Image via RNS/Reuters/Carlos Barria

Behind the scenes, for example, the two candidates – who couldn’t bring themselves to shake hands at the third and final presidential debate a night earlier – were brought together by the cardinal during a brief pre-dinner prayer.

“They were both icy from the beginning, you could tell,” Dolan said. “They’re not on each other’s Christmas card list, I can tell you that. You could tell those two had a rather, I’d say, frigid relationship, more than icy.”

Rachel Malinowski 04-25-2016

Image via  /

I don’t practice the corporal works of mercy.

The realization left me stunned. As I sat in a cluster of retreatants I thought about what that meant. Sure, I donate money to various charities, participate in food drives, and donate clothes that I no longer need, but do not practice the corporal works of mercy — I have other people or institutions do it for me.

the Web Editors 02-02-2016

Image via neneo /

Coming to a theater near you: the Vicar of Christ. The charismatic Bishop of Rome is set to play himself in the movie Beyond the Sunreports Variety. This will be Pope Francis’ first time acting — not to mention the first time a pope has ever appeared in a feature film.

Image via Josephine McKenna/RNS

Pope Francis’ outreach to the homeless with showers, shelters, and other services may have its youngest beneficiary — an infant born on a street near St. Peter’s Square. A homeless woman gave birth on a cardboard box mere yards from the Vatican on Jan. 20 in near-freezing temperatures, according to Reuters.

Image via  / Shutterstock

Francis’ visit was said to have delighted around 30 homeless men hosted at the dormitory, who spoke to the pope, recounted their stories and asked to be blessed. The pontiff’s visit lasted around 20 minutes, Vatican Radio reported.

He was accompanied by his almoner (distributor of alms or charity), Archbishop Konrad Krajewski; the Jesuit superior general, the Rev. Adolfo Nicolas; and three nuns who work at the residence.

The “Gift of Mercy” (“Dono di Misericordia”) homeless shelter was inaugurated earlier this month and can host 34 people each night. The building, a former travel agency, was converted by Jesuits as a response to Francis’ call for more to be done to help poor people.

the Web Editors 08-28-2015

1. Where Pope Francis Learned Humility

Francis’ road to humility was like the rest of ours: long, hard, and prideful.

2. The Meaning of Serena Williams: On Tennis and Black Excellence

“For black people, there is an unspoken script that demands the humble absorption of racist assaults, no matter the scale, because whites need to believe that it’s no big deal. But Serena refuses to keep to that script.”

Adam Ericksen 06-14-2015
Diana Robinson /

American Pharoah ridden by jockey Victor Espinoza wins the Triple Crown at Belmont on June 6. Photo by Diana Robinson/

After winning the Triple Crown, American Pharoah’s jockey, Victor Espinoza, showed that he doesn’t live in fear of losing his power. And, as opposed to the Egyptian Pharaoh, he showed he has a soft heart for those who are suffering.

Espinoza reportedly earned $80,000 for his victory at the Belmont Stakes and he’s giving it all away. “I won the Triple Crown right now,” he stated, “but I don’t make any money because I’m donating all the money to the City of Hope.” The City of Hope is a cancer research and treatment center. Espinoza also donates his time at the City of Hope, visiting with children struck by cancer. He says, “The kids [are] 6 years old, 10 years old, it’s just heartbreaking.” Why does he do it? “I just saw one kid with the disease and that’s how I changed my life. I changed the way I think. Pretty much I changed everything … the first change I made was in my heart.”

the Web Editors 10-17-2014

1. Race and America’s Gun Culture
"Whites walking down Main Street with an AK-47 are defenders of American values; a black man doing the same thing is Public Enemy No. 1."

2. Keeping the Faith: How Childhood Influences Churchgoing
From college education to birth order, this article offers all the latest stats on American religiosity.

3. WATCH: British Nurse Who Survived Ebola Will Return to Africa Because ‘There’s Still A Lot of Work to Do’
William Pooley is a volunteer nurse who contracted the disease in Sierra Leone. He plans to return.

4. Dear White People: Art Imitating Life’s Racism
"Simien told The Root he’s not trying to embarrass but instead is trying to open a dialogue through his humor. He wants white filmgoers to know, ‘It’s not an hour-and-a-half indictment of your people.’ Instead it could be taken as a 108-minute indictment of all people."

A statue of Jesus holding the a book imprinted with Luke 4:18. Photo courtesy of BleColRob/RNS.

Christian researchers tracking decades of decline in charitable giving say the trend will not be reversed until pastors challenge congregants to embrace Jesus’ teachings on the poor.

But that, says Sylvia Ronsvalle, one of the authors of the annual “Empty Tomb” reports on Christian giving, will take a different kind of pastor than the counselors and comforters that seminaries and divinity schools have trained for ministry.

Seminaries instead need to school future clergy on the affluence of American congregations, and remind church members of “God’s agenda to love a hurting world,” the report said.

“The State of Church Giving through 2012: What are Christian Seminaries and Intellectuals Thinking — or Are They?” was issued by Empty Tomb, an Illinois-based nonprofit that tracks the percentage of church members’ income that they give to their congregation.

“Pastors are not being prepared to effectively pastor their people within an age of affluence,” said Ronsvalle, who wrote the report with her husband, John L. Ronsvalle.

Vast amounts of ink have been spilled pointing out how our attempts at charity go about it wrong.
Photo courtesy RNS/

Donating to charity. Photo courtesy RNS/

When it comes to donating to charity, Britain’s small but fast-growing Muslim community comes out ahead of other religious groups, a recent survey shows.

Conducted by ICM, a London-based polling agency, the survey shows the U.K.’s estimated 280,000 Muslims report giving more money annually to charity than Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and Jews.

The survey, conducted on behalf of JustGiving, an online giving platform, also found a 70 percent rise in giving over the past two years from among Muslims to the charity-giving site.

Morf Morford 05-30-2013
Homeless, Annette Shaff /

Homeless, Annette Shaff /

There should be no poor among you - Deuteronomy 15:4

This is one of the few commands virtually all religious people easily – even eagerly – follow.

We just do it our own way.

The biblical and cultural context and overriding assumption is that those of us with means should contribute – willingly and without conditions – to those among us who, for whatever reason, are needy.

We are not to judge – or distance ourselves – from those who have little – or cannot pay us back. In fact these are the ones Jesus commands that we – and by extension he – should invite to a banquet (Luke 14:12-14).

But we seem to have ‘no poor among us’ – we do our best to exclude, ignore, or even ban them when we do see them.

Alessandro Speciale 04-18-2013
Pope Francis at his installation. marcovarro /

Pope Francis at his installation. marcovarro /

Vatican employees won’t receive the special bonus they are traditionally awarded when a new pope is elected, the Vatican confirmed on Thursday, under orders from Pope Francis to give extra money to charity instead.

“On account of the difficult situation of the general economy, it seemed neither possible nor opportune to burden Vatican institutions with a considerable unforeseen extraordinary expense,” the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said in an emailed statement.

In place of the employees’ bonus, Pope Francis ordered Vatican officials to make a donation to some “charitable organizations.”

The money will be drawn from the pontiff’s personal charity budget “as a sign of the church’s attention for the many people who are suffering” from the global economic slowdown, Lombardi said.

Tara Samples 04-12-2013
Man asking for help, Africa Studio /

Man asking for help, Africa Studio /

As has happened many times after I have given a talk about the Body of Christ’s responsibility to care for their brothers and sisters experiencing impoverished and dehumanizing conditions, I was asked to answerthose questions — the ones in my experience that are always the first to be asked the moment I stop speaking.

“How will I know I have given enough? How does the church balance financial responsibility with service to the poor? Where do we draw the line?”

These questions always come, sometimes spoken in a curious tone by a person whose heart is being convicted, sometimes in an angry accusing tone insinuating I must hate prosperity, sometimes privately as a whisper in my ear or in a personal email filled with insinuations about my sanity. What a preposterous proposal, that the Body of Christ in any particular location should be the first resource to its own community for spiritual, physical, and emotional well being! Don’t I know that such a mission is naïve and impossible to achieve? Most recently it was phrased like this: “I love this idea, but it is difficult to see benevolence funds go towards someone's electric bill when they smell like they smoked five packs of cigs before meeting with us; what do we do?”

Offering tray photo, Wellford Tiller /

Offering tray photo, Wellford Tiller /

Post-recession America is beginning to open its wallet to charities again, but is not giving as generously to religious institutions.

While charitable donations from individuals rose nearly 4 percent overall in 2011, according to the annual "Giving USA" report, donations to houses of worship and other religious bodies dropped by 1.7 percent — a decrease for the second year in a row.

The report, compiled by the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy and released on June 19, shows that individual Americans gave nearly $218 billion last year, $96 billion of which went to religious organizations.

Rose Marie Berger 06-01-2012

Every year, somewhere between US$200 billion and $1 trillion are spent in “mandatory” alms and voluntary charity across the Muslim world, Islamic financial analysts estimate.  At the low end of the estimate, this is 15 times more than global humanitarian aid contributions in 2011. 

With aid from traditional Western donors decreasing in the wake of a global recession, and with about a quarter of the Muslim world living on less than $1.25 a day, this represents a huge pool of potential in the world of aid funding.

Cathleen Falsani 05-11-2012
Justin Bieber and his mom, Pattie Mallette, in NYC last year. (Getty Images)

Justin Bieber and his mom, Pattie Mallette, in NYC last year. Photo by Getty Images.

You might not be a fan of Justin Bieber, but I'm willing to bet there's at least one young person in your life who is.

And while it may be hard for us adults to believe, young Bieber, the Canadian pop superstar, has brought the Gospel -- of social justice and otherwise -- to millions of fans (who call themselves "Beliebers") around the globe.

Today -- just in time for Mother's Day -- Bieber, 18, released the new single "Turn to You" from his forthcoming album BELIEVE. It's a love song -- a tribute to his mother, Pattie Mallette, who gave birth to her only child when she was just 17 years old. Both Bieber and Mallette are devoted Christians (evangelicals, in fact) and neither is shy about speaking about their faith publicly.

“God is the one that is orchestrating all of this and giving [Justin] such incredible favor,” Mallette said in an interview with the Hollywood Prayer Network last year. “And he knows that it’s for a purpose and a plan. And he’s not sure what all that entails yet and how he fits into that, but he knows that it’s by God’s hand.”

Listen to the new song inside the blog ...

Christian Piatt 03-24-2012
Photo by Heike Pototschnigg /

Photo by Heike Pototschnigg /

Emmanuel shows up on our front porch about once a week. His name means “God with us,” but if there’s anyone on the planet who appears to have been forgotten by the Divine, It’s him. He stands at about 5’4″ and has maybe a handful of teeth left. when he speaks, I catch about half of what he says, but there’s a childish innocence in his eyes that betrays the years of hard living he has endured since then.

Sometimes he offers to do work; sometimes he asks for food. Usually he just wants money. I’ve written before about my struggles with this, as the controlling side of me wants to have a hand in how he spends “my” money. This particular day, he’s looking for fifteen dollars for rent.

“I told you you had to get clean before I’d give you any money man,” I shook my head. “I can give you some food.”

“I’m clean, sir, I’m clean,” he always calls me that, even though he’s nine years older than I am. He was speaking more clearly than usual and his eyes were unusually bright. “Come with me sir. If you’ll drive me to the Catholic Woman’s house, she’ll tell you I’m clean.”

Joshua Witchger 03-14-2012

A new charity project debuting at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, is sparking controversy.

BBH Labs, a non-profit in New York, has started a campaign called “Homeless Hotspots,” in which homeless people are equipped with the tools to act as portable hot spots for nearby people seeking 4G access.

Here’s how it works: The homeless person wears a t-shirt with the words “I’m a 4G Hotspot” written across the chest, accompanied with an SMS code and key number. Inquiring minds plug the information into their phones or tablets, give a donation via Paypal, and are given access to their service. Every dollar goes directly to the person providing you access, with a suggested donation of $2 for every 15 minutes.

But is this really a charity?

the Web Editors 03-10-2012


Yes, it's odd, having a rock star here—but maybe it's odder for me than for you. You see, I avoided religious people most of my life. Maybe it had something to do with having a father who was Protestant and a mother who was Catholic in a country where the line between the two was, quite literally, a battle line. Where the line between church and state was… well, a little blurry, and hard to see.

I remember how my mother would bring us to chapel on Sundays… and my father used to wait outside. One of the things that I picked up from my father and my mother was the sense that religion often gets in the way of God.

For me, at least, it got in the way. Seeing what religious people, in the name of God, did to my native land… and in this country, seeing God's second-hand car salesmen on the cable TV channels, offering indulgences for cash… in fact, all over the world, seeing the self-righteousness roll down like a mighty stream from certain corners of the religious establishment…

I must confess, I changed the channel. I wanted my MTV.

Even though I was a believer.

Perhaps because I was a believer.

Bono of U2, in his 2006 National Prayer Breakfast keynote address