A Christmas Mass for the lonely and grieving

The birth of Christ is depicted in stained glass at St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)The homily I heard at Mass this morning touched on, among other things, looking out for people who are feeling lonely or sad this Christmas, perhaps because this is the first Christmas without a loved one. It reminded me of this story I read the other day about a special Christmas liturgy “that the lonely and the grieving can call their own.” Details of the “Blue Christmas” Mass and how it has been adapted for the lonely or grieving are in the National Catholic Reporter.

PHOTO: The birth of Christ is depicted in stained glass at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Harry Forbes interviewed on “Golden Compass” controversy

Harry Forbes (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)If you have been following the controversy over the review of “The Golden Compass” by the U.S. bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting, you’ll likely be interested in reading this story in the Fairfield County Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn. Headlined “Film office under fire for doing its job,” the story interviews director Harry Forbes about the controversial review and its subsequent withdrawal, the difference between “The Golden Compass” and “The Da Vinci Code,” how the office’s review process works, the earlier controversy over the review of “Brokeback Mountain,” and the separate controversy over how New Line Cinema used the “Golden Compass” review in its advertising.

Mary Ann Glendon confirmed by Senate, rumors quashed

Mary Ann Glendon at an April 2007 news conference at the Vatican. (CNS/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)Here in Washington, separating fact from rumor is a major challenge for those of us who are news junkies, and that was especially true in this week’s confirmation of Mary Ann Glendon as the new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

Glendon, of course, is well-known to those of us in the Catholic press who have been following her as a newsmaker. In 1995, she was the first woman named to head a Vatican delegation to a major United Nations’ conference, the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing, and in 2004 she was named president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

A couple weeks after her nomination as ambassador was announced early last month, speculation surfaced that she was being blocked by Republican members of the Senate. The supposed reason: Glendon had been an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who some think is not conservative enough on social issues to deserve the party’s nomination next summer. One magazine’s blog even quoted a “senior Republican Senate aide” as saying the nomination was dead on arrival.

But when it is just one blog post quoting one unnamed source, you never really know how good the source is. But because of the Internet, the story spread.

The rumors were fueled further a couple weeks later by a Robert Novak column saying the nomination was being held up in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The culprit this time? According to Novak, it was Catholics for a Free Choice.

Now it is no surprise that Catholics for a Free Choice, which has been condemned by the U.S. bishops, would be opposed to Glendon. But Novak never said whether the group has enough political clout on Capitol Hill to convince Senate Democrats to take a public stand against Glendon. Even when you are the majority party, you don’t pick every fight that you can, especially when it’s not a Supreme Court nominee or some important Cabinet post.

The fact that Glendon was confirmed with no opposition and with little public attention speaks volumes about the role the Internet plays in the spread of both facts and rumors — and trying to tell the difference. Even after the nomination was approved Wednesday evening, one group was still bemoaning the “fact” that the nomination was on hold.

Even early this morning, another news service’s blog was saying the Bush administration might be getting “cold feet” on the nomination (even though it had been confirmed 36 hours earlier).

I guess the lesson is, it’s always best to check your facts first.

PHOTO: Mary Ann Glendon at an April 2007 news conference at the Vatican. (CNS/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

Searching for funding; small-town eucharistic procession

Two stories I meant to highlight earlier, but they’re still good to read:

Searching for fund-raising ideas? GoodSearch is just a click away, from The Compass in the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., describes an Internet search engine that donates part of its profits to non-profit organizations, including several participating parishes and schools in the Green Bay Diocese.

Catholics take Eucharist to Redmond streets, from the Catholic Sentinel, which serves the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., and the Diocese of Baker, Ore., describes a eucharistic procession in a small Oregon town where there are not many Catholics and how the townspeople reacted.

Navidad (y cocina) Mexicana at the Vatican

The usual pre-dining question in Italy is: pizza or pasta? But at the Vatican yesterday, Italian tradition was nudged aside and officials dined on chicken in mole sauce, tostados, shrimp ceviche, three very festive flavors of margarita and much more.

 To celebrate the 15th anniversary of relaunching full diplomatic relations with the Vatican, Mexico sent over some of its most typical art forms: sculptures, ceramics and food.

Mexican first lady Margarita Zavala Calderon presided over the evening’s festivities in the Vatican audience hall, just a few hours after she officially presented to Pope Benedict XVI the Nativity scene and four huge angels by sculptor Augustin Parra and the tree featuring hand-painted decorations by Jesus Guerrero Santos. (Click here and scroll down to final two paragraphs.) Pope Benedict XVI looks at a Nativity scene brought from Mexico and displayed at his general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 19. (CNS/Dario Pignatelli, Reuters)The Nativity scene and tree — with 415 figures, including baby birds still in their nests — will grace the stage in the audience hall until early February. The four angels will be incorporated into the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square.

The evening’s featured culinary art was entrusted to the care of El Sacromonte, a famous restaurant in Guadalajara.

PHOTO: Pope Benedict XVI looks at a Nativity scene brought from Mexico and displayed at his general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 19. (CNS/Dario Pignatelli, Reuters)

25-year-old Peace Corps volunteer honored at funeral Mass

Here’s a sad story just in from Illinois: Family and friends of Blythe O’Sullivan, a Peace Corps volunteer who died in Suriname earlier this month, gathered this week to honor and celebrate her life at her funeral Mass, according to the Catholic Explorer in the Diocese of Joliet. Among those paying tribute at the Mass was the U.S. ambassador to Suriname, Lisa Bobbie Schreiber-Hughes, who said the 25-year-old O’Sullivan “led a meaningful life of service.”

Thoughts for Christmas

Of course you would expect the Catholic press to celebrate the Christmas season with plenty of excellent reflections. They’re coming in fast and furious now. Some examples:

“12 practical ways to keep Christ in Christmas” in The Catholic Spirit in St. Paul, Minn., delivers some excellent ideas for Christians trying to keep their Christmas celebration on track.

— Also from The Catholic Spirit is “Wal-Mart, Target offer faith-based toys,” which gives parents some ideas for wholesome alternatives to typical Christmas toys.

— Among the bishops writing Christmas columns, Bishop J. Peter Sartain of Joliet, Ill., offers a reflection on how “the Christmas foreshadowing of Jesus’ death adds to our appreciation of the mystery of the Incarnation and the depth of God’s love” in his diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Explorer.