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  • Utopia, With Limits



    When I was a child there was a popular song whose chorus repeated this line: Everyone is searching for Utopia. And we all are. Every one of us longs for a world without limits, for a life where nothing goes wrong, for a place where there's no tension or frustration. But it never happens. There's no such place.

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  • God and birth defects



    Q. I have several very devout and pious friends who believe that God creates children with birth defects to become his "victim souls" because God needs suffering in order to make up for what was lacking in the suffering of Christ in the work of redemption.

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  • The Wrinkled Face of the Good Samaritan



    The goal of this extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is revealed by its Biblical motto: "Merciful like the Father." It's to be so transformed by God's merciful love that we become the image and likeness of that Mercy; like Jesus, "Mercy Incarnate," we become to some degree an embodiment of God's compassion. This is our Christian calling. This is what it means to become holy. This is what God in his love wants to make of us.

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  • He's not "turning his back to the people"



    Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, caused a rumpus earlier this summer by proposing to a meeting of liturgists in London that the Catholic Church return to the practice of priest and people praying in the same direction during the Liturgy of the Eucharist: a change in liturgical "orientation" the cardinal described as the entire congregation looking together toward the Lord who is to come. Cardinal Sarah further proposed that bishops and priests consider implementing this change on the First Sunday of Advent this year, during the liturgical season in which expectations of the Lord's return in glory are prominent.

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  • The Rodman Ride for Kids



    With our nation's presidential election heating up this summer, advocates for every candidate have ramped up their rhetoric; bringing attention to public concerns of all kinds. While each issue being discussed is important, in her speech at the Democratic National Convention, First Lady Michelle Obama reminded us what this and every election are really about, saying, "It is about leaving something better for our kids. That is how we have always moved this country forward, by all of us coming together on behalf of our children."

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  • Bishop Carroll's letter to John Hancock



    A letter from Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore to Gov. John Hancock of Massachusetts, dated Aug. 28, 1791, is full of praise and thanks for Hancock, who hosted the bishop during his visit to Boston several months earlier. What the letter hides are the events which prompted Bishop Carroll's visit, which upon further research, reveal a tumultuous start to the Catholic Church in Boston.

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  • New bishops -- New Evangelization



    In preparation for the episcopal ordinations of Bishop Mark O'Connell and Bishop Robert Reed, this past Friday, last week's Pilot included an extensive supplement filled with photos, well wishes, and information about both bishops and about the traditions surrounding the appointment and ordination of bishops in the Church. Of special interest were stories about how each bishop selected the components in his coat of arms and his episcopal motto.

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  • Olympic wrap up



    The bar for the Rio Olympics was set so low only an unmitigated catastrophe might have rendered the 2016 games a failure. In fact, the glass-half-full crowd will have no problems delivering a joyful verdict -- overflowing with cheeky 'I told you so's' -- and one is confident they will do that, fairly deliriously. In fact this dubious and cynical process is already well underway thanks to Cheerleader in Chief, NBC.

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  • God's Nature -- Exuberance or the Cross?



    It's funny where you can learn a lesson and catch a glimpse of the divine. Recently, in a grocery store, I witnessed this incident: A young girl, probably around 16 years of age, along with two other girls her own age, came into the store. She picked up a grocery basket and began to walk down the aisle, not knowing that a second basket was stuck onto the one she was carrying. At a point the inevitable happened, the basket stuck to hers released and crashed to the floor with a loud bang, startling her and all of us around her. What was her reaction? She burst into laughter, exuding a joy-filled delight at being so startled. For her the surprise of the falling basket was not an irritation but a gift, an unexpected humor happily fracturing dram routine.

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  • Is Old Testament God violent?



    Q. I am engaged in a plan to complete the Bible in its entirety. The program invites one to read a short section from the Old Testament each day, pray two of the psalms and finish with a brief passage from one of the Gospels (currently Matthew).

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  • Joe Biden is Isaac Hecker's fault?



    U.S. Catholics generally know little about the Church's history in our country. But whether you're trying to fill gaps in your knowledge or just looking for a good read, let me recommend a new book by Russell Shaw: Catholics in America -- Religious Identity and Cultural Assimilation from John Carroll to Flannery O'Connor (Ignatius Press).

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  • Taking a bullet in marriage



    Earlier this summer, we went to Mass in a neighboring state, a very Catholic one at that. The priest preached on faith and reason and its application to engaged couples. He reminded us that faith and its partner, intellect, are not foreign to divine revelation. Remember the old adage: "Reason reports like a camera. Faith takes a stand like an army."

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  • House and home



    After more than seven months, our family has finally moved back home. Most of our possessions have made it back with us. The remainder, we are told, will be delivered before the first week of September. A few things have been damaged or broken along the way. I guess that's bound to happen in any full-scale move. It's just one more set of things we have to file for and follow-up on. That list will have to get shorter eventually, won't it? I wonder.

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  • Each one teach one



    The little face peered into the field through the chain link fence, watching with eager eyes. He inched his way towards the action; I could see he was shirtless and shoeless. He wore denim shorts a couple of sizes too big, held up by the elastic at the waist. "Hand-me-downs," I thought. His curly mop of hair topped a long face, but it was his huge, eager eyes that caught my full attention. He took in everything: nothing missed his gaze.

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  • Summer visitor -- Versailles



    Over the past few years, the Office of Pastoral Planning has met with visitors from out of the archdiocese who want to hear -- first hand -- what is happening in Boston and what Disciples in Mission is really about. In addition to (arch)dioceses in the United States, guests from other countries have spent time with the Pastoral Planning and Evangelization staff too. Recently, Jason Trepanier met with Father Paul Soper, Cabinet Secretary for Evangelization and Discipleship, Patrick Krisak, Director of Training and Support and Tom Lyman, Evangelization Trainer. M. Trepanier and his wife are the directors of the Ecole Pour Servir L'Evangelisation (School to Serve Evangelization) or ESE for the Diocese of Versailles, France. In 2010-2011 the Diocese of Versailles held a synod and among the findings of the synod was the need and desire to better understand and promote the New Evangelization.

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  • Beisbol rambles



    Now that we have survived the turgid melodrama of A-Rod's weepy farewells, one assumes it is safe to return to the pennant race: or at least what's left of it. Two things are made clear by the experience of the Yankee prodigal's last sting in all of its painful contrivance. Americans do love a soap opera. And parting is not always sweet sorrow. But say this much for Alex Rodriguez: he was never boring. While we still had him to kick around we were never at a loss for words.

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  • A Happy Death



    In the Roman Catholic culture within which I grew up, we were taught to pray for a happy death. For many Catholics at the time, this was a standard petition within their daily prayer: "I pray for a happy death."

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  • God and Brexit



    Ever since the United Kingdom decided in June to leave the European Union, contending (and sometimes overlapping) explanations have been offered for a vote that stunned the world's opinion-makers: a perceived loss of national sovereignty to a transnational organization; concerns over current EU immigration policy and the effect of open EU borders on jobs and the rule of law; aggravations with petty bureaucratic regulation by EU mandarins in Brussels. Together, these amount to what's often called the EU's "democracy deficit," which seems to me real enough.

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  • Keeping Lord's day holy



    Q. I write to ask for guidelines on the Third Commandment -- keeping holy the Lord's day. I do not consider some of the things that I do to be work -- cooking, for example, minor cleanups, mowing, trimming, weeding. Does the church look upon all chores as work? I find it very hard not to do some of the things that need to be done around the house.

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  • Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, a Tale of Grace



    Lew Wallace's nineteenth century novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, inspired two silent movies in the early decades of the twentieth century and the magnificent 1959 film starring Charlton Heston in the lead role. Almost everyone agrees that Heston was born to play the part, and who can forget the drama and excitement of the chariot race with which the movie comes to its climax? Roma Downey and Mark Burnett have produced a new instantiation of the story, a streamlined version of the 1959 film. Like its predecessor, this one features a charismatic actor (Jack Huston) as Ben-Hur, plenty of visual grandeur, and yes, a stunning chariot race, depicted this time with the most up to date camera technology and CGI virtuosity. But what principally differentiates it from the Heston Ben-Hur is its greater stress on the strange power of Christ to bring about forgiveness -- an emphasis, I must say, much needed in the cultural context of the present moment.

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  • A pertinent dark vision



    I'd been running into references to the book every now and then for years. People told me I really ought to read it. But somehow I never got around to that. Then a friend forced my hand by buying a copy and sending it to me. No excuses now, so I sat down and read.

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  • Talking to kids about porn and human sexuality



    A growing concern today involves the role of pornography as the next generation's instructor in human sexuality. For many young people, pornography has become the only guide to sexuality they have ever known. For Catholic parents, this raises the critical challenge of how best to approach these matters with their children, given that kids as young as 8 or 9 may already be acquiring information and viewpoints about human sexual behaviors from internet pornography. I would like to present six practical suggestions for parents, culled from parental testimonies and insights, from other experts in the field, and from ex-users of pornography.

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  • Remembering prolific architect Patrick C. Keely



    August 9, 2016, marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of architect Patrick Charles Keely. Keely, sometimes spelled Kiely or Keily, was born in Ireland and believed to have learned his trade from his father, an architect and carpenter. He immigrated to the United States, arriving around 1841 or 1842, and worked for several years before designing his first notable church building. The opportunity came through his friendship with Father Sylvester Malone who was sent to Williamsburg (now Brooklyn), New York, to establish a parish and asked Keely to design the new church.

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  • Wilmington Catholic Community



    The parishes of Saint Dorothy and Saint Thomas of Villanova make up the Catholic Community of Wilmington and South Tewksbury. Planning is not new to this community. In 2010, ahead of the curve, these parishes worked with a consultant who guided them through a process designed to help them plan for a future together. They were well positioned to become a Disciples in Mission Phase II collaborative in 2014.

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  • A-Rod



    You gotta hand it to the Yankees, mates, no matter how tough a swallow that may be for you. They've done it again. Bumbling along in their most miserable season in a quarter century, bracing for an interminable and tedious rebuild, answering for an era of vain pretension and dumb judgment, while having to endure the scorn of adversaries who've been yearning for this moment a full generation they nonetheless steal the show. They're going nowhere this season, but they are dominating the conversation.

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  • Saint Jeanne Jugan 'walked the talk' on mercy



    During this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has encouraged us to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy with new enthusiasm. A member of my community recently noted how blessed we are as Little Sisters of the Poor to have multiple opportunities each day to practice mercy -- serving meals to the elderly, bathing and dressing those who need assistance, comforting those who are sad or lonely, keeping vigil with the elderly who are dying and accompanying them all the way to the grave.

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  • WYD 2016: Source of Hope



    When I arrived in Kraków for the 2016 World Youth Day, I was pretty exhausted, having left Los Angeles some fifteen hours earlier and having had to change planes in Munich. But I was enthused as I approached my first appointment right in the heart of the Old City. Through the good ministrations of George Weigel, the world's leading expert on John Paul II, I was one of a group of bishops and priests invited to spend time with the original youth group of Fr. Karol Wojty?a.

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  • Free to marry?



    Q. I was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church. When I was younger, I served as an altar boy for several years. About 12 years ago, I got married in a Methodist church. I never had the marriage "convalidated" in the Catholic Church since my wife was against involving another member of the clergy.

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  • The Washington Post and the Church of Me



    My local paper, the Washington Post, is best read for its sports and op-ed pages and its often-sensible editorials on foreign policy. Alas, the Post editorial board's IQ drops well below the Mendoza Line when the subject is the Catholic Church. After decades of grumbling about this seemingly permanent feature of life along the Potomac littoral, it occurred to me recently that the problem here isn't gross ignorance about matters Catholic; the problem is that the Post is all-in for another, competing religion.

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  • Impoverished without Contemplation



    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in one of his Gulag books tells of how he and other prisoners were kept in buildings without any windows, yet each day, when they were being marched from one prison bloc to another, they passed through a hallway with a small window opening to the sky. And they would pause and stare at that sliver of sky in wonderment, lingering there until the guards pushed them along.

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  • Selection year



    The political party conventions are over, and the race for President of the United States has now begun in earnest. Analysts, commentators, and spinners dominate the airwaves and opinion polls track the waves of public sentiment. Prognostications and predictions are handed out like candy on Halloween, and there's a heightened level of interest -- at least for a few weeks -- in the state of the nation and our place in world affairs. Some people love election years; more have grown to despise them.

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  • Sneak peek at Phase II Local Pastoral Plans



    As Phase III works on drafts of their Local Pastoral Plans (LPP), Phase II collaboratives await the formal letter from Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley that their completed plans have been approved. Most collaboratives have shared the plans with parishioners via their collaborative webpages, but until approval is official, plan highlights will only be broadly described here, just to avoid "WikiLeaks journalism."

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  • On the road to Rio



    Here's some random observations and stray quibbling looking for a place to land while we await shoes, cleats, spikes, sneakers, whatever to begin dropping in Rio. And should we add to the hyper fears about the quadrennial opus the possibility that the frustrations delivered by the IOC's drug gendarmes might arouse the competitive passions of intense jock Vladimir Putin to boil over thus placing geographically luckless Estonia at mortal peril. That is if -- having been thwarted in his high jump dreams -- he doesn't take it out on little Latvia.

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  • Trump, Kaine, and more illusions



    The following, instructive nugget comes from Times of London columnist Tim Montgomerie, writing in late July after a visit to a South Carolina evangelical church where he found delicious, post-service fried chicken -- and Trump supporters willing to overlook their candidate's sketchy credentials in the piety department:

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  • The Pilgrimage of Mercy



    The Jubilee of Mercy is inherently dynamic. There's a journey involved, an interior exodus from a form of slavery induced by sin to a promised land irrigated by the milk and honey of God's mercy. It's an internal reiteration of the odyssey of the Prodigal Son from a fallen place of self-imposed alienation to the house and restorative embrace of a forgiving Father.

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  • Catholics and tithing



    Q. We have a new pastor who several times already has brought up the notion of tithing. He says that, as Catholics, we are called to give 10 percent of our annual gross income to charity, and he promises us that "God will not be outdone in generosity."

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  • Al Smith, a happy warrior



    Eighty-eight years ago a Happy Warrior from the streets of New York ran for President of the United States. His name was Al Smith, and he deserves to be remembered now as another bitter presidential campaign enters its decisive phase.

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  • I have met hope ... in person



    In July I traveled to Serbia, Greece and Lebanon to review the refugee situation now that the borders to Northern Europe are closed. While the flow of people has diminished, it has not ceased. Migration is now largely dependent on traffickers who charge individuals 4,000 to 6,000 euros to facilitate illegal crossings.

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