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Archive for March 24th 2010

In an interview recorded at the 2010 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, Richard Gaillardetz examines the successes and the still yet unrealized goals of the Second Vatican Council. Should Catholics today focus anew on implementing the Council's vision, or instead turn outward to evangelize the culture? Or perhaps, fifty years after Vatican II, is a followup council needed to address the questions--like the role of lay ministers and women in the church--not taken up by the Council fathers?

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Andrew Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University, discusses the guiding illusions at the heart of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan. The U.S. commitment to secular modernity, in particular, is at odds with an Islamic culture that is infused with religion at every level. American do-goodism is not enough to win in Afghanistan, Bacevich argues, and may even exacerbate anti-American sentiment. 

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Newsweek's Lisa Miller talks about her new book Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife. The idea of heaven comes from the Jewish tradition, Miller explains, but was embroidered later by Christians and Muslims, who have at various times imagined heaven as a place where one is reunited with friends and family, and a venue for sensual pleasures unavailable in this mortal life. While researching her book, Miller spoke with Trappist monks and scholars of religion, among many others, about the otherworldly place Emily Dickinson called "what I cannot reach."

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In the third installment of America's Book Club, Kevin Spinale, S.J., and Tim Reidy consider Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin, a novel about beauty, grace and coincidence set in Manhattan in 1974. Built around Philip Petit's famous tight-rope walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, McCann's novel is told from a multitude of perspectives, tracing the lives of characters as diverse as a traveling Irish mendicant and a prostitute working the streets of the Bronx. In McCann's world, drug addicts and pimps are worthy of attention, and beauty can be found in the most unlikely of places. Winner of the 2009 National Book Award, Let the Great World Spin is an elegant tapestry of a novel, one that America's reviewer recommends reading twice.

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