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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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  • Fathers of all kinds



    Last weekend we celebrated Father's Day, just as we celebrate Mother's Day in May. While our federal government is moving to abolish the separation between male and female bathrooms, and our state led the country in making sexual difference irrelevant to the civil institution of marriage, our culture fortunately still observes distinct days for mothers and fathers -- rather than some generic parenting day.

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  • To reduce deaths, we must reduce guns



    Recently in the Hartford Courant, reporter Vinny Vella wrote a story that lit a spark of hope in bleak times. It was about 23-year-old Josibelk Aponte; an accompanying photo showed her in cap and gown graduating magna cum laude from Eastern Connecticut State University. Beside her stood retired detective Peter Getz, who helped save her life in 1998, after she was carried out of a burning apartment.

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  • Promised home



    The Bible is an amazing handbook for life. No matter what you're up against -- or what mess you've gotten yourself into -- there is bound to be something relevant in the Holy Scriptures. Let's face it, some of the very best stories of all time are from the Bible. Sin and repentance, loyalty and betrayal, faithfulness and falleness: it's all in there!

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  • Instructing the ignorant, a work of mercy



    On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis inaugurated a Holy Year of Mercy -- a special time for the church to celebrate and experience God's mercy. It's not just a time for receiving mercy. In the bull of induction proclaiming the Jubilee Year, "Misericordiae Vultus," the pope encouraged us to show mercy as well, in imitation of our heavenly Father.

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  • Adopt a plant and you grow a soul



    "Adopt a plant and you grow a soul." The ratty wooden sign with letters resembling the work of a kindergarten student hung precariously on the side of a very dilapidated truck. In better days, perhaps the vehicle had been capable of carrying multiple sheets of fragile glass on its slanted sides.

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  • Forming Disciples



    Forming Disciples in Mission (FDIM) workshops are offered throughout the year, open to all parishioners interested in learning more about the what, why, how, and who of evangelization, new evangelization, and discipleship. When these workshops were designed and first offered, participation was limited to collaborative staff, clergy, councils, boards, and key volunteers. The goal was to present material and provide resources to help newly formed collaboratives focus on outreach, welcome, and forming intentional disciples. As time went on, the Office of Training and Support began getting inquiries from parishioners and pastors not yet in collaboratives, and from people in other dioceses, curious about what Boston was doing. Father Paul Soper, Cabinet Secretary for Evangelization and Discipleship; Michael Lavigne, Assistant Cabinet Secretary; and Patrick Krisak, Director of Training and Support, realized that the material and resources presented in FDIM workshops can be implemented in any parish, collaborative or not, and therefore should be open to anyone interested.

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  • Seasons pass



    In the week, the incomparable Gordie Howe bid farewell amidst much tender reminiscing of the game he once exemplified, the National Hockey League season finally came to a merciful end, with the Penguins waddling off with their fourth Cup. To think, it only took them about nine months to get there.

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  • Priest with liberal politics



    Q. My pastor has very liberal political convictions, and he often uses his Sunday homilies to promote the latest liberal agenda. I feel this is an abuse of his pastoral position and I resent his doing this, particularly because my own political beliefs are rather conservative.

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  • Assimilation, clericalism and the Catholic vote



    And so, in this exceedingly strange political year, what has become of the Catholic vote? There was a time not so long ago when the actual or anticipated voting behavior of American Catholics was a matter of intense interest to the secular media. Not today. Up to now journalists have virtually ignored the Catholic vote, concentrating instead on Protestant evangelicals and their relations with Donald Trump.

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  • Of Guns and Pacifism



    The Gospels tell us that after King Herod died, an angel appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, telling him: "Get up! Take the Child and His Mother and go to the land of Israel, for those seeking the Child's life are now dead." (Matthew 2, 19-20). The angel, it would seem, spoke prematurely, the Child, the Infant-Christ, was still in danger, is still in danger, is still mortally threatened, and is still being tracked down, right to this day.

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  • Confessions of an "elitist"



    The term "elitist" has been bandied about so promiscuously in this election cycle that it's become virtually content-free. Yet "elitist" is also being weaponized as a scare-word to prevent legitimate criticism of ideas, attitudes, and behaviors once thought beyond the pale, even in the rough-and-tumble of politics (which, as Mr. Dooley reminds us, "ain't beanbag"). That kind of bullying is bad news for an already degraded political culture.

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  • Thomas Aquinas and the Art of Making a Public Argument



    There is, in many quarters, increasing concern about the hyper-charged political correctness that has gripped our campuses and other forums of public conversation. Even great works of literature and philosophy - from Huckleberry Finn and Heart of Darkness to, believe it or not, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason - are now regularly accompanied by "trigger warnings" that alert prospective readers to the racism, sexism, homophobia, or classism contained therein. And popping up more and more at our colleges and universities are "safe spaces" where exquisitely sensitive students can retreat in the wake of jarring confrontations with points of view with which they don't sympathize. My favorite example of this was at Brown University where school administrators provided retreat centers with play-doh, crayons, and videos of frolicking puppies to calm the nerves of their students even before a controversial debate commenced! Apparently even the prospect of public argument sent these students to an updated version of daycare. Of course a paradoxical concomitant of this exaggerated sensitivity to giving offense is a proclivity to aggressiveness and verbal violence; for once authentic debate has been ruled out of court, the only recourse contesting parties have is to some form of censorship or bullying.

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  • Settling in



    The "Official" section of The Pilot is usually on the left side of page 2, a small column, approximately two-and-a-half inches wide and five inches long. This is where clergy changes and moves are officially announced. In a recent issue of the paper, the Official section covered almost the entire second page. It's that time of year. On June 1, most of the 45 priests listed there began a new assignment. A few will begin their assignments in July. Five pastors will shepherd Phase IV collaboratives, another is stepping in to a Phase III collaborative. And the Phase I collaborative of St. Jerome and Immaculate Conception parishes in Weymouth will welcome Bishop John Dooher, Auxiliary Bishop for the South Region, as their new pastor. Bishop Dooher has been in residence in Weymouth so this is familiar territory for him, and he is a familiar face for parishioners. Assisting Bishop Dooher will be Father John Ronaghan, who moved from administrator of St. Mary Parish in Randolph, to parochial vicar in Weymouth. Father Tom Macdonald was ordained in 2013. All of his priestly service has been in collaboratives. His first assignment as parochial vicar was in the Phase II Dorchester Collaborative of St. Ann and St. Brendan parishes, and this month he moved to another Phase II collaborative -- the parishes of St. Agnes, Middleton, and St. Rose in Topsfield.

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  • Baseball Research Journal



    Over these too many years, one has rarely (never?) used this space to plug any product (save for the odd hockey team). But there's an exception to every rule; even one firmly in place near a half century.

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  • Communion more than once?



    Q. I know that people can receive holy Communion twice in one day if they are present at those Masses for particular circumstances. But how about a lector or church musician who might be on duty for three or four Masses on the same day? Can they take Communion at each of those Masses? (York, South Carolina)

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  • The Struggle to Love Our Neighbor



    "The most damaging idolatry is not the golden calf but enmity against the other." The renowned anthropologist, Rene Girard, wrote that and its truth is not easily admitted. Most of us like to believe that we are mature and big-hearted and that we do love our neighbors and are free of enmity towards others. But is this so?

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  • Two Catholics and the Catholic game



    Baseball is by far the most Catholic of the sports on which we lavish such attention and passion. Because it's played without a clock, baseball is like the liturgy: a foretaste of the time-beyond-time, which is God's time, which is eternity. Baseball is also spatially eschatological or infinite: in theory, a baseball field could extend forever -- as center field in New York's old Polo Grounds seemed to do, except when patrolled by a higher spirit in human form who made space (and Vic Wertz's home run in the 1954 World Series) disappear: Willie Mays.

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  • Cardinal O'Malley's statement on Orlando tragedy



    As our society faces the massive and violent assault on human life in Orlando on Sunday, the Archdiocese of Boston offers and encourages prayers on behalf of those who were killed in the attack, those who were injured, and all their families and friends. At this time our prayers are also with Bishop Noonan and the Diocese of Orlando, with the wider community of Orlando, and for our country, once again confronted by the face of hatred expressed through gun violence.

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  • Summary of Iuvenescit Ecclesia



    Today, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a letter Iuvenescit Ecclesia ('The Church Regenerates') on "the relationship between the hierarchical and charismatic gifts for the life and the mission of the Church during a presentation in the Holy See Press Office. Provided below are the main points of the letter, prepared and provided by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

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  • Peering into 2020



    Recently, I read an article that included a list of things that will NOT be in schools by 2020. Included on the very eclectic list were traditional libraries, students' cell phones in a basket on a teacher's desk, computer rooms and lunch lines with adults distributing food!

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  • Embracing truth



    I've come to the conclusion that faith is more about who we trust than what we believe. Dogmas and doctrines are important, to be sure. And, once we believe in something, we can hardly imagine not believing it. The hard part, however, is coming to believe.

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  • Exercises in Summer Reading



    Tweets are generally 40 characters, despite the generous allowance of 140. The average word in a tweet has 5 characters: thus, about 7 words per tweet. It follows that the average reader, at 200 words per minute, will take all of 2 seconds to read a tweet. "All of 2 seconds to read a tweet" -- as much time as you took to read that.

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  • The Triumph of the cross



    2016 was the first year that the parishes of St. Rita in Lowell, St. Marguerite d'Youville in Tyngsboro, and St. Mary Magdalen in Dracut would celebrate Holy Week as a collaborative. Jean Soucy, a parishioner at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Tyngsboro, suggested to Father Richard Clancy, pastor, "We should use the cross. Where's the cross?" Perplexed, Father Clancy responded: "What cross?"

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  • Ali



    To speak of Muhammad Ali without tears is not easily done, especially at this moment. But this is no mere player of games, hardly just another boxer or celebrity who after a meteoric run drifts off into myth. This is that rare athlete whose historical stature and consequence are genuine. Moreover, there were two Alis; one so different from the other. So, we shall try!

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  • Righteous anger?



    Americans, a goodly number of them anyway, are angry. Opinion polls and both parties' primaries are evidence of that. But will this anger be put to good use or squandered? At the moment, squandering appears the better bet.

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  • Pope Francis at his Best



    Last week I was in Rome leading a pilgrimage of American journalists, trying to help them get to know better the past and the present of the Church. The timing couldn't have been better, however, because it coincided with the Jubilee for Priests during this extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. About 6,000 priests from across the world came -- and the Vatican really provided us a powerful program.

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  • 4 Lessons on Divine Mercy from the Woman at the Well



    I had the enormous privilege last week of addressing English-speaking priests from around the world who had gathered in Rome for a special Jubilee celebration of the Year of Mercy. I met fathers from the States, Canada, Australia, Latvia, Ghana, Cameroon, Ireland, Nigeria, and many other countries. During the communion at the Mass which followed my talk, I saw hundreds of priests in their albs coming to the altar to receive the Lord, and I thought of the passage from the book of Revelation concerning the white-robed army gathered around the throne of the Lamb.

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  • Sensitivity and Suffering



    Daniel Berrigan, in one of his famous quips, once wrote: Before you get serious about Jesus, first consider carefully how good you are going to look on wood! In saying this, he was trying to highlight something that's often radically misunderstood from almost every side, namely, how and why authentic religion brings suffering into our lives.

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  • There aren't "two popes" in any way, shape, or form



    Life, even Catholic life, is full of ambiguities, but some things either are or aren't. It's a ball or a strike. It's a Toyota or a Ford. You're baptized or you aren't. The papacy would seem to be one of these you-are-or-you-aren't realities. According to the law of the Church, a man becomes pope the moment he accepts election (assuming he's a bishop; if not, he becomes pope after he's immediately ordained to the episcopate). A man ceases to be pope when he dies or when he abdicates the office by a clear and free manifestation of his will to do so. So there are never "two popes." Whatever else a "pope emeritus" may be, he is emphatically not "the pope."

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  • At Hiroshima, urging peace and an end to materialism



    Before President Barack Obama visits Hiroshima later this week, he would do well to read the cover story in the Aug. 20, 1945, issue of Time magazine. This report was published, as were all Time stories in those days, without attribution of authorship. I learned years later that a young (and then relatively unknown) Time staffer by the name of James Agee wrote the piece under a very tight deadline. The overarching headline was "Victory." The first subhead was "The Peace." The second subhead was "The Bomb."

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  • Cardinal Cushing reflects on limits of knowledge



    On June 15, 1944, Cardinal Richard J. Cushing spoke to the graduating class of Boston College, offering his reflections upon the education system and what he saw as its inadequacies. His commencement address opens by acknowledging that "since the beginning of this century, we have had more education that in any other age in the history of civilization." He justifies this claim by pointing out the ever growing number of schools, universities, students and graduates. Similarly, he acknowledges the breadth of knowledge which had been cultivated under these circumstances, mentioning the increasing number of scholars with knowledge of economics, history, mathematics, physics, and other subject areas.

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  • Welcoming the stranger with familiar food



    Although I've purchased plenty of groceries in a lifetime, last week was the first time I searched for halal meat. My Ignatian faith-sharing group is once again sponsoring a refugee family, and part of our welcome to them -- besides a furnished apartment, bus passes and friendship -- is a well-stocked kitchen. The resettlement agency, Lutheran Family Services, gave us an extensive grocery list, and I was tasked with the shopping. Included on the list for this Muslim family was halal lamb, beef and chicken.

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  • What they saw and heard



    Quick re-cap: Representatives from the Archdiocese of Chicago spent a week meeting with Pastoral Center staff in Braintree and on the road visiting collaboratives. Our guests were Msgr. Richard Hynes, director of the Department of Parish Life and Formation, Father Jason Malave, co-chairman of the Priests' Steering Committee for "Renew My Church" and pastor of Saint Benedict Parish, a parish with an elementary and high school, and Mr. Tim Weiske, Director of Strategic Planning and Implementation.

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  • May pole



    If we were brinking on October, not just June, and the regular season were to end tomorrow the Red Sox, with the AL's best record, would be bracing for an epic clash against the Cubs, with the NL's best record, and all the sporting world would be their stage. The demand for these two chronic sob-sisters to settle a largely imaginary score at some new and fanciful Armageddon is this seasons' seething subplot.

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