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  • COVID-19 vaccine myths



    Several popular myths about COVID-19 vaccines have been gaining traction on social media in recent months, particularly in regard to messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines being developed by Moderna, Sanofi, Pfizer, and a handful of other companies. I would like to consider five of these myths.

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  • The final Mass of Boston's original cathedral



    On Sunday, Sept. 16, 1860, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Franklin Street in Boston was filled to capacity, while many more would-be worshipers lingered on the sidewalks outside. The reason so many gathered was to witness the final Mass at what was New England's first Catholic Church, dedicated by Bishop John Carroll almost exactly 57 years previously, in September 1803, and, since 1808, the spiritual center of the Diocese of Boston.

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  • Catholic school heroes have been here all along



    Growing up, Saturday mornings involved finishing my paper route as early as possible and parking myself in front of the television for a few hours of uninterrupted cartoons. These mornings were magical. There was no DVR to record what you missed and you had to time your bathroom and snack breaks so as to not miss any of the action.

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  • St. Cecilia's and Catholic Charities: Partners supporting the community



    Parishioners of St. Cecilia Parish in the Back Bay have volunteered with Catholic Charities of Boston (CCAB) for the past 11 years, providing support in the form of food donations and more. Parishioner Mark Lippolt of St. Cecilia's Hunger and Homelessness Ministry recently shared his experiences volunteering with Catholic Charities, how COVID-19 has changed things, and the importance of volunteerism to the St. Cecilia's community.

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  • The Lay Members of Christ's Faithful



    Last week's Gospel, about the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard made me think of one of our Church's beautiful documents, 'Christifideles laici' or 'The Lay Members of Christ's Faithful.' Written in 1988, then-Pope John Paul II wrote about the baptismal call of the laity to further the mission of the Church exhorting us to listen to the landowner from the Gospel: "You, too, go into my vineyard" (Mt 20:4).

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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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  • The straw that stirs the drink



    So, there I was, sitting in front of the TV during the ninth inning of another dispiriting Red Sox loss, listening to O'Brien, Eckersley, and Remy as they performed their nightly balancing act, that of not sugar-coating what's happening on the field, yet being entertaining even as they deliver the bad news. The Sox may have been dreadful so far this year, but the broadcasters have been better than ever.

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  • Miracles



    A friend asked me to write about miracles, taking as an example the events that brought him and his wife together in a happy marriage now in its 58th year. To his credit, he doesn't suggest their case is exceptional. Rather, he sees it as instance of God's hand at work in their lives, just as God is at work in everyone's life. Other people, he suggests, might benefit from seeing their lives the same way he and his wife see theirs.

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  • Suicide and mortal sin



    Q. We have all been dealing with the havoc of the coronavirus, and here on the West Coast, forest fires are causing loss of life and wide property devastation. Some people have lost everything. It has been said that God doesn't allow things to happen beyond what people can cope with, but I'm not sure that this is true.

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  • Acknowledging an abyss; finding a bridge



    One of the most remarkable differences between the social protests of the 1960s and those of today is that the former were done in concert with, and often under the explicit leadership of, religious people. One has only to think of the crucially important role played by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and so many of his colleagues and disciples in the civil rights demonstrations 50 and 60 years ago. But we don't find today the same concert between those agitating for social change and the religious leadership. There are many reasons for this phenomenon. Perhaps the most important is simply that the number of people who subscribe to religion, especially in the ranks of the young, has precipitously dropped in our society. But I also think that there is something subtler at play as well, and I have to put on my philosopher's hat to articulate it.

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  • Sweeter than the honeycomb



    I'm certainly not the first person to observe that the tone of our civic discourse has gotten increasingly angry. I have recently come to realize, though, that some people actually like it that way.

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  • The providential demise of the Papal States



    Evelyn Waugh's Catholic traditionalism was so deep, broad, and intense that self-identified "traditional Catholics" today might seem, in comparison, like the editorial staff of the National Catholic Reporter. Yet the greatest of 20th century English prose stylists held what some Catholic traditionalists (notably the "new integralists") would regard as unsound views on the demise of the Papal States: a lengthy historical drama on which the curtain rang down 150 years ago this month.

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  • Our priests are there for us, let's be there for them



    There is a strong tradition in Greater Boston of people coming together to affect change to help those in need. Camp Harbor View, a camp that serves 900 children from Boston's underserved neighborhoods, and our inner-city Catholic schools are just two examples of initiatives, where many contributed their time and treasure for the common good of our communities. This generosity of spirit has never been more evident than it is now, in this time of incredible turmoil and need. I have had the great fortune to participate in the work of the Boston Resiliency Fund as it answered the needs of the community in response to the COVID crisis, and it has been a wonderful example of people with means searching out opportunities to help their fellow citizens who have been disproportionately affected by this crisis.

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  • How would Jesus vote?



    Now that Labor Day is behind us, campaign season is in full swing. And in what we've learned to expect of all things 2020, everything about this year's elections is even more intense than usual. I have to admit that I'm sick of hearing people say that "this election is THE single most important one of our lifetime." The truth is that hype-meisters and pundits sing the same song every four years. But there is something about this political cycle that seems all wrong, something that makes me wonder how I ever managed to love politics.

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  • For which imperfect candidate should I vote?



    Elections invite us to cast our vote as citizens and choose the best possible public leaders to meet the exigencies of our present time and circumstances. Whether voting for president of the country or for school board members in our cities and towns, citizens want public leaders who are decent, hard workers, committed to the common good, respectful of human life and dignity at all times, devoted to truth and justice, knowledgeable and able to work with others. As a father of two youngsters learning life's ways, I want public leaders who inspire and give good example.

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  • Living Water for the Missions



    "The Church offers her maternal care to all children and their families, and she brings them the blessing of Jesus." -- Pope Francis Imagine the hopelessness you would feel if you were unable to provide your children with the very basic necessities like clean water and proper bathroom facilities.

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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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  • Ah, if only I knew



    "How did it all happen?" That was the question that German ex-Chancellor Prince von Bulow famously posed more than a century ago to his successor as Europe plunged into flames at the outset of World War I.

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  • Returning to the sacrament of divine love



    Recently bishops in several dioceses have begun to lift the general dispensations from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass that they had decreed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Numbers of new infections are low in their regions, schools, places of employment, restaurants, stores, and places of entertainment have reopened, and people have resumed most of the activities of normal life. Combined with church protocols for safety, which have proven highly effective in preventing the transmission of COVID, there is no reason to continue a general dispensation. For those who are ill, caring for those who are ill, or those with health conditions that would make contracting the coronavirus especially perilous, the bishops have generally maintained particular dispensations.

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  • Text of creed



    Q. My recollection is that the text of the Mass in English was rewritten about 20 years ago -- to be a more accurate translation and to eliminate sexist references. I wonder, however, if they missed something: in the Nicene Creed, our parish still prints, "For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven." Many in the congregation, including me, simply skip the word "men," and I believe that our priest does as well. Why was this reference to all humans as "men" not eliminated? (Guilderland, New York)

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  • What comes after the pandemic?



    While we are still in the midst of the worst pandemic of the past century, with almost 200,000 people dead in our country alone, Pope Francis is thinking about what comes next. What do we do the day after we exit the field hospital?

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  • A man for strengthening others



    When the choirs of angels led Father Paul Mankowski, SJ, into the Father's house on September 3, I hope the seraphic choirmaster chose music appropriate to the occasion. Had I been asked, I would have suggested the Latin antiphon "Ecce sacerdos magnus" as arranged by Anton Bruckner. The all-stops-pulled moments in Bruckner's composition, deploying organ, brass, and full choir, would have been a perfect match for Paul Mankowski's rock-solid Catholic faith, his heroic ministry, and his robust literary and oratorical style; the acapella sections, softly sung, mirror the gentleness with which he healed souls. Above all, I would have suggested Bruckner's motet because Father Mankowski truly was what the antiphon celebrates: "a great priest who in his days pleased God."

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  • The sweet name of Mary



    ''May this appeal of mine not go unheard!" Thus wrote the sainted Pope John Paul II in 2002, near the end of his apostolic letter on the rosary. "I look to all of you, brothers and sisters of every state of life, to you, Christian families, to you, the sick and the elderly, and to you, young people, confidently take up the rosary once again."

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  • Boston's 'University Parish'



    At the corner of St. Stephen and Gainsborough Streets in Boston's Fenway neighborhood stands a tan brick building with an ornamental red door. Now a performing arts center, the building was once known as Boston's "University Parish," a hub for Catholic students attending the city's colleges and universities.

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  • Called to the Priesthood: A Different Seminary Life



    When young Deogratias Ekisa felt a call to the priesthood in Uganda, he knew that his family would not be able to shoulder the burden of the education necessary to prepare him. He describes his upbringing in rural, hilly Tororo this way, "Both Mum and Dad were teachers -- not a high paying profession. If there was not enough food, we could always go to friend or relative's house to share a meal. What concerned them most were our school fees."

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  • The debt we owe



    Mercy and forgiveness should be at the heart of the Christian life. Yet, as today's First Reading wisely reminds us, often we cherish our wrath, nourish our anger, refuse mercy to those who have done us wrong. Jesus, too, strikes close to home in today's Gospel with His realistic portrayal of the wicked servant who won't forgive a fellow servant's debt, even though his own slate has just been wiped clean by their master.

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  • Happy anniversary to Lizzie Murphy



    Ninety-eight years ago, on August 14, 1922, the Red Sox played host in an exhibition game to a team of all-stars from the American League that was filled out by several players from around New England. In the bottom of the fourth inning, "Spike" Murphy came into the game at first base for the all-stars. The crowd in the stands at then 10-year-old Fenway Park took notice because Spike's given name was Mary Elizabeth Murphy. She thus became the first woman to play against a major league team, and she is, to date, the only woman to have done so in a big-league ballpark.

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  • The alarming rise of cultural Marxism in America



    Some years ago, Lee Edwards, a veteran conservative writer and a friend of mine, launched an organization, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, dedicated to "commemorating the more than 100 million victims of communism around the world and pursuing the freedom of those still living under totalitarian regimes."

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  • You're meant to be an eagle, not a chicken: Reflection on baptism



    When I was doing full-time parish ministry, one of my favorite activities was performing baptisms. I put the word in the plural, for I hardly ever baptized one baby at a time, but usually ten or a dozen. Typically, the quite large group of family and friends would gather in the first several pews of St. Paul of the Cross Church about 2 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, I would welcome them and do a very short description of what was about to happen, and then the happy cacophony of twelve babies crying at once would inevitably commence. I would shout my way through the prayers and the baptisms -- and a general joyfulness would obtain. Now that I'm a bishop, I have less occasion to baptize, and I do miss it. But an exception took place last week when I was delighted to welcome into the Church Hazel Rose Cummins, the daughter of Doug Cummins and his wife Erica. Doug is our associate producer for Word on Fire in Santa Barbara.

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  • Concern for my grandchildren



    Q. I am the grandmother of two beautiful children -- ages four and 16 months. My son, the father of these grandchildren, no longer practices his faith and is married to a non-Catholic. When I approached our priest and asked him to baptize our grandchildren, he declined to do so -- because my son no longer attends church and was not married in the Catholic Church. When I told the priest that I have the children two days each week and am willing to instruct them in the faith, he said that was not my responsibility, but their parents'.

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  • Religious freedom: bleached, blanched, and rinsed out



    Father Richard John Neuhaus put two big ideas into play in American public life. The first was that the pro-life movement (of which Neuhaus was an intellectual leader) was the natural heir to the moral convictions that had animated the classic civil rights movement (in which Neuhaus was also deeply involved). The second was that the First Amendment to the Constitution did not contain two "religions clauses" but one religion clause, in which "no establishment" (i.e., no official, state-sanctioned Church) was intended to serve the "free exercise" of religion. Neither of those big ideas is welcome in today's Democratic Party, in which Neuhaus (then a Lutheran pastor) was once a congressional candidate, and of which he remained a registered member until his death in January 2009.

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  • Not just history



    I have a theory. If you aren't old enough to remember something -- and you don't know someone who is -- you usually end up mentally tossing it into the wide and deep pile of events we call history. And once something lands in that pile, it no longer matters where or when it occurred. The past simply becomes the past; there's no longer any perceivable difference between Abraham Lincoln and Henry the VIII, no clear distinction between the Punic Wars and World War I. It's all the same to us because it's all distant from us.

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  • Sister Pauline Fortin: Celebrating 65 years of 'Yes!' to Christ



    Growing up in Kingston, Rhode Island, Sister Pauline Fortin remembers being a sixth-grade student in what she called "Sunday School" when she first heard God speak to her heart. She felt him calling her to religious life. Young Pauline did not have to look far for an example of what it meant to give her life to God; her aunt, Bertha, and her sister, Jeanne, had already made the same decision and joined the Sisters of Ste. Chretienne.

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  • A reflection on my Master of Theological Studies experience



    My first exposure to the Master of Arts in Ministry (MAM) and Master of Theological Studies (MTS) of St. John's Seminary came through an unexpected "11th hour" enrollment in the inaugural "Catechetical Certificate" program in the fall of 2009. Ebullient at having just entered into the full communion of the Catholic Church over the summer, I wanted to expand my knowledge of the faith, and so prepare for a career of teaching theology in Catholic schools. Thus, I began to drink deeply from the overflowing chalice of our Catholic faith. Having begun with the certificate program, I then enrolled in my first course in the summer of 2010, at the characteristically gracious and warm invitation of Dr. Aldona Lingertat, the long-time director of the Institute and a member of the faculty. A few months later, Dr. Angela Franks, another long-time faculty member, strongly encouraged me to enroll in the newly-minted Master of Theological Studies program, of which she was the director at the time, and so I happily applied.

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  • Permanent Diaconate Inquirers program: Is Christ calling you?



    God is calling each of us to serve one another in charity and love and Pope Francis speaks to this call constantly. For some, there is a particular invitation to serve Christ and the Church in ordained ministry. The Permanent Diaconate, restored at Vatican II, is a ministry of service that is open to married and single men. The deacon's ministry, in the words of St. Pope John Paul II, "is the Church's service sacramentalized."

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  • A Solomon's Choice



    Throughout the many (Arch)diocesan mission offices around the world, we often refer to ourselves as One Family in Mission. We feel strongly that, united by a common faith and desire to see that faith grow worldwide, we share a bond as deep as family. Whether collaborating on mission education materials or working to overcome a workday problem, there is always someone to turn to for encouragement and support.

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  • To win them back



    As Ezekiel is appointed watchman over the house of Israel in today's first Reading, so Jesus in the Gospel today establishes His disciples as guardians of the new Israel of God, the Church (see Galatians 6:16).

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  • The season, so far



    When we tune in to watch games in this weirdly strange, pandemic-altered sports season, we hear the artificially fabricated sound of crowd noise, without which the telecasts would have a hollow feeling. There are varying levels of success to the technique of pumping in the sound of people who aren't there, but by and large the system works. The illusion that there are fans in the stands, even though everyone knows that is not the case, is comforting. It's an advantage to those of us who are at home watching. I don't know if you could call the cardboard cutouts in the seats an advantage because they seem to be pretty indifferent to what's going on -- except for the one that got conked by a Michael Chavis home run the other night.

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  • Christ at the center of the Council



    Conversations with Father Robert Imbelli have been a great blessing in recent years. I have rarely met a more even-tempered and gracious man: a true churchman who, in retirement after years of teaching theology at Boston College, tries diligently to keep the often-fratricidal subtribes of American Catholicism in some sort of conversation (if only through his email account!). We've visited in Rome during several synods and I remember with pleasure the tour he gave me of the Capranica, his Roman alma mater, where his fellow alumni include Popes Benedict XV and Pius XII.

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  • Disposing of religious articles



    Q. What is the proper way to dispose of the medals, rosaries, small crucifixes, etc., that many Catholic organizations mail out unsolicited? (I have enough of everything!) (Atlanta) A. Perhaps surprisingly, Church law on disposing of blessed articles of devotion is not very specific. Canon 1171 of the Church's Code of Canon Law says simply that "sacred objects, which are designated for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated reverently." Traditionally, when no longer usable or wanted, they are buried or burnt.

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  • Can we disagree less disagreeably?



    St. Paul was no shrinking violet when it came to arguing his position. Yet in the Letter to the Ephesians, he urges his readers to "to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace" (Eph 4:1-3).

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