Archive for February, 2010

NB: Prayer for the Dead. Why do we do it?

Thursday, February 11th, 2010


A short explanation of “Saturday of the Dead”


Around the time of Great Lent, we have some Saturdays which are set aside for the commemoration of the dead. We call these days “Saturday of the dead”, or “All Souls Saturday”, and we just celebrated the first one appointed during this time of year, on the Saturday before the Sunday of the Last Judgment (the penultimate Sunday before Great Lent begins).


The full list of “Saturdays of the dead” for the year is::

·  The second Saturday before Great Lent (before the Sunday of the Last Judgment)

·  The third Saturday of Great Lent

·  The fourth Saturday of Great Lent

·  The Saturday before Pentecost

·  Demetrius Saturday (Saturday before Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki – 26 October)


The proper way to celebrate these days is to serve Vespers the evening before and on Saturday morning, celebrate “requiem matins”, which is a special form of matins in which the dead are commemorated by name two times (if memory serves) and all of Psalm 118 is chanted in two parts. Some people call this a long “panakhida” (parastas in Greek) which is the typical prayer service for the dead which Orthodox Christians are familiar with.


Of course, following matins, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, and the dead are again all commemorated by name. It is important that an Orthodox Christian submit the names of Orthodox loved ones who have reposed. We have the custom of accepting names by email or other means, and are not prejudiced against the dead because their loved ones are not at the service to pray for them as well, but it is much better to pray in person for one’s loved ones. The priest prays for the people and with the people, but (as much as possible), not instead of the people!


It is a shame that the requiem matins is almost unknown among modern Orthodox. Just check the online calendars for most churches. This service is almost never mentioned. With God helping us, we have preserved this tradition. Like Philip, I must say “Come and see” to those who do not know of this service. It is good to make an effort to pray for the dead, and to hear compunctionate hymns, and think of our own death. Somehow a quickie “Trisagion Service” just does not cut it on these days.


Why do we pray for the dead?  


Many people who call themselves Christians are offended when they hear that we pray for the dead. This begs the question: Why do we pray for the dead?


The answer is really easy. We pray for the dead for three reasons that I can think of off the top of my head.


Most importantly, we believe in the resurrection. God is the God of the Living, and not of the dead, our Lord told us, and we believe this truth. If this is true, then the dead have not ceased to exist, because “all are alive to God.” Praying for the dead, as much as asking the dead (those whom we believe to be righteous) to intercede for us shows that we really do believe in the resurrection.


We also know that “all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, and there is “not one man who liveth and sinneth not”, and we (at least as a church, if not individually) are profoundly humble. How can we know the judgments of God? They are a vast abyss. We do not presume to declare that one is blessed and another is damned. God knows, and only rarely reveals to us this with certainty.


We also pray because we love. Love remembers. We continue to remember our loved ones even though they are no longer with us who have living flesh.


Why do we pray for the dead? Because, knowing the weakness of flesh and mans predilection to sin, we hope in the resurrection, leaving all judgment to God, and because we love, we remember.


Here is another reason: We pray because we love, and also prayer teaches us to love. It takes effort and time to pray for those from whom we hear no answer. Let’s face it – we rarely think of death, and mostly think of ourselves. By making an effort to pray, We not only remember our loved ones; God also remembers us and softens our hearts and teaches us to love. Remember an important principle in the Christian life: What we do affects who we are and vice-versa!  


The next Saturday for the dead that we will remember (we cannot do all of them yet) is March 6 (ns), the third Saturday of Lent. Will you remember your loved ones on that day?


More about the Commemoration of the Dead



“NB” is shorthand for “nota bene” ,which is Latin for “Note well”. These shorter posts are meant to be “noted well” more often because they are briefer than the usual blog posts. I have “noted well”  that many of my flock does do not read the longer posts. I have a lot of stuff to tell you, so there will still be longer posts, but I also plan to post shorter “snippets” which will have “NB:” in the title.

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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Questions on Forgiveness Sunday

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

This coming Sunday is the "Sunday of Forgiveness", the last day before the beginning of Great Lent. Here are a few questions and answers about this day.


Why Is Forgiveness Sunday so-called?

St Tikhon answers this question quite well:

"Today is called "Forgiveness Sunday". It received this name from the pious Orthodox Christian custom at Vespers of asking each other’s forgiveness for discourtesy and disrespect. We do so, since in the forthcoming fast we will approach the sacrament of Penance and ask the Lord to forgive our sins, which forgiveness will be granted us only if we ourselves forgive each other. "If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matt. 6.14, 15)" (From a sermon by St Patriarch Tikhon, when he was Bishop of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. 1901. Text taken from email posted to an Orthodox mailing list)


What event is commemorated on Forgiveness Sunday?


On the last Sunday before Great Lent begins, we remember the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise.

Adam was banished from Paradise through disobedience / and cast out from delight, / beguiled by the words of a woman. / Naked he sat outside the garden, lamenting ‘Woe is me!’ / Therefore let us all make haste to accept the season of the Fast / and hearken to the teaching of the Gospel, / that we may gain Christ’s mercy // and receive once more a dwelling-place in Paradise. (Sticheron from Lord I have cried, 6th tone, Forgiveness Sunday)


The last weekend before Great Lent is the last time we do several things. Can you think of three things that are not done again until after Great Lent (or even well after Pascha)?


Forgiveness Sunday is the last day in which we eat milk, cheese, eggs and other dairy products until Pascha.

It is also the last Sunday we will serve St. John Chrysostom’s liturgy until Palm Sunday (which, by the way, is not considered to be in Great Lent). During the holy fast, St Basil’s liturgy is served on Sundays.

The matins service for this weekend is the last time the theologically rich and compunctionate singing of "By the Waters of Babylon" psalm until next year. It is only sung in church the three Sundays that precede Great Lent.


Fasting is discussed in the services on Forgiveness Sunday, and all the days of Great Lent. What *most important* kind of fasting is stressed over and over?


The services of the church and the fathers stress over and over that our physical fast from food is useless if we do not also strive to "fast" from our iniquities. Fasting from food is an important aid to the help purify the soul, and to gain in virtue.

The season of the virtues now has come / and the Judge is at the door. / Let us not hold back with darkened face, / but let us keep the Fast, / offering tears, contrition and almsgiving; / and let us cry: / ‘Our sins are more in number than the sand of the sea; / but, Deliverer of all, forgive each one of us, // that we may receive an incorruptible crown.’ (Sessional Hymns after the 1st Psalter Reading)

The arena of the virtues has been opened. / Let all who wish to struggle for the prize now enter, / girding themselves for the noble contest of the Fast; / for those that strive lawfully are justly crowned. / Taking up the armor of the Cross, / let us make war against the enemy. / Let us have as our invincible rampart the Faith, / prayer as our breastplate, and as our helmet almsgiving; / and as our sword / let us use fasting that cuts away all evil from our heart. / If we do this, we shall receive the true crown // from Christ the King of all at the Day of Judgment. (Praises)

Adam was driven out of Paradise, / because in disobedience he had eaten food; / but Moses was granted the vision of God, / because he had cleansed the eyes of his soul by fasting. / If then we long to dwell in Paradise, / let us abstain from all needless food; / and if we desire to see God, / let us like Moses fast for forty days. / With sincerity let us persevere in prayer and intercession; / let us still the passions of our soul; / let us subdue the rebellious instincts of the flesh. / With light step let us set out upon the path to heaven, / where the choirs of angels with never-silent voice / sing the praises of the undivided Trinity; / and there we shall behold the surpassing beauty of the Master. / O Son of God, Giver of Life, / in Thee we set our hope: / count us worthy of a place there with the angelic hosts, / at the intercessions of the Mother who bore Thee, O Christ, / of the apostles and the martyrs // and of all the saints.’ (Praises)


What is commemorated next Sunday (the first Sunday of Great Lent)?


On the first Sunday of Great Lent we celebrate the "Triumph of Orthodoxy".


What is the fasting typicon for next week, and all the days in the Lenten season?


During all of Great Lent, we eat no animal products (with one exception). We abstain from all flesh meat, fish, milk, cheese and other milk products, eggs, olive oil, wine and hard liquor on all weekdays (Monday through and including Friday). On the weekend (Saturday and Sunday), the fast is relaxed a little. We can have olive oil or wine if we wish. On Annunciation, fish is allowed, since this is such a joyful feast of the Mother of God.


During Great Lent, we sing the long and rich canon of St Andrew of Crete. When and in which services?


The first 4 evening of Great Lent (Clean Monday through Clean Thursday), we serve Great Compline, and a portion of the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete. During Matins for the 5th Thursday of Great Lent, (usually served Wednesday evening), we read the life of St. Mary of Egypt, and chant the Great Canon in its entirety.


Describe the dialogue in the Great canon. Who is speaking? Who is being spoken to?


The Great Canon is a one way dialogue of St Andrew speaking to his soul. We would do well to put ourselves in his place when the canon is being chanted.


Describe in general terms the content of the Great Canon.


The Great canon is a dialogue between St Andrew of Crete and his soul. He brings to bear many examples of the righteous and the unrighteous from the Old and New Testaments in order to show himself good and bad examples, make himself ashamed of his sins, and spur himself to repentance. There is also significant mystical theology and typology that the saint elucidates in the midst of his lamentations.


What are the essential virtues that are a necessity for salvation that shine forth brightly in the words of the Great Canon?


The Great canon speaks continually of these two virtues:: Humility, and with it, self-knowledge, and with these two, hope in God, because of knowledge of WHO HE IS.


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Updated Building Chronology with lots of pictures.

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

It aint perfect yet, since we use rather barbaric editing tools (can you believe that we wrote this whole thing in Word and converted it to HTML?), but here is an up to date building chronolgy. We anticipate being finished in time for Pascha this year (and even before Palm Sunday)

This document is also at



Our building project began 12 years ago, when we established a building fund and started looking for a location. For a few years in the ’90’s, the parish income allowed us to grow the building fund rapidly, and donations to date total approximately $110,000. The total cost of our basic project will be approximately $270,000. We have secured a loan for $160,000 to cover the remaining costs. We will need to raise at least an additional $28,000 to pay for parking, landscaping, irrigation, and other requirements the city has told us must be fulfilled before we obtain an occupancy permit. In time, we plan to have an iconostasis built and icons painted, most likely from local Orthodox Christians.

A building committee, led by a licensed engineer and a registered professional land surveyor, laid out the criteria for a viable land purchase, and we spent many years looking for a good piece of real estate in the Dallas area. In the mid-1990’s, we even looked at properties in Arlington and Fort Worth. After a long and difficult search, we decided in the fall of 2006 that the City of McKinney would provide us the best opportunity to find a suitable piece of land within our price range. In April of 2007, we purchased a plot of land in historic downtown McKinney, though we did not yet have the means to build and were undecided about whether this was the best location.

As time went on, it became clearer that building in McKinney is our best option. We will be the only Orthodox church within 15 miles, in a growing and vibrant community. When you look at a map of churches in the area (URL), there is a “hole” in McKinney. We feel that we are helping the DFW community best by locating there.

Once we made up our minds to build a temple on our land, we began to look for a lender, and we had a lot of trouble getting anyone to believe in us. The large national banks did not take us seriously, but we found a friend in a local bank whose vision is to build up the community in which they live and do business. Independent Bank ( has believed in us, and we have a superb working relationship with them. When other banks said no, they found a way to say yes.

This has been a long and difficult journey, and the turning point for us was when we began to really apply ourselves to prayer. It is almost a cliché to say that we should pray about something, and we certainly did, but things really changed after we established a regular weekday liturgy in which we pray for all of our parishioners by name during in the Augmented Ectenia. We did not specifically pray for a new temple or land, but instead, have regularly, each Wednesday, served the liturgy and asked God’s mercy for everyone in our flock. This additional weekday liturgy is the most important turning point in our chronology. We have since added a weekly Molieben for the parish, served at the construction site.

T imeline


Deacon Seraphim Holland becomes a resident of Texas, on the very day of the glorification of St John Maximovitch. Fr Seraphim had been asked by Bishop Hilarion (now our Metropolitan) to come to Texas to become the pastor of a small mission in Dallas that had been faithfully holding reader’s services. We immediately began holding reader’s vigils on Saturday night, with typica and a meal on Sunday.


Fr Seraphim ordained to the priesthood (March 6/19, the second Sunday of Great Lent).


Building Fund established. Search for a land or a suitable property begun.


Land purchased in McKinney. There is a long lapse in years between this and the previous entry, but there was really a lot going on. We looked at zillions of properties in zillions of places all over the Metroplex. Nothing was suitable. Finally, we found something, almost on a whim, in McKinney, and we were off and running (uphill).

January, 2008

The week after Nativity, we began our weekly weekday liturgies. This was made possible because Fr Seraphim no longer was working fulltime. The highlight of this liturgy is that we pray by name for everyone in the parish during the Augmented Ectenia.

February, 2008 

Dissatisfied with the original design, which had no provision for a church hall, we selected our Architect /Designer:

Tim Bonner and Associates.    (

Also: Builder/Consultant selected: Anderson/Sargent 

They are one of the first "LEED" (Leadership Energy Efficient Design) builders in the area.

Design is based on the "Raising of St. Lazarus"
, the oldest wooden temple in Russia (above). It was originally at Muromansky Monastery and now resides in the Kizhi open air museum

Dr  McBride, retired professor of Architecture University of Texas at Arlington  helped us immensely during this design phase. He is Sub-Deacon at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.

March, 2008


Cross erected on the Sunday of the Cross (3rd Sunday of Great Lent).

Priest Seraphim at the Divine Liuturgy on the undeveloped land in McKinney, Thomas Sunday 2008. The faithful are in a tent (not seen) May 2008

Outdoor Divine Liturgy on the land on St. Thomas Sunday (April 21/May 4), with a picnic afterwards.

Slideshow and movie medley:

June, 2008

Attempts to get a building loan begun. During discussion with Independent Bank, our eventual lender, it became apparent that we needed to account for a more substantial regular income. We instituted our first call for pledges, and the parish responded extremely well, increasing our income by fifty percent, which gave us enough income for the bank to consider us.

September, 2008

Loan approved.and building plans submitted to the city of McKinney for approval.

July, 2009

Building permit obtained.

Construction begun.

August 2009


Letter sent appealing for benefactors: We wish to raise, if it be God’s will, $40,000 by asking 400 benefactors to give us alms of $100 or more each. We want to give our benefactors something back for their alms. Like the Apostle Peter, “Gold and silver have (we) none”, but we offer you our perpetual prayer. …..

HTML                         WORD Document      PDF


Drilled holes for the piers and poured concrete.



Father Seraphim moonlighting at the construction site. J

September, 2009.


Plumbing and Electrical wiring installed and approved.


Foundation poured.


Walls mostly completed.



Lesser blessing of the waters


October, 2009.


Walls nearly completed.




The Deaconesses after a Thursday evening moleben


Apse constructed.




Rain… Rain… Rain… We continued to pray our Moliebans and Liturgies, including our twice-monthly children’s liturgy.


A homily at a children’s liturgy.


Roof framing done.

Plywood roof installed. Interior framing done. Solea installed.



Plumbing, Electrical and HVAC installed.

January20 10

Iconostasis and altar framing completed, with electrical. Insulation installed. Roof completed. Work begun on parking lot.

[photos to be added]

Dome finished and shipped.

March 2010

Anticipated date we will be able to use the temple.

NB: Angelic children. A story told by Archimandrite Zacharias

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

May God place in the hearts of our children the things they should know.


Archiamandrite Zacharias of St John the Baptist Monastery in Essex England lecturing in Dallas, Texas Feb 2010 ( Archimandrite Zacharias of St John the Baptist Monastery in Essex England has told this story. I have benefited from many things Fr Zacharias has said, but nothing as much as this:


He tells of a Greek priest he knows who has three sons who are like angels. One is a priest, and the others serve in the altar with their father. This is, lamentably a rare thing: for the children to grow up with the piety of their parents.


Fr Zacharias asked this priest why his children were so angelic. The priest replied that he has never taught his children anything about the faith, but since they were little, has had the custom of kneeling beside their bed while they were sleeping for a half hour and praying that the Lord would put in their hearts what they should know.


I wish I had prayed more for my children. I have taught them many things – many good things. I have taught them the truth, but I have not prayed at their beds for a half hour every night. The life of this simple priest and his angelic sons is a sobering wakeup.


Really, it is all about prayer. We need it as much as we need oxygen, and yet, we do not do it enough, even for the ones we love. Isn’t this a terrible, inexplicable conundrum?


We are approaching the Sunday commemorating the casting out of Adam from Paradise (aka “Forgiveness Sunday”). The only path back to paradise for ourselves and our loved ones is prayer. Let us join with Adam and lament:


In my wretchedness, O Lord, I have disobeyed Thy commandment. / Woe is me! I have been stripped of glory, / filled with shame, and cast out from the joy of Paradise. / I have been justly deprived of Thy blessings: // but in Thy mercy and compassion take pity on me. (Expostilarion, Forgiveness Sunday. The Casting out of Adam from Paradise)


If we learn to pray a little better during the fast, it will not be without purpose.


May God place in our hearts the zeal and ability to pray.


May God place in the hearts of our children the things they should know.  




“NB” is shorthand for “nota bene” ,which is Latin for “Note well”. These shorter posts are meant to be “noted well” more often because they are briefer than the usual blog posts. I have “noted well”  that many of my flock does do not read the longer posts. I have a lot of stuff to tell you, so there will still be longer posts, but I also plan to post shorter “snippets” which will have “NB:” in the title.

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


This article is at: and on the blog.


New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG:


Journal Archive:


Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: to join.


Redeeming the Time BLOG:

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (


Sunday Of The Last Judgment. Audio Homily 2010.

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Why is this scripture read today, two Sundays before Great Lent begins? What is its meaning? What are the two critical characteristics of those who will be saved? How are we to understand the things the righteous did and the unrighteous did not do, and their identical answers to the Lord? What must we do?


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Come Receive the Light interview with Matushka Marina, Diaconissa Genevieve

Friday, February 5th, 2010

See "Come Receive the Light" for the following:

"On this very special episode of Come Receive the Light, guest host Kevin Allen speaks with NFL superstar Troy Polamalu and his wife Theodora Polamalu about their work with FOCUS North America. Tune in to hear them talk about their work to fight poverty in North America and to find out how you can help.

[Certainly the above sounds interesting, but excuse me for the following catching my eye a little more! FS]

Also with us are Matushka Marina Holland and Diaconissa Genevieve Park from St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in McKinney, TX. They’re here to give families some tips on fasting and to tell us about their wonderful online recipe archive. (RSS FEED)

Listen Now (Real Audio) or Click Here for Direct File Link or go to the Come Receive the Light "Fighting poverty in North America" articleor click below to listen

Just received from our Diocesan secretary regarding donations to Haiti.

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

22 January/4 February, 2010 Apostle Timothy

Dear Rectors of the Chicago & Mid-America Diocese,

Christ is amongst us!

As promised in the letter of 4/17 January, 2010 this letter contains specific details regarding collections for those suffering in Haiti which you have been conducting in your parishes since the time of the serious earthquake there on January 12.

Bishop Peter has received the report of Deacon Matthew Williams and has decided that the best course of action at this time is to support the Fund for Assistance of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia with the funds collected in our parishes. The Fund for Assistance will see to it that the funds are used in the best possible way to support our Orthodox Christian brothers and sisters in Haiti. Please be so kind as to continue to send the funds gathered from your weekly collections for those suffering in Haiti to:

Diocese of Chicago & Mid-America
Andrei Urtiew, Treasurer
P.O. Box 1367
Des Plaines, IL 60017

Checks should be made out to the Diocese of Chicago & Mid-America with a notation in the  memo section: “Haiti Relief”. The Diocesan Treasurer will record all checks and send the entirety of the funds to the Fund for Assistance.

Thank you for your kind support of the suffering in Haiti!

With Love in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Rev. Fr. Gregory Joyce
Secretary of the Diocesan Council

Monies sent to the Fund for Assistance will go directly to the faithful (already, substantial cash has been entrusted to the clergy there). Questions? Contact Rev Victor Patapov, the unpaid Executive director of the FFA, or his assistant Alena Plavsic, (917-817-2925,

Cal Thomas: Super commercial. This is morality, not politics.

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

This is worth reposting.

I want my flock and anybody who reads this blog to know that if they are going to be Christians, or even decent human beings, they must be making courageous moral choices.

One more or less "invisible"  moral choice is to choose to not be swept along by the times and have ones’ opinions and priorities shaped by the world. I have met "pro-choice" Orthodox Christians. They have listened to the times. This is dangerous for the soul. To listen to the times is to allow the camel to poke its nose in the tent.

I do not want this blog to be political, because there is so much that needs to be said about the Gospel. Every once in a while, I take a risk, and post something that some might think is political (but is actually about morality).

Here it is.

Columns and OpEds

Cal Thomas: Super commercial
By Cal Thomas
Examiner Columnist

February 4, 2010

In the midst of the usual glut of Super Bowl commercials with messages about beer, cars and women with impossible bosoms, on Sunday there will be one 30-second message that has some people upset, even angry.

It is a message by 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam, who, after a difficult pregnancy, decided to give Tim a chance to live, though she was advised to have an abortion.

Self-styled "pro-choice" groups initially tried to get CBS to pull the ad, but when the network demonstrated a characteristic not often seen in the face of such lobbying — courage — the pro-choicers apparently realized their attempt at censorship wasn’t going anywhere, and so they are trying a different tactic.

In an opinion column for last Sunday’s Washington Post, Frances Kissling, former president of Catholics for Choice, and Kate Michelman, former president of Naral Pro-Choice America, portrayed Pam Tebow’s choice to give birth to Tim as having no greater moral significance than if she had chosen to abort him.

About the uplifting message in the scheduled Super Bowl commercial, they wrote: "People want to be inspired, and abortion is as tough and courageous a decision as is the decision to continue a pregnancy."

No it isn’t. Toughness and courage produce a decision like the one made by Pam Tebow. She didn’t know whether her son would turn out to be "normal," much less a football champion honored by college football’s highest award.

The "easier" course would have been to accept the doctor’s advice and rid herself of a potential "problem" and the "burden" a less-than-perfect child might have brought to the family.

The word "choice" presumes more than one option. In an age when government requires increasing amounts of information about food additives, automobile mileage, carbon emissions and children’s toys, too many women are still in the dark when it comes to information about the superior value of making a choice other than abortion.

Even Kissling and Michelman acknowledge that public opinion is shifting on abortion, from a decidedly pro-choice to a pro-life majority. Increasing the amount of information available, including sophisticated sonograms, which allow pregnant women to see what is growing within them as human and not impersonal tissue, is mostly responsible for this shift.

So, too, is the realization that the disposal of more than 50 million Americans who might have been somebody has corroded us as a nation and diminished our collective humanity.

For 30 years I have spoken at pregnancy center fundraising events and other pro-life organizations. I have listened to the stories of women who have felt pressured by parents, boyfriends or husbands to have an abortion. Many did not want to have one but believed there was no other option.

There are and always have been other options, but only in recent years has the pro-life message been able to circumvent the media wall that has largely kept it from those who need and want to hear it.

Somewhere in the massive TV audience on Sunday will be a man, or a pregnant woman, who will hear Pam and Tim Tebow’s message about the good that can happen if individuals don’t try to play God.

If that message causes just one woman who thought she needed an abortion to change her mind, or one man who has been pressuring his girlfriend, wife or daughter to get one to change his mind, it will have been worth the $2.5 million the ad is costing Focus on the Family.

Why? Because — to paraphrase a credit card commercial — human life is priceless.

Examiner Columnist Cal Thomas is syndicated by Tribune Media.

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