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  • Winter on my mind



    I love October. The temperatures aren't quite so hot, but the sun still shines warm. The trees are ablaze with color, and the swirling wind carries stowaway leaves from the highest branches to the ground. The woods are carpeted with pine needles. And the air is clean and light.

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  • Are they finding what they want?



    Sex has forever been a big seller. That's why in the media saturated world we live in, we are awash with sexual words and images. Today the radio is blaring news of the sex life of Harvey Weinstein, an aging movie mogul and his exploits on the casting couch. September's magazines and newspapers fell all over themselves celebrating the contributions to slaying America's sexual hang-ups by Playboy's crusading publisher, Hugh Hefner. Television networks, first cable and now broadcast, are in a constant race to educate its viewers to the good, the bad and the ugly of sexual intercourse. And then, there is Internet porn, a favorite of American children, where every form of sexual debauchery and abnormality is just a click away.

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  • Gun control: If not now, when?



    A few short weeks ago a man named Stephen Paddock brought an arsenal of legally acquired firearms to his suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas and began shooting concertgoers at an adjacent country music festival. 58 people were killed and 546 more were wounded in the attack.

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  • Improving instruction and increasing learning



    In 1936, a 19 year old woman began teaching in a one-room schoolhouse. She had 34 students in grades 1-8. In those days, students in the seventh and eighth grades were all required to take an end of the year exam. A person from the state department of education went to each schoolhouse in the state and administered the test and graded it.

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  • Worship and evangelization on the waterfront



    Our Lady of Good Voyage Shrine in the Seaport district of Boston was dedicated by Cardinal O'Malley on April 22. Six months in, it's time to see how things are going. Although the building is new, much of the interior is "old"! It is fitted with windows, pews, Stations of the Cross, and other sacred items from parishes that have closed -- precious history. Visitors from those closed parishes are deeply touched to see that a part of their parish lives on.

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  • Caesar and the King



    The Lord is king over all the earth, as we sing in today's Psalm. Governments rise and fall by His permission, with no authority but that given from above (see John 19:11; Romans 13:1). In effect, God says to every ruler what he tells King Cyrus in today's First Reading: "I have called you . . . Though you knew me not."

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  • Close the Distance not the Gate



    Nobel-prizing winning author, Toni Morrison, assessing the times, asks this question: "Why should we want to know a stranger when it is easier to estrange another? Why should we want to close the distance when we can close the gate?" Except this isn't a question, it's a judgment.

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  • Making and renewing vows



    Last week a friend invited my wife and me to join her in celebrating the 50th anniversary of her perpetual vows. It was a simple but moving ceremony. There was a Mass with guests and members of her religious community. At the offertory she renewed her vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and hospitality.

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  • Eulogies at Catholic funerals



    Q. I recently attended a funeral Mass for a friend -- not at my own parish. The pastor informed the family of the deceased that there could be no eulogy given in church -- before, during or after the funeral Mass. They were quite upset because they had already asked a family member to deliver the eulogy. (Mayfield, New York)

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  • Whose bourgeois morality?



    In the latest round of debate over Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis's apostolic exhortation on marriage and the family, a fervent defender of the document sniffed at some of its critics that "the Magisterium doesn't bow to middle-class lobbies" and cited Humanae Vitae as an example of papal tough-mindedness in the face of bourgeois cultural pressures. It was a clever move, rhetorically, and we may hope that it's right about the magisterial kowtow. But I fear it also misses the point -- or, better, several points.

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  • When is it a sin to make a referral?



    During World War II, if a contractor had been asked to construct a building knowing that it would serve as a gas chamber in Auschwitz, it goes without saying that he ought not agree to do it. By laying the foundation and supervising the plumbing, electrical and duct work, he would be contributing to, or enabling, the subsequent commission of atrocities against prisoners in the concentration camp.

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  • Digitization progressing



    It has been over one year since the Archdiocese of Boston entered into a partnership with the New England Historic Genealogical Society to digitize our sacramental record collection. Since it began in August 2016, there have been some exciting developments, and our progress has exceeded expectations thus far.

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  • Phase V pastor orientation



    On Oct. 3-5 the nine pastors of the Phase V collaboratives gathered for pastor orientation. Over the years, these sessions have been changed to better respond to the suggestions of the priests as to what needs to be considered when serving as the pastor of a collaborative. The meetings were moved from spring to fall to give the pastors a few months to become familiar with their collaborative. With six of the nine pastors being new to their collaborative, meeting in the fall gave them time for reflection on some of the challenges they face as well as some of the advantages to being the pastor of their particular collaborative. The sessions, done in more of a conversational style, focused on the topics of leadership models in a collaborative, evangelizing parishes and the importance of witness. This allowed for more open sharing of one another's experiences and ideas.

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  • Our Lady of the Rosary and the Battle of Lepanto



    Tomorrow (Oct.7) the Church commemorates the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, a celebration that has its origin not, as it would seem, in simply a prayer, but in a battle. On October 7th, 1571 a fleet of ships assembled by the combined forces of Naples, Sardinia, Venice, the Papacy, Genoa, Savoy and the Knights Hospitallers fought an intense battle with the fleet of the Ottoman Empire. The battle took place in the Gulf of Patras located in western Greece. Though outnumbered by the Ottoman forces, the so-called "Holy League" possessed of superior firepower would win the day. This victory would severely curtail attempts by the Ottoman Empire to control the Mediterranean, causing a seismic shift in international relations from East to West. In some respects, and I do not want this claim to be overstated, the world that we know came into being with this victory. This event is known to history as the "Battle of Lepanto."

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  • Dressing for the feast



    Our Lord's parable in today's Gospel is again a fairly straightforward outline of salvation history. God is the king (see Matthew 5:35), Jesus the bridegroom (see Matthew 9:15), the feast is the salvation and eternal life that Isaiah prophesies in today's First Reading. The Israelites are those first invited to the feast by God's servants, the prophets (see Isaiah 7:25). For refusing repeated invitations and even killing His prophets, Israel has been punished, its city conquered by foreign armies.

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  • One Day



    It was only one day but it ought to be enshrined in the annals of epic New England sporting festivals, or at least accorded a footnote. The day was Thursday, the seventh of October 2017, when in a gluttonous rage we were obliged to bounce from the Sox-Astros, to the Bruins-Preds, to the Pats-Bucs, with too many sidelong glances at the Yanks-Indians; all of it crashing together in a mindless cacophony. To have abided it all and survived was truly Homeric.

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  • Talking past each other



    The challenge of finding language in which believers and non-believers can communicate is unintentionally illustrated in a bestselling new book which predicts that human beings will soon reinvent themselves as gods.

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  • The hollow man



    What savagery lies in the breast of man? Two recent television epics ask us to contemplate this question. The first is Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's magnificent documentary, "The Vietnam War." The other epic is the massacre in Las Vegas. A lone gunman used his hotel room as a sniper's nest, ambushing 22,000 concertgoers. In about 10 minutes of automatic weapons fire, he killed at least 58 people and injured more than 500 others. And in a final act of cowardice, the murderer took his own life, leaving the survivors and us, the spectators, to ponder his mute brutality.

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  • Changing God's mind?



    Q. I'm confused about something and would be grateful for your help. Does prayer change God's mind? Can someone be moved to the head of the line if we pray hard enough? (Cuba, Missouri) A. To answer this question, we first need to admit our limitations. I cannot pretend to know the mind of God. No one can, so long as we are still on this side of heaven.

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  • What is Happening at Mass?



    As many Catholics know, the Second Vatican Council famously referred to the liturgy as the "source and summit of the Christian life." And following the prompts of the great figures of the liturgical movement in the first half of the twentieth century, the Council Fathers called for a fuller, more conscious, and more active participation in the liturgy on the part of Catholics.

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  • Language as Opening or Closing our Minds



    Thirty years ago, the American Educator, Allan Bloom, wrote a book entitled, The Closing of the American Mind. This was his thesis: In our secularized world today our language is becoming ever-more empirical, one-dimensional, and devoid of depth and this is closing our minds by stripping us of the deeper meanings inside our own experience. For Bloom, how we name an experience determines to a large extent its meaning.

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  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church at 25



    John Paul II called the Extraordinary Synod of 1985 to assess what had gone right and what had gone wrong in two decades of implementing the Second Vatican Council. In Vaticanese, it was styled "extraordinary" because it fell outside the normal sequence of synods. But Synod-1985 was extraordinary in the ordinary sense of the word, too.

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  • The 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun



    On May 13, 1917, the feast of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, three shepherd children lead their flock to the fields and, after lunch, began praying the Rosary together. Shortly afterward, Lucia dos Santos, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta, saw lightning flash in what had been a clear sky, and feared a storm might be approaching. As they led their flock back home, a lady appeared who was "brighter than the sun," dressed in white, and standing in a cloud above a tree. Speaking to the children, she told them she came from Heaven, instructed them to say the Rosary every day, and return to the same spot on the 13th of each month for six months.

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  • Worship in ecumenical contexts



    Pastoral leaders are discovering that worship is more central to the work for Christian unity than was earlier thought. So it's no surprise, then, that the topic at this year's annual gathering of the North American Academy of Ecumenists was "Worship in Ecumenical Contexts: A Once and Future Vision."

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  • Reasons for the rosary



    One of the best things about editing Catholic books is that I usually end up being assigned to projects I need to read myself. I can't tell you how many times something I've been working on has been a total godsend. Or how often my own life has been a reflection of whatever it was I was editing. Spooky!

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  • The reason for our hope -- Jesus Christ



    ''Why are we here today?" asked Deacon Joe Cooley. And with a crucifix in hand, he answered his own question, saying, "This -- the person of Jesus -- is our hope!" That is how 600 participants who were gathered began a day dedicated to learning about the "Reason for Our Hope." The conference, held on Sept. 30 at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium, featured praise and worship, confession, prayer, speakers, adoration, and Mass with Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley.

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  • Father Edward Flanagan's legacy



    The tall, good-looking priest had the craggy profile prompting the comment, "He had the map of Ireland written all over his face." Father Edward Flanagan was the founder of Boys Town, an innovative village for runaway and orphaned boys near Omaha, Nebraska, a landmark that revolutionized the treatment of neglected kids.

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  • Living on the vine



    In today's Gospel Jesus returns to the Old Testament symbol of the vineyard to teach about Israel, the Church, and the kingdom of God. And the symbolism of today's First Reading and Psalm is readily understood.

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  • Post-season handicap



    And so here we go again! After six grueling months, plus a couple more for tune-ups, with a total expenditure for performers alone exceeding five BILLION bucks, featuring roughly 6,000 homers and over 40,000 strikeouts, in 2,430 games incurring quite as many trips of the wounded to the disabled list, Baseball's interminable regular season is done, gone, over, and in the books.

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  • Fencing with bigots



    ...being an imaginary dialogue between a nominee to a Federal appeals court and members of the Committee on the Judiciary of what once imagined itself "the world's greatest deliberative body"... Senator Proudie: I note, Professor Valiant, that Catholic dogma plays a considerable role in your judicial thinking. That bothers me, frankly, because it would seem to threaten rights many people have worked long and hard to protect. Perhaps you could relieve my anxieties?

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  • Following the Brave Shepherd All the Way



    The beatification of Father Stanley Rother on September 23 in Oklahoma City, which I was privileged to attend, was unforgettably moving. I feel a little like SS. Peter and John in the Acts of the Apostles when they said, "We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard!" (Acts 4:20). So I would like to share with you some impressions.

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  • 'Mother!' and the God of the Bible



    Darren Aronofsky's latest film Mother! Has certainly stirred up a storm, and no wonder. It features murder, point-blank executions, incinerations, and the killing and devouring of a child. I know: pleasant evening at the movies. Mother! Will seem just deeply weird unless you see it as a fairly straightforward allegory. Once you crack the code, it will make a certain sense, though the message it is trying to convey is, at best, pretty ambiguous.

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  • An education for kindness



    Like many, I enjoyed watching the video clips of Prince George starting school. I am taken, though, with the choice of school by his parents, one that departs from prior royal practices and entails a longer drive. You see, the school was chosen for its primary focus on kindness encoded in its most important rule: "Be kind."

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  • The shepherd who died for his flock



    Father Stanley Francis Rother (1928-1981), a diocesan priest from Oklahoma murdered doing mission work in Guatemala, was beatified as a martyr Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City. He is the first American-born male to be raised to the altars in the Catholic Church. (There have been several American-born females, like Sts. Kateri Tekakwitha, Elizabeth Ann Seton, and Katharine Drexel.) Pope Francis, who had previously approved the decree of martyrdom, said during his Angelus address on Sunday that Father Rother was "killed in hatred of the faith for his works of evangelization and human development in favor of the poorest in Guatemala."

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  • Making something good out of past regrets



    As we get older, our relationship to the past becomes increasingly complicated. Our sense of self is interwoven with past relationships, memories and unresolved emotions. Maria Benoit, director of Mission and Pastoral Care at Youville Assisted Living Residences, believes that finding significance in this web of past experience is integral to our sense of well-being in the present.

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  • The birth of the Catholic Union of Boston



    Throughout the history of the Archdiocese of Boston there have been many men's and women's Catholic organizations that have formed for a variety of reasons. A circular letter from the archive's collection, dated Oct. 5, 1877, provides some insight into one of these groups -- The Catholic Union of Boston.

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  • Critical keys to success -- Part II



    Last week I shared the first part of a webinar sponsored by the Amazing Parish organization whose commitment is "to supporting pastors and their leadership teams in parishes as they strive to live Christ's great commission to 'Go and make disciples of all nations.'" To fulfill that commitment, the organization offers free webinars, free resources as well as hosting a conference for parish leadership teams. Through these varied offerings, they strive to uplift, improve and help parishes turn from functioning solely in a maintenance mode to becoming missionary communities.

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  • Discerning the spirits



    Given a tough question, St. Thomas Aquinas sometimes declined to give a simple yes or no answer. Instead he began with: "distinguo." The question can be taken different ways; we must "distinguish" these to get a valid answer.

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  • The humble path



    Echoing the complaint heard in last week's readings, today's First Reading again presents protests that God isn't fair. Why does He punish with death one who begins in virtue but falls into iniquity, while granting life to the wicked one who turns from sin?

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  • Raging Bull RIP



    When the legendary pug Jake LaMotta -- better known as "Raging Bull" -- died the other day at the tender age of 95 my first reaction was to wonder how such an incomparable rascal and incorrigible roughneck could have possibly survived 95 years. Others, no doubt, said to themselves: "I thought that bum died 50 years ago."

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  • The transmigration of theological nonsense



    During the Long Lent of 2002, Sister Betsy Conway, who lived in the Bostonian epicenter of the clerical sexual abuse crisis, spoke for many self-identified progressive Catholics when she told syndicated columnist Michael Kelly, "This is our Church, all of us, and we need to take it back." Mr. Kelly, a thoughtful liberal columnist who died tragically in Iraq a year later, agreed. But they were both mistaken.

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  • A Prayer for Stillness



    Be still and know that I am God. Scripture assures us that if we are still we will come to know God, but arriving at stillness is easier said than done. As Blaise Pascal once stated, "All the miseries of the human person come from the fact that no one can sit still for one hour." Achieving stillness seems beyond us and this leaves us with a certain dilemma, we need stillness to find God, but we need God's help to find stillness. With this in mind, I offer a prayer for stillness.

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  • Good news, bad news



    Would it surprise you to know that most Catholic parishioners are quite happy with their parishes? A whopping 92 percent rate their satisfaction with their parish as good or excellent. Would it also surprise you to know that Mass attendance is down by 50 percent from the 1960s?

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  • How often to anoint?



    Q. A family member was admitted recently to a hospital in central New Jersey. A local priest was called, and he came and administered the last rites of the Catholic Church. Two weeks later, the patient took a turn for the worse and was in imminent danger of death.

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  • George Weigel's "Lessons in Hope"



    George Weigel's latest book, Lessons in Hope: My Unexpected Life with St. John Paul II, is the third panel in a great triptych he has composed in honor of the most consequential Catholic figure of the second half of the twentieth century. While the first two books--Witness to Hope and The End and the Beginning--are marked by careful analysis and thousands of footnotes, this last volume is more personal, filled with anecdotes and stories about the author's many encounters with John Paul over the years. Taken as a whole, it is a magnificent reflection on the saintly Pope's observation that, in the final analysis, there are no coincidences, but rather only features of the divine providence that we have not yet fully understood. Weigel shows the interweaving of his own life and John Paul's as an operation of grace that served--as is always the case when grace is in play--to benefit both men.

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  • America First?



    A few weeks back I woke up one morning to the news that 200 U.S. troops were participating in war games with the Egyptian army. My immediate, unpremeditated reaction was: Good grief--Egypt. What next?

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  • Waiting at the altar



    Most girls have thought about their weddings at least once or twice before they've met someone they'd ever think of marrying. In fact, a whole lot of us begin imagining our "dream weddings" long before we stop believing in the tooth fairy. I know I did, even though I wasn't a girly-girl by any stretch, and actually hated playing with Barbies and baby dolls.

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  • Dunkirk



    The movie "Dunkirk" is drawing large crowds as it tells the amazing story of the World War II sea rescue of 338,000 British soldiers trapped on the beaches of northern France. Eight hundred privately owned yachts and boats crossed the English Channel under constant enemy fire to save their fellow countrymen.

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  • Critical keys to success -- Part I



    Everyone admits that doing the work of evangelization has made the work of priests, staffs and parishioners more challenging. The reason is that for many Catholics, living and acting like a disciple was not something that was talked about or given much thought. It was generally just taken for granted. It has been stated over and over that being disciples and living as missionary disciples, as the bishops of the U. S. have asked, requires a more intentional way of living and practicing our faith.

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  • Why Our Lady of Sorrows?



    The poet Wendell Berry reflects that "for parents, the only way is hard. We who give life give pain. There is no help. Yet we who give pain give love; by pain we learn the extremity of love..." In other words, it may be different in another world, but in this world, all love requires a sacrifice, and with that sacrifice there is inevitable pain. To reject sacrifice as the condition for the possibility of love is to live an essentially loveless existence.

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  • First and last



    The house of Israel is the vine of God -- who planted and watered it, preparing the Israelites to bear fruits of righteousness (see Isaiah 5:7; 27:2-5). Israel failed to yield good fruits and the Lord allowed His vineyard, Israel's kingdom, to be overrun by conquerors (see Psalm 80:9-20). But God promised that one day He would replant His vineyard and its shoots would blossom to the ends of the earth (see Amos 9:15; Hosea 14:5-10).

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  • Rampaging Indians



    On the chance you didn't see it believe me when I tell you it was just marvelous. When their mainstay Francisco Lindor -- brilliant throughout their epic surge -- flailed wildly at a bad pitch in the dirt ending a ninth inning threat against Kansas City and their dramatic date with History the great crowd fell dead-silent. The remarkable winning streak was over, falling a tad short of the ultimate distinction, maybe, but only after making a statement unmatched in a full century. That it was happening in Cleveland, so long the cruel butt of dumb jokes by lame comics, was entirely the point of course.

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