{mosimage}TORONTO - There is no doubt that vampires have experienced a renaissance in popular culture, says Jennifer Harris, Christianity and Culture professor at Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College. But more interesting, she said, is how the modern vampire takes root in Christian culture.

The Christian elements in vampire stories began with Bram Stoker’s 19th-century novel Dracula, she said. Stoker introduced into romantic literature the religious tools for repelling vampires. He was probably inspired by “scientific” publications such as Benedictine monk Dom Augustine Calmet’s 1746 treatise, in which the monk questioned and explored popular evidence of vampirism.

Italy's town of 44 churches

{mosimage}MARATEA, Italy  - Fr. Adelmo Iacovino smiles with pride as he speaks of his parish in the Basilicata region of rural southern Italy.

In this community of fewer than 5,000, scattered across and around Monte San Biagio and overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, Iacovino oversees 30 churches and chapels. Add another 14 private chapels and a visitor might well marvel at the devotion the people of Maratea bring to their Roman Catholicism.

Economic downturn hits Shepherd's Trust hard

{mosimage}TORONTO - With no children to turn to, retired priests in Toronto can approach Marisa Rogucki, the co-ordinator of retired diocesan priests in the archdiocese.

She is their go-to person for everything from dental appointments to funerary arrangements. But over the past dozen years, she has also been instrumental in rallying funds for the Shepherd’s Trust, a trust fund supported by an annual collection to raise money to provide for retired priests in years to come.

“We have 84 retired priests now and although we have this collection every year you can imagine this collection isn’t enough to take care of all of them,” she said.

Although priests do receive CPP and old age security, that means practically nothing for many retired priests today.

Just war theory obsolete in nuclear age, says Doug Roche

{mosimage}TORONTO - A “theology of the street” put forward by retired Sen. Doug Roche could be the basis for Catholic participation in the peace movement, said Catholics for Peace spokesman Deacon Steve Barringer.

Delivering the annual chancellor’s lecture at the University of Toronto’s Jesuit faculty of theology, Regis College, Nov. 20, Roche proposed a Catholic response to modern warfare which would replace just war theory with a call to dialogue and peace building.

'Bio-cremation' cuts carbon footprint, backers say

{mosimage}TORONTO - A good Catholic can pressure cook their dearly departed in an alkaline solution so that most of the body can be flushed down the drain before the remaining clean white bones are crushed into a white powder, put in an urn and buried in consecrated ground, according to a Catholic ethicist.

This technique for disposing of human remains is variously known as “alkaline hydrolysis ,” “bio-cremation” or “resomation.” Backers claim the process has a carbon footprint 20 times less than regular cremation. It’s not yet legal in Canada, let alone approved by any Canadian bishop, but Transition Sciences Ltd. is betting Canadians — including Catholics — will warm to the newest technology in mortuary science.

Advent's spiritual gifts

{mosimage}Bus terminals, train stations and airports tend to be drab and colourless places that people simply pass through — with the exception of the days preceding Christmas. At this time of year, waiting areas in the “arrivals” zone are marked by waving arms, smiling faces and warm hugs as travellers land into the arms of loved ones.

Want a rich Advent meditation? Just go to your local bus or train station and watch the scenes of reunion. Even though you don’t know any of the people you’re watching, you might find your own emotions rising up within you. And why is that? Because what we’re seeing touches our own deep longing and appreciation for relationships that bring us joy.

Finding shelter at St. Clare Inn

{mosimage}TORONTO - What are the chances an illiterate, alcoholic, drug addicted, bipolar, paranoid schizophrenic woman is going to pull it together, learn to read, hold down a job, stay on her medications and begin a mini-career as a stand-up comedian?

Linda Chamberlain is that woman, and at 60 she looks back at her 25 years of fear, despair and homelessness with disbelief. She also knows precisely what saved her life.

Religious retailers seeing the Christ in Christmas

{mosimage}TORONTO - The Christmas season always brings an upswing in sales for stores specializing in religious items as the public scrambles to buy Christmas cards and wreaths, gifts and Nativity sets for their home.

But for some religious suppliers, this year brought some interesting surprises.

“This year, surprisingly, we’ve been doing really well with Nativity sets. The general public has been buying full Nativity sets, adding pieces to their existing ones and also little baby Jesus’ on their own,” said Sal DiCarlo, head of DiCarlo Religious Supply Centre in Toronto.

Making the case for larger families


{mosimage}AJAX, Ont. - It was only their second date when Patrick Douglas asked his future bride how many children she would like to have in her family.

Her first answer was “however many children God gives me,” Carissa Douglas, 31, recalls. Her second answer, she adds, was 12.

“Then (Patrick) hugged me tighter because it was an odd thing,” she says with a smile.

Red tape cut on generic AIDS drugs

{mosimage}Adding Canadian-made generic drugs to the mix of affordable HIV and AIDS treatments could be good news for Africa, but it’s probably not enough to make a serious dent in the disease which kills more than two million people each year, says a Canadian Jesuit who works on AIDS in Africa.

“If Canadian sources are going to provide second-line generics at an affordable price — something few or no others are doing — it would be a reason for hope in Africa,” Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, executive director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network , told The Catholic Register in an e-mail, adding, however, that “Universal access to antiretrovirals (ARVs) is still a distant dream.”

Helping patients face a 'good death'

{mosimage}TORONTO - A 13-year-old girl is battling cancer, but after nine years of treatment, her doctor has run out of medication options to beat the illness and help her stay alive.

An 85-year old woman suffers internal bleeding after taking medication for a long-term skin condition and asks her doctor to stop treatment and “let her die.”