Kathryn Jean Lopez

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"He will have the most amazing set of lungs.”

Paul Stefan James lived for only forty-two minutes – with a heartbeat, but never taking a breath. It seemed like a cruel coincidence that his mother’s Chicken Soup for a Mother’s Soul calendar had those words to offer on his birth date.

"As much as I thought I was a freedom fighter trying to bring freedom and save lives," Chai Ling, a former student leader in the Tiananmen Square democracy protests of 1989, testified at a recent Capitol Hill hearing, "I did not realize how much I was turned into the same sinful being" as the Chinese leaders enforcing the country's one-child policy.

The jarring admission came before a House hearing marking the 31st anniversary of China's one-child policy. It was meant, also, to inspire legislative action on the China Democracy Promotion Act of 2011, which would allow the president of the United States to deny visas to officials involved in human-rights abuses.

"I'd like you to convert Chicago," Father Robert Barron remembers his boss, Francis Cardinal George, archbishop of the Windy City, telling him about six years ago.

The result of that charge will be airing on many PBS stations, starting this week.
Barron, a Chicago priest and professor, has created a remarkable book and TV series called "Catholicism" -- which, in reintroducing a 2,000-year-old tradition, manages to be both elaborate and humble. It's self-conscious as a work of evangelization (complete with available study guides and a prayer card for those who care for such things), yet welcoming to a wide potential audience.

Seventy years old, Bob Turner was retired with 13 grandchildren, sitting comfortably in the Breezy Point section of Queens, N.Y. to enjoy life and be generous to his church and family. But now he's one of 435 legislators trying to get something constructive done in a town that often seems poised for something very different.

He spoke at his congressional campaign's victory party in Howard Beach early in the morning on Sept. 14, armed with a message that was as humble and confident as the messenger delivering it. He has been elected to the seat vacated by the now-infamous Anthony Weiner, a seat that may very well be redistricted out of existence next year. Which is actually just fine with him.

Just like that, most of America can move on from any concern about the very existence of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The former head of the International Monetary Fund is a free man, proclaiming his innocence. But what about our innocence? It still seems to be missing.

In May, the once-potential French presidential candidate was accused of sexually assaulting a luxury-hotel maid, and arrested in New York -- dramatically taken from his Air France plane at JFK airport. The case would unravel for prosecutors, as his accuser was caught making false statements; it ended up being dismissed.

I've been wondering for a while now why the heck Rep. Thad McCotter is running for president of the United States.

Yes, you read that correctly.

You may not have encountered the Michigan Republican as a candidate because he did not meet the one-percent poll- threshold rule for the recent Fox News debate in Iowa. But days later, at the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames, there he was.

There's no escaping the Obamas. As I was watching "Phineas and Ferb" with three of the fittest boys under 10 in America, there was Michelle Obama promoting fitness and physical movement. Putting aside her policy prescriptions, it's certainly not a bad message. And Pat Castle would be more than happy to lead the training.

The first lady might not be that into the direction he'd lead, however.

This was going to be a column insisting that Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida run for president of the United States. Now. Even though he has ruled out the possibility; even though he is but a baby senator. (Neither of these considerations has invariably stopped people in the past.)

But no: That's not this column. Not because I don't think it might be an excellent idea, but because I take a man at his word. He has a young family that has already endured a long and brutal campaign. And I'm actually not a fan of leaping from two minutes in the Senate to a potential presidency. As one seasoned political pro puts it: "We don't do ourselves or our future leaders any favors by rushing the wine before its time. Reagan would not have been nearly as good a president had he won in '68 or '76 as he was in '80, having been tempered by failure and steeled by defeat and adversity."

Sometimes, the yelling stops long enough to remember that there are real people involved in abortions.

And not just the youngest one, who doesn't get a say in the decision.

I read the other day a piece about the "safe and successful" telemedicine abortions, getting "high grades" in Iowa. That's an abortion where a doctor doesn't even have to be present. The clinical efficiency with which the story was written was jarringly chilling.

Michele Bachmann gives me a headache.

But it's not the congresswoman herself who is to blame for the pain. It's so many of the stories about her.

We're still months away from the first caucus or primary of the presidential nominating season, and already things have gotten way out of control. Accusations that Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann is heavily medicated on account of incapacitating headaches were just the latest attempts to nip her candidacy in the bud. A former aide insisted: "The migraines are so bad and so intense, she carries and takes all sorts of pills. Prevention pills. Pills during the migraine. Pills after the migraine, to keep them under control. She has to take these pills wherever she goes."

Sometimes the most radical ideas are the most sensible For instance, take the recent decision by John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., to phase out co-ed dorms, returning to single-sex residence halls.

Garvey presented a fairly practical case for the move: Not unlike many colleges, there is a drinking problem on campus. And as Christopher Kaczor, professor of philosophy at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, whom Garvey cites, has surmised: Increased binge drinking in co-ed living situations may be explained by a "'party' expectation that students fulfill. College males want to get females to drink more ... College men themselves drink more as 'liquid courage' to approach women and as part of the process of encouraging female drinking (for instance, with drinking games). In order to demonstrate 'equality' with male students and so as not to seem prudish, college females drink more than they otherwise would. Single-sex residences reduce this binge-drinking dynamic."

Want a little wisdom? Given we're a culture that tends to be self-help hungry, odds are that you and I aren't hostile to a little good advice. Who would be?

Well, May and June were months populated by commencement addresses. Some were memorable; some were political; some were self-indulgent. Some need to be reread now that the parties are over, internships are being settled into, vacations are being enjoyed, or the satisfactions of labor are giving way to harsh realities about paychecks, FICA --- and, well, don't ask Paul Ryan how bright that future looks about now.

"Are you a flake?"

 With that question on "Fox News Sunday" to Rep. Michele Bachmann, Chris Wallace may have given a rallying cry to the new feminist revolution in American politics. Except the f-word will likely be nowhere in evidence.

Wallace apologized, and in a sense the whole kerfuffle is over -- but only for him. He was only hitching onto the mainstream media's presentation of Bachmann, as a dim bulb, leaving the three-term congresswoman and former tax attorney to have to explain to him "I'm a serious person."

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Andrew was clearly taken with the woman.

"She symbolizes so much, a resignation to His will, an utter awe and reverence for the beauty of life -- regardless the circumstance -- and she provides a voice for those without a voice."

The beauty got to him. Considering how often we can be attracted to that which is harmful to us, her pure loveliness seemed to offer protection and benediction.

"I've given birth to five babies, and I've taken 23 foster children into my home," Michele Bachmann explained from the stage of the first major Republican presidential primary debate of the 2012 season.

Jon Stewart would joke the next day that Bachmann was the winner of the primary "baby-off." Imagining himself as the moderator, "The Daily Show" host added: "And I just wanna ask everyone else here up on the dais, have you ever had to divide a birthday cake into 28 equal pieces?"

"Every man, by the nature of his being, is called to generate love."

So the Rev. James A. Wehner tells his seminarians, from his perch as rector of the Josephinum, a pontifical college and seminary in Columbus, Ohio. His is a message necessary to the training of priests to a calling that has been marred by scandal, but also to a society that has been afraid to talk frankly about how essential the unique masculine gift of fatherhood is to our lives, our families and our culture.


She was protesting news that the president of Urban Outfitters has contributed to former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, and taking some liberty with arguments Santorum's made about the importance of protecting traditional marriage.

Seventeen-year-old Scotty McCreery may have won "American Idol" singing wholesome country ditties, but playing in the background was a blues song older than the fresh-faced singer.

On lead vocals of this heart-wrenching ballad was Aerosmith frontman and Idol judge Steven Tyler. In his new autobiography, Tyler recalls an abortion he made his 16-year-old girlfriend have. He recalls: "It was a big crisis. It's a major thing when you're growing something with a woman, but they convinced us that it would never work out and would ruin our lives ... You go to the doctor and they put the needle in her belly and they squeeze the stuff in and you watch. And it comes out dead. I was pretty devastated. In my mind, I'm going, Jesus, what have I done?"

"Chances are, if you're naming your blog after a Taylor Swift album, your judgment's already suspect."

That's Salon dismissing two teen girls, in a piece on the Girl Scouts and its liberal feminist tendencies. And, as it happens, the line itself actually speaks to the heart of the problem.

"I heard someone say yesterday that the last years had been completely wasted as far as he was concerned. I'm very glad that I have never yet had that feeling, even for a moment," Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in April of 1944.


Horrified by the Nazi treatment of Jews, the German Lutheran pastor would join the conspiracy against Hitler and ultimately be hanged in a prison camp the next year.