Lent is the period of penance that precedes the celebration of the Easter mysteries. The word comes from the Anglo-Saxon for “spring.” Lent lasts forty days but it is fairly difficult to come up with exactly forty days. It begins on Ash Wednesday and in the catholic tradition ends on Holy Thursday, discounting Sundays which are previews of Easter. In Scripture the number 40 symbolizes completeness. Noah stayed in the ark 40 days. Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Elijah the prophet stayed 40 days on Mount Horeb. Jonah gave the city of Nineveh 40 days to repent. It is the symbol rather than the count that is important. The primary re

The Debate about the Johnson Amendment

Jesuit Father Thomas Reese recently wrote an interesting article in NCR reacting to President Trump's repeated promise to his supporters in the Religious Right to repeal the so-called "Johnson Amendment," the 1954 legislation prohibiting all (not just Churches) non-profit, tax-exempt organizations - 501(c)(3) - from endorsing, campaigning for, or contributing to candidates for public office. (See "Repealing the Johnson Amendment:legal and ecclesiological problems," Personally, this rule has always seemed to me to be a reasonable requirement on the government's part in return f

Anxiety Escape

When people first try for meditation, such as practicing a Twelve Step Program of Recovery from some addiction, or people think meditation is a way to feel better, the initial energy for doing this is to escape some feeling such as fear or anxiety. For Recovery people by the time they get to the Eleventh Step which is mediation, they are often slackening off. They feel better from working the first ten steps and go to less meetings, are less available to newly recovering people, are of less service, and so the fear issue begins to come up again. Meditation makes them feel less fearful, but it is momentary. Daily practice plus the other steps and meetings, service are all necessary to ke

Twilight of Democracy

Twilight of Democracy Back when I was a political scientist in the late 1970s, I read an article by someone who suggested an analogy between constitutional monarchy and constitutional democracy. He argued that the former was a successful, 19th-century institution which works well in places where it is already well established and where it resonates with the country's culture, but which should not be expected to spread and take root elsewhere. By analogy, he argued something similar for 20th-century constitutional democracy, a system successfully well established in certain countries where it resonates with their history and culture, but which should not be expected to spread and take root el