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  • Judge not



    We have all heard that "Catholic" means, literally, "according to the whole." That one idea has many consequences. A Catholic university, for example, looks at the world "according to the whole" -- not simply according to natural science, but also according to God's role in creation and God's providence.

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  • Accepting life



    When my grandmother died suddenly a week ago, no one was exactly surprised. She was, after all, 102 years old, and more than ready to leave her long and full life behind. But I suspect that even if she had died decades ago, she would have been ready then, too. It's just part of how she lived: the part that made it possible for her to remain positive and without complaint during her 11 years in a nursing home -- even when her hands, and her eyes, and her ears, and her legs, and her back, failed her. Acceptance.

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  • The passing of a Catholic lion



    The Catholic world lost a public intellectual last Friday. Michael Novak, in the tradition of William F Buckley, Richard Neuhaus and George Weigel, was a lion among intellectuals. His thinking and writing encompassed a universe of ideas, movements and events. His career included teaching, theological scholarship, politics, statesmanship and even novel writing.

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  • How does the Catholic Church resolve new bioethical questions?



    A number of years ago, I participated in a debate at Harvard on embryonic stem cell research which also included a Jewish rabbi, an Episcopalian clergyman, and a Muslim imam. The debate went smoothly and cordially, although I was the only voice in the group who defended the human rights of individuals who happen still to be embryos. After the debate, the Episcopalian clergyman pulled me aside and told me how he thought Catholics should consider themselves fortunate to have such an authoritative reference point in the Church and the Vatican, particularly when it comes to resolving new bioethical questions. With surprising candor, he shared how he had sat on various committees with others from his own faith tradition where they had tried to sort through the ethics of embryonic stem cells, and he lamented, "we just ended up discussing feelings and opinions, without any good way to arrive at conclusions."

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  • The death of Roe



    Norma McCorvey, alias Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, died last weekend. Her obituary was front-page news in the New York Times. The 1973 decision that bore her pseudonym continues to stand for the proposition that abortion on demand is constitutionally guaranteed. That proposition is markedly different from the proposition affirmed by the Declaration of Independence and by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg that "all men (human beings, thus including women and children) are created equal."

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  • Why in the world do Catholics celebrate a chair?



    Today (2/22) the Church celebrates a curiously named feast called "the Chair of Saint Peter." The "chair" references an actual piece of furniture that is encased in a monumental sculpture by Bernini located in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica. The sculpture depicts an enormous throne held aloft by four great saints of the Church- Saint Ambrose, Augustine, Athanasius and John Chysostom. The throne is actually a reliquary that holds a wooden chair that is reputed to have been used by the Apostle Peter himself and is therefore invested with significance as a symbol of the apostle's authority.

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  • Do not be anxious



    Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time Isaiah 49:14--15 Psalm 62:2--3, 6--9 1 Corinthians 4:1--5 Matthew 6:24--24 We are by nature prone to be anxious and troubled about many things. In Sunday's Gospel, Jesus confronts us with our most common fears. We are anxious mostly about how we will meet our material needs--for food and drink; for clothing; for security for tomorrow.

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  • Looking backward to look forward



    Stray observations and gratuitous wisecracks for you to chew on while waiting for that sweetest of seminal sporting moments: first results from the Grapefruit League. And with the allegedly hottest starting rotation this side of the legendary Feller, Wynn, Lemon, Garcia, Newhouser axis of the '54 Indians why is Red Sox Nation obsessing about its relief pitching? With $66 million per annum invested in your top three starters having to fret about the bullpen seems a touch manic, even by the Nation's shaky standards. But then GM Dombrowski needs something to spare him from boredom.

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  • Of Winners and Losers



    Our society tends to divide us up into winners and losers. Sadly, we don't often reflect on how this affects our relationships with each other, nor on what it means for us as Christians. What does it mean? In essence, that our relationships with each other tend are too charged with competition and jealousy because we are too infected with the drive to out-do, out-achieve, and out-hustle each other. For example, here are some of slogans that pass for wisdom today: Win! Be the best at something! Show others you're more talented than they are! Show that you are more sophisticated than others! Don't apologize for putting yourself first! Don't be a loser!

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  • The Importance of the Fatima Centenary



    A big danger to growth in faith is letting it become routine. That's one of the reasons why I have always been a big supporter of ecclesiastical holy years, which provide a prism through which to look with fresh eyes and renewed hearts at all the interconnected aspects of the life of faith.

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  • The Johnson Amendment



    At the National Prayer Breakfast this month, President Donald Trump promised to "totally destroy" the Johnson Amendment "and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution." I must confess that, on the list of things I hope the new administration will accomplish this year, this one is fairly far down.

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  • Thanking high donors



    Q. In my parish, there is an appreciation dinner every year for high-end donors, by invitation only. (I would estimate that anywhere from 5 to 7 percent of parishioners attend.) But among the invitees I have not seen people who devote a lot of time working for the parish community but can't afford to contribute enough money to be eligible for the "dinner club."

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  • Evangelizing Through the Good



    Anyone even vaguely acquainted with my work knows that I advocate vigorous argument on behalf of religious truth. I have long called for a revival in what is classically known as apologetics, the defense of the claims of faith against skeptical opponents. And I have repeatedly weighed in against a dumbed-down Catholicism. Also, I have, for many years, emphasized the importance of beauty in service of evangelization. The Sistine Chapel Ceiling, the Sainte Chapelle, Dante's Divine Comedy, Bach's St. Matthew's Passion, T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, and the Cathedral of Chartres all have an extraordinary convincing power, in many ways surpassing that of formal arguments. So I affirm the path of truth and the path of beauty. But I also recommend, as a means of propagating the faith, the third of the transcendentals, namely, the good. Moral rectitude, the concrete living out of the Christian way, especially when it is done in an heroic manner, can move even the most hardened unbeliever to faith, and the truth of this principle has been proven again and again over the centuries.

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  • A modest defense of the "liberal world order"



    Some preliminaries: I quite agree that the United Nations is a sad, and sometimes malicious, joke. I understand that some people have been the victims of a globalized world economy and that the "Davos people" who run that economy have (like most of the rest of us) paid them too little heed. Fifteen years ago, in The Cube and the Cathedral, I warned that the European Union risked becoming the overbearing bureaucratic Leviathan it is today; and it seemed to me then, as it does now, that the EU's embrace of a sterile secularism, which accelerated Europe's detachment from its cultural roots, helped destroy a reverence for particularity and for what Edmund Burke called society's small platoons.

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  • Remaining committed to helping refugees



    At Catholic Charities, our mission to help those in need is carried out through a wide variety of programs that provide assistance to people of all ages, of all faiths, of all walks of life. One such program is our refugee resettlement program, offering new and future citizens support during the arduous process of obtaining legal clearance to migrate to the United States, and upon arrival, further assistance in adjusting to their new homes and becoming active participants in their new communities.

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  • Snow storms bring out the best in people



    Waiting for the bus outside The New England Medical Center the other morning, a lady I recognized from the Chinatown community stopped and said, "Hello Mayor Flynn how are you? I saw you the other night at the Chinese New Year's Party. Were you in the hospital?" she asked, pointing to the hospital. "I hope you are all right. We like seeing you around Chinatown."

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  • 'Open your heart to Jesus, the Great Priest'



    Following is the homily delivered by Bishop Robert P. Reed at the concluding Mass of a retreat for prospective seminarians of the Archdiocese of Boston, Feb. 12. "What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart...is what God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Cor 2:9)

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  • Ballroom dance 'swings' through Youville



    A circle of older adults forms around a young man dressed in black. It is a Tuesday afternoon at Youville House Assisted Living. The residents wait with expectant smiles as the young man cues up big band music. In the most natural manner, he approaches "Mary," a 100 year old resident who uses a walker. "Would you like to dance?" he asks. As the music plays, the young man and older woman glide across the floor together.

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  • A work in progress



    On March 11, 2013, my priesthood and life took a surprising turn. That was the day the Vicar General and Director of Clergy Personnel of the archdiocese delivered the news that Cardinal Seán had chosen me to become the pastor of the Lynnfield Catholic Collaborative, one of the first 12 collaboratives slated to implement Disciples in Mission. The parishes and parochial school included in this particular collaborative were very familiar to me: my first assignment as a priest was Our Lady of the Assumption Parish and School; and during my 12 years on the St. John's Seminary faculty, I celebrated weekend Mass at St. Maria Goretti Parish. But the new model of parish life was both unfamiliar and daunting to me -- there was no blueprint to follow or guarantee of success. After hearing about my impending change of assignment, I spent a few days thinking and praying about this unexpected development in my life. I had spent 10 happy years as the pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in North Chelmsford, had watched that parish blossom in many ways, and would have been content to serve there for another decade. But over the years, I had learned that when the Holy Spirit moves in the Church and the bishop calls you to serve elsewhere; it is best to say "yes," and begin to move on. So, I did.

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  • Asking the unaskable



    Patriots' idolaters don't want to hear it. Nor might anything at this point rain on their interminable parade. But for whatever it's worth, History is likely to judge their team's wild and crazy conquest in Soupey LI as not so much an epic triumph of indomitable will as a shocking meltdown by an out-classed opponent that clumsily chose the ultimate moment to dissolve into a bowl of jelly.

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  • Distractions during prayer



    Q. I have heard that it is sinful to let oneself be distracted in prayer. This makes sense to me as regards prayers that are obligatory: e.g., Sunday Mass, the Divine Office for priests and religious, or the penance assigned during confession.

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  • About Gorsuch and the Supreme Court



    Just as people who like sausage shouldn't visit a sausage factory, so people who stand in awe of the United States Senate shouldn't get too close to the confirmation fight over Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, President Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, lest they see more senatorial sausage-making than they bargained for. It threatens to be an ugly affair.

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  • Welcoming the Stranger



    In the Hebrew Scriptures, that part of the bible we call the Old Testament, we find a strong religious challenge to always welcome the stranger, the foreigner. This was emphasized for two reasons: First, because the Jewish people themselves had once been foreigners and immigrants. Their scriptures kept reminding them not to forget that. Second, they believed that God's revelation, most often, comes to us through the stranger, in what's foreign to us. That belief was integral to their faith.

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  • Paul, Apollos, and Cephas, all over again



    In April 2016, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England, issued a pastoral letter on the interpretation of Amoris Laetitia (the Pope's apostolic exhortation on marriage) and re-affirmed the Church's long-settled teaching: the divorced and civilly remarried, while members of the Christian community, are not living in full communion with that community, and thus should not present themselves for Holy Communion until their manner of life changes or their irregular marriage has been regularized under Church law. Last month, Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Bishop Mario Grech of Malta also issued a pastoral letter on Amoris Laetitia and invited divorced and civilly remarried couples to present themselves for Holy Communion if they were, in conscience, at peace with God.

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  • Love and mercy in politics



    Catholics advancing social justice sometimes wonder: Will my efforts have a lasting impact? Am I building God's kingdom or will all of this be wiped away? The Second Vatican Council gave a profound answer: The kingdom is not ours to build directly, since "deformed by sin, the shape of this world will pass away." But we foreshadow that kingdom when we promote human dignity, freedom and community, and "charity and its fruits" will endure ("Gaudium et Spes," No. 39). The key to lasting social change is love.

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  • 'That they may know him and his loving plan'



    This weekend, Feb. 10-12, the Vocation Office sponsors two distinct retreat experiences for men open to learning more about the vocation to the priesthood. One retreat will be held at the Betania II Marian Retreat Center in Medway and at St. John's Seminary in Brighton for college students and young adults. The other is hosted by Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston for men who have begun to hear or respond to a possible priestly vocation later in life.

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  • The Big Game



    I'm not sure there were many people at the 6 p.m. Mass on Super Bowl Sunday. Actually, I think I can say without too much reservation that the congregation was most assuredly smaller than usual. Hopefully, the regular crowd changed their weekly routine and went to a vigil or morning Mass. I'm convinced that most of them probably did.

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  • Matignon letter gives insight into early archdiocese



    A letter dated Feb. 6, 1817 from Father Francis Matignon to Matthew Cottrill, while brief, indicates much about the Diocese of Boston at the time. Father Matignon was one of the two priests credited with laying the foundations of the Archdiocese of Boston in the late-18th and early 19th Century. It was he who invited his friend, the then Father John Cheverus, to come to Boston and help him serve the Catholic community here, and who would advocate for Father Cheverus to be named the first Bishop of Boston.

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  • Phase IV liaisons -- Keeping things on track



    Phase IV is small -- five collaboratives, nine parishes. Deliberately making this phase a small one allows Central Ministry staff to provide the attention that beginning collaboratives need, while at the same time, continuing to support nine Phase III collaboratives who are working to finish their local pastoral plans that are due in June. And, the Pastoral Center staff is always ready, willing, and able to continue assisting Phase I and Phase II collaboratives.

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  • Affair of the heart



    Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time Sirach 15:15--20 Psalm 119:1--2, 4--5, 17--18, 33--34 1 Corinthians 2:6--10 Matthew 5:17--37 Jesus tells us in the Gospel this week that he has come not to abolish but to "fulfill" the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets.

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  • Atop Olympus



    One has resisted, Lord knows. Bowing to the conventional wisdom, let alone the lunatic ravings of a crazed fan base has never been my idea of a guiding principle for the doing of this work. After all, when I got into this business -- well more than a half century ago -- absolutely no cheering was tolerated in the press box.

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  • Patriot Virtues



    For the first time in the history of the papacy, last Sunday Pope Francis recorded a Super Bowl message. "Great sporting events like today's Super Bowl," he said, "are highly symbolic, showing that it is possible to build a culture of encounter and a world of peace. By participating in sport, we are able to go beyond our own self-interest and in a healthy way we learn to sacrifice, to grow in fidelity and respect the rules." He finished by praying, "May this year's Super Bowl be a sign of peace, friendship and solidarity for the world."

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  • Shopping on Sunday?



    Q. Genesis 2:3 says that, after creating the universe, God "rested from all the work he had done." Since the church has always viewed the seventh day (Sunday) as holy, a day of rest and worship, is it right to go shopping on Sunday (which means that store clerks have to work on that day)? After all, there are six other days to buy and sell. (Bedford, Virginia)

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  • Dave Rubin, the Pelvic Issues, and Larry David



    Last week, I was interviewed in Los Angeles by Dave Rubin for his popular program "The Rubin Report." Dave is a stand-up comedian, political satirist, protégé of Larry King, and spokesman for, I think it's fair to say, the classically liberal, secularist worldview. He has demonstrated a particular interest in the issues raised by the new atheists and by the supposed conflict between religion and the sciences. He is also an advocate of gay marriage. You might be wondering, therefore, why he'd want to talk to a Catholic bishop. But this reveals one of his most appealing characteristics, namely, a willingness to engage points of view very different from his own. I found during my pleasant, stimulating hour with him that he has studied the methods of his mentor, Larry King, which is to say, he asks good, searching questions, but doesn't play "gotcha" or try to trip up his interlocutor.

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  • Synod-talk, again



    On January 13 the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops published a "preparatory document" for the 2018 Synod on Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment. The document begins well enough, with a brief meditation on St. John the Beloved as the model of a young person who answers the call to follow the Lord and makes a gift of himself in evangelical witness. Sadly, things go downhill from there. Rather than pursuing that Johannine biblical imagery to explore the dynamics of youthful faith in the twenty-first century world, the Synod general secretariat reverts to the sociologese that marred the Instrumentum Laboris [Working Document] of the 2015 Synod, wandering rather aimlessly through prolix discussions of "A Rapidly Changing World," "New Generations," "Young People and Choices," etc., etc.

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  • Overturning Roe v Wade



    (The following are edited remarks by Michael Pakaluk to the Massachusetts Caucus at the March for Life, Jan. 27, 2017. -- Ed.) My first car was an AMC Matador made in 1973. Perhaps because Matador means "killer," and Roe was decided in 1973, I couldn't help associating the two and used to joke that I would drive that car until Roe was reversed.

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  • Sound moral judgments



    It's not just our political leaders who have a monopoly on sound moral opinions and judgements. Not surprisingly, the immediate opposition from religious leaders, including Catholics, to President Donald Trump's immigration ban on people coming to the United States from certain Muslim countries has been strong and vocal. Millions of Americans felt that the announcement was ill advised and not well thought out. Some felt strongly that it was callous and insensitive. As somebody who closely follows the actions and comments of religious leaders from across the world, I believe that the White House's action could have been handled more diplomatically. Traditionally, for too many ill-informed American politicians and the media, conferring with respected religious leaders is not a high priority.

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  • An unusual successful family



    Marking Black History Month, beginning this week we present a three-part series by Boston College professor James M. O'Toole exploring the life and legacy of America's first African-American bishop, Bishop James Augustine Healy, and his family.

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  • Always the same, always different



    Preparing leadership and staffs to take on the work of forming collaboratives involves lots of prayers, meetings, and workshops. Three seminal workshops form the pillars on which to build a solid collaborative: Forming Disciples in Mission (FDIM), Forming Leaders for Mission, and Forming Collaboratives for Mission. Because the Pastoral Plan, 'Disciples in Mission,' is about growing the Church, people are encouraged to take Forming Disciples first. This workshop is offered at different locations and at different times: two evenings, 6-9 p.m., or all day on a Saturday. Leadership, councils, staffs, and parishioners from Phase IV, Phase V, and interested others participated in a recent evening FDIM workshop.

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  • A sense of perspective



    An earlier column discussed "being Catholic first" -- how our moral vision should judge partisan positions, not vice versa. Also essential for a Catholic view of politics is a sense of perspective, or "taking the long view."

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  • Light breaking forth



    Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Isaiah 58:7-10 Psalm 112:4-9 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Matthew 5:13-16 Jesus came among us as light to scatter the darkness of a fallen world. As his disciples, we too are called to be "the light of the world," he tells us in the Gospel this Sunday (see John 1:4--4, 9; 8:12; 9:5).

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  • Houston bound



    The last time I was in Houston for a Super Bowl was 43 years-ago when Hunter S. Thompson was the star of the show and "the Battle of the Blue Fox" upstaged the game. Houston, high among America's grittiest towns, and Soupey, foremost of America's pagan festivals, are made for each other. Take it from one who knows; strange things can happen when these two meet.

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  • The Sick, Our Everyday Heroes



    Over Christmas, two of my family members were talking about a mutual friend who, though chronically ill, routinely does heroic acts of kindness for others. Though they get exasperated with her when she overextends herself, they realize that caring for others is what makes life meaningful. I thanked God that these women are kind enough to support their friend through both good times and bad, helping her to live a full life.

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  • The culture war isn't over



    Many religious conservatives are looking to the Trump years with high expectations. R.R. Reno, editor of First Things, says Trump's ascendancy marks a significant defeat for "anti-Christian" elites while offering religious conservatives an opportunity to speak up and be heard on behalf of their beliefs and values.

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  • God's Power as Powerlessness



    The French novelist and essayist, Leon Bloy, once made this comment about God's power in our world: "God seems to have condemned himself until the end of time not to exercise any immediate right of a master over a servant or a king over a subject. We can do what we want. He will defend himself only by his patience and his beauty."

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  • At Mass if you're in confessional?



    Q. Growing up Catholic, I was taught that in order to fulfill your Sunday obligation, you were required to be present for three parts of the Mass -- the Gospel, the offertory and Communion. Our parish just started hearing confessions at the very time the Sunday Mass is being celebrated (i.e., not just before or after Mass).

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  • A papal tutor of heroic virtue



    On January 20, Pope Francis authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to publish decrees acknowledging the "heroic virtues" of six men and one woman: two diocesan priests, three priests in religious orders, the foundress of an Italian religious community, and a Polish layman. It does no disservice to the holy memory of the other six men and women who now bear the title "Venerable" to suggest that the Polish layman, Jan Tyranowski, had the greatest impact on the Catholic Church throughout the world -- and by orders of magnitude.

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  • Embrace our reality



    In mid-January, my husband and I attended the New York Encounter sponsored by the lay Catholic movement Communion and Liberation. The theme was "Reality has never betrayed me," among the last words of the movement's founder, Father Luigi Giussani at whose funeral in 2005 then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger delivered the homily.

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  • Do not let 'the darkness of hatred and prejudice poison our own hearts'



    Terrorism has taken a great toll in our world. Many innocent people have lost their lives, leaving families, friends and communities racked in pain, consumed by a sense of loss and disbelief. The victims who are killed, shot or injured in terrorist attacks are but the tip of the iceberg. The entire community is affected by these terrible events. People are fearful about travel, or gathering in large numbers. Strangers are looked upon with suspicion and whole classes of people are demonized.

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