CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The blessings and challenges of prison ministry

Most of us know that scripture calls us to visit those who are in prison (Matthew 25:31-46). Some of us think we may be suited to criminal justice ministry, while others are cynical or hostile to the thought of sharing mercy with the incarcerated. But there are a number of social and spiritual benefits to this ministry.
A few of these are:
• To help an inmate function more positively within the prison environment.
• To offer a connection between the community and inmates.
• To aid and support families of inmates.
• To prepare inmates for re-entry into society (physically, mentally, morally and spiritually).
• To offer practical re-entry assistance to (Read the full article at:

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A Spirit to Know You

A Spirit to Know You

by St. Benedict of Nursiaca 480-547

Gracious and Holy Father,
Please give me:
intellect to understand you,
reason to discern you,
diligence to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
a spirit to know you,
a heart to meditate upon Continue reading

10 Commandments of Christmas

English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

Image via Wikipedia

By: Anonymous

   “The following item appeared in a church newsletter and contains some good advice that will help us keep selfishness in check this Christmas:

  1. You shall not leave ‘Christ’ out of Christmas, making it ‘Xmas.’ To some, ‘X’ is unknown.
  2. You shall prepare your soul for Christmas. Spend not so much on gifts that your soul is forgotten.
  3. You shall not let Santa Claus replace Christ, thus robbing the day of its spiritual reality.
  4. You shall not burden the shop girl, the mailman, and the merchant with complaints and demands.
  5. You shall give yourself with your gift. This will increase its value a hundred fold, and the one who receives it shall treasure it forever.
  6. You shall not value gifts received by their cost. Even the least expensive may signify love, and that is more priceless than silver and gold.
  7. You shall not neglect the needy. Share your blessings with many who will go hungry and cold if you are Continue reading

They Went Before Us to Show Us the Way ~ No Beard, No Bishop!

No Beard, No Bishop!

Among the Methodists, four former chaplains were to become bishops. Enoch M. Marvin was elected in 1866. In 1870, John C. Keener, a former missionary to the Louisiana troops, became a bishop. In 1882, John C. Granberry, of the famous Eleventh Virginia Regiment, was chosen a bishop. Atticus G. Haygood was ordained in 1890. H. H. Kavanaugh had been ordained in 1854. He had served with distinction the men of the Sixth Kentucky Regiment and continued active in denominational affairs afterward.

Probably the most colorful of these Methodist bishops was Enoch M. Marvin, a veteran of the war in Arkansas. At the time of his election he was a pastor in Marshall, Texas, and was not present at the conference. It is said that when he reported for ordination, several ministers met him at the door and refused to let him enter in his rude manner of dress. They insisted on presenting him a clerical suit befitting the dignity of the occasion. Brother Marvin accepted the suit and presented himself in unaccustomed dignity for ordination. When the brethren saw him for the first time, certain of them opposed his ordination on the grounds that he wore a flowing beard. The old soldier held his ground, stating, “I was elected with a beard, and you’ll ordain me with a beard!” Thus he became the first man of his church to be elected to the episcopacy with a full beard.

It was he who, together with a few chaplains of several denominations, had organized the “Army Church.” Bishop Marvin was of the common people, marked by his ruggedness of character and simplicity. He never lost the common touch and was always a favorite of the people. He had never had a day of college training, but he had a deep, impressive piety. When he joined the conference at Jefferson City, Missouri, in 1842, there were many who gave him little chance to succeed, judging from his awkwardness, country mannerisms, and the poor fit of his clothing. Yet thirteen years later he was pastor of a large church in Saint Louis.

As bishop, Marvin never lost his enthusiasm for camp meetings. He preached with great power, seeing sinners powerfully convicted and gloriously converted. Some have held that the Southern Methodist Church never produced a man of more eloquence. He was in complete agreement with the proposal of his fellow bishop, Alpheus W. Wilson, who was resolved either to make the church a missionary force or destroy it “as something Continue reading

Ask the Religion Experts: How can we improve interfaith dialogue?


Rev. RAY INNEN PARCHELO is a novice Tendai priest and founder of the Red Maple Sangha, the first lay Buddhist community in Eastern Ontario.

It hasn’t always been fashionable to consider seriously faiths other than one’s own. My co-worker remembers telling a friend and church-mate that she was soon to marry but not in their small-town church. In total surprise, the friend asked of the groom, “Well, what is he then?” In their one-church community, it seemed unimaginable that someone might worship elsewhere. Now, in our increasingly diverse nation, we are all usually members of one or another minority faith, and “What is he?” is more often the default question.

The Christian-Buddhist dialogue movement has grown over the past few decades, as these different faiths recognize the benefit of learning from each other. In Buddhism and Christianity in Dialogue, Perry Schmidt-Leukel proposes three phases of interfaith engagement. At the lowest and least useful level, the one most like adolescent high-school debates, each side presents their faith. They analyse, criticize and challenge (even mock or condemn) the other, trying to prove how their faith is vastly superior. Claims of superior logic on one hand or supreme power of one’s “book” on the other, keeps both sides from really learning much. The next level is where the mocking or combative element disappears and there is some attempt to learn, but always from the safe assumption that “my faith is the true one.” This is mere tolerance. The third and most useful kind of interfaith dialogue is open to gaining new insights about one`s own faith by practising and studying with others in their faith. This Schmidt-Leukel describes as “the challenge of mutual transformation.”

Interfaith dialogue will improve when the participants in that dialogue move beyond self-promotion and self-defence. The entire project of faith activity is one of opening ourselves up to new and deeper understandings, and in that there can be little room for the kind of smug defensiveness or bitter attacks that hobble too many contemporary interfaith endeavours. Doubt, risk, open investigation at the intellectual level and sincere, respectful sharing at the spiritual level belong in religious dialogue. A closed mind and a closed heart are signs of spiritual stagnation, not vitality.

Rev. GEOFFREY KERSLAKE is a priest of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Ottawa.

Genuine interfaith dialogue hinges on respecting the freedom of the participants to hold their respective beliefs. It is not about trying to synthesize a “common religion” out of the beliefs of different communities because to have a genuine dialogue everyone must be prepared to respect each community’s teachings. Interfaith dialogue fails when participants try to use it as an opportunity to “convert” their dialogue partners. In 1984, Professor Leonard Swidler of Temple University wrote an article in which he outlined “Ten Commandments” of

La Besace

La Besace* — The Alms Bag

Fables of Jean De La Fontaine; Translated by Michael Star

One day mighty Jupiter said “Let all living things come before me to compare themselves, one with the other. Let no one be afraid to speak honestly even if they find fault. I shall ensure that no harm comes of it. Come Monkey, you are the one that should begin. Let all the others compare themselves to your beauty. Tell me, are you satisfied with yourelf?”

“Me?” He said. “Why Not! Is my body not as good as any of the others? And as for my face, there’s nothing to reproach myself for on that score. But as for my brother the bear, I have to say that I find his features rather coarse. And no artist would ever pick him as a subject for a painting”

Everyone expected the bear to reply angrily, but he didn’t. Instead he praised his own physique quite loudly. Then he went on to speak of the Elephant. He pointed out that Elephant could use a longer tail and smaller ears. In short he declared that the Elephant was quite misshapen and ugly.

The Elephant (wise beast that he was) did not retaliate. Instead, he opined as to how Madame Whale was really too fat. Madame Ant then said that she found the Mite a bit too small. It made her feel that she was a giant.

At this point Jupiter, hearing all these criticisms, angrily told them to stop. This didn’t scare the other animals who were still self-satisfied. And among the most self Continue reading

God’s Questions

I read this and wondered to myself, do we oversimplify the questions or do we complicate our response to those questions? What do you think? I’m stumbling here and would appreciate hearing (reading 🙂) your thoughts. Blessings!

What God Won’t Ask

1. God won’t ask what kind of fancy car you drove. He will ask how many people you took to church who didn’t have transportation.

2. God won’t ask the square footage of your house. He will ask how many people you helped who didn’t have a house.

3. God won’t ask how many fancy clothes you had in your closet. He will ask how many of those clothes you gave away to those who didn’t have any.

4. God won’t ask what social class you were in. He will ask what kind of “class” you displayed.

5. God won’t ask how many material possessions you had. He will ask whether those material possessions dictated your life.

6. God won’t ask what your highest salary was. He will ask if you trampled over any people to obtain that salary.

7. God won’t ask how much overtime you worked. He will ask did you work overtime for your family.

8. God won’t ask how many promotions you received. He will ask what you did to promote others.

9. God won’t ask what your job title was. He will ask did you perform your job to the Continue reading