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Issue Date:  December 16, 2005

Refreshing the soul in troubled times

Finding spiritual strength in the midst of hardship is a theme running through the articles in this special section of Spirituality. For Deborah Halter, a regular contributor to NCR, the experience of having her life upended by Hurricane Katrina gave her a glimpse of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, as numerous strangers shared what they had to ease her way when she fled New Orleans for Little Rock, Ark. Such kindness “radiates in all directions, changing the lives of givers, recipients and bystanders who witness it,” she writes in her essay ( see story).

Reporter Patricia Lefevere brings a dual portrait of Cistercian Fr. Thomas Keating, renowned teacher of centering prayer, and peace activist Jesuit Fr. Daniel Berrigan ( see story). While Keating is a cloistered monk and Berrigan is on the frontline of the antiwar movement, their commonality is a belief in the necessity of prayer. “Contemplative prayer and activism go together,” Berrigan says. “Without prayer our actions would just result in anxiety, depression and anger.” Benedictine Sr. Antonia Ryan reviews books by two other authors who have delved into contemplation ( see story).

Other articles stress the spiritual grounding needed to cope with life's struggles. Career counselor Phil Tracy calls for faith support for men and women who have lost their jobs ( see story). Students at a California Catholic school helped create an Ecological Stations of the Cross as an aid to meditation linking environmental destruction to Christ’s suffering; Sharon Abercrombie's article and examples of the students’ art ( see story).

Patricia Fening Gayes reports on prisoners who have found writing poetry as a conduit for spiritual awakening ( see story). “I guess when you feel desperate about your situation, it makes sense that you start to ask desperate questions, and that’s what I did,” says Jill Curran, who discovered poetry while serving time for drug-related crimes ( see story).

-- Teresa Malcolm

Additional Spirituality stories
Many learn forgiveness transforms

By Deborah Halter
Some Jews see mikvah as rebirth

By Nancy Haught
Core faith in God renewed Cash's life and career

By Dave Urbanski

National Catholic Reporter, December 16, 2005

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