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  • A Veterans Day remembrance



    Even duty in a combat zone duty can become routine, even boring, as you do your job, prepared for whatever comes. On one of those quite routine night in 1972 in the Gulf of Tonkin, around 1:30 a.m., we heard the radio traffic begin on the radio speaker dedicated to the Yankee Station Commander. A pilot had been shot down quite deep inside North Vietnam, just a few miles from Laos. The entire watch team felt a jolt of adrenaline. We had been on line for 20 days -- 20 days of port and starboard watches -- eight hours on watch, eight hours off watch. We were four or five miles off the coast of North Vietnam interdicting the flow of food and supplies from anchored Chinese cargo ships. We were just off the coast, near the Ho Chi Minh Trail, 40 miles north of the DMZ -- the Demilitarized Zone.

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  • Pushing back against evil



    During a recent speech in Texas, I mentioned that "Drag Queen Story Hours" are being sponsored by local public libraries across the country. Toddlers and kids are brought in and placed in front of cross-dressing men who read children's stories to them, stories that encourage them to reject fundamental gender differences between males and females. The LGBTQ agenda, I also noted, is being energetically promoted to upend and rewrite public school curricula even for kindergarten and pre-school-aged children.

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  • A grateful send-off



    It's funny how change or loss can make us appreciate things we don't usually consider worthy of our attention. When I came back to Massachusetts after a year away, I noticed all the changes immediately. The Woburn Mall, where my mom and many of our kids worked, had mostly been torn down: only the Market Basket and CVS remain. A nearby intersection had been redesigned and a new building had gone up. Of course I didn't really expect things to stay the way I remembered them forever. But maybe in some way, I did; that's probably why it felt so jarring. Eventually, the landscape of our memories disappears and what we do with that reality matters.

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  • Progress and the spread of Christianity



    Which of these two scenarios do you tend to believe, or regard as nearest to the truth? Scenario one: We have not yet seen the full flourishing of Christianity. The Christian faith, mainly through the Catholic Church, will continue to spread throughout the world, so that eventually nearly everyone becomes Christian. In some areas of the world, even, a new Christendom, as in Europe of old, will be established. Things will continue like that until the end of the world, with the Christian faith occupying the whole world. Call this picture, "Triumphalism."

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  • To raise again



    With their riddle about seven brothers and a childless widow, the Sadducees in today's Gospel mock the faith for which seven brothers and their mother die in the First Reading. The Maccabean martyrs chose death -- tortured limb by limb, burned alive -- rather than betray God's Law. Their story is given to us in these last weeks of the Church year to strengthen us for endurance -- that our feet might not falter but remain steadfast on his paths.

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  • Tommy, we hardly knew ye



    Here is what I think. I think that Tom Brady is more than half-way through his final season as an NFL quarterback. I sincerely hope that this forecast is wrong and that people will come up to me next September as number 12 trots onto the field at the Patriots' home opener, waving the paper on which this is written under my nose and singing "Who's Sorry Now?"

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  • Why doctrine matters



    Catholicism has always been an intellectual religion. This is not to say that -- heaven forbid -- it's a religion only or especially for intellectuals but only that the Church has been intensely concerned from the start to hold, preserve, and share what it believes to be revealed truth about God and the meaning of life.

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  • Morality and video games



    Q. My son, who is 15, keeps asking for a video game called Grand Theft Auto V. After reading some reviews (gang violence, nudity, extremely coarse language, drug and alcohol abuse), I was not inclined to purchase it for him in good conscience.

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  • Praying for fallen away loved ones



    On October 17, the Pew Research Center released the results of a survey that showed that 65 percent of American adults now say that they're Christians, down 12 percentage points in just the last ten years. Those describing themselves as atheists, agnostics and "nothing in particular" are now at 26 percent of the population, up from 17 percent in 2009. And while Catholics were 23 percent of Americans a decade ago, they constitute today -- despite large-scale immigration from Catholic countries -- just 20 percent of the adult population.

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  • Fearlessness and the American bishops in Rome



    I once knew a Congregationalist minister -- Yale Divinity School graduate, decorated World War II chaplain, veteran campaigner for then-unpopular liberal causes -- of whom it was said (sometimes by himself) that "David Colwell so fears God that he fears no one else." It was a striking statement, redolent, perhaps, of the Jonathan Edwards ("Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God") School of American Protestant Homiletics. But the source of this man's fearlessness was rather different than that of a man I was just coming to know when David Colwell and I were friendly jousting partners on questions theological and political.

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  • The Third Plenary Council of Baltimore



    On Sunday, Nov. 9, 1884, 14 archbishops, 57 bishops, six abbots, 31 superiors of religious orders, 11 seminary presidents, and 88 theologians convened for the opening of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore. The first plenary council had been held in 1852, and the second in 1866, each evolving policy, governance and overall character of the Catholic Church in the United States.

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  • Lover of souls



    Our Lord is a lover of souls, the Liturgy shows us today. As we sing in today's Psalm, he is slow to anger and compassionate toward all that he has made. In his mercy, our First Reading tells us, he overlooks our sins and ignorance, giving us space that we might repent and not perish in our sinfulness (see Wisdom 12:10; 2 Peter 3:9).

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  • The Nationals and the Pawsox -- two different tales



    Washington, D.C. has gone bonkers over its baseball team. The city without a soul has found one buried deep within the franchise once known as the Montreal Expos. That team has been the Washington Nationals since 2005 and this October they have drawn the nation's capitol, heretofore composed of individual fiefdoms, all engaged in knife fights to beat down the others, into a single community, all committed to a common goal. Their rallying cry is, "Go Nats!"

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  • The fleeing nones



    I grew up in a family of seven kids, which I considered a midsized Catholic brood. I knew families that could field entire baseball and even football teams. As a kid, I kept score of such matters and felt that Mom and Dad were lagging.

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  • Does Mass need a congregation?



    Q. When I attended parochial school, we were taught that a priest could not say Mass by himself and needed at least one other person as his "congregation." But lately I have been told that priests are required to celebrate Mass every day, even if there are no other people present. Which is correct? (Milladore, Wisconsin)

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  • A new cardinal honors an entire nation



    ROME. Even the greatest enthusiasts of the present pontificate might not assert that Pope Francis has an inspiring liturgical style. Like the old-school Jesuit he resembles in many ways, the Holy Father is rather flat liturgically: typically expressionless, sometimes downright dour, he gets through the business at hand in a workmanlike way. Yet at the consistory for the creation of new cardinals on October 5, Francis showed real emotion when, after bestowing the red biretta and cardinalatial ring on the emeritus archbishop of Kaunus, Lithuania, Sigitas Tamkevicius, SJ, the Pope seemed to shed a tear or two as he drew the new prince of the Church into a prolonged embrace and shared a few words with him.

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  • What outcome am I looking for?



    Very often in meetings or discussions, I will ask or be asked, "What outcome are you looking for?" -- a simple yet powerful question and one worthy of reflection. With the country embroiled in an impeachment inquiry and our Church exploring the best way to bring Christ to the people of the Amazon, many pundits have opined. Unfortunately, most of the opinion I have read is not humbly and thoughtfully reflecting on what is right, and where the Spirit is guiding us. Instead, it is focused on moving an agenda forward. Is it our agenda or that of the Spirit?

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  • Thomas Aquinas College comes to Massachusetts



    The newest Catholic college campus in America is one of the best I've seen. In August 2019, Thomas Aquinas College began its classes amidst the rolling hills of Northfield, Massachusetts, about 90 miles west of Boston. This college is the New England campus of the famed Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California.

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  • Let's face it. The attacks are working



    Religion is all over the news these days. Much of it makes for tough reading. For instance, the recent study by Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life reported on the exploding number of people who have left America's churches. In just 10 years, from 2009 to 2019, the percentage of American Christians has shrunk from 77 percent to 65 percent. That's a 12 percent decline in 10 years!

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  • Stolen idols



    Stories about Vatican synods and conferences rarely make the headlines, and when they do, it's usually something about a colorful opening ceremony or working group discussions. This week, however, a rather strange report came out of the Amazon synod in Rome. Controversial statues that had been used at a prayer service in the Vatican Gardens and again at the synod's Stations of the Cross were stolen from a church near St. Peter's Basilica and thrown into the Tiber.

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  • Beware of these scams targeting older adults



    For seniors who rely heavily on life savings, it is especially important to be careful about whom to entrust with personal and financial information. Many of us are bombarded daily with ads, mailings, and solicitations. In the midst of so much information, knowing whom to trust and how to identify scams can save us from a world of stress.

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  • To know thee is to love thee



    I have always loved God and his Church -- imperfectly, of course -- but the love was always there. In my young-adult years, my love for him began to mature. In 2009, I began regular eucharistic adoration, a devotion that I had rarely experienced previously. I marveled at the fact that our Lord desired my company. Jesus Christ, truly and humbly present before me in the Eucharist, transformed my heart -- which I recognize now, a decade later.

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  • No favorites



    Jesus draws a blunt picture in today's Gospel. The Pharisee's prayer is almost a parody of the thanksgiving psalms (see for example Psalms 30, 118). Instead of praising God for his mighty works, the Pharisee congratulates himself for his own deeds, which he presents to God in some detail.

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  • Five great games



    For about two years now I have been making four or five appearances a month at senior citizens centers and assisted living facilities, reciting "Red Sox Rhymes" and engaging in discussions on all things Red Sox with those in attendance, many of whom are no longer able to attend games in person at Fenway Park. Audiences vary in size, from as many as two or three hundred to as few as half a dozen, but we never fail to have a good time. Well, at least I do.

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  • The court and abortion



    Finally the Supreme Court has given prolife Americans what they were hoping for -- a commitment to take a fresh look at the issue of abortion. But the court's willingness to consider the question again is by no means the same as a promise that the court will come up with just the answer to please prolifers.

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  • Ten Commandments or 613?



    Q. Why is it that Christians feel that the coming of Jesus freed them from the 613 prescripts that Jews count in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and that they can adhere only to the Ten Commandments? Why those 10 and not the other 613? (Albany, New York)

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  • The ideological hijacking of Pope St. John XXIII



    ROME. With his liturgical memorial (October 11) falling on the fourth full day of the Special Synod for Amazonia, which sometimes seems bent on recycling every tried-and-failed nostrum from 1970s, it was inevitable that certain portside Catholic commentators would continue their effort to spin Pope St. John XXIII into a smiley-face, chubby Italian grandpa whose approach to the future of the Church was somewhat Maoist: "Let a thousand flowers bloom!"

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  • Hope from on high



    The Lord is our guardian, beside us at our right hand, interceding for us in all our spiritual battles. In today's Psalm we're told to lift our eyes to the mountains, that our help will come from Mount Zion and the Temple -- the dwelling of the Lord who made heaven and earth.

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  • Prayers for the sick



    There is an old New Yorker cartoon that shows an angel bringing God a stack of petitions about wars, natural disasters and other calamities. God waves him off with a distracted, "Not now. I'm trying to help this guy make a free throw."

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  • Historical clarity and today's Catholic contentions



    One of the curiosities of the 21st-century Catholic debate is that many Catholic traditionalists (especially integralists) and a high percentage of Catholic progressives make the same mistake in analyzing the cause of today's contentions within the Church -- or to vary the old fallacy taught in Logic 101, they think in terms of post Concilium ergo propter Concilium [everything that's happened after the Council has happened because of the Council]. And inside that fallacy is a common misreading of modern Catholic history. The traditionalists insist that everything was fine before the Council (which many of them therefore regard as a terrible mistake); the progressives agree that the pre-Vatican II Church was a stable institution but deplore that stability as rigidity and desiccation.

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  • John Henry Newman in full



    I write these words in the Rome airport, on my way to England, where I will deliver a paper on St. John Henry Newman and evangelization. I'm still basking in the glow of the splendid Mass of canonization yesterday, presided over by Pope Francis and attended by tens of thousands of bishops, priests, and faithful from all over the world.

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  • St. Therese of Lisieux and the renewal of missionary zeal



    At the beginning of this month, I had the joy to travel to Detroit to preach solemn Vespers at the historic National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica on the feast day of the Little Flower. In the canticle for Vespers, taken from the Book of Revelation, we prayed how "all nations shall come and worship in [God's] presence, which gave us an occasion to focus on Jesus' call for us to "go and teach all nations" (Mark 16:15, Mt 28:18-20) sharing with them the treasure of Christian faith and life.

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  • Don't let Halloween scare you



    Sometimes kids can be way more sensible than grown-ups. When the "Harry Potter" series was all the rage (has it stopped being all the rage yet?), there was a mild hysteria whipped up in certain fundamentalist circles that the series was a sneaky way to seduce children into witchcraft.

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  • Canonical marriage but not civil?



    Q. I am a widow going out now with a widower. We love each other and he wants me to marry him. Can we get married in the Church, keep our own names and not be married by the law of the state? The reason is this: If we get married under state law, I would lose my deceased husband's social security and pension, and that would put a financial burden on me. Please advise. (Southeastern Indiana)

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  • The regrettable episode with Greta Thunberg



    Unless you were sleeping last month, you probably caught at least a glimpse of the newsmaking 16-year-old Swede, Greta Thunberg, on her U.S. tour. While on American soil, the environmental activist addressed Congress, attended a global climate strike in Manhattan, conducted interviews with national media and delivered a passionate address at the United Nations Climate Action Summit that went viral.

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  • The origins of World Mission Sunday



    This Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, is World Mission Sunday. Each year since 1926, when it was introduced by Pius XI, the penultimate Sunday in October has been designated as a day for all Catholics to reflect on their commitment to evangelizing the world. This year's theme focuses on the centenary of Pope Benedict XV's Apostolic Letter, "Maximum Illud," delivered at St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, on Nov. 30, 1919.

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  • Pay for emissions



    In June 2018 and 2019, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the University of Notre Dame convened leaders from around the world at the Vatican to address the transition of our energy system toward a low carbon economy.

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