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  • Goodbye, Dolly!



    A few months ago, the mother of one of my best friends died. Her name is Ruthanne "Dolly" Donahue. I knew her, because I knew her son Jim from the time he arrived at MIT as a freshman in 1987 until he got a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Harvard in the 1990s. In fact, I was best man at Jim's wedding to his wife Kelly a while back. Dolly's House in Osceola, Indiana, where Jim grew up, was always a haven and shelter for people who needed a home and a family. In this Year of Mercy, we do well to remember and to celebrate those like Dolly for whom the works of mercy are a lifestyle and a continual calling generously responded to.

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  • Implementation in the Newton collaborative



    The Newton collaborative of Sacred Heart and Our Lady Help of Christians parishes has just completed the first year of their three-year local pastoral plan. They are serious about implementation. They have gathered a committee to track progress and work toward accomplishing their three priorities: "Fostering a personal relationship with Christ," "Discerning our call," and "Forming disciples for evangelization." These priorities focus on the themes: "Encounter Christ," "Respond in Love," and "Share the Good News."

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  • Summer blues



    Maybe it's just that the Dog Days have arrived early this summer. But it seems to me a vague inertia grips the local sporting landscape. We are caught between fact and fancy. There is much ado. But it's mostly about nothing. Pretensions are lofty, as usual. But wheels are spinning. Expectations are high, but so are apprehensions.

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  • Analyzing the crisis in American values



    Speaking at a memorial service for the five Dallas police officers killed by a gunman in retaliation for police shootings of blacks, President Obama rightly stressed the need for Americans to come together around shared values arising from "a common humanity and a shared dignity."

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  • A New Feast of Mercy



    For the first time in its two millennial history, the Catholic Church celebrates tis week St. Mary Magdalene with a Feast, which is an important manifestation of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. The Church has for centuries marked July 22 by remembering St. Mary Magdalene with a "Memorial," a liturgical classification below "Solemnities" and "Feasts."

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  • The Ostpolitik failed. Get over it.



    In the 1960s, Popes John XXIII and Paul VI initiated a new Vatican approach to the countries behind the iron curtain, the Ostpolitik. According to its chief architect and agent, Archbishop Agostino Casaroli, its strategic goal was to find a modus non moriendi -- a "way of not dying" -- for the Catholic Church in the countries of the Warsaw Pact. The tactics included a cessation of all public Vatican criticism of communist regimes, and endless negotiations with communist governments. The results were, to put it gently, minimal.

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  • Angels with Sickles and God's Fury



    There's a haunting text in the Book of Revelation where poetic image, for all its beauty, can be dangerously misleading. The author there writes: "So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and cut the earth's vintage. He threw it into the great winepress of God's fury." A fierce angel cleansing the world! God in a boiling anger! What's to be understood by that?

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  • Priests and family counseling



    Q. Recently our bishop spoke out about how cold and unwelcoming some parishes can seem. I recall one instance where I called the priest at our church and asked him to meet with three family members and myself (all of us, regular parishioners) to try to resolve some personal matters that we had.

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  • Politics and the court



    Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg caused quite a stir this month by saying what was on her mind about Donald Trump to the New York Times. "I can't imagine what the country would be -- with Donald Trump as our president," she said.

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  • Our Deepest Insecurity



    Why don't we live happier lives? Why are we forever caught up in frustrations, tensions, angers, and resentments? The reasons of course are too many to name. Each day, as Jesus himself tells us, brings problems enough for the day. We're unhappy for reasons too many to count. And yet it can be helpful to ask ourselves sometimes: Why am I so chronically sitting just outside the gates of happiness?

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  • A chilling message from Dallas



    A chilling message was sent as five police officers were killed and seven others wounded in downtown Dallas on July 7 as they were monitoring peaceful protests against the recent killings by police of two African-American men in Louisiana and Minnesota.

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  • Purgatory and the good thief



    Q. As I understand purgatory, it is a place where a cleansing is done, even if we have received the sacrament of anointing of the sick and/or made a good confession and had our sins absolved before death. My question is this: On the day Jesus was crucified, he told the good thief, "Today you will be with me in paradise"; so are we to assume that no cleansing in purgatory was required for him? And if that's the case, why not? (Philadelphia)

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  • The Cross of Jesus: God's Awful Work of Love



    I would like to continue reflecting on Fleming Rutledge's extraordinary book The Crucifixion, which I consider one of the most insightful theological books of the decade. In a previous article, I drew attention to Rutledge's bracing insistence on the awfulness and shame of the crucifixion. In the ancient world, there was no punishment more painful, terrifying, and de-humanizing than the cross. It is not simply that Jesus died or even that he was put to death by corrupt people; it was that he endured the death reserved only for the lowest and most despised. In the light of the resurrection, the first Christians looked back on this horrific event and saw in it something commensurate with the weight of sin. Somehow, on that instrument of torture and humiliation, the Son of God was addressing what could not be adequately addressed in any other way; he was paying the requisite price.

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  • Cardinal O'Malley: 'We join in the national mourning'



    (Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley issued the following statement July 8 in the wake of the ambush of Dallas police officers July 7 that left 5 officers dead and 7 wounded.) The assassination of five members of the Dallas Police Department last night was a heinous crime that is rightly condemned across our country. Young and old, black and white, religious and secular voices have combined to denounce these killings. We join in the national mourning of this tragedy and offer prayers for the families and loved ones of the deceased officers.

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  • Seeing through the Intersex Confusion



    On rare occasions, babies can be born with ambiguous genitalia, and parents and physicians may be uncertain about whether a newborn is a little boy or a little girl. While testing for sex chromosomes is invariably part of figuring out these cases, the genetics alone may not always tell the whole story.

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  • Dare to be of Good Cheer!



    In May I was asked to offer a spiritual reflection at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. I used my moment in the spotlight to share three pieces of advice that helped carry me through the weeks surrounding our appearance at the U.S. Supreme Court: Dare to be of good cheer ... See Christ in each person, whether friend or foe ... Believe that nothing is impossible with God.

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  • Investments that work for the poor



    In June, the Second Vatican Impact Investing Conference, "Making the Year of Mercy a Year of Impact for the Poor," co-hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Catholic Relief Services, convened 170 attendees comprising global church leaders and experienced impact investors and social entrepreneurs.

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  • Conversion of Islam



    Q. Long ago, as a child, I remember saying prayers aloud for "the conversion of Russia" after every Mass. Why, in our troubled world, are we not doing the same thing now for Islamic extremists, who are surely in need of our prayers? And where would such a directive come from? (Medford, New Jersey)

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  • The bastion of pro-abortion support



    In the dead of winter every year thousands of prolifers throng the streets of downtown Washington making a public statement on behalf of life. Converging on the Mall for speeches in the shadow of the Washington Monument and the White House, they march up one of the capital city's broad avenues to the marble palace that houses the Supreme Court.

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  • On not settling for mediocrity



    CRACOW. With World Youth Day 2016 beginning here in less than three weeks, thoughts naturally turn to Pope St. John Paul II and his pilgrimages to his Polish homeland. The first, the Nine Days of June 1979, in which the Pope ignited a revolution of conscience, was the pivot on which the history of the late twentieth century turned in a nobler direction. In 1983, as Poland suffered under martial law, John Paul reignited hope and gave a new jolt of life to the Solidarity movement, then struggling to survive underground. On his third pilgrimage, in 1987, John Paul began to lay the moral foundations of a renovated Polish civil society and democracy, speaking of solidarity-the-virtue while that distinctive, jumbly-red lettering, "SOLIDARNOSC," was seen in public once again, on banners held high throughout the country.

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  • Struggling with Grandiosity



    We live in a world wherein most everything over-stimulates our grandiosity, even as we are handed less and less tools to deal with that. Several years ago, Robert L. Moore wrote a very significant book entitled, Facing the Dragon. The dragon that most threatens us, he believes, is the dragon of our own grandiosity, that sense inside us that has us believe that we are singularly special and destined for greatness. This condition besets us all. Simply put, each of us, all seven billion of us on this planet, cannot help but feel that we are the center of the universe. And, given that this is mostly unacknowledged and we are generally ill-equipped to deal with it, this makes for a scary situation. This isn't a recipe for peace and harmony, but for jealousy and conflict.

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  • An ecumenical honor for Boston



    This year, Boston is going to Rome...by way of Constantinople. Since the "removal from the midst and memory" of the anathemas between the Catholics and the Orthodox Christians on Dec. 7, 1965, the journey to restoring the full communion which existed in the first millennium has included both a "Dialogue of Truth" and a "Dialogue of Love." In the Dialogue of Love a significant component is comprised by the many gestures of accompaniment and prayer together. One of the greatest of these gestures is the ongoing exchange of delegations between Rome and Constantinople for the feast day of the patron saints of those two Churches. The Holy Father in Rome welcomes the Patriarch of Constantinople or his representatives at the liturgy and feast of Sts. Peter and Paul every June 29, just as the pope's representative is welcomed at the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the Feast of St. Andrew Nov. 30. Since the Patriarch of Constantinople is spiritual leader of 250 Million Orthodox Christians worldwide, it is highly significant that his representative to the Holy Father in Rome this June 29 is none other than the Greek Orthodox Bishop of Boston, His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios.

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  • Phase IV pastors



    The five collaboratives in Phase IV of Disciples in Mission were inaugurated at the beginning of June, bringing the total number of collaboratives to 52, made up of 109 parishes. In the first year, a collaborative gets to know the staff, forms a leadership team, and attends workshops on evangelization, leadership and building a collaborative. The second year includes additional workshops for leadership team development. The pastor recruits a plan writing team and the collaborative writes a local pastoral plan (LPP). The LPP is submitted to Cardinal O'Malley usually in June of the third year and the collaborative lives out their plan over the next three years. Year six is spent evaluating their plan and writing the next version, which is implemented in years seven, eight, and nine. "Disciples in Mission" is not a quick fix. There are hard facts moving this initiative: the shortage of priests and lay ecclesial ministers, dwindling numbers of people in the pews, and lack of revenue. But as the archdiocese necessarily addresses the immediate situation, there must be a long-range vision as well. So once again, we adopt an approach: work to keep parishes open, bring people back to the practice of the faith and sacraments, and, simultaneously, actively, and intentionally, encourage vocations to the diocesan priesthood.

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  • The letter of Private Bernard Sullivan



    On May 18, 1863, Bernard Sullivan, a private serving in Company I of the 9th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, wrote to Bishop John Bernard Fitzpatrick of Boston. Sullivan was a 24 year old baker and resident of Charlestown who enlisted for three years of service shortly after the war broke out, on June 11, 1861. The regiment was raised by Thomas Cass, former commander of the Columbian Artillery, a state militia unit comprised entirely of men born in Ireland.

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  • And before we break



    With the end of the fiscal year approaching (why do they always bang out in July?) it's time to clear the decks of last stray bits and pieces. Like for example: Has the folly of leaping hilariously to rash conclusions -- a common contemporary malaise on the sports pages of America -- ever been better demonstrated than in the madcap NBA conclusion yielding the Cavs as champs? This after the Warriors, their foppish foils, were being widely and radiantly proclaimed "the Greatest team in NBA history" midway through the finals. One prominent outlet even conducted a poll that lovingly embraced that conclusion; a silly rush to judgment that consumed the media pack as the San Francisco poseurs strutted to a 3-1 edge.

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  • Us First!



    "I am a citizen, not of Athens or Greece, but of the world." Socrates wrote those words more than twenty-four hundred years ago. Today more than ever these are words which we would need to appropriate because, more and more, our world and we ourselves are sinking into some unhealthy forms of tribalism where we are concerned primarily with taking care of our own.

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  • How Strange is the Cross



    Fleming Rutledge's The Crucifixion is one of the most stimulating and thought-provoking books of theology that I have read in the past ten years. Both an academic and a well-regarded preacher in the Episcopal tradition, Rutledge has an extraordinary knack of cutting to the heart of the matter. Her book on the central reality of the Christian faith is supremely illuminating, a delight for the inquiring mind -- and man, will it ever preach. There is so much of value in this text that I have decided to dedicate a number of articles to analyzing it. For the purposes of this initial interpretive foray, allow me to focus simply on two themes that run through the entire book and that ought to shape any Christian's understanding of the cross: the sheer strangeness of the crucifixion and the weight of sin.

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  • A cinematic lesson in hope



    At a moment like this when there doesn't seem to be a lot going right -- ascendant authoritarianisms throughout the world; lethal violence by ideological fanatics; feckless responses to both from the democracies -- it's good to be reminded that things can be different, and in fact were different, not so very long ago.

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