False Choices & Religious Liberty

Is There a Better Way Forward?

By John Gehring,  June 21, 2016 in Commonweal


The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launches its annual Fortnight for Freedom campaign this week. A recent video from the conference illustrates how unhinged the debates over religious liberty have become. Pairing images of Islamic State militants ready to behead Christian prisoners with ominous warnings of the Obama administration’s harassment of religious ministries epitomizes how the hierarchy risks making itself its own worst enemy on the issue. (For more, see the recent Commonweal editorial, “Lights, Camera, Contraception?”) Even many faithful Catholics who should be most sympathetic to the church’s arguments have grown weary of the divisiveness and worry that the all-consuming quality of the religious-liberty battle now seems to define American Catholicism. At the same time, the perversion of religious liberty into a bludgeon against women’s health, workers’ rights, and LGBT equality has caused some progressives to forget that religious freedom is a fundamentally liberal value. Finding a better approach that rescues religious liberty from the culture wars is challenging, essential work.

It’s fair to say religious liberty has a damaged “brand” these days. Catholic institutions have played a role in that diminishment. Lesbian and gay teachers across the country have been fired from Catholic schools after their civil marriages have become public. Several Catholic universities are using religious liberty claims to block adjunct professors making poverty-level wages from forming unions, a move dripping with hypocrisy given centuries of Catholic social teaching defending the rights of workers and living wages. Catholic leaders have spent years and millions of dollars in legal fees fighting for more religious exemptions in contraception coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act, despite the fact that years before health-care reform was passed some Catholic institutions, with little furor, already offered their employees insurance coverage that included birth control coverage.

The nation’s largest church needs to lower the temperature and elevate the conversation. In his visit to the White House last September, Pope Francis affirmed that religious liberty is “one of America’s most precious possessions.” American Catholics, he added, are equally “committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination.” To state what should be painfully obvious, Catholics are not living in an era of despotism or facing tyrannical assaults, as some church leaders have claimed. American Muslims, in fact, have the most legitimate reasons to fear for their religious freedom. When mosques are burned, Islamophobia is a well-funded industry, and the Republican presidential nominee has proposed a ban on Muslims entering the country, Catholics must speak boldly and act with more urgency to demonstrate our solidarity with a religious minority under siege. Continue reading “False Choices & Religious Liberty”

August-Day of Prayer/Workshop Events in Ipswich


Cost: $35 – Deposit: $10
(non-refundable and non-transferable)

August 12, 2017

a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Presenter: Lynne Clarkin, AND (Associate of Notre Dame)

Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning center or circle. It dates back to ancient times and has resonated throughout many traditions and cultures. This is a day to experience the process of creating visible prayer, your own prayer! We will begin with quiet prayer, allowing our being to enter into a place, neither here nor there. We will look at “a circle” drawn on paper helping us to focus and using the simple materials provided, such as colored pencils or pens or markers, you will begin! The way you arrange your space and the colors you choose will be your own. You are invited to pour out the mystery that is within – letting it flow and letting the unconscious speak! Ample time and a prayerful setting will add to your experiencing the process and we will be there to assist and to help you open the meaning of your own mandala, your visible prayer. There is a wonder in creation unfolding! A new way of birthing form into light! This is about process.

August 12, 2017

a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Includes lunch

Guide: Pat Curran , SNDdeN

Christian and Zen perspectives blend in this reflective day on the Ground of our Being. It will be a day when “all living things of the Earth open their eyes wide and look me in the eye.” (Fredrick Frank) and you return the gaze. Just bring a pad of paper and pencil for contemplating and drawing. No art ability is necessary to walk this sacred path.

October 21, 2017

a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Presenter: Nancy Sheridan, SUSV

Ignatian discernment within a parish setting offers us the opportunity to approach decision making from another perspective. Let’s acquaint ourselves with how this gift to the Church might enhance the life of our parishes.

The Power of Boredom, Breaks and Creativity-Maria Shriver

Illustration by Julie Paschkis


Let’s face it. Boredom has a bad rap.

Or, at least it had a bad rap with me for the longest time. I grew up thinking that there was almost nothing worse than being bored. So, I worked, and I worked, and I busied myself, and I did everything I could to try and stay two steps ahead of the old boredom curse.

“Nothing worse than being bored,” I’d tell myself and my children.

But lately, I’ve found myself challenging my beliefs about boredom. And, I’ve actually found myself craving it. I’ve found myself longing for some silence. Some time away. Some time to turn off and give myself the space to think, create, and daydream.

I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling. Why? Because I see too many of us running through life with no time to think. No time to reflect. No time to be creative. No time to check ourselves. No time to get to know our evolving selves. No time to ask, “Am I doing what I want to do? Am I living aligned with who I am? Or, am I living in fear? Am I just running around because I’m too afraid to slow down and take a break?”

Funny enough, as soon as I started contemplating boredom and my own desire for it, I started seeing books about its benefits everywhere. I started reading articles warning us that we lose boredom at our own peril—as individuals, and as a culture. I started reading essays written by wise people who took the time to be bored, and discovered that they learned a lot about life, love and themselves in the process.

As I was contemplating the concept of boredom this week and reading more about it, my colleagues at The Sunday Paper informed me that July is actually labeled “Anti-Boredom Month.” Really? Isn’t summer the perfect time to catch an opportunity for a break?

So, this week’s edition of The Sunday Paper is dedicated to the benefits of boredom. Today, we share insights from Architects of Change who can educate you on the value of taking a break from the norm, and how doing so will allow you to tap into your creativity and find your voice to dream.

I’m going to go out and try boredom today, and I hope you will be brave enough to join me. Take time away from the screaming and hollering of the nonstop news cycle. Put down your phone and all of those other screens that keep you so connected to other people’s voices that you can’t recognize your own. Spend some time with you.

Yes, you. Spend some time alone in the quiet. Twiddle your thumbs. Look up at the sky. Notice your surroundings. Listen for your voice. It’s there that you will find your mission. I’ve learned that the latter can only truly be accessed by allowing myself to access the quiet and the stillness that’s just within my reach.

I’m going to finally start embracing boredom so that I can see if I can tap back into my truest voice: my own. Take a moment to do this yourself, and let me know what you learn.


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These Great Dames by Maria Shriver


Every week here at The Sunday Paper, we try to get above the noise of the week and offer positive perspectives to get you thinking, dreaming and talking about something you may not have considered before.

To that end, this issue is dedicated to awesome and inspiring Great Dames. No, not great danes. 🙂 Great DAMES. Yes, Dames.


I wanted to write about Dames this week because my mother—one helluva Dame herself—was honored at ESPN’s ESPY Awards Wednesday night for her relentless work on behalf of those with intellectual disabilities. (Great Dame Michelle Obama presented the award.)

What a night it was. I was moved, motivated, inspired, deeply touched, and prouder than a peacock. I was proud that my mother got the recognition she deserved, and proud that she worked her whole life pushing boundaries right through and into her 80s.

I remember her telling me when she was 85 or so, “You know, Maria, there is no excuse not to work nonstop until you are at least 80.”

“At 80,” she said, “I had some issues here and there (lol, that’s an understatement, but she continued), but I didn’t give in. I just kept working. There is so much to do.”

My mother didn’t understand retirement. She didn’t understand slowing down to smell the roses. It just wasn’t her forte.

Changing the world was her forte. Her approach to life and work made me think about how many other Great Dames there are out there who are still breaking boundaries and changing perceptions about women, longevity and relevance. (Of course, there are plenty of men who are doing the same, but I’ll feature them in another issue. I have several to write about, so no worries.)

I call my mom a Dame ‘cause she wasn’t your average lady or woman. Trust me, I was very aware of this at a very early age. 

She smoked cigars. She wore pants. She hung out with men. She played football. She tried to dunk you in water polo well into her 80s. She was a first class sailor, no matter the weather. She was just a first-class competitor in every way. There wasn’t a sport she didn’t try to master. There wasn’t a man she didn’t try to beat (or a kid for that matter, this one included).

She rarely wore makeup, rarely brushed her hair, never went shopping and never, ever got a filler or a facial. But, when she walked into a room—any room—every eye was on her.

Why? Because she was an original. The real deal.

My mother was wicked smart, fun, challenging, and fearless. She was intimidating, for sure, but she was authentically herself. In today’s world, you would call her fierce. A force of nature. People often remarked that she was “a lot.”

The women in this issue of The Sunday Paper are cut from the same cloth and the same mold as my mother (although they brush their hair, wear beautiful clothes, etc.).

They are all still at it. They own the room when they walk in. They are personally inspiring to me because age doesn’t slow them down.

Which brings me back to my mother. This past weekend, I was at a friend’s wedding and got to talking to a gentleman who wanted to offer some “helpful” advice to me as to how I might improve my social life. He mentioned that I hang around my kids and their friends a lot, and speculated that that, and my work, might be intimidating to some people.

Then he said to me (or his vodka said to me…vodka usually speaks truth, in case you’re wondering): “You know, Maria, you are still very attractive (gee, thanks), you’re intellectually dynamic, but let’s be honest…you’re a lot.”

I wanted to argue with him, but then I stopped myself because I instantly thought of my mother, who everyone said was “a lot.” I also remembered a friend telling me about a wedding he went to where the mother of the bride stood up and toasted her new son-in-law, saying that her daughter was “a lot,” just like her, and that only really extraordinary men and people could handle those who were forces of nature. She then raised her glass to her new son-in-law, her own husband and to all of those secure enough to be in partnership with forces of nature.

So, this Sunday Paper is dedicated to all those who are proud enough to own that moniker, and to all those who accept that force as it is and let it rip. Just like my father let my mother roar. He knew a force of nature when he saw it, and how proud he was to be the one to celebrate it.

Just like I’m proud to celebrate all the forces of nature highlighted here, a.k.a. Architects of Change. 

So, the next time someone is brave enough to call you a force of nature, or says “you’re a lot,” remember my mother. Remember her fight on behalf of those with special needs.

Remember that everyone said those with intellectual disabilities couldn’t compete, couldn’t go to school, couldn’t hold down a job, couldn’t marry, couldn’t live at home, couldn’t speak, couldn’t dream, couldn’t be included, couldn’t, couldn’t, couldn’t…

Remember this truth. She proved everyone wrong, she did things her way, and she embraced the force within and changed the world outside.

Be a force, ‘cause that’s what it takes to change the world.

P.S. And don’t worry if you forget to brush your hair or if you hang out a lot with your kids. Just blame it on the vodka! And, if you want to see a force of nature in action, watch the video of my mother’s ESPY award below.

Click Here For Rest of Article

Friday Night Outdoor Concerts in Gloucester


Nine Friday nights.

Nine great outdoor concerts benefiting local non-profits.

The Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation presents a series of 9 free concerts on Meetinghouse Green, corner of Church and Middle St, Gloucester, from July 7 to September 8, 2017. The family-friendly concerts begin at 6 pm. Bring folding chairs or blankets. There will be food vendors at every concert. In case of rain, the events will take place inside the Meetinghouse. The public is invited to make free-will donations to Cape Ann non-profit organizations partnered with each concert (bring cash/check). Parking available next door at St John’s Church.

Click Here For Link to Schedule



A New Beginning by Joan Chittister


                                                                  A new beginning

Abba Poemen said of Abba Pior that every single day he made a fresh beginning.
   —from the Desert Mothers and Fathers
It’s July when the summer begins to wear even the most dedicated of sun lovers down. Life begins to feel sticky; nights get close; days get long and dry. Everything becomes a major effort we slow down like rusted bogs on old wheels. Time suspends. Nothing much gets done. Day follows day with not much to show for any of them. Oh, yes, monastics know all about that kind of thing. In ancient monasteries, the warning of Evagrius of Pontus to “beware the devil of the noonday sun” loomed large. Acedia they called it. Spiritual sloth. The burden of the long haul. The question in every life, of course, is how to keep on going when going on seems fruitless.
It is precisely here where Abba Poemen and Abba Pior, two of the early desert’s most sought after spiritual guides, emerge again. As they did in ages past, their lives and wisdom which seem so other than ours, comes to help us find our way through a life now filled with dread and debacle on every side. The Abbas know that life is what comes from within us, not from what clings to the cloaks of our heart, demanding our attention and draining our resources.

Into this climate of spiritual ennui, of dulling sensitivities, boredom takes over. And it is boredom that smothers the soul. Bored, we lose sight of the beautiful in our midst. Bored, we overlook the world’s call for our attention. Bored, we ourselves become lethargic, out of touch, and uncaring about the needs of others.
So, what is the cure for such shrinkage of the soul? Abba Poeman is clear. We must forever remember, each and every day of our life, to make a new beginning. It is this beginner’s mind—the stage of perpetual alertness—that keeps us in tune with the songs of the rest of the world.
The call from the Desert Monastics is a totally different one than the call to irresponsibility like In God's Holy Light by Joan Chittisterthe one we ourselves are toying with at present. It is a call to begin again, every day of our lives, to complete the work on earth that the Creator has begun for us to finish. Life is a community enterprise. What we do not do for the other, will not be done for us.
Every day, like Abba Poeman, we must begin to see again our role in the creation of the world, in the development of the human race, and in the preservation of the planet.

   —from A Monastery Almanac by Joan Chittister (Benetvision) and In God’s Holy Light by Joan Chittister (Franciscan Media)

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It’s Time To Rethink What We Know by Maria Shriver



It’s time. Time to rethink everything.

How do I know that? Call it a woman’s intuition. Call it my gut. All I know is that I feel it deep in my soul.

I’m not saying this just because we have a president who’s been entangled in controversy with Russia since day one (and who finally met with Putin on Friday). Or, because we have a president who uses the power of his office to tweet videos of himself body-slamming a news network. (I mean, really? I know people think it’s funny. I know it gets lots of views. But there’s nothing presidential, dignified or classy about it.)

I say that it’s time to rethink everything because the fact is, there are just too many areas of our public and personal life that are in need of reconsideration.

It’s time to rethink our two-party political system because it’s just furthering our divide. No one from either party can hear the other. They are both at fault. We can do better. We can be more creative. (I like California’s open primary system. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.)

It’s time to also rethink our relationship with social media and our relationship with views, likes, retweets, mentions and followers. I know social media is capable of doing good things. I know it connects people to each other and to the larger world and its causes. But, so much of it is filled with rage and hurtful comments. Each of us can do our part to make sure we are not part of this. Our life’s purpose can’t be racking up hundreds or thousands of likes.

Summer is also a great time to rethink how we are working, how we are learning, how we are consuming our food, our energy, and our time. It’s a great time to rethink our lives and how we are living.

Thank God there are some evolved, enlightened, thoughtful and smart Architects of Change doing just that on our behalf. They are sharing their thoughts with us in today’s Sunday Paper. I hope their thinking will get you thinking, because it’s time that we do.

The fact is, whatever you thought “was” … is now up for renewed thinking. Our health care system. Our pension system. Our infrastructure. Our prison system. Our political election process. You name it.

This is the time for each of us to ask ourselves: What do I think? What better idea do I have? What kind of work life do I want? What examples do I want to set for our children? What image do I want to put out into the world?

The rest of the world is rethinking the United States’ role, voice and standing in the world right now. That’s why it’s a good time for us to rethink our own roles and our own voices in this country.

Are we passive bystanders who watch videos while laughing? Do we know more about Rob Kardashian than we do about our state reps? Are we part of the problem, or are we offering up solutions to help us move forward in a more unified and united way?

I asked one of my sons the other night, “If you could change one thing about our country right now, what would it be?” He said, “Our politics. If we could change the way we talk to one another, work with one another, and listen to one another, then everything else would follow.”

I agree.

So, here’s to our leaders rethinking the animosity they have towards one another. Here’s to those who seek common ground. Here’s to those who speak of solutions instead of pointing fingers. (See Mark Zuckerberg’s idea below, or the idea that two of his fellow Silicon Valley billionaires have to remake the Democratic Party. Their ideas may not be perfect, but at least they are igniting conversation.)

So this summer, think of yourself as a founding mother or a founding father. Think of yourself as a big thinker. If not you, then who?

Think about where we could be in 2025. Our National Alzheimer’s plan has a goal of preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s and other related dementias by that year. What other diseases can we wipe out by then? What else can be different by then?

Steve Jobs had a vision for a computer in the pocket. It took him years to get there, but he had a vision. What’s our collective vision? What’s yours as an individual?

What does 2025 look like to you? Think about it.

Here’s to those who have the courage to step back and rethink what is, in favor of what can be.


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