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Marking the centenary of World War I, experts discuss the legacy of the conflict that changed faith and society in the West.   More

They’re big, brightly colored, buoyant and, oh yes, they can help us meditate on the saving mysteries of Christ’s life, and the life of the Blessed Mother. Campers at St. Veronica’s Vacation Bible School in Chantilly were asked to create rosaries, not of crystal or wood, but from cut-up pool noodles — those long polyethylene cylinders children hook under their arms to stay afloat. The purpose of the exercise was to help the children think of different ways of getting to heaven. The pool noodle rosaries were “agents of truth,” according to camp Director Erin Meunier.

When I went to visit the Bible camp July 16, campers were working in shifts under the direction of a camp volunteer, to produce the rosaries. They were laid out on chairs and tables in the parish hall for a while before the campers grabbed their completed rosaries and posed with them.

The children were high-spirited but respectful of the contemplative nature of the unusual meditative tool.

Read the story and see pictures here.   More

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Love is in the air these days at the Catholic Herald.

Staff Writer Katie Collins tied the knot with Cameron Scott last month in sunny California. To say they seem “made for each other” is an understatement. I couldn’t help but smile as she shared stories of the search for the perfect dress, the symbolism of the rings they had made and the online photos of the honeymoon destination.

In just two months, Staff Writer Maria-Pia Negro will marry Ben Chin. Sadly, she will bid the Catholic Herald farewell as they begin a new life in New York City. But again, the broad smiles and soft giggles about wedding plans and combining Peruvian and Chinese customs surface after a little prodding of the bride-to-be.

One of Editor Mike Flach’s four daughters got married this spring, and a father’s pride was obvious as he shared photos and stories from the big day, one he and his wife, Teri, shared 29 years earlier.

A quick survey of Herald staffers shows the longest-married couple is Staff Writer Dave and Pat Borowski, logging in 41 years. Circulation Manager Joe Miller and his wife, Linda, are at the 38-year-mark, and Editorial Assistant Mary Witko and her husband, Jeff, celebrated 28 years June 28 “at high noon,” Mary said. Ad Manager Carlos Salinas and his wife, Mary Jean, will mark 19 years this fall; and Ad Rep Keith Pohlmeier and his wife, Melissa, will mark 15 years this November; and Production Coordinator Stacy Rausch and her husband, Ron Schwickerath, celebrated a decade this past January.

We’ve got some newlyweds too. Social Media Coordinator Mary Stachyra Lopez and her husband, Mauricio, just celebrated their second anniversary. Ad Rep Michelle Ramirez and her husband, Delvis, are coming up on their fourth anniversary this November. And Chris Gunty and I celebrated six years in June. In some ways it seems like it’s been forever, and in other ways it’s just the blink of an eye.

With new nuptials and anniversaries being celebrated this …   More

Here is an unsigned editorial titled "Hobby Lobby justice" from the July 2 issue of Our Sunday Visitor, a national Catholic newsweekly based in Huntington, Indiana. It was written by the editorial board.

The June 30 Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case dealt a severe blow to the efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services, and by extension the Obama administration, to force some companies into providing contraceptive and other services deemed morally objectionable. While scholars will be studying the decision for months, we draw two immediate conclusions: First, this is an important victory in defense of religious liberty. Second, we must not relax our resolve, for the struggle is far from over.

First, the high court by a 5-4 decision has soundly rejected the HHS mandate forcing "closely held" companies to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations for their employees and their families, even when such actions violate deeply held religious beliefs. The decision rejected the government's contention that for-profit corporations were not eligible for the protections extended by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It also ruled that even if the government believed it had a "compelling interest" in mandating such coverage, it was imposing an undue burden — extremely onerous fines — on the companies, and it had an alternative accommodation (for nonprofits) that HHS itself asserts will satisfy its mandate's requirements.

The exquisite irony of this line of reasoning is that the accommodation that the administration so cleverly concocted in February 2013 to force religious nonprofit employers such as Our Sunday Visitor to tolerate providing employees and their families abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization turned out to be the exception that broke the mandate. Because the administration had already proposed that some corporations — religious-based nonprofits — could win exemption from the …   More

Independence Day is an occasion for picnics and parades, family fun and fireworks, but we must never forget that Freedom comes at a high price. The Nation’s birthday beckons our rededication to what makes us a great country while reminding us we are indeed ‘one nation under God.’

Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago representatives from the thirteen colonies came to the conclusion that the time had come to cut ties with Great Britain and set out on a new course. It was a bold decision, which continues to bear fruit in our times. None of the founding Fathers knew where their decision would lead, but they did recognize the importance of working together to build a new kind of nation—a nation founded on principles and centered around the essence of what it means to be human, created in the image of Almighty God with inalienable rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Gratefully, we celebrate not only the cunning and courage of our founders, but also the selfless dedication and sacrifice of the many Americans serving our Nation in uniform, past and present. Our liberty lives through their sweat and blood. Preserving our way of life demands vigilance, valor, respect for conscience and victory over the forces of evil that would otherwise vanquish the values we hold dear. We must always recognize our debt to these brave men and women whose commitment and courage keep us free.

Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., is Archbishop for the United States Military Services.

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Last week I returned to the Franciscan Monastery in Washington to interview Ben Hill, the monastery’s resident “rosarian,” about the spiritual and health benefits of volunteering with the garden guild.

My story (appearing in print and online in our annual Health and Wellness section this week) is mostly about the spiritual benefits of gardening at the monastery, but it also introduced me to a faith-filled man with a big heart and a love of roses that spans generations.

During our several-hour long interview sitting in the monastery greenhouse, Ben spoke lovingly about his late wife, Agnes, whom he lost to lung cancer last year; about how the monastery was a presence in both of their lives; the role that Father Franklyn M. McAfee, pastor emeritus of St. John the Beloved Church in McLean, played during Agnes’ last days at home; and how Ben’s love of roses and caring for them has enabled him to repay Father McAfee’s kindness in a small way — by helping him care for the rose garden at St. John.

Roses tie all of these stories together, and I would like to share a few tidbits from each.

Ben Hill

Ben learned to nurture and care for roses at the hand of his mother, Minnie Lee Hill. It is no surprise that he joined the monastery garden guild and takes special pleasure in tending to the sweet-smelling blossoms. In addition to his love of the monastery rose garden, Ben has a special space in his heart for the people at the monastery and the building itself. “There is something about the friars wearing the brown robes that gives them halos,” he said. And the monastery has had such a great impact on him, “more than any other religious facility.”

Agnes Hill

Ben’s wife Agnes was a true Washingtonian, growing up near the Monastery on 20th Street and visiting often as a child. Later, as an adult, she brought her husband. After the couple were married at St. Francis de Sales Church in …   More

The phone rang last Tuesday afternoon, just after the rush of the weekly deadline. By this point, Catholic Herald staff members are a bit exhausted from photos taken, stories written and edited, ads created, pages laid out, mailing lists compiled and the constant uploads online and on social media.

Staff Writer Maria-Pia Negro answered the phone to hear a young voice — his mother prompting in the background. He introduced himself, said he was 14 years old, and was looking for a summer job — delivering the Catholic Herald. He wanted to know if we had any openings.

Unsure what to say, she transferred his call to the circulation line. Well after the last page was sent to the printer, she came in to tell me about the call. I smiled and thought, “Oh, those were the days.”

Who can’t recall the paper boy? In my neighborhood, he would make his way up the street after I got home from school with the afternoon Washington Star in hand. He’d walk it right up to the door. Somehow, I’d always be in the front window doing homework so I could catch his eye and wave.

I remember family stories of the paper delivery business dating back to my father’s first job at age 11 in the 1930s, to my brothers taking turns over the years, and once I even accompanied a high school friend on bike along her route in the Palisades area of Washington.

Some Catholic newspapers have considered bringing back this sort of personal, community-supported delivery, but with very defined areas mostly suitable for bulk drops.

This young caller followed up with an email to Joe Miller, circulation manager. It got Miller thinking too.

“Wow, this harkens me back to my days at The Washington Post when we had paper boys. Unfortunately, here at the Catholic Herald, we do not have home delivery, we mail our newspaper,” he wrote back to our would-be newsie.

Miller said that by the mid-1980s, newspaper delivery was shifting from young kids to adults with vans, able to cover …   More

I’ve attended numerous weddings and baptisms and was present in the hospital room when my nephew was born. Smiles — the kind that emerge without thinking, extend from ear to ear, are contagious and make your face hurt after a while — were ubiquitous at all of those life-changing events.

But it’s hard for me to recall a time when I witnessed more smiles than at the priesthood ordination June 7 at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More. It was my first time covering an ordination (partnering up with the skilled photographer Stacy Rausch, Catholic Herald production coordinator), and it was humbling.

As the six new priests — Fathers Christopher P. Christensen, David A. Dufresne, James C. Hinkle, Mauricio R. Pineda, Scott Sina and Steven R. Walker — stepped out of the cathedral and into the warm afternoon sunshine to embrace family, friends and fellow clergy, joy-filled smiles were everywhere you turned.

Father Christensen, like nearly all the new priests, struggled to articulate feelings that are perhaps impossible to communicate with words.

“I don’t know even know how to express it,” he said. “I’m ecstatic.”

When Father Christensen and his father, Pete Christensen, first saw each other after Mass, the father lifted his tall son off the ground in one of the biggest hugs I’ve ever seen.

“It’s just all very emotional,” said Pete, through tears and a huge grin.

Merriam-Webster defines “joy” as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires” or “a state of happiness or felicity.”

Yet how do you capture the feeling, the state of being, after a sacrament where a man becomes a priest? I can’t even begin to know what that must feel like.

In my story on the ordination, I note that the day was filled with moments of humanness and moments of sacredness. Joy, it seems to me, is the limited way us humans can describe something of the spirit and of …   More

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