Thursday, September 17, 2009

St.Robert Bellarmine - The Pope in Edmonton - The "Gingerbread Capital" and the Beginning of a Canonical Visitation

ST. ROBERT BELLARMINE: Doctor of the Church; scholar, theologian and intrepid defender of the Faith (1542-1621)

Bellarmine was born in central Italy, in the small hill city of Montepulciano, and was the nephew, on his mother's side, of Pope Marcellus II. His father initially opposed Bellarmine's desire to become a Jesuit and requested that he wait a year to test his vocation.

Superior General Father Diego Laínez (the successor of St. Ignatius Loyola) decided to count that year as the young man's novitiate and accepted his vows as soon as he arrived in Rome. After studying philosophy at the Roman College, he studied theology first at the University of Padua and then at Louvain. He was ordained in 1570 in the same year that the Jesuits opened their own theologate in Louvain where he was appointed the first Jesuit professor of theology.

During his seven years there he became familiar with the writings of the Reformers, especially Martin Luther and John Calvin, whose objections against the Roman Church he answered in his courses.

The Jesuit theologian returned to the Roman College in 1576 to take the chair of "controversial theology" which meant those theological disputes that divided the Christian Church and the Roman Church's position on those issues. He taught for 11 years and the success of his lectures led the pope to name him to papal commissions on revising the Vulgate (Latin) Bible and in preparing a new edition of the Septuagint (Greek) Bible.

In 1586 he published the first of three volumes of his Controversies, his most important work. In 1598 he published his Catechism, which became widely used and was translated into 62 languages. As he devoted himself to writing, Father Bellarmine stopped teaching but continued spiritual direction of Jesuit students, including St. Aloysius Gonzaga. In 1592 he was appointed rector of the college, with responsibility for 220 Jesuits; then in 1594 he was appointed provincial of the Naples province.

Bellarmine was only provincial for two years before Pope Clement VIII asked him to become his theological adviser. Despite the Jesuit's own desires, the pope named him a Cardinal on March 3, 1599. Being a cardinal meant that he had to be surrounded by servants and gentlemen-in-waiting, but he continued to live simply and distribute to the poor money he did not spend on himself.

To Cardinal Bellarmine's surprise, in 1602 the Holy Father named him Archbishop of Capua, a diocese north of Naples. When Paul V was elected on May 16, 1605, the new pope asked Cardinal Bellarmine to remain in Rome, where he was named to several Vatican congregations

Cardinal Bellarmine always maintained a Jesuit spiritual life, and used the annual retreat, which he extended to 30-days per year, as an opportunity to write books on spirituality. As he progressed into his 70s, he asked the Holy Father for permission to retire and return to live in the Jesuit novitiate of Sant'Andrea in Rome.

Both Paul V and his successor, Gregory XV, refused to allow the Jesuit theologian to leave their service because they so valued his presence. Eventually Pope Gregory relented, and Cardinal Bellarmine moved into the novitiate only days before contracting a fever from which he never recovered.

The simple funeral he had requested became, by order of the pope, something much more elaborate as testimony to someone whose service to the Church had been outstanding. His body was transferred in 1923 to the church of St. Ignatius.


When I think back on Pope John Paul's visit, this stop, on Monday, September 17, 1984 at Edmonton Airport where he celebrated Mass stands out for His Holiness' appeal for the rich countries of the North to assist the poor nations of the global, particularly Latin American, South.

Excerpts from the pope's homily:

Today we come together here in Edmonton to make this theme of the development or progress of peoples the principal object of our meditations and prayers in the Eucharistic Sacrifice....Considering our theme, I think that in a certain sense all Canada shares in this meeting at Edmonton. If the theme was proposed by the local community, it was certainly done so with a thought towards the whole society for which the cause of the development of peoples is a question of greatest importance and social and international responsibility. Especially since this "development" or "progress" is the new name for "peace".

The liturgy leads us to consider this important theme, first of all, as it is presented in the twenty-fifth chapter of Saint Matthew’s Gospel....Our faith in Jesus Christ finds here a kind of final expression: The "Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son" (Io. 5, 22). In today’s Gospel Christ stands before us as our Judge. He has a special right to make this judgment; indeed he became one of us, our Brother. This brotherhood with the human race - and at the same time his brotherhood with every single person - has led him to the Cross and the Resurrection. Thus he judges in the name of his solidarity with each person and likewise in the name of our solidarity with him, who is our Brother and Redeemer and whom we discover in every human being: "I was hungry . . . I was thirsty . . . I was a stranger . . . naked . . . sick . . . in prison . . " (Matth. 25, 35-36).

And those called to judgment - on his right hand and on his left - will ask: When and where? When and where have we seen you like this? When and where have we done what you said? Or: When and where have we not done it?

The answer: "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Ibid. 25, 40). And, on the contrary: "As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me" (Ibid. 25, 45).

"To one of the least of these my brethren". Thus: to man, to an individual human being in need.

Yet, the Second Vatican Council, following the whole of Tradition, warns us not to stop at an "individualistic" interpretation of Christian ethics, since Christian ethics also has its social dimension. The human person lives in a community, in society. And with the community he shares hunger and thirst and sickness and malnutrition and misery and all the deficiencies that result therefrom. In his or her own person the human being is meant to experience the needs of others.

So it is that Christ the Judge speaks of "one of the least of the brethren", and at the same time he is speaking of each and of all.

Yes. He is speaking of the whole universal dimension of injustice and evil. He is speaking of what today we are accustomed to call the North-South contrast. Hence not only East-West, but also North-South: the increasingly wealthier North, and the increasingly poorer South.

Yes, the South - becoming always poorer; and the North - becoming always richer. Richer too in the resources of weapons with which the superpowers and blocs can mutually threaten each other. And they threaten each other - such an argument also exists - in order not to destroy each other.

This is a separate dimension - and according to the opinion of many it is the dimension in the forefront - of the deadly threat which hangs over the modern world, which deserves separate attention.

Nevertheless, in the light of Christ’s words, this poor South will judge the rich North. And the poor people and poor nations - poor in different ways, not only lacking food, but also deprived of freedom and other human rights - will judge those people who take these goods away from them, amassing to themselves the imperialistic monopoly of economic and political supremacy at the expense of others.

The Gospel of today’s liturgy is very rich in content. It is relevant to the different spheres of injustice and human evil. In the midst of each of these situations stands Christ himself, and as Redeemer and Judge he says: "You did it to me", "you did it not to me".

Nevertheless he wishes, in this final judgment - which is constantly in preparation and which in a certain sense is constantly present - to bear witness first of all to the good that has been done....

Yes, "development" is the new name for peace. Peace is necessary; it is an imperative of our time. And so is this development or progress: the progress of all the disadvantaged....

Nous prions aujourd’hui au Canada, dans cette ville d’Edmonton, pour le progrès des peuples. Nous prions donc, selon le sens des paroles du Pape Paul VI, pour la paix, parce que nous prions pour ce qui lui donne actuellement sa signification. Les paroles du prophète Isaïe et de l’Apôtre des Nations nous orientent dans le même sens. C’est ce pour quoi nous prions tandis que nous célébrons cette Eucharistie et que nous y participons.

Que notre prière monte jusqu’aux cieux! Que le Dieu de la paix soit avec nous!

Que le Dieu de la paix soit avec nous! Ce cri exprime aussi tout le drame de notre époque, toute la menace qui pèse sur elle. La menace nucléaire? Assurément!

Mais plus encore: toute la menace de l’injustice, la menace qui provient des structures rigides des systèmes dont l’homme ne peut éviter l’oppression - ces systèmes qui ne s’ouvrent pas assez pour qu’ils puissent aller vers l’homme, servir le développement des peuples, la justice avec toutes ses exigences, et la paix.

A travers le monde, le bilan ne semble-t-il pas s’aggraver sans cesse - le bilan de ce que nous “n’avons pas fait pour l’un des plus petits de nos frères?” pour des millions des plus petits de nos frères? pour des milliards?

Il faut également le dire ici, au Canada, qui est aussi vaste qu’un continent. Et en même temps ici, en ce lieu même, il faut dire à tous les hommes et les femmes de bonne volonté, et à tous les groupes, les communautés, les organisations, les institutions, les nations et les gouvernements, que ce qui importe vraiment, c’est tout ce que nous “avons fait” et ce que nous ferons encore, ce que nous projetterons et que nous ferons avec toujours plus d’énergie et de détermination.

Ainsi le bilan peut progresser, il doit progresser grâce à tout ce que nous “avons fait” pour une personne, pour des millions, des milliards de personnes: ce sera là le bilan positif de ce qui est bon dans l’histoire humaine.

The judgment spoken of in today’s Gospel is constantly being prepared and is already taking place: What you did for one . . . for millions . . . for billions, "you did it to me"!

May the God of peace be with us, here in Canada and everywhere.

May justice and peace embrace (Ps. 85 (84), 10)once again at the end of the second millennium which prepares us for the coming of Christ, in glory. Amen.


Attentive readers will note that I was in Vankleek on the weekend and am here again today. Both of these forays to the eastern edge of the Ottawa archdiocese, to L'Orignal and to Vankleek Hill mark the beginning of a five-year process, the Bishop's Canonical Visitation of his diocese.

The church of St. Gregory Nazianzen is at the left. Below is the pastoral team serving there. Abbé Gilles Marcil, Mgr Gerard St-Denis and Deacon Michel Miner are responsible for this and the five surrounding parishes in Chute-a-Blondeau, L'Orignal, St. Anne-de-Prescott, St. Bernardin and St. Eugene. Vankleek Hill's other pastoral team members are at Lorraine Miner (Deacon Michael's wife), Claire Diamond and Florent Gauthier. The hope is that, in time, each parish will have a cadre of pastoral support.

Today, the visitation will involve my presence in L'Orignal at St. Jean-Baptiste school and a visit to the Champlain Seniors Residence for Mass this afternoon. This evening I will meet with members of the Temporal Affairs Committees and Parish Pastoral Councils in the six communties at Vankleek Hill.

Tomorrow, I will celebrate Mass with children and staff from three neighbouring communities that attend school in St. Eugene. Please pray for spiritual fruits from this ecclesial moment in the life of these faith communities, many of which are struggling from rural depopulation, the aging of parishioners and clergy, the disappearance from religious practice of younger members and the effects of secularization in general.

Vankleek Hill is a community in the eastern part of the Archdiocese, situated some eight kilometers south of Hawkesbury. This agricultural-based centre became a thriving community in the 1890s and still retains many of the buildings and structures which were present then. Vankleek Hill calls itself Ontario’s “Gingerbread Capital” (the wood carvings on the eaves of one's roof) capital of Ontario. Named after Simeon Vankleek, a United Empire Loyalist, who settled there near the end of the 18th century, the town has a population of about two thousand.

The rectory of the parish of St. Gregoire de Nazianze, Vankleek Hill

"Apostolorum Successores": Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops (Rome: 2004), #220:

“A Bishop is obliged to visit the diocese annually, either in whole or in part, so that he visits the entire diocese at least every five years either personally or, if he has been legitimately impeded, through the coadjutor Bishop, an auxiliary, Vicar general, episcopal Vicar, or another presbyter” (678).

The pastoral visit is one of the ways, confirmed by centuries of experience, through which the Bishop maintains personal contact with the clergy and with other members of the People of God. It is an occasion to rejuvenate the energies of those engaged in evangelization, to praise, encourage and reassure them. It is also an opportunity to invite the faithful to a renewal of Christian life and to an ever more intense apostolic activity.

The pastoral visit helps the Bishop to evaluate the effectiveness of the structures and agencies designed for pastoral service, taking account of the circumstances and difficulties of the task of evangelization, so as to determine more accurately the priorities and the means required for overall pastoral provision.

The pastoral visit is therefore an apostolic activity to be carried out by the Bishop in true pastoral charity, which reveals him to be the principle and visible foundation of the unity of the particular Church (679). For the communities or institutions visited by the Bishop, it is an event of grace, reflecting in some measure that great visit with which the “chief Shepherd” (1 Pet 5:4) and Guardian of our souls (cf. 1 Pet 2:25), Jesus Christ, has visited and redeemed his people (Lk 1:68) (680).

“Persons, Catholic institutions, and sacred things and places, which are located within the area of the diocese” (681) are subject to ordinary episcopal visitation, including autonomous monasteries and the houses of religious institutes of diocesan rite. So too are churches and oratories of pontifical rite, with due regard for the limitations indicated by canon law (682).


  1. It was a great blessing to see you again. You remain in the prayers of our community.Peace.

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