Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day - St. Martin's Feast - Toronto Priests Seminar and New Bishops

Today is Remembrance Day, observed by two minutes of silence at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month and by other national and local ceremonies.

There are many memorials in Ottawa to those who gave their lives in time of war, making the ultimate sacrifice, many in the prime of life. This is the memorial to Canadians who gave their lives in the Korean War.

Prayer in the Canadian Military

For the last several years we have been made aware quite regularly of the sacrifices of our military personnel deployed in Afghanistan. The number who have died in this mission has now reached more than 130.

This was brought home to me personally when I visited one of our francophone parishes in the eastern region of the Archdiocese and met the parents of a young man who had been buried from that church a few weeks earlier. Emotions were still raw and the grief profound. They were also proud of their son’s heroic sacrifice of his life.
In the face of this reality, the Catholic Military Ordinariate (the diocese for those serving on military bases across Canada and overseas guided by Mgr Donald Thériault) saw the need for a spiritual guide for those living constantly in the presence of death or serious injury.

Recently, the ordinariate produced A Catholic Handbook for Canadian Military Personnel. Entitled Armour of Faith/Armure de Foi, the bilingual vademecum contains some eighty pages in each language of general Catholic prayers (familiar ones and other favourite prayers, professions of faith, psalms in time of need, Marian prayers, etc).

There are also special prayers common in the military (for each branch of the forces, for those in the theatre of war, readings and prayers for peace and prayers for the church).

There is a section of the book with devotional prayers (how to pray the rosary and the various mysteries and how to make the Stations of the Cross).

There is a separate section on the Sacrament of Reconciliation (a guide for making a good confession, the formulas used in making one’s confession, the definition of sin with an exposition of the gravity of sin and a brief format for making an examination of conscience).

There is a brief section of catechetical instruction on Catholic just war theory, on the sacrament of marriage and on vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Each of these is expanded with, for example, a prayer for vocations.

A section titled “What Every Catholic should know” lists the Ten Commandments, the Precepts of the Church, the Seven Sacraments, the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Four Cardinal Virtues, the Seven Deadly Sins, Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, the Beatitudes, the Holy Days of Obligation, etc.

Finally, there are several hymns, a section on «Remembrance Day» and the patron saints of the military.

The compendium was edited by Father Stephane Sarazin, Chancellor et Lieutenant- Commander of the Canadian Forces, who adapted a number of features found in the devotional life of the military elsewhere.

The pocket-sized spiral-bound booklet has been produced on a durable paper that can withstand extreme weather conditions. Subsidized by a significant grant from the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus who have made it available free of charge to Catholic military personnel, the prayer book was produced by the Publications Service of the Canadian Conference of Canadian Bishops.

A limited number of this handsome and helpful prayer guide is available for sale to the general public at the cost of $15 (

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"O God, who were glorified in the Bishop Saint Martin of Tours, both by his life and by his death, renew the wonders of your grace in our hearts, that neither death nor life may be able to separate us from your love. Through our Lord...."

St. Martin of Tours was born (c. 316) at Sabaria, a town in Pannonia near the famous Benedictine monastery dedicated to his name.

Against the wishes of his parents he associated with Christians and became a catechumen at the age of ten. At fifteen he entered the army and served under the Emperors Constantius and Julian.

While in the service he met a poor, naked beggar at the gates of Amiens who asked alms in Christ's Name. Martin had nothing with him except his weapons and soldier's mantle; but he took his sword, cut the latter in two, and gave half to the poor man. During the following night Christ appeared to him clothed with half a mantle and said, "Martin, the catechumen, has clothed Me with this mantle!"

Martin was eighteen years old when he received the sacrament of holy baptism. At the pleading of his superior officer, he remained two years longer in the army. Then, upon requesting dismissal, Julian accused him of cowardice. "With the sign of the Cross," Martin answered, "I shall more certainly break through the ranks of the enemy than if armed with shield and sword."

When released he sought out St. Hilary, bishop of Poitiers, and was ordained. Later he was made bishop of Tours. Close to the city he built a monastery (Marmoutier), where with eighty monks he led a most holy life.

On one of his numerous visits to the imperial court at Trier, a certain man besought him to help his daughter, "I firmly believe in the Lord that my daughter will be healed through your prayer." Martin healed the girl with consecrated oil. Tetradius, who witnessed this extraordinary manifestation of divine power, asked for baptism.

Martin also possessed the gift of discerning spirits. Once the devil appeared to him radiant and clothed in royal apparel, and spoke as if he were Christ. Martin, recognizing the deceit, replied, "The Lord Jesus Christ never prophesied that He would come in purple robes and royal crown." The apparition immediately vanished. Three dead persons he raised to life.

While celebrating holy Mass a luminous sphere appeared over his head. He was far advanced in age when he fell into a grievous fever during a visitation at Candes, an outlying parish of his diocese. Unceasingly he begged God to release him from this mortal prison.

His disciples, however, implored him with tears, "Father, why are you leaving us? To whom will you entrust the care of your disconsolate children?" Deeply moved, Martin turned to God: "Lord, if I am still necessary for Your people, I will not refuse the labor. Your will be done!"

When the bystanders saw that despite his great fever he remained lying on his back, they besought him to change position to alleviate somewhat the pain. But Martin answered, "Brothers, rather let me look toward heaven than to earth so that my soul in its journey home may take a direct flight to the Lord."

Shortly before death he saw the evil spirit. "What do you want, horrible beast? You will find nothing in me that's yours!" With those words the aged saint breathed forth his soul on November 11, 397, at the age of eighty-one. (Excerpted from Pius Parsch, The Church's Year of Grace)

St. Martin's feast, also known as "Martinmas" in Europe arrives in autumn, the beginning of the wine harvest. This was also the time of slaughter of the stock for winter meat.

His images are usually depicted with a goose, symbolizing that Martinmas was the last festive meal before Advent, because in France in the Middle Ages, the strict 40 day Advent fast (called Quadragesima Sancti Martini or Forty Days' Fast of Saint Martin's) began the next day.

So in past centuries November 11 was celebrated as a thanksgiving day. Thus it was the custom to have "St. Martin's goose" and taste the new wine ("Saint Martin's Wine") on his feast day. A quick spell of warm weather around his feast day (usually termed "Indian Summer" in the US) is known as "St. Martin's Little Summer" in Europe.

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Here are some photos taken at the first and second sessions of the Priests' Seminar on preparing for the implementation of the New Roman Missal. In the keynote address, I explained some of the background to the Holy See's publication of Liturgiam authenticam (Authenic Liturgy) that set new parameters for the translation of the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal (2000) into modern vernacular languages and illustrated the new direction by comparing translations of two Collects and a Sunday Preface.

Yesterday, Father Paul Turner, pastor of St. Munchin Parish in Cameron, MO and a known liturgist, spoke on catechizing about the changes about to be implemented; Msgr. Bruce Harbert (Birmingham, England), former executive secretary of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) spoke on the biblical and historical underpinnings of some of the new parts of the Order of Mass which have received the recognition of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments.

Left to right: Father Martis, Msgr. Harbert, Father Turner

Today Fr. Douglas Martis, Director of the Institute on Liturgy at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, IL in the Chicago Archdiocese will speak on "Fostering Actual Participation", while Msgr. Murray Kroetsch of the Hamilton Diocese will speak tomorrow on "The Art of Presiding".

As well, this evening Archbishop Collins will lead a session of Lectio Divina.

There are Lauds and/or Vespers in common each day, as well as Holy Mass.

Yesterday, Bishops-elect William McGrattan and Vincent Nguyen came for the concelebrated Eucharist and I was able to get a photo of the two of them afterwards in the sacristy.

The dates of their episcopal ordinations have been settled: Bishop McGrattan in London on the feast of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, January 12, 2010; Bishop Nguyen's ordination on the next day, the feast of the saintly bishop Hilary of Poitiers, in Toronto.

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