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Students represent the Archdiocese of Hartford at the March for Life today on the National Mall.

8202773256 5d16c585fa mA statue of Blessed Junipero Serra at the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala in San Diego, Calif. (Photo by Bob Mullen/The Catholic Photographer)

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM MANILA, Philippines (CNS) – Pope Francis said his September trip to the U.S. will take him to Philadelphia, New York and Washington – where he intends to canonize Blessed Junipero Serra – but probably no other stops.

sledesky 053 webA man photographs Father Stephen Sledesky, pastor of St. Bridget Parish in Manchester, and friends during reception in priest's honor Jan. 11.

MANCHESTER – Hundreds gathered at St. Bridget Parish on Jan. 11 to honor Father Stephen Sledesky, who was recognized as this year’s Archdiocesan Distinguished Elementary School Pastor. The award is presented annually to a pastor who exemplifies leadership, dedication and commitment to Catholic school education.

20150118cnsbr7984 webAn aerial view shows pilgrims gathering to hear a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Rizal Park in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 18. The view shows only a portion of the Mass site. (CNS photo/Philippine Air Force/Handout via Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Pope Francis told a crowd of an estimated 6 million gathered in a Manila park to protect the family "against insidious attacks and programs contrary to all that we hold true and sacred, all that is most beautiful and noble in our culture."

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FARMINGTON – The campaign for the 2015 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal got off to a rousing start with a reception and dinner for past donors at Farmington Gardens Jan. 9. Archbishop Leonard P. Blair spoke on the theme of this year’s appeal, “Living the Joy of the Gospel.”

st fran spirit award winners 2015 webFrom left, Mark and Barbara Lentini, Daniel O'Connell and Christopher M. Dadlez

HARTFORD – Archbishop Emeritus Henry J. Mansell and the late David A. Lentini were recipients of the St. Francis Spirit Award during the annual luncheon meeting of St. Francis Care, parent company of St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, at the Connecticut Convention Center Jan. 7.

soccer web(Photo provided by Knights of Columbus/l'Osservatore Romano)

Wilfrid Macena and other members of a Haitian amputee soccer team present Pope Francis with a soccer jersey on Jan. 12, commemorating the fifth anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson stands to Mr. Macena’s left.

20150112cnsbr7611 webA Swiss Guard keeps watch as Pope Francis speaks during an audience with the Vatican diplomatic corps Jan. 12. (CNS photo/Claudio Peri pool via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Highlighting some of the most urgent conflicts facing the world, Pope Francis said such strife and injustices were rooted in a culture of rejection that refuses to recognize God, to protect nature and to respect other human beings.

In a wide-ranging speech Jan. 12 to diplomats accredited to the Vatican, the pope urged the world's governments and individuals to work "to end every form of fighting, hatred and violence, and to pursue reconciliation, peace and the defense of the transcendent dignity of the human person."

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Archbishop Leonard P. Blair and Father John P. Gatzak record a session of “Archbishop’s Corner” at the chancery in Hartford for airing radio station WJMJ 88.9 FM. (Photo by Jack Sheedy)

HARTFORD – Bishops, priests and deacons often preach from a pulpit, high above the heads of their listening congregations. It’s part of their job – their ministry – but, for Archbishop Leonard P. Blair at least, it’s not enough.

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I went to a long and painful dinner party recently. The hostess either had a sense of irony or thought I deserved some temporal punishment for the misdeeds I’ve committed in life, so she sat me beside a strident anti-Catholic fallen Catholic. And then the fun began.

All night long, from the arugula salad with gorgonzola cheese through the roasted salmon and then the mixed berry tart with decaffeinated coffee, she went from one complaint about the Catholic Church to another, as if she were obsessed.

I would have preferred an evening of small talk about the weather, the presidential campaign or the Kardashians, but with this woman, it was nothing but business, and her business was trashing the Church.

The topics were all familiar ones – the nuns hit her with 16-inch rulers when she went to Catholic grammar school, the nuns in high school gave her a distorted view of God, the sex-abuse scandal, disagreement with the teaching on birth control and various other complaints.

She went to Catholic school for 16 years, so this gave her ample opportunities to grumble about the religious orders that taught at each institution.

"I go to the First Congregational Church now," she said proudly, "and I enjoy every moment of it."

She looked at me with intense questioning in her eyes as if to ask, "Aren’t you going to argue with me?"

Clearly, that was one of her goals – to provoke me into defending the Church. However, it was obvious there was no arguing with her because it meant confronting a lifetime of accumulated acrimony, and I knew that only grace and prayer could change her now. The Holy Spirit had to do some heavy lifting, and it was heavy lifting that only the Holy Spirit could do.

Over the years, I’ve met other people like her; and their bitter memories, which are usually exaggerated and sometimes justified, become almost obsessive.

During her relentless outpouring of venom, I felt as if I was being pelted with rocks. I was getting tired listening to her and wanted to leave dinner early or else turn to the woman on the other side of me to discuss something lighter, perhaps the national debt, but she was talking to the head of the local hospital about health care. I have to say the health care debate never seemed so inviting before.

"We’ve exhausted religion," I said, "so why don’t we talk about politics or sex?"

She ignored my joke and asked, "Why do you still go to that Church?" All night long I knew this was where she was headed. I was a practicing Catholic, ergo I was guilty.

"The novelist Walker Percy converted to Catholicism," I told her, "and when reporters asked him why he did it, he would always respond, ‘What else is there?’"

I saw anger flash across her eyes.

"What else is there?" I repeated.

She was about to go around the block again and repeat her many complaints about the Church, but before she could, I said, "I believe in the True Presence, I believe that the Eucharist is the Body of Christ and I don’t want to live without it."

She certainly understood the dogma of the True Presence after all that Catholic upbringing. The nuns had taught her well.

"I have my doubts about that," she sniffed. "I always had."

"I don’t."

"But I can’t believe that teaching after everything I’ve –"

I interrupted her and said, "Let me just talk for a moment," and she graciously shut up.

"Pray to be shown the truth," I said, "because if Christ is truly present in the Eucharist – and I believe he is – receiving him is about the most important thing you can do in life. Anything I say won’t convince you, but if you pray with an open heart, you’ll get the answer you need."

There was silence. She didn’t want to hear what I had to say. But Walker Percy was right – what else is there?

There are a lot of fallen anti-Catholics in the world, a lot of very angry fallen Catholics, people who are so spiritually debilitated by their frustrations that they don’t see the miracle occurring every day in the sacrifice of the Mass, a miracle that’s available to everyone regardless of their position in life or their financial assets or their academic degrees.

The problem with this woman and the rest of them is that they are so obsessed with the crack in the sidewalk that they don’t lift up their eyes to see the splendor and infinite beauty of the sky.

J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.

Events Calendar

January 2015
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07:00 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
"Finding the Sacred in Everyday Life," a two-part program, will be presented by Lisa Velazquez, certified [...]
Date :  January 19, 2015
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09:00 AM
Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford
Archbishop Leonard P. Blair will celebrate the annual Rally for Life Mass at 9 a.m. Jan. 24 at the [...]
09:00 AM
Doubletree by Hilton, Bristol, Bristol, United States
Magnificat for women will meet for breakfast from 9 a.m. to noon Jan. 24 at the Doubletree by Hilton in Bristol. Registration begins at [...]
Date :  January 24, 2015
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12:00 PM
St. Mary School, Newington, Michigan City, United States
Saint Mary School in Newington will host several open houses next week for families interested in the [...]
Date :  January 25, 2015
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02:00 PM
Spiritual Renewal Center, Norwich, Norwich, United States
A Mass of Healing will be celebrated at 2 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Spiritual Renewal Center in Norwich. It is [...]
05:15 PM
Albertus Magnus College, New Haven, New Haven, United States
Dr. Denys Turner will speak on “A Teacher and Two Students: Albert, Thomas Aquinas and Meister Eckhart” on from 5:15-6:30 p.m. Jan. 26 in the Hubert Campus Center on the New Haven campus [...]
07:00 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
"Finding the Sacred in Everyday Life," a two-part program, will be presented by Lisa Velazquez, certified [...]
12:00 AM
Knights of Columbus Museum, New Haven, New Haven, United States
The Knights of Columbus Museum’s 10th annual Christmas crèche exhibition, “Buon Natale: Crèches of Italy,” opened Dec. 1 and remains on view until Feb. 1 with [...]
Date :  January 26, 2015
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01:00 PM
St. Mary School, Newington, Michigan City, United States
Saint Mary School in Newington will host several open houses next week for families interested in the [...]
Date :  January 29, 2015
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06:30 PM
My Father's House, Moodus, East Haddam, United States
MOODUS – Healing and a spaghetti supper will be combined at 6:30 p.m. Jan 30 at My Father’s House at [...]
Date :  January 30, 2015
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01:30 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, United States
Caritas Christi Center's ongoing centering prayer program will continue from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at the [...]
09:00 AM
My Father's House, Moodus, East Haddam, United States
MOODUS – Matthew Arnold, speaker, author, producer and host of the radio program “Shield of Faith” on Radio Maria, will present a program titled [...]
Date :  January 31, 2015

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