— 1 —
On the day when California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the assisted suicide bill passed by his state’s legislature earlier in the year, I also came across a book review that reminded me about a woman and her story that I remember playing out in real time back in 2012. The book about this brave and inspiring woman, Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy, is definitely on my Christmas wish list.
It is impossible not to be moved by the story of Chiara Corbella Petrillo. One life, however short, can make a difference; this is so clearly proven in the case of this incredible woman. It is jolting and indeed sobering to realise that the events that the book recounts happened so very recently. Her story has an epic quality, so full in so many ways, and yet it is a story for and of our times. It is one that teaches us much about love, marriage, children, family, and of what it means to live choosing life in the face of a culture fixated on a mistaken notion of death as a solution rather than what it was to prove in the life of this young woman: a gateway.
— 2 —
I was fortunate enough to play in some pretty cool treehouses while growing up. Some were merely clubhouses, one was an old chicken coop on my grandparents farm. Another was actually an abandoned car that my little brother and I played “Starsky & Hutch” in. (Look it up if you missed the era of 1970s crime dramas.) One such playhouse was a thicket of small trees and lilac bushes in our backyard that we “framed in” with chicken wire and an old screen door, attached to two tall narrow trees that were the perfect width for a door. The last house was an actual treehouse, accessible by ladder 20 feet off the ground, with walls and a roof, complete with shag carpeting and a flat roof to sit on to “get a tan.” The shag carpeting was a disaster since we didn’t seal the inside and rain made it a bacterial nightmare.
Loved them all. But yet none were nearly as cool as this one in France:
In the small town of Allouville-Bellefosse, France, you can find one of the world’s most peculiar tree houses. And what makes it even more interesting is that’s used as a Catholic chapel!
Read more, and be sure to check out the photos.
— 3 —
The scourge upon the planet that is ISIS destroyed more history (as well as lives) this past week. The latest historical artifacts to be lost were the Arch of Triumph at Palmyra.
With that in mind the London Telegraph pubished this list of 10 ancient sites you must see in your lifetime a few days ago. Any of them would be fantastic to see in person, but I must admit a certain fascination with Delphi in Greece.
— 4 —
Randall Smith, the Scanlan Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, wrote about a recent experience in which he was to be interviewed by the media regarding the alleged targeting of Christians in the recent Oregon shootings. Contacted by a reporter from a local television station, Smith prepared himself to meet the reporter on campus. It wasn’t his first interview and he knew from experience that most of what he said would never make it on to the air, but he was not prepared for the actual question, and what I would deem hostility, from the reporter.
If you haven’t figured out by now that the media is a big part of the problem, you haven’t been paying attention.
But I was totally blind-sided when, after setting up, the reporter asked me: “So why does it seem that religion causes so much violence?”
Huh, wait, what? This guy was shooting people because they were religious, and she wanted to know why religion causes violence. That’s like asking: what about women seems to make them so often victims of rape?
A colleague of mine suggested I should have said: “Are you blaming the victim?” – a nice catch-phrase, I had to admit, but the reporter would have just cut it; as she would if I had said: “What makes secular people so intolerant and violence-prone?”
Instead, I told her that, although anything could be used for evil purposes, religion was no more a cause of violence than many other things, such as nationalism or xenophobia or various forms of utopianism.
“But no,” she kept insisting over and over, “don’t you think – can’t you think of ways that religion is especially a cause of violence?” I thought to myself: “I hope she’s not planning on going over to the local mosque and asking them these questions.” She wasn’t.
“Why is religion so divisive?” she wanted to know. I told her that Pope Francis had just addressed a joint session of Congress, and it didn’t seem especially “divisive.” In fact, the members seemed more irenic toward one another than they had been in years.
It’s clear this woman heard the words “violence” and “religion,” and the only way she could put them together was to assume that the one was the cause of the other.
In that spirit, consider the following pairs of terms:
Black people / Trouble
Foreigners / Danger
Women / Weaker, Less Capable
If anyone were automatically to connect the first term in the pair with the second, we’d know what to call that.
— 5 —
From bigotry to beauty. And sublime beauty at that. Notice all the rioting and violence going on in the background while this woman is singing. Someone call that reporter, quick.
A young Armenian woman spontaneously sings a prayer called “Lord Have Mercy” in the Church of the Holy Cross in Lake Van on Akdamar Island, Eastern Turkey. Oblivious to others, she is focused on an icon as she lifts her voice in heartfelt prayer. This church was a medieval cathedral and belonged to the Armenians before the Armenian genocide by the Turks in 1915.
Now abandoned, the church remained unused through many decades after that, but after discovering it was to be demolished in 1951, a writer and journalist named Yaşar Kemal used his contacts he help stop the destruction. The site became a tourist attraction and in 2005, the structure was closed to visitors to undergo heavy restoration. It is now a Turkish museum. But for some, like this woman, it remains a very sacred space.
Let my prayer be set forth as incense before thee; The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. – Psalm 141: 2