Thursday, February 28, 2013

Canada's Maronite Eparch Paul-Marwan Tabet Begins His Ministry - Benedict XVI Closes His Papacy

On Sunday, I journeyed to my hometown neighbourhood of Ahuntsic, in north-end Montreal for the inauguation of the ministry of the new Maronite Eparchial Bishop of St.Maron of Montreal, Most Reverend Paul-Marwan Tabet (with cross-topped shepherd's staff above, receiving a comment from his predecessor Mgr Joseph Khoury).

Some other photos:

Bishop Tabet welcomes all who have come to the celebration

Civic representatives and Muslim leaders pose with the bishops
at the close of the Eucharist

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O God, who delight in innocence and restore it, direct the hearts of your servants to yourself, that, caught up in the fire of your Spirit, we may be found steadfast in faith and effective in works. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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Dear beloved brothers,

I welcome you all with great joy and cordially greet each one of you. I thank Cardinal Angelo Sodano [dean of the college], who as always, has been able to convey the sentiments of the College, Cor ad cor loquitur [heart speaking to heart]. Thank you, Your Eminence, from my heart.

And referring to the disciples of Emmaus, I would like to say to you all that it has also been a joy for me to walk with you over the years in light of the presence of the Risen Lord. As I said yesterday, in front of thousands of people who filled St. Peter's Square, your closeness, your advice, have been a great help to me in my ministry. In these 8 years we have experienced in faith beautiful moments of radiant light in the Churches’ journey along with times when clouds have darkened the sky. We have tried to serve Christ and his Church with deep and total love which is the soul of our ministry. We have gifted hope that comes from Christ alone, and which alone can illuminate our path. Together we can thank the Lord who has helped us grow in communion, to pray to together, to help you to continue to grow in this deep unity so that the College of Cardinals is like an orchestra, where diversity, an expression of the universal Church, always contributes to a superior harmony of concord. I would like to leave you with a simple thought that is close to my heart, a thought on the Church, Her mystery, which is for all of us, we can say, the reason and the passion of our lives. I am helped by an expression of Romano Guardini’s, written in the year in which the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council approved the Constitution Lumen Gentium, his last with a personal dedication to me, so the words of this book are particularly dear to me.

Guardini says: "The Church is not an institution devised and built at table, but a living reality. She lives along the course of time by transforming Herself, like any living being, yet Her nature remains the same. At Her heart is Christ. "

This was our experience yesterday, I think, in the square. We could see that the Church is a living body, animated by the Holy Spirit, and truly lives by the power of God, She is in the world but not of the world. She is of God, of Christ, of the Spirit, as we saw yesterday. This is why another eloquent expression of Guardini’s is also true: "The Church is awakening in souls." The Church lives, grows and awakens in those souls which like the Virgin Mary accept and conceive the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. They offer to God their flesh and in their own poverty and humility become capable of giving birth to Christ in the world today. Through the Church the mystery of the Incarnation remains present forever. Christ continues to walk through all times in all places. Let us remain united, dear brothers, to this mystery, in prayer, especially in daily Eucharist, and thus serve the Church and all humanity. This is our joy that no one can take from us.

Prior to bidding farewell to each of you personally, I want to tell you that I will continue to be close to you in prayer, especially in the next few days, so that you may all be fully docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new Pope. May the Lord show you what is willed by Him. And among you, among the College of Cardinals, there is also the future Pope, to whom, here to today, I already promise my unconditional reverence and obedience. For all this, with affection and gratitude, I cordially impart upon you my Apostolic Blessing.

Pope Benedict XVI taking leave of the Cardinals, February 28, 2013


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lent 3C: Reflecting on Sudden Deaths and the Call to Conversion - Father Victor Skilandziunas (RIP)

Third Sunday in Lent (Year “C”) March 3, 2013

[Texts: Exodus 3.1-8a, 13-15 [Psalm 103]; 1 Corinthians 10.1-6, 10-12; Luke 13.1-9]

The Exodus reading describes God's self-revelation in the burning bush, Moses' called and commission and how God made known His mysterious Name. It shows how God far transcends our world and yet can be made present on earth.

We see how weak, unworthy human beings can become involved with God's saving plans to rescue those in physical bondage or in physical and spiritual servitude—all who are caught in sin or sinful social structures. God revealed himself as the God who had been deeply committed to the ancestors of the suffering Israelites.

In answer to Moses' inquiry God revealed his Name, Yahweh a word that was and remains today very difficult to translate. Some suggest Yahweh means, “I Am Who I Am,” or “I Will Be Who I Will Be”, indicating that God cannot be grasped by human categories. Others prefer the meaning, “The One Who Causes to Be”—the God who is the origin of all life and all saving activity.

Out of reverence, pious Jews simply wrote the four sacred letters, YHWH without pronouncing the vowels in the divine name, saying instead Adonai, “the LORD”. To respect Jewish sensibilities, Christians are asked to say “the LORD” when the name Yahweh is to be read or spoken in public.

God's relationship to the chosen people of Israel was and remains an elusive presence: burning bush, pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. What is clear is that God appears in our world to save those he loves. The divine presence became fully manifest in Jesus, who, like the Father, comes to save us by calling us to a change of heart.

In today's gospel, Jesus speaks of two disasters that were in the news during his ministry. People told Jesus about some Galileans (their neighbours?) killed by Pilate while they were offering their sacrifices in the Temple, expecting that he would comment. Aware that many of his contemporaries would think this implied that these people were being punished by God for some sin, Jesus stated their speculation (“Do you suppose these Galileans...were greater sinners than any other Galileans?”), only to deny it outright (“They were not, I tell you”).

Even today, Jesus' teaching that accidents or illnesses are not punishments from God is difficult for people to accept. While denying that accidents are divine retribution, Jesus drew a lesson from the sudden deaths—a call to repentance: “Unless you repent you will all perish (spiritually) as they did (physically)”.

Sudden deaths challenge those still alive to reformation of life, coming to terms with their status as sinners loved by God. Biblical teaching asserts that God does not permit accidents to happen to people to punish them for their sins.

According to Jesus' parable, neither does God lie in wait for the sinner to be caught in sin. Instead, the key point of the parable suggests that God, under the image of the owner of the fig tree, is infinitely patient.

A mature fig tree should produce fruit every year, just as human lives should bear the fruits of good deeds. This fig tree had been barren ‘for three years” and, not only did it not bear figs, it seemed to be draining nourishment from the other vineyard plants.

Some human lives seem to produce little or even to cause damage to others. But like the owner of the garden, God listens to the gardener's appeal for patience with the unproductive (and hurtful) and his suggestion of further treatment (“give me time to dig round it and fertilize it”). God gives people the time they need.

Still, there will be a day of reckoning and, if a person, instead of bearing fruit, continues in procrastination and non-productivity, he or she must be ready to face the fate of the barren fig tree. Here we find echoes of the warnings Paul noticed in the history of Israel (second reading).

Pilate's malice may have occasioned the deaths of some Galileans and 18 people from Jerusalem may have died by chance. But the fig tree (some individuals) will die spiritually because of their inactivity and unresponsiveness to God's appeal made by Jesus and His Church: “Unless you repent, you will all perish.”

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Keep your family, O Lord, schooled always in good works, and so comfort them with your protection here as to lead them graciously to gifts on high. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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Commended to our prayers is the soul of Fr. Victor SKILANDZIUNAS, who died on Sunday, February 24, 2013 at the age of 93.

Born in Sakiai, Lithuania on May 3, 1919, he was ordained a priest on May 7, 1944 in Vilkaviskis, Lithuania.

Father served in a number of parishes in the Archdiocese of Ottawa from 1954-1970 and from 1972-1984 as Chaplain at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre. He was also Chaplain of the Lithuanian Canadian Community in Ottawa.

A funeral Mass will be held at Eglise Saint Jean-Baptiste, 96 Empress Avenue, Ottawa today, February 27th at 11:30 a.m.

Mass of the Resurrection at Lithuanian Martyrs Parish, 494 Isabella Avenue, Mississauga, ON on Saturday, March 2 at 1:00PM, followed by burial in St. John's Lithuanian Cemetery, Mississauga.

Requiescat in pace.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tuesday of the 2nd Week in Lent - Youth Gala: St. John Bosco Awards

Guard your Church, we pray, O Lord, in your unceasing mercy, and, since without you mortal humanity is sure to fall, may we be kept by your constant helps from all harm and directed to all that brings salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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Some of the 2013 St. John Bosco Youth Award Recipients

On Saturday evening, I attended the Diocesan Youth Ministry Committee-sponsored Don Bosco Awards for exemplary service in various forms of service to youth in the Parish Hall at Blessed Sacrament Church.

The evening was a dressy affair: finger food was served by the Queenship of Mary Community, Father Geoff Kerslake gave an address on the challenge to holiness for young people in this Year of Faith (citing three youthful saints: St. Agatha, St. Gemma Galgani, St. Dominic Savio).

Then came the twelve awards and, after photos were taken, dancing.  Some photos:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Visitation of St. Peter Parish

O God, who have taught us to chasten our bodies for the healing of our souls, enable us, we pray, to abstain from all sins, and strengthen our hearts to carry out your loving commands. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
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The picture above was taken on the Saturday evening of the Parish Visitation after a delicious Asian-style supper served in the gymnasium extension of the Chapel of St. Peter Parish and shared with some members of the Parish Pastoral Council and the Finance Committee.

The Saturday evening anticipated Mass for the Lord's Day was followed by a musical homage to myself and Fr. Kerslake by the pastor Father Vayalil and two associates in music.  Similarly at the close of the Sunday morning Eucharist (a combining of the two Masses as is done on the last Sunday of the month) a musical postlude was offered for our pleasure, followed by a reception in the hall where I was able to greet many of the parishioners.

Herewith some images from the Visitation:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lenten Transfiguration Sunday - L’appel décisif – Photos – The Rite of Election in the Cathedral 2013

O God, who have commanded us to listen to your beloved Son, be pleased, we pray, to nourish us inwardly by your word, that, with spiritual sight made pure, we may rejoice to behold your glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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L’appel décisif – Rite of Election

Deacon John George processes with the Book of the Elect
after the Catechumens had signed their names

Last Sunday afternoon's presentation of the Catechumens at the Rite of Election (L’appel décisif) was a joyous celebration as the following photos demonstrate. 

Candidates for Reception into Full Communion with the Catholic Church were also welcomed at the rich celebration of the Word of God and Prayer.  

Thanks to the staff at the Diocesan Centre who coordinated the program, to all the parish representatives who introduced these new members of the Church to me, as well as to all those who work in the RCIA programs and other catechetical sessions in the Archdiocese.

A reception was held in the Parish Hall afterwards.

Photos: courtesy of Heribert Riesbeck.