Holy Places -- Dec. 5, 2004

A weekly feature on This Week.


In the upcoming issue of Life magazine, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt reflects on what it is about religious sites that moves the mind and stirs the soul. He previews "Where We Pray: In Search of the World's Holy Places."

"Every tribe, every clan, every community seems to have its sacred places. I grew up in a land of shrines and holy places -- Ireland. The faithful still bring flowers and supplications. They leave religious medals and rosary beads and scapulars.

"You move on to Jerusalem. Here is the Western Wall, and here are hundreds of Jews ... inserting pieces of paper -- prayers -- into its cracks. There is something, certainly. It is in the air. Here, people talk with God.

"Rising above the hillside above the Wall is the Muslim mosque, Al-Aqsa. Everything converges here -- two great religions share this piece of the world; two great religions are at each other's throats. There is an intensity of faith here that makes you wonder: 'What is it? What is it about this place?'

"We travel to Rome, Mecca, Jerusalem, Lhasa -- the holy places. We kiss relics, run our hands over tombs, and pray for miracles at Lourdes.

"What is it that leads us to sidewalk memorial to those great shrines -- love, hope, despair, devotion, faith?

"We go wherever we need to, to get closer, to communicate more clearly. These places are special because we imbue them with their sacredness. Or maybe, they simply are sacred."


In the Sunday "Funnies," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge calls it quits.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

Stewart: "All things considered, Ridge did give himself a pretty glowing assessment of his job performance."

Tom Ridge (Nov. 30 press conference): "Can I tell you, 'Today there are X number of incidents that we were able to thwart or prevent?' I cannot. Am I fairly confident, confident that we probably have? Yes I am. But it's still difficult to prove something, unless I can point to a specific case."

Stewart: "Okay then: Engraved on his retirement watch: 'Tom Ridge -- mission not unaccomplished, presumably.'"

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno:

Leno: "Tom Ridge told friends he was resigning because he wants to go into the private sector where he can make more money. Finally a Republican acting like a Republican. See, that is an honest man -- none of this crap about spending more time with my family. Forget red and orange, I want to see some green!"

Late Show with David Letterman:

Letterman: "They announced his replacement. The Bush White House is right on top of it. They made the announcement earlier today. Here now is the man taking the place of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge:"

Narrator: "The resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge comes at a crucial time for our nation. When it comes to homeland security, the American people deserve a tough, aggressive, driven leader who will never back down. That's why President Bush's choice for Homeland Security secretary is Ron Artest (on-screen image of the Indiana Pacers' Artest punching a fan after he ran into the stands last month at a pro basketball game). A message from George W. Bush."