Century Marks

Century Marks

Christmas lecture

Pope Francis delivered a blistering Christmas greeting to the cardinals, bishops, and priests who run the Vatican. He named 15 of their sins that need to be atoned for and cured, among them vanity, lust for power, materialism, hypocrisy, and joylessness. He added that it is a good thing to have a “healthy sense of humor” (AP).

Day for soccer

For one day in December differences were set aside between Israelis and Arabs in the Haifa region of northern Israel. A soccer tournament was organized that brought together more than 200 Arabs, Jews, and Druze. The event was planned to mark the hundredth anniversary of the Christ­mas truce that took place on the front lines of World War I on Christmas Day. Legend has it that some German and British soldiers even played soccer. The soccer tournament in Israel came at a time when Israeli-Palestinian relationships were at their lowest point in years (National Catholic Reporter, December 20).

Urban landlord

The city of Paris is fighting gentrification in certain neighborhoods where it is pushing out low-income residents. Paris has identified 257 addresses with over 8,000 apartments for which the city is mandating that sellers give it right of first refusal when those apartments are put on the market. The properties are to be sold at market prices, although the city will set the price. The city hopes to provide more subsidized housing and keep more housing options available for low- and middle-income people. Real estate brokers are displeased with the plan (City Lab, December 19).

Online gratification

Marriage rates in the United States have been dropping for decades. Wealth inequality is one reason, since poorer people marry at a lower rate than other groups. The breakdown of traditional values may have something to do with it as well. Now some researchers are saying there appears to be more than a correlation between higher pornography usage on the Internet and lower marital rates among males between the ages of 18 and 35. Pornography is used by some in this group as an alternative form of sexual gratification (Washington Post, December 21).

Work and pray

Glenn Hinson recalls his first visit to the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky with a group of Baptist seminarians. They heard a talk by Thomas Merton on contemplation. One student asked Merton a question along these lines: “What is a smart fellow like you doing in a place like this?” Hinson expected a stiff rebuke from Merton. Instead, Merton said: “I am here because I believe in prayer. That is my vocation.” It had never occurred to Hinson before to think of prayer as a vocation (Weavings, vol. 30, no. 1).