What’s the Spiritual Season this week? In awe of the Moon, in memory of an Ethiopian emperor & in honor of parents

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What’s the Spiritual Season?
(July 20 to 26, 2009)
By Stephanie Fenton

THE MOON continues to hover in our spiritual imagination this week. So many magazines and newspapers are featuring stories about the 40th anniversary of the Moon landing! Email us with your thoughts on this milestone—or on any of the observances this week! Read all about them, below …

On MONDAY, our celebration of the 40th anniversary of reaching the Moon continues with the actual date on which a human foot touched lunar soil.
    We’ve got some terrific links for you! Among them is an actual “real time plus-40” simulation of the Moon shot, courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. There’s much more on our special Apollo 11 anniversary page. Check it out!
    On that page, we also highlight a great new children’s picture book on the Moon landing. And, please, we’d love to hear what you’re thinking on this lunar anniversary.

Also on MONDAY,
Muslims continue with Lailat al Miraj, a festival celebrating the Night Journey (called Isra and Mi’raj in Arabic),
a miraculous event that Muslims believe took place during the seventh
century. According to tradition, Muhammad took a journey from
Mecca to Jerusalem and then to heaven on this night, along the way
meeting other prophets that included Adam, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. (The photo at left shows the Dome of the Rock in the heart of Jerusalem.)
The Quran notes that Isra began when Muhammad received a visit from the
archangel Gabriel. In
the Muslim account, a winged horse was provided so that
Muhammad could visit other prophets in prayer and continue on to
heaven. After meeting prophets in heaven, Muhammad was taken to Allah,
where it was determined that Muslims should pray five times per day. Here’s a BBC summary.
This traditional story makes a powerful connection
with Jerusalem for millions of modern Muslims. (Here’s a brief look at this observance in the Jerusalem.com Web site.)
Families celebrate Lailat al Miraj with storytelling, prayer, foods and
the illumination of cities with lights and candles. Giving to charities
and performing good deeds are encouraged in honor of this observance.

THURSDAY, Rastafarians celebrate the birth date of Haile Selassie I, an emperor of Ethiopia believed to be God incarnate in Rastafarian tradition. Born on this date in 1892, Haile Selassie I reigned as emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. From his lineage, he traced his roots back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, making him a prominent figure in Ethiopian and African history—and an impressive figure to others around the world.
    During his reign, Selassie I helped Ethiopia become a charter member of the United Nations, although his inability to modernize Ethiopia has led to criticism from historians.
    The Rastafari movement, which began in Jamaica in the 1930s, currently has between 200,000 and 800,000 members, depending on who is estimating adherents. Believers hold that Selassie will lead the people of Africa and the African diaspora to a Golden Age.
    Read some of the modern beliefs of Rastafarians here, courtesy of the BBC.
    School is out for the summer, but kids can still have some educational fun at this UK-based Web site, which offers creative ideas on learning about Jamaica and the Rastafarians.

FRIDAY, it’s Pioneer Day for many Americans—well, in Utah, that is! It’s an official state holiday in Utah, marking the day in 1847 when Brigham Young brought his Mormon followers to Salt Lake Valley for settlement, announcing that it would be their new home.
    When the Mormons—also known as Latter-day Saints—were forced out of Nauvoo, Illinois, and other eastern U.S. locations, the group resettled in Utah and nearby regions in the West. Each year, July 24 is marked with parades, fireworks, rodeos, barbecues and more. Here’s an online overview.
    This year, in addition to Salt Lake City’s annual “Days of ’47 Parade” and Spanish Fork’s “Fiesta Days,” the 75th annual weeklong Pioneer Days rodeo will take place in Ogden, Utah. Saddle up!
    Many Mormons walk portions of the Mormon Trail on this day, reenact entering Salt Lake City or sing Mormon Folk music. Interestingly, people of another faith are honored on this day, too—in Salt Lake City, an Intertribal Powwow at Liberty Park pays homage to American Indians, an important part of Mormon history.

SATURDAY, Christians recognize the feast day of St. James the Great, son of Zebedee and one of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles.
    According to the gospels, James and John—brothers and fishermen—were on the shore, mending nets with their father when Jesus asked them to follow him. Both brothers did as Jesus asked, and after some time, Jesus gave James the mission of proclaiming the Good News and the ability to heal. Years later, James became one of three apostles to witness the Transfiguration of Jesus. James’ end wasn’t quite as nice, though: Agrippa I had James executed, making him the first of the disciples to be martyred. Some say that the man who arrested James became a convert after hearing him speak at his trial.
    James is the patron saint of laborers. Here’s a look at his importance from Saint of the Day.
    Here’s a tasty idea! In honor of this man of the sea, why not cook up a fish recipe? This site offers hundreds of fish dishes.

SUNDAY, recognize the importance of Mom and Dad on Parents’ Day. We know what you’re thinking, but don’t worry—this doesn’t mean you have to buy Mom flowers again and Dad another tie. Parents’ Day was signed into law in 1994 to reinforce the need for stable homes and to highlight the importance of parental figures in today’s youth.
    This holiday was brought to fruition through the collaborative efforts of interfaith, multiracial and bipartisan leaders. Just as vital as mothers and fathers, these people say, are parental role models in a child’s life.
    Find fun Parents’ Day coloring pages, crafts and more at this Crayola page.
    Are you eager to honor parents today? Ask your place of worship to make mention of this holiday, or donate to an adoption agency. Here’s one example with a religious connection: Adoption Associates, Inc. is just one nonprofit, Christian-based agency that connects children with loving families.

Also SUNDAY, Zoroastrians who follow the Qadimi calendar celebrate Khordad Sal, or the birthday of Zoroaster. As one of the highlights of the Zoroastrian calendar, many of the faithful pray and join in festivities on this day.

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