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Kevin and Marilyn Ryan


  • The school's latest smokescreen



    We're told America is a faddish country. We like the new-new thing. It used to be cars. We lusted after the newest models with the latest chrome grills, fancy fins and two-tone paint jobs. Then TV programs and the fad jumped from westerns to quiz shows to wall-to-wall crime shows to reality shows, which increasing look like updates of the old Ed Sullivan Show. Today, the fad is smart phones with fierce battles among supporter of Apple, Samsung and the ever-fading BlackBerry.

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  • 'The Giver' that keeps on giving



    What if we could erase violence, pain and discord? Could a society regularize emotions and end war? What if reproduction and sexuality could be completely divorced from family life? Wouldn't it be lovely? In the acclaimed movie-from-a-book, "The Giver," an ideal community is based on this premise. There is a price, of course.

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  • Divided we stand



    America seems to be in the summer of our discontent. This is certainly the case in the political realm. Adversarial politics is traditionally considered both the life blood and the glory of a vibrant democracy. However, the U.S. is taking "adversarial" to new and dangerous heights.

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  • Holden Caulfield redux



    The hot book this year is "The Last Days of California," a coming-of-age novel about a 15 year old girl on a doomed cross country trip with her parents and pregnant 17 year-old sister. Sixty-three year ago the hot book was "The Catcher in the Rye," a novel about Holden Caulfield, an American teenager, filled with angst and alienation. Both books appealed to young readers because their teen aged narrators have a special "voice," which resonates the state of mind and heart of young readers. While no "Catcher in the Rye," "The Last Days of California" is said to capture the cultural realities in which today's teenagers exist. On the other hand, the novel is a canary-in-the mine for parents, educators and Church leaders.

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  • The worst Lent ever



    It started with missing Mass on Ash Wednesday and continued like a landslide. Although Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, we have always worn our ashes with some pride. In fact, with too much pride: how superior were we to those who did not have burnt palms applied to their foreheads. We even secretly enjoyed the startled looks of our non-Catholic friends and passersby when they saw the smudged crosses on our foreheads.

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  • Priests were once boys



    Picture again the Christmas morning newspaper photograph of altar boys at the Vatican. Eight or so tender young boys wearing long magenta cassocks stand in awe in front of the Swiss Guards at St. Peter's Basilica. One has his cell phone and is taking a photo of a Guard. (Or is it a "selfie"?) The Guards are tall, handsome, usually from related families and dressed in their colorful yellow, blue, red, and orange uniforms. They carry swords, every boy's dream item. (They have modern weapons, too.)

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  • Today's rock star. Tomorrow's rock target



    Jorge Mario Bergoglio, our new Pope Francis, has had a good nine months. A year ago he was driving around Buenos Aires in his battered old car celebrating the sacraments and ministering to the poor. Today he is Time magazine's Person of the Year; on the cover of The New Yorker's Christmas issue and his smiling face is continually flashing across our television screens. It is a giddy time for faithful Catholics, having our Pope the focus of such good press. But be assured, today's press darling is tomorrow's press target.

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  • A child is born



    From the beginning men and women were put on earth to be fruitful and multiply. Our purpose in creation is to bring new life into the world. Before Advent we hear of the Prince of Peace, the father of the future age. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son. But the news of the conception of a baby from a virgin was so counter-cultural that her betrothed husband was stunned by the revelation. He was even reluctant to believe it.

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  • Sell a painting, feed the poor



    Often strident voices demand in the name of Christ that the Vatican could sell its precious paintings and use the funds to feed the poor. There are hungry people all over the world. Some reports claim that in our wealthy nation one in six Americans goes to bed hungry. Visitors to Delhi, India and Sao Paulo, Brazil report their shock at the hoards of beggars in streets or favelas constructed of tin and scraps perched on dangerous ravines.

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  • Okay. But how do we do it?



    Like everyone else, we have heard a great deal lately about the New Evangelization. It started with Pope John Paul II's request, echoing Christ's call to the Apostles to "Cast out further into the deep and lower your nets." Then, Pope Benedict following up on this message with the statement that "personal holiness" is the key to the New Evangelization. Our new Pope Francis has fully embraced the New Evangelization. Some say he chose his name for the Jesuit saint, Francis Xavier, who was the great missionary and patron saint of missionaries.

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  • Safe, legal and...what?



    Mr. Smith came to town a few months ago. That is, Representative Chris Smith, D-N.J., the heroic politician who has been fighting courageously in our Congress for the unborn. (The fact that "heroic" and "politician" are rarely linked together is the shame and the sorrow of our current attempts at self-government.) Representative Smith takes his Catholic faith seriously and he has taken it with him to Washington, D.C.

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  • Summer 'Camp' and Taylor Swift



    Summer is fast coming to its last sunset. Camps are cleaning up the bunks, storing racquets and games, pitching socks from departed owners -- but the television series "Camp" is just starting to fire up the grill. We know little about this show from a lamentable 15 minutes of an adult romp. Opening lines of the sort not fit for younger audiences go something like "I know you want to sleep with me."

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  • Begging the question



    Fifty years ago this summer, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that is still inflaming tempers and broiling controversies. The court banned prayer in public schools. The case was School District v. Schempp, brought by young Mr. Schempp who believed that his constitutional rights were being violated by a Pennsylvania law allowing prayer and the reading of the King James Bible in his school. Schempp won and all hell broke loose. Ever since, fundamentalists of many stripes and civil libertarian groups had been warring. However, the war is dwindling down now to the occasional hand grenade in the form of an op-ed piece.

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  • A shooting star



    The best thing about Father Andrew M. Greeley was that he made you want to be Catholic. Being Catholic was the best thing in the world. It was not a heavy burden, and it made family, marriage, even sex, all fall in order. It made it beautiful. It was all of a fabric.

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  • Whatever happened to religion?



    The late C.S. Lewis once wrote an allegory about a country that had a perfectly fine educational system, but after a while they decided to drop mathematics from their schools. The decision was popular with everyone but math teachers. Students cheered and parents with painful memories of quadratic equations happily supported the plan. For about a dozen math-free years, all was sweetness and light. Then, people noticed that trolley conductors couldn't make proper change and shop keepers were continually haggling with customer about bills. Finally, things were brought to a head when tax collectors reported that citizens were making so many mistakes that the taxation system was grinding to a halt. Needless to say, mathematics was quickly and vigorously returned to the curriculum of the schools.

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  • A lens on 2013



    We met in 1963 and were married the following year. Sociologists describe that era as a golden era for the country, when the USA was at the top of its game. Our economy was in high gear and still supplying the world with goods that World War II had denied it. As a nation, we were widely respected. People admired our culture, or what they called at the time, "the American way of life."

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  • The old is new



    In the never ending quest for something fresh and new, the candle industry delves into old fragrances for this Christmas. Available this year is "Carmelite," a blend of mossy stonewall church convents. Also, there is a "new" holiday candle "Melchior," named for none other than one of the Three Wise Men. Enrobed in a gold-leaf vessel, the $98 candle by Cire Trudon of France wafts with the scent of myrrh and other nostalgia herbs. Old is fashionable.

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  • The splendor of the Church



    The last decade has been a horrendous one for our Church. Scandals have lead to more people leaving the Church, so that now 10 percent of Americans claim to be ex-Catholics. Others have become "cruise-control Catholics" taking their morality from the current fashions of our secular culture.

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  • Endangered souls



    The brutal murder of four Americans serving our diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya -- one of them a Catholic family man from Winchester -- caused sorrow and outrage through the nation. And, appropriately so. We are offended, too, because this was a planned insult to a great and generous nation. But what about those who are living daily under the threat of violent death to themselves and their loved ones?

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  • Taking advice



    The Third Commandment, "Remember to keep holy the Sabbath," seems to have slipped off the radar screen for many of us. While we don't have any firm demographic data to draw on, the old "interocular test" (that is, just looking around) suggests that a large portion of the meager 17 percent who regularly attend Sunday Mass have grey hair, collect Social Security and can remember the Ed Sullivan Show. Noticeably AWOL are teens, 20- and 30-year-olds.

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  • Gearing up for school



    Let's face it. New Year's Eve is not the start of a new year. The year begins the day after Labor Day. This is a certain truth if you have children at home. For we adults, summer means a two-week vacation at the shore or the lake, some gin-and-tonic fortified barbecues and, in general, a slightly relaxed routine. The end of summer is...well... just the end of summer. Not so for children.

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  • Looking for a cause?



    Consider this thought experiment. You are a young parent with a house full of pre-school children. You and your spouse realize that you are not cut out to be homeschooling parents, but you want the best education for your children. You both sit down and think hard about the outcomes of the education you desire for your children. After serious thought you come up with a list similar to this:

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  • Writing together



    If asked why they write, most authors of our era, would probably say, it's for the money. Us, too. We do it for the Big Buck. And then there are the wild parties with The Pilot staff in their plush offices. And, of course, we love those chauffeur-driven visits to parishes and the intimate dinners with Cardinal Seán. In the spirit of sacrifice we did, however, decline the BMW his Eminence sent us as a Christmas bonus. Essentially, though, we do it for the money.

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  • A kiss is not a kiss



    How often have you heard people say something like, "I'm sure glad I'm not part of today's dating scene. What a terrible way to find a life-time mate." Or, "Who wants all this 'new freedom' and the sexual expectations that come with it?"

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  • Pilgrimage



    It's an old story. Folks have taken a pilgrimage and they are changed. Returning to their home, the familiar surrounds seem different and somehow off-kilter. The people are about the same, but you are different.

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  • Why do they hate us so?



    Granted, committed Catholics are uncomfortable with much of the drift in contemporary American culture. We're uncomfortable with the rampant consumerism of American society. We're nervous with the current climate in scientific research, the if-it's-doable-let's-do-it mentality that is fueling the stem-cell research derby and the push to create new life forms. We're worried, too, about the effects of the country's highly sexualized media culture on our kids. But so, too, are our Protestant and Jewish neighbors.

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  • Why homeschool your children



    Homeschooling is one of the fastest growing and least understood educational and cultural movements in the country today. Over one-and-a-half million elementary and secondary students, 3 percent of the age group, have exited the public schools to be educated at home. In full disclosure, while both of us are former public school teachers, we need to acknowledge that all of our 10 grandchildren are being (or scheduled to be) homeschooled.

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  • The Christmas journey



    Easter is central to the Catholic faith, but Christmas is our heart. While Lent is penitential, Advent is only partially so. A mini-Lent. When the world wants parties and pleasure, the Catholic Church calls for fasting and self-sacrifice. But there is a purpose. Advent is a journey, a journey to the feast of Christmas. Advent is a journey of the heart. Like Mary and Joseph's, and that of the Magi, and all traveling to come home, journeys mean stress and sacrifices.

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  • Caesar is crowding Catholics



    The Pharisees and some disciples of King Herod set out to trap Jesus into denouncing their Roman occupiers. Dripping with cynical guile, they asked, "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

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  • What makes a good parish?



    Faithful readers can answer this: "It's mine." Before the automobile took over our lives, we would have walked or taken the trolley to church. We would have stayed close to home. At one time our whole lives would have revolved around the parish. Today, that has changed. Like it or not, Catholics are "parish shoppers." But what makes a good parish? What should shoppers look for?

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  • Coming soon to a school near you



    How would you react upon learning that over the summer the Massachusetts State Legislature had overwhelming passed something called "the FAIR Education Act," a new mandated policy demanding that all public schools promote the social agenda of the Catholic Church? And further that our governor, in the name of protecting Catholics from mistreatment, had enthusiastically signed the act into law.

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  • Bob Dylan, the pope and change



    Each day we wonder what innovation will change our lives. Change accelerates as we fumble with one gizmo or another, hoping not to become obsolete ourselves. A few days ago, an email message listed nine things that would disappear in our lifetime. Some of them truly are still useful to us. Like the post office, or a physical book. The Catholic Church was not on the list.

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  • Such, such were, and are, the joys…



    George Orwell, the author of "Animal Farm" and "1984," had a truly horrible childhood. In a riveting essay, "Such, Such Were the Joys..." (available simply by searching the Internet for the author and the title) Orwell describes his early education. Shipped off to an all boys, English boarding school at 8 and beginning his six years at the school, he wet his bed. This quickly brought him to the attention of the power-behind-the-throne, the headmaster's wife. With all the maternal instinct of a cobra, she collared young Orwell as he was coming out of the dining hall and introduced him to a female visitor. "Here is a little boy who wets his bed every night. Do you know what I am going to do if you wet your bed again? I am going to get the Sixth Form (eighth graders) to beat you." And from there, Orwell's life at school went downhill.

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  • Modern marriage -- or not



    "God, the best maker of all marriages," intones Shakespeare's King Henry V in amorous pursuit of his Kate. A marriage made in heaven. Yes, love gives heavenly transport. Does that imply a perfect union? Of course, not. Truth be told, marriage is sometimes exasperating, confining -- and always sacramental.

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  • What profit a tiger mom if she... ?



    Amy Chua hit a nerve last month. In early January, her book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," made its debut like Tom Brady dropping in on a sorority house. Book reviews and columnists leaped on the book. Local talk shows had the perfect topic to keep the blood flowing in cold weather. No one, least of all the talk show hosts, could keep from entering the fray and taking sides.

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  • Our false gods



    While driving down the eastern seaboard during Christmas, we were stunned by the growth of Washington D.C. When one of us had an internship with Sen. Scoop Jackson many eons ago, D.C. was a small southern town. JFK famously called it a city with northern hospitality and southern efficiency. This trip we drove and drove and drove through the Maryland and NoVa areas which house the sprawl. Washington's sprawl reaches far into former farm and orchard lands.

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  • Act locally, think globally



    Enough about being green. Let's talk about being beige. The visiting Bishop of Rhode Island declared he liked beige. He likes cafe au lait painted rooms. He likes tan shirts for his off hours. He even liked the beige walls where he was speaking recently in Newton for the Massachusetts Family Institute. But Bishop Thomas Tobin does not want us to act beige.

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  • Is the Church biased against capitalism?



    The Catholic Church is accused of many things. But are we anti-business in our attitudes and outlook? Are we unfriendly to the nation's core economic system? On two occasions this past summer we went to Sunday Mass in a foreign land (Rhode Island) and heard sermons which were strikingly hostile to business. They dealt with the dangers of wealth and the hardening of our hearts toward the poor. Fair enough, but we were left with the lingering question: Is the Church giving the faithful a balanced and realistic view of business and economics?

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  • What choice for Catholics?



    We woke up the other morning to a somber radio voice intoning the following: "Every child in America has the right to a good public education." It was one of those ubiquitous "public service announcements'' (read: commercials) from one of our teachers' professional organizations (read: unions).

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  • Reclaim the store!



    It looks like the "college bubble" is about to follow the "real estate bubble" as the next 21st Century dream buster. Witness the many thousands of recent graduates dejectedly walking around the country's streets with their brand new BAs in one hand and multiple copies of their resumes in the other.

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  • Phoebe’s legacy



    Most New Englanders were shaken by the bullying-induced suicide of Phoebe Prince, the 15 year-old, North Hadley high school student. The cause of this newly arrived Irish immigrant taking her own life has now moved on to courts, but media reports suggest that several of her school mates found her dating of a popular upperclassman “inappropriate.”

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  • Islam’s battle with Christians



    The Muslim assassin Mehmet Ali Agca wrote before shooting John Paul II: “I have decided to kill John Paul II, the supreme commander of the Crusades.” How many days have we awakened recently to news of another attack on Christians? The attacks have accelerated alarmingly. To name but a few sites where persecution has occurred: Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran.

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  • Who is teaching us about the ultimate questions... Really?



    Yesterday’s moral sins and outrages seem so clear. How could good people hold others as slaves? How could our noble ancestors, men such as Washington and Jefferson, be slave-owners? And how could our near ancestors have thought it was correct to deny the vote to women and Black Americans? How could good people not be outraged by these practices? These questions provoke another: What are the moral outrages which surround us today that we are simply ignoring?

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  • Nostalgia is not what it used to be



    When friends gather at New Years to sing “auld lang syne,” or attend class reunions, they wax nostalgic about the years gone by, the friends and places from the past. Religious and civil holidays commemorate events we don’t want to forget. There is no more nostalgic time than when we gather to celebrate the birth of our Lord. It is the time for stories from St. Luke or Dickens, for singing carols and serving traditional foods. Even if the faces change at our table, the foods, readings and music are pretty much the same.

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  • Are we all tourists now?



    In our parish, preparations are underway for the Christmas pageant; food baskets are collected for the poor; gifts are donated for a shelter and the choir rehearses. Advent is underway. But this is not the case everywhere.

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  • Sex and the Church



    It is a well established fact that the Church is out to lunch on matters of sex. As a result, Catholics are known to be personally repressed and collectively responsible for a wide assortment of social ills. We hold back progressive legislation which promises to neutralize the looming Population Bomb. We have given a bad name to therapeutic abortions, a safe and reasonably simple medical treatment that can save women inconvenient and embarrassing pregnancies. We bottle up the beautiful and natural desires of young people to engage in recreational sex.

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  • Can the coarsening of culture be stopped?



    Arguably the most powerful man in Hollywood, the culture capital of America, is Harvey Weinstein, the producer of ‘‘Pulp Fiction,’’ ‘‘Shakespeare in Love’’ and ‘‘Scary Movie 4.’’ Outraged by the arrest of Roman Polanski, he has been leading a campaign to release convicted child rapist, Polanski. This was a despicable drugging and unnatural act performed on a child who was 13 years old at the time.

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  • Has the Church lost our young?



    In parishes all over our archdiocese and the nation, a new season of religious education is beginning. Thousands of adult Catholics have volunteered that time and energy to instruct our children and teenagers what it means to be a follower of Christ. Catholic parents, committed to our faith, are delivering their children to after Mass or evening classes. However, despite the good intentions of teachers and parents, a stark question looms: Is it working? Are our current efforts to past on our faith to the next generation of Catholics bearing fruit?

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  • Divided Catholics



    Americans are a restless people. All of us come from stock that left kin and country behind to come to this new land. Even Native Americans took the long trek across the Bering Strait to North America. As a gene pool, therefore, Americans represent the world’s unsatisfied seekers.

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  • Our Church’s gift to our government



    Each moment of history can claim uniqueness, but this moment in our nation’s history is exceptional. The recent concentration of power in the hands of our government is extraordinary and has been building for years. We are witnessing a fundamental change in the relationship between citizens and rulers.

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  • Pushing back



    Our world is explained by a central historical truth. Our faith conveys meaning through word, story and symbol -- to explain why we are here. We hope and strive to share our meaning with the next generations. Yet it is a discouraging time when public pronouncements denigrate things we believe in.

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  • Sound the alarm



    We need another patriot like Paul Revere to sound the alarm. This time it isn’t the British who are coming. It’s the state. Yes, the very state Americans founded in order to get free from the unjust British state. We live in a world where the power and reach of the state grows daily.

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  • Catholic higher education: A trust betrayed



    It was about 10 years ago that we took our then high school aged son on the ritual magical mystery college tour. As most parents know, these campus visits are well orchestrated sales jobs, designed to send two distinctly different messages. The message to the potential tuition-paying parents is something on the order of, “Be assured that your child will be safe with us here in our intellectually and morally enriched community.” To the yearning-to-be-free teenager, the message is, “Hey, we’re a fun palace! Come join the party!”

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  • Requiescat in pacem



    On Jan. 8, our Church lost two fierce Catholics, one a foot soldier, the other a general. Both deaths took us by surprise. James Joseph Foley was known to a small circle, the father of our son-in-law, Dr. Michael Foley. Jim lived near our daughter and son-in-law in Waco, Texas. He had gone out for an early-morning cup of coffee and was hit head-on in his car when a young driver veered over the centerline. Jim was taken to hospital and surgeons worked to repair his badly broken bones. They worked long and hard and were pleased with the results. Then they lost him. No extreme measures were taken.

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  • Cafeteria American, Sí. Cafeteria Catholic, No.



    Americans have always been “cafeteria Americans,” individuals who feel free to define themselves. We choose to be a Republican or a Democrat, a music lover or a sports addict (or both), an Easterner or a Westerner. We are a “free” people, constrained only by our laws, our own conscience and the social constraints we ourselves embrace. As Americans we can be hardworking or sluggish, social butterflies or hermit-like. We choose from the great cafeteria that is America.

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  • Gifts of the Magi



    “There were the Useful Presents: engulfing mufflers of old coach days and mittens made for giant sloths, blinding tam-o’shanters like patchwork tea cozies and bunny suited busbies and balaclavas for victims of head-shrinking tribes. The Useless Presents: bags of moist and many-colored jelly babies and a folded flag and a false nose, troops of bright tin soldiers who, if they could not fight, could always run... nod Snakes and Families and Happy Ladders. And Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Engineers.” Thus is Dylan Thomas’ accounting of gifts from his “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.”

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  • Reclaiming education



    Both of us have been teachers in public schools. We have great respect for the many teachers who have devoted their lives to public education. Also, each of our three children has spent substantial time in public schools. We were not always thrilled with the results, but we weren’t always happy with the education that they received in Catholic and private schools. But that was then. This is now.

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  • Grandparents unite!



    Do not mistake our sentiments. We love our grandchildren. We are happy when they arrive. And, alas, we are happy when they leave. In anticipation of their summer arrival, months of scrubbing, painting, cleaning, hoeing and planting are needed. We live near a pond and nature intrudes whether we like it or not. Animals inhabit house and sheds while we are away. These are the unwanted visitors, leaving their tell-tale “packages,” stealing seeds, building nests, gnawing anything left from the last season. But we understand the rules of the game. We clean up.

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  • Three cheers to the bishops!



    Hats off to Bishops Robert Morlino (Madison, Wis.), Charles J. Chaput (Denver), Francis Cardinal George (Chicago), and Edward Cardinal Egan (New York). These and many more bishops are speaking again with moral authority, which had been muffled amid the clergy abuse scandals. In any case they have spoken out forcefully about the misinformation over Church teaching pronounced by a few politicians.

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  • The ‘‘Juno’’ effect



    At the beginning of this summer, about the time that the print and TV news were having an old-fashioned heyday with the alleged Gloucester High Pregnancy Club, we caught up with the movie “Juno.” What we have here is a case of life imitating art and vice versa.

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  • Whatever happened to Western civilization?



    In his visit to the U.S., Pope Benedict reminded us that the Church is the heart of Western civilization. The Church in her faults and in ours—in what we have done and what we have failed to do—has much work to do. If today we carry our burden lighter, it is thanks to the Holy Father’s gentle words in 17 speeches to the various groups. But still his deep concern is over the vanishing regard for Western civilization.

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  • What does the pope want? Part II



    We should not let Pope Benedict XVI’s visit be just another event sandwiched in between March Madness and the arrival of New England spring. Observers tell us that the United States is very important to Rome. By the standards of the rest of the globe, we are rich, powerful and the world’s dominant cultural force. Well over a fifth of the country is Catholic and growing.

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  • What does the pope want?



    The pope is coming to America--not to Boston, one of the cradles of American Catholicism--but to New York and Washington, D.C. The sites he has chosen to visit are where the terrorists challenged us, and he is going to Ground Zero. These cities busy themselves with finance and government, not the pope’s customary topics. However, until we hear his message to American Catholics, we can only surmise from his writings what he hopes to achieve and what message he brings.

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  • All things Catholic



    People who take the faith seriously are embarrassed to be called “devout Catholics” or “good Catholics.” Would they be happier labeled observant? “Observant” as in “to be observed.” Observant Jews can be distinguished by their yarmulkes, black coats and walking together to synagogue on the Sabbath. Taking a page from the Jews, whom Pope John Paul II called our “older brothers,” we, too, can be more visible. Ash Wednesday’s marking of the brow with ashes is one way of being seen as faithful, despite Biblical reminders to fast and pray in secret.

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  • Injustice in our midst



    Prediction: By the year 2050, our children’s children will be saying, “How could they do that? How could good people, knowing how important education is, let such a system take hold and flourish? How could they let the state, first, legally compel parents to send their children to school, second, tax them heavily for state-run schools, and, third, systematically miseducate their children? Weren’t they paying attention? Or didn’t they care?”

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  • It’s the gift, not the wrapping



    ‘‘Puer natus est nobis!” “Vesele Bozicne!” “Frohe Weihnachten!” “Buon Natale!” “Linksmu sv kaledu!” Merry Christmas! However we Catholics give greetings, the time is nigh. Maybe your family sang carols going to midnight Mass or gathered for large family suppers. This is the way we celebrate. Most of our traditions honor our ancestors and their practices. Whether we are Irish or Hispanic or Italian, we like the old ways in this season.

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  • It’s not just Maine



    The news that at the direction of the Portland School Board the school district was giving out birth control pills to middle school students created a sobering reminder of how far we’ve come. What if your local school district gave such powerful, body altering drugs without your permission? If not birth control drugs, what other parental prerogatives has your children’s school taken upon itself?

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  • The men’s club revisited



    One Sunday morning this fast-fading summer, we went to Mass in a nearby vacation state. The church, one of the newer types, modeled on the theatre-in-the-round, was packed with families decked out in shorts and sandals. What was most striking about the liturgy, however, was that, with the exception of the celebrant, the event was dominated by women and girls. The reader was a young woman. There were two altar girls. All five eucharistic ministers were women. The happy-clappy, Barry Manilow music, played on one of those plinky-plink portable pianos, was led by a woman with back-up of five teen-age girls. Even that last bastion of non-clerical male prerogative, the corps assigned to pass the collection basket, was composed mainly of the fairer sex. If anyone needed an existence proof of the feminization of the Catholic Church, it was on display that Sunday.

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  • Our inconvenient truth



    Much is being made these days of former vice president Al Gore’s Oscar award-winning film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Rumor has it that it might just gain him a Nobel Prize one of these days. However, we Catholics have our own “inconvenient truth” that has consequences far more dire that those of global warming. The Church’s inconvenient truth is its stand on birth control.

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  • Guilty Pleasures



    We admit we listened to Imus. Despite his raunchy trash talk and mean-spirited attacks, we listened. Our rationalization was that his access to commentators like Tim Russert, David Brooks, Frank Rich, and politicos such as Senators McCain and Kerry kept us in the know. We were getting inside, firsthand news.

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  • Education’s dirty little secret -- Part II



    In an earlier column we raised some questions about one of the country’s sacred cows: the four-year college experience. In brief, we suggested that higher education is an over-build industry: a good product designed for perhaps well below a quarter of our high school graduates and one which has now been stretched and diluted to “fit” nearly half of all high school grads. Currently many students and their parents are depleting family resources and going into debt in exchange for four fluffy years of questionable value.

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  • Education’s dirty little secret



    Parents, what would you think if a salesman came to your door with this deal? “Listen, give me your 18-year-old offspring for 30 weeks a year for the next four years and it will only cost you $160,000.” If instead of slamming the door in his face, you asked, “What would my child get in return?” you probably would hear something like, “I will provide your child with a college education.” Sadly, that simple statement seems to satisfy most parents.

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  • What do we Catholics have to offer?



    The newspapers and magazines are awash with reviews and reports on the new militant atheism that is making sport of religion and lumping Catholics in the same soup with fanatical jihadists. The message from these apostles of a godless scientism is hardly fresh, but it seems to be getting great press and a new respectability. However, once one is past their tired attacks on the concept of a God-centered universe, the writers have little to offer but a vision of human life as a brief and meaningless consciousness in an equally meaningless universe. They give us an extended echo of Thomas Hobbes’s famous description of life as “brutal, nasty, and short.”

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  • Are big families back?



    The Malthusian prediction of mass starvation due to overpopulation has been turned on its head. Now the cry is “Let’s Have More Babies!” Some countries have resorted to tax credits for having children -- Estonia is one. The fear is that there will not be enough workers to pay into tax coffers and insure old age benefits.

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  • Whatever happened to sin?



    We don’t hear much about it these days. To the modern ear, the word has an irritating, retro ring to it. “Sin” conjures up Salem witches and Elmer Gantry-like preachers praying on the gullibility of the innocent. Sin is clearly out of style. Can you imagine the outcry if a public school teacher brought up the topic of sin in a classroom?

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  • Getting Junior and Jane on the road to success



    It’s fall and a parent’s fancy turns to ...getting Junior into Yale...or Jane onto the soccer traveling team...or into the Advanced Algebra class...or you-name-it. Being a parent today is not just about providing a roof over Junior and Jane’s head, putting clothes on their backs and food in their tummies. It is about getting them in gear and on the challenging road to success.

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