A Spiritual Retreat Is No Vacation; It’s a Journey Within

c. 2007 Religion News Service WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. _ The sky is clouded but promising the first day of my solo retreat at Earth Sanctuary on Whidbey Island. I brush my teeth and dress, ready to go for my early-morning walk. But before I can go, I must feed the four feral cats that live on the grounds.

Merton’s Abbey; Earth Sanctuary

Friday’s RNS report features a look at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Ky., where silence speaks louder than words. Roy Hoffman reports: Like a pale fortress over the scarlet hills, the Abbey of Gethsemani rises at the end of Monk’s Road. Founded in 1848 by French Trappist monks, Gethsemani is now home to about 70 monks who spend their days in work and prayer. It’s also the yearly destination for 4,500 faithful, who stay for short periods in the retreat house, and an equal number of visitors who come to walk the grounds and visit the church and reception center. Visiting Gethsemani, it’s impossible not to think about onetime resident Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk who wrote elegant poetry as well as a spiritual memoir, “The Seven Storey Mountain,” among other books.

Episcopal Mother Church in Georgia Stays…

After some edgy moments (see here http://titusonenine.classicalanglican.net/?p=16979 and here http://titusonenine.classicalanglican.net/?p=16914) tensions between Christ Church in Savannah, Georgia, the diocese’s mother church, and Bishop Henry Louttit seem to have eased a bit. The scrum was over funds and theology. Christ Church had not paid is annual dues; Bishop Louttit seemed to be losing patience. According to a letter from the diocese’s chancellor in November he was thisclose to booting the church’s leadership from ECUSA. Oh, and did I mention Christ Church is a member of the Anglican Communion Network, the conservative ecclesial body set up to counter to ECUSA?

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Catholic Bishops Urge Parishes to Tighten Financial Oversight (RNS) The nation’s 19,000-odd Roman Catholic parishes should tighten internal controls to protect against financial improprieties, according to a committee of experts that advises the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The lay-led committee, which recommended keeping a closer eye on the collection plate and “effective oversight by the bishop,” has been discussing its proposals for a year, said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops’ conference. Eighty-five percent of Catholic dioceses responding to a recent survey experienced embezzlement during the past five years, according to a Villanova University report. Eleven percent reported internal thefts of more than $500,000 each.

Paris vs. Jesus

Quote of the Day: Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi “I believe in the culture war. And you know what? If I have to take a side in the culture war, I’ll take their side. Because if you give me the choice of Paris Hilton or Jesus, I’ll take Jesus.” -Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, talking to The New York Times about her new film, “Friends of God,” about evangelical Christians.

Vatican to Examine Harder Line Towards China

c. 2007 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ The recent consecration of bishops in China without the approval of Pope Benedict XVI is prompting the Vatican to reevaluate its push to restore diplomatic relations with Beijing. Benedict’s top policy makers on China will meet Friday and Saturday (Jan. 19-20), the Vatican confirmed in a statement on Thursday, to take stock of the Holy See’s current policy towards China. The uncertainty underscores Benedict’s struggle to defend church tradition _ such his authority over bishops _ without alienating China’s communist government.

COMMENTARY: Planting and Preserving for Future Generations

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Whether by chance or by choice, the current environmental debate between computer executive Michael S. Dell and Ken Caldeira, an ecological scientist, coincides with the upcoming Jewish New Year of the Trees, Tu B’shevat in Hebrew. It will be celebrated this year on Feb. 3, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat. “Tu” is an acronym for the number 15.

Will Canadian Secularism Spread South of the Border?

c. 2007 Religion News Service VANCOUVER, British Columbia _ In Denys Arcand’s Oscar-winning 2003 film, “The Barbarian Invasions,” an aging priest laments the decline of Christianity in heavily Catholic Quebec. “In 1966,” the priest says, “all the churches emptied out in a few weeks. No one can figure out why.” That scene, said American religious historian Mark Noll, essentially sums up the religious history of Canada. The decline may not have happened quite so rapidly as Arcand’s film suggests.

Defiant Catholics Leave the Church, Keep the Faith

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) She grew up Roman Catholic, but like millions of others, Rebecca Ortelli came to disagree with church teachings on contraception, communion and priestly celibacy, among other things. Many like-minded Catholics drift away from the church or join other denominations. But Ortelli, 57, wanted to maintain both her Catholic identity and her worldview. And she didn’t want to feel one was inconsistent with the other.

Muslims Carry Liquid Memento Home from Mecca

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) It makes perfect sense to carry water to the desert. But why would anyone take the trouble to bring some back? If it is “zamzam” water, the answer is 1,400 years old: Muslims returning from the Hajj pilgrimage value it as a liquid memento from the holy city of Mecca. Once home, they drink it for its curative powers, and give small amounts _ along with dates _ to friends and relatives as a means of celebrating completion of their journey.


RELIGION BEST-SELLERS (Editor’s note: This January list is compiled by Publishers Weekly magazine from data received from general independent bookstores, chain stores and wholesalers within the month of December. Copyright 2007 Publishers Weekly. Distributed by Religion News Service.) HARDCOVER 1. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. (Houghton Mifflin, $27) 2.

Vatican v China; Defiant Catholics; Water from Mecca; Canadian secularism

Vatican correspondent Stacy Meichtry reports in Thursday’s RNS report that the Vatican is considering taking a harder line towards China: The Vatican’s push for dialogue with China is set to go under the microscope Friday (Jan. 19), when a group of the pope’s top advisers will meet to discuss whether the Vatican should take a harder line towards Beijing for repeatedly consecrating bishops without the pope’s approval. The two-day conference, which the Vatican confirmed in a statement on Thursday, underscores the difficulty Pope Benedict XVI faces in restoring formal ties with Beijing that were severed more than a half-century ago. Although relations began to thaw in recent years, especially after Benedict’s election, the push for reconciliation has also intensified a power struggle for control over China’s Roman Catholic clergy. Jeff Diamant reports on defiant Catholics who leave the church, but keep their faith: She grew up Roman Catholic, but like millions of others, Rebecca Ortelli came to disagree with church teachings on contraception, Communion and priestly celibacy, among other things.

Voice of the Faithful at Five

RNS’ Daniel Burke profiles Catholic lay movement Voice of the Faithful, in this week’s full text article. Quote: As VOTF passes the five-year milestone-an accomplishment rare among social movements-it faces crucial questions about the church reform it lobbies for, as well as the younger Catholics and momentum the group will need after the headlines and anger are gone. “I think you have to move from anger to love,” Fox said. “Anger can get people riled up but it’s not sustainable. People get tired of being angry.”

Evangelicals, Scientists Work to Overcome Mutual Suspicion

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ They sat together on Wednesday (Jan. 17) at a long table, a dozen representatives of the scientific and evangelical communities, to declare their joint concern over global climate change. But even more surprising, both groups said at the National Press Club, is that they actually like each other. In announcing their “Urgent Call to Action,” 28 signatories from both sides said they have begun “a major shared effort among scientists and evangelicals to protect life on Earth and the fragile life support systems that sustain it.” But it turned into a literal time of testimony about how their meeting late last year on a Georgia plantation softened their mutual stereotypes _ “Bible-thumping, fire-breathing” evangelicals on the one hand, “latte-sipping, New York Times-reading” elites on the other _ and led to a passionate determination to work together.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Former Salvation Army Leader Named to NAE Post (RNS) The National Association of Evangelicals has chosen a former top official of the Salvation Army to serve as its new executive director. W. Todd Bassett, the former national commander of the Salvation Army, has been a member of the NAE’s Executive Committee for four years. “We’re thrilled to have him do this,” said interim NAE President Leith Anderson, pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn., on Wednesday (Jan. 17).