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A Gift of Peace

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(Photo by Marion Amberg)

It’s a traditional Nativity scene. Christ Child. Angels. Wise men. Shepherds and sheep. What isn’t so traditional is who made it: German POWs incarcerated at Algona, Iowa.

The story begins in 1944 when Sergeant Eduard Kaib was captured in France and shipped to Camp Algona, a base camp in north-central Iowa that housed 3,200 German POWs and oversaw 34 branch camps in Minnesota, Iowa, and the Dakotas.

Suffering from war injuries, Kaib was also mired in depression. He missed deeply his homeland, family, and German Catholic religious traditions. One day, the radio operator had a divine idea.

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Evenings with Bishop Hank

“Dominus vobiscum!” I called as the white-haired gentleman opened the front door.

“Et cum spiritu tuo!” answered Bishop Hank, his dark brown eyes laughing.

Reciting this ancient Latin greeting was a ritual with us. Thankfully, we never prayed the Kyrie asking for God’s mercy. I felt guilty enough about telling the good bishop fibs.

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freeimages.com / James Goneaux

Bishop Hank had dementia, and maybe I did, too. Sometimes I’d forget he wasn’t a real bishop. For three years, I had been staying with Hank in the evenings while his daughter was at work. Like many caregiver situations, this one began with a scare. One wintry night Hank was found wandering the streets looking for his deceased wife, Betty. For his safety, he could no longer be left alone.

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The Homeless Jesus

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Photo by Marion Amberg

He sleeps on a park bench, shrouded in a blanket. Even his head and hands are covered. As the bright New Mexico morning sun begins beating down on the bench, located outside St. Thérèse of the Infant Jesus Catholic Church in Albuquerque, passersby might wonder, “Is he ever going to get up?”

The answer is no. He’s waiting for you to come to him.

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139 Years of Nonstop Prayer!

Marion Amberg

Looking for a powerhouse of prayer? Come to the Motherhouse of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Beginning on August 1, 1878, at least two adorers have kept vigil before the Blessed Sacrament in the Adoration Chapel. Holy moly! That’s more than 139 years—or 50,767 days—of nonstop prayer!

adoration-altar7-lz Adoration Chapel (Courtesy Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration)

Nothing can stop this prayer chain, not even an inferno. On December 2, 1923, when a fire broke out and devoured the west wing of the convent, the good nuns kept on

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For Goodness Saints!

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Traditional Spanish Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico

If there’s a heaven on earth, it must be in northern New Mexico. Not a day passes here that a new saint isn’t made. Oh, these saints aren’t being canonized; they’ve already earned their halos. Rather, they’re being painted, carved, and polished to perfection. But then, spiritual beauty is in the eye of the santeros–the “saintmakers.”

And when the saints go marching in, the public comes out–at Traditional Spanish Market Continue reading “For Goodness Saints!”