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  • Introducing 'Echoes'



    This week, The Pilot launched a preview of our new online opinion section "Echoes," which we describe as "a forum of Catholic thought." Catholic thought has shaped the world for two millennia. It has guided Catholics in their lives, has helped develop the foundation for a civilization of love and care for the poor and the sick and has confronted -- and sometimes assimilated -- every school of thought the human mind has developed.

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  • The God who answers with fire is God



    I recently joined Facebook, so I figure the thing is about to go the way of diplodocus and the typewriter eraser. No early adopter, I! (I was going to add the Walkman to the list of entities lost in the mists of history, but who knows? "Guardians of the Galaxy" might just revive the fortunes of the audiocassette. "Hello, hipster retro recovery service?")

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  • Childhood and parenting, then and now



    The older I get, the more I'm convinced childhood was much easier for me than it is for kids today. Why? Back then I was never concerned about my tablet battery running low. I could dump my bike in any neighbor kid's yard, play for a while, and know it was perfectly safe.

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  • Joy is an exercise to be practiced daily



    We all have bad days. But not all days are bad. For those who live a life devoid of joy, I'd suggest looking at joy as a form of exercise. First, think of joy as a feeling. Feelings follow thoughts. Faithless thoughts upset your emotions. But uplifting thoughts, those that bring you joy, can help keep you balanced.

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  • Life story



    Being a journalist isn't usually at the top of anyone's list of the most dangerous professions. Perhaps it should be. When reporters rush into explosive situations armed only with cameras and keyboards, they are certainly risking their own safety -- and sometimes even their lives. The kind of journalist who is willing to do this isn't naive or reckless. And, I suspect that the kind of reporter who flies into war zones or natural disasters doesn't do it just for the story alone. That kind of journalist does it for the people whose story it is.

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  • Adult faith formation -- collaboratively



    The Billerica Catholic Collaborative, made up of St. Andrew, St. Mary, and St. Theresa Parishes, serves the entire Catholic community of Billerica. Now in its second year of collaborative ministry, staff and parishioners continue to explore this new model of leadership. Father Shawn Allen is pastor of all three parishes, ably assisted by parochial vicars, Fathers Martin Dzengeleski, and Gerald Souza, senior priest in residence Father John J. McCormick, and Permanent Deacons Phillip DiBello and Allan Shanahan. Pastoral associate Adrienne Cullen is part of the dedicated lay staff of the collaborative.

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  • Here and there



    Golden Franchise We have some dribs and drabs from the sporting scene for bantering while awaiting the summer's suffocating dog days to run their miserable course. And is there a sporting experience more painful -- either to play or watch (at the going price) -- than an exhibition football game in mid-August?

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  • Authentic Compassion Does Not Include Assisted Suicide



    WASHINGTON, D.C., August 20, 2014 (Zenit.org) - The British Parliament is currently considering the legalization of assisted suicide. The act under consideration was introduced by Lord Falconer and eschews the term "suicide," preferring instead the euphemism "assisted dying." Under current British law outlined in the 1961 Suicide Act, it is a crime to encourage or assist another in the act of suicide. The Falconer Assisted Dying Bill would carve out an exception for doctors to prescribe a lethal cocktail of drugs if the patient requests it, is thought to have six months or less to live, and is determined to be mentally competent.

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  • Knowing the Trinity



    Richard of St. Victor, a 12th-century Scottish theologian, is not exactly a household name in 21st-century Christian circles. Truth to tell, I only know of him because of a curious conversation I once had with my friend, the late Richard John Neuhaus, who, as only he could, told me of a friendly discussion he'd had with Rabbi David Novak one summer about the Scotsman's Trinitarian theology, which tried to establish by reason that God must be triune. (We talked about a lot of strange and wondrous things, up there on the cottage deck in the Ottawa Valley.)

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  • The Ice Bucket Challenge and Lou Gehrig's Disease Research



    The Ice Bucket Challenge aims to raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease. According to the website of the ALS Association (ALSA), here is how it works: The challenge involves people getting doused with buckets of ice water on video, posting that video to social media, then nominating others to do the same, all in an effort to raise ALS awareness. People can either accept the challenge or make a donation to an ALS Charity of their choice, or do both.

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  • Old Age: Shipwreck or Fine Wine?



    The month of September begins and ends with a focus on the elderly. Since 1978 the first Sunday after Labor Day has been celebrated as National Grandparents Day; this year's observance falls on Sept. 7. Later in the month, senior citizens will gather in Rome for a special celebration in their honor at the invitation of Pope Francis. The meeting, entitled "The Blessing of a Long Life," will take place in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, Sept. 28.

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  • Simple nun just might have started something in America



    While listening to a simple diminutive Iraqi nun speak last Friday evening at St. Leonard Church in Boston's historic North End, my first reaction was, "I wish President Obama and other world leaders were here to listen to her profound and compelling message about the suffering and tortured Christian community in Iraq. Mother Olga Yaqob delivered one of the most defining and powerful statements about the current situation taking place in the Middle East that I ever heard.

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  • Religious genocide In Iraq?



    Last week the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue issued an extraordinary statement about the situation in Iraq. There, in the name of Islamic religion, a group of jihadists is attempting to restore the Caliphate by forcefully suppressing other religions. President Barack Obama has rightly authorized American bombing to protect the persecuted Yazidis, but has not addressed the similar situation of the Christian minority in Iraq.

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  • Commishes, czars, and other hotdogs



    It's been a drab baseball season, especially hereabouts, with little chance of getting much more scintillating in such time that's left. So it may prove to have climaxed in mid-August in a Baltimore hotel suite where the 30 owners of major league baseball teams played some good old fashioned hardball and came away with a victory for common sense. Keep in mind they have not always been so clever.

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  • Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and Pastoral Planning



    The idea of a diocesan pastoral council can be traced back to Pope Paul VI's 1965 Decree Christus Dominus: "It is highly desirable that in each diocese a pastoral council will be established over which the diocesan bishop himself will preside and in which specially chosen clergy, religious and lay people all participate. The function of this council will be to investigate and weigh matters which bear on pastoral activity and to formulate practical conclusions regarding them." (CD 27)

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  • The 36-Hour Day



    The 36-Hour Day (Grand Central Life & Style) is a handbook familiar to many caregivers of people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. That seemingly mysterious title is no mystery to the caregivers. They know from plenty of experience that they would need not just the regular 24 hours but a solid day and a half to touch all the bases they're called on to touch during a typical day.

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  • Why I Love My Invisible Friend



    One of the favorite taunts of the New Atheists is that religious people believe in an "invisible friend." They are implying, of course, that religion is little more than a pathetic exercise in wishful thinking, a reversion to childish patterns of projection and self-protection. It is well past time, they say, for believers to grow up, leave their cherished fantasies behind, and face the real world. In offering this characterization, the New Atheists are showing themselves to be disciples of the old atheists such as Feuerbach, Marx, Comte, and Freud, all of whom made more or less similar observations.

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  • Recognizing American saints



    Most attention-paying U.S. Catholics are aware of the beatification causes for Archbishop Fulton Sheen and Catholic Worker co-foundress Dorothy Day. Five more causes, currently in the works, illustrate the rich diversity of American Catholicism and the extraordinary ways in which the Holy Spirit enlivens "heroic virtue"--the mark of a saint.

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  • Is artificial insemination wrong even among married couples?



    Artificial insemination introduces sperm into a woman's body by use of a thin tube (cannula) or other instrument to bring about a pregnancy. Artificial insemination can be either homologous (using sperm from a woman's husband) or heterologous (using sperm from a man she is not married to). Both forms of artificial insemination raise significant moral concerns.

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  • Helping build Healthy Families



    Colorful balloons, streamers and fish of all kinds adorned the Under the Sea themed room. Tabletops were decorated in the colors of the sea, with brightly colored fishing-game centerpieces. Occupying a large corner of the festive room was the New England Aquarium's Traveling Tidal Pool for all to enjoy. It was great fun to see not only the children, but also their parents splash in the water and come face to face (many for the first time) with the clams, crabs and starfish and other tidal pool creatures the Aquarium staff had brought along.

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  • Czars and other things



    "New" Czar? Coming up is the spectacle of a baseball contest in a boardroom sure to be more fascinating than anything parenthetically happening on a ball field. Breathlessly we await the election of a new baseball commissioner to succeed -- mercifully and at long last -- the outgoing Bud Selig. Gleefully as well we anticipate the circus this curious business just may entail.

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  • Mental health



    The death of Robin Williams is very, very sad. I suppose that's the irony of his death. A man who made us all laugh hard enough to cry, could not ultimately overcome his own sadness. It's not as if he never tried. The wildly talented comic known for his inexhaustible energy was very open about his struggles with both substance abuse and mental illness. I guess that's why most of us assumed that as bad as those problems could be -- Robin Williams would always be able to outrun them. In the end, he wasn't.

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  • God's love



    A letter came to me recently, thanking me for helping the person see Jesus as "a loving brother or a kind Father" rather than as a judge. This letter is similar to many others that have graced my life. I, too, grew up with a lot of fear about eternal punishment, and though it certainly served to keep me in line, it also caused much needless distress.

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  • What's the difference?



    In the Archdiocese of Boston, as in many dioceses across the country, having one pastor responsible for more than one parish is a reality. This prompts a valid question: What is the difference between one pastor pastoring two or three parishes, and Disciples in Mission's plan to form parishes into a collaborative with one pastor?

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  • Is history really over?



    In 1989, as the Cold War entered the bottom of the ninth inning, political scientist Francis Fukuyama wrote a memorable essay entitled "The End of History?" And despite the question mark in the article's title, the argument resolved itself in a straightforward answer: "Yes." It was a nifty bit of Hegelian reasoning, filtered through the thinking of a Russian-born Frenchman named Alexandre Kojeve, and it fit the temper of the times perfectly: communism was collapsing; the great debates of the past two centuries were being resolved in the victory of market-based economies and democracy over state-based economies and authoritarianism; "history," understood in grand philosophical terms, was over; and while things were likely to be more peaceful, they were also likely to be more boring.

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  • Prisoners dilemma



    Here is an unsigned editorial titled "Prisoners dilemma" from the Aug. 4-11 issue of America, a national Catholic weekly magazine. The evidence is piling up that too many Americans are wasting away in prison. The National Academy of Sciences, for example, recently concluded in a major two-year study that the United States "has gone past the point where the numbers of people in prison can be justified by the social benefits." Other groups, like Human Rights Watch, the Brennan Center for Corrections, Corrections Today and the University of Chicago Crime Lab, have also raised their voices. Pope Francis, in his address to the International Criminal Law Association May 30, called for major reforms of criminal justice systems.

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  • Chaff which the wind drives away



    The Disney movie "Beauty and the Beast" -- maybe you have watched it as many times with a child as have I -- opens with the beautiful heroine, Belle, walking through the streets of her town with her face buried in a book. Ponder the attractiveness of the image: a beautiful young woman giving herself over to matters of the mind and heart; her being so engaged in a story that she cannot tear herself away; her obliviousness to pedestrian details around her while she is transported away, led by a master to some other place or time.

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  • What Florida weather can teach us about life



    I live in Florida. It is as much fun to live here as people imagine. We've got beaches, boating, world-class theme parks and all sorts of fun just minutes from our front door. Here's a secret, though: There are some things the tourist books won't tell you. One of them is about the nasty weather. Did you know that summer in Florida isn't just hot? It's sweltering.

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  • 'The Giver' that keeps on giving



    What if we could erase violence, pain and discord? Could a society regularize emotions and end war? What if reproduction and sexuality could be completely divorced from family life? Wouldn't it be lovely? In the acclaimed movie-from-a-book, "The Giver," an ideal community is based on this premise. There is a price, of course.

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  • Trust God in life's most trying moments



    Life is a test. When tragedy hits, all of the explanations for why bad things happen in the world are beyond our comprehension. To stay balanced, we need to fall back on what Mark 12:30 tells us: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength."

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  • Planning... and planning



    Disciples in Mission is the Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Boston. It is the broad plan to make all parishes vibrant centers of evangelization by organizing parishes into collaborative groups under one pastor and leadership team. Currently, 71 parishes are ministering as 32 collaboratives. The 12 collaboratives in Phase I, at just over one year old, have reached an important milestone in their young collaborative history. Within the broad pastoral plan is the directive that each collaborative prepare another plan -- a more specific, local plan, addressing the needs and vision, and tapping the unique gifts and strengths of the particular collaborative. Two plans: Disciples in Mission is the macro plan; the Local Pastoral Plan is the micro plan. Disciples in Mission originally called for local plans to be ready within the first eight to 12 months. Phase I collaboratives are the pilot group, testing a pastoral plan that, until their inauguration, existed only on paper. Living out the pastoral plan is a different reality. Responding to requests that the timeline for drafting and submitting the local plan be lengthened, the Disciples in Mission directive was amended and the time frame changed. Drafts of the local plan for Phase I Collaboratives are due in December. The final version is due in June 2015, which allows six months for revisions, if needed.

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  • Trading Deadlines



    Long ago and far away, the magic "lets-make-a-deal" day on the Baseball Calendar was not the last day in July but the Ides of June. Every year there was a bevy of whoppers. Anticipation of the dramatic rush in June 15th's waning hours back in the post-war era was just as keen as in today's wheeler-dealer festivals. In fact trades then were easier to conjure being mainly within the league and never cluttered by such tedious and extraneous issues as contracts, payroll, and the mere whims of players who were then, of course, mere chattel.

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  • Woody Allen's Bleak Vision



    I was chagrined, but not entirely surprised, when I read Woody Allen's recent ruminations on ultimate things. To state it bluntly, Woody could not be any bleaker in regard to the issue of meaning in the universe. We live, he said, in a godless and purposeless world. The earth came into existence through mere chance and one day it, along with every work of art and cultural accomplishment, will be incinerated. The universe as a whole will expand and cool until there is nothing left but the void. Every hundred years or so, he continued, a coterie of human beings will be "flushed away" and another will replace it until it is similarly eliminated. So why does he bother making films--roughly one every year? Well, he explained, in order to distract us from the awful truth about the meaninglessness of everything, we need diversions, and this is the service that artists provide. In some ways, low level entertainers are probably more socially useful than high-brow artistes, since the former manage to distract more people than the latter. After delivering himself of this sunny appraisal, he quipped, "I hope everyone has a nice afternoon!"

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  • Change in pastor, daily Mass; Jesus in the tomb, but for how long?



    Q. Our parish had a change in pastors this year. Previous to his arrival, I had been attending daily Mass for 18 years. Now I go only on Sunday because I just don't like this priest; some of the things he does at Mass put me in such a bad mood that I feel that I am better off not going. I have prayed to God to help me accept him, but so far I have been unable to do it.

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  • A millennial column (so to speak)



    I've been writing op-ed columns for the Catholic press since 1979. In its present form, "The Catholic Difference," I began this column in 1993 at the invitation of the late Kay Lagreid, then-editor of the now-deceased Catholic Northwest Progress in Seattle; the column went into national syndication shortly thereafter, with the Denver Catholic Register eventually succeeding the Progress as syndicator. This is the 1,000th column in that series, which prompts some thoughts of a confessional nature.

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