Monday, December 29, 2014
Pope Francis has expressed his sorrow and sent his condolences to his Jesuit brothers for the death of Archbishop Giuseppe Pittau, SJ, who passed away on the night of December 26 in Kamishakujii, Tokyo.
Describing Archbishop Pittau as an “exemplary minister of God,” in his telegram addressed to Father Adolfo Nicolas Pachon, Superior General of the Jesuit Order, the Pope recalled Pittau’s “generous missionary apostleship in Japan” and thanked God for the service he rendered to the Apostolic See and for how he dedicated himself to the mission of the Society of Jesus.
Here is a translation of the text of the telegram:
Reverend Father, having been informed to the passing away of His Excellency Monsignor Giuseppe Pittau, I wish to express my sincere condolences to you, to all his Jesuit brothers and to all those who grieve the death of an exemplary minister of God who lived for the cause of the Gospel. Recalling his generous missionary apostleship in Japan, where he ended his earthly life, I give thanks to the Lord for the service he rendered to the Apostolic See as Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education and for his work as President of Tokyo’s Sophia University as well as Rector of the Gregorian University in Rome and for his dedication to the Society of Jesus. Entrusting his soul to the maternal intercession of Our Lady I impart my Apostolic Blessing in the light of the Resurrection of Christ.
Born on the Italian Island of Sardinia in 1928, Giuseppe Pittau entered the Society of Jesus in 1945 and was ordained a priest in 1959. He arrived in Japan in 1952 as a Jesuit missionary, and spent most of his academic life at Sophia University.
In the words of those who knew him and worked with him he was an “intellectual, administrative, and spiritual giant”.
He played a very important role in the development of Sophia University. Among his lasting contributions were the democratic process of electing a President (voted not only by the faculty, but also by the staff), the increase in the number of students (from about 5,000 to 10,000), the addition or re-arrangement of several departments and faculties.
Most admirable, according to many, was his foresight, arising from his dream of making Sophia a university that can significantly contribute to Japan by remaining faithful to its Jesuit/Catholic calling. He was especially interested in making Sophia an international university, bringing in not only European, Australian, and American professors but also Asian ones from countries like India, the Philippines, South Korea, and Sri Lanka.
After serving as President of Sophia University, Pittau moved on to become the Jesuit Provincial Superior of Japan, and it was in that capacity that he welcomed Saint Pope John Paul II to Japan in February 1981.
When the hardworking Jesuit General Pedro Arrupe became incapacitated in August 1981, the Pope weeks later personally requested Pittau to assist in governing the Society of Jesus, as second-in-command to the visually-challenged Fr. Paolo Dezza. the Papal Delegate (later named a Cardinal).
It was at General Congregation XXXIII in September 1983 that I got to know Fr. Pittau. As the delegates were seated alphabetically by last names, he was seated in front of me and slightly lower (as our seats were on graded levels). I would watch him read his Japanese Bible and regularly hear him tell me of his desire to exit the limelight in Rome to return to Japan, whose people he had come to love.
But this was not to be: the newly-elected Father General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach immediately chose him as one of two General Counselor that he could personally name. His understanding of the nuances of Italian culture helped immensely in continuing to foster cordial relations between the Jesuit Curia and the Roman Curia, which he had initiated as assistant to Father Dezza.
Later, he was named Rector of the Gregorian University, while continuing his advisory role in the Jesuit General's cabinet. In July 1998, he was named Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, which brings with it episcopal ordination and a titular archdiocese: in his case, that of Castro di Sardegna, a now-extinct diocese in Sardinia, his home region. His ordination took place on September 26, 1998 and he served as Secretary of the CCE until the retirement age of 75, which he reached in the fall of 2003.
While serving as the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' liaison bishop to the Associations of Catholic Colleges and Universities of Canada, I had a number of meetings with him at the CCE as we formalized the norms for implementing the Charter for Catholic institutions of Higher Education, Ex corde Ecclesiae in Canada's Catholic colleges.
He came to Canada for the Intercontinental Meeting on Vocations in Montreal in April 2002, where his interventions on several occasions fostered understanding among delegates.
After some time in Rome on his retirement from the Roman Curia, he realized his dream and returned to Japan where he carried on a ministry of occasional lectures and then moved to parish pastoral ministry. I delighted in receiving his annual Christmas message with news of his activities. In recent years, his eyesight diminished and he became increasingly limited in his activities.
May the Lord whom he desired to serve from his youth grant him a merciful judgment and offer him the greeting mentioned in the gospel for faithful disciples: "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into your master's joy"!
Requiescat in pace.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
December 28 is the memorial of the Holy Innocents, except this year when it falls on a Sunday (the Feast of the Holy Family).
Many years ago when my peers and I were in the Jesuit Novitiate, we were treated on that day to a special honour: the Novice Master and his staff served us novices at a special afternoon haustus [snack], as if we were the "holy innocents" of the Order.
Recently I met the Novices of our bi-province Novitiate in Montreal at Villa St-Martin, whose staff is depicted below:
The First Year Novices will be making the full Spiritual Exercises from January 5 to February 5 in Guelph, Ontario (where the English-speaking novitiate was located for many years). Please pray for them during this special time of God's favour:
One of the novices I'll keep particularly in mind is Jamie Bates from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, who recalled that I had presided at his Confirmation at John XXIII Parish in Cole Harbour, where Father Paul Morris was then the pastor:
We took an updated photo to mark the occasion of our re-connection:
Je tiens à exprimer ma sincère gratitude à ceux et celles qui m'ont envoyé des vœux de Noël, cadeaux et messages, et je souhaite à toutes et à tous, spécialement le clergé, les religieux et religieuses et fidèles laïques de l'archidiocèse d'Ottawa, de très joyeuses fêtes de Noël et une bonne et heureuse Année de grâce 2015!
I wish to express my sincere gratitude to those who have sent me Christmas greetings, gifts and letters and to wish all, especially the clergy, religious and faithful of the Archdiocese of Ottawa a Merry Christmastide and a very happy and holy New Year of grace 2015!
✠Terrence Prendergast, S.J., Archbishop of/Archevêque d'OTTAWA
Thursday, December 25, 2014
NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL BASILICA—OTTAWA, ON
CHRISTMAS MIDNIGHT MASS—DECEMBER 25, 2014
[Texts: Isaiah 9.2-7 [Psalm 96 (95)]; Titus 2.11-14; Luke 2.1-14]
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, chers frères et sœurs dans le Christ :
Nous célébrons, en cette fête de Noël, le plus grand geste d'amour posé par Dieu. Son Fils prend chair et nait dans le temps pour sauver l'humanité.
C'est ce que nous venons d'entendre dans l'évangile de cette nuit, qui nous rappelle le premier Noël.
Selon le prophète Isaïe, nous sommes « le peuple qui marchait dans les ténèbres » et on a « vu se lever une grande lumière ». En cette nuit, Dieu nous comble de sa joie et nous sommes dans l'allégresse.
This year as we celebrate Christmas, the world is recalling the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War—and we hear references to the Christmas truce of 1914 when German and British soldiers themselves worked out a brief truce, momentarily forgetting the follies of combat.
The Christmas truce (la Trêve de Noël) was a series of widespread but unofficial ceasefires that may have extended to as many as one hundred thousand combatants. In the week before Christmas, soldiers from each side crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk, to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs; there were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing. Men played games of soccer with one another, giving one of the most enduring images of the truce.
The Christmas truces were significant due to the number of men involved and the level of their participation – even in very peaceful sectors, dozens of men openly congregating in daylight was remarkable – and are often seen as a symbolic moment of peace and humanity amidst one of the most violent events of human history.
We may see these gestures as fulfilment of the vision of Isaiah, that the coming Child-Ruler would cause rejoicing at this coming, would set people free from the burdens of war and oppression, would have among his titles those of “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God…Prince of Peace”.
Pope Francis constantly makes appeals to the nations of the world to come to the assistance of Christians and religious minorities in the Middle East suffering for their faith under a barbaric enemy, that needs to recover a sense of feeling for fellow human beings, and learning to exercise understanding and compassion. May the Prince of Peace, Christ, the innocent Child laid in a manger inspire a change of heart there and in the other places where violence reigns.
Le Prince de la Paix, Jésus l'Emmanuel—Dieu avec nous—partage notre condition humaine, dans toutes ses dimensions : en ayant froid, en ayant faim, en ayant besoin de se loger et ayant besoin de l'affection d'une famille voyante.
Dieu a choisi par la personne de son Fils Jésus de venir chez nous dans la simplicité, la douceur et la vulnérabilité. Nous le contemplons dans la crèche, et dans l'hostie consacrée. Nous nous rendons vulnérable à ses yeux afin que nous puissions être transformés à son image.
Je vous invite à venir vous recueillir près de la crèche et à prier en silence, en présence de Notre Seigneur Imaginez Marie, vous offrant de prendre l'Enfant Jésus dans vos bras et vous, ensuite confier à notre Seigneur et notre Sauveur, vos désirs les plus profonds : pour reconcilation, paix, restauration familiale.
Une fois que l'on prend conscience de ce que Dieu a fait pour notre monde, pour l'humanité et pour moi personnellement, tout change. Nous tombons à genoux remplis d'admiration, comme les bergers de Bethléem, comme les mages, dans l'adoration et la louange.
Celui qui s'est manifesté parmi nous, dans la pauvreté à Bethléem il y deux mille ans, nous transmet à Noël, les paroles de Dieu. Et il se donne à nous, jour après jour dans le mystère de l'Eucharistie, dans la Sainte communion, jusqu'à ce qu'à son retour dans la gloire.
This year as we celebrate Christmas, we pray for peace in our families in a period during which the Church is preoccupied with helping families. This is the reason for the Synod on the Family last October and will be at the heart of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015 and the second Synod on the Family in October 2015.
All this effort is to share the Good News of Jesus with those who have drifted away from Christ and his Church—an undertaking known as the “New Evangelization”, a new sharing of the need to make possible for each person an encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus in order to make faith in God and Jesus not just something notional or cultural but a living reality, changing lives.
This year’s pastoral theme in our parishes is “We are God’s family”, helping us live out Jesus’ declaration that “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3.35).
This holds true for each of us and for all families present among us: some whole, some broken; some joyful, some sad; some reflecting the traditional nuclear family, some others reconstituted or blended families—all of these families striving to address the needs of their members.
On dit que Noël est pour les enfants. C’est vrai, mais n’oublions pas que dans notre for intérieur nous demeurons tous un peu comme des enfants – quel que soit notre âge – et que nous sommes tous des enfants de Dieu. Nous sommes tous fascinés par cet enfant qui repose dans une mangeoire, par le message de paix et la joie des anges, par la présence des bergers et des Mages venus adorer ce Roi nouveau-né.
Puisse le Seigneur bénir chacune de nos familles en cette saison de Noël. Puissent nos célébrations de Noël nous apporter guérison, paix et consolation. Que la paix et la joie règne parmi nous.
Gardons la Sainte Famille comme modèle et prions pour l’Église universelle, notre famille à nous tous, qui s’apprête à se réunir de nouveau en synode sur la famille à Rome en octobre prochain.
Je vous souhaite à toutes et à tous un Joyeux Noël et une bonne heureuse et sainte année 2015!
Joyeux Noël! Merry Christmas!
[Photos; Paul Lauzon]
Monday, December 15, 2014
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
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.
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
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.
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 !