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  • Help families avoid making the choice 'to heat or eat'



    This month, we at Catholic Charities are hard at work with our many partners to help our clients prepare for the impending chill of winter. Dropping temperatures create a whole host of new needs for our clients, we assist the people we serve at this time of year in part by stepping up our food distribution efforts. In addition to the work we do year round for our community at each of our six food pantries, we are holding our annual Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway and begin our Friends Feeding Families campaign.

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  • Signs of the times



    Despite the fact that it's not a big election year, if you drive along the residential streets of any city or town, you'll notice a growing proliferation of yard signs. Most are variations on a popular theme: Hate Has No Home Here. On the surface, the message seems positive and well-intentioned. But what lurks behind the signs feels an awful lot like judgment and accusation. After all, one who claims to have banished hatred from his own home in such a public way does so by implying that it is alive and well at the homes of the people who live next door or across the street -- in the houses without signs.

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  • Conservatives: What they are and what they aren't



    We all live in a moment in history where it is all-politics-all-the-time. Everything from our health to our wealth, from the womb to the tomb, is viewed through the lens of increasingly divisive and rancorous politics. The resulting distortions are many. The most serious is language, the very tool we use to make political sense to one another. The meaning of the word "conservative" has been a major victim.

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  • Supporting signature drives on church property



    As I learned as a young boy growing up in South Boston, life is about God, family and country. I certainly heard that at Catholic Memorial School in West Roxbury the other day listening to the students. I shared my experiences at CM with a group of professionals and Boston business leaders at the Pioneer Institute on "Education in America" Conference on Nov. 13 at the Parker House in Boston, speaking alongside author and scholar George Weigel.

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  • Hindu-Catholic national dialogue on love of neighbor



    ''Respect for the dignity of the human person is the foundational principle. The crown of creation is the human person," said Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Vatican Ambassador to the United States at the Nov. 11 third national Hindu-Catholic dialogue meeting. "The human person bears the divine image and is made for communion -- union with God and with others. Dignity is not based on what the person has or does, but on what the person is," he said.

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  • What's happening these days in pastoral planning?



    Every once in a while it is good to stop and take a good look at all that is going on behind the scenes in pastoral planning. It is important to keep our readers up to speed on all that is taking place in the archdiocese particularly in relation to Disciples in Mission. Recent articles have focused on a variety of events that have taken place on the archdiocesan level: the Hope Conference, the symposium at Boston College for the Portuguese Catholic Community and the Enculturation Program for priests from outside the U.S. While all of these programs have some degree of importance to the work of Disciples in Mission, there is still more going on at the parish level that is directly related to pastoral planning and the preparation of parishes before they begin as new collaboratives.

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  • Holding the pope's hand in gratitude for being Catholic



    Every now and then, I find in the offices of pastoral leaders and theologians, as well as in the homes of some families I know, a picture of them shaking hands with one of the recent popes. When I know the person well, I ask, "What was it like to hold the pope's hand?" For some, it is a formality. For others, a memorable moment.

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  • Why poetry matters



    Richard Wilbur died last month. He was, Dana Gioia said, the finest poet of his generation and the greatest American Christian poet since Eliot. Here's an example of why I liked him so much. It's part of a toast he gave at his eldest son's wedding. (I recited it at the marriage of our youngest.)

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  • Bruins 2017-2018 edition



    Whither goest, Bruins? That is the question. And it is only mid-November; not even Thanksgiving yet. Maybe too soon to kiss off an entire hockey season. But not too early to wonder if -- when all's said and done -- Bruins fans will have much to be thankful for.

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  • Are you ready to be a child again?



    This time of year always brings me back to my childhood. With fond nostalgia, I remember the pinecone turkeys we made in Girl Scouts, the pilgrim costumes my mother painstakingly sewed and the necklaces made of painted pasta that my sisters and I managed to pull apart, scattering raw macaroni all over the back seat of the car, on our way to grandmother's house for Thanksgiving.

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  • The Saintly Character of Solanus Casey



    Just three years ago, the first beatification ever to take place on U.S. soil occurred in Newark's majestic Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. 2,500 people jammed into the Church, the fifth largest Cathedral in the country, to celebrate the raising to the altars of Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich (1921-1927), a native of Bayonne, who became a Sister of Charity. It was really moving to be present at a beatification in English, in our country, and the whole ceremony served as an unforgettable illustration that seeds of the universal call to holiness can find good soil in our land and produce great fruit.

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  • Pray for Judas Iscariot?



    Q. Does it make sense to pray for salvation for Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus? It seems that throughout the history of Christianity, he has been vilified and no one has mentioned that, hopefully, he could have been forgiven for his sin. (Petersburg, Indiana)

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  • A Threat to our Decency



    Jesus tells us that in the end we will be judged on how we dealt with the poor in our lives, but there are already dangers now, in this life, in not reaching out to the poor Here's how Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy, teases out that danger: "I've come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned. We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we condemn others."

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  • As the Bard might say....



    Four centuries after his death, Shakespeare remains a peerless playwright because of his remarkable insight into the human condition. Love, ambition, fear, guilt, nobility, pomposity, patriotism, absurdity, sheer wickedness -- you name it, Will grasped something of its essence. His work continues to help us understand ourselves better because, whatever the changing of times and seasons, human nature changes very little.

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  • Why do our Sisters serve?



    A young woman crossed the threshold of 20 Manet Road in Chestnut Hill to begin formation as a Franciscan sister. Inside one of the classrooms where the novices learned their prescribed Latin courses, the teacher wrote on the clock, "Tempus fugit," or "Time flies."

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  • Controversy at St. Mary's, Boston in 1842



    Within Bishop Fenwick's papers is a letter addressed to the parishioners of St. Mary's Church in Boston's North End, dating to the year 1842. The letter addresses his frustrations with events that had taken place there over the previous months, and would lead to major changes in diocesan policy later that year.

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  • Purgatory is real



    We need to imagine something well, to think it true. That tiny twinkling light-dot in the sky? "It is a sun. Picture it many millions of miles away, burning bright like our own sun, and how powerful is its light, and how clear space must be, that its light even gets here at all, and that, when it does, it is so focused, a clear point, not a diffuse little ball!" Now can you picture a star? Now do you believe it? This is how parents used to speak to their children, to teach them. And when they could picture things clearly, children didn't grow up to be relativists.

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  • New faith formation leaders learn the ropes



    After Jesus and the sacraments, "the single most critical factor in an effective parish catechetical program is the leadership of a professionally trained catechetical leader," according to the National Directory for Catechesis. Whether paid or unpaid, all of our parishes have some form of lay catechetical leadership. The titles may be different (director of faith formation/ catechesis/ religious education; coordinator of youth ministry/ confirmation preparation/ adult faith formation; etc.) but the goal is the same -- to help give solid leadership for all faith formation efforts. Those efforts should be targeted on helping people who participate become disciples of Jesus Christ, who then engage the mission of the Church to evangelize.

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  • Giving to God what belongs to God



    In May, when President Donald Trump issued a long-awaited executive order on religious freedom, reactions were mixed. Some thought it was so vague as to be almost useless. It did not directly address President Barack Obama's contraceptive mandate but passed the buck to various federal agencies to develop detailed guidance on religious freedom.

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  • Members of the wedding



    According to marriage customs of Jesus' day, a bride was first "betrothed" to her husband but continued for a time to live with her family. Then, at the appointed hour, some months later, the groom would come to claim her, leading her family and bridal party to the wedding feast that would celebrate and inaugurate their new life together.

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  • Baseball wrap up 2017



    There is a season for everything, the Good Book tells us. But Major League Baseball alone boasts of a season that is endless, perpetual. Seamlessly we now slide from the torrid on the field action -- after a World Series that was simply bonkers -- to the Hot Stove sequel, where the action, if not so physical, can be even more intense. Baseball never sleeps!

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  • Paralysis, Exasperation, and Helplessness as Prayer



    Several years ago I received an email that literally stopped my breath. A man who had been for many years an intellectual and faith mentor to me, a man whom I thoroughly trusted, and a man with whom I had developed a life-giving friendship, had killed both his wife and himself in a murder-suicide. The news left me gasping for air, paralyzed in terms of how to understand and accept this as well as how to pray in the face of this.

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  • Agoraphobia and Mass attendance



    Q. Togetherness seems to have become such an integral part of Catholicism, and extroverts tend to look disdainfully at those who prefer to sit at the end of the pew, are shy about grasping hands, shudder at the thought of being hugged or have difficulty with extemporaneous small talk. For me, being squashed in the center of a pew is agonizing, and there is no way I can focus on the Mass in that situation.

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  • A tale of two popes



    There's a quote attributed, probably falsely, to Mark Twain that observes, "History doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes." I suppose it is a sign that I'm getting older, because I'm starting to hear the rhymes in a lot of the current debates in the church about papal leadership.

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  • 'You have to decide.'



    In writing Lessons in Hope: My Unexpected Life with St. John Paul II, one of my secondary intentions was to bury two urban legends: that John Paul II asked me to write his biography and that Witness to Hope and its sequel, The End and the Beginning, are "authorized" or "official" biographies. Alas, the straightforward refutation of these myths in Lessons in Hope hasn't done the job in some quarters. So let's try again:

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  • The time to extend TPS is now



    There are moments in human history when basic humanitarian obligations should override political calculations. Some may argue that those moments are very rare, but the fact is that some crises make clear they exist. The United States, I believe, faces one of those moments and our political leadership should rise to the occasion.

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  • Thanking God ahead of time for the beatification of Solanus Casey



    The Saturday before Thanksgiving, on Nov. 18, 2017, an American Capuchin priest named Solanus Casey will be beatified in Detroit, 60 years after his death in 1957 at the age of 86. He is the first American-born male to have been declared venerable for his "heroic virtue" -- back in 1995 by St. John Paul II. Others have been declared venerable since then, most notably Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the famous broadcast evangelist, who died in 1979, and Father Nelson Baker, the one-man charitable Vesuvius of the Buffalo Diocese, who died in 1936; but Father Solanus, born Bernard "Barney" Casey Jr. in 1870 in Wisconsin, is the first of these to be raised to the altars.

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  • True Reformation



    It's been 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenburg Castle (or simply mailed them to the archbishop, as more recent scholarship suggests). Five hundred years of separation. Five centuries of political power-plays and theological recriminations. Half a millennium of reformation gone wild, and far beyond the intent of most of its earliest proponents. Why? Because as St. Francis deSales put it not long afterward, "The devil likes to fish in troubled waters." Throughout history, the devil has had some pretty good fishing indeed.

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  • You were chosen to be a saint



    Today (11/1) the Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints. The saints are the great heroes of our Faith. The Church describes a saint as a person of "heroic virtue." This means that while many Christians might be willing to settle for lackluster accomplishments as disciples, the saints engage their relationship with the Lord Jesus vigorous creativity and absolute dedication. Most often, the work of the Saints will go unnoticed and unseen. Saints are not celebrities, and those saints who capture the attention of the world, view that renown as the imposition of a cross.

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  • Calling the fathers



    Though they were Moses' successors, the Pharisees and scribes exalted themselves, made their mastery of the law a badge of social privilege. Worse, they had lorded the law over the people (see Matthew 20:25). Like the priests Malachi condemns in today's First Reading, they caused many to falter and be closed off from God.

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  • Early fall thoughts



    Catching up with a bit of this and that while waiting for the leaves to turn and ponds to ice. Managers on the go Unprecedented is this business of the World Series being upstaged by managerial merry-go-rounds as is the case this year; at least in Boston and New York, the affairs of which we're constantly reminded take precedence over everything else in the pastime. And don't you forget that, Mister.

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  • A Plea for the Soul



    It's hard to find your soulmate in someone who doesn't believe you have a soul. Recently on The Moth Radio Hour a young woman shared the story of her breakup with her boyfriend, a young man for whom she had deep feelings. The problem was that she, a person with a deep faith, a Mormon, struggled with the radical materialism of her boyfriend. For him, there were no souls; the physical world was real, and nothing else. She kept asking him if he believed he had a soul. He couldn't make himself believe that. Eventually, not without a lot of heartache, they broke up. Why? In her words: It's hard to find your soulmate in someone who doesn't believe you have a soul.

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  • The New Evangelization and the Nones



    On Monday this week I had the joy to attend the Erasmus Lecture in New York sponsored annually by First Things magazine. It has a rich history, starting in 1988 when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger inaugurated the tradition. This year the Lecture was given by Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, creator of the Catholicism Series, founder of Word on Fire ministries, and the country's leading Catholic evangelist.

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  • Murderers' Row, Soviet-style



    One hundred years ago, on November 7, 1917, Lenin and his Bolshevik Party expropriated the chaotic Russian people's revolution that had begun eight months earlier, setting in motion modernity's first experiment in totalitarianism. The ensuing bloodbath was unprecedented, not only in itself but in the vast bloodletting it inspired in wannabe-Lenins over the next six decades. And still the Leninist dream lives on: in a hellhole like North Korea; in the island prison, Cuba; in what ought to be one of the wealthiest countries on the planet, Venezuela. Lenin and his disciples created more martyrs in the twentieth century than Caligula, Nero, and Diocletian could have imagined. And yet, somehow, communist bloodbaths have never drawn the continuous, unambiguous, and deserved condemnation visited upon other tyrannies.

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  • The Holy Name Society in the Archdiocese



    Now on display in the lobby of the Pastoral Center in Braintree, Massachusetts, are photographs depicting Holy Name Society events from the early- to mid-20th Century. The Confraternity of the Most Holy Names of God and Jesus, more commonly known as the Holy Name Society, can trace its roots to the Council of Lyons in the year 1274. Pope Gregory X called this special council of Catholic bishops as a reaction to a perceived threat to the Catholic Church, largely in the form of the Albigenses.

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  • Diversity in faith formation



    '''God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). For those of us who are baptized into Christ Jesus, this Gospel is both a comfort and a commission... At the same time, this truth is the Good News that Christ commanded his disciples to announce to the whole world. By her nature, then, the Church is a divine communion formed by and in Christ for the missionary work of evangelization, the work of bringing the Gospel of Christ to all peoples."

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  • Love commanded



    Jesus came not to abolish the Old Testament law but to fulfill it (see Matthew 5:17). And in today's Gospel, He reveals that love -- of God and of neighbor -- is the fulfillment of the whole of the law (see Romans 13:8-10).

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  • 1967 remembered VI



    Rarely if ever has a World Series been as anti-climactic as the 1967 Red Sox-Cardinals Octoberfest. At least that was the case hereabouts where the magnificent but exhausting pennant race had left the entire region emotionally drained. What more could be reasonably asked? And now the Impossible Dreamers had 48 hours to crank it up again; a seemingly impossible task.

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  • The Marriage Divide



    Among the benign myths that lie close to the hearts of many Americans is the belief that, in the end, social class differences don't count for all that much. It's the Horatio Alger story: hard work and perseverance will pay off for anyone who wants to get his or her slice of the American Dream.

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  • Harvey Weinstein's not alone



    Harvey Weinstein is a pig. It's not language I would normally use in a column, but the cascade of revelations about his treatment of women and men, most particularly his twisted and apparently constant sexual advances, demands a blunt assessment. The accusations that have toppled this modern-day film mogul make for disturbing reading every morning at the breakfast table.

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  • The Least Religious Generation in U.S. History: A Reflection on Jean Twenge's "iGen"



    Jean Twenge's book iGen is one of the most fascinating--and depressing--texts I've read in the past decade. A professor of psychology at San Diego State University, Dr. Twenge has been, for years, studying trends among young Americans, and her most recent book focuses on the generation born between 1995 and 2012. Since this is the first cohort of young people who have never known a world without iPads and iPhones, and since these devices have remarkably shaped their consciousness and behavior, Twenge naturally enough has dubbed them the "iGen."

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  • Reaction on leaving Mass early



    Q. In one of your recent columns, a Kentucky reader expressed an opinion about people who leave Mass right after receiving Communion. You said that when that happens, it bothers you, too. I will tell you about some people I know who leave Mass early.

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  • Kathleen Dowling Singh, RIP



    No community should botch its deaths. That's a wise statement from Mircea Eliade and apropos in the face of the death two weeks ago of Kathleen Dowling Singh. Kathleen was a hospice worker, a psychotherapist, and a very deep and influential spiritual writer.

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  • Which Reformation? What Reform?



    Despite the formulation you'll hear before and after the October 31 quincentenary of Luther's 95 theses, there was no single "Reformation" to which the Catholic "Counter-Reformation" was the similarly univocal response. Rather, as Yale historian Carlos Eire shows in his eminently readable and magisterial work, Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450 -- 1650, there were multiple, contending reformations in play in the first centuries of modernity.

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