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Beyond civility, celebration

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Thinking about all the possible outcomes of the Notre Dame commencement yesterday, I began to feel more hopeful as I listened to the Sunday gospel reading, a reading I figured most of those who would attend later in the day would also be hearing.

John reminded us of the centrality of being a Christian.

This is what we heard:

Jesus said to his disciples:
"As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you."
John 15 9-17

Obama's speech at Notre Dame

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When a man in the cheap seats near the top of Notre Dame's Joyce Center interrupted President Obama's commencement speech, shouting "Abortion is murder," the crowd boo'd loudly, then errupted into the cheer, "We are ... ND!" To which Obama responded, "We're not going to shy away from things that are uncomfortable."

He didn't.

Obama tackled the controversy surrounding his speech at the Catholic university directly, calling for "fair-minded words" and a "presumption of good faith" to those with whom we disagree. Applause for this line: "Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son’s or daughter’s hardships might be relieved." (Read the complete text.)

From Notre Dame campus

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Hello from Notre Dame. I'm inside the Joyce Center for the graduation ceremony and President Obama's speech.

The protest begins about 25 miles outside South Bend, Ind., on the Indiana toll road. "Notre Dame: Obama is pro abortion choice. How dare you honor him" says the billboard, accompanied by an in utero baby sucking its thumb. There's one westbound on Interstate 80/90 between Chicago and South Bend, and another eastbound near Elkhart. The billboards were funded by the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, which together created the web site NotreDameProtest to coordinate their oppostition to President Obama's commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame today.

Bishops & basketball coaches: recruiting kids

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The lead story in the Arkansas Catholic is titled, "Diocese hosts first seminarian signing days," and includes a picture of Bishop Anthony Taylor signing letters of intent for two high school boys who agree to go directly into the diocesan seminary upon their high school graduation in front of a gymnasium filled with supporters. (Ironically, the kids appear to be in trouble and are getting a hall pass from the bishop. Where's the joy?)

The story is filled with earnest enthusiasm by family members and the Catholic high school principal. It's certainly an interesting strategy. What happens if these boys decide to leave the seminary? Is there an "unsigning day" in the gymnasium filled with the same people? Seems like a lot of pressure placed on these boys.

It calls to mind the Legionaries of Christ's "Conquest Clubs" that attempt to get 8-10 year old boys into the priesthood channel before the world gets them. (Have the LCs ever disclosed the dropout rate from their seminaries?)

Creativity and violence

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Missionary Oblates of Mary Father Ron Rolheiser writes a beautiful column on the grace that comes from authentic creativity and the way creativity can overcome violence.

This practical and life-giving message is for everyone, especially those who suffer physical violence by wars, guns and drugs and those who suffer non-physical violence such as meanspiritedness, loneliness and being unloved.

Listening to silence

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As Pope Benedict remains silent on the Obama Notre Dame kerfuffle, more writers in the secular press are trying to get a handle on its meaning. Is there a split between conservative U.S. bishops and Rome? Time magazine explores the question in its latest issue.

Meanwhile, NCR contributor Heidi Schlumpf is on the scene at Notre Dame and we will offer several analyses of the presidential words and related events in the aftermath of the visit.

New 'Catholic moment' in Britain

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Britain is ready for a new ‘Catholic moment’ says Stratford Caldecott & the Challenges of the New Archbishop of Westminster

Stratford Caldecott's essay in The Catholic Herald, while focused on Britain, could well be applied to the U.S.

Meanwhile, an article in the The Times (U.K.) about the new Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, suggests that the new archbishop's task is that ‘It’s about values . . . about rediscovering the virtues’.

These two articles are worth reading back-to-back.

The Wall as symptom, not cause

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As Pope Benedict XVI concluded his visit to the Holy Land, he spoke these words that require careful attention: “One of the saddest sights for me during my visit to these lands was the wall. As I passed alongside it, I prayed for a future in which the peoples of the Holy Land can live together in peace and harmony without the need for such instruments of security and separation, but rather respecting and trusting one another, and renouncing all forms of violence and aggression.”

Some commentators have rushed to conclude that the Pope was condemning the security barrier erected by the Israeli government but it seems to me that he was condemning the circumstances that make “such instruments of security and separation” necessary.

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September 12-25, 2014

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