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  • Worry cannot be turned to joy by a kind word alone



    ''Worry weighs down the heart, but a kind word gives it joy." (Proverbs 12:24) There are a lot of unknowns right now that are causing anxiety and disruption. Focusing on the unknowns in life and letting fear take over our minds and hearts is terrifying. In this time of crisis in our world, we can turn inward and absorb all of this anxiety, consumed by fear and the unknown, or we can look outward and be the light. We can be the kind word that gives others joy. We can be the good deed that brings light and happiness to someone's day. Yes, in this time of crisis, we can bring joy.

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  • The last pilgrim



    ''A man doesn't know what he has until he loses it," sings Joe Boyd, the middle-aged real estate salesman in the musical "Damn Yankees." Transformed into a young, superstar athlete -- "Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo" -- through a pact with the devil, he realizes finally how precious was the love of his faithful wife, which he had taken for granted, and has now lost.

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  • Our Christian calling and social distancing



    The advent of the novel coronavirus has set into motion so many unprecedented actions and effects that it's hard to keep track or make sense of them. "Can you believe it?" is a refrain I find myself saying reflexively about everything from the stock market's volatility to the cancellation of professional sporting events to the scarcity of frozen vegetables in local grocery stores.

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  • An early mission in Connecticut



    On April 7, 1840, Father John Brady wrote to Bishop Benedict J. Fenwick of Boston, requesting permission to abandon a mission in Chatham, Connecticut, and accede to the request of the congregation by following it to New London.

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  • At Lazarus' Tomb



    As we draw near to the end of Lent, today's Gospel clearly has Jesus' passion and death in view. That's why John gives us the detail about Lazarus' sister, Mary--that she is the one who anointed the Lord for burial (see John 12:3, 7). His disciples warn against returning to Judea; Thomas even predicts they will "die with Him" if they go back.

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  • The greatest game I ever saw



    Most New England baseball aficionados whose memories go back four decades and more, when asked to name their choice for the greatest single game of their lifetimes, opt for Game Six of the 1975 World Series. That's the Carlton Fisk home run game, when the Red Sox catcher's blast off Fenway Park's left field foul pole decided that dramatic 12 inning nail-biter.

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  • Why did Jesus weep?



    Q. I have always been attracted to the verse in John's Gospel (11:35) that says that, learning of the death of Lazarus, "Jesus wept." It shows, I think, how much Christ loved Lazarus and all of humanity. But reflecting further on that passage, I'm wondering just why Jesus wept.

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  • Virtues needed for a time of crisis



    During the 1576 plague that menaced Milan and eventually took 25,000 lives, the civil government fled the city out of fear. The Archbishop of Milan, Saint Charles Borromeo, took over, assured the people he would not abandon them and, together with priests from the parishes and religious orders, began to care for their material and spiritual needs.

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  • Building community in a pandemic



    So much has been said and written about the novel coronavirus that if words could stem a pandemic, we would all long since have been dancing in the streets, holding hands and only pausing now and then to exchange hugs. Unfortunately, keeping six feet apart is the order of the day, while hugging -- especially hugging -- is strictly verboten.

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  • 'Wittenberg' in synodal slow motion



    As Yale's Carlos Eire masterfully demonstrated in "Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650," there was no one "Protestant Reformation" but rather several religious movements, often in disagreement with each other, that shattered western Christendom in the 16th century. Still, Martin Luther's protest at Wittenberg on October 31, 1517, has long been taken as the starting gun for "the Reformation," and various Protestant denominations celebrate "Reformation Day" on the Sunday closest to October 31. So "Wittenberg" can serve as a synonym for other efforts to distance Christian communities from the authority of Rome and the papacy.

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  • Suspending Masses was an act of charity



    March 15 was the first Sunday that I can remember as an adult that I did not attend Mass. Frankly, it made my heart ache, watching the CatholicTV Mass online, seeing the host lifted up, but knowing I could not partake. The Eucharist is truly "the source and summit of the Christian life," the bread of angels that sustains us.

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  • Keeping your distance



    We'd been instructed to cover our coughs and wash our hands a hundred times a day, but it wasn't enough. And just like that, classes are moved online and offices are moved home. All events are scratched or postponed. Malls and theaters close; restaurants go to take-out and drive-thru only. And perhaps most upsetting of all, public Masses are cancelled.

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  • A Lenten response to COVID-19



    After visiting Philadelphia's spring flower show, my daughter and her five-year-old were returning home on the commuter train. Awareness of the new coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. was just seeping into the news, and my daughter thought she saw her child put her hands up to her face.

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  • The coronavirus and sitting quietly in a room alone



    Blaise Pascal said, "All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone." The great 17th-century philosopher thought that most of us, most of the time, distract ourselves from what truly matters through a series of divertissements (diversions). He was speaking from experience. Though one of the brightest men of his age and one of the pioneers of the modern physical sciences and of computer technology, Pascal frittered away a good deal of his time through gambling and other trivial pursuits. In a way, he knew, such diversions are understandable, since the great questions -- Does God exist? Why am I here? Is there life after death? -- are indeed overwhelming. But if we are to live in a serious and integrated way, they must be confronted -- and this is why, if we want our most fundamental problems to be resolved, we must be willing to spend time in a room alone.

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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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  • A new baseball season awaits



    This is the time of year when I come down with a case of baseball fever. It's happened every year since I was a kid. It's really not the same thing as spring fever because I live in a part of the country where we don't have spring. We have winter (or at least we did until this year); then, we have mud season when everything thaws out. Then, all of a sudden, summer sneaks in. Maybe spring will pop up its head on some random Tuesday, but other than that New England is fly-over country for that season. The progression of seasons in this part of the world is best described in the verse to the song, "June Is Bustin' Out All Over," lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, Jr.

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  • Church's stance on organ donation



    Q. What is the Catholic Church's position on donating body parts for medical science? (Northampton, Pennsylvania) A. Let's divide the answer into two parts: post-mortem transplants and those from living donors. Gifts from a donor who has clearly died -- either to a living recipient or to scientific research -- is the easier part.

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  • A crisis that may be an opportunity



    "Never let a serious crisis go to waste," said former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. His adage came to mind as I surveyed the human and economic wreckage strewn in the wake of the coronavirus. Also known as COVID-19, the virus is slashing its way through the world's countries, continent by continent. Some countries have done a good job of testing and identifying those likely to be infected.

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  • Coronavirus and 'Hollywood Squares'



    The novel coronavirus that began in Wuhan, China, late last year has affected higher education like nothing I have experienced in my time as a university president. We have called students home from overseas programs on five continents. We have canceled international spring break trips to Israel, Greece, and the Caribbean.

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  • Keeping the balance: Health and faith



    The COVID-19 ("coronavirus disease 2019") situation began to unfold just as I was diagnosed with a significant flare of one of my autoimmune conditions and had to go on a very high dose course of prednisone, a steroid that, among other things, suppresses the immune system and makes it much easier to catch serious, possibly life-threatening illnesses, including influenza.

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  • Churchmanship



    "Churchmanship" is not a term in vogue today and given the alleged inclusivity-deficit of such words it's unlikely to make a comeback. Which is a shame. Because "churchmanship" connotes an etiquette, a once-taken-for-granted code of manners, that embodies an important truth of Catholic faith. When the etiquette crumbles, the truth can get lost amidst the debris.

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  • Disruption comes to ordinary times



    These past days have been unlike any I have known before as every email I read and headline I see announces a new covid-19 related disruption of everyday routines, events, and conveniences. For now, I am not on the "front lines" of this. I am not a health care worker, not considered medically vulnerable, and not responsible for the care of anyone who is. As far as I can tell, my loved ones and I are healthy. So, although I can -- and do! -- whine about the disruptions that are coming to my own life, I can more wisely fill that time with gratitude for the many blessings I have and so often do not notice.

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  • How Catholics should respond to the coronavirus



    Here is an unsigned editorial titled: "How Catholics should respond to the coronavirus," which appeared online March 5 on the website of America Magazine, a weekly Jesuit publication. The coronavirus illness, designated COVID-19, has spread to over 100 countries, infected at least 121,000 people and killed at least 4,375 worldwide. Even as the spread of the virus has slowed in China, the epicenter of the outbreak, cases are cropping up in communities across the United States, which as of March 11 has 1,016 cases. At least 31 people have died.

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  • This is our Church



    I am blessed. As I look back on my journey of faith in Christ, I can clearly see his action in my life as I strive to live out our faith on a daily basis. His abundant grace has led me through good times and bad, drawing me deeper into the mystery of our Catholic faith as a disciple, as a husband, as a father, and through my work in parishes, Catholic schools, and dioceses for the past 27 years.

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  • Father Patrick Byrne, one of Boston's first priests



    March 18, 2020, marks 200 years since the ordination of Father Patrick Byrne. Active during the formative years of the Diocese of Boston, Father Byrne was one of a few priests serving Catholics in an area encompassing all of New England, seeing him minister to Catholics in Canada, New York, Maine and Massachusetts during his 22 years as a priest.

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  • Striking the rock



    The Israelites' hearts were hardened by their hardships in the desert. Though they have seen 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 end of the world is near -- or is it?



    According to recent polls, 14 percent of all people across 20 countries believe that the world will come to an end during their lifetimes. Some of them are convinced that it will happen soon. There are even those cultists who claim to know the exact date the apocalypse will take place.

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  • Love an enemy this Lent



    The three classical spiritual practices that the Church urges us to embrace during Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I would strongly encourage every one of my readers to follow this recommendation, perhaps intensifying each one of the three during the holy season. But there is another Lenten discipline that I would like to put forward, inspired very much by the Gospel readings this week: forgiving an enemy.

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  • Is funeral Mass mandated?



    Q. Is a Catholic required to have a Catholic burial ceremony -- in a church with a Mass? I am thinking of having just a graveside service instead -- with a priest, of course, but just a private ceremony. (I mean no disrespect to the Church, but I think this might be easier for the family.) (Indianapolis)

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  • Court and abortion: What next?



    For all practical purposes or at least most, the Supreme Court likely has already decided the most important abortion-related case to come before it in nearly half a century. But the decision is known only to a tiny handful of tight-lipped people, while the rest of us won't find out for over three months.

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  • Doubling down on a bad deal



    Perseverance on a difficult but noble path is a virtue. Stubbornness when confronted by irrefutable evidence of a grave mistake is a vice. The latter would seem an apt characterization of a letter sent on Ash Wednesday to the entire College of Cardinals by its new Dean, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re. In that letter -- his first official act as Dean -- Cardinal Re reprimands the redoubtable Cardinal Joseph Zen, SDB, emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, for his criticisms of the agreement the Vatican made with the People's Republic of China in 2018.

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  • Gone viral



    I'm sure I'm not the only one watching the daily corona virus maps and I know I'm not the only one buying an extra bottle of hand sanitizer at the grocery store. It's frightening to see an illness we don't know how to cure or prevent spread. And it's very sad to hear the rising number of deaths caused by the disease worldwide, especially among the elderly and those who already face significant health challenges.

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  • A hundred love letters



    In a recent essay in the Wall Street Journal, Kimberly Cutter chronicled the death of her father by suicide. As he struggled with rapidly progressing prostate cancer, he lost more than 30 pounds, becoming gaunt and emaciated. Back pain and nausea forced him to spend much of his time in bed.

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  • Learning the faith is not just for the sake of learning



    I decided to take classes at St. John's Seminary's Master of Theological Studies (MTS) degree program because I had already taken a number of courses in theology at the undergraduate level and thought it would be a good idea to pursue a master's degree. I had also taught religion in the past and figured that I might return to the classroom -- and a master's degree would certainly help.

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  • Listen to Him



    Today's 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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  • Lent as an invitation to practicing solidarity



    Lent is a most beautiful season for spiritual renewal. Lent is a time to reflect about our journey of faith and to assess to what extent we are living authentically our Christian discipleship. I heard recently in a homily, "What are you going to do this Lent?" The question is always challenging because it invites me to shift my attention to the distinctiveness of the season and its call to conversion.

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  • The Shadow -- starring Tom Brady



    Are you as worn out as I am by the constant barrage of non-news stories about Tom Brady's future? We just can't get enough of this guy. It dates all the way back to those early Super Bowl seasons; to the controversial tuck rule game. Was it a fumble or a pass? You can still get a pretty good argument on that one, depending on what city you're in. He's dominated our football thinking going back to the epic duels with Peyton Manning which now seem so long ago; to the worrisome sight of his being carted off the field in the very first game of the 2008 season; to the glorious days when he had Randy Moss as a deep threat target. We wince at the ugliness of Deflategate, and we glory at the memory of all those Super Bowl titles and of the miraculous comeback wins, capped off by the most miraculous comeback of them all, Super Bowl LI, Patriots 34 and Falcons 28.

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  • Reconciling Gospel accounts



    Q. In the Gospel for the feast of the Epiphany, Matthew indicates that the Magi visited with King Herod in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus' birth and that apparently very soon after their visit, the Holy Family fled to Egypt to avoid the wrath of Herod and stayed there until Herod had died.

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  • Another infernal betrayal



    Dante Alighieri's "Inferno" is still hell's bestseller. A masterpiece of medieval poetry and theology since it was published seven centuries ago, the "Inferno" traces the author's imagined trip through the levels of hell, recording the sinners he finds there and their punishments.

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  • St. Joseph as a model for Lent



    Like most Christians throughout the first 1400 years of the Church, many today can treat St. Joseph as an afterthought or some kind of ancient "player-to-be-named-later" in a package deal for the young virgin to whom he was espoused. His role as "foster father" of Jesus can often be regarded as an expendable accessory. As Matthew's and Luke's genealogies show us, however, St. Joseph was the penultimate piece in a divine cascade stretching all the way back to King David, Abraham and even Adam, and it was through him that Jesus, under Jewish law and mentality, would be a descendent of David. If we were to ask Jesus and Mary, I'm convinced that they would want us to grow to love Joseph just as they did.

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  • The clerisy of the concrete-and-glass box freaks out



    Several years back, the estimable Father Paul Scalia observed, of some cultural idiocy or other, "Who knew the end of civilization would be so amusing?" I detected a subtle theological point within that mordant comment: a point worth reflecting upon during Lent. Christians are the people who know how history is going to turn out -- God is, finally, going to get what God intended from the beginning, which is the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in the New Jerusalem. (The trailer, so to speak, is in Revelation 21.) So, Christians can afford to relax a bit about the vicissitudes and traumas of history. To be sure, faith that God's purposes in creation and redemption will ultimately be vindicated ought not lead to insouciance about here-and-now; we have responsibilities within history and we should take them seriously. But faith in the triumph of the Kingdom for which we pray daily should invite us to "chill" (as the kids used to say).

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