National Catholic Reporter

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Spirituality

An ancient and contemporary pathway to God

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Mission Management

The Catholic church in the United States is facing a daunting challenge in trying to reach and provide spiritual formation for its estimated 65 million members.

According to a recent survey, 64 percent of U.S. Catholics do not attend Mass on a weekly basis. The survey, published in 2009 by Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., indicates that the fastest-growing segment of U.S. believers is the “Nones,” those who are “spiritual” but practice no formal religion. In 1990, the Nones accounted for 8.1 percent of the population, or 14 million people. By 2008, that number had risen to 15 percent, or 34 million people. And of that group, 35 percent identify themselves as former Catholics.

The catechism of our senses

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Earth and Spirit

How sensual our world is. A lilac bush has spread its blooms outside my window at home while inside green beans simmer on the stove, as yeasty rolls bake in the oven. My wife crushes dried basil and oregano leaves harvested from our summer garden for a stew, wafting heady scent-detonations through the air. Out of good stereo speakers, Mexican cantina lyrics sung with a lusty, spine-chilling vibrato weave in and out of exuberantly melancholy mariachi trumpets.

To be fully human: Rolheiser gets to the essentials

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ANAHEIM, CALIF. -- If one were to ask a central casting office in Hollywood to find someone to play a bigtime spiritual guru with his own media empire, the choice probably wouldn’t look much like Oblate Fr. Ron Rolheiser. Short, bespectacled, and decidedly non-flamboyant, Rolheiser comes off more like a high school teacher with a wry sense of humor than a Catholic version of Joel Osteen, Tony Robbins or Deepak Chopra.

Yet without theatrics or any real self-promotion, the 62-year-old Rolheiser has become one of the most popular writers and speakers on Catholic spirituality in the English-speaking world. His signature book, The Holy Longing, has sold more than 200,000 copies in hardback, his weekly column is syndicated in more than 60 newspapers in various countries, and Rolheiser is in perpetual demand to give workshops, retreats, and days of recollection all over the world.

New gifts from the Spirit

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We Catholics have new sins for the 21st century. The old sins -- sloth, envy, gluttony, lust, pride -- have a “rather individualistic dimension,” said Vatican official Msgr. Gianfranco Girotti in 2008. “The sins of today have a social resonance as well as an individual one,” he said, naming new transgressions for a new age.

Connecting with God while at work

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Mission Management

Companies like Google and Facebook offer their employees a variety of compelling services that enhance the work experience. Employees at Google get “first-class dining facilities, gyms, laundry rooms, massage rooms, haircuts, car washes, dry cleaning, commuting buses -- just about anything a hardworking employee might want,” says Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO. “Let’s face it: Programmers want to program. They don’t want to do their laundry. So we make it easy for them to do both.”

The commonplace magic of Spring

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Earth and Spirit

In the Midwest, the shockingly red cardinals begin singing in drab mid-February, no matter what the weather. That’s when my spring hunger begins. Their hopeful songs bring it on. Migrant robins return. My yearning cranks up. By March, garden seeds are on display in the hardware store while hoes, rakes and spades are up front. That gets me salivating.

A game of chess, strawberries, and emptiness revisited

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Earth and Spirit

Beautiful, grotesque, disturbing, darkly terrible, inspiring, tragic, funny, deeply spiritual, shockingly antireligious -- all of these equally describe the late Ingmar Bergman’s 1956 film about a 14th-century knight (Max von Sydow) returning from the Crusades to his plague-ridden homeland. “The Seventh Seal” has become one of the cinema’s living legends. I watched it recently for the second time. I saw it first in 1964, when I was 19, just out of high school seminary. It shook me to the roots then.

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September 12-25, 2014

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