Just in time for Christmas, The Globe and Mail ran a five-part series on the “future of faith” in Canada. In its unflagging service to the nation, the Globe customarily marks the Christmas season with depressing religion stories. This year’s contribution was rather more ambitious than most, and worth a read.

Christian realism energizes Narnia film

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Hollywood has long been looking for a new blockbuster magic series to rival the commercial successes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the string of Harry Potter movies. When C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe came to the screen in 2005, many observers thought that the studio bosses had once again hatched a winning idea for a long-running fantasy franchise.

When is your midnight Mass?

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What time is midnight Mass? It’s the season for that question, and the answer is not predictable.

Over more than a generation, we Catholics have fumbled away one of our most distinctive customs. Indeed, the Christmas Mass schedule has become something rather different than what the Church intends, and what our tradition refined over centuries.

We must encounter the Lord in Advent

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Each year at this time, Advent seems to get lost in the shuffle.

The weeks before Christmas are bustling with things to do. We shop for presents, make trips to visit friends and relatives, attend concerts of seasonal music, put in appearances at the usual round of office parties and other sociable events. There is only one thing wrong with this happy round of activities: It inevitably distracts us Christians from engaging creatively with the wonderful truth of Advent as the Catholic Church has traditionally understood it.

John Lennon's imaginary world

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Faithful readers will know that much energy has been expended these past years on combating the “new atheists” — militant, aggressive and very trendy. Atheism is of course not new, and even the new atheists not altogether new.

Thirty years ago, John Lennon was murdered, shot outside his Manhattan apartment on Dec. 8, 1980. The anniversary of Lennon’s death brings an annual discussion of his significance, and due to his widow’s prodigious efforts, various commemorations of the slain singer. This year there were more than usual. Invariably these involve a sentimental playing of “Imagine,” Lennon’s anthem.

Giving is a family affair

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The world of advocacy can be a depressing place much of the time. That is why this time of year is so enjoyable.

Despite the gravity of the issues we read and write about throughout the year, the Christmas season brings out powerful media messages and, perhaps more to the point, brings crowds into the streets and malls focused on the act and spirit of giving.

Pope Benedict — love and the law

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What does the law have to do with love? Are they not antithetical? To follow the law is to be under a burden, to be compelled, to be constrained. To love, on the other hand, is to embrace the capacity to choose, to be creative, to be liberated.

Radical Islam despises immoral culture

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Political Islam in the Middle East and western Asia comes in numerous colours.

On the peaceful, moderate end of the spectrum are groups such as Turkey’s parliamentary Justice and Development Party. The more culturally radical Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is officially banned in Egypt, but its anti-Western message still manages to garner great popularity at the grass-roots. Farthest out of the moderate Islamist mainstream are such movements as Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Al Qaeda throughout the Arab world, which advocate the violent overthrow of Muslim-led moderate governments and terrorist acts against them.

Christ is alive in His Church

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At the recent consistory of cardinals, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to his red-robed brethren about the “logic of the Cross” which should animate their leadership in the Church.

A consistory of cardinals emphasizes the unity of the Church around Peter and the universality of the Church spread throughout the world; it also highlights some truly heroic pastors. Yet, just as weeds grow up amidst the wheat, there is also an off-putting dimension. It prompts some of the princes of the Church to act more like princes than churchmen. It is, for some, a moment of clerical ambition confirmed. The occasion can take on the aspect of being admitted to an elite club rather than undertaking anew the apostolic mission of preaching the Gospel. At its worst, the cardinalatial nomination crowns a career of bureaucratic longevity rather than evangelical service.

The priest's service provides what the world can't provide itself

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About a dozen years ago I was at a dinner party in the home of people I had not previously met. When our hostess discovered that I was a seminarian, she shrieked with perverse delight, announcing to all, “Wait until my husband hears about that!”

Freedom of speech often not what it's cracked up to be

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Three recent incidents provide insight — and perhaps a warning as well — about how Canadians interpret the right to freedom of speech, especially when it comes to unpopular topics. Like any legal and constitutional principle, some interpretation is involved. The old saw about not yelling “fire!” in a crowded theatre applies here because constitutional principles must be balanced against factors such as public safety and the impact on others, among other things.