Luke Hill is a writer and community organizer in Boston. He blogs at dotCommonweal and MassCommons.
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Dorothy Norwood began her gospel music career in 1943 and her solo recording career spans five decades. In the early 1960s she was part of The Caravans which, in the world of gospel music, is a more or less unimpeachable credential. (It's like being part of Miles Davis' first great quintet, or the championship Boston Celtics teams of the same era.)
Leon Neyfakh's article on "The Conservative Case Against the Death Penalty" deserves a wider audience that that of the Boston Globe (or Commonweal for that matter, but we do what we can).
Paul Wachter has a lovely piece on Grantland about "The Saint":
“If you were a player in Michigan, you had to play at St. Cecilia,” said Earl “The Twirl” Cureton, a Detroit native who won two NBA championships with the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets in a professional career spanning from 1980 to 1997. But even after he’d made the NBA, Cureton returned each summer to St. Cecilia’s to play in the church gym’s pro-am league.
There is something characteristically, beautifully and powerfully Catholic about CRS Rice Bowl.
Characteristically, because Rice Bowl is an intensely incarnate program. The flimsy, yet sturdy, fold-together Rice Bowl on the dining room table is something you can see and touch. The aromas of Rice Bowl's meatless dinner recipes fill the kitchen on Friday nights, stimulate the taste buds with flavors both new and familiar, and fill the stomach (or not, which provides its own lesson).
Beautifully, because Rice Bowl's educational materials are thoughtfully and artfully prepared. They're inviting to the eye and always feature, first and foremost, photographs of CRS beneficiaries from around the world and across the US. Unlike some charitable programs, Rice Bowl doesn't innundate its donor-participants with images of blank-eyed impoverished victims on the brink of death. Rather, Rice Bowl's photographs, stories and videos steadily and subtly offer images and reminders of the hope and joy that come from faith and love made incarnate.
Powerfully, first because Rice Bowl raises $7 million annually to support CRS programs in 40 countries around the world. (1/4 of money raised stays in local dioceses.) Second, because Rice Bowl deepens the meaning and practice of Lent...especially for children:
Sr. Cristina Scucchia of the Sisters of the Holy Family rocked the house and wowed the judges on the Italian edition of "The Voice" with her cover of Alicia Keys' chart-topping 2007 hit, "No One".
(Check out the reactions of the judges, especially at 1:04.)
It's a bit late---but not too late!---to start a new book as part of one's Lenten observance. If that's what you're looking for, Camille Lewis Brown's splendid little book, African Saints, African Stories: 40 Holy Men And Women would make an excellent choice.
The format of the book is simple and straightforward. First Brown provides a short (1-6 pp.) biography of the saint's life. Then she adds a brief passage from scripture, a prayer and questions for further reflection. It's a wonderful format for Lenten prayer, but serves equally well at any time of year. The book is divided into two sections: "Saints, Blesseds and Venerables" and "Saints in Waiting".
African Saints, African Stories is a powerful reminder of the depth and breadth of the formative African influence on Christianity. As Bishop Joseph Perry notes in his excellent foreword, "There is evidence of African contribution throughout Sacred Scripture. beginning with Genesis 2, where the sources of the Nile River are located, to the deacon Philip's baptism of the Ethiopian official in service to the Nubian queen, Candace, in Acts 8." That influence continues with the witness and ministries of the early African saints:
Pharrell Williams is arguably the most influential producer in the American music industry. He's also a talented and successful singer, rapper, songwriter and musician.
On first listen, his latest hit song, "Happy", is four minutes of pure pop confection---one written for the soundtrack of Universal Pictures' billion-dollar hit movie Despicable Me 2.
The video is a sweet confection too: shots of Pharrell and seemingly random Angelenos lip-synching and dancing around their city to the song. (Because this is Los Angeles, it also includes celebrities like Kelly Osborne, Magic Johnson and Steve Carell. Because there's a movie tie-in, it includes characters from Despicable Me 2.)
But "Happy" is much more than that, because there's "24 Hours of Happy".
"Dream Baby Dream" is a 1977 song by the more-influential-than-successful punk band, Suicide. This new version by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band meets what I've come to think of as the First Rule of Cover Songs: You've got to bring something new to it.
If Pope Francis' words really are causing Cardinal Dolan, billionaire businessman Ken Langone, and others at the heart of the fundraising campaign to restore St. Patrick's Cathedral to lose out on "major gifts" by wealthy would-be benefactors, they can take some measure of comfort from the cathedral's original construction.
In his terrific 1997 book, American Catholic, Charles R. Morris uses the dedication of the still-unfinished cathedral on May 25, 1879 as his starting point for understanding the history of the US Catholic Church.