Friday, July 31, 2009

July 31: Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola--Jesuits Gather

St. Ignatius Loyola (b. circa 1491 Loyola castle, Spain - died Rome, 31 July 1556)

All over the world on this day, Jesuits gather to celebrate their founder at Mass and in other ceremonies. I joined some 130 Jesuits from Canada, the USA, Hungary, Zambia and some 200 benefactors, friends, collaborators and family of jubilarians for the Eucharist at St. Isaac Jogues Church, Pickering.

Afterwards we took part in a luncheon on the lawns of Manresa Retreat House (whose grounds also host a modern chapel, the LaStorta Jesuit Residence for those engaged in spiritual ministries and St. Rene Goupil House, the Jesuit Infirmary.

This year 12 of the 13 Jesuits (11 priests and two brothers) celebrating their 50th anniversary of entry into the Order attended the events, along with about fifteen jubilarians celebrating 75, 70 and 60 years in the Order or 50 and 60 years of priestly ordination.

Thought I took photos throughout the day's happenings, I forgot my camera in the LaStorta dining-room where I had enjoyed a delicious supper.

Not sure how many photos I will be able to access for the coming days events: Travel to visit friends in Regina tomorrow, the CCO Annual Board Meeting in Saskatoon as the summer evangelization program wrapes up, Sunday and Monday, and the Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention in Phoenix, AZ (August 4-6).

Safe travels, everyone!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Arrival in Paray-le-Monial: the historical city of the Sacred Heart Apparitions and now the host of Emmanuel gatherings

On Sunday, Frere Etienne drove me from Sept-Fons to Paray-le-Monial, a city I had often heard about in conjunction with the Apparitions of the Sacred Heart to a cloistered sister of the Visitation Monastery (cf. earlier link), now known as St. Margaret Mary Alocoque. With the assistance on her Jesuit spiritual director St. Claude La Colombiere who encouraged her to trust in the manifestations and to make them known.

In a future post, I will give a more extensive pictorial report on my visit, but meantime I note that some 30,000 visitors--many of them families--come to Paray for a period of 3-5 days for conferences to strengthen and encourage couples, families and Catholic life in general. The 12th century basilica, associated with the famous abbey of Cluny nearby, dedicated in the 20th century to the Sacred Heart, is no longer adequate to handle the large number of visitors and pilgrims attending, so they now make use of large tents (the largest of which can accommodate over 2000 for Mass).

There is a program to address the needs to enlarge the facilities by the year 2020 at the cost of about four million Euros. This summer, there is an effort being made to collect some 50,000 signatures supporting the renewal program and to enlist initial contributions. Naturally, after celebrating the midday Sunday Eucharist, I was invited to sign up for the cameras.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Visitation Museum (Moulins)

St. Jane Frances de Chantal (b. 1572 Dijon - d. Moulins 1641)
On Saturday afternoon, Frere Jean-de-la-Croix drove me the 35 kilometers into Moulins, the see city to see the gorgeous tryptik in the cathedral and to visit the Musee de la Visitation presided over by Monsieur Picaud, a man totally devoted to the legacy of the Visitation charism in the city where St. Jane Frances de Chantal died on December 13, 1641.

Cathedral Notre-Dame-de-l'Annociation, Diocese of Moulins


The Story of Jane Frances de Chantal
At the age of sixteen, Jane Frances de Fremyot, already a motherless child, was placed under the care of a worldly-minded governess. In this crisis she offered herself to the Mother of God, and secured Mary’s protection for life.

As the loving and beloved wife of the noble Baron de Chantal, she made her house the pattern of a Christian home. But God had marked her for something higher than domestic sanctity. Two children and a dearly beloved sister died, and then, in the full tide of their prosperity, her husband’s life was ended by an accident, through the innocent hand of a friend, when a small group went hunting in the forest.

For seven years the sorrows of her widowhood were increased by ill usage from servants and inferiors, and the cruel importunities of those who urged her to marry again. Harassed almost to despair by their entreaties, she branded on her heart the name of Jesus, and in the end left her beloved home and children, to live for God alone. It was on the 19th of March, 1609, that Madame de Chantal bade farewell to her family and relatives.

Pale and with tears in her eyes, she passed around the large room, sweetly and humbly taking leave of each one. Her son, a boy of fifteen, used every entreaty, every endearment, to induce his mother not to leave them, and finally flung himself passionately across the doorsill of the room. In an agony of distress, she passed over the body of her son to the embrace of her aged and disconsolate father. The anguish of that parting reached its height when, kneeling at the feet of the venerable old man, she sought and obtained his last blessing, promising to repay his sacrifice in her new life by her prayers.

Well might Saint Francis de Sales call her “the valiant woman.” She founded under his direction and patronage the great Order of the Visitation. Sickness, opposition and want beset her, and the deaths of children, friends, and of Saint Francis himself followed, while eighty-seven houses of the Visitation rose under her hand. Nine long years of interior desolation completed the work of God’s grace in her soul.

The Congregation of the Visitation, whose purpose was to admit widows and persons of fragile health, not accepted elsewhere, was canonically established at Annecy on Trinity Sunday of 1610. The Order counted thirteen houses already in 1622, when Saint Francis de Sales died; and when the Foundress died in her seventieth year, there were eighty-six. Saint Vincent de Paul saw her soul rise up, like a ball of fire, to heaven. At her canonization in 1767, the Sisters in 164 houses of the Visitation rejoiced.


Given that many Visitation monasteries have had to close in recent decades, M. Picaud has very successfully lobbied the sisters to donate their heirlooms (religious, devotional, cultural and of other historical and social types) to the Musee de la Visitation, which he and associates have persuaded the civic officials to accommodate in a 17th century building (modernized for ventilation, lighting and security) to house the more than 1000 pieces he has already assembled.

Though it is sad that the lack of recruits to continue the contemplative vocation, here is the legacy of these sisters: here is how they lived, this is what they spent time on and what they valued (needlework and brocading of vestments, treasuries of religious artifacts, reliquaries, sacred vessels, etc).

So many are the items in the Museum that it is impossible to view them all, so M. Picaud and helpers arrange an exposition each year to show off their treasures. After the visit, we went to the exposition (the photo is of Frere Jean-de-la-Croix and myself before one of the beautiful chasubles for Holy Mass (of which there were dozens).

Further information may be found at: and/or

Saturday, July 25, 2009


This statue of the holy pastor of the village of Ars refers to the moment of his arrival there in February 1818. It was such a bleak and foggy period that Jean-Marie Baptiste Vianney had lost his way. A young shepherd boy guided him to Ars. As he thanked the lad, the priest said, "You have shown me the way to Ars; I will show you the way to heaven".

There are many such stories and anecdotes about the Curé of Ars and the guide who showed us around yesterday, Abbé Carlo (at right), a priest from Belgium but on the staff at the sanctuary to welcome priests in the Jubilee Year marking 150 years since the death of Vianney on August 4, 1859 and this recently designated Year of Priests inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In this vein, one of the sayings of Saint Jean-Marie is, "the priesthood is the love of the heart of Christ".

On arrival in Ars, still a small French village (but not far from bustling Lyon), one enters the house of the curé. One sees how simply he lived, a thread-bare cassock that he had repaired many times contrasting with the beautiful vestments he bought for Mass. For himself the bare necessities; for the Lord's house and work the best he could afford. But this not mean neglect of the poor, for love of God and neighbour went hand in hand. He sold his ermine-trimmed canon's cape the day after it arrived and did the same with the medal of France's Legion d'Honneur in order to give all he could for the needs of the poor.

Then one moves to the original church where the cure gathered his people during his ministry. There is a beautiful statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to whom the Curé consecrated his parish on May 31, 1838.

One leaves the original church to pass into what is now the basilica with the glass-enclosed remains of St. John Mary Vianney.

In the basilica, there is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and a deep silence and peace reigns there, even as people move about to pray before the relics of the Curé.

Here is the Prayer for Priests and Priestly Vocations recited daily in the basilica.


Père Très Saint,
en cette année sacerdotale
que tu donnes a ton Église,
nous te prions pour tous
les prêtres du monde;
Viens les bénie
et rendre fructueux leur ministère.

Donne à tes pasteurs,
par l’intercession du Saint Cure d’Ars,
un cœur semblable a celui de ton Fils.

Suscite par ton Esprit-Saint
de nombreuses vocations sacerdotales.

A break for lunch took us to the Foyer Sacerdotal Jean-Paul II, commemorating the Holy Father's visit in October 1985 and now housing an international seminary which prepares priests in the spirituality of the saintly Curé. There we met priests, seminarians and aspirants for the priesthood from France, Spain, India and the Democratic Republic of Congo--all deeply moved by what the year of the priest means for them and their lives, an inspiration and a cause of hope.

Here are some photos of the people we met and the delightful exchanges and joy we shared.

Finally, a lovely prayer by the Curé that is quoted at length in the video that describes life and its impact on Ars and the Church Universal, a beautiful prayer any priest can say:


I love you, oh my God and my only desire is to love you until
my last breath.

I love you, oh infinitely loveable God and I prefer to die loving
you than to live a single moment without loving you.

I love you, oh my God and I long for heaven only in order
to know the bliss of loving you perfectly.

I love you, oh my God and I only fear going to hell because there
I will never experience the sweet consolation of loving you.

Oh my God, if my tongue is not able to say at every opportunity
that I love you, I want at least my heart to repeat it to you as
many times as I take a breath.

My God give me the grace of suffering out of love
for you, of loving you while I suffer. Give me the
grace of one day breathing my last out of love for you
and at the same time feeling how much I love you.

The closer I come to my final end the more I
beseech you to intensify and perfect my love for you. Amen.

Tomorrow and Monday I will make a visit to nearby Paray-le-Monial, site of the Revelations by the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary Alocoque, where there is also a chapel in honour of her Jesuit confessor St. Claude de la Colombiere, and in recent years a place for family encounters under the aegis of the Communaute de l'Emmanuel.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dinner with Bishop Pascal; Pere Macaire's Mass of Thanksgiving; Journey to Ars

Last evening, Dom Patrick gave a dinner so I could get to meet the local bishop of the Diocese of Moulins and his vicar general who was on retreat in the Abbey this week. It was a delightful evening. The bishop is a blogger and has been at it since mid-2008 (

At the end of the meal, I presented the bishop with a booklet put out in 1994 by the Friends of Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica illustrating the treasures of our cathedral and he gave me a miniature version of a triptych by the Maitre de Moulins (centre piece illustrated at left), now generally identified with the artist Jean Hey (1475-ca. 1505) an Early Netherlandish painter working in France and the Duchy of Burgundy, and associated with the court of the Dukes of Bourbon. I hope to see it up close on a visit to Moulins tomorrow afternoon. Parallels with Ottawa's cathedral include the name Notre-Dame and its status as a national historical site.

Father Macaire celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving this morning, the Votive Mass of the Immaculate Heart of Mary; the homily gave a wonderful interpretation of Mary's extraordinary involvement with Our Lord, from the moment of His conception in her womb until his death on Calvary.

He mentioned the particular role that Mary has in Jesus' priestly life and, because Jesus commended her to the Beloved Disciple and the Beloved Disciple and all others to her, that she shares in a marvellous way in the life and spirituality of priests though she was not called to be a priest; her dignity lay in her role as the Mother of God (the Theotokos the term by which Eastern Christians honour her).

Speaking of the Priesthood, Freres Bernard and Matthias accompanied me to a day-long outing to Ars-sur-Formans, the village called to holiness by the saintly Cure of Ars, Saint Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney.

The Welcome Centre pictured above was already quite involved in celebrating a Jubilee Year marking the 150th anniversary of the death of the Patron of Parish Priests (August 4, 1859); it began December 8, 2008 and was to conclude November 1, 2009.

Pope Benedict XVI, however, has added a greater emphasis by declaring a Year of Priests (June 19, 2009-June 11, 2010) and promising to designate St. John Mary Vianney patron of all the world's priests (the date when this will happen has not yet been indicated).

Today's visit to Ars, though brief, was very uplifting for me and my companions. More on this tomorrow. Meantime, here is the reliquary chapel where the heart of St. John is encased; his body is in the nearby basilica, discovered to have been preserved incorrupt when the casket was opened in 1904.

On my return to Sept-Fons this evening from the pilgrimage, Dom Patrick asked me to speak to the Chapter before Compline about my new ministry in Ottawa (I had spoken to them about my ministry in Nova Scotia on an earlier visit).

After a brief overview of the joys and challenges, there were a few questions: among them, one about ministry to the Native Peoples, whether the church enjoys freedom in Canada's public life in Canada and the degree to which Canada's saints and blesseds are appreciated/honoured.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Feast of St. Bridget of Sweden; Father Nathanael's Mass of Thanksgiving

Frere M.-Jerome Ducrocq (left) and Pere M.-Nathanael Vanhaelemeesch (right)

This morning we celebrated the Feast of St. Bridget of Sweden (with St. Catherine of Siena and St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross [Edith Stein]), one of the female co-patrons of Europe (the male co-patrons are St. Benedict and Sts. Cyril and Methodius).

Pere Nathanael celebrated his Mass of Thanksgiving at the Coventual Mass (Lauds integrated with the Eucharist) and gave a brief reflection on the priest-monk's call, basing himself on two sayings of Our Lord, "Come, follow Me" and "This is My Body". He was assisted by Frere Jerome, ordained a deacon yesterday.

Mysteriously, Jesus calls a small group to follow him, who, humanly speaking, have all the limitations we can image in a man: laziness, hesitation to believe, able to deny and to betray their Lord. Yet, the monk is invited to this kind of following, ready to devote himself to personal intimacy with the Lord, to adoration and to intercession.

He does so as a monk even in the darkness of the night, symbolizing the monk's willingness to enter into that darkness that surrounds man in his unbelief, senselessness and looking for God in the wrong places. And, from within the company of disciples (and from among monks), the Lord chooses some to represent him by renewing the Lord's one pure and perfect sacrifice for the salvation of the world.

Yesterday, after the Mass we had a lovely luncheon, a feast of Chinese cuisine. Then, after none, I went to visit with Nathanael and Jerome's families, as well as other visitors, in the abbey gardens.

As Nathanael comes from Flanders, a priest reporter from Belgian Radio and Television (BRTV) interviewed me about my friendship with Nathanael from our time together in the Holy Land in 1994-1995, as he was studying at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and I was on sabbatical at the Ecole Biblique et archaeologique francaise where we would meet to go on the biblical excursions to the Negev, Jordan and Upper Galilee, as well as on the Sunday trips guided by the late Marcel Beaudry to biblical sites in the country and on Tuesday with Father Jerome Murphy-O'Connor in the Holy City.

After supper, I wandered through the grounds of the abbey, through the orchards, corn fields and the fields of grain "white for the harvest" (cf. John 4:35), a hopeful image for what we celebrated in these ordinations and our hopes for the future.

On the grounds there are several shrines to Our Blessed Mother, including this one in the garden of the cloister:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Feast of St. Mary Magdalene; Trappist Ordinations


Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Sept-Fons, France
Mercredi 22 juillet, 2009: Sainte Marie Madeleine, apôtre aux apôtres

ORDINATION DIACONALE des frères M.-Jérôme et M.-Joachim et ORDINATION PRESBYTERALE des frères M.-Macaire et M.-Nathanaël [Textes: Cantique des cantiques 3.1-4a; Psaume 44 (45), 10-11; Jean 20.1, 11-18]

Chers frères et sœurs dans le Christ,

Ces hommes, vos confrères en religion, membres de vos familles et amis, seront dans quelques instants ordonnés à la prêtrise ou au diaconat. L’exceptionnel, c’est que ces moines n’exerceront pas leur ministère dans le contexte presbytéral habituel des paroisses ou des communautés de fidèles laïques. Ils seront, de façon stable, au service de cette Abbaye de Sept-Fons ou d’une autre communauté monastique sœur.

Depuis le deuxième Concile du Vatican jusqu’à nos jours, les documents du Magistère sur le presbytérat fondent celui-ci plutôt sur le sacerdoce diocésain. Ils centrent leur attention sur le ministère du prêtre diocésain et sa relation avec son évêque.

Ce modèle semble non seulement ignorer, mais parfois même contredire certains aspects de la vie du moine-prêtre. On pourra déduire, par exemple, que pour favoriser sa vie de prière, le prêtre contemplatif est exempté de plusieurs aspects du ministère habituel du prêtre.

Les moines pourront trouver cette vision insuffisante puisqu’elle semble prétendre l’existence d’une incompatibilité fondamentale entre la vie monastique et la prêtrise. Par contre, il faut se souvenir que le phénomène du presbytérat monastique est très ancien. Au sixième siècle déjà, saint Benoît devait aborder non seulement la question de l’incorporation de prêtres à la communauté monastique, mais aussi celle de l’ordination même des moines.

De plus, le Magistère a affirmé à maintes reprises la complémentarité de la vocation à la prêtrise et celle à la vie religieuse. C’est un thème de cette année du sacerdoce ou le Saint Père présente Saint Jean Marie Vianney comme modèle pour chaque prêtre, non seulement le prêtre diocésain.

Quelle description théologique du sacerdoce monastique pourrait donc informer notre cérémonie au cours de laquelle les frères Macaire et Nathanaël seront consacrés au service presbytéral et les frères Jérôme et Joachim seront ordonnés au diaconat en vue du presbytérat?

Après l’examen des documents principaux de l’Église, tout en tentant de cibler l’endroit où la description de la vie et le ministère du prêtre diocésain entre en conflit avec la vie et le ministère du moine-prêtre, on peut trouver certaines convergences. Elles touchent principalement la configuration spécifique du prêtre au Christ, le Grand Prêtre.

Ceci fait écho à un thème sans cesse repris dans les écrits monastiques : la description de l’idéal monastique en termes de conformation graduelle du moine au Christ. Dans la Règle de saint Benoît, les images du Christ proposées à l’imitation des moines-prêtres sont à la fois celles du médecin et du pasteur, et celles de celui qui est humble et obéissant. Les écrivains cisterciens les plus importants du douzième siècle ont élaboré sur ces images appliquées au moine, autant à celui qui dirige qu’au disciple.

Celles qui s’appliquent à l’abbé – pastor et medicus – font référence à la participation au ministère du Christ même. Celles qui s’appliquent à tous les moines – humilitas et obedientia – font référence à l’imitation transformatrice du Christ même.

On souligne ainsi le fait que le prêtre soit choisi à partir de la communauté des fidèles. Bien qu’appelé à diriger le peuple de Dieu en partageant et en continuant le ministère du Christ, il n’en demeure pas moins un disciple qui a un besoin constant de devenir conforme au Christ; cette démarche fut amorcée au baptême.

Il existe évidemment d’autres façons de décrire le sacerdoce monastique dans la tradition. L’une d’elles est le lien entre la consécration religieuse et l’offrande que le Christ a faite de lui-même au Père pour le monde. Le monachisme était appelé un martyre blanc.

Ou encore, la relation spéciale du moine à la Parole de Dieu. La pratique de la Lectio divina, forme typique de prière monastique, met un accent particulier sur la vie et le ministère du moine-prêtre. Son dialogue régulier et priant avec la Parole prononcée de toute éternité par le Père au moyen de la Parole écrite est à la fois caractéristique et transformatrice.

On y réserve du temps dans l’horaire quotidien. Avec la prière chorale et le travail manuel, elle constitue l’un des trois éléments fondamentaux de la vie monastique contemplative. La transformation opérée par ce contact quotidien avec la Parole de Dieu peut être comparée à celle qu’opère notre contact quotidien avec le Christ de l’Eucharistie.

Nous fêtons aujourd’hui sainte Marie Madeleine, appelée l’apôtre des apôtres par une tradition ancienne. La Parole de Dieu retenue pour ce jour suggère plusieurs thèmes pour cette mise à part de nos frères dans les ordres sacrés de l’Église.

Le Cantique des cantiques parle de la communion mystique entre l’amante et son bien-aimé. Il est un écho de l’intimité qui existe entre le moine et Dieu dans le Christ, par la communion quotidienne à la Parole et au Pain. Jour et nuit, tout l’être du moine est tendu vers l’union avec le bien-aimé, avec le Christ : « toute la nuit j’ai cherché celui que mon cœur aime », jusqu’à ce qu’il puisse déclarer : « j’ai trouvé celui que mon cœur aime. »

Trouver le Christ opère dans l’âme du disciple ce que l’évangile affirme s’être passé chez Marie Madeleine : sa joie explose et la ramène à la communauté des disciples. En elle, nous voyons s’accomplir l’affirmation de Jésus, le Bon Pasteur : il connaît ses brebis par leur nom et elles reconnaissent sa voix à son appel. Embrasée d’amour, Marie n’a pu que partager cette bonne nouvelle aux disciples : « J’ai vu le Seigneur ». Voilà ce que chacun de nous est appelé à proclamer, non seulement par des paroles, mais par notre propre vie, chacun à sa façon.

Pour chaque chrétien, mais en particulier pour le moine-diacre et le moine-prêtre, l’amour du Christ, selon le Pape Benoît XVI, « n’est pas essentiellement une force cosmique, mais [quelque chose de] divin, de transcendent. Il agit sur l’univers, mais en soi, l’amour du Christ est aussi une puissance « autre ». Son altérité transcendante, est manifestée par le Seigneur dans sa Pâque, la « sainteté » du « chemin » choisi par lui pour nous libérer de la domination du mal… Dans le mystère pascal, Jésus a traversé l’abîme de la mort, puisque Dieu a ainsi voulu renouveler le monde : par la mort et la résurrection de son Fils « mort pour tous, afin que les vivants n’aient plus leur vie centrée sur eux-mêmes, mais sur lui, qui est mort et ressuscité pour eux. » (2 Co 5, 16).

En poursuivant notre célébration alors que nos frères se préparent à une nouvelle étape de leur marche intime à la suite du Christ, prenons la résolution de faire de toute notre vie un don total et désintéressé afin qu’au dernier jour nous puissions entendre le Seigneur dire : « C’est bien, bon et fidèle serviteur, viens te réjouir avec ton Maître. »

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

These men, your relatives, confreres in religion and friends, are about to be ordained to the priesthood or to the diaconate. What is unusual is that these are monks who will exercise their ministry not in the typical priestly milieux of parishes and communities serving the lay faithful, but, in stable fashion, in this Abbey of Sept-Fons or in some other sister monastic community.

Recent documents of the Magisterium on the priesthood, from the Second Vatican Council onwards, mainly take the diocesan model of priestly life as the norm. These descriptions of the priesthood focus on the diocesan priest’s ministry and his relationship with his bishop.

This model seems not only to ignore but at times even contradict aspects of the monk-priest’s life. Someone might reason, for example, that the contemplative priest is exempted from many aspects of normal priestly ministry in order to facilitate his life of prayer.

But monks might find such a view as answer unsatisfactory because it seems to regard monastic life as basically incompatible with the priesthood. For the phenomenon of monastic priesthood is of great antiquity – in the sixth century St. Benedict was already dealing with the incorporation of priests into the monastic community as well as the question of having monks ordained.

In addition, the complementary nature of the priestly and religious vocations has been repeatedly affirmed by the Magisterium. It is one of the themes of this Year of the Priest in which the Holy Father presents St. John Marie Vianney as a model for all priests, not just the diocesan priest.

What theological description of monastic priesthood, then, might help to inform this ordination service today, in which Brothers Macaire and Nathanael will be consecrated for priestly service and Brothers Jerome and Joachim ordained deacons today in view of their future ordination to the priesthood?

Examining the church’s principle documents, trying to pinpoint where their descriptions of priestly life and ministry conflict with the life and ministry of the monk-priest, one finds a few points of convergence. These have to do chiefly with the priest’s specific configuration to Christ the High Priest.

This echoes a theme very present in monastic literature: that of describing the monastic ideals in terms of the monk’s gradual conformation to Christ. In the Rule of St. Benedict, we find images of Christ held out for imitation by the monk-priests as those of doctor and pastor, as those of one who is humble and obedient. These images were later developed by the main Cistercian writers of the twelfth century and were applied to the monk as both a leader and a disciple.

Those that apply to the abbot – pastor and medicus (shepherd and doctor)– refer to a participation in Christ’s own ministry. Those that apply to all monks – humilitas and obedientia (humility and obedience) – refer to a transformative imitation of Christ himself.

For this underlines the fact that the priest is chosen from among the community of the faithful and that, while he is called to lead the people of God by sharing in and continuing Christ’s own ministry, he remains very much a disciple, who needs continually to deepen the basic conformation to Christ he began in baptism.

Of course, there are other ways of describing monastic priesthood in the tradition. One is the link often made between religious consecration and Christ’s self-offering or self-sacrifice to the Father on behalf of the world. Monasticism itself was known as a white martyrdom.

Another is the monk’s special relationship to the Word of God. The practice of Lectio Divina as the typical form of monastic prayer puts a particular accent on the monk-priest’s life and ministry. His regular, prayerful dialogue through the written Word with the Word eternally spoken by the Father is both characteristic and transformative.

Time is set aside for it in the daily schedule and, along with choral prayer and manual labour forms, is one of the three fundamental elements of contemplative monastic life. This daily contact with the Word of God is also transformative in a way analogous to our daily contact with Christ in the Eucharist.

The Word of God today on the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, apostle to the apostles, as she is known in early traditions, suggests several themes for this ecclesial act of setting our brothers apart in sacred orders.

The Song of Songs speaks of the mystical communion of lover and the beloved and constitutes an echo of the monk’s intimacy with God in Christ in the daily communion of word and sacrament. That search by the monk’s total being for union with the beloved, with Christ, goes on day and night—“on my bed at night I sought him whom my heart loves”—until he can declare “I found him whom my heart loves”.

That finding of Christ effects in the disciple’s soul what we see taking place in Mary Magdalene in today’s gospel episode as her joy explodes and takes her back to the community of disciples. In her we see fulfilled Jesus the Good Shepherd’s declaration that he knows his own sheep by name and that they know his voice when he calls them. Afire with love, Mary could do nothing other than share this good news with the disciples: “I have seen the Lord”—a reality each of us is called to proclaim in word but also with our whole life, each of us in their own way.

For every Christian, but especially so for the monk-deacon and the monk-priest, the love of Christ, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, is “not essentially a cosmic force, but [something] divine, transcendent. It acts on the universe but also, in itself, the love of Christ is a power that is "other," and this, his transcendent otherness, the Lord has manifested in his Passover, the "sanctity" of the "way" chosen by him to liberate us from the domination of evil… In the paschal mystery, Jesus has passed through the abyss of death, since God so willed to renew the world: through the death and resurrection of his Son "slain for all," so that all may live for him who has died and risen for them" (2 Cor 5, 16).

As we continue our celebration and prepare our brothers for a new stage in their intimate following of Christ, let us resolve to live our whole lives with total and selfless devotion so that on the last day they may hear the Lord say to them “well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord”.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Photos added to the Senhor Santo Cristo Post

Photos have been added to the post concerning my visit to the parish of Senhor Santo Cristo on Sunday for the feast. I was unable to access the blog on Sunday evening and yesterday because of internet connection difficulties.

Arrival in France, at Sept-Fons: Preparations for Ordinations on the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

The overnight flight on Air Canada from Pierre Elliott Trudeau-Dorval to Charles de Gaulle-Paris went swiftly (only five and a half hours). Two brotheres from Sept-Fons met me: Frere Joseph (a former diocesan priest of Paris, ordained in 1995, who has been at the abbey for five years) and Frere Bernard (a lay brother from Senegal, who works on the farm and has been in the Trappist way of life for seven years).

Traffic leaving Paris was full of bottlenecks as we left at the height of the morning rush hour, so it took us until 3PM before getting to the Abbaye, where I was warmly greeted by my friend Frere Nathanael Vanhaelemeesch from my 1994-95 sabbatical year at the Ecole Biblique, whom I will ordain a priest tomorrow.

In no time Dom Patrick Olive arrived on the scene to welcome me back (I had been here twice before). He has been abbot since 1980 and is credited with a modern form of re-founding of Sept-Fons in the wake of post-conciliar uncertainty about monasticism.

He has encouraged a strict return to the Trappist manner of life (austere, beautiful choir and liturgy), along with up-to-date helps to the contemplative vocation (cell phones and computer links to assist with the complexities of modern life).

One gets the impression on entering the guest house of a strong sense of vigour in the monastic tradition that speaks to young men from all across Europe (the community currently numbers close to 80, most of them younger men). There are sister abbeys in the People's Republic, the Holy Land and the Czech republic with all the particular challenges these pose.

The Prior, Frere Jeremie, had suggested we exit the autoroute at the road that leads to Nevers, where St. Bernadette Soubirous died in the odor of sanctity. The Grillade Courtepaille served us all steaks with frites and a decent wine of the region (Burgundy). The monks are vegetarian but have permission to eat meat when with visitors or travelling away from home. But before lunch we stopped to say the midday prayer (sext) in the Church of St. Leger (a martyr bishop) in Pougues-les-Eaux (we had recited tierce while weaving through Parisian traffic jams and they would recite none as I nodded off for a mid-afternoon snooze prior to our arrival at Sept-Fons).

All day today there have been preparations for tomorrow's ordinations; I am a bit nervous about all the singing required of me but I am sure they will overlook my limitations in this regard (everyone has been most kind).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Trappist Abbaye de Sept-Fons, Dompierre-sur-Besbre, France

This evening I travel to France chiefly to take part in the ordination of four Trappists monks of the Abbaye de Sept-Fons: two to the priesthood (Frères M. Macaire and M. Nathanael) and two to the diaconate (Frères M. Jerome and M. Joachim) on Wednesday, July 22, the feast of St. Mary Magdalene.

Please pray for them, their community and their ministry. I will return on July 28 (in the meantime, blogging will be intermittent).

The following is from the Wikipedia treatment of the Abbaye de Sept-Fons

First foundation
The Abbaye de Sept-Fons was founded in 1132 as a Cistercian monastery by Guichard and Guillaume de Bourbon, of the family of Bourbon-Lancy which gave kings to France, Italy, and Spain; this gave rise to the name "Royal Abbey". The initial generosity of the founders ensured that the building of the church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the monastery was soon completed.

Thereafter however the monks found themselves poverty-stricken, and were driven to selling off parts of the endowment in order to provide themselves with the necessities of life. They were much encouraged by a visit from Saint Bernard in 1138.

Pope Adrian III took the monastery under his protection in 1158; and Pope Alexander III ratified the foundation by bull in 1164.

The community remained a small one, and until the reform of 1663, the number of monks never exceeded 15.

At first the monastery was only known under the name of "Notre-Dame de Saint-Lieu". It was only after a century that "Sept-Fons" was added, derived either from seven fountains or from seven canals leading water to, the abbey.

From the middle of the 15th century the abbey suffered a great deal from the incessant wars. The monks were often forced to leave it; it was frequently looted and its buildings demolished. Under such circumstances, the discipline of the community was bound to suffer.

Trappist Reform
In 1656 Eustache de Beaufort, at the age of 20 years, was made abbot. For the first seven years there was no improvement; but after that time he resolved on a complete change and decided to join the abbey to the Trappist reform. There were then only four monks, who refused to accept the new rule; he therefore granted each of them a pension and dismissed them. It was not long before a number of novices presented themselves for admission. They were sent to the abbey of La Trappe, to make their novitiate under the Abbé de Rancé, whom Dom Eustache also visited for advice in 1667.
After this, with royal aid, Sept-Fons was rebuilt on a grander scale, and continued in prosperity until the abbey was suppressed in 1791 in the French Revolution.

Second foundation
In 1845, when the Trappists of the Abbaye du Gard were obliged to abandon their monastery, their abbot, Dom Stanislaus, purchased the ruins of Sept-Fons, where he installed his community and rebuilt the church and regular structures. In 1847 he was elected vicar-general of the Congregation of the Ancient Reform of Our Lady of La Trappe, which followed the constitutions of the Abbé de Rancé. In 1892, when the three congregations were united in one order, the then abbot of Sept-Fons, Dom Sebastian Wyart, was elected first abbot-general, and, a little later, abbot of Cîteaux.

Its earlier foundations included Notre-Dame de la Consolation near Beijing, China, and Notre-Dame de Maristella Estado de São Paulo, Brazil.

Novy Dvur
More recently the community at Sept-Fons has settled a daughter house at Novy Dvur in the Czech Republic, the first monastic foundation since the fall of the Communist government, and in 2001 commissioned the English minimalist architect John Pawson to undertake the building conversion.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

July 19: Visit to Senhor Santo Cristo Portuguese Parish for the Procession and Festival

Today, I will attend the National Capital Region’s Portuguese Parish for their annual festival, devoted to their parish patron the Lord Holy Christ, SENHOR SANTO CRISTO, whose image is venerated in the Azores, the land of origin of many Ottawans who came here from Portugal.

The tradition of a procession in honour of Our Lord dates from the late 17th century and is held in thanksgiving for the many graces, blessings and even miracles received by those who venerate the image of the bruised figure of Christ as preserved in the convent of Our Lady of Hope (Nossa Senhora da Esperança).

The procession in Ponta Delgada, which dates from several centuries ago, even nowadays follows the same itinerary. As the procession there counts some tens of thousands of the faithful who come from every island in the Azores, the Azorean communities spread over the world and other origins celebrate it locally on a Sunday or other day when good weather may be anticipated (here in summer).

I shall be accompanied by Msgr. Jose Bettencourt, a son of this parish ordained for the Archdiocese of Ottawa in 1993 and, having been released by my predecessor to serve the Vatican, has been in the Holy See’s diplomatic service in recent years. Currently based at the Secretariat of State, he is home for a summer vacation these days.

Some photos from the Festival:

"Journey to the Father" (St. Raphael's, Ontario)

Today, seminarian Matthew Chojna and I are off to the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall for the 10th annual High School Youth Festival which is sold out (capacity 500 with 400 volunteers involved).

In the Ruins of St. Raphael's (the original church) exciting gatherings take place; Sunday morning the walls will rock to praise and worship--Alleluia!!

Saturday afternoon's Talent Show had featured songs and skits, musical interludes and some extraordinary tap dancing!

Priests were regularly available for reconciliation and there were lots of takers:

Here's Marilyn, the lady responsible for it all for ten years!

Neighbouring bishops:

Led by the music of "The Mustard Seeds" there was joy in the air:

Friday, July 17, 2009

Heading back to Ottawa, with stops at OLSWA (Barry's Bay) and Wilno

My brother-in-law John Bayfield has been indefatigable in developing the lakeside cabin and its grounds over the last 28 years. The latest is this inukshuk...(just a little less colourful than the mascot of the Vancouver Olympic Games Ilanaaq the Inunnguaq; ilanaaq is the Inuktitut word for friend).

Heading for Ottawa, I again broke my trip midway, this time with a visit to Dr. David B. Warner, President of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy for the last couple of years.

Three months after his arrival, Dr. Warner received a difficult medical diagnosis of multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer).He has continued to lead the Academy during initial emergency treatments, three surgeries, and massive chemotherapy. Despite the battles, the cancer is once again active, so he has determined to step aside for his personal well-being and for the good of the school which needs vigorous leadership.

God has used the prayers and sufferings arising from this story for the remarkable advancement of the Academy.

We spoke of the financial challenges being faced by the Catholic liberal arts college and entrusted its future to St. Joseph, patron of the universal church, Canada and all church financial officers.
His is quite a striking legacy to build on; today he proudly showed me around the facilities which are taking the school to a new level, one the whole Catholic community can be proud of.

Please remember Dr. Warner in your thoughts and prayers as well as OLSWA in this time of transition.

Lastly, on the last stage of my drive, I dropped in to Wilno's beautiful Church of St. Mary of Czestochowa, Queen of Poland, the first Church for immigrants from Poland in Canada, founded by Polish Kashubs in 1875. The current beautiful church was dedicated in 1937.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Huntsville Parish; the G8 Next Year at Deerhurst; Death of Fr. Adrian Visscher, SCJ

Vacation time at Lake of Bays is quite leisurely, including a daily 9:30 Mass at St. Mary of the Assumption church in Huntsville. Over the years I have been coming this way, there have been a number of changes of the clergy here in the heart of the Muskoka tourist region, though the numbers are down this year (Pembroke Bishop Michael Mulhall served there on two occasions).

Currently, the pastor is Father Gerard McMahon, assisted by Father Stan Witczak. The one priest parish that includes missions of Blessed Kateri Tekakitha at Baysville and summer Masses at Dwight, now includes the missions of St. Patrick's Chapel at Kearney and Holy Spirit church in Burk's Falls.

Dropping in at the local barbershop this morning after Mass, I learned that the hottest event this summer is Friday night's Midnight Madness shopping extravaganza: merchants will fill the streets with their wares from 6pm-midnight and young people who have gone away to study will be welcomed home.

There is hope that next year's G-8 Summit (June 25-27, 2010) at nearby Deerhurst Lodge will bring an infusion of interest and renew visits from Americans who are now being discouraged by the requirement of a passport to cross the "longest undefended border in the world" (as it used to be known).

Even on vacation, news of the deaths of loved ones and associates enters one's life. Yesterday, I learned of the recent death of a cousin, Raymond Barone, 62, in St. Petersburg, Florida (a relative I had never met, though I am acquainted with his sisters Alice, Rita and Laurie though not his brother Frank--our family on my mother's side is widely-scattered across the southern USA).

Also news came of the death of a Sacred Heart Father Adrian Visscher, in Ottawa on July 14 (October 10, 1930 - July 14, 2009). Fr. Adrian made his first profession September 8, 1952 and was ordained a priest on July 21, 1957.

He came to Canada in 1961 from The Netherlands and was the Provincial Superior for the Anglo-Canadian Province from 1968 - 1974. From 1970 - 1994 he was professor at the Institute of Pastoral Studies at St. Paul University in Ottawa. From 1994 - 1999, he was the Director of Pastoral Services for the Children's Hospital in Eastern Ontario (CHEO).

A new side of Fr. Adrian emerged from his work with the children who were sick: he became a stained glass artist. He encouraged others to use this medium as an expression for their creativity and in the process a caring community of artists emerged.

Fr. Adrian was a natural born leader whose insightful, compassionate and decisive heart aligned him with those who were most vulnerable.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.