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Room for improvement.

An old Far Side cartoon shows the devil pushing a hapless mortal with a pitchfork. He s urging him to choose between two doors: "C'mon, c'mon--it's either one or the other." One door is marked, "Damned if you do," and the other, "Damned if you don't."

This encouraging prospect was part of a presentation sociologist Bryan Froehle did for the U.S. CATHOLIC and Claretian Publications staff last summer, as we began a strategic planning process for our publishing house. At our "Day Away," Froehle focused on the challenges inherent in the current state of transition--or "liminal moment" in the academic jargon--both for the Catholic Church in general and for Catholic publishing in particular. Froehle's presentation and our conversations that day helped to launch us on a path of change and renewal that we hope will better prepare us for these challenges and ensure the long-term health and vitality of your favorite Catholic magazine.

Because we felt that his observations and analysis of the challenges in the larger Catholic context would be helpful to you, our readers, as well, we asked Froehle to write a feature for us on the tools we can use and the signposts that can guide us in this time v of continuing transition. The result is this month's thought-provoking cover story, "Pardon our dust: Four tools for a church in transition" (pages 12-17).

Widespread wishful thinking notwithstanding, Froehle shows clearly how nostalgia about the good old days of our church is a dead end. "Holding onto a past that is gone or trying to relive a dead past," Froehle says, "carries huge costs in lost opportunities. Perhaps the best way to destroy the values that sustain our Catholic institutions is to maintain them with the least possible change." He asks us to rethink our church's now almost reflexive "countercultural" ethos, to focus more of our energies on building up adult faith, and to embrace our diverse catholicity in our parishes and dioceses and around the globe.

Answering the challenges of our times requires constant, thoughtful, and intentional change. And whether it's in Catholic publishing, Catholic parish life, or our everyday faith lives, Cardinal John Henry Newman had it right when he said, "Here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often."

Change is, of course, also a recurring theme in this season of Lent. And one of the areas that many of us want to and work to change for the better in our spiritual lives is our practice of prayer--along with fasting and almsgiving, one of the three traditional Lenten practices. In "Teach us to pray" (pages 18-22), Assistant Editor Megan Sweas summarizes U.S. CATHOLIC readers' experiences with prayer and their efforts to continue to improve their practice. I pray we'll all make some progress this Lent.
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Title Annotation:editors' note
Author:Scherer-Emunds, Meinrad
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Date:Mar 1, 2007
Previous Article:Voice in the wilderness.
Next Article:Balancing act.

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