National Catholic Reporter

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The trouble with being more than just pro-life



GARNER, N.C. -- In the predawn hours of Jan. 23, my wife, Mary Rider, and I roused our four youngest children out of bed to meet a bus that would take us to Washington, D.C., for the March of Life, the annual event that calls for an end to abortion. Two of our other daughters made the same trip with their Catholic high school in Raleigh, Cardinal Gibbons High School.

The trip marked our third family trip to the nation's capital in less than a month. During a Holy Innocents retreat in the days after Christmas, two of my daughters, Veronica, 15, and Annie, 11, joined a die-in in front of the White House to protest U.S. drone attacks on civilians. After a cardboard drone facsimile touched them on the head, my daughters fell to the ground on Pennsylvania Avenue to play dead with others.

On Jan. 11, following another trip (this time on a biodiesel bus with a composting toilet), my family marched from the White House to the U.S. Supreme Court to protest the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison on Guantanamo Bay, where scores of detainees have been tortured, held indefinitely and denied due process.

Archdiocese of Omaha opens sainthood cause for founder of Boys Town


OMAHA, Neb. -- It started in 1917 with a rented house, five boys who needed a home in Omaha and a Catholic priest determined to help troubled and abandoned youths throughout the city.

Now, Boys Town helps more than 1.6 million people each year through its main campus of group homes, churches, a grade school and high school, post office and bank, as well as a national research hospital in Omaha, a national hotline, and other services and locations around the country.

Seeking Jesus' presence as I am disappearing



Doctors diagnosed Jane McAllister with Alzheimer’s disease eight years ago. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. It cannot be prevented or cured, its course as inexorable as the events leading to the passion and death of Jesus. Some 15 million Alzheimer’s caregivers provide 17 billion hours of unpaid, loving care each year. It is not uncommon for patients and caregivers to wonder: Where is resurrection in a disease that takes away our very selves?

Why I love 'Downton Abbey'



"Don't be defeatist, dear; it's very middle-class."

If you recognize this quote, you're probably a fan -- make that a fanatic -- of the PBS series "Downton Abbey." There are millions of us spanning several continents, making the Masterpiece Theater mini-series that just finished its second season a veritable pop culture phenomenon.

Former Anglican priests begin formation to be ordained Catholic priests


HOUSTON -- Forty-two former Anglican priests from across the country have officially begun their training to become Catholic priests.

It was both a long-awaited milestone and the beginning of a new journey as they gathered in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston for the first formation weekend in late January at St. Mary Seminary and Our Lady of Walsingham Church in Houston.

The group included the wives of the Catholic clergy-in-training, so there was a total of 76 participants.

More than 100 former Anglican priests have applied to become Catholic priests for the U.S. Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. To date, 42 have been accepted into the program.

The application process for each candidate included a criminal background check, psychological evaluation and recommendations from the Catholic bishop where he lives and from his Anglican ecclesiastical authority, if possible.

Bringing God to the rhythms of our days



As readers of my “Distinctly Catholic” blog on the NCR website know, I came down with the flu at the beginning of the year. Seven days of it. Yuck.

Because I could not get out of bed, I missed Mass twice. And, consequently, for the weeks that followed, I never knew quite which day it was. I felt like a cat that falls and doesn’t land on all fours, disoriented and flustered. The whole week wasn’t right because it had not started the way it was supposed to.

It is so easy to take Sunday Mass for granted. We all lead busy lives. We look at the church bulletin and see that our parish church has four or five Masses every weekend. Protestants don’t do that. Why all this effort to make Mass available to people? Because, without the Mass, nothing else seems meaningful. Without the Eucharist, we are a hungry people.

Sighting the kingdom in Minneapolis



During the past few months, I’ve struggled hard to identify my current religious practice. Calling myself a religious dabbler trivializes my experience, and thinking of myself -- God forbid -- as a cafeteria Catholic doesn’t quite hit the bull’s-eye either. But since I like the safety of labels, “interreligionist” is about as close as I can get.

Praying for New Orleans, one block at a time


NEW ORLEANS -- Millie Campbell slipped the transmission into reverse and backed her blue Chevrolet away from her spotless brick home. "Oh God," she said, "we thank you for the blood of Jesus."

Then the 76-year-old cranked the wheel straight, put the car into drive, and headed slowly up Frenchmen Street, one hand on the wheel, the other turned upward toward the heavens.

The 'schoolboys' have no real authority



In the very early years of the 20th century, my dad attended primary school in a one-room country grade school on the plains of central Kansas. Conditions were still very rustic on the frontier in those days. They had just the basics. There were no phones, no electric lights and no indoor plumbing. The roads were of dirt, and the law was miles away. One teacher taught all eight grades and had to be a fairly tough and self-sufficient individual.


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