Thursday, May 28, 2009

Canadian National Prayer Breakfast; Presbyteral Council; Companions of the Cross Ordinands

This morning, the 44th National Prayer Breakfast for Our Nation's Leaders was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Lyon and Albert Streets.

Evangelical in origin and tone, the devotional gathering attracted close to 900 attendees. I always find these uplifting in content and friendly and respectful in approach: clearly this is a Christian event--strongly focussed on a relationship with Our Lord Jesus--but open to those of other religions and perspectives who are willing to come.

Two of the national leaders and two MPs read from the scriptures: Jack Layton Psalm 40; Michael Ignatieff Galatians 5:13-14; Robert Bouchard a text from Deuteronomy that I have not yet tracked down and Cabinet Minister Stockwell Day Luke 10:25-37 (the parable of the Good Samaritan).

Paul Bryant, a country-western singer from Calgary was featured several times; he engaged his audience with good humour.

The keynote address was given by Ravi Zacharias, an inspiring evangelical motivational speaker (born in India, converted at 17 and an immigrant to Canada at age 20, his family assisted by Roland Michener), who is now based in Toronto, though he travels the world.

Mr. Zacharias put the case for the existence of God from the order and complexity of the universe, anchoring his presentation under four headings: eternity, morality, accountability and beneficience.

The closing was an unabashed call for acceptance of Jesus Christ, his Cross and Resurrection, as the only way to peace and reconciliation in the world: a bracing and bold proclamation!

Several times a year, the presbyters who serve as the bishop's council of advisors (some two dozen from the various regions and those representing religious priests and the retired priests) come together to discuss pressing matters.

This morning we addressed the matter of how to form anew a single Diocesan Pastoral Council whose members would act as a sounding board to the bishop and allow him to receive from the laity their concerns and issues (a steering committee will make proposals in light of the discussion).

As well we examined a draft pastoral statement on Christian Rites of Funeral and Burial Customs in the light of evolving practices (increasing numbers of Catholics choosing cremation prior to the Funeral Mass; decisions made by children who do not practice the faith for parents or relatives who did; pressures to celebrate in funeral parlours rather than in church; the pressure to have words of remembrance or eulogies and/or secular music at the funeral liturgy, etc.)

Both issues will return.

In the afternoon, the College of Consultors (a more limited number of the Presbyteral Council) discussed matters largely of financial concern: building repairs and contracts for paving; lighting, new heating systems, roofing concerns; proposals for stained glass windows: all the nitty-gritty material concerns of a dynamic and lively set of parish communities that makes up the Archdiocese.

This evening, I hosted for supper at my residence the three members of the Companions of the Cross whom I will ordain to the priesthood at 10am on Saturday morning, the Vigil of Pentecost, at Notre Dame Cathedral.

This year's crop of ordinands are all from Ontario: Simon Lobo from Ottawa, Jamie Utronkie from Round Lake and Carlos Martens from Kitchener.

I gave them a tour of the house, introducing them to a bit of the Archdiocese's history and learning from them some of their interests and concerns. The cook had prepared a delicious supper and so the conversation was easy, free-flowing and off the record.

We concluded our time together with a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in the residence chapel, praying for God's blessing on their ministry of evangelization and of service to God's people, invoking our Blessed Mother Mary's intercession for the fruitfulness of their labours.

It's only a few hours now to the laying on of hands and the ontological transformation of these gentle men into "other Christs". And so most appropriate is the tradition wish: Ad multos et faustissimos annos! (May you have many years, many happy years!)

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