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God of grace, pope of forgiveness, including abortion

Pope Francis I blesses a woman Papal audience, Vatican City, Rome, Italy, August 19, 2015 (Rex Features via AP Images)It is amazing, it has a sweet sound, and it has been known to make life not fair. What is it? Grace. We have been saved by it, chosen because of it, and amply provided with it. Writing on grace, Jerry Bridges found, "Our worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace."  A type of beauty, grace never demands attention but its presence compels it – which explains why the Pope is in the news yet again.

Earlier this week, Pope Francis announced he would allow all priests to formally forgive women who have had abortions during the upcoming Holy Year. In his latest move, he is granting Catholic priests temporary authority to "absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it." Differentiating from the Protestant perspective, which believes that only Christ can absolve of sin, Francis nonetheless is an example worthy of emulation for those who are recipients of grace.

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Tragedy strikes again for refugees in Europe

People light candles in front of the police station in Eisenstadt, Austria,  to memorialize the death of at least 20, possibly over 70, migrants stacked in a truck parked on the shoulder of the main highway from Budapest to Vienna near Eisenstadt, August 27, 2015 (Credit: AP Photo/Ronald Zak)I'm not going to lie, I didn't want to write this. I scoured the news looking for another article about events happening around our world that I could cover in this space instead. However, for every article I found about something other than the senseless and tragic death of the 71 individuals recently found in a van on the side of an Austrian highway or the multiple thousands like them that have died in the pursuit of a better life this year alone, I kept coming back to this story. Honestly, the reason I didn't want to write about it is that it just seems like a depressing and hopeless situation and I didn't want to spend my Friday afternoon delving into their heart-rending tale.

However, I also questioned whether or not it would still be considered relevant by Monday morning when most people are likely to read this. In the end, it was really that thought that reinforced that this story was the correct way to spend my time. You see, unless new details come to light over the weekend, chances are that much of the news coverage surrounding not only the account of those who suffocated in the back of that truck but also those who are dying every day as they cross the Mediterranean will have stopped. At the very least, it won't lead the news cycles anymore. And that's completely understandable. After all, news agencies can't keep coming back to the same story over and over again because, in addition to being bad for ratings, chances are there will be some new tragedy or potential danger that demands our attention. That's simply the world we live in.

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Heroes derail terrorist's plans on French train

French President Francois Hollande and a bevy of officials are presenting the Americans with the prestigious Legion of Honor on Monday. The three American travelers say they relied on gut instinct and a close bond forged over years of friendship as they took down a heavily armed man on a passenger train speeding through Belgium. (Credit: AP Photo/Michel Euler)Last Friday while traveling on a high-speed train going from Amsterdam to Paris, five men stopped Ayoub El Khazzani from perpetrating what French President Francois Hollande described as a potential "tragedy, a massacre." El Khazzani, a Moroccan nationalist, had recently returned from Turkey in what a senior European counterterrorism official speculated was an attempt to join ISIS in Syria. While the Frenchman who was the first to try and stop El Khazzani has declined to be publicly identified and will be honored at a later date, Americans Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler, along with Chris Norman of Britain, were awarded the Legion of Honor, France's highest honor, on Sunday.

While they have been widely, and appropriately, hailed as heroes, each of them has been hesitant to accept the designation. Rather, to a man, they see themselves more as people who simply did what they had to do to survive. So when El Khazzani's gun jammed, Skarlatos, a specialist in the Oregon National Guard who had recently returned from a 9 month tour in Afghanistan, saw an opportunity to act and encouraged Stone and Sadler to join him in stopping the would-be terrorist.

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