Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday 31C: Jesus Invites Himself to Zacchaeus' Home - Cardinal Turcotte's Homily at St. Brother André Mass - Another Brother Saint

GOD'S PURPOSE GUIDES PEOPLE GENTLY [Texts: Wisdom 11:22-12:2; [Psalm 145]; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10] - Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year "C") - October 31, 2010

Today's epistle prepares us for the teaching about the end-times that will begin to colour the liturgy in these closing weeks of the year. Meantime, the Book of Wisdom and Jesus' encounter with Zacchaeus tell of God's mercy to those who repent.

The Book of Wisdom was composed in Greek, late in the first century BC, at Alexandria, one of the largest centres of Diaspora Jews. The author--evidently well-acquainted with Hellenistic rhetoric, philosophy and culture--wrote at a time of crisis for believers.

Many Jews had abandoned their faith for pagan religions or secular philosophies. Some combined aspects of these secular outlooks on life into a hybrid version of faith. The age-old problem of retribution--why do the wicked prosper and the virtuous suffer?--troubled people.

The wise man addressed their concerns by speaking of God's providence--divine care for creation--in prayer form. With logic he showed that God is simultaneously all-powerful and merciful: 'You ... overlook people's sins, so that they may repent; ... You would not have made anything if you had hated it; ...Your immortal spirit is in all things; ... therefore You correct little by little those who trespass...'.

God's mercy and love, he said, are proof not of weakness but of divine power. For God has a purpose in guiding people gently. Through tenderness God warns people of the ways in which they sin so they may be 'freed from wickedness and put their trust' in God.

The sage saw teaching God's mercy as a way of encouraging people to conversion. He placed personal responsibility for taking the path of repentance squarely on the shoulders of all who contemplate God's care for the world.

Jericho, the "city of palms", was the last stopping-off spot before people began the long, steep ascent to Jerusalem. So when Jesus reached Jericho attentive gospel readers (and hearers) would know His journey was ending.

Jericho served as a demarcation post, as it does today between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Near Jericho the people of Israel had entered the Promised Land under an earlier Yeshua (Joshua 1-6). Though translated differently, Joshua and Jesus are variations of the same Hebrew name.

Jericho's border status made it a place for toll collectors. One of them--a head tax collector--features prominently in today's gospel.

Luke focuses on the inner dynamic of Jesus' meeting with Zacchaeus, short for "Zachariah" meaning "the righteous one". Manifestly, Zacchaeus did not live up to his name until Jesus went to stay at his house. Small of stature, Zacchaeus did not let this impede his desire to see Jesus, but climbed a sycamore tree to see Him passing by. And with joyful abandon, he accepted Jesus' decision to stay at his house.

Jericho near the Jordan serves as a biblical icon of the "salvation" God yearns to give to sinners. Such salvation was the outcome of Jesus' encounter with Zacchaeus ('Today salvation has come to this house...for the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost').

Zacchaeus' change of heart, proven by promises made to Jesus, of restitution and sacrificial giving to the poor, indicates the wise way in which Jesus implemented God's gentleness toward sinners.

Both Thessalonian epistles reveal Paul's advice about what must happen in the end days. Yet they differ from each other in the details given, and the second echoes the structure and language of the first. Plausibly, then, Second Thessalonians contains Paul's take on issues not mentioned in First Thessalonians or his correction of misinterpretations of things he had said in the earlier letter about 'the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together with him'.

Paul reassured the Thessalonian Christians that, while Christ's end-time rule has already begun, it has not yet come to be in all its fullness (note his reference to the false belief 'that the day of the Lord is already here').

God's purpose is that, through Jesus, all may ultimately share in the Kingdom, once Christ has won the final victory over the enemies of His Church, even death itself. This is the consoling message of Second Thessalonians and of other scriptural readings in these last weeks of the liturgical year.

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Homily of Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, Archbishop of Montreal:

Dear friends,
Brother André lived in an era quite different than our own. Having died in 1937, he did not know nor could have foreseen the profound transformations that occurred in our society and in our Church since the 1960s. In many ways, his manner of thinking, his manner of being, his words, his expressions of Christian faith, and his piety differ from our own. He is from another era, one could say.

He had not yet been recognized officially as a saint; and the Church never canonizes someone solely for who he was and how he lived before. She canonizes someone also for what he has to say to and show the men and women of today. What then does he have to say to us? What then can be shown to us by Brother André, who, in his time, was recognized as a great miracle worker and had the audacity to undertake construction, on Mount Royal, of what would become the largest oratory dedicated to Saint Joseph. He first tells us and shows us that life is beautiful and fruitful when it is oriented towards listening to and serving others.

Brother André was a man of attentiveness and compassion. He left it up to all those who were unhappy—rich or poor—to approach him. Very often, he went to those who could not come to him. Almost every day, in his office, for hours and hours, he lent his ear. He made himself attentive to those who confided in him their misfortunes, their sufferings, their illnesses, their disappointments, their failures, their unhappiness… After listening, he comforted them. He called them to courage and hope. He exhorted them to trust in God. He prayed a lot for those who spoke to him. He prayed to God. He prayed to Mary. With fervour, he prayed to St. Joseph, he prayed before Christ on the Cross.

One of his friends, Mr. Joseph Pichette, said of him, “Before leaving to visit the sick, he took us to pray with him in the chapel, and he would pray for a long time. During his visits with the sick, he would ask us from time to time to drive him to the church, where he sometimes prayed for an hour or more.”

We have just heard these words from the first letter of Peter: “Maintain constant love for one another…serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” Brother André lived these words. His life is an invitation to ourselves become people of active listening, people of compassion, people of service, and people of prayer. How many men and women, from children to adolescents to adults to the elderly, would be so much happier, with a sparkle in their eyes, if only someone would take the time to listen to them with love!

What Brother André also tells us and shows us is that life is worth living in the company of God. In God, Brother André had a living faith. Not an intellectual faith. Not a complicated faith. Not a faith learned from books. A faith received on the knees of his mother. A faith informed by long times of prayer and meditation. A faith that was bathed in love. If there was one thing that the brother was certain of, it was the love of God. It pleased him to say, “How the good God is good! How He takes care of us!” He also loved to say, “The good God loves us so much, infinitely, he wants us to love Him.”

Brother André never doubted the love God had for him. The sufferings that he had to endure—and they were many—never led him to think that God had grown distant or had lost interest in him. Brother André spoke on this subject in words that were simple, yet surprising and luminous. He said, “Those who suffer have something to offer to the good God.” He said, “Don’t ask that your trials would be lifted; ask God more for the grace to bear them well.” He said, “Place yourselves in the hands of the good God; He abandons no one in adversity.” We live in an era when it’s tempting to think that one can live without reference to God. Brother André reminds us that what gives flavour to life and makes it fruitful is living it with God, in His intimacy and in His love.

Brother André was convinced that God could use him to accomplish wonderful things. For many decades, people came to him as a worker of wonders. It never went to his head. In fact, he often said: “The world is silly if it thinks that Brother André is doing miracles. It is the good God who does the miracles. Saint Joseph obtains them.”And, following Saint Paul, he said, in reference to God, “An artist makes the most beautiful paintings with the smallest of brushes”.

This is not a small Saint that has been canonized, but a great, great one. This great saint—Brother André—is from our home. Among our parents and grandparents, or among the friends of our parents and grandparents, many knew him. He lived close to us on Mount Royal and said, “When I die, I’ll be much closer to the good God than I am now, I will have much more power to help you.”

Brother André…Saint Brother André, we pray to you, keep your promise. Pray for us: pray that we become women and men of attentiveness and compassion, women and men who love God with a great love because they know they are very loved by Him, women and men who, having become “disciples” of Jesus, become “meek and humble of heart” like Him and in Him find “rest”.


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Jesuit Brother Porter-Saint

Jesuits on October 31 generally celebrate a feast in honour of Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez, a man who touched many lives as he served as porter at their college in Majorca, Spain. While the Jesuit brothers will be feted today, the liturgical memorial is not held this year as it falls on the Lord's Day. 

Alphonsus is renowned for mystical writings that only became known after his death and for the influential role he played in encouraging the missionary vocation of St. Peter Claver.

The English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a wonderful poem that sees the drama of nature and sanctification taking place in the undramatic action taking place at the door where Alphonsus served as porter (as in the case of the recently-canonized St. Brother André):

In honour of St. Alphonsus Rodríguez, Laybrother of the Society of Jesus
by Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.
HONOUR is flashed off exploit, so we say;
And those strokes once that gashed flesh or galled shield
Should tongue that time now, trumpet now that field,
And, on the fighter, forge his glorious day.
On Christ they do and on the martyr may;
But be the war within, the brand we wield
Unseen, the heroic breast not outward-steeled,
Earth hears no hurtle then from fiercest fray.
Yet God (that hews mountain and continent,
Earth, all, out; who, with trickling increment,
Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more)
Could crowd career with conquest while there went
Those years and years by of world without event
That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

"Faith and Science in Dialogue" (Benedict XVI) - The Big O's Mass of Thanksgiving

On Thursday of this week, the Holy Father spoke to members of the Pontifical Academy of Science on the relation of science and faith, particularly the coexistence of both methods in a person.  Here is the text as given by the Vatican Information Service report:


Eminence, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to greet all of you here present as the Pontifical Academy of Sciences gathers for its Plenary Session to reflect on ‘The Scientific Legacy of the Twentieth Century’.…

The history of science in the twentieth century is one of undoubted achievement and major advances. Unfortunately, the popular image of twentieth-century science is sometimes characterized otherwise, in two extreme ways.

On the one hand, science is posited by some as a panacea, proven by its notable achievements in the last century. Its innumerable advances were in fact so encompassing and so rapid that they seemed to confirm the point of view that science might answer all the questions of man’s existence, and even of his highest aspirations.

On the other hand, there are those who fear science and who distance themselves from it, because of sobering developments such as the construction and terrifying use of nuclear weapons.

Science, of course, is not defined by either of these extremes. Its task was and remains a patient yet passionate search for the truth about the cosmos, about nature and about the constitution of the human being. In this search, there have been many successes and failures, triumphs and setbacks.

The developments of science have been both uplifting, as when the complexity of nature and its phenomena were discovered, exceeding our expectations, and humbling, as when some of the theories we thought might have explained those phenomena once and for all proved only partial. Nonetheless, even provisional results constitute a real contribution to unveiling the correspondence between the intellect and natural realities, on which later generations may build further.

The progress made in scientific knowledge in the twentieth century, in all its various disciplines, has led to a greatly improved awareness of the place that man and this planet occupy in the universe. In all sciences, the common denominator continues to be the notion of experimentation as an organized method for observing nature. In the last century, man certainly made more progress – if not always in his knowledge of himself and of God, then certainly in his knowledge of the macro- and microcosms – than in the entire previous history of humanity.

Our meeting here today, dear friends, is a proof of the Church’s esteem for ongoing scientific research and of her gratitude for scientific endeavour, which she both encourages and benefits from. In our own day, scientists themselves appreciate more and more the need to be open to philosophy if they are to discover the logical and epistemological foundation for their methodology and their conclusions.

For her part, the Church is convinced that scientific activity ultimately benefits from the recognition of man’s spiritual dimension and his quest for ultimate answers that allow for the acknowledgement of a world existing independently from us, which we do not fully understand and which we can only comprehend in so far as we grasp its inherent logic. Scientists do not create the world; they learn about it and attempt to imitate it, following the laws and intelligibility that nature manifests to us.

The scientist’s experience as a human being is therefore that of perceiving a constant, a law, a logos that he has not created but that he has instead observed: in fact, it leads us to admit the existence of an all-powerful Reason, which is other than that of man, and which sustains the world. This is the meeting point between the natural sciences and religion. As a result, science becomes a place of dialogue, a meeting between man and nature and, potentially, even between man and his Creator.

As we look to the twenty-first century, I would like to propose two thoughts for further reflection.

First, as increasing accomplishments of the sciences deepen our wonder of the complexity of nature, the need for an interdisciplinary approach tied with philosophical reflection leading to a synthesis is more and more perceived.

Secondly, scientific achievement in this new century should always be informed by the imperatives of fraternity and peace, helping to solve the great problems of humanity, and directing everyone’s efforts towards the true good of man and the integral development of the peoples of the world.

The positive outcome of twenty-first century science will surely depend in large measure on the scientist’s ability to search for truth and apply discoveries in a way that goes hand in hand with the search for what is just and good.

With these sentiments, I invite you to direct your gaze toward Christ, the uncreated Wisdom, and to recognize in His face, the Logos of the Creator of all things. Renewing my good wishes for your work, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing. [01492-02.01] [Original text: English]

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"The most humble of men has reached the highest step."

With Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte presiding, a Mass of Thanksgiving will be concelebrated at Montreal's Olympic Stadium by many of Canada's bishops, at the close of their plenary, along with many priests from across Quebec and Canada.

Religious men and women and tens of thousands of the lay faithful (with just under 1000 from our area) will give thanks for Saint Brother Andre who was for many, "a friend, a brother, a saint".

I look forward to joining in this joyful feast of our Canadian Church.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The CCCB Plenary: Closing Hours - Upcoming Book Launch

The Bishops' Plenary has a distinct rhythm, alernating worship, presentations, discussions, voting, reports, socialization, etc. Here are some scenes from the week that was:

Deacon Gerald LeBlanc and Mgr Louis Dicaire following Mass

Cardinal-elect Gianfranco Ravasi speaks about modern culture and the challenges of evangelizing it

Archbishop Michael Miller, CSB (centre ) speaks about the challenges and possibilities of parish life today, with panelists Bishop Richard Grecco (left) and Mgr Gerald Cyprien Lacroix (right)

On the last evening of the assembly the new bishops are presented (this year Bishop Donald Bolen of Saskatoon, Toronto Auxiliary Bishops William McGratton and Vincent Nguyen and Syrian Bishop for the USA and Canada Most Reverend Yosif Habash (whose mother tongue is Aramaic, just like Our Lord).

A cordial evening:


Afterwards, bishops who have released various forms of publication get to present them. Bishop Gary Gordon of Whitehorse presented us with his YouTube film "Apostle of the North" (above), Bishop Gerald Lacroix described his eight-part DVD on evangelization and I spoke of my just-published book Living God's Word, on the Readings for Year A (and the solemnities and feasts that can displace a Sunday), which will have its formal launch on November 10 at St. Paul's University (cf. poster below). 

Anyone interested in attending may indicate this by calling the number listed on the electronic invitation: 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles - A Bishop for Montreal's South Shore Diocese of St. Jean-Longueuil

Les Églises d’Occident font mémoire en ce jour de Simon et Jude, apôtres du Seigneur.

Simon, surnomme le « Zélote », et Jude, fils de Jacques, qu’on appelle encore Thaddée, figurent en dernières places dans la liste des apôtres. Ils ressemblent aux ouvriers de la dernière heure, qui ont tout de même mené à bien leur mission de témoins de l’Évangile jusqu’au martyre.

Mais, comme cela se produit souvent dans l’histoire du salut dont témoignent les Écritures, c’est justement aux derniers et aux plus marginaux d’entre les hommes que Dieu choisit de se révéler. Ainsi c’est à Jude, d’après l’évangéliste Jean, que Jésus révèle l’inhabitation de Dieu qui peut se réaliser dans le Coeur de ceux qui s’ouvrent à l’amour.

Et c’est à l’amour que sera appelle Simon, lui aussi, qui avant de rencontrer Jésus adhérait à ces groupes de Juifs prêts à manifester leur zèle pour Dieu et pour la Loi en usant de la violence.

Les apocryphes rapportent que Jude aurait été crucifié en Perse, après avoir évangélisé l’Égypte et la Mauritanie. Quant à Simon, il aurait prêché en Samarie, en Syrie, en Mésopotamie, en Inde, et serait mort, lui aussi, en Perse.

Témoins de Dieu : Martyrologe universel (Paris : Bayard, 2005), p. 614

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O God, who by the blessed Apostles have brought us to acknowledge your Name, grant graciously, through the intercession of Saints Simon and Jude, that the Church may constantly grow by increase of the people who believe in you. Through our Lord.

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Bishop Lionel Gendron, p.s.s. Named Bishop of the Diocese of St. Jean-Longueuil

Today, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI appointed the Most Reverend Lionel Gendron, p.s.s., currently Auxiliary Bishop of Montreal, as fifth bishop of Saint-Jean-Longueuil.

He succeeds Bishop Jacques Berthelet, c.s.v., who has been the Ordinary of this challenging diocese on Montreal's South Shore since December 27, 1996 (the feast of St. John the Evangelist, the patron of the diocese). Named auxiliary bishop of St. Jean-Longueuil some ten years earlier and, having just turned 76, he had been serving a year beyond the usual retirement age.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Dedication of a Church (Annunciation of Our Lord)

As mentioned in an earlier blog, on Saturday afternoon, as part of the 30th anniversary of Annunciation of Our Lord Parish, I presided at the dedication of this church.

Holy water was sprinkled on Christ's holy people and on the altar and walls of the church.  After relics of the two Canadian-born saints, St. Marguerite d'Youville and St. Brother Andre Bessette were sealed into a cavity near its base (not shown), the altar, which represents the Risen Christ, was anointed with sacred chrism.

Incense was also burnt and a fire lit on the altar, showing forth the Light who is Christ and that the holy sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated on it.

The sculptures of the Annunciation and of Pentecost, crafted by Father Herman Falke, S.C.J. were also blessed on this occasion.

Here from this wonderful liturgy are some photos, courtesy of Robert Shepherd, who also trains the altar servers of the parish:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Opening of the CCCB Plenary at NAV Canada in Cornwall, ON


Preparing for Mass

A view of the Assembly

Welcome, Bishop Bolen (centre)

The Doctrinal Commission meets over lunch

A publication to coincide with Saint Brother Andre's canonization

Episcopal fellowship

A report on Christian-Muslim Dialogue

Members of the Permanent Council with the Apostolic Nuncio

The delegation of observers

Monday, October 25, 2010

Synod 2012 on New Evangelization - Pastoral Visit to Annunciation of Our Lord Parish

Pope Benedict announced on Sunday that he’s chosen “new evangelization” as the theme for the next world Synod of Bishops in 2012.

The pope said the topic reflects a need to re-evangelize in countries where Christian faith and practice have declined, and where people “have even moved away from the church.”

The pope made the announcement at the end of his homily at the closing Mass for the special Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which focused on the pastoral challenges of the region. He said that in this synod, too, bishops spoke of the “need to offer the Gospel anew to people who do not know it very well.”

“What was often evoked was the need for a new evangelization for the Middle East as well. This was quite a widespread theme, especially in the countries where Christianity has ancient roots,” he said.

The pope said he chose the next synod topic, “The new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith,” after consulting with the world’s episcopate. He recently created the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, and has made re-evangelizing a main theme of his pontificate.
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Friday until Sunday, October 22-24, I carried out the Pastoral Visitation of the Parish of the Annunciation of Our Lord, Beacon Hill (Gloucester).  Father Joseph Muldoon, my Episcopal Vicar and I were joined by Msgr. Robert Latour, the Pastor, and by Father Jonathan Blake, his associate, for all the weekend activities, which included the dedication of the church on Saturday evening.

On Friday, we visited Thomas Darcy McGee and Brother Andre Elementary Schools and visited seniors resident at Laurier Manor and Elmsmere Residence.

Thomas Darcy McGee School:

Brother Andre School:

Elmsmere Residence:

There will be more reporting on the Visitation during this week in which I am taking part in the national bishops' meeting.
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Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops Meets in Assembly

Each fall the Canadian Bishops meet in plenary session for a week, generally at the NAV Canada Training and Convention Centre in Cornwall, ON.

It is a wonderful occasion to reconnect with brother bishops, discuss challenging issues and plan for the future in hope.  The Eucharist and prayer in common unites us with the Lord and helps us to seek his will for the Church in Canada.

As we gather, we have in our thoughts and prayers Bishop David Monroe (above), who is recovering in hospital in Kamloops from a savage beating on Friday night.  Please pray for this gentle pastor's full recovery and for the healing of the person who attacked him.