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  • Homelands and social doctrines



    With hundreds of bishops coming to the Vatican in October 2001 for a Synod, I decided to spend that month in Rome conducting interviews for what would eventually become the sequel to Witness to Hope and the second volume of my John Paul II biography, The End and the Beginning. During my conversations, I found a striking similarity among bishops from Latin America, each of whom I asked to name the greatest challenge his local Church faced in implementing Catholic social doctrine in the 21st century. Without exception as to country, and no matter where the bishop in question fell on the spectrum of Catholic opinion, each of them gave the same, one-word answer: "Corruption."

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  • A family moment



    "It is a profound spiritual experience to contemplate our loved ones with the eyes of God and to see Christ in them." Pope Francis may not have had a conga line in mind when he wrote these words in his apostolic exhortation, "Amoris Laetitia," but it worked for me.

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  • Donating body to science



    Q. I would like to donate my remains to medical science. Does the Catholic Church approve or disapprove of this action? (Chesapeake, Virginia) A. The Catholic Church not only allows this but encourages it. Your donation could enable doctors, nurses and medical researchers to understand the human body better and save lives in the future.

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  • The Question Behind the Question



    On the afternoon of June 14, a rather spirited, fascinating, and unexpected debate broke out on the floor of the USCCB spring meeting in Ft. Lauderdale. At issue was the possibility of reconsidering "Faithful Citizenship," the 2007 statement of the US Bishops on the formation of conscience regarding matters political. A group of bishops, including myself, had proposed that instead of producing another lengthy document to succeed "Faithful Citizenship," the bishops ought to write a brief and pointed letter on the political challenges of the present moment and then to create a video or a series of videos bringing forth the salient points of Catholic social teaching. Our thinking was motivated by recent research, which indicates that a very small percentage of Catholics actually read that formal statement from ten years ago. Though it had been taken in and appreciated by the bishops themselves, by lobbyists and political activists, and by members of the Catholic commentariat, it was largely ignored by the very people we were endeavoring to reach.

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  • One, holy, catholic



    This summer marks the 50th anniversary of "Humanae Vitae." The world has changed dramatically since Pope Paul VI wrote the encyclical, mostly in ways he foretold. Abortion and sterilization are commonplace. Artificial birth control has opened "wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards." Governments favor "those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective ... (and) may even impose their use on everyone."

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  • Mourning



    Our culture doesn't give us easy permission to mourn. Its underlying ethos is that we move on quickly from loss and hurt, keep our griefs quiet, remain strong always, and get on with life. But mourning is something that's vital to our health, something we owe to ourselves. Without mourning our only choice is to grow hard and bitter in the face of disappointment, rejection, and loss. And these will always make themselves felt.

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  • The hope of immigrant Catholic families



    A most rewarding moment in my daily routine after a long workday or returning home from some travels is to sit with my wife for a while to watch our children play. Their energy and creativity are mesmerizing. Their laugh is contagious. They make everything fun! As they play and talk, my mind often slips into the imaginary worlds that they describe, worlds charged with possibility.

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  • Recognizing our faithful volunteers



    Volunteerism is the lifeblood of the work we do here at Catholic Charities. It is the spirit of altruism distilled down to its truest form. We enjoy the assistance of the many who volunteer to help us carry out our mission to build a just and compassionate society rooted in the dignity of all people.

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  • On the move



    We didn't just wake up one morning and decide to move. But we did wake up one morning just after last Christmas and discovered that God was moving. It wasn't long after Andrew and I prayed a 54 day Rosary novena.

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  • The healing power of nature



    ''In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks." -- John Muir Do you remember the first time you saw the ocean or reached the peak of a tall mountain? Or a time you first encountered an enormous waterfall, or saw the Grand Canyon? Whatever the experiences may be, encounters with the natural world leave vivid impressions on us. Nature's mystery coexists with fascinating, particular details. The feeling of vastness when looking at the ocean mingles with observations of shells, rocks and small critters swimming in the shallows and crawling on the beach. Nature is a place where imagination can roam free while we make new discoveries about the outer world and our inner selves.

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  • Tree of Righteousness: Reflections on the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time



    In the cryptic message of the prophet Ezekiel, long centuries before the Lord's coming, God gave his people reason to hope. Ezekiel glimpsed a day when the Lord God would place a tree on a mountain in Israel, a tree that would "put forth branches and bear fruit." Who could have predicted that the tree would be a cross on the hill of Calvary, and that the fruit would be salvation?

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  • Stirring the Smoldering Ashes of our Faith



    Anyone who has ever watched a fire knows that at a point the flames subside and disappear into smoldering coals which themselves eventually cool and turn into cold, grey ash. But there's a moment in that process, before they cool off, that the coals can be stirred so as to make them burst into flame again.

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  • The pope's security detail



    Q. Who are the men protecting Pope Francis who are wearing suits and ties? Are they part of the Italian national police force, Swiss Guards or a private security firm? (They seem to protect the pope not only at the Vatican, but they travel with him on papal trips.) (Edison, New Jersey)

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  • Approaching the Suicide Surge with Honesty and Resolve



    When suicides happen, most respond with discretion and whispers. Because of shock, shame and a desire to avoid speaking ill of the dead, obituaries use euphemisms about unexpected deaths, and family members and friends are understandably reluctant to divulge how their loved one died. There's almost an unwritten cultural pact between mourners and condolers to get through the funeral with as few mentions of the S-word as possible. All of this is understandable and, in a sense, compassionate and noble.

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  • After the Irish debacle



    I wasn't surprised by the result of Ireland's May 25 referendum, which opened a path to legal abortion in the Emerald Isle by striking down a pro-life amendment to the Irish Constitution. Nor was I all that surprised by the large margin of victory racked up by those for whom an unborn child isn't "one of us;" both the government and the virulently anti-Catholic Irish media put heavy thumbs onto the scales as the debate over the referendum unfolded. So with Ireland having joined the Gadarene rush into legalizing the dictatorship of relativism, what next?

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  • Love matters



    On May 26, outside the Centro de Santa Clara on Grand Street in Brockton, approximately 200 people gathered in prayer to begin what has become an annual tradition in the city of Brockton, A Walk for Peace to build a Brockton Without Violence. Organized by members of Grupo Familia de Nazare, a Cape Verdean community of St. Edith Stein Parish in Brockton, this walk seeks to accomplish two things: first to change the hearts of those who perpetrate violence and secondly, to stand with and for those who are victimized by the many forms of violence that plague our homes, schools, and neighborhoods. As one of the deacons who serve at St. Edith Stein Parish, it has been a joy and a blessing to participate in this annual walk.

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  • Brainy and brave



    It's not news that the media should not be raising our children. Cyber content is not of much help. Nevertheless, sound advice is out there. In addition to priests and parents, a new source has entered the realm of ideas: Jordan B. Peterson.

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  • The burning of St. Mary's Church in Vermont



    In the spring of 1838, Father Jeremiah O'Callaghan wrote to Bishop Fenwick from Burlington, Vermont, informing him of the destruction of St. Mary's Church and the investigation that followed. A native of Ireland, Father O'Callaghan was responsible for all missions in the State of Vermont, then part of the Diocese of Boston, a position which he had filled since 1830. He built the first Catholic Church in Burlington, which was dedicated to St. Mary on Sept. 9, 1832.

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  • Time for tough love



    ''Get that idea out of your head!" While growing up, my mother was forever shouting out commands like this to keep me on the right track. When I complained, she would reply, "That's tough love. Some day you will thank me for it." To which I replied, "If you keep beating on me, I'll never reach that day."

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  • The Dangerous Saint Justin



    The Church recalls the witness of St. Justin, one of the earliest martyrs. He was brutally killed in the year 165 AD, unwilling to offer worship to the emperor and gods of Rome. Fidelity to Christ was more important to him than even his own life.

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  • The Promised One: Reflection on the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time



    In today's Gospel Jesus has just been healing and casting out demons in Galilee. Along with the crowds, who flock to him so that he can't even take a break to eat, come people who do not understand what he is doing. Even his friends think he has lost his mind and needs to be taken away for a while. But the scribes who came down from Jerusalem are not just honestly mistaken; they accuse him of being possessed by the prince of demons.

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  • How to get past the polarization



    In our belligerent times, there is a kind of in-your-face response to those of us wringing our hands about how divided our country is. Everything can't be the snowflake center, this argument goes. There are very real things to be divided over: unborn babies, women's control of their bodies; guns that kill people, guns that defend people; illegal, undocumented; politically correct, politically incorrect.

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  • Sunday shopping



    Q. I am a sports professional and have various opportunities for endorsement deals. Can you tell me whether it's all right to be sponsored by a brand whose stores are open on Sundays? (I know that Sunday shopping is a grave sin.) (Naples, Florida)

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  • Sowing the Wind and Reaping the Whirlwind: A Reflection on the Irish Referendum



    I will confess that as a person of Irish heritage on both sides of my family, I found the events in Ireland last week particularly dispiriting. Not only did the nation vote, by a two-to-one margin, for the legal prerogative to kill their children in the womb, but they also welcomed and celebrated the vote with a frankly sickening note of gleeful triumph. Will I ever forget the unnerving looks and sounds of the frenzied crowd gathered to cheer their victory in the courtyard of Dublin Castle? As the right to abortion now sweeps thoroughly across the Western world, I am put in mind of Gloria Steinem's mocking remark from many years ago to the effect that if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament. I say this because abortion has indeed become a sacrament for radical feminism, the one, absolutely sacred, non-negotiable value for so-called progressive women.

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  • 'The Loved One'



    Just 70 years ago this month a slender novel bearing the innocuous title The Loved One made its appearance in the United States. My copy, a first edition, records four reprintings between June and August. Today the book is still in print and apparently still selling briskly.

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  • Craving approval isn't evangelization



    The bizarre comment and the weird gesture have not, until recently, been associated with high-ranking churchmen. Both, alas, were on vivid display last month when Cardinals Reinhard Marx and Gianfranco Ravasi had more than a few of us scratching our heads in wonderment.

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  • It's all about him



    It's hard to keep track of things in our post-modern, post-Christian world. First, there are far too many things to track. And second, the sheer speed at which they fly by us makes them mostly untrackable. Nevertheless, most of us still try. Perhaps it's because we're like dogs who bark at every car that passes or can't help but run after every squirrel. It's easy to lose our bearings.

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  • Smiling and having a sense of humor as signs of holiness



    At the end of the new feature-length documentary "Pope Francis: A Man of His Word," still playing at local movie theaters, the Pope encourages us to smile and have a good sense of humor. His various solemn pronouncements have usually been named with some variant of joy: from the "Joy of the Gospel" to the "Joy of Love." Indeed, his recent Apostolic Exhortation on the Call to Holiness in Today's World is aptly entitled "Rejoice and Be Glad," which repeats the idea of being happy, really happy, as a response to the good news of Jesus Christ, a bit like the Magi who, as St. Matthew tells us, "rejoiced with exceedingly great joy," when they rediscovered the star that led them to Bethlehem.

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  • Change is in the air!



    Change is never easy. Even with the change that each season brings, something in our nature pushes back against the change. Of course, some changes are easier to accept than others. We welcome the idea of change when it is time to move from a winter jacket to a springtime sweater, or change to a job with new challenges. Change means things will be different for us. The familiar is replaced with the unfamiliar, at least for a time. We may be left worried and wondering what the change will ask of us or what shifts in direction we might be asked to take. One thing about change is that it touches everyone's life, sometimes daily and sometimes infrequently.

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  • Blood of the Covenant: Reflections on Corpus Christi



    All of today's readings are set in the context of the Passover. The first reading recalls the old covenant celebrated at Sinai following the first Passover and the Exodus. In sprinkling the blood of the covenant on the Israelites, Moses was symbolizing God's desire in this covenant to make them his family, his "blood" relations.

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  • Mercy, Truth, and Pastoral Practice



    Recently a student I'd taught decades ago made this comment to me: "It's been more than twenty years since I took your class and I've forgotten most everything you taught. What I do remember from your class is that we're supposed to always try not to make God look stupid."

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  • What's so funny?



    Our youngest daughter is living at home while her husband finishes his medical residency. One of the many blessings of this old-fashioned arrangement (several generations under one roof) is that we have two babies to pass around. The youngest is just 5 months old. She doesn't have much to say yet, but she has quite a good sense of humor. If you smile at her, she will smile back, and she means it.

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  • Salvation for a nonbeliever?



    Q. In a recent issue of our diocesan paper, I read an article about a conversation that had occurred in Italy between Pope Francis and a young boy. The boy -- who was both fearful and tearful, as he whispered his question to the pope -- wanted to know whether his deceased father was in heaven. The answer Pope Francis gave to the boy seemed shocking to me as a believing Catholic.

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  • Is Justice Kennedy retiring?



    Rumors have been flying around Washington that Justice Anthony Kennedy will announce his retirement from the Supreme Court shortly after the court's current term ends late in June. Whether he will or won't remains to be seen. But it would be no great surprise if he does.

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  • Grace under pressure



    A chapter in a remarkable American and Catholic life will close on June 6, when Abbot Thomas Frerking, OSB, concludes more than two decades of service as leader of the monastic community at St. Louis Abbey. His story deserves to be better known.

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  • Consenting to sex



    Recent news articles exploring the post #MeToo world of romance have noted the phenomenon of cell phone "consent apps," allowing millennials to sign digital contracts before they have sex with their peers, sometimes strangers they have just met. Many of these apps are being refined to include a panic button that can be pressed at any time to withdraw any consent given. Lawyers reviewing the practice, as might be anticipated, have urged caution, noting that consent apps are not able to provide definitive proof of consent, because feelings may "change throughout an evening, and even in the moments before an act."

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  • Traveling abroad for ad limina visit



    Two undated documents in the papers of Bishop John B. Fitzpatrick are addresses welcoming him home from Europe in September 1864. This was a return from his second of two journeys across the Atlantic, the first having been in 1854. American Bishops were required to visit Rome every seven years, known as ad limina visits, and though his predecessors never fulfilled this obligation he departed with Father George Haskins on Feb. 14. They boarded a steamer departing Boston for Liverpool and, upon arrival, continued to London and then Paris.

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  • Breath of God, Fire of Love



    The risen Jesus comes through the locked doors of every heart and breathes courage, forgiveness, and possibility. His breath pushes out fear, uncertainty, grief, regret and fills up that space with the fire of the Spirit. It is a fire that opens doors, a fire that lights a path forward, a fire that leads to action. The action of the Spirit is always diakonia -- an action of tender, compassionate service to the people right in front of us. The life of Jesus was diakonia -- washing the disciples feet, healing the broken, feeding the crowds, releasing those held captive by shame, fear, or illness. All through the gospels Jesus shows us his mission of being the servant to all, and each person he touched was invited to follow him in serving others. Bartimaeus regained his sight and immediately followed Jesus on the way -- the way of diakonia. Jesus called Zacchaeus down from the tree and into a new life of serving the poor.

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  • Hype and reality on family planning



    President Trump has announced he will restore a Reagan-era regulation forbidding clinics in the federal Title X family planning program to perform or refer for abortions. Planned Parenthood, promising a lawsuit, describes this policy as "preventing patients from visiting Planned Parenthood health centers," and commentators on both sides of the issue call it an effort to "defund Planned Parenthood."

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  • Family of Love: Reflection on the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity



    Last Sunday, we celebrated the sending of the Spirit, which sealed God's new covenant and made a new creation. In this new creation, we live in the family of God, who has revealed himself as a Trinity of love. We share in his divine nature through his body and blood (see 2 Peter 1:4). This is the meaning of the three feasts that cap the Easter season--Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and Corpus Christi.

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