Hindus believe that an ultimate power, Brahman, exists in the universe. This energy is divine in nature, eternal and unchanging, and is embodied by three separate gods or deities; Brahma the creator, Vishnu the protector, and Shiva the destroyer.
As these three gods interact, the universe is continually being renewed; Brahma creates life, Vishnu protects and preserves what is good while Shiva destroys harmful qualities that result in negative karma. This process of birth, death, and rebirth continues in a cycle that represents the Hindu concept of reincarnation
At Peace With Nature
Hindus have a strong belief in non-violence. As a result, India is the most vegetarian country in the world. Rice, beans, and vegetables are combined into savory stews or else roasted and served with unleavened bread
In the twelveth century, the man history would come to know as Saint Francis was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone in Assisi, Italy. His father had just returned home from a journey to France when he rechristened his son “Francesco” after the country where his business had recently prospered. Francis was raised to be a cloth merchant like his father. He was educated, served in the military, and as a typical youth he lacked self-discipline and rebelled against his over-bearing father.
In his 20’s, Francis searched for his own identity and often retreated into the forest to pray. He felt called by God to rebuild a crumbling church in the countryside near Assisi. When he stole cloth from his father to purchase stone and tools, he was taken to court to be reprimanded. Instead of agreeing to repay his father, Francis denounced his family and vowed to help the poor by living in poverty himself and preaching about Jesus.
Francis lived a humble, frugal existence yet he was filled with joy. He was drawn to the natural world and was said to have an overwhelming compassion for all living things. On his travels through the Italian countryside, he sought to help others and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. In 1209, Pope Innocent III allowed Francis and his followers to establish the Franciscan Order within the Roman Catholic Church.
After years of selflessly living in extreme poverty, Francis’ physical and mental health began to deteriorate. He died at age 45 and his remains are interred at the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi.
When a new Pope is elected, he immediately appears on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica and is introduced to the world by his papal name. The name each Pope chooses is an indication of his values, a historical figure he most admires, or the role he envisions for himself in the Church.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected the 266th Pope on March 13, 2013. He is the first Pope Francis in history. Known for his humility and compassion, He is the only Pope in recent years to surrender the wealth and power of the Vatican in order to dedicate himself to lifting others out of spiritual poverty.
Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of the Jewish New Year. It’s a day of remembrance and prayer, of leaving the sins of the past year behind and hoping for happiness and prosperity in the year to come. The tradition originates in Leviticus 23:23-25 when God commanded a day of rest on the first day of the seventh month of the Jewish year. This year, Rosh Hashanah is on September 20.
The day is spent at Temple, praying and studying the Torah. According to Jewish tradition, a person’s good deeds and bad deeds are placed in the balance as the Days of Repentance continue.
Yom Kippur is on September 30. This Day of Atonement is also from Leviticus 23, as Moses and the Hebrew people gathered together to pray that they had successfully repented of the sins from the previous year. Traditionally it’s a day of solemn prayer and fasting, and it’s the most important day of the year for a person of the Jewish faith to attend synagogue.
Writings of the Jewish Faith
The source of the laws and traditions of Judaism is the Torah, which is also the Old Testament Bible of Christianity. Moses is believed to have written these works during his lifetime, from 1525-1645 BCE.
Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas time. December 3 is the start of Advent this year. Candles of the Advent wreath are lit each Sunday in anticipation of the birth of Jesus on the night of Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, families usually attend church together and share meals of traditional foods while exchanging gifts.
The story of Jesus’ birth is one of the most familiar in the world; When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, they sought shelter at the inn but they were turned away and Jesus was born in a nearby manger. Three wise men arrived to honor the newborn because they’d received a premonition that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and would one day be king.
According to some Christian traditions, the Christmas season then continues for twelve days, starting with St. Stephen’s Day on December 26th and concluding with the Epiphany, or “Three Kings Day” on January 7.
Christianity’s Dangerous Past
Saint Stephen is believed to be the first of the Christian martyrs, killed for preaching about the life and death of Jesus.
When Stephen was stoned to death in the streets of Jerusalem in 34 AD, a man named Saul was in a nearby crowd. Saul was a wealthy, upper-class Jewish man known for his severe treatment of Christians.
After witnessing Stephen’s death, Saul was walking on the road to Damascus where he claims Jesus appeared to him and told him to stop persecuting Christians. Soon after, Saul converted to Christianity. He took the name Paul and became one of the most important first-century missionaries.
As Paul and the Twelve Apostles traveled through present-day regions of Europe, Greece, and Rome, each of them were said to have died violent deaths similar to St. Stephen’s. Only the Apostle John survived into old age, contributing a gospel and three epistles to the New Testament.
Within 350 years, Christianity was declared the official religion of the Roman Empire.
The philosophies of Buddhism differ from those of theistic religions such as Christianity and Judaism. Buddhists explain that Buddhism isn’t considered a religion at all, that the Buddha was an ordinary man trying to determine if humans could transcend the “suffering” in their worldly lives and cultivate happiness. After trying to calm his earthly temptations with both indulgence and then deprivation, he began to teach the “middle way,” a philosophy that encouraged a person to find health and happiness despite the pain that is inevitable in our human lives.
Buddhists believe that meditation helps a person elevate their thoughts and develop self-awareness, resulting in a feeling of peace and unity with the natural world. Though one of the goals of meditation is a feeling of tranquility, some Buddhist traditions use meditation to strengthen the mind in times of conflict, focusing on conquering fear while learning the postures and techniques of a warrior.
Philosophy of Buddhism
A central theme of Buddhism is that humans have the power to create happiness and diminish pain by focusing the mind with prayer and meditation.
Easter is a time of solemn observances and triumphant celebrations for the 2.5 billion Christians around the world.
- Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, is on February 14th in 2018. The 40 days of Lent concludes on the Sunday before Easter
- Holy Week begins on March 25 with Palm Sunday, the day the cheering crowds welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem by laying palm branches at his feet
- When those same crowds began to turn against him, Jesus gathered with his Apostles for the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, explaining that one of them was about to betray him. Judas then identified Jesus to the Roman authorities and he was arrested and condemned to die
- Good Friday was the day Jesus was crucified
- April 1 is Easter Sunday. Christians believe that Jesus’ soul was resurrected from death and ascended to heaven
Pay It Forward
Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross and that his soul was resurrected, symbolizing God’s forgiving nature. According to writings in the New Testament, Christians should forgive others as they are forgiven.