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The National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood

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Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi (1395 - 1455)(Public Domain)

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Sunday Sermon

Click here to visit our new page of Sunday Sermons and hear the latest from Saint Vincent's

Fr. Gene reflects on virtuous communication, Pope Francis and the Year of Mercy

Fr Gene Reflects on keeping families healthy, happy and holy

November 12 -- Fr Gene with an Advent "Pre-View"

October 12 -- Fr Gene's reflections on the environment and ecology and our place in the whole puzzle of God's green earth

August 11 -- Fr Gene talks about the Pope's latest encyclical and reflects on his upcoming visit and his thoughts on ecology and the environment

June 8 -- Fr Gene reflects on his days in the Seminary

Father Gene reflects on the missionaries who came to this country, their courage and their commitment to the faith

Father Gene shares his thoughts about an amazing exhibit called "Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea" and highly recommends it

New Year's Resolutions from a different perspective

Follow this link to our digital Archive
and explore some more of our audio files

January 13, 2017

In this edition:
1. The church and race relations.
2. The church's "greatest challenge" now.
3. Voices of youth: Next world synod.
4. Current quotes to ponder:
a) CRS and climate change.
b) Suicide prevention.
5. Migrants: Pope to diplomats.
6. A renewed culture of encounter.

December 27, 2016

Children who languish this Christmas in squalid "mangers" -
Active nonviolence: key to peace -
The witnesses essential for a new evangelization

In this edition:
1. Active nonviolence and peace.
2. The wrenching pain of violence.
3. Casting Christmas light on children.
4. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Persecuted children at Christmastime.
b) Immigrants and refugees this Christmas.
c) Christmas in times of fear.
5. The witnesses evangelization requires.

(Click on the title for the rest of each newsletter)

Here's What We're Reading!

Exploring the Miraculous, Author: Michael O'Neill

The Root of War is Fear: Thomas Merton's Advice to Peacemakers, Author: Jim Forest

William James' defense of faith was liberating

The Way of Trust and Love: A Retreat Guided by St. Therese of Lisieux, Fr. Jacques Philippe

A Nun, A Convent, and The German Occupation of Belgium, Edited by Rene Kollar

Jesus: A Pilgrimage, James Martin, S.J.

It's in the News!

Pope Francis Revolution

Taken from The Jesuit Post

Pope Francis was widely expected to reform the Vatican. Has he?

Yes and no. The change has been more a matter of evolution than revolution, and has only been partial in many areas. Indeed, even the pope seems unhappy with the pace of change. But given his frequent predictions of a short papacy, Francis seems intent on laying the foundations of a reform that will continue for years after him.

Curial reform

When people speak of reform in the Church, they often mean a reform of the Vatican curia. Indeed, Pope Francis has reserved some of the harshest words of his pontificate for his Christmas addresses to the curia. As John Allen notes:

Let's begin by acknowledging two truths about the Catholic Church.

The first is that everyone loves complaining about the Vatican. Whether you're liberal or conservative, from the First World or the Third, no matter

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Nationalism by Bishop Robert McEroy

This talk, titled "Three Kinds of Erroneous Autonomy," was delivered Jan. 10 at the symposium "Erroneous Autonomy: The Dignity of Work" organized by the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America, Washington D.C

An excerpt from the talk: Nationalism by Bishop Robert McEroy, San Diego


Make America great again! These words point to the feelings of dispossession which have been abroad in our nation. They hint of past betrayal. They call forth noble sentiments of true patriotism rooted in the glorious legacy of the American people. They also signal a nostalgia for a more homogenous nation.

The merger of populism and nationalism at work in the cultural and political currents of the United States has given new power to the nationalist impulse.

In Catholic social teaching the love of country is a virtue.

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A New Year of Hope

Eugene Hemrick

Some have suggested with the closing of the year of mercy, 2017 should be a year of hope.

Weary, disillusioned, depressed and drooping spirits describe best the feelings of many people I know. The cause is not only our political malaise but a world of violence, contradictions and the bizarre. Add to this, we have entered the pharmaceutical age in which commercials constantly remind us of illnesses we might contract and medicines to counter them; that is, if you don't get reactions more detrimental than the promised cure.

Where do we find hope that counters a seemingly hopeless 2017?

The first reading of the mass on the second Sunday of Advent contains our answer. In it Isaiah cries out,

"On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding

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Orthodoxy, Sin, and Heresy

Ron Rolheiser

Recently, while on the road giving a workshop, I took the opportunity to go the Cathedral in that city for a Sunday Eucharist. I was taken aback by the homily. The priest used the Gospel text where Jesus says, I am the vine and you are the branches, to tell the congregation that what Jesus is teaching here is that the Roman Catholic Church constitutes what is referred to as the branches and the way we link to those branches is through the mass and if we miss mass on a Sunday we are committing a mortal sin and should we die in that state we will go to hell.

Then, aware that what he was saying would be unpopular, he protested that the truth is often unpopular, but that what he just said is orthodox Catholic teaching and that anyone denying this is in heresy. It's sad that this kind of thing is still being said in our churches.

Does the Catholic Church really teach that missing mass is a mortal sin and that if you die in that state you will go to hell? No, that's not Catholic orthodoxy, though popular preaching and catechesis often suppose that it is, even as neither accepts the full consequences.

Here's an example: Some years ago, I presided at the funeral of a young man, in his twenties, who had been killed in a car accident. In the months before his death he had for all practical purposes ceased practicing his Catholicism: He had stopped going to church, was living with his girlfriend outside of marriage, and had not been sober when he died. However

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To Care for Creation: The emergence of the religious environmental movement

Author: Stephen Ellingson
Chicago Press. Chicago. 2016. Pp. 203

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

To Care for Creation chronicles the religious environment movement and explains how it has emerged despite institutional and cultural barriers, as well as the hurdles posed by logic and practices that set it apart from the secular movement. Stephen Ellinson takes a deep dive into the ways entrepreneurial activists tap into and improvise on a variety of theological, ethical, and symbolic traditions in order to issue a compelling call to arms that mobilizes religious audiences. Drawing on interviews with the leaders of more than sixty of these organizations, Ellingson deftly illustrates how activists borrow and rework resources from various traditions to create new meanings for religion, nature, and the religious person's duty to the natural world.

An Excerpt from the book:

"Our mission is to raise public awareness of the consequences of lifestyle choices on people and our planet and to encourage changes that seek harmony with Creation: respect all life; value diversity; support ecological sustainability; and bring about a just distribution of the world's

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National Migration Week

Taken from The Jesuit Post

As the Obama presidency ends and the Trump presidency begins, few issues stand as more urgent than immigration. The issue is at once huge -- involving millions of people around the world -- and very small, concerning individual persons, families and communities.

The U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) has declared this week "National Migration Week," in the hopes of shining a light on the issue and offering moral guidance. The word "migration" is understood here broadly to include migrants, immigrants, displaced persons and refugees, the latter of which our own Joe Simmons wrote about recently.

But the most contentious issue in the near future will be immigration. We can expect the USCCB to take a strong stance on behalf of the immigrant during the Trump administration, as reflected by the election of Archbishop Gomez in Los Angeles as vice president of the USCCB. But he is not the only vocal supporter of migrants. Bishop Flores of Brownsville has spoken passionately on the subject, comparing the deportation of immigrants to abortion. There is no question that, for the bishops, immigration is a key "life" issue. The bishops might thus be creating an opportunity to unite U.S. Catholics, so often divided into "pro-life" and "pro-social justice" camps, on one issue.

The theme of this year's Migration Week is most appropriate: "Creating a Culture of Encounter." For meaningful

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Courage's new director: pope's language of accompaniment 'is very useful for us'

Peter Feuerherd

The Field Hospital

Fr. Philip Bochanski, the new executive director of Courage, a ministry to Catholic gays focused on chaste living, says the organization feels supported by Pope Francis' encouragement to accompany those "with same-sex attraction" on their spiritual journeys.

Bochanski, a priest of the Philadelphia archdiocese and assistant director of Courage for the past two years, will take over as executive director in the new year. He will succeed Fr. Paul Check, who will return to ministry with his Bridgeport, Conn., diocese.

Courage, founded in New York in 1981 by the late Fr. John Harvey, is now headquartered in Norwalk, Conn. Its program of spiritual renewal and support for Catholic gays is now active in two-thirds of American dioceses, and continues to expand, Bochanski told NCR. The group holds no membership lists, but says it attracts about 350 to its annual U.S. conference and another 120 to its Latino conference, usually held in Mexico. Courage is also active in Canada, Australia and 11 Latin American and European countries.

The Courage approach, which upholds church teaching while providing support for those gays who try to live in celibacy

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When a mother loses a child, reach out with tears, not words, pope says

Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

Vatican City
In the depths of despair, when no words or gestures will help, then cry with those who suffer, because tears are the seeds of hope, Pope Francis said.

When people are hurting, "it is necessary to share in their desperation. In order to dry the tears from the face of those who suffer, we must join our weeping with theirs. This is the only way our words may truly be able to offer a bit of hope," he said Jan. 4 during his weekly general audience.

"And if I can't offer words like this, with tears, with sorrow, then silence is better, a caress, a gesture and no words," he said.

In his first general audience of the new year, the pope continued his series of talks on Christian hope by reflecting on Rachel's inconsolable sorrow and mourning for her children who "are no more," as written by the prophet Jeremiah.

Rachel's refusal to be consoled "expresses the depth of her pain and the bitterness of her weeping," the pope told those gathered in the Vatican's Paul VI hall.

"Facing the tragedy of the loss of her children, a mother cannot bear words or gestures of consolation, which are always inadequate, always unable to

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Peter: Keys to Following Jesus

Author: Tim Gray
Ignatius Press/Augustine Institute. San Francisco-Fort Collins, CO. 2016. Pp. 199

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Biblical scholar Dr. Tim Gray masterfully guides you through the tumultuous and inspiring life of Peter ---from his "yes" to Jesus' call along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, to his denial of Jesus, from his preaching of Jesus Christ, to his martyrdom in Rome. Using Sacred Scripture and Tradition, Dr. Gray highlights important lessons from Peter's life, including:

- How to become a thrusting disciple and "cast into the deep"

- How to avoid the pitfalls of living discipleship at a distance

- How to repent and receive God's mercy

- How to become a bold witness to the love of Jesus Christ.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Considering Peter's betrayal of Jesus, we can see that it was preceded by his following Jesus "from a distance." If we follow Christ in a discipleship that is comfortable and easy --- from a distance --- we're setting

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Published Dec 30, 2016 in Et Alia
Taken from The Jesuit Post

Have time? Why not read?

This may have gotten out of hand. Pocket, which gloriously feeds my addiction to reading articles, recently informed me that I read more than 5 million words on their app in 2016.

As far as addictions go, it could be worse. Sure, I could use more time with real people and fewer words on a glowing device, but we live in a seems-too-good-to-be-true world where great writing is available at our fingertips for free. It's pretty great.

A few years ago, I started sharing with family and friends a list of my favorite articles from the past year. More recently, I've shared my lists with The Jesuit Post in 2015 and 2014.

Here are my faves from 2016 in no particular order:

1) "I Used to Be a Human Being" by Andrew Sullivan

For about 15 years, Andrew Sullivan made my internet addiction look like the minor leagues. He writes:

If the internet killed you, I used

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My Favorite Books of 2016

By Ron Rolheiser

So much of life, particularly today, constitutes an unconscious conspiracy against reading. Lack of time, the pressure of our jobs, and electronic technology, among other things, are more and more putting books out of reach and out of mind. There is never enough time to read. The upside of this is that when I do find time to pick up a book this becomes a precious, cherished time. And so I try to pick books that I read carefully: I read reviews, listen to colleagues, and keep track of my favorite authors. I also try to make sure that my reading diet, each year, includes some spiritual books (including at least one historical classic), some biographies, some novels, and some essays.

Among the books that I read this year, these are the ones that touched me. I cannot promise that they will touch you, but each of them left me with something.

Among books in spirituality

Gil Bailie, God's Gamble, The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love. Bailie again takes up Rene Girard's anthropology to shed some new light on how the cross of Christ is the most monumental moral and religious event in history.

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Colman McCarthy makes sure students learn peace

Tom Roberts | Dec. 31, 2016

Making Peace
Taken from The National Catholic Reporter

Colman McCarthy has a standup bit that he regularly uses to make his case. He takes a crisp $100 bill out of his wallet and folds it in the middle so it will stand on end. In a recent version, he placed the bill on a desk in front of a packed classroom at the prestigious Georgetown University. Then he announced the challenge: Whoever can answer all of his questions will get the $100.

He has done this for years. It's been videoed and broadcast.

It starts off easily enough. Who was Robert E. Lee? Napoleon? Ulysses S. Grant? And the answers come back quickly, visions of $100 dancing in heads, even those of students at this upscale Jesuit university.

And then come the stumpers: Emily Balch? Jody Williams? Jeannette Rankin?


Everyone knows the warriors. Few are familiar with significant peacemakers.

The Ben Franklin goes back

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Called Out of Consumption

Taken from The Jesuit Post

It's hard to imagine what people did on trains and buses before the advent of smartphones. I'm sure my parents or some old-timey Chicagoans could tell me, but knowing what the past looked like on public transportation probably won't change anything about how most people ride today. Heads are bowed down, thumbs or forefingers flicking wildly at tiny glowing screens, eyes transfixed on an endless stream of social media or Candy Crush. I try not to fall into that way of isolationism, but when there are Instagram photos to double-tap, I'm just like everyone else.

It was a Wednesday at 7:05 AM, and as usual, I was riding the 157 bus to work. It's usually a quiet ride. I sit in the back and try not to do much more than ponder. Coffee in hand, the waking city wakes me. On this particular day, however, the bus was inexplicably packed. 'Twas not a seat to be sat in.

I stood next to a young man wearing gym clothes. We were jammed together, both gripping tightly to the flexible plastic handles above us as the bus bumped along. Ear-budded, and he held his phone out, transfixed to it like a moth to flame. His phone had the biggest screen I'd ever seen - nearly impossible not to look at. On the screen, a seemingly endless stream of short videos showed men punching each other in the face.

Like a Wall Street stock ticker, the videos moved quickly and without pause. I saw violent knockouts in professional rings but also darker, more dangerous images - men in alleys and basements swinging wildly, bloodthirsty crowds pressing in. Fight clubs, gang initiations, house parties gone wrong - he

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Incarnation --
God is with Us

Ron Rolheiser
December 19, 2016

For many of us, I suspect, it gets harder each year to capture the mood of Christmas. About the only thing that still warms are hearts are memories, memories of younger, more naive, days when the lights and carols, Christmas trees and gifts, still excited us. But we're adult now and so too, it seems, is our world. Much of our joy in anticipating Christmas is blunted by many things, not least by the commercialism that today is characterized by excess. By late October we already see Christmas decorations, Santa is around in November, and December greets us with series of Christmas parties which exhaust us long before December 25th. So how can we rally some spirit for Christmas day?

It's not easy, and commercialism and excess are not our only obstacles. More serious are the times. Can we, amid the many cruelties of this year, warm up to a season of tinsel and festivity? Can we continue to romanticize the pilgrimage of one poor couple searching for shelter two thousand years ago amidst the plight of the millions of refugees today who are journeying without even a stable as a refuge? Does it mean anything to speak of peace after various elections this year polarized our nations and left millions unable to speak civilly to their neighbors? Where exactly is the peace and goodwill in our world today?

Closer to home, there are our own personal tragedies: the death of loved ones, lost marriages, lost families, lost health, lost jobs, lost time, tiredness, frustration. How do we celebrate the birth of a redeemer in a world which looks shockingly unredeemed

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Brooklyn bishop pledges to support diocese's immigrants against deportations

Peter Feuerherd | Dec. 9, 2016 NCR Today

The Field Hospital
Taken from the National Catholic Reporter

In a letter [1] read at Masses Dec. 4, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn promised immigrants in his diocese that the church will support them against deportations by the incoming Trump administration.

During the campaign, President-elect Donald Trump promised to deport as many as 11 million immigrants who are undocumented, but recently backed off on that promise on a CBS "60 Minutes" interview. He declared he would focus on what he described as 2-3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal backgrounds, a number disputed by immigration advocates as exaggerated.

DiMarzio promised immigrants in the Brooklyn diocese that they "will be the subject of our advocacy and protection as far as we can offer it to you." He added, "the law of God takes precedence over human laws and to this we must be witnesses."

The letter, wrote DiMarzio, was intended to address the concerns of immigrants who "find themselves in a miserable situation because of a change in administration of our Nation which has threatened many with deportation."

The Brooklyn diocese consists of the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, with an estimated 1.5 million Catholics, about half of whom are immigrants, both documented and undocumented. Of the 196 parishes in the diocese, 107 provide Mass

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Our inspiration for the National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood stems from a longstanding friendship with Father John Klein, a priest of the

Fr. Klein's picture

Archdiocese of Chicago. On the day of his passing in 1999 at the age of 49, Cardinal Francis George said "Father John Klein was a model for seminarians and priests. His joy in his priestly ministry encouraged all of us and was a sign of the Lord's constant presence in his life." May we learn from his example and strive to be the presence of Christ in the lives of all those we touch every day as priests and fellow citizens of the world.

Our work is made possible in part by grants from the Catholic Church Extension Society, the Paluch Family Foundation and Our Sunday Visitor. We are also grateful for the prayers of the Madonna House. In addition, The Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation has generously provided us with a grant in honor of Monsignor Ken Velo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago who has been an inspiration to so many for so many years.

If there is any way that I can be of service to you, I hope you will take advantage of the link below to send me an email. I would enjoy hearing from you with any comments or questions you may have.

Father Gene Hemrick
The National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood
Washington Theological Union
6896 Laurel Street, Northwest
Washington, D.C.

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Last updated January 11, 2017