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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

March 17, 2017

In this edition:
1. Lent: Pastoral reflections.
2. The Gospel and the world.
3. Praying and other "good habits."
4. Quoting the pastoral letter:
a) Made in the Lord's image.
b) Connecting liturgy and life.
c) To know oneself.
5. Holiness for real people.
6. God's answer for the suffering.

February 28, 2017

In this edition:
1. Actions in a time of fear.
2. Disruptors and rebuilders.
3. Does the economy kill?
4. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Anti-Semitic acts.
b) A populist tactic.
c) Immigration enforcement.
d) Gender identity in schools.
5. Border bishops speak out.
6. On receiving immigrants.

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

Here's What We're Reading!

Always Discerning: An Ignatian Spirituality for the New Millennium, Joseph A. Tetlow

Sacred Stress: A radically different approach to using life's challenges for positive change, George R. Faller, MS, LMFT and Rev. Dr. Heather Wright

Roots of Violence: Creating peace through spiritual reconciliation, Krister Stendahl

Vesper Time: The Spiritual Practice of Growing Older, Frank J. Cunningham

Peter: Keys to Following Jesus, Tim Gray

With the Smell of the Sheep: The Pope speaks to priests, bishops, and other shepherds, Editor: Giuseppe Merola

It's in the News!

Our Shadow and our Self-Understanding

Ron Rolheiser

What is meant when certain schools of psychology today warn us about our "shadow"? What's our shadow?

In essence, it's this: We have within us powerful, fiery energies that, for multiple reasons, we cannot consciously face and so we handle them by denial and repression so as to not have to deal with them. Metaphorically speaking, we bury them in the hidden ground of our souls where they are out of conscious sight and mind.

But there's a problem: What we've buried doesn't stay hidden. While these energies are out of conscious sight and conscious mind, they continue to deeply impact our feelings, thoughts, and actions by pushing through in all kinds of unconscious ways to color our actions, mostly negatively. Our deep, innate energies will always act out, consciously or unconsciously. Carl Jung, one of the pioneer voices in this, says that we are doomed to act out unconsciously all the archetypal configurations which we do not access and control through conscious ritual.

Perhaps a simple image can be helpful in understanding this. Imagine living in a house with a basement beneath your living room, a basement into which you never venture, and every time you need to dispose of some garbage you simply open the basement door and dump the garbage there. For a while, that can work, it's out of sight and out of mind; but soon enough that garbage will begin to ferment and its toxic fumes will begin to seep upward through the vents, polluting the air you breathe. It wasn't a bother, for a time, but eventually it poisons the air.

That's a helpful image, though it's one-sided in that it has us only throwing our negative garbage downstairs. Interestingly, we also throw into that same place those parts of us that frighten us in their luminosity. Our own greatness also scares us, and we too bury huge parts of it. Our shadow is not just made up of the negative parts that frighten us; it is also made up of the most luminous parts of us that we feel too frightened to handle. In the end, both the negative and positive energies inside us, which we are too frightened to handle, come from one and the same source, the image and likeness of God imprinted in us.

The most fundamental thing we believe about ourselves as Christians is that we are made in the image and likeness of God. However it isn't very helpful to imagine this as a beautiful icon stamped inside our souls. Rather we might think of it as irrepressible divine energy, infinite eros and infinite spirit, constantly wrestling with the confines of our finitude. No surprise then that we have to contend with energies, feelings, pressures, and impulses that frighten and threaten us in their magnitude.

Ironically, the struggle with this can be particularly trying for sensitive people; the more sensitive you are, morally and religiously, the more threatening these energies can be. Why? Because two fears tend to afflict sensitive souls: First, the fear of being egoistical. Greatness isn't easy to carry and few carry it well, and sensitive souls know this. The wild and the wicked unreflectively feed off of sacred fire, except they aren't known for their sensitivity and too often end up hurting others and themselves. Sensitive souls find themselves considerably more reflective and timid, and for good reason. They're afraid of being full of themselves, egotists, unhealthily imposing. But that timidity doesn't everywhere serve them well. Too sensitive in dealing with certain energies inside them, they sometimes end up too empty of God.

The second reason sensitive people tend to bury much of their luminosity is because they're more in touch with that primal fear within us that's expressed in the famous Greek myth of Prometheus, namely, that our most creative energies might somehow be an affront to God, that we might be stealing fire from the gods. Sensitive people worry about pride, about being too full of ego. Healthy as that is in itself, it often leads them to bury some or much of their luminosity.

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Nothing is Ever Really Ours

Ron Rolheiser

Everything is gift. That's a principle that ultimately undergirds all spirituality, all morality, and every commandment. Everything is gift. Nothing can be ultimately claimed as our own. Genuine moral and religious sensitivity should make us aware of that. Nothing comes to us by right.

This isn't something we automatically know. During a class some years ago, a Monk shared with me how, for all the early years of his religious life, he had been resentful because he had to ask permission of his Abbott if he wanted anything: "I used to think it was silly, me, a grown man, supposedly an adult, having to ask a superior if I wanted something. If I wanted a new shirt, I would have to ask the Abbott for permission to buy it. I thought it was ridiculous that a grown man was reduced to being like a child."

But there came a day when he felt differently: "I am not sure of all the reasons, but one day I came to realize that there was

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Beware of Dead White Dudes

Published Mar 13, 2017 in Education, Faith & Politics

I hadn't been listening to her translation. Like all good undergraduate Latin students, I was busy looking over the following paragraph in mortal dread of being called on next to translate in front of the class. But I finished just in time to hear her complete the sentence from Ovid.

" . . . nam hominium sententia fallax; for the opinions of human beings are deceptive."

The professor, without a moment's hesitation, replied: "Use 'men'; 'For the opinions of men are deceptive'. Shakespeare wouldn't use the word 'humans'."

At the time, this struck many in the class as odd, if not insensitive. Hominium, from Homo, means human being; it is not gender exclusive.

When questioned on this point the professor simply replied: "Well . . . you know what I mean."

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Many languages and traditions, together before our God

Elwin C. Schwab | Mar. 9, 2017 NCR Today

The Field Hospital
Taken from The National Catholic Reporter
Portland, Ore.

Thursday afternoon it started to snow. About two or three inches accumulated, and it warmed a bit, and melted a bit, and then the freezing rain began.

Friday morning, everything was covered by ice, somewhat over half an inch. It was miserable to go anywhere, but I had to be at the church because we had Evelyn's viewing at 5 p.m., rosary at 6:30 p.m. and funeral Mass at 7 p.m. We spent the day scraping, shoveling and trying to make entering the church as safe as we could. Quite a few people came for the viewing, many more for the rosary and at least 200 for the Mass and reception that followed.

Evelyn was born in the Philippines, and the readings at Mass and much of the music was in Tagalog, the language of her birth and family.

At 10 a.m. the next morning, I presided at a wedding Mass for a couple who were born in Micronesia. Even though everything was still pretty icy and dangerous, some of the large family were able to attend the wedding. By good luck, the musicians got here, and we had the readings in Chuuk and all of the music in Chuuk and according to their traditions.

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Norristown parish offers one-stop health assistance

Peter Feuerherd | Mar. 2, 2017 NCR Today

The Field Hospital
Taken from the Catholic National Reporter

Fr. Gus Puleo is pastor of St. Patrick Church [1] in Norristown, Pa., a place that was once largely Irish. It is now mostly Mexican, with groups of Dominicans, Puerto Ricans and Colombians added to the Latino mix [2].

In terms of numbers, the parish outside Philadelphia is thriving, with some weekend Masses in Spanish overflowing out the doors. In 2014, Puleo performed 267 infant baptisms, an indication that new Catholic life in Norristown is abundant.

That same year, he presided over five funerals for infants who had barely lived a day, a stark reminder that new life among Norristown's Latino immigrants is a struggle.

"It was too many. I had to do something," he said, noting that the percentage of funerals for newborns was way above that experienced by those born in wealthier communities. He discovered that the infant mortality rate among the babies in his parish was nearly twice the national average. "I didn't want to bury more kids."

So Puleo, who before being ordained was a Spanish professor at Columbia University in New York and is an adjunct professor in Spanish

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James Martin: Essential Writings

Selected with an Introduction by James T. Keane
Orbis Books. Maryknoll, NY. 2017. Pp. 245

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

One of the nation's most beloved spiritual authors, James Martin, S.J., is a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America magazine, and former longtime chaplain of The Colbert Report. This anthology includes insights and reflections on all manner of topics drawn from his articles, books, and online writings over the past quarter century.

An Excerpt from the Book:


There are few things more enjoyable than reading a good biography of a saint or soon-to-be-saint. And when faced with a choice between a scholarly treatment over the more fictionalized versions, I'd start with the scholarly one. Because it's almost impossible to improve on their real lives. For example, as wonderful a movie as is The Song of Bernadette, the real life of Bernadette Soubirous, the visionary of Lourdes, is even more inspiring. Did you know, for example, that after the apparitions, Bernadette always turned down offers of

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The Flavor of God's Energy

Ron Rolheiser

All things considered, I believe that I grew up with a relatively healthy concept of God. The God of my youth, the God that I was catechized into, was not unduly punishing, arbitrary, or judgmental. He was omnipresent, so that all of our sins were noticed and noted, but, at the end of the day, he was fair, loving, personally concerned for each of us, and wonderfully protective, to the point of providing each of us with a personal guardian angel. That God gave me permission to live without too much fear and without any particularly crippling religious neuroses.

But that only gets you so far in life. Not having an unhealthy notion of God doesn't necessarily mean that you have a particularly healthy one. The God whom I was raised on was not overly stern and judgmental, but neither was he very joyous, playful, witty, or humorous. Especially, he wasn't sexual, and had a particularly vigilant and uncompromising eye in that area. Essentially he was grey, a bit dour, and not very joyous to be around. Around him, you had to be solemn and reverent. I remember the Assistant Director

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Parishes meet anxiety about increased deportation actions with counsel, support

Peter Feuerherd | Feb. 23, 2017 NCR Today

The Field Hospital
Taken from the National Catholic Reporter

On any given Sunday, the majority of children in the pews of Catholic churches [1] across the United States are Latino. Many of them now sleep uneasily, as President Donald Trump widens the law-enforcement net directed against the undocumented.

Their pastors have sensed increased anxiety and have responded by providing their parishes with how-to sessions on what to do, for example, when immigration authorities knock on the door and when law enforcement actions threaten to break up families.

A tenuous life for undocumented immigrants has gotten more so.

"They have to be very careful and very deliberate," Jesuit Fr. Mark Hallinan, pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel-St. Benedicta-St. Mary of the Assumption Church on Staten

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The Struggle to Encounter the Other

Taken from The Jesuit Post

It's hard not to notice the theme of the other in recent news: executive orders, refugees and migrants, protests, racial tension within our country, and the countless occurrences of violence. Even if it doesn't paint an overt struggle, it creates a separation between us and the other.

Thankfully, I'm Cajun. So when my faith challenges me to mercy-to encounter and love the other-I'm good. At least that's what I thought until recently.

What is a Cajun, you ask? Think Southern Louisiana, swamps, crawfish boils, good food, hospitality, kindness, and a sort of revelry in joy including boucheries, zydeco, fais do dos, and Mardi Gras-Laissez les bon temps rouler! Hospitality and kindness are hardwired cultural values. Many times I've walked into a house for a short visit, been offered food, declined the offer, and yet somehow ended up with a bowl of gumbo in my hand anyway. I have had extensive experience in receiving kindness and hospitality, and I'd like to think that I've a fair bit of experience

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The Heart of Virtue According to Romano Guardini

Eugene Hemrick

In Loyola University's bookstore in Chicago, my eye caught The Virtues by Romano Guardini. Small in size and inexpensive I purchased it never imagining it would be the basis of my homilies, articles and retreats during fifty-four years of priesthood. Nor did I envision it turning my four years of studying moral theology in Latin inside out, and then later inspiring me to write The Promise of Virtue, a companion to it.

What attracted me in The Virtues is its focus on the challenges, foes and needed strength involved in being the authentic human person God desires of us.

During the occasion of his death on October 1, 1968, theologian Karl Rahner recalled Guardini was born into a Catholic church that saw itself "as an intellectually, culturally and humanly self-sufficient closed society, on the defensive, seeking to win support by her conservatism."

Rahner recalled that Guardini saw the church different, needing to take a new stance that "plunges into the situation of the time, giving and also ready to receive, sharing the problems and perils of the time, bursting into a new age which even it cannot plan in advance, serving and concerned not with itself but with men and women." Guardini's work is about humanity's involvement in humanity.

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Of Virtue and Sin

Ron Rolheiser

There's an axiom which says: Nothing feels better than virtue. There's a deep truth here, but it has an underside. When we do good things we feel good about ourselves. Virtue is indeed its own reward, and that's good. However, feeling righteous can soon enough turn into feeling self-righteous. Nothing feels better than virtue; but self-righteousness feels pretty good too.

We see this famously expressed in Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. The Pharisee is practicing virtue, his actions are exactly what they should be, but what this produces in him is not humility, nor a sense of his need for God and mercy, but self-righteousness and a critical judgment of others. So too for all of us, we easily become the Pharisee: Whenever we look at another person who's struggling and say, There but for the grace of God go I, our seeming humble gratitude can indicate two very different things. It can be expressing a sincere thanks for having been undeservedly blessed or can just as easily be expressing a smug self-righteousness about our own sense of superiority.

Classical spiritual writers like John of the Cross, when talking about the challenges we face as walk the way of discipleship, speak about something they call: The faults of those who are beyond initial conversion. What they highlight is this: We are never free from struggle with sin. As we mature, sin simply takes on ever more subtle modalities inside us. For

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Like Mother, Like Son, On Food and Lent

It's Lent. Again. And again I think about what it is I'll give up.

My Lenten sacrifices are almost always connected to food. At 288 pounds, it's safe to say I'm an eater. In fact, as I'm writing this I'm eating a cheese, mayo, and Doritos on rye. And I'm having a Coke. I shouldn't be having a Coke. I shouldn't be having a sandwich. I'm diabetic. And it's 1:25 in the morning.

Food has always been a struggle in my life. And so too, food is part of my Lent. My Lenten history includes giving up chocolate, soda, candy. Two Lents in a row I gave up whole meals like breakfast or lunch. Not long ago I chose to fast one day a week. And there was that one time I went paleo -- nuts, fruits, red meat -- stuff cavemen would eat. I took on Lent as a diet, which is not what Lent is for.

And yet, food has never failed me. It always shows up when I need it the most or when I don't need it at all. It's like the friend I've never had and yet the worst kind of friend I'd never want. Tomorrow I will wake up, check my blood sugar levels, and I will see how good this friend actually is.


It's a Wednesday in January, 2015. I'm required to eat dinner in my community on Wednesday nights. But today I'm not feeling it. Today I'm too upset. I buried my mom a few weeks ago and I'm not adjusting well. So I've decided to leave.

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He looked like an NFL fullback. When, however, we played golf I learned he had a titanium shoulder due to being blown out of a Hummer in Afghanistan. Playing with another veteran I found out he was coping with night mares of blown up civilians he doctored as a medic. Both friends seemed normal healthy people but I wondered about the nightmares. I never asked about them. Such things require reverential space. They did confide golf was a life-saver.

Reflecting on the sacrifices of the residents at the Armed Forces Retirement Home [AFRH], I feel honored knowing them. When it comes to the backbone of this country, they top the list.

AFRH's nine-hole golf course has hosted presidents, PGA professionals and other dignitaries; the most prominent

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Of Winners and Losers

By Ron Rolheiser

Our society tends to divide us up into winners and losers. Sadly, we don't often reflect on how this affects our relationships with each other, nor on what it means for us as Christians.

What does it mean? In essence, that our relationships with each other tend are too charged with competition and jealousy because we are too infected with the drive to out-do, out-achieve, and out-hustle each other. For example, here are some of slogans that pass for wisdom today: Win! Be the best at something! Show others you're more talented than they are! Show that you are more sophisticated than others! Don't apologize for putting yourself first! Don't be a loser!

These phrases aren't just innocence axioms cheerleading us to work harder; they're viruses infecting us so that most everything in our world now conspires with the narcissism within us to push us to achieve, to set ourselves apart from others, to stand out, to be at the top of the class, to be the best athlete, the best dressed, the

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A haven for the poor in Margaritaville

Peter Feuerherd | Feb. 16, 2017 NCR Today

The Field Hospital
Taken from the National Catholic Reporter

Key West is Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, a speck on the map lurching into the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico where tourists go to unwind and escape winter's bitter northern winds. Its symbol is a hammock and a cold drink.

But there's another side to Key West. The local Catholic parish, the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea [1], has set up its own field hospital in an effort to address the needs of the region's poor. Key West is part of a county that ranks near the top in income disparity in the U.S.

In a place that practically invented leisure, there's a whole army of workers who make that lifestyle possible, cleaning the hotel rooms, maintaining the lawns for winter homes, and working the tourist and fishing boats. And they are hurting, says Tom Callahan, a volunteer and executive director of the Star of the Sea Foundation

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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 March 15, 2017