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  • A year of unity



    Following the elevation of 17 new cardinals at the Vatican recently, I was interviewed by the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) station from London. Wherever I travelled throughout the world, particularly to non-English speaking countries, I always listened and watched BBC on TV to get all the breaking news and commentary. I always found the commentators to be on point and concise.

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  • Checking in with Phase I



    Phase I collaboratives were inaugurated in June 2013. Most submitted their local pastoral plans (LPP) to Cardinal Sean for approval in June 2015, and are now 18 months into implementation. Pastoral Center staff has been in contact with clergy and lay staffs, but this fall the Office of Pastoral Planning broadened its outreach in an effort to hear from collaborative parishioners. Many Phase I pastors scheduled Listening Sessions, open to all parishioners, council members, clergy, and staff. Father Paul Soper, cabinet secretary for Evangelization and Discipleship and director of Office of Pastoral Planning attended each meeting. Staff from the Planning Office and consultants from Parish Financial Services also attended, as schedules permitted. Five listening sessions have taken place, others are scheduled. Participation has been uneven -- some with just a handful of participants, in other places, 30 or 40 attendees.

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  • Promote peace this Advent



    Why is Advent needed more than ever this year? The answer is found in the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. "Men," it states "should take heed not to entrust themselves only to the efforts of some, while not caring about their own attitudes. For government officials who must at one and the same time guarantee the good of their own people and promote the universal good are very greatly dependent on public opinion and feeling.

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  • Respond to God's gifts with love



    Last month, I went on a weeklong silent retreat to address a nagging concern. I felt heavy guilt for how I could be enjoying my life when there are profound deprivations and unspeakable suffering. Catholic Relief Services serves people who do not have enough nutrition, sometimes no decent shelter nor water, very little access to proper medical care and, often times, crippling insecurity from violent conflicts and lost livelihood.

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  • On a watch around the leagues



    Have stray observations and random complaints to offer for your sports dining pleasure while waiting for the annual winner of baseball's "One Dumb Owner of the Year" laurels to declare himself. The sucker who bites for Edwin Encarnacion's ridiculous demands should have no trouble copping the coveted honor this year.

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  • The End of the World



    People are forever predicting the end of the world. In Christian circles this is generally connected with speculation around the promise Jesus made at his ascension, namely, that he would be coming back, and soon, to bring history to its culmination and establish God's eternal kingdom. There have been speculations about the end of the world ever since.

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  • Burial in national cemetery?



    Q. I can't seem to find the answer to the following question: Is it acceptable for a Catholic to be buried in a national cemetery? (My inquiry is centered around the issue of consecrated ground.) Any guidance would be appreciated. (Flippin, Arkansas)

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  • Trump and the Pro-Life agenda



    Many social conservatives, though by no means all, were ecstatic at the election of Donald Trump. Whether they'll still be ecstatic a few months down the line cannot be predicted -- and by no means is this uncertainty entirely of Trump's making.

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  • A (liturgical) new year's resolution



    If the civil new year is an occasion to resolve to Do Better in the future, the liturgical new year, the real new year that begins at First Vespers on the First Sunday of Advent, is an even better moment for such resolutions. So permit me to suggest a Real New Year's resolution to those who think it necessary to support Pope Francis by rewriting recent Church history: Stop it.

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  • Advent again



    Time flies whether you're having fun or not. And winter seems to come earlier every year. Thanksgiving is already here and Christmas will be sooner than we expect. I'm not sure why it feels as if the calendar is spinning, but I'm dizzy.

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  • Boston's first cardinal



    Nov. 27 marks the 105th anniversary of William Henry O'Connell's elevation to cardinal. Cardinal O'Connell was born in Lowell, on Dec. 8, 1859, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and baptized at St. Peter's Church in Lowell, on the same day. He was the youngest of 11 children born to John and Bridget O'Connell, who had immigrated to the United States from County Cavan, Ireland.

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  • The election and the faithful



    The media, and we who listen to them, were surprised at the election results. I have a feeling it's not the last surprise we are in for. The campaign was more about character flaws than about policy, and as a result, we don't know much about how President-elect Donald Trump intends to govern. In my own corner of the room, I find myself wondering about the future of religious liberty.

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  • One Christian's view of politics



    With the election of Donald Trump as president, we have just experienced the greatest political upset in American history. The pundits, the polls, and the media all got it wrong; and with the surprising election of a man with neither a political nor military background, the American people have elected someone who lost the popular vote but handily won the electoral vote for President of the United States. We are obviously a divided and politically polarized country -- not an easy job for anyone to lead in the spirit of "e pluribus unum."

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  • The aftermath of Election Day 2016



    Any election has lessons for Catholic voters. What did we learn and where do we go? As a wise friend said, "It's not what happens on Election Day as much as what we do the day after." In many ways the politically charged election cycle has bled onto Catholic ideas. In state elections our Church was not as influential as we may have desired and as we were decades ago.

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  • Prayer precedes activism



    The Wednesday after the presidential election was a very emotional day in America. Like millions of others, I was up way too late on election night, waiting for results to be clear before heading to a sleepless bed.

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  • Hidden lessons in meaningless trivia



    From the youngest age I can recall, I've always had a knack for remembering useless bits of trivia. On any given day, I can forget where I put my car keys, but I know there are 13 states in the United States that are entirely north of Canada's southern-most border.

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  • Advent in collaboratives



    Parishioners in collaboratives are accustomed to waiting and preparing. Usually, collaboratives are announced in the fall, to be inaugurated the following June. Advent is also a time of waiting and preparing, but just four weeks, not months long, and collaboratives embrace it as another opportunity for evangelization.

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  • Award competition



    Awards season is upon us. With it comes all the usual conflict, controversy, and recrimination. In baseball, the dispensing of precious laurels is a venerated and hallowed process bloated with more than a century of precedent.

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  • Truly Right and Just Thanksgiving



    At every Mass, one of the most significant dialogues in human life occurs. The priest says, "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God," the faithful respond, "It is right and just," and the priest replies with a saying of great theological depth: "It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, Holy Father, almighty and ever-living God."

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  • Why We Should Address Jesus as Thou



    On the final morning of the November meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, we were treated to a fine sermon by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain. The leader of the church in Seattle spent a good deal of time discussing Pier Giorgio Frassati, a saint from the early twentieth century to whom he and I both have a strong devotion. But what particularly struck me in his homily was a reference to the great St. Catherine of Siena. One of the most remarkable things about that remarkable woman was the intimacy which she regularly experienced with Mary, the saints, and the Lord Jesus himself. Archbishop Sartain relayed a story reported by Catherine's spiritual director, Raymond of Capua. According to Raymond, Catherine would often recite the office while walking along a cloister in the company of Jesus, mystically visible to the saint. When she came to the conclusion of a psalm, she would, according to liturgical custom, speak the words of the Glory Be, but her version was as follows, "Glory be to the Father, and to Thee, and to the Holy Ghost!" For her, Christ was not a distant figure, and prayer was not an abstract exercise. Rather, the Lord was at her side, and prayer was conversation between friends.

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  • On our need for the real Thomas More



    Next month marks the fiftieth anniversary of the film, A Man for All Seasons. And if it's impossible to imagine such a picture on such a theme winning Oscars today, then let's be grateful that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences got it right by giving Fred Zinnemann's splendid movie six of its awards in 1967 -- when, reputedly, Audrey Hepburn lifted her eyes to heaven before announcing with obvious pleasure that this cinematic celebration of the witness and martyrdom of Sir Thomas More had beaten The Sand Pebbles, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Alfie, and The Russians Are Coming for Best Picture.

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  • A present good



    A week after the election season's conclusion, speculation and uncertainty have not abated. Searching for a response to the uneasiness, some have taken to the streets to march and shout in protest. Many are organizing for the upcoming political battle. And others are still confident that the democratic system will always prevail and correct any abuse. Faced with either a seemingly fruitless demonstration of dissatisfaction or trust in a faceless system, we are left with a sense of impotence to affect meaningful change on the national stage. What simple, common ground do we start from--especially after such an ideologically charged, divisive year? What recourses are left to us to build a nation for all, from the humble platform of our homes, jobs, and daily lives?

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  • A Thanksgiving memory



    There is something Norman Rockwell-esque about Thanksgiving Day. Practically everyone can identify with his now famous illustration of a family gathered around the table while mother proudly presents a platter groaning under the weight of a turkey she has just pulled out of an unseen oven.

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  • Embracing our communities through Catholic school inclusion



    In a recent Pilot column, Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Boston Kathy Mears reminisced about the year she taught a student with a learning disability. At the time, students with learning disabilities were frequently denied access to Catholic schools. However, Mears felt confident she could teach this student and proceeded to do so with success. Now as superintendent, Mears' is continuing her mission to include all students. "Enrolling students with special needs is something we want to continue. By doing this, the schools can serve more students," she shared.

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  • To my brother priests



    After 56 years of the priesthood, at age 85, I want to say a word of thanks to my brother priests, who have sacrificed so much to bring the good news of God's love to our troubled world. Years ago, the priests of my diocese elected me to be their clergy personnel director, a job which helps the bishop in the assignment and placement of priests. Eventually, it led to my becoming president of the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators.

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  • Holiday grief



    I was startled a few weeks ago when familiar feelings of grief surfaced. It was evening, mid-October, and there was a sadness I hadn't felt for a while. The same thing happened the next night. This January, it will be four years since my wife, Monica, died of uterine cancer. It's not an exaggeration to say I still think about her every day. I assume I always will, and that pleases me.

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  • The Year of Mercy



    The Jubilee Year of Mercy which began on Dec. 8, 2015 will close this Sunday, Nov. 20. The photograph of Pope Francis opening the Holy Door at St. Peter's Basilica last December was dramatic, leaving no doubt that this Jubilee Year would be something special. Two significant components of the year were works of mercy and pilgrimage.

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  • Sports and Politics



    Actually, Politics and Sport have long been interesting bedfellows. The union has been warm and cozy, if also controversial. Not so long ago an ex-football coach from Nebraska, an all-American QB from Oklahoma, an all-pro wide-out from Washington, and a reformed 6'11" center from North Carolina sat together in the Congress with varying degrees of distinction. It's equally a fact not a one of them would have had a ghost of a chance of getting there without having sporting laurels to recommend them.

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  • Why Dark Nights of the Soul?



    Atheism is a parasite that feeds on bad religion. That's why, in the end, atheistic critics are our friends. They hold our feet to the fire. Friedrich Nietzsche, Ludwig Feuerbach, and Karl Marx, for example, submit that all religious experience is ultimately psychological projection. For them, the God we believe in and who undergirds our churches is, at the end of the day, simply a fantasy we have created for ourselves to serve our own needs. We have created God as opium for comfort and to give ourselves divine permission to do what we want to do.

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  • God and masculine pronoun



    Q. I would very much like to know the church's official position on whether God should be referred to as "Father" (that is, in masculine terms) or as a genderless being. I find it troubling when the words in traditional hymns are changed to remove any references to "his" or "him." Recently I was singing from memory the refrain, "Lift up your hearts to the Lord in praise of his mercy," only to hear myself "out of sync" with many others in the congregation who were singing from the hymnal, "Praise God's gracious mercy."

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  • A Pilgrim, a Bishop, and His iPhone



    I'm in the process of re-reading a spiritual classic from the Russian Orthodox tradition: The Way of a Pilgrim. This little text, whose author is unknown to us, concerns a man from mid-nineteenth century Russia who found himself deeply puzzled by St. Paul's comment in first Thessalonians that we should "pray unceasingly." How, he wondered, amidst all of the demands of life, is this even possible? How could the Apostle command something so patently absurd?

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  • Collection for Retired Sisters -- say thank you for a lifetime of service!



    Looking back 25, 40, 50 years ago and longer, religious sisters were the face of the Church in our schools, parishes, hospitals and social service agencies. These same sisters are now in their 80's and 90's and some of them are well over 100 years old. There are more than 1,700 sisters who have served the Archdiocese of Boston. These sisters have given more than 51,000 years of dedicated service to the Church.

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  • Catholic schools and vocations



    Three of my sisters attended private Catholic boarding school for their high school education. By the time that it became my turn to attend, the school was adopting to better meet their community's needs and had decided that accepting only day students would work best for them, so I attended our local public high school.

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  • Move forward with Year of Mercy values post-election



    No matter who won the national and local elections, we can all celebrate: It is indeed over, but what does that mean? To paraphrase a sports legend: It isn't over until it's over, so we can't just heave a contented sigh of relief and move on. Local discourse has been fractured, possibly forever. We have reached a new low in civility with physical violence sometimes a byproduct of all kinds of gatherings.

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  • Seven election lessons for the Church



    Too many people forgot about too many people for too long a time. That pretty much sums up why this election went the way it did. But whether you are raising a glass, drowning your sorrows, or shaking your head, whichever side -- or none -- you supported, there are lessons for all of us here.

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  • The collaborative pastoral council in Lynn



    On a recent crisp, fall Saturday, Pastoral Council members from the Phase I Lynn Collaborative gathered for a day of prayer and reflection on the role and responsibilities of being a collaborative pastoral council (CPC) member. Father Paul Soper, cabinet secretary for Evangelization and Discipleship guided discussion along with Father Brian Flynn, pastor, and Chris Carmody, director of Ministries. The current Archdiocesan Guidelines for Parish Pastoral Councils came from the Archdiocese's Eighth Synod and were promulgated in 1988. To be sure, they are from the last century, and will be revised to accommodate the new collaborative reality, but still, they provide good direction for councils today. The guidelines speak about the council as an instrument of evangelization -- right on target with the focus of Disciples in Mission, and rather forward thinking for 1988: "To assist the pastor in his leadership role planning, organizing, initiating, promoting, coordinating, and reviewing the evangelization ... activities within the parish." Disciples in Mission builds on this idea: "the multiple Parish Pastoral Councils of the parishes in a collaborative become one parish council to assist the one pastor in fostering pastoral activity and in guiding the mission of the Church in each parish and in the parish collaborative." There's harmony in these two statements.

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  • 'Tattoos on the heart'



    The other day, I climbed out of bed a little before 4 a.m. to head to the Philadelphia airport. My kids live in three different time zones from one another and from my husband and me, and we'd just had a short reunion to celebrate the second birthday of the person who represents our family's next generation, Charlotte.

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  • A series diamond



    As happens now and again -- at least every decade or so -- we get a World Series that sort of hits the national sweet-spot and is not so much just a mere blistering tussle for sporting glory and treasure as a rare slice of Americana. So it was with the 2016 Cubs-Indians opus.

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  • Closing the Jubilee Door of Mercy and Becoming Living Portals



    The formal close of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy will take place on November 20 when Pope Francis, at the end of the celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King in St. Peter's Basilica, formally shuts and seals, until probably 2025, the Basilica's famous Jubilee Door. The other Doors of Mercy in Cathedrals and privileged Churches throughout the world, however, are all supposed to be liturgically closed this Sunday.

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  • "Doctor Strange," Scientism, and the Gnostic Way Station



    Scott Derickson's new film, Doctor Strange, has received rave reviews for its special-effects, its compelling story-telling, and the quality of its actors, but I would like to focus on the spirituality implicit in it. Doctor Strange is far from a satisfying presentation of the spiritual order, but it represents a significant step in the right direction, which proves especially helpful for our time.

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  • The Real Presence



    When I was a graduate student in Belgium, I was privileged one day to sit in on a conference given by Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels. He was commenting on the Eucharist and our lack of understanding of it full richness when he highlighted this contrast: If you stood outside of a Roman Catholic church today as people were coming out of the church and asked them: "Was that a good Eucharist?", most everyone would answer on the basis of the homily and the music. If the homily was interesting and the music lively, most people would answer that it had been a good Eucharist. Now, he continued, if you had stood outside a Roman Catholic church sixty or seventy years ago and asked: "Was that a good mass today?" nobody would have even understood the question. They would have answered something to the effect of: "Aren't they all the same!"

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  • Catholicism embodied: "The Pivotal Players"



    Looking for some uplift after this tawdry election cycle? Some inspiration for tackling what lies ahead? A good way to enrich Advent? Examples of sanctity to help you be the missionary disciple you were baptized to be? Then let me recommend Bishop Robert Barron's new DVD series, Catholicism: The Pivotal Players.

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  • Why pray for the dead?



    Q. Since we believe that judgment takes place at the time of death, why do we pray for the dead? Prayer is supposed to change us, not God. Are we to believe that extra prayers will change his mind and get us into heaven faster? (Northampton, Pennsylvania)

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  • No matter the outcome...



    Thanks to deadlines, what follows is written before the election but mostly will be read after the votes are counted. It doesn't take for granted victory by either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Obviously, one or the other will win, but what's said here applies no matter which it is.

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