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From Father Thomas Mattison, pastor of Christ Our Savior Parish in Manchester Center and Arlington

It can seem that I have spent an inordinate amount of time laboring over the notion that being is being loved (BIBL). But the fact is that this is the truth of our most fundamental human experience – our own existence. Even if one is unwanted by one or both parents, one is still loved by God.
The continual reinforcement of this lesson keeps us from falling into all kinds of fallacious assumptions about what is truly important in life. When that happens we begin to get distorted views of ourselves, our purpose and our destiny. Such distortions lead us to fears that destroy our peace of mind and our resolve, to desires that warp our affections and dreams, to patterns of
action that are manipulative and utilitarian.
Moreover, if BIBL is untrue, then we must fall back on self-love for the source (clearly not so!) and goal (selflove as death is true, but it makes self-love unattractive!) and our guide in living (a guide that guarantees that we will never experience BIBL – no one love a selfish person).
I have spent a lot of time talking about the absolutely critical role that family and Church play in the reinforcement of this lesson. It is a sad fact, but true, that all the rest of our human encounters involve only parts of ourselves – our intellects, our physical selves, our love of competition, our desire for wealth, our desire to be known, etc. When these are pursued in an unbalanced way, our development and our values become skewed by that unevenness. It remains for the family and the Church to keep repeating the lesson:
It occurs to me that this BIBL lesson must be learned in a community. If BIBL means that I and I alone am loved, then all that is is there to please me. But if the being of any and every other human is to be loved, then loving them, myself, is the only realistic way to acknowledge that they are. Hating, using, abusing, killing, despising, envying, controlling -- anything but loving the other as other – replaces a real, loved person, with a fiction created in my unloving imagination. It is a relationship with, not a person, but an artifact. My
Fair Lady rides again!
If we could count on the rest of our societal structures to keep up the mantra BIBL, things would go better. If we could get them to do that, family life would not be so important. If we could get them to do this job for us, we could all take a break from Church (but then I would have to get a job).
As things stand, however, we must do all that we can to strengthen families and family life. We must do all that we can to keep our Churches from succumbing to the temptation to become something other than communities
of love; places where all can be loved and all are called to be lovers.
For more from Father Mattison’s parish, go to christoursaviorvt.com.

Pope Francis gets high favorability rating in poll of U.S. Catholics

ST. LEO, Fla. (CNS) -- A new poll shows that Pope Francis' favorability dipped slightly among U.S. adults in general but has risen among adult Catholics to just above what it was a year ago. The poll, by St. Leo University Polling Institute in Florida, asked 1,001 respondents if their opinion of the pope was strongly favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable or not at all favorable. The pope's popularity dipped slightly from 65.5 percent in September to 62.6 percent in November. Among Catholic adults, his 85.8 percent favorability was up from the 84.2 percent two months before but down from the 87.5 percent rating he was given in June. Marc Pugliese, an assistant professor of theology and religion at St. Leo University, said the bump might be from the attention to the pope as the Year of Mercy was coming to a close. The pope's highest favorability rating, from this polling group, was at 75.8 percent in September 2015 just after his visit to the United States.

'Loving Tree' helps Byzantine parish reach out to homebound members

LORAIN, Ohio (CNS) -- Each year in the days before Christmas, St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Parish connects with its homebound parishioners in a special way through what they call the St. Nicholas Loving Tree. Different from a Giving Tree, in which people choose a name of someone, usually in need, from the bough of a Christmas tree for whom to buy a gift, the Loving Tree offers corporal works of mercy. Participants then visit the person whose name they have chosen in and around the northern Ohio city of Lorain. Parishioner Gerrie Sandor, who coordinates the project, explained the origin of the project to Horizons, the newspaper of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma. "My friend Anne Squires and I started visiting the sick in July 2001. At the time, there were 35 parishioners on the homebound list from St. Nicholas Parish as well as St. Michael Parish in Lorain," she said. St. Michael Parish closed in 2003. "There were too many (people) for us to visit alone, so we called on our fellow parishioners to help," she continued.

Atlantic Canada bishops address pastoral issues linked to assisted dying

QUEBEC CITY (CNS) -- In a pastoral letter addressing medical aid in dying, the Atlantic Episcopal Assembly says that "the pastoral care of souls cannot be reduced to norms for the reception of the sacraments or the celebration of funeral rites." The four-page letter, issued in late November, offers a "pastoral reflection" on the challenges the assisted-dying law, passed in June, poses to the Canadian Church. "In the pastoral care of those who are contemplating medical assistance in dying, we must remember that the purpose of pastoral care is to communicate the compassion of Christ, His healing love and His mercy," wrote the 10 Catholic bishops from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. "As people of faith, and ministers of God's grace, we are called to entrust everyone, whatever their decisions may be, to the mercy of God. To one and all we wish to say that the pastoral care of souls cannot be reduced to norms for the reception of the sacraments or the celebration of funeral rites," added the bishops. "Persons, and their families, who may be considering euthanasia or assisted suicide and who request the ministry of the Church, need to be accompanied with dialogue and compassionate prayerful support."

After year's divisive elections, bishops urge Catholics to build bridges

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Bishops across the country are encouraging parishioners to put aside their differences and work for the common good as President-elect Donald J. Trump prepared for his Jan. 20 inauguration. The postelection messages that have emerged serve as both spiritual guide and practical response in an effort to overcome polarization and divisiveness that prevents the country from unifying. The election saw Trump, the Republican candidate, win the Electoral College count, 306-232, even though he was out-polled by Democrat Hillary Clinton by more than 2.6 million in the popular vote. Several bishops lamented the negative tone of the nearly two-year-long campaign. "Faced with two unpopular candidates, voters in record numbers decided to hold their noses and vote for the candidate they saw as the least worst option," opined Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski in a column posted online Nov. 10.

Panel: Genocide, wars, indifference will make Mideast Christians extinct

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Christians in the Middle East face extinction because of genocide, wars and international indifference to their plight, according to panelists at a Dec. 5 interfaith forum in New York. A concerted multilateral effort to establish a safe haven for them while rebuilding their devastated homelands is preferable to massive permanent resettlement to other countries, including the United States, they said. Twelve speakers at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture event explored "The Crisis for Christians in the Middle East," with a particular focus on vulnerable Christian minorities in Syria and Iraq. Christians formed the majority in the Middle East until the Crusades in the 12th-14th centuries, but "the past thousand years haven't been good in many ways," said Jack Tannous, assistant professor of history at Princeton University. Tremendous violence perpetrated against Christians led to widespread conversion, he said, and long periods of stasis have been punctuated by large-scale persecution and followed by immigration. As a result, many Christians were effectively exterminated from the lands where they lived for centuries, said Michael Reynolds, associate professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University.

Study: Parents just as attached to devices as their kids are

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- For adults complaining about America's youth being saturated in media usage, it appears the apple hasn't fallen far from the iPad. Parents spend more than nine hours a day with screen media, and the vast majority of that time is spent with personal screen media, according to a study issued Dec. 6 by Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based organization that has long been tracking children's media usage. Even so, according to the study, 78 percent of parents believe they are good media and technology role models for their children. When it came to parents' screen-time use, 51 percent said they used it for eight hours or more each day, 30 percent said for four to eight hours, 13 percent for two to four hours and 6 percent for less than 2 hours. Common Sense said it is possible for people -- parents and children alike -- to use more than one form of media simultaneously, such as listening to music while engaging in social media. Still, some groups' habits skew the survey's results.

At Christmas, recognize your sin and let God caress you, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- At Christmas, God reveals His full power, which is the power of relentlessly seeking his lost sheep and, when He finds them, giving them a caress, Pope Francis said. "One who does not know the caresses of the Lord does not know Christian doctrine. One who does not let himself be caressed by the Lord is lost," the pope said Dec. 6 during his early morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae where he lives. Christmas, he said, is a celebration of the fact that "the Lord comes with His power -- which are his caresses -- to find us, to save us like lost sheep and bring us back to the flock of his Church." Pope Francis said that when he reads the Gospel story of the lost sheep, he always thinks of Judas, "the most perfect lost sheep in the Gospels." In the Bible, he said, Judas seems always to have had "bitterness in his heart," something critical to say about others and a standoffish attitude.

March for Life 

BURLINGTON--The Diocese of Burlington will sponsor a bus trip for Vermonters to show their support for life at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. 
Buses will leave in the evening of Jan. 26 and return Jan. 27.
This trip is intended for adults or those traveling with their families.
The bus will depart from 55 Joy Drive in South Burlington at 6:45 p.m. Jan. 26 with
additional pickups in Vergennes and Fair Haven.
Participants are scheduled to arrive in Washington in time to participate in the Rally for Life in the morning and the March for Life at 1 p.m. Jan. 27 then depart for home at 6 p.m.
Return drop offs in Vermont will begin at about 5 a.m. Jan. 28.
The cost is $75 per person, which does not include meals.
For more information contact The Office of Respect Life Ministries at 55 Joy Drive, South Burlington, VT 05403 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 802-658-6110, ext. 1176.

March for Life Youth event 

BURLINGTON--The Diocese of Burlington will sponsor a bus trip for Vermonters to show their support for life at the annual March for Life event.  Buses will leave in the evening on Jan. 26 and return Jan. 28. This will be an extended itinerary for youth groups and their chaperones to include visits to several shrines in the Washington, D.C., area and an overnight stay.
Participants will depart from 55 Joy Drive in Burlington beginning at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, with additional pickups in Vergennes, Rutland and Bennington.
They are scheduled to arrive in Washington in time to participate in the Rally for Life in the morning and March for Life at 1 p.m. Jan. 27. They will visit the National Shrine of St. John Paul II and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Overnight accommodations will be in Emmitsburg, Md.
The trip includes a visit to the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Jan. 28.
The bus will depart for Vermont 1 p.m. with return drop offs scheduled to begin at about 10 p.m. Jan. 28.
The cost is $150 per person, which does not include meals
Note: Safe and Sacred certification is required for adults 18 and older.
For more information contact The Office of Respect Life Ministries, 55 Joy Drive, South Burlington, VT 05403 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 802-658-6110, ext. 1176.

Rally for Life

MONTPELIER--The Annual Rally for Life Mass will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. (not 9 a.m. as previously advertised) on Saturday, Jan. 21, at St. Augustine Church at 16 Barre St. in Montpelier.  The Mass will be celebrated by Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne and will be followed by the march down State Street and the Rally for Life at the Statehouse, sponsored by the Vermont Right to Life Committee and featuring the theme of “Women’s Voices." Speakers will include Jewels Green of Philadelphia, Sarah Zagurski of Colorado and Amy Cochran of Vermont.
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