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  • Begin Lent by giving back to those in need



    In her recent Democratic response to the State of the Union address, Stacey Abrams told a story about her father's generosity of spirit. She said that once, as he walked home from work on a cold, rainy night, he encountered a homeless man on the highway, and literally gave that man the coat off his back. When his family asked him why he'd given away his only jacket, Abrams' father told them, "I knew when I left that man he would still be alone, but I could give him my coat, because I knew you were coming for me."

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  • Children can be saints!



    Just about every day of the year, Catholics have the privilege to celebrate the prayers of a saint or two or three or more. Although not all of the saints are found on the liturgical calendar of a local church (i.e., diocese) and only some are celebrated in the universal Church throughout the world, every saint is worthy of our honor and can truly inspire us to the same heroic level of sanctity.

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  • The diocesan synod of 1909



    In February 1909, clergy of the Archdiocese of Boston convened at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for a diocesan synod called by then Archbishop William H. O'Connell. Regular readers may recall that a synod is a gathering of all clergy in the diocese, which, unlike modern synods, did not include laity or women religious. It was an opportunity for the Bishop of Boston to seek counsel from his priests and vote on practical measures to guide worship, administration of the parishes, and other matters of daily life.

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  • Rich in Poverty



    The blessings and woes we hear in today's Gospel mark the perfection of all the wisdom of the Old Testament. That wisdom is summed up with marvelous symmetry in today's First Reading and Psalm: Each declares that the righteous -- those who hope in the Lord and delight in His Law -- will prosper like a tree planted near living waters. The wicked, who put their "trust in human beings," are cursed to wither and die.

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  • The Hall of Fame vote and the Red Sox



    The votes are in and we know who is going to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame next summer. But here is the question all diehard Red Sox fans have: How did the Sox do? The big Red Sox winner was David Ortiz who won't even be on the ballot until 2022. The fact that Edgar Martinez was elected and Harold Baines was chosen by the veterans committee makes Big Papi a shoe-in as soon as he's eligible. Martinez and Baines, like Ortiz, were primarily designated hitters. Their selection has removed the Hall of Fame stigma of being a DH. You can start making plans now for Papi's induction ceremony in July of 2022.

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  • The ever-present totalitarian temptation



    First circulated underground in communist Czechoslovakia in October 1978, Vaclav Havel's brilliant dissection of totalitarianism, "The Power of the Powerless," retains its salience four decades later. It should be required reading for politicians given to describing the Knights of Columbus as an "extremist" organization because of the Knights' pro-life convictions and activism.

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  • Funeral Mass on Sunday?



    Q. Recently a funeral Mass was offered on a Sunday afternoon in our parish for a longtime parishioner. I believe I remember as a child being taught by the sisters in our Catholic school that funerals were never held on Sundays (except possibly in time of war or during the Middle Ages when the plague was rampant). Have things changed? (Indiana)

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  • The Court and the Cross



    Two years after his death, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is missed for many reasons, not least among them his colorful writing style. In one notable opinion, Scalia said this: "Like some ghoul in a late night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad, after being repeatedly killed and buried, Lemon stalks our Establishment Clause jurisprudence."

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  • Numbers you can believe in



    I have often written that Catholic schools are places of hope, places where children learn to know, love and serve God because they are known and loved by the adults in their schools. I believe strongly in the ability of Catholic schools to help children develop their own relationships with Jesus. I also believe that our schools are places where the teaching and learning processes are doing well and children are learning. I have data to suggest all that I have written is true and, through this column, I want to share some of our data.

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  • Just a bit wider



    You can't win a game that's never played. Maybe that's the life lesson New Orleans Saints fans have learned in recent days better than most. Whether you've been "robbed" or simply failed to advance, there's nothing you can do from the sidelines or the stands. The field is the only place victory can be achieved.

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  • Philanthropy



    The late Harvard philosopher, Robert Nozick, used to say that he lost his commitment to the continued existence of the human race after he studied the Holocaust. Before the Holocaust, he said, it was praiseworthy for someone to care about whether we would survive. Maybe we should go to Mars and set up colonies there. Maybe we should prepare bunkers in case of a cataclysm. And so on -- to insure that some vestige of humankind would carry on. But after the Holocaust, he thought, it made no difference whether we continued to exist. We had so disgraced "our kind" through that murderous plan that it was just as well if we perished from the face of the earth.

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  • The Memorial of St. Agatha



    On February 5, the Church remembers the witness of Saint Agatha, who was killed because she would not deny her faith in Christ during the reign of the Roman emperor Decius (around 251 AD). Biographical details in regards to Saint Agatha have been distilled over time into legend. Accounts of her testimony to the Church's faith include that, having dedicated herself to Christ as a virgin, she angered a would-be suitor, who reported her to the imperial authorities and accused her of being a member of a seditious sect called the Church.

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  • Into the Deep



    Simon Peter, the fisherman, is the first to be called personally by Jesus in Luke's Gospel. His calling resembles Isaiah's commissioning in the First Reading: Confronted with the holiness of the Lord, both Peter and Isaiah are overwhelmed by a sense of their own sinfulness and inadequacy. Yet, each experiences the Lord's forgiveness and is sent to preach the good news of His mercy to the world.

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  • Standing pat with the Red Sox



    The Red Sox, in poker parlance, are standing pat this year. Who can blame them? They're going with the same hand they were dealt last year, the one that raked in all the chips. They have not been, and will not be, in the market for any blue chip free agents. I'll bet it seems like forever since Dave Dombrowski has heard the words, "Mr. Boras is on line one." Mr. Boras is not calling because he has nothing to sell that Mr. Dombrowski either wants or needs. They both know that the Red Sox had the best team in baseball last year and that they'll open the 2019 season as favorites to win it all again. Oh sure, there are a few spots in the bullpen to be filled. Joe Kelly, he with the unlimited potential and just occasional fulfillment of it, has gone with the Angels. Craig Kimbrel, also a free agent, may, as of this writing, end up back with the Red Sox. Then again, maybe not. Other than that, the phone has not been ringing off the hook in the Baseball Ops Department. The Red Sox are sticking with a pat hand.

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  • Ecumenism -- The Path Forward



    I was very blessed during my theological formation to have had the privilege of taking classes from two very renowned Catholic scholars, Avery Dulles and Raymond E. Brown. The former was an ecclesiologist whose books often became textbooks which were prescribed reading in seminaries and theology schools. The latter was a scripture scholar whose scholarship stands out, almost singularly, still nearly 30 years after his death. Nobody questions the scholarship, the personal integrity, or the faith-commitment of these men.

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  • How excommunication works



    Q. From what we are seeing on social media here in New York state, there seems to be some misunderstanding about what excommunication is and how it happens. Does the pope excommunicate someone, or can a bishop? Is there a process? What is the pastoral approach to something like this? What are the consequences for someone who is excommunicated? (Syracuse, New York)

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  • The moral depravity of Andrew Cuomo and Friends



    Writing recently on women seeking the presidency and the "likability" factor in our politics, Peggy Noonan made a tart observation: "There are a lot of male candidates with likability problems. Some, such as Andrew Cuomo, a three-term governor of a large state, are so unlikable they aren't even mentioned as contenders."

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  • Building Upon, or Destroying, the Cornerstone of the Common Good



    Last Saturday, Pope Francis welcomed to the Vatican leaders of the Italian pro-life movement the day before Italy's annual pro-life day, held since 1978 on the first Sunday of February. He spoke powerfully about how "the defense of life is not carried out in only one way, or with one gesture, but it's done in a multiplicity of actions, attentions, and initiatives; nor does it concern some persons or certain professional realms, but it involves every citizen and the complex web of social relations."

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  • New York, abortion, and a short route to chaos



    It was the celebration that was particularly galling. On the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, signed into law a protocol that gives practically unrestricted access to abortion, permitting the killing of an unborn child up until the moment of delivery. In the wake of the ratification, the legislators and their supporters whooped, hollered, and cheered, a display depressingly similar to the jubilation that broke out in Ireland when a referendum legalizing abortion passed last year. Of course, all of the rhetoric about women's rights and reproductive health and empowerment was trotted out, but who can fail to see what was at stake? If an infant, lying peacefully in a bassinet in his parents' home, were brutally killed and dismembered, the entire country would rightfully be outraged and call for an investigation of the murder. But now the law of New York confirms that that same child, moments before his birth, resting peacefully in his mother's womb, can be, with utter impunity, pulled apart with forceps. And the police won't be summoned; rather, it appears, the killing should be a matter of celebration.

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  • The Young Catholics' Friend Society



    Within the archive's manuscript collection is a booklet dating to 1839, which contains the constitution, by-laws, and other information related to the Young Catholics' Friend Society. According to the booklet, the first meeting of the society took place on Saturday evening, April 4, 1835. Those interested in forming a Catholic men's society met at 18 School Street, the site of the first public Catholic Mass in Boston, and passed three resolutions. The first was that a five-person committee be appointed to draft a constitution for the organization, the second that the organization would be known as "The Young Catholics' Friend Society," and the third that the proceedings shall be signed by the chairman and secretary and subsequently published in the Literary and Catholic Sentinel newspaper, which would later be renamed The Pilot.

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  • Building a wall against life



    In what Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls a "historic victory for New Yorkers," New York has passed what may be the nation's most extreme and irresponsible abortion law. Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health that favored the law, calls it a "blueprint for change" to be replicated in other states. In a Jan. 23 Washington Post column, she says such laws will create "oases," to prepare for possible future Supreme Court decisions, allowing more states to be "abortion deserts."

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  • Prophet to the Nations



    God's words in today's First Reading point us beyond Jeremiah to Jesus. Like Jeremiah, Jesus was consecrated in the womb and sent as a "prophet to the nations" (see Luke 1:31--33). Like the prophets before Him, Jesus, too, faces hostility. In today's Gospel, the crowd in His hometown synagogue quickly turns on Him, apparently demanding a sign, some proof of divine origins -- that He's more than just "the son of Joseph."

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  • Anyone remember Jim Britt?



    Are you long-in-the-tooth enough to remember Jim Britt? You have to be pretty old to recall him, but there was a time that Britt's voice was the most recognizable in all New England; he reigned supreme. Then, it all disappeared.

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  • Shutdown 'violates the social contract'



    Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley released the following statement Jan. 18: Governing the democracy of the United States is always a challenging task. It requires not only intelligence, expertise and experience but also a capacity to collaborate, cooperate, and the willingness to consider appropriate compromise at decisive moments.

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  • More than a few good men



    ''Toxic masculinity." The phrase makes me furious, as does the latest intervention by the American Psychological Association, society's self-proclaimed moral compass and arbiter. "Traditional masculinity," which they have identified with "stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression," is "psychologically harmful." Allow me to rephrase: regulating one's emotions, reaching for excellence, exercising responsible leadership, and protecting the weak are detrimental to the fabric of human society. Really?

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  • New Day Dawns



    The meaning of today's liturgy is subtle and many-layered. We need background to understand what's happening in today's First Reading. Babylon having been defeated, King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the exiled Jews could return home to Jerusalem. They rebuilt their ruined temple (see Ezra 6:15--17) and under Nehemiah finished rebuilding the city walls (see Nehemiah 6:15).

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  • Nothing lasts forever



    It feels good to be a Red Sox fan these days, doesn't it? Four World Series championships in the last 15 years is the envy of all baseball. It must have felt the same way 100 years ago, when the Red Sox were coming off their fourth championship in just seven years. But, as fans back then were about to find out, nothing lasts forever.

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  • Snake-bitten



    Everything is of one piece. Whenever we don't take that seriously, we pay a price. The renowned theologian, Hans Urs Von Balthasar gives an example of this. Beauty, he submits, is not some little "extra" that we can value or denigrate according to personal taste and temperament, like some luxury that we say we cannot afford. Like truth and goodness, it's one of the properties of God and thus demands to be taken seriously as goodness and truth. If we neglect or denigrate beauty, he says, we will soon enough begin to neglect other areas of our lives. Here are his words:

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  • Praying for Pope Benedict



    Q. During the eucharistic prayer, our diocese prays by name both for our current bishop and also for our retired bishop. Yet I have never heard our pope emeritus (Pope Benedict) mentioned during the eucharistic prayer. Is there a reason why he cannot be mentioned along with Pope Francis? (Schenectady, New York)

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  • Courage in the Christian and Priestly Life



    Two weeks ago I had the joy to preach the annual five-day retreat for Mt. St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where 25 years ago this year I began my formation for the priesthood. It was an opportunity to express my thanks to the 150 men preparing there for the priesthood there for their courageous witness in faithfully following God's call and to encourage them to persevere.

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  • 'Birdbox' and Spiritual Warfare



    The film Birdbox, based on a British novel of the same name, started streaming on Netflix around Christmas time. Starring Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich, it is a taut thriller that manages, perhaps despite itself, to shed considerable light on the parlous spiritual condition of contemporary culture.

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  • One man's meat



    One of our girls gave me a book for Christmas, "One Man's Meat," by E.B. White. We agreed to start a little book club, just the two of us -- coffee once a month to talk about it. The book is a collection of monthly columns White wrote for Harper's after leaving Manhattan to take up farming in Maine. That was the appeal for our daughter, who spent one summer on a farm in Maine and loves revisiting it in her imagination.

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  • Squandering moral capital



    The morality of tyrannicide is not much discussed in today's kinder, gentler Catholic Church. Yet that difficult subject once engaged some of Catholicism's finest minds, including Thomas Aquinas and Francisco Suárez, and it was passionately debated during the Second World War by German officers -- many of them devout Christians -- who were pondering the assassination of Adolf Hitler. (Their efforts were known and tacitly approved by Pius XII, but that's another story.)

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