A broad spectrum of Canadian churches have published election guides for voters heading to the polls on May 2. Both the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities have published guides. Human beings can’t choose to be political. We’re born that way. Politics is how we act together and human beings are fundamentally social.

“The political community and public authority are based on human nature,” said the Second Vatican Council in its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes). “And therefore they need belong to an order established by God. Nevertheless, the choice of the political regime and the appointment of rulers are left to the free decision of the citizens.”

Those free decisions are supposed to bring us closer to justice, according to Pope Benedict XVI.

“Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics,” the Pope wrote in the 2005 encyclical Deus Caritas Est. “Politics is more than a mere mechanism for defining the rules of public life. Its origin and its goal are found in justice.”

Dorothy Pilarski: Coincidence, 35 tons of sardines and a blessing and grace

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A bishop once told me there are no coincidences and what people call coincidence is really just God’s providence unfolding before our eyes. So what happened to me on a recent family vacation to Los Angeles can only be described as providence.

We were scheduled to depart just days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami struck Japan. So I was nervous. The Internet was little comfort. If California’s tsunami warnings weren’t enough, the eight-foot waves that caused millions of dollars in damage to Crescent City Harbour and the 35 tons of sardines that washed up on California’s Redondo Beach seemed to affirm a fear that the West Coast was no place for a mother to take her two children.

I turned to my husband. “So, what do you think we should do?”

46-member Cantores Celestes enhances Artist's Lauds

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Trisha Postle plays the hurdy gurdy as she musically leads morning prayer from the Divine Office for the feast of St. Joseph, March 26 at Regis College. (Photo by Michael Swan)Jesuit Fr. Gilles Mongeau has been cultivating an occassional community of artists who gather once or twice a year for an artists' liturgy. On the feast of St. Joseph, March 26, the artists' liturgy took the form of morning prayer from the Divine Office.

The singers contributing to this liturgy, and singing as you view these photographs, are the 46-member Cantores Celestes.

The amatuer women's choir has been singing together for 22 years, and over those years has raised more than $30,000 for charity. Singing for a liturgy rather than a concert allows the choir to connect with its repertoire of religious music in a very different way, said conductor Kelly Galbraith.

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Nukes or no nukes: a moral dilemma

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A woman who fled from the vicinity of the Fukushima nuclear power plant sits at an evacuation centre in Kawamata, Japan. (CNS photo/Yuriko Nakao, Reuters) Who would want to choose between the morality of indecision and fear versus the morality of blind, reckless gambles imposed on future generations? Whether we want it or not, the nuclear question awaits.

Canada’s Nuclear Safety Commission began three weeks of hearings March 21 at Hope Fellowship Church in Courtice, Ont., on future plans for the Darlington Nuclear Station near Bowmanville, Ont., about 50 km east of Toronto. There are plans for four new nuclear reactors at the station on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Hundreds of written submissions were already before the nuclear regulator before the world was riveted to its television screens, watching Japan’s Fukushima 50 (in fact, about 200 technicians and engineers) fight to keep their crippled nuclear power plant from killing hundreds of thousands of people in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunamis that struck Japan March 11.

Nukes or no nukes: the moral dilemma

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A woman who fled from the vicinity of the Fukushima nuclear power plant sits at an evacuation centre in Kawamata, Japan. (CNS photo/Yuriko Nakao, Reuters) Who would want to choose between the morality of indecision and fear versus the morality of blind, reckless gambles imposed on future generations? Whether we want it or not, the nuclear question awaits.

Canada’s Nuclear Safety Commission began three weeks of hearings March 21 at Hope Fellowship Church in Courtice, Ont., on future plans for the Darlington Nuclear Station near Bowmanville, Ont., about 50 km east of Toronto. There are plans for four new nuclear reactors at the station on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Hundreds of written submissions were already before the nuclear regulator before the world was riveted to its television screens, watching Japan’s Fukushima 50 (in fact, about 200 technicians and engineers) fight to keep their crippled nuclear power plant from killing hundreds of thousands of people in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunamis that struck Japan March 11.

Will real issues be up for election debate?

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Poverty, life issues, seniors may be lost in 'horse-race politics' of election campaignIt’s hard to know what will be decided in the May 2 election, but it’s just as hard to imagine that Canadians will decide well unless we inject respect, sincerity, honesty and a few high-minded ideals into our political culture.

We can’t run a country on vitriolic rhetoric, political tactics and cheap-shot ads, said Christian think-tank director Peter Stockland. Looking at the latest attack ads turned Stockland’s stomach.

“I was absolutely appalled that a government and a lot of people in that government would unleash something like that,” said the director of the Cardus Centre for Cultural Renewal. “Where’s the charity?”

The Conservative ads claim Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is dangerously soft on crime, and a Liberal government would make people unsafe in their homes and neighbourhoods.

‘Monastic chic’ is always in for religious

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Religious garb has come a long way, from the days of the black wool habit with starch bands across the forehead. (Photo from Register files)TORONTO - Religious garb is in, says Forbes magazine. The churchly trend was quite evident at one of the world’s premier fashion events, New York Fashion Week, where models paraded outfits topped with hoods reminiscent of the cloister. The twist was that designers added leather jackets, dresses and catsuits to create a look that Forbes dubbed “monastic chic.”

The cloister would seem an unlikely source of inspiration for the world’s top fashion designers in our increasingly secular society. After all, for nuns, it’s not fashion that motivates them to wear a habit. Religious garb is a symbol of their identity and commitment to serve God and the Church.

It may suddenly be all the rage in chic fashion circles, but for nuns such as Sr. Agnes Roger the habit was never out of fashion. She continues to debunk myths about the habit and the religious communities that  continue to wear them, including the claim that the habit is a throwback to another age.

Rising food prices threaten health of poor

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Small farmers must be given the land, water and technology to be successful, says Development and Peace. (CNS photo/Imelda Medina, Reuters)Money that the Catholic agency Chalice used to spend helping kids go to school, helping adults acquire basic literacy, helping communities organize around income-producing projects is now going to feed people who can no longer afford rice and beans.

Commodity food prices, particularly for wheat and rice, have risen to their highest levels since 2008. The World Bank’s food price index shot up 15 per cent between October and January. The bank estimates price increases have driven another 44 million into extreme poverty.

“The impact in the beginning was initially a reduction in the quantity of food being served (at parish-run feeding programs). Now it’s transitioned into a change in diet,” said Suzanne Johnson, Chalice’s international manager for Africa, Haiti and Ukraine. “With rice being so expensive and wheat, they’re now pretty much based on cassava and maize... Our feeding programs are trying to deal with the same amount of money, but the dollar is not buying as much.”