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Bishops' Statement on Health Care Expected Soon

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Most everyone, it seems, has a view of the health care bill President Obama will sign today -- except the US Bishops. That will likely change today or tomorrow. The bishops' administrative committee is meeting in Washington and word is that a statement on the bill is forthcoming.

Meanwhile, one of their colleagues, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput offers his view in the diocesan newspaper regular column. It is a "bad bill," writes Chaput, and a process "in which self-described 'Catholic' groups have done a serious disservice to justice, to the Church, and to the ethical needs of the American people by undercutting the leadership and witness of their own bishops."

A Resurrection

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A year ago this Easter, I traveled to Italy and met the Great Mystery of My Family. It came not a moment too soon.

The mystery's name is Aneillo, and he is my uncle – my mother's brother who I had never met, and who she had only seen once in her life, in a trip to Italy she made more than twenty years ago. He was the brother who had been left behind.

Network deserves credit for health care reform

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Network, along with the Catholic Health Association, can take real credit for health care reform. On Sunday, I had the opportunity to talk to Sr. Simone Campbell, the Executive Director of NETWORK. She is the author of the letter, signed by the leadership of American nuns, advocating a vote for health care reform legislation without the highly restrictive anti-abortion language (the original Stupak language) that the bishops wanted. Like the Catholic Health Association, these nuns believed that the anti-abortion provisions in the Senate version of the bill preserved the status quo (i.e., no federal funding for abortion), and took a courageous stand that disagreed publicly with the bishops.

Sr. Simone told me that she gathered the signatures in only 48 hours, and then hand-delivered the letters to offices on the Hill. In several places, she said, the response was gratitude and even relief, with expressions like “…this is just what we need.”

Mar. 23, ??????? ????

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Today is the feast of St. Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès, (1832-1914), a Lebanese Maronite nun.

Rafqa was born in a village near Bikfaya, Lebanon. Her mother died when she was seven, and four years later, her father sent her to Damascus to work as a servant.

She returned home at the age of fifteen. She was unwilling to marry the relatives her stepmother and her aunt selected for her, and in 1859 she entered the Mariamette convent in Bikfaya. She taught in the order's schools until 1871, when "a crisis in the congregation" caused her to transfer to the Lebanese Maronite Order.

U.S. sex abuse survivors extend network in Germany

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Munich, Germany

Barbara Blaine and Barbara Dorris of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), are here for a day before heading to Vienna and Berlin. They placed several dozen photographs of children abused by priests at the front gate of the office of Archbishop Reinhard Marx, who heads the archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

U. N. report released on World Water Day says more people die from polluted water than from wars

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Dirty water is killing more people than wars and other violence, the United Nations announced on World Water Day.

Almost all dirty water produced in homes, businesses, farms, and factories in developing countries washs into rivers and seas without being decontaminated.

What's more, over half of water supplies that have been purified to the point that they are potable are lost through leaky pipes and ill-maintained sewage networks, according to a report released today. Saving half of these lost supplies could give clean water to 90 million people without the need for costly new infrastructure, says the U. N. report.

“The sheer scale of dirty water means more people now die from contaminated and polluted water than from all forms of violence including wars,” the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said.

This includes 2.2 million people whose deaths are attributed to diarrhea, mostly from dirty water, and 1.8 million children aged under five who succumb to water-borne diseases. This equates to one infant every 20 seconds.

The Indispenable Sister Carol

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It is always a bit dangerous to predict how future historians will interpret events. Certainly, Xavier Rynne never foresaw Jospeh Raztinger, by way of example. But, when historians come to analyze the reasons health care reform passed this time when such political giants as FDR and LBJ failed to achieve it, many people will get the credit. First and foremost, the voters who elected Barack Obama who pledged to deliver health care reform deserve a large bit of credit. Obama himself deserves his share of the plaudits, especially because the Massachusetts special election in January gave him ample reason to set the troublesome issue aside. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s performance shamed the historical reputation of the men who wielded the Speaker’s gavel before her. But, one woman seems to me to have been especially indispensable: Sister Carol Keehan.

The great balancing act

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How do we live out our unique identity and embrace our own mystery? One way is to open the ancient overflowing toolbox of our spiritual traditions. Nestled therein are many reliable implements that have stood the test of centuries of use in the work of creative inner integration and soul crafting.

What are some of these tools? Patience, silence, incubating darkness, the wonderful yeasting action of prayer, wise and careful discernment, the adventure of striving for simplicity, meditation techniques, the great and not-so-easy art of letting go, the simple craft of mindfulness, the call to the death-rebirth dynamic of the paschal mystery, the cultivation of a contemplative attitude, renunciation, fasting, forgiveness, and the endless mystery of forgiving others.

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July 18-31, 2014

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