{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.
{mosimage}“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18

Thanksgiving has come and gone once again, but I’m still in a thankful frame of mind, for a couple of reasons. First, my American friends and relatives are gearing up for their Thanksgiving celebration this month. Second, I like the warm, fuzzy feelings of gratitude and its by-product, generosity, that Thanksgiving inspires, and I’ve been contemplating how to perpetuate them.
{mosimage}If there is such a thing as election envy, and the degree of fascination Canadians have with Sen. Barack Obama suggests there may be an element of wistfulness if not outright envy, the difference between this fall’s Canadian election and the U.S. presidential race would surely provoke it.  

It’s not just that the stakes are higher; being prime minister is a somewhat less exalted and demanding role than U.S. president. It is as if the response to higher stakes seems to be an elevated discourse, an appreciation that politicians shouldn’t just be about tactical considerations but should also be concerned with fundamental values. It also encompasses a notion that political decisions might actually touch on issues of who we are as well as what we might do this fiscal quarter.
{mosimage}It’s probable that a majority of Canadians felt deflated by the Oct. 14 election. Nobody really won, even though the Conservatives emerged with a slightly larger minority. Instead, we lacked real leadership — the kind that people truly want to follow instead of just tolerate.

The resignation of Liberal Leader Stephane Dion reminds us of what real leadership requires, mainly because his own deficiencies revealed the missing ingredients. It’s true that Dion showed intelligence, integrity, boldness and creativity (in his poorly understood GreenShift). And by stepping down, he displayed a rare selflessness. But he failed at an essential task of leadership: getting others to follow.
{mosimage}The appearance of a new Ron Hansen novel is always the occasion for careful scrutiny and delicious pleasure. He is the finest contemporary Catholic fiction writer in the United States, in my view (sorry Anne Rice), and his latest — Exiles — is one of his finest.

The author of several novels of inventive power and historical elasticity (Hitler’s Niece, Mariette in Ecstasy and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), Hansen delights in mixing historical fact with possibility, religious feeling with erotic need, saintly endeavour with the cold winds of reason.
For all the damage it’s doing, the crisis shaking the foundations of the world’s financial system has spawned at least one booming industry: economic punditry.

If you haven’t been camped out in Algonquin Park for the last two months, you are surely familiar with what I’m talking about: the endless parade of experts before the cameras of cable TV news networks, each with learned opinions about what’s gone wrong with the world and what’s to be done about it. Finger-pointing abounds. Some blame consumers, chronically addicted to the cheap, easy credit of the last several years. Others confidently blame “predatory” lenders, or absent-minded regulators, or the profligacy of public-sector spending by governments living far beyond their means.
{mosimage}One of the last vestiges of official anti-Catholicism in the world is the British Crown. Yet most Canadians are probably unaware that the Queen of England (or King) — Canada’s head of state — is prohibited by law from being Roman Catholic or marrying a Roman Catholic.