Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Transfiguration of Christ and His Followers - Nursing Home Visit

Here are some reflections on the readings for this Second Sunday of Lent, which always features the Lord's Transfiguration to strengthen his followers in their journey of inner renewal during this holy season:

[Texts: Genesis 15:5-12,17-18 (Psalm 27); Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28b-36]

What to make of the mystery of the Transfiguration? This remains a puzzle in New Testament research and in Christian spirituality.

Some scholars detect in the Transfiguration story features found in the Resurrection appearances breaking into the public ministry of Jesus (e.g., white garments, the shining of the garments, fear).

In the post-Easter narratives, however, an angel or Jesus generally gives specific individuals a commission to proclaim the Resurrection. By contrast, after the Transfiguration, a command to silence is given the disciples by Jesus in the gospels of Mark and Matthew. Luke simply observes that 'the disciples kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen'.

The Transfiguration remains a unique episode in the public ministry of Jesus that heralds both His coming Passion and Exaltation.

Jesus goes up the mountain to pray (only Luke gives this reason), during which He is transfigured. The Transfiguration prepares for a meeting with 'two men,' who are identified as Moses and Elijah. Now the disciples, who have been kept out of view, are grafted into the scene, managing to overcome sleep to witness the heavenly trio of Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

Subtly, the perspective shifts to the interior experience of Peter, James and John. As the heavenly visitors prepare to leave, Peter tries to prevent the ending of their mystical experience. The rejoinder to Peter's remark comes not from Jesus but from an enveloping cloud that both reveals and conceals God's presence.

Evoking an awesome fear, God's voice from heaven declares that Jesus' suffering path to glory (His 'exodos', poorly rendered as 'departure') cannot be bypassed by extending this foretaste of resurrection glory. Once God's voice has spoken, the scene reverts to what it was before the Lord's prayer, Jesus alone with His chosen disciples. The stunned disciples not unnaturally keep to themselves what they have gone through.

Though the Lectionary selection omits it, the introductory verse of the Transfiguration story says that the Transfiguration took place 'eight days after' Jesus had begun to teach His followers that He would suffer, die and rise (Luke 9:21-22). Immediately after that prophecy, Jesus declared that any who wanted to be disciples had to take up their cross and follow Him (9:23-26).

Peter, James and John had to learn from Jesus a great deal, which they would share later with the church. They had to listen attentively, for much of what they were hearing was not what they expected. This is why the divine voice offered assurances that what Jesus taught about suffering was pleasing to God ('this is My Son, My Chosen; listen to Him').

Paul challenged his Philippian converts to imitate him in his following of Jesus. For the true disciple of Jesus there remains the promise of one day sharing the glory of His Transfiguration ('He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of His glory').

The first reading also reflects the biblical invitation that believers look beyond present circumstances to the hope-filled future being prepared for them by God.

Having grown old without seeing fulfilled God's promise that he would have offspring, Abram brought his complaint before God. The Lord promised Abram that, despite appearances to the contrary, his posterity would be as numerous as the stars in the night sky.

The closing actions of the Abram story depict a covenant-making ceremony. The sacrificial cutting of animals in two indicated that the parties entered into a solemn pledge. Each solemnly bound the other to be willing to die--like the sacrificed animals--if he failed to adhere to the promises made.

Here, however, it was God alone (symbolized by the 'smoking fire pot' and 'flaming torch' passing between the victims) who made the death-defying commitment. Though 'a deep sleep fell upon Abram and terrifying darkness descended upon him', he received God's offer of land which his progeny would occupy ('to your descendants I give this land').

We learn in the Genesis reading that Abraham (Abram's later name), believed God 'and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness'. In his epistle to the Romans, Paul described such a trusting disposition as the characteristic of every believer (cf. Romans 1:17).

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"Spiritual consolation" as a help in daily life

Father Jack Mahoney has some insights on how God's consolation, shown Jesus and his disciples in the gospel, can, when it is given us in prayer, spiritual experiences, help our daily dedication to the Lord's way:

Another point to consider is Peter’s feeling that it was ‘good’ for the disciples to be there on the mountain top along with the glorified Jesus and Moses and Elijah, and that when Moses and Elijah were about to depart Peter wanted to keep them all together and to prolong the experience.

This recalls the point beloved of traditional retreat givers, that we may on occasion experience a feeling of spiritual pleasure or contentment, or what St Ignatius of Loyola called ‘consolation’ in prayer; that we want to maintain the spiritual glow of devotion and are sorry to feel it go.

How are we to handle what we may call the ‘re-entry’ problem, that of reluctantly returning from a state of spiritual delight to the mundane realities and distracting chores of daily life? Peter did not appreciate that the shared experience of the Transfiguration was to prepare him and his fellows, as well as Jesus, for the distress and desolation which they were soon to experience when Jesus completed his journey to Jerusalem, as Luke points out (9:31).

The point is well captured by St Ignatius in his comment on ‘rules for discernment of spirits’ in the first week of the Spiritual Exercises: ‘let any who are in consolation think how they shall carry themselves in the desolation that will come afterwards, gathering new strength for that time.’

That seems to be Luke’s point for his readers, and the Church’s point for us at this stage in Lent: assurance and divine encouragement from the Transfiguration of Jesus, to keep going in following Jesus and to trust God in whatever future he may have in mind for us. (Read more at:

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The Pastoral Visitation of St. Isidore's Parish (South March/Kanata) continues this weekend.

Here are some photos of an hour spent on Friday afternoon with the residents of Forest Hill Long Term Care Home:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Launching the ShareLent Campaign in the Ottawa Archdiocese - Pastoral Visitation to St. Isidore's (South March/Kanata)

Lancement Carême de Partage / Share Lent Launch 2010

On Monday, I joined some fifty of the clergy and faithful of the Archdiocese at Ottawa's St. Joseph Parish for the official launch of this Lent's campaign to turn the fruits of our fasting, abstinence and other sacrifices to support the poor of the world. Several other speakers spoke to the needs of the poor for the contributions in solidarity.

In addition to photos taken on that occasion, here are my remarks:

Jésus a dit à ses premiers disciples : «Donnez-leur à manger ». La Lettre encyclique Caritas in Veritate lance le même défi lorsque le Pape Benoît XVI nous rappelle que nourrir nos sœurs et nos frères dans le besoin est « …un impératif éthique pour l’Église universelle, qui répond aux enseignements de solidarité et de partage de son Fondateur, le Seigneur Jésus. »

En tant que disciples du Christ et membres de l’Église universelle d’aujourd’hui, relevons le défi évangélique afin d’aider à nourrir plus d’un milliard de nos frères et sœurs qui, dans le monde entier, luttent chaque jour pour trouver suffisamment de nourriture pour eux-mêmes et pour leurs familles. La crise alimentaire est loin d’être terminée pour eux.

ShareLent provides an opportunity to respond to this challenge. Our gifts will grow as they are used by Development and Peace partners to improve the quality of life for people in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

On behalf of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, I encourage you to support the work of Development and Peace by giving generously to Share Lent. Together, we can watch our gift grow. In 2010, your solidarity can help reduce world hunger.

Autour du thème « Elle cultive votre don. En 2010, toutes et tous solidaires contre la faim dans le monde », nous pouvons utiliser le Carême, ce temps privilégié de conversion fournit aux catholiques, comme l’occasion de tourner nos regards vers les plus démunis de la planète et de poser des gestes de solidarité et de compassion. Voilà le jeûne qui plaît à Dieu (Isaie 58, 5).

Développement et Paix, organisme officiel de l’Église catholique au Canada pour la solidarité internationale et membre canadien de Caritas Internationalis, nous lance un vibrant appel à l’endroit des communautés des pays du Sud. C’est pourquoi le Carême de partage vise trois objectifs: d’abord le renouvellement de l’esprit du Carême, l’éducation du public sur le développement international et la levée de fonds.

During Lent 2010, the parishes of the Ottawa Archdiocese have an opportunity to meet one of the challenges of their faith, by participating in the mission of the church to help break the chains of poverty and exclusion.

On Sunday March 21, through their Share Lent contributions, Canadian parishioners will help the poor through the work of Development and Peace. This will help the victims of economic injustice and political oppression; they will provide hope, help and dignity by supporting projects in 40 countries.

Le Pape Benoît XVI, dans son encyclique « Caritas in veritate », rappelle que chaque personne sur terre a le droit fondamental à la vie. Nous devons toujours nous en souvenir, et lorsque nous faisons du bien aux pauvres, cette vérité doit sous-tendre les efforts pour soulager toute pauvreté et souffrance. Par son comité spécial de surveillance, la Conférence des évêques catholiques du Canada veut que toute activité de Développement et Paix porte la marque de cette vision.

For several months now, Benedict XVI's third encyclical titled Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) has been inviting Catholics to search for the positive aspects of globalization, that is, those with universal values.

“Charity in truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness" is "the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity". Pope Benedict reminds us that "charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine".

Actuellement, l’heure est à la solidarité dans plusieurs parties du monde et particulièrement en Haiti dévasté par le tremblement de terre du 12 janvier dernier. Par l’appui financier des catholiques et des personnes de bonne volonté pendant le Carême 2010, Développement et Paix pourra poursuivre le mandat reçu en 1967 de la Conférence des évêques catholiques du Canada, inspiré de « Popularum Progressio » de Paul VI.

“Love is God’s greatest gift to humanity; it is God’s promise and our hope.” ShareLent is an occasion that allows us to renew our hearts, and demonstrate that our decisions and actions truly reflect our beliefs, and our humanity to the world.

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Yesterday, Episcopal Vicar Father Joseph Muldoon and I headed west to St. Isidore's Parish to begin the Pastoral Visitation that will continue this weekend.

The two elementary schools St. Isidore's (next to the church on March Road) and Georges Vanier School (Kanata) welcomed us warmly as may be seen by the following photos:

Visit to St. Isidore's School (South March)

The bishop's staff is called a "crozier", his high hat a "miter"

Several students got to come up and ask questions, "How do you get to be a bishop?"

The children of St. Isidore's school

Visit to Georges Vanier Elementary School (Kanata)

Family members came to the school to take part in the episcopal visitation assembly

The Georges Vanier children who will celebrate First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion this year

"Did you really get that cross from Pope Benedict?"

Almost everyone wants to ask a question

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Lenten Prayer over the People

May the blessing for which they have longed strengthen your faithful, O God, so that, never straying from your will, they may always rejoice in your favours. Through Christ our Lord.

(artwork by a student of Georges Vanier School)

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Quick Trip to London, Ontario

Living the Catholic Faith in 2010

The Diocese of London created a lecture series in honour of Bishop John Michael Sherlock upon his retirement in 2002.

They were initially held in St. Peter's Cathedral Basilica, then last year at King's College, University of Western Ontario and this year the lecture was held on Wednesday night in the auditorium of St. Peter's Seminary.

Newly appointed Seminary Rector Father Stephen Wlusek (at left, welcoming everyone) was our host for the evening.

The timing was somewhat precarious for me as we had two Pastoral Days scheduled this week: for the English Sector on Wednesday and for the Francophone Sector yesterday. But Air Canada Jazz had a direct flight to London on Wednesday afternoon at 4:30 and a return flight on Thursday morning at 8:10, which should have allowed a neat fit.

However air travel in winter can be problematic, with the result that yesterday the plane that should have taken us to Ottawa by 9:40 was delayed by de-icing at Toronto Pearson, its point of origin, and then a mechanical failure of some kind that developed in the air, resulting in the delay of most of the morning's flights leaving London for Ottawa and Toronto.

After being re-routed through Toronto, I arrived at Ottawa International at 2:30PM, just slightly after the Pastoral Day had wrapped up.

The "Journey of a Bishop" sometimes encounters bumps on the road (or in the air)!

Herewith photos from Wednesday evening's event:

Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, one of the evening's promoters, and Bishop John Michael Sherlock, who graciously introduced the speaker

The assembly 20 minutes before the talk; chairs were continually added and it was SRO as we began

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Prayer over the People

Look with favour on your people, Lord, that what their observance declares outwardly may take effect more deeply within them. Through Christ our Lord.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Photo Round Up: Quebec Interlude - Visiting Famille Marie-Jeunesse in Sherbrooke, Jesuits in Montreal

A Visit to Sherbrooke...

Last week, I spent several days (Wednesday-Friday) at the Famille Marie-Jeunesse centre in Sherbrooke (QC). This was to offer a short course on the Resurrection of Jesus.

During my time there I had a chance to play hockey with the young members (male and female), some of whom, hailing from Belgium and Ile de la Reunion, had never been on skates before coming to Canada.

Thursday evening, to mark the Year of Priests, I shared some reflections on my experience of priesthood and listened to those of the younger priest-members and took discernment questions.

Friday was my birthday, so a cake was presented and songs sung. It was a lovely and lively interlude.

Wednesday evening hockey under the lights (it was easier next afternoon)

Young and old face off

A pause between course sessions

Famille Marie-Jeunesse founder Real

The young priests and those discerning a call to the priesthood

Being serenaded after the birthday cake candle was extinguished

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...and a Stopover in Montreal

On the way home to Ottawa, I broke the trip with an overnight visit at the Loyola Jesuit Community in Montreal where the first year novices and Jesuits working on a history project at the newly-opened Archives got together for supper.

Joining with the Jesuit Community at the Loyola Residence in west end Montreal

The library of the new Jesuit Archives in Montreal

New facilities of the Archives for both Jesuit Canadian Provinces were recently inaugurated

Jesuits at the new Archives facilities in Montreal working on a history of the English-speaking Jesuit Province

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Welcoming Canada's New Apostolic Nuncio to Ottawa

Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana, named as the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada on December 10, arrived in Ottawa yesterday to take up his duties.

While it will take some time to schedule a meeting with Governor General Michaelle Jean because of her other commitments, His Excellency will begin to feel comfortable in his new home, get to know his collaborators at the Nunciature and begin to meet the bishops of Canada.

Archbishop López Quintana served as Apostolic Nuncio, or the Vatican's ambassador, to India and Nepal from 2003 until his recent nomination. He succeeds Archbishop Luigi Ventura, who served in Ottawa from 2001 until his appointment as Nuncio to France in September.

Born in Barbastro, Spain, on July 27, 1953, López Quintana was ordained to the priesthood in 1980, entered the Holy See’s diplomatic service in 1984 and was ordained bishop in 2003. He has also served in the apostolic nunciatures of Madagascar, the Philippines and India, as well as in the Holy See’s Secretariat of State, where he served as Assessor for General Affairs.

The archbishop holds a Doctorate in Canon Law and speaks French, English, Italian and Portuguese in addition to Spanish.

In the late afternoon, I joined the staff of the Nunciature to travel to Ottawa International to welcome the Nuncio to our country and city. Some photos:

A striking painting serves as the backdrop for the welcoming delegation

Canadian consular official welcomes the Vatican's envoy

Relaxing in the diplomatic lounge while awaiting the arrival of luggage

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At the top right of this blog page, you will find posted an expression of my Lenten letter and encouragement of Lectio divina, produced by Ted Hurley, Ottawa's English-sector Youth Director.

A Lenten Prayer over the People inviting God's cleansing of the Church's catechumens and those renewing their baptismal commitment to Christ:

Keep guard over your people, Lord, and graciously cleanse them from all sins, for no adversity will harm them if no iniquity rules them. Through Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

St. Polycarp - Photos of Jour du Seigneur & the Rite of Election - Getting Ready for the New Roman Missal

Today the liturgy permits an optional memorial of St. Polycarp of Smyrna, who had known those who had known Jesus; he was a disciple of St. John the Apostle, who had converted him around the year 80 AD.

He taught, says his own pupil Irenaeus of Lyons, the things that he learned from the Apostles, which the Church hands down, which are true. Irenaeus, who as a young boy knew Polycarp, praised his gravity, holiness, and majesty of countenance. He had lived near Jerusalem and was proud of his early associations with the Apostles.

Polycarp became bishop of Smyrna and held the see for about 70 years. He was a staunch defender of orthodoxy and an energetic opponent of heresy, especially Marcionism and Valentinianism (the most influential of the Gnostic sects). Toward the end of his life he visited Pope St. Anicetus in Rome and, when they could not agree on a date for Easter, decided each would observe his own date.

To testify his respect and ensure that the bonds of charity were unbroken, Anicetus invited Polycarp to celebrate the Eucharist in the papal chapel on this occasion.

Polycarp suffered martyrdom with 12 others of his flock around the year 156.

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Le Jour du Seigneur at Ottawa's Cathedral

The First Sunday of Lent was a very busy day with the first of a series of weekly broadcasts of Mass from Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica on Le Jour du Seigneur, on SRC/Radio-Canada, the francophone branch of the CBC.

As a way of covering budgetary shortfalls due to cuts and to meet the public demand for the Lord's Day Mass on television, the Ottawa bureau of SRC proposed locating the equipment and stay in one church for protracted periods. Thus, Eglise St-Sebastien in Vanier-Overbrook was host for seven weeks in the fall of 2009. This time it is the turn of the Cathedral. The main French liturgy normally celebrated at 10:30 has been advanced to 10 o'clock until Easter 2010 and all the Lenten Masses will be telecast through Easter (except for next Sunday).

This Sunday, I presided at the first of these Eucharists from the Cathedral. They may be viewed on demand from the website by clicking on derniere emission, or the Sunday in question (at

Last minute consultations take part in the sacristy prior to the Mass

Notre Dame Cathedral Rector, Father Paul McKeown OSM, greets friends visiting from Magog (QC) following Le Jour du Seigneur Mass

Production equipment for the televised Mass takes up space in the sacristy

Cameraman completes the taping as parishioners recess after Mass

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Rite of Election and Candidacy

A standard celebration on the afternoon of the First Sunday of Lent is the "election" (calling those God has chosen) of the catechumens who will be fully initiated into life with Christ by the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist). The catechumens are accompanied by Catholic men and women who form the team who carry out the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) in their parishes.

I am always encouraged by this ceremony and the opportunity this affords me to welcome those who will be joining the Church at Easter. There is a follow-up Mass for the Neophytes (those "new-born" into Christ) after Easter -- this year at the 7:30PM Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral on April 18, 2010. Some scenes from Sunday afternoon's gathering:

A catechumen from Holy Korean Martyrs Parish is presented by his sponsor

Father Lindsay Harrison, pastor of Holy Name of Mary, Almonte, calls the name of a candidate

Candidates for Full Communion with the Catholic Church stand with their sponsors as their names are called

A reception followed downstairs in the parish hall

Posing for a photo marking a memorable day

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News services are drawing attention to the forthcoming introduction of a new translation of the Roman Missal expected to come into effect in Advent 2011. Here is some background information on programs being set up to acquaint priests and people for the transition:

New Words: A Deeper Meaning, but the Same Mass

The Missale Romanum (the Roman Missal), the ritual text for the celebration of the Mass, was first promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as the definitive text of the reformed liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. A second edition followed in 1975.

Pope John Paul II issued a revised version of the Missale Romanum during the Jubilee Year 2000. The English translation of the revised Roman Missal has been completed, and the Bishops of Canada, the United States and a dozen other nations approved the final sections of the text in late 2009.

Among other things, the revised edition of the Missale Romanum contains prayers for the observances of recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, additional Votive Masses and Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Intentions, and some updated and revised rubrics (instructions) for the celebration of the Mass.

The English translation of the Roman Missal will also include updated translations of existing prayers, including some of the well–known responses and acclamations of the people.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has devoted a section of their website ( to help Catholics prepare for the transition . As this site continues to be expanded, it will offer helpful resources for the faithful, for the clergy, and for parish and diocesan leaders. Similar preparatory materials are being readied for use in Canada by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

It is hoped that this process leading to the implementation of the revised Roman Missal in English (the First Sunday in Advent 2011 is the projected date for its launch) will be a time of deepening, nurturing, and celebrating our faith through our worship and the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.