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Conversion on the Way to Damascus

Caravaggio painted this in 1600
for the Cerasi Chapel of the church of
Santa Maria del Popolo, in Rome

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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

October 17, 2016

Is there any joy this election year? --
Failed communication equals human division -
How mercy and justice interrelate -
Children fleeing conflict

In this edition:
1. Election-year rhetoric.
2. Finding joy this election year.
3. When communication fails.
4. Interrelating mercy and justice.
5. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Children fleeing conflict.
6. Misunderstanding Laudato Si'.
7. Anglican-Catholic dialogue today.

September 29, 2016

In this edition:
1. Do Catholics understand Islam?
2. A Muslim living in the West.
3. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Remembering Shimon Peres.
b) The interdependence of priests.
c) Human ecology.
4. Beyond interreligious distrust.
5. Assisi 2016: dialogue and justice.

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

Here's What We're Reading!

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

What Would Pope Francis Do? Bringing the Good News to People in Need, Sean Salai, S.J.

Book of Saints, Amy Welborn

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

Embracing the Icon of Love, Br. Daniel Korn, CSsR

Messy & Foolish: How to Make a Mess, Be a Fool, and Evangelize the World, Matthew Warner

It's in the News!

Father Michael Pfleger: 'Just a parish priest'

By Martin E. Marty
October 4, 2016

Assignment: to make sense of this week's Sightings, please take 15 minutes or so to read Evan Osnos's New Yorker story from this past winter. It focuses on a Chicago Catholic priest who has tended ferociously to the faithful in his several parish assignments. Attention to such is rather rare. We and our friends in the "news business"-on whose writings we draw as they cover the remarkable stories of the week-are trained to magnify the already-magnified on the religion beat: stories of saints, denominations and ecumenical agencies, commissions, and the like. But the more astute among these friends know, even if they cannot often devote themselves to it, that the power behind the magnified story comes from the micro-worlds of the local, as in congregations, parishes, cells, and local expressions in general.

I thought of that as I read one of the stories, a two-pager, in this Sunday's Chicago Sun-Times. There Maudlyne Ihejirika pictures and writes about that same parish and its priest, Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church. The occasion was of the sort that rarely receives notice: there are hundreds of thousands of parishes, very many of which celebrate centennials. But this one deserves special mention. St. Sabina was a comatose Catholic parish on Chicago's South Side, its almost cathedral-like sanctuary on the verge of falling into dust, after

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On not Cultivating Restlessness

Ron Rolheiser

Thirty-four years ago when I launched this column, I would never have said this: Restlessness is not something to be cultivated, no matter how romantic that might seem. Don't get Jesus confused with Hamlet, peace with disquiet, depth with dissatisfaction, or genuine happiness with the existential anxiety of the artist. Restlessness inside us doesn't need to be encouraged; it wreaks enough havoc all on its own.

But I'm a late convert to this view. From earliest childhood through mid-life, I courted a romance with restlessness, with stoicism, with being the lonely outsider, with being the one at the party who found it all too superficial to be real. Maybe that contributed to my choosing seminary and priesthood; certainly it helps explain why I entitled this column, In Exile. For most of my life, I have equated restlessness with depth, as something to be cultivated,

This came naturally to me and all along the way I've found powerful mentors to help me carry my solitude in that way. During my high school years, I was intrigued with Shakespeare's, Hamlet. I virtually memorized it. Hamlet represented depth, intensity, and romance; he wasn't a beer-drinker. For me, he was the lonely prophet, radiating depth beyond superficiality.

In my seminary years I graduated to Plato ("We are

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The Relevance of Irrelevance

Published Oct 17, 2016 in Education, In the News

Taken from The Jesuit Post

"So, you're kind of irrelevant?"

Her question caught me off guard, and although I had no immediate response for my fellow grad student, a part of me had to admit that she had a point.

I have chosen a way of life that many today would refer to as archaic: I am a member of a Roman Catholic religious order founded nearly 500 years ago. As a member of this order I can neither make money nor make my own career decisions. I don't have a career. I have been assigned to study classical languages for the next 2 years; that is to say: dead languages.

While the novelty of such a life might be interesting or even exotic as a conversation starter, it does become difficult to locate the relevance of what I'm doing as opposed to med school, business, or engineering. These disciplines seem to have a clear point. What, it might be asked, is the point of studying dead languages?

This is not a phenomenon restricted to Jesuits in studies. It is becoming an increasingly difficult question to answer for anyone studying the liberal arts.

Our national trend of abysmal test scores in both math and science has rallied public officials to push for increased funding for STEM education

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William James' defense of faith was liberating

Sidney Callahan | Oct. 10, 2016 NCR Today
Taken from the National Catholic Reporter

Take and Read

Editor's note: "Take and Read" is a weekly blog that features a different contributor's reflections on a specific book that changed their lives. Good books, as blog co-editors Congregation of St. Agnes Sr. Dianne Bergant and Michael Daley say, "can inspire, affirm, challenge, change, even disturb."

The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature
William James
Longmans, Green, and Co., 1902

Whenever I take up and reread The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature by William James, my spirits soar. My mind takes off and my faith becomes more deeply grounded. No wonder that after a hundred and some years these 20 Gifford Lectures published in 1902 are required reading for anyone interested in the psychology of religion. Here, the brilliance of William James dazzles and delights readers with displays of originality built on wide knowledge. And why not? His wealthy and eccentric father, Henry James Sr., had supported William's prolonged studies, here, abroad and back again. Along the way, James mastered languages, philosophy, literature, science, medicine, psychology and the art of drawing.

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Ignatian Yoga

Published Oct 6, 2016 in Spirituality ~ Taken from the Jesuit Post

I'm tired and sore as I sit in Catholic liturgies and retreats. I have become more and more aware of how my body and breath are overlooked. I want a Church that takes the connection between the body, mind, and spirit more seriously. I envision a Church that recognizes the importance of the body in the spiritual life and is more open to popular practices that lead to calm and connection.

I continually meet thoughtful spiritual seekers who "grew up Catholic" but left. Their encounters with the Church felt out of touch with their personal experiences. This makes me disappointed.

While people increasingly flock to yoga studios - over 36 million people currently practice yoga in the United States - the Catholic Church is missing an opportunity to connect with an increasing population searching for spirituality elsewhere. This split need not happen.


Over the past six years of Jesuit formation, I have carved out a way of life rooted in Ignatian spirituality and yoga. These two traditions have inspired me to integrate my Catholic faith and vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in holistic and authentic ways. While different, they both encourage awareness of the inner movements of the self and lay out a path towards transformation, healing, and

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Contemplative Prayer

Ron Rolheiser

Contemplative prayer, as it is classically defined and popularly practiced, is subject today to considerable skepticism in a number of circles. For example, the method of prayer, commonly called Centering Prayer, popularized by persons like Thomas Keating, Basil Bennington, John Main, and Laurence Freeman is viewed with suspicion by many people who identify it with anything from "New Age", to Buddhism, to "Self-Seeking", to atheism.

Admittedly not all of its adherents and practitioners are free from those charges, but certainly its true practitioners are. Understood and practiced correctly this method of prayer, which allows for some variations in its practice, is in fact the form of prayer which the Desert Fathers, John of the Cross, and the author of the Cloud of Unknowing call Contemplation.

What is contemplation, as defined within this classical Christian tradition? With apologies to the tradition of Ignatius of Loyola, who formats things differently, but is very much in agreement with this definition, contemplation is prayer without images and imagination, that is, prayer without the attempt to concentrate one's thoughts and feelings on God and holy things. It is a prayer so singular in its intention to be present to God alone that it refuses everything, even pious thoughts and holy feelings so as to simply sit in darkness, in a deliberate unknowing, within which all thoughts, imaginations, and

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One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Home

Published Sep 30, 2016 in Justice
Taken from the Jesuit Post

I nearly always stump people in "Two Truths and a Lie" when I say that I used to work at a landfill. People are convinced that must be the lie. But sure enough, I worked at my local landfill one summer in high school.

While I knew in theory that trash doesn't magically disappear when we put it on the curb or throw it in the bin, that job gave me a glimpse of what our collective waste looks like. It's massive. It's growing. And it's full of plastic. Roughly 40 billion plastic water bottles are thrown away in the U.S. each year.

I thus became fascinated when I recently came across this video about the Plastic Bottle Village on an island in Panama:

Who would have thought that the plastic bottles we see everywhere could be used to build houses - let alone well-insulated homes that are earthquake resistant? The project creatively addresses the "throwaway culture" that Pope Francis discusses in Laudato si'.

What inspires me most about this initiative is the opportunity mindset of Robert Bezeau, the founder of the Village. He is deeply familiar with the problem of waste on his island. Rather than only seeing discarded plastic bottles as a problem, however, he sees them as an opportunity.

Plastic bottle homes may not be possible in all climates. Still, turning problems into opportunities could be relevant for any location. Abandoned lots could become urban

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The Struggle to not make God our own Tribal Deity

Ron Rolheiser

I was blessed to grow up in a very sheltered and safe environment. My childhood was lived inside of a virtual cocoon. In the remote, rural, first-generation, immigrant community I grew up in, we all knew each other, all went to the same church, all belonged to the same political party, all were white, all came from the same ethnic background, all shared the same accent when we spoke English, all had a similar slant on how we understood morality, all shared similar hopes and fears about the outside world, and all worshipped God quite confidently from inside that cocoon. We knew we were special in God's eyes.

There's a wonderful strength in that, but also a pejorative underside. When there are no real strangers in your life, when everyone looks like you do, believes what you do, and speaks like you do, when your world is made up of only your own kind, it's going to take some painful subsequent stretching, at some very deep parts of your soul, to accept, existentially accept, and be comfortable with the fact, that people who are very different from you, who have different skin colors, speak different languages, live in different countries, have different religions, and have a different way of understanding things are just as real and precious to God as you are.

Of course not everyone has a background like mine, but I suspect most everyone also struggles to accept, beyond our too-easy espousal of how open we are, that all lives in the world are equally as precious to God as is our own. It is hard for us to believe that we, and our

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Software, Moral Formatting, and Living in Sin

Ron Rolheiser

While I was doing graduate studies in Belgium, I lived at the American College in Leuven. On staff there at the time, in the housekeeping and maintenance department, was a wonderfully colorful woman whose energy brought oxygen into a room but whose history of marriage somewhat paralleled that of the Samaritan woman in John's Gospel. None of us knew for sure how often she'd been married and the man she was living with at the time was not her husband.

One day an Archbishop was visiting the College and there was a formal reception line of which she was part. The Archbishop would shake each person's hand and engage him or her in a brief exchange. When he came to her, she gave him her name and told him what she did at the college. He shook her hand and, by way of greeting and conversation, asked her: "Are you married?" She wasn't quite prepared for that question. She stammered a bit and replied: "Yes, no, well, kind of." Then, breaking into a grin, said: "Actually, your Grace, I'm living in sin!" To his credit, the Archbishop grinned as well. He got what she was saying, not just her words, but too the nuance that her grin conveyed.

Living in sin. Acts that are inherently disordered. What's Catholic moral theology trying to say with this kind of concept when so many people today, including many Roman Catholics, find such concepts unintelligible and offensive?

To the credit of classical Roman Catholic moral teaching, these concepts have an intelligibility and a palatability inside a

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Finances Differ From Parish to Parish

October 7, 2015 By Dennis Sadowski

From The Tablet
Fourth in a series

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. (CNS) - Where to get enough money to keep the place and its programs running is a perennial problem for every parish, although the scale of the amount of money involved can be dramatically different.

At the Church of the Sacred Heart in South Plainfield, N.J., finances have stabilized after a period of declining Sunday collections. Father John Alvarado, pastor since 2000, said the parish has learned to make do with fewer dollars by tightening expenditures and delaying some maintenance work.

As part of a look at how different types of parishes handle contemporary challenges, Catholic News Service reporters visited churches around the U.S. over the past few years. This package of stories, American Parish, presents a glance at some of the kinds of communities Pope Francis might have seen if he had had the time to visit a variety of parishes on his visit to the U.S. and learn about how they handle some challenges facing them.

In South Plainfield, Sacred Heart's tight financial situation was attributed to the region's slow recovery from the recession and declining membership as longtime parishioners, especially retirees, moved to less expensive communities.

But things have improved financially at the parish in the Metuchen Diocese; Sunday collections increased after the

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Editorial: Make action on poverty a national priority

NCR Editorial Staff | Sep. 7, 2016

Taken from the National Catholic Reporter

"Poverty is an issue in the [2016 presidential] campaign, it's just not being talked about. It's certainly driving a lot of the things in the campaign. It's certainly driving a lot of the anger."

These insightful words from Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, chair of the U.S. bishop's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, strike at the heart of the problem of poverty today in the United States. Nobody wants to talk about it.

Twenty years after President Bill Clinton ushered in a new era of welfare reform, we are reminded of the scriptural truth that the poor are with us always. Instead of seeing that as a challenge, our society has taken it as an inevitability, and seemingly candidates running for elected office either don't want to touch the issue or don't know what to do about it.

Major political parties focus on rhetoric that aims at soothing the middle class: promises of high-tech manufacturing jobs or restoring steel and coal jobs. Work in these fields makes up just 10 percent of the labor force. What about the vast majority of workers who toil in the service industry, most often at below a living wage? The lack of opportunity and the acute fear among working-class folks of losing what they have, a loss that is often one illness or one recession away, fuel the anger that fuels the current presidential campaign.

Since 2011, faith-based organizations like Catholic

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Fat Like Me

Taken from the Jesuit Post

What do you see when you look?

"Look how fat she is!" The loud whisper was intentional as the woman passed their table in the Chicago restaurant. "I bet she'll order a large Diet Coke -- they all do!" The girls giggle, drop their cash on the table and leave. My heart sinks.

I look over at the woman who is sitting uncomfortably in a booth. She is a large woman, sure, but when she walked in, it was her beautiful brown hair and fashion sense that caught my attention. She looks amazing. Fierce, actually. But I notice her eyes. She heard the loud whisper. She's trying to shake it off.

The woman orders from the waiter with a great smile: tea and a salad. She gazes out the window with each bite. She's hurting. I can tell, I've been in her shoes too many times.

I've held a posture that feigns confidence as if to say, "I will not let them get to me." Deep breaths, holding back frustrated tears, wondering if this fat body is the only truth I will ever know. Then the wave of loneliness starts to set in. Their mean words, another validation why you feel so alone most of the time. Because fat isn't attractive, it's ugly. There's a desire to shout, "I'm the smallest I've been in a long time!!" And on the day you feel your best, glancing in the mirror, saying to yourself, I look damn good today, strangers stab right through you with disparaging words.


A few months back a friend suggested, "put exercise in your calendar, do it the same time everyday." Believe me, if it

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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 September 14, 2016