“Would you kill someone for a flat panel HDTV at half price?”

That was the lede sentence in a commentary in Our Sunday Visitor by Greg Erlandson. Headlined “Advent on the Precipice,” Erlandson recalls the “Black Friday” death of a Wal-Mart employee trampled by onrushing bargain-hunters and notes the importance of getting beyond the consumerist mentality of the season — especially at a time when the economy is in a freefall — and focusing on what’s at stake for us this month spiritually.

Also writing on the same theme was Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., in his diocesan newspaper, The Beacon. The headline on his column: “Advent: Black Friday Turned Inside Out.”

Update: Another reminiscence on Chicago school fire

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, one of the four “Chicago guys” we wrote about in this blog last week, also wrote a column in The Georgia Bulletin in Atlanta of his own memories of the Our Lady of the Angels fire in Chicago 50 years ago last week — he was in sixth grade at a different Chicago school at the time — that took the lives of nearly 100 members of the school community.

“It was an unthinkable catastrophe, which broke hearts far and wide beyond that parish, community and diocese,” he writes. “Its repercussions ushered in an extensive and much needed obligatory reform of school safety standards and practices across our nation.” Read the full column here.

Word to Life: Hearing God’s voice in unexpected places

More Word to Life columns.

(Dec. 7, Second Sunday of Advent)

Cycle B. Readings:

1) Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11

Psalm 85:9-14

2) 2 Peter 3:8-14

Gospel: Mark 1:1-8

- – -

1-2).

"The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. ... Behold I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way" (Mark 1:1-2).

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

Paul was 70 years old before he heard the voice crying out in the wilderness.

He had been a good Catholic his entire life, attending Mass regularly. He was a loving, dedicated husband and father and a successful business executive. Then, one night shortly into his retirement, Paul heard the voice crying out, first in a dream.

It was so real to him that he listened. But the idea of such a dream was so irrational and unfamiliar that he was embarrassed to recount it to anyone. However, the dream recurred — several times — and he felt compelled to tell his wife Chris.

“I dreamed I was building a school. In Guatemala!” he said incredulously (he’d never been to Guatemala). It seemed a little strange to her, too, to be talking about this dream. But it struck her as significant.

Then the two of them together heard the voice crying out, this time at church in the person of a visiting Haitian pastor. He wanted to build a school in a remote village in his country.

Recognizing the voice, the couple committed themselves to helping their parish fund construction of the school. A few months later Chris became terminally ill and her final, urgent wish was to ensure that the school would be built. They donated the amount needed.

After Chris’s death, Paul, fluent in French, and the Haitian pastor became close personal friends and Paul became deeply involved in the life and development of his Haitian community.

Peter’s words in this weekend’s readings tell us that God doesn’t mind that it took Paul 70 years to get to this place: “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day,” he says.

What happened was Paul and Chris made straight the paths of the Lord to enter the life of a Haitian village. Unexpectedly, but just as powerfully, the paths also led to the transformation of their own life with Jesus.

This story was foretold in Isaiah. “A voice cries out … the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all people shall see it together … here is his reward with him.”

Paul and Chris listened to the voice, opened the path and the Savior came.

QUESTIONS:

What obstacles in your life might keep you from hearing God’s voice in an unexpected place? How can you clear the way for Christ to be present in your day-to-day living?

Late AP reporter’s love for his Catholic faith

Retired AP reporter Hugh Mulligan, a Catholic who once considered the priesthood but chose journalism as his vocation, died recently from pancreatic cancer. He was 83. He was “a legendary storyteller” with a “wit as penetrating as his humor was revealing,” said Tom Curley, president of AP,  in an AP story about Mulligan’s Nov. 26 death. “He will be missed immensely.”

According to AP, Mulligan could find a story “in almost anything” he came across. He traveled the world  — 146 countries — and his assignments covered the gamut. But colleagues recalled that one of his favorite assignments was traveling with Pope John Paul II, and they joked how he seemed to somehow always manage to mention the Catholic Church in his stories. He worked for AP for 49 years, retiring in 2000.

A funeral Mass was celebrated for him Dec. 2 at St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Ridgefield, Conn. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Brigid (Murphy) Mulligan. The couple married in 1948 at her parish in Armagh, Northern Ireland.

Another voice weighs in on FOCA

Last week we had a blog item and a news story on the chances — or lack thereof — that the next Congress would approve, and President-elect Obama would sign, the proposed Freedom of Choice Act, which would further loosen restrictions on abortion in the United States.

Today, veteran Catholic journalist and Washington observer Russell Shaw posted his own take on the blog site of Our Sunday Visitor. Shaw’s bottom line: dangerous bills must be vigorously opposed.

Four ‘Chicago guys’ mark 25 years as bishops

As The Georgia Bulletin in Atlanta notes in its latest edition:

There’s no place like home, and when you can’t live there perhaps the next best thing may be sharing memories of it with friends.

A cherished camaraderie has formed over the years for the four “Chicago guys” ordained auxiliary bishops together on Dec. 13, 1983. It continues even after they were sent by the church to serve in diverse places.

Two of the four are now prominent archbishops: Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta and Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland, Ore. The other two are Bishop Placido Rodriguez of Lubbock, Texas, and now-retired Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Timothy J. Lyne.

O Christmas tree…

Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square

A 108-foot Christmas tree being erected in St. Peter's Square (CNS photo by Carol Glatz)

VATICAN CITY — If you thought maneuvering your freshly cut Christmas tree from the car roof to the tree stand in the living room was a feat only for the bold and brawny, well, the Vatican has you beat.

Half of St. Peter’s Square was cordoned off Friday morning as huge flat-bed trucks, cranes and Vatican workers strained to put up this year’s Christmas tree.

This year’s donated tree was cut from the forests near the town of Gutenstein in eastern Austria.

The tree is 120 years old and its felling was part of the region’s regulated forestry program aimed at thinning selected trees to make way for new growth.

With the help of a large crane, Vatican workers carefully raised the 108-foot spruce fir off a flatbed truck and spent at least a couple hours trimming the base and rotating the tree to get it to sit straight in a special stand in the middle of the square.

Tree 2008

Vatican workers fitting the tree into a special stand (CNS photo by Carol Glatz)

With the tree now snug in the square, workers will spend the next couple of days decorating it with lights and more than 2,000 ornaments. Its tip will be crowned with a large star.

Next Friday the pope will meet the Austrian delegation that donated the tree. The official tree lighting ceremony will be on Saturday and entertainment will be provided by an Austrian band and children’s choir.

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