Century Marks

Century Marks

Best books

Church Times (August 16) has published a list of the 100 best Christian books of all time, drawing on nominations from their book reviewers, with the final decision made by a panel of judges. Enduring value was a key criterion. The judges acknowledged a dearth of female authors. The top ten: Confessions, by St. Augustine; The Rule of Bene­dict, by St. Benedict; Summa Theologica, by St. Thomas Aquinas; Revelations of Divine Love, by Julian of Norwich; the Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri; Pensées, by Blaise Pascal; The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan; City of God, by St. Augustine; The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis; and The Complete English Poems, by George Herbert.

How doctors die

At the 50th reunion of his medical school class, Dr. James Sabin said his classmates were able to talk freely about death. One noted that only half of them would be present at their 60th reunion. The dominant tones in their death talk were a matter-of-factness, gallows humor, and curiosity about the future of the human species and the planet. Doctors typically don’t talk much about death, despite dealing with it routinely. When they do, they call attention to the limits of modern medicine and eschew any heroic measures at the end of their own life (Hastings Center Over 65 blog, September 1).

Spoils of war

Human Rights Watch says that the so-called Islamic State is holding hundreds of the members of the Yazidi sect captive in Iraq and Syria. The Islamic State defends this practice in Dabiq, its slick online English-language newspaper. IS claims it is reviving an old Muslim practice of claiming women and children as spoils of war and denies that they have separated mothers from their children. By forcing these people to become Muslims, they argue, they are saving them from idolatry, and by selling women to IS soldiers they are keeping the soldiers from the temptation of adultery (Reuters).

Mass attendance

A group of Catholics in the Detroit area is sponsoring “mass mobs” one Sunday a month at churches where attendance is typically sparse. On a designated mass Sunday, attendance swells—up to 2,000 at one church, which netted an offering of more than $19,000, ten times the usual amount. One parishioner said she hoped the movement would encourage more Catholics to attend mass. Similar movements have been started in Catholic churches in other cities (NPR, October 9).

Room for the dead

Cemetery crowding, especially in large cities or among religious groups that forbid cremation, is becoming a problem worldwide, forcing some creative solutions. Residents of Mexico City must exhume and remove their relatives’ remains after a number of years. A Tower for the Dead project is in the works there: it will include a vertical necropolis along with a subterranean complex 820 feet deep. A simpler solution is to stack graves on top of each other and to share tombstones. Other options being considered are stacking the dead above the ground in niches built into a wall or housing the dead in buildings with each floor resembling a traditional cemetery (AP).