‘Retired judge makes his own black history’

For Black History Month, the Catholic Explorer in the Diocese of Joliet, Ill., interviewed a retired county court judge who says he leaned heavily on his faith in his 15 years on the bench. Raymond Bolden, who asked the Holy Spirit to walk with him to the courtroom, told the paper about growing up with baseball legends Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks as heroes who showed him the heights to which a young black could aspire.

Is this ‘The Year of Benedict’?

Will 2008 be the year of Barack Obama? Or perhaps, for entirely negative reasons, it will be the year of Roger Clemens. Or, how about Benedict XVI?

You might expect that a Catholic newspaper would choose the pope, but you might be impressed at how the National Catholic Register comes to that conclusion. In an editorial in the current edition, the paper says that people may underestimate the impact of Pope Benedict’s visit to America in the same way that they underestimated the impact of Pope John Paul II’s trip to Toronto in 2002. “When Pope John Paul II visited Toronto in 2002, the media made the mistake of expecting the visit to be no big deal. How wrong they were,” it says.

Bethlehem ‘Milk Grotto’ article touches readers

Local resident Hilda Berkley prays near a painting of Mary breast-feeding the infant Jesus at the Milk Grotto chapel in Bethlehem, West Bank, Dec. 5. (CNS/Debbie Hill)Writing about Bethlehem’s Milk Grotto, where Mary is said to have nursed Jesus as they fled to Egypt, sounded like a nice Christmas feature story.

The grounds had been renovated, the grotto was small and intimate and there were signs of centuries of faithful devotion by women unable to have children scratching away at the cave walls to take home some of the miraculous “milk powder.” They, like many women today, believed this powder combined with faithful prayer would bless them with a baby.

I like writing these types of feel-good stories, since often the news coming out of this region is mainly of bloodshed and an increasing struggle.

What I had not been prepared for was how this article would personally touch so many Catholic News Service readers. My editors in Washington received a slew of inquiries about how to obtain the milk powder, asking why no contact details had been posted.

The answer is simple: The milk powder can be obtained only in person. Franciscan Brother Lawrence, who oversees the shrine for the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, realized early on that if the milk powder were to be available through mail order or via the Internet, he would be inundated with requests impossible to fill.

I knew that for most of the women who contacted CNS, coming to Bethlehem was out of the question. But many women with strong faith believed in the power of the milk powder combined with the intercession of Mary.

Brother Lawrence was not surprised to see me again about a month ago when I came to buy packets of the powder for the women.

Just this morning one of the women e-mailed me to let me know she had received the packet I sent her. All of the women’s gratitude upon receiving the powder was quite overwhelming for me. I had never imagined the impact the article would have, or the role I could play in boosting these women’s hopes.

PHOTO: Local resident Hilda Berkley prays near a painting of Mary breast-feeding the infant Jesus at the Milk Grotto chapel in Bethlehem, West Bank, Dec. 5. (CNS/Debbie Hill)

‘Why we defend the guilty’

Ron Yengitch defends criminals for a living because the law says everyone deserves a strong defense, according to the Intermountain Catholic in Salt Lake City. Read this story of a Catholic who applies his faith to his work as a defense attorney and find out why his favorite Scripture story is about the woman caught in sin.

More to ‘pay it forward’ for Lent

The “Pay It Forward for Lent” contest of The Catholic Spirit in St. Paul, Minn., (previous posts are here and here) just keeps growing. Click here for the latest update.

Two rosary-makers, two different stories

The Catholic Courier in Rochester, N.Y., has a story of two people of different ages in the diocese who, as the story says, “share a common passion: making and giving away rosaries.” Frank Pettrone has been making rosaries for nearly a decade and is the first to use each of his creations. And 16-year-old Gretchen Smith organized a Girl Scout project to make and give rosaries to soldiers deploying overseas.

An unexpected highlight of a trip to Lourdes

The grotto of the Sanctuaries of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes, France. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)When visual media manager Nancy Wiechec and I went to Lourdes, France, to illustrate how pilgrims celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions, we never expected to be touched by a young woman who communicated with her smile and her hands.

Sick people come to Lourdes to be healed. But this woman came to help.

Although she was deaf, the 45 people on our pilgrimage found ways to communicate with her: To ask her if she slept well, if she was enjoying the meals we were served — nearly all of which incorporated some form of pork — and to thank her for tirelessly pushing the wheelchairs that some of the pilgrims needed.

We attempted to speak with our hands — surely not saying anything in correct American sign language — but we entertained ourselves and probably entertained her with our goofy signing. We also used paper and pen to have more detailed discussions.

On the last night of the trip, we were asked to discuss significant moments of the trip for us. Several of the pilgrims said meeting this young woman was the highlight. Clapping our hands, we applauded her until finally sometime taught us how to applaud in sign language by raising our arms and twitching our hands so she could understand.

PHOTO: The grotto of the Sanctuaries of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes, France. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)