Monks and Christmas trees: More than just a business

To kick off your Christmas season, St. Anthony Messenger magazine offers a feature on a group of monks near Chicago who have run a Christmas tree farm for almost 40 years. The article says selling Christmas trees “is more than just a business.”

Double standard in coverage of sex abuse?

This fall’s Associated Press stories about sex abuse in the public schools have been called a wake-up call for the nation, but now the National Catholic Register is wondering if the news media are being unfair by not giving the same attention to the AP stories that they did to the priest abuse problem over the past five years.

This week in Origins

Here’s the rundown for the latest edition of Origins: CNS Documentary Service dated Dec. 6:

  • Muslim scholars have proposed that love of God and neighbor be the basis for a dialogue with Christians. Key to the outcome of such a dialogue, says the Vatican’s U.N. ambassador, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, is whether the understanding of these terms leads to recognition of the human dignity of every person. (Subscribers: Click here)
  • Contemporary society’s failure to give questions of meaning their proper weight has led to a false conflict between religion and the secular, says Irish Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick. He says the real conflict is between searchers of deeper meaning and those who believe human life has no meaning beyond what can be measured, analyzed and scientifically proven, and it puts at risk the health of secular society. (Subscribers: Click here)
  • In a letter to teenagers, the U.S. bishops describe the challenge of being a disciple. (Subscribers: Click here)
  • The Maryland Catholic Conference notes that tensions and confusions have followed the movement of the national immigration debate into neighborhoods, schools, churches and homes. It urges Catholics to join in honest, respectful and prayerful discussion of their concerns — and to see in each other the face of Christ. (Subscribers: Click here)

People need God to have hope, pope says in new encyclical

Click here for our main story on the pope’s new encyclical.

USCCB reviews “The Golden Compass”

The much-awaited movie review of “The Golden Compass” has been completed by the USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting. It gets an A-II — adults and adolescents. An excerpt from the review:

Most moviegoers with no foreknowledge of the books or Pullman’s personal belief system will scarcely be aware of religious connotations, and can approach the movie as a pure fantasy-adventure. This is not the blatant real-world anti-Catholicism of, say, the recent “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” or “The Da Vinci Code.” Religious elements, as such, are practically nil.

Read the full review here.

‘Stop the presses! My former editor is now a cardinal’

That’s the great headline on one more tribute to newly elevated Cardinal John P. Foley, this time from Bob Zyskowski, associate publisher of The Catholic Spirit in St. Paul, Minn. (Pardon us for dwelling on Cardinal Foley stories this week, but we think he merits it. And if you’re a new visitor here, make sure you check out our other posts on him here, here, herehere and here.)

Bob, current president of the Catholic Press Association, was in Rome last weekend for the consistory, so his article for this week’s Spirit combines reporting from the event and his own tributes to and reminiscences of Cardinal Foley. Some excerpts:

He was just plain ol’ Father Foley when he served as editor of The Catholic Standard and Times, the diocesan newspaper in his hometown of Philadelphia. I was less than a year out of college when he hired me as his news and sports editor in 1974.

He was the kind of boss who, were he in our archdiocese today, would be a hands-down winner of The Catholic Spirit’s Leading With Faith Award. Demanding yet fair, one who went the extra mile for his staff, he set the bar high and drew out until-then-unknown gifts in people.


Father Foley didn’t know a cardinal of the church from a St. Louis Cardinal, and that brought about an interesting exchange at a reception one night.

Philadelphia’s Cardinal John Krol was being feted for one reason or another, and baseball legend Stan Musial was in attendance. Musial was retired by then, but doing promotional work for the St. Louis Cardinals and wore his usual cardinal red sport coat.

When Foley was introduced to Stan the Man, he had no idea who Musial was, so he commented how appropriate it was for Mr. Musial to honor Cardinal Krol by wearing cardinal red. Musial said he always wore cardinal red. Foley looked puzzled, and, well, you can see where this was going.


He’s always been a cheerleader for good journalism in Catholic publications, keeping up a mantra that no one should fear the truth, not even church officials. He teaches that Catholic newspapers need to cover all the events in the life of the church – the good and the bad – but must do so with charity.

That’s something he says is the unique gift of the Catholic press, as opposed to what the secular media sometimes do with news about the church. He’s fond of using an analogy of an airplane flight when describing the difference in operations:

“The secular press covers the crashes; we cover the landings.”


A sense of humor has always been Cardinal Foley’s gift, and he’ll jump into a conversation on an elevator and fill the car with puns.

At the press conference after receiving the red hat, the new cardinal described his elevation as “a great honor not just to me personally but to the Catholic press and to the whole church in the United States.”

Then he added: “It is nice to be canonized without the inconvenience of dying!”

Make sure you read Bob’s full article here, including how highly one Vatican official thinks of Cardinal Foley and how his now-famous role at the pope’s Christmas Midnight Masses will continue.

Catholics mark World AIDS Day

This Saturday is World AIDS Day, and in Portland, Ore., the Catholic Sentinel has a story about two University of Portland nursing students who are on a mission is to raise awareness of the disease. The story notes that the students, Kelli Newcom and Mikayla Farnum, attended a national Catholic conference on AIDS last summer with a scholarship from Catholic Relief Services.

Speaking of CRS, the agency also is marking World AIDS Day with a special Web site. It also produced this video highlighting community-based HIV projects in Zambia.

A Catholic college quiz (and more fun with puns)

Quick quiz: Name the Catholic college that is about to add an air traffic controller degree program to its academic offerings. The answer is right here. (Hint: It’s near O’Hare.)

(Pun warning: Headline says “air traffic training program set for takeoff”; story says “the program takes flight in the fall.” Cardinal Foley, are you listening?)<!– end –><!– start –>

Cardinal Foley takes possession of a piece of history

Cardinal John P. Foley celebrates Mass at the Church of St. Sebastian on the Palatine in Rome Nov. 27. The church was symbolically placed under his care as part of his elevation to cardinal. A titular church in Rome is designated for each new cardinal. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)It was standing room only on Rome’s Palatine Hill when Cardinal John P. Foley took possession of his “titular” church Tuesday evening. Every new cardinal gets one, to underline their new connection with the Diocese of Rome.

The Church of St. Sebastian stands on a historical piece of real estate, next to the ruins of imperial residences and just a stone’s throw from the Colosseum. But it’s tiny, and the mostly Philadelphia crowd that packed the pews may have had less leg room than on their flight back home the next day.

The church was built on the spot where, according to tradition, St. Sebastian was beaten to death by the Roman emperor’s soldiers and his body thrown into a sewer. Earlier, the saint had been shot full of arrows by imperial archers — an event depicted in hundreds of paintings – but was nursed back to health by a Christian widow.

Cardinal Foley spoke movingly about St. Sebastian and the meaning of martyrdom in the modern age. Then, in typical fashion, he lightened things up a little.

The cardinal recalled celebrating Mass for the Swiss Guards, one of whose patron saints is St. Sebastian. He told the guards they had an important role as the Vatican’s point of contact with visitors. They should always respond kindly, he said, even though it could be tiresome to answer the same questions over and over, including some that seem rather obvious, like: Where is St. Peter’s Basilica?

Cardinal Foley said he knew how they felt. He recalled standing in St. Peter’s Square one day when a woman approached him, asking where the Sistine Chapel was. The cardinal pointed to a roofline and told her that to reach it she had to walk all around the Vatican walls.

“But this is worth seeing,” he said, pointing to the basilica.

“It’s not on my list,” she said, and walked away.

Such questions, the cardinal concluded, are “like St. Sebastian’s arrows — annoying but not fatal.”

PHOTO: Cardinal John P. Foley celebrates Mass at the Church of St. Sebastian on the Palatine in Rome Nov. 27. The church was symbolically placed under his care as part of his elevation to cardinal. A titular church in Rome is designated for each new cardinal. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

More on the cardinal and the camel

Yesterday, dotCommonweal had a nice post on last weekend’s consistory, including a link to our earlier piece on Cardinal John Foley, which recounted the story when the young priest-editor took a photo of his boss, Cardinal John Krol, astride a camel in Egypt. It should have been no surprise that the first question the post generated was, “Does anybody have the picture?” 

Rocco over at Whispers posted one version last night, but here’s an even better version from the CNS files:

And here’s the caption that ran with it:

HE’D WALK A MILE … — Who’s that behind the sunglasses astride a mighty “ship of the desert?” Why it’s John of Philadelphia… Pa., that is. He’s better known as Cardinal John Krol, who has fun trying a native means of transportation during a break in his trip to the land of the pyramids and other places in the Mideast. (NC photo by Father John Foley) (8/8/75)

(For those of you too young to remember, we used to be known as National Catholic News Service, or NC News, until we changed the name to CNS in 1989.)


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