnation. It’s the shocking notion that God, the Creator and Ground… Read more

August 11, 2015

My Aunt Grace was a businesswoman who took care of business. So when she died two years ago, no one in the family was surprised to learn that she had planned her interment down to the last detail. Every detail, that is, but what was to be said at her graveside. My aunt was Jewish. She had converted to Judaism when she married Eph. Most everyone else in her family – what was left of her family, that is (for she was… Read more

August 4, 2015

By Barbara Falconer Newhall It’s my garden, but I’m not the gardener. I don’t plant. I don’t weed. I don’t water. And I certainly don’t make anything grow or blossom. I leave that to God, Jillian the gardener, and a punctual automatic sprinkling system. But it is my garden. It’s my special place. It’s planted with the pinks and purples, the soft yellows and splashes of burnt orange that are my personal palette. It has the blousy, unkempt look that  I like, punctuated… Read more

July 28, 2015

I ducked in and out of churches all over Europe last month — up the Danube and down the Rhine — hoping to get some nice photos of the biblical Jesus in action: Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Jesus preparing a breakfast of fish for his disciples on the shores of the Sea of Tiberius. Jesus welcoming the little children to his side. Jesus calling Lazarus back to life. Stained glass windows, marble sculptures, paintings, murals, wood carvings… Read more

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