Monday, December 15, 2014

Sunday Eucharist with the St. Rene Goupil Catholic-Deaf Community

Pastoral Visitation to St. Rene Goupil Catholic-Deaf Community of Ottawa-Gatineau
Holy Canadian Martyrs Church, 3rd Sunday Advent, Gaudete (“B”)-December 14, 2014


Introduction to the Mass

In preparation for our celebration today, I reread St. Isaac Jogues account of the life and death of your patron, St. Rene Goupil. The first of the Canadian Martyrs to be put to death, he’s a real hero as a man and as a Christian!

As a hearing-impaired person in the 17th century, he was dissuaded from the Jesuit program of formation, but later he volunteered for the Jesuit mission among the Native Peoples of North America as a surgeon.

Recognizing Goupil’s desire to give himself to God, Isaac Jogues received his vows as a Jesuit brother. Days later he witnessed proof of Rene’s love for Christ as he gave up his life for the sake of the joy of the gospel, which we celebrate today.

Let us pray that Rene Goupil’s love for God may inspire each of you and all who are in our church to follow the way of Christ. Now, let us prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries, asking God for pardon and peace so we taste fully the joy of this day of the Lord’s resurrection.

Homily: “DO NOT QUENCH THE SPIRIT”
         [Isaiah 61.1–2a,10–11 (Luke 1.46–50,53,55); 1 Thess. 5.16–24; John 1.6–8,19–28]

I am happy to celebrate Mass with you on “Rejoicing Sunday”; it will be a joy to meet with you after Mass.

The celebrants wear rose-coloured vestments when we pass the halfway point of Advent and Lent. Only ten more days before we celebrate Christ’s birth!


Pope Francis has been drawing on the energy and spiritual gifts of members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. The bishops of Canada call the Charismatic Renewal a “close encounter” with God’s Spirit. Charismatics receive the Holy Spirit in a way that stirs up the gifts of the Spirit received at baptism and confirmation, like wisdom, prophecy, and healing. The Holy Spirit sets our hearts on fire for the Gospel [looking towards Peter, as he signs]. Holy Spirit…glory…Gospel. I see similarities.

Pope Francis wrote this in his major writing, “THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ, joy is constantly born anew” [EG, #1].

Pope Francis encourages Christians like you and me to start an adventure of evangelization as missionary-disciples. I am grateful that Fr. Peter, to Deacon André, and to your Pastoral Care Team minister outside the church. But, we can all have Gospel joy. The Holy Spirit can show us all new ways to share the Good News…that we can follow Christ to the loving arms of the Father. I invite you to read the Pope’s inspiring words in The Joy of the Gospel over the next few weeks.

Jesus applied Isaiah’s words, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me,” to himself in Luke 4:21. But Gospel joy means they also apply to you and me, today.


Mary’s experience of the Spirit (cf. Luke 1.35) led her to speak the Magnificat (Luke 1.46–55). This resonates with Christians who are alive in the Spirit. Like Mary, they can praise God and say, “my soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.”

Mary echoed the reaction of the Servant of the Lord to the calling on his life to share God’s message of hope. Both were overjoyed in God’s salvation. Both spoke as though dressed for their wedding. God’s work of justice and salvation mirrors the joy of a wedding!

In today’s gospel, John the Baptist sees himself, by his making paths straight for the Lord’s coming, as preparing for a wedding feast. God yearns to marry His people, renewed by the Holy Spirit.

In his first epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul describes the power of Christ Jesus at work in His followers as all encompassing. It extends to every aspect of the Christian: “spirit and soul and body.”

Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit as God’s gift to us believers. God has called us to a distinctive life of holiness (1 Thessalonians 4.7–8). His command, “do not quench the Spirit,” tells the forces of this world not to try to put out the fire of God.


The sanctification Paul writes about includes humbly admitting our sins and asking for God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Pope Francis said, “The forgiveness we receive is not the result of our own efforts, but is the gift of the Holy Spirit reconciling us to God and to each other...we confess to the priest who represents not only God but also the community of the Church that accompanies us on the path of conversion.”

Confession is a gift from God that should be a regular part of your spiritual life, especially as you get ready to celebrate the birth of Christ. Fr. Peter would be delighted to see you a half hour before Mass or by appointment.

I wish you a fruitful time of preparation for Christmas and I encourage you to introduce others to Jesus as the Holy Spirit prompts you. May God bless you.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fr Edwin Merchant SJ, francophile


Father Edwin Ambrose Merchant, S.J. died peacefully on December 9, 2014, at Thunder Bay Regional Hospital, Thunder Bay, Ontario.  He was in his 85th year and in religious life for 66 years.  

Ed Merchant was born in Port Arthur, Ontario on July 21, 1930, the son of William Merchant and Margaret Curley. He was proud to have been born in a Jesuit parish, St. Andrew’s, and later served there as pastor. He was young when his father died.  For a few years he attended Jesuit Regiopolis High School in Kingston, Ontario and entered the Society of Jesus at Guelph on July 30, 1948. 

After two years of humanities study, Ed began a three year philosophy program at the Jesuit Seminary in Toronto. From 1955 to 1958, he taught Latin and French at Saint Mary’s University High School in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Returning to Toronto for the study of theology, he was ordained on June 18, 1961 in the chapel of the St. Joseph’s Motherhouse, Morrow Park, Willowdale (as the new Regis Chapel was not yet complete).  His final year of Jesuit formation (Tertianship) followed at Port Townsend, Washington.

Father Merchant delighted in learning, speaking and teaching French. Upon his return to Canada, he taught Latin and French at Campion College in Regina and then attended Georgetown University in Washington, DC to do a Master's Degree in French Studies; a memorable summer was the one he spent in Aix-en-Provence, France. All through his life, Ed appreciated films, particularly French films and would stay up at night to watch them on television; he also appreciated French Canadian popular singer-composers of the day, such as Félix Leclerc.  

More years of teaching in Winnipeg and Halifax followed until 1972 when he became Chaplain at Hamilton's McMaster University. He then moved on to the University of Guelph as Chaplain at the Newman Centre for a five-year placement. In 1978, he became the director of Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ontario for three years. 

Following a sabbatical, he continued in chaplaincy but began to specialize in the giving the Spiritual Exercises, in Edmonton, Regina and Winnipeg. While living in the West, Ed would take trips east and visit Jesuit friends city by city.

In 1991, Father Ed returned to his birth place to become pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish,Thunder Bay. After this appointment, Ed took on a series of pastoral ministries in the Lakehead, including retreat direction; there he was also involved in Choné House and St. Anne’s Parish.

His Jesuit companions found Ed to be a quiet and shy man but very engaging and intellectually acute. He had a calm deliberation and a compassionate regard for many. His teaching and linguistic skills were remarkable, as were his homilies. He had a real talent for mimicking or imitating public personalities and could entertain his friends with his commentaries. He had a talent for organization and was uncomfortable with disorganized or unplanned events; in the 1970's he served the Jesuit Province as Secretary of the Province Commission on Ministries.

Wake Service: St Elizabeth Church, Thunder Bay, 5-8 PM, Friday, December 12 (prayers at 8 PM).

Funeral Mass: St Patrick Cathedral, Thunder Bay, 10 AM, Saturday, December 13

Burial in St. Andrew's Cemetery, Thunder Bay.

Requiescat in pace. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Fr. William Lonc, Jesuit Scientist

I lived with Father William Lonc in Halifax from 1975-81 when I taught at Atlantic School of Theology and he at Saint Mary's University; we were both members of the Halifax Jesuit Community. I was associated with him again when I served in Halifax as Archbishop from 1998-2007. Though Bill was ahead of me in the Society, we completed our Jesuit training together by pronouncing our Final Vows at a Eucharistic celebration in Canadian Martyrs Church on April 18, 1979. The necrology follows. May the Lord grant him a merciful judgment and welcome him to the joys of eternal life. R.I.P.
Father William Paul (Bill) Lonc, S.J. died on November 27, 2014 at Rene Goupil House in Pickering Ontario. He was in his 85th year of life and had lived 60 years in religious life.

William Lonc was born in London, Ontario on May 5, 1930, the son of Gregory Lonc and Veronica Lewickie. He studied physics at Sir George Williams University in Montreal to the Bachelor’s level before he entered the Jesuit novitiate on September 7, 1954. He had entered as a member of the Polish Province of the Society of Jesus but later transferred to be a member of the Canadian Province.

Lonc followed the usual Jesuit education with the addition of special studies in physics and mathematics. He earned a doctorate in Physics and a license in Philosophy from Saint Louis University in 1965. He was ordained a priest on June 1, 1968.

Father “Bill” Lonc had for many years served as a professor of Physics at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, with academic specialization in the areas of astrophysics and microwave technology. He wrote a high school textbook on radio-physics that is still used today. As well, he served for several years as a visiting short-term teacher at Bellarmine Prep in San Jose, California.

Fascinated by amateur radio, Father Bill soon became an expert in it. In his capacity as a researcher, he was one of the few people to gain access to the environmentally sensitive Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia.

He spent 1990-1991 as a sabbatical year in Tucson, Arizona, collaborating with the Vatican Observatory team there. He dedicated himself to reflection on the relationship between science and religion in the modern age. He received honours and professional recognition for his work.

Following his retirement from the Physics Department at Saint Mary’s University, this Renaissance man worked assiduously at translating over a dozen historical works by Lucien Campeau and other French Canadian Jesuit sources into English.

Carrying on the work initiated by others, Father Bill’s areas of specialization included the early history of the Society of Jesus in the Maritimes, Quebec and 19th century Ontario. Because of his involvement in this ongoing project, he was knowledgeable on the era of contact between Europeans and Native Peoples in New France. His excellent translations continue to make a significant contribution to historical scholarship and Canadian studies.

As an avid driver while a long-term resident of Nova Scotia, Father Lonc had acquired an extraordinary knowledge of the topography and settlement of the province. After moving to Toronto where he took up residence at Canadian Martyrs' Jesuit Community in 2006, he served faithfully as chaplain to the Sisters of St. Joseph, both at their Motherhouse in Willowdale and, later, at their new infirmary in downtown Toronto. He moved to Rene Goupil House, the Jesuit Infirmary at Pickering in 2014.

The wake service will take place in St. Ignatius Chapel at Manresa Retreat House Pickering on Monday, December 1 from 7-9 PM, with prayers at 8 o’clock. 

The funeral liturgy will be held there on Tuesday, December 2 at 11 AM, with burial that same afternoon at 2:30 PM at the Jesuit Cemetery in Guelph.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Closing the Month of Holy Souls, Liturgical Year - Homélies pour les saints et âmes des fidèles défunts

Ces homélies ont été présentées a la manière bilingue ; ici on les présente une en anglais, l’autre en français.

These homilies were delivered half in English, half in French; however, they are presented now one in English, the other in French. 

Notre Dame Cathedral-Basilica, Ottawa, ON
Solemnity of All Saints – Saturday, November 1, 2014

                                             THE CHALLENGE OF BECOMING SAINTS
                  [Texts: Revelation 7.2-4, 9-14; [Psalm 24]; 1 John 3.1-3; Matthew 5.1-12a]

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

Biblical usage of the terms “holy ones” and “saints” applies them to all who are distinct because of their relationship with God. 

One Hebrew term suggests that those associated in covenantal faithfulness are bound to God in love (cf. Psalms 31,23; 148.14). 

Another Hebrew term (“holy”) identified God's people as “set apart” and dedicated to service of the divine (cf. Daniel 7:27).

In the New Testament, the term “saints” regularly translates the term for “holy ones”.  Generally, it refers to Christians in contrast with unbelievers (cf. 1 Corinthians 6.2). 

Paul uses the term “saints” interchangeably with those who are “God's beloved”, all who are “called to belong to Jesus Christ” (Romans 6.2). 

In the Book of Revelation, the term “saints” is frequently used to refer to Christian martyrs (17.6).


In other words, the term “the saints” is an appropriate designation for Christians.  The Second Vatican Council reflected this doctrine in its declaration that God's call to holiness is universal.  Sanctity is the vocation of each disciple of Christ.

Thus, while today's Solemnity of All Saints praises God for all who have been recognized by the Church, it may serve as an occasion for Catholics to consider their own personal call to be God's holy ones in the contemporary world.

The beatitudes—the charter of rights and obligations of the members of the people of God—reflect both God's initiative and human response in the process of holiness. 

If they are taken as the admission standard for the Kingdom of Heaven, it is clear that no one would qualify.  But if they are seen as gifts of God, to which each disciple responds in his or her life, they are stimuli to Christians to live up to the challenges God sets before them.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” is the first of the beatitudes; I appreciate one translation that attempts to say what this means by translating the words as follows: “how blest are those who know their need of God, the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs”.

Unless one experiences a hunger for eternal life that only God can satisfy, one cannot be open to the gift of the Kingdom that God freely gives.  This notion is also at the heart of the second beatitude, “blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” [by God].


The experience of grief, through the loss of a loved one, leaves a person feeling terribly vulnerable, hollow, empty—a state that God ultimately transforms with the gift of divine consolation. This is a sentiment that needs to be kept before us as we recall our beloved dead tomorrow at the commemoration of all the faithful departed and throughout the month of November, which is dedicated to praying for our deceased.

As they live in a state of constant receptivity to God's blessings, believers find themselves being transformed from within.  As disciples live in openness to God's gift of the Kingdom, their human hearts are gradually purified.  They begin to wish for others what they themselves have received: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled; blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God”.

As the Christian lives out the call of the beatitudes, he or she becomes ever more like Christ, the chief exemplar of the Kingdom.  This is the point made by the author of the First Epistle of John, “we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.  What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is”.

Through the outlook of the beatitudes, Christians are enabled to live as Jesus did, even to embracing persecution and suffering as he did: “blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in Heaven”.

This perspective on suffering has given joy to persecuted Christians through the centuries and we know how heroic our sisters and brothers in the Middle East continue to show themselves in the persecution they are suffering.  We remember them in our prayers especially today.

Nowhere is this Christian perspective on suffering so clearly articulated as in the Book of Revelation written at the height of Roman oppression against Christians in the late first century. The seer St. John describes them this way: “these are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”.


Today we celebrate the victory of all who have become the friends of God throughout salvation history.  We have statues of many men and women who have been canonized. In the side altars we have St. Martin de Porres and St. Rose of Lima and other blessed from the Americas, awaiting the times when holy men and women of Canada would be beatified and canonized.



Well, that has happened in the two Marguerites (Bourgeoys and d’Youville), Kateri Tekakwitha, Brother Andre, Francois de Laval and Marie de l’Incarnation and the time has come, I suggest, to substitute some of the blessed with our own Canadian saints. I encourage our Rector, Mgr Berniquez to discuss with the appropriate parish committees so that steps can be taken to honour our own saints.
The victory of holiness is God's, but it is realized in those who welcome it with joy. Let us pray that we may experience this today as we celebrate all saints and reverence some of the relics of saints which generations before us have treasured. 

As we reverence these holy ones, let us recall our own personal call to holiness and invite our Blessed Mother, St. Joseph and all our patrons to intercede for us and all in the holy Church of God that is in Ottawa!


 * * *

Commémoration de tous les fidèles défunts – le 2 novembre 2014
En la chapelle des Archevêques – Cathédrale Notre-Dame
Dans l’espérance de la Résurrection
[Textes : Sagesse 4, 7-15; Psaume 26(27);Romains 14, 7-9b-12; Jean 6, 6, 37-40]


Chers frères et sœurs dans le Christ,

Comme le dit si bien saint Paul dans sa lettre aux Romains, la vie et la mort de chacun, chacune, d’entre nous a de l’importance pour les autres. Nous avons tous été très touchés par la mort du caporal Nathan Cirillo qui a été abattu près du cénotaphe ici à Ottawa le 22 octobre dernier et cela s’est manifesté de manière très tangible lors des funérailles régimentaires auxquelles il a eu droit. Le cœur de tous les Canadiens, de toutes les Canadiennes était avec lui et sa famille à Hamilton ce jour-là.

Lorsqu’on parle de la mort, nous les chrétiens, nous allons plus loin. Nous croyons en la résurrection de Jésus et nous sommes convaincus que toute personne qui accueille le Christ trouvera le bonheur éternel auprès de lui.

Nous sommes membres de l’Église du Christ, d’une Église dont le regard s’étend au-delà de la vie sur terre. Cela paraît dans notre façon de traiter les personnes qui nous ont quittés ainsi que leurs familles, et de nous souvenir d’elles.  Nous croyons dans la communion des saints et dans le besoin de prier les uns pour les autres. Cela fait partie de notre  foi catholique.

Le 2 novembre nous commémorons tous les fidèles défunts – ce jour suit celui de la solennité de tous les Saints. Durant tout le mois de novembre, nous avons une pensée, nous offrons une prière spéciale pour les personnes qui sont décédées. Cela fait partie de notre tradition.


Chaque année, nous nous rassemblons dans cette chapelle pour recommander au Seigneur, de manière toute spéciale, les évêques et les archevêques qui sont morts dans le Christ et qui ont cherché à le servir dans l’archidiocèse d’Ottawa. Nous prierons près de leurs tombeaux après la messe.

Aujourd’hui, je vous invite à prier également pour toutes les autres personnes : les évêques auxiliaires, les prêtres, les diacres, les agents de pastorale, les catéchètes, ainsi que tous ceux et celles qui nous ont précédé dans la foi. Demandons au Seigneur d’accorder à toutes ces personnes la récompense promise et de leur faire une place auprès de lui. Prions aussi pour nos parents et nos amis qui ont partagé avec nous leur foi dans le Seigneur, ainsi que tous les autres que nous voulons aussi confier à la miséricorde et à l’amour de Dieu.


À cause de la température qui prévaut au Canada et dans la région d’Ottawa à ce temps-ci de l’année, les célébrations diocésaines et paroissiales pour des défunts ont généralement lieu autour de la solennité de l’Assomption de Marie et en septembre. Au début novembre, nous le savons trop bien, il fait déjà froid!

Les catholiques ont un grand respect pour le corps – pour celui des vivants comme pour celui des défunts. Nous prenons soin de nos cimetières et nous nous souvenons de ceux et celles qui nous sont chers. La liturgie témoigne de notre foi dans la résurrection des corps. C’est avec nos corps que nous avons pratiqué la charité, que nous avons témoigné de notre amour et de notre affection. C’est en se servant de notre corps que nous avons travaillé, que nous avons aidé les autres, que nous avons peiné et que nous avons rendu gloire à Dieu.


Nos corps, les Écritures Saintes nous le disent, sont des Temples de l’Esprit Saint. Dieu a tant aimé le monde que Jésus a pris chair dans le mystère de l’Incarnation. C’est avec son corps que Jésus a souffert et est mort sur la croix. C’est avec son propre corps qu’il nous a sauvé.
Jésus Christ a institué l’Eucharistie afin que nous puissions nous nourrir de sa chair et de son sang, de cette nourriture qui nous apporte la vie éternelle. Le passage de l’évangile que nous venons d’entendre arrive tout juste après celui dans lequel Jésus affirme être ‘le Pain de vie’. Jésus affirme qu’aucun de ceux que le Père lui a donnés ne sera perdu, qu’il les ressuscitera tous au dernier jour. 

Voilà pourquoi nous traitons le corps de nos frères et sœurs avec respect durant la vie comme après la mort.


La sépulture chrétienne est un acte de foi. Nos cimetières catholiques sont des lieux sacrés où sont déposés les corps de nos ancêtres. Nous sommes chanceux d’avoir des cimetières qui nous rappellent notre foi.

Il n’y a pas si longtemps, l’Église ne permettait l’incinération des corps qu’en de rares circonstances (en temps de peste ou de guerre). On considérait l’incinération comme étant un refus de croire en la résurrection des corps au dernier jour. Depuis  que l’Église accepte l’incinération (Catéchisme, no 2300), un nombre croissant de personnes semblent y avoir recours.  Malgré cela, l’Église favorise toujours l’ensevelissement des corps  afin de pouvoir rendre au corps tout l’hommage qu’il mérite. Même lorsqu’il y a incinération, l’Église recommande que la liturgie des funérailles se déroule en présence du corps et que l’on procède à l’incinération seulement par la suite.


Que le corps soit enseveli ou incinéré, certains principes restent les mêmes : on doit toujours respecter le corps; on doit déposer les restes dans un endroit convenable - dans un lot de cimetière ou columbarium- ; on ne doit pas répandre les cendres ici et là ou les garder chez soi; on ne doit pas s’adonner à l’incinération avec l’intention de montrer que nous ne croyons pas dans la résurrection des corps.

Si vous garder chez vous les cendres d’une personne que vous aimez, déposer les dans un columbarium ou au cimetière le plus tôt possible.

Dans le passage du livre de la Sagesse de Solomon que nous venons d’entendre, l’auteur nous fait réfléchir sur le sort d’une personne qui est décédée lorsqu’elle était encore jeune, une personne décédée avant son temps comme on dirait aujourd’hui. Son décès a peut-être sauvé cette personne d’une corruption à venir nous dit l’auteur. Quoi qu’il en soi, Dieu veille toujours sur ses amis. Cette façon de penser, cette explication qui passe par le négatif trouve difficilement preneur aujourd’hui, surtout parmi les familles éprouvées par une mort soudaine, lorsque la mort arrive comme un voleur dans la nuit.

Au cours de mon ministère – comme prêtre et ensuite comme évêque – j’ai eu le privilège d’accompagner et de soutenir plusieurs familles qui vivaient un deuil. Comme il est dit dans le livre de la Sagesse, bien que la perte d’un être cher apporte son lot de souffrance, les moments de prière et les funérailles qui s’en suivent peuvent s’avérer être des temps précieux qui nous permettent d’approfondir notre foi, de renouveler notre espérance et mieux apprécier quelle est notre véritable condition humaine.


L’expérience nous apprend que lorsque le rituel est brisé – comme lorsqu’on ne célèbre pas de messe funéraire ou qu’on ne dépose pas ou n’enterre pas les cendres - le deuil n’est pas assumé complètement. Malheureusement, cela arrive trop souvent de nos jours,  cela peut avoir des conséquences graves sur certains membres de la famille et les amis proches. 

Les rites funéraires de l’Église catholique reposent sur une longue et riche expérience humaine. Ces moments où nous sommes confrontés à la dure et mystérieuse réalité de la mort, ne sont pas seulement des occasions de témoigner notre respect pour la personne qui est décédée et qui est en route vers la vie éternelle. Je le répète, parce que cela en vaut la peine, ce sont également des occasions qui nous sont données d’approfondir notre foi et de renouveler notre espérance.

Je vous invite donc à visiter nos cimetières catholiques, à demander l’aide de vos prêtres de paroisse et de leurs collaborateurs lorsque vous êtes confronté à la perte d’un être cher. Ceux-ci sont toujours là pour vous accompagner dans ces moments difficiles, vous aider à préparer les funérailles et recommander celui ou celle que vous aimez à l’amour Père.

Prions pour nos défunts. Demandons au Seigneur de leurs accorder le repos éternel et le bonheur de pouvoir le contempler éternellement. Amen.

Que les âmes de tous les fidèles défunts reposent en paix, par la miséricorde de Dieu. Amen.

Marie, Mère de l’Église, Mère de tous les vivants, priez pour nous !

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

THE FAMILY: VIRGINITY, MARRIAGE AND THE NATURE OF LIFE WITH GOD IN HEAVEN


La Famille: un colloque – Collège universitaire dominicain
Solennité de sainte Cécile, vierge et martyre – le 22 novembre
Conference on the Family—Dominican University College
Memorial of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr– November 22, 2014
[Texts: Revelation 11.4-12; Psalm 143 (144); Luke 20.27-38]


La virginité, le mariage et la nature de la vie céleste
[Textes :  Apocalypse 11, 4-12; Psaume 143(144); Luc 20, 27-38]

Chers frères et sœurs dans le Christ,

Il arrive de temps en temps que des études viennent confirmer ce que les catholiques savent déjà. Je me souviens par exemple d’avoir lu, il y a quelques années, un article paru dans le Globe and Mail dans lequel l’auteur se servait de données de Statistiques Canada pour montrer qu’une pratique religieuse assidue pouvait s’avérer un ingrédient important dans la réussite d’un mariage (le 16 septembre 1998).

Cette étude qui a été réalisée il y a plus de quinze ans déjà,  a été corroborée  maintes fois depuis par des études semblables en provenance des États-Unis. Ces études ont également démontré que les personnes qui vivent pleinement leur foi sont généralement plus heureuses et en meilleure santé. La science vient donc confirmer  le bien-fondé de propos que l’Église soutient depuis longtemps !


Dans l’Évangile que nous venons d’entendre, Jésus nous fait part  de quelques vérités sur le mariage. Mais en réalité l’enseignement de Jésus porte davantage sur la résurrection, sur la vie après la mort, sur la vie céleste. Soyons clairs : Jésus ne ‘diminue pas’ l’importance du mariage. Ce qu’il nous dit c’est que le mariage – tout comme toutes les autres choses que nous faisons, comme tous nos autres engagements, nous prépare pour la vie à venir.

Christopher West (who was just visiting Ottawa in September) has been teaching the “Theology of the Body” recently in terms of our human desires.  We-always-want-more! For example, within marriage, sex is such a wonderful gift, it’s truly sacred, and yet even he admits, it’s never enough.  This desire for more is an innate yearning for something that nothing in this world can satisfy.  Whether we realize it or not, we are all hungering for heaven!  If you want to read more on that topic, a few priests in Ottawa have been strongly recommending Christopher West’s most recent book: Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, and the Universal Longing.


In the Gospel Jesus is connecting marriage with eternal life.  First of all, it’s important to understand the Sadducees.  The Sadducees were so “sad” (one could argue) because they didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, the immortality of the human soul, or in angels. 

Rather than belief in the afterlife, they held to a less developed notion that the Israelite people essentially lived on in their descendants.  So, if a man died without children, his brother was obliged to take his wife and have children by her; this also ensured the handing on of property within the immediate family.  Levir, the Latin word for brother-in-law, led to this practice being designated as levirate marriage (spelled out in Deuteronomy 25.5).

The Sadducees imagined relationships in heaven would continue as they had on earth.  Jesus quoted the Pentateuch to show that in heaven relationships change.  Biological families are no longer necessary in the family of God.  For the “children of the resurrection” no longer need to worry about continuing the family tree. 



Jesus' teaching about there being no marriage in heaven might seem liberating to those whose earthly marriages failed, were abusive, or simply unhappy.  But many might feel disappointed by this teaching if they have been blessed to experience lifelong marital intimacy and companionship.

One conclusion, then, is that Heaven—the world to come—will surprise all of us, even believers.  Regardless of the relationships we’ve experienced on earth, we know that in heaven our capacity to love and be loved will only increase!

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Je voudrais prendre quelques minutes pour parler du synode sur la famille qui s’est ouvert en octobre et qui se poursuivra jusqu’en octobre 2015. Je veux d’abord vous féliciter et vous remercier de participer à ce colloque sur la famille. Par votre présence ici, par vos prières, vous témoignez de votre désir de répondre à l’appel de l’Église universelle qui veut faire de la famille « sa priorité numéro un » comme on dit.

« Les défis pastoraux de la famille dans le contexte de l’évangélisation » : Est-il besoin de se rappeler que tel est le thème du synode des évêques qui retient présentement notre attention. Parmi tous les commentaires qui nous parviennent d’ici et là, on dirait parfois qu’on a oublié que l’objet du synode est de voir comment nous pouvons évangéliser les familles, comment les familles peuvent être des lieux d’évangélisation et comment elles peuvent, à leur tour, évangéliser les autres. 

On dirait que tout le focus a porté jusqu’ici sur les défis que connaît la famille. Comme l’abbé Raymond de Souza  l’affirmait récemment : on dirait qu’il y a deux synodes, celui des médias et celui des évêques. Nous aimons bien les médias mais faudrait pas porter des jugements et tirer des conclusions en nous fiant uniquement aux reportages. Nous devons attendre les documents officiels, les documents finaux.

Archbishop Kurtz, president of the United States Bishops Conference argues that the Synod on the Family was never about changing the teaching of the Church on marriage, family life or sexual morality.  Rather, Pope Francis gathered bishops from around the world to hear about the various challenges facing families, and to come up with a merciful and loving way of encouraging Catholic families to be faithful and fruitful.


Pope Francis has told us that as Church we need “to receive the needy, the penitent and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect!” He has even gone further to state that we must not only welcome the lost, but go out and find them!

This Synod was called in response to a crisis in our time: the crisis of the family. In Canada and in the West our crisis is caused by ideologies which oppose the sanctity of human life and the institution of marriage and the family.  At the root of it is, as Pope Benedict called it, the Dictatorship of Relativism.  We don’t get to make the rules.  God makes the rules.  Or rather, God has designed us beautifully, and written his plan for our happiness in our hearts and on our bodies.  Another common error today is a false sensitivity or tolerance which suggests it’s good to allow people to continue down a dangerous path.  As if misleading people is somehow more loving. Pope Francis describes such an approach as “deceptive mercy,” a false mercy which bandages wounds but fails to heal them. 

The Holy Father ended this first portion of the Synod by beatifying Pope Paul VI – a heroic witness who wrote the brief but prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae.  He was encouraging Catholics to continue in the 2000 year history of celebrating the gift of sexual fruitfulness.  Rather than resorting to contraception, Blessed Paul VI challenged us to find natural means for couples to be generous and responsible parents.

Please understand that I’m not here to condemn anyone.  Together we make up a Church of humble sinners who must constantly strive towards sainthood, even if we stumble along the way.  For all of us, God offers the gift of mercy, particularly through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which we will have an opportunity to participate in later today.

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Les premiers chrétiens ont dû faire preuve de beaucoup de courage alors qu’ils se sont donnés pour mission de transformer un monde qui ne connaissait pas Dieu et qui avait à l’égard du mariage et de la moralité sexuelle des idées et des mœurs hélas bien semblables à celles qui prévalent aujourd’hui.

Quant à nous, nous sommes chanceux puisque nous pouvons jeter notre regard du côté de saints et de saintes comme sainte Cécile que nous fêtons aujourd’hui.

Quel modèle pour nous tous! Très jeune, Cécile consacra sa vie à Dieu et fit vœux de virginité. Ses parents la donnèrent en mariage à un jeune païen nommé Valérien.

Au soir du mariage, Cécile expliqua à son mari qu’elle était accompagnée d’un ange veillant sur elle. Valérien la respecta, se convertit et fut baptisé. Il en fut de même pour son frère Tiburcius. Lorsque les autorités romaines apprirent cela, les deux frères furent arrêtés et exécutés. Peu de temps après, c’est Cécile qui fut arrêtée. Elle fut condamnée à être enfermée dans la salle de bain de sa propre maison et à suffoquer par la vapeur. La chaleur et la vapeur n’eurent pas raison d’elle. 

Le préfet, en colère, ordonna de la décapiter. Le soldat envoyé pour la tuer perdit courage, et tout tremblant, la frappa à trois reprises, mais en vain. La loi romaine interdisant le quatrième coup, elle fut abandonnée gisant dans son sang. Cécile survécut trois jours pendant lesquels elle n’avait pas cessé de prêcher sa foi et d’encourager les pauvres.



Cécile mourut le 22 novembre de l’an 230. En 1599, Cécile fut inhumée dans la position exacte où elle expira, avec les doigts étendus, dans les catacombes de Saint Calixte avec, à ses pieds, les vêtements ayant essuyé ses plaies. Son exemple de pureté et de chasteté a été tellement fort que son nom a été inséré dans la première prière eucharistique.

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I would like to leave you with one final thought for families.  Perhaps some of you have seen the popular TV show “Blue Bloods” starring Tom Selleck and Donnie Walhberg.  It’s a police drama set in New York City.  The show centres on an Irish Catholic family.  Tom Selleck is the police commissioner.  His father the retired commissioner.  His children all work in law enforcement as an assistant district attorney, a detective, and a beat cop.  It’s refreshing to hear of a show that actually depicts the Catholic Church in a positive light.  


One thing especially worthy of note is that in practically every episode, on Sunday evening, the four generations of this Catholic family gather around the dinner table without the distractions of TV, smartphones etc.  They pray grace, share a meal, and spend quality time together. 

There have been recent research studies showing that children who grow up in homes where the family sits around a table and shares a meal at least five times a week are significantly less likely to end up with chemical addictions and involved in crime.  In general, they end up being more successful and live happier lives. 



The experts call it “table fellowship”. And isn’t table-fellowship what Jesus practiced with his disciples, at times with his opponents, with sinners whom he was calling to conversion?  It’s so simple, yet there are so many pressures (busyness, activities) pulling us away from doing what we as Catholics have always known to be good…long before the research was published.

That is why during this conference, we take the time as family to gather around the table of the Lord.  Most certainly we come with reverence before the altar of sacrifice.  But this is also the family dinner table where Jesus Himself nourishes us.  We bring our joys, our sufferings, and our intentions.  We come to pray together intimately for our own families and for our Catholic family worldwide. 

One day may God invite us to join him around his heavenly banquet table.

Photos of Mass: Paul Lauzon