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How to talk to your children about Jesus’ death

“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” blares from the Echo Dot sitting on our kitchen counter. We listen to it so much, my 3-year-old daughter Dahlia perfectly mimics the announcement of it in that sing-songy computer voice of Alexa’s. “‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ by Gene Autry,” they report in unison, with the first syllable in Autry drawn out as though Alexa might be a little Southern. It’s the 11th time we’ve listened to “Rudolph” today, which would be fine but for the fact that it’s March and we’re in the middle of Lent.

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A Catholic celebrates Persian new year

I observe two new year celebrations in three months. First, I celebrate New Year’s Day on January 1. Every year, I watch the ball drop at midnight on television, sing “Auld Lang Syne” with family and friends, and sleep in late the next day after celebrating the night before.

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When will we learn?

A couple of years ago, I taught Dave Cullen’s book Columbine (Twelve) to college freshmen, most of whom weren’t even born when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris gunned down 13 of their fellow high school students on April 20, 1999. My students were largely ignorant of the shooting with little understanding of how profoundly that day shaped their high school experience. They were surprised to learn that only 1 in 5 high schools had security cameras before 1999. Today, 3 in 5 do.

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Keeping faith despite the worst kind of sins

I felt welcome at Michigan State University right away. My journalism professors gave me the tools I needed to succeed in my profession, and I made some great friends. I even found a nice Catholic church within walking distance from campus—St. John Church and Student Center, part of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in the Lansing diocese. I loved going to Mass every weekend to mentally unwind from my hectic graduate school schedule.

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How to add empathy to your library

School lunchrooms all smell and look the same, the overripe aroma of hundreds of lunches barely contained by cream-colored walls just this side of salmon. Every table is a petri dish despite the wipe-and-spray done by careless seventh graders more interested in squirting the back of each other’s pants than sanitizing eating surfaces.

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Nostalgia: The past in present tense

I love nostalgia even though it’s painful. The word has Greek roots in both the words “homecoming” and “pain.” Every time I go home to my parents’ house, I am hit with shades of it when I open a musty closet, run my fingers along untouched bookshelves, or rummage through dresser drawers that still contain small Mass books and buttons from when my brothers, sister, and I were little. A lot of people spend New Year’s thinking about what they will do in the year to come. I spent it thinking about what we did in years past.

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25 days of Advent in action

If your kids are anything like mine, Advent has less to do with preparing for the arrival of baby Jesus and more to do with the studied preparation of Christmas lists. In an effort to combat an increasingly present-hungry holiday focus, a few years ago we started a Jesse Tree. Every morning, we added a new ornament to our Jesse Tree and read that day’s Bible story, which took us from creation to the birth of Christ.

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In the college classroom, belief should be open for discussion

A few weeks ago I was standing in the back of a college classroom at the Catholic university where I teach while my students chatted with a guest speaker via Skype. The guest speaker was a deacon on his way to the priesthood and a graduate of the University of Saint Francis, where I teach. In the shadowy back aisle where I stood, I listened while Deacon Jay explained that he was not Catholic during his first three years at Saint Francis, but felt pulled toward the faith after a chance invite from a couple of girls to join them at Mass.

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How Catholics should think about politics and government

Next Tuesday, November 7, 2017, is election day across America. Because of our places along the spectrum of American voters, Catholics again have a pivotal role to play in these elections. How should we vote?

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Seasons of defeat: Lent and March Madness

For most Catholics, the month of March signifies the liturgical season of Lent, the 40 days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving where we take the time to reflect on and renew our relationship with God. While I engage in Lent during the month of March, there’s another ritual that I practice during this same time each year: March Madness (not to be confused with Lent Madness).

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