{mosimage}In the Oct. 18 Register appears a picture of some high school students holding up giant letters spelling out DIVERSITY. Now “diversity” is one of those weasel words, so beloved of multiculturalists, that frequently conceal animus towards religion generally, and hostility to Catholicism in particular. 

The accompanying article, by Sheila Dabu, raised concern about a $2-million Ontario Education Ministry initiative called “Character Development.” There is reason for concern.
{mosimage}Advent is a religious season that sneaks up on us. Its quiet arrival is drowned out by the noisy commercial hype for Christmas, the Santa Claus parades, shopping, seasonal parties and frenzied preparations for travel and visiting.

Yet, as with so many things in life, Advent is the more important occasion, transcending all those other “must do’s” of this time of year. It, too, is a time of preparation, but of the heart.
{mosimage}Along with a clear majority (54 per cent) of American Catholics who voted in the recent U.S. presidential election, I cast my ballot for Democratic candidate Barack Obama. And along with at least some of these Catholic voters, I picked Obama after a time of soul-searching.

I agreed with his liberal, interventionist policies on the economy, his ideas about America’s relationship with its friends and enemies, health care reform, the deplorable war in Iraq and other matters. I disagreed with Republican candidate John McCain’s stands on virtually every issue, from economics to Iraq.
{mosimage}This Dec. 10 marks the 40th anniversary of the death of the celebrated monk-poet Thomas Merton (1915-1968).

By the time of his death, Merton, born in Prades, France, a citizen of the United States and a monk for 27 years in the Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky, had an international following of enviable proportions, a publication record of staggering range and an influence by no means limited to the Catholic world. Merton was, and remains, a phenomenon, an utterly engaging figure, controversial, iconic, the paradigmatic monk for our century.
{mosimage}It was just after 10:15 p.m. on Nov. 4 when I began walking with my wife and brother-in-law along Michigan Avenue toward Grant Park in downtown Chicago. For much of the evening, we had been at the Hyatt Regency waiting for U.S. election results to come in. We passed the time watching members of the media position themselves for a possible interview with Sen. Barack Obama, who was reportedly in a suite with his family waiting for a concession phone call from Sen. John McCain.

When we left the hotel, which was shortly after Sen. McCain had begun his concession speech, only the staked-out reporters, who missed their scoop, seemed to be unhappy by the news that Sen. Obama had been declared the next president of the United States and that he was already on his way to Grant Park to address a jubilant crowd of some 250,000 people.
{mosimage}The global Obama lovefest after the Nov. 4 U.S. presidential election suggests that much of the early days of President-elect Barack Obama’s tenure will be taken up with managing expectations.

Around the world, people are comparing his election to that of John F. Kennedy’s in 1960 — the first time a Catholic became president — or the day Nelson Mandela was freed from a South African prison, or the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. And it is true, the election of an African American to the presidency is an historically momentous occasion; it marks a watershed in the long struggle to heal the deep-seated wounds of slavery and racial violence in the American psyche. It is a moment of great rejoicing.

{mosimage}They came in flashbacks — snapshots of memories from an unexpected tragedy. Before I went to the Middle East to pursue an internship there, I was told that Jordan was the safest country in the region. It was, until three years ago when Jordan had it’s own 9/11.

Just before 9 p.m. on Nov. 9, 2005, triple suicide bombings rocked Amman, Jordan’s capital, including a wedding party at the Radisson SAS hotel. The attacks were blamed on al Qaeda and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian national who became a top al Qaeda leader based in Iraq. About 57 people were killed and 100 injured in those attacks.
{mosimage}Every now and again it is useful to look at ourselves through the eyes of others. Our own faults, as well as gifts, take on revealing hues when they are presented to us from a more arm’s length point of view.

In late October that perspective was offered by Pope Benedict XVI. He was commenting on Canada in his official greetings to the new Canadian ambassador to the Vatican, Anne Leahy, when she arrived to present her official credentials.
{mosimage}The first decade of the 21st century will be remembered as a good one for the sacred books of the West’s great religions, but not so good for those getting the Book thrown at them.

Women in the sheikdoms and Islamic republics, for example, beat up by Qur’an-quoting police for accidentally flashing an inch of ankle, and moderate Muslims having their TV sets snatched away and destroyed by their more righteous brethren. Arabs thrown off their land by Jews obsessed by some pages in the Old Testament promising their ancestors most of the known world. These, and myriad others, have been victims of militants mouthing the same justification for wreaking holy terror: The Book told them to do it.
{mosimage}When I set out to in search of my roots, one person reached across 10 generations to touch me deeply. This is what prompted me to find out more about Guillaume Couture, a man of faith, courage, a friend of Canadian martyrs Isaac Jogues and René Goupil and one of my great grandfathers.  

On Sept. 26,  the morning Mass was offered in remembrance of Fr. Jean de Brébeuf, Fr. Isaac Jogues and their Jesuit companions. Guillaume Couture was one of the companions.  
{mosimage}Where is Paul Martin Jr. when you need him? Oh yes, we threw him out of office in 2006. Yet while he had his problems as prime minister, his track record as finance minister still gives heft to his economic advice, especially in these turbulent times.

Martin has kept a low profile since resigning as leader of the Liberal party. But he was in the news in late October with the release of his political memoirs, Hell or High Water. In it, he mused about the current economic crisis. He may have been boasting a bit, talking about how his government pulled federal finances out of deep deficits and put the government’s house in order. But he earned his bragging rights and one of his points was well worth remembering.