Monday, August 31, 2009

Companions of the Cross Leadership Team

From the Mission Statement of the Companions of the Cross:

We are a Roman Catholic community of priests, committed to living and ministering together as brothers in the Lord. We are called to the ongoing renewal of the Church through a dynamic evangelization in the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit.

We proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to all we are called to serve, with special attention to parish communities, the poor, youth, and those alienated from the Church.

Next year, the Companions of the Cross will celebrate 25 years of their existence, first as a group of priests and seminarians of the Ottawa Archdiocese who came together to foster fraternity on the way towards, and within, the life of the diocesan priesthood. Later they became an entity separate from the Archdiocese and more recently have been recognized as a Society of Apostolic Life of diocesan right.

This week, the CC members are in the Ottawa region for meetings and a retreat. It seemed like a good time to meet with the leadership, so they came to my residence for dinner, prayer and conversation. It was a delightful evening.

Please keep them in prayer during these days of prayer and reflection and remember particularly their founder, Father Bob Bedard, who in mid-July celebrated his 80th birthday as he continues to recover from serious health issues.

Left to right: Fathers Rick Jaworski, Francis Donnelly, Scott McCaig (Moderator), Pierre Ingram (Director of Formation), Christian Riesbeck

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Memorial Service for Faithful Departed at Notre Dame Cemetery, Ottawa

Notre Dame Cemetery in winter

In the weeks of late summer and early fall, mindful of the Solemnity of the Assumption and that the days around November 1 and 2 can be quite cool, Catholics in Canada have services (sometimes even the Eucharist) in our cemeteries to pray for the faithful departed.

Today, I will officiate at the first of these (using the readings for the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, All Souls Day November 2) at Notre Dame Cemetery at 2 PM.

A similar service will be held at Hope Cemetery on September 27 at the same time. Many parishes with cemteries are holding similar gatherings for prayer and remembrance at this time.

May the their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

Priests Retreat August 31-September 3

Light blogging this week as I will be directing the Ottawa English Sector Priests' Retreat at Cap-de-la-Madeleine

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Beheading of St. John the Baptist; Keeping in Touch with Jesuits; Homeward Bound

It seems unusual at the end of the reading of the gospel for today's liturgy to declare, "The gospel of the Lord" as it recounts the saga of the Baptist's imprisonment and martyrdom (=witnessing to Christ).

What is clear in Mark's gospel, however, is the parallels made between John and Jesus and then between Jesus and his disciple. John heralded Christ not only by his preaching and baptizing ministry, but by his whole way of life--his speaking God's truth to power, namely that it was not right for Herod Antipas to have "married" Herodias, his brother Philip's wife--and by foreshadowing the death of Jesus by his witness and dying for righteousness, God's plan for marriage, which is demanding.

What Jesus and John did--namely, stand up for the truth, including in regard to marriage--we disciples of Jesus are called to do, being ready, if necessary, even to lay down our lives for the gospel and its divinely-founded teachings.

A number of years ago, I had the joy and privilege of visiting Gozo and Malta and saw this remarkable painting by Michelangelo Caravaggio. The following exposition of its style and content is courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist is a painting finished in 1608 by the Italian Baroque painter Caravaggio, housed in the St. John's Co-Cathedral of Valletta, Malta. The most important painting that Caravaggio made in Malta considered by many to be his greatest masterpiece.

A magical balance of all the parts characterizes the piece. It is no accident that the artist brings into the painting precise reference to the setting, placing behind the figures as a backdrop the severe 16th century architecture of the prison building.

At the window, two figures silently witness the scene, and the commentators are thus drawn into the painting. They are not projected toward the outside as Caravaggio painted in the Martyrdom of St. Matthew.

This is a final compendium of Caravaggio's art. Figures well-known to him return (the old woman, the youth, the nude ruffian, the bearded nobleman), as do Lombard elements.

The technical means adhere to the deliberate, programmatic limitation to which Caravaggio adapts them; but amid these soft tones, these dark colours, is an impressive sense of drawing that the artist does not give up, and that is visible even through the synoptic glints of light of his late works.

This eminently classical balance, which projects the event beyond contingency, unleashes a harsh drama that is even more effective to the extent that, having given up the "aesthetic of exclamation" forever, Caravaggio limits every external, excessive sign of emotional emphasis.

The painter signed in the Baptist's blood: "f (perhaps understood as fecit rather than frater) michela...". This is the seal he placed on what may well be his greatest masterpiece.

* * * * * * Jesuit Companions

Father Brendan Hurley, S.J. (left) and Father Brendan Lally, S.J. (right)

While lodging at the Pontifical North American College these past few days, I encountered a couple of Jesuits who serve as spiritual directors for the more than 200 seminarians who are studying in Rome and being formed at the NAC, as it is commonly known. Both Brendans are from the Maryland Province; Brendan Lally is here for his seventh and final year, while Brendan Hurley is the new man on the block.

A number of other religious orders are represented on the formation team, under the strong leadership of the Rector, Msgr. James Checchio and other diocesan priests who serve with him.

Yesterday, the new men's first offical day they began with Mass at the Altar of the Confession (in this case, the "confession" is also by the surrender of his life) of the Apostle Peter, the first Vicar of Christ.

As we finished our Vox Clara meeting a day early, I also used the opportunity to visit the Jesuit Curia (headquarters) where I spoke briefly with Father General Adolfo Nicholas (who had other visitors to receive) and renewed acquaintances with other brothers in Christ, who serve the universal Society of Jesus.

Father General and I met first at last October's Synod on the "Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church"

This afternoon, I will fly Air Canada from Rome FCO to Toronto YYZ, then transfer to a flight to Ottawa, arriving home in the late evening.

I am grateful for this time away, and look forward to the many challenges that lie ahead in the next ten days, particularly guiding the Priests' Retreat for our English-sector priests from August 31-September 3 at Our Lady of the Cape, Cap-de-la-Madeleine, QC, which is commended to the prayers of all.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Feast day of St. Augustine of Hippo; Report on "Vox Clara" session

The following excerpt from the Confessions of St. Augustine (Book VII 10, 18; 10, 27) is used in today's Office of Readings for the liturgical memorial of Saint Augustine.

Augustine had sought God through an exotic Eastern cult and then through the best that Greco-Roman philosophy had to offer before he finally found Him through the Catholic Christianity that he had rejected as a teen. So he could proclaim from personal experience that Jesus is the only Way to intimate knowledge of God:

Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance the innermost places of my being; but only because you had become my helper was I able to do so. I entered, then, and with the vision of my spirit, such as it was, I saw the incommutable light far above my spiritual ken and transcending my mind: not this common light which every carnal eye can see, nor any light of the same order; but greater, as though this common light were shining much more powerfully, far more brightly, and so extensively as to fill the universe. The light I saw was not the common light at all, but something different, utterly different, from all those things. Nor was it higher than my mind in the sense that oil floats on water or the sky is above the earth; it was exalted because this very light made me, and I was below it because by it I was made. Anyone who knows truth knows this light.

O eternal Truth, true Love, and beloved Eternity, you are my God, and for you I sigh day and night. As I first began to know you, you lifted me up and showed me that, while that which I might see exists indeed, I was not yet capable of seeing it. Your rays beamed intensely on me, beating back my feeble gaze, and I trembled with love and dread. I knew myself to be far away from you in a region of unlikeness, and I seemed to hear your voice from on high: “I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me”.

Accordingly I looked for a way to gain the strength I needed to enjoy you, but I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who is also God, supreme over all things and blessed for ever. He called out, proclaiming I am the Way and Truth and the Life, nor had I known him as the food which, though I was not yet strong enough to eat it, he had mingled with our flesh, for the Word became flesh so that your Wisdom, through whom you created all things, might become for us the milk adapted to our infancy.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

Seventeenth Session of the "Vox Clara" Committee

Members of the Vox Clara Committee meeting at the Pontifical North American College, August 25-27, pose with newly-appointed Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P.

Vox Clara Chairman Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia, who has put in close to 600 hours flying to meetings since 2001

PRESS RELEASE (August 27, 2009)

The Vox Clara Committee met for the seventeenth time from August 25-27, 2009 at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. This Committee of senior Bishops from Episcopal Conferences throughout the English-speaking world was formed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on July 19, 2001 in order to provide advice to the Holy See concerning English-language liturgical books and to strengthen effective cooperation with the Conferences of Bishops in this regard.

Left to right: Most Reverend Oscar Lipscomb, Emeritus Archbishop of Mobile, Alabama; Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Emeritus Archbishop of Westminster, England; Reverend Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., Mt. Angel Abbey, Oregon, advisor; Most Reverend J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P., Secretary CDW

The Vox Clara Committee is chaired by Cardinal George Pell, Sydney (Australia). The participants in the meeting were Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb, Emeritus Mobile (USA), who serves as First Vice-Chairman; Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Emeritus Westminster (England), who serves as Secretary; Cardinal Justin Rigali, Philadelphia (USA), who serves as Treasurer; Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., Chicago (USA); Archbishop Alfred Hughes, Emeritus New Orleans (USA); Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., Ottawa (Canada); Archbishop Peter Kwasi Sarpong, Emeritus Kumasi (Ghana); Archbishop Kelvin Felix, Emeritus Castries (Saint Lucia), and Bishop Philip Boyce, O.C.D., Raphoe (Ireland). Also a member of the Committee, though not present at this meeting, is Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Bombay (India), who serves as Second Vice-Chairman.

Advisors Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B. (left) and Father Dennis McManus consult on a technical, linguistic-stylistic issue

The members were assisted in their work by the following advisors: Reverend Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B. (USA), Reverend Dennis McManus (USA), and Monsignor James P. Moroney (USA), Executive Secretary. Monsignor Robert K. Johnson (USA), provided technical support. Two other advisors, Monsignor Gerard McKay, and Abbot Cuthbert Johnson, O.S.B. (England), were unable to attend. The customary assistance of officials of the Congregation, led by Reverend Anthony Ward, S.M., Undersecretary, was also appreciated.

The Committee began by exploring means by which it might provide effective support to the Congregation as it seeks to achieve an expeditious confirmation of the Roman Missal. Certain technical and editorial processes were developed by which amendments submitted by the Conferences of Bishops, the counsel of the Vox Clara Committee and the internal deliberations of the Congregation might be effectively utilized by the Congregation in its final editing of the final text of the Roman Missal.

Left to right: Bishop Philip Boyce, O.C.D., Raphoe, Ireland; Most Reverend Kelvin Felix, Emeritus Archbishop of Castries, St. Lucia; Most Revenend Peter Sarpong, Emeritus Archbishop of Kumasi, Ghana during a working session

The greater part of the time was spent in a final review of four White Book translations of Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia, as produced by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy and recently approved by several Conferences of Bishops. Following their discussion of the ICEL renderings of Masses for Various Needs and Intentions, Ritual Masses, Votive Masses, Masses for the Dead, and the Order of Mass II, the Committee submitted its recommendations to the Congregation concerning the definitive confirmation of these texts.

Left to right: Most Reverend Alfred Hughes, Emeritus Archbishop of New Orleans and Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago

Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia O.P., recently appointed Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, was welcomed and briefed by the Committee on the last day of its work. Archbishop Di Noia thanked the Committee for its working in applying “the critical distinction between translating a text and translating a sacred text in the vernacular.” He also expressed his thanks for the proposal for additional assistance to the Congregation, noting, in particular, the need for assuring the technical quality and internal consistency of the new Missal.

The Committee will meet again in January, 2010 in Rome.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

St. Monica and St. Augustine on our heavenly homeland; the Vox Clara gathering

This is a marvellous depiction of the death of St. Monica in the presence of Augustine and the entourage of family and friends at the Port of Ostia (the old port of Rome now silted up and in disuse for centuries) as they prepared to leave for Tagaste in North Africa. Today and tomorrow we celebrate the mother who prayer for her husband and son's conversions and the son who is the first modern writer in the sense of being introspective and extrordinarily self-aware.

After his baptism, Augustine and Monica went to Ostia to prepare for their journey home. Before they could go, Monica became very ill. In the center of the picture, we see St. Monica on her deathbed,with Augustine standing by her side. Alypius is also there.

Augustine tells us that just before Monica died, he and his mother “stood leaning against a window which looked out on a garden” (9.10.23) and at that time they had a mystical vision of That Which Is.

If you look in the upper left hand corner of the picture, you’ll see Monica and Augustine looking out of that window over the garden, as though their mystical vision included the events in the rest of the picture as well.

On the right, you’ll see a ship, and you can just make out the two haloed figures of Augustine and Alypius. Once more Augustine sails away without her, but now because she has died. We also see a woman with some children in the foreground. Augustine tells us that he had met many of the local Christians in Ostia, who comforted him (Confessions IX.11.31).

The ancient ruins of Ostia (near the Rome airport) have been excavated by archaeologists, and one can walk--as I have on a couple of occasions--the same streets that Augustine must have walked.

* * * * * * *
Augustine and Monica speak of her impending death

The following passage is one of the first pieces of Latin Christian literature I recall translating during my noviceship in Guelph in 1962 or 1963 (I had been acquainted with the classical Latin writings of Caesar, Vergil, Horace and Catullus in high school studies). It still reverberates in my soul when I read it on this feast day of Monica.

Because the day when she was to leave this life was drawing near – a day known to you, though we were ignorant of it – she and I happened to be alone, through (as I believe) the mysterious workings of your will.

We stood leaning against a window which looked out on a garden within the house where we were staying, at Ostia on the Tiber; for there, far from the crowds, we were recruiting our strength after the long journey, in order to prepare ourselves for our voyage overseas.

We were alone, conferring very intimately. Forgetting what lay in the past, and stretching out to what was ahead, we enquired between ourselves, in the light of present truth, into what you are and what the eternal life of the saints would be like, for Eye has not seen nor ear heard nor human heart conceived it. And yet, with the mouth of our hearts wide open we panted thirstily for the celestial streams of your fountain, the fount of life which is with you.

This was the substance of our talk, though not the exact words. Yet you know, O Lord, how on that very day, amid this talk of ours that seemed to make the world with all its charms grow cheap, she said, “For my part, my son, I no longer find pleasure in anything that this life holds. What I am doing here still, or why I am still here, I do not know, for worldly hope has withered away for me. One thing only there was for which I desired to linger in this life: to see you a Catholic Christian before I died. And my God has granted this to me more lavishly than I could have hoped, letting me see even you spurning earthly happiness to be his servant. What am I still doing here?”

What I replied I cannot clearly remember, because just about that time – five days later, or not much more – she took to her bed with fever. One day during her illness she lapsed into unconsciousness and for a short time was unaware of her surroundings. We all came running, but she quickly returned to her senses, and, gazing at me and my brother as we stood there, she asked in puzzlement, “Where was I?”

We were bewildered with grief, but she looked keenly at us and said, “You are to bury your mother here”. I was silent, holding back my tears, but my brother said something about his hope that she would not die far from home but in her own country, for that would be a happier way.

On hearing this she looked anxious and her eyes rebuked him for thinking so; then she turned her gaze from him to me and said, “What silly talk!”

Shortly afterwards, addressing us both, she said, “Lay this body anywhere, and take no trouble over it. One thing only do I ask of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be”.

Having made her meaning clear to us with such words as she could muster, she fell silent, and the pain of the disease grew worse.

* * * * *

What is this Vox Clara body anyway?

The Vox Clara Commission was struck in April 2002 to assist the Congregation for Divine Worshop and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) in the oversight of a new translation of the Third Edition of the Messale Romanum (Roman Missal) into English and began sessions shortly thereafter.

There are representative bishops from around the Catholic world: Australia, Africa (Ghana), Canada, the Caribbean (St. Lucia), India, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Originally, a representative was named from the Philippines but the long distance and timing of meetings made it impossilbe for the bishop to attend.

In 2003, I was invited to represent Canada and have enjoyed these free-wheeling exchanges. A former teacher of Latin and Greek, I marvel at the skill these bishops have with complex Latin from the Church's patrimony as we struggle with understanding and interpreting the missal's theologically and biblically rich texts as we cooperate wiht CDW staff and the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) in intrepeting the key guidelines set out in Liturgiam authenticam (2001), the Ratio Translationis(Translation Principles) for the English Language and other ecclesial pointers (such as the Holy Father's own decision that "pro multis" in the words of consecration over the chalice would be translated as "for many" rather than by the current explanatory translation "for all"), etc.

Some samples of the mandates given to Conferences of Bishops, ICEL and Vox Clara by Liturgiam authenticam (Authentic Liturgy):

The Latin liturgical texts of the Roman Rite, while drawing on centuries of ecclesial experience in transmitting the faith of the Church received from the Fathers, are themselves the fruit of the liturgical renewal, just recently brought forth. In order that such a rich patrimony may be preserved and passed on through the centuries, it is to be kept in mind from the beginning that the translation of the liturgical texts of the Roman Liturgy is not so much a work of creative innovation as it is of rendering the original texts faithfully and accurately into the vernacular language. While it is permissible to arrange the wording, the syntax and the style in such a way as to prepare a flowing vernacular text suitable to the rhythm of popular prayer, the original text, insofar as possible, must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses. Any adaptation to the characteristics or the nature of the various vernacular languages is to be sober and discreet (no. 20).

Since liturgical texts by their very nature are intended to be proclaimed orally and to be heard in the liturgical celebration, they are characterized by a certain manner of expression that differs from that found in everyday speech or in texts intended be read silently. Examples of this include recurring and recognizable patterns of syntax and style, a solemn or exalted tone, alliteration and assonance, concrete and vivid images, repetition, parallelism and contrast, a certain rhythm, and at times, the lyric of poetic compositions. If it is sometimes not possible to employ in the translation the same stylistic elements as in the original text (as often happens, for example, in the case of alliteration or assonance), even so, the translator should seek to ascertain the intended effect of such elements in the mind of the hearer as regards thematic content, the expression of contrast between elements, emphasis, and so forth. Then he should employ the full possibilities of the vernacular language skillfully in order to achieve as integrally as possible the same effect as regards not only the conceptual content itself, but the other aspects as well. In poetic texts, greater flexibility will be needed in translation in order to provide for the role played by the literary form itself in expressing the content of the texts. Even so, expressions that have a particular doctrinal or spiritual importance or those that are more widely known are, insofar as possible, to be translated literally (no. 59).

The meeting room at the Pontifical North American College where Vox Clara sessions are being held.

The agenda items for our meeting: enough to last four days

Mass concelebrated by Vox Clara members in the chapel of the North American Martyrs

Midday meal shared by Vox Clara members with new and returning students of the Pontifical North American College

End Date 2010?
We are now nearing the end of the project and it remains to be seen whether the project can be completed in early or late 2010. That is our fondest wish and firm hope.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Arriving in Rome, the North American College, visiting friends

Rome always fascinates me, whether I arrive by train (as I did from Livorno) or by air. There are several sights that are always exciting: St. Peter's Basilica (naturally), the Colosseum (see below), the gates of the Temple of Janus but there are many, many more in the Eternal City. Everywhere you turn, there's something special.

The place of athletic contests, circuses and the martyrdom of Christians

Janus: think of January that looks back to the old year and forward to the new

The Pontifical North American College

This residential college for seminarians studying for the priesthood for the dioceses of the United States (and occasionally the dioceses of Canada, Australia or those of other nations) will be full again this year (over 200 sems) as the NAC celebrates 150 years (which has led to retrofits and repairs all over the campus).

The students study at the Angelicum, Gregorian, Holy Cross, Lateran or other pontifical universities according to their particular interests of the wish of their bishop or vocation director.

On the top floor (5th), there are suites for visiting ecclesiastics and other visitors, many of them designated in honour of a current or deceased bishop or cardinal.

On arrival, I was assigned the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen suite, which has a portrait of him, an image of Throne of Wisdom: Our Lady of Peoria (his diocese of origin) and a spectacular view of St. Peter's Vatican Basilica:

One of the Joys of Rome: Dining Out

Long-time friend and associate Father Livio Poloniato

Regularly during my visits to Rome, I drop in at the Conventual Franciscan Convent of St. Giacomo on the Lungotevere Farnesia, not far from the chic Trastevere area.

Pranzo (dinner) is at 1:30 and invariably there is a heated exchange among the friars and visitors: a delightful commnunity.

Sometimes for cena (supper), we will slip down the "Descent of the Good Shepherd" and visit a local trattoria for pasta and good red wine, as we did of a recent evening:

Checking out the peppers, garlic and onions with Brother Francesco Pirisi

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Marian Sanctuary of Montenero; off to Rome

Not far from Quercianella is the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Montenero (the black mountain: so described because of the thickness of the timber stands that cover the hillsides and possibly also because of the brigands and pirates who hid out in the caves after attacking unsuspecting travellers or ships in the nearby harbour of Livorno).

The Superior Sister Daria drove several of the house guests, including Fr. Geoff Kerslake and me the eight kilometers up the hill to the holy spot where a peasant, having been informed in a dream of the location of a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary and Child Jesus, found it in a field and brought it to the nearby mountain top where a shrine was built.

The complex of theShrine of Our Lady of Grace, elevated to the rank of Basilica and maintained by the Vallombrosa monks, is devoted to Our Lady as the patron of Tuscany; it also includes a rich gallery of votive offerings for favours received.

The Sanctuary of Montenero is an architectural complex of ancient origin: a popular legend tells the story of a shepherd with a limp, in 1345, who found a painting of the Virgin Mary at the foot of the hill and had a vision through which he was driven to carry the effigy up to the top of the hill. When he arrived at the top of the hill, it had cured him of his illness.

To commemorate this, a small Chapel was built at the beginning of the road that leads to the shrine dating back to 1603 and was replaced in 1956 by a larger church.

The fame associated with that event was so great, that already at the end of that century, many pilgrimages allowed for the extension of the first oratory, given initially by the Third Order Franciscan monks then by the Gesuati (an order that flourished between the 15th and 17th centuries), and then by another religious congregation, the Theatines (17th and 18th centuries).

After the suppression of religious orders by Pietro Leopoldo, the sanctuary fell into ruin, until Ferdinand III came to power and it was entrusted to the Vallombrosian monks in 1792, who carried out some restoration and continue to direct the shrine today.

The icon of Montenero is very attractive, especially the presence of a little bird on the arm of the Blessed Mother. The iamge, attributed to the School of Pisa depicts the Virgin dressed in red with a blue cloak with the inscription "Ave Maria Mater Christi" (Hail Mary, Mother of Christ) around her head.

Her face is leaning down toward the Christ Child in her lap; his little hands are tightly clinging to his mother's clothing while holding a thread which delicately ties a little bird to Mary's arm, almost as if to indicate that faith is like a thread that draws salvation from Christ with whom devotion to the Madonna keeps us united, an interpretation given by shrine literature.

An interpretation given locally by some of the women in our party is that Mary points the "little ones", represented by the bird, towards Christ. As by thread, the believer is only lightly bound and can always flee the relationship. But the tenderness of Mother and Child invites us to abide in the circle of love and devotion.

Departure from the Seacoast for Roman Meetings

After several refreshing days by the sea, I was sent off by Suor Daria and a couple of the residents. Now the meetings begin. The next report will be from Rome, but meantime, one last image of the joys of frolicking at seaside:

Monday, August 24, 2009

ST. BARTHOLOMEW/ ST. NATHANAEL: more photos from the Tuscan Rivieria; visit of Fr. Geoff Kerslake

August 24: Feast of the Apostle Bartholomew (aka Nathanael)

In the New Testament, Bartholomew is mentioned only in the lists of the apostles.

Some scholars identify him with Nathanael, a man of Cana in Galilee who was summoned to Jesus by Philip. Jesus paid him a great compliment: “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him” (John 1:47b).

When Nathanael asked how Jesus knew him, Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree” (John 1:48b). Whatever amazing revelation this involved, it brought Nathanael to exclaim, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (John 1:49b). But Jesus countered with, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this” (John 1:50b).

Nathanael did see greater things. He was one of those to whom Jesus appeared on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection (see John 21:1-14).

There is a tradition that Bartholomew/Nathanael died by martyrdom with his skin stripped from his body. For wahtever reason, when Michelangelo came to depict this saint in the Last Judgment (in the Sistine Chapel), he put his facial features on the martyr. Was he expressing his wish to be considered without guile despite all the controversies in which he was implicated.

Wouldn't it be wonderful for it to be said of every Christian that he or she was "without guile"?

A Vistor from Perugia

Several Canadian priests about to begin studies in Rome this fall are studying Italian at the University of Perugia: Fathers Kevin Belgrave of Toronto (Moral Theology), Adam Voisin of Hamilton (Canon Law), John Fletcher of the Companions of the Cross (Mariology) and Ottawa's own Geoffrey Kerslake (Liturgy).

Given that exams aren't until next week, Fr. Geoff was delighted to come over to the coast for a change of scene.

The train trips (5 hours each way) allowed lots of time for going over his lessons and the people here, notably the children and especially one Leonardo, have been helping him with his Italian.

Professor Leonardo helps the young Canadian priest with Italian pronunciation.

Father Geoff even celebrated Mass for the sisters yesterday morning! The homily, needless to say, was very, very brief!

* * * * * *

Suor Giusy
One of the strong personalities of the convent, besides the superior Suor Daria, is Sister Giusy (nick name for Suor Giuseppina), who knows every one in town (she has served as a pastoral associate in the local parish of Santa Anna).

On a couple of evenings several us were taken for a tour of town, including to this gelateria where she cadged a double scoop of gelato for yours truly as well as a healthy dose of grappa to help me digest it!

Here she is with a few other guests of the Vincentian house:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Few Days Off in Italy

En route to Vox Clara sessions, I was met at the airport of Rome by a few friends then went on to Livorno for a few days by the sea.

At the Argentina restaurant in Rome before boarding the train in a northerly direction Don Roberto , his sister Rita and Massimo, our driver.

Don Andrea Brutto, rector of the Seminary in Livorno was kind enough to meet me at the train station and bring me to Quercianella, a resort town where the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul have a summer residence for their sisters that they have opened to religious of other communities, clerics and Catholic families in need of a vacation by the sea.

Daily activities begin with Mass in the chapel at 7:30 each morning (8am on Sunday) and great meals after Mass and at 1:00 and 7:30pm. The sisters of the house (including a medical doctor who is head of the oncology unit at the Livorno Hospital) serve the meals with joy and enthusiasm. It's a delightful ambiance.

Don Andrea in the back, the sisters and yours truly.

There is no sand on the beaches in this area, but huge rocks (which can make swimming a bit precarious), but the water is clear and the sky blue, the water cool and refreshing in the heat spell that is locked into all of Italy these days (generally 33-36 degrees C).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Catholic Bible Dictionary; the Queenship of Mary: the Feast and the Community

While reflecting on the Assumption last Saturday and today's feast of Mary's Queenship (represented by her coronation, the rosary's fifth Glorious Mystery), I had been browsing through the new Catholic Bible Dictionary, edited by Scott Hahn (Toronto: Doubleday, 2009; Cdn $55).

It is a marvellous piece of work, unabashedly showing the links with Catholic teaching and our understanding of how the biblical mysteries have become present in the life of the Church for two millennia (there are citations from conciliar documents and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The presentations are invariably positive and uplifting as yoy may see from this overview treatment of Mary, the Mother of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ:

Mary, the Mother of Jesus The virgin wife of Joseph of Nazareth and the mother of the Davidic Messiah, Jesus Christ. Having accepted the exalted vocation, she became the ideal mode of Christian faith and discipleship (Luke 1:38, 45; 8:21; 11:28). More than any woman in history, Mary is one for whom God has done “great things” (Luke 1:49).

What particularly struck me was the following treatment of the role of the biblical king's mother (the queen mother) as a guide to understanding Mary's role in interceding for us members of the Lord's Kingdom of Heaven:

The Queen Mother in the Biblical World

Mary is often hailed as Queen in the spiritual and liturgical traditions of the Church. The basis of this tradition, of course, lies in her relation to Christ the King.

But why is the Queen of the New Covenant the mother of the King and not the wife of the King, as so many queens have been through the centuries? The answer lies in the biblical institution of queenship in Israel.

Beginning in the time of Solomon, the Davidic monarchs of Judah imitated their Near Eastern neighbors by reserving the office of queenship to the mother of the king. This, in part, was a practical decision in a world where distinguished and wealthy men commonly possessed multiple wives. This meant that the king’s mother was not simply honored in a stately way, but she was a royal court official, an actual government figure who often wielded significant authority in ancient Oriental kingdoms.

Things were no different in Israel. The queen not only wore a crown (Jer 13:18) and had a throne at the right hand of the Davidic king (1 Kgs 2:19), but she was revered by the king himself (1 Kgs 2:19), who was accustomed to fulfill her every request (1 Kgs 2:20). Among other things, this made her a powerful advocate on behalf of the people (1 Kgs 2:13 19).

This background is important when we read the NT, for Mary is the mother of Jesus, the royal Messiah (Matt 1:1 16) who was destined before his birth to sit on David’s throne (Luke 1:32 33; cf. Acts 2:30 36). In other words, it is the Davidic kingship of Jesus that establishes the maternal Queenship of Mary.

Perhaps the clearest indication of Mary’s Queenship is in the book of Revelation. In the vision of chapter 12, the mother who gives birth to the Messiah appears with “a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1). Clearly she is a queen and a mother.

But just as important, the newborn Messiah is identified as a Davidic king “who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” and who is taken up to his “throne” (Rev 12:5, alluding to the anointed king from David’s line in Ps 2:8 9). Some might think it odd for a queen to give birth to her king; however, the notion of a Queen Mother is exactly what we find in the Davidic monarchy of biblical Israel.

And because Christ is the reigning Davidic Messiah, his Mother too wears the crown of Queenship in the new Kingdom of God.

The Queenship of Mary, an aspiring religious community of women

Under the guidance of Alice Fougere from Halifax, Nova Scotia a small group of dedicated women has begun living a common life in Ottawa, with the hope of eventually becoming a community of apostolic life.

Canonically speaking, there are several stages to the process and they hope soon to be recognized by the Archdiocese and formally begin living their vision of serving the church together. They have an interim uniform (seen above following the Mass of the Assumption), which they hope to trade in soon for a religious habit. They have devoted their ideal under the name of "The Queenship of Mary".

May they celebrate this day with joy under the protective mantle of Our Lady!

Lighter Blogging
This coming week I will be in Rome for the latest session of the Vox Clara Committee; posting will be less frequent.

Prayers for all from the Eternal City!

Friday, August 21, 2009

St. Pius X and Discerning Vocations: Ottawa's "Quo Vadis?" and "Duc in altum" groups

When I was growing up in Ahuntsic (in north-end Montreal), the new curate Father J. David Fitzpatrick began a club for young men interested in the priesthood and entrusted us to our patron, St. Pius X, canonized in 1954.

From that time, I have always maintained a devotion to this early 20th century saint as well as grown in friendship with "Father Fitz" (recently retired after more than fifty years of service in the Archdiocese of Montreal).

The Pius X club has given way to other models of priestly discernment, including the "Quo Vadis?"group (literally "where are you going?"), directed by Ottawa's Director of Vocations Fr. Tim McCauley on the third Friday of each month (there is a session planned for this evening). Men interested in future sessions should contact Fr. Tim (613-445-3054 or

Another discernment group--for both men and women, thinking of the consecrated life and/or priesthood is called "Duc in altum" ("Put out into the deep", Luke 5:4).

The group meets once a month during the Pastoral Year (September-June) with the hopes of coming to a conclusion as to where the Lord is drawing them. For information, contact Ottawa's English Sector Youth Director, Ted Hurley (613-738-5025;

Meantime, the Archdiocesan website has begun an occasional series of reflections by priests on their experience of this wonderful vocation.

The series begins with the reflections of our youngest priest, Father Jonathan Blake, ordained on May 2 and, after two months at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica is now serving at Annunciation of Our Lord Parish in Gloucester (

Thursday, August 20, 2009

St. Bernard's Feast Day: Religious Reformer, Doctor of the Church

Happy Feast Day to those who follow the Trappist Ideal or are inspired by the spirituality of this giant of the Church

Some thoughts on the Saint of the Day, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), by M. Basil Pennington OCSO

The Young Abbot

Bernard, the founding abbot of Clairvaux Abbey in Burgundy, was one of the most commanding Church leaders in the first half of the twelfth century as well as one of the greatest spiritual masters of all times and the most powerful propagator of the Cistercian reform. He was born in Fontaines-les-Dijon in 1090 and entered the Abbey of Citeaux in 1112, bringing thirty of his relatives with him, including five of his brothers--his youngest brother and his widowed father followed later.

After receiving a monastic formation from St. Stephen Harding, he was sent in 1115 to begin a new monastery near Aube: Clairvaux, the Valley of Light. As a young abbot he published a series of sermons on the Annunciation. These marked him not only as a most gifted spiritual writer but also as the "cithara of Mary," especially noted for his development of Mary's mediatorial role.

The Peacemaker

Bernard's spiritual writing as well as his extraordinary personal magnetism began to attract many to Clairvaux and the other Cistercian monasteries, leading to many new foundations. He was drawn into the controversy developing between the new monastic movement which he preeminently represented and the established Cluniac order, a branch of the Benedictines. This led to one of his most controversial and most popular works, his Apologia.

Bernard's dynamism soon reached far beyond monastic circles. He was sought as an advisor and mediator by the ruling powers of his age. More than any other he helped to bring about the healing of the papal schism which arose in 1130 with the election of the antipope Anacletus II. It cost Bernard eight years of laborious travel and skillful mediation.

At the same time he labored for peace and reconciliation between England and France and among many lesser nobles. His influence mounted when his spiritual son was elected pope in 1145. At Eugene III's command he preached the Second Crusade and sent vast armies on the road toward Jerusalem. In his last years he rose from his sickbed and went into the Rhineland to defend the Jews against a savage persecution.

The Writer

Although he suffered from constant physical debility and had to govern a monastery that soon housed several hundred monks and was sending forth groups regularly to begin new monasteries (he personally saw to the establishment of sixty-five of the three hundred Cistercian monasteries founded during his thirty-eight years as abbot), he yet found time to compose many and varied spiritual works that still speak to us today.

Bernard laid out a solid foundation for the spiritual life in his works on grace and free will, humility and love. His gifts as a theologian were called upon to respond to the dangerous teachings of the scintillating Peter Abelard, of Gilbert de la Porree and of Arnold of Brescia. His masterpiece, his Sermons on the Song of Songs, was begun in 1136 and was still in composition at the time of his death.

With great simplicity and poetic grace Bernard writes of the deepest experiences of the mystical life in ways that became normative for all succeeding writers. For Pope Eugene he wrote Five Books on Consideration, the bedside reading of Pope John XXIII and many other pontiffs through the centuries.

Doctor of the Church
Bernard died at Clairvaux on 20 August 1153. He was canonized by Pope Alexander III on 18 January 1174. Pope Pius VII declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1830.

--from The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia
(A Michael Glazier Book), Liturgical Press (1995) 82.
Ms. illustration of St. Bernard from the O. Cist. website in Rome.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Celebrating the Assumption and God's Healing through Mary and the Saints

Today's blog offers a round-up of photos from the weekend's celebrations of the Assumption at the Cathedral, prayers for healing at the Grotto of Notre Dame de Lourdes de Vanier and an Anointing Service at one of our Italian parishes.

Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica: Solemnity of the Assumption

Mass and Procession at the Archdiocesan Shrine (Montreal Road)

The Anointing of the Sick during Mass on Sunday and the Feast of San Rocco at Madonna della Risurrezione Parish