The National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood

The Birth of Our Lord as seen through the eyes of painter Greg Olsen

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Sunday Sermon

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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)

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

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

December 21, 2014

In this edition:
1. Christmas light and the Sydney siege.
2. Difficult questions after Sydney siege.
3. What Christmas and Hanukkah share.
4. Current quotes for Christmas:
a) Hearing as the shepherds heard.
b) The Holy Land at Christmas.
5. How to understand Christmas.
6. A story of Joseph.
7. The call of Christmas.

December 15, 2014

1. Reflections on peace for Christmas.
2. The God of peace and the meaning of "peace."
3. Current quotes to ponder:
a) A day in the life of a priest.
b) Racism in 21st century U.S. society.
c) The high cost of Christmas giving.
4. A unique term to consider: "integer-ity."
5. World Day of Peace accents human slavery.
6. Forms of human slavery.

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

Here's What We're Reading!

The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today, Author: John Michael Talbot with Mike Aquilina

The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss, David Bentley Hart

Being in the World: A quotable Maritain Reader, Edited by Mario O. D'Souza, with Jonathan R. Seiling

God Where Are You? Practical Answers to Spiritual Questions, Enzo Bianchi

John Paul II: The Saint who conquered the heart of the world, Valentina Alazraki and Msgr. Slawomir Oder

Eclipse of Man: Human Extinction and the Meaning of Progress, Charles T. Rubin

In This Life: Spiritual Growth and Aging, Leo E. Missinne

St. Peter's Bones: How the relics of the first pope were lost and found, Thomas J. Craughwell

Moments of the Day, Author: Christopher S. Collins, S.J.

The Hope of the Family: A Dialogue with Gerhard Cardinal Muller, Edited by Carlos Grandos

Dark Light of Love, John S. Dunne

Growing in Faith: A Bible Study Guide for Catholics, Author: Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J.

It's in the News!

Catholic leaders respond to news of US-Cuban rapproachment

Reaction to Engagement with Cuba
Vinnie Rotondaro NCR Today

American Catholics are responding warmly to the news of thawing of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, calling it a victory of "engagement" over "isolation" that benefits "ordinary people" in both countries.

President Barack Obama announced the deal to normalize relations between the two countries Wednesday, a deal that included the release of U.S. contractor Alan Gross as well as three Cuban citizens held in the U.S. It was negotiated over the course of 18 months of secret talks hosted by Canada and aided by Pope Francis [1].

In a statement released by the U.S. bishops' conference, Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, said he was "encouraged" by the announcement "of important actions that will foster dialogue, reconciliation, trade, cooperation and contact between our respective nations and citizens."

"Engagement," he said, "is the path to support change in Cuba and to empower the Cuban people in their quest for democracy, human rights and religious liberty."

Stephen Colecchi, director of the USCCB's Office of International Justice and Peace

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An Excerpt from The Heart of Henri Nouwen: His Words of Blessing

Edited by Rebecca Laird and Michael J. Christensen

The emphasis in this collection of excerpts from the books of Henri Nouwen is upon this Christian teacher's manifold understandings of heart. Here is an excerpt from Here and Now about the spiritual practice of joy.

"Joy is essential to spiritual life. Whatever we may think or say about God, when we are not joyful, our thoughts and words cannot bear fruit. Jesus reveals to us God's love so that his joy may become ours and that our joy may become complete. Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing -- sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death -- can take that love away.

"Joy is not the same as happiness. We can be unhappy about many things, but joy can still be there because it comes from the knowledge of God's love for us. We are inclined to think that when we are sad we cannot be glad, but in the life of a God-centered person, sorrow and joy can exist together. That isn't easy to understand, but when we think about some of our deepest life experiences, such as being present at the birth of a child or the death of

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The Visitation -- Revisited

December 15, 2014

We are all familiar with the biblical story of the Visitation. It happens at the beginning of Luke's Gospel. Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth, both pregnant, meet. One is carrying Jesus and the other is carrying John the Baptist. The Gospels want us to recognize that both these pregnancies are biologically impossible; one is a virginal conception and the other is a conception that occurs far beyond someone's childbearing years. So there is clearly something of the divine in each. In simple language, each woman is carrying a special gift from heaven and each is carrying a part of the divine promise that will one day establish God's peace on this earth.

But neither Mary nor Elizabeth, much less anyone around them, consciously recognizes the divine connection between the two children they are carrying. The Gospels present them to us as "cousins", both the children and their mothers; but the Gospels want us to think deeper than biology. They are cousins in the same way that Christ, and those things that are also of the divine, are cousins. This, among other things, is what is contained in the concept of the Visitation.

Mary and Elizabeth meet, both are pregnant with the divine. Each is carrying a child from heaven, one is carrying Christ and the other is carrying a unique prophet, the "cousin" of the Christ. And a curious thing

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The Lord as Their Portion: The Story of the Religious Orders and How They Shaped Our World

Author: Elizabeth Rapley
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids. 2014. Pp. 337

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

From St. Francis to Mother Teresa, from the caves of the Egyptian wilderness to Europe's majestic cloisters and beyond, the church has long been blessed and built up by those who single-mindedly sought after the things of God.

Aside from a few high-profile instances, nuns and monks today serve their church wit hheroic anonymity --- and, indeed, in many cases, their future is uncertain. Yet their past is undeniable. The religious orders throughout Christian history have been the strong right arm of the Catholic Church and a major force in the maturing of Western civilization.

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Honoring Talent and Grace -- Jean Beliveau RIP

Ron Rolheiser

For those of you who aren't Canadian, perhaps this name might not mean much, but, this past week, Canada lost one of its great cultural icons, Jean Beliveau, a famed athlete. He died and all Canadians, including this Canadian in exile, mourn his passing.

Jean Beliveau was more than an athlete, though certainly he was a one-in-a-million athlete. The record of his achievements almost defies belief. He played in the National Hockey League for 20 seasons and ended up with ten championship rings. Later, as an executive, he was part of another seven championships. Imagine anyone, in any sport, at the highest level, winning 17 championships!

But that wasn't what defined his greatness, nor the reason why a country fell in love with him and made him a national icon. It was his grace, the exceptional way that he carried himself both on and off the ice. Seventeen championships are remarkable, but his real achievement was the respect that he drew from everyone, both inside the athletic arena and outside of it.

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Schonborn: The next synod must concentrate on the realities of family life

Christa Pongratz-Lippitt | Dec. 9, 2014

Synod on the Family

Next year's Synod of Bishops must concentrate more on the realities of family life as it is actually lived in all its various forms, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the archbishop of Vienna, has underlined in an interview.

It was good that controversial views had come out into the open at the Oct. 5-19 Synod of Bishops, Schonborn said: The church was struggling to find its way in a pluralistic, increasingly secular society, and it was therefore "absolutely essential" to discuss the path it should take and to engage in controversy.

In a four-page interview in the December issue of the acclaimed German theological monthly Herder Korrespondenz, Schonborn explained why he took this strongly positive view:

"The Synod ushered in a good process. I came back highly motivated and energized and would have thought it terrible if the frictions had not come out into the open. I have all too

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The Gospel of the Family: Going Beyond Cardinal Kasper's Proposal in the Debate on Marriage: Civil Re-Marriage, and Communion in the Church

Authors: Jose Perez-Soba and Stephan Kampowski
Ignatius Press. San Francisco, CA. 2014. Pp. 255

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Walther Cardinal Kasper created an international media stir when he proposed allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the Eucharist after a penitential period. But is this something the Church can even authorize?

As the Church enters into the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on Marriage and the Family, this book takes up the Kasper proposal and sorts the helpful from the problematic. Never separating pastoral concerns from doctrinal considerations, the authors engage Cardinal

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How do we understand the crisis of marriage and the family?

Kelly Stewart
Grace on the Margins
National Catholic Reporter

The Vatican hosted an interfaith colloquium, "Humanum: The Complementarity of Man and Woman," last month that attracted considerable media attention, largely because it featured a number of prominent religious conservatives: Rick Warren, Tony Perkins, Russell Moore, N.T. Wright, Archbishop Charles Chaput, and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, among others.

The colloquium presentations, video series [1], and final document, "A New Affirmation on Marriage [2]," celebrate procreative, heterosexual marriage as the foundation of church and society, "a base from which to build a family [3] and from there a community." They warn, too, that marriage is under attack [4].

In his opening address to the conference [3], Pope Francis said:

We know that marriage and the family are in crisis. We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people

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Saints and Social Justice: A Guide to Changing the World

Author: Brandon Vogt
Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN. 2014. Pp. 160

An Excerpt from the Jacket:
The value of human life. The call to family and community. Serving the poor. The rights of workers. Care for creation.

The Church has always taught certain undeniable truths that can and should affect our society. But over the years, these teachings have been distorted, misunderstood, and forgotten.

With the help of fourteen saints, it's time we reclaim Catholic social teaching and rediscover it through the lives of those who best lived it out. Follow in the saints' footsteps, learn from their example, and become the spark of authentic social justice that sets the world on fire.

An Excerpt from the Book:
Lessons from St. Thomas More

The tremendous example of

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Changing times may call for changes in religious orders, pope says

Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service
National Catholic Reporter

Vatican City

Religious orders and the Vatican congregation that assists them must be bold in assessing whether current structures and practices help or hinder the proclamation of the Gospel, the pursuit of holiness and the service of the poor, Pope Francis said.

"We must not be afraid to leave 'old wineskins,' that is, to renew the routines and structures that, in the life of the church and in consecrated life, no longer respond to what God is asking us today in order to promote his kingdom in the world," the pope, a former Jesuit provincial superior, told members of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The pope met congregation members Nov. 27, just three days before the opening of the Year of Consecrated Life. The same day, he also met with the Pauline Fathers, the Daughters of St. Paul, and other religious and lay groups that trace their inspiration to Blessed James Alberione's foundation of orders dedicated to evangelization

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Self-Sacrifice and the Eucharist

Ron Rolheiser

In 1996, Muslim extremists martyred nearly an entire community of Trappist monks in Atlas, Algeria. Many of us, thanks to the movie, Of Gods and Men, are familiar with their story and are familiar too with the extraordinary faith and courage with which these monks, particularly their Abbott, Christian de Cherge, met their deaths. Indeed the last letters of Christian de Cherge reveal a faith and love that is truly extraordinary.

For example, in the months leading up to his death, when he already sensed what was to befall him, he wrote a letter to his family within which he already forgave his killers and hoped that they would later be with him in heaven, with both them and him playing in the sun before God. As well, after his first face-to-face meeting with a terrorist leader, who has just beheaded nine people, he prayed: "Disarm me, disarm them."

In his journals, which are published today, he shares this story: On the morning of his first communion, he told his mother that he really didn't understand what he was doing in receiving the Eucharist. His mother replied, simply: "You

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Archbishop faces fast-changing church

NCR Editorial Staff Cupich to Chicago


In the history of the Catholic church in the United States, the Chicago archdiocese has always been a big deal. Its Midwest character is projected in a hardy, common-sense approach relatively low on frills and formality, and with a deeply engaged laity that set it apart from many of its Eastern relatives.

So whenever Chicago gets a new archbishop, it's a big deal. Newly installed Archbishop Blase Cupich is no exception. The spotlight is even brighter this go-around because he is the first major appointment of the Francis papacy and, by all reports, was as personal a papal pick as there might be. All humble protestations aside, the church and the wider world understand that this appointment sends a signal as well as a pastor.

Though made a bishop by Pope John Paul II, Cupich is as much in demeanor and disposition a "Francis bishop" as his predecessor, Cardinal Francis George, was a "John Paul II bishop." Different popes, different times, different needs, different bishops.

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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 December 21, 2014