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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

Father Gene's thoughts on the Immaculate Conception and the Holy Family

Father Gene reflects on Chaplains and our nation's veterans on Veterans Day

Father Gene shares his thoughts about procrastination

Father Gene visits Relevant Radio to discuss the lessons learned from the events of September 11

Can something as simple as a garden make a difference in your life? -- Father Gene explains how it's done -- August 12, 2014

Father Gene Hemrick shares his thoughts about the virtue of understanding (May 13, 2014)

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

September 24, 2015

In this edition:
1. White House welcomes pope.
2. Quoting pope's speech to Congress.
3. Bishops, shepherds of dialogue.
4. Bishops and challenging issues.
5. Immigration and life issues.
6. Canonization of Junipero Serra.
7. Bringing papacy's themes to Cuba.
8. Cuba: How Christians serve.
9. Quotes from Cuba visit:
a) Cuba and the U.S.
b) On encountering others.
10. Cuba: Hope is bold.

September 11, 2015

In this edition:
1. Migrants flow into Europe.
2. The refugee crisis of our times.
3. Responses to refugee crisis.
4. Following the pope's lead.
5. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Refugees who are Muslim.
b) Ecology and the poor.
c) Ecological spirituality.
6. Doctrine and pastoral action.
7. Pope simplifies annulments.

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

Here's What We're Reading!

God Has Begun a Great Work in Us: Embodied Love in Consecrated Life and Ecclesial Movements, Jason King and Shannon Schrein, OSF

Give Us This Day Our Daily Love: Pope Francis on the Family, Compilers: Theresa Aletheia Noble

Finding True Happiness: Satisfying Our Restless Hearts, Author: Robert Spitzer, S.J.

I Like Being Married: Treasured Traditions, Rituals, and Stories, Editors: Michael Leach and Therese J. Borchard

The Catholic Guide to Dating after Divorce, Lisa Duffy

Rebuilding Your Message: Practical Tools to Strengthen Your Preaching and Teaching, Michael White and Tom Corcoran

It's in the News!

Sitting Still: When Doing Nothing is Actually Something

Keith Maczkiewicz, SJ goes back to school and discovers that sitting still can be surprisingly active

My sedentary life.

Back to school? All signs point to yes. On my desk you'll find fresh highlighters, sharpened pencils, used textbooks, and a semi-charged iPad. After two years of full-time campus ministry I'm back in class, this time for full-time graduate theology study. I'm looking forward to these next few years, not just because I'm in beautiful California, but because I hope that these courses will touch upon the real questions I hold about God and Church and prepare me for future ministry.

My life is good, full of hope, but it's sedentary. I'm sitting on my ass. A lot.

As I sink into my Lazyboy to pore through pages and pages of reading -- how do they expect me to do all this?! -- I wonder how I will maintain my sanity for the next three years, or more. I'm taking note of paper deadlines and -- worse yet -- group presentations, all the while quietly longing to be somewhere else, doing something else.

I really enjoyed my last two years working at the College of the Holy Cross; the days were long, sure, but they were really full of life, of deep relationships with students, faculty and staff members. The last two years

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Innocence, Complexity, and Sanctity

Ron Rolheiser

Some years ago, I officiated at a wedding. As the officiating priest, I was invited to the reception and dance that followed upon the church service. Not knowing the family well and having church services the next morning, I left right after the banquet and the toasts, just as the dancing was about to start. When I was seemingly out of earshot, I heard the bride's father say to someone: "I'm glad that Father has gone; now we can celebrate with some rock music!"

I didn't take the remark personally since the man meant well, but the remark stung nevertheless because it betrayed an attitude that painted me, and others like me, as religious but naive, as good to sit at the head table and be specially introduced, but as being best out of sight when real life begins; as if being religious means that you are unable to handle the earthiness and beat of rock music, as if church and earthy celebration are in opposition to each other, as if sanctity demands an elemental innocence the precludes human complexity, and as if full-blood and religion are best kept separate.

But that's an attitude within most people, however unexpressed. The idea is that God and human complexity do not go together. Ironically that attitude is particularly prevalent among the over-pious and those most negative towards religion

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Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology, Consciousness

Author: Illia Delio
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY. 2015. Pp. 218

An Excerpt from the Introduction:

This is a book about catholicity. I hope you will not put it down too quickly if you are note Catholics, because it is not exactly about the Catholic Church but about catholicity or awareness of how sun, moon, stars, Kepler, Saturn, maple trees, muddy rivers, amoeba, bacteria, and all peoples of the earth form a whole. Catholicity is from a Greek word, katholikos, which means "of the whole" or "a sense of wholeness." It is the orientation of all lfie toward making wholes and thus toward universality or turning together as one. So, by way of introduction, this book is about wholeness and wholemaking that emergies from the nexus of catholicity, cosmology, and consciousness. The early Greeks coined the word catholic to describe attunement to the physical order, so that catholicity meant living in harmony with the stars. To live in catholicity was to have a sense of the cosmos or the whole order of things, including physical and spiritual things.

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Francis' pastoral plan for families: Gratitude over Concerns

Brian Roewe

Francis in the United States

Despite dismal facts about the decline of the family and cultural trends that show more and more youth delaying marriage or avoiding and disposing of meaningful relationships, Pope Francis remains optimistic about families and offers a blunt, counter-message of hope.

"The family is not first and foremost a cause for concern. But rather," he said, "the joyous confirmation of God's blessing upon the masterpiece of creation."

These words came in an address to about 300 bishops from around the world who are in Philadelphia for the Vatican-sponsored World Meetings of Families.

As an alternative to blaming current culture or nostalgically yearning for a return to yesteryear, Francis challenged the bishops to become true pastors who as shepherds stand "in the midst of" their flocks, and accompany them while seeking out those who are in the midst of real-world struggles.

Before beginning his reflection on a pastoral approach to families, Francis informed the bishops that he had met earlier that morning with survivors of sexual abuse.

Francis delivered his optimistic forecast for the family and call

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Day and Merton: the Catholic radicals Francis cited

Thomas C. Fox National Catholic Reporter

Francis in the United States

Pope Francis touched the souls of Catholic progressives everywhere this morning by mentioning in his address to the U.S. Congress the names of three radicals they have revered for decades. Most of the millions who watched the pontiff speak were familiar with Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights advocate, preacher of nonviolence, and Nobel prize laureate assassinated in 1968. They are less familiar with two other Americans equally dedicated to nonviolent principles, Trappist Monk Thomas Merton and co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement Dorothy Day.

Merton and Day were the two most noted radical US Catholics of the 20th century. Both based their visions of life and society on the Christian Gospels, especially their rejections of violence and commitments to the poor.

By citing these two figures, Francis appears to be elaborating on his own radical vision of Catholicism while placing this vision in a context more recognizable and understandable to U.S. Catholics.

Thomas Merton

Lawrence Cunningham, emeritus professor of theology at Notre Dame University,

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Francis tells US bishops to be 'promoters of the culture of encounter'

Joshua J. McElwee

Francis in the United States Washington

Pope Francis has earnestly outlined exactly what he wants from the U.S. Catholic bishops, telling them Wednesday that they should seek to be shepherds who never shy away from dialogue, do not fight with one another, and always seek out opportunities for encounter.

In a prayer service with hundreds of American bishops at Washington's Cathedral of St Matthew, the pope described the way of the shepherd to his episcopal brethren with compelling and moving language and imagery.

Most of all, the pontiff told the U.S. bishops that they should not close in on themselves but seek to go out and be at service to dialogue and encounter.

"I know that you face many challenges, that the field in which you sow is unyielding and that there is always the temptation to give in to fear, to lick one's wounds, to think back on bygone times and to devise harsh responses to fierce opposition," Francis said.

"Yet we are promoters of the culture of encounter," he continued. "We are living sacraments of the embrace between God's riches and our poverty. We are witnesses of the abasement and the condescension of God who anticipates in love our every

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Our Overstimulated Grandiosity -- and our Impoverished Symbols

Ron Rolheiser

There are now more than seven billion people on this earth and each one of us feels that he or she is the center of the universe. That accounts for most of the problems we have in the world, in our neighborhoods, and in our families.

And no one's to blame for this, save God perhaps, for making us this way. Each of us is created in the image and likeness of God, meaning that, each of us, holds within a divine spark, a piece of infinity, and an ingrained knowledge of that unique dignity. We are infinite souls inside a finite world. To paraphrase St. Augustine, we are made for the divine and our hearts aren't just dissatisfied until they rest there again, they're also grandiose along the journey, enflamed by their own uniqueness and dignity. God has made everything beautiful in its own season, Ecclesiastes tells us, but God has put timelessness into the human heart so that we are out of sync with the seasons

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Prada or Nada?: 3 Simple Fashion Tips from Pope Francis

A Bespectacled Pope Francis

A few weeks back, we heard of Papa Francesco's escape from the confines of Vatican City to pay a visit to -- of all places -- his opticians. The tourists and journalists went wild, and the world applauded another instance of this humble Holy Father who loves to do the ordinary things in life. What struck me as particularly poignant, though, was his insistence that the optician only replace the lenses; he wanted to keep the frames. Why? Presumably because there was nothing wrong with them; they were well made, he had chosen them carefully, and rather liked them. In other words, he eschews the type of anxious consumerism that Laudato Si identifies as leading people to "get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending" [203].

At this juncture I should make a small confession. I love consuming. My commendable

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Dorothy Day -- A Saint For Our Time

Ron Rolheiser

Sometime soon we will witness the canonization of Dorothy Day. For many of us today, especially those who are not Roman Catholic, a canonization draws little more than a yawn. How does a canonization impact our world? Moreover, isn't canonization simply the recognition of a certain piety to which most people cannot relate? So why should there be much interest around the canonization of Dorothy Day - who in fact protested that she didn't want people to consider her a saint and asserted that making someone a saint often helps neutralize his or her influence?

Well, Dorothy Day wasn't the kind of saint who fits the normal conceptions of piety. Many of us, no doubt, are familiar with a basic sketch of her life. She was born in New York in 1897 and died there in 1980. She was a journalist, a peace-activist, a convert to Christianity, who, together with Peter Maurin

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The Good and the Perfect

From the Jesuit Post

Trophies abound, but how did I earn them?

I don't think I've ever lost gracefully. In fact, I'm not sure I know what that even means. If I want grace, if I want to feel right and blessed and good when the final buzzer sounds, then I have to win. But still, I like to think that I'm not that competitive.

All my trophies as a kid were participation trophies -- the kind you get just for showing up, no -- even just for having your name on the roster. 5th grade basketball. 1st grade pine wood derby. I had plenty of opportunities to learn how to lose gracefully, just on account of how many times I was 'able' to lose . . . but with every new trophy came the reminder of the importance of winning, the winning that remained elusive for many years.


About two months ago

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God's Ineffability -- What's Revealed in Jesus' Eyes?

Ron Rolheiser

God, as I understand him, is not very well understood. A colleague of mine, now deceased, was fond of saying that. It's a wise comment.

Anyone who claims to understand God is deceived because the very first dogma we have about God affirms that God is ineffable. That means that we can know God, but never adequately capture God in a concept. God is unimaginable. God cannot be circumscribed and put into a mental picture of any kind. Thank goodness too. If God could be understood then God would be as limited as we are.

But God is infinite. Infinity, precisely because it's unlimited, cannot be circumscribed. Hence it cannot be captured in a mental picture. Indeed, we don't even have a way of picturing God's gender. God is not a man, not a woman, and not some hybrid, half-man and half-woman.

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Feed My Veep: Joe Biden on Faith, Family, and Politics

Published Sep 21, 2015

Conspiracy theorists of the internet, pay heed: Catholics are taking over the world.


Over the weekend, Vice President Joseph Biden sat down for an exclusive interview with Fr. Matthew Malone, SJ, the editor-in-chief of America Media (the parent company of Jesuit Post). In their touching 30-minute interview, Biden and Malone discuss faith, family, Pope Francis, grief, and politics:

We have seen a lot of Uncle Joe discussing his faith in public recently, in a surprisingly tender way. Not long ago, the vice president made a heartfelt appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. For those of us familiar only with Biden's flinty stares and toothy State-of-the-Union smiles, these two Biden interviews reveal the inner life of a good, honest man

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Francis: 'Facts are more important than ideas'

Thomas Reese

Francis: The Environment Encyclical
Taken from the National Catholic Reporter

"Facts are more important than ideas" is a statement from Pope Francis that one would have never heard from Popes Benedict XVI or John Paul II.

It is not that Pope Francis is dumb or an anti-intellectual. He is well-read and thoughtful, but by no stretch of the imagination can he be called a scholar. His training as a scientist and his life experience make him approach theory in a different way than John Paul and Benedict. It also helps explain his approach to the environment in Laudato Si'. John Paul was trained first as a philosopher and then as a theologian, and as a priest, he taught ethics at a university. He wrote in a style that was not easily digested. Benedict was trained in theology and became one of the leading theologians of his generation. Both wrote

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An Obituary for A Suicide

Ron Rolheiser

The more things change, the more they stay the same. That axiom still holds true for our understanding of suicide. Despite all the advances in our understanding, there are still a number of stigmas around suicide, one of which pertains to how we write the obituary of a loved one who dies in this way. In writing an obituary we still cannot bring ourselves to write the word, suicide: He died by his own hand. We still turn to euphemisms: He died expectantly. Her sudden death brings great sadness.

Suicide, in many cases, perhaps in most cases, is the result of a disease, the emotional and psychological equivalent of cancer, stroke, or heart attack. If that is true, and it is, why then, when I loved one dies of suicide, might we not write this kind of an obituary?

We are sad to report the death of J__ D__ who died after a long and courageous struggle with emotional cancer.

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The Healing Place of Silence

Ron Rolheiser

A recent book, by Robyn Cadwallander, The Anchoress, tells the story of young woman, Sarah, who chooses to shut herself off from the world and lives as an Anchoress (like Julian of Norwich). It's not an easy life and she soon finds herself struggling with her choice. Her confessor is a young, inexperienced, monk named Father Ranaulf. Their relationship isn't easy. Ranaulf is a shy man, of few words, and so Sarah is often frustrated with him, wanting him to say more, to be more empathic, and simply to be more present to her. They often argue, or, at least, Sarah tries to coax more words and sympathy out of Ranaulf. But whenever she does this he cuts short the visit and leaves.

One day, after a particularly frustrating meeting that leaves Ranaulf tongue-tied and Sarah in hot anger, Ranaulf is just about to close the shutter-window between them and leave, his normal response to

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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 October 10, 2015