Friday, September 4, 2009

The 156th Anniversary of the Dedication of Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica; Blessed Dina Belanger, Canadian Mystic

The Archbishop's Chair (Latin cathedra, hence cathedral): the church in which is located the symbol of the bishop's teaching, governing and sanctifying office
Ottawa's Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica is the oldest church in Ottawa that is still in use. The first catholic chapel of Ottawa, dedicated with the title of St. Jacques (St. James) was erected on this site, exactly where this cathedral is located nowadays and was accessible to both French and English Catholics of the city.

The construction of the cathedral was ongoing beyond the state it was in when it was dedicated in 1853; in fact, construction went on for more than 40 years, from 1841 to 1865 when attention was given chiefly to the exterion, then from 1876 to 1885 to complete decoration of the interior. In fact, other building projects went on from time to time to beautify the cathedral in several ways.

In 1879, the church was given the honorary status of a basilica. One can go on a guided visit of the church to learn more about the construction and the vocation of the church in person or virtually online at

The dedication of the cathedral on September 4, 1853 is commemorated liturgically each year in the church itself as well as in all the other churches and chapels in the Archdiocese as a sign of the union of all Catholics in this local church with the bishop's teaching, governing and sanctifying role.

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Elsewhere in Canada, it is possible to celebrate liturgically the optional memorial of Blessed Dina Belanger, beatified by Pope John Paul II in March 1993:

DINA BELANGER was born in Quebec City on April 30, 1897, the only surviving child of a fairly well-to-do family. In so many ways, she was surrounded by love and showered with blessings right from the start. Her parents provided her with tender care, religious formation, and a solid example of Christian virtue.

Dina from a very young age showed herself to be extraordinarily gifted when it came to music but she was also a precocious child given to tantrums with a very strong will. But her loving parents were able to harness this determination and guide their beloved daughter to look beyond herself and focus her attention on pleasing God, rather than herself. But tragedy was also to strike the Belanger home when Dina's baby brother died after only a few months.

To cope with their loss, Seraphia threw herself into charitable works and was often accompanied by her daughter Dina, as she visited the sick and destitute bringing with her much needed food and compassion. But Dina was a handful and in an effort to cure their volatile daughter of her temper tantrums, both parents would often mimic Dina, thus making her feel ashamed of her bad behaviour.

Dina's mother was her first catechism teacher. Her father sometimes assisted with this, and provided extra affection and care.

This is not to say that Dina's parents spoiled her. She makes it quite clear in her autobiography that her parents knew the importance of loving correction and discipline.

Bl. Dina felt herself called to an intense life of prayer from an early age. At the age of 13 she consecrated her whole life to Jesus through the Blessed Virgin Mary. Dina wrote:

"Would that I might consecrate all souls to [Mary]. It is she who leads us to Jesus; it is she whom we must allow to live in us in order that Christ may substitute Himself in place of our nothingness."

Dina was especially enthralled by the radiant glory of God, shining through the beauties of nature—and those who have been to Quebec will appreciate that such beauty was all around her.

One night when the young Dina dreamt of being visited by Jesus, this dream would impact on Dina's life as it seemed most real to her. But trouble was to once again pursue this devout family, when like many others of that time, a financial crisis hit the family, and both her parents were distraught at having lost all their life savings.

But due to her gift for music both Olivier and Seraphia sent their daughter to New York, where after completing her studies she planned on becoming a concert pianist.

But the course of Dina's life was to take her in another direction, and upon returning home she decided to enter the Congregation of Jesus and Mary at Sillery and took her final vows in 1923.

Upon taking her Vows she would then be known as Sister Marie de Sainte-Cecile de Rome (note that St. Cecilia is the patron of musicians), and to Dina was given the task of teaching the pupils music.

But deep within Dina lay the heart of a mystic with a deep and abiding love of God and prayer, which would underlay her Religious profession as she drew closer to our Lord and Savior. Though Dina led a humble life, still she suffered illness but offered up this pain with meekness and for the suffering of others.

Dina Belanger though a Mystic, led a very hidden life and it is through her diaries that one gains a deep insight into the workings of God upon a soul in order to perfect it, as Dina was perfected into the Divine Will. So that no longer she lived but Christ lived within her.

Her deep love and devotion to our Lord and Blessed Mother was an inspiration to all she met and Dina was to instill in many the love she found in God and how much God can work within a soul to transform it.

Dina Belanger died in 1929 at the young age of 32 years; she was beatified on March 20, 1993 by Pope John Paul II in a ceremony that also confirmed the title of Blessed on the theologian Duns Scotus. In his remarks about the two blesseds that day, the late Holy Father noted the following concerning Blessed Dina (text available in French and Italian):

Cette lumière jaillit également du visage de celle que l’Église vénérera désormais comme bienheureuse, Dina Bélanger, de la Congrégation de Jésus–Marie. À l’heure de la prière du soir, il nous est bon de tourner nos regards vers cette âme ardente, parvenue à un si haut degré d’intimité avec Dieu qu’elle notait, dès la période de son noviciat: “ Ma faim de la communion croissait toujours. Une journée sans pain, n’est–ce pas une journée sans soleil, des heures dont le soir tarde à venir? ”. Elle voulait en effet voir Jésus seul vivre en elle, afin que son être tout entier soit anéanti dans le sien.

Dina Bélanger s’approche de l’idéal admirable que nous fait méditer saint Paul, lorsqu’il s’écrie: “ Ce n’est plus moi qui vis, c’est le Christ qui vit en moi ”. Dans une congrégation dont le but est de “ faire connaître Jésus et Marie par l’éducation chrétienne ”, Sœur Marie de Sainte–Cécile de Rome conduit sa vie et son action de manière à laisser le Christ agir en elle et à n’être plus qu’un instrument totalement remis entre ses mains.

Ses souffrances lui permirent de connaître l’identification qu’elle recherchait. En passant par la croix de la maladie et de la mort, elle consommait son offrande à Celui qui fut et qui demeure aujourd’hui le seul but de sa vie, la Lumière qui éclaire tout homme venu en ce monde, la clarté au cœur des ténèbres et de la nuit, la voix qui parle dans notre âme.

L’intimité de la présence du Christ en Dina Bélanger, la vie de la Trinité sainte en elle, apparaissent tout particulièrement dans son esprit d’offrande au Cœur du Fils de Dieu. Jésus est, écrit–elle, la “ vie de ma vie ”, car elle s’efforce toujours de laisser son cœur battre au rythme du sien. Elle se sait accompagnée à chaque instant, dans l’éternel présent qui fait dire à saint Paul: “ Le voici maintenant le moment favorable, le voici maintenant le jour du salut ”.

Tout entière tendue dans le désir de correspondre à la volonté divine, elle ne vit plus que dans la liberté accordée par Dieu à ses enfants, dans l’esprit de sa devise: “ Jésus et Marie, la règle de mon amour, et mon amour la règle de ma vie ”.

De cette fidélité aux intentions du Cœur eucharistique de Jésus et du Cœur immaculé de sa Mère, jaillissent les traits les plus simples et les plus beaux de charité à l’égard de ses Sœurs. Comme si elle avait reçu la grâce de sainte Thérèse de l’Enfant–Jésus, sortie de ce monde l’année même de sa propre naissance, Dina Bélanger veut “ consumer le monde entier dans l’amour ”; elle devient apôtre et missionnaire selon le cœur de Dieu.

Son message nous est livré ce soir, Frères et Sœurs, avec une pureté, une limpidité merveilleuses. L’accueil de Jésus dans notre vie, l’union de son cœur au nôtre, l’amour de la Vierge très Sainte, l’esprit fraternel dans les communautés, telles sont les grâces que nous pouvons demander au Seigneur par l’intercession de Dina Bélanger, elle qui nous laisse comme ultime devise: “ Aimer et laisser faire Jésus et Marie ”.

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