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  • A path of renewal for the Catholic sterilized couple



    Among married men and women who undergo surgical sterilization through a vasectomy or a tubal ligation, it has been estimated that anywhere from ten to twenty percent will come to regret the choice. Sometimes there may be an immediate awareness of wrongdoing following the surgery, while in other cases, as Patrick Coffin, radio host and author of ''Sex au Naturel'' notes, sterilized couples may "...drift for years before acknowledging that something between them is no longer in sync. After the initial pregnancy fear subsides, and the vision of 1001 erotic nights turns out be something of a scam, spouse may (subtly) turn against spouse while doing their best to ignore the silent, disturbing 'presence' of the choice they made."

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  • Easter glory in a Roman jewel box



    One of the many reasons to follow the Lenten station church pilgrimage through Rome is that, along that unique itinerary of sanctity, one discovers otherwise-hidden jewels of church architecture and design, created in honor of the early Roman martyrs. Perhaps the most stunning of these is St. Praxedes on the Esquiline Hill, hidden behind the vastness of St. Mary Major. As my co-author Elizabeth Lev puts it in ''Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches'' (Basic Books), "the little Basilica of St. Praxedes is a surprising treasure chest, its dingy portal opening into an interior of dazzling mosaics."

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  • Hispanic catechists and evangelizers share the 'Joy of the Gospel'



    The nippy air on the morning of April 5 did not deter 449 Spanish-speaking pastoral leaders from twenty-seven parishes with Hispanic ministry in the Archdiocese of Boston from gathering at St. Stephen Parish in Framingham for the Annual Congress of Catechesis and Evangelization. Neither did the time when they were expected to start arriving, 8:00 a.m. Some participants mentioned that they got up at ungodly hours to finish house chores and leave their families settled with the promise of a prompt return, pick up some friends and get on the road to be on time.

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  • Running the road to hope



    I find it appropriate that in this year following the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing that we find no shortage of the word "HOPE." Pope Francis has said this is to be a year of hope. Cardinal SeŠn P. O'Malley recently announced the Catholic Appeal's theme of "Forward in Hope." Even in his inaugural speech, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh stated, "We are a city of hope." At Catholic Charities, we have long referred to our work as "providing hope for all." Indeed, as we hear the stories of those whose lives were impacted by the bombing, there is much to be hopeful for this year.

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  • Vatican II, Holy Week, and parish collaboratives



    The Second Vatican Council produced 16 documents: four constitutions, three declarations and nine decrees. The very first, the "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy" ("Sacroscanctum Concilium"), passed overwhelmingly with a 2147 to 4 vote. Today, 50 years later, this seminal document reminds all Catholics: "Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Peter 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism" (Sacrosanctum Concilium 14). This directive is operative in parishes in different ways -- yet another example of one size doesn't fit all.

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  • On losing -- graciously



    In sports, there is a certain nobility about the art of losing well and it should command much greater respect than our contemporary, overwrought culture begrudgingly allows. You can hate to lose, should fight fiercely to avoid it, and must. But everyone loses, sooner or later. Lombardi was wrong! Winning is not the only thing. For every winner there has to be a loser. You could look it up.

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  • What Francis and Benedict agree upon



    "Tell me the things that really upset you about the new pope." -- This was said to me by a colleague from another university, an excellent scholar, who described herself as an atheist but also as "sympathetic" to Catholicism and as "someone who sees myself as a fellow-traveler." She just loved Francis: another manifestation of the so-called "Francis effect." I guess because I am supposed to be a "conservative" I am supposed to be irked by the pope (perhaps in the way that "liberals" were, or were supposed to have been, irked by Benedict).

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  • Syrian bishop finds ecumenical solidarity in Boston



    "Hello, Bishop? Would you mind picking up two prisoners, driving them alone behind enemy lines into a war zone, and completing a prisoner exchange for two kidnapped Christians?" This paraphrases part of the experience related by His Grace Bishop Elias Toumeh, Antiochian Orthodox bishop of Pyrgou in Syria, to an academic convocation March 28 in Brookline which was also an ecumenical gathering of Christians united in listening to his peoples' plight.

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  • The worst Lent ever



    It started with missing Mass on Ash Wednesday and continued like a landslide. Although Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, we have always worn our ashes with some pride. In fact, with too much pride: how superior were we to those who did not have burnt palms applied to their foreheads. We even secretly enjoyed the startled looks of our non-Catholic friends and passersby when they saw the smudged crosses on our foreheads.

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  • A nine-alarm world



    Fire is a terrible thing. It starts unexpectedly and consumes everything in an instant. It is unrelenting, powerful, and fierce. I was a bit jarred when I realized that two of our kids were only a block away from the building on Beacon Street as it became completely engulfed in smoke and flame. But I can't begin to imagine what it is like to know that someone you love isn't merely in the vicinity, but has gone into the blaze and isn't coming out.

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  • Opening Day 2014



    Waxing lyrical about the pristine joys of "Opening Day" is a bit more of a stretch this year. Technically -- (and if you are a baseball nut is there any other choice) -- we didn't have one; the season having started half a world away nearer the middle of March, after which the Grapefruit and Cactus League seasons, featuring dozens more mindless exhibitions, proceeded another ten days. These are the facts and they are entirely unprecedented and in Baseball what's truly ''entirely unprecedented'' invariably tends to be decidedly bizarre.

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  • Religious liberty humbles the state



    Is government the master of life and death, and conscience? On March 25, the Supreme Court heard arguments concerning President Obama's Health and Human Services (HHS) "contraceptive" mandate (which in fact also covers certain abortion-inducing drugs, female sterilization, as well as contraceptives that may operate abortifaciently). What's at issue in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius is whether the religious right to object, possessed by individuals, is also to be recognized with regard to the owners of certain for-profit corporations. If you are a Christian businessman, say, who objects to providing coverage under the mandate because some of the devices and drugs involved can cause abortion, or a Catholic business owner who recognizes the damaging social effect of contraceptive use, what recourse do you have?

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  • Can businesses claim religious freedom?



    By the time you read this, the United States Supreme Court will have heard argument in the companion cases of Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of HHS, v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. The cases raise the important question whether closely-held family-run businesses can claim religious freedom from the requirement imposed by the government under Obamacare that employers provide free contraceptive coverage for drugs that can cause abortion. The one-hour argument was on Tuesday, March 25, but a decision from the Supreme Court is not expected much before its current term ends in late June.

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  • Brain training, curiosity, and aging



    "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." -- Albert Einstein For many of us, the desire to learn diminishes over time. We're born with an enormous share of curiosity, but we tend to become less curious over the years. However, research suggests that a healthy sense of curiosity is both good for us and recoverable. Those of us who continue to strive for knowledge are likely to experience better physical and mental wellbeing throughout adulthood. The relationship between mental health and a spirit of learning suggests that age is as much a state of mind as a tally of years lived.

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  • Lent: the annual catechumenate



    Historians of the Roman liturgy generally reckon the restorations of the Easter Vigil (by Pius XII) and the adult catechumenate (by Vatican II) as two of the signal accomplishments of the 20th-century liturgical movement. I wouldn't contest that claim, but I'd add something else to the highlights reel: the recovery of the baptismal character of Lent for every Catholic.

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  • Sis boom bah



    We are veering on the 67th anniversary of one of the quaintest and most touching moments in all of New England sports history. In retrospect, it seems a tale almost too good to be true. Yet, if I give you the rest of the week to figure out what and whom I'm referencing the chances are strong you'll fail; unless maybe you hail from Worcester and are also getting a bit long on the tooth. Therefore, I'll spare you the aggravation.

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  • The Rice Bowl campaign



    Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. Many of us are familiar with the work of CRS responding to natural disasters across the globe: most recently CRS was front and center in the Philippines in the aftermath of November 2013's Typhoon Haiyan. Well positioned to respond to the immediate needs of those displaced, CRS continues its work in these storm ravaged island communities, committed to assisting in the long term recovery efforts for 100,000 Filipino families as they rebuild their lives. The people of the Archdiocese of Boston generously supported these CRS recovery efforts with its special collection last fall.

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  • Learning to read



    Reading is forever. Once you know how to decipher the squiggly lines inscribed all over our world, you can never go back to thinking that they're just a bunch of meaningless squiggles. Sure, if you find yourself face to face with Arabic, Ukrainian, or Japanese, you can recapture a bit of how you experienced the world before you were literate. But in your own language, letters spell words that make sentences to express ideas -- it's all there, and you can't pretend you don't see it or understand that what you see means something. You can't help but read.

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  • Orthodoxy, state and society



    In a conversation about Russian Orthodoxy some dozen years ago, that famous source who can only be quoted off-the-record, the Senior Vatican Official, said to me, "They only know how to be chaplain to the czar--whoever he is."

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  • Baseball 2014, of course



    The countdown has begun; or, is it the "shakedown." Hard to tell the difference, sometimes. The long, grueling baseball season lumbers from the blocks in just a couple weeks. Deals are done. Rosters have been pruned. Expectations set.

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