Century Marks

Century Marks

Second life

When Judith Valente started making regular visits to a Benedictine women’s monastery in Atchison, Kansas, she made friends with 90-year-old Sister Lillian Harrington. Valente asked Sister Lillian if she ever thinks of death. “I don’t think about dying,” she said. “I think about living.” At 75, after retiring as a professor of speech and drama, Sister Lillian reinvented herself as the “pilgrim minister.” She traveled to schools, parishes, and retreat centers where she dramatized Gospel passages and wisdom stories. She performed without notes or a script well into her nineties. She died soon after celebrating her 96th birthday in March (RNS).

Passionate misunderstanding

A Good Friday passion play was called off after the Oxford (England) City Council said the sponsoring church failed to get the proper permit. The council acted on the presumption that the passion play was a live sex show. In a statement of apology, an official said, “At the time of processing the application, I did not appreciate that this was a religious event” (Independent, April 18).


HoneyMaid, maker of graham crackers, received many negative responses to its “This is wholesome” ad featuring a same-sex couple. Rather than backing down or counterattacking, HoneyMaid printed all the negative comments and had a collage made from them spelling the word love. Cheerios likewise doubled down when it received negative feedback to its ad featuring a mixed-race couple with a cute daughter. Cheerios ran a sequel to it during the Super Bowl (Washington Post, April 4).

Degrees of forgiveness

Two decades have passed since nearly a million people were killed in the Rwandan genocide. Photographer Pieter Hugo has been taking photographs of Hutu perpetrators alongside Tutsi survivors. In each case the perpetrators have asked for and the survivors have granted forgiveness. Hugo says the photos are very revealing: in some photos the subjects appear very comfortable with each other, in others there is noticeable physical and emotional distance between them. “There’s clearly different degrees of forgiveness,” he says, adding that forgiveness isn’t motivated by benevolence as much as “a survival instinct” (New York Times Magazine, April 6).

Animal rights and wrongs

The food movement has called attention to the abuse of animals that are raised and killed on factory farms. But even farmers who raise animals in humane ways, in small-scale operations, intend for the animals to be slaughtered. Bob Comis, a professional pig farmer, asks how can he ethically raise pigs knowing that his ultimate aim is to kill and market them for consumption. “As a pig farmer, I lead an unethical life,” Comis confesses. “I am a slaveholder and a murderer” (American Scholar, Spring).