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  • China and Rome



    Not long after coming to power in 1933, the German government headed by Adolf Hitler sought a formal agreement with the Holy See -- a concordat setting terms of the Church-state relationship. No sooner was the concordat in place, however, than the Nazis began violating it, prompting dozens of formal protests by from the Vatican.

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  • More than some good news



    At the end of March, toward the beginning of the pandemic shutdowns, actor and filmmaker John Krasinski established an uplifting and entertaining eight-part YouTube series entitled "Some Good News." The show was "dedicated entirely to good news," focusing on various heroes in the healthcare field, inspirational generosity from individuals and businesses, buoyant appearances by actors, singers, celebrities and other touching features. Framed as a news program from his living room home studio, it sought to bring some joy and good out of pandemic's various difficulties, like cancelled graduation ceremonies, proms, and weddings. 72 million people tuned in.

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  • Books for the summer of our discontent



    These past few months, I expect many folks have found themselves resorting to the page and the lamp more often; may that literary trend continue long after our public health circumstances change! Since plague time began, I've found the following books reassuring, challenging, illuminating, and in some cases just plain fun: which is to say, apt reading in, and for, this troubled moment.

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  • Forgiveness of 'many' or 'all?'



    Q. During Mass, at the consecration of the wine, the priest says, "for the forgiveness of many." Why not "for the forgiveness of all?" (Northampton, Pennsylvania) A. I should start by saying that it is clearly the teaching of the Church that Jesus suffered and died for all men and women. That is attested to in several different scriptural passages (Jn 11:52; 2 Cor 5:14-15; Ti 2:11; 1 Jn 2:2).

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  • Why 'What the bishops are doing about it?' is the wrong question



    Recently, the bishops of California made a statement regarding the attacks on the statues of St. Junipero Serra in San Francisco, Ventura, and Los Angeles. While acknowledging that there are legitimate concerns about racism both historical and contemporary, we insisted that the characterization of Serra as the moral equivalent of Hitler and the missions he founded as tantamount to death camps is simply unconscionable. I put a link to this statement on my own Word on Fire social media accounts and was gratified to see that many people read it and commented upon it. My purpose in this article is not to examine the specific issues surrounding Padre Serra but rather to respond to a number of remarks in the comboxes that point to what I think is a real failure to understand a key teaching of Vatican II.

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  • The compositions of Father Theodore Metcalf



    I want to start by thanking a regular reader of The Pilot for contacting me to suggest the following topic and sharing his research on Father Metcalf's contributions to Catholic music. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart fell on June 19, 2020, so the suggested topic is Father Theodore A. Metcalf, a Boston priest whose composition of the "Hymn to the Sacred Heart," better recognized by its opening lines "O Sacred Heart! O Love Divine!" saw widespread use prior to reforms instituted by the Second Vatican Council.

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  • Now is the time to act



    Generally, this time of year, we are celebrating the end of school, with teachers and school leaders looking forward to a break from the daily routine -- schools quiet, floors being waxed, walls painted and a relaxing time to get caught up before another year begins. This all seems like a luxury now.

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  • Christ is the center of human history



    As the coronavirus crisis moves into the background and our attention shifts to ongoing civil unrest, it's a good idea to turn off the constant stream of news and take time to both pray and think. The upheaval we are currently witnessing did not flash upon the scene one day full-blown; it has been simmering for a very long time. And while many of us might be tempted to retreat to a safe place, pull the sheets over our heads and hide until it's all over, I don't believe that's really an option for any committed Christian. This moment in our nation's history must not pass us by, nor will it. But we must do more than just live through whatever unfolds; we must find ways to live it in a manner that is fitting for disciples of Jesus Christ.

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  • Thank You, Sisters!



    A few years ago, the social media world celebrated "Thank a Nun Day". The internet was full of pictures, with the hashtag #ThankaNunDay. I thought, "It's about time!" Quite often in the missions, it is the Sisters who are in the trenches. We hear their stories or see their work: these women who have given their lives to God in service to others are true heroes.

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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 humblest 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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  • Red Smith on baseball



    How are you getting your baseball fix these days? There are great games being replayed on NESN and MLB-TV -- and replayed, and replayed, over and over again. I stopped watching them back in April sometime. I know them all by heart at this point. Roberts is going to barely beat Jeter's tag. Torii Hunter is going to go head first into the bullpen, trying to grab Big Papi's grand slam. The ball is going through Buckner's legs -- every damn time that game is on. And I don't care what happened in a game five years ago between the Mets and the Royals.

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  • Cops and padres



    It might just be a reflection of my own intellectual preoccupations, but I can't help but notice some parallels in our efforts to end both police racism and clergy sexual abuse. One concerns the way we frame the problem.

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  • Heart of Jesus, holy temple of God



    I've been reading, recently, a good deal of the work of Dietrich von Hildebrand -- perhaps not a household name, but in fact one of the greatest Catholic philosophers of the last century. An inspiration to both John Paul II and Benedict XVI, von Hildebrand was designated by the Nazis themselves as their number one enemy in the 1930s -- pretty high praise, that. Hildebrand developed a number of path-breaking ideas, including the distinction, foundational for ethics, between the merely subjectively satisfying and the objectively valuable. And he was, perhaps more than any other figure in the 20th century, the philosopher of the heart.

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  • Existence of purgatory



    Q. I was raised to be a devout Catholic and have a great interest in works of theology, such as those by Thomas Aquinas. But my mother, who is also a Catholic, doesn't believe in purgatory. She thinks that God loves us so much that there wouldn't be a reason for purgatory. Is there any way I can try to prove it to her? (Charlotte, Michigan)

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  • Will Nancy Pelosi take a page from her father's playbook?



    In 1918, Mayor James Preston presented a 264-piece silver service to Cardinal James Gibbons on behalf of Baltimore and its citizens -- a municipal tribute to the city's beloved archbishop on the 50th anniversary of his episcopal consecration. Funded by public subscription, the cutlery, plates, tea pots and coffee pots, serving bowls, trays, and platters of the "Gibbons silver" featured a unique decorative pattern, the cardinal's monogram, and his coat-of-arms. For decades, much of the jubilee silver service was displayed in the dining room of the residence of the archbishops of Baltimore, located just behind Benjamin Latrobe's magnificent Cathedral of the Assumption.

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  • We all need to work together



    Following is the homily delivered by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley at a Mass for racial justice and healing celebrated at Castle Island in South Boston June 13. It is a privilege for me today to join with you in prayer, we pray first of all for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all of those known and countless unknown who have been victims of racial violence in our land. Today, we pray for healing, reconciliation that will come about by deeper commitment to racial justice and equality. Thank you for your presence here today.

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  • Walking with Children in the Missions



    We are very grateful to all the Catholic Schools and Parish Faith Formation programs that walked with us this school year in our efforts to help all children in the missions know how much God loves them! Although our journey together was cut short, we know that the missions remain alive in the hearts and prayers of all members of The Missionary Childhood Association.

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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 us and trip us up.

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  • 1976 -- the Year of the Bird



    1976 will be remembered by some as the year of America's bicentennial when the Queen of England visited Boston. Others will recall it as the year a peanut farmer from Georgia, former Gov. Jimmy Carter, confounded the pundits by getting elected president.

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  • Crisis



    Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address is one of the most remarkable documents in American history -- a serious theological meditation by a president as well as a work of great literary art. Speaking March 4, 1865, to a deeply moved crowd just weeks before his death, Lincoln suggested that "this terrible war," the Civil War, was God's punishment of America for the sin of slavery.

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  • The biases of a Royal Commission



    A brief dip into Latin helps us understand how preconceptions can lead to biased judgments that falsify history -- as they did when an Australian Royal Commission on sexual abuse recently impugned the integrity of Cardinal George Pell.

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  • Listen and love



    George Floyd's death was a terrible injustice, one that immediately unified the entire nation in horror and righteous indignation. The condemnation of what occurred in Minneapolis was universal. People of all political persuasions, all races, all religions, all regions, all levels of education, all ages, and all economic and social classes agreed that no American should ever be mistreated the way Mr. Floyd was. So what happened? Why is there so much rancor and division now?

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  • Spiritual lessons from the pandemic



    The COVID-19 pandemic has left many of us with a great deal of uncertainty: uncertainty about how contagious the virus is and about the best way to treat it; uncertainty about how long our personal immunity will last after we get infected and whether a vaccine will ever be developed; uncertainty about the future of the economy and whether jobs will still be there for the 40 million newly unemployed; uncertainty about how long the public quarantines should continue; uncertainty about what will happen to ourselves, our businesses, our families and our friends.

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  • Come, Holy Spirit



    Extremely troubling events have overtaken our polarized nation. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought sickness, rising death counts, tensions over masks and restrictions, massive unemployment, and severe financial distress. Then came those racist encounters in Central Park and on a Minneapolis street. The video of the subjugation and death of a black man, George Floyd, under the knee of a white police officer has been extremely provocative. Mass protests erupted all over our country, and rightly so, despite instances of looting and other criminal activity. People are now addressing the use of violence by police officers and the respect due to black people with a seriousness not seen before.

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  • The controversial conversion of Dr. T.L. Nichols



    In the papers of Bishop John B. Fitzpatrick of Boston exists a letter dated June 27, 1857, from "T.L. Nichols." He writes from Saint Martins, Brown County, Ohio, informing the bishop of an article in The Pilot questioning the sincerity with which he and his wife converted to the Catholic faith.

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  • Asking pardon and the 'purification of memory'



    Many of us remember that at the turn of the Millennium St. Pope John Paul II confessed sins and requested pardon on behalf of Christians for past anti-Semitism. This took place in a remarkable ceremony during a solemn Mass in St. Peter's Square of March 12, 2000, marking a "Day of Pardon." But do we remember that on the same occasion he sought pardon for sins of racism? It seems like a good time to ponder the event.

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  • Prayerful Solidarity with the Whole World



    According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word solidarity comes from the Latin word solidum, or whole sum and the French word solidaire, or characterized by solidarity. We know the English word to mean unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.

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  • Word of the 'living Father'



    The Eucharist is given to us as a challenge and a promise. That's how Jesus presents it in today's Gospel. He doesn't make it easy for those who hear Him. They are repulsed and offended at His words. Even when they begin to quarrel, He insists on describing the eating and drinking of His flesh and blood in starkly literal terms.

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  • Pinky Higgins' fatal flaw



    When Mike (Pinky) Higgins retired as a player following the 1946 season, he had forged a solid reputation in baseball. He'd played 14 seasons as a third baseman in the American League, made three all-star teams, been in two World Series, and had a lifetime batting average of .292. In 1938, while with the Red Sox, he set a major league record (later tied by Walt Dropo) with base hits in 12 consecutive at-bats.

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  • Protesting on both knees



    On June 4, I was returning from early morning Mass for religious sisters across Midtown Manhattan when, on 48th Street, I entered the pedestrian protective tunnel of a construction site. There was an African American construction worker on the other side of the tunnel who, as I approached, asked at high volume, presumably for his fellow workers to hear, "Are you heading out to protest, Father?"

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  • Limit on number of Masses?



    Q. During the current pandemic, given the limitation on attendance imposed by civil authorities, we are planning to hold simultaneous Masses in our church and parish hall. We anticipate having to hold a total of 11 weekend Masses, but there are only two priests assigned to our parish, with another one coming to help on a regular basis.

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  • This moment of judgment



    I'd be willing to bet that not many of us have watched a man die. Those of us who don't go to war or work in intensive care units are not often witnesses to the last breath of another human being. We don't see a lifeless body rolled over onto a stretcher, head dangling limply.

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  • The heavens declare the glory of God



    In his "Life of St. Augustine," the fifth-century bishop Possidius tells us that the greatest of the Latin Doctors of the Church, knowing that his earthly end was near, had four penitential psalms copied and hung on the walls of his room. "From his sickbed," Possidius writes, Augustine "could see these sheets of paper . . . And would read them, crying constantly and deeply." It was an act of deep piety that we all might ponder ways to emulate.

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