Sunday, January 31, 2010

World Leprosy Day - Remembering Don Bosco

Today is observed as World Leprosy Day. Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, the new president of the Pontifical Commission for Health Care Workers, has prepared a message for this day.

World Leprosy Day’, which was founded during the first half of the 1950s thanks to the role of the French writer Raoul Follereau, is not only a day of reflection on the victims of this devastating disease. It is first and foremost a day of solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are afflicted by it.

Leprosy, which is also known as Hansen’s disease, in reality continues to infect hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world every year. According to the most recent statistics published by the World Health Organisation, 210,000 new cases were registered in the year 2009.

In addition, the people who are infected by this disease but are not registered as having it, or anyway are still without access to treatment, are certainly very many in number. From a statistical point of view, the countries that are most afflicted are in Asia, in South America and in Africa. India has the most number of people with the disease, followed by Brazil. There are also numerous cases in Angola, Bangladesh, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal and Tanzania.

Hansen’s disease is an ‘ancient’ disease, but not for this is it less devastating physically and often also morally. In all epochs and all civilisations the fate of people with leprosy has been that of being marginalised, deprived of any kind of social life, condemned to seeing their own bodies disintegrate until death arrives.

Unfortunately, still today those who suffer from it or – although they have been cured of it – bear its unmistakeable mutilations, are far too often condemned to loneliness and fear, to live as though they were invisible to the eyes of other people, of society and of public opinion. In the most economically advanced countries it appears that this disease has been forgotten about, as have the people who are afflicted by it.

When it is remembered, when the word ‘leprosy’ is spoken, various kinds of feelings are provoked: incredulity in those who ask how it is that this pathology can exist; fear and repugnance or a no less grave ostentation of indifference; but also the pity and love that spring from the attentive and merciful attitude of Jesus towards these sick people (Mk 1:40-42).

The role of Follereau, of many institutions and bodies of an ecclesial and/or non-governmental character which fight against leprosy, the exceptional work of St. Damian di Veuster and very many other saints and men of good will, have helped to ensure that negative attitudes towards people with leprosy have been overcome, promoting their dignity and their rights and at the same time a more universal love for neighbour.

Today effective treatment for leprosy exists but despite this fact Hansen’s disease continues to spread. Amongst the factors that favour its perpetuation there is certainly individual and collective acute poverty which far too often involves a lack of hygiene, the presence of debilitating illnesses, insufficient alimentation if not chronic hunger, and a lack of rapid access to medical care and treatment. At a social level there persist at the same time fears which, usually generated by ignorance, add a heavy stigma to the already terrible burden which leprosy involves, even after a person has been cured of it.

I thus appeal to the international community and to the authorities of each individual State and invite them to develop and strengthen the strategies that are needed in the fight against leprosy, making them more effective and capillary above all where the number of new cases is still high. All of this should be done without neglecting campaigns of education and sensitisation that are able to help the people who are afflicted and their families to move out of exclusion and obtain the treatment that is necessary.

At the same time in a heartfelt way I thank the local Churches and the various missionary and nonmissionary religious institutions for what has already been done by so many of them, by consecrated men and women, lay men and women; for the good that has already been done by the World Health Organisation through its praiseworthy commitment to eradicating this and other ‘forgotten’ illnesses; the anti-leprosy associations and non-governmental organisations; as well as numerous volunteers and all men and women of good will who through their work, which is marked by love for our brothers and sisters afflicted with this disease, dedicate themselves to their care in an overall way, restoring to them the dignity, the joy and the pride of being treated as human beings, so that they can safeguard or, according to their situations, regain their rightful place in society.

May Mary Salus Infirmorum (the Refuge of the Sick) support these sick people in their difficult fight against the sufferings and tribulations provoked by this disease and may the veil of silence be torn away through an increasing number of acts of true solidarity towards people afflicted by leprosy!

+Zygmunt Zimowski
President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers

In the synoptic gospels, there is a powerful story of Jesus' cure of a leper, which, in Mark's gospel, contains tones of an exchange of roles: at the end of the narrative the leper is restored to the worshipping community ("Go, show yourself to the priest...") and society, whereas Jesus, because of the report about him, could no longer enter a town but was forced to stay out in desert places (Mark 1:40'45).

Of course, in the past year Pope Benedict XVI canonized Damien de Veuster, the Sacred Heart Priest who served the lepers on Molokai (Hawaii) and, one day, after many years began his homily with the poignant address: "We lepers...."

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Though the liturgical observance of the Apostle of Youth is not permitted this year (as it falls on a Sunday) the following are a few notes on this attractive follower of Christ and founder of a new religious community in the Church (the Salesians of Don Bosco) and of the importance of the Salesian charism:

John Bosco educated the whole person—body and soul united. He believed that Christ’s love and our faith in that love should pervade everything we do—work, study, play. For John Bosco, being a Christian was a full-time effort, not a once-a-week, Mass-on-Sunday experience.

It is searching and finding God and Jesus in everything we do, letting their love lead us. Yet, John realized the importance of job-training and the self-worth and pride that comes with talent and ability so he trained his students in the trade crafts, too.

John Bosco’s theory of education could well be used in today’s schools. It was a preventive system, rejecting corporal punishment and placing students in surroundings removed from the likelihood of committing sin. He advocated frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. He combined catechetical training and fatherly guidance, seeking to unite the spiritual life with one’s work, study and play.

Encouraged during his youth to become a priest so he could work with young boys, John was ordained in 1841. His service to young people started when he met a poor orphan and instructed him in preparation for receiving Holy Communion. He then gathered young apprentices and taught them catechism.

After serving as chaplain in a hospice for working girls, John opened the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales for boys. Several wealthy and powerful patrons contributed money, enabling him to provide two workshops for the boys, shoemaking and tailoring.

By 1856, the institution had grown to 150 boys and had added a printing press for publication of religious and catechetical pamphlets. His interest in vocational education and publishing justify him as patron of young apprentices and Catholic publishers.

John’s preaching fame spread and by 1850 he had trained his own helpers because of difficulties in retaining young priests. In 1854 he and his followers informally banded together under Francis de Sales.

With Pope Pius IX’s encouragement, John gathered 17 men and founded the Salesians in 1859. Their activity concentrated on education and mission work. Later, he organized a group of Salesian Sisters to assist girls.

In March 2008, as the Salesians began a Chapter of Affairs, Pope Benedict XVI urged them to continue in the line of their founder by uniting union with God and a care for evangelizing youth:

In his message--conveyed to Father Pascual Chavez Villanueva, the rector-general of the Salesians--the Pope said that the order should cultivate "profound mysticism and a solid ascetism" in order to guard against "the dispersive effects of activism."

The top priority for the Salesian order must always be evangelization, the Pope said. He urged the members to redouble their efforts with young people, helping them to come to know Christ and to overcome the superficiality of a secularized world.

The Holy Father told the Salesians that their religious community should emulate their founder Don Bosco, showing the same "faithful abandonment to the Father and dedication to the evangelical mission."

That mission is doubly important today, the Pontiff continued, because of "the process of secularization that is gaining ground in modern culture." He cautioned that the effects of secularization can be evident even within religious orders, and warned against "lifestyles that risk weakening evangelical witness."

Noting the Salesians' involvement in educational projects, the Pope said that the world of schooling is facing its own crisis, "a crisis of trust in life which, in the final analysis, is a lack of trust in God Who called us to life."

The Holy Father said that to counteract that trend, Salesian educators must help to strengthen the families of their students and ensure the proper formation of their own community members.

* * * * * *

· The birth on this day of St. John Francis Regis, apostle of the Ardeche (France) to whose tomb Jean-Marie Vianney made a lengthy pilgrimage on foot, to implore the saint's intercession for the grace of learning enough Latin to be ordained a priest.
· Today's blog entry is #300 since April 2009.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Transfer from the NAC to Jesuit Curia - Installation of Ottawa´s New Cathedral Rector

The NAC complex seen from the sports field

Late yesterday afternoon, after a pleasant several days at the Pontifical North American College (the NAC), I headed down the Gianiculum Hill to the Borgo Santo Spirito for a couple of days with Jesuit colleagues at the Curia of the General of the Jesuits, Father Adolfo Nicolas.

When a new Father General is elected (seen in the photo taking the oath of office after his recent election), it is often the time for a renewal of staff, so this time it became evident that I knew fewer of the men who are at the Curia than had been the case in earlier years. Still, I find it a very prayerful, hard-working (the assistants of the General are often on the road, which develops among them a real asceticism as they serve the universal Society of Jesus) and welcoming community.

Front entrance of the Jesuit Curia, down the Borgo Santo Spirito street from St. Peter´s

These couple of days off give me a chance to catch my breath, do some reading and praying, as well as have opportunities to visit with our Ottawa archdiocesan men in Rome, Fathers Jose Betttencourt and Daniel Paquin, and friends.

Because of the internet access available here, I am unable to upload photos from my own laptop so these are from those available on the internet.

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Last Sunday, we celebrated the formal installation of the Servite of Mary, Father Paul McKeown, OSM as Rector of Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica. This took place at both the 10:30 francophone liturgy and the noon English-language Mass. Jean-Claude Grant has provided photos of the occasion.

At the Presentation of the Gifts, the offerings of bread and wine as the elements for the Mass, were highlighted with a special prayer for the one who rules (the meaning of "rector") in the place of the archbishop at the Holy Eucharist

The elevation at the consecration of the Mass

Once Father McKeown, O.S.M. had made some remarks before the final blessing, the recessional took place

Friday, January 29, 2010

Vox Clara Committee meets with Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera - "Like a Thief in the Night"


Msgr Gerard McKay (canonist at the Roman Rota) and Archbishop Alfred Hughes (Emeritus of New Orleans) in intense discussion

The Vox Clara Committee met for the eighteenth time from January 26-29, 2010. This meeting was held at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

This Committee of senior Bishops from Episcopal Conferences throughout the English-speaking world was formed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on July 19, 2001 in order to provide advice to the Holy See concerning English-language liturgical books and to strengthen effective cooperation with the Conferences of Bishops in this regard.

The Vox Clara Committee is chaired by Cardinal George Pell, Sydney (Australia). The participants in the meeting were Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb, Emeritus Mobile (USA), who serves as First Vice-Chairman; Cardinal Justin Rigali, Philadelphia (USA), who serves as Treasurer; Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Bombay (India), who serves as Second Vice-Chairman; Archbishop Alfred Hughes, Emeritus New Orleans (USA); Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., Ottawa (Canada); Archbishop Peter Kwasi Sarpong, Emeritus Kumasi (Ghana); Archbishop Kelvin Felix, Emeritus Castries (Saint Lucia), and Bishop Philip Boyce, O.C.D., Raphoe (Ireland).

Members of the Committee, though not present at this meeting, are Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, Emeritus Westminster (England), who serves as Secretary and Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., Chicago (USA).

Archbishop Kelvin Felix (Emeritus of Castries, San Lucia) makes a point with Bishop Philip Boyce, OCD (Raphoe, Ireland)

The members were assisted in their work by the following advisors: Reverend Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B. (USA), Reverend Dennis McManus (USA), Monsignor Gerard McKay, Abbot Cuthbert Johnson, O.S.B. (England), and Monsignor James P. Moroney (USA), Executive Secretary.

Monsignor Robert K. Johnson (USA), provided technical support. The customary assistance of officials of the Congregation, led by Reverend Anthony Ward, S.M., Undersecretary, was also appreciated.

The Committee began its work with a review of two White Book translations of the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia, recently approved by the Conferences of Bishops. Following their discussion of the ICEL renderings of the Proper of Saints and the Common of Saints, the Committee submitted its recommendations to the Congregation for consideration before the Congregation acts on the definitive confirmation of these texts.

The members also reviewed various reports on the steps being taken for editing, coordination of manuscripts, and reviews for internal consistency of the English-language translation of the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia being carried out by the Congregation.

Reports were also heard by the Committee on various initiatives underway for the effective introduction of the new English-language edition of the Roman Missal.

Expressing their enthusiasm for the extraordinary pastoral opportunity provided by the publication of a translation characterized by such high literary quality, theological precision, and pastoral utility, the members emphasized the importance of providing pastors and people with the greatest possible support in the effective pastoral reception of this new translation.

Cardinals Pell and Canizares Lloovera in a tete-a-tete

Finally, the Committee welcomed Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation. Cardinal Pell expressed his appreciation for the presence and support of His Eminence and presented the members and advisors of the Committee to him.

The Cardinal Prefect responded by thanking the members of the Congregation staff and the members and advisors of Vox Clara for their work on the English-language translation of the Missale Romanum. He also expressed his hope that the coming confirmation of the Roman Missal would prove to be of great pastoral advantage to the Church in the English-speaking world.

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Jesus described the coming of the Son of Man in glory as something that would take place when it was unexpected, "like a thief (breaking into a house) in the night".

This can also describe the actual moment of Jesus coming in death to bring his disciples to the "Father’s house" at the end of a long life or after a lengthy illness or in an unforeseen way during the regular activities of life.

Abbe Rock Charbonneau, died January 26, 2010, following a heart attack

Such was the reality in recent days with the deaths of an Ottawa priest and of Archbishop Lawrence Burke, S.J., Emeritus of Kingston, Jamaica, who died January 24, 2010 after a long struggle with cancer.

Abbe Charbonneau`s death at 52 was a total surprise as he had seemed well and was enjoying living in the clergy apartments near the Cathedral. His funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Pierre Apotre Church in Hawkesbury on Tuesday morning, February 2.

Archbishop Burke had two sisters living in southern Ontario and Cynthia, whose home is in Almont near Ottawa. So he regularly visited our archdiocese and I had met with him on a number of occasions, in Kingston (Jamaica) and at other gatherings of bishops.

Funeral rites will take place in Kingston, Jamaica, his home town, on February 3 and 4th.

* * * * * *

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.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

St. Thomas Aquinas - Vox Clara Committee at Work

Today the Church's liturgy recalls the great Dominican Order's theologian-philosopher saint, Thomas Aquinas. He is their greatest glory. He taught philosophy and theology with such genius that he is considered one of the leading Christian thinkers. His innocence, on a par with his genius, earned for him the title of "Angelic Doctor".

Thomas ranks among the greatest writers and theologians of all time. His most important work, the Summa Theologiae, an explanation and summary of the entire body of Catholic teaching, has been standard for centuries, even to our own day. At the Council of Trent it was consulted after the Bible.

To a deeply speculative mind, he joined a remarkable life of prayer, a precious memento of which has been left to us in the Office of Corpus Christi. Reputed as great already in life, he nevertheless remained modest, a perfect model of childlike simplicity and goodness. He was mild in word and kind in deed. He believed everyone was as innocent as he himself was. When someone sinned through weakness, Thomas bemoaned the sin as if it were his own.

The goodness of his heart shone in his face, no one could look upon him and remain disconsolate. How he suffered with the poor and the needy was most inspiring. Whatever clothing or other items he could give away, he gladly did. He kept nothing superfluous in his efforts to alleviate the needs of others.

After he died his lifelong companion and confessor testified, "I have always known him to be as innocent as a five-year-old child. Never did a carnal temptation soil his soul, never did he consent to a mortal sin." He cherished a most tender devotion to St. Agnes, constantly carrying relics of this virgin martyr on his person. He died in 1274, at the age of fifty, in the abbey of Fossa Nuova. He is the patron saint of schools and of sacred theology. (Excerpted from Pius Parsch, The Church's Year of Grace)

Patron of academics; apologists; book sellers; Catholic academies, colleges, schools, universities; chastity; lightning; pencil makers; philosophers; publishers; scholars; theologians.

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From the Dominicans' website, a few reflections for the feast:

Some years ago John Paul II suggested that St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) could rightly be called the ‘doctor of humanity’. He is clearly a doctor of divinity the Pope said, but his greatness consists as much in what he says about the human as in what he says about God.

Aquinas - whose liturgical feast is celebrated today - is one of the foremost representatives of a Christian humanism that has always flourished in the Church. In his understanding of creation and of grace, he draws on the resources of philosophy as well as theology to re-think the terms in which biblical, Christian doctrine may be presented.

He was able to develop a mysticism of creation itself, in which God is understood to be present not only in particular people, places, or experiences, but everywhere and always. As creator, God is mightily active ‘deep down things’, for if God were not constantly willing the world’s being, and empowering its activities, there would be nothing.

Creation itself then – the nature of things as we come to understand and appreciate them – is another book in which the mystery of God is intelligible to us, however dimly.

All creatures bear a trace of their Maker but humans are created in God’s ‘image and likeness’. This is seen, St Thomas says, in our intelligence, in our moral responsibility, and in our creativity. As ‘participants in providence’ we are God’s partners in the unfolding of the world’s history. No longer merely servants, we are brought into friendship with God through Christ and the Holy Spirit.

St Thomas is very much a saint for our times. Secular humanism fears that God is a threat to humanity, that men and women cannot be truly free until they shake off God. Christian humanism knows that the truth is directly contrary to this: Christ, who is the head of humanity, leads it towards its flourishing, not towards its destruction. Christ is our way to maturity, St Thomas says, the love-breathing Word from God who finally introduces us to ourselves.

St Thomas Aquinas was an intellectual. His business was texts and translations, arguments and ideas. He shows us that holiness is also about the mind. He shows us that ‘mystery’, far from bringing thinking to an end, invites it to continue forever. He teaches us that it is in the light of God’s wisdom, as it is in the warmth of God’s love, that human beings come to their full flourishing.

* * * * * *

Thomas' spiritual greatness is manifest in this prayer attributed to him:

Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas

O Lord my God, help me to be obedient without reserve, poor without servility, chaste without compromise, humble without pretense, joyful without depravity, serious without affectation, active without frivolity, submissive without bitterness, truthful without duplicity, fruitful in good works without presumption, quick to revive my neighbor without haughtiness, and quick to edify others by word and example without simulation.

Grant me, O Lord, an ever-watchful heart that no alien thought can lure away from You; a noble heart that no base love can sully; an upright heart that no perverse intention can lead astray; an invincible heart that no distress can overcome; an unfettered heart that no impetuous desires can enchain.

O Lord my God, also bestow upon me understanding to know You, zeal to seek You, wisdom to find You, a life that is pleasing to You, unshakable perseverance, and a hope that will one day take hold of You.

May I do penance here below and patiently bear your chastisements. May I also receive the benefits of your grace, in order to taste your heavenly joys and contemplate your glory.

* * * * * *

Vox Clara Committee In Session...

Left to right: Cardinals Oswald Gracias (Bombay), Justin Rigali (Philadelphia), George Pell (Sydney), Chair of Vox Clara, getting ready for a morning's work

Here are some photos as our working sessions got underway. Tomorrow, there will be a report on the visit by the new Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) and Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Canizares.

Staff advisors Msgr. James Moroney, Fathers Dennis McManus, Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Yesterday's National Days of Australia & India - St. Angela Merici

Today's blog is a little later than usual due to the need to resolve computer hookup issues. Vito, the IT technician, took one look at the problems in my room and announced that the residue of a summer paint job had contaminated the internet access and that took him until my meeting time to repair the connection and give me a new cable.

Meantime, there were lots of emails to answer and not much time to blog. After a full day of work and a lunchtime visit to the Conventual Franciscans and Fr. Livio Poloniato at Convento San Giacomo, I am ready to upload a few pictures (including a couple added to yesterday's blog entry).

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January 26 is the national day of both India and Australia. At our noon-time Mass, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of the Bombay (Mumbai) Archdiocese presided and gave the homily. At the close of Mass some visitors from Oz took a picture of our Vox Clara group:

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The Church allows an optional memorial of St. Angela Merici, foundress of the UrsUlines. Here is some information on her life and foundation. Best wishes to Sr. Eileen Schuller, OSU, a biblical specialist at McMaster University in Hamilton who researches and writes on the Dead Sea Scrolls on her community's feast day. Here is some information on her congregation's origins.

The saint was born in 1474 in the diocese of Verona.

Early in life she dedicated herself to Christ as His bride. After the death of her parents, she desired to live solely for God in quiet and solitude, but her uncle insisted that she manage his household. She renounced her patrimony in order to observe most perfectly the rule for Franciscan Tertiaries.

During a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1524, she lost her eyesight temporarily. Pope Clement VII, whom she visited in Rome, desired her to remain in the Holy City. Later she founded a society for girls, under the protection of St. Ursula; this was the beginning of the Ursuline Order.

St. Angela was almost seventy when she died; her body remained incorrupt for thirty days. Remarkable phenomena occurred at her burial in the Church of St. Afra. (excerpt from Pius Parsch, The Church's Year of Grace)

Patron: Bodily ills; disabled, handicapped, physically-challenged people; illness; loss of parents; people.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On Winter Travel - Sts. Timothy and Titus - News from Canadian Novices in Haiti

The publication times below are a bit earlier than normal as I am writing from Rome where I arrived last night after a long trip via Frankfurt airport which was coping with a snow storm (about 5 cm).

After arriving in at 6:30 after an easy overnight flight from Ottawa, I found my connecting 10am flight to Rome was cancelled along with dozens of others.

I have photos but cannot upload them at the moment due to the limitations of internet access at the Pontifical North American College (the "NAC"): my room connection isn't working at the moment, so I am using one of the Library computers: will try to get photos up today or tomorrow:

The Vox Clara committee started sessions today and are looking toward clearing up our work and awaiting from the Congregation for Divine Worship the final product after everyone's input has been processed by them.

All of us are in fine form, though several are unable to attend for various reasons. Prayers for all my readers from the Eternal City; please pray for us.

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Today, the church recalls two of Paul's fellow workers, St. Timothy (at left) and St. Titus (below).

Here are several thoughts that Paul wrote to Titus that I found spoke to me at prayer this morning here in Rome:

For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain; but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled. 9He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it.


A couple of Canadian Jesuit Novices Edmund and Artur arrived in Haiti a few days before the 'quake. Edmund has been blogging about it and sent me a copy of his reflections. This is the latest, dated January 23:

Artur and I had relocated to another Jesuit community- the novitiate, to better aid the relief effort. Sleeping in tents because buildings are unsafe. Artur does things (LOTS of things) around the novitiate, including moving boxes of aid and doing inventory things, while I head out with a team of (mostly) American physicians, firefighters, medics and ex-marines everyday to help in areas where medical attention is needed.

This is called "Team Rubicon" and it is collaborating with the Jesuit Refugee Service. The team chaplain is Br. Jim Boynton, SJ. In 5 days we had been to four refugee camps and helped get the Port-au-Prince general hospital up and running again, while I had learned to (un)dress wounds, been a pharmacist, moved patients back into the hospital, and ran emergency clinic triages. It has been tiring but fulfilling.

Everyday we go to a different place, everyday we face a different situation. Team Rubicon has a blog site:

Today I will be going with a few Mennonites from Canada who are affiliated with L´Arche Canada to visit the L´Arche community near Port-au-Prince to deliver aids and set up tents for them. (As you know, I spent 6 weeks at L´Arche in Gatineau) Also to assess if there is a need for our team to move in and give them a hand on the medical side.

OK, all for now. Love you all and God bless. Yours in Christ, Edmund Lo

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Conversion of St. Paul - Two Friends Turn 80

Last year, the Conversion of St. Paul fell on a Sunday and the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments permitted the feast to be celebrated on the Sunday (with the second reading from the epistle of the day) in recognition of the Universal Church's observance of the 2000th anniversary (approximately calculated) of the birth of Saul of Tarsus who became, after his encounter with the Risen Lord on the Road to Damascus, the great missionary Apostle of the Gentiles.

Here is an excerpt of a bilingual homily I gave at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica that day, which was also the 50th anniversary of Blessed Pope John XXIII's convocation of the Second Vatican Council:

À la lumière de l'événement dramatique qui s'est déroulé sur la route de Damas, tel que rapporté trois fois dans les Actes des Apôtres, nous savons que ce que Paul avait considéré être son accomplissement d'éclat comme Juif vertueux, en rétrospective l'a vu comme « ordure » comparée à sa foi nouvelle en Jésus le Messie.

Lorsque Paul a fait allusion à sa nouvelle orientation dans la vie, il a fait référence à la révélation que Dieu a faite de Jésus en lui, et il souligne « Dieu qui m'a mis à part depuis le sein de ma mère et m'a appelé par sa grâce a jugé bon de révéler en moi son Fils » (Galates 1, 15-16).

Ce fut une réorientation de mode de vie si totale que Paul pouvait parler de ne plus vivre sa propre vie désormais, mais plutôt celle du Christ. « Je vis, mais ce n'est plus moi, c'est le Christ qui vit en moi. Car ma vie présente dans la chair, je la vis dans la foi au Fils de Dieu qui m'a aimé et s'est livré [à la mort] pour moi » (Galates 2, 20).

Sunday is our weekly experience of the Risen Lord so feasts that celebrate saints are not usually celebrated on the Lord’s Day. Today, we have the rare privilege of celebrating on a Sunday the Feast of St. Paul’s Conversion, which was his first encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Pope Benedict XVI through the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has granted permission for this observance at one Mass in each parish church on January 25, 2009 in recognition of its occurrence in the bi-millennial year of the birth of St. Paul.

The first reading for this Mass is an account of the powerful experience that Paul underwent as he proceeded to Damascus to persecute the fledgling church.

The narrative we have heard from chapter 9 of Acts is Luke’s description of what happened to Paul; later, in chapter 22, Luke depicts Paul recounting his change of life to a Jewish audience in Jerusalem. A third account, in Acts 26 has Paul tell of his call to bring light to nations who dwell in darkness in the presence of the Gentile King Agrippa and his Queen Bernice.

La rencontre de Paul avec Jésus le Messie vivant au milieu des membres du Corps du Christ ne l'a pas conduit à abandonner son culte antérieur ou son service de Dieu, mais elle l'a fait pointer dans une nouvelle direction - vers Jésus, le crucifié qui vit maintenant pour toujours dans son église.

L'Église voit avec sagesse que le changement d'orientation opéré à partir de la rencontre de Paul avec le Christ sur le chemin de Damas fut tellement profond et stupéfiant pour l'histoire des chrétiens qu'elle s'y réfère à juste titre, même dans un sens adapté, comme étant un événement de « conversion ».

Aussi, les disciples chrétiens qui sont appelés à laisser la vie du Christ ressuscité continuer à transformer leurs vies peuvent, à bon droit et dans un sens adapté, se référer avec raison à notre « conversion » continue.

Michelangelo's Conversion of St. Paul

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On Feting Friends

Today, I am en route to Rome to attend the next-to-last session of Vox Clara, the international commission of bishops advising the Congregation on Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments on the forthcoming translation of the Roman Missal into English.

This past weekend was very busy, so I will be blogging on skating on the Rideau Canal, about visits to Paroisse de La Tres Sainte-Trinite (Rockland) for Confirmations and to Good Shepherd Parish (Blackburn Hamlet, Gloucester) for the anticipated Sunday Eucharist and the Installation on Sunday of Servite Father Paul McKeown as Rector of Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica.

* * * * * *

But I cannot let the upcoming eightieth birthdays of two dear friends--a day apart--pass unnoticed.

Tomorrow, January 26 is the 80th birthday of Father Jacques Monet, s.j., with whom I worked very closely for five years (1982-1982) when I was Rector and he President of Regis College, Toronto.

Jacques is known as a wonderful raconteur, with a fabulous memory, which is a most suitable qualification for the professional historian that he is. A staunch monarchist from his youth, he understands and explains well the role of the office of Governor General in Canadian history and political and civic life (not to mention the Lieutenant Governors in the Provinces).

Some might think him a Luddite because he never learned to drive (but his taking of taxis he always claimed was less expensive and more reliable than driving and insuring a car--and just think how much smaller his carbon footprint is than most of ours!), writes with pen and ink (I have a whole collection of notes and postcards he has sent from everywhere and, thoughtfully, on many occasions), does not use a computer or have an email address; and yet, he is a master communicator (as was clear when he hosted the CBC's "Man Alive" for several years after Roy Bonisteel's term).

Much more could be said, but it's wonderful that he remains active (commuting between the Jesuit Archives of the two Canadian Provinces located in Montreal and his residence in Toronto) and, after a spell of ill health is back on his feet.

Jacques has many friends all over the world and I am proud to be named among them!

Happy Birthday, dear friend!

Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter:
whoever finds one has found a treasure.
Faithful friends are beyond price;
no amount can balance their worth.
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
and those who fear the Lord will find them.
Those who fear the Lord direct their friendship aright, for as they are, so are their neighbours also.
(Sirach 6:14-17, NRSV)

* * * * * *

A day later, on January 27, His Eminence Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic reaches the same age of four score years.

His health has not been good in recent years and it pains his friends, acquaintances and his former flock in the Archdiocese of Toronto greatly.

Recently, he transferred from his private residential quarters to accommodations at the Cardinal Ambrozic Houses of Providence in the Scarborough district of Toronto:

Aloysius Ambrozic was born in Slovenia and fled his country after the Second World War, entered the Toronto seminary and was ordained a priest more than fifty years ago. Chosen to study Scripture so as to teach on the Faculty of St. Augustine's Seminary (SAS), he did a licence at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome before moving to the University of Wurzburg, Germany to do his doctoral dissertation under the late, great exegete Rudolf Schnackenburg on The Hidden Kingdom in Mark's gospel (volume 2 in the Catholic Biblical Association's Monograph Series).

When he returned to Toronto in the early 1970s he served as Dean at SAS and taught New Testament at the fledgling Toronto School of Theology (TST). I was excited by his seminars (redaction criticism in Mark; poverty and riches in the NT world) and was delighted that he accepted to direct my dissertation (Without Understanding: a redaction-critical study of the disciples' lack of understanding in Mark).

Thus did he become my Doktorvater! He gave me confidence in my abilities and encouragement throughout, stepping in only once when he thought one of my "bright ideas" would take me too far afield of my research field and add a year or more to the project.

He helped me with his patience to find my way out of the "slough of despond" that often afflicts doctoral students. For that and many other reasons I stand in debt to "Big Al", as he was irreverently tagged by his grad students (and that before his "elevation" in church offices).

When I served as his auxiliary bishop I always found him, as archbishop, most collegial in his guidance of the weekly episcopal council meetings. We knew where he stood, were free to voice our contrary or complementary observations and, as a result, were committed to the common voice he helped us find.

A shy man, who delighted in books and in his friends (and a glass of scotch), he was not always understood or appreciated. But I am grateful for his friendship and support (he attended my Mass of Thanksgiving after my ordination as a priest and, of course, presided at my episcopal ordination).

Your Eminence, we pray for your good health in these difficult days, and for your serenity and consolation in the days ahead.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Photos from Visit to Ottawa's Slovak Catholics


Slovak Catholics have long been present, but not sufficiently numerous to warrant a full-time priest as they do in other locales.

They have, however, gathered from time to time when the ministrations of a priest have been available to them, worshipping at other times and serving on committees and being involved in the parishes where they live.

For the last three and a half years, a graduate study in theology at St. Paul's University, Father Radoslav Lojan has served them at the major feasts and on a regular basis on alternating Sunday afternoons at 2 o'clock, making use of St. Hyacinth Church that serves the Polish Catholic faithful.

Last Sunday, I had the honour of presiding at their Mass and joining them for a celebration in the parish hall, delighting in their company and in the sweets (especially poppy-seed cake) afterwards. Some images from the occasion:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Message for 44th World Communications Day - Mass for Victims of Haiti Earthquake

In recent years, I have come to admire St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), confessor and doctor of the church, as a model bishop.

His father wanted him to become a lawyer so he obtained a doctorate in civil and canon. But he felt called to the priesthood and his father finally relented. Having overcome a youthful fear of damnation through filial devotion to Our Blessed Mother, he was ordained a priest and set about the healing of those lost to Protestant teaching by the simple device of love.

At 35 he became bishop of Geneva. While administering his diocese he continued to preach, hear confessions and catechize the children. His gentle character was a great asset in winning souls. He practiced his own axiom, “A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar.”

Besides his two well-known books The Introduction to the Devout Life and A Treatise on the Love of God, he wrote many pamphlets and carried on a vast correspondence.

Because of his many writings, he has been named patron of the Catholic Press. His writings, filled with his characteristic gentle spirit, are addressed to lay people. He wants to make them understand that they too are called to be saints.

As he wrote in The Introduction to the Devout Life: “It is an error, or rather a heresy, to say devotion is incompatible with the life of a soldier, a tradesman, a prince, or a married woman.... It has happened that many have lost perfection in the desert who had preserved it in the world. ”

His liturgical observance (January 24) will not be kept this year as his feast falls on a Sunday. However, for 44 years a message for World Communications Day (Ascension Sunday, May 16 this year) is released on his feast, which and was anticipated today at the Vatican (the whole text of the Pope's message may be found on the Vatican website []).

Combining the theme of new communications technology and this Year of the Priest, the theme this year is:

"The priest and pastoral ministry in a digital world: new media at the service of the Word."

"Le prêtre et la pastorale dans le monde numerique: les nouveaux medias au service de la parole."

Here are some excerpts from the Holy Father's message:

All priests have as their primary duty the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, and the communication of his saving grace in the sacraments.

Gathered and called by the Word, the Church is the sign and instrument of the communion that God creates with all people, and every priest is called to build up this communion, in Christ and with Christ. Such is the lofty dignity and beauty of the mission of the priest, which responds in a special way to the challenge raised by the Apostle Paul:

"The Scripture says, 'No one who believes in him will be put to shame ... everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? (Rom 10:11, 13-15).

Responding adequately to this challenge amid today's cultural shifts, to which young people are especially sensitive, necessarily involves using new communications technologies. The world of digital communication, with its almost limitless expressive capacity, makes us appreciate all the more Saint Paul's exclamation: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16)

The increased availability of the new technologies demands greater responsibility on the part of those called to proclaim the Word, but it also requires them to become become more focused, efficient and compelling in their efforts. Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: as new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word.

The spread of multimedia communications and its rich "menu of options" might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled. Yet priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different "voices" provided by the digital marketplace.

Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.

Using new communication technologies, priests can introduce people to the life of the Church and help our contemporaries to discover the face of Christ. They will best achieve this aim if they learn, from the time of their formation, how to use these technologies in a competent and appropriate way, shaped by sound theological insights and reflecting a strong priestly spirituality grounded in constant dialogue with the Lord.

Yet priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ. This will not only enliven their pastoral outreach, but also will give a "soul" to the fabric of communications that makes up the "Web".

* * * * * *


The Cathedral of Port-au-Prince burning in the wake of the earthquake on January 12

À Monseigneur Louis Kébreau,Archevêque de Cap-Haïtien et
Président de la Conférence épiscopale d’Haïti

Ayant appris avec une extrême tristesse le tremblement de terre qui vient de frapper si durement la capitale du Pays, je tiens à vous assurer, ainsi que tous les fidèles de l’Église qui est en Haïti, de ma très grande proximité spirituelle et de ma prière fervente pour toutes les personnes touchées par cette catastrophe.

Je demande à Dieu d’accueillir dans la paix de son Royaume tous ceux qui ont trouvé la mort dans le séisme, en particulier Mgr Serge Miot, Archevêque de Port-au-Prince, qui a partagé le sort de tant de ses fidèles au nombre desquels figurent des prêtres, des personnes consacrées et des séminaristes. Dans ces heures sombres, j’invoque Notre-Dame du Perpétuel Secours afin qu’elle se fasse Mère de tendresse et qu’elle sache diriger les cœurs pour que la solidarité prenne le pas sur l’isolement et le chacun-pour-soi.

Je salue la très rapide mobilisation de la communauté internationale, unanimement émue par le sort des Haïtiens, de même que celle de toute l’Église qui, à travers ses institutions, ne manquera pas d’apporter son concours au secours d’urgence et à la reconstruction patiente des zones dévastées.

En gage d’affection et de réconfort spirituel, j’accorde de grand cœur à tous les pasteurs et fidèles de l’Église en Haïti qui sont dans l’épreuve une particulière Bénédiction Apostolique.

Du Vatican, le 16 janvier 2010 - BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

Today in Port-au-Prince they will hold a funeral for Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot (November 23, 1946-January 12, 2010), killed instantly in the earliest stage of the Haiti earthquake.

The Church of Ottawa gathered on Thursday night to pray for the dead and wounded, to console the bereaved and to invoke God's blessing on the people of Haiti and those coming to their succour (BTW, Haiti's patron is Our Lady of Perpetual Help).

In sorrow, purple vestments were worn. Some photos:

The Haitian flag says "L'union fait force" (Being united makes us strong)

Young and old were present for the Mass

Msgr Luca LoRusso representing the Holy Father and Mgr Gilles Cazabon, omi, emeritus bishop of St-Jerome

Words cannot convey one's emotions

Haitian-born Abbe Joseph-Lin Eveillard (pastor at Casselman) and his parents; he spoke movingly to the congregation at the close of the liturgy and led them in singing a song he had written, "A word of hope for Haiti"

Sharing the grieving

Sorrowing but built up in faith....