Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pope John Paul II in Moncton, NB; The "Capetown Connection"; Weekend Visits in the Eastern Part of the Archdiocese

This past summer a member of the Emmanuel Community showed me his two-volume life of John Paul II in "bandes dessinées" form. We are hoping to find an English-language publisher.

The comic book does not seem to have such sophistication of the hard-bound European product, but it is one of the many ways we can see that John Paul touched people's lives as he graced this Marvel Comics issue.


Thursday, September 13, 1984, the feast of St. John Chrysostom led Pope John Paul to speak of the harmony that ought to exist between the church's leaders-the bishops and priests--and the faithful, both lay and religious. The earlier part spoke of the contribution of the forbears of l'Acadie.

Here is part of of the Holy Father;s homily, which was in both French and English:

Cette insistance de Jean Chrysostome sur le don de la grâce, sur la foi, la prière, les sacrements, débouche toujours sur les exigences de comportement chrétien qui s’en suivent nécessairement sous peine d’illogisme ou d’hypocrisie. Et c’est là qu’il parle avec une vigueur étonnante de la charité, de l’amour du prochain.

Cet amour est réconciliation: “Qu’aucun de ceux qui ont un ennemi n’approche de la Table sainte . . . va d’abord te réconcilier, puis reçois le sacrement” (S. Jean Chrysostome, Hom. au peuple d'Antioche).

Cet amour est volonté d’unité et de fraternit: “L’Eglise n’existe pas pour que nous restions divisés en y venant, mais bien pour que nos divisions y soient éteintes: c’est le sens de l’assemblée. Si c’est pour l’eucharistie que nous venons, ne posons aucun acte qui contredise l’eucharistie” (Eiusdem, Hom. sur 2 Cor. 24, 2; 27, 3-5).

Cet amour est respect et accueil du pauvre: “Tu veux honorer le Corps du Christ. Ne le méprise pas lorsqu’il est nu. Ne l’honore pas ici, dans l’église, par des tissus de soie, tandis que tu le laisses dehors souffrir du froid et du manque de vêtements . . . Dieu n’a pas besoin de calices d’or, mais d’âmes qui soient en or . . . Commence par rassasier l’affamé, et avec ce qui te restera, tu orneras l’autel” (PG 619-622).

L’amour est recherche de ce qui est utile au prochain: “Rien n’est plus froid qu’un chrétien indifférent au salut d’autrui” (Ibid. 60, 162-164). “Nous négligeons le salut de nos enfants. Nous recherchons seulement le profit. Nous nous occupons davantage des ânes et des chevaux que de nos fils . . . Qu’y a-t-il de comparable à l’art de former une âme?” (Ibid. 580-584).

L’amour est apostolat, il est zèle missionnaire jusqu’au bout du monde. “Dieu ne nous demande pas de réussir mais de travailler . . . Si le Christ, modèle des pasteurs, a travaillé jusqu’à la fin à la conversion d’un homme désespéré (Judas), que ne devons-nous pas faire pour ceux à l’égard desquels il nous a été ordonné d’espérer?” (S. Jean Chrysostome, Hom. sur la Cananéenne, 10-11). “Le levain, tout en disparaissant dans la masse, n’y perd pas sa force; au contraire, il la communique peu à peu . . . C’est le Christ seul qui donne au levain sa puissance . . . et quand la masse a fermenté, elle devient du levain à son tour, pour tout le reste” (S. Jean Chrysostome, XLVI hom. sur Matth. 2-3).

Ces quelques paroles fortes de saint Jean Chrysostome vous disent la foi, la charité, le courage apostolique et l’espérance qu’il a voulu partager avec ses frères.

Dear brothers and sisters of New Brunswick: is it still necessary for the progress of your communities for these exhortations to be articulated in terms of challenges adapted to our times?

I know that your community spirit already allowed you to overcome many early difficulties in Acadia; still today you are known for your sense of fraternity, cordial hospitality and sharing. But your region, like many others, is undergoing a profound transformation which is a new test. Urban life is developing, an economic crisis affects the local communities, and likewise a spiritual crisis, a crisis of values. Meanwhile, you can look to the future with serenity if you stand firm in the faith of the Risen Christ, if you allow his Spirit to form within you the responses to the new challenges, if you show solidarity with one another, if you accept being a leaven in the Church and in society.

And your Christian communities will immediately take up the challenge if they are able to form and deepen the faith of their members through the catechesis of youth and of students, through the continuing formation of adults, through courses or retreats. It is a question of a faith that is a personal attachment to the living God and takes account of the whole creed. Do not allow religious ignorance to stand side by side with the prestige of secular knowledge! Your communities will progress and be renewed if you accord greater place to meditation on the Gospel, to prayer, to the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance.

Efforts in sharing, justice and charity - which one can call "social love" - run the risk of becoming simple philanthropy, if they are not rooted in the spiritual energy to which I have made reference in the writings of Saint John Chrysostom. And yet, he was speaking to a group of believers who had forgotten the ethical consequences of the faith. Today it is necessary in the first place to revive the faith which, for a certain number, has been shaken and questioned.

But it is evident that a well-understood faith involves all the commitments of charity of which the Pastor of Constantinople spoke and which today might be called:

- respect for persons, of their freedom, of their dignity, so that they may not be crushed by the new social constraints;

- respect for human rights, according to the charters already well known, and including the right to life from the moment of conception, the right to one’s reputation, the right to freedom of conscience;

- the refusal of violence and torture;

- concern for the less fortunate categories, for women, for labourers, for the unemployed, for immigrants;

- establishment of social measures for greater equality and justice, for all men and women, regardless of individual interests or privileges;

- the will to live a simple life and to share, in contrast with the present race for profit, consumption and artificial gratification, in such a way as not to be deprived of what is essential for oneself, while also permitting the poor, whoever they may be, to lead a dignified life;

- a more universal openness towards the basic needs of the less fortunate countries, in particular those that are referred to as the "South", the regions where each day thousands of human beings die because of the lack of peace or elementary care given to them; and hence concern to inaugurate, at the international level effective solutions for a more equitable distribution of goods and opportunities on the earth;

- missionary zeal for help among the Churches.

Thus your communities will be able to provide a generous sharing that begins in the immediate neighbourhood and that then opens up, without boundaries, to the world. You will not wait to settle your own social problems - that are certainly most real, and I am thinking in particular of unemployment - before living that fullness of charity described by Saint John Chrysostom.

All this activity of solidarity you will accomplish individually, or by your Christian associations, and also taking part in the initiative of the institutions of civil society (Gaudium et Spes, 42-43). And with the Christian motivation which sees in the other person a brother or sister in God and a member of Christ, you will be the leaven that raises the dough to a level of greater justice, fraternal solidarity and social love.

Your ecclesial communities will be so much more stable and dynamic if everyone plays his or her own role, according to his or her vocation and charisms, as I said this morning in the Cathedral: Bishops, priests, religious, laity.

The Capetown Connection

One of the few delegations to come to Halifax in the run-up to the Toronto World Youth Day was a mixed-raced delegation from Capetown, South Africa, twelve young people (whites, blacks and coloureds) under the guidance of Archbishop Laurence ("Lorrie") Henry. We got on famously.

We met--Archbishop Lorrie and I--again last summer in Sydney, Australia for the WYDSYD08 "down under". Earlier, he had extended hospitality to my sister Marion and her husband John Bayfield when they visited Capetown as part of an excursion in Africa.

Recently one of Capetown's younger priests, Father Mark Foster, (left in the photo) came to Ottawa to take part in our missionary coop program in which dioceses with special needs of projects present their circumstances to fellow Catholics and invite them to assist with their spiritual and financial resources (prayer and almsgiving.

Father Mark could not leave town after preaching at Good Shepherd Parish, Blackburn Hamlet or this weekend at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Vanier, so he dropped by on Friday with his host Father Stephen Liang for conversation and a photo and the promise to bring my cordial greetings to Archbishop Henry who has just reached retirement age and has submitted to the Holy Father his letter of resignation.

Let us pray for the people of Capetown, their retiring bishop and the one whom the Lord has chosen to succeed him, that he may receive a warm welcome when his identity is revealed.

* * * * * *

Yesterday afternoon, at the anticipated Lord's Day Eucharist, I presided at the inauguration of the team ministry at St. Gregoire de Nazianze Parish in Vankleek Hill, a team of three (Abbé Gilles Marcil, pastor, his associate Mgr Gerard St-Denis and Deacon Michel Miner) who are responsible also for five neighbouring parishes in L'Orignal, Chute-a-Blondeau, St. Eugene, St. Bernardin and Ste-Anne-de-Prescott, in each locale with one or more lay associates assisting in the pastoral responsibilities.

This morning, I will preside at Golden Anniversary Mass at St. Jude's Parish, Hawkesbury which groups (along with Our Lady of Divine Love, Pendleton) all the English-speaking Catholics in the Eastern Region of the Archdiocese.

Father Titus Egbueh, a fidei donum priest from Nigeria, is the administrator of these two parishes.

A report will follow early next week.

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