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  • The summer reading list



    Continuing a venerable tradition, I offer the following for your canicular reading pleasure: John Hay spent decades at the center of American public life as Lincoln's secretary and biographer, a Republican political operative, an accomplished diplomat, and Theodore Roosevelt's secretary of state. And what's not to like about someone who replied to Andrew Carnegie's gift of Scotland's finest in these terms: "I thank you kindly for the 'corpse reviver.' If a man could only drink enough of it, he would either never die, or wouldn't care whether he did or not." John Taliaferro's biography is terrific: All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt (Simon and Schuster).

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  • An unexpected voice, a painful message



    For those who say the Church doesn't get it, or the Vatican doesn't get it, I offer up Msgr. John Kennedy. Msgr. Kennedy has perhaps the most unenviable job in the Church today. He is head of the Vatican office that investigates allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

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  • Evangelizing the Amazon and the gift of priestly celibacy



    Today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and, since 2002, the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests. It's a day on which, pondering the divine and human love flowing through Jesus' heart, we ask him to make his priests' hearts like unto his, with ardent, pure, spousal and shepherdly love. It's a day on which we pray to the Harvest Master not merely for more priestly laborers in his fields, but precisely for holy laborers.

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  • The future of Boston's Catholic schools



    As the new superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Boston, I have enjoyed meeting countless people committed to the future of our schools -- principals, teachers, parents, students and clergy. The passion I have seen is nothing short of inspirational, and I look forward to visiting every school in the Boston Archdiocese.

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  • Catholic Charities North's 100 years of service to the community



    This past week, we held a gathering at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem to celebrate Catholic Charities North's 100 years of service to those in need in the North Shore community. In 1919, Catholic Charities North opened its doors in Lynn, when the archbishop of Boston commissioned Father John A. Sheridan of Sacred Heart Church in Lynn, to establish the agency with the goal of assisting and counseling families in addressing the many problems that arose in the community, following the First World War. Over the years, as the demand for services increased, Catholic Charities North has answered that call and diversified its services to meet the ever-growing range of needs of a wider range of people throughout the North Shore community. Today, Catholic Charities North operates out of three community service sites (Lynn, Salem, and Gloucester) to address a wide range of needs. While there has been an explosion of not-for-profit organizations focused on a specific service or need in recent years, CCN distinguishes itself by addressing the critical needs of the vulnerable across all stages of life: from toddlers to our seniors. CCN services include:

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  • The Temperance Movement in 19th century Boston



    In the papers of Bishop Benedict J. Fenwick of Boston is a letter dated June 6, 1836, from Horace Mann, at the time a Massachusetts Representative from Boston, conveying a resolution unanimously passed by members of the Massachusetts Temperance Society. The enclosed resolution reads as follows:

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  • Opening Minds through Art at Youville Place



    All too often, Alzheimer's disease is an emotionally isolating condition. Those who live with the disease experience memory loss, confusion and trouble with language, all of which interfere with the ability to have meaningful connections with others. For the majority of people who do not have Alzheimer's, cultural stigma and a general lack of understanding about these cognitive symptoms compounds the communication barriers.

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  • Hispanics and the 2018 bishops' letter against racism



    At the end of 2018, the Catholic bishops of the United States approved "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love," a pastoral letter against racism. Have you read this important letter? Did you know that such a document existed? Have you heard about it in homilies and catechetical sessions? Do you know what it says about Hispanics?

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  • Blessed and given



    At the dawn of salvation history, God revealed our future in figures. That's what's going on in today's First Reading: A king, and high priest, comes from Jerusalem (see Psalm 76:3), offering bread and wine to celebrate the victory of God's beloved servant, Abram, over his foes.

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  • A dangerous game



    A week or so ago, in a game at Kansas City with two outs in the top of the second inning, Eduardo Nunez of the Red Sox cracked a vicious low liner directly at the Royals' pitcher, Danny Duffy. The ball caromed off Duffy's right shin bone in the direction of first base where first baseman Ryan O'Hearn gathered it up and easily made the putout to end the inning. Meanwhile, Duffy was on the ground, writhing in pain. After a few minutes he got to his feet and limped gingerly to the dugout. I thought, "Well, that's the end of his day." But he was back out there in the third, though not for long.

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  • Whose republic? Which 'liberalism'?



    Extra credit question: Name the author of this admonition about the insecure cultural foundations and potentially perilous future of the American republic -- "Seeds of dissolution were already present in the ancient heritage as it reached the shores of America. [And] perhaps the dissolution, long since begun, may one day be consummated. Perhaps one day the noble many-storeyed mansion of democracy will be dismantled, leveled to the dimensions of a flat majoritarianism, which is no mansion but a barn, perhaps even a tool shed in which the weapons on tyranny may be forged. Perhaps there will one day be wide dissent from....[the understanding] that the eternal reason of God is the ultimate origin of all law [and] that this nation in all its aspects -- as a society, a state, an ordered and free relationship between governors and governed -- is under God..."

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  • What makes for Christian communion?



    The question of intercommunion within our churches today is a big one, an important one, and a painful one. I'm old enough to remember another time, actually to remember two other times. First, as a young boy growing up in the pre-Vatican II Church, intercommunion with other Christians, Non-Romans, was a taboo. It just didn't happen. An individual maverick may have ventured it, but he or she would have been called out for doing it, were it known. Then things changed. In the early years of my ministry, I worked in dioceses where intercommunion, at least for special occasions such as weddings, funerals, and inter-church gatherings, was common, even encouraged. As a priest presiding at a Eucharist at these gatherings, I was allowed to positively invite non Roman Catholics to receive the Eucharist, as their own faith and sensitivities allowed.

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  • Jeremiah revisited



    Last month, California's Senate passed a bill (S.B. 360) that would require priests to report crimes of child abuse they hear in confession. It doesn't apply to all penitents -- only, roughly speaking, to other priests or church employees. Failure to report would be punishable by a fine or imprisonment. The lower house of the legislature is expected to take the bill up in September.

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  • Justice Thomas and eugenic abortion



    Jean Vanier, who died last month at the age of 90, was the revered founder of L'Arche, an international organization for the intellectually disabled and those who cherish them. Vanier once wrote that a society that discards "those who are weak and non-productive" soon becomes "a society without a heart, without kindness--a rational and sad society, lacking celebration, divided within itself, and given to competition, rivalry and, finally, violence."

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  • Profiles in courage



    I stopped voting for Democrats when the party shrunk the tent and left pro-lifers outside in the wilderness. I don't know who decided that the core values of Western civilization -- and the Christian faith that produced them -- were unwelcome, but somebody did. The result is that pro-life Democrats have gone the way of the dinosaur. They have been, for all intents and purposes, driven to political extinction.

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  • An ode to immigrant families



    This is the time of the year when students are graduating from high school, college, graduate school and so on. It has me reflecting on my own graduation coming up. My entire family will be traveling 12 hours to come see me walk on stage.

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  • Glorious processions



    In today's Liturgy, we're swept through time in glorious procession -- from before earth and sky were set in place to the coming of the Spirit upon the new creation, the Church. We begin in the heart of the Trinity, as we listen to the testimony of Wisdom in today's First Reading. Eternally begotten, the first-born of God, He is poured forth from of old in the loving delight of the Father.

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  • The book on pitching



    Preacher Roe, a pitching wizard for the old Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s and early 1950s, wanted to get his driveway black topped. So, shortly after he retired, when Sports Illustrated offered him $2,000 to reveal how he threw a spitball, something which everyone in baseball knew he did but at which he was never caught, it was an offer he couldn't -- or at least didn't -- refuse. Back in the '50s two grand was more than enough to get the black topping done with a few bucks left over.

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  • Rachel Held Evans, 1981-2019



    "No community should botch its deaths." Mircea Eliade wrote those words and they're a warning: If we do not properly celebrate the life of someone who has left us, we do an injustice to that person and cheat ourselves of some of the gifts that he or she left behind.

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  • Appreciating fatherhood



    This weekend we celebrate Father's Day throughout the United States. It's a relatively recent feast, made a permanent national holiday on the third Sunday of June only in 1972 when it was signed into law by President Nixon. President Lyndon Johnson had given the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers only six years prior. Mother's Day, by contrast, was proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914 to be held on the second Sunday of May. The earlier celebration for mothers is partially explained by the desire to honor the work of moms at a time in our nation's history when women and their contributions to society were often widely underappreciated. But the length of the delay for fathers may also explain how the role of men precisely as fathers has similarly been underappreciated.

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  • 'High Noon' in Poland, thirty years later



    Thirty years ago last week, Poland began to self-liberate from communism through the first semi-free elections held behind the iron curtain since World War II. The memorable 1989 election poster created by the Solidarity movement's graphic artists featured Gary Cooper as Marshall Will Kane in the western epic, "High Noon:" the lawman was wearing a red-and-white Solidarity pin over his badge while striding purposefully toward the bad guys, with the jumbled red-letter Solidarnosc logo in the background. There were no slogans on the poster; the image said it all -- this is an election of great consequence, between good and evil.

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  • Paul on the Areopagus: A master class in evangelization



    The account of St. Paul's address on the Areopagus in Athens, found in the seventeenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, is a sort of master class in the evangelization of the culture, and anyone engaged today in that essential task should read it with care. The context for Paul's speech is his mission to Greece, which commenced when he crossed over from Asia Minor to the mainland of Europe. As the great Catholic historian Christopher Dawson indicated, this transition of an itinerant Jewish preacher from one side of the Aegean to the other would have excited the interest of no conventional historian or commentator of the time, but constituted, nevertheless, one of the most decisive events in history, for it signaled the introduction of Christianity to Europe and, through Europe, to the rest of the world. A first lesson for us: the evangelist never rests, for the call of the Lord is to announce the Good News to the ends of earth.

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  • The Working Boys' Home



    On June 1, 1883, a new Catholic charity known as the Working Boys' Home was established at 113 Eliot Street in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Its primary mission was to provide a home for adolescent boys who were employed but whose income was not adequate to rent housing, much like the House of the Angel Guardian in Boston's North End that had been established in 1851.

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  • An ode in praise of a beloved friend



    When my barber David Knight who worked in the U.S. Senate building died, it felt like losing a beloved family member. One meaning of family is a group of people in the service of an individual. For years, Dave and his partners were family to me. The moment I entered the barber shop, their greeting had the familiar sound of my mom and dad when coming home; a joyful sound of friendship and a feeling of being at a home away from home.

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  • Let your conscience be your guide



    Our political life has become such a war of words that many may not notice that the Trump administration has done something very good and long overdue -- and is being condemned for it. The very good thing is a regulation to implement numerous federal laws on conscience rights in health care, chiefly on conscientious objection to abortion.

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  • A Mighty Wind



    The giving of the Spirit to the new people of God crowns the mighty acts of the Father in salvation history. The Jewish feast of Pentecost called all devout Jews to Jerusalem to celebrate their birth as God's chosen people in the covenant Law given to Moses at Sinai (see Leviticus 23:15--21; Deuteronomy 16:9--11).

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  • Phil Niekro and John Havlicek, best friends forever



    We all have regrets for the mistakes we make as we hack our way through the jungle of life. Well, I do, anyway, and I suspect that you do, too. Some of those mistakes are bigger than others, and some, though they don't matter much in the grand scheme of things, gnaw away at us. I made such a mistake recently; it wasn't something I did, it was something I didn't do. And I'm really upset with myself for not doing it.

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  • Faith, fear, and death



    A common soldier dies without fear; Jesus died afraid. Iris Murdoch wrote those words which, I believe, help expose an over-simplistic notion we have of how faith reacts in the face of death. There's a popular notion that believes that if we have strong faith we should not suffer any undue fear in the face of death, but rather face it with calm, peace, and even gratitude because we have nothing to fear from God or the afterlife. Christ has overcome death. Death sends us to heaven. So why be afraid?

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  • Selling the sizzle at a parish near you



    "Marketing is a contest for people's attention." -- Seth Godin I heard about a parish recently. It has regular Eucharistic Adoration, but only the old-timers show up, and their numbers are shrinking. There is some handwringing over this fact. Nobody wants to see it disappear when its current devotees disappear. The funny thing is, nobody talks it up either. Not from the pulpit. Not in the bulletin. Nada.

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  • More on crying babies



    Q. A follow-up question on the "crying babies" issue: I have ruined Sundays for many of my fellow parishioners. My children were very fussy during Mass and always at their worst. They would scream and wail, and there is not a "cry room" in our church.

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  • Restoring, and strengthening, episcopal credibility



    Pope Francis's recent motu proprio on sexual abuse, Vos estis lux mundi [You Are the Light of the World], was a welcome addition to Church law, as world Catholicism seeks to heal the wounds of abuse victims, promote chaste living, foster mutual accountability within the Body of Christ, and restore the credibility of the Church's leadership. The response to the motu proprio by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, ably summed up that document's achievement:

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  • What Comes After Roe v. Wade?



    "Today's decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the court will overrule next." Justice Stephen Breyer said that last month while dissenting from a Supreme Court decision overturning a precedent on the subject of state sovereignty. Clearly, though, among the precedents he now sees in jeopardy is Roe v. Wade, the court's 1973 decision legalizing abortion.

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  • Holy ground



    The great part about having grown up kids is watching them spread their wings, especially when whatever they're up to is spiritual in nature. That's one reason I was thrilled to see our youngest daughter leave for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but there are a thousand others. When we sat down together with her itinerary a few weeks ago, they all came flooding back.

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  • Technology for contemplation



    I can't say that I live in a smart home. For one thing, I'm not smart enough to figure out half of the gadgets that can answer my queries like some kind of maidservant savant while monitoring the freshness of my refrigerator.

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  • Your summer pilgrimage



    Just about everybody has heard of the Camino de Santiago. Sometimes, it seems just about everybody but me has walked the Camino. I'm not sure I'll ever get there, but I'm thinking maybe it could inspire my own pilgrimage this summer.

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  • Perfection as One



    Jesus is praying for us in today's Gospel. We are those who have come to believe in Him through the Word of the Apostles, handed on in His Church. Jesus showed the Apostles His glory, and made known the Father's name and the love He has had for us from "before the foundation of the world."

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  • Old friends and baseball



    I went to a Red Sox/Astros ballgame recently with Al Hunt, my pal of more than half a century. Joining us was David Shribman, who recently retired as executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. All three of us love baseball, so it was a great opportunity to watch a meaningful game between two excellent teams and to just talk baseball for a few hours.

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  • Jean Vanier (1928-2019)



    "Our differences are not a threat but a treasure." Jean Vanier. Jean Vanier, the Founder of A'Arche, who died in Paris on May 7th wrote those words, but their truth is far from self-evident. One might question whether those words are simply a nice-sounding poetics or whether they contain an actual truth. Our differences, in fact, are often a threat.

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  • Missing Mass while traveling



    Q. Now is the time of year when I book a summer tour for my family. I always try for a place where I know there will be an accessible Saturday evening or Sunday Mass; although my intentions are good, sometimes I am not successful. We then go to Mass as soon as we can on the trip, or right away when we arrive home. Is it OK to go to Mass during the week to make up for an unintentional miss on Sunday? (Johnstown, Pennsylvania)

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  • The Answer that Women and Families Seek



    May 31 is the Feast of the Visitation of the Lord in which, among other things, we ponder the in uterointeraction between Jesus and John the Baptist. Mary, a few days pregnant with her Creator, visits her elderly cousin Elizabeth, six-months pregnant with of the forerunner of the One through whom all things were made. John, before his vocal chords had developed to be the voice crying in the wilderness, testified to Jesus by making his mom's womb a peritoneal trampoline, leaping with joy. Jesus, before his human fingers and hand had even formed, nevertheless blessed his cousin, sanctifying him for his mission of preparing Jesus' way.

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  • Biden, Bernardin, and today



    Given the seriousness with which the post-Watergate Washington Post takes itself, it seems unlikely that its editors strive for hilarity in devising headlines. Whatever their intention, though, they managed the not-inconsiderable feat of making me laugh out loud at breakfast on May 20, when the headline on the jump from a page-one story about former vice president Biden's current campaign read: Biden's team says there's no need for Democrats to stampede toward the left.

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