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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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A Washington Post reporter recently visited the hinterlands in search of those peculiar people you find outside the Beltway, New York, Los Angeles and all the other alleged centers of power that drive America.

The reporter wrote a front-page story describing life in an Oklahoma town where people believed "their cherished values are under assault." It was a place that had a large sign proclaiming, "Only God Can Save America."

What a radical and unconventional thought in 21st century America.

Yes, they were simple country folk, but smart enough to understand a fundamental truth that the illuminati in the alleged centers of power are too smart to grasp.

The reporter found the concept amusing as she visited a popular church of 400 congregants in the town of 600, where everyone "recites pledges of allegiance to the United States, to the Bible and to the Christian flag."

A major metropolitan newspaper surely must find it entertaining to think people believe the path back for America is prayer ... and not politics.

You see, the prevailing view has always been that America’s hope lies in politics; and look where that has gotten us. We’re going backwards, and our leaders are making decisions based on opinion polls and pressure from special interest groups rather than principles.

Regardless of your politics, Rick Santorum’s candidacy provoked a lot of chuckles and derision from the culturally elite, who, like columnist Maureen Dowd, found it reprehensible if not outright inane that Santorum once suggested in a speech that Satan had America in his sights. I, too, am inclined to think Santorum was wrong. Satan has America in his claws.

The political season seems to have revved up the pick-on-Catholics pastime. There was also an opinion piece in the Huffington Post by a writer for the Simpsons who described Catholics as cannibals and a lot of other grotesque and insulting and profane things, which he defended as satire.

It was certainly awfully heavy-handed satire, more like the ravings of a lunatic whose underwear was too tight. Have no doubt, Catholics are in the crosshairs for suggesting religious liberty should be protected and committing various other alleged transgressions against the popular culture.

I understood exactly how much trouble we’re in as a country after a shooting in an Ohio school left three students dead, and a headline in USA Today said, "Ohio shooting suspect ‘an average 17-year-old.’"

There was a photo of police leading the alleged gunman out of court – a sullen and pathetic, lonely young man who grew up in an abusive home, and it struck me as telling that, yes, this is the new "average," the new normal in America, where shootings and abuse are so commonplace that we don’t even wince anymore when we read about it or see it on the evening news.

All the legislation in the world by Barack Obama, the Democrats and the Republicans isn’t going to change the situation because a spiritual sickness afflicts our country, and you have to be blind not to see it. In many ways, it’s like alcoholism, the disease of denial, because our leaders and the media refuse to acknowledge there’s a problem.

Our only hope, as the Oklahoma sign says, is God. That means prayer, which is a solution you’ll never read about in New York Magazine or hear on the Senate floor while they prattle on and on.

No institution, no human being – not the President or the Chamber of Commerce or the editorial board of The New York Times or the executive suite at JPMorgan Chase – can inspire or mandate the change that’s necessary to bring the world back to love and to make it the place it was intended to be.

Only heaven can direct that plan, and the force that will save us is prayer, not politics. The good news is you don’t even have to run for office to have a part in this campaign.

Call me crazy, but I’m convinced one decade of the rosary can effect more change for good in the hearts of men and women than a decade of congressional sessions. That kind of spiritual empowerment is available to all of us regardless of our name, rank or Social Security number, regardless of our prestige and gross annual income. All we have to do is start, and the time is now.

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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