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  • The fate of a Boston mission priest in WWII



    In observance of World Mission Month this October, there is a new display in the lobby of the Pastoral Center highlighting documents related to missionary priest Father James "Jim" Hennessey. A promising young priest, Father Hennessey left the comfort of Boston and his position at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross to spread the Word of God to the Solomon Islands in the Pacific, and ultimately sacrificed his life in doing so.

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  • If you wonder why...



    If you wonder why: -- The America Catholic Church is demographically on a path to extinction... -- That 80 percent of Catholics are no longer Catholic by the time they turn 23 years of age... --That only 30 percent of Americans who were raised Catholic are still practicing their faith...

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  • Compassionate acting



    It was all over Facebook when I checked my posts the other day. There was Pope Francis, clad in the typical hospital green scrubs, with a mask as well, visiting the newborn section of an Italian hospital, including the intensive care unit where five little ones struggled for survival due to early births or other complications.

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  • Acton-Stow town meeting



    In June, Father Walter Woods, pastor of the Apple Valley Collaborative (St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Acton and St. Isidore in Stow) attended the Renovation Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia with some members of his staff. It was a transformative experience. Returning home, Father Woods planned a Sept. 14 meeting for all parishioners, writing via parish bulletins and websites, "Our two parishes are at a turning point. The recently-approved pastoral plan calls us to take both parishes in a new direction, and do it with clear priorities and a redoubled commitment to the Lord and his mission... there is a lot more at issue than a single document can convey... I owe it to you to let you know how I understand the meaning, the temptations, the grace, and the call of this moment."

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  • Wonderful World of Football



    Wonderful stuff, Sports; you just never know when the boom might be lowered. Literally, you might say, in the National Football League. Here were the good citizens of Patriots Nation comfortably settling in the armchairs of New England and calculating how they might contend with the gathering boredom of an NFL regular season already -- in less than two full games -- safely resolved as their Patriots were effortlessly rendering pathetic the one team in their division possibly capable of challenging the divine right to an automatic playoff berth they've so richly enjoyed this entire millennium.

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  • Don't mess with Mother Nature



    Catholic children learn the corporal and spiritual works of mercy (seven each) about the same time they learn the seven sacraments. Most of them come directly from the Gospel, especially from the description of the last judgment. They include feeding the hungry and visiting the sick, for example, as well as admonishing sinners and bearing wrongs patiently.

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  • A Report from Baby Bishop School



    For the past week, I have been sequestered at the Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum in Rome, an institution about five miles west of St. Peter's Basilica. I'm here for the Formation for New Bishops' program, more colloquially known as "Baby Bishop School." My colleagues are about 150 other bishops from around the world who have been appointed in the last twelve months.

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  • Reverence for the name of Jesus



    Q. When is it appropriate to call out verbally the word "Jesus"? If his name is not being used in a disrespectful way but to implore his help, certainly this would not be considered swearing, right? Some people seem to have a fear of uttering his name, lest they appear to be swearing. (Timberville, Virginia)

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  • Indulgences Revisited



    When Pope Francis launched the Holy Year of Mercy, he promised that Christians could gain a special indulgence during this year. That left a lot of present-day Roman Catholics, and even more Protestants and Evangelicals, scratching their heads and asking some hard questions: Is Roman Catholicism still dealing in indulgences? Didn't we learn anything from Luther and the Reformation? Do we really believe that certain ritual practices, like passing through designated church doors, will ease our way into heaven?

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  • September and re-connecting



    Walking a pretty Black Lab around Charlestown several days a week gives me the wonderful opportunity to greet lots of people. I only wish I could remember all of the names! And this September I hear people making comments like, "Father, we have been away from church for a while and we want to come back." Obviously I am happy to welcome folks back into the church and look forward to seeing them.

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  • Leaving our values at the door of the strip club



    I was recently talking to a Massachusetts family with a 21-year-old son on the autism spectrum. Because of the Asperger syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder that have affected him since childhood, he is only about 13 or 14 in his understanding and behaviors. Jimmy (not his real name) has been in and out of mental institutions and recently had to be placed into a group home because his single Mom could no longer manage him at home. Jimmy came from a good family, conscientious and Catholic, raised in a clean environment by his mother and grandmother, who hoped to see him cared for in a protected and secure setting at the group home. Soon they saw, however, that there were issues: the residents had unlimited TV access in their private rooms; there seemed to be high worker turnover; and some of the staff were not only heavy smokers but used foul language.

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  • The story mercy tells



    There isn't much left to the Year of Mercy. Thankfully, that doesn't mean that mercy is running out -- at least not God's! Ours, on the other hand, may be another story. Often, it's the story that's the problem.

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  • How can Catholics relate to Mary?



    Of all the aspects of Mary, her motherhood is the one that takes hold of the average Catholic. We can easily imagine the indescribable intimacy that exists between a mother and son. For this reason, there are a variety of ways in which Catholics apply this awareness to their own lives.

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  • Scammed no more!



    The time I spend to write this column was supposed to have been spent with a friend whom I have not seen in years. But she had to cancel her visit because a computer hacker took over her invaluable laptop, so she will spend this weekend getting it fixed, instead.

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  • Intergenerational faith formation



    In advance of Catechetical Sunday, Sept. 18, the Office of Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support recently held their first gathering of the year for faith formation and religious education leaders. The topic was Intergenerational Faith Formation -- formation and instruction for all ages. The Pastoral Center auditorium was filled with new and veteran catechetical leaders anxious to listen, learn, ask, and share.

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  • Pennant fever



    Hereabouts it may be little noted, with your Town Team riding high with three weeks to go. Similar indifference can be expected in LA, Texas, St. Louis, maybe even New York. But in nonaligned baseball territories and sectors of the culture where allegiances are less passionate there are three potential runaway favorites, with all three up from the deepest of historical dredges. We speak obviously of those long woebegone Cleveland Indians, the offspring of Washington's least distinguished Senators, and those eternally cuddly if oft pathetic Cubbies of Chicago.

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  • From Paranoia to Metanoia



    Sometimes we're a mystery to ourselves, or, perhaps more accurately, sometimes we don't realize how much paranoia we carry within ourselves. A lot of things tend to ruin our day. I went to a meeting recently and for most of it felt warm, friendly towards my colleagues, and positive about all that was happening. I was in good spirits, generative, and looking for places to be helpful. Then, shortly before the meeting ended, one of my colleagues made a biting comment which struck me as bitter and unfair. Immediately a series of doors began to close inside me. My warmth and empathy quickly turned into hardness and anger and I struggled not to obsess about the incident. Moreover the feelings didn't pass quickly. For several days a coldness and paranoia lingered inside me and I avoided any contact with the man who had made the negative comments while I stewed in my negativity.

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  • Being Led through the Door of Mercy



    Normally during Jubilee Years, the only indulgenced Jubilee Doors are found at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican and the three other papal Basilicas in Rome. One of the innovations of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy has been that Pope Francis has allowed bishops throughout the world to designate holy doors in their cathedrals, major shrines, and basically any Church they deem appropriate. The Pope's idea was generously to allow the Jubilee's intended interior exodus from sin across the threshold of divine mercy to be experienced by everyone across the world, including by the vast majority of Catholics who would not be able to journey to Rome. And the bishops of the world have responded by naming various Churches in each Diocese Jubilee pilgrimage sites.

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  • Is dialysis required?



    Q. My Dad is almost 89 years old. In 1987, he had a double bypass. Right now he has slow-growing prostate cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. He is also suffering from depression (my mom passed away in 2010), and he looks forward to dying.

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  • On Reading Amoris Laetitia



    In a message to a gathering of bishops of the Americas in Bogota, Colombia, Pope Francis made a point that's always worth recalling but especially timely now in this Year of Mercy. Sin exists, he said, within "a history of sin to be remembered."

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  • They're confessors, not "culture-warriors"



    Like Shelby Foote's three-volume masterpiece, The Civil War: A Narrative, Francis Parkman's seven-volume colossus, France and England in North America, is worth reading and re-reading for its literary elegance as well as its historical insight. Parkman, like Foote, wrote history from a point of view: in Parkman's case, the Whiggish conviction that, when Wolfe defeated Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham in 1759, North America was won for liberty against popish authoritarianism. Yet, again like Foote, the elegiac southerner who recognized Lincoln's greatness, Parkman was bigger than his point-of-view and could thus celebrate the heroism of the 17th-century Jesuits martyred in the raw wilderness of the New World.

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  • Three goals, countless dreams



    ''Do not be content with what you are, if you want to become what you are not yet. For where you have grown pleased with yourself, there you will remain. But if you say, 'that's enough,' you are finished. Always add something more, keep moving forward, always make progress." (St. Augustine)

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  • Seminary Workshops



    The Disciples in Mission website (www.disciplesinmission.com) has a section called "Advanced Preparation." There, parishes can find simple, easy to implement, ideas to prepare parishioners for collaboration -- whether the parish will go into a collaborative in 2017 or 2023. Disciples in Mission promotes evangelization, encourages discipleship, asks a renewed emphasis on priestly vocations, and introduces a new model of leadership. The appointed team -- pastor, parochial vicar, permanent deacon -- is assisted by the leadership team -- lay professionals who are credentialed in a specific area of expertise. Collaborative parish staffs and key volunteers complete the leadership picture. All of these people participate in formation and training workshops to help them navigate the choppy waters of collaboration and grow in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

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  • Late summer musings



    Cracking wise with idle musings on a leisurely Labor Day while waiting for the drive to the baseball wire to become feverish. The gun sounds for the last lap but we may be in for a disappointment. At last check we had precisely one valid race, although there remains the chance the Giants could awaken in the NL West and the Indians could fizzle in the AL Central. Hardly to be hoped for.

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  • Whom do we play for?



    Amid all the Olympics coverage I watched, I was most taken by the women's basketball team. Their passion was mesmerizing and their tenacity in stepping up to all manner of challenges made me proud. In particular, I could not get over how repeatedly they were described as "unselfish."

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  • Apologists, Catechists, Theologians: Wake Up!



    After perusing the latest Pew Study on why young people are leaving the active practice of Christianity, I confess that I just sighed in exasperation. I don't doubt for a moment the sincerity of those who responded to the survey, but the reasons they offer for abandoning Christianity are just so uncompelling. That is to say, any theologian, apologist, or evangelist worth his salt should be able easily to answer them. And this led me (hence the sigh) to the conclusion that "we have met the enemy and it is us." For the past fifty years or so, Christian thinkers have largely abandoned the art of apologetics and have failed (here I offer a j'accuse to many in the Catholic universities) to resource the riches of the Catholic intellectual tradition in order to hold off critics of the faith. I don't blame the avatars of secularism for actively attempting to debunk Christianity; that's their job, after all. But I do blame teachers, catechists, evangelists, and academics within the Christian churches for not doing enough to keep our young people engaged. These studies consistently demonstrate that unless we believers seriously pick up our game intellectually, we're going to keep losing our kids.

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  • Catholicism's empty quarter



    QUÉBEC CITY. The exit signs along Autoroute 40 between the quondam capital of New France and Montréal are a veritable Litany of the Saints: Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, Saint-Nicolas, Saint-Basile-Sud, Sainte-Catherine-de-la-Jacques-Cartier, Notre-Dame-de-Portneuf, Saint-Marc-des-Carrières, Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Saint-Pierre-les-Becquets, Sainte-Geneviève-de-Batiscan, Saint-Luc-de-Vincennes, Saint Maurice, Saint-Louis-de-France, Saint-Léon-le-Grand, down through L'Assomption and Sainte-Térèse.

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  • Feeding off Life's Sacred Fire



    See the wise and wicked ones Who feed upon life's sacred fire These are lines from Gordon Lightfoot's song, Don Quixote, and they highlight an important truth, both the wise and the wicked feed off the same energy. And it's good energy, sacred energy, divine energy, irrespective of its use. The greedy and the violent feed off the same energy as do the wise and the saints. There's one source of energy and, even though it can be irresponsibly, selfishly, and horrifically misused, it remains always God's energy.

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  • Man and wife in heaven?



    Q. My wife passed away three years ago, and I miss her very much. We were married for 63 years. What are the church's thoughts on the hereafter? Will we still be man and wife? (Milford, Iowa) A. Your question is one frequently asked by those who are mourning deeply the death of a spouse. The response should bring you some comfort.

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  • Pope Francis' Homily at Canonization of Blessed Teresa



    Here is the Vatican-provided translation of Pope Francis' homily at the canonization of Blessed Mother Teresa, held in St. Peter's Square this morning: *** "Who can learn the counsel of God?" (Wis 9:13). This question from the Book of Wisdom that we have just heard in the first reading suggests that our life is a mystery and that we do not possess the key to understanding it. There are always two protagonists in history: God and man. Our task is to perceive the call of God and then to do his will. But in order to do his will, we must ask ourselves, "What is God's will in my life?"

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  • Laboring over work



    We are soon to celebrate Labor Day, our annual commemoration of work. And, of course, we celebrate work by taking off work. In doing so, we are following the biblical pattern established by our Creator, who rested after the work of the six days of creation and enjoined the Sabbath rest on his chosen people. Our Sunday is the Christian equivalent of the Jewish Sabbath for the Church.

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  • Small graces



    It's the little things. Big goals are reached by small and steady steps. Large obstacles are removed one bit at a time. Great transformations often come from relatively small changes. The basic units of every aspect of our earthly lives are the small and manageable choices and opportunities we often miss because they aren't big enough to draw our attention.

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  • Nothing truly different from Chicago



    Last week the internet community of social conservatives and libertarians was abuzz over a letter from a Dean at the University of Chicago, Jay Ellison, to incoming students. "Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn, without fear of censorship. ... Freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others. ... Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called 'trigger warnings,' we do not cancel invited speakers ... and we do not condone the creation of intellectual 'safe spaces' where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own."

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  • Permanent Diaconate Inquirers Program: Is Christ calling you?



    God is calling each of us to serve one another in charity and love, and Pope Francis speaks to this call constantly. For some there is a particular invitation to serve Christ and the Church in ordained ministry. The permanent diaconate, restored at Vatican II, is a ministry of service that is open to married and single men. In the words of St. John Paul II, the ministry of the deacon "is the Church's service sacramentalized."

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  • After the 'Holy Innocents' go: The closing of a church and the end of an era in Massachusetts



    When Helen Cushman describes the Chapel of the Holy Innocents, vibrant Sunday worship services come to life. "The cacophony in the building was just incredible," recalls the longtime volunteer. Today, her memories are all that remain of a once-bustling house of worship, built to serve patients at the Walter E. Fernald Developmental Center in Waltham, Mass. Shuttered in 2014, the church now sits empty, abandoned to the silence of a sprawling 196-acre campus.

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  • Summer Report



    No matter what the calendar says, many people agree that Labor Day -- not January 1 -- is the beginning of the new year. Schools start up full time and the full workforce returns from vacation. This summer many people in the Secretariat for Evangelization and Discipleship (SED) spent a good amount of time not on the beach but in their cars, visiting collaboratives.

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  • Harvard phenom



    Mind you, I've no idea how good a puck chaser Harvard boy Jimmy Vesey is or how much he'll impact the NHL. Happily, I retired about 40 years ago from the sorry business of predicting how great the hugely publicized but untested phenoms of sport may become. But I do know that losing Vesey to the bloody NY Rangers was a heavy blow to the Boston Bruins at a time these Bruins least needed it.

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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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