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  • In support of our priests in good standing



    Amid these difficult times facing our Church, we are often asked by friends and colleagues why we continually stand in support of priests. As a Catholic family living on the South Shore of Boston, we remember the many dedicated priests who were there for us throughout our lives. These priests have selflessly supported our family without asking for anything in return. The least we can do is give back to the faith-filled men who have given so much to us and to so many others.

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  • We need an educated laity



    As U.S. bishops grapple with how to move forward with best practices, they have often referred to the importance of the role of the laity. They affirm that a Catholic laity well-educated in the faith and willing to share their professional experience is crucial to strengthening the Church. The final paragraph of the 2005 U.S. bishops' document, "Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord," states: "We are blessed indeed to have such gifted and generous co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord to which we have all been called."

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  • A Day of Compassion



    Advent is a season for patience and perseverance -- a long looking forward to the happy ending we know is coming soon, but never soon enough. It's always hard to wait, even when the goal is in sight. But what about when there is nothing to wait for? What is life like then?

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  • Advent and the Nature of the Church



    The Church has begun the solemn observances of Advent, a time dedicated to heightened prayer, penance, and preparations for the celebrations of the Christmas season. Consider this time as an opportunity to renew your relationship with Jesus Christ in the Church. Remember, we Christians do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ simply in our minds or in our emotions; we have a relationship with Christ in the Church. The Church bears the life and presence of the Lord Jesus into our lives and into the world, and it does this because of what the Church really and truly is: Christ's own body in the world.

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  • What Do We Do?



    The people in today's Gospel are "filled with expectation." They believe John the Baptist might be the Messiah they've been waiting for. Three times we hear their question: "What then should we do?"

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  • A few odds and ends



    There was a standing-room-only crowd on Nov. 30th at the Grove Manor Estates assisted living facility in Braintree. People were there to celebrate a great baseball institution. Centennial Mary Pratt turned 100 years old.

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  • Outside the City



    God, it seems, favors the powerless, the unnoticed, children, babies, outsiders, and refugees with no resources or place to go. That's why Jesus was born outside the city, in a stable, unnoticed, outside all fanfare, away from all major media, and away from all the persons and events that were deemed important at the time, humble and anonymous. God works like that. Why?

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  • Why 42 had to be impeached twenty years ago



    Twenty years ago this month, I found myself seriously double-booked, so to speak. The editing of the first volume of my John Paul II biography, Witness to Hope, was entering the ninth inning, and I was furiously engaged in exchanging edited and re-edited copy with my editors in New York. At the same time, the Clinton impeachment drama was cresting. And as I had long done speechwriting for Congressman Henry Hyde, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I spent week after week of split time, working on John Paul II from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., then switching to impeachment for a couple of hours before returning to Witness to Hope in the evening.

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  • Is confessor a worse sinner?



    Q. I know of several Catholics today who refuse to go to confession because they feel that the priest might be a worse sinner than they are. But yet if they get sick, they want their parish priest to come immediately to give them a blessing. How can I explain to them their inconsistency? ("Confused" in Johnstown, Pennsylvania)

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  • Tolkien, Chesterton and the adventure of mission



    There is a common, and I'll admit somewhat understandable, interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy that sees the great work as a celebration of the virtues of the Shire, that little town where the hobbits dwell in quiet domesticity. Neat, tidy hobbit holes, filled with comfortable furniture, delicate tea settings, and cozy fireplaces are meant, this reading has it, to evoke the charms of a "merrie old England" that existed before the rise of modernity and capitalism. As I say, there is undoubtedly something to this, for Tolkien, along with C.S. Lewis and the other members of the Inklings group, did indeed have a strong distaste for the excesses of the modern world.

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  • Pope Francis on the 'gay mentality' that has 'influenced the life of the Church



    On December 3, The Strength of a Vocation, a book length interview with Pope Francis by Father Fernando Prado, a Spanish Claretian Missionary, was published in ten languages. Fr. Prado, a theology professor at the Pontifical University of Salamanca, asks 60 questions on a wide range of topics with regard to priestly, religious and consecrated vocations, but the only subject that made headlines was what Pope Francis said with regard to priests, religious, seminarians and candidates with same-sex attractions.

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  • Preparing our children for the coming of Jesus



    My husband and I were recently blessed with a new grandchild, and we are so grateful! We now have three grandchildren and to spend time with them is one of the greatest gifts we have ever received. As we begin the new liturgical year, the oldest grandchild is beginning to understand what this Advent season is about and what it means. He is so free of any expectations of the season. He doesn't expect Grandma to bake cookies, to decorate the house, or to buy lots of presents. His wonder at the season reminds me how much better the season is when we lower our expectations and concentrate on the gift of Christmas: Jesus. Cookies, presents and decorations are nice, but in the end, they really don't matter. Time preparing for the coming of Jesus is better spent in prayer.

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  • Father Lee's difficulties in the early New England missions



    On Dec. 10, 1833, Father Constantine Lee wrote to Bishop Benedict Fenwick of Boston from Dover, New Hampshire, "under very disagreeable circumstances." Father Lee had arrived in Boston with a recommendation from the Bishop of Edinburgh, Scotland, and his services were accepted by Bishop Fenwick on Aug. 2, 1833. The following month, he was assigned to the Dover station, which served Catholics in a large area: from southern Maine in the north, to Newburyport, Massachusetts, in the south.

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  • Mere Christianity



    In the 1940s, C.S. Lewis gave radio broadcasts in England called "The Case for Christianity" and "Christian Behavior." These were plain and honest titles. When the talks were put together as a book, he gave them the unfortunate name, "Mere Christianity" -- unfortunate, because there can be no such thing, at least not as he understood it.

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  • Inspiration from the comics



    "America is in mourning. Deep, deep mourning for a man who inspired millions to, I don't know, watch a movie, I guess." Thus wrote political humorist Bill Maher on the recent death of Stan Lee, beloved creator of the "Marvel Universe" featuring superheroes, such as the Avengers and Spider-Man. Maher said comic books are for kids, and grown-ups should move on to "big-boy books without the pictures." This complaint is from someone who makes his fortune wisecracking on television.

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  • The road home



    Today's Psalm paints a dream-like scene -- a road filled with liberated captives heading home to Zion (Jerusalem), mouths filled with laughter, tongues rejoicing. It's a glorious picture from Israel's past, a "new exodus," the deliverance from exile in Babylon. It's being recalled in a moment of obvious uncertainty and anxiety. But the psalmist isn't waxing nostalgic.

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  • Baseball writers can't be wrong, can they?



    Was Alex Cora robbed when he didn't win the American League Manager of the Year for 2018? It's impossible to conceive of anyone doing a better job than Cora did this year: 108 wins is an all-time record for a Red Sox team. His managing during the post-season was flawless, with 11 wins against only three losses, and a World Series championship, although the voting is done before the playoffs begin. But was he robbed?

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  • The challenge of John Chau



    Perhaps you've heard the extraordinary story of John Chau, the young Christian missionary who tried to bring the Gospel to North Sentinel Island, one of the most remote and isolated communities in the world, and who, for his trouble, was killed before he even got past the beach. His endeavor has inspired a whole range of reactions--outrage, puzzlement, sympathy, deep admiration--and has stirred up in many people, both religious and secular, questions about the missionary nature of Christianity.

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  • Realistic portrayal of Crucifixion



    Q. My question centers on the physical appearance of the body of Jesus as he hangs on various crucifixes. I have yet to see one which conveys the suffering that Christ must have experienced during his scourging, when straps covered with iron hooks penetrated to the bone and tore off large pieces of flesh. To look at the crucifixes in our churches today, you would never grasp the degree of suffering which Our Savior must have undergone, and I am wondering why. (Brookhaven, Georgia)

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  • Ecclesial déjà vu all over again



    After a surprise derailment by the Vatican of a long-awaited vote of the U.S. bishops, tempers were frayed. "I feel frustrated," said one powerful cardinal. An influential archbishop added, "The thinking came a little late. ... It makes it a little awkward for us."

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  • A Different Kind of Bucket-List



    What's still unfinished in your life? Well, there's always a lot that's unfinished in everyone's life. Nothing is ever really finished. Our lives, it seems, are simply interrupted by our dying. Most of us don't complete our lives, we just run out of time. So, consciously or unconsciously, we make a bucket-list of things we still want to see, do, and finish before we die.

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  • Primacy vs. Synodality



    Something that happened at a bishops' meeting nearly half a century ago raises questions about the Vatican's action last month telling the U.S. bishops to cancel a scheduled vote on two proposals for self-policing on sex abuse. It also illustrates the built-in tension between two interlocking principles--"primacy" and "synodality"--that today are increasingly shaping the Church.

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  • Avoiding another Roman fiasco in February



    By peremptorily ordering the American bishops not to vote on local remedies for today's Catholic crisis of abusive clergy and malfeasant bishops, the Vatican dramatically raised the stakes for the February 2019 meeting that Pope Francis has called to discuss the crisis in a global perspective. How the Americans taking decisive action last month would have impeded Roman deliberations in February -- the strange explanation offered by the Vatican for its edict -- will remain an open question. Now, the most urgent matter is to define correctly the issues that global gathering will address. As there are disturbing signs that Those Who Just Don't Get It are still not getting it, I'd like to flag some pitfalls the February meeting should avoid.

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  • Cardinal DiNardo's message of hope



    As many of you know, I gathered with my brother bishops for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Fall General Assembly Nov. 12-14 in Baltimore, Maryland. Reflecting on my experience there, I find this closing statement delivered by the president of our conference, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, truly captures the sense of hope we felt as we concluded our gathering.

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  • The Gospel according to Hallmark



    Some things in life just beg to be drinking games. Hallmark Christmas movies are definitely among them. I don't want to encourage irresponsible behavior, so I'll be pouring sparkling cider or root beer as I watch the countless romantic comedies with completely predictable characters and plotlines parade by. Ice skating? Take a sip. Hot cocoa? Raise a glass. Interrupted kiss attempt? Bottoms up. A tree lighting ceremony, business deal, small-town festival, red pickup truck, and plenty of pure white, non-melting snow? You'll never be thirsty again!

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  • A well-run team



    The Boston Red Sox are the most successful team in baseball. They have won the World Series four times in this young century -- that's more than anyone else. But do the Sox qualify as a dynasty? Not really. For one thing, they haven't won as many as two championships in a row. The Celtics were a dynasty; they won 11 times in 13 years in the '50s and '60s, eight of those times in succession. Now that's a dynasty! In baseball, the Yankees won the World Series four straight times in the '30s, five times in a row from 1949-53, and another three consecutive times from 1998-2000. So give them credit (but you don't have to give them love).

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  • A Lesson in a Parking Lot



    Our natural instincts serve us well, to a point. They're self-protective and that's healthy too, to a point. Let me explain. Recently I was at a football game with a number of friends. We arrived at the game in two cars and parked in the stadium's underground parking lot. Our tickets were in different parts of the stadium and so we separated for the game, each of us finding our own seats. When the game ended, I arrived at the cars with one of our party about ten minutes before the others showed up. During that wait, my friend and I scanned the crowd, looking for members of our party. But our scanning eyes drew some unwelcome attention. Two women approached us and, angrily, demanded why we had been looking at them: "Why were you looking at us? Are you trying to pick us up?"

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  • Cleansed and conformed to God's will



    "Father, We Thank Thee, Who Hast Planted" has long been one of my favorite hymns. Its tune, taken from the 16th century Genevan Psalter, is eminently singable. The hymn text -- when not corrupted by that politically-correct scoundrel, "alt.," -- is even better. For Francis Bland Tucker's lyrics put 21st-century congregations in touch with the second generation of Christians, and perhaps even the first, by combining various phrases from an ancient Christian prayer book and catechism, the Didache.

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  • Confessing a murder



    Q. I am an old-time Catholic. We were taught that, to be forgiven in confession, we had to: 1) be truly sorry; 2) resolve firmly never to commit the sin again; and 3) make it right (e.g., give the money back, tell people that the gossip was a lie, etc.).

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  • 'For it is in giving that we receive'



    As a kid, I couldn't wait for Thanksgiving. This had nothing to do with my love for turkey and mashed potatoes, but everything to do with Thanksgiving being the official start of the holiday giving season. And by giving, I was thinking about what would be given to me.

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  • The founding of the College of the Holy Cross



    This month marks 175 years since classes began at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. The opening of a Catholic boys' college was one of Bishop Benedict Joseph Fenwick's proudest moments as the Bishop of Boston; finally achieving a goal he had worked towards since his arrival in 1825. It was his hope that such an institution would provide Catholic boys with the education necessary to continue their studies at a seminary and eventually return to serve the diocese, which was always in need of additional priests.

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  • My favorite Red Sox team is...



    What is your favorite Red Sox team? Is it the 2018 edition that met every challenge along the way, the team that set a record for victories in the regular season then vanquished all opposition in October? I've given it a lot of thought, and I'd be hard-pressed to choose any other team over this year's group.

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  • Our Lack of Welcome



    "Widows, orphans, and strangers", that's code in scripture for the three most vulnerable groups within a society at any given time. And both the great Jewish prophets and Jesus, himself, assure us that ultimately we will be judged by how we treated these while we were alive.

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  • Say an Ave there for me



    The vote in Ireland in the spring to take away constitutional protection for the unborn came as an unhappy surprise to Irish Catholics in the United States. It was a piece of news we didn't want to hear or believe.

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  • Wedding cakes for same-sex couples



    When, several weeks ago, a Christian couple who own a bakery in Northern Ireland won a court ruling allowing them to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, it was international news. After all, here was one of the few recent actions by an arm of the state affirming religious rights in the face of secular pressure to conform. The trend of late has been in the opposite direction.

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  • Vatican autocracy and the U.S. bishops



    As the U.S. bishops gathered in Baltimore on the weekend of Nov. 10-11, it seemed certain that, after a day of prayer, penance, and reflection on the Church's sexual abuse crisis, they would take two important steps toward reform. An episcopal code of conduct, holding bishops accountable to the standards applied to priests in the 2002 Dallas Charter, would be adopted. And the bishops would authorize a lay-led mechanism to receive complaints about episcopal misbehavior, malfeasance, or corruption; allegations found credible would be sent to the appropriate authorities, including those in Rome.

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