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Spirituality

In praise of bookshelves

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I think the key to my becoming an avid reader began when, as a boy, I was unable to find much that I might want to read in my father's vast library.

Dad was a book publisher, as I am today, and yet I'm not sure that I gleaned any of my reading habits from him. Dad published evangelical Christian books, often written by the best-selling writers in that genre, but it was genre writing to be sure. Day after day I would spend scouring his bookshelves after school and my reaction eventually was: There must be more than this. And indeed, I learned, there was.

Newspaper ads urging people to leave church seen having little impact

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WASHINGTON -- Dialogue generated by full-page newspaper ads placed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation is a good thing, said an associate professor of theology.

"The very presence of an ad like that is a symbol for one dimension of the situation of Catholicism in American society today," said Tom Beaudoin, associate professor of theology at Fordham University's Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education in New York.

The ads, which appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times and USA Today in May and June, encouraged "nominal Catholics" to quit the church. The full-page ad, in the form of an open letter, cited the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' contraceptive mandate, the Vatican's call for reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and church teaching against artificial contraception and same-sex marriage as reasons to leave.

Paul Scolese, president of the John Carroll Society in Washington, said the ads misstated Catholic teaching and the church's stand on religious liberty, but he added such campaigns were not likely to have an impact or propel a massive movement away from religion.

Along the Way, journey of father and son, a spiritual tale

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Actor Martin Sheen and son, actor/director Emilio Estevez, have written joint memoirs focusing on their complex and often turbulent father son relationships. Their stories take readers through some five decades of notable acting careers.

Interweaving alternating chapters, the men write with a strikingly honest and personal pen. They reveal the lives of ambitious men who take acting and directing seriously, using these art forms to tell meaningful stories while always seeking greater self-discovery.

Taize movement brings throwback appeal to U.S.

CHICAGO -- Every year, about 100,000 pilgrims trek to the Taize ecumenical community in France where the biggest attraction is the music, a throwback -- way, way back, about 1,500 years or so -- to repetitive plainchant.

This weekend, for the first time, the Taize brothers will bring their conference to the United States, where several thousand people -- particularly young adults -- are expected to meet for prayer and song at DePaul University in Chicago.

Pastoral councils are a work in progress

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MISSION MANAGEMENT

Diocesan and parish pastoral councils have recently been in the news. First, the beleaguered Philadelphia archdiocese announced the formation of its first "archdiocesan pastoral council," as Archbishop Charles Chaput tries to create almost from scratch a well-functioning enterprise.

Then there's the case of Florian Stangl, a 26-year-old gay Austrian man in a registered domestic partnership, whose pastor had prohibited him from serving on the parish council to which he had been elected by a wide margin. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna overrode the pastor and allowed Stangl to serve on the council.

Today, half of the 195 U.S. dioceses have diocesan pastoral councils, while three-fourths of the 18,000 parishes have parish pastoral councils, according to a 2003 survey by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

But what exactly is a parish pastoral council? Where do they come from? What is their mission? And how do they operate?

Secularism in America: Growing American movement raises concerns

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WASHINGTON -- Arianne Gasser of Canton, Ohio, is proud to call herself a graduate student at a prestigious Catholic university, and she also is proud to call herself an atheist.

The pride she has in her atheist status is part of what inspired her to travel from the Philadelphia area, where she is enrolled at Villanova University, to Washington in March to join thousands of other atheists, agnostics and other nonbelievers for the "Reason Rally," an event that was billed as an assembly to unify secular people nationwide.

Led gently, tenderly to know the risen lord

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Two disciples were making their way to a village named Emmaus. In the course of their lively exchange, Jesus approached and began to walk with them. They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning inside us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:13-32).

Of all the Easter stories, Jesus, this is my favorite.

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April 11-24, 2014

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