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  • The extraordinary gift of perspective



    Walking across the stage in the McNeice Pavilion at Boston College High School on May 29, 1993, to receive my diploma is forever ingrained in my brain. The previous four years of effort, sometimes lack of effort, friendships and new experiences were all memorialized in my hand with my new diploma. The journey was both complete and had not yet begun.

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  • The conversion of Father George Haskins -- Part II



    The previous installment of this column discussed the life of George Foxcroft Haskins, a native Bostonian and Protestant Episcopal Minister who converted to Catholicism in November 1840. Following his conversion, Haskins visited Father William Wiley, who had been an influence leading to this outcome, then departed for Rome, intending to learn more about his new faith. He wrote to Bishop Benedict Fenwick from Paris on Aug. 1, 1842, recounting his time in Rome, calling it "the happiest and most profitable of my life."

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  • Adapting mental health services to COVID-19



    As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we are all faced with uncertainty, confusion, and changes to our daily routines. For the most vulnerable members of our communities, this pandemic brings added stress and fear. At a time when we may not be able to see them face-to-face, the clinicians of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston are committed to continue serving the children, adults, and families in our counseling program located throughout Greater Boston.

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  • Knowing God



    Jesus has been taken up into heaven as we begin today's First Reading. His disciples -- including the Apostles and Mary -- return to the upper room, where He celebrated the Last Supper (see Luke 22:12).

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  • Where Did You See the Face of Christ Today?



    On my very first mission trip, I spent a good amount of my time working with Saint Mother Teresa's Sisters, The Missionaries of Charity, in the slums of Cite Soleil, Haiti. My days rotated among three of their sites -- a babies' home for dying orphans, an HIV/AIDS hospice, and a wound care clinic for the homeless of Port-au-Prince.

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  • It ain't beanbag



    He never had a chance. Mike Coolbaugh was a baseball lifer. He'd spent 17 years bouncing around the minor leagues, playing third base for nine different franchises. He even had two brief cups of coffee in the majors. He'd had five at-bats with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2001 and 39 with the St. Louis Cardinals the following year. At age 35, he made the transition from player to coach.

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  • End Times



    One of the more predictable byproducts of the coronavirus pandemic has been an uptick in apocalyptic warnings that the end of the world is at hand. The folks who send me emails announcing that COVID-19 signals the arrival of End Times mean well, and their eagerness to spread the news is understandable. But they're missing the point -- two or three points, in fact.

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  • Who created COVID-19?



    Q. In a recent letter to our archdiocesan paper -- The Catholic Sentinel -- someone wrote that: "In regard to COVID-19, there is no evidence that God had anything to do either with its development or with its dispersal." There's an obvious problem with theology here. Was COVID-19 self-existent? Or did God create it? (Tigard, Oregon)

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  • 'Laudato Si'' athwart modernity



    In preparation for my participation in a USCCB sponsored symposium for the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis' encyclical letter "Laudato Si'," I reread the famous and controversial document with some care. Many of the themes that struck me five years ago stood out again, but on this reading, I was particularly impressed by the pope's sharply critical assessment of modernity. I think it's fair to say that the Church has had a complex relationship with the modern, coming out strongly against it at the First Vatican Council and in a plethora of statements throughout much of the 20th century, but affirming many elements of it very enthusiastically at the Second Vatican Council. One has only to consider here Vatican II's document on religious liberty, "Dignitatis Humanae," or of its magisterial document on the Church in the modern world, "Gaudium et Spes," to see the Council's favorable assessment of many key features of modernity. And certainly, in the years that I was coming of age in the immediate wake of Vatican II, a positive attitude toward "the world" or the "modern world" was pretty much expected of all right-thinking Catholics.

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  • Games intellectuals play



    Shortly after President John F. Kennedy's cabinet met for the first time, Vice President Lyndon Johnson waxed enthusiastic about the best and the brightest to his mentor, Speaker Sam Rayburn. They were all so brilliant, LBJ raved, especially "the fellow from Ford with the Stacomb on his hair" (Robert McNamara). Mr. Sam paused (perhaps taking a contemplative sip of bourbon-and-branch) and then replied, "Well, Lyndon, you may be right and they may be every bit as intelligent as you say, but I'd feel a whole lot better about them if just one of them had run for sheriff once."

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  • Lessons from the hive



    When all human activity stops, it's easy to believe that everything else has stopped, too. But nature shows us otherwise. The moon still waxes and wanes, the winter constellations sink toward the spring horizon, and the sun rises higher in the sky. Trees and flowers blossom and grass -- and weeds -- grow tall. Birds sing and build their nests. The natural rhythms of creation continue, despite the coronavirus pandemic and what we've done -- or more accurately, what we've stopped doing -- in response to it.

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  • Let Us All 'Row Together'



    Thanks to daily briefings, news conferences, radio reports, and online articles, we are all acutely aware of the efforts being made in our country to fight the COVID19 pandemic. We are very grateful for the incredible work being done in our hospitals and research facilities. All involved -- from administrators and medical staff to scientists and maintenance people - are working together to care for our sick, comfort our dying, and race towards a reliable test and vaccine.

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  • Alive in the Spirit



    Jesus will not leave us alone. He won't make us children of God in Baptism only to leave us "orphans," He assures us in today's Gospel (see Romans 8:14--17). He asks the Father to give us His Spirit, to dwell with us and keep us united in the life He shares with the Father.

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  • Acts of bravery are the pandemic's grace notes



    It is always impressive to hear the stories of people who rush toward danger when others are fleeing. Remember Ventura County sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus? He lost his life when, without hesitation, he rushed into the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, to stop a mass shooter.

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  • Why we can't do evil even if good may come



    There is a curious and intriguing passage in the third chapter of St. Paul's letter to the Romans, which in the context of the missive seems almost tossed-off, but which has proven to be a cornerstone of Catholic moral theology for the past two thousand years. Responding to some of his critics, Paul says, "And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), 'Let us do evil that good may come?' Their condemnation is deserved!" (Rom. 3:8). One might formulate Paul's somewhat convoluted statement as follows: we should never do evil that good might come of it.

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  • Rules on receiving Communion



    Q. My cousin was married 40 years ago in a civil ceremony when she was only 17. After eight years, that marriage ended in divorce. She has now been remarried for some 25 years -- once again, not in the Catholic Church. All these years later, she still attends Mass regularly but never receives holy Communion. Is this right? (I feel terrible for her.) What are the rules of the Catholic Church on this? (City and state withheld)

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  • On John Paul II's centenary



    As the world and the Church mark the centenary of the birth of Pope St. John Paul II on May 18, a kaleidoscope of memories will shape my prayer and reflection that day. John Paul II at his dinner table, insatiably curious and full of humor; John Paul II groaning in prayer before the altar in the chapel of the papal apartment; John Paul II laughing at me from the Popemobile as I trudged along a dusty road outside CamagŁey, Cuba, looking for the friends who had left me behind in a papal Mass in January 1998; John Paul II, his face frozen by Parkinson's Disease, speaking silently through his eyes in October 2003, "See what's become of me . . ."; John Paul II, back in good form two months later, asking about my daughter's recent wedding and chaffing me about whether I was ready to be a "nonno" (grandfather); John Paul II lying in state in the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace, his features natural and in repose, wearing the battered cordovan loafers that used to drive the traditional managers of popes crazy.

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  • Spiritual communion



    The Catechism of the Catholic Church mentions "spiritual communion" in only two passages, neither of which deals with the Eucharist: 2347 "The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality. Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one's neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all. It leads to spiritual communion."

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  • Catholics and Buddhists -- solidarity on climate change



    On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, The World Parliament of Religions offered a webinar featuring Catholic-Buddhist Dialogue on Solidarity and Engagement on Climate Change. Featuring two Catholic and two Buddhist scholars, the April 23 event was co-sponsored by the Earth Day Network, Catholic Climate Covenant, the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies, and the Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers.

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  • Finding Mary in the Missions



    Anyone who knows me well can tell you that it does not have to be May for me to focus on the Blessed Mother. The rosary -- especially the World Mission Rosary -- is my "go to" prayer. I have an alarm set on my phone to remind me to say the Angelus at noon every day. Every room in my house is graced with some image or statue of Mary. A trip to the missions is not complete until I've found a local Madonna to bring home.

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  • Building His house



    By His death, Resurrection and Ascension, Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for us in His Father's house. His Father's house is no longer a temple made by human hands. It is the spiritual house of the Church, built on the living stone of Christ's body.

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  • Boo Ferriss



    Unless you're as old as I am, you probably have no personal memory of Dave "Boo" Ferriss when he was a pitcher for the Red Sox. But if you know anything about Red Sox history the chances are that you are well aware of him and the impact he made in his abbreviated career with the team back in the 1940s.

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  • Security in a pandemic



    Security. Safety. Safekeeping. The human craving for protection against harm is universal and reaches its anxiety-ridden peak in the face of an invasive threat like the coronavirus. Intensive media coverage heightens the sense of impending doom. Granting that, however, some responses to the desire for security strike me as attempts to exploit the public mood.

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  • Does televised Mass fulfill obligation?



    Q. Due to COVID-19 and restrictions to prevent its spread, public Masses are currently suspended in our diocese. If I "attend" a livestreamed Mass on television during this time, have I fulfilled my Sunday obligation? (By not participating at all, I feel as if I am falling away -- and it is becoming much too easy to enjoy this "time off.") (Richmond, Virginia)

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  • The 'historic' Amazonian Synod, revisited



    Given that he was one of the principal planners and prominent leaders of last October's special Synod on Amazonia, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, OFM, is understandably enthusiastic about the results of that exercise. Indeed, the enthusiasm of the emeritus archbishop of S„o Paulo and prefect emeritus of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy seems virtually boundless: Cardinal Hummes recently claimed that "The Synod for the Amazon was historic; no previous synod was as synodal and reform-oriented as this one." High praise indeed.

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  • Unique times for a really unique person: Mom



    The pandemic has overshadowed much of the "usual" news in the world, but there is one thing it cannot, absolutely must not, take the spotlight from: Mother's Day! In fact, remembering Mother's Day this year gives us the opportunity to reflect on just how amazing the abilities of mothers are and how grateful we are that through their care we are able to weather this current crisis with more strength, resilience and, especially, love.

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  • Our churches need our generous support to survive the pandemic



    Here is an unsigned editorial titled: "Our churches need our generous support to survive the pandemic," which appeared online April 30 on the website of America magazine. Amid the death and suffering we see all around us during the coronavirus pandemic, many Catholics have experienced other painful disruptions to their lives as well: a sacramental famine, as most Catholics have been cut off from weekly Mass and the reception of Communion, but also a famine of physical fellowship, of the biblical notion of koinonia, as most are also separated by quarantine from the community we found in our parishes and church ministries.

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  • Cautious and courageous



    Warning: if I hear anyone else say "We're all in this together," I just may explode. There's only so much you can take before you find yourself pushed to the edge. That's where a whole lot of us are right now. And the view isn't pretty.

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  • Why we love our parish



    Pope Francis declared a Detroit church as a basilica -- a rare honor for U.S. churches. Ste. Anne Parish began in 1700 and is the second oldest running Catholic parish in the country. Its current church was built in 1886. Our parish in Chestnut Hill dates to 1898, so we aren't likely to gain such a lofty designation.

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  • 'A Little Piece of Heaven'



    Because Mass is an online experience these days, I have been blessed to attend Mass celebrated by many wonderful priests I have known over the years. My first foray into "surfing the web" for a familiar face led me to the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania where I lived for seventeen years and started in this ministry. Father Christopher Zelonis, now a pastor, was a wee seminarian when our family adopted him as our own. He is my second child's Confirmation sponsor; I've joked that I'm never sure what role I'll find him in -- my son, my friend, or my confessor.

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  • What are we to do?



    Easter's empty tomb is a call to conversion. By this tomb, we should know for certain that God has made Jesus both Lord and Messiah, as Peter preaches in today's First Reading. He is the "Lord," the divine Son that David foresaw at God's right hand (see Psalms 3; 110:1; 132:10--11; and Acts 2:34). And He is the Messiah that God had promised to shepherd the scattered flock of the house of Israel (see Ezekiel 34:11--14, 23; 37:24).

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  • Baseball's voices



    Do you know what I'm really missing about baseball these days? The voices. The voices of those who in normal times would be bringing us the play-by-play action and color commentary of the games on television and radio. I miss the professionalism of Dave O'Brien, the insights of Jerry Remy and Dennis Eckersley, and the familiarity of Joe Castiglione, whose lack of a classic broadcaster's dulcet tones is more than made up for by his expertise and by his hours of preparation.

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  • Restoring essential services



    In different parts of the United States and other parts of the world, we are reaching what many are calling "Phase 2" in the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Various restrictions are being gradually rescinded, some businesses reopened, supplementary emergency hospitals closed, panic and fear lessened and normal parts of life restored.

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  • Pray to Mother Angelica?



    Q. I have always had great admiration for Mother Angelica. Would it be wrong of me to talk to her and ask her prayers if she has not yet been declared "blessed" by the Church? (Phoenix) A. Mother Angelica died in 2016 at the age of 92. In 1981, she founded the Eternal Word Television Network and turned it into a vast religious media operation, which today transmits programs to more than 200 million homes in nearly 150 countries.

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  • The quarantine's three lessons about the Church



    One silver lining for me during this weird coronavirus shutdown has been the opportunity to return to some writing projects that I had left on the back burner. One of these is a book on the Nicene Creed, which I had commenced many months ago and on which I was making only very slow progress, given my various pastoral and administrative responsibilities. The last several weeks, I have been working in a rather concentrated way on the Creed book, and I find myself currently in the midst of the section on the Church: "I believe in one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church." I will confess that the peculiar way that we have been forced to express the life of the Church during this quarantine period has influenced my ecclesiological reflection.

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  • Reflecting on the before and after of the pandemic



    I've been experiencing some weird side effects of the coronavirus pandemic. For example, the obsessive critiquing of television advertisements. They are now divided into two categories: pre- and post-pandemic. When I see pre-pandemic ads of happy people celebrating clear skin, fast food or car insurance, I am filled with alarm and resentment.

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  • Joseph Ratzinger, theological reformer



    As he turned 93 on April 16, Joseph Ratzinger remained one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented men of consequence in recent Catholic history. I doubt the Pope Emeritus minds; he's probably impervious to calumny, having had it visited upon him for over a half-century. This kindly man may feel a measure of compassion for the small minds that continually tell untruths about him and his theology. But he has better things to do than fret about his detractors: dwarves ineffectually tossing pebbles at a serene giant.

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