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  • The ambiguity of the empty cross



    During the 40 days of Lent, Catholics prepared spiritually and liturgically to celebrate Easter. Yes, it was worthy. The Lord is risen! Because of those Lenten days, we are better disposed to celebrate the beauty and hope of the resurrection.

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  • Tired of religious discrimination?



    New U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch hit the ground running in April, taking part in oral arguments on what I see as this year's most important case. At issue is a Missouri program for safer playgrounds for children. Helped by a tax on new automobile tires, Missouri recycled old tires into rubber surfacing to cover hard playground surfaces. Nonprofit institutions could apply for grants for the resurfacing -- except religious institutions.

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  • What our collaborative is and is not



    I started working for the Sacred Heart and Our Lady's Collaborative in Newton about 18 months ago. By that time, this "Phase I" experiment had already written its local pastoral plan and was at the very beginning stages of implementation. My metrics-driven university admissions background was excited to see goals and priorities strategically thought out and prioritized. The goals of our staff and our collaborative were not vague or contrary ideals, but written and quantifiable realities.

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  • Brotherhood of Hope: What's a Brother?



    What is a brother? Why become a brother? What is the difference between a brother and a priest? Why aren't all brothers priests? These are some of the questions that the Brotherhood of Hope has encountered over the years. They often emerge because people are unaware of the Church's history and teaching concerning consecrated and religious life. Although relevant Church documents discuss various forms of consecrated life, when cited here they will apply specifically to religious brotherhood. The elements discussed here are from the experience of our own religious family, the Brotherhood of Hope.

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  • The varied ministry of a religious brother



    I send you Greetings from Lowell on the shores of the Merrimack River. About 51 years ago I made my first vows as a religious brother. Recently, a lady in a church foyer asked me "What's the difference between a priest and a brother?" It's a perennial question, but it's been a while since I was asked so directly. In my answer I mentioned the sacramental ministry of the priests -- Masses and Confessions, weddings, etc. Brothers can do some of that, but quite often the brothers do just about everything else to keep the places of ministry functioning.

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  • Religious Brothers: Gifts received, shared, given



    Our Church has had opportunities for consecrated life for non-ordained, "lay" men since its early centuries, starting in the desert areas of Egypt and the Middle East. Over time, many of the men's religious orders that developed from groups of laymen included both ordained and non-ordained memberships. Often, the lay members did the majority of the manual labor required for their monasteries and ministries, while the "choir monks" focused more on chapel services and more intellectual activities. By the late Middle Ages, some congregations were founded to be exclusively or almost exclusively lay, specializing in education like the Brothers of the Christian Schools or in health care like the Brothers of St. John of God.

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  • Preach the gospel always ... Mirrors of the Gospel message



    Religious Brothers are men who, as an extension of their baptismal commitment and members of the priesthood of Christ, respond to a "call" to serve the Church in a variety of ministries. Under the umbrella of the Gospel message and in imitation of Mary's "yes" to God, brothers have heard the "Word" and seek to become ''mirrors" of the Gospel message in the modern world. Committed to a consecrated way of life, brothers live their vows in community and give further meaning to what it means to be "brother" to one another and to all those we minister with and those we serve. With the Gospel before us, brothers are men of reflection and vision.

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  • Never-ending parenting



    A dear friend recently became a grandma for the first time and now the baby is "already" a month old. How did that happen so quickly? In a couple of months, two of my three children will "already" be in their 40s. How did that happen so quickly?

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  • Emmaus and us



    We should put ourselves in the shoes of the disciples in today's Gospel. Downcast and confused they're making their way down the road, unable to understand all the things that have occurred. They know what they've seen--a prophet mighty in word and deed. They know what they were hoping for--that He would be the redeemer of Israel. But they don't know what to make of His violent death at the hands of their rulers.

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  • April in Boston



    Things in our fragile sporting world can flip-flop willy-nilly in April, of which -- we are again reminded painfully -- oft tends to be the cruelest of the months. What a difference a fortnight makes.

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  • Again?



    The immortal Yogi Berra said it best: "It's déjà vu all over again." That was my first reaction to the news that a new Vatican commission had been established some time back to consider--again--the question of liturgical translations.

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  • Becoming a Holy Beggar



    With the exception of scripture and a few Christian mystics, Christian spirituality, up to now, has been weak in presenting us with a vision for our retirement years. It's not a mystery as to why. Until recently, the majority of people died shortly after retirement and so there was no need for a highly developed spirituality of generativity after our active years.

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  • The Easter Season



    The readings at daily Mass in this wonderful season reflect a variety of stories of the early Christian community coming to grips with the astonishing news that Jesus Christ is alive! The Risen Christ appears to His disciples in various places and gently He urges them not to be afraid and to prepare to go forth.

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  • Let's not make a deal...at least this deal



    Helping those who have broken away from the Catholic Church come back into full communion is a noble endeavor. But such reconciliations cannot be conducted as if they were the ecclesiastical equivalent of labor negotiations: you give a bit here, we'll give a bit there. For the only Church unity worthy of the name is unity within the full symphony of Catholic truth.

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  • Welcoming the stranger



    Two months ago I wrote in this space about our refugee resettlement program and our commitment to service for those in need regardless of their faith. Today I am pleased to discuss Catholic Charities' partnership with Combined Jewish Philanthropies.

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  • The ethics of new age medicine



    Patients who face serious illnesses are sometimes attracted to alternative medicines, also referred to as "holistic" or "new-age" medicines. These can include treatments like homeopathy, hypnosis, "energy therapies" like Reiki, acupuncture, and herbal remedies, to name just a few.

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  • Scientifically faithful



    I liked science a lot when I was a kid, especially when it focused on the natural world. Because I spent a lot of time outdoors, I learned the names of most birds and bugs, plants, flowers, and trees, and rocks and minerals. I could identify animal tracks in the mud and most of the constellations in the night sky. I also knew which plants I could touch and eat safely when I was wandering in the woods, which I did for hours on end all summer long.

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  • When God became man



    In 1923 the American poet Wallace Stevens published the full text of a poem he had written about what he perceived as a growing ambivalence regarding religion in general and Christianity in particular and modern culture.

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  • His mercy endures



    We are children of Jesus' Resurrection from the dead. Through this wondrous sign of His great mercy, the Father of Jesus has given us new birth, as we hear in today's Epistle. Today's First Reading sketches the "family life" of our first ancestors in the household of God (see 1 Peter 4:17). We see them doing what we still do--devoting themselves to the Apostles' teaching, meeting daily to pray and celebrate "the breaking of the bread."

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  • Golden Anniversary Recollections II



    From Winter Haven there had been hints of optimism with veiled suggestions maybe something interesting might be up with the 1967 Red Sox. But the historically gruff Boston sports-media, hardened the more by a full generation of their Town Team's fabled foibles and follies, had been loath to go overboard.

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  • Five Hundred Years of Misunderstanding



    The heart has its reasons, says Pascal, and sometimes those reasons have a long history. Recently I signed a card for a friend, a devout Baptist, who was raised to have a suspicion of Roman Catholics. It's something he still struggles with; but, don't we all! History eventually infects our DNA. Who of us is entirely free from suspicion of what's religiously different from us? And what's the cure? Personal contact, friendship, and theological dialogue with those of other denominations and other faiths does help open our minds and hearts, but the fruit of centuries of bitter misunderstanding doesn't disappear so easily, especially when it's institutionally entrenched and nurtured as a prophetic protection of God and truth. And so in regards to Christians of other denominations there remains in most of us an emotional dis-ease, an inability to see the other fully as one of our own.

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  • Difference between priest and monsignor



    Q. Could you explain for me the difference (if any) between "priest" and "monsignor"? Under what circumstances is a priest given the title of "monsignor"? (Burke, Virginia) A. "Monsignor" is a title bestowed on a priest who has distinguished himself by exceptional service to the church. It is a title granted by the pope -- typically, upon the recommendation of the priest's diocesan bishop. It is a purely honorary title and has no effect on the priest's duties or ministerial assignment.

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  • The Benedict Option and the Identity/Relevance Dilemma



    Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation has certainly emerged as the most talked-about religious book of 2017. Within weeks of its publication, dozens of editorials, reviews, op-eds, and panel discussions were dedicated to it. Practically every friend and contact I have sent me something about the book and urged me to comment on it. The very intensity of the interest in the text in one way proves Dreher's central point, namely, that there is a widely-felt instinct that something has gone rather deeply wrong with the culture and that classical Christianity, at least in the West, is in a bit of a mess.

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  • Models in Responding to the Message of Fatima



    There is so much about the occurrences in Fatima a century ago that should provoke wonder. If the Mother of God was going to be permitted to appear on earth to echo her Son's call to conversion, prayer, and sacrifice, if she was going to reveal in symbolic visions the reality of Hell, the ascent of Bolshevik communism, the dawn of World War II, and the persecution of the Church, if she was to call the world -- and in a special way, Russia -- to be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, why would she have appeared in a Fatima, Portugal, a truly out of the way place, to three shepherd children -- ages 7, 8 and 10 -- with very little formal education and even lesser influence?

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  • The importance of Jackie Robinson



    In the history of the modern American civil rights movement, three iconic moments are typically cited. May 17, 1954: The U.S. Supreme Court hands down its decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, declaring segregated -- "separate but equal" -- public schools unconstitutional.

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  • Easter: The season of faith



    The Easter season is the holiest and truly most reflective periods in the Christian faith and when our values and beliefs are foremost on our mind. I recall attending daily religious ceremonies at the Vatican during the Easter season when I was U.S. ambassador and listening to Pope John Paul II, and even traveling to other regions in the world and meeting other prominent religious leaders. I often heard them stress the critical importance of people demonstrating courage and hope in their lives, which was truly an inspiring experience for me.

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  • Jumping into the STREAM



    STREAM stands for Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art and Mathematics and is a part of many of our schools on-going efforts to improve the instruction and curriculum that we offer to our students.

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  • Missionaries to the new paganism



    Thirty years ago, Hollywood broke with its tradition of escapist fluff and gave us "The Mission," a brilliant, historical film about Jesuit missionaries sent in the name of Christ to Peru. This year the industry again broke with tradition and gave us another breathtaking film, "Silence," about Jesuit missionaries sent to 17th Century Japan. In both cases, the efforts of the missionaries to counter paganism do not end well.

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  • Cardinal Cushing's 1962 Easter sermon



    The archive is home to the Cardinal Cushing Papers which contain several hundred sermons and speeches delivered by the late cardinal. Within are several Easter sermons, most of which discuss Jesus' sacrifice, resurrection, and how we should strive to emulate the examples he gave us. Among them is a sermon from Easter 1962, in which Cardinal Cushing chose to speak about the importance of loving on another, and sharing each other's burdens, as Jesus exemplified.

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  • They saw and believed



    Jesus is nowhere visible. Yet today's Gospel tells us that Peter and John "saw and believed." What did they see? Burial shrouds lying on the floor of an empty tomb. Maybe that convinced them that He hadn't been carted off by grave robbers, who usually stole the expensive burial linens and left the corpses behind.

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  • Surprise, surprise, postseason Bruins



    Having scratched clawed, wiggled, and blustered their way into the two-month Stanley Cup festival the Bruins now strive to see if they can last more than a week. The smart money says don't bet the ranch on it. Just making this tourney -- rightly considered the least to expect from any Bruins team -- was struggle enough. It's not likely they're up to more. Bear in mind, their combined record against three key opponents this season -- Washington, Ottawa and Toronto -- was 0-11.

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  • The Empty Tomb



    Believers and non-believers alike have been arguing about the resurrection since the day Jesus rose. What really happened? How was he raised from the dead? Did an actual dead body really come back to life and step out of the grave or was the resurrection a monumental life-changing event inside the consciousness of Jesus' followers? Or was the resurrection both, a real physical event and an event inside the consciousness of believers?

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  • Sarin and the Congress



    Amid the general, bipartisan enthusiasm for the president's decision to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base, I worry that we have lost sight of an important principle. The president made the decision on his own. Congress stood by like a Sunday afternoon crowd at Wimbledon, a spectator but not a player, politely cheering the volley from the sidelines. (Good shot!) This is not the role the Constitution assigned to it.

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  • "The Case for Christ" and a Stubbornly Historical Religion



    The Case for Christ is a film adaptation of Lee Strobel's best-selling book of the same name, one that has made an enormous splash in Evangelical circles and beyond. It is the story of a young, ambitious (and atheist) reporter for the Chicago Tribune, who fell into a psychological and spiritual crisis when his wife became a Christian. The scenes involving Lee and his spouse, which play out over many months of their married life, struck me as poignant and believable--and I say this with some authority, having worked with a number of couples in a similar situation. In some cases, a non-believing spouse might look upon his partner's faith as a harmless diversion, a bit like a hobby, but in other cases, the non-believer sees the dawning of faith in his beloved as something akin to a betrayal. This latter situation strongly obtained in the Strobel's marriage.

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  • Fighting a toxic culture



    In today's America, as in other countries like it, people of faith are facing a question of critical importance: How should they respond to a dominant secular culture that's not just hostile to their beliefs but bent on forcing them to conform to its values and, not incidentally, winning the allegiance of their children?

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  • The power of the Cross



    Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890) -- a theologian who came to prominence in the Victorian Age -- can help us check the Church's spiritual pulse in the post-modern twenty-first century, thanks to his prescient sense of the deep cultural currents shaping (and warping) Western civilization. Thus on August 26, 1832, Newman preached a sermon, "The Religion of the Day," that bears reflection during Holy Week 2017:

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  • The goal of Easter: To bring us to newness of life



    What will you be celebrating this Easter? A Mystery? Yes! The Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ that lies at the very center of Christian faith and discipleship. The word "paschal" comes from the Greek term, pascha, which goes back to the Hebrew, pesach, which refers to the annual commemoration by the Israelites of their liberating Passover from slavery in Egypt.

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  • If the phone rings...



    I've had the same deal with God for a long time: if the phone rings, I'll answer it. Over the years, the phone has expanded to include email, text messages, Facebook, Tweets, and whatever else has come down the pike as the next mode of communication du jour. If I can do whatever someone is asking me to do, I will. If not, I don't sweat it. It's just that because I'm the kind of person who loves, loves, loves, to be doing, doing, doing something, it's better for me to be asked than to do the asking myself. And by better, I mean better for my soul.

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  • Deep down, we know



    ''Because we all know deep down that we're doomed." This was the response author Lesley Nneka Arimah gave in a recent interview with Scott Simon on National Public Radio when asked why she thought post-apocalyptic fiction, like that of her new book, has gained in popularity these last few years. As a Christian preparing in these latter days of Lent to soon celebrate the joy of Easter, the day of our salvation, I found these words both chilling and incredibly insightful to the underlying view to which so many people currently subscribe. A belief in our inevitable doom is, in a sense, to be perpetually walking the road to Emmaus without ever becoming aware of the presence of the Risen Lord walking beside us. The person's heart cannot move past the reality of Good Friday, where their hope for redemption and a future beyond the struggles of this world still hangs lifeless on the cross. It is the role of the Church to meet those on this road who have not embraced the Good News and lead them to a transforming encounter with Christ. As we are reminded in the archdiocese's pastoral plan, Disciples in Mission, our local parish community is the primary context for this evangelization and, hopefully, a sincere conversion of heart to take place.

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  • All is fulfilled



    "All this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled," Jesus says in today's Gospel (see Matthew 26:56). Indeed, we have reached the climax of the liturgical year, the highest peak of salvation history, when all that has been anticipated and promised is to be fulfilled.

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  • While it's still winter



    Men's Basketball This marks roughly the 40th consecutive year that the NCAA basketball tourney has come and gone without any acknowledgment in this space aside from the sort of disparaging remarks I'm about to spew.

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  • Who put Christ on the cross?



    The crucifixion of Our Lord is almost always depicted in art showing the torture from asphyxiation on the cross, the nails, the wound made by the spear, the crown of thorns or the beating on the way to Calvary. While these are indeed the implements that took the life of Jesus, they are not the initiators. These did not put Jesus on the cross. People did.

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  • Good Friday



    Good Friday was bad long before it was good, at least from outward appearances. God was being crucified by all that can go bad in the world: pride, jealousy, distrust, wound, self-interest, sin. It's no accident the Gospels tell us that, as Jesus was dying, it grew dark in the middle of the day. Few images are more telling. As Jesus hung upon the cross, seemingly, light gave way to darkness, love to hatred, and life to death. How can that be good?

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  • Prayer against tornadoes?



    Q. Would you please print a prayer of protection against tornadoes? Tornado warnings get my full attention. Recently, six tornadoes touched down here in Middle Tennessee on the same day. The television news had warned that the last of the six was headed to the next road over from ours. That is too close for me. The next time we might not be so lucky. (McMinnville, Tennessee)

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  • Jackie and the Priest



    Somehow I managed to miss the film Jackie during the Christmas season, but I watched it, twice, on recent long flights to and from the east coast. Like many others, I was struck by its moody, more "European" style, the high quality of the acting, especially on the part of Natalie Portman, and its historical verisimilitude, but what particularly impressed (and surprised) me were the scenes between Mrs. Kennedy and a sympathetic priest. The man of God was played by the great character actor John Hurt, who first burst on the scene as the nefarious Richard Rich in Man For All Seasons ("...but for Wales?") and who died just weeks after filming these scenes in Jackie. Anyone interested in the art of pastoral counseling, in the problem of reconciling belief in God with great suffering, and in the human search for meaning will find the exchanges between Jackie and the priest fascinating.

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  • Fatima and the Antidote for Hell



    As authentic Marian apparitions go, many of the aspects of our Lady's appearances to the three shepherd children in Fatima a century ago seem commonplace: Mary asks the seers to pray and do penance for the conversion of sinners, calls them to daily devotion to the Rosary, advocates for peace in the world, requests the children to return on specific dates, and entrusts them with secrets.

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  • A bishop of consequence



    When I first met Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., more than twenty years ago, I was struck by his boyish demeanor, his exquisite courtesy, and his rock-solid faith. Then the bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, a diocese that serves several reservations, Chaput was obviously proud of his Potawatomi heritage without wearing his roots, so to speak, on his sleeve. Moreover, his striking modesty and personal gentleness exemplified the Franciscan vocation he had embraced. Here, I thought, is a real pastor, living out the meaning of his episcopal motto, "As Christ loved the Church."

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  • Trying to Bork Judge Gorsuch



    Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee held several days of hearings on President Trump's nomination of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court as successor to Justice Antonin Scalia, who died over a year ago. Judge Gorsuch, who is an Episcopalian, albeit one educated in Catholic schools, would be the first Protestant on the Court since the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens a number of years ago. The present eight-member Supreme Court is composed of five "born" or ethnic Catholics, and three ethnic Jews -- somewhat unusual in Supreme Court history, since for most of its 225+ years, it has been overwhelmingly dominated by Protestants.

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  • Cardinal O'Connell and the outbreak of WWI



    April 6, 2017, will mark 100 years since the United States declared war on the German Empire, officially entering World War I. It was also Holy Week of that year, with Easter landing on April 8, but Cardinal William Henry O'Connell chose to pause and address Boston Catholics on the events which had transpired.

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  • Life in the Cranberry Catholic Collaborative



    It's 8:30 on Monday morning, and the offices of the Cranberry Catholic Collaborative, housed in the first two floors of Sacred Heart Rectory, are already abuzz with activity. Jackie Bean and Lisa Bosse, administrative assistants of Sacred Heart and Sts. Martha and Mary, share the main office and keep the chaos in check. Amy Dow, our director of mission development, is working on the grant applications and plans for our vacation Bible school this summer in Lakeville. It's the first Monday of the month, staff day, and the informal work begins early.

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  • At Lazarus' tomb



    As we draw near to the end of Lent, today's Gospel clearly has Jesus' passion and death in view. That's why John gives us the detail about Lazarus' sister, Mary--that she is the one who anointed the Lord for burial (see John 12:3,7). His disciples warn against returning to Judea; Thomas even predicts they will "die with Him" if they go back.

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  • Baseball redux



    Baseball is back! The waning days of spring training having arrived, the crocuses are primed to sprout and the voice of the turtle soon rises across the land. It happens every spring. As do the lame efforts of everyone in this doge to tell you what's going to happen before it happens. We won't go that far -- prophecy being the least of ours skills -- but a setting of the agenda, if you will, is reasonable. What might happen if what shouldn't happen does happens? That sort of thing. You get my drift.

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