The National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood

O Gracious God, we give you thanks for your overflowing generosity to us.
Thank you for the blessings of the food we eat and especially for this feast today.
Thank you for our home and family and friends, especially for the presence of those gathered here.
Thank you for our health, our work and our play.
Please send help to those who are hungry, alone, sick and suffering war and violence.
Open our hearts to your love. We ask your blessing through Christ your son. Amen.

From Celebrating Faith: Year-round Activities For Catholic Families, by Mary Cronk Farrell
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Sunday Sermon

Click here to visit our new page of Sunday Sermons and hear the latest from Saint Vincent's

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

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

November 29, 2015

In this edition:
1. Scapegoating Syrian refugees.
2. Fear, mercy and refugees.
3. The refugees "are us."
4. Muslim leaders on Paris attacks.
5. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Reaction to Paris terrorism.
b) The Syrian refugees.
6. Year of Mercy in suffering world.
7. Faith and mercy after Paris attacks.

November 13, 2015

In this edition:
1. The power of words.
2. Improving the words we use.
3. Laudato Si' as a social encyclical.
4. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Religious liberty.
b) Racism.
c) Year of Mercy is timely.
5. Justice for immigrants conference.
6. Immigration, a moral issue.
7. The laity according to Vatican II.

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

Here's What We're Reading!

God Has Begun a Great Work in Us: Embodied Love in Consecrated Life and Ecclesial Movements, Jason King and Shannon Schrein, OSF

Beyond Empowerment: A Pilgrimage with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Jeffry Odell Korgen

What Do You Really Want? St. Ignatius Loyola and the Art of Discernment, Author: Jim Manney

A Still and Quiet Conscience The Archbishop Who Challenged A Pope, A President and A Church, Review by John A. McCoy

John of the Cross: Man and Mystic, Author: Richard P. Hardy

Rebuilding Your Message: Practical Tools to Strengthen Your Preaching and Teaching, Michael White and Tom Corcoran

It's in the News!

The Hiddenness of God and the Darkness of Faith

Ron Rolheiser

When I first began teaching theology, I fantasized about writing a book about the hiddenness of God. Why does God remain hidden and invisible? Why doesn't God just show himself plainly in a way that nobody can dispute?

One of the standard answers to that question was this: If God did manifest himself plainly there wouldn't be any need for faith. But that begged the question: Who wants faith? Wouldn't it be better to just plainly see God? There were other answers to that question of course, except I didn't know them or didn't grasp them with enough depth for them to be meaningful. For example, one such answer taught that God is pure Spirit and that spirit cannot be perceived through our normal human senses. But that seemed too abstract to me. And so I began to search for different answers or for better articulations of our stock answers to this question. And there was a pot of gold at the end of the search; it led me to the mystics, particularly to John of the Cross, and to spiritual writers such as Carlo Carretto.

What's their answer? They offer no simple answers. What they offer instead are various perspectives that throw light on the ineffability of God, the mystery of faith, and the mystery of human knowing in general. In essence, how we know as human beings and how we know God is deeply paradoxical, that is, the more deeply we know anything, the more that person or object begins to become less conceptually clear. One of the most famous mystics in history suggests that as we enter into deeper intimacy we concomitantly enter into a "cloud of unknowing", namely, into a knowing so deep that it can no longer be conceptualized. What does this mean?

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Pope calls for eliminating carbon use, says failure in Paris would be 'catastrophic'

Joshua J. McElwee

Francis in Africa 2015
Nairobi, United Nations
Taken from the National Catholic Reporter
See article by Gene Hemrick on keeping the ecological movement going posted on our web site

Pope Francis has said that failure of the international community to reach agreement on measures to fight climate change at next week's U.N. Climate Conference in Paris would be "catastrophic," and has called for a new global energy system that relies on "little or no" use of carbon.

In an address Thursday to the U.N. offices in Nairobi during his Nov. 25-30 trip to three African countries, the pontiff made some of his most forceful remarks for protection of the environment -- mentioning the high stakes of the global leaders' discussions and even proposing a new way of energy use based on three objectives.

Mentioning the Paris talks, beginning Sunday and formally known as the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21), the pope said bluntly: "It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good."

"We are confronted with a choice that cannot be ignored: either to improve or to destroy the environment," he continued.

The pontiff said that the Paris meeting "represents an important stage" in a developing a new global energy system, which he said should be based on three pillars: "minimal use of fossil fuels," energy efficiency and "use of energy sources with little or no carbon content."

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Doing Justice to Love

Taken from The Jesuit Post

God loves everyone. I don't.

Recent months have seen a flurry of humanitarian crises throughout the world. These crises almost invariably unfold the same way: A horrendous event occurs. A great outpouring of sympathy and support follows. Then comes a backlash from people saying that helping such persons is not our responsibility. Finally a swift reaction from those who urge us to love and care for the afflicted no matter where they are from.

This script has played out most notably in the Syrian refugee crisis. The tragic plight of these displaced persons called for immediate action. Many, including persons with considerable political authority, denied that they had any such responsibility. The response was swift and powerful. How could anyone not love these people, it was often asked. How could anyone not want to take all of these people into their home? Don't you see that rejecting these refugees is just like turning Mary and Joseph away from the inn???

This public debate unsettles me, and frankly, I feel distant from these tragedies. On principle I do not like when terrible things happen around the world, and am opposed to them. But I can't say that I love those people, or that my heart is really breaking for them.

Don't get me wrong: I want to love people I see on the news. I truly do. When I think of how much I love my mother and father, my dearest friends, it makes me sad that I can't muster a similar love for the countless victims of terrorist attacks. It comes down to this, if I am honest: love can be hard work, even with those we love dearly. How much harder is it to maintain that love for those half

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Conference asks: What might the new face of the church look like?

NCR Staff

NCR 50th anniversary conference
River Forest, Ill.

Jamie Manson, a columnist and book review editor for NCR, has traveled all around the country over the past five years talking to different Catholic groups. "There are no questions I get more than 'What is the future of the church in this country?' and 'Where are our young adults?'"

Her answer, she said, might have come as a shock to some of the 750 gathered Oct. 24 to mark the 50th anniversary celebration of National Catholic Reporter with a conference titled "New Faces, New Voices, New Ways of Being Church: An Exploration of the American Catholic Church Going Forward [2]."

First, to answer the rhetorical question, "What might the new face of the church look like?", Manson cited current sociological research into young-adult Americans and her personal interactions with that demographic. She reported that 23 percent of all adult Americans and 35 percent of Millennials (those born 1981-1996) have no religion in particular. Social scientists of religion call them the "nones."

"The new face of the church won't have much of a face at all," Manson said before a near-capacity audience in the Lund Auditorium of Dominican University, co-sponsor of the conference, in River Forest

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Reflections on the USCCB Meeting, Part II

Michael Sean Winters

USCCB Fall 2015
Taken from the National Catholic Reporter

Yesterday, I looked at this week's USCCB meeting through the lens of four interventions in the discussion on Faithful Citizenship, interventions that highlighted some of the divisions within the conference about the role of the Church in society. Today, I would like to look at two other aspects of the meeting which are more ecclesial in nature.

During the recent synod, many synod fathers talked about how the changed format -- emphasizing fewer floor speeches and more small group discussions, and interspersing the small group meetings throughout the three weeks, rather than saving them to the end -- made for a much more synodal process. The bishops actually wrestled with ideas and forged consensus, nothing was off-limits in the discussion, and the entire event was more akin to a genuine synodal process than previous iterations of the synods in the Latin Church.

In addition, Pope Francis delivered a major address during the synod on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the restoration of Western synods at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council. "The journey of synodality is the journey that God wants from his church in the third millennium," the Holy Father said in his Oct. 17 address. "A synodal church is a listening church, aware that

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Don't Waste Love

From The Jesuit Post

At 6:30 AM, my phone buzzes loudly on the faux-wood desktop in my room, tearing me from an intimate moment with Albert Camus and French existentialism. Someone who loves me is texting to say good morning.

I don't respond. My mind is sharpest in the early hours, and I have to study. Outside, the sun rises and casts brilliant gold light on deep red brick across the street. I keep my blinds closed.

I check my email en route to lunch around midday. Someone who loves me sent a note from Rome. No time now. I'll respond later.

But, I don't. Between my smartphone and computer, the note gets buried under dozens more emails, most of which don't matter and get deleted without pause. Still, the one from Rome gets lost in cyberland, and I forget it was ever sent in the first place.

A little red "1" sits atop the phone icon on my home screen. A voicemail from someone who loves me has been sitting for three weeks and counting, waiting patiently to be heard.

I don't listen. By now, it's been so long that if I do finally return the call, I'm afraid to explain myself. It can wait a little longer. Meanwhile, lake waves crash onto big rocks along the shoreline just outside my house. All day long, I walk through campus, barely noticing that the lake is there.

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Lacking the Self-Confidence for Greatness

Ron Rolheiser

We all have our own images of greatness as these pertain to virtue and saintliness. We picture, for instance, St. Francis of Assisi, kissing a leper; or Mother Teresa, publicly hugging a dying beggar; or John Paul II, standing before a crowd of millions and telling them how much he loves them; or Therese of Lisieux, telling a fellow community member who has been deliberately cruel to her how much she loves her; or even of the iconic, Veronica, in the crucifixion scene, who amidst all the fear and brutality of the crucifixion rushes forward and wipes the face of Jesus.

There are a number of common features within these pictures that speak of exceptional character; but there's another common denominator here that speaks of exceptionality in a different way, that is, each of these people had an exceptionally strong self-image and an exceptionally strong self-confidence.

It takes more than just a big heart to reach across what separates you from a leper; it also takes a strong self-confidence. It takes more than an empathic heart to publicly hug a dying beggar; it also takes a very robust self-image. It takes more than mere compassion to stand before millions of people and announce that you love them and that it's important for them to hear this from you; it also takes the rare inner-confidence. It takes more than a saintly soul to meet deliberate cruelty with warm affection; it also requires that first you yourself have experienced deep love in your life. And it takes more than simple courage to ignore the threat and hysteria of a lynch mob so as to rush into an intoxicated crowd and lovingly dry the face of the one they hate; it takes someone who has herself first experienced a strong love from someone else.

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Facebook and Prayer:
A Reaction to Paris and Beirut

Taken from The Jesuit Post

I woke up the other morning to find my Facebook feed plastered in blue, white, and red - not to be confused with the Yankee red, white, and blue. Sadly, this was no 4th of July celebration, but instead, a sobering reminder of the 13 November terrorist attacks in Paris. So many of my friends displayed profile pictures with a French flag overlay as a means of showing solidarity with the 129 victims across 6 city locations

I felt overcome with grief for our sisters and brothers across the pond - 129 innocent lives lost: mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, children, and dear friends.

I kept asking myself, "What does ISIS really want amidst this horrific violence, and is there anything we can do about it, given that we're thousands of miles away?" How do we reason with a such a well-financed machine intent on using terrorism as a vehicle for religious cleansing and political expansion? Sheesh. I'm not sure there are any easy answers.

The US and France are part of a coalition relying on air strikes to cripple the group. Are these strikes effective? Do we need more of them? Maybe it's too naive to advocate for some sort of a nonviolent approach? I'm just not sure. This is where the world starts to become more complex than I could ever imagine.

And so I go to my knees. Sure, that sounds fairly cliche; it's common for people of faith to mention prayer when we are at a loss for words. It shouldn't be a cop-out for thinking critically and with a creative heart. Hear me out, though: lately I've been thinking that prayer has to be the starting point when critically engaging issues like this.

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The Communion of Saints

Ron Rolheiser

At any given time, most of the world believes that death isn't final, that some form of immortality exists. Most people believe that those who have died still exist in some state, in some modality, in some place, in some heaven or hell, however that might be conceived. In some conceptions, immortality is seen as a state wherein a person is still conscious and relational; while in other concepts, existence after death is understood as real but impersonal, like a drop of water that has flowed back into the oceans.

As Christians, this is our belief: We believe that the dead are still alive, still themselves and, very importantly, still in a living, conscious, and loving relationship with us and with each other. That's our common concept of heaven and, however simplistic its popular expression at times, it is wonderfully correct. That's exactly what Christian faith and Christian dogma, not to mention deep intuitive experience, invite us to. After death we live on, conscious, self-conscious, in communication with others who have died before us, in communion with those we left behind on earth, and in communion with the divine itself. That's the Christian doctrine of the Communion of Saints.

But how is this to be understood? Not least, how do we connect to our loved ones after they have died? Two interpenetrating biblical images can help serve as an entry-point for our understanding of this. Both come from the Gospels.

The Gospels say that at the instant of Jesus' death, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were

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Francis' priorities vs. the priorities of the U.S. bishops

Thomas Reese

Taken from the National Catholic Reporter

As the U.S. bishops gather in Baltimore for their annual fall meeting this week, they will be deciding their priorities until the end of this decade. Will these priorities sync with those of Pope Francis or will the bishops continue on as if the pope is not taking the church in a new direction?

At their spring meeting in St. Louis, the bishops approved a working draft of the bishops' conference's strategic priorities for their 2017-2020 planning cycle by a vote of 165 to 14 with three abstentions. Although the draft was approved overwhelmingly, some bishops from the floor questioned whether these priorities were consistent with those of Francis.

The drafters promised that input shared by the bishops would be provided to the various committees as they write the final version. The resulting draft will be presented for approval by the full body of bishops at their meeting Nov. 16-17.

The draft priorities approved last spring are:

  • Family and marriage
  • Evangelization
  • Religious freedom
  • Human life and dignity
  • Vocations and ongoing formation

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Keeping the Ecological Ball Rolling

Eugene Hemrick

Today's ecological programs are abundant, creative and inspirational. To name just a few: wind farms, solar panels, energy saving devices, recycling, roof top gardens, streamlined waste management, rain gardens, rain barrels, and light rail transportation. As awesome as is this inventiveness, will it continue to grow and be even more awesome, or will it decelerate and be replaced by other exciting movements? What role in particular does parish church life need to play in order to keep the ecological movement alive and well?

Why raise this question now in the midst of an upsurge in ecological enthusiasm?

For one reason, movements tend to have their day in the sun and with time to wane and disappear due to life-changing circumstances. What inspired an older generation is not always as inspirational to the next. Those who experienced World War II come from a time in which conserving and respect of resources were the rule. Although we are blessed with abundance like never before, taking it for granted is easy to succumb to.

Another concern in regards to ecological awareness waning is human fascination tends to rapidly flit from one thing to another. A new car may be the rage one day and along comes a more attractive model the next

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Catholicism can and must change, Francis forcefully tells Italian church gathering

Joshua J. McElwee

Florence, Italy
Taken from the National Catholic Reporter

Pope Francis has strongly outlined anew a comprehensive vision for the future of the Catholic church, forcefully telling an emblematic meeting of the entire Italian church community here that our times require a deeply merciful Catholicism that is unafraid of change.

In a 49-minute speech to a decennial national conference of the Italian church -- which is bringing together some 2,200 people from 220 dioceses to this historic renaissance city for five days -- Francis said Catholics must realize: "We are not living an era of change but a change of era."

"Before the problems of the church it is not useful to search for solutions in conservatism or fundamentalism, in the restoration of obsolete conduct and forms that no longer have the capacity of being significant culturally," the pontiff said at one point during his remarks.

"Christian doctrine is not a closed system incapable of generating questions, doubts, interrogatives -- but is alive, knows being unsettled, enlivened," said the pope. "It has a face that is not rigid, it has a body that moves and grows, it has a soft flesh: it is called Jesus

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Right role of technology dissected at Santa Clara encyclical conference

Mandy Erickson

Francis: The Environment Encyclical
Santa Clara, Calif.

While Silicon Valley has long developed technology and business models aimed at saving the planet, Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment has given the sector's work a critical promotion, said speakers at a conference on the document held this week at Santa Clara University.

"It's the alliance between science and religion and policy that's going to save us," said Veerabhadran Ramanathan, professor of atmospheric and climate sciences at the University of California, San Diego.

With so many people skeptical that human activity has wrought climate change, "we need the help of religions," added Ramanathan, who sits on the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences. "I view Pope Francis as the moral authority of the world."

The conference, "Our Future on a Shared Planet: Silicon Valley in Conversation with the Environmental Teachings of Pope Francis," featured one of the pope's primary encyclical promoters, as well as academics and civic leaders who largely praised "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home" and presented a hopeful version of.

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The Choice of the Family: A Call to wholeness, abundant life, and enduring happiness

Author: Jean Laffitte
Image Books. New York. 2015. Pp. 174

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

[Jean Laffitte] the head of the Pontifical Council on the Family at the Vatican focuses on the intricacies of family and provides theological and practical insight to deepen our relationships with our parents, children, brothers and sisters, and ultimately, God.

When the Catholic Church speaks of "vocation" she means the "calling out" of each human person to accomplish a task preordained by God in co-redemption of the world. Every human being has a vocation God created each individual soul with a specific purpose in mind. Thus, the greatest joy for a Christian is pursuing the purpose for which God created him or her. For Christians, marriage is a vocation. In this series of interviews and reflections, Bishop Laffitte stresses the importance of the family in the twenty-first century and issues a call to action for everyone to reinvigorate the teachings of Jesus in his or her day-to-day life.

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God's Holy Fools? The Wisdom of Living Saints

Taken from The Jesuit Post

The Fool

'Smee' would not appreciate being called a fool, holy or otherwise.

Sister Marie Estelle (special ops codename: "Smee") was the principal of our Catholic grade school in Milwaukee for many years. Like so many great religious women, Sr. Marie Estelle ran an incredible school on a shoestring budget. Each morning she would greet us at the door with a smile, a pat on the back, and a word of encouragement.

I remember one Mardi Gras celebration in particular. Sister was running the pinata hitting station. After spinning a blind-folded seventh grader into dizziness, Sister didn't manage to retreat to a safe distance in time. Whack! She took a whiffle bat to the head that would've stunned Jose Canseco, let alone a thin, kindly religious sister. And yet, like the near-invincible T-1000 from Terminator, she lifted her head, smiled to assure us she was all right, and handed the bat to the next batter. No harm, no foul.

* * *

I never was in a class taught by Sr. Marie Estelle. But some twenty years later, I am still inspired by this holy woman who left such an impression on my young soul. No doubt each

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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 December 1, 2015