|The Talpiot ossuaries
(photo from Thomas Verenna's blog,
"There's no such thing as bad publicity," the saying goes, and usually the best way to draw attention to something bad is to tell people not to go anywhere near it—which a large number then go right ahead and do mostly because they heard about it from you first.
With that caution in mind, I pass along a Publishers Weekly item about a new book, The Jesus Discovery: The New Archaeological Find that Reveals the Birth of Christianity by James Tabor and Simcha Jacobovici. PW summarizes: "It argues that evidence from ossuaries (bone boxes) newly excavated from a previously unopened tomb under a Jerusalem condominium—near what has been called 'the Jesus Family Tomb,' first excavated in 1980—revive the possibility they are related to the family of Jesus."
After the book's publication, PW says, "Archaeologists used the blog of the American Schools of Oriental Research to repudiate the new claim. A 2008 book, The Jesus Family Tomb: The Evidence Behind the Discovery No One Wanted to Find by Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino (HarperOne), got a similar reception from scholars. A film on the new discovery is set to air on the Discovery Channel this spring."
Oh, boy. Now first of all, in the interest of full disclosure, I have not read the book. Second, I do realize that scholars are not always right, and every now and then someone with an unconventional theory proves to be actually onto something. But religion is particularly vulnerable to sensational books that argue for wild, sweeping claims based on faulty interpretations of the evidence or discoveries of "new" evidence that "they"—the establishment—don't want you to know about. It's what I call the "aliens must have built the Egyptian pyramids" argument. For me, if the American Schools of Oriental Research, a mainstream professional organization, feels the need to offer itself as a forum to refute the book's claims, I'm going to put my money on them, not the authors. Follow the searches and links on the Talpiot tombs and you'll find lots of very knowledgeable people who have a bunch of issue with these books.
The double problem is that these kinds of books are put out by major publishers—like Simon & Schuster and HarperOne—and thereby have the big promotional budgets that the books and people who can give you really solid information on the subject rarely get. So these books and films and websites get out there, and most people don't have the critical tools to make up their own minds about whether they're being sold a bill of goods. If people took the time and money they would spend on reading something like The Jesus Discovery and used it instead on a good, accessible introduction to biblical archaeology—like the award-winning Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction by Eric H. Cline (Oxford University Press, 2009), also available on Kindle—they and the rest of us would be much better served.
We've talk about actress-turned-contemplative sister Mother Dolores Hart, O.S.B., prioress of the of the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut, in this blog before. A documentary about her journey to religious life was nominated - but alas did not win - an Academy Award. I for one was hoping Tim Gunn was going to interview her on the red carpet and ask her about her dress, but in a way he did.
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|BASILICA of St. Augustine, Annaba, Algeria.|
Pope Benedict XVI has made a personal contribution towards the restoration of the 112-year-old Basilica of St. Augustine in Algeria. The church, located in modern Annaba, overlooks the site of ancient Hippo, where Saint Augustine was bishop. In addition to the pope’s donation, the Papal Foundation has also contributed to the project.
Because authorities in both Algeria and France, as well as a number of institutions, religious orders, and benefactors, are financing the work, Vatican Radio said the restoration is “a symbol of coexistence and fraternity between the two shores of the Mediterranean, between Christians and Muslims, between the West and Islam, between people who seek the truth.”
|PAINTING BY Sister Marjorie Raphael, S.S.M.|
It was also in Haiti, in a convent on the grounds of the Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Port-au-Prince, where Sister Marjorie was living when the 2010 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the country, killing an estimated 300,000 people and destroying or damaging tens of thousands of buildings, including Sister Marjorie’s convent. The sisters have been continuing their work with only one building remaining; the other had to be demolished.
Sister Marjorie has now returned to her community’s motherhouse in Roxbury, Massachusetts. There she will not only resume a longtime personal activity, painting, but will actually have a show at a local gallery. Through February 2012 her exhibit “Under the Skies, Four Seasons," which depicts many of the places where she’s lived or visited, will be at the Helen Bumpus Gallery in Duxbury, south of Boston (where her community is relocating after selling their Roxbury location).
There will be a reception at the gallery this Saturday, January 21, 2012 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Sources: Boston.com and the Sisters of St. Margaret
Though the Vatican Library is one of the world’s oldest—founded in 1475—it’s turning to contemporary digital imaging technology to address an ongoing challenge: preserving manuscripts and codices, some of which predate the invention of the printing press and can be up to 1,800 years old.
|SCANNING manuscripts at the Vatican Library.
Photo: Vatican Library
But there’s a possible catch: Will future computers will be able read the digital images? To solve that problem Ammenti turned to the flexible image transport system (FITS) format, designed by NASA and European space scientists in the 1970s to store images taken by satellites and orbital telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope.
"If you have a tool that can read FITS today, you can read FITS files from 20 years ago," said Pedro Osuna, head of the European Space Agency's scientific archives. "It's always backwards compatible." FITS’ open-source approach stores all instructions about how to read and process the information in a text header at top of the data. That allows FITS files to be read without conversions to different formats that might be incompatible with future computers, even ones built 100 years from now.
|FRANCISCAN SISTER Maureen Dorr and Chef
Alfred Astl with patrons at the Trinity Café
The long hours of the restaurant world, however, began to burn him out, and ten years ago he saw an opening for a weekday lunch-chef position in Tampa, Florida and applied.
His new employer was Trinity Café, which serves 230 free hot lunches out of a Salvation Army facility every weekday, holidays included. “Anyone who comes to our door is welcome—without question or qualification,” the Café’s website says. “We serve free meals to homeless, poor, and anyone wishing to receive a meal.”
Besides a five-star chef in the kitchen, the restaurant has other amenities you might not expect in a place that offers free meals, like the cloth-covered tables set with china dishes and silverware Astl insists on. Volunteer waiters serve the patrons in courses, and every meal includes salad or soup, a healthy portion of protein, a starch, a vegetable, a dessert, and a piece of fruit, all for about $2 a serving. The café's $455,000 annual budget depends on donations and grants.
Astl and two part-time kitchen staff members cook 1,000 meals a week. Since it began, Trinity Café has served more than 717,000 meals.
”It could be very easy to say, OK, we’re feeding homeless people. Who cares?” Astl told Alexandra Zayas of the St. Petersburg Times. “If I ever say that, I’ll quit. . . . Some of these people have problems out there they can’t do anything about. By the time they leave, they’re in a whole different frame of mind.”
At the about the same Chef Astl started at the Café, Franciscan Sister of Allegany Maureen Dorr stopped in to volunteer. She has never left.
For 40 years Sister Maureen worked in education as a teacher and administrator. At the Café she walks the food line and dining room, giving out hugs, advice, and prayers. She can be persuaded to take a turn dancing in the middle of the room. Once a week she visits the jail.
“Saint Francis [of Assisi] taught us about living out the gospel and serving the poor," she told The Tampa Tribune’s Michelle Bearden. "But truth is, I don't minister to them. I minister with them. I firmly believe there are such good people who have had bad opportunities. They show me the way to God as much as I try to show them."
Now 81, Dorr has no plans to stop. "Nuns don't retire," she said. "We just get recycled. As long as God gives you the health, you keep on moving."
Read more about the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany.
|STUDENTS from Creighton University
in service with the Visitation Sisters.
The VIP program, which was successfully launched this fall, is a year-long internship program where participants provide service alongside the Visitation Sisters in North Minneapolis. The sisters have welcomed two young women as the inaugural participants to the VIP Program: Kelly Schumacher, a Minnesota native and graduate of Augustana College in Illinois, and Beth Anne Cooper, a native of New York and graduate of Hope College in Michigan. Both young women are teaching English as Second Language classes to immigrants and refugees, doing advocacy work, working with grade-schoolers on both schoolwork and relationship-building, coaching youth sports, learning more about restorative justice, and planning service-learning for small groups which includes urban immersion experiences.
The sisters are also in the process of launching the new Monastic Immersion Program, offered by the sisters to women desiring an in-depth immersion into the monastic life. Through the Monastic Immersion Program, women have an opportunity to " ‘try on’ monastic customs and values,” said Sister Mary Frances Reis, contact for Visitation’s Monastic Immersion Program. They are invited to live the monastic life with the sisters for a period of six months to a year. Each participant is expected to enter fully into the sisters’ life of prayer, presence, and ministry during her stay. Prospective participants may come from any Christian faith tradition.
For more information about the VIP Program: http://www.visitationmonasteryminneapolis.org/visitation-companions/visitation-internship-program-vip/
For more information about the Monastic Immersion Experience: http://www.visitationmonasteryminneapolis.org/tag/monastic-immersion-experience/
|GIRL SCOUT Troop 2272 outside the Carmel
of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery.
Photo: Celeste Diller; Intermountain Catholic.
|BLESSED Mother Marianne Cope.|
In one the NRVC will develop a conversational tool to enable religious institutes to engage in a deeper exchange about the findings of the landmark 2009 NRVC/CARA study on recent vocations to religious life and their implications for apostolic life with respect to community, visibility, communal prayer, and celebration of Eucharist.
The second project will convene three gatherings for women religious in the eastern, middle, and western regions of the U.S. The purpose of these unprecedented gatherings will be for women religious to study the research regarding recent vocations and discuss and reflect on the combined implications of this information for religious sisters as they work together to increase their membership both individually and collaboratively.
|SISTER FRANCES Evans (left)
and her longtime friend
Sister Maggie Hession
with Nolan Ryan when
he pitched for the Rangers.
Talking about her background, she had a few observations about her vocation. “I was a convert. I worked six years in Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio in the lab. There was something different about the sisters. The only thing I can think is, God just shook me by the neck and said, ‘This is what you’re going to do.’ In 1950 I entered convent in San Antonio, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.”
Did they wear habits back then? “We sure did! We wore habits for a long time.” Could they go to baseball games? “Not back then, you didn’t go much of anywhere. I worked in the hospital most of the time. I don’t think we even had television when I entered.
“I was stationed here in Fort Worth in 1967,” she said. “It was beginning to lighten up a bit here and there. I remember well when they went to the shorter skirts and I walked out of chapel and felt the breeze on my knees. I never knew how good that would feel.”
See another profile of the sisters in the Wall Street Journal.
|MOTHER THERESE Couderc.|
The mission of the Cenacle Sisters is to awaken and deepen faith primarily through retreats, religious education, and other activities. Mother Therese Couderc started it all in 1805 when she turned a hostel for women pilgrims visiting the tomb of Saint John Francis Regis, the great Jesuit missionary, into a "cenacle"—a place of prayer and retreat, said Cenacle Sister Rosemary Duncan, r.c. in a recent newsletter article. The Cenacle Sisters have centers throughout the United States and the world.
By the way, the Chicago Cenacle is having a women's weekend retreat November 4-6 on "The Three Teresas—of Avila, of Lisieux, of Calcutta." For more information contact Sister Rosemary.