People’s Policy Project Releases Bold Pro-Family Plan

Matt Bruenig of the People’s Policy Project has authored a new paper offering a comprehensive set of pro-family policies, as progressives and Democrats increasingly turn to this important subject:

The seven benefits in the paper are:

  1. Baby box. Three months before the birth of a child, each family will receive a box that contains essential items like clothes and bottles with the box itself doubling as a bassinet.
  2. Parental Leave. Families will receive 36 weeks of paid leave for the birth of a child. In single-parent families, the sole parent is entitled to all 36 weeks. In two-parent families, each parent is entitled to 18 weeks but may transfer up to 14 weeks to the other parent. The paid leave benefit will be set equal to 100 percent of earnings up to the minimum wage and 66 percent of earnings beyond the minimum wage. All recipients will be entitled to benefits equal to at least the minimum wage but no more than the national average wage.
  3. Free child care. After the parental leave period, children will be entitled to a spot in a free public child care center. Parents who wish to care for their children at home can opt out and receive a home child care allowance equal to the per-child wages of child care workers. For example, if public child care workers are tasked with caring for four kids at a time, then the home child care allowance would be equal to one-fourth of the pay of child care workers.
  4. Free pre-k. From age 3 to 5, children will be entitled to spot in a free pre-k center.
  5. Free school lunch. Public child care centers, public pre-k centers, and public k-12 will all provide free school lunches.
  6. Free health care. Everyone below the age of 26 will be entitled to free health care through the Medicare system.
  7. Child allowance. Parents will receive $300 per month for every child they are caring for under the age of 18. This benefit will replace the child tax credit, child and dependent care tax credit, dependent care flexible savings accounts, 529 accounts as used for elementary or secondary school, and head of household filing status. It will also mostly replace the earned income tax credit.

You can read the full paper here.

Beyond Textbooks: Awakening Students to the Transcendent

The modern world view, marked by a suspicion of anything not empirical, skeptical to the possibility of transcendence or mystery, is our age’s default perspective. What exists beyond the data points of observable human emotion and action? Our society has no answer. Modernity is the air we breathe, the language we use, the habits we form.

I see the effects in my high school students, who have been exposed to very little in our culture that encourages them to consider matters of the spirit or develop a sense of wonder. They possess little more than superficial understandings of concepts like good, evil, grace, sin, freedom, mercy. Considering metaphor is an unnatural exercise, and they are reluctant to bequeath the terms “true” or “real” to any experience not potentially viewable on Youtube.

I’d argue that this modern perspective, hostile to mystery and unwilling to concede the primacy of the self, is the number-one obstacle facing Catholic teachers today. How best to awaken students’ sensibilities to transcendent things, to the soul, to what Catholics—and most religions—consider most real?

Literature is the most natural antidote to the obstacles presented by the modern mind, for it is there where the mysteries we hold to be most real are displayed through the most common of human mediums—stories. Good literature can open up students to the world beyond the self, to a depth, according to Flannery O’Connor “where adequate motivation and adequate psychology and the various determinations have been exhausted.” O’Connor’s own fiction attempts to do this, and so does what we have come to call the Great Books.

Yet stories, no matter how great, only provide a gateway into mystery if students first are able to internalize them and allow them entry into their inner lives. If not, stories are for them what Kathleen Norris describes in her 1993 memoir Dakota: something kept “at a safe distance, part of that remote entity called ‘American Literature’ that has little relation to their lives.” Imagination provides the crucial link in this regard—if students fail to engage literature with their imaginations, literature remains remote and essentially unreal, a collection of information about characters and settings that students need to learn.

One way to ensure that this happens is to hand our students literature textbooks, especially the ubiquitous, state-approved fare from big publishing houses. There are many problems with using this type of textbook in a Catholic school, but most detrimental to the development of the imagination is something which may appear innocuous at first glance: the use of pictures.

I remember reading a selection from Great Expectations during my freshman year of high school that I’d bet killed any nascent enthusiasm I might have had for the works of Charles Dickens. The reading was peppered with movie stills of Pip and Miss Havisham from a black-and-white production from the 1940s that, to a 14-year-old, made the story seem even more ancient than its 1861 publication date. Looking at the stills, I thought that if that’s what this story is supposed to look like, I wanted no part of it. I steered away from Dickens and, I am ashamed to admit, have not really ventured back since.

Why have pictures at all in literature textbooks? Some books do not. Readers for Advanced Placement courses tend to be more like anthologies than textbooks, with full-length works given context by simple introductions, author biographies and guiding questions. But these books present a sharp departure from what most high school students carry—thick volumes that, instead of supplementing works of literature with extraneous material, seem to have it the other way around. Flip through one and it’s sometimes difficult to find the readings themselves, truncated as they are, amidst the pictures and graphics and skill-building activity sidebars. If their teacher sticks to the textbook, it’s quite possible for students to march through four years without ever reading a full work of literature.

The pictures themselves are especially unhelpful, often distracting from the purpose of the reading, and in some cases, misleading entirely. Take one unfortunate example from a textbook I’ve taught from: the offense in question occurs when presenting Edmund Spenser’s first sonnet from the cycle Amoretti, whose first lines read

HAPPY, ye leaves! when as those lily hands,

Which hold my life in their dead-doing might,

Shall handle you, and hold in love’s soft bands,

Like captives trembling at the victor’s sight.

As is not too difficult to see (especially after reading the entire poem), the sonnet is addressed to the “leaves” of the very book of poetry that Spenser is writing, and the word “lily” refers to the color of the hands of his beloved, whom Spenser imagines holding the poems. But the textbook in question puts an actual lily on the page for this poem, a white flower with green leaves. Nowhere in the poem does it mention a flower. Not even close. A harried intern must have scanned the first line and thrown a stock image onto the page, for every page must have a picture, it seems, lest the students lose interest.

Not every picture is as blatantly misleading, but I would argue that they are just as harmful as Spenser’s phantom lily. One attraction of literature, which anyone captivated with a book at a young age knows instinctively, is this: a book presents a reality that is unique to the imagination of the reader. What does Odysseus look like? What do the sirens sound like? What does Telemachus’ face look like when he realizes that the beggar he had been talking to is his long-lost father? There are no authoritative answers to these questions, save for the ones that arise in each reader. In other words, there are as many answers as there are pairs of eyes. In this regard we are all equals. Though it may be more informed, Homer’s own personal envisioning of Odysseus is not “more real” than the sleepy student’s in the back row. This is a profoundly liberating reality of books, one so fundamental that it hardly needs to be explained.

Textbooks with pictures undermine this reality by presenting a version of the story (or poem, or play) that, by the very nature of textbooks, offers itself as the most real. Most students cannot distinguish between the work of literature itself and its appearance in a textbook. Like my 14-year-old self, they cannot understand that a novel or play had a life all of its own before an editor decided to cut it, clutter it with graphics, and, just when you thought the story was done, wrap it up with a nauseating discussion question (“How did you feel when character X….?”). That liberating reality of reading that every student should be able to count on—that the characters and settings become his or her own—is stifled before it even has a chance to take root. This is especially true with high school readers who struggle. In such textbooks, they are presented with stories whose “reality” (as seen in the ancillary images) appears to be more real than what their own imaginations produce. The result? They turn their imaginations off, and reading becomes an even bigger chore because now it becomes about learning about Odysseus or Macbeth or Miss Havisham, rather than imagining them. And so literature remains comfortably at arms’ length—something to be studied, recapitulated if necessary, and discarded.

Cultivating mystery in our students depends on which works of literature they read, but more so, how those works are taught. At the risk of sounding formulaic, I’ll say Catholic schools need to get away from these textbooks, especially the mass-market ones, which, more often than not, strangle the imagination, choking off the point of access to the inner life. If we hope at all that our students grow in this regard, we must offer them those kinds of encounters with literature that bear interior fruit. Only then can they start to envision the world as sacramental, to consider the possibility that our inner and outer lives are wound up together in some strange, profound way.

Mike St. Thomas received his Master’s Degree in Literature and teaches English at a Catholic high school in Rhode Island, where he lives with his wife and daughters. He writes about literature and Catholic education at

Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Poor Sanitation in India May Afflict Well-Fed Children With Malnutrition by Gardiner Harris: “An emerging body of scientific studies suggest that Vivek and many of the 162 millionother children under the age of 5 in the world who are malnourished are suffering less a lack of food than poor sanitation.”

Love People, Not Pleasure by Arthur Brooks: “People who rate materialistic goals like wealth as top personal priorities are significantly likelier to be more anxious, more depressed and more frequent drug users, and even to have more physical ailments than those who set their sights on more intrinsic values.”

How to deal with darkness by Matthew Warner: “If you struggle with pride, fall in love with humility. If you struggle with always being right, explore the wonders and freedom of admitting you’re wrong. If you struggle with lust, learn to value self-control and the dignity of others. If you struggle with envy, embrace admiration. Angry? Binge on forgiveness. Selfish? Commit to serving others.”

Learning from Bodies by Nora Calhoun: “If we let bodies speak to us in their own language, by being present to them and offering the gifts of touch and physical care, we can learn what is truly at stake and why it matters.”

Corrupting citizens for fun and profit by Michael Gerson: “Rather than building social competence and capital, politicians increasingly benefit when citizens are addicted, exploited, impoverished and stoned. And that deserves contempt, not applause.”

The age of entitlement: how wealth breeds narcissism by Anne Manne: “Even thoughts of being wealthy can create a feeling of increased entitlement — you start to feel superior to everyone else and thus more deserving: something at the centre of narcissism. They found this was true of people who were, in real life, better off.”

Parenting with Smartphones by Amber Lapp: “There are no rules, few guidelines to help us set boundaries between work and family life when we work from home. The freedom, the flexibility, the lack of script is both the blessing and the curse.”

Helping girls worldwide requires a united stand by Malala Yousafzai: “We are stronger than those who oppress us, who seek to silence us. We are stronger than the enemies of education. We are stronger than fear, hatred, violence and poverty.”

Choosing Transformational Marriage by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig: “Marriage lasts wherein the couple allow themselves to be transformed by it, and faithfully commit to that transformation, re-orienting the way they relate to one another and the marriage itself by willful habitation to the virtues of charity and kindness.”

Jihadists claim Baghdad blasts as Iraq rallies behind Christians by Jean Marc Mojon: “Until Saturday, there had been a continuous Christian presence in Mosul for about 16 centuries.”


Truly Scandalous: Fired for Choosing Life

In the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul is concerned with what causes scandal within the Christian community. Today we are not so concerned with eating meat prepared in connection with Roman sacrifice; instead, sex is the primary preoccupation of the day.

Sex is often at the heart of the aptly named TV show Scandal, and it is sex that many fear is the greatest cause of scandal within the Catholic community.

This week’s scandal: A Catholic middle school teacher in Helena, MT was fired because she was pregnant.

The Diocese defends its position by arguing that she violated the morals clause of her contract. For them, it is that simple. Because she is an unwed mother, she cannot be living a Catholic lifestyle and cannot be a proper role model to students – despite being an excellent teacher.

And so I ask, what causes scandal? Is the diocese right – an unwed mother on the faculty would cause irreparable scandal to the community? Will it weaken and put at risk the faith of the children and families in this school? Or does her firing cause scandal? Does firing a pregnant woman within a community that claims to value human dignity and life above all cause the greater scandal?

To answer, we have to first uncover what we most value, what our highest commitment is. It seems to me there are two options.

First, the primary value could be upholding the law, which is understood in an uncompromising and absolute way. It is the law that structures and protects us.  It offers us strong protection against uncertainty as long as we hold on to it tightly. The teacher signed a contract and therefore she knew that by having sex she was violating that contract. Here sexual morality becomes one of the primary ways in which fidelity to Catholicism and our commitment to our Catholic values are to be measured. Concern for the poor, the  Beatitudes, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, The Parable of the Last Judgment…none of these are deal breakers because fidelity is not measurable in terms of clear contractual rules and obligations. Repeated violations of the Beatitudes do not cause irrevocable scandal but a single violation of Catholic sexual moral standards in public – that is scandal. Pregnancy is then reduced to publicly flaunting one’s sexual act and not the welcoming of new life.

However, there is another way to interpret scandal within the community and this begins with recognizing the centrality of human dignity. If our starting point is the inherent and inviolable value of every human person, then we interpret scandal a little differently. Beginning with human dignity does not discard law—but it does demand that we look at questions of sexual transgression and pregnancy differently. When one begins with human dignity, then pregnancy itself can never be reduced to sin. The inherent value of the imago dei, equally present in all human persons, is not dependent upon the circumstances of conception. Neither is the dignity of the woman.

If we begin with human dignity, then this teacher’s status as an unwed mother is not her primary identity—she is simply a mother. Without embracing or condoning premarital sex, beginning with human dignity means refusing to denigrate the life and dignity of either the child or the mother because of the circumstances of conception. If we begin with human dignity, then the expulsion and abandonment of a pregnant woman and her child causes deep and profound scandal in the community. Who are we as a Catholic community if we do not welcome and support life?

As a Catholic community, we need to think long and hard—because we can either hold that human dignity and life are what is most important or we can hold that the letter of the  law and sexual purity are what matter most. They cannot value both equally, because when they come into conflict, we must choose one over the other. If we are a pro-life church, then how do we justify expelling a pregnant woman from the community? Think about the message it sends to expel a pregnant woman from the community, claiming she cannot model living Catholicism to our children. It is hard to square this action with Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel or Cardinal O’Malley’s homily on the occasion of the March for Life.

To those who truly believe she cannot model discipleship – I pose two questions.

  1. If this woman had procured a quick abortion upon learning she was pregnant, no one would have known and she would have been able to keep her job. She chose life at considerable personal risk and yet you claim she cannot model discipleship and a commitment to the Gospel to our children?
  2. If what is most important is her marital status—she is an unwed pregnant woman—would you have welcomed another unwed pregnant woman, Mary of Nazareth?

There is great scandal in these events in Helena, Montana but it is not being caused by an unwed pregnant teacher.

Millennial of the Year 2013: Malala

Malala Yousafzai is our first annual Millennial of the Year. Just 16 years old, she has already made outstanding contributions to the common good. From refusing to surrender her own right to education in the face of intimidation and violence to becoming a champion for the education rights of all children, Malala has become a hero to people across the globe. Her thirst for knowledge and truth, her merciful nature, and her passionate commitment to justice for all are worthy of admiration and emulation, but it is her extraordinary courage that truly sets her apart.

For those unfamiliar with Malala’s story, she was attacked by the Taliban for her commitment to education:

The teenage girls chatted to each other and their teachers as the school bus rattled along the country road. Students from a girls’ high school in Swat, they had just finished a term paper, and their joy was evident as they broke into another Pashto song. About a mile outside the city of Mingora, two men flagged down and boarded the bus, one of them pulling out a gun. “Which one of you is Malala Yousafzai?” he demanded. No one spoke—some out of loyalty, others out of fear. But, unconsciously, their eyes turned to Malala. “That’s the one,” the gunman said, looking the 15-year-old girl in the face and pulling the trigger twice, shooting her in the head and neck. He fired twice more, wounding two other girls, and then both men fled the scene.

In the face of this persecution, she has refused to stand down. And she has refused to let hatred consume her. She has said, “I don’t want revenge on the Taliban, I want education for sons and daughters of the Taliban.” Here we see a mentality that radiates love and demands justice.

Malala is focused on issues that could transform global history and usher in an era of greater human flourishing and global justice. The education of girls is intrinsically good. But it also has the potential to reduce poverty, expand the protection of other human rights, and undermine repression and tyranny. It has the potential to unlock the creative altruism of millions of girls around the world. It is one of the most profoundly important causes of our era.

Malala’s courageous fight for girls’ education shows the promise and power of faith in action. Some contend that faith distracts people from what their real focus should be: improving conditions on earth. Setting aside the fundamental irrationality and incoherence of atheistic humanism as a worldview (of believing in both a strictly material universe and transcendent notions of right and wrong), Malala, a devout Muslim, shows that religious, integral humanism can be an even more powerful force for justice. Integral humanism moves beyond mere enlightened self-interest and directs its energy to the authentic good of others, to their flourishing as human persons. There is no firmer foundation for human rights. Malala’s faith is also the foundation of her extraordinary courage. Even in the face of death, she refuses to be stopped by fear. She knows that death is not the end and that love will have the final word. And this propels her to action rather than retreat.

Devotion to human dignity and justice for all. Faith in action. Countercultural courage. Malala embodies Millennial’s hopes for our generation. We’re proud to have her as our first annual Millennial of the Year. St. Ignatius challenges us to “go forth and set the world on fire.” Malala has. Will you join her?


Award Criteria: The award goes to a millennial who made an outstanding contribution to human flourishing and the common good. Their actions reflect a commitment to the dignity and worth of the person.

Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Family values hypocrisy by EJ Dionne: “Politicians talk about family values but do almost nothing to help families. They talk about parental responsibility but do almost nothing to help parents. They talk about self-sufficiency but do precious little to make self-sufficiency a reality for those who must struggle hardest to achieve it.”

Ideas From a Manger By Ross Douthat: “The secular picture, meanwhile, seems to have the rigor of the scientific method behind it. But it actually suffers from a deeper intellectual incoherence than either of its rivals, because its cosmology does not harmonize at all with its moral picture.”

The Case for Accomodating Nursing Mothers by Beth Haile: “Women who want to nurse shouldn’t feel like they are sacrificing their careers or a robust feminism if they choose to do so.”

Preparing a generation of ‘Francis bishops’ by John Allen, NCR: “If those postulates are correct, we can draw some early conclusions about what a ‘Francis bishop’ looks like — ideological moderates with the broad support of their fellow bishops and a real commitment to the social Gospel.”

Love my neighbour as myself? I don’t think so by Mathew Block, First Things: “The idea that poverty is someone else’s concern—that I bear no personal responsibility in caring for my neighbours—is a regrettable consequence of self-centered North American individualism: If it doesn’t impact me directly, then it’s not my problem.”

New Delhi: archbishop, priests and nuns arrested during peaceful demonstration by Asia News: “Police in New Delhi arrested Archbishop Anil JT Couto, as well as priests and nuns from his diocese, during a peaceful march for the rights of Dalit Christians and Muslims.”

The Bipartisan Pre-K Push by Conor Williams: “The debate over public early childhood programs isn’t going away anytime soon, so we owe it to ourselves to make sure that expansions of these programs are designed with both kids and their parents in mind.”

In Remembrance: Reading the Christmas Letters of Jean Bethke Elshtain (1941-2013) by John D. Carlson, Religion & Politics: “Elshtain’s Augustinian preoccupation with the limits of politics necessarily implies that there are other heights and hopes, other surges and swells, of human life that no polity can create—and that only morally deficient polities seek to destroy. What is so theologically revealing about the limits of politics is the capacious room left open for so much else: for life’s abundant ‘goodness that overflows the boundaries of the self and invites all to join in.’”

Eating Salt Together: The Real Life of a Home by John A. Cuddeback, Family Studies: “Home—the very word should resonate with feelings of warmth, belonging, togetherness. It should be the most reliable place of real personal intimacy, the surest antidote to the great bane of human existence: loneliness. But more and more, it is not.”

Capitol Exhortations by John Carr: “House Republicans are seeking major cuts in food stamps over reductions in agricultural subsidies, practicing priority for the rich and well-connected. Until the pope’s challenge, Washington had been silent about pervasive poverty and its structural causes, with apparent acceptance of high joblessness, stagnant wages and destructive pressures on families.”

Catholic education reflects shift from North to South by John Allen: “Of the 1.2 billion baptized Roman Catholics on the planet today, two-thirds live outside the West, a share that’s expected to reach three-quarters by mid-century. While Catholic populations in Europe decline, sub-Saharan Africa’s Catholics shot up by almost 7,000 percent in the 20th century and continue to grow. According to Vatican statistics released Thursday, the same broad trajectory runs through the enterprise of Catholic education.”

Political Strife in South Sudan Sets Off Ethnic Violence by NY Times: “After President Salva Kiir announced that his government had headed off a coup attempt by his former vice president last week, South Sudan was tossed into uncertainty and upheaval. Hundreds are believed to have been killed in the capital, Juba, with thousands more fleeing into the bush to escape the violence.”

Response to Samuel Gregg’s criticism of Evangelii Gaudium by Morning’s Minion, Vox Nova: “A whole political movement continues push for tax cuts for the rich combined with a weaker social safety net for the poor. The only justification for these policies is that they will “trickle down” in the form of growth and jobs. They have not. They never will. They lead to an economy of exclusion. The pope understands all of this, but I’m not sure Samuel Gregg does.”

Advent, Counterculture, and Prayer by Jennifer Owens, Daily Theology: “As a culture, we suffer from this consumerism, this compulsive desire to acquire more than we need that leaves the economically poor without enough and, ironically, leaves us feeling empty, the more we acquire.  It comes from a place of insecurity, of fear that we will not be seen as ‘good enough’ in the eyes of the world if we don’t have the right ‘stuff’ in life.”

Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

CCHD: Putting the Gospel into Practice by John Gehring: “At a time when 1 in 6 Americans live in poverty and extreme income inequality is growing, a contribution to C.C.H.D. is a powerful way to affirm Catholic identity and empower those struggling to lift themselves out of difficult situations.”

“Getting” Pope Francis, or Not by Michael Sean Winters: “Here, too, we see the greatest point of continuity between Pope Francis and his two immediate predecessors, both of whom, in different ways, were rooted in the Communio school of theology we associate with the Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar. The Christian proclamation is first and foremost about God and His accomplishments and only consequently about us and our obligations, moral and otherwise.”

The Christian Intellectual by R.R. Reno: “Love and freedom. There’s nothing uniquely Christian about these qualities in an intellectual. Socrates had both. But grace perfects nature and helps us overcome our weaknesses. The Christian intellectual may not be welcome today as a Christian, but it’s as a Christian that he can be salt and light.”

TJP Sits Down with Coach John Beilein by Dennis Baker, SJ: “I do the Examen all the time during the season.  That helps me put things into perspective—how grateful I should be for the life I’ve been blessed with.  Sometimes I write my Examen down with my iPad.  I have pages and pages and pages during the season.  So I think it’s just the overall appreciation of understanding your purpose in life, understanding God’s will for you.”

The Triumph of C.S. Lewis By Fr. Robert Barron: “He was not someone to whom religious conviction came naturally or effortlessly; he had to work his way to it, in the face of often harsh opposition, both interior and exterior. This very personal struggle gives him credibility with the millions today who want to believe but who find ideological secularism and militant atheism enormously challenging.”

When Children Are Traded by Nicholas Kristof: “A first step to address this issue would be to make adoption agencies responsible for children they bring to America, including finding new homes when adoptions fail. If we have rules about recycling bottles, we should prevent children from being abandoned and recycled. The larger point is a more basic failing in America: inadequate child services. Kids don’t get the protection they need from predators, nor the nutrition they need, nor the books and reading programs they need for mental nutrition. The threat to the food stamp program, whose beneficiaries are 45 percent children, is emblematic of this broader problem. Children don’t have votes and are voiceless, so America’s most vulnerable become its most neglected.”

The GOP’s Cruel Crusade Against Food Stamps by Norm Ornstein: “I would love for all sides to find common ground here: Provide the kind of job training that will enable people to find work and move out of poverty while helping them with the basics of food, shelter, health care, and transportation. But to cut, slash, and burn that aid mindlessly without regard for the human cost is stupid, cruel, and reprehensible.”

Father Albert Foley: How one priest took on the KKK by Kristen Hannum: “Everything changed for Foley in 1943, when, as a young Jesuit, he was assigned to teach the class ‘Migration, Immigration, and Race’ at Spring Hill College in Mobile. His research—which included interviewing local black Catholics and wide-ranging reading—opened his eyes: Segregation was sinful. He looked to the church fathers and social justice teachings to better understand his new realization and to discern what should be done.”

The Habit of Gratitude and Hopefulness by Christopher C. Roberts: “We are praying that a good community of peers will be in place when they become teens. And we are trying, gently for now, to prepare our girls for being different from the surrounding culture in sometimes uncomfortable ways. I hope for the moment that we’re laying in the spiritual and psychological resources to see us through whatever’s coming.”

Now and Then I Feel It’s Working by J. Peter Nixon: “There is always a temptation as a parent to think that your children are clay that you are called to shape. The truth is that we are merely stewards of something precious that ultimately belongs to God. If he can call a prodigal like me back to him, he can certainly do the same for my children if he so chooses. In the end, faith is his gift to give, not mine.”

How Children Succeed: You Should Read This by Jason King: “We need grit to be able to confront sin—personal, social, and original sin—and keep going.  We need grit, but we also do not develop it by ourselves.  We need a community that is safe enough for us to develop trust and confidence in our decisions and actions.  We also need a community that fosters vulnerability, one not closed off to adversity, not closed off to others.  We need the Church to help us become disciples who perpetually pickup our crosses and follow Christ.”

The pope is forcing us to redefine ugliness by Benjamin W. Corn: “Because our aesthetic standards are arbitrary, our definitions of beauty have shifted slightly, over time, to encompass, for example, anorexic-appearing fashion models with little resemblance to the shapeliness of Botticelli’s Goddess of Beauty. There is one vital point in that dynamic: the arbitrary—including our ideas of what is beautiful, ugly, visually acceptable, or socially stigmatizing—can change. And each of us can contribute to that change.”

In Central African Republic, thousands turn to bishop for protection by Barb Fraze, CNS: “More than 35,000 people are living on the 40-acre diocesan compound in Bossangoa, Central African Republic, seeking protection from rebels who are targeting Christians, said the local bishop.”