EDITORIAL: Divided country needs to heal

Posted February 14, 2020 at 12:00 am

An impeachment trial that splintered the nation has finally concluded with the acquittal of President Trump being heralded by some and scorned by others.

Regardless of one’s political dogma, however, it’s imperative for the healing process to begin in a country that is perhaps as divided as it’s ever been, an era when uncompromising partisanship has stagnated progress.

Now is the time for our country’s leaders to cross the aisle and extend a hand of compromise and reconciliation, make mutual commitments to bury the theatrics that both parties have been guilty of in the past months, including during the recent State of the Union address, and work together to shutter the divisiveness.

But that reconciliation must extend far beyond the political arena. The months leading up to the trial, and the actual trial, have fractured families and friendships, pitted workers against co-workers and elevated the toxicity of social media

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    The Bible is a love letter from God

    On Jan. 17, I alerted the readers of The Catholic Commentator that Pope Francis had declared the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time to be henceforth an annual celebration of “The Word of God.” His general intent was to encourage us to read the Bible frequently. As I write this, it is the afternoon of that Sunday. Along with many other priests, I preached on that topic earlier at a Mass for the retired Sisters of St. Joseph at their chapel on the corner of Hundred Oaks and Parker

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    Encounter Christ through Lenten practices

    Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation. In my experience, Mass attendance by the people of God is greater than at official holy days. Not getting into any morality issues and allowing for the fact that some may think it’s obligatory to begin Lent, I wonder what’s the dynamic driving Ash Wednesday’s popularity.  

    Some observations: Maybe there’s something about those ashes … so many choosing to feel that irritating burnt grit on our foreheads and to hear those irritating, haunting

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    What is a good Catholic Bible?/ Can heaven be happy with some missing?

    Q My wife realized that my Bible is not Catholic when I could not locate the Book of Sirach in it. What is a good Catholic Bible, with a contemporary translation from Greek? (My ultimate preference would be a Catholic Bible with the Old Testament translated from Hebrew and the New Testament from the Greek if such a thing exists.) (Albany, Oregon)  

    A There are several translations of the sacred Scriptures that have been approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for

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    Magnanimity

    What does it mean to be big-hearted, magnanimous? 

    Once during a baseball game in high school an umpire made very a unfair call against our team. Our whole team was indignant and all of us began to shout angrily at the umpire, swearing at him, calling him names, loudly venting our anger. But one of our teammates didn’t follow suit. Instead of shouting at the umpire he kept trying to stop the rest of us from doing so. “Let it go!” he kept

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    World Day of the Sick 2020

    By Barry Schoedel

    Guest Columnist

    In 1993, St. John Paul II received his Parkinson’s disease  diagnosis. One year later, he did something for the church and the world that he saw as necessary: he instituted the World Day of the Sick.

    The late pope intended for this annual observance to be “a special occasion for growth, with an attitude of listening, reflection and effective commitment in the face of the great mystery of pain and illness.” This day would be celebrated every year on the commemoration of Our Lady of Lourdes, Feb. 11.

    The

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    End of Christmas season?/ Distributing to extraordinary ministers?

    Q At my previous parish, we said that the end of the Christmas season was the feast of the Epiphany (the three Wise Men). My current parish, though, says that the Christmas season concludes a week later on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Which one is right? And if it’s the latter, what does the baptism of Jesus by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan River have to do with Christmas? (New Middletown, Indiana)  

    A Many people do put away

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    The little way

    Most of us have heard of St. Therese of Lisieux, a French mystic who died at age 24 in 1897 and who is perhaps the most popular saint of the past two centuries. She’s famous for many things, not least for a spirituality she called her “little way.”  What’s her “little way?” 

    Popular thought has often encrusted both St. Therese and her “little way” within a simple piety which doesn’t do justice to the depth of her person or her spirituality. Too often

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    Do we see Christ in the poor, or even see the poor?

    Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ words in the judgement scene of the 25th chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me … whatever you did for one of these

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    Confession once a year?/ Is incense harmful to health?

    Q  In one of your recent columns, you stated: “Strictly speaking, one is obliged to go to the sacrament of penance only for serious sins although it is certainly a good idea to confess regularly even for lesser sins and imperfections.”  

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, however (No. 1457), that all Catholics should go to confession at least once a year. If this is actually a precept of the church, my understanding is that all of the precepts must be obeyed under

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    ‘He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures’

    ‘He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures’ 

    Pope Francis has given us a new feast day to be celebrated on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, which will be this year on Jan. 26.  

    It will be called henceforth “Sunday of the Word of God.” The pope explained his reason for instituting this new feast day in an apostolic letter entitled “APERUIT ILLIS,” words in St. Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 24, Verse 45: “Then he opened their minds

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    The best 10 books that found me in 2019

    There’s a Latin axiom which argues that there’s no accounting for taste, de gustibus non est disputandum. I reference it as to preamble to my annual list of the 10 books I most enjoyed this past year because, admittedly, taste is somewhat subjective. I chose these particular books because they’re the ones that spoke most deeply to me. Perhaps they won’t speak to you in the same way. Fair enough. There’s no accounting for taste. 

    So, here are the

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    The wisdom of ‘I don’t know’

    I once read an interview with a pastor who said that the most important thing a parent can say to a child is often, “I don’t know.” 

    His words rattled me as a parent. Wasn’t my job to fill my children with knowledge? Wasn’t my role to pass down truth? Didn’t my authority as an adult depend on having answers? 

    But I decided to try out his advice. 

    For the next few

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    Saints and self-flagellation

    Q When is violating one’s body through self-flagellation permitted to get “more points” for going to heaven? In a book I’m reading about Padre Pio, there is a mention of friars whipping themselves to the point of bleeding. Is this what God expects of us, or are there fanatic people who go to the extreme to be like Christ? (Beaverton, Oregon)  

    A No, I don’t think that self-flagellation is what “God expects of us.” Corporal mortification has

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    There is a time for prayer, a time for saving the planet, and a time for voting

    We finished the waiting time of Advent. I hope with joy and thanksgiving for the loving and merciful God who chose to share our lives at Christmas. Now we are recuperating from New Year’s celebrating and wondering if we really want to keep the resolutions we made or should still make for the coming year. I would like to suggest a few resolutions for 2020 that I think are timely and practical. 

    First, set a daily time for prayer and do

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    Another meaning of Christmas

    Some years ago at a religious conference a man approached the microphone and after apologizing for what he felt would be an inappropriate question, asked this: “I love my dog. When he dies will he go to heaven? Do animals have eternal life?” 

    The answer to that might come as a surprise to many of us, but, looked at through the eyes of Christian faith, yes, his dog can go to heaven. It’s one of the meanings of Christmas. God came into the

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    Justice and charity – revisited

    We’re all familiar, I suspect, with the difference between justice and charity. Charity is giving away some of your time, energy, resources and person so as to help others in need. And that’s an admirable virtue, the sign of a good heart. Justice, on the other hand, is less about directly giving something away than it is about looking to change the conditions and systems that put others in need.

    No doubt, we’re all familiar with the little parable used to illustrate this difference. In brief, it goes like this: A town

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    A time of waiting and living in thanksgiving

    Thanksgiving has come and gone as a feast day to be celebrated, and we will be in the third week of Advent by the time you read this.  But there is a connection between Advent, Christmas and Thanksgiving.  There have been some good columns in The Catholic Commentator telling us about this Advent season of hope as we long for Jesus to be born anew in our hearts.  Also, they have described the prophecies of the Messiah’s coming and the liturgies that prepare us for Christmas.  In

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    Anxiety and Mass attendance/ Armenian Church

    Q.  I was diagnosed with anxiety/mood disorder in 2003. I had spent time in the military and gone through some horrific experiences that had affected me emotionally. I have also been on Dilantin now for more than 25 years because of seizures.

    My psychiatrist has explained to me that I find sounds and smells much more intense due to the seizure medication. Prior to joining the military, I had enjoyed going to Mass. I would arrive early to pray before Mass started, and I found it fulfilling and joyful. As a child, I had attended

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    A saint for our times

    On Oct. 13, the first Sunday after the Synod on the Amazon had begun, Pope Francis made Cardinal John Henry Newman of England and four other holy persons saints of the church. There was in St. Newman’s case a connection both historical and pastoral with the synod, which I will explain later on. First, many may not know the story of St. Newman, so here is a brief summary.

    In his own day in England, St. Newman was a celebrity. Born in London

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    Chalice for gluten-intolerant/ Adultery and annulment

    Q More and more people are being diagnosed with celiac or wheat allergies. Because of the particle of the host that is dipped into the chalice right before Communion, someone who is gluten-intolerant cannot receive the precious blood from the chalice. What is your suggestion? (Missouri)  

    A It is true that celiac disease is now more prevalent than had earlier been realized. (This disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten and can damage the lining of the small intestine.) A Mayo Clinic

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    What constitutes fidelity

    It’s becoming increasing difficult in today’s world to trust anything or anybody, for good reason. There’s little that’s stable, safe to lean on, trustworthy. We live in a world where everything is in flux, is flux, where everywhere we see distrust, abandoned values, debunked creeds, people moving on from where they used to be, contradictory information, and dishonesty and lying as socially and morally acceptable. There is little left of trust in our world.  

    What does this call us to? We’re called to

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    Extend a hand to outsiders during Advent

    A scene from the play “A Man for All Seasons” contains a wonderful way to celebrate Advent. The play is about St. Thomas More’s duel with King Henry VIII that leads to More’s beheading.  

    In the play, Richard Rich, who is envious of More’s renown, pleads with More for a prominent court position.  

    “Why not be a teacher,” More implores him.  

    “And if I was, who would know it?” Rich responds.  

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    Recommendations of the Synod on the Amazon

    The synod of bishops voted on Oct. 26 to recommend that Pope Francis allow the ordination of married men to the priesthood who were leaders in their communities in the Amazon. 

    The vote on the recommendation was 128 for and 41 against (approval rate of 68 percent). 

    St. Peter and all apostles except St. John were married. In the eastern and orthodox churches, ordination of married men has always been allowed with celibacy being optional. Celibacy became mandatory

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    Move to meet people with love even around the family table

    Religion and politics. The two subjects you’re supposed to avoid in polite conversation. 

    Except that the holiday season is when faith and family collide. Feasts like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s bring moments ripe for conversation with relatives – for better or for worse. 

    What can we do when talking about our beliefs with family feels as dangerous as driving on ice-covered roads? 

    A 2019 survey found that 49 percent of Americans

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    Living out a vocation

    What does it mean to have a vocation? The term gets batted around both in religious and secular circles and everyone assumes its meaning is clear. Is it? What’s a vocation? 

    Karl Jung defined it this way: “A vocation is an irrational factor that destines a man to emancipate himself from the herd and from its well-worn paths.”  Frederick Buechner, a famed preacher, says: “A vocation is where your deep gladness meets the world’s hunger.”  

    David Brooks, a

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    Morality and video games / Canonical marriage but not civil?

    Q My son, who is 15, keeps asking for a video game called Grand Theft Auto V. After reading some reviews (gang violence, nudity, extremely coarse language, drug and alcohol abuse), I was not inclined to purchase it for him in good conscience.  

    He’s asked now to spend his own money on the game, but I don’t want to be responsible for contributing to something that appears to be of no value spiritually or otherwise. Could playing mature-rated video games also be a

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    The frustrating struggle for humility

    It’s hard to be humble, not because we don’t have more than enough deficiencies to merit humility, but rather because there’s crafty mechanism inside of us that normally doesn’t let us go to the place of humility. Simply put, as we try to be self-effacing, humble and non-hypocritical, variably we take pride in that and then, feeling smug about it, we become judgmental of others.  

    Jesus gave us a wonderful parable on this but mostly we miss its lesson. We’re all familiar with

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    Final week of the Synod on the Amazon

    Much happened as the Synod on the Amazon rushed to its conclusion in the meeting hall of the Vatican. The final week began on Sunday, Oct. 20, with 42 of the bishops from the Amazon area who were participating and would be voting on the following Saturday, going to the Catacombs of St. Domitilla to renew a pact made by 40 of their predecessors at the Second Vatican Council in 1965 calling for a poor church. They promised to live “a happily sober lifestyle” in opposition to an

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    Keeping sight of what’s real

    What do Greek philosophy and Bose headphones have in common? Quite a bit if you have seen the most recent ad for Bose headphones. It shows a crowded car of screen-staring subway riders fixated on their phones. A typical scene for most commuters, but Bose headphones promise a way out of the trance, or so it seems. 

    A lone female commuter emerges from the dark, screen-saturated tunnel and ascends via escalator into the light of day with only her Bose headphones

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