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  • St. Patrick, St. Joseph, and the Conversion that Makes All the Difference



    I am always pleased when the feasts of St. Patrick and St. Joseph roll around every year, the first on March 17th and the second on March 19th. Joseph is especially dear to the Italian people, who celebrate him with festive meals, and Patrick, of course, is specially reverenced by my own people, the Irish, who celebrate him with parades, parties, and (often) too much drinking. Though separated by four centuries and though hailing from extremely different cultures, Patrick and Joseph have a great deal in common, spiritually speaking. For both stubbornly situated their lives in the context, not of the ego-drama, but the theo-drama, and therein lies their importance for the universal church.

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  • Byzantine Catholics



    Q. My future son-in-law is a member of the Byzantine Catholic Church. Recently, when he came to visit us, we all went together to our family's Roman Catholic parish, and he received holy Communion. First, what is the difference in the two churches? And secondly, can members of one of these churches receive Communion in the other one? (Albany, New York)

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  • God and science



    As it happens, it was Ash Wednesday when I casually flicked on an all-news radio station just in time to catch a quickie interview with a scientist. He'd written a book about the origin of the universe and wanted everyone to know that this particular story doesn't require anyone to believe in the existence of God.

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  • Doing Violence in God's Name



    Blaise Pascal once wrote: "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction." How true! This has been going on since the beginning of time and is showing few signs of disappearing any time soon. We still do violence and evil and justify them in God's name.

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  • Waugh's Helena, Father General, and the reality of revelation



    Evelyn Waugh's slim and critically unappreciated novel, Helena, was something of a literary experiment for a modern master of English literature. The eponymous heroine, mother of the Emperor Constantine, talks in her youth like a flapper from the Roaring Twenties; the storytelling is spare, absent the lush prose of Brideshead Revisited; Waugh's preference for "the picturesque [over] the plausible" in historically questionable matters is enough to offend a squadron of academics. At bottom, though, the novel, the only one of his books Waugh ever read aloud to his children, is an act of faith in the reality of revelation.

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  • Transforming prayer



    Most of us spend a lot of what we think of as "prayer time" trying to talk God into seeing things our way. We beg and plead, whine and remind, and generally push as hard as we can to get whatever it is we want. This is pretty much the case, even when we are praying for someone else. We show up before the throne of the Almighty with our dukes up and our terms prepared. We want God to intervene, but only if he is amenable to our details. Otherwise, we'd rather just keep praying, or say that God didn't answer us at all.

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  • I'm not 'intrinsically disordered!'



    I have met several priests over the years who ended up leaving the active ministry of the priesthood. Two of them have been on my mind and in my prayers recently, having left the priesthood and the Church over issues connected to homosexuality. I ran into one of them some time ago by chance as we were boarding the same flight. Filling me in on the decisions he had made, he shared: "I was never happy with the Catholic Church's view that homosexuality is inherently..." and then he paused, "...what's the phrase they use?" I replied: "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." "Ah, yes, intrinsically disordered," he replied. "It's a harsh institution that would call me intrinsically disordered, and I couldn't remain in a Church that held those views." The second priest who left had similarly decried how the Church, on account of his homosexuality, saw him as intrinsically disordered -- which he took to mean that he was an evil person.

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  • Disciples in Mission and renewed priestly fraternity



    When Cardinal Seán approved Disciples in Mission -- A Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Boston in 2012, I began praying and thinking about the future and the plan's potential for the archdiocese as a whole and the parish to which I was assigned at the time, as well as the implications for me as a priest in the archdiocese. My praying and thinking about Disciples in Mission and its possibilities, challenges, and impact moved to a deeper level when, in the summer of 2013, I learned that the parish to which I was assigned had been selected to enter Disciples in Mission as part of Phase II. The parish's selection meant that I would resign as pastor and be open to another priestly assignment. This became quite real to me when I wrote my letter of resignation as pastor of the parish and mailed it to Cardinal Seán.Not long after that, one concrete, potential implication dawned on me: after living and ministering alone as a priest for 11 years, I would be living and ministering with one or more priests in the not too distant future. I was intrigued and, yes, a bit anxious about this possibility.

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  • Eyesight to the blind



    God's ways of seeing are not our ways, we hear in today's First Reading. Jesus illustrates this in the Gospel--as the blind man comes to see and the Pharisees are made blind. The blind man stands for all humanity. "Born totally in sin" he is made a new creation by the saving power of Christ.

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  • The loud silence of St. Joseph



    "We can have recourse to many saints as our intercessors, but go especially to Joseph..." - St. Teresa of Avila Today (3/20) the Church celebrates the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the guardian of the Christ-child.

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  • Your Pats in their offseason



    The great conquerors don't know the meaning of the word "enough." Their appetites are ravenous. There's no "quit" in these bullies until the Reaper Himself blows the whistle. 'Tis ever been thus. On horseback, Genghis Khan led his lads from the shores of the Pacific to the Gates of Vienna. In his yearning to sack Rome, Hannibal marched his elephants over the Alps. After subduing Britannia, Caesar would have paddled on to North America if he'd known it was there. Had he scheduled his tour of Russia a bit earlier Napoleon and his merry band might have stomped all the way to Vladivostok, thus being spared their unfortunate date with winter in Moscow.

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  • Our Shadow and our Self-Understanding



    What is meant when certain schools of psychology today warn us about our "shadow"? What's our shadow? In essence, it's this: We have within us powerful, fiery energies that, for multiple reasons, we cannot consciously face and so we handle them by denial and repression so as to not have to deal with them. Metaphorically speaking, we bury them in the hidden ground of our souls where they are out of conscious sight and mind.

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  • On "owning" the Church



    The question of "who owns the Church" has had a stormy history in Catholic America, although the terms of reference have changed considerably over time. In the 19th century, "lay trusteeism" -- lay boards that owned parish property and sometimes claimed authority over the appointment and dismissal of pastors -- was a major headache for the U.S. bishops. Today, the question is more likely to arise from the wetlands of psychobabble; thus one Midwestern diocesan chancellor recently spoke about a diocesan "needs assessment" that "can give ownership to the people," presumably of their lives as Catholics.

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  • On our duty to welcome the stranger



    For immigrants and refugees now in the United States, or who hope to come here in the near future, recent weeks have been a steady diet of anxiety and confusion. The legal struggle over travel bans on immigrants from various nations has disrupted the plans of thousands who seek to come here for all sorts of reasons, including escape from persecution and reunion with family members already here.

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  • Form and chaos



    I am not the first to notice that ideas and styles spread across the fine arts, regardless of medium or genre. In the middle of the 19th century, orchestras grew to 100 or more musicians, and symphonies were lush and tuneful.

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  • True servant leaders



    Service is at the heart of Catholic education. Without servant leaders in the classrooms and hallways of our schools, we would fail in our quest to develop saints and scholars.Recently we celebrated National Catholic Sisters Week and our Catholic schools and Catholic Schools Office took time to honor and thank some of the sisters in the archdiocese. The stories of these prayerful leaders remind us of how much sisters have done for the Church and how they continue to evangelize.

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  • The impact of a simple cardboard box



    This Lenten season Catholic Charities is partnering with Catholic Relief Services along with parishes and schools across the archdiocese through the Lenten tradition of Rice Bowl. Rice Bowl is a CRS faith-in-action program for families and faith communities and 56,000 Rice Bowls have been distributed across the archdiocese as this year's Lenten journey begins. As always, 75 percent of Rice Bowl contributions are used to support CRS programs worldwide, with 25 percent of rice bowl donations staying here in the Archdiocese of Boston to support local food pantry programs.Created in 1943 as the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States, Catholic Relief Services work is motivated by the example of Jesus Christ to assist poor and suffering people everywhere. CRS programs are established in 93 countries on the basis of need, without regard to race, religion or nationality, and touch more than 100 million lives annually.

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  • The Charitable Irish Society



    Every St. Patrick's Day, the Charitable Irish Society holds a dinner to celebrate its work and accomplishments. While we most closely associate Irish immigration, from a historical perspective at least, with the mid-19th Century, the society was actually founded over a century earlier, in 1737, making it the oldest Irish society in the Americas.

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  • The fight is on!



    The battle for school choice has begun in earnest. The recent election, and confirmation of a pro-school choice advocate as Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has moved the injustices of our current educational monopoly under the microscope.

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  • Disciples give witness. Disciples make disciples.



    As we approach the mid-point of our Lenten journey, the Church gives us three Gospel readings from St. John's Gospel, for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent, which focus on discipleship. These readings are particularly poignant for me this year, as from my vantage point I see people around the Archdiocese of Boston increasingly using the language of discipleship, of evangelization, of mission, and I see parishes increasingly focused on making disciples.

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  • Religious freedom: A partisan issue?



    "Leaked Draft of Trump's Religious Freedom Order Reveals Sweeping Plans to Legalize Discrimination," announced The Nation on Feb. 1. This liberal magazine said legal experts find the draft "sweeping" and "staggering" in allowing religious believers to ignore federal laws. Among their charges are these:

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  • Four years into a Latino papacy



    Four years have passed since the Holy Spirit inspired the election of the first Latino pope, Pope Francis. Wait. Did you say Latino or Latin American? Well, it depends on where you draw the line. I would argue that it is fine to speak of Pope Francis as a Latino pope.

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  • Striking the Rock



    The Israelites' hearts were hardened by their hardships in the desert. Though they saw His mighty deeds, in their thirst they grumble and put God to the test in today's First Reading--a crisis point recalled also in today's Psalm.

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  • The interminable Mr. Bettman



    In all the games played for our savage amusement the seasons are too long and grueling. But in no other is that more the case than where hockey is purportedly played best. That's no surprise. In contemporary times, incompetence and folly have been routinely the specialty of the National Hockey League.

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  • Catholic Assimilation



    It's a commonplace to say that America, along with other Western countries, is currently experiencing a cultural--which is to say: moral--crisis. And, in some quarters at least, it's hardly less common to say this presents the Church with both a challenge and an opportunity.

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  • Why It Matters Who Jesus Is



    I have been reading, with both profit and delight, Thomas Joseph White's latest book, The Incarnate Lord: A Thomistic Study in Christology. Fr. White, one of the brightest of a new generation of Thomas interpreters, explores a range of topics in this text--the relationship between Jesus' human and divine natures, whether the Lord experienced the beatific vision, the theological significance of Christ's cry of anguish on the cross, his descent into Hell, etc.--but for the purposes of this article, I want to focus on a theme of particular significance in the theological and catechetical context today. Fr. White argues that the classical tradition of Christology, with its roots in the texts of the Gospels and the Epistles of Paul, understood Jesus ontologically, that is to say, in terms of his fundamental being or existential identity; whereas modern and contemporary Christology tends to understand Jesus psychologically or relationally. And though this distinction seems, prima facie, rather arcane, it has tremendous significance for our preaching, teaching, and evangelizing.

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  • Origin of Hail Mary



    Q. I have been wondering about the origin of the Hail Mary prayer. I realize that the first part is from the Scriptures, when Mary is greeted by her cousin Elizabeth, but when was the complete prayer introduced in the church and who were its authors? (Northern New Jersey)

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  • Nothing is Ever Really Ours



    Everything is gift. That's a principle that ultimately undergirds all spirituality, all morality, and every commandment. Everything is gift. Nothing can be ultimately claimed as our own. Genuine moral and religious sensitivity should make us aware of that. Nothing comes to us by right.

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  • Persuasive disciples, not anarchic disrupters



    We are living through a dangerous moment in our national life, of an intensity and potential for destruction unseen since 1968. Then, a teenager, I watched U.S. Army tanks patrol the streets of Baltimore around the African-American parish where I worked. Now, a Medicare card carrier, I'm just as concerned about the fragility of the Republic and the rule of law.

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  • Questions for Lent



    Keep your eye on the sun in this season. It will give you the primary cue as to what this period we call Lent is all about. In our northern hemisphere, Lent coincides with the turning of the earth towards the sun, the springing forth of life from the apparent death of winter's frigid grasp.

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  • Uncomfortable



    There is a lot of joy in following Jesus. The pages of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are filled with people who, when healed or forgiven, run off to tell the world about the rabbi from Galilee and the miracle they had experienced in his presence. The deaf man with a speech impediment speaks plainly, and the more Jesus charged the people not to tell anyone, "the more zealously they proclaimed it" (see Mark 7). The woman at the synagogue, hunched over for 18 years, stands straight (see Luke 13). A man, crippled on his mat for 38 years, carries his own bed and walks home (see John 5). A man with a "withered" hand is miraculously healed (see Matthew 12), as is a man suffering from legs swollen with fluid (see Luke 14). A hemorrhaging woman touches the hem of Jesus' robe and is instantly healed (see Luke 8). At a synagogue, Jesus delivers a man who has been oppressed by demons (see Mark 1). A paralyzed man is forgiven and then made whole (see Matthew 9). A woman caught in adultery is no longer condemned (see John 8). A sinful woman washes Jesus' feet with her tears at the house of Simon the Pharisee and is forgiven (see Luke 7). The Samaritan woman leaves her jar behind at the well, and invites all her neighbors to "meet the man who told me everything I have ever done" (see John 4).

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  • Perpetua, Felicity, and the Theo-Drama



    Today (3/7), the Church commemorates the martyrs Perpetua and Felicity, along with their companions. These Christians were killed in the Roman Provinces of North Africa in the early 3rd century AD. They were not alone, but shared the company of many men and women who were persecuted and killed during the early years of the Church's life. The Church has persistently recalled the memory of the earliest martyrs. Perpetua and Felicity are invoked in the great Eucharistic Prayer of the Church of Rome (called the Roman Canon), a sign to the faithful of the esteem to which the earliest martyrs are accorded.

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  • Listen to Him



    This Sunday's (3/12) Gospel portrays Jesus as a new and greater Moses. Moses also took three companions up a mountain and on the seventh day was overshadowed by the shining cloud of God's presence. He too spoke with God and his face and clothing were made radiant in the encounter (see Exodus 24,34).

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  • Catholic Leadership Institute and Disciples in Mission



    In January 2013, the Archdiocese of Boston partnered with us at Catholic Leadership Institute to implement Disciples in Mission. As a partnership, we have been engaged in leadership training across the entire archdiocese -- the archdiocesan staff, Collaborative pastors, parochial vicars, pastoral staff, finance and parish councils, and pastoral plan-writing teams. I've had the opportunity to work in each of these areas of Disciples in Mission and have seen the impact each component has had in the archdiocese. From my perspective, the most meaningful area I've supported has been the collaborative writing teams that envision and create a local pastoral plan for their collaboratives.

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  • Whose idea is this?



    Stray observations and idle musings while sorting out the 43 men, women and children posted as official Red Sox Vice-Presidents in the team's annual Media Guide, which we assume is accurate. Not clear is what they all do or how they rank in the official pecking order.

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  • Creating fake identity



    Q. I apologize for the length of this question, but I want you to understand the complete context. I am a 21-year-old male from Africa. About a year ago I joined an online freelancing site and created my profile, in an attempt to develop business.

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  • Love is both tolerant and intolerant



    Every community, inevitably, has a value or set of values that it considers fundamental, some basic good which positions every other claim to goodness. For most of the modern liberal democracies, for example, freedom and equality play this determining role in the moral discourse. In Communist societies, economic justice, construed as the elimination of the class structure, would provide such a foundation. In the context of German National Socialism, the defense of the Fatherland and the will of the Führer anchored the moral system, however corrupt. There is a rather simple means of identifying this ultimate value: in regard to any particular moral or political act, keep asking the question, "Why is this being done?" until you come to the point where you find yourself saying, "Well, because that's just a good thing." The "just a good thing" is the value that your society or culture considers non-negotiable and which in turn determines all subordinate values.

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  • A new Lenten discipline



    For Lent 2016, I adopted a new Forty Days discipline in addition to intensified prayer, daily almsgiving, and letting my liver have its annual vacation: I quit sports talk radio, cold turkey. This was not easy, as the purchase of a car with an XM radio years before had turned me into a reasonable facsimile of a sports talk radio addict. I'd listen to Steve Czaban when driving early in the morning, Dan Patrick when driving mid- to late-morning, Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon on my way home, and whatever-was-available-that-wasn't Stephen A. Smith at other times. I never called in, mind you. But I had half a dozen sports talk shows pre-set on my car's XM system, and if nothing grabbed me among the nationally-broadcast yack fests there were always the locals in Washington and Baltimore.

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  • The fourth Wise Man and the Catholic Appeal



    As co-chair of the Catholic Appeal Leadership Committee and pastor of a collaborative, I know firsthand how the Catholic Appeal benefits not only the archdiocese's Central Ministries, but parishes themselves. By supporting the Catholic Appeal, we are in reality supporting the work of Christ through the ministry of his Church. Sometimes, we may not notice all that the archdiocesan ministries offer, but their work continues the mission of Christ, especially to those most in need.

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  • Reflections of a senior priest -- Msgr. Albert J. Contons



    My vocation to the priesthood was nurtured by my parents, immigrants from Lithuania, and encouraged by the exemplary priests and nuns at St. Peter Lithuanian Parish in South Boston. In the sixth grade, I told my parents that I wanted to be a doctor so I could help people. However, during my sophomore year at Boston Latin School, I read a biography of a Jesuit priest named Father Finn and was extremely impressed by his life. I decided then that the life of a priest, centered on helping to care for souls -- the innermost spiritual core of a person -- was even more important than caring for the body.

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  • Cardinal Cushing's sermon on St. Thomas Aquinas



    On March 7, 1959, Cardinal Richard J. Cushing delivered a sermon during an evening Mass at St. Paul's Church, Cambridge. It was the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, patron saint of scholars and schools and, appropriately, the Mass was sponsored by local college students. In his sermon, Cardinal Cushing drew upon the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, emphasizing the importance of learning and the application of knowledge as it relates to Church doctrine.

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  • Mission critical: Seminar offers chance to hear from nationally recognized groups



    On March 16, the Office for Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support is hosting a unique seminar at the pastoral center on "Strategies for Adult Evangelization" to enhance the efforts of Disciples in Mission. Nine dynamic and highly successful discipleship programs will present their unique methods for evangelization, including Alpha, Evangelical Catholic, Light of the World, Cursillo, Christ Renews His Parish, ChristLife, Word on Fire, Formed, and Renew.

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  • How to get ready for Lent



    "In these days, therefore, let us add something beyond ordinary expectations of our service. Let each one, over and above the measure prescribed, offer God something of his own freewill in the joy of the Holy Spirit." - Rule of St. Benedict, 6th century

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  • A divided Church?



    We sometimes hear that American Catholics are divided: Some advance the Church's teaching on abortion, others promote its teachings on peace and economic justice. And those factions are at war. I seldom saw this among the bishops or their national staff, where I once served. We each had areas of expertise, but we knew we were advancing one vision of human dignity. But the divide can exist among Catholic activists who don't work day by day alongside good Catholics committed to other issues.

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  • Tale of two Adams



    In today's Liturgy, the destiny of the human race is told as the tale of two "types" of men--the first man, Adam, and the new Adam, Jesus. Paul's argument in the Epistle is built on a series of contrasts between "one" or "one person" and "the many" or "all." By one person's disobedience, sin and condemnation entered the world, and death came to reign over all. By the obedience of another one, grace abounded, all were justified, and life came to reign for all.

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  • Impossible Dream fiftieth anniversary



    Foreword It's the 50th anniversary of arguably the most important New England-based sports story of the era; the 1967 rise of the Red Sox in what was innocently dubbed, "The Impossible Dream Season." Having been there and had the joyful experience of riding the wonder of the thing, the sharing of the memory is irresistible. So, every few weeks over the length of this season allow me to do that; beginning with this first reflection focusing on the season's preface etched in spring training in Winter Haven, Florida.

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  • Of Virtue and Sin



    There's an axiom which says: Nothing feels better than virtue. There's a deep truth here, but it has an underside. When we do good things we feel good about ourselves. Virtue is indeed its own reward, and that's good. However, feeling righteous can soon enough turn into feeling self-righteous. Nothing feels better than virtue; but self-righteousness feels pretty good too.

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  • Lent, time to put your comforts aside



    Up here in the northern half of the planet, where Lent coincides with the end of winter and the onset of spring, the imagery of rebirth and rejuvenation accompanying these natural events carries a powerful message: Shake off spiritual lethargy and be renewed in grace.

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  • A Lent to remember



    The best Lent of my life involved getting up every day at 5:30 a.m., hiking for miles through ankle-twisting, cobblestoned city streets, dodging drivers for whom traffic laws were traffic suggestions, avoiding the chaos of transit strikes and other civic disturbances, and battling bureaucracies civil and ecclesiastical -- all while 3,500 miles from home sweet home.

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  • Other Persons Are a Gift



    A few days ago I met a very little girl who made a big impression on me. Grace and her older brother Benedict suffer from a rare genetic disorder that has resulted in serious hearing impairment and limited physical growth. The two come to our home for the elderly each week with their mother to pray the rosary with our Residents. Watching Grace and Benedict interact with the elderly, I was amazed by their maturity and graciousness. I almost felt that I was in the presence of angels -- such was the radiance of these two beautiful little ones in the midst of our frail seniors.

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