The National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood

Later in his life the French painter Tissot (1836 - 1902) had a reconversion
to his Catholic faith. He spent most of the rest of his life trying to capture the message
of the New Testament in his artwork. Here Tissot depicts the scene of the crucifixion
as seen from the eyes of Jesus on the cross. An interesting perspective, indeed.
When you look at the crowd who do you think you would have been in that scene?

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Sunday Sermon

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Fr. Gene interviewed on Relevant Radio about Multi-Culturism

This is the time of year when hope is in abundance -- Father Gene thinks so too, and shares some ideas about hope on Relevant Radio

November 12 interview with Father Gene about the lessons to be learned from "Homespun Wisdom"

Interesting interview with Fr. Gene about the changes we see all around us dealing with security -- our own and that of others

Fr. Bob Pelton C.S.C. who works in Latin America discusses Pope Francis

Br. Benedict O.S.B. discusses his favorite psalms

Father Gene returns to Latrobe to revisit the issue of Sacred Music with Fr. Steven Concordia

Father Gene reflects on his new book on the wisdom that we can see all around us in thought, word and deed

The latest from Father Gene and his thoughts about his new book, the Habits of a Priestly Heart. He focuses on priestly identity and priestly health.

Fr. Gene reflects on the meaning of statesmanship -- its history and its current status

Fr. Gene Reflects on His Soon to be Published Book -- Habits of a Priestly Heart -- 4/2/2013

Relevant Radio Talks with Fr Gene about Romano Guardini and Pope Benedict XVI

Fr Gene reflects on composure and awareness -- how do we maintain our composure during these difficult times?

Fr Gene travels to Saint Vincent's to interview Father Stephen Concordia, O.S.B. to find out "Why sing Gregorian Chant today?"

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

April 9, 2014

In this edition:
1. Border visit mourns migrant deaths.
2. Bishops walk migrants' desert path.
3. Immigration debate's possible legacy.
4. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Business schools, business ethics.
b) The Affordable Care Act.
c) Praying spontaneously.
5. Risking identification with the poor.
6. Pope Francis and Archbishop Romero.

March 19, 2014

In this edition:
1. From Lampedusa to Nogales.
2. Reverberations of Lampedusa.
3. Interfaith action on human trafficking.
4. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Concrete images of Christian charity.
b) Children of parents in same-sex unions.
c) Accent on mercy.
5. Forms of Lenten fasting.
6. The desert time of Lent.
7. Self-denial and attention to others.

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

Here's What We're Reading!

The Catholic Church and the Bible, Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas

The Bible and the Mass, Author: Rev. Peter Stravinskas

Meditations Before Mass, Author: Romano Guardini

The God Conflict: Faith in the Face of New Atheism, Author: Peter Feldmeier

Bringing Lent Home with St. Therese of Lisieux: Prayers, Reflections and Activities for Families, Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle

Through the Year with Pope Francis, Editor: Kevin Cotter

The Last Words of Jesus: A Meditation on Love and Suffering, Daniel P. Horan, O.F.M.

Bakhita: From Slave to Saint, Author: Roberto Italo Zanini

The Bible and Covenant: Using Sacred Text and Images to Understand Salvation History, Author: Robert Letellier

It's in the News!

The Transcript of our Trial

Ron Rolheiser

The biblical accounts of Jesus' passion and death focus very much on his trial, describing it in length and in detail.

And there is a huge irony in how it is described. Jesus is on trial, but the story is written in such a way that, in effect, everyone is on trial, except Jesus. The Jewish authorities who orchestrated his arrest are on trial for their jealousy and dishonesty. The Roman authorities who wield the final power on the matter are on trial for their religious blindness. Jesus' friends and contemporaries are on trial for their weakness and betrayal. Those who challenge Jesus to invoke divine power and come off the cross are on trial for their superficial faith. And, not least, each of us is on trial for our own weaknesses, jealousies, religious blindness, and superficial faith. The transcript of the trial of Jesus reads like a record of our own betrayals.

Recently the church has tried to help us grasp this by the manner in which it has the Passion proclaimed on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. In many churches today when the Passion is read the narrative is broken up in such a way that one narrator proclaims the overall text, another person takes the part of Jesus, several others take the parts of the various people who spoke during his arrest and trial, and the congregation as a whole is asked to proclaim aloud the parts that were spoken by the crowds. This could not be more appropriate because a congregation in any Christian church today, and we, as individual members of those congregations, in our actions and in our words, in countless ways, mimic perfectly the actions and words of Jesus' contemporaries in their weaknesses, betrayals, jealousies, religious blindness, and false faith. We too indict

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Homily of Pope Francis Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

St Peter's Square April 13, 2014

This week begins with the festive procession with olive branches: all the people welcome Jesus. The children, the young people sing, praising Jesus.

But this week proceeds into the mystery of Jesus' death and his resurrection. We've heard the Passion of the Lord. So it'll do us well to ask ourselves one question: Who am I? Who am I before my Lord? Who am I before the Jesus who enters Jerusalem amid celebration? Am I able to express my joy, to praise him? Or do I keep a distance? Who am I before the Jesus who suffers?

We've heard many names, many names. The group of rulers, some priests, some Pharisees, the teachers of the law, who decided to kill him. They waited for the chance to apprehend him. Am I one of them?

We've likewise heard another name: Judas. Thirty pieces of silver. Am I like Judas? We've heard other names: the disciples who couldn't understand any of it, who fell asleep while Jesus suffered. Has my life fallen asleep? Or am I like the disciples, who didn't understand what betraying Jesus meant? Like that other disciple who wanted to settle everything with the sword: am I like them? Am I like Judas, who made a show of loving and kissing Jesus, only to hand him over, to betray him? Am I a traitor? Am I like those rulers who rushed to hold the tribunal and seek false witnesses: am I like them? And when I do these things, if I do them, do I believe that I save people with this?

Am I like Pilate? When I see that the situation's tough, I wash my hands and don't know to take my responsibility and I let them condemn -- or do I condemn -- people?

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Pope Francis on making Holy Week a holy experience

Twenty-five years after she delivered the most thorough analysis you'll find of the new Rule of Francis happening only now in our midst, keeping with long tradition 'round these parts, the final call of Sister Thea Bowman at the end of her struggle with bone cancer, given days before her death at 52 on 30 March 1990:

Let us resolve to make this week holy by claiming Christ's redemptive grace and by living holy lives. The Word became flesh and redeemed us by his holy life and holy death. This week especially, let us accept redemption by living grateful, faithful, prayerful, generous, just and holy lives.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by reading and meditating Holy Scripture. So often, we get caught up in the hurry of daily living. As individuals and as families, reserve prime time to be with Jesus, to hear the cries of the children waving palm branches, to see the Son of Man riding on an ass' colt, to feel the press of the crowd, to be caught up in the "Hosannas" and to realize how the cries of acclamation will yield to the garden of suffering, to be there and watch as Jesus is sentenced by Pilate to Calvary, to see him rejected, mocked, spat upon, beaten and forced to carry a heavy cross, to hear the echo of the hammer, to feel the agony of the torn flesh and strained muscles, to know Mary's anguish as he hung three hours before he died.

We recoil before the atrocities of war, gang crime, domestic violence and catastrophic illness. Unless we personally and immediately are touched by suffering, it is easy to read Scripture and to walk away without contacting the redemptive suffering that makes us holy. The reality of the Word falls on deaf ears. Let us

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Summary of the President's Meeting with the Pope

SVILUPPO 6.45pm Rome/1.45pm Eastern: Instead of the customary statement, the White House has just issued the following exchanges from Obama's evening press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi as its official summary of the papal audience....

Q. Mr. President, in your meeting with His Holiness, Pope Francis, did he register any objections with you about the contraception coverage mandate in the Affordable Care Act or your efforts to advance the rights of gays and lesbians in the United States that worry so many Catholics? And what were his concerns?

And on Russia, with reports of troops building on the Ukrainian border, by taking the military option off the table are you sending a signal to Vladimir Putin that other parts of Ukraine are his for the taking? And why not send multinational peacekeepers to the Ukrainian border as a deterrent?

And to you, Mr. Prime Minister, the President said yesterday that the U.S. would defend any NATO ally. Are you making that same commitment when it comes to Russia?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: In terms of the meeting with His Holiness, Pope Francis, we had a wide-ranging discussion. I would say that the largest bulk of the time was discussing two central concerns of his. One is the issues of the poor, the marginalized, those without opportunity, and growing inequality.

And those of us as politicians have the task of trying to come

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At border Mass, bishops call for compassion, immigration reform

Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service

Nogales, Ariz.

With the backdrop a few feet away of the rusted iron slats of the 30-foot wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley and a dozen other bishops from three countries prayed April 1 for compassion and for a return to ideals that welcome immigrants.

More than 300 people formed the outdoor congregation on the U.S. side of the border and hundreds more participated on the Mexico side, receiving Communion pressed into hands that stretched between the slats, illustrating that, as one teenage member of the choir put it, "we are all one community -- we are all bilingual and bicultural."

Referring to a visit by Pope Francis last summer to the Italian island of Lampedusa where migrants from the Middle East and Africa try to enter Europe illegally, O'Malley in his homily quoted the pope's comments about the "globalization of indifference."

"We have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters," Pope Francis said. "We have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the Levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the good Samaritan."

O'Malley quoted Pope Francis further: "The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people."

The Mass at the intersection of International Street and Nelson capped a two-day experience of the border region for bishops

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A Homily by Cardinal Sean O'Malley

Delivered almost entirely in Spanish, below is the English full text of Cardinal Sean O'Malley's homily, as prepared for delivery.

For 20 years I worked in Washington DC with immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and from all over Latin America. The vast majority did not have the advantage of legal status. Many came to the States in great part fleeing the violence of the civil wars in Central America.

I often share the story of my first days at the Centro Catolico when I was visited by a man form El Salvador who sat at my desk and burst into tears as he handed me a letter from his wife back in El Salvador who remonstrated him for having abandoned her and their six children to penury and starvation.

When the man was able to compose himself, he explained to me that he came to Washington, like so many, because with the war raging in his country it was impossible to sustain his family by farming. So a coyote brought him to Washington where he shared a room with several other men in similar circumstances. He washed dishes in two restaurants, one at lunchtime and one at dinnertime. He ate the leftover food on the dirty plates so as to save money. He walked to work so as not to spend any money on transportation, so that he could send all the money he earned back to his family. He said he sent money each week, but now after six months, his wife had not received a single letter from him and accused him of abandoning her and the children. I asked him if he sent check or money orders. He

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Groaning beyond Words -- Our Deeper Way of Praying

Ron Rolheiser

When we no longer know how to pray, the Spirit, in groans too deep for words, prays through us.

Saint Paul wrote those words and they contain both a stunning revelation and a wonderful consolation, namely, there is deep prayer happening inside us beyond our conscious awareness and independent of our deliberate efforts. What is this unconscious prayer? It is our deep innate desire, relentlessly on fire, forever somewhat frustrated, making itself felt through the groaning of our bodies and souls, silently begging the very energies of the universe, not least God Himself, to let it come to consummation.

Allow me an analogy: Some years ago, a friend of mine bought a house that had sat empty and abandoned for a number of years. The surface of the driveway was cracked and a bamboo plant, now several feet high, had grown up through the pavement. My friend cut down the bamboo tree, chopped down several feet into its roots to try to destroy them, poured a chemical poison into the root system in hopes of killing whatever was left, packed some gravel over the spot, and paved over the top with a thick layer of concrete. But the little tree was not so easily thwarted. Two years later, the pavement began to heave as the bamboo plant again began to assert itself.

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At the Vatican, It's Obama's Turn . . . But The Pope's Trip Takes Center Stage

Taken from Whispers in the Loggia

A year into the new Rule of Francis, the Pope has met almost every key Western leader, with one particularly glaring exception.

That'll change first thing Thursday morning, as President Obama returns to the Apostolic Palace for his first meeting with Papa Bergoglio and second overall with a Pope after his July 2009 visit to Benedict XVI.

Given its late afternoon scheduling to accommodate Obama's schedule -- and the now-retired Pope's desire to meet with him -- that earlier visit upended standard Vatican protocol, which invariably sees heads of state and government received from mid-morning until noon. This time, with Francis enjoying Stateside approval numbers more than double those of the battle-weary, second-term president, Air Force One is touching down in Rome tomorrow night to allow for the morning time-slot.

A keen morning person, Francis prefers to hold the daily rounds of courtesy audiences for high-profile visitors before lunch. Despite the new reality of the Pope residing at the Domus, almost all of his formal meetings are still held in the Papal Apartment atop the Palace, which he continues to employ as his daytime office.

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What Pope Francis can teach President Obama this week

Mary Ann Walsh, Religion News Service

Thirty years ago, when the United States established full diplomatic relations with the Holy See, critics of the move fell into two camps.

One group worried that the Vatican would try to unduly influence the U.S., where anti-Catholicism lay barely beneath the skin. Indeed, Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger Sr. once called anti-Catholicism "the deepest bias of the American people." Poet Peter Viereck of Mount Holyoke College called anti-Catholicism "the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals."

Those in the other camp worried that the U.S. would try to unduly influence the Vatican. They complained, for example, that the U.S. would lobby the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences to make it refrain from criticizing the now barely remembered Star Wars program, which the U.S. was promoting in the 1980s as part of our national defense system.

The issues come to mind now as Pope Francis and President Barack Obama will meet Thursday at the Vatican, just as popes and presidents did before them, even before formal diplomatic ties existed. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, for example, met with Pope John XXIII, and

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Our Need to Share Our Riches with the Poor

Ron Rolheiser

We need to give away some of our own possessions in order to be healthy. Wealth that is hoarded always corrupts those who possess it. Any gift that is not shared turns sour. If we are not generous with our gifts we will be bitterly envied and will eventually turn bitter and envious ourselves.

These are all axioms with the same warning, we can only be healthy if we are giving away some of our riches to others. Among other things, this should remind us that we need to give to the poor, not simply because they need it, though they do, but because unless we give to the poor we cannot be healthy ourselves. When we give to the poor both charity and justice are served, but some healthy self-interest is served as well, namely, we cannot be healthy or happy unless we share our riches, of every kind, with the poor. That truth is written inside human experience and inside every authentic ethical and faith tradition.

For example: We know from experience that when we give of ourselves to others we experience a certain joy in our lives, just as when we selfishly hoard or protect what is ours we grow anxious and paranoid. Native American cultures have forever enshrined this in their concept of Potlatch, namely, their belief that, while everyone has a right to private property

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The Garden of Gethsemane

Ron Rolhieser

Several years ago, Mel Gibson produced and directed a movie which enjoyed a spectacular popularity. Entitled, The Passion of the Christ, the movie depicts Jesus' paschal journey from the Garden of Gethsemane to his death on Golgotha, but with a very heavy emphasis on his physical suffering. The movie shows in graphic detail what someone who was being crucified might have had to endure in terms of being physically beaten, tortured, and humiliated.

While most church groups applauded the film and suggested that, finally, someone made a movie the truly depicted Jesus' suffering, many scripture scholars and spiritual writers were critical of the movie. Why? What's wrong with showing, at length and in graphic detail, the blood and gore of the crucifixion -- which, indeed, must have been pretty horrific?

What's wrong (or better, perhaps, amiss) is that this is precisely what the Gospel accounts of Jesus' death don't do. All four Gospels take pains to not focus on the physical sufferings of Jesus. Their descriptions of his physical sufferings are stunningly brief: "They crucified him with the two criminals." "Pilate had Jesus scourged and handed him over to be crucified." Why the brevity here? Why no detailed

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Facing Our Maker

Ron Rolhieser

Some day you will have to face your Maker! We've all heard that phrase. The hour will come when we will stand alone before God with no place to hide, no room to rationalize, and no excuses to offer for our weaknesses and sin. We will stand in a searing light, naked and exposed, and all we ever did, good and bad, will stand with us in that light. That prospect, however vaguely felt, makes for a dark corner in every person's mind.

But we can go through our daily lives with that prospect mostly consigned to the back of our minds. We know that someday we will have to face it all, but that day is a long ways off and, for now, we can peacefully accommodate ourselves to our procrastinations and weaknesses. The time to radically face ourselves and our Maker, to stand in the searing light of full judgment, will only come at the time of death.

But, why wait until death? Why live with so much unnecessary fear? Why hide from God's judgment? Why delay throwing ourselves into God's mercy and peace?

Searing judgment of our souls is meant to be a daily occurrence, not a single traumatic moment at the end of our lives. We are meant to bring ourselves, with all our complexities and weaknesses, into God's full light every day. How?

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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.

Dedicated to energizing the spiritual and intellectual life of the priesthood
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Last updated April 14, 2014