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  • A call for civility



    During the Christmas-Epiphany Season I had the pleasure of celebrating liturgies with both the Haitian Catholic Community on their Independence Day (January 1) and last week with the Cape Verdean Catholic Community at St. Peter's Parish in Dorchester.

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  • To be or not to be -- parsing the implications of suicide



    In recent years we have witnessed a growing tendency to promote suicide as a way of resolving end-stage suffering. Physician-assisted suicide is now legal in a handful of states and a number of other jurisdictions are considering laws to legalize the practice. A few years ago on "Nightline," Barbara Walters interviewed an assisted suicide advocate who summed it up this way: "We're talking about what people want. There are people who, even suffering horribly, want to live out every second of their lives, and that's their right, of course, and they should do it. Others don't want that. Others want out!"

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  • Moral authorities



    There is an unavoidable circularity in ethics. We decide whether a teaching is correct, based on the life of the person who teaches it, but we also decide whether a manner of life is praiseworthy, based upon teachings that we already accept.

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  • Evangelizing parishes -- always in season



    The Christmas season is over and now we return to ordinary time until the beginning of Lent. Ordinary time has a way of making us think that we now get back to business, to the usual day to day tasks. The tasks before the parishes that are in collaboratives is to keep the eyes of parishioners on the task of evangelization, of helping people come to know Jesus Christ and to recognize his presence in their lives. Becoming an evangelizing parish cannot be limited to one liturgical season over another. It is something that the collaboratives work at each and every day.

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  • Hearing the call



    In the call of Samuel and the first Apostles, today's Readings shed light on our own calling to be followers of Christ. Notice in the Gospel today that John's disciples are prepared to hear God's call. They are already looking for the Messiah, so they trust in John's word and follow when he points out the Lamb of God walking by.

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  • The ambassador's visit to Rome's American seminary



    Vatican City, Jan 10, 2018 CNA.- On Jan. 10, Callista Gingrich, the United States Ambassador to the Holy See, was a guest at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. She visited the college to receive a blessing as she embarks upon her work as ambassador, according to sources at the North American College.

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  • Recompense for a serious mistake



    I won't venture into classical Roman literature, which is not my forte, but I will say with assurance that the greatest modern Latin pun was the result of a schoolgirl prank. In 1844, General Charles James Napier, commanding a British army during the heydays of imperialism in South Asia, was ordered to subdue the province of Sindh (which is now in Pakistan). His methods were criticized in Parliament, and young Catherine Winkworth remarked to her teacher that Napier's report to his superiors should have been a one-word double-entendre, "Peccavi," (literally, "I have sinned," but also, phonetically, "I have Sindh"). Miss Winkworth sent her pun to the humor magazine Punch, which then published it as a factual report from Napier under the headline, "Foreign Affairs." General Napier later commented that, "If this was a piece of rascality, it was a noble piece of rascality."

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  • Reaping What We're Sowing



    Before Christmas, Time Magazine named the "Silence Breakers" their 2017 Persons of the Year. Time focused fundamentally on the women who courageously came forward to bring into the light the sordid sexual abuse and harassment they had suffered silently years at the clutches of powerful entertainment and political leaders who, once acclaimed and admired, are now scorned and humiliated as perverts.

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  • How Can it All have a Happy Ending?



    There's a line in the writings of Julian of Norwich, the famous 14th century mystic and perhaps the first theologian to write in English, which is endlessly quoted by preachers, poets, and writers: But all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. It's her signature teaching.

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  • New priorities for one seminarian



    Pope Francis' 2015 visit to the United States was a thrilling time to be a seminarian in our nation's capital. My seminary is directly across the street from where the Holy Father would celebrate Mass for tens of thousands of people, making our building an ideal place for news crews to film their shows or file their stories. Media personnel were buzzing around the seminary busily preparing for the pope's arrival, and the atmosphere was electric.

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  • Come in from the cold



    People used to say, "Cold hands, warm heart." If that's true, there are a whole lot of warm-hearted people out there these days. In almost 40 years living in New England, I can't remember a time when single-digit temperatures held on for more than a few days. Certainly not for a few weeks. I mean, I don't remember moving to Minnesota. I also don't remember the last time (but I think there was one) when I seriously considered shopping for dog boots. Our little guy can hardly stay out long enough to do what dogs do -- or are supposed to do -- outside. His feet just can't handle the cold. Meanwhile, our son Austin is headed out to a commercial shipping internship on an Alaskan oil tanker. The temperature in Washington State when he arrived was a balmy 40 degrees. That's practically bikini weather. When last we checked, it was warmer in Juneau and Anchorage than it was at home. Ironic, right?

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  • How the 'Star Wars' franchise lost its way



    I fell sound asleep for about ten minutes during the most recent installment in the Star Wars franchise, 'The Last Jedi.' This was not only because the narrative had wandered down a very tedious alleyway, but because Star Wars in general has lost its way. What began as a thrilling exploration of the philosophia perennis has devolved into a vehicle for the latest trendy ideology -- and that is really a shame.

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  • The Mystery of Mary, Mother of God



    Today (1/1), while much of the world marks the new beginning of the calendar year, the Church commemorates the great solemnity of the Mother of God. What does this mean? That the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of God means that the child--conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit, carried in her body for nine months, and born into this world--is God. As such, this celebration highlights the pivotal truth of the Church's Faith: that God has, in Jesus Christ, accepted a human nature, chosen to be born into this world as we have all been born into this world, and has lived a real, human life.

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  • Newborn King



    Today the child born on Christmas is revealed to be the long-awaited king of the Jews. As the priests and scribes interpret the prophecies in today's Gospel, he is the ruler expected from the line of King David, whose greatness is to reach to the ends of the earth (see Micah 5:1-3; 2 Samuel 5:2).

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  • The Class of '17



    The distinguished class of 2017 is led by Milton Conrad Schmidt who came to us from Kitchener as the D'Artagnan of the fabled Kraut line and became the face of a noble hockey franchise for 80 years. Rarely has a great athlete more entirely embodied the spirit of a team so well and so long. The memory of him and his fellow Krauts -- Brothers Bauer and Dumart -- being carried off to war on the shoulders of their foes sings further the praises of the Greatest Generation.

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  • The Surprising Message of 'Downsizing'



    When I saw the trailer for Alexander Payne's new film, Downsizing, I thought the movie would be a light-hearted farce, relying principally on visual gags. In point of fact, the jokes based on the contrast between regular-size people and their five-inch tall counterparts are surprisingly rare. Most of the film deals with events within the world of the downsized--so everything seems more or less normal. And when I took in the opening scenes, and heard a lot of talk about protecting the environment and the dangers of overpopulation, I thought that Downsizing would be a propaganda piece for left-wing causes. Here I was surprised again, for the film amounts, I will argue, to a not-so-subtle critique of that ideology.

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  • My Top Ten Books for 2017



    Taste is subjective. Keep that in mind as I share with you the ten books that most touched me this past year. That isn't necessarily a recommendation that you read them. They may leave you cold, or angry at me that I praised them. Be your own critic here and one who isn't afraid to be critical of my taste. Nobody buys everything that's advertised in a store.

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  • Viva Cristo Rey!



    In the 1920s, when the United States had a quasi-Stalinist regime on its southern border, "Viva Cristo Rey!" was the defiant battle cry of the Cristeros who fought the radically secular Mexican government's persecution of the Church. "Viva Cristo Rey!" were likely the last words spoken by Blessed Miguel Pro, SJ, whose martyrdom in 1927 may have been the first in history in which the martyr was photographed at the moment of death. Today, in the United States, "Cristo Rey" has a different, although not wholly-unrelated, meaning -- for it's the name of an important experiment in Catholic education for poor children.

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  • Benson's conversion



    It's said that Robert Hugh Benson's conversion to Roman Catholicism was an act of rebellion against his father, Edward White Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1883 until his death in 1896. Whether it was or wasn't, the younger Benson's spiritual autobiography at least offers grounds for seeing his conversion in that light.

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  • God present in prison



    Q. A recent letter in your column from an inmate in Jefferson City, Missouri, has been in my heart in such strong way that I had to write. (Editor's Note: That letter was from someone who had been in prison for 25 years and was seeking to have his sentence changed from life to the death penalty because of what he termed his "unbelievable suffering" and the fact that his heart was "hardened" and he could not discover any role that God might possibly have for him to play in prison.)

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  • Aren't you happy Jesus is coming?



    Many, many years ago, my first grade class was in charge of the preparation of one of our school liturgies for Advent. It had been a tough year, as our school was going through many changes and some heartache had come to our parish in the form of student and parental illness and accidents. Because of all those things, I really wanted our liturgy to be one of celebration, one full of hope!

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  • Christmas in the making



    While it may not command the same level of veneration as Easter, Christmas has profound personal significance for those who have spent their lives celebrating it. The customs of gift-giving, family togetherness and seasonal charity touch us on an individual level. They harken to our unique family stories, relationships and charitable interests. In this way, the celebration of Christ's birth and its accompanying customs have always been uniquely attuned to our inner selves, accompanying us through the changes of time, with memories of past celebrations accumulating behind us.

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  • 'No Room in the Inn'



    Within Cardinal Cushing's papers reside a number of Christmas sermons, but one in particular, entitled "No Room in the Inn," from the late 1950s stands out for his expressed concerns over many issues which we are still addressing over half a century later.

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  • The crib and the cross



    A friend of mine gathered her family together to trim the tree, and to accompany the festive occasion, she asked her husband to put on some Christmas music. He did, but mistakenly entered "holiday" when selecting an iTunes radio station, and soon the family was decking the halls to the sound of Madonna's "Holiday"--definitely not the Christmas song that my friend had in mind. This story led our team to speculate as to the differences in Christmas songs, noting the distinction of a Christmas hymn (written specifically for a liturgical setting), a Christmas Carol (a folksong that expresses the revelation of Christ's birth), and a holiday song (the example being Mariah Carey warbling that all she wants for Christmas is "you"). When asked if I had a favorite "song of the season," I cited the haunting Appalachian carol, I Wonder as I Wander:

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  • The mystery kept secret



    What is announced to Mary in today's Gospel is the revelation of all that the prophets had spoken. It is, as Paul declares in today's Epistle, the mystery kept secret since before the foundation of the world (see Ephesians 1:9; 3:3-9).

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  • Christmas pudding



    Tis the season for counting our blessings and if you are devoutly the fan of the professional fun and games we revel in hereabouts all four seasons it doesn't get much more satisfying. Face it. You've never had it so good. Nor has any town, maybe.

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  • On the Passing of Cardinal Law



    Cardinal Bernard F. Law, my predecessor as Archbishop of Boston, has passed away at the age of 86 following a prolonged illness. I recognize that Cardinal Law's passing brings forth a wide range of emotions on the part of many people. I am particularly cognizant of all who experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by clergy, whose lives were so seriously impacted by those crimes, and their families and loved ones. To those men and women, I offer my sincere apologies for the harm they suffered, my continued prayers and my promise that the Archdiocese will support them in their effort to achieve healing.

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  • Fear of God as Wisdom



    Why don't we preach hellfire anymore? That's a question asked frequently today by a lot of sincere religious people who worry that too many churches and too many priests and ministers have gone soft on sin and are over-generous in speaking about God's mercy. The belief here is that more people would come to church and more people would obey the commandments, particularly the sixth one, if we preached the raw truth about mortal sin, God's wrath, and the danger of going to hell when we die. The truth will set you free, these folks assert, and the truth is that there is real sin and that there are real and eternal consequences for sin. The gate to heaven is narrow and the road to hell is wide. So why aren't we preaching more about the dangers of hellfire?

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  • Repeat after me



    The Supreme Court heard arguments this month in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case about whether the government can make a Christian baker design a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding.

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  • The 'Catholic' Ten Commandments



    Q. Recently I read an article stating that the "Catholic" Ten Commandments are different from those given to Moses. According to this article, Catholics deleted the Second Commandment -- about no idols or graven images -- and then split the last one into two in order to make up for that deletion.

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  • Italian Xmas: Et tu, Santa?



    Christmas in Rome is not exactly what one might imagine. In the few decades since I lived in Italy, that red-suited globalist Santa Claus has been growing market share. St. Nicholas and his Italian avatar called La Befana have been receding in the national consciousness.

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  • Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, much work to do



    So near and yet so far--let that stand in summary of the present situation of Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians in the quest for full communion to which some of them, though apparently not all, are deeply committed. As matters stand, there's no saying when--or even whether--the goal will finally be reached.

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  • The crèche and the gap



    For the past decade or so, I've been assembling a mid-sized Judean village of Fontanini crèche figures, including artisans, herders (with sheep), farmers (with chickens and an ahistorical turkey), vintners, blacksmiths, musicians, weavers, and a fisherman or two (one awake, another sleeping). Like the colossal Neapolitan crèche at the basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damian in Rome, it's a reminder that the Lord Jesus was born in the midst of humanity and its messy history: the history that the Child has come to set back on its truest course, which is toward God. The messiness of history is a caution against letting sentimentality take over Christmas; so are some challenging truths about Mary, Joseph, and their place in what theologians calls the "economy of salvation."

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