{mosimage}Long before Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan became famous for getting arrested — the “radical priest” in Paul Simon’s song “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” — he was a poet, a man of letters and imagination.

At 88 Berrigan can still combine words in ways that startle readers awake. Which doesn’t mean that he’s given up getting arrested. This man with eight others burned 378 stolen draft files using homemade napalm in 1968. He hammered on nuclear missiles then poured his own blood on documents and files at the bomb-maker’s headquarters in 1980. When U.S. President George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq in 2002, Berrigan decided to sit in at the Times Square recruiting office in Manhattan, getting arrested along with several of his students.

John Paul II lit up Canada 25 years ago

{mosimage}When Pope John Paul II made his Canada-wide visit 25 years ago, people feasted their eyes on the largest event the country had ever known.

After having landed in Quebec City Sept. 9, 1984, the pontiff crisscrossed his way across Canada in a monumental 12-day trip that took him to every province except Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island, drawing tens of thousands at every site.

Church needs to use technology to its advantage

{mosimage}If every modern church has a box full of microphones and a covey of speakers perched around the sanctuary, why do so many people complain they can’t hear the readings, the prayers or the homily?

“I’ve seen around the world a kind of misuse of technology where it becomes counterproductive,” said Richard Osicki, a Winnipeg communications consultant and Catholic studies lecturer. “It distracts. It emphasizes things they don’t intend to emphasize — priests forgetting to turn on their microphones or blasting through the microphone.”

St. Damien - a true hero to his people, his church

{mosimage}Fr. Damien de Veuster, canonized Oct. 11, understood Christ’s message of caring for others — something we can all learn from, and should. Also worth noting is the impact his canonization has had and will have on the tiny island of Molokai where he ministered to victims of leprosy, now known as Hansen’s Disease.

When I flew out to Hawaii two years ago, I had the surprise of my life. Not only was Molokai Island the home to cowboys, spear-fishers and, believe it or not, thousands of goats living in the mountains, it was also home to a vibrant and rather large Catholic community. Their enthusiasm first hit when when I attended Sunday Mass — I was greeted at the door with a lei made of small seashells and, along with other first-timers, was asked to stand up before Mass so that I could be introduced, by name, to the congregation. 

The Christianization of vampires

{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.