‘Being a saint just means being who you are’

Want to know the connection between Halloween tonight and All Saints Day tomorrow?

There isn’t much.

But Jesuit Father James Martin will tell you a lot about the saint-making process (and the patron saints of various things) here:

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Relax, it’s almost over

Here’s an election round-up for you:

horseracelarge1.gif* The Pew Research Center says that support for Obama is rising fast among white (non-Hispanic) Catholics — “taking him from a 13-percentage-point deficit in late September to an 8-point lead in late October. ”

* The Pew folks also say that McCain continues to be far ahead with white evangelicals, Obama is soaring with black Protestants and doing well with the religiously unaffiliated, and that white mainline Protestants are just about split.

* The Pew Forum’s John Green, the man on religion and politics, will hold a conference call with reporters to analyze the election at MIDNIGHT on Tuesday (you know, 12 a.m. on Wednesday). That’s dedication.

* Warren Cole Smith, editor and publisher of Evangelical Press News Service, writes that he got an email from Mike Huckabee that asks for $10 for Huck’s PAC in exchange for a “HUCK” bumper sticker. Has ‘ol Huck started his campaign for 2012 because he believes McCain has lost, Smith wonders (Smith thinks that Huckabee has gotten ahead of himself, as McCain lives).

* Beliefnet’s Steven Waldman offers his “Ten Faith Factors for Election Night,” which I’ll list here (for his full analysis, go there):

How Many Obamagelicals Are There?

Will Palin Turn Out the “Religious Right”?

Do Midwestern Evangelicals Split With Their Brethren?

Will Catholics Ignore Their Bishops?

Can Obama Finally Bowl a Strike With Skeptical White Catholics?

Will Whitebread Protestants Back the Black Guy?

Will Latino Protestants Vote Their Values or the Pocketbook?

How Will the Kinda-Sorta Religious Vote?

Will Jews Schlep to Republican Side?

Will the GOP Become the ROP?

Your chance to visit Dunwoodie

Never been to St. Joseph’s Seminary in the Dunwoodie neighborhood of Yonkers but curious about it?

The famous Catholic training ground for (fewer and fewer) priests will hold an open house this Sunday for “the people and parishes” of the archdiocese.

tjndc5-5ipf5e12zxwvbglg6di_layout.jpgIt will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. on All Souls Day.

The afternoon will feature: tours of the main floor led by seminarians; presentations on life at the seminary; tours of the seminary’s 42 acres; and a peak at the papal chair (pictured) used by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI during their stops in Dunwoodie.

Adortion of the Blessed Sacrament will be available all afternoon in the chapel.

And Bishop Gerald Walsh, rector of the seminary, will lead Solemn Evening Prayer at 4 p.m. in the chapel.

Also on hand will be Father Luke Sweeney, director of vocations for the archdiocese, and Father Luis Saldana, assistant director for Hispanic vocations and rector of the St. John Neumann minor seminary.

tjndc5-5ipf5gtkipgw3zxf6di_layout.jpg“This open house is for everyone — young and old, married and single, and for priests who would like to bring people by,” Sweeney tells Catholic New York.

If you’ve never been there, the seminary is a magnificent building. The chapel was just refurbished for Benedict’s visit.

In the main hallway, you can see graduation pictures of each class of priests going back decades. The pictures alone give you a real sense of Catholic history in New York.

A pact with the devil, perhaps?

Want to see one of the classic negative ads?

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina is facing a tough challenge from a Democrat named Kay Hagan.

Apparently, one Hagan fundraiser was hosted by someone who is a board member of a political action committee called the Godless Americans PAC. The Godless Americans PAC — as you can guess from their name — tries to represent the views of those who want the strictest separation of church and state.

Well, a Dole TV ad focuses entirely on the fundraiser.

The ad says that Hagan took “godless money.” Then it asks: “What did Hagan promise in return?”

Woooooooo. Happy Halloween. Here’s the ad:

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Might Benedict XVI freeze sainthood process for Pius XII?

Here’s the latest on the never-ending controversy over Pope Pius XII’s efforts to save the Jews.

Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee, by the way, is quite a respectable fellow (that’s him addressing the pope). I would tend to trust his statement about the meeting:


Associated Press Writers

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ A Jewish leader says Pope Benedict XVI is considering a request to freeze the sainthood process for wartime Pope Pius XII, who critics say did not speak out enough during World War II to save Jews amid Hitler’s extermination campaign.

Rabbi Ravid Rosen says the pope was asked to do so during a meeting Thursday with a Jewish group and the pontiff replied he would give “serious consideration” to the request to wait.

Rosen spoke after the Vatican rejected Jewish groups’ requests to immediately open its secret archives on Pius XII’s papacy during the Holocaust years.

e4cfabb1378545c59fdccff5cde20312.jpgVatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said the requests to see the wartime archives were “understandable,” but added Thursday that it would take another six or seven years to catalog those 16 million documents.

Currently, the archives can be consulted only up through the papacy of Pius XII’s predecessor, Pius XI, which ended in early 1939, a few months before World War II began in Europe.

Pius XII was Pius XI’s secretary of state, as Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli. Some scholars who have examined archive documents dealing with the future Pius XII’s diplomacy say Pacelli was an indecisive diplomat as Nazism and Fascism took hold in parts of Western Europe.

The Vatican says Benedict has been reflecting on documentation gathered by Church officials about Pius XII’s virtues as part of the process toward possible beatification, the last formal step before possible sainthood. Benedict, marking the 50th anniversary recently of Pius’ death, has described him as a great pope who spared no effort to try to save Jews.

Earlier this month, Israeli president Shimon Peres urged the Vatican not to let a contentious reference to Pius XII stop Benedict from visiting the Holy Land sometime. A caption accompanying a photograph at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial alleges the wartime pope did not act to save Jews from the Nazi genocide.

Benedict met Thursday with Rosen and others from the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations. The pontiff called for “sincere dialogue” and called Church condemnation of all forms of anti-Semitism a “significant milestone.”

Neither Benedict nor Rosen in their speeches mentioned the sainthood controversy.

Rosen said Jews were “profoundly grateful for all that the Holy See has said and done in recent times” to combat anti-Semitism and he expressed thanks for Christians who “saved many Jews” during the Holocaust.

“We reiterate our respectful call for full and transparent access of scholars to all archival material from that period, so that assessments regarding actions and policies during this tragic period may have the credibility they deserve,” Rosen said.

The late Pope John Paul II made an official visit to Israel in 2000.

It’s ‘must-cast-out’ TV!

And I was looking for a good spooky post for Halloween…

The Toledo Blade has a story about an exorcist who is getting a “reality” TV show, starting tonight, on the Sci-Fi Channel.

bobpremier2.jpgThe “star” of The Real Exorcist is the Rev. Bob Larson, 63, who apparently has been casting out demons for 25 years.

He appears to be an evangelical exorcist. His website says he is the founding pastor of Spiritual Freedom Churches International, Inc.

The website says:

During his international travels he became interested in occult phenomenon, world religions, and alternative spirituality. He witnessed demonic possession first hand during the many religious rituals that he observed. He wondered whether demonic possession happened back in the United States and God began to show him that it did. People were constantly led to Bob who were demonized, and out of those encounters his ministry of exorcism and deliverance began.

Where does he get his demon-possessed clients?

They were chosen from among hundreds of responses to boblarson.com.

Larson tells the Blade’s David Yonke that he simply goes about his demon-casting business and lets the TV people worry about the rest.

“My job is to do the exorcism — find the demon and get it out,” he said. “Their job was to make it look good for TV.”

The show premieres with four — count ’em, four — one-hour shows tonight, starting at 7 p.m.

Episcopal churches look to strength public education

tjndc5-5jh44wl8lp51a0ej0nyy_layout.jpgEpiscopal Bishop of New York Mark Sisk (left) is holding a conference on public education on Saturday (Nov. 1) at the Cathedral School in NYC (112th and Amsterdam Avenue).

The keynote speaker will be the renowned author and education critic Jonathan Kozol.

Deputy NYC Mayor Dennis Walcott will also speak. The program will run from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The 2007 Diocese of NY convention resolved that “every parish is encouraged to work with its community and youth to develop a partnership with a local public school that can ensure every youth has access to a high-quality education.”

Saturday’s conference will mark the launch of “All Our Children,” a program to encourage churches to strengthen public schools. Nine parishes are part of the pilot program. One of them is Christ Church in Bronxville, which is offering drama, music and dance programs to children from Mount Vernon and Bronxville.

“All Our Children has the potential to change so many lives — in the partner schools and in the parishes,” said Bishop Catherine Roskam, assistant bishop of the diocese.

Who can a ‘good Catholic’ vote for?

What percentage of Roman Catholics do you think would be unlikely to vote for a candidate with whom they agree on all issues — except abortion?

These are the people for whom abortion is the priority.

The answer, according to a new poll of Catholics by Le Moyne College in Syracuse, a Jesuit school, and Zogby International is…22 percent.

The poll also found that 44% of Catholics believe “a good Catholic” could not vote for a pro-choice candidate. But 53% say a good Catholic could vote for a pro-choice candidate.

Dr. Matt Loveland, a Le Moyne sociologist and a key player on the poll, said “In essence, less than a third of Catholic voters appear to vote solely on abortion attitudes, but those who do tend to favor ‘pro-life’ candidates.”

Loveland also says that most Catholics appear to side with Joe the Plumber over their church when it comes to “spreading the wealth” to support the poor. 38% of Catholics agree, somewhat or strongly, that government policies should favor the poorest over those in the middle and upper classes.

58% disagree. 4% undecided.

Oh yeah, the poll also shows Catholics favoring McCain over Obama, 44.7% to 41.9%.

A White Plains rabbi replaces a White Plains rabbi as head of the Rabbinical Assembly

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld of White Plains was chosen today to become the next head of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis.

julie-schonfeld-head-shot2.jpgShe will become the third full-time executive vice president of the RA (and the first woman) on July 1. The group has 1,600 members.

She will succeed Rabbi Joel Meyers, who has led the group since 1989.

Oddly enough, Meyers is also a resident of White Plains. Both he and his successor are members of Temple Israel Center of White Plains.

Schonfeld is a well-known figure in the Rabbinical Assembly, as she has served as its director of rabbinic development since 2001. She’s worked on all aspects of the training and placement of Conservative rabbis. She led a study of female rabbis in 2005 and has worked since then on the career advancement of women clergy.

Schonfeld was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC in 1997. She served at The Society for the Advancement of Judaism in NYC as senior rabbi from 1996 to 2001 and as director of Synagogue Affairs at the American Jewish World Service from 2001 to 2002.

Bob Dylan was no Presbyterian

I love Bob Dylan. Always have.

I’m not one of those guys who tries to analyze the meaning in his songs (although I probably did in college). But I have all his albums and have seen him perform many times.

I started listening him in the mid-1970s, when I was about 14. I was probably aware that he was Jewish, although his Jewishness did not play an overt role on his classic albums that I was devouring at the time.

Then, bang, he became a Christian. It was Big News.

In 1979, he released Slow Train Coming, a hit-you-between-the-eyes Christian album on which Dylan thanked Jesus for taking away his sins, rejoiced at the prospect of a second coming, and warned of what was in store for those who did not believe.

dylanmuseum3.jpgWhat was so striking was the directness of the message. Dylan, after all, was known for lyrics that were anything but direct.

Funny thing was, the album yielded Dylan’s first hit single in some time, “Gotta Serve Somebody.”

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride,
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side,
You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair,
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

In 1980, Dylan released Saved, an all-out Gospel record. The title says it all.

On one song, he sang: “You have laid down Your life for me/What can I do for You?”

In 1981, came Shot of Love, which included only one unmistakable Christian song: “Property of Jesus.”

And then it was over.

Reports had Dylan returning to Judaism. There was extensive media coverage of a visit to the Western Wall.

But as best I can tell, no one really knows what religion Bob Dylan identifies with today (if any) — even though one of the dominant themes on his recent records is mortality.

So I am very intrigued by “Inside Bob Dylan’s Jesus Years,” a new documentary that includes interviews with musicians and others who were around Dylan during the Jesus Years.

A trailer for the film shows fans walking out of his early Jesus-oriented concerts. “He don’t sing nothing like he used to,” one guy complains.

One fellow in the trailer notes that Dylan was rather evangelical at the time: “It’s not like he turned into a Presbyterian or something.”

The movie is being screened on Saturday (Nov. 1) at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, 2 West 64th St. in New York City, at 7:30 p.m. Admission is Free.

Regina McCrary, who sang on Slow Train Coming and toured with Dylan during the Jesus Years, will perform.

And there will be a panel discussion featuring McCrary, bass player Rob Stoner (who played with Dylan then), and Mitch Glaser, a founding member of…Jews for Jesus and president of Chosen People Ministries, a group that evangelizes Jews.

In the trailer, Jerry Wexler, the famed Atlantic Records producer who died this past August, says this about working with Dylan on the Slow Train Coming record: “I had no idea it was going to be wall-to-wall Jesus.”