Thursday, April 30, 2009

April 30, 2009--Blessed Marie de l'Incarnation; The Society Mary, Mother of Mercy [SMMM]

Today we celebrate one of the early heroines of the Church in New France: Marie Guyart (October 28, 1599-April 30, 1672) was born in the city of Tours, France. Though drawn to religious life, she married at 17 to Claude Martin and at 18 had a son, also Claude. Shortly after, her husband died in bankruptcy. She and her son lived with her sister and brother-in-law for almost ten years during part of which she acted as manager of her brother-in-law's company.

In 1631 Marie left her 11-year-old son in the care of her sister and joined the Ursuline monastery in Tours, taking the name Marie de l'Incarnation. Marie felt that she was obeying God in making this move; her family, including her son, felt that she was abandoning her maternal responsibilities.

In the monastery, Marie read the Jesuit Relations, letters sent from "New France" by members of the Society of Jesus working as missionaries in Canada. She began to think about doing missionary work herself, but for an enclosed nun it seemed an impossibility. At the same time, however, Jesuits were working with French bishops and wealthy lay people to sponsor the first religious houses of women to be established in Quebec, founded in 1608. Marie volunteered, and in 1639 left France for the three-month voyage to Quebec with two other Ursulines and three Augustinian nuns: the Ursulines to found a school, the Augustinians a hospital.

In order to teach Native Americans in Quebec, Marie had to learn their languages; she would later write dictionaries and texts in those languages (works that are lost). She spent 18 years as superior, dealing with French and Native American leaders. Marie wrote fund-raising letters to "ladies of rank" in France, reports to the Jesuits and to the Ursulines at Tours and elsewhere, and letters to her son, Claude, who had joined a monastery in France. Over 270 of these have survived apparently but a small part of the total.

In 1654, Marie at the direction of her confessor authored a Relation, an account of her spiritual life, her "autobiography", but only the letters tell us about the last 18 years of her life.

Five years after her death Claude Martin published La Vie de la venerable Mere Marie de l'Incarnation, a biography which included the 1654 Relation; part of an earlier spiritual Relation, written in France in 1633 and extracts from her letters.

Pope John Paul II beatified her on June 22, 1980.

These days, two priests newly-arrived members of a Nigerian religious foundation--the Society of Mary, Mother of Mercy--devoted to education and care of the sick are staying with us as they prepare to adapt themselves to parish ministry and the service of God's people in our Archdiocese. Fathers Sylvanus and Alban, SMMM are gradually adjusting. Please pray that they will be well-received and be able to make a positive contribution to the life of faith here in Canada.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

April 29--St. Catherine of Siena: Blessing of a Chalice and Paten; Death of a Missionary to Brazil; Famille Myriam Beth'lehem

Each morning we have Mass at 6:30 in the house chapel, which I concelebrate unless I have another Eucharist scheduled. Deacon Jonathan had asked me to bless the chalice and paten given him by his parents for his ordination. This was done and the sacred vessels were used for the first time at this morning's Mass.

We have a striking painting of St. Catherine of Siena by the French-Canadian painter Antoine Plamondon (1804-1895) on my corridor and I think often of her life and teaching as I pass by the depiction of one of the first women (with St. Teresa of Avila) designated by Pope Paul VI as a doctor of the church.

The morning was my time for preparing the homily for Saturday's ordination. On arriving at the office I met Abbe Gilles Marcil who had spent the morning addressing funeral plans for a missionary to Brazil with whom he had served. The mission began in the fall of 1959 before the Quebec dioceses of Hull (now the Archdiocese of Gatineau) and Mont Laurier were established from the territory of Ottawa. Abbe Jean-Roch, though born in Ottawa, was a priest of Gatineau and the last of the Canadians active in the mission territory.

Abbe Gilles was frustrated that it would have proven more complicated to import cremated remains for burial here than to have an embalmed corpse flown back; in the end, with the family's consent, the decision was taken that the burial should take place in Brazil. The funeral, therefore, took place today after the priest's sudden passing (probably from a heart attack). It was clear that the loss of this priest-associate had moved Abbe Gilles deeply; I promised to offer Mass for the repose of the soul of his former associate tomorrow. Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

This evening I walked over to Eglise Sacre-Coeur, directed by the Oblate Fathers, for a meeting with members of Famille Myriam Beth'lehem, a new movement of lay and consecrated persons (including two priests) based in the Diocese of Baie-Comeau. I met some of the leaders when attending Mgr Jean-Pierre Blais' installation on March 11.

These mentioned that visits take place in Ottawa once a month on a Wednesday evening, with representatives coming from their residence in Montreal to encourage those following this Marian spirituality. In summarizing their gift to the church, they speak of the three yeses: the first yes to one's baptism, then a second one to Mary and the third to the Church.

There were close to twenty in attendance, about half of them Haitian immigrants who find the joyful spirituality in accord with their outlook on the faith (we sang a closing "Magnificat" in Creole).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April 28--St. Louis Grignon de Montfort; Centre 101 Parent; Brother Art White, SJ

A good number of the Francophone Priests of Ontario are meeting this week in North Bay, ON with Mgr Eugene Tremblay, Bishop of Amos, Quebec and a trained psychologist. Among our priests attending is one of my episcopal vicars, Abbe Daniel Berniquez, who generally celebrates Mass on Tuesday mornings for the residents and Sisters of Saint-Marie de Namur, who direct the youth-oriented "Centre 101" (named for its location on Parent Avenue, across the street from my residence).

So, Soeur Ferdinande invited me via an email late last evening on the last-minute chance that I would be able come for Mass today at 8am. I was delighed to do so and we chose to celebrate the Mass of the optional memorial in honour of the great religious founder St. Louis Grignon de Montfort not only because we have Montfort Fathers and Daughters of Wisdom serving in the Archdiocese, but also in recognition of his great impact on the renewal of Marian devotion in the Church through the impact of his writings on Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

Today is also the anniversary of my mother's death (Marion Bridget Skerry, May 18, 1911-April 28, 1988). In the memorial of the deceased I remembered her and my dad (John Vincent Prendergast, January 22, 1906-November 15, 1970) and prayed as well for our family that we might know the peace and joy they manifested to my sister and three brothers witnessed in their more than 32 years of marriage.

Deacon Jonathan Blake accompanied me for the occasion as he has had a long association with the staff and youth who frequent the Centre dating from the time of his internship at Paroisse St. Joseph. The sisters and residents tried to tease out of me where he would be posted after ordination, but to no avail as these matters are still under wraps for a couple of more weeks.

At supper time, Jesuit Brother Arthur P. White dropped by. We had a drink and got caught up on news about our Province (Jesuits in English-speaking Canada). On Thursday, I will reciprocate the visit, dropping by St. John Ogilvie Residence on Sunnyside Street. "Quam bonum et iucundum fratres habitare in unum!" (Psalm 133:1) [="How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!"]

Monday, April 27, 2009

April 27--St. Peter Canisius; NET Canada Team; St. Hyacinth Polish Parish

Today the Jesuits recall at Mass their brother St. Peter Canisius, priest and doctor of the church. Peter Kanis (Canisius is the Latin form) lived from 1521-1597 and is honored for his heroic defense of Catholicism through teaching, preaching and writing catechisms (I believe he was the first Jesuit to have a book published and this while he was still in formation!) But that was only the beginning; he was also one of the giants of the young Society of Jesus, serving as the first provincial of Germany, a post he held for 14 years. A man of great energy, he founded 18 colleges and authored 37 books; his catechisms went through 200 printings in his lifetime alone.

I chose to focus on him at the morning Mass I offered with a team of young evangelists working at Annunciation of the Lord Parish in Gloucester. They are serving with one of the parish-based National Evangelization Teams of Canada (NET Canada); there are also three travelling teams. Since arriving in Ottawa I have served on NET's Board of Directors and get to preside at their commissioning service in October and their Mass of Thanksgiving held in late May-early June.

It was a joy to speak to them of Canisius and to show how he, like they today, shared in the renewal of the Church. The time before and after the Reformation and Council of Trent was a time calling for great creativity and zeal, as does our age.

At Mass, Deacon Jonathan Blake, newly-returned from Toronto's St. Augustine's Seminary served with me. I invited them all to his priestly ordination this coming Saturday.

There followed breakfast (we were joined by Annunciation's pastor, Msgr Robert Latour), a tour of the Archiepiscopal Residence--(they were introduced to each of predecessors via a thumb-nail sketch--and at the end of this were given a tour of the cathedral and the sacristy (before it opened to the public at 11:30, as early on Monday mornings it is closed for cleaning).

This evening, I visited St. Hyacinth Parish for the Polish-speaking faithful, directed by the Assumption (Polish) Province of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and confirmed twelve young people in grades 6-9. Father Janusz Jajesniak, O.M.I. has been pastor since last summer--transferred from Edmonton--and is learning to find his way around Ottawa. He informed me that this weekend Catholics in Poland (and abroad) will celebrate the 600th anniversary of the designation the Blessed Virgin Mary as Queen of Poland.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

3rd Sunday of Easter--April 26--Bells Corners; Wedding Anniversaries Mass; Knights of Columbus Charitable Dinner

This busy day began with Mass at 9:30 o'clock at St. Martin de Porres Parish, Bells Corners (a western locality in Greater Ottawa) that included the Confirmation and First Holy Communion of 18 second graders.

The parish is directed by the Missionaries of the Holy Family [abbreviation MSF, a congregation with three members present in the Archdiocese (Fr. Daniel Hawkins, pastor; Fr. Arthur Ockwood, retired but still active in supply ministry; and Fr. Andrea Spatafora, a biblical scholar and Dean of the Theology Faculty at St. Paul's University [one of two pontifically-chartered centres of learning in the diocese--the other is Dominican University College]).

On my return home, I presided at the 2:30 PM Eucharist in Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica for French-speaking couples celebrating a significant anniversary of their marriage: there were a few 15- and 20-years married couples and one of 70 years of married love, but most were 25, 40, 50 and 60 years. [Next Sunday, the ceremony will be repeated for English-speaking or other language couples.]

In greeting all of the couples after Mass and giving them a certificate recognizing the witness to God's call that they have given over the years, I was moved by the frailty of the elderly couples and also by their joy and gentleness. At the start of Mass I had mentioned to them that, earlier in the week, while signing the 80+ certificates, I had prayed for each of them and their families. They were very kind in their encouraging words to me in return!

Celibates and married couples--each in their own way in love with the Lord and his will for them--need and complement each other.

This evening I journeyed to Paroisse Sainte-Trinite in Rockland, a church that is one of the architectural and artistic gems of the Ottawa diocese for Vespers with the Knights of Columbus and their Ladies from the 72 councils and 16 assemblies. Each year they gather for prayer followed by a special dinner, the proceeds of which--along with other donations--go to make up a gift for the Archbishop's Charities. I was blown away with my first experience of this event last year and am equally moved this year by their support.

During the homily at Evening Prayer, I linked the text of the Epistle to the Hebrews which speaks of the Risen Christ's having brought his followers to perfection while there remains the ongoing challenge of sanctification. Borrowing from Benedict XVI, I gave them a brief summary of the Holy Father's audience last Wednesday in which he suggested that the writings of Ambrose Autpert on greed offer much for all of us to reflect upon in regard to the recent economic crisis the world is going through.

At the dinner, I offered a brief overview of Supreme Knight Carl Anderson's book Building a Civilization of Love (suggesting there is a need in Canada for a French version of this striking work) and inviting them to make the ideals he describes a personal commitment of theirs.

In particular, I invited them to take part in this year's March for Life on May 14 by coming in large numbers to the Pro-Life Mass at the Cathedral and for the demonstration for the cause of life that begins on Parliament Hill in the early afternoon.

Friday, April 24, 2009

April 25--St. Mark's Day; Mass for Neophytes & My 14th Anniversary of Episcopal Ordination

Since the time of my graduate studies in which I devoted several years to writing a dissertation on the Disciples in Mark's Gospel ("Without Understanding" [Mark 7:18]--A Redaction-Critical Study of the References to the Disciples' Lack of Understanding in Mark's Gospel, 1977), I have had a great predilection for St. Mark.

So the choice of date for my ordination as a bishop (generally on the feast of an apostle or other solemn occasion) in April 1995 was simple--it would be the feast of the Evangelist St. Mark on the 25th! So today is my 14th anniversary and we had a modest celebration of this at a 10am Mass in Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, which was also the Mass of the Neophytes, those initiated into the Body of Christ at the Easter Vigil along with their relatives, friends and fellow parishioners, particulary those who were involved in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation).

After Mass, I invited all who wished to join me on a tour of the the sanctuary (with its gorgeous statuary and carvings and then into the sacristy, where the archdiocesan treasures had been exposed for viewing (chalices, patens, ciboria, monstrances, reliquaries, vestments and precious mitres, birettas, croziers, processional crosses and even episcopal shoes. I gave a brief running commentary in French and English, explaining the ecclesiastical paraphernalia and answering questions. It was a delightful half-hour that ended with photos of those who had come--especially some in their white robes--and then to the parish hall for refreshments. [You can take a virtual tour of our cathedral at]

This evening, there was another celebration of Confirmations at Paroisse Sainte-Marie in Orleans (with 55 candidates), followed by conversation and supper prepared by the pastor himself (an excellent cook), abbe Michel Pommainville in the parish house.

Friday, Easter Week 2--April 24, 2009 OCSOA; Spring Arrives in Canada's Capital; Major's Hill Park

Morning Mass today in the cathedral was for OCSOA (the Ontario Catholic Supervisory Officers' Association) at the close of their convention at the Chateau Laurier Hotel. Bishop Gerard Bergie (auxiliary of Hamilton) is the Bishop Ponens (liaison bishop) to this group who have an important role in guiding the Catholic schools (primary and secondary) in the Province of Ontario.

I got reacquainted with several folks whom I had known when I was an auxiliary bishop in Toronto and spent time with teachers and principals during Parish Visitations to the elementary and high schools within parish boundaries. At the close of Mass, Bishop Bergie and I presided over a ceremony welcoming the new supervisory officers as well as the new executive of OCSOA.

Despite the challenges and struggles of our Catholic schools, they are an extraordinary blessing with immense potential.

While the sun has been out quite a bit lately, a cold wind seems always to have lurked nearby. Not today! We hit 23 degrees this afternoon (close to 80 F) and people have gone from jackets and caps and even a few scarves to shorts for jogging, tables outside on patios, etc. It's marvellous. Tomorrow the weatherman promises sunny and 27. Ottawa has an extreme climate going from frigid cold to sweltering heat. We'll soon be complaining it's too hot.

On a stroll this evening to Major's Hill Park not far from home, I noticed that the flower beds are getting ready to burst into bloom for the Ottawa Tulip Festival (May 1-18).

The park is imposing standing as it does above the Rideau Canal at the point where it enters the Ottawa River. There are dramatic vistas: for across the canal to the west are the parliament buildings, to the north of the park is the National Gallery of Canada and Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, and east is the United States embassy and the Byward Market.

To the south is the Chateau Laurier hotel, built on land once part of the park. The area was originally home to those thousands of Irish who built the canal and it was named Colonel's Hill after Colonel By , the builder of the canal whose house was located atop it. [Ottawa was once known as Bytown and our archdiocese was originally the Bytown Diocese.] When Colonel By was replaced by Major Daniel Bolton the hill was renamed Major's Hill.

From the top of the hill one can see Nepean Point crowned with the statue of Samuel de Champlain with his famous astrolabe and across the Ottawa River to Gatineau (whose skyline is crowned with skyscrapers for federal and Quebec public service employees) and the beautiful, undulating contours of the Museum of Civilization designed by the aboriginal architect Douglas Cardinal.

The park has always been a public space since the earliest days of Ottawa, not a space that was cleared of buildings to create a park. It is now managed by the National Capital Commission, which has placed historical information in the northwest corner of the park, not far from the Peace-keeping Monument.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

April 23--Thursday, Easter Week 2--Grieving a Deacon; Celebrating Centre Miriam, Confirmations and Birthdays

This was a day to catch up a bit on office correspondence and to begin to meet with priests about impending nominations (they will have been contacted earlier by me or one of my episcopal vicars, but now the crunch time is coming). Tentative planning needs to be resolved in a list of clergy moves that should be announced by Pentecost at the latest, possibly a week or two earlier. The great rule of thumb is that nothing is definitive until it appears in print...! There can be and have been last minute changes in the past, despite rumours and speculation. So mum's the word!

As I cannot attend tomorrow morning's funeral of one of our permanent deacons, Richmond Hotte, I dropped into the funeral parlour to visit with his widow, two daughters and one granddaughter he leaves to mourn his passing. Stationed at Paroisse Saint-Remi in Ottawa's west end, Richmond had suffered a stroke last year and was making a good recovery, but was unable to withstand the effects of a second stroke on Palm Sunday. His widow shared with me his intention to unite his sufferings with those of Christ during Holy Week and of his interior consolation to realize would be called home to the Lord in the Easter Octave. He died on April 15, aged 62. R.I.P.
This afternoon I had the joy of visiting Centre Miriam, a simple place of encounters in Orleans that assists women--mainly of francophone background--tempted by abortion or in need of food, clothing, or with caring for the child they have determined to bring to birth and to keep.

Very few today decide that the best option for them is adoption, which is why is the theme of our celebration of the Diocesan Week for Life this year (May 10-16).

The Miriam Centre staff also aid those grieving the loss of a child through abortion, miscarriage, illness or other condition (sudden infant death syndrome). It was a joy to meet the two staffers (a Daughter of Wisdom and a laywoman) and the many volunteers who, over twenty years, have defended life and assisted those troubled by a pregnancy or the challenges of rearing an unexpected child.

Confirmations this evening for sixty-two youngsters from Paroisse Sainte-Marie, Orleans, a large suburban parish. Four other celebrations have been scheduled on Saturday and Sunday to accommodate the two hundred other candidates (I preside again on Saturday evening; the episcopal vicar and vicar general will handle the others). Their pastor, abbe Michel Pommainville was celebrating his 56th birthday today--he was born the same day as my younger brother John--both of them 399 years after William Shakespeare, also born this day!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April 22 "Mary, Mother of the Society of Jesus", Jesuits and St. Paul's-outside-the-Walls

The Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls plays a significant role in the life of the Church Universal this year in which we celebrate the Bi-millennium of the Birth of St. Paul, the Apostle to the Nations.

It also holds an important role in the life of St. Ignatius Loyola and in the early days of the Society of Jesus, where the first companions of Ignatius [Inigo] made their profession several months after Pope Paul IV approved the new order to be called the Company of Jesus (Societatis Jesu in Latin, hence the abbreviation for Jesuits of S.J.)

St. Paul’s-outside-the-Walls is one of the Seven Churches which Ignatius the pilgrim walked to in 1523. There on April 22, 1541, Ignatius and the five companions who could meet in Rome—Lainez, Salmeron Broet, Jay, Codure—made their solemn vows; Francis Xavier was already on his way to the Indies.

“When we reached St. Paul's,” wrote Ignatius, “all six went to confession, one to another. And it was decided that Inigo [Ignatius] should say Mass in the church, and that all the others should receive the Blessed Sacrament from his hand, making their vows in the following manner: Inigo, saying the Mass, Just before Communion, holding in one hand the paper on which the vow formula was written, turned toward the kneeling companions, and said the words of the vows.

“After saying them, he took Communion, receiving the Body of Christ our Lord. When he had finished consuming (the chalice), he placed the five consecrated hosts on the paten and turned to the companions... Each one took the page of vows into his hand... and said the words aloud. When the first had finished, he received the Body of Christ our Lord. Then, in turn, the second did the same; so too the third, fourth, fifth.” Mass was celebrated at the Altar of the Virgin, where the Blessed Sacrament was reserved. At that time it was up against the right pillar of the triumphal arch over the Confession.

“When Mass was over,” Ignatius continued, “after praying before the indulgenced altars, they came together at the high altar, where each one came to Inigo and he went to each. Giving an embrace and the kiss of peace, not without much devotion, feeling and tears, they brought an end to the ceremony of vows and of the beginning of their vocation.”

Pedro Ribadeneira, who accompanied them, spoke of the extraordinary devotion of Pierre Codure; “with such vehement divine consolation that he was unable to hold it in, it came bubbling out... He went ahead in Lainez's company across the fields. We heard him filling the heavens with sighs and tears. He cried out to God in such a way we thought he would pass out...”

There is an image of Mary and the Child Jesus in the cloister, which these early Jesuits reverenced. They were also aware--as it was Easter Week--of Ignatius' suggested contemplation among the resurrection appearances of the Risen Jesus coming to his Blessed Mother before any other person, to share with her the joy of his victory and glorified Body. To those who question the appropriateness of the appearance to Mary, Ignatius quotes Scripture to refute them, "Are you also without understanding?" (Mark 7:18)

And so Jesuits the world over today celebrate in their communities the feast of Mary, Mother and Queen of the Society of Jesus. This evening I will join many Toronto area Jesuits, our jubilarians of 2009, benefactors and friends for this feast at St. David's Church (Maple, ON), followed by the Provincial's Dinner at a near-by banquet hall. Pray for us Jesuits on this special day.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

St. Anselm 900 Years Ago--Tuesday, Easter Week 2

Today's Vatican Information Service had the text (in Latin) of the Holy Father's letter to the Benedictine Abbot General on the 900th anniversary of St. Anselm's death (April 21, 1109). Monk, abbot, Archbishop of Cantebury, saint and doctor of the church, Anselm was an extraordinarily gifted individual.

I'm still working on translating the Holy Father's letter (my Latin is a bit rusty), but I was reminded of a young man, David Rogerson who couldn't get enough of Anselm's writings when they were reading him in the Foundation Year at King's College (Dalhousie U) in Halifax. David told me of his love for Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man), then asked if I had the Proslogion in my library, which I did though I hadn't looked at it in some time. He was thrilled to get my Penguin edition!

David delighted in Anselm's work and discussing it and those of other classical Christian authors. He relished discussing, not to say arguing with folks--even his archbishop in countless emails--as he loved so many aspects of life: his supportive family, the children he taught at the flegling Our Lady of Schools, becoming and being a Knight of Columbus, leading the youth group at his parish, evangelizing with Catholic Christian Outreach at Dal, etc. The passion of his life was the lovely Tanya, who became his bride. In God's mysterious designs, David's leukemia returned and he died barely a month after their wedding. That was the summer we laughed and cried without much of a gap in between! Now in faith we trust he knows the reality Anselm spoke of, "greater than which nothing can be imagined": the God and Father of Jesus Christ!

Before departing for Toronto on a noon flight, I was privileged to lead Morning Prayer for about 200 Catholic teachers and staff participating the EOCCC (Eastern Ontario Catholic Curriculum Cooperative)'s 14th annual conference. The four publicly-funded Catholic school boards in Eastern Ontario seek to improve numeracy and literacy, as the other public boards do, but they address as well other topics of interest to the ethos of Catholic schools: implementing the Ministry of Education's concern with Values, in their case by focussing on the Christian tradition of Virtues (theological and cardinal) and such topics as "Taize Prayer in the Classroom" and "Affirming Catholic Themes".

In the early afternoon, I attended at the Toronto School of Theology board room the PhD thesis defence by Colin Kerr of his study of St. Augustine's 399 AD work Adnotationes in Job ("Notes on Job"), which is contemporaneous with his Confessions. In the dissertation Colin sets about engaging (refuting?) scholarly treatments that suggest its doctrine is incompatible with Augustine's mature doctrine on grace, in light of subsequent teaching and the Pelagian controversy.

After the examiners closeted themselves in a review of their scholarly exchanges, Colin was congratulated on his work. This will delight not only family and friends, but his colleagues and students at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy (Barry's Bay, ON). Later, a Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated and a toast raised at Pedro Arrupe Jesuit Community (my former home).

Congratulations and best wishes for a happy academic career, Doctor Kerr!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Spirit of the Risen Jesus, Monday, Easter 2

Among his points or preliminary conversations for considerations on the Resurrection of Jesus in the Fourth Week of his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius Loyola invites the exercitant to "Consider the office of consoler that Christ our Lord exercises, and compare it with the way in which friends are wont to console one another" (#223). Christ Jesus acts by consoling his disciples in the ordinary and extraordinary aspects of life.

Nicodemus in today's gospel comes to Jesus at night to evade detection, but Jesus confronts him with wondrous statements about the Holy Spirit's unpredicatability, even to shaking up people, as the conversation shook up this elder in religious praxis, one who seemed to have gotten away from the freedom God's rule offers. What a lesson for us priests and religious as we age: our need to let the Spirit of Jesus lead us to the heart of the church's mission in ever newer ways.

In the reading from Acts today, the whole community shook when the house in which the Spirit came rocked them all! There are still such signs in the new evangelizing movements of our day as the Spirit of Jesus consoles us only to also shake us up.

My day started, after Mass, with a trip to an endodontist for a root canal. At the end of his labours the dentist handed me instructions for the rest of the day: go home and rest (I had several important meetings booked at the office), eat only soft foods for the next couple of days, keep an ice pack on your face (15 minutes on, fifteen minutes off) and make sure you don't loosen the sutures. When he asked me if all was clear, I said I hadn't noticed him putting in sutures. He said, "oh, my apologies, that's the wrong set of instructions--it's the one for oral surgery". Whew, what a relief!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Low Sunday (Domenica in albis, Divine Mercy Sunday)

A quick trip was made this morning to Paroisse St-Mathieu, Hammond (35 minutes east of Ottawa), to confirm 25 francophone youngsters. There Abbe Louis from Cameroon is priest-in-charge.

On the Confirmation circuit, one gets to notice youth styles: in this area, sixth-grade boys favour the hair-gel spiking of their hair--there were at least a half-dozen "Mohawk" styles, as some call it, this morning. As all were wearing white gowns (in honour of Domenica in albis[?]), the day the neophytes put aside their white garments after one last time wearing them), I could not detect a fashion statement from the young ladies.

This afternoon, I welcomed more that a thousand of the faithful to Notre-Dame cathedral basilica for the Confirmation and First Holy Communion of 88 second-graders from Good Shepherd Parish, Blackburn Hamlet (rule of thumb at least a dozen family members and friends per confirmand). It was a delightful celebration though the youngsters were a bit restless by the time I reached the confirming of candidate #60 or so.

Our diocese has a division over the appropriate age and sequence for the sacraments of initiation: the French-speaking parishes celebrating the Confirmation in Grade 6, the English-speaking and ethnic communities, by contrast, have accepted the "restoration" of the early church praxis with Confirmation preceding the first Holy Communion, which them becomes the completion of initiation. This creates some tensions in the Archdiocese and the matter has been discussed by the Council of Priests and a solution sought.

The administrator of Good Shepherd is a Jesuit colleague, Fr. Vernon Boyd, who stayed for supper, much to the delight of the residents of the Archeveche (Archbishop's Residence, sometimes called the Palace!) We recall Fr. Vernon's enthusiasm for all things ecclesial from the six weeks he spent here in late 2007. He is also a strong devotee of the Divine Mercy, which played in a role in the scheduling of this afternoon's Mass. God's mercy has been the source of many graces in his family's trials and in his ministry. Deo gratias.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Easter Saturday--Confirmations Begin....

Yesterday's gala for Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy went off beautifully. Bishop Mulhall gave a powerful homily on the appearance of Jesus to the disciples who went back to fishing on the Sea of Tiberias, suggesting that their return to ordinary life was a failure of nerve. Sometimes, he said, this disposition finds echoes in our own lives when we let our enthusiasm for the Risen Lord and His resurrection fade. About 200 attended the fundraising dinner which was truly a joyfilled event. I was glad Luc Louisseize had come along as my driver; we made it back to Ottawa just a few minutes after midnight.

Today was mainly lived in French. This morning I met with the francophone diaconal family, reviewing their experience of the admission process, their formation, ordination and ministry. Many blessings were acknowledged and gratefully received; but there were also suggestions for strengthening the role of the deacon in the overall mission of our Ottawa church.

This meeting took place at Paroisse St-Joseph in Orleans (getting ready to celebrate their sesquicentennial in 2010), where upstairs in the Church I presided at the 2PM celebration of Confirmation for eighty young people mainly from Ecole Etoile de l'Est (a reference to the Star of Bethlehem) and a few others from the French public schools in the area.

After my weekly meeting back home with my Vicar General Kevin Beach and an early supper, it was off to Paroisse Sacre-Coeur in Bourget, 40-minutes east of Ottawa, for the confirmation of 21 youngsters (in grade 6). The pastor is Abbe Etienne from Congo; he has clearly become much-appreciated by the parishioners in his first year among the faithful of this small town from which my secretary Julie Marcil hails; I met her mother, some uncles, aunts and siblings, all of whom are proud of her and her uncle Gilles, a priest serving in a six-point charge out of Vankleek Hill (near the Quebec border).

Receptions are always a joy because of the people with whom I can connect on a variety of levels. One such encounter this evening was with a couple and their nine children that they have been homeschooling (a practice unusual among the francophones) until the youngsters enter the Catholic public schools in grade nine. One of the five boys was among the confirmands and two others served at the altar with great devotion. It is clear that the faith is important for the whole family (a couple of the girls attended the Montee Pascale held by Famille Marie-Jeunesse in Sherbrooke, Quebec: they even pray for the bishop every day! A revelation such as this always gives me great encouragement and explains why I often feel carried by such intercessory prayers and the graces they bring.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter Friday--Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy Gala

My return to Ottawa was via an early morning USAirways flight from Philadelphia; in the early afternoon I journey to Pembroke Diocese (the neighbouring, suffragan see) for a two-part celebration of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy's Fund-raising Gala. There is Mass at St. Columbkille Cathedral at 5 o'clock (I am to preside, Bishop Michael Mulhall will be the homilist) followed by the Gala Dinner at 6:30 in Germania Hall, at which I will be the after dinner speaker. This fairly new and robustly Catholic college is located at Barry's Bay and I have always enjoyed my meetings with the student body and staff. I have recently accepted to serve on the episcopal advisory committee as the college takes wings. More anon....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Easter Thursday--a Quiet Day of Reflection

Today was a reflective day during retreat. I was homilist at the Mass, whose gospel continued Jesus' meeting with his disciples in the upper room, overcoming their "disbelieving joy" by showing them the marks of his Passion, now glorified in his risen state. We learn that none of our sufferings offered in communion with Christ's sufferings on the Cross (and for the benefit of the Church and humanity) is lost: each will become in eternal life a token of glory.

We studied briefly Pope Benedict XVI's address to the men and women of culture (not necessarily believers) at the start of his Pastoral Visit to France on September 12, 2008. The Holy Father noted that when all the certainties of the past were disappearing in Europe, the monastic movement set about to build a new order. By searching to find God they, in effect, created a culture. They sought the Logos (God's Word) by exploring human words and science.

In that context, the monastic movement became a school, needing a library and other resources to carry out God's service. In order not to distort the ultimate questions, they sensed the need to maintain contact with past history, with tradition. A very interesting text with much material for reflection on the issues of our day, as the pope concludes by arguing that the quest for God should not be excluded from contemporary discussion.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter Wednesday--of Bishops Short and Tall

Today as part of our retreat we journeyed into Philadelphia to visit the Shrine of St. John Neumann, C.Ss.R. and to celebrate Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul.
John Nepomucene Neumann was born in Bohemia (present Czech Republic) in 1811 and dreamed of serving God and his church as a priest. However, in his day there were so many candidates (what a challenge I'd love to face!) that his bishop would not ordain any of the candidates who were ready.
But John knew there were needs in the New World so with $40 to his name he set sail for New York where he looked up Bishop James Dubois. Since the bishop needed priests, especially ones with John's gift for languages (he knew eight but kept learning others until he eventually mastered eleven), he was ordained within two weeks of arrival and sent to Buffalo to tend to his newly-assigned parishioners.
As the neophyte priest felt the isolation of being on his own (some of our diocesan priests even today feel this and retreats like this help overcome this difficulty through mutual support), he joined the Redemptorists (Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer)--their first recruit in the USA.
He soon showed himself to be an extraordinarily encouraging religous and sought new solutions wherever his talents were needed and he was sent to minister. In Baltimore, he became the confessor to Bishop Kenrick who proposed him for the office of Bishop of Philadelphia. Though he did not aspire after such an office (quite the contrary!), Blessed Pope Pius IX named him to the post under obedience. A gifted administrator and zealous priest-bishop, in his five years as bishop he created fifty new parishes for the many ethnic congregations streaming toward America (Germans, Irish, Italians, etc) and during his term of office increased the number of Catholic schools from 2 to over 100. He ministered to the sick, wrote catechisms, and untiringly visited his people; he organized the Forty Hours devotion during which the Blessed Sacrament was exposed in one parish after another--a forerunner to today's Perpetual Adoration or Eucharistic Chapels.
Bishop Neumann died suddenly on the street near the cathedral whose construction he had initiated, on January 5, 1860 at the age of 48.

Money quote: "Only a poor priest, one who can endure hardship, can labour here. His duties call him far and near...he leads a wandering life. There is no pleasure, except the care of souls...the Catholic population is continually increasing...many are in extreme poverty. They live in miserable shanties, some with not even a window."

The future saint was very short: a not-imposing 5'2". One of his successors (and you will guess my interest immediately) was Edward Francis Prendergast, auxiliary bishop 1897-1911; Archbishop of Philadelphia 1911-1918. He stood rather imposingly for that day at 6'7" (from a different gene pool than yours truly).
At the cathedral this afternoon, we visited his tomb in the crypt and the rector of the cathedral brought out his crozier for me to carry for our late afternoon Mass. I just about fell over once or twice! On the way through the cathedral rectory several of us took a detour to see the XXXL size bathtub he installed when the rectory was being built (there is another in the seminary for his visits there).

My conclusion is that whether one is short or tall, bishop, priest, religious or lay person, we are all called to holiness. It's a challenging thought for the return to the spiritual exercises at Malvern retreat house. Here we are seeking to know more intimately the power of Christ's resurrection that we celebrate in word and the "breaking of the bread", just like the disciples in today's gospel on the Road to Emmaus.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Tuesday--Being a Priest

Motto for our priests' retreat

To be a good priest,
you first of all have to be men,
to feel what men feel.
Live the relationship
with everything that becomes present.
Live the truth of your humanity.
Cry because you need to cry --
or you are afraid,
because the problem is difficult
and you feel the inadequacy
of your strength.
Be human; live your humanity
as an aspiration,
as a sensitivity to the problems,
as a risk to face,
as a faithfulness
to what God makes urgent in your soul.
In this way, reality will appear
to your eyes in a true way.
--Don Luigi Giussani

Last night we viewed a powerful video on the life and teaching of the founder of what became Communion and Liberation, a movement to revitalize the Church by attracting youth (and not-so-young) to Christ, as Jesus drew Andrew and his friends to Our Lord in the first chapter of John's gospel. Father Giussani believed that the quest for happiness unites all us human beings. And that to discover Christ is the true happiness, an encounter with the One who is Truth, Beauty and Goodness. Or in the words Jesus himself uses in the Fourth Gosepel: the Way, the Truth and the Life.
During our retreat we are exploring more profoundly what this means for us as priests, those who help the people in our day to come to this encounter. We can only do so if we are convinced ourselves. This is the reality that our retreat master, Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete (author of God at the Ritz) is helping us live now in these days apart with Our Lord.
Pray for us.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Monday--Joys and Sorrows of Priests

My midday USAirways flight brought me to Philadelphia to take part in a retreat for priests (most from the USA, two others from Canada [BC] and one from New Zealand).
I enjoyed wandering around the 120-acre campus, multiple-building complex that makes this the largest retreat centre in the 'States. The dogberry trees and forsythia bushes are blooming (quite a sight), though it is about as cold here as Ottawa has been of late.
I was going to write further about the conference and atmosphere here, but as I opened my email messages, I learned that two priests associated with my service to the Church in Halifax have been called home by the Lord to share in the heavenly banquet at an unexpected hour just as the Great 50 Days of Eastertide get underway.
Father Lloyd Robertson was Atlantic School of Theology's first president (about 1974-80) and offered me my first teaching position, as one of two professors first hired by AST; that was in 1975 as I was finishing doctoral studies in Toronto. Thus began my relationship with the Church of Halifax--as it were my "first love"--where I had my first posting as a priest as director of seminarian formation and Professor of NT (1975-81). In latter years, Father Lloyd suffered from clinical depression, and it was painful to see someone who had been so playful and full of life struggling with daily life itself. His sadness is ended now and I am sure he was delighted to hear from Christ's lips, "good and faithful servant, enter into your Master's joy".
Father George Leach was a beloved brother in the Jesuit Order: he preached at my Final Vows. That was on the Wednesday of Easter Week (April 19) in 1979. The gospel that day featured the Emmaus story (Luke 24:13-35) in which the Risen Lord Jesus first veils himself from the eyes of the sorrowing disciples, lets them share their burdens with Him and then exposes how the Messiah (and all his followers) have to pass through suffering to enter into the glory of the resurrection.
George worked on the staff of the Catholic Pastoral Centre in lay and diaconal formation, then served as the Superior of the Halifax Jesuits during my tenure there as archbishop (1998-2007). Recently he had been named Rector of Regis College in Toronto and was undertaking his leading role in the priestly formation of younger Jesuits. This Saturday, he would have presented his first candidates for ordination.
May God grant them both a merciful judgment and may the Good Shepherd draw them to His Sacred Heart and invite them to draw water joyfully from the wellsprings of salvation! Please join me in praying for the repose of their souls and for the consolation of their relatives, friends and those touched by their ministry who grieve their sudden passing.
May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Christ is Risen! Truly Risen!--Easter Sunday

This was my day to greet the faithful, so I was at the back of the Cathedral to wish everyone a Happy Easter or Joyeuses Paques at the biligual Mass (9AM), celebrated the 10:30 Mass in French and greeted those coming to the noon Mass in English. The cathedral overflowed with the faithful and visitors from all over Quebec, Ontario and even a few from further afield (Prince Albert, SK; Switzerland; the Hispanic world). Our choir was in great form: the Sequence was beautifully sung and the Hallelujah Chorus was the recessional. People stayed behind to wait for the conclusion of the singing and the organ.
Mgr Roger Lariviere and I posed for a photo at lunch; I'll miss his 96th birthday on Wednesday while away on retreat and would like to offer him a photo for his special day.
Popped in for a taste of the luncheon of Polish food being served at the Queenship of Mary residence next to St. Mary's Church. They are hoping that a canonical presentation of their project to establish a new religious body (sisterhood) will begin with their recognition as a pious association of Christ's faithful sometime soon.
En route home, I was able to visit with Abbe Marcel Gauthier (at the Bruyere-St. Vincent's home) who was in fine fettle today: perhaps the presence of his sister from Montreal, along with his sister from Ottawa, gave him a boost. Then, dropped in at the other Bruyere long-term care centre not far from home, to look in on Abbe Paul-Yvon Menard, who gave me the whole story of his uncle, the former Archbishop of Montreal Joseph Charbonneau (originally from Lefaive, where they intend to name the community centre in his honour when I visit next month).
I'll be flying off to retreat in Pennsylvania tomorrow at midday so the blogging may be light in coming days.

Holy Saturday--rest on the journey

A quiet day at home: preparing homilies for the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday. This morning's papers had mixed coverage of Good Friday's Way of the Cross: Le Droit had a full cover page photo which was fine except for the headline, "L'Eglise doit mourir pour renaitre" ("The Church needs to die to be reborn"). There was another large photo on page 3, with a story linking all kinds of stories about the church without much discernmentheadline on. The Ottawa Sun had a captioned colour photo on p. 2, but the Ottawa Citizen buried the story as an add-on to the Tamil demonstration. Interesting how the same reality can provoke such diverse coverage.

Beginning the Journey--Good Friday, April 10, 2009

The title of this blog is the journey of a bishop and it began with "the Way of the Cross" this morning from St. Patrick's Basilica through major sites in Ottawa (Sparks Street Mall, Parliament Hill) to Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica. Estimates by organizers from Communion and Liberation put the number of pilgrims somewhere between 800 and 1000: there was great devotion. Though we had to modify our path due to the protest by Tamils seeking Canadian government action for their relatives and friends in Sri Lanka, the close encounter of our two groups was peaceful. The drumming ceased as we prayed and sang and some of the demonstrators, being Christians/Catholics, joined our remembrance of the Lord's Passion briefly....

In the afternoon, the Office commemorating the Lord's Passion was extraordinarily reverent; I was moved to realize the honour of shepherding the hundreds who came to venerate the Cross in the cathedral, those who presented themselves for confession or stayed to pray. As I was praying one of the faithful asked if I would give him a rosary I had blessed; it was a joy to do so.