Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Canadian Cardinal in Rome - Early Martyrs of the Church of Rome

Cardinal Marc Ouellet Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops

Today, the Holy See announced a widely-rumoured appointment, that of the Archbishop of Quebec and Canadian Church's Primate as a close collaborator of the Holy Father heading up the dicastery that prepares files on candidates for episcopal office world-wide (except in mission countries that come under the direction of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples).

He will succeed Cardinal Giovanni Batista Re whose resignation the Holy Father accepted at the same time.

I have had the privilege of being associated with Marc Ouellet during the years we worked with a special committee of seminary formators on a program of integrated human priestly formation. Archbishop Anthony Mancini was also a member of that sub-committee of the CCCB's project that became known as From Pain to Hope, a response to revelations of clerical abuse.

We had only brief contacts while he served in Rome as a professor at the John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family and then as Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

On his return to Canada after his nomination to Quebec, we met regularly while I served as Pontifical Commissioner for the Fils de Marie, located mainly in his Archdiocese. Always I found him solidly rooted, remarkably welcoming and strongly supportive.

In recent years we collaborated in affirming life through the March for Life, the interests and projects of the Catholic Office for Life and the Family and conversations on other issues--such as Youth in the Church--on the occasion of meetings of the CCCB Permanent Council.

The above photo was taken at the press conference in Quebec on May 26 encouraging governmental leaders to take steps to reduce the number of abortions. We asked our civic leaders to support those facing an unexpected pregnancy explore other options by funding alternatives which affirm life.

Our prayers and best wishes accompany you on your new mission, Eminence!

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Another Canadian Prelate in the News

Yesterday, Archbishop Albert LeGatt of St. Boniface received the pallium from Pope Benedict XVI

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First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

Today's optional memorial is in honour of the nameless followers of Christ brutally killed by the mad Emperor Nero as scapegoats for the fire in Rome. The pagan historian Tacitus and St. Clement of Rome tell of a night of horror (August 15, 64 A.D.) when in the imperial parks Christians were put into animal skins and hunted, were brutally attacked, and were made into living torches to light the road for Nero's chariot. From 64 to 314 "Christian" was synonymous with "execution victim."

There were Christians in Rome within a dozen or so years after the death of Jesus, though they were not the converts of the "Apostle of the Gentiles" (see Romans 15:20); Paul had not yet visited them at the time he wrote his great letter in A.D. 57-58.

There was a large Jewish population in Rome. Probably as a result of controversy between Jews and Jewish Christians, the Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome in A.D. 49-50. Suetonius the historian says that the expulsion was due to disturbances in the city "caused by the certain Chrestus" [Christ]. Perhaps many came back after Claudius's death in A.D. 54. Paul's letter was addressed to a church with members from Jewish and gentile backgrounds.

In July of A.D. 64, more than half of Rome was destroyed by fire. Rumor blamed the tragedy on Nero, who wanted to enlarge his palace. He shifted the blame by accusing the Christians. According to the historian Tacitus, a "great multitude" of Christians were put to death because of their "hatred of the human race." Peter and Paul were probably among the victims.

Threatened by an army revolt and condemned to death by the senate, Nero committed suicide in A.D. 68 at the age of thirty-one.

Wherever the Good News of Jesus was preached, it met the same opposition as Jesus did, and many of those who began to follow him shared his suffering and death. But no human force could stop the power of the Spirit unleashed upon the world. The blood of martyrs has always been, and will always be, the seed of Christians (Excerpted from Saint of the Day, Leonard Foley, OFM).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization - Saints PETER & PAUL and Conferral of Palliums - Quebec Bishops Comment on Loyola High School Judgment

Last evening, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the First Vespers of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul at the Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls.

There he welcomed the annual delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and announced the establishment of a new Pontifical Council, one whose goal will be a New Evangelization aimed particularly at European and other societies that have yielded to secularizing trends and/or drifted from practice of the faith. Herewith, an excerpt from the Holy Father's remarks:

The challenges of the present age are certainly beyond human capacities; they are the historical and social challenges, and with greater reason, the spiritual challenges. At times it seems to us pastors of the Church that we are reliving the experience of the Apostles, when thousands of needy persons followed Jesus, and he asked: What can we do for all these people? They then experienced their impotence. But Jesus had in fact demonstrated to them that with faith in God nothing is impossible, and that a few loaves and a few fish, blessed and shared, could satiate all. But it was not -- and is not -- only hunger for material food: There is a more profound hunger, which only God can satiate.

Man of the third millennium also desires an authentic and full life, he has need of truth, of profound liberty, of gratuitous love. Also in the deserts of the secularized world, man's soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Because of this John Paul II wrote: "The mission of Christ the Redeemer, entrusted to the Church, is still very far from its fulfillment," and he added: "a look on the whole of humanity demonstrates that such a mission is still at the beginning and that we must commit ourselves with all our strength to its service" ("Redemptoris Missio," No. 1). There are regions in the world that still wait for a first evangelization; others that received it but need more profound work; others still in which the Gospel put down roots a long time ago, giving place to a true Christian tradition, but where in the last centuries -- with complex dynamics -- the process of secularization has produced a grave crisis of the sense of the Christian faith and of belonging to the Church.

In this perspective, I have decided to create a new organism, in the form of pontifical council, with the specific task of promoting a renewed evangelization in countries where the first proclamation of the faith already resounded, and where Churches are present of ancient foundation, but which are going through a progressive secularization of society and a sort of "eclipse of the sense of God," which constitutes a challenge to find the appropriate means to propose again the perennial truth of the Gospel of Christ.

Dear brothers and sisters, the universal Church faces the challenge of the new evangelization, which asks us also to continue with commitment the search for the full unity among Christians. An eloquent sign of hope in this connection is the custom of the reciprocal visits between the Church of Rome and that of Constantinople on the occasion of the feasts of their respective patron saints.

Because of this, today we welcome with renewed joy and gratitude the delegation sent by Patriarch Bartholomew I, to whom we address the most cordial greeting. May the intercession of Sts. Peter and Paul obtain for the whole Church ardent faith and apostolic courage, to proclaim to the world the truth of which we all have need, the truth that is God, origin and end of the universe and of history, merciful and faithful Father, hope of eternal life. Amen.

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Archbishop LeGatt Receives Pallium Today

Thanks to Asia News ( for this report on the Mass for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul at the Vatican Basilica in which the Holy Father declared that communion with the successor of Peter is the church's guarantee of freedom for the bishops and the faithful. It serves to protect the churches from interference by local, national and international powers, and to ensure all full adherence to the truth, the authentic tradition. The "greatest damage" to the Church is not persecution, but "what pollutes the Christian faith and life of its members and its communities."

Communion with the Pope guarantees the freedom of churches and bishops from "local, national and international power" and of all the faithful “in the sense of full adherence to truth and authentic tradition”, so that the People of God may be preserved from mistakes regarding faith and morals".

On the day dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, Benedict XVI has reaffirmed this principle and the true meaning of the "primacy" of the bishop of Rome. His words were heard by 38 archbishops who have come from every continent to receive the pallium – which the Pope explained during the Angelus, "symbolizes both the communion with the Bishop of Rome, and the mission to nurture with love the one flock of Christ”. Also present, a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which for years has taken part in the celebration of two apostles, just as a Catholic delegation goes to Istanbul for the Feast of Saint Andrew, founder of that Church.

The "Freedom of the Church”, guaranteed by Christ to Peter, is tied to communion with the successor of Peter. In the two millennia of Christian history the faithful "have never been lacking in trials, which in some periods and places have assumed the character of real persecution. These, however, despite the suffering they cause, are not the greatest danger for the Church. In fact it suffers greatest damage from what pollutes the Christian faith and life of its members and its communities, eroding the integrity of the Mystical Body, weakening its ability to prophesy and witness, tarnishing the beauty of its face".

"This reality - continued the Pope - This reality is already attested in the Pauline Epistle. The First Epistle to the Corinthians, for example, responds to some problems of divisions, inconsistencies, of infidelity to the Gospel which seriously threaten the Church. But the Second Letter to Timothy – of which we heard an excerpt - speaks about the dangers of the "last days", identifying them with negative attitudes that belong to the world and can infect the Christian community: selfishness, vanity, pride, love of money, etc (cf. 3.1 to 5 ).

The theme of the Freedom of the Church, Benedict XVI then stated, "also has a particular relevance to the rite of the imposition of the pallium. "The communion with Peter and his successors, in fact, is the guarantee of freedom for the Church's Pastors and the Communities entrusted to them."

“Historically, union with the Apostolic See, ensures the particular Churches and Episcopal Conferences freedom with respect to local, national or supranational powers, that can sometimes hinder the mission of the ecclesial Church. Furthermore, and most essentially, the Petrine ministry is a guarantee of freedom in the sense of full adherence to truth and authentic tradition, so that the People of God may be preserved from mistakes concerning faith and morals. Hence the fact that each year the new Metropolitans come to Rome to receive the pallium from the hands of the Pope, must be understood in its proper meaning, as a gesture of communion, and the issue of freedom of the Church gives us a particularly important key for interpretation. This is evident in the case of churches marked by persecution, or subject to political interference or other hardships. But this is no less relevant in the case of communities that suffer the influence of misleading doctrines or ideological tendencies and practices contrary to the Gospel".

A final point drawn by the Pope from today's readings and “in particular from Christ's promise that the powers of hell shall not prevail against his Church. These words may also have a significant ecumenical value, since, as I mentioned earlier, one of the typical effects of the Devil is division within the Church community. The divisions are in fact symptoms of the power of sin, which continues to act in members of the Church even after redemption. But the word of Christ is clear: " Non praevalebunt – it will not prevail" (Matt. 16:18).

The unity of the Church is rooted in its union with Christ, and the cause of full Christian unity - always to be sought and renewed from generation to generation - is well supported by his prayer and his promise. In the fight against the spirit of evil, God has given us in Jesus the 'Advocate', defender, and after his Easter, "another Paraclete" (Jn 14:16), the Holy Spirit, which remains with us always and leads the Church into the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 14:16; 16:13), which is also the fullness of charity and unity.

With these feelings of confident hope, I am pleased to greet the delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which, in the beautiful custom of reciprocal visits, participates in the celebrations of the patron saints of Rome. Together we thank God for progress in ecumenical relations between Catholics and Orthodox, and we renew our commitment to generously reciprocate to God's grace, which leads us to full communion”.

During the Mass, the Pope conferred the pallium on thirty-eight metropolitan archbishops named in the last year, including Archbishop Albert LeGatt of St. Boniface, Manitoba, whose coat of arms is reproduced at right.
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Judge Supports Loyola Course, Quebec Bishops Agree

On June 18 Judge Gérard Dugré, of the Superior Court of Quebec ruled in favour of my Montreal alma mater, Loyola High School ('61), that asked the Ministry of Education for an excemption so as to teach the mandatory course on ethics and religion in a non-secular manner.

"On Friday [June 18], Superior Court Justice Gerard Dugre compared the attempt of the education minister to impose a secular emphasis on Loyola High School's teaching of the course to the intolerance of the Spanish Inquisition" [Montreal Gazette].

The Premier of Quebec immediately indicated that the Government would appeal the judgment. Yesterday [June 28], the president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec expressed its support of parental choice in the matter:

Communiqué du président de l’Assemblée des évêques catholiques du Québec suite au jugement de l’Honorable Gérard Dugré, de la Cour supérieure, sur la requête du Collège Loyola au sujet du cours d’Éthique et culture religieuse

Le juge Gérard Dugré, de la Cour supérieure du Québec, vient de donner raison au Collège Loyola, qui affirme respecter les exigences de la loi en donnant un programme équivalent au cours obligatoire d’Éthique et Culture religieuse mais dans une perspective confessionnelle qui s’inscrit dans le cadre de son projet éducatif catholique.

Ce jugement apporte un éclairage nouveau sur une question fort complexe et ouvre de nouvelles voies pour qui s’intéresse à la mise en place, dans nos écoles, d’une véritable formation au pluralisme et à la diversité religieuse.

Le développement d’un tel programme par Loyola fait valoir le point de vue que la reconnaissance de l’autre et la poursuite du bien commun — les deux grandes finalités du cours d’Éthique et Culture religieuse — ne sont pas menacées quand on y est initié dans un cadre confessionnel sérieux. Connaissance de soi et respect de l’autre vont de pair et nul n’est mieux préparé à accueillir la différence en matière de foi et de croyances que celui ou celle qui a appris à trouver dans sa propre identité spirituelle et religieuse les fondements de l’accueil, du respect et du dialogue.

Nous ne pouvons qu’accueillir avec satisfaction la reconnaissance par la Cour supérieure de la légitimité de cette approche.

Quand la création du programme d’Éthique et Culture religieuse avait été annoncée, en remplacement du régime d’option entre enseignement religieux et enseignement moral, nous nous étions engagés publiquement, malgré notre déception de voir disparaître la liberté de choix des parents, à maintenir « une attitude d’ouverture et de prudence..., critique et vigilante ».

C’est dans cette perspective qu’en septembre dernier, nous avions exprimé à la Ministre de vives inquiétudes sur les modalités concrètes d’application du nouveau programme au cours de sa première année. Nous avions en particulier mis en évidence les lacunes dans l’implication des parents, premiers responsables de l’éducation de leur enfant. Ils devront être mieux informés et écoutés, écrivions-nous.

Nous avions alors rappelé à la Ministre ce que nous avions dit dans notre déclaration du 17 mars 2008: « L'Assemblée des évêques a toujours exprimé sa préférence pour le respect du choix des parents en matière d'éducation morale et religieuse. C'est pourquoi elle a favorisé l'établissement d'un régime d'options entre un enseignement confessionnel et un enseignement moral sans dimension religieuse. Cette liberté de choix disparaîtra avec l'implantation du nouveau programme. Cela représente à nos yeux une perte et nous estimons qu'il faudra demeurer très attentifs au respect intégral de la liberté de conscience dans le nouveau con-texte qui vient d'être créé.»

+ Martin Veillette, évêque de Trois-Rivières
président de l’Assemblée des évêques catholiques du Québec

Monday, June 28, 2010

St. Irenaeus of Lyons, martyr - The Pallium, a Share in the Pope's Universal Jurisdiction

The writings of St. Irenaeus entitle him to a high place among the fathers of the Church, for they not only laid the foundations of Christian theology but, by exposing and refuting the errors of the gnostics, they delivered the Catholic Faith from the real danger of the doctrines of those heretics.

Irenaeus was probably born about the year 125, in one of those maritime provinces of Asia Minor where the memory of the apostles was still cherished and where Christians were numerous. He was most influenced by St. Polycarp who had known the apostles or their immediate disciples

Many priests and missionaries from Asia brought the gospel to the pagan Gauls and founded a local church. To this church of Lyon, Irenaeus came to serve as a priest under its first bishop, St. Pothinus, an oriental like himself. In the year 177, Irenaeus was sent to Rome. This mission explains how it was that he was not called upon to share in the martyrdom of St Pothinus during the terrible persecution in Lyons.

When Irenaeus returned to Lyons it was to occupy the vacant bishopric. By this time, the persecution was over. It was the spread of gnosticism in Gaul, and the ravages it was making among the Christians of his diocese, that inspired him to undertake the task of exposing its errors. He produced a treatise in five books in which he sets forth fully the inner doctrines of the various sects, and afterwards contrasts them with the teaching of the Apostles and the text of the Holy Scripture. His work, written in Greek but quickly translated to Latin, was widely circulated and succeeded in dealing a death-blow to gnosticism. At any rate, from that time onwards, it ceased to offer a serious menace to the Catholic faith.

The date of St. Irenaeus' death is not known, but it is believed to be in the year 202. His bodily remains were buried in a crypt under the altar of what was then called the church of St. John, but was later known by the name of St. Irenaeus himself. This tomb or shrine was destroyed by the Calvinists in 1562, and any trace of his relics seems to have perished.

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Conferral of the Pallium on Metropolitan Archbishops

At 9.30 tomorrow morning, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul Apostles, Benedict XVI will preside at a Eucharistic concelebration with some 38 metropolitan archbishops, including one Canadian--Archbishop Albert LeGatt of St. Boniface, Manitoba--upon whom he will impose the pallium:

- Archbishop Luis Gerardo Herrera O.F.M. of Cuenca, Ecuador.

- Archbishop Alex Thomas Kaliyanil S.V.D. of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

- Archbishop Gerard Tlali Lerotholi O.M.I. of Maseru, Lesotho.

- Archbishop Antonio Fernando Saburido O.S.B. of Olinda and Recife, Brazil.

- Archbishop Albert Legatt of Saint-Boniface, Canada.

- Archbishop Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia - Citta della Pieve, Italy.

- Archbishop Andrea Bruno Mazzocato of Udine, Italy.

- Archbishop Gabriel Mblinghi C.S.Sp. of Lubango, Angola.

- Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, Philppines.

- Archbishop Constancio Miranda Weckmann of Chihuahua, Mexico.

- Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, England.

- Archbishop Juan Jose Asenjo Pelegrina of Seville, Spain.

- Archbishop Jerome Edward Listecki of Milwaukee, U.S.A.

- Archbishop Samuel Kleda of Douala, Cameroon.

- Archbishop Jesus Sanz Montes O.F.M. of Oviedo, Spain.

- Archbishop Anton Stres C.M. of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

- Archbishop Joseph Atanga S.J. of Bertoua, Cameroon.

- Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town, South Africa.

- Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati, U.S.A.

- Archbishop Alberto Taveira Correa of Belem do Para, Brazil.

- Archbishop Andre-Mutien Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium.

- Archbishop Antonio Lanfranchi of Modena - Nonantola, Italy.

- Archbishop Dominik Duka O.P. of Prague, Czech Republic.

- Archbishop Ricardo Antonio Tobon Restrepo of Medellin, Colombia.

- Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa Mendieta O.S.A. of Panama, Panama.

- Archbishop Francis Kallarakal of Verapoly, India.

- Archbishop Desire Tsarahazana of Toamasina, Madagascar.

- Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid, Spain.

- Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong of Kwangju, Korea.

- Archbishop Luis Madrid Merlano of Nueva Pamplona, Colombia.

- Archbishop Thomas Gerard Wenski of Miami, U.S.A.

- Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark, England.

- Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk of Gniezno, Poland.

- Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon of Hanoi, Vietnam.

- Archbishop Matthias Kobena Nketsiah of Cape Coast, Ghana.

- Archbishop Bernard Bober of Kosice, Slovakia.

- Archbishop Carlos Garfias Merlos of Acapulco, Mexico.

- Archbishop Luigi Moretti of Salerno - Campagna - Acerno, Italy.

The pallium in the time of Innocent III

The pallium (derived from the Roman pallium or palla, a woollen cloak) is an ecclesiastical vestment in the Catholic Church, originally peculiar to the Pope, but for many centuries bestowed by him on metropolitans and primates as a symbol of the jurisdiction delegated to them by the Holy See. In that context it has always remained unambiguously connected to the papacy.

The pallium, in its present Western form, is a narrow band, "three fingers broad", woven of white lamb's wool from sheep raised by Trappist monks, with a loop in the centre resting on the shoulders over the chasuble and two dependent lappets, before and behind; so that when seen from front or back the ornament resembles the letter Y. It is decorated with six black crosses, one on each tail and four on the loop, is doubled on the left shoulder and sometimes is garnished, back and front, with three jewelled gold pins. The two latter characteristics seem to be survivals of the time when the Roman pallium was a simple scarf doubled and pinned on the left shoulder.

For his formal inauguration Pope Benedict XVI adopted an earlier form of the pallium, from a period when it and the omophor were virtually identical. It is wider than the modern pallium although not as wide as the modern omophor (the vesture worn by eparchs and bishops in the Oriental churches, similar to what is worn by Irenaeus and Innocent in the illustrations), made of wool with black silk ends, and decorated with five red crosses, three of which are pierced with pins, symbolic of Christ's five wounds and the three nails. Only the Papal pallium was to take this distinctive form.

Beginning with the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29, 2008) Benedict XVI reverted to a form similar to that worn by his recent predecessors, albeit in a larger and longer cut and with red crosses, therefore remaining distinct from pallia worn by metropolitans.

New form of the pallium, with red crosses, worn by Pope Benedict XVI since 2008

At present only the Pope and metropolitan archbishops wear the pallium. A metropolitan has to receive the pallium before exercising his office in his ecclesiastical province, even if he was previously metropolitan elsewhere. No other bishops, even non-metropolitan archbishops or retired metropolitans, are allowed to wear the pallium unless they have special permission. For example, Angelo Sodano, the newly elected Dean of the College of Cardinals, received the privilege of wearing the pallium for the suburbicarian diocese of Ostia on June 29, 2005 [from wikipedia].

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Thirteenth Sunday C: Freedom to Follow Jesus - Order of Malta's Grand Master Visits Canada

"FREEDOM AND DISCIPLESHIP" Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year "C") - June 27, 2010 [Texts: 1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21 [Psalm 16]; Galatians 5:1, 13-18; Luke 9:51-62]

During the coming week the school year will come to an end and we will celebrate Canada Day.

Children will look forward to being free from books, homework and routine; they will relish their freedom to play, to make new friends, to go away on holidays.

Thoughtful young people and adults will reflect on the freedom we enjoy in our country and wonder, perhaps, how we can work together to realize the vast potential of this nation.

In today's epistle reading, Paul speaks about freedom. Spiritual freedom. He warns the Galatians about an attitude of theirs that would render them slaves again. They wanted to observe all the ritual prescriptions mentioned in the Old Testament and so earn God's love.

Paul says that God has freely bestowed on them what they want, his favour. God has made them as free as his only Son Jesus. Their task, Paul adds, is to believe in this saving action of God's and, as Jesus did, to live out their lives in love.

Let us pray today for our children, for our nation and for ourselves. That the liberty we enjoy not set before us "an opening for self-indulgence". But rather that, as Paul urges, we may "serve one another in works of love" (Gal 5:13).

The school year ends this week. With it and the approach of holidays for many, there is a sense of freedom in the air. Freedom from routine, chores, work; freedom for new activities, pastimes, leisure and travel. Paul's letter to the Galatians takes up the theme of freedom.

In both the Old Testament lesson and the Gospel, the context of a journey to heaven by Elijah and Jesus leads to an example of and teaching on discipleship. There is food here for Christian thought of a kind that will challenge us if we let the scriptural word intrude upon our leisure time and make of it a time for profound reflection.

First reading: 1 Kings 19:16, 19-21

Chapters 17-19 of the First Book of Kings contains a cycle of stories concerning Elijah, perhaps deriving from an early "life" of Elijah. The nineteenth chapter deals with Elijah's desolation over the seeming failure of his mission; it includes Elijah's flight from Ahab and Jezebel's murderous intent (1 Kgs 19:1-4), his being fed by angels, his walk of 40 days and 40 nights' duration to Mount Horeb (Sinai) and his discovery there of God not in wind, earthquake and fire but in the "still small voice" (vv. 5-13).

A dialogue with God ensues, one in which Elijah tells God that, despite his zeal for true religion, his prophetic mission has been a failure (v. 14). God replies, telling Elijah that he should anoint kings in Aram and Damascus and anoint the prophet Elisha to succeed him; these will be God's agents in uncovering seven thousand men in Israel who have not followed false gods (vv. 15-18). Elijah signified Elisha's prophetic call by throwing his mantle over him; at that time it was thought that a person's garments represented him and even concealed some of his power (in this case, prophetic power; cf. 2 Kgs 2:8).

Elisha gave proof of his total obedience to the divine summons by destroying his oxen and plow. Thereafter, Elisha became Elijah's servant until the latter's fiery ascent into heaven, from which time the prophetic mantle passed to Elisha (2 Kgs 2:9-15a).

Second reading: Galatians 5:1, 13-18

Paul's epistle to the Galatians is his most polemical writing. After telling of his own Christian vocation and the freedom he enjoyed in proclaiming the gospel (Chapters 1-2), Paul reminded the Galatians of their own coming to faith, their own freedom in the Spirit, and then wondered why they might ever think of surrendering freedom (Chapters 3-4).

In Chapter 5 Paul initiates such an exhortation on the proper understanding of Christian freedom. Christian freedom is not only a freedom from slavery (v.1) but a freedom for service to others (v.13).

Paul's succinct description of the Christian life - which, unfortunately, is not part of today's lectionary reading - consists in a "faith which expresses itself through love" (v.6).

To those who want to embrace the many prescriptions of the Law in order to win God's favour, Paul says "the whole Law is summarized in a single command: Love your neighbour as yourself" (v.14). Paul admonishes the Galatians by pointing out to them that their bickering and divisiveness is proof that they still have not made the law of love their own.

Paul goes on to suggest that they remain self-indulgent and are not yet led by the Spirit. He concludes with the observation that if they let themselves be led by the Spirit they will not be subject to the Law. This is because, in Paul's thinking, the Law has power only over the sinner who is condemned by the Law; the Christian, who is adopted as God's child through receiving the Spirit of Jesus, by adoption shares in that life of freedom lived by God's Son.

Gospel reading: Luke 9:51-62

This passage is a major turning point in the ministry of Jesus as it is described by Luke. Here we begin Luke's account of the "travel narrative" (9:51-19:44) which constitutes the central part of the gospel and is itself part of a more encompassing journey undertaken by Jesus, one that reaches its culmination with Jesus exalted at God's right hand and his bestowal of the Spirit on his followers (Lk 9:51-Acts 2:33).

We find several episodes in this gospel selection. Just as Jesus was rejected in his home village in Galilee (Lk 4:22-30) and later would be rejected by the religious and civil authorities in Jerusalem (22:47-23:53), so here he is rejected in Samaria (vv. 52-53).

James and John, illustrating their nickname "the sons of thunder" (cf. Mk 3:17), thought to call down fire upon the Samaritans, but Jesus would not allow it ("rebuked" them), and the small band moved on. In narrating this Samaritan episode Luke underlined Jesus' difference from Elijah, who was zealous in his punishment of those who had rejected the prophetic message; and Luke thereby emphasized the universal import of Jesus' mission, a mission which included even the "heretical" Samaritans.

Later on in the travel account, two of Jesus' references to Samaritans stress Jesus' kindness and compassion in their regard (cf. Lk 10:25-37; 17:11-19).

Finally, we have three once separate sayings on discipleship which round out the unit (Lk 9:57-58, 59-60, 61-62). A comparison with Matthew 8:19-22 shows that the first two sayings (about Jesus' wandering life-style and the injunction to "let the dead bury their dead") were linked in the earliest tradition, whereas the third saying is peculiar to Luke's gospel.

According to a common interpretation, the "spiritually dead (= those who do not listen to Jesus) should bury their dead" points to the radical demand made by Jesus' summons. It went against the highest of filial duties known in Judaism. Burial of the dead was a religious duty that surpassed all others, even the study of Torah; even priests, who could not normally touch the dead, could, according to Leviticus 21: 1-3, do so in the case of relatives who had died. For Jesus the primacy of preaching the Kingdom of God outweighed all other pressing demands, human or religious.

The third saying, about not looking back, may be implicitly contrasting Jesus with Elijah, who did allow Elisha to go home and say farewell to his family. Again, the stringent demands of the Kingdom are underlined.

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Canada and the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta

Today in Halifax, Fra' Matthew Festing, head of the Order of Malta, will assist at Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica and take part in a number of governmental-level ceremonies, some associated with the Centennial of Canada's Navy, that flow from relations that exist between Canada and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (as described below in a Government of Canada website):

On June 4, 2008, Canada established official relations with the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, through an exchange of letters between Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Order’s Grand Master.

Founded in 1048 as a monastic community dedicated to helping the sick and the needy, the Order was originally known as the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. Through the Middle Ages, it evolved into a religious and military chivalrous order of the Roman Catholic Church and is commonly known today as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM). It is the sole successor to the original Order of 1048.

The Order continues its medical and humanitarian work today, helping victims of armed conflicts and natural disasters by providing medical assistance, caring for refugees, and distributing medicines and basic equipment for survival. Through its development assistance program, Canada works with the Order in many parts of the world, in particular for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

The Ambassador of Canada to the Holy See is Canada’s official point of contact with the Order. The Diplomatic, Consular and Other Representatives in Canada publication lists "SMOM - Sovereign Military Order of Malta - Canadian Association" in the section "International Organizations and Other Offices" (Source:

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FRA’ MATTHEW FESTING, the Order's Grand Prior of England, was on March 11, 2008 elected Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta. The new grand master was chosen in a secret ballot by the Complete Council of State. After receiving the approval of the Pope, His Most Eminent Highness swore the Oath before the council and the Cardinal Patronus of the Order, Cardinal Pio Laghi.

Now sixty, Fra’ Matthew was, before his election, an art expert for the auction house Sotheby’s. The Prince is the son of Field Marshal Sir Francis Festing who, as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, was the effective head of the British Army. Sir Francis converted to Catholicism and married a member of the Riddells of Swinburne Castle, a prominent recusant family. Through his mother, Fra’ Matthew is descended from the Blessed Sir Adrian Fortescue, an English Knight of Malta who was martyred for the Faith in 1539. The grand master’s brother Andrew Festing, RP is a noted portraitist.

As a child, Fra’ Matthew lived in Egypt and Singapore where his father held army postings, and was educated at Ampleforth Abbey in Yorkshire and St. John’s College, Cambridge. Passing out from Sandhurst, he was commissioned an officer in the Grenadier Guards, Britain’s most senior infantry regiment. (The Coldstream Guards are actually older, but their seniority was reduced for backing Cromwell in the Civil War). Holding the rank of Colonel in the Territorial Army, Fra’ Matthew served the Queen as Deputy Lieutenant for Northumberland for many years, and was appointed OBE.

Having joined the Order of Malta in 1977, Fra’ Matthew took solemn vows in 1991 and was appointed Grand Prior of England in 1993, when the Grand Priory was resurrected after 450 years in abeyance. In that post he led humanitarian missions to Kosovo, central Serbia, and Croatia, and has attended the annual British pilgrimage to Lourdes with the handicapped and the disabled.

The Order of Malta has been remarkable in that it has had no qualms about modernization while at the same time unabashedly keeping to its ancient traditions. Fra’ Matthew intends to continue the centuries-long tradition of the Order of Malta: to defend the Faith, to serve the Poor.

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The Order of Malta in the National Capital/Archdiocese of Ottawa

Some of the Knights and Dames of Malta came together for the annual Mass on the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist and joined me for a reception at my residence afterwards. Here is the homily on the occasion, with some photos from the reception:

SOLENNITÉ DE LA NAISSANCE DE SAINT JEAN BAPTISTE, Messe avec les membres de l’Ordre de Malte, 24 juin 2010 – Basilique cathédrale Notre-Dame, Ottawa, ON [Textes : Isaïe 49, 1-6; Psaume 138; Actes 13, 22-26; Luc 1, 57-66.80]

« Son nom est Jean »

Jean est avant tout l’envoyé de Dieu, le témoin de la lumière, celui qui a prophétisé le Christ et qui l’a montré aux hommes. Il a été choisi dès le sein maternel, et le moment le nommer a été pour Zacharie, son père, l’occasion d’être témoin de l’Esprit. Dans la prière de louange qui jaillit de ses lèvres, il annonce notre Rédempteur et son œuvre de libération.

Dans l’Église, on ne fête pas la naissance des saints, mais le jour de leur mort qui devient alors leur vraie naissance au ciel. Il n’y a que trois exceptions toutefois au calendrier liturgique : la nativité de Jésus, celle de Marie sa mère, et celle de Jean le Baptiste.

Lui que Jésus nomme « le plus grand parmi les prophètes » (Luc 7, 26), il a passé sa vie à vouloir diminuer pour que grandisse le Christ. Il n’a jamais revendiqué un rôle qui n’était pas le sien. Il n’aurait jamais pu prévoir la dévotion que toute l’Église lui voue. Sa naissance est célébrée avec solennité.

John the Baptist is the Patron Saint of the Sovereign Order of Malta. Your Order, dedicated to the defence of faith and to assist the poor and the suffering, can be proud to have such a model to imitate. Almost ten centuries after your foundation (1050), you are still faithful to your vocation. And as in the case of any fidelity, yours is not static. Each member embodies the ideals of your Order, according to their talents and in their own context.

“His name is John.” The meaning of this name is “grace from God”, that is, the one in whom is grace. This name is a proclamation of the Gospel: John points to the Lord who is coming, He through whom grace is given to the world.

Dames and Knights of the Order of Malta, you have the privilege to recognize Christ present and hidden in those who suffer, in those who are impoverished because of natural disasters or other reasons. Your generosity is not only legendary, but quite actual. Your assistance rapidly reaches those in need throughout the world. There is no emergency situation that does not find in you judicious and rapid aid. I would like to express the Church’s gratitude.

Dames et Chevaliers de l’Ordre de Malte, vous avez le privilège de reconnaître le Christ présent et caché dans ceux qui souffrent, dans ceux qui sont appauvris par des séismes ou d’autres raisons, et dans le besoin. Votre générosité est non seulement légendaire, mais très actuelle. Votre aide concrète répond rapidement aux besoins qui surgissent partout, et il n’y a pas de situations d’urgence qui ne trouvent pas en vous une aide judicieuse et empressée. Permettez-moi de vous exprimer, au nom de l’Église, toute notre reconnaissance.

Dans cette eucharistie, demandons à Jean Baptiste d’intercéder afin que chacun de nous devienne témoin du Christ, lampe qui brûle et qui éclaire.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Celebrating St. Josemaria Escriva - Cosmas and Damian Society for Medical Ethics BBQ

Today, the third anniversary of my installation as Archbihsop of Ottawa, at 11 o'clock in Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, I will officiate at this year's observance of the Feast of St. Josemaria Escriva. All are welcome.

St. Josemaría Escrivá was born in 1902 at Barbastro Spain. He was ordained in Saragossa in 1925 and founded Opus Dei which opened a new way for the faithful to sanctify themselves in the midst of the world. He died on June 26, 1975 and was canonized a saint on October 6, 2002.

Josemaría Escrivá was born in Barbastro, Spain, on January 9, 1902 and had five siblings: Carmen (1899-1957) and Santiago (1919-1994) and three younger sisters who died when they were small children. His parents, José and Dolores, gave their children a deep Christian education.

In 1915, José Escrivá's business failed and he found other work, which required the family to move to Logrono. It was as a teenager in Logrono that Josemaria for the first time sensed his vocation. Moved by the sight of footprints left in the snow by a barefoot friar, he sensed that God was asking something of him, though he did not know exactly what it was. He thought becoming a priest would help him discover and fulfill this calling from God, so he began to prepare for the priesthood, first in Logrono and later in Saragossa.

Josemaría's father died in 1924, leaving him as head of the family. After his ordination in 1925, he began his ministry in a rural parish, and subsequently continued it in Saragossa. In 1927, Fr. Josemaría's bishop gave him permission to move to Madrid to obtain his doctorate in law.

On October 2, 1928, during a spiritual retreat, Fr. Josemaría saw what it was that God was asking of him: to found Opus Dei, a way of sanctification in daily work and in the fulfillment of the Christian's ordinary duties. From then on he worked on carrying out this task, meanwhile continuing his priestly ministry, particularly to the poor and the sick.

During these early years of Opus Dei, he was also studying at the University of Madrid and teaching classes in order to support his family. When the Civil War broke out in Madrid, religious persecution forced Fr. Josemaría to exercise his priestly ministry clandestinely and to move from place to place seeking refuge. Eventually, he was able to leave the Spanish capital; and, after a harrowing escape across the Pyrenees, he took up residence in Burgos. When the war concluded in 1939, he returned to Madrid and finally obtained his doctorate in law. In the years that followed he gave many retreats to laity, priests, and religious, and continued working assiduously to develop Opus Dei.

In 1946 Fr. Josemaría took up residence in Rome. During his years in Rome, he obtained a doctorate in Theology from the Lateran University and was appointed by Pope Pius XII as a consultor to two Vatican Congregations, as an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy of Theology, and as an honorary prelate.

He traveled frequently from Rome to various European countries, and to Mexico on one occasion, to spark the growth of Opus Dei in those places. In 1974 and 1975, he made two long trips to a number of countries in Latin America, where he met with large groups of people and spoke to them about their Christian vocation to holiness.

Msgr. Escriva died in Rome on June 26, 1975. By the time of his death, Opus Dei had begun in dozens of countries and had touched countless lives. Pope John Paul II beatified Msgr. Escriva on May 17, 1992, in St. Peter's Square in Rome. The ceremony was attended by approximately 300,000 people. "With supernatural intuition," said the Pope in his homily, "Blessed Josemaría untiringly preached the universal call to holiness and apostolate."

Ten years later, on October 6, 2002, John Paul II canonized the founder of Opus Dei in St. Peter's Square before a multitude of people from more than 80 countries. In his discourse to those who attended the canonization, the Holy Father said that "St. Josemaría was chosen by the Lord to proclaim the universal call to holiness and to indicate that everyday life, its customary activities, are a path towards holiness. It could be said that he was the saint of the ordinary".

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Ottawa Catholic Doctors

There is the possibility for Catholic doctors and medical professionals to associate in a manner that allows them to bring their faith to bear on ethical issues that arise in their profession and to support onen another. Dr. John Gay has been the leader of this group, the Sts. Cosmas and Damian Society for Medical Ethics, for some years now; Opus Dei priest Father Paul Cormier is their chaplain.

Earlier this week, some members of the group under the patronage of earlier Christian doctors and martyrs came to together for a barbecue at the home of Dr. Tim Lau to mark the end of this year's activities. Some photos from the event:

Friday, June 25, 2010

G8 in Huntsville, Recalling Australia PM's WYD2008 Welcome - Our Lady of Perpetual Help Devotions at St. Patrick's Basilica

As the world prepared to focus on Canada's hosting of the G8 in Huntsville, Muskoka today and tomorrow and the G20 in Toronto on June 27-28, I learned of the news of the change in leadership in Australia and the replacement of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. This recalled to my mind the striking welcome to the World Youth Day pilgrims on July 15, 2008, one which, despite our secular era, affirmed the positive contribution of the Catholic Church.

Here's the text he gave a little less than two years ago:

The Honourable Kevin Rudd - World Youth Day Address:

I begin by honouring the first Australians on whose land we meet and whose great cultures we celebrate as among the oldest in human history.

Australia welcomes the youth of the world to Sydney. Australia welcomes the youth of the world to this celebration of faith and this celebration of life.

And as Prime Minister of Australia I welcome you from every land, every path, every continent on this, our planet.

[The Prime Minister welcomes pilgrims to Australia in various languages.]

And Australians. And Australians, g’day and have a great time down under.

You are here for this great celebration of life, this great celebration of faith and this great celebration of hope. And for this you are so much the light of the world at a time when the world has so much darkness.

Too often in the history of the world when young people travelled in great numbers to other parts of the world, they do so in the cause of war. But you here today are here as pilgrims of peace.

Some say there is no place for faith in the 21st Century. I say they are wrong. Some say that faith is the enemy of reason, I say, also they are wrong.

Because faith and reason are great partners in our human history and in our human future. Rich in humanity, rich in scientific progress.

Some say only that which they see wrong in Christianity and in the church, I say let us speak also about what is right in Christianity and the church.

It was the church that began first schools for the poor. It was the church that began first hospitals for the poor. It was the church that began first refuges for the poor and these great traditions continue for the future. And I say this, that Christianity has been an overwhelming force for good in the world.

Australia is a land of great freedom, a land of many cultures, a land of many faiths. But also a land deeply shaped by and proud of this nation’s Christian heritage and future. And within that great Christian heritage, we honour deeply the great catholic heritage of Australia as well.

Deep in its tradition, rich in its history, vital in its future. You come here as young pilgrims of the world. I say to you as I conclude, as Prime Minister of Australia, you are welcome guests in our land. May each of you be enriched by your time here among us in Australia just as you enrich Australia by your time here with us. Welcome to Australia.

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On Wednesday afternoon, as people were still coping with the experience of the Ottawa earthquake (5.0 on the Richter scale), I presided at the annual observance of the Perpetual Help devotion, celebrated in recent years at St. Patrick's Basilica.

Here is the homily delivered on the occasion, interspersed with photos take by Father Larry McCormick in the Scavi after Mass (I have not yet down-loaded my pix from the occasion):

72nd YEAR OF NOVENA DEVOTIONS TO OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP - Wednesday June 23, 2010 – 12th Wednesday in Ordinary Time - St. Patrick’s Basilica, Ottawa, Ontario, [Texts: 2 Kings 22. 8-13; 23. 1-3; Psalm 119; Matthew 7. 15-20]


The Scripture readings offer abundant nourishment. The high priest discovers the book of the Law. In turn, the King realizes that their fathers had not obeyed its prescriptions. He is determined to correct this. In a solemn ceremony, he and the people make a covenant before the Lord to follow His commands.

The book of the Law found is the book of Deuteronomy; its message: God loves, God waits to be loved, and God invites us to love Him. What moved the King deeply is that even if we forget God, He never forgets us.

How could this apply today? Maybe at one time or another in our lives, we felt we had “lost the Word of God”, and at other times, that we had “found it” again. Also, a known text can take a new meaning, touch us deeply, and even provoke a conversion.

And as in this historical event, no one ever converts to God alone. The high priest found the book – he had it read to the king – the king and all the people made a covenant. The Word of God passes from one hand to the other, goes from mouth to ear. God needs men and women to transmit the Good News! In other words, to bear fruit!

In the gospel, we hear a familiar phrase: “You will know them by their fruits.” For Matthew, the image of fruit as applied to the condition of man is important. It indicates the concrete behaviour of a person. It allows us to discern, or recognize (same verb in Greek) the authenticity of the activity of prophets.

Jesus is a realist. He reminds his disciples that the true value of a person is discovered through their deeds. Docility to the Spirit, humility, is one of the fruits by which a genuine prophet is recognized.

Actions, words, have authentic value when they are the expression of an inner faithfulness to God. As disciple of Christ, our most trustworthy model is Mary. With very few words, we know of her total dedication to God: “Fiat” – “Magnificat” – “Do as Jesus tells you”. Also, she stood at the Cross, and waited with the Apostles for the coming of the Spirit. These are fruits from the heart of Mary. She put into practice and lived personally the commitment made by her people centuries before.

To his disciples and to us today, Jesus warns also of possible falseness. Because they can easily deceive others, those who put on a show of virtue or religion are more dangerous than those who are evil outright.

The richness of our faith is such that even when emphasizing one aspect, the whole revelation is present. In celebrating Our Lady of Perpetual Help, we are aware that other devotions exist. Devotions also aimed at helping the faithful to live to the fullest the call of baptism: to become saints.

Gardeners know that a good tree will produce fruit given the appropriate time: patience is of the essence. No fruit can be “pulled” into existence. And that is also the beauty of God’s providential care for his creatures.

In contemplating the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, we are struck to see Mary looking straight at you. Her arms hold Jesus who seems to have fled from a frightening situation or vision. Mary holds Jesus, for Jesus is central to the faith. Just as He ran to his mother and found refuge, we may also run to Mary. Her hands remain open. She offers the same comfort, the same love she gave Jesus.

Help is given freely by God to men and women, to compensate for the inadequacy of natural powers; it is the object of the prayer of request of believers. Our Lady of Perpetual Help is ever ready to obtain for us and offer this loving assistance.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist - 400th Anniversary of the Baptism of Grand Chief Membertou of the Mi'kmaq Nation - Bonne Fête Nationale!

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, The Birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1,57) (Seville, about 1660), The Frick Collection

Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John....” But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “[Y]et the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Lk 7,28).

John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic. He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life.

His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. His Baptism, he said, was for repentance. But One would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. John is not worthy even to carry his sandals. His attitude toward Jesus was: “He must increase; I must decrease” (Jn 3,30).

John was humbled to find among the crowd of sinners who came to be baptized the one whom he already knew to be the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14b). But Jesus insisted, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3,15b). Jesus, true and humble human as well as eternal God, was eager to do what was required of any good Jew. John thus publicly entered the community of those awaiting the Messiah. But making himself part of that community, he made it truly messianic.

The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus. John attracted countless people (“all Judea”) to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah. But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus.

Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus. For whatever reason, he sent his disciples (when he was in prison) to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah. Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah. John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.

"And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways" (Lk 1,76)

Rightly, then, did the birth of this child make many rejoice then and does make many rejoice today: born in the old age of his parents he was to preach the grace of rebirth to an aging world. Rightly does the Church solemnly venerate this birth, which is wonderfully brought about by grace and at which nature wonders. To me certainly the birth of the world's Lamp (Jn 5,35) brings fresh joy, for it enabled me to recognize the true Light shining in the darkness but not mastered by the darkness, (Jn 1,5.9).

His birth brings me a joy utterly unspeakable, for so many outstanding benefits accrue to the world through it. He is the first to give the Church instruction, to initiate it by penance, to prepare it by baptism. When it is prepared he delivers it to Christ and unites it with him (Jn 3,29). He both trains it to live temperately and, by his own death, gives it the strength to die with fortitude. In all these ways he prepares for the Lord a perfect people, (Lk 1,17).

~Blessed Guerric of Igny (c.1080-1157), Cistercian abbot, Sermon 1 for Saint John the Baptist, §4 (©Cistercian publications)

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Membertou, Grand Chief of the Mi'kmaq Nation, was a man who shaped the faith of his people and the fate of a nation. Beloved by his followers, feared by his enemies and reverentially-admired by all who knew him.

Grand Chief Henri Membertou is celebrated by his people as a prophet, leader and legend. On June 24,1610, in the moon of good fishing, he became the first person to be baptized in the Dominion of Canada. This solemn act signaled the Mi’kmaq’s desire for peace with the European nations and established a holy alliance between the Mi’kmaq nation and the Catholic Church; a relationship that continues to thrive in Mi’kmaq communities four hundred years later.

Running June 24 to 28, Membertou 400 is a celebration of the life and legacy of Grand Chief Membertou and the culture and contributions of the Mi’kmaq people. For details of the events taking place during the celebration - a re-enactment of the baptism at Port Royal, a Halifax Pow-Wow, competitions and performances - for more details visit:

St. John's Archbishop Martin W. Currie, president of the Altantic Episcopal Assembly will preside; Papal Nuncio Pedro Lopez Quintana will be in attendance.

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Bonne Fête Nationale à Toutes et à Tous

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Closing of Dominican Chapter at Couvent St. Jean Baptiste, Ottawa

This evening is the Vigil of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. The Dominican Community and its Parish Church here bear the name of the Lord's Forerunner.

This reminded me to account for my visit to the Chapter of Election of the Order of Preachers at the Couvent St. Jean Baptiste on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.

Below you will the homily delivered on the occasion, interspersed with photos of the occasion: an open session of the chapter with Mgr Roger Ebacher of Gatineau and myself, along with contemplative and active religious and lay Dominican women who took part in the festive closure of the gathering at which frère André Descôteaux was elected Prior Provincial for a first four-year term, Mass and festive dinner.

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LE SACRÉ-CŒUR DE JÉSUS: Messe de clôture du chapitre provincial des Dominicains - 11 juin 2010 – Couvent Saint Dominique, Ottawa [Textes : Ézéchiel 34, 11-16; Psaume 22 (23); Romains 5, 5b-11; Luc 15, 3-7]


Chers frères et sœurs de la famille dominicaine,
Chers frères et sœurs dans le Christ :

Se réunir pour étudier les défis de la vie consacrée dominicaine dans le contexte d’aujourd’hui est en soi un défi… La complexité du monde et de ses besoins, la réalité des effectifs disponibles et l’ampleur du souci pastoral sont des éléments dont vous devez tenir compte. Vous vous y êtes préparés depuis un bon moment, dans la prière chorale et privée, dans la contemplation silencieuse. Vous avez étudié les enjeux en présence, et vous avez consulté les membres de votre province. Présents au Canada et dans d’autres pays d’Afrique et d’Asie, vous œuvrez dans le ministère pastoral multiforme, surtout en proclamant la Parole par la recherche, l’enseignement ou la prédication.

Lors de sa catéchèse du 26 mai dernier, le pape Benoît XVI a dit : « L’annonce de l’Évangile est le plus grand service que l’on puisse rendre à l’homme. » N’est-ce pas là l’intuition fondamentale de votre père saint Dominique? Pour lui, donner la Vérité était le plus grand acte de charité. Notre époque comprend plusieurs traits semblables au temps de la fondation de l’Ordre.

Le rôle de l’Ordre des Prêcheurs a toujours été de préparer le terrain au travail de l’Esprit et à l’établissement de communautés locales. Prêcher, enseigner par la parole et par la vie, afin que la foi jaillisse chez les populations qui ne connaissent pas Jésus Christ. D’autres viennent ensuite, et établissent des communautés de foi et les structurent. Vous avez été, et vous l’êtes encore, présents dans les milieux non chrétiens. Sans tomber dans les catégorisations faciles, on peut affirmer que nos milieux contemporains correspondent à cette caractéristique.

Chez les saints dominicains, on trouve la particularité suivante : la vie intellectuelle n’est pas développée au détriment de la vie de foi. Vous devez être à la fois à la fine pointe de la réflexion et de la recherche, et, comme religieux, attentifs aux besoins des ‘petits’. Il vous faut toujours trouver l’équilibre entre le scepticisme du philosophe et du chercheur, essentiel pour faire avancer la réflexion, et la confiance de qui est rempli d’une foi vivante en celui qui se révèle. Ce n’est pas chose facile.

Votre frère aîné, saint Thomas « a toujours été proposé à juste titre par l’Église comme un maître de pensée et le modèle d’une façon correcte de faire de la théologie » (Jean-Paul II, Fides et ratio, n 43). Si vos contemporains ne peuvent pas tous poursuivre des études universitaires, tous peuvent toutefois lire votre vie. Thomas a été appelé Doctor Angelicus, sans doute en raison de ses vertus, en particulier du caractère sublime de sa pensée et de la pureté de sa vie. Je sais que Thomas d’Aquin est une présence importante chez vous.

Il démontra qu'il subsiste une harmonie naturelle entre foi chrétienne et raison. À cette époque de conflit entre deux cultures, il a montré que ce qui apparaissait comme de la raison non compatible avec la foi n'était pas raison, et que ce qui apparaissait comme de la foi ne l'était pas, si elle s'opposait à la véritable rationalité. Il a ainsi créé une nouvelle synthèse, qui a formé la culture des siècles qui ont suivi.

Outre les études et l'enseignement, Thomas se consacra également à la prédication au peuple. Et le peuple aussi venait volontiers l'écouter. C'est vraiment une grande grâce lorsque les théologiens savent parler avec simplicité et ferveur aux fidèles. Le ministère de la Prédication, d'autre part, aide à son tour les chercheurs en théologie à faire preuve d'un sain réalisme pastoral, et enrichit leur recherche de vifs élans (pour ce qui précède, voir Benoît XVI, Audience générale du 2 juin 2010).

Le Christ, Parole du Père, Vérité incarnée, source du beau et du bien, est celui qui a versé son sang pour les petits. Il est celui qui part à la recherche de la brebis, et pour lequel aucun prix n’est trop élevé pour la trouver. Il nourrit les siens, car son Cœur déborde d’amour pour eux. Il sait parler aux sages, et il est compris des humbles. Membres d’un Ordre clérical, vous disposez des deux éléments essentiels pour nourrir vos frères et sœurs : la Parole révélée et le Pain de vie.

On this feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which also marks the close of the Year of the Priest, I am reminded of the role of a priest in interpreting the revelations to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. The Jesus who appeared to the Visitation contemplative in her mystical prayer described St. Claude La Colombière as my “faithful servant and perfect friend”. What a marvellous description of someone who was open to the evolution of tradition and could see the new expression of a biblically-based piety! What a wonderful model, though different from St. Jean-Marie Vianney, for priests, especially religious priests. Let us ask for the grace to be such faithful servants and perfect friends of Our Lord.

On dit de saint Dominique qu’il ne parlait que de Dieu ou avec Dieu. « Aut cum Deo, aut de Deo » : voilà un défi qui traverse les âges, un défi qui n’a pas d’âge. À vous de le relever. Fidèles à la tradition, devenez vous-mêmes tradition.

Photo credit: Henri de Longchamp, o.p.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

St. Paulinus, early bishop of Nola - Sts. John Fisher & Thomas More, martyrs

Several dates in the liturgical year have more than one saint whose memorial may be kept. Today there are three men: Paulinus of Nola, Thomas More, John Fisher.

Two of them were married (Paulinus and Thomas), two of whom were bishops (Paulinus and John). Two were martyrs (John and Thomas). Each offers every disciple much to consider in their following of Christ.

Saint PAULINUS of Nola

Anyone who is praised in the letters of six or seven saints undoubtedly must be of extraordinary character. Such a person was Paulinus of Nola (ca. 354 – June 22 431), correspondent and friend of Augustine, Jerome, Melania, Martin, Gregory and Ambrose.

Born near Bordeaux, he was the son of the Roman prefect of Gaul, who had extensive property in both Gaul and Italy. Paulinus became a distinguished lawyer, holding several public offices in the Roman Empire. With his Spanish wife, Therasia, he retired at an early age to a life of cultured leisure.

The two were baptized by the saintly bishop of Bordeaux and moved to Therasia’s estate in Spain. After many childless years, they had a son who died a week after birth. This occasioned their beginning a life of great austerity and charity, giving away most of their Spanish property. Possibly as a result of this great example, Paulinus was rather unexpectedly ordained a priest at Christmas by the bishop of Barcelona.

He and his wife then moved to Nola, near Naples. He had a great love for St. Felix of Nola, and spent much effort in promoting devotion to this saint. Paulinus gave away most of his remaining property (to the consternation of his relatives) and continued his work for the poor. Supporting a host of debtors, the homeless and other needy people, he lived a monastic life in another part of his home. By popular demand he was made bishop of Nola and guided that diocese for 21 years.

His last years were saddened by the invasion of the Huns. Among his few writings is the earliest extant Christian wedding song. Many of us are tempted to "retire" early in life, after an initial burst of energy. Devotion to Christ and his work is waiting to be done all around us. Paulinus's life had scarcely begun when he thought it was over, as he took his ease on that estate in Spain. "Man proposes, but God disposes." [from Saint of the Day,]

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St. JOHN Fisher

St. John Fisher, 1460-1535, born at Beverley, Yorkshire, was the son of a prosperous mercer who died in 1477. About 1482 the boy's mother sent him to Cambridge University where he distinguished himself as a scholar. He was ordained in 1491 on the title of his Fellowship of Michaelhouse (now incorporated in Trinity College). After studying theology for ten years, he took his D.D. in 1501, and was later recognized as one of the leading theologians of Europe.

His university soon discovered his gifts as an administrator; he held in turn the offices of proctor, vice-chancellor and chancellor, and in 1514 he received the unique distinction of being elected chancellor for life. It was in the course of his university duties that, in 1494, he first met the Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. He became her confessor and advised her on the charitable uses of her great wealth. It was at his suggestion that a preachership was endowed at Cambridge and Readerships in Divinity in both universities. He was largely responsible for her decision to refound and endow Godshouse as Christ's College, and, after her death in 1509, he carried out her wishes in founding St. John's College, to which he transferred lands given to him by the Lady Margaret.

He was made bishop of Rochester in 1504, and he ruled that poorest of sees for thirty years; he was a truly pastoral bishop, encouraging his priests by his manner of life and by his interest in their welfare. He was a noted and assiduous preacher, and he did all he could to provide well-instructed priests who could preach to the people.

It was due to his influence that Erasmus was brought to Cambridge as lecturer in Greek. He and Sir Thomas More became close friends of John Fisher, and there is a record of the three being together at Rochester in 1516. Sir Thomas More became High Steward of Cambridge University in 1525. He and John Fisher had been drawn closer together at this period by the call to combat the Lutheran heresy. The bishop wrote his Confutatio (1523) in Latin, a book for theologians by a theologian, which had a wide circulation on the continent; the layman wrote his Dialogue Concerning Heresies (1528) in English for the common reader. It may be noted that in his sermons and writings against heretics, John Fisher never used the abusive language of contemporary controversy; he relied on reason and persuasion to bring back the prodigals.

The year 1527 was fateful to England, for it was then that Henry VIII took the first steps towards seeking the annulment of his marriage with Catherine of Aragon. She had married his elder brother Arthur in 1501; he died six months later. Catherine always maintained that the marriage had not been consummated. A papal dispensation allowed Henry VIII to marry his brother's widow in 1509. The lack of a male heir turned his thoughts to the dissolution of his marriage; he argued that the papal dispensation had no validity. Cardinal Wosley was instructed to seek the opinion of John Fisher, whose prestige as a man of holy life and of great learning gave exceptional weight to his views. After studying the problem thoroughly he came to the conclusion that the papal dispensation was valid, and therefore that Henry and Catherine were man and wife in the eyes of the church. From that position he never moved in spite of the pressure brought to bear on him by king and cardinal. He was not content with passive opposition, but in the legatine court set up to try the issue, and from the pulpit, he defended the queen, although he knew that Henry regarded opposition to his will as a form of treason.

An attempt to implicate John Fisher in the fate of the Nun of Kent failed; she had prophesied against the king. A more certain weapon was provided by the Act of Succession of 1534. This declared the king's marriage to Catherine void, and his subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn to be lawful; the succession was settled on her children. All had to take an oath accepting the whole Act. When the oath was tendered to John Fisher he refused to take it; so did Sir Thomas More. Both were prepared to accept the succession as determined by Parliament, but not that part of the Act which implied a denial of the pope's authority, inasmuch as it declared the papal dispensation invalid.

On April 17th, 1534 Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More were committed to the Tower. They were kept apart.

John Fisher was sixty-five years of age when he was imprisoned; he was suffering from a wasting sickness and was clearly nearing his end. Nothing shows the king's vindictiveness more than his relentless persecution of this aged man stricken by a fatal illness. On May 20th, 1535, the pope created John Fisher Cardinal-priest of the title of St. Vitalis. This so infuriated the king that he hurried forward the proceedings against the new cardinal.

The Supremacy Act and a new Statute of Treason were passed while John Fisher and Sir Thomas More were in the Tower. Treason was now made to cover anything said against the king's titles, so that to refuse to recognize him as Supreme Head of the Church of England became treason. Neither of the prisoners would give him that recognition, for to do so was to deny the authority of the pope. Each, however, was careful not to put that refusal in words that could be used against them; they begged to be excused. Many attempts were made to get them to say the fateful words. At length Richard Rich, the solicitor-general, visited John Fisher in the Tower and told him that the king 'for the satisfaction of his own conscience' wished to know the bishop's opinion on the Supremacy; Rich assured the prisoner that whatever he said would not be used against him but would remain private to the king. Thereupon John Fisher declared 'that the King was not, nor could be, by the law of God, Supreme Head of the Church of England.' As a priest he could not refuse to answer a question of conscience, but he had fallen into a trap, and the words he had spoken were used against him at his trial on June 17th, 1535. In spite of his protest at this breach of trust, he was condemned as a traitor.

He was beheaded on Tower Hill on June 22nd, 1535. His naked corpse was left on the scaffold all day until it was hastily buried without ceremony in the nearby churchyard of All Hallows. His head was displayed on London Bridge until July 6th when it was thrown into the Thames to give place to the head of his fellow martyr. Sir Thomas More was buried within the church of St. Peter ad Vincula within the Tower; at the same time, the remains of John Fisher were removed to the same resting place.

John Fisher and Thomas More were beatified in 1886 and canonized in 1935. Their feast is kept jointly. -- The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, ed. John Coulson

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Saint THOMAS More

Thomas More (February 7, 1478 – July 6, 1535), studied at London and Oxford, England. Page for the Archbishop of Canterbury. Lawyer.

Twice married, and a widower he was the father of one son and three daughters, and a devoted family man. Writer, most famously of the novel which coined the word Utopia. Translated with works of Lucian. Known during his own day for his scholarship and the depth of his knowledge.

Friend of King Henry VIII. Lord Chancellor of England from 1529 to 1532, a position of political power second only to the king. Fought any form of heresy, especially the incursion of Protestantism into England. Opposed the king on the matter of royal divorce, and refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy which declared the king the head of the Church in England.

Resigned the Chancellorship, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Martyred for his refusal to bend his religious beliefs to the king’s political needs.

From his prison in the Tower of London, he wrote a touching letter to his daughter Meg (Margaret):

Although I know well, Margaret, that because of my past wickedness I deserve to be abandoned by God, I cannot but trust in his merciful goodness. His grace has strengthened me until now and made me content to lose goods, land, and life as well, rather than to swear against my conscience.

God’s grace has given the king a gracious frame of mind toward me, so that as yet he has taken from me nothing but my liberty. In doing this His Majesty has done me such great good with respect to spiritual profit that I trust that among all the great benefits he has heaped so abundantly upon me I count my imprisonment the very greatest.

I cannot, therefore, mistrust the grace of God. By the merits of his bitter passion joined to mine and far surpassing in merit for me all that I can suffer myself, his bounteous goodness shall release me from the pains of purgatory and shall increase my reward in heaven besides. I will not mistrust him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear.

I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help. And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.

And finally, Margaret, I know this well: that without my fault he will not let me be lost. I shall, therefore, with good hope commit myself wholly to him. And if he permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for his justice. But in good faith, Meg, I trust that his tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend his mercy.

And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let you mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.

Monday, June 21, 2010

National Aboriginal Day - Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga

National Aboriginal Day is marked each year on June 21 to honour the achievements of Aboriginal Peoples in all areas, including the arts, language, reverence for the land and spirituality.

June 21 was first proclaimed in 1996 as an annual occasion to recognize the diverse cultures and outstanding contributions to Canada of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Collectively these groups make up the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada.

The date was selected for several reasons, including the fact that it coincides with the summer solstice.

In 1982, the National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations) called for the creation of a National Aboriginal Solidarity Day to be celebrated on June 21. In 1995, a similar recommendation was made by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. It called for a National First Peoples Day to be designated.

Also in 1995, a national conference of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, known as The Sacred Assembly, called for a national holiday to celebrate the contributions of Aboriginal Peoples to Canada.

The first National Aboriginal Day was proclaimed by the Governor General the following year. It is now part of a series of 'Celebrate Canada' days beginning on June 21 and followed by St-Jean Baptiste Day on June 24, Canadian Multiculturalism Day on June 27 and Canada Day on July 1.

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St. Aloysius Gonzaga, one of the boy saints, martyr of charity and patron of caregivers to those with AIDS

Aloysius Gonzaga (Luigi Gonzaga, 1568-1591) gave up a privileged life and a princely inheritance to live the vows of religious life even to the point of contacting the plague because of his selfless care for people already sick with it. He was the eldest son of the Marquis of Castiglione, and heir to the family title. The Gonzagas were known as patrons of Renaissance artists, and they ruled what amounted to a kingdom.

As a young man Gonzaga wore a suit of armour and walked at his father's side when he reviewed troops. His life began to change after he contacted malaria and suffered frequent bouts of fever. As early as age seven, he became attracted to prayer and turned away from the courtly life around him. When he was nine, he and his brother were sent to Florence to learn the customs of princes at the court of their father's friend the Grand Duke Francesco de' Medici.

The Medici court was one of the grandest, most opulent in Europe, but also one full of intrigue, deceit, sex and violence. The young Gonzaga withdrew from this world and became firm in his desire to never offend God by sinning. In November 1579 he moved to Mantua to stay with the duke, a relative; in that residence he discovered a book with brief lives of the saints. He also began to pray the Psalms daily and later started meditating after he discovered a prayer book written by the Jesuit Peter Canisius. His piety included daily Mass, weekly communion and fasting three days a week.

The young heir traveled with Maria of Austria, the daughter of Charles V, on her way to Madrid in 1582. He became a page attending the duke of Asturias, the heir apparent, and was later made a knight of the Order of St. James. The higher he rose in royal society, however, the more his thoughts turned to becoming a Jesuit like his confessor in Madrid. On Aug. 15, 1583 he had an experience in prayer that confirmed his decision. When he told his confessor, that man said he would have to get his father's permission.

The marquis was enraged by the news that his heir wanted to renounce all that had been so carefully prepared for him. The whole family returned to Castiglione and then the marquis sent his two sons on a tour of the courts of Italy, hoping that the experience of such refined living would change his son's mind and relieve the tension that had developed between two strong-willed individuals. The son's determination proved to be stronger, and the father finally granted his assent. In November 1585 Aloysius renounced his inheritance in favor of his brother Rudolph and set out for Rome where he presented himself to the Superior General, Claudio Acquaviva, who admitted him to the novitiate of Sant'Andrea.

Although the new novice was not yet 18, his background made him mature beyond his years, and he found the novitiate less rigorous than the life he had been living by his own decision. He nevertheless obediently followed the novitiate rules and the guidance of his novice master. He enrolled in the Roman College to finish philosophy studies before taking first vows, and then went immediately into theology right after. He returned to Castiglione in 1589 to negotiate peace between his brother and the duke of Mantua, and then returned to Rome in May 1590.

Plague and famine struck Italy the following year and Gonzaga threw himself into caring for the victims of the plague. He begged alms for the sick and physically carried those he found in the streets to a hospital where he washed and fed them and prepared them for the sacraments. He told his spiritual director, Robert Bellarmine (who would later be recognized as a saint), that he had a premonition he would die soon.

So many young Jesuits were becoming sick that the superior forbade Gonzaga to return to the hospital. Gonzaga did get permission to work at Our Lady of Consolation hospital which did not treat anyone with contagious diseases. Gonzaga went there but contacted the plague when he cared for a man who had the plague.

The young Jesuit put himself to bed on March 3, 1591; his condition worsened and then improved somewhat, but he could not recover full health. Fever and a cough set in and he slowly lingered on. He knew he was dying and asked to receive communion. Two Jesuits watched with him through the night and saw his face change as he held onto a cross and called the name of Jesus. He was only 23 when he died. His body is now kept in the church of St. Ignatius in Rome.