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Sunday Sermon

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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

June 28, 2015

1. Encyclical on our planet's future.
2. Essentials of ecological spirituality.
3. Quotes from the encyclical:
a) Climate change.
b) Rediscovering beauty.
c) Does power equal progress?
d) Ecology of daily life
e) Making a new start.
4. Ecology's social perspective.
5. Market forces and ecology.
6. Faith convictions and ecology.
7. Toward open, respectful dialogue.

June 12, 2015

In this edition:
1. Action for interracial justice.
2. Sorrowful history of racial injustice.
3. Christians as communicators.
4. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Blessed Oscar Romero.
b) Dorothy Day's legacy.
c) Jesus as a healer.
5. Lay ecclesial ministry, 2005-2015.
6. Build bridges, Sarajevo youths urged.
7. How a culture is built.
8. Encyclical's release anticipated.

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

Here's What We're Reading!

Change and Conflict in your Congregation: How to implement conscious choices, mange emotions & build a thriving Christian community, Rev. Anita L. Bradshaw

The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic: How Engaging 1% of Catholics Could Change the World, Matthew Kelly

The Catholic Church and the Bible, Peter M.J. Stravinskas

Fly While You Still Have Wings: and other lessons my resilient mother taught me, Joyce Rupp

Catholic and Married: Leaning into Love, Art and Laraine Bennett

Created to Relate: God's Design for Peace and Joy, Kelly M. Wahlquist

It's in the News!

Colonial wrongs cloud sainthood cause of Junipero Serra

Tom Roberts

Taken from The National Catholic Reporter

Sainthood has never implied perfection. Some of the most celebrated were transformed world-class sinners. The question of the moment, though, is whether the 18th-century Fr. Junípero Serra, heroic on some counts, can survive in the public eye the misfortune of being morally and politically dissonant in the 21st century.

Even some of those who support the upcoming canonization of the Franciscan friar who brought Christianity to what is now Southern California are unlikely to celebrate Serra with the same enthusiasm as they might embrace the beatification of El Salvador's Archbishop Oscar Romero, who died as an advocate of the poor and critic of an oppressive government.

That ambivalence -- support for his canonization tempered by

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The Hero-Complex

Ron Rolheiser

Several years ago, the movie Argo won the Academy award as the best movie of the year. I enjoyed the movie in that it was a good drama, one that held its audience in proper suspense even as it provided some good humor and banter on the side. But I struggled with several aspects of the film. First, as a Canadian, I was somewhat offended by the way that the vital role that Canadians played in the escape of the USA hostages from Iran in 1979 was downplayed to the point of simply being written out of the story. The movie would have been more honest had it advertised itself as "based on a true story" rather than presenting itself as a true story.

But that was more of an irritation than anything serious. Art has the right to exaggerate forms to highlight an essence. I don't begrudge a filmmaker his film. What bothered me was how, again, as is so frequently the case in Hollywood movies and popular literature, we were shown a hero under the canopy

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Laudato Si and Romano Guardini

by Fr. Robert Barron

In 1986, after serving in a variety of capacities in the Jesuit province of Argentina, Jorge Mario Bergoglio commenced doctoral studies in Germany. The focus of his research was the great twentieth century theologian and cultural critic Romano Guardini, who had been a key influence on, among many others, Karl Rahner, Henri de Lubac, and Joseph Ratzinger. As things turned out, Bergoglio never finished his doctoral degree (he probably started too late in life), but his immersion in the writings of Guardini decisively shaped his thinking. Most of the commentary on Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato Si' has focused on the issue of global warming and the Pope's alignment with this or that political perspective, but this is to miss the forest for one very particular tree. As I read through the document, I saw, on practically every page, the influence of Romano Guardini and his distinctive take on modernity.

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'Laudato Si'' is inspiration for those who want to be part of the solution

Tony Magliano Making a Difference

Francis: The Environment Encyclical
The National Catholic Reporter

It's courageous, it's prophetic, it's challenging, it's holistic, it's wonderful: That's what I think of Pope Francis' environmental encyclical, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home [1]."

Quoting his patron saint, Francis of Assisi, who is also the patron saint of ecology, Pope Francis begins his papal letter with a beautiful verse from the saint's "Canticle of the Creatures": "Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs."

"Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us," writes the pope, "that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. ...

"This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have

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Author envisions a city of transcendence

Dana Greene
National Catholic Reporter

The Spiritual City: Theology, Spirituality, and the Urban
By Philip Sheldrake
Published by Wiley-Blackwell, $36.95

In 1950, 29 percent of the world's population was urban. In 2050, 70 percent are predicted to be city dwellers. The issue of urbanization is global and complex, involving a welter of concerns all played out against a background of population diversity that works against the development of a shared vision for human flourishing.

Readers be forewarned: The Spiritual City is not a book about urban theory or planning. Rather, author Philip Sheldrake offers a revisionist history of Christian theology and spirituality as it applies to the city, and simultaneously mines that tradition in order to uncover resources for dealing with the global phenomenon of urbanization.

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What You Might Overlook in the Papal Encyclical

by Ken Homan, SJ
From The Jesuit Post

Just before the release of Laudato Si, American Magazine writer Kerry Weber tweeted, Is it normal for the night before a new encyclical to feel like Christmas Eve? I completely understood, I was excitedly anticipating the release of the new encyclical as well. Like a kid tearing into a fresh Christmas gift, sentences started to pop out at me with the same excitement I remember from seeing those first telltale signs that Santa's elves had actually listened and delivered that new LEGO set. But like all good presents, the meaning deepens when we actually play with the encyclical and spend some serious time with our new toy. While I still remember first opening that box of LEGOs, the best memories are tied to the hours of building and learning new things.

So it is with Laudato Si. In the hours immediately following its release, buzzwords and excerpts exploded across social media and the news. You should definitely read Henry Longbottom's helpful overview to get a good lay of the land. But first glances

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What to do? The pope's practical tips for helping the environment

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home" is a call for global action as well as an appeal for deep inner conversion.

He points to numerous ways world organizations, nations and communities must move forward and the way individuals -- believers and people of good will -- should see, think, feel and act.

Here are some of the pope's suggestions, with references in parentheses to their paragraphs in the encyclical:

-- Do not give in to denial, indifference, resignation, blind confidence in technical solutions. (14, 59)

-- Have forthright and honest debates and policies; issues cannot be dealt with once and for all, but will need to be "reframed and enriched again and again" by everyone with plenty of different proposals because there is no one way to solve problems. (16, 60, 185)

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The encyclical is first and foremost about human relationships

Allison Walter

Francis: The Environment Encyclical

The anticipation for Pope Francis's newest encyclical on care for creation is something I haven't seen since the midnight release of Harry Potter books. And rightfully so: Francis's encyclical addresses one of the most crucial issues of our time: caring for God's creation. But Pope Francis goes beyond stereotypical "save the whales" rhetoric of reminding people to turn off the lights and to recycle coke bottles. Instead, Francis focuses on why protecting the environment must be human-centered.

While the encyclical is popularly referred to as a climate change encyclical, it first and foremost is about human relationships. Francis makes four claims that set him apart from the debate about climate change:

1. Human interaction is at the heart of ecology. Francis says ecology is not just a relationship between humans and nature. It too is about human

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Churches may be in decline, but Gregorian chant beats secular competition

Leslie Miller Religion News Service

A new Gregorian chant CD by a group of Benedictine monks in Norcia, Italy, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's classical music chart last week. The album, "Benedicta," was also the top overall seller at Barnes & Noble, was No. 2 on Amazon and made iTunes' Top 40.

This is not the first time monastic chant has seen secular appeal; the biggest seller to date has been a CD called "Chant," which became a pop culture sensation 21 years ago. It featured music recorded in the 1970s and '80s by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos in Spain, but it didn't attract much attention until rereleased in 1994 by Angel Records.

With its whimsical cover illustration of hooded friars floating among the clouds, and marketing language that touted a "magical calm," the CD sold 2.6 million copies in the U.S. and more than 6 million worldwide. It was followed by sequels "Chant"

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Francis' encyclical an urgent call to prevent world of 'debris, desolation and filth'

Joshua J. McElwee

Francis: The Environment Encyclical
Vatican City

Pope Francis has clearly embraced what he calls a "very solid scientific consensus" that humans are causing cataclysmic climate change that is endangering the planet. The pope has also lambasted global political leaders for their "weak responses" and lack of will over decades to address the issue.

In what has already been the most debated papal encyclical letter in recent memory, Francis urgently calls on the entire world's population to act, lest we leave to coming generations a planet of "debris, desolation and filth."

"An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at [our] behavior, which at times appears self-destructive," the pope writes at one point in the letter, titled: "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home [1]."

Addressing world leaders directly, Francis asks: "What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?"

Francis writes, "As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear

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Leaked encyclical text puts climate change on humans

Joshua J. McElwee

Francis: The Environment Encyclical

Pope Francis' landmark encyclical on ecological issues will say the "major part" of global climate change is due to human activity and will call for radical changes to the world's political and economic systems to address the issue, according to a leaked version of the text.

The Vatican condemned the leak, saying it broke earlier rules preventing the release of the text before its official launch Thursday. Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said in a statement that the text, an Italian-language version of the document, was a draft and not the final version of the text.

Although the version of the encyclical published by the Italian news magazine l'Espresso is unauthorized, the document explores many themes previously linked to the encyclical, a number of them controversial, including the loss of the planet's biodiversity and continuing inequity between the global North and the global South.

The document also shows a notable reorientation of the church's understanding of the human person from a being that dominates to one that responsibly serves creation.

By Tuesday, most major newspapers in the United States

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Pew survey: 71 percent of Catholics believe in global warming

Soli Salgado
Francis: The Environment Encyclical

(See Article for Survey Details)

A new survey by Pew Research Center [1] shows that U.S. Catholics are slightly ahead of the curve compared to the general public regarding climate change. And like the rest of the country, views among Catholics can be largely predicted by political partisanship.

While 68 percent of the general public said they believe that Earth is warming, 71 percent of all Catholics do. When broken down by political parties, factions among Catholics have a clearer rift: 85 percent who identify themselves as Democrats agree that the Earth is warming, with 72 percent of independents and about half of Republicans (51 percent).

Figures drop, however, when asked if they believe that warming is a consequence of human activity. Less than half of the general public thinks so (45 percent), similar to all Catholics (47 percent). More Catholic Democrats believe humans are the cause (62 percent), but less than a quarter of Catholic Republicans agree (24 percent). These numbers closely resemble those who believe global warming is a very serious problem: 46 percent of the general public agrees with that notion, while 48 percent of all Catholics do (an additional 26 percent saying it is "somewhat serious").

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Franciscan: Encyclical title affirms all creatures have common creator

Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
Eco Catholic

Francis: The Environment Encyclical, Rome

"Laudato Si,' " the title Pope Francis chose for his encyclical on the environment, comes from a hymn of praise by St. Francis of Assisi that emphasizes being in harmony with God, with other creatures and with other human beings, said the head of the Franciscan order.

Sitting under towering trees, surrounded by potted flowers and herbs in the garden of the Franciscan headquarters in Rome, U.S. Fr. Michael Perry, minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, sang the medieval Italian words "laudato si'" (praised be you) and recited the English translation of St. Francis' "Canticle of the Creatures."

The hymn praises God and the reflection of God's glory in "Brother Sun" and "Sister Moon," "Brother Fire" and "Sister Water," and "our sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs."

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Seek, share God's mercy with the lost, unwanted, pope tells priests

Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
The Francis Chronicles

Vatican City

Pope Francis told priests to seek the lost, serve the unwanted and share God's unconditional love.

"I ask you to be shepherds with God's tenderness, to leave the 'whip' hanging in the sacristy and be shepherds with tenderness, even with those who create more trouble for you," he said in a homily during a Mass in the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

About 1,000 priests attending a retreat organized by the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services and Catholic Fraternity met with the pope Friday, the day the church marked the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests. The theme of the June 10-14 retreat in Rome was "Called to Holiness for a New Evangelization."

Before the Mass, the pope first gave an hourlong, off-the-cuff reflection in Spanish, followed by an hour of answering

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The situation with US Catholic youth actually is grim

Christian Smith

Many American Catholics are worried about the apparently weak religious faith, practice and commitment of Catholic youth today and what it portends for the church's future. Some observers are less concerned, however. Four Catholic sociologists -- William D'Antonio, James Davidson, Mary Gautier, and Katherine Meyer -- for example, have suggested that some scholars (including yours truly) overstate the magnitude of the problem. The title of their Dec. 6 NCR essay [1], for instance, summarizes their view about my recent book, Young Catholic America: "Assumptions in study on young Catholics lead to unnecessarily grim outlook." I wish they were correct. But they are not. The situation, in fact, is grim.

I agree with D'Antonio, Davidson, Gautier and Meyer that our respective research studies are methodologically sound and produce reliable data -- at least for answering certain research questions. The problem in this case is that my colleagues are relying upon data that are incapable of addressing the issues

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The Best One can do in the Circumstances

June 15, 2015

Recently I led a weeklong retreat for some sixty people at a renewal center. Overall, it went very well, though ideally it could have gone better. It could have gone better if, previous to the retreat, I would have had more time to prepare and more time to rest so that I would have arrived at the retreat well-rested, fully-energetic, and able to give this group my total undivided attention for seven days.

Of course, that wasn't the case. The days leading up to the retreat were consumed by many pressures in my regular ministry; these were long days that kept me preoccupied and tired. Indeed, in the days leading up to the retreat, I had to do many extra hours of work simply to free myself up to lead this retreat. So I arrived for this retreat partly exhausted and carrying with me still a lot of pressures from my regular duties.

In spite of this, the retreat still went pretty well. I had enough energy and focus to make things essentially work. But it wasn't the best I could do ideally, though it was the best I could do given the circumstances.

Given that confession, it's fair to ask: Didn't those retreatants have a right to have me arrive for this retreat more-rested, more-prepared, and more-ready to give them my full, undivided attention? Fair enough. They did have that right; except that this was mitigated by the fact that all the people who are daily affected by my regular duties also had that same right. They too had a right to my time, my un-fatigued self, my full energies, and my undivided attention. During that week of retreat, my office also got second best: I was not giving it my ideal best; but only what I could do, given the circumstances.

I suspect most time-management experts, and not a few counselors and spiritual directors, would tell me that the reason this tension exists in my life is because of my failure to set clear priorities

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Why Young People Are Drifting From the Church

by Fr. Michael Cummins

In our society's almost dictatorial focus on the individual have we forgotten how to receive and how to be grateful?

A realization that I have arrived at through my prayer with the Community of Sant'Egidio is that our Lord was neither as influenced by nor as burdened by individualism as we are. It can easily be demonstrated that individualism is a cherished notion in the modern American cultural landscape if not, in fact, the highest virtue we subscribe to. We exalt the positives of individualism (and they are there certainly) but do we also recognize as readily the negatives? I would contend that one negative derived from an uncritical adoption of the tenets of individualism is being obliged throughout life to carry the weight of the presumption that if something does not originate from me exclusively then it is not really all that worthwhile.

I remember in a previous assignment as a college chaplain how I would visit the art museum on campus once a week where the work of art majors would be on exhibit. For many of the students this showing was their senior thesis. Much of the work of these students was engaging, creative and very thought-provoking. But a good amount of it was not and one would leave the exhibit with the perception and hunch that the student was almost straining under the compulsion to have to present his or her own unique perception of reality, particular viewpoint or feelings to the world. Frankly, in this forced condition, their viewpoint was not all that interesting and often it was cliched and just plain boring. At these moments I would exit the exhibit with the words of a wise, old Benedictine monk friend ringing in my ears, "Get over yourself!"

This weight can work in a subtle way but it is there - the weight to always have to be unique, always original and to have to prove it! This is quite crushing

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Bishops briefed on rollout of environmental encyclical at spring meeting

Brian Roewe
Eco Catholic
USCCB Spring 2015
Published by the National Catholic Reporter

Pope Francis' coming encyclical on the environment will represent "a significant moment in the life of the church," Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski said Wednesday during the annual spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Wenski and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., briefed their fellow bishops on papal document, officially titled "Laudato Si" [1] and set for release a week from Thursday. Wenski, the chair of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said the encyclical's content -- still unknown, as several bishops noted -- will likely be among the many topics heightened by the pope's U.S. visit in September.

"Some may be asking why we are talking about a document that we haven't seen. Like you, Bishop Cantu and I don't have an advance copy just yet," Wenski said. On Tuesday, the two bishops held a workshop for the bishops on the encyclical in an effort to highlight resources to better communicate its meaning. A separate webinar was held for diocesan communications directors.

During a press conference, Wenski said other planning efforts for the encyclical's release include suggested homilies that incorporate themes from the encyclical with Scripture readings, bulletin inserts, and regional events. In Miami, he said, they plan to present the encyclical in a wide forum to communicate the message.

Asked about suggestions that pieces of the encyclical can be ignored or fall under the scope of prudential judgment, Wenski said he finds it interesting that some make those arguments without having read the encyclical. He added that the

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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 June 26, 2015