Pope Francis: Military Intervention in Syria 'Futile'

Pope Francis in March, emipress /

Pope Francis in March, emipress /

Pope Francis on Thursday told world leaders gathered in Russia for the G-20 summit that a military intervention in Syria would be “futile,” urging them to focus instead on dialogue and reconciliation to bring peace to the war-torn country.

The Argentine pontiff’s first major foray onto the global stage comes as the U.S. Congress prepares to vote on a military strike against Syria in response to a reported chemical weapons attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21.

For Francis, just six months on the job, the Syria question will test his ability to summon the power of his global bully pulpit and could play a major role in shaping the global image of a man who’s drawn more attention for his down-to-earth pastoral appeal.

Feminists Call Temporary Western Wall Prayer Platform a ‘Sundeck'

RNS photo by Michele Chabin

RNS photo by Michele Chabin

One week after unveiling an expanded prayer platform near the Western Wall, Israel’s Minister of Religious Affairs reached out to Reform and Conservative Jews in the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah, which begins Wednesday evening.

But while the non-Orthodox leaders welcomed the new platform that can accommodate up to 450 worshippers, a group of Jewish feminists called it nothing more than “a sun deck” designed to marginalize anyone who is not Ultra-Orthodox from praying at the Wall.

Remembering How to Pray

Praying hands, udra11 /

Praying hands, udra11 /

Every now and again I have to stop and take stock of my prayer life. And when I do that, sometimes I have to share what it's like to realize that how I pray has somehow managed to change without my conscious intention to do so. This is one of those times. 

My prayer life has slipped away from me again in that I seldom if ever sit down with The Hours or my breviary and pray. It just doesn't happen. I arise in the morning and work begins. I move about my day from task to task, moment to moment, until the day is done. Idle time comes upon occasion, but not with any regularity. And Lord knows this summer's travel schedule has kept me hopping. Such a schedule keeps my brain busy as well. So, right. Explicit time for prayer is in great shortage.

Pipeline Prayer Walk: 'In the Wide Open Air'

Photo by Shodo Spring

Five walkers have completed 380 miles of their three-month pilgrimage along the proposed route of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. They have crossed from Monchy, Saskatchewan into the United States as part of the Compassionate Earth Walk and will continue their trek toward Steele City, Nebraska. In the flat unbroken prairies of Canada and the U.S. it is, as Dr. Seuss used to say, “opener out there, in the wide, open air.”
The walk began at the Fourth Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk led by Canadian First Nations members to protest mining in ancestral lands, expansion of tar sands mining, and TransCanada’s proposed system of pipelines, including the Keystone XL, which would cross into the United States. More than 500 people walked through the Ft. McMurray tar sands pits.
“Seeing the tar sands during the Healing Walk and being in a spiritual place with all those people wishing for healing, set a profound foundation for the Compassionate Earth Walk,” said Lina Blount, a recent Bryn Mawr graduate.

On Scripture: Power of Prayer ... at Kmart

Screenshot from video 'How We Pray'

Screenshot from video 'How We Pray'

When I want to remind myself of the power of prayer, I go to the Astor Place Kmart on the lower east side of Manhattan. Sure, I could read Kierkegaard or Augustine, but I prefer the Kmart. Specifically I favor an area in the far back corner of the basement. It is devoid of windows or natural light with a back wall of clear glass that faces the dungeon-like dark tunnel of the Number 6 subway train. There, you will find the most unexpected of things — like a plant nursery.

Sprouting out of this dreary prison are tender green leaves of ficus trees and the vibrant gold blossoms of marigolds. A tiny plastic tab peeks out of each pot with an image of what that particular plant could grow into if it received proper light and care; a cruel irony, as there is little hope in this place that such care or light will be offered. Even amid the bleak circumstances, these tiny members of creation still struggle, every moment of every day, to tap into the energy around them so that they might grow into that potential.

In short, they pray.

A New Hymn for Lamenting Gun Violence and Racism

Grave marker showing face of sorrow, Hub.-Wilh. Domroese /

Grave marker showing face of sorrow, Hub.-Wilh. Domroese /

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, a pastor who is a foster mother to a four year-old African American boy, wrote this hymn after George Zimmerman was found not guilty for his shooting of Trayvon Martin. She had read Jim Wallis’ “Lament from a White Father” and heard the Rev. Otis Moss of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ interviewed for the NPR report, “For The Boys Who See Themselves In Trayvon Martin.”

We Pray for Youth We Dearly Love

O WALY WALY LM  (“Though I May Speak”)

Solo (optional young voice):

“If I should die before I wake,

I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take....

And if I die on violent streets,

I pray thee, Lord, my soul to keep."

(Continued at the jump)