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  • After Trinity Lutheran



    Will a preschool kids' playground turn out to be the path that leads to ending a historic form of discrimination against church-sponsored schools in America? For the moment, the best answer to that question is: maybe. The question itself suddenly came alive in the wake of an important Supreme Court decision in June declaring that Missouri acted in a manner "odious to our Constitution" (the words are Chief Justice John Roberts') in refusing money from a playground safety fund to a Lutheran church's daycare and preschool only because of their link to the church.

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  • A Mass confusion



    In professional Catholic circles, a tired joke that still makes the rounds goes like this: Q: What's the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist? A: You can negotiate with a terrorist. Most Catholics never use the word "liturgist" in everyday conversation, and may never have even knowingly met a liturgist, but the average Mass-going Catholic can be as opinionated as any liturgist:

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  • The cooler Cold War



    The claim that "the Cold War is over" and that the West needs a "new paradigm" for relations with Russia has become an antiphon in some conservative political circles -- not least conservative Christian circles. The call for serious and creative thinking about Russia is welcome and sensible. The claim that the Cold War is over is not, because Vladimir Putin never got that memo. Ignoring that reality means danger in devising any new paradigm.

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  • A World War Being Waged Not With Weapons but Ideas



    One of Pope Francis' most persistent prophetic protests -- perhaps the one most consistently ignored by secular media outlets -- has been against what he has vividly and aptly called "ideological colonization." This refers to the attempt by western liberal democracies and institutions to compel, through economic and political pressure, countries and regions that were formerly colonized militarily to accept radical social, sexual and familial reengineering.

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  • The Word's Return



    Today's readings, like last week's, ask us to meditate on Israel's response to God's Word--and our own. Why do some hear the word of the kingdom, yet fail to accept it as a call to conversion and faith in Jesus? That question underlies today's Gospel, especially.

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  • Lost in the news cycles: Severe drought causes hunger emergency



    Last year during a trip to Kenya with Catholic Relief Services our delegation visited the Amboseli National Park in Southern Kenya for two days. The park is on the migration route for millions of wildebeests and zebras as they cross through the grasslands of Kenya on their way to the Serengeti in Tanzania. As you can see in the photo accompanying this article, the zebra are hurrying through the drought-stricken preserve hoping to find green grass soon. The extreme drought in this region has gotten worse -- not better -- since last year.

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  • Making suicide routine



    You would not know it from the national secular news, but a lot is happening on the contentious issue of physician-assisted suicide. One remarkable fact is that no state has passed a law allowing the practice this year, although laws allowing it went into effect in California and Colorado last year. Such proposals have stalled or been defeated outright in 23 states whose sessions are over for the year. In New York, a state targeted by the advocacy group Compassion & Choices, a bill approved in committee last year could not get that far in 2017.

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  • Awkward? Or wise?



    Asked to name books that gave me the greatest intellectual jolt in recent decades, I'd quickly cite two. N.T Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press) accepts every grand-slam bid from the guild of Scriptural deconstructionists and skeptics, calmly replies, "I'll see you and raise you" -- and then takes the game with a flourish, leaving the unbiased reader convinced of, well, the resurrection of the Son of God.

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  • A Bride and Groom; The Bride and The Groom



    Two weeks ago, I had the great good pleasure of presiding at the wedding of my niece, Bryna. She has been, all her life, a lovely girl, full of joy and good cheer--and eager to give herself in service to others. Her husband, Nelson, is also a fine person, and he took the courageous step of becoming a Catholic in anticipation of his wedding. So it was a joy to join my whole family in celebrating the coming-together of this splendid couple.

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  • Inchoate Desire



    Sometimes while praying the Psalms, I'm caught looking quite uncomfortably into a mirror reflecting back to me my own seeming dishonesty. For example, we pray these words in the Psalms: My soul longs for you in the night. ... Like a deer that yearns for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you my God. ... For you alone do I long! For you alone do I thirst!

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  • Fifty years of friendship with Cardinal Pell



    Msgr. Thomas A. Whelan, my pastor when I was growing up in Baltimore, was a striking character: Princeton friend of F. Scott Fitzgerald; former Wall Street broker; high-ranking Army chaplain in World War II; world traveler; founding rector of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. The latter two roles led to some creative thinking about arranging "coverage" at the cathedral during the summer, when he could be found abroad: one by one and year by year, Msgr. Whelan brought to Baltimore newly-ordained Australian priests who had studied in Rome, wanted to visit the U.S., and could use some money.

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  • The war on chastity



    G.K. Chesterton got a lot of things right. Here's one: "The moment sex ceases to be a servant it becomes a tyrant." Evidence for the destructive consequences of tyrannical sex abounds in wrecked relationships, wrecked families, and wrecked lives.

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  • Images of Mary



    Q. I am wondering how the common representation of Mary in art form came to be. Whether in Nativity scenes, statues or paintings, she is usually shown as being Caucasian (or at least European), with a pale complexion and hair that is almost blond. Shouldn't she be depicted instead as dark-skinned, dark-haired and Jewish? (Corydon, Indiana)

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  • Reflections on the Order of Malta Lourdes pilgrimage



    We are back from our pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, and excited to share with you our experience of this extraordinary journey. We were honored to be invited by the Order of Malta American Association to serve as co-chairs of the 2017 Pilgrimage to Lourdes. In 1858, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Bernadette Soubirous at the Grotto in Lourdes, revealing the healing waters. The theme this year was, ''Our Mother Mary, Full of Grace.''

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  • On the value of biblical Hebrew



    The Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux, wrote in her autobiography: "In Heaven only shall we be in possession of the clear truth. On earth, even in matters of Holy Scripture, our vision is dim. It distresses me to see the differences in its translations, and had I been a Priest I would have learned Hebrew, so as to read the Word of God as He deigned to utter it in human speech."

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  • Crashing waves



    I'm a very emotional person. And by "very," I really mean "overly." I don't just feel one way or another. Most of what I feel crashes on my inner shores in big, dramatic waves with a lot of foam and spray. While that may make for gorgeous photographs of Maine or California, it isn't very conducive to a peaceful life.

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  • Different worlds



    It's amazing to see all the second-rate so-called comedy and entertainment on television these days. For many, I suppose, today's audience never were exposed to the brilliant comedians and entertainers of days past. As a longtime, avid student of the theater, Bob Hope, Gregory Peck, Ingrid Bergman, Frank Sinatra, Al Pacino and Meryl Streep were some of the great ones I often saw, and in some cases knew. In fact I knew all of the above, with the exception of Bergman and Streep. The combination of having a first cousin as a top rated professional musician who performed regularly in the movies, on television and on Broadway and in Boston and meeting great entertainers while selling newspapers in the lobby of Blinstrubs Village Night Club in South Boston as a kid, and later while playing college basketball at least 2 weeks every year in Manhattan for Providence College -- whose priests and coaches had great contacts with leading entertainment executives in New York City -- has given me a unique insight into these talented performers.

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  • To find our lives



    The liturgy this week continues to instruct us in the elements of discipleship. We're told that even the most humble among us have a share in the mission Christ gives to His Church. We're not all called to the ministry of the Apostles, or to be prophets like Elisha in today's First Reading. But each of us is called to a holy life (see 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:3).

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  • Recollections of fifty years -- III



    A long agonizing road-trip preceded the All-Star break, the season's unofficial midpoint when assessments of which teams truly contend and which decidedly do not become realistic and get taken seriously. The brash young Red Sox are wedged uncomfortably on the fence in fifth place and teetering in the wrong direction.

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  • The bride and the groom



    Two weeks ago, I had the great good pleasure of presiding at the wedding of my niece, Bryna. She has been, all her life, a lovely girl, full of joy and good cheer--and eager to give herself in service to others. Her husband, Nelson, is also a fine person, and he took the courageous step of becoming a Catholic in anticipation of his wedding. So it was a joy to join my whole family in celebrating the coming-together of this splendid couple.

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  • Unleashing the Gospel anew



    For four decades, the popes have been calling the Church to a "new evangelization" or "re-evangelization," something that involves a mission not only to those who are not Catholic but to those who are baptized but for whatever reason have not been living according to their baptism, who have wandered from the practice of the faith, or who are just going through the motions.

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  • To whom can we go?



    "To whom else shall we go? You have the message of eternal life." Peter says these words to Jesus. But they are spoken in a very conflicted context: Jesus had just said something that upset and offended his audience and the gospels tell us that everyone walked away grumbling that what Jesus was teaching was "intolerable". Jesus then turns to his apostles and asks them: "Do you want to walk away too?" Peter answers: "To whom else can we go?" But that's more a statement of stoic resignation than an actual question.

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  • Response to 'The Keepers'



    Q. My husband was brought up a Catholic and has always been very committed to the church. I am a convert, and we are raising all of our kids in the Catholic faith. Two of my sons (who are now young adults) and my husband have watched the Netflix series "The Keepers," and I am deeply worried about the effect this may have on their faith.

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  • First and second



    Along with the customary cluster of cookouts, parades, and fireworks, the 4th of July this year brings something different to the observance of our great national festival. "America First" is President Trump's not-so-new rhetorical contribution to Independence Day 2017.

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  • Way beyond the New Atheist nonsense



    Given the intellectual flimsiness of their work, it's best to look for cultural causes to explain the "New Atheists"' popularity. And surely one factor here is the now-canonical notion in Western high culture that biblical religion is incompatible with modern natural science: an idea rooted in the notion that the "scientific method" is the only way to get at the truth. (William Shakespeare, call your office.)

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  • Vermont's first resident priest



    On June 23, 1847, Father Jeremiah O'Callaghan wrote Bishop John Bernard Fitzpatrick of Boston, describing a terrible epidemic afflicting his congregation in Burlington, Vermont. The culprit was what he referred to as "ship fever," a form of typhus carried by lice, which would have infected the recently arrived Irish immigrants during their long voyage across the sea. In his letter, Father O'Callaghan describes how the victims were "prostrate with fever in every Irish house, shed and barn in the village, craving for the sacraments....What awful sickness and destitution is visible on all sides among the dying and the dead."

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  • The new new thing recovered from the graveyard



    Trending today is not just the hottest new Internet game. No, the quiet revolution at the creative fringes of American education is a 2,000 year old language: Latin. In tony private schools, inner city charters and among the 2 million homeschoolers, the teaching of Latin is roaring back. It is not, however, your father's Latin, as in the hoary chestnut, "Latin is a dead language. At least it used to be. First, it killed the Romans. Now it's killing me."

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  • Dehydration is more common than you think



    There is a reasonably good chance that you are dehydrated right now. According to a 2013 CBS report, 75 percent of adults experience chronic dehydration. What may be more startling is that older adults over the age of 65 are even more likely to experience dehydration than the younger demographic surveyed in the report.

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  • A 'Good News' story



    The work of evangelization has many appearances. In some parishes the focus is on creating a welcoming community. In some, the focus is on strengthening the weekend liturgies with good music and preaching. In others, attention is given to helping parishioners speak about their faith. Recently, one collaborative found a new and creative way to engage in evangelization and at the same time attend to some apostolic and charitable activities.

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  • Calling God our Father



    Our last 11 grandchildren in a row have been girls, so I've gotten careful about asserting claims of male prerogative. But this Father's Day got me thinking about how we talk to God. Pope Francis recently reminded us, in one of his general audiences, that "when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he taught them to call God Our Father."

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  • Be not afraid



    Our commitment to Christ will be put to the test. We will hear whispered warnings and denunciations, as Jeremiah does in today's First Reading. Even so-called friends will try to trap and trip us up.

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  • Scouting Scooter and baseball alterations



    Earlier this month an obscure and undistinguished spare part of the Cincinnati Reds named Scooter Gennett took an illustrious seat in baseball history right alongside the fabled likes of Lou Gehrig, Chuck Klein and Willie Mays. Scooter hit four home runs in a single game; four in a row. He's only the 17th chap to do that in baseball's interminable annals.

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