Archive | December, 2015

Kitchy crèches revisited

December 22, 2015

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ORIGINAL POST DEC. 13, 2011

A couple of kitchy crèches spontaneously appeared in our offices recently (something about a dare) and reminded me it’s been a while since this topic has been visited.

Here are the local offenders:

PeanutsCreche

ShrekCreche
And the original blog I came across in 2011, whyismarko. He’s up to 62:

The 62 Worst and Weirdest Nativities (the 2015 revised list!)

 


 

From a very young age I have always loved Nativity scenes. I had my own as a child that featured small wood-carved painted figures that I set up and took down through Advents past. One can be found on display in my dining room year round and somewhere in storage is a classic crèche that has been in the family for years and is safely waiting for a slightly less rambunctious household in which to be displayed. Maybe next year.

The beauty of the Nativity story told in statuary was something that I didn’t think could be done wrong. And then I came across this blog…

27 worst nativity sets: the annual, growing list!

Truth be told, there is one in the collection that I kind of like (Hint – It’s not the one made of meat).

 

If you have pictures of beautiful crèches out there to offset these, please link them in the comments.

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Mary and Joseph, Model Parents for A Model Child

December 21, 2015

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JosephMaryJerusalemThe Holy Family – Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – is the model family, and they, more than any other family, offer the best spiritual example on how to be the kind of family that God wants.

Major Feasts.  “Each year his parents went up to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover” (Lk 2:41).  Passover was one of the three major Jewish pilgrimage feasts, along with Pentecost and Booths.  It was a big effort to go from Nazareth to Jerusalem, roughly eighty miles, on foot or by donkey.  When it came to the main feast of their faith, all three celebrated it with great faith and devotion in the Temple each and every year.  Likewise, when it comes to our major Christian feasts, Christmas and Pentecost, as well as the Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, following the example of the Holy Family, every Christian family should commit themselves to celebrate these feasts together as a family in church each and every year.

Age Twelve.  Luke is careful to mention that Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to Jerusalem when he was twelve, the age a Jewish boy celebrates his bar mitzvah, when a youngster, after being well-formed spiritually by his parents, would make his own adult faith commitment.  Similarly, Christian parents are to form their children in the faith with prayer at home, Mass every week, conversations about Jesus and Bible stories, the reception of First Reconciliation and First Eucharist, faith formation classes, all directed toward the Sacrament of Confirmation when a young person, after being well-formed spiritually by one’s parents, would eagerly and gladly make his or her own adult faith commitment in Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church.

Caravan Travel.  The Holy Family made the trip to Jerusalem in a caravan, a large group of relatives and friends that traveled together.  Mary and Joseph surrounded their child with like-minded people, other faithful Jews who were firmly committed to God and their faith, people who would have had a positive influence on their son and help to protect him from evil threats.  Likewise, Christian parents have an obligation to surround their children with good people who are positive spiritual influences, whether it be adults or peers, relatives or neighbors, teachers or classmates, coaches or teammates.  It is crucial to monitor with whom we spend our time on the “caravan through life,” because who we associate with says everything about our values.

Rules and Obedience.  “He [Jesus] was obedient to them” (Lk 2:51).  Mary and Joseph had house rules based upon the values of their Jewish faith, and they insisted on them with their young son Jesus, even after he made his adult faith commitment.  He may have been older, but he was not free to do whatever he pleased.  His parents insisted that he do the right thing, and Jesus complied.  Similarly, Christian parents must have house rules for their children based upon Jesus and the gospel, and they apply not only to their children when they are small, but also when they are teenagers, or even older if they decide to stay at home.

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52 lessons from ‘A Christmas Carol’

December 21, 2015

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In the 1938 movie version of "A Christmas Carol," Leo G.Carroll-plays Marley’s Ghost and Reginald Owen is Scrooge. File photo

In the 1938 movie version of “A Christmas Carol,” Leo G. Carroll (left) plays Marley’s Ghost and Reginald Owen is Scrooge. File photo

After you’ve once again this year watched Jacob Marley’s ghost scare the bejeezus out of poor ol’ Ebenezer Scrooge, and Bob Cratchit hoist Tiny Tim upon his shoulder to wish God’s blessings on one and all, consider picking up a self-improvement book that could end up carrying you through all of 2016.

In “52 Little Lessons from A Christmas Carol,” Bob Welch has extracted enough good reflections from the classic Charles Dickens work to spread out one per week for the next year.

Sure, you could read the 224 pages in a single setting, but frankly, the depth of each of the lessons deserves a lengthier examination of conscience.

Take some of these lesson titles in the Nelson Books work:

“Growing wiser means getting uncomfortable”

“You make the chains that shackle you”

“Showing trumps telling”

“Learning begins with listening”

“You can’t wish away the uncomfortable.”

And that’s just five of the 52. Each is brief, just a few pages, but with much to chew on.

Welch, a journalist, teacher and prolific author from Oregon, writes, “Beyond entertaining us, Dickens wanted to make us uncomfortable, because it’s only after we get a touch uneasy with ourselves that we open ourselves to change.”

In his author’s notes, Welch expresses his hope that after reading his “52 Lessons” readers will not only know Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” better, but will know themselves better. He admitted, “I certainly gained perspective on myself from researching and writing it, not that I’m particularly proud of all I discovered. . . . And can’t we all benefit from reexamining who we’ve become in our own life stories?”

In the lesson headlined “It’s about more than Christmas,” Welch decodes the words of Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, who points out how Christmas seems to bring out the best in people and open up their hearts.

“For Dickens, Christmas becomes a metaphor for life itself,” Welch notes, “the unwritten suggestion that in keeping Christmas we are, in essence, keeping Christ — the one on whom the celebration rests.”

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The Newborn Jesus: The Firstborn Son

December 18, 2015

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NativityFLFirstborn Son.  In Luke’s description of the birth of Jesus on the first Christmas, he explained that Mary “gave birth to her firstborn son” (Lk 2:7).  In the original Greek text, Luke used the Greek word protokos, and the New American Bible translates it “firstborn son.”

The Firstborn Controversy.  The word “firstborn” has been the cause for much debate.  There are some who claim that Jesus is the first son born to Mary, that she remained a virgin until the conception of Jesus, but that after the birth of Jesus, Mary had relations with Joseph and she had four additional sons:  James, Joses, Judas, and Simon (see Mk 6:3).  The Catholic Church, on the other hand, teaches that the Blessed Mother is the “ever-virgin Mary,” a virgin before the conception of Jesus, and that she remained a virgin for the rest of her life, and that Jesus was her only son (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), No. 499).  Moreover, the Church holds that “James and Joseph, ‘brothers of Jesus,’ are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls ‘the other Mary’ (Mt 13:55; 28:1; cf Mt 27:56)” (CCC, No. 500).

Firstborn, A Christological Term.  In this context, “firstborn” does not refer to Jesus’ birth order.  Fr. Eugene LaVerdiere, a Catholic biblical scholar, believes that protokos would be better translated “firstborn of God” rather than “firstborn son [of Mary],” and that “firstborn” is a way to describe the supreme importance of his birth.  Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation” (Col 1:15); “the first born into the world” (Heb 1:6); “the firstborn of the dead” (Col 1:18; Rev 1:5), the one who has primacy over all.  “Firstborn” means that Jesus is “the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.  God from God, Light from Light, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father” (Creed, Council of Nicea, 325 AD).

Firstborn, Jesus, the New Israel.  In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Chosen People Israel is God’s firstborn son.  God said, “Israel is my son, my firstborn” (Ex 4:22).  Jesus is the New Israel.  Salvation came through the Chosen People Israel, and now salvation comes through the newborn Jesus, the firstborn of Israel.

Firstborn Male, A Special Jewish Designation.  Every Jewish firstborn male had the birthright (see Gen 27:7b,27-29), the right of inheritance from his father.   The first-born was entitled to a double share of the inheritance (Dt 21:17).  Jesus inherited everything from his Father, his co-equal as a Person of the Trinity.  “The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him” (Jn 3:35).  It was Jewish tradition that every firstborn male was consecrated to God (Ex 13:2,12,15).  God said, “Every firstborn is mine” (Num 3:13a).  “I consecrated to me every firstborn of Israel … they belong to me” (Num 3:13c). Subsequently, after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph brought their newborn son Jesus to the Temple, and according to the law of Moses, which stipulated that “every male that opens that womb shall be consecrated to the Lord” (Lk 2:23; see Ex 13:2,12), Mary and Joseph presented Jesus to Simeon to consecrate their newborn and firstborn son to almighty God (Lk 2:22-38).  Thus consecrated as “firstborn,” Jesus stands not only as the firstborn of Mary and Joseph, but as the firstborn of the human race, the Messiah, the Son of God.

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Prayer of the Eastside Catholic

December 15, 2015

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In the heartland of America, the mighty Mississippi runs deep

Upon her banks, pioneers and immigrants harnessed the falls of St. Anthony,

Turning water into electricity and wheat into flour.

With work came faith, with flowing water came finest wine

With bread came the Eucharist.

 

Sons of German farmers shaped stone and glass into St. Boniface

Proud Poles built the mighty church of the Holy Crossing

“The” Strong Slavs remembered St. Cyril and dedicated him a church

Descendants of French Voyageurs honored Our Lady at Lourdes

Daughters of Ukraine baked pierogis and shaped the beautiful St. Constantine

The fruits of Lebanon turned cedar wood into St. Maron’s.

 

Today, French African immigrants and hardworking Hispanics join the great

Grandsons of Bavaria and Granddaughters of Italy in a new generation’s

Chorus to praise an ancient Church.

And, at our Lady of Mount Carmel, God’s special children,

Our deaf brothers and sisters,

Honor God not with their tongues but with their hands.

 

Work combined with faith, duty to God and America,

Loyalty to church and family

These values built the Eastside of Minneapolis.

 

May the Eastside of Minneapolis always remember the Lord who made the Mississippi River run

May the Eastside of Minneapolis always honor the Lord who made the mouths of many nations

Worship together one God and join together in the great feast of the Eucharist.

May the Eastside of Mississippi always welcome the stranger with Christ,

And respect the worker who seeks a better life with dignity.

Cain Pence is a native of the eastside of Minneapolis. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and is a member of St. Boniface in northeast Minneapolis. Pence is a salesman and has travelled extensively throughout all 50 states. The place he loves the most is the eastside of Minneapolis. He wrote this short prayer to honor the Catholic immigrant spirit found alive and well there.

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Did you know Marco Polo was Catholic?

December 7, 2015

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40 Catholics cover

A remarkable amount of world history — including some surprises — is packed into the 266 pages of “Forty Catholics Who Shaped the World.”

Had you ever heard that Marco Polo was Catholic, or that his well-known journey was part of a request of Kublai Khan to know more about Christianity? Were you aware that Ferdinand Magellan evangelized native peoples as he attempted to circumnavigate the globe?

The best part of the stories that author Claire Smith shares in this new book published by St. Pauls may be the historic context in which she places the figures, making every chapter a history lesson as well as an inspiring personality profile.

Read the courageous account of Pedro and Violeta Chamorro’s struggle to bring democracy to 20th century Nicaragua and you’ll get a tightly summarized recap of the era of Somoza, the Sandinistas and the ordeal that led to the Iran-Contra Affair.

If all you remember about the revolt in the Philippines during the 1980s are Imelda Marcos’ thousand pairs of shoes, you’ll want to reconnect with the name of Corazon Aquino, the rosary-praying widow who led the People Power Revolution and forced the dictatorial Marcos family from the country.

Smith divides her list of 40 into seven separate categories: Scientists, scholars, innovators; modern-day apostles; leaders and pioneers; explorers; artists, musicians; early Christian heroes, and famous Doctors of the Church.

Some — Father Jacques Marquette, Michelangelo, St. Paul — may be better known than someone like Herrad of Landsberg, for example, a 12th century nun who compiled the first encyclopedia.

The inclusion of Christopher Columbus, St. Valentine, Mother Angelica of the Annunciation of EWTN fame might raise some eyebrows. To point to just one of those, though, the Mother Angelica story will amaze even those whose spirituality leans in a different ideological direction.

Personally, I found the entries of the artists weak, especially those of El Greco and Raphael. But I wish I had known before about Caroline Chisholm, the woman who did so much for emigrants to Australia. And all will appreciate that Smith doesn’t ignore the character blemishes of her subjects, noting that Maryland’s Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, was a slave owner.

If you’re one who tends to skim, the author has done you a great favor: The initial paragraph of each entry is a concise explanation of who the person is and what they have done to deserve to be included in a list of those who have shaped our world.

 

 

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The Christmas Tree

December 4, 2015

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UnknownTraditional Beginnings.  The Christmas tree finds it origins in the medieval mystery plays of Europe, particularly in Germany.  Bands of minstrels and actors traveled from city to city to conduct skits about various truths of the faith.  One such play reenacted Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden and the fall of humanity, a dark moment in history to coincide with the darkness of the winter solstice.  The play had a Paradise Tree, the tree of life, a green fir tree decorated with apples, the forbidden fruit.  Over time, to add hope to such a depressing event, the tree was also decorated with bits of bread or crackers:  sin came from eating the apples; grace comes from receiving the Eucharist.  Eventually, the popularity of mystery plays faded, but the tradition of the tree remained without the previous focus on Adam and Eve’s sin.  The tree adornments evolved from apples, to apples and oranges, to brightly colored round objects, to the Christmas bulbs of today; and the crackers evolved to cookies cut in the shape of stars, angels, and animals, to the Christmas ornaments of today.

Location.  The oldest and most traditional location for a Christmas tree is inside the family home.  It is now also common to have one or more trees inside the church where they add to the solemnity of the feast and add joy to the good news of the Nativity.  The trees should never obstruct the view of the altar, lectern, or presider’s chair.

Timing.  According to the Book of Blessings, “the Christmas tree is set up just before Christmas and may remain in place until the solemnity of Epiphany” (No. 1571).  Many prefer to display a Christmas tree throughout the majority of the Advent-Christmas season beginning on the First Sunday of Advent and continuing until the Baptism of the Lord.

Symbolism.  The Christmas tree inside the family home is small and young when compared to a fully grown tree outdoors, a symbol for the Christ child who when born was both small and young.  The wide base of the tree angles upward to a pointed treetop which directs attention to heaven from which the Christ child has come (Jn 3:13b; 6:38) and to where he will return (Lk 24:51; Eph 1:20; 1 Pt 3:22).  The evergreen branches represent eternity:  the eternal love of God; and Jesus, the eternal word (Jn 1:1); an eternal being, “the one who is and who was and who is to come” (Rev 1:8); and the one who brings the gift of eternal salvation (Heb 5:9).  The sparkling Christmas lights represent Jesus, the Light of the World (Jn 1:4,5,9; 8:12; 12:46).

Blessing Ritual.  The Christmas tree may be blessed during Advent, on Christmas Eve, or on Christmas Day.  When the tree is blessed at home, the blessing may be offered by a parent or another family member.  The blessing may also be incorporated into Morning or Evening Prayer, or be part of a Liturgy of the Word.   The tree is illuminated after the blessing prayer is completed.  A scripture reading may be read before the blessing prayer, and three options are offered:  Titus 3:4-7, Genesis 2:4-9, or Isaiah 9:1-6.  Psalm 96 can be used as a Responsorial Psalm.  The hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, may be sung.

Blessing Prayer.  “Lord our God, we praise you for the light of creation:  the sun, the moon, and the stars of night.  We praise you for the light of Israel:  the Law, the prophets, and the wisdom of the Scriptures.  We praise you for Jesus Christ, your Son:  he is Emmanuel, God-with-us, the Prince of Peace, who fills us with the wonder of your love.  Lord God, let your blessing come upon this tree.  May the light and cheer it gives be a sign of the joy that fills our hearts.  May all who delight in this tree come to the knowledge and joy of salvation.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen” (No. 1586, 1595).

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Prepare the Way, Be a Witness

December 4, 2015

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By Crystal Crocker

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”  Luke 3:4-6

Returning from work exhausted, I plopped down on the sofa and clicked on the evening news. The drone of sad and shocking stories gave a sinking feeling of a world that is lost. Lost in a wilderness without God. Darkness seemed to envelop everything and everyone in it. I reached for the remote to change the channel but stopped just as I heard someone say, “I became a Catholic.”

The woman, a nationally known political analyst, beamed as she reported receiving the sacraments and entered the Catholic Church. Enthusiasm oozed as she radiated light that transcended the television screen. I was stunned that in our politically correct world, a national news show would allow one of their analysts to share their new Catholic faith on live television. Most shocking was that she was a former atheist who first became an Evangelical and then on October 10th of this year became a Catholic. The sacramental image of baptismal water being poured on her head flashed on the screen as proof! She ended by giving thanks to the priest who had given spiritual guidance through her journey.

And just like that. A light shot through all of the world’s darkness.

On this day, the second Sunday of Advent, we hear in the gospel of a light shooting through the darkness. We hear it from John the Baptist who cried out to a brood of vipers.

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

Like John, we are called to be a light and proclaim the love of Jesus Christ to all those we meet. It is our baptismal responsibility and mission as Catholics. But how are we to do that when the world may feel like a brood of vipers? How can we be a witness in a politically correct world that seeks to push us out of the public square and confine us to the pew?

The answer can be found in the example of St. John the Baptist, who showed sacrificial love, true humility and faith.

  • Love Jesus and I mean really love him! John loved Jesus so much that he told all of his friends to leave him and follow Jesus. He even sacrificed himself while proclaiming the truth to the very end. Only the love of Jesus Christ has the power to change hearts and heal the soul. This is the most important gift a witness can share, the love of Jesus to others. We cannot give what we do not have ourselves . . . and so love Jesus with all of your heart, mind and soul. Be with him everyday as you would be with an intimate friend. Love him so much that His light can’t help but shine through you to another . . . and then love them too!
  • Practice true humility. John said he was not even worthy to carry Jesus’s sandals which was the job of the lowest servant. A true witness guards against self-love and seeks a humble heart. Make an examination. Are you content in being second, living a simple life in the background? Or do you seek to advance yourself in family, work or Church through acknowledgements and fame? A true witness does not preach, teach or save anyone out of pride and acknowledgement. They keep Jesus as the focus and    point to Him as the Hero, while always remaining a humble vessel of His love.
  • Live with faith. John proclaimed that Jesus would come. He had great faith that he was doing what God called him to do and he never wavered. Even after he knew Jesus had come and baptized Him, he did not stop what he was doing but continued to point to Jesus. A witness continues to live with faith as light in a dark world. The greatest faith is to be a witness and never know what your work might have done, trusting that God is doing the real work with His grace.

Do not be afraid to take the opportunity to speak the truth about Jesus to anyone. You never know what God will do! Some day you may hear someone say, “I became a Catholic,” . . . just like Kirsten Powers, political analyst and former atheist now Catholic.

Read more on the second Sunday of advent (December 6) at the WINE blog, From the Vine.


 

References about Kirsten Powers becoming a Catholic:

Pope Francis’ Latest Convert: Kirsten Powers

Kirsten Powers’ Twitter announcement

Catholic Preaching

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The Jewish-Christian relationship, 50 years after ‘Nostra Aetate’

December 3, 2015

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Rabbi Adam Stock Spilker of Mount Zion Temple, St. Paul, gave the following remarks Dec. 2 at a banquet at the Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel commemorating the 50th Anniversary of “Nostra Aetate,” the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council.

If you stand in front of Notre Dame in Paris and gaze up, you will see below the famous gargoyles and among the many sculptures, two particular figures in prominence, one on the left and one on the right of the main entrance to the cathedral. Synagoga and Ecclesia.

Synagoga representing the Jews is a female figure that is bent, with a broken staff symbolic of a broken covenant. In contrast is Ecclesia, also a female figure, representing Christianity that is upright and triumphant.

I mention this because when I first saw Notre Dame as a kid in 1982 it was in a context of harmony between Catholics and Jews. I never saw those sculptures as anything but history. That is the remarkable legacy of “Nostra Aetate” and the paradigm shift it ushered in for the relationship between Catholics and Jews, and Catholics to Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus and eventually to all interfaith dialogue.

Rabbi Adam Spilker

Rabbi Adam Spilker

In the Jerusalem Talmud we are taught, “Upon three things the world rests: upon justice, upon truth, upon peace. And the three are one, for when justice is done, truth prevails, and peace is established.” In a world sorely in need of all three, it is important to celebrate an area where justice to the Jewish people was done and truth and peace became possible between Catholics and Jews.

No institution is an island and immune to changing times. When an institution as immense as the Catholic Church makes any change, it is done with considerable thought and prayer. Without addressing its many dimensions and manifold perceptions, I stand here tonight to praise the Catholic Church for a decision in 1965 that ushered in a remarkable new era for the Jewish people. For Jews used to taunts of being called “Christ-killers,” the power of this Vatican statement was breathtaking.

In many ways, 1965 captured decades of growing relations. In St. Paul, contributions for the beautiful cathedral that graces our skyline and is now over 100 years old, came from many people outside of the Catholic community including Jews. This parallels the funding of my own congregation, Mount Zion’s third building on Holly and Avon Streets finished in 1903 that came from across Minnesota from Catholic, Protestant and Jew alike. St. Paul with its more Catholic milieu than Minneapolis was in general more accepting of the Jewish community.

Protestant Christian churches did take their cue from the Catholic Church but it took longer. My congregation has a dialogue with a Lutheran Church, Gloria Dei, which is part of the ELCA. The ELCA did not come up with a parallel statement on clarifying history about Jesus’ death and the relationship with the Jewish people until 1994.

I remember celebrating the 25th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate” when I was given the opportunity to teach a partial credit “Jewish-Christian Relations” class at Duke University with my friend Ted Smith who became a Presbyterian minister. As students we were given the ability to design a class to be taught to our peers. When we decided to put together the class, it was at a high point for Christian-Jewish relations in America. There were biennial national conferences attended by hundreds of scholars, clergy and laity which I had the fortune of attending in South Carolina, Oklahoma and Connecticut. Today the interfaith landscape is more diverse and complex but thankfully still strong in some parts of the country including here. One teaching from that class I will never forget from Roman Catholic priest Raimondo Pannikar who says that we will never fully know whether the messiah has come or not, that is we will never fully reconcile theological differences. In the meantime, let’s roll up our sleeves and work for justice and peace in our community together.

Religious pluralism should never be taken for granted. Just listen to what some are saying about our brother and sister Muslims in America and around the world. We have a common covenant through Noah that has never been abrogated and we need to honor God by seeing everyone first and foremost as in the image of that God. Interfaith work takes commitment, persistence and trust. And it is essential in our world sorely in need of religious voices of tolerance and peace.

I am grateful for the efforts of the Archdiocese through Father Erich Rutten whom I have had the pleasure of working with over many years now and the partnership that the Minnesota Rabbinical Association has in the JCRC under the wise leadership of Steve Hunegs.

The Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Relations recently hosted a two day conference at the University of St. Thomas to commemorate this 50th anniversary of “Nostra Aetate.” There I learned from Professor Mary Boys (Union Theological Seminary, New York) about a recently made sculpture that captures the change in Church doctrine. It is in Philadelphia made for the 50th Anniversary of “Nostra Aetate,” Synagoga and Ecclesia are situated side by side, both triumphant, Synagoga with a Torah scroll, Ecccesia with a book of the Word, their equal covenants honored. Pope Francis blessed this sculpture during his recent visit. This is the vision of a world redeemed, ancient faiths in partnership. May our understanding across faiths continue to grow in our own community and may God grant us strength to sustain a world of justice, truth, and peace.

Rabbi Spilker has served Mount Zion Temple for the past 18 years. Mount Zion is the oldest Jewish congregation in the Upper Midwest, founded in 1856, and is situated in its third location on Summit Avenue. Rabbi Spilker works with his wife, Cantor Rachel Stock Spilker, the congregation’s first invested cantor, and Rabbi Esther Adler and Cantor Jennifer Strauss-Klein.

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