Quite possibly his life is a compendium of his background for he was a mixed breed, being born in Prades, France on January 31, 1915 to an American mother and a father who hailed from New Zealand. They lived in the foothills of the Pyrennees Mountains. He led a gyspy life growing up, attending schools in France and then England at Cambridge where he had a chaotic first year and left disallusioned. The Jenkins family, his grandparents on his mother's side, urged him to cross the seas and attend college in the U.S. They had promised to pay for his schooling. Thus he enrolled in Columbia University in New York City. It was there that he ran both into trouble and salvation.
As he has detailed in his autobiography "The Seven Storey Mountain", he experienced the rebellion of youth and the search for the forbidden pleasures, but he also discovered a whole new world of faith which he attributes to his own syllogisms in studying under such luminaries as Mark Van Doren, Daniel Walsh and Joseph Wood Krutch. In a dramatic conversion experience documented in his book, he joined the Roman Catholic Church in 1938 just before acquiring his Masters. He taught for a while at his alma mater at Columbia and then was invited to teach at St. Bonaventure's University in upstate New York. It was his gnawing desire to know God more intimately and gain a greater, deeper insight into the meaning of life that motivated him to gravitate towards Kentucky and the Trappist Monastery there known as the Abbey of Gethsemani just outside Bardstown, Kentucky. He entered three days after the Japanese raided Pearl Harbor in Hawaii which initiated America's participation in World War II. Thomas had his own inner wars to battle and he transcribed those in his books which made him famous worldwide, especially after "The Seven Storey Mountain" was published in 1948. It gave him the visibility as the most famous monastic figure of the century. We have to question that claim since there was another monastic figure, a Cistercian in San Rotundo, Italy who was pretty well known: Padre Pio. Nevertheless, demands on Merton for interviews, speaches, visits, etc. greatly cut into his prayer time and the Abbey had a dilemna on their hands for Trappists were the strictest of the Cistercian which meant total withdrawal from the world and silence. Merton was moving the abbey and monks to more prominence as donations came in, but hurting the solitude and ambiance of monastic life. Thus, they allowed him to travel so as not to disrupt the rest of the monks and gave him a dispensation from some of his vows.
But this freedom only constrained Merton further for in his life-long search for the ultimate meaning of life and the truths of God's creations, he was constantly searching; a search which also took him into the darker regions of man's humanity and the haunting questions that forever hovered in his mind. He was greatly influenced by all the great minds of history - from Aristotle to Saint Thomas Aquinas, from Dante Aligheri to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, from the medieval mystic Meister Eckhart to Saint John of the Cross. He became driven later in life to discover everything, trying desperately to search his own dark night of the soul, he turned toward the Orient and eastern mysticism. This was a great shock to many who had long held the European cultural roots of the Church and the Roman Catholic faith. He wrote voraciously and there are so many volumes of his writing, most of which can be found at Bellarmine University where his archives - the Merton Collection - are housed in the Merton Library and headquarters for the International Thomas Merton Society.
Though he was loyal to the Church, he marched to a different drummer in the manner in which he professed his faith and his final search took him to Bangkok in Thailand during a pilgrimage to Asia where he also met with the Dalai Lama in the Himalayas. It was Bangkok where he met his most unfortunate, premature end at the age of 53 when he was accidentally electrocuted when he came in contact with a faulty wire.
Throughout his life he battled the inner demons, searching for ways to exorcise them and help others exorcise mutual ghosts. Because he was drawn to contemplation and so consumed with the quest for perfection, because of his voracious appetite for knowledge, and because of his penchant for pursuing all possible answers, he was led to Zen and Hinduism. At no time did he ever consider "converting" to the eastern faiths, but rather to borrow from the eastern mystics and masters in trying to apply these principles of the cohesion of body and soul to his Catholic faith and help others escape the dark night of the soul and attain eternal peace of mind with God. We suspect he has finally found that peace, that peace he refers to in his poem, "The Night of Destiny",
We pray that in his ending he found his beginning and the meaning of life as the greatest of all teachers put it so succinctly in John 14: 6, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."
Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran was born in Bordeaux, France in 1943. After minor seminary and major scholasticate at the Gregorian University in Rome where he received his Masters in Philosophy, Theology and Law, he was ordained on September 20, 1969 at the age of 26. He was assigned to pastoral work in the Diocese of Bordeaux until 1975 when he joined the Holy See's Diplomatic Corps. He was appointed Apostolic Nunciature to the Dominican Republic for three years, then transferred in 1978 to the same office to Lebanon until 1983 when Pope John Paul II assigned him to the Vatican's Council for Public Affairs.
It was the beginning of a career that would take him around the world and wean him on matters of state dealing in all kinds of affairs regarding humanity. The Holy Father was so impressed that in 1988 he promoted him to Under-Secretary of the Second Section for Relation with States. At the same time on June 28, 1988 he reformed the Curia changing the Council for Public Affairs to the jurisdiction of the Secretary State and establishing the Second Section. This Second Section of the Secretariat of State handles all matters pertaining to civil governments, fostering diplomatic relations with nations, and maintaining contact with all the diplomatic missions of the Roman Catholic Church. On October 1, 1990 named him the Foreign Minister of the Holy See as well as appointing him the Secretary for Relations with States, a position he still holds as the man in charge of matters that concern the presence and activity of the Holy See on the international stage.
He has been presented the President's Medal and honored for his unfailing dedication to establishing peace for all cultures. He is, in actuality, the third most powerful man inside the Vatican. Only the Holy Father and the Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano are higher than Archbishop Tauran. Many believe Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is the second most powerful man at the Holy See, and he might very well be as the head of the very important Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but on the organizational chart, Archbishop Tauran is third in command. This bodes well for this 56 year-old French prelate for no man in the world has met with more heads of state outside of the Pope himself! The reason for this is that Archbishop Tauran is the Holy Father's front man. He is, to the world, the Holy See's "voice of conscience" in international policy. The Pope has sent him all over the world to quell trouble spots, and seek peaceful solutions for the good of all mankind. You name the hotspot and undoubtedly Archbishop Tauran has been there. It was through his tireless efforts that the Vatican established diplomatic relations with Israel. It was Archbishop Tauran who met with Saddam Hussein when American and other Western leaders could not. It was Archbishop Tauran who helped bring the parties together in Northern Ireland. It was Archbishop Tauran who laid the groundwork for Fidel Castro to mellow and allow the Holy Father to step on Cuban soil for the first time ever. It was Archbishop Tauran who met with Kremlin officials and Yeltzin after the fall of communism in Russia. It was Archbishop who met personally with Slobodan Milosevic in confidential meetings to persuade him to stop the ethnic cleansing and recall Serbian troops. It was Archbishop Tauran who, through more secret negotiations with NATO, the UN and later the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Vatican, convinced her to influence Bill Clinton to call off the bombing because of the agreements Tauran had made with Milosevic for the good of all concerned. It was Archbishop Tauran who has met with B.J. Habibe, President of Indonesia, and Nobel Peace laureate Bishop Carlos Belo of East Timor, to try to come to a peaceful settlement that still is tenuous in the vast island connection in the Indian Ocean and which, other than East Timor, is predominantly Muslim. It was Archbishop Tauran who arranged visits with the Pope at the Vatican for the current Ayotollah of Iran, for Yeltzin, and for numerous other heads of state. He has tried feverishly to negotiate with the Red Chinese over the sensitive issue of Taiwan which is one of the main the stumbling blocks to the Vatican establishing diplomatic relations with Red China. Yet, wisely, he will not compromise the Church's position or stature. He has met with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II and other religious leaders globally. Lately, he has been working overtime trying to effect peaceful situations in the troubled regions of Africa, especially the Sudan, the Congo and Rwanda, as well as South and Central America, India, Pakistan, Korea and the boiling cauldron of the Mid-East.
That latter could be his legacy for if and when a peaceful solution can be accomplished between Israel, Palestine and Syria, the Holy Land will be a holier place and a safer place for the Holy Father to retrace the footsteps of Abraham during his Jubilee Journey that will begin in November in Ur, Chaldea which is northern Iraq today. Slowly but surely the Holy Father is exposing Archbishop Tauran to more and more, grooming him, if you will, for greater duties. It is a no-brainer that at the next Consistory he will be made a cardinal and, because of his young age, his acceptance by so many around the world, his command of so many languages, his tremendous experience and influence in world politics, his growing prestige at the Holy See, and his total loyalty to the policies of Pope John Paul II, he could very well be an excellent candidate for the next papal elections. Stay tuned! For now, these ambitions aren't even on his mind for he is, no doubt as you read this, off again trying to quell another trouble spot somewhere in the world, meeting with kings and queens, premiers and presidents, rebels and special groups, powerful military and political leaders of every ilk who are won over by this Vatican chief diplomat's unarming and gentle but firm resolve to maintain the Sanctity of Life and the dignity of man.
Rosemary Brown was born in Derry, Ireland on August 30, 1951. The roots of her birthplace course through her veins for Derry was long renowned for its tradition of music and dancing dating back to Celtic times and Saint Columba in the 6th century. In 1957 she gave notice to the world that she was a serious singer when she won her first competition in Derry, singing an Irish lullaby that her grandmother taught her. With help and coaxing by her music teacher Sister Imelda the next step was the European competitions where she continued to dazzle the audiences and judges. Looking for a name that would stick in everyone's mind, she decided on Dana which in Gaelic means "bold" or "mischievous." Not that she was mishievous in her youth, but she was bold for at the age of 18 she ventured farther into the limelight by representing all of the emerald isle in the Eurovision Song Contest, garnering the silver medal for second place. A year later she was back to compete in the prestigious and well-publicized 1970 Eurovision Song Contest. That year the competition was stiff for she was up against one lady who had recorded for Apple Label, the record company made famous by the internationally famous mopheads known as The Beatles, and another young singer from Spain by the name of Julio Iglesias who would go on to fame and fortune in the coming years. With that kind of pressure, Dana had to sing her best. Calling on the Holy Spirit for inspiration and the strength, she easily won the competition, landing the gold both in the award and with the recording of her hit song "All Kinds of Everything." The media was flabbergasted and huddled around this relative un-known the night she won. After staying up most of the night giving endless interviews, she still managed to rise in time to attend morning Mass in Amsterdam to give God thanks for her good fortune. Little did she realize the scope of her fame until she landed at the airport in Ireland. Around 5,000 had turned out to cheer her on and welcome home their newest hero. Included in the group was the Bishop of Derry who had personally blessed her before her departure for the competitions. Her recording of "All Kinds of Everything" catapulted her to fame throughout Europe and, because of her deep faith, motivated her to begin singing religious songs when appearing on Christian radio stations. The response was tremendous as she recorded song after song, each soaring to the top of the charts, so much so that she was one of the top music attractions in Britain and this, at a time when British music ruled the world. Towards the latter part of the seventies she met a young man named Damien Scallon. It was love at first sight and the two were married on October 5, 1978. Damien, whose conversion was an experience of being "Baptized in the Spirit," helped her conquer her fear of speaking in public. They began speaking at conferences and the more they wrote songs and gave testimony, the stronger their faith and love grew through the births of their children from the oldest Grace who is now 19 to Ruth, John James, and the youngest - ten-year old Robert.
During the Pope's visit to Ireland in 1979 she was invited to sing for the Holy Father, a tremendous honor for anyone but for someone of such deep faith as Dana, it was a special privilege. She had composed a special song just for him entitled "Totus Tuus" after his personal papal motto. Needless to say, it was a tremendous hit both with Pope John Paul II and the charts. Little did she know it wouldn't be the last time she met and sang for His Holiness. She was invited to the United States in 1987 to give an encore of her hit "Totus Tuus" for the Holy Father during his visit to the New Orleans Superdome where 80,000 youth packed the arena, stomping, clapping and singing along with her. It was truly electrifying. It was also in New Orleans that, through a chance meeting with another Irish woman in New Orleans, Dana began a new page in her life: Charismatic leader and singer. She met Sister Briege McKenna who told her about a new Catholic network and introduced her to Father Harold Cohen, at that time producer of many series on EWTN. Shortly after that Dana and Damien packed up their family and moved lock, stock and barrel to the States, settling in Birmingham, Alabama where Damien was hired by Mother Angelica as an executive at EWTN. It was old-home week for the Scallon family and Dana's sister Susan who had married a U.S. serviceman and lived in the states as well.
In the early nineties her career as a popular attraction at Marian, Eucharistic and Charismatic Conferences across America mushroomed and in 1992 she recorded a television series on EWTN entitled "Say YES." It is still broadcast today on the television side as well as on the network's radio station WEWN. In 1993 she was invited to once again perform for the Pope, this time in Denver for World Youth Day where, with a quarter of a million in attendance and millions worldwide watching by satellite she brought down the roof - even though they were outside - with the song "We are One Body." Talk about the third time being the charm! But there would be a fourth as well, this time in October 1995 when she sang for the Holy Father again, this time in Central Park in New York accompanied by Placido Domingo. Her New York connection included the honor of being asked to co-host the city's famous St. Patrick's Day Parade two years in a row with Cardinal John J. O'Connor personally asking her to sing "Lady of Knock" at the Mass which officially kicked off the Parade each year.
With this kind of popularity, one would think Dana would be perfectly happy with her position in life, but her heart will always belong to her beloved Ireland and because of this, she turned her attention eastward for her heart was heavy at the laxity of so many who had abandoned the principles of the faith and she was frustrated that so few were speaking out on behalf of the Church. Abortion and contraception were gaining a foothold in the olde sod and Dana wanted to do something, anything to preserve the faith and family values she had been brought up with. Therefore, she researched the possibility of running for office, but not just a local position. Rather, she went for the whole McEnchilada. After a straw poll that showed her popularity had not waned and she could gain support, she made political history by being the first person ever to be nominated by County Councils as a candidate. She ran on her Catholic platform, espousing family values and the Sanctity of Life as a non political independent candidate for the presidency of Ireland. Though she narrowly lost out to Mary McAleese it sent an important message throughout Ireland that Catholics there should never abandon their faith or beliefs and not be influenced by modern ideas that are not in accord with Christ's teaching. Her candidacy also boosted her spirits and she was persuaded by the Fianna Fail party to seek nomination as Ireland's representative for the European elections. After much deliberation with her family and sincere prayer, and a commitment from the sponsoring party that they would promote the values she stood for, she accepted the challenge and last year she was elected.
Today, at only 48 she is a steadying influence on all loyal Irish Catholics. Her ambitions are not political, rather spiritual for she longs to see the day when more families will return to their cradle Catholic roots and wean their children on the Rosary and Holy Mass - the Pillars of Salvation. That's what true family values are all about!