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Stewardship and Trusteesh
  By A.J. Philip  
  I ACCOMPANIED Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to South Africa on the occasi  
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Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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Small word, big problem
  By William Grimm  
  PEOPLE who have studied English as a second language tell me that three of the biggest challenges they encount  
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Love redefined
  By Ashleigh Kittle Slater  
  I WAS completely captivated by the beauty of his words. They were tender, heartfelt, poetic. "You must know -- surely you must know that it was all for you... You have bewitched me, body and soul."

Too bad these words were written by a woman.

I'd gone to see the movie version of Pride and Prejudice with my three sisters. It was a bit strange to sit there, the only married woman of the bunch, and watch as the Bennet sisters sought their potential mates. After all, I no longer wonder how, where, or when I'll meet my husband.

To borrow a popular phrase: Been there. Done that. And frankly, I'm glad.

Glad that instead of waiting eagerly for "Mr. Right," I now can marvel at the wisdom of God's matchmaking, putting together two people who complement and challenge each other.

But being the married one of the bunch also has its drawbacks. I'd lost the ability to believe men could be romantic in the way Jane Austen penned them.

Once the film ended, it took a few minutes for me to pry myself from my seat. I wanted to bask in the glow of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth's romance. The romance filled with words I didn't hear on a daily basis. Words that were much more romantic than, "Are the dishes in the dishwasher clean?" or "Did you get a chance to wash my white t-shirts?"

As we left the theater, I turned to one of my sisters and said, "Real men don't talk like Mr. Darcy." And that's all it took for discontent to set in. I began to examine how the romance between my husband and me had seemingly disappeared.

During our courtship and engagement, my husband, Ted, had expressed his affection with homemade cards, roses, and words that made my heart flutter. In fact, he verged on poetic. But once we got married, after two babies in two years, he was too busy putting together swings, heating up bottles, and installing car seats in our newly purchased minivan even to think about romantic gestures. And the cards, roses, and poetic words dried up.

Now my mind began to concoct other reasons for my husband's lack of romance. Could it be I'd become boring? Unattractive? Did he see me only as the mother of his children, not the love of his life? Perhaps my sweatpants and ponytail weren't as alluring as I'd thought.

I spent a few days brooding in unhappiness and doubt. Until the clouds parted and I had a revelation.

Mr. Darcy won Elizabeth's heart not with flowery words, but with actions. He salvaged her family's name and gave the encouragement that led to her sister's engagement, and it was the very living out of his love that brought Elizabeth to admit her true feelings for him. This is exactly how my husband goes about winning my heart day in and day out: with his actions.
Maybe he wasn't so different from Mr. Darcy after all.

I started to pay attention to the evidence of my husband's love. It was in a fridge full of Starbuck's mocha frappuccinos. In the way he gave up his daily newspaper reading to watch our girls so I could find time to shower. In surprising me with a book by my favorite author. In painting the house so that color fills my day. It's in these displays of unselfishness, in the laying down of his wants and desires in order to bless me, that I see his love.

Between all of life's responsibilities, there's not much time for what society defines as "love" and "romance." Not a lot of candlelight dinners for two, spur-of-the-moment romantic getaways, and long walks happen when a married couple is busy with life—especially if they're also parenting little ones. That breathless newlywed excitement fades as diapers, meals, and bath times take over. Love has met the reality of ordinary days. But it's through these ordinary days that love is lived out in a much more authentic manner.

This past Valentine's Day I felt like a young bride again when my husband had a dozen roses and a box of chocolate delivered to my door. But in all honesty, I've come to realize that isn't where I see his love most clearly. It's his practical, daily displays of service and selflessness that mirror the Mr. Darcy who abandoned his place in society to better Elizabeth's world.
And in that, my heart is captivated far beyond the power of words. (Courtesy: Christianity Today)
Ashleigh Kittle Slater, a freelance writer, has been married five years.
Suicide mission
  By Maryknoll Father William Grimm  
  FOR the twelfth year in a row, the number of people who committed suicide in Japan has topped 30,000. According to statistics released by the National Police Agency on January 26, a total of 32,753 people took their own lives in 2009. This was the fifth highest toll in history, an increase of 504 persons over the 2008 figure and on average one such death every 16 minutes.

Thirty years ago, the "typical" suicide was a woman in her 20's or 30's who faced romantic difficulties such as a break up with a boyfriend or the prospect of never finding a spouse. Another group was women who suffered marital difficulties. These often killed their children as well, since it would be poor mothering to leave them orphans.

Nowadays, the profile has changed, with 71 per cent of 2009's suicides being men. The most common reason for killing themselves is financial difficulties, the loss of a job or unpayable debts.

Another group that has recently attracted attention because of a spike in suicides are children. Schoolyard bullying and poor grades seem to be behind this phenomenon.

Suicide is not unknown even among Christians. There is probably no priest in the country with more than a few years' experience who has not in the course of his ministry been called upon to deal with the aftermath of suicide.

Those of us who live in Tokyo are not surprised at the police reports' high numbers. In recent years, more than 300 people have committed suicide each year in the region by jumping from station platforms in front of oncoming trains. Being stuck on a train delayed by a suicide somewhere along the line is a common experience for Tokyoites, especially during morning rush hours.

Railroads have installed special lighting and replaced black asphalt platforms with white tiles in the hope that a brighter environment might deter jumpers. Gradually, fences and gates that block access to the tracks until after trains have come to a stop are being installed on platforms.

Japan has always had a high suicide rate and the country has been fairly tolerant of self-destruction. Traditionally, suicide has been an honorable way to atone for failure or to resolve intractable problems. It was even turned into a ceremony in the practice of "seppuku," ritual self-disembowelment. (The commonly used word for it in English, hara-kiri (belly cutting), is somewhat vulgar in Japanese.) The Tokyo site of the 1912 joint ritual suicide of Count Maresuke Nogi and his wife Shizuko upon the death of Emperor Meiji is a Shinto shrine where the count is revered as a divinity.

However, Japan's mildly tolerant attitude toward suicide is changing, and not simply because people are annoyed at having their morning commute disrupted by train delays caused by jumpers.

The increase in suicide is seen as a symptom of something gone wrong with Japan. Those who kill themselves are not judged for their actions. The country is.

After the total destruction of Japan in World War II, the Japanese set themselves to rebuild economically and socially. In 1964, the nation hosted the Olympics. In connection with that event, the "bullet train" high-speed rail system was built. Modern highways were constructed. That year marked the country's re-entry to world-class status as a nation, an end to the post-war period of humiliation and reconstruction. The young man chosen to light the Olympic flame symbolized that. Yoshinori Sakai was born in Hiroshima on the day an atomic bomb was dropped on that city.

Japan went on to become the second largest economy in the world. In 1979, an American book spoke of "Japan as Number One." But, then it all fell apart. The economy stagnated, the population showed inexorable signs of aging and decline. It seemed that just as the suffering, sacrifice and hard work of the post-war reconstruction was about to bear fruit, Japanese increasingly realized that something had been lost along the way. There was no longer anything left to achieve in the way of economic growth, but the achievement turned out to be not worth the effort. And those who put forth the greatest effort, no longer having something for which to live, began to choose death.

Where does this leave the Church? What does it mean to proclaim Good News in a wealthy land that has the means to live, but may be losing the will to do so?

The Church does a good job when what the bad news people face is hunger, ignorance or disaster. However, bad news in the midst of wealth is a new challenge. The best way to face it remains a mystery. The search for answers in Japan may provide the model for missions in the 21st century as more and more of Asia moves beyond mere subsistence and finds that the pursuit of wealth may mean the loss of something more important. It may also become a model for the re-evangelization of the West, which was once a model for Japan, but now seems more and more to be imitating Japan in its wealthy poverty.
Maryknoll Father William Grimm is the publisher of UCA News and former editor-in-chief of "Katorikku Shimbun," Japan's Catholic weekly
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