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  • A new American blessed ... and martyr for students



    Over the last few weeks, there has been considerable attention given to an American whom the Church was preparing to beatify, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. The attention on Sheen makes sense -- even beyond the drama of the ups and downs of his cause for canonization -- since he is probably the most influential American Catholic of all time, who has nourished the faith not only of millions during his lifetime and millions still today, more than 40 years after his death.

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  • Anxiety and Mass attendance



    Q. I was diagnosed with anxiety/mood disorder in 2003. I had spent time in the military and gone through some horrific experiences that had affected me emotionally. I have also been on Dilantin now for more than 25 years because of seizures.

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  • Books for Christmas -- 2019



    Resist the twitterization of thought -- give books for Christmas! The following titles will delight, instruct, edify (or all of the above): "Churchill: Walking with Destiny," by Andrew Roberts (Viking): There seems to be no end to the making of books about Winston Churchill. I own 17 and have no hesitation in saying this is the best Churchill biography ever, written with a narrative drive that sustains your interest through even the familiar bits. It's also a treasure-trove of witticisms, including this rapier-quick Churchillian riposte to Charlie Chaplin's announcement at a Chartwell dinner party that his next movie role would be Jesus Christ: "Have you cleared the rights?

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  • Made for worship



    I don't remember what it was like to attend Mass before Vatican II, but I've heard plenty of stories. There were no Saturday vigil Masses, so everyone worshipped together on Sundays. Everybody came to Mass in their "Sunday best": men wore jackets and ties, and women and girls donned hats or veils; priests dressed in cassocks and birettas. Organs blared and choirs sang from the loft, but there was also plenty of silence. Latin was beautiful, but also incomprehensible. It wasn't easy to know what exactly was going on. Those who wanted to follow along brought a missal to Mass, but many just prayed the rosary. Except for the psalms, readings were from the New Testament only. Priests led their congregations in prayer, turning toward the altar of sacrifice. The incense was smoky and thick. The people knelt at a Communion rail to receive the sacred Host. Priests usually returned to the sacristy right after the final blessing. They were among the most respected members of the community; most parishioners never knew their first names. For some, the Tridentine Mass was mystical and glorious; for others, it was enigmatic and staid.

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  • When it comes to giving, less is more



    Every year my sister and I make the same promise to each other. "One year, we're not going to do presents at all," we declare over the phone. "And it will be the best Christmas ever." Our kids are all still at home, eager Christmas lovers, so we haven't yet been able to make good on our dreams of a gift-free holiday. But I daydream of a December free from shopping lists and shipping stress.

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  • Kingdom come



    "The kingdom of heaven is at hand," John proclaims. And the Liturgy today paints us a vivid portrait of our new king and the shape of the kingdom He has come to bring. The Lord whom John prepares the way for in today's Gospel is the righteous king prophesied in today's First Reading and Psalm. He is the king's son, the son of David -- a shoot from the root of Jesse, David's father (see Ruth 4:17).

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  • Jacoby Ellsbury: deal or no deal



    Jacoby Ellsbury was never a great fan favorite in these parts, even during his best days with the Red Sox. He never really connected with the fan base. During his one truly great season in Boston in 2011 (.321 batting average, 32 home runs, 105 runs batted in, 50 stolen bases, plus silver slugger and gold glove awards) there still seemed to be an emotional detachment between him and Red Sox fans. So, when he opted for free agency after the 2013 season and the Red Sox made no effort to resign him, leaving the Evil Empire of Gotham City to give him the big bucks, seven years at $153 million, there was not much of an uproar back here.

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  • Archbishop Sheen



    Archbishop Fulton Sheen's legion of admirers can only hope his beatification, originally scheduled December 21 in his home diocese of Peoria and now postponed by the Vatican, will soon take place. The postponement was requested by what the diocese said were "a few members" of the U.S. bishops' conference. No reasons for the delay were given, and the diocese called Archbishop Sheen "a model of holiness and virtue."

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  • 'The Crown' and the Primacy of Grace



    Like, I daresay, most of the English-speaking world, these past couple of years I've been watching episodes of "The Crown," the beautifully filmed, marvelously written program on the life and times of Queen Elizabeth II. The series deals with the psychological dynamics within the royal family as well as with the cultural changes and political challenges that the Queen has faced in the course of her long reign. But what has been, at least to me, most surprising has been the insightful and sympathetic way in which it has addressed issues of faith. Especially in the first season, we saw the fairly frequent conflicts between Elizabeth's devotion to her family and her role as head of the Church of England. In season two, there was a deeply affecting episode on the visit of Billy Graham to the UK in the mid-50s. We saw that, despite reticence regarding the American evangelist on the part of some in the British establishment, the Queen found his preaching illuminating and uplifting.

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  • Penitential rite at Mass



    Q. Every Mass I attend begins with a penitential rite, which I take to be the forgiveness of sins for those who are there worshipping. And then, just before Communion, we say, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." Why, then, does the Church require Catholics to go to confession? (Russellville, Arkansas)

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  • A last chance for Australian justice



    My late parents loved Cardinal George Pell, whom they knew for decades. So I found it a happy coincidence that, on November 12 (which would have been my parents' 70th wedding anniversary), a two-judge panel of Australia's High Court referred to the entire Court the cardinal's request for "special leave" to appeal his incomprehensible conviction on charges of "historic sexual abuse," and the even-more-incomprehensible denial of his appeal against that manifestly unsafe verdict.

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  • Happy holy days



    Is it my imagination, or has the Christmas shopping season (or "holiday shopping season") extended itself by another few weeks? What we used to call "Black Friday" sales, beginning the day after Thanksgiving, seem to be creeping back toward early November.

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  • Chuck Cooper and Bill Russell



    Do you remember Chuck Cooper of the Boston Celtics? If you do, you've got a lot of gray in your hair -- assuming, that is, that you have any hair at all. Chuck Cooper is the reason that Bill Russell has a Hall of Fame ring. Not that Russell needs any more rings; he's already got more championship rings -- 11 -- than he has fingers. Cooper was a good, if not great, NBA player with the Celtics (1950-'54), the Milwaukee (later St. Louis) Hawks (1954-'55), and the Fort Wayne Pistons (1955-'56). His career statistics are not overly impressive: 6.7 points per game and 5.9 rebounds in just over 22 minutes a game. He was six feet, five inches tall, and weighed 210 pounds, about average for an NBA player back then. His NBA career was over by the time that Russell broke in with the Celtics the following season.

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  • Advent: Can we do it?



    How is your supply of Christmas cheer doing these days? Mine is in rather short supply. Every year, around this time, I grouse about the Christmas ads in September and the Christmas music in October, the carefully crafted marketing intended to prompt a Pavlovian response of debt-fueled consumerism.

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  • Celebrating the Novus Ordo as it ought to be



    On November 30, the Church marks the 50th anniversary of when the Novus Ordo, or "Mass of Paul VI," debuted as the ordinary form of the Roman Rite of the sacred liturgy. St. Paul VI had promulgated the new Roman Missal eight months earlier, but, by the time the first Sunday of Advent came around, the new liturgical books were not yet ready, and so the roll out was rather bungled and confusing, for priests and people alike.

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  • Chalice for gluten-intolerant



    Q. More and more people are being diagnosed with celiac or wheat allergies. Because of the particle of the host that is dipped into the chalice right before Communion, someone who is gluten-intolerant cannot receive the precious blood from the chalice. What is your suggestion? (Missouri)

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  • The reformed liturgy, 50 years later



    Fifty years ago, on November 30, 1969, the Catholic Church marked the First Sunday of Advent with the universal implementation of the revised Roman Rite of the Mass, approved by Pope Paul VI in response to the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

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  • A lifetime of service walking with others



    Our Church has always been an immigrant Church. In the early 1900s, when many immigrants were coming to the Boston area, sisters from across the world came to be their teachers. French Canadian, Irish, Polish and other women religious answered the call to teach the young children of America's newest citizens. And we've all been here ever since.

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  • Surprise! Lawyers are called to holiness



    (The following is an excerpt from a talk I gave following Boston's Red Mass on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019.) The work of a lawyer can be understood variously. I will mention four conceptions: as a job, as a career, as a profession, and as a calling or vocation. This is a sign, by the way, that I am an accomplished lawyer. I just used five terms to describe four concepts. At this rate, I could be able to generate 20 percent more billable hours this week.

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  • Countless miracles



    It's unusual for the headlines to be full of miracles, but this week, they were. The first was the recently approved miracle connected with Archbishop Fulton Sheen. The announcement that Sheen's beatification would occur on Dec. 21 pushed the Engstrom family's miracle back into the news once again. And what a miracle it is!

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  • On gratitude



    In the course of a typical week, most of us express gratitude automatically, without thinking much about it. We say "thank you" in social situations among friends; professionally with colleagues; to strangers who have done us a good turn; in solitary prayer; collectively as members of a faith community; in our most personal relationships; and the list goes on. Any given "thank you" might not strike us as particularly significant, just as some feelings of gratitude are not quite as powerful as others. One might quickly forget about thanking the stranger who held open a door 15 minutes ago, but remain "eternally grateful" to the family friend who helped to secure a first job.

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  • Kingdom of the son



    Week by week the Liturgy has been preparing us for the revelation to be made on this, the last Sunday of the Church year. Jesus, we have been shown, is truly the Chosen One, the Messiah of God, the King of the Jews. Ironically, in today's Gospel we hear these names on the lips of those who don't believe in him -- Israel's rulers, the soldiers, and a criminal dying alongside him.

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  • The greatest trade that never was



    As Red Sox aficionados fretfully wring their hands over the possibility that Mookie Betts might be traded this off-season, they should carefully consider the fact that sometimes the best trades in baseball are the ones that never happen.

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  • Why did the Wall fall, 30 years ago?



    November 9 marked the 30th anniversary of the peaceful breach of the Berlin Wall -- the symbolic high point of the Revolution of 1989, which would be completed seven weeks later by the fall of the Czechoslovak communist regime and Vaclav Havel's election as that country's president. A few days before the actual anniversary, German foreign minister Haiko Maas penned a brief essay on the reasons why the Wall came down, which was striking for what Mr. Mass didn't mention.

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  • Be fruitful and multiply



    Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking at a Gates Foundation event in New York, suggested that no well-educated woman would have a large family. "Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children," he said.

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  • Refusing to baptize



    Q. My wife and I married 53 years ago and have had nine children. Some of them served on the altar, and all of them went to Catholic schools. Our ninth child was refused for baptism because the priest insisted that my wife had to go to classes first.

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  • A talk on the hill



    A couple of weeks ago, I had the distinct privilege of addressing an audience of Senators, Representatives, and Capitol Hill staffers in a beautiful room at the Library of Congress. This event was made possible by two Congressmen, Rep. Tom Suozzi of New York, a Democrat, and Rep. John Moolenaar of Michigan, a Republican. Both had seen videos of the speeches I had given at Facebook and Google Headquarters and wanted something similar for those who work in government.

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  • Presumption of innocence



    During a mad, memorable trial scene near the end of Lewis Carroll's classic fantasy "Alice in Wonderland," the Queen of Hearts decrees "Sentence first -- verdict afterwards." When Alice corrects her, the Queen, face purple with rage, acts out the edict she has just pronounced and bawls with all her might, "Off with her head!"

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  • St. Frances Xavier Cabrini: Dismissed and dissed?



    Dorothy Day supposedly uttered that famous phrase, "Don't call me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed so easily." Day, of course, now has her own cause for sainthood. And she was deeply devoted to many saints, and once said that we're all called to sainthood. But she had a point about saints being dismissed easily.

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  • Bishop Irwin: 'A giant of a man in so many ways'



    That is what Sister Zita M. Fleming, CSJ, said just after the Mass of Christian Burial at St. Raphael's in Medford. Full disclosure: The Most Reverend Francis X. Irwin recruited the both of us into service for the archdiocese. Sister had a job she loved at Regis, and I was equally content teaching and practicing social work with the aged in Boston neighborhoods. But, when -- at the time -- Father Frank Irwin appeared at your door, he never failed to make an offer you could refuse.

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  • 'Today' is the day



    It is the age between our Lord's first coming and his last. We live in the new world begun by his life, death, Resurrection, and Ascension, by the sending of his Spirit upon the Church. But we await the day when he will come again in glory.

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  • The Mookie dilemma



    The hoopla of the World Series is over and the long parade of baseball games has come to and end, leaving Red Sox Nation to hunker down for the long, cold winter thinking about the unthinkable: when the 2020 season begins, Mookie Betts could be wearing a uniform that doesn't say Red Sox on the front.

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  • The 'synodality' masquerade



    During the 2001 Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who'd suffered through a lot of synodal speechifying and small-group discussions over the years, made a trenchant observation: "Jesus Christ didn't intend his Church to be governed by a committee."

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  • Adoption by single parent?



    Q. I desperately want a child. I am not married and have had cancer twice. I take chemo for five days, then I'm off for 23 days, and the cycle is continuous. I will not be able to have my own children because chemo could harm the baby. I am not able to adopt through Catholic Charities since I am single. I am a practicing Catholic wanting to take care of an unwanted child. Why am I unable to adopt through Catholic Charities? (Jefferson City, Missouri)

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  • The light at the tunnel's end is still far away



    It has been a rough 18 months for the U.S. bishops. Much as they would like it to be over, some observers, including a fellow bishop, think they still have a long way to go. The cascade of bad news started in June 2018 with the revelation that credible accusations of sexual abuse had been leveled against then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick. The flood of bad news continued, first with reports, investigations and scandals, then with the steady drip of dioceses opening their archives and detailing their own histories of dead, defrocked and, more rarely, active priests who had been accused of abuse.

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