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  • On 'aging gracefully'



    It seems odd, even a bit repulsive, when we encounter tales of elderly men running after women who are young enough to be their granddaughters. The wheelchair-bound billionaire oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall was 89 years old when he married the 26 year old Anna Nicole Smith. He had met the Playboy model and reality TV star in a strip club. Anna insisted that she really did love the old man, and wasn't in it for the money.

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  • Why the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide unite us today



    On April 23, in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, an historic event took place. There have been ecumenical services commemorating the Armenian Genocide before and that is good; this one was unique in the way we brought the message of the Holy Father Pope Francis to the Armenian people to life on the local level here in Boston. It was also a welcoming, an opening of our church, our house, to our Armenian brothers and sisters in Christ.

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  • Mercy in the mess



    This year, our Lent started early. And, five weeks after Easter, it isn't over yet. It's been four months since our house caught on fire, and no, we're not back home yet. In fact, the reconstruction work has only just now begun.

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  • Through the eyes of another person



    Recently, I listened to Junlei Li, of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media, speak about his work with children. He spoke to our advisory board at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. I wondered what seeing the world through a child's eyes would be like. The question struck me as we viewed a video of captivated children working with electrical conductors.

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  • Accepting what God has chosen for us



    I've explained to God that he might want to rethink this free-will business. Yes, my generation can handle it, but those young people may not be able to handle it. "It seems to me," I've told him, "it's just too much responsibility and freedom for them." Apparently God disagrees.

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  • Greetings en route to Communion



    Q. Something's been going on for a while in our church. I've never said anything to anyone about it, but I do find it annoying. I was raised to believe that the moments right before, during and after holy Communion are a sacred time because we encounter Christ in a special way.

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  • Collaborative look at faith formation



    Celebration of the Mass and sacraments is the most important thing that takes place in every parish -- collaborative or not. Other sacred responsibilities include practicing the Works of Mercy, helping adults deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ, fostering discipleship, and passing on the faith to children, youth, and young adults. The Code of Canon Law says: "The Church has in a special way the duty and the right of educating, for it has a divine mission of helping all to arrive at the fullness of Christian life." (Can 794.1)

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  • April Ball



    One has long disdained here the rush to judgment that obsesses that American subspecies lovingly known as "the baseball fan". The indictment covers the idiotic pre-season predictions of the not so very learned jock media, an annual exercise in pure nonsense from which they never learn. It even more harshly calls to task the bird-brains of Talk Radio who become apoplectic when the illustrious Home Team gets shelled in the home-opener. But then there's little or no hope for that crowd.

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  • The most important day of your life



    During talks around the country in recent years, I've been asking Catholic audiences how many of those present know the date of their baptism. The high-end response is a little under 10%. The average is about 2-3%. This, brethren, is a problem.

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  • Mother of Mercy



    On Sunday, we begin the month of May, traditionally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It's an opportunity for us, during this extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, to grow in conscious devotion to her as Mother of Mercy. It's a chance to enter her "school" and learn from her how to recognize our need for, come to receive, and imitate and extend the mercy her Son brought into the world.

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  • Questionable use of scare quotes



    Southern states have been busy this spring passing laws that follow naturally on the Supreme Court's decision affirming same-sex marriage. The court concluded its opinion last June by saying that the First Amendment protected religious people who hold traditional views on sex. Since then, a number of state legislatures have passed laws designed to implement that protection. Debates often focus on people in the matrimonial business, like bakers, who might decline to play a role in gay weddings.

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  • Why You Should Read C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce"



    In my capacity as regional bishop of the Santa Barbara pastoral region, which covers two entire counties north of Los Angeles, I am obliged to spend a good deal of time in the car. To make the long trips a bit easier, I have gotten back into the habit of listening to audio books. Just recently, I followed, with rapt attention, a book that I had read many years ago but which I had, I confess, largely forgotten: C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce. The inspiration for this theological fantasy is the medieval idea of the refrigerium, the refreshment or vacation from Hell granted to some of the souls abiding there. So Lewis' narrator leaves the dreary streets of the underworld and, with a coterie of other ghosts, journeys by flying bus to a lovely land that he comes to realize is the forecourt of Heaven. In that enchanted place, the ghosts meet a number of denizens from the heavenly world, who attempt to lure the poor souls out of their misery.

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  • Marking an Anniversary



    What we cease to celebrate we will soon cease to cherish. This year, 2016, marks the 200th anniversary of the founding of the religious congregation to which I belong, The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. We have a proud history, 200 years now, of ministering to the poor around the world. This merits celebrating.

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  • Confirmation of College Students and the Easter Season



    Nothing is impossible with God! This is what Easter tells us. We hear in the readings during this great liturgical season about Jesus and his unexpected appearances to his disciples that are radically reorienting reality for them and the order of their lives. He's changing the way they think and live now because he is breaking through their finite limitations of thought and perception to see a new reality of his presence with them despite their inability to totally understand and comprehend how he is with them. They cannot remain indifferent.

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  • The Supremes suggest a real accommodation for the Little Sisters



    On Wednesday, March 23, the Supreme Court heard 90 minutes of oral argument in the case of Zubik et al. v. Burwell et al., the case involving a challenge by religious organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor to the HHS regulation that requires them to either provide free contraceptive coverage to employees or designate their insurer or third-party-administrator of a self-insured plan to provide them.

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  • Ground was broken on cathedral 150 years ago



    April 29, 2016, will mark 150 years since the Diocese of Boston broke ground on the current Cathedral of the Holy Cross located in Boston's South End. The original Cathedral of the Holy Cross was located on Franklin Street in downtown Boston. The land was acquired for $2,500 in the autumn of 1799, and Reverend Francis Matignon announced the purchase after High Mass on Christmas Day of that year. Charles Bullfinch, who had recently designed the Statehouse on Beacon Hill, was hired to design the church.

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  • Thanking those who work for safe environments



    April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Offices of Child Advocacy and Background Screening within the Office of Pastoral Support and Child Protection would like to take this opportunity to thank those throughout the Archdiocese of Boston committed to creating safe environments for children and vulnerable adults.

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  • Forming Disciples in a New Language



    It was inevitable that a mild winter would be followed by a cold April -- with snow. And so it was on a cold, snowy, April Sunday that approximately 20 people from the Deaf Catholic Community gathered at Sacred Heart Parish in Newton, for the first of two Forming Disciples in Mission workshop sessions. The sun was bright the next Sunday, and a few more joined the group for the second session.

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  • Comparatively speaking



    NBA Have here an odd mixture of gripes and kudos, beefs and bouquets, to dispense while waiting for these feisty young Celtics to reveal their true selves having advanced Danny Ainge's quirky master plan a full leap so far this season. Can they make it a "quantum"?

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  • Loyalty and Patriotism Revisited



    In a recent article in America magazine, Grant Kaplan, commenting on the challenge of the resurrection, makes this comment: "Unlike previous communities in which the bond among members forges itself through those it excludes and scapegoats, the gratuity of the resurrection allows for a community shaped by forgiven-forgivers."

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  • Porn and the Curse of Total Sexual Freedom



    The most recent issue of Time Magazine features a fascinating and deeply troubling article on the prevalence of pornography in our culture. The focus of the piece is on the generation of young men now coming of age, the first generation who grew up with unlimited access to hardcore pornography on the Internet. The statistics on this score are absolutely startling. Most young men commence their pornography use at the age of eleven; there are approximately 107 million monthly visitors to adult websites in this country; twelve million hours a day are spent watching porn globally on the adult-video site Pornhub; 40% of boys in Great Britain say that they regularly consume pornography -- and on and on.

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  • Funeral Mass years after death



    Q. You noted in a recent column that the Mass is "the most powerful prayer that can be offered on a deceased person's behalf." That comment brought back a wave of sorrow for my wife and me. Ten years ago, her father died after a lengthy and progressive illness. Due to the fact that we were living out of state at the time, and worsened by some unresolved hard feelings toward their father by other surviving family members, Dad was shuttled into a grave at a veterans' cemetery before my wife and I could intervene.

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  • The best Nuncio we've had thus far



    The announcement that Archbishop Christoph Pierre will succeed Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigaṇ as Apostolic Nuncio to the United States is an opportunity to pay tribute to a courageous churchman who has served Catholicism, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis in an exemplary way during his tenure in Washington.

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  • Celebrating our volunteers



    April is National Volunteer Month, and in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we at Catholic Charities have many, many examples of the ways in which our volunteers have shown mercy to some of their neediest neighbors.

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  • Communicating love



    Media: if it had one less letter, it would be a bonafide curse word. At least that's how so many people feel these days. Whether it's news or entertainment, music, art, or literature: things that used to be universally respected as honorable human pursuits just aren't respected much anymore. Why? Because too many media people have largely stopped doing what they do in honorable or respectable ways.

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  • Portrait of Pius VII restored



    The archive recently restored a painting of Pope Pius VII, who was elected Pope on March 14, 1800, and served until his death on Aug. 20, 1823. While he is best known for guiding the Catholic Church through a tumultuous period in European history, he is also responsible for creating the Diocese of Boston in 1808. This oil-on-canvas piece was created shortly afterward, dating to the 1810s.

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  • How Margaret Sanger became an icon



    Isn't it amazing how many inconsistencies are filtered through modern minds? For example, how is it that many college students decry the racist, even capitalist, backgrounds of some of their campus benefactors, yet they give wide berth to others who held similar racist views in their time.

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  • Phase I implementation update -- Part II



    Amidst the "holy chaos," that Deacon Phil DiBello described in last week's column, the Billerica collaborative has created a "scorecard" to track their local pastoral plan (LPP) implementation. In every collaborative plan, priorities are supported by goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. Developing the scorecard was an impressive process in itself, involving the leadership team, plan writing team, and councils -- about 17 people in all. They prepared for the initial meeting by evaluating each goal in their LPP. Their template has four columns:

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  • Confirmation is a beginning, not an end



    If I had a nickel for every single time I've heard someone talk about the sacrament of confirmation as if it were the end of something, I'd be in the money. And now that it's after Easter and parishes everywhere are hosting confirmation Masses, everyone seems to have an opinion.

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  • Looking for opportunities



    My friend Sister Maura worries about my travels to risky places for Catholic Relief Services. On the other hand, I marvel at how this soft-spoken and diminutive nun of 90 provides medical care in the toughest local neighborhood to which I have never traveled alone.

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  • Bye, Bye Bruins



    What we have here to offer, Dear Hockey Fans, is the Anatomy of a Meltdown. Warning to the squeamish, it ain't pretty! On the afternoon of 12 March, 2016, having routed the tough and skilled Islanders 3-1 in their best home-ice performance of the season, the Bruins skated off in first place in their Division solidly positioned for the playoffs with a month to go. They would go back to work three nights later -- their longest break in two months -- in San Jose. The grueling annual West Coast swing coming so late in the season is anathema to eastern teams. But in the giddiness of the moment, concern was minimal. Bathing in rave reviews, the Bruins were full of themselves and deservedly so.

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  • Beholding God's Mercy



    There's a reason why newspapers and magazines illustrate prominent articles with photographs, why Instagram is so popular, why smartphones double as cameras, why Shutterfly continues to grow, and why "selfies" have almost replaced handshakes and hugs. We are visual people and pictures speak thousands of words to us. They are, and are becoming ever more, a crucial form of communication and memory.

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  • The merciful grace of the truth



    At the Easter Vigil a few weeks ago, tens of thousands of men and women, mature adults, were baptized or entered into full communion with the Catholic Church. Each of them walked a unique itinerary of conversion; each of these "newborn babes" (1 Peter 2.2) is a singular work of the Holy Spirit. Some of them came to Catholicism from an empty space, a spiritual desert; others found in the Catholic Church a more complete expression of the one Church of Christ into which they had been baptized, albeit in a different Christian community. So there are no grand generalizations to be made about those who became Catholics at Easter.

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  • The November dilemma



    As the presidential primaries wear on, a potentially serious dilemma has begun to take shape for some voters. The question isn't for whom to vote in November but whether to vote at all. Yes, the candidates of both parties who are currently considered to have a serious shot at the nomination do have their enthusiastic supporters. But for other voters these office-seekers inspire not just distaste but uncertainty about whether the moral acceptability of voting for any of them.

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  • 'Miracles from Heaven' and the Problem of Theodicy



    As any apologist worth his/her salt will tell you, the great objection to the proposition that God exists is the fact of innocent suffering. If you want a particularly vivid presentation of this complaint, go on YouTube and look up Stephen Fry's disquisition on why he doesn't believe in God. (Then right afterward, please, do look at my answer to Fry). But the anguished question of an army of non-believers remains: how could an all-loving and all-powerful God possibly allow the horrific suffering endured by those who simply don't deserve it? Say all you want, these critics hold, about God's plan and good coming from evil, but the disproportion between evil and the benefits that might flow from it simply rules out the plausibility of religious faith. The skilled and experienced apologist will also tell you that, in the face of this problem, there is no single, unequivocal "answer," no clinching argument that will leave the doubter stunned into acquiescence. The best approach is to walk slowly around the issue, in the manner of the phenomenologists, illuminating now this aspect, now that.

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  • Wearing a veil in church



    Q. Recently, I have been "convicted" to wear a veil in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament -- both when I am at Mass and during my adoration hours in our parish's Chapel of Perpetual Adoration. Several other women in the parish have also felt led to do so.

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  • Love -- A Projection and a Reality



    The famed Jungian writer, Robert Johnson, makes this observation about falling in love: "To fall in love is to project the most noble and infinitely valuable part of one's being onto another human being. ... We have to say that the divinity we see in others is truly there, but we don't have a right to see it until we have taken away our own projections. ... Making this fine distinction is the most delicate and difficult task in life. "

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  • First Thoughts on "Amoris Laetitia"



    On a spring day about five years ago, when I was rector of Mundelein Seminary, Francis Cardinal George spoke to the assembled student body. He congratulated those proudly orthodox seminarians for their devotion to the dogmatic and moral truths proposed by the Church, but he also offered some pointed pastoral advice. He said that it is insufficient simply to drop the truth on people and then smugly walk away. Rather, he insisted, you must accompany those you have instructed, committing yourself to helping them integrate the truth that you have shared. I thought of this intervention by the late Cardinal often as I was reading Pope Francis's apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. If I might make bold to summarize a complex 264-page document, I would say that Pope Francis wants the truths regarding marriage, sexuality, and family to be unambiguously declared, but that he also wants the Church's ministers to reach out in mercy and compassion to those who struggle to incarnate those truths in their lives.

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  • Lessons from a pilgrimage of faith, hope, and love



    Two months ago, we, the Haitian Catholic communities of Boston, received an invitation which brought joy into our hearts. The Office for Outreach and Cultural Diversity of the archdiocese planned to organize a pilgrimage on April 2, 2016 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. We happily participated in all the preparatory meetings for this event at the Pastoral Center in Braintree. It was very energizing to hear and share so many diverse ideas.

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  • A verdict which demands no evidence



    It's a Scripture which the Church leaves us free to speculate about: "When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed." (Jn. 20:1-8)

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  • The gift of presence



    In March, our office celebrated National Catholic Sisters Week. We had a small breakfast for the sisters who work at the Pastoral Center and we acknowledged all that they have done for Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Boston. After the breakfast, our sisters joined our current school leaders for Mass with Cardinal Sean. The sisters were very grateful, and we were very glad to show them our appreciation. For those of us who work in the Catholic Schools Office, we are very grateful to the sisters who built our school system. We fully understand that the success of our schools is because of the work the good sisters did for our students.

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  • Mary's example in fighting terrorism



    As I sat on the front porch of my apartment recently, a U.S. Capitol Police car raced by. Minutes later, dozens of police cars, fire engines and ambulances followed with a helicopter hovering overhead. Road barricades protecting the perimeter of the U.S. Capitol building were activated halting all traffic, as authorities grabbed their rifles.

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  • Welcoming the stranger



    If you've been a carpooling parent, you've paid your dues. I paid mine with three kids in Catholic school. Years of soccer and hockey practices left my van with a lingering smell of sweaty socks. One day, with a carload of squabbling kids, I gently bumped the car ahead of me at a red light as I tried to break up a back-seat dispute.

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  • Phase I update -- Part I



    The Easter season is rich with readings that tell the story of how the early Church grew from a small group of intentional disciples to a world-wide Church of 1.2 billion. The growth of the Church was not without struggles. Easter Tuesday seemed a fitting time to gather Phase I collaboratives' clergy and staffs to talk about their work of implementing the Local Pastoral Plan (LPP) -- also a work not without struggles. Almost one year into the three-year plan, the group from Billerica, Brookline, Jamaica Plan-Roxbury, Lynn, and Salem enjoyed being together to share joys, sorrows, and ideas. The standard questions -- biggest challenge? Surprise? Success? -- provided material for conversation that could have gone on for hours, and, in fact, reporting on the meeting will go on for two weeks! Two things appear universal: people are tired, and the successes, even small ones, are energizing. Deacon Phil DiBello, director of Faith Formation and Ministry in the Billerica Collaborative, describes collaborative life as "holy chaos" and listening to the group's experiences, this phrase seems appropriate. Each person is obviously engaged in the sacredness of the work -- evangelization and making disciples -- but working with multiple parishes can get chaotic.

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  • April goodbyes



    Having famously and rather churlishly declared April to be "the cruelest month" we can safely assume T.S. Eliot was no fan of the sports we revel in, although he may have found the social niceties of a cricket match amusing while hanging out with fellow Dons on the playing fields of Cambridge. In another age having had his cultural experiences widened, lofty old Tom might have changed his tune.

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  • How to give birth to new vocations



    We Little Sisters spend our lives caring for the elderly, but I try to keep up with young people as much as I can. Last week I read a blog for young women about the impact of our throw-away culture on the quality of personal relationships. The more we move around, according to a recent study, the more likely we are to develop attitudes of disposability toward our material possessions -- and we also come to perceive relationships in the same way.

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  • When did Holy Spirit come?



    Q. I have often wondered about the difference between the disciples receiving the Holy Spirit immediately after the Resurrection "on the evening of that first day of the week" (Jn 20:19-23) and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Is it two different accounts of the same event, or did they receive the Holy Spirit in two different ways on two different occasions? (Vacherie, Louisiana)

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  • Bill Nye is Not the Philosophy Guy



    Reliable sources have informed me that for the millennial generation Bill Nye is a figure of great importance, due to his widely-watched program from the 1990's called "Bill Nye the Science Guy." Evidently, he taught a large swath of American youth the fundamentals of experimental science and became for them a sort of paragon of reason. Well, I'll take their word for it.

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  • The Power of Prayer and Ritual inside our Helplessness



    In the movie based upon Jane Austen's classic novel, Sense and Sensibility, there's a very poignant scene where one of her young heroines, suffering from acute pneumonia, is lying in bed hovering between life and death. A young man, very much in love with her, is pacing back and forth, highly agitated, frustrated by his helplessness to do anything of use, and literally jumping out of his skin. Unable to contain his agitation any longer, he goes to the girl's mother and asks what he might do to be helpful. She replies that there's nothing he can do, the situation is beyond them. Unable to live with that response he says to her: "Give me some task to do, or I shall go mad!"

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  • After the "G-word" has been spoken



    In the early Church, witnesses to the faith who had been persecuted and tortured but not killed were known as "martyr-confessors." It's been one of the great privileges of my life to have known such men and women: Czech priests who spent years as slave laborers in uranium mines; Lithuanian priests and nuns condemned to Perm Camp 36 in the Gulag; a Ukrainian Greek Catholic scholar who knew the bone-chilling bite of the Siberian winter because of his fidelity to Christ and to the Bishop of Rome. These modern martyr-confessors are part of that "great cloud of witnesses" who form a living link between the Church here and now and "the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven" (Hebrews 12. 1, 23).

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