A Search for Faith, Family, and Miracles
by Justin Calanoso

Archive for February, 2009

St. Jeanne

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Albany Times Union reports here: “…Jeanne Jugan, a lowly kitchen maid who took care of the poor and elderly in a French village in the 1800s, has been selected for sainthood by Pope Benedict XVI. She will be canonized on Oct. 11 after a decades-long review by the Vatican that included her beatification in 1982.”

Rising popularity

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Beliefnet reports here: For years, pundits believed that the only Catholics a liberal Democrat could win en masse were theologically liberal, “Cafeteria Catholics” who don’t attend mass or listen to the Pope very often. While Obama did clean up with those lefty Catholics, a new survey by Professor John Green of University of Akron, shows that he also made stunning improvements among more traditional white Catholics.

Hawaii’s saint

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

VATICAN CITY — A 19th-century Belgian priest who ministered to leprosy patients in Hawaii, and died of the disease, will be declared a saint this year at a Vatican ceremony presided over by Pope Benedict XVI. Story here.

My wife, the musician

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

My wife, songwriter Laurelyn Dossett, has a new web site, which is here and worth checking out. Next month when we’re both in New York, I have a couple of book talks and she has a couple of performances. Not together, but still — we’re both looking forward to it.

Why did he do it?

Monday, February 16th, 2009

A dear friend of mine whose parents were both Holocaust survivors asked me the other night: Why did Pope Benedict lift the excommunication order of a hateful, clearly deranged Holocaust-denying bishop? For a man as smart as the pope, it seems a astonishingly thoughtless act, one for which the consequences could’ve been easily predicted. This story offers some, but certainly not enough, explanation.

The Monti

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Tuesday night at The Monti in Durham, N.C., program creator Jeff Polish will award what he calls the 1st Annual Hippo Awards. Each month, The Monti features a half-dozen regular folks invited to tell a true story in 15 minutes or less to a live (always packed) audience. No notes or scripts are allowed. Last July 22, Jeff invited me to share the story of “Uncle Tony and the First Miracle,” which I adapted from my book. Jeff liked it well enough to make it one of three nominees in the Best Overall story category.

Details are here. I’ll let you know how who won.

UPDATE: I didn’t win, but I hear the voting was really close!

Happy birthday, Gaetano

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Today is best remembered as romantic holiday named for St. Valentine, a Roman martyr who lived a few hundred years after Christ and about whom very little is known (except that he died on Feb. 14). I prefer to remember this as the birthday of a saint — St. Gaetano Catanoso, born Feb. 14, 1879 in the village of Chorio in southern Italy. Happy birthday, Gaetano. (The video here was shot in Calabria last March by Michael Frierson, a film professor at UNC-Greensboro)

Vatican view on Darwin evolving

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

From Sci-tech Today: “Although the Roman Catholic Church never formally condemned Darwin or his theories (thus demonstrating some significant progress from Galileo’s time), there is no question that for decades, it was openly hostile to Darwin’s theory because of its apparent conflict with the teachings of the church. Next month, however, the Vatican will host a conference to mark the sesquicentennial of Darwin’s book. The gathering will be held March 3-6 at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy.”

Story here.

Pope Rejects Any Denial of Holocaust

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

The New York Times reports today: VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI, meeting with Jews in an effort to mend fences after lifting the excommunication of a schismatic bishop who has publicly denied the scale of the Holocaust, said Thursday that the Catholic Church was “profoundly and irrevocably committed” to rejecting anti-Semitism…The rest of the story is here.

Update:Boston Globe reports: Pope meets Jews, says denial unacceptable. Full story here.

Born believers: How your brain creates God

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

My best pal sent me the link to this story in New Scientist magazine after I shared with him a thoughtful, well-meaning note from a reader congratulating me on being “a mediocre Catholic,” as a priest described me in scene in my book (he was not being unkind, either).

The story says, in part:

“Religious ideas are common to all cultures: like language and music, they seem to be part of what it is to be human. Until recently, science has largely shied away from asking why. “It’s not that religion is not important,” says Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale University, “it’s that the taboo nature of the topic has meant there has been little progress.”

“The origin of religious belief is something of a mystery, but in recent years scientists have started to make suggestions. One leading idea is that religion is an evolutionary adaptation that makes people more likely to survive and pass their genes onto the next generation. In this view, shared religious belief helped our ancestors form tightly knit groups that cooperated in hunting, foraging and childcare, enabling these groups to outcompete others. In this way, the theory goes, religion was selected for by evolution, and eventually permeated every human society (New Scientist, 28 January 2006, p 30)

“The religion-as-an-adaptation theory doesn’t wash with everybody, however. As anthropologist Scott Atran of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor points out, the benefits of holding such unfounded beliefs are questionable, in terms of evolutionary fitness. “I don’t think the idea makes much sense, given the kinds of things you find in religion,” he says. A belief in life after death, for example, is hardly compatible with surviving in the here-and-now and propagating your genes. Moreover, if there are adaptive advantages of religion, they do not explain its origin, but simply how it spread.”