On/File: A Continuing Record of Groups, Movements, People, and Events Impacting Contemporary Religion

1) From its founding in 2006, the Moishe House movement has expanded considerably in building a sense of community among Jewish young adults. Moishe Houses started in order to meet the needs of young Jews who wanted to more actively engage in the Jewish community and were too old for Jewish life on campus and too young for the traditional young adult and family programming being offered. Started by Morris Squire, a philanthropist in Santa Barbara, Calif., the first house in the Bay Area started with hosting Shabbat dinners but then gave way to a variety of peer-led Jewish programs. From that one house, the model spread and expanded its scope, with a network of houses now spanning more than 27 countries and reaching more than 70,000 unique young adults around the world every year. They are not affiliated with any particular branch of Judaism, though they may shade toward the progressive side, embracing sexual diversity. They represent one model among several that are attempting to give Jewish community to young Jews who are in danger of drifting away from it. (Source: Rod Dreher’s Diary, May 18)

   © 2014 José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro
    Wikimedia Commons.

2) The Vatican’s establishment of an “observatory” at one of its several academic institutions, the Pontificia Academia Mariana Internationalis, to investigate claims of apparitions attributed to the Virgin Mary suggests a centralization of the Catholic Church’s process for authenticating such phenomena. Deirdre de la Cruz of the University of Michigan writes that the creation of this office “signals a major shift in how apparitions of Mary have been evaluated and authenticated in modern times.” The Council of Trent first gave bishops the authority to recognize new miracles or relics. While the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith established a set of norms prescribing how alleged apparitions should be judged at the local level, only a minority of apparition claims are investigated and only 25 have been approved by the local bishop, with just 16 of these being recognized by the Vatican. “Yet, throughout the Catholic world, hundreds of shrines commemorating a miraculous appearance of Mary enjoy devotional followings, with Vatican intervention and investigation often depending on the extent of the apparition’s following,” de la Cruz writes. The new office will serve both as an academic and pastoral task force for the study of apparition claims worldwide. It remains to be seen precisely how the office will coordinate with local bishops who have until now enjoyed the authority to determine whether the “Mother of God,” as Mary is often called, appeared in their jurisdiction. De la Cruz concludes that the new observatory is an “intriguing development in the long history of balancing the universal claims of the Catholic Church with the myriad expressions of local devotion and belief.” (Source: The Conversation, May 26)

    Source: https://www.kornevall.com.

3) Andreas Kornevall, a Swedish-British ecologist and educator, is leading a movement to mobilize Old Norse mythology and rituals and pre-Christian spirituality to address contemporary issues, particularly climate change. Kornevall is the founder of the UK-based Earth Restoration Service, an educational organization serving 750 schools on ecological concerns. More recently, he has started lecturing on Norse myths, teaching workshops on runes (phonetic symbols) and leading ceremonies known as blots (a form of worship that has traditionally included sacrifices). These ancient ceremonies and myths are meant to instill a memory of the pre-Christian past and rituals and how they establish a relationship with the land. Kornevall acknowledges that pagan symbols and practices have been used by the far right and that the Old Norse religious practices of Vikings included human sacrifice and slavery. In his educational efforts, he seeks to counter what he sees as the harmful use of these symbols. Kornevall is far from alone in seeking to rehabilitate pagan practices and myths for ecological purposes. The UK has seen a significant rise in people exploring the ecological implications of ancient regional customs and identifying as pagan or neopagan, while Iceland and Denmark are also seeing a revived paganism with a strong ecological thrust. (Source: Religion Unplugged, May 2)