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St. John Paul II: three choices for us all

Pope John Paul II waves to the crowd in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on April 23, 1997 (Credit: Associated Press/Andrew Medichini) This Sunday, Karol Jozef Wojtyla will be canonized as Saint John Paul II.  Born in Wadowice, Poland on May 18, 1920, he planned as a young man to become an actor.  However, when Germany invaded his Polish homeland, the 19-year-old Wojtyla chose to become a priest instead.  He became the first non-Italian pope in four centuries when he was elected in 1978; his was the third-longest papacy in history.  From his remarkable life and ministry, I would like to highlight three life choices today.

First, choose excellence.

Karol Wojtyla attended a secret seminary at night, then completed doctoral studies in just two years.  He could speak three languages by the time he was 14, and eight as an adult.  As pope, he wrote more than 3,000 pages a year and traveled more than 775,000 miles, equivalent to traveling to the moon and back three times.  His memory was as prodigious as his work ethic: the pope knew every one of the 2,000 Roman Catholic bishops in the world by name. He served his Lord with his best gifts.  Does God want less from us?

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Stephen Colbert's joyful faith

Stephen Colbert and David Letterman take a selfie(Credit: CBS) Stephen Colbert sat down for an interview with David Letterman this week.  What made their conversation front-page news?  The fact that Colbert will take over the Late Show when Letterman retires next year.  Colbert read his own "Top Ten" list and confessed that Letterman had been his idol since his college days.  He was offered a job as an intern with Letterman's show in 1986, but turned it down.  "Why is that?" Letterman asked.  "Because you did not pay people," Colbert explained.  Then he added, "The next job I'm taking here, it pays, right?"

Colbert is currently star of The Colbert Report and one of America's funniest personalities, but there's more to his story than most television viewers know.  His father and two brothers were killed in a plane crash when he was 10 years old, and he was raised primarily by his mother.  Her faith marked him for life.  He teaches Sunday school and attends mass regularly with his family.

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Lawsuit seeks to ban Pledge of Allegiance

Fairmeadow Elementary School students recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a school assembly in Palo Alto (Credit: AP/Paul Sakuma) The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by a minister named Francis Bellamy.  He supported the schoolhouse flag movement, which sought to place a flag above every school in the nation.  Responding to the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' landing in the Americas, Bellamy wrote his pledge to the flag for Columbus Day celebrations to be held around the country.

In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower asked Congress to add the words "under God" in response to the atheistic Communist threat of the day.  For the last 50 years, school children across the land have pledged allegiance "to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

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Is Putin another Hitler?

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federal Assembly, including State Duma deputies, members of the Federation Council, regional governors and civil society representatives, at the Kremlin in Moscow March 18, 2014 (Credit: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov) Paul Johnson, writing for Forbes, makes a frightening comparison between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Adolf Hitler.  He points out that prior to World War II, Hitler sent German forces into the Rhineland (then a country west of Germany), then into German-speaking Austria, and then into the Sudetenland (areas of what was then Czechoslovakia).  

Hitler claimed that he was only honoring the wishes of German-speaking peoples who wanted to be part of his Third Reich.  Similarly, Putin claims that his incursion into Crimea came at the request of Russians there. Observers worry that he will do the same in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

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Will Jesus return in the next 18 months?

A view of the most recent 'blood moon' total lunar eclipse as seen over Mexico City, which NASA has confirmed as the first of four consecutive total lunar eclipses that will occur in 2014 and 2015, April 15, 2014 (Credit: Reuters/Edgard Garrido) Last week's lunar eclipse produced a "blood moon" as the sun's rays were refracted by Earth's atmosphere and turned the moon a reddish hue.  It was the first of four blood moons to come, a phenomenon known as a "tetrad."  Last week's event fell on Passover.  The next will be on October 8, the Feast of Tabernacles; then on April 4, Passover in 2015; then on September 28, another Feast of Tabernacles.

A host of books has been published on this phenomenon, all claiming that something historic will happen in the next 18 months.  Some predict war in the Middle East; others predict the return of Christ.  However, NASA tells us there will be seven more sets of tetrads before the year 2100.  That's 32 blood moons in all.

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