Monday, November 30, 2009

Andrew: the 'first-called' apostle - National CWL Executive Visits - 40th Anniversary of the Novus Ordo Mass

Saint Andrew was the first disciple of Jesus. He was the younger brother of Saint Peter and was born in Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. The brothers were fishermen by trade. Jesus called them to be his disciples by saying that he would make them “fishers of men.”

The Gospel of John teaches us much about St. Andrew who was originally a disciple of St. John the Baptist. When John pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Andrew understood that Jesus was greater and immediately left John to follow Jesus. He visited in Jesus’ home and later brought his brother Simon Peter, who Jesus also called to be an apostle.

It is believed that Saint Andrew and Saint Peter continued their trade as fishermen until Christ called them to a closer relationship, and they left all things to follow Jesus.

After Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, St. Andrew the Apostle preached the gospel in Asia Minor and in Scythia as far as Kiev. Not much is mentioned in the Book of Acts regarding the life of Saint Andrew.

Tradition has it that Saint Andrew was martyred by crucifixion at Patras in Achaea in Greece. Because St. Andrew deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross on which Christ had been crucified, he asked to be tied to a Crux decussata or an X shaped cross. The Apostle Andrew did not die right away but instead he was left to suffer for two days while he continued to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ until he finally died.

Although little is mentioned in the Book of Acts regarding the life of St. Andrew, much can be learned through St. Andrew's life. He and Saint Peter gave up their lifelong careers and lifestyles, leaving everything behind, to follow Jesus. Their undying faith in a difficult world is an inspiration to all Christians.

Saint Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland, Russia and Greece. The flag of Scotland is the Cross of St. Andrew. We should not fail to mention the great influence of St. Andrew in 'New Scotland', the Province of Nova Scotia (cf. St. Andrew's cross on the provincial flag). Scots celebrate Saint Andrew's Day around the world on the 30th of November.
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Yesterday afternoon, the executive committee of the Catholic powerhouse that is the Catholic Women's League of Canada, in town to bring the concerns of its 100,000 members to government officials and those involved in federal public service, dropped by my residence between planning sessions to get caught up on our friendships (I have known three of the four for several or many years and was introduced to the fourth whom I met for the first time).

President Danielle McNeill-Hessian and I frequently collaborated during my days in Halifax; President-elect Velma Harasen and I go back to my sessional lectureship at Campion College, Regina where I taught her son Paul and interacted with her and husband Lorne at St. Martin's Parish when I doubled as a weekend assistant; Chairperson of Resolutions Barb Dowding, who serves as director of stewardship for the Vancouver Archdiocese and I have interacted over the years in aeveral areas of church life; I met the Chairperson of Legislation Judy Lewis, from Prince Edward Island, for the first time today.

We also chatted briefly about the August 90th CWL National Convention slated for the Crowne Plaza Hotel here and toured my digs and the Archbishop's Chapel below Notre Dame Basilica.

The mandatory photo op did not go untaken:

(Left to right): Velma Harasen, Judy Lewis, Danielle McNeill-Hessian, Barb Dowding

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The Novus Ordo Mass began 40 years ago today

On November 30, 1969, the First Sunday of Advent that year, Pope Paul VI (of happy memory--he is one of my heroes) mandated the universal implementation of the Novus Ordo [the new form] of the Mass, an updating of the Mass in light of the directions given by the Second Vatican Council in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium.

While there have been criticisms of the Novus Ordo and the unintended liturgical experimentation its introduction unleashed, abundant blessings have come to us Catholics through praying in the vernacular, having a wider selection of the riches of Scripture for our contemplation and prayer, and a more active (or 'actual') participation in Mass.

For all of this we should continue to give thanks to God.

In 1974, shortly after this inauguration of the new manner of celebrating the Holy Eucharist, a new English translation of the Roman Missal was introduced. We have been using this “dynamic equivalence” translation (not a precise word-for-word or literal translation but one giving the sense of the original) since then, with its limitations in transmitting the riches of the Latin version of the Missal. Its strength is the clarity and simplicity of its wording and phrasing.

With the forthcoming publication of a new English translation (possibly in 2011 or early 2012), in accord with new translation principles (laid out in the document Liturgiam authenticam), it is hoped that the new version will profoundly enrich our public worship.

L.D.S. & M. I.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Sunday of Advent - A New Papal Pastoral Staff

Today the Church celebrates the First Sunday of Advent and the beginning of a new liturgical year.

The Advent liturgy opens with that great yearning cry of the prophets of Israel to the Messiah and Redeemer whose advent they awaited. "Come!" God is not deaf to His people's cry. Fulfilling the promise of salvation made to our first parents at their fall He sent His Son into the world.

And the application to all generations of mankind of the redemption that the Son of God made Man obtained for us by His passion continues until the end of time: it will conclude with the end of the world when the Messiah comes to complete His work and lead us into His kingdom. The history of the Church occupies the period between these two great events.

In the Mass of this Sunday the whole work of redemption is set before us, from its preparation in Israel's expectancy and its effect on our present lives down to its final fulfillment. The Church, in preparing us to celebrate at Christmas the birth of Him who came to snatch our souls from sin and transform them into the likeness of His own, invokes upon us and on all men the complete accomplishment of the mission of salvation that He came to perform upon this earth.

On the first Sunday of Advent, the traditional opening prayer (or Collect) prayed: "Stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, and come." With this request to God to "stir up" His might, this day was traditionally called Stir-Up Sunday. Many families create a traditional plum pudding or fruit cake or some other recipe that all the family and guests can "stir-up." This activity of stirring-up the ingredients symbolizes our hearts that must be stirred in preparation for Christ's birth.

Pope Benedict XVI's new Pastoral Cross

Last evening's First Vespers of Advent Sunday 1 featured the Holy Father carrying his new pastoral staff.

CTV is not our Canadian television network but refers to the Vatican Television Centre

Like the ferula of Blessed Pius IX in 1877, the new staff has been donated to the Pontiff by the Circolo San Pietro, a Roman association founded in 1869 in support of the papacy. The new pastoral cross is slightly smaller and lighter than the ferula of Bl. Pius IX, a copy of which the Pope has been using up to now.

On the front side of the new ferula we find depicted in the centre the Lamb of God, and on the four points of the cross, the symbols of the four Evangelists.

The arms of the cross are decorated in a net-like pattern which evokes the fisherman whose successor Pope Benedict is.

On the reverse side there is in the centre the Chi-Rho, the monogram of Christ, and on the four points of the cross, four Fathers of both the Western and Eastern Church: Augustine and Ambrose, Athanasius and John Chrysostom, the same ones that are featured on Bernini's cathedra.

On the top of the shaft is the coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

School visits and Confirmation at Paroisse St-Pierre Apôtre, Hawkesbury

Amid the Pastoral Visitation of the Parishes of Alfred and Lefaive, which will be reported on next week's photo round-up and is on-going today and tomorrow, Abbé Daniel Berniquez and I visited the two schools in Hawkesbury where the young people of St. Pierre Apôtre who were to be confirmed on Thursday night are students.

The first school was Sainte-Marguerite Bourgeoys, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year. Here are the principal, key teachers and staff members welcoming us, along with the pastor Abbé Jean-Pierre Fredette and his curate, Abbé Albert Kazadi.

Here is a cross-section of the student body in the gymnasium for the photo at the end of the school assembly

Then we journey over to Ecole Paul VI, opened in 1970 and where Abbé Daniel was a student for several years in the 1970s and early 1980s (for some of that time there were so many students that he attended Ecole Christ-Roi for several years).

We had a delightful assembly on the role of the bishop and Jesus' teaching on the role of the Good Shepherd. At the close of the meeting, we posed for a school group photo:

The student body of Paul VI school, 2009-2010

The confirmands and I chatted briefly about the Confirmation service to be held in a few hours time, and I blessed the crosses that were given the students for this special occasion

Photo after the Confirmation Mass in Eglise St. Alphonse (the name of the church that houses Paroisse St. Pierre Apôtre)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Visiting with Ottawa's Anglican Bishop John Chapman

The Ottawa Anglican and Roman Catholic dioceses received new episcopal leadership around the same time.

On the Feast of the Ascension, May 17th 2007, John Holland Chapman was ordained and consecrated Coadjutor Anglican Bishop of Ottawa. I had been introduced as the ninth archbishop (and tenth bishop) of Ottawa a few days earlier, on the feast of St. Matthias (May 14).

At the time of my installation on June 26, Bishop Chapman was attending the meeting of the House of Bishops in Winnipeg, so he asked his (not immediate) predecessor, Bishop John Baycroft to represent him at my installation (whom I had known from the years we served on ARC Canada (the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue of Canada).

Fortunately, I was free to attend the service on the Feast of Ninian, September 16, 2007 when he was enthroned as the ninth Bishop of Ottawa on his predecessor Bishop Peter Robert Coffin's assuming the office of Anglican Bishop Ordinary to the Canadian Forces.

We promised ourselves we would meet to foster a common witness of Christians concerned about our society and did so earlier this year when we both took part in a public protest against the seemingly interminable OC Transpo strike that paralyzed Ottawa.

The announcement in October of a Vatican response to the Anglican Catholic Church's request for union with Rome prompted an initiative to meet, which we were able to do on Wednesday of this week, though that was not the aim of our get-together.

Each with our ecumenical officers, Fr. Craig Bowers of St. Paul's Anglican Church, Kanata and monsieur l'abbe Jacques Kabangu, pastor of Paroisse St-Gabriel, Gloucester (who took the photos and so does not appear in any), we enjoyed good conversation about civic and ecclesial concerns over a light lunch not far from the Bishop's Office on Bronson and Queen Streets (next to Christ Church Cathedral), resolving to keep in touch.

Bishop Chapman (left), Father Bowers in front of the Ottawa Bishop's Office

On my return home, I checked the Anglican website for more details on Bishop Chapman and his family, discovering what follows:

Bishop Chapman, who is a native of Ottawa, was ordained a priest in 1978 and appointed assistant curate at Ottawa's St. Matthias' Church. But he stayed only a short time in his diocese of origin.

In December 1979, he transferred to the Diocese of Huron (London, ON) when appointed Chaplain to Huron University College (HUC) and Anglican Chaplain to the University of Western Ontario.

In 1983 became a lecturer at HUC and in 1984 completed a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee. Promoted to the rank of assistant professor at HUC in 1987, he shortly after accepted what became a 13-year appointment as rector of the parish of St. Jude's Church in London, Ontario.

In the bishop's office...notice the spare croziers in the corner

Returning to the academy in 1999 as Huron Lawson Chair in Pastoral Theology at HUC, his teaching was mainly devoted to the Christian Spiritual tradition, leadership development and pastoral competence. In 2000, he was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Theology at Huron, a position he held until his election as the Ninth Bishop of Ottawa in 2007.

Bishop Chapman is married to Catherine (nee Brabazon) and they are parents of three adult children, Geoffrey, Simon and Sarah.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Photo Round-Up of Recent Confirmation Celebrations

Last weekend was taken up with Confirmations in several parishes as will the next several weekends. Photos from several of these important sacramental "rites of initiation" are shown below.

This week, the Episcopal Visitation of parishes will resume with activities at Paroisse St-Victor, Alfred and Paroisse St-Thomas, Lefaive (including Confirmation ceremonies this evening at Paroisse St-Pierre Apotre, Hawkesbury and for the children of Alfred and Lefaive on Sunday.

The Demeanour of the Bishop during the Canonical Visitation

As in every exercise of his pastoral ministry, the Bishop should conduct himself with simplicity and kindness during a parish visit, giving an example of devotion, charity and poverty: all virtues which, together with prudence, should distinguish a Pastor of the Church.

The Bishop esteems the pastoral visit as quasi anima episcopalis regiminis, an extension of his spiritual presence among his people (686).

With Jesus the good Shepherd as his model, he should present himself to the faithful not “in lofty words or wisdom” (1 Cor 2:1), nor with an air of mere mechanical efficiency, but rather clothed in humility and goodness, always interested in the individual person and capable of listening and making himself understood.

In the course of the visit, the Bishop should take care not to burden the parish or the parishioners with unnecessary expenses (687). This does not prevent them, however, from organizing simple festivities as a natural consequence of their Christian joy and an expression of affection and esteem for their Pastor. (The Bishop's Pastoral Directory, #223)

Paroisse St-Joseph, Orléans, November 21

Guess who got a new tie for Confirmation?

Paroisse St-Gabriel, Gloucester, November 22

The photographer only got to the camera as the "photo op" was breaking up...

Paroisse St-Thérèse d'Avila, Marionville, November 22

Paroisse St-Jacques, Embrun, November 25

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YOUTHFUL SAINTS - JOHN BERCHMANS, JESUIT SCHOLASTIC (his feast day is observed today in Belgium and in Jesuit houses)

John Berchmans (1599-1621) personifies the ideal that ordinary deeds done extraordinarily well lead to great holiness. He died very young, only five years after entering the Jesuit novitiate, but his great desire to be a priest inspired him to live religious life fully.

Berchmans was born the eldest son of a shoemaker in 1599 at Diest, Belgium. At a very young age he wanted to be a priest, and when thirteen he became a servant in the household of one of the cathedral canons at Malines.

After his mother's death, his father and two brothers followed suit and entered religious life. In 1615 he entered the Jesuit college there, becoming a novice a year later. In 1618 he was sent to Rome for more study and was known for his diligence and piety, and his stress on perfection even in small things.

That year his father was ordained and died six months later. John was so poor and humble that he walked from Antwerp to Rome. He died at the age of 22 on August 13. Many miracles were attributed to him after his death; he was canonized in 1888 and is the patron saint of altar boys.

Although he longed to work in the mission fields of China, he did not live long enough to permit it. After completing his course work, he was asked to defend the "entire field of philosophy" in a public disputation in July, just after his exit examinations. The following month he was asked to represent the Roman College in a debate with the Greek College.

Although he distinguished himself in this disputation, he had studied so assiduously that he caught a cold in mid-summer, became very ill with with an undetermined illness accompanied by a fever, although some think it now to have been dysentery, and died a week later.

The brother infirmarian suggested that he should receive Communion the next day, even though it was not a Sunday (daily communion was not usual at that time and some feast days were designated as "Communion days"). The Jesuit community came in procession bringing Viaticum to the their dying brother.

He asked for his crucifix, rosary and rule book and received a steady stream of visitors, including Father General. He spent his final night in prayer and died on August 13 in the morning.He was buried in the church of Saint Ignatius at Rome, but his heart was later translated to the Jesuit church at Louvain.

So many miracles were attributed to him after his death at the age of 22, that his cultus soon spread to his native Belgium, where 24,000 copies of his portrait were published within a few years of his death. He was known for his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Lady.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Father Libor serves the Czech Catholic diaspora - The Pope meets with artists

Father Libor Svorcik came to Canada to assist Czech immigrants for a period of five years. He has been here for eleven already.

Based at St. Wenceslaus Parish Church in Toronto, the priest is still in his 40s and vigorous; Father also acts as an itinerant chaplain for Catholics of Czech origin in Kingston, Montreal and Ottawa (generally every three weeks in good weather; less frequently in winter when driving the roads is hazardous).

From time to time, he extends his reach even farther, heading west to minister to Czech-speaking Catholics in Calgary and Winnipeg.

On one of his recent visits to Ottawa for an anticipated Sunday Mass on a Saturday afternoon, I met with Father; these Masses are celebrated at St. Leopold Mandic church, our archdiocese's Croatian Parish directed by Father Adam Tabak at 170 Hinchey in the Mechanicsville neighbourhood. We discussed the possibility of my concelebrating Mass with the Czech faithful in the future, with an opportuniyt to meet this tiny flock for whom we both share responsibility.

In September of this year, the Holy Father visited the Czech Republic. Here are excerpts from Pope Benedict's reflections upon that visit at the Wednesday General Audience on his return to Rome:

"The Love of Christ Is Our Strength": This was the theme of the journey, an affirmation that echoes the faith of so many heroic witnesses of the distant and recent past -- I am thinking in particular of the past century. But, [also a theme] which above all wishes to interpret the certainty of today's Christians. Yes, our strength is the love of Christ! A strength that inspires and animates true revolutions, peaceful and liberating, and which sustains us in moments of crisis, allowing us to rise again when liberty, arduously recovered, runs the risk of losing itself, [of losing] its own truth....

The love of Christ began to reveal itself in the face of a Child. Arriving in Prague, in fact, my first stop was in the church of Our Lady Victorious, where the Child Jesus is venerated, known precisely as the "Infant of Prague." This effigy refers to the mystery of God made Man, to the "close God," base of our hope.

Before the "Infant of Prague" I prayed for all children, for their parents, and for the future of the family. The real "victory" for which we pray today to Mary, is the victory of love and of life in the family and in society!

...Symbol of this synthesis between truth and beauty is the splendid Cathedral of Prague, dedicated to Sts. Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert, where the celebration of vespers took place with priests, religious, seminarians and a representation of laymen committed to ecclesial associations and movements. This is a difficult moment for the Central Eastern European community: To the consequences of the long winter of atheist totalitarianism, are being added the noxious effects of a certain Western secularism and consumerism.

Because of this I have encouraged all to draw new energies from the Risen Lord, to be able to be evangelical leaven in the society and to commit themselves, as is already happening, to charitable activities, and even more so to educational and school activities.

I extended this message of hope, founded on faith in Christ, to all the People of God in the two large Eucharistic celebrations held respectively in Brno, capital of Moravia, and in Stara Boleslav, site of the martyrdom of St. Wenceslaus, the nation's principal patron. Moravia makes us think immediately of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, evangelizers of the Slavic peoples and, hence, of the inexhaustible force of the Gospel that, as a river of healing waters, crosses history and continents, taking life and salvation everywhere.

On the portal of the Cathedral of Brno are engraved the words of Christ: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

Dear friends, I thank the Lord because, with this journey, he has allowed me to meet a people and a Church with profound historical and religious roots, which commemorates this year different events of high spiritual and social value. To the brothers and sisters of the Czech Republic I renew a message of hope and an invitation to the value of the good, to build the present and future of Europe.

I entrust the fruits of my pastoral visit to the intercession of Mary Most Holy and to that of all the saints of Bohemia and Moravia. Thank you.

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"Dear Artists, You Are the Custodians of Beauty"

Here is an excerpt from the text of the pope's speech given on November 21, 2009, in the Sistine Chapel, to representatives of all the arts: painters, sculptors, architects, novelists, poets, musicians, singers, men of the cinema, theatre, dance, photography

With great joy I welcome you to this solemn place, so rich in art and in history. I cordially greet each and every one of you and I thank you for accepting my invitation.

At this gathering I wish to express and renew the Church’s friendship with the world of art, a friendship that has been strengthened over time; indeed Christianity from its earliest days has recognized the value of the arts and has made wise use of their varied language to express her unvarying message of salvation.

This friendship must be continually promoted and supported so that it may be authentic and fruitful, adapted to different historical periods and attentive to social and cultural variations. Indeed, this is the reason for our meeting here today.

I am deeply grateful to Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church, and likewise to his officials, for promoting and organizing this meeting, and I thank him for the words he has just addressed to me. I greet the Cardinals, the Bishops, the priests and the various distinguished personalities present. I also thank the Sistine Chapel Choir for their contribution to this gathering.

Today’s event is focused on you, dear and illustrious artists, from different countries, cultures and religions, some of you perhaps remote from the practice of religion, but interested nevertheless in maintaining communication with the Catholic Church, in not reducing the horizons of existence to mere material realities, to a reductive and trivializing vision. You represent the varied world of the arts and so, through you, I would like to convey to all artists my invitation to friendship, dialogue and cooperation.

Some significant anniversaries occur around this time.

It is ten years since the Letter to Artists by my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II. For the first time, on the eve of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Pope, who was an artist himself, wrote a Letter to artists, combining the solemnity of a pontifical document with the friendly tone of a conversation among all who, as we read in the initial salutation, "are passionately dedicated to the search for new ‘epiphanies’ of beauty".

Twenty-five years ago the same Pope proclaimed Blessed Fra Angelico the patron of artists, presenting him as a model of perfect harmony between faith and art.

Blessed Fra Angelico, The Annunciation of the Lord, in the Dominican Convent of San Marco, Florence -- note that, in the artist's view, this saving mystery "takes place" in the convent itself (in the very act of contemplation, the vocation of the followers of Dominic; they are to pass on what they have contemplated contemplata tradere), thus undoing the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden

I also recall how on 7 May 1964, forty-five years ago, in this very place, an historic event took place, at the express wish of Pope Paul VI, to confirm the friendship between the Church and the arts. The words that he spoke on that occasion resound once more today under the vault of the Sistine Chapel and touch our hearts and our minds.

"We need you," he said. "We need your collaboration in order to carry out our ministry, which consists, as you know, in preaching and rendering accessible and comprehensible to the minds and hearts of our people the things of the spirit, the invisible, the ineffable, the things of God himself. And in this activity … you are masters. It is your task, your mission, and your art consists in grasping treasures from the heavenly realm of the spirit and clothing them in words, colours, forms – making them accessible." So great was Paul VI’s esteem for artists that he was moved to use daring expressions.

"And if we were deprived of your assistance," he added, "our ministry would become faltering and uncertain, and a special effort would be needed, one might say, to make it artistic, even prophetic. In order to scale the heights of lyrical expression of intuitive beauty, priesthood would have to coincide with art."

On that occasion Paul VI made a commitment to "re-establish the friendship between the Church and artists", and he invited artists to make a similar, shared commitment, analyzing seriously and objectively the factors that disturbed this relationship, and assuming individual responsibility, courageously and passionately, for a newer and deeper journey in mutual acquaintance and dialogue in order to arrive at an authentic "renaissance" of art in the context of a new humanism.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

LifeTeen Mass and Evening at Divine Infant Parish, Orleans - Conference, "The Deaf Person in the Life of the Church"

On Sunday evening, the LifeTeen ministry of Divine Infant Parish, Orléans welcomed me to preside at the weekly Sunday 6:30PM Eucharist, where many of the ministries are carried out by the youth of the parish.

The Mass was preceded by a supper shared with the Core Team, including some of the parents, the seminarian from Gozo, John-Paul Cefai who is doing his internship year at DI, and the two priests of the parish, Fathers Frank Brewer and Paul Nwaeze.

After Mass, there was a skit night done in the form of a Talk Show format where I was "interviewed" by youth coordinator Chantal Léger (a variation on "Stump the Bishop" routines), with some "commercials" in favour of some Catholic "products" and musical interludes by the gentlemen of the band. The interview questions were actually submitted by the youth and supplementary questions from the "audience" were permitted.

At the end, we celebrated two young men who are celebrating birthdays this week. I enjoyed myself and think the young people did too. Herewith a few more photos of the occasion:

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Last week, there was a special international conference called "Effata! Deaf people in the life of the Church," organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care.

Father Peter Monty, S.J. who was for decades chaplain to the deaf in Ontario--driving thousands of kilometers every year to minister to the hearing-impaired--and now assists in this ministry part-time told me how needed this symposium is. He feels we have still a long way to go for the deaf to feel fully integrated in church life.

In Ottawa, there is signing of the Mass in the St. René Goupil chaplaincy (Goupil, a donné to the Jesuit mission and one of the North American martyr saints, was hearing-impaired) at Canadian Martyrs Church on Main Street.

Here is an interesting report on the gathering from the blog "Joan's Rome" by Joan Lewis, EWTN's Rome correspondent (the photo by CNS photographer Paul Haring shows Maura Buckley an Irish catechist and interpreter "speaking" at the meeting):

[On November 20], the Holy Father received 400 participants in the international conference Noting that the theme “effata” is “a paradigm of how the Lord works for people with hearing impairment," he referred to Mark’s Gospel where "Jesus takes a deaf man aside and … raises His eyes to heaven and says: 'effata', that is, 'be opened'. In that moment ... the man recovered his hearing, his tongue was loosened and he spoke plainly.”

Pope Benedict’s words were translated into sign language for the 89 deaf people, including one pastor, present at the conference. "Jesus' actions are full of loving attention and express profound compassion for the man before Him," he said.

"Jesus expressed real concern, took the man aside from the confusion of the crowds, and made him feel His closeness and understanding through certain highly significant gestures."

The Pope then underscored that Jesus does not only cure physical deafness. "He also indicates the existence of another form of deafness from which humanity must be healed, or rather … be saved. This is the deafness of the spirit which raises ever-higher barriers to the voice of God and of our fellow man, especially the cry for help of the poor and the suffering, and which encloses man in a profound and destructive selfishness."

The Holy Father remarked that, "unfortunately experience has shown that hearing-impaired people do not always meet with ready acceptance, committed solidarity and affectionate communion. The many associations which have come into being to defend and promote their rights are evidence of the existence of an underlying culture marked by prejudice and discrimination."

“Much more numerous,” he pointed out, “are the initiatives prompted by institutions and associations, both ecclesial and civil, that are inspired by authentic and generous solidarity and have improved the living conditions of many deaf people."

He recalled how "the first schools for the education and religious formation of these our brothers and sisters came into being in Europe in the 1700s. Since then, charitable initiatives have been multiplying within the Church, ... with the aim of offering the deaf, not only formation, but integral assistance for their complete self-realization."

Benedict XVI decried “the serious situation in which deaf people still live in developing countries, because of both a lack of appropriate policies and legislation, and because of difficulty of access to basic healthcare. Deafness, indeed, is often the consequence of easily-curable diseases."

In this context, he appealed "to political and civil authorities, as well as to international organizations, to offer the support necessary to promote … due respect for the dignity and rights of deaf people, favoring ... their full social integration."

St. René Goupil evangelizing a Native child

"Dear hearing-impaired brothers and sisters," concluded the Pope, "you are not only recipients of the announcement of the Gospel but, by virtue of your Baptism, also its announcers. Live every day, then, as witnesses of the Lord in the environments in which you live, making Christ and His Gospel known."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Martyrs old and new: Pope Clement I and Miguel Augustine Pro - Last Confirmation at Cyrville parish

Today, 23 November, is the feast of Pope St Clement I, bishop of Rome and martyr but there is also an optional memorial of Blessed Miguel Pro, martyr in Mexico.

Very little is known about the life of St Clement (pope from 92-101 AD). According to the oldest list of Roman bishops, he was the third successor to St Peter in Rome.

He is the author of an Epistle to the Corinthians which was written c. 96 AD in the name of the Church of Rome to deal with disturbances in the Church at Corinth. The letter is one of the earliest witnesses to the authority of the Church of Rome and was so highly regarded that it was read publicly at Corinth with the Scriptures in the second century.

St Clement is revered as a martyr: fourth-century accounts speak of his forced labour in the mines during exile to the Crimea in the reign of the emperor Trajan (98-117 AD) and his missionary work there which prompted the Romans to bind him to an anchor and throw him into the Black Sea. Sometime later, the accounts continue, the water receded, revealing a tomb built by angels from which his body was recovered.

The relics of St Clement are reserved beneath the high altar of the basilica of San Clemente in Rome and the painting in this photo hangs in the refectory of the Dominican priory adjoining the basilica.

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Today's possible liturgical memorial of Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J. offers a fitting connection with yesterday's Solemnity of Christ the King and devotion to the Sacred Heart.

The memorable line of Pro's is his last, uttered before he was executed for being a Catholic priest and serving his flock: ¡Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King!

Blessed Miguel Pro teaches us to serve Christ the King all that we do and remain close to the mercy of God. He wrote:

I believe, O Lord, but strengthen my faith... Heart of Jesus, I love Thee; but increase my love. Heart of Jesus, I trust in Thee; but give greater vigor to my confidence. Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee; but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee. Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine; but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it in practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life.

Born into a prosperous, devout family in Guadalupe de Zacatecas, Miguel Pro entered the Jesuits in 1911 but three years later fled to Granada, Spain, because of religious persecution in Mexico. He was ordained in Belgium in 1925.

He immediately returned to Mexico, where he served a Church forced to go “underground.” He celebrated the Eucharist clandestinely and ministered the other sacraments to small groups of Catholics.

He and his brother Roberto were arrested on trumped-up charges of attempting to assassinate Mexico’s president. Roberto was spared but Miguel was sentenced to face a firing squad on November 23, 1927. His funeral became a public demonstration of faith. He was beatified in 1988.

In 1927 when Father Miguel Pro was executed, no one could have predicted that 52 years later the bishop of Rome would visit Mexico, be welcomed by its president and celebrate open-air Masses before thousands of people. Pope John Paul II made additional trips to Mexico in 1990, 1993 and 1999.

Those who outlawed the Catholic Church in Mexico did not count on the deeply rooted faith of its people and the willingness of many of them, like Miguel Pro, to die as martyrs.

During his homily at the beatification Mass, Pope John Paul II said that Father Pro “is a new glory for the beloved Mexican nation, as well as for the Society of Jesus. His life of sacrificing and intrepid apostolate was always inspired by a tireless evangelizing effort. Neither suffering nor serious illness, neither the exhausting ministerial activity, frequently carried out in difficult and dangerous circumstances, could stifle the radiating and contagious joy which he brought to his life for Christ and which nothing could take away (see John 16:22). Indeed, the deepest root of self-sacrificing surrender for the lowly was his passionate love for Jesus Christ and his ardent desire to be conformed to him, even unto death.”

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The Last CONFIRMATIONS at Notre Dame de Lourdes de Cyrville

Following the study of the seven francophone parishes in Vanier, Overbrook and Lower Town, the committee recommended the closing of Notre Dame de Lourdes de Cyrville on Michael Street (to distinguish it from the parish Notre Dame de Lourdes in Vanier (administered by the Montfort Fathers) amid the bustling shopping areas adjacent to the St. Laurent Shopping Centre which is entertaining a proposal to become considerably larger.

The recommendations, which I have in the main accepted and announced, would see the parishioners from the Cyrville church (founded in 1873) invited to, according to where they live, attend St. Gabriel (in Gloucester), St. Louis de Montfort (with which it had been twinned) or St. Sebastien (nearby). Parishioners also have the option of registering in some other parish of their choice.

The parish will have a closing dinner this coming Saturday evening and I will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for the graces of these many years on Sunday, December 13, Gaudete (Rejoicing) Sunday, though the joys remembered may be bittersweet for some. Finally, the last major celebration will be that of Christmas; there will not be regular parish Masses following the Nativity observance.

Last Wednesday, I celebrated Confirmations--the last of this parish--for some 20+ young people who attend Ecole des Pins and Ecole Secondaire Samuel Genest. Here are some photos from that occasion:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Christ the King of the Universe - A Visit to St. Paul Seminary

The Feast of Christ the King (properly the Solemnity of Christ the King in the Roman Catholic Church) is a last holy Sunday in the western liturgical calendar, celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church and by many Protestants.

Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King in 1925, in response to growing nationalism and secularism.

In Pope John XXIII's 1960 revision of the Calendar, the date and title remained the same and, in the new simpler ranking of feasts, it was classified as a feast of the first class.

In 1969, Pope Paul VI gave the celebration a new title: "Domini Nostri Iesu Christi universorum Regis" (Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe). He also gave it a new date: the last Sunday in the liturgical year, before a new year begins with the First Sunday in Advent, the earliest date for which is 27 November.

Through this choice of date "the eschatological importance of this Sunday is made clearer". He assigned to it the highest rank, that of "Solemnity".

As happens with all Sundays whose liturgies are replaced by those of important feasts, the prayers of the 34th Sunday on which the celebration of Christ the King falls are used on the weekdays of the following week. The Sunday liturgy is thus not totally omitted.

The iconography of Christ the King is prominent in Ottawa's Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, as may be seen below:

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On Friday morning, I joined the residents of St. Paul's Seminary for the daily Mass celebrated at 7:20. Afterwards, I joined the community at breakfast. Some photos (the camera was not available in the chapel or sacristy):

An overview of the dining-room

Pere Alexandre Tache, o.m.i. whom I got to know when we were part of the Canadian delegation at the Synod of Bishops on "Priestly Formation in the Circumstances of Today", October 1990

Cooperation among religious orders: Pere Luc Tardif, o.m.i. (left) and Father Jobe Abbass, O.F.M. Conv.